California. You are happiness and sunshine.
Albany John and I took an early morning flight from Albany to San Francisco to visit some of his side of the family. Specifically, Aunt & Uncle Cali & our cousin. As soon as we got off of the plane, Auntie & Cousin took us to Chinatown SF.
Me and my cuz looking ah-maze on the streets of SF C-town. We ended up going to Great Eastern Restaurant for some dim sum goodies. They were ordered from a sheet. They were pretty busy, but we were sat quickly.
Har cheung fun. The noodles were a little on the thick side, and it was a bit tepid. I’m guessing they made it earlier and reheated this for us when we ordered it.
More goodies – turnip cake (tasted a little funky/tart), seafood dumplings, steamed lotus rice, har gow, and bean curd wrapped seafood (fried – so good).
Bitter melon stuffed with fish paste and veggies. Bitter melon was steamed to a very soft/mushy state. Not bad, I’d probably try making this at home, just a little less cooked.
Wontons and those rockin beancured wrapped seafood packages.
Daniel B. recommended I try Golden Gate Bakery for their dan tats, but they were closed (on vacation) when Albany John and I were there, so we went to Wa Li Bakery instead. Their dan tats were okay. The crust was more pie like than dan-tat-crust-flaky (you know what I mean).
Girly cousin raved about Quickly. So I got a fresh watermelon drink, and Albany John got a neon “honeydew” drink. And hey, there is one of these in Flushing now. Cheap & tasty. My watermelon was ~$3.25 I think.
Bam. Chinatown. Seen. Supposedly San Francisco Chinatown goes 5 stories underground. Oh, we also saw the fortune cookie making factory place. It was just off of an alley and just a few ladies making fortune cookies. I don’t really like fortune cookies, so it was one of those ‘oh, people like these things’ moments for me.
And then we rode on a cable car and it was AWESOME! They didn’t even charge us. I have no idea why, maybe it was my childlike exhuberance “OH MY GOSH, THIS IS AWESOME!!!!! AAAHHH!!!”. But that was a great way to see the sights. I hung off of the side! Waahh, so dangerous, so thrilling!
Here was a nice park.
We drove down this hill. The one that is popular because of its curving and such. Although we were stuck behind some slow drivers, so it was a slow crawl down the hill. Auntie said it was more fun doing it faster. I am glad we were behind slow drivers. It turns out I am great at going up steep hills, but going down them I tend to go “Heeeeeeehhhh. HeeeeEEEEEHHHH. HHHHHHHEEEEEEHHHHHHH.” all nervous-like. I am not good down hill.
Finally got to check out 99 Ranch. It was only okay. The location we went to seemed really worn down, and prices were only okay. Go Albany, we have a comparable or better market for Asian foods!
Obligatory Golden Gate Bridge photo.
We got dinner from Mollie Stone’s – fresh dungeness crab! Holy crap, Mollie Stone’s is where I would shop all of the time if I lived in the Bay.
Hello, air chilled turkey for $3.99/lb!! WHAT?!
Fresh bread & crab from Mollie Stone’s! We had it with cocktail sauce, and mayo + dried mustard. My uncle likes it, and so I tried it. OH MY GOSH, I even like mayo in California! Mayo + mustard + crab = taste heaven. Actually, the crab was taste heaven all on its own. So sweet and meaty. Nothing like the blue crabs we get up here.
Our cousin in DC had sent some goodies from a trip to Japan. A SAMPLER PACKAGE OF JAPANESE KIT KATS. GET OUT. YES. These were all so good. Wasabi kit kats (just a wee kick, not really spicy) are a close second to green tea kit kats.
The next day the girlies hit up the mural district for a warehouse sale. I didn’t eat here, but I really liked the sign.
Blue Bottle Coffee! I stopped here because I really liked this when I had it at the Confectionery in Troy. The barista was such a peach. He asked “Have you had a perfectly fantastic day today?” And in NY I would have been like “Pfff, okay dude, yeah, sure, just gimmie my coffee,”, but in California it just felt so genuine, and I couldn’t help but answer “… Yes. Yes, I really am!”
And then I had to be a smartass & text the Profussor:
Albany Jane: “Were you grumpy when you lived in California? Everyone is so happy here.”
Daniel B.: “No, I was happy.”
I GET IT. I TOTALLY GET IT. I SO GET IT NOW. People are nice. They care about quality. Prices are reasonable for what you get.
So we shopped for eleventy billion hours while Albany John went to Golden Gate Park, and eventually we grabbed lunch at Big Mouth Burgers. They had a cool sign, and we were really hungry.
Albany John got a falafel burger with beans. Zesty!
I got a cheeseburger with coleslaw. Holy crap, they mayo’ed that sucker up. BOTH sides of the buns were slathered in mayo. :X
Onion rings! Greasy spoon eats, yeah.
Outta the closet – next time I’m going in.
Cheesy nibbles before dinner. Manchego on the left & humboldt fog on the right. I love Humboldt fog now. Tart, creamy, and just a wee bit crumbly. Great with Mary’s Gone Crackers.
I thought this picture of Albany John and his aunt cooking in the kitchen together was really sweet.
The next morning we went to the farmer’s market.
We didn’t buy fish from here, but here is an idea of prices and sourcing.
This bakery was AWESOME.
Gluten free bread section.
These were some expensive empanadas! $4 each, and they could fit in your palm!
They had live music, but unlike the music at Albany area farmers markets, this was of reasonable volume and you could carry on a normal conversation within a few feet of it, while still enjoying the music.
These strawberries were fantastic. And they started discounting them near the end of the market.
Draeger’s was the upscale food market. The service in the retail section upstairs was kind of ambivalent and crappy, but the staff who worked in the actual grocery store were really knowledgeable and great.
Wall of vinegars.
The locked case. Dill pollen – I wonder what that tastes like?
For dinner we had lamb. Grilled. Oh. So good.
The next day I got to try a Peet’s.
It was okay, but kind of paled in comparison to Blue Bottle. But better than Starbucks.
Bevmo! This was neat to see IRLsies. They had a bunch of stuff we already have, but…
1800 Coconut Tequila?! What?! How have I not had that? Sadly, there was no room in my carry on for such souvenirs, so I had to pass up on it.
And then it was time for my favorite – walkies! Look at those gorgeous succulents!
More awesome neighborhood foliage!
We stopped by the tennis club Aunt, Uncle, & Cousin are members of. Albany John was tempted to take dip in the pool. (Too cold by California standards)
The Fairmont houses one of the few places on Albany John’s “Must Visit” list: The Tonga Room.
Albany John is a huge lover of all things tiki. If there was one place he had to visit while in San Francisco, it was the Tonga Room. The tiki bar that had indoor rainstorms every 30 minutes.
The rainstorms were pretty awesome to see.
While Albany John and I were up gazing at the rainstorms, Aunt & Uncle ordered up some fried spring rolls & fried calamari. The spring rolls were surprisingly good.
Drinks! Albany John got a Scorpion ($12) and I got a drink in a PINEAPPLE ($16). The Tonga Room is a bit on the pricey side, but for a (likely) once-in-a-lifetime trip for us, it was such a fun and memorable time. Also, those drinks were strong! I had to have Albany John help me finish my cocktail!
Kahlua pork spring rolls & coconut shrimp as 2nd round appetizers. Our aunt & uncle were so sweet – they are such wonderful hosts, they wouldn’t let us pay for anything while we were there. I can’t wait to return the favor when they visit NY.
It got a bit rainy later that night, but that didn’t stop our rockin uncle from planking salmon in the rain.
PLANKED SALON! I have heard tale of his smoked salmon, and it was so good. Marinated in a bit of olive oil, maple syrup, mustard seeds, and other such goodness…. Oh. Oh, Albany John needs to plan some seafood this summer. The plank really added a lot of smoky flavor to the salmon. And the skin was still nice & crisp.
Wines with dinner.
And then my camera lens decided not to work any more, so I had to take photos on my phone.
I hope Albany John and I get to visit San Francisco again. Our family was so welcoming and great at touring us around. I don’t know if we could ever spend enough time with them. My uncle even took me with him to one of his boxing classes, which was way fun, but then I got used to California time and stopped waking up at 5 AM.
Albany John went back to Albany after our few days in San Francisco, and I went down to San Diego for a bit of solo time.