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My San Francisco

I missed a weekly post due to the blowback from my wild travel experience, which not surprisingly, given my exhaustion and my exposure to so many travelers, was followed with a monster head cold which stubbornly clung to me during a Very Important Week that broached very few opportunities to rest. (I am already worrying that on the flight to New Zealand I will get appendicitis, even though I have never had a problem with my appendix and am overall in excellent health. Perhaps I should pre-tape my talk, if nothing else than to ease my mind.)

I feel unprepared to write this post, but I urgently need to write about something other than work (let alone tend to any of the “small” work-and-professional chores continuously piling up like dirty laundry), this being the part of the semester where we stumble about with dead-man stares, fantasizing about the week after Commencement, which while full of its own responsibilities, will feel like a spa experience compared to the annual end-of-year crush.

So consider this the first of occasional posts about my fair city.  N.b. If you’re planning a trip, don’t feel you need to leave Union Square or Fisherman’s Wharf, or pass up a trip to Alcatraz or the redwoods for my suggestions. My San Francisco is a homebody’s place, and you’ll enjoy your visit even if you never discover the Vietnamese crab at Thanh Long (a mouthwatering meal there a decade ago inspired me to take a cooking class for Dungeness crab, now our favorite winter “home cooking”), nosh on warm piroshki from the Cinderella Bakery, stroll down Irving Street on a sunny afternoon, or climb up the steep, steep stairs of Grand View Park for a stunning 360 view of the city (a walk I took daily until we joined the Millberry fitness center at UCSF, where I treadmill and read with an equally stunning view of SF’s nicest hilltops).

It’s just so wonderful to live somewhere that the ordinary rarely is!

Things-to-do: One of our favorite Sunday-afternoon activities is to head to Crissy Field, in the Presidio, where I sedately jog and Sandy strolls. It’s an inconvenient drive from the Inner Sunset, where we live, but it’s so extraordinary to cavort directly under the Golden Gate Bridge, and the convenience of the lovely and eponymous Warming Hut and the seductive fragrance from the Let’s Be Frank hot-dog stand make it all so civilized.

Food and Drink: Caveat: our prandial excursions to be convenient, price-smart, and not a drawn-out affair. We only rarely get to a fancy restaurant for a signature meal out, preferring small plates and more casual experiences. So take that in context when I say some of my favorite restaurant/bar experiences from the past couple of years include Manna (small neighborhood Korean joint, inexpensive, terrific ban chan, and I can get my favorite dish, duk bok gi), Magnolia (food and beer are nothing spectacular, but it’s a comfy place with great people-watching, and it’s on the 6 line), Marnee Thai (numinously delectable Thai food right down the hill from us), Hog Island (good oysters for sure, but also best grilled cheese sandwich EVER–courtesy of a lunch treat from a friend), the hash browns at Art’s Cafe, the chowder (and just about everything else) at Bar Crudo, where we had dinner New Year’s Eve (and where I am scheming to return as soon as possible), and the nibblies at Blush, which is a perfect-for-us tiny wine bar in the Castro that has four Belgian beers on tap, very nice wine, pleasant, smart servers, with superb ambience and people-watching.

It’s been a couple years since we went to the Mayflower for dim sum, which either means we need to get there or find a new place — I think my SF citizenship is revoked if I don’t have dim sum every three years.

Alemany Market

Alemany Market

Favorite Farmer’s Market: the Alemany market, the oldest in the city. The Ferry Market is the place to bring out-of-towners so they can admire the $4 bell peppers and the artisanal peanut brittle. The Alemany is where you go for serious weekly shopping (and the market is very intense just after dawn, I assume from restauranters), not only for the best NorCal produce at the best prices, including things you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else (yesterday I bought blood limes, among other unusual citrus), but also great food stands. Papusas one week, tongue tacos the next, and always the Hummus Guy with his Vaudevillian schtick and yummy baba ghanoush. Be prepared: it’s in a sketchy part of the city and I’m surprised I haven’t broken an axle in the parking lot, apparently last paved in the Eisenhower administration.

Favorite Theater: the Castro, one of the last big theaters, where sitting in the dark among fellow travelers I have hummed along with the SF Gay Men’s Chorus’ Christmas concert, laughed during the ridiculous Umbrellas of Cherberg (a ludicrously bad movie can be a wonderful group experience), and cried during the pre-release screening of We Were Here, a movie about the AIDS era.

Back to the annoying chores that demand completion — but perhaps I’ll squeeze a blood lime in my tea and think about our next humble-and-wonderful quotidian excursion.

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