San Francisco: Yay!

Jason and I left my brother's house and headed directly to the Ferry Marketplace in San Francisco. We were coming off of two days of bland food, and my taste buds were craving flavor.

Ferry building

Lucky for me, the farmers market was having a fungus festival and most every restaurant and stand had a dish showcasing wild mushrooms in one way or another. Directly inside the entrance there was a table full of tiny cheesecake bites made out of a candy cap mushrooms. Across the hall was a table of fresh linguine sauteed with morels. And it just got better and better from there. I nearly wept.

Big mushroom

We ate our way through the place. First was bento from the Japanese deli, with tiny friend dumplings, white rice, sweet seaweed salad and thick slices of crisp lotus root. The place was crowded and there weren't any seats left, so we sat on a park bench overlooking the bay, next to a fantastic street musician playing the clarinet. Perfection.

Bay Bridge

Next up we sampled oysters from Hog Island Oyster Company. We filled them full of freshly grated horseradish and sucked them down.

The line finally dwindled at Traci des Jardins' place, Mijita cocina Mexicana. Earlier in the day the wait had been hours. We got there when it was down to just a few minutes. We had tiny tacos on fresh corn tortillas, topped with a cascade of finely chopped onion and cilantro.

I also had a jicama salad, which was fresh and lively and one of the very best things I've ever eaten -- and it was simply matchsticks of jicama, ruby red grapefruit, avocado and pepitas.

Jicama salad

We left with sacks full of goodies -- fig balsamic vinegar from Lulu Petite, a bag of dark chocolates from Scharffen Berger, baguettes from Acme Bread Company, creamy Mt. Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery ... it was a ridiculous haul of goodness.

Next stop was our hotel, which was on the border of Union Square and the Tenderloin. Seriously. Half a block one way would get you to Macy's and Saks and other shopping. Half a block the other way would get you some crack.

That said, I loved our hotel. All the floors were decorated according to the elements. We were on floor Earth. There was also a fab meditation room, which was the best possible perk they could have given me.

Meditation room

We did some shopping, followed up by dinner with the wonderful Trish and her equally wonderful boyfriend. We went an organic soul food restaurant, which made my Southern-born heart swell with happiness. I created a dish entirely out of sides, since that's the good stuff anyway. Tiny corn muffins, mac and cheese, collard greens, plus a roasted beet and apple salad, all washed down with mint juleps and huckleberry margaritas. (No photos of dinner. Sorry. But here's shopping.)

Saks snowflakes

The next morning I was really excited to take Jason to Chinatown for traditional dim sum, which he had never had before. Chinatown is great, especially when all the places are just opening. It's an assault on the senses, with the food vapors leaking into the streets, the rattle of metal doors swinging open, a lot of shouting in Chinese.


Dim sum was excellent, although I think Jason was a little overwhelmed. The room was filled wall to wall with about 200 Chinese people; I was the only white person in the place. It was crazy loud, with the metal carts rattling past with food every few seconds and screaming and words tumbling forth that I don't entirely understand.

I took on the role of hunter/gatherer, grabbing the carts and selecting steaming baskets of food for us, while Jason just ate and enjoyed.

Dim sum

We tried to walk off brunch while searching for the fortune cookie factory that I've always wanted to tour but was never able to find before. And success! It's just a teensy place, so there's not much to tour exactly. But it was amazing to see the hot cookie batter get pressed flat on the griddle machine, then stuffed with fortunes and shaped on a metal bar.

I never really thought about how fortune cookies took shape before. I guess I thought a machine did it. But it's actually incredibly fast and talented workers, like this woman:

Makin' fortunes

Then it was off to Japantown for shopping and even more eating. Jason also managed to find this really rare orchid he's been searching for -- it was in the smallest, most random bonsai store. I found a bookstore and picked up some manga for a friend who is really into anime, as well as some great Yoshitomo Nara prints for me.

Here's a sushi place all dressed up for Christmas:

Sushi Xmas

And I'm a brave eater, but I don't know if I'm quite brave enough for this dish. Maybe if the salad actually was alive:


After Japantown, we had an all-too-brief evening in the Mission District before flying home.

Tomorrow: Murals in the Mission!
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