Thursday, November 22, 2012

San Francisco, Day 6

Today is Thanksgiving, which means that lots of the places around San Francisco are closed. We'd started out with a CityPass booklet filled with lots of activities, and we were down to only two left. Since one of those was closed for Thanksgiving (we'll get to it tomorrow), we went down to Fisherman's Wharf and went for a cruise around the bay on the Blue and Gold fleet.

At quite a few attractions around San Francisco we've been stopped by staff to take photos in front of a green screen. When we're done with whatever we're doing, they have photos waiting for us, the background hastily replaced with whatever location we're visiting. I have no idea who actually buys those, because we could easily just do the same thing at home with a green screen of our own. Anyway, this was the third time that we posed for one of them. I don't really find it annoying so much as puzzling.

The ship we sailed on was the Golden Bear, which had three levels and lots of open-air seating. As we traveled through the water, we listened to a recording telling us all about sights to see in the Bay, interrupted by occasional warnings from our captain to hold onto things so that we don't fall down. The main attraction of the cruise was going under the Golden Gate Bridge, which I'm sad to say is about a thousand times more impressive than the bridge we have at home. Like anything though, I'm sure there are people who have to take a commute over the bridge every day who are sick of it. Alyssa and I plan to see Presidio Park tomorrow, which I'm hoping will offer a better view of the bridge and some more photo ops for us. The scale of the thing is certainly impressive, and being right under the middle of it looking up is probably the best way to take that in, short of being on top of one of the two towers. I got a little queasy on the trip, but nothing that some chocolate couldn't cure.
Our ship
The famed Golden Gate bridge

San Francisco Skyline
After the cruise was done, we walked down the wharf a bit, exploring the west end, which we hadn't really seen much of. We stopped to eat lunch at Boudin's Cafe, which sat atop a bakery run by the same people and famous for its sourdough. I had a crab cake sandwich, which was delicious, and Alyssa had a crab and corn bisque in a sourdough bread bowl, which she said was one of the best meals she'd ever had. After that we headed downstairs to look through their store, where there were breads in the shape of crabs, alligators, and turtles. We'll probably stop by there again on Saturday so that we have something to bring home.

Just north of the bakery was an mechanical museum, which thankfully didn't have an entry fee, but must have made all its money on people plunking quarters into the antique machines. There were quite a lot of things that moved around when you put quarters in, which seemed like a waste of time to me. I put a quarter into a "Dusty Oregon Trail" diorama, and for my efforts a hidden fan started up and blew dust around. That was the last diorama I made the mistake of paying for. More interesting to me were the authetic turn of the century zeotropes and viewers where you could plunk a quarter in and see a short movie of a racecar going around a track or some photos of a destroyed San Francisco in 1906. To my great amusement, there were also "adults only" machines which showed scantily clad (sometimes fully naked) ladies, and which the signs said were usually found in men's only establishments. I don't know why I found them so funny, but I consider those quarters well spent.
Ben checking out the latest in 3D technology

Really neat coin slot
The saddest diorama Ben's ever paid for
One of the many horrifying creatures

It was a male doll with pictures of female dolls in the background... it was confusing.

Further west along the wharf is Ghirardelli Square, which has lots of stores which revolve around chocolate. I happily parted with some money to get a large variety of their signature chocolate squares, and since Alyssa was starting to flag, we headed home soon afterwards. I'd wanted to do a factory tour, but there were no signs around about when and where that might have been, and I doubt they offered it on Thanksgiving anyway. The internet says that their factory isn't even located there anymore, so it's probably good that I didn't look around a lot for it. There were lots of signs and model equipment around though, so we got to see most of that before we left. Tomorrow I think the plan is to get a factory tour at TCHO, which is a different chocolate maker also located in town.
Ghirardelli's Christmas Tree

For dinner, we went eight blocks away to Le Colonial, a French-Vietnamese restaurant. Vietnamese is one of my favorite culinary groups, mostly because it's big on sauces and uses lots of variety to its flavors and textures. My dad also used to cook Vietnamese fairly frequently, so it's a taste that I'm more familiar with.
Alyssa and I have an internal sense of class, and Le Colonial is about at the top of what we feel comfortable eating at in terms of fanciness. The issue isn't even money (because, as I've said many times before, money is only really meaningful when the lack of it is preventing you from doing things, and I haven't been at that point since graduating college), it's just about feeling a little bit uncomfortable. It didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the food or the environment, but the class divide was definitely making its presence known. Alyssa and I reacted to it mostly by raising raising our pinky fingers while we did stuff.

The menu was filled with impenetrable Vietnamese words and the elaborate descriptions that I've come to expect from high class restuarants. For an appetizer I ordered bo tai chanh, which was a beef carpaccio. When I ordered it I didn't realize that this meant the beef would be raw; Alyssa has a strong aversion to all things raw, which is why she only eats cooked sushi and never licks the batter from the beaters. It was topped with peanuts, mint, sea salt, pepper, lime, and nuoc cham (my favorite sauce). It immediately went into the top ten list of best meals I've ever had.

For the main course, Alyssa had cha gio chay, which was sort of like an egg roll. She said the best thing about it was the ponzu sauce for dipping the rolls in. I was feeling a bit adventerous (and very trusting of the chef) and so ordered the ca thu nuong, which was seared ahi tuna, fingerling potatoes, and some vegetables that had been cut to look and have the texture of noodles, all with a pepper chili sauce. It immediately joined the carpaccio as one of my top ten meals of all time. The variety of flavors available in every bite were incredible, and even better, they were all the flavors that I like the most.

For dessert, Alyssa got some Jasmine tea, and I ordered the chef's platter, which was three different desserts in one. I had sort of thought that because we were at a fancy restaurant, the desserts would be fairly small, but I ended up with a lot more than I had planned on and ended up having to box it up to go. There was a molten chocolate raspberry cake, some kind of mini doughnut apple thing, and mango-ginger sticky rice in a flaky pastry shell. All of them, needless to say, were delicious.

We took a cab home, because as Alyssa said with a pinky raised, "Walking is for poor people."

1 comment:

Anni said...

Man! I love your descriptions of food the most! Sounds like an increrdible food experience. Now SF is definitely being raised to one of the top places I want to go. If you have time in the next two days you're there, will you pick me up something unusual that I can cook with? Something I wouldn't be able to get around here? I hope your next two days areas good as the first six. :-)