Monday, April 2, 2007

the windy city

And I'm not talking about Chicago: that's one thing I won't miss about San Francisco.

The weather has been quite generous, but there was a moment this morning I thought our luck had run out. The sky was overcast and I was sure it was going to rain. The temperature gauge in the car read 54 degrees as we made our way to the Golden Gate Park. It was colder than what we had become accustomed to on this trip. Regardless, we braved the cold and walked through the park, passing on the $4 entrance fee into the Japanese Tea Garden, and never making it to the flower conservatory.

Our tummies were telling us it was lunch time so we drove across town to Chinatown for some dim sum. The sky had cleared up and the sun was out as we searched for the Grant Place Restarant: a small eatery serving a handful of dim sum fares. No servers carting around bamboo and tin steamers here. Esther thoroughly enjoyed the shrimp dumplings while I ate my through some chicken feet. I was in the mood for some Chinese pastry when I spotted the Golden Gate Bakery on Grant Street. As we crossed the street, I realized there was a line out the door. It must be good, I thought. As we got to the end of the line, a gentleman selling sunglasses next door kindly told us the end of the line was further down the street. There must have been about 30 people in front of us, but we got in line anyway. The man behind us, a born and raised San Franciscan, told us they made the best custard tart and the owner's brother made the best moon cake (not a big fan) in town at his own bakery up the street. As we got closer to ordering our dessert, the young lady in front of me frowned at the idea that I was only going to order one tart. "You might as well get half a dozen for waiting this long." So I ordered two and one coconut tart. The egg custard is slightly sweet and the thin, buttery, flaky crust is just firm enough to hold the warm custard. It was definitely worth the wait.

As we finished our dessert, we strolled into North Beach and took a browse through its famous independent bookstore City Lights. Three floors of books specializing in world literature, arts, and progressive politics. Like any other bookstore, I didn't leave empty handed. We stopped at Cafe Puccini, they had a jukebox of Puccini albums, for a cup of joe, then it was off to Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower. A nice hike up to a decent view of the city. Not sure I understood the whole purpose of this tower other than it was built after a bridesmaid who left her wedding party to chase a firetruck down the street. I didn't get that either.

It was back to Union Square for dinner at Colibri, a Mexican Bistro. Serving in traditional tapas style, we had the quesadillas, the tamals de Pescado: seared fish with plantains and vegetables wrapped in a banana leaf served with rice and beans, and a side of mojito. I munched on the coconut tart for dessert as we walked back to Chinatown. The city was quiet, shops were closing one by one, and the wind was still blowing as we said good-bye to San Francisco.

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