Sunday, August 28, 2011
Beth and Judy's Excellent Adventure
We hit the highs and the lows (in terms of elevation), we happened upon a new culinary obsession and we spent as much time on the water as I could manage during Beth and Judy’s visit to San Francisco. Also, they get now why I committed post-season treason last year, forsaking the Cardinals to become a Giants fan, and they know why I want to run away and join a circus.
Our first stop was the top of Twin Peaks, two adjacent hilltops with an elevation of about 920 feet that provides a panoramic view of all the magic here. Twin Peaks is in the center of the city, just above my apartment. (You can see my house from there!) We didn’t walk up – though many people do, all the time. I’m working on that, a couple of blocks at a time.
Our first boat trip was a cruise of San Francisco Bay on the Red and White Fleet, which takes you out under the majestic Golden Gate Bridge and back, circling Alcatraz on the way. Last time I did this, with Cheri, we got wet from the spray because we were on a small fishing boat. This trip was far more sedate, which keeps you dry -- but does limit the fun factor.
Another day, we boarded the Duck, an amphibious vehicle driven by a big-hearted, wild and crazy guy who sports a Mohawk and wears a fake beard in homage to Brian Wilson, the Giants’ legendary closer. It’s fun to rock out to the music the driver plays on the ride through town and to watch people on the street break out in smiles and even dance moves, but the best part is when the Duck heads into the water and takes you out to McCovey Cove. That’s where all those people sit in kayaks or on party boats during ball games, hoping for a splash homer. Passengers get to drive the Duck in the cove, and that’s fun, too.
Other bodies of water we visited include the serene Bolinas Lagoon, an 1100-acre tidal estuary that reflects the sky. Just as Judy and Beth were lulled by the beauty of the lagoon, I told them what lies directly below the water: The San Andreas Fault. Then it was north to Tomales Bay, a 15-mile-long inlet (see photo above) with gorgeous views. Small restaurants featuring oysters and al fresco dining dot the road, while hawks and turkey vultures wheel overhead. Beautiful!
We rejected oysters and opted instead for open-face grilled cheese sandwiches made at the Cowgirl Creamery. These heavenly cheese toasties, as they are called, start with a thick slice of hearty bread, toasted and then topped with maple mustard, caramelized onions and the company’s Cabot Clothbound Cheddar cheese. A quick trip under the broiler and voila – a mouth-watering sandwich that haunts your dreams for days to come.
We first tried toasties at the Sidekick, the Cowgirl Creamery’s restaurant counter at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. There, the clerk was willing to top the toastie with pancetta. In Point Reyes Station, where we ordered our second round of toasties, pancetta was not permitted. Yesterday, after a ferry ride to an art festival (sea glass jewelry, colorful Polish pottery, fine metal work, intriguing etchings, excellent photography and a glass of sparkling wine with Emmeline Craig at her booth) in Tiburon, I actually ordered yet another toastie. I ate half and then, simply stuffed, handed the box with the second slice to a homeless guy across the street. He was thrilled.
Other great meals here included upscale Mexican at Colibri just off Union Square (we just said no to the $10 caipirinhas), coffee and scrumptious peanut butter cookies at Café Reverie in Cole Valley, a Le Sol pizza from Bambino’s and homemade lasagna and spinach salad at my house prior to a Scrabble game in real time, which now seems harder than playing on Facebook.
We did just a bit of shopping – fine art at Emmeline Craig’s studio in Bolinas, dried pears and a whale tail tee-shirt at Toby’s in Point Reyes Station, tie-dye socks at the Haight Street Sock Shop in Haight-Ashbury, new Keens for Judy at the Sports Basement near the Presidio and new boots for Judy at the Merrell store in Union Square. A few blocks from Pier 39, we popped in at the Musee Mechanique, which houses more than 300 player pianos, mechanical animations and novelty slot machines. That was magical on a small scale.
“Maestro’s Enchantment,” the current show at Teatro ZinZanni, was magical on a much grander scale – plus, Susan joined us for the evening. ZinZanni is a bit Cirque du Soleil, a bit cabaret, a bit comedy club and a gourmet five-course meal, which all adds up to a wondrous theatrical evening. The headliner right now is Yevgeniy Voronin, a world-class illusionist who I saw at the show in 2003, when Joan Baez played Madame ZinZanni. Maybe Voronin recognized me as a groupie, maybe not, but this time he came to our table, kissed my hand and slipped me a little note.
Relax -- it was not a personal note, or even an invitation to join the troupe, though 15 minutes into the show, I had already decided I want to work there. I’ll keep you posted.