Saturday, June 8, 2013

Take 22 - A trip Up-North (kind of !)

A few weeks ago, David took a day off. We left San Jose late on that sunny Friday morning and headed North. A short drive later and minutes after checking into our hotel, we were enjoying lunch in Japantown (but more on that later). Yes, I am talking about San Francisco again, located North of San Jose and a mere 45 minute drive, traffic cooperating. Very accessible either by car or by train (see a previous post). The trick is to rid yourself of your car as soon as possible to enjoy the city on foot. The reason for this comment is that parking in San Francisco can be a nightmare and spaces are at a premium. So if you decide to visit, plan your day or days carefully.

For us, this time, things were truly different. We felt like two teenagers out on the town with some money in our pockets. The difference ? No pooch. We had not spent a night away from Taylor since ..... 18 months. Last time we were away from him overnight was when he flew from Vancouver to San Francisco via Toronto. (See the details of that trip in Take 2 of my blog.) We have hired a trainer for our Goldie and this wonderful person also does occasional dog boarding for her clients, freeing us and enabling us to take trips sans chien.

Japantown is a neighbourhood which is amazing to visit. The architecture is authentic and surprising and looking upwards can often make you discover little gems like shops or simply a beautiful building. Speaking of shops, they are numerous and can be terribly inexpensive such as (Daiso) where almost all items cost $1.50 or very expensive if you go to antique shops or jewelry stores. In the main mall, not to be missed because of its Japanese decor, Japanese lunch can be had for a few dollars and everything is fresh and tasty. Of course, having lived in Vancouver for more than a decade makes me a fussy customer when it comes to Japanese food but the food is worth the detour.

The weather up there was typical for San Fran. Every morning was gray with a marine layer (looks like thick clouds), then the sun broke through for a few hours warming our bones as we walked beneath wall-to-wall blue skies. By late afternoon, the fog would dramatically rolled in with a fierce cool wind blowing and marking the end of the clement weather for that day. The expression used for this weather phenomenon is May Grays and later in the season, June Gloom.

When we go to San Francisco, we generally do not like to make plans. We like to meander. Going up one street and down another. This is how we discover little shops and restaurants. One of these shops is Utsuwa on Polk Street at Bush Street. It is a magical tiny store specializing in bonsais and terrariums. There are large ones but there are lots of small and very affordable specimens beautifully displayed in a space full of light. the owner is friendly and helpful and, should you decide to adopt a bonsai or terrarium, he will patiently explain the ins and outs of taking care of it. He will even evaluate online or in person, your adoptee's health. I urge you to go visit, even if you are not planning on purchasing. We fell for the charm of the place and their plants and brought home a bonsai and a terrarium. One sits in my kitchen window, the other outdoor on our upstairs deck. Here are photos of my newly adopted specimens.

During that weekend, we had lunch in North Beach (where there is no beach and which is also known as Little Italy) at Trattoria Pinocchio. The Fettucine Puttanesca were outstanding. David raved about the Calzone too. We sat outside at a sidewalk table. Very casual but also very romantic. The service was friendly, relaxed and efficient. We would go back there in a heartbeat. The restaurant is located on Columbus Street At Vallejo Street. Prices are also quite reasonable for San Francisco and for such good quality food.

On another day we took a cable car (my first time, despite all of my previous visits to San Francisco) on California street and headed downtown. We walked to the wharf, which is usually rather crowded but on that Sunday, Mother's Day, the streets were less busy and we took our time to enjoy the walk. We decided to go visit Tcho chocolate. Tcho is an American high end chocolate company based in San Francisco. Their headquarters, shop and factory are at Pier 17 on the Embarcadero. You can purchase chocolate there and you can even tour their factory. Their products come in white, milk and dark and are amazing and original. Not your usual flavors. Go try a sample !

Going to San Francisco is a constant surprise because the city keeps evolving and changing. It is a city, very much like Paris, that you discover bit by bit while walking its streets and people watching. When we go there, we leave the rushing around to others and savor all that is San Francisco. Here are a few photos including a couple of Chinatown streets, the inside of the a Cable Car and a few buildings.

Here is a refreshing salad:

Cucumber and Yogurt Salad
2 large cucumbers
1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cups Greek Yogurt
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp finely chopped mint

Peel the cucumbers. Cut them in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Slice very thinly. (I use a vegetable peeler). Place the cucumber slices in a colander. Sprinkle with salt (a pinch or two) and let drain 15-20 minutes. Mix the garlic, lemon juice, yogurt and dill in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in the cucumber slices. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the mint. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving and enjoy.

Bon App├ętit !