We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.
Ever read that one? There are poems, books, novels, movies, songs, all about travel. It is at the essence of who we are. We are curious, and our need to seek and find new experiences and places is as primitive as the need for air. I am no exception to this. For as long as I have a memory of a memory I have wanted to travel. My internal draw possibly grew stronger as I was an avid reader since age three. Also attributing to the wanderlust was the general repetitiveness of Texas trips. I love Texas. Obviously. But, just like any other Texas girl dreaming on a star, I knew there must be more to see and discover!
If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know I love books. The mere idea that you can turn a page to a new time, place, and mentality is magical to me. This is also why I love movies and up until last month it was only in the books I read and movies I watched that I saw California. Yes, I've been up and down the East Coast of America and as high up as Colorado, but never to the lovely land of Cali.
Now pair my love for travel with my love for food and then tell me I'm going to San Fran, well you get the picture right? So now, take all of that excitement and follow me along as I dine and hike in the gorgeous hills of sunny(ish) San Francisco...
First stop? To Hog Island Oyster Co. in the historic Ferry Building Marketplace!
Straight off the plane I headed to grab a small bite before dinner, but I'd say these were some pretty solid first bites!
I knew I had an incredible dinner ahead that night so wasn't going overboard, but I didn't know just how astonishing of a meal it would truly be.
SPQR is led by, Michelin Star recipient, Chef Matthew Accarrino and Wine Director and Partner Shelley Lindgren. This dynamic duo really knows how to create a culinary experience, as was proof from my meal. (*Note, I'm lucky I managed to get the pictures I did, because I just wanted to dive in, #SelfControl, that said -- for brighter photos look through their check-ins on Instagram where the photos are almost as phenomenal as the food!) Here are my eats:
I was too mesmerized by the arrival of my first sight of food to grab the details, which was surely my sign of the piquant journey to come.
For me, I don't see beef tartare on the menu and say, " ...yes, that's what I want!", I think the idea of rare beef just doesn't do it for me. Then you take beets, which are great for us, but also come with their own strong flavor. However, this was so inventive and beautifully done. It's a must try if you're looking to expand your palate and/or overall mentality of what tartare should taste like.
I love brocolini, brussel sprouts, and burrata so of course my predisposition was to enjoy this dish, but it really was one of my favorite plates of the trip! Perfectly seasoned, cooked, and paired AND by the mind of a culinary genius using the freshest ingredients?! I obviously died and went to heaven in this moment.
This was one of the more surprising revelations of my eats. I do love all the components and fresh peas and chickpeas on the plate seemed natural enough, but was strangely intimidating. In my mind it looked almost too fresh...is that possible? You know the kind of dish, where you think you need a cheeseburger after. It really wasn't though. There was a pleasant blend of warm to cold items and the pork was so tender and beautiful I could really appreciate each piece as a compliment to the overall composition.
It could be because it's lunchtime, or because this was genuinely a moment when I felt like I had never actually eaten anything real before this bite -- but typing this now I can almost taste this squid ink pasta. Perfectly cooked, I mean, the texture was soft without being mushy and the flavor was almost that of wheat without the grainy finish.
When I visited it was a cool 60 something degrees at night, but with that ocean breeze it definitely felt a tad chilly out. So to get this gingerbread cookie, in May, with a breeze was just perfection. It was that transformative moment that only travel can bring and the perfect ending to a sensational first-nights dinner in San Francisco!
The next day I visited the cutest meat shop, Oliviers Butchery. Hailing from France, this artisan butcher landed in The Dog Patch, Meat Packing District, and is bringing only the best in. It's tiny, but mighty.
Of course no trip to San Fran would be complete without a little house-gawking. I mean, could this be any cuter? This was just one in a line of adorableness that trimmed the streets surrounding this area!
Chez Panisse was founded by Chef Alice Waters and like-minded friends in 1971 and maintains an unwavering commitment to local ingredients, as was evident by the meal I savored here.
The menu changes daily to match the fresh ingredients of the day. This evenings meal, while my only ever here, was phenomenal! Since you can read the details above, I'm just going to drop these photos right here:
I felt my tastebuds level-up in a way only Chez Panisse can provide you. That moment when I realized I really was missing out on another side of life, a life of ONLY the primmest-picks from the best soil and most tender-handed chefs and farmers who are true artisans in their field. Inspired is the beginning of what I experienced while dining here. The beginning.
I didn't snag a shot of the desserts description, but from what I remember: the pink beauty in the forefront was homemade strawberry sherbet and a lemon cookie. This cookie was so unique in texture to me. It was a tad chewy, but I wouldn't call it a crispy or soft cookie; topped with powdered sugar it was the extra flavor and for the seasonal summer shorbet. To the left we had a lemon sherbet over meringue and, I believe, candied kumquats with a side of blueberry preserve, top right was my favorite rhubarb pie and vanilla bean ice cream!
The next morning I was more than ready for a sunrise hike and to explore a bit. I hopped in a cab and headed across the bridge.
After asking around, I decided to ask the cabby to take me to the tourist drop off. Problem here is I didn't realize that it would be desolate so early in the morning and there was no coffee shop in sight. Naturally, I asked him to keep going and drop me in Sausalito.
It should come as no shock that when I'm out taking pictures, people are present. As I snapped this particular photo the cutest older couple smiled at me as they watched along. I turned to them and said, "I'm a travel blogger; just trying to capture all the cuteness." I continued, "people tell me I can't afford to live here, but I find it that much more motivating to try". To which they replied, "You can't afford not to, for your soul". Touché.
I continued to hold onto that statement through the next few hours and until now. The idea of finding what feeds your soul is so powerful to me that it is now my greatest obsession and I will accept nothing less -- in whatever way that takes form.
I decided to hike my way back to the scenic shot I was after, but after about two hours of exploring had past, I was down to 10% battery and slightly panicked. Now, I know I mentioned in my Miami blog that I learned my lesson on bringing a portable charger -- but I really didn't think my phone would die that quickly. That said, I was on the hunt for a plug in and fast.
...and with 3% battery, I saw the "end" in sight!
1% and I finally got a shot of the bridge! But come on people, we all know this isn't THE shot. This isn't what I got up at the crack of down to capture. After walking in circles in, around, and through the tourist stop I realized there were no plug-ins. None. Not one. Also, there was no attendant to ask about this.
So, I did what anyone who was desperate for more pictures would do: I asked a tour bus if I could just casually hang out and charge up for a bit. Luckily, I got a yes and 53%. #Winning
I took the opportunity to ask the tour guide and bus driver how to get across the freeway to the exact point I wanted to get to. They told me I'd have to go half a mile down the road I had just come from. At this point I was mentally prepared for the journey, but luckily intuition led me to a bridge security guy who pointed me to these stairs! Thanks dude.
After I little more climbing, I saw it. The point I was chasing. The point that every blogger and tourist has found and captured. One small prob, it was SO windy. Like terribly, disturbingly, almost maddeningly, windy. Also, somehow, in literally 45 minutes my phone went from 53% to 1%! So, I got snap happy -- knowing the pictures wouldn't be perfect but not caring at this moment.
The quote, 'it's not the destination it's the journey', rang so true for me and I was simply grateful to have pushed myself to hike alone and to find what I sought. That my friends, is what a success feels like.
Then there was this: the busy highway peeking through the trees. I took a seat and soaked it in. And then I remembered spiders live in the wild so I got up and kept it moving.
It was recommended to me to cross the bridge at some point, to which I gave a prompt 'yea right' face. The thought of hiking up a mountain and then across a bridge was not my idea of fun. However, I've dreamt of this bridge since watching Full House so I wasn't not going to take the journey.
Also, did you know 2016 is Golden Gate Parks Centennial year?! How cool!
...did I mention how windy it was? By this point, I was head down with wind in my face like a magnet. I just wanted to be done. To check the whole thing off and call it a day. That is, until I saw a couple peering over the bridge.
I thought, "O.K. Stephanie -- get over yourself, enjoy the journey, take it all in. Peer over the bridge."This is what I saw.
WHALES! Glorious majestic whales!! I went whale watching over the San Fran bridge. I mean, I'm sorry, but who does that?! Me. I did. I later found out this was a rare occurrence which made it that much more special. (*Also, I was still on 1% and thank the universe for allowing me to capture this to share!)
Then it was time, time for my last (dinner) meal. The choice? The Progress!
This old movie theater was transformed into the most amazing space that is a MUST visit in San Fran. Whenever I go anywhere, if a Michelada is on the menu it shall be ordered by me. This was an especially delicious one!
This tofu, was seriously amaze. So simple, literally just flour and tofu. Add a little garnish and yes. Yes I want all of this always.
I'm so obsessed with this open kitchen concept! Also, head upstairs and take a seat at the family style table for a immersive dining experience.
Grilled Spanish octopus, shell bean hummus, shaved fennel, toasted black rice, and preserved lemon. Paired with my first ever glass of Côtes du Rhône. This was the point when I felt my most cultured in life ever.
The next day, it was time to jet back to Dallas but a gals gotta eat. So I visited the famous Mel's Dinner.
After a final walk through San Fran at the Fishermans Wharf, that was all she wrote.
Don't let my too-cool-for-school last pic fool you. I had the time of my life. I already am plotting to get back and hope you are too!
Travel really is the surest way of losing yourself and finding yourself all at once.