Favorite time of year in San Francisco: when days are hot enough for a sundress, but evenings require a down comforter.

Advertisements

Don’t ya just feel like a dog in a cone?

I feel like I go through these periods of self-motivation and self-doubt, ups and downs that inspire me to ambitiously attempt to train for a marathon (didn’t complete), sign up for a stats class at Berkeley (got an A), or decide to give up gluten for tummy comfort reasons (it’s a daily struggle, given my love of bread). I remember the time when ambition didn’t come from willpower, but instead from lack of choices – there was no option other than to complete a pre-determined path. Now, not so easy to see the trail in the woods, and I often stray, lured by grand adventure or Game of Thrones.

The idea of “tricking” yourself into being awesome appeals to me, because, hey, that’s all I used to do in my previous  life. So why not now? Why can’t I get back into the younger mentality of speaking without fear of judgement, singing at coffee shops despite my lack of instrumental talent, or writing because dammit, it’s something I like to do?

Here we attempt a daily writing update a day, once again. Tried before, failed before, but willing to dust off and try again, because who cares? Really? Just me and my self-censoring late-20s ego. So to my Mum, and the three other people that read this thing: dust off your RSS feeds, because you’re about to get a daily dose of awesome.

Dear Mum,

You taught me…

strength and patience,

kindness and endurance,

wisdom and faith,

confidence and questioning,

humor and humility,

how to learn, and how to teach

how to be a great woman, and how to be an even better human,

that it’s OK to cry, and that it’s even better to kick ass and take names,

and that a cup of tea and a bath can heal everything

from a broken leg to a broken heart.

Dear Mummy, on your Birthday

thank you. If I can become half the woman you are, I’ll be head and shoulders above many.

Rock on, honey badger. I love you.

Living in San Francisco, we normally venture north should we need a weekend away from the fog and noise (Ben’s family is up there, and I often find myself with a hankering for a glass of Carneros Pinot that cannot, nay SHALL NOT be ignored). This past weekend, after purchasing the Moon Guide to Northern California Biking, we decided to travel south on 1 to explore what had previously been a drive through on the way to visiting otters at the aquarium – Santa Cruz and surrounding area.

I left the research up to Ben this weekend, and he totally killed it, hotel-wise. Taking a cue from Weekend Sherpa (and some advice from friends), we made a reservation at the Davenport Roadhouse, just up the road from Santa Cruz, nestled amongst art galleries and impossibly cute beach houses.

When it comes to hotels, I have very specific likes and not-so-likes. For instance, I love luxury, but I don’t like chain hotels. I love quirky details, but I don’t like fussiness. I like a hotel bar, but I don’t always care for wine with a B&B owner. I’m a bargain hunter, but I need a certain amount of comfort. Somehow, Ben and the Roadhouse delivered on everything I needed – it was the perfect way to enjoy Santa Cruz without breaking the bank or sacrificing a weekend off.

We left San Franciso Saturday morning, and lazily made our way down Highway 1. After discovering that the Ana Nuevo elephant seals tours were on standby, we pledged to wake our butts up early and do our best to get one of the leftover spots. Arriving at the roadhouse near 2PM, we unpacked in our ocean view room (see above), went down to the Roadhouse bar and got out the  Moon book to plan out the ride for the next day. In the meantime, the 49ers game was playing and they beat the Saints (bittersweet, in retrospect), which led to much merriment after a walk on the beach.

I enjoy good restaurants in hotels: there’s something about a two minute walk downstairs versus a cab ride that makes the meal that much more satisfying. Since I’m on this gluten-free thing, I had the salmon and ignored the hot bread they brought out – it was fabulous, and went well with the absolutely perfect brussel sprouts. Service was a bit spotty, but I chalk that up to a) getting slammed and b) being understaffed. Overall, very satisfying.

The next day, we woke up bright and early to get standby tickets for Ano Nuevo, because if there’s one thing that screams awesome weekend to me, it’s an alpha elephant seal defending his harem (sounds like RAGHRRRRRGH). We narrowly beat other couples to grab the last spot for the guided walk, and spent the entire time hanging on our Naturalist’s every word – he knew EVERYTHING. After watching a couple of almost-fights, and marvelling at the fact that being an elephant seal looks pretty freaking uncomfortable, we walked back to the car to get prepped for our big bike ride through Santa Cruz (more on what started as awesome, then turned into hell later).

After three and half hours on the road, 1900 feet of elevation gained, and far too many “oh GOD when is this going to end” courtesy of moi, we ended up back at the Roadhouse, exhausted and elephant seal-like smelly. Our first stop was the bar, where we managed to communicate “NEED… TRUFFLE FRIES… SPARKLING WINE… HURTS” –  I’m pretty sure they were the most delicious fries in the history of the world, and not just because they prevented me from passing out right there on the floor.

After recovering, showering, and slowly regaining motor skills, the challenge of what to eat for dinner presented itself, and an app I’ve used for ages kicked travel recommendation ass. Using Foursquare’s “Discover” feature, we decided on Pono’s Hawaiian Grill and were not disappointed – I for one didn’t know that all I wanted after a really hard ride was Spam sushi, but I am never one to say no to an adventure. After devouring the dinner, we proceeded to hobble back to the car, go back to the Roadhouse, and sleep 12 hours.

The trip home included a stop at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, which, sadly, has fallen into disrepair due to a jurisdiction issue between the State Park and the Coast Guard (what are you waiting for? GET TO DONATIN) as well as another Foursquare Explore discovery, the Moss Beach Distillery, where we received a free drink for checking in before moseying on back to the North Beach homestead.

Coming up next: an elaboration on peaceful beach walks, as well as the ethics of yelling the f word very loudly on bike rides.

In case you’re interested, I made a Foursquare list of the weekend.

See?!? I MADE BREAD!

Look, let’s get one thing straight. I am a tried and true, born and blue Calgary carnivore, raised on Prime Rib and dreams. I had a vegetarian phase in high school that lasted six weeks, and then I abandoned it. The one thing I loved about going veggie, however? BREAD.

Hi, I’m Amy, and I’m a breadaholic.

Back in October, I learned how to bake the Sullivan Street Bakery recipe for No Knead Bread, and it changed me. All of a sudden, I wasn’t Amy who can’t make a cupcake with a gun to her head – I was a BAKER. For a holiday party in December, I made a batch, and delighted in every guest who exclaimed “oh my God, you made this?”.

That was, however, before my doctor suggested I may have a “gluten sensitivity“. I’m 27 and my body was rebelling –  my allergies had gone haywire, my weight was fluctuating despite regular trips to spin class, and frankly I was feeling pretty icky. She suggested I go a month without gluten to see if my body responded – well, that and a new ultra badass and sexy allergy medication (oh yea!). 

So there we have it – nearly halfway through my gluten-free experiment and so far, so good. I’ve been using 21habit to forces myself to commit to sticking with it – yes, I’m so cheap that a dollar a day motivates me. I also have great, healthy coworkers, and lots of places near me where I can grab a salad, and now I have to be very aware of what I mindlessly snack on (I’m hoping this focaccia-free foray proves fortuitous for my fanny – awkward alliteration FTW).

Which brings me to my final thought: Paxti’s Gluten Free Vegan Pizza is actually really freaking good. This, of course, comes from a bread loving meat eater who might (no judgements) be addicted to carb consumption and is current cold turkey. Still, I’m pressed I would even consider it a pie I maaaaaay nearly crave after too many manhattans.

Onwards!

There’s a man down on Market street shouting, and even from eight floors up I can tell he’s not happy. Though one can’t make out the content of his rants, I can assure you they’re most likely not appropriate for a conversation with your grandmother.

Walking in today, I turn a corner near a bakery as they prep to open, and was overwhelmed by the scent of bread, and the reminder that I can’t eat it for the next month (damn potential gluten sensitivity). Around me, morning commuters perked their nose and looked around, this wonderfully warm unknown smell interrupting their scurrying.

I pass a man in the subway singing a cappella whenever I get on a train at Montgomery. No matter what day, no matter what season, he’s singing “My Cherie Amour” at the top of his lungs, perfectly. I make eye contact with him and drop a dollar in his hat – one must reward musical talent, after all. He smiles, and the song’s stuck in my head for the next hour.

Stuck behind a group of visitors on Market street as I run errands yesterday evening, I’m dumbstruck by a scent I can’t place. Laundromat cleanser? Unknown cologne? Aftershave of an old flame? Nope, I’m just outside the Abercrombie at Westfield – yep, that’s what it is.

Anyone else think that city life would be much improved by numerous street based musical numbers with elaborate choreography and unwavering grins? Anyone? Bueller?

Yea, I’m on a Jason Segal kick right now.

The area around Union Square in San Francisco has been a sort of No Man’s Land to me, or at least was before we moved into our new offices there this week. Previously, I’d cross the threshold near the Gap, the cable cars, and the Ferrari theme store only to get off the 8X and hop on the Muni, or to bring in my broken MacBook to the Apple store, mewling like a stepped on cat because I couldn’t get my shift key to type.

Typically, my complicated relationship with this area of the city is as follows: I like to avoid it. Why, you may ask? Up until now, the only time I was able to go was after work and on weekends when everything is concentrated and magnified. Sidewalks are crowded with slow walkers (grrrr…. slow walkers….), sketchy folks nearly outnumber the wide-eyed out-of-towners, and high quality San Francisco restaurant fare hides between the reeds of chain restaurants, Walgreens, and stores containing purses worth more than my life insurance.

Problem is, Union Square contains some pockets of awesome: my wonderful dentist Dr. Serdar has an office overlooking the concrete park, high above the bustle with cleanings hastened by personal TVs playing 30 Rock reruns. I get my brows done (GIRL ALERT) at the Benefit brow bar, unless I can’t fathom the hour and a half long wait. The Burritt Room serves a kickass cocktail, and I really enjoy a zinfandel at Press Club, and Jasper’s Corner Tap Room has negronis on tap…

The jaded “local” (ooh, look at me, I’ve lived here three years, I know everything in this city so well) would rather turn her nose at the chain stores and crowds, but the pragmatist in me is excited to get to shop over lunch (hellloooooo Madewell, pleasure to make your acquaintance) and be able to pull together my errands without renting a Zipcar.

So as I walked in to work, as pricey designer shops send out their bouncers and a plump man in overalls hoses down the post-New Year remnants, I prepared myself for a new adventure – becoming familiar with an area I’ve always attempted to limit my time in.

I’m excited.

Walking around near our apartment the day after New Year’s Eve, I noticed more than just the occasional crusty upchuck on Stockton and bleary-eyed revelers catching cabs at 10 AM (sartorial note: the light of day does not forgive sequins). Most pressing, nay shocking to me was the shuttering of our go-to dim sum restaurant, Gold Mountain.

I’m no dim sum expert, but Gold Mountain had everything we looked for in a local place to eat in the morning. Often, Saturday or Sunday morning presented a challenge, namely that I crave food at that time and my better half does not. Despite my hankering for poached eggs and toast, the block and a half long line at Mama’s in North Beach seemed crazy to me (IT’S JUST BRUNCH I want to yell IT’S NOT WORTH WAITING  FOR THREE HOURS) and besides, he dislikes breakfast food anyways, so two and a half years ago we ventured forth to Chinatown for a solution.

Dim sum solved our breakfast/brunch problem: it’s not typical eggs-and-starch, it satisfies salt cravings, and it can be inexpensive (fun fact: my favorite dim sum dish growing up, according to my mother, was duck’s feet). This is how we happened upon Gold Mountain – although I love occasional trips to Yank Sing when family is in town, I’d much rather partake in cheap and cheerful bites off carts in Chinatown. Gold Mountain, on Broadway, was less busy than other large establishments but a  better environment than some of the hole-in-the-walls on Stockton. No matter what we ordered, we’d get out of there for $20ish for two, stuffed to the gills with Shiu Mai and Bao.

I guess you know you’ve lived in one area for long enough when you encounter a shuttered favorite with a sad sign in the window stating that their lease is up and you are genuinely surprised. There’s a twinge of sadness, an exclaimed expletive, and then a chuckle. It wasn’t because it was the best meal you’ve ever had, it wasn’t because they treated you well or recognized you when you came it: it’s because that’s where you went regularly, it was familiar and dependable and it’s where you went.

Walking around today, I see more papered storefronts and “closed effective immediately” signs. I guess this happens on the first of the month more often than I notice, but I’m seeing it more today. Out with the old…

This past month, the awesome staff at Anchor Steam toured us around their San Francisco brewery so I could take photos for a Drink Me Magazine profile. Joe showed us around, showing us the facility from every angle (even the hop room! A room! FULL OF HOPS!) and letting me run amok with my camera. The brewery tour is reserved out months in advance, so I must admit I felt a great amount of glee as I dodged past the tour and went behind the scenes.

It was a super foggy San Francisco day, and the staff were kind and hospitable as we did our best to not get underfoot. Overall, a fascinating perspective on a San Francisco institution, and a perfect excuse to have the Christmas Ale at 10 AM.

anchorsteam_3915

anchorsteam_3724

anchorsteam_3823

anchorsteam_4088

Many thanks to Joe and his team for taking care of us.I’ll post some outtakes soon.

%d bloggers like this: