Monday, August 27, 2007

Pizzas, People and Places to See - San Francisco - August.07, Chapter I

Whew, I'm back!

Sorry, I didn't expect to be gone so long. This past week was a busy one. It's probably going to seem a little anticlimactic now after the wait, but I'll do the best I can.

My trip to San Francisco last week did not get off to a good start, to say the least. I just missed my outbound flight because the check-in line was twenty minutes and the security line was another twenty. Ok, that and I left fifteen minutes later than I had planned. But still - it was ridiculous. I waited two hours for the next flight, only to discover later that I had somehow left my plastic baggie with about $100.00 worth of makeup in it at the security checkpoint - since I was running to catch the plane of course. Grrrrrrr...

The only saving grace of the whole experience was that I picked up a copy of Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle at the airport to read while I waited. The book, written by a gossip columnist for MSNBC, tells the story of her experience growing up with horrendously irresponsible parents. And that's an understatement. Her father was an inveterate alcoholic dreamer, (the Glass Castle was the home he fantasized about building for the family) and her mother was an artist who viewed homelessness as an "adventure." It was a perfect airport read - sad but also funny and utterly engrossing. I was three quarters of the way through it by the time I got off the plane in Oakland.
College Avenue
At that point, I rounded up my luggage, collected my rental car and headed straight for Oliveto Cafe in Rockridge - a lovely little neighborhood on the border between Oakland and Berkeley. Driving down tree-lined College Avenue I remembered my desperate apartment search in that area several years ago. Literally 100 people would show up for a ten minute showing of an apartment, and first, last and deposit were due up front - a minimum $2400.00 investment. I probably should have just bitten the bullet and taken a room in a house with some roommates. Hindsight and all, ya know.
What a cool sign
It was after 2 PM when I snagged a parking spot on College, just past the Bart station, and headed into the restaurant. Just a few tables were occupied, and it was tranquil and welcoming, with a lazy afternoon vibe. The short menu warned that each dish was only on offer "while available." Only one out of the four sandwiches on the menu was still available, but I didn't care. I had already decided to order a pizza from their woodburning oven. I chose a small one with Pancetta and Italian Frying Peppers - described as similar to a green pepper with a bite - and a green salad to round it out.
Mmm..... Pizza with Pancetta and Peppers
When the food arrived, my day improved immediately. The pizza was perfect, with a paper thin crust, light smear of sauce and thin layer of melting cheese. It was speckled with the peppers (which tasted like un-pickled pepperoncinis), draped with thin slices of the pancetta and showered with thin shavings of Parmesan. The salad was also gorgeous with perfect Lolla Rossa and green lettuces, dressed in a shallot vinaigrette. If only every simple meal could be so good.
Gorgeous Lettuces
I savored every bite, paid the bill, and headed over to La Farine Bakery - further down on College toward Berkeley, for what I remembered as the best Chocolate Chip cookies around. I was pretty full by that time, but I picked up half a dozen cookies to go, mostly to share with Tommy as a host gift. (Nobody likes chocolate chip cookies better than Tommy - except maybe me.) They were ok, but not as good as I remembered. I'm not sure if it was just an iffy batch, a "rose coloured glasses" type memory, or if I have simply learned to make better cookies in the meantime.
La Farine
I had hoped to swing by and see Shuna at the Berkeley Farmers Market that afternoon, but alas the delays did not allow for that. If I wanted to get to the City in time to shower and change before meeting friends for drinks and dinner, I'd have to skedaddle over there, and so I did.
Champagne at Cafe Bastille
The main reason for my visit on this particular weekend was that my good friend Tracy was in town for a conference. She came to meet me at Cafe Bastille, where we also met up with some other friends - Tommy, Janine and Gregg and their gorgeous baby boy Felix, and fellow food bloggers Amy and Sam. After a few glasses of champagne, some frites and some good conversation - four of us - Sam, myself, Tommy and Tracy, headed up the street to Bar Crudo for dinner.

To be continued...


  1. i'm headed to san francisco myself in a couple of days for a wedding -- your post really pumped me up about it (and i was already giddy about going!) :)

  2. that was the funnest night
    I sent a thank you note to Tommy - you know the old fashioned way - by snail mail - i wondered if he got it because i just addressed it "Tommy" and the address I had from the last time I picked you up