san francisco 2012

For our one year anniversary, we went to San Francisco. We’d never gone before, and since we were already making 4 trips out west (for various weddings and whatnot), we figured we should go somewhere cheaper (versus going somewhere in Europe). It’s a cute place, definitely a lot hillier than I had ever imagined. I mean, freaking. Look at these hills!!

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We missed a few trolleys here and there and ended up walking a lot more than we intended. It was also a lot windier than I expected, and I forgot to pack a jacket! I thought a sweater would be ok, but nothing beats windproof. Here’s a couple details about the trip, should you find yourself wanting to go to SF and like suggestions. I basically took a bunch of places that my friends suggested or had gone to before, and made an itinerary based on that. Note that I am not a resident of SF so these are mostly going to be pretty touristy attractions… whatever.

HOTELS:

  1. The first two nights we stayed at the Omni San Francisco Hotel. It’s in the Financial district and very convenient for using the trolley. It’s also within walking distance to Union Square, Chinatown, and the Ferry Building. We arrived at SFO on Saturday at around 9 am, and made our way to the hotel about 5 hours earlier than check-in, hoping to at least leave our bags with the concierge. The hotel attendant not only let us check in 5 hours early (which was a great relief, because it was nice to freshen up), but he also upgraded us to a suite when we said it was our anniversary. Since the hotel was close to a lot of the places we ended up going, we could go in the middle of the day to freshen up and take short naps. I was sad to check out.
  2. The third night we stayed at the Taj Campton Place. They call themselves a 5* business hotel, and also a luxury boutique hotel. To be honest, we couldn’t really tell the difference between this and the Omni (which is supposedly 4*?), other than the Omni’s hotel staff was actually a lot friendlier, and the Omni upgraded us (but the Taj did not). From this trip we have made the decision to not switch hotels in the duration of our trips, unless it is like moving from the Red Roof Inn to the Ritz Carlton. Anyway, the hotel was nothing special, but it was pretty close, or maybe inside Union Square. They offer Nespresso in the rooms, which is kind of cool?

FOOD:

For Saturday lunch, we ate at R & G Lounge [Chinatown]. I made a reservation to go here, and when we got there, the woman seated us immediately (I don’t think the res made a difference). It seems like every asian who goes to SF goes to this place for their deep friend dungeoness crab. We ordered a crab, some duck, and for some reason (perhaps we were feeling ambitious), we ordered a fried rice too. I mostly ate the crab because the duck was *so* salty, and the rice was just fried rice (nothing special). If you go here, order the crab, but share with at least 2 other people. It’s a lot of deep fried goodness to share with only one other person.

For Saturday Dinner, we ate at Izakaya Sozai [Inner Sunset]. This was really out of the way from our hotel, and I went in wanting ramen, and left with a bit of disappointment. Yelp led me astray. This place seemed like a small, trendy Japanese restaurant, with a lot of tapa sized dishes. The ramen is kind of an afterthought here. It was ok.. but I’ve definitely had better (Ippudo [NY], Daikokuya [LA]). J also ordered a $4 sweet buttered corn, and it was literally like someone opened a can of corn, heated it with butter and pepper, and served it. I also ordered bacon wrapped mochi [$5], and that was probably my favorite thing that we ordered. For the ramen [$9], I ordered spicy miso [$1.50], and it was kind of a kimchi side dish that you eat with the ramen. J ordered pork belly [$2], which he only received about two pieces of. I guess I would maybe recommend you go there for non-ramen dishes, it looked like others were having a good time.

izakaya

For Sunday breakfast, we ate at Prather Ranch Meat Co [Ferry Building Marketplace]. I ordered the American Eatery Breakfast Sandwich [$7], which I ordered with bacon (normally comes with ham, which I don’t care for). It was basically an over-easy egg with cheese and bacon, and I think arugula. Pretty fresh tasting. J ordered the Maple Smoked Ham & Cheese Biscuit [$8], which he said was extremely messy [it looked like the egg had exploded everywhere] but tasty. I wanted to go to Blue Bottle Coffee, but the line was ridiculous.

Since we were full from breakfast, we ended up skipping lunch and just having Jamba Juice. I ordered the White Gummy Bear smoothie, which is apparently on their secret menu. It’s kind of a weird taste at first but after a few sips, it’s pretty good. J got something mango-y which was on their non-secret menu. We also were scared that our dinner would be small portioned (and we were hungry from skipping lunch), so we split a hamburger meal at In-and-Out. West coast tradition seems to be to eat at In-and-Out whenever we’re there… haha. Kind of like how we eat chicken & rice @ the 53rd & 6th halal cart in NYC.

For Sunday dinner, we went to Frascati [Russian Hill]. This was *my favorite meal* in San Francisco.

The ambiance is really great – it’s not hoity toity, but it does have some class. We came in at 6, and there was almost no one there yet, so we had our pick of seats. I chose the balcony, and it was nice because we could smell all the food being made, and also see our dishes being made too. The kind waitress gave me a tasting of the moscato & the riesling, but being the non-wine drinker I am, I ended up getting neither (felt bad about it though). I ordered the Grilled Flat Iron Steak [$28], and this I want to say is the most memorably delicious steak I’ve ever tasted. The flavor was the perfect amount of citrus and garlic, but it didn’t overwhelm the taste of steak.

J got the Pan Seared Bluenose Bass [$25], which flaked to perfection and tasted great.

We reserved our table through opentable (probably the only restaurant out of the ones we went to that had the option to reserve through open table) and wrote a note that it was our anniversary. The manager came up to chat with us, and gave us his congratulations. The waitress came back after our table was cleared with a delicious and complementary scoop of caramel and almond crunch ice cream. Everything was lovely!

For dessert (as if the ice cream were not enough), we walked .5 miles to Ghiradelli Square and had some more ice cream. Probably overkill, but I think I just wanted to say I went to Ghiradelli… (The ice cream @ Frascati was better)

For Monday breakfast, we travelled all the way to Mama’s [North Beach/Telegraph Hill] only to find out she isn’t open on Mondays… (poor planning) :( So instead, we had brunch at Boudin’s [Fisherman’s Wharf]. I had a “best of boudin” (kind of like the panera deal where you get half soup/half sandwich/half soup), where I got a bread-bowl of chowder and a turkey avocado sandwich [$8], and J thought he was getting a “best of boudin” with a bread-bowl of chowder and a crab cake sandwich, but apparently you can’t pick the crab cake sandwich for the deal, so it was kind of expensive [~$6 for the soup, ~$10 for the sandwich?].

Wharf

My turkey sandwich was kind of stupid, and I didn’t care for the sourdough bread bowl that much (the innards of the bread were really doughy for my taste), though the chowder was really good. J’s crab cake sandwich was also good. I think I prefer Panera’s bread bowl.. >.<

We wanted some dessert, so we stopped by Trish’s Mini Donuts (stole this idea from my friend Diana :P). Pretty tasty. Can’t say no to fresh donuts!

For Monday dinner, we went to The House [North Beach/Telegraph Hill].

Photo May 07, 8 40 21 PM

I went here because one of our friends raved about the steak. They have like 40 specials which I feel like they expect you to remember, but since I didn’t, I asked her to say them again (which she did :P). We ordered the deep fried salmon roll (meh) and the mussels for appetizers (good). I ordered the ribeye as my meal and J ordered the Kobe steak (a special). My ribeye was overcooked (I asked for medium rare, but got it medium well), and it had *so* much garlic all over it.

Definitely liked Frascati’s better! J’s kobe was well cooked and tender, as I would expect a kobe (or fake kobe?) to be. The guy who was eating alone across the restaurant ordered TWO deep fried softshell crabs. They looked huge, tasty, and crazy looking (all it’s legs up in the air). Sort of wish we had that instead of the deep fried salmon roll :(. I don’t know how much each item was, but in total, we spent ~$100.

We went to the Top of the Mark [Nob Hill] for cocktails & post-dinner dessert. I ordered a lychee martini ($13) and even asked them for half the amount of alcohol and double the amount of juice, but it was still too alcoholy for my taste. Probably would have enjoyed straight up lychee juice more. J ordered a $6 pineapple juice (ridiculous, I know. pretty sure it wasn’t fresh squeezed pineapple either). We also ordered creme brûlée [$14], which was delicious, but so tiny. It was 3 little pho spoons with mocha in one, raspberry in one, and vanilla in the last one (mocha was my fave, raspberry was J’s. Vanilla was underwhelming).

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The view was pretty nice. Originally we started with a view of alcatraz, but moved to a table with the view of the sunset and the bridge.

Nice place, but it kind of felt like where old rich people on the Titanic would go to dine. Not our kind of scene.

On Tuesday, we headed to wine country. For breakfast, we stopped by Boon Fly Cafe [Napa], and it was delicious!

boonfly

We ordered 4 donuts + coffee [$6.75] – the donuts were mouthgasmic. I ordered the Boon Fly benedict w/ bacon [$15], which was great. It comes with crispy hash browns, and I do not argue with crispy potatoes of any kind. J ordered the Poppa Joe’s Eggs in a Hole [$13], where he discovered he likes eggs in a hole. If I could go again, I would probably eat a baker’s dozen of donuts (they’re small donuts?.. don’t judge me) and a side of hash browns.

We wanted to try Rutherford Grill or the girl + the fig (recommendations from a friend) in Napa, but again, we were so full from breakfast that we skipped lunch again. Instead, we went to our wineries, and went on our way back to SF and went to Tartine Bakery [Mission] to pick up dessert for after dinner. I got a morning bun, and J got a hazelnut tart. J said the tart was just alright, but I really liked the morning bun. Very crispy. But before we ate these, we went across the street to Bi-Rite Creamery – SO GOOD. I got the salted caramel and ricanelas (cinnamon ice cream & snickerdoodle pieces) on a cake cone, and it was sewww delicious! I was so amazed that while eating it, I ordered their cookbook on Amazon. J got the Cookies & Cream – safe choice. It was .. your standard cookies & cream. If you go, which you must, you must order salted caramel & ricanelas.

For Tuesday dinner, we wanted sushi, so we yelped it, and yelped failed us again. Kabuto [Richmond District] was kind of dingy, and while the cuts of fish tasted very fresh, we couldn’t help but feel like they spritzed lemon over the fish too – it had a weird lemony taste that isn’t usually present at the sushi places we go to. We had a reservation, but we didn’t need it apparently – the place was not that busy, and the lady just sat us wherever. I ordered a chirashi, and J ordered a sushi-sashimi plate. We also found escolar (aka white tuna or butterfish), which is our favorite fish (though yes, we know it is dangerous and causes stomach issues if you eat too much).

sushi

It was pretty good, what we were used to from Yama. This part of the neighborhood seemed kind of ghetto, maybe because it was far away from downtown or the more touristy parts of SF. There was also a family where the parents were divorced and the two (young) boys kept fighting about whose turn it was to sit next to their dad. I was sad, but also annoyed at their bickering. In any case, I don’t think I’ll be going back here for some more sushi if I go back to SF.

 

SIGHTS:

We went to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market [Embarcadero], which is open on Saturdays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Nothing special here, maybe if I wanted some fresh flowers or fresh produce… but I didn’t. They have some booths which are reminiscent of Eastern Market (unique jewelry and paintings and things).

We went to was the San Francisco Visitor Information Center [Union Square] to pick up our CityPass, which we purchased online for $69 per person. The CityPass was a good deal – it covered all buses and trolleys (the trolley is $6 a ride, and it doesn’t include transfers. I think we rode the trolley like 6 times or so), the Blue & Gold Bay Cruise ($32 pp), the Aquarium ($17 pp), and a few other things we didn’t go to. I think in total, we saved maybe $30 per person. There was also a 15% off Bloomingdales coupon.

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We walked around Chinatown for a little, but didn’t really see anything we wanted. There’s a lot of random Chinese related items, but sadly no one asked if I wanted a handbag.

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We walked around Haight-Ashbury, which is similar to Melrose St in LA. It has a lot of boutique stores. We went here because KidRobot was here!

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On Tuesday, we went shopping at Union Square, which is a huge area with a lot of shops, mostly high-end. I’ve been searching for a grown-up wallet, feeling that my J Crew Magic Wallet is no longer cutting it anymore. There’s a lot of nice stores like Kate Spade, Tory Burch, LV, Gucci, Barneys, Saks, Neiman Marcus, Salvatore Ferragamo, etc. I almost laughed when I checked the price tag of a Salvatore Ferragamo wallet was $500, but I kept it in and let it out when I left the store. The only thing I ended up buying that day was two Oliver Appetizer Plates from CB2 (the cheese & pepper ones). I ended up buying my grown up wallet from Bloomingdales with the 15% off coupon.

We also walked around Fisherman’s Wharf (mostly to get to In-and-out) and walked down Lombard St (the crooked part).

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After dinner, we walked to Ghiradelli Sq, and watched the sunset by the water.

[Free w/ City Pass] As I mentioned in #1 under Sights, we did the Blue & Gold Fleet Cruise [Pier 39], which basically goes under the Golden Gate Bridge, around Alcatraz, and Angel Island (which I don’t remember going around). The view was great, there was no fog at all. We also went to the Aquarium, which is totally worth it if it’s free, but we probably wouldn’t have paid the $20 entry fee if we didn’t have the CityPass. It’s pretty small but it does have to tunnels which you can walk through and have fish swim around you. I think I took like 70 pictures of the various starfish in different positions, hehe.

At the aquarium, I found the many of the characters of Finding Nemo, including Gurgle:

Marlin (no smaller fin)

Dory

and Bubbles

Some of my favorite aquarium photos include this crazy tank of man-of-war jellies:

And these cohabitatin’ frogs:

This treehugging turtle was alright, too:

We made our way to Double Punch [North Beach], a small boutique toy store which J found online. We got a Topo Joe, which can go with our Topo.

On our last day, we drove over to Exploratorium, but found out there was an event going on so we couldn’t go inside. We walked around the Palace of Fine Arts:

And then moved on to the Timbuk2 Flagship Store [Hayes Valley], where J traded in his backpack for a bigger one. We also went to Sports Basement, which was basically a really, really big REI. No crazy deals though :(

Places we wanted to go to but didn’t have time:

  • Golden Gate Park, Conservatory of Flowers, Carousel, Chinese Pavillion
  • Twin Peaks (I was too cold, and I forgot to pack pants hehe)
  • Nighttime Golden Gate Bridge drive (too tired)
  • Painted Ladies (forgot)
TRANSPORTATION:
  1. For most of the trip, we used the trolley (free w/ CityPass, $6 if you don’t have a city pass (no transfers)), and we walked a lot.
  2. On our last day, because we had to drive to Napa/Sonoma, we rented a car. We read somewhere that it’s not recommended to rent a car in SF unless you’re driving to Napa, mostly because parking sucks and/or is extremely expensive. We agree. Our overnight parking (9 hours?) was $11. All day would have been like $40.

WINE COUNTRY: Because J and I are such *heavy* alcoholics, we made it a point to go to Napa/Sonoma. I’m kidding, J didn’t even drink anything, and all I had was a quarter of a glass of moscato. But in any case, we wanted to go because we heard it was pretty, and I wanted some moscato (love me some sweet wine). Here are the wineries / vineyards we went to:

Domaine Carneros [Napa] – We went here because our friend told us it was pretty, and it was for sure. Kind of mansiony, very well kept. No idea how the alcohol was, we stayed for 5 minutes.

Artesa [Napa] – Also went here because our friend told us it was pretty, and WOW. The winery looks like a bunker, but there are these really beautiful fountains errywhere! At this point in the trip, I decided I wanted to collect corks from the wineries we went to (but missed Domaine. Sall good!).

Gundlach Bundschu [Sonoma]- I think we went here because our friend said it has a cave tour, but we did not partake it in, nor the wine. This winery wasn’t particularly picturesque, but since I can’t speak for the wine or the cave, I guess I can’t say much about this one. If you’re going to take pictures, you can skip this one.

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Ledson [Sonoma-ish… More like Kenwood] – Oh man, this place was BEAUTIFUL. They call the winery a “castle”, but it’s kind of more like an extremeeeely fancy house. Definitely a must go if you’re going for pictures. I tried their moscato here, but it was meh.

Castello di Amorosa [St. Helena] – also beautiful! This place is LITERALLY built to look like a castle. It would have been cooler if it WAS a castle, but repurposed into a winery, but alas. Anyway, this place doesn’t have a tasting room unless you pay the $18 entry fee, which I thought was ridiculous. It did, however, have a cool little farm area which I took pictures of a sleeping sheep and a peacock.

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V Sattui [St. Helena] – The winery itself is OK. There are a lot of really pretty flowers, including peonies (above) and roses everywhere. The building was ok, but the best part of this winery was their bubbly moscato! It was so delicious, I actually bought two bottles! If I ever crave it, I’ll definitely have to buy it online (since they don’t sell in stores!). Trust me when I say this link has been bookmarked.

The only vineyard I wanted to go to but didn’t end up going to was Jacuzzi Family Vineyards [Sonoma]. Since it was the last on our list, and I wanted to end on a high night (with bubbly moscato), we passed. But if you’re going for pictures, this place looks beautiful~

Lastly, our failed attempt to view the GG bridge on the way back from Wine Country:

Wooo! I recommend going to SF if you haven’t. It’s so different from LA or SD! Maybe if we go again, I’ll do some better research about food. Hope this was entertaining! I don’t think I’ve written this much in a while…

Lastly (for real), a reminder from SF:

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