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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Rest of my San Fran Trip (the abridged version)

So for sake of time, and the fact that I have sadly been lacking in keeping up with my writing lately, I will finish off the exploits of my San Fran trip but keeping to the key points.

Sunday, February 21st-  Conference begins early (8am-5pm).  Afterward myself, sukriti, Daniel, and Kim head over to the Queen Anne Hotel (historic Grand Pacific Heights where the richest of the rich settled in the early 1900's, it was the place to be when the roaring twenties came about).  Here is where we met our Ghost Tour Guide, who took us on a delightfully eerie tour of the hotel (which is allegedly haunted) and the surrounding area.  I highly recommend this tour, even if you are not into the whole paranormal scene, the architecture and history lessons are well worth it alone.

Monday, February 22nd-Again conference is a full day affair, but we have our lab dinner to look forward to in Chinatown. We have reservations for all 10 of us at the R & G Lounge, which came highly recommended by Anthony Bourdaine on the travel channel.  It is not a particularly far walk from the hotel, and the night air is brisk, so we hike it.  Although, perhaps in retrospect a different pair of shoes would have been a good idea, since I decided to dress in my best and was sporting four inch wedges (i suppose beauty is worth the pain..right?).  We arrive and the place is packed, which I take as a good sign, considering the other endless possible "authentic" chinese restaurants to choose from.  Needless to say, I was less than satisfied.  The service was shoddy, which of course could be overlooked if the food was impeccable, alas this was far from the case.  I'm definitely not a food snob, especially since takeout chinese can hit the spot sometimes as much as my mom's home cooking, but this was just NOT good.  I splurged and ordered the whole Peking Duck, which other than the market priced seafood was the most expensive item on the menu. I got the duck cut up into its associated pieces, yet it was a seriously small amount.  The skin was not particularly crisp, nor flavorful, and their "famous" peking duck sauce was most undoubtedly something they poured out of a jar.  The only thing that came with the meal were these rolls, that were most likely frozen and simply thawed/warmed and placed around my plate.  Sukriti ordered the Mushroom Chow Mein, which if you asked my opinion (which you are going to get whether you like it or not, lol) was less satisfying then a bowl of ramen (sad right?).  The only thing I ate which was absolutely delish, were the salmon and avocado egg rolls.  To add to my chinatown disappointment, there were no beautiful lanterns, or people about, fireworks for sale, etc etc.  I was expecting something out of the movie Big Trouble in Little China, and instead got a couple of touristy shops and empty street corners.  
The only saving grace for the night, because now I was officially grumpy, was a little dive bar called Gold Dust Saloon (located around the corner from where we were staying). They had an awesome three man live band (older rockers), that played well known classic rock songs, and took requests.  The drinks were very well priced (and best of all there was no cover), and if you want something that will knock you on your 'arse' make sure to get their Long Island Ice Teas (mmm...mmm...good).  I ended up requesting Brandy by Looking Glass (I think the salty sea air and long islands were making me nostalgic at this point lol) and followed up the request by belting out the lyrics with the main singer.  I definitely made friends with all the 50 somethings sitting at the bar and the band with this one.  One of the highlights of the evening was Daniel disappearing for thirty minutes, where apparently he stepped outside to get some fresh air, and talked to a very interesting hobo for the entire half hour period....he doesn't remember the convo whatsoever.  If you are ever visiting and staying in the Union Square area, make sure to frequent this establishment!  

Tuesday, February 23rd-Not much happening at the conference today (thankfully, since it was definitely a lil hazey when waking up).  So after hearing our speakers of choice in the morning, sukriti and I ventured off towards The Ferry Marketplace, located along the area known as The Embarcadero, on the bay.  If you are a food lover, this is the place to go.  First and foremost we headed to Cowgirl Creamery where we tasted over twenty some different cheeses, and bought 70 dollars worth of cheese, jams, olives, and other tasty treats for our vineyard trip.  I bought a truffle and olive tapenade from Far West Fungi, which was beyond delish and worth every penny (there were whole black truffles there, for $95 an ounce, where one truffle was close to two ounces!!!! can you imagine having the money to cook with those?!?!?!).  We bought specialty truffles from Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, organic fruit from Farm Fresh to You, a balsamic vinegar and olive oil with herb dipping sauce from Stonehouse California Olive Oil (there blood orange and also sea salt and lime infused olive oils were heavenly) and of course rosemary rolls from Acme Bread company.  We then enjoyed a delish coffee from Peet's Coffee and Tea (far far far superior to Star Bucks) and looked out onto the Bay. 
 That night we had made reservations (make sure that you do as well) at a swank south Indian restaurant called DOSAS (make sure to go to the one on Fillmore).  We met up with my good friend Joe Zamaria, rowed at the Detroit Boat Club together in highschool, who now goes to grad school out in San Fran studying to be a psychologist.   The place was spectacular: the ambiance, the drinks (a multitude of potent potables that will have your mouth watering), and the food were everything I was hoping for, and more.  The price was very reasonable, and portions were for sure sharable.  I must recommend ordering the Young Raja: Buffalo Trace bourbon, Heering cherry,Carpano Antica & birds eye chili, and mango nectar.  A masterpiece for your palate to enjoy!

Wednesday, February 24th-last day of the conference.  After all of the symposiums were over, Sukriti's family picked us up from our hotel and drove us back to there home in Milpitas.  We then enjoyed a nice family dinner at Spaghetti Factory (for a chain restaurant, food was not half bad), where a multitude of Aunt's and Uncles (including those we were staying with) and cousins were all present and counted for.  

Thursday, February 25th-we had originally planned a day trip to Napa Valley (which of course is like my MECCA), but due to extenuating circumstances we were not able to go, sigh*.  However we did make the best of the situation, which was pretty easy to do when the weather is 65 and sunny.  The area we were in was particularly hilly, and quite a combination between suburb and rural, so we decided to take a long hike.  Which for me turned into a long 4 mile hike, followed directly by a 2 mile run.  I was exhilerated by the breathtaking views from the hills (no not going to break into the Sound of Music soundtrack), and of course from my lack of oxygen post run.  That night after cleaning up, and relaxing around the house, we had a family dinner where Mamiji (Sukriti's Aunt)  made delish northern indian cuisine (which was my favorite).  As appetizers (since we were not able to get to Napa) we pulled out all of our culinary finds from the Ferry Place Market, and made a mini feast.  This was probably one of the best evenings of the trip, good food, great friends, and excellent conversation!

Friday, February 26th- Today we headed back into San Fran with Mamaji (Sukriti's Uncle).  Who so graciously offered to take us to see Golden Gate Bridge, and then to  The California Academy of Sciences.  This museum only just opened back in November of 2009, and if you are EVER in San Francisco you MUST go!  From the four story indoor rainforest where exotic butterflies flit around you and land lightly on your clothing, to the aquarium housing a plethra of different genres of fish (I totally saw Nemo), and of course do not forget the penguins that I watched get fed for a good 45 minutes and asked questions pertaining to their lives in the wild verse their indoor habitat. Did you know that though people call penguins monogamous creatures this, does not mean that ALL penguins stick with the same partner, some will for the majority of there lives mate with the same partner, but will also venture off vodeeodoe with other female penguins (they sound like human males more and more).  Yes I am a dork....but you all know how much I <3 penguins.  We also visited Stanford's campus which was so incredibly beautiful that if I had visited it when looking at colleges, I would have never stayed in the midwest.

Saturday, February 27th-  Last day in California.  Tagged along with Mamiji and Sheel (sukritis cousin) to Wente Vineyard in LivermoreValley (only 40 miles outside Milpitas).  It wasn't Napa, but was still amazing. The weather started out a bit rainy, but turned into a beautiful, sunshiney day.  Sukriti's family was there celebrating a wedding shower for one of Sheel's good friends, so while they were at the party we ventured off by ourselves to the tasting room.  The wine selection was delish, and for only $15 we were able to taste 6 different Reserve wines, AND they were nice enough to throw in a couple extra that just sounded too good NOT to try.  I of course bought a bottle, The Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon, which was not the tastiest one I tried, but was the only one in my price range...lol.  The wine was still awesome, with a rich bouquet of earthiness and twinges of berry flavor coming through, delectable.  We then made our way over to the restaurant where we split two different dishes, and instead of waiting on a table, sat up at the bar and enjoyed a drink or two (or three).  The bartender was hilarious, and about our age.  Highlight of the day may have been two "cowboys", dressed in wrangler jeans, boots, and hat sat down next to us (I guess they were delivering and picking up hay bales or something).  They were awfully nice, and we (sukriti, myself, the bartender, and the cowboys) all enjoyed some friendly banter.  We realized they were even nicer when after they had left, and I went to pay my bill, they had bought our last drinks.  Sadly sukriti had decided to switch over to a cup of coffee, dumb luck, I of course in the spirit of the occasion had yet another glass of Pinot Noir...lol...I thought I was splurging, but the Gods of  Vino (perhaps Bacchus himself) thought I deserved a reprieve, especially considering my initial disappointment with no Napa.

We headed back to Chi-town Sunday early evening, and arrived VERY VERY late back in Chicago (12:30am to be exact).  The lack of sleep was of course well worth it, and I certainly cannot wait to get back to Cali very soon.  This time it will be Napa or Bust!

CHEERS!




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