Day 1 in San Francisco: The Lay of the Land

I had great intentions to blog about San Francisco earlier to the date of our actual trip (September 2010), but procrastination got in the way. Still, better late than never – writing about travels and browsing through old photos always seems like the best way to relive a trip. Perhaps it will make you long for the hills of San Francisco too!

I still don’t remember how the decision of San Francisco as our next vacation destination came about. I had been to SF once before for two days – on the return leg of my family’s journey back to North America after three weeks in the equatorial climes of southeast Asia. It’s safe to say I don’t remember much, save crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and never really acclimatizing to the thirty degree temperature change. Mack, on the other, hand, had never been to San Francisco, in spite of its hub of all things tech (and most notably, is the location of Twitter’s offices).

So in early September, we were off for a ten day trip to San Francisco, a city known for its food, liberal tendencies and a bridge.

At the airport, we hopped on the super-convenient BART train that would lead to a stop about two blocks from our accommodation. Two different people had recommended Hotel Triton to us, part of the Kimpton Hotel chain.

San Francisco

The Triton duckie!

More than any other hotel we’ve ever stayed in, Hotel Triton felt like home. The staff were friendly, always ready with a “welcome back” upon our return,  but mostly, it was the small things – warm chocolate chip cookies available in the lobby every afternoon, free wine every evening, the resident dog Romeo (the concierge’s companion). Or, as a new member of their loyalty program, they offered us a free $10 minibar credit upon check-in.

Kimpton

Our SF home

The location was also hard to beat – right across from the Chinatown Gates, Hotel Triton was five minutes from Union Square and fifteen minutes from the Ferry Building. And whatever we couldn’t walk to, it was just as easy to hop on the BART or grab a bus. I’d recommend Hotel Triton in a heartbeat – and wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again.

Hotel Triton is right in the thick of things

We dropped off our luggage and went in search of lunch. We asked the front desk staff for walking directions to the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market, but they recommended we take the BART instead – apparently, it wasn’t safe to walk (it was the Tenderloin district they were weary of, but we ended up walking through it a few days later anyway, after dark no less, without incident).

Set up outdoors at UN Plaza, the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market wasn’t the largest we would encounter in San Francisco, but it was definitely meant for food shoppers. With no crafts in sight, it was a wonderful introduction to the area’s seasonal fare.

Heart of the City Farmers' Market

Heart of the City Farmers’ Market

Seafood and fresh eggs were available, and though there were a handful of prepared food vendors (spreads, Indian food, kettle corn, baked goods), the focus was undoubtedly on produce. What surprised me was the variety of Asian vegetables available – long beans, Chinese eggplant, bitter melon, among others – and mostly sold without signage.

Heart of the City Farmers' Market

Asian vegetable paradise

Heart of the City Farmers' Market

Such vibrant-coloured eggplant

Heart of the City Farmers' Market

Peaches!

We bought some apples, nectarines and peaches for the week, and some focaccia pizza for lunch.

Heart of the City Farmers' Market

Mack enjoys our light lunch

Satisfied, we wandered over to the neighbouring Hayes Valley, past their grand City Hall building and symphony hall. The shops were lovely to browse, but given that the first pair of shoes I picked up cost over $400, I knew we would only be window shopping.

San Francisco

We’re not in Canada anymore

We did stumble upon Paulette Macarons in the neighbourhood though, completely by accident. Valerie had recommended the place, a charming pastel-coloured boutique offering more than a dozen flavours of macarons.

Paulette

Paulette Macarons (loved the macaron artwork)

We tried the coffee and coconut ($1.60 each). They were Mack’s first macarons – he was surprised that they were not cloyingly sweet. Each had that intense burst of flavour, all contained inside a delicate yet punchy meringue shell, indicative of perfect execution.

Paulette

Mack with his first macaron!

After returning to our hotel to freshen up for dinner, we headed out on foot to our dinner destination. We walked through Chinatown, past what I dubbed “peep show row” on Broadway, and arrived at Fog City Diner, located near Pier 27.

Fog City Diner

Fog City Diner

Fog City Diner was billed, by Chowhound and others, as a “quintessential” San Francisco diner because of their food. But outfitted like a retro train car, with neon lights, cozy booths, and a long wooden bar, we could see how the decor reflected SF as well – appealing to tourists, but not over the top.

Fog City Diner

Interior

Once we got over the hump of being seated (it took about ten minutes or so; the wait staff were being run ragged), it was smooth sailing. We passed over what we probably should have ordered (their cioppino), and instead, opted for what would hit the spot.

The macaroni and cheese ($10) did just that, even if it was singlehandedly the richest we’d ever tried – it was essentially cheese fondue with noodles.

Fog City Diner

Mac ‘n’ cheese

The fish and chips ($17)  were a little less successful, mostly due to the amount of grease still simmering on the freshly fried fish, but I enjoyed the plate nonetheless.

Fog City Diner

Fish and chips

Mack’s 1/2 pound burger ($20 with fixings) was an epic creation, enhanced with mushrooms, applewood smoked bacon and a fried egg, but was similarly greasy. It was interesting, however, that our server asked Mack how he wanted his burger done –  something we never come across in Edmonton.

Fog City Diner

Burger

It was a good way to end our first day in San Francisco, and would be something of a pattern during our trip – filling up on food, then walking it off en route to our hotel. All hail a pedestrian-friendly city!

6 thoughts on “Day 1 in San Francisco: The Lay of the Land

  1. Can’t wait to see more of your trip. San Francisco is my favorite! The hotel we stayed at is in your picture – the Orchard Garden (beside the gates to Chinatown) so it’s fun to browse and see where we might have to go when we head back next.

  2. All over the US I’ve been asked how I want a burger cooked. They seem to want to have the option of ordering their food how they want it, not being told how it will be cooked. Every menu also has the disclaimer that “Consuming raw or undercooked meat increases your risk of food borne illness” so they want to be covered in case someone orders that burger rare!

  3. One of my favorite things about going to the US is getting a Rare or Mid Rare burger, so juicy and flavorful!

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