Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Eat, Drink and Shiver

Everything is relative when you're talking about weather.

It's funny, in Portland this summer, it was uncharacteristically hot, much hotter than at home. Right now in San Francisco, it's cold, so cold it's a topic of conversation among locals and visitors alike. I layer jackets and bought knee socks yesterday.

We're amazed to walk down streets and see shop and restaurant doors open to the cold December air. At breakfast, people sit outside on oversized couches sipping coffee in the 40 degree morning. Just about all the patios have large overhead heaters.

In front of Trattoria Pinocchio, a Sicilian waiter in sunglasses tries to discourage us from sitting outside for lunch. "It's too cold today!" he says, gesturing inside but we hesitate. The hostess tries to save the business by coming out to turn the heaters on, using a stick with a hook to flip the switches.

The heaters help, although I eat lunch of Calabrese pizza, tri-color salad and Nero d'Avola with my gloves on anyway. People walk by and smile at us (or is that pity for our foolishness?) but no one joins us at the outdoor tables, either.

"Look at them braving the cold!" an older woman says to her companion before they choose a table inside. Look at those fools, says her thought bubble.

I ride my first cable car today, the California-Van Ness  line that takes us up to Russian Hill where we climb another hill and more steps to Lafayette Park, another splendid view, this time of rich people's houses.

Nice to look at, but no envy from me. Too much house for my lifestyle.

From there, we head downhill to see Jack Kerouac's love shack, the place he shared with fellow Beat Neal Cassady and his wife (all the more interesting for knowing that there was some partner-sharing going on inside) in a quaint neighborhood with a brass sign to commemorate their famous resident.

A trio of European tourists are taking pictures when we arrive but soon move on to the next destination in their guidebook, coincidentally the same as ours, so we are five minutes behind them for the next hour, trailing in their wake as we navigate narrow stone steps through cottage-lined crooked neighborhoods with stupendous views of rooftops and the bay.

I'm not ashamed to say my calves are still adjusting to San Francisco's hilly terrain and I'm a semi-pro walker.

Late afternoon, we head to the Ferry Building with its myriad high-end food stalls, detailed ferry schedule and masses of humanity, eventually scoring an outside table at Hog Island Oyster Company where we can see ferries leaving and arriving as we eat a dozen local Hog Island Sweetwater oysters and a dozen slightly saltier Hama Hama oysters from Washington.

Of note, there is one Maryland oyster on the menu, but no Virginia bivalves (boo, hiss).

When we leave that madness, it's to go in search of somewhere for dinner, eventually landing at The Local, considered a hidden neighborhood gem and with good reason. Located in what must have been an industrial building, the glass front door is about 20' high and the interior ceilings higher.

Lighting fixtures look like Alexander Calder mobiles and the large black and white photos on the wall are barely visible through a gauzy fabric curtain that covers the wall. Techno music plays and a wood-burning oven makes the space feel cozy despite its epic height.

We've lucked into a Monday night treasure, the shame of it being that we're already full of bivalves. Still, a generous salad of kale, sliced brussels sprouts and dried cherries alongside spicy chicken nuggets deliver just enough sustenance to justify me moving on to dessert from there.

Warm chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream and caramel sauce round out my progressive meal and another gut-stuffing day in this chilly city.

What was I thinking bringing shorts anyway?

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