Traveling with my family is not for the faint hearted. Nor is it for the sightseers, the hikers or the museum wanderers. Sure, we do a little of that when we explore a new place, but all those activities are the background, done partly out of obligation to the idea of the classic tourist. They are “well we are in Florence so I suppose we should take a peek at the Uffizi” or ” well we are in Venice, so I suppose we should take a gondola ride.” ( I have a thing for Italy).
Traveling with the Cerquitellas is for the ever-voracious, the espresso sippers and those with a high threshold for teasing and tolerating a constant high pitched stream of chatter. There are a lot of girls in my family. And somehow, when we are all together, our voices all turn morph into the same high shriek while the males stare in abject horror at what their wives/girlfriends have turned into. Oh boys. Just wait till the Dutch Blitz cards come out.
A few months ago my mom called to propose a Pastry Pilgrimage to San Francisco, inspired by Bon Appetit’s August article. My older sister was working in LA in early December and we could all meet up for a quick jaunt to eat our way through San Francisco. DONE.
First stop was b. patisserie. Our hotel was out by the airport, so to get into the city we had to use a “Yuber” as my mother called it. Adorable but tiny, this bakery was filled with the crispiest, most gorgeous croissants I’ve ever seen. It was also overflowing with slim, yoga pants clad middle aged women. Why they all had nowhere else to be on a Friday morning I do not know. Were buttery confections the usual post-workout meal in San Francisco? We had decided to get a little to eat at a lot of places this weekend so we tried not to overdo it at our first place. One chocolate kouign amann and a gougère would certainly tide us over for a bit.
Nope. Mom insisted we get a passion fruit tart as well. So much for our plan.
Then we walked. Walked and walked. I’m pretty certain we walked around 20 miles over the 3 days we traipsed around San Francisco. Wandering in and out of stores, poking around vintage kitchen ware stores, corner liquor stores and more gifty shops than I ever thought existed. Sharing a slice of toast at The Mill was a delicious and slightly pretentious experience. It isn’t normal to be condescended to while ordering toast at a coffee shop is it? Well, maybe if they are charging $4 for a slice of toast they can. The cafe was pretty and minimal with ultra cool customers and gorgeous bread. Now that I think of it, that entire aesthetic and character was a theme for San Francisco. Everywhere was artistically curated, snobby with impeccable gluten items.
Our objective was The Mission District. Tartine to be exact. Tales of its bread and pastries are epic and that was our landmark of orientation to the rest of the city. Hearing of its ludicrious lines, we were prepared for a wait. However, 3:30 on a Friday proved to have a very small line. Score! Thinking of Tartine immediately brings to mind brown, blistered, crusty and flour specked loafs but, upon entering the bakery there was not a loaf to be found. Had we missed them all?! Was the entire trip for naught!? Were we doomed to suffer through this banana cream pie with no hope of ending our afternoon with a bite of a crackling, warm, buttered baguette?
Not to fear. As it turns out, Tartine brings out its famous loaves after 4:30 daily. Something about toast for breakfast and fresh bread for dinner. So we were just a bit early, which was fine as we made my sister wait in line for a couple loaves the next day.
Saturday, we grabbed a hotel shuttle into downtown where Mom found a Ferrari store and practically ran there. Cause, you know she is always on the lookout for a luxury vehicle. Thankfully it was empty and shut down. Seems she was the only one looking for a Ferrari in San Francisco. We ended up at The Ferry Building where the weekly farmer’s market was set up. Any food lover must visit this mecca of gorgeous foodstuffs and quirky gift shops. Samples galore: cheese, burnt caramel, granola and ice cream. Everything “artisanal” and “hand crafted”. Everything impeccably packaged and lust worthy.
Breakfast was Blue Bottle coffee with a couple Craftsman and Wolves scones at their farmer’s market stands. We had stopped by Craftsman and Wolves location in the Mission the day before, but were too full to do more than ooh and ahh over their masterfully artistic baked sweets. These scones were small and just packed with flavor. We swooned especially over the thai curry coconut. Walking around food stands for hours certainly gives you an appetite so we soon needed a small lunch.
Knowing we’d never get in for dinner, we opted for a quick shared lunch at The Slanted Door. This is how we riff raff do fancy dining. We shared a vegetable spring roll and asian pear salad. Yes, we also shared a boozy cocktail and it was only noon. But, you know, YOLO. Perfect, perfect lunch.
Afterwards, we were on a mission to find Lombard Street, our one tourist trap. This was due to a scene in our family movie, What’s Up Doc, having a car chase scene down the crooked street. This meant we walked up, up, up. Which also meant when we finally reached the top and took the requisite photos, we took off our shoes and both walked sock footed for the next mile or so, downhill this time.
More walking, through parks, beaches, wharfs and into old pier buildings brought us to West Coast Craft which was overflowing with gorgeously styled hipsters, weavings, pottery and an almost incredible number of overpriced aprons. A stressful cocktail experience at The Interval at Long Now combined with aching feet made me cranky. So we “Yuber-ed” it to meet my sister who was chomping on a fresh, warm loaf of bread on the corner outside Tartine.
Dinner was multiple sides, burrata and a pizza at Pizzeria Delifina. Simple, elegant and inviting we gabbed in between moans of pleasure. Afterwards, Mom needed her mandatory nightly treat and so we hopped into Dandelion Chocolate where all was laid out like a museum display.
I was leaving Sunday afternoon and was so destined to lug around my suitcase on our travels the last day. My Tartine loaf safely tucked away inside comprised approximately 5 lbs of my bag’s total weight. Numerous times I dallied with the idea of tossing out items to lighten the load, but abandoning that glutenous loaf of crusty perfection was never even a fleeting option.
Our breakfast was at the irresistibly charming 20th Century Cafe, which reminded us of our Eastern European past. I wish I got had gotten a picture of the top of their seed and salt encrusted bagel. Gorgeous. You’ll have to just go yourself. A couple coffees and savory bites enlivened our spirits to explore the surrounding neighborhoods. A million more gift stores, candy shoppes and incredibly overpriced clothing boutiques later, our appetites had returned.
2 Sisters Used Books and Bar was an ideal final stop for me. Dark and cozy with a cushioned reading window, we sat snug at the lower bar. Presented with a cheese plate which included a surprise bundle of roasted garlic prompted all three of us to gasp in delight simultaneously. The three luxurious deviled eggs were sublime. Lounging, we sipped, nibbled, chatted and Instagramed.
After many more hills and miles wrestling my bread laden luggage, it was time for me to grab a BART to the airport. A delightfully delicious trip all around. We Cerqs travel right.