Upon coming to San Francisco, I was told that the place I would most likely enjoy living the most would be The Mission district.
I assume this is because of the food culture there, some of the most innovative I’ve come across – I hate to use the word (because I usually love pretension) but unpretentious also comes to mind.
The homeless man on the corner introduced himself to me calmly, almost as if he wanted to strike up a conversation. “Hi, I’m Gary, I live here, I’m just trying to get some change together for a burrito over there, excuse me, oh, no? Ok, have a great day.” No begging or pleading, just calm and relaxed inquiry. He was almost surprised that I said no…
This is polar opposite of NYC, where you expect to be greeted within 30 seconds, given the rundown of tonight’s specials, and walk briskly in every direction. I would say that tranquility blows through the streets in The Mission.
After all, when you have some of the best of everything in the World right around the corner, the air is clean, and the weather is beautiful…Why Worry?
Started the journey at Elixir.
The bartender was in no hurry to say hello, dressed like she’d been on a bender herself. Responsive, but not urgent is the zeitgeist. She informed that there was no cocktail menu (the one I saw on the website must have been a figment of my imagination) and asked what spirit we wanted. Silently and slowly, she made us two drinks, handing them over without description. The drinks were affordable, but not very exciting. Onward.
Monk’s Kettle is probably the first time I have heard of barrel aging beer on the premises.
I was tempted to try an aged Achel, one of my favorite of the seven Trappist brews, but I had a delicious draught instead served in nice stemware. Excellent touch.
We were steered towards the house made pretzel with cheese fondue. The fondue was creamy and warm, a perfect match for the crusty pretzel. Fantastic.
I knew I was not in Kansas, or Los Angeles anymore when on the way out, I caught the hostess deep into David Foster Wallace, no Kindle or iPad, just the old fashioned book version. I glimpsed a pair of fascinating shoes walking by, the wearer asked actually came back and happily asked if I needed her to pose – no, I’m pretty quick with the shutter I explained. Boots instead of high heels.
Our neighbor was enjoying a fantastic looking bacon wrapped shrimp over homemade cornbread, with fennel and grapefruit segments. Top Notch.
Walking further we reached Dandelion Chocolate, specializing in deep dark chocolate.
This trip was tough, because I was just so full at every stop – I was dying to try the European Drinking Chocolate. The 85% Rio Caribe was my favorite, it was like a youthful Nebbiolo still in the grip of tannins, slightly bitter and rich, developing slowly, meant for melting on the tongue rather than biting and swallowing. The kindness and expository nature of all the employees was so relaxing.
House made marshmallows? Check.
Giant bars of Chocolate? Check.
“Here, try a sample; this just won best Chocolate Bar in America, come back for a Class, or check out one of our Pastry Chef Pop Ups ” What am I doing not living here thoughts begin to creep in my head.
Just so, it occurred that right next door was Mission Cheese, a place that I will most definitely return.
I really liked the graphic and font in the logo, as well as the layout and menu. I ordered the Cheesemonger’s Choice, and asked for funky and unusual – she did not disappoint and continued to pile on rare and exotics.
Gooey, highly sticky, smelly, salty, and sharp tang, almost like a nine volt battery on the tongue. I could’ve swore one of the cheeses smelled like my sisters feet on a long thanksgiving road trip. The country pate with accoutrements was divine.
Of all of the spots, I think the one we enjoyed the most was Mission Cheese – like a grown up Disney Land of Cheese with better Booze.
I think I could’ve stayed there all night chatting up the Aussie Monger about the state of pickles and Duck forcemeats. Alas, the show must go on.
Foreign Cinema, what appeared to be an old Movie theater reconverted. “Ultra-Hip”
The space was alive, jam packed and exciting. Jiro Dreams of Sushi played at a low volume in the other room, while ours was filled with incandescent lights moderate ambient conversation.
Mind you, at this point I’m bloated – so we decided to order light… a seafood tower. The wine menu had depth and intriguing selections; I scanned the room carefully for a sommelier to no avail. Our friendly server did his best, but looked at me blankly when I asked which of the Garganega he preferred, or how the Muscadet was. I decided to stop being that guy, and asked for the menu recommendation of 2011 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Gris (a Carafe). Mostly tropical fruits on the nose, it needed a little more acidity for the shelf fish bar selections but it was highly quaffable and affordable.
Service and clearing were excellent. The back waiter stacked the plates beautifully and took all of my crab bits away in a graceful and deft arc (improper clearing is a HUGE pet peeve).
The resetting was equally elegant, infrequently coming to remove shells and warm moist towels with lemon peels. “A 3.5% charge is being applied to each check in support of employee benefits.” Wow, why can’t L.A get on that program?
It’s always the simple things that impress the most. The grapefruit granita, I could’ve eaten it all day. Puckering (is that a word?) and tart, not overly sweet, ice cold. Delicious.
A place where you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares. There was no cult of personality, no celebrities in sight, no little dogs running around or popping out of purses. People eat in this side of town – almost every bodega and restaurant had a crowd of people eating at all hours of the night. That’s definitely something I can identify with.