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Home But Not: Bay Area Long Weekend with Cheese and Strapless Dress, Part I

Oh Northern California, I've been unfaithful, but you take me back every time. You meet me at the airport with Laurent Garnier on the stereo, and you give me fresh white towels and a bedful of down pillows. You roll out the brown hills of your early fall, and I speed along them, through streets and names I'd almost forgotten, to smelly cheese and good bread and bad classic rock on the staticky radio. You know me so well.

My very petite cousin Katie and her new man Andrew picked me up at the airport late Wednesday night and whisked me across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to Corte Madera. There we found Tina, my mother’s identical twin sister and Katie’s mom, and stayed up too late talking and giggling and carrying on. Teens’ house is my second home, with its barely slanting floor and red front door and too-short showerhead and ceramic duck head with fake eyelashes peering down over the kitchen. “My” bedroom was ready and waiting, fluffy with four(!) down pillows, and I sank into it and slept as I always do there, as though dead, deliciously. Waking in that bed is like climbing out of a hole, a warm cottony womb.

On Thursday morning the sun shone in freckles through the magnolia tree, and Katie, Andrew, and I sped into San Francisco a little after eight. Dropping Katie and Andrew at their respective places of work, I dredged up my faded mental map of the City and made my way to the Boulange de Cole Valley. I settled in with a foamy-capped latte and the now-ancient New Yorker food issue, happily distracted by dogs and babies and almond croissants and the general joy of people who (for whatever reason) don’t have to work on a Thursday morning. Around 10:30 a platter of cannelés de Bordeaux, one of my favorite French sweets, appeared on the counter. I was powerless in its midst. And happily, the cannelés didn’t disappoint: encased in a caramelized-sugary crust, their centers were moist and milky sweet, almost custardy.

It was warm and sunny, and after a bit I headed to the rose garden in Golden Gate Park, where I spied on an old man sunning in a fedora and rolled-up dress pants. I recovered Katie from work around one, and, on a bench outside the Castro's Harvest Ranch Market, we lunched on tomato-corn salad with balsamic, a wedge of marinated tofu, some delicious curried potatoes inexplicably labeled “Karma d’Amour,” and a perfectly ripe banana. We attempted some thrift-shopping on Haight but soon abandoned our lackluster mission, instead settling for a few CDs at Amoeba. And then we zipped over to the AIDS Memorial Grove, the site for Katie’s thesis in architecture, where we took photos for a conceptual model she’s constructing and bungled our now-ritual self-portrait:

Our day came to a close with Teens and Andrew at Potrero Hill’s Universal Café, long one of my favorite neighborhood spots. Teens and I each started with warm porcini mushroom salads with arugula, leeks, chopped egg, and mustard vinaigrette, and then we split fresh tagliatelle with chicken-liver bolognaise, Bloomsdale spinach, and Pecorino. Katie had heirloom romaine lettuces with avocado, beets, and citrus vinaigrette, followed by charcoal-grilled sea scallops with Serrano ham and romesco sauce. Andrew began with grilled flatbread with roasted Knoll Farm figs, radicchio, and Tallegio (insanely delicious, stinky with ripe cheese and musky-sweet with ripe figs; what a lovely boy for sharing) and rounded things out with a risotto with delicata squash, thyme, white truffle oil, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The whole was washed down with Navarro Pinot Noir, carefully selected by Teens. For dessert, we ordered a peach and huckleberry cobbler with vanilla gelato and four spoons. Much moaning and whimpering and sighing ensued.

Tired and chilly from the fall evening air, we wound our home across the fog-swaddled Golden Gate Bridge to bed.

[To be continued…]


Blogger amylou said...

I want to go to San Francisco! I haven't ever been to the west coast. Unbelievable, I know. Recently I've been feeling a real desire to take a vacation to California, specifically San Francisco. I don't think it's in my immediate future but when I do get around to it, I want to try that restaurant. MMMmm...cobbler...

9:33 AM, October 18, 2004  
Blogger pipstar said...

Oh I wanna go back to San Fransisco! Molly it sounds like you have had a lovely weekend -great food, wonderful company and lots of laughs. You've definitely inspired me to be a bit more creative with my grocery shopping this week -so many new taste sensations to explore! Mmmm roasted figs...

6:03 PM, October 18, 2004  
Blogger Mark said...

I want to got to San Francisco too! You paint such a beautiful picture with words, and your descriptions of the food made my mouth water!

Great pic of you and Katie, btw. You look so alike! It is the personification of joy!!

4:52 AM, October 19, 2004  
Blogger Molly said...

Yes, my dears, you must get yourselves to San Francisco! I’m tempted to move back there after I finish my Master’s thesis and this publishing internship, and Katie is actively campaigning for it…but the thought of leaving the great network of friends I’ve slowly built in Seattle definitely makes me think twice. We’ll see. A lot will depend on where I can get a job! Luckily I’ve got a year to mull it all over…

And Mark, I love that you think Katie and I look alike! Although our mothers are identical (and I mean *identical*) twins, we cousins are such intricate combinations of our respective parents that at times I hardly see a resemblance at all. But Katie is so adorable that I’d like to think we look (at least a bit) like we’re related!

12:38 PM, October 19, 2004  
Blogger Jose Maria said...

If you like serrano ham, then try to get yourself a taste of spanish iberian ham ("jamón ibérico de bellota"). It's darn expensive, but you will find out know why... BTW you will have to travel to europe, or somehow manage to get it (illegally) into the country, because to the date import of iberian ham is banned by US authorities. :(

9:31 AM, February 26, 2007  

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