Friday, November 13, 2009

Three Couples and a Limo – Part I

Charles Dickens once wrote:

“To begin our trip with the beginning of our trip, I record that we settled into the Tahoe to journey to the airport. At precisely three thirty on Thursday, we arrived at the Newman residence, where the clock began to strike, and I began to cry simultaneously.”

Since I probably just angered the living descendants of Dickens, I will now regale you, in less than Dickensesque prose, with the details of our trip to San Francisco, and the Sonoma/Napa area.

Chapter 1 – Nutella
As we are prone to do when traveling, we paid a brief visit to the ATL A17 Crown Room between connections. It began with a beer and ended with a double scotch less than 15 minutes later.

During that brief visit, medicinal beverages were prescribed, prescriptions filled, and beverages consumed with the efficiency of an Intel processor and the accelerated effect of the first hour of controlled-release Ambien. The accelerated effect was, unfortunately, not sustained for the in-flight beverage service. So disappointing was the unsustainability that I refused to exercise the free drink voucher that I received in Augusta for having TSA discover a small handgun in my blazer as it went through the x-ray. A diversion I will not yet detail.

Also during that brief visit, a man discovered Nutella. The versatile hazelnut spread created in 1940s Italy because cocoa was in short supply due to war rationing. (FYI – you can win 12 jars online at Nutella) The modern-day discoverer was Danny Newman. Enamored is the word that comes to mind.

Between the Nutella and Biscoff cookies consumed or squirreled away in pockets, and the 8 to 12 gratis prescriptions that were filled, I’d say we
covered the annual membership fee.

Chapter 2 – Chinatown
Visiting San Francisco requires most people to ride a cable car, take a taxi, or drive the Bay City of Starsky and Hutch. We refuse to follow the tourists with small calves, and instead, walk from our hotel, in a circuitous route, to Fisherman’s Warf [sic]. Along the way, we discover buildings, sites, structures, and objects that we have never before encountered. Chinatown was an exception.

We had tasted Chinatown, but never experienced the Pork Bun (cha siu baau). Being from the South, the mention of almost any pork product elicits Pavlov salivation. Dr. Newman was told of the phenomenon known as the pork bun by a patient, and was determined to sample their sweet and savory glory. So, we rooted them out like truffles. At 10:30am PST, only 45 minutes after a large breakfast at Sears Fine Food (which has amazing corned-beef hash) we shared three pork buns and a wad of meat in a dumpling wrapper. The pork buns were like eating a big fat yeast roll from the Western Sizzlin’, stuffed with Sconyer’s BBQ that was dipped in John Boy and Billy sauce. It was heaven on a bun. In reality, it was a baked yeast roll variation with pork belly and an oyster/hoisun sauce. I hear you can get them steamed too. I did not taste the meat wad in the dumpling wrapper, which got mixed reviews from the other participants.

The six of us had beer and Dungeness crab at Fisherman’s Wharf (which I have always found to be good) then trotted our sufficiently exercised calves onto the cable car, and rode it back to the hotel. The guys quickly left the hotel for some afternoon carousing at Johnny Foley’s Irish House one block from the hotel. The intent was to pub crawl, but the variety of 18 beers (each of which was poured into the correspondingly branded glass), the conversation with locals and travelers, and the advent of tasting a lamb slider kept us there.

The technique used by the bartender to pour beer was unusual and virgin to our eyes. A beer glass was placed, inverted, under the tap. A second glass (the consumptive glass) was placed on top, right-side up, and the tap was eased down about half way, so that the beer poured slowly. Once filled, the beer was allowed to settle in place, then the tap was slot-machined in order to put a head on the beer. An outstanding and entertaining way to pour beer.

The sliders were not exactly what you would expect on a pub menu. A slider is simply how mid-western Americans grew up referring to a Krystal or White Castle burger. The concept is great, and the lamb sliders were outstanding. They were Niman Ranch Lamb (famous ranch in the wine country) topped with arugula, eggplant, goat cheese, and a mint aoli. I believe I will attempt a recreation of the sliders in the near future.

To be continued… [Chapters 3 thru 5]

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