Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Frisco Adventures

I’m writing this post from the air, currently somewhere over the Atlantic en route to Frankfurt. From there it’s just a train ride to Aachen to meet up with Todd, then another shorter ride to Maastricht, my home for the next few months! The weather looks good there, warm though hopefully not so warm as Riverside, which thankfully cooled off a bit before I left, after that weird heatwave. I don’t believe I’ve ever felt 100-degree weather in March before, and found it rather unpleasant. Especially since I was confined to the gym when I would rather have been training outside in the sunshine and saying au revoir to my usual running routes.

I’d like to insert a brief confession here: I hold onto the handlebars when I run on treadmills. Always. Often I’ll alternate letting go with one hand, but the other remains firmly clamped to the bars at all times. It looks ridiculous, I know thanks to my teammates in college (I ran cross country and track most of my time at Binghamton), but in my defense, I run pretty fast on it and I’m really clumsy. Seriously, I trip on things (or nothing at all) all the time, and whenever I go hiking with my family, if someone is going to slip on a rock and scrape up their face and get gravel stuck in their hands and cry, it’s going to be me (that may or may not have happened within the last five months…) And that’s when the ground isn’t moving rapidly under my feet. I run up to 6 minute miles on there sometimes: if I fell off it would hurt! So yeah, I hold on, and just hope that I’m going fast enough compared to everybody else at the gym that I look really bad-ass instead of really stupid. Probably not, though.

OK, after gushing the past few posts about the great outdoor markets of Europe, I promised to be fair and give the U.S. some love as well. California is especially exciting to me in the outdoor market department because, unlike in New York and other partially snow-bound states, it’s always warm and usually sunny there, which means year-round farmer’s markets! There’s one in Riverside every Saturday, within walking distance of our apartment, which is nice even though it’s small. And next year when we’re in L.A., I intend to take advantage of the myriad markets scattered through the city throughout the week.

In the beginning of March Todd had a conference in San Francisco, and I went with him and met my parents there for a lovely weekend. High up on my list of things to see was the Ferry Building Market on the Embarcadero waterfront. It’s a permanent indoor market with a bunch of different vendors selling quality products, including locally renowned producers like Acme Bread and Cowgirl Creamery. I partook of said bread for breakfast at one of the restaurants there with my mom Friday (she arrived the day before my dad, who had to work), in a basket with several different varieties – baguette, sourdough, some sort of multi-grain variety, and walnut-raisin – along with delicious fruit jam. My mom ordered poached eggs with tomato sauce over polenta, an unusual but tasty breakfast treat, perfectly cooked. Then we explored the long building, poking around among the products on offer, sampling some luscious strawberry gelato, and winding up in the cooking store Sur la Table, where my mom pointed out various things she wanted to buy me to help expand my kitchen batterie de cuisine (Thanks, Mommy!). Mom and I worked off breakfast with a walk down to Pier 39, where a noisy bunch of sea lions have taken up residence, to the delight of tourist like us, and then up to Ghirardelli Square (mmmm, chocolate!) and aaaaaalll the way to Lombard Street, the really narrow windy road that’s a San Francisco landmark. We the proceeded to hike halfway across the city in search of Elizabeth Faulkner’s famous bakery, Citizen Cake, only to find out that my mom’s guidebook was out of date and the bakery was closed. Sadly, we jumped on the metro for the quick ride back to the hotel to meet Dad, who got in from New York that afternoon, where we lifted our spirits with a pre-dinner drink (I had a lovely raspberry Bellini: my taste in cocktails is pricey, I know) and cheese plate. Dinner was at a really cool, really wonderful Peruvian restaurant, which is deserving of its own post some other type. Suffice it to say none of us had ever had Peruvian food, and we were duly impressed.

The next day we ate breakfast at a different restaurant in the Ferry Building with my dad, including yogurt, fruit, eggs, sausages and vegetables all sourced from the building’s vendors and from the stalls of the market that springs up every Thursday and Saturday around one end of the building. After breakfast we wandered around some of the stalls in front of the building, sampling their wares and marveling at the wide variety of produce (especially citrus) on offer (my mom was particularly excited about the veggies, as she loves using local fresh produce but the CSA and farmer’s markets back in New York wont start up until around June). Then we meandered off down the Embarcadero toward the noisy kitsch of Pier 39 to gawk at the sea lions and soak in the tackiness some more, Dad not having had that privilege the day before. (A side note: San Franciscans know their dogs. We saw some really beautiful ones all along the promenade, real dogs, not like those stupid yappy things in sweaters all over LA. I think Dad said there’s something like one dog for every three people in the city, which is my kind of town.) Toward noon we headed back to the Ferry Building to meet Todd, whose conference was ending that day, and we noticed some more stalls around the side of the building we had missed earlier. We rounded the back, and there before my delighted us was a food market almost to rival Borough Market in London! I couldn’t believe we hadn’t noticed it earlier (maybe it was too early and hadn’t set up yet) – the market was more than double the size I had thought it was. There were hundreds of goodies on offer (including lots more citrus – California’s big on that), and I immediately set off to taste as much as I could, leaving my parents in the dust. I am voracious when it comes to gourmet food markets, and I wait for no one!

By the time I was done tasting everything in sight, Todd had arrived and somehow located my family in the chaos of the food frenzy. Some of the stalls sold prepared food like sandwiches and tacos, which were clearly quite popular judging from the lines of happy customers, but Todd really wanted to go to Berkeley (he lived there for a little while) and so we decided to grab lunch there (not that I was very hungry from all that sampling, but I managed somehow). I was reluctant to tear myself away from the glories of the Ferry Building, but Todd lured me with the promise of really good ice cream and a glimpse of the lauded Chez Panisse (we didn’t eat there, but I did get to see the front door and gawk at the menu).

So yes, there are good markets to be discovered in America (and not just in San Francisco – one day I’ll post about Seattle’s Pike Place Market, which I had the chance to visit over Christmas, and most likely will many more times as Todd is originally from that city and his parents still live there). Now I’m going to try and take a nap so I’m not completely dead later, as I haven’t seen Todd in two weeks and feel I should at least be partially coherent when I arrive. Next up, my first explorations of Maastricht!

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