Tuesday, February 8, 2011

City by the bay... with the food and the beer

Some time before the Winterfest, I left the chilly college on the hill with our multiple feet of snow and negative degree fahrenheit temperature. The destination: San Francisco. The excuse: SPIE Photonics West Conference. I had a talk to give there along with a few other people from our institution, so we carpooled to Manchester airport with suits in tow and checked in for what was sure to be a warmer couple of days. At the airport, I discovered this:
Moooooo Bella
It claimed to be an automatic ice cream making machine. I had to try it or live forever in regret for not knowing. I bought the cup for the ice cream at the cafe adjacent to it (would have been cooler if it had supplied its own, though, and I just swiped a credit card) and selected black raspberry flavor with chocolate chips mix in. The cup fit in a small rotatable plastic holder inside, behind which a mess of whurr-ing noises started up. Eventually the cup tilted backwards and a cup-sized scoop of ice cream was extruded into it from behind. The ice cream looked churned and hand-scooped but tasted awful with an over-frozen hard gummy consistency. Someday when I have time I will invent a better automatic ice cream machine.

We arrived in SF and checked in to our hotel around dinnertime; with two full days of conference ahead we were not about to let the night go to waste. S and R split a taxi with me to the Italian area of town within walking distance of Chinatown and also many well-advertised strip clubs. We went to S's usual dining establishment when he comes home to SF, Caffe Sport. The wait, however, was 45 minutes so we wandered around Chinatown and ended up at a Thai place snacking on satay, fish cakes and iced tea before our reservation was up. I hadn't realized until that point how very much I miss good Thai iced tea and good chicken satay living in Hanover. Even the pickled cucumbers tasted magical.
Fish cake with fresh pickled cucumber
By the time we got back to Caffe Sport they had plenty of tables open. We sat down and split a bottle of the house Chianti along with plates of penne con pesto and scampi all' Antonio. The pesto was pretty good and the scampi sauce was a remarkably smooth and stable emulsion for one lacking butter or cream.
The beginning...

Penne con pesto
Scampi all' Antonio. Crazy yellow-green lights.
After dinner and about 3 glasses of wine each, we split a taxi to Toronado which is the place to buy Lost Abbey's Cable Car. At this point, it was well after normal bed time our-coast-time and the day of travel so recently in the past didn't help things. We each powered through a pint nonetheless and I got to savor some Pliny on tap while enjoying the crowded but beer geekish scenery of the bar. I really, really wanted to buy the Cable Car. Unsure of whether R or S liked sours along with travel-induced sickness setting in (not to mention the price tag), I decided against getting a bomber to drink by myself. I bought a bottle of Pliny and a La Folie to take home instead.
Oh Pliny, you were so yummy.
Wall of liters...

...and more of the wall. One of each, please, for the cellar?

Some taps, some funky artwork.
At this point, it would have been wise to go back to the hotel... which we tried to do but for the incredibly sketchy taxi driver we had randomly hailed who refused to take credit cards despite the clearly functional card reader on his dashboard and who drove us around in a circle. Earlier in the night, some colleagues texted that they were at a bar/restaurant called Absinthe and by crazy fortuitous luck we wound up adjacent to it at an intersection. R, who is a New York native, then proceeded to lay the smackdown on our cabby:

R: Our friends are at that bar over there! You can just let us out on this street please.
Cabby: But you said you wanted to go to {hotel name}... *proceeds to pass the bar and continues driving*

Our friends were still sitting when we arrived, so we ordered a sidecar and told them about the cab. J and P wanted to hit up another beer bar and we walked there with the group to sober up in the warm night air. I honestly can't remember the name of the second beer bar but it paled in comparison to Toronado. Exhausted and slightly groggy, we caught our final taxi of the night back to the hotel just before 1am.

Stay tuned for a followup entry on dim sum, sushi and beer hauls!

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