It’s a wonderful whirlwind of a tour: Northern Cali ((part one))

It’s a wonderful whirlwind of a tour: Northern Cali ((part one))

I have been squeezing as much as possible into these last few days. I think, somehow, I also squeezed in some extra hours. How else could we have seen and done so much??

We started out by touring Pier 39 and gawking across San Fran Bay, imagining a time when Alcatraz housed some of the vilest criminals in our country’s history. So beautifully chilling – such a powerful contrast of circumstances all crammed into one narrow line of sight. The Bay is a marvel of natural beauty, filled with the chilly waters of the Pacific and, one can only assume, the most vicious man-eaters on the planet – the great whites.


The honks and barks of sea lions and cries of seagulls and pelicans clash into the laughter and calls from the humanity on the boardwalk. The smell of briny ocean air mixes with aroma of freshly popped hot, buttery popcorn. “We are not in Oklahoma anymore”, I find myself thinking.


David had reservations for us at a local restaurant ((the Fog Harbor Fish House)). He informed me it is Dungeness crab season and we both began planning our menu – chowder with crab, crab cakes, crab rolls and a crab topped hamburger were soon sitting before us.


I have to sadly admit, I returned the chowder after one bite. The crab on top was ice-cold ((which the waitress said was intentional)) and the chowder tasted exactly like a thickened version of Campbell’s soup. After one bite, I was so disappointed – David questioned my judgement and took one bite as well. He winced. I was happy to just say, I don’t love this, please take it back. But the waitress asked “what exactly didn’t you like??” “Was it that the crab was cold, or the texture…??”


I grimaced. I so badly wanted to leave it at “It wasn’t my favorite” but she pressed for specifics. 


The crab roll and hamburger were much better than the soup – we left full and happy.


After such a heavy meal and a long day of flying – we walked along the pier for a mile or so. Then we decided it go deep into downtown. We wound around the tight one-way streets and they sky became dark. Although it looked ((and felt)) like 10 pm, the night was still young.


Somehow, I had the excellent fortune of finding the Wok Shop, as shown on Cooking Channel’s “Easy Chinese“. I asked David to drop me off and come back to pick me up in 20 minutes. Parking is a beast of a mess in downtown SF…. and we had already paid a premium to park near the pier for dinner. I chatted with the owner, telling her I came to her story because I saw it on the Cooking Channel and thought she may have some dishes I had seen ((via my BF Laura)) at the Slanted Door.


I quickly struck up a longer conversation about what I was doing in SF, my family and vacay plans. She was particularly amused with how many children I have, hmm. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted them. The very dishes I had been pining for. As I was gathering them, the owner disappeared and a clerk walked up to me and said, “um I am sorry, we are closed.”


My ride was MIA, it was dark and the front gate of the store was locking. I hurriedly purchased my gorgeous Japanese dishes and called David. At this point, I am remembering my earlier observation: the red light district is one block over. David answered the phone and said “Just come out and start running to the corner. I will pick you up, hurry the light is turning green.”

Little old me, ran down the street in the dark, wagging my Wok Shop bag full of dishes and jumped into the first black Nissan Altima I could find. As I was doing so, I could hear me mom say, “Be very careful out there Emily”. I don’t think this is what she meant.

Thankfully, as I slammed the door, I looked to the driver and happily recognized him as my husband.


We made it across the Bay Bridge and had every intention of heading to our hotel. That is until I saw the 4 giant yellow letters glowing in the distance “IKEA”. David had mercy on my weak soul and turned off the highway and began making his way back to Swedish Housewares Heaven.


We rounded the corner – this night was getting even better with every turn. There in front of our weary Okie eyes, in bright red letters…”Trader Joe’s”. My heart literally leapt. I have never stepped foot in this culinary treasure trove of a store before – and was coming to the strange realization that that fact was about to change. I immediately sent out the S.O.S to my Facebook fans. “Quick — what should I get??” With in minutes, I had over 25 excitedly passionate & very helpful responses.


I stocked up on everything from cookie butter to Candy Cane green tea. We got back to the car & I immediately cracked open the package of Triple Ginger Snaps. 10 cookies later, I was singing praises to Rebekah for her suggestion and wondering how many packages would fit into my carry-on.


Even after the Trader Joe’s shopping spree, we headed to IKEA. I showed good restraint – only because we have to fly home, but I did manage to grab 5 more of my favorite dish towels and a few washing tubs. Oh! and I can’t leave out my favorite IKEA treat, Godis Lakrits ((sweet & salty back licorice)). It is SO addictively good. Fresh, soft, chewy, salty and sweet with a blast of peppery liquorice. Okay, I am beginning to understand why I have 18 cavities.  


Abuzz, we headed to the hotel, loaded down with treasures and began mapping out our next day’s adventures. As I drifted off to sleep, I thought to myself “How can it get any better.” 

Our tour continues – so check back for part 2 coming soon!