My pants have not fit since the last time I visited San Francisco in June, and last week's trip was no different. The Wisel family eats so aggressively that if we had a coat of arms, it would probably be the Medieval Times-sized Turkey legs my mom legitimately serves as a dinner next to a bowl of the oddest thing on a menu, just because "we wanted to try it." This is my legacy, and I happily fall in line with it.
We took a ferry that was colder than a bodega ice cream freezer to Sausalito, which everyone says is really pretty but sells enough tchotchkies to be its own gated community outside of Phoenix. You know that thing where you walk really far to eat when you're hungry, and then you start acting like a nine-year-old at day camp and whine that you're never gonna get there and you may as well just carve a hole in the ground like it's a war movie with bunkers and live there 'til you die?
Well, that happened, but I was thankfully saved with a skillet of shrimp and mussels, dungeness crab with garlic sauce and platter of oysters at Salito's at the end of the 15 minute walk. The food was pretty good, but the table near us digging into four orders of deep-fried catfish on the way out were clearly better versed in their ordering skills. Then again, scarfing a hot oven skillet of bread served with ridiculous Straus butter was, oh, potentially enough fat for one day.
Typically, having arrived by an action movie-style taxicab swerve down a Chinatown alley would be a tip-off that I'm dreaming about Chris Tucker again, but I'll never forget the glares from every patron surrounding us at Z&Y Chinese who simply could not fathom the amount of food we had ordered. My brother continues to refer to this meal as "the one where we had to choke down multiple plates of food so we could make more room on the table," but I'll remember it for conquering my incredibly undertreated ADD and managing to remember all ten entrees we ordered to gorge ourselves on. A platter of Steamed Sea Bass with strips of ginger that could have fed a regular-sized family alone, peanutty Tan Tan noodles that made me reconsider my disdain for all things pasta, Salt and Pepper Prawns that gave me such a sodium high that I'm not positive this night even happened — all were wonderful, but nothing held a Can-I-buy-a-second-stomach-on-Amazon-yet? candle to the Chicken with Explosive Chili Pepper, whose crispy bits which came on a platter covered with red peppers that was nothing short of beautiful. I seriously owe my fellow food-and-fashion-obsessed blogger (and personal Yelp) Diya of In Her Stilettos my first born, a very long poem and a goodie bag of red chilies as a thank you for making me eat here.
This is, and forever will be, my happy place. I've got a baby-like soft spot for tiki bars of all shapes and sizes, but the Tonga Room, in the basement of The Fairmont Hotel, is like a secret slice of daquiri-flavored heaven that's remained unchanged for the past sixty-something years. On the weekend, a band comes out, on a moat, and sings the best songs you've ever heard while you get to kick back at a table and drink a fucking slush wonderment. Oh, and also you're shithoused, because their menu is pretty much hulled-out coconuts and pineapples filled with elixirs and dressed up versions of the jungle juice you slung out of trashcans filled to the top with fruit punch-flavored whatever back in college. I had one drink, started mumbling about things I probably shouldn't have brought up, did this and immediately passed out when I got back to the hotel. A truly perfect night.
We went to Sonoma for the day, and we ate these things? The pizza is fuzzy, but l mostly remember the sweet buns in the car I kept chowing because my low tolerance surprised even me, eating olives until a mountain of pits suddenly appeared, and getting so tipsy off two glasses of champagne at the day's end that I spent all of my expendable income on a variety of sparkling wine. And then, dinner.
I almost bought a juice fast coupon on GiltCity because I ate so much at Yummy Yummy, the Vietnamese place by my brother's house, but realized the mistake of my ways when comparing pressed celery to, like, anything else in my fat molecule-filled brain. We've got to be the only family that comes for Pho and orders enough entrees on top of it to feed a small graduation party, but where grilled garlic oysters and other delights are concerned, we persevered. I got way PMS-y about not being able to consume a crab leg with two chopsticks and a communal metal cracker, but drowning sorrows in beef broth mixed with a pile of basil and bean sprouts dipped in fish sauce beats diving head first into a pint of ice cream topped with Tylenol any day.
Though, we did that, too.
Everyone — my parents, Benjamin, my brother, the entire internet — loves Cole Valley's popular breakfast joint Zazie, but me? Meh. There's never an excuse for cold, tasteless scramblies, especially when you pride yourself on organic eggs and have a half-empty restaurant on a Monday afternoon instead of a brunch rush. We got a pancake sampler for the table — what, do most people not do that? — and the Gingerbread, Buttermilk and and Corn + Lemon Ricotta cakes were good, but you could dip my left arm in syrup and smear butter on it and the likes of Pete Wells would probably think it was great. (Well, with just a little too much hair, I'll bet.) Good? Yes. Great? Not when things like explosive chicken and steak slices are an option.
Bi-Rite Creamery, on the other hand? Believe the hype. Malted Vanilla with little flecks of peanut brittle and chocolate over Honey Graham was so delicious that I decided I was finished and put it down, twice, and then kept eating until I could taste the empty wood on my eating stick.
Oh, and it just so happens to be down the block from Tartine, so my mom made me play the Morning Bun availability odds and we somehow won. I can only imagine the potential of something like this when it's fresh out the oven, but even cold, had the gooey inside of an orange-zested squishy cinnamon bunmuffin. Why I never eat the insides of these bad boys and trash the rest, I'll never know, but I guess I've got all my fatso adulthood to learn these life lessons. Add to that that I embarrassingly had to also be scolded out of ordering a sandwich after just eating a parade of treats, but g'lord, that's on the tip-top of my must-eat list for the next trip.
Hahaha, oh my god I need to go to Equinox and repent for my sins instead of temple on Yom Kippur. The House of Prime Rib is the fucking best ever, and not just because they bring you a dish of bacon crumbles and have three kinds of horseradish and you don't even need to choose a side, because hey look, they give you ALL OF THEM. I got a gin gimlet with a shaker full of two more pours, had a baked potato the size of an underweight baby and ate three people's portions of the confusingly incredible creamed spinach. Oh, and we found out that you can ask for seconds, so obviously the matriarch of the Wisel clan went for it and got a second slice and finished it all. I passed out while moaning over how full my organs were with bacon-topped wonders, and if that doesn't entice you, it's not too pricey by steakhouse standards, so you gotsta cash out and go. I'd be a regular if I lived in these parts, slowly morphing into an old man who likes his meat nearly rare and his baked potato with only a smear of sour cream and knows all the young waitresses' names. One can dream! One can dream.
And to round it all out-slash-drown our sorrows in the fact that we could possibly still be hungry a day later, an egg-white omelete filled with crab meat and avocado from my dad's favorite dive, with a fruit salad that would easily cost $9 on its on in the West Villy.
And now? Time to go jog until my legs fall off.