Sunday, January 23, 2011

2011 started off more pharma than foodie

It's been a while since I've been here - 2011 had a fairly hectic start, most of it due to the pharma side of things than the food angle.

2011 actually started off kinda crappy because I was sick. I spent all of December with a sinus infection. Doesn't sound like much, but if you've ever had a sinus infection, it's surprisingly how lousy it can make you feel. I put it up with it, since I tend to get sinus infections easily, but after 4 weeks and not feeling any better, I finally decided to seek medical attention. The nurse practitioner who looked up my nostrils announced "Yep, they're inflamed" and sent me off with prescriptions for an antibiotic and an oral steroid. For those of you who've been fortunate to not have asthma-type of problems, you probably wouldn't know that oral steroids like prednisone is strong stuff and isn't good to take long-term because of its side effects - swelling, loss of bone density, amongst others. Luckily the antibiotic and steroid combination cleared things up after about two weeks, but the moral of the story is don't put up with a sinus infection for 4 weeks.

The other pharma event of 2011 involved a trip to San Fran to attend the JP Morgan Healthcare conference. This is probably the biggest investment event in the biotech/pharma industry. It's been a few years since I've attended this conference so it was nice to be back in that setting and catch up with many former colleagues. It was also a fantastic excuse to be in San Fran, which is probably my favourite city to visit. The hubby flew in mid-week to start our eating adventures, which consisted of the following:

  1. Wednesday night dinner at SPQR in the Pacific Heights neighbourhood of San Fran: We'd read a number of rave reviews of this little Italian joint. Showing up for dinner at 9:30 on a Wed helped since we didn't have a reservation and were able to get a seat at the bar right away. The reviews were right - simple Italian cuisine with Northern California ingredients done very well in a charming setting. Definitely try the spiced ricotta fritters with smoked maple syrup - essentially a savory, light as air doughnut that made for a wonderful starter.
  2. Thursday lunch in the Mission District: We were on a hunt to find the El tonayense food truck due to the hubby's taco craving. It took 20 mins of brisk walking to determine it wasn't in the area that we were in, and by this point I was ready to have a low glucose meltdown (it was close to 2 in the afternoon) so lunch involved a stop at Humphrey Slocombe and consisted of a scoop of ice cream - Vietnamese coffee for the hubby and Secret Breakfast for me, their famous vanilla base mixed with bourbon and cornflakes. They're also famous for their prosciutto ice cream, but alas no luck that day. We eventually did find the truck where I devoured a lingue torta, or a beef tongue sandwich. I love beef tongue so I was a very happy girl, though the saucy goodness made an enormous mess.
  3. Friday breakfast at Tartine Bakery: Another trip into the Mission District to a renown bakery where it's not unusual to find lineups snaking out the door and down the block on the weekend. A giant pain au chocolate and an orange blossom morning bun, both filled with butter, fueled us for our road trip.
  4. Friday lunch at Koi Palace in Daly City: Our plan was to drive south on Highway 1 to explore the coast. On the way, we made a point of stopping in Daly City based on a friend's recommendation when I asked where to get the best dim sum, since the dim sum offerings in Boston are weak at best. Delicious dim sum made all the better with the lack of a wait (since it was a weekday).
  5. Friday dinner at Dosa on Valencia: Another meal in the Mission District, this time South Indian vegetarian to give the body a break from the meat. We learned about this restaurant from Unique Eats on the Cooking Channel. They're known for a super spicy dosa, which is a crepe made of lentil and rice flours and covered with some sort of habernero sauce, but neither one of us thought we could stomach the spice and therefore went with tasty but tame veggie options. Dessert was Humphrey Slocombe again - our friend had suggested we try Bi-Rite Creamery as well, but we got lazy and went for the exact same flavours we'd eaten the day before. Why mess with a good thing?
  6. Saturday breakfast at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market: This is probably my favourite spot in the world on a warm and sunny day. It was more of a zoo than usual because the Good Food Awards winners were displaying their wares, but it was highly worth braving the chaos. In addition to one celebrity chef sighting (Chris Cosentino of Incanto and Boccalone, pushing a giant cart of onions), we snacked our way around the market, the highlight being the burger from 4505 meats. My one regret is that I didn't go back to buy a bag of Chicharrones (fried pork skin) that everyone raved about, but the crowds got to me by that point. We did end up with a tasty bag of organic clementines, 3 organic warren pears, and a pound of organic brussel sprouts that made it home with us in our carry-on. It was a nice souvenir from our trip.
  7. Saturday afternoon: We picked up lunch from the Spice Kit downtown that consisted of a Korean burrito (rice, beef short ribs and kim chi, wrapped in lettuce and rice paper), a bbq pork bun and a pork banh mi sandwich and drove up the coast on Highway 1, finally settling to eat on Stinson beach after a terrifyingly hilly drive. The verdict on the Asian fare - the burrito was my favourite but a little too big (I'm not a fan of regular burritos because of their size), the bbq pork bun was good but David Chang's Momofuku buns have ruined me for life, and surprisingly we thought we made a better banh mi sandwich. We continued north, eventually reaching Tomales Bay and the little town of Marshall for a late afternoon snack at Hog Island Oyster Company. A glass of wine and a dozen oysters by the water when it's 65 degrees and sunny out is a fantastic way to spend our last afternoon in Northern California.
  8. Saturday evening: We made it back into the city to watch a bit of the football game (don't ask me who was playing) over a glass of wine at a bar in the Pacific Heights neighbourhood before trekking over to Japantown for our last SF meal. We hit up Ino Sushi, a 20-seat restaurant tucked away in the corner of a strip mall that reminded me of the Porter Exchange plaza on steroids. Talk about a no-frills kind of place - they have no website, the elderly husband is the sushi chef and the elderly wife is the brusque server. Basic sushi offerings for the most part and not particularly pretty to look at, but boy was the sushi fresh and very tasty. We had the best unagi nigiri that we've probably ever eaten and tried monk fish liver nigiri, which is something we don't normally see on sushi menus. Monk fish sushi is highly worthwhile trying if you're a foie gras kind of person, a very unique experience at this little sushi joint.
So that's what we managed to pack into 3 days of eating. Next trip on the agenda is Puerto Rico in March, a mecca of pork products. I went last year without the husband and liked it enough to suggest going back this year, though I've already been informed that he will not rent segways with me to explore old San Juan. Now, if only I can survive the next 5 weeks of winter here in the Northeast...

Surfers in Santa Cruz - there was a sea otter bobbing near the surfers, eating a snack
San Fran Ferry Building Farmer's Market - notice how crowded it is?

Hog Island Oyster Company in Tomales Bay - 65 degrees and sunny


Jennifer said...

I love your reviews of the restaurants-I for one would LOVE to try the ricotta fritters! Those sound heavenly!

I envy your trip to Puerto Rico-we have a vacation coming in April (Maine), even though I know it will be chilly still, the week away from the city is calling out to me!

Glad to see you're back-you have been missed!

Open to Grace said...

Ah JP Morgan.... It just doesn't feel like New Year's until you've gotten elbowed in the teeny tiny hallways of the St. Francis. Also, funny enough, I still call it H&Q which is odd cause I don't even think I was around when it was still officially called H&Q.

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