San Fran part two. This is the part when I get into the city. Pt. Reyes, Sonoma and Petaluma were amazing, serene, relaxing, but now it was time for a little excitement. I was itching to get into San Fran proper. Saturday was the day to do this, with my sixteen year old nephew, Aaron, in tow. (It helps to be known as the cool aunt.) While the three brothers ,Laurent, Scott and Albert, were at Rachel’s graduation , I got out my excel spread sheet, popped the GPS on the rental car and told Aaron he had to be co-pilot, because I was nervous about driving in San Fran. Getting out of Scott’s 90 degree angle of a driveway was hard enough, but I did it.
First stop, El Tonayense Taco Truck, recommended by my friend Alex Lopez, the Food Diva. Unlike LA, trucks in San Fran seem to stay parked in one spot for the most part. This was very civilized for street food, as there were tables belonging to the adjacent restaurant, also owned by El Tonayense, that we were able to enjoy our tacos on. This was a welcome luxury. I’m getting old, what can I say. Tacos al pastor and carnitas taco were wolfed down in a second and hit the spot, nothing fancy, but damn good. So was the horchata. I forgot how good horchata could be, full of cinnamon vanilla creaminess. I might as well fess up now, as you will see from the picture I am about to post of the taco truck, that we went back after dinner so Laurent could have a taco. I swear I didn’t have another. I know when to call it quits….sort of!
Speaking of creaminess, it was onto Humphrey Slocombe for the crazy ice cream flavors I have been hearing about in Food and Wine, Gourmet and Bon Appetit. How convenient, it was right up the street, even though I passed it up three times. The GPS chick kept saying “You have arrived” in her robotic choppy voice and I was talking back to her, saying “Where? Where? ” I am used to Chicago/New York grid style address, so I figured that 2790 Harrison would be at 27th street, not 23rd. Right? After driving around the block three times and calling we finally spotted the line out the door of this tiny shop. Then we circled for a parking spot. You need a Smart Car to be able to park in San Fran. Driveways keep breaking up the sidewalk and create a million places you can NOT park. We should have left the car by the El Tonayense Taco Truck as we had only gone about five blocks. Let me tell you, this ice cream was worth all the parking headaches in the world. Oh man. I dropped about $12 on two ice cream cones and would do it again. You know me and decisions, not such a good combo. How was I supposed to decide between Szechuan Strawberry, Secret Breakfast (bourbon and cornflakes), Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee, Honey Thyme, Thai Chili Lime, Peanut Butter Curry, and Caramel Balsamic? Ohhh the pressure. I tried two flavors and then committed to two others…..Peanut Butter Curry and Caramel Balsamic. I can’t pass up anything with caramel in its title. Aaron got Peanut Butter Curry and Tahitian Vanilla. I will excuse him for ordering Vanilla, even though it was Tahitian, and for ordering the same flavor as me, as I have not properly trained him, YET! Laurent should have warned him that the proper stance to take would be “What two flavors would you like me to try Auntie Melissa?” It would be good training for his dating life…girls love that. Believe me.
Ok, I was so full by now, it wasn’t even funny….or comfortable. But I had to forge on. While driving to find the taco truck, we passed Japan Town. Mochi!!!!!!! How could I forget that San Fran has the best mochi I have ever had? The best mochi are from Benkyodo, which also has a counter and sells hot dogs that spin around in that hot dog warmer thing with rollers. Don’t ask; just look the other way and head to the mochi counter. They must know what they are doing. They have been around since 1906.
Here is where my friend, Keiko, would correct me. Mochi is the pounded rice cake, with no filling at all. Manju, she tells me, is the filled rice cake. I don’t care what you call them, they are good. (I need to insert here that my damn spell check kept trying to auto correct “mochi” to mocha”. So if I didn’t re-correct them all, you know what happened.) Mochi/maju might be a little bit weird to you at first, if you are not used to weird Asiany desserts. (I got used to them very fast, let me tell you. Don’t get me started on grass jelly.) They are basically chewy rice cakes stuffed with sweetened red bean paste. Don’t confuse them with mochi ice cream. It’s just not the same. You can get them here at Chicago Foods, the Korean grocery store, but they are just ok. Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights has much better ones, but none seems to be as soft and chewy and heavenly as the ones from Benkyodo. I don’t know if you can call something chewy tender, but these are amazingly tender. I am a texture freak, and this texture makes me very happy. We bought eight of them to share with the family. I was so full; I couldn’t even eat one on the spot. How I resisted I don’t know. That $5.oo ice cream cone had sent me over the edge!
What a great day this had been. Who knew that hanging out with your sixteen year old nephew could be so much fun? We had a blast. At least I did. I guess we should ask him if he did. Aaron was a great sport, being dragged around San Fran with not a one complaint. He was polite, considerate, funny, a great conversationalist. Was he really a teenager? There was a lot of good food, but most importantly lots of laughs, inside jokes (I will never be able to say Van Ness without adding an “A” on the end of it.) and quality time spent with family, and a little bit of a tummy ache (well worth it, though). Thanks Aaron! This was shaping up to be an excellent trip.
Bye Bye…drive Safe
More San Fran eating adventures next week.