SF

San Francisco, I Still Love You but I’m Happy I’m Not Moving Back Yet

Going back to San Francisco I had conflicting feelings. When I left I knew that I would return one day to live for a long time. After dreaming about moving there for 15 years and having the best time of my life while I lived there, I had developed the feeling that SF was my place. And then that feeling was confirmed as I saw other cities around the world and still maintained a love for SF. So naturally I was worried that I was setting myself up for trouble. Would I be able to leave once I returned? Or once I set foot back in the city I saw as my place would I want to forsake my plan to continue traveling and settle back into a new version of my old life?

At the same time, I was looking forward to it. I was about to return to my place as my enhanced self, and even better I was about to see all my close friends and family who still lived there. The anticipation was palpable.

Both the worry and excitement stemmed from a strong love for the city. So imagine my surprise when, after just three days, I was ready to get the hell out of there.

It felt so strange to be back. The city still looked like San Francisco but it didn’t feel like it. Something had shifted. I don’t want to repeat the conversation that everyone is having about the gentrification of SF, but suffice it to say that I felt it was no longer the city I had idolized since I was 8 years old. It’s hard to express what exactly it was – I could talk about any of the usual suspects like the unavoidable homeless situation or tech industry dominance – but in the end it comes down to a feeling. In the year I was away, we, San Francisco and I, had grown in different directions.

Being back around talk about rent prices, office life, and IPOs was jarring. There were times I went silent and just observed the conversation around me. It wasn’t just an inability to contribute but a feeling of distance. The subject matter was so vastly different from what I had grown used to and, in all honesty, not something I missed. I had spent a year talking to people who found value in experience not in the workforce, and it’s not that either one is better than the other it’s just a difference of opinion. I had chosen the experience, removed myself from the workforce, and fallen in love with that decision. Now that I was back in that world I could see just how divergent I felt.

I was happy I had planned the trip to wander around Vancouver Island for 6 days. I needed to get out of there, and the first night sitting next to a campfire on a random beach underneath the stars I felt more like myself than I had the whole week. It was a necessary break from the shock of returning.

When I went back to SF the second time I felt much better. This could partially be because the first week back was such a whirlwind of seeing people, trying to say hi to everyone I possibly could while I was in town (something I did to myself and in no way regret), and this time I was much more low key. But I think it also has to do with expectations. I had gotten the initial “this isn’t what I thought it would be like” out of the way and was okay with the fact that I did not want to be there. I was even happy about it; if I had still felt such a strong connection to the city then it would have been much harder to leave again. How things turned out, I have no doubts in my mind about staying away for a couple more years. It made the nomadic choice easier to accept that I thought it would.

Having said all that, I am incredibly happy I went back to San Francisco en route to Vermont. I couldn’t imagine not having seen my SF friends when I returned to the US and I had a fantastic time catching up with them. I was able to celebrate my birthday and my friend’s birthday in the same week with tons of friends at some old favorite places and with food I didn’t even know I’d missed (BBQ and tacos); I got to experience some of the best parts of wedding planning with my sister and her fiance (a catering tasting and dress shopping); I played laser tag in the streets of the Marina to celebrate the big 3-0 with the craziest twins I know (it was as fun as it sounds); and from brunches, lunches, and dinners to late nights at apartments I got to be a part of my friends’ lives again. It was everything I wanted my time in town to be and I thank you all for welcoming me back with open arms.

Advertisements

Bucket List Results

I know you’ve all been dying to know how I did on my San Francisco bucket list, or #brodgesbucketlist as it’s now known. Below is the entire list – maroon text is completed, black text I didn’t get to do. What do you think?

The Bucket List

The Bucket List

I think I did well! 34 out of 40. There are a few missing, unfortunately, but for all the ones missing and more I did plenty of #unofficialversion bucket list items. Plus there are a few that I did part of – my last weekend I did make it to Bootie and then Aces, we just happened to nap during what was supposed to be the EndUp time so I didn’t count it. And then there are a few that I admit are a bit of a stretch – I did go climbing at Dogpatch Boulders when I stopped by my friends’ climbing competition, and we did have a growler from Magnolia at their apartment after, so technically that counts right?

In the end I am just so happy that I was able to do as much as I did, and I’m even happier that so many people joined me for the fun!

I’ve posted some highlights already, but really everything I did could have had its own post. I had the best time exploring all the city has to offer. My last months in SF could have been filled with sadness about my upcoming departure, but instead they were a celebration of the wonderfulness of the city and all my friends.

There are still plenty of activities to do and places to visit in San Francisco, so when I return one day I hope more of you will join me again for my #brodgeisback list.

 

So Many Restaurants, So Little Time

It’s a well known fact that San Francisco has amazing food.

It’s a well known fact amongst my friends that I love following food blogs and local sites to find out about the newest and best restaurants in San Francisco.

So it was no surprise that I had a lot of restaurants on my bucket list.

I had to limit myself to these restaurants, I still had plenty more in a mental restaurant-only bucket list

I had to limit how many restaurants made the list. I still had plenty more in a mental restaurant-only bucket list.

This meant that I ate absolutely amazing food my last couple months in SF. Thank you to my friends and family who accompanied me to these restaurants, I hope you enjoyed them too (I’m pretty sure you did). To avoid writing a multiple page food post, or turning my blog into a restaurant review site, I’m just going to pick two highlights to add to my bucket list section here. When people ask me about the restaurants that I went to they usually want my top choices anyway, so here they are: Rich Table and Frances.

Just by chance, I ate at both of these restaurants with the same friend in the same weekend. After dinner Sunday we did a plate by plate breakdown to try to decide which one we liked more. I’ll give you those results at the end.

Rich Table
(Friday)

Rich_Table

Rich Table has been in the news constantly since it opened. It’s one of those places that is known to have a crazy wait but is entirely worth it. So imagine my surprise when on a Friday night at 7:30, me and two friends decided to just walk in and see what happened, and were seated at the corner of the bar within 5 minutes. Personally I love sitting at the bar, and the corner was perfect for a group of three.

We started with the bread – seriously amazing, and I’m not one to usually eat the bread at a big dinner and I wanted more – then the sardine chips and porcini doughnuts with raclette sauce. The sardine chips are pretty famous, and honestly, they’re strange. There is actually a sardine in a chip. But the porcini doughnuts might be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Savory and warm and airy, they were so satisfying and the sauce was a perfect complement.

We had a main of pasta with a side of asparagus and one more thing that I can’t remember, I just remember that the bartender told us we might need one more dish and by the end of the meal we decided that wasn’t necessary and we could’ve just stuck with the pasta and asparagus. But the asparagus was fantastic. Our friend had the steak which he seemed to thoroughly enjoy. We washed all this down with cocktails and wine.

Everything was well done and the flavors worked so well together, but it definitely lives up to its name – it is rich food. We stumbled out so full but happy, knowing that we had experienced a San Francisco gem of a restaurant. Impressive and tasty, I recommend you go.

Frances
(Sunday)

Frances

I was shocked to hear that some people don’t know Frances. It has consistently been named among the top restaurants in the city on lists like Eater’s 38 Essential SF Restaurants and Bauer’s Top 100 in the Chronicle. It is also known for being incredibly hard to get into. Now that I’ve eaten there I understand and appreciate why – the wait here is due to an intimate size and unrushed experience, which were part of the reason we loved dining here so much.

We booked a reservation about a month out on a Sunday at 5:30. We were there until 8. Located in a small space on 17th Street, Frances has a neighborhood feel about it. It is the perfect place to pass an evening catching up with a friend over a carafe of wine. Oh the wine deal – house red or white (the red was great), you’re charged by the amount you drink, which is measured on the carafe. It has to be one of the most reasonable wine deals I’ve ever had at a nice dinner.

Again we ordered small plates over a few courses. Josey Baker bread, yes please. (I swear that’s not normally me but these restaurants just have such good bread!) Applewood smoked bacon beignets – how could you possibly not order that? They were very rich, and good, but had the unfortunate timing of being paired with and completely overshadowed by the duck liver mousse. I have never ordered duck liver mousse before but for some reason this seemed like the place to get it. Definitely the right decision. Like the porcini doughnuts at Rich Table, the duck liver mousse was the highlight of Frances and one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Smooth and flavorful, we were eating it by itself after we ran out of the crostini it came with.

We had another pasta, squid ink this time. Usually squid ink pasta is a favorite and this one was good, but it fell short in comparison to the rest of this round: an incredible, perfectly cooked steak and side of seasoned carrots. Finishing out the meal, we didn’t mean to get dessert until we saw them pour chocolate sauce over one at the table next to us. We just had to. And it was another highlight.

After all of that, we again left satisfied and stuffed. I didn’t move from the couch for a while after this meal, but every bite was worth it. It is no wonder that a reservation at Frances is so hard to come by. It had the feel of a San Francisco staple that will only continue to impress its visitors with its food and its atmosphere.

As I promised, dish by dish comparison:

  • Bread – this is really hard, but the edge went to Rich Table
  • Porcini doughnuts vs Beignets – definitely Rich Table’s doughnuts
  • Sardine chips vs Duck liver mousse – hands down Frances’ mousse
  • Grilled asparagus vs Carrots – this was a close one, but the edge went to Rich Table’s asparagus (although full disclosure I like asparagus more in general)
  • Pasta main vs Squid ink pasta – I think we called this a draw: both good dishes, neither the best dish of the night
  • Dish I forgot vs Steak – duh, Frances’ steak
  • Bonus to Frances for dessert

In the end they come out pretty even, which is why I recommend both. When doing this breakdown, my friend and I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was, but we both wanted to give the edge to Frances. The environment combined with the solidly delicious food made us want to go back, as soon as we could possibly fit more food in our stomachs.

 

(Some people may have noticed that Frances was not on my bucket list snapshot above. It was originally on the list, but since I had already planned this dinner with a friend I took it off before I shared the spreadsheet so people wouldn’t sign up for something that was already figured out. This is why it still counts as being on the bucket list.)

Alcatraz

Despite numerous visits to SF as a kid and living there for 3 years, I had never been to Alcatraz. It’s like being from NJ I’ve never been to the Statue of Liberty. Sometimes when you live somewhere, you end up skipping the major tourist destinations.

So when I made my bucket list, I knew a visit to Alcatraz had to be on it.

I didn’t know how good Alcatraz would be really. I was skeptical that it was over-hyped, and it always seemed weird to me that a prison was such a destination. This is a place where dangerous people were locked up, kept in an extremely unpleasant environment, detained from the rest of the world. Is this somewhere that should really be an attraction? Then again I’ve toured catacombs in Europe and that’s also a strange idea when you think about it, so why not tour a famous prison? And I’d heard good things about the Alcatraz tour so I was curious to see what it was like.

It was great. I went with my family and we were all so impressed with the tour. It was informative, full of interesting stories, and, as a tourist attraction, it kept everyone moving very well so there was never a back up of people hovering in one spot.

Yes it is a prison, and some of the most dangerous people were held here. But what I didn’t realize was that Alcatraz was created to scare the country – it was meant to be a high security prison that would strike fear into criminals in the hopes to quell crime. The impression of Alcatraz that is so famous was created on purpose. This fact somehow makes me more curious about what it was like to live in the mob boss and gangster era.

Mixed in with the history of the prison and daily activities of inmates were fascinating stories of escape attempts and well-known prisoners. And did you know that in 1970 a group of Native Americans took over the island in protest? I didn’t.

Now having gone to Alcatraz, I highly recommend it to people. It was definitely worth the trip. Our only sadness about our visit was that the rest of the island was closed for bird mating season. My dad had heard wonderful things about the gardens, so we were a little disappointed we couldn’t see them. If you have all year to go to Alcatraz, try to go when the whole island is open.

One day I hope to return to the night tour – it’s the only time the hospital is open, and I hear it is especially eerie.

DSC_0563_smDSC_0567_smDSC_0569_smDSC_0574_smDSC_0575_sm

Super Mario Bros Tour San Francisco

Anyone who has spent some time in San Francisco has see the GoCars: tiny, yellow, people-carrying vehicles that troll around telling their riders anecdotes like who donated the gate at the entrance to Chinatown or why Lombard Street curves like it does.

Anyone who grew up with Nintendo 64 has imagined these GoCars racing around the streets with shells on their backs and banana peels ready to be flung at their enemies, hoping to get star power so they can blast invincibly past their competitors.

GoCars and Mario Kart. It’s the 20-something San Franciscan’s dream.

And then one day a friend and I found ourselves with an empty afternoon and a costume box. This is how one of my favorite bucket list activities happened.

While it would’ve been great to get a group all dressed up as each of the Mario Kart characters (apparently no one has ever shown up as Donkey Kong), when there’s only two of you there is an obvious duo to portray: Mario and Luigi. So we donned our overalls (thank you to SF’s costume loving culture, without which our friends would not have overalls just lying around), our green and red tshirts, hats and sunglasses, and our fake mustaches, and set off on a mission to live the Mario Kart GoCar dream.

We looked good, but we brought an additional prop that really elevated our success: a Jambox. On which we played the Super Mario Bros theme song. On repeat. The entire walk to the GoCar store, the entire 1 hour ride around the city, and the entire walk home. That’s about 2 straight hours of the Super Mario Bros theme. It was stuck in my head for a week, but it was so incredibly worth it.

We picked up the car and, after a quick stop to say hi to our friends on Jackson Street (for photographic evidence, of course), we hit all the major tourist spots. We went down Lombard Street, through Chinatown to Union Square, up the Embarcadero and past Fisherman’s Wharf.

The reaction we got from people was amazing. I couldn’t even pretend to count how many pictures of us were taken. People waved at us, laughed, clapped, and even ran up to high five us when we were stopped at a red light. They yelled out “you’re awesome!” and “that’s the way to do it!” People danced along with the song as they crossed the street. My favorite reaction was the SUV that passed us on the Embarcadero, whose driver rolled down his window to wave a banana peel at us.

I am pretty sure I looked like an idiot smiling the entire time. And because I was bopping along to the song – it is pretty catchy. But the whole thing was just so much fun.

Did we learn a lot about San Francisco? The way the tour was meant to teach us, no not really. I can’t tell you all the historic facts that the car lady was trying to tell us; she was pretty much drowned out by the theme song. But I did experience that people in SF are pretty awesome. There’s nowhere else where I would feel totally comfortable and accepted, hell even loved, walking/GoCar-ing around dressed as Mario and Luigi in the middle of the day for no other reason than because we wanted to.

This was one of my bucket list items that I honestly wasn’t sure I would be able to complete, at least the costume part of it. Dream fulfilled.

Mario and Luigi in our GoCar

Mario and Luigi in our GoCar

P.S. Big shout out and thank you to Luigi for entertaining this idea and coming along for the ride.

Going to See the Elephant at Anchor Brewing Company

IMG_3669One of the activities on my bucket list was to go on a tour of the Anchor Brewery. I’ve grown to love the Anchor beers (personal favorites: California Lager and Zymaster) and just love brewery tours in general, so this was something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Unfortunately the only time to do these tours is a weekday and you have to book a while in advance. A little hard when I’m still working.

Then the Bold Italic emailed about a competition to win two tickets to Anchor’s SF Beer Week kick-off party to release their new IPA. I entered, as I do with fun sounding local events, not expecting to hear anything. Then one day I got an email with the subject: YOU WON! This is how my brewery tour bucket list activity changed to a brewery party instead.

All we knew was that they were going to release their IPA and the theme was to See the Elephant. This vague invitation was enough to convince me and friend to go, and it ended up being an awesome event that is definitely a bucket list highlight.

To “See the Elephant” is a 19th-century metaphor for the hopeful but risky pursuit of happiness, adventure, and fortune. From the Anchor Brewing Website:

The expression to “see the elephant” originates from a tale that predates the California Gold Rush.

There once lived a farmer who had heard of elephants but had never seen one. He longed for the day when he might catch a glimpse of this rare, exotic creature. When the circus came to town, he loaded his wagon with fresh produce and headed to the market. On the way, just as he’d hoped, he came across the circus parade, nobly led by an enormous elephant. The farmer was ecstatic, but his horses were terrified. They reared and bucked, overturning his wagon and scattering its precious contents in the road. “I don’t give a hoot,” exclaimed the farmer. “I have seen the elephant!”

The elephant became the universal symbol of the Gold Rush, as evidenced by the journals, letters, and sketchbooks of the forty-niners.

So to recap: I was now at a party at Anchor Brewing Company that was focused on pursuing your hopes and dreams. I couldn’t have imagined a better theme. It was a convergence of this major life decision I’d made to take a break from my every day life and pursue my travel dreams with a bucket list activity of beer tasting.

IMG_3671This party was designed to be an adventure through the brewery. Each of us was given a map and a passport; stamp every destination in your passport and you got a goodie bag when you left. At each passport stamp location you could learn something – about IPA’s, elephants, or other participants’ ambitions. During this entire event, the tap room was open with unlimited pours of whatever they had on tap, with a few stations scattered throughout the floor serving the IPA and California Lager, as well as some food stands. Not only were we inside the brewery for a release party of a new beer, but we got to wander around at our leisure, participate in activities, learn about beer, and taste their beers! You can understand our excitement.

Second only to Brews on the Bay (a personal favorite San Francisco event), this was an amazingly fun and well-executed brewery party. The staff was engaging, we learned a lot, and who doesn’t love beer tasting. By the end we had stamped all our passport locations and took home some fun Anchor Brewing Company swag.

At one of the passport stamp locations, there was a board where we had to write down what our version of Seeing the Elephant was. “To See the Elephant is to…” This was a no brainer for me. Without hesitation, I picked up my chalk and wrote down “finally go on my Round the World adventure.” To me, this trip is my pursuit of happiness, adventure and fortune.

Thanks Anchor Brewing Company (and Bold Italic) for an awesome night, fantastic beer, and another reminder about pursuing what really matters.

A few more pictures from the night.

IMG_3675

Signs directing us from England to San Francisco and India

The board where we wrote down what Seeing the Elephant is to us (and my friend pointing out what to do)

IMG_3678

We made it to India

Making progress on the SF Bucket List

I figure it’s about time I post an update about my progress on my San Francisco Bucket List.

I think I’ve done pretty well so far! Thanks to some awesome companions I have been regularly checking off bucket list items since I first sent it out to friends less than 2 months ago. I’ve seen a variety of shows at a variety of venues, eaten wings from Hayes Valley to the Richmond, played at the Exploratorium and the Seward Street Slides, and tasted my fair share of cocktails everywhere from new bars in the TL to Anchor Steam’s IPA Release Party (thank you Bold Italic for that one!).

Each of these activities could take a whole post, but thanks to social media and my tagging them with #brodgesbucketlist it’s pretty easy to find them all through my personal instagram (the one connected with my blog won’t start until the trip starts). So instead I will post highlights here of some exceptionally awesome places to play in SF.

I’ll start with where my bucket list started. The first adventure.

The first bucket list adventure I went on happened to also be a friend’s last week in SF. She was up for anything before she took off, so we borrowed a car and went down to the Castro. Unsure what we were about to get into, we grabbed our cardboard and gloves and approached the Seward Street Slides.

(Why gloves you ask? If you’ve ever slid down a concrete slide before you will know how destroyed your hands can get holding onto your cardboard around turns, bumping into harsh concrete. I had the unfortunate experience of ripping up my hands on a different concrete slide during softball season last year. I was prepared this time.)

The Seward Street Slides were constructed over 30 years ago in the hills above the Castro. After the neighborhood successfully saved the park from development, they held a “Design the Park” competition. 14-year-old Kim Clark won with a design for curving concrete slides, based on a slide that used to be at Playland Amusement Park at Ocean Beach. (more at Curbed SF). This is what you see today.

Intrigued, we climbed the stairs, skeptically eyeing the slides next to us. Since there are two slides next to each other, we decided to go together. We bravely inched our way along the slide on our pieces of cardboard. We did not know what we were getting into.

These slides are FAST. They start innocently enough, then all hell breaks loose as they shoot you down a steep incline and around a sharp curve before spitting you out a longer than it should be drop to the ground. There is no way to land gracefully. We laughed a lot at how ridiculous the ride was and our astonishment that these are there for kids to play on. While my friend refused to go again, I was determined to document this crazy, random, slightly dangerous San Francisco oddity.

So I went again while she recorded it. At the risk of complete embarrassment, here is the video of my second ride. Just know that this was not the worst landing we saw that day.

San Francisco Bucket List

I moved to San Francisco almost three years ago and have loved every minute of living here. Leaving is going to be very hard, so instead of focusing on the sadness of saying bye I decided to celebrate my time in the city before I go by making a bucket list.

I’ve always enjoyed discovering as much as possible about where I live, whether new restaurants and bars or quirky lesser known places to explore. While I did this to a degree in NYC, I did this tenfold when I moved to SF. My enthusiasm for the city and all it has to offer made it incredibly hard to even narrow everything I want to do down to a bucket list – I could’ve filled a whole spreadsheet with just a list of restaurants if I really let myself go crazy with it. But I showed some restraint and was able to narrow it down to a hit list that I think I can accomplish before I go (although I’ve been told this is still a very long list). The main rule was no repeats; if I’ve been before, it doesn’t make the cut. Then it was about trying to spread out neighborhoods and types of activities.

The Bucket List

Part of the Bucket List

What was really fun for me, before even going on any bucket list adventures, was blasting out my bucket list to my friends on social media and seeing the response – next to each activity I put a “Who wants to come?!” column that people have been filling in. It’s pretty awesome to have so many people want to join me for these events. Now, each time I think I might be able to do something, I email the people who signed up and we try to coordinate a date.

To keep track of everything I’m doing, I hashtag it all on Instagram and Twitter with #brodgesbucketlist

Some of these posts have two hashtags: #brodgesbucketlist #unofficialversion These are for the activities or places that didn’t make the final cut for the spreadsheet, but are on my secret mental list. They’re things I want to do but had to sacrifice since the list would be unmanageable if they were all on there.

In all honesty, I plan to return to San Francisco. I realize that complicates the fact that I have a bucket list when I think I’ll be back here in the end, but for me it’s just a fun way to say goodbye for a while and finally do these things I’ve wanted to do for so long.

I’ll post some of these adventures in my Bucket List section (under Preparing to Go). They’re part of this journey too. Just like I have to say bye to friends and family, I have to say bye to my city for a while too.