17 September 2011

Brunch and Lotsa Perty Flowers

As it is with any Sunday when my wife and I travel, the first order of business was brunch. Our destination was Canteen which I’d read serves the best French toast in the city.

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 We arrived to what I can only describe as an upscale diner.

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I liked the look of the place, but the lighting was too dim and the back of restaurant (where we were seated) was insanely hot due to the open kitchen. Canteen doesn’t post its menu online, so aside from a few dishes I’d read about, I really didn’t know what they served.

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One article mentioned that they do wonderful things with eggs, so I was torn between the Benedict and the French toast, but this place really evoked memories of the Sunday brunch we enjoyed on our first anniversary trip so I decided to go along with my wife and ordered the French toast with a side of bacon.

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First up, however, was their other unanimously recommended dish: the brioche buns which were served with orange marmalade, black raspberry preserves, and softened butter.

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These buns were packed with so much butter they struggled to maintain their physical state as a solid. They were perfectly dense and they pulled apart like wet cotton candy.

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The preserves were fine, and the marmalade was a bit too bitter for my tastes due to too much orange rind.

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The revelation came when I dipped my bun into the lake of blueberry sauce upon which my French toast was perched.

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As you can see the French toast came swimming in a sea of blueberry sauce. It looked like Boo from Boo Berry spooged on my breakfast. Ah, so that’s why he’s always got those lazy eyes. He’s not stoned, he just came all over your French toast. The sweetness of the sauce was offset by a hefty dose of lemon juice, which enabled the natural flavor of the blueberries to shine through… somewhat.

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The more toast I ate, the more I discovered just how large the pile of blueberries underneath was. It was like the Mount Doom of Candyland.

If that wasn’t enough it came topped with a literally fist-sized dollop of sweetened cream cheese. It was smooth and tangy and paired perfectly with the lake of cartoon ghost semen. Ultimately, since the French toast wasn’t the star of the show (it was pretty much forgotten due to the deluge of toppings) I can’t justly consider this dish in the running for the best French toast I’ve had. Nonetheless, it was a pretty damn delicious mess on a plate.

Finally, I feel like I have to mention a general complaint about their restroom situation. There aren’t any restrooms in the restaurant, you have to go next door to what I can only describe as a demented children’s museum. If there were a sequel to The Shining that took place in a children’s art school, this would be it. Freaky, freaky stuff.

After brunch we took the 38 bus to Arguello Blvd then headed south to Golden Gate Park.

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Despite the dreary weather, this park was quite beautiful and really blew us away with how large and packed with awesome stuff it was.

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First up we made our way to the Coservatory of Flowers and after scoring a few discounted student tickets (never throw away your college I.D.) we toured the seemingly endless amount of rooms packed wall-to-wall with gorgeous arrays of foilage. Foliage. Something like that. I took about 70 photos in this place, so I’ll save your eyes and just show you a few of my favorite shots:

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After that we meandered around the park checking out the gardens surrounding the immediate area.

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We decided against checking out the Japanese Tea Garden after realizing there was an admission fee. We crossed over Stow Lake and made our way to the top of Strawberry Hill where we found a little man made waterfall and our first view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Little did we know this would be the only time we actually saw the damn thing, but more on that later.

Nikki had expressed interest in trying some Bubble Tea while we were in San Francisco so we made our way south and eventually came to Wonderful Foods Co. which was unanimously recommended on Chowhound as having the city’s best Bubble Tea.

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The menu was pretty overwhelming with some flavors I’ve never seen before at any bubble tea shop.

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For me it came down to either oatmeal or sesame, but in the end I decided to go with the sesame. Nikki ordered her usual almond. Here is what I said in my voice memo for your enjoyment:

“The black sesame is literally fucking my face right now. It’s like a peanut butter-sesame smoothie. The flavor itself blows away any bubble tea we’ve had anywhere. New York, anywhere.“

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It didn’t have the slightest bit of grit like the one I had in Manhattan, and they used crushed ice as opposed to cubed so as it melted it incorporated into the beverage and you didn't have to fight with the ice cubes to get at the boba balls. The almond was equally as good. The only thing that prevented this from being the reigning champion bubble tea experience was the boba was overcooked and a little soft for me. I like mine chewy. But the flavor really blew both of us away. A recommendation like this is why Chowhound is vital for food-centric trip-planning.

This was only half of our lunch. We obviously needed a sandwich to go with our beverages. CH also informed me that great banh mi sandwiches could be had just a few blocks west at Irving Café & Deli.

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I had Nikki snag us some seats while I waited in the short line to order our sandwich. Since I’d enjoyed the BBQ Pork Banh mi at Ba Le I decided to order that. All the sandwiches here are made to order, and they mostly do carry-out service since there are only three seats in the place.

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The sandwich was good, but not great. The veggies were fresh and crisp, but the bread wasn’t quite as good as Ba Le. The pork was tender and just barely sweetened by whatever the woman behind the counter squirted out of a red ketchup bottle.

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The Vietnamese chili sauce on the table added a little sour heat that complimented the flavors nicely.

After we left Irving Café we hit the light rail to La Playa St. then crossed Great Highway and hit Ocean Beach where I laid my eyes on the Pacific Ocean for the very first time.

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Removing shoes and socks we leisurely made our way up the shore, snapping photos and happily greeting any dogs that came up to give us a sniff.

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We passed by the awesome Dutch Windmill in the northwestern corner of Golden Gate Park and finally ended up at the end of the beach and The Cliff House.

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We stopped for a second to take in the view of Seal Rocks before heading a little farther north to the Sutro Baths.

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We walked around the ruins and through the caves to the other side of the shore.

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We spent about an hour here before we realized we were pretty hungry (and thirsty) so we decided against hailing a cab and hoofed it into Outer Richmond for some beverages and dinner...


Canteen on Urbanspoon
Wonderful Foods Co on Urbanspoon
Irving Cafe & Deli on Urbanspoon

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