Last week during our holiday week off, the wife and I took a quick trip to “The City.” It’s funny because I only learned, in the last year or so, that if you live in this area, “The City” refers to San Francisco. I know the same is said about Manhattan if you live in the outskirts or outer Burroughs of NYC. We like to take quick trips to the City since it is so close.
There’s a hotel that we like in Berkeley because it is dog friendly. They have recently made some changes (paid parking instead of free self parking) that made the stay not as great – mostly because their machine that lets you in and out wasn’t working properly with the room key. Nevertheless it is a great location for us.
We had never been to Stinson beach, which is north of the City near the Muir Woods on the upper peninsula above San Francisco. We had previously been to Muir Woods and had a wonderful hike through the majestic trees. D didn’t realize to get to Stinson beach you had to take the windy, twisty mountainous roads with sheer cliff drop offs. Nevertheless, we made it after a bit of a drive. I think the dog got a little nauseous with the drive (normally she’s a trooper in the car). We grabbed some food at the Parkside Cafe snackbar. The snackbar is window-service small things like hot dogs, sandwiches, etc. I had a hot dog and a cup of their clam chowder. The chowder actually was decent though there was a little bit of grit, which hopefully means they actually make it from real ingredients. The beach that was right behind the cafe did not allow dogs so we drove into the neighborhood just north of this area, parked, and hiked to a beach that allows dogs (and even off-leash dogs). At first I was a bit hesitant to let Sophie (the dog) off-leash because she’s not always the nicest with other dogs – she likes to bark at them and sometimes growl. Eventually we made it to an area void of dogs so let her off leash. Luckily she mostly just stays near us and doesn’t wander more than ~10 feet from us. We spent some time just enjoying the ocean and waves and then headed to the hotel before D and I went into the city for dinner.
We figured by going during the middle of the week (between Christmas and New Years), it may be easier to get a reservation and not be so busy in SF. We booked a reservation at Tosca Cafe, which is just near the SF Chinatown.
After ordering drinks at the bar we were seated in their private room (their main area was full along with the bar area). It felt more intimate. The walls were covered with a mixture of older movie posters as well as pictures of celebrities and such that had eaten at Tosca. My first cocktail was their House “Cappuccino” 1919 (Marie Duffau Bas Armagnac, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Dandelion Chocolate Ganache, Organic Milk). It was delicious. We started off with the cheese plate, which was a combination of hard and soft cheeses. I had the crispy pig tail. This was a crunchy/sticky mixture of the tail skin and gelatinous subcutaneous fat with the small amount of lean meat on the bone. For my main, I had the octopus. I really enjoyed it as they prepared the meat well. Many times octopus can be a bit chewy and rubbery. This was not. It had a nice snap and then the inner part was tender. The Spanish octopus was paired with Black Garbanzo Beans, Tomato, Farro, Parsley Mayonnaise. Overall a nice dish.
My second cocktail was the Dolomite Bounty (Bourbon, Cocchi Rosa, Yellow Chartreuse, Lemon, Honey, Bitters). This was refreshing (different than the richness of the House Cappuccino).
We tried their Tiramisu for dessert. Honestly, it was too soft overall – lacked variation in texture that I’d expect from a good Tiramisu.
After dinner we walked across the street to City Lights Bookstore, which D knew about and I guess is famous. Right next to the bookstore is Jack Kerouac Alley, which had some quotes in the large pavers on the ground. Since we were in the Chinatown area, it was neat that some of them had both Chinese and English.
D was still hungry so we stopped at Hunan Homes (D’s favorite chinese place in SF) and picked up some food to bring back to our hotel.
The next morning we stopped in Berkeley and had breakfast at Cafe M. Then we took Sophie to Cesar Chavez Park right next to our hotel. On a clear day you get a beautiful view of the City and the Golden Gate bridge in the distance. After this we headed home. A nice quick visit.