San Francisco, Part II

With a vibrant city like San Francisco and national parks like Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, a single post on San Francisco just doesn’t cut it. So we’re definitely not done with San Francisco yet and are giving it more love with a part II. Looking through my iPhoto, there are a few more pictures of San Francisco I just have to share with you guys.

In-n-out Burgers

Let’s start with In-N-Out Burger! I’ve heard lots of wonderful things about In-N-Out, a fast food chain that might as well be a hipster, farm-to-table burger joint. They do so many things ‘right’ – they don’t freeze their patties, their produce is local-grown and they cut their fries from whole potatoes in store right before frying (so none of that pre-fried frozen fries nastiness). Their menu is limited to a few burger variations, fries and soft drinks, a good thing because they specialise in making those few items awesome and can control the quality much better than if they spread themselves too thinly.

Because their patties are made fresh and delivered to the stores, In-N-Out restaurants are located mostly in California, and a few locations in Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Texas. That meant that despite living in the states for so long, I never got to try it as I lived on the east coast (although I did pull a Harold & Kumar and went to White Castle in New Jersey, for what it’s worth). So thanks to all the hype and hysteria, imagine how excited all of us got whenever we drove past crossed palm trees like this, which heralded an In-N-Out restaurant.

Palm trees at In-N-Out

We weren’t let down at all as the burgers were truly amazing. To an extent, you can customise your burger by declaring the number of patties and cheese slices your heart desires. For example, you can say 4 x 4, which gets you 4 patties and 4 slices of cheese. Or, if you dare, you can also say 100 x 100 (it’s been done before). Animal style is the way to go, the burger is greasy but so tasty with melted American cheese, tomato, lettuce, grilled onions, pickles and a thousand island-like sauce. After going to In-N-Out for the first time, I’m a fan and can see what the fuss is all about. I hope to spend another cheat day there sometime.

Cheeseburger from In-N-Out

We did see a few last minute sights in San Francisco like the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square Park. It’s this row of quaint Victorian houses that seem strangely out of place in an uber-modern city. That day, there was a full on party going on at Alamo Square Park with many young people wasted by midday. That meant that unfortunately for us, many of our photos kept getting photobombed so this is the only picture I have of the Painted Ladies.

Painted Ladies, San Francsico

For lunch, my sister wanted to return to the Ferry Building for round 2 of bread bowl clam chowder. But instead, we ended up at Hog Island Oyster Company at the Ferry Building for a round of fresh oysters and smoky clam chowder with crusty sourdough.

Fresh oysters

The clam chowder was light and savoury, and very different from the clam chowder we had in bread bowls just a few days before. I doubt this clam chowder would cut it in a bread bowl, the consistency of the broth is too thin so it’d be more like soggy bread clam chowder.

Smokey clam chowder

And like I mentioned, we spent a day at Yosemite National Park and have a few more pictures of our time there. Whenever a ranger asked visitors what wildlife they saw, people always got most excited about seeing a bear. We weren’t having any luck with bears for much of the day and had more or less resigned ourselves that a bear would not be in the cards for us.

But on our way out, I spotted a row of cars pulled up by the side of the road and the busybody in me wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Lo and behold, there was a bear – can you see it? I don’t own any paparazzi long lens, so the bear looks tiny and even rather harmlessly grazing like a cow.

Bear at Yosemite National Park

We did see some other wildlife at Yosemite, including this adorable woodchuck (at least that’s what I think it is).

Yosemite National Park

We saw this very well-nourished squirrel, which I probably wouldn’t consider Yosemite “wildlife” as squirrels are found all over. My college campus was even littered with bacon-eating squirrels.

Fat squirrel at Yosemite

 

But one more thing, someone please tell me what this strange animal is, hiding in a hollowed out tree…

Hollow tree at Yosemite National Park

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San Francisco

Golden-Gate-Bridge

It was my first time exploring San Francisco and I LOVED it. The food, the nature and the whole northern California vibe was top-notch. Los Angeles may have its beaches, celebrities and tasty Mexican food, but there’s something different about San Francisco and its surroundings.

After college, just about everyone debated which city to move to and for the vast majority of people, the choices came down to New York City or San Francisco. Although NYC was always the city in my mind, I can understand the pull of San Francisco after this visit. NYC is undoubtedly a financial hub, attracting the investment banker and hedge fund types while San Francisco feels more laid back as a hoodie-wearing techie hub. It sure brought out the inner nerd in us as we enjoyed spotting tech companies in and out of the city. We even drove around to Mountain View to stalk the Google HQ (people really do ride colourful Google bikes and play around outdoors during work hours!) – what a dream place to work at. We weren’t nerded out yet, so we drove to Menlo Park to stalk the Facebook offices (if only I could press their huge Like sign). This part of California is really paradise to nerds like us.

We stayed at the Grand Hyatt conveniently located in Union Square and enjoyed this amazing view. Looking out the window was like looking at a 3D map, making it easy for us to plot our shopping route. It was getting late and stores would close around 9pm, so we had to be efficient if we wanted to hit stores like Macy’s, H&M, Anthropologie, Victoria’s Secret and drool-worthy homeware stores like Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel.

View-of-San-Francisco

The next day we went to Alcatraz Island, a must-see tourist attraction. Alcatraz Island houses the infamous, now-defunct Alcatraz Prison just a short ferry ride from San Francisco. The cells were tiny but actually, not that unliveable (I think). We listened to some pretty ingenious and impressive tales of prisoner escapes, such as using regular spoons as drills to slowly but determinedly drill through concrete walls and escaping through the shafts, proving that if there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s definitely worth a visit if you get a chance.

Alcatraz-Prison

When we got back to the city, we headed straight for the Ferry Building Marketplace located on the Embarcadero. It was past noon and our stomachs were rumbling.

Pier-39-flags

Ferry-Building-Marketplace

The Ferry Building Marketplace is home to some popular foodie companies like Blue Bottle Coffee, which we were told is arguably San Francisco’s best coffee, Ciao Bella Gelato and specialised artisan cheese, meat and bread companies. There was also one of my favourite stores, Sur La Table which sells lovely kitchenware. Something about the artisan vendors and foodie hipster vibe at the Ferry Building Marketplace reminds me of New York’s Chelsea Market, which is quite the playground to any foodie (and that includes my sister, A and I).

After a touristy morning at Alcatraz, there was no way we could have anything else for lunch but touristy clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Our clam chowder was lighter and less creamy than we expected/were used to, but it was super savoury and tasty. Somehow eating soup out of a crusty sourdough bread bowl makes it taste that much better. My sister even liked it so much she wanted to return for seconds on our last day in SF.

DSC_0216

Chipotle-Mexican-Grill

Until now, we had Mexican food, clam chowder, burgers, Chipotle (above, our favourite fast food Mexican grill), diner food and just about every “American food” we could think of, all except SOUL FOOD. Artery-clogging-but-so-tasty soul food has always been a favourite of ours, but thankfully we only get to eat it in moderation. So we jumped on Yelp to find a place in San Francisco that had great reviews and found farmerbrown, a trendy restaurant that serves “farm-fresh soul food”.

Farmerbrown-San-Francisco

Since starting my pescetarian diet a couple of years ago, I always said that I will allow myself a cheat day every 6 months or so just to get my fill of my favourite meaty delights. That works out because I find the strength to keep up pescetarianism for another few months before another craving strikes. And I quickly learned that I get the best bang for my buck by saving up my cheat days for when we’re on holiday because a) everyone is on a ‘holiday diet’ anyway and b) I get to try foods I won’t get back home. And so it was at farmerbrown that I had my first cheat day since a tasting dinner at Wooden Spoon restaurant many months ago.

We each got a glass of refreshing sweet iced tea and complimentary jalapeno-cheddar cornbread. For my main, I got these delicious, sticky BBQ ribs with steak fries…

Ribs-and-steak-fries

… while A got his favourite fried chicken and waffles. My sister got southern fried chicken with mustard greens and mac n’ cheese.

Chicken-and-waffles

While driving out to see Facebook and Google, we stopped at a restaurant for a humble Philly Cheesesteak. Given that we were on the west coast and Philadelphia was all the way on the east, we weren’t expecting to have such delicious cheesesteaks for breakfast. But boy were they good and satisfying.

Philly-cheese-steaks

We’re not really done with the food we had in San Francisco yet, and rest assured we’ll be blogging more about it but the nature is too good to ignore. Here’s proof that we did more than just eat in SF – we visited the beautiful Lake Tahoe area, as well as Yosemite to feel at one with nature.

Trees-at-Yosemite

wheat

old-tree

ducks-at-Yosemite

We enjoyed a simple picnic of sandwiches and fruit while watching a flock of geese waddling carefree into the water. Life is good in this part of California.

Want more San Francisco? Read Part II here.Leave a comment

Los Angeles, Part II

We saw a few sights around LA and of course we got hungry, so let’s look at a few delicious (but not so healthy) food we ate in between the awesome sights. We ate a mix of American and Mexican food, and the Mexican food in particular was just artery-clogging delicious. I think all 3 of us especially loved the Mexican food for two reasons: 1) it’s authentic given the sheer number of Mexicans in LA, so you can be guaranteed superb food and 2) we are deprived of good and cheap Mexican food in Sydney.

After our celebrity house tour, we stopped at Johnny Rockets Diner for lunch. It may be a diner chain but Johnny Rockets is kind of nostalgic for us as we used to go to the Hoboken, NJ branch for our fix of milkshakes, malt shakes and burgers back when we lived there.

Johnny Rockets diner

Johnny Rockets burgers

This is the smokehouse single with a beef patty, onion rings and cheese, which looked pretty greasy and downright delish. I was still trying hard to stick to my pescetarian diet so I went for the veggie burger made of soy, much to the amazement of the waitresses. Something I learned on this trip was it’s surprisingly difficult to be pescetarian or vegetarian eating out in America, especially in diners outside of major cities. Burgers and hot dogs aside, even food like biscuits and gravy are heavily-flavoured with sausage grease or bacon. Everything non-meat comes with meat, like fried chicken and waffles.

But one thing without meat is fries, and better still, cheese fries!

Cheese fries at Johnny Rockets

Burgers are delicious alright, but what all of us were really looking forward to was the Mexican food. Just like many hawker centres and food courts in Asia, I love how humble eateries often make the tastiest, least fussy food. So lucky for us we had our fill with enchiladas, beans and rice at a simple Mexican restaurant outside of LA. Oh yeah.

Delicious enchiladas

My sister got these tacos, beans and rice. Don’t they look tastily fabulous?

Delicious tacos, beans and rice

I definitely enjoyed my enchiladas, but the star of the meal was surely this guava juice drink. The pale pink nectar was so refreshing, pleasantly mild and of just the right sweetness. I got a cup but unfortunately for me, my sister and A kept stealing sips from me. I’ve loved guava juice since I was a child, so I’m sure I’d drink a cup of this everyday if given the chance.

Guava juice

While we explored Venice Beach, we popped into Boardwalk Yogurt for some fro-yo. Frozen yoghurt flavours have expanded lots since my fro-yo craze a couple of years ago (yes, I hardly get fro-yo anymore). Back then, frozen yoghurt stores like Pinkberry and Red Mango had only 2 or 3 flavours like original, chocolate and green tea, plus the many cereal and sweet toppings. But Boardwalk Yoghurt had interesting flavours like red velvet, cookies and cream, banana and coffee.

Boardwalk Yogurt DSC_0121

Boardwalk Yogurt made me realise that frozen yoghurt was the craze in the states starting from a couple of years ago, and they are only now coming to Australia. I’m wondering if the frozen yoghurt shops popping up now will spark a Pinkberry-like frozen yoghurt craze in Sydney? What do you think?

And for those of you who have been to LA, what was the most delicious meal you ate there?

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