Wednesday in the Park
Posted by eemilla on October 12, 2009
On our first full day we woke early to buy our seven day MUNI passes ($24 a piece for unlimited rides, including the $5 per ride cable cars!) and catch the 71 bus down to the Haight-Ashbury for my totally touristy photo and our adventures in Golden Gate Park. We arrived too early in the morning for the Haight; the entire population consisted of bums and closed store fronts so I was too afraid to take my touristy photo for fear of drawing the pan handlers. We walked around a bit waiting for the San Francisco Cyclery to open at 10am. The morning was cold and foggy (and it didn’t really change as the day progressed), but we were prepared with jackets and pants. We visited the serene beauty of the AIDS Memorial Grove; it was much larger than I had envisioned. My honey took some lovely photos with my favorite below.
Upon our return to our bikes (they are not allowed in the hallowed ground of the grove), we promptly biked right past our next destination, the Japanese Tea Garden. After our confrontation with 19th Avenue we turned around and found the entrance. The Japanese Tea Garden is quite lovely, although not as lovely as the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver. However, there is a funding difference (the Chinese Garden cost double the Japanese Garden), and the Japanese Tea Garden was full of pretty scenes.
Due to time constraints, we by-passed the De Young Museum (although missing Tutankhamun was surely a mistake) and skipped across the Temple of Music Pavilion to the California Academy of Sciences. The twenty-five dollar admission for adults (discounted by $3 for using public transit!) covers the entire building which houses the Steinburg Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium, the Living Roof, and the Rainforest. We both fell asleep during the Planetarium, but otherwise I felt the money was well spent. The main draw for me was the Steinburg Aquarium, and I was not disappointed (I still prefer Vancouver’s Aquarium). When you add the four story rainforest, it was certainly worth it. My wonderful husband took these photos from the aquarium and rainforest.
The fare at the California Academy of Sciences cafeteria brought to mind ski resort food, so famished we rode down JFK Avenue to Rainbow Falls in route to the windmills when the groom called to arrange a meet up after they obtained their marriage license (sadly they drank across the bay). My original itinerary had called for a lunch near Stow Lake, but we didn’t pack a picnic; with the fog we would not have been able to enjoy sunset at the Cliff House either so we turned around and headed back to the to the Conservatory of Flowers. I oohed and ahhed over the free outdoor dahlia garden, but my husband insisted sustenance was the next order of business so we skipped the conservatory, returned the bikes, and hoped on the 71 Muni back to Union Square. Below are a few of my favorite dahlias.
After a few cold ones back at the apartment, my honey was ready to get his raw on so we walked to Swan Oyster Depot only to be turned away. They close start breaking down at around 4:30 and close the door at 5! We stopped into the nearest doorway for a consolatory drink and something, anything for our empty bellies. We sat at the bar in an attempt to get more prompt service, but alas, twas not the case. The bartender was friendly enough, but she was kept busy by a large party elsewhere in the restaurant so we were attended by her and a manager. I hadn’t really settled into a drink groove yet, so I perused their specialities and settled on a San Francisco sunrise (grapefruit juice, tequila, and grenadine) while my partner in dine had a local beer. While we were waiting for the appetizers we had ordered we watched the manager restock the bar. First she pulled out the big bottle of Patron and filled then fifth up and returned it to its place, then I watched as she took down a small bottle of Bailey’s and restocked it from a handle of Carolans! With coffee, Carolans and Baileys are close enough; with a rocks pour, however, the difference is major, not to mention the price difference. I’m not naive enough to think that restaurants don’t pull the old switcheroo, but a complimentary bottle of ketchup is a far cry from a $7 drink. The food was fine (raw oysters for him and eggplant rollatini for me), but it wasn’t anything that one could not find in any number of restaurants in any number of cities across the country. The service left much to be desired, and the deception made us regret ordering our food.
Hearty, filling Italian seemed like the best possible meal after our chilling day of biking around the park so North Beach beckoned. I also got to go to City Lights and purchase a book. We walked a few blocks from City Lights to Trattoria Pinochio. Although I did not find the service at any of the other restaurants stellar, the staff of Trattoria Pinochio was on point. They were exceptionally professional and timely without any annoying hovering; plates and silverware were removed once we were done, and our drinks (both water and adult) were filled as needed. I do believe that the Kir Royale (I couldn’t drink enough sparkling wine the entire trip) I ordered was actually the Pinocchio Fantasia (the umbiquitous elderberry flower liqueur and sparkling wine) that I ordered later in the meal, but that was the only perceived service gaffe. I ordered the caesar salad, but I ended up eating a good portion of his calamari. The calamari was breaded lightly (not as lightly as Nona Mia’s) and served with an aioli and marinara; the marina was a perfect mix of spicy and tomato, and the aioli tasted much like I remember store bought mayonnaise tasting (albeit with herbs and a touch more lemon flavor). My caesar was forgettable. My gnocchi made up for the caesar with its pillowy texture, but much to my dismay the marinara served with my gnocchi wasn’t the same as the calamari sauce. Instead I received an overly sweetened sauce, but I still enjoyed the dish overall. Even though the portions of each course were generous, I still had tiramisu for dessert; while it didn’t live up to my La Caterina Trattoria memory it was better than most.