Since I’ve been traveling about the City more I’ve gotten a more accurate view of what has been going on in San Francisco. Granted it has been biased by the fact that most of the people have the money and interest in using Sidecar, which I drive for, but it still seems to match up well with what other people are talking about.
Even though San Francisco is roughly 7×7 I’m going to have to break it up into sections defined by the people who live there so for today…Let’s start with the Marina/Pacific Heights/Western Addition/Nob Hill/Civic Center/Tenderloin/North Beach/Chinatown since people who live there tend to call this collection of areas Pac Heights or North Beach.
This is the lair of the bros. The fraternity types that apparently were never here before, unless you count the 80′s which no one remembers when they were called Preppies. You won’t find many festivals here because, well, I’m not sure why but every day is pretty much the same. It’s kind of like the GTL of the Jersey Shore, except here it’s more WBL or Work, Bar, Laundry, not necessarily in that order. People here tend to be going to or come from a bar. I have yet to hear about anyone talk about the restaurants, but the Blue Light and Brickyard bars come up regularly. If you get a chance to meet one they are curious in that every other word out of their mouth seems to be bro, hence their name. I once drove a bro out to the beach and in that half hour he called me bro more than once per minute. I actually lost count after about 40.
While I’m not sure it seems like the bros on Union Street don’t mix with the bros on Chestnut Street as I have yet to bar hop a group of people between the two. Union Street seems to be the more popular as thats where most of the people seem to gravitate to unless they actually live in the Marina then it’s Chestnut street. If they’re one of the people who love living in Pac Heights and they just walked out of a door next to garage meaning that they’re living in an add on room off the garage then it’s Union Street. Oh yes, beer is the drink of choice here. No focus on artisanal microbrews, but more a question of, will it get me drunk?
If you move down to the Western Addition it’s still a very nice place to live, but the real estate people like to call it lower Pac Heights so that they can charge more. It’s got a few sketchy parts as you get closer to Market Street, but for the most part it’s still got lots of bars and restaurants. Because there’s a chance that you might one day walk past someone who’s maybe hasn’t bathed in a few weeks or months and talks to themselves this area is considered edgy. If you want real edge you have to move over to the Civic Center/Tenderloin area which is alternatively called Lower Nob Hill or the Tender Nob. You can run across all types here, usually looking very under fed, but usually over meth’d in this area. People here take stop lights as a mere suggestion rather than a rule. If you moved to San Francisco and got a place here then someone wasn’t telling you the whole truth about the area. Sure, it’s close to Twitter and Square, but you might enjoy life a few blocks North a little more.
When you start to move East from the Pac Heights/Marina area you start to see a change. The bros have built up a tolerance for beer and have moved on to stronger cocktails or straight up booze. Nob Hill & North Beach are where the professional drinkers go. Friday’s and Saturday nights you’ll see people stumbling along from bar to bar and there are tons of them once you get to North Beach. You won’t find many bars with $2 beer signs in the window here, but if you need a good stiff drink and your liver thinks beer is for when the sun is out you move to North Beach.
The bros seem to occupy North Beach on the weekends mostly and many of the people I’ve met who actually live there are techies who like to walk to grab some food and a good stiff drink. These aren’t usually the techies everyone complains about in San Francisco who are raising the rents and pushing poor people out [poor people in North Beach?] These are the leftovers from the early days of the first dot com explosion who didn’t work for pets.com. The only bros and neo-techies you might find in this area are west of Columbus Avenue. That’s where you get into Chinatown, but they still call it North Beach. These are the new comers who everyone has a problem with. Some are true bros who have some money of their own. Lots have Daddy’s credit card to make a name for themselves in San Francisco. Seriously, I have been told that on numerous occasions. Most though are in their mid 30′s and a little older and wiser than those in the Marina & Pacific Heights, but the long time families of Pacific Heights tend to scowl at them so they move to Chinatown, er North Beach.
The only other thing I can say about this area is that Pac Heights for people with kids is the place to go on Halloween. It was just swarming with kids all over the place. People were even sitting out on their front steps meeting the kids to hand out candy. The whole area has a lot of people who’ve been in San Francisco for under a year even though there are still some families who have been here for a few generations, but they’re giving way to the newbs.
Pow! Zing! Bam! The Batkid managed to bring San Francisco together for the first time in a long time. Little Miles Scott did what no other fair or government sponsored event has done. He battled all the foes face to face except for one who hid behind his Twitter account — Eric Mar.
Oh dear. Maybe Eric was having a bad day or something, but seriously? Why the need to take a dump on a little kids day that moved the entire city? If you missed it and I doubt you did, Eric Mar posted a tweet that quickly turned viral and got everyone talking:
“Waiting for Miles the Batkid and wondering how many 1000s of SF kids living off SNAP/FoodStamps could have been fed from the $$.”
OK, at least he’s admitting to being there to grab a little bit of the spot light. He might even have been standing near Miles smiling as he sent the dastardly tweet out to all of his followers. Not so odd is that the tweet has been removed from his feed as if in these modern days of the internet anything you say won’t be archive and held against you at a later date [oh dear, did I really post that in 1994?] Here is an actually screen grab of said tweet:
Uhm, did someone say open mouth and insert foot? Batkid’s day was provided to Miles and the City of San Francisco by a private foundation known as the Make-A-Wish foundation. Miles has leukemia which is remission which is awesome in my book and the fact that Make-A-Wish put something together for Miles that also benefitted the City by helping boost the morale of everyone is a great thing that was much sorely needed.
Last time I checked government didn’t have to power to tell a privately held company what it could and could not do or how to operate. If Eric Mar wants more money to go to SNAP then it would be nice if he would step up to the plate and donate his yearly salary to SNAP instead of telling some other company to do it.
Oh wait, Eric Mar agrees that he can’t tell a private corporation how to operate. I found this little bit about Eric Mar Vs. The Happy Meal from not too long ago:
Is there really enough room in your mouth for both of your feet? While I will agree with Eric Mar that families on food stamps/EBT/SNAP aren’t able to properly feed themselves and their kids, if that’s really such a big deal then you should have found another venue than to bring it up instead of stealing the day from a little kid with leukemia.
Miles is a great kid from what I can see and he’s a fighter to have gotten to where he is today and hopefully when he gets older because of youtube and vimeo he’ll have something to look back on and he can just smile and say, I did a good thing.
Cheers to Miles Scott and the Make-A-Wish foundation for giving the City something to get behind for once.
I finally got to do something the other day that I never thought I’d have to do. Have a car towed from in front of my house. Apparently not everyone in San Francisco knows the parking rules in the City.
You cannot park with your car overhanging even a little bit into a driveway or you can be towed. There is no 1″ or 3″ is OK. You just can’t do it. Luckily for me there was no question about it as you can see from the picture. I had never had to do this before so I called the police. As it turns out while the police will take your information they rarely do anything about it. I found this out after driving home and having to bounce up over the curb at around 10:30pm because my driveway was blocked.
When I called the next day and the car was still there I was told to call the SFMTA. They didn’t hesitate and immediately told me they’d be out to tow the car shortly. I went about my business around the house trying to figure out how to back the car out of the driveway with Wife and daughter in the car only to find the following when I opened the front door…
They came, they saw they towed. I would have been nice and asked the owner to move their car if the owner had ever made themselves know to me. I’m not even sure if they live on the block, but I have seen the car parked [usually in front of my house] on numerous occasions. While I can say that new people in the neighborhood have been nice and introducing themselves and/or at least saying hi we do have a new neighbor who I think this car might possibly belong to. If so she also has a dog that she walks that chooses those two plots of dirt that used to be lawn before the gophers destroyed them to take a dump on a daily basis. Wife has seen this, but not taken a picture. Me being an a-hole sometimes would be running out and filming the whole event in high def to share here and you tube, and Facebook, and twitter and where else can you publicly shame people?
Now I never really advocated this type of behavior, but the way it used to be was that y0u knew your neighbors and you’d knock on their door and ask them to move the car. It wasn’t a big deal if it was 8am because, well, they were blocking your driveway and that’s a lot more neighborly than a $500 tow charge right?
I honestly would have contacted the owner if they had said hello to me when I was out in front of the house so I’d know who they were, but from all I can remember from seeing them blocking my driveway previously [while they were in the car with the engine running] is that I think they are a woman. I at least have proof now of why I had their car towed if they ever introduce themselves to me and ask. Now if I can just get pictures of the woman and her dog taking a dump and leaving it behind.
Oh yeah, we’re in the process of doing something to the cemetery plots in front of our house. I’ve just been a little busy lately driving people around.
When you mention bread and San Francisco everyone says sourdough. It’s become so associated with San Francisco that no one thinks you can make it anywhere else. You can actually. Sourdough can be made anywhere in the world, but unless it’s made in San Francisco it doesn’t have the correct culture in it that gives it that taste.
A funny thing happened to me today. Wife asked me about a certain type of bread that our daughter now loves. She asked me, what makes the crunch on a Dutch Crunch roll? I never had them before I came here. Well that sparked me to search for the history of the Dutch Crunch Roll after looking up what made the crunch [note: it's a very loose rice flour yeast dough].
As it turns out the bread was originally made in the Netherlands where it is called Tijgerbrood or Tiger Bread. Apparently someone at the Galli Sanitary Bakery made and sold some back in 1909 and called it Dutch Crunch Bread and that was the end of it until around the 60′s or 70′s when the now defunct Parisian Bakery started to make Dutch Crunch Rolls. For some strange reason then never ventured outside of the Bay Area and barely left San Francisco, but having to take the back seat to sourdough bread left a lot of people not having any idea that you could only find it in the Bay Area.
I remember starting to get it around the 80′s so it even took time for the locals to know what it was. I had gone to get a sandwich somewhere and they asked if I wanted it on sourdough or Dutch Crunch. Me being the purist type that I am and thinking that sourdough with anything other than butter is a bit of heresy said, Dutch Crunch. There really isn’t that much special about a Dutch Crunch Roll at first. It’s like white bread in a roll with a crunchy topping and that is really the ultimate simplicity of it that makes it so wonderful for sandwiches.
When you make a sandwich on sliced white bread your fingers compress it into something makes the whole sandwich feel like deli meat wrapped in dough. It’s not a very good sandwich feeling. To this day I can only eat peanut butter and jelly or Bologna and American Cheese on white bread [the more overly processed the better]. If you’re using a sourdough or French roll for a sandwich there are all those big nooks and crannies that everyone likes that really suck if you like mustard or mayo on a sandwich. Enter the Dutch Crunch Roll — it’s white bread — in a roll. It doesn’t turn back to dough when you squeeze it because of the crunchy topping and doesn’t give you pockets to fill with mustard and/or mayo to explode into your mouth or squirt out on your shirt. It is the perfect vehicle for meat and cheese and anything else you put on your sandwich.
I’m sure I could find an architect who could give a dissertation on the construction of the roll extolling the virtues of the hard, crunchy exoskeleton of the roll properly supports the soft, spongy interior that both cradles and grips onto the sandwich ingredients to keep them from fighting their way out of the bread as you eat your sandwich, but I think I’ve done good enough in my last few sentences. While you can make a Dutch Crunch Roll anywhere in the world, for some reason no one’s ever thought of it outside of San Francisco and the Netherlands [though I hear the U.K. is giving it a go now.]
Soph•ist•ry noun 1. the use of fallacious arguments, esp. with the intention of deceiving.
This is a good word I discovered several years ago and I’m finding as every day goes by that me being into food, that this would make a great title for an article. As many of you know I’ve developed a huge hatred for the words that have now become meaningless such as gourmet and artisanal. Every week the local paper has a taste test where they put several items together to see which brand tastes best. More often than not the cheapest brand tastes the best. The gourmet and artisanal brands don’t tastes right to the people and they would not buy them. This leads me to believe that most people who purchase said items tend to be purchasing the packaging more than the product.
As many of you have heard me say before, my Mom could cook and she started me early in the kitchen. I know how to cook. I like to have things on hand so I can just grab them and throw them together and make something that will impress people’s or my own taste buds. Is what I do gourmet or artisanal? By some definitions I guess so since I hand make my caramels and fudge and pesto sauce, etc. Organic? Not usually, but you don’t have to be organic to be gourmet or artisanal.
These are two words that today are thrown about by marketing departments to justify charging more for something that really isn’t all that special. I tried a certain local artisanal chocolate that I won’t name recently and it really wasn’t that much if any better than a Hershey dark chocolate bar that I could have gotten four times as much for the same price. To further feed the aforementioned two words you have to add adjectives to further describe said product. It is not a piece of dark chocolate, but an artisan crafted, sultry, smooth and creamy dark chocolate. They need those adjectives so you won’t think that it’s a poorly made piece of dark chocolate that tastes like crap. Besides, I don’t like it when my chocolate pouts.
I shouldn’t pick on chocolate because I like chocolate. I like it a lot. Let me point out another even worse use of artisanal. There is a bar that is in the process of opening in San Francisco that wants to cater to the techie crowd and attract them to a part of the city they don’t normally go to. How are they going to attract them? Our cocktails are going to beartisanal . I’m sorry, but a bartender or mixologist who’s in their 20′s isn’t an artisan. You need to be working your craft for about 20 years to be considered an artisan and last time I checked throwing a piece of basil into a big liquor company’s vodka that you’ve stuffed a handful of basil from the local grocery store into isn’t artisanal.
Please don’t fall for this. It’s sophistry. It is deceiving you the buyer into paying more for something that isn’t really worth that much more if at all. Basil vodka? Interesting idea. Is it worth three times the price? I think not. There are few things that are also thrown around like free range eggs. Does it make them taste better? No, but it might help you feel better about eating that unfertilized chicken embryo if you felt they had more room to run around [note free range chickens while having more room to move about still smash themselves together into a giant mass.]
Personally, for me a treat is a breakfast of bacon and scrambled eggs. It’s just swine and poultry and doesn’t need any fancy adjectives to make it taste better. Now can I get some hash browns with that?
A few of you might remember my article from back in April about me finding my Great-Grandmother’s cast iron pan that I reconditioned and brought back to life. Well, finally I got around to using it and here’s what happened.
Just to bring you all back up to speed. I’ve never used cast iron cookware before other than in the Boy Scouts which, well that was never really cooking, but more tossing meat on heated metal until it was safe to eat. We never took proper care of the pans because they were cast iron. In actuality we treated them a lot worse than you’re supposed to, but because they’re cast iron they held up. Since getting married, Wife and I have had non-stick pots and pans. Wife doesn’t really like non-stick and I didn’t really know any better. Luckily Wife didn’t like the idea of me cooking in pan that was made back in 1903 [maybe she though it would turn us into zombies or something] so I got the pan and the kitchen all to myself.
The pan, because it’s really old has a certain quality to it. If you go to a store and rub your fingers over the bottom of a cast iron pan it’s a little rough. This one because of the way they used to make them was smooth and I mean silky smooth. I had re-seasoned the pan and had it all ready to use. Turned the heat on medium and let it warm up with a beat 3 eggs with a couple of teaspoons of water [this is called French eggs I was told by a friend of mine]. I tossed a bit of butter in the pan and swirled it around before tossing the eggs in and once I added the eggs the magic happened.
Non-stick pans become, well, sticky after awhile and the true test is whether or not you can cook a liquified high protein material like eggs without it sticking. Cheese is another good one, but I like to eat eggs more than a fried handful of cheese. Our scrambled eggs from a non-stick pan always looked awful. They bound together in clumps and were nothing like the omelets I used to be able to toss out when Wife and I were first married. Well I quickly noticed a difference.
The eggs didn’t stick at all. As a matter of fact I would have had to work hard to break them up as after a minute I noticed the eggs had set and were actually cooking a bit too quickly. Next time I’m going to try a medium low heat. I tried to break the egg mass up, but it stayed together so I tossed a handful of cheese in the center to add more difficulty to the test. The edges flipped over nicely and effortlessly to give me in the end an omelet when I was just trying to make scrambled eggs.
The taste? Awesome. Wife and I liked to go out for breakfast and I have to say that these were better than what we got when we went out, easier to make than the scrambled glop and the clean up was pretty easy as well.
After all the omelet had left the pan I let it sit while I ate. I came back and the pan had cooled a bit, but was still pretty warm. I ran some hot water in the pan, no soap then hand dried the pan and put it back on the stove and heated it up to get rid of any left over moisture. After about five minutes I took a napkin and put some corn oil on it and rubbed it all over the pan and let it finish cooling. Cast iron is kind of like a car. You have to wax it and several thin coats of wax is better than one thick coat. After it was completely cooled down I picked it up and put it away.
While my execution could have been better, it was my first time with cast iron and I really didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked and I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for a smaller one in the future. To duplicate my recipe you just do the following:
1 teaspoon of water per egg
pinch of kosher salt
dash of pepper
beat it like hell with a wisk.
Today food in San Francisco is all about gourmet, artisan, etc. words that are usually tossed around more to raise the price than improve the taste. I do have to say though that while it’s a little more work to take care of a cast iron pan it sure beats having to replace it ever couple of years to get the same results. You also don’t have any toxic fumes from the non-stick coating to deal with and you get the addition of iron to your diet. I suspect this pan will just get better and better over time and I hope it keeps getting handed down throughout my family for many years to come.
Buying a house in San Francisco. That’s a whole new world now a days that is a far cry from when the houses were first built. Just to give you a little idea, my parents bought their house in 1954 when it was first built. Back then the rubric was that you earned in a week what you spent in a month and you put the excess aside to come up with a downpayment on a house. Back then a 20% downpayment was around $5-8k believe it or not. You continued on those same lines after purchasing the house so that you could use your excess money to pay off the mortgage on your home. Then when you had paid off your home and you were in your 50′s you could spend the some of the excess money on you and your wife [think back to the Cleaver family here]. When retirement came along you could sit back in your house living comfortably with a nice little nest egg to supplement your Social Security and when you died you would give your kids the house so they could sell it to get down payments on houses they would buy or if you only had one kid they would get the house.
Then in the 70′s though the market started to go through the roof and the houses that were bought in the 50′s suddenly were selling for 3-4 times the price they were bought at and the property tax started to go up. Every year you’d have to shell out more and more money to stay in your house until Proposition 13 passed. It actually wasn’t just for homeowners at the time as it is still in effect today, but since there aren’t that many people who’ve held on to their houses for 40-50 years you don’t see as much savings from it. If you buy a house today you won’t see the benefit for another 3o years unless there’s a huge housing market crash.
So let’s look at today. Houses from the time I was talking about have increased by 50%-100% depending on what part of town you’re talking about. There are a few parts of town where you can get an $800k house, that is if you aren’t going to push a $20k incentive on top and pay it all in cash like a few of the big techies can do today. 20% down would be $160k and your monthly payments would be about $4700. Add to that a property tax of $15,200/year and you’ve got to earn $71k just to pay off the mortgage and property tax. If you continue to pay it off for the next 30 years your property tax will increase a bit, but let’s say it stays at $15,200 for the sake of argument. When you retire at age 70 and you’ve put in the maximum amount possible to Social Security you’ll be getting $3,350/month. Hopefully you’ll have some set aside because more than one third of your SSI income will be going to pay off your property tax [that will probably increase a little in 30 years, but not much]. It’s not a very easy way to retire and keep your house anymore even if you’re a rich techie who bought it all in cash from day one. You still have that $15,200 every year until the tech bubble bursts and you have to find another job which may or may not be offering anywhere near the salary you’re making now. If you decided to buy one of those nice $1.5 million dollar homes you can pretty much double all the costs, but now you’ll be paying out three quarters of your SSI just to cover your property taxes. You better have a pretty huge nest egg tucked away because if you retire earlier your SSI income drops significantly.
The housing market has been artificially inflated due to the fact that there are people with more money who aren’t thinking ahead and are willing to throw it at things they thing they need now instead of looking down the road. Unless you’re planning on selling and retiring to a lesser expensive place like Costa Rica and can get a significant payback on your investment real estate isn’t a good long term investment anymore in San Francisco.