even though the early morning weather brought a brisk wind and fog. But it there is no fog, how do you know you are in San Francisco? But we were going to picnic at Crissy Field—and picnic we did.
First, we needed to go shopping. Our first stop was The Crab Station at Fisherman’s Wharf. After ascertaining that the Dungeness crab were fresh (never frozen), our cousin Barbara Pauly ordered three of these beauties – cracked and cleaned. She explained that this would be a lot of crab, but after having seen Chuck eat, she wanted to make sure there was enough. And, should there be leftovers, Chuck and I could take them home. (At that time, Barb had no idea how much crab I can pack away.)
It was fun watching the fish monger pull the legs and claws from the backs, cut the backs in half, and then make incisions between each of the leg openings. Having been accustomed to Maryland blue crabs, whose meat is hard to extract from the shells, this would be easy. Did we want lemon and cocktail sauce? Sure.
Entrusting Chuck with the sack of crab, our next stop was the Boudin Bakery, San Francisco’s oldest continuously running company, for a loaf of sourdough bread. While Chuck and Barb shopped for bread, I wandered through the specialty foods department. Soon my hands contained two cans of crab bisque, a jar of peach cobbler jam, a jar of roasted pepper spread, and the most wonderful tapenade with Merlot ever made. As we left Boudin, Chuck now had a loaf of bread and my purchases along with the crab. It was not easy taking photos.
By the time we reached Crissy Field, most of the fog – except for a fog cap atop one of the towers – had burned away, the wind had eased, and the temperature had reached the middle sixties. Crissy Field began as a marsh and seasonal home of Ohlone Indians, and later hosted Spanish and Mexican ships, a Grand Prix raceway, an historic army airfield, and a Coast Guard station. It is now a beloved recreation area for the residents of San Francisco.
And what a perfect place for our picnic. From our vantage point, we could view the Golden Gate bridge and watch the moving fog reveal and then obscure its towers.
Look in another direction, and there was the city with hills and houses rising upward.
And then there was the bay filled with sailboats large and small.
We surmised that two of these were engaged in a race or practicing for a race by the way they were maneu-vering around a stationary buoy.
Are the sails on this one made of thin metal? Or is this some high tech form of space age fabric?
All right. Enough sightseeing. Time to eat. Barb unpacked the picnic basket containing guacamole, tortilla chips, butter, mayo, and other picnic accoutrements. Chuck opened the bottle of white wine. I unwrapped the crab.
How much time does it take for this photo? I want to eat.
And how would Dungeness crab compare to Maryland blues?
I hate to tell my East Coast friends this – Dungeness crab is better. First, there is meat in the legs. Second, the claw meat is milder and sweeter. Third, the back meat is easily removed in truly jumbo lumps. And, finally, Dungeness requires no steaming spices. The meat is perfect just as it is. I tried some with the cocktail sauce. I tried some with the lemon. I didn’t want either. I just wanted the crab without embellishment. O.K., the sourdough bread on the side was delicious (the remnant of the loaf came home with me to be eaten with the tapenade); the guacamole and chips were delicious. The wine was cold and crisp. But in the moment, all I noticed was the crab.
And I was not about to share my lunch with this irritating bird.
The two crab-deprived Easterners never came up for air and before long all that was left was a pile of shells and some lemon wedges. Barbara figures that she ate less than one crab (Yes, we would have let her have more.) meaning that Chuck and I each ate over a crab. And we are proud of that accomplishment.
Next on the day’s schedule was ice cream at St. Francis Fountain, but first a brief drive around the city. Barbara drove us past one of the apartments where she lived in San Francisco and where Chuck had visited her during his 1966 road trip to visit family in California. Her apartment house was located on one of the city’s steep hills like the one pictured here. You park your car at a right angle to the sidewalk and it seems that Chuck was afraid to park in front of Barb’s for fear that his car would tip over and go rolling down the hill. True story. Just ask Barb.
Time to head for the Mission District which is named after the sixth Alta California mission, Mission San Francisco de Asis, San Francisco's oldest building, which is located in the neighborhood. This district is home to many of San Francisco’s Latinos and we parked on the street in front of one of the many taquerias. The smells coming from this place were heavenly. One of the District’s taquerias—aptly named La Taqueria—was named one of America’s Best on a recent Food Network series for their Mission-style burritos. Recommended were the lengua (tongue) or the carnitas with meat smothered with refried pinto beans and pico de gallo. La Taqueria never adds rice.
No time for a burrito today. It’s ice cream that we are after. “St Francis Fountain was founded in 1918 by James Christakes, an immigrant from Sparta, Greece. It has been in continuous operation in its present location ever since. Three generations of the Christakes family ran the St Francis as a confectionary, ice cream parlor, and lunch counter until 2000…In 2002, the current owners, Peter Hood and Levon Kazarian, purchased the business and restored the beautiful…1948 dining room and installed a full service kitchen in order to expand and improve the food offerings. Changing the focus from old-fashioned confec-tionary to updated diner, the St Francis Fountain is once again the living, bustling neighborhood anchor that it was in its heyday” (from the restaurant’s web site).
The minute I spied the sign advertising the pineapple and cottage cheese salad for $3.50, I knew I was going to love this place. Had it been breakfast, I would have ordered what the menu calls the “Nebulous Potato Thing” – a pile of spuds with melted cheese, fresh salsa, sour cream, and green onions.
But, I took the sign advising me “For that vital energy have a triple scoop milk shake. As thick as you like.” to heart and ordered the Espresso Milkshake. It came in an old fashioned soda glass with two paper straws. When was the last time you saw a paper straw?
Barbara ordered the caramel sundae (right) while Chuck indulged in a Root Beer Float. And, as we savoring our ice cream, I sang along with Arlene Smith and the Chantels as they sang that doo wop classic “Maybe.”
As I said, it was a perfect day.