A moment of quiet in an otherwise busy, stressful, harried, jetlagged week. I sit in the corner office of my aunt's home in very chilly San Francisco, high on top of a hill, where on a clear morning like today's, you could see the tips of the Golden Gate Bridge as you drive down the road.
I spend a quick morning at the Ferry Building, buying cheese and chocolates (some to give away, the rest to share with loved ones, and a tidbit or two for myself), resting at Lili's for a bowl of rich butternut squash soup and half a sandwich, ham and fontina cheese, drizzled with truffle oil in a lovely chewy ciabatta. I shared a table with a mother and daughter team who were in the middle of shopping as well, and their dad and other daughter soon joined in bringing a rich and cheesy mac/cheese from Eat, the deli down the market. As we noshed, I found out the family was from Philly, taking a break from the weather (although for this tropical gal, this was still too cold for my blood). The girls were well-mannered and enjoyed each bite of their sandwich and the chips, saying they were the best they ever had.
Carolers from a local school sang beautifully from the mezzanine, warming the cockles of the shoppers' hearts. We stood, craning our necks to watch, or stood close by, near the Scharffenberger chocolate store to listen, applaud after each song, blocking a lot of the walkway, but no one was annoyed. It was a good way to offset the overloaded Christmas buying rush, listening to songs of joy, songs of faith, songs of cheer.
Walking down Market, I take a rather long detour down California, through Chinatown, and then down to Union Square, where I find myself in between some of the nation's behemoth stores: Macy's (ever faithful), the newly opened Barney's, Bloomingdales (which shares the Westside Emporium with Nordstrom's), and Neiman Marcus. But I don't even attempt to join the flood, my goal is the small alley called Maiden Lane, where I know the London Sole shop is found. I will not complain about shoe prices in Manila again, since a pair of ballerina flats (in the cutest of designs, but still! $250 for a pair???) costs too much. But I am swayed by one that is rugged enough for Manila walking, the treads being made of rubber tire treads, so the saleslady says it won't ever wear out.... I should have told her that I just had the tires of my dad's car changed, so I think rubber tires do wear out. Nevertheless, my shopping budget is severely limited and I still have to buy other essentials. And I'm meeting my best friend T at the SF Museum of Modern Art in 10 minutes!!!
After a detour for other essentials at Ross, I walk through the Yerba Buena park and enter the MOMA. T and I have been friends since we were in elementary school, have gone through highs and lows and life changes of all kinds. A cousin recently said to her that she's like an adopted daughter of my family. We visit several other stores, looking for gifts for friends and family, chatting away endlessly, catching up and updating one another on work, life, love, etc. We are also trying to decide where to have dinner, since we share a lifelong goal of always eating well. After a bit of debating the merits of cuisines in the city, we are recommended by her friend to a Persian restaurant in the outskirts of North Beach. Maykadah Persian Cuisine, on Grant and Green Sts, is a warm, inviting restaurant, with a perfect menu - it doesn't overwhelm you, you can see what they are good at, and there are enough choices for the carnivore or vegetarian. We had been told that the filet mignon kebab was a good choice and we also tried the eggplant (a lighter version of baba ghanoush), a lamb with red lentils stew, and a large dish of yogurt. I also ordered the "dough", which is their yogurt drink, unsweetened with ground dried mint in it. Service is quick, but not forced, and they also serve a free set of mint with radishes, a square of feta and butter to whet your appetite. We were truly satiated by the good food.
Being in the Little Italy of the city, we weren't deterred by our full tummies not to have dessert. Gelato stores at every block convince you to come in and have something, even if it's freezing cold outside. T sticks with her tried and true combination of chocolate and hazelnut, while I want to try the eggnog with the lemon cream. While the lemon was perfect, the eggnog was soon a tiresome flavor on the tongue, not to mention it was rather hard for a gelato, not as creamy as I would have liked. Across the street, we peered into the italian bakery selling rows of custard filled baked goods, hemming and hawing over buying a canolli or not; eventually I just photographed it for a mental keepsake.
From my memories of trips to San Francisco years ago, Decembers were always foggy, and rather scary to drive at night. But today was a beautiful day, sunny with clear skies, and the drives to and from my aunt's hilltop home meant beautiful scenery throughout. I look down from the car onto the star-like streets lit up with Christmas lights, and I am content.