Nate Silver Ruined My Burritos in San Francisco

Voted best burrito in the country

I love burritos.

That’s pretty much how I introduce myself to strangers. Some friends have asked me how long I could go without feeding my addiction and I don’t like to even entertain the idea of limiting my burrito consumption. Some friends of mine in med school expressed concern for my well-being and cholesterol, to which I questioned their happiness.

In a given week, I typically get Mexican food once and I’ll put some food in a tortilla at least twice. That isn’t a horrible addiction. Previously, I have written odes to tortillas, even embarking on a self-imposed tortilla challenge where I tried to see how many ways I could use the circular carbs.

During a work trip to San Francisco, the promise of not just burritos, but NEW burritos was beyond enticing. Studying more than I had for some exams in college, I researched the field. Thanks to Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight, a lot of that research was done for me in their gastro-exploration of the Best Burritos in America.

There were a few high seeds from Chicago, but several of the best burritos in the land were from that city by the bay. On a previous trip west, I had eaten at El Farolito. That burrito was good, but I wouldn’t say it was the best I ever had.

On my culinary quest for the best burritos in San Francisco, I ate as many tortilla offerings as my stomach would allow. My first night started with a Yelp search and led me to Tropisueno near Union Square (and my hotel). The place was packed and I was looking for a table for one, possibly one of the most depressing things to ask for as an extrovert. But, Tropisueno had a community table, so I needn’t eat alone. The waiter was extremely friendly and helped fill my need to talk to someone while eating. Eating alone did allow me more time to bond with my meal. I ordered a salsa verde dish, which had chunks of pork braised in a mildly spicy salsa verde. Sadly, I wasn’t able to finish it and I didn’t have a fridge at my hotel. Moment of silence for the leftovers wasted.

The next burrito was from a food truck near the office. Curry Up Now tasted great while I wolfed it down before afternoon meetings. You can read the full review of the aftermath here.

My girlfriend joined me toward the end of the week and we headed to Tacolicious in the Mission area. If you weren’t aware, there is an entire area of SF full of Mexican spots. You’ll never hit all of them. Tacolicious was highly recommended by a friend who lives in SF. He makes my adoration of burritos seem like an amateur effort. To quote Gary when asked for his recommendations, there are burritos for all different occasions and moods. Tacolicious was also crazy crowded. We skulked around the bar waiting for a spot to open. Eventually some women left for their reservation and we pounced. Taking Gary’s advice, we got an array of tacos and an appetizer. The app was a spicy meatball dish with a tomato sauce that made me crave some noodles. The spice level was higher than I think is legally permissible for a pasta dish, but it’d be worth the pain.

The next burrito stop was Garaje, also near my office. I opted for a surfer-inspired offering that had fried fish, guacamole and french fries. The french fries overpowered the flavor of the fish, but added a bacon flavor. I found a park in between the restaurant and the office to soak up some sun while inhaling the cylindrical sustenance.

Our penultimate stop was the Mexican-food mecca and winner of Nate Silver’s burrito showdown, La Taqueria, also in the Mission District. I went with my standard al pastor burrito. With all the build up, all the hype, all the expectations, I found the burrito fell short.

The very last destination was at SFO. We debated directing our Uber to drive through the Mission District for one last burrito prior to returning to the tundra, but we ran out of time. So, I settled for the airport’s burrito and chips offering.

I blame you, Nate Silver, for ruining my burrito experience.

As the piece mentioned, and scholars somewhere stated, expectations can ruin experiences. Labeling something as “the best,” elevates it beyond attainability. We each have our own perception of what that pinnacle is and, often for me, those expectations are unreachable. If a friend tells me a movie was superb (you don’t have friends who use “superb” in conversation?) and I go to see it, I’m going to the theater with a heightened expectation, ready to be wowed. Compare that with your own discoveries: your favorite hole-in-the-wall or the place you stumbled on when visiting a new city. In my travels and dining at taqueria’s, I have found I get more enjoyment and satisfaction for those finds versus taking a friend or hotel’s recommendation.

So, if you find yourself in San Francisco, ignore where I went. Ignore the burrito bracket. See which place is the most crowded. Let your nose guide you. Use the bracket as a guide to get you in the vicinity and neighborhoods. Then, find your favorite spot and savor that delicious burrito.

I may never find the best burrito, but I will certainly enjoy the search.

Why You Need to Slow Down in Napa

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As a kid, time moved excruciatingly slowly. Every classroom in my grammar school had a clock and they all seemed to be in need of winding. The clock in the gym was encased behind thick metal wires to protect it from kids like me who lacked hand-eye coordination. The slowest days were those right before a prolonged weekend or break. One of those days still stands out in my memory.

Mrs. Jensen was my teacher in fourth grade and it was the Friday before spring break. There was a circular clock that hung above the door. It had no hand to measure the seconds. The entire class was fixated on that clock at the end of the day. There was nothing Mrs. Jensen could do but join us, as I’m sure she was eager for the end of the week and being rid of us. How is the clock not moving? It has been at least a minute and it hasn’t moved at all. If I had a watch, I would have been comparing my time and the clock’s.

Then, we heard the click as the minute hand inched forward.

Mrs. Jensen could have been sharing the secret to happiness or how to secure a spot at the popular table, in fourth grade, those were the same thing , but on this day she was inadvertently teaching us about time. My family seldom traveled for spring break. I had nowhere to be, but I was in a hurry to get there.

The time eventually came for us to be set free and we fled out of that classroom like kids instructed not to run at a pool, arms swinging, heel-toe, heel-toe, and the longest strides you’ve ever seen. Olympic power walkers exhibit the same gait.

Many years and schools later, I found myself waiting in a car rental office in San Francisco early on a Saturday morning. Instead of looking around for a clock, I checked my phone for the time. I’d done the same thing as my girlfriend and I hoofed it from the hotel to the car rental. Their office was a bit farther than either of us thought and we left the hotel a bit later than intended.

We patiently waited for the staff to process our reservation. Leann was concerned we wouldn’t make our reservations to tour two vineyards in Napa. Embodying the care-free San Francisco way and knowing everything will work itself out, I aimed to channel our mantra of “Island Time” we picked up in Puerto Rico. Sometimes in life, and especially in traveling, there is simply nothing you can do.

Eventually we got our car and started our pilgrimage to the grapes. Leann called both vineyards to let them know we were running late. I tried to leave plenty of time between tastings, but failed to account for getting to the first vineyard late. Our first stop was a garden tasting at Frog’s Leap in Rutherford. (Read all about that experience here.) They had no issues that we were running late.

The second winery was Silver Oak, which is a few miles from Frog’s Leap. We arranged a tour of Silver Oak’s grounds. The tour included other wine lovers, so they understandably wouldn’t be able to hold back the group for us. We enjoyed our time at Frog’s Leap and took in their beautiful vistas. We abbreviated our deep sighs wishing we lived in Napa before scooting over to Silver Oak.

We ended up about 15 minutes late for our scheduled tour time. We pulled into the large, paved parking area and looked around at the symmetrical rows of barren vines as we entered. We were greeted by Jody and shared that we were there for a tour. The others that signed up for the tour were also running late. She poured us each a glass of their cabernet and we began chatting. After sharing our story from the morning, Jody shared a doctrine she and her husband use on vacation.

“Today is the slowest day of my life.”

The quote is simple, but it resonated strongly with me. Make today the slowest day of your life. It’s a brilliant philosophy to slow down and simply savor all that is; not focusing on what was or what will be, just what is. Knowing I was going to be consuming more wine, I added a note in my phone so I wouldn’t flub her quote. After a morning of rushing, this was the perfect quote to re-calibrate and leave the past where it belongs.

We met Margaret, our grape guide for the afternoon. Silver Oak was recommended to us through a coworker of Leann’s. They raved about Silver Oak and said it was a must visit. I reached out and the vineyard set up a tour. The other tourists didn’t show up, so we began our private tour. Margaret asked if we knew about Silver Oak, and again we came into a winery unaware of its history or product. Only one way to learn!

She poured us some more wine, grabbed a bottle and took us out of the main hall area for our tour. The din subsided as we entered a room full of photos. The framed shots help tell the history of Silver Oak, including shots of the founders, Raymond T. Duncan and Justin Meyer. There are also newspaper clippings and early labels used before the winemakers settled on the water tower logo. In the center of the room is a time capsule that includes a few bottles of wine (naturally) and an iPod. The plan is to open the time capsule in 50 years.

Our private tour continued to their space for large functions before heading to the tanks. If you’ve never seen drums this big before, it’s like you’re either in Willy Wonka’s factory or Walter White’s lab. They are ridiculously large. The novice wine aficionados may fantasize about dropping into one of these vats like Timothy Q. Mouse in Dumbo. Since these tanks are used primarily for the fermentation process, I would advise against jumping in with your nose plugs and wet suit.

Margaret detailed the process of filling, draining and sampling the contents of the steel silos. Each holds a particular grape and is coded to note the contents. Most wines combine multiple grapes and varietals to compose a blend. Silver Oak has two wines: a cab that is 100% cabernet grapes from the Alexander Valley and the other is a blend from Napa Valley grapes. Having a 100% cabernet cab is rare. Regulations stipulate that only 76% of the grapes need be cabernet grapes and the others don’t need to be listed for a wine to be called a cab.

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The next room was the barreling room. Barrels were stacked to the ceiling and disappeared into the darkness. This room was kept at 55 degrees to simulate the conditions of caves. The key for developing wine is consistency in temperature. Silver Oak gets their oak from a town in Missouri. Recently, they purchased the tree farm to supply their own needs as well as expand into selling to other vineyards. There was a name for where they grow the oak for the barrels, but my memory fades after a few glasses.

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Our tour concluded in the Library where I asked a bunch of questions about wine pairings and distinctions between grapes. I figured the Library is the best spot to find answers to everything I ever wanted to know. The Library also stores different sizes and vintages. 2007 was apparently an extremely good year. We learned about the different size bottles. I knew about the 750mL bottle and the magnum, but had no clue about the others. Could you put these in order of smallest to biggest?

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Cabernet Sauvignon is intended to age. It reaches its peak in 10-20 years after bottling.  The key to storing a wine for years and letting its flavors develop is consistency in temperature. But what if you can’t put in a wine cellar in your studio apartment? A wine fridge is a nice alternative. But the biggest mistake people make is where they store their wine.

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Storing wine in the kitchen is the worst spot.

The kitchen has the largest fluctuations in temperature. So, take your wine away from the stove and store it someplace that’s an even temperature all year.

We got to sample some wine on its way toward maturity. There is an added complexity in aged, or vintage, wine. Something I’d never sipped. I will need to revisit these wines to write more extensively about the differences.

After we exhausted all our questions on wine-related travel and how she got into wine, we left the chilled library. Margaret poured us each another glass and let us know they had two Silver Oak wine glasses for us to take.

A beautiful thing about Napa, other than the bucolic surroundings, is there aren’t clocks. It’s always wine o’clock. Leann and I took our glasses of wine, walked outside to the 70 degree sunny warmth, sat down and sipped our wine watching the time pass slower than it ever had.

 

3 Tips to Find Your Wine Spirit Guide in Napa

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For all those not blessed to live in California, this place exists.

This place is Frog’s Leap Winery in Rutherford, just north of Napa.

Currently looking out at a vista of gray snow, I write this about one week after visiting their scenic grounds and I still regret not exploring and staying longer, which only means I will have to go back…permanently. Full disclosure: I did offer to stay and help pick grapes. That offer might have been more valued if there were grapes to be picked.

If you’ve never been to wine country, it should be on your list. Whether you like two buck chuck or are an expert on tannins and terroir, there is always something to be learned from a visit. Plus, the weather is relatively stable all year, making every time a great time to visit. Renting a car is the cheapest option to get to Sonoma and Napa, but if you plan on visiting more than two vineyards, it will be safer to get an Uber or limo for your chariot.

There are two ways to visit wine country:

  1. Responsibly, like a civilized person
  2. Chugging samples like it’s Welch’s and you’re next in line for a liver transplant

My preference is for the former, but I recognize the appeal of wildin’ among the wines.

Much like Walmart bingo, you can modify the game for Napa and Sonoma. Here are six things you’re guaranteed to see while sightseeing and sampling:

  1. Symmetrical rows of vines that disappear in the horizon
  2. Gorgeous vistas of hazy hills
  3. Party buses
  4. Limos
  5. People who have no clue how loud they are talking
  6. People who have no clue they have purple lips

If you are like me and are interested in savoring the experience and the wine, I have one simple tip:

Go early, before the bachelorette buses descend on wine country.

My girlfriend joined me for the trip and we aimed to arrive at Frog’s Leap at 10AM for our tasting. Be sure to setup a tasting beforehand to reserve a spot on their porch. We had a bit of a delay at the car rental place and arrived closer to 10:20. Arriving early ensures tasters aren’t fully tanked when you’re there. Plus, you can aim to avoid the exodus of limos and caravans leaving the wineries as they close for the day.

We called to notify Frog’s Leap we were running a bit behind and they said it wasn’t an issue. Driving to Sonoma or Napa is a scenic drive. Similar to the rolling hills in Florence, you look around and just marvel at the difference in topography from the flat Midwest.

Our GPS guided us along Route 29 to the gravel parking lot at Frog’s Leap. With minimal traffic, you can make the drive in about an hour from downtown San Francisco. Since it was early in the day, the parking lot was devoid of limos and party buses. But Frog’s Leap is also a more intimate winery catering to smaller groups. We walked into the Welcome Center, which looked like a page from a West Elm or Pottery Barn catalog, and were greeted by one of the staff members. She directed us to a table on the back porch and offered my girlfriend a blanket. We came from Chicago, a land of black ice and broken thermometers. The chilly morning on the porch was comparatively an ocean-side resort in the tropics.

Kevin was our wine spirit guide for the morning. He inquired if we had previously been to Frog’s Leap and if we ever had their wine. Potentially making us the worst visitors ever, neither of us had done either. A college friend highly recommended visiting and that’s all I needed. One of my trepidations prior to my first vineyard visit a few years ago was not knowing much about wine. I knew some of my preferences, but not much beyond that as to what makes a wine more full bodied or what sort of weather grapes love.

I feared vineyards would be pretentious. While I’m sure some of them give off that vibe, Frog’s Leap definitely does not. Kevin was approachable and happy to share the story behind their wines. He detailed the four wines we would be sampling as he poured them in the four glasses in front of us. Kevin also acknowledged that people sample at different paces, so he presented and poured the wines, allowing us to drink at our leisure. There was a petite snack plate of cheese, dried fruit and nuts to nimble on as we sipped and swished.

Cabernet sauvignon is my standard choice when selecting a wine to drink, cook with or bring as a gift. Each of the wines sampled was distinct. At other wine tastings, different varietals tend to blur or don’t stand out. Frog’s Leaps offerings all had a different taste and mouth feel. Frog’s Leap uses organic growing methods and is part of the California Certified Organic Farms (CCOF). Their Vineyard House was the first Silver LEED certified winery in California. So, not only is the wine delicious, the vista breathtaking, but the end product is organic.

I seldom drink chardonnay, but theirs was different than others I have had. They don’t age it in oak, preferring to let the flavor of the grapes shine, versus the barrel’s. The zinfandel was again distinct and enjoyable from others I have swished. Kevin suggested that the mild flavors of the zin made it well suited for multiple foods, including spicier options. The merlot was a step up from the zin, as far as body, and led well to the the cabernet.

After we ran out of questions for Kevin, he left us to enjoy the wines and the view. Leann and I looked at each other, gently clinked our glasses together and toasted to the good life. I walked around the garden and took a few pictures.

Come harvest season, if they need another set of hands or someone to supervise, they know who to call.

Visitor’s Guide to San Francisco Food Trucks

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Yesterday, I ate food from my first food truck. The truck was named Curry Up Now. Four hours later, I discovered it should’ve been called “curry me later.”

I don’t often burp vomit, but when I do, it’s memorable. Such was the case with my lunch experience. I suspect the good Lord was aware of my forgetting to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and thusly smite me. In fairness, the thought occurred to me as I walked back to the office. Maybe God doesn’t follow me on Yelp or Twitter. Maybe God isn’t omniscient. Maybe God didn’t see I’m away from home and am two hours off my feeding times.

The vomit burp lingered for an hour. For that entire hour, I was aware that my suffering was nothing compared to Jesus’. That didn’t diminish my anguish, but I was cognizant of the plight. Thankfully, a sales manager had some gum to override the burning in my larynx.

After work, with a contrite heart and singed esophagus, I walked to mass, kneeled and asked for forgiveness of my sins, firstly the whole meat thing. St. Patrick’s is a pretty church in the SOMA area. Their site says they are popular with tourists and several Asian groups in the Bay Area. The 5:15 service was a full mass that closed with ashes. No speed-up round, corner ashes for me this year. About halfway through mass I realized I had the extreme need to urinate. After the puke burp, I chugged water trying to alleviate the taste of tikka vomit from my mouth. As a result, what goes in, must come out. After communion, I booked it downstairs for the bathroom. Today was a day of sensations. First the delight of a burrito stuffed with Indian flavors, then the Catholic guilt, then the vomitous burp, then the urge to urinate. How could I possibly top the experiences of the day?

Coworkers invited me to happy hour. I walked back toward the office to fraternize and get to know the west coasters. Happy hour turned into hours and a harrowing drive through Russian Hill to Bullitt.

Shots were ordered. Drinks were drank. Wings got inhaled. Then, the tater tots topped with the innards of a burrito came out. There was another plate of “all things fried,” which reminded me of a SuperBowl party at my buddy’s.

As the night wound down, the game of liver Survivor came to a close.

“Drink some coconut water and you’ll be fine,” the waitress advised.

Night One in San Francisco | Uber, Tacos & Fashion

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Flying to San Francisco for work reminded me of the strains of business travel. Looking around the full flight, there were a few people tapping away on their laptops, two guys bookended me in the cramped row. As a moderately tall person, I suspect the seats are shrinking.

Other than first class, is there a way to fly without requiring a chiropractor to untwist your spine?

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As the landing gear came down, I looked out the window and started a conversation with the man in the window seat. He grew up in Evanston and is now in the IT cloud sphere. Thankfully, my background in marketing allowed me to quasi understand and converse about his work. It’s all about knowing the buzzwords. “Agile” is your friend.

Before today, I’d been in an uber car once. Today, I took two: one from my house and one from SFO. San Francisco has a few more options than suburban Chicago. Uber Pool lets you share a ride with someone else heading to the same area. I shared my uber with Katie and we both paid $15 for the ride. Her catch phrase was “right on,” so I’m pretty sure she’s not from Chicago.

Seven hours after leaving for the airport, I was at my hotel. I checked in and promptly switched rooms for one with a shower that was higher than my navel. I rinsed my face with cool water and popped a Tylenol.

I got restaurant recommendations from Jenn at the front desk. Then, I headed into the brisk evening air. SF is strange in that it always feels chilly. Compare that to Chicago which can best be described bone chilling. Thursday’s high is one degree. One.

Armed with Yelp, personal recommendations and a fleece, I started out into Union Square. Chicago has its weirdos, but California is an entire different level. The city smells strongly of marijuana and it’s as though the entire city is attempting to be discovered on some talent show. There was a guy with a full drum kit on the sidewalk. Take that bucket boys. Outside of an art museum there was a man standing with his head down and legs spread wide, not moving. I prefer sleeping laying down, but different strokes. He was still there after I left the restaurant.

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I ended up at Tropisueño. There were several groups waiting for a table. I’ve previously said traveling is better with others. The first few days of this trip will expose the other side: traveling solo.

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Tonight, I was able to grab a spot at their communal table. Within five minutes I had chips and three salsas.

I am the Gollum of salsas.

Then, an entree and drink. While I ate my chile verde, pork braised in salsa verde with rice, beans and warm, pillowy corn tortillas, two men and one lady were sat opposite me.

As I ate, I listened to the trio discuss who the best dressed were in their office. They all agreed Gallway seems to be in “top 10 percentile.”

“But he’s married to someone in fashion,” one of the guys said.

They continued on as I had a love affair with my dinner wondering how poorly I’d fare in their fashion police. I started thinking of excuses.

“I came straight from the airport.”

“My luggage was stollen.”

“I only buy things for less than $20.”

Then, as I spoke with the waiter about how the pork was braised, I realized fashion isn’t my game, tacos are.

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Chilling above the Clouds | Palo Alto

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Trips always look longer on a calendar versus on the ground. Yesterday was our last day in Palo Alto/San Francisco.

This might be unknown to most, but the official word of Palo Alto and the Bay Area is “chill.” It’s used for everything from parties to places to people. If we were having “chill” be the keyword for a drinking game, I would’ve been slurping the last droplets of vino out of the French oak barrels in Sonoma.

My suspicion is that the cool evenings are the root cause for everything being described as “chill.” Yesterday morning I was eating some homemade granola (not pictured) with residents of the Synergy house at Stanford. I’d asked 2 guys for essentials to see in my remaining time. A junior named Matt suggested we see the view from his favorite lookout spot. He said it was really chill.
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The drive up to the park was remarkable. My only regret was that I couldn’t ogle the changing view as we ascended higher and higher. I’d never driven on mountain roads or extremely winding roads. There were a few moments of unadulterated bliss. I may have giggled, which probably didn’t serve to put the passengers at ease about my driving prowess. The two-lane road wiggled around the mountain, narrowing more and more with the altitude. I did my best Jack Lemon impersonation from “The Odd Couple.” This again scared the passengers who aren’t familiar with films produced before 1992.

We emerged from the lush trees and saw the sunset on our right and the city on our left. I pulled off the wider road and we all got out of the Jeep to take in the breathtaking site.

We forged on to race the setting sun. There are several trails but we didn’t have much time to explore. I parked the car, Michelle took off her sandals, and we sprinted up the dirt path. Once over the crest we saw the unrivaled majesty of the sun setting into the clouds, which looked like frozen waves. It was if time was still. The cool breeze was light and my entire sight line was breathtakingly serene and perfect. Lush trees, rust-colored brush, the bluest of skies and the shifting gradient as it all mixed together at the horizon.

This was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. And that includes countless burritos.

Once we got back to the commune we had to return our rental and take the Bart to Caltrain trains to get back to campus. The night ended slowly rocking in a hammock.

After seeing this marvelous, indescribable sight I began to understand the merit of “chill.” Maybe the locals have it right.

San Francisco was a reminder to chill out and let go. Maybe someone put something in the granola, but everything works out. There’s no point in obsessing over control and being efficient. There is no right way or wrong way.

All will be well.

It always is.

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You Doing the Wiggle?

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These days have been full to the brim with non-stop movement. Each morning it becomes more and more difficult to recall what I did the previous day, partially because I have an odd condition where it’s incredibly difficult for me to sleep somewhere other than my home bed.

Each night we’ve slept in a different room. Students are now back on campus and start classes today. Quite a difference from our arrival night where the casa was a ghost town. The Synergy house has some policies that would’ve really changed my collegiate years. Rather than have the housing office choose your roommate (ulcer giver) for you, they have a meeting where everyone shares their bugaboos and you pick your roommate(s) and room. Then, plot twist, you have another meeting next quarter to establish if you want to irritate/live with a new group of people.

Yesterday started with assisting making breakfast for the students in the house. The house is an interesting place. There are elements that I wish I had during my college years: a legit, restaurant-caliber kitchen, gorgeous views, friendly inhabitants, and an attitude that can only be described as Californian. Someone plugged in their iPhone and started bumping some Gretchen Parlato. I was on pancake duty and learned how to use a 12-burner stove. The house has a well-stocked kitchen and several cast iron skillets. It took some time to master the heat and not make “hella burnt” cakes. I confirmed that when I cook for others I become what some call “an ass.” It isn’t my best self. I’m not a perfectionist in many ways in my life, often asking myself “what difference does it make?” But when preparing food for others, whether it’s a date, family or friends, I ditch the niceties and work toward making a stellar product. In the end, the motley crew of five made scrambled eggs, hash browns, and chocolate-nut pancakes. I heard rumors of mimosas.

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After we finished cooking, we met the inhabitants of the commune. Annie, the ever-friendly RA, had sent an email the previous night asking if anyone had bikes Michelle and I could use. A bunch of students volunteered theirs. Two kind kiddos stepped up and gave us keys to their wheels. Loaded up with water and some protein bars we rode off for the Caltrain to San Francisco.

The train dumps you in SoMa (South of Market street). Michelle and I looked around, then at a map near the station. Next thing you knew, we’re cruising along the Embarcadero, pier after pier, stunning vistas of bridges. I stopped a few times to take it all in and snap some pics.

Our first stop was Codmother’s Fish and Chips for a baja fish taco. Pretty tasty snack.

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Next we faced a hill. A very large hill. A hill you wouldn’t see in Chicago. A hill that will haunt your dreams. Staring up towards the heavens I looked at Michelle and she looked at me. Vamos! I’ve never taken spin class. I wish I had, but I dont think any class can prepare you for the hills of San Francisco. They are alive with the screams of the out-of-shape. I managed to make it about half to two-thirds of the way up the hill before waiving the surrender flag. I walked the bike another block closer to heaven before taking a few moments to let my heart come down from humming bird tempo to that of a normal human. The flip side of these monstrous hills is the complete joy of speeding downhill.

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We wound our way through the city, up and down some more hills and made our way to Golden Gate Park for Lindy in the Park. An institution in the Bay area. For the past 17 years, they have had swing dancing every Sunday. The only force that can stop the momentum of swing being heavy rain.

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We caught the tail end of the dance and spotted Jeremy, a man we met while swing dancing in Toronto! He invited us to join him for lunch at the De Young cafe.

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After an espresso, the second in my life, we chatted about the joys of dancing before Jeremy offered us entry to the museum. I’ve seldom turned down checking out a museum. They had an exhibit on Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953–1966. I’d never seen Diebenkorn’s work. His early work leaned toward Modern, while his later works were more portrait and landscape based. His work seemed incredibly solitary. The portraits were of a single woman, often faceless, often wearing horizontal stripes, a common motif in the work on display.

20130923-075605.jpgI wonder if I’d appreciate art more if I viewed it through circular-rimmed spectacles.

Often the people watching at an art museum surpasses the canvases on the wall. After the museum we walked through the Japanese Tea Garden adjacent to De Young.

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Before we parted ways with our lindy-loving friend, he shared “The Wiggle” with us. “The Wiggle” is a route to cut through San Francisco without crushing your quads on the hills. Luckily for us, Jeremy is an artist and always had pens and paper with him. Empowered with some caffeine and culture, we pedaled toward the mission district. As we exited the Haight Ashbury we asked a man on a bike how much farther Pierce Street was. He asked:

You doing the Wiggle?

“Follow the green arrows,” he said as he disappeared into the hills.

Right, left, right, left. We made the 3-mile trip to the Mission area in 15 minutes. Objective today: Find a t-shirt about The Wiggle.

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Our next stop was El Farolito–pitched to me as the best al pastor in San Francisco. This was the only Mexican food I’ve had so far on the trip–not counting the baja tacos–so technically it was the best. However, I wouldn’t say it was the best I’ve ever had. Delicious nonetheless. Perhaps i’ll have my leftovers for breakfast today. You read that correctly. I didn’t finish a burrito.

Michelle popped into an Asian bakery for some treats for the house. We snacked on a cookie before soldiering on toward the train. I promptly spit the cookie onto the street. It was a mixture of sandpaper and cardboard, with an oakey finish.

We made a few wrong turns en route back to the Caltrain, but made it back with time to refuel Michelle on caffeine at Philz. She was in heaven. The coffee shop specializes in pour overs. I’ve had less than 10 cups of coffee in my life. The majority of those coming after I started dating Michelle. Philz has custom blends of beans from all over the world to make a unique flavor creation. Michelle doesn’t often express wanting things, but before we left for the last train out of the city she said of the local coffee chain, “Andrew, I want it.”