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.

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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A Year of Moments

I could get used to hiking here.

I couldn’t stop staring at it.

There I was, Jan. 1, 2013, 3:24 a.m., watching Goonies on the couch of a girl I’d met earlier in the evening. She was witty and cute, but I failed to ascertain her stance on tacos–a mistake I would repeat in 2013. But in the glow of her Christmas tree I noticed something I hadn’t spotted previously. There was some sort of growth on the corner of her mouth. Is that a cold sore? Why did I blackout everything from sex ed? Can I avoid kissing that side of her mouth? Will I go immediately to hell when I die?

“I should head home,” I said after the movie ended. I put my shoes back on, thanked her and gave her a hug. Then I picked up my gym bag, the very bag I stared at for at least a minute while debating whether or not to bring it with me. It functions as a sleepover party bag, replete with sexy items like flannel pajama pants, contact solution, and a toothbrush. With my bag slung over my shoulder, I headed down the stairs and into the frigid morning air.

When you start a year driving home alone at 3:30 a.m., you know you’re in store for a special year.

I’ve never been one for resolutions. Instead I opt for more ambiguous goals. The kind that aren’t specific or measurable. This year’s goal was simple: Do more of what I love, and less of what I don’t. There will always be things we don’t want to do, but have to anyway. Dishes ranks highly on this list. (Note: I will wed someone solely for their willingness to always do the dishes.) Looking back at all the food I made and ate, all the places I visited, and all the things I achieved and learned, 2013 was a fine year.

Food

Overall, there were a ton of great moments and a slew of firsts. A few days after fleeing in the early morning, I was featured in the Daily Herald not for jerk of the week, but as Cook of the Week. Naturally, I shared that on every social network ever created. Once the press requests simmered down, I returned to normalcy. But that week gave me a glimpse of what it must be like for all my friends with kids when they post a picture of their baby.

In other food news, a rep from Plated, a New York-based food delivery company, found my blog and contacted me about trying out their service. After a few emails and conversations, I got two boxes of food for my first dinner party. The menu: BBQ Chicken Burgers with zucchini fries and Shrimp & Grits. I had won a wine tasting earlier in the year and combined the two for a great night of food, wine and stories with friends.

Kale safely wins new ingredient of the year. I started buying it this summer and there was no turning back. I tried several new dishes; coq au vin may be my favorite. I also became a roux master, turning fond into phenomenal pan sauces. Thanksgiving was my responsibility this year, and short of needing salt, the smoked turkey was delicious and the mashed potatoes whipped to perfection. According to the photographic evidence, I consumed/inhaled a burrito a week.

Frolicking

I was fortunate to be able to travel to a lot of new places, and revisit some favorites. I spent my birthday running up a sand dune in Michigan, sunning myself like an iguana, and racing back to the beach to see the sun dissolve into Lake Michigan. Shortly after that, I left the U.S. for the first time! Somehow I managed to visit our incredibly friendly neighbors to the north in Canada and the welcoming folks in Mexico. I already wrote about most of these adventures, but after reflecting, some of my favorite moments were hiking in the unrivaled beauty of Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. It was someplace I likely would never have known about or gone to, were it not for my friend Rebecca. That leg of the trip also included staying in a yurt and canoeing, both firsts. I also saw the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls. Both places reminded me of how much beauty there is in this world. No matter how much I love cities, I have always found being near water incredibly restorative.

In September, I packed my bags for another getaway, heading west with my girlfriend. We managed to cover 550 miles in one week from Napa, Calif., all the way south to Rosarito, Mexico. Thanks to a tip from a Stanford student, I witnessed the most breathtaking vista I’ve ever seen, and that includes driving through Indiana. I thought Niagara and Canada were beautiful, but this spot, high on a hill 30 minutes from Palo Alto was nirvana. Stunningly gorgeous. And we sprinted up a trail just in time to see the sun descend into the clouds and Pacific Ocean. Those are moments I hope never to forget.

Fitness

This was also a great year for physical fitness. According to RunKeeper, I logged 133 miles of physical activity–running, cycling, hiking. I entered my first race–the BigTen 5k/10k. My shins were still bothering me from my training, so I opted to walk the 5k and finished in just a tad more than 40 minutes. I ran the fastest mile of my life (7:40ish). Then I doubled over and questioned the meaning of life. Strength-wise I worked up to being able to do 10 wide-grip pull-ups, as well as adding weight in all other muscle groups. I can bench press about 70% of my weight with dumbbells. All of this is a credit to persistence and sugar-laced protein bars.

I also danced a ton, improving my lindyhop and adding balboa to my swing dance repertoire. Sadly, fitness apps don’t track dancing.

I’ve been on vacation the past few weeks and spent an intensive week doing hot yoga before Christmas. Intense seems too weak an adjective. I wish they had a scale so I would know how much water weight I left on the mat. How much does dignity weigh? All that quiet time coupled with reading articles on self-improvement enabled me to deeply reflect on some events in 2013 and in my life. Normally I avoid looking back or looking ahead. I strongly believe that all we have is now, and dwelling on what was and what could be are a waste of thought. Inevitably as the remaining days on the calendar dwindle, I cannot quiet the urge to reflect.

Feelings

There were two main learning opportunities this year, and, with time, I have become grateful for both. The first was purchasing a condo. I have been looking for a residence, be it a hovel, condo, or house, for the past three years. At long last, I found a spacious one bedroom in an area of town where I wouldn’t be shot. I was excited at the prospect of increased independence and decorating my own place (clothes and magazines everywhere). The property was bank-owned and the bank was in no rush to unload it. I grew impatient and ended up rescinding my offer. Doing so meant forfeiting a decent sum of money. I read an article in Harvard Business Review about how successful leaders view and deal with loss. Those that cut their losses and move forward, saw it not as a loss, but as a chance to capitalize on another opportunity. That’s how I chose to view my situation. Later in the summer, I saw another condo that I loved. I felt much differently about this place than the one that was “good enough.” I liked it so much, I ended up putting an offer on it twice. My first offer wasn’t accepted and the person they picked wasn’t able to secure financing. Since my life isn’t yet a movie, neither of my offers were accepted. But I learned the value of not settling. If nothing else, I discovered what it felt like to really love a place.

The second big lesson was a variation on my first, but instead of a place it involved a person. After a few months of dating and our trip to California, my girlfriend decided to see someone else. Much like the condo situation, I learned what it felt like to truly love someone. Shortly thereafter, I discovered what it felt like to be deeply disappointed with someone. I had hoped for a different future for the two of us, but we weren’t meant to be.

In most of my relationships, I have the tendency of suppressing or not expressing my needs or wants. When asked what I needed, I simply responded to either be accepted or loved. In retrospect, I skipped over the easier fundamental needs in Maslow’s hierarchy. At this stage of my life, I’m self-sufficient. I don’t need food or housing (unless you know about a condo). What I’m after are those more elusive qualities like unconditional acceptance. That takes time and isn’t as easy as cooking someone dinner.

My takeaway was more introspection and resolving to be more vocal about boundaries. Much like Harry’s line in When Harry Met Sally:

You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.

Often I get disappointed with friends or loved ones when they don’t do as I hoped. But the flaw in this setup is that I don’t communicate expectations. If I don’t tell someone what I expect, I shouldn’t be disappointed if they aren’t psychic. This serves as a self-defense mechanism. I can dismiss people who act counter to how I would’ve liked them to act. This leads to a false sense of superiority and empowerment. I feel in control by deeming someone not my friend or unimportant to me because they didn’t act like I would or how I would like them to act.

In 2014, I would like to improve a few things. I want to be more accepting of people; to take them as they are and not to be upset if they don’t act as I would like. Second, to share my expectations. My best friend shared the old adage, “People treat you how you allow them to.” To continue to build on this year’s goal of doing more of what I love, that includes developing existing relationships.

It’s been a year.

I declare 2014 the year of MORE. While others are looking to scale back, I will be ramping up. More dancing. More traveling. More cooking. More new experiences. And more living!

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.”

Look at that! Touring Wine Country

It wasn’t until today that I realized how much Martin Yan impacted my vernacular.

“Michelle! Look at that!”

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And look over there!

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I’ve been fortunate to see some pretty places in the US. Each helps me realize how much there is to inspire and motivate.

This is going to sound like the hippies have had their way with my brain, but the theme of yesterday was being in the moment. We had a few items on our agenda, but those merely served as starting points for adventure.

I’d setup a tasting at Ravenswood winery in Sonoma. We punched in the address in the trusty GPS app and booked it for some grape samples. After a morning shower, we peered outside to see light drizzle. As we drove the rain picked up. The grapes need water too.  We anticipated driving on the Golden Gate bridge, but due to our utter lack of San Francisco knowledge and the GPS aim to take us on the non-scenic route, we ended up on some other bridge and questioned if we were in fact under the Golden Gate bridge.

After a 90-minute drive north we arrived. The rain was steady and we joined in the 10:30am tour. Michelle took to eating the grapes off of the vine. Perhaps by the bushel. We learned that it takes about 800-900 grapes to make one bottle of vino. Conservatively, Michelle consumed nearly 470 grapes. She was getting tipsy off the aromas.

At Ravenswood, Ben walked us through the wine making process: the importance of French oak barrels, how the thickness of the grape skin impacts the needs of the plant to create a good wine. We sampled some young wines before popping into a cafe for coffee and a cookie. If nothing else, I love alliteration.

At the cafe, we asked the barista his advice on another vineyard we should visit. He suggested Benzinger, which is a bio-dynamic vineyard in Glen Ellen. The clouds parted and we cruised to our next winery. Bio-dynamic is a step above organic. There are no chemicals, no pesticides, no herbicides used in the making of the wine. I spoke with the tour guide and woman in the sampling room about pairing food with wine. Look forward to more vino in more dishes in the weeks ahead!

We concluded the day driving up the nearly vertical streets in Sausalito, asking residents for directions to the best lookout point. Thankfully no one told us to get the hell out of their neighborhood. We ended up at an area on the water talking to a man from Oakland while he was fishing for crabs. We discussed the cost of living in Oakland and SF. Note to self: Make Sausalito money at some point. It is phenomenally gorgeous. My phone died so I wasn’t able to take pictures, but trust me. Gorgeous.

I’ll post more when I get more time.

Line of the night: While talking to some students back at the commune, we asked what they were studying.

One student replied, “I’m waiting for my parents to tell me what my major is.”

Day 3’s agenda: Swing dancing in Golden Gate park

Riding bikes through the city by the bay

Onward and upward through the hills of San Francisco!