Arrive San Francisco late afternoon, head to the hotel in Milpitas outside San Jose, twiddle my thumbs and (gasp) eat at the hotel restaurant.
Nah, that won’t do.
Same-day confirmed to an early flight, same EWR-MSP as my parents (too bad didn’t get upgrade to hand to mom, tough on a Monday morning with same-day confirmed), enjoy a blissful stop in home sweet Minnesota. Reach San Fransisco at 13:30 and start the feast.
Last Friday afternoon a business trip came up for me to Silicon Valley this week. And I had just been reading this month’s GQ with a piece by Alan Richman on his 31 commandments of ice cream, “Conehead.” He included sidebars for “The Top 5 Store-Bought Ice Creams,” and “The 10 Ice Cream Shops You Need to Visit.”
3 of those shops are in San Francisco.
I thought I might try to swing by the most famous, Bi-Rite Creamery, later in the week if time allowed, but meetings have a way of interfering, and with a clear schedule Monday afternoon due to the time difference, I rolled out of SFO in the opposite direction of my hotel, bound for the Mission District.
Why not be greedy?
First stop Mitchell’s Ice Cream. Double cone of Richman-recommended Horchata (rice milk flavored ice cream with a swirl of cinnamon honey) and a new flavor, The King’s Favorite with bananas, caramel and more. Rich, satisfying.
Second stop Humphry Slocombe. The exterior gave me that “not another hipster cupcake place” feeling I too often have in New York, but the interior’s Mission District-style murals is cool. Again, one scoop of the Richman recommendation, Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee. And then plunked on a scoop of their most popular flavor, Secret Breakfast (the secret owes something to bourbon). Both are smooth and intense. They should be sold in the brown paper bags favored by the loiterers on the surrounding streets.
A respite was needed, and found, on 18th St near the final ice cream stop. A simple taqueira. Did not think they would be so huge. Each of the 3 a different meat: carne asada (grilled beef), lengua (beef tongue) and carintas (roast pork).
A quick conference call with colleagues in Australia, they wondering at the occasional roar of passing motorcycles, and then in line for Bi-Rite.
I slipped in a few samples, even the unusual basil and then settled on a triple cone to cap off the binge. The best thing about a triple? They throw in a fourth. Behold the quad:
Salted caramel, honey lavender, olive oil and roasted banana.
It was a drowsy slog through traffic over to the Crowne Plaza San Jose-Silicon Valley in Milpitas.
By all rights the day of feeding should have been over but I decided to take a walk to the neighboring, seemingly unremarkable strip mall, Milpitas Square. It turns out to be a massive Asian-themed mall anchored by the gigantic 99 Ranch Market. My wife, sitting in New York, howled in protest as I walked the mall and reported the dining options over the phone.
Not that I needed to eat a grain of rice, but the Shanghai restaurant irresistably had one of my favorite indulgences, nearly impossible to find outside Shanghai: congyou banmian (literally and appetizingly called onion oil noodles). I was wary, though the manager shouting orders in Shanghainese, combined with the lack of infiltrating Cantonese dishes on the menu, disarmed me. The hongshaorou baiyejie (roast pork with dried tofu knots) was succulent.
Now I really should have stopped yet bubble tea shop Quickly, incomparably better than the (affiliated?) Quicklys in New York, lured me in for a ginger honey milk tea with aloe.
Giddy yet hardly able to walk back to the hotel.
Tomorrow I have lunch and dinner meetings, but there is a small mid-afternoon window. I hope my dinner mates don’t object to a whiff of onion on my breathe.
Quickly is open until 2 am, by the way.