Categories
Steeped Book

Steeped Book Cooking Class (San Francisco)

Steeped Book Cooking Class

Before we continue with our last few weeks of the Summer Reading Series, I wanted to broadcast a PSA. When I deejayed in college, we would give a PSA on the hour of our radio shows as a way to mark time and get out valuable news. In that same spirit, I want to invite you to join me for my Steeped Cooking with Tea class at 18 Reasons, Tuesday, August 11 from 6 to 9 p.m in San Francisco. I hear there are still a few seats left, so snag your spot before the last openings are gone. Books will be for sale, provided by the great crew at cookbookery outpost, Omnivore Books and I am happy to sign your copy for whomever you like. This cooking class holds a special place for me. I have volunteered through 18 Reasons with Cooking Matters classes in San Francisco and Oakland. 18 Reasons is a community center where people come together over food, and they encourage participation of making the community a better place through cooking and food education. They’re great people and I’m delighted to be teaching a class with them.

Okay, back to the class! I’m excited to teach techniques for cooking with tea. I believe if you master these simple methods, you can easily jazz up your food with a bit of exotic flair. Michelle at 18 Reasons and I landed on these recipes to achieve just that purpose. I love teaching other passionate home cooks and hope you will join in on the evening tea revelry. Now, to discuss the basics. Here’s a preview of the menu with gorgeous photos by the incredibly talented Stephanie Shih. If the cake photo looks a bit different from the bunch, it is freshly baked and freshly shot today by yours truly.

The Menu

Steeped-Book-Hurricane-Popcorn-Stephanie-Shih
Hurricane Popcorn with Green Tea Furikake: For several years, I lived in a house of strong, opinionated women. One of them, Lisa, introduced me to Hurricane-style popcorn that she had grown to love when she lived in Hawaii. I grew to love it after my first fistful. You will learn how to make green tea furikake that jazzes up popcorn and anywhere else you might use the seaweed version.

Steeped-Book-White-Bean-Walnut-Tea-Toasts-Stephanie-Shih

Walnut White Bean Tea Toasts: This little ditty hands-down has been the showstopper at cooking demos, cooking classes and samplings during the spring Steeped book tour. Whether you are making a batch of the ridiculously addictive walnut white bean spread to smear onto toast for afternoon tea, lunch or to serve with crudites, you will learn how to use tea as a spice to whiz up a delightful spread that will make it into your regular rotation.

Steeped-Book-California-Tea-Leaf-Salad_stephanie-shih

California Tea Leaf Salad: This salad found its inspiration at one of two restaurants near our old neighborhood. Instead of making a Burmese version, we are making a California version, where it celebrates that so much of our fruits and vegetables come from the Golden State. You will learn how to make fermented green tea leaves and the salad you love when eating out, at home.

Steeped-Book-Chamomile-Corn-Chowder-Stephanie-Shih

Chamomile Corn Chowder: Before organic corn skirts the farmer’s market and this year’s stalks become next year’s lusting, learn how to fold it into a silky soup with lots of textural appeal. We will be focusing on the idea of building layers of flavor using chamomile.

Steeped-Book-Evelyns-Cake

Evelyn’s English Breakfast Meringue Frosted Chocolate Bar Cake: This cake. It’s a mouthful to say and I’m pretty sure your mouth will stay full of it. This is what it looks like before going into the oven. Come to class to see it in all of its crackly goodness. Learn how to incorporate tea into baking in a bit of a departure from regular techniques of baking with tea.

Sign up for the 18 Reasons Steeped Cooking with Tea Class here.

 

Coming Soon

Leighs-Foodie15postcardIf you missed getting one of the last spots for the class, come get steeped in the South Bay on August 22. I’ll be joining the lovely Cheryl Sternman Rule, Emma Christensen and Sheri Codiana for one doozy of a foodie day at Leigh’s Favorite Books in Sunnyvale from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Fall book tour events are forthcoming. If I’m in your part of the world, I hope to see you at one of the events.

Stay tuned for the next book review in the Summer Reading Series. We’ve still got a small chunk of time before autumn leaps on us and I am working on some devilishly delicious fun things for the fall. So, stick around, and settle in. Things are heating up. I’ll bring the tea. You bring the company.

Categories
Poetry Restaurant Poetry

Restaurant Poetry: Volcano Curry

 

RESTAURANT POETRY: Volcano Curry
by Annelies Zijderveld

 

When the coming blanket of fog buffets the sky

like stallions set to flight, an awakening begins

to rise and rumble in my stomach with insistence.

 

Off we go in search of something hot to head off

the chill that clings to all of our corners. In search

of a Volcano we depart, determined to quash the grey

skies enveloping us in their cold kiss. Upon opening

the door, a rush of heat sweeps us.  You are rote and

 

I am trite- we recall our orders easily from memory,

“Hot chicken katsu curry with noodles, zucchini

and extra fukujinzuke” tumbles out like a preamble

or perhaps instead “Hot original curry with eggplant”

makes its way from my mouth into an order written

at the register.  Then the server looks from me to you:

 

“Volcano tomato chicken curry with rice,” you chirp,

your voice escalating in a salivating salutation of

to-go bowls and boxes brimming with our chosen

ingredients. She begins to close the order, as you add,

“Throw in a potato and onion croquette,” expectedly.

 

As we wait our order to be called, we sit and marvel

at the packed restaurant, the broad white plates with

curry that swims to the outer edges and punches the air.

 

I try to sneak peeks into the cordoned off area,

through the curtained door to glimpse ingredients

in symphony, instead I catch the cooks’ music:

 

the tall lean bodies working the line- this one plays

his instrument and thumps a bowl of rice down on

a plate. Another spoons zucchini on the rice, then

passes the plate to a guy waiting, spoon raised as

a slick brown sauce hits the surface, boiled potatoes

and carrots bobbing up against fukujinzuke pickles.

 

She calls our name. We rise in anticipation of sinking

our chopsticks into the curly crunchy mess and begin

our way home, the curry redolent of hot spice and apple.

 

Roux clings to udon noodles twirling round my hungry

fork. The katsu crunch is slicked with sauce. Somehow

the container is clean, quickly. As sure as the fog will

roll in, we will once again make our way back to Volcano.

Restaurant Poetry Volcano Japanese Curry The Food Poet

Categories
Spirit

One year ago – a blogaversary

crowd waiting

One year ago, things looked a bit different.

After we said I do, we watched the San Francisco Giants clinch the title of World Series champs. Put differently, on a certain honeymoon and in a certain seaside town, there was a bar, multiple visits and bellowing at Phillies play-off games over foamy mugs of Sam Adams’ Oktoberfest. Before there was a Beck in my life, I thought I understood baseball. I even thought of myself as a baseball fan.

One year ago, la vie en route came back to life.

Everyone loves a fresh start. While la vie en route really started in 2006, it made sense last year to finagle it into something that culled my passions for food, poetry, art and travel into one place. It made sense to begin again.

williemays_world series parade

And this brings me back to that band of misfits who made magic.

bruce bochy 2010 world series parade

For a week before the Giants won, I wore orange and black like a badge of honor. It’s a good thing my closet is full of Austin orange and New York black. I baked a batch of Orange & Blacks – my West Coast homage to cakey East Coast Black & Whites.

orange & black cookies

The day of the big celebratory parade I checked out early for lunch and sidled my way into the throngs of people skirting the sidewalk curbs. Two kind women let me inch my way onto the square of street space in front of them. They grumbled as people who have been holding a place for hours might and I took it upon myself to try and make them smile for their courtesy and shrink myself so as not to block their incredible view.

pablo sandoval 2010 world series parade

We waited. We waited some more. Eventually around the corner came vehicles of the big-wigs including Coach Bruce Bochy.

tim lincecum 2010 world series parade

I cheered along with the people around me as the cable cars began slowly climbing forward in the ferreting the Giants players down the street.

brian wilson 2010 world series parade

But before we saw the likes of Pablo Sandoval, the Panda, before we watched Brian Wilson clad in his silver high tops leave the confines of his cable car and before Tim Lincecum casually waved from the enclosed cover of his, I saw someone who made me scream like a schoolgirl.

Out of this crowd anxiously scouring the line of cable cars waiting to parade up the street and out of the quietude of fans waiting to see and wave at their favorite player, I saw a shock of shoulder length black hair and began hearing the wail of electric guitars in my head.

steve perry 2010 world series parade

Steve Perry!!!!”

Steve Perry turned and looked straight at me as people to my left and right looked at me, a pre-teen squealing and hearing backup vocals to bear me up, a woman grown and waving her freak flag high. As he smiled and gave me a thumbs up, I yelled, “Don’t stop believing!!!”

In the throes of World Series mayhem, I left on cloud nine.

If you have read this blog over the past year, you’ve brought some joy to my life. You’ve followed the bitter and the sweet intersecting and maybe tried your hand at a recipe or two. Perhaps you’ve found a poem I’ve posted that speaks to you or been taken for a ride in travels shared. I want to give some joy back to you as you live your life en route.

Three books. Three winners.

In support of my favorite local and independent bookstore, two of the books are already well loved and one is brand new. Represented are food, poetry and art because that’s how I roll en route. So here’s where it gets fun. Leave a comment and pick one: “food, poetry or art” in your response.

Then we play ball.

Categories
Sharing our Strength Spirit

Hunger Challenge: Preparation & Day 1

 

 

 

 

The San Francisco and Marin Food Banks issued a hunger challenge for September 11 – 17, 2011. The challenge is simple: each person signs up to live off a food stamp budget for one week at $4.72 per person per day.  On the SF Food Bank site, they share that 1 in 5 children, seniors and adults in the Bay Area struggle with hunger everyday. The issue of hunger is one close to my heart and I signed up pretty much immediately, thanks to Amy for tweeting about the challenge and Mel for joining me! Without any cajoling, dear sweet Beck agreed he wanted to participate. And to up the ante for health reasons, we are going into this challenge gluten free and loaded with as many of our regular creature comforts (goat’s milk yogurt / natural chicken) as the budget permits.
_______________________________

Preparation

We began plotting the menu out a full week in advance. Then we tweaked the menu and then we tweaked it again. Note to self- write your menus in pencil or dry erase marker… While the “official” hunger challenge started on 9/11, I happened to be traveling and in no condition to start the challenge at an airport or en route. I found an earlier flight arriving in the afternoon to spend extra time with Beck and do more shopping and mapping of the week. This week will be a stretch to the usual rote happenings in my kitchen and I am not so brash to start something until my head is in it 100 percent. So much of life is played in the mind, isn’t it? In preparation for this week, Beck and I are starting Monday, the beginning of the work week.  For this challenge, we wanted to make the food prepared tasty and nutritious as well as sticking to the monetary daily goal, but found several other “rules” cropped up that needed to be reckoned with:

SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
What to do if invited to a friend’s house for dinner or a party? Would someone living on a food stamp budget be in a similar position?

  • The SF Food Bank suggested in their FAQs to bring your own food. Two parties with people I want to hang out with came onto the radar. In one, I declined the invitation letting them know about the hunger challenge, (since we all went to a high school with a focus on volunteerism, I figured they would get it). The second party is still TBD. Rather than play the part of the legalist, I’m considering going and circulating among party-goers with a subtle water glass in hand. If I go, I’m going for the people and not the nibbles.

WORK FREEBIES
Working at a food company where there are ample options for breakfast and snacks, to nosh or not to nosh? What about coffee and tea?

  • Ah, this question is one my boss and I talked about round and round last week. He was intrigued by my latest challenge (and refused to buy me organic chicken at Costco because the membership fee would have to factor in. You’ve got to love accountability like that.) Given that the likelihood of free breakfast or free snacks abounding at the workplace of a person on food stamps is not very high, I decided to forgo all of the usual eats and drinks. I see this as an opportunity to drink water.

DREGS OF PREVIOUS WEEK
What do we do with food from the previous week that will go bad if not eaten this week? Is it better to let it go bad, throw it away or engraft it into this week’s menu? What about spices in the pantry?

  • Beck and I hate to throw away food. And as he pointed out tonight, it doesn’t make sense to let perfectly good food go bad if we are trying to understand hunger. This too is a bit of legalism on my part. So those two bananas mottled and mushy- they’re getting substituted in for two new bananas that will be just fine next week. And so on. There’s a tub of organic blueberries and Black mission figs that have jam written all over them. Heirloom tomatoes ready to be roasted and canned. They will make it into our pantry without “falling off the wagon.” All those great spice bottles that meander into my cooking usually are staying off the counter this week, with the exception of salt and pepper.

GROCERY STORES & ACCESS
Would someone with food stamps be able to shop here? Would there be access to the produce and foods for them?

  • This is one I struggled with internally because I know that what is accessible for me might not or is not accessible for someone living on food stamps. At the same time, the idea of doing all our grocery shopping for the week in a convenience store also did not work for me, as I’m trying to see and show that this can be done healthfully. So, in earnest, I completely recognize that access is an issue, but it’s one I grappled with and decided needed to work with what was readily accessible for us.

And so there you have it.

We begin today thinking of preparation and the idea of being set apart for a purpose. We begin today thinking of our neighbor and wanting to pull up a chair at the table for them and another two for Beck and me. We like a good conversation and hearing other people’s stories, being storytellers.

Have you ever lived on a restricted food budget? How did it work for you? How did you prepare yourself physically, mentally and spiritually to carry it out?

 

 

 

Categories
Sharing our Strength Spirit

If these doors could speak- a photo essay & a challenge

When the devastation of Hurricane Katrina unleashed its fury upon the city of New Orleans, I watched on like most of you did, to the TV reports and the flood of articles inundating the web. The same convention center I had visited for a coffee and tea show mere months before became home and unruly hearth to oh-so many displaced New Orleansians.

This past weekend found me in New Orleans on the sixth anniversary of hurricane Katrina at a food conference.  One morning, I spent an hour walking the French Quarter, marveling at the architecture and the details in the structures that remind me of our charming gingerbread Victorians in San Francisco. The bulk of the weekend was spent in seminars and meeting incredible people with a passion for food and stories like myself. But I had to wonder, apart from this section of the city reveling, how much of the city still lies in ruin? How much of it still grieves the vacancy of its former spirit and verve? Chef John Besh talked to our group about staying in New Orleans and about rebuilding. As he talked about his community, his city trying to find its footing again, it led me to think aboout what commitment to your neighbor and neighborhood looks like truly.

Late into the first evening of the conference, I conferred with Brona, a gutsy woman also in the food industry if it would be feasible to eat fresh produce without GMOs on a welfare budget.  At lunch one day, I chatted with a food blogger named Tanya who lives in the 9th ward. She told me that residents in the 9th ward shop for groceries in a convenience store where two aisles are earmarked for food. You can imagine with me that the bulk of the food available is highly processed and missing the nutrients originally in the food. She told me about traveling 30 minutes on the train to go to an uptown market for fresh vegetables. I sat rapt and horrified. There is something so disconcerting and wrong about access to fresh food versus targeted marketing of fast food restaurants when thinking of lower income neighborhoods and families.

I think of Mama and her family, Mexican immigrants eking out a place for themselves in a hostile South Texas town during a time when ethnic diversity was not cool or eagerly accepted. I think about her stories of making do with what they had, about Tita, my grandmother making feasts out of next to nothing. As a wise person said at the conference this weekend, “deprivation breeds creativity.”

I signed up to participate in a hunger challenge September 11-17 and would invite you to join me. Did you know 1 in 5 children, adults and senior citizens in San Francisco and Marin struggle with hunger everyday? For seven days, Beck and I will be living off a food stamp budget of $4.72 a day per person. I consider this venture with a mite of trepidation. Will I be hungry in the evening? Will I be able to balance the meals with all the good knowledge gleaned about proteins and nutrients from vegetables and grains? I consider this challenge with knowing if I feel hunger pangs in my overindulged body that week they will be prayers of solidarity for my neighbor.

I want to believe there is a way my neighbor can live healthfully on little.

I’m going to post the week’s menu after it’s over and check back in with a report, but seriously give it a thought. There are far too many hungry people in the world and though I can only feed some, I want to learn what it is to love my neighbor as myself. And perhaps let that involve an organic apple.

French Quarter Doors

French Quarter Doors

French Quarter Doors

French Quarter Doors

French Quarter Doors

French Quarter Doors

Categories
Notes from the Kitchen

In search of earth – farm to table

sunchokes - Jerusalem artichokes

Growing up in an urban setting, and appreciating the earth may seem tricky.

On Saturday mornings growing up, I would sometimes wake to the whine of the blower or perhaps the wheeze of the lawnmower. Mama relished tending the garden. Every Spring, we could count on daffodils to pop their sunny heads out of the earth and on occasion we invested in tulip bulbs. The backyard would be flecked with crepe myrtles and then later on purple irises would accent the fringe of backyard. She planted monkey grass, and potted geraniums, a vine of English roses grew in close proximity to daisies. Mama’s green thumb sustained life in plants and infused our lives with color.

When I think of a place that symbolizes childhood, our backyard comes to mind. The love and care, the sweat and work that she has put into it over the years speaks  volumes to me about what it looks like to be a steward of something precious. And I’ve been thinking about the earth and my relationship to it, in practical terms.

Ours was not a camping family.

To this day, I have never been camping both from opportunity and from the sheer factor of visitation rights. If you are camping in the woods and it happens that a bear lives in those woods, it is perfectly acceptable that he might want to come welcome you with a hearty roar, he may even want to give a handshake with his large paws. And that’s the cost for visitation rights: bear hospitality can be brutal. The opposite and not to be overlooked reason is that there are men lurking in the woods with devious thoughts for your demise. You may not see them and that’s because they’re sneaky. They know how to hide in the thicket and when to advance soundlessly into your campsite.

Where silence at night in nature may bring about solace for some, it only conjures up an opportunity for my overactive imagination to kick into overdrive. Give me taxi cabs zooming down the street excitedly honking their horns, people ambling by on the sidewalk or the shrill tones of an ambulance. All of these distract and convince  me my instincts and lack of desire to subject myself to visitation rights and the lair of the devious are good. Give me civilization over wilderness. I might be amenable to try my hand at camping with a group of say 20 other campers because if I’m going down, I’m not going alone. So reconnecting with the earth by camping is not looking favorable anytime soon.

And then there’s the green thumb that I did not inherit.

Over the years, growing up surrounded by plants inside our house and with a stunning garden so close within reach, I thought it was easy to recreate. On I would go to the gardening store and select several plants to pot, filled with joy at plunging my fingers deep into the dank soil. I found it enjoyable to scrape the dirt from my fingernails as a sign of labor and of a similar love that Mama had exemplified. The plants would last a few days and perhaps weeks, but in the end the outcome was always the same: wilting, dried and curling, blackening leaves. I have had no dearth of subjects that have succumbed to my plant graveyard. Recently, we’ve added a small basil plant to our home and it has begun unfortunately showing the signs.

Considering my connection to the earth can be overwhelming.

For the past few years messages of greening and environmentalism have increased in volume and pitch. “Save the Earth.” “The greenhouse effect.” “Global warming.” And with these phrases come calls-to-action: recycle, compost, reduce your footprint. In California, it’s easier to engage in these behaviors, which we do so the focus I’m talking about now is elsewhere.

What I’m talking about is getting back to the earth.

I have a feeling that like me, many of us don’t have a connection to the earth. The part that interests me most is the implications of that to the kitchen. It makes me concerned for parts of the country that only get produce that’s perfect, after being shipped in from several states away. It makes me sad to think that not everyone has an opportunity to taste a tomato that is GMO (genetically modified organism)-free or easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables. And this is a conversation for a different day.

Living in San Francisco, we get blessed with a wealth of home-grown foods.

At the Farmer’s Market, we get to meet the people who tend the gardens and harvest the crops. From them, we learn to appreciate the earth again in a new way and remember how precious it is. From childhood, Mama would take me to the Farmer’s Market and as an adult, I make a point to explore it as often as I can. It’s fun to meet the people who have cared for and loved the earth and in its response, received the bounty of all the fruits and vegetables harvested within the Bay Area. It’s important to fill the plate with veggies that are naturally nutritious.

Recently, I meandered through my usual route at the Farmer’s Market and took a detour past a stand of heirloom tomatoes in their colorful array of reds, pinks, greens and yellows. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied an oversized basket of sunchokes. Inside, I started feeling giddy and made a beeline to the stand. I plunged my hand into the basket and began pulling out sunchokes, inspecting their curious ginger-like shapes with fascination. I don’t know about you, but I have eaten them in restaurants but never had an opportunity to cook with them. The farmer and I happily chatted through his quick primer: rinse but don’t peel and add a little cream of tartar while boiling to prevent them from going grey. Done. My canvas bag gobbled up the brown paper bag of sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes.

As it happened, the next stand over pulled me in with the enticement of peppers. A smaller basket held the largest Padron peppers I’d ever beheld. In talking with the farmer, she mentioned she’d grown shishitos before, another favorite of mine, but the Padron peppers develop deeper flavor as they remain on the plant. Her peppers included Crimzon Lee, poblanos, jalapenos and a fun find of fresh pepperoncini that I’m planning to pickle. But what tickled my fancy, what caught my eye were the Padrons. If you have occasion to pick some up or try them, I find they are perfect when just flash seared in a bit of olive oil with a sprinkle of sea salt. Words cannot do justice to this Russian roulette pepper. On I prowled looking for other finds at the market before the crowds became inhospitable.

I don’t live in the countryside. I’m not a camper. But I can connect to the earth through others. My hands can plunge deep into the bowels of the fruits of their labors and I’m deeply looking forward to continued investment in the local farmers of our community, who take care of the land firsthand and like Mama bringing in a vase of flowers freshly picked from the backyard, bring a part of their earth back home with me.

It’s a start, right?

Categories
Sharing our Strength Spirit

It takes a village & maybe a slice of pie

Change. Is this something you anticipate or something to be reviled? Some changes are easy. Other times, they resemble trying to turn the Titanic.

Years ago, I helped run and volunteered at a homeless drop-in center off of Haight Street. Every Friday night, my friend Mary and I would troll the upper Haight and hand out invitations to a motley crew of street kids from the hippies to the gutter punks. We would circle back after completing the walk to Stanyan and make our way back to lower Haight where we would cook that evening’s soup and assemble the dregs of yesterday’s pastries from our neighborhood Starbucks. Everyone had a job. And mine, unsurprisingly involved the kitchen. Some nights Mary and I would show up at the Living Room, and find an odd hodge podge assortment of food that did not appear to hold any semblance of a meal or sustenance. On those evenings, I would pray for guidance and sometimes I would cry like a mother who couldn’t feed her children. It’s a despicable feeling and thankfully only happened one or two times. Darren, another volunteer became quite resourceful with the peanut butter. When we had it on-hand, he would sneak it into soup as a source of protein, giving a tinge of creamy richness to the soup bubbling on the stove top. Over the years, there were different cooks in the different incarnations of the coffee house drop-in that was the Living Room.

Out in front-of-house, the coffee percolated in a large stainless steel receptacle while the hot water brewed. Any assortment of hot tea bags from a trip earlier in the week to the food bank made their way into a basket. Before the doors were unlocked, the kids would gather in the back patio, smoking, chatty and waiting for the doors to open. For a few hours, this place was transformed with burning incense and candles, with tapestries slung on the walls and all the couches oriented toward a large television for the weekly movie viewing. We worked and welcomed the kids in with the intention of an alternative to the street and perhaps the drugs that might be tempting them otherwise.

Bright shapes and configurations of Tetris descended down the large television screen while the first few to make it inside would quickly find seats near the controls to the game. I buzzed about the room, saying hellos, making sure the beverage and eats stations were stocked, giving hugs and high fives. After an hour, we’d start that night’s movie and the kids would settle into the couch, some ready for the cinematic escape, others for a warm and soft place to nap for the next few hours. And just like that, the movie would be over, we would thank them for coming before we flipped on the fluorescent lights and began cleaning up, swinging the couches back against the walls, sweeping any crumbs from the floor. At this time, at around 1 a.m., Mary and I drove down emptied streets of San Francisco making the long trek back to Marin. The 101 freeway wound like a great snake, darkened by night and only visible by the wan lights of my car and the moon illuminating the stretch of road before us.

During my three years as part of the Living Room drop-in, I worked under Rob’s leadership and then shared the helm with Mary before Eric began to lead it. We collected stories and made friends. This community of people, these friends of ours were an important part of our lives. During that time, I was in graduate school, and the Living Room was the thing that gave me purpose and moved my spirit.When confronting the travails of grad school, they paled in comparison to my friends who had chosen or had thrust upon them this other way of life.

Something we learned quickly was the importance of the group – the family – the community necessary to make it on the streets. Mary and I were a team and a sounding board to talk about the night’s events, to cry and pray at things beyond our reach when we saw our friends in battle with themselves or others.

One evening I met a kid named Chris. His eyes still shone with that sense of possibility. Apart from his eyes, his demeanor, the clothing with a light dusting of dirt and his way with the others all singled him out as a newbie. He seemed happy in his new lifestyle and friendly, if not a bit shy. I had pegged him as one of the rich kids looking to escape that lifestyle- it was not uncommon to find them loitering on Haight Street, in “rough” and “worn” looking clothing, as if auditioning for a part before reading the script and learning the character’s outcome.

I watched the weeks go by and saw Chris a handful of times until he stopped coming to the Living Room. Then one afternoon several months after I’d last seen him, I ran into him on Haight Street, a changed kid.

His long brown hair now gnarled and matted, those bright brown eyes now empty of their former sheen. He walked alone but talked loudly to an unseen companion. I said hello and he looked at me blankly even as I tried to remind him where we’d met. We parted one toward the park and the waiting drum circle, the other in a haze and fog that had engulfed him. I saw him one other time but kept my distance picking up further cues of dissociation. It saddened me, not knowing how far further down the rabbit hole he would have to fall and if he would ever find his way back.

My friends who lived outside, calling the trees and inlets of Golden Gate Park home- who lived under the Bay Bridge and forged a life outside of the rules of the indoor people- they taught me so much. Perhaps the most important lesson learned involved the necessity of community. Sure, there were the lone wolves among the street kids who happened upon the Living Room, my chess teacher and friend Johnson, among them, but he is a friend for another story.  They understood the importance of watching each others’ backs and possessions. When one kid got sent to jail for drug possession, his friends watched his dog, Socrates until he was released.

When my time to depart from the Living Room came nigh, I departed unexpectedly and as quickly as my first visit had convinced me to ingratiate myself into this community. My exit and the reasons for it resembled more of a Roman candle than a long steady burn. During that time, I also began to question if people can really change- myself included. This involved me interviewing friends of different ages, trying to gather as many perspectives as possible.

I needed to believe we can.

And that was the key- the “we.” We’re not so different, are we- the ones who dwell indoors? It’s so rote and expected, that phrase of Thomas Merton‘s, but it is true: “No man is an island.” We need each other. Together we are stronger.

A proverb in the book of Ecclesiastes says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

See, it takes a village. And sometimes or especially when change is involved, the role the village plays becomes paramount. Is it one of support? Is it one of static understandings?

I tried going back to the Living Room after Eric had taken over running it, after Mary had moved away, after I had moved into San Francisco from Marin. And while it felt good to see old faces, give hugs to old friends and support Eric’s leadership, it felt different. I had changed and so had it. The community playing the pivotal role in my life had shifted. This place which had shaped me and both softened my heart and hardened my understandings of life on the streets no longer fit.

When the change comes, we must not fight it, but instead recognize the secret is to learn from it- best done with a village that’s got your back. And sometimes that might involve a slice of pie…

(to be continued)

village pie spinach pie

Categories
Art Singing

The Ring of the Nibelung at San Francisco Opera- Part 2

Snacks.

I bet you’re not completely surprised that I’m starting here. This is an important topic when thinking about attending the opera. I must admit I was sad when my old go-to for opera intermission fare, Citizen Cake, moved to Fillmore Street many moons ago. Do not despair, but do think about snacks.

A few of note:

  • Arlequin (good to-go food from sandwiches, cookies, and prepared salads).
  • Peets (scones, cookies, packaged crackers)
  • SF Opera catering by Patina (nuts and fruit, cookies, etc…)
  • Blue Bottle (for that pre-opera cup of joe at the original location plus a treat for the road)
  • Whole Foods (this is a bit more of a pre-opera planned expedition, but very well worth it if cookies and such are not your bag.)

When tackling almost 10 hours of opera in two shows and four intermissions respectively, you want to be prepared. Side note: peppermints or cough drops are kind of a must for the opera. You never know when you might get a throat tickle or feel parched. They saved me during my “Siegfried” experience.

Now that we’ve gotten the nibbles out of the way, the show must go on…

SINGING- The Ring of the Nibelung at San Francisco Opera- Part 2

 

[Things that happen in the interim of the story, between Operas III and IV]

  • 18 years have gone by since the end of Die Walküre and Brünnhilde‘s punishment.
  • Sieglinde has died giving birth to the son sired by her brother Siegmund. The lad’s name and the focus of the third opera is “Siegfried.”
  • Mime, Alberich’s brother has reared and raised Siegfried and possesses the shards of the all-powerful sword (Notung!). His aim in all of this is for Siegfried to unwittingly steal the One Ring and the Tarnhelm from the dragon Fafner for him.

 

 

Siegfried opera art

III. Siegfried

Mime and Siegfried live near the dragon Fafner. There, Mime does his metalwork. Siegfried has grown into a strong and fearless man. All of the swords Mime has created for him have shattered. Siegfried insists that Mime reforge the shards of the sword his mother left for him (Notung!) but Mime can’t figure out how to forge it. Siegfried sets off in the forest and during his absence, along comes a Wanderer (Wotan) who puts Mime on the spot. They play a game of wits, where the Wanderer tells Mime to ask him three questions. Not taking his opponent seriously Mime does not make the most of his questions as the Wanderer tells him he should have asked how to reforge the sword- he knows that is Mime’s burning question. The Wanderer then tells Mime before taking his leave that only a fearless man can reforge the sword, which frightens Mime. When Siegfried returns, Mime sees that to save his life, he must teach Siegfried fear. But it doesn’t work and fearless Siegfried reforges Notung! for himself. The daft Siegfried follows Mime’s urging to go with him and find Fafner to learn true fear. All the while Mime has an ace up his sleeve with a poisoned drink intended for Siegfried after he steals the golden treasures from the dragon.

Mime isn’t the only one after the golden booty, as Alberich is stationed nearby looking for his opportunity. The problem is Fafner has used the Tarnhelm to transform himself into a form that is invincible. Wotan also happens by to both warn Alberich of Mime’s plans and incite Fafner. Shortly after Wotan leaves, Siegfried and Mime show up with the intention of instilling fear. Quite the opposite happens as Siegfried listens to the birds and creates a pipe to mimic their call. Fafner emerges and Siegfried kills him. As Fafner is dying, he warns Siegfried of Mime’s scheme and his blood allows Siegfried to understand the birds. Alberich and Mime go to blows over the golden bounty and then hide as Siegfried comes out with the Tarnhelm and the Ring. A bird warns Siegfried not to trust Mime. Mime approaches and tries to give Siegfried a drink, but Siegfried now understands what Mime is actually saying apart from his words. Siegfried does not drink the poisoned beverage and instead kills Mime.  The bird then encourages Siegfried to break through the wall of fire and rescue his intended wife, Brünnhilde. They set out in pursuit.

Wotan visits Erda, aware of the impending doom of the gods’ future. He visits in hopes that this doom awaiting them can be averted. Her advice to him is to seek counsel with their daughter Brünnhilde. Wotan then tells her of the fate of their daughter because of her disobedience. Erda is stunned and refuses to share more of her oracle insight with Wotan. He then tells her he will leave the world to Siegfried after the gods are no more. On the way to rescue Brünnhilde, Siegfried stumbles upon Wotan unknowingly. Wotan begins plying him with questions about his sword. Siegfried becomes irritated and tells the old man off. Wotan then tells him he severed the sword in his hands which Siegfried then takes to mean that the old man killed his father. Wotan tries to block Siegfried from going farther and uses his spear to bar the way. Siegfried shatters the mighty spear of Wotan. For a god purported to be the all-father, our last view of Wotan is him gathering the shards of his spear. Siegfried, the noblest of men, the fearless one breaks through the wall of fire and awakens Brünnhilde. She wakes up aware she is now a mortal and must submit to this man. She gives in willingly.

[Items of Note:]

  • “Siegfried” was first performed in New York City at the Metropolitan Opera on November 9, 1887.
  • The first performance of “Siegfried” in San Francisco occurred on November 6, 1935.

IV. Göetterdämmerung

This final installment in the Ring Cycle opens with Erda’s three daughters, the Norns, weaving together the rope of fate. They are able to see that Valhalla will fall at any moment and as they perceive this the rope begins to fray. They desperately try to pull it tight which only snaps the rope and they go down to be with Erda. Siegfried and Brünnhilde awake at dawn after a night of connubial bliss. She urges him to pursue adventure for both of them and leave her behind. He swears his love to her and as a sign that he will return he gives her the One Ring.  (Now, excuse me for inserting myself into this bit, but keep in mind the curse and the intent behind the ring. I think there is a bit of magic in this juxtaposition as you’ll see later.)

(New characters alert: hold tight with this next storyline…)

Gunther, the leader of the Gibichungs and his sister Gutrune scheme how to win the Ring. Hagen, Gunther’s half-brother and the son of Alberich suggests Gunther should marry Brünnhilde. They begin conspiring how to make that happen and Hagen paints the picture of Brünnhilde locked in a ring of fire and that only the noblest of men can rescue her. Their plan includes giving Siegfried a love potion so he will fall in love with Gutrune and forget his wife Brünnhilde. They conspire to trick Siegfried in winning Brünnhilde’s hand for Gunther in exchange for Gutrune’s. Siegfried’s horn signals his arrival. They offer him a drink and he toasts Brünnhilde, his love, even as he drinks the love potion that will make him forget her. After coming up from his sip, he locks eyes on Gutrune and the Gibichung plan is in motion.

Meanwhile, Waltraute, one of the Valkyries, visits her sister Brünnhilde imploring her to return the Ring to the Rhinemaiden and then warning what will happen if the Ring is not surrendered. Brünnhilde refuses and her sister leaves distraught. Siegfried arrives wearing the Tarnhelm and disguised as Gunther. He takes the ring from Brünnhilde and claims her as his bride.

While Hagen is asleep, Alberich visits him, inciting his son to acquire the ring from Siegfried. Dawn breaks and a triumphant Siegfried returns letting them know he has won Brünnhilde for Gunther. Thus ensues a meeting of the couples before they are to be married: Gunther and Brünnhilde, Siegfried and Gutrune. Brünnhilde sees her ring on Siegfried’s hand and begins a tirade (worthy of fanfare) as she begins to plead her case that she is already married to Siegfried and trickery is afoot. Under the spell of the love potion, Siegfried has no recollection of his vows and as such denounces Brünnhilde. She is grief-struck and angry, believing Siegfried has betrayed her. In her desire for revenge, she ends up revealing Siegfried’s area of weakness to Hagen. Little does she know about the ulterior motives and scheme in play by the very men she has just delivered her husband.

Siegfried ventures out among the ruined and dirty banks of the Rhine (quite a poetic juxtaposition from its original state in Das Rheingold). The Rhinemaiden plead with him to return the Ring but he pays them no heed and so they depart. The hunting party, led by Gunther and Hagen arrive. Siegfried proceeds to tell them about his upbringing by Mime, the slaying of Fafner and takes a drink from Hagen infused with an anti-potion that rouses him from his drugged state. As he comes to, he talks of rescuing and falling in love with Brünnhilde. He remembers his wife and vows just before he is stabbed in the back by Hagen, on the principal of avenging Brünnhilde and the Gibichungs. Siegfried dies. As the hunting party returns to the Gibichung hall, Gutrune nervously awaits. In comes the party and with them a woeful Gunther and Hagen who explain to Gutrune that a boar killed Siegfried. Gutrune doesn’t buy that story and instead accuses Gunther of killing him and then Hagen pipes up, accepting responsibility for the deed. Gunther and Hagen go to blows for ownership of the Ring and Gunther is struck down. Siegfried’s arm shoots up from his dead body, the Ring glittering. Hagen shrinks back in fear. Brünnhilde arrives beholding her dead husband for the first time and orders a proper funeral pyre for the noblest man who has lived. She returns the Ring to the Rhinemaiden, understanding at last what must be done- that through her death and through the gold going back to the Rhine, Alberich’s curse can be broken. She walks into the flames and the world lights up on fire. Hagen is pulled to his death into the Rhine by the Rhinemaiden as the banks of the Rhine overflow.

 

FINI. C’EST TOUT. THE END.

 

______________________________________________

 

[Final Notes]:

You’ve stuck it out.

And the interesting thing about a Cycle is that at the end it can start up again. The dress rehearsal schedule allowed us to see Operas 3 and 4 before seeing 1 and 2 respectively. It enabled me to see the workings of a Cycle in opera at play.

I have to give a thank you to the wonderful San Francisco Opera for their helpful translations of the libretto. They helped me fill in the gaps of memory and make sure to stay on track with including the right and important details. I continue to be smitten with Nina Stemme as Brünnhilde all the way to the end. Her character really feels like it might be the one opera heroine with the depth, independent spirit and verve I admire most in opera. To sing the role, I am told by opera singer friends, it takes a very particular kind of singer. The soprano must be a dramatic soprano with the ability to carry depth into that high range. My dear friend Olga actually ended up having a bit of an identity crisis when her voice teacher told her that she wasn’t really a Mezzo-Soprano at all- that if she kept at it, she had the makings of a dramatic soprano, perfect for Wagner. I have seen this in action as her rich and full voice grows and heightens over time. The voice is a marvelous thing. Hagen for me held my attention. Andrea Silvestrelli played such a good villain in Hagen with such a beautifully deep voice. I could talk about so many of the singers in these operas- the cast truly was stellar. Just as I found myself smitten with the ballsiness of Brünnhilde, Siegfried got no love from me. I found him daft and completely devoid of common sense or wisdom, then again he was fathered by a brother and sister duo…

In “The Ring of the Nibelung”, Wagner has written a compelling drama to span the ages. I do not get into his politics but simply take the story at face value and find it an enchanting if weird ride at times. It is one that creates a lasting memory, worthy of any bucket list.

If you have had a chance to see the Ring Cycle of Wagner- the “Ring of the Nibelung,” please share your experience with this epic from favorite moments to characters.

Categories
Art Singing

The Ring of the Nibelung at San Francisco Opera- Part 1

SINGING- The Ring of the Nibelung at San Francisco Opera

Opera.

Before you roll your eyes or yawn, I want to ask you a few questions. Does a good drama make you cling to the edge of your seat in anticipation of what’s going to happen next? How about love stories- do you find yourself getting caught up emotionally in the outcome of what happens when two characters lock eyes for the first time? Not your thing? How about a good sword fight- there aren’t enough sword fights with the actual clash and clang of metal ricocheting on metal…

The opera is so much more than meets perception.

Let’s take another pass at this, shall we? Were you in line for the midnight showing of all three “Lord of the Rings” movies? Can you quote whole sections of the movie? Are you the rightful owner of the sword Arwen wielded holding back the Nazgul? Did you get married in a church that rather resembles the great Hall of Rohan?

Answers for this last section: a.) Yes- all three, but not in costume. There are limits. b.) It sounds like a noble endeavor. c.) A certain man we will call Beck does possess such a prize. d.) Yes, yes, a hundred times yes, though Theoden did not officiate.

the ring limited edition poster san francisco opera

For all you Lord of the Rings fans out there, let me present to you the original story of The One Ring. It comes from an opera by a German composer, Richard Wagner, entitled “The Ring of the Nibelung.” Several things of note here: Wagner is known for his use of leitmotif, which Merriam-Webster online defines as “an associated melodic phrase or figure that accompanies the reappearance of an idea, person, or situation especially in a Wagnerian music drama.” The Ring Cycle” as it is known consists of four operas, which rarely get played back to back by a single opera house.

If you act quickly and happen to live in the San Francisco Bay Area  you can see the entire Ring Cycle at the San Francisco opera for a limited time.

san francisco opera

Before I get ahead of myself,  I got initiated into opera at a young age.

My dad lay on the couch and I toddled into the room as he watched Placido Domingo in the role of Alfredo singing of drinking and living the good life boisterously as he locked eyes on new lady love Violetta. “La Traviata” holds a special place for me still today as my first opera with me lying beside my father crying at the end and wondering if the music had inspired the tears or the plot line. You can imagine how incredibly memorable it was then when friends, Katy, Alan, Raina and JoVincent sang several arias at our wedding reception. I smiled looking on and thinking how much my dad would have loved it.

Do you have a bucket list? During one conversation my Dad told me in that very Dad tone he took on when he stepped into the role of sensei-Dad, “I would like to go see the entire Ring Cycle before I die. Annelies, it’s loong, but if you can do it once, it’s worth it.” He never got to fulfill that desire and surprisingly the San Francisco opera opened its doors to lucky little me.

san francisco opera

I must admit that the San Francisco opera house is stunning inside. I snapped a few pics to bestow some of that glittery gloriousness to you. Dear Alastaire, one of my favorite tenors and a good friend, bestowed the honor and gift to me of attending the final dress rehearsals to “The Ring of the Nibelung.” For two weeks, my life revolved around the War Memorial house and I must say it was an exquisite escape from the everyday… I even took a half day vacation from work to see the rather lengthy “Göetterdämmerung”.

san francisco opera

That’s about 17 hours of opera. My dad wasn’t kidding, but here’s the thing- the storyline is fascinating, if not weird in certain parts that an hour breezes by without batting an eye.

Can I applaud publicly the San Francisco opera for running all four at the same time? *Applause* As someone transfixed when in a good tale, you really do miss something to see them years apart. Instead, if you’re able to see the four around the same time period, then it allows for a greater immersion into the story. (This reminds me of my renewed desire to watch all LOTR movies in a row sometime soon. If that appeals to you too, leave a comment. Maybe we’ll make it a party.) I’m going to try to succinctly summarize each of the story lines of the four operas today and tomorrow. So let’s get started…

I. Das Rheingold
II. Die Walküre
III. Siegfried
IV. Göetterdämmerung

 

Das Rheingold cover art

I. Das Rheingold

The Rhine maiden sing about the gold glittering at the bottom of the river. Suddenly a man appears entranced with them. As they are teasing him, one of them spills the secret of the gold in their river: if it is gathered and forged into a ring, the owner of that ring will rule the world. The thing is, they sing, you have to renounce love. This man turns out to be Alberich, lord of the underworld. He steals the gold and takes off much to the devastation of the Rhine maiden you hear bemoaning their lost gold later.

Wotan, the all-father (like Zeus) and his wife Fricka await word on the construction of Valhalla. Giants, Fafner and Fasolt, who are brothers, come bringing good news of the completion of Valhalla. With the good news comes the bad as they require the payment agreed upon by Wotan and the giants: Fricka’s sister Freia. Wotan never intended to pay by giving Freia to the giants and he begins looking for an alternative, waiting for the arrival of Loge, lord of fire. Loge tells them of Alberich’s deed and how he has forged the ring of power. Wotan and Loge contrive a plan to steal the ring on behalf of the giants and in exchange for Freia.

All goes as planned after Wotan and Loge visit the underworld. They watch Alberich boast of the magical properties of the Tarnhelm, crafted of river gold by Alberich’s brother Mime. When someone puts the Tarnhelm on, they can shapeshift or disappear. Loge tricks Alberich into turning himself into a toad and they whisk him and the treasures away. As they steal the ring and Tarnhelm from Alberich, he curses the ring and proclaims anyone who owns it will die.

Remember the ring has tricks of its own and a power no man can resist. Wotan struggles with giving the ring to the giants and receives heavy words from Erda, the lord of the earth. (Her voice was like hot buttered rolls. Silky, rich and smooth!) Wotan relents and watches as Fafner and Fasolt fight over who gets to wear the ring. Fafner kills his brother Fasolt and all are privvy to see the power of the ring. Fafner leaves with the newfound golden booty, the Tarnhelm and the ring. The gods set off for Valhalla.

[Things that happen in the interim of the story, between Operas I and II]

  • Fafner has turned himself into a dragon and is guarding his golden stash.
  • Wotan fathers his warrior daughter Brünnhilde and the eight other Valkyries, daughters of Erda
  • Wotan goes to earth and sires the mortal twins Siegmund and Sieglinde.

 

die walkure cover art

 

II. Die Walküre

A fugitive seeks refuge in Sieglinde’s house. She invites him in and feels herself drawn to this stranger, but lets him know he can stay only until her husband Hunding returns from a hunting expedition. Of course this doesn’t go over well with Hunding who hears this man’s story of woe and realizes the man he’s been searching for is now in his house. He offers a night of shelter to the fugitive and challenges him to a duel in the morning. The fugitive is unarmed but remembers something his father once told him- that there will be a sword in his hour of greatest need (Notung! I love the leitmotif used to sing about the sword!). In the middle of the night, Sieglinde has drugged Hunding and comes down and frees the fugitive. She tells him of her unhappiness and of the sword thrust into the ash tree in the middle of their house. An old man put it there saying only a man of noblest honor can pull it out. Sieglinde tells him Hunding and all of his cronies have tried and failed. She watches as he pulls the sword out, having a moment of clarity and recognizing her long lost twin brother Siegmund in this fugitive. They flee. (This is where it gets weird people. I’m not going to lie.) Siegmund and Sieglinde pledge themselves in love to each other as brother and sister AND in the husband and wife sort of way.

Meanwhile Wotan is happily ensconced in Valhalla, charging his warrior daughter Brünnhilde to take care of his mortal son Siegmund. (You are also introduced to the leitmotif for Brünnhilde which is an easily recognized bit of opera music in non-opera settings.)  Their meeting is cut short as Fricka enters upset and wheadles Wotan to strike down Siegmund by letting Hunding triumph. As the patron lord of marriage, Fricka requires it and is disgusted by the incestuous relationship that has destroyed the marriage. It’s also a barb at her philandering husband. Brünnhilde comes back in and her father tells her she must let Siegmund die in the duel. Ever in his mind, Wotan is constrained to take on the ring of power on his own. He has decreed he won’t and yet the ring remains in his thoughts. His Plan B of grooming Siegmund as a free mortal to seek out the ring is foiled.  Siegmund and Sieglinde are on the run from Hunding. As Sieglinde is resting, Brünnhilde appears to Siegmund in a dream and calls him to follow her to Valhalla. He refuses to go once she tells him that Sieglinde cannot accompany them. Brünnhilde finds herself moved by the twins’ devotion to each other and decides to go against the plan Wotan laid out. She decides to protect Siegmund and pledges to protect Sieglinde. We learn later that as the arm of Wotan she knew his conflict- wanting to protect his son, but being forced into an agreement with Fricka. Even as he clung to the agreement with Fricka, she tries to protect Siegmund. Hunding arrives and all hell breaks loose. Wotan shows up furious and shatters Siegmund’s all-powerful sword into pieces. Siegmund is struck and dies. Wotan has kept up his end of the bargain with Fricka and thus kills Hunding. Brünnhilde and Sieglinde escape with the shards of (Notung!) the sword. Wotan is seething with anger and looking for Brünnhilde.

Brünnhilde’s eight sisters, the Valkyrie head to Valhalla and learn of this rupture in their sister’s relationship with their Father as Brünnhilde shows up to Valhalla with Sieglinde. She tells them she is on the run from Wotan and asks them to help shelter her from his wrath. The Valkyrie are horrified and refuse. Brünnhilde tells them that Sieglinde is pregnant and they are roused to help her. Sieglinde beseeches them with a rousing plea and she escapes for the woods with the sword (Notung!) to dwell near the dragon Fafner, where Wotan is sure not to look. Wotan arrives looking for Brünnhilde intent on punishing her. He takes away her immortality and her role as a Valkyrie. He sentences her to a long sleep to be woken up by the first male that awakes her. (Lest you get all Snow White or Sleeping Beauty here, this is the worst thing she can imagine. As a warrior daughter, she is losing her independence to whoever rouses her. Desperately, she asks Wotan to let it be a man of honor and for an obstacle to be put in his way. This particular set of music is so poignant. The father and daughter talking through the difficulty of parting forever, of what went wrong. Wagner might as well hit me over the head with a two-by-four at this point.) Brünnhilde falls asleep on a rock and Wotan summons Loge to circle the rock with a ring of fire only the noblest of men can penetrate.

 

[Final notes:]

Nina Stemme who plays Brünnhilde could very well be the quintessential characterization of this role. Through her acting and vocalization, the audience is emotionally drawn into this heroine of heroines. Her lush and dramatic vocals both summon tears at times and smiles for her early bravado. Mark Delavan as Wotan carries the role well vocally and gives a commanding performance. I bring these two up because their synergy on stage is palpable. Together you sense the depth of their bond that is then inextricably severed.

At this point, you’d be 7 hours and 40 minutes in over two operas and several days. I say this because I feel like I skated over the storylines and left out the incredible subtleties worked into the operas.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2!

Categories
Journeys When in

When in San Francisco- AT&T Ballpark Food

When in San Francisco- AT&T Ballpark

The end of March brought a cheerfulness to our home. When I say cheerful, I’m talking birds chirping in place of alarm clock, whistling on the way to work- that kind of peppy veneer on the shroud of the everyday. The reason behind all of the mirth really lay on the simple fact that opening day of baseball season was upon us.

As a surprise gift to Beck, I got us tickets to a Dodgers game. There is some serious team spirit and competitive rivalry against L.A. and S.F. when it comes to baseball. I’m not talking about the kind that literally beats up opposing fans, although that happened this year on opening day- a blight to what should have been excitement across the country for all baseball fans. Beck’s love for baseball and particularly the Giants has been well documented here so for all of you visitors to San Francisco or dwellers in the city by the Bay who have not yet happened upon a game, I give you several reasons to go. Aside from the baseball, our ballpark serves up some tasty eats. Dinner and a show.

garlic fries san francisco giants

Garlic Fries at Gilroy Garlic

A highlight of any Giants baseball game includes an order of garlic fries. Minced garlic, presumably from Gilroy, is flecked with parsley and drizzled with olive oil before being scooped onto an order of fries that are tossed and served to you, the lucky patron. Oh dear. You will smell like garlic for days on end. Yes, your skin will be tinged with that garlic smell and you might want to think about covering your mouth when commenting to your seat-mate on Sandoval’s catch. Is it smelly- you bet. Is it the best bite at AT&T ballpark- my answer would be absolutely and that would be partly because it’s such a part of the San Francisco ballpark experience. Expect to share an order and a roll of mints.

cha cha bowl orlando's san francisco giants

orlandos at at&t ballpark san francisco

Cha Cha Bowl at Orlando’s

Let’s say you want something healthy and the idea of ballpark food leaves you with a lot to be desired. Meander past the bleachers sections 136-142 over to the scoreboard plaza and look for Orlando’s. The bright signs and festive blue hue visually let you know you’re in for a good time. Olga’s brother Wills swore by the Cha Cha Bowl when he regularly attended games. For nine bucks, you score a bowl filled with brown rice, black beans and chicken seasoned with jerk spices. With a dollop of mango zucchini salsa on top, you are set! Beck gave the Cha Cha Bowl a thumbs up for flavor and I give it one for its transportability- with its sturdy container, it can double as leftovers for an easy lunch the next day if you find yourself full.

Ghirardelli

On the off chance you are at the ballpark and the weather complies with the expectation of warm and baseball being a part of the same sentence, then head on up the side stairs to the Ghirardelli stand for a hot fudge sundae. Thick, gooey chocolate fudge sauces two scoops of vanilla ice cream before a swirl of whipped cream and maraschino cherry politely land on top. The sundae is big and also good for sharing.

Let’s say that the fog has begun curling over the edges of the bleachers and you can see the condensation charging the field from your seat. This might be a grand time to seek out one of the walking concessioneers hawking their wares. Amid the call of “churros”, “cotton candy”, “peanuts” and the like, look for the guy wearing a cylindrical backpack, cleverly marked “Ghirardelli” with a photo of hot cocoa and whipped cream. Ghirardelli is my pick for those evenings or days when the turtleneck, fleece blanket and SF Giants ski cap still leave you chilled. (Hot cocoa not your thing? Head over to the Coffee Cart on the Promenade level in section 127 or 212 or you can also find them on the View level in section 311 and 325.)

cheesesteak san francisco baseball game ballpark

cheesesteak menu san francisco baseball game

outta here cheesesteaks stall at&t ballpark

Philly Cheesesteaks at ‘Outta Here

Eating a Philly cheesesteak close to last year’s play-offs series must have been a mutinous meal. And yet for all of the hot rivalry between the Phillies and the Giants, the ballpark in San Francisco makes a mean Philly cheesesteak sandwich. Located in the scoreboard plaza, you’ll see a small hut advertising different types of cheesesteaks. You could go San Francisco for a chicken and grilled mushrooms riff on the classic. There’s a vegetarian option made of shredded zucchini, tomato, mushrooms and onions sautéed and served with cheese. And of course there’s the classic. Served on a soft white torpedo roll the juices of the meat and melted cheese sauce sop into the bread. We liked the options of sweet or spicy peppers. (Spicy for us, please). Our only complaint when sharing this hefty sandwich is it seemed rather bereft of meat. I could have easily enjoyed double the helping but the flavors altogether tasted in sync, just the amount of ingredients could have been beefed up. No pun intended.

So those are our top picks for eating inside the ballpark. Now if you’re feeling spendy, pay for club level seats and you get a whole different slew of eatery joints and please comment here on your favorites. Then again, if you want to start early, head to Public House or Mijita by Traci desJardins for drinks and nibbles or head over to Amici’s across the street for pizza.

We never quite make it to those places as those game tickets burn a hole in our hands and we want to catch as much of the action as possible-  the smell of the baseball green, the flash of sky to jumbotron, the crack of the bat on a smooth woven ball sailing into the stands… somewhere far away from our catcher’s mitt.

Didn’t see your favorite SF ballpark concession listed? Have another ballpark bite that has become part of the ritual and it’s not in the ballpark. Share ’em in the comments. And until later in the fall, “play ball!”

eats in the san francisco baseball park

tri tip at san francisco at&t ball park

dungeness crab sandwiches at&t san francisco ballpark

clam chowder san francisco at&t ballpark

Categories
Journeys Notes from the Road

Beside myself in a concrete jungle

And so it begins. A girl affectionate for cities and all their clash of overlap gets to work in the city. A love story begins to unfurl.

I knew I have a thing for cities. And I knew that San Francisco captured my attention in its unapologetic way years ago. But working in the city is so much different than just living in the city.

My body feels the earthquake tremors. My body scuttles along sidewalks at a furtive pace, knowing I have 20 minutes to get where I need to go without a second to lose. My body memorizes the divets on street corners, telling my feet when to cross.

Somehow, it seems as though bits and bobs of the New York I cherish are mine here, in San Francisco, hometown of my own making.

I can’t begin to underscore the exhiliration enough. The joy of waiting at the bus stop or better yet hanging onto the metal pole, body jammed next to other tuna bodies. And somehow I fall in love all over again. The world becomes new and the familiar shellacked with gleam.

Part of this newfound world is time not spent behind a wheel 30 minutes one-way and 30 the other. Instead, a book spine is cracked open in my hands. I have finished two books in one hectic week and find myself like a cup brimming over, find myself grateful and trying not to smile at each person I pass.