Collecting Flight in “The City”

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson in planning biking excursions with our children. Nope. Ever the optimist (I have Flight to blame for that…), I thought it would be a slightly different although certainly no less grand plan to bike the other direction down the nearby trail to make a Whole Foods run, and this time enlisted Keeper’s company for the trek. Cool mother-son time, right?

Our intent was to purchase some steak to grill for dinner, and a few other assorted items. Between my not bringing a bike lock, which meant Keeper had to stand guard duty while I shopped, and Keeper’s prescription sunglasses going on walk about (they fell out of his pocket, but we retraced our route and fortunately found them), I was surprised that I actually found what I was looking for (and then some) in the butcher’s case. Still smarting from having downed yesterday’s event and threatening to have a repeat performance today, I wasn’t sure that would be feasible.

Achieving only one below for the lock situation (I wasn’t going to own my copilot’s issues), I marginally passed the event and we brought home dinner fixings. After we devoured a delicious dinner, followed by some strong puzzle work, the combination of which made for a most welcome (i.e. relatively drama free) evening, I dove into planning tomorrow’s outing in “The City,” tapping into Flight’s parents’ savvy.


Flight was landing at SFO and, since we were going to collect him, we planned to spend the afternoon and into the evening exploring The City. Our first stop was the Embarcadero, specifically the Ferry Building, to grab lunch.

If you’ve not explored this collection of foodie establishments, you are definitely missing out. After slowly circling the building to assess all the options, we settled on the familiar comforts of grilled cheese (although ridiculously appointed) and burgers and enjoyed dining out on the patio where we had a great view of the USS Essex, a sizable amphibious assault ship that was docked at a nearby pier for San Francisco’s Fleet Week. More on that next post…

I had been most intrigued by the offerings available at Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream on our pre-dining tour. Although you can enjoy ice cream at any time of the day (it’s not just for breakfast any more), Flight and I try to model “lunch first” behavior, even if it is comprised of variations (albeit tasty) of bread and cheese, which woefully appears to be our kids’ go to choice. Although Humphry Slocombe wasn’t quite on par with Salt & Straw of Portland, I was duly impressed. Check out the flavor selection:


I think Flight picked the most wisely: “Secret Breakfast” touted bourbon and corn flake goodness (!!!). Not to be outdone in selection, I chose Persian Lime & Curry, which showcased the Oaktown Spice Shop’s not so secret ingredients.

Many moons ago, Flight and I agreed that whenever we dined out (okay, maybe not necessarily observed with today’s lunch), we would lean towards menu selections that we don’t typically or easily could prepare at home. Because I also prefer to make my own ice cream when we are living in a sticks and bricks house (unfortunately the key component of our ice cream maker wouldn’t fit in Davista’s freezer), I am always on the lookout for new and different flavor combinations.   I do enjoy curry and lime paired in savory dinners, but was not sure how those flavors would come together when presented in an ice cream medium. Let’s just say it was no candy cap mushroom ice cream for sure, but was above passable. That said, I’m pretty sure I won’t be concocting my own wherever we next settle. Secret Brekkie, however, totally rocked and I’m already planning my take on the recipe.

Happily sated, we made our way to Ghirardelli Square to appease Keeper’s (and my) dark chocolate fixation. As we stepped out of the Ferry Terminal Building, Flight reminded me of one of our previous visits where we’d thought to hire a bike taxi up to Ghirardelli Square. The cyclist took one look at the five of us, minus several years of growth, and said, “Nope. I can’t get you there.” While outwardly chuckling at the memory, I fervently hoped that our kids would be more enthusiastic about the trek, especially one that included riding cable cars – and with the potential reward of a dark chocolate carrot.

We (Keeper and Flight) spent most of our (their) time in Ghirardelli engineering the best method to stack single-serving sized chocolate squares in a souvenir tin so as to maximize the number you could take home. Whenever I go to their Flagship Store, I am always curious to see what seasonal samples Ghirardelli will be handing out. Today’s taste was Pumpkin Caramel Spice, about which WoodSprite uttered this high praise, “Hey Momma, it’s SO GOOD! This is my favorite chocolate ever. Can we please, please, PLEASE get some of these?” It warmed my heart when Keeper then systematically asked everyone in the family which chocolates they preferred so he could be sure to include those in the tin’s inventory, and included several Pumpkin Caramel Spice for his youngest sister.


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Before we departed the chocolate mecca, Firebolt was interested in watching how the chocolate was made and sidled up to the case where some variety of fruits and nuts bathed in chocolate was being poured. In reward for her curiosity and asking good questions about the process (chemistry class complete), Firebolt received a sizable sample, which she then shared with the rest of the family. I was just about sweet treated out and was eager to get away from the sugar factory and walk a little more.



As we ambled down Jefferson Street towards Fisherman’s Wharf, we passed a door labeled with the National Park Service emblem. “What’s this?” I wondered in a Jack Skellington sort of way and was similarly sucked into the retail space associated with the San Francisco Maritime Heritage Museum. I purchased one of the NPS stickers for my passport (yes, that’s actually a thing I first learned about in Yellowstone) and asked some questions about the museum across the street, namely whether or not there was a Junior Ranger Program for the girls to complete.

Before we stepped across the street, a lovely woman was at the register checking out. Apparently there was a deal where if you spent a certain amount of money, you were given a free gift, either an orca kite or a double-sided astronaut puzzle, options that are almost as hard to choose between as tarantulas and ponies. Because this woman had no children at home to spoil, she asked if our girls would like to be the recipients of said free gift. “Yes, please!” they replied in unison. When asked whether they would prefer the kite or the puzzle, Firebolt replied, “Puzzle” at the same time WoodSprite said, “Kite.”

Hoo boy. How’s this going to go down, I wondered…

The girls amazed me by talking it through and opted for the kite, which WoodSprite happily received and hugged closely to her chest, sporting a delighted grin. The woman behind the register said hopefully, “We can do two kites, if you’d like.” Obviously a little disappointed but working hard to be mature about this turn of events, Firebolt frankly said, “Well, I’d prefer the puzzle,” and, although I appreciated her honesty, I pulled her aside for a short discussion about being gracious and grateful for unexpected gifts. Just as we wrapped up our teaching moment, the cashier handed Firebolt an astronaut puzzle. “We can do two free gifts, just make sure you go across to the museum to check it out.”

Whoa! Although they didn’t really need any extra incentive as they were both eager to add another Junior Ranger Badge to their growing cache, we made a bee line for the museum which was approaching closing time. Understanding the time pressure, the girls moved briskly through the building, intent on achieving their mission. As we made our way from room to room, I was thrilled to learn how The City had grown (I’m a bit of a history nerd that way) from a haphazard collection of sea shanties to a “solid city of brick and stone” (Richard Henry Dana said just so in 1859).

Amazingly, most of the city’s acreage grew as a result of so many landfill operations, most notably turning Yerba Buena Cove, the original port and staging point for the Gold Rush, into the current downtown district. Periodically when renovation or other construction work has necessitated additional digging in this region, work crews have discovered random remnants of the cove’s previous life, including wholly preserved ship hulls, sleeping under San Francisco’s streets. Apparently it was easier to just fill in around any abandoned vessels than move them elsewhere.


Badges in hand after swearing in at the 11th hour, we embarked on one more cable car ride, this time to Chinatown.

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Early into our exploration of the area, Flight purchased a 3-yolk (Most Auspicious!) Moon Cake from one of the bakeries, to savor in honor of tomorrow’s Moon Festival.  As we walked along the streets and window shopped, occasionally going into some of the stores to explore, I was reminded of my brief day-long visit to Hong Kong many years ago where I saw a similar variety of shops packed even more cheek-to-jowl. Although Chinatown didn’t quite smell the same, which I attribute to finding fewer butchers’ shops per capita locally, the menus were eerily identical. And I couldn’t understand a single one, then or now.

Even with a modicum of exposure through Chinese Medicine pinyin, my grasp of Cantonese and Mandarin hardly even approaches basic understanding and the few words of English provided on the (see below) menus were meant (I think) to enlighten potential customers such as me. It did nothing of the sort. I’m not sure I know what Explosive Chili Peppers or Spicy Nummbing Kidney (not to be confused with Flaming Spicy Kidney, the next offering over) means exactly, but Firebolt’s expression captured my thoughts exactly.


Instead, we opted to go to Zachary’s for some more, wait for it, bread and cheese, this time of the Chicago Deep Dish Pizza variety. We all thoroughly enjoyed the dinner, if not the one off service, yet truthfully I was already salivating over tomorrow’s anticipated feast of justice awaiting us at Single Thread…




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