To San Francisco with Pop

Today is my dad’s 83rd birthday. To celebrate, I am re-posting one of my favorites about one special day spent together in San Francisco. I am so fortunate to have a close friend with a generous soul and a wonderful sense of humor, all wrapped up into one amazing father. I will always cherish walking hand-in-hand to Baskin-Robbins or to dim sum with my dad, playing with words along the way (Pious Lee), and the heart connection we have always had. Happy Birthday, MannyB! The world is a better place with you in it! 

Caleb and Sadie’s grandpa or “Zadie” as we call him (Zadie is Yiddish for grandfather) was born and raised in New York. I was born and raised in San Francisco.

When I was six, my dad took me on a special father-daughter trip to New York City to visit family and retrace the footsteps of his childhood. This was also the first opportunity he had to introduce me to my paternal grandfather, who was very firmly rooted in New York and had never come out to California for a visit.

I know that this may come as no surprise, given that Anya is writing this, but we also went on an eating tour of the city. My fondest memories of this trip were spending extra time with my pop, who I have always been very close to, and of eating everything he introduced me to. We still have a photo of me at six on this trip. In one hand I am holding a slice of pizza, in the other a Nathan’s hotdog, and I am simultaneously sipping on a soft drink (there was likely a knish hiding behind my back). My dad and I recall this photo often, as it truly captured my excitement early on for all things ‘food’. Little has changed.

Perhaps, today was my chance to return the favor to my dad. I set aside this day to have a daughter-father excursion into San Francisco. I picked him up in the morning and we drove to Jack London Square where we parked and hopped on the ferry to The City. The ferry ride was beautiful and I truly enjoyed sitting next to my pop outside on the top deck. We talked about past and present as the fog breezed past us. Our boat passed the Oakland docks, then under the Bay Bridge on its way into our fair city.

From the boat, we walked over to the San Francisco Ferry Building just before lunch time. I was excited to share some of my favorite food things with my dad. I grabbed his arm and pulled him over to a salumi stall called Boccalone and ordered my favorite; a Muffuletta sandwich made hot to order, which we shared. I was pleased to see just how much my pop was enjoying it. Good taste runs in the family!

We brought more food outside to a bench in the sun. We heckled seagulls and laughed, while we watched the ferry boats coming and going.

Before long, we were on the ferry heading back to Oakland (much sunnier on this leg of our journey). I drove my dad home and we gave each other a hug and a kiss goodbye. Our sweet day had come to an end.

I will keep this memory close forever. Some time carved out of my busy full-time working, mother-of-two life, just to be with my dad. This was a rare opportunity to share my city and my food with him, as he had with me so many years ago.

Mission Possible

Our family awoke on Saturday with no particular plans for the day. Long overdue for a food adventure, we hopped on BART and headed for San Francisco’s Mission District. Mateo and the kiddos had never been to Tartine Bakery on 18th and Guerrero, and none of us had been to Bi-Rite Creamery. We had our Mission.

We arrived at Tartine and joined the long line of loyal worshipers, making conversation as the line drew closer to the long counter of countless baked delights. It was a simple decision…one double pain au chocolat, a bowl of bread pudding topped with summer fruit, and an artful latte to ooh and ahhhh over. We wanted to sample everything, but needed to save room for our next food destination. We were on a crawl. Well-sated, it was time to work up round two of our appetites. Off to the playground at Dolores Park, just three blocks away.

We walked past the San Francisco Mime Troupe (a permanent fixture at Dolores Park), up the hill past the taco truck and crowds of sun worshipers, and arrived at our destination. Perched on the top of the hill, the newly updated playground has a million dollar view of the San Francisco skyline. This is truly one of the best playgrounds we have ever discovered. Mateo and I were challenged to pull the kiddos away from the countless play structures when it was time to leave.

We headed back down the street, first to the famous La Cumbre Taqueria for an authentic Mission District burrito, larger than a newborn baby. Unfortunately, the food was a letdown. It would seem that they are riding on a reputation that was earned long ago, as our food was “meh” at best. However, it was hard to feel too disappointed with all of the wonderful food offerings surrounding us. It was time to crawl on to Bi-Rite Creamery for some soft-serve.

On such a beautifully warm San Francisco day, there was nothing more right than a swirl of chocolate and strawberry piled high on a soft-serve cone. Mateo placed Caleb on his shoulders, I pushed Sadie in her stroller, and we headed back to the East Bay with happy bellies and wonderful memories of our food adventure in one of San Francisco’s oldest and most colorful neighborhoods.

No Dumpling Left Behind

On Sunday, our family needed to do something out of the ordinary. Our weekends have been feeling predictable and routine as of late, so we jumped in our car and headed over the bridge to San Francisco for an adventure.

Mateo and I both grew up going to Mountain Lake Park in the Richmond District and we thought it would be fun to bring Caleb and Sadie there. For the middle of winter, it was a beautiful, sunny day and it seemed like the perfect place to be.

Once we arrived at the park, our kids immediately took to the sprawling play structure. We then walked down to the little lake and shared our childhood memories of the park with Caleb and Sadie. It was really something special sharing a beloved spot from our childhood with them and watching them enjoy it as much as we had.

Goofing off and running around the playground earned us a good appetite, so we walked over to Clement Street. After first visiting Haig’s Delicacies (our favorite middle-eastern / specialty food shop), we stood in line at Good Luck Dim Sum and came away with a pink box packed with delicious dim sum. I enjoyed the standing in line part, to be honest. A bunch of dedicated dim sum devotees holding onto our little pink menus, all helping each other out with suggestions and helpful translations.

With dim sum in hand, the family trekked back to the park and found the perfect sunny spot on the grass for a mid-winter, Northern California picnic. The sun was out, the grass was dry, and we were surrounded by happy dogs, sunbathing twenty-something’s, and a few other families enjoying themselves as we were.

After pure enjoyment of our dim sum goodies (we’ll call it “No Dumpling Left Behind”), we opened up a package of fresh, marble halva that we purchased from Haig’s. My kids had never tried halva and loved it like I do. I took pleasure in their enjoyment of the rich, sweet, chocolate-infused sesame seed dessert.

Yes, I know, my family eats a lot of dim sum! I’m sure you’ve caught on by now. But, it’s so good and the kids love it. It’s an inexpensive and delicious lunch or dinner treat, and very accessible in the Bay Area. It was so easy to pick up a box of our favorite dumplings and take them to the park to enjoy with our kiddos. I would highly recommend partaking in a dim sum picnic some weekend soon! Keep a blanket packed in your trunk for such a wondrous occasion!

To San Francisco with Pop

Caleb and Sadie’s grandpa or “Zadie” as we call him (Zadie is Yiddish for grandfather) was born and raised in New York. I was born and raised in San Francisco.

When I was six, my dad took me on a special father-daughter trip to New York City to visit family and retrace the footsteps of his childhood. This was also the first opportunity he had to introduce me to my paternal grandfather, who was very firmly rooted in New York and had never come out to California for a visit.

I know that this may come as no surprise, given that Anya is writing this, but we also went on an eating tour of the city. My fondest memories of this trip were spending extra time with my pop, who I have always been very close to, and of eating everything he introduced me to. We still have a photo of me at six on this trip. In one hand I am holding a slice of pizza, in the other a Nathan’s hotdog, and I am simultaneously sipping on a soft drink (there was likely a knish hiding behind my back). My dad and I recall this photo often, as it truly captured my excitement early on for all things ‘food’. Little has changed.

Perhaps, today was my chance to return the favor to my dad. I set aside this day to have a daughter-father excursion into San Francisco. I picked him up in the morning and we drove to Jack London Square where we parked and hopped on the ferry to The City. The ferry ride was beautiful and I truly enjoyed sitting next to my pop outside on the top deck. We talked about past and present as the fog breezed past us. Our boat passed the Oakland docks, then under the Bay Bridge on its way into our fair city.

From the boat, we walked over to the San Francisco Ferry Building just before lunch time. I was excited to share some of my favorite food things with my dad. I grabbed his arm and pulled him over to a salumi stall called Boccalone and ordered my favorite; a Muffuletta sandwich made hot to order, which we shared. I was pleased to see just how much my pop was enjoying it. Good taste runs in the family!

We brought more food outside to a bench in the sun. We heckled seagulls and laughed, while we watched the ferry boats coming and going.

Before long, we were on the ferry heading back to Oakland (much sunnier on this leg of our journey). I drove my dad home and we gave each other a hug and a kiss goodbye. Our sweet day had come to an end.

I will keep this memory close forever. Some time carved out of my busy full-time working, mother-of-two life, just to be with my dad. This was a rare opportunity to share my city and my food with him, as he had with me so many years ago.

A Dim Sum Celebration

Last Friday, my Caleb graduated from his Pre-K program in Berkeley. Not to sound too much like a proud Jewish mother, but I’ve been waiting for this day for five years and was teary-eyed when it arrived. It feels like just yesterday when we enrolled our 5-month-old in their infant program. In the blink of an eye, he has transformed into an intelligent, creative, kooky and curious five-year-old, well-prepared to take on kindergarten.

In the early evening, following the sweet graduation ceremony, we took Caleb out to the restaurant of his choice. Not surprising at all, he chose dim sum at our local favorite, King Tsin on Solano Avenue in Berkeley – a very family friendly restaurant that excels at dim sum. We spontaneously invited another Pre-K family to join us…a lovely family from France who will be returning soon.

Caleb and his friend, Prosper were excited to sit next to each other at the round banquet table. Prosper’s parents were caring for his little brother, Gaston on one end and Mateo and I were feeding Sadie on the other. The centerpiece of our table was a Lazy Susan (this one was not so lazy and a dependable workhorse) topped with steaming plates and bamboo containers of freshly cooked dim sum. Yum!

Prosper and his family are pretty new to dim sum, so it was fun exposing them to some of our favorite choices. We kicked off our meal with a dazzling bowl of sizzling-rice soup, which I mainly ordered for the boys because it’s fun to listen to the sizzle when the waitress pours the fried rice into the large bowl at the table. Prosper called the soup “magic” because he liked the sound and enjoyed eating the large shrimp bobbing around. We also ordered pan-fried pot stickers, steamed spinach dumplings, shrimp dumplings, Shanghai dumplings, green onion pancakes, sticky rice wrapped and steamed in lotus leafs, and Caleb’s favorite…steamed pork buns (char siu bao).

Pork buns were my favorite as a child and I have fond memories of my father walking with me hand-in-hand to the local dim sum counter in San Francisco’s Richmond District. I would step up on my tippy-toes and order a “char siu bao” over the steamy counter…so proud that I knew how to ask for them in Cantonese. Once received, I would carefully peel off the white paper from the bottom and proceed to gobble my bun down. I loved the sweet, stewy barbecue pork mixture inside, and what kid wouldn’t like that sweet dough? It warms my heart that Caleb is just as crazy about pork buns as I was when I was a kid. Such good taste my child has!

Leave it to a Jewish mother (“Eat, eat!”) to order too much food at our dim sum graduation banquet, but we all did a more than adequate job of polishing it off. After the dinner, both families hugged, congratulated our little graduates, and packed the kids into our respective cars to head home for bedtime.

I truly love exposing Caleb and Sadie, and others to the wonderful ethnic foods available to us in the Bay Area. I feel spoiled and very fortunate to have such an abundance of delicious things so readily accessible. It was this way when I was growing up in San Francisco and I think it’s even better now, since the diversity of the Bay Area has expanded. A good life, indeed. Congratulations, my Caleb!