Thursday, March 4, 2010

Crazy Go Nuts Whirlwind Worldwide Trip PART ONE: Stateside

And thus begins my long series of blog posts following my trip around the world.  I've decided to give my long trip an equally long moniker, which will henceforth be replaced by a very long acronym.  This trip wasn't filled with tourist activities, but it was still an excellent tour of some very different cultures, climates, and people-- some familiar and others completely foreign.  I'm certain this won't be my last CGNWWT (see?  Long acronym, eh?), but for my first one, I'd have to say I was glad to have kept my cool for most of it.

First stop was back home to the States for a girlfriend's wedding in, my favorite city, San Francisco.  Aside from having the honor of being a part of one of my best friend's weddings, I got a chance to reconnect with all the things that makes San Francisco the wonderful place that it is.  Having lived in Beijing for the past year and a half, it was surprising to me that I would come back to San Francisco and find it to be a comparably sleepy city and pleasantly uncrowded.  A lot of people have claimed that San Francisco is just another city, but I triple-dog dare you to find a city with as much "local color."  For example:

Here's a sign I found in an alleyway in the Mission District.  Just your friendly reminder to not defecate in someone's garden.  Not too much to ask, right?

Two of my best friends and I at a local restaurant/nightclub called Asia SF which is famous throughout the city for their "illusion artists."  And what, you might ask, are "illusion artists"?

Feast your eyes on the most beautiful man I've ever seen.  That's right, the one on the left is a man.  And homegirl can dance, lip-sync, and serve up food like no one's business- all in six-inch heels and with a smile.

Like I said... I triple-dog dare ya.

The greatest thing about San Francisco is how different each of its districts are.  It's hard to decide which is my favorite, but one of my favorites is definitely the Mission District which, sadly, is quickly becoming gentrified and losing much of its Latino culture.  However, another great merit of San Francisco is the effort the city puts forth in preserving and nurturing its history and distinct cultures.  Here are a few snapshots from an afternoon in near Balmy Alley in the Mission, which is covered in murals and lined with panaderias and various different mercados.


A few panaderias (Mexican bakeries) have started selling cupcakes, having followed the cupcake craze just a few minutes behind the rest of the world.  They weren't stellar, but we still had fun sampling them alongside more familiar pan dulces.  

This was a funny little moment of local color as well.  What was once a storefront became a vacant window with a mailbox where people asked "Ms. Sterioso" for their "fortunas" and advice.  Some questions were silly (ie. "Will I get lucky tonight at the bars?") and others were a bit more serious (ie. "When and how will this country redeem itself?").  Ms. Sterioso always had some clever, albeit tongue-in-cheek, advice to offer.  My friend and I spent a good fifteen minutes just reading the different cards.

Naturally, one of the best things about going home is EATING EVERYTHING.  I've already posted about how nuts I went over avocadoes when I went home, and the first thing I wanted to do once I set foot on U.S. soil was eat a bagel with cream cheese.  Here are a few things I consumed Stateside. 

Some friends and I ducked into this little taqueria called Taqueria Oaxaquena because of its proximity to the 16th and Mission BART Station and choice of vegetarian entrees.  Best coincidence ever.  Don't you love those serendipitous food moments when you stumble upon delicious eats just by chance?  I had the fish tacos.  Spicy and scrumptious.
 They also sold these GIANT tamales made in the Oaxacan style (wrapped in a banana leaf rather than corn husk) and were literally the size of your face.

 Molten Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream served at Asia SF.

Oddly enough, this was the first time I ate Shark Fin Soup.  It was at my friend's wedding banquet and I must say it was completely lackluster and mostly just tasted like a thickened broth with cartilage floating around in it.  It also didn't sit well in my conscience knowing the environmental implications of eating Shark Fin Soup.  At least I can say that I've done it.

 Of course, nothing can hold a candle to home-cooked goods.  What were we thinking as kids, always wanting to go out for dinner and passing up things made on home stovetops in favor of Olive Garden and Chili's?  Blasphemy.  This pie made by a friend of mine literally stopped a conversation.  Everything was made from scratch and it certainly showed.  Take THAT Marie Callendar!

Finally.  Behold, quite possibly the world's most perfect food.  This is my mom's Galbi Jjim (갈 비찜) which is basically Korea's answer to Pot Roast.  In my opinion, Galbi Jjim beats Pot Roast any day and my mom's Galbi Jjim brought tears to my eyes.  The meat falls off the bone and melts in your mouth and the marrow thickens up the sauce to make it creamy and delicious without being too heavy.  Pair it with the tangy, clean taste of Kim Chi and some purple rice, then be done with Pot Roast forever.

Ahh... home.  I was only there for three weeks, but what a sweet three weeks it was.  Next on the itinerary: Zhuhai, China!

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