When my parents and I plan a vacation our options always narrow down to either eating and touring a city, eating and relaxing on the beach, or else hiking in a national park with the hope of eating something that is not deep fried for dinner. So when we decided to travel to Yosemite National Park and then to San Francisco this past summer, I expected the second part of the trip to be focused on food and the first on waterfalls.
While hiking in Yosemite, we stayed at the Evergreen Lodge, a glorified campsite for those who want the appearance of camping while enjoying the amenities of a private shower and daily towel service. Despite these luxuries, the cabins were minimally furnished and had no television or WiFi. The Main Lodge at the Evergreen was the only place to eat within an hour's drive from our cabin. Naturally, I was shocked when I opened my menu that first night to find the option of a spinach salad with Humboldt Fog goat cheese. The salad was perfectly crisp, with the creaminess of the Humboldt Fog complementing the bitterness of the fresh spinach. It was an excellent finish to a long day of driving. After hiking the next day, my parents and I only made it as far as the tavern, a great space dating from 1921 with old, uneven wooden beams and a shiny wood bar. The bartenders were friendly and more than happy to walk us through the large selection of microbrewed, west coast beers that were offered. Even better, we were able to gorge ourselves off the main dining room menu while sitting in the bar. Our favorite meals from the trip included the Wild Boar Baby Back Ribs that came with melt-in-your-mouth good baked beans, the Grilled Black Angus Burger, and the Italian Panini which was crisp and completely satisfying after an eight hour hike through the Valley. However, what my Mom and I most enjoyed from the Evergreen Lodge was their Bloody Mary. The addition of green olives and olive juice to the classic drink, along with the black pepper and California V8 juice, resulted in a delicious cocktail that didn’t hit us until we found ourselves stumbling back to our cabin for another night’s rest.
Unlike our journey to Yosemite, our visit to San Francisco was organized around food. Highlights of the trip include the raw bar at Anzu, the green papaya salad at Le Colonial, and the noodles at the Slanted Door. However, despite the stop at the factory store for Tcho chocolate and the Scharfenberger stand in the Ferry Building, our most memorable eating experience was the dim sum we had at, what I believe was called, the Happy Garden. My Dad had randomly picked this place while driving because it looked “authentic.” After walking through the front door and hearing and seeing only Chinese dialect on the walls, I could only agree. We were quickly hustled to a table by the manager and handed the English translation of the menu as well as a carbon menu to write our choices on. Having never had dim sum before, we had no idea what we were doing and just put down a bunch of numbers next to dishes that sounded promising. When the manager came back he burst out laughing, told us we had ordered enough food for the whole restaurant and then said he would go and find us some forks from the back room. Eventually we got our order straightened out and were able to taste and enjoy the very authentic dim sum that we had ordered at random. And my father’s favorite part of the whole experience? A delicious San Franciscan meal that was more than enough for three people came to a whopping $25.