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Chowhound Tips Helped Make It a very Happy Birthday

Niki Rothman | Feb 1, 200607:19 PM

I'm very grateful to the chowhounds who gave me some great tips for my birthday celebrations last week.

My friend Mary took me to Yummy Yummy (Irving & 11th.)thanks to a chowhound tip. It turned out to be the best Vietnamese food I've ever had. We had the most delicious tender and airy rice pancake about a foot across, stuffed with moist roast pork and shrimp - you eat it with basil, leaf lettuce and a slightly sweet dipping sauce. I've had this dish before but at other restaurants it had always been dry. Yummy Yummy's tasted rich and buttery. Also enjoyed a claypot featuring humongous prawns - bright red in a slightly sweet roast garlic sauce. The pho was served in the biggest bowl I have ever seen that was (I assume) intended for the consumption of one person. You could have bathed an infant in this bowl. I am not exaggerating.

After Yummy Yummy we walked through Golden Gate Park to the Conservatory of Flowers. For the chowhounds for whom food is a spiritual experience, you have got to check out the orchid show. On the extreme right side of the building in the water plant area is a large orchid plant bearing many small whitish blossoms. Compared to all the surrealistically flamboyant orchids on display this plant was modest looking in the extreme. But this is the orchid that produces the vanilla bean. I brought my face to within a fraction of an inch of the blossom and was rewarded with an experience of vanilla that was exponentially more intense than any vanilla flavored food. My friend kind of had to pry me away from that orchid...don't miss it - the show will be there another month.

My second birthday treat was provided by my husband the next day. We took an old green bomber streecar to the Ferry Building, where on the strength of Gary Soup's tip we bought Acme Bread's cheddar cheese wheels and then boarded the ferry for a two hour cruise to Larkspur. It was heaven. An incredible bargain for $12. Excellent coffee on board (they also have pastries, fruit, juices, and local brand Schwartz hot dogs). But I only wanted my coffee and cheese wheel. Gary is right. That cheese wheel is an exceptionally savory pastry. The cheddar is very intense and the pastry has a muscular hunkiness that is reminiscent of a NYC bagel. This little cruise was so wonderful that I intend to go again soon. Next time we'll try out one of the restaurants at Larkspur Landing - right across the road from the ferry pier.

Back in SF, we headed to Tadich's for lunch. What a perfect restaurant! This place has the essence of San Francisco's unpretentious refinement and grace that reminds us why we live here. The cioppino ($21) was excellent. Served with garlic bread, it had a rich, complex tomato based broth with large, tender and sweet sea scallops and shrimp, and a buttery firm fleshed white fish. Crab is mentioned in the menu but we didn't see any. No big deal - the cioppino was so good you don't miss the crab at all. I took the menu so if anyone has any questions...

After we left Taddich I noticed the 150 California building has a sign saying they have a roof garden that is open to the public. For you poor chowhounds who have to work downtown this would make a great place to have your lunch - I bet there's a fine view.

There was still one more birthday treat awaiting me.
My friends Estelle and Sharon bought huge live dungeness crabs at the fish store on the south side of Clement near 10th. avenue. I don't know how much they paid for these frisky beauties, but they were worth every cent - tender and sweet. I asked Sharon to teach me to clean crabs and I have to tell you it's super easy. I guess that was the best birthday present I got - I'm now totally at ease with crab cleaning. And that crab was so very delicious. Dipped in garlic butter it was maybe the best thing I have ever put into my mouth.

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