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SF food nostalgia

chibi | May 19, 200305:48 AM

A few posts down, ed k asked:

"What do transplanted San Franciscans miss when they leave home?"

Living in Tokyo (where the eating is very very good, and I'm carrying the extra pounds prove it), there are lots of things that I miss about the Bay Area. Things I miss so badly it hurts.

It kills me that I'm going to miss the heirloom tomato season, that I can't go to the Ferry Farmer's Market every Saturday morning to pick out ripe beauties from the bewildering abundance, picking up and weighing each gleaming bomb of flavor in my hands. Every week I would promise myself to show restraint, and every week it turned into a shopping spree. I would return with my bags full of seven or eight different varieties in every shape, color and size. I only stopped when I feared that the sheer weight of all those tomatoes would crush the ones at the bottom, and that I would not be able to carry them all safely. It kills me that this summer, there will not be tomato salad for dinner several days a week, no platters piled high with glistening slabs of purple cherokees or pineapples, with green zebras balanced on top of the hefty slices, topped with a liberal handful of halved sungolds and a scattering of coarse salt for good measure. And there will be no running down the street to get a levain to soak up the precious tomato juices, mingled with spicy, green, local extra virgin olive oil.

While we're on the subject of the market, I am acutely aware that it must be cherry season, and that I am not eating myself sick on rainiers and bings. I have yet to lay eyes on a baby artichoke here. I used to buy pounds and pounds of them, delighting in picking out the ones the size of a chicken egg. Later, after spending hours trimming them, I would always mutter evilly and vow never ever again as I contemplated the needle-like stabs in my fingers, nails discolored from pulling off the towering mountain of leaves left on the table, all to get a puny number of skinny trimmed artichokes. Artichoke risotto, roasted baby artichokes, marinated baby artichokes eaten, I'd be back at the stand two weeks later.

I miss having to decide between my various familiar haunts for breakfast on the way to work - can I resist today the charms of a crisp buttery croissant from Tartine, the inviting slice of ham peeping out the sides? Or should it be a slab of brioche from Bay Breads, slathered with apricot jam? Or should I go say hi to the avuncular couple who run Art's Cafe on Irving & 9th, and get a sample the grill-master's genius to go, perhaps a piping-hot Art's breakfast sandwich, a melted cheese-topped fried egg, sandwiched between toasted buttered english muffin halves with your choice of meat (in my case, always three breakfast sausages sliced lengthwise, fried crisp and meticulously patted free of extraneous oil). Or should I dawdle, and stay to enjoy myself fully, maybe a perfect bacon avocado cheese omlette, accompanied by a neatly folded square of crunchy on the outside, tender inside hashbrowns?

And then there's the question of what to snack on after work after returning to the Mission. Tacos? tripitas? al pastor? carnitas? chorizo? Which place do I feel like today? Or should it be pupusas from Las Palmeras? plain cheese? revuelto? loroco? or get the damn fine fried chicken instead? Or should I get a milanesa torta from el Primo and be sated until the next day.

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