Monday, June 3, 2013

San Francisco, CA: Hot Mission, Cool Castro

Although it has almost been a year since my trip to California, I figure it is never too late to share my experiences. Please enjoy my little slice of San Francisco in this post, and stay tuned to the blog in the coming weeks as we travel together to Sausalito, Napa, Sonoma, Healdsburg, Calistoga, Big Sur, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles! I will also have a big announcement coming soon so don't be a stranger! For now, join me back in San Francisco as we take a trip to the Mission and the Castro. 

On a hot, sunny evening, I made my way to the famous Castro and Mission Districts of San Francisco. First of all, can I say, I love San Francisco!?! What an amazing city with a beautiful mix of green space, water, city life, food, and amazing people! I feel as though it would take me many years to truly discover every hidden gem in that city. I would move there in an instant. 

But I digress. This post is not just about my crush on San Francisco, it's about that hot, sunny day that I made my way to the Mission and the Castro. I began with the Castro, and immediately sought out the former headquarters of Harvey Milk.  If you're not familiar with Harvey Milk, a good way to get a quick education is by watching the Gus Van Sant film, Milk — a film I definitely recommend. (Spoilers ahead!) Harvey Milk was an unbelievably heroic activist who fought for gay rights and became California's first openly gay elected official. Tragically, Milk died when he was shot by an ideologically opposed colleague. He continues to be respected by many and was known affectionately as "The Mayor of Castro Street" as he was a driving force in the neighbourhood's revitalization.

When I made my way to 575 Castro Street, which was Castro Camera before it became Milk's campaign headquarters,  it was definitely a very cool feeling to be there, to stand where he stood, where he rallied others to band together to fight the injustices of his time. Unfortunately this fight still goes on today, but as more and more people begin to realize that it is a civil rights issue, I have hope that things will get better. The store that stands at 575 Castro Street today is not just a store. It is called The Human Rights Campaign Action Center and Store. HRC is a national organization that does advocacy work and political lobbying for LGBT equality rights. Although I fully support the work they are doing, I was a bit disappointed that my visit did not feel entirely 'historical' — instead, it felt very commercial and touristy. It was good to know that 100% of the proceeds of product sales go to support HRC's important work, but I couldn't help but feel like I was simply visiting a store rather than a historical landmark. 

After enjoying a little stroll around the Castro, soaking up the vibrant atmosphere, I made my way to the Mission District, to Gravel and Gold, a store co-owned and operated by a friend's sister. I perused this eclectic store and ended up buying a few special gifts for friends I would be visiting in my travels further down the golden state. Gravel and Gold sells gifts, home decor, fashion, books and other magnificent and often handmade items to enhance your life. The vibe reminded me a bit of my friends' store right here in Ottawa, A Curious Shop. Both stores feature artists and artisans local to the area, and both boast wonderful treats and handmade items!

As the sun started to set on Dolores Park, I decided it was time for me to get some dinner. Prior to my trip I had heard great things about Tartine Bakery, so I decided to visit their sister restaurant, Bar Tartine. Although it was quite warm on my bar stool directly adjacent to the kitchen (which is a combination of the result of solo dining and wearing jeans on a hot evening), Bar Tartine staff Ross and Courtney made me feel at home. I started with a refreshing cocktail and some unbelievably tasty fresh baked bread and artisan butter.

As my meal continued I dined on rich potatoes and herbs, and then a hearty fish stew paired with a glass of 2007 Demuth Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley. I made a concerted effort to drink local wines during this trip, particularly those that we do not seem to see here in Ontario, let alone Canada. Experiencing local culture when you travel really is where it's at, am I right? So, why not literally drink it in? 

Maybe it was the jeans, maybe it was the kitchen, but after savouring all of this delicious food, I felt it best to take my dessert to go and head back to my pad for the week in Cole Valley where it was cooler and more relaxing. I chose the candied beet and sunflower tart with bay leaf frozen yogurt and meringue. It was more of a savoury dessert but lighter than expected and definitely something to be remembered. 

Since I was in San Francisco for only 6 days, I split my time between different neighbourhoods and unique experiences, so by no means is this post a true representation of all that the Mission and the Castro have to offer, but it was one afternoon and evening in my trip that I thought I would share. I'll simply say that these are two very cool neighbourhoods that I recommend checking out if you're in SF! Thanks for joining me on my journey back in time to California, circa August 2012...stay tuned for more adventures and culinary treats!

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