inside the city

Piles of hand written recipes, magazines, and to do lists cover my desk in a threatening, “we will take over and swallow your computer whole, and you too if you don’t deal with us soon,” sort of way. In the pile is David Lynch’s 2006 film, Inland Empire. I decide to watch it at 9 pm on Sunday night.

As a fan of Lynch’s films, I should know better than to watch one right before going to bed. They are beautiful haunting mysteries that enter my dreams and stay with me for days and weeks at at time.
Inland Empire, or the first half I saw before falling asleep, unfolds like a narrative painting dissolving in fragments of time. Make that multiple narrative paintings.
This film is shot with a low-tech digital video camera and hand-held, the limitations of the camera itself adds to the surreal dreamy quality of the storyline.
I cannot get this early scene out of my head. It reads like a short art film. A mother, father, and son wear rabbits heads and speak in strange lines. The scene views at angle looking down, so the characters are distant and shadowy, it almost feels like looking inside an aquarium.
It’s no wonder stoic animals speak in non sequiturs with blurry faces have shown up in my dreams.
Three days later, the film is still partially seen. The paper stacks grow taller by the day. I have so much more to tell you. Paper and film must wait.
I’m back from San Francisco with photographs and stories.

We leave for California early Friday morning and return late Tuesday night. Our first night, we eat at Korean food at Mom’s Tofu House on Grand Avenue in south San Francisco for dinner. I order BiBimBop and give my son, L, a few pieces of tofu which he throws on the ground along with his first bites of organic jarred baby food. Do you want oatmeal, I ask. The server brings a cup of hot water. I stir it into the instant oats and within seconds of it cooling, he flings it in the air.

Flying food is not on the agenda.

As it turns out, neither is breakfast at Tartine Bakery & Cafe, or dinner at Zuni Cafe and Chez Panisse. Such is life with a toddler, plans change.
The BlogHer Food conference is all-day on Saturday. Sam of Becks and Posh leads an early morning hike around the city. Alice of Alice Q Foodie, Leena of Leena Eats, and Alanna of Kitchen Parade and A Veggie Venture. Visit their blogs, they are smart, funny, and talented.
Madison Street
So much information is given during the three sessions that during my breaks it’s a relief to meet up with my mister, D and L and think only about where to eat for lunch. The Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market is a must-see. After tasting my first sweet pink pluot, we find Tacolicious, a Mexican food stand and eat our best meal in San Francisco: hand made corn chips smothered in a bath of hot sauce, scrambled eggs, spicy refried pinto beans, a ginger peach tea, and a melon agua fresca.
On Sunday morning, we drive to the Mission district in search of the famed Tartine bakery. There is a long line of people draped around the entrance like a colorful woven tapestry in lieu of an official sign. It does not look promising, long lines, a teething child, and a three hour time change means an impending toddler break down. We circle the block for thirty minutes and still no parking spaces open up. Forget this. We head to Berkeley just to ‘see’ Chez Panisse, since I know both their restaurant and cafe are closed on Sunday.
Since this is my first trip to Berkeley we decide to tour the town by foot. We park several miles away from UC Berkeley’s campus and stop by a cafe for chai tea and directions to the Shattuck Avenue locale.
The sun is unforgiving, we find our way up Telegraph Hill, poached from the heat. After multiple blisters from walking in the wrong shoes, we finally arrive at Chez Panisse and I am ready for a new pair of shoes and a table inside. I feel as if I have found my way to the fresh organic food mecca, which is a kicker because it’s closed.
Chez Panisse Entrance
A woman stands nearby and tells her two companions that Alice Waters lives only a ten minute walk away and that she knows someone who knows Alice who can secure them a table for dinner Monday night. Sweet. Wish it could be ours.
They leave. We linger over the menu.
Chez Panisse Menu
We leave hungry and tired, but it hardly matters. We have found mecca and next time we will arrive by car and with a reservation.


  1. Amanda says

    Are you an Eraserhead fan? I'll always watch if it's on.

    Ah, sorry you couldn't eat at the spots you wanted to (although my feeling is that Tartine is a bit over rated)

    Definitely hit Chez Panisse next time, it's fantastic. Another favorite of mine is Foreign Cinema in the Mission – never had a bad meal there…

  2. nikki says

    Amanda – Yes, Eraserhead is a classic Lynch fave. I've also heard that Tartine is somewhat overrated. But, oh, Chez Panisse, I was so close…thanks for recommending Foreign Cinema, food + film = a fabulous time. I will add it to the list for our next trip!

  3. caroline says

    next time, i recommend skipping chez panisse (again) and hitting Rivoli further down on Solano ave. better value, delicious.

    tartine is excellent if you don't wait. if you wait, it kinda kills it. i think it's totally kid friendly, though. it's pretty chaotic in there.

    quince is great for a high end restaurant experience too.

    we've never exchanged comments before so I should explain I'm a SF food blogger and also a pretty well known critic on Yelp, though I work there now and can't write reviews, so my stuff is somewhat outdated. There's a link to my yelp profile from my blog.

  4. nikki says

    Caroline – Thanks for your comment! Your suggestions are on the restaurant tour. Now we just need to get back to the city! Off to visit your blog.

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