San Francisco 2018 diary, day 3

Sunday 28 January, 2018. 12:52

We are sitting in Noe Bagel in Noe Valley, having a lunch break of bagels. We slept late this morning, having got to sleep fairly late, after 23:00 last night. I got a decent amount of sleep, but we were woke. around 02:00 by blaring sirens on the street outside that lasted several minutes. We got up after 09:00 and had breakfast and prepared to leave slowly, managing to get out close to 10:00.

First stop was Blue Bottle again for M.’s coffee. We sat in this time so I could type up some of yesterday’s diary. While we were there, we were sitting right in front of the counter where they made fancy “siphon coffee“. Some guy had ordered one and we watched while a guy spent what felt like about 15 minutes making it, involving multiple bits of glassware that looked like they belonged in a chemistry lab. First he boiled water in a spherical flask over a heat lamp. He used the steam rising from the water to clean and polish the inside of a glass funnel like thing. Once it was clean to his satisfaction, he inserted a filter, drawing it down until it sealed by pulling a chain through the narrow part of the funnel. Then he attached the funnel into the top of the boiling water flask with a rubber seal. When he did this, the funnel sucked the hot water up into it. Then he prepared a tray with a glass of iced water and two spoons in it, a shot glass of water, and another tall glass, plus a small white ceramic bowl. He grabbed some coffee beans and ground them in a machine, putting the result into a metal cup. Then he stirred the hot water in the funnel with an icy cold spoon and measured the temperature of the water by dipping a thermometer into it. After confirming the temperature, he poured the ground beans in. He let that sit for a while, timing it with a digital timer clock, and put some boiling water into the tall glass on the tray. When the timer went off, he removed the flask from the heat and stirred the mixture of hot water and ground beans so that it drained down into the flask again through the filter in a swirl, leaving a conical mound of dried bean grounds on top. He removed the funnel and tipped the beans into the ceramic cup on the tray, then poured out the hot water in the glass. He poured some of the coffee from the flask into the shot glass, then he took the cup of grounds and sniffed them, deeply several times, then he tasted the shot glass of coffee. Finally he poured the coffee from the flask into the heated tall glass, and took the tray out to the customer, complete with the glass of cold water and the cup of leftover ground beans. We were boggled at how long it took and how complicated it was. We figured if ten people came in and ordered this sort of coffee all at once, it’d take an hour for them to make them all.

After the coffee, we went down to Powell Street BART station to add some credit onto our Clipper cards. The machine refused my Visa card for some reason, so we used cash. Then we went back up to the street to catch an F bus to Castro. The bus took a while to arrive. I was hoping for one of the historic streetcars, but a bus arrived first so we got on that. It’s a fair distance to Castro so I’m glad we didn’t decide to walk all the way.

At Castro we started walking south down Castro Street towards Noe Valley, which was our first real goal for the day. One of the first shops we passed was a place selling cookies, called Hot Cookie, which looked very tempting. All the different types of cookies had suggestive names. We decided to try a Walnut Woody, which turned out to also have chocolate chips in it, which were all molten as the cookie was still warm. The guy weighed it to determine the price. We shared it as we walked down the street outside.

We crossed to the sunny side to look in a shop, but I had to step outside after starting to sneeze uncontrollably, possibly from the incense they were burning inside, as the sneezing stopped once I was outside. At the end of the shops we crossed back to the shady side for the hike up the steep hill. We needed to get to the other side of the hill to reach Noe Valley. From the top we had some views across various parts of the city, though houses blocked most directions. And as we descended into Noe Valley we noticed that Twin Peaks was just to the west, towering over the neighbourhood.

Noe Florist
Florist in Noe Valley

We reached 24th Street and the shopping area of Noe Valley, which has a different ambience from other neighbourhoods. It’s much quieter and relaxed and suburban, as opposed to fancy or bustling. Wandering along slowly, we stopped in a chocolate shop where the guy also made cyanotype printed tins. He chatted with us about the tins and the chocolates. The chocolate was from all over the world and looked good, but we didn’t really want chocolate.

I still have a dream
Street mural in Noe Valley

A bit after midday we found a bagel place called Noe Bagel and stopped in for some lunch. M. got a wheat bagel with peanut butter, while I had a pastrami bagel sandwich, which was stuffed full of salad things so it was almost impossible to eat. It was good though, with mustard on it and a chunk of dill pickle on the side. We sat for a while and relaxed as I typed up some diary, then used the loo and continued to explore.

Bagel lunch
Lunch at Noe Bagel


We are sitting in Cafe International in Lower Haight, having an afternoon break and snack, after more walking around and checking out neighbourhoods. After out lunch, we wandered around Noe Valley a bit more, checking the length of the street for interesting sights and shops. We stopped in one place which was ostensibly an art supply shop, but seemed to have everything under the sun inside, including books, games, toys, gifty things, travel accessories, clothing, homewares, and assorted other stuff.

Victorians in Noe
24th Street in Noe Valley

Returning to Castro Street at the end of the shops, we waited for a bus to take us back up over the hill, through the Castro district itself, and then on up towards Haight Street, where we alighted. We turned west and walked up the hill to Haight-Ashbury, deciding to check out this area we’d been to before, before walking all the way down the hill towards Lower Haight.

Summer of Love Experience
Summer of Love mural, Haight-Ashbury

First stop was Love on Haight, which was the same shop where I’d bought my tie dyed T-shirt a few years ago, but back then it was called Jammin’ on Haight, though it seemed like exactly the same shop. We browsed the psychedelic shirts and I found a really nice button up shirt with a collar, and also some cool T-shirts that were on sale. The button up shirt was a medium, so I wasn’t sure it would fit me, but when i tried it on it was if anything a little bit big. The. the first T-short. tried was a large, but felt tight! So I moved to an extra large T-shirt and that was much better. The T-shirt was 50% off, so I bought that plus the button up shirt.

Monkey love
Monkey in Love on Haight

Walking further down Haight until we reached the Ashbury intersection, we passed various cool places, including another branch of Goorin Brothers hat shop, where M. tried on more hats. She liked a maroon coloured one, but decided not to get it, instead just getting a heart shaped hat pin to go on one of her existing hats.

Cards, booze, and a fedora
Goorin Brothers hat shop, Haight-Ashbury

Further up we stopped at the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop on the corner of Haight and Ashbury. M. asked if I wanted an ice cream, and I decided that I really should given it was the store right on the famous corner. We queued briefly and I got a small cup of strawberry cheesecake ice cream. I ate it while we walked back east along the other side of the street.

Peace, Love, and Ice Cream
Haight-Ashbury intersection, with Ben &s Jerry’s in background

Eventually we passed back out of the Haight-Ashbury area of hippy inspired shops, down the hill through a residential area and Buena Vista Park, and into the Lower Haight. I’d forgotten what vibe this area had after reading about it, but the shops reminded me quickly that it was a goth/punk area, with plenty of skulls and spikes and black things. We passed a few interesting looking places, before settling into the Cafe International for M. to have an afternoon snack, while I grabbed a beer. She had a bagel with cream cheese, which also came with a small bowl of fresh chopped strawberries and rockmelon, plus a guava smoothie, while I tried a Prohibition ale, which was medium dark and very nice.

Cafe International
Cafe International, Lower Haight

While we ate and drank, several musicians came in and started setting up in the back of the cafe. More and more kept arriving, there must have been twenty or so carrying instruments, including a guy who brought in a drum kit piece by piece. and then about 16:30 they began playing as a jazz ensemble. There were an electric violinist, a flute player, three saxophonists, a couple of trumpets, a harmonica, keyboard, drummer, two bongo players, and a bass guitar at least, maybe more. They introduced themselves and said that it was good to be here for the 22nd year of jazz at the Cafe International.

Jazz @ International
Live jazz at Cafe International

First they played what seemed like an improvisational piece with each instrument coming in one after another and performing a solo while the drums and bass backed them, before they combined for a finale together after about 15 minutes of playing. Next they launched into a rendition of Bye Bye Blackbird, with the same multi soloist improvisational style.


After a third jazz number, we dropped a $5 tip (I have no idea if that was an appropriate amount or not) into the tip bucket the musicians had and then left to head back to our hotel. I’d been checking mail on the cafe WiFi to see if Mary had organised a dinner with us for tonight, but there was no news about it, so we operated under the assumption that it wasn’t on for tonight. We caught a number 6 bus back towards Market Street and our hotel, where I did a final check after 18:00. I let them know we were assuming it wasn’t on tonight and we were heading out for dinner by ourselves.

M. wanted to try Umami Burger after seeing the branch at Cow Hollow. There was another one South of Market, near AT&T Park, which Google Maps said was about a 20 minute walk away. So we walked down Fifth Street to Townsend and turned east past the Caltrain station until we found it. The walk down Fifth Street was a bit unpleasant as we passed a lot of homeless people in various states of disarray and there were some nasty things on the footpath. But around the burger place things brightened up, as this is an area populated now by tech companies and the various hipster food joints their employees hang out in.

Monkey @ Umami Burger
Umami Burger

Umami Burger was much fancier than I’d expected. We were shown to a table by a waitress, and there was crockery, silverware, and black cotton napkins. The menu included “the Impossible Burger”, which was two patties of vegetable matter made to be ultra-realistically meaty, with vegetable-based heme protein, on a burger bun with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mustard. M. liked the look of it and ordered that, while I chose a “Hatch” burger, which had roasted hatch chillies on it, but little else apart from a beef patty and some aioli. The chillies weren’t particularly hot, and the burger was not large, but it tasted pretty good. M. gave me a taste of an impossible patty, which she kept asking me to confirm it wasn’t really meat. But when I tasted it, it was obviously not meat, though it was a reasonably good facsimile of the texture and flavour.

Impossible burger
The Impossible burger at Umami Burger

M. also had an apple cider while I had a beer – I asked from some of the wheat beer but they were out of that so I had whatever it was that the waiter recommended was similar, which was nice enough. I also ordered a side of cheesy tots, which I thought would be like mashed potato croquettes with cheese in the middle, but they were more like grated potato rösti with cheese mixed throughout. After eating, I checked the dessert menu briefly. All they had was ice cream sandwiches. Not feeling like one of those, we paid up and headed back to our hotel.

Rather than walk back, I checked the bus routes and found we could take either the 30 or 45 back to Market Street, ending up at Third Street, which was okay as we wanted to walk down past Walgreens and buy some milk for tomorrow anyway. We also got some bran cereal, and a tub of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream. Then it was back home for showers and an early night, because tomorrow I need to be up at 07:00 to head to the conference! I ate about half the ice cream and stuck the rest in the tiny freezer section of the room’s bar fridge, hoping that would be cold enough to keep it frozen.

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