Some people will enthusiastically explain to you, without a trace of doubt in their tone, that Rice-a-Roni is the “San Francisco Treat.” After one night in this fine city, I am more inclined to believe that this honor belongs to both Fernet Branca and, inexplicably, the Irish coffee.
Despite being monumentally shit-housed last night I find myself awakening rather early, and feeling quite rested. This will be our first day on the boat, so I know that a robust breakfast is in order to establish a firm base in my stomach. A friend in Boston had recommended a place called Buena Vista for Irish Coffees, and it just so happens that it is a about a block from our hotel. It’s relatively early but I assume that Rob, the rep from the winery, will be up so I invite him along and he agrees to meet me there.
After a sobering yet invigorating cold shower, I head out into some of the sweetest, most refreshing city air I have ever experienced. Seriously, the fucking climate here is like pure heaven, and I think I need to live here for the sake of both myself and the well-being of those who are forced to listen to me constantly complain about the heat. Buena Vista has yet to open when we arrive, and we are 4th in a line outside the door that swells to at least 20 or 25 by the time they unlock the doors about 8 minutes later. Predictably, the staff seems wildly irritated by the hordes of touristy fucktards that I am now officially a part of. By this rationale, I figure that the chance of me ever seeing any of these people again is little to nil, so I just roll with it.
As we file in I observe a sign on the long wooden bar that reads “No food, only drinks,” as in “If you’re going to sit here and annoy the bartender all you are allowed to do is drink so make it fucking fast.” I secure a table with a good view of the whole place, all the while hoping to watch some sorry asshole make a scene with the no-nonsense looking Barman. Then, the magic happens….
The first wave of orders for Irish Coffees come through, and the bartender whirs into motion, lining up 10 small glass chalices on the bar. In a sweeping motion, he waves a bottle of Tullamore Dew (apparently they are the number one account in the country for this brand) for about a two-count over each glass. He then follows with hot coffee and a dollop of crema on each, with no bottle of the dreaded green crème de menthe in sight. As they are loaded onto a tray, he starts anew, probably repeating the process two or three more times at least, right in a row.
As mine is placed in front of me, I feel a tinge of excitement, as this is a far, far cry from any incarnation of this beverage that I have ever experienced before. The first sip is boozy and hot, immediately tempered by the ice-cold layer of cream. Wow, these are fucking delicious. I finish in three gulps before promptly ordering up two more.
While examining my breakfast options I see that they offer a crab benedict, and after last nights debacle I have decided that I will order crab whenever the fuck I want, regardless of whether or not it’s “in-season.”
My breakfast arrives on what I can only describe as two “barges” of freshly baked sourdough bread, smothered in crab cakes, poached eggs, and a bright orange “crab sauce.” It’s a friggin lot of food, the kind of plate where you basically need a “strategy” in order to take it all down, so I decide to tackle one barge at a time. I will admit, this big pile of orange-y mess is delicious, though after getting about halfway done I become aware that finishing could threaten to negate my three Irish Coffees, so I decide to wave the white flag in defeat. Just as I am steadying my wings to order another drink, a group of our travelling companions shows up and I opt to surrender my seat for them and take along walk instead.
Outside I immediately run directly into Dan and Amos, which I was dreading because I technically ditched them the night before. Dan begins to scold me, asking if I had “At least blogged about whatever the fuck I did for the three homeless people who occasionally break into the public library to use the computer to actually read it?” to which I respond, “Yes?”
After promising to “Get weird” with Dan later on that night, I spend the rest of the foggy morning alone, walking up and down the hilly San Francisco streets. After a couple of hours I make my way back to the hotel to freshen up, stopping on the way to purchase a few bottles of wine to keep in my room for “an emergency.”
We are scheduled to convene at the boatyard around noon, as we will be spending a few hours out on the Bay in a gorgeous 1968 Stephens Boat owned by the winery. Once aboard, we are informed that there is an unlimited amount of every varietal of wine that they make, as well as a full selection of cold beer at our disposal. I immediately locate a suitable perch, collapsing into a very big and comfy Adirondack chair on the deck, where I am handed a glass of Riesling. I notice that a stunning blonde woman from New Zealand has joined us, and I find myself completely lost in my own thoughts of how perfectly the sun reflects off of her hair. Just as my mind begins to wander to more explicit notions, I am jarred back into reality by Dan shouting at me about “Getting weird” from a neighboring Adirondack.
The preliminary races for the Louis Vuitton Cup, a yachting competition connected with the America’s Cup, are commencing all around us, adding to the surreal nature of the afternoon. I catch a glimpse of The Oracle, Team USA’s highly advanced vessel that eventually went on the wine the whole thing in 2013, despite beginning at an unexpected deficit. I’ll be honest, even after living with someone who raced boats for seven years, I still understand fuck-all about sailing, but I will tell you that you cannot properly appreciate just how fast these boats move until you watch them live.
After snapping a few prerequisite photos of Alcatraz and pounding my fifth glass of wine, I become aware that I am actually starting to get a bit hungry, which is rare on these types of (work) vacations. I slip below deck, fill my glass with Pinot Noir, and peruse an array of sandwiches that have been set out for us. I join a few of my companions at a dining room table of sorts, where we have our first opportunity for a bit of “get to know you” time before Dan comes crashing into the room and completely monopolizes me straight out of the conversation. He leans over to tell me how he “really wants to bend that kiwi chick over the fucking rails,” and while it’s slightly obnoxious I have to admit that I can’t help but completely agree.
The rest of the nautical excursion is pretty much these scenarios on repeat: drink, close eyes, get yelled at, and then drink some more. Upon returning to the docks it is about 2:30 PM, and we’ve got the afternoon wide open to do whatever before we meet up for dinner at 7:30.
I’m in limbo, the kind of limbo that involves one inner voice begging for me to go back to the other hotel for a nap, while the other bears a more predictable suggestion for the remainder of my afternoon. Of course, I choose oblivion, and find myself following Dan, Amos, and a dude named Connor straight into the nearest bar. Connor is new to the group and I watch as he endures his first “scenario” with Dan, who starts out by buying everyone a beer and a shot of Fernet. We tip up the shots, no problem there, but then Dan insists that we “chug” the beers, to which Connor replies that he’d prefer to sip his.
Dan, incensed, accuses Connor of failing to disclose to us that he is the “Ultimate Pussy.” Connor, completely unfazed, just laughs and keeps sipping away, causing Dan to insist that we ditch him and move on. I figure we’re doing Connor a favor so I agree, and we find ourselves back on the hunt to “Get weird.”
Shortly after we spot Gary and his wife near the entrance to Fulton Market, and we figure that we may as well do a quick walk through. Though I will admit that the market itself is impressive, I’m not looking for anything in particular so my interest begins to wane. After procuring a bottle of the local Kombucha, a welcome yet brief deviation from shots of Fernet, I realize that Gary and I have completely lost track of Dan and Amos. The last thing I feel like doing is going on a wild goose chase through these crowds, and my phone has long since died, so we decide to go get a snack and forget about them.
We settle in the lounge at The Slanted Door, a Vietnamese-y, fusion-ey kind of place located within the market. I’ll be honest, when I’m eating a bowl of pho I could give a shit that the beef came from Prather Ranch or Neverland Ranch, it just kind of is what it is, but this is the kind of place that goes out of the way to keep you informed. As we are there during “afternoon tea,” the menu is a bit limited, so we fire up a couple of bottles of Weingut Bründlmayer Gruner Veltliner while we take a look.
To give you an example of what we’re working with here, I’ve pulled text from their website which properly describes their “vision,” so there’s this:
“For every item on our menu, Executive Chef, Charles Phan goes to the original source region of that item. He studies the traditional ingredients, flavors and techniques, then retreats to his Mission district test kitchen, where he and his team recreate the original using contemporary methods and the finest and freshest local ingredients. The finished product is a faithful reproduction of a world classic, modernized in subtle yet powerful ways.”
So for every single item, Executive Chef Charles Phan is scouring the earth to find the very best example of that item, right at the source, before “retreating” to his test kitchen to make it so much better. Given that his Vietnamese food isn’t actually that good, this seems like a colossal waste of time to me, especially given that one could enjoy a better meal for about an eighth of the price in most hole in the wall pho joints. This is a prime example of why the world is so fucked up.
After several rounds of appetizers, including wild uni, spring rolls, and jicama salad, by far the least forgettable element of the experience is the wine. When it manages to actually be existent, the service is also condescending at best. Luckily, this experience is just what I needed to make me tired enough to want to nap for a bit, so I bid Gary and Co. adieu before making my way back to the hotel.
Just as I get all of my clothes off and am comfortably tucked into bed, all the while patting myself on the back for doing the right thing, I hear my phone buzz to signal that it has taken a charge. I set up a wake up call with the front desk, so I ignore it and close my eyes. Then, for the next four minutes straight, the phone proceeds to ring non-stop, finally prompting me to get up and see that it, surprise, was Dan. I answer and yell “WHAT?!?!?” into the receiver, to which Dan responds “We’re coming up to your room right now.”
“Jesus, wait, what? I’m taking a nap.”
“The fuck you are.”
“No you’re not.”
I know enough to realize when I’m fighting a losing battle, so I get out of bed and brace myself for the oncoming attack. Because he’s an asshole, Dan finds it entirely necessary to loudly beat on my door to signal his arrival, and apparently he has brought both Amos and a full bottle of Fernet Branca with him. We sit on my couch and literally shoot 75% of the bottle over the next 45 minutes, during which Dan begins to critique my tattoos. After requesting that I lift up my shorts so he can see the large pin-up girl that runs up my entire leg, he declares it to be the “best tattoo he’s ever seen.” He proceeds to insist that the upside down cross, made out of bacon, on my back is, in contrast, “quite possibly the most idiotic, god-awful tattoo he has ever seen.”
We have begun into the supply of wine that I had purchased this morning, dismantling a bottle of Albarino before realizing that we’ve only got about 40 minutes until dinner. After doing my best to “freshen up,” I meet the boys downstairs and we make our way to a high-end Peruvian restaurant called La Mar, where the winery has coordinated a special menu for us.
La Mar is very busy when we arrive, and we are forced to practically force our way through an unruly bar crowd of “young professionals” and “complete shitheads” before navigating our way through the sprawling dining room to find our group. There are twelve of us, and I am sure to position myself at the very end of the table, close to Dan and Amos and away from anyone who I may offend in my current state.
Connor, the ultimate pussy from earlier, seems rather amused with our condition, and is being a very good sport about being forced to sit next to Dan. He has commandeered the wine list to start, and selects a few bottles of 2009 Raventos Brut Riserva, a vintage cava that I was not familiar with but was excited to try. Dan does not share my excitement, leaning over to Connor and asking “Is that seriously what you’re going to order for us?”
The sommelier, Oscar, comes skipping over to the table to get the wine order, and I cannot help but to notice his resemblance to Jack Black, with a ponytail. He’s sporting a well-fitting suit with his Court of Sommeliers pin attached to the lapel, so I know this guy considers himself pretty special.
As I said, the restaurant has coordinated the menu tonight, beginning with cebiche barrio, a classic Peruvian staple of yellowtail, mussels, clams, scallops and shrimp marinated in a tangy rocoto leche de tigre and garnished with fried calamari and cancha, a toasted chulpe corn that is often eaten by itself as snack. It is followed by causa nikei, which consists of chilled yellow mashed potatoes topped with ahi tuna tartare, shaved nori, avocado puree, and an Andean chili and herb sauce, as well as a simple, refreshing ensalada of arugula, hearts of palm, queso fresco and chili vinaigrette.
At some point in the progression, it is my turn to take control of the wine list, which is limited to selections from Spain, South America, and California. As Oscar makes his way over to me Rob, who has begun to get a bit of a glow-on, starts heckling him about the absence of French Wine. Oscar explains that the list was constructed around the menu and the cuisine, and I try to diffuse the situation by telling him that I think, “It’s a really nice list.” This, of course, is not the truth as he’s got a plethora of monstrous California Chardonnays like Patz & Hall and Mer Soleil on the list, which does not, in fact, go with a fucking thing.
I order up three bottles of Dominio do Bibei Lalama, blend of predominantly Mencia from Ribeira Sacra, to which Oscar says, “Tempranillo, very nice.” Ok, now mister “Court of Somms” can’t even keep his varietals straight, so he’s dead to me. I am immediately upset with myself for defending him earlier, because, well, I’m getting rather drunk and being way more of an asshole than I need to be.
One of the most popular styles of cuisine in Peru is called Chifa, which refers to a fusion of classic Peruvian dishes and cooked in the style of Guangzhou and Guangdong, utilizing such techniques as wok hee, or the essence of stir-fry that is commonly referred to as “the breath of the wok.” La Mar serves both lomo saltado, a stir-fry of beef tenderloin, onions, tomato, soy, and cilantro tossed with fried potato and spicy yellow chili sauce, as well as a similar stir-fry that contains quinoa, eggs, sesame oil, and crispy fried noodles. The result is quite successful on both counts, with all of the rich flavors of Peru mingling seamlessly the sweet and sour Chinese elements. We finish with a platter of empanadas stuffed with stewed chicken, a large bowl of fried yucca, and arroz la mar, a dish that is reminiscent of both risotto and classic bouillabaisse with a variety of fresh seafood.
By the time dessert is even a thing, Dan has progressed into full-blown restless, texting me every three minutes saying we should all “Get the fuck out of here and get weird.” I’ll admit that the meal is dragging on the point where I’m all in, so the three of us excuse ourselves, a decision that no one at the table seems to mind whatsoever, and get on with our night.
Dan insists that we are going to a strip club, and personally I think that sounds just fine, so he commissions an Über Cab. I don’t exactly remember the conversation he had with the driver, but he seemed completely on board with whatever mission we were on. He brings us to The Crazy Horse, where he, for some reason, gets out of the car and escorts us in, telling us to call again if we need a ride later. Dan pays for our admission, right before we realize that they do not serve booze here but it’s too late to turn back.
The club is relatively small, with one stage, almost more of a runway, that extends into the center of the room. Dan plops himself down right in the front row, while Amos and I hang a few seats behind. Because they do not serve booze, the dancers are full nude, which for me can go either way. Dan has decided that he is going to impress everyone, and as the first girl makes her way onto the stage he immediately starts laying down piles of money. When she is finished, she comes over, whispers in his ear, and they disappear together.
Shortly after, I notice out of the corner of my eye that a girl is making a beeline for me. I turn just as a ridiculously attractive Asian woman perches in a neighboring seat and puts her arm around me. While she’s pushing her rather large breasts into my arms she makes small talk, before simply getting to the point,
“You like Asian girls don’t you?”
“Want to go somewhere with me? It’s $40”
As she takes my hand and leads me towards the backroom, I take a moment to commend my considerable negotiating skills. She brings me into a room where various lap dances are going on, before taking me further into a private room and shutting the door behind us. She starts to un-do my jeans, and puts her hand down my pants, whispering in my ear,
“I don’t like to play by the rules. For $120 we can do it all.”
I realize that I need to do some quick thinking, amidst being very, very distracted. I really don’t think it’s a good idea to cross the line with this girl for a multitude of reasons, despite how much I would like to, so I tell her that I am ok with the lapdance we had agreed on. She seems very disappointed, insisting “It will be so much more fun if we stay in here.” Somehow, I stick to my guns and she escorts me back out into the semi-private area before sitting me down and giving me what is still one of the better lap dances I’ve had, with plenty of touching allowed. After finishing, she quickly dismisses me and I start to recall that I should probably find out what’s going on with Dan and Amos.
I find Amos still seated where I left him, though Dan has yet to emerge. We decide to go find a bar and text him when we find a suitable location, though 10 minute walks in each direction are fruitless in this endeavor. Apparently, a lot of San Francisco shuts down early. We go back to the club, where Dan meets us out front. It would appear as if a bus had hit him, his clothes and hair were completely disheveled, not to mention he was sniffling and his nose was running out of control.
“Dude, I just got fucking WEIRD with that chick.”
“Yeah, there isn’t much that we DIDN’T do, plus she had drugs. Which was awesome.”
I don’t know hat actually happened in that room, but I do realize that we’re going to need to find a bar somewhere to calm this guy down, and finally we hit the jackpot with some place I cannot remotely remember. We hole up in the corner and crush several beers and heaping shots of Fernet, before chatting up a cute girl who told us she bartended in the area. She takes one look at Dan before declaring, “You’re not from around here are you.” Dan seems confused, and when he inquires why her response is, “Your shirt is too wrinkled.” I don’t know what that means but at the time I found it to be hilarious.
At closing time, we call our driver from earlier to bring us home. Back at the room, we finish another bottle of wine and the rest of the Fernet before I have to call it. We’ve got one more full day ahead of us tomorrow, and I feel like it could be a very bumpy ride.