Monday, February 27, 2006


Real life is catching up to me now. We just finished 3 weeks of nonstop tests, projects, and practicals.

I've got a few posts in the works that i'm editing; not much I have to say at this point.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Gimli Gloin

The stout little man before me was the spitting image of an Ironforge dwarf. He stood five feet tall, his face bedecked with a bushy black beard, thick eyebrows, and a pale, bulbous nose. But with his eyes opened wide and his mouth slightly agape, he looked a little frightened, as if Gimli Gloin had been torn from the pages of J.R.R. Tolkien and unceremoniously dumped onto the streets of the Mission District on a rowdy Friday night. His left hand clutched a pathetic handful of plastic flowers close to his chest, most likely pinched from the planters of neighboring stores.

There had been eight of us dental students in suits and dresses, all standing on the sidewalk. What had started out as a straightforward cab ride back to student housing had turned into a slight detour down into the Mission for some late night nourishment (and possibly one more drink). Now we were trying to figure out how to fit everyone into one cab. “Only four,” the cabbie said. “No five!”

I took Kimi’s arm and guided her to the last remaining seat. “You go first. We’ll meet up with the rest of you at housing.”

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yeah, we’ll get another cab, no sweat.” With that, the roof light winked out and the car pulled away from the curb.

That’s when I turned around and saw him.

“Would you like to buy a flower?” Gimli asked. He spoke so softly that I could barely hear him, but I knew what he wanted by the way he offered me a sickly sprig of green and white plastic.

I raised my hand and smiled, “No thanks.” And then I turned away to hail another cab.

“No! Please!”

I turned around. His shoulders had slumped slightly, and he looked ready to cry.

“Please… sir – I really need you to buy a flower,” he pleaded. “I don’t have any money, and I just want something to eat tonight. I’m a veteran, I’m disabled…” Gimli’s voice faltered slightly as he mumbled something about what he used to do for a living and only being on the street for a few weeks. Throughout his whole story, he looked at me straight in the eye.

It takes a certain level of resolve to swallow your pride and sell flowers on the streets of San Francisco. But at least you can think, I’m working, I’m out here selling stuff. It may not be much but at least I’m doing something.

But to transition from that point to begging and pleading, you can’t just swallow your pride anymore… there’s something inside of you that has to die. And when you kill that part of yourself repeatedly, day by day, it changes you. It can break you. Call it pride, call it dignity – all I know is that it’s something I’m not willing to give up.

I opened my wallet and pressed a five dollar bill into his hand. “Hey,” I said. “There’s a burrito place down the street that’s pretty good.”

“Oh, thank you – thank you –”

“Hey, it’s all right, it’s all right,” I said. “We all have it rough sometimes. Hope your night goes better once you get something good to eat.” And then I shook his hand. A taxi pulled up to the sidewalk and my friends started piling in. “I gotta go. Goodnight.”

I squeezed myself into the back seat and looked out the window as the car pulled away from the curb.

The last I saw of Gimli Gloin, he was walking down the street in the direction of El Toro Taqueria, plastic flowers still in hand. But now they hung by his side and he stood a little straighter than before. He strode with purpose.

I never got his name.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Good Food + Sexy Bathroom = Côté Sud

It's Dine About Town season in San Francisco, which means you can get a $40 meal for about $25-$30 or so. It's a great deal, if you're willing to drive or cab it to one of the many trendy places about town. With the holiday season over and winter being as it is in SF -- cold(er) and rainy -- this is a great time to sample restaurants that you'd ordinarily pass up.

This time around, Côté Sud was the restaurant of choice. I went with Stephen (he is friend from old, yes) and Nicole (who, in addition to being chatty, down to earth, and really cool is a news journalist. She has some really cool stories from her time as a peon/beat reporter, interviewing all sorts of random people, both sketchy and non-sketchy. She also reads Romanesko. Awesome.) Joyce couldn't make it. She was sick (boo...).

The first thing that struck me about Côté Sud as I walked in was the fact that the only apparent entrance to the place was a tall, narrow staircase that led to the second floor of what appeared to be a converted Victorian house. (Disabled peoples of the world, weep in anguish. For as far as I know, you have no means of accessing this happy little dungeon of culinary delights.)

Once inside, about 30 candlelit dinner tables and one very thin, very VERY French waiter greeted us. We were seated immediately at the balcony, which was shielded from the elements by a canopy/plastic sheeting.... type..... thing.

Of course, the food. First course for me was the foie gras terrine:

Foie gras terrine

This was my first exposure to foie gras that I could remember. It tasted remarkably cheesy, not as liver-ish as I expected, which surprised me. Decadent.

I did not, however, eat the liver with fava beans and a nice chianti.


Cod and Potato
Stephen ordered this one for an appetizer. Very solid.

Salmon Marinated in Honey and Mint
Very nice. Very nice.

Chilean Sea Bass with Purple Fingerling Potatoes

This was my dish. The sea bass was cooked to perfection. The skin was crispy and the fish feather-light. The potatoes, however, were very disappointing. They tasted very watery and pretty much crumbled upon forking. No body. The sauce was pretty good though.

Duck Breast in Raspberry Sauce
Those Frenchies really know how to make their duck. A solid entree.

Pan seared Ahi tuna served with a puree of parsnips and a coulis of tomatoes basquaise

And then of course, I had to do the ugly American thing and order Pommes Frites.

Gawd. But in my defense, I wanted to see how well they handled deep-fry. Plus, I was pretty tipsy off my one glass of wine, and fries sounded really really good at the time. The fries came out crispy on the outside and light and airy on the inside. They did not taste greasy at all. Pretty good, actually.

We ordered 3 desserts as well; creme brulee, poached pear in cinnamon and port sauce, and a chocolate lava cake. I didn't take pictures, unfortunately.

But here's something that I DID remember to take a photo of: after the last course, I went to wash my hands, refresh myself, and to see how red I was turning. I opened the restroom door and this sight graced my bespectacled eyes:

The world's sexiest restaurant bathroom

Illuminated entirely by votive candles and delicately scented with potpourri, this bathroom elevates the spontaneous restaurant bathroom hookup from "trashy" to "still kinda trashy but tastefully executed." The restroom is a he/she restroom, and the only one on the premises. This means only two things:
  1. No interruptions
  2. A long line of angry diners, all doing the pee-pee dance.
Overall, the three of us had an awesome time at Côté Sud. We talked and laughed the entire time. At one point, I felt that we were being a little too loud but no one at the other tables complained at all. Besides, with my schedule these days, I'll take any chance I can get to spend time with old friends and meet new ones.