I’ve always been an adventurous eater. When I was five or six years old, I ordered mussels when we were out at my family’s favorite dim sum restaurant in Toronto because I saw someone else eating them and wanted to try them, too. (Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan back then but it certainly didn’t stop me from continuing to try new foods, something my parents were great at encouraging). In Mexico last year, I ate baby shark empanadas. I don’t think I’d eat those again. Not because they weren’t delicious but because my views on being able to make a difference by deciding not to consume an unsustainable source of food have since changed–my theory (and one often offered by vegetarians for not eating meat) is now that if you lower demand, food producers and suppliers will have to respond by reducing the supply.
7×7 magazine‘s annual Big Eat SF is not as particularly adventurous as it is exciting. The idea is that the magazine culls together the city’s best food and challenges readers to eat all 100 items in one year. Some dishes or restaurants have made the list every year (though it’s only in year two), like Baja-style fish tacos at Nick’s Crispy Tacos and the apple fritter from Bob’s Donut (both of which are within a few blocks of my house and are treats I can attest to as being certifiably awesome). Some, of course, made their debut with the new year’s edition.
I hadn’t planned on pursuing this line of eating when I first saw the 2010 Big Eat SF: 100 Foods to Eat Before You Die compilation but it does make going out a little more interesting. I definitely won’t get to all 100 in a year (the 2009 winner, the person who ate the most items off the list could only do 88 and spent over $2,000 in the effort), but I have ordered specific dishes and drinks in the last week based on the bias of this list.
No. 88 was an accident. I didn’t set out to eat a buckwheat crepe and try the French cider. Actually, I didn’t even know it was on the list when I got there. Instead, I was out for dinner with friends, one of whom chose the spot and another who knew Ti Couz was on the list. We all ordered buckwheat crepes (Chris and I both got the ham, egg, and cheese crepe, a solid choice), and Tara ordered the French cider, knowing it was something she was supposed to savor before saying goodbye to this world. Even though I was just getting over the worst bout of food poisoning I’ve ever had and was avoiding alcohol (though apparently not greasy French food), I had a sip of Tara’s cider because she said it was on the list and because of that, I immediately wanted to try it. I don’t remember much about how the cider tasted except that it was largely unmemorable in my opinion.
No. 28, however, a Gibraltar at Blue Bottle Cafe, was extraordinary. I used to be a competitive figure skater (and was even on the Canadian Junior National Team and represented my native country–and medaled–at international competitions) but it’s been ages since I’ve been on the ice. By a fun turn of fate, a friend I trained with 15 years ago moved to San Francisco a month ago and has been skating three days a week. I decided to give it a go, too, and have started skating once a week . I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed waking up at 5:30 so much–probably the last time I trained at 6:30 in the morning. (As you’ll quickly discover, I’m a gal who needs either more hours in the day or fewer hobbies. And I have a bad–or, in my view, wonderful–habit of acquiring and sticking with new hobbies.)
The point of this side story is this: You can get a lot accomplished when you wake up at 5:30 a.m. The 6:30 session ends at 7:30 and I, living the fantastic San Francisco life I lead, don’t have to be at work until 9:30. Yesterday, I took advantage of this two-hour gap in my morning and the ice rink’s location in SOMA to head over to the Blue Bottle Cafe to pick up a half-pound of their Three Africans coffee beans and then (as a spur-of-the-moment, memory-jogged action) ordered a Gibraltar.
A Gibraltar, as the cashier explained to me, is an espresso that is somewhere between a macchiato and cappuccino. (Interesting aside: my spell-checker wants to replace “macchiato” with “psychotic.” Does that say something about coffee culture,especially San Francisco’s coffee culture?). Anyway, a Gibraltar enjoyed at the SOMA Blue Bottle Cafe as I explain it is this: a little bit of heaven. Served in a small, glass cup, it’s a hot, creamy wonder that takes a small spoonful of raw sugar just perfectly and lasts just long enough. Definitely worth trying before you make your way to the cloudy forevermore upstairs.
And so it begins: Me, eating my way through (though without the goal of 100-percent completion) the 2010 Big Eat SF.