“We all live in a…” – The Beatles

When I asked my friend (and San Francisco host for the week) where to get a sandwich, he claimed without hesitation that ‘Yellow Submarine,’ in the Inner Sunset, was not only the best sub he’d had in San Francisco, but the best sub he’d ever had period.

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His only other sub-par recommendation came on Art’s Cafe, but since I knew that this was based on his being partial to a good value and that he held on to the same desperate hope as I did that we may finally have found a Yankee Doodle competitor, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

By about 11:00am, I had to decide whether to go for breakfast or lunch on my last full day of exploring SF, and given that I really only wanted out of breakfast was steak and eggs, I figured I could go without the eggs.

That decision made my sandwich choice for me, steak and cheese; however, I still liked their very limited menu(only basic sandwiches). Interestingly, for the latter portion of my time spent living in Philadelphia, I gave up the “cheese,” part of the Philly-famous cheesesteaks. However, whenever I would find myself at one of the two classics in the city of Brotherly Love (Pats or Geno’s) or my favorite, Jims on South Street (usually when hosting friends or family), I’d still grab a plain steak. However, I’ve recently gone back to adding some provolone back into my sandwich topping arsenal. Therefore, at the Yellow Submarine, I ordered what would be known as “One provolone wit’ “(meaning a steak and provolone sandwich topped with onions) back east.

After applying a healthy dose of ketchup, I took my first bite and couldn’t have been happier with my friend’s recommendation or my order choice. The steak was nicely shaved (not finely chopped like they do at Jim’s, but still great), the onions well-cooked, and the bread perfectly grilled.

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My only slight improvement might be to cook the cheese a little longer. While it was warm, it didn’t quite melt to my liking. Like I said, I haven’t had a true Philly Cheesesteak in quite some time, but I’d be willing to bet that if these two were stacked up, they’d go down to the wire.

Back in Cambridge, my new favorite sub place has become Al’s (I frequent the Harvard Square location, but they’ve got a few throughout the city). When there, I mostly go for the award-winning chicken or tuna salad subs, served on Al’s unnecessarily large, but delicious, sub rolls. I’ve had a steak sub there once and it was very similar to the one from the Yellow Submarine. I’d have to call it a 50/50 toss up, perhaps with the sandwich meat and toppings going to Al’s and the bread going to YS, but all in all a great contest.

Even though the menu was limited, there were plenty of others I’d like to try and it will certainly make it on to my list for a repeat visit on my next trip back there (which will hopefully be sooner rather than later…)

 

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Ka-Bu-Ki

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                                                                                        My “friend” whom I met while hanging at my temporary home base coffee shop for writing and waiting, Velo Rouge Cafe, recommended that if I like movies, I should DEFINITELY check out the Kabuki Theater while in town. Image

This recommendation wasn’t a hard sell for me at all, particularly given the fact that I love movies and since I had already planned on seeing something on an afternoon when i didn’t have much else planned.

However, her main selling points, comfy seats and adult beverages didn’t hurt either. The seats were relatively comfortable, but I could understand more of their appeal when I noticed that the arm rest could be lifted and they could be converted into a love seat for two (a nice feature for a date I’d imagine). Also, I didn’t take advantage of the alcoholic offerings, as by the second to last day of my trip, I’d had about as much boozing as I could handle for the week. 

However, my overall experience was certainly great, particularly given the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed my film of choice, Zero Dark Thirty. 

A few nice added touches included conveniently located internal coffee shop and amusing asian movie posters in the restrooms. Image Speaking of the restrooms, my only slight complaint was that I had to wait for about 20 minutes outside the theater until they opened at 12:45pm (which seemed a little late to me) but the wait was certainly worse considering the fact that I really just needed to pee. 

It’s getting hard for me to keep track, but I imagine the prices were at least reasonable in comparison to theaters in most major cities, at about 9$ for a weekday matinee.

 

 

 

 

#6 “We did it man. We did it. We’re rich, man….You know Billy, we blew it.”- Easy Rider (1969)

Easy Rider

Easy Rider (starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and a very young looking Jack Nicholson) had long been on my list of “older” (pre-1990ish) movies to see.

Anyway, I knew very little about the film other than that it starred two counter-culture buddies who take a road trip across America. Other than that, I didn’t know much about their agenda or the adventures and mishaps they’d find along the way. Also, I didn’t realize that Dennis Hopper not only starred in the movie, but also co-wrote it with his fellow lead actor Peter Fonda and even directed the film. Given the fact that Fonda and Hopper appear in most of the movie’s scenes, that is an impressive directorial effort.

The two hippie bikers do get into a decent amount of trouble on their route from LA to go check out Mardi Gras in New Orleans. They pick up a hitchhiker who doesn’t tell them how far he needs to go, other than reassuring them that it “isn’t too far.” This fellow (only listed as a ‘Stranger on the highway,’ by IMDB) also answers questions in the vaguest way possible. When asked “Where ya from man?” He responds, “Hard to say.” Then he goes on to elaborate, but only in a similarly vague fashion: “I’m from the city…Doesn’t matter what city; all cities are alike.” Billy (Hopper) gets frustrated by this answer (he hasn’t really liked the stranger since Fonda picked him up) and asks why he would even mention it, “Cause I’m FROM the city; a long WAY from the city, and that’s where I wanna be right now.”

Billy is fairly skeptical of most of the people they meet along the way, Including the rest of the folks belonging to the commune where they drop the ‘Stranger’ off and spend a little time. His skepticism stems partly from his fear that everyone just wants to steal the money he and Captain America (Fonda) have just scored in a Coke deal that sets off their travels. The copious amount of weed he smokes throughout the film’s entirety probably also doesn’t help keep his  fears at bay, however rational they may or may not be. Billy doesn’t really want to stick around the commune too long, nor did he want to hang around the farm where they stopped to fix a flat tire and were graciously offered a warm cooked meal. However, he doesn’t seem to mind picking up two females while there and bringing them to a local watering hole for some frolicking in the buff.

I think my favorite parts of the movie are after the point (or perhaps just before the point) where Hopper and Fonda team up with Nicholson. They somehow end up in some small podunk town where a parade is taking place and they attempt to join in the festivities on their bikes, only to be arrested for “parading without a permit,” a crime that really rubs Billy the wrong way. It is while locked up in the local jail that they meet George Hanson, played by Nicholson, an alcoholic Attorney, presumably locked up for some drunken antics. The relationship between the three starts off with a fair amount of animosity, as Nicholson wakes Honda up within their shared cell and Hopper comes to his aid, threatening Nicholson. However, the three make up when Nicholson is able to pull some strings with the guards and get Hopper and Fonda some much desired cigarettes. When they are released, the three set off (but only after Nicholson starts his day with his swig of Jim Beam and a good morning salute:

When he puts on an old-school football helmet and his jersey sweater, we’re supposed to believe that the now washed up Nicholson once played football at Michigan (a little difficult to swallow).

Some of my favorite scenes in the movie come during the many nights spent around the campfire (other than the strange multiple quick scene cuts that often come in a row before or after the travelers set up camp). It is in one of Nicholson’s first nights with the crew that they introduce him to what he claims is his first “marijuana cigarette”. He only gets through part of it, partially out of concern for mixing it with his heavy boozing, but also at Fonda’s suggestion that he save the rest for the next day to see things in “a whole new way”. Nicholson doesn’t appear to see much of anything, as he looks mostly comatose after finishing off the joint the next morning.

Another one of my favorite scenes (but unfortunately one that leads to one of the strangest and most tragic scene in the film) *** Spoiler alerts*** comes when the three musketeers wander into a small diner somewhere in Louisiana. All of the locals (other than a group of young girls) are both scared of and put off by the appearances of the three shaggy looking travelers. They make crude and threatening remarks and the waitress refuses to even acknowledge them. The young girls are intrigued by the older and mysterious threesome, but quickly lose interest when the trio won’t give them motorcycle rides.

The following tragic scene, which these events lead up to, came completely out of left field (for me at least). Once again, we find the three vagabonds camping somewhere just outside of town, only to be accosted in the middle of the night by the same men who stared them down earlier in the small town diner. Hopper scares the men off, brandishing a knife; however, not before the real damage is done, which leaves Nicholson fatally wounded.

Sadly and ironically, at that point, I remembered a line between two of the men in the diner when the “Deputy” asked “What’cha think we ought to do with ’em?” And the other replied: “I don’t damn know, but I don’t think they’ll make the parish line.”

From this point forward, the movie continues down the stranger and darker course it started on in Louisiana. Wyatt and Billy vow to return George’s (Nicholson’s) things to his family, they visit a brothel (following through on the suggestion from George), which Billy seems much more enthusiastic about than Wyatt, and then carry on with the two prostitutes for much longer than would be expected. These misadventures include a drug-induced trip in an abandoned and run-down cemetery and finally visiting the much anticipated Mardi Gras celebration.

The final scenes of the film came almost equally as unexpected to me as the scene in the woods in which Nicholson loses his life; however, after that, maybe I should have expected as much.

All in all, I am glad I saw this movie, as Nicholson, Hopper and Fonda were great and I had intended to for some time. However, other than that, I don’t have really positive things to say about it. In some ways, I’m sure it will always be considered a classic and the multiple-effort roles by Hopper and Fonda are indeed impressive; however, there are two many idiosyncrasies in it for me to really rave about this one.

As one final note, I have to mention the stunning resemblance I saw between Peter Fonda and the New England Patriot’s Quarterback Tom Brady:

Peter Fondatom on bike

Fonda’s bike is a little cooler though…(also weird coincidence that Nicholson’s character was supposed to have played football at Michigan as Brady did)

Good “Eats” in The Richmond

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In my first two days in San Francisco staying in the Richmond neighborhood, I’ve eaten the majority of my meals on Clement St. 

I can’t complain about this though, because I’ve had two tremendous meals so far. I arrived last night and after not eating much throughout the day, I was starving and probably would’ve eaten just about anything. After the Sushi place we planned to visit was closed (they’re weirdly only open 3 days a week), we headed down to Clement where we could see a handful of restaurants within a two block span. We decided upon a Ramen noodle house (I was a little skeptical at first thinking of this type of Ramen, a major staple of my and most folks’ college diets), but it turned out better than I could have imagined. The dish we were served turned out to be much more like this-

 

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and came filled with delicious and tender braised beef, spinach and a wonderful broth. 

Anyway, back to Eats. When I asked my buddy where I should grab breakfast, he sent me right back down to Clement. 

Luckily the place was close and the recommendation turned out to be a good one. 

I strayed from my typical ordering habits and went with an “employee favorite,” (as listed on the chalk board), ‘Zoe’s Bacon & Fried Egg Sandwich’: Arugula, cheddar, tomatoes, spicy aioli, ciabatta and a side of potatoes.  I probably could have done without the Arugula and had them hold the cheddar, but the spicy aioli and deliciously soft and chewy ciabatta were excellent. Image

Also, the bacon was quite good, and it actually made me wish I had gotten a sandwich with sausage on it instead (I got some chicken sausage on the side) and then had the bacon as my side so I could have enjoyed it separately.

Other than the bread, the best part of the meal (other than the expectedly hipster vibe) was probably the side of potatoes. I had to travel all the way to San Francisco to find them, but I think they were the closest thing I’ve found to the amazing home-fries at the Pantry in New Haven (where I’m from, a restaurant I worked at briefly, and probably one of my favorite brunch spots anywhere). I thought I had done a post about it in my previous blog, but I guess not ( I should probably do one here at eventually). 

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The key elements to the pantry’s home-fries (and also those elements that the potatoes at Eats had in common) were the scallions, the small chunks of potato, and probably most importantly the crispy finish. Something about the home-fries at Eats were still lacking in comparison, but it was hard to place. I think it may have been a slight absence of seasoning, but all in all they were pretty great and a welcome reminder of days spent working at the pantry. While there, in order to make up for the rather boring task of peeling potatoes and the other less than glorious tasks required to prepare breakfast foods, the chefs would serve the staff as many potatoes they could eat.

Overall, my second trip down to Clement was well worth it. My only slight complaint might have been the priciness (something just over $20 for breakfast), but I guess that’s SF for you and since I’m on vacation I’m not going to worry about it (at least not until I realized that my next paycheck may be the last one for at least a little while…)

 

 

#5 “Hey. I got a bet. I come in this game right now, same score…” – Derek

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Look familiar?

I think I saw these same courts several years ago when I visited Venice; but while staying just up the beach from them this trip, I was able to get a great shot.

This intense scene comes from American History X, one of my favorite movies of all time. I’m not sure which came first, my appreciation for Edward Norton (probably one of my favorite actors) or my love of this movie.

Interestingly, I think some small element to my affinity for writing comes from various characters in movies I’ve liked who happen to be good writers, such as Derek’s little brother Danny (played by Edward Furlong) and Rob Brown’s leading character in ‘Finding Forrester,’ both a writing prodigy and basketball phenom.

American History X is certainly not for the faint of heart. The movie follows a group of neo-nazis living in a racially contentious period in LA following the beating of Rodney King and subsequent riots. Norton plays Derek Vineyard, an extremely bright, but angry and vulnerable youth following the tragic death of his father, who becomes the young leader through which a local neo-nazi legend (Stacy Keach) orchestrates acts of violence and attempts to spread his hateful propaganda.

Arguably one of the most violent and well-known scenes in the film comes as a direct result of the victory of “whites over the blacks,” on the basketball court:

***Warning Violent ***

Incidentally, the subsequent prison sentence Derek faces after his brutal crime and the violence and abuse he suffers while there eventually leads him to question all of the propaganda he had previously simply accepted when blinded by anger after the death of his father. This questioning along with a friendship he develops with a black man he is forced to work with in the prison laundry room as well as discussions he has with his former teacher (one of the few black people he had looked up to and respected) eventually lead to his redemption and an attempt to save his younger brother from ending up on the same path for destruction he took.

“Worst Cougar or Worst Cooch?” – Horrible pronunciations by randoms on youtube

When my buddy, and host of my LA weekend, told me we were going to get some “sausages and beer,” for lunch I was pretty excited. I didn’t really know what to expect; however, given his butchering of the authentic-sounding name (Wurstküche) and knowing what the germans do best (beer and brats) I figured we were making a good choice.

*** NSFW but hilarious rant about this restaurant ***

***Also a totally unrelated video, but one of my favorite Xtranormal videos, despite the painful memory of the actual game***

Anyway, back to the Wurstküche.

Going in, they told me that we NEEDED to get some of Belgian dipping fries (about which I had no complaints), a few sausages each, and some beer. I only hesitated slightly at the description of some of the exotic sausages available on the menu, including rabbit, crocodile, and rattlesnake.

I was impressed with the assembly line ordering system they had in place- try any beer you’d like, order your beer, pick your sausages, pick your sausage toppings, order fries (you’d be foolish not to), pick your dipping sauces, pay for your meal, get a number, and grab a seat in the back.

The only mild hiccup we introduced to this efficient system was that my buddy had recently lost his license in Costa Rica (a long story), but luckily the friendly beer girl let him slide. I went for some of the safer options- Lamb w/ Mediterranean Spices and a Rabbit, Veal, & Pork Seasoned w/ White Wine and a standard Witbier. However, I did give in to my friend’s encouragement and had a bite of his rabbit & rattlesnake served with Jalepeno Peppers (it was quite delicious).

We enjoyed our beers for a just bit, not too long, in the community style cafeteria in the back of the maze-like concrete laden restaurant.

Worst cooch

Our food came out promptly, and when it did, I realized I had mistakenly imagined that my sausages would be served breakfast-style, with a fork and a knife, rather than on a thick, buttery sandwich bun. Unfortunately, they were both too amazing, topped with perfectly caramelized onions and sweet peppers to not force myself to down both on top of an unnecessary quantity of the heavily fried and crisp fries. Initially I didn’t understand the need for sauces (other than ketchup obviously), but the assortment of chipotle aioli, sun-dried tomato mayo, sweet & sassy BBQ sauce, and bleu cheese walnut & bacon (not for me- I’m allergic) did make for nice accompaniments. Sausage

I can’t say I’ve dined in too many sausage houses (unfortunately I’ve not had the pleasure to visit any authentic ones in Germany or elsewhere). The closest thing I’ve had recently would probably be Fette Sau in Brooklyn, NY (predating this blog, though I may throw together one retroactively since the BBQ was that good). The biggest similarities were probably the communal picnic table style eating, great beer, and great meats.

“Champagne on the House?”

Given my affinity for diner breakfasts, it’s not often that I’m offered free Champagne while waiting for a table (we’ll let’s be real, this never happens at my typical diners).

 However, I figured while visiting one of my best friends and his wife in LA. Why not?

 Since we needed to stop by Santa Monica, they took me to “The Ivy,” their favorite favorite brunch spot in the area. I was a little taken aback (pleasantly) by the complimentary champagne and white table cloth settings, but when it came to the food, I was in for a real treat.

 While I often go fairly standard in my breakfast orders (2 eggs, breakfast potatoes, and some type of meat), the menu prices further solidified my choice. As I do whenever possible, I went for the poached eggs.  While they were certainly good, the real surprise winner of the meal was the bacon. As always, I judge my breakfasts by the meat and the potatoes, and this bacon may been the best breakfast meat I’ve had in my life. It was thick, rich, salty, and perfectly crisp. 

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Interestingly, the side of potatoes turned out to be French Fries. They were decent fries; however, I certainly wouldn’t have expected that given the rest of the ambience. Although, in looking back, they may have only served fries given the time of day (around noon) and the fact that we had to ask for the breakfast menu, while the regular lunch menu included several gourmet burgers and fries. Though I was not surprised when we asked for ketchup to accompany both our eggs and fries and the condiment came served in single size serving bowls. I learned a long time ago, while working in an upscale french restaurant that restaurants of this caliber certainly do not put a Heinz bottle anywhere near their table tops. Image

Given the bacon alone this meal would’ve been worth it, but when you throw in the complimentary champagne and a beautiful seaside view (even on an overcast day) there’s no question about it.