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Comfort Food - Issue #8

Sarah Lacy
Sarah Lacy
One foot in; one foot out.

final margs & market :(
final margs & market :(
Well, we left. We did it all. We did the going away party. We got Evie’s consolation puppy. We ate the entire city of San Francisco. We did most of our favorite last things.
I gave my kids the magical summer I promised.
I gave myself the final three week extended love letter goodbye to San Francisco I needed. 
Radish and I are at the airport now waiting on our flight, and I’m flooded with emotion as I have been increasingly all summer. 
I don’t want to do this move, but I do want to do it for everyone else in my family who needs it. And I have a feeling I’ll find that I needed it too. 
We had an amazing final day in San Francisco. I ordered Tartine croissants for breakfast, and cookies, brownies and three loaves of bread to take. (Fully one carry on bag is Tartine.) 
“Donuts are usually what you get for a going away breakfast,” Evie sulked. 
These kids don’t know how good they’ve had it. That’s ok. They’ll learn. I was the same way with biscuits and BBQ and fried chicken.
Twenty minutes later, the doorbell rang. Paul had also DoorDashed donuts. “Everyone gets what they need today,” he said. 
We went to the Exploratorium. We had a birthday party to go to afterwards and so we went into the store. “We are only getting something for Angeli, not us!” I said. 
We got Angeli a crystal growing kit that we all kinda wanted. I got Evie a book on how to program in Scratch, a San Francisco fog-snow globe for me, and a magic set for Eli and Paul. Oh well. 
We took a Lyft to the beach at Crissy Field for our party. The kids played in the ocean with their friends. 1/3 of Evie’s grade is leaving so there were a lot of emotions all over the place. 
The kids played in the ocean for hours and then seemed stunned they were sandy and wet. I made shorts out of my cardigan for Eli and Evie wore a blanket home. 
I keep correcting people that we aren’t “moving” because we’ll be back so much. So why is it so painful? Why does it feel so momentous? 
On the way to the party, my friend’s son noted that he and Eli are the only two kids left who’ve were at the school since the first day of TK. 
My friend started the normal “Oh, we’ll still see them” that we all do when the topic of leaving comes up. 
Her son, Evie’s friend, said, “Right mom, but let’s be honest: It’s different. It’s going to be different now.” 
She had to take a deep breath and acknowledge he was right. It is.
I am having to acknowledge and mourn that as well. This is not what I planned or worked so hard to give them, but it’s what they need. 
We got back to the Mission and went to Nice Kicks to get Eli some new shoes for school. She doesn’t have to wear black, dark blue or white anymore so she wanted something epic. This move is all about freedom for her. FINALLY. 
She picked some red tie dye shoes and a matching mask. She’s ready to be a Firebird. More than ready. I am ready for her to soar. How great is it the new school’s mascot is a Phoenix? Is anything more fitting for this stage in Eli’s life? 
Eli and I walked bundled up in my large orange cardigan like a two-headed monster. 
“You are the perfect height for a walking cuddle,” I whispered to her, squeezing her tight. Walking the same streets, passing the same vendors who have helped me raise my kids from infants. Through divorce, through heartbreak, through bullying, through death threats, and fears we wouldn’t make it. We made it. And now we’re leaving. 
That night we cuddled on the couch. In that same little corner of the red sectional where we’ve all cuddled for almost ten years. Popcorn nights, movie nights, Chuggington, “annnnurrr Chica?”, Yo Gabba Gabba, Paw Patrol, Octonauts. So many phases, that we all three just leapt into. We have chugged from the firehose of childhood and life and San Francisco. 
“Can I have the EvSpot tonight?” Eli said. The EvSpot is the corner between the turn of the couch and me. Just tiny enough for tiny little Evie. Evie didn’t like it, but I reminded her of the donut largesse. 
“Let Eli have it.” 
The EvSpot is where I always lean my wine glass against the wall. The wall was unsurprisingly splattered with red wine behind the couch. I pulled it out and scrubbed it all away during a Covid lockdown cleaning fit. 
My kids clamber all over the red sectional like a jungle gym, but they’ve learned to respect the wine glass leaning on that wall. Eli learned the hard way. When she was a tiny toddler, her dad and I were fighting in the kitchen in the final days of our marriage. She ran in yelling: “MAMA JUICE EVERYWHERE!”  
When I bought a red sectional, I just thought it was chic. I had no idea how many spills red would hide. 
If I’d had to sell this home, I simply wouldn’t have left. I couldn’t have. I worked too hard for it. It cradled me through too many tears. This couch will always been here for us when we need it, just as we left it. 
“I’m gonna miss you tomorrow,” I said to Eli.
I was flying down with Radish and Paul was driving the girls, the cats, and the final belongings that we’re bringing to Palm Springs. 
“It’s like the balls at Urban Putt,” Eli said. “At the end of the game.”
Our family each has a color at Urban Putt. I’m the green ball always, Eli is the orange ball, Evie is the blue one. Apple/Andrea or whoever else my join is the yellow ball. If I’m not there, the children DO NOT let anyone else be the green ball. (FWIW: Urban Putt, not the best food. Excellent Froze.)
I’m not sure what I am without San Francisco. We’ve become intertwined. As co-parents, as business partners, as co-conspirators, as enemies sometimes. 
But I’ve got the orange ball, the blue ball, and the Paul iteration of the yellow ball. 
Like it or not, it’s time for our new life. San Francisco got them through babyhood, toddlerhood, and just on the precipice of adolescence. Palm Springs and Southern California will pick up from here. 
And when they’re 18, I’ll be back. And every summer we’ll be back. 
120 degrees is too hot for Radish’s paws and my stomach will be rumbling for more San Francisco food. I don’t know what we’ll be watching in the corner of the red couch, but I’ll find a way to hold them close again there. 
Meantime, what I ate since we last spoke…
Thursday: Ernest
We hit up margs & market as usual, the Thursday Mission Mercado farmer’s market. We stop by the Beauty Bar for walking around frozen margaritas first, and EVERYONE is always jealous. We didn’t take Radish, Adimika’s son and his friend Radish sat in the backyard.
It was my second to last M&M, and there was a new vendor that had A FRIED PICKLE. I had dinner reservations and didn’t want to spoil my appetite, but…. we split an order. One pickle won’t hurt, right?
THIS PICKLE. The equivalent of that DQ onion ring I wrote about a few weeks ago. Andrea is from the Carolinas, I am from Memphis, and Adimika’s family is from New Orleans and went to school in Atlanta.
NONE OF US HAD EVERY HAD A FRIED PICKLE THIS GOOD.
We ran into a friend and insisted she go try one. They’d already sold out, but they had a spare they gifted her.
We had to grill them on how they got the excess moisture out of the pickle. I guessed they slice them and then paper towel dry them (maybe compressed a bit?) in a fridge all day. Nope: Double dredge with cornstarch with a brine in between.
WOW.
Meantime, it was the first full day with Radish, our new puppy, and we had reservations at Ernest, one of the hottest restaurants post-pandemic. We’ve gone once before, and it’s amazing. But if I’m gonna split hairs between the best restaurants in my neighborhood, it’s very fish-forward and I can be picky about fish that’s too briny.
My problem, not Ernest’s. And I was still excited to go back. But I thought about giving the reservation to someone else. Paul outright vetoed it because he LOVED Ernest.
WOW. I am so glad we went. It was even better.
Like Al’s we did the chef’s tasting menu. These chefs are artists. Geniuses. Just put yourself in their hands. The dishes defy description so you can’t really pick from the menu.
Our opening raw bar course was incredible. Not a fan of tartar personally, but loved the oysters with the house hot sauce and lemon and mignonette. Scallops with blistered tomatoes and herbs.
And, so so sorry Foreign Cinema but in little more than a week’s time your prawn cocktail has been dethroned!!! Ernest chops it mixes with avocado and something tomato-y (?) and serves it with SALTINES. It’s the same high brow, low brow genius that Turner’s Kitchen did with its Frito Pie, exactly what inspired this newsletter.
I gasp every time I see the saltines piled next to this elegant and reconstructed prawn cocktail. The server always explains it’s the only thing NOT house made as if I should be less impressed. The chef’s GENIUS, to me, is that he’s paired something brilliant with the classic saltine that really is comfort food because we all ate it when we were sick! Turner’s makes its chili but if it made its own Fritos it wouldn’t work.
There’s a high end carbonara, a beef dumpling that’s incredible, and they had a beef skewer that was pure summer. It was a blur as tasting menus are, but I’m so glad we went back. One of the best meals I’ve had all summer.
OH! AND THE DESSERT! Massive soft serve with pralines and homemade magic shell. Absolutely incredible.
AND when we said we were moving to Palm Springs, the server said 1/3 of their staff vacations there. I asked for restaurant recommendations, and a guy came over with a whole handwritten list he talked us through!!! We were happy to share a few with him too. I’ll let you know how they were when we try them!! So sweet.
San Francisco restaurant workers from top to bottom take their craft so seriously. This is why you pay people well and give them healthcare because they aren’t “serving” us they are nourishing us in every way.
Yes, Ernest is hard to get into. Set a ton of alerts on Resy and you’ll get notifications when tables come up. They always come up. Don’t be intimidated by the no availability.
If we’re friends I’ll go with you when I’m back ;)
Flour + Water
Andrea and I hit up F+W and it was fantastic. They’ve brought back their tasting menu, since it does seem to be the game in town right now in the Mission.
It’s appealing for a few reasons. 1. I CANNOT MAKE ANOTHER DECISION RIGHT NOW. 2. We spent 18 mo in lockdown and are maybe headed back. Let’s just try EVERYTHING. 3. SF chefs are artists. Give them a blank canvas.
The F+W tasting menu was more than the usual $95/pp standard in the Mission at $125 I believe. It was absolutely worth the extra because THE PORTIONS. omg. I loved the food but it was way way too much! We could have had just one pasta course (ft two pastas!). I realize pasta is their thing and – again – it was all delicious. But we couldn’t enjoy the last few courses because it was just waaaaaay too much. We did bring it home for leftovers and they were lovely about boxing it all up.
The halibut crudo was THE BEST crudo I’ve had all summer. The little gems with the chickpea and horseradish dressing…. incredible. The summer truffle sformato was the absolute standout. So if you aren’t up for the full tasting, grab those three!!
Our server was amazing despite our loudness and how long we sat. He even shared a glass with us. I say this again and again but it was everything I love about Mission dining. We are so lucky to not only have restaurants that are consistent in service and food every time, but an entire scene that is.
My own tomato sandwich
Of all the great bites I’ve had in my last week in San Francisco, I gotta say one of the best was my own tomato sandwich. I realized I hadn’t yet had a great tomato sandwich, so I scouted the normal Thursday farmer’s market on a mission. The perfect tomato. A soft creamy loaf of white bread.
I found the former, but the bread lady wasn’t there this week. :( I got this AMAZING butter tho at the farmer’s market in the Mission. I forgot the name, I’m sorry, but if you go to the Mission Mercado, ask for the incredible butter and any vendor will point you there. This butter has actually won awards.
So I took normal white sandwich bread, toasted it. Rubbed each side with a clove of garlic. Then I spread the fancy pants butter on one side, Duke’s Mayo on the other. (The best. Don’t even come at me with Hellmans.) Thick slab of tomato with pepper and Maldon’s flaky salt. Flaky salt and pepper on the butter and mayo too.
I ate it during the last office hours for Lisa Cron’s incredible course on “Unlocking Aha!” – all about the art of using story to change people’s minds and unlock customer/investor conversion. Lisa is a genius and building this course with her has been such a pleasure.
It was without a doubt one of the best bites I had in San Francisco all summer. It’s what I always say: It’s the ingredients here as much as the chefs that make it amazing.
Earlier that day, my girls were chomping on blackberries from the farmer’s market. The berry game has been ON POINT all summer.
“So, can the farmer’s market people just package up whatever doesn’t sell and ship it to us in Palm Springs each week?” Eli asked. Yep, she’s the diva of the family. (And by diva I mean, HELL YES! KNOW YOUR WORTH AND ASK FOR IT, ELI!!)
But on this occasion, no, they will not do that, sadly.
Hot dogs
Earlier this week, we also had the last office hours for our July course RAGE REHAB: From Nope to Hope in Four Weeks. It was really an incredible clearing of the rage pipes that taught me to honor my rage, examine it and use it, but not apologize for it. It was exactly what I needed post and during pandemic (grr!).
Our final assignment was to do something impractical, indulgent, even childish for yourself. So I put a two hour hold on Paul and my calendar to walk to Golden Gate park for hot dogs at lunch. It’s 70 degrees in SF today, the last day of summer the kids are at camp.
I only wish Radish had her shots and could come too :(
Mister Jiu’s
I saved the reservation I was the most excited about for last: Mister Jiu’s. It’s a high concept trendy Chinese/American place in Chinatown, that boasts one of the best food mafias in San Francisco right now, and a dramatically inclusive and respectful work culture.
In general, I’ve been disappointed in the Chinese food I’ve eaten here, which is strange given San Francisco has one of the largest Chinatowns.
So I’ve been going down all sorts of food best of lists trying high brow and low brow, trying to find the elusive amazing Chinese meal in San Francisco. Mixed results, to be honest.
Mister Jiu’s atmosphere was incredible. We sat upstairs, looking out at the red lanterns of China town. I had the happiness cocktail, followed by wealth. The service was excellent.
And most of the food beat very high expectations. Holy smokes their interpretation of a scallion pancake was puffed up and one of the best things I’ve eaten. The salt and vinegar shrimp chips: Incredible. The long beans? How were the long beans so good?
But I gotta say the Peking duck, the main event that I was so excited for. That takes an hour to prepare, that I ordered the second I sat down. I gotta say… . and it pains me to say… I was underwhelmed. Still, I would go back in a heart beat and devour the things I loved and try something new.
New life…
We have been so incredibly indulgent the last few weeks with our San Francisco food goodbye. Financially and calorifically. My challenge next week is to eat well in Palm Springs, while not eating out, and eating more healthy. Both of us need to get back into shape (a bit) and our credit cards certainly need a break.
I’ll update you on how it goes next week!
Final farmer's market haul. (note my "summer SF" outfit!)
Final farmer's market haul. (note my "summer SF" outfit!)
Wealth at Mister Jiu's
Wealth at Mister Jiu's
My own tomato sandwich with farmer's market tomato and butter and DUKE'S!
My own tomato sandwich with farmer's market tomato and butter and DUKE'S!
Salt and Pepper shrimp chips at Mister Jiu's. Wish they sold them by the bag. At any price
Salt and Pepper shrimp chips at Mister Jiu's. Wish they sold them by the bag. At any price
INCREDIBLE sour dough scallion pancake. One of the best bites of my restaurant binge.
INCREDIBLE sour dough scallion pancake. One of the best bites of my restaurant binge.
Don’t miss out on the other issues by Sarah Lacy
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Sarah Lacy
Sarah Lacy @sarahcuda

I'm the founder of Pando and Chairman Mom. I live half time between San Francisco and Palm Springs, ferretting out the best food between the two. Food is my love language.

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