Hog Island + After Dark | SF 2017

Last time on SF 2017, I spent a lovely day exploring the California Academy of Sciences at my own leisurely pace after an evening and morning of being very hangry. With a day of museum-ing behind me, the hanger was beginning to settle in yet again…


Before I set out for San Francisco, I asked for recommendations for food, knowing that I would be overwhelmed by options in one of the great food cities in this country. While my friends kept their recommendations for me unique, the only place multiple people urged me to visit was Hog Island Oyster Company over in the Ferry Building. In fact, about 5 people recommended that, despite that lines, despite the hype, despite how it had become a tourist trap, I must visit Hog Island and eat oysters.

Yes, there were lines, but I have to give a shout-out to the hostess who seated me at the bar and kept a seat next to me open so that my boyfriend could join me (over an hour later!). She is the real MVP. (So is Ben, who put up with me [h]angrily miscommunicating with him over the phone about when he would show up. Thank you for being so patient with me!)

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Yes, $14 for a bowl of clam chowder is a little nuts, but it was the best clam chowder I’ve ever tasted. I ordered this when I sat down and tried so so hard to leave some for Ben to try when he was able to join me after his work obligations let him go. The little itty bitty bit of soup I left for him was long-cold but still really tasty.

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The oysters were good. I don’t think I was actually as wow-ed by them as I was by the chowder, but they were really good and definitely hit the spot as I had been craving them for some time. I can never keep track of what each type is when the server describes them to me, but I slurped down every single one happily.

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From the Ferry Building, Ben and I wandered along a few of the nearby piers and stopped at Pier 9 for a little impromptu photoshoot. Comment below with your guess for how many takes it took for me to get my Gene Kelly moment, because it was a LOT. (The lamppost had no place for me to put my foot, so I was engaging my whole body just trying to stay up there…)

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We parted ways so that I could meet up with one of my friends from high school, David, who I haven’t actually seen since he showed up at my high school graduation. “Catching up” was funny because when he asked “Wow, how long has it been, what do we need to catch up on?” I said, “Well… everything.” While we hung out plenty in high school, it was always in a group setting and never in a particularly personal one. This was the first time we got to talk one-on-one and the first time we were talking about our own lives rather than something [high] school-related. It was really nice and if I wasn’t already happy that David reached out to me out of the blue, I ended the evening feeling so grateful to have him as a friend because he’s really fantastic. In fact, I was a little sad that I was learning this so late and knowing that we wouldn’t hang out for a long time. (Hopefully not as long as the gap between now and high school.)

Fun fact: David makes these awesome build videos where he DIYs really cool stuff. Highly recommend checking them out!

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David and I hung out at the Exploratorium: After Dark, which is another weekly, Thursday evening adults-only museum event. I don’t have many photos because I spent most of the time taking video (which I will hopefully be able to show you all sometime soon?) but it really is so much fun as an adult to visit a museum without a lot of children running around. Especially for a place like the Exploratorium, which is made up of mostly interactive exhibits, it’s nice to not feel like you are taking away from some kid’s fun day in order to play with the toys available. The science at the Exploratorium is actually really interesting and very solid. Christine‘s Yelp review of this place was right: it’s a really good date spot, so I realized afterwards that it was funny to be here with a guy friend who I was getting to know on a personal level for the first time. (It felt a little bit like a first date, especially with the walk around the Embarcadero after!) But the Exploratorium was really awesome, and I can’t wait to share the footage I got during my time there.

Exploratorium: After Dark
Every Thursday, 6-10pm
$15 general admission; $10 additional for tactile dome admission
Pier 15 (Embarcadero Green Street)
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 528-4444
https://www.exploratorium.edu/visit/calendar/after-dark

Must be 18+ to enter

When After Dark ended, David and I walked to the bar where Ben and his co-workers were sampling whiskeys before calling it a night. I went to bed grateful for the delicious seafood in my belly, for the fun hands-on science I got to play with, and for reconnecting with a really amazing old friend.


Do you like adults-only days/hours at the museum? I know that the Exploratorium and the California Academy of Sciences both have one every Thursday in San Francisco, but I’d like to learn about similar events at other museums in other cities!

Where is the best seafood you’ve had? I attempted to go vegetarian when I was in middle school, but if I were to try again I could not give up seafood for sure. Tell me where you love to eat seafood! Especially where I can compare clam chowder and oysters. (My favorite are $1 oysters!)

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Spring Break 2015: Key West (Day 2)

Last time on Spring Break 2015, we spent a day in Fort Lauderdale and then spent 4 hours driving to Key West. Upon arrival, we had a taste of night life and curled up on a beach to recuperate before another full day of fun.


I wish I could say that I awoke peacefully to the gentle warmth and glow of the sun, peeking over the sea as I slept with the smell of salt and sea in my hair.

Sunrise on the beach
Beach sunrise…
Sunrise on the beach with waves on the rocks
Breathe in the serenity… it doesn’t last

In reality, we had barely settled into our sleeping positions on the beach and in the car when I learned something the hard way:

Key West has feral chickens. I found out when, at 3 AM, I heard a rooster crowing its lungs out. And then no fewer than 2 roosters joined that one. There was a proud rooster, with a confident crow, and a very sad rooster with a depressingly dejected one. I wish I knew why 3 AM was when they decided to start crowing, because cartoons and movies have told me that roosters crow when the sun rises. Clearly, these roosters didn’t get that memo.

Rooster
Cocky…

I was under the impression that these roosters belonged to one of the houses nearby, but when I woke up, I saw them wandering around. A cocky rooster strutting around and still crowing, a few hens, even some chicks! I was very excited to see those adorable chicks but I do with I was less cranky at this point in time. I can sleep through almost anything. I’ve fallen asleep standing up, I routinely sleep in any and all public transportation, I have even nodded off on the stairs. But there are 2 things that will keep me from falling asleep no matter how sleepy I am and that will wake me up no matter how deeply I’m sleeping: (1) Snoring and (2) ROOSTERS CROWING. I discovered the power of the rooster crow when I was in China over a decade ago and first successfully stayed up all night thanks to the roosters next door.

Chick next to chicken
Chick + chicken = almost forgiven BUT NOT REALLY

Let’s move on from the roosters, as we kept seeing them throughout the day (they’re everywhere). Just know that every time I saw them, I tried to give them the most menacing glare I could.

I did get to enjoy a really serene ocean sunrise when I was done staring down these roosters and their families. From there, we went to breakfast at Southernmost Beach Cafe. (Since this is Key West, “southernmost” was a recurring theme in the naming of local establishments.) I filled my belly with chicken and waffles because we already had two smoked salmon omelettes at the table.

Chicken and waffles with candied pecans and cayenne maple syrup
Chicken and waffles with candied pecans and cayenne maple syrup
Eggs benedict
More eggs benny!

We had a big day ahead of us in Key West! First, we set up at a proper campsite at Boyd’s Campground, which provided a nice spot for us to rest our heads next to the water.

View from our campsite
View from our campsite
Our tent and our rental hatchback
Our tent and our rental hatchback

We walked around for a bit, getting our bearings and seeing what this town looked like in daylight. (I was so surprised by how many people were sunburned that early in the day. Did these folks not know how the sun works by now?)

A romantic and somewhat unsettling statue
A romantic and somewhat unsettling statue
Pelican? at the docks
A friend we made while walking

Our biggest adventure was: snorkeling! I’ve never been snorkeling before and I was so excited because, I mean, I’ve been obsessed with The Little Mermaid for so long and with marine life in general for so long now. The idea of us being out there, swimming with the fishies LITERALLY was so exciting to me. The weather was perfect for a day out on the sea and the Floridays crew was so nice to us! They were friendly but not too friendly because they understand you’re out here to get to know the fish, not the captain of the boat. I felt really safe and at ease, even when I started feeling nauseous and watched half of the other passengers throw up over the side of the boat. (For those interested, going snorkeling with Floridays includes beverages. I just had myself a ginger ale because of my belly, but you could have something with more of an edge to it if you wanted, as well.)

View from the boat
The only photo I have is from our boat ride out to the reef…

Being my first time snorkeling, I had a bit of trouble with the breathing. (So much for those mermaid dreams.) I got water in my goggles and in my snorkel pretty often, and at one point, I had floated to a really shallow part of the reef. I was too scared to move for fear of kicking at the coral with my flippers, but the waves were really rough in that area to the point where I was worried the water itself would slam me into the reefs. But wow was it amazing. The fish weren’t afraid of me — even though I was covered in a lot of SPF 90 — and I saw so many different kinds of fish and coral out there. It was seriously one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had an it was easily the highlight of Key West for me and one of the high points of the entire trip. I wish I had photos to share but I will seriously cherish the memory of being as close to a mermaid as I will ever be. Also, I cannot recommend snorkeling in Key West enough, especially with Floridays.

Of course, since we were in Key West, I was told by friends that it was mandatory that I get key lime pie on a stick dipped in chocolate. So I did!

The classic - key lime pie, frozen, put on a stick, dipped in chocolate
The classic – key lime pie, frozen, put on a stick, dipped in chocolate

Since we had some time before sunset, we had dinner. Kind of. First, we stopped by The Conch Shack because, when in Key West and not eating key lime pie, you gotta try some conch.  Between the 4 of us, we split a conch sampler (conch fritters, conch ceviche, cracked conch, and fries) and a seafood sampler (conch fritters, fried fish, fried shrimp, and fries). This was literally a little shack with amazing fried seafood and — the highlight of this shack — misters that would spray a fine mist of cool water on you as you walked round to the seating area. Delicious food, refreshing mist… stop by here when you want to get some conch in Key West. As it turns out, we wanted to balance out our meal more, which is why we split our orders at The Conch Shack. We stopped by Hogfish Bar & Grill for a more traditional dining experience. (We didn’t have hogfish but yo, hogfish are terrifying looking.) I wanted to balance out all that fried goodness I had earlier, so I ordered a ceviche with the waitress’s promise that it had lots of veggies. We had okay food there, but we really just wanted to wait for sunset with ice water in a cool restaurant, to be totally honest. (It was open air, so there was no AC, but being out of the sun and in front of a fan really helped.)

Sign denoting Conch Shack

Food from Conch Shack
Yummmmmmmmmm

We rounded out the evening by going to Mallory Square for the Sunset Celebration. Talented street performers come out and put on some amazing shows while vendors provide food and handmade crafts. It was super cool in that it highlighted these local talents in this beautiful place. The performers themselves! I mean they should be on America’s Got Talent, they were incredible. I wish nothing but the best for them.

Man in top hap doing a hand stand on chairs
Not pictured: the 8 (!!!) chairs that were stacked below his hands/feet

It also didn’t hurt at all that Mallory Square is gorgeous at sunset. This is definitely another must-do Key West activity.

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The evening ended with us returning to our campsite — a proper one this time! — and settling down with cold drinks in front of a small bonfire we made. The bonfire was short-lived, as the gravel that comprised the artificial “beach” we camped on had a tendency to POP. A lot. It was pretty dangerous actually, but the fire felt nice because it was that toasty, cozy, dry heat and not the gross humidity that we had been dealing with since touchdown. We all bundled up in our tent (which got a little too warm because there wasn’t much airflow through it) and had a pretty good night’s sleep.

Campfire

Pre-Anniversary Dinner [recipes]

Today is not only Veteran’s Day, as it is also my anniversary, celebrating my not messing up my first relationship for three whole years.

All jokes aside, today is all about gratitude. I’m grateful to those who fought for us and I’m grateful to my boyfriend for sticking with me all this time.

Since we are going to one of our favorite places for dinner tonight, I thought I’d make us some dinner last night. I couldn’t decide which meal I wanted so I made both baked tilapia and linguine with shrimp scampi at my boyfriend’s place. He didn’t have every ingredient I wanted, but considering he usually tries to keep his kitchen more low-maintenance, I was really excited at what I did have on hand. I guess I was actually REALLY excited because I wanted to throw together a post based on our meal, but just please remember how my recipe posts go.

First, since it sits in an oven for a while:

Baked Tilapia

(Similar recipe used as reference)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tilapia fillets (thawed from frozen)
  • Butter
  • Seasoning
    • I used garlic powder, onion powder, and a dash of salt & pepper. At home, I’d also use some Old Bay, but you can use whatever you’d like.
  • 4 slices of lemon
  • Frozen veggies
    • I used a mix that contained cauliflower, broccoli, & carrots, but feel free to use any veggies that you like to enjoy with fish. I would recommend a hardier veggie like broccoli versus something really small like peas, due to cooking time.

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F.
  2. Line your baking dish/pan with aluminum foil and cover with butter/oil/cooking spray.
    • This ensures that you can remove your fish for serving.
    • I used sesame oil because I was feeling cheeky and I love sesame oil.
  3. Place tilapia fillets on the foil and season.
  4. Put little bits of butter on the tops of the fillets.
    • Then they melt and ooze flavor and it’ll be good stuff, really.
  5. Place 2 lemon slices evenly-spaced on each fillet.
  6. Put frozen veggies on tray around the fish and lightly season.
    • Optional: Drizzle a teeny amount of oil/put teensy bits of butter on veggies. They won’t really need the extra fats but it’s up to you.
  7. Cover the dish/pan with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes in the oven.

I served this with Trader Joe’s Chimichurri Rice (very yummy!) and kept my seasonings and buttering of the fish very light so that it wouldn’t be too heavy with the seasoned rice.

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How it looked before I put it in the oven

While you wait for the fish to finish cook in the oven, you can work on:

Linguine with Shrimp Scampi

(Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe)

Ingredients:

A lot of these ingredients

  • Linguine
  • Shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Minced garlic
  • Lemon zest
    • HACKS: If you don’t have a zester or microplane like me, try using a vegetable peeler to get the zest off and then mince it up.
  • Lemon juice
    • And yeah, you could probably throw lemon slices in there like Ina did
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
    • I’m going to be really honest with you guys, I almost never cook without garlic powder
  • Red pepper flakes
    • My boyfriend doesn’t have these but I do and wished I was weird enough to bring them with me for this recipe.
    • Plus, that chimichurri rice is really flavorful, so it’s okay if this isn’t too heavily seasoned

Directions:

  1. Boil your linguine according to the instructions (boil a pot of salted water, put your pasta in, cook until a bit more than al dente because you’ll be cooking it a tiny bit more soon.)
  2. While your pasta is boiling, melt your butter in a pan with olive oil over a medium-low heat.
  3. Add minced garlic and sauté.
    • Don’t burn your garlic! Minced garlic burns especially easily because it’s so small.
  4. Add your shrimp to sauté until they just turn pink while adding in your dry seasoning.
  5. Remove from heat and add lemon zest, lemon juice, (lemon slices,) and any other yummies you may have, e.g. red pepper flakes, parsley.
  6. Drain your cooked linguine and put it back in the pot with your shrimp and other goodness.
  7. Toss everything well and enjoy!

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Happy Veteran’s Day and happy anniversary to my better half.

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Share a recipe that you got really excited to cook lately, please? I’m really in the mood to cook as the weather gets cooler, so I’m super excited to make my kitchen werk.