Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gourmet Bargains and Cheap Apologies

I certainly live the city life, don't I? The public transportation--here in SF a moderately terrifying mix of Louis Vuitton bags and bag ladies--overwhelming trips to the grocery store, intimate knowledge of the stomps and sexcapades of the apartment above, shopping trips that cost more in parking than the clothes themselves, and lot's and lot's of take out. Which is why I'm so grateful for the 2007 release of The Chronicle's Bargains Bites. An entire publication devoted to cheap, good eats in the Bay Area, Napa to San Jose, oh my.

The BF and I carry the damn Bites guide with us everywhere we go, often reading out loud to each other the different restaurant descriptions, discussing the merits of PHO while we sit in rush hour traffic on Howard. The best part is that now we can start our manic attempt at eating our way through. We get about 1/8 of the way before we tap out and simply start making second and third, and hell, even fourth trips to the same places. The good news is that we've already hit up all the places listed for San Rafael (in fact, The BF has been laying some bold claims lately, like the Bargain Bite's food writers and editors have some how tapped into his brain and uncovered his own personal treasure trove of cheap, good food...he has a point we HAVE been eating at those places for the past few years), and then of course, there are the places that we did actually make it to last year. I think that puts us somewhere around the 1/4 mark. Perhaps we'll make it through another 10 this year before our desire to eat great, new food, is waylaid by laziness, and a stronger desire to eat good food that we know we already like, perhaps our greatest flaw.

But we're staying optimistic. We've already knocked one off of our list, Gourmet Carousel on Franklin and Pine. Now, why should this Chinese restaurant in "Pacific Heights" be our first choice? It's rather anecdotal really. The Franklin to Lombard route is the fastest route from the downtown or SOMA areas to the Marina, and so, we frequent it often. (The joy of timed lights). And perhaps nearly every time that The BF and I, and often Shirley as well, drive that route we comment on the dive that is Gourmet Carousel. At the bottom of some ramshackle Victorian (isn't everything in this city), with it's bright green sign, from the Franklin side things just look, well, bad. And so, for months it's been the running joke that we'll grab Gourmet Carousel on the way home, if we're in the mood for stomach and intestinal ailments. It's not right I know. So prejudice, so not following the cardinal rule of not reading a book by it's cover. When we saw it on the Bargain Bites we felt ashamed and also fascinated.

Needless to say, on Monday night we placed an order for take out. Barbecued pork wonton soup, two orders of rice, and eggplant with ground pork. Ready in six minutes, or so they said, only it actually was. And though, from the Pine side where there was actually an open curb for me to pull up to as The BF ran in to pay (a mere $12.00+), the place wasn't stunning, but it certainly wasn't awful either. When we slurped up the hot, flavorful soup literally brimming full with tender won tons and sweet pork, and coated our sticky rice bowls with soft eggplant dripping in it's salty pork syrup, we knew next time we'd be trying the seafood and perhaps their broccoli with beef or maybe we'd just stick with the soup and eggplant. Patting our massively full bellies later that night we knew we had some apologizing to do. So, I'm sorry Gourmet Carousel for judging you without just cause. It wasn't you, it was the city. Every time I think I have it pegged, it throws me for a loop.

No, it's certainly not an easy life we city goers lead.

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