: views from the Hill

Friday, June 30, 2006

Who wants a boring old cab ride anyway? Or life last night on the 19 Polk line. ...

Last night was San Francisco Magazine's Sixth Annual Best of the Bay Area Party. The event (a benefit for the Koret Family House) was held down at the Concourse Exhibition Center.

What did we have in store?

RELISH AND REVEL in luxe libations / irresistible hors d’oeuvres / live entertainment / spa treatments / exploratory lounges / a silent auction / fabulous raffle prizes / gift bags with great swag / and much more!

WEAR: Style up!

We paid a bit extra to come in an hour early (6 PM instead of 7 PM) and hey, why not. Koret Family House is a good cause.

Food, wine, Grey Goose Vodka (lots and lots of Grey Goose Vodka on hand) at multiple bars sprinkled throughout the venue, live entertainment, original art, emerging artists, Paris Hilton wannabes, Willie Brown on scene, DJs, lots of lounge places to sit, food, people watching, more food, wine and straight shots of Cazadores Tequila Reposado if that was more your style.

Plus swag.

Who could ask for anything more?

We had a great time. The lounge-around places were of sufficient quantity that we could just sit and watch people when we didn't want to eat or drink, or when the people-crush in the areas near the food and libations got crushy enough to make me twitch and in need of respite.

The music was loud. The vibe was very hip. I, of course, was dressed as my usual self in black Levis and a black corduroy shirt over a silk blouse. Rockports. Black pair. Oooh. I matched!

Willie Brown's companion was wearing a short gold frock and high gold boots. There was much black cocktail dress action. Loads of glitter. Leather pants. White satin pants. Too tight pants, too.

Much Cosmopolitan drinking. Sex and the City seemed to be the general theme with some Size -1 types. Oh, sure, there were people in the obese category too, but they were few and far between. And there was some Seattle grunge grunge, but not much. Some retro looks, especially guy stuff. Polka dots! And more little black dresses.

In a crowd of a couple thousand glitzy people, yours truly was not. Glitz and glitter, after all, is so uncomfortable when you ride public transit to and fro.

Public transit to: Left an hour before show time. Walked down to Washington Square Park. Waited at the bus stop for far longer than the advertised 9-10 minutes for a 41 or 45. The 41 was the first to arrive. Got off at Polk. Waited at the bus stop for far far far longer than the advertised 10 minutes for a 19 Polk. Took the 19 Polk to the bus stop kitty-corner to the front door of the Concourse Exhibition Center. Arrived only fifteen minutes after we wanted. Not bad. Another 19 Polk was directly behind ours, of course. Get those buses synch'd and separated, Muni!

Our ticket got us in to the VIP Lounge and foodie stations on that side of the hall while hoi polloi waited patiently outside. We weren't allowed onto the main floor or the other side of the hall until after 7 PM, when the doors opened for reals.

We were handed Champagne in a flute as we walked in the door and we headed for the foodie tables. Everything was tasty. We also had a nice chat with Andrew Dickson of Andrew Lane Wines, who was pouring his wines in the VIP Lounge. (Lane is Andrew's brother, hence Andrew Lane Wines.) We tried both the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Zinfandel Andrew Dickson brought with him. Tasty.

Being as we were confined to the VIP Lounge until the main doors opened and after thirty minutes or so we'd tasted all the food we had access to, we circled back to Hog Island Oyster Company and slurped down oysters as fast as our oyster shucker could shuck.

Ym. Double ym. Kumamoto oysters and another type that I've forgotten. Sweetwater oysters mebbe? Accompanied by lime, lemon, Tabasco or Hogwash. Your choice. Ym. The salty ocean taste of fresh oysters brings back memories of playing in the waves off Manhattan Beach at a tender age.

The doors opened. The music kicked into full force. Over there live music rocked. DJ Label spun music in the VIP Lounge. The confluence of the music systems was deafening, rocking.

We were there for the food. The music and scene were wasted on us, alas, except as a people-watching Nirvana.

I didn't take notes and don't remember exactly which restaurant brought what to the table. Food memories run together. Someone (the girl & the fig?) had a mac and cheese dish that involved very yummy cheese and mac, topped with toasted crumbs and a wee slice of truffle. Bocadillos had a fish seviche that was scrumptious. Others had other tasty, noshy bits. Snagging a taste of most (but not all) non-dessert offerings, and taking a double taste of the special ones, I found myself filled to overflowing by the time it was time for desserts.

No desserts for me. Someone could have, and probably did, fill up to overflowing on just the desserts being served up.

Over the evening, the best foodie bits were
  • the Foie Gras Torchon from Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
  • the foie mousse from Bacar
  • the sea urchin mousse with carrot foam from Chez TJ
Christopher Kostow, the recently-hired (five or six months back) chef at Chez TJ was happy that we liked his sea urchin. I told him of the old days, back when Tom McCombie was still alive, back when George Aviet was married to Beverly. We went out once a month to Chez TJ, making the next month's reservation as we paid the bill. We paid an arm and a leg for a sitting service that guaranteed your sitter would not be a no-show rather than rely on a neighborhood teenager.

Now, though, we were in San Francisco and hadn't eaten at Chez TJ in years. You should, he said. I asked him whether he ever used sweetbreads and he said he has some on his menu now -- not as sweetbreads per se but as an adjunct to a lasagna dish, and he proceeded to tell us all about how he was using sweetbreads.

Kostow, formerly sous chef at Campton Place, has got to be one of the most extroverted chefs I've ever come across and was not shy at all about saying that he was sure of all the food we had last night, his would be the best. He was almost right. His dish tied for best top three.

Partied hearty, we were ready to leave about 9:30PM as the restaurants started running out of food and closing up shop. We grabbed our swag and walked out to catch the 19 Polk, but it wasn't to be seen. Rather than linger around on the street, we walked a few blocks over to 7th and Bryant where we could hang out at one of the safest bus stops in the city, the stop just outside the Hall of Justice.

Eventually the 19 Polk arrived and we climbed on board to a cheerful greeting from the bus driver. Several other folks on the bus also had their swag bags from the event. One guy was going through his bag, checking out the goodies. We talked to the woman sitting near us about the stuff he was pulling out of his bag. "Where did you get that plastic Veuve Clicquot ice bucket?" I asked him.

The ridership was your usual motley, diverse, evening collection of San Francisco public transit patrons. One woman, sitting near the woman we'd been talking to, had a cane and was complaining that the bus driver hadn't lowered the bus so she could get on easily. The bus driver calmly disagreed. She said the woman with the cane just hadn't waited for the bus to lower. One of the other passengers came up from the rear of the bus to tell the older lady with the cane not to give the bus driver grief. He pointed his finger at her while he was telling her off. "Put your finger up your own ass." and other colorful variants were spewed in his general direction.

"Who wants a boring cab ride anyway?" said the woman next to us.

The "put your finger up your..." barrage went on for far longer than I was comfortable with. The guy wouldn't move. The woman was pissed off at him. For more than just a couple minutes she kept shouting the same singsong sentence with minor variations at him with her voice rising. He kept talking her down with his finger pointed in her face.

Eventually, someone else calmed them down and convinced the guy to go back to his seat again. Not that many stops later, the passenger with the cane got off. Someone shouted, "Hugs!" "Oh, go fuck yourself," she replied.

Just another evening on the bus.

The guy with the Veuve Clicquot bucket offered a rose to an oncoming passenger, who sat down near him and then threw the rose on the floor. He acted hurt that she'd discarded his rose and picked the rose up and gave it to another passenger.

"God, how I love this place," I said to his nibs. "Who wants a boring cab ride, indeed. ..."

Our swag bag companion got off a few blocks further up Polk. We got off at Polk and Union and waited a while for a 45 Union Stockton, but one didn't come and we couldn't see one coming up Union, off in the distance. We finally decided just to walk home. We had three uphill blocks to the top of Russian Hill and then we'd be going downhill until the park. We'd have three blocks to walk up from the park but we'd have to walk those whether we took the 45 Union Stockton or not. So we walked.

The 45 Union Stockton caught up to us at Mason. We kept walking home.

A lovely end to an entertaining evening.

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