Tuesday, January 13, 2009

San Francisco, Here I Come

Len and I are driving to San Francisco on Thursday morning. I get to go to all-day meetings and he gets to enjoy the Fairmont Hotel, the City, and whatever else he feels like doing between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. for four days. He's got the better deal this time out.

I wanted to have dinner at COCO500, where Jennifer Biesty, one of last year's competitors on Top Chef, worked, but she is no longer there and I can't find out where she is. It is a great eating city, and I'm sure we'll have at least one memorable meal.

I lived in Palo Alto on the Stanford University campus during the first year of my first marriage. It was about an hour trip into San Francisco from there. We managed to get into the City on a couple of occasions (not nearly often enough during that year), including a trip to watch the Chinese New Year's parade in Chinatown. It bore no resemblance at all to the parade in Flower Drum Song. It was rather disappointing. We did, however, eat at this strange restaurant called Sam Wo's, where they made fantastic noodle concoctions, including what I think were thick rice noodles that were stuffed and rolled like a jelly roll (but not slimy like the steamed dim sum stuffed with shrimp you can get in so many places.)

At Sam Wo's, you entered the narrow building through the kitchen and walked up the stairs to the second or third floors, which were the actual dining rooms. The object was to get seated on the second floor, where the waiter named Edsel Ford Fong ruled over the very few tables croweded with diners. He was a great floor show, and made a lasting impression on a lot of people. You can even look him up in Wikipedia. Herb Caen called him the world's rudest waiter. Robin Williams confessed in an article in TV Guide that he wanted to learn Chinese so he could go to Sam Wo's and confound Edsel Ford Fong, who "considered every occidental a challenge" in the words of one review from those days. One of these days, I will ask Harlan Ellison to ask Robin if he ever actually did this. It would have been a beautiful thing to behold.

On the night we were there with a group, the pretty young blond (not me--I was a brunette in those days) was shanghaied into setting the table and taking the order by Eddie. He would brandish a fist full of spoons in front of every occidental's face demanding "insurance?" I was always glad that I had mastered the use of chopsticks early in life.

Oh, yes. Dinner for 5 of us was $11 that night.

I hear the restaurant is still there, but Eddie is gone. I'm not sure the food has the draw of the entertainment.

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