Day 19 Tuesday Pleasanton to San Francisco

Trip Start May 15, 2009
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Trip End Jun 04, 2009


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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Up at 7.30am, finished off the last of the coffee and breakfast cereal and then cleaned up the insides of the RV. I did the final dump of the black and grey water and filled up the water tank. On the way out we stopped by the RV South lot to use the toilets but they require a keycode to get in the doors, no mention was made of keycodes when we checked in so we had to abandon that idea.
 
We joined the Freeway and took the 680 north, then onto the 580 West. It was busy getting busier, when we joined the 880 North it was nose to tail for quite a bit. Rush hour traffic was grim with people ducking and diving and overtaking on both sides at the same time.
 
We got to San Leando about 9am, I found a nearby filling station and topped up the gas tank - took $100 to fill it. The sat nav took us to the location of the Moturis station Ok and I recognised it from viewing it on Google Earth and Google Streetmaps, both great services.
 
It cost $410 for the extra miles and generator usage (they charge 40c a mile but I had prepaid 760 of them). All together in 13 days we had done 1600 miles! 
 
Moturis gave us a lift to the Sa Leandro BART station which was just down the road. You buy a BART ticket in the machine there, it was $3.75 each from there to Embaracadero in San Francisco. The train arrived quite quickly and we jumped on. It wasn't till we had reached a station north of where we were supposed to be that we realised we had got a train going to Richmond, oops! We jumped off and got on the right one.
 
At Embracadero, following TA advice, we came up to ground level and went to the taxi rank at the Hyatt minutes away. The taxi driver was Ukrainian - are there any born in the USA taxi drivers in San Francisco? The fare was $8.10 plus tip up to the Holiday Inn Express up by Fishermans Warf, checking in at 10am.
 
This had been booked using Catrionas HiEx points and as she had a Platinum card we were allowed to check in early and also have a late check out tomorrow. We dropped our bags in the room and then headed out. The weather was a bit cloudy with occasional sun - no sign of the fog yet.
 
We walked along the Warf front to the start of the Hyde line of the cable cars and bought a 1 day MUNI pass for $11. It is well worth getting this pass as it allows unlimited use of any MUNI transport - the cable cars, trolleys and busses. We hopped on the cable car and took a ride through the centre of the city up and down till we got to Union Square where we got off. As we had been to San Francisco the same time last year we kind of knew where everything was and had seen most of the touristy things.
 
We went to the top of Macys to The Cheesecake Factory for lunch. We had lunch portions of Spicy Thai Chicken Pasta and the Four Cheese Pasta washed down with a couple of Anchor Steam beers. I'm glad these were lunch sizes as they were huge. We ordered our cheesecakes to go, Dutch Apple Caramel Strusel and Chocolate Tuxedo Cream.
 
We went down to Market Street and hopped on a Muni bus heading West with the plan of going to Alto Park, eating our cheesecakes ands viewing The Painted Ladies (these are Victorian style houses). We got there and sat in the sunshine of the park and watched the world go by (and took photos for other tourists who were also there to view the houses). I thought one of these houses had been used in the film Mrs Doubtfire but looking it up afterwards it turns out the house was further down on Broadway & Steinar.
 
We walked back down the street and headed east, taking us straight through the area known as the Tenderloin. It is one of the poor areas of the city with homeless people, drug dealers, pimps, ethnic minorities, all sorts. An interesting, colourful and urine-soaked place to walk during the day - not to be attempted at night!
 
We got back to Union Square about 1.30 and waited for the next cable car. And waited, and waited. 2 cars went down the way, then a third. In the end an hour had gone by and 6 cars had gone down and none came up. Then a tow truck appeared to tow a car which had obviously broken down, away back up the road.
 
After that, there were more cable cars than you could shake a stick at all coming past to clear the queues at all the stops. We got on and I got some video of us going back down the road to Hyde. We then went for a walk round Ghiradelli Square, the smell of chocolate permeating everywhere you went.
 
By this time it was 5pm so we went back to the hotel. The HiEx at Fishermans Warf has free high speed cabled internet in each of the rooms and free WiFi down in the lobby area. I updated the blog and sorted pictures etc. and we got ready for this evenings extravaganza - dinner at Gary Dankos.
 
I had booked this 2 months ago the earliest time that I could make the booking. The place is sold out most nights well in advance. It has been rated no.1 restaurant out of 3,030 in San Francisco for some time.
 
We had a table booked for 8pm so arrived at 7.30 expecting to sit at the bar to wait but we were taken straight to our table. The menu is extensive. You can buy the Taster menu or choose 3, 4 or 5 courses.
 
We started with a glass of champagne and were given a small taster dish of duck in coconut soup. We decided to go for 4 courses each ($83 each) plus wine pairing. This way we would get a glass of wine with each course that complemented the food we were eating, we asked that the wines be local domestic rather than French wherever possible (no point in coming all the way over here and drinking French wine!)
 
The food we had was:-
(Catriona)
Dungeness Crab Salad with Citrus, Avocado and Meyer Lemon-Chive Vinaigrette
Risotto with Lobster, Rock Shrimp, Asparagus, Morel Mushrooms and Corn
Lemon Pepper Duck Breast with Duck Hash, Asparagus Purée and Poached Rhubarb
Trio of Crème Brûlée with Assorted Cookies
 
(Ray)
Risotto with Lobster, Rock Shrimp, Asparagus, Morel Mushrooms
Pan Seared Tuna with Piperade, Artichokes, White Anchovies and Caper Berries
Roasted Loin of Bison with King Trumpet Mushrooms, Glazed Cipollini Onions and Herb Spätzle
Baked Chocolate Soufflé with Two Sauces
 
The service was good, when you ate your bit of bread a new one would appear. Whenever your water would run low it was soon topped up. When the wine arrived for your course, the waitress would explain about it, where it was from, what it consisted of etc. Anytime anyone got up to go to the restrooms, someone always lifed their napkin and folded it up on the table.
 
I was a bit disappointed that our wines - especially the first one - arrived at the table 10 minutes before the food did, I would have rather the wine arrived either with or close beside the meal otherwise you were tempted to drink it before the food. The whole point of wine pairing was to drink the wine with the meal to get the most out of it.
 
We were also give a small lemon soufflé with Happy Anniversary written on the plate in chocolate, and finished the meal off with coffees and petit fours.
 
Overall the meal was nice, I know people say the portions are small but we were both full afterwards so anymore would have been a waste. It was tasty, there was one Rose wine that I found a bit too watery for my taste, the Fennel oil in the risotto I found a bit too overpowering, but the Bison was cooked perfectly and the duck was most excellent.
 
The nearest that I have to compare Gary Dankos with is The Generals Daughter up in Sonoma which we visited last year (which has since been sold and renamed). There we had the same excellent food and I believe better service. The sommelier came to the table and explained the wines that arrived with each course, they even go as far as ironing the tablecloths once they are put on the tables. It was also half the price.
 
So experience wise I would say it's worth it. Value for money wised I would say there are better. We got finished and out the door by 1015. On the way out we were given a list of the wines which we chosen and a copy of the menu signed by Gary Danko itself.
 
We walked back down the road to the hotel, it has been raining but was fine when we went down.  We got back to the room and collapsed in a heap, fed and watered.
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