Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Creature of Habit: Travel Traditions

I'm about to contradict myself. Let's not pretend it's the first time. In my last post I got all lament-y about my lack of consistency. All I had to do was go back to San Francisco- it took me all of 2 hours to fall back on something familiar and fantastic.

I was in town for the Foodbuzz Festival last weekend and lo and behold, I was on the ground and chomping at the bit to get to my beloved 18th and Guerrero. Tartine isn't exactly a secret but, like all the good places, in the last three years of fall pilgrimages it's felt more and more like my own. The tastiest tradition I've ever had on the road.
I arrive in San Francisco with a belly already rumbling after an early morning and a long flight. I get myself checked in at the hotel, I check in on my emails and then I check into 16th Street on the BART. Like clockwork. Even with all its fanfare, there's still reliably a spot at a communal wooden table waiting for me in the middle of the afternoon. I plug into the spot with the best view of the door so I can watch the Mission's eclectic brand of persons strolling in and out.

Then there's the order. Three years have seen only the slightest of alterations and I've now gotten several friends on-boarded to the same, perfect combination (Jess, Sabrina). One croque monsieur, formerly turkey and now shiitake. The main course and perfect for someone who went light on breakfast but has a way to go till dinner. A slab of Tartine's famous bread saturated but for the crusts with b├ęchamel, gruyere, thyme and seasonal vegetables. It's warmed and toasted through when it's laid on the table several minutes later. In a rare bit of portion control, I set half aside last week so I could have it for breakfast the following morning (top picture). One of my better ideas.

The next component is where the truly blush-worthy noises come into play. The lemon cream tart. Thursday, Chelsee came to meet me for her first introduction to this heralded place de pain. She'd eaten lunch already but joined me with her own tart, it's that beautiful that you know on sight that you need your own. Now I'm a published sucker for lemons but this is just a new league. The cream is so balanced between sour and sweet, the most graceful cloud of cream resting right on top (convinced that baby angels scoop up the cream with their creaseless little palms). In the picture above (2009), it's pretty clear I was already halfway through my dessert when my sandwich arrived. I was powerless.

The recipe is in their first book but I'm thus far too entranced in my little getaway romance to want to approach it in my own kitchen. I'm hearing that Floriole Bakery in Lincoln Park has made a solid run at this favorite confection of mine. I'd almost rather not know. I love my tradition. I love the people and textures and the sense of locality I get to borrow on brief San Francisco runs. Maybe I'm still not consistent, per se, but I sure do love a tradition.


We are not Martha said...

Love this post. For too many reasons to list.

My Tartine cookbook arrived this evening... My attempt at recreating it will not be pretty (and in no way comparable) but I must at least try to build that beauty in my kitchen ;) [chels]

Heather said...

I love Tartine and stop there every time I revisit my old Mission neighborhood. I'll be there this weekend, and will have to give that shiitake version a try. I'm also in love with their bread pudding. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!