Wed. July 17, 2019:
I woke up around 5am because there was just so much noise outside, blaring in through the window. It sounded like a construction demolition crossed with a garbage truck. At first, I thought it might be a truck, but no way could it be going for that long. It seemed endless. Also: who does that at 5am?! Common decency says start at 6am!! They were lucky I had not adjusted to the time difference and as far as my body knew, it was actually 8am. Which, come to think of it, is still an ungodly hour. Hence, the grumpiness. Not helping matters, my allergies were in full swing and my face was puffy. Eventually I gave up and woke up at 6:40am, which was about when the noise stopped.
We walked to Arizmendi bakery for breakfast. I held off on getting coffee because the only placed we passed on our walk was a Peet’s Coffee that was inside of an office building and hence too much of a detour for my tired self. It was only a 40min walk, I could wait for coffee. On the way we walked around Lake Merritt and saw more Canada geese than I have seen back home. A guy sitting in his car shouted “nice skirt” at me, except I was too enthralled in conversation to notice until Brent told me later. My original plan was to get a cheese bun but when I laid eyes on the cinnamon bun all bets were off. I could not resist. In the end I kind of regretted it, there was too much icing and I was left wondering what the cheese bun was like. Brent had a bun with chocolate chunks, it was alright. We also got a brioche braid and a sourdough baguette for later. By later, I mean the walk back. We needed something to distract us from the grogginess and dehydration from last night. The brioche bun was a fail, it had raisins and was dense. The real winner was the baguette, it was poking out of my elephant bag and we just kept ripping pieces off. The walk back was more pleasant: we saw so many dogs by the lake and some pelicans just hanging out.
Back in the hotel we desperately chugged water in an attempt to rehydrate before heading out to the A’s game to meet John. After catching up in my notebook, I caved and took a nap. I was full-on napping, complete with drool and hand-twitching. I woke up but apparently, I could have kept sleeping because we did not need to leave as early as Brent had originally planned. By that point though I was awake and I did not want to risk another round of grogginess. I watched Friends and South Park because I could not stand the new The Price is Right, it was just too modern for my tastes. And the Pioneer Woman show was insufferable. Why is she telling me about a salad she is going to make while she drives her car?!
It was a short train ride to the Coliseum. I was actually really excited to see it, one of the last concrete donut stadiums still standing (I had listened to an episode of 99 Percent Invisible on the topic). It was easy enough to find our way there, we just followed the crowds from the train. I was kind of surprised at how many people were there given it was an early afternoon game on a Wednesday. We met up with John and got a tour of the stadium. We were also given credentials so we could go down to the field. In my head I imagined myself being able to run to the pitcher’s plate and goof off. I did not expect the strict rules about not being allowed onto the grass. It should be called being allowed “beside the field” not on. It is misleading. Groups of day-camp kids were going around the perimeter of the field and one kid shouted at us that we were awesome. It made my day and that kid is totally going to be a future politician, he one-upped baby-kissing.
John had given us seat upgrades, now we sat 8 rows from the field. On the way to our seats we got drinks. I tried to order a margarita and the lady tried to convince me to get a paloma instead (same price). I have no idea what that was all about. It was an eventful game, there were a lot of home runs. I was not impressed with their home run celebration, it was just a sign in the outfield that lit up and said “Holy Toledo.” Pretty weak if you ask me. There was a desperate lady a few rows ahead of us to the left, she wanted to get on camera so bad with her birthday sign. Clearly, she does this every year, she had many crossed-out numbers on the sign. It did make me wonder if every year she was this desperate and ignored? Adding to the desperation, children kept running down to our section to try and get a free baseball and then walking back really disappointed and empty-handed.
We lasted about two innings before we had to get up. We were roasting in the sun. We retreated to the shade of the concourse in search of food. We were on the lookout for a few things at the ballpark. I had my eye on alcoholic popsicles. I found the vendor: a tricycle, but it was unmanned. At the Launch Test Kitchen my fears were confirmed: they were still serving the spam-sushi dish, hard pass. We could not find the Texas toast grilled cheese place. In the end we got garlic fries (a must), Roundtable pizza (a mini, we are not crazy) and chicken tenders. The chicken had been on my list as a backup but it worked out great. They had little plastic cups and six different dipping sauces at a self-serve station. We ate the chicken tenders while we waited in line for the garlic fries. While we ate, we guffawed at the people who waited in line, were one away from the front and left. Or the people who didn’t get garlic fries. Why were they even there?! You can get a hotdog anywhere! The honey sriracha sauce was the clear winner, followed by the buffalo and hickory BBQ. The boom-boom sauce was just weird, kind of like mayo with but with something else in it. Genius that I am, I went back to get more sauces for our fries. The honey sriracha was so damn good. And the ranch would pair well. The pizza was alright, but the base crust was way too thick for my liking, I couldn’t even dip it properly. Plus, by that point I was quite full so it did not get my full attention. It was still hot out in the sun but I felt a little better, being distracted by fries and pizza helped. The Stella Artois cider also helped. The fizziness just felt that much more refreshing. The A’s won and once again we got swept up in the crowd, trusting that they would lead us in the right direction.
We followed the crowd a little too closely and got on the wrong train. As we were getting on a guy was yelling at another guy and was all up in his face, screaming “get off this f*cking train.” Looking back, we should have taken his advice. Thankfully we noticed and were able to get off a few stops later and catch the correct train.
I needed a shower so bad. I was covered in sunscreen and so sweaty. Apparently though I did not have on enough sunscreen. Back in our hotel room I noticed I was starting to get a bit red in spots. I had just enough time to get dressed and ready for dinner. We had a 5:30 reservation at Chez Panisse and I was so excited! Finally! I would get to eat at Chez Panisse! I was a bit nervous but mostly excited- even if it didn’t show, it was a bit tamped down by tiredness.
It was a short 20-minute train ride to Berkeley and then a nice walk down the main stretch of town. Unfortunately, we did not get out of the right BART exit to see the Papa John’s where i got dinner last time we tried to eat at Chez Panisse. It was kind of odd doing the same walk and trying to remember what was different and what was the same. For sure that McDonald’s was not there last time, otherwise there was no way I would have suffered through Papa John’s.
Even with the leisurely walking pace and stopping in at a store (they had a chalkboard advertising craft soda, I wanted to see if it was true- it was) we were still early. We tried to walk in but were told to wait in the foyer. Looking at the passersby on the sidewalk, you could tell who was coming to Chez Panisse for dinner. The restaurant itself was very beautiful, even though we didn’t get to see much of it. We were seated near the entrance. I had kind of been hoping for a table in the sun room. At least we had a view of the kitchen.
No sooner had we sat down, we were offered an aperitif: a glass of prosecco with elderflowers. It was so refreshing and sweet and just what I needed. The server asked us if we were here for a special occasion and Brent mentioned we had tried to eat here a few years ago, five or so?– but alas, the kitchen fire. He was like yeah no, that was six years ago. The amuse bouche consisted of an olive, pickled carrots, onions and leeks. In my notebook, regarding the olive it just says: how was it so good?! I don’t like carrots either and it was delicious. The bar was set. Every dish was delicious and across the board it was consistent and high quality. This was the most consistent dinner from start to finish of all time. There were no lows. Everything was delicious, especially the duck breast. It was a wow dish for me, borderline for Brent (who doesn’t even like duck). Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, the dessert course was rolled out. The apricot sorbet was incredible, the almond cake amazing. Even the berries, a simple garnish, were so much better than any berries I’ve previously had. How is this possible?! After dinner we were given mint and lemongrass tea (fresh from the garden) and candied orange peels. It was the perfect end to a perfect meal. I took the paper menu as a souvenir. Brent had ordered the wine pairing and we split it. This worked out nicely, neither of us got smashed but we got to enjoy some fine wine.
It was a slow and tired walk back to the BART station. We stopped in at Safeway to try and save some time the next day. But the selection was so crappy that really it did nothing. There were no wacky Oreos and no Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. We got Gatorade, iced coffee and Pop Tarts which was only half my list. On the train we got an invite from John if we wanted to come over. Brent said no, we are tired and should go to bed early. And then 5 minutes later texted back saying we’d changed our minds. Realistically, how often do we get to see them? Getting a bit of extra sleep was not worth missing out. We dropped by the hotel so I could leave my purse and grab my Lulu sweater and the (very nice) wedding card that Brent had made for them. It was nice to hang out and talk. On the walk back we discovered we could have had a much nicer walk along the waterfront through Jack London Square. But we had no way of knowing that previously.
Back in the hotel I was getting deliriously tired, trying to write in my notebook when my body thought it was 2am and my sunburn was still developing.