I love a good steaming bowl of pho. We know this. For some reason I've had a craving for it this past week. That salty broth, tender slices of rare beef, crispy bean sprouts, ahhhhhh!
A coworker of mine was nuking some leftover pho so I thought it was totally appropriate to pick her brain about tasty pho places in the city. Lucky me, she's quite the pho lover as well :)
She suggested Turtle Tower, a restaurant with two locations (one in the Outer Richmond and one in the Tenderloin) that is known for some delicious pho and homemade noodles. Sold! I read some of the Yelp reviews (just to be sure) and everyone said it was delicious Northern Vietnamese Pho. Please remember these words.
Jamie and I planned to do one of the walks in the book my sister gave me so I figured we should start out with a hearty brunch of pho. Duh. We trekked over to the Tenderloin and sat down just before a ton of people came in for lunch. I got the Pho Tai (rare beef) and Jamie got the usual bowl of mixed meat-ness (beef, tripe, flank steak, brisket).
As we sat waiting for our food, I noticed that something was missing from the table - jar o oyster sauce. I didn't think too much about it and figured I'd try the other two condiments, fish sauce and vinegar instead.
Then our bowls arrive.
Hm. This is odd. That's a whole lotta scallions there, sir. AND the only toppings we got were lime and jalapenos. This had us scratching our heads. No matter. I dug right in (after a couple squirts of sriracha, of course).
Hm. This is what everyone is raving about? The meat was excellent (almost like butter!) and the noodles were a great texture, but the broth just wasn't doing it for me...and everyone knows pho is all about the broth!
Then something reminded me of what I read earlier...NORTHERN VIETNAMESE PHO. Was there a difference between this stuff and what I've been eating?? Enter Wikipedia.
There are several regional variants of phở in Vietnam, particularly divided between northern (Hanoi, called phở bắc or "northern phở"; or phở Hà Nội), central (Huế), and southern (Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon). One regional phở may be sweeter, and another variation may emphasize a bolder and spicier flavor. "Northern phở" tends to use somewhat wider noodles and green onions. On the other hand, southern Vietnamese generally use thinner noodles (approximately the width of pad Thai or linguine noodles), and add bean sprouts and a greater variety of fresh herbs to their phở instead. The variations in meat, broth, and additional garnishes such as lime, bean sprouts, ngò gai, hung que (Thai/Asian basil), and tuong (bean sauce/hoisin sauce) appear to be innovations introduced in the south.
Well then, looks like it's not bad pho after all...just DIFFERENT pho. I prefer the southern version. I'm just saying. If you know of any legit southern pho in the Bay Area, please pass that information along!!
Bellies full, we embarked on our 3 hour long walk from Russian Hill to North Beach. Well, 3 hours according to Frommer's. I heart my neighborhood:
First we made our way to the top of Russian Hill by way of narrow paths with views
and super steep hills with stairs
to get to this view
Pretty sweet, yah? This was taken at Ina Coolbirth Park at the top of Russian Hill.
Amazing views on a breezy, warm day. On the way down, I snapped a few photos of colorful flowers...because why not
Flowers make me camera happy.
We made our descent into North Beach and popped into the San Francisco Art Institute along the way. The location alone must inspire students. Check out this view:
Distracting or inspiring? I'd be distracted ;) I mean, hey, I wanted to take pictures all over that patio...including this nifty one. The wall on the left is just meant to look like wood.
After wandering around, Jamie and I put on on productive hats and stopped at World Market for some rugs (no, this was not an impulse shopping trip...we just lucked out and found the one city walk that started and ended exactly where we wanted it to). Came home, made the apartment look a little more livable and vegged out for a bit.
We decided on dinner after browsing some nearby options. Even though our walk only took about 1, 1.5 hours, we were pretty burned out and wanted to keep dinner local and low key. Polkers Gourmet Burgers seemed to fit the bill!
We sat down and settled on our burgers. A Mexican Burger (beef and chorizo patty with salsa, jack cheese and avocado) for Jamie
and a Turkey Habanero Burger (turkey burger with habanero salsa and jack cheese) for me.
I should have learned my lesson by now. If it says 'extremely spicy', chances are, it's ridiculously spicy. I made it about 1/4 through my burger before I wanted to scream uncle. WTF. I love spicy food. Is my spicy tolerance going down???
To cool things off a bit, we stopped at the Loving Cup Rice Pudding Shop on the walk home. I've passed this many times and it's piqued my interest. Rice pudding, ey? I had cash and a fire in my mouth...now was my perfect opportunity ;)
I sampled the plain vanilla and coconut varieties of rice pudding (please note that I've seen a ton of people leave this place with frozen yogurt and not rice pudding) and was sold on the coconut.
I ate about half of this before I gave up and had to refrigerate it for another time. I heart rice pudding, but I also know that if I eat too much at once it makes me feel pukey. Bleh.
Dear Loving Cup, thank goodness you use non-fat milk or I'd be in serious trouble :)