San Francisco Diary: Favorite Moments

We went for a short trip to San Francisco over Thanksgiving weekend and had a wonderful time: walking through the city, eating our way through the different neighborhoods, smelling, and drinking in all the loveliness that this city has to offer. I have so much to say about what we did and ate and saw, but I will start with my favorite moments, encapsulating them in this post while the memories are still fresh.

My favorite moments, some long, some short, some very steep and hilly:

1. Walking in the Mission District, up and down the slope-y roads, looking at the murals and houses and accidentally chancing upon a very cute shop.

2. Tasting the spicy cauliflower soup at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Cafe. Have you read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Do you remember the part when Willy Wonka talks about this special chewing gum, that when you chewed you could feel a whole meal going down your throat? As I was swallowing the soup, I remembered Willy Wonka’s magic chewing gum. Because this simple looking soup evoked the tastiest warm and spicy gobi sabji I have ever tasted. It was a very smooth soup but I could feel the texture of the cauliflower spiced with corriander and other spices warmly sliding down my throat.

Oh and that glass next to the cauliflower soup is filled with the most deliciously wine-y grape juice.

3. Meeting the lovely Mandy Aftel in her Berkeley studio and ‘sniffing’ some of her glorious raw materials: gorgeous  castoreum, aged sandalwood and patchouli and the most wonderful aged tuberose absolute that i have ever smelled. I have said before that though I like the scent of tuberose absolute, it doesn’t quite touch the beauty of the actual flower. This absolute did, capturing the cool camphorous sweetness of my favorite flower.

4. Walking into the Castro Theatre for ‘Sing along Sound of Music’ and seeing this.

5. Smelling the dusty warm scent of books as we entered Green Apple Bookstore in Richmond. It has been a while since I have had such a smell greet me as I enter a store. The hour that we spent there was one of my favorite long moments of the trip.

And belated Happy Birthday to my darling sister! We were in San Francisco during her birthday, so I hope she enjoys her San Francisco themed gifts.


  1. Tara

    Sounds like a wonderful trip! I’d love to visit San Francisco one day. So cool that you got to meet Mandy and sniff around her studio. Love the smell of old books and the Green Apple Bookstore sounds great. As for that spicy cauliflower soup, I HAVE to find a recipe for that or figure one out for myself over Christmas.

    Did you make any fragrant purchases?

    • Hi Tara- It was a wonderful treat to be able to meet Mandy and have her guide us through some sniffing.
      The recipe is included in Alice Waters’ ‘Art of Simple Food’. If I am able to get my hands on a copy soon- I will pass on the recipe to you.

      I didn’t make too many fragrant purchases- but did buy a mini of the Tango perfume (finally!) and a few samples of Mandy’s face elixirs..:)

      • great! I realized I’d actually made it a long time ago from an adapted recipe I found online. After reading your comment, I did a little search and found the actual recipe too. Can’t wait to make it this weekend.

  2. Pingback: Holidays and Christmas and used bookstores « Pieces of paper, squiggly lines

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