San Francisco History
 

Care Free San Francisco
By Allan Dunn


Chapter IV
Indoors

These days, the principal indoor pastimes are those of eating and auction bridge. Unless, indeed, one accepts sleeping as a diversion, and include that. Theater going, concerts, dancing and shopping may also be accounted minor amusements of the same order. It takes more than taste to properly appreciate most of them. However, they are all obtainable in San Francisco. To the visitor the eating and sleeping call for a good hotel. Bridge we have always with us. As to eating, restaurants give variety.

Let us consider a California menu. The real bill of fare of a country depends upon it's specialties and the latter upon its natural larder. In the cosmopolitan restaurants of the city one can enjoy the piece de resistance of many countries. You can get bouillabaisse to equal that of Marseilles, Spaghetti, macaroni, taglierine, ravioli, enchiladas, tamales, frijoles and stews pungent with herbs, as excellent as those of Naples or Madrid. The "Charlemagne" of Chinatown with rice perfect in every flake, chicken and mushrooms tender as rose leaves, young bamboo sprouts vieing with them, is not lightly to be overlooked. Try the imported escargots, or the frog legs poulette of Camille or Bianco—call for aught an eipcurean palate of European fantasy can remember and hotel chef or restauranteur will furnish it to the correct taste. Your real gourmet, though, your adventurer in appetite, looks for the indigenous fleshpots, for meats and fruits native to the soil, and out of this great larder of California, with its bi-climatic outputs of temperate and tropic zone, there will be found many a new bonne bouche. The world eats canned what the Californian eats au naturel. The grapefruit, the orange, the apple, pear, peach, apricot, fig and grape, all the delicious, acidulous range of fruit comes to you from the tree. If you order strawberries in December they have not been forced, but picked outdoors within the half day. Somewhere in the State they ripen every month. If you feel like raspberry shortcake in October you shall call for it and not be disappointed. Celery and asparagus, artichokes of luscious heart, all the edible vegetable kingdom fill the markets.

Does your appetite fail? Ask not for tonic or doctor, but stroll through the California market. Here at first hand is spoil for Lucullus. Pineapples and alligator pears fresh from Hawaii. Papaias, too, and bananas. Mexico sends her best on a twenty-four schedule. The wizard of fruitdom, Burbank, perfects his marvels only two hours' distance from the Ferry, and you may call for his pitless plums, potatoes of concentrated flour, and magic berries with blends of sweetly puckering juice. His latest masterpiece, a glorified prickly pear, eats like a combination of the heart of a watermelon and a Bartlett pear.

Delicate sea foods, fresh landed at Fisherman's Wharf await you. Their evanescent flavors are unspoiled by ice-packed travel. Pompano, sand dabs, sole, firm encarnadined shoulder cutlets of salmon that in six hours exchange the chasing of sardines outside the Golden Gate for the will of your fork tines; sea trout, brook trout, lake trout, striped bass, white sea bass, tomcod, all fresh as whitebait at Richmond, and more genuine. Transplanted Eastern oysters which flourish but breed not, and so have not "R" months of banishment. The little California oyster—essence of succulence—the California lobster, clawless but worthy of the skill of a Chateaubriand.

Wish you game—hare hunter style? Venison or mayhap duck? Of the latter take your choice of mallard, teal, canvasback or sprig, yet if you would be wise choose the latter. As this chronicle is not a Baedeker, neither is it a Mr. Rohrer, therefore let it suffice that, to the sapient, Californian eating , in the preparation and the realization, has long been provided for its excellence. At the Saint Francis and the Palace the chefs have fame that commands recognition in the capitals of Europe. Yours to command, they will prove faithful genii. At bergez-Frank's, the Poodle Dog, Blanco's, the Maison Doree, at Coppa's, Frank's, and Felix, at Dante's, at Techau' or at Tait's you will find digestion wait on appetite, pick from the concentration of French, Italian, Spanish, German, Austrian and America culinary triumphs and find music and singing and Bohemian unrestraint—even to cabinets particuliers. Tait's, indeed, the uptown favorite of pre- and post-theater patrons, emulates in carte du jour, decoration and a variety of vaudeville, the accepted restaurants of all big cities.

Before we leave our restaurant, a word on drinking. California wines are cursed with a propensity for mimic nomenclature. As "types" of all well-known brands are they labeled, prompted by imported vine-cuttings and close similarity of soil and climate. Some day the wine-growers will, like those of the Rhine and Switzerland, boldly give them independent names, and they will come into their own. Vintages are beginning to be recognized and blends are diminishing. Ask some Californian friend who knows how to dine to introduce you to a bottle of native wine, white or red. Forget its label and you will not regret the venture.

Time was when the Palace was one great hotel of the city. Kings, chancellors, ambassadors, diplomats of white and yellow, brown and duskier races have wined and dined and slept there—and still do. It holds yet the atmosphere of the early days, and in its palm-shaped court the modern representatives of adventure, miner, gambler, cattleman and sea rover yet feel at home and are unawed by the four hundred at their tea. Social events are divided, like other honors, with the Palace by the Fairmont, on the hill, and the Saint Francis on Union Square. The Palace held the great Mardi Gras ball of 1912, the Fairmont is the scene of the Greenway cotillions, while the chamber concerts go to the Saint Francis.

As to social amusements—for the inner circle one carries one's own entree.The city is renowned for its hospitality. Are you of the of gay world elsewhere, your cachet is acknowledged instanter and private homes and the clubs of city and country open to you. For entertainment open to all, there is much. The chief theatrical attractions always are booked and, thanks to its claimate, in the summer San Francisco offers unequaled playbills.

Music is pre-eminently recognized. The Symphony Concert, two seasons, under Henry Hadley's baton, satisfied the fastidious. Every artiste recognizes a San Francisco audience as more than whimsically worth while.

There are the usual coterie of clubs, social, commercial, official and national. The most original is the Bohemian Club, a coterie of wits, professional men of the Arts and Sciences, and their recognized admirers. The athletes have a magnificent organization in the Olympic Club. The Country clubs are not supposedly of "indoor" interest. Let us pass them by, closing the chapter with a hint to visit the Mission, the Mint and the museums at the Affiliated Colleges (particularly full of anthropological interest) and at Golden Gate Park.


Chapter I | Chapter II | Chapter III | Chapter IV | Chapter V | Chapter VI | Chapter VII

Source: Dunn, Allan. Care Free San Francisco. 1912: San Francisco.

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