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Old Jan 25, 10, 1:02 pm
  #5  
violist
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: IAD, BOS, PVD
Programs: UA, US, AS, Marriott, Radisson, Hilton
Posts: 7,200
I called Mike at 11 to see what lunch plans were. The word:
Pat wanted lunch NOW; and as their apartment is in Noe
Valley several miles away, and I was still unshaven, unclad,
and unwashed, the heck with that. We agreed to meet at the
museum in the afternoon.

The Garden Restaurant is next to the Hilton and probably has
survived all these years as a cheap alternative to a hotel
breakfast; it also serves homestyle Chinese food. I looked
at the menu, and the roast duck and rice plate looked good;
so in I went and sat down. A bit late I remembered that the
last time I'd been here the duck was dry, and there wasn't
so much of it, so for a couple more bucks I got the chicken
and sausage clay pot (listed under something like homestyle
casseroles) instead. It was a nearly impossible amount of
food, especially with the $1.50 rice upsell that I was
cunningly offered. A sliced Chinese sausage, the meat of
about three chicken thighs, a diced onion, and 7 big doong
gwoo mushrooms, in an all-purpose broth that had more than
a touch of shrimp in it, thickened with cornstarch and
flavored with soy, then dumped in a hot hot oven for maybe
10 minutes. Not genius cuisine, but hearty and satisfying.

Halfway through my giant meal, an older Chinese guy came in
with his niece or something. I pricked up my ears to hear
what he in his obvious wisdom would order. He got bacon with
scrambled eggs and wheat toast; she had some kind of congee.

Even after struggling with this amount of food and walking
as slowly as possible to the Westin, I was a couple hours
early for checkin. I smiled at the desk clerk and said, is
it too early to check in? and she said, well, your room
isn't ready, but I'll give you a better one. There is
something to be said for smiling. It was on the 34th floor
with a spectacular bay view.

P & M shortly met me in the lobby and we walked the arduous
one block to SFMOMA, where a Richard Avedon retrospective
was on display. There were some shenanigans with two member
tickets and one nonmember one, but Mike had already seen it,
so with a discreet switch I got in with Pat without paying
the extra fiver. Heck, I'd seen most of them anyway,
probably as I used to collect photography books (not that
kind, you nasty thing - I was always more Stieglitz than
Saudek) in my day. Exceptions being the wall of Warhol
lovers, a fascinating set of portraits of ordinary hard-
scrabble midwestern folks, and the hall of self-important
politicians. Also on display: contemporary Asian and postwar
Japanese photography (two separate but associated exhibits);
new acquisitions, including those of a modern German artist
whose work draws from the social commentary of Beckmann and
Grosz but whose metaphor is the loom and how its warp and
weft both connect and entrap people from all walks of life
and another whose conceit is depicting stylized neural
networks (similar metaphors; too bad I can't remember the
name of either artist). A rather self-indulgent and silly
one as well: some conceptual artists took a cross-country
journey in three homemade minitrailers, chronicling their
travels in video and photographs; then they seem to have
convinced the museum to buy one of the trailers and put
it on display. I don't understand the appeal of this
"look at me, how clever am I" stuff.

The permanent collection is worthwhile: from Matisse and
Picasso on to Jim Dine, Frank Stella, Diebenkorn, Warhol,
Rauschenberg, and other homegrown artists with foreign
names. And beyond. Other interesting things: a henge of
400-something stuffed animals, doll baby in the middle; a
plastic house that inflates and deflates according to its
own schedule of malfunctions; a double urinal (? an early
homoerotic manifesto); a lumpy wall that, though it looks
like nothing in particular, exerts this amazing pull to
make people fondle it, so there's a guard posted there to
prevent you from doing just that. I had fun, but it was
time, as my friends' names are Pat and Mike, for the
business of the day.

We started at the St. Francis, where I had a lovely, smoky
Bowmore 18; Pat had a Caipirinha; and Mike, perhaps
interested in sweaters, had a house concoction called the
Autumn Sweater, which was deemed interesting but not
something to go out of one's way for.

Our next stop was Maxfield's for Sierra Nevadas and the
respectable Ch. Montelena 05 Cabernet, which was available
at not an extortionate price. It was cedary and plummy and
better (i.e., a lot less green) than the last I'd had, some
five years ago. The waiter was pleasant but abstracted.
Perhaps he belongs at the MOMA.

We considered getting steaks or burgers here, but I
convinced them to make a small splurge at Ame, just a few
blocks away, at the St. Regis. A quick check of OpenTable,
and we were in for a latish reservation, so first there was
time for drinks at Ducca, the bar at my hotel. The Casamatta
(Bibi Graetz) 05 looked to be a goodish deal, so we had
that. It's a fruity Sangiovese, a little cherry-tartly for
my taste, but excellently made, and Pat thought it the equal
of the Montelena (at a significantly lower price).
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