January 20, 2012

San Francisco: day 1 highlights

The Painted Ladies seen from Alamo Square. We stayed in the far left green one.

Interesting week. After four beautiful days (Fri. thru Mon.) in San Francisco, we returned Monday night to a snow-covered city. Tuesday was not too bad, but still bad enough that the ancient history class I'm taking was cancelled. Then things began to escalate, and the rest of the week turned into a snow-ice-slush-power outage-weather-wreckage. Three more days of exciting weather have closed public schools and Universities, as the slippery, ice-covered hills we call streets in Seattle, have become slick and dangerous. The heavy snow and ice has been toppling trees and branches and snapping power lines, causing roughly 300,000 people in neighboring communities to be without power, some for days. It's supposed to start warming up and melting, but the new worry then becomes flooding. So far today, Friday, no newspapers and no trash trucks, so navigating outdoors is still uncertain.

Enough about the weather; what I really want to talk about is our trip to San Francisco to visit our son and his girlfriend. Last Friday morning we boarded our Alaskan Airways flight and headed to a much sunnier and warmer climate. The first thing my husband noticed was that right there on the seat-pocket airplane menu, was a vegan, gluten-free option! This was something I'd never seen before and, although we had no need of food, it was still exciting to see the word, "vegan" on an airplane fast-food menu. Yikes.

One of at least 20 cafeterias at Google.

Our son picked us up at the airport, and we drove to the Google campus in Mountain View to join his girlfriend Alison and her uncle, as Alison's guests, for lunch. Alison works at Google, and by the look of things, Google employees are treated well. Ahem. I want to work at Google. The gorgeous campus is filled with gardens, sculpture, recreational opportunities, cafeterias. Did I mention cafeterias? There are cuisine-and diet-specific cafeterias, including a vegan one, but we went to a non-specific one. My son says, "the chef is from the south, and also spent time in SE Asia, so he cooks a lot of southern comfort food and SE asian influenced food."
There was a terrific salad bar with all sorts of fresh and interesting ingredients, including tofu and exotic olives.

My salad and roasted brussels sprouts.

There was also a hot bar where I found a large casserole of roasted brussels sprouts. Can you believe it? Later, when I went back for seconds, the sprouts had been replaced with a casserole of roasted broccolini — perfectly cooked and delicious.

My husband's pho

Also, a pho bar with everything needed to make pho, including vegan soup stock. At Google, all the foods have a list of ingredients and cooking methods displayed, so you know what you're getting.

My husband's salad

My pho.

After lunch, we stopped at the smoothie shop and had smoothies. Seriously. Google provides just about any healthy food you can imagine. And by provides, I mean you don't pay for the food. You just eat it.

We took a stroll around the main campus after lunch — it was 71 degrees in Mountain View, and a gorgeous day for a walk. The campus is large, and Googlers need a way to get around, so Google provides bikes for that purpose, and they are so cool they are a theft temptation for the townies. As I eyed the bikes, I could see why.

Our host, our son, my husband on the Google campus.

After lunch, it was time to head back to San Francisco so we could check into our airbnb. We stayed in one of the Victorian Painted Ladies on Alamo Square. Our apartment was in the green building on the left — around the back on the ground level. It was old but pleasant, and the location was great.

Across the street on a high hill was Alamo Square, where you could find great views of the city. The houses are kind of a tourist attraction, and one evening when we came home we found a bus load of said tourists, having a look.

A closer look at one of the houses.

Thanks to all of you, I had a long list of restaurant possibilities in my bag, and for our first dinner, we chose Cha-Ya Vegetarian Japanese.

Taku-Sui (Gyoza And Veggies Pot)

Looking at the photos now, the food looks amazing, but at the time, we were just OK with it. We liked it, but it wasn't our favorite place by any means, and I'm not quite sure why. Maybe they were having an off night.

ha-Ya Delight (Seasoned Brown Rice)

Normally, I like simple, plain food, but for some reason, my dish wasn't quite as wonderful as I'd hoped it would be. It seemed expensive, and the vegetables were unevenly seasoned. Some were really salty, and some, flavorless. The rice was completely plain without even a simple sauce.

Sushi Combo Dinner

My son's sushi was the best dish of the night, and if I were to give Cha-Ya another go, and I probably would, that's what I would order.

Cha-Ya Nabe (Vegan Sukiyaki)

So ends our first day in San Francisco. I didn't tell you about all the walking we did as we explored Jordan and Alison's neighborhood, but I can tell you that after a day of traveling, walking and eating, we slept well.

I've been nominated for the Top 25 vegan bloggers in the Mom's circle of friends. I don't exactly fit the profile of a young mom raising kids, but hey, I AM a mom and I raised three vegan boys. Now all I need are votes, and I'd be honored to have yours. Please take a minute and vote for me. Thanks! :D


  1. Wow! I would never have thought to visit google for food. Who new.

  2. Wow, your weather really has been a mess. I've been keeping tabs (and viewing some of the photos) on the Weather Channel web site and thinking "yikes." Too bad you didn't just get a pretty snow instead of all that dangerous ice. Be careful out there!

    Love seeing the V Word on that airline menu! I flew Alaska Airlines from Seattle to SF a decade ago, and thought it was very cool that they gave out apples as snacks.

    SF's Painted Ladies are such beauties to behold, how fun that you got to stay in one! And an especially lovely one, too. Did you take any interior photos?

    I'd read before that Google is an amazing place to work, but wow - that food! Those bikes! Do you think they'd just let me eat and bike there without having to do any actual work? :-)

    Can't wait to see more from your trip. I'm glad you got to enjoy a fun getaway and beautiful weather!

  3. Mihl,
    The only catch is you'd have to be a Google employee, or the guest of one. Then you'd be in luck!

    We did get pretty snow, at first. But with humidity close to 100%, it's pretty, HEAVY snow, and we all know where that leads. It's in the melting stage now, with rain and warming temps, but I'm surprised at how much snow is still out there!

    I didn't take interior pictures because except for the kitchen, the interior wasn't as nice as the exterior. The pics we saw online were MUCH nicer than the actual apt. http://www.airbnb.com/rooms/70746

    About Google — I don't think so. Sorry.

  4. Google sounds like so much fun, love that they are vegan friendly!

    San Francisco is so pretty. I'm so glad to have gotten there a few times when I was on the west.

    Sad that you had a less than amazing meal in San Francisco, but hope the others were better.

  5. I'm not sure if you've left San Francisco yet, but you HAVE to go to Herbivore. It's my favorite restaurant ever. It's in the Mission, right down the street from Cha-Ya, at 20th and Valencia. Delicious!

  6. all of the snow finally melted by today afternoon! so we were out and about in seattle after 4 days!
    looks like one fun trip.. google spoils the employees.. coz then they cannot work anywhere else:) some of my friends work at different g campuses all over the country and i get to hear their stories of new perks all the time.
    my husband works at msft, and they have a bunch of vegan options too, which made it easier for him to transition to a vegan diet last year, else he probably would have given up on it because work is stressful enough during the day.
    i love the addition of vegan food on airlines!

  7. I've been thinking of you our there with more snow than we have!!!! (We did have a snowstorm again yesterday, but you still win.) Google sounds amazing! I want to eat and play there every day.... I assume people work there too though. Glad you're doing OK in the weather.

  8. Wow, so fun! Is yr son vegan too? Can anyone just wander onto the Google campus and get free food? That's wild!
    I also want to mention, a couple years ago my friend and I flew to France and even THEY offered a vegetarian, dairy-free option! France! We were pumped.

  9. Bitt,
    Not only is San Francisco pretty, sunny, warm, lively, bla bla bla, it's also very walkable. Too bad it's so expensive to live there.

    We got home Monday night, but we DID get to Herbivore! Google employees are spoiled for sure, and probably ca never work anyplace else.

    I can't believe you don't have snow. There should be snow on the ground all winter! Google doesn't give their employees all those perks for nothing — they work hard.

    He's not 100% vegan, but probably pretty close. You have to be an employee or guest of an employee to eat at Google. Sorry. :)

    We still have snow on the ground and ice on the sidewalks. The snow can stay, but I hate the ice!

  10. Okay, I need to wrap my head around this - Google provides the food, no one has to pay? I know that must be for employees, but still, I would be so huuuuge. I have terrible willpower.

    I'm so glad the weather was nice for you, and I love the house you stayed in - quite beautiful. The food looks good, even though it didn't taste fantastic. I'm going to take notes on these restaurants because we go to S.F. quite often.

  11. What a wonderful post!

    Those houses look absolutely beautiful, as does the scenery.. and regardless of how delicious the food actually *was*, it sure looks delicious! I often find Japanese food very hit and miss, but when you're in the right mood and it's just right, it's just perfect!

    Now I just need to convince someone I know to work at Google..Oh, and move to San Fran.

  12. Blessedmama,
    You better not work for Google because they do provide food for their employees. Good food.

    The weather was great 3 of the 4 days so we were happy. Next time we go we should have a blogger meetup! I want to meet the SF area bloggers.

    Why, thank you. You know, the food looks so delicious that I'm beginning to believe it WAS delicious, even though I know otherwise. It wasn't bad — just not fab. SF wouldn't be a bad place to live if you like an urban environment — and have lots of cash. Or work at Google.

  13. SF has it all doesn't it? It must have been short of bummer to come back to Seattle. However, we didn't fair too badly here around Greenlake, and I spent the week mostly sleeping and eating, which was great, but am looking forward to getting back in the normal routine of things.

    The food looks fabulous!!! I heard that Google employees get free food, and the veggie choices look stunning! The cafeteria at my former office job was absolutely dire!!

    The Japanese fare looks mouth-watering too. SF is such a great town for food! Looking forward to Part II.

  14. What a beautiful place and the food looks outstanding!

  15. Vegan flight choices and incredible, vegan-friendly work cafeteria options? It's as though you visited an alternate universe.

  16. Rose,
    It sure seems to. We had a great time visiting. And yes, the cafeteria at Google was unlike any cafeteria I've been in — fresh, healthy, well-prepared food. I'd love to eat there every day.

    Yes and yes!

    It does seem like a different planet, doesn't it. Maybe we dreamed it. :)

  17. wow! such a cool trip! the top photo of the painted ladies made me flash back to the opening credits of the show "full house." thanks to that show i used to think every street in san francisco looked like that. how neat that you got to stay in one of the historic houses!

    the google campus looks so awesome. i just got a new job at a (somewhat) similar technology-based company, where I'll be working on a campus that has its own private parks, an enormous and recently-revamped cafeteria with a huge variety of menu options (although i'm not sure yet if it's free)...i'm excited to see what sort of vegan options they offer. i know they have an extensive salad bar. and your salad bar plate looks like the perfect lunch to me.

  18. Google employees have it good! I wish the vegan bug would catch on so that more companies and restaurants could provide better meal options, especially for people on the go. Nice choices though, the pho and salad really look yummy!

  19. Emily,
    I hope you love your new job! It sounds like it will be an exciting place to work.

    I agree that Google has provided their employees with better options than most workers are used to.


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