Thursday, December 31, 2015

It's Not Healthy So Just Shut Up And Cram It In Your Piehole

Chef Chad Harris prepares bacon

We must have driven by the Fremont Diner 500 times in the last 17 years but we never stopped and ate until this week.  To be fair, it's only been the Fremont Diner since 2009, but we still should have stopped in before now.  It has all of the elements that make an eatery enticing to me:  Roadside, small, unpretentious, and inviting.  Well, inviting except for the ever present line of people waiting to get in which is typically an automatic turn-off for me regardless of the venue.  We went early and avoided the wait. When I tried my first bite of food I realized why that line is always there.  The food is good.  Really good.

It's called comfort food for a reason:  It has lots of fat, cholesterol, and calories, but damn it makes you happy to be eating it.  When ordering from a comfort food join, don't be an idiot and ask if the dish is gluten free because it probably isn't.  Besides, if that's the type of question you ask when you order, then you probably shouldn't stop at the Fremont Diner anyway.  A person of average intelligence should be able to decipher from the size and decor of the building that the food most likely isn't for the health conscious consumer.  It's advertised as "locally sourced, seasonal, country cooking. Our goal is to combine homestyle cooking & high quality, seasonal ingredients."  I will admit that "locally sourced" has become a buzzword in the food lexicon and it sounds pretentious.  All that means, really, is that the beef you're currently eating was grazing on the grass a mile up the road yesterday.  It's fresh, that's all.  Had they used the word "organic" I would have had to kick somebody in the balls.  That means a farmer took a dump on the tomatoes yesterday and you'll have hepatitis C, or whatever it is Chipotle serves its customers, within a week.

Once inside the diner you immediately figure out there's nothing formal or corporate about the operation.  Everything is plain and simple. The food is prepared feet away from you.  Our waitress handed us a paper menu with several dishes crossed out in pen and said, "We've been closed for three days so we're playing catch up.  We don't have the lined-out dishes today."  I nervously scanned the menu and saw a line through "Biscuits and Gravy".  We might have to leave, I thought.  "Except that one", she said.  "We do have Biscuits and Gravy today."

When it comes to ordering, there are three baseline food/drink items I used for universal comparison when I order:  IPA (beer), Biscuits and Gravy, and Pecan Pie (on a similar note my litmus test for vocal artists is hearing them sing either the Star Spangled Banner, O Holy Night, or Ave Maria).  This lets me know how good or crappy the chef or brewer is in relation to others.  My first bite told me this chef, Chad Harris, is good.

Biscuits are similar to tortillas in that there appears to be no reason why making them shouldn't be easy. The reality is that making these two things well is as difficult as it gets, and Chad has mastered it.  The biscuits at Fremont Diner can best be described as chewy.  They were flaky, and fluffy and big, of course, but more than anything they were chewy in the best way imaginable.  They had substance and complexity and weren't merely a landing spot for a ladle full of gravy, a prop used for appearances because eating a bowl of gravy by itself is too embarrassing.   No, they had purpose and that purpose was to bring me joy, in concert with the deliciously life threatening thickness of the savory sausage gravy.  I gave it my A+ Zagat rating when I whispered "Holy Shit" to myself.  Nikki's biscuit sandwich with a fresh pork patty and cheese in the middle made me say the same thing.  Like everything else, the sausage is prepared on-site.  I didn't take any photos of my food because that's what instagram is for.  Go look there, I'm sure you'll find it.

In addition to the great food, they served fantastic coffee, the kind of coffee that requires one statement and one follow-up question.  Here's how it goes:

Me:  "I would like some coffee, please."

Her:  "Cream and sugar?"

That's it.  There's no wasted conversation,  no follow-up questions or clarifying statements, and mercifully no "shots" or other condiments are up for consideration.   On top of that blissfully simple exchange, they serve the coffee in a thermos so you don't get asked every 15 seconds if you need a refill.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the prompt server who's paying attention, but I don't need a refill after every sip of coffee.  It's nice to fill up my own exactly when I need and want it.

I ended the meal with a slice of Pecan Pie.  My eyes rolled a little and glazed over when I put it in my mouth and I said "Holy Shit" again.  I contemplated ordering an IPA (which was on tap right in front of me) but I figured that might be too embarrassing at 9:00 a.m.  I guess I'll have to go back.

It's simple, stop touching every piece of silverware!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Eyes Of A Dreamer

Robert dreaming in front of Ursula's painting upstairs at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco

"My aim was to capture the colorful, lush, vibrant and ever-changing views of the city as seen through the eyes of a dreamer."  Ursula Xanthe Young (Artist Of Above Painting).

The first time I met Robert he was sporting a wig and a giant sock schlong.  He was dressed as "Prince Fill my Pants" for a Demented Disney themed halloween party at his house.  I immediately suspected we might have a future as collaborators because I never seem to tire of phallus and flatulence.  In the ensuing years I have taken more shots of Robert than of any other (human) subject.  The old adage from Jim Richardson definitely applies "If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff."  When a guy goes from "Fill My Pants" to "Ring Leader" to "Redneck" to "Joker", my job is a lot easier (see below).

When we initially met, Robert was working for a consulting engineer and although he was doing a great job, the nature of the work wasn't satisfying creatively.  It was clear he had the ability to do bigger things and this creativity manifest itself in his yearly halloween parties, which grew more elaborate each year.  Every time I walked into his house at the start of the party, I muttered "You've got to be sh!tting me" because the design was so good.  Every detail was thought out and no corner of the house was left untouched.

Because of this overwhelming surge of creativity, it wasn't a surprise when he told me he was quitting his job to become a freelance graphic artist, first as Creative RAM and subsequently with Glen as Commuter Industries.  It was a natural move for somebody who was creating this kind of work.  When they asked me to take some shots at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco to commemorate the first year of their partnership it was a no brainer.  In lieu of payment I made Robert assure me we'll be invited to his first premiere of whatever the hell it is that has a big premiere.  He laughed it off, but I fully expect it to happen.  In their first year they have done work for, among others, the following companies:

Skyy Vodka

I'd say the dream is being rewarded.  When you have a chance head over to their site and check out their work.

Main Site:

Commuter industries

Year in Review:

2015 Year In Review

Also, thanks to Kristin Emery and Heather Ochoa at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco who allowed us full access to the bar area as well as providing lunch.  I'd definitely recommend the food when you're down in the Union Square area.

Robert and Glen at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco where their partnership was formalized

The photo used for the Commuter Industries year in review

Robert as the ring leader for his Carnivale D'Abnormale party

One of our spur-of-the-moment collaborations based on an abandoned recliner

Robert and Glen in costume at their "Gotham" themed party

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sweet Soul

Nose-to-nose with Huckleberry, an 8 month old labrador

I'd have to be shown considerable evidence in order to believe that Ft. Funston isn't the greatest dog park in the world.  The park consists of hundreds of acres of sandy, rolling hills with trails overlooking the Pacific.  Dogs roam leash free in the hills and on the beach with nary a territorial dispute due to the abundance of open space.  It's never too hot, or cold, and there's no chance of your dog wandering into unexpected danger.  I assume this is the "rainbow bridge" place I hear about so often.

About ten years have passed since we've been there because our previous dog, Bella, promptly decided one day she could no longer tolerate having her butt sniffed and turned on the offending poodle with a frightening intensity.  As responsible dog owners we knew our off leash dog park days were over.

Olive is much different in her demeanor and sees every dog big and small as a potential friend so we were excited to introduce her to Ft. Funston.   As soon as she was off leash she began the process of introducing herself to each and every dog in the area.  She simply won't pass up any dog within her line of vision.  She must exhibit the correct dog body language because they all accept her within their space.  The dominant ones, the timid ones, the energetic ones, and the lethargic ones.  Sometimes a small squirt of submissive pee helps, but none of them ever turn on her.

We had a similarly sweet dog in Mariah, but she didn't know the correct dog language because she would get scolded (in varying degrees of intensity) by a dog nearly every time we went to the park.  It didn't seem to faze her, though, because she always approached the very next dog with the same energy and demeanor.  It was common for me in those days to return home and see Mariah standing over a prone Bella, barking at her.  This despite the fact that Bella often pinned her down ferociously with her mouth around Mariah's neck and her screaming for help.  It was hard to blame Bella, though,  because Mariah was so damn persistent an obnoxious in that way.  She was like the bratty sibling who wasn't intimidated by an ass whuppin'.

We've missed Ft. Funston a lot and we're glad to be back in dog heaven with a friendly dog.  Although the dog has changed and our knees are a bit creakier, the timeless quality of this place still remains.  Regardless of the year, or month, or day, the place echoes with the boundless joy of a dog running, chasing, wrestling, or pooping.

Huckleberry leading Olive on a chase on the beach

She's open to playing with all sizes