My Toys R Us

As I hope you can tell from reading this blog, I love to travel. It’s simple really; I think there is nothing better in the world than traveling (actually food is up there pretty high)(and my family)(and my boyfriend)(oh, and friends too) (but you know what I mean!).

I’ve been very fortunate to have traveled so much this past year and by no means am planning to stop if an opportunity should arise, but I’m definitely ready to be a little more settled. I’ve had nothing to call my own this year except three suitcases filled with clothes, an overwhelming amount of paperback books and a bottle of mustard.

As romantic and adventurous as that may sound to some I’m about ready to invest in some day-to-day life stuff like a dining table, a coffee machine, a food processor, a comfortable pillow, a proper dream catcher, etc.  The first step has been to finally figure out where that settling would happen and it’s taking place in Melbourne, Australia. And I am filled to the brim with happiness and giggles! I am like a lost little girl are Toys R Us who doesn’t know she’s missing because she’s having too much fun. Except that little girl is not lost at all, that little girls home is Toys R Us.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still living out of my suitcase right now but things are coming together. We’ve applied for a gorgeous, little apartment in Fitzroy and haven’t been turned down yet so that’s good (just found out someone beat us out by offering more money). We’ve gotten an adorable Mickey Mouse poster, our first piece of art. You probably think that sounds childish and weird, but we politely ask you to, “please take another look and analyze. See?”. We’ve also invested in a beautiful, old green chair; it was love at first that turned into a quick, impromptu marriage when I realized it was on sale.

Needless to say, this past year has been very on-the-go. I’ve tried to make time to share my experiences as much as possible, but am nowhere near finished! Because I still haven’t told you about Shake Shack in NYC (the fact my old roommate still hasn’t been drives me insane). I haven’t mentioned the grilled cheese at Outerlands in San Francisco, or the breakfast at OB House in Fort Lauderdale, or the inspired bread pudding Oprah* suggested I have from the Ice Box on Lincoln Road, Miami. I also feel it is my duty to tell you about the success I had while cooking with my mom in South Florida this past month, mostly thanks to Jamie Oliver. Oh and the sea lions in Santa Cruz and The Abbey in Boston. And that’s just my recent trip to the US. There are so many places to talk about from my summer in London and my birthday in Paris.

The exciting thing now is that while I want to take the time to reminisce, I also want to share all my findings back in Melbourne. I already have a list of places to visit I didn’t even know existed when I was here last. And as I move into a more certain lifestyle I can finally invest in my kitchen and cook up the type of storms I’m only brave enough to cook in my mom’s kitchen. My biggest cooking challenge now is planning and making a eatable Thanksgiving Feast because 1) it will be for people who have never celebrated Thanksgiving, and 2) because I don’t trust ovens.

I will stop babbling now, I’m just super excited about the future as well as the past and I wanted to share where it was I am at the moment!

In-n-Out Burger // San Francisco

Since I’m going back to Australia the 24th and I’m terrified my family will not commit to the 25-ish hour flight to visit me, I’ve been devoting all my free time to them. We’ve been on the road going from BU soccer game to BU soccer game to spend time together. This translates into a lot of on-the-go food which, coincidently, has caused a huge wave of wanting and missing In-n-Out Burger.

In-n-Out Burger was a long time coming for me. Everyone has heard of it, but only the lucky few living in west of the country get to enjoy it. And tourists. And probably some business people during business trips. After my trip to San Francisco, I am one of those lucky tourists.

As many deliciously outstanding restaurants as there are in San Francisco (such as Mama’s), I could not skip a In-n-Out Burger meet and greet. It feels funny; wanting to visit a fast food joint as badly as any other specially recommended restaurants even though I’m not an avid fast food eater.

The feeling of walking up to In-n-Out Burger was one of familiarity and comfort. It was like, what I imagine, finally meeting your life long pen pal in person is like.

When I skipped up to the counter, the clerk recognized my enthusiasm and matched it. They are the happiest fast food employees on earth, some say. I couldn’t help it, I was beaming with excitement! I already knew about the Double Meat Burger (two pure beef patties hand-leafed lettuce, tomato, spread with or without onions, stacked high on a freshly baked bun), and I just wanted it in my hands.

To be honest, I was a little confused during the first few bites. It felt like I had been tricked, like I hadn’t just eaten a burger and fries. I even contemplated  ordering another just to feel like one usually does after having burger. But then I got it. Their belief regarding healthy and quality food isn’t just a ploy, it’s all true and I could taste it.

My hands were not greasy, I was not grossly full, my fries felt dry (in the best way possible), I didn’t even want to nap. I was in awe of the carefully toasted bun and the juiciness of the beef. I would have gone back and back again had we not been on our way to the airport!

In my normal life (the non-traveling-and-being-my-sister’s-biggest-fan-life) I go out of my way to make sure I never give into that inviting yellow M, because when I’m hungry and in a hurry is the only time it’s ever even considered.

Right now, in this rented black Jeep driving from Dartmouth College back to Boston University, I can’t help but wish for an In-n-Out burger to magically appear and save me from the extra crispy chicken of KFC.

Mama’s in Washington Square; San Francisco

I came across Mama’s by accident. Featured in the Where magazine of my hotel, it was the only one of all the restaurants advertising to catch my eye. I looked it up and decided right then that Mama’s would be the place for my first meal in San Francisco.

We got there around 8:30 to try and beat the crowd I read about, but we failed. We had an estimated 40 minute wait ahead of us. I contemplated leaving but a local (or so he called himself) told us we desperately needed to stick it out. The certificate plastered on the window beside the line honoring with the “Great Egg Idea Menu Items” award given by California Egg Commissions convinced me to stay.

Mama’s is a small spot on the corner of Filbert and Stockton with a unique service model. When your wait outside is over, you head inside to wait in another line, which gives you a front row seat to an open kitchen while you wait to order and pay for your food. This helps to build excitement as you watch food being prepared whose identical cousin you may be eating. It takes about three minutes to find a table after you pay and your food comes out within ten minutes of sitting down. It’s smart, fun to watch and, apparently, it works.

The amazingly helpful and patient staff delivered our complete order little by little. Orange juice? Check. Coffee? Check. Four plates for the three of us? Check.

Yes, we’re guilty. We each ordered a plate then got a fourth plate of pancakes to share. You will never, ever know how hard it is to pick between a stack of pancakes and a monte cristo sandwich until you’re there. There was no way to choose, especially since I had already left behind the fantasy of having a dungeness crab omelette and Mama’s french toast sampler.

The Monte Cristo is a roasted turkey breast, honey baked ham, cheddar and gruyere cheese, battered and egg and grilled served with homemade jam. I probably would have never known what I missed out on if I hadn’t ordered this plate, but a part of me wants to believe I would have left Mama’s with a feeling of regret. Therefore, I openly congratulate myself on the best food related decision I ever made.

All you need to know about the buttermilk pancakes with fresh season berries is they were fluffy, fresh, and comforting, just the way I aspire my pancakes to be.

I love San Francisco too much to spend two plus hours waiting in line to eat, but I would certainly make sure I’m up by 7am to be first in line to visit Mama’s.