Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Go Giants Garlic Fries!

True confessions: I'd never been to a San Francisco Giants baseball game in thirty years of living in the Bay Area. Obviously I'm not a big baseball fanatic, but now that the Giants are on top it is a great time to see them play.

Our whole family went to AT&T Park on Easter Sunday to see the Giants vs. Atlanta Braves. Game time was 1:05 pm (why the five minutes past the hour?). Of course I did the research ahead of time on food and drink at the park. On Yelp the biggest food recommendations appear to be the garlic fries, corn beef sandwich, crab sandwich and Ghirardelli hot fudge sundae.

I went to the Giants shop at the Stanford Shopping Center to get snazzy black baseball caps for the game. We picked up Jacob from his dorm and headed on up to San Francisco. What a fun family outing! We had the cheap seats in the outfield, but even from there had a great view, lots of enthusiastic fans nearby to entertain us, and oh-so-many ballpark food options to choose from.

We got hot dogs for the girls, chicken tenders for Jacob, a bratwurst dog with sauerkraut for me, and a tri-tip chipotle sandwich for Brad. The yummy garlic fries had tons of minced garlic on top. They make a perfect ballpark food: greasy, warm, and spicy enough to clear your nasal passages. I noticed a little whoopie pie stand and tried to get some later, but the stand had closed. We didn't have room for the Ghirardelli hot fudge sundaes either, but Amanda managed to catch some Ghirardelli chocolates when the Easter bunny tossed candy out to the crowd between innings. The girls enjoyed sno-cones in a cup, Jacob ate a ballpark classic Carnation chocolate ice cream, while Brad genuinely enjoyed a few beers.

If you're not interested in ballpark food, go to one of the many nearby eateries. My friend Kathy recommends the Palomino restaurant. The Ferry Building isn't too far away either with its many food choices including Out the Door. My friend KC has a free parking tip: Park at the Embarcadero shopping center near the Hyatt Regency, and get your ticket validated on weekends at nearby eateries including Peet's Coffee. That's a lot cheaper than the $25 we spent at a lot just a few minutes' walk from the park.

I'm glad we finally made it to a Giants game, even though they lost, and plan to head back for more baseball and more food. I would definitely like to try the crab sandwich next time, and either the hot fudge sundae or whoopie pies. If the Giants could win more games and stop the torture, it would be even more fun!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cows at the Stanford Dish

One of my favorite local hikes is the Stanford Dish, a scenic and invigorating loop in the Stanford hills between the campus and 280 freeway. Its nickname comes from the two large radiotelescope satellite dishes that sit near the apex. The main loop is about 3 miles around, while an extra length from the Alpine Road entrance makes a longer path of about 5 miles. For locals, it's an easy and sure-fire way to get in fresh air, exercise, and great views. On a clear day I can see south to San Jose, north to downtown San Francisco, and east over the Dumbarton Bridge to Fremont.

For about half of the year from November to May, a couple hundred cows make their home at the Dish.  They're young cattle recently weaned from their mothers and purchased from breeders. For seven bucolic months they graze on the Dish's green grass before they eventually move on to a feedlot until they're large enough for slaughter (sniff). Some are not shy at all, get very close to hikers, and seem just as curious about us as we are with them. It's wonderful to see these bovine beings grazing, meandering, and lazing in the sun.

By now many have learned that grass-feed cows produce healthier meat than corn-fed cows. Corn-fed beef has more saturated fat and less of the good omega-3 fatty acids. In the book Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan describes how cows have evolved over millions of years to eat grass, while grasses likewise have evolved to be eaten by cows. Cows help grasses by keeping them trimmed, eating other plants that might compete, spreading grass seed, and fertilizing. It's a natural, healthy, co-dependent cycle.

There's some debate about how good grass-fed beef tastes compared to corn-fed. Many eat grass-fed beef because of the better quality of life for the cows. Some believe beef tastes better when combining grass fed and grains, which may be a good balance between the two. A growing awareness of the morality of eating meat brings both more knowledge and confusion, but becoming more informed of the larger context of our food choices makes us better consumers. The intertwined life cycles of grasses, cows, and humans can be sustainably balanced--if we try.

For me, the main benefit of seeing cows at the Dish is that they make me smile. While the cows chew their cud, stare back, and moo, I appreciate them most for being part of the pastoral landscape and enhancing my Dish experience. If you haven't hiked the Dish loop in a while or ever, go soon and say hi to the cows while you're there.