Bay Area Weekend

This past weekend I was down in the Bay Area for Endgame’s 8th Anniversary party. I decided to make the most of my three days by flying down really early on Friday and coming back late Sunday night. This proved a good plan and I was able to pack a lot into the trip.

I was in San Francisco by 10 am Friday. Took the BART downtown and met up with Aaron Loeb, an old and dear friend that some of you may remember as the author of Book of the Righteous. We had lunch at a tapas place called Bocadillos near his office and then I headed off. I hit the City Lights bookstore and spent some time browsing. I could easily have spent $300 there but since I had much walking ahead of me, I settled on only one book (The Many Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic).

After that I walked up the Embarcadero to Pier 45 to tour the Jeremiah O’Brien and USS Pampanito. The O’Brien is a WWII liberty ship that was part of the D-Day invasion. It’s one of a handful of surviving liberty ships and the only one still in its WWII configuration. It’s docked right across from Alcatraz, so I got a great view of that and a chance to climb all over the O’Brien. It was particularly cool to go all the way down into the engine room, which made me feel like an extra in the Poseidon Adventure. The Pampanito is a submarine that prowled the Pacific during the war. Just a couple of months ago in NYC I toured the USS Growler, a nuclear sub from the late 50s and there were many similarities between the two.

Later I walked back down the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building, which has turned into a real foodie destination. I had some terrific oysters at Hogg Island, a “salumi cone” at Boccalone, and then a bit of gelato from Ciao Bella. That night I took the BART out to Endgame in Oakland and met up with Chris Hanrahan. We then grabbed Chris Ruggiero and drove to San Rafael for dinner at Original Buffalo Wings. The wings were good but it was actually the chips that were great. Hand cut and cooked to order.

I had been up since 5 am and walked over 20,000 steps throughout the day. Still didn’t sleep too well though, and was up at 7 on Saturday. Chris H. and I went over early, as he had prep work to do before the party. I wandered the empty store looking at games and minis and snapping a few pictures. At 10 the doors opened and happy gamers began to arrive. There were games and raffles throughout the day. Green Ronin and many other companies donated prizes. I was pleased that the German edition of WFRP I provided actually seemed to go to a guy who could speak German. I played in a Flames of War game that largely consisted of my Russians being gunned down by a wave of big Nazi tanks. I had a chance to chat to TS Luikart for a bit and finally meet his daughter, who was terribly cute. Then I went off to lunch with Bruce Harlick and Brian Isikoff.

I always try to research interesting restaurants before a trip so I was ready with a Peruvian place that seemed walkable from Endgame. It was but no one had heard of it. We gave it a shot anyway and I’m glad we did. The food was delicious, particularly the mixed ceviche that Bruce and I had for an entree. We then returned to the store for the rest of party. Chris R. taught us how to play Dominion, which I had heard a lot about. It is indeed a very clever design and we enjoyed two games before Endgame closed its doors.

As you can imagine, Bruce and I were not very hungry after our big lunch, so we went to a small plates Mexican restaurant called Tamarindo for dinner. The queso fundido was divine, and they had outstanding guacamole. So much better than your typical family Mexican joint. Bruce dropped me off at Hanrahan’s place and Chris showed up about 10 minutes later from a going away dinner for Endgame founder Aaron Lawn (who is moving to Boston, my hometown). We talked about watching a movie and I even looked through two big cases of DVDs, but in the end we spent two and a half hours talking instead. Turns out we both want to strangle the same d-bag. Who knew?

Bruce was back Sunday morning and the three of us headed up to Napa Valley. Our first stop was Brix, another choice from my research. They do a Sunday brunch and it was fantastic (better than Salty’s for you Seattle-ites). It was an all you can eat affair but there were no steam trays. Food was cooked in small batches and put out on plates that were rotated out regularly. Everything was fresh and delicious. I ended up making myself five courses: breakfast, cheese and charcuterie, lunch, seafood, and dessert. We sat on the back patio with a gorgeous view of vineyards and nearby hills. Big thumbs up for Brix.

The plan was then to do some wine tasting. After a navigation fail and a double I-Phone fail, we took a 45 minute detour up Route 29. I told Bruce I was beginning to think the Dutch Henry winery was like the Flying Dutchmen and we’d never find it. We did finally get there though, and it turned out to be a nice little place. Friendly staff, many pours, and good product. Then we drove over to BV and that place was the polar opposite. It was big, corporate, and impersonal. Not really my scene.

At this point we had a bit of a scare when Chris got a flat tire, but he got it changed pretty quickly and it was sturdy enough to get us back to his place. Bruce then kindly drove me to SFO and I was there in plenty of time for my flight back. Good friends, good food, good games–an excellent weekend all around. If not for the big bag of shit I had to eat right before the trip, it would have been a perfect getaway.

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