Bonding through Bittersweet Gluttony

(L to R): Liza Angeles, Eva Ricasa, Melinda Benavente, Nova Lara, Cheryl Kelly, Beverly McKnight, Rosanna Salcedo, Amelyn Agoncillo, and the author on a hunt for chocolate on Fisherman's Wharf.

What compels people to travel great distances for food? Is it the satisfaction of savoring cuisine unique to an area? Is it the novelty of indulging in food far away from home? Or is it the sheer enjoyment of being surrounded by others who revel in an edible commonality?

I recently enjoyed a weekend journey with a few girlfriends in a rendezvous with gluttony. Bound for the ooey, the gooey, the melty, and the chocolatey, the destination was the Ghirardelli Festival at Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. This trip was planned with the intent of consuming chocolates, with other fanatics who are obsessed with chocolate, in a place famous for a multitude of foods including — what else, but chocolate.

My girlfriends and I come from many different professions and backgrounds with different styles and personalities, but we all share a few things in common. Namely, we love to laugh and we love to eat. We dubbed ourselves the Yum Yum Sistahood. So who else would I share this trip with but the Yum Yums, and of course, with our significant others, AKA, our chauffeurs, shopping valets, and bodyguards.

The moment we received the chocolate 911 alert for the 17th Annual Ghirardelli Festival, we signed up, booked our travel tickets, and reserved our rooms. Little did we realize the extent of the eating extravaganza that lay ahead.

My boyfriend and I started the trip early and arrived almost twelve hours ahead of the rest. Of course, an extra twelve hours meant a head start on power browsing and power grazing in San Francisco. We spent most of that day at Union Square and at the Ferry Building along Fisherman’s Wharf, making our way through shops and feasting on, what felt like, anything that wafted our direction. From hot dogs, and gourmet grilled cheese, to cream puffs, and Gelatos, it was on our plate.

The next morning, we met with the rest of the group who arrived late the night before. Before we began our pilgrimage to Ghirardelli Square, we enjoyed brunch at Fog City Diner, a landmark diner which is no ordinary diner. They serve the gourmet equivalent of diner food, if there is such a thing. Where an ordinary diner will serve french fries, Velveta’ish Mac & Cheese and mystery-meat meatballs, Fog City Diner serves truffled asiago fries, Mac & Cheese made with New York Cheddar, Swiss Gruyere, French Morbier cheeses, and meatballs made with lamb. The food was excellent as was the service. We took photos, ate, laughed, shared stories, and ate a bit more before we drove off to our chocolate sanctuary.

Unofficial chauffeurs, shopping valets, and bodyguards of author and friends. (L to R): Alden Salcedo, Robert Ricasa, Matt McKnight, Roland Benavente.

Unofficial chauffeurs, shopping valets, and bodyguards of author and friends. (L to R): Alden Salcedo, Robert Ricasa, Matt McKnight, Roland Benavente.

Our “chauffeurs” kindly dropped us off at the Ghirardelli Square entrance where we melded with the masses of other chocoholics. With dish-sized eyes pooling with chocolate, we were greeted by a plethora of booths lining the streets, each ladened with samples of chocolate goodies prepared a hundred different ways.

As the hours of booth-hopping passed and the chocolates had filled our bags and tummies, our group of Yum Yums had swallowed, guzzled, and plundered its way through everything chocolate that the festival had to offer. By the end of the event we were exhausted and began to feel the adverse effects of chocolate sugar shock. Ah, but definitely not too exhausted and shocked to take a jaunt to the wharf and finish the day with a little crustacean night cap. And once again, we found ourselves with our favorite accessories, a knife, fork and plate, where we took photos, ate, laughed, shared stories, and ate a bit more.

Sunday morning came and our weekend adventure was coming to an end. Before our group split up to travel back home, we couldn’t leave without hitting San Francisco’s Chinatown. There, we hunted down one of the best Chinese restaurants that I had ever eaten at, a few months ago. I couldn’t remember the name of the eatery, but I remembered the crispy roasted duck and flavorful dishes that were served. I told the girls that our landmark is the bevy of shiny, glazed roasted ducks hanging in the window.

The elusive roasted ducks at Yee's Restaurant.

The elusive roasted ducks at Yee’s Restaurant.

We scoured the tourist-filled streets, and within several blocks and numerous tea and herbal medicine shops later, we found the elusive restaurant. Beautiful hanging tan-roasted ducks glistened in the store-front window and an unmistakable smell of fried salt and pepper chicken wings wafted through the front door. It’s called Yee’s Restaurant. We sat down and hastily ordered our food — everything from the sautéed, the braised, the roasted and fried — clearly too much food for our group. We had so many stacked dishes brought to our table we had to ask the server to stop bringing what remained of our order. Nevertheless, in Yum Yum fashion through the glossy greens, crispy browns, and fluorescent orange sauces, we took photos, ate, laughed, shared stories, and ate a bit more.

At the end of our feasting we said our lengthy goodbyes. And as we strolled back to our cars, we darted in and out of the cramped Chinese bakeries, accumulating lard and bean-filled pastries to enjoy with our collection of chocolates on the relaxing journey home.

Most likely, our group of ladies is not out of the ordinary. We bond through our perils and celebrations, through the day’s little moments and milestones. And, we enjoy each other’s company through our many bouts of laughter and the many sessions of our favorite activity, eating. ♥