Sunday, December 16, 2012

AGU 2012: Food

Traveling for conferences gives me the chance to try a variety of foods, especially things that I can’t get at home. And when I travel without the family, I also don’t have the stress of worrying about peanuts. Here’s a tour of what I ate while in San Francisco at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting.
I left Saturday afternoon so I was able to eat lunch at home. I decided to eat during my layover. The first thing I saw near my gate was a Mexican place with “California” in the name. Since I was going to California where I knew the Mexican food would be better, I skipped that. The next place was Firkin and Fox. Since I didn’t have a lot of time, I ordered one of their grab n’ go items: a chicken wrap with a side Caesar salad. Then I picked up some cheese sticks and Wheat Thins in case I needed a snack on the plane. The wrap was really good. Because the flight was delayed, I ended up eating the cheese sticks and some crackers before boarding. But I had a few crackers left just in case.

Since I got in pretty late Saturday night (2 AM to my body, 11 PM local time), I had a lazy Sunday morning. Okay, not really lazy. I actually ran 5K on the treadmill. But then I sat around the hotel room for a while. By the time I had the motivation to take a shower, I realized I didn’t leave much time for breakfast before I had to head over to the convention center to set up my booth for Exploration Station. I went to the hotel restaurant and there was a 30 minute wait! So I waited in the line at the hotel Starbucks and got a blueberry scone, banana (my second since I’d picked one up after running), and an OJ. 

After we set up our booth, Troy, Carol, Jaime, and I went to Oasis Grill, a Mediterranean place nearby the convention center. I had been there during previous AGU meetings and knew it was good. This time there was no line! I got a falafel wrap and a side of tabbouleh. Yum.

During Exploration Station, I tried to be good and not eat too many of our edible MMS components. I did snack on a few graham crackers and chocolate pieces.

After Exploration Station, I wanted to hit one of my San Francisco faves: Lori’s Diner. There are several locations throughout the city. I’ve eaten at the one by Union Square and the one in Ghiradelli Square (awesome view of the bay!) and know there’s one (not quite as exciting) at the airport. As we headed up Powell St. toward Union Square, I kept looking for the sign, but we got further and further without seeing it. Once we got beyond Union Square, I knew we had gone too far. I had Jaime look it up on her iPhone, and we headed back the way we came. When we got to where it should have been, we found a “Walgreen’s coming soon” sign and saw the place on the wall where the Lori’s Diner sign had been. I was totally bummed! I thought this was a San Francisco tradition! How could it be taken over by Walgreens? So we used her iPhone to look for another place and decided to try Biscuits and Blues. When we got there, they were charging a cover for a concert, and we decided that we just wanted to eat and head back to our hotels. So we just kept walking, looking at restaurants, and what did we find? A Lori’s Diner! It was a smaller location right around the block from the other one. Yay! We each got a milkshake: I had strawberry, Jaime had orange dream, and Carol had malted chocolate. 
We also each had hamburgers, I had the Edsel, which had mushrooms and swiss cheese, and a side of sweet potato fries. It was perfect!

For Monday’s breakfast, I met a group of women from the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) to prepare for the workshop we were presenting that afternoon. We met in the lobby of my hotel and decided to eat at the hotel restaurant. The prices were pretty ridiculous. One of them said, “$22 for oatmeal?” I had a spinach and mushroom omelet with hash browns and toast. It was good, but not really worth what they charge for it, as is generally true with high end hotel restaurants.

I didn’t have a lot of time for lunch between the morning session and the workshop. The lines get pretty long at most places during lunchtime anywhere near the Moscone Center because 20,000 people are all trying to eat lunch at the same time! I went into the Metreon where there are several fast food places (not McDonalds-type, but several Asian options and a soup/salad place). Just inside the door was a Creperie with only a couple of people waiting. I was a little ahead of the lunch rush, but not by much. I figured if I spent time wandering through trying to decide, I would waste a bunch of time and lose out on the opportunity to get something fast, so I went there. My friend, Susie, often blogs about the tasty crepes she gets, so I figured this was my chance to try them. There were a number of choices that sounded good, but I wanted to make sure that I got something that would last me through the workshop. I picked one with chicken, and I can’t remember what else, especially after reading through so many options. (Either Susie has the most amazing memory or she writes down what she gets because she always describes the full list of ingredients!) They make them on circular pedestal griddles while you watch. It was really good, and fast. 

After the workshop, AWIS and the Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN) hosted a networking reception at Jillian’s that included food. There were chicken skewers, meatballs, quesadillas, and pizza. At the end, there was a dessert tray with a variety of options, including chocolate covered strawberries, brownies, several types of tarts, Mexican wedding cookies, and some sort of ginger/molasses cookie.

AGU provides Donor Lounges for anyone that donates a minimum value. The lounges include a place to put your coat and bag, places to sit, wifi access, a printer, and breakfast in the morning and snacks in the afternoon. I find that this is the most convenient way to get breakfast during the conference. It’s quick, on-site, and there are no lines. Unfortunately, they had posted that they are going to increase the minimum donation for access to the Donor Lounge to $500 next year. I discussed with several other people in the lounge that the increase would probably make the level unattainable for many and thus decrease the number of people that make donations. This year, I was able to eat breakfast there, but we'll have to see about next year.

For lunch, I went to the Metreon again. This time I tried the Korean BBQ place. After looking at the menu, I was originally going to get the BBQ chicken, but when I saw the actual food, I picked something else, which happened to be beef stew. It came with clear noodles and broccoli. Well, this is not Rachel Ray’s Less than $10 a Day where she never said any food was bad. (And I also don’t reduce my tip as the food price goes up to stay under a certain amount.) It was a disappointing choice. Almost every piece of meat had a bone in it (they had sliced it bone-in) and the broccoli was cold. 

Tuesday night was the banquet for the Space Physics and Aeronomy Section, which is a good chance to meet people in my field. It is always held at the Four Seas Restaurant in Chinatown. We get a 12 course meal served family style. The first year, I ate too much at the beginning and barely got to taste the last few dishes, so now I know to pace myself better. The meal includes a cabbage/peanut salad, hot and sour soup, a spring roll, a fried shrimp, vegetable fried rice, sweet and sour pork, shrimp with honey walnuts, beef with vegetables, tofu with vegetables, fish, lemon chicken, and a sesame ball and fortune cookie for dessert. Everything was delicious! The honey walnuts seemed particularly good, probably because I don’t get to eat nuts with meals very often.

I ate breakfast at the Donor Lounge again.

For lunch, I met up with a friend, and we went to Tropisueno Mexican restaurant. I found this place last year, tucked in a walkway about a block from the convention center. I always like to get Mexican food while I’m in California because the ingredients are much more fresh, making everything tastier. Ella got mole, and I got a pork tamale and a chile relleno. They come with rice and beans, and they have a salsa bar so you can try a number of different salsa with your chips. It was all very good.

ESWN had set up get-togethers each evening, having people meet at a given time and location so they would have someone to eat with and could meet new people. I found one other person, so we headed to dinner. We had a nice dinner, discussing our varied career paths. We picked an Indian and Pakistani restaurant about a block away from Union Square. I had lamb rogan josh. It was a tad spicier than I’m used to, but it was good. I also had a mango lassi to drink. 

Breakfast, again at the Donor Lounge.

I planned to attend a lunch-time town hall on Thursday, so I headed out a little early for lunch. This also gave me time to go to a sit-down restaurant since I was beating the crowds. I couldn’t resist having Mexican again, so I went to another place, right across the street from the conference center named Chevy's. This place is more like a chain, but still has fresh ingredients. I wanted something different than the day before, so I got a carnitas taco and a chicken enchilada, with beans a la charra (I hadn’t had this before-it was beans with bacon, onions, tomatoes), and some guacamole. I wasn’t that thrilled with the enchilada, but everything else was very good, especially the beans a la charra. 

For dinner, I had originally planned to meet up with my graduate student, but he decided he wanted to grab something simple to save money. I considered going to another ESWN dinner, but didn’t really want to wait until 6:30. So I hopped on the historic F-line streetcar and rode out to Fisherman’s Wharf. I walked to Ghiradelli Square to get some chocolate to share with my husband. (Can’t get it for the kids because it all has peanut contamination.) I had thought about heading back to Pier 39, but wanted to ride a cable car back, so I just stayed there and ate at the seafood restaurant. I had salmon stuffed with crab, shrimp, and brie, with a side of mixed vegetables that was very good. I tried a new kind of wine, a German sweet wine called Wernesgruner. It was decent, but I think I still prefer Riesling.

I had an early flight Friday morning, so I finished the week the same way it started-with a banana and OJ from Starbucks in the hotel (minus the blueberry scone). I had hoped to have time for some breakfast at the airport, but I ended up with just enough time to grab something to take on the plane. I got a banana nut muffin, a granola/yogurt/fruit parfait and a bottle of water. 

During my layover, I picked up a panini sandwich and bottle of water from a small coffee shop. I didn't want to eat too much because I knew my husband was cooking dinner for when I got home.

When I got home, my husband had made a tasty lamb leg roast! It was nice to end the week away with a good, home-cooked meal with my family.

1 comment:

  1. Mmmm...I love chocolate malts, sweet potato fries, & CREPES!
    And YES!!!!! I am just ridiculously food-obsessed; the part of your brain that retains all of those fabulous physics holds food ingredients in mine. :-P ;-)
    Bummer on the Korean BBQ - I loooove Korean BBQ flavors; boo on the stew!
    Tamales are my #1 standard I use to rate the quality of Mexican restaurants - so delicious!
    Yay for mango lassi! But in general, I don't eat anything with curry in it at all, (I don't even put cumin in my chili) so I avoid Indian restaurants. :-P