Vacation planning can be exhausting – especially when you’re vacationing someplace you’ve never been before.  When I was growing up, my family tended to go back to the same places over and over again, which was great because we knew the best restaurants, the best beaches, and what to do to maximize the fun.  Going back to the same places made our vacation spots feel like second homes.  So, naturally, when hubby and I vacation in a new place, I sometimes get a bit tired at the thought of finding new hotels, new restaurants, new activities… sure, that part is fun, but it can be tiring too.  Because of this tendency, I flamed out one night as hubby and I were studying the Zagat guide, threw up my hands, and took the wild step of leaving one San Francisco dinner unplanned and unreserved.  I decided to trust to chance to find me a restaurant on Saturday night.  Adventurous, no?  (Or maybe insane?)  The night we left open in San Francisco, hubby opened the Zagat and gave me a choice – Greek, or Basque.  Because we have a good friend who happens to be Basque (hi, Gorka!), we decided on Piperade, the Basque choice.  I’m glad we did!  The food was fresh and delicious and beautifully presented.  Instead of ordering entrees, hubby and I picked out several appetizers and made ourselves a pseudo-tapas meal.  Here’s what we had:

Lentil soup, absolutely delicious and one of my favorite comfort foods:


Baby peppers stuffed with soft cheese and pine nuts:


Giant bean salad with egg, my favorite dish of the night:


Incredibly flavorful tomato tart:


Tower of crab salad:


And finally, a creamy, cheesy scalloped potato dish with Manchego:


(When I was a piano teacher, two of my students – who were sisters – tried to convince me to come live at their house and be their big sister by bribing me with their mom’s cheesy potatoes.  The bribe didn’t work, but I imagine the cheesy potatoes tasting something like these.  Yum.)

Piperade was an outstanding restaurant.  Every dish was full of flavor, and I’ve been thinking about that giant bean salad ever since.  And I think I learned a valuable lesson – playing it by ear is good; sometimes you find treasures like this place.  From now on, I think I’ll leave one dinner unplanned on each vacation.  (Or maybe that’s just an excuse to quit planning before I’m actually done – the world will never know.)


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