First there was the storm of weddings that started a few years ago, when Jonathan and I went to 11 in one year. That storm has since passed, and we’re now averaging six per year. I’m pretty sure we fill some sort of “gay quota,” but I don’t care what the reason for our invite is, because I love me a good wedding. But now that so many friends are shacked up and shagging, the new wave of horror is the storm of babies on the horizon!
Baby showers, birthdays, namings, giant-sized Elmos, circumcisions…it’s exhausting just thinking about it. And don’t get me wrong; Jonathan and I love kids. We’re great with them too, because apparently kids love adults with nasal cartoon voices who act like four-year olds. But cute dimples, bird chirps, squeaky sounds, chubby ankles and chunky thighs aside, if I’m being honest—kids change things. Not necessarily for better or worse. That’s not an opinion I’ve completely formulated a stance on yet. But there’s no sugar coating it. As soon as they’re born, life is different—for everyone! Including the BGFs (best gay friends) who are currently kidless.
And part of that difference is struggling to find time to “hangout,” which, let’s face it, was easier pre-epidural. Quality time (IE: booze-filled hours of cursing without a diaper in sight) between naps, and locations where temper tantrums, wailing tears, and areola sightings aren’t welcome, they’re hard to find.
That being said, I’m happy to report there is one silver lining to hanging out with friends who have kids, and that’s the “early dinner.” And it’s seeing our social-life through this early-dinner lens, that has changed my attitude towards our breeding friends.
We recently had some friends from New York stop in San Francisco for a few days on their way home from a beach vacation in Hawaii. And when they recommended dinner at 6pm I thought they were cuckoo for cocoa puffs. But they have two kids (four-year old twins) and we’re used to just saying “yes” when it comes to making plans with new parents. But once I realized how easy it was to get a dinner reservation at 6pm at some of the most popular San Francisco restaurants I started to see the silver lining. Then I observed a few other things. We’d been seated in what was pretty much an empty dining room, that was quiet and peaceful. The staff was super attentive as if the sight of us signaled “all hands on deck!” And since it was the start of the night, the kitchen was ready to go and nothing on the menu was sold-out. At that point I was a believer and totally on board with the idea of eating before sunset.
After an amazing early dinner, we walked a few blocks to grab some ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery where the “dinner with kids gift” kept on giving. Since we started the evening so early, we were having dessert when most people were still eating dinner and there was no line, which at Bi-Rite Creamery is unheard of!
And when we said our goodbyes and exchanged hugs, kisses, and high-fives (although kids these days love a good fist-bump) it was still only 9pm on a Friday night. Which meant there was plenty of time to go home and relax before bedtime; which for Jonathan and I is about 10:30pm. And now I feel like we’re sufficiently prepared for old-age.
Range on Valencia in the Mission
We’ve eaten at Range in the Mission several times and the food is always plentiful, and top notch. But one of the main reasons we come back time and time again is the service. Once our table wasn’t ready and we had to wait for 30 minutes at the bar. Which may or may not be a problem if you enjoy delicious cocktails. And Range makes some of the best. Another time they forgot one of our appetizers and ended up serving it with the entrées. In both cases these were minor infractions, and in both cases they let us know how sorry they were with actions, not words. They gave us a complimentary dessert, and in the case of the late appetizer, they didn’t charge us for it. Now these are things most restaurant don’t even bat an eye over. But at Range, they went out of their way to make us feel like we were the number one priority. And when a restaurant screws up, no matter how big or small, they should know it’s hard to recover. Even if the food is amazing, it’s hard to change a diner’s perception of a restaurant when there’s been a screw up. But when they make a gesture, even one as easy for them to make as a free dessert, it practically erases all the bad. And that’s what sets Range apart from other restaurants. From the moment they offer to hang up your coat, to the friendly “thank you and goodnight” they wish you when you leave, this is a restaurant that understands customer service!
To start we ordered all but two of the appetizers. With two four-year olds at the table we figured there might be some scrunched noses and head shaking at a few of the choices. So we bombarded them with options, literally filling every square inch of the table with warmed plates of deliciousness in hopes they’d like something. Which is another reason I like dining with kids–the variety.
We had the mixed chicories with winter squash, pomegranate and farmer’s cheese.
Little gem lettuces gwen avocado, radishes, meyer lemon vinaigrette and sunflower seeds.
Braised leeks with poached farm egg, aged cheddar and breadcrumbs.
Chicken Liver mousse with frisée salad. This was just like the chicken liver mousse I make. They fill the ramekin with it, so it was in our best interest to pop a few doses of Lipitor before diving right in (just kidding). We did ask for some table bread to help stretch the liver mousse as far as it could go, since they only gave us a few Ciabatta toasts.
Egg noodle pasta with Dungeness crab, meyer lemon and crème fraîche.
Then we moved on to our mains, which were impressively large and beautifully plated. It’s always nice to see a restaurant who doesn’t think there’s an inverse relationship between price and portion size.
California rainbow trout with roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, pink peppercorn curry and crispy shallots.
The seared ahi tuna (caught off the coast of Mexico) prepared the same with as the trout, with roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, pink peppercorn curry and crispy shallots.
Coffee rubbed pork shoulder with creamy hominy and collard greens. The pork was cooked perfectly, and practically fell apart at the touch of my fork.
Braised beef shortrib with caramelized Brussels sprouts, cipollini and red wine sauce. This is actually the dish the kids ate. The meat was soft and sweet.
Warm cheddar spoonbread with baby carrots, broccoli di ciccio and kohlrabi slaw. We weren’t sure what spoonbread until it came to the table on a plate of cheese, cream, butter, and veggies. And it was more of a corn bread than anything else, in the shape of a biscuit that they sliced open to smother in goodness.
We would have gladly had dessert, but the kids had a hankering for ice cream, so we paid the bill and walked a few blocks to the Bi-Rite creamery. Which, had no line, because by then it was only 7:30pm, and everyone was just sitting down to dinner.