I'm moving to a colorful, beautiful, old house on a tree-lined street in New Orleans. My new home boasts plentiful morning light; a lovely front porch for sitting, visiting, or just watching the world go by; two doors, one in the front and one in the back; four rooms lined up one after the other, where I will live, work, and play; a kitchen with a vintage stove where I will dive into gumbo making, beignets frying, and King Cake baking; and walk three steps down to a sweet backyard with a banana tree. This is happening.
Four years after making the decision, by coin toss, to move to San Francisco, and four years of Dungeness crab eating, clothes layering, Napa (and Sonoma) wine tasting, general cocktailing, and many shenanigans later, I am making my way south and heading to the most Caribbean of the American cities.
The past two weeks have been a maelstrom of activity. I’ve made a list, and I’ve checked it twice, three times even. I’ve packed, donated and sold some belongings. I’ve forwarded my mail and canceled my library card. I’ve rented the car for the long drive to New Orleans. I’ve told my friends, my landlord, my utility company, the youth center where I volunteer, the dogs and the chickens. But none of it felt real until I arrived at #23 on my list of things to do; Notify Crossfit / Notify Third Street Boxing. I had to quit my gyms. Both of them! And then I cried ... a lot. Somehow, #23 confirmed that I was indeed leaving, and made me realize how much I’ll miss my friends and this city, what it all means to me, and how much I learned about myself while living here.
Three thousand miles from New York, I drove over the Bay Bridge in an old Honda, and arrived in San Francisco, with a Boston Terrier in the backseat; both of us wondering what we were getting ourselves into. It took a year of living here before I stopped wanting to go “home.” And then I learned to love this city of micro-climates, breathtaking views, eccentricities and eccentric people, and of course those famous hills. Those hills took a New York City girl who loved her high heels and created a Bay Area girl who lives in Camper shoes and flats. San Francisco is where I learned what being a Libertarian meant; why it’s important to recycle; that bicycles are as dangerous as cars; that the great outdoors are indeed great; that being a tourist in your own city is eye opening; to reject dogma; and to always be me, without apology. This is where I finally figured out what I wanted, and where I wanted to go. I hadn’t realized that I needed to find myself, but the decision to leave San Francisco has made it clear that my experiences here have helped me do just that.
So, as the end of my time here draws near, and I count down the next couple of weeks, I feel as in love with this city as ever, and I’m looking forward to re-discovering it, even as I say goodbye.
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 16 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and chopped
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
- 1 leek, white part only, trimmed, cleaned, and chopped
- 1⁄2 small fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
- 2 28 ounce cans crushed Italian tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 pinches cayenne
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 1⁄2 pounds halibut filet, cut into large pieces
- 16 sea scallops
- 16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1⁄2 pound raw bay shrimp, if available, or smallest shrimp available, peeled
- 1–2 cups flour
- 12 ounces crabmeat, preferably Dungeness, picked over
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 16 manila clams, scrubbed
- 1⁄2 bunch parsley, chopped
Heat 1/2 cup of the oil and 8 tablespoons of the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes. Add carrots, celery, peppers, leeks, and fennel and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, 4 cups water, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, basil, and cayenne and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours.
Heat remaining 1/2 cup oil, 8 tablespoons of butter, and garlic in a large, heavy skillet over high heat until fragrant, 1–2 minutes.
Working in 2 batches, dredge halibut, scallops, and large and bay shrimp in flour, shaking off excess, and fry, turning seafood frequently, until golden, 1–2 minutes.
Transfer seafood with a slotted spoon to pot with sauce, and add crabmeat, cover, and simmer for 10–15 minutes.
Add wine to same skillet over high heat, scraping browned bits stuck to bottom of skillet. Add clams, cover, and cook until shells open, about 5 minutes. (Discard any clams that don't open.) Add clams and broth to pot; adjust seasonings.
Ladle soup into large bowls, garnish with parsley, and serve with toasted sourdough bread, if you like.