La Fraternite du Bondage Gastronomique's Bondage by the Bay - 9/13-16/07

"Bound to Eat!"

Introduction and Explanation

This is the official, unabridged account of Bondage by the Bay (BBTB). Don't settle for an imitation! And be sure to read the footnotes.

We'd been talking about multi-day bondage outside of Portland for some time. Years, in fact. Somehow, we never were quite able to muster the necessary planning energy. An idle discussion in April 2007 about driving down to San Francisco for bondage spawned the phrase, "bondage by the bay," and idle discussion turned immediately to inevitability. We sprang into action and thought about it. Then we discussed it. Then we decided to do it. Then we selected dates. Then we delegated the responsibility for hotel selection to Jon. But the true magnitude of our seriousness became apparent only when we decided to have our first ever planning meeting. Or maybe when we actually showed up. So that's where we'll begin.

9/6 (Thursday) - D-Day Minus Seven

8 pm - We meet at Phil's, ready for serious planning. We have a laptop for web based research [1], bourbon to toast our impending success, and a cut-to-the-chase attitude. Well, probably not a genuine CTTC attitude. More like a hey-let's-congratulate-ourselves-and-have-another-toast attitude. But still. After an hour and 45 minutes of earnest give-and-take, back-and-forth, rough-and-tumble negotiation, we're done. Our planning efforts have culminated in an approximate possible departure time, 6:15 am. This is not insignificant. Breakfast on the road is the way to go; Eugene, home of Cafe Zenon, is the place to eat it. Systematic research has already uncovered the fact that CZ opens at 8, and we aim to be there when the doors open. That completes everything on the agenda we would have had, had we gotten around to having one. Of course, having one would have violated the bylaws that we don't have, and we can't have that.

9/13 (Thursday) - Day One

6:15 am - The Bondomobile [2] is ready. In spite of planning to do so, we actually depart on time. Unfortunately, it's too early for a self-congratulatory toast. [3]

7:59 am - We park in front of Cafe Zenon and peer inside, pretending to wait impatiently. The door is opened for us at 8:01, as CZ staff pretend it's normal to see a group of four strangers waiting outside for them to open on a weekday. We have our choice of seats, but the breakfast menus aren't ready. A couple of minutes later, they're brought to our table still warm from the printer, i.e., served medium rare. After a routinely spectacular breakfast, we're back on the road. It's 8:55.

12:15 pm - We stop in Yreka, CA for lunch. Scouting around old town, we come across a storefront with a sign in front proclaiming the operation California's oldest meat market (no, not that kind), "in continuous operation since 1854." It's closed. Maybe the sign was accurate once upon a time - like the late 19th century - and they just haven't gotten around to taking it down. It must be hard to keep up with meat markets in California.

Lunch at the Village Grind is decent. Somehow we manage to lock the bathroom after exiting and closing the door behind us. [4] We hit the road about 1:10.

6:10 pm - Approaching the Golden Gate Bridge, Phil manages to get funneled into one of the lanes for people with electronic passes. There's no escape. We refuse to smile for the camera documenting our transgression. [5]

6:30 pm - We arrive at BBTB headquarters, Motel Capri. It's in the Marina District, which is good. It's relatively cheap, which is better. Parking is included in the price, which is better still. Capri is accented in a color perilously close to that of lime green polyester golf pants, ones that simply MUST be worn with a white, patent leather belt. Not so good.

We walk in the door and are greeted by Hillary Clinton. That is, there's a 1966 photo of her with Capri's owners. One is - or ought to be - struck by the substance she was using for hair [6] that day. Whatever it was, it clearly was impervious to outside influence, natural or man-made. [7]

Our trip down has worked out almost exactly according to the plan we never had.

7:10 pm - We've decided to walk over to North Beach to find an Italian restaurant. On our map, North Beach looks like it's only about 1 1/2 miles away. Jon claims to have made the walk on a previous trip and assures us it's no problem. And except for The Hill, it wouldn't be.

We start up a steeply sloped sidewalk. Eventually, the sidewalk succumbs to gravity and becomes stairs. Good news, though - it looks like only one flight. Four flights later, we come to what had appeared to be the top. Nooooooo. It's back to pavement again, except now it's more ramp than sidewalk. A series of ramps, actually. Long ramps. With deep horizontal grooves, presumably for pitons. Thank goodness someone has cleared away the depleted oxygen canisters.

Reaching the top, we decide to let Jon live [8] and behold the next leg of our journey. Downhill. Really, really downhill. But that's not all bad, because it'll take some of the strain off our searingly painful quads and give us a chance to ruin our knees. Two thoughts occur immediately. The first, obviously, is, "Holy shit! We're gonna have to do this all over again on the way back! On full stomachs!" This is followed by, "Taxi cabs! What a good idea!" [9]

7:50 pm - We check out a few menus and, for reasons which remain unclear but include raging hunger, settle on Piazza Pelllegrini. Our meal is totally satisfying, complete with an SCT. The enormous portions may have something to do with our appreciation. Only two desserts are necessary. Or possible. We also dig the authentically Italian staff, from our hostess (hailing from the Russian Urals) to our waiter (Argentina) to our busboy (Russia again). Well, the cooks we see in the open kitchen certainly look Italian.

9:50 pm - We're back on the street, noting lots more eateries we were too hungry to check out earlier. A young woman in front of one of them tries to interest us in sampling their food. Alas, so little time and so much to eat.

We head on over to City Lights Bookstore. It's famous and historical; it's fun to browse and hang out in; it's not Powell's. Not that we're smug, you understand.

11:30 pm - Back at HQ. Via cab.

9/14 (Friday) - Day Two

9 am - Breakfast is all set, thanks to our careful planning. All we have to do is find a place to eat it. We're figuring on dim sum for lunch, so we head toward Chinatown. We're sure we'll run into a breakfast place on the way.

Not even two blocks from HQ, we find breakfast heaven at La Boulange. This French bakery/cafe/coffee shop will be one of the crown jewels of our trip; breakfast elsewhere is inconceivable. Almond croissants and croques-monsieur beckon, and we are helpless. The coffee - pungent and merciless - is served in a bowl. [10] That means no handles. It also means large, as in enough room to baptize your croissant (or small child). And what a lovely way to warm your hands in cold weather. Except the weather's not cold. In fact, it's spectacular and will remain so for the duration of our stay.

9:30 am - We're walking to Chinatown. But now that we've acquired topographic wisdom, we know enough to avoid The Hill. Well, "avoid" is probably the wrong word. We still have to cope with it. But rather than go over it, we go under it via The Tunnel. This way we don't ruin our knees, just our lungs and our hearing. But we also save time. Which in turn means we're in Chinatown sans appetites. We'll do dim sum tomorrow. Right now we'll get some culchuh.

10 am - We cab over to the Museum of Modern Art. It doesn't open till 11, though, so we decide to lounge around the museum store. Nice stuff; tres cher. [11]

11 am - Opening time for MOMA, but there's a long line of people waiting. Historically long, according to a museum person. Enough culchuh for a while; we're getting hungry! Across the street we see the Yerba Buena Arts Center and the Sister Cities Gardens. [12]

11:45 am - Spirited debate about eating at the Samovar Tea Lounge. Arguments for: fabulous location on the garden terrace, overlooking the waterfall and grassy esplanade below and surrounded by stunning architecture; outside seating, allowing us to take advantage of the location; glorious weather, allowing us to take advantage of the outside seating. In addition, the menu looks promising - exotic cuisine, reasonable prices. Most significant, we are genuinely hungry. Argument against: it's generally not a good idea to eat in tourist infested, high rent/high visibility public spaces, if you're after good food at good prices. Pro trumps con.

Our server's ethnicity seems in harmony with STL's Asian/Russian theme. We're betting she's of Indonesian or Japanese origin. Mongolian has a shot. Nope, it's Peru. We're only off by one or two hemispheres. [13] No matter - our food is on the way.

The meal is an educational experience. We learn that jook, while exotic, isn't particularly tasty. We learn just how powerful tea can be. We also learn that we should have read the menu more carefully. The tea is $9, just about as much as the food. That said, it was spectacular tea.

2 pm - After wandering around the Yerba Buena district to check out the architectural sights [14] and an unintentional, brief foray into the Tenderloin, we cab over to the de Young Museum for one more infusion of culchuh. We are blown away by the Hiroshi Sugimoto photography exhibit, gape-mouthed at the Nan Kempner American Chic fashion exhibit, and worn out after wandering through the main collection. [15]

4:30 pm - We traipse around the edge of Golden Gate Park and pay a visit to Haight-Ashbury. Right before our eyes looms a sign that has special significance for Portlanders - Escape from New York Pizza! How did this happen? Why did no one tell us? We inquire within. We explain that we've driven down from Portland just to eat [16], that we're Portland's most official dining society, and that PDX's Escape has special bondage significance. [17] The counterperson reassures us that, even though we're in the Haight, we're not hallucinating. It seems there are two brothers, both of whom opened pizza parlors, etc.

5:15 pm - Still in the Haight, we pop into Hobson's Choice for a drink. We find a quiet table in back - no mean feat on a late Friday afternoon - and have an SCT. Before heading back to HQ, we buy a bottle of bourbon so we can enjoy additional SCTs before dinner.

7:45 pm - Dinner at Plouf, a deservedly trendy seafood bistro. The verdict? Excellent! Our indulgence is justified.


Right there on the menu, where anyone can see it, where everyone is SUPPOSED to see it, appears "cakeage." It's got to be the dessert equivalent of corkage - bring your own and you'll be charged a service fee. Corkage is OK; we understand. Cakeage, as a concept, is a bit hard to swallow. Why would anyone bring their own dessert, except to celebrate a special occasion in a way which the restaurant can't handle or to meet dietary restrictions not in keeping with what's available? And how often would this occur?

But the word itself is the greater issue. "Cakeage" is an unnecessary, pretentious, ungainly word, unless it's being used to describe something like a soapy buildup or a mass of hardened powder. A restaurant employing such language is advertising its snobbery, advertising that snobbery with sadistic gusto, advertising that snobbery precisely because that snobbery demands it. "Cakeage" shouts, "We're arrogant snobs. Eat here, and join the club." [18]

10:15 pm - We've remained in what we consider to be the French sector and find ourselves unable to resist the calling of a second dessert. This happens. We check out Cafe de la Presse, thinking we may eat there tomorrow evening. It's closed. We continue our quest and arrive at Cafe Claude. It's open. Tarte tatin makes us happy.

9/15 (Saturday) - Day Three

9:30 am - Breakfast at La Boulange. We know a good thing when we see it. Or eat at it.

10:15 am - Time to head over to Chinatown for the dim sum we didn't have yesterday. We've gone over The Hill, and we've gone under. Now we go around. Winding down through North Beach, we cross Beach Blanket Boulevard, and we're there. We're not ready to eat yet, so we spend a while soaking in the atmosphere. We hear a young Chinese merchant shout something in English and decide to ask him for a recommendation. He asks what kind of dim sum we're interested in - traditional, fusion, or American. This is a good sign. We say traditional, and he says New Asia. This is another good sign, because yesterday we received the same tip from a cabbie.

11 am - New Asia is enormous. The sign says its capacity is limited to 600 people, and it's packed. Nearly everyone is Asian, and those who aren't are accompanied by others who are. We're psyched. Food is virtually thrown on our plate by assorted waitri at the slightest indication of interest. [19] After not too long, we become almost adept at forestalling premature food delivery. The pace, the crowds, the sheer amount of food related activity are amazing. By the time we leave, we feel as if we've been trapped inside a dishwasher for 90 minutes. We're full, of course, but we can't say that New Asia's dim sum has broken new ground for quality or inventiveness.

1 pm - After departing Chinatown, we stroll around the financial district. We walk by Myth, another place under consideration for dinner this evening. [20] We don't expect it to be open this early, and we're right. We do expect to see a menu posted, but we're wrong.

We happen upon Cafe Prague and settle down to consider options. And have a beer. CP is quaintly informal. We note a large photo of the president of the Czech Republic standing beside the owners. Our waitress [21] recommends Krusovice, the Czech Republic's "official" beer, and talks us into a plate of goulash with dumplings. The beer is a dark version of Bud, but the 17 ounce bottles allow for several SCGs. [22] The goulash excels. However, we are puzzled by the pace of service. Perhaps "pace" is too strong a word, since it implies movement. Given that there are two waitri and only two other customers, we're hard pressed to identify the source of glaciation. [23]

2:30 - Time for another cultural infusion, so we visit a parking garage. We need to find a phone book to find an area populated with art galleries. We identify a promising set of addresses near Union Square and head over. Success! Now the only question is where to begin.

We spend most of our time at the Weinstein Gallery. It's enormous. (More properly, they're enormous; Weinstein has space in more than one building.) Mesmerized by Enrico Donati's "Coptic Wall & Red" [24], one of us is set upon by an artgalleryperson using genuine artgalleryspeak to point out Donati's significant influence on modern American art. [25] Eventually all of us are involved, and the artgalleryperson turns out to be lots of fun. She's hip and interesting, and she digs what BBTB is about. It turns out that she, too, is something of a foodie. We ask for recommendations on where to eat this evening. She offers Bar Tartine and 1550 Hyde, neither of which we've heard of. Splendid!

We visit a couple of smaller galleries, including the Union Square Gallery. It's less notable for its current exhibit than for its square business cards. Said cards are proffered by the proprietor, who raves about the dining scene along the Embarcadero. We'll have to remember that for next time.

5:30 pm - Back at HQ for a couple of SCTs and frenetic calls for reservations. Bar Tartine is booked, but we can get a table at 1550 Hyde if we hurry. We ask the front desk to call a cab. Bad idea. Apparently, agreeing to call a cab for guests is a Motel Capri amenity; following through on such a request isn't. We handle it ourselves and get to the restaurant just in time.

6:45 pm - Dinner at 1550 Hyde. Our thoroughly competent waiter quickly adapts to our sense of humor. [26] His attitude toward bondage (our style of bondage, anyway) and our driving down just to eat seems to be, "Well, of course." There's no irony in his reaction.

The food is good. Very good, in fact. But it's a bit short of distinctive, and we're thinking we could have done as well at any number of Portland restaurants. We're hoping that our next last supper will be more memorable.

9/16 (Sunday) - Day Four

8 am - Breakfast at La Boulange. But you already knew that.

9:20 am - We're on the road again! [27]

9:50 am - Thanks to ridiculous signage, or lack thereof, or confusing thereof, or hidden from view until too late thereof, we overshoot an exit and have to double back a bit. Our first mistake.

c. 11 am - We exit at Arbuckle to stretch our legs and change drivers. Standing around for a while, we leave the doors open. Our second mistake. After 10 minutes or so, we pull out. But there's now a fly - just one - in the Bondomobile. The driver's side rear window is cracked to let it out. It refuses to go, so the window is cracked further. The damned thing is obstinate, and we're forced to open the window all the way. Strike three. The fly departs (with a smile on its face), but our electric window won't go back up. Not even a little bit.

So - we have a long drive ahead, and it'll be distressingly noisy in the rear. Not a big problem. And even though the weather's good, we're driving to Oregon, where it may be not so good. Could be a problem. And we have no way to guard the car when we stop to eat, unless one of us stays behind. But if we're not all together when we eat, it's not really bondage. Big problem.

c. 11:45 am - We exit at Willows. We're not sure what's there (willows, probably), but an open garage with a Mercedes mechanic who's able to fix the window on the spot would be nice. We drive down what seems to be the main (as in only) drag and succeed in not finding anything car related. But we do see a Roundtable Pizza. If we order a large pizza to go and get them to hold the pizza [28], we'll have a sturdy cardboard box that should be large enough to cover the window. RT is nice enough to donate a box sans pizza. And on the other side of the freeway is a Wal-Mart, where we can purchase tape and scissors. We do. [29]

In less than an hour, we're back on the road with an aerodynamically sculpted pizza box taped to where the left rear window glass had been. It works beautifully. Now we can be officially hungry.

1:30 pm - Las Palmas restaurant is hard by the freeway at Red Bluff, and we decide we can't leave California without having some Mexican food. The squat cinderblock building doesn't look like much from the outside [30], but LP is great. Humongous, zesty platters, washed down with pretty decent beer.

c. 4:30 pm - Approaching Oregon, the weather begins to deteriorate. Somewhat overcast, then clouded over, then spits and spatters, then steady drizzle. The pizza box seems to be holding up well.

7:30 pm - We reach Eugene, which means dinner at Cafe Zenon. A wonderful meal, of course, and it lends a nice symmetry to our dining experiences over the past four days. There's another symmetical element, too. Drizzle has been replaced by authentic Oregon rain, the kind we last saw when we left Portland. We're concerned about the pizza box window. We've only taped the edges, and terminal sogginess is a real threat. At a nearby gas station, we tape over the entire box. We are now impervious, invulnerable, and unassailable. Not to mention bulletproof.

11:45 pm - Back in Portland, BBTB is nearly over. There's just a bit of business to transact. First, we stop at Steve's condo to finish off our bourbon with one last SCT. Then we must see to our investments. It's midnight when we walk into a nearby Plaid Pantry. Our investment manager, cleverly disguised as a store clerk, says, "What are four guys like you doing here at this hour?" Weary but happy, we smile at her. "We just drove up from San Francisco. To play the lottery." [31]

"Do not ask if it is true. It is all true."
-Ernest Hemingway


1. We may as well tell you now that the most valuable site for figuring out where to eat in SF is San Francisco Menu Pages. [back to where you were]

2. Phil's 2001 emerald green Mercedes E320. Powerful, comfortable, and reliable. Well, two out of three, anyway. You'll see. [back to where you were]

3. Hereafter SCT. We plan on documenting lots of them. [back to where you were]

4. OK, we didn't use it together (bondage does have its limits), so "we" and "us" aren't quite right. But who wants to point fingers? [back to where you were]

5. We'll find out sometime later that the tab for our mistake will be $50. [back to where you were]

6. This does not refer to a hair care product; "for" means "instead of." What was on top of her head could not have been hair. [back to where you were]

7. Think of the lives that could have been saved had the U.S. military used it on tanks and humvees in Iraq. [back to where you were]

8. Jon's explanation for neglecting to mention The Hill when describing the "easy" walk over to North Beach: "OK, so I forgot about one hill." Alberto Gonzales couldn't have put it better. [back to where you were]

9. It helps to have heard Peter Riegert's character, Boon, in Animal House say almost the same thing, though in a vastly different context. [back to where you were]

10. Small coffees come in mundane cups. You may order one, but, in Richard Nixon's words, "it would be wrong." He may have been referring to something else. [back to where you were]

11. Apparently the effects of La Boulange's coffee linger. [back to where you were]

12. You really need to check the Gardens' site to get an idea of how beautiful and grand a spot this is. Some people may say it reminds them of Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square and/or Keller Fountain. They are SO wrong. [back to where you were]

13. This is a good time to mention San Francisco's overwhelming ethnic richness. We made a point of asking cabbies, waiters/waitri, and artgallerypeople (this needs to be a word) where they came from. Here are the official results: California - 0; rest of the US - 2; rest of the world - everyone else. Foreign countries represented include Nigeria, Spain, Argentina, Brasil, France, the Czech Republic, China, Peru, Ukraine, France, India, Russia, and New Jersey. Reasons given for moving here may be condensed into the words of a Brasilian cab driver, "San Francisco is number one city." [back to where you were]

14. The Contemporary Jewish Museum, though still under construction, is especially striking. [back to where you were]

15. We'd visit the Museum of Natural History instead, but it doesn't open until 2008. We can't hang around. [back to where you were]

16. We say this to lots of people we meet, as we deploy our FBG business cards. [back to where you were]

17. Namely for Walkabond and Electabond. [back to where you were]

18. According to the restaurant's website, "plouf" is "the sound a stone makes when it drops into a French stream." Sorta like an American "plop." But what if it's not a stone? Let's say it's a stapler, or a lead weight, or an arificial limb. It wouldn't go "plouf"? And what if the stream's not French, but Swiss? Or Tanzanian. And what if the stream's not a stream, but a pond? The exotically precise definition is just too precious. And this is how "cakeage" happens. (No, we don't recommend renaming the restaurant Plop.) [back to where you were]

19. There's an exception. At one point a plate full of something resembling a pile of shiny, light brown squares passes by. It looks vaguely like a platter of largish Scrabble tiles. We inquire. The waitress is able - via gesture, facial expression, broken Englsh, and a pace that brooks no interference - to convey the following sentiment: "You will not like this! It's not meant for people like you." We don't attempt even a small sign of protest. [back to where you were]

20. We'd come across Myth in an article we saw in a foodie mag at Wine Down during Walkabond '07. The article was about hot young American chefs, one of whom works at Portland's Le Pigeon. [back to where you were]

21. On the drive back to Portland, we'll vote her the hottest female person we encountered during BBTB. Unanimously. Not that her hotness has anything to do with our decision to spend some time at CP. Really. We swear. Cross our hearts. [back to where you were]

22. Well, not several. Only one, in fact. But we could have had more; we certainly had time. [back to where you were]

23. Perhaps George Bush is right and global warming is a myth. We report. You decide. [back to where you were]

24. Please send $75K c/o FBG's Minister of Information. Thanks! [back to where you were]

25. The ensuing conversation takes place with both parties looking only at the canvas the entire time. If you've seen I've Heard the Mermaids Singing, you'll understand. [back to where you were]

26. He knows the plural of "lettuce" is "letti." [back to where you were]

27. If we're willing to stay for a couple hours, we can have barbeque that's being prepared in the street right in front of our motel. It's for a breast cancer fundraiser. Tempting. [back to where you were]

28. Jack Nicholson. Five Easy Pieces. Chicken salad sandwich. [back to where you were]

29. The "duck tape" is shiny and purple, and it goes beautifully with the green Mercedes. The Bondomobile is now decked out in the official colors ("colours," if you please) of Wimbledon. Had we planned this, we could have written to the All England Lawn Tennis Club requesting financial backing. [back to where you were]

30. Las Palmas shares the building with the Yak Yak Shack, the motto of which is. "Better Than Paint." We have no idea what it sells (it's closed), and we spend some time over lunch trying to guess. We hope it's not food. Hardware perhaps? After our meal we check it out. The Yak Yak Shack sells CBs and car stereos. Better coverage is what its motto must refer to. We manage to keep our food down. [back to where you were]

31. Technically speaking, we don't "play" the lottery. That's for others. We invest in it. Investing means we're sure of a healthy return. [back to where you were]


Back to Bondage

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