My dragon boat team ended its season this year again with a trip to race at the San Francisco Dragon Boat festival. It’s the 5th time we’ve participated in this festival and it’s become my favourite race and favourite weekend of the year.
Each year in SFO, I find that it’s not as much about the food as it is about spending time with my amazing teammates. So while I’m always on the hunt for new places to try, on this particular weekend, my focus is 80% dragon boat, 20% food.
I’ve learned from experience, that I can plan a huge list of places I want to check out, but with so little free time, it’s becoming harder to find new, when there are so many old favourites in our repertoire. I’ve mellowed my expectations for great food experiences because I know, I’ll more than make up for it in other ways.
At the tops of my team’s favourites is a hole in the wall Japanese curry restaurant, Muracci’s I found a few years ago. Landing in SFO early on Friday morning, my teammates were already buzzing about going to Muracci’s for lunch. While I was bummed that my teammates wanted to go AGAIN this year, I can’t deny how good their curry is.
There was a big group of us and not enough room in the restaurant to seat us all, so we took our take-out containers and devoured our curry in Union Square.
It has been years since my brother and I went to House of Prime Rib and we remembered it being good, so for dinner we did another repeat. Salad, baked potato, Yorkshire pudding, creamed spinach and creamed corn on top of a big hunk of meat. I got the manageable 6oz cut, but the boys indulged in the House cut (which comes with an extra slice on the house if you finish). This definitely isn’t pre-race food, but oh well.
Part of my duties as Captain/Manager is going to the 7am pre-race meeting, which sometimes means leaving for the race site 2 hours earlier than my team. As I woke up in the dark and trudged onto a bus, I could be cursing my team for getting to sleep in, while I ride the bus lonely, but truth be told, I like the solitary journey to Treasure Island. I enjoy the quiet time to focus on race strategy and the motivation needed to get me and my team through the weekend.
The San Francisco Dragon Boat races take place on Treasure Island, which is located between San Francisco and Oakland. One of the best things about going early to the site, is being able to capture the sunrise over the Bay Bridge.
Food Loving Susy is a wanderer, an explorer and food adventurous. Dragon Boat Sus, especially Captain Susy, is focused on her team, and racing. There’s not much that can take my mind away from what needs to be done on race day, even food, which is unfortunate considering we have the most amazing host team, who takes care of us so generously. But on race days, I am strict with what I eat, and I allow myself the minimum needed to get through the day of competing.
In a typical weekend festival, I’d race 2-3 races a day, but on this particular weekend, a few of us were invited to paddle in an extra race on our host’s specialty team and waited an extra hour and a half after the rest of my team left to do so. As I waited, I realized how hungry I was. At this point, there wasn’t much food left at our tent, so I wandered the vendor’s area to see what I could eat that would be “race appropriate”.
Four races completed and getting on one of the last buses of the day to take me back to my hotel, I was thoroughly pooped. I had thoughts of catching a cat nap on the bus, but my team is notorious for posting ridiculous sleeping photos of anyone who is caught with their eyes closed. I’m happy I stayed awake though, because as the bus pulled away from Treasure Island, I got a glorious glimpse of the Bay Bridge.
Tired and wanting a nap, but dinner was calling. My teammate Shirley had organized a Chinese dinner at Fang. We didn’t want to go through the hassle of figuring out what to order so we let the staff choose for us. All the dishes were decently good, my favourite being the simple sautéed pea shoots. Other highlights were obviously so, as they were listed as “famous” on the menu.
We had the luxury of a late start for Sunday’s races, so we decided to take advantage of our evening by going out for a drink. Not knowing where to go, we pulled in to the first bar we came across, which happened to be at the W Hotel.
In past years, our host team, the Kaiser Permanente Dragon Healers have gone all out for lunch, serving us a whole roasted pig. While that is the kind of hosting that legends are made of, I think this year’s lunch topped the pig.
Over the years, my team in San Fran has consisted of around half of my regular team and “friends” from other teams in Vancouver. This year, our team was made up of members from 7 different dragon boat teams. When you think that success in dragon boat racing is dependent on working together and being in synch, I felt our resulting finish in the Consolation Competitive B division at the festival was quite admirable considering all of the different styles on the boat.
Some of you make be asking what dragon boat is? I wanted to include photos of my team racing in SFO, but other than the close up in the women’s race, I don’t have anything from that festival. Here are 2 from the Rio Tinto festival in Vancouver.
Whatever my expectations for racing, I couldn’t deny that this was one of the funnest and funniest teams we’ve brought down to San Francisco and in the end, we came together as a team on and off the water.
Our Sunday evening ritual in San Fran is to go out for a big feed as a team followed by more drinking and newbie paddler speeches. We had such a wonderful time at Maven last year, we thought we’d try to repeat by going to another restaurant that focussed on pairing great drinks with their food menu. I found Redford, and while I enjoyed the food, their beverages and their effort for hospitality that night, there were a few things that happened there that made me regret a bit for not returning to Maven again this year. *
Another night of drinking & dancing ended with a classy late-night snack.
Another year of racing is done and I’m at least 3 months away from beginning my 16th season of dragon boating. The end of the season is always bittersweet. Managing the team is sometimes a lot of work and then putting on my captain’s hat during festivals means that I never fully get to have fun. But I do love my scheduled practices throughout the season because nothing compares to spending my time circling the waters of False Creek in Vancouver. I also enjoy the trust I’ve built with my teammates over the years and am proud of the heart and competitive spirit each person puts into every race. I am lucky to paddle with an amazing group of teammates; our bonds on and off the water have kept us together for over 15 years.
Eagerly anticipating Team LifeScan’s season 17.*I’m not one to complain about my food experiences. Usually if I have a bad one, I don’t include it on this blog. But I do need to write about what happened at Redford. When it came time to cash out for the evening, I mentioned to the server that I thought that the food bill was less expensive than I anticipated, but it went no further than that. The next day, I was emailed and informed that I had in fact underpaid and they took the liberty of charging an extra $150 on the credit card I had given them to secure my reservation. Had I been contacted and been informed of this mistake, of course I would have given permission, but I felt that I should have been asked. In comparison to leaving Maven last year with a box of yummy gummy’s from the staff, this experience left a bad taste in my mouth…