A farewell to furry Stoplight -- and wonderful beef pho at Saigon Express
CHEAP EATS You know who I love? Hedgehog. One year ago today we had our first date, and now we are domestical partners. She calls me root beer eyes. I know it's a compliment because her favorite drink is Abita root beer with bourbon in it, and sometimes she looks at me like that.
One year ago today, I was a tagalong nanny for a Tulane-S.F. State couple, and Hedgehog was supervising sound editor for an HBO show set in New Orleans. This year, she is also a writer for that show, and I am a tagalong housewife. Count em: two dreams come true!
For our anniversary, she's on set all day, and I'm writing this then going to play flag football. Maybe we will see each other in bed.
What a difference a year makes! One year ago today, for example, it was Monday. I had the day off. She did too. For our first date we were going to go to the cemetery, but then we found out it was closed. In New Orleans, the dead do not receive visitors on Mondays. They have been partying too hard all weekend. They have hangovers, and couldn't get out of bed, let alone a grave.
So we went to the French Canadian Quarter instead, ate lunch, walked along the river, looked at the water, drank at a gay bar, walked some more, and did not kiss.
Now, the big loser in all of this, of course, is Stoplight. The cat. Not only because I've been home a lot less, but — even sadlier than that — my domestical partner is allergic to my domesticated partner. So before we left for the Big Greasy this time, I had to have a little talk with my furry friend.
Well, but first I had to have a little talk with some cheese farmers from Petaluma. Which brings us (very very naturally) to the downtown Berkeley farmer's market one Saturday.
As it happened — and we'll never know why — Hedgehog was stricken on that particular day with a very bad stomachache, so all she could do while I sought out and talked with my cheese farmers was sit on a bench and watch some hippies play their guitars. Maybe she was moaning and groaning, too. I know I would have been, if I had to sit on a bench and watch hippies play their guitars.
In fact, I was sure she was going to puke. (The kids had it. It was going around.)
Now: my cheese farmers, on whose cheese farm Stoplight was born, had told me way back when that if things didn't work out for him in the big city, they would take him back. This, they unflinchingly, un-guilt-trippingly agreed to do. So I bought some cheese.
The drop would be made the following Saturday. Meanwhile, I was surprised to learn upon fetching my li'l sicky, Hedgehog was hungry. So here's to the curative powers of hippies! I take back everything I said about them.
The Berkeley farmer's market has a lot of greasy looking and happy smelling food stands, but Hedgehog understandably wanted something healthy. Which to her means pho. Pho ga. (That's chicken.)
We have a running argument about pho. Beef is best, I say. Whatever, says she. For sure, downtown Berkeley is not the best place to be when dying for Vietnamese food in a hurry.
But we saw Saigon Express there on the corner of Addison and Shattuck, went in, sat right next to the bathrooms (just in case), and ordered our pho.
And of course Hedgehog was yelping the place while we waited for it. Two people mentioned food poisoning.
Food poisoning doesn't scare me. Stomach bugs do. But according to Hedgehog, it's impossible to tell the difference. "Food poisoning takes three days to hit you, usually," she said.
"Could be," she said. Then she started Googling that. But the pho came and was surprisingly fantastically delicious. At least mine was. The beef broth, heavy on the star anise, was really very wonderful. And the rare beef was still pink.
The noodles had a good texture. A little bit of pull to them, not mushy. Basil, cilantro, jalapenos, sprouts. And nobody threw up. Not even Hedgehog. New favorite restaurant:
Mon.-Sat. 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
2045 Shattuck Ave., Berk.
Beer & wine