The Plant Kingdom Gets Down ‘n Dirty (or, I *Heart* San Francisco)

Simon and I were joined by the Third Degree last Saturday in Golden Park for some serious picnic action. Food spread: a garlicy saucisson, St. Marcellin, crusty bread. Washed it all down with a couple bottles of ’06 Willamette Valley pinot gris (which to me is looking like a lovely vintage for Oregon gris) while sprawled out on my favorite grassy knoll in the park.

Afterwards we headed over to the Conservatory of Flowers, surly one of the best kept secrets in San Francisco. This stunning Victorian greenhouse is located conveniently near the Stanyan/Fell Street entrance to Golden Gate Park, just off MLK Drive. The Third Degree and I remember a ramshackle building and broken panes of glass from about when we both moved here, but thankfully the Conservatory was restored to its 19th century splendor a few years ago.

Here are some pictures from our visit:

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It’s hard to beat a sunny day in Golden Gate Park.

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The entrance to the Conservatory of Flowers. The Conservatory opened in 1879 and it is the oldest public conservatory of its kind in North America.

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Parts of the Conservatory are off limits, but not to worry: The USDA has got your back!

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One current exhibition features Penjing, or Chinese miniature landscapes with exquisitely carved landscapes and tiny cultivated plants and mosses.

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Lots of educational signage at the Conservatory. At its heart, the Conservatory is rather sexually explicit.

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There was also a butterfly exhibit where we were able to see the pollinators hard at work.

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I’m not so sure that this large cockroach was doing any pollinating…eeww!

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Orchids: A study in temptation.

Once the sun set, we stumbled home to Hayes Valley for a bite to eat. Not feeling entirely ready for bed, Simon and I walked over to Jardinère where we sat at the bar for fried olives and some exceptional Sherry that sommelier Eugenio Jardim insisted we try. Now I love Sherry but for some reason it’s something I don’t drink very often–and I now plan to change that immediately. Both the Gutierrez Colosia “Elcano” Fino from Puerto de Santa Maria and the Dios Baco Imperial 20 Year Amontillado (V.O.S.) from Jerez de la Frontera were exceptional. Dry, salty and crisp, they matched the olives perfectly.

I’d never heard of these Sherries before, but they’re available at the Spanish Table in Berkeley (Spanish Table also has stores in Mill Valley and Seattle). Of course, you could also try them at Jardinère. Just don’t miss the olives.

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