We arrived at the building which houses Le Sanctuaire and were quickly introduced to San Francisco's very expensive short term parking meters. On the plus side they take all manner of coins, unlike the meters in NYC which are partial to quarters. Aki and I fumbled with our loose change and fed the 30-minute meter. As we walked away, she made a point of reminding me to check the time (she usually doesn't wear a watch) so that we would not get another ticket.
We took the elevator to the fifth floor and when the doors slid open our day changed. The room is bright and welcoming with an open layout which cues the brain to beging thinking, particularly about food, ingredients, dishes, cooking utensils and mediums, and the need to blend them together. For a second I just stood there in the store, half dazed from our morning and half dazed by the fact that we were suddenly surrounded by a hand picked arsenal of cooking supplies which truly represented an individual's passion for the ultimate.
Jing Tio is that individual. I had spoken to him briefly when we were leaving the west, and he acknowledged that he had seen our website once or twice before. He was busy and my phone call was random. We talked briefly about spices and ideas and that was that. Since then, I have had many conversations with other chefs who sing high praises for Jing, his spices, his quest for the exotic and the undiscovered, and his true passion for food. I have been told many times that we really must meet Jing and talk to him. We had to go to his store in Santa Monica and drink from the well. Unfortunately, we were not traveling to Santa Monica any time in the forseeable future. However, I recently made a connection with the store. As our new travels will temporarily be taking us to another remote location, I figured some great ingredients would be necessary. During my conversations with Fany, I was told about the new outpost opening in San Francisco. Bcause of our upcoming trip to Napa, stopping by at the new store was an actual possibility and became a reality yesterday afternoon.
What is even more interesting is that Jing was there. I walked up to the unassuming gentleman and reintroduced myself. I handed him a card and proceeded to expound on the thrill of being in his store and the the pleasures of being exposed to so many fascinating products. A conversation began. While we were talking, another chef walked in and Jing became visibly torn between continuing our conversation and assisting a long time patron. At this point, our meter was running short, and we needed to make a decision. The day was already long and we had not found good coffee or any food. I knew I was teetering on the edge, wanting to continue to talk to Jing about food and but knowing that we needed sustenance. I can go long periods without food. Coffee, even bad coffee, keeps me going relatively well. Aki needs food. While I can eat like a wolf, consuming large amounts of food at once and then going for long periods without eating, Aki is much more civilized and benefits from regular meals spaced judiciously throughout the day. She can get away with light grazing, although if there is nothing to graze upon, her blood sugar falls and grumpy does not begin to describe the results. I got lucky, though I did not realize it at the time. Jing had asked us to wait while he helped the other chef. Aki volunteered to run down to the meter and put a few more coins in. While she was down there she went off in search of coffee to ease things along for both of us.
I waited, exploring the store. Not really a hardship, although I was getting hungry too and begining to fixate on a good cup of coffee. I was waiting both for Jing and for a printed catalog. They had offered to email one, but I find great pleasure in holding the paper whle I look at lists of ingredients, thinking about them, daydreaming about new compositions, scribbling notes and wondering how we would use them. We had to wait until they could break away from customers and print out the entire collection for us to take home. Finally, the list was finished and organized in a folder. I knew it was time to move on. Also, I had not seen Aki in a while and that was making me nervous. My phone rang, it was her. I thought I would really in the dog house because it took so long. Yet when I answered the phone, she simply said that she had picked up two iced coffees and was waiting by the car for me. I felt like I had dodged a bullet and told her I would just say good bye and be right down.
Jing, like many passionate people, gets caught up in conversations. I interupted his briefly and told him we needed to run. He asked where we were going for lunch. I told him we have no idea. He asked if we liked dim sum. Like dim sum, of course we do, who doesn't like dim sum? He gave me the name of a place and then Coco (I am sure I have spelled her name wrong here, I apologize and will correct it as soon as I am able.) wrote down the address. Jing was juggling several conversations, guiding patrons through that vast candy land of spices and exotica. As I was leaving, he asked if we could continue our conversation after lunch. I took a leap and asked him if he had time to join us for lunch. He said yes. I went downstairs while he finished the business he was involved in. I gleefully told Aki we had a place for lunch, dim sum. She seemed surprised because earlier I had been insistent on going to the Ferry Market for lunch. I told her the story and concluded with the fact that Jing was coming with us. How cool is that?
I was now sipping a beautiful iced coffee on the sunny streets of San Francisco about to go have some dim sum at Yank Sing with Aki and Jing. Now that is an upswing of the very best kind.