Thursday, August 04, 2005


Yesterday, I talked with a woman at work who had just returned from a vacation in upstate New York. She said that the weather was oppressively hot and humid, but it was nice to go out at night without a sweater on. I said I missed that too, along with the lush green you get in a place where the growing season is so short. So much life happens there in just six months. And fireflies. You don't get fireflies here.

When I got home, I ran into my neighbor, Meredith, a chef who, coincidentally, moved here from Boston about 10 years ago. She and her partner are the kind of neighbors who show up when your moving truck arrives and say, "How can we help?" At first, we didn't even know what to do with that. Do we pay them? Send them flowers? We had incredible neighbors
in Boston, but moving help? C'mon. Then we figured out that in some parts of the world, this is considered normal. We're starting to get the hang of it.

Anyway, Meredith and I were both spouseless for dinner, so we decided to go out. I let her pick, since she's always coming up with something new and interesting. "We'll go to Firefly," she said.

I had heard of Firefly. It made the Chronicle's "Top 100 Restaurants" list, and it's not too far from where we live. It's a neighborhoody kind of place set at the end of the 24th St. commercial district in Noe Valley. A comfortable, cottagey room with a fanciful canopy ceiling, soft lighting, and (relatively) affordable prices. The waitstaff know many of the customers by name, and the room has an easy, affable feel.

Firefly's menu takes American comfort favorites, like fried chicken, and polishes them up, working in Asian flavors here and there. Nothing fancy, but carefully crafted, with excellent ingredients... the kind of place where everything on the menu looks irresistible. We split the potstickers, which were filled with sweet shrimp, scallops, and big chunks of crispy water chestnuts, along with an order of romano beans topped with candied lemon peel and a few drops of
truffle oil (restraint gratefully aknowledged). For the main course, Meredith had the fried chicken and I tried the tender ribs which were thickly glazed and served with slaw, spoonbread, and beans. It was too rich to eat all at once, but delicious.

Too full for dessert, we strolled down 24th St. and looked in all the brightly lit shop windows. It got me thinking again of summer nights back home. I grew up near the Connecticut River and on June nights the damp fields along the river were lit up with those fireflies. You could go for a walk in the woods at midnight and find your way by their light, just like something out of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Here there are no actual, live fireflies.
But something about the fog and the pretty displays gave me a very happy, almost wonderous feeling. Turns out this city can seem magical, too, in its own way.