SF's Vietnam II restaurant was where I learned to eat pho, a beef noodle soup. During cooking school, it quickly became routine to meet my classmate, Rebecca, to talk about food, gossip, and enjoy the fragrant meal. Eating there meant I could easily get through class and cooking without getting ravenous (all bets off if foie gras or charcuterie were introduced, though). The sides make pho, and add flavors and wonderful scents: Thai basil leaves, bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, and lime (or lemon) wedges. It gets saucy with drizzles of spicy and piquant Sriracha sauce; hoisin adds sweetness.
Today, I needed some hot pho broth to help me feel alive. Drinking at Tosca Cafe in North Beach (celeb sighting! Ed Harris rockin' some odd sideburns) til 1:30 last night was fun, but my head and body are aching today. Thank goodness Pho Saigon, my current pho source in San Mateo, opens at 10 a.m. Each spoonful of broth gave relief, and the pounding in my head seemed to mellow considerably. The thinly sliced rare beef was tender and easy to chew, and tasted like heaven. I loved getting pieces of basil, that gave off a wonderful smell as I tore them up. Take that, dreaded hangover!