So there we were, sitting in the hotel at the SF convention and thinking about food, as you do.
"Let's go to Galbraiths," said Simon. Galbraiths serves beer brewed on the premises to traditional recipes. To accompany the beer, it serves hearty grub. Simon's suggestion was received with universal cries of appreciation and one very important question.
"How do we get to Galbraiths?" I asked.
"I'll consult a native guide," said Simon and he shot off to find one. Soon he returned, full of information. "It's fifteen minutes walk in that direction," he declared.
We gathered our hats and our coats and walked in that direction. An hour later, a certain amount of disquiet began to make itself felt.
"Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" asked Robin.
"It's raining, and there's a hole in my shoe, dear Lisa, dear Lisa," I said.
"I recognise this street," said Simon. "Galbraiths is fifteen minutes walk in that direction."
Eventually this statement turned out to be true, and Galbraiths loomed large before us. Cold and wet and tired, we staggered gratefully into its welcoming warmth. I ordered a pint of Bitter and Twisted, a classic ESB style beer. Simon had a Grafton Porter, a pitch black ale, thick and hearty, one of the basic food groups, best drunk with a knife and fork. Robin had a Bohemian Pilsner, a full bodied lager tasting faintly of Czechoslovakia.
"How about some food?"
I ordered Bangers and Mash, sausages laced with Galbraiths Bellringers Best Bitter and served with savoy cabbage and creamy mashed spud. Simon had Fish and Chips, fresh fish fried in Galbraiths Bohemian Pilsner batter served with tartare sauce and hand cut chips. Robin had Black Treacle Sponge Pudding.
"Why are you starting with dessert?" I asked.
"In case there's an earthquake before we finish the meal," Robin explained, giving me a don't be an idiot look. "I don't want to miss out on dessert."
"This part of the country doesn't have earthquakes," Simon pointed out. "It has volcanoes instead."
"All the more reason to start with pudding," said Robin. "Think how silly I'd feel if a volcano erupted through the floor and I hadn't had anything sweet yet."
Galbraiths used to be a public library. It's a beautiful old building with polished wooden floors and timbered walls. On cold wet days a hearty fire roars in the fireplace. I confess that I'm torn. In my opinion, libraries should stay as libraries. Books are precious. But on the other hand Galbraiths serves wonderful beer. In the days when I lived in Auckland, I sometimes visited Galbraiths alone and drank my beer while reading a book.
With my food I drank an Antipodean Pale Ale, much like the famous IPA but perhaps hoppier. The first mouthful is hugely bitter, requiring sausages to cleanse the palate. But after that the maltiness seeps through and leads to a dry, hoppy finish. Definitely a beer for the hop fanatic. Robin drank a Bellringers Bitter, claiming that the copper colour and fruity finish offset her treacle sponge perfectly. Simon had a Bob Hudson bitter, named in honour of the man who taught Mr Galbraith to brew beer. It is a tangy, refreshing bitter ideal for session drinking. I knew a man who drank a pint of this every day of his life. It killed him in the end.
Of course, he was 102 years old at the time.
Now it was time for dessert. I had black treacle sponge pudding, Simon had bread and butter pudding and Robin had the Fish Of The Day.
Then it was time to return to the hotel. There was universal agreement that walking back was not an option and so we called a taxi. The taxi driver was a Johnny Cash fanatic and he played "Ring Of Fire" at full volume throughout the journey.
"Oh listen," I said, "he's playing the vindaloo curry song."