Hiking requires stamina, both physical and mental. So when Ann suggested an urban hike, I panicked. Ann has hiked the Himalayas; she's trekked the tundra. When Ann says hike, I say run.
Still, I agreed. Honestly, I wasn't sure what she meant by urban hike. Sprint the hills of San Francisco? Rappel that pyramid-shaped office tower? I hadn't packed boots or a carabiner or trail mix, just the usual: bad shoes and a good appetite.
We set off on a trail called 24th Street. After a quarter-mile or so, Ann slowed to a prowl. She stopped, pivoted and nabbed a grapefruit Campari doughnut. I bagged a lemon-glazed buttermilk.
We orienteered our way to a Vietnamese grocery known for its banh mi. The sandwiches came stuffed with pate, shrimp or barbecued pork, carrot or daikon or pickles. We stuck with simple: a little pork, a lot of cilantro. We set up camp on a curb and munched.
We made a steep climb, breaking to admire a chewy chocolate puck called friand. We descended, pausing for creamy cheese, meringue-topped cupcakes and salt caramels.
We trudged to the train and rode to Ann's in silence. Maybe she was planning her next urban expedition. I was still thinking about that banh mi. And about how much I like hiking.
Prep: 30 minutes, plus wait time
Cook: 4 minutes
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 scallions, white and tender green, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (11/2 pound) pork tenderloin, sliced crosswise into ¼-inch-thick medallions
Mild oil, such as canola
2 baguettes, each cut into 3 6-inch lengths and split
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 scallions, white and tender green, cut into matchsticks
1 small cucumber, cut into matchsticks
Leaves and tender stems from 1 bunch cilantro
Spicy sauce, such as sriracha
In a blender, swirl fish sauce, sugar, soy, chopped scallions, garlic and pepper. Pour into a ziptop bag. Add pork. Chill 2 to 24 hours.
Heat a thin film of oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add half the pork and sizzle deep brown, about 1 - 2 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining pork.
Hinge open each bread set. Spread each side with 1 tablespoon mayo. Pile on pork and vegetables. Add a squeeze of hot sauce and lime, if you like. Close, squish, munch.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at email@example.com.