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Art, California, Cultural Attractions, Museums, San Francisco

Hats Off to Degas–Lucas Shakes Things Up at SF’s Legion of Honor

September 4, 2017

San Francisco’s venerable Palace of Legion of Honor, part of the city’s Fine Arts Museums, is currently hosting the very popular Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade.

The extensive exhibition focuses on the impact of the millinery trade in Paris during the Belle Epoch era on the work of Degas and his contemporaries.  Paintings and pastels by Degas, Renoir, Edouard Manet, Mary Cassatt, Toulouse- Lautrec and others, some never before shown in the U.S., are featured. In addition to the splendid impressionist paintings, included in the exhibition are 40 marvelous examples of millinery from that time period—in other words—hats!

Hats featuring flowers were popular in the 19th and 20th centuries. Silk, cotton, velvet and paper were all used to construct artificial flowers like those shown here.

Some patrons were definitely in the spirit of things.

These hats range in size and complexity from the sublime to over the top. One chapeau is topped with an entire owl, which had been preserved specifically for that purpose. There are plumes, beads, metallic wire, ribbons and flowers adorning these mostly enchanting toppers.

Plumage from domestic and exotic birds, including ostrich and owls, often were used to embellish luxury ladies’ hats.

These hats all sport fashionable feathers. The hat on the left features a complete owl while the one on the right has an African starling above its brim.

A visitor admires Manet’s “At the Milliner’s”–one of about 40 paintings and pastels in the exhibition.

Men’s hats are included in the exhibit too. There are fine examples including boater and bowler hats, along with a sketch of Degas himself in a top hat.

Bowlers and top hats, along with carrying cases, are part of the exhibit.

The 42 year-old Edgar Degas is shown here wearing a top hat.

The exhibition was quite crowded, mostly with ladies of a certain age, oohing and ahhing over the millinery creations. There were a few patrons sporting hats and we spotted several of the museum’s docents in the spirit of things– wearing lovely fascinators.

Feathered finery got a lot of attention from visitors.

We didn’t take a docent-guided tour but shared our table at lunch with a group of ladies from the San Jose area who had and raved about it. It is necessary to reserve a spot for a guided tour in connection with this exhibit.

This docent wears a fine fascinator for her presentation. Reservations for the free tours are essential for this exhibition.

Some of the Impressionist paintings in this exhibition have not been shown in the U.S. before.

Special exhibition tickets are required for the Degas exhibit, in addition to the general admission fee for the museum. This doesn’t seem to be keeping the crowds away at all downstairs. There were numerous tour groups vying to get close to the works during our midweek trip to the Legion of Honor.

Special exhibition tickets are required, in addition to general admission. The galleries became quite crowded at times.

Upstairs in the galleries featuring Rodin’s classic sculpture, visitors can enjoy near solitude—at least during our visit. Displayed with the August Rodin: The Centenary Installation, which honors the 100th anniversary of the artist’s death, you’ll find the provocative work of Sarah Lucas. Sarah Lucas:Good Muse is the first major exhibition of the UK artist’s work in the U.S.

The museum is best known for its ancient and classical European collections which includes paintings, sculpture, furnishings and porcelain.

Sarah Lucas’ work brings contemporary art and controversy to the Legion of Honor.

Sarah Lucas:Good Muse would probably be much more comfortable at the SFMOMA (SF Museum of Modern Art) than at the classically- focused Legion of Honor. The docent who provided a tour of the exhibition shared that many patrons and members of the museum were more than a little unhappy with Lucas’ work.

Giant plaster cast boots, soft sculptures and a series of Lucas’ yellow urinal sculptures are on display among the 50 bronze, plaster and marble works by Rodin.

Lucas’ sculptures, made from plaster, panty hose, florescent lights, a bedspring and mattress, cigarettes and other materials, allude to sexual interactions, availability, empowerment, and domestic responsibilities, according to the docent. She also pointed out examples where Rodin’s work related to the themes of Lucas’ pieces.

“Washing Machine Fried Eggs” invites discussion of women’s sexual and domestic roles.

Apparently the artist wanted to “bring color” to the galleries and chose to include a series of yellow urinal sculptures displayed atop small refrigerators, placed among Rodin’s classic sculpture. We found the juxtaposition interesting but could easily understand the contretemps. At the entrance to the galleries where Lucas’ work is displayed, there are signs warning that the art may not be appropriate for all viewers. We have chosen not to include photos of the most controversial work for that reason.

Electricity in this piece “keeps the energy up” according to the artist.

Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade closes September 24 and Sarah Lucas: Good Muse closes September 17. Go see these very different exhibitions for yourself and let us know what you think. A day at the Palace of Legion of Honor is always a day well spent.

California, Dining, Restaurants, San Francisco

San Francisco’s Star-Studded Dining Scene: Al’s Place, Lord Stanley, Kin Khao, SBP

October 27, 2016

Forget any notion of stuffy dining rooms, pretentious servers and worshipful silence that Michelin- starred restaurants may conjure in your mind. A recent trip to San Francisco showed beyond a doubt that dining in that city’s expanding constellation of contemporary, casual (unless you feel like dressing up), one star Michelin restaurants is more about revelry than reverence.

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Think fun not fussy at San Francisco’s constellation of one-star Michelin restaurants.

Al’s Place, Lord Stanley, and Kin Khao were on our list this time, as well as a return to State Bird Provisions, which we discussed in detail in a previous post.

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Al’s Place

We were only able to get a 5:30 p.m. reservation on a Sunday night at the very popular Al’s Place www.alsplacesf.com. The sparely decorated room was packed when we arrived. There are only 46 seats at this Mission District eatery and they are in high demand—it’s no wonder with Chef/owner Aaron London at the helm. His creative cookery is the reason Bon Appetit magazine named Al’s Place best new restaurant of 2015. Just about everything coming out of the tiny kitchen was remarkable.

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Chef Aaron London (AL’s Place) was kind enough to stop and smile for a quick pic. His fantastic fries are pictured to his left.

We were a party of four that night so had the chance to sample quite a bit of the menu, which is designed for sharing. One of our guests had food sensitivities but the kitchen was incredibly accommodating.

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There’s a reason Al’s Place is packed. The food is stellar and the service exceptional.

Start with some Snackles—small dishes just right for munching while you enjoy an aperitif and decide what else you’d like to eat. We had chickpeas Catalan style and the highly touted brined French fries served with a smoked apple dipping sauce. The fries lived up to their reputation–crispy and differently delicious!

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Catalan style chick peas with a tasty Romesco sauce was one of the snackles we chose.

Next up were the Cold/Cool choices. Some eyes rolled when I suggested a salad, but our server, Rebecca, assured us that this would be the most beautiful salad ever and she was right—cool, crisp greens, avocado, pistachio, all topped with lovely edible flowers.

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A beautiful salad, indeed.

We also chose the green bean casserole. This is not the casserole of anybody of a certain age’s youth—the dish was composed of perfectly cooked green beans served cold with tiny tomatoes, micro greens, basil, and creamy burrata—yum!

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Not your mother’s green bean casserole.

The black lime cod in stone fruit curry was the star of the Warm/Hot offerings, for us. The fish was perfectly prepared and the curry was complex with just the right amount of heat.

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The cod in stone fruit curry was spectacular.

The yellow eye bean stew with torn bread was hearty and could have been a meal on its own. Some at our table found it a little salty though.

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Yellow eye bean stew with torn bread was a substantial dish.

Our pick from the Sides was smoked brisket. We’re still not sure why this dish is considered a side. It was a large portion and our companions pronounced it thoroughly delicious.  We got a second order.

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The brisket could be the centerpiece of any Sunday supper.

On our visit, Limited Availability choices included trouty brioche, fish head under a brick, a dry aged rib eye and foie gras. Limited Availability means just that, so if you see something you like, order it. It may not be on the menu the next time around. We said, “yes” to the trouty brioche with its terrific textures, colors and tastes. It was a thick slice of brioche with roe and pickled green peach—superb.

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Trouty Brioche featured creamy cheese nestled under a bed of crunchy roe on a tender slice of brioche.

Though we all were very satisfied with our dinner, we couldn’t resist dessert. The brownie with ice cream was perfect for sharing and a sweet ending to a sensational meal.

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We always try to save room for dessert. A good idea at Al’s Place.

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Dine al fresco at one of the street side tables.

Al’s Place also has a few outdoor tables on the side of the restaurant. Perhaps we’ll try one of those on our next visit– and there will definitely be a next visit!

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Lord Stanley

If you go to Lord Stanley lordstanleysf.com, and you should, consider sharing all of the dishes you want to try, especially if there are only two of you. You’ll have the opportunity to try more of the delicious dishes on offer that way.

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Lord Stanley has tables upstairs and down. The room is casual and lively.

We shared starters—salt cod beignets and onion petals in sherry vinegar and then had the heirloom tomatoes—all deliciously good and clever rifts on what only sound like simple dishes.

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Onion petals in sherry vinegar topped with edible flowers was our first dish.

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The salt cod beignets were tasty with a dollop of house- made tartar sauce.

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A look inside the beignets.

Each dish had something special and unexpected—all in a very tasty and good way. The heirloom tomatoes were done with cardamom and gazpacho, for example.

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Perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes in a light, bright gazpacho.

We both had the incredible halibut for our entrees which was served with butter beans, roasted dashi, and samphire, whose crunchy texture reminded us of ice plant. It was all delicious, prepared perfectly, and easily big enough to share. We realized we could have had a meat dish as well, had we chosen just one order of halibut. The short rib at the next table looked amazing—and we were assured that it was. Next time!

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The halibut was succulent and rich.

Lord Stanley has a well-priced and interesting wine list. Our server was very knowledgeable and made several excellent suggestions for wine pairings.

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Lord Stanley’s interesting wine list has a number of organic/ biologic wines on offer.

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This light Loire Valley red was organically cultivated and manually harvested. It was a fine complement to our meal.

Though we’d had plenty to eat, we splurged and had the dark chocolate pudding with black sesame and toasted rice for dessert. The “pudding” was a delightfully different assemblage of tastes and textures from the dark chocolate crumbles to the crispy toffee on top.

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The dark chocolate pudding was a winner in both taste and texture.

img_4092Don’t be put off by Kin Khao’s www.kinkhao.com simple surroundings. Located in the Parc 55 Hotel in what looks a lot like a coffee shop—this place is really good. They have extraordinary Thai food, attentive, knowledgeable service and a solid wine list with interesting choices that complement the cuisine nicely.

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Spare surroundings belie the rich, tantalizing Thai food on offer.

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The brief wine list perfectly complements the complex flavors of the food.

Entrees are pretty large but the appetizers are so good, it’s hard not to start with one or two. The Som Tum Papaya Salad is complex, flavorful and super hot—maybe the spiciest item on the small menu, but one bite leads to another and after a few, you’ll enjoy the heat.

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If you like it spicy, don’t miss this papaya salad.

The Pretty Hot Wings are just that, and pretty tasty, too. They hold their own against Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok wings in our estimation.

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Tangy, spicy and just right, these wings hold their own against more well- known competitors.

The Pinto Market Lunch with green curry, rabbit meatballs, pork riblets, salad and rice was more than satisfying and a veritable smorgasbord of taste treats.

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The Pinto Market Lunch is a hearty, satisfying meal full of flavor.

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A light chicken broth and a additional house- made curry sauce come on the side.

We also had a very hearty and savory noodle dish called Kanom Jeen Nam Ngiew.  Tender braised pork cheeks with rice noodles, Ngiew flowers, cherry tomatoes, pickled mustard greens in a hearty pork broth made a delicious dish. Curries are prepared in- house from scratch each day.

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Kanom Jeen Nam Ngiew was a sensational dish with complex flavors.

For a smaller appetite or on a hot day, try the chicken fat rice with ginger poached chicken, served with a restorative cup of chicken broth—light and delicious.

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The Pad Kee Mao with drunken egg noodles, ground pork, chilis basil and onions was outstanding. It’s also available as a vegetarian dish made with tofu.

Kin Khao has numerous vegetarian and gluten free items on their menu. Some items can easily be made vegetarian by substituting tofu.

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Kin Khao’s dining room between meals.

We’ve enjoyed several meals at Kin Khao and have been delighted each time. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.

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State Bird Provisions

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State Bird Provisions is still a tough table to get but well worth it.

Our unreserved and enthusiastic recommendation of State Bird Provision still stands. We had another terrific evening enjoying lots and lots of small, shared, interesting dishes at this popular Michelin one-star restaurant.

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Perfect heirloom tomatoes with crunchy quinoa and tahini chili oil. Piquant and refreshing.

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Sashimi grade fish and careful spicing makes SBP’s take on poke outstanding.

If you can score a table here do it, even if you have to get up at midnight, 60 days in advance to book, which is exactly what we do. If that doesn’t work out, take heart, they do take a limited number of walk-ins at 5:30 p.m., every night. For more on SBP, read my earlier post.

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A whole grain pancake topped with fiscalini cheddar and heirloom tomato is a two bite treat.

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State Bird’s extensive wine list has something for every palate. Try one of their wine flights.

The San Francisco Bay Area now has 49 Michelin star-rated restaurants from Los Gatos to the Napa Valley. What are you waiting for? Let’s go eat!  Find new favorites?  Please share them with us.

 

California, Dining, Restaurants, San Francisco

San Francisco’s Stellar State Bird Provisions

September 20, 2015

There is a framed print in one of the bathrooms at State Bird Provisions that asks, “Where’s the f&#@ing party?”   Well folks, it’s right here! Dinner at State Bird http://www.statebirdsf.com is exuberant and exciting. It’s a lot like being at a super fun, fairly exclusive dinner party where you might not know many of the other guests but you’ll have a great time anyway.

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Everyone seems so happy at State Bird– it’s like going to a great dinner party.

There’s been nothing but buzz around this place since it opened on New Year’s Eve in 2011 and it’s still one of the toughest tables to get in San Francisco. The restaurant does take walk -ins and keeps a nightly wait list at the hostess stand, but if you are committed to eating here, you need to have a reservation. Online reservations open at midnight PST, 60 days in advance, and fill up promptly. Getting a booking is kind of like winning the lottery — your chances don’t improve even if you’ve dined there before. Is it worth it? Yes!

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Some seats at the chef’s counter are reserved for walk-in guests. These were filled moments after the photo was taken.

State Bird’s cuisine is deliciously creative and the concept is American dim sum. Each evening enthusiastic servers with carts and trays make their way through the casual dining room with a rotating selection of a dozen or more tantalizing treats. These “provisions” are innovative small dishes meant for sharing, like everything available at State Bird. This is a great place to come with friends—more people mean more dishes to try. Leave anyone who isn’t good at sharing at home.

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The restaurant has a casual, buzzy vibe, two James Beard Foundation Awards and a Michelin star.

Word of advice—pace yourself! It all looks so good that you’ll be tempted to take one of everything right away. Before you know it you’ll have seven different dishes on your table and are just too full for that extraordinary one you didn’t even know you wanted– until it passed by. Sad face.

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Nectarines with whipped crescenza & pink peppercorns captured the best flavors of late summer.

Our recommendation—take a look at what’s available, choose a dish or two at a time, savor and repeat until you can’t eat another bite. In our case, two of us had eight of the passed dishes, the small portion of the state bird (more on that later) and half portions of dessert. Service is very attentive and no one is offended if you say no or ask to have a dish brought around again later—they do that as a matter of course.

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Servers are helpful and happy to explain preparations. Here’s Ben with a cart of tasty dishes.

There are a few items that appear regularly, like the sensational smoked trout-avocado chip and dip—a layered mousse-like trout and creamy avocado served with crispy house made chips, and the savory guinea hen dumpling with aromatic broth. We’d enjoyed both on a previous visit but ordered them again because they were just so good.

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Smoked trout- avocado ‘chip & dip’– so good we ordered it twice.

Because the focus is on seasonal and local fare, dishes change regularly. On our recent visit the “provisions” included hog island oyster with kohlrabi kraut and sesame; guanciale chawanmushi; duck liver mousse with almond biscuit; summer squash with roasted nardello and smoked almonds; shishitos with cumin- goat cheese fondue; sweet corn polenta ‘elote’; pork belly pluot salad; heirloom tomato bay shrimp ‘louie’ ; chanterelle, ham and fregola summer salad; charred octopus with kampot peppercorn and tomato sauce; air dried beef with red chili vinaigrette; and wild king salmon tartare with cucumbers and kosho aioli.

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Duck liver mousse with almond biscuits was decadent and delicious.

Knowledgeable wait staff happily answer questions and explain preparations. Prices are clearly marked on each dish and range from $3 to $14 (for the large portion of pork belly pluot salad). Most are $5 and $6. Servers mark your menu each time you choose something, just like in a typical dim sum restaurant.

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This air dried beef with chilis was even tastier than it looked. The crispy rice was a wonderful addition.

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The shishito peppers with cumin-goat cheese fondue was a great combination of flavors and textures.

There is a small printed menu that features the actual state bird, which happens to be California valley quail, served in two portion sizes($9/$18) and accompanied by seasonal “provisions.” It is delicious—crispy and succulent and you really should order it.

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The “must have” state bird for whom the restaurant is named.

Other “commandables,” as the plates on the printed menu are called, included red trout with toasted hazelnut-mandarin-garum vinaigrette; fresh Hawaiian heart of palm salad, with tahini chili oil; ‘kung pao’ beef tongue and sweetbreads with bacon, nuts and seeds; and Don Watson’s lamb with squid, shishito peppers and dates. These range from $14 to $22 and are good- sized servings.

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Sweet summer corn polenta ‘elote’ takes simple polenta to a level of luxury.

The printed menu also lists a variety of interesting sounding toasts and pancakes. There is heirloom tomato Cabot cheddar whole-grain pancake, pickled local anchovy-tomato toast and smoked chicken walnut ‘Waldorf’ toast, among others, at prices ranging from $3 to $5 each. We have not sampled the toasts—very of the moment– or the pancakes, but perhaps next time.

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Wait staff mark your orders just like in a typical dim sum restaurant.

We saved room for dessert on our recent visit and we’re happy we did. We shared half orders of a wonderfully refreshing suncrest peach granite with tapioca, smoky tea gelee, Asian pear and mint; a surprising chevre ‘ice cream’ sandwich with sesame macaron and roasted strawberries; and a dense, moist apple pudding cake with cocoa nib cream and blackberries. We also sampled a shot of the ‘world peace’ peanut muscavado milk ($2). Desserts are $9 each and while the menu doesn’t indicate this, they are happy to give you half servings at half the price, on request.

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Choosing half orders of dessert allowed us to satiate our sweet tooth.

The wine list has interesting offerings from U.S. producers in California, Oregon, New York and even Utah. The Utah selection was a 2014 Arneis/Dolcetto/Barbera blend from Fox Hill Vineyard that was served cold—we just had to try it.   Austria, Germany, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy (including Sicily), and Crete are all represented on the list. Diners can choose from a large number of by the glass options or the bottle. Though it isn’t printed, half glasses are also available. This latter option makes for a really fun evening of wine pairing with all of those delicious small dishes.

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By selecting half glasses of wine, we could sample widely and not overindulge.

We sampled a great selection of half glasses to compliment our meal. We began with a palate pleasing sparkling Reisling Sekt from the Mosel region of Germany and a Portugese Naga/Bical “metodo tradicional rose” that was super dry and nearly red. After consulting with wait staff we worked our way through the list with a food-friendly 2013 Gruner Veltliner from Wagram, Austria; a crisp California Riesling from J. Brix in Santa Barbara; flinty 2012 Falanghina from Mustilli in Campania, Italy; a well-balanced 2014 Marsanne from the Rhone Valley’s Yves Cuilleron; a surprisingly bone- dry 2014 White Zinfandel from Napa Valley’s Turley (I know, but it was from Turley–we couldn’t pass it up); an earthy 2011 Liatiko from Crete; and a big, juicy 2009 Zweigelt from Austria’s Johnanneshof Reinish. Our last half glass was a lovely, floral Gamay from Jean-Paul Brun– the perfect ending to a delightful evening.

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These hard working gentlemen were among those responsible for a stellar meal and a marvelous evening.

We’re looking forward to our next meal at State Bird and will also try to get a place at the table at The Progress— husband and wife chefs Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski ’s new restaurant next door. Diners “choose their own family-style adventure” by selecting six dishes (from a list of 17 plus three desserts on a recent menu) for $65.   We’d love to hear from anyone who has already been to The Progress, and as always, we welcome comments and recommendations.

 

Book Stores, Family Fun, Markets, Missions, Pirates, Restaurants, San Francisco, Shopping

Exploring San Francisco’s Mission District

September 19, 2015

It’s easy to spend your entire day just wandering around the Mission District. There’s someplace inviting to eat and drink every few feet, interesting shops, galleries, independent bookstores (there are still a few left) and of course, the Mission Dolores, for which the area is named.

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One of many inviting places to stop for a bite in the Mission District.

Our itinerary included some of all of the above. First, lunch at the ever-popular Pizzeria Delfina. We’ve enjoyed many delicious dinners at Delfina www.delfinasf.com, a lively, casual Italian restaurant that many say marked the beginning of the Mission District’s popularity as a dining destination back in 1998 when Craig and Annie Stoll first opened their doors. Today, we’re looking for lunch, and Delfina serves dinner only, so it’s Pizzeria Delfina (right next door) for lunch.

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The original Pizzeria Delfina is right next door to the restaurant and has sidewalk tables.

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With Delfina owner Craig Stoll.

There is almost always a lengthy line of hungry folks waiting for the pie at Pizzeria Delfina www.pizzeriadelfina.com. No reservations are accepted but there is a chalkboard right inside the small space– write your name and the number in your party then stand on line and wait your turn. Watch the pizzaoli as you wait—it’ll be your turn soon enough!

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Lunchtime at Pizzaria Delfina.

The menu has a nice variety of pizzas with perfect thin and crunchy crusts (puffy on the edges—just like I like it), salads, antipasti and some desserts. There is limited seating inside but there are also some tables on the sidewalk. Wine and beer are available along with soft drinks. Service is friendly and pizzas are delivered to your table prontissimo.

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Everything on the simple menu is fresh and delicious.

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Perfect pizza– puffy, crunchy crust and best quality toppings.

If pizza is not what you’re after, Tartine www.tartinebakery.com is right on the corner. When we were loitering around the closed Pizzaria Delfina one sad Monday—the only day they are not open, owner Craig Stoll directed us to Tartine— one of his neighborhood favorites.

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Crowds queue for Tartine’s pastries, breads and hot pressed sandwiches.

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Diners in the back of the room can watch the bakers at work.

Superb sandwiches, salads, light meals and beautiful pastries are available in this small storefront, which also almost always has a line, especially on the weekends. If you grab a table near the back, you can watch the bakers at work and enjoy the heady aroma of baking bread.

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If you haven’t satisfied your sweet tooth, walk a few blocks over to Valencia St. for dessert and learn how chocolate is made at Dandelion Small- Batch Chocolate.This café and factory has organized tours (book online at www.dandelionchocolate.com) but even if you haven’t been able to reserve a formal tour, it’s easy to see the chocolate makers at work in the open kitchen area and they are happy to answer questions.

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Reserve a tour of Dandelion’s chocolate making facility online.

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The current roaster can handle five kilos of cacao beans. The new facility will have a 50 kilo roaster.

We couldn’t join a tour but Lisa Vega, executive pastry chef, was kind enough to show us around and explain the chocolate making process from bean procurement (high quality, single source beans from numerous countries including Ecuador, Madagascar, Belize, and Venezuela), to sorting, roasting, winnowing, melanging, blocking, tempering, and finally, wrapping the bars for sale.

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Executive Pastry Chef Lisa Vega was happy to show us around.

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Dandelion’s chocolate makers create small batch chocolates everyday.

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Their chocolates are made from two ingredients only– cacao and sugar.

After you’ve satisfied your curiosity, sample the wares while you wait to place your order for a delicious cocoa or coffee drink and something sweet to eat. There are plenty of tempting items both to enjoy at the café and to take home.

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It isn’t easy to choose!

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Complimentary samples are available of most of the single source chocolates.

Dandelion Chocolate also has a small kiosk in the Ferry Building, which sells their tasty products, books and other chocolate-related merchandise. The Ferry Building location is at the same end of the building as Miette Patisserie www.miette.com and Humphrey Slocombe Ice Cream www.humphreyslocombe.com— just across the way from Slanted Door’s take away place, Out the Door www.outthedoors.com.

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Soon chocolately drinks like these will also be available at the Ferry Building.

Dandelion has plans for a cocoa café there as well, so you can enjoy their delicious drinks even if you don’t make it to the Mission.

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Say cheese– at Mission Cheese.

If it’s cheesy goodness you’re craving, check out Mission Cheese www.missioncheese.net. This little shop is across from the “parklet” on Valencia and just two doors down from Dandelion Chocolate. Sample and purchase a wide variety of cheeses both domestic and imported, or make a meal of it with their gooey mac n’ cheese, a pressed cheese sandwich, charcuterie or a cheese flight. They also offer a fine selection of wine, beer and ciders, plus coffee, teas and dessert.

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There’s plenty to see and do in the Mission.

Need pirate supplies? Pop into 826 Valencia St. in the Mission www.826valencia.org It’s the only “independent pirate supply store” in San Francisco.

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Stop in to 826 for pirate supplies and to support young writers’ programming.

There you’ll find an assortment of pirate paraphernalia including “Scurvy Be Gone,” pirate flags, booty chests, tattoo removers (metal brushes aka “the low cost option”), looking glasses, maps, eye patches, tee shirts, books and much, much more.

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Everyday is “Talk like a Pirate Day.”

In the back room, you’ll see what makes this space so important—it’s the free writing/tutoring lab author and 826 Valencia co-founder Dave Eggers began in the storefront in 2002, along with educator Ninive Calegari.

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The writing/tutoring lab is the heart of 826 Valencia.

826 Valencia is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting underserved Bay Area students ages six to 18 by working with them to develop their writing skills. According to the 826 Valencia’s website, the group serves more than 6,000 students annually thanks to their 1,700 Bay Area volunteers. They also have an outreach program for teachers. Books by the young authors, including numerous anthologies, are available for sale, as are quarterly subscriptions to the young writers’ work. For more information on in-store events, volunteer and donation opportunities, and the writing programs, visit www.826valencia.org. Proceeds from all sales in the pirate shop support the free writing programs, so stop by and pick up a few treasures, matey.

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Support independent booksellers.

Borderlands Bookstore www.borderlands-books.com is also on Valencia and home to new and used sci-fi, mystery, horror and fantasy titles.  Independent bookstores like these are getting increasingly hard to find, and in fact, Borderlands was in danger of closing earlier this year due to the dramatic increase in minimum wage now required by the state of California. A community meeting and the clever idea to sell 300 $100 sponsorships have kept the doors open so far.

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Grab a cup of coffee with your sci-fi.

Borderlands has special events including author readings and signings and a nice café right next door, too. I always like to support independent booksellers and encourage everyone else to do so.  If you’re in the neighbor and your shelves are looking a little empty, stop in and buy a book or two.

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The Mission is named for the beautiful Mission Dolores.

Finally, a visit to the actual Mission www.missiondolores.org, the oldest intact building in San Francisco. As we mentioned earlier, the Mission District takes its name from the Mission San Francisco de Asis established by Father Junipero Serra in 1776, but also commonly called Mission Dolores because of a nearby creek, Arroyo de los Dolores or “Creek of Sorrows.”

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The gorgeous painted wooden ceiling is one of the highlights at Mission Dolores.

If the Mission Dolores seems familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it in the movies. Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo with Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart was filmed here in 1957. Visitors are welcome, and for a small fee, can tour the church with it’s brightly painted wooden ceiling and alter piece, outbuildings and gardens, as well as the small cemetery, which was the final resting place of missionaries and parishioners alike.

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Visit the tranquil gardens.

There are antique vestments, a diorama depicting how the mission functioned, paintings and Native American artifacts on display. There is also a small gift shop with handicrafts, devotional candles, rosary beads, prayer cards and Alfred Hitchcock bobble heads—really!

A tribute to "Vertigo."

A tribute to “Vertigo.”

Take a few hours, an afternoon, or the whole day, and explore this fascinating area of San Francisco. Buy some books. Enjoy a meal or a drink. Pick up some chocolate, cheese or even a bobble head while you’re there!

 

 

 

 

California, Italy, Portland, Rome, San Diego, San Francisco

Happy New Year!

January 11, 2015
Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

Happy New Year!  In the year ahead we’re looking forward to returning to some of our favorite European cities including Berlin, Florence and Rome. We’re also planning  a first time visit to Milan, named #1 travel destination for 2015 by the New York Times.

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

We’ll also be back to Portland, OR, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other U.S. destinations still to be determined.

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Need we say more?

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco’s Ferry Building

Since we live in sunny San Diego, we’ll be exploring some places closer to home and will share those, too.

Polar  Bear at San Diego Zoo

Polar Bear at San Diego Zoo

San Diego Bay

San Diego Bay

We hope you’ll join us on our travels and look forward to your comments.