Here’s a great list of San Francisco restaurants to experience. We can vouch for Commonwealth, and we’re eager to try more on the list! Click here :
Anxiously awaiting the arrival of what could be the best ice cream store in the City… Smitten. Check out the story linked above for the details about this venture, which will entail ice cream made-to-order with one of four liquid nitrogen ice cream machines. Smitten is part of a greater project called the Hayes Valley Proxy, a network of shipping containers that will form a food court of sorts in this very cool SF neighborhood.
From Delfina Pizza to a Suppenkuche beer garden, this is going to be an excellent foodie destination!
Andy Goldsworthy’s art is candy for the eyes and food for the soul. His work makes real the magic that I like to think lives just under the surface of the earth, almost like there’s been a tear in the veneer of “the Normal” and a little magic has erupted from it, from the invisible to the visible.
So, when I read via Matte Gray’s journals the tantalizing first-hand report of a new Goldsworthy art piece under construction here in San Francisco, I had to jump on the scooter and get over to the Presidio to check the site out for myself, with the tantalizing possibility of meeting Goldsworthy himself in the back of my mind. (Gray did, after all.) That didn’t happen, but I did meet the Bird Lady, which was fantastic! And I found two solid bakeries along the way. Yum.
The ride took me very close to a Russian bakery that I’ve been wanting to try for a while, so I took a slight detour to check it out. The name is Cinderella and it’s located at 436 Balboa St (between 5th Ave & 6th Ave). The space is small and wide, with sweet pastries generally on the left and savory on the right. Standouts include gorgeous danishes, hamentashen and other fruit-topped pastries but the distinguishing feature of this place appears to be the savory, especially the extensive variety of piroshki, hand pies sort of like British pasties. I bought a potato piroshki for later that night.
Then, to my surprise, near the intersection of 7th and California, I saw a bakery with a familiar name, similar to that of my scooter. The place was Kaju and I stopped in to check it out. While the interior is rather nondescript, (uninviting in fact) the owner was friendly and a glance at the food suggested an interesting mix of standard coffee and cookies, scones and the like as well as some uniquely Asian offerings. As a sample, I picked up a triangle of sushi-styled rice stuffed with avocado called onigiri. Wrapped, it was the size of a sandwich and an interesting alternative to the same, easy to throw into my backpack. I also got a house-baked organic chocolate chip cookie. The onigiri has the same mouth feel as the sticky rice used for sushi and was tasty and filling, great fuel for the rest of the afternoon. The cookie was the prize, one of the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve had all year. Nicely chunky, medium sized, crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle. There was a ’roundness’ to the flavor that I loved, but which couldn’t quite identify, that made every bite irresistible. . . could there be a secret ingredient in there?
But I was losing the afternoon light by now so I didn’t linger. I started scooting around the edges of the Presidio and first, had to stop at the older Goldsworthy there, the Spire. Seeing it is a spiritual experience for me, a temple among the trees.
I’d found enough information about Wood Line to know that I was fairly close, but I had to travel from the Arguelo Gate (site of the Spire) to the Presidio Gate. I could have walked, it’s about half a mile, but I was losing the light fast by now. Back to the scooter! But not before checking out a beautiful, natural grove of majestic (magical) trees right across the street from the Arguelo Gate.
From here, I followed a winding road to the Presidio Gate and found the Wood Line immediately. Or rather, the sign for it. The installation wasn’t apparent until I got off the scooter and went over to the sign and, from that vantage point, saw a gap in the forest dead ahead along a single sight line.
Felled timber creates a lovely, snaking curve on the forest floor, with the trees reaching upward on both sides like the support columns of a gothic cathedral. It’s a spiritual place. It’s ephemeral, too. The forest will reclaim the wood through natural decay in about 25 years or so. . .
And I almost forgot, while I was enjoying the Wood Line, a woman offered to take my picture in front of it on my scooter. We started to chat and I soon realized the woman was more fairy than person. Her questions were punctuated by her quick looks up to the treetops, and the occasional bird call. She explained she’s a birder, and visits and follows the birds of the Presidio daily. Or, they visit and follow her. She talks to them. They talk to her. And as fast as she appeared she vanished; she heard the tweet of a bird and with that, had to go. She danced-skipped-floated away, down the dirt path into the forest, and was gone! The light was nearly gone, too, so with that, I mounted Kaiju and . . . vanished.
exciting news over at Matte Gray; a new Andy Goldsworthy project being installed now, in the Presidio
We love the artist Andy Goldsworthy here at MUS•e•YUM so when the intrepid Matte Gray posted news of a new Goldsworthy installation in the Presidio, Wood Line, we were more than thrilled! ((LINK HERE: note, once at matte gray, scroll down the page to journal entry 18 November 2010.)) Just as Matte did when he learned of the building of Goldsworthy’s previous Presidio installation the Spire, the intrepid reporter has once again made the trek to the Presidio in order to scout the site via Segway, camera in tow.
The last time Goldsworthy was working in the Presidio Matte actually met the artist on site, and the account of the experience is well worth a read on his blog (see story here, scroll down to 17 October 2008) More great updates and photos are sure to follow as Gray documents the final phase of construction of the new piece, so keep checking back. And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to read down the page a little bit further to the 31 December post for some great information about buying chocolate. . . you really oughta.
Great art inspires. . .
Last year my great friend Deena took me to a favorite spot of hers, a grove in the Presidio National Park where the forest opens to a beautiful panorama of San Francisco, right in front of you. It’s a spiritual spot, and a meditative one. It was easy to see why she brought me here. When it was decided that a monument to should be installed here, only one artist could do a place like this justice, celebrating but not changing it: Andy Goldsworthy.
So, in 2008, he built SPIRE. The amazing thing about this monumental sculpture, made of timber lashed together 90 feet high, is how effortlessly it has become part of the scene. It blends right in. This is a hallmark of Goldsworthy’s work, he incorporates natural materials from the site in which he’s working and from them he creates beautiful, fanciful and ephemeral art. Here, he took trees that would be felled (for the safety of the environment) and then used only that timber to make the sculpture. Part of the art is not only the finished state, but also the manner in which it is, in turn, reclaimed again by Nature. And will the sculpture last a minute? Two? Months? Years? That part is left to Nature, too.
Goldsworthy strives, “to make connections between what we call nature and what we call man-made.”
There is another Goldsworthy I want to tell you about, much more subtle than Spire. It’s the crack in the foundation of the de Young museum, Faultline, 2005. For this commission he created a zigzag crack in the hardscape outside the museum. The crack is a ‘path’ from the roadside to the entrance of the museum, but also serves as a subtle reminder of the seismic activity latent in the ground underneath, a characteristic of this place in the world. Unless your eyes are directed to it you might not see it but when it’s pointed out, the impact hits you immediately. Check out this great article about that piece, here.
I’ve since become a fan of his. I was so inspired after having seen Spire I created a mini-version in my backyard garden. For mine I reclaimed dead bamboo shoots from my friend’s garden, and the Hancock Spire was born!
Not willing to stop here, I wanted to try another one. I had my opportunity when my neighbor knocked down their retaining wall and threw away the cobblestones. Thus, I gained ‘site-native’ materials for another project, and I built a zigzag ‘Faultline’ of my own by setting the stones directly into the ground, and emanating from my Spire!
My exploration of the public art in Hayes Valley, Ecstasy in Patricia’s Green, (link to post here) reminds me of the monumental and inspiring Spire. While the scale of both projects certainly inspires awe, simply by virtue of their height which forces the eye skyward, they also are partnered in my mind because of the artistic process behind them. While they differ in the sourcing of the materials, Ecstasy made from man-made objects while Spire is made from felled trees, both make from found materials sing. These monuments speak to how repurposing an everday object, even a discarded one, can imbue the art with an added significance and intrinsic beauty.
Bernal Heights is a such a cool neighborhood. Slightly squished between the Mission, Potrero Hill and Alemaney Blvd, Bernal is a sweet spot that’s a little less traveled, and a little less known. It is sort of a frontier outpost of the City, and a lot laid-back. A week before my birthday, I thought I’d treat myself to a trip here. My itinerary included most of my favorite things: scooter exploring, a nature walk, a bakery (ok, two), succulents and a farmer’s market. Here are some of the sights:
I discovered this IMMENSE six ton, 30-foot figurative sculpture while taking a scooter ride from Civic Center through Hayes Valley back to the Castro. Created by Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito, her name is “Ecstasy”. . .
“Her name expresses a sudden change of attitude and belief in hope; a moment of being overcome by passionate optimism” -www.blackrockarts.org
Assembled from discarded pieces of scrap metal, this sculpture has a kind of “recycled” life that transcends the composition of her body.
The statement is powerful. I am always moved when someone makes something new from something old, discarded. It’s what I’ve been trying to do in my own garden, too. All it takes is to allow a change in perspective and context. Imagination. And with that, something gains a new life.
As inspiring as it is, the sculpture is just a temporary resident of the park. ‘Ecstasy’ is on loan from the Black Rock Arts Foundation through December 31, 2010.
Patricia’s Green, the park that serves as the home for Ecstasy, is relatively new. Not far from the Hayes Valley Farm, this stretch of Octavia, too, was renovated by the city in 2005 with the goal of beautification, and fostering pedestrian traffic and community-building. Thus Patricia’s Green was born. The Green includes not only benches and food carts, flower beds and playgrounds but, early on, the community decided it should be a venue for significant public art, as well. Residents and business work together via the neighborhood Hayes Valley Arts Coalition to curate the art that will serve as a beating ‘heart’ for the neighborhood.
Thank goodness everyone involved saw the street and overpass that used to cut through this neighborhood and envisioned something. . .else. A farm. A park. Art. Not unlike the Hayes Valley Farm mere blocks away, Patricia’s Green, and the arts program that serves it, provide another good example of how neglected public space can be repurposed by transforming what was “broken” (and “deadening”) into something that is its opposite: one that is beautiful, that is functional (and function-ing) and one that brings people together. I love that. San Franciscans are good at doing it!
Find out more by following this link:
a charming, wonderful video celebrating a bakery in my neighborhood, Tartine. It’s a love letter to bread!
I love this video! Tartine is a bakery just down the street, on 18th and Guerrero in the Mission District, and it’s a good one, too. The love and reverence the owner has for bread comes through so clearly and it certainly translates into the product, as well. After seeing the video, you just might find yourself inspired to try baking at home, too!
Now, didn’t I tell you that that cocoa nib wafer by Goody Goodie was HOT??
Thanks Jonathan Kauffman for another fine roundup, with Cocoa Nib Wafer coming in at #2, and featuring my current favorite folks, Goody Goodie, Pinkies, Knead and Sandbox. Heck, I’ve been to Baker and Banker too, had two cookies and a scone, and will have a review up soon. (–>the topline: very good but . . . dang, it sets you back a few!)
Here’s the link to the article:
NEW BAKERY INFO FROM MATTE GRAY: Head over to Matte Gray for the scoop on another hot bakery opening, right at the nexus of two foodie hotspots, 24th and Valencia. Curses Gray, you’ve scooped everyone!!! (FOLLOW THIS LINK AND SCROLL DOWN TO 6 OCT 2010)
Mobile street food vendors have become something of a phenomenon here in San Francisco and beyond. From whoopie pies (gobs) to paella, from Korean tacos to Indian burritos, local entrepreneurs have focused their business on a specialty dish or two and have taken their food to the streets, via bikes, carts, backpacks or trucks. While most rely on social networking to broadcast the time and place one can find them (facebook, twitter and their own websites), the organization “Off the Grid” has emerged to not only bring a bunch of the vendors to a single location but also to provide a venue for live music and fun for a ‘foodie’ crowd (oh, and they sell booze).
It’s a weekly street food festival and it’s a blast!
The particular mix of vendors changes from event to event. As of this post you can find festivals weekly at the following times/locations. Check out the Off the Grid website for details.
Thursday Nights: Upper Haight
Stanyan and Waller Streets, San Francisco 4-8.30pm
Friday Lunch: Civic Center
In Front of City Hall, 11am-2.30pm
Friday Nights: Fort Mason Center, 5pm-9pm
I don’t make it to Chinatown often, so I was looking forward to an afternoon exploring the neighborhood, taking photos and of course, eating. I know there are MANY bakeries there and my mission was to find the best of the bunch, so I did a little research before my trip and focused my plan; that’s how I discovered Golden Gate Bakery.
Obviating any doubt, the long line outside the bakery confirmed I was in the right place! The queue seemed (to me) to be full of people from the neighborhood, like students on their way home from school, and moms stocking up for their families, leaving with those big, fun, pink boxes tied up with string. (I LOVE those pink boxes tied up with string!)
The line moves quickly, and people watching was fun! One store owner came out of her store, located next to the bakery, breaking the line which now blocked the door to her business. In either in a moment of deviant playfulness, or the opposite, (it was hard to tell which) she placed a small package wrapped in tissue on the pavement and proceeded to light it with a flaming piece of newsprint.
She then ran.
This cleared the line fast because everyone new what would happen in a few seconds. After spitting and smoking, the package exploded and everyone laughed. It was Chinese New Year, after all. (This would never happen in Noe Valley.)
Once you get in the bakery things move fast so be prepared. The counter is small and people are shouting their orders, so the mood can get a little frenetic. I was glad I knew what I wanted, the egg custard tart, and pointed to a few other interesting things, too. The tart was served warm, right out of the oven, and was not too eggy, not too sweet, with a lovely mouth feel. I later wished I’d bought two! Total comfort food.
I also got an assortment of other cakes from the window. I couldn’t tell you what they’re called, unfortunately, but my mix included some barely sweet steamed buns and cookies redolent of coconut. I also got a very fresh, light bun filled with vanilla cream, almost like a doughnut but not quite as sweet and cakey…more brioche/bready.
On the whole, the prices seemed very reasonable, a good value for the quality of the product. And it couldn’t NOT be fresh, everything seemed to be coming straight out of the oven and going directly into the hands of the people in line!
The trip to the neighborhood alone makes for a fun excursion in the City! Check out the tea house, too, right across the street which sure looks exotic. . .
1029 Grant Ave
(between Jackson St & Pacific Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94133
HOURS: Mon-Sun 8 am – 8 pm
On a day like today I can’t think of a better place in the world to live than the Castro. Our evening plans having been cancelled, L. and I made an impromptu plan- a picnic! We took a short walk down the hill and bought sandwiches at Ike’s Place on 16th at Sanchez Street. Ike’s is one of the best sandwich companies in the country (it’s the “Dirty Sauce”) and I’m so glad he’s got the press exposure to back it up, not only because the food is so excellent but also because the owner, Ike Shehadah, happens to be such a great guy. Check out his story on Food Network.
Sandwiches in hand, we continued walking right to Dolores Park, which is two blocks down the street from our place. Even at 6pm there was a party atmosphere there, some ravers having set up a sound system pumping out house music to dancers and hoola hoopers alike, with lots of folks just lying in the grass enjoying the sight of the fog rolling in just above the panoramic view of the San Francisco skyline, the clouds just barely obscuring the tip of the TransAmerica building.
When we finished our sandwiches we decided to make one last stop. At the corner of Dolores Park happens to be one of the best ice cream parlors in the country, Bi-Rite Creamery. There’s always a line but it is so worth it. Tonight, I went for a scoop of brown butter pecan atop a scoop of cookies and creme.
The walk home afforded the spectacle of the fog blowing in over Twin Peaks and spilling into the Castro, backlit by the sun. Whisps of white curled around Sutro Tower and vanished into the blue above. Unbelievable how beautiful that is.
Our beloved Dolores Park in the Castro, San Francisco. I call it ‘the graveyard of ambition’ because once you put your beach blanket down here, you just might not want to do anything else for the rest of the afternoon, or weekend!
Ll and I love to plan trips around food! It’s a great way to not only discover a new favorite spot, but a great excuse to get out and drive! Today’s roadtrip was planned out by L, and the destination was in the north Bay, around Fairfield and Pinnole, CA. It’s cherry picking season so we went there with the aim to get some early season stone fruit, cherries, apricots and a big box of strawberries, too. On the way, we went to Little Knopp’s Bakery at the suggestion of a friend. This just might be the find of the year! Arguably the best ice cream I’ve had in the last year. . . or ever?
Before I get to that, I should say the Little Knopp’s is a charming roadside spot, the kind you’re LOOKING for on a foodie roadtrip… unpretentious, off the beaten path, frequented by local folk, serving up authentic, good food. Surrounded by kitsch, one just has to stop to check it out! Located just along the border of the cherry orchard, listen for the sound of geese as you get out of your car… there’s a gaggle near the front door of the store. Inside, you’ll find jars of fresh honey and cherry preserves, vinegars, candies and nut mixes. . . and a bakery case of gorgeous, clearly house-made apple pies and cheesecakes. As the ownership is Greek, you’ll also find greek pastries like spanakopita, baklava and dipple, a gorgeous, thin wrap of filo dipped in honey. Then there’s the ice cream. . . it comes in a shallow but wide plastic dish, covered with an aromatic waffle pulled off the grill when you place your order. Cinnamon wafting, you plunge your spoon into the waffle to get to the ice cream underneath, now slightly softened by the warmth of the waffle. Mine was peaches and cream. . . not too sweet, with big pieces of fresh fruit stirred through. . . a well-balanced and creamy sweet milk cream which really set off the freshness of the fruit. Perfection.
After picking up our fruit at the orchard, we stopped by another roadside spot and pulled off the road for lunch- A bbq truck parked in the lot of a local winery on Suison Road in Rockville, called BJ’s. Run by a lovely family we ordered smoked tri tip sandwiches with their own home made bbq sauce and potato salad. Everything was incredibly good, with the nostalgic goodness of a firehall dinner back home. . .
All in all today was a triumph of a road trip. Now I can say I’ve been to Fairfield and hope to make this drive through gorgeous country a yearly tradition.
Occupying that sweet spot that is the nexus of two of my favorite things, scooters and coffee, Vega is an unpretentious, very reliable and very cool spot to get your coffee. Not a place to hang out and work on a laptop, the operation is small, located inside a roll-top garage. The coffee menu is limited so for those that like to add syrups and flavors this may not be the environment for you. It is all about the coffee here, and a perfect cup at that. Run by and for purists the focus is narrow, Vega makes your coffee to order using Blue Bottle Coffee Co. beans, so you know you’ll be getting that extra attention to detail that comes with the Blue Bottle name. (With Blue Bottle comes strict quality controls to ensure the best cup of coffee, every time.)
Service is sincerely friendly and the space reflects the neighborhood, the “garage grittiness” is fun and aesthetic and natural here . . . without the appearance of being “urban cliche”. The owners happen to be long-time scooter aficionados and gorgeous Lambretta bikes are suspended around the garage, lending to the theme without being gimicky. You can tell this place is a labor of love!
The coffee pictured here is the New Orleans Iced- nutty with that little pinch of chickory. Also, consider the sweet & creamy Macau. ~Complex and delicious!
Vega at Landon
1246 Folsom St
(between 9th St & 8th St)
San Francisco, CA 94103
Standing 30 feet tall and weighing in at 15-tonnes, “Three Head Six Arm Buddha” by Zhang Huan was installed in Civic Center plaza on May 5th, 2010. The sculpture is a gift from Shanghai, our “Sister City”, and it commemorates the 30th anniversary of the relationship.
The artist derived his inspiration for the piece upon his discovery of Tibetan artifacts for sale at a market in China, remnants of original works of art plundered during the Cultural Revolution.
Quoted from the article in the SF Examiner:
“The sculpture’s theme is based on the story of the three-headed, six-armed prodigy Nezha, according to an artist’s statement.
“Its figure implies surpassing spirit of the challenge to self-limit, the challenge to the human limits,” Zhang wrote. “
For more information about this inspiration, check out this detailed article on SF CITIZEN. As you’ll discover there, “The artist, having been deeply moved by the sight of the desecrated statues, believes that by recreating these fragments on a grand scale, he is able to alleviate the pain caused by their destruction.”
A flower that has bloomed on the Plaza, the sculpture is a joyous and beautiful expression of that motivation! Already drawing a crowd, I have no doubt San Francisco will embrace the Buddha. The scale of the piece matches the scale of the place, yet doesn’t overpower it. And, the space around it is electric! No matter which way you approach it, Three Head Buddha will make eye contact with you, while the tentacular arms invite you in. . . in a good way. The feeling of peace and harmony is palpable here, and the Buddha offers a loving embrace that inspires a smile!
My favorite sushi restaurants, Eiji and Minako, are distinguished not only by the highest quality fish but also the intimate, authentic sincerity of the restaurant spaces themselves. Both are family run neighborhood haunts and you will feel as if you’re a guest in the home of the chef when you dine at either one. Yes, you can find many more great sushi restaurants in San Francisco but in my opinion, the inviting character of these two set them apart from the rest. I’ve copied my reviews from Yelp.com below…
317 Sanchez St
(between 16th St & 17th St)
San Francisco, CA 94114
“5 star experience, every time. When you find a place that consistently serves up a great experience, it just keeps you coming back. This is a staple whenever we have guests in from out-of-town. You know the scenario, the guest wants to go ‘somewhere off the beaten path’, following that true ‘insider’s tip’. This is that place . . .impossibly cute, very authentic and always, always good. And, very “OFF” the beaten path . . .
Yes the sushi melts in your mouth, yes you’ll find some stuff you don’t always find in other sushi restaurants (note the loving tribute to tofu on the first page of the menu, and a few very varied and good offerings of same). . .try the whitefish carpaccio, thinly sliced white fish on a drizzle of olive oil, with tomatoes. . . yum.
For the singles out there, it’s not just for guests, this would be a very special (and CUTE) first-date place. (Impress him/her with your exquisite knowledge of the neighborhood dining scene, and unpretentious taste)
And the staff are just so nice.
2154 Mission St
(between 18th St & Clarion Alley)
San Francisco, CA 94110
“Last night my partner and I had dinner here for the first time and I have to say it was among the best meal experiences we’ve had all year. From the food to the joy of getting to know the vibe of this neighborhood haunt, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves from start to finish.
We wanted to try a new sushi place and given it was Earth Day, Organic seemed particularly appropriate. We’d heard great things about Minako so our choice was made. The food didn’t disappoint. Seafood salad was the best I’ve had. The sushi is exquisitely prepared (with brown rice. Interesting!) and every detail was right, down to the fresh, brightness of the pickled ginger and wasabi. The care they take was evident in the attentiveness of the server who actually explained the servings are large (they are) and actually advised us to order LESS. How often does that happen? She cared about our experience of the food.
The restaurant traffic was light so we also had the chance to talk to our server, about local food, even the music playing in the restaurant, and had the best time. We found ‘mom’ is the chef and owner and given this, and the familiarity the staff had with others in the restaurant (which is small) it was so evident this is a true neighborhood spot. They staff will remember you, and treat you as if you’re in their home. And I really appreciated that.”
The only good thing about going to the doctor, and I ‘ve had to go once every two weeks since last August (!) is that I can follow this painful little visit with one to Japantown. Jtown is an immersive experience; walking the neighborhood, one truly feels they’ve taken a step outside the US. Japantown is the oldest Japanese community in the United States, and the special relationship between these two nations is memorialized by the Peace Pagoda which is the heart of the neighborhood.
My usual haunts are the japanese grocery, Nijiya Market, and the shopping mall, which includes the manga & stationary store, bakeries and antiques. At Daisu, you’ll find everything for $1.50 and yes, there’s always a find;-) Across the street from the mall you’ll find Super 7, which has a killer selection of fun tshirts and toys, and New People, a complex of Japanese movie theater, gallery space and Japanese pop houseware & clothing. But no trip is complete without a trip to the Soko hardware store, which has a great selection of glazed dishes. Even though I only get one or two bowls and plates at a time, by now I’m stocked up;-)