Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wayfare Tavern

As a wedding gift, John's company, Hot Pads, gave us a gift certificate to Wayfare Tavern. We were quite excited to try the restaurant but were a bit disgruntled to find out there is a month wait for a decent table on a Friday or Saturday night. If you want a table at 5pm or 10pm then it's wide open but for a decent 8pm table, the wait for the common folks is at least a month. After much anticipation, we finally had our dinner at Wayfare Tavern last Friday.

The restaurant is located in San Francisco's Financial District. It's a modern space with dark wood, an open kitchen and lots of white walls. I liked the minimalism of the restaurant in hopes that the food would do the actually talking. We were sat at a nice table in the back. Our waiter was quite aloof and had absolutely no enthusiasm for his job. For such a hot restaurant, I'd hope the server would have smiled at least once, but not this guy. We ordered the Tomales Bay Muscles and Steak Tartar to start. The mussels were OK at best. The best part of the muscles was the pork belly in the milky Herbsaint cream sauce. The Steak Tartar was much better and plentiful. The tartar was mixed with a delicious French mustard dressing and topped with an egg yolk. Only 4 garlic popovers came with the large tartar, causing us to leave a good portion of it behind. For the amount of steak, the bread does not match at all.

For our entrees, John chose the Steak Frites, a Santa Maria tri-tip with truffle butter, watercress and French fried potatoes, and I chose the Organic Fried Chicken and a side of Baked Macaroni and Cheese. The Steak Frites was good, but I'd say the fries were better. The Fried Chicken was perfection. I was so happy with the flaky skin and tender meat that I had a hard time sharing. I was 100% disappointed that for a $22 plate of fried chicken it didn't come with any sides. Sides cost an addition $8. The entrees aren't pricey at around $20 each, but to not include a side is ridiculous. An $8 Mac and Cheese or side of Brussels Sprouts is a bit much.

The food was good, but I wasn't overwhelmed. If the service was better, the experience would have been a four rather than a three star. When we paid the bill, we used a gift card and the server was clearly annoyed. We had two cards and said one had $200 and the other $50 but we weren't sure which was which. After a scoff he took our gift cards and left. The server should be trying to please the customer, not the other way around. Overall the meal was a decent price, a good bottle of wine, 2 entrees and 2 appetizers all for under $200.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ventana Inn & Spa Deal

For anyone who is looking for a special holiday gift or a weekend get away with your loved one, check out the deal at the Ventana Inn & Spa. If you book through the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection, cardholders will get $100 in food & beverage credit (for 2 consecutive nights) or $25 in food and beverage credits for one night. In addition, you'll receive exclusive VIP benefits such as VIP guest status, 3PM check-out, automatic upgrades and a free continental breakfast.

Ventana Inn & Spa is nestled on a hillside overlooking the Pacific coastline in beautiful Big Sur.  Located on 243 acres in the heart of Big Sur, the Inn's unique one-and two-story buildings blend seamlessly into their natural surroundings. Relax poolside, soak in Japanese hot baths, dine at The Restaurant at Ventana, rejuvenate at The Spa at Ventana or just contemplate the sky from your own private hammock. Afternoon wine and cheese reception, daily yoga classes, Guided Discovery Walk, and a sumptuous breakfast complete the Ventana experience.

For more info: http://www.visasignaturehotels.com/hotel-detail/ventana-inn-spa

Ventana Inn & Spa is a luxurious hotel. It has received numerous awards including:
"Top 100 Hotels" - Conde Nast Traveler, November, 2010; Fodor's Choice Gold Award Winner - Top 10 Most Romantic Hotels," 2010;  and "Reader's Choice Award Winner - Top 20 U.S. Hideaways"

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Circus School

John and I received a fantastic "choose your own adventure" wedding present from one of his friends and we settled on a trapeze class at the Circus Center of San Francisco. For someone who is deathly afraid of heights, this was quite an adventure to choose. The anticipation leading up to the class was killing me and finally we took our class this past Sunday.

The Circus Center is located in the Inner Sunset at 755 Fredrick, right across from Golden Gate Park. It looks like an old elementary school transformed into a circus extravaganza. The Circus Center offers classes in acrobatics, aerial arts, circus skills and clowning. The most popular class is the trapeze class we took. The classes can be quite expensive at $45 a pop, but if you buy a membership, you get a discounted per class rate. The class is open to all ages and skills, they have ages 5 to 85 enrolled at the school.

The trapeze class is a heck of a lot of fun, but also extremely terrifying if you don't like heights. We had 8 people in our class, 4 beginners and 4 seasoned circus folks. Our instructors were very nice and patient. At first you practice flying on the low bar about 10 feet off the ground. After about 15 minutes of practice, you get to try your skills 45 feet up in the air. I must admit the most terrifying part was not flying through the air but climbing the ladder to the top. Your safety harness isn't attached until you reach the summit of the ladder. Once at the top, the instructor hooks you up, holds you back as you uncomfortably lean out over the safety net reaching for the bar. Once you have the bar in one hand, the teacher tells you to put both on the bar and you are in sort of a trust hold with the teacher. They yell, "hep" (which mean jump/release) and you fly. The first time I was not able to pull my legs up for the knee hang but I was able to on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th try. They say let gravity do the work, but my muscles were screaming the next day from the workout. I didn't have the stomach to try the "hand off" with the teacher. I just couldn't bring myself to hang from my knees 45 feet in the air and then let go in hopes that the teacher will catch my hands mid-air.

The class was a lot of fun. I've always wanted to fly through the air like a circus performer; however, I will not be quitting my job and joining the circus. This was a one time thing. Next time I'll try something a little closer to the ground, like how to balance a plate on a stick or riding a unicycle.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

MYMYCoffee Shop

On Thanksgiving morning I was quite shocked that so few places were open for breakfast. I mean this is San Francisco, a tourist town. We luckily found that the MYMY Coffee Shop was open. We had been here before a few months back and thought it was pretty good, so we decided to start our holiday off there. A good thing about MYMY is that there never seems to be a line. The one time we went before, we were sat immediately and this time too. Plus whenever I walk by, there are tables open or the wait doesn't look long. I live by Red Door Cafe and I just don't get why people stand around for over an hour for food (and sometimes in the rain). How did this become the status quo?
Back to MYMY! The cafe is small with about 10-15 tables and a counter looking out to Larkin Street. The place is basic and resembles a classic coffee shop. I like their use of orange. We both ordered the Eggs Benedict, my eggs well done, John's poached traditionally. The eggs were done perfectly and the hollaindaise sauce done well with just a touch of lemon. The big problem I had with our meals was that our english muffins were chewy and stale. We really had to saw through them with our dull table knife to get a bite. Quite disappointing. The hash browns redeemed the dish though. Just shredded potatoes with nothing else. Crispy and delicious. Overall the food is average. This is a great breakfast spot if you don't want to wait in line. It's classic coffee shop food, nothing fancy but filling. Get the OJ, it's fresh squeezed and very refreshing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

San Francisco Railway Museum

I've lived in San Francisco for 4 years, but have never rode on one of San Francisco's historic streetcars. I've rode on plenty of cable cars, but never the cute streetcar that runs the length of Market Street. So last Saturday, John and I headed out on a mission to ride the streetcar and it was fabulous. We hopped on the F line car at Van Ness and Market. We didn't take the first one because it was packed with tourists and I wanted my ride to be perfect. So we waited a few more minutes for a nice empty street car with only two passengers, one of which was a total Asian cougar with yellow thigh-high patent leather boots. I knew we picked the right car for my first time when I saw her.

The streetcar ride is a completely different experience than the cable car. It's not as loud and much more comfortable. The inside of the cars have the "history of streetcars" plastered on the inside which makes the ride not only entertaining but educational. Plus once you hop on, you feel like you've been magically transported back to the turn of the century.

We took the car all the way to the end at the Embarcadero and magically at that same spot is the San Francisco Railway Museum. The museum serves as a visitor center that tells the history of streetcars and cable cars and how they are used today in San Francisco. The museum is small but very entertaining. We spent about a half-hour looking at all the historic pictures, watching a historic film of a streetcar on Market street days before the big 1906 earthquake, and playing conductor on the full-size replica streetcar. We also managed to buy a streetcar magnet. A new treasure.

Next time you are looking for something random to do in the city or want to learn a bit of history stop by the San Francisco Railway Museum on Steuart across from the Ferry Building. It's best to pretend you are a tourist so that the docent will give you his entertaining spiel on the history of the streetcar.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Oakland Grill

The Oakland Grill served me up some of the best brunch that I've had in a long time. They do breakfast and they do breakfast right. Plus they have $1.95 mimosas so you can't go wrong!

On Saturday, John and I ventured to faraway Oakland to meet up with our friends Danielle and Brian (and baby Molly). As we followed our navigation, it took us to a somewhat industrial part of Oakland (what part isn't really). Much to our surprise smack dab in the middle of produce packing central was the inconspicuous Oakland Grill. We sat upstairs overlooking the open-air kitchen and long narrow restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised to be sat right away on a Saturday at 11am. (If there is one thing that annoys me, it's droves of people waiting for breakfast.)

The menu is pretty standard for any breakfast establishment. You got your standard eggs, pancakes, omelets, Eggs Benedict and a few other specialty-type items like Crab Benedict and Huevos Rancheros, but nothing out of the ordinary. The food was superb for breakfast food. Hot, fresh and delicious. I ordered my poached eggs "well done" and they came out perfect. Danielle ordered a breakfast combo that closely resembled a Denny's Grand Slam, why mess with something if it isn't broken.

The mimosas are a true selling point for the Oakland Grill. With other breakfast places charging upwards of $7 or $8 for a single mimosa, Oakland Grill has really cornered the cheap mimosa market in the area. We each enjoyed 2 mimosas each which cost us $16, but if we had mimosas at Fat Lady down the street, we would have been out a whopping $56.

Oakland Grill is a great breakfast spot to hit next time you find yourself hungry and in Oakland.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ti Piacera: Killer happy hour on Polk

Ti Piacera has been my go-to happy hour for quite a while now for many reasons. For starters, it's on Polk, so it's generally accessible for friends to meet there coming from all directions after work. Second, the happy hour is super cheap. Wine is $3 a glass and pretty good. You get a choice of Sangiovese, Merlot or Chardonnay. It's not the best of the barrel but it's pretty darn good for $3 a glass. They also have $3 draft beers for the non-wine drinkers (gasp!). And the main reason I go there......they have the best carpaccio. It is absolutely melt in your mouth delicious. The carpaccio is thinly sliced and topped off with capers, sliced red onion, arugula, parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. It's so good that when my friend Amy and I go there, we get our own. Neither of us want to share with each other.

I haven't sat down for dinner at Ti Piacera but I can definitely recommend their happy hour as one of the best in the Polk area.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dinosaurs- Vietnamese sandwich heaven

Dinosaurs Vietnamese sandwich shop in the Castro is a great find. The sandwiches are not only delicious but cheap. Being able to get a banging sandwich for $4.75 in San Francisco is quite a deal.

We wandered upon this place last Sunday and I have been thinking about it ever since. John was a bit tentative about the whole Vietnamese sandwich place as it's not his normal 'turkey and swiss on Dutch Crunch" kind of sandwich, but he was pleasantly surprised. Ordering is quite easy as there are only a few choices, chicken, pork, tofu, etc. John and I both enjoyed the chicken. He went with just the meat and sandwich bread as he was still a bit weary of the place. I ordered the chicken sandwich just as it is on the menu with sliced jalapenos, pickled radishes, shredded carrots, fresh cilantro and just the right amount of mayo. It was delicious! Be aware that Dinosaurs puts all the toppings on their sandwiches, so specify if you want a variation of the norm. The meat was delicious and the toppings fantastic. My favorite part was the pickled radishes.

Dinosaurs has outdoor seating so be sure to check out the place when you can take a seat outside and enjoy the Castro's sun.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Legion of Honor Cafe

The Legion of Honor Cafe is a wonderful place to visit for lunch even if you aren't visiting an exhibit at the museum. The cafe is located on the first floor of the museum across from the museum store. The cafe offers breakfast pastries in the morning and an assortment of soups, salads and sandwiches for lunch. The cafe also offers unique menu items themed after current exhibits. By far, my favorite thing on the menu is the BLT with meyers lemon aioli. The cafe also has some of the best iced tea in town as they brew delicious Paradise Flavored Iced Tea.

The cafe is not only delicious but is a beautiful space. The flower arrangements and decor change often and are always seasonally themed. Outside seating is also available with a view of the Barbara Osher Sculpture Garden. It's a great place to relax with a salad and a glass of wine.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

San Francisco Sailing Company

Almost two years ago, I purchased two Living Social deals for sail around the bay and finally used them last Friday. The two deals were for a two-hour cruise around the bay with booze included.

Booking the cruise was fairly simple, although the first two times I tried to book the boat was already full. So be prepared to send multiple dates for your adventure. We chose the City Lights Night Tour over the daytime Golden Gate Bridge Tour as our deals expired before a day cruise spot was available.

The cruise left on time with about twenty passengers. I couldn't help thinking about Gilligan's Island "Three hour tour....." as the young captain and bartender led us to our boat, and I must call it a boat rather than a ship. I was really surprised at the size of the boat, 34' for twenty plus people. We all quickly grabbed a spot and settled in for the voyage. We were offered our free drinks, which sadly consisted of Budweiser in a can or cheap champagne. Cheap champagne for me! The tour moved along the Embarcadero, past the Ferry Building and the FiDi and settled in McCovey cove for about a half-hour. The time in McCovey cove was quite boring unless you were a baseball fan. Luckily we didn't have to stay for overtime and made our way back to the dock after about 2 hours total on the water. The ride back was much quicker (probably making up time for the extra inning).

I would say the ride was nice but not great. I couldn't help thinking that the two guys running the boat, a captain and bartender, were more interested in talking to the young ladies and smoking cigarettes than giving a proper tour. A little information on the sights would have been nice. I also kept thinking that these guys woke up one morning and thought, "Hey, let's charter a boat around the Bay" and put little other thought into the details. I wouldn't book a charter with this company again, I prefer one that is a bit more professional.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Forbes Island: A culinary adventure

Forbes Island is rated at one of Zagat's Most Bizarre Restaurants and for good reason. Forbes Island is a 7-room barge, with sand and palm trees, designed and built by self-made millionaire Forbes Thor Kiddoo. Kiddoo created the floating island between 1975 and 1980 and moored it in Sausalito until he was kicked out in 1991. He later relocated to the San Francisco Bay off Pier 39 and turned his floating home into a high-end restaurant.

The 100-foot long and 50-foot wide floating island is the only one of its kind in the world. The 100-seat underwater dining room comes equipped with portholes, a fake fireplace, full bar, wine cellar and a boudoir with a velvet bed that serves as the ladies' water closet. The inside of the ship is decorated with an 1800's sailing ship in mind, classic decor similar to a boat on Pirates of the Caribbean, with hanging swords and all.

Some highlights are the 40-foot lighthouse with amazing views, 35-foot real palm trees, a white sand patio, a full island bar overlooking the bay's sea lions, a wine cellar where Tony Bennett once sang, and a private banquet dining room on the north side of the island.

Forbes Island is truly a unique dining experience. From the moment you hop on the dinghy with Kiddoo himself, you know you are in for a treat. The food is delicious, although expensive. I recommend trying to come to Forbes Island during the Dine About Town special, as you can get a full 3-course meal for $35. It is a great restaurant for special occasions from engagements to birthdays. It's also a great place for a private party. Annually on the 4th of July, the restaurant is completely bought out for a private pirate party. So bust out your boat shoes and take a trip to Forbes Island.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Extreme Pizza: Marina Location

We recently started a hunt for a new go-to NYC style pizza company as my old favorite, Village Pizza, on Van Ness has completely changed their recipe. And the new pizza recipe is a far cry from the delicious pizza they once served.

After a good amount of time on Yelp!, we decided to give Extreme Pizza a try. It ended up the Extreme Pizza, located 5 blocks from our house, is not in our designated delivery zone, but the one further away in the Marina was. I should have taken this as clue #1 that something was amiss. We placed our order for a extra-large pepperoni pizza at 8:03pm. The estimated delivery time was 45 minutes, so we wait. Forty-five minutes rolls by and no pizza. An hour rolls by and no pizza, so I call. The young lady on the phone assures me it's out for delivery. Another 15 minutes rolls by and still no pizza. Finally at 9:30, the pizza arrives. The nice man who delivered apologized, "Sorry it's so late"; however, at that point, I really didn't need an excuse, I just wanted the freaking pizza.

In the end, the pizza was justOK. I am not a fan of their signature "sprinkle of cheddar cheese", as I think cheddar doesn't belong on a pizza. The pepperoni was haphazardly placed, with some slices having 10 pieces of pepperoni and others none. So, the search is still on for a good delivery pizza shop in San Francisco.........

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Patpong: Worst Thai delivery in San Francisco

Patpong Thai Restaurant...What can I say? You clearly haven't grasped the concept of delivery and it shows. Last year, my office ordered Patpong for our holiday party. Patpong is conveniently located new our office in the outer Richmond, so we thought it was the perfect fit. Placing the order with the restaurant was quite simple, but actually getting our food was another story. We ordered about $300 worth of food for a party of 20 to be delivered at noon. Not a huge order, but substantial enough that I thought it would be given proper attention. I called in the morning to verify the order and the noon delivery time and was told everything would be delivered on time. Noon rolls by and no food. I wait another 15 minutes and no food, so I decide to call. The owner tells me that driver is out for delivery and should arrive any second and sorry for the delay. So we wait.....party begins at 12:30pm, but still no food. So I call the owner again, he explains the driver can't find the building....my response was, "Really? The driver can't find the main entrance to the VA hospital?" In response, I got a bunch of excuses. So I hang up and wait. Another 15 minutes rolls by and still no food. I call the owner again and ask him to call his driver. (At this time, I am beginning to become agitated). He says, “Oh I tried, but the driver dropped his phone in his car and can't find it.” I respond that how could he possibly know this if he hasn't been able to reach him. Silence on the other end. I get a bunch more excuses and finally I say to him, "I am not hanging up until the food arrives." So we sit on the phone for 10 minutes in silence. Finally, I see the driver's car and have a fellow colleague run out and grab him. To my shock the driver steps out of the car in his pajamas with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and a half-dressed girl in the front seat. The driver doesn't even offer to help bring the food into the building and just sets it on the trunk of his car and waits until we make multiple trips to bring it in. Sadly, he also delivered our curry in the pot it was cooked in, no plastic serving bowl that we were promised and paid for.

I must say, Patpong is the worst delivery in San Francisco. Their blatant disregard for customers and ability to lie is deplorable. I will never order from Patpong again, nor would I recommend it to anyone who wants their food actually delivered. The food is average anyway, so you aren't really missing anything. Try Another Monkey in the Mission, if you want good quality Thai in San Francisco.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Park Chalet: San Francisco's park oasis

The Park Chalet located in Golden Gate Park is one of the city's most iconic restaurants. It is my favorite place to relax on a rare sunny afternoon in the park. The Park Chalet is an expansion of the world famous Beach Chalet. The two restaurants share a building but each face different directions, the Park Chalet faces East to GGP and the Beach Chalet faces West overlooking beautiful Ocean Beach. The architecture and grounds of the Park Chalet really sets the restaurant apart from any other in the city. The interior of the restaurant plays on the natural park surroundings with all glass walls and ceiling, so even if you are inside you still feel as if you are literally in the park. The lawn outside the restaurant is a great place to eat al fresco or catch a few rays on a weekend while enjoying one of the Park Chalet's specialty brews. One time, I was entertained for a good half-hour watching some young guy try and impress the ladies with his yoga skills (sadly it worked).

Everyday of the week features a different special in addition to their special summer activities. This summer they are featuring a "family staycation" give-away for five as well as the Summer JAMband Family Festival. Monday is $2 pint, followed by Taco Tuesdays with $2.50 tacos, half-price margaritas and $3 pints. Wednesday to Friday feature the 3-6-9 Happy Hour with menus and food specials for $3, $6, and $9 as well as a free Friday Movie Night. Sunday is the popular Recovery Brunch Buffet, an all you can eat and drink mimosas special for $25. The Park Chalet is a great place to bring a date, meet friends or entertain out of town guests on a budget. The location is beautiful and on a sunny day in the city, no other restaurant compares to the bustle of patrons on the lush lawn enjoying a delicious cheap beer.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Yummy Shabu Shabu at Shabusen Restaurant

Shabusen Restaurant serves up some of the best shabu shabu in San Francisco. Shabusen, located on the Peace Plaza in Japantown, is an authentic Japanese (-American) restaurant serving shabu shabu as well as sukiyaki.

The shabu shabu menu is limited but delicious. It's either chicken, beef, shrimp plus the accompanying vegetables. We shared the both beef and shrimp between three people. I recommend ordering 2 plates of protein for 2-3 people and then add a plate per person after that, depending on how much you tend to eat. The vegetable plate comes with every order but is a bit disappointing. I am used to a variety of noodles and vegetables with my shabu shabu, but Shabusen serves up 90% cabbage with a few carrots, noodles, mushroom and cubes of tofu. Not the great selection I have come to expect with shabu shabu. Add a side of rice or an appetizer per person for a little variety. The one thing I did like the best were the dipping sauces. The ponzu-style and miso-based dipping sauces were a perfect accompaniment to my shabu shabu.

I recommend Shabusen for delicious authentic shabu shabu. It really is the best shabu shabu in Japantown.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gourmet Carousel: Cheap and Delicious Chinese Food

Looking for excellent Chinese food at rock bottom prices? Look no further than Gourmet Carousel. Located in Lower Pacific Heights, Gourmet Carousel has been serving up delicious Chinese food for over 25 years. This restaurant epitomizes the saying "don't judge a book by it's cover." The building is in desperate need of a new coat of paint and the dining room needs a complete make-over, but the food is tasty. The tables are a little too close, but that closeness lends to the authentic family feel of the restaurant.

The food at the restaurant is some of the best in San Francisco. A perk of eating in is the complementary "house soup" for the table. The last time I went it was a scrumptious potato and cabbage soup. Each dish is full of flavor and comes out fast. The menu is packed with house specialties like Sizzling Chicken in a Clay Pot, Shredded Pork in Plum Sauce, Salt and Pepper Spareribs, and Prawns with Hot Sauce. My favorite appetizers are the Fried Egg Rolls, Fried Won Tons, Pot Stickers, Hot and Sour Soup, and Won Ton Soup. Some of the main dish highlights are the Mu-Shu Chicken, Salt and Pepper Prawns, General Tso's Chicken, Mongolian Beef, and any of the fresh vegetable side dishes.

Gourmet Carousel is the best deal in town. Lunch specials start at $4.95 and don't top $5.95. Side dishes average $8 and are so large that my fiance couldn't even finish his Mongolian Beef by himself (that is a first ever).  The only downfall is that they don't deliver. (Gasp!) The Gourmet Carousel moves to it's own beat, but it's a tasty beat. Next time you are looking for a delicious, cheap, Chinese food experience try the Gourmet Carousel.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Umami: Trendy but why?

Umami, located in the Marina district, is a hugely popular sushi restaurant. The reason why it is rated so high is a mystery to me. I have to say, I was not impressed with Umami one bit when I went there for dinner a few weeks ago. The restaurant is beautifully decorated and quaint but the food was just plain horrible. The classic sushi and nigiri is passable but not extraordinary. The menu nose-dives with it's "hot kitchen" menu. My friend and I ordered the Rock Shrimp Tempura, Spicy Tuna & Avocado Salad, Potstickers, and the Seasonal Kakiage (Vegetable) Tempura. The potstickers were good but there was nothing that set them apart from the $4.95 potstickers I could have gotten from my go-to corner delivery joint. The rock shrimp tempura and the seasonal vegetable tempura were not palatable. Sadly, I had to do what I hate and send back the rock shrimp tempura. The tempura was covered in a heavy mayonnaise aioli that made the shrimp taste as if they were trying to cover up cheap fried popcorn shrimp from Sizzler. Not good at all.

The only good thing about Umami is that they have a decent happy hour. From 5:30-7pm they have great drink and food specials (stick to the sushi) and half-off bottles of wine. Next time you are looking for sushi in the Marina, look elsewhere than Umami.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Memphis Minnie's: Best BBQ in San Francisco

Memphis Minnie's is by far the best BBQ in San Francisco. The unassuming joint in the lower Haight serves up the tastiest brisket, tri-tip, ribs and other fine BBQ treats in the city. Everything at Memphis Minnie's is slow smoked Southern style, no gas or electric here. All the meats are smoked at least 4 hours (some up to 18 hours) over white oak logs, lending it the authentic taste that Memphis Minnie's is known for.

Memphis Minnie's is usually busy all day, which is a testament to how delicious it's smoked meats really are; however, the food comes out hot and fast. They are known for their Slow Cooked Texas Beef Brisket but the menu also has an assortment of fine dishes if you aren't a fan of traditional brisket. Popular main dishes are the: St. Louis Style Pork Ribs, Santa Maria Tri-Tip Steak Plate, Smoked Chicken Plate and the Two Way Combo (any two meats) for those who can't make decisions. The Smokehouse Sandwiches are also an excellent choice for lunch or dinner for those with a smaller appetite.

Memphis Minnie's is plain delicious. The meats are smoked to perfection, the sides are super tasty and they even have creative desserts like the Smoked Pecan Bacon Brittle. Yum! Next time you are looking for BBQ in the city, hit up Memphis Minnie's and you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bar Agricole: Great place for cocktails in SOMA

Bar Agricole is a great addition to the SOMA bar and restaurant scene. Bar Agricole advertises as a modern urban tavern but it's much much more than a simple bar. It's a blend of San Francisco foodie heaven and an ultra-hip mixologist bar scene. Bar Agricole's inconspicuous outer facade tells nothing of its beautiful and creative use of space. Once you enter the front door off busy 11th Street, you are immediately greeted by an open courtyard of tables, rare in San Francisco let alone SOMA. Past the outdoor drinks area (sadly the don't allow food outside) is the actual restaurant. The restaurant's decor is impeccable. The refurbished wood tables, brushed concrete and savvy shapes of the furniture really make Bar Agricole stand out from other restaurants in town.

I'd say the booze is the main reason people come to Bar Agricole. The mixologists behind the bar are excellent at mixing up delicious concoctions. The drink menu has exotic drinks such as the Knickerbocker Swizzle, Whiz-Bang and Monkey's Gland and some steady favorites like the Scotch Sour and Old Fashioned. It's a real treat to sit at the bar and watch the bartenders whip up these creative drinks.

We had a vastly different experience with the food. We ordered a few appetizers at the bar as we enjoyed our drinks but unfortunately the bartender did not "warn" us what we were ordering. We ordered the king salmon gravlax which was delicious but when the second plate came out it clearly wasn't risotto balls. At this point, the Maitre D' approached us and said, "It's good to see adventurous eaters." We knew we were in trouble as he went on to explain the dish in front of us was boiled sliced cow's head. Yes, cow's head, cartilage and all. We didn't want to crush his heart so we decided to be adventurous and give it a try. It tasted like boiled cow's head, but oddly enough my friend ate it up. All in all, the food at Bar Agricole is too foodie and pretentious for me. I like to be able to read the menu and know what I'm ordering thus Bar Agricole is a drinks-only establishment for me. I do wish our bartender had said something when we ordered, because boiled cow head is just not a normal dish to have on a menu. If you are going to have exotic menu items in another language, the entire staff, bartenders and all, should be trained to discuss (I mean warn) the menu with customers.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pho Vietnam: Great Pho Open Late

Pho Vietnam is a great place to escape the cold winter (I mean summer) days in San Francisco. Conveniently located on Polk Street between California and Pine, Pho Vietnam is the perfect place to stop in for a quick bite when running errands or carry-out after work. Their Pho has also been known to magically cure hangovers and the flu, like all good Pho should.

Pho Vietnam is open everyday from 10am -10pm and run by a nice family who seem to always be at the restaurant. The service is friendly and the food is served fast. The restaurant is minimally decorated and screams neighborhood gem. I don't think the interior has been updated since the restaurant was first opened sometime in the 80's (or at least that's what decade the decor is from). The photos on the walls of different palces in Asia are good eye candy and quite entertaining if you've traveled there before.

The Pho really is fantastic. My favorite is the chicken broth base the beef broth is a close second. Each Pho comes with a bountiful side dish of bean sprouts, mint, jalapenos, and lemon slices. On the table is an assortment of sauces to dress up your Pho from Sriracha sauce and soy to vinegar and fish sauce. Also on the table are two types of chopsticks, green plastic reusable chopsticks for the environmentally conscious and wooden disposable chopsticks for the germ-a-phobes.

Pho Vietnam is the best Pho available in Nob Hill. With so many competitors in the Tenderloin's Little Saigon, its good that Nob Hill has its own go-to Pho place open late. Stop on by Pho Vietnam and you will not be disappointed in their Pho, Pho Sure!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Another Monkey: Great Thai Food in the Mission

Another Monkey is a hip and fun place to grub on delicious Thai food in the Mission. The restaurant fits perfectly with the hipster vibe of the Mission with its modern open dining room and stylish decor. The restaurant always seems to be busy (but in a good way) and has a high-energy vibe reminiscent of a restaurant in the Sukhumvit in Bangkok. The restaurant is a great place to host a party, I hosted a birthday party for my fiance there a few weeks ago and our party was given a private room free of charge and wonderful attention from multiple servers.

The food at Another Monkey is a mouthwatering blend of modern and authentic Thai recipes and flavors. The menu offers many types of selections from individual sized appetizers and entrees to elaborate dishes meant to be shared. Some of the stand out appetizers are: Bags of Gold (minced chicken and shrimp wrapped in rice paper sacks), Crispy Imperial Rolls, Fried Sweet Corn Patties, Vegetarian Samosas and Stuffed Mushrooms with chicken and shrimp. The to die for entrees are: Gang Pumpkin Curry Chicken, Northern Thai Hung Le Curry of Pork Belly, Crispy Soft Shell Crabs (literally melt in your mouth delicious), Asian Sirloin Beef, Spicy Tofu and the always popular Pad Thai.

In addition to the great food, Another Monkey has a fantastic bar with a hip urban vibe. The bar is literally a work of art, with the tables and stools crafted from authentic Thai drums. The bar has great Happy Hour specials: Sunday- 2 for 1 beer and wine, Monday- 1/2 off bottles of wine, Tuesday- Thai Taco Night with $2 Thai tacos, $3 burritos, $3 Thai beer, Wednesday- $6 Manhattans, Old Fashions or a combo shot of Jameson & a beer. The bar also offers Bangkok-Style Street Food for $7.50 during happy hour from 5-7pm.

Another Monkey is a great Thai restaurant and is my go-to for Thai in the Mission. Check it out, you won't be disappointed in the delicious flavors and spectacular Thai themed cocktails at the bar.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Great Brunch at Toast Eatery on Polk

Toast Eatery on Polk recently opened its doors to the hungry brunch crowd of San Francisco. Brunch in San Francisco is a "must-do" for locals and visitors on the weekend. Most brunch places are super busy and overpriced, but not Toast. I was pleasantly surprised to find a brunch place that wasn't pretentious like Red Door or expensive like Olea.

As the name suggests, breakfast is Toast's specialty. Toast offers traditional breakfast items as well as some house specialties. House specialties include eggs benedict, lox benedict, trendy chicken and waffles, and hash brown hill (a massive plate of hash browns with everything but the kitchen sink). They also have delicious scramblers and omlettes as well as fresh from the griddle waffles, toasts and banana-nutella pancakes. Although Toast only has a beer and wine license they do offer classic breakfast cocktails such as a bloody mary and screwdriver made with han soju. Mimosas are also available, not bottomless, made with prosecco, the cheaper cousin of champagne.

Toast is a great new addition to the brunch scene in San Francisco. The lines are short and the rush doesn't hit until 11:00am, so if you can manage to get out of bed before noon, you won't have to wait. The restaurant is clean and has that classic diner feel. The hipster waitresses are super nice and service is fast and efficient. Toast also offers lunch and dinner but breakfast is clearly the best!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

B Restaurant and Bar's Killer Happy Hour

Last Friday we ventured to B Restaurant and Bar for Happy Hour and it was a fantastic find. B restaurant is a not-so-hidden gem atop Yerba Buena Gardens in SOMA. B Restaurant is a contemporary bar and restaurant offering delicious cocktails and food with killer views. The restaurant sits at the top of Yerba Buena Gardens overlooking the gardens and waterfalls as well as offering panoramic views of the city. The best part is B Restaurant has a spacious terrace opening off the main dining room with plenty of room to relax and take in the sunshine after work.

B Restaurant's Happy Hour specials are amazing. Happy Hour begins at 4pm and ends at 7:30pm Tuesday through Friday, providing plenty of time for you to sample their specialty cocktail list and appetizers.  Happy Hour drink specials include a "Ginger Ricky", a concoction of gin, fresh lime and house made ginger ale; $5 well drinks; $4 Trumer Pilsner and $5 red wine sangria. In addition to individual drinks, you can also get a table side pitcher of red, white or sparkling sangria for $40. The table side sangria presentation is sure to please everyone at the table (and get them a bit tipsy). Happy Hour food specials are just as tempting as the drinks and include dollar oysters and your choice of small $5 plates such as truffle fries, confit honey-mint chicken wings, marinated olives, baby gem ceasar and salmon rillette.

B Restaurant is a great Happy Hour for locals as well as out of town guests. The stunning views and relaxed atmosphere are a great way to decompress after a hard day of work or shopping.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Yabbies Costal Kitchen's Sunday Brunch

Yabbies Costal Kitchen has one of the best Sunday brunches around. I haven't found a brunch spot that has come close to the delicious flavors of their menu. Seven days a week for dinner Yabbies serves up tasty fresh seafood such as sesame crusted ahi tuna and oysters from Bodega Bay but on Sundays from 10:30am until 2:30pm, Yabbies transforms into a magical brunch spot.

The brunch menu is diverse and features lunch type items in addition to traditional breakfast. Popular items are the French Toast, Breakfast Sandwich with pancetta, fresh Crab Cake Benedict, Grilled Asparagus Salad and the Classic Shrimp Louie. But by far the stand out choice is the Mushroom Scramble Frittata. I haven't stopped thinking about this frittata since I had it. The perfect balance of goat cheese and delicately sliced mushrooms with a drizzle of truffle oil is enough to make me crazy in anticipation of Sunday mornings.

Yabbies is a charming little restaurant in Russian Hill on Polk Street. It's busy for brunch on Sundays so be prepared to wait 20-30 minutes for a table at peak hours. Yabbies also offers a few outside tables for those few days when it's warm enough in the city to eat al fresco. Next time you need a brunch spot on Sunday head over to Yabbies for the most delicious frittata ever!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Myconos: Not as good as the island

I was craving Greek food on Saturday and after much Yelping we decided to venture to Myconos Greek Restaurant on Polk Street. On the way, we almost got side tracked by a Thai restaurant but we kept our focus and made our way to Myconos. I should have taken the Thai diversion as a sign because our experience at Myconos was horrible. After being a server for 5 years, it takes a lot to annoy me at a restaurant but Myconos sure knew how to push my buttons.

First off, it seemed as if they were understaffed or not staffed at all. The entire restaurant was being served and bussed by who seemed to be the male owner and a busboy. The female owner sat us but did so while also trying to wrestle a pen out of her kid's hand, whom she was holding. Not professional at all. She left shortly after so I can only assume the kid needed to be put to bed. After seeing the family drama going down, we should have left, but I really wanted Greek food!

It took about 10 minutes to get someone's attention to take our order. We never got the coke we ordered. The hummus and pita bread was straight out of the freezer. The pitas were way too chewy to be fresh. The only positive out of our experience was the Kotopoulo, the half roasted chicken, that we had as our entrees. The chicken was roasted to perfection and the Greek salad delicious. I wasn't impressed with the roasted potatoes that came with the meal, as they had zero taste. And it took 25 minutes for us to get our check. All we wanted to do was pay and get out of there, but after asking about 5 times for our check finally we got one with an attitude, as if we were inconvenience to them.

All in all, Myconos is a mess. Certain aspects of the menu are good but for the most part they just don't seem to have their act together. I've been a few times before and I always thought, "oh they will be better next time", but sadly Saturday was my last time. Myconos' slogan is they "treat everyone like family" but sadly we were treated like a red-headed step-child. There are far more Greek restaurants in San Francisco to explore that have the service to go along with the tasty menu.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cafe Altano

Cafe Altano is located in the quiet neighborhood of Hayes Valley in San Francisco. A perfect spot for a weekday date night or quick bite before the ballet, Cafe Altano never disappoints. It's a small European-style cafe with minimalist decor and large windows facing Laguna Street. There is a small outside alcove on the Hayes Street side with a few high tops for those warm San Francisco nights. I've been to Cafe Altano twice now, both times before I've gone to the opera or ballet. The service is fast, maybe a bit too fast. Both times, our food arrived within 5 minutes of ordering. To me this is both a good and bad thing. It's great because most people on those two nights were there are scarfing down their food to catch a show and it's a bad thing because it leaves me with the impression the food isn't made fresh, that it's pre-made. I understand how some things can be cooked in advance but not all food, especially fresh fish should come out within 5 minutes. One great thing about Cafe Altano is that you can always get a reservation. Whether it's 7pm on a Friday night or brunch on a Saturday afternoon, there never seems to be a wait. This could be because they turn tables over so fast by getting the food to you within minutes. Good for the customers but not so good for Cafe Altano.

The best part of Cafe Altano is the deliciously simple Italian food. The food is reliable and I've enjoyed every selection I've tasted. The best appetizers are the: polenta cake, mozzarella caprese salad, Chiogga beets salad and the pizza margherita (best to share as an app rather than an entree). The stand out pasta dishes are the: whole wheat pasta with eggplant and zucchini, potato gnocchi, butternut squash ravioli and the linguine with clams, muscles, scallops and shrimp. My friend, Kerstin, ordered the halibut special which was both pleasing to the eyes and stomach. She literally cleaned her plate, it was that delicious. Cafe Altano only serves up wine and beer, and the selection is small but reasonably priced. A good bottle of Zin was only $29. All in all, Cafe Altano is a delicious and reliable Hayes Valley gem. I'll definitely go back before a show for a quick bite.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

B44 Catalan Bistro

B44 is a Catalan Bistro located on San Francisco's picturesque Belden Place in the Financial District. B44 offers classic Spanish cuisine with a modern touch. As B44 is located on Belden Place, they offer al-fresco dining in addition to a tastefully decorated dining room complete with pictures of "Castells" (human towers famous at festivals throughout Spain's Catalonia).

After a recent trip, my friend Erin passed along her "amateur review" which I will happily expand upon.

Pros:
Great sangria
Good paella
Hot waiters w/ accents

Cons:
They ran out of sangria on a Friday night (at least a waiter w/ a hot accent told us so)

She was particularly impressed with her hot waiter thus he is mentioned in two out of four of her comments, but the best part of the restaurant IS the food and the wine. B44 artfully crafts delicious and visually pleasing dishes of which their paellas are the best in San Francisco. The stand-out appetizers/tapas are: sauteed aqua gem clams, tiger shrimp with garlic and adobo, ceviche of shrimp, octopus and scallops and the Spanish cheese with quince paste. B44 has 10 different styles of paella on their menu with my three favorites being the 1) classic Paella B44 with saffron rice, chorizo, chicken and seafood 2) Arroz con Bogavante with Maine lobster and 3) Arroz Negre with squid, clams and squid ink. The wine list is just as impressive as the food and features reasonably priced Spanish wine.

B44 is a great place to spend a long lunch or a romantic meal and the location on Belden Place couldn't be more perfect for this Spanish gem.

Belden Place in San Francisco

Belden Place in San Francisco's Financial District magically transports its customers to a quaint street in Europe. The alley, tucked away amongst the many high rises of the San Francisco, offers an American representation of classic European dining. Eight restaurants line the alley providing both indoor and al-fresco dining. The alley is set up in classic European style with small 2-4 person tables dotted with large umbrellas and space heaters. Cafe Bastille, Cafe Tiramisu, Plouf, B44, Brindisi, Trademark, Sam's Grill, Belden Tavern line Belden Place offering Italian, Spanish, and French cuisine. Belden Place is a perfect place to have a power lunch with clients, enjoy drinks and appetizers for happy hour or to share a romantic meal under the stars. The restaurants lining Belden Place are usually quite busy. The convenient location in the Financial District and the quaint al-fresco dining make this group of restaurants one of the hottest tickets in town. Make a reservation on http://www.opentable.com/ or come during off-hours or expect to wait at least 30 minutes for a table. Belden Place is well worth it, so come down and enjoy a relaxing meal in European style.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Modern Thai on Polk Street

I recently went to Modern Thai with my friend Dianna. I had passed this little restaurant for years on Polk at Bush Street but never actually stopped to eat there. When we first walked into Modern Thai I was a little taken back to see the entire restaurant was empty on a Thursday night at 7pm. I eventually figured out they do a lot of take-out compared to eat-in as the delivery guy was constantly on the go. The inside of the restaurant is simple and clean. A few of the walls are painted lime green and bright red, lending the "modern" to Modern Thai. Other than the colorful walls, the restaurant isn't modern or hip. It's just a basic large Thai restaurant but it does have a few tables outside on Polk Street for those rare warm nights.

Modern Thai offers all the popular specialties you would find at any average Thai restaurant. Main dishes cost from $7-12 and appetizers $5-8. The menu has a large selection of pan fried noodle and fried rice dishes in addition to entrees that come with your choice of tofu (vegetarian); chicken, pork or beef (for $1 extra); or shrimp (for $2 extra). I was particularly impressed with the Pad See-Ew (flat rice noodles with egg and broccoli), Thai basil with chicken, spicy green beans with shrimp and vegetarian egg rolls. The flavors were good but the dishes didn't stand out from any other Thai restaurant. I did have one major problem with the food in that it came way out too fast and I mean within 2 minutes of ordering. The waiter didn't have time to open our wine and pour our first glass before our entrees arrived. I found this a bit unnerving that the food comes out so fast. When I questioned why the food was done so quickly the waiter told me it was "fresh" whereas I call it "pre-made". I was a quite disappointed that the food wasn't fresh nor made to order. Next time they should wait at least 5 minutes before bringing out the food so that you think it was made special for your table. As for the wine, Modern Thai offers wine specials during the week, $15 for a bottle of cheap red wine. It's pretty good too, but it will produce one heck of a hangover in the morning.

Modern Thai on Polk is an average Thai restaurant. The food is good but not exceptional. I would recommend ordering take-out rather than eating in. The actual restaurant doesn't have much to offer in the way of ambiance or service.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

San Francisco to Host Professional Surf Competition

The Association of Surfing Professionals announced Sunday that San Francisco will be home to the tenth event of their World Tour. Sometime between November 1st and 11th, thirty-five professional surfers will descend on the unpredictable waters of Ocean Beach to be crowned the Rip Curl Search ASP World Tour champion. Due to the erratic nature of waves at Kelly's Cove, the actual date won't be announced until officials know Mother Nature will cooperate.

It's been over a decade since San Francisco has hosted a professional surfing competition and Rip Curl, the main sponsor, is keeping the event low-key. You'll be able to sit back and enjoy the show because there won't be any expos, festivals or concerts. The best part is it's FREE, so come out to the beach and see some of the best surfers in the world tear it up.

Five tips:

1. Pack your own food and beverages. Ocean Beach doesn't have much to offer in the way of restaurants and what they do have is expensive, so bring your own and save a bundle of money.

2. Take MUNI. Parking will be a madhouse. Numerous lines begin and end at Ocean Beach. The 38, 38L, and 31 lines will drop you closest to the event.

3. Wear warm clothes. It's going to be cold and breezy. Average temperature in November in the Outer Sunset is mid-50's.

4. Bring a blanket or folding chair to sit on. Any public seating will fill up fast so don't count on finding a spot.

5. Come early. Since Mavericks was cancelled this year, the event is expected to be crowded.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ah Lin Restaurant: Best Chinese Food Delivery

Ah Lin Restaurant in Pacific Heights is the best Chinese food delivery in town. I've tried numerous Chinese restaurants and this one is clearly the best. The Wok Shop on Sutter and Franklin is a close second but their crab puffs don't even come close to the delicious flavors of Ah Lin.

Ah Lin is run by a husband and wife who seem to never have a break and literally are at the restaurant from open to close everyday. In addition to delivery and take-out, Ah Lin has a very nice dining room if you want to eat at the restaurant. They offer beer and wine and the service is fast and friendly. Ordering take-out and delivery is easy over the phone or online. I prefer online, so that I can type in any modifications I want to the dishes, which is never a problem. Plus if you order online, you can take advantage of the online coupon offers: one free soda or Thai ice tea for orders of $15 or more; free order of egg rolls or green onion cakes for orders of $30 or more and free wonton or hot and sour soup for orders of $40 or more.

My favorite dishes at Ah Lin are the Mongolian Beef and Shrimp with Black Bean Sauce. The appetizers at Ah Lin are also the best in the city. The crab puffs and dumplings are homemade and bursting with flavors. The egg rolls although offered in chicken, vegetarian or shrimp are really only available in vegetarian so keep that in mind if you order online. Also, the owner makes her own spicy mustard which is one of the reasons this restaurant is so highly rated. No more packaged preservative filled sauces!

The quality of the food can't be beat. Next time your looking to order Chinese food delivery give Ah Lin a try.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ryoko's Japanese Restaurant

I discovered Ryoko's Japanese restaurant with a friend a few weeks back. She is a regular at the restaurant and I was quite excited to see what she was raving about. Once we walked into this little gem near Union Square, I knew I was in sushi fun fun heaven. We went on a Tuesday night, not a normal happening night at Ryoko but the vibe was still happening and hip. One reason the atmosphere was so fun was every time a customer entered the restaurant, the entire staff said, "hello and welcome" in Japanese. It wasn't your normal boring "hello" but a sort of sing song whimsical "hello" found in a Disney princess movie. Every time the staff greeted a new customer, I couldn't help but smile.

Ryoko's has to be the most hip and happening sushi restaurant in San Francisco. For 23 years they have perfected the sushi experience and it shows. They are open 7 days a week from 6pm to 2am. It's a great late night healthy snack alternative to pizza or a burrito. Plus on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night they have live DJ spinning in the restaurant.

The sushi and sashimi is super fresh, flown in from Japan and other spots around the world. They offer a daily specials menu with exciting rolls as well as fresh catches. The sushi menu has some amazing rolls with creative SF names such as Spicy Golden Gate, Alcatraz and Humboldt. The bar has a wide selection of hot and cold sake plus a full bar for cocktails and mixed drinks, a rarity in a sushi restaurant.

I will definitely be back to this neighborhood gem. Word of advice make a reservation or arrive right at 6pm or else you will be stuck waiting for a table. This place is hot and the crowds rarely diminish even in the late hours.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Best Pizza in San Francisco: Village Pizzeria on Van Ness

Village Pizzeria is by far the best pizza in San Francisco. I've tried a plethora of pizza places and none compare to the delicious thin crust New York style pizza of Village. Amici's and Victor's on Polk are a close second, but Village blows them out of the water.

Village Pizzeria is located on Van Ness and Sutter and has been serving the Bay Area since 1979. Village offers delivery as well as dine-in service. Delivery orders can be placed online and by phone. One perk to the phone ordering is if you are a repeating customer, you have the option of keeping your credit card on file for even faster and easier service. Eating at the restaurant is also fun because you can sit at the counter and watch the pizza experts toss the dough in the air and they often have specials. Village also offers pizza by the slice if you are on-the-go.

In addition to pizza, Village also makes great salads, appetizers and pasta. My favorite are the spicy chicken wings that literally set my mouth on fire but taste so darn good. The garlic bread, antipasto salad and Greek salad are also favorites of mine. The peperoni pizza is excellent although it can be quite greasy. The specialty Hawaiian pizza is also a hit.

Next time you are ordering pizza check out Village Pizzeria on Van Ness for some of the best New York style pizza in San Francisco.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lalola Bar de Tapas

Lalola Bar de Tapas is a family owned and operated food and wine bar on the corner of Mason and Pacific in North Beach. Located on the famous Powell-Mason cable car line, it's an easily accessible place to meet up with friends after work. I visited last week for the first time for happy hour and dinner. I was a bit nervous to pick a place that doesn't take any reservations but luckily we were able to beat the crowd and get a prime window table.

The menu is a your standard tapas menu with a few exciting extras. The dishes come in three sizes, Pincho (single bit portion, so you don't have to share), Tapa (a few bites, can be shared) and Racion (a big tapa, so you can happily share) but not all dishes are available in the multiple sizes. It was nice to have the choice in sizes of the dishes as my fiance always complains he is hungry after tapas, so it's hard to get him to try this sort of place. Last week we tried the, Madrid-style Tapas Bar Fries, Mixed green Salad with olive oil vinaigrette, Breaded zucchini sticks, Mushrooms in garlic and white wine, Fried Calamari with aioli, Crab-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with bechamel and tomato and Shelled Garlic Pimenton Shrimp. The food was OK. I did not like the crab-stuffed piquillo peppers and was underwhelmed with the other selections. The food was esthetically pleasing but the taste just wasn't there. I have a feeling we ordered some of the boring dishes but our server didn't help us to choose or recommend the dishes of the house. Next time I come, I will order the Paella and some of the larger more exciting dishes like the Beer-Braised Stew and Moorish Style Pork Skewers and hope for the better. However, on the flip side, LaLoLa does have a great wine list with some delicious wines you don't see everyday. Plus they have great happy hour specials with $3 white or red sangria and $3 Stella on tap.

The best perk to Lalola is the 1.5 validated parking in the Vallejo Garage, such a treat for a restaurant in North Beach. My first visit to Lalola as underwhelming, but I'm looking forward to my next visit, so this cute neighborhood gem can redeem itself.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Freddie's: A Classic Sandwich Shop

Freddie's sandwich shop has been making delicious sandwiches in San Francisco since 1926. The primary location of this little neighborhood gem is Francisco and Stockton in North Beach. It's an institution for people who grew up in the neighborhood and went to Francisco Middle School. It's quite entertaining and timeless to see the kids line up for sodas, sandwiches and candy. The second location just opened up on Pine and Polk in the Polk Gultch neighborhood and I couldn't be happier. Our closest sandwich shop was Whole Foods which is barely passable compared to Freddie's.

Best things about Freddie's are the super nice people who work there. It clearly is a family joint and it shows. Service with a smile but that warm grandparent type smile. My favorite sandwich is the chicken salad with the pepercini spread. Yum! The dutch crunch is amazing and the drink selection endless. I love this place.

Best Indian Restaurant Delivery in San Francisco

Darbar on Polk and Bush is the BEST Indian restaurant delivery in San Francisco. I am a big fan of Indian food and have tried a good portion of the restaurants in the city and nothing compares to the wonderful flavors of Darbar or the value. As most restaurants charge $9.99 or more for your basic Chicken Korma Curry dish, Darbar only charges $6.99. Yah!

Darbar has some of the fastest delivery in the city. Although they tell you 45 minutes on the phone, it usually arrives in about 20-25 minutes. Not only are they prompt, the delivery persons are super nice and have never forgot anything, not a dipping sauce or even a napkin. Darbar does have a bit of a trick to get the lower prices when ordering their food for delivery. If you call and order, you get the in-restaurant menu prices, example: Chicken Tikka Masala for $6.99 and Vegi Samosas $1.99 but if you order via their website it costs $9.99 and $2.99 respectively. But if you use http://www.foodyoyo.com/ to place your order (and not the company they use thru their official website) you still get the banging Tikka Masala for $6.99. It's best to order via the phone to lock down the good prices plus if you order $30 or more for delivery you get a free appetizer or dessert for saying you found them on Yelp.

My favorite main dishes that have never disappointed are: Chicken Tikka Masala (a classic), Chicken Makhani (delicious butter cream sauce), Chicken Vindaloo (spicy spicy spicy!) and Chicken Korma (yummy coconut based cream sauce). I always order the garlic and plain nan and the two types of samosas, vegi and lamb. I seldom branch out of these fine dishes but I can say they are always spot on thus the other dishes must be too!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Zuppa: At one time a great Italian Restaurant in SOMA

I moved to San Francisco over three years ago and one of the first restaurants I went to was Zuppa in SOMA. It was one of my favorite spots right away. I even threw a birthday party for my (now) fiance in the private loft area upstairs. But now the food and service is terribly inconsistent and the place is a shell of what it once was.

We ate at Zuppa with some friends a few weeks ago. We started with the Margherita pizza which was (as always) absolutely delicious. I wish we had stopped there because that was the highlight of our meal. Three of the four of us ordered the Ragu di Campagna and the forth, the pasta with muscles. I know it's not foodie hip to order the same thing but usually the ragu is the best part of Zuppa and we all wanted it. Whom ever was cooking that night had no food quality control and just sent out whatever he or she felt was passable as my ragu had about 10 noodles and a pound of sauce and my other two companions had a bowl full of naked noodles and very little sauce. Anyone working expedite or in the kitchen could visibly see how ridiculous it really was. And to top it off my friend's pasta with muscles had 3, yes 3 total muscles, little guys too. I was really disappointed in the food at Zuppa and that was probably the last time I will go back. It's the third strike. Last time I went, I got food poisoning from a bad oyster appetizer while I was still eating my dinner (and my friend also got sick).

Zuppa once was a great Italian restaurant in the city but sadly it no longer has the same quality food it once had. The atmosphere is hip with the raw concrete walls and the private party loft upstairs, and the happy hour is one of the best in SOMA. But sadly the food just doesn't make the cut. Bye bye Zuppa!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Pour House: A quiet glass of wine on Polk Street

The Pour House on Polk Street is a great place for a glass of wine or microbrew after work. It conveniently opens at 4pm, the time I think happy hour should start. The Pour House used to be SNOB (Sonoma, Napa or Beyond) but the subsequently changed the name and the vibe. SNOB was a bit pretentious and the service was about as rude as a NYC cab driver at 2am. I went twice before the name change and both times I felt as if I was inconveniencing the bartender by gracing her with my presence. But this has all changed, thankfully.

The Pour House has turned into a fabulous low-key semi-hipster place. The new atmosphere is relaxed, there is plenty of seating with a long wood bar (with purse hooks), 3 overstuffed couches up front and a splattering of tables in the dark, romantic back of the bar. Unless you know the majority of the people sitting on the couches, it can be a bit awkward to sit there. My friend and I started out on the couches but later moved after a group of 5 sat down. I really felt I was invading someone's living room couch. So if you have space issues or don't like people listening to your conversation then pick a seat at the bar or one of the tables in the back.

The bar offers 40 different premium wines and 25 microbrews (10 on tap). The bartender on duty was a very nice young man who unfortunately went to UCONN (I didn't hold it against him, we still tipped). My only complaint is that the cheese plate is horrible. First off you have two cheese choices, Jarlsberg and an unidentified crumbled goat cheese. The two cheeses come with massive wheat crackers that do nothing to compliment the cheese. The best part was the dish of salty olives. If I wasn't so starved, I would have told him he could keep it after my first glance. Another food option is to order from one of the restaurants on Polk Street and have them deliver right to you at the bar.

I'm happy to report that The Pour House is a great location for a quick drink on Polk Street.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Frankie's Bohemian Cafe

John and I wandered into Frankie's last Saturday to use a Groupon. I'd passed this little place on the corner of Divisadero and Pine for a few years as I used to work down the street at Mt. Zion and had only popped in once for beers with coworkers.  I had been holding onto the Groupon for a while as the reviews were quite mixed on Yelp and I seriously didn't want a hockey puck hamburger or warm beer.

We ordered popcorn shrimp to start which were divine. I could have bathed in their popcorn shrimp, sadly a dish left off of most San Francisco restaurants. We both chose the bacon cheeseburger and were pleased. They were juicy and delicious. Only complaint is that John got three times as more fries as me. Just cause I'm small doesn't mean I don't like my fries.

The service was great. A nice European man greeted us from behind the bar and pointed for us to sit where ever we wanted, which was 99% of the restaurant as their was only one table occupied. We presented our Groupon as instructed and the waiter very pleasantly said to just hold onto it and he'll ring us up at the end. He really was quite nice, so I am confused by all the Yelp reviews that say he is rude. When we did go to pay, he apologized for not being able to take our credit card for the $7 balance. I could tell he said this a lot and probably more times than not someone yells at him and scoffs off. To me it's the restaurant policy and it's their place so they make the rules, minimum $30 charge period.

All in all, the food was good, the atmosphere cozy and the service pleasant. However, I really don't think I'll be back, unless its for the popcorn shrimp. Nothing really set this place off from the other thousands of restaurants in this city. I don't see this as a restaurant that draws crowds, only a convenient neighborhood spot.

Farmerbrown Restaurant: An all-u-can-eat brunch in San Francisco

Farmerbrown is the best spot in San Francisco to get a reasonably priced all-u-can-eat brunch with a whole lot of hipster vibe on the side. A couple of out-of-town friends of mine stumbled upon this little gem in the heart of San Francisco's Market/Union Square district. I must say I was a bit skeptical when they told me they found a great breakfast spot on the corner of Mason and Turk. It turns out this place is a fabulous find for both locals as its downtown and on a bunch of major bus lines and for out-of-town guests as its smack dab in the middle of the Union square hotel district.
The ambiance of Farmerbrown is uber hipster. The restaurant is all about supporting local and African-American farmers using organic, biodynamic or sustainably raised foods and beverages. The theme is Southern hospitality and good hearty eats, as their website claims is often misinterpreted. Southern food really can be healthy and good for you! The restaurant's ambiance matched this message. The artwork covering the walls is inspiring and the music finger snapping good.

Brunch is served from 10am until 2:30pm Saturday and Sunday. The all-you-can-eat brunch was $16 (if I remember correctly) but the real expensive kicker was the $14 all-you-can-drink Mimosas. Sadly our waitress didn't reveal the high cost of the mimosas, which came as a shock when the bill came. The buffet was delicious and replenished constantly. My favorites were the fried chicken, waffles, eggs, biscuits and mushroom gravy, grits, bacon, fresh fruit..... the list goes on. It's a comprehensive buffet with good healthy eats but I am holding strong and still don't believe that the fried chicken and bacon are healthy, locally sustained yes, but healthy no.

I would definitely go back to Farmerbrown. The dinner menu looks as intriguing and delicious as the brunch menu. It's a great find in a convenient neighborhood with a positive message.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mamacita: Best Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco

Mamacita, in my opinion, is the best Mexican restaurant in San Francisco. Every time I eat there, I leave happy, full and a little drunk. Mamacita is located smack dab in the middle of the Marina district on Chestnut. The restaurant is one long narrow room, nicely decorated with hanging metal lights, cool art and warm tones. The restaurant tends to get crowded and loud on the weekends and it can be so loud sometimes that you have to scream across the table but that's part of its hip and happening vibe and the food is worth it.

Mamacita serves tapas style dishes and yummy sides. I've eaten just about everything on the menu and loved it all. However, I am sad that they discontinued my favorite dish, a polenta cake with baked clams and chorizo in a cast iron little pot. The flavors in the dish were so mouthwatering delicious, I hated sharing it. Some of my favorite plates are: Callos de Mula- pan seared scallops with butternut squash mole and brussel sprout chorizo hash, classic Carne Asado Tacos made with Meyer Ranch skirt steak, Camaron al Pastor Tacos- prawn tacos with grilled pineapple, and Tamales de Puerquito- house-made banana leaf steamed pulled pork tamales.

The restaurant has a full bar but it's small. The sangria is delicious and goes down way too easy. For tequila connoisseurs there is a tasting "tequila flight" and a large selection of tequilas all reasonably prices. The bar also has "Hora De Feliz" weekdays (happy hour for the non-Spanish speakers) until 6:30 with drink and food specials.

Mamacita is my favorite go-to restaurant. It's great for large groups and a perfect spot to for out of town guests. It can get a bit pricey. Small plates cost from $8 to $18 with 80% of the menu $12 or more.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Alamo Square Seafood Grill in San Francisco

Alamo Square Seafood Grill in San Francisco's Hayes Valley is a quaint Parisian style cafe tucked away between Victorian homes on Fillmore Street. It's a popular neighborhood spot that's been open for 9 years. The restaurant is tastefully decorated and very small, about 10-15 tables total with no formal bar. The General Manager, Andre, is a highlight of the place. His garish French attitude is fun and he says everything with a smile while God knows what he is thinking in his head. He adds quite a bit to the charm and amusement to the place.

The menu is proportionate to the restaurant, small but good. It is almost entirely seafood except for three land lover dishes: a rib eye, a chicken and a vegetarian dish. Fish is their speciality, with few shellfish choices, so you really need to like fish fish to enjoy your meal here. I had the blackened sole with tomatoes, capers, olives and my mother the grilled salmon with bearnaise white wine, shallots and tarragon hollandaise. Both fish dishes were delicious. My fiance asked Andre what he would recommend and in fine French fashion he looks him over and said, "you will have the sauteed salmon with beurre blanc" and quickly scribbled it down on his pad. We all called out "no!"  as he was looking for one of the land lover dishes and not fish, but we all liked his enthusiasm. His rib eye turned out to be delicious with its yummy truffle butter and pmme frites (french fries). We had the creme brulee for dessert and it was divine but the crust wasn't hardened enough and I wasn't able to get that cracking sound when I dove in for my first bite.

Alamo Square Seafood is a delicious under recognized restaurant. Its a neighborhood favorite but should also be a San Francisco landmark. It's got everything you need on a night out on the city, a little attitude, quaint atmosphere and delicious fresh seafood. Plus they have 1/2 wine on Mondays and no corkage fees on Wednesdays!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The California Palace of the Legion of Honor: A San Francisco Museum

The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is located in Lincoln Park in the northwest part of San Francisco. The building alone is a work of art as it's a three-quarters scale imitation of the Hotel de Salm in Paris. An interesting piece of little known history is that the Lincoln Park Golf Course that surrounds the museum was once the site of the Golden Gate Cemetery. The bodies were moved down to Colma, CA in 1908 when the cemetery was closed; however, in the 1990s when the city was doing seismic retrofitting of the surrounding park, coffins and skeletal remains were still unearthed. Very cool history for a very cool spot in the city. Also, the beautiful historic building is a popular backdrop for couples taking their engagement pictures as well as day-of pictures with their wedding party.

The name is used for both the museum building and the collection it houses. The Legion's collection spans more than 6,000 years of ancient and European art. Some of the collection highlights and my favorites are: St. John the Baptist by El Greco (1600), The Trotting Horse by Edgar Degas (1881), and Waterlilies by Claude Monet (1914). The museum has a variety of classic and innovative traveling exhibitions. I've seen a traveling exhibit of beautiful Cartier jewelry and works from the Louvre and Museum de Orsay.

Currently the Legion is showcasing Pulp Fashon: The Art of Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave. de Borchgrave creates fashion literally out of manipulating paper. The exhibition features masterpieces of intricate paper clothing inspired by early European paintings or from famous museum pieces from around the world. The exhibit is somewhat of a history of fashion from such famous individuals as the Medici family, Elizabeth I, Marie-Antoinette and Christian Dior, and Coco Chanel, to name a few. The pieces are literally amazing and its mind boggling how she was able to create these extraordinary pieces of clothing (and shoes) out of paper. The Legion is the first American museum to dedicate an entire exhibition to these works of textile art.

The exhibit costs $15 for adults, $12 seniors, $11 for kids 6-17 and college students with ID. The museum is open from 9:30am to 5:15pm and has a delicious cafe with outdoor seating.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco is sadly not the actual house of horror I thought it was when I first heard the name. One of my favorite books is The Devil in The White City by Erik Larsen which tells the story of the serial killer Dr. H. H. Holmes and the 1893 Chicago's World's Fair nicknamed the "White City". At the time of the fair, Dr. Holmes lured an unknown number of helpless women to their death in the World Fair's Hotel and struck fear into the residents and visitors of Chicago (similar to SF's very own Zodiac killer). When I first saw the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina, I thought "how cool", but my friend pointed out this was built 1915, not 1893 and this is San Francisco's Palace, not Chicago's and I was in the wrong place.

Palace of Fine Arts, 1919

Although it's not a house of horror, it's still one of my favorite spots in the city. San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition to house works of art presented there. Due to its unsiesmically sound structure, the original Palace was demolished in 1964 and a replica rebuilt in its place. The new Palace is almost exactly the same as the old except for the absence of the murals in the dome and a few lesser details. Today, the Palace is also home to the Exploratorium and 1,000 person theater.

Palace of Fine Arts, 2010
 The Palace is popular among locals and visitors. The lagoon and its white geese as well as the manicured green lawns make it a picture perfect picnic spot. On a sunny day in the city, the lawn surrounding the lagoon is teeming with families, couples and friends enjoying a bite to eat, relaxing in the sun, or flying a kite. The Palace is also popular for engagement and wedding party pictures. It's a beautiful old world backdrop in the middle of a modern city. I always make a point to bring out-of-town visitors here to show them the beauty, diversity and history of San Francisco. The spot is so iconic that Disney made a replica of it in Disney's California Adventure Park. Even Disney thinks it's important!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dali: China's Scenic Gem

Dali, located in Yunnan Province is famous for its Old Town and beautiful natural surroundings.  Dali is comprised of two cities; the historic Dali Old Town (Gucheng) and Dali New City (Xiaguan). Dali Old Town is one of the most popular tourist destinations for domestic travelers as well as foreigners traveling the China backpacking circuit. Although Dali used to outnumber neighboring Lijiang with most foreign visitors, Lijiang’s well preserved Old Town has become more of a tourist attraction in recent years.  What sets Dali apart from Lijiang is its beautiful location sandwiched between Erhai Lake and Cangshan Mountain.
 Old Town is actually a miniature city laid out in an easy-to-navigate grid pattern offering an assortment of activities; however, the most interesting places lay outside Old Town’s four walls. A good way to get an overview of the town is to walk atop the historic walls surrounding the city. Compared to Xian, Dali’s historic wall is petite as it only takes about an hour to leisurely walk. 
Another fun walk is from the South Gate (Nan Men) to the North Gate (Bei Men) exploring the city streets along the way. Near the South Gate is the famous Dali Municipal Museum. The museum opened in 1987 and houses a small collection of Bai artifacts excavated from the surrounding area as well as stone steles, jade, and Dali’s world famous marble carvings. Another spot that literally cannot be missed is Yangren Jie (Foreigner’s Street) located between the North and South Gate and one of the most popular places in town. In recent years, Foreigner’s Street has become a smaller version of the famous Khao San Road of Thailand offering everything from banana pancakes and café lattes to Mexican burritos and hippie style clothes. Foreigner’s street is popular with foreign travelers as they get a taste of home and can get lost for hours relaxing at one of the many outdoor cafés and with domestic travelers as they are able to snap photos of foreigners in their “natural habitat”. It’s really quite a scene that should not be missed.
The best way to explore the beauty surrounding Dali Old Town is to rent a bike. Jim’s Tibetan Guesthouse and Peace café is a wonderful resource for maps, lists of must-see sites and a reliable place to rent a bike. Once outside Old Town, the possibilities are endless for adventure and relaxation. Dali is one of the few tourist destinations where you can truly enjoy the quiet side of China.
 Erhai Hu (Ear Shaped Lake) is one of the highlights of a visit to Dali. Erhai Hu is the seventh biggest freshwater lake in China and sits 1973m above sea level and covers 250 sq km. The best way to explore the lake’s Bai villages, traditional fishing villages, temples and markets is by bike or hopping on one of the many ferries that crisscross the lake. Popular stops on the ferry are Wase and Shaping for their colorful Bai markets and Putuo Island and Lesser Putao Temple, a very picturesque spot. For the more adventurous types, a day trip by bike to Shaping and back or a 58 km ride around the lake to Wase will surely get your heart racing as you travel along the busy lakeside road. If you are looking for more of a relaxed bike ride, take the secondary road to the west of the lakeside road and stop at the small temples and out of the way villages as you enjoy the jade colored waters of Erhai Hu.
 The Cangshan Mountain and its 18 peaks located near the shores of Erhai Hu, rise high above Dali and often have a picture perfect reflection in the clear and still waters of Erhai Hu. The mountain is famous for its 3000 different types of plants, crystal clear ponds and waterfalls, hiking trails, natural marble, and views of Erhai Hu and the entire Dali Prefecture.  Travel up the mountain is easy by cable car at either the base of Gantong or Zhonghe Temples. The cable car takes about a half hour as opposed to hiking up the mountain which is a sweaty 2-3 hours. Once atop the mountain you can walk between the two temples via the Cloud Path, a 20 km scenic hike, or take the chairlift that connects the two. For a special stay, behind Zhonghe Temple are guesthouses for those who want to spend the night in absolute peace and quiet.  
 East of the foot of the tenth peak is the world famous Three Pagodas, the symbol of Dali, built in 824-840 AD. Qianxun Pagoda, the tallest of the three, is 16 tiers high with a white marble sitting Buddha statue at the center of each tier. The two pagodas that flank Qianxun, built about 100 years later, are 10 stories high and also have a Buddha statue on each floor. The designers of the pagodas came from Xi’an and are said to have designed the pagoda after the famous Giant Wild Goose Pagoda.
Dali has risen to the top of China’s must see list yet it still remains one of the last tourist destinations where visitors can escape hectic city life. The city’s location between Erhai Hu and Cangchan Mountain make it one of China’s most spectacular natural beauties. Spend a week relaxing and getting lost in its city streets and on its many scenic trails and you’ll leave truly happy and relaxed.



Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Coit Tower: Best Views of San Francisco

 The best place for a panoramic view of San Francisco is Coit Tower located in Telegraph Hill. This little gem should be on every visitor and local's must see list. The 210-ft tower is located in Pioneer Park at the top of Telegraph Hill and can be seen from most neighborhoods in the city. The tower was built with money donated by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy and eccentric socialite, after her death 1929. Lillie was a big fan of the city's firefighters (like most ladies) and probably would have become one if she wasn't a woman born in the 1800s. Its rumored that she was a woman born before her times as she often wore pants and smoked cigars. Oh good heavens! After her death, she wanted to honor the city and its firefighters by building a monument to beautify the city. Although Coit Tower looks like a fire hose nozzle, the original designers say this is just a coincidence. Her money was also used to build a monument of three firefighters carrying a woman. To this day, Lillie is the patron saint of San Francisco firefighters.

Coit Tower is easily accessible by bus, car or on foot. The topography of the street up to the tower is only one lane so cars must get very close to the hill's edge in order to allow buses or other cars to pass plus there are only 10 parking spots that fill up fast. Often times the "car line" to Coit can wind all the way down to the bottom of the hill. Also watch out for random joggers, there aren't any sidewalks and they often run out in the middle of the road like they own the place. You can also take the 39 MUNI bus to the top of Coit for only $2, leaving every 20 minutes. To walk up you take the steep Filbert Steps, a hodge-podge of wooden and concrete steps, it's strenuous but only a 20 minute walk. I recommend MUNI or walking, driving makes the trip a headache.

Once you reach Coit Tower, you can enjoy Pioneer Park at the base. The park is teeming on the weekend with tourists but during the week it's quite peaceful. The park is also a popular spot for yoga, meditation and various urban boot camps.

Inside the tower are 26 intricate murals, the most famous being by Diego Rivera (Frida Kahlo's husband). The murals depict scenes from the streets of San Francisco, a car crash, a pickpocket, labor march and some controversial "leftist thinkers" to name a few. Tickets to the top of the tower cost $5. Its a 26-floor elevator ride to the top of the tower and it's completely worth being squished in the old-school elevator for a few minutes.

At the top of the tower you will have some of the most spectacular panoramic views of San Francisco. Some spots you'll see are: Sausalito, the aquatic park, the Bay Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, downtown San Francisco, Alcatraz, Treasure Island, Angel Island, a bunch of San Francisco neighborhoods and their cool rooftop gardens and the Golden Gate Bridge.


Next time you are in San Francisco or want to do something "touristy" on a clear day, take a trek up Coit Tower and enjoy the spectacular views!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

San Francisco City Workouts

I am a big fan of exercising but not a fan of the gym. I have a hard time doing the same routine day in and day out and not being stimulated by my surroundings while exercising. I like to exercise but not really do so in the traditional gym, yoga, Bar Method kind of way. I want to have fun and do a little cardio at the same time.

San Francisco is a great city for people who want to work out but don't want to join a gym. Not only is the city full of hills to work your buns but has over 300 stairways to get a maximum workout in minimal time. My six favorite workouts are free and have fabulous views to keep you entertained.

1. Lyon Street Steps- Start at the corner of Lyon and Green Street and walk or better run up these popular steps all the way to Broadway and back. Great workout. Popular but there's no finger pointing or mocking when you need a break and grasp the handrail gasping for air.

2. Presidio's Immigrant Point/Coastal Connector better known as the "1000 Steps"- It's actually only 808 steps but its sure to make you feel the burn. The trail starts at Overlook Point and takes you all the way to Baker Beach. Beautiful views and a shady canopy make this a great weekend walk or run.

3. Coit Tower- The Telegraph Hill walk up to Coit Tower is the most scenic city hike on a clear day. I've had the pleasure of running up to Coit Tower (unintentionally) on the main street and it's a great workout sans steps. You will 100% feel the burn. You can also take the Filbert Street Steps of the Greenwich Street Steps for a more scenic and classic trip up to Coit Tower. Anyway you do it, you'll be sure to appreciate the sweeping views and benches to rest on at the top of the tower.

4. Crissy Field- For those who desire no incline try walking or running Chrissy Field. This dead flat trail takes you from the Marina/ Fort Point to the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. A good resting point is the Sports Basement for a drink or restroom break.

5. Golden Gate Bridge- I attempted to give my mother a heart attack a few years ago when I came up with the fantastic idea to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. This is a strenuous bike ride which should not be taken lightly. If you aren't into biking the bridge, an easier (and more enjoyable) trip is to walk the bridge or run. The views can't be beat and since you are walking the bridge you get twice the work out as you have to walk back across to the city.

The City has so many wonderful exercise possibilities. Take advantage of the city's natural topography and get a workout while exploring the city by the bay!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park

The Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park has to be one of the most quintessential gardens I have ever seen. It's as if you awoke in a garden that Cinderella herself attends too. It reminds me of the last scene in Knotting Hill where Julia Roberts is laying on Hugh Grant's lap reading a book, just picture perfect, throw up in your mouth romantic.

The garden is located near the busy California Academy of Sciences, yet it still retains a quiet laid back vibe. The garden is really never busy unless a wedding is happening. It's popular in the spring for early afternoon weddings as its inexpensive (about $550 for a 2 hour ceremony) and you don't have to decorate as the park speaks for itself. I contemplated having a wedding there, until I remembered the unpredictable weather in San Francisco in October, but it would have been just lovely.

I love the garden to relax in on a warm day. You can pack a picnic lunch and chill on a blanket, read a book on a bench, or stare at the beautiful trees and flowers and be lulled asleep by the soft park breeze. If you need to learn a bit on your visit, the huge brick wall opposite the garden's wrought iron gate entrance has a bronze sculpture of William Shakespeare and 4 of the 6 original plaques featuring literary quotes by Will (the other 2 were stolen/vandalized). Also, check out the benches closely as each is dedicated to famous San Franciscans and tell a bit of that person's history.

This lovely garden is a magical place not to be missed. If you have ever seen a park in a movie and thought, "that doesn't exist in the real world", this place will prove you wrong. It's absolutely lovely and Martha Stewart would give it two thumbs up!