Category Archives: San Francisco

Out the door/Ferry building, ferry to Oakland, jack London Square , Teracotta warrior chinese – San Francisco

More glorious weather (which is not helping drought conditions…). Susan and I rode the MUNI (N Judah line) to Embarcadero and wandered around the food stalls at the Ferry Building. Ate the best Vietnamese food I’ve had since visiting Vietnam last fall at the take out counter for the famous Slanted Door restaurant. (Out the Door) where we got excellent noodles with big pieces of chewy bbqed pork and moist rice with goodies (egg, sausage, veg) inside wrapped in a banana leaf. We ate on a rustic bench overlooking the ferry docks.

We rode the ferry across the bay and under the Bay Bridge to Jack London Square in Oakland. Fantastic views of San Fran from the water. We wandered a bit around downtown Oakland…good used bookstore run by the public library, a few interesting shops and then ferried back. Dinner was at Terracotta Warrior, a few blocks from Susan and Eric in the sunset. Northern Chinese food with strange items (for Chinese food) including lamb, tomatoes and what seemed like spaetzle (small dumplings) in the soup but may have been pita. Ended the night in the hot tub. Perfect!

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Java Beach Cafe, Mary’s consignment 24th Noe Valley, biked along Great Pacific highway past Lake Merced, a Mano/hays valley , Cable Car – San Francisco

Susan and I rode bikes along the ocean where the highway was conveniently closed due to drifting sand. Near Lake Merced we ended up stopping for lunch at laid back Java Beach Cafe, where it was a perfect day to eat outside.

Dinner was excellent at A Mano, a northern Italian place in Hays Valley. Excellent pasta (bucatini ametriana, with pancetta and cheese; puttanesca with shrimp) and chocolate mousse/pudding. I returned to hays valley today, wandered around on another spectacular to the mission, stopping for lunch at Tartine, then to the water which I realized I was craving. I wanted someplace distinctly San Fran. So I ended up on the cablecar from Fisherman’s Wharf, past Union Square and other places I haven’t been in years. Kind of pricey ($8 one way) but Great views and atmospherics.

In the eve, I went with Susan to her pottery class in a pretty old building in Golden Gate Park.

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San Tung/Chinese food, Harvey Milk terminal, marijuana dispensary, Lands End, Kishu mandarin oranges/farmers market— San Francisco

Always great to be back in San Francisco, which I have loved since my mother took me here for my 16th birthday (awhile ago). Newer reason to love it — my friend Susan has been here for decades. Her neighborhood, the Sunset, was hopping last night as we walked past Asian shops to a great neighborhood Chinese restaurant San Tung packed with big families and smaller clusters of young people lucky enough to live in this gorgeous city.

I grew up with Chinese food but rarely find it now, especially good Chinese food. My kids’ version of Chinese food is Thai or Vietnamese. This was very good Chinese good – crispy fried chicken wings (who knew?), fresh mu shu pork (which I haven’t had in years) and perfectly stir fried green beans) The place is also known for it fresh noodles, (next time)

I am sorry I can’t post photos (technical difficulties) especially of all the lush green vegetation and colorful flowers – purple, orange, red – here and there. Welcome change from brown muddy Iowa.

We stopped in at the neighborhood marijuana dispensary— the smell of pot lingers on the sidewalks , here and there. It’s very clinical looking, more like a sleek pharmacy then a head shop. Samples in antiseptic jars on shiny white counters and iPads with interactive displays that showcase products with cold soulless names. This is not your grandma’s Mary Jane, weed, pot. Kind of sucks the hippie character out of the act of getting high. Guess that’s the point. Make it professional, medicinal, acceptable.

I also was blown away by the new Harvey Milk Terminal that I stepped into after deplaning. Awe-inspiring, bright, airy, sleek, white, trendy furniture, bold art work and wall installation with what looks like wood bits of old barn, a poignant display of photos and texts about Harvey Milk, whose 1978 assignation I remember hearing on the news in college.

Sunday we went to a farmers market full of gorgeous fruit and veg and flowers. Discovery: tiny kishu mandarin oranges smaller than a satsuma and even sweeter.

We hiked along the coast on a spectacular afternoon with lush vegetation and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, thru the fancy sea cliff neighborhood, stopping to tour a $12 million house for sale (it was an open house so we walked right in…) we walked past baker beach and into the presidio and Richmond areas. A six mile walk, as it turns out.

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Hopmonk Tavern/Sebastopol; Shunzi./San Raphael; Bacco/Noe Valley S.F.

Always hard to leave San Francisco on a sunny day, especially after walking The dog with Susan in Golden Gate Park, shimmering as green as Ireland after yesterday’s mist and rain. But I will be back. and maybe someday to live here. Susan drove me north yesterday through Marin to Sonoma County to check out the relatively rural, affordable town of Sebastopol (relative to San Fran) but the beauty of the area was obscured by mist and rain. What little I saw made me wonder what kind of life and community we could build in a place with both a young counter culture vibe and an older casual California moneyed chic vibe, since we belong to neither tribe. We did have the best grilled artichoke I

Susan, parking spot park, Outer Sunset

Susan, parking spot park, Outer Sunset

have ever tasted (and there is a lot to be said for that) at the rustic-cozy Hopmonk Tavern. It was marinated in vinegar, oil and seasoned, cut in half and grilled then served with a grilled but still juicy lemon and a creamy white dressing. Susan’s tomato soup was full of flavor and had little cream, another plus. My small pulled pork sliders on little homemade Tasting buns was good. We stopped en route in San Rafael at Shunzi, a favorite clothing store of Susan’s, full of comfortable California chic clothes (I am still working though the guilt of the money I spent there.) In San Francisco, we had pasta and sautéed Brussels sprouts at Bacco in Noe valley, which was good but having spent two weeks recently in Italy, I am a tough customer. We walked along the main drag in Noe valley, windowshopping, the tiny shops closed but lighted, peddling an often idiosyncratic selection of wares, or as Susan observed, a hyper curated collection of overpriced stuff. Other things of note: – Urban Putt, a very inventive indoor miniature golf course in the Mission. – See’s lollipops, sold near gates 82 and 68 at the San Francisco airport.IMG_0472

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Susan, Mifune Japanese, Outer Sunset, the Mission, Golden Gate Park: San Francisco

Exploring the Outer Sunset neighborhood

Exploring the Outer Sunset neighborhood



Easy one hour flight from San Diego to San Francisco. (not so easy a flight for D whose flight to Denver was cancelled due to mechanical problems so he got home 5 hours late via Houston). so far I haven’t seen much of this city I adore because I am really hear to see my old friend Susan and we have a lot to catch up on since we last saw each other three years ago.

We did return to Mifune, a good place in Japantown, for udon noodles and tempura. And we have walked her dog several times through Golden Gate Park down the back, which never gets old. We also walked down to the Asian shops on Irving (we are in The Sunset neighborhood) to pursue the little ceramic bowls Decorated with whimsical drawings of animals that I always restock when here.

We also explored the Outer Sunset neighborhood around 46th street and Judah,which has a smattering of little shops and coffee houses including Trouble Coffee, General Store and Carville Annex.

The next day we wandered around the ever-evolving Mission neighborhood, visiting some old favorites like Tartine Bakery, for fabulous bread, quiche and grilled sandwiches and new spots like the gorgeous Heath Ceramics show room, Charles Chocolates, the Local Mission Market  – all park of this “small batch” hyper local “maker market” high design aesthetic that’s so big here and beyond. We also stopped for overpriced but incredibly flavorful and creamy ice cream (malted milk ball) at Humphry Slocombe. We also visited a super cool inside put put course in the Mission. Dinner was at a favorite from my last visit – Burma Superstar in the Richmond.

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Looking for a “family camp” in L.A. akin to San Francisco’s “Camp Mather” or “Camp Sacramento”

Water Fall near Camp Mather

Friends who live in San Francisco  have raved over the years about Camp Mather (above), a  “family camp” run by the city’s Park and Rec department that is a great affordable family vacation option for  residents of a famously unaffordable city. The camp  is outside  Yosemite National Park . (Interesting aside, there has been some controversy with the Camp – with some saying it’s too much of a “carefully kept secret” that most San Franciscans don’t know about…more below). Friends in Sacramento rave about a similar offering there called “Camp Sacramento.”

So I’m wondering if Los Angeles offers something similar, now that my brother has moved there with his family.  To date, the information I’ve found suggests that L.A.’s Park and Rec may have some options (known as”out of town camps”) but they’re pretty limited and several camps have long been closed. The best bet I’ve seen so far is Camp Seeley but it’s unclear if like Camp Mather (I think), this camp offers not just facilities but programming for families.

Here’s some info I’ve dug up to date:

Camp Seely is located in the San Bernardino Mountains, 65 miles from City Hall, nestled in a forest of tall pines at an elevation of 4,200 feet. Close to Lake Gregory and the Village of Crestline, it is located on Highway 138, four miles from Lake Silverwood. Camp Seely is owned and operated by the Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks, under permit from the National Forest Service.

The facility includes 60 cabins (each sleeps 4-5 people), a large kitchen, dining hall, rustic lodge, modern restroom/shower facilities, playing field, game room and children’s play area.

Out of Town Camps

The City of Los Angeles offers year-round group camping opportunities at its out-of-town camps.  The fees include rental of individual or dormitory style cabins, depending on the camp, and full use of kitchen and lodges.  Groups must provide their own food.  Weekend rentals are available from Labor Day through mid-June.  During the Summer months (Mid-June until Labor Day), rentals are on a week-long basis (usually Sunday through the following Saturday). Camps vary in size and maximum camper occupancy.

Out of Town Camps
* Select facility name for site specific information
Name Address Maximum Occupancy
Camp High Sierra P.O. Box 711, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93646 6 per site
Camp Radford 3250 Radford River Rd., Angelus Oaks, CA 92305 260 (Camp Temporarily Closed)
Camp Seeley 250 N. Hwy. 138 P.O. Box 3372, Crestline, CA 92325 270
Camp Valcrest HC 01 Box 18, La Cañada, CA 91011-9706 60 (Camp Temporarily Closed)
Decker Canyon Camp 3133 S. Decker Canyon Rd., Malibu, CA 90265 150 (Camp Temporarily Closed)
For more information and/or reservations, please call theCamping Section Office at
(213) 485-4853. Monday through Friday 9 am to 5 pm


Camp Mather is the San Francisco family camp that was built as a sawmill for the construction of the O’Shaughnessey Dam in the 1920’s. 150 miles east of San Francisco near the Hetch Hetchy Valley. The border of Yosemite National Park is a mile up the road, Yosemite Valley is 18 miles south. The camp is beloved by many as an off-the-grid refuge from city life and is a treasure for generations of SF families.

Camp Mather is a camp owned and operated by the City and County of San Francisco. It is located 15 miles front the entrance to Yosemite National Park, in the High Sierras at an elevation of 4,520 feet.  Each year applications are  submitted for attendance to camp through a lottery. It’s a very competitive process,  because there are more applicants than there is space available during  the camp season. Camp Mather Family Lottery registration opens on January 6 (10am), and closes on February 5 (5pm). Camp Mather Family Camp lottery registration is online only at There is a $100 registration deposit required at registration. This $100 will be applied to your final bill if you get a  reservation or will be refunded if you don’t get a reservation.

Info from 2008: Camp Sacramento family camp offers affordable, fun-filled vacation experiences without breaking the bank Sacramento, California, May 12, 2008— Camp Sacramento is now taking reservations for its 2008 summer camp season. This summer, as gas price
s keep residents closer to home and families look to get more for their money, Camp Sacramento is already seeing a sizable increase
in its camp reservation rates. Perhaps the most striking thing about Camp Sacramento is its affordability. A family of four can enjoy a four-day vacation experience, meals and  activities included, for as little as $573.00.
Camp Sacramento is a City of Sacramento-operated camp that is located in the EldoradoNational Forest, just over an hour’s drive from Sacramento. The camp provides families a complete vacation experience that includes supervised recreation programs, river play, beautiful scenery, great food, friendly staff, and lots of leisure time for parents.This summer, Camp Sacramento is offering families the choice of four-day mini camps or week-long vacation sessions. Camp guests are provided three meals each day and lots of nature-inspired experiences.Prospective campers can visit the camp’s website,, to get more information
and check camp rates. They can also speak to a CampSacramento representative by calling 916-808-6098.

About Camp Sacramento (from 2013)

Camp Sacramento is situated in the Sayles Flat area of the Eldorado National Forest. It sits on a 14-acre property owned by the U.S. Forest Service and leased by the City of Sacramento. There are 61 cabins of various sizes scattered throughout the property. These cabins have electricity, but most don’t have any outlets other than the light bulb on the ceiling and the porch light. They are rustic yet charming – most of them were built in the 1930s. The cabins don’t have running water, but there are centrally located restrooms available complete with electrical outlets and private shower stalls. Camp facilites also include a dining hall, a lodge, a camp store, a camp nurse’s office, a softball diamond, a half basketball court, a volleyball court, a campfire pit, arts & crafts areas, ping pong tables, horeshoe pits, and the scenic American River. Camp Sacramento offers eight mini Camp (4 days/3 nights) and four week-long (6 days/5 nights) vacation sessions during its 2011 Family Camp season. We provide guests with 3 meals a day and a vacation full of recreation activities. This is all included in the camp fees. Come and join us as we begin our 90th year of Family Camping Adventures.The last week of the season at Camp Sacramento is Senior Adventure Camp, open only to adults age 50 and older. 

Summary of Recommendations 1. Improve publicity and accessibility to CampMather.
2. Study and improve the usage of the CampMather facilities and grounds.
Mather is a fam
ily cam
p located in Tuolum
ne County near the north
entrance to Yosem
ite National Park. Located approxim
tely 180 m
iles east of San
Francisco at an elevation of 4,520 feet, Cam
Mather is operated for San Francisco
residents and their f
ilies by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Departm
nt (RPD).
It has 90 rustic cabins and 20 tent sites, each able to accom
odate up to six people, on
tely 400 acres. Full board, a cam
p store, and several recreational program
s are
provided for the cam
pers. During a 12-week cam
ping season, two weeks of which are
reserved for seniors, approxim
tely 6,000 persons, in 1,100 fam
ilies, take advantage of
the Cam
Mather facilities. The cam
p can accom
odate 529 people at each session.
The num
ber of applications for cabins and tent sites exceeds the available spaces.
The privately run Strawberry Music Festival, draws another 10,000 people in total
to Cam
Mather on the Mem
rial Day and Labor Day weekends.
Mather is financially self-sufficient and, in past years, has contributed in
excess of $300,000 annually to the RPD general fund. Cam
ing fees and revenue from
SMF and other concessions exceed the expense of operating Cam
Mather. In a tim
e of
budget crisis, Cam
Mather could produce additional revenue.
Mather was described several years ago in the press as “the city’s most carefully kept secret,” one that most San Franciscans don’t know exists. The location,lack of publicity, a complex application process, and failure to provide information about Camp
Mather in languages other than English limit access to Camp Mather for many SanFrancisco residents. The Grand Jury defines “accessibility” as awareness of Camp Mather and its availability to residents, an application f
that is easily read and
leted, an equitable selection process, and availability of
adequate transportation to
the Cam
for people who want to use it.

from 2012, alas: L.A. spent $2 million to keep up camps closed for more than 10 years

The city has paid for caretakers to live at Camp Valcrest and Camp Radford, closed for 13 and 20 years, respectively, an audit by City Controller Wendy Greuel finds.

August 29, 2012|By Frank Shyong, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles park officials spent $2 million to operate two campgrounds that have been closed for more than 10 years, according to an audit released Wednesday by City Controller Wendy Greuel.

Camp Valcrest in the Angeles National Forest and Camp Radford in the San Bernardino Mountains have been closed for the last 13 and 20 years, respectively, because necessary repairs were deferred. But the city Department of Recreation and Parks has paid $2 million for caretakers to live at the camps since they closed and nearly $100,000 for water to be trucked to Camp Valcrest, the audit states.

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Restaurants to try in NYC, San Fran, New Orleans and Chicago

On my flight home from DC this week, I found these restaurant recommendations in the Delta inflight mag, all looked good and all are in places I will be going soon (or have gone recently). They are:

New Orleans – Gautreau’s in the Uptown neighborhood (near where we’re staying in October.) Word has it reservations are a must. The place is dinky. The hot new chef there, Sue Zemanick is 25. Known for dishes with local fresh seafood – citrus-poached gulf shrimp, wild mushroom perogies.

Chicago – Grace, opening in September in the West Loop. Chef Curtis Duffy worked for Charlie Trotter AND Grant Achatz.

NYC and San Francisco – Mission Chinese (154 Orchard Street in NYC; 2234 Mission Street in San Fran) – unusual Cantonese fare by a Korean-born, Oklahoma-raised chef including “kung pao pastrami.”


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My first Burmese meal: in San Francisco

What does Burmese food taste like? Judging from the four dishes I had at a superb restaurant in San Francisco called, aptly, Burmese Superstar, it’s a little like Indian and Thai food at times, but at other times, like nothing else I’ve tasted. Which is why my San Francisco friends S and E were so eager to take me to this little but very popular low-key restaurant in the Richmond on Clement Street. (Another outpost is soon opening on Valencia Street – I’m assuming its the foodie neighborhood I was in earlier in the week in the Mission.) There’s also a Burmese Superstar in Oakland and in Alameda.

I loved everything we ate:

  • – Walnut Shrimp – the only non-Burmese dish we ate, I’m told. A lightly battered sweetish fried shrimp served with, yes roasted walnuts and sesame seeds.
  • – Tea Leaf salad – (as “featured on Food Network”) with greens, peanuts, fried garlic,  and what appeared to be fermented tea leaves in a sweetish vinaigrette
  • – A sautéed Eggplant dish (the one that reminded me of an Indian dish) (I’m not sure if it was the eggplant with garlic sauce or the eggplant with red curry sauce.)
  • – A dish with flat noodles, chicken and vegetables (the one that reminded me of a Thai dish). I think it was the dish called Nan Pia Dok*
    –  Coconut rice – jasmine rice made with coconut milk and topped with sautéed onions (again, Indian-esque.)

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On Valencia in the Mission District of San Francisco

So we walk into a cheese bar (Mission Cheese)  in the Mission District of San Francisco and there, sitting the bar, is the owner/operator of  The Cheese Shop, a cheese and wine bar that just opened in my neighborhood in Des Moines. I had just been telling my friend S. about it. How strange is that? Apparently there is a “good food” event going on here – a trade show for foodies – so maybe that’s why he is here. We said hello and wen toff to our respective cheese plates.

Also on or near Valencia Street, we visited Paxton Gate gift shop, Bi-Rite Creamery (for ice cream), Cafe Tartine. We also walked past an old favorite, Delfine pizza.

Yesterday, we went to the Ferry Building for the farmer’s market and strolled by the stalls inside. Produce is far pricier than my friend’s neighborhood farmers market near the Sunset district ($3.50 vs. $1  for a pound of satsumas ) but can’t beat the scenery (overlooking the bay vs. a mall parking lot.) Next stop, Potrero Hill area – had coffee, popped in and out of various shop including Christopher’s book shop (where I got an advance copy of a new nonfiction book I’ve wanted for $1.)  Also walked down the Vallejo steps in North Beach – beautiful.

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And away we go….Kona here we come

I’m going a bit nuts trying to squeeze clothes for 16 days – for two destinations with different weather – into a carry on bag. But there are worse problems in the world. I’ve got casual clothes primarily for warm weather in Hawaii – one quasi-nice outfit for Hawaii that will be completely wrinkled when I unearth it from the bottom of my bag. And very few colder weather clothes for San Francisco but hoping I can borrow some things from my friend there if need be. Someone from the Obama campaign just called: “Sorry won’t be here for the caucuses,” I replied.

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