Tag 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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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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Glorious san francisco – greetings from The Sunset

I’ve lucked into beautiful weather in San Francisco where I have already made one shopping trip in the Chinese neighborhood near my friend S&E’s lovely house in the Sunset neighborhood. I’ve bought a few cheap Chinese ceramic bowls to replace the ones I bought when I was last here four years ago (that broke) and bought my favorite dried apricots from the market at 22nd and Irving. Also picked up some hummus at the Sunrise Deli, a terrific middle eastern place on Irving.

Imagine walking your dog every morning in Golden Gate Park. I live vicariously by joining S on her morning walk of her sweet mutt.

Last night we went for Indian food – very good – at  Bistro Roti in West Portal neighborhood.

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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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San Francisco: takemewithyou

One of the reasons I started this blog is because I frequently get calls or emails from friends asking for advice on where they should stay, eat, visit when going to one vacation spot or another. So CB, who is going to San Francisco with her teen-age son, this one’s  for you. Yes, you should take a look at my 2008 Real Simple story on San Fran but here’s some other things that might be fun, especially with a young teen:

Where to eat:

The stalls inside the FERRY BUILDING (a renovated 19th century building that’s been transformed into a marketplace showcasing  local cheese, produce etc.  One Ferry Building; 415-693-0996; http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/ and the Saturday Farmers Market (look for satsumas.)

Pizzeria Delfina, a relatively inexpensive and casual Mission District restaurant with thin-crust pizza. The place is tiny (and not to be confused with the bigger, more expensive cafe by the same name next door) and no reservations so go early or late. 3611 18th Street; 415-437-6800; www.pizzeriadelfina.com . Nearby pastry alert – Tartine Bakery!

In North Beach, Caffe Sport on Green Street – a lively Italian place with hearty Sicilian food and crazy decor – was fun with kids, although it’s been awhile since I visited. http://caffesport.ypguides.net/page/o2c4/Why_Caffe_Sport.html

In Chinatown, one of those huge Dim Sum places where they push around carts packed with one item or another.

For other ideas see:  http://www.tablehopper.com, a San Francisco dining “e-column.”

What to do:

– Rent bikes in the Marina District and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin, stopping before the bridge at the Warming Hut cafe/bookstore at Crissy Field. My brother-in-law did the ride recently with his two tween sons and reports all were happy campers (or bikers.) see: http://www.nps.gov/prsf/planyourvisit/crissy-field-marsh-and-beach.htm

–  While you’re in Marin, hike Mount Tam http://www.mttam.net/ (We went on a double-stroller-friendly hike years ago when the kids were babies – I think around Homestead Valley – that led to the beach. Wish I could remember the name. Will check in my journal.)

–  Tour Alcatraz. Sounds touristy I know but touristy can be fun.  The audio tour is gripping – you can stand in the old cafeteria and hear what it sounded like when the prisoners revolted in there.

– Golden Gate Park  – just wander.  The new California Academy of Sciences sounds fantastic – designed by Renzo Piano with a 2.5 acre “living roof” covered with native plants. Strives to be the world’s “greenest museum.” http://www.calacademy.org/visit/

Across the street is the  de Young Museum, opened in 2005 (after the original was damaged in the 1989 earthquake), has  American art, including work by Bay Area artists.  The 360-degree view of the city from the all-glass observation floor atop the museum’s tower  is well worth the trip. Trust me! http://www.sfgate.com/traveler/acrobat/maps/1999/ggparkmap.pdf;

– Watch the surfers on the beach near the Sunset neighborhood. (You’re a budding surfer – don’t know how Jersey shore stacks up to Northern California shore.) Sunrise Deli (www.sunrisedeli.net/) on Irving Street is good for cheap, casual middle eastern food (falafel etc.)

– Wander around Chinatown and visit the tiny Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in a back alley (56 Ross Alley; 415-781-3956) and eat Dim Sum; then wander into nearby North Beach and the legendary bookstore City Lights ( 261 Columbus Avenue; 415-362-8193; http://www.citylights.com) which last time I visited had a photo tribute on the top floor to the beats. (I got my then-14-year-old a City Lights t-shirt adorned with snippets of Allen Ginsburg’s “Howl” on it – to my surprise it became one of her favorite clothing items.  It was probably the giant “HOWL” printed on it that resonated with my teen-age daughter. ) Also check out Caffé Trieste (601 Vallejo Street; 415-392-6739; http://www.caffetrieste.com) and walk up, up, up Filbert Steps to the Coit Tower.

– oh yah, ride a cable car

Some helpful websites:


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