SF Jaunts-My Favorite Things

29 12 2010

It’s the last stretch of the holiday season, and some of you may still have family coming to town. Its always great to be together but sometimes the stress of the holidays can build up and you just may want to get some peace an quiet and find something to occupy the brood while you regroup. Here are a few tips for some of my favorite things to do in San Francisco, year round and at the holidays. The best part of this list is that you can join in and become a tourist for a day or just print it for them and let them go their merry way.

Journey One: Downtown
How Wine Became Modern at SF Moma: A new exhibit opened up recently at SF MOMA, How Wine Became Modern, focusing on design and wine from 1976, the year of the Paris Tasting until now. This is apparently unusual for the museum as it is a more experiential installation. Henry Urbach the gentleman who helped create the exhibit calls himself “not a wine geek”, and “interloper” so it should be interesting for even not so savvy wine types. The idea was “to allow the world of wine to become a mirror to a cultural condition that is ours”. They have some really creative galleries that focus on art, design, glassware, labels, soil, additives and media. Concurrently the museum has other interesting installations including a bridge of sound (Sonic Shadows) by Bill Fontana, an interactive auditory sculpture. They also have a great gift shop to browse through and pick up what you really wanted for Christmas. http://www.sfmoma.org/pages/exhib_events

Dim Sum at Yank Sing: Yank Sing has some of the greatest dim sum in the city. It may not be as good of a value as more traditional places, and some find it a little bit “fancy” but there is no question that it is delicious. I especially love their black bean oil that you can use to add some zip to some of the dishes. Designate one person at the table to monitor what you get so you do not overdo it. Take small “drops” of dumplings rather than multiple containers at the same time so that they do not get cold. Let the Shanghai dumplings cool a bit before eating. A great way to monitor yourselves and stay in budget it to ask for a price list, some items are surprisingly good value (Har Gow are about $5 for four while the shredded cabbage salad is $10!) http://www.yanksing.com/home.php

Tour Ferry Plaza Farmers Market: Whether it’s a market day or not the Ferry Plaza is a great place to visit to either sample our local products, get a coffee or do some shopping. The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant is a great place to grab a glass of wine! http://www.fpwm.com/

Pier 39: From the Ferry Plaza it’s really easy to jump on one of the vintage streetcars and head towards Pier 39. It’s a bit touristy but kids really enjoy watching the sea lions and riding the carousel.

Fishermans Wharf: Stroll down towards Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghriradelli Square and if you get chilly grab a hot chocolate or stop into the Buena Vista Bar for an Irish Coffee.

Journey Two: SF Parks
Conservatory of Flowers:
Golden Gate Park has a plethora of things to keep your family busy, easily accessible by public transportation.

California Academy of Sciences Museum:This is an experience which could easily take all day. The planetarium show is fun but maybe a bit complex for rowdy children. Definitely walk through the rainforest dome which shows the different levels of the rainforest and the creatures in each (dress in layers because it’s hot and steamy in there!). Then take the elevator to the aquarium. Don’t miss the leafy sea dragons and jellies. Be sure to visit the penguins and the living roof and there are currently a pair of reindeer on site for the holidays. If you haven’t exhausted yourself the de Young Museum is just across the plaza. Also if you are local it’s worth buying a membership, it gets you a discount in the store and the basic one allows unlimited visits for you and a guest! http://www.calacademy.org/

From the park you can head one of two directions…

East Bound Route:Haight Ashbury
If you opt to head East you can walk towards the Haight Ashbury district where there is tons of shopping, fun bars and of course would not be complete without a stop at Amoeba Records a treasure trove for music. Just nearby is Alembic, a necessary stop for a great cocktail and if you go further East hit the Toronado where you can grab an amazing microbrew, I especially love Pliny the Elder, but beware, it packs a punch. If you tour on a Tuesday you can get a burger at Rosamunde or try one of their great sausages and bring it into the T to enjoy with your beer. http://www.alembicbar.com/ http://www.toronado.com/

Westbound Route:Outer Richmond
A walk through the park on a nice day is a great way to work off your big holiday meals. You can stop by a number of the park’s lakes and check out the wildlife, visit the Buffalo Paddock and stop by the Park Chalet (or the Beach Chalet upstairs) for a beer ending at Ocean Beach. This journey may be easier with a car, and if you have one then you could head up the hill past the Cliff House and get a scenic look at the coastline and stop at the Sutro Parking Lot where you can get a view of the Sutro Bath Ruins. If you are feeling particularly inspired you can walk down into the ruins where a tunnel leads to the water on the other side and you can hear the waves crashing into the bedrock. From here you can drive up Point Lobos and make a left at 48th Avenue, stay towards the left to wind around through the Presidio and up to the Palace of Legion of Honor. As you keep winding around you will find some amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge and can even take a jaunt on the Lands End Trail which is full of tons of great vistas, there is even a “secret” labyrinth http://www.laberinthos.com/ made by Eduardo Aguilera, it’s pretty magical actually with a gorgeous view. The whole trail in fact ends at the Sutro Parking Lot but it’s a long walk. If you are driving and feeling a bit parched take a right at 25th Avenue and head to either Pizzetta 211 (23rd and California) or Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, home of the best margarita in SF and I think in the US. http://www.tommystequila.com/

Journey Three: The Mission
The Mission district is full of fun places to graze and shop. While you can explore on your own, a better idea is to take a food tour. I took one a few weeks ago from In The Kitchen with Lisa http://inthekitchenwithlisa.com/taste_mission.htm. The tour is more cultural than just culinary, but be sure to come hungry! We started out at Mission Minis and my growling stomach was immediately tamed by a red velvet mini cupcake. The day was gorgeous as we strolled around the sunniest part of San Francisco without even a jacket on, in November! Along the way our guide would stop and give us some information about local businesses that we did not get to stop off at and some details about the history of the neighborhood. We had tacos, coffee and Mexican pastry, sandwiches, Mission pies, donuts, ice cream, it was intense but great. At each spot we learned a bit about the history of the location, their mission, it was more than just eating. We also walked down Balmy Alley, a small side street famous for its murals. We were met by Patricia Rose of Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center http://www.precitaeyes.org/ who gave us some history on the various murals as we strolled along. Precita Eyes also does more extensive mural tours.

photo by Kimberly Charles

At the end of your Mission tour you may be stuffed, so it’s a pretty good time to exercise, your vocal chords that is, with a stop to The Mint Karaoke Lounge. http://www.themint.net/ While the Mint has a reputation for being a very professional karaoke joint show up at 3pm and the calm regular crew is very supportive, you will get a chance to sing more often and it may not be as daunting as a busy Saturday night crowd! If karaoke isn’t your thing and it’s a nice day you could end up at Zeitgeist and enjoy the outdoor area.

Wherever your travels take you there is plenty to do in this great city, these are just a couple of my favorites. Happy New Year!

Holiday Planning and more with Bento

23 12 2010

As a consultant it’s feast or famine.  While there’s feasting you work all hours, when there’s famine you can go out and sow the crops, for me that means harvesting sand dollars, beach walks, writing music, just thinking and being. Usually the holidays is a slower time for me, so in order to take advantage and be sure I am duly stressed I like to throw a party for 80 plus and take the opportunity to explore my “Martha Stewart” side. I put my multitasking to the test and challenge myself to what seems like a marathon of planning for the party which of course runs for more than 12 hours, starting at 5pm and this year ending at 6:30am with some guitar playing. This was the 12th annual party, and over the years I have created a series of lists to keep myself organized, but this year I was given a copy of Bento, a fantastic program made by the folks that made Filemaker, that has been very helpful to me both in party planning as well as in my work life.

I don’t often review software, but I was already very excited to try it as I am VERY familiar with Filemaker.  I have used Filemaker since 1993 when I started working at Windows on the World as Wine School Coordinator.  It was a great program used by the former administrators, including Andrea Immer Robinson to keep track of wine school attendees.  I remember being fascinated by its versatility, remember computers were somewhat new at the time, at least I still didn’t even have my own computer! I still use Filemaker today for invoicing, mail merges and for my database of addresses so when I saw Bento I wasn’t as sure what the difference was. It has taken me a while to get used to it but now that I have I find it is extremely useful.

I love to do crafts and a few years ago was supplied with a gift from the sea of sand dollars. Previously I would find partial or broken sand dollars but I kept finding perfect sand dollars on the beach. As I collected I figured I would have to find something creative to do with them. So I started painting them with the Day of the Dead themes as well as the Virgen de Guadalupe. Now that I have many of these in stock that I sell and I needed a way to deal with these. Of course I love lists so it only made sense to inventory them. Bento offers a great resource to do this including photos of all of your items. Additionally you can sync Bento with Bento for iPhone so that this inventory can be on hand at all times.

I also decided it was time to get my act together in terms of my “collections” as part of the anti-hoarding campaign (Hoarders has scared me straight) so I have been able to make lists of the wines in my cellar, the collection of wine glasses I have for classes, and even my collection of wine books and magazines (anyone want a few hundred old Wine Spectator issues? Now what do I do with those?).

Sometimes when shopping I need resources, so I have lists that are easily accessible from my iPhone of everything from sizes for my husband’s clothes, lists of which crochet needles I already have, lists of supplies, lists of songs or albums I want to buy or songs to sing at karaoke, lists of songs to learn for open mic. Lists upon lists upon lists!

Holiday Party Planning
I make quite a few things for both my holiday party as well as Christmas Eve and so to keep things straight is a challenge. I am still reworking the way I have the lists set up in Bento but Bento is definitely helping me organize! I list the dishes I am going to be making and am working on and list where I need to pick up the ingredients since of course I have favorite places to buy certain things.

There are multiple templates you can download for free, for example one for recipes that helps you organize and even take photos of those recipes, here I have a cheesy recipe from my mom… They also have a template exchange, so folks that create a cool template can share them online.

Bento also offers fun templates like Beer Hunter where you can review beers and remember your favorites, although I don’t think you will see me whipping out my iPhone to do that at the Toronado, but maybe I would at City Beer Store. Of course they also have wine review templates and I have found that it has made it easier for me to track samples that I receive to review. Bento really does much of what Excel can do but with a snazzier more visual look since you can add photos. Of course it syncs to your iPhone so all these lists are always handy.

For those in sales Bento has a great template that allows you to monitor your communications with potential clients and manage them.

So although I really like the old school lists that I have lying around I found myself pulling up my recipes on my iPhone while cooking this year, the only drawback? A really greasy iPhone. Happy Holidays!

Beaujolais Est Arrivee!

1 12 2010

It’s time for Beaujolais!  When I began to study wine back in the early nineties I was always intrigued by the stories of the release of the new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau on the third Thursday of November. I remember a lot of hubbub regarding the dropping of a large format bottle on the top of the World Trade Center by helicopter and a handoff from Robin Leach to Kevin Zraly. Who knew I’d work there one day.

This year I was honored to meet the famed Georges Duboeuf himself and his grandson Adrien Lacombe at a dinner at La Folie, actually to discuss the 2009 vintage, not the Nouveau. But Duboeuf is one of the largest producers of Nouveau, and a few weeks ago I was really happy to receive the 2010 Georges Duboeuf Nouveau a full week before the official release date. It was vibrant magenta with very intense grapey nose very bright fresh and clean with hints of berries. Medium to medium plus acidity pleasantly low in alcohol, with flavors of red cherry, berry, juicy very nice balance, not too bitter, clean plum flavors, slight chalky note, very fresh and drinkable.  All that a great nouveau should be. As much as I love Nouveau unfortunately all the publicity stunts surrounding it have detracted from the reputation of the region as a whole and a backlash against Beaujolais has ensued, mostly due to misunderstanding.

Beaujolais Nouveau is a perfectly simple and delicious beverage not meant for lengthy pondering while Beaujolais can be so much more.  Nouveau undergoes a special production process called carbonic maceration that produces a drinkable fruity wine very quickly with a bit less tannin than the traditional method so it doesn’t need extensive aging and can be enjoyed just mere months after the harvest. When you get a Nouveau this year you’ll see it will be the only 2010 wine on the shelves perhaps with the exception of some similar styled southern hemisphere wines. It’s sad that Nouveau is so maligned because it is a style of wine that I like, especially when I want to just drink a simple glass of wine and not pontificate.

Recently the Beaujolais region held a somewhat daring Asian inspired lunch featuring some more serious Beaujolais at RN74 for their new campaign “Light by Beaujolais”. By “light” they do not mean simple but transparent and lively. The wines made from the Gamay grape have a tendency to have light body, low to medium tannins and vibrant juicy acidity making them very food friendly. The region itself is just south of Burgundy but a major difference is a change in the soil, more granite and less limestone which resulted in a decree forbidding Pinot Noir from being planted there. So really Beaujolais shouldn’t be seen as an inferior wine. In fact there are ten Beaujolais Crus or sub-regions known for having the optimal growing conditions and producing some of their best wines. So I would suggest out of tradition you find yourself a juicy bottle or two of Nouveau to drink as your guests arrive (cooking wine!) for holiday meals and then try some “regular” Beaujolais or Beaujolais Villages or Beaujolais Cru with the actual meal. Just be sure not to let the Nouveau languish around your house too long. Drink it soon while it’s freshest!

Some great non-Nouveau Beaujolais
Domaine Paul Etienne Beaujolais-Villages 2009 (The Wine Trading Company 415 731-6222)
Chateau de Raousset Douby Morgon 2009 (The Wine House 415 355-9463)
Domaine de Colette Beaujolais-Villages 2009 (Blackwell’s Wines & Spirits 415 386-9463)

Trivia Fact
The ten Beaujolais Cru are:
Cote de Brouilly

Sometimes you may see just one if these names on the label.

Map of Beaujolais Vineyards