Wine Bar of the Month – Nectar Wine Lounge

In keeping with the theme of the first Wednesday of the month being Wine Bar Wednesday, see below for this month’s selection. If you missed last month’s feature, click here.

The Marina District is home to the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Expedition, shiny-haired tech girls in stilettos, trendy stores and a myriad of bars and restaurants. But in the midst of Marine Layer,  y&i clothing, The Tipsy Pig and The Horseshoe Tavern there are some good places to get a thirst quenching glass of wine and Nectar Wine Lounge is one of them.  According to the staff, Nectar is the oldest wine bar in the Marina and what a fun space it is. I am realizing how art and design are an integral part of the wine bar experience. An establishment can have the best wines but if the space isn’t visually pleasing and comfortable, it just doesn’t work for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good dive bar but I am in my element in a funky, arty space drinking wine. When the art is interesting(and for sale) that is always a bonus. The art piece in the picture to the left was created by Brian Matthew Boutwell and is a ‘turn-table’ made with common household items, including parts of an iron, oven and sewing machine. This is one of about six art pieces at Nectar. And you can tell the truth, you love sitting on a furry ottoman.  They also play movies on the wall, Ferris Bueller was singing in the shower while I was drinking my wine. 🙂
This might be the happiest happy hour I’ve experienced–30% off wines by the glass and on Mondays it is half off wine flights from 5-7pm. I got the abc (anything but chard) flight with 3 ounce tastes of wines:

2012 Fattori, Runcaris, Soave Classico from Veneto, Italy
2013 Domaine Les Hautes Noelle, Muscadet from Loire, France
2011 Fortreiter, Gruner Veltliner from Kremstal, Austria

The descriptions alone are enough to bring you in. The owner of the wine bar creates them and he definitely has a way with words.  Under ‘Hedonist’s Reds‘ he describes the 2011 Frascole, Chianti Rufina, Sangiovese as “a lustful encounter with spicy, earthy, black fruit mingling in thickets of sage & lavender exuding from this smoky & untamed rustic beast”. If he ever comes out with a novel, I’m reading it!!

Of course, I have to get something to nosh on whist pondering my yummy glass of wine. A good start is their Truffle popcorn. I ordered the Truffled Mac’ n’ Cheese (yes there is a theme going on here) with gorgonzola, goat & parmigiano-reggiano cheeses, bread crumbs, black truffle oil and it wouldn’t be the same without BACON. Also on the menu is Chocolate Truffle Cake, which I will be trying on my next stop in. If you want a more substantial dinner, Izzy’s Steaks and Chops is right across the street.

So add Nectar Wine Lounge to your list of wine bars to check out in San Francisco, if you haven’t already. I had the best service–Jack, my wine server extraordinaire, really knew his stuff and was very attentive. The wines are reasonably priced and almost all of them are available for retail purchase.

Nectar Wine Lounge – 3330 Steiner Street between Chestnut and Lombard

Wine quote: “Either give me more wine or leave me alone.” –Rumi

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Laurie’s five favorite things in North Beach

North Beach, the land of gelato, pasta and darn good pizza. There are a few old establishments like The Saloon, City Lights and Caffe Trieste  that are institutions in North Beach but a few beloved places have disappeared in my little hood. In the past couple of months Dell’uva, where I imbibed on quite a few glasses of happy hour wine and had countless first dates, closed down (replaced with the JUST opened Belle Cora, a wine bar and craft beer cafe), Cafe Divine (replaced with Acquolina), Bocce Cafe (to be replaced with Barbary Coast, a bar and gastropub and they are touting it will have the longest bar in North Beach) and after 50 years of fun times and loyal service Capp’s Corner turned off the lights for good.

As a resident of North Beach/Telegraph Hill for seven years, I have a few favorite places that hopefully won’t close down any time soon. Keep reading and next time you are in the area check them out for yourself.

1, Panta Rei431 Columbus Avenue. This is a delightful place to sit outside, order a prosciutto panini, a glass of prosecco and settle in for some good people watching. Since it is on the main drag of Columbus Avenue it might get a little loud so the other option is to eat at the bar and listen to the banter of mostly Italian(and quite beautiful) staff as they have good-natured arguments over love, life and soccer. The clientele is a fun mix of locals and tourists so chances of striking up a lively conversation is pretty good. I had my birthday celebration at Panta Rei last year and although I haven’t tasted all of the tiramisus in North Beach I will say theirs might be the best. This is one of my favorite places because of the wonderful staff, great food and convenient location. You can also cross the street and get some sweets at Z. Cioccolato and then go to Lola of North Beach for some fun San Francisco themed gifts.

2. Cornology522 Columbus Avenue. When one thinks of North Beach, chances are popcorn is not the first thing that comes to mind but Cornology is quickly becoming a local favorite. They have eleven different flavors of popcorn and three sizes. It is popped at the store so it’s very fresh. They can vacuum pack your bag for later consumption if you have the will power, or you can stuff your face while you stroll around the neighborhood. Be careful, the pigeons will follow you. I am addicted to the Double Cheddar and Truffle Parmesan but will be trying the Chocolate Drizzle on my next visit. They use organic, non-GMO corn. The fresh taste and unique flavors are addicting–yes I can admit it, I am a popcorn addict and Cornology is my supplier. Join in the addiction, you know you want to.

3. Savoy Tivoli 1434 Grant Avenue. The Savoy has been around since 1907 and is one of two places in North Beach that has an open air front patio bar. The other being Naked Lunch, formerly the notorious and very popular Enrico’s.  This use to be my go to place for jazz if I wanted to have a lazy Saturday afternoon–I could just walk down the hill. For the past year or two The Savoy has been going through some changes with noise ordinance issues but hopefully it can be straightened out and they can bring back their jazz schedule. With a pool table, photo booth and dance music they do bring in the club crowd on the weekends but on the sporadic weeknights that they are open, I like to stop by for a superbly made very dirty martini with three olives.

4. Hole in the Wall524 Union Street. This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘pop-up’. Hole in the Wall serves pour over coffee and loose leaf tea to the good citizens of North Beach and its many parched and under caffeinated visitors, all from a hole in the wall. They open at 7am during the week and 8am on the weekends(closing times vary). They also have Italian soda and coconut water. Patrons can order beverages to go or have a seat on one of the three stools and hang for a while. It’s a unique way to enjoy a drink and odds are you won’t have to wait in too long of a line.

5. Little LibraryFilbert Street between Stockton and Kearny. I know that this isn’t a restaurant or bar but being a bibliomaniac this is my most favorite thing in North Beach. Supplied by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library the Little Library is a free public book nook. You take a book and leave a book. One day there might be a practically new copy of Post Modern American Poetry with prose from Allen Ginsberg, local legend Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Jack Kerouac and in its place you could leave Ms. Bossypants by Tina Fey, that you had every intention of reading but just didn’t get to. I’ve walked by it quite a few times and it’s always filled with different books so looks like people are using it. Yay for the literati!! I would love to see more of these in the city. My one hope is that it doesn’t get vandalized or stolen.

As you can see, North Beach is not all strip clubs and tourist clogged streets. If you fan out and wander down some side streets and outer areas past Columbus and Broadway you will find some unique art galleries, fun stores, restaurants and bars. If you are lucky you’ll hear the squawks of the charming and infamous Parrots of Telegraph Hill.

 

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Telegraph Hill gardens–Greenwich stairs between Montgomery and Sansome

 

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How do you like your steak?

“I don’t have much patience for people who are self-conscious about the act of eating, and it irritates me when someone denies themselves the pleasure of a bloody hunk of steak or a pungent French cheese because of some outdated nonsense about what’s appropriate or attractive.” -Anthony Bourdain

If you have read any of my past blogs you might have sensed my almost psycho obsession with Mr. Anthony Bourdain (yes I know, I’m not the only one).  He describes San Francisco as a “carnivorous meat-eating town” so I thought I’d give you some steak house options next time you are in the mood to have some beef.

Anthony Bourdain at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, CA, July 2015.

Osso Steakhouse1177 California at Jones on Nob Hill. Specialties: Crab cakes, Surf and Turf (half crab, half filet mignon), cheese and chorizo bread.

House of Prime Rib1906 Van Ness Avenue. Iconic San Francisco steakhouse. Specialties: English cut, Creamed Spinach and Yorkshire Pudding.

Espetus Churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse1686 Market Street at Gough in Upper Market. If you like sizzling meat brought to you on stick, come here. SpecialtiesFilet mignon in red wine sauce, cheese bread, fried bananas, table-side service.

5A5 Steak Lounge244 Jackson Street in Jackson Square. Specialties: Lobster Tempura, Bacon Bread, Wagyu Beef Sliders, Truffle Mac and Cheese.

Izzy’s Steakhouse and Chops3345 Steiner between Chestnut and Lombard in the Marina district. Specialties: Izzy Potatoes, skirt steak, New York Steak with Pepper Sauce.

Epic Roasthouse369 on The Embarcadero. Bring a date, they will swoon at the view and you will swoon when you get the bill. Specialties: Dry-aged rib-eye steak, Julia Child Potatoes and Waffle Bowl with Bourbon Ice Cream.

Bourbon Steak335 Powell inside The Westin St. Francis in Union Square. Specialties: Duck Fat Fries, hanger steak, Korean short ribs.

Alexander’s Steakhouse448 Brannan Street between Ritch Street and 4th Street in South of Market area. Specialties: “Perfect Porterhouse” and Mac and Cheese with Wild Mushrooms.

Bobo’s1450 Lombard Street at Van Ness. SpecialtiesBone in filet mignon, twice baked potatoes and Mango Panna Cotta.

Roka Akor801 Montgomery at Jackson Street in Jackson Square/North Beach area.  Specialties: Prime cuts of steaks, seafood, and vegetables with unique Japanese-inspired marinades and sauces, along with sushi, sashimi and tempura.

Harris’s2100 Van Ness Avenue. Specialties: New York steak, scalloped potatoes, creamed spinach and crème brulee.

Alfred’s Steak House659 Merchant Street between Kearny and Montgomery. Specialties: Rib-eye steak, martinis and chocolate torte.

Lolinda—2518 Mission between 21st & 22nd Street in the Mission district. Specialties: Short ribs, pork belly, churros and flourless chocolate cake.

I promise for the vegetarians out there, I will be posting a list for you too. San Francisco has a lot of non-meat options, stay tuned and thanks for reading.

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Happy Bastille Day

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. Ernest Hemingway

Bonjour and Happy Bastille Day or Le Fete Nationale as they say in France. I thought it only appropriate to do a Paris themed post–a little about my trip to Paris in 2009 with tips on where to go and what to do, a few French restaurants in San Francisco and some of my favorite books about Paris. Maybe after reading my post you will dash to your computer, pick up your smartphone or call your travel agent (do they still exist?) to book that ticket to Paris.

Paris– Paris had been a dream of mine ever since I saw Audrey Hepburn in the 1954 film Sabrina where her father sends her to Paris to attend a two year cooking school and hopefully get over an infatuation she had with his boss’s son. I won’t give away the whole movie if you haven’t seen it but one of my favorite scene is when she opens the french doors of her Paris apartment and the city lit up behind her. Le Vie en Rose is playing in the background. She sits down to write a letter home to her father, “I have learned how to live, how to be in the world and of the world and not just to stand aside and watch.” So instead of standing aside and waiting to go with someone, I booked my ticket. I had traveled by myself before but to go The City of Light and love all alone? Wouldn’t people point and stare? Wouldn’t I just be depressed and lonely? Well the answer to both those questions is a resounding NO. My desire to traipse through the streets where paris2Hemingway drunkenly sauntered overtook my feelings of apprehension.
Instead of staying in a hostel, I decided to be very French and book a room in a cute boutique hotel. This was the first trip where I did not stay in a hostel but a charming little place in the 15th arrondissement called Hotel de l’Avre. It was near the Eiffel Tower and had a lovely garden area where I sipped wine after a long day of exploring the side streets and shops. I don’t like to plan much when I travel but I did read Fly Solo: The 50 Best Places on Earth for a Girl to Travel Alone by Teresa Rodriquez Williamson before I left and found out about this wonderful dinner party put on by Jim Haynes. Every Sunday Jim makes dinner for 25-30 guests who have RSVP’d ahead of time. Dinner included salad, pasta, bread, wine and dessert. When I went it was 30 euros, it might have gone up a little since then.  I enjoyed mingling with the mix of Parisians, expats and people like me, who were just traveling through. In Jim’s tree shrouded garden I met the wonderfully talented Sheldon Forrest, who I learned had a passion for politics, music, travel and Paris. He is a jazz pianist and currently plays at Club Raye.  Jim’s party was a fun way to meet new people and get a taste of Parisian life.
I also did a Fat Tire Night Tour. paris3Seeing the Louvre, Notre Dome and the Eiffel Tower at night while whizzing through the streets of Paris was exhilarating. A few other things I did–enjoyed a yummy vanilla sorbet at the Glaces Et Sorbets De La Masion Berthillon while strolling on the Ile Saint-Louis, a day visit to the Palace of Versailles and hopping on the chunnel to London for a quick 12 hour jaunt. AND to top it off I met a very cute caricaturist who showed me around town and took me on two dates. Yes Mr. Hemingway, I agree that Paris is a moveable feast.

San Francisco and Paris-Paris has been one of San Francisco’s sister cities since 1997 (being sister cities means that two cities contractually agree to promote peace, goodwill and commerce with one another). Since San Francisco is referred to as the Paris of the West and one of the most European of American cities, it makes sense that the two cities join forces.
Here are a few of my favorite French restaurants in San Francisco:  Cafe ClaudeRue Lepic, Le P’tit Laurent and Plouf.

Recommended Reading-I think A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway is required reading before you step foot in Paris but below are a few more of my favorites:

A Town Like Paris: Falling in Love in the City of Light
Paris to the Moon
The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City
Lunch in Paris: A love Story with Recipes
Peter Mayle’s French Lessons: Adventures with knife, Fork and Corkscrew

If you want to learn some common expressions that they probably didn’t teach you in French class, feel free to use some of these.

Do you like my boots?

Even though it’s been six years since I have visited Paris, I still  have dreams of sipping wine at a side street cafe, walking along the Seine, inhaling the fragrance of a freshly baked baguette and just ‘being’ in the City of Light.

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Wine Bar of the Month–The Barrel Room

Wine bars just might be my favorite place to hang out–if you know me, that is not a big surprise.  Added bonus if it is the kind of atmosphere where I can read a book and relax, no pretentious wine bars on this list…..okay maybe a few. I have often wondered how many wine bars are in San Francisco. I have made a list a few in a previous post but I am going to start a Wine Bar of the Month post on the first Wednesday of every month–Wine Bar Wednesday–where I highlight either a newly opened wine bar or a wine bar that has been around for a while but I haven’t had a chance to check out.  Yes there are a few.
I will also be heading outside of the San Francisco city limits occasionally to feature wine bars to the North, East and South bays. If all goes well I will be blogging about wine bars around the world. Everyone’s definition of wine bar may be different so these posts will feature places that have an extensive list of wines by the glass, wine flights and bottles of varying prices, with some lite bites and a few spirits on the menu but the main focus will be the wine. I will end the post with a favorite wine quote, fact or tidbit of information that you can pull out at your next wine party when the conversation lulls.  Wine Geeks Unite!!

My first featured wine bar is The Barrel Room at 415 Sansome Street in the bustling financial district. Note: For those of you that loved Georges, you will be disappointed to know they are closed but be happy that a cool wine bar has taken their space.

  • Every 3 months The Barrel Room will feature wine varietals  from  a certain region of the world. Their current focus is Latin America. Apparently there is wine in Mexico.
  • They currently have 18 whites and 31 reds by the glass, prices starting at $9 and up to $40 with wines from regions such as Salta, Argentina, Parras Valley, Mexico, Casablanca, Chile and Canelon Chico, Uruguay. You don’t even need to bring your passport to take a tasting tour through Latin America
  • If you’re not hungry for a huge lunch try the Salt Cod Croquetas which comes with a delicious red pepper aioli and a wedge of lime for some acid
  • Some of the wine flights currently featured include South American sparkling, Uruguayan wines, Mexican reds, Argentine whites and Obscure Chilean whites. Flights start at $12.
  • Unique live moss art and exposed brick decor(see image below)
  • Open kitchen is right by the bar so you can almost cook your own food, but please don’t, the chef probably won’t like it
  • The Barrel Room moved from Post Street in the Fitzgerald Hotel where the space was dark and intimate. They relocated to Sansome Street recently. With an updated look and new location in the Financial District, I think they will thrive. Stop on by and have a liquid lunch. Tell Nick the bartender that Laurie sent you.

Wine quote: “A comfortable grape, a well-watered, well-fertilized grape, grows into a lazy ingredient of a lousy wine.” From the movie Bottleshock

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Cioppino, Oysters and Clam Chowder in San Francisco

San Francisco is known for many things: Cable Cars (the worlds last manually operated cable car system), the Summer of Love (although it started in winter with the Human Be-In festival in Golden Gate park in January of 1967), The Golden Gate Bridge (which is actually International Orange), high rents (don’t talk to San Franciscans about this, it will be a long conversation), seafood and cioppino, which is a fish stew that was created in San Francisco.
Let’s do an analogy, which I’m not that good at but here it goes…..San Francisco is to seafood as New York is to bagels? Chicago is to pizza? Maine is to lobster? San Diego is to tacos? LA is to……someone help me out here. As you can see from past posts, I do love lists so below is a list of some great seafood restaurants in San Francisco–they aren’t just in Fisherman’s Wharf. Of course you can go to the Boudin Bakery and get their delicious chowder in a sourdough bowl, but if you want more than chowder, try some of these:

Anchor Oyster Bar & Seafood Market – 579 Castro Street between 19th and 18th Street. You may have to wait a while since they are known to have the best cioppino in town.

Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant – 374 Bush St between Trinity Place and Belden Lane in the Financial District. Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant’s history goes back to 1867. Old school atmosphere and yummy clam chowder.

Scoma’s – Pier 47, Fisherman’s Wharf. Lovely waterfront view, known for their lobster bisque and crab cakes.

Swan Oyster Depot – 1517 Polk Street between California and Sacramento Street. A San Francisco favorite–small place and there is always a line out the door. They do not take reservations. Known for their shrimp and crab salads. Featured in Anthony Bourdain’s food and travel show, The Layover.

Tadich Grill 240 California Street between Front and Battery. No reservations. Known for their sea bass and cioppino. They are the oldest continuously running restaurant in California.

Waterbar – 399 The Embarcadero between Folsom and Howard. Amazing waterfront view, outdoor seating, $1 Oyster happy hours and right next to Cupid’s Span, the ginormous bow and arrow art structure.

Hyde Street Seafood House & Raw Bar – 1509 Hyde Street at JacksonSmall and intimate neighborhood spot, known for their sea bass and cajun scallops.

Hog Island Oyster Company – Located in the historic San Francisco Ferry Building. Check out the artisan shops and when you are hungry, grab a seat (there will be a line of course) and enjoy the amazing waterfront view. They are known for their oysters and their clam chowder is one of my favorites.

Woodhouse Fish Company – They have two locations, one at 1914 Fillmore Street  between Wilmot Street and Bush Street and the other at 2073 Market Street between 14th and Reservoir Street. Known for their soft shell crab, crab melt and lobster roll.

Crustacean1475 Polk Street Suite 6 between California and Pine. I usually don’t tell people what to do but you have to get their garlic noodles and roasted crab. Their shrimp toast also is a favorite.

Soto Mare – Located in North Beach at 552 Green Street between Columbus and Grant. They are known for their sand dabs, cioppino and chowder.

Alamo Square Seafood Grill – 803 Fillmore Street. Mondays they have a half price wine list and Wednesdays it’s Bring Your Own Bottle with FREE corkage.

Ferry Plaza Seafood – A new(ish) restaurant in North Beach at 653 Union Street between Columbus and Stockton. Try their lobster cioppino, fried smelt and oyster shooters.

Catch – 2362 Market Street between 16th and 17th. They are known for their seafood stew, shrimp scampi, ceviche.

Mission Rock Resort  Excellent view of the water, fun atmosphere. Located at 817 Terry François Boulevard in the Mission Rock area. Try a Bloody Mary and check out their oyster specials.

That’s it for now. Thank you so much for reading my blog and if you have anything to add, I’d love to hear your favorites. Happy eating!!

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Are you hungry?

I have many San Francisco obsessions–colorful and thought-provoking street art, Coit Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, funky alleys and cozy wine bars. My Facebook feed is filled with random pics of this wonderful city. One of my other obsessions is the one and only Anthony Bourdain–rebel chef, world traveler and lover of food. He is famous for his breakout book Kitchen Confidential, but MY favorite of his is A Cook’s Tour  where he travels the world to find the perfect meal. While filming a show in the city he said “San Francisco is a two-fisted drinking town, a carnivorous meat-eating town…dirty and nasty and wonderful.” You got that right AB. While there are no two-fisted drinking antics to brag about in this post (stay tuned though) I did want to share some places I’ve checked out in the past few months. I am usually pretty budget conscious so most of the places I write about are $ to $$ with no $$$ unless I splurge and definitely no $$$$ unless I get a rich boyfriend.

Jardiniere–In the bustling and tree-lined Hayes Valley, Jardiniere has been on my list for quite a while, but I always thought it was too expensive and fancy for me, not that I don’t do fancy but their regular tasting menu is $140 and if you want wine its another $72. Surviving on a concierge’s salary I will have to save a few months for that. So imagine my excitement when I was perusing Open Table for Monday night dinner options (the only week night I have available to go out to dinner and socialize with friends) I was extremely pleased to see that Jardiniere has a Monday night three course tasting menu for $55 including wine. Now that’s more like it. Every Monday they have a different menu, my friend and I happened to go there on 4/20 so the theme was Munchies. The appetizer was a Bear Garlic Knudi (paired with a Lioco “Indica” Rose, Mendocino County, California 2014), a nice, light start to the evening. The main dish was a Half Baked Mount Lassen Trout (paired with a Domaine Antugnac Les Closerie Des Lys “Les Fruitieries” France 2013) and the dessert was a Sugar High Sunday (paired with a Sandeman 10 year Tawny Port). I ended the night with a drink they called the After School Special–Flor de Cana Grand Reserve Rum, Zaya Rum, cereal milk, Triana Sherry and Chocolate Bitters. It was the first time I had a cocktail with cereal milk and it was a fun way to cap off the night.

Hayes Valley is a great place to stroll and window shop, with a lot of cute and funky stores on the main street. Other places to check out in the area: Boxing Room, The Fig and Thistle, Monsieur Benjamin and Absinthe.

The Yard–Food trucks, I know, sooooo 2012, but come on, it’s food, on trucks and some of them express wine and beer from their metal teats (yes I said teats).  The Yard has been open a few months and it’s in a prime spot in Mission Rock, right near the AT&T Ball park. You can either go before a Giants game, watch the game at The Yard or do as I did and go with a friend on a bright and sunny SF day to enjoy the view and food. I opted for fish tacos and a glass of vibrant and tropical Viognier from The Courtyard truck. Pinky seemed to enjoy it. The other food truck options were Proposition Chicken and Senior Sisig and around the corner Anchor Steam Brewing has a space. If you get chilly and didn’t bring your sweatshirt, you can buy one in The North Face pop up store they have on-site.

Other spots to check out: The Dogpatch is a funky neighborhood with an industrial feel and they have a few wineries, BBQ houses and saloons that are worth visiting. It’s a short walk or muni ride from The Yard. The Ramp is another option if you want to have brunch or oysters by the water.

Food Inc –Located in Lower Pacific Heights, Food Inc. Trattoria is a very unassuming place–I have walked by it plenty of times and never imagined I could get a lovely three course meal with a delicious fruit tart to end the night. I do spend a few hours a month browsing through Living Social to find meal deals and this one jumped out at me. The food is simple, nothing fancy but the service was great, advantages of going out on a Monday night when it’s not super busy. I’ve noticed that many restaurants have half off wine specials and other deals on Monday to drum up business, must investigate more.

Food Inc has a decent wine selection and I really enjoyed my Truffle Macaroni and Cheese, not too much truffle oil,  just enough bubbly cheese and bread crumbs for texture and crunch. I balanced the cheesy dish with an Oregon Pinot. But the star of the night–holy strawberries and cream it was good–was the dessert tart. Flaky crust, airy cream filling and perfectly ripe berries are three delectable traits for a heavenly tart. Our waiter, Michael, told us that it had been made just a few hours ago by their pastry chef, so we could not pass it up. I did begrudgingly share some with my dinner companion but it was a struggle and I think I just let him have a bite or two. I need to work on my dessert sharing skills.

Other cool spots in the area: Wild Hare, Bistro SF Grille and if you want to splurge Spruce is down the road.

Plouf Belden Lane use to be a dark, unused alley until the 1990s when restaurants starting popping up and it became a trendy lunch and dinner spot. The French restaurants on the block have marked their territory by have a huge Bastille Day celebration every July 14th but there is also Italian and American places to choose from. I go to Plouf for their Mussels Poulette. They have a $24 prix fix lunch menu everyday–I chose the Clam Chowder as my starter and it was not really a chowder but one dimensional soupy water (next time I will go for the salad of baby lettuce) but the mussels were perfection; swimming in their well balanced sauce of shallots, garlic, bacon, white wine, cream and parsley. And don’t forget bread, lots of bread. When the weather is warm, it is always nice to sit outside but be careful of what table you choose as the sidewalk is at somewhat of a slant and there is a slight chance of you or worse your wine toppling over. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Belden Lane is close to the financial district so there are many eating options. As mentioned there are quite a few good restaurants just on Belden Lane. Cafe Tiramisu and Sauce are two of my favorites. If you are in a noodly mood and don’t mind waiting in line you can try the ever so popular Ramen Underground.

Brenda’s Meat & Three — Located in the NOPA(North Of PAnhandle) area of San Francisco, amidst tattoo parlors and art bars there is Brenda’s. I am not a expert on southern food but this place kinda knocked my socks off. There is no door closing off the kitchen so I could see them making biscuits with lots of butter, every time I looked, I saw the chef adding another block of butter, can’t be mad at that.  It’s a good sign of flaky, buttery biscuits. After I ordered my Shrimp and Grits, and a glass of wine, yes I can have wine with my breakfast, I jealously looked at my neighbors Stuffed Johnnycakes–wait, did that sound dirty? So much goodness on the menu from Pulled Pork and Sweet Potato Hash to good ole Cream Biscuits and Country Gravy, it was hard to pick one, but when my order came and I got a taste of the spicy tomato bacon gravy, I was giddy. Manish Boy by Muddy Waters played overhead as regulars came in for their quick morning coffee and a chat. I munched on my shrimp, sipped my wine and hummed along with Muddy. By the way, am I the only person who eats the whole shrimp, tails and all?  Reasonably priced food and great space will have me coming back to see what else will make my taste buds do a happy dance.

Other places to check out in the area: Bean bag Cafe, Bar Crudo and Wine Kitchen

I know you are probably fully capable of doing this yourself but I have included the wiki link to all the different neighborhoods in San Francisco as I have mentioned them in this blog. Also, a few of my favorite bay area restaurant blogs I enjoy checking out are SF Eater and Tablehopper. Investigate for yourself. Thank you for reading and until next time, get your eat on!!

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San Francisco in pictures

San Francisco is a city with its head in the clouds 
and its feet in the valleys.
San Francisco is a world to explore.
It is a place where the heart can go on a delightful adventure.
It is a city in which the spirit can know
refreshments every day.

~William Saroyan~

As noted by the quote above by American dramatist and author, William Saroyan, I am not the only one that has fallen in love with this diverse, compact, vibrant and, yes, sometimes dirty, annoying and downright rude city of San Francisco. Ever changing, growing, gentrifying–a city of grit, guts and heart. A city, that for me, I just can’t take my eyes off of and wherever life takes me, I always get the warm fuzzies when I come home to my city by the bay. There are sights that I know well but even after ten years I still discover new and exciting places that fill me with joy. And almost every day, I take pictures of the stunning views and historic buildings. I am by no means a professional photographer but I wanted to share a few of my favorites. If you haven’t been to San Francisco, what are you waiting for?

Hyde Street Pier/Aquatic Park

Waves gently lap the rocky shore as fishermen cast their lines, trying to snag a crab or two. I walk the path that leads up to Fort Mason and see this seemingly abandoned dock. I want to walk out and catch an unobstructed view of Marin County and Alcatraz but the ‘Keep Out’ sign lets me know who’s boss. The water is calm on this day and I wonder what it would be like to be sittin’ on the doc of the bay…..

The outdoor Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral, Nob Hill

The outdoor Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral is used for meditation and quieting the mind. Looming behind are the Mark Hopkins (right) and The Fairmont (center), with the Pacific-Union Club, a private social club and The Scarlet Huntington in front. Nob Hill is one of the seven hills of San Francisco (the others being Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, Rincon Hill, Mt. Davidson, Twin Peaks and Mt. Sutro) and is one of the most well known. It has been called the Hills of Palaces, Fern Hill, Clay Street Hill and then Knob Hill because of it’s rocky terrain. The invention of the cable car in the 1870s made this hill more accessible and it became a popular area for the rich and notorious.

Transamerica Pyramid and Columbus Tower/Sentinel building, North Beach

New York City has the Chrysler Building, Dubai has the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa and San Francisco has the Transamerica Pyramid. The unique shape and the beauty of this building has me looking skyward every time I walk by. On special occasions and holidays a beam of light shoots up to the heavens from the spire and I expect a superhero like Batman or Spiderman to swoop down and save the city (oh wait, that’s New York). The construction of this building was completed in 1972 and it has 48 floors with 3,678 windows and it takes window washers two months to keep the glass shiny. It is 853 feet tall and is covered by crushed quartz. The observation deck was closed after 9/11 but you can get a virtual view of the top from the lobby, I know not as exciting. During the 1989 earthquake there was no damage but the top swayed almost a foot side to side.  The area that the building stands on use to be Yerba Buena Cove and during the Gold Rush, many ships were abandoned upon arrival as crews took off for riches in the gold country. There were hundreds of abandoned ships in the cove which were eventually turned into saloons, guest houses and brothels. The hull of the whaling vessel, the Niantic is beneath the foundation of the building, an relic of the 1849 Gold Rush.
Columbus Tower, also known as the Sentinel Building is home to Cafe Zoetrope, small wine bar and restaurant with outdoor seating and the offices of Francis Ford Coppola’s production company American Zoetrope. These buildings are about a block from each other and are on the border of Chinatown and North Beach. This area has many great restaurants, cafes and bars, notably House of Nanking across the street, Bask Restaurant, a block away and one of my favorites The Bubble Lounge. The Church of Scientology is also near so watch where you wander.

Treasure Island

For me those words conjure up pirate ships, pots of gold and mutiny. In reality Treasure Island is a man-made island created in the 1930s by fill from the bay. The first event held on the island was the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939. You can get stunning views of the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge, with San Francisco sandwiched in between and the foggy days make it more beautiful. There are six wine tasting rooms on the island (working on a blog post for that so stay tuned), the Bay Area Barbecue and Grilling School, the San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby club and the Treasure Island Sailing Center. The last weekend of every month they have the Treasure Island Flea Market and it is becoming a popular venue for company sponsored concerts and the Treasure Island Music Festival. It’s only a short Muni bus or Uber ride from downtown but there is also have plenty of parking (something that San Francisco never has) so if you are visiting, take a break from city life and check out the island.

There are alot of informative books on walking through San Francisco–Historic Walks In San Francisco–18 Trails Through The City’s Past, Stairway Walks in San Francisco, and one of my all time favorites, Cool Gray City of Love:49 Views of San Francisco. I love getting lost in the streets of a new city, but I also enjoy walking the alleys, steeps hills, neighborhoods and trails of my beloved city. If you walk them you will see that San Francisco is full of hearts…..

   

and trees with sweaters…..

Thank you for reading my blog on San Francisco. There is so much to see and do and I love sharing my insight and opinions on this wonderful city. If you have any questions or comments about San Francisco, I would love to hear them. Please follow me on WordPress and you will get notified when a new (and exciting) blog has been posted. I will be doing some future posts about travel, venturing outside of San Francisco and a few more wine and food related posts.  My main focus will be San Francisco but I like to mix it up.  The city of San Francisco is an exciting place to be but there are a myriad of great little towns in the behemoth state of California that I can’t wait to explore more, and share them with all of you.  A few things I’m doing in the coming weeks are attending a Pop Up: BubblyFest and going on a sail on the bay for the SF Giants Home Opener, see you in McCovey Cove. Thanks for reading and until next time, make it your best day.

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Eat, drink and be merry in North Beach

Welcome to my hood, where the even the pigeons are hung over on Saturday mornings. Home to one of the oldest bars in San Francisco and Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, 11 time World Pizza Champions. Walk the steps that Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe had their wedding photo taken after getting married at City Hall in 1954 and where some scenes from Dirty Harry were filmed. Inhale the same coffee aromas Francis Ford Coppola did as he penned The Godfather at one of his favorite cafes and sit your butt on the bar stool where Jack Kerouac drank with his beatnik buddies, Neal Cassady and Alan Ginsberg.

There are over 200 restaurants and bars JUST in North Beach proper and it’s ever changing. Of course there is Italian food, but if you are craving a burger or sushi, have no fear. I’m not going to list all of them, but below are a few good ones. Two of my most beloved hangouts have been left off, a girl has to have her secrets…..

Upscale Restaurants
The House 1230 Grant Avenue at Columbus Avenue. Asian American cuisine.
Park Tavern1652 Stockton Street at Filbert. If you are a connoisseur of Deviled Eggs you might want to put theirs to the test. 
Original Joe’s – 601 Union Street at Stockton
North Beach Restaurant1512 Stockton Street
Cotogna490 Pacific Avenue at Montgomery. Might be the best ravioli’s I’ve ever tasted.
Tosca Café 242 Columbus Avenue. Star sighting–Saw Sean Penn walking out of this place at 2 am one morning. No I did not ask for an autograph, I did not want to get punched in the face.
Ferry Plaza Seafood – 653 Union Street between Powell and Columbus

Casual Dining
Cinecitta Ristorante and Bar -663 Union Street
Calzone’s 430 Columbus Avenue. They are open until 1 am every night and I crave their Italian Pot Stickers.
The Stinking Rose325 Columbus Avenue. I don’t like garlic enough to try their 40 Garlic Chicken.
Panta Rei – 431 Columbus Avenue. Home to possibly the most beautiful waitstaff in North Beach. Outside tables are great for people watching while sipping on a crisp glass of Prosecco or Bellini.
Sotto Mare552 Green Street. Famous for their Cioppino.
Café Deluchi 500 Columbus Avenue. Great for brunch–I recommend their Polenta Gorgonzola, comes with two poached eggs and bacon.
Sushi Hunter-1701 Powell at Union. I have heard that Sushi on North Beach is THE best so will have to investigate but now you have two sushi options to check out.
Taqueria Zorro-308 Columbus Avenue at Broadway. Want an authentic burrito the size of your head? Check this place out. They are open until 1am Sunday through Thursday and 2am Friday and Saturday.
Café Zoetrope—916 Kearny Street at Montgomery and Jackson
Vicoletto – 550 Green Street

Pizza 
Golden Boy 542 Green Street between Grant and Columbus Avenue. A square of pizza and a glass of drinkable wine for $7!! I am almost at ‘regular’ status there.
Tony’s Pizza Napoletana 1570 Stockton at Union. 11 time World Pizza Champion. Expect a long wait but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
North Beach Pizza–1462 Grant Avenue between Green and Union
Capo’s 641 Vallejo. Chicago style deep dish, I mean really deep. 

Wine bars, beer and cocktails 
15 Romolo – 15 Romolo Place at Broadway
Antologia Vinoteca 515 Broadway between Kearny and Columbus
Barrique 461 Pacific Avenue between Montgomery and Samsone
LaTrappe Belgian Bistro and Trappist Lounge -800 Greenwich Street at Columbus
Rogue Ale House – 673 Union Street at Powell. Great outdoor space in the back.
Devil’s Acre – 256 Columbus at Pacific. Newest cocktail hangout, love the Prohibition/Barbary Coast theme–dark bar and strong drinks that are reasonably priced.

Casual Bars
The Boardroom – 1609 Powell Street at Vallejo. Please go and try the bacon wrapped tater-tots.
The Saloon-1232 Grant Avenue. If you like live music played at volume 11 and a hippie(ish) crowd, this place might be for you. One of San Francisco’s oldest bars.
Comstock Saloon –155 Columbus Avenue. Right next door to Vesuvio’s, try their Lamb Meatballs with a Cherry Bounce cocktail.
Vesuvio Cafe—255 Columbus Avenue by Jack Kerouac Alley and a few steps away from City Lights Books. This is a famous haunt for The Beatniks–Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Alan Ginsberg.   

Bakery, Deli and Coffee Shops 
Cafe Trieste—609 Vallejo at Grant Avenue. Where Francis Ford Coppola wrote some of the screenplay for The Godfather.
Cavalli Café—1441 Stockton at Columbus
Victoria’s Pastry Company—700 Filbert at Powell. Holy canoli they have some good pastries. They are located across the street from Washington Square Park.
Molinaries – 373 Columbus Avenue at Vallejo. Doesn’t matter what sandwich you get they are all good in my opinion. Okay I haven’t eaten every kind of sandwich they have but they are fresh and authentic. Get the North Beach Special (Prosciutto, provolone, sun-dried tomatoes and sweet peppers) and head to Washington Square to people watch. A bottle of wine might be necessary.
Italian French Baking Company—1501 Grant at Union. Battle of the bakeries. Most North Beachers only buy their focaccia from Liguria Bakery, but this one is my go to. $3.25 for a cookie sheet size of focaccia.

Jazz
Melt! 700 Columbus Avenue. Fondue and jazz, need I say more? Okay I’ll say a little more, they also have movie night. Tiny place that seats about 20 people but nice neighborhood atmosphere and wonderful music.
Savoy Tivoli—1434 Grant Avenue between Green and Union. I love this place, great outdoor seating and they use to have toe-tapping jazz on Saturday afternoons but they haven’t been consistent lately. I hope they get back on a regular schedule.
Rose Pistola—532 Columbus Avenue between Green and Union
Doc’s Lab–124 Columbus Avenue between Kearny and Broadway. They also have comedy, check out their events page.

Shops 
Lola of North Beach—1415 Grant Avenue. They have great San Francisco themed gifts and lots of unique cards
 Z Cioccolato 474 Columbus Avenue at Stockton. Over 300 types of candy–taffy, fudge, gelato and caramel corn.
XoXo Truffles – 754 Columbus Avenue. You might get addicted to these lumps of goodness.
Cornology—522 Columbus Avenue. Flavored gourmet popcorn. Go for the Double Cheddar or Truffle Parmesan
Little Vine—1514 Grant Avenue. Wine, cheese and meat. Get a basket of goodies and head over to Washington Square for some sun, yes we have sun in San Francisco, it’s not always foggy.

Art Galleries, Museums and other fun stuff
Live Worms Gallery—1345 Grant Avenue
Craig Fonarow Photography—527 Columbus Avenue
Make Hang Gallery—450 Green Street
The Beat Museum—540 Broadway between Columbus and Kearny
City Lights Books—261 Columbus at Broadway
Saints Peter and Paul Church and Washington Square–Borders are Columbus Avenue, Union Street, Filbert Street and Stockton Street. The park was established in 1847 and the church was relocated from Filbert and Grant to its current spot in 1924. Some of the rooftop scenes from Dirty Harry were filmed in and around Washington Square.  Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe did not get married in this church since he had been married before and she was not Catholic but they had some wedding pictures taken on the steps.
Grab some lunch and stop by Coit Liquor right across the street and grab a bottle of wine (keep it in that brown paper bag if the cops come around) and hang out. They have art shows on some weekends where local artists display their work in the square. In the morning there are troops of Asian ladies doing tai-chi/dance type exercises, you might be able to join them. If you are in this area around Christmas time, the park maybe be crammed with people in Christmas themed costumes. A sea of Santa and Ms. Clauses, elfs, reindeer, The Grinch, Jack Frost, snowmen and of course naughty Santa’s helpers invade San Francisco in a city wide pub crawl known as Santacon.

Tours–for a list of other tours around SF check out my blog post. Below are a few in North Beach:
Local Taste of the City Food Tour
Tastebud
City Guide Tours

Open late
King of Thai—1268 Grant Street at Vallejo. Not the most authentic of Thai food, but it’s affordable and tasty and it’s a sports bar. Open until 1am
Sam’s Burgers – 618 Broadway at Grant. According to Anthony Bourdain, Sam’s has one of the three best burgers in the world. I’ve been there and they are good but not sure about the 3rd best on the planet so you be the judge. Open until 3am every day.
Taqueria Zorro-308 Columbus Avenue at Broadway. They are open until 1am Sunday through Thursday and 2am Friday and Saturday.

Events 
The First Friday of each month North Beach has an art inspired event that includes art, wine and music. You can also check out their Facebook Page

North Beach Festival–Merriment and mayhem. Lots of vendor booths, food stalls and artists hawking their goods. It gets crowded and crazy but get amongst it and have fun!!

Italian Heritage Parade–Also known as Columbus Day Parade

Yes there are quite a few strip clubs on Broadway–you’ll have to investigate those for yourself.

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Why Pinky and I like to go to Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square and Pier 39 on occasion

Meet Pinky the travel bear and my partner in crime. He’s hung out  with me in Central Park in NYC, hiked part of the Pacific Crest Trail in Palm Springs, helped build a house in the Dominican Republic and has many favorite hot spots in San Francisco. You will see him from time to time on my blog since he is always up for some antics and he loves to travel.

A lot of San Francisco residence don’t go near the Fisherman’s Wharf area because its too touristy. People clog the sidewalk with t-shirt and sun glass shops occupying almost every corner. While Pinky and I don’t go there every weekend, we live in North Beach which isn’t to far from the wharf so from time to time we will get on Jefferson Street and weave through the mass of people to find our way to our favorite haunts. Below are a few places that Pinky and I enjoy visiting.

The Buena Vista–I have already done a post on the Buena Vista and their marvelous drink the Nutty Irishman. Pinky agrees and the last time we were there, he made a friend. He could not resist the aroma of coffee and the boisterous atmosphere and behind the bar was a lonely fellow bear looking for some company, so we paid a hefty price to free him and he joined our party. We has yet to be named so will just call him BV for now.
1765 Hyde Street in Ghirardelli Square

The Gold Dust Lounge–This place was an icon of the city when it was on Powell Street near Union Square. Herb ‘don’t call it Frisco’ Caen (a famous San Francisco Chronicle columnist) use to be a regular, along with former  San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. The Gold Dust had been in its original space since 1966 and even though there was a campaign to save it from eviction on Powell and moving to a new location, in February of 2013 it debuted on Fisherman’s Wharf. It still has the signature decor of red and gold wall paper, red velvet seats, cherub murals on the ceiling and of course lots and lots of moderately priced alcohol. There is plenty of musical entertainment and wait staff dressed in dark red vest to serve you a glass of wine, shot of Fernet or something on tap. In staying with a tradition of local musicians there is usually a guitar player or a three piece band for background music. There is not much regarding food except for a naked hot dog or two and some nachos but see my next stop and you will know why that doesn’t bother me that much. So when you are tired of the endless row of t-shirt shops, souvenir vendors and weaving through the crowds, duck into the Gold Dust.  Their motto is ‘Live Music-Strong Drinks-Good Times’, see for yourself.
165 Jefferson Street on Fisherman’s Wharf

In-N-Out Burger–After the Gold Dust Lounge, Pinky and I needed some meat. Something good, fast and cheap. So we shuffled into In-N-Out Burger, just a few blocks down from Gold Dust. As in every city San Francisco is peppered with burger joints, although there are not alot of McDonald’s or Burger Kings, you could go for a $60 Kobe burger with lobster tail and truffle sauce at Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar in Union Square or do what I do and head for In-N-Out. SFist.com has their list of Best Burgers so vegetarians avert your eyes. At In-N-Out there is always a long line, but on my monthly visits it never takes longer than 20 minutes to get my fix. Double Double? Animal Style? What’s your favorite? Oh and I never forget the fries.
333 Jefferson Street on Fisherman’s Wharf

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for additions to this post as Pinky and I check out the below places and maybe a few more.

The Clam Chowder at Fisherman’s Grotto
Hyde Street Pier tour
Wattle Creek Winery Tasting Room

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