Category Archives: Neighborhoods

My weekend in The Mission

Anyone who knows me, knows that I avoid The Mission [District] like the plague. It’s not so much that I have negative connotations about it, I just always feel out of place and it’s not easy to get there from my house on MUNI. However, after I turned 25 I decided that I needed to start pushing myself out of my comfort zone and that included more trips to The Mission.

This neighborhood is known for the outstanding cuisine and while usually I try to hitch a ride over there, I decided to start trying BART. I know that sounds silly — I’ve lived in the city over 3 years — but it had to be done. Anyway, I spent about 75% of my time in The Mission one weekend, and it was so nice to experience all of the restaurants/coffee shops/bakeries that I always read about. And get over my fear of BART. Note to self: you must remember to tap out (seasoned riders, you know what I’m talking about).

It started with brunch at Foreign Cinema. We ordered the Persian Bloody Mary and the Caesar Bloody Mary. The Persian version was interesting with it’s unique spices, however I enjoyed the Caesar version, because it was a little thinner. Plus, who doesn’t like a floating shrimp in their drink. Then we moved on to the Huckleberry “Pop Tart”, Dungeness Crab eggs, and the Croque Madame. OMG the Croque Madame was amazing (hello, béchamel?!) and this was a nice preparation of the eggs with the Dungeness crab. Of course, had to add on the slow cooked brown sugar bacon, natch.

Caesar + Persian Bloody Marys

Huckleberry Pop Tart

Dungeness Crab Eggs

Croque Madame (photo courtesy: Donovan Unks)

mmm....brown sugar bacon

Sadly, I heard that Spork was closing, so the next day I decided to hit this Mission district restaurant up for brunch. I mean, how can you not want to try the “Inside Out” Burger? With its two patties of Marin Sun Farms grass-fed meat, slices of Tillamook cheddar, caramelized onions, and brioche bun sandwiched in between, you can’t go wrong. Then, there was a stop at Philz Coffee for the “Ambrosia” (a warm, sweet nutty java with a subtle finish) and on to Arizmendi Bakery for some legendary pastries.

Clockwise from top left: Bloody Hammer from 15 Romolo (prior to Spork), Spork Inside Out Burger, Spork's Interior, Fried Chicken Sandwich at Spork

More stops of the day included NOPA for amazing cocktails and some delish snacks, Irvin Lin’s Eat The Love holiday party (where I almost overdosed in sweet treats), and finally dinner at Frances at the counter. NOPA was serving some great bar snacks at reasonable prices in between service, like the Fried Brussels Sprouts, Fennel Sausage with Black Beans, and Goat Cheese Bread Pudding.

Clockwise from top left: Cocktail at NOPA, Bread Pudding from Arizmendi Bakery, Eat The Love Party, Line up at NOPA

Whew — what a weekend, but who can resist good eats and drinks? At least we know that when we push ourselves past our comfort zone, it usually always pays off. Hey, I’ve even ventured out to Oakland! Here’s proof that you can never say never.

xo.

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Filed under Empowerment, Neighborhoods, Restaurants, Weekend Warrior

San Francisco Helicopter Tour

I could never recommend a more spectacular way to see San Francisco than by helicopter. Upon lift off from Sausalito, you’ll soar through the skies, travel over Mt. Tam and over the Golden Gate bridge (and under if you’re lucky, when Karl The Fog plays hookey for the day).

The views are absolutely breathtaking as you fly along the Embarcadero and around all the neighborhoods you have come to know and love: Downtown to North Beach to Pacific Heights to Telegraph Hill to The Mission to Noe Valley and back! We even flew to China Basin, over AT&T Park, out to Treasure Island and Alcatraz, and back to Sausalito.  In 25 minutes of flight time, I truly felt that I was able to see my city from the most amazing vantage point — high up in the skies.

The thing that made this ride 100x better was that I was able to claim the co-pilot’s seat and every time I looked down, I could see the view below my feet! If you are tired of the same ‘ole hiking trails, biking the Embarcadero, or lounging in the park (and have $200 to spare), then take a ride on the wild side — on a heli above San Francisco!

Click here on Flickr album for a bird’s eye view of San Francisco.

xo.

P.S. Watch this video — I helped film it! 😀

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Filed under Neighborhoods, San Francisco, Things to do in sf

Txoko SF, Wilson and Wilson

It takes a certain type of restaurant that can come in to break up the row of seedy Broadway strip-clubs in North Beach, and Txoko has a mix of the right elements: great food, good cocktails and that breezy vibe.

I did see some semblance of the old Enrico’s restaurant/live music lounge, but I have to say that I really love what the new owners (and folks behind Naked Lunch)  did with the large space. There are tables on the left, a long bar on the right and tables for dining al fresco, but I highly recommend ponying up to the communal table in the center of the room. The menu consists of a variety of small bites, small and large plates, cheeses and desserts which really bodes well with the urban, some-what industrial interior. I was digging the silverware in mason jars. Plus, they serve late night — so this is a major bonus for those looking to score some grub when every other kitchen in town has closed. The prices range from $3 to $14 (save for the $65 for 2 big plate), so you could get carried away ordering a few dishes and not be shocked when the final bill comes.

On a recent visit, I tried the “Liver & Onion”(Foie Gras Torchon, Cipollini, Pedro Ximenez Gastrique), Crispy Veal Sweetbreads (Potato Coulis, Chorizo, Fava Beans, Mushrooms), Wild Mushroom Arroz (Hen of the Woods, Morels, Chanterelles, Fiddleheads), and Ahi Tuna Tartare (Roasted Tomato Puree, Black Olive, Chive Oil) — and I was delighted and impressed with every single dish. I recently checked their website and it appears that some of the ingredients have varied ever so slightly, just as an FYI. But the bottom line is that Txoko is churning out delicious food at reasonable prices. I think this would be a perfect date spot. Either pre- or post- cursor to 15 Romolo. Or Garden of Eden. You take your pick!

Tuna tartare dish

Liver and Onions

Mushroom dish -- sorry, a little blurry!

Sweetbreads

The 2nd stop of the evening was Wilson and Wilson Private Detective Agency (aka The Wilson Bar) for some serious cocktailing. We all know that you must make reservations for Bourbon & Branch and it is the same case here at this bar within a bar.

You may order drinks separately for $12 each or order three-courses for $30, set up similarly to a dinner would be: you have the aperitifs (light and will whet your whistle), the mains (just as a main course would be, full-bodied), and the digestifs. They’ve also got some serious punch offerings for $40, such as the Lost Temple with strawberry infused pisco, the Dark City and the Jungle At Dusk.

The Wilson Investigative Cocktails I chose were:

Red Scarab: Applejack, Lillet Blanc, Lemon Juice, Brown Sugar Cinnamon Syrup, Hibiscus Tincture, Sparkling Wine

Charlie Chan: Black Tea infused Karlsson’s Vodka, Lemon Juice, Ginger Syrup, Coconut Marmalade, Black Pepper Tincture, Clove Tincture

Hard Boiled: Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Laird’s 100 Proof Apple Brandy, Zucca Amaro, Cardamaro Amaro, Cinnamon Infused Orange Bitters

All drinks aside, I was (and still currently am) obsessed with the look and feel of Wilson and Wilson. The whole theme is based around a purse belonging to Ms. Wilson that was discovered within the walls of the building and the story is extremely fascinating. Tip: though you might be in a alcohol-induced haze, you must read the entire history in the cocktail menu and study the interior because every last touch is well thought-out and the decor is beautiful. The bar stools perfectly hug your bottom (no joke) and you feel like your in a hidden little den in a sketchy mc-sketcherton part of town aka the T-loin. But it’s all worth it in the end, if you’re still standing.

xo.

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Filed under Neighborhoods, Restaurants, San Francisco

San Francisco City Tour

Recently I had some family in town and in true form, we took San Francisco by storm! This is one of the things I love about this city — there is so many things to do, sometimes it is hard to fit it all in a short time! As a local, it’s also really fun to slow down, take a deep breath and enjoy San Francisco through the eyes of a tourist.

Day 1 began with the Tour de Ferry Building. We arrived at the busiest time, but that was quite alright given that we were all in the spirit to eat. After strolling by all of the produce outdoors, we entered through Sur La Table and made our first purchase: El Porteno Empanadas. We ordered the Fugazzeta (aged cheddar, onions, oregano) which I found tasty but not too exciting, and the Champinones (local organic mushrooms by Far West Fungi, shallots, parmesan cheese, crème fraiche) which was delicious, earthy and much more complex.

El Porteno Empanadas Stand

As we wandered along, some stopped for vegetarian spring rolls and the interestingly-flavored ICIO Water.

ICIO Water - blood orange tarragon and black currant blueberry

I, however, had my heart set on Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick. I’m a lover of all things cheese, so naturally I went for the gold: Burrata with seasonal vegetables and herbs served atop arugula with crostini and dressed with McEvoy Olive Oil. Drool. My aunt and cousin went for the grilled cheese of the day — that sandwich was very good as well.

Cowgirl Creamery's Milkshed Map

Then we hopped on the F-line and took it down to the start of our San Francisco hop-on hop-off city tour in Fisherman’s Wharf. The tour took us to all of the popular neighborhoods (Golden Gate Park, The Haight, Civic Center, SoMa, Union Square, Chinatown) and I was quite surprised by how many “fun facts” I learned about San Francisco.

Chinatown

San Francisco's breathtaking architecture

I’ve included some of them below just for funsies!

  • The Spreckels mansion is the largest house city in San Francisco – yes we all know that Miss Danielle Steel now resides in that [not so] humble abode
  • The term “Sugar Daddy” was first coined by Alma Spreckels when speaking of her husband, Adoph Spreckles, the sugar baron
  • Any house painted three or more colors is considered a “Painted Lady”
  • That is actually real gold on the City Hall dome!
  • Alma is also the model for the monument in Union Square honoring naval hero Admiral Dewey and the assassinated president William McKinley
  • Twelve faceless statues sit atop 580 California called the “Corporate Goddesses”. These faceless statues are there to remind those in the banking industry to “be honest, even when you think no one is watching”.
  • Denim was invented in San Francisco during the Gold Rush because miners needed durable clothes to wear
  • The Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall is designed to look like a baby piano from the outside – if you look closely you can see the white keys, black keys and strings inside.

City Hall

The "Corporate Goddesses"

Day 2 began with a stroll through the North Beach Festival – fairs and festivals are a really great opportunity for visitors and natives alike to get out in the sunshine, check out local vendors and people watch.

North Beach Festival from above

Street art at the festival

After we had our fill at the North Beach Festival, we hightailed it through Chinatown, down into Union Square and hopped on MUNI underground because we all had one track minds — we wanted to devour some sandwiches from Ike’s Place! Once our sandwiches were ready after a brief wait (Tom Brady with vegan breaded chicken, garlic and herb sauce, mushrooms, avocado and cheddar for me), we trekked over to Dolores Park. At the park everyone was happy to give their little feet a break at the park and enjoy the local flavor! We all know what I think about Ike’s (see Ike’s Place, Dolores Park & Bi-Rite Creamery) so no need to get into detail on how delicious they were.

After we were finished, we made our way back the hotel room to enjoy a glass of wine and some good family time before everyone had to part ways. It was amazing how much ground one can cover in a single weekend in San Francisco — also, important to note that I figured out what a walking drill sergeant I can be. So when I say “oh it’s just a couple blocks”, it really is 5-10 blocks. In my defense, San Francisco is such a walking city — you hardly even notice the distance you’ve gone when you walk by yourself! However even I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed putting my feel up for a rest, sipping red wine and surveying the rooftops from the balcony. This was the perfect way to play tour guide and show my relatives San Francisco’s best!

B.R. Cohn and Ghirardelli Chocolate - nice pairing.

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Filed under Family Ties, Neighborhoods, San Francisco, SF, Things to do in sf, Weekend Warrior

Summer of SoMa

I will be the first to say: you will not find me regretting my move outta the ‘hood. Back where I used to live (ahem, off of Sixth Street), I saw the worst of the worst — the runoff from the T-loin as I not-so-fondly remember. This is where I saw the San Francisco that I never want to see again. Let me describe it: people lighting up their crack pipes on the sidewalk, homeless people gettin’ it on in plain daylight…I was even the victim of a crime against humanity – a homeless man spit in my hair (eek).

Photo courtesy laughingsquid.com

And it seems as if the neighborhood is turning more violent despite all of the efforts for redevelopment, as The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week.

Wall art at it's finest.

While some tend to pigeonhole SoMa as a dirty, industrial neighborhood South of Market, I am here to tell you: it is not all horror stories and drug deals! It’s true, there are some parts that you just need to avoid. But I’ve included a positive article by SF Station with a complete recap of the new restaurants poppin’ up in this ever evolving enclave. It totally breaks the stigma!

While you’re out there, check out Passion Café‘s rooftop patio or Show Dogs and their fine sausages. Be off my little readers and be fearless!

xo.

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Filed under Neighborhoods, San Francisco, San Franpsycho, SF, Sixth Street