Category Archives: Things to do in sf

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.


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

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

Labor Day Weekend Recap

Of course my Labor Day Saturday began with a trip to the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. The first stop for breakfast: 4505 Meats. I went for the rather modest Bacon Maple Breakfast Sandwich with maple sausage, gruyere cheese, cress and nasturtium greens, and a runny fried egg. There’s just something about that buttery, seedy bun that makes me all warm inside.

4505 Meats' Breakfast Sandwich

I just had to get a pic of myself trying to take a bite of @thedapperdiner’s massive double double 4505 Burger with Frankaroni, a patty of fried mac ‘n cheese and 4505 house-made uncured hot dog.

If only I could unhinge my jaw...

One thing I love about the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market is the samples – I tried an Asian Pear from Frog Hollow Farm that was just so sweet and divine, Mt. Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery and some baba ganoush from Marin Gourmet. After Chicken and Beef Korean Tacos (2 for $6) from Namu, it was off to La Mar for a Pisco Sour and Lafitte for the 1st of 30 days of Caipirinhas.

Korean Tacos with seasoned rice, daikon & kimchee salsa, kimchee remoulade, housemade teriyaki sauce on seaweed. Yes, I did eat the spilled over filling with my fingers. It was that good!

Cocktails galore! From top left: cucumber caipirinha, heirloom and pisco sour

@thedapperdiner and @carinaost got the Scallop and Pork Hot Dog with spicy pickles, stone fruit mustarda and skinny pomme frites, of which I had to steal a taste. My second drink at Lafitte was the Heirloom, made with Swans Neck Vodka, Averna, Prado Pastis, tomato and herbs. This drink seriously tasted like an heirloom tomato salad – it even had a nice salty bite to it.

Leave it to the Dissident Chef to come up with a Scallop and Pork hot dog!

How could I top this morning/afternoon? A Giants game with the parents. Sadly the Giants lost this one to the D-backs, but I was able to get in on the Sheboygan Bratwurst Stand and some garlic fries, natch. At the games, you must skip the plain ‘ole hot dogs and go straight for the big honkin’ Sheboygan topped with grilled onions and sauerkraut! You’ll be glad you did. Oh and make sure you have extra powerful gum/mints for those garlic fries.

My giiiiiant Sheboygan and the parentals in front of the park!

Since the Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is ending on September 6th, a girlfriend and I tried to hit up the museum on Sunday – but beware: apparently the tickets for these kinds of exhibits sell out! After attempting to get our culture on in the MoMA store, we decided to stroll up Geary and stop in the free galleries that decorate the street.

I highly recommend this as a cheap alternative, since all of the galleries are free AND open on Sunday! After paying a visit to Cohen Rese Gallery and the Martin Lawerence Gallery (who is holding an upcoming art auction at Stanford Court BTW), we stumbled into Christopher-Clark Fine Arts. And lucky that we did! Insider tip: they had work from Matisse, Picasso, Varya and more – and some of the pieces were actually featured in the Steins Collect exhibit.



Later on, I was finally able to check out Chambers Food + Drink (in the former Bambuddha Lounge space at the Phoenix Hotel). I highly recommend the Truffle & Wild Mushroom Dip with waffle chips, Panchetta Wrapped Figs with Balsamic Reduction, the Sizzling Kobe Tri-tip (it’s served on a hot stone, medium rare – so cool) and the Sea Bass with big, lovely artichokes. I had high hopes for the PB & L.T., which was basically pork belly atop rice paper filled with heirloom tomatoes and lettuce, and the Burrata Gnocci, but I would skip those. Of course dinner was followed by some dancing at 222 Hyde and some pool-playing action and jukeboxin’ at CC’s Cocktails! Both good haunts for the aforementioned activities!

Sometimes you just need a lazy day and even though Monday was absolutely AMAZING weather-wise, I was just plain old lazy! Kudos to all of you who BBQ-ed and did other fun things outdoors. I did rally myself to meet @thedapperdiner and @carinaost at Tataki South in Noe Valley, a restaurant known for its sustainable sushi. They had some *daring* (re: spicy) sushi rolls, including the Extinguisher with albacore, habanero masago and spicy aioli, and the Russian Roulette with crawfish, cucumber, asparagus, tobiko and topped with scallops. The premise of this roll is that one of the pieces is over-the-top spicy and whoever is the winner (or loser), gets the prize of a shot of nigori sake to cool the burn. Not a game for the weak of stomachs.

Creative, delicious rolls from Tataki South

Tataki South also had a great happy hour from 5pm-7pm: $4 rolls and $3.5 hot sake, yes please!

Can I get a “holla” for the staycation?! I hope y’all had a fun-filled, restful Labor Day weekend as well and happy Tuesday!


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Filed under Culture, Food, Restaurants, San Francisco, Things to do in sf, Tips & Tricks, Weekend Warrior

Weekend Recap

Another weekend has come too slowly and gone too quickly. That happens all too often! Here are my observations from another fabulous, fun-filled weekend in The City by The Bay:

The House of Shields – awesome cocktail bar, established in 1908! Strong drinks, great bartenders. Get there before or after the happy hour crowd to snag a seat and enjoy the ambiance.

John Colins – one of my favs in the city. The bartenders are super friendly and you’ll even find the owners slingin’ drinks on some nights! Cool after-work spot.

Osha Thai – pretty good Thai fare (mmm Lemongrass Sea Bass) and a local chain started by two sisters who moved to San Francisco from northeast Thailand. While not uber-traditional, it’s perfect for late night dining in a swanky atmosphere, staying open until 3am on weekends.

Eve Lounge – who knew, hip hop on Friday nights?! Check out the unique chandeliers,  beautiful portraits and interesting clientele, and get your freak on.

Temple Nightclub – $20 cover charge. WHAT?! Skip, unless you are REALLY inclined…

3rd Annual SF Street Food Festival – glad to finally head down to the Mission for 6+ blocks packed with street food vendors and hungry festival-goers. The lines were pretty outta control, but once you got talking with friends the time in line seemed to pass *somewhat* quickly. I tried some good eats however the wax moth larvae tacos were certainly not on the agenda this time. Thanks to Rye on The Road, a mobile bartending service, the biergardens were packed with people gettin’ their drink on.

Flour + Water's Porchetta Sandwich

Had a samosa from Curry Up Now..coulda used some chutney!

Banh Mi Taco from Peached Tortilla (Austin, TX) - Vietnamese briased pork belly, pickled daikon and carrot salad, sriracha mayo and cilantro

Scotch Egg from Chiefo's Kitchen - hard boiled egg wrapped in seasoned sausage and coated with breadcrumbs

M.A.D. Ahi Tuna Tartare

Persian Lamb Taco from Hoss Zare

Artful jello shot...

The Lone Palm – $4 happy hour drinks. Need I say more?! Sweet Mission dive bar with pre-placed bar snacks. If that’s what your into.

SF Opera at the Stern Grove Festival – this series of summer concerts are not to be missed. I mean, when else can you see the Opera/Symphony/Ballet for free amongst majestic trees? Definitely get there early to claim a spot on the grass, bring a picnic/wine and enjoy the beautiful sounds. Sadly, the festival has come to a close for this year, so keep an eye out for next year!


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Filed under Culture, Food, Freebies, Things to do in sf, Weekend Warrior

Crazy, Stupid, Love

If you are like me and lead a busy social life, then you probably hardly find the time or even let the thought cross your mind to go to see a movie. Catching a flick, however, is a great stress-buster and provides a small two-hour window for you to put your mind at ease. Because who is checking their text messages/email/Twitter/Facebook while sitting in that darkened theater? And if you are — shame on you!

Last night I attended a pre-screening of a movie called Crazy, Stupid, Love starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon. This is a romantic comedy — but do not fear, it is not a predictable, cheesy rom-com. Instead this movie offers lessons on love, trust, family and friendship. It comes out in theaters on July 29th, so run — don’t walk — and bring your girlfriends for night filled with lots of laughs and a few tears of joy.

P.S. Ryan Gosling provides SERIOUS eye candy in this movie with his hot bod, slick suits and bad boy demeanor. But don’t worry ladies, there’s hope because even this self-proclaimed ladies man settles down in the end.


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Filed under San Francisco, Things to do in sf, Turbulent Twenties, twenty-somethings

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.


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

City of Dreams & House of Air

Giving back to the community is always a surefire way to warm your heart from the inside out. It’s true — there are many ways you can contribute and donating money is one of them. But actually participating and getting your hands “dirty” so to speak is when you really start to feel the impact of donating your time.

Recently I spent a day with City of Dreams out in The Presidio. City of Dreams is a local non-profit that works with at-risk youth through involvement and mentorship to build better futures for kids in the Hunter’s Point/Bayview area. I’ve never had experience working with youth and I gave up babysitting when I dropped a 1 year old on its head (on accident!) so I didn’t know how I would fare in providing guidance and direction. Turns out, I guess I wasn’t too bad!

We all met up at the hostel at Fort Mason where I was introduced to the kids and we all enjoyed lunch. There were many other mentors who were very close with their mentees and had been working with them closely on a mural project. Earlier in the year the kids got together to brainstorm the stereotype of the Hunter’s Point/Bayview district and the actual diverse, complex neighborhood it is, and painted two separate murals. The goal is to show visitors that San Francisco has so much more to it than simply the “ghetto” neighborhoods that some assume plague metropolitan cities.

The kids presented these colorful murals that day and they are now on display in the hostels downtown. They were so astute and  realize that they have the ability to control their future. I also felt very privileged to hear a powerful poem written by one of the main mural project contributors about the struggles of living in this oft-forgotten community.

House of Air

Our theme of the day was “self-esteem” and we continued on to House of Air to continue our lessons in building self-confidence. I loved seeing how excited and happy the kids were to be at HOA! House of Air is an indoor trampoline park in The Presidio where you may reserve jumping slots by the hours and can even indulge your inner six-year old and play dodgeball! And that we did. Not only was it fun jumping around the trampolines with the kids, but I was ESCATIC to finally check out this place that I’ve been hearing about with such rave reviews. The youths had endless energy while the adults (at least me) needed a few breaks.

House of Air


After our hour of monkey jumping, dodgeball-ing and back-flipping, we all gathered around for a group photo. It was a bittersweet moment to hug everyone from City of Dreams goodbye, but I left with an extra pep in my step knowing that we all can make a difference in someone else’s life. I definitely recommend this as a self-esteem boost that no amount of money can buy!

Mentees and mentors hard at work

Love these kids!

I also found this awesome website called One Brick which lists volunteer opportunities by date. The best part is that there’s no obligation — just sign up when you are available!

“Love without limits!”

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

Ike’s Place, Dolores Park & Bi-Rite Creamery

I am just a teensy-bit embarrassed to admit that I have only just had Ike’s Place for the first time. I blame the tales of the 2 hour wait time and that I don’t get out to the Upper Market-area too often, but when I no longer had an excuse (and why the hell would I?!) on a lovely Sunday I finally crossed the threshold.

I was surprised and very delighted to find a very minimal line when we walked up. We all know about the slew of media coverage surrounding the old Ike’s Place location (damn those NIMBYs), so it’s nice to see that everything worked out and that Ike is on to bigger and better things (like having the #1 sandwich, Matt Cain, in ESPN’s Fanwich).  Ike is super friendly and while I already knew what I wanted to order (Menage A Trois), he offered to help my girlfriends with their selections. One could certainly go into menu overload with the list they’ve got goin’ on here.

An original Ike's Place menu

We got a little behind-the-scenes tour and were able to see where all of the magic happens. And by magic, I mean the assembling of these mouth-wateringly delicious sandwiches. He gave us Ike’s Place t-shirts as well…I hope we count as honorary Ike’s Club Members 😉 Did you know that every employee must memorize each sandwiches name, number and ingredients? I counted 80 creations on the menu page. These people must be brilliant.

Kitchen shot. It's a big kitchen.

I also asked Ike how he came up with all of those sandwiches and their names. Trial and error, he said, and also mentioned that there were some that were never made for human consumption. If you ask me additions like mozzarella sticks, jalapeno poppers and deep-fried zucchini sticks sound inventive and oh-so-sinful! He said that naming the initial sandwiches were difficult, but now it is a cinch. Hmm…I am already wondering what my own creation would be and what I would name it! By the way “Womanizer” and “We’re JUST Friends” are taken.

Menage A Trois: halal chicken, real honey, honey mustard, bbq, pepper jack, swiss, cheddar

After the short wait we walked over to Dolores Park to enjoy lunch because it was such a beautiful day in San Francisco. Dogs and strollers were out in full effect! I know everyone raves about Ike’s but BOY OH BOY the Menage A Trois was AH-MAZING. It was so juicy and zesty, and every bite was as good as the last. It was definitely a dense sandwich with sauce dripping out onto my pants (oops), but there was no way I could not finish the entire thing. And that I did. The sandwich comes with those cute caramel apple pops that bring me back to my elementary school days — nice touch.

Dolores Park

Dolores Park Take 2

I decided to complete the whole Mission experience with dessert from Bi-Rite Creamery, a local shop specializing in organic ingredients and small-batch products. I learned this tip from a friend: if you want to avoid the long ice cream lines, try the soft serve line. The Salted Caramel Soft Serve is to-die-for and has less calories than the ice cream version. Or at least that is what I keep telling myself. This flavor is so decadent that it doesn’t even need any additional toppings, but make sure to get it on a cone to complete the experience.

Bi-Rite Creamery

Salted Caramel Soft Serve

Ike says that he eats his sandwiches 3 times a day. I don’t know if I could go that far, but I am already planning my next trip back (and it may or may or not be next weekend). I highly recommend enjoying your selection in Dolores Park and topping it off with some Bi-Rite. Can you say food coma?!


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Filed under Restaurants, San Francisco, Things to do in sf, Weekend Warrior