Tag Archives: San Francisco (here)

Cheap Date

couroc_frog.jpgMy grandmother bought five-pound cans of Maxwell House and perked it on the stove. A drink in the evening was a rare glass of sherry. Suburban aunts made coffee in machines and their husbands drank gin and tonics out of wide glasses with urbane dancing frogs on them.

This is not my liquid life. I live in San Francisco where the drinks are complicated and expensive and there is nary a dancing frog in sight, let alone an ice cube from a freezer tray or, God forbid, coffee in a tin.

I’m not complaining. I drink well here. On our trip to the mountains of Colorado a few weeks ago though, it was back to basics and a welcome break.

First, let’s talk coffee. In Colorado, all the coffees were hot. Super hot. Mountain hot. Boiling hot. And they cost $3.75 for half a gallon of espresso and steamed milk. Well, almost half a gallon. This is fine with me. Hot, caffeinated and not bitter are my morning baselines. Above that line, I can really take it or leave it, even if I can tell the difference.

Back in San Francisco, I had it out with the barista at Ritual Coffee for delivering my coffee at room temperature for the umpteenth time. (This is apparently kind of a thing for me.) The guy said they had a POLICY that they did not steam their milk above a certain temperature because it carmelized the sugars. Apparently I like carmelized sugars based on my liking of apples covered in same and hot *(&#$#! milk in my cafe au lait.

That’s not to say that I don’t like what’s on offer here in general. Ritual Roasters, Four Barrel and Blue Bottle all spring from the Bay Area. Like Folgers crystals before them, they’re served in the finest restaurants around the country. (Another survey of their backgrounds here.) I’m not going to deny they’re good. Well, Blue Bottle and Ritual are good. Four Barrel I don’t get but a lot of people disagree with me so I’m outvoted there. Can I tell that these $4 cups of coffee are better than other coffees? Um, well, sort of. I can tell that they’re better than instant or coffeemaker coffee. And Starbucks. But that much better than much faster, cheaper, no-name coffee that I should pay twice as much? Probably not. Case in point: Dunkin’ Donuts makes my favorite coffee and I think they’re still on the Maxwell House train. So I’m not 100% sure I appreciate the level of precision that coneisseurship has brought to my morning cuppa.

Perhaps I’m being willfully dense here and resisting developing an expensive taste because then I’d have to spend $4 every morning rather than drinking what I can most conveniently get. I do this with wine. If I got hooked on $40 bottles of wine, I wouldn’t be able to drink the $10 bottle. So while I appreciate the expensive wines when they’re presented to me, I try not to take too much notice. I already spend enough money as it is.

Enough about me: if you’re looking around to taste the best of the best and have a nice sit-down while you’re in the city, here are my picks, with a heavy bias toward the south side of the city because that’s where we live.

Ritual Roastersoriginal location on the gritty end of Valencia (21st/22nd Streets) will brew your regular coffee cup by cup, as well as serve you any espresso drink (with warm, not hot, milk). Rich flavor gleaned from their blends and their use of whole milk. My favorite of the top three but often crowded (they have free wifi) and they play non-background music – like, edgy, slightly metal indie stuff that’s hard to write to and chat to.

In which case, on a sunny day, you might prefer their new permanent cart in Hayes Valley (on Octavia just off Hayes) where you can sit outside and look in shops with commensurately priced goods of all kinds.

Similar music issues and an even grittier ‘hood, but less crowded and with a Scandinavian vibe, Haus on 24th Street brews Ritual as well and does a good job of it. Bonus: back patio with lots of sun, albeit also the neighbor’s laundry in view. Free wifi and excellent baked goods make up most of the way for the crabby hipster baristas.

Blue Bottle‘s original San Francisco location in a garage on a side street in Hayes Valley has become enough of a landmark that now you don’t have to compete with cars: they’ve paved a little plaza in front. You can also pick up a cup at the super trendy, way-overcrowded-at-the-weekend-Farmers-Market yup-fest Ferry Building and downtown on Mint Plaza. Or – brilliant brilliant location choice – at Spin City, a high end laundromat in chic Noe Valley, Blue Bottle is served at the coffee window.

If you want to try Four Barrel, they have a giant, airy space on the other end of Valencia from Ritual, at 15th Street. You decide if you like it or not.

Let’s get back to Colorado and discuss cocktails. I sidled up to our lodge’s bar the first night to order a couple of straightforward cocktails: vodka cranberry and vodka tonic. No big deal. Nothing fancy. Didn’t want to go out on a pisco limb or anything in a building made of logs. The bartender delivers them in about thirty seconds and says, “That’ll be $7.” This prompts a tiny ethical dilemma. Should I tell him he’s only charged me for one, and at happy hour, well-drink prices even though it’s 9PM?

I ask. Turns out it’s not a mistake. Cocktails are $3.50. Cocktails with premium vodka no less. Living where I do and traveling mainly to other places like where I live, cocktails cost $9. Or $12. Or $14 if it’s that trendy and I’m paying for the slab of polished oak they use as a bar that they imported from a speakeasy in the basement of Versailles. Or something like that.

I will admit that I prefer the high-end cocktails at Beretta to the low-end ones at our old neighborhood’s dive bar Il Pirata. But do I notice if the bar makes their own ice using pure water and a special, I don’t know, vaporizing hyperbaric icebox or whatever? No, I do not. Can I tell if they’re using bottled bitters or homemade ones? Um, no. In the new world order or artisinal bars, I am a cretin and, for that, I’d like apologize to my bartender at Beretta who goes to so much trouble to make me happy.

I might be more of a high and mighty in this category if I drank more whiskey, bourbon or gin which seem to be the base of many, if not most, of the new breed of cocktails. I was a gin girl for a long time but have moved on to vodka and tequila for the most part, with a recent strong liking for pisco. This limits my range but it keeps the choosing simple.

I do wish that all bars offered the option of a straightforward drink at Colorado prices the way restaurants offer tap water or bottled. I can tolerate the tiny sneer that follows my, “Tap, please,” and would happily tolerate another if I could get Ketel One and Ocean Spray cranberry juice with tap-water ice cubes in an Ikea cup for half the price of my extra-special Pisco Punch.

Until that happens, here’s where I go.

For artisinal cocktails, it’s hard to beat Beretta. They have excellent food as well and, if you can get a seat (no reservations, go early), a buratta margherita pizza or chicken liver crostini will tide you over to a third drink if you want to hang out.

Bourbon & Branch is also well-reputed but you will need to plan ahead and make a reservation if you want food. I’ve written before about Range and their excellent food, but beware their hipster-looking cocktail menu: they’ve gone off the reservation in my estimation. Tomatoes have no place in evening drinks, unless by “evening” you mean “morning” and it’s a bloody mary you’re after.

We recently rediscovered Smugglers Cove in Hayes Valley (it used to be a trendy, purple-lit place we didn’t enjoy) where you can get a ridiculous number of pirate drinks made one-by-one by their single bartender. It’s not exactly the high-end science of mixology you’ll get at the places listed above, but tiki has been on an upswing the last couple of years and, let’s face it, sometimes you miss Club Med and their sweet, sweet drinks. (I’d advise only going in the week when the locals stop in for libations. We cruised in once on a Saturday and it was a bizarre mix of drunk, overweight, gay tourist developers and tacky bridge and tunnel girlies on a bender.)

Recently (like, yesterday) voted Best of the Bay for their unique happy hour – whoever orders first after 5PM, that’s the discount drink – we’ve latched onto Asiento of late for a not-dive but not-too-trendy evening drink accompanied by crazy good little plates. We haven’t made it there on a Sunday yet, but I hear they serve tater tots. Eighties lunchroom trashy trendy. I like it.

Although I enjoy all the developments in drinking my generation has ushered in, I (and my wallet) miss those dancing frogs and wish there a Dunkin Donuts at the end of my block. Until I find that block – or open a frog/donut outlet of my own – I’ll enjoy what San Francisco has to offer.

Oh, and if you’re in New York, don’t miss the Pisco Punch at Pegu Club. Best. Ever.

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RIP Ti Couz

ticouz-thumb.jpgSan Francisco’s crepe institution, Ti Couz, closed several weeks ago to little fanfare and, on my part, not much regret. Their decline to the point of my not regretting their passing is almost sadder than their demise. Or perhaps it just softened the blow. If they had gone out on top, we would have really missed them.

They used to be our go-to place for cocktails and crepes on a Friday evening after a long week. To avoid the delay of finding parking, we’d take the dodgy crosstown bus from the corner by our tiny, bright apartment and, eight minutes of watching the drug-addled homeless and a mother ignoring her too many children, we’d land half a block from Ti Couz’s comforts. But things have been sliding gradually for at least a year and our final visit in May would have been our last even if they hadn’t closed their doors.

They opened in 1992 and in their hey day they served excellent, reasonably priced Breton savory crepes. These were nicely preceded by their variations on the Cosmopolitan, the Lemon Drop and their signature champagne cocktail, the Ti Couz 10. When I visited San Francisco just after graduating college, on the fateful trip that convinced me that maybe someday I might like to live here (beware tourists of the siren song of a sunny day in the city by the bay!), a friend and I went to Ti Couz.

Oddly, since I had been to France and was a huge crepe fan, I’d never had Breton crepes. They’re made with buckwheat and look like the wheatberry and the HealthyForYou/TastesLikeCardboard bread loaves I bypass in the bakery aisle. Also, they’re huge, like a foot diameter tucked to a flat, square 8″. I was a rolled crepe, white-flour girl, raised at Boston’s long-gone and much-missed Magic Pan. Viva la crepe revolucion of the 1970s!!

Let’s digress here for a shout-out to that best of crepe-y institutions, The Magic Pan. Founded by Hungarians (??!$^%!) here in San Francisco and eventually and briefly a successful chain, they made crepes on the bottoms of pans, which is a tricky method only for professionals, like poaching an egg in a pot of water using only a spoon. (I don’t even want to hear about it if you can do this. Really. Just be quiet. You’re hurting my feelings even opening your mouth.)

Right behind the maitre’d’s desk was a guy standing in the middle of a ring of fire. Really it was a circular stove burner, but to a five year old it was Vegas. Above the flame rotated a frame built for ten or twelve pans. The chef had a bowl of crepe batter. When a pan came by, he’d dip the base in the batter and put it back on the frame. When it got back to him, he’d flip it and send it around again. F’ing brilliant.

They made ham and cheese crepes, lightly fried to seal them, and served with a sweet mustard cream sauce. Dude. So. Good. They put the “Mmmmm,” in Mmmmagic Pan. (Ham crepe and mustard sauce recipe here, cheese here, and don’t skip the apple dessert crepe. Don’t. Just don’t.)

The point is, I’d never had buckwheat crepes until Ti Couz. Theirs were excellent, especially their specials. I’m a terrible decisionmaker, so asking me to construct my own crepe from 25 options just spoils my dinner. Ti Couz put together some odd but always tasty combos of things like shrimp and mushroom with chipotle cream sauce. The reliability of those specials, along with their wildly satisfying Euro salad (excellent greens with magic vinaigrette or crudite salad with every possible vegetable in it nicely chopped) made it a comfort location supreme.

Then, last year, they discontinued their specials for what our waiter described as “financial reasons.” That didn’t sound right – if you’re picking it, why not choose a combo made up of this week’s cheapest ingredients? – but we sighed and kept going, doing our best with the arduous task of selecting our own combinations unaided by the increasingly lethargic staff.

Then they put up a banner reading, “Thank you San Francisco for 19 great years,” which panicked everyone that they were closing. But, when asked, they said they weren’t. It was just an anniversary thing. Which was weird. ‘Cause 19 isn’t a special anniversary is it? Should I have gotten them something? What is 19? Flour? Dirt?

In the fall, they bizarrely surrendered their liquor license. I don’t know much about the liquor license process, but I do know it’s damn hard to get one and I assume it pays for itself. They billed their regression as, “getting back to their Breton roots,” which apparently are soaked with slightly-alcoholic cider. I billed it as, “taking away the second of the two reasons I went there.” We toughed it out without our specials or our cocktails a couple of times, but the deed was done. We were out.

Apparently, so were they.

Despite their slow, disappointing decline, I will remember Ti Couz for their former days of tasty cocktail and savory crepe glory. And they will always hold a tiny special space in my heart: two days before A.’s premature arrival, we finally settled on her name (and the second choice which no, I won’t tell you in case I need it later) at a corner table in the back.

So farewell, Ti Couz. I’ll try some Magic Pan recipes at home and hope that someplace else steps up with a wide open, non-trendy space serving sweet Friday cocktails. Bon voyage to the great crepe pan in the sky. Say ‘hello’ to the Magic Pan for me.

Rent a Center No More

yard.jpgSo, how’ve you been? Good? Great. That’s good to hear. What me? Well, we’ve been busy. You know, the usual. Early mornings, late nights, not enough salads, yada yada yada. Oh – and we bought a house.

Yes, it’s true. The perma-renter has crossed over to the other side. After several aborted feints in that direction, we actually searched for, found, and bought a house. And yes it’s in San Francisco, the city I swore I’d never settle for or in, but here’s the deal we struck: it’s rentable. So if we get it together to move home to New York, we’ll swap it or rent it or, if necessary, put it on a truck and Airstream it to Brooklyn.

So goodbye money down the drain, hello stable investment.

Of course it’s terrifying – mainly the unknown maintenance and very known mortgage – but it’s a great place and a good time to buy. (If any of you remember the property we came within an inch of owning a few years ago, this place is on that same block. Weird, right?) I wanted to buy a condo so we’d have on-site management, but we saw this place and couldn’t walk away.

It’s super sunny, which isn’t a given even in our sunny neighborhood because it’s all hills, so lots of yards or bedrooms face into the hill. Also, that hill is bedrock, which is great for earthquake safety but not so great for yard management. A lot of places we’ve seen have given up and resorted to gravel, and most places have either poor grading or unmanaged trees (presumably latched onto that rock), or both. We’ll actually have a proper yard with a lovely tree, grass, a small sun deck and a lighted dining patio, all of that extending out from double doors in the living room, which makes it feel like a giant Mediterranean living space. The main bedroom has dormer windows, a skylight and two banks of windows facing east and south. And A. will have her own room. Which will be sweet.

I’ll post some photos once it’s a done deal. I don’t want to get too attached before we’re all the way there. But we’re halfway there, so keep your fingers crossed that we’ll make it to moving day. I’m hoping the most stressful part – the finding and getting – is behind us and the move will be all joy (!) Send packing boxes and organizational thinking.

Weird Clean

firehouse44.jpgWe saw a four a half million dollar house this weekend. Down from $6.3 million, so really a huge bargain. Yes, it was posh. And super cool, which, at least in San Francisco, are two things that don’t necessarily go together. The interior is modern, gorgeous and hip, with art and a lot of the cement-colored paint that seems to be everywhere these days. It was a firehouse until 1959 and, when it went private, the owners, God love ’em, kept the facade, the firepole (sweeeet) and the garage door front. In the late ’90’s, it was renovated again and it’s been back on the market for two years. You’ve got to see this place: http://www.firehouse44.com/. You should really buy it. And invite me over. Permanently.

The “basement” is a cigar room and wine cellar. That’s it. (See images 13 + 14 under Photos/First Floor). The main floor is living spaces, indoor and out. The second floor is dining and cooking (two kitchens – you know: for the help). The third story is guest quarters (three bedrooms – if you have a $4.5-million home, you also have lots of friends who like to stay with you) + more living space. The fourth floor is your floor: main bedroom, two bathrooms, one with steam shower, the other with a tub looking out on your private deck. There’s a fifth floor that’s not listed – a “viewing tower” at the top of a spiral stair. That would be my office. And I’d want to be able to retract those stairs, by the way.

And there’s an elevator. And two staircases.

But here’s what’s weird. There are four bedrooms to four full baths and two half baths. That’s more than one bath per bed, two for the master suite alone. That is one clean millionaire. And not really a selling point for me. (Theoretically, anyway – I checked the sofa and my jeans pockets and I can’t find those extra millions I misplaced last Thursday).

I was saying to R., the owner should have just gone full OCD while s/he was at it and put in sinks every few feet for obsessive handwashing. I mean, even if I’m a germaphobe, I’m not really looking to shower every time, right? Although hazmat showers would have been good if you were already laying new plumbing. There’s room in the foyer by the firepole. Right next to where you store your boots made of gold, you could discreetly put a hook for your suit and helmet and a floor drain for the decontamination shower. No problem.

Sunday in San Francisco

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Yesterday afternoon, 4PM on a grey Sunday, there was a shooting across the street from our apartment. (News coverage here.) Not “in our neighborhood” or “around the corner” but directly across the street from our living room. Yeah, in Potrero Hill, one of the sunnier, yuppier neighborhoods in the city. It’s not the Marina or Pacific Heights, where the real money lives, but nor is it the Mission or the Tenderloin, where the crack dealers roam free.

I’ve seen enough Law & Order to know that the sound of gunfire isn’t as explosive or dramatic as most people think it will be, so when a rapid succession of flat bangs burst out close by, my aural scan came up with “gunshots.” If I weren’t pregnant, I’d have been out the door to confirm and help, but R went instead (with admonitions from me to check for shooters before stepping outside – I don’t watch CSI for nothing) and yelled up to call 911. Disturbingly, I was on hold for at least two minutes with emergency response – what if there had been an intruder in our apartment? – but, on the other side of it, police, fire and ambulance were screeching up as the girl answered my call. “Are you a witness?” was the extent of our conversation, so they get points for efficiency.

R said the victim was just a kid, put him at about fifteen, and all but unconscious. Gang violence, the news said, which was my first guess too. My thoughts, in succession?

  1. “Thank God this country doesn’t materially restrict the sale of firearms or shooting down 15-year-olds in the street wouldn’t be possible.”
  2. “What is wrong with this city that this happens?” Sure, there’s violence in all cities, it’s a fact of urban life, but I’ve never felt so uniformly unsafe anywhere else. Low level criminality, vagrancy, lack of law enforcement and filth is everywhere in this city, even in the most exclusive neighborhoods. (My car was stolen from one of those ‘hoods and broken into in another.) No place is safe in San Francisco.

    This town’s pervasive permissiveness in allowing crackheads to stagger around the theater district, homeless people to sleep in any doorway they choose and cars to be routinely stolen and vandalized, telegraphs to citizens and criminals alike that no one’s watching the store. If there’s no action on the small stuff, the stuff that happens every day, the stuff that depresses quality of life and demoralizes expectations, there’s definitely no deterrent for a group of guys who want to shoot someone in broad daylight.*

    Turns out my Spidey sense that San Francisco is way worse than New York isn’t just anecdotal: despite having less than one eighth the population of New York City, the FBI reports that San Francisco has twice the rate of violent crime and murder (per 100,000 residents) and is charged with underreporting those numbers. Even if you were to take those numbers with a grain of salt, they’re shocking.

    It’s nice that San Francisco had gay marriage first (albeit briefly), banned plastic grocery bags, and the vegetables here are organic and fresh, but what the hell difference does that make if I can’t run across the street to pick up my fresh, organic vegetables in a paper bag from a married gay grocer without getting shot while doing it?

  3. “Where the hell am I going to find a bulletproof stroller?”

We definitely have to move. Maybe someplace safer, like Newark.

*The “small crimes lead to large crimes” theory is called the “fixing broken windows” principle. Implementation of small crimes tracking and deterrence in New York started with transit cop Jack Maple and his fascinating CompStat system, more widely adopted under then-Police Chief William Bratton. Interesting read, picked up by Gladwell in The Tipping Point.

Construction

For the last four weeks, jackhammers, white trucks, men in day-glo vests and fold-up barriers have taken over the ‘hood. Every intersection in a ten-block radius has been hit. All the corners have been torn up. The middle of the 16th Street artery has been sawed open. The side street where my cafe of choice waits for me has been blocked off completely. What the hell is going on?

Instead of asking one of the dozens of guys who are wandering around, I prefer to speculate. Landing strips for the alien pods. Limited release installation of the magnetic guidance lines for those cars they keep talking about that are guided by magnets instead of people. Deterrence of jaywalking by electrifying crosswalks. New Constant Employment Initiative in which construction workers are compensated just for showing up and whatever they do with their time is their business. (I think that one’s been in effect for a while, since this is, like, the fifth time in five years that they’ve dug up that same street.)

Upon further examination yesterday, I’ve come to the boring conclusion that all the fuss and noise has been about installing yellow rubberized ramps on all the corners so the handicapped among us (like me on a bike – really, I’m a hazard) can get onto and off of sidewalks. That’s not interesting at all. I’m going to stick with the aliens thing and I’m going to go get my night vision binoculars just in case.

San Francisco: The Guide: Update

One of my readers is in San Francisco and looking for tips, so in addition to the original San Francisco: The Guide (and all the various reviews I’ve ever posted!), here’s an update on

Where To Eat

If you live in a major urban center in the US, you probably know about Open Table. If you don’t, come on over: when you need to make a restaurant reservation, you can do it over the web through Open Table rather than calling up the 19-year-old at the front desk between the hours of two and five. About 90% of all the restaurants where I’ve needed a table use the site, so chances are good that your destination is in there and you can book your fallback eatery when your #1 choice is booked til March.

Chinese Food

I don’t know Chinatown very well, but I do know the best place for dim sum in the city is Yank Sing. The location I’ve been to is on an odd, small street downtown that’s a little dark and off-putting but don’t be put off: that is some bad ass Chinese food. The servers are constantly circling with tons of different plates of fresh, hot dumplings, meat dishes, veggies and on and on. Excellent place for brunch on Sunday or lunch some other day.

I also love House over in North Beach. The place is tiny and the food is unbelievable. “Clean” is the word that comes to mind to describe the cuisine: the fish is perfectly cooked, the sauces are well-matched and there’s no clutter to the dishes. Try the sea bass (if you’re sure it’s not Chilean) and any of the noodles if you’re there for lunch.

White Tablecloth

This is generally not my thing, for some reason. Maybe because San Francisco is home to so many excellent mid-range restaurants. Whatever it is, sometimes we all need a proper night out at a place that’s carpeted and where the waiters move around like sharks (silent, attentive with good teeth, that is).

Jardiniere has been my recent go-to for a formal dinner. The tasting menu is excellent but a little overwhelming unless you’re starving. Very traditional decor and presentation – not at all casual. Gets a lot of high-end pre-theater monied types since it’s behind the opera house and the symphony. Incidentally, their chef beat Mario Batali on Iron Chef America if that helps you make your decision.

A friend of mine who’s a chef raves about Quince. I’ve never been there, but I hear it’s the new, excellent place to go. It’s quite small, you absolutely need reservations and the cuisine will be innovative.

For a more traditional dinner, there’s Wolgang Puck’s Postrio. I haven’t been there in ages and Puck’s definitely jumped the shark – frozen foods? Really, Wolfgang? – but it was quite good when I did go. By “traditional” I mean bigger, more tourists (because of Puck’s name), and with a less cutting edge menu.

Gary Danko over in the Marina is another famous, special occasion restaurant. I hear really good things about it, but again, I haven’t been there myself.

Other Options

The reason I haven’t hit Quince and Gary Danko is because when we go out for a night on the town, I tend to like places that are a little more intimate and casual. My tastes fall somewhere between “foam of sea urchin” and “47 ounces of seared steak.”

Along those lines, there’s Range, still my current favorite. It’s in the Mission (local to me), has a changing menu, and is reliably excellent. That said, it is a little loud during dinner hour and sometimes a tad quick, like not a lot of dawdling over three courses. But their lamb chops are the best I’ve ever had as is, surprisingly, their roast chicken with tomatillos, which I had last week and loved, loved, loved.

I’ve covered Slanted Door in the original Guide, but here’s a refresher. They’re in the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero and serve really, really good Vietnamese food (not the fried street kind, but proper fresh, spiced, superb Vietnamese). They’re likely to be fully booked, but if you go at 5:20 and wait, you can put your name in for free tables when they open at 5:30 and I hear you’ve got a good chance of getting a spot. (I think they reserve a few tables for day-of walk-ins.) You could definitely take the kids – the place is big and loud and I’m sure they’d like something on the menu, which is long and varied. This place is a perennial favorite of everyone I know.

If you and your plus one have the chance for a date night, I’m sticking with my previous recommendations of Firefly. It’s this small, quirky, off the beaten track, very comfy and quiet place that is perfect for a date, very neighborhoody and has really lovely, carefully prepared food from local, fresh California ingredients. R and I love it there.

For French food, there’s Chez Papa‘s bistro over in our neighborhood, in Potrero Hill. It’s not my top general pick because the menu is narrow and specialized, but if you need a really superb, French-only dinner, this is your place. They also have a bigger restaurant downtown.

And finally, for sushi, I’m reiterating my vote for Blowfish, which serves the best sushi I’ve had outside Japan. More trendy than romantic, but if you go early you can avoid the posers and the worst of the noise.

Sidebar, since most visitors will end up in Union Square for shopping or cable cars or museums, just a couple of food notes:

  • Food that’s not touristy or mass-produced is hard to come by down there. For superb sandwiches, soups and a sunny space to sit if you’re out shopping, try ‘wichcraft. They’re on a strange corner on Mission Street, just outside the back entrance of Bloomingdales. Definitely worth walking a block to take a break from shopping and get a proper lunch.
  • Alternatively, I hear the food court in the newly renovated San Francisco Center‘s basement floor has a lot of good offerings but I just can’t bring myself to eat in a below-ground food court, even if it is supposed to be good!

Bon appetit!

Bad Timing

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A friend of a friend was mugged last weekend on the train at 16th and Mission. And by “mugged” I mean a dude grabbed her iPhone out of her hand in broad daylight. Since it was the new 3GS, she went after him and was helped by three nearby guys who picked up the trail and tackled the offender. And by “guys” I mean gay men in town for Pride, one of whom, while sitting on the mugger, said, “You picked the wrong gay weekend, my friend.”

Now I can’t stop saying that. It’s a handy phrase. Try it with me, “I guess I picked the wrong gay weekend to stop sniffing glue.” See? It’s an all-purpose, cheerful addition to any bad situation.

Note to San Francisco

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Re: multiple construction sites covering blocks and blocks between my apartment and my intended breakfast destination:

You have no track record of being able to manage multiple projects at once. Why don’t you just sit down, pick your favorite project and put all the guys on that one till it’s done?

Related, when you show me that you can feed and water the hamster all by yourself, we can talk about getting a puppy.

San Francisco: Four Barrel Coffee

Just driving by it, I was excited about Four Barrel Coffee, the hipster coffee place on Valencia. For one, it has huge windows and a ton of sunny space. For two, there wasn’t a laptop in sight. (I like to be the only one on a laptop in a place if at all possible. I know: total hypocrite. Yes. Hater. Yes. Guilty.)

But now that I’ve been there, I’d like to offer a big shout out in the form of a gigantic thumbs down to Four Barrel.

I don’t care if they hand craft or double roast or ritualistically violate their coffee twice daily, that is some oily dishwater disaster coffee. To compound the error, they refuse to offer the usual buffet of bad coffee doctoring options. Raw sugar, half and half, and skim milk are the extent of the sideboard buffet. No actual milk. No Splenda. Not even a grain of white sugar. Nuthin.

So you get your crap coffee and then you’re stuck with it. Bastards.

So here’s what I have to say to you guys over at Four Barrel Coffee:

I don’t come to your probably all-organic, no-leather, egg-free, wind-powered house and take away all your vegan muffins and forcefeed you Chicken McNuggets, so don’t deprive me of my proper milk and artificial sweeteners after you charge me $3 for a small cup of blackened swill.

And don’t tell me that the coffee beans were picked by vegetarian, hemp-clad peasants either ’cause that doesn’t make it better coffee. Woody Harrelson and Ed Begley, Jr. could roast and brew my coffee one cup at a time in their environmentally-sound trousers and I wouldn’t care if it tasted like yours. Make a decent cuppa first and then I’ll be down with any sustainable plan you’ve got.

Geez.