Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Perfect Day in Sacramento

Though once reputed as a farming community, Sacramento is starting to find its stride. Here's my perfect day in this easy-to-navigate city.

8am: Sojourn to Temple Coffee for the best latte and pastries in Sacramento.

9:30am: Wander through the Capitol Gardens and peek inside the Capitol at the art gallery, selected by Senators.

11am: Grab a picnic lunch at the Sacramento Co-op (www.sacfoodcoop.com) and then head to the Sacramento River to swim and eat alfresco.

2pm: Venture to the California State Railroad Museum (www.csrmf.org) to see the greatest collection of trains in the State.

4pm: Head over to Midtown's Grid neighborhood to stroll past boutiques and enjoy happy hour at one of the dozen outdoor patios.

6:30: Reserve well in advance at The Kitchen for a true dining extravaganza. (Note: this is a bit pricy, so if you are counting your dollars, head to Biba instead).

9:30pm: Return to the Grid neighborhood to bar hop late into the evening.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Medicine Eatstation Closes

I have to add another restaurant closure to the ever-growing list. Medicine Eatstation in San Francisco has gone kaput.

If you are on the hunt for healthy Japanese fare, head to Cha-Ya 762 Valencia St
San Francisco, (415) 252-7825.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bay Area Toddler Activities That Won't Bore Mom and Dad Too Much

Though I spend countless days wandering around the streets of San Francisco on the hunt for concrete mixers and tractors, when my son Kai needs some focus (or, let me be honest here: when I need a break) here are some of my favorite places to take him.

Golden Gate Park: So the Koret Playground (you know that monster playground next to hippie hill) is great and all, but usually going to a playground makes me want to start drinking Bloody Marys in the corner. My friend Leigh calls playgrounds a "Petri dish of parenting", while my friend Julie notes the "mean girl" mentality that takes me back to 7th grade and rude group letters from the "cool girls" telling me how much they hate me. So I tend to avoid playgrounds unless my husband is with me. Sure, these are my issues, but isn't all of parenting about passing on our issues to our children? Anyway, I love taking Kai to Golden Gate Park's Botanical Garden (it's free!), Stow Lake (you never imagine how interesting pigeons and turtles can be) and of course the Academy of Sciences.

Berkeley's Tilden Park: Last weekend, my friend Ali inspired me to finally take Kai to Tilden, and what a treat. By far the most entertaining free place in the Bay Area is the Tilden Little Farm (past the carousel). Here you can feed the sheep, pig, cows, and goats and see chickens, mammoth sized turkeys, and geese. Afterward, a trip on the steam train (the best 2 bucks you'll spend all day) is an ample reward for mom and toddler.

Crissy Field:
A beach with no waves, what more can you ask for? Well, 75 degree weather and no wind might not come every day, but when it graces San Francisco, this is where we go to play in the water. Plus the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the ships remind me why I live in this gorgeous city.

Fort Funston:
The other day we were on our way to the zoo, when we spotted the hang gliders soaring over Fort Funston. Of course, I made a U-turn to head to Fort Funston instead. Now, this steep beach path is known for wind, but the magic of watching these daredevils surf the air kept Kai entertained, while also teaching him a new word: hang gliders; imagine this mom's delight at that one for his arsenal.

Pacifica Beach:
OK, so Northern California doesn't often have the weather for beachcombing, but who cares? Kai takes after his name and loves the water, so we head here at the first sign of sun to frolic in waves and sand. Bring an extra pair of clothes and a blanket.

Tennessee Valley: For this one, moms and dads, lessen your ambition. While we used to take epic hikes to Muir Beach and back from here, now we take Kai to see how far he can walk. The last time we came, he made it to the first trailhead (about 100 feet) before he started splashing in puddles that reached his waist and we had to strip him and take him back to the car. But he LOVED it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Don't Miss de Young Museum's Bouquets to Art

One of the most lively--literally--art events in San Francisco returns this week (March 17-21). Come celebrate the arrival of spring with a collection of floral arrangements to mirror the de Young's collection of art.

Though this may sound like something that merely gets Old Aunt Edna's pantyhose in a twitch, this is really one of my favorite events all year. The floral designs are out of this world and make the art exhibits come alive in their own other-worldly ways.

Open Tue-Sat 9:30-5:15 (until 8:45 on Fri)
de Young Museum
Golden Gate Park

Thursday, March 12, 2009

$1 a Night in SF Green Hotel--no joke!

Just got this in--jump on it ASAP--it will sell out FAST.

Beginning April Fool’s Day 2009, San Francisco’s Orchard and Orchard Garden Hotel will offer one deluxe room per night at $1 each ($1.16 with tax) at each hotel throughout the month of April.

Reservations are only available at www.theorchardhotels.com beginning at 10am PDT on Wednesday, April 1, by using the promotional code ‘Fool!’

Only one ‘foolish’ room is available per reservation; additional room nights begin at $159 per night.

Once the 60 allotted rooms available for this promotion are sold out, the package will be closed.

The Orchard Garden Hotel is California’s only truly 100% green hotel--and one of my favorites in SF. Rooms are both simple and luxurious--and earth friendly!--with Wi-Fi access, iPod docking station, HDTV flat panel television with DVD player, coffee maker, honor bar, in-room safe, dual-line cordless telephones and luxurious organic bath products. Plus it is steps to Belden Place, Chinatown, Union Square and the Financial District.

Mark your calendars for this deal--it's unlike anything I have seen before.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On the Hunt For Bigfoot

Northern California has its share of oddities. Amphibious sculpture races, a giant Paul Bunyan, a Pez museum, a house that defies gravity, more naked people than you want to see, pillow fights, pie fights...

Lately I have wondered whether the two tributes to Bigfoot--one in Felton and one in Willow Creek--should be highlighted on that list. Sure the big illusive one deserves a space for his star to shine, but is he quirky enough? I'll let you decide.

As the Bigfoot Discovery Museum says, "They want to flesh out the hairy guy’s dossier.” In other words, this museum exhibits sightings, hoaxes and all things related to the big old dude supposedly living in many forests. Free. (831-335-4478; bigfootdiscoveryproject.com) 5497 Hwy 9, Felton. Open at least Wed-Fri 1-6 and weekends 11-6.

China Flat Bigfoot Museum showcases plenty of memorabilia of times gone by, but the main attraction here is the Bigfoot collection that recently got released to the public for viewing. Free. (530-629-2653; bigfootcountry.net) Hwy 299 & Hwy 96, Willow Creek. Open Wed- Sun, 10 to 4, mid-Apr-late Oct.

Monday, March 9, 2009

New SF restaurant--lolo

A couple of nights ago, my husband and I went on a rare date. Having a toddler makes restaurant dining challenging, yet in these strapped economic times, it is tough to justify dinner, drinks, a movie and a babysitter.

But we sucked it up, took the bus to San Francisco's Mission district and strolled passed a quirky eatery, with a paper menu stapled to the outside wall.

When we entered the restaurant we soon learned was called lolo, Bebel Gilberto's voice fluttered around the room. With only 5 tables and an open kitchen, it felt like we had stumbled into an intimate restaurant in Mexico City, rather than San Francisco.

Our host walked us down a windy hallway to another, more spacious room, complete with multi-patterned bright canvas walls and high-backed booths. Tables were populated by a mix of self-congratulating Republican young women from Novato, lesbians chatting about the Prop 8 debate and Latino families slurping large bottles of Spanish wine.

Forgoing our normal tastes, we asked the waiter what to get and dutifully he brought us their specialties: a tropical taco, octopus and pistachio salmon. The chef must be a fan of Jackson Pollack, because his food splashed color with texture, both visually and in our mouths.

The small plates kept coming as we sipped Siete 7 vino and enjoyed an adult dinner. And for this, lolo had placed itself high on my list of favorite new SF dining spots.

Then, the check came (which was reasonable despite our alcoholic splurges), stuffed inside a book (circa 1982) of Shetland Sheepdogs, with a number of entertaining bits of graffiti strewn throughout. And that was when we relished San Francisco, where restaurants take themselves seriously, but not too seriously.

lolo, 3234 22nd St, San Francisco. 415-643-5656.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Add Another Loss to the List

One of my most favorite cafes has closed--Northpoint Coffee Shop in Sausalito. This bayfront location's death cracks a hole in my Must See Spots in Marin County. Now, I am looking for a new cafe to frequent in Marin--any suggestions?

Friday, March 6, 2009

The End of Pangaea Restaurant in Gualala

Sad news to report folks. The funkiest restaurant on the Mendonoma Coast (well if you don't count the BBQ joint, famous with Harley riders) has shut its doors. Pangaea is the latest eatery to have been affected by the economic crisis. And they will be missed.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stevenswood Mendocino Package Deals

One of my choice getaways is the Mendocino Coast. It makes the words "quaint" and "idyllic" seem understated. With everything from farm fresh eateries to funky inns, bearded ladies to world class art, Mendocino County inspires.

So obviously, when I found this little travel deal, I had to share.

One of the finest inns in Mendocino County, Stevenswood, (think LA style, with mod touches, an in-room espresso machine, and understated luxury on a forest-y bluff across the street from the sea) has some deals you should not pass up on.

Check out their last minute specials if you have time during the week (and have a flexible schedule), otherwise the package deals get you rooms for less than half price, and some include whale watching (this is one of my favorite areas to spot the migrating gray whales--and now is the time).