the presidio: parking, views and food

When I have a chance to give one of my out of town friends the famous Leslie Driving Tour of San Francisco, we hit all of the downtown highlights and the biggest hills (I love to drive up in my stick shift car just to see them sweat), densely packed Chinatown, the historic and always busy Embarcadero, then I drive them out to the beach and through the Richmond and Sunset districts to see all of the ticky-tacky houses. I always save the Presidio for last. As we drive through the beautiful winding, wooded roads of the Presidio and past the grassy fields I always have to remind them that we are still in San Francisco. These amazing contrasts in our little 49 square miles of the world are one of my very favorite things about San Francisco.

all photos courtesy

From 1886 to 1974 the Presidio was an active army post. In 1972 the area became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and in  1974 it was no longer needed for military purposes and was transferred to the National Park Service. In 1996 Congress created the Presidio Trust, an organization tasked with caring for and developing the park for the use and enjoyment of the public. There are about a million reasons to visit the Presidio. Regardless of your reasons, you’ve gotta eat..and the food options keep getting better (well except for that little Dixie problem). Plus the parking is awesome and the views are amazing.

presidio social club

photo courtesy nevo photographs

Presidio Social Club

563 Ruger Street, 415-885-1888

Liver and onions (which I’ll never eat but am so happy to see on any menu as it takes me right home), macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs and amazing cocktails. Brunch on the weekends includes chilaquiles and you know how I feel about that particular dish. Lunch and dinner served.

photo courtesy Chang

photo courtesy Chang


101 Montgomery, 415-561-3600

Opened this week, the newest addition in the Presidio is brought to us by Traci des Jardins and Bon Appetit Management Company and is located in an 1895 building that housed a mess hall. Much of the furniture and accessories are reclaimed from other locations at the Presidio. Food is Spanish influenced California with an emphasis (of course) on local, seasonal, sustainable and will be open breakfast, lunch and dinner, but call first as the hours are a little wonky until June.

Warming Hut & Beach Hut

Chrissy Field, beachside

The Warming Hut (west beach) and the Beach Hut (about a mile east) are open during the day and serve sandwiches, soups and salads, coffee and smoothies and both have gift and book shops. The Beach Hut is in a LEED platinum building that provides most of it’s own power via solar panels and wind turbines and solar thermal panels provide most of the hot water used. The Warming Hut occupies a 1909 warehouse and was refurbished to preserve its architectural history.

Off the Grid, Picnic on Sunday (11-4) and Twilight on Thursday (5-9)

Main Post Lawn, 415.339.5888

Check out these awesome weekly events on the lawn at the main post. Food trucks, games, cocktails, music….this Sunday there is even yoga at 1! Next to the lawn on (Saturday and) Sunday find the Tree Fall exhibit by Andy Goldsworthy.

photo courtesy

photo courtesy

There are also cafes in the Walt Disney Family Museum and the Film Centre houses Kitchen 39, both near to the Main Post Lawn. The Bowling Center offers burgers, sandwiches and beer and wine. The Thoreau Center houses Cafe RX serving Salvadorean inspired food using local, organic ingredients. And finally the Transit Cafe serves wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, salads, beer, wine and coffee until late afternoon. Last year I worked on a feasibility study for this cafe….once construction on the Doyle Drive tunnel is complete, the potential views from the patio will be spectacular. Awesome potential.

You lucky people can visit the Presidio without suffering my driving tour…get on it!

Keep in touch,


restaurant sustainability….let’s be real


Sustainable, local, organic. SLO food. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Green. We’re all talking the talk, but when it comes to restaurants, do we really walk the walk? Many jurisdictions require some sustainability measures, especially during the start up phase, but what about through the life of the restaurant? Not so much.

photos courtesy

Chicago restaurateur Justin Vrany does walk the walk. His restaurant, Sandwich Me In, in the Lakeview District, was built using all recycled materials and furnishings. His purveyors are all within a 200 mile radius. In the last two years the restaurant has produced only 8 gallons of garbage. Total. And even that was picked up by an artist to reuse. He makes much of his food from scratch rather than purchasing pre-made items that include additional packaging, and he practices beak to bottom usage (from the chicken’s skin to its bones). And yes, there is plenty of meat on his menu….and bacon! According to his customers, they may come for the message but they stay for the food.

Mr. Vrany is proving daily that this can be done and his hope is that others will follow suit. While this may seem like a great deal of work to implement, logic says it will certainly affect your bottom line positively…and isn’t that why we are in business?

We can all do better (well maybe not at Sandwich Me In), and there are plenty of resources to help. Beginning with the design of your restaurant, choose a designer/architect team that understands sustainability (yes, my hand is raised high!). But you can’t stop there. Find a sustainability expert that knows restaurant operations in your area and get help. They can direct you to local purveyors that grow sustainably, high efficiency equipment that uses less power, processes that make the most of energy efficiency like running your ice maker at night rather than during the day, companies that will pick up your used cooking oil to recycle it as automobile fuel, cleaning products and processes that don’t harm the environment and more. And all of this can save you money.

Remembering that the main reason restaurants exist is to feed people, eliminating food waste, which is estimated to be 40% of food production, should be our highest priority once the operation is up and running. Organizations like Food Tank address issues around food, food security and food systems and people like journalist and food waste consultant Jonathan Bloom spread the talk. Check out his book, American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), below. If we all get involved in the conversation then restaurants can lead the way, rather than being the latecomers to the party.

Okay….putting my soapbox away now. Keep in touch,

mof…the best of the best


One of the joys of the business that I’m in is the opportunity that I have to work with amazing artisans and artists who ply their trades with their hands. As we push our children harder and harder to intellectual pursuits, are we pushing them away from other work that might be more meaningful to them? Who will bake our break and build our homes, sew our clothes and decorate our walls? These manual pursuits, at least in the US, seem more and more neglected, even discouraged, and yet they are the foundation of all society. While the intellect may serve to elevate society, if it doesn’t have a foundation then where will we be?

In France, these vocational trades are still honored and revered. Nearly a century ago the French created a competition, the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France  (how’s your French?….the Best ‘Maker’ in France), to preserve and uplift over 100 artisan trades from embroidery and jewelry making to baking, butchering and tending bar. The competition is held every four years, and we are smack in the middle of the current competition. Entries were accepted through September of 2013. Competition is underway now to determine the semi-finalists in each category who will compete in 2015 for the title of MOF. Each semi-finalist is judged solely on their own merits and not against the other semi-finalists, and so there is no limit to the number of MOF titles that can be bestowed. Once designated an MOF, the appellation follows the winner throughout his or her career and life and expects the victors to continue to learn and grow within their field in a constant search for perfection.

In 2009  Kings of Pastry was released, a movie that carried us through the pastry world of the 2007 Meilleurs Ouvriers de France. In order to succeed in this competition and earn the acclaim within their field that follows, the competitors spend up to two years practicing and honing their skills. Marriages dissolve, friendships are lost and spirits are broken in the process. But to win the title of MOF is to receive the absolute highest commendation, promoting both the individual and the field in which they practice. This is the foundation on which intellect may soar…and this is one area where the world should be looking to France for direction.

Rant over….now go watch the movie! It’s wonderful. And here are a few more movies on food that I recommend…

Blood, Bones and Butter: Gabrielle Hamilton

blood‘My parents seemed incredibly special and outrageously handsome to me then. I could not have boasted of them more or said my name, first and last together, more proudly, to show how it directly linked me to them. I loved that our mother was French and that she had given me that heritage in my very name. I loved telling people that she had been a ballet dancer at the Met in New York City when she married my father. I loved being able to spell her long French name, M- A- D-E- L- E- I- N- E, which had exactly as many letters in it as my own. My mother wore the sexy black cat- eye eyeliner of the era, like Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren, and I remember the smell of the sulphur every morning as she lit a match to warm the tip of her black wax pencil. She pinned her dark hair back into a tight, neat twist every morning and then spent the day in a good skirt, high heels, and an apron that I have never seen her without in forty years. She lived in our kitchen, ruled the house with an oily wooden spoon in her hand, and forced us all to eat dark, briny, wrinkled olives, small birds we would have liked as pets, and cheeses that looked like they might well bear Legionnaire’s Disease.’

~Gabrielle Hamilton, Blood, Bones & Butter

Memoirs often leave me cold, and it takes a really strong recommendation from a very well respected reader to convince me to pick one up. Luckily for me, I picked this one up. You should read this book too. Gabrielle Hamilton doesn’t just introduce her readers to the world of the kitchen, she takes us through the crazy world she inhabited that brought her there. And she does it with a writing style that is both engaging and revealing, and at the same time is well written. There is nothing that bothers me more, and I admit when it comes to memoir I read with a critical and cynical eye, than redundancy or too much telling and not enough showing or the overuse of simile and metaphor. (If run-on sentences bother you, you can skip that last one.) I’ll read a bad story written well before I’ll read a great story written poorly.

Gabrielle cooked for over 20 years before she decided she really was a writer and began work on an MFA, cooking only part time to support her education. The path through her MFA convinced her, along with her part-time cooking gig, that in fact she really did belong in the kitchen, perhaps with a pencil in her hand. After returning to New York  she took a crazy leap and opened a restaurant in the East Village in 1999. Since then she has  won awards for both her chef-ing and her writing. Her convoluted path through lies, drugs, sex, travel, marriage and self absorption, took her on a less than direct path to the opening of Prune. I’m not sure if it’s her crazy story or her descriptions of food and her sense of hospitality, but I want to eat there. Lucky for me I have a trip planned to attend a wedding on the east coast this summer…maybe this will give me reason to be less grumpy about being in New York in July.

Keep in touch,

some of the fabulous ones

In its sixth year, the breadth of project types keeps growing in the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards out of the UK. Not only are projects categorized by geographic region (UK and international), but also by type of project: bar, restaurant, also type of bar or restaurant, style of service, location of bar or restaurant, and so on. Entry closed the end of April and the short list will be announced July 1. In the meantime there are some pretty amazing projects to peruse and inspire. Here are a few outside the US that I think I should visit….we can call it research. Check out the website for all of the entries. All photos courtesy and the designer/architect listed.

Dachgarten, Jouin Manku

Munich, Germany. Located in the Hotel Bayerischer Hof.


The Liquor Station, KAI Design

Wembley, Middlesex, UK

Erlkonig, ATP Sphere

Innsbruck, Austria

Sansibar by Breuninger, Dittel Architekten

Dusseldorf, Germany in the Breuninger department store

Dalliance House, INK Architects

Athens, Greece

Fish & Fusion, Yod Design

Poltava, Ukraine

Hope this inspires you to create (and travel and eat…)! Happy Monday,

award winning cooks and their books

the updated interior of the best restaurant in the world photo courtesy Noma

the best restaurant in the world
photo courtesy Noma

I think I’ve mentioned I’m a ridiculous cookbook hoarder. Growing up I loved watching cooking shows on PBS, although I had little interest in actually cooking. As a matter of fact when my mom tried to engage me in the kitchen I balked and left the house in favor of mud puddles and swingsets, and later friends and books. But every Saturday morning would find me transfixed by the Galloping Gourmet and Julie Child. I still enjoy the ‘how to’ cooking shows over the reality based drama-in-the-kitchen shows. There’s something about the story of food that pulls me in. And when it comes to cookbooks, I rarely use them to cook, but covet every beautiful book I see and read them like novels with gorgeous pictures.

Now that it’s award season, I’ll share a few of my favorites from some fabulous award winners and nominees. I’m sure there are quite a few additional books that merit inclusion, but I don’t own them (yet). Maybe next year…..

The Best Restaurant in the World

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy is a group of over 900 mega foodies who eat out. A lot. And based on their own impressions they each vote, in order, for the 7 best restaurants they’ve eaten in during the prior 18 months. Then the votes get tallied and we get their yearly list every April. You can find the whole list here.

Noma is back on top. Chef Rene Redzepi (one of my personal favorites even though I’ve never eaten his food…..sigh…..) tells amazing food stories both about the food he cooks and his approach  to food and dining. Although I’ve never eaten his food, I have devoured his words, both written and spoken, as have many who live closer to the food world than I do. His message of eating locally with respect for the places we harvest ripples to the farthest reaches of the planet and has contributed to better eating for everyone. So yea, I’m happy he’s back on top. Check out his books….they are as much about story as they are about recipes. And by the way, Rene Redzepi: A Work in Progress is also a nominee in the Professional Cookbook category and the Photography category.


James Beard Awards 2014

The Beard Awards cover all aspects of the food industry from chefs to designers and are specific to North America. Per

Established in 1990, the James Beard Foundation Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and continue to emphasize the Foundation’s mission: to celebrate, preserve, and nurture America’s culinary heritage and diversity. Each award category has an individual Awards committee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards program.

Award winners for 2014 will be announced on Monday, May 5. Here are a couple of the nominees and their fabulous books.

A16: Best Wine Program

This is a gorgeous restaurant and a gorgeous cookbook that you can actually cook from. And in my case perhaps learn a thing or fifty-eight about wine. Steve will tell you how perfectly hopeless I am when it comes to knowing/describing/understanding wine…but I am good at drinking it!

Daniel Patterson: Best Chef in the West

I’m not going to go on and on and embarrass myself (again), just read about Daniel Patterson and Coi here. The book is gorgeous and Chef has a beautiful writing voice that bring ingredients, place and food to life.

I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do. They are as at home on my bedside table as they are the kitchen counter. Cook something wonderful for dinner, or maybe order in and read a really great story about food.

sf film fest on food and art

The 57th annual SF Film Festival begins tomorrow…enjoy these films that have something to do with art or food. All photos courtesy

Art and Craft


a documentary centering on the life and mental illness of a philanthropic art forger

Cesar’s Last Fast


the story of Cesar Chavez centered around his 1988 fast, the final of many taken to highlight the rights of his fellow farm workers



improvised around a storyline, four couples attend a dinner party when a comet passes by and things get weird

Fed Up


a cautionary documentary that follows the obesity crisis and its connection to federal dietary guidelines

Impossible Light


about our very own Bay Bridge…..counts as art in my book

The Last Season


documentary about the (mostly) southeast Asian immigrants who make up the seasonal collection of mushroom hunters in Chemult, Oregon

Soul Food Stories


a mixed bag of Muslim, Christian, Catholic and atheist communists living together in Satovcha, Bulgaria come together over their shared love of food (reminds me of the boys behind the Jerusalem Cookbook…food brings us together politicians!)

iconThe Trip to Italy


more food porn from director Michael Winterbottom (The Trip) and the duo Brydon and Coogan who hilariously needle each other in the most beautiful places that you wish you were visiting!

Enjoy the festival….

Chefs Catalog

dining out for life tonight!


Tonight is your night….go out, eat some good chow, and spread a little love in the Bay Area. I’ll be at Sol Food in San Rafael spreading the word and collecting some love, but you have other restaurant choices as well. 25% of your bill goes to the San Francisco Aids Foundation and 100% of your straight up donations go to SFAF. Plus you might win a great prize!

The SFAF mission statement should be encouragement enough, right?

‘San Francisco AIDS Foundation works to end the HIV epidemic in the city where it began, and eventually everywhere. Established in 1982, our mission is the radical reduction of new infections in San Francisco because we refuse to accept HIV as inevitable. Through education, advocacy and direct services for prevention and care, we are confronting HIV in communities most vulnerable to the disease.’

Come out, invite some friends, have a little fun and do a really good deed. SFAF needs our help to continue to do their good works. Here are your action items:

  1. NOW:  Buy a raffle ticket on my page by making any size donation you are able. A $25 donation gets you two tickets, $50 gets you five, $100 gets you twelve and $500 gets you sixty tickets!  Grand prize is a vacation in Costa Rica and there are seven other great prizes as well. Plus you are helping to end the scourge of HIV and of course that’s why you’re really doing this.
  2. TONIGHT: Join me at Sol Food for dinner (I’ll be there from 4-8) and the restaurant will donate 25% of proceeds to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Plus we get to hang out and eat great food. You can also get take out at the Bodega next door.

I got a late start and I’m at ZERO DONATIONS (kinda embarrassing) so please don’t delay….buy your raffle tickets now and meet me for dinner!

Thank you for your support,

Dining Out for Life update

photo courtesy

photo courtesy

Update…I’m the Dining Out for Life ambassador at Sol Food in San Rafael!

Come visit me, eat some great food, support a great cause on Tuesday, April 22. See all the info in my post here. If you can’t join me at Sol Food, please find a restaurant that is convenient for you, but dine out somewhere! And buy your raffle tickets off my page!

dining out for life: April 22

all photos courtesy dining out for life website

all photos courtesy dining out for life website

Mark your calendar. This coming Tuesday night, April 22, you will need to be going out to dinner in the SF Bay Area. This is our local restaurateurs annual night to participate in giving back in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Dining Out for Life.

dining out

Once upon a time in the late 80s, when AIDS was younger and deadlier, I was a newcomer to San Francisco and volunteered at all of the summer street fairs signing up volunteers for the AIDSwalk. Yes, I was one of those loud people standing in the middle of the throngs with a clipboard shouting ‘sign up for the AIDSwalk here….help find a cure for AIDS’. Maybe we even met at one of those events. I’m sure you signed up for at least one AIDSwalk, right?

dining out3

Well here we are several decades later and, while HIV/AIDS is still a very bad thing, because of all the research and outreach, it doesn’t make headlines the way it used to and it doesn’t elicit quite the same drama and fear.  But it is still out there and we still need to support those who have the disease, prevent others from getting it, and find a cure. So this is what I’m doing today (I’m much too old to shout at street fairs anymore). I’m dining out, and so should you. The restaurants involved donate a minimum of 25% of sales to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. And to sweeten the deal even more, there’s a raffle and you can win a vacation. All you have to do is show up, eat and make a donation (or make an online donation if you can’t attend…you can even register for the sweepstakes without donating, but I’m sure you can eke out at least five bucks).

I hope to see you out to dinner on Tuesday!

april 15, 2014: pesach 5774


Passover photo courtesy

photo courtesy

Thank you SF Eater for getting me out of a little fix. Passover begins Tuesday, which means the first Seder is Monday night. For the uninitiated, that means that we Jew-folk are crazily buying food and cooking it beginning about 3 days ago. Hence the tardiness of this post. SF Eater to the rescue….today in my crowded little inbox they sent me a list of 14 restaurants that are serving Seder fare. I share with you the list.  And even if you don’t do the whole Seder schtick, you can still participate in a bit of the yumminess of our most gastronomic of holidays.  Not to mention all the wine that we are COMMANDED to drink!

Chag Sameach to the Jews out there….and happy Friday to the rest of you!


Gumbo Tales: Sara Roahen

gumbo tales

‘Of all the follies I committed en route to becoming a New Orleanian–pronouncing Burgundy Street like the wine (in New Orleans-speak, the emphasis is on gun), locking my mountain bike on the front porch (once, before it disappeared), agreeing to work on Fat Tuesday–the most egregious was disrespecting the po-boy. Just a submarine sandwich, I’d sneer as another month passed without trying one.  But po-boys are as unavoidable in New Orleans as mousling cockroaches are, and in time the determination of both broke me. I don’t scream anymore when I see the cockroaches limbo-ing beneath the doorsill, and curiosity eventually drove me up Magazine Street to Guy’s Po-Boys.’

My first trip to New Orleans was a few years after Hurricane Katrina. Rebuilding was well under way in many neighborhoods, but there were still piles of rubble that were once homes sprinkled in every neighborhood of the city. And there were neighborhoods that were still nearly vacant. I fell in love with the city on that first trip and have loved it more with every visit since. Food and restaurants, being such a central part of the culture of New Orleans, have led the recovery in many ways. And food has changed in New Orleans since Katrina. You can still get anything fried and seafood with every meal, but there are also fresh vegetables growing in New Orleans and there is a growing movement to eat what is grown locally.

On my first visit I met Nat Turner, a teacher from New York who went to New Orleans after Katrina, then stayed to become part of its future.  Turner, as he likes to be called, is an imposing and charismatic figure who has become an integral part of the Lower Ninth Ward. He opened a school, Our School at Blair Grocery, to teach the local youth that growing and selling tomatoes is more profitable than dealing drugs. They are now selling their vegetables to the once again thriving restaurants of New Orleans.

On my way home from that first trip I picked up Gumbo Tales at the airport. It is, to date, my favorite book about New Orleans and as a newcomer to that amazing world, it was and is my best view in. While each chapter spins around one of the many foods that define New Orleans, the book is about much more than food. It is about the character and feel of the city and people who live there. Just read it.

Keep in touch,

food palettes…a starting place

With every design project the designer must choose a starting point. For a restaurant project it might be the food. Here is my flight of fancy using food palettes as conceptual beginnings. All photos courtesy  Click on  photos to get to recipes.

Cured Salmon with Oyster Panna Cotta, Crab, Avruga Caviar & Avocado/Crème Fraîche


Chocolate/Almond Tortellini with Blood Oranges & Pine Nuts

 Oyster with Carolina Rice Grits & Ramp Capers


 Burnt Heather Partridge with Celeriac, Watercress & Chanterelles


Is this all making you hungry?  Or maybe it’s time to get out the paints. Either way, it was fun for me! What inspires you at the beginning of a project? I’d love to hear your thoughts

Keep in touch,

seven generations

“In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.”

~Great Law of the Iroquois


Earth Day is April 22.  I’d like to respectfully suggest that we take the law of the Iroquois into our own hearts and start again. Let Earth Day be a new beginning of doing at least one more thing (or one less thing, depending on the thing), that will benefit those who come behind us. Here are a few suggestions.

Consider one, or all, of these 22 eco-conscious habits.

Up the health of a school. Start or join a project for Green Apple Day of Service.

Wear nothing new.  Or take it a step further…buy nothing new (except consumables, duh).

Eat slow. One of the markets I shop in lists the distance that their produce travels to get to their shelves. Buy produce that travels less than 500 miles…that way you know it is in season.

Take out your lawn and plant a garden. Cultivate it with your children, friends, neighbors…spread the wealth!

Have a great weekend….sending some special love to my sis today,


eating fish in a barrel

a rant aside

If you’ve been reading me for long, you know that so-called ‘edison bulbs’ drive me crazy. Yes, they are pretty and trendy and give that old-timey back to the farm feel to things. But they also use a ridiculous amount of energy (versus their light output) and create a significant amount of heat which then needs to be removed (unless you are building your restaurant in the very far north I suppose). So all in all, there is absolutely nothing sustainable or earth friendly or green about them. IMHO, there is no reason to use them….be creative people!

So, as I perused the entries in one of my favorite contests, the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards, in search of something interesting that has been entered from my neck of the woods, you probably heard the cursing. Nearly every US entry not only used the dang things, but they also feature them as a highlight in their photographs! At Barrel House Tavern in Sausalito the designers at least had the decency to use them very sparingly, and did not use them as a detail shot (at least not for the contest). Maybe some people are finally getting past this very over used and tired design trend. Rant over.

Barrel House Tavern

Barrel House Tavern was 2 years in the making in a building over a century old on the Sausalito waterfront. According to the website this was the original ferry landing for the SF to Sausalito Ferry pre-Golden Gate Bridge (1936) and has since been home to Water Street Grille and Houlihan’s. CCS Architecture and the owner, Chris Henry, crafted a warm wood and leather seafood restaurant with soaring ceilings and gorgeous bay views in the neighborhood where Mr. Henry grew up fishing and crabbing. There are touches of earlier CCS projects throughout, but it all comes together to create a singular feel without forcing the heavy ‘concept’ touches of its Houlihan’s past.

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And by the way, if you have a project to enter, you only have until April 20!

Happy Thursday,