food courts are so last century




mercato centrale

photo courtesy

Once upon a time in Europe there were food halls. Well actually there are still food halls. Like the amazing Mercato Centrale in Florence where everything from fish to flowers is for sale along with prepared foods from lovely little cafes and market stalls. During my first trip to Florence, as a child of the 70s and American food courts, I thought I’d entered nirvana. The beauty and aroma of real food, not fried everything sitting in a water bath under an electric sign, was breathtaking. Mercato Centrale has changed since my first visit…what hasn’t changed is the focus on quality food. Meanwhile back in the American 70s suburbs were sprawling all over the place and town centers were either disappearing or never existed. So the shopping mall developers decided they’d move food into their now enclosed shopping malls and kill several birds, literally, with one stone. I’m just guessing, and I could be wrong, that shopping mall developers care more about their bottom line than whether their vendors are selling local organic produce, so what we got was cheap fast food around a sea of plastic tables.

Here we are several decades later, and we seem to have finally caught on. Food courts are so last century. Food halls are what people want…places where food is center stage. Have you noticed? Food courts are dying people so stop building them! Give us a variety of quality foods, some meat to take home for dinner, a cafe or restaurant to relax in, a nice glass of wine and we will spend that hard earned cash. Win win.

Union Market DC

Originally opened in 1871 Union Market has grown and changed dramatically. Today the market offers amazing food and food centric shopping, bbq outside, outdoor movies in the summer. The market hopes to be the center of an entirely revitalized neighborhood that has fallen on hard times. On vacation a couple of weeks ago we saw the building top sign from our hotel and walked over. After the sterility of most of tourist DC, the Union Market was a breath of fresh air, particularly the surrounding neighborhood which is still clearly working class. The market was absolutely packed both inside and out with couples, singles, families all enjoying amazing food and a bit of shopping as well.


I’ve said it before, if you are in New York do yourself a favor and go to Eataly hungry. Several restaurants and cafes, even more take out, and more groceries than you can possibly fit in your fridge. All the shopping you need to do made better with a glass of wine in your hand! Four years old and still buzzing… definitely worth the ride down to Gramercy.

Chelsea Market

The behemoth market of all food markets must be the Chelsea Market in Manhattan. A block wide and a block long (and if you know New York you understand that one of those blocks is damn long), the 15 year old Chelsea Market has everything: cafes, restaurants from petite to super fab, coffee and tea, herbs and spices, libations, clothing, haircare, shoe shine. Seriously everything. The teen who lived at Walmart should have bought a bus ticket east.

San Pedro Square Market

Back on my own coast we have an up and comer down in San Jose, the San Pedro Square Market. On a street that was pretty scary back in my college days, the market has transformed the area to a hub of activity minus the police sirens. At the market you’ll find food, drink, a patio with music and summer evening movies, shops and a barber. Yup, a little swipe from Chelsea.

and back here in San Francisco

We are finally getting a food hall or two. According to Eater SF, the biggest will be located on Castro Street and should open next month. My only question is, what took so long? This is San Francisco people….we pay for food before we pay our utility bills!

Have a great week and keep in touch,

a major ps here….yes, we do have (and have had for a very long time) our beloved ferry building. We can thank the Loma Prieta earthquake for getting SF to finally tear down a nasty freeway that separated us from our beautiful waterfront and gave birth to not only a visitor friendly ferry building but several new restaurants and walking paths along the waterfront. And yes, the ferry building is definitely a food hall. So I apologize to the ferry building for leaving it off of this list. It was, after all, a predecessor to all the rest. (And I was apparently asleep at the wheel…updated June 8, 2015)

dear restaurateur….whine

Dear restaurateur, The good people at Consumer Reports surveyed 1003 people (I know, why 1003?), in March of this year to find out what customers gripe about when it comes to restaurants. And very few of the gripes are about the food….so listen up! Most of your customers’ complaints are very very fixable. Here they are in order, […]

10 days till shortlist…

The Restaurant & Bar Design Awards opened their call for entries on January 13, closed entries on April 25th, and the short list will be announced July1. There are 827 entries to pare down. The winners will be announced on my birthday in September! What a fun gift…

It’s been a while since I featured one of these beautiful projects….about time, don’t you think? I’m sticking with US entries for the moment. And while I love the super-decoration of Mister Important Designs, and the heavy masculinity of Zack/de Vito’s work (they’ve both got projects entered), today I’m looking to the US Northwest at one of many restaurants by Matt Dillon, chef and proprietor of Bar Sajor in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.  Built on a white palette, the space centers around Dillon’s only cooking apparatus, a wood fired oven. Ceilings are high and the many windows create a bright interior filled with whimsy (are those gold trimmed seashells on the wall above the oven?) and just enough swirls and soft edges to keep the place from feeling overly cold. Matt Dillon and his Bar Sajor have won acclaim already (GQ’s 25 best new restaurants, James Beard’s best chef). Let’s see what the judges in the UK think. This is definitely on the list for my next visit to Seattle!

All photos courtesy Sajor

Keep in touch,

ps….and bravo for not using any of those pesky Edison lamps!

The book is available….and they told us not until July!


a devilish hot weekend


Have you been up to the northern reaches of Sonoma County in the last, say, 6 years? Hubby is doing a 100 mile bicycle ride through wine country in a few weeks (the Giro Bello ride to benefit the Rotary Club’s charities if you want to join him), so yesterday we drove about half the course and ended up in the tiny little town of Geyserville. The ride is gorgeous through vineyards, farms, winding country roads and rolling hills with rest stops at a couple of wineries. Not sure I could enjoy it as much on a bicycle, but beautiful from our air conditioned car!

By the time we arrived in Geyserville it was late afternoon. We’d worked in our garden all morning then jumped in the car to check out his route…lunch hadn’t seemed important at the time. So at 4pm in 100 degree weather I was verging on ‘hangry’ as my good friend Patty says. Hungry and angry. Hubby is gluten free, so the deli wasn’t an option, the cafe was closing for the day, and Diavola was two doors down and serving a limited menu. I don’t speak any Italian, but I know diavola and I think I was channeling her, so it seemed like a match.

Diavola opened in 2008 under the tutelage of Chef Dino Bugica who hailed from nearby Santi (now closed). Bugica’s love of salumi stems from years spent in Italian butcher shops learning the trade. At Diavolo they make their own salumi as well as some amazing pizza. The restaurant consists of a front room where the pizza oven takes center stage with the bar on one side and tables on the other. At the front end of the bar is the chef’s table over which hang meat hooks holding the curing house made salumi. Kind of like the ducks in the window in Chinatown but way better. We were seated in the second dining room, just off the main room. And lucky we were….the heat was stressing the building’s power and intermittently shutting it down along with the lights and air conditioning…it was nice to be away from the pizza oven, pretty as it is!

After powering down a litre of ice water and all of the delicious skinny breadsticks they brought when we sat down, we relaxed enough (barely) to look around and see what a cute place Diavola is. Brick and plaster walls, old fir flooring, a (fake) tin ceiling and rustic furniture. Kitchen towels as napkins are always a favorite of mine…whenever we travel that’s what I collect. Loving anything spicy, we chose the Inferno pizza…roasted red peppers, tomatoes, basil, provolone, mozzarella and spicy peppers. We didn’t even need to add the spicy house made oil provided at each table. In our haste to get food on the table, we forgot to ask our server for gluten free crust, so lucky me I got to eat more than my share while my hubby nibbled at a slice or two muttering ‘stomach be damned’ under his breath. We also shared their mixed green salad which was anything but typical. Mixed greens with pine nuts, gorgonzola, radish, bacon and fried fava beans which were amazing. It was all dressed in a slightly sweet vinaigrette. I could totally eat a whole bowl of the fried fava beans and happily not share a single one.

I’m looking forward to driving the second half next weekend and finding another undiscovered (by me) treasure….I clearly need to get out more! And if we by chance end up at Diavola again, we will make sure it is during lunch or dinner when we can enjoy the full menu and maybe even sit on their adorable patio. Presuming it isn’t 100 degrees.

Have a great week…I hope you get to explore something new,

Diavola Pizzeria/Salumeria
21021 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville
open seven days a week, lunch and dinner

where herb ate

I grew up in a household that took the San Francisco Chronicle even though we lived in Palo Alto. When we went to San Francisco we wore white gloves and dresses, and the first stop was the flower stand at the corner of Geary and Stockton to get gardenia corsages. San Francisco was a magical place when I was a child full of big, beautiful people living big, beautiful lives. My mom read Herb Caen religiously, and when I learned to read so did I. We read about the beautiful people that Herb Caen met in the dining rooms at Ernie’s and Tadich Grill or at the bar at Trader Vic’s. When he died in 1997, we cried at my house as if we’d lost a favorite uncle. A few years ago at one of my children’s school auctions, someone donated an original column that came directly out of  Herb Caen’s old Royal typewriter with his pen mark corrections. I don’t recall what I paid for it, but that column, touched by the very man’s fingers, was definitely coming home with me. Even now when I read about the closing of one of the venerable establishments that Mr. Caen himself visited, another little piece of me cries. This month, as I’m sure you’ve heard, we are losing another of San Francisco’s finest: Fleur de Lys. Their last service will be June 28, 2014. Fleur de Lys isn’t even one of San Francisco’s oldest restaurants, but it is certainly one of the most loved. In honor of Fleur de Lys and its ilk, here is a list of some of yesterday’s remaining best, and those that are gone.

Yesterday’s Remaining Best

Tadich Grill, 240 California Street
Celebrated as the oldest restaurant in California, in 1849 Nikola Burdovich, Frano Kosta and Antonio Gasparich opened The Coffee Stand on fisherman’s wharf serving fresh fish grilled over charcoal. The restaurant moved and changed hands several times as the city grew and became New World Coffee Saloon. In 1876 John Tadich became barkeep and in 1882 the New World Coffee Saloon became The Cold Day Restaurant and moved to 221 Leidesdorff. In 1887 Cold Day was purchased by Tadich (and a partner), then in 1912 Tadich alone opened a new location at 545 Clay and renamed it Tadich Grill, the original Cold Day Restaurant. In 1928 Tadich sold to his employees the Buich brothers. In 1967 the restaurant moved to its current location.

House of Prime Rib, 1906 Van Ness
Opened in 1949 by Lou Balaski, current owner Joe Betz took over in 1985 and now shares the reins with his son.

Fleur de Lys, 777 Sutter Street
First opened in the late 50’s, Fleur de Lys was purchased by Maitre d’ Maurice Rouas in 1970. In 1986 he brought on Hubert Keller as a partner as San Francisco ushered in a more chef focused era. Rouas died in 2012 leaving the restaurant to Keller. June 28, 2014 will be their last day of service.

Sam’s Grill, 374 Bush Street
Michael Molan Moraghan began as a fishmonger at the open air market  in downtown SF in 1867. The original market was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and Moraghan sold fish from several locations in the city before the market was rebuilt allowing his return in 1919. In 1922 his (by then mostly) oyster business was purchased by restaurateur Samuel Zenovitch and renamed the Bay Point Oyster Co. In 1930 with the businesses merged, it was renamed Zembolitch & Zenovitch. Then in 1931 the restaurant moved to 561 California Street as Sam’s Seafood Grotto. In 1937 it was purchased by Frank Seput and formally named Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant. In 1946 the restaurant moved to its current location. The restaurant has been owned since 2005 by Phil Lyons.

Fior d’Italia, 2237 Mason Street
Fior d’Italia was opened in 1886 by Angelo Del Monte and ‘Papa’ Marianetti. When they and their heirs were too old to continue to manage the restaurant, a group headed by two North Beach natives took over and ran the restaurant until 1990. Bob and Jinx Larive and Hamish and Rosi Fordwood took over in 1990 and ran the restaurant until a fire closed it in 2005. In 2012 Executive Chef Gianni Audieri and his wife Trudy took ownership and re-opened the restaurant in its current location. Fior d’Italia moved several times due to fires, the 1906 earthquake and landlord disputes. From 1930-53 it was on Kearny street, from 1953-2005 it was at 601 Union Street, and today Fior d’ Italia is on Mason Street.

John’s Grill, 63 Ellis Street
Opened in 1908 by a man named John who died the same year, John’s Grill has changed owners approximately four times and is the famous location for Dashiell Hammett’s 1927 The Maltese Falcon. In 1970 the restaurant was purchased by its current owners, the Konstin family.

Those That are Gone

The Blue Fox was at 659 Merchant Street. It opened about 1920 as a speakeasy, was purchased by Mario Mondin in 1942. In 1948 Mondin partnered with the Fassio family (Piero then Gina then Gianni) until finally closing in 1993.

Ernies, located at 847 Montgomery Street, was opened by Ernie Carlesso 1931 as a Barbary Coast trattoria. Ambroglio Gotti became a partner in 1934. On Carlesso’s death in 1947, Ambroglio sold the business to his sons who introduced white tablecloths and ‘nouvelle’ french cuisine to the restaurant, elevating it from trattoria to fine dining. Alfred Hitchcock made Ernie’s famous in his movie, Vertigo. The restaurant finally closed in 1995.

Trader Vic’s original SF location was on Cosmo Place but later moved to 555 Golden Gate. The first Trader Vic’s was opened in 1934 in Oakland by Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr, and began first as Hinky Dinks. In 1936 it was renamed Trader Vic’s and was dubbed by Herb Caen as the best SF restaurant in Oakland. In 1940 a franchise opened in Seattle, in 1950 Hawaii then in 1951 at Cosmo Place. The San Francisco location closed in 2008.


San Francisco is an amazing food town and we will (luckily) never be at a loss for wonderful, leading edge food. But there’s something to be said for the curtained booths, red velvet walls, and waiters in tuxedos of yesterday. So I’ll be eating at as many of these as I can, while I still can! Who else would you add to this list?

Have a great weekend and eat some good food!

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,


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.

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!


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,

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,