who wants tacos?


once upon a time taco bell and i were born…

Have you noticed all the Taco Bell chatter lately? Makes me a bit nostalgic. There was a Taco Bell next to my dorm at San Diego State all those years ago. In the light of day you’d never catch me there, but after midnight all bets were off. Sometime around 1am, when I was done (ahem) studying, those greasy little tacos called my name.

tacos in college

It seems the same is true of today’s college students. My daughter, who avoids dairy and gluten due to digestive issues, succumbed to a Taco Bell burrito late one night recently. I’m sure it was after a long bout of (ahem) studying. Not a good move for her, but she was swept up in the college taco tide along with a group of friends.

And this seems to be the tide that Taco Bell continues to rely on for some pretty sustained recent growth. After graduation I lost track of Taco Bell, aside from noticing they teamed up with KFC in a few locations (an odd match I thought). And that was probably fine with them. Somehow, even with all of the cultural moves toward healthy eating, SLOW food and the like, Taco Bell has managed to maintain the interest of the ever hungry 18-22 year old set.

old taco style: al fresco

When Taco Bell popped up in my feed 3 times in the last month I sat up and took notice. While they have made some effort to offer some healthier options (um, Dorito taco anyone?), what Taco Bell seems to really be focusing on is image. Taco Bell’s original style (if you’re a child of the 70s you’ll recognize that photo at the top of the page) was unique. The brick facade, arches, tile roof and the ever present bell didn’t veer off theme for a couple of decades. If you wanted to sit you did so outside, usually next to a fire pit. Sometime in the 80s the iconic style changed to suburban strip mall and lost most of its charm.

new taco style: beer and wifi

Then last year there was the shipping container store introduced at SXSW. And now Taco Bell is introducing 4 new store styles with an end game, it seems, of getting customers to stay rather than go (slow food rather than SLOW food I presume). Their new concepts include wifi, lounge seating, some have fireplaces, there is natural wood, gray (the color du jour it seems), modern art, mid-century seating, Victorian light fixtures and they’re even testing alcohol in a few locations. According to FastCo, it’s a mashup of every current design trend.

Taco Bell seems to be holding on to just a tiny bit of their own visual history. There’s the occasional pop of fireclay orange. Some of the themes use the textured brick of decades past. But overall, this is a complete overthrow. It will be interesting to see how this generation of Taco Bell fares with the current generation of technology toting college student.

Keep in touch,

food tv


Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, the Galloping Gourmet and Martin Yan, those are the chefs I grew up with, the chefs who taught me what I enjoy in a cooking show. Current food television offers a much wider variety than days past, much of which makes me want to run screaming from the room. Kind of the way you’d run from the kitchen of a crazy chef. I’ve worked with chefs who rip phones off walls and throw pots. I don’t want to hang out with them in person or through the TV screen. So if you do enjoy that style of food drama, you should probably click away right now.

If you do enjoy a good cooking show, or entertaining romps through neighborhood restaurants, or info about where food comes from, then stick around. Now that it’s raining in California, and I’ve binge-watched all my current dramas through, it’s time to catch up on food. Check out my list…and send me yours too. Hopefully it will rain for a very long time and I’ll binge-watch my entire list while the drops are still falling, then move on to yours!

restaurant shows

I’ll Have What Phil’s Having: Phil Rosenthal is funny. He’s a writer, an actor (well, he was), a producer and the creator of the TV show Everybody Loves Raymond. And he apparently loves food. So he travels the world with his friends (some of whom you’ll know) and he eats food. He’s done shows in Tokyo, Italy, Paris, Hong Kong, Barcelona and Los Angeles. He will take you to amazing places to eat good food. And you’ll even learn a bit about cooking.

Check, Please! Bay Area: 3 regular joes and a host anonymously visit 3 of their favorite restaurants then discuss their experiences. Very homey and a great way to stay in touch with the Bay Area food scene.

cooking shows

The Mind of a Chef: How do great chefs think? And what do they cook? Crawl right into their creative brains and learn what real chef-ing is about (and no one in this series will refer to themselves as a ‘celebrity chef’, but they are all the best of the best). David Chang, Sean Brock, April Bloomfield, Magnus Nilsson, Ed Lee, Gabrielle Hamilton and David Kinch. Brilliance in the kitchen.

Julia Child: PBS release has released a selection of episodes from various Julia Child’s series. It’s a potpourri of Julia and a lovely way to spend an afternoon! Learn, cook, then see if you can do the voice. ‘Chello….Ihhhhh’m Jhooolia Chaaaiild….’

Good Eats: cooking with Alton Brown, well kind of. Alton Brown isn’t a chef. He’s kind of a geekyscientist who applies his mad science to food. And teaches us how to cook things in a really nerdy but effective way.

more food

Food Forward: Food rebels in the 21st century and beyond. I can’t possibly say it better than they do…‘Food Forward goes way beyond celebrity chefs, cooking competitions, and recipes to reveal the compelling stories and inspired solutions envisioned by food rebels across America who are striving to create a more just, sustainable and delicious alternative to what we eat and how we produce it. Created by a veteran documentary film making team led by Greg Roden, Food Forward explores new ideas of food in America as told by the people who are living them. Each episode will focus on a different theme–school lunch reform, urban agriculture, sustainable fishing, grass-fed beef, soil science–and spotlight the real people who are creating viable alternatives to how we grow food and feed ourselves.’

Enjoy our rainy weather and happy watching…

Keep in touch,


my favorite restaurant design competition winner is….

…not from the US. As a matter of fact, there was only one US winner this year in the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards 2015. Parq Restaurant, San Diego, won in the ‘colour’ (it’s a competition out of the UK) category. More on our one winner later.


In the meantime, let’s look at who else short listed. And if you play the bi-coastal best restaurant game, notice that there are 3 entries short-listed from New York and 3 entries short listed from California. And there are 4 entries that are located inside hotels….nice to see this trend continuing. And yes, I know I included a potty shot below. The whole of Mourad is beautiful, but the bathrooms have me swooning. Something else I noticed across the board….a lot of gold. Does this mean we are coming to the end of the reclaimed-from-an-old-barn look? Can we (hopefully) continue to use sustainable materials without having them look like we pulled them out of the basement?  Oh lordy, one can only hope.

lordy people we can be sustainable and still see an end to the reclaimed-from-an-old-barn look Click To Tweet

Short List

all photos courtesy Restaurant and Bar Design Awards and the design teams involved: Studio Munge, Meyer Davis Studio, Dawson Design Associates, Lundberg Design, nemaworkshop, Emporium Design, hOmE Studio and Bluarch.

The winner is…

And our one and only US winner is Parq Restaurant and Nightclub in the GasLamp District of San Diego. Congratulations to Davis Ink on their win! It is definitely a colour-ful space!

all photos courtesy Restaurant and Bar Design Awards and Davis Ink.

Enjoy the pretty pictures. I certainly do!

Keep in touch,

dining with dead presidents


photo courtesy

photo courtesy

Washington DC has a new restaurant group in town that really likes presidents, at least the dead ones.  Alan Popovsky, who did his share of restauranting prior to Lincoln, opened Lincoln in 2011 and followed it with Teddy and the Bully Bar. Rumor is he’s reviving another dead president as restaurant…maybe JFK or Thomas Jefferson, although I can’t find anything in the restaurant rags since Teddy and the Bully Bar opened. Maybe two presidents are enough to keep him busy.

We visited Lincoln while in DC this summer and while the food didn’t knock my socks off, the artisitic design was a party for my eyes.  The artist Maggie O’Neill pulled it off with some pretty creative concepting that keeps the place fun and light….no deep thinking required. There are pennies on the floor, pennies tufting the big chair that mimics the chair at the Lincoln Memorial, pennies on the wall in the shape of the DC flag, glass jars hanging from the ceiling (the story goes that union soldiers ate from glass jars during the Civil War), the Emancipation Proclamation emblazoned on one wall backlit by color changing LEDs (that thankfully don’t rotate). a textured Jasper Johns’ flag on one wall, paintings of Lincoln. And the servers wear t-shirts with Lincoln quotations. Our server was wearing a most apropros quote: Avoid popularity if you would have peace.

And I want to give not just a nod but a deep bow to Lincoln’s restrooms….they are awesome. Deliberate and detailed and definitely in keeping with the design of the restaurant. Both Abe’s room and Mary’s room are covered in custom murals. Mary’s lean toward the pretty socialite, Abe’s toward men and their tools. Use your imagination. The bar program makes use of house infused liquors, so there is a ‘library/infusing room’ for just this purpose. Quotations a la Abe himself are reminders down the mirrored back hallway. There is not a breath of this place that hasn’t been thought through from an aesthetic and artistic perspective. Hopefully the operation was given as much attention as the artistry….from the customer perspective, definitely fun.

Keep in touch,

1110 Vermont Ave. NW, Washington, DC

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)

the other coast

I just spent an awesome couple of weeks at my home away on the east coast. Being a first generation Californian, I have as much New York in me as I do California. So when someone (like my California sis in law) asks me what to do and where to go, I am an annoying font of unending response. For the obvious (Statue of Liberty, Museums, Macy’s, Ground Zero), buy a guidebook. If you want a piece of my New York, here you go…


photo courtesy airbnb how gorgeous is that basement wall?

photo courtesy airbnb…how gorgeous is that basement wall?

Brooklyn. Airbnb is a great option for apartments that are bigger and much less expensive than a hotel room in Manhattan. And it’s a quick couple of stops from Union Square on the ‘L’ train. Easy peasy. We stayed between Williamsburg (hipster) and Bushwich (artsy) in the most adorable apartment. Walking distance from great Brooklyn neighborhoods (think Chestnut Street for the hipster, SOMA for the artsy).


Seriously eat everywhere. My cousin hooked us up with an amazing pizzeria in Bushwick called Roberta’s. It was totally worth the 90 minute wait, even with a 6 month old. Cocktails and foosball out back keep you happy.


Eat a black and white. It’s not the same as anything made in California and I’m not just saying that. It’s not a cookie and it’s not a cake. Find them in delis and don’t be put off by the cellophane wrapping…they get stale quickly. Don’t share and make sure you alternate bites or you’re not getting the whole experience. Italian ices. When I was little we could buy Italian ices on the street, now you will find them at pizza parlors and even ice cream stores. Ices are something like sorbet…kind of. Lemon is the traditional favorite, but my favorite is always melon. For the best ices you’ll need to buy in Brooklyn or Queens, but you’ll find them everywhere. Don’t have just one. You need to compare.


Use the subway, don’t be a wuss. $2.50 to get in (just put twenty bucks on a metro card) and you can go anywhere you want. You’ll get lost but it’s okay…you’re on vacation. Get a map or an app and figure out what line gets you closest to where you want to go. Look at the map and see what’s at the end of the line so you know which side of the track to board on then follow the signs. If you stay in Brooklyn take the ferry to Manhattan at least once. The waterfront is one of a kind.


Midtown: Don’t wait in the ridiculous line to go to the top of the Empire State Building. It’s a gorgeous building, but a horrendous line. If you want to see New York from the top go to the Top of the Rock. Both buildings are in midtown and you can see one from the other. Walk through Central Park. You have to. And if you can stomach it have a dirty water hot dog…it’s a hideous tradition. If you have a sweet tooth go to Dylan’s Candy Bar and buy mediocre candy in a ridiculously over-stimulated environment. My son’s first stop every trip. If you want to try some amazing chocolate go to Max Brenner’s. Don’t eat there, but buy some delicious, beautifully designed Israeli made kosher truffles. Go to Grand Central Station, find the bar in the center of the station, get a drink and pay too much money to people watch…it’s a gorgeous building. Make sure you look up.

Chelsea/Meatpacking DistrictGalleries and restaurants…do your homework. Spend some time on the High Line, walk, eat, enjoy. The High Line is an abandoned elevated freight rail line that once served the meatpacking district when it was packing meat. Now it’s a unique public park. Chelsea Market is the food hall of all food halls with restaurants that are beyond fabulous. Can you say Buddakan?

Gramercy/Greenwich Village/Soho: Eataly is Mario Bataly’s Italian food mecca with restaurants, marketplace, wine shop. Go hungry. Visit the Strand Bookstore, but only if you go with a friend who also loves books. My people were (kind of) patiently waiting on the sidewalk after about 15 minutes and I was still in the first 1/10 of a mile in and they say there are 18 miles of books. Go to Union Square at night to people watch. Maybe the snake people will be there. Shop on and around Spring Street.

Lower East Side: The Tenement Museum recreated the homes of several turn of the century families that are open for tours…pretty cool to see how my people lived after they came through Ellis Island. Katz’s Deli is famous for their knishes….if you haven’t had a knish in a while you need to visit. And pickles….find a pickle place. Essex Street is a good place to start…you’ll recognize it by the barrels of pickles standing out on the sidewalk. There are a few although once upon a time there were a lot more. Keep your eyes open. Last visit I went to The Pickle Guys…try a few different flavors. And finally find The Doughnut Plant…it’s down below Delancey. The best most interesting and delicious donut flavors you’ll find anywhere. Get something seasonal. Then get a creme brulee and a jelly donut. And go back on the weekend and get some ice cream too.

So there you have it…I’m still a newbie to Brooklyn so don’t have much to say about it yet. But we did love the vibe there. Once the kids are up and out we may just pack up and move east of the East River.

Keep in touch,

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!


food fetes

photo courtesy

photo courtesy

I’ve covered most of the free events that I love in our fair city…now for a few amazing food events in the Bay Area. Some of these are also free….some not so much, but if you love food you may want to splurge.

June 22

CUESAs Summer Celebration at the Ferry Building in SF will showcase food, drink and the farmers who start it all. The event benefits the amazing work that CUESA does to promote healthy food systems. One of the greatest things that CUESA does for us little people is to provide us ongoing education at every Ferry Plaza farmers market by way of free cooking demos by superstar chefs every Saturday morning at 11. I know, run-on sentence, but I had to get it all out it a breath. Summer Celebration is June 22 and is mostly tax deductible.

July 19

AT&T Park is known to have some of the best food in baseball, but I’m afraid it won’t compare to the 7X7 food fest happening next month on the field. 7X7 Big Eat Live features the magazine’s ‘100 things you have to eat before you die’ and will benefit initiatives planned for The Garden at AT&T (opening the end of this month). This event will showcase some of the best food in SF. July 19 at AT&T Park.

August 1-3

One of my never miss favorites (although I’m weeping because I’ll be on the east coast this year for an August 3 wedding) has changed both its name and location: now called eatDrinkSF and located at Fort Mason, in past years this was SFChefs and was located at Union Square. It’s a weekend of food learning, food eating, and what they call an ‘epic foodie festival’. Although I cringe at the mention of that word ‘foodie’. It smacks of the same smugness as the ‘celebrity’ in chef and makes me want to leave the room. In this case, I forgive since I absolutely love this event. Insider tip: keep your eyes peeled for Industry Day. It’s an affordable day of learning and eating with the most knowledgeable chefs in the biz. Officially the weekend of August 1-3, there will be events as early as mid July.

August 16

We’ve already talked about the Street Food Festival, but it’s food so I’m including it here. August 16 and it’s free to enter, although a donation to benefit the organizers, La Cocina, is always welcome.

September 19-21

Oakland’s Eat Real Festival is another tasty food venue showcasing 3 days worth of amazing Bay Area food, drink and fun. It began as a food truck extravaganza but has grown to include brick and mortar restaurant’s  fare as well as education, music and some great people watching. Free to get in and vendors sell bites and quaffs for $5 or less. Not much info on the website yet unless you want to volunteer or vend. September 19-21 at Jack London Square.

Any other great food events you think I should know about?….tell me!

an outstanding weekend

oitf-capay15Saturday evening Steve and I (finally) attended a dinner at the farm that provides our weekly produce. We began buying from Capay Organic (the farm behind Farm Fresh to You) when our kids were small, attended a farm tour when our youngest was still a babe in arms, and haven’t been back since. Until Saturday night. That’s when the good people at Outstanding in the Field set up their third dinner at the farm and, with just a little bit of begging required, I bought tickets. It was truly an outstanding evening.

We arrived a little before 5, plates in hand, and enjoyed wine from Heringer Estates and beer from Sudwerk Brewing Company, served by the owners themselves. Passed hors d’oeuvres were interesting to say the least. We both bravely tried fried pig skin and guinea hearts (from the birds we were going to eat later for dinner. They were about the size of pistachios but not as tasty and awfully chewy. Probably not going to serve them at home. We were welcomed by Jim Denevan (Outstanding in the Field) and Thaddeus Barsotti (Capay Organic) shortly after arriving.

Next we took a lovely walk through the farm. Capay Organic is owned by 3 brothers with day to day operations managed by Freeman and Thaddeus and Noah overseeing wholesale and business operations. Their 4th brother and Noah’s twin, Che, a coast guard pilot, died a few years ago during a search and rescue operation. His presence is still apparent on the farm if you talk with any of the brothers, and a lovely memorial is located prominently near the main house. Thaddeus led our tour and explained the carrot washing machine that he created from an old refrigerator trailer, the quick chiller next to it, the need to drill for water to maintain the farm (something that has never happened in his lifetime), and the growth of the farm since the boys were children. While walking we sampled donut peaches from the tree that Thaddeus planted as an experiment in high school. The bees were enjoying them as much as we did.

After the tour we were led to the long winding table along the edge of a meadow under a canopy of oaks and overlooking acres of farmland. A gorgeous spot made so much more beautiful by the wonderful people we shared it with and the amazing food we ate. The open air kitchen was manned by Patrick Mulvaney and his crew and was set up on the other side of the meadow. Remarkable that they could put out 150 meals of such quality from a tent! Outstanding in the Field began doing these events in 1999 and now Jim Denevan and his crew and their bus (which wasn’t at our event….maybe in the shop?) tour the country and the world connecting diners with chefs at farms, ranches, beaches, orchards and whatever other beautiful surroundings they can find. Steve and I were lucky enough to sit with Kristy and Brian, the owners of Chowdown Farm who provided the guinea hens for dinner, as well as Thaddeus. We talked about farming, writing, food, children. And the difference between a guinea hen and a chicken (they’re smaller and cook faster).

Start putting your nickels together….this is definitely something you should try to experience at least once. I’m already angling for another go.

Have a great week,

ps…here’s a code for new customers at Farm Fresh to You: LESL3898. It will get you a $10 discount on your first box and it gives me a credit…so thanks in advance!



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,


what do you call the foam on the beer?

photos courtesy

Since I saw this new product last week I’ve struggled with whether or not to make public this rather embarrassing experience. What the heck….it’s Monday and I can always use a laugh on Monday.

My restaurant experience began in high school at what was then Marriott’s Great America serving fast food at Burgers on the Run. The greatest skill I learned there was how to shove a plastic wrapped brownie into my costume and get it to the back patio without my manager catching on. Then for years I worked all kinds of office jobs until my late return to college at the age of 23 when I began work at my second restaurant job at the original Good Earth Restaurant in Cupertino, next to what had once been Apple Computer’s first office. I worked there for a year collecting my tips in coin, cleaning up smeared banana from the backs of booths, explaining to irate customers that I hadn’t forgotten Junior’s milk and that I would bring it as soon as I set down the 4 plates I was currently carrying. Then Scott’s Seafood, one of San Francisco’s then best seafood restaurants, opened a location in downtown San Jose near where I was attending college. I was thrilled when they hired me as a server and a little nervous having so little real dining room experience. Providing really excellent service was top of mind every time I approached a table.

An extremely attractive young couple was seated in my station one evening shortly after the restaurant opened for business. I took their drink order….she’d like a glass of wine and he’d have a bottle of beer. When I returned with their drinks, I set the wine down first, smiling at the woman, then held the beer in my left hand and the chilled glass in my right being careful to keep my fingers away from the rim. With all sincerity I turned to the handsome young husband.

“Would you like head?”

Seriously. Then I’m sure I turned several shades of purple and tried to stammer out some sort of explanation, which went completely unheard due to the peals of laughter coming from both husband and wife. Luckily they were laughing. I managed to finish pouring the beer and made a quick exit to regain my composure.

Well apparently it was a good question, albeit poorly worded. Beer with foam, or what I deftly referred to as head, is desirable according to beer aficionados, so much so that Norm Architects of Copenhagen created a device to deliver perfect foam for Danish design company Menu. It’s called a beer foamer. Logical.

In case you were wondering, this couple became two of my dearest friends in college and tried at every turn to get me to repeat the question when they brought friends with them for dinner.

Hope your week is off to a good start!


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,

image packer: awesome photo tool

Images courtesy,,,,,,,,, listdose,com,,

Images courtesy,,,,,,,,, listdose,com,,

The architecture and design worlds rely heavily on images to both inspire design and communicate design. When I began my design career we collected thousands of magazines that we would page through in search of images. At my last firm we spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours researching and testing software to allow us to collect and tag images for our in house image library. Since I began my own petite firm three years ago, Pinterest has been my image collection system of choice. It is an amazing resource for collecting and using images digitally, but is still a bit of work to create presentation materials from those images.

Reddit user thoriumoakenshield created a tool  called Image Packer that makes downloading multiple full size images a single click process (along with all source credits….copyright laws do apply). I created the compiled image above in about 3 minutes while drinking my not nearly as pretty cup of coffee. Awesome. Check it.

Enjoy your morning coffee and have a really productive week!

8-3-16 edit: Image Packer seems to be gone.

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!