If I have an addiction, it definitely is daily deal sites. I have a bad habit of indiscriminately signing up for every new site that crops up, to the point where I now usually wake up to about thirty emails from the Groupons and Bloomspots of the world. I don’t remember when I signed up to receive deals from Living Social Adventures, but I’m sure glad I did, as there are currently two San Francisco adventures on offer that sound like a lot of fun.
First, we have BYOB Pottery Painting at Terra Mia Studio in Noe Valley, for $29 instead of the usual $59. I took a ceramics class earlier this year called “Clay and Wine,” and let me tell you, the combination of making your own sushi trays while sipping merlot is quite therapeutic. On this adventure, pick out a piece from Terra Mia’s large selection of unfinished pottery, get a quick lesson from the studio staff, and then glaze your piece while nibbling on appetizers and washing it all with your beverage of choice (don’t forget to BYOB!). Pick up your piece a week later and voila, you’ve created a masterpiece. This deal is available at 7:00pm on either Friday, November 4th or Friday, November 11th.
Next, we have Yoga and Brunch at Fort Mason, also for $29 instead of the usual $59. If you read this blog regularly, you know that I’ve recently become a big fan of yoga, and as for brunch…well, who doesn’t love brunch? On this adventure, partake in a one-hour yoga practice led by instructors from Yoga Garden, a San Francisco studio with a focus on personal health and well-being. After sweating through some vinyasas, enjoy a brunch of yogurt with toppings ranging from sweet berries to savory nuts, and then head out into the rest of your day looking and feeling like the picture of health. This deal is available at multiple times on November 5th, 6th and 12th.
So what will it be? Clay and cabernet, or pigeon pose and parfaits? So many choices…
Photos via Living Social Adventures.
Living as close as I do to the fabulous selection of Marina boutiques, I have to make a concerted effort to keep my shopping impulse in check. However, when I simply can’t resist the urge for a shopping spree, I always make my first stop at Heritage Row. Nestled amidst the bustling shops and restaurants of Chestnut Street, this bright, cheerful boutique features a carefully curated selection of versatile and affordable apparel, from breezy dresses to perfect-fit jeans to stylish tops. Whether you need a new look for Friday night or Sunday brunch, its the ideal place to satisfy your latest fashion craving.
With its crystal chandeliers, champagne curtains and vintage furniture, stepping into Heritage Row is like stepping into the dressing room of your dreams. Owner Jenny France maintains a constantly rotating selection of designer fashions, including favorites such as BB Dakota, Dolce Vita and Dylan George, in addition to numerous independent brands. Pieces are unique, high-quality and on-trend, but you can still walk out of Heritage Row with an armload of new duds without breaking the bank.
Heritage Row has a laidback, casual atmosphere, so you can always feel free to peruse the meticulously organized racks on your own. If you’re more in the mood for some advice, you can take advantage of Jenny’s styling expertise, and she or any of the well-dressed associates will happily jump to the task of helping you put together your new favorite outfit. Complete your look with the equally wearable selection of shoes, jewelry and other accessories, and you’ll be ready for any occasion.
Photo via DailyCandy.
As I mentioned previously, I have an eternal soft spot for V. Sattui Winery, and after attending their annual Crush Party on Saturday night, I’d go so far as to say that I’m completely head over heels in love with this family-owned St. Helena winery. Keep your eye on V. Sattui’s calendar of events, and consider buying a ticket to next year’s Crush Party.
V. Sattui’s Crush Party is an annual celebratory open house with music, food, and of course, copious amounts of V. Sattui’s wide variety of exceptional wines. The party gives wine aficionados a chance to learn about the winemaking process, with demos on everything from grape sorting to cork making. You can taste wines at multiple stages of the fermentation process, and even kick off your shoes and jump into a huge tub of grapes for a good old-fashioned grape stomp. Chat with the winemakers while you sample dozens of wines, snack on delicious hors d’oeuvres, and dance along to the live music. To top it all off, the winery looks absolutely gorgeous, with bright red tents and sparkling white lights everywhere. It’s easy to understand why this event sells out every year. It’s simply an incredibly fun and joyous celebration. I’ve been looking forward to it for months, yet it managed to exceed all my expectations. Luckily, it’s a great night to take some memories home with you, as there are great discounts on a number of wines, including discounts of up to 30% on certain cases for truly dedicated connoisseurs.
Tasting the Madeira in three stages of production.
Learning how corks are made.
Watching foils put on bottles as the finishing touch.
Tasting wine straight out of the barrel when it is still in the “juice” phase.
The Crush Party is only one of the many annual events hosted at V. Sattui. I know that I’ll be keeping my weekends open for next year’s Barrel Tasting Party and Lobster Fest. If last Saturday’s Crush Party is any indication, they’re guaranteed to be memorable events.
Two nights ago, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a last-minute ticket to an advance screening of Moneyball. As an avid Oakland A’s fan since high school (nothing like rooting for the underdog…), I’ve been waiting for the opening credits of this movie to roll for years, and the film totally outdid my expectations. For those of you unfamiliar with Michael Lewis’ bestseller Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, the novel tells the story of Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane’s unconventional, mathematical approach to putting together a competitive team in 2002, while dealing with one of the smallest payrolls in all of baseball. The film adaptation stars Brad Pitt as Beane and Jonah Hill as his data-oriented Assistant GM, both of whom do a stellar job in their roles. The film is funny and heartwarming (and at times, heartbreaking for an A’s fan, as we’re forced to relive moments like the A’s blowing an 11-run lead) and anything but a cliche sports movie. And it’s not just for fans of the green and gold! Even my friends who aren’t baseball fans, let alone A’s fans, loved it. With the Giants lingering seven games back on the chase for the NL Wild Card (and let’s not even talk about the A’s), it looks like Bay Area baseball season is winding down, so prolong the season by checking out Moneyball when it hits theaters on September 23.
Photo via Official Moneyball Movie Website.
Greetings from…some random stretch of highway between Boston and New York!
As evidenced by my recent lack of blog posts, I’ve had a pretty hectic travel schedule lately. Within the last two weeks, I’ve traveled to Seattle, Las Vegas, and Boston, and now I’m on a bus heading down to Manhattan (hooray for free wi-fi!). Despite falling a bit off the blogging grid, in between my travels I’ve still managed to squeeze in a few dinners at some great San Francisco restaurants, including two new discoveries and one old favorite.
Bushi-Tei Bistro: If you’ve been to the Japantown Center Mall, you know that it is filled with quite a few restaurants where you can grab sushi, noodle bowls, and other Japanese treats. On my most recent excursion to Japantown, we chose to eat at Bushi-Tei Bistro (the more casual outpost of the classy Asian-French fusion restaurant Bushi-Tei). From the outside, the Bistro looks unassuming, but inside it’s quite nice, with black and red décor and low lighting. The menu features a good selection of sushi, and a great selection of noodle bowls, from soba to udon to ramen. I opted for the Nabeyaki Udon Bowl, which, as you can see from the photo below, was approximately twice the size of my head. The bowl was filled with chicken, tempura shrimp, an assortment of vegetables, and of course, heaps of thick udon noodles, all in a deliciously flavorful broth. I hadn’t eaten udon in ages, but ever since going to the Bistro, I’ve been craving it and ordering it practically every time I go out to Japanese food. That’s admittedly only been maybe two times, but still, Bushi-Tei’s version takes the cake so far!
E Tutto Qua: I went to this Italian joint in North Beach last week for a friend’s birthday dinner, and it far outdid my expectations. North Beach faces a similar problem as New York’s Little Italy, in that the area has become overgrown with restaurants which claim to be “traditional Italian kitchens,” but are in fact just cheesy tourist traps with subpar food. From the outside, E Tutto Qua, with its prime location at the corner of Columbus and Broadway and its somewhat cartoonish sign, appears that it might fit that mold. However, the inside of the restaurant is lovely, with high ceilings and big windows, and the food is delicious! Our group split a margarita pizza as an appetizer, and for my entrée I ordered the saffron linguine with scallops and crab meat (one of the specials of the day). Everyone raved about their pastas, and the hilarious Italian waiters kept our wine glasses full, raucously sang happy birthday to my friend, and brought us a complimentary panna cotta for dessert. If you’re looking for reasonably-priced, high-quality Italian food amidst the North Beach tourist traps, E Tutto Qua fits the bill.
Umami: This Japanese restaurant in Cow Hollow has quickly become my family’s favorite place to go for dinner whenever my parents come across the bridge for a visit from the East Bay. It’s a great place to go with a group and order a bunch of appetizers and sushi rolls to share, particularly if you can catch their award-winning happy hour. Umami’s Sumo Hour runs from 5:30pm to 7:00pm every single day, and features half-off most rolls and appetizers, plus half-off any bottles of wine. Some of our all-time favorite dishes from the happy hour menu are the edamame hummus and the shibuya kobe beef sliders (trust me on the sliders…they’re a definite must-order). Umami’s sushi rolls are fresh and flavorful as well, and I’m also a big fan of their red and white miso soup, their spring rolls, and their miso-glazed black cod (not on the happy hour menu, but still out-of-this-world). The happy hour admittedly runs a bit early, so in my opinion Umami is the ideal spot for a casual Sunday night dinner with friends to unwind before the work week begins.
Hope Labor Day was lovely back in San Francisco! The humidity out here is making me miss the fog…
I somehow did not find myself completely sick of live music following Outside Lands last week, so on Thursday night I headed to The Fillmore to see The Weepies in concert. My sister introduced me to the indie folk duo of Deb Talen and Steve Tannen, a guitar-strumming married couple with a “meet cute” story straight out of a movie.
The Fillmore, with its history as a San Francisco landmark stretching back to the 1960s, is an amazing venue for a concert. When you first walk in the doors and up the stairs, you’re surrounded by photographs of past acts, from Johnny Cash to Radiohead. Be sure to grab one of the free red apples at the top of the stairs. The auditorium itself has a simple setup, with just a few tables lining the walls, leaving the majority of the floor standing-room only. Gorgeous crystal chandeliers dangle from the ceiling, dappling light on the deep red walls. Upstairs, there is a mezzanine level where the walls are covered, floor to ceiling, with copies of the kaleidoscopic posters that are sometimes given out gratis after performances.
The show was opened by Steve’s brother Greg Tannen, who is quite talented, and certainly worth checking out if you’re into the charming, John Mayer, guy-with-a-guitar type. However, the highlight of his performance was definitely the marriage proposal between two fans in the middle of his set. (P.S: This is the second marriage proposal between strangers that I have witnessed in the past three months. Call me Cupid?).
As for The Weepies themselves, their acoustic performance was a welcome spell of calm after the exuberance of Outside Lands. Deb and Steve both sing and play the guitar and the piano (with some harmonica and xylophone mixed in as well), and they hopped back and forth between instruments throughout the show, sometimes singing in unison, sometimes entirely solo. They engaged with the crowd, talked about playing songs in their living room, and bantered back and forth like a pair of high-school sweethearts.
I was admittedly disappointed that they didn’t play some of my favorite songs, such as When You Go Away, but they did play most of the best songs from their 2010 album Be My Thrill. I also wished that they had played a few more fast-paced or upbeat tunes, as by the middle of the show the lullaby-like songs were starting to melt together a bit. However, those mellow songs, sweet and nostalgic, are what The Weepies do best. They played a sneak peek or two from an upcoming album, and I’m certainly looking forward to that release date, whenever it may be.
It was my parents’ anniversary earlier this week, and they were kind enough to invite my sister and I along for the celebratory evening. (I know. They must really love us.) We celebrated over dinner at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar in Hayes Valley, before walking over to The Orpheum to see the Broadway rendition of Billy Elliott.
Absinthe, which serves upscale French-American and Northern Italian cuisine, is a definite gem in the San Francisco dining scene. The soft lighting and the fun Belle Epoque decor give the place the vibe of a trendy and sophisticated French bistro. I’ve been there for brunch before, and the service has always been friendly and attentive. There’s a nice bar in the front of the restaurant, and while we stuck to white wine the other night, Absinthe also offers an impressive selection of creative and whimsical cocktails.
When it comes to eating out at San Francisco restaurants, I pretty much just do whatever 7x7 tells me to do. Therefore, I was thrilled to try out two Absinthe specialties that have been featured on 7x7’s various “Best of San Francisco” lists. First, we ordered the soft garlic pretzels with Vermont cheddar mornay sauce (#36 on the 2011 Big Eat San Francisco: 100 Things to Try Before You Die) as an appetizer. I was admittedly kind of surprised that something as simple as pretzels made that exclusive list, until I took my first bite, and realized that these pretzels, soft and fluffy and topped with garlic and sea salt, are not just simple pretzels. Trust me. Just try them.
We also ordered a shared plate of Black Mission figs with cheese, toasted walnuts, and arugula. Our waiter told us that this dish had just been added to the menu this week, now that figs are at the peak of their season, and the combination of flavors was superb.
After the pretzels were such a success, we decided to trust another recommendation from 7x7 when it came time for our individual orders. Absinthe’s French onion soup was listed on 7x7’s 2010 list of The Best Bowls of Soup in SF, so everyone at the table ordered a small crockpot filled with a perfectly-executed blend of broth, onions, bread, and melted Gruyere. Definitely one of the best bowls of French onion soup I’ve ever had!
For my entree, I ordered the halibut, which came with a jalapeno-basil corn pudding and a succotash-esque combination of fresh corn, red potatoes, and mushrooms, all in a brown butter vinaigrette. The fish was cooked expertly, and the summertime corn was sweet and flavorful. The rest of my family ordered the pork loin with black truffle jus, the coq au vin, and the potato-crusted arctic char. All of our dishes featured fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, and let’s just say that there were a) no complaints and b) a lot of clean plates.
We had our hearts set on sharing a slice of German chocolate cake to round out the meal, but we sadly realized that we were running late for Billy Elliott, so we had to hightail it out of there and head over to The Orpheum. I guess we’ll just have to go back soon…
All in all, Absinthe Brasserie & Bar is the perfect place to stop for dinner or drinks before strolling a few blocks over to the Symphony Hall, the Opera House, or the Ballet. With the delicious food, the attentive service, and the classy ambience, Absinthe is one of those restaurants that makes any night feel special.
Today there are not one, not two, but three deals of the day, which is sending my deal-obsessed little brain into a tailspin. Take your pick from these three options!
Living Social is offering up two movie tickets to One Day plus $40 to spend on dinner at Zingari Ristorante, all for just $35 (normally $70). One Day is adapted from the best-selling novel by David Nicholls, which follows two strangers who spend their college graduation night together through that same date every year for the next two decades. The film stars Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway, which sounds like a recipe for a perfect end-of-summer chick flick to me. As for Zingari Ristorante, this Italian joint near Union Square serves up reasonably-priced Italian fare, with pastas and pizzas ranging from $11 to $17.
If you’re not one of the foodies already salivating over this weekend’s SF Street Food Festival, get yourself over to Bloomspot, which is offering half-off registration for the CitySolve Urban Race this Saturday. You can register two people for $50 (normally $100), or three people for $70 (normally $150). The CitySolve Urban Race is a scavenger hunt that will take you and your teammates throughout San Francisco, searching for checkpoints and deciphering clues, and racing against the clock for a chance to qualify for the national championships in Las Vegas. The deal also includes admission to the registration party at Sports Basement on Friday evening, where there will be free beer, appetizers, and 10% off purchases at Sports Basement.
Finally, Pinchit is featuring a deal for half-off a sunset cruise on the bay with San Francisco Whale Tours, with tickets on sale for $17 (normally $34). Tours depart from Pier 39, and the reviews on Yelp suggest that everyone sees an abundance of wildlife, including humpback whales, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, albatrosses, puffins and more. There are a few complaints about seasickness and weather conditions, but nothing that a little Dramamine and a lot of good rain gear won’t fix.
So much to do, so little time…
Image from ToMuse.
So…who else is wildly depressed that Outside Lands is over?
I certainly wish that I could be back amongst the thousands of fans who descended upon Golden Gate Park for this year’s three-day music extravaganza. The weekend was typically San Francisco. Over-the-top hippie fashions were in abundance. The weather went from being so numbingly cold that I could barely move my limbs on Friday night, to so cloudlessly sunny that I ended up bright red and sunburnt on Saturday afternoon. There were too many mouth-watering food carts to choose from. And of course, there was amazing music from a collection of incredible bands, from old classics (Phish, anyone?) to some of the hottest new kids on the block.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. In my opinion, the biggest disappointment was definitely MGMT, which was unexpected, as they may have been the band I was most excited to see. With the exception of Electric Feel and Time to Pretend, which were carried more by the chorus of the crowd than by the band members themselves, the performance was just a bit flat. MGMT didn’t play nearly enough of their energetic Oracular Spectacular hits, and leaned too much on prolonged, dissonant noise.
Now on to the good news, which included a lot of surprisingly great performances. My runner-up for the best sleeper hit was Foster the People. They got the crowd on their feet with Pumped Up Kicks, but they also proved that they are far more than one-hit wonders, performing punchy renditions of Waste, Don’t Stop and other catchy songs from their debut album Torches.
The winner for best surprise, however, was Beirut. I’d really only ever heard Elephant Gun before this weekend, and I was looking forward to finding out what else they had up the sleeves of their casual button-ups. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. Beirut’s music is inventive and unique, borrowing elements of the Balkan folk music that inspired frontman Zach Condon. The heavy brass sound and Condon’s strong voice are perfect for a live performance, creating a sweeping, full-bodied sound. If you’re not familiar with Beirut yet, check them out before their next album, The Rip Tide, is released on August 30.
As for a very favorite performance, it’s tough to choose. For me, the contest came down to two of my all-time favorite bands, but in the end, I’m going to have to go with The Shins as the runner-up. I wasn’t sure how well their relatively soft music would hold up to a live performance, but it turns out that it holds up remarkably well, and their nighttime performance on Friday night was the perfect ending to an action-packed first day of the festival. The band played a beautiful selection of songs from all of their albums, with the crowd swaying and softly singing along, sometimes as if in a trance, with an underlying sense of nostalgia. I think that everyone was reminded of their love for the band, and that we were all inwardly hoping that the rumors of a 2012 album prove to be true.
Finally, the gold medal for the best performance goes to Arcade Fire, whose act was rightly described by 7x7 as “the single most revelatory performance of the entire three-day fest.” I was lucky enough to see Arcade Fire perform at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley last fall, so I knew from that performance to expect a fantastic show. From the first heart-pounding beats of Ready to Start through the final soaring notes of Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), Arcade Fire demonstrated that they are a true, all-out rock band, with a level of talent in a class of its own. Guided by the croonings of the unbelievably charismatic Win Butler, the entire band moved from one instrument to another, dancing all the while, while the crowd belted out the words to every song. With stars just starting to emerge over the brightly-lit stage, the glorious cries of Wake Up melting into the perfect breeze that rustled through the crowd’s swaying arms, the night truly felt magical.
It’s hard to believe that the event that we’ve all been anticipating for months is actually over. It was one of those weekends that reminded us all of why we adore this city, foggy summer nights and all.
Now, please excuse me while I go listen to The Suburbs on repeat.
We’re only 24 short hours from Outside Lands! Are you ready?
See you there!
Image from Outside Lands 2011.