Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fall leaves by raluistroAround this time every year, there are fallen leaves everywhere especially where we are in Glen Park. Though the cold weather and the shorter days and longer nights have melancholic effects on me, I actually appreciate the change in the season and the change in the scenery.

To all our friends who are local, Happy Thanksgiving! We all have so much to be thankful for.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Food crawl in the city - The October list

Brunch Drunk Love - Platter by raluistroMijo and I usually go to the same places to eat which is ironic because we live in a city where it has more restaurants per capita than any other cities in the United States. Our favorite places are generally other people's favorites too, judging by the long queues.  We do try out new restaurants during special occasions or during my once a month meet-up with my foodie friends Dinah and Karen or with my friend from church Brent and my college buddy Mike B.  Last month was an exception because I've been to, not one, but several restaurants where I've not been before.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Musical in the City - HAIR at the Golden Gate Theatre

Hair - Will Call by raluistroWe saw the musical HAIR the other day, and are you ready for this????? There was nudity at the end of Act 1! Even though it was done in good taste where the entire tribe were bathed in ocean blue lights, I can still see their stuff hangin'. But I am not complaining because they were all beautiful and free and they're spreading their love.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Matcha in the City - Maharaja exhibition at the Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum - Party Vive  by raluistroWe love going to the Asian Art Museum's evening mixer which is locally called Matcha. Aside from the discounted museum tickets, we usually expect live performances that are culturally oriented, hands-on art activities and giveaways such as food, tea, and other souvenir items. The museum comes alive at night during Matcha making art even more enjoyable.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Wine tasting in Napa Valley - Domaine Carneros

Domaine Carneros - VineyardThis view can be seen from the Domaine Carneros chateau's outdoor terrace. We got here by chance on our way to Sonoma for the big bottle sale at Chateau St. Jean for the bottles of wine I'll be bringing with me when I visit my mom and my siblings for Christmas.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bakery in the City - Destination Baking Company

Destination Baking Co - CrowdI love our sleepy neighborhood Glen Park. I'd like to think it is San Francisco's hidden gem. If you want to witness SF locals in action, this is one of the places where it happens. I always chuckle when I see tourists by the Glen Park subway station totting cameras and spreading open their maps and looking like they're lost. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Everyday Wine in the City - Stag's Leap Merlot

Stag's Leap 2008 Merlot
It is a cool autumn Monday evening and Mijo and I were both very hungry and tired. We had left over meat from the other night so Mijo concocted another one of his spontaneous recipes. Voila - sweet and Sour marinated peppered beef.  Super delicioso! What took 20 minutes to prepare only took 5 minutes to eat. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Shop in the City - Kiehl's

Kiehl's Oil Free MoisturizerI rarely blog about my shopping experiences but this one is worth mentioning because Brian of Kiehl's was absolutely helpful...

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Wine Bar in the City - Vin Debut

After our super friendly neighborhood wine bar closed shop, we've been in search for similar venues. This means wine bars serving delicious wines without the airs. So far, we've found a wine bar called Vin Debut in the West Portal neighborhood of the city. It is close enough from our neighborhood and it is also in close proximity to good restaurants and cafes.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

More Picassos in the City

Since I bought over 40 postcards from the Picasso exhibitions at the De Young Museum and at the SFMoMA, I thought I'd post some of the ones that I liked and those that intrigued me because of the technique and the story behind them. I'll arrange them chronologically so you can see the progression of his paintings and how he adopted different styles.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Picassos in the City

Picasso galore! I was extremely excited when I learned about the two art exhibitions in the city which feature paintings by one of my favorite artists - Pablo Picasso. One was SF MoMA's The Steins Collect: MATISSE, PICASSO, AND THE PARISIAN AVANT-GARDE which closed on September 6.  The other one is De Young Museum's Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris and is ending on October 10.  Mijo and I were fortunate to see and enjoy both events.  Secretly, I was even happier because we either got discounted tickets or free general admission to the events.

I just want to share with you these photographs of souvenir postcards of two of my favorite paintings which show Picasso's  variety of styles.

Postcards Picasso - Portrait of Dora Maar 1937Portrait of Dora Maar 1937. 
Oil on Canvas. 92 x 65 cm. 
Musée National Picasso, Paris. MPI58
Photo (c) RMN

This is my favorite at the De Young Museum. It was hard to snap a photo inside the museum because the security was tight so I thought it was not worth the risk of getting kicked out of the exhibition.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

30-foot Sculpture in the City

Patricia's Green -  sculpture I've seen this 30-foot sculpture a couple of years ago around Pier 14 on Embarcadero and I remember it was a bit of a challenge to take a decent photo where I can show the public art's scale. Now that it has been moved to Patricia's Green in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of the city, the scale not only can be captured easier but more picturesque views of the sculpture can be shot anywhere around the park.  

Patricia's Green - localsThis massive public art is called Ecstasy and is a joint collaboration of artists Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito. It is made of reclaimed metals and other used materials. Though the color, the texture, and the metallic materials make it look very industrial, I like the fact that the artists added human attributes into the sculpture. The proportion is like that of a woman and the movement is of a dancer with her back bent and with arms half raised. As someone who is concerned about the environment, I am glad that it is made of used materials.

Patricia's Green - French Gypsy musicThe sculpture can be found in Patricia's Green in the Hayes Valley neighborhood in San Francisco, Ca.  To read more about the artists or how to support this public art, go to Black Rock Arts Foundation.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chocolate Festival in the City

Chocolate Festival passportWhen I went to the Chocolate Festival for the first time last year, I overdosed on chocolates. I had this terrible headache the next day which is probably a hangover from the chocolate withdrawal.  Instead of enjoying all the delicious confections,  I ended up developing an extreme revulsion for them. I didn't eat, smell, or touch any form of chocolates in the next couple of months after the event. In fairness to the chocolates, they were blameless . I was the culprit and my mistake was that I didn't share.

The Ghirardelli Square Chocolate FestivalFor this year, I made sure I brought Mijo with me not only to avoid another overindulging fallout but also to split the glorious calories that go with the chocolates. For $20, you get a tasting passport containing 15 numbers. Each tasting corresponds to a number on the passport that gets crossed off after trying a sample. A sample maybe a slice, a small bar or an entire piece. It depends on the vendor. This year's was not as exciting as last year's because there were only a handful interesting chocolate vendors. The rest were bleh. I wonder where were the local confectioners like See's, Tcho, Cocoa Bella or Scharffen Berger? Or the local creameries like Mitchell's or Birite Ice cream?  What about the liqueur producers from the nearby wineries? The organizers should get them on board next time if they want this event to matter.

Here are the choco-tastings that made an impression:

Chocolate Festival - Sterling Truffle Sterling Truffle Bar. A tasting is a slice of a truffle bar. There were three truffle tasting choices. Pinapple ginger macadamia nut, strawberry orange liqueur and double hazelnut caramel. I asked the vendor to select for me and they chose the Pineapple one. It was very good. Chocolate crust with fruity chewy soft and smooth filling. I am not sure if they only ship their products.  You can find them at My only regret is that I saved off the remaining tasting so I can try the other vendors which are so-so. I should have spent two or more tastings here!

Chocolate Festival - Ciao Bella Ciao Bella. This has a good bang for your buck. You get a whole cup of sorbet or gelato for a tasting. Not a meager teaspoon but the whole cup. We decided to get two tastings here - Mijo got a chocolate gelato while I chose the blood orange sorbet. Since we are splitting the spoils, I enjoyed sampling both flavors. The gelato's rich nutty chocolate flavor complements the tangy orange taste of the sorbet. Yumm! You can find one of their stores at the Ferry Building.

Chocolate Festival - Kara's CupcakeKara's cupcake. For a tasting here, you get a whole mini-cupcake. We got two tastings here - one chocolate and one vanilla cupcake. The cupcakes were moist and tasty. The frosting added extra flavors and the sprinkles added extra texture. Everyone must have heard about how good the cupcakes were because their line was the longest that day. Kara's Cupcakes has several locations in the Bay Area.

Chocolate Festival - Hot chocoAn honorable mention goes to the Hot choco by Ghirardelli Chocolate.

The Chocolate Festival is an annual food fest where one can sample over 20 vendors selling sweet confections which is mostly made of chocolates. There were also live music, food games for kids and baking demonstrations.  The Chocolate Festival is held on the month of September on Beach Street by Ghirardelli Square and it benefits Project Open Hand.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lunch in Napa Valley - Culinary Institute of America

Culinary Institute of America in Napa ValleyOn our way back to the city after visiting Mijo's daughters in St. Helena, we had originally planned to dropby Charles Krug Vineyards since it is just on highway 29 right after the turn from Deer Park Rd. Before we got to the vineyard's entrance, we noticed this huge stone mansion across the street. I checked the map and it says it is the Culinary Institute of America. I began to wonder if they have a restaurant? Afterall, culinary schools in the city like the California Culinary Academy, the Arts Institute, and the City College all have a restaurant or test kitchen where visitors can dine and our experience so far has been good. After quickly checking my handy Napa/Sonoma guide book (I always bring it everytime we go to the area) and Yelp, we decided we'll skip the wine tasting and head to the school's restaurant instead.

Culinary Institute of America in Napa ValleyThe restaurant's interior is cozy and welcoming. It has high ceilings, leather dining chairs, long dining tables. And while you're inside, you can hear the minute sound of silverwares and the people conversing over meals. Like in other culinary schools with restaurants, you could see the chefs working in one corner of the room.  Had we been here for dinner, I would have preferred to dine inside the restaurant.

Culinary Institute of America in Napa ValleyBut how can you not sit outside with this perfect weather and this amazing view of the Charles Krug Vineyards across the street? So we decided to wait for an available table outside which was not bad at all. While their menu is decipherable, their wine list is not. Choosing wines here is like looking through an Ikea catalog. Lots of wine to choose from!

Here's what we sampled for lunch.

Sardines with a glass of sauv blanc
For starters, we ordered Monterey Bay Sardines. We were told by our lovely and friendly server Jan Ciotto that these sardines are caught from the Monterey Bay. The fish tastes fresh and not too fishy. It is served with artichokes, Yukon Gold potatoes, frisée, and salsa verde. For the wine, we decided to get a decanter of Greystone Sauvignon Blanc which was refreshing.

Cod wrapped in prosciuttoMijo ordered the Prosciutto Wrapped Cod. The prosciutto was so crunchy it seemed like it is the cod's skin. The cod was cooked to perfection - juicy and flaky! It is served with broccolini, white bean relish, and Catalan vinaigrette.

Summer Vegetable RissottoThis is probably the best tasting risotto I've had in years considering it is vegetarian. They must have used more than three mushrooms, or maybe truffle mushroom or truffle oil,  because the first teaspoon was an explotion of flavors. This is served with asparagus, peas, mushrooms, squash, romano beans, house‐made ricotta cheese.

Sweet FinaleFor the dessert, we followed our friendly server's advice and got the Sweet Finale consisting of small sweets prepared by their pastry chef. The serving was small but very satisfying.

I'd recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Napa Valley. Maybe we'll try their dinner menu next time? I noticed that they also have wine and olive oil tasting sets in their menu.  

The school and the restaurant are on Highway 29 in St. Helena in Napa Valley.


Monday, September 05, 2011

Bakery in the City - Arizmendi Bakery

Arizmendi Select Baked GoodiesI am carrying the escalation pager the entire week so I have been confined in the city for the Labor Day weekend. It would have been nice to go wine tasting or go camping in the mountains this long weekend but that is not the case.  A consolation for staying in the city is the end-of-summer sale happening all over the place. Bargains galore! Most of the SF folks are out of town too so this means shorter queues in restaurants and cafes this weekend.

Arizmendi BakeryI took this opportunity to try out a new bakery on Valencia St. called Arizmendi Bakery Panaderia and Pizzeria. When we got inside, it took us a while to figure out what to get because there were a lot to choose from. The good thing about this bakery is that you get to pick the baked goods yourself because you are upclose to what you're getting.  In other bakeries, the trays are all behind the register or inside a glass shelf so you order by telling your server what you want or by pointing to your selection.

Here are the ones Mijo and I tried.

Chocolate Ginger Pudding
Chocolate Ginger Bread Pudding
Chocolate and ginger is a combination of taste that I have never tried before and it is actually good. The chewy and a little burnt crust is another good combo for the soft and moist core. I tasted a hint of rosemary but I didn't see it listed as an ingredient in the bread's description.

Brioche Knot
Brioche Knot
This brioche is chewy, fluffy and moist. I like that it is not overwhelmingly sweet. Perfect for a strong regular coffee.

X Roll
X Roll
Lots of savory flavors going on in this roll but the dominant flavor is the cheese. Smells good too.

Curry Cheese Bread
Curry Cheese Bread
This one, we took home. Enough carbs for one day I guess. :)

Now, time to hit the tennis courts. :)


Thursday, September 01, 2011

15 years in the city

View from Iron Horse Winery I was standing on a dirt lot admiring the view of a picturesque Sonoma landscape dotted with vineyards and wineries. I feel truly blessed to live in a stunning city surrounded by the ocean, the bay, the hills, the mountains and of course, the wine regions. Though it is still summer, I can already feel the cool breeze coming from the coast. This is definitely Indian summer.

It was during Indian summer when I first came to live in the States, around this time of the year 15 years ago. It doesn't feel like 15 years but it doesn't feel like yesterday either. How would I call this milestone? Happy 15 American years to me? Pretty soon, I would have lived in the States longer than I have lived in the Philippines.

(The photo above is a view from the tasting room of Iron Horse Winery in Sonoma, Ca.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Street Food Festival in the City

SF Street Food Fest Creme Brulee CartFrom one food festival to another, this summer has been all about eating in the city. I love summer in the city!  The SF Street Food Festival is held in the Mission District and is organized by La Cocina, a non-profit incubator kitchen. They closed off four city blocks and a school ground so that over 70 food truck vendors can sell food.

SF Street Food Fest FoodiesThe food sells from $3 to $8 depending on the serving. As always, we couldn't try all of the food that day. In fact, we've only tried around seven or eight vendors all in all because the lines were long.  

This street food festival is the perfect event to try more than one food truck. This is like food vendor haven because these food trucks don't have a permanent place.  They are all over the map so to try their food you have to subscribe to their Twitter or follow them via their Facebook page to know their current whereabouts.

Here are the top savory food plus one sweet dish that I sampled.

SF Street Food Fest Fried Peppers and CornVendor: Flour+Water
Dish: Fried Padron Peppers and Corn
Chef/Owner: David White & Thomas McNaughton
Find them at: 2401 Harrison St.
Comment: This is my favorite. Subtle flavors of corn, fried peppers and lime juice were wonderful. The spicy hot flavor was subtle too. The yellow and dark green colors were nice on the eyes.

SF Street Food Fest Nom Nom TruckVendor: Nom Nom Truck
Dish: Honey Grilled Pork Sandwich
Chef/Owner: Jennifer Green & Lisa Chien
Origin: Vietnam
Find them at:
Twitter: @nomnomtruck
Comment: I like the blend of spices and sweetness of honey and the pork and the bagguete bread came with all the tasty juices stuck on it.

SF Street Food Fest Creme BruleeVendor: The Creme Brulee Cart
Dish: Honey Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee
Chef/Owner: Curtis Kimball
Find them at: Mission @ 22nd St.
Twitter: @cremebruleecart
Comment: Very good crème brulees considering it is sold from a cart. Their lines went the fastest because of their excellent ordering-pickup system plus their efficient chefs taking turns prepping and torching each crème brulee.

This is worth mentioning because it is unique, bordering on the bizarre.

SF Street Food Fest Don BugitoVendor: Don Bugito
Dish: Sweet Toffee Crisped Mealworm Ice cream
Chef/Owner: Monica Martinez
Find them at:
Comment: I did try the mealworm first before buying the ice cream.  They are seriously crunchy with hints of grilled shrimp shell. Eat them while they're dry. Otherwise, they'll lose the crunchy bite and the texture will turn back to sort of wormlike. I also asked if the icecream contained worm essence and the answer was No.

I noticed there were plenty of vendors selling ceviches but the lines to their booths were super long. So next year I plan to fall in line and wait and I am just going to try all the cevecherias.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fifth Floor and good friends in the City

Fifth Floor
My good friends Karen, Monette and I got together on Thursday evening for a dinner that has been long over due. We had a great time.  The three of us used to see each other when we were younger and had less responsibilities. I remember we always had a good time.

Since both of them were coming into the city, I thought of something on the fancy side to make their bridge-cross worth it.  We went to Fifth Floor in Union Square.  Here's what we munched on that evening while catching up on family stuff, work and personal goings on.

Fifth Floor Foie Gras Charcuterie Foie Gras and Charcuterie and Cheese plate. As soon as our server placed these plates on the table, my heart started palpitating. Not because of the tasty goodness oozing out of these precious little things but because I knew they are loaded with cholesterol and fats and all the bad things our doctors tell us. Why is it that food that tastes good is usually bad for us? Luckily, there were three of us sharing and the serving of the fattened duck liver, the greasy cured meats and aged cheeses are small. The plates were perfect with the complimentary bread and butter.

Fifth Floor BeignetAlmond Beignet. Ok this is fancy schmancy beignet but this is my favorite that night. The beignet is small and its chewy almond taste was perfect with the creamy milk sauce and the cherry preserves and it came in three. I am not sure if they did that purposely just because there were three of us and we told our server we were going to share? It was also at this time the good looking chef came by to check on us. Wow!

Fifth Floor Baked Alaska Baked Alaska. Monette ordered this one. It was on fire when it got served. That was a nice touch. It is icing over custard over ice cream over custard over ice cream which sits on a sauce made of liqueur. Though the liqueur was not potent, the taste was so strong that it felt like it left a burning sensation on my tongue. This was also good.

Fifth Floor Lavender CocktailLavender cocktail. I don't remember the exact name of this cocktail. Something like lavender ginset or ginlet. Anyway, it was sour but it is a good kind of sour with a hint of lavender. The mixologist, he was very friendly and attentive. Too bad I couldn't talk to him at one point because I was busy texting Karen and Monette to tell them I got there early.

Fifth Floor FreebiesComplimentary Dessert. I always like a place which gives freebies. The place consists of small slices of almond macaron, peanut bar, lemon bar, and some fancy cookies and pastries.

Fifth Floor is on the expensive side but the service was very good. I'd probably be back to try more of their cocktails.

The place also has very low lights so it was hard to take photos of the food and drinks discreetly, that is, without the use of flash. (It wouldn't be a discreet photo anymore if I use a flash, would it?). This justifies my poorly lit food pictures.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Everyday Wines in the City - Tempranillo + Cigare Volant

2002 Bonny Doon Cigare Volant 

Cigare Volant by Bonny DoonWe got to the park exactly two hours before the free Latin music at the 9th Sunday of the Stern Grove Festival. Mijo, my friend from college Mike and I brought a picnic mat, some snacks, breads, cheeses and couple of bottles of wines to share.  The weather cooperated because the summer fog retreated to the ocean so it was clear that afternoon.

Here are my notes.

Tasting Date:  Aug. 14, 2011
Tasting Partners: Mijo and Mike
Wine Name: Le Cigare Volant
Producer: Bonny Doon Vineyard
Region/Appelation: California
Grape Varieties: Grenache, Syrah
Vintage: 2002
Alcohol: not indicated
Color Hue: dark red, purple
Aroma Intensity: less fruity
Developments: medium body
Aromas: banana, cherry, coffee, toasted rice
Dry/Sweet: less sweet
Body: Full body
Acidity: low acid
Tannins: high level
Flavors: coffee, chocolate, cherry, banana, toasted rice, cranberry

2009 Vega Oliveras Tempranillo

My friend from college Mike brought this wine. Here are my notes.

Tasting Date:  Aug. 14, 2011
Tasting Partners: Mijo and Mike
Wine Name: Tempranillo
Producer: Vega Oliveras
Region/Appelation: La Mancha
Grape Varieties: Tempranillo
Vintage: 2009
Alcohol: not indicated
Color Hue: dark red, purple
Aroma Intensity: less fruity
Developments: medium body
Aromas: cherry, soy sauce, italian herbs
Dry/Sweet: less sweet
Body: medium body
Acidity: high acid
Tannins: high level
Flavors: soy sauce, cherry, cranberry


Sunday, August 07, 2011

SF Chefs 2011 in the City

SF Chefs 2011
My good friend Dinah finally convinced me to go to this year's SF Chefs. SF Chefs is the city's premier food festival where locals, foodies and culinary stars mingle three days every year. The tasting event's venue is a huge tent that almost occupied that entire Union Square plaza. There were other foodie sessions happening around the city the entire weekend. As expected, the Saturday afternoon tasting event was well attended to the point of being sold out. There were four grand tasting events - one on Friday evening, one on Saturday afternoon, another one on Saturday evening, and one on Sunday afternoon. The grand tastings last for four hours.

SF Chefs 2011There were plenty of culinary stars that day. Unfortunately, I only know a few names like Michael Chiarello, Tyler Florence and Chris Cosentino. But for Dinah and the rest of the foodies present that day? They know them all, and I am sure they know their signature dishes as well. I can't help but smile or sometimes roll my eyes everytime I hear side comments coming from all around me. I have to admit that most of the chefs are quite good looking.  San Francisco may be a town where chefs are glorified like rock stars but for me, I'll just enjoy eating their food.

SF Chefs 2011 Food Galore
The plan was to sample as small amount of food as possible and no repeats so we won't get full right away. If the sample is generous, Mijo and I will split it.  For the wine, we decided we will only do tastings and we will only sample the reds. This means no more than two sips of red wine for each tasting. In the end, we couldn't resist the call of food. We were too weak to stick with our rules and I am guilty of going for more ahi tuna, sardines, pork belly, cured meats, and cheeses. We couldn't sample everything inside the tent that day because we were stuffed just after two hours!  

SF Chefs 2011 Local FoodThere were a lot of good food and good wine that day so it was really hard to narrow down my choices which three I should blog. Plus they were all different so it was a challenge to qualify which one is better. For example, a tuna dish from one featured restaurant will taste different from another tuna dish by a different featured restaurant because of the sauces, garnishing and presentation. I wish these chefs would seat down and plan among each other next year so there won't be repeats of ahi tunas? Anyway, what I did here is put together a short list of memorable dishes I sampled that day and the most delicious wine I tasted.

Here they are...

SF Chefs 2011 Gazpacho by Fleur de Lys Dish: Chilled avocado and tomato gazpacho with cilantro and topped with crab meat
Restaurant: Fleur De Lys
Chef: Hubert Keller
Taste: I've had good gazpachos before and this one is equally good but with an added bonus of the creaminess of the avocado.

SF Chefs 2011 Pork Belly by Savor
Dish: Five spice and tamarind glazed pork belly
Restaurant: Savor
Chef: Jeff Hall
Taste: I call this a dressed-up lechon. It is thin and crunchy with sauce that is sort of a lighter version of a Filipino gravy called Sarsa ni Mang Tomas and with hints of tamarind.

SF Chefs 2011 Marinated sardines by Poggio
Dish: Marinated sardine, cucumber, heirloom tomato, mint oil
Restaurant: Poggio
Chef: Peter McNee
Taste: Most of the sardines I had at restaurants were grilled and came with capers and glazed fruit to mask the fishy taste. This one did not come with those. Great combination of garnishing and the marinated sardines.

SF Chefs 2011 Landmark wines
Wine: 2008 Pinot Noir
Winery: Landmark Vineyards
Appellation: Sonoma County
Notes: good balance, less fruity, less dry, light, can be drank solo or with food pairing

SF Chefs 2011 Guest chef Fabio VivianiA great addition was the cooking demos by celebrity chefs. Toward the end of the tasting event, a Top Chef contestant Fabio Viviani was on stage where he demonstrated how to make gnocchi.

All in all I thought the food festival was great and featured great dishes that show San Francisco Bay Area's fresh and innovative food culture. We also sampled food from restaurants that we haven't dined in and this gave us a glimpse of their menu. We also discovered boutique Sonoma wineries whose select wines are not available in supermarkets. 

It was fun playing foodie for a short time. We'll try it again next year.