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.)