Thursday, August 03, 2006

My City By the Bay

Here then are my favorite spots to unwind and while away the hours in San Francisco. That's me and my girl only two years ago on the top of the San Francisco Art Institute with Coit Tower and the tip of the Transamerica Building looming in the distance.

If you've got three hours in San Francisco.... Stroll along the streets of North Beach in Little Italy and take in the countless authentic restaurants and coffee shops. Stop at City Lights Books and wet your whistle upstairs at Vesuvio or Specs' (just across the street). Then head up Chinatown’s Grant Street for browsing. Continue along Grant across Columbus for more window shopping and people watching. End your jaunt with a big bowl of spaghetti carbonara and a carafe of house wine at Bocce Café on Green. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a secret hideaway.

Where would you go for an intimate dinner? San Francisco has so many amazing restaurants, it's difficult to choose just one, but Hyde Street Bistro is parfait. The service is impeccable, the ambiance cozy and warm, and the food divine. What a sublime little piece of France in Russian Hill. C’est magnifique!

Best neighborhood cafe? I used to adore Café de la Presse for their fabu croque monsieur and cool newsstand vibe until they recently revamped the restaurant into a cold, imposing space. My new fav is Pizzetta 211- a pizzeria tucked away in the Richmond. They only buy fresh seasonal products, which they use to cook great Mediterranean dishes. You must check out the little theatre in the bathroom when you’re there as well.

Favorite building? I’m in awe of many of the art deco buildings downtown like the City Club. Yet for me The Palace of Fine Arts radiates such a calm serenity especially at night. I get the same feeling from the interior of the Swedenborgian Church.

People should know... I walked everywhere when I first moved here eight years ago. I didn’t have a car for the first eight months, butI was glad of it because I discovered much of the city by walking aimlessly until I happened on hidden gems. The city is designed on a grid so it’s very easy to find your way around and explore its countless charming neighborhoods.

Do you have a favorite SF view? If you don't mind windswept vistas, the view from Twin Peaks takes my breath away every time.

If you could own one place... I’ve always thought one of the old mansions in the Presidio would be pretty cool to live in. There’s also an Edwardian cottage on top of a hill in Diamond Heights I’ve had my eye on for years.

How to escape summer in the city? Pt. Reyes Seashore is my absolute favorite spot in the bay area. We like to hike to Montara Beach and see the Tule elk roam the hills above. I recommend exploring Pt. Reyes Station and dining at Station House Cafe. I especially love the magical town of Inverness. You should stay at Manka’s Inverness Lodge or at least have dinner there.

What is your favorite shop? I indulge my designer clothing lust by window shopping at American Rag (has affordable vintage finds) or Erica Tanov. Ms. Tanov has two bay area shops now, but I prefer her Berkeley location. We’re so lucky to have such a talented designer as a local resident. For gifts, I love Dandelion and for Lily’s pressies, I shop at The Ark. On Sundays at the Alameda Flea Market, I always stop at La Tulipe Noire stall.

Where would you go for a dream date? A candlelit dinner at Le Colonial. We would then take a private yacht from the Marina to East Brother Light Station Inn where we would stay in Walter’s Quarters and sip cognac by the fire.

What's a San Francisco stereotype that fits? Based on its renown as the land of hippie counterculture, I expected San Franciscans to be nutters.. and some of them truly are. The majority are progressive, interesting, and interested citizens. I appreciate the diversity of SF- the giant Asian community and Latino population in the Mission and elsewhere. My one peeve is the holier-than-thou self-righteousness of a certain Berkeley set- in particular men who wear berets whilst reading The Nation in the gourmet ghetto on Sunday mornings- whom I find truly obnoxious.

Best place to sample sourdough bread? San Francisco's oldest restaurant Tadich Grill has the most delicious bread. I had grown rather tired of sourdough bread until I bit into their crisp, sweet manna. The food is greasy and seafoody and perfect. Also on occasion, I have been lucky enough to glimpse the SF twins here.


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