Volume 43 Number 30

Dining on dimes


Dining on dimes

It’s a hard time to be a foodie in San Francisco. It seems as though there have never been more places to eat delicious, creative, innovative food in the Bay Area — nor less money in my wallet to spend at such places. But I’m determined not to let the bad economy ruin all my fun. Or yours. It’s simply that tighter budgets require more careful choices about where and how to indulge. Which is why we’ve put together this season’s FEAST with an eye on getting the most bang for your buck.

Turn the page for ideas about how to stretch one chicken into three fabulous meals, as well as how to splurge at a restaurant without blowing your monetary wad. If you’re going to spend some cash, consider our suggestions for date spots, sandwiches, and sustainably-minded seafood restaurants worth the money. We’ve also compiled a list of our favorite juice stops, New Orlean’s style cocktail pourers, eco-friendly caterers, and sweet shops so you never have to waste a penny at a place that doesn’t match your tastes or your values. And who knows? By the time summer comes along, perhaps the economy will turn around. But if not, there’s nothing to raise your spirits faster than a responsibly-farmed oyster and a cheap happy hour beer.

Staff picks



“The coq au vin is the best in the city, even though I harbor a sneaking suspicion that the waitstaff enjoys overplaying its French accent.” (Marke B., Senior Editor, Culture and Web)
151 Noe, SF. (415) 437-2600,


“So much amazing tequila, my liver hurts just thinking about it.” (Ben Hopfer, Associate Art Director)

5929 Geary, SF. (415) 387-4747, www.tommystequila.com


“The best Thai food in San Francisco.” (Tim Redmond, Executive Editor)

3259 Mission, SF. (415) 826-4639, www.padthaisf.com


“Great food, wonderful ambiance, and the best bathrooms in town, bar none.” (Steven T. Jones, City Editor)

280 Valencia, SF. (415) 552-5200, www.conduitrestaurant.com


“Pricey, but worth it.” (Cheryl Eddy, Associate Editor, Arts and Entertainment)

1701 Octavia, SF. (415) 775-8500, www.quincerestaurant.com


“A long, lazy, late lunch or early dinner at this absolutely spectacular overlooked Italian gem in North Beach really steams my meatballs.” (Marke B.)

519 Columbus, SF. (415) 982-1124, www.losteriadelforno.com


“Asmara Restaurant’s heavenly honey wine (tej) — is the perfect compliment to a family-style Ethiopian feast.” (Rebecca Bowe, Reporter)

5020 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 547-5100, www.asmararestaurant.com


“Fra’Mani salami sandwich FTW!” (Eddy)

3639 18th St., SF. (415) 241-9760, www.biritemarket.com


“The best banh mi (tangerine/beer shredded pork) and Korean tacos I’ll ever eat out of a garage.” (Virginia Miller, Human Resources Manager)

958 Illinois, SF. www.kitchenettesf.com


“What I like about Minh: his red cardigans, his casual grace, and his restaurant’s fried spring rolls (better than more expensive ones anywhere) and special coconut chicken curry.” (Johnny Ray Huston, Arts and Entertainment Editor)

208 Clement, SF. (415) 751-8211


“Balanced, exquisite cocktails with free all-you-can-eat gourmet Italian bites make for the best Happy Hour around.” (Miller)

4395 Piedmont, Oakl. (510) 601-0305


“If you don’t already know about the Zeit, don’t come. I need your seat.” (Hopfer)

199 Valencia, SF. (415) 255-7505


“This is a hidden East Bay gem where you can sample all varieties of sake and learn how they’re made.” (Bowe)

708 Addison, Berk. (510) 540-8250, www.takarasake.com

For more staff picks, visit our
Pixel Vision blog.

5 Green caterers


At some point in our lives, most of us will need a caterer. Whether it’s for your kid’s bar mitzvah or your company’s annual convention, there comes a time when you just can’t do all the cooking yourself. But how do you choose? Aren’t all caterers created the same? The answer, of course, is no. Not only do different companies vary in experience, style, and type of cuisine, but also in their values. Here are some of our favorite caterers and personal chefs, all of whom focus on sustainability and healthy eating as well as professionalism.


For about a year, all I knew about my roommate’s employer, Jane Hammond, was that her catering company made damn good food. The cutest cheeseburger sliders, perfectly cooked steak, delicious and complex quinoa salad, savory vegetarian lasagna…a constantly changing menu of late-night gourmet meals straight from my fridge made Hammond my favorite invisible roommate. It wasn’t until I worked a couple shifts with her that I realized how awesome the company really is. Not only is Hammond’s staff knowledgeable, professional, and highly skilled, but also dedicated to sustainability on every level. Staff carpool to events; compost food scraps (sometimes throwing away only one small bag of trash even at the largest events); use compostable products like cups, silverware, and napkins; buy produce, meat, and seafood that’s seasonal and sustainable; and even offer clients an opportunity to offset their carbon footprint with carbonfund.org. Plus, Hammond offers event-planning services (including décor), can cater everything from a small wedding to a 700-person college reunion, and can accommodate dietary and cuisine needs. It also doesn’t hurt that the British-born, Cordon Bleu-trained Hammond is incredibly nice.

1975 Yosemite, Berk.
(510) 528-3530, (415) 822-0310,


If you’re catering needs are more intimate than corporate, Alyssa Cox of Earthen Feast might be just the chef for you – especially if you lean towards healthy, vegetarian cooking. The Certified Natural Foods Chef specializes in providing raw, living, and animal-free foods at private parties and weddings, though she’s also been a personal chef for rock bands at events like Warped Tour. In fact, Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins calls Cox’s creations “absolutely the best vegan food I have ever had in my life.” And if you just want a little magic in your own home, Cox will give you a free consultation and then schedule a cook date, when she’ll arrive with cooking utensils and fresh food, create meals and side dishes, store and label items for later consumption, and do all the cleaning.

(415) 317-2005,

TABLE NECTARBurners, hippies, and new-agers who frequent festivals and yoga retreats might already have come across the magic that is Table Nectar, who’ve worked with Lightning in a Bottle, The Crucible, Burning Man, and Michael Christian, as well as at wellness retreats, weddings, fundraisers, and video shoots. But you don’t have to be a member of a subculture to enjoy Kim and Andy’s “raw fusion” menus – a personalized combination of vegetarian, vegan, raw, meat-based, and international cuisine. All food is fresh, local, seasonal, and sustainable whenever possible, and veggie dishes are famous for being so good that even meat eaters can’t believe it’s flesh-free.

6613 Hollis, Emeryville. (415) 680-5831, www.tablenectar.com


Patti Searle has been cooking since age eight and was a chef for 12 years. But it wasn’t until she went on a two-week retreat that featured a raw diet that the idea for Thrivin’ Edibles was born. Now, Searle is wholeheartedly dedicated to preparing organic raw/live cuisine for individuals and events, through catering, classes, and delivery service. That’s right. Thrivin’ Edibles will deliver raw pates, desserts, nut milk cheeses, gluten-free breads and more to your door if you live between South San Jose/Los Gatos and Belmont/San Carlos/San Mateo. The rest of us can order raw desserts and HuuRaw Chips, or hire Searle for our weddings, reunions, and graduation parties. Plus, you’ll feel good knowing most ingredients are purchased from local farmers, and 10 percent of profits are invested in The Hunger Project and Pachamama Alliance.

(408) 712-5000,


It isn’t only clients who rave about this SoMa-based catering company: Work of Art has actually won awards for its pursuit of over 90 percent waste diversion (and, in fact, was one of the first food waste recyclers in San Francisco.) Professional staff, unique food presentation, a commitment to local farmers and organic foods, and a list of services that includes lighting design and beverage consultations make this nearly 20-year-old company perfect for personal and corporate events.

1226 Folsom, SF. (415) 552-1000, woacatering.com

5 Sustainable seafood stops


Ten years ago, hardly anyone was talking about sustainable seafood. Now, thanks to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and its Seafood Watch (www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch) program, the concept is a bona fide trend in culinary circles. But not everyone knows what “sustainable seafood” means. The idea behind the Aquarium’s programs, including pocket guides that list which kinds of seafood are OK to eat and which should be avoided, is to maintain the ocean’s ecosystem and supply of seafood through smart consumer choices.

But figuring out which is which isn’t easy. For example, farmed oysters are OK because they can be grown on strings or pier-pilings, which doesn’t necessitate digging anything up or decimating other seafood populations. Farmed salmon, on the other hand, requires catching other fish to feed them – not to mention that farming practices often lead to diseased fish. Which is why Seafood Watch employs a team of scientists to look into every aspect of every kind of fish – and distribute the information nationwide (now on iPhones too) twice a year.

Even better? The Bay Area is doing more than just jumping on the bandwagon. On April 15, three organizations – the California Academy of Sciences, the San Francisco Zoo, and Aquarium of the Bay – announced the formation of the first Seafood Watch regional alliance, taking their existing involvement with the sustainable seafood movement to another level. Which means the promise of an ever-increasing number of restaurants and culinary schools adhering to Seafood Watch principles.

For now, though, the alliance is just getting started in SF. We checked in with Ken Peterson of Monterey Bay Aquarium and Carrie Chen of the Aquarium of the Bay to find out which Bay Area hot spots are already sustainability superstars.


Perhaps first on Seafood Watch’s list of Bay Area favorites is this Pacific Heights sushi bar – the only sustainable sushi restaurant in the country. “It’s one of the few truly sustainable restaurants, top to bottom,” said Ken Peterson, spokesman for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “It’s unbelievably good as well as environmentally pristine.” Chen agreed. “You go to that restaurant and you don’t have to whip out your Seafood Watch card, because everything there is OK to eat,” she said. In fact, chefs go out of their way to find sustainable alternatives to red list items in order to maintain an interesting and varied menu. Friendly staff, a good atmosphere, an extensive sake selection (including sake sangria), and the incendiary Extinguisher roll (spicy amberjack, avocado, habanero masago, and hot sauce on a flaming plate) make it one of our favorites too.

2815 California, SF. (415) 931-1182, www.tatakisushibar.com


Another Monterey Bay Aquarium recommendation is this Union Square gem – and not just because the aquatic-themed décor is reminiscent of the aquarium’s underwater worlds itself. Chefs have an eye on sustainability when they choose their constantly changing menu, as well as when stocking the raw seafood and oyster bars. Plus, Seafood Watch pocket guides are available at the check-in area, and the food is delicious and beautifully presented.

450 Post, SF. (415) 956-6969, www.farallonrestaurant.com


Visitors love Hog Island’s view, happy hour specials, Cowgirl Creamery grilled cheese sandwiches, and fresh oysters with Hog Wash sauce (vinegar, shallots, cilantro, jalapeno, and lime). We love that Hog Island chefs have participated in the Aquarium’s annual Cooking for Solutions event, which brings Monterey and Bay Area restaurant representatives together to celebrate culinary sustainability. (For information on this year’s event, to be held May 15-16, visit the aquarium’s Web site.) Plus, Hog Island is known for farming oysters sustainably. “We love to promote organizations like that,” said Chen.

1 Ferry Bldg, SF. (415) 391-7117, www.hogislandoysters.com


This cozy Marina eatery is an official Seafood Watch partner. That means you can rest – or eat – assured knowing that your Cajun crab pasta, lobster thermidor with cheesy sauce, and New England Seafood Chowder are all responsibly farmed or caught. Reasonable prices and a full menu, including fantastic martinis, should also help you sleep easy.
2417 Lombard, SF. (415) 885-2530, www.cafemaritimesf.com


When thinking green, it’s rare to think of the mall – that beacon of companies who use sweatshops and Styrofoam. But Westfield has more to offer than most, thanks to this Seafood Watch partner. Come because of your politics, stay for the Dungeness crab gumbo.
845 Market, SF. (415) 593-4100, www.larkcreeksteak.com

Appetite: Hot tamales, banana cookies, $1 martinis, and more


Hot Tamales on Sun/26. See “Events” below

As long-time San Francisco resident and writer, I’m passionate about this city and obsessed with exploring its best food-and-drink spots, events and news, in every neighborhood and cuisine type. I have my own personalized itinerary service and monthly food/drink/travel newsletter, The Perfect Spot, and am thrilled to share up-to-the minute news with you from the endless goings-on in our fair city. View the previous installment of Appetite here.



Anthony’s Cookies satisfies your cookie craving all day long
On the same Mission block as Suriya Thai (R.I.P.), is a new cookie kitchen that can help assuage the loss of my favorite Thai. Anthony (who has spent over 10 years perfecting his craft) and his staff give a friendly welcome as they bake, for now offering a half dozen cookies for $5, or $9.25 a dozen, eventually selling them individually. On the blessedly smaller side, they’re warm and about as homemade tasting as they smell. There’s toffee chip, banana (like banana bread in cookie form), cinnamon sugar, whole-wheat oatmeal cranberry, gooey chocolate chip, and maybe my favorite? Cookies and cream. Tastes like home.
1417 Valencia, SF


Moussy’s brings French cooking classes, movies and Petit Dejeuner to Nob Hill/Polk Gulch
Downstairs from Alliance Francaise, there’s a new stop pre or post AF’s French language classes and film screenings: Moussy’s, an intimate, candlelit cafe for a morning croissant and cappuccino, or lunch time respite, serving salads, baked brie, and pot pies. They’ll soon be offering French cooking classes and film nights, too, ensuring that foodies, expats, bohemian artists, poets and aspiring cooks have a true Parisian cafe hangout.
1345 Bush, SF.



April 26 – Tamales (and margaritas) By the Bay at Fort Mason
Tamale lovers come out en masse to Fort Mason for Tamales By the Bay. Sample tamales and salsas from Nor Cal’s best in styles from Oaxacan, Yucatecan, Salvadoran to Chilean, and vendors like La Cocina and Rancho Gordo. Margarita Gladiators will be battling it out for best margarita, which you can, of course, also sample, while grooving to live music, demos and a raffle of prizes from JetBlue tix to a bottle of Partida Elegante Extra Añejo Tequila. Arriba!
12-4:30pm, $40
Fort Mason Center, Landmark Building A
Buchanan Street at Marina Boulevard

April 27 – Ministry of Rum Festival comes to Hangar One
Consider it a pre-Summer rum fest… Hangar One/St. George’s Distillery, home to beloved Hangar One vodkas and St. George’s incomparable spirits, is the hangar island site for all things rum at SF’s Ministry of Rum Fest. Vendors like Leblon, El Dorado, St. Bart’s and Ron Barcelo educate on their sugar cane spirits, while primo Bay Area mixologists like Martin Cate, founder of Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge, Erik Adkins from Heaven’s Dog, Thad Vogler of Bar Agricole, Brooke Arthur of Range, and Duggan McDonnell of Cantina, showcase rum-based cocktail creations. There’s cheese pairings and door prizes to boot. Though plenty of free parking can be had at the distillery, those on foot or drinking (wait, won’t that be everyone?), are given rides with Bonjour Transportation from Oakland’s 12th St. BART station to the distillery continuously from 6-9pm, $50
2601 Monarch Street, Alameda


Hookah Happy Hours at Sens
In Embarcadero Center 4, spacious Sens restaurant, with regal Bay Bridge and Ferry Building views, started a Hookah Happy Hour for a weekday smoke along with discounted cocktails, wine and beer. For $15, you’ll have your own hookah set up on the patio with choice of apple, strawberry or peach tobacco, so you can puff away the twilight hours.
Monday-Friday 3:30-7:30pm, $15 per person
4 Embarcadero Center

$1 Martini Lunch at Palio D’Asti
Palio D’Asti makes it WAY too easy to forget economic (or other) troubles with $1 martinis during weekday lunch. They shake up a martini with your choice of Stoli Vodka or Hendrick’s Gin, so order a Pizza d’Asti (with shaved asparagus, fontina Val d’Aosta cheese and thyme) or Agnolotti di Carciofi (artichoke and mascarpone-filled ravioli with sage and sweet onion ragout) and drink up!
Monday-Friday Lunch
640 Sacramento St.

Three course meal at Michael Mina for $55
Michael Mina is special occasion dining (for most of us, anyway) at well over $100 a person, but they’ve jumped into the "specials" pool with an EARLY pre-theatre dining menu available until 6pm, plus a new lounge menu available all night. The first is three courses for $55, offering Mina classics like Ahi Tuna Tartare and unparalleled Lobster Pot Pie (this Mina staple is decadently good), and only $20 extra for three wine pairings from their award-winning list. The lounge menu includes Mina’s playful Lobster Corn Dogs as well as the Lobster Pot Pie, and cocktails so good, they alone are worth a visit.
Tuesday-Saturday, before 6pm
335 Powell Street

12 sweet spots


Spring and summer are sweet seasons. Rays of sunshine and blossoming flowers make for happy eyes and noses. Why not let your tongue join in too with a sugary treat? And these desserts are sweet deals too: all 12 of these delights cost less than $5.


Start the morning off sugar-rich right with a ring of wonder from Dynamo Doughnuts. Every light, airy doughnut at the streetside outpost is delicious, from the simple vanilla bean to the complex seasonal flavor combinations like huckleberry with Meyer lemon frosting. But the gooey caramel that tops the caramel del sol is to die for.

2760 24th St., SF. (415) 920-1978; www.dynamosf.com


Mochas at Bittersweet are great. This is a fact. But here’s a secret: they also make their own marshmallows, which are incredible when eaten alone. This confectionary delight will send a dusting of powdered sugar all over you as the air-light marshmallow melts in your mouth. Never again will Jet-Puff suffice.

2123 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-8715; 5427 College, Oakland, (510) 654-7159; www.bittersweetcafe.com


Never mind the cones and cups, at famous ice creamery Mitchell’s, the sandwiches will give double the sweet delight. After sampling a few flavors — like toasted almond Mexican chocolate, and green tea — pick a favorite and have it shmooshed it between two Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip cookies.

688 San Jose, SF. (415) 648-2300; www.mitchellsicecream.com


For a truly life changing experience, get a shot of the drinking chocolate at the Tcho pier outpost. If you don’t have a keen eye, the little retail space, adjacent to the factory where the delicate fair-traded chocolate is made, is easy to miss. But the powerful, decadent drinking chocolate is so buoyant with flavor — notes of citrus and nut — that it’s impossible to forget. In fact, I almost couldn’t stand to swallow it. I wanted that silky chocolate in my mouth forever.

Pier 17, SF. (415) 981-0189, www.tcho.com


If I had an Italian grandmother, I imagine that her kitchen would be something like Mara’s, where the windows overflow with cookies and croissants and fading posters of the motherland covered the walls. Her cannoli would be the perfect mix of decadent, but not overly sweet, ricotta filling with the occasional chocolate chip and crisp sand-colored crust. Good thing I can slide up to North Beach to enjoy Mara’s cannoli as a grandma substitute.

503 Columbus, SF. (415) 397-9435


When I need a sweet finger-lickin, stomach-filling something, I settle down on a stool at Southern food joint Just for You Cafe and order a plate of beignets. Not quite as satisfying as the puffs at New Orleans’ Café du Nord, but still deep-fried powdered sugar drowned squares of down-home goodness.

732 22nd St., SF. (415) 647-3033, www.justforyoucafe.com


While we’re all a little bored of the Carrie Bradshaw cupcakers, sometimes a little cake with frosting is simply necessary. Pretty pink Marina cupcake boutique Kara’s Cupcakes has a delicious selection. The rich espresso-buttercream-frosted java cupcake is delightful.

3249 Scott, SF. (415) 536-2253, www.karascucpakes.com


A big smile (and maybe a wink) will get you a sample from one of the glass jars filled with goodies that line the walls of the Candy Store in Russian Hill. Bubble-gum balls, gummy bears, licorice, malted milk balls, snowcaps, whatever your candy craving may be, the Candy Store has. Just be careful — this is a child’s dream world and snatching a cantaloupe-sized rainbow lollipop out of the hands of a wide-eyed tyke won’t go over so well with the shop girl.

1507 Vallejo, SF. (415) 921-8000, www.thecandystoresf.com



The long glass case that runs the length of Schubert’s Bakery in the Richmond District displays the most delectable selection of cakes I’ve ever seen. The bakery has been a city institution for almost a century, and I have no doubt it’s because life is incomplete without their currant mousse and classic cheesecake.

521 Clement, SF. (415) 752-1580, www.schuberts-bakery.com


For French treats in an English garden-inspired atmosphere, the madeleines at Miette can’t be beat. The tiny fluffy, moist, shell-shaped cakes are delightful when paired with cappuccinos or tea, and may induce a Proustian awakening after a long, tiring day.

2109 Chestnut, SF. (415) 359-0628, www.miette.com


Truffles are a standard luxury, one not often married to sleek and slightly cheeky design. Haight Street chocolate shop CocoLuxe dusts the top of each of their ganache truffles with a little picture that tells the flavor — from teapots and angels to gingerbread men and oranges. Best enjoyed while kicking back in one of the white retro chairs in the mod space.

1673 Haight, SF. (415) 367-4012, www.coco-luxe.com


When willing to go further afield — both in culinary palate and location — the cream-filled, egg-shaped waffles at Eggettes are worth the adventure. Hong Kongers eat eggettes, a popular street food served in paper bags punched with holes, for breakfast. I can’t handle the pastel-drowned Easter-egg interior of the Sunset District shop before 10 a.m., but certainly enjoy the warm puffs as an afternoon snack.

3136 Noriega, SF. (415) 681-8818, www.sfeggettes.com

Splurge and save


We often find ourselves at a crossroads between what we want to eat and what we can afford to eat. I want champagne and caviar, but I settle for beer and a tuna sandwich. I want stuffed quail, but I buy a rotisserie chicken. Given the economy, there is something about splurging on food that seems almost inappropriate. These are uncertain times, when everyone is trying to save money and even the most extravagant are keeping an eye on the size of their wallets. In the hierarchy of oxymorons, "cost-effective splurge" ranks up there with Microsoft Works, compassionate conservative, and Gov. Schwarzenegger.

We live in a city where the average meal cost is $38.70, according to the most recent Zagat survey, and the price of a splurge can land well into the three digits. Even so, treating yourself to good food doesn’t necessarily mean an orgy of excessive expenditure. And if you spend your money wisely, you’ll find that even in a city as expensive as ours, great dining deals can be found — even if your cravings are more Niman Ranch and your budget more Oscar Meyer. The following are some tips on how to get the most out of your money when you treat yourself to a gourmet meal on the town.

1. BYOB. The cardinal rule of smart splurging is to bring your own alcohol. Alcohol has a notoriously exorbitant mark-up at restaurants, but some restaurants allow you to BYOB for a small corkage fee or, even better, for free. Anchor Oyster Bar (579 Castro, SF. 415-431-3990, www.anchoroysterbar.com), Indigo (687 McAllister, SF. 415-673-9353, www.indigorestaurant.com), and PlumpJack Cafe (3127 Fillmore, SF. 415-563-4755, www.plumpjack.com) never charge corkage. Some restaurants will comp corkage one or more nights of the week. Laiola (2031 Chestnut, SF. 415-346-5641, www.laiola.com) has free corkage on Mondays, Zazie (941 Cole, SF. 415-564-5332, www.zaziesf.com) on Tuesdays, and Alamo Square Seafood Grill (803 Fillmore, SF. 415-440-2828, www.alamosquareseafoodgrill.com) on Wednesdays.

2. Parlay happy hour. Bars and restaurants regularly offer great deals in that dead-zone between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., a time I fondly refer to as "lunchtime." At Andalu (3198 16th St., SF. 415-621-2211), Tuesday happy hour means $1 ahi tuna tacos. At Olive, (743 Larkin, SF. 415-776-9814, www.olive-sf.com) drink a perfectly mixed, classic martini for $5 on weekdays, followed by a $7 pizza large enough to split with friends. And don’t forget the tastiest of all happy hours: oysters! Happy hour oysters are $1 each at Woodhouse Fish Company (2073 Market, SF. 415-437-2722, www.woodhousefish.com) on Tuesdays, at Hog Island Oyster Company (1 Ferry Bldg, SF. 415-391-7117, www.hogislandoysters.com) on Mondays and Thursdays, and at Waterbar (399 The Embarcadero, SF. 415-284-9922, www.waterbarsf.com) on weekdays before 6pm.

3. Explore specials. Restaurants are feeling the economic downturn just as much as we are, and to usher in customers, many been offering tempting and reasonable "recession specials". Case in point: on Sunday through Thursday nights, Luna Park (694 Valencia, SF. 415-553-8584, www.lunaparksf.com) currently offers a rotating "blue plate special" priced from $10 to $12, with accompanying drink specials for $5.

4. Decide ahead. Most restaurants have online menus, and if you choose what you want before you get to the restaurant, you’ll prevent yourself from making impulse orders at the last minute.

5. Go prix fixe. At many restaurants, you can eat a delicious three-course meal for under $25 if you order off the prix fixe menu. Baker Street Bistro (2953 Baker, SF. 415-931-1475, www.bakerstbistro.com) offers a popular three course prix fixe dinner menu that includes soup, chef’s choice of an entree, and any dessert for $14.50. At Pisces (3414 Judah, SF. 415-564-2233, www.greenopia.com), start off with an organic green salad, followed by Muscovy duck leg with pear compote, and end with a crème brulée, all for $23.

6. Try lunch. According to Zagat’s San Francisco Dining Deals Guide, lunch items are generally 25 percent to 30 percent less expensive than dinner items, even if both menus are exactly the same.

7. Take a class. Give a man a fish taco and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to sauté a whitefish and make his own fish taco with mango salsa, and he’ll eat well for the rest of his life, plus impress his friends. Emily Dellas (www.emilydellas.com) at First Class Cooking, teaches three-course cooking classes out of her beautiful SoMa studio for $55, which covers all the ingredients. Post-cooking, you’ll sit down and eat the gourmet goodies you learned to make.

8. Go ethnic. Dining at ethnic restaurants is a great way to eat sumptuously without spending every penny in your pocket, since hole-in-the-wall places are almost always better than the expensive versions. Shalimar (532 Jones, SF. 415-776-4642, www.shalimarsf.com) is easily one of the best Indian restaurants in San Francisco, and most entrees on the menu are under $5 (BYOB). With prices like that, you can justify heading up the street afterward to The Hidden Vine (620 Post, SF. 415-674-3567, www.thehiddenvine.com) for some chocolate truffles and a glass of wine.

Big Easy in the Bay



New Orleans is one of those near-mythical cities: aching, beautiful, unique, rich with history. And New Orleans folk love their drink. They should. They’ve contributed much to the history of the cocktail, with some of the best drinks in existence — like the Sazerac, official cocktail of NoLA — created and served there.

Lucky for us, San Francisco is one of the world’s best cocktail cities, in creativity and craft, with artisan cocktail bars continuing to crop up everywhere, just as they did in our wild, Barbary Coast past. And with a little searching, you can find a number of places to get an authentic New Orleans’ concoction. Here’s a journey through Big Easy cocktails that actually keep up with versions I’ve imbibed in New Orleans. Now if I could just find a Bourbon Milk Punch…



Created by Antoine Peychaud in 1830’s New Orleans, the mighty Sazerac is a drink to be reckoned with. Many versions have evolved, usually some combination of Rye whiskey or bourbon, sometimes cognac, Peychaud’s bitters, sugar, and a rinse of absinthe. Bracing with a touch of sweet, it’s a robust, beautiful drink. Absinthe has been doing cocktails right since well before the ‘cocktail renaissance’. Their Sazerac is no exception.

398 Hayes, SF. (415) 551-1590, www.absinthe.com


More in line with NoLa’s Tujague’s experience, Excelsior’s king of dive bars stirs intense, balanced sazeracs for an unheard-of $5. Best of all? They don’t skimp on ingredients, using quality rye and St. George Absinthe. Paired with house BBQ, Crawfish Etouffee, or an Oyster Po’ Boy, you’ll be ready to form a second line brass band.

1166 Geneva, SF. (415) 963-1713


Pull up to the gorgeous, 1930s supper club bar and have Brian MacGregor mix you a perfect sazerac, made with their own barrel of Sazerac brand rye and brilliant Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe. You’ll want to take to the floor like Fred and Ginger…

300 Grove, SF. (415) 861-5555, www.jardiniere.com



There’s a lot of debate about the origins of the great Mint Julep… a sure way to rile a Southerner up is to raise the question. Though likely not created in New Orleans, the traditional beverage of the Kentucky Derby is made in top form there, particularly by the amazing Chris McMillian at the Renaissance Pere Marquette Hotel. A shock of strong bourbon, lightly sweetened, with refreshing mint on a snow cone of ice, a Julep isn’t right unless served in a proper julep cup. Possibly my favorite of all cocktails, I’m proud to say we have a 100 percent authentic version at our own Alembic.

1725 Haight, SF. (415) 666-0822, www.alembicbar.com



Though Pimm’s was created in 1840s England, a revitalizing, long Pimm’s Cup (Pimm’s, ginger ale or club soda, cucumber, sometimes mint, lemon) was popularized in the US at New Orleans’ Napoleon House, where I’ve savored it mid-afternoon in their unparallelled 1700s courtyard. In SF’s newly-redone 15 Romolo, taste goes even further. Besides meticulously prepared cocktails from a top-notch bartender line-up, plus creative bar food like their addictive Jambalini, I was thrilled to find the Pimm’s Cup served in Romolo’s dim wood bar the best I’ve ever tasted. Made with Rye, it’s genius.
15 Romolo, SF. (415) 398-1359



A blissful daytime drink, the Ramos Gin Fizz is one of New Orleans’ greats, invented by Henry C. Ramos in 1888. Dry gin, lemon and lime juice, sugar, cream, nuanced orange flower water and club soda, made frothy by egg white, it’s light and luscious. It’s an ideal morning imbibement that goes down all too easy. Presidio Social Club offers a soothing brunch in a clubhouse setting with 1940s vibe, lots of sunlight, and a classy bar staff who know their cocktails… including the Gin Fizz.
563 Ruger, SF. (415) 885-1888, www.presidiosocialclub.com



The Hurricane isn’t my preferred NoLa drink, but is one of its most popular, served by the tons at, and credited to, Pat O’Brien’s, where, in the ’40s, he’d pour the mix into hurricane-lamp-shaped glasses for NoLa sailors. Usually too sweet for me, it’s a daiquiri-style, rum-based drink of passion fruit and lemon (or sometimes lime). But if there’s one place that does it right, it’s Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge, with balanced, not-too-sweet, tropical drinks.

1304 Lincoln, Alameda. (510) 749-0332, www.forbiddenislandalameda.com



I did a little jump for joy at the Southern menu and drinks at downtown Oakland’s brand new, Southern-chic, Pican. Even crazier was seeing Cafe Brulot on the menu, a spiked coffee drink prepared and flambéed tableside at historic, New Orleans’ jazz brunch spots like Arnaud’s. This is the first I’ve seen it at all in the Bay Area, so kudos, Pican. It works as dessert, with coffee, brandy, Benedictine, candied brown sugar, homemade whipped cream, and aromatic orange zest.

2295 Broadway, Oakl. (510) 834-1000, www.picanrestaurant.com

Get juiced



I hate the Master Cleanse.

Fighting against our bodies to make them do what we want is counterproductive. Instead, if you cultivate better communication with your body’s needs and reward yourself when it does what you want, you’ll find you’re more in control of your health.

Detoxing can be a beneficial part of doing this, and I have reaped many benefits from raw vegan detoxes. But contrary to popular belief, I think the Master Cleanse does exactly the opposite.

For those who don’t know, the Master Cleanse is a program in which you drink a concoction of water, lemon, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and sea salt — exclusively — for anywhere from three to 30 days. The cleanse was recently made popular stars like Beyonce as a last-minute way to look good on the red carpet. But some experts say that the cleanse can do more harm than good.

One issue, says Carolynn Kraskouskas, owner and operator of Be Whole Again! Bodywork and Nutritional Therapy (Be Whole Again!, 3150 18th Street Mlbx 511, Suite 536, SF; www.bewholeagain.net), is that cleansing is supposed to allow your organs to rest and rebuild themselves. But the average person doesn’t eat a healthy enough diet to sustain itself during the Master Cleanse. Therefore the diet creates a system where the body doesn’t think you will treat it right, throwing the internal balance off. “For most people who are sick, run-down, tired, or stressed out, it simply stresses the system out more, creating inflammation and a rise in the pH of a person,” she said. This can create an acidic environment that, she says, is the basis for all disease.

So what’s the alternative? Many experts recommend raw juice cleansing or fasting. (Juice is considered raw when it comes from fresh fruits and vegetables, never frozen or pasteurized.) Some say a juice fast can diminish the ill effects of fatigue, skin issues, headaches, insomnia, weight loss and gain, and more.

But what of the lemons used in the Master Cleanse? Cherie Calbom, the “Juice Lady” on Raw Vegan radio (www.rawveganradio.com) admits these do provide some pH regulation and antioxidants, but not enough to deal with the amount of toxins being released during the cleanse. “If you don’t have antioxidants to bind to those toxins, they can do tissue damage,” she says. “Vegetable juice fasting is a much healthier way to go. Antioxidants bind the toxins and carry them out of the body.”

The toughest part about a raw juice fast is that the juice is extremely perishable and should be drunk immediately. There are steps you can take to store fresh juice for up to 24 hours, but, as you can imagine, this could be a full-time job. We’ve assembled a list of places in the city that can help you maintain a healthy juice fast while still having a life. Some places, like Juicey Lucy’s, even provide personal consultations to determine the best cleanse for you and then deliver a full, raw, seasonal, organic juice cleanse to your door three days a week. And don’t forget that even if you’re not fasting, fresh juices are a healthy — and delicious — addition to any diet.

(For more specific information on juice fasting, visit our Pixel Vision blog at www.sfbg.com/blogs/Pixel_Vision.)

Juice Resources

Cafe Del Soul 247 Shoreline Hwy, Mill Valley. (415) 388-1852, www.cafedelsoul.net

Cafe Gratitude 2400 Harrison, SF. (415) 830-3014; 1336 9th Ave, SF. (415) 683-1346; 1730 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 725-4418; 230 Bay Place (in Whole Foods), Oakl. (510) 250-7779, www.cafegratitude.com

Cafe Venue 218 Montgomery, SF. (415) 989-1144, www.cafevenue.com

Estela’s Fresh Sandwiches 250 Fillmore, SF. (415) 864-1850

Frapez 4092 18th St., SF. (415) 503-1323, www.frapez.com

Herbivore 983 Valencia, SF. (415) 826-5657; 531 Divisadero, SF. (415) 885-7133; 2451 Shattuck, Berk., (510) 665-1675

Judahlicious 3906 Judah, SF. (415) 665-8423, www.judahlicious.com

Juicey Lucy’s market stand at Noe Valley’s farmers market on Saturday and Kaiser Permanente’s Geary Street farmers market on Wednesday; 703 Columbus, SF. (415) 786-1285, www.juiceylucys.com

The Plant Cafe Organic 3352 Steiner, SF. (415) 931-2777,www.theplantcafe.com Power Source Juice Bar 81 Fremont, SF. (415) 896-1312, www.powersourcecafe.com

Raw Energy Organic Juice and Café 2050 Addison, Berk. (510) 665-9464, www.rawenergy.net

Sidewalk Juice 3287 21st St., SF. (415) 341-8070


5 Great Sandwiches


Tourists may flood into our city each year just to eat bread, but we locals know that bread tastes a whole lot better if you make it into a sandwich. A good sandwich can cure a hangover, elevate a bad mood, decrease boredom, increase likeability, boost physical performance, raise your appeal to the opposite sex, hone your intellect, enhance your memory, and improve your personality — really, it’s shocking how little a sandwich can’t do. I could wax poetic until 2012 about the merits of two pieces of bread separated by edible fillings, but I believe my stomach says it best when it, quite simply, growls.


I don’t know what kind of sandwich voodoo they practice at Submarine Center in West Portal, but their subs are so yummy I’ve decided not to question it. For nearly 30 years, Submarine Center has made some of the best — and most enormous — hot subs in SF. Their gargantuan Atomic Sub is one of the few sandwiches in the world that could probably shoot down a military aircraft if blasted out of a bazooka. A beautiful symphony of ingredients, the Atomic Sub features toasted white French bread, hot pastrami, hot ham, hot roast beef, lettuce, tomato, fiery jalapeños, onions, mayo, and an unexpected grace note of piquant Italian dressing. The fact that they’ll put crushed rather than cubed ice in your Coke is just icing (ha ha) on the cake.

820 Ulloa, SF. (415) 564-1455, www.submarinecenter.com


Why offer just one type of grilled cheese sandwich when you can offer six? Blue Barn Gourmet, a rustic café housed in a barn (you can’t miss it) in the Marina District, answers this important philosophical question by giving the venerable grilled cheese its own special menu. The apotheosis of the grilled cheese has never looked so heavenly. Brie d’affinois, provolone, white cheddar, manchego, Jarlsberg and Gruyère, or mozzarella burratta — whatever the craving, Blue Barn aims to nurse that grilled cheese fever. Our favorite is the simple and effective cheddar panini, a textbook on proper sandwich- making written on pages of black forest ham, white cheddar, and honey mustard and bound with two slices of freshly baked sourdough. This is Velveeta on Wonderbread all grown up.

2105 Chestnut, SF. (415) 441-3232, www.bluebarngourmet.com


It’s comforting to know, before diving into the behemoth fried shrimp po’boy sandwich at Yats’, that San Francisco General Hospital is across the street. It’s still unclear why Jack’s, a humble Potrero District dive bar, made the decision to start serving authentic N’awlins style po’boys, but since that decision was made, we’ve all benefited. Featuring real Louisiana French bread shipped from the Leidenheimer Bakery in NoLA, this mountain of fried shrimp snow-capped with mayonnaise is so delicious it’s worth the risk to your heart. You won’t get your three-to-five daily servings of veggies, but if you feel guilty, they’ll readily give you extra lettuce and tomato. Finish your meal with a thick slab of cornbread and a beer or three. Your soul will thank you, even if your arteries don’t.

2545 24th St., SF. (415) 282-8906, www.whereyats.com


For the meatball fan who likes everything about meatballs except for the meat, the Meatless Mike sandwich at the popular sandwich shop Ike’s Place will happily satisfy that craven need for animal protein, sans animal. Tasty ground soy protein "meatballs" are thickly slathered in marinara and Ike’s own house-made garlic aioli ("dirty sauce") and topped generously with pepper Jack. Served on a toasty Dutch crunch roll, it’s so good that your next sandwich is on me if you aren’t convinced it tastes as good — if not better — than real meat. Instead of eating your sando on the sidewalk and using up a roll of napkins, eat in Dolores Park around the corner and wipe your hands on the grass. So gooey, messy, and delicious, you’ll proudly wear that dirty sauce stain running down the front of your shirt as if it were a gold medal.

3506 16th St., SF. (415) 553-6888, www.ilikeikesplace.com


A sandwich so elegant, it’s like the Lawrence Olivier of sandwiches. Fresh baked wild salmon topped with a layer of smoked salmon, with fennel, dill, and a sheath of iceberg lettuce on a soft roll, this sandwich is thoughtful and deliberate in its approach to taste and texture. It might sound fancy, but don’t confuse this sandwich for a snob. At $8.50, you get a bang for your buck. "The Sentinel" is an imposing name for a SoMa sandwich stand that offers no seating, let alone a bathroom, but like Thomas the Tank Engine, this tiny place means serious business. Owned and operated by chef Dennis Leary of Canteen — who will personally wrap your sandwich for you — these sandwiches work so hard at being good it makes other sandwiches look like lazy bums in comparison.

37 New Montgomery, SF. (415) 284-9960, www.thesentinelsf.com

7 Spring flings


Casual dating: it’s hilarious. Who the hell knows what to expect when you’re getting together for the first, or even fourth, time with a prospective mate over eats and conversation? You may just want to order the briefest appetizer you can spot and split — either to rip each other’s clothes off in the sanctity of your apartment hallway or delete each other’s numbers from your iPhones without appearing rude. And, on the basis of any vibes from various text-message/voicemail/drunken bar encounters beforehand, you might desire an array of date-dining alternatives at your fingertips, from light and breezy to fancy and invested. Below is my hit list of options to help you plan your onslaught of spring-fever suitors. You’re just that slick.


Why am I kicking off this list with a bakery? Because the Inner Sunset’s Arizmendi — an organically-minded cooperative descended from Berkeley’s lovely Cheeseboard — is a splendid spot to score some of the city’s yummiest pastries and pizza slices before a sunlit afternoon jaunt into Golden Gate Park together. Snag a bleacher on the baseball diamond near Ninth Avenue, sink your teeth into a scrumptious poppy-seed bialy, and root for romance.

1331 9th Avenue, SF. (415) 566-3117, www.arizmendibakery.org


Brunch is the perfect date meal — not only can you mimosa the previous night’s dating triumph or disaster right out of your mouth, but you also get to check out your current wooer in the daylight. Up your savvy quotient by suggesting this relatively untrammeled, brunch-oriented French gem in South Park, where you can croque your monsieur if he dares touch your niçoise prematurely. Bonus: real champagne!

155 South Park, SF. (415) 896-2075, www.thebutlerandthechefbistro.com


If you’ve already checked your date for cooties, why not venture into participatory dining territory by sharing a deep, delicious paella at this Spanish treat? One order of this traditional oven-cooked rice, seafood, and meat dish from the voluminous menu should satisfy your needs, and maybe when your forks cross there’ll be sparks. If you sit outdoors on the slightly seedy yet romantically-lighted Belden Place, the ambience advances exponentially — and if you need to flee, well, it’s all the easier.

44 Belden Place, SF. (415) 986-6287, www.b44sf.com


The interior may look like Laura Ashley tripped and spilled her potpourri basket, but this Richmond District delight is one of those magical places where the food is so fine (and the prix fixe options so reasonable) that the pastel walls soon fall away and the world opens up into a universe of companionable possibilities. Yes, it’s fancy French, yet not stuffy or pompous at all — the only part of the out-of-the-ballpark menu that seems slightly inflexible is the wine list. Lemme tell ya, though, after a couple of glasses of classic Bordeaux and the fabulously rich basil Napoleon dessert, you’ll be anything but.

1408 Clement, SF. (415) 750-9787


Italian on a date — hello, cliché. Most people forget that when the noodle-slurping pooches’ lips met in The Lady and the Tramp, it was over a trashcan. For lovers not so deep in the new Depression yet, give your taste buds a twist and dive into the fantastically rich, seafood-focused cuisine of Sardinia at this cutie in Noe Valley. Keep your eye on the waitstaff, though, because most of them are gorgeous. For those who balk at trying items like tuna hearts, wild boar, or octopus stew — hey, the octopus may have been smarter than your date! — awesome thin-crust pizzas are available.

291 30th St., SF. (415) 550-8114, www.laciccia.com


La Mar offers a gorgeous view of the Bay, a mellow vibe despite the crowds, and an enormous selection of Peruvian favorites and mouthwatering cocktails that’ll make you want to dash below the equator once your plate is clean. This new hotspot is an all-around dating wonderland — order a stunning cebiche sampler and tart pisco sour for a quickie get-to-know-you or settle in for robust entrees, anticuchos, causas, and sopas if you want to deliciously delay the adios.

Pier 1 1/2, SF. (415) 397-8880, www.lamarcebicheria.com


I’m not sure what your list of priorities looks like when it comes to promising soulmate candidates, but, for me, that person better damn well know how to cook. Here’s my nifty little trick for finding out if the person across the table can adequately steam my beef — schedule a shabu-shabu date. The Japanese cuisine requires you to cook your own thinly sliced meats and veggies in a hotpot-type device at the table. It’s quite a lot of fun once you get the hang of it — and the results are incredibly tasty. Shabusen in Japantown is one of my faves because it’s got an authentic atmosphere and a klutz-patient staff. And if your companion happens to be a butterfingers, you can always satisfy yourself with the ample homemade pickles provided.

1726 Buchanan, SF. (415) 440-0466

One chicken. Two people. Three gourmet meals.



It’s hard enough to eat well when the economy’s good, when time and commitments and plain old laziness getting in the way. But when there’s hardly enough money in your wallet for Cup O’ Noodle and a Coors Light, cooking gourmet food can seem damn near impossible. But fear not, Bay Area penny-pinchers. With only one chicken, a few additional simple ingredients, and some time, you can make three whole meals for two people.

But how? That’s exactly what I asked three Bay Area star chefs — Alice Waters, Gary Danko, and Traci Des Jardins. I challenged each of these SF heavy-hitters to come up with one mouthwatering, gourmet meal for two people using only one-third of a chicken plus a few low-cost ingredients.

And oh, how they delivered! Alice Waters offered a recipe for chicken breasts, Gary Danko turned in a chicken leg recipe, and Traci Des Jardin thought up a delicious soup, made from the previous the leftover chicken bones of the two previous meals.

Below are their simple, savory recipes. (But first, some advice from Danko: When you’re planning to make a few meals out of a whole chicken, always eat the breast first. The longer the breast is refrigerated, the more it will dry out. The legs, on the other hand, will retain their moisture and flavor even after refrigeration and reheating.)


1 whole large chicken breast, about 3/4 pound

salt and pepper to taste

12 tablespoons clarified unsalted butter

1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs

1/2 box cherry tomatoes

Skin and bone the chicken breast, and cut it in half. Remove the tendons and any fat from the two single breasts. Salt and pepper the breasts and fold the tenderloins to the side of each breast so the meat is evenly thick.

Dip the breasts in a flat dish with 6 tablespoons of the clarified butter to coat both sides. Pat the breasts in the bread crumbs to form a crust. Let the breasts stand for 10 minutes.

Heat 3 tablespoons clarified butter in a heavy cast-iron pan over medium heat. When the butter is hot, put the breasts in the pan, season with salt and pepper, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Sauté gently for 5 minutes, turn, and sauté on the other side for 5 minutes. The crust should be a rich golden brown.

Heat 2 or 3 tablespoons clarified butter in a small saucepan. Put the chicken breast on two warm serving places and pour some of the butter over each chicken breast. Serve with briefly sautéed cherry tomatoes.


2 chicken legs, thigh and drumstick attached (depending on the size of the chicken, you may need two more)

1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs or panko

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon chopped tarragon, optional

(you may substitute 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs with 1/4 cups chopped nuts of choice)

Trim excess skin from thigh end of chicken. On parchment paper, combine breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, tarragon, and salt and pepper. Mix well. Using a pastry brush, lightly paint the mustard on chicken legs. Coat legs with the breadcrumb mixture. Place single layer on a sheet pan or in a roasting pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes until completely cooked.

This dish may be served hot or cold.


Chicken Stock

leftover chicken bones

1/2 cup each chopped carrot, onion, celery

1 sprig thyme

Pick off and set aside any remaining morsels of meat from the bones, place the bones and skin into a pot, and barely cover with water. Add carrot, celery, onion, thyme, and cook at a simmer for about 3 hours. Keep adding small amounts of water as necessary to keep the level just above the bones. Strain the stock.

(Although most people discard the remainders, Gary Danko remembers that his grandfather "loved to eat the remainders of the stock pot. Being an old Hungarian, he called it ‘a Hungarian picnic.’")

Chicken Vegetable Soup

6 cups chicken stock

1 cup each diced onion, carrot, and celery

2 cups cabbage, roughly chopped

2 cups potato, cubed

2 cups cooked rice or beans

chicken from carcass, shredded and seasoned to taste

1/2 cup pork product, cubed*

Curry, saffron, bay, pimento, or a pinch of Esplette pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of one lemon (add at the very end)

(Use either the chicken pieces that have been picked from the bone, or use a bit of bacon or other cured pork product. Render it or not — your choice, but include it nonetheless. The flavor will keep you coming back for more, and the fat — yes, there will be fat — helps our bodies realize we are really having a great meal.)

Sauté the onion, carrot, and celery in oil for five minutes, or until soft.

Then add spice seasonings and the pork product if you are including pork. Stir and cook for five minutes, then add in the stock and bring to simmer. Let it simmer slowly for 15 minutes, then add the rice, potato, or beans (or all three) and let simmer another 15 minutes. Season to taste. Makes about 6 quarts. Freeze all but two, no matter what the yield. Finally, when you heat up a meal’s worth of soup, add a raw egg to the pot. Turn the heat down very low and cover. In three minutes, dish it up. Add a dash of sriracha sauce and a teaspoon of good extra-virgin olive oil. Serve with a slice of good bread on the side.


Clarifying butter removes the milk solids and water from the part of the butter you want for sautéing — the translucent, bright yellow butterfat that can be brought to high temperatures without burning. (The smoking point of clarified butter — also known as ghee, the beloved cooking fat of India — is 485 degrees. By contrast, whole butter smokes at 350 degrees and virgin olive oil smokes at 375 degrees.)

For the Chicken Breasts Escoffier, you’ll need two sticks of unsalted butter to begin with. Cut the butter into one-inch cubes, and heat it in a heavy-bottomed pot over a low flame. As the butter melts, it will separate into three layers — a thin foamy top layer, a middle layer of clarified butterfat, and a bottom layer of white milk fat. Skim off and discard the foam, and ladle the bright yellow butterfat into a heat-proof container. Discard the milk fat. You may need to continue skimming bits of foam off the top until your mixture is pure. You will keep around 80 percent of the butter you started with.

Meal planning is a great way to cut your grocery bill. If you go to the store less frequently, there’s less impulse buying. It also keeps you from running to the store next door, where you’ll pay more for your food.
The cost of meat has been going up. The best way to cut back on the amount of meat you use is by substituting a healthy filler, like tofu, in your meatloaf recipe. Try to stretch a pound of meat into two recipes instead of one or substitute meat with less expensive ingredients like beans.
Risotto is a great, inexpensive way of getting a lot of bang for your buck and it can be used as a base for endless flavor profiles using leftovers.
Take a doggie bag if you have steak or chicken leftover from your restaurant visit. Just last night I had some steak and a double cut pork chop left over from a restaurant dinner. For lunch, I took a can of Amy’s vegetarian chili, a can of rinsed kidney beans, and a cup of store-bought salsa, combined them with the chopped meats, doctored them with spices, and simmered the mixture for 10 minutes. I had rice I made two days before, a dollop of sour cream, and a spoonful of salsa. It fed four people a hearty lunch.

For a special bonus recipe from Gary Danko, check out our



› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Not even duck soup can save me now. The children I put to sleep … they want stories.

“I had a black eye,” I began, “a swollen, purple nose, and tears streaming down my face.” I was lying on my back on the floor in the dark, next to their bunk beds.

“No no no,” the voice on top said. “Make one up this time.”

“When I was a little girl,” I began, as I always do when I’m making one up.

The voice of the bottom bunk interrupted. “In this one make the fox eat the chicken.”

“No no no,” said the voice on top. “Make one up where the chicken eats the fox.” He laughed his angelically evil laugh.

“Yeah!” she said, laughing hers. “Yeah, where — ”

“This story doesn’t have any chickens in it,” I said.

The silence was spectacular, my audience mine. I promised the usual: that if neither one said another single word, from that moment on, I would stay right there in the room with them when the story was over, until everyone was asleep. I said that in any case I would see them in the morning, and if anyone had any questions or comments we would discuss them over pancakes. “But if you want me to stay in the room right now,” I said, “you have to put your heads on your pillows, close your eyes, and just listen.”

This they did, the sweeties, but Top Bunk, being a little too eager to please, overshot the pillow and bounced his head off the headboard, necessitating an ice pack. When I came back from the kitchen, Bottom Bunk was cold and wanted me to snuggle with her.

The story I told, finally, from the floor, once everyone was properly iced and snuggled and re-sworn to silence, started with “When I was a little girl, between your age and yours,” and ended last night at the International Terminal of the San Francisco Airport.

In between there was plenty of time for two little children to fall asleep, wake up, go to school, grow into adults, and surrender to the cold, stark reality of make-believe, or — who knows — maybe even experience, just once, the upending shock of true, fiery, electric, and impossible love, the kind where whole worlds, not just bodies, collide.

Kids aren’t angels. They’re kids. They kept their heads on their pillows, their eyes presumably closed, and bravely just breathed. Then afterward I could hear their wheels spinning, the little coughs and sniffs, restless repositioning of arms and legs.

Their questions went without saying, but I knew what they would be, and had marked them all, along the way, for later, for morning, for pancakes …

What does pneumonia feel like? What’s an exchange student? Oxygen tent? How can duck soup taste so dark and good and still be medicine? And why couldn’t you finish it? Can you go to jail for stealing a roll of toilet paper from a ladies room? What does Fung Lum mean? Can people really fly higher than airplanes? If you liked the same stuff and never wanted to stop playing together, why did you stop? How come we wish on stars but not the moon?

Adults aren’t angels. The dishes needed done, the counters wiped, and the kitchen floor swept. It was garbage night. I hadn’t slept since Sunday, bathed since Monday, or changed my clothes since Tuesday. I’d cancelled meetings, missed deadlines, left work early, and concocted a really very unforgivable dinner that no one, not even parents, could quite fathom. That was Wednesday. On Thursday they ordered pizza.

And I lay on the kids’ room floor long after they’d both spun down into differently delicious dreams, forgetting every single thing except and until pancakes. Awake as always, as low, loved, and lonely as the kid-beaten, bent-tailed, poopy-butt cat curled up next to me, I lay with my black eye and almost-broken nose, tears brining my crows feet and basting my ears, thinking soft fingers on faces and wondering how in the world I would answer the one about the moon.

Fung Lum Restaurant

SFO International Terminal, SF

(650) 821-8282

Beer & wine


L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.

Tending the brood


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS The young couple next door to me in Rockridge is building a chicken coop, and I love them for this. They aren’t married and don’t have kids, which makes me just want to squeeze them and look at them, and invite them over for every single thing I eat, even oatmeal.

But that would be creepy, so instead I offer to bring them some straw. Do they need a feeder? A waterer? I still have my place in the woods. I have rat traps, chicken wire, and rusting 55-gallon drums that would look real nice against the falling-down barnlike outbuilding on the edge of their lot.

Together, I think, we can shake up this neighborhood. In just a couple months here I have made more friends (or at any rate met more people I want to be friends with) than I did in five years living in Occidental. In five years in Occidental, I made four friends. Two couples. One I actually met in San Francisco, and the other through a mutual friend in Oakland.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the woods, or I wouldn’t still keep my shack, which I go to when I can for writing and/or romance, and sort of sublet to my artsy bohemian city peeps for same.

The family I work for in East Oakland, Boink’s family, they have a chicken. Used to have three, but two died, and the one that’s left has gone bad. Her name is Cakey. She’s brooding, which means she’s set her mind, and ass, on hatching eggs that no amount of setting will ever induce to hatch. Save maybe a visit from Gabriel.

This is actually a dangerous condition for a roosterless hen to be in, because she might get over it, and she might not. I have girlfriends like this.

It falls on me, while Boink’s family is away in Florida for the week, to traumatize their chicken. I’m surprised Boink hasn’t already achieved this, by accident, but the best way to get a broody hen to snap out of it is to harass the hell out of her.

So I’m going to East Oakland in a moment, I’m stuffing Cakey into a cardboard box with holes poked into it, for air, and I’m driving her out to the country. To the woods. To my shack. Where I can annoy her for three days with sticks, Pere Ubu records, and buckets of cold water — and no one will hear all the squawking. I tried this once with one of my girlfriends and got arrested.

I love Pere Ubu, by the way. But chickens … and perhaps all poultry, for all I know — their capacity to withstand ’70s-era punk rock starts and ends with the Ramones. So you know.

But speaking of traumatized girlfriends, my friend Alice Shaw, after whom I named my great car, Alice Shaw, was mugged at gunpoint in the Mission District. As if I weren’t already mad enough at muggers for stabbing a friend of a friend in Seattle!

And do you know what Alice Shaw said to us, over deep-fried hamburgers after a soccer game? She said, Well, in a way it was nice to be noticed, for a change. I’m paraphrasing.

It is comments like this that make me love human beings even more than chickens. I mean, to be fair, we have no exact translation for the could-be clucks-of-wisdom that chickens call to each other from the jaws of foxes, but it’s a safe bet they are not so laced with humor and sadness as, for example, Alice Shaw’s odd comment.

I wanted to squeeze her and feed her oatmeal, but we were already eating fried hamburgers. Outside, and over rice, with fried eggs on top, and smothered in gravy. What could be better, after a soccer game? It’s a Hawaiian thing, called loco moco, and in fact it was invented 60 years ago, according to the menu, in honor of a barefoot Hawaiian football team called the Wreckers.

Whose players apparently liked to eat, because I, at my hungriest, couldn’t clean half my plate, or even imagine ever being hungry again, so I brought the rest to Earl Butter. We all agreed: Really really dong-dong-dicky-do great, in a school lunchy kind of way.

You want to know where, don’t you?


Mon., Wed.–Thu., 11 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5–10 p.m.

Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.–11 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.

5 Masonic, SF

(415) 921-6242

Full bar


L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.

Slow down the solar project


EDITORIAL The concept is so good it’s hard to imagine why anyone would criticize it: the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission wants to cover the Sunset Reservoir with solar panels, creating the largest municipal solar generating project in the country. The money would come from existing SFPUC revenue — no new taxpayer dollars. The Sierra Club loves the idea, and Mayor Gavin Newsom is pushing it.

We agree that the reservoir is a perfect place for a solar project, and that the city ought to be pursuing this.

But the structure of the deal makes us uncomfortable — and the financing shows a serious flaw in how federal money for renewable energy is allocated.

Under the terms of the proposal, a private company, Recurrent Energy, would finance and build the plant at a cost of perhaps $40 million. The facility would have the capacity to generate 5 MW of electricity, enough to power 2,500 houses. The city, in turn, would agree to buy that power for the next 25 years, at about 23.5 cents per kilowatt hour — far more than the current market rate for electricity but less than what other cities have agreed to pay for long-term solar contracts.

The city would have an option to buy the plant from Recurrent after seven years for $33 million.

The good news is that this would be a public-power project — the city would own the electricity and could use it to power public buildings and eventually, once the community choice aggregation (CCA) system is running, could sell it as retail power to residents and businesses.

But Sups. Ross Mirkarimi and David Campos have asked the obvious question: Why is a private company even involved? Why can’t the city build the solar generating station itself? The CPUC’s answer: It’s cheaper to let Recurrent do the work — because the private outfit will get a $12 million tax break from the federal government.

That’s a serious problem — why is the Obama administration giving tax breaks for private projects that aren’t available to cities? "What we should be looking at is why San Francisco, with all its clout in Washington, can’t get that same sort of subsidy for a public project," Campos told us.

Or as Mirkarimi put it: "This only makes sense to me if there’s some guarantee that the city will actually buy the plant in seven years. Otherwise we’re going to look back at this in year 15 and realize it’s not such a good deal."

The city’s energy future is very much up in the air right now — CCA is on the cusp of viability, there’s still an active public-power movement, and it’s very hard to say what the city’s needs will be (or what the price of solar energy will be) 10 years from now, much less 25. So we’re very nervous about signing a contract of that length with a private company.

Yes, the Recurrent deal offers solar now — and that’s important. But the supervisors shouldn’t rush this through. At the very least, they should pass a resolution asking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to seek to direct the same subsidies that private companies can get to public solar projects — and to delay a final vote on this until there’s a better analysis of why a private company should be given a long-term contract for what ought to be a public project. *

Editor’s Notes


› Tredmond@sfbg.com

I was over at the San Francisco Public Defender’s office the other day, headed for a press roundtable, and I’d forgotten what room the event was in so I wound up at the reception desk on the second floor. When I arrived, a man was standing at the counter, highly agitated, trying to explain that something was wrong with his case, and that nobody was listening and he was getting the runaround — the kind of scene you see every day at the bottom level of the legal system, where people who don’t have money scramble constantly to figure out which end is up.

And on the other side of the counter was a young guy who was calmly collecting the information, analyzing the problem, and explaining exactly what the client needed to do. He sent him a few doors down to another service then said, with a smile: "But don’t worry, if they can’t help you, just come right back here and we’ll get you taken care of." He was the model of what a good public employee ought to be — professional, friendly, polite, smart, and (particularly important in this office) sympathetic.

And as I stepped up to ask him where the press event was, I realized I knew his name. He still looks just like he did when his picture ran on the front page of the Guardian on Sept 3, 2003, the day he was released from prison after serving 13 years for a crime he didn’t commit.

John Tennison works for the guy who devoted years to winning his freedom, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, and as far as I can tell, he’s a perfect fit for the job. He survived 13 years of hell with no visible bitterness. And he’s a reminder, for all those who like to forget, that everyone in prison is not a violent thug — or even guilty.

Coincidentally, if there is such a thing, I had just been working on a story about a move to criminalize cell phones in California prisons. The wardens have gone beyond drugs and weapons; phones are the new contraband. I posted an item on the politics blog about it and got the typical responses: Why should prisoners have access to cell phones? Aren’t they supposed to be punished? Give ’em bread and water and that’s it.

I get that cell phones can be a safety issue if they’re used by gangs and violent criminals to conduct business. But I also get that prisoners (or more truthfully, their families) have to pay exorbitant rates to make collect calls on the pay phones in prisons, and that there is often a wait, and that calls can only be made at certain times.

I’m not going to make cell phones for prisoners the biggest crusade of my life, but you know, a sizable number of the 170,000 California inmates did nothing other than buy and sell drugs that ought to be legal anyway; a fair number did nothing at all and were wrongly convicted; and most of the rest will get out at some point — and the more contact they have with their families (and potential employers), the better and safer we all are.

Something to think about. *

Do the right thing, Dianne


OPINION At the end of World War II, approximately 36 percent of American workers belonged to a union. Today that number has shrunk to about 12 percent, lagging behind the world’s other industrial democracies. But now, with a Democratic president in office, we have a realistic chance of enacting the most significant piece of labor legislation in decades, the Employee Free Choice Act, which would protect the right of workers to organize into a union.

The opposition, of course, is well organized and well funded. Opponents will spend more than $200 million to defeat the bill in the Senate. They will argue that EFCA is just a special interest bill that helps big labor. But the truth is that the legislation should be part of the long-term economic recovery plan and is key to rebuilding the middle class.

In 1980, average CEO pay was 42 times that of the average blue-collar worker. By 2006, CEO pay had grown to 364 times the average blue collar worker’s pay. A survey of median weekly earnings in 2007 revealed that union workers make 30 percent more than their nonunion counterparts, and are 59 percent more likely to have employer-provided health coverage than other workers.

The key EFCA reform, and the one that has generated the most controversy, is called “card-check.” Under EFCA, if the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) finds that a majority of employees have signed written authorization forms designating the union as their collective bargaining representative, the union is certified.

Opponents of card-check often argue, erroneously, that EFCA will deprive workers of their right to a so-called secret ballot. In fact, EFCA preserves both options, but it places the choice in the hands of workers, not employers. Moreover, the history of these “secret ballot” elections shows that they are often anything but democratic. Too often employers use their power over unorganized employees to intimidate them into voting against the union. Such documented employer tactics have included mandatory attendance at antiunion meetings, one-on-one meetings, threats to close the business if the union wins the vote, and harassing or even firing workers engaged in organizing activity.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has an 87 percent lifetime voting record from the AFL-CIO and has co-sponsored EFCA in the past. But now, with EFCA finally within reach, she has announced that she is looking for a “less divisive” option.

Say it isn’t so, Senator.

For many years progressive activists have had concerns about Feinstein, even going as far as to seek her censure at a state Democratic convention two years ago. In 2007, the party leadership reminded the activists that although she may stray occasionally, Feinstein is really a good Democrat who shares our basic values and commitments. There was no censure.

But workers’ rights is no side-issue in our Democratic Party. Economic justice is the issue. This is a moment of truth for Feinstein — and all of us who are her constituents have an obligation to help her get to the right answer.

On April 28 at 7 p.m. at the LGBT Community Center, the SF Labor Council, Pride at Work, and the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club are sponsoring a community briefing on our campaign to urge Feinstein to support working people. Join us. *

Robert Haaland is the co-chair, SF Pride at Work. Rafael Mandelman is president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club.


Don’t drill here



GREEN CITY When U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar looked out at a sea of faces during a San Francisco public hearing April 16, a band of activists dressed as polar bears, sea turtles, and other marine creatures stood out from the rest. Their message, also articulated by a host of federal and state-elected officials, was unequivocally clear: no new oil and gas drilling off the California coast.

Waving a thick document in the air, Salazar explained that he’d inherited a five-year plan from the Bush administration to award new leases for oil and gas drilling in the federally controlled outer continental shelf, which comprises some 1.7 billion underwater acres off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska.

Rather than move the policy as planned, Salazar extended public comment for six months, met with stakeholders in each region, and placed greater emphasis on developing offshore renewable energy. The San Francisco public hearing was the last in a series of four that Salazar attended.

"One of the significant issues that is so important to President Obama is that we move forward with a new energy frontier," Salazar said. He advocated embracing offshore wind and other renewable alternatives as part of a "comprehensive energy plan going forward." Yet Salazar also indicated that future plans for the nation’s energy mix were "not to the exclusion of oil and gas," and mentioned that opportunities for "clean coal" technology should also be considered.

Under the five-year plan, three new leases are proposed off California’s coast — two in the south, and one in the Point Arena Basin, an underwater swath near Fort Bragg. Elected officials unanimously opposed any new offshore petroleum development. "Our state clearly is saying to you today, no," declared Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "Instead of putting our California coast and economy in jeopardy, we need to look at … green technology which will bring us new jobs."

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi sounded a similar note, saying the billions that would be invested in offshore oil could be put toward advancing clean energy. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma) highlighted the risk of oil spills around the Point Arena Basin. "It could be turned from a wellspring of life into a death plume," she said. "This shimmering band of coast must be protected."

While nearly every testimony blasted new offshore oil development, the conversation brightened when Salazar asked for comments on renewable energy. According to estimates by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, offshore wind in shallow areas could provide some 20 percent of the electricity needs of coastal states nationwide. Wave energy, while still under study, might one day generate enough electricity to power some 197 million homes per year, according to Department of the Interior estimates.

Most of the oil that could be extracted from the outer continental shelf would come from the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, with some 10 billion barrels potentially available off the Pacific coast. Joe Sporano of the Western States Petroleum Association said offshore drilling could create jobs and limit dependence on foreign oil. Yet Boxer pointed out that, based on Energy Information Administration figures, drilling for oil across all areas would yield just 1 percent of the nation’s total oil consumption by 2030 — and it’s not believed to make a real difference in gas prices.

Richard Charter, government relations consultant with Defenders of Wildlife, seemed confident that California’s coast would be protected. "You have a new interior secretary for an administration that received California electoral votes … in a state that is pretty much single-minded in its position in terms of saving the coast," he said.

Charter’s optimism was helped by a recent federal appeals court ruling against the previous administration’s plan to award new offshore-drilling leases in the Arctic.

So now, "whatever Secretary Salazar does will have his own stamp on it," Charter said. "In each of these hearings, it’s become apparent that the Obama administration may be coming around to a new approach."

Public comment for the offshore leasing plan ends in late September. Salazar told reporters that he expects a decision by the end of the year.



REVIEW It’s 1979, and disco isn’t the only thing that sucks for Long Island teen Scott (Rory Culkin). Bullies at school beat up his skinny 15-year-old ass; girl next door Adrianna (Emma Roberts) likes him, but "like a brother." Housewife mom Brenda (Jill Hennessy), neglected by real estate magnate spouse Mickey (Alec Baldwin), has gone kinda crazy. Buying into the paranoia around deer-tick-carried Lyme disease, she won’t let Scott go outside without duct-taping shut all worrisome gaps in his clothing. It’s pretty clear to everyone (particularly older son Jim, played by Kieran Culkin — who here seems a rare live wire in the usually underwhelming Culkin acting dynasty) but her that dad is cheating, though for a while no one guesses it’s with Adrianna’s bitchy mum Melissa (Cynthia Nixon). Melissa has her own problems at home, given that husband Charlie (a strikingly tragicomic Timothy Hutton) really does have Lyme disease, which has turned him from a dynamo into an exhausted, pitiful shell of a man. Yeah, you’re thinking, do we really need another dysfunctional-family flashback with the requisite retro pop hits, pot smoking (back when it came dirt cheap), awkward virginity loss, and nostalgically horrible decor? Sure, why not. Lymelife treads no original territory, but its setting and characters are granted more than skin-deep authenticity, and the tangled conflicts in director Derick Martini and cowriting brother Steven Martini’s screenplay really do lead somewhere interesting, even important. There are some annoying quirks, but the overall the Martinis nail a savvy balance of comedy and drama. Plus, amid numerous good performances, there’s Baldwin giving a smug, surly yet sympathetic one that should be a shoo-in for award consideration if anyone still remembers little Lymelife at year’s end.

LYMELIFE opens Fri/24 in Bay Area theaters.

I’m a lonely guy



Dear Readers:

The letter from "Forty and Frustrated" a few weeks back got a lot of interest and at least one excellent suggestion (go out alone) from a woman who has had success following her own advice. Excellent! I also heard from "F&F’s" male counterpart (and no, sorry, I can’t match them up), and here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to read this and figure out what’s wrong and come up with a better approach. Together. Here goes:

I’m a 44-year-old guy, single for most of my life. Aside from a 10-year relationship with someone I was not attracted to and got involved with for all the wrong reasons, I’ve never had a girlfriend. I have had a few flings, though none have lasted more than a month.

In the last year, I’ve had more than two dozen dates. All but two weren’t interested in seeing me again. The most recent split was particularly painful because she seemed to be the closest match for me yet. (She apparently felt otherwise.) It’s always the same pattern. There seems to be a strong initial attraction that quickly fades after a couple of weeks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told I’m a nice guy. I’m beginning to think that the few women who are interested enough to want to see me again eventually realize that I don’t have much else to offer, and lose interest. For the record, I’m healthy, fit, athletic. I have a life. I’m not aggressive, conceited, or rude. I like to think I’m a reasonably pleasant person to be around. I’m genuinely interested in what my date has to say. What am I doing wrong?

My profile on Match.com has had over 1,500 hits, I have yet to receive a single unsolicited e-mail. I’ve sent out nearly 500. I’ve had more than a few women write back, appearing interested, only to never hear from them again. When writing my profile, I made a concerted effort to not come across as pretentious or self-absorbed. I don’t have a checklist that’s a mile long. I included photos in which I’m smiling and one can clearly see my face. I would be thrilled to receive an e-mail from a woman who was interested enough to take the time to write one. I can’t speak for other guys, but having a woman ask me out on a date would be one of the most flattering things that could happen to me. And I’ve never backed out of a date at the last minute.

OK! The first thing that catches my eye is the admission, from someone who otherwise seems willing to acknowledge his own more saleable qualities, that he has "not much else to offer." Either this is evidence of a self-image badly enough distorted to cripple any attempts to connect meaningfully with women he might be interested in, or it’s true. If true, we had better hope it is fixable. What does it mean to "have something to offer"?

Well, what are those women looking for? They do want somebody solvent (did anyone else read the articles about chimpanzee chicks who have more sex with the chimp dudes who have more antelope meat?) and sane, but beyond that? Fun, yes; compatible sexually and otherwise, yes; but also, assuming he’s dating women in their 30s, a husband and kids. If women in their 40s, maybe just the former, but these days you never know. What they all probably want, though, is availability and commitment. If he is not signaling that these are on offer, and not going way too far in the other direction and offering them in his opening e-mail, he’d better get signaling, and fast.

I assume they would also like to know why he’s 44, never married, and so little-dated. He’s going to have to come up with a good spin on a sad tale. Not a lie, mind you, but a little polish.

It also occurs to me that he may be — and I hate to say this because I imagine him reading it and I shudder in empathy — boring. True, "nobody wants to date me" is not your most scintilutf8g subject and may not inspire the complainant to dazzling heights of witty word play, but come on. A little joke, some narrative flair, even a pun would help — and I hate puns. Lonely guy, spark it up. Maybe they’re not calling back because they fell asleep.

OK readers, your turn. Have at him. Female daters, would you answer his ad? And have you dated (some version of) this guy? What made you stop?

I recently bought both my kids T-shirts that say "When I Grow Up I’m Going To Save The World." (That these were available in the boys’ department only is an issue for another column.) I’m already grown up, and frankly, I don’t think I’m going to save the world, but hey, let’s save this guy.

What would it take to get him a date?



Don’t forget to read Andrea at Carnal Nation.com.

SFIFF: Shots in the dark



La Mission (Peter Bratt, USA, 2009) A veteran S.F. vato turned responsible — if still muy macho — widower, father, and Muni driver, 46-year-old Che (Benjamin Bratt) isn’t the type for mushy displays of sentiment. But it’s clear his pride and joy is son Jess (Jeremy Ray Valdez), a straight-A high school grad bound for UCLA. That filial bond, however, sustains some serious damage when Che discovers Jes has a secret life — with a boyfriend, in the Castro, just a few blocks away from their Mission walkup but might as well be light-years away as far as old-school dad is concerned. This Bratt family project (Benjamin’s brother Peter writes-directs, his wife Talisa Soto Bratt has a supporting role) has a bit of a predictable TV-movie feel, but its warm heart is very much in the right place, and the affectionate location shooting makes this an ideal SFIFF opening-nighter. (Dennis Harvey) 7 p.m., Castro.


It’s Not Me, I Swear! (Philippe Falardeau, Canada, 2008) Ten-year-old Leon Dore (Antoine L’Écuyer) is a Harold without a Maude, forever staging near-fatal "deadly accidents" that by now no one blinks twice at — whether they’re expressions of warped humor, cries for attention, or actual (yet invariably failed) suicide attempts). Mom and dad are forever at each others’ throats, while their older son pines for a domestic normalcy that ain’t happening anytime soon. One day mom simply announces she’s splitting for Greece to "start a new life," pointedly without husband and children. This event rachets Leon’s misbehaviors — which also encompass theft and vandalism — up a few notches. Set in kitschily-realized late 1960s Quebec suburbia, director Philippe Falardeau’s adaptation of two linked novels by Bruno Hebert is a very deft mix of family dysfunction, preadolescent maladjustment (or maybe budding sociopathy), and anarchic comedy. (Harvey) 5:45 p.m., Sundance Kabuki. Also Sat/25, 2:45 p.m., Sundance Kabuki; Tues/28, 1 p.m., Sundance Kabuki.


Adoration (Atom Egoyan, Canada/France, 2008) When orphaned teenager Simon (Devon Bostick) writes a paper for French class in which he imagines himself as the son of real-life terrorists, his teacher (Arsinée Khanjian) tacitly encourages its being taken for fact. The resulting firestorm (largely taking place on the Web) raises questions about the boy’s actual parents, free speech, religio-political martyrdom, and so forth. This is the first Atom Egoyan feature based on his own original story — as opposed to literary sources or historical incidents — in 15 interim years. While his fame has certainly risen in the interim, some of us haven’t liked anything so well since that last one, 1994’s Exotica. Adoration recalls such early efforts in the cool intellectual gamesmanship with which characters and technologies are manipulated toward a hidden truth. Yet provocative as it is, there’s something overly elaborate and ultimately dissatisfying about his gambits that makes Adoration less than the sum of its parts. (Harvey) 6:15 p.m, Sundance Kabuki. Also Mon/27, 6:30 p.m., PFA.

Tulpan (Sergey Dvortsevoy, Kazakhstan/Switzerland/Germany/Russia/Poland, 2008) Possible new genre alert: the docu-comedy. Documenatarian Dvortsevoy turns his camera on his native Kazakhstan, and nothing depicted suggests anything Borat might’ve broadcast. The country’s stark, southern steppes form the backdrop for a family of nomads, including married-with-children Samal and Ondas, and Samal’s brother Asa, who returns from his Russian naval service longing for his own flock of sheep. Alas, he can’t get a flock until he lands a wife — and the only local prospect, Tulpan, rejects him on the basis of his "big ears" (and the small fact that she would like to move out of the sticks, into the city, and maybe even attend college). Traditional ways bump up against more ambitious ones (as when Asa dreams of a satellite dish), just as comedic moments trade screen time with grittier scenarios (including actual footage of a sheep giving birth). The end result is an intimate and somehow totally relatable look at a fascinatingly foreign world. (Cheryl Eddy) 6:15 p.m., PFA. Also Mon/27, 9:15 p.m., Sundance Kabuki; April 30, 4:45 p.m., Sundance Kabuki.


In the Loop (Armando Iannucci, England, 2009) A typically fumbling remark by U.K. Minister of International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) ignites a media firestorm, as it seems to suggest war is imminent even as both Brit and U.S. governments are downplaying the likelihood of the Iraq invasion they’re simultaneously preparing for. Suddenly cast as an important arbiter of global affairs — a role he’s perhaps less suited for than playing the Easter Bunny — Simon becomes one chess-piece in a cutthroat game whose participants on both sides of the Atlantic include his own subordinates, the prime minister’s rageaholic communications chief, major Pentagon and State Department honchos, crazy constituents, and more. This frenetic comedy of behind-the-scenes backstabbing and its direct influence on the highest-level diplomatic and military policies is scabrously funny in the best tradition of English television, which is (naturally) just where its creators hei from. (Harvey) 9:30 p.m., Sundance Kabuki. Also May 2, 9:30 p.m., Sundance Kabuki.


California Company Town (Lee Anne Schmitt, USA, 2008) This land isn’t your land, or my land, and it wasn’t made for you and me — such is the insightful and incite-full impression one gets from California Company Town. Schmitt’s beautifully photographed, concisely narrated, and ominously structured look at the Golden State and the state of capitalism is labor of love, shot between 2003 and 2008; it’s a provocative piece of American history. On a semi-buried level, it’s also an extraordinary act of personal filmmaking that subverts various stereotypes of first-person storytelling by women while simultaneously learning from and breaking away from some esteemed directors of the essay film. (Johnny Ray Huston) 8:35 p.m., PFA. Also May 2, 6:45 p.m., Sundance Kabuki; May 4, 3:30 p.m., Sundance Kabuki.

Rudo y Cursi (Carlos Cuarón, Mexico, 2008) A who’s-who of Mexican cinema giants have their cleats in soccer yarn Rudo y Cursi: stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, and producers Alfonso Cuarón (whose brother, Carlos, wrote and directed), Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Guillermo del Toro. But while Rudo is entertaining, it’s surprisingly lightweight considering the talent involved. Bernal and Luna play Tato and Beto, rural half-brothers discovered by a jovially crooked soccer scout (Guillermo Francella) who gets them gigs playing on Mexico City teams. But athletic achievement seems barely a concern. Of far more importance are Tato’s crooning dreams and high-profile romance with a vapid TV star, and Beto’s left-behind wife and kids — not to mention his raging gambling addiction. Though the drama boils down to one final game (of course), Rudo is really about the bonds and brawls between brothers, not sports teams. Goal? (Eddy) 6:15 p.m., Sundance Kabuki. Also May 1, 4 p.m., Sundance Kabuki.


D Tour (Jim Granato, USA, 2008) There’s been many a band-on-the-brink doc about groups torn apart by substance abuse, or creative differences, or just plain nuttiness (see: 2004’s DiG! and Some Kind of Monster, and any number of Behind the Music eps). In D Tour, local indie popsters Rogue Wave face, and are drawn together by, an entirely different brand of crisis: drummer Pat Spurgeon’s urgent need for a kidney transplant. Director Granato is given full access to subjects who are very open about their feelings (and, in Spurgeon’s case, unpleasant medical procedures). The result is a music- and emotion-filled journey that’ll no doubt inspire many to check off the "organ donor" box on their driver’s licenses. A sadly ironic, late-act twist involving a different band member will come as no surprise to Rogue Wave followers, but D Tour incorporates the tragedy into its storyline without ever exploiting it. (Eddy) 9 p.m., Sundance Kabuki. Also May 4, 3:15 p.m., Sundance Kabuki; May 7, 5:15 p.m., Sundance Kabuki.


The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle (David Russo, USA, 2009) Animator Russo’s first feature is a (mostly) live-action whimsy about rudderless Dory (Marshall Allman from Prison Break) who gets fired from his white-collar job and lands in the much scruffier employ of Spiffy Jiffy Janitorial Services. Its punky artist-type staff clean a high-rise’s offices, including one for a test-marketing trying out "self-warming cookies." When our protagonists develop an addictive liking for these treats, strange things begin to occur — like hallucinations and, eventually, male pregnancies of mystery critters. Depending on mood, this arch quirkfest with an ’80s feel (think of all the similar, mildly surreal indie comedies that rode 1984 release Repo Man‘s coattails) may strike you as delightful or just plain irritating. (Harvey) 11 p.m., Sundance Kabuki. Also May 6, 3:30 p.m., Sundance Kabuki.

Tyson (James Toback, USA, 2008) Director Toback is picking up this year’s Kanbar Award for "excellence in screenwriting," but his latest film is a doc scripted largely in the mind of its subject. To call Mike Tyson a polarizing figure is an understatement (and raises the question: Does anyone really like him except Toback, whom he’s known for two decades?). This film — narrated by Tyson, the sole interviewee — won’t endear him to a public that’s seen him besmirch his glorious boxing-ring talents with an array of bad behavior, from a rape charge (here, Tyson calls his accuser a "wretched swine of a woman") to the chomping of Evander Holyfield’s ear. Though he chokes up on occasion and admits at one point that he starting taking fights just for the money, he’s still about as unsympathetic as humanly possible. Fun fact: a friend convinced him to go tribal with the face tattoo. Tyson himself wanted hearts. (Eddy) 4 p.m., Sundance Kabuki.


Moon (Duncan Jones, England, 2008) The Bay Area’s own Sam Rockwell has quietly racked up a slew of memorable performances in variable films — including 2002’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and 2008’s Choke — so the fact that he’s pretty much the whole show in this British sci-fi tale is reason enough to see it. A one-man space saga à la Silent Running (1972), it has him as Sam Bell, the lone non-mechanical worker (Kevin Spacey voices his principal robot assistant) on a lunar mining station in the not-too-distant future. He’s just about to finish his long, lonely contracted three-year stint and return home to a desperately missed family when strange things begin to occur. First there are hallucinations, then physical disabilities, then finally the impossible — there’s company aboard the station. Debuting feature director Duncan Jones orchestrates atmosphere and intrigue, though despite one major game-changing twist his original story seems a little thin in the long run. Nevertheless, Rockwell commands attention throughout as a character whose exhaustion, disorientation, and eventual panic feel alarmingly vivid. (Harvey) 9 p.m., Castro.

The Reckoning (Pamela Yates, USA/Uganda/Congo/Colombia/Netherlands, 2008) Yates’ latest documentary chronicles the long-delayed launch and bumpy first years of the International Criminal Court, a Hague-based body founded to prosecute (primarily) war crimes that member nations were unwilling or unable to do so themselves. Its authority is not yet recognized by several nations — including the Big Three of U.S.A., Russia, and China — while prosecutions of various military or political leaders who ordered crimes against civilians are often hampered by political minefields. Nonetheless, the still-struggling court is a beacon of hope for peace and justice around the globe. Yates lays out its work so far as an engrossing series of detective stories investigating instances of mass murder, rape, plunder, etc. in Uganda, the Congo, Darfur, and Colombia. (Harvey) 5:30 p.m., Sundance Kabuki. Also May 5, 6 p.m., PFA; May 6, 6:15 p.m., Sundance Kabuki.

Still Walking (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 2008) It’s no joy for Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) to bring his wife and stepson up from Tokyo on an annual visit to his elderly parents. The occasion is to commemorate the passing of an older brother who’s been dead for decades but is still held up as the yardstick by which Ryo will always fall short. Mom (Kiki Kirin) is well intentioned enough, if often insensitively blunt-spoken. But retired dad (Yoshio Harada) is an imperious grump who resents Ryo’s not following him into medical practice, disapproves of his marrying a widow, spurns her son from that prior union as less than a "real" grandchild, and is generally kind of a dick. This latest from Hirokazu Kore-eda (2004’s Nobody Knows, 1998’s After Life) is a quiet seriocomedy with lots of discomfiting moments. Yet it’s suffused with enough humor, warmth and surprising joy to easily qualify as one of SFIFF’s best 2009 picks. (Harvey)

8:45 p.m., Sundance Kabuki. Also May 5, 6:30 p.m., Sundance Kabuki.

SFIFF: Tune boon



Before there was Barney or Raffi, the answer to the question, "Who is most responsible for songs most likely to make children sing and push their parents to the very brink of sanity?" was most likely "the Sherman brothers." It might have been enough for Robert and Richard Sherman to write "Supercalifragiliciousexpialidocious," "It’s a Small World," and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," each of which when heard once — let alone a zillion times — became instantly imprinted on the DNA of several juvenile generations. But no, they also had to write indelible songs for the Disney’s The Jungle Book (1967), various Winnie the Pooh species, Charlotte’s Web (1973), and other things you might have escaped only by being born very recently or growing up in rare media isolation.

World premiering at SFIFF this year is The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story, a feature documentary about the Shermans made by two of their sons, Gregory and Jeffrey — partly to figure out just why these fraternal composers of so many cheerful songs have barely been on speaking terms in recent decades. The answer is complicated and, unlike most Disney movies (or documentaries about them), there isn’t a happy ending. But there are a lot of happy memories in these 100 minutes, with people like Julie Andrews, Hayley Mills, Roy Disney, Dick Van Dyke, and John Williams remembering the Shermans as a joy to work with, if not a joy to one another. The brothers themselves, still alive and variably kicking, cannot quite agree on what came between them. But of course, not agreeing is exactly the thing.

Unless you grew up in pre-Khmer Cambodia (or an ex-pat community), odds are the majority repertoire of L.A.-based Dengue Fever were not your childhood’s soundtrack. But the band’s six members know that is really too bad, because Cambodian pop of the 1960s and early ’70s just rocked, with its Farfisa organ riffs, psychedelic flourishes, and incessantly catchy hooks. In an inspired stroke, the festival’s latest silent film-contemporary music match-up was commissioning Dengue Fever to create a live score for The Lost World, a 1925 superproduction that’s a lot more like today’s mall-flick fantasias than just about anything else you could find from that era.

Adapted from Sir Conan Doyle’s story, it follows a British expedition deep into the Amazon, where one cranky suspected quack scientist claims to have discovered a hidden valley of prehistoric creatures. By gum, he’s right. This restored thrill ride, featuring stop-motion dinosaurs, elaborate miniatures, romantic intrigue, a guy in an ape suit and another (alas) in comedy blackface, was an obvious model for 1933’s King Kong (Willis O’Brien designed FX on both) and an admitted one for 1993’s Jurassic Park (whose sequel, you’ll recall, was 1997’s The Lost World). After nearly 85 years, it’s still at least as entertaining as the latter-day comic-book movies that owe it a colossal debt.


Sat/25, 2 p.m., Letterman Digital Arts Center


May 5, 8 p.m., Castro

Jimmy Sweetwater Presents


PREVIEW In the era of Slow Food in the City of Fog, I wonder why more people don’t slow down for a second and get out to taste some local music. Think about the last time you were willing to fork over more than a fiver for some local talent. Seriously. San Franciscans sometimes seem fonder and more aware of what the Bay Area attracts than of what it produces. Jimmy Sweetwater is out to change that. Sweetwater is the rare breed of promoter who is also a musician — he plays a mean harmonica and a dirty washboard. He has been giving his all to keep his series of local music going in a town drawn to touring bands. Sweetwater, a historian of Mission District music from the past 20 years, has put on five shows at the Great American Music Hall, four at Slim’s, and one at Cafe du Nord. According to Sweetwater, club staff has largely been supportive, but it’s a struggle to fill venues in these times of financial woe. "There’s a ton of local talent that never gets to play the big clubs," he says, noting that he tries "to combine different kinds of music in one night." All-local nights and combinations of different genres — these aren’t traditional strategies, but the Bay Area is the perfect place to unleash them.

This weekend sees a diverse Jimmy Sweetwater Presents lineup at the Red Devil Lounge, including the high-speed-Calexico-like Diego’s Umbrella, honkeytonkers 77 El Deora, the East Bay’s Ben Benkert, and the Mission Three, a group including Sweetwater that will play a number of tunes by the Band, even one of my favorite (and rarer) Band joints, "Acadian Driftwood." Sweetwater always seems to be doing a thousand things at once. It’s all for the love of song in this songlike town.

JIMMY SWEETWATER PRESENTS: DIEGO’S UMBRELLA, BEN BENKERT, 77 EL DEORA, AND THE MISSION THREE Sat/25, 9 p.m., $10. Red Devil Lounge, 1695 Polk, SF. (415) 921-1695. www.myspace.com/jimmysweetwater

At the desert shore



At some point between the group’s termination in 1981 and re-formation in 2004, Throbbing Gristle entered the canon. The more Throbbing Gristle music you’ve heard, and the more you’ve read about it, the less likely that conversion will seem. Matmos’ Drew Daniels acknowledged as much in his contribution to Continuum’s 33 1/3 series on classic albums, an exegesis of the band’s most accessible statement, the puzzling 20 Jazz Funk Greats (Industrial Records, 1979). The group’s relationship with music-as-such was perverse enough to make contemporaries like the Sex Pistols look like Chuck Berry revivalists. Back in the saddle after nearly a quarter-century, Throbbing Gristle mark two has less in common with the noise pranksters of old than the divergent, innovative projects the group has splintered into: spokes(wo)man and singer Genesis P-Orridge’s Burroughsian reengineering of rock’s DNA with Psychic TV; synth whiz Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson’s protean electronic voyages with Coil; and the rain-slick, dark disco of Cosey Fanni Tutti and Chris Carter’s Carter Tutti project all figure in the group’s latest recording, the appropriately bizarre Part Two: The Endless Not (Mute, 2007).

P-Orridge, the most visible and outspoken member, is seductively articulate about the band’s intentions: they have little to do with making music that plays into the pleasure of listening, and much to do with music’s mainline connection to culture. For all of Throbbing Gristle’s touted firsts, its music often verges on indecipherable. None of the group’s gritty, lo-fi recordings evoke emotions beyond a vague, lingering unease. But, the achievements: Throbbing Gristle literally invented modern industrial music with the founding of its so-named label, members Carter and Sleazy are credited with developing an early keyboard-triggered sampler, Tutti’s "Hot on the Heels of Love" was a prime inspiration for first-wave Detroit techno, and "(We Hate You) Little Girls" predates Whitehouse’s power electronics and the whole harsh-noise underground long since percoutf8g in the U.S. and Japan. And so on.

The weird thing about such innovations is that those committed to establishing Throbbing Gristle’s major authorship risk freezing and trapping these self-appointed culture-creeps within one historical moment or another. Despite all the collateral riding on Throbbing Gristle’s "seminal" place in the last half-decade of musical and cultural history, the band’s deliberate failure to be just that — a band — in any conventional sense needs to be acknowledged, partly as a tactical gambit. If Throbbing Gristle is a band more talked about than listened to, it seems inconsequential. Individually and collectively, they were prescient enough to choose culture as their medium, and music as a tool for scrambling it. It’s a foresight that has been borne out by MTV and then the Internet, but the tricky thing is that Throbbing Gristle’s actual accomplishment — the meaning behind what it does — isn’t in music itself, but in culture. That’s a zone where significance tends to be more protean; we can’t simply rely on albums as self-contained, coherent statements that we can either identify with or reject. There’s something trickier going on here, as if Throbbing Gristle’s music is meant to be heard at the second or third degree, when everything’s been attenuated.

The Throbbing Gristle project grew out of COUM Transmissions, a sort of umbrella term for performances and art projects that had strong affinities with the extreme performance artists known as the Vienna Aktionists, William Burroughs, and occultist Aleister Crowley. Their best-known installation, "Pornography," in a gallery within spitting distance of Buckingham Palace, most notably exhibited images of Cosey from various British porn magazines. It was a publicly-funded blight whose purpose was, in part, to convert sensationalist press into a feedback loop worth contemputf8g: the group framed and mounted outraged press clippings, and when newspapers published articles about this détournement, framed those as well. This press-driven mise-en-abyme probably offers the best example of how to listen to TG. The band plumbed new depths with feedback and delay, but their raison d’être was, beyond electronic trickery, setting up circular cultural patterns that explode hypocrisy. In doing so, the creative forces within Throbbing Gristle afford themselves the freedom to play any villainous or anti-heroic role handed to them.


Thurs/23, 8 p.m., sold out

Grand Ballroom, Regency Center

1290 Sutter, SF



Thurs/23–Sun/26, various venues