Volume 46 Number 48

Finger waves



CHEAP EATS Oh, I have so many sporty things to tell you about! To my surprise I am playing baseball again, football season starts (for girls) on the same day it starts for the 49ers: next weekend! Meanwhile, the Giants and A’s are both very much “in it,” entering September. Steroid busts . . .

Next week I am going to hire a dedicated sports writer for Cheap Eats. Mine will be the very first cheap eats newspaper column with a sports section in it.

This makes sense, trust me, food and sports being intrinsically intertwined. As any old dog will tell you, chasing a ball makes you hungry. And as any old Hedgehog will tell you, watching people chase a ball makes you hungry too.

For hot dogs! For chicken wings! Pizza . . . What does intrinsically mean?

Well, whatever, this week is this special food issue thing, so I thought I would clue you into this great new brick oven pizza place where I ate with my pal Earl Butter one day while Hedgehog was out in the world. She’s been brought in to try and rescue a horrible horror movie, you see.

Popcorn . . .

Yes, in honor of the occasion, I will devote the rest of this column very very exclusively to this new, cool, quiet pizza place. Except, as I am also (as of this moment) going on my own private writer’s strike, you’re going to have to do most of the work.

Here’s how:

Stand in front of a mirror, please, and make a fist with your right hand, except for the pinky. Now, go on ahead and poke that there teacup-tipping pinky of yours into the palm of your other hand.

Got it? Did you do that? Do you feel kind of goofy? Do you know where I’m going with this?

Sorry: where you’re going.

I’m on strike.

You, my friend, are going to punch yourself in the throat, sort of. Not hard. Just touch that same teacup-pinkied fist to your neck, sidewise, so that your thumb and index finger encircle your Adam’s apple even as the side of your little finger touches your soul patch.

Nicely done, you hipster you!

Next we are going to . . . Next you are going to lose the fist and bring the palm of your hand to your heart, you pledge allegiance to the flag, and so forth. Don’t be afraid to love your country. This is important. We don’t have the best healthcare situation in the world, but we do have Bruce Willis.

So bend your left arm at the elbow and hold it to your stomach, palm up, if you will, as if cradling a baby. Or a watermelon or something. Now scoop your right hand, palm up, over your left hand and on up toward the opposite collarbone.

Do you ever wonder what is wrong with you? Well, start! I don’t recommend all-out hypochondria; just a healthy sense of wonder. Why, for example, are you a scab?

Don’t give me the finger! Give me the opposite of the finger. That is, bend your middle finger down and — all those other ones, even the thumb — give me those. Give me everything but the finger. OK?

Now tap that middle knuckle against your chin. That’s all I’m asking. Is that so much to ask?

And there is yet one more thing you can do for me, Ms. Picket Line Crosser. Cross your fingers for luck. Lord knows we can use it. There are elections coming up later this fall, as well as football seasons.

There are everyday dangers to be avoided, like crossing the street and riding your bike to work.

I’m saying, cross your fingers on your right hand and draw yourself a little Fu Manchu mustache, just the sides of it . . . Yeah, leave the upper lip alone. Just two straight lines, first down the right side of your jaw, then the left, with your fingers crossed. For luck.

Yeah. Like that. Okay.

Now. You know what you need to know.


Tue-Thu 5:30-10pm; Fri 5:30-11pm; Sat noon-11pm; Sun noon-10pm

3228 16th St., SF



Beer & wine


No cheeseburger status updates


By Aaron Carnes


MUSIC Singer-songwriter Bryan McPherson had this nagging feeling three years ago, that he needed to leave Boston and relocate to the Bay Area. Even he didn’t understand from where this itch grew.

“I came out here to go west, just to go somewhere, go as far away as possible, for whatever reason,” McPherson explains.

He didn’t know it when he left, but the new environment would instantly fuel a whole album’s worth of new material — just as political and folk-oriented as his earlier work, but now with a new level of focus.

“I wrote ‘I See a Flag’ right when I got here. I started seeing flags everywhere. I noticed all this American shit. I got in touch with this whole American theme. Then I was in Oakland during the controversy of the Oscar Grant trial,” McPherson says.

“I See a Flag,” and the rest of the new songs would eventually become the aptly titled American Boy, American Girl, which was released on Stateline Records this spring. Like much of the album, the power of “I See a Flag” is in observation, which explores the contradictory nature of American culture. (“The police shot him down/He was laying on the ground/And now the whole damn town is going to burn to the ground/I don’t understand/But I see a flag blowing in the wind.”)

Playing political folk music is obviously reminiscent of icons like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, but what distinguishes McPherson from these songwriters is how emotion-centric his music is. His words aren’t just cerebral ponderings about the state of the government. It is one man belting — at the top of his lungs — his honest, emotional impressions of the world, which in this case, just so happens to be America.

“I’m not some crazy nationalist. I just grew up in America. This record was written mostly over the course of the last couple years, being broke, just working hard, not getting by, barely making ends meet,” McPherson says. “There’s stories in there about people who are forgotten, not remembered and never were mentioned. It’s all true. It’s all me or someone I know. I’m not sitting there making shit up, wondering what it’s like in Bangladesh. I’m not imagining something. It comes from real experience.”

On the surface, the songs discuss the injustices of America and the contradictions its citizens must bear in order to have a successful, easy life. But underneath the surface, the record is about the McPherson’s alienation, both as he identifies himself as an American and is surrounded by other American’s apathy.

“Americans are so ignorant now. They have no idea what this country was founded on. They’re more concerned with updating their status and throwing a picture of a fucking cheeseburger on the internet than actually thinking they have a little bit of power,” McPherson says.

Of course, his feelings of alienation were compounded while writing these songs because of his relocation to the Bay Area from the vastly different political climate of Boston.

“It’s like being in another country. I felt self-conscious. I came out here with a thick Boston accent. The culture is different. People are way different,” McPherson says.

But being an outcast wasn’t something new to McPherson. Even in Boston, as a young musician from Dorchester, which is a working class neighborhood in Boston, McPherson would play open mic nights in Cambridge, where the art section is. He says the rich kids there immediately identified him as different.

“When I opened my mouth and started talking to people and they start to look at each other, kind of be weird because of the way I talk. I’m stupid because I have this accent. I’m poor. I’m probably dangerous. I’m not them. I definitely don’t have anything to offer. That’s the vibe that I consistently got, my first experiences dealing with the status quo, those sorts of people calling the shots,” McPherson says.

He recorded his first album, Fourteen Stories, while still in Boston in 2007. McPherson already has his third album written. He just needs to record it.


With Lera Lyn, the Lady Crooners

Thu/30, 9pm, $8

Hotel Utah

500 Fourth St., SF

(415) 546-6300



Secret Scotsman



SUPER EGO So: woozy hip-hop has snuck back onto better dance floors via trap music, neon mutant Goosebumps-Beetlejuice children are ruling the queer clubs, techno keeps getting rave-wiggier, a true house revival is lighting up Oakland — and right now I’m wearing 6-inch shiny black pumps, a canary yellow pencil skirt, and a pair of sexy hornrims, because I am breaking down summer nightlife for you like the busy head of a global conglomerate, power points everywhere. Now where’s my soy double mocha latte no foam with a single ice cube?

(Belatedly, also, can I give a wee squee over the strange EDM-dubstep party cheerleader-gang phenomenon? Air kisses to the Wompettes, and Atomic Girls. You make that music fun for me.)

However, my ear and heart are still captivated by the excellent wave of esoteric bass music rolling out of various world capitals (and our own backyard). Deep, dark, heavy, and moody will always be my type — I’m basically the fruit on the bottom.

Great SF parties like Soundpieces, Footwerks, Icee Hot, Ritual, and Tormenta Tropical and shindigs from DJ Dials and the Low End Theory crew help keep my bass mechanics well-lubricated. And one of my absolute favorite DJs in the city, Nebakaneza, is doing amazingly moody and apocalyptic things with the post-dubstep vibe of the moment.

But my true ears on the street — my secret weapon, really — belong to the one and only DJ Deevice, who is a bass snoop par excellence, at least of the more occult and groovy UK variety. Deevice, a.k.a. Martin Collins was a resident at Glasgow’s seminal Sub Club during its wild rave years before heading for our fair-but-still-foggy shores in the ’90s. (He threw the storied UK Gold weekly party). There’s a whole thesis to be written about how British Isles immigrants warped and woofed the history of Bay Area dance music, and Deevice is one of the big players, although he’s never held down a regular residency here.


Instead, Deevice takes to the airwaves, both invisible and virtual, for his weekly Gridlock radio show on Radio Valencia, 87.9FM (Thursdays, noon-2pm, www.radiovalencia.fm) — the play list of which, posted at gridlockfm.blogspot.com, is an ace cheat sheet for us bass- and househeads. He’s also an A&R scout for the legendary R&S Records’ Apollo imprint. Those two positions put him prime for hearing all the best things first. “For some strange reason a lot of this music isn’t finding a home here like it is in Europe,” Deevice told me through his clipped Scottish brogue in Lower Haight recently. “And people send me great stuff all the time, so I’m happy to be passing it on.”



Makoto, “Another Generation” (Apollo)

Om Unit, “Ulysses” (Civil)

Ave Astra, “More L (Original Mix)” (Filigran)

John Tejada, “When All Around Is Madness” (Kompakt)

Sarrass, “A New Day (Original Mix)” (Third Ear)

Steve Huerta, “Take Me Closer” (Amadeus)

Mathew Jonson “Passage to the other side” (Itiswhatitis Recordings)

Ghosts On Tape “Nature’s Law” (Icee Hot)

Volor Flex “About You” (Apollo)

BWANA “Baby Let Me Finish (Black Orange Juice remix)” (Somethinksounds)



Last time gorgeously hypnotic looper Alex Willner, aka the Field, came through SF, he had augmented his formidable live bank of tech with a drummer and bassist — the effect was outstanding, even though a certain gaggle of talky gays in the Rickshaw Stop crowd would not shut up during his set. (You know who you are.) Now he’s back with musicians in tow on Mighty’s mighty sound system. Hush, children, and sink into the killer grooves.

Fri/31, 10pm, $15–$20. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.blasthaus.com



The hot-hot-hot trans male quarterly always brings the party — if you missed its Pride weekend shindig, or want more of that uniquely seductive machismo in your life, hightail it to this. With Rocco Katastrophe, Billy Elizabeth, Nicky Click, Jenna Riot, Chelsea Starr, Rapidfire, and more.

Fri/31, 10pm, $3 before 11pm, $6 after. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.elbo.com



For well-nigh a year, Odyssey was the underground loft party of choice for those ready for an extralegal journey through the sparkling state of local house music. Robin Malone and crew aren’t letting some silly shutdown stand in their way — it’s bigtime, baby, as they take over Public Works all night with hometown hero DJs Sergio Fedasz, Doc Sleep, P-Play, and Stanley Frank. True SF family vibes!

Sat/1, 10pm-4am, $10. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.tinyurl.com/odysseysf



One of the longest-running and consistently excellent weekly parties turns sweet (and deep) sixteen, with one of my longtime favorites, Vinnie Esparza of the Groove Merchants record store, guesting — if anyone’s got the mindblowing underground Latin funk dubs, it is he. Plus: Seattle Mistah Chatman MCing and Dub Mission founder DJ Sep and Ludachris rolling on decks.

Sun/2, 9pm, $8–$10. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.dubmission.com


Mission sandwiched



APPETITE Two unusual, new Mission sandwich options: one of the city’s best restaurants launches lunch with Scandinavian influence (part of the Nordic culinary wave finally reaching the West Coast that includes new restaurant Pläj) , and a low-key panini shop opens, refreshingly real with Middle Eastern touches.


Nick Balla’s forward-thinking, Eastern European menu at Bar Tartine offers some of the most exciting food in the city right now, so new daytime hours (Wed-Sun, 10:30am-2:30pm) are a gain. Smørrebrød is Danish for “bread and butter”: these open-faced sandwiches (one for $6; three for $15) lead the way on the new menu, though heartier sandwiches are on offer, too, such as beef tongue ($12) generously laden with sauerkraut, onion, and that Hungarian staple, paprika. Or on the vegetarian side, slab bread filled with lentil croquettes, yogurt, cucumber, padron peppers.

On rustic rye bread, smørrebrød toppings evolve. I find two enough, three for those with a bigger appetite. My favorite is bacon, egg, avocado, dill and roasted tomato in a blue cheese sauce blessedly garlic-heavy. Creamy chicken liver pate is a gourmand’s option, although such a generous scoop of pate overwhelms accompanying apricot jam. Another toast is topped with smoked eggplant, white beans, olive, roasted tomato, while a sweeter side is expressed in hazelnut butter and rhubarb compote.

They’re calling it a sandwich counter and you can certainly take out, but Bar Tartine’s rustic tables and expanded space welcome: they’re ideal for lingering with Four Barrel coffee and that divine Hungarian fried bread, langos ($9), you’ve heard me talk about often — it’s on the lunch menu. Now it’s amped up with toppings like lamb, horseradish cream, summer squash, and tomato, or blackberries, peaches, and cream. Langos with fried egg, hollandaise and bacon is a breakfast dish of my dreams.

In the spirit of meggyleves, Balla’s Hungarian sour cherry soup that wowed me last summer, there’s chilled apricot soup ($9) — not as sweet as suspected — smoked almonds, and sour cream adding texture to the savory-fruity broth. Jars of pickled treats line the walls, available in the menu’s snacks section (pickled curried green beans!), refreshing contrasted with a kefir-ginger-strawberry shake ($5).

561 Valencia, SF. 415-487-1600, www.bartartine.com


With a friendly Middle Eastern welcome, the guys at the new Hot Press welcome customers into their humble Mission shop for panini, Caffe Trieste coffee, and Three Twins ice cream by the scoop, waffle cone, or sundae. While American sandwiches like pastrami-loaded Staten Island ($7.75) with Emmentaler cheese, house Dijonaise, cabbage slaw, and sliced pickles are delicious, the Lebanese touches and vegetarian offerings that skew unusual. Dream Cream ($6.50) is soft-yet-crusty ciabatta bread slathered in light cream cheese, sauteed peppers, caramelized walnuts, and cucumbers, za’atar spices perking up the mild, comforting panini. On a French baguette, another vegetarian sandwich with Middle Eastern leanings is Ayia Napa ($6.99), likewise comforting with melted halloumi (a traditional Cypriot cheese from the island of Cyprus), mint leaves, tomatoes and a douse of olive oil. Pollo de la Mission ($7.75) is a neighborhood tribute of free range chicken on ciabatta in creamy chipotle sauce, pressed with peppers, grilled onions, Colby Jack cheese, and corn.

Sides ($2.25 half pint; $4.25 pint) range from coleslaw to a salad of spinach leaves, goat cheese and strawberries, while three bean salad — cannellini, kidney and garbanzo beans tossed with onion, parsley, lemon, olive oil — comes in mini-tasting cups with each sandwich. Local ingredients go beyond ice cream and coffee to sandwich bread from Bordenave’s in San Rafael, with neighborhood goodwill in the form of a kids menu and dessert sandwiches like Peanut Butter & Better ($4.99): creamy or crunchy PB, sliced bananas, lavender honey, or grape jelly.

The space is nondescript in a refreshing way, with sidewalk seating and Middle Eastern music videos playing on a flat screen. Thankfully, not every new opening in the Mission is a hipster, trendy affair.

2966 Mission, SF. (415) 814-3814, www.hotpresssf.com

Subscribe to Virgina’s twice-monthly newsletter, The Perfect Spot, www.theperfectspotsf.com


Heavy drinking



FILM The much-abused Malvolio in Twelfth Night is far from a great man, but he makes the definitive statement about greatness: that some are born with it, some achieve it, etc. Option number three, however, doesn’t really work for movies. No film has ever successfully had greatness thrust upon it, at least not by its maker. Yet every year there are a handful that seem to be handing themselves golden statuettes in every self-consciously majestic frame.

This often happens in the organized-crime-epic genre, where The Godfather (1972) cuts a grandiose figure many are inclined to imitate. Generally speaking, the more strenuous the aspiration, the more strained the results. In recent years Gangs of New York (2002), Road to Perdition (2002), and American Gangster (2007) have gone for the gold and come up tinsel. These aren’t bad movies, exactly, but they commit the sin of behaving as if their sprawl were iconic and tragic rather than derivative and overblown. Everyone should always set out to make the best art (or entertainment) they can; deciding from the get-go that you’ll cough up a classic, however, tends to backfire.

Now there’s Lawless, which has got to be the most pretentiously humorless movie ever made about moonshiners — a criminal subset whose adventures onscreen have almost always been rambunctious and breezy, even when violent. Not here, bub. Adapting Matt Bondurant’s fact-inspired novel The Wettest County in the World about his family’s very colorful times a couple generations back, director John Hillcoat and scenarist (as well as, natch, composer) Nick Cave have made one of those films in which the characters are presented to you as if already immortalized on Mount Rushmore — monumental, legendary, a bit stony. They’ve got a crackling story about war between hillbilly booze suppliers and corrupt lawmen during Prohibition, and while the results aren’t dull (they’re too bloody for that, anyway), they’d be a whole lot better if the entire enterprise didn’t take itself so gosh darned seriously.

Yes, the Bondurant brothers of Franklin County, Va. are considered “legends” when we meet them in 1931, having defied all and sundry as well as survived a few bullets. Mack-truck-built Forrest (Tom Hardy), in particular, is rumored to be “indestructible,” and has fists that create a Dolby sonic boom whenever they hit an unfortunate face. Eldest Howard (Jason Clarke) just tipples, follows orders, and smiles a lot. “Runt of the litter” Jack (Shia LeBeouf), however, has a chip on his shoulder, and between his whining, impulsiveness, and bad judgment, you know he’s going to cause everyone a lot of grief trying to prove himself. He is to stoic, all-seeing Forrest what Casey Affleck’s “coward” wannabe was to Brad Pitt’s fabled bandit in 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford — another cinematic wade into American outlaw mythology by Australians, albeit one infinitely better than Lawless.

The local law looks the other way so long as their palms are greased. But things change when the Feds send Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), a sneering, effete sadist demonstrating how you can get away with a despicable gay stereotype today so long as you include a scene where he’s with a woman (whom he’s abused). Needless to say, it’s an eye for an eye for an eye, etc. from that point on.

Hillcoat and Cave have collaborated a long time, on music videos as well as the 1988 prison cult flick Ghosts … of the Civil Dead and 2005 Australian Western The Proposition. That last was pretentious too — in exactly the way of one of Cave’s glowering psuedo-traditional death ballads — but summoned up the necessary shocks and weight to pretty well pull off its own prairie Guignol classicism. Since then Hillcoat directed (and Cave scored) 2009’s The Road, a Cormac McCarthy adaptation that was probably bound to fall short, and did, though not for want of trying.

The revenge-laden action in Lawless is engaging in a way The Road couldn’t be, though the filmmakers are trying so hard to make it all resonant and folkloric and meta-cinematic, any fun you have is in spite of their efforts. Among the big cast, only Hardy manages to inject some humor — he makes Forrest’s taciturn inarticulacy a joke about strong-and-silent machismo — and Pearce is ingeniously horrible. But everyone else seems to be playing stock figures lifted from better movies, especially (and predictably) the women. Mia Wasikowska plays an absurdity (the sheltered product of a religious sect who’s nonetheless all worldly badinage when courted by LeBeouf’s Jack), while Jessica Chastain’s Chicago b-girl refugee is costumed and lit so she’s like Jean Harlow in a Dorothea Lange photo, a laughable incongruity.

Needless to say, the rural Depression era is in other ways so exquisitely realized you can never quite believe it for a moment, from the location choices to the soundtrack Cave has laden with original songs with names like “Fire and Brimstone.” The latter create a sort of tasteful-downer equivalent to the O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) album (using some of its contributors). It’s pretty, but still an imitation of authenticity. Lawless proves you can’t curate blood and thunder.


LAWLESS opens Wed/29 in Bay Area theaters.

Live by the sword



FILM The wuxia film is as integral to China’s cinema as the Western is to America’s — though the tradition of the “martial hero” in literature and other art forms dates back well before Clint Eastwood ever donned a serape. Still, the two genres have some notable similarities, a fact acknowledged by Tsui Hark’s Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, which adopts “the good, the bad, and the ugly” as a tagline in the splashy trailer for its American release.

Hardcore fans of flying swordsmen and their ilk will recognize the (ill-) fated locale of the title, previously seen in the 1962 King Hu classic Dragon Gate Inn and the 1992 Tsui-produced New Dragon Gate Inn. But don’t call Flying Swords a remake — it’s more fanboy tribute writ large.

“I hate to remake something when somebody already did a good job on it,” Tsui says from Hong Kong, where he’s filming his next project. “When I was a kid, Dragon Gate Inn was one of my favorite movies. When I started my career, I was lucky to collaborate with King Hu on [1990’s] The Swordsman. But during the preparation for The Swordsman, I spent so much time talking to him about Dragon Gate Inn, how he came up with the story and how he designed his shots.”

Pretty soon, I had the idea of writing a story [inspired by questions] that I saw as not having been answered by Dragon Gate Inn. He was laughing and said, if those are things that you feel like you can answer, that could be New Dragon Gate Inn. That film became a classic in the market in China. I wanted Flying Swords to be a continuation of the old story, with new characters: something you’re familiar with, but with a lot of new elements and people. I would say Flying Swords is a continuation. It’s not a remake or a part two.”

Dragon Gate Inn may be a familiar milieu, but Flying Swords marks the first time the dusty desert way station has been rendered in 3D IMAX. The climactic battle — between a ragtag gang of outlaws led by a mysterious wanderer, and power-mad government officials — goes down in an epic, churning sandstorm.

“It was something I wanted to try: 3D and IMAX at the same time,” Tsui says. “In my last film, [Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame], the investor wanted to make it into IMAX,” he remembers. But he didn’t want to blow up the film to IMAX size in post-production, so he held off until Flying Swords came along.

Likewise, he became interested in 3D while working on Phantom Flame. “I was looking around for the people who could tell me how to shoot a 3D movie. I [started] testing 3D with my cameraman and special effects people. When we saw Avatar, which was quite a cool experience, we invited their team to come give us advice [on Flying Swords].”

He learned so much while making Flying Swords, Tsui says, “I think it could be quite a good beginning for me to do something more fantastic, more crazy, next.”

Tsui, who also penned Flying Swords‘ screenplay, is by now an expert in the fantastic and crazy. He rocketed to infamy with 1983’s Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain, a cult hit in America for its outrageously enjoyable combination of martial arts and special FX wizardry. Tsui, who honed his craft at UT Austin in the mid-1970s, has made nearly a film a year, and sometimes multiple films per year, for the past three decades. Some haven’t made it stateside, but the ones that have include the Jet Li-starring Once Upon a Time in China series; Jackie Chan’s Twin Dragons (1992); and Jean Claude Van Damme’s best (I guess) efforts, 1997’s Double Team (the one with Dennis Rodman) and 1998’s Knock Off (the one with Rob Schneider).

His 2000 Time and Tide (guns ‘n’ gangsters in modern-day Hong Kong) and 2007 Kurosawa-inspired Seven Swords were both excellent but under seen; Phantom Flame had a brief Bay Area run last year. Though it’s already a blockbuster in China, Flying Swords‘ local run is limited, touching down only in Emeryville and Santa Clara.

Just to put this in perspective, in 2000, Ang Lee picked up four Oscars for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which layered an art-house patina over gravity-defying fight scenes — “wire fu” — the novelty of which astonished only viewers who’d never seen an episode of Kung Fu Theatre. (Crouching Tiger is still the highest-grossing foreign-language film ever released in America.) Wire fu is now a common component in mainstream action movies — maybe even a cliché at this point — but nobody uses it more effectively than Tsui, especially when paired with Jet Li.

“I missed him when he went to Hollywood, so I was waiting for the moment when he could come back to our country, our industry, and do movies like Flying Swords with me,” Tsui says, noting that Flying Swords marked a new kind of collaboration for the duo. “I think he became more mature, and also learned so much over the years making movies in different places. I’m expecting to work with him again, hopefully soon.”

The nimble Li (last seen wearily assuring Dolph Lundgren’s character that “you will find another minority” to make fun of, before excusing himself in act one of The Expendables 2) stars in Flying Swords as Zhao Huai’an, crusading fly in the ointment of powerful eunuchs who’ve injected mass corruption into Ming Dynasty-era China. Chief among them is Eunuch Yu (Chen Kun), a preening, eyeliner’d villain intent on capturing both Zhao and a pregnant maid (Mavis Fan) who’s escaped from palace clutches. The cast expands to include a taciturn woman in disguise (Zhou Xun, as butched up here as her Painted Skin: The Resurrection co-star Chen is camp-ified) and multiple ne’er-do-wells (sinister henchmen, heavy-drinking tribal warriors, a goofy rebel who bears a strange resemblance to Eunuch Yu), all of whom descend upon Dragon Gate Inn as the menacing “flying swirl dragon” looms on the horizon.

Alliances form (and are betrayed), schemes are launched (and botched), and the fight scenes — acrobatic and dynamic, with airborne tables, snapping chains, razor-sharp wires, and clashing swords — are mind- and eardrum-blowing. Through it all, Tsui’s trademark melding of classic story and fantastic special effects achieves innovative heights.

“I think audiences are always looking for new experiences in the theater,” Tsui says, who includes himself in that number. “The action genre was always something I watched as a kid. When I became a director, I was making movies for someone like me, [a viewer] who would really look for something challenging and to experience different things on the screen.”

THE FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE opens Fri/31 at the Bay Street 16 in Emeryville and the Mercado 20 in Santa Clara.


Sugar high



DEATH BEFORE DIET San Francisco has a hell of a sweet tooth, judging by all the dessert-themed trucks, artesinal chocolate shops, and curious ice cream flavors dribbling all over everything. For fans of sour and gummy candy who’d prefer a slightly more old-timey experience than the aisles of Walgreens can provide, we also have quite a few candy-focused shops. We sidestepped the prodigious chocolate offerings (for the most part) and tested treats at four of ’em.


Fiona’s Sweetshoppe Tucked into a teeny FiDi storefront, Fiona’s maximizes its snug space with four rows of shelves lined with candy-filled jars. The slogan here is “bewitching candy,” and the selection (much of it imported from Europe and the UK) doesn’t disappoint. Customers can browse a selection of UK candy bars (Cadbury purists rejoice), buy scoops in bulk, or pick up pre-made, ribbon-tied bags of the shop’s most popular wares.

We sampled: Australian Mango Licorice (Fiona’s has a large selection of licorice in different flavors and shapes; this variety is super-soft, chewy, and fruity — and vegan); Lemon Fizzballs (the favorite of the three: lemon drops with a powdery, sour-then-sweet coating); and, bending the chocolate rule a bit, Chocolate Limes (individually-wrapped, citrus hard candy with a dab of chocolate inside). 214 Sutter, SF; www.fionassweetshoppe.com


The Candy Store Russian Hill’s beacon of sugary goodness went national, briefly, thanks to a pop-up stint in Target stores earlier this year. Locals can still hit up the airy space for stylishly packaged indulgences (dark chocolate sea salt caramels are a favorite), lollipops (in sizes ranging from “oversized” to “Godzilla-sized”), nostalgic chocolate bars (Nut Goodies, Mallo Cups), and … ohhhh yeah … jars of sour and gummy goodness.

We tried: Sour Skulls (imported from Sweden, home of extreme metal and, apparently, extremely sour candy); Cinnamon Bears (more sweet than hot); Gummi Filled Whales (marshmallow-y and adorable); and one Gummi Fried Egg (a fruit-flavored conversation piece). 1507 Vallejo, SF; www.thecandystoresf.com


Miette Miette peddles its picture-perfect baked goods at San Francisco’s Ferry Building, Oakland’s Jack London Square, and Larkspur’s Marin County Mart. But candy fans taking a cake break should make a beeline to the Hayes Valley location (449 Octavia, SF). While the retro-styled space (with super-cute seasonal window displays) does feature a pastry case with Miette’s famed cupcakes, cakes, and macarons — the main attraction is pretty obvious: fancy chocolate bars, decadent malt balls, and jars upon jars of bite-sized sweets.

We tasted: Butter Waffles (waffle-shaped hard candy with a refined butterscotch flavor); Sour Apple Belts (a childhood classic); and Lemon Verbena Drops (is it weird to call a candy “sophisticated”? Because these are.) Various Bay Area locations, SF; www.miette.com Shaw’s San Francisco Just two Muni stops from the Castro is West Portal, with its Main Street USA vibe. Situated under a red-and-white awning, Shaw’s — around since 1931 — needs not try to emulate an old-school candy shop, since it already is one. No swish sweets here; in addition to ice cream, fudge, and chocolate truffles, Shaw’s stocks novelty items like Pop Rocks and mounds of sold-by-weight gummies and sour candy, including recognizable items like Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids. We inhaled: sour apples, cherries, peaches, and watermelon slices (all fresh, flavorful, soft, and chewy), with a few chocolate-covered gummy bears (a best-seller) for good measure. 122 West Portal, SF; www.shawssf.com

The Turntable Kitchen remixes dinnertime



EAT BEAT I’d venture a guess that no one in this town knows the frosting tipped appeal of hand-mixing music and food more than the couple behind Turntable Kitchen. What started a year and a half ago as a simple (yet highly aesthetically pleasing) website mashing up recipes and records, has grown into a multi-headed creative output machine, with food and music news, giveaways, and physical pairings boxes — on top of the drool-inducing posts.

I caught up with the duo last winter and again this month to find out, among other queries, what ingredient you simply must always have on hand, and the records every collection should include:

San Francisco Bay Guardian For people who have never heard of Turntable Kitchen, can you give a brief rundown on how the concept came together?

Matthew Hickey Turntable Kitchen is a website combining food and music. We do that by pairing recipes Kasey creates in the kitchen with some of my favorite albums. I try to find albums that share the same characteristics as her recipes, pairing them together the way a sommelier would pair wine with food. The idea to start the site was Kasey’s, but we were pairing food and music in our own foggy Inner Sunset apartment long before we launched the site. I’ve always been obsessive about music and Kasey loves to cook. Part of our evening ritual involved her explaining the recipe we were going to make and me then hitting my record collection to find an album to compliment our meal.

SFBG How did you come up with the Pairings Box idea?

MH We liked the idea of sending goodies to our readers in the mail, but we weren’t sure what form that would take. Whatever we did, we wanted it to stay true to the theme of our site. Speaking to the music specific elements: they just made sense for me. I love vinyl records and have an ever-growing record collection. With the ease of digital distribution, though, some of my favorite new music isn’t yet available on vinyl. So the singles we release feature music that I wanted for my collection, but which didn’t already exist on vinyl. I’ve been making mixtapes for my friends for as long as I can remember, so the digital mixtape we include gives me yet another opportunity to share music I love with our supporters.

Kasey Fleisher I have always thought that a big barrier to cooking for many people is having a pantry. A lot of times, a recipe calls for a lot of expensive and/or hard to find ingredients and when you don’t cook often, it’s hard to think, “why not give this a try?” The concept of giving people three recipes and one to two premium dried ingredients gives them that nudge to experiment.

SFBG On the site, what have been the most popular pairing(s) so far?

MH Some of our most popular pairings have been our Pop Overs with Jam paired with Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE, and Quinoa Sushi paired with Peaking Lights’ new album.

SFBG What’s the most important ingredient to keep in your cupboard?

KF That is a tough question! But I’d probably have to say salt.

SFBG What’s the most important album to keep in your record collection?

MH That is a tough one. If you are going to listen to it by yourself then you’d want your favorite album — whatever that may be. If you want versatile music that sounds great and can be played on any occasion, I highly recommend owning a few Motown records. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone — young or old — who hates the Four Tops, the Jackson 5, The Supremes, Al Green.

Rich appetites



CHEAPER EATS “By the way, I have the best peanut sauce recipe ever. I would say it’s one of the top three things about me, my peanut sauce recipe.” Author-blogger-chef Gabi Moskowitz mentions over brunch at the Dolores Park Cafe in her Mission neighborhood.

“I develop crushes on peanut sauces and tinker until I get them just right. And — sidebar — peanut sauce, if you make a batch of it and keep it in your fridge, you’re like, 50 percent on your way to dinner.”

Moskowitz is full of helpful asides like this. She initially was discussing her Vietnamese spring rolls recipe, a popular dish she wrote about on her blog — BrokeAss Gourmet — and subsequently included in her first cookbook, The BrokeAss Gourmet Cookbook (Egg & Dart, 224pp, $16.95), released this spring. The book’s subtitle? “Recipes To Keep Your Taste Buds Happy and Your Wallet Thick.”

But the peanut sauce digression is probably the best representation of Moskowitz’s personality. The former kindergarten teacher is friendly and funny, obsessed with good food, and the consummate teacher, always looking for a way to make things better and cheaper. She just wants you to love her peanut sauce and much as she does.

And that’s why the formula for BrokeAss Gourmet dot com, and The Brokeass Gourmet Cookbook, works so well. It’s simple but creative dishes, made with inexpensive components (each ingredient is listed with a price), and explained in a relatable way. Moskowitz always dishes on how she came to these recipes, be it after a rude ex-boyfriend criticized another meal, or a when a close friend fell ill and needed something warm and appetizing in her belly.

The book includes pantry staples and recipes for meals such as lamb-feta burgers, sundried tomato ricotta gnocchi, and garlic-lemon-rosemary chicken (“Third Date Chicken”), which she deems the sluttier version of the legendary “Engagement Chicken.”

The blog, which began in 2009, saw near-instant success, after MSN Money covered it just two weeks after the launch. The morning of the article, Moskowitz says she awoke to see 30,000 hits over 24 hours. Just before the launch, she became aware of the other brokeass, Broke-Ass Stuart — who wrote a popular lifestyle book and runs his own site — and contacted him to let him know. He was fine with the name, as he didn’t plan to cook or include recipes on his own site, and Moskowitz says it was the start of a great friendship. The two support each other on their respective sites.

On the BrokeAss Gourmet site, the chedder-thyme knishes and brown butter pumpkin mac and cheese are the long-running top posts. When Moskowitz was featured in an iPad food app called Appetites, the New York Times wrote it up and included a mention of that creamy fall mac and cheese recipe.

When it came to choosing which posts to include in the cookbook, Moskowitz said she wanted it to be a “really excellent first cookbook for someone” and to show that it’s possible to eat well on a budget.

“I grew up in Sonoma County; I live in the Mission in San Francisco, where food is king. It’s not enough for me to just eat, I think it’s really important to eat well, and to eat fresh food. Even when I was making no money at all, I wasn’t willing to compromise my lifestyle in that way, I wanted to make it work.”

Now that the initial buzz of the cookbook has slowed down a bit, Moskowitz is still wildly busy, keeping up with the blog posts, working on some top-secret TV projects, and finishing the manuscript for her second book: The Brokeass Gourmet Pizza Dough Cookbook. That one is about the different meals you can make with pizza dough, besides the obvious (naan, cinnamon rolls, calzones, donuts, Italian stromboli appetizers).

As with much of her food writing, the concept came from a personal experience. She was invited to a potluck dinner party a few years back and the host asked her to bring a main course. “I had this huge batch of pizza dough and 15 minutes before I was supposed to leave, the host called to say the party was canceled. I was like, ‘ah man, I have all this stuff!’ and I’d basically spent my grocery budget on it, but I found that I could do a million and a half things with pizza dough.”

While she did make a great many dishes with that leftover dough, her weekly go-to meal staple is a bit different. She has a $15.94 Duc Loi Supermarket trip nailed (of course, did a post about it). And her personal comfort dish is built with it: soba or rice noodles with that crush-worthy peanut sauce, shredded vegetables, and shallow-fried cube sprouted tofu. Sometimes garnished with crushed peanuts or sprouts and chili paste.

“I’ll make a big batch of it and seal it in the fridge if I’m having a busy week, and then that’s just what I’ll eat at the end of the day.” Even as the conversation comes to an end, and the Dolores Park Cafe dishes are pushed aside, Moskowitz is still giving tips on low-cost eats.

The agri-chem industry’s secrets


OPINION This November, California voters will decide on a question that affects us all: Do we have the right to know what’s in the food we’re eating and feeding our families?

This high-stakes food fight has become the most expensive issue of the upcoming election. Pesticide and junk-food corporations have already poured $25 million into an effort to defeat Proposition 37, a simple labeling measure that would inform California consumers about whether our food has been genetically engineered.

What is it that these corporations don’t want us to know?

Right now, many foods on supermarket shelves, from baby formula to corn chips, contain genetically engineered ingredients that are hidden from consumers. Also called GMOs, these are crops that have been artificially altered in a lab with the DNA of other species in ways that cannot occur in nature.

Numerous studies link genetically engineered foods to allergies and other adverse health effects. But the U.S. government requires no safety studies of GMOs, no long-term health studies have been conducted, and no labeling is required to notify consumers so we can make our own choices about whether we want to eat these foods.

Genetically engineered foods are also linked to serious environmental concerns, including an overall increase in pesticide use, a rise in super weeds that are threatening farm land, and the unintentional contamination of organic crops.

These concerns have led 50 other countries to require GMO labeling. But here in the U.S., the agri-chemical companies have deployed their massive lobby power to stop the federal government and at least 19 U.S. states from passing simple labeling bills.

Now it’s up to the voters of California — and the heavy-artillery corporate lobbying campaign is heading our way.

The Yes on 37 Campaign is currently tracking far ahead in the polls. But the voters have not yet been subjected to the wave of deceptive television ads designed to convince us that GMO labeling is too scary or too expensive.

When you see these ads, consider the source. The largest funders of No on 37 are Monsanto and DuPont, two corporations that hardly have a track record of integrity when it comes to truth in advertising. These are the same companies that told us DDT and Agent Orange were safe.

Major funders of the No campaign also include junk-food companies that have a long history of opposing common-sense labels to give consumers information about their food. Look for these companies to spend tens of millions trying to convince voters that adding a few words to food labels will force them to raise the cost of groceries “hundreds of dollars a year.”

Over on the Yes on 37 side is a true people’s movement made up of millions of moms, dads, and consumers in California, and the many farmers and California businesses that are part of the state’s thriving natural and sustainable food industry.

Now is the time and this is our chance to make sure we have the right to know what’s in our food. Visit Yes on 37 at Carighttoknow.org to volunteer, donate and stay up to date with the latest news about this historic campaign.

Stacy Malkan is the media director for Yes on 37, the California Right to Know campaign to label genetically engineered foods.

Feeding a movement



Keith McHenry was in Tampa, feeding fed-up (and hungry) Republican National Convention protesters, when we spoke by phone. Next he’ll head to Charlotte to do the same for those protesting the Democrats, and then to New York for Occupy Wall Street’s anniversary on Sept. 17.

Everywhere he goes, he’ll feed the masses home-cooked vegetarian meals. But unlike the other protesters, McHenry helped invent the system that gets them fed. He helped to found Food Not Bombs, the organization that salvages food that would otherwise be thrown out, cooks it up, and serves free, tasty meals in public squares throughout the world.

McHenry served the first meal in Boston Common in 1980, then moved to San Francisco a few years later, bringing the movement with him. Now, there are 500 chapters in the United States and hundreds more throughout the world.

“We provided food for 100 days at the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine,” McHenry recalls. “We fed a two-year occupation in Sarajevo. We provided food at Camp Casey,” Cindy Sheehan’s anti-war stakeout at then-President George W. Bush’s ranch.

The FNB approach to hunger is pretty simple: There’s enough food to go around, it’s just not distributed right. So activists find ways to distribute food that would otherwise be thrown out. San Francisco FNB gets donations of extra, unsold food from places like Rainbow Grocery and Other Avenues food co-op.

It was started by anti-nuclear activists, thus the “Not Bombs” part. But there’s more to their analysis than a cry for peace. As the group states, “For over 30 years the movement has worked to end hunger and has supported actions to stop the globalization of the economy, restrictions to the movements of people, end exploitation and the destruction of the earth and its beings.”

A typical Food Not Bombs operation features a table with a vegetarian or vegan meal, maybe some produce, and anti-war and other leftist literature and banners. In 1988, this is what was on the table when the San Francisco Police Department cracked down on Food Not Bombs, arresting dozens for serving food at the entrance to Golden Gate Park at Haight and Stanyan.

“We had our sign such that when you walked in at the corner of Haight you would see the words Food Not Bombs for a block and a half,” McHenry recalls. “What was good about that was you had tourists, and local business people, and local workers, and you had the people in the Golden Gate Park, all coming together to eat at that place. It was really perfect.”

FNB still serves there on Saturdays, but that perfection was disrupted by a high profile series of arrests in 1988, then again a few weeks ago, when Parkwide, the Recreation and Parks Department’s new bike rental program, set up in their old spot.

Food Not Bombs still runs into conflicts with police and courts. Last year, McHenry was one of 24 arrested in Orlando, Florida, spending 19 days in jail after protesting an ordinance making it a crime to feed the homeless in the city’s downtown.

Last week, FNB held its world gathering at Occupy Tampa’s tent city, serving daily breakfast and dinner while planning the future of the movement. Occupy Tampa has only grown in recent weeks as it hosts people in town to protest the RNC. Sharing food and shelter, making art, and protesting politicians doing the bidding of greedy corporations is McHenry’s vision made reality — and one he got to see bloom last fall with the birth of Occupy.

As McHenry tells it, he and others from Food Not Bombs have been part of a decade-long buildup to the “occupy” tactics that erupted into the world in 2011. “I was promoting the idea of occupation ever since a meeting that was held in 2003 after Cancun,” he said. Protests at the World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun were part of a growing trend of disrupting international conventions in which political and business leaders make agreements that further exploitation and neo-liberalism. But McHenry says that more was needed.

“There was a group of us that got together and said these one-off events, like summits, were just becoming more disempowering rather than successful,” he said.

After years of calling for occupations, the notion clicked last fall. “We had seen the Arab Spring, so that made it that much easier to imagine the occupation concept. And the Spanish occupations were just then happening.”

“That’s a common thing,” McHenry said. “People try all these different ways of organizing and then all at the same time, the same thing will start to click. And there’s no real way to say, ‘oh, it started here, it started there, this person started it.'”

When Occupy encampments sprang up, Food Not Bombs was behind many of the kitchens and food sharing efforts — it even had a guide to building a tent city kitchen at foodnotbombs.net/occupy_supplies.

“In the beginning of some of the first occupations like Chicago, DC, Wall Street, we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, because we didn’t know if we would get busted,” McHenry said. “We ended up behind the scenes helping provide free meals to the occupations.”

McHenry said he hopes the spirit of occupying grows again. “It’s so important,” he said. “It would be great if we could regroup and retake public space.”


Portable pollution



With its decidedly hip aesthetic and clientele, San Francisco’s food truck trend may be naturally assumed to be environmentally sound and health conscious. But the rapidly expanding craze may actually be creating air pollution and endangering the health of their employees in ways that aren’t yet being regulated.

Although the mobile eateries are held to a few of the same standards as their brick and mortar counterparts, such as food hygiene and sanitation, the gas-powered portable generators that provide needed energy to the trucks are a tricky beast to tame. The exhaust-heavy portable generators do not fall under the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s radar of regulation, according to its Food Safety Program Director Richard Lee.

“There are combustion products from the generators being generated while the truck is parked and operating,” he told the Guardian. “The generators are needed to power lights, fans, refrigerators, etcetera. SFDPH does not monitor or regulate the generators.”

The lack of monitoring on the generators may not be due to a lack of need for regulation, but rather the difficulty in doing so. Given that most of the generators are used to power relatively small vehicles, their small size inhibits them from meriting the attention of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) after their initial manufacture.

A CARB-compliant generator has met with the organization’s restrictions on various organic gases, nitrogen oxides, sulfuric oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and particulate matter. However, the generators are only monitored at the point of manufacture, with their in-use emissions going unregulated.

Furthermore, Bay Area Air Quality Management District spokesperson Aaron Richardson tells us that despite the BAAQMD’s 28 air monitor stations, the localization of the fad and the trucks themselves would make it difficult to see the effects of the generators as a regional issue.

“The concern would be they may not all operate in the same ways,” he said. “I think that if the trucks…are running back up generators, it’s going to emit some pollution. It’s something I think we will be doing more research on, but at this point it’s not looking like it’s a dramatic impact on air quality. CARB regulates all mobile sources, and lot of these trucks use individual generators. At this point, we only regulate back up diesel generators…of 50 horse power or above.”

So BAAQMD doesn’t regulate the generators because they’re gas-powered, and they don’t trigger CARB’s post-production attention, despite that agency’s current efforts to reduce the state’s carbon footprint.

CARB spokesperson John Swanton explained that given the small size and localization of the generators, it’s up to the individual communities to decide how to approach the situation.

“It’s up to the community to decide if they can bear the expense of a highly regulated community. In the terms of restaurants — which is what food trucks are — what are the community’s standards and regulations?” he said. “When we sell, say, a Honda generator, we have ideas of how that’s going to be used…We try to make it as clean as practically possible, but the idea is that it’s not gonna run 24/7 at the same location. If it’s going into a food truck and the food truck is going into a particular district, then it becomes the decision of the city and the air quality management [district].”

It seems, then, that no one is really regulating the exhaust emissions coming from the hordes of trucks that travel up Haight, down Market, into Fort Mason, and sit in clusters downtown, in SoMa, around City Hall, and other spots around town.

But at least they aren’t dirty diesel fuel, right? Perhaps the BAAQMD and the city of San Francisco have no need to regulate the teensy-eensy bit of gasoline generator exhaust.

Yet according to SFDPH spokesperson Imelda Rayes, there are now approximately 300 (registered) mobile food facilities in San Francisco. That means the number has nearly tripled since the mere 120 registered MFFs that were scouring the streets in 2009. What they lack in horse power, the generators may make up for in sheer multitude.

“In a period of three years, the number has increased almost 250 percent and [we’re] still getting more applications,” she said.

In addition to cumulative impacts, there are also questions about the health impacts on food truck employees.

Studies like such as the 2009 “Modeling the Effects of Outdoor Gasoline Powered Generator Use on Indoor Carbon Monoxide Exposures” by academics Liangzhu Wang and Steven Emmerich brings up a different concern: gasoline generators create emissions of poisonous carbon monoxide.

“The generators are always positioned outside of the vehicle. The workers are inside,” Lee said. “We would not expect that there is significant employee exposure to the generator exhaust to the employees.”

Yet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that half of non-fatal carbon monoxide poisoning incidents in the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons were due to the gas-powered generators used to heat homes, even when placed outside the homes themselves.

Food truck generators, given their smaller size, are often placed much closer to the trucks and their workers than in the case of houses and their inhabitants. Furthermore, the trucks often idle for long periods to keep the food warm and utilities working.

“At this point, it’s enough of a new thing…We’re interested in finding out more about them, but at this point we are not receiving many complaints,” Richardson said. “A lot of variables are involved. It’s something I think we will be doing more research on.”

After the game of verbal hot potato that was research for this article — it seems every agency deferred to another in terms of exactly who is monitoring these things — Swanton assured us that the danger doesn’t seem imminent.

“In general, small engines [portable generators] are dirtier than an engine providing motor power to a vehicle,” he said. “But the sheer number of these cleaner engines dwarfs everything.”

True, but the food trucks that run for more than a few hours at one location are increasing in numbers at a rapid pace. With the high number of mobile food trucks in operation, most of which utilize some form of generator or another, it may be time to nail down those pesky variables involved and draw some conclusive evidence on the potential environmental and health effects of our city’s seemingly innocent snack time.

Jesus-free food


“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” Jesus supposedly said way back when. In San Francisco, there are a multitude of churches that offer free food to the hungry (find a handy list at www.freeprintshop.org).

But what follows is a list of secular organizations that share food — for the planet, for self-determination and providing for community outside of the system, for healthy food untainted by hormones, pesticides and GMOs, for food not grown by exploited workers, and for many other reasons, these groups bring food straight to the people.


Where: Parque Niños Unidos, 23rd St. and Treat. When: Sundays, 1-3pm. Numbers given out at around noon. The Free Farm Stand gives out food and flowers grown at the Free Farm on Eddy and Gough, where local volunteers grow and harvest produce. They also share local organic surplus produce left over from several farmer’s markets and produce brought in from neighbors and from locally gleaned fruit trees.

The philosophy of the Free Farm is food sovereignty. Why should anyone go hungry, or go broke, feeding themselves and their kids? Instead, they figure, they should get for free what the earth gives. They facilitate this by offering the farm’s harvest — as well free sprouts and plants, that people can use to grow food themselves.

“The solution to the problem of hunger is to share the abundance that’s out there and to encourage people to grow food and share some with those in need.” said a Free Farm Stand organizer. “We can set up neighborhood networks of people growing food and sharing their surplus.” The Free Farm Stand is a step towards that vision.


Where: Tuesday, 16th and Mission, Thursday, Turk and Taylor. When: 6pm. Some of the folks at Better Days to Come have God in mind, but the organization’s founder, Leonard Fulgham, came from not the churches but the prisons. As its mission statement says, “Mr. Fulgham began mentoring many of the younger inmates, while having the unique opportunity to hear their stories. Many of their stories outlined how they landed in the prison community and why they continued to return. Being homeless upon release back into society is a commonly known contributing factor to these ex-offenders being hungry while being starved by the lack of job training and vocational skills.” Fulgham passed away March 24, 2012, and in his memory, the organization began serving two hot meals a week.


Where: Civic Center Plaza at Hyde and Market. When: Tuesdays 5:45-7pm. Curry Without Worry serves vegetarian food, mostly Nepali and mostly with five courses, in San Francisco every week. It does the same at its other branch in Kathmandu. Shrawan Nepali once owned a restaurant, Taste of the Himalayas, but used the proceeds to start Curry Without Worry and eventually sold it when “I realized I was not a businessmen.” Instead, he’s a man who feeds people a vegan five-course meal, which includes a sauce made from timur, herbs that grow in his Himalayan hometown but are rare in the US. “Our mantra is healthy food for hungry souls,” says Nepali.


Where and when: Monday, UN Plaza at 6:30pm and 16th and Mission at 7pm. Wednesday, UN Plaza at 6pm. Thursday: 16th and Mission at 7pm. Saturday: Haight and Stanyan at 5pm. After 30 years, Food Not Bombs still serves almost daily in San Francisco at a few locations throughout the city. Volunteers cook meals then bring them out to the people, bringing home the message that there’s enough to go around and you shouldn’t need money to feed yourself. The Saturday team still shares food at Haight and Stanyan, where Food Not Bombs first parked three decades ago.


Where: In front of the Bank of America at 2701 Mission. When: Thursday, 5pm until food runs out. Occupy-related people, carrying on from the giant Food Bank of America action on Jan. 20, when the Bank of America at the Embarcadero locked its doors after activists set up a food table and hung two interactive banners where passers-by could write what fit under the category “person” and what fit under the category “corporation.” They hung a third banner saying Food Bank of America, hundreds ate a hot meal, and the concept caught on. Now, people who have been gathering food donations for Occupy and otherwise give away fresh produce and hand out information about credit unions weekly in front of the bank.


Where: Mendell Plaza, at Third and Oakdale. When: Every third Sunday, 10-2. A few organizations, including the Black Star Riders Coalition and the Kenneth Harding Jr. Foundation, work together to put on this food giveaway every other week. It takes place in Mendell Plaza, the square that some have renamed Kenny’s Plaza after Harding, who was killed in the plaza at 19 years old after a dispute with SFPD officers over bus fare. “First, we definitely want to honor Kenny, that’s why we got there,” said Tracey Bell-Borden, one of the organizers of the Community Feed. “But there’s been a lot of activity in that area for a long time. So it’s really about healing the community,” she said. “We have to take care of our community.”

Parting gift



Retirement is knocking at Ed Harrington’s door. But the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission general manager is hesitating, not quite able to muster the will needed to walk out the door. He has something that he wants to finish first.

The sage city veteran has labored for years to launch an historic program so transformative that it would finally allow city residents and businesses to reject a homicidal utility monopoly and the dirty electricity that it sells. Success could be mere weeks away; failure would be a bitter blow.

Twice in the past 27 months, Harrington and his staff have fumbled efforts to launch the city’s long-promised community choice aggregation (CCA) program. The program, CleanPowerSF, would give Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) customers the option of switching over to a publicly backed electricity provider selling green, climate-friendly power.

The energy would continue to be ferried into homes and other buildings over PG&E’s electrical grid, and customers who switch would continue to receive their bills from PG&E. Those gas and electricity bills could initially swell by an average of one quarter, but the mix of power that they pay for would jump from 20 percent renewable up to 100 percent renewable.

Harrington’s previous CleanPowerSF launch schemes collapsed in mid-2010 and again early last year without getting off of the ground, largely because nobody — neither the city nor private industry — would shoulder the large financial risks. Unlike those failed efforts, which would have offered a private company virtual carte blanche to sell power to as many PG&E customers as possible, the latest CCA proposal resembles a successful program operating in Marin County. The Marin program started small in early 2010 and is already growing at a rapid clip as it pursues true energy independence.

For the next few weeks, despite having previously planned to retire in August, Harrington will oversee a last-ditch effort to drive approval of his latest iteration of CleanPowerSF by the Board of Supervisors. “I’ve offered to stay into September so that we can have the CCA discussions at the board,” Harrington told the Bay Guardian.

Harrington declined to discuss the latest version of CleanPowerSF, the real and perceived financial risks of which will be hashed out by the Budget and Finance Committee, referring questions to a spokesperson.

But environmentalists and local “green jobs” advocates who just 12 months ago were panning CleanPowerSF, ready to block its passage through the board, are now lauding it. They say the change came about after Harrington met directly with them and seemingly changed his own mind about how the program should be run.

The program would initially see Shell Corp. sell 20 to 30 megawatts of renewable electricity generated in far-flung places to fewer than 100,000 residential customers. Instead of fostering new supplies of renewable energy, San Francisco residents may initially buy power at premium prices from existing wind, solar, and other green facilities. That might make San Franciscans feel warm and fuzzy, but it wouldn’t necessarily reduce the nation’s overall carbon footprint.

The activists agree that it’s a crying shame to get into bed with an evil multinational oil company. But they say it’s an acceptable start, as long as the program evolves into something far more meaningful — into something resembling the Marin Clean Energy model. Like in Marin, the activists want San Francisco to use CleanPowerSF revenues to help build its own solar, wind, and other renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, many of them right here in city limits. They want the city to sell those power and the energy efficiency gains directly to CleanPowerSF customers.

Over the coming years, the SFPUC could gradually add enough clean electricity at competitive rates into the CleanPowerSF mix, generated by its own facilities and purchased off the open energy market, to meet the needs of all the city’s residents and businesses.

The build-out of solar power plants and other renewable energy facilities has always been imagined as an integral element of CleanPowerSF. But until last October, critics say SFPUC officials were treating the build-out as an afterthought, making little effort to lock in plans to move forward with the construction as a structured part of a CCA program.

“The SFPUC staff decided they wanted to do this the easy way and just buy energy,” said Eric Brooks, a regular at City Hall hearings who chairs the San Francisco Green Party’s sustainability committee and has spent years working with the SFPUC on CleanPowerSF. “They wanted to do that because it was easy — you can just declare victory.”

Once the general manager started to meet directly with local activists, Brooks says, “Harrington started hearing what we had been saying to the staff for all these years about how important the build-out is.” Harrington began to understand the importance of a renewable energy build-out that begins as soon as the new program launches. In turn, the activists threw their support behind Harrington and the program.

Brooks said that the build-out of city-owned renewable energy facilities could create thousands of jobs. It could also lead to energy independence in a city where environmentalism is a badge of honor, but where PG&E continues to sell nuclear and polluting fossil fuel energy without facing any competition.

“This is the perfect solution to the climate crisis and the economic crisis,” Brooks said. “We need to create a green New Deal. That’s the depth of crisis that we’re in, economically and environmentally.”

Such a build-out is also expected to build support for the program at the Board of Supervisors. Without it, the City Controller’s Office calculated that the city’s economy could take a hit to the tune of $8 million over five years after CleanPowerSF launches in the spring in additional electricity expenses, potentially jeopardizing about 100 jobs. But that analysis failed to consider the thousands of jobs that could be created laying panels, installing turbines, and performing other tasks if the city develops its own renewable energy supplies as a part of the program.

It’s impossible right now to say precisely what type of renewable energy facilities would be built by San Francisco: A $2 million study that would paint that picture is planned. But Paul Fenn, president of Local Power Inc., which is helping the SFPUC prepare to call for bids from companies interested in building the facilities, said they could include everything from solar panel arrays to customers’ energy efficiency gains to a wave energy plant.

The first CleanPowerSF committee hearing is scheduled Sept. 12, followed at some point thereafter by an historic board vote that will almost certainly prove contentious, likely pitting the board’s progressive members who have long supported public power against some of its fiscal conservatives.

Much of the debate will focus on an initial $19.5 million investment by the city. Of that money, about one-third would be used as collateral — a pool of cash held in escrow and available to reimburse Shell if the program flops. SFPUC spokesperson Charles Sheehan said the $7 million in collateral would gradually be recouped by San Francisco if the program moves forward successfully.

Another $2 million would fund CleanPowerSF customers’ energy efficiency programs; $2 million would help customers install solar panels; and $2 million would be spent on the study to determine how best to build out the portfolio of renewable energy plants owned by San Francisco. The rest of the money would cover operating and startup expenses, and it could be recouped later through power sales.

In a town where PG&E wields tremendous political and financial influence, proposing to gamble public funds establishing a competitor to the company is always sure to be thoroughly scrutinized, if not outright opposed and criticized. Supporters of the program, however, say that the gamble is a safe and necessary one that could have sweeping workforce and economic benefits.

“I don’t think that we can afford not to do CCA,” said Sup. David Campos, the program’s most active supporter on the Board of Supervisors. “So long as something like CCA is not in place, PG&E will continue to be the only game in town. I think it’s important for us to give consumers in San Francisco an alternative to PG&E.”

CleanPowerSF has long suffered an identity crisis that has harmed its prospects of legislative approval. Opponents deride it as a public power scheme and they work on behalf of PG&E to quash it. But ardent public power supporters do not see it that way: They consider CleanPowerSF to be little more than a minor stepping stone toward public power, and they have not rallied around it nearly as much as they have rallied around some of the storied yet unsuccessful public power campaigns of years past.

If Harrington can clinch lawmaker approval for CleanPowerSF before he retires, he will have provided city residents with a lasting choice in what kind of electricity they buy.

“I think that any effort to compete with PG&E is seen as public power,” Campos said. “But this is really about providing a choice.”


Eat to the beat



EAT BEAT Good food was never the part of the concert plan. In high school, the punks and shredders ate giant Pixy Stix, filled to the plastic brim with unnaturally purple sugar dust — purchased from the all-ages venue snack counter — followed by late night Del Taco red burritos slathered in Del Scorcho and stuffed with crinkle fries. Flash forward a decade or so, and the vegan Malaysian nachos with spicy peanut sauce and pickled veggies from Azalina’s were all I could talk about after Outside Lands, save for the requisite “oh my god” Metallica utterance.

I wasn’t the only one. From every corner of that packed festival, people — and of course, bloggers — were raving about The Whole Beast (featuring pop-ups from the Michael Mina Group) tucked away by Choco Lands, Andalu’s fried mac and cheese, and Del Popolo’s massive, industrial-looking rustic pizza truck.

While the higher-end meal options have now been going strong at Outside Lands for a few years — and, granted, food has long been a part of the festival equation — the gourmet pop-up thing, and locally-sourced, quality food offerings are on the menu more and more in brick-and-mortar music venues in San Francisco. Last week, the Great American Music Hall hosted an event dubbed the Great American Pop-Up. Seems it’s more open to experimentation in the slower summer months.

The one-off (for now) event was a family affair for the Great American Music Hall. There were six pop-up food vendors set up in between the grand bronze pillars of the Tenderloin venue, chosen by security guard Drake Wertenberger, who stepped forward at a managers meeting to coordinate. Jessica DaSilva, who works in the box office at both GAMH and sister-venue Slim’s, was there selling imaginative sweet treats for Milk Money/Dora’s Donuts Shut Yer Hole Truck, including a strawberry cheesecake push-pop, and the chewy chocolate raspberry cookie I devoured. There was also local, sustainable sushi by Ricecrackersushi, some colorful Asian fusion dishes via Harro-Arigato & Ronin, and a whole lot of sausages sliced by the Butcher’s Daughter.

It felt nearly illicit to be in the venue without the anticipation of a live set, like we were sneaking in. And the warmer lighting opened up the intricacies of the architectural design. But this event was focused squarely on the food, with the tables pushed out onto the floor, and a flannel-clad DJ spinning inoffensive hip-hop while munching on something from a paper plate.

Last year, Slim’s created something similar, but broke it down to one chef at a time hosting rotating gourmet pop-ups once a week for the month of August. Those too were more about the unique food offerings, less about music. There were dinners served in the venue by Jetset Chef Alex Marsh and Cathead’s BBQ (which now occupies its own legitimate space down the street from the venue).

GAMH and Slim’s both already serve dinner nightly at live shows, but publicist Leah Matanky tells me there were no hard feelings from the in-house restaurant staff.

On regular show nights even, Matanky says she’s seen an increase of interest in gourmet food at the venues. “We have seen our kitchen sales numbers increase noticeably over the last couple of years. We’ve started running nightly food and drink specials that include things we don’t normally offer and people have really responded to that. We still offer the full array of bar food…but you can also get gourmet specialties like the baked polenta pizza with smoked mozzarella or the grilled tri-tip steak with garlic-herb potatoes.”

Mountain View’s infinitely larger Shoreline Amphitheater also recently got an in-house food upgrade. So the story goes, when the GM of Shoreline dined at Calafia in Palo Alto, Chef Charlie Ayers pointed out the stadium’s lackluster food, and was then summoned to create a tastier menu. Ayers now has a “Snack Shack” at Shoreline that generates $8,000 per show, selling vegan lentil bowls, pork bowls, and salad wraps with Dino kale and feta cheese.

At the bars-with-bands level, El Rio seems to also be upping its epicurean pop-ups. Along with the now-frequent Rocky’s Fry Bread (side note: Rocky is also in the band Sweat Lodge, which often plays El Rio) stand, there’s Piadina homemade Italian flat bread, and the occasional Mugsy pop-up wine bar, which offers bubbly and red wine varieties.

There was an entirely separate event that took place Aug. 4 in San Francisco, which combined all of this: the high-end food, the live music, the ubiquitous pop-ups. It was a food and music festival (Noisette) at a brick-and-mortar venue (Public Works, where it moved after switching venues from Speakeasy Brewery).

The event was put on by Noise Pop Industries. The production company, which does Noise Pop and the Treasure Island Festival, began dipping into independent food culture a few years back with the Covers dinners, pairing well-known chefs with corresponding cover songs for a relatively small group. Noise Pop’s Stacey Horne came up with the Noisette concept after talking with DJs Darren and Greg Bresnitz of New York promotion company Finger on the Pulse, who do an event out there called Backyard Barbecue, which also pairs live music and gourmet food.

From the beginning, the Dodos were the first choice of headliners at Noisette. Merrick Long is a “professed foodie,” has worked in the restaurant business, and was on a panel at SXSW talking about food and music. Horne says they chose chefs that do things a little differently, and are more attuned to the pop-up mentality.

“Something that struck me at Noisette that I loved was that we were eating such good food and then were able to wander over and hear amazing music. It wasn’t one or the other. It was nice to have that as an option,” Horne says. “The chefs we’re focusing on are kind of the indie version of that world, and that’s what Noise Pop has always been interested in, independent music, independent film and art. It just seems like a logical extension.”

Noise Pop is also again looking to do a variation on the Covers dinners with the upcoming Treasure Island Festival. Sound Bites is more of a passed appetizer event with little bites inspired by the bands playing at the festival.

So what does it all mean? Are we, as the generalized concert-going public, getting soft, both physically from all those readily available treats, and mentally because we’ve expanded beyond a minimalist punk rock lifestyle? Should we all go back to Pixy Stix and Del Scorcho hangovers?

“Look, the reality is that most nights that you go to hear a band in a club, there’s no food or if there is food, it’s not going to be anything great. So you can still have your punk rock experience, but something like Noisette and other events like ours that are popping up around the country are just offering another type of event, and people are interested in it, as we’re seeing,” Horne says.

I guess, if you want to see your life as a black and white cookie, you’ll see this change as against type. Or maybe if you’re in the teenage angst subset, you’re just getting in to the greasy post-concert routine. But perhaps this mashup is just another trend — participate if you will. It goes far beyond the music scene, to the way Americans eat now, looking for quality, locally sourced food, seeking creative options.

“Speaking for myself personally, I still love going to see shows,” Horne says, “but if I can have both things in one place, it’s win-win.”