La Cocina

Live Shots: SF Street Food Fest fills us up quickly


The weather was gorgeous, the lines weren’t too long, and the people were friendly — and hungry — at the sixth annual SF Street Food Festival last Saturday.

About those shorter lines, though — that meant we had access to pretty much any food we wanted in less than 10 minutes! (Except for the ever-popular ramenburger from Nombe, the line for which stretched almost the length of a block.) Uh oh, we were faced with unlimited choices, too many for our stomachs to bear, try as we might. And we might!

Highlights for us included the octo okono from Stones Throw (basically a fried octopus popsicle), excellent and tender turkey momos (Nepalese dumplings) from Bini’s Kitchen, Thai iced tea gelato from Secret Scoop, thickly wrapped beef pho rolls from Rice Paper Scissors (with awesome Vietnamese coffee), sharply spiced ahi tuna kitfo (a kind of tartare mixture) from Radio Africa Kitchen, and aquavit-cured salmon crostinis from Chef Pelle Nordic.

Things causing a general sensation: a huge portion of Berber-spiced lamb from The Whole Beast, Hella Vegan Eats‘ potsticker burrito, schnitzel sliders from Little Red Riding Truck, and a smoked salmon rueben from Fine & Rare.

This is supposedly the festival’s last year (at least in the Mission), partly due to neighbor complaints about parking (sigh), but I have a feeling we won’t see the last of it. Although you did just see the last of that schnitzel slider you left unattended on your plate, yoink.  


PROMO: San Francisco Street Food Festival


La Cocina’s San Francisco Street Food Festival on Saturday, August 16th, is a celebration of community, culture and entrepreneurial spirit.  Where micro-entrepreneurs and informal food vendors cook next to James Beard Award winners and Michelin-starred chefs.  Where every block is a barbacoa to bhelpuri to banh mi exploration of flavor (although probably not all at once), all on the same street, and all at the same price.  Located in San Francisco’s Mission District, the festival showcases the best of the Bay Area’s local food entrepreneurs and restaurants.  The event is hosted by La Cocina, a non-profit kitchen working to formalize food businesses for low-income and immigrant food entrepreneurs.  Visit for more information and purchase a passport for extra drink tokens and savings on 8/16!

Events: May 14 – 20, 2014


Listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Submit items for the listings at For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Selector.


“Carry It Forward: Celebrate the Children of Resistance” Berkeley City College, 2050 Center, Berk; 7pm, $10-20. The Middle East Children’s Alliance hosts this benefit screening of a 2013 performance (featuring Angela Davis, Eve Ensler, and others) marking the 60th anniversary of the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.

Rayya Elias Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building, SF; 6pm, free. The author reads from Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post-Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side.

Museum of Craft and Design curator tour of current exhibitions Museum of Craft and Design, 2569 Third St, SF; Noon-1pm, free with admission ($6-8). Curator Marc D’Estout leads a lunchtime walk through the museum’s current exhibits.

“The Wandering Moon” Tenderloin National Forest, 511 Ellis, SF; 8pm, $5-10. Michelle Tea hosts this Radar Productions reading with Juliana Delgado Lopera, Erin Peterson, K.M. Soehnlein, Ben McCoy, and Gem Top.


California College of the Arts presents the 2014 MFA Thesis Exhibition CCA San Francisco, 111 Eighth St, SF; 6-10pm, free. Exhibit on display through May 24. Fifty MFA students in CCA’s Graduate Program in Fine Arts showcase their works, in forms that include sculptures, paintings, video shorts, wiki platforms, and more.

“DIY Nightlife” California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park, SF; 6-10pm, $12. Do-it-yourself is the theme, so Maker Faire artists display their wares; the Computer and Technology Resource Center turns recycled e-waste into usable machines; the Crucible and the Green Art Workshop curate creative activities; and more.

“Quick Draw SF” F8 Gallery/Bar, 1192 Folsom, SF; 6-9pm, free. Live-drawing event featuring over 10 artists creating and selling brand-new works.

Gabrielle Selz City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus, SF; 7pm, free. The author discusses her new book Unstill Life: A Daughter’s Memoir of Art and Love in the Age of Abstraction.

Harriet Elinor Smith Mechanics’ Institute, 57 Post, SF; 6pm, $15. The Mark Twain Project editor discusses The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2: The Complete and Authoritative Edition.


“La Cocina: The Culinary Treasures of Rosa Covarrubias” Mexican Museum, Fort Mason Center, Bldg D, SF; Noon-4pm, free. Exhibit on display through Jan. 18, 2015. Folk art pottery, paintings, vintage cooking utensils, and other objects from the collection of Rosa and Miguel Covarrubias.


“Free Guided Walking Tour: Introduction to West Oakland Galleries” Meet at Transmission Gallery, 770 W. Grand, Oakl; 2-4pm, free. Visit galleries in West Oakland and get to know their curators. The event also includes a poetry reading at Transmission Gallery.

El Tecolote benefit Cesar’s Latin Palace, 826 26th St, SF; 9:30pm, $10. Cesar’s Latin All-Stars present a benefit dance concert to support bilingual newspaper El Tecolote.

“Yoga in the City” Marina Green, SF; 12:30pm, free. Multiple free outdoor yoga classes are offered throughout the day, with live music, healthy food samplings, and more.


“34th Annual Celebration of Old Roses” El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Ln, El Cerrito; 11am-3:30pm, free. A 100-foot display of rare and heritage roses, plus hundreds of rose-themed products for sale, display tables, activities for kids, and more.


Alysia Abbott Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; 7:30pm, free. The author reads from Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father.

Breanne Fahs in conversation with Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz Modern Times Bookstore, 2919 24th St, SF; 7-9pm, free. The authors discuss their writings on radical women, with a focus on Fahs’ Valerie Solanas: The Defiant Life of the Woman Who Wrote SCUM (and Shot Andy Warhol).

Russell Simmons Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building, SF; 5pm, free. The Def Jam Recordings founder and meditation enthusiast signs copies of In Success Through Stillness.


David Helvarg Bay Model Visitor Center, 2100 Bridgeway, Sausalito; 7pm, $5. The environmental journalist and activist discusses The Golden Shore: California’s Love Affair with the Sea.

Howard Norman City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus, SF; 7pm, free. The author reads from Next Life Might Be Kinder. *


Hunky Vikings! Crusading Texans! And more new movies!


Two big ‘uns this week: blockbuster-to-be Thor: The Dark World (review below), and the very fine drama Dallas Buyers Club, featuring standout performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto (Dennis Harvey’s review here). If you seek a respite from Hollywood, check out San Francisco’s own South Asian International Film Festival (some recommendations from me, here), or read on for more short takes on this week’s new offerings.

The Motel Life Brothers (Stephen Dorff, Emile Hirsch) go on the run after a tragic accident. Kris Kristofferson and Dakota Fanning co-star. (1:25) Roxie.

Running From Crazy Can one ever escape one’s toxic genetic legacy, especially when one’s makeup, and even one’s genius, is so entangled with mental illness, the shadow of substance abuse, and a kind of burden of history? Actor, author, healthy-living proponent, and now suicide prevention activist Mariel Hemingway seems cut out to try, as, eh, earnestly as she can, to offer up hope. Part of that involves opening the door to documentarian Barbara Kopple, in this look at the 20th century’s most infamous literary suicide, Mariel’s grandfather Ernest Hemingway, and just one of his familial threads, one full of lives cut deliberately short. For Running From Crazy, Kopple generally keeps the focus on Mariel, who displays all the disarming groundedness and humility of the youngest care-taking, “good” child. Her father, Ernest’s eldest son, Jack, regularly indulged in “wine time” with his ailing wife and, according to Mariel, had a pitch-black side of his own. But we don’t look to closely at him as the filmmaker favors the present, preferring to watch Mariel mountain climb and bicker with her stuntman boyfriend, meet up with her eldest sister Muffet, and ‘fess up about the depression that runs through the Hemingway line to her own daughters. Little is made of Mariel’s own artistic contributions in acting, though Kopple’s work is aided immeasurably by the footage Mariel’s rival middle sister Margaux shot for a documentary she planned to do on Ernest. Once the highest paid model in the world, Margaux leaves the viewer with a vivid impression of her brash, raw, eccentric, and endearingly goofy spirit — she’s courageous in her own way as she sips vino with her parents and older sister and tears up during a Spanish bull fight. Are these just first world problems for scions who never hesitated to trade on their name? Kopple is more interested in the humans behind the gloss of fame, spectacle and sensation — the women left in the wake of a literary patriarch’s monumental brand of masculinity and misogyny. And you feel like you get that here, plainly and honestly, in a way that even Papa might appreciate. (1:40) (Kimberly Chun)

Spinning Plates Joseph Levy’s enjoyable documentary contrasts life at three widely disparate U.S. restaurants: the Martinez family’s modest enterprise La Cocina de Gabby, a Tucson showcase for a wife and mother’s Mexican cooking; Breitbach’s Country Dining in rural Iowa, a 151-year-old purveyor of all-American comfort food; and superstar chef Grant Achatz’s Chicago Alinea, where a 24-course meal of culinary art/science experiments can set you back $800 (yes, that’s for one diner). The latter is a global destination for serious foodies, acclaimed by the industry’s most prestigious observers. (Its nearly 24/7 supply deliveries are also a noisy nightmare for someone I know whose apartment is next door.) The teensy town that’s grown up around Breitbach’s has a population of 70; on a busy weekend, the business attracts up to 2,000, many driving long distances to get there. Yet the people we get to know the best here, the émigré Martinezes, illustrate another side of restaurant life — the side in which a majority of new eateries fail within three years, despite (as seemingly is the case at Gabby’s) all palate-pleasing, reasonable pricing and tireless labor. Tying together these three stories is … well, nothing, really, beyond some vague notion that good food is something that breeds “community.” (Yet high-ticket Alinea can hardly be said to reflect that, while Levy doesn’t actually bother interviewing any patrons to let us know whether the other two establishments’ food is anything special.) Still, and despite some rather bogus dramatic chronology-manipulation of events that happened several years ago, Spinning Plates is an entertaining sampler plate of a movie. And the Martinez family’s story lends it a bit of real gravitas. (1:32) (Dennis Harvey)

Thor: The Dark World Since any tentacle of Marvel’s Avengers universe now comes equipped with its own money-printing factory, it’s likely we’ll keep seeing sequels and spin-offs for approximately the next 100 years. With its by-the-numbers plot and “Yeah, seen that before” 3D effects, Thor: The Dark World is forced to rely heavily on the charisma of its leads — Chris Hemsworth as the titular hammer-swinger; Tom Hiddleston as his brooding brother Loki — to hold audience interest. Fortunately, these two (along with Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Idris Elba, and the rest of the supporting cast, most of whom return from the first film) appear to be having a blast under the direction of Alan Taylor, a TV veteran whose credits include multiple Game of Thrones eps. Not that any Avengers flick carries much heft, but especially here, jokey asides far outweigh any moments of actual drama (the plot, about an alien race led by Christopher Eccleston in “dark elf” drag intent on capturing an ancient weapon with the power to destroy all the realms, etc. etc., matters very little). Fanboys and -girls, this one’s for you … and only you. (2:00) (Cheryl Eddy)

Film Listings: November 6 – 12, 2013


Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Kimberly Chun, Dennis Harvey, Lynn Rapoport, Sam Stander, and Sara Maria Vizcarrondo. For rep house showtimes, see Rep Clock.


Dallas Buyers Club See “Life’s Work.” (1:58) Embarcadero.

The Motel Life Brothers (Stephen Dorff, Emile Hirsch) go on the run after a tragic accident. Kris Kristofferson and Dakota Fanning co-star. (1:25) Roxie.

Running From Crazy Can one ever escape one’s toxic genetic legacy, especially when one’s makeup, and even one’s genius, is so entangled with mental illness, the shadow of substance abuse, and a kind of burden of history? Actor, author, healthy-living proponent, and now suicide prevention activist Mariel Hemingway seems cut out to try, as, eh, earnestly as she can, to offer up hope. Part of that involves opening the door to documentarian Barbara Kopple, in this look at the 20th century’s most infamous literary suicide, Mariel’s grandfather Ernest Hemingway, and just one of his familial threads, one full of lives cut deliberately short. For Running From Crazy, Kopple generally keeps the focus on Mariel, who displays all the disarming groundedness and humility of the youngest care-taking, “good” child. Her father, Ernest’s eldest son, Jack, regularly indulged in “wine time” with his ailing wife and, according to Mariel, had a pitch-black side of his own. But we don’t look to closely at him as the filmmaker favors the present, preferring to watch Mariel mountain climb and bicker with her stuntman boyfriend, meet up with her eldest sister Muffet, and ‘fess up about the depression that runs through the Hemingway line to her own daughters. Little is made of Mariel’s own artistic contributions in acting, though Kopple’s work is aided immeasurably by the footage Mariel’s rival middle sister Margaux shot for a documentary she planned to do on Ernest. Once the highest paid model in the world, Margaux leaves the viewer with a vivid impression of her brash, raw, eccentric, and endearingly goofy spirit — she’s courageous in her own way as she sips vino with her parents and older sister and tears up during a Spanish bull fight. Are these just first world problems for scions who never hesitated to trade on their name? Kopple is more interested in the humans behind the gloss of fame, spectacle and sensation — the women left in the wake of a literary patriarch’s monumental brand of masculinity and misogyny. And you feel like you get that here, plainly and honestly, in a way that even Papa might appreciate. (1:40) Opera Plaza, Smith Rafael. (Chun)

Spinning Plates Joseph Levy’s enjoyable documentary contrasts life at three widely disparate U.S. restaurants: the Martinez family’s modest enterprise La Cocina de Gabby, a Tucson showcase for a wife and mother’s Mexican cooking; Breitbach’s Country Dining in rural Iowa, a 151-year-old purveyor of all-American comfort food; and superstar chef Grant Achatz’s Chicago Alinea, where a 24-course meal of culinary art/science experiments can set you back $800 (yes, that’s for one diner). The latter is a global destination for serious foodies, acclaimed by the industry’s most prestigious observers. (Its nearly 24/7 supply deliveries are also a noisy nightmare for someone I know whose apartment is next door.) The teensy town that’s grown up around Breitbach’s has a population of 70; on a busy weekend, the business attracts up to 2,000, many driving long distances to get there. Yet the people we get to know the best here, the émigré Martinezes, illustrate another side of restaurant life — the side in which a majority of new eateries fail within three years, despite (as seemingly is the case at Gabby’s) all palate-pleasing, reasonable pricing and tireless labor. Tying together these three stories is … well, nothing, really, beyond some vague notion that good food is something that breeds “community.” (Yet high-ticket Alinea can hardly be said to reflect that, while Levy doesn’t actually bother interviewing any patrons to let us know whether the other two establishments’ food is anything special.) Still, and despite some rather bogus dramatic chronology-manipulation of events that happened several years ago, Spinning Plates is an entertaining sampler plate of a movie. And the Martinez family’s story lends it a bit of real gravitas. (1:32) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Harvey)

Thor: The Dark World The Avengers juggernaut rolls on as Thor (Chris Hemsworth) grabs his hammer for a stand-alone sequel. See review at (2:00) Balboa, Presidio.


About Time Richard Curtis, the man behind 2003’s Love Actually, must be enjoying his days in England, rolling in large piles of money. Coinciding with the 10-year anniversary of that twee cinematic love fest comes Curtis’ latest ode to joy, About Time. The film begins in Cornwall at an idyllic stone beach house, as Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) describes his family members (Bill Nighy is dad; Richard Cordery is the crazy uncle) and their pleasures (rituals (tea on the beach, ping pong). Despite beachside bliss, Tim is lovelorn and ready to begin a career as a barrister (which feels as out of the blue as the coming first act break). Oh! And as it happens, the men in Tim’s family can travel back in time. There are no clear rules, though births and deaths are like no-trespass signs on the imaginary timeline. When he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams), he falls in love, but if he paves over his own evening by bouncing back and spending that night elsewhere, he loses the path he’s worn into the map and has to fix it. Again and again. Despite potential repetition, About Time moves smoothly, sweetly, slowly along, giving its audience time enough to feel for the characters, and then feel for the characters again, and then keep crying just because the ball’s already in motion. It’s the most nest-like catharsis any British film ever built. (2:03) Marina, SF Center, Shattuck, Sundance Kabuki. (Vizcarrondo)

All Is Lost As other reviewers have pointed out, All Is Lost‘s nearly dialogue-free script (OK, there is one really, really well-placed “Fuuuuuck!”) is about as far from J.C. Chandor’s Oscar-nominated script for 2011’s Margin Call as possible. Props to the filmmaker, then, for crafting as much pulse-pounding magic out of austerity as he did with that multi-character gabfest. Here, Robert Redford plays “Our Man,” a solo sailor whose race to survive begins along with the film, as his boat collides with a hunk of Indian Ocean detritus. Before long, he’s completely adrift, yet determined to outwit the forces of nature that seem intent on bringing him down. The 77-year-old Redford turns in a surprisingly physical performance that’s sure to be remembered as a late-career highlight. (1:46) Albany, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)

Big Sur (1:21) 1000 Van Ness, Smith Rafael.

Blue is the Warmest Color The stars (Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux) say the director was brutal. The director says he wishes the film had never been released (but he might make a sequel). The graphic novelist is uncomfortable with the explicit 10-minute sex scene. And most of the state of Idaho will have to wait to see the film on Netflix. The noise of recrimination, the lesser murmur of backpedaling, and a difficult-to-argue NC-17 rating could make it harder, as French director Abdellatif Kechiche has predicted, to find a calm, neutral zone in which to watch Blue is the Warmest Color, his Palme d’Or–winning adaptation (with co-writer Ghalya Lacroix) of Julie Maroh’s 2010 graphic novel Le Blue Est une Couleur Chaude. But once you’ve committed to the three-hour runtime, it’s not too difficult to tune out all the extra noise and focus on a film that trains its mesmerized gaze on a young woman’s transforming experience of first love. (2:59) Embarcadero, Shattuck, Smith Rafael, Sundance Kabuki. (Rapoport)

Blue Jasmine The good news about Blue Jasmine isn’t that it’s set in San Francisco, but that it’s Woody Allen’s best movie in years. Although some familiar characteristics are duly present, it’s not quite like anything he’s done before, and carries its essentially dramatic weight more effectively than he’s managed in at least a couple decades. Not long ago Jasmine (a fearless Cate Blanchett) was the quintessential Manhattan hostess, but that glittering bubble has burst — exactly how revealed in flashbacks that spring surprises up to the script’s end. She crawls to the West Coast to “start over” in the sole place available where she won’t be mortified by the pity of erstwhile society friends. That would be the SF apartment of Ginger (Sally Hawkins), a fellow adoptive sister who was always looked down on by comparison to pretty, clever Jasmine. Theirs is an uneasy alliance — but Ginger’s too big-hearted to say no. It’s somewhat disappointing that Blue Jasmine doesn’t really do much with San Francisco. Really, the film could take place anywhere — although setting it in a non-picture-postcard SF does bolster the film’s unsettled, unpredictable air. Without being an outright villain, Jasmine is one of the least likable characters to carry a major US film since Noah Baumbach’s underrated Margot at the Wedding (2007); the general plot shell, moreover, is strongly redolent of A Streetcar Named Desire. But whatever inspiration Allen took from prior works, Blue Jasmine is still distinctively his own invention. It’s frequently funny in throwaway performance bits, yet disturbing, even devastating in cumulative impact. (1:38) Metreon, Opera Plaza, Shattuck, Vogue. (Harvey)

Captain Phillips In 2009, Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage by Somali pirates who’d hijacked the Kenya-bound Maersk Alabama. His subsequent rescue by Navy SEALs came after a standoff that ended in the death of three pirates; a fourth, Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, surrendered and is serving a hefty term in federal prison. A year later, Phillips penned a book about his ordeal, and Hollywood pounced. Tom Hanks is perfectly cast as Phillips, an everyman who runs a tight ship but displays an admirable ability to improvise under pressure — and, once rescued, finally allows that pressure to diffuse in a scene of memorably raw catharsis. Newcomer Barkhad Abdi, cast from an open call among Minneapolis’ large Somali community, plays Muse; his character development goes deep enough to emphasize that piracy is one of few grim career options for Somali youths. But the real star here is probably director Paul Greengrass, who adds this suspenseful high-seas tale to his slate of intelligent, doc-inspired thrillers (2006’s United 93, 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum). Suffice to say fans of the reigning king of fast-paced, handheld-camera action will not be disappointed. (2:14) Four Star, 1000 Van Ness, Piedmont, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)

Carrie Is the world ready for a candy-covered Carrie? It’s a sad state of affairs when the best thing about a movie, particularly a wholly superfluous remake like this, is its creepy poster. That’s the closest thing this Carrie has to offer next to that retina-scorching, iconic 1976 image of blood-saturated Sissy Spacek that continues to lend inspiration to baby Billiths everywhere. Nonetheless, like a shy violet cowering in the gym showers, this Carrie comes loaded with potential, with Boys Don’t Cry (1999) director Kimberly Peirce at the helm, the casting of Julianne Moore and Chloe Grace Moretz in the critical mother-daughter roles, and the unfortunately topical bullying theme. Peirce makes a half-hearted attempt to update the, um, franchise when the tormented Carrie (a miscast Moretz) is virally videoed by spoiled rival Chris (Portia Doubleday), but the filmmaker’s heart — and guts — aren’t in this pointless exercise. We speed through the buildup — which unconvincingly sets up Carrie’s torments at home, instigated by obviously mentally ill, Christian fundamentalist mom Margaret (Moore), and at school, where the PE teacher (Judy Greer) pep-talks Carrie and Sue Snell (Gabriella White) is mysteriously hellbent on paying penance for her bullying misdeeds — to the far-from-scary denouement. Let’s say mean-spirited reflexive revenge-taking is no real substitute for true horror and shock. Supposedly drawn to Carrie for its female-empowerment message, Peirce nevertheless isn’t cut out to wade into horror’s crimson waters — especially when one compares this weak rendition with Brian De Palma’s double-screen brio and high-camp Freudian passion play. (1:32) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Shattuck. (Chun)

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (1:35) Metreon.

The Counselor The reviews are in, and it’s clear Ridley Scott has made the most polarizing film of the season. Most of The Counselor‘s detractors blame Cormac McCarthy’s screenplay, the acclaimed author’s first that isn’t drawn from a prexisting novel. To date, the best film made from a McCarthy tale is 2007’s No Country for Old Men, and The Counselor trawls in similar border-noir genre trappings in its tale of a sleek, greedy lawyer (Michael Fassbender) who gets in way over his head after a drug deal (entered into with slippery compadres played by Brad Pitt and Javier Bardem) goes wrong. Yes, there are some problems here, with very few unexpected twists in a downbeat story that’s laden with overlong monologues, most of them delivered by random characters that appear, talk, and are never seen again. But some of those speeches are doozies — and haters are overlooking The Counselor‘s sleazy pleasures (many of which are supplied by Cameron Diaz’s fierce, feline femme fatale) and attention to grimy detail. One suspects cult appreciation awaits. (1:57) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)

Diana The final years of Diana, Princess of Wales are explored in what’s essentially a classed-up Lifetime drama, delving into the on-off romance between “the most famous woman in the world” (Naomi Watts) and heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews). Relationship roadblocks (his Muslim family, back home in Pakistan, is hesistant to accept a divorced, Christian Brit as their son’s partner) are further complicated by extraordinary circumstances (Diana’s fame, which leads to paparazzi intrusions on the very private doctor’s life), but there’s real love between the two, which keeps them returning to each other again and again. By the third or fourth tearful breakup — followed by a passionate reunion — Diana‘s story becomes repetitive as it marches toward its inevitable tragic end. Still, director Oliver Hirschbiegel (2004’s Downfall, another last-days-in-the-life biopic, albeit of a slightly different nature) includes some light-hearted moments, as when a giggling Diana smuggles Hasnat through the palace gates (past guards who know exactly what she’s up to). As you’d expect, Watts is the best thing here, bringing warmth and complexity to a performance that strives to reach beyond imitation. (1:52) SF Center. (Eddy)

Don Jon Shouldering the duties of writer, director, and star for the comedy Don Jon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has also picked up a broad Jersey accent, the physique of a gym rat, and a grammar of meathead posturing — verbal, physical, and at times metaphysical. His character, Jon, is the reigning kingpin in a triad of nightclubbing douchebags who pass their evenings assessing their cocktail-sipping opposite numbers via a well-worn one-to-10 rating system. Sadly for pretty much everyone involved, Jon’s rote attempts to bed the high-scorers are spectacularly successful — the title refers to his prowess in the art of the random hookup — that is, until he meets an alluring “dime” named Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), who institutes a waiting period so foreign to Jon that it comes to feel a bit like that thing called love. Amid the well-earned laughs, there are several repulsive-looking flies in the ointment, but the most conspicuous is Jon’s stealthy addiction to Internet porn, which he watches at all hours of the day, but with a particularly ritualistic regularity after each night’s IRL conquest has fallen asleep. These circumstances entail a fair amount of screen time with Jon’s O face and, eventually, after a season of growth — during which he befriends an older woman named Esther (Julianne Moore) and learns about the existence of arty retro Swedish porn — his “Ohhh&ldots;” face. Driven by deft, tight editing, Don Jon comically and capably sketches a web of bad habits, and Gordon-Levitt steers us through a transformation without straining our capacity to recognize the character we met at the outset — which makes the clumsy over-enunciations that mar the ending all the more jarring. (1:30) Elmwood, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness. (Rapoport)

Ender’s Game Those entering Ender’s Game in search of homophobic threads or politically unsavory themes will likely be frustrated. After all, Orson Scott Card — once a board member of the National Organization for Marriage, and here serving as a producer intent on preserving the 1985 novel that netted him acclaim — has revisited what was initially a short story multiple times over the years, tweaking it to reflect a new political climate, to ready it for new expedient uses. Who knows — the times are a-changin’ fast enough, with the outcry of LGBT activists and the growing acceptance of gay military members, to hope that a gay character might enter the mix someday. Of course, sexuality of all sorts is kept firmly in check in the Ender‘s world. Earth has been invaded by an insect-like species called the Formics, and the planet unifies to serve up its best and brightest (and, it’s implied, most ruthless) young minds, sharpened on first-person-shooters and tactical games, to the cause of defeating the alien “other.” Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is the knowing hybrid of his sociopath brother Peter (Jimmy Pinchak) and compassionate sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin) — of the trinity, he’s “the One,” as Han Solo, I mean, Harrison Ford, cadet talent-spotter and trainer Colonel Graff, puts it. Ender impresses the leather off the hardened old war horse, though the Colonel’s psychologically more equipped cohort Major Anderson (Viola Davis) suspects there’s more going on within their chosen leader. Director-screenwriter Gavin Hood demonstrates his allegiance to Card’s vision, valorizing the discipline and teamwork instilled by military school with the grim purpose and dead serious pleasure one might take in studying a well-oiled machine, while Ender is sharpened and employed as a stunningly effective tool in a war he never truly conceived of. This game has a bit more in common with the recent Wii-meets-Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Godzillas of Pacific Rim than the winking, acidic satire of Starship Troopers (1997), echoing a drone-driven War on Terror that has a way of detaching even the most evolved fighter from the consequences of his or her actions. The question is how to undo, or rewrite, the damage done. (1:54) 1000 Van Ness, Presidio, SF Center, Sundance Kabuki. (Chun)

Enough Said Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a divorced LA masseuse who sees naked bodies all day but has become pretty wary of wanting any in her bed at night. She reluctantly changes her mind upon meeting the also-divorced Albert (James Gandolfini), a television archivist who, also like her, is about to see his only child off to college. He’s no Adonis, but their relationship develops rapidly — the only speed bumps being provided by the many nit-picking advisors Eva has in her orbit, which exacerbate her natural tendency toward glass-half-empty neurosis. This latest and least feature from writer-director Nicole Holofcener is a sitcom-y thing of the type that expects us to find characters all the more adorable the more abrasive and self-centered they are. That goes for Louis-Dreyfus’ annoying heroine as well as such wasted talents as Toni Colette as her kvetching best friend and Catherine Keener as a new client turned new pal so bitchy it makes no sense Eva would desire her company. The only nice person here is Albert, whom the late Gandolfini makes a charming, low-key teddy bear in an atypical turn. The revelation of an unexpected past tie between his figure and Keener’s puts Eva in an ethically disastrous position she handles dismally. In fact, while it’s certainly not Holofcener’s intention, Eva’s behavior becomes so indefensible that Enough Said commits rom-com suicide: The longer it goes on, the more fervently you hope its leads will not end up together. (1:33) Albany, Piedmont. (Harvey)

Escape Plan It’s fascinating how ruined faces and silvered goatees can lend an air of, uh, gravitas to even the most muscle-bound action-movie veterans. The logic: Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger have been around so long that they must possess more than a few brain cells to rub together. And rub they do — to surprisingly pleasing effect in this cut-above-the-next-Expendables-sequel meeting of blockbuster behemoths. Stallone’s Ray Breslin is a prison security specialist so nerdily devoted to his work that he gets himself locked up to test his clients’ jails. He gets in over his head when he’s thrown into the most secure private prison in the world, which happens to be run by former Blackwater mercenaries. It’s essentially the next, rather permanent-looking step after your not-so-friendly rendition flight. Breslin befriends security man Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), who’s in the clink on behalf of his “digital Robin Hood” boss. Menaced by warden Hobbs (Jim Caviezel) and brawny Drake (Vinnie Jones), the two prisoners kick off a changeable game, Muslim prisoner Javed (Faran Tahir) in tow. Director Mikael Håfström lays out the plans with geeky enthusiasm by way of zippy point-of-view shots that are supposed to let you into Breslin’s noggin. Shockingly, after Stallone’s recent brain-dead exercises (2012’s Bullet to the Head), it’s not an unhappy experience in this smarter-than-it-looks post-9/11 prison-break drama that wears its complicated feelings about War on Terror-era crime and punishment — and torture — on its sleeve. Still, matters never get too bleeding-heart liberal here, at the risk of alienating the stars’ audiences. Sly obviously embraces this opportunity to play smarter than usual, while the ex-Governator sinks his choppers into his role with glee, trotting out a Commando-style slo-mo gun-swinging move that will have his geek brigade cheering. (1:56) SF Center. (Chun)

Free Birds (1:31) Elmwood, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

God Loves Uganda Most contemporary Americans don’t know much about Uganda — that is, beyond Forest Whitaker’s Oscar-winning performance as Idi Amin in 2006’s The Last King of Scotland. Though that film took some liberties with the truth, it did effectively convey the grotesque terrors of the dictator’s 1970s reign. But even decades post-Amin, the East African nation has somehow retained its horrific human-rights record. For example: what extremist force was behind the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which proposed the death penalty as punishment for gayness? The answer might surprise you, or not. As the gripping, fury-fomenting doc God Loves Uganda reveals, America’s own Christian Right has been exporting hate under the guise of missionary work for some time. Taking advantage of Uganda’s social fragility — by building schools and medical clinics, passing out food, etc. — evangelical mega churches, particularly the Kansas City, Mo.-based, breakfast-invoking International House of Prayer, have converted large swaths of the population to their ultra-conservative beliefs. Filmmaker Roger Ross Williams, an Oscar winner for 2010 short Music by Prudence, follows naive “prayer warriors” as they journey to Uganda for the first time; his apparent all-access relationship with the group shows that they aren’t outwardly evil people — but neither do they comprehend the very real consequences of their actions. His other sources, including two Ugandan clergymen who’ve seen their country change for the worse and an LGBT activist who lives every day in peril, offer a more harrowing perspective. Evocative and disturbing, God Loves Uganda seems likely to earn Williams more Oscar attention. (1:23) Roxie. (Eddy)

Gravity “Life in space is impossible,” begins Gravity, the latest from Alfonso Cuarón (2006’s Children of Men). Egghead Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is well aware of her precarious situation after a mangled satellite slams into her ship, then proceeds to demolition-derby everything (including the International Space Station) in its path. It’s not long before she’s utterly, terrifyingly alone, and forced to unearth near-superhuman reserves of physical and mental strength to survive. Bullock’s performance would be enough to recommend Gravity, but there’s more to praise, like the film’s tense pacing, spare-yet-layered script (Cuarón co-wrote with his son, Jonás), and spectacular 3D photography — not to mention George Clooney’s warm supporting turn as a career astronaut who loves country music almost as much as he loves telling stories about his misadventures. (1:31) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Presidio, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)

Inequality for All Jacob Kornbluth’s Inequality for All is the latest and certainly not the last documentary to explore why the American Dream is increasingly out of touch with everyday reality, and how the definition of “middle class” somehow morphed from “comfortable” to “struggling, endangered, and hanging by a thread.” This lively overview has an ace up its sleeve in the form of the director’s friend, collaborator, and principal interviewee Robert Reich — the former Clinton-era Secretary of Labor, prolific author, political pundit, and UC Berkeley Professor of Public Policy. Whether he’s holding forth on TV, going one-on-one with Kornbluth’s camera, talking to disgruntled working class laborers, or engaging students in his Wealth and Poverty class, Inequality is basically a resourcefully illustrated Reich lecture — as the press notes put it, “an Inconvenient Truth for the economy.” Fortunately, the diminutive Reich is a natural comedian as well as a superbly cogent communicator, turning yet another summary of how the system has fucked almost everybody (excluding the one percent) into the one you might most want to recommend to the bewildered folks back home. He’s sugar on the pill, making it easier to swallow so much horrible news. (1:25) California. (Harvey)

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (1:32) Metreon, 1000 Van Ness.

Kill Your Darlings Relieved to escape his Jersey home, dominated by the miseries of an oft-institutionalized mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and long-suffering father (David Cross), Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) enters Columbia University in 1944 as a freshman already interested in the new and avant-garde. He’s thus immediately enchanted by bad-boy fellow student Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), a veteran of numerous prestigious schools and well on the road to getting kicked out of this one. Charismatic and reckless, Carr has a circle of fellow eccentrics buzzing around him, including dyspeptic William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) and merchant marine wild child Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston). Variably included in or ostracized from this training ground for future Beat luminaries is the older David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), a disgraced former academic who’d known Carr since the latter was 14, and followed him around with pathetic, enamored devotion. It’s this last figure’s apparent murder by Carr that provides the bookending crux of John Krokidas’ impressive first feature, a tragedy whose motivations and means remain disputed. Partly blessed by being about a (comparatively) lesser-known chapter in an overexposed, much-mythologized history, Kill Your Darlings is easily one of the best dramatizations yet of Beat lore, with excellent performances all around. (Yes, Harry Potter actually does pass quite well as a somewhat cuter junior Ginsberg.) It’s sad if somewhat inevitable that the most intriguing figure here — Hall’s hapless, lovelorn stalker-slash-victim — is the one that remains least knowable to both the film and to the ages. (1:40) SF Center, Shattuck. (Harvey)

Last Vegas This buddy film may look like a Bucket List-Hangover hybrid, but it’s got a lot more Spring Breakers in it than you expect — who beats Vegas for most bikinis per capita? Four old friends reunite for a wedding in Vegas, where they drink, gamble, and are confused for legendary men. Morgan Freeman sneaks out of his son’s house to go. Kevin Kline’s wife gave him a hall pass to regain his lost sense of fun. Kline and Freeman trick Robert De Niro into going — he’s got a grudge against Michael Douglas, so why celebrate that jerk’s nuptials to a 30-year-old? The conflicts are mostly safe and insubstantial, but the in-joke here is that all of these acting legends are confused for legends by their accidentally obtained VIP host (Romany Malco). These guys have earned their stature, so what gives? When De Niro flings fists you shudder inside remembering Jake LaMotta. Kline’s velvety comic delivery is just as swaggery as it was during his 80s era collaborations with Lawrence Kasdan. Douglas is “not as charming as he thinks he is,” yet again, and voice-of-God Freeman faces a conflict specific to paternal protective urges. Yes, Last Vegas jokes about the ravages of age and prescribes tenacity for all that ails us, but I want a cast this great celebrated at least as obviously as The Expendables films. Confuse these guys for better? Show me who. (1:44) Four Star, Metreon, 1000 Van Ness, Presidio. (Vizcarrondo)

Man of Tai Chi (1:45) Metreon.

Muscle Shoals Hard on the heels of Dave Grohl’s Sound City comes another documentary about a legendary American recording studio. Located in the titular podunk Northern Alabama burg, Fame Studio drew an extraordinary lineup of musicians and producers to make fabled hits from the early 1960s through the early ’80s. Among them: Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” a slew of peak era Aretha Franklin smashes, the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar,” and those cornerstones of Southern rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” Tales of how particular tracks came about are entertaining, especially when related by the still-lively likes of Etta James, Wilson Pickett, and Keith Richards. (Richards is a hoot, while surprisingly Mick Jagger doesn’t have much to say.) Director Greg Camalier’s feature can be too worshipful and digressive at times, and he’s skittish about probing fallouts between Fame’s founder Rick Hall and some long-term collaborators (notably the local in-house session musicians known as the Swampers who were themselves a big lure for many artists, and who left Fame to start their own successful studio). Still, there’s enough fascinating material here — also including a lot of archival footage — that any music fan whose memory or interest stretches back a few decades will find much to enjoy. (1:51) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Harvey)

12 Years a Slave Pop culture’s engagement with slavery has always been uneasy. Landmark 1977 miniseries Roots set ratings records, but the prestigious production capped off a decade that had seen some more questionable endeavors, including 1975 exploitation flick Mandingo — often cited by Quentin Tarantino as one of his favorite films; it was a clear influence on his 2012 revenge fantasy Django Unchained, which approached its subject matter in a manner that paid homage to the Westerns it riffed on: with guns blazing. By contrast, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is nuanced and steeped in realism. Though it does contain scenes of violence (deliberately captured in long takes by regular McQueen collaborator Sean Bobbitt, whose cinematography is one of the film’s many stylistic achievements), the film emphasizes the horrors of “the peculiar institution” by repeatedly showing how accepted and ingrained it was. Slave is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, an African American man who was sold into slavery in 1841 and survived to pen a wrenching account of his experiences. He’s portrayed here by the powerful Chiwetel Ejiofor. Other standout performances come courtesy of McQueen favorite Michael Fassbender (as Epps, a plantation owner who exacerbates what’s clearly an unwell mind with copious amounts of booze) and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, as a slave who attracts Epps’ cruel attentions. (2:14) California, Embarcadero, Marina, Piedmont, Sundance Kabuki. (Eddy)

Wadjda Hijabs, headmistresses, and errant fathers fall away before the will and wherewithal of the 11-year-old title character of Wadjda, the first feature by a female Saudi Arabian filmmaker. Director Haifaa al-Mansour’s own story — which included filming on the streets of Riyadh from the isolation of a van because she couldn’t work publicly with the men in the crew — is the stuff of drama, and it follows that her movie lays out, in the neorealist style of 1948’s The Bicycle Thief, the obstacles to freedom set in the path of women and girls in Saudi Arabia, in terms that cross cultural, geographic, and religious boundaries. The fresh star setting the course is Wadjda (first-time actor Waad Mohammed), a smart, irrepressibly feisty girl practically bursting out of her purple high-tops and intent on racing her young neighborhood friend Abudullah (Abdullrahman Algohani) on a bike. So many things stand in her way: the high price of bicycles and the belief that girls will jeopardize their virginity if they ride them; her distracted mother (Reem Abdullah) who’s worried that Wadjda’s father will take a new wife who can bear him a son; and a harsh, elegant headmistress (Ahd) intent on knuckling down on girlish rebellion. So Wadjda embarks on studying for a Qu’ran recital competition to win money for her bike and in the process learns a matter or two about discipline — and the bigger picture. Director al-Mansour teaches us a few things about her world as well — and reminds us of the indomitable spirit of girls — with this inspiring peek behind an ordinarily veiled world. (1:37) Opera Plaza, Shattuck. (Chun)

Zaytoun It’s 1982 in war-torn Beirut, and on the semi-rare occasion that streetwise 12-year-old Palestinian refugee Fahed (Abdallah El Akal) attends school, he’s faced with an increasing number of empty desks, marked by photos of the dead classmates who used to sit there. His own father is killed in an air strike as Zaytoun begins. When an Israeli pilot (Stephen Dorff — a surprising casting choice, but not a bad one) is shot down and becomes a PLO prisoner, Fahed’s feelings of hatred give way to curiosity, and he agrees to help the man escape back to Israel, so long as he brings Fahed, who’s intent on planting his father’s olive sapling in his family’s former village, along. It’s not an easy journey, and a bond inevitably forms — just as problems inevitably ensue when they reach the border. Israeli director Eran Riklis (2008’s Lemon Tree) avoids sentimentality in this tale that nonetheless travels a pretty predictable path. (1:50) Smith Rafael. (Eddy) *


Party with us at our 39th annual Best of the Bay celebration!


The San Francisco Bay Guardian presents our 39th Annual Best of the Bay party to celebrate the awesome people, places and things that make living in the Bay Area so great, featuring Maus Haus and MicahTron!

Plus: DJ Dials to start out the evening, with House of Babes DJs Rapidfire, Pink Lightning, and Jenna Riot to follow. Upstairs, you will find a special Motown on Mondays dance party with special guest vocalist Ezekiel McCarter (Afrolicious, Con Brio, Ascension)!

With three hosted bars, Hella Vegan Eats, Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement, and Hey Cookie! on site, free photos by Snappea Photobooths, and more!

Get your tickets here (advance tickets are recommended!) and click on “Purchase Now.” At check out, please consider donating to La Cocina, our official non-profit sponsor of the event. Other sponsors include Fiat, Rolling Rock, Distillery 209, Stein Family Wines, La Cocina, WillCall, and Guitar Center.

Wednesday, November 6 from 8:30pm-midnight @ 1015 Folsom, SF | $10, includes hosted bar, free photo booth, and more!




It is with good reason that Hella Vegan Eats’ doughnut burger was the runaway star of the San Francisco Street Food Festival this year. No false modesty here: the Bay Guardian had already been praising that sticky delicious beet burger for months, even giving it top billing in our “Vegan Junk Food” feature. But no matter who broke the story; the real scoop here is that special dish, lovingly crafted by couple-founders Tiffany and Sylvee Esquivel, and showing up regularly at places like Dear Mom, Timeless Coffee in Oakland, and Dolores Park through La Cocina. Dig its moist-yet-crunchy patty fashioned from freekah (an ancient cereal) and beets and plopped between two (vegan) sugar donuts, piled high with pickled veggies, and laced with a tangy secret sauce. So wrong that it’s right.

Celebrating food (and the food biz) at La Cocina’s Food and Entrepreneurship Conference


La Cocina — known for its ability to break down cultural barriers through food and for aiding low-income food entrepreneurs in their journey to sustainability — drew many fresh faces to its fourth annual Food and Entrepreneurship Conference Sun/18. The conference wrapped up a busy weekend for the organization, which also hosted the fifth annual San Francisco Street Food Festival Sat/17.

The all-day conference, held at SOMArts Cultural Center, was a mixing bowl of talented women cooks, curious food-business pioneers, new volunteers, and delicious food. Needless to say, the atmosphere was buzzing.

The theme was centered around work, women, and food. Three panels throughout the day featured business owners, food writers, and urban food-access coordinators, who discussed their inspirations for cooking, how to catch a food writer’s attention, and how to provide affordable food to urban landscapes, among other topics.

Carlos Rivera, director of Radio Laser Los Angeles, a family-centered Latino radio station based in Los Angeles, said he came to soak up La Cocina’s mission and hopes to spread it in the LA area.

“We’re discovering what they’re doing here. The most important thing is culture,” he said, adding that the LA area would benefit tremendously from La Cocina’s services. “There is a division of culture. We [Los Angeles] will need three or four La Cocinas. Thousands of people come to these seminars, but only a few catch the idea — culinary culture with fresh, healthy foods.”

The sharing of cultures is one goal that La Cocina and the businesses within it hit dead-on. It’s certainly true of Chiefo Chukwudebe, chef and owner of Chiefo’s Kitchen, with wares available at La Cocina’s Ferry Building kiosk, among other locations.

Chukwudebe spoke at the event about her culinary journey and her inspirations. She specializes in home-cooked Nigerian dishes like grilled suya chicken (“marinated in fresh ginger garlic and roasted peanut sauce and coated with West African peanut pepper spice rub,” according to the Chiefo’s Kitchen website). Another customer favorite is her take on Scotch eggs.

“Not a lot of people know about Nigerian food,” said Chukwudebe, who’s been with La Cocina for three years. “Most of what they know [about Nigeria] is from the news. But the best way to get to know a culture is through food. My goal is to bring the best of West Africa to the Bay Area. I want people to taste Africa, to taste the sunshine. There’s more to food than what’s on the plate.”

She is glad to be a part of La Cocina and said the business brings the issues of food to the forefront, and above all, provides her with a network of fellow cooks and owners.

“Most important to me is the community of women business owners providing support,” she said. “It’s hard work, but I wouldn’t change it.”

The event drew in people who are new to the food business and others who hope to jump in soon, including an Oakland resident who preferred not to give her name for professional reasons. She hopes to quit her job and start a community food space, kitchen, and market place in Oakland later this year, and she’s enjoyed drawing up ambitious plans for her future sustainable food business.

“It’s been fun connecting with people who are excited about making it happen,” she said, noting that she was inspired by the food owner speakers at the event. “People are doing pieces of what I want to do.”

Throughout the day, between panels and during coffee breaks, there was lots of upbeat chatter and excited conversations. Anna Rakoczy, a new business owner and founder of Homemade, an organization that holds weekly healthy cooking meet ups for sustainable weight loss, was especially enthused about the event. La Cocina, she noted, “helps entrepreneurs who are cooking real food with real ingredients.”

To the fit Stanford graduate, helping others become healthy is not just a job. “For me, to actually show people how easy it is to achieve weight loss and a sustainable lifestyle just by eating delicious, healthy, natural, real food … that, for me, is so inspiring and exciting,” said Rakoczy.

Luis Gonzales, a Treasure Island resident who volunteered at the event, aptly captured the spirit of La Cocina, and its small food businesses. “People look for homemade food and the public helps them [small food businesses] survive,” he said. “It’s like a symbiotic relationship.”

Promo: SF Street Food Festival is this Saturday!


La Cocina’s San Francisco Street Food Festival brings all of the best food and music in the Bay Area to one street, once a year, to celebrate the talent, taste, and entrepreneurial spirit of people who make a living doing what they love to do. Over the years, the festival has both galvanized a national movement while supporting local businesses – both informal vendors and high-profile restaurants.  

Admission to the festival is free, however all food at the event – whether from State Bird Provisions, Central Kitchen, or the local tamale-maker’s tent – will be priced at under $8. Attendees may purchase a passport before the event, the culinary ticket to all street food and discounts, to save time and money.   

In addition to mouth-watering eats from 80-plus vendors, the festival serves as a fundraiser for La Cocina’s kitchen incubator, cultivating low-income and immigrant food entrepreneurs since 2005. For the complete festival line-up and continued updates, download the festival app or visit

Saturday, August 17 from 11am-7pm in the Mission, on Folsom from 20th to 26th  Streets, and on 21st and 25th Streets from Treat to Shotwell, as well as the Cesar Chavez Elementary School parking lot, Parque de los Ninos Unidos, and Jose Coronada Playground






The Selector: August 14 – 20, 2013





Long before SF became hospitable to starts-up and high tech biz, it fostered dance innovation. No one in the city boasts this continued support more so than the Garage, the place with the red door that welcomes all-comers. Some of those choreographers, however, have outgrown the Garage’s limited studio space. Hence, the yearly Summer Performance Festival (SPF), which throws the spotlight on those ready for the bigger world. Last year SPF moved to ODC Theater, which was a great decision. ODC offers a superb, professional, yet still intimate environment. The eight 2013 choreographers — selected from 120 — are BodiGram, Jenni Bregman, Aura Fischbeck, Gretchen Garnett, Angela Mazziota, Milissa Payne, Nine Shards, and VinnicombeWinkler. Their pieces range from solos to a dozen or more dancers; from 15 to 45 minutes; inspired by, among others, kids drawings and hot air balloons. (Rita Felciano)

Through Fri/16, 7pm and 9pm, (Sat/17, also 4pm; Sun/18, 2pm, 4pm, 7pm), $10–$20

3153 17th St, SF

(415) 863-9834


Ivan & Alyosha

Seattle band Ivan & Alyosha creates a beautifully feel-good take on folk and indie rock. However, the group’s songs are more than just catchy tunes. The band, which was formed by Tim Wilson and Ryan Carbary, delves into darker patterns and themes on songs like “Don’t Wanna Die Anymore,” an indignant and resolute track with soft melodies that speaks of repentance and death. This balance of fast-paced, catchy, foot-stomping rhythms with earnest, ballad-like vocals gives listeners a wide variety of moods to choose from. One of its most buzz-worthy songs seems to say it all — the band is “Easy to Love.” And this summer, Ivan & Alyosha has been hitting the venues hard, touring on the latest, highly acclaimed album All the Times We’ve Had, with a stop in SF tonight. Come and see just how easy it is to love the rising band. (Hillary Smith)

With the Record Company 8pm, $15


628 Divisadero, SF

(415) 771-1421



Divisadero Art Walk

For better or worse (depends who you ask), Divisadero Street, between Geary and Haight, is undergoing a transformation. Some long-standing businesses (Blue Jay Café, Little Chihuahua, Fly Bar, the Page, NOPA) remain, while others have recently settled in that Alamo Square-ian, Panhandle-adjacent nook (Bi-Rite, Rare Device, the Mill, San Franpsycho). And yet, they all exist in basic brick-and-mortar harmony along Divis, and will showcase such familial spirits at the annual Divisadero Art Walk tonight. Journey down Divis to take in the basics: art shows, store discounts, food and drink, live music. Some offerings of note: Vinyl’s got Pizza Hacker craft pizza, the Page will have an extended happy hour till 9pm, and Madrone Art Bar hosts Fred Windisch’s surf photography from the 1960s, New Orleans piano music, and a free Night Fever Disco Party. Plus, the New Liberation Community Garden at 1100 Divisadero, a project of Neighbors Developing Divisadero and the New Liberation Church, will host SF Skate Club’s skate jam, a variety show, and jazz-inspired artwork. (Emily Savage)

5pm, free

Divisadero between Geary and Haight, SF

Facebook: Divisadero Art Walk


“Neon Slime Double Feature!”

Everyone knows there’s beef between Los Angeles and San Francisco — and not just where baseball is concerned. But rivalries that run as deep as fault lines be damned: SoCal’s Cinefamily and our very own Roxie are making a star-spangled case for harmony — through movies! Trashy movies, no less! Cinefamily zips into town tonight carrying precious cargo: 35mm prints of 1984’s Angel (“honor student by day, Hollywood hooker by night!”) and 1982’s Vice Squad (two words: killer pimp), to be screened before San Francisco eyeballs hungry for garish, sleazy exploitation rarities. Together we can! (Cheryl Eddy)

Angel, 9:15pm; Vice Squad, 11pm, $12

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St, SF


Useless Children

Useless Children, a noisy hardcore act hailing from Australia, has made its way from down under to play with Seattle-based noise rock band Dream Decay, and North Bay stoner-garage act, the Vibrating Antennas. With its second album — 2012’s Post Ending // Pre-Completion — in tow, this will be Useless Children’s first time venturing into the US. The band, known for its chaotic sound, takes an artsy, more experimental approach to modern hardcore. And those supporters also pack a punch, both known for being rowdy and playing powerful live shows. If you like your music feedback-laden with murky distortion pedals, then this may be the show for you. Get ready for a night of violent noise rock in a bar. (Erin Dage)

8:30pm, $7

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923


Matatu Film Festival

The traveling Matatu Film Festival — named for a Swahili term that refers to ride-share taxis in Kenya and other East African countries — visits Oakland’s New Parkway Theater with films depicting “global journeys of humility, pride, resistance, and faith.” The fest opens tonight with Patricia Benoit’s story of Haitian immigrants in New York, Stones in the Sun (2012). It closes Sat/17 with Senegalese director Alain Gomis’ Tey (2012), about a man drifting through the last day of his life. (Both films are followed by tie-in music events at the nearby New Parish.) Among the other screenings: powerful docs God Loves Uganda and Stolen Seas (2012), well worth catching if you’ve missed them at previous local fests. (Eddy)

Through Sat/17

New Parkway Theater

474 24th St, Oakl


Best Coast

Under “biography” on Best Coast’s website, there is a single phrase: “Inspired by life and love and everything else.” Brief as it is, this little credo is really all one needs to know about Best Coast’s beach-bleached garage jangle. Frontperson Bethany Cosentino’s attention is sometimes attributed to her rock star boyfriend (Nathan Williams of Wavves) or her Internet-famous cat (the almighty Snacks) but after two successful albums — not to mention an unflaggingly devoted fan base —Best Coast’s catalog speaks for itself. The LA outfit’s simple, sunny pop songs are not particularly challenging, adventurous, or intellectual, but sometimes a hyper-listenable little slice of SoCal bliss is just what you need on a gray San Francisco day. (Haley Zaremba)

With Bleached

8pm, $25


1805 Geary, SF

(415) 346-6000




Have you ever worried that you just didn’t have enough grindcore in your boring, monotonous life? For those who have had that terrifying thought, Oakland’s third annual Deadfest is the perfect remedy. Boasting headliners such as ’90s grindcore heroes Dropdead and sludge bands Noothgrush and Brainoil, this will be a weekend of hardcore not soon forgotten. In true grindcore tradition, there will be over a dozen bands in a short period of time each night on two stages. Get ready for an aural assault that will have your ears ringing for days. As the youngsters these days say: “See you in the pit!” Just a reminder: It’s best not to be 30 minutes late to this event, because you run the risk of missing two to three bands. (Dage)

Through Sat/17, 8pm, $15 per night

Oakland Metro Opera House

630 Third St, Oakl.

(510) 763-1146



SF Street Food Fest

La Cocina’s annual San Francisco Food Street Festival gives locals the chance to sample cuisines from all over the world. Food trucks and booths line the streets at the festival in a pulsing, crowded mix of aromas and flavorful dishes like the Penang peanut tacos from Azalina’s, Peruvian ceviche from Cholo Soy, or beef pho rolls from Rice Paper Scissors. The Mozzeria stand can satisfy your cheese craving with the Margherita pizza — fresh mozzarella, pomodoro sauce, and basil. And if you desire a sweet and refreshing beverage, visit the Curry Up Now truck and try the Rose Lassi. The festival has an infinite amount of combinations, and it’s fun to try as many of them as your stomach, and wallet, will allow. Donations made at the festival support La Cocina’s business incubator program which aids early-stage entrepreneurs growing healthy, sustainable food businesses. (Smith)

11am-7pm, free

Folsom from 20th to 26th, SF


“Eat a Bug! An Interactive Bug Cooking Workshop”

Oh sure, you call yourself a foodie. But would you dare snack on a scorpion or gnaw on a hairy tarantula leg? Test the limits of your taste buds (and earn some sweet bragging rights) with author David George Gordon, aka “The Bug Chef,” whose wholly unique Eat-a-Bug Cookbook contains such recipes as “Sheesh! Kabobs,” featuring “12 frozen katydids, locusts, or other suitably sized Orthoptera, thawed.” Gordon’s cooking demo is aimed at adventurous chefs of all ages — Fear Factor fans and planners of daring dinner parties alike. (Eddy)

1-3pm, $10-$20

San Francisco Botanical Garden

Golden Gate Park (near the corner of Ninth Ave and Lincoln), SF



San Francisco Mixtape Society: Camp

Bug juice and swimming holes, acoustic guitar strumming by the crackling fire and hand-braided friendship bracelets around your wrists, those sticky-sweet summer breezes whistling through the trees. Yes, the thought of summer camp tends to bring back warm and itchy memories for the lot of us who experienced such seasonal traditions in our youth (even for those who accidently went to Christian horse camp, but that’s another story). Put those nostalgic feelings to tape, or CD, or flash drive, then share them with that bright and bubbly SF Mixtape Society crowd tonight, at this newest installment of its quarterly gathering, centered around the theme of “Camp.” Maybe I’ll even make an accidently-religious-pony-camp mix to trade. Although, as the Mixtape Society smartly likes to keep its themes broad, the “Camp” distinction could lend itself to something else entirely, say, a campy Judy Garland track? As always, the meetup is open to all and free of charge, but you can only take a mix home if you bring your own to trade. Didn’t you ever learn the joy of sharing? (Savage)

4-6pm, free

Make-Out Room

3225 22nd St., SF



The She’s

If you walked anywhere in the downtown area during July, you’re probably already familiar with the She’s. The band was featured by the Converse Represent campaign, and its image, pushing a drum kit up one of SF’s trademarked hills, has been boldly splashed around the city. Converse chose well. The She’s embody all the youth, DIY attitude, and vintage pop that San Francisco loves. Their debut album, appropriately titled Then It Starts To Feel Like Summer, retrofits dreamy ’60s pop with a crackling teenage energy (these ladies are still in high school) and they’re finishing up a much-anticipated EP, tentatively titled We’re not Best Coast (But They’re Cool Too). The band, which has credited much of its success to the open and supportive SF music scene, is giving back tonight at Bottom of the Hill, where it’s headlining this Save KUSF Benefit. (Zaremba)

With the Yes Go’s, False Priest

$10, 9pm

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St, SF

(415) 626-4455

On the Cheap: August 14 – 20, 2013


On the Cheap listings are compiled by Guardian staff. Submit items for the listings at For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Selector.


Toby Barlow Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; 7:30pm, free. The Detroit-based author reads from his latest novel, Babayaga.

Caleb Crain 1 Ferry Bldg, SF; 6pm, free. The journalist and literary critic discusses his new work, Necessary Errors.

Fran Moreland Johns Books Inc., 3515 California, SF; 7pm, free. The author shares Perilous Times: An Inside Look at Abortion Before and After Roe V. Wade.


Yangsze Choo 1 Ferry Bldg, SF; 6pm, free. The author reads from her debut novel, The Ghost Bride.

Dr. Ellen Cutler Books Inc., 2251 Chestnut, SF; 7pm, free. The holistic healing pioneer discusses Clearing the Way to Health and Wellness.

Dr. Christopher Herndon Bone Room, 1573 Solano, Berk; 7pm, free. The UCSF physician discusses “Learning from Tribal Healers,” drawing on his own experiences working with Amazonian healers.

“Shipwreck: Competitive Erotic Fanfiction” Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; 7pm, $10 (included drinks). The Booksmith and Write Club SF present the third installment of an event in which “six writers destroy one great book” by inserting its characters into new and strange worlds. This time around, it’s The Wizard of Oz. Surrender!

“3rd on Third Arts Celebration” Third St between McKinnon and Quesada, SF; 5:30-8pm, free. Bayview’s Third Street Corridor hosts activities for the whole family, including live mural painting, pop-up galleries, a “children’s zone,” food vendors, live music by Afrolicious, KBLX DJs Rick and Russ, and more.


Cathleen Miller Books Inc., 601 Van Ness, SF; 7pm, free. The author shares Champion of Choice, a biography of reproductive-rights advocate Nafis Sadik.

“Mugsy Is the New Black” El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; or @musgyawinebar. 5:30-8:30pm, free. It’s a pop-up wine bar focusing on winemakers who are queer, female, and/or people of color. El Rio serves free oysters (limited quantities) starting at 5:30pm, so show up early and sip wares from Gratta Wines, Farina Blanco, and more.


“Family Day Kite Festival” Main Post Lawn, 103 Montgomery, Presidio, SF; 11am-5pm, free. One of the windiest places in San Francisco (and that’s saying a lot) hosts this fun and colorful festival, with a “Make-a-Kite” pavilion for kids, kite acrobatics, a variety of kite-flying contests, the intriguing possibility of “candy-showering kites,” and more.

“San Francisco Street Food Festival” Folsom at 24th St, SF; 11am-7pm, free (bring cash for food). La Cocina hosts what’s sure to be an insanely popular event, with local food trucks, restaurants, and pop-ups selling their wares to the hip and hungry masses. Arriving early and not trying to park nearby are both advised.

“Take the Field” AT&T Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, SF; 1-5pm, $5 suggested donation. Support kid-helping charity Coaching Corps and live out your own baseball fantasies with this event held on the Giants’ home turf; activities include a “Splash Hits Derby,” a base-running game; photo ops with the World Series trophies, and more.


“Urban Air Market” Pier 70 (near 3rd and 20th Sts), SF; 11am, free. You’ve probably browsed the stalls when this pop-up market has appeared in other neighborhoods (Hayes Valley, for one); now, for the first time, Dogpatch’s Pier 70 plays host to this showcase of local, independent designers, with emphasis placed on sustainable and “green” products.


Ben Alamar Booksmith, 1644 Haight, SF; 7:30pm, free. The sports-statistics expert discusses Sports Analytics: A Guide for Coaches, Managers, and Other Decision Makers with Zyzzyva managing editor Oscar Villalon.

Michael Paterniti 1 Ferry Bldg, SF; 6pm, free. The author reads from The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese, a nonfiction work inspired by a highly sought-after variety of Spanish queso. *


Can’t-miss treats at the upcoming SF Street Food Fest


The smells of deliciousness were overwhelming. Where do we start?!

As Sam Love and I wandered around the La Cocina media preview for August 17’s San Francisco Street Food Festival, everywhere we looked there were delightful taste treats, colorful, fresh and also deep fried. I’ll take four of each, thank you.

We made the rounds, chatting with fantastic chefs who are living their dreams, whipping up flavors from around the world. We tried everything and, while we enjoyed it all, becoming clean plate champions many times over, there were three highlights that made our short list. If you don’t have the stomach to make it to all the vendors at the Street Food Festival, we’d recommend trying these first:

Chiefo’s Kitchen
Chiefo served plantain and chocolate bread pudding that was soft and heavenly, but also punched back with a sinful slap of rum. Chiefo’s Kitchen West African flavors are not to miss. Check her out at the Night Market!

Azalina’s Malaysian
I live for Azalina’s smile. She could hand me a slice of cold leftover pizza, and with that smile, it would taste like the most exquisite dish. The fact is, Azalina cooks with tremendous love and care, and eating her food is therapy for the soul. She is an amazing chef, from a long family line of street vendors from Penang, and her food explodes with the island’s spices, but also takes advantage of our freshest local California produce. She prepared sweet potato dumplings, decorated with colorful fruit and veggie bonnets. So yum!

Hella Vegan Eats
Two words: doughnut burger. Wait — it’s not what you’re thinking! It’s a doughnut sandwich stuffed with a beet and kamut patty, topped with kale, pickled red onions and dill weed, and squirted with secret sauce. It’s pretty much the cutest thing ever, perfectly balancing the most unhealthy and healthy food items in a few giant bites, and worth unhinging your jaw for. Vegan can definitely be bad-ass.

Photos by Bowerbird Photography

Mall the right moves


STREET SEEN The fact that that our conversation is taking place to beat of Carly Rae Jepsen’s 2012 seminal classic “Call Me Maybe” leads me to believe that T-We Tea owner Christopher Coccagna is being real when he says he’ll be holding 12:30pm dance parties for the FiDi lunch set in the darling tea shop he just opened in the neighborhood.

It also leads me to believe that Crocker Galleria may be downtown’s most fun mall — or at least, that it’s on the way.

“I was totally down on having a retail store,” Coccagna tells me as we ship cups of his “Chai Me” blend in his small shop’s kiki parlor. For years he sold at events like the Renegade Craft Fair, consterning regulars who often ran out of his cheekily-titled single origin teas (“Bicurious George,” “Sexpot,” and “Hipsters in Wonderland”) before the next sales opportunity. But the five-year lease contracts often associated with renting commercial space scared the young business owner away.

In contrast, Crocker Galleria is offering him a much more flexible agreement and he’s been presiding over his space, lovingly decorated in fuchsias and Moroccan poufs since February. “I’m going for Euro pop, eclectic, and adorable,” Coccagna says.

Does Topshelf Boutique have FiDi’s new look? Guardian photo by Caitlin Donohue

That craft-fair-over-corporate-chic aesthetic may speak to Cushman and Wakeman retail manager Sabrina Goris’ plans for Crocker. In the past few years, Versaces and Dolce and Gabbanas have been vacating the center. At the moment, Ralph Lauren’s shuttered doors make a great visual metaphor for this sea change, although not as good as the expensive tiling floor work that Versace left behind for new tenant VIP Luggage. The turnover has made way for a mix of tenants who count 85 percent local owners among them.

Goris partners with local business nonprofits like La Cocina and Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center to attract new entrepreneurs to their first brick-and-mortar location. La Luna Cupcakes, a La Cocina grad, is set to open in Crocker this spring and Tomboy Tailors, the city’s best genderqueer place for a butch dandy to get a perfectly tailored three-piece, went through the Renaissance program and also opened at Crocker this year.

The challenge with the space is figuring how to make the robust lunch crowd that comes for the mall’s top floor food court stay to shop. Every Thursday from 11am to 3pm a year-round farmer’s market sets up on the first floor, opening on Tuesdays during the summer as well. The mall even hosts a concert series to get shoppers in the glass doors.

Like the rest of the universe, Crocker is experimenting with pop-ups, too. On the first floor, a quartet of small local clothing and accessory companies opened a single storefront in February. Surf brand After Eleven and its irreverent pizza cross t-shirts, Topshelf Boutique, kids shirts and zoo-themed tees from Animal Instinct, and Embergrass Jewelry bring a fresher fashion tone to the mall. Their pop-up run’s was recently extended — it’ll now be open until the end of March.

Christina Ruiz, who opened Topshelf Boutique originally in a van that traveled about, bringing gauzy, bright dresses, studded button-downs, cat-eye sunglasses, and the occasional vintage piece to shoppers, has had a lot of luck in the pop-up space. She admits that originally, she wasn’t sure if the Topshelf’s club casual style would sell to the big-money downtown types.

“I was surprised that I sold so well,” she says. “I worked as a bartender for a long time when I didn’t have to dress up for anything.” She’s grown to appreciate the day job schedule, though. “I really like it here because [customers come through] Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm. That’s so not traditional for retail.”

Office workers who wear studs, tea shop kikis, a mall that could be kind of cool — sounds like a different kind of commercial community is being built. Says Coccagna of this mall magic: “you can feel the shift here.”

Crocker Galleria 50 Post, SF.


The reason for the season


HOLIDAY GUIDE With the presidential election over, we are reminded that though our quest for reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality may continue unabated, making a difference must not be limited to a “Ya Voté” sticker every four years. Here’s a brief list of ways to do good this season, including community gardening, beach cleanups, and gift fairs where you can shop for a good cause.


Outdoorsy types take note. SFGRO ( has a mission to elevate the profile of community gardening in San Francisco, and to provide support to local gardeners. You can do your part by helping out in the following areas: composting, garden safety and security, resource material development, administrative tasks, and fundraising. Jump into the mix all over the city: the De Haro, Dearborn, Alioto Mini-Park, Page Street, and Potrero Del Sol gardens all need help.

You can also help out at Hayes Valley Farm (450 Laguna, SF. during it’s last winter. The farm is set to be turned back over to the city next year, at which point founder Jay Rosenburg hopes enough people will have learned agriculture skills at the farm to continue its mission elsewhere. “It will create a big fireworks explosion and everything we’ve created here will break off to little pieces all over town,” he recently told Edible San Francisco.

Help maintain the beauty of the five-mile-long Ocean Beach with the Surfrider Foundation‘s regular cleanups. Bonus: they’ll give you a chance to commune with our sandy spaces in the winter, when the waves are at their most ruggedly beautiful (Next events: Dec. 4 and 18, 10am-noon. Ocean Beach, Stairway No. 17, SF; Dec. 31, 10am-noon. Baker Beach, SF.

In the North Bay, we suggest you peruse the various opportunities available through Volunteer Marin (555 Northgate Drive, San Rafael. (415) 479-5710, The organization solicits requests from local nonprofits for donations or volunteer time. Its altruistic options include preparing and serving holiday meals, donating food, clothing, or requested gifts, and decorating or wrapping presents.

We are very much proud to say that San Francisco is home to the oldest toy drive in the whole country. The organization responsible for this is our beloved San Francisco Fire Department ( Find the nearest fire station to you and be part of the effort to get gifts to over 40,000 disadvantaged children.

Although many homeless shelters tend to fill up their volunteer shifts early on during the holiday season, head to At The Crossroads (Dec. 12, 6-8pm. 333 Valencia, SF. (415) 487-0691,, when volunteers are needed to assemble care packages for homeless youth in city.

Kids Enjoy Exercise Now ( is an awesome national organization whose mission is promote physical activity among kids and young adults who have developmental disabilities. KEEN is recruiting people to be volunteer coaches, and those who sign up will be paired with an athlete for hours of fun and games — an easy thing to do that’ll make a big difference in a young person’s life.

And finally, for those of us too lazy or computer-bound to do anything besides point-and-click this holiday season, we present to you Games that Give ( Play an online game like solitaire or mini-golf and for every 10 seconds you’re occupied — and viewing the site’s sponsors’ ads — a charity of your choice receives a certain amount of funds.


One thing people in the Bay Area love to brag about is our access to a wide selection of some of the best wines in the world — which many will be taking full advantage of this holiday season. Sometimes the vast number of options can be anxiety-inducing, which is why we recommend ONEHOPE (, a socially-conscious winery that donates 50 percent of its profits to partner charities and has raised over $750,000 to date.

It’s not only one of the largest events recognizing women’s craft in the nation — the Women’s Building’s Celebration of Craftswomen (Dec. 2, 9am-1pm, free. Fort Mason, SF. (650) 615-6838, is a great place to satisfy your gift-giving needs. Note: an event as big is this requires all hands on deck — the organization would love your help in admissions, crowd monitoring, relief for exhibitors, plus organizing the raffle and silent auction.

One of our favorite entrepreneurship programs in the city puts together an amazing assemblage of its graduates just in time for your eight crazy nights or stocking stuffing. La Cocina’s Gift Bazaar (Dec. 7, 1-7pm, free. Crocker Galleria, 50 Post, SF. (415) 824-2729, presents a pageantry-filled flea market dedicated to showcasing foodie goodies and handcrafted/artisan gifts.

This is the first year that the Contemporary Jewish Museum (736 Mission, SF. (415) 655-7800, has published a gift catalogue featuring its gift shop’s treasures, like modern-eclectic menorahs — one of which is shaped a cable car — artisan jewelry, and children’s toys. All sales proceeds benefit the museum’s ongoing efforts to bring Jewish art, history, and culture to the Bay Area.

Meals on Wheels ( would to invite you and yours to put those creative aptitudes to work brightening the holidays for the elderly and handicapped. Wrap and stuff gifts, and make holidays card for distribution to the group’s meal recipients during the first two weeks of December.

Run over by a reindeer



Union Square ice-skating rink Union Square, SF. Through Jan. 16, 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m. except for when closed for private parties, $10 for 90-minute session. Sweetheart, the rink is open, grab my hand and try not to twist an ankle as we glide in circles around downtown’s living room.

Westin St. Francis sugar castle Westin St. Francis, Landmark Lobby, 335 Powell, SF. Through Jan. 24, on view 24 hours/day. Don’t lick it. For although this ever-growing sweet behemoth which each holiday season occupies the lobby of downtown’s classic luxury digs with its 1,300 pounds, 20 towers, 30 rooms, and sugar replicas of 2012’s movers and shakers has a hold on our heart, its original dimensions were sugar-spun back in 2005. Incredibly made, undeniably festive, but altogether inappropriate for dietary purposes.

Jack London Square holiday tree lighting Jack London Square, Oakl. Nov. 30, 4:30-7pm, free. Performances by Disney-approved pop stars! Reindeer petting zoo! Miss California 2012 and a kids dress-up station with costumes from the Oakland Ballet! You’ll be hard-pressed not to find some holiday cheer at this annual lighting of Jack London’s fir tree for the masses.

Oakland-Alameda Estuary Lighted Yacht Parade Visible from Jack London Square, Oakl. Dec. 1, 5:30pm, free. Let those cheeks get rosy, it’s boat-watching time. This yearly tradition sees the yacht owners of the East Bay putting their aquatic rides on display, stringing bulbs galore across decks and sails.

Festival of lights Union between Van Ness and Steiner, Fillmore between Union and Lombard, SF. Dec. 1, 3-7pm, free. Wiggle your nose at Santa at this explosion of twinkly tinsel and Cow Hollow reindeer — today Union Street puts on the holiday glitz and lays out the welcome mat. Cudworth Mansion (2040 Union) will be hosting a cupcake-decorating session from 3:30-5:30pm, at which Old St. Nick himself will make an appearance out front.

Golden Gate Park holiday tree lighting McLaren Lodge, 501 Stanyan, SF. Dec. 6, 5pm, free. A tradition started by Golden Gate Park grandfather and San Francisco’s first park superintendent John McLaren in 1929, the lighting of the tree returns to Fell Street for the 83rd year in a row. Accompanying fanfare includes live performances, carnival rides, and a visit from Saint Nick.

Great Dickens Christmas Fair Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva, SF. Fri/23 and Sat.-Sun. Sat/24-Dec. 23, 10am-7pm, $21-25. For an ace weekend drunk this holiday season, toodle over to the Cow Palace. Once ensconced in the warm period embrace of the Dickens Fair, you will have the run of five bars (absinthe!), a multitude of meat pie shoppes, hilarious accents, near-constant stage shows, and the company of “famous Victorians,” including Charles Dickens and Her Majesty, the queen herself.

Family holiday crafts day Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way, SF. (415) 554-9600, Dec. 1, 10am-3pm, free admission, activities fees vary. Bring the kiddos to the always-free-admission Randall Museum so they can spend the morning making holiday decorations and gifts. Cap off the morning with a performance by Asian American performance troupe Eth-Noh-Tec and its fusion of ancient and contemporary movement.

Community Hanukkah candle lighting Jewish Community Center, 3200 California, SF. (415) 292-1200, Dec. 8-14, 4:30pm, free. Join up with your neighbors for the Jewish Community Center’s daily lighting of the menorah in the building’s atrium. Attend the Shabbat celebration on Dec. 14 for a family storytelling session, grape juice, hallah, and Hanukkah gelt.

Bill Graham Menorah Day Union Square, SF. Dec. 9, festivities start at 3pm, menorah lighting at 5pm, free. Each day from December 8-15, a candle will be ceremoniously lit on the Bill Graham mahogany menorah, a gift from the famous San Francisco promoter to his city. But on the 9th, Bill Graham Menorah Day festivities will occupy Union Square, a beautiful beginning to the Festival of Lights in the city.

Public library winter celebration Bernal Heights Library, 500 Cortland, SF. Dec. 12, 6:30-8:30pm, free. The library’s got all kinds of free holiday programming this year, from cupcake-decorating and card-making to a magic show with a winter wonderland theme. Today’s no exception: join the Bernal Heights community for a kid-friendly celebration featuring the Bernal Jazz Quintet, refreshments, and children’s movies.

Frosting the Conservatory Conservatory of Flowers, 100 John F. Kennedy, SF. (415) 831-2090, Dec. 15, 11am-3pm, $10. Make your own ginger-greenhouse at this event amid the hothouse blooms of the Conservatory of Flowers. This events gets our thumbs-up for guaranteed toastiness, because being warm and cozy is a pre-req for Christmas cheer.

Jewish Christmas with Broke Ass Stuart The Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., SF. Dec. 25, 5-11pm, $10. Strip dreidel set to the tune of streaming Woody Allen, Larry David, and Sascha Baron Cohen footage sounds like our kind of Christmas. Such was the vision of DJ Matt Haze and host Broke Ass Stuart, who designed this kitschy extravaganza for all of you (Chosen and Left Behind alike) who can’t stomach staying in on a perfectly good day off. Did we mention there will be a Chinese food buffet?

Kwanzaa celebration Bay Area Discovery Museum, 557 McReynolds, Sausalito. Dec. 26, 9am-5pm, free. A traditional Kwanzaa altar will greet you upon arriving at the kids museum’s celebration of African-American culture, featuring two performance (at 11am and 1pm) by African Roots of Jazz.


The Christmas Ballet Various times and Bay Area locations. Nov. 23 — Dec. 23, $25-65. Back by popular demand, the Smuin Ballet Company returns with this annual production, split this year into two acts: “Classical Christmas” and “Cool Christmas.” Both promise eye-opening, energetic entertainment set to eclectic tunes from Elvis to klezmer.

A Christmas Carol American Conservatory Theatre, 415 Geary, SF. (415) 749-2228, Nov. 30-Dec. 24, various times, $20–$160. Stressful election year and rumors of apocalypse tightened those purse strings? Exorcise your inner Scrooge at this classic stage production of Charles Dickens’ terrifying ode to generosity and kindness towards diminutive children.

The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., SF. Dec. 6-30, Thu.-Sat. 8pm, Sun. 7pm, $30. Our cover girl Cookie Dough co-stars as Sophia Petrillo in this now-traditional SF holiday stage production of the classic sitcom that employs more shoulder pads, even, than the original TV show. You’ll never know a catty elderly network television star until you’ve seen her re-enacted by a drag queen. Buy tickets pronto, the shows usually sell out.

California Revels Oakland Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside, Oakl. (510) 452-8800, Dec. 7-9, 13-15. Fridays 8pm, Saturdays and Sundays 1 and 5pm, $20-55. Feast and family are cornerstones of this annual interactive period piece performance celebrating the winter solstice. Hoist your mead and turkey leg and sway to the music, friends, good times will be upon ye here.

The Nutcracker Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon, SF. Dec. 8, 2pm & 7pm; Dec. 9, 2pm, $20. Yes, everyone does The Nutcracker. At this point, it’s like the Rocky Horror Picture Show of ballet. (Would that ballet patrons donned Rat King costumes to attend!) Embrace the tradition, and check out the City Ballet School’s production of a classic.

Charles Phoenix Retro Holiday Show Empress of China Ballroom, 838 Grant, SF. Dec. 12, 8pm, $25. The creator of the Cherpumple, a pie-stuffed cake concoction that rises to the dizzying heights of kitsch, humorist Charles Phoenix celebrates the retro in every occasion. Tonight, he regales the crowd with tales of his favorite SF landmarks, road trips, and yes, feats of food fantasy.

Holiday youth mariachi concert Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 2868 Mission, SF. Dec. 14, 7:30-9pm, $15. Three mariachi troupes made of young people join forces for this exciting holiday program. The hat-dropping, guitar plucking action will be highlighted by Zenon Barron’s Mexican youth folk dance class.

The Snowman Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness, SF. (415) 864-6000, Dec. 22, 11am, $13.50-57. Even the smallest budding season ticket holder will find this film-symphony presentation of Joe Nesbø’s classic children’s book a welcome boost to their holiday cheer. The animated version of this story of a youg’n’ whose bud is a Frosty-like chap will soar when paired with the world-class musicians of the SF Symphony.

Kung Pao Kosher Comedy New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific, SF. Dec. 22-25, various times, $44-64. There’s nothing like having dinner on Christmas to up your alterna (or simply, not pan-Christian) cred. Add stand up comedy and you have a winning formula, which is obvious from the longevity of Lisa Gedulig’s annual show. This year features yucks from Judy Gold, Mike Capozzola, and Adrianne Tolsch.

Clairdee’s Christmas Yoshi’s San Francisco, 1330 Fillmore, SF. (415) 655-5600, Dec. 24, 8pm, $20. Everything could use a little soul in lives and the holidays are no exception. Come hear the sounds of soul-jazz vocalist Clairdee, and soak in her ensemble’s rhythmic takes on Christmas standards.

“Holiday Memories” double feature A rare 16mm showing of Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales will be accompanied by a screening of The Sweater, a tale of a young hockey player’s passion for the sport, and the dangers that come of wearing the wrong jumper. Dec. 22, 2pm, Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon, SF. (415) 563-7337,


Darkness and Light: A Hanukkah Meditation Retreat Jewish Community Center, 3200 California, SF. (415) 292-1200, Dec. 9, 10am-5pm, $50-60. No prior experience is needed for this day-long workshop on finding the light within during the Hanukkah season. Sitting and walking meditation will be covered — the perfect primer for a month that can try the patience of even the most festive reveler.

Winter solstice ceremony San Francisco Zen Center, 300 Page, SF. (415) 863-3136, Dec. 21, 6:15pm, free. Recharge on the longest night of the year in the peaceful confines of the SF Zen Center. The crowd here promises to be made of meditation newbies, Zen Center students, and all those in-between. It will also be your best bet to avoid jingles and tinsel, if that’s what your body is craving at this point.

Reclaiming’s Sing Up The Sun ritual Inspiration Point parking lot, Tilden Park, Berk. Dec. 21, 6:30am, free. Wake up before the sun does to greet it on this, the day of the year when it spends the least time out of its bed. A pagan celebration, you’re welcome to bring musical instruments and a warm Thermos of liquid to the community gathering.


Celebration of Craftswomen Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason Center, SF. (650) 615-6838, Nov. 24-25, Dec. 1-2, 10am-5pm, $9 or $12 two-day pass. The first edition of this alternative holiday fair took place 34 years ago at the now-defunct Old Wives’ Tales Bookstore on Valencia Street with 22 female makers-of-things. Today, the event fills the Herbst Pavilion, features 150 juried artists and a mini-film festival. It’s still the best place for feminist shopping, some things don’t change.

Holiday Design Bazaar Intersection for the Arts, 925 Mission, No. 109, SF. Nov. 30, 5-8pm; Dec. 1, noon-6pm, free. An arts fair with 25 local creators, plus live music and refreshments that may well make a difference in our kids’ art education. The event is a benefit for Arts Ed Matters, a group that is looking to build community support for art in schools.

Creativity Explored holiday art sale Creativity Explored, 3245 16th St., SF. Dec. 1-2, noon-5pm, free. Shop at this studio for developmentally-disabled artists and half of your bill will go straight into their pocket — standard practice for Creativity Explored, which has been the real-deal spot for outsider art in San Francisco since 1983.

Paxton Gate holiday party Dec. 1, 3-6pm at Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids, 766 Valencia; 8-10pm at Paxton Gate, 824 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-1872, One of the city’s most beloved families of taxidermy/kid’s toys/nursery shops, Paxton Gate is turning two decades of age this weekend. What better time to shop there? And what better to get your face painted “Victorian-style” (?!), check out stilt walkers and an accordionist-ballerina duo, and eat snacks during the day at its kids location — then walk two doors down later that night for more circus freakery, door prizes and a Hendrick’s gin open bar at 826 Valencia’s pirate shop?

Palestinian Craft Fair Middle East Children’s Alliance office, 1101 Eighth St., Berk. Dec. 1-2, 10am-5pm, free. Sip Arabic coffee while you paw through painted ceramics from Gaza, children’s book, scarves, West Bank olive oil, and more at this chance to support a nonprofit benefiting craftspeople living in Palestine — a particularly salient cause in this year of war and turmoil.

Bazaar Bizarre Concourse Exhibition Center, East Hall, 620 Seventh St., SF. Dec. 1-2, 11am-6pm, free. This traveling indie craft fair stocks all the twee and yippee you need to get your gift recipients in your pocket. New in 2012: a mini-version of Forage SF’s Underground market, for all your small biz-sourced holiday edible needs.

Muir Beach Quilters Holiday Arts Fair Muir Beach Community Center, 19 Seascape, Muir Beach. Dec. 1, 10am-5pm, Dec. 2 10am-4pm, free. Make a blustery beach journey that has time to spare for handicraft browsing. This annual gift fair stocks locally-made knickknacks by local groups (Muir Beach Garden Club included), and has more than retail opportunities. Hands-on crafts bars will stoke the creative fire of kids and big person shoppers alike.

La Cocina Gift Bazaar Crocker Galleria, 50 Post, SF. Dec. 7, 1-7pm, free. You’re not going to have problems finding foodie-friendly presents at this fair — but getting them safely to their intended destination sans bite marks might be a problem. La Cocina business incubator program graduates Clairesquares, Onigilly, Love & Hummus Co., Chiefo’s Kitchen, and more will all have their wares for sale.

East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest Berkeley City College, 2050 Center, Berk. Dec. 8, 10am-5pm, donations suggested. For the indie comic nerds on your list, you’ll want to check out this expo of all things zine. Talks by New Yorker illustrator Erik Drooker and Go the Fuck to Sleep author Adam Mansbach spice up the fair’s schedule and there’s rumor of a dance party to take place at day’s end.

KPFA Crafts Fair Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St., SF. Dec. 8-9, 10am-6pm, $10. Our public radio station hosts 220 artists and their wares for this no-brainer shopping weekend. Pick up unique wrapables from leather fashion to gourmet snacks to lotions and creams to pamper your loved ones.

Mercado de Cambio/The Po’ Sto’ market and knowledge exchange 2940 16th St., SF. Dec. 15, 3-7pm, donations suggested. We can pretty much guarantee you that there is no other gift fair that will have better hip-hop music. The Mercado de Cambio organized by POOR Magazine aims to counterbalance the corporatization of our holiday season. Go here for aforementioned live beats, indigenous crafts, Occupy gear, and POOR-published literature.

Renegade Craft Fair holiday market Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St., SF. Dec. 15-16, 11am-6pm, free. A DIY gift wrap station is one of the attractions at this one stop for cute gift shopping, which makes one of its two yearly appearances in the Bay Area for the holiday season. The Oakland Museum of California will truck out its mobile “we/customize” exhibit, and of course, there will be crafters: over 250 will have booths hawking clothes, accessories, home stuff, kid stuff — most handmade, and most awesome.


Jellyfish, oxtail, and more from the Street Food Festival


The annual Street Food Festival enlivens blocks of the Mission every year with many of our great food trucks, booths manned by the kitchen staff of our favorite SF restaurants, and a few visiting guests — which at this year’s fest on August 18 included my favorite Portland food cart Eurotrash, and the adorable Linda Green of Ms Linda’s Catering from New Orleans. The most significant addition to the Street Food lineup this year wasn’t a cart at all,  but rather an entire event — the Friday night before the main festival, the Night Market took over the Alemany Farmers Market. In the whipping winds of South San Francisco we sampled unforgettable bites that were not available at the Street Food Fest. The festive, Chinese lantern-laced outdoor space made the Night Market a stand-out. I hope it becomes a yearly feature.

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Full captions: 
1. The star of the Night Market was The Boss Hog, the debut of a new project from the Bone & Gristle Boys (SF’s Ryan Farr  of 4505 Meats and Rhode Island’s Matt Jennings of Farmstead). 
 2. One of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had, The Boss Hog is slow-roasted pork, cornmeal-fried pork cutlet, Vermont cheddar, smoked pickles, red onion, greens, jalapeno ranch dressing, Farr’s chicharrones
3. One of my favorite Portland food carts Eurotrash showed off fresh grilled prawns loaded in a baguette with spicy curry slaw
4. At the Night Market, Fifth Floor chef David Bazirgan’s delicious fava bean falafel wrap 
5. Ken Ken Ramen served jellyfish at Friday’s Night Market
6. Vada Pav (spicy potato puff sandwich) from Juhu Beach Club
7. Friday’s festive Night Market — a tradition I hope continues each year
8. State Bird Stuart – State Bird Provisions’ Chef Stuart Brioza assembles burrata and fried garlic bread
9. The top taste of Saturday’s festival was State Bird Provisions’ (Bon Appetit’s 2012 # 1 New US Restaurant) hand-pulled burrata atop addictive fried garlic bread
10. A Korean favorite from the Inner Richmond, To Hyang’s braised oxtail with daikons, carrots, dates, hard-boiled egg


Is it Saturday yet? 5 (vegetarian-abled) Street Food Festival snacks we can’t wait for


The Bay’s press has been salivating ever since July 26, when La Cocina‘s Street Food Festival hosted a passel of media types at Fort Mason Center with tables upon tables of the snacks that we’ll all get to freak out over at the festival on Sat/18. Read on for some of our favorite snacks that we’re having a hard time holding off on until Saturday.

Bonus! If mornings aren’t your deal, you’ve got options this year. On Fri/17, you can jet down to the Alemany Farmer’s Market for the fest’s Night Market. 25 vendors will be selling sub-$10 treats, including American Masala Farm’s Suvir Saran serving up Indian food, Ryar Farr from 4505 Meats, and Tijuana’s Javier Plasencia of Mision 19. Plus, craft beer and cocktails.


Go early on Saturday. Lines for vendors, which range from La Cocina participants who have hardly sold commercially before to some of SF’s hautest eateries, tend to be pretty long by lunch time, and this is one fest that does not award the fashionably late. You’ll also be able to pick up a paper copy in the Guardian on newsstands today. Here’s some treats you’ll wanna queue up for as soon as you fall out of bed, veggie-friendly all. We dare you to do all five — tweet their photos to @sfbg if you do and we’ll figure out some kind of reward for gluttonous you. 

1. El Buen Comer esquites

Something about corn, cheese, and mayo soup sounds vaguely unsettling, but take it from an avowed mayonaise h8r, these are cups of pleasure and you want at least one. La Cocina graduate Isabel Caudillo makes them, bringing this Mexico City recipe straight to SF bellies. Perfect if Saturday gets chilly (please no.)

2. Chiefo’s Kitchen moi-moi

Chiefo Chukwudebe makes these West African firm cakes made of pureed black eyed peas, topped with tomatoes, onions, peppers, and carmelized onions. The deliciously chewy version that was being sampled at Fort Mason was topped with flakes of corned beef, but vegetarian versions were available. 

3. Hella Vegan Eats pad thai egg rolls

The plucky Tiffany and Sylvee Esquivel of this rad catering outfit didn’t give their Street Food Fest offering quite as catchy a moniker as some of their repetoire (“vegans are better lovers” lasagna comes to mind), but no matter — this Asian-inspired nuggets are the kind of stoner snack you normally only dream of. Noodles inside egg rolls? *Eyes roll back into head, Homer Simpson-scruff sprouts instantly* Much props to these ladies for the hundreds of free vegan cookies they baked for the Dyke March this year, by the way. 

4. Clairesquares‘ deep-fried caramel pop

One quibble about these devilish, gooey, troublesome-in-a-good-way dessert snacks — is that spear in the center really necessary? After all, the first time you crunch into one the thing is going to require two hands so that it doesn’t fall off the wooden skewer onto the — NOOOOOOOOO! — ground. That’s not what you want, so this is your official reminder to pay attention to sugar bomb of satiation. Clairesquares is the brainchild of Ireland’s Claire Keene, who re-interprets traditional recipes into decadent desserts that have popped up all over town in the last few years. 

5. Sweets Collection artisan Jello shots

I went on the record last year over how much I love these things. Nothing combines a love of pastels and a love of getting drunk more than Rosa Rodriguez’s mouthfuls of booze and condensed milk flower. They are magic, and you can find them at the Street Food Festival bars, waiting for you cheefully when you’re done eating the fest’s more nutritious options. 


Street Food Festival Night Market

Fri/17 6-9pm, $25 entry

Alemany Farmer’s Market (free shuttle leaves from 25th St. and Mission, SF)

100 Alemany, SF

Street Food Festival

Sat/18 11am-7pm, free entry

Mission District (Folsom from 20th to 26th St., 21st and 25th Sts. from Treat to Shotwell, Cesar Chavez Elementary School parking lot, Parque de los Ninos Unidos and Jose Coronada Playgrounds), SF

Live Shots: SF Street Food Festival 2012 preview


The SF Street Food Festival has become such a delight in the summertime. (This year’s takes place on Saturday, August 18.) A chance to sample wonderful treats from the around the world (many developed in the test kitchens of entrepeneurial incubator La Cocina), transporting your taste buds to the far reaches of yumminess. The festival can get crazy crowded, so to help you out, here’s a list of some fave vendors to make a beeline for:

Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas
– It’s partially that you’ll fall in love with Alicia, who will call you “mi cariño,” but it’s also that her delectable homemade tamales are out of this world, stuffed with pork, chicken or cheese and slathered in fresh salsa verde. You can’t go wrong with this corny bundles of love.

Minnie Bells’ Soul Movement – Think fried chicken and mac and cheese. Really good soul food, simple and delicious. Never tasted such flavorful gumbo!

Chiefo’s Kitchen – Chiefo cooks wonderful West African cuisine, that’s spicy and filled with exotic flavors. Try her mini moi-moi, a savory cake made with blended black eyed peas and topped with a crispy piece of meat.

Global Soul – Here’s the deal. I was handed a piece of meat on a toothpick, dripping in fat and it was the best thing ever. You know you want that too.

Azalina’s – “I love deep frying things!” declared Azalina. And she’s not joking! But what I love about her snacks is that yes, they are perfectly fried and golden, but then layered with roasted meats, fresh veggies and topped with a hot pink raspberry. So unique and beautiful!

Neo Cocoa – Save room for dessert! Christine from Neo Cocoa will be serving up chocolate truffle brownies, layered with such decadent fillings as almond butter.




Christine Doerr, the chocoholic force behind Neo Cocoa, makes truffles sans the outer hard chocolate shell. Why bother with an extra layer when you can go straight to the gooey ganache inside, capable of melting perfectly in your mouth? After all, isn’t their filling the reason why we eat truffles in the first place? That was Doerr’s thought, anyway, when she enrolled in La Cocina’s food vendor incubator program. Now she has her own personal chocolate kitchen and her amazing, ridiculously decadent chocolates can be found all over the Bay Area. Warning to all Neo newbies: these truffles are dangerously addictive!