5 Green caterers


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


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

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


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

(415) 317-2005,

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

6613 Hollis, Emeryville. (415) 680-5831,


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

(408) 712-5000,


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

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

Get juiced


I hate the Master Cleanse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(For more specific information on juice fasting, visit our Pixel Vision blog at

Juice Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


When protesters become ‘terrorists’



When does passionate protest become a terrorist threat? Is it when activists choose to target someone’s house, or when the subject of the protest feels scared? Why single out animal rights activists for special treatment? And if the definition of terrorism is expanded for them, what group is next in these turbulent times?

These are the questions being raised by the federal prosecution of four local animal rights activists. Joseph Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope, and Adriana Stumpo pleaded not guilty March 19 to charges of using threats and violence to interfere with University of California animal researchers, in violation of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA).

A coalition of civil liberties defense groups have come to their defense, arguing that the law is unconstitutional and that the activists were merely exercising their freedoms of speech and assembly.

AETA specifically protects research institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and other businesses that use animals from individuals who "interfere with" their operations. Anyone using threats, vandalism, property damage, trespassing, harassment, or intimidation to cause someone connected with an animal enterprise to have "reasonable fear of death or bodily injury" can be tried under the law. But critics say the statute is over-broad, arguing that legal activity like boycotts can be construed as a form of interfering with a business’ operations.

"In its abstract form, and now with these arrests, the AETA is a full frontal assault by the U.S. government on the First Amendment," says San Francisco-based attorney Ben Rosenfeld, a member of the National Lawyers Guild. "Everybody, whether they identify with animal rights causes or not, ought to be very alarmed."

According to an FBI affidavit filed by special agent Lisa Shaffer, the activists took part in actions targeting UC researchers who conduct experiments on animals. They didn’t free caged animals, torch laboratories, or slash tires. Instead the defendants were caught picketing, chanting, and creating flyers. And while the complaint cites an alleged assault, it never states that any of the four defendants was responsible. Yet they each face up to five years in prison.

In October 2007, the complaint alleges, the defendants joined a group of protesters outside a UC researcher’s home in El Cerrito where they marched, chanted things like "vivisectors go to hell!" and rang the doorbell. The second incident took place in January 2008, when a group of about a dozen people "wearing bandanas over their nose and mouth" allegedly drove to a number of researchers’ homes in the East Bay. They "marched, chanted, and chalked defamatory comments on the public sidewalks in front of the residences."

The complaint says UC researchers felt harassed, intimidated, and terrified. Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild in New York City, says AETA is flawed in that prosecutions are based on the targets’ reactions, not the protesters’ intent. "Basing prosecutions on the subjective feelings of individuals to whom no harm was inflicted undermines the foundation of criminal law, which punishes those who commit crimes with the intent to do so," Boghosian told us. "Demonstrating — even noisy, angry demonstrating that may be uncomfortable to others — is still protected under the First Amendment."

During the third incident, six bandana-clad protesters allegedly approached the home of a UC Santa Cruz researcher. Her husband heard banging on the glass pane of the door, opened it, and then "struggled with one individual and was hit with a dark, firm object," according to the complaint. The protesters dispersed, and one allegedly yelled, "We’re gonna get you!" Santa Cruz police later seized a vehicle belonging to one of the activists. Bandanas found inside the car were later sampled for DNA, linking them with three of the defendants.

The complaint doesn’t indicate whether any of the four defendants struck the researcher’s husband or yelled a threat. But that hardly matters. "Another flaw of the AETA is its ‘course of conduct’ language," Boghosian said. "If one protester commits a single unlawful act at a protest … but five others were present, all may be charged with engaging in a course of conduct that interferes or attempts to interfere with the operations of an animal enterprise."

Finally, the FBI charges that in July 2008, a stack of flyers listing the home addresses of two UC professors under the headline "murderers and torturers" was discovered at a Santa Cruz cafe. The FBI tapped security camera footage and Internet use logs to link three of the defendants to the stack of flyers.

Several days after the flyers were discovered, a firebombing took place at one of those researchers’ homes — but the federal complaint doesn’t mention it. When asked if there might be a connection, FBI special agent Joseph Shadler told the Guardian that the complaint speaks for itself.

Several civil liberties groups have been wary of AETA since it was enacted. "The law is so overly broad and so vague that no one knows what’s legal and illegal," Odette Wilkins, who is pushing for a repeal of the bill through her organization, the Maryland-based Equal Justice Alliance, told us. "The USA Patriot Act makes it very, very clear what terrorism is. It’s anything that causes mass destruction … or places the entire civilian population in fear. I don’t see how people exercising their First Amendment rights … rises to the level of terrorism. It’s ludicrous."

FBI special agent Schadler sees it differently. "As far as the distinction between free speech protected by the Constitution and what we would consider terrorism, whenever somebody’s purpose is to cause fear to get their point across, that’s terrorism," he told the Guardian. "The definition of terrorism is using threat of violence, or violence, to accomplish a political means. And the threat of violence — when you are actually going out and threatening to hurt people, or causing people to believe that they’re going to be hurt, or actually hurting them to get your movement or your political voice heard — then you are committing terrorism."

Lauren Regan, executive director of the Eugene, Ore.-based Civil Liberties Defense Center, helped create Coalition to Abolish the AETA. "We were working on putting together a civil lawsuit simply challenging the constitutionality of the law when the criminal indictments happened," she explained.

Regan has been on the case since a previous law, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, was in place. That statute was upgraded to the AETA in 2006 in the wake of aggressive tactics employed by a radical animal rights group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). "Many felt [the AEPA] was also unnecessary," she told us. "Because there are already statutes for burglary, theft, vandalism, arson [etc]. Any of the crimes that could have fallen within the AEPA were already federal and state crimes."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein cosponsored AETA along with Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), saying it would "ensure that eco-terrorists do not impede important medical progress in California." Before the bill passed, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) voiced the lone complaint against it. "I am not for anyone … damaging another person’s property or person. But I am for protecting the First Amendment and not creating a special class of violations for a specific type of protest."

No one else was persuaded. The bill was bundled with other legislation deemed to be noncontroversial then passed by voice vote. The American Civil Liberties Union didn’t oppose it after an amendment was added guaranteeing that it wouldn’t restrict First Amendment rights. The ACLU declined to comment for this story.

Regan says broadening the definition of terrorism can stifle important campaigns. She points to the example of a widely publicized video released by the Humane Society last year that showed disturbing footage of downed cows at a beef processing facility. Though it spurred one of the largest beef recalls in history (and saved school kids from consuming an unsafe meat product), the cameraperson could be tried as a terrorist under the AETA, Regan says, because it was necessary to trespass to shoot the film.

She also criticizes the FBI’s excessive use of paid informants. "This has happened across the country — if someone posts a vegan potluck, the FBI is showing up to see who’s there and what they’re doing," she says. Between 1993 and 2003, the FBI’s counterterrorism division increased 224 percent, according to its Web site.

While advocates are quick to point out that there are no documented deaths associated with animal rights activism, the movement has a history of employing firebombs, threatening phone calls, and other creepy tactics in pressing to end animal cruelty — a trend that led to the passage of the domestic terrorism bill.

"The AETA has backfired, causing an increase in underground activism," says Los Angeles-based activist Jerry Vlasak, whose inflammatory language against animal researchers was quoted extensively during the 2006 Congressional hearing on AETA. Vlasak is a media contact for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, which operates a Web site featuring anonymous "communiqués" sent in by clandestine activists. In a posting dated March 6, a group called the Animal Liberation Brigade takes credit for burning the car of a Los Angeles primate researcher. "We will come for you when you least expect it and do a lot more damanage [sic] than to your property," the message reads. "Where ever you go and what ever you do we’ll be watching you as long as you continue to do your disgusting experiments on monkeys. And a special message for the FBI, the more legit activists you fuck with the more it inspires us since wer’re [sic] the people whom you least suspect and when we hit we hit hard."

Will Potter, a Washington, D.C.journalist who runs a Web site called Green Is The New Red, testified before Congress prior to the passage of the AETA, arguing that the law would not deter underground activists. Instead he predicts it will have a chilling effect on protests staged in broad daylight. "This legislation will … risk painting legal activity and nonviolent civil disobedience with the same broad brush as illegal activists," he said.

That, says Rosenfeld, is precisely what’s happened. "The whole underpinning of a democratic society is that it’s rights-based, and government power is limited and checked by law," he says. "Here we have a complete perversion of that process. The government gives itself this over-broad, sweeping power to go after anyone it wants and then seeks to reassure people that it will only use those laws against the real bad guys."

Mom and pop lose their voice



Bank of America and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. are quite the opposite of mom-and-pop operations, yet two of the seven members appointed to San Francisco’s Small Business Commission hail from these corporations, much to the chagrin of true small business leaders.

In a heated e-mail fired off to an assortment of City Hall staffers Jan. 13, Small Business Commissioner Michael O’Connor criticized the Mayor’s Office for diluting the commission — which was set up to go to bat for the little guy — with big business appointees.

Meanwhile, funding for the Small Business Assistance Center was almost eliminated last month by the Board of Supervisors. And a report that was supposed to streamline the unwieldy permitting process for small businesses, which the administration was required to complete under the 2007 measure Proposition I, never materialized.

At a time when small businesses are struggling in the face of a dour economic landscape, strong advocacy on their behalf is needed now more than ever. But even as former Small Business Commissioner David Chiu ascends to the presidency of the Board of Supervisors, small business leaders are decrying their lack of support in City Hall.

The Small Business Commission is a seven-member body composed of three members appointed by the Board of Supervisors and four appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom. Set up to serve as an advocate for the small business community, the commission was also chartered to oversee the Office of Small Business, a branch of the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Last May, the office opened its Small Business Assistance Center, created to lend startups a helping hand with navigating the bureaucratic maze of permits, fees, licenses, and other hoops to be jumped through to legitimately set up shop in the city.

Regina Dick-Endrezzi, acting director of the Office of Small Business and one of four people staffing the center, says there’s a real need for the service. She said that about 99 percent of all San Francisco businesses fall into the category of "small," which she defines as having fewer than 100 employees, making it one of the most important sectors of the city’s economy.

Since the center opened, more than 1,300 small business clients have received assistance there, according to Dick-Endrezzi. Many lack the resources and capital that larger enterprises might have at their disposal, so SBAC case managers act as counselors for people who are trying to get a new business off the ground.

Entrepreneurs have sought help with things like obtaining a permit to open a vegan taco truck, acquiring a license to start a cleaning business, or filing for tax credits for an organic baby food business, to name a few examples. "This is something we really need," Dick-Endrezzi told the Guardian, "and this is something politics shouldn’t get in the way of."

Nonetheless, the center and the commission haven’t been spared from controversy. In December, the Board of Supervisors considered slashing SBAC funding. The $800,000 annual budget was ultimately granted, but it weathered midyear budget cuts of around 10 percent.

Now a new issue of contention has emerged: O’Connor has sounded the alarm that the SBC is becoming weakened by mayoral appointees who represent the large corporate interests that are often quite different from those of small businesses.

The conflict went public at the Jan. 12 SBC meeting when it came time to elect a new vice president. Richard Ventura, who heads a consulting firm and serves as executive director of the downtown-based Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, had just won commissioners’ approval to serve as president. Before a second round of votes were cast, O’Connor — who served as president for two years but declined to try for the post again — voiced his fervent opinion that "an actual small business owner" should be chosen for the other leadership slot.

"I think we need the balance of a small business owner in either the presidency or the vice-presidency position," said O’Connor, who owns the Independent music venue in the Western Addition. "If we have a president and a vice president that both come from downtown, and if three out of the four mayoral appointees on this commission are from downtown, I will be incredibly embarrassed to be on this commission. And I’m sorry, this is nothing personal — I like everybody on this commission — but small business is in a fight for its life, in this building and in City Hall."

Despite his plea, Commissioner Irene Yee Riley — a retired Bank of America executive — was elected. Although not a small business owner, Yee Riley told commissioners that she was qualified to serve as vice president thanks to her "many years of experience working with small business owners as a banker."

"I’m retired, and I have time, so I want to use this opportunity to give back to the community," she added.

Yee Riley won after receiving one vote more than Commissioner Janet Clyde, a bartender and general managing partner of Vesuvio Cafe in North Beach. "I live in the Mission District in a solid working-class neighborhood that is rapidly changing," Clyde told the other commission members during her pitch. "I know the challenges of small businesses operating far from the power and economic center of San Francisco, and I intend to work to recommend their interests … even in this difficult budgetary time."

The following morning, a dismayed O’Connor vented his frustration in an e-mail to mayoral staffers, typing "Small Business Commission … or … Big Business Commission" into the subject line. Installing commissioners with ties to large corporations rather than direct small business experience constitutes "a neutralization of the only real voice small businesses have in San Francisco," he charged.

The most recent mayoral appointee to the SBC was Darlene Chiu (no relation to David Chiu), a spokesperson for PG&E who formerly served as deputy director of communications for the Mayor’s Office. When the Guardian queried the Mayor’s Office last March on what qualifications a PG&E spokesperson brought to the Small Business Commission, Press Secretary Nathan Ballard responded with this statement: "Darlene has first hand knowledge of the challenges facing small businesses in San Francisco. She grew up working in her family’s … retail businesses in Chinatown, managing nine to l5 employees. She will also bring her knowledge of city government and communications to the commission, which will be important to the successful operations and promotion of the assistance center." (See "Newsom to small business: drop dead!" March 18, 2008 Bruce Blog.)

But since her appointment last March, public records show that Chiu has missed four of the monthly meetings. Excessive absenteeism at city commission meetings briefly emerged as an issue in September 2006, prompting Newsom to introduce a new standard with a working goal of 100 percent attendance for commissioners.

Meanwhile, not everyone agrees with O’Connor’s assertion that "San Francisco’s Office of Economic Development seems to believe small business is just an annoying little rock in its shoe."

"The Office of Economic Development is incredibly committed to keeping this commission strong," counters Jennifer Matz, managing deputy director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, who played a role in starting the Small Business Assistance Center. "Michael is very disappointed about what happened, but I don’t think it reflects a lack of commitment to small business on the part of the city or the Mayor’s Office."

Matz said the challenge to the SBAC came from the Board of Supervisors — not the Mayor’s Office — when they considered revoking the center’s funding. She also contends that the Small Business Commission’s voting record doesn’t demonstrate a downtown vs. small business split.

From January 2008 to this January, commissioners voted unanimously 34 out of 38 times, the record shows. But it’s on the divisive issues where small and big businesses differ that can have the most impact.

Sup. Chiu served on the Small Business Commission before being elected to the Board of Supervisors. He said commission members usually saw eye-to-eye on most items that came before the commission regardless of whether they were board or mayoral appointees. But for him, the frustration was that "it didn’t feel that either the mayor or the Board of Supervisors were focused on small business."

In his new capacity as board president, he said measures that aid small businesses will be moving up on the list of priorities. For example, he has asked for a hearing on why the report on streamlining small business regulations, which Prop. I required the Office of Small Business to complete by 2007, was never done.

Although doubts about the commitment to small business seemed to be cast on all sides, everyone we spoke with seemed to agree on one point: in these stormy economic times, San Francisco’s small businesses need all the help they can get.

Two reports released in December by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Automatic Data Processing (ADP) provide some insight into the challenges facing small businesses nationally. BLS reported that 524,000 jobs were lost during December, bringing the 2008 total to 2.6 million lost jobs — the highest since 1993.

The ADP report showed that 281,000 jobs had been shed from companies with fewer than 50 employees. This signifies a drastic increase in job losses from this sector: between October and November, small businesses cut just 79,000 employees, according to ADP, and between September and October, they let go of 25,000 employees.

"That was the first time since 2002 that small businesses had net job losses," says Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California. What’s frightening, he says, is that the small business sector traditionally acts as an economic stabilizer.

During the battles it the mid-1980s over accelerating downtown office building construction, the Guardian commissioned a study from noted MIT economist David Birch that found that small business accounted for most net job creation in San Francisco, and that catering to corporate demands downtown actually cost the city jobs.

Yet now, with the small business community sometimes serving as a political football tossed between downtown and City Hall, the city’s economic base is in trouble and hoping for help from political leaders who are now contemputf8g deep budget cuts.


Here’s a list of all the small business commissioners:

Commissioner Darlene Chiu
Occupation: Communications, PG&E
Appointed by: mayor

Commissioner Janet Clyde
Occupation: General managing partner / bartender, Vesuvio Cafe
Appointed by: Board of Supervisors

Commissioner Kathleen Dooley
Occupation: Florist / owner, Columbine Design
Appointed by: Board of Supervisors

Commissioner Gus Murad
Occupation: Owner, Medjool (restaurant) and Elements (hotel)
Appointed by: mayor

Commissioner Michael O’Connor
Occupation: Co-owner, The Independent (music venue)
Appointed by: Board of Supervisors

Commissioner Irene Yee Riley
Occupation: Retired senior vice president and market executive, Bank of America
Appointed by: mayor

Commissioner Richard Ventura
Occumpation: Executive director, San Francisco Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Appointed by: mayor


Previous Guardian coverage:

>>Volume 20.02 (PDF) An exclusive Bay Guardian study in 1985 challenges the convention wisdom that downtown development creates jobs. Instead, our study by an MIT economist shows that small business have created virtually all the new jobs in San Francisco since l980.

>>Volume 21.02 (PDF) Our updated study in l986 shows that as highrises have gone up, downtown San Francisco has lost jobs. In fact, all the net new jobs in the city have come from new and small businesses in light industrial areas and the neighborhoods

>>October 1, 2003 (PDF) The Guardian’s small business agenda for San Francisco

The Hard Times Handbook


We all have high hopes for the new administration. We’d all like to believe that the recession will end soon, that jobs will be plentiful, health care available to all, and affordable housing built in abundance.

But the grim reality is that hard times are probably around for a while longer, and it may get worse before it gets better.

Don’t despair: the city is full of fun things to do on the cheap. There are ways to save money and enjoy life at the same time. If you’re in trouble — out of work, out of food, facing eviction — there are resources around to help you. What follows is a collection of tips, techniques, and ideas for surviving the ongoing depression that’s the last bitter legacy of George W. Bush.

BELOW YOU’LL FIND OUR TIPS ON SCORING FREE, CHEAP, AND LOW-COST WONDERS. (Click here for the full page version with jumps, if you can’t see it.)

















For a little extra routine effort, I’ve managed to make San Francisco’s library system my Netflix/GreenCine, rotating CD turntable, and bookstore, all rolled into one. And it’s all free.

If you’re a books-music-film whore like me, you find your home maxed out with piles of the stuff … and not enough extra cash to feed your habits. So I’ve decided to only buy my favorites and to borrow the rest. We San Franciscans have quite a library system at our fingertips. You just have to learn how to use it.

Almost everyone thinks of a library as a place for books. And that’s not wrong: you can read the latest fiction and nonfiction bestsellers, and I’ve checked out a slew of great mixology/cocktail recipe books when I want to try new drinks at home. I’ve hit up bios on my favorite musicians, or brought home stacks of travel books before a trip (they usually have the current year’s edition of at least one travel series for a given place, whether it be Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, or Frommer’s).

But there’s much more. For DVDs, I regularly check Rotten Tomatoes’ New Releases page ( for new DVD releases. Anything I want to see, I keep on a list and search for those titles every week. About 90 percent of my list eventually comes to the library, and most within a few weeks of the release date.

And such a range! I recently checked out the Oscar-nominated animated foreign film, Persepolis, the entire first season of Mad Men, tons of documentaries, classics (like a Cyd Charisse musical or Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s catalog), even Baby Mama (sure, it sucked, but I can’t resist Tina Fey).

A music fanatic can find virtually every style, and even dig into the history of a genre. I’ve found CDs of jazz and blues greats, including Jelly Roll Morton, John Lee Hooker, Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, kitschy lounge like Martin Denny and singer Julie London, and have satiated rap cravings with the latest Talib Kwali, Lyrics Born, Missy Elliott, T.I. or Kanye (I won’t tell if you won’t).

Warning: there can be a long "holds" list for popular new releases (e.g., Iron Man just came out and has about 175). When this happens, Just get in the queue — you can request as many as 15 items simultaneously online (you do have a library card, right?) You’ll get an e-mail when your item comes in and you can check the status of your list any time you log in. Keep DVDs a full seven days (three weeks for books and CDs) and return ’em to any branch you like.

I’ve deepened my music knowledge, read a broader range of books, and canceled GreenCine. Instead, I enjoy a steady flow of free shit coming my way each week. And if I get bored or the novelty of Baby Mama wears off, I return it and free up space in my mind (and on my shelf) for more. (Virginia Miller)



Shhh. The first rule about thrifting, to paraphrase mobsters and hardcore thrift-store shoppers, is don’t talk about thrifting — and that means the sites of your finest thrift scores. Diehard thrifters guard their favorite shops with jealous zeal: they know exactly what it’s like to wade through scores of stained T-shirts, dress-for-success suits, and plastic purses and come up with zilcherooni. They also know what it’s like to ascend to thrifter nirvana, an increasingly rarified plane where vintage Chanel party shoes and cool dead-stock Western wear are sold for a song.

Friendships have been trashed and shopping carts upended in the revelation of these much-cherished thrift stores, where the quest for that ’50s lamb’s fur jacket or ’80s acid-washed zipper jeans — whatever floats your low-budg boat — has come to a rapturous conclusion. It’s a war zone, shopping on the cheap, out there — and though word has it that the thrifting is excellent in Vallejo and Fresno, our battle begins at home. When the sample sales, designer runoff outlets, resale dives, and consignment boutiques dry up, here’s where you’ll find just what you weren’t looking for — but love, love, love all the same.

Community Thrift, 623 Valencia, SF. (415) 861-4910, Come for the writer’s own giveaways (you can bequeath the funds raised to any number of local nonprofits), and leave with the rattan couches, deco bureaus, records, books and magazines, and an eccentric assortment of clothing and housewares. I’m still amazed at the array of intriguing junk that zips through this spot, but act fast or you’ll miss snagging that Victorian armoire.

Goodwill As-Is Store, 86 11th St., SF. (415) 575-2197, This is the archetype and endgamer of grab-and-tumble thrifting. We’re talking bins, people — bins of dirt cheap and often downright dirty garb that the massive Goodwill around the corner has designated unsuitable, for whatever reason. Dive into said bins, rolled out by your, ahem, gracious Goodwill hosts throughout the day, along with your competition: professional pickers for vintage shops, grabby vintage people, and ironclad bargain hunters. They may not sell items by the pound anymore — now its $2.25 for a piece of adult clothing, 50 cents to $1 for babies’ and children’s garb, $4 for leather jackets, etc. — but the sense of triumph you’ll feel when you discover a tattered 1930s Atonement-style poison-ivy green gown, or a Dr. Pimp-enstein rabbit-fur patchwork coat, or cheery 1950s tablecloths with negligible stainage, is indescribable.

Goodwill Industries, 3801 Third St., SF. (415) 641-4470, Alas, not all Goodwills are created equal: some eke out nothing but stale mom jeans and stretched-out polo shirts. But others, like this Hunter’s Point Goodwill, abound with on-trend goodies. At least until all of you thrift-hungry hordes grab my junk first. Tucked into the corner of a little strip mall, this Goodwill has all those extremely fashionable hipster goods that have been leached from more populated thrift pastures or plucked by your favorite street-savvy designer to "repurpose" as their latest collection: buffalo check shirts, wolf-embellished T-shirts, Gunne Sax fairy-princess gowns, basketball jerseys, and ’80s-era, multicolored zany-print tops that Paper Rad would give their beards for.

Salvation Army, 1500 Valencia, SF. (415) 643-8040, The OG of Mission District thrifting, this Salv has been the site of many an awesome discovery. Find out when the Army puts out the new goods. The Salvation soldiers may have cordoned off the "vintage" — read: higher priced — items in the store within the store, but there are still plenty of old books, men’s clothing, and at times hep housewares and Formica kitchen tables to be had: I adore the rainbow Mork and Mindy parka vest I scored in the boys’ department, as well as my mid-century-mod mustard-colored rocker.

Savers, 875 Main, Redwood City. (650) 364-5545, When the ladies of Hillsborough, Burlingame, and the surrounding ‘burbs shed their oldest, most elegant offerings, the pickings can’t be beat at this Savers. You’ll find everything from I. Magnin cashmere toppers, vintage Gucci tweed, and high-camp ’80s feather-and-leather sweaters to collectible dishware, antique ribbons, and kitsch-cute Holly Hobbie plaques. Strangest, oddly covetable missed-score: a psychiatrist’s couch.

Thrift Town, 2101 Mission, SF. (415) 861-1132, When all else fails, fall back on this department store-sized megalith. Back in the day, thrift-oldsters tell me, they’d dig out collectible paintings and ’50s-era bikes. Now you’ll have to grind deeply to land those finds, though they’re here: cute, mismatched, mid-century chairs; the occasional designer handbag; and ’60s knit suits. Hint: venture into less picked-over departments like bedding. (Kimberly Chun)



San Francisco will not let you starve. Even if you’re completely out of money, there are plenty of places and ways to fill your belly. Many soup kitchens operate out of churches and community centers, and lists can be downloaded and printed from and (which is also a great clearinghouse of information on social services in San Francisco.)Here’s a list of some of our favorites.

Free hot meals

Curry without Worry Healthy, soul pleasing Nepalese food to hungry people in San Francisco. Every Tues. 5:45–7 p.m. on the square at Hyde and Market streets.

Glide, 330 Ellis. Breakfast 8-9 a.m., lunch noon-1:30 p.m. everyday. Dinner 4-5:30 p.m., M-F.

St. Anthony Dining Room, 45 Jones, Lunch everyday 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m.

St Martin de Porres Hospitality House, 225 Potrero Ave. Best bowl of oatmeal in the city. Tues.-Sat. breakfast from 6:30-7:30 a.m., lunch from noon-2 pm.. Sun. brunch 9-10:30 a.m. Often vegetarian options.


Food not Bombs Vegetarian soup and bread, but bring your own bowl. At the UN Plaza, Mon., 6 p.m.; Wed., 5:30 p.m. Also at 16th and Mission streets. Thurs. at 7:30 p.m.

Mother’s Kitchen, 7 Octavia, Fri., 2:30-3:30. Vegan options.

Iglesia Latina Americana de Las Adventistas Seventh Dia, 3024 24th St. Breakfast 9:30-11 a.m., third Sun. of the month.

Grab and go sandwiches

Glide, bag meals to go after breakfast ends at 9 a.m.

St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 666 Filbert. 4-5 p.m. every day.


Curry Senior Center, 333 Turk. For the 60+ set. Breakfast 8-9 a.m., lunch 11:30 to noon every day.

Kimochi, 1840 Sutter St. Japanese-style hot lunch served 11:45 am (M-F). $1.50 donation per meal is requested. 60+ only with no one to assist with meals. Home deliveries available. 415-931-2287

St. Anthony Dining Room, 10:30-11:30 a.m., 59+, families, and people who can’t carry a tray.

Free groceries

San Francisco Food Bank A wealth of resources, from pantries with emergency food boxes to supplemental food programs. 415-282-1900.

211 Dial this magic number and United Way will connect you with free food resources in your neighborhood — 24/7.

Low-cost groceries

Maybe you don’t qualify for food assistance programs or you just want to be a little thriftier — in which case the old adage that the early bird gets the metaphorical worm is apropos. When it comes to good food deals, timing can be everything. Here are a couple of handy tips for those of us who like to eat local, organic, and cheap. Go to Rainbow Grocery early and hit the farmers markets late. Rainbow has cheap and half-price bins in the bread and produce sections — but you wouldn’t know it if you’re a late-riser. Get there shortly after doors open at 9 a.m. for the best deals.

By the end of the day, many vendors at farmers markets are looking to unload produce rather than pack it up, so it’s possible to score great deals if you’re wandering around during the last half hour of the market. CAFF has a comprehensive list of Bay Area markets that you can download:

Then there’s the Grocery Outlet (2001 Fourth St., Berkeley and 2900 Broadway, Oakland,, which puts Wal-Mart to shame. This is truly the home of low-cost living. Grocery Outlet began in 1946 in San Francisco when Jim Read purchased surplus government goods and started selling them. Now Grocery Outlets are the West Coast’s version of those dented-can stores that sell discounted food that wasn’t ready for prime-time, or perhaps spent a little too long in the limelight.

Be prepared to eat what you find — options range from name brands with trashed labels to foodstuffs you’ve never seen before — but there are often good deals on local breads and cheeses, and their wine section will deeply expand you Two-Buck Chuck cellar. Don’t be afraid of an occasional corked bottle that you can turn into salad dressing, and be sure to check the dates on anything perishable. The Grocery Outlet Web site (which has the pimpest intro music ever) lists locations and ways to sign up for coupons and download a brochure on how to feed your family for $3 a day. (Amanda Witherell)



Music should be free. Everyone who has downloaded music they haven’t been given or paid for obviously believes this, though we haven’t quite made it to that ideal world where all professional musicians are subsidized — and given health care — by the government or other entities. But live, Clive? Where do can you catch fresh, live sounds during a hard-hitting, heavy-hanging economic downturn? Intrepid, impecunious sonic seekers know that with a sharp eye and zero dough, great sounds can be found in the oddest crannies of the city. You just need to know where to look, then lend an ear. Here are a few reliables — occasional BART station busks and impromptu Ocean Beach shows aside.

Some of the best deals — read: free — on world-class performers happen seasonally: in addition to freebie fests like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass every October and the street fairs that accompanying in fair weather, there’s each summer’s Stern Grove Festival. Beat back the Sunset fog with a picnic of bread, cheese, and cheap vino, though you gotta move fast to claim primo viewing turf to eyeball acts like Bettye Lavette, Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, and Allen Toussaint. Look for the 2009 schedule to be posted at May 1.

Another great spot to catch particularly local luminaries is the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, which runs from May to October. Rupa and the April Fishes, Brass Menazeri, Marcus Shelby Trio, Bayonics, and Omar Sosa’s Afreecanos Quintet all took their turn in the sun during the Thursday lunchtime concerts. Find out who’s slated for ’09 in early spring at

All year around, shopkeeps support sounds further off the beaten path — music fans already know about the free, albeit usually shorter, shows, DJ sets, and acoustic performances at aural emporiums like Amoeba Music ( and Aquarius Records ( Many a mind has been blown by a free blast of new sonics from MIA or Boris amid the stacks at Amoeba, the big daddy in this field, while Aquarius in-stores define coziness: witness last year’s intimate acoustic hootenanny by Deerhoof’s Satomi and Tenniscoats’ Saya as Oneone. Less regular but still an excellent time if you happen upon one: Adobe Books Backroom Gallery art openings (, where you can get a nice, low-key dose of the Mission District’s art and music scenes converging. Recent exhibition unveilings have been topped off by performances by the Oh Sees, Boner Ha-chachacha, and the Quails.

Still further afield, check into the free-for-all, quality curatorial efforts at the Rite Spot (, where most shows at this dimly lit, atmospheric slice of old-school cabaret bohemia are as free as the breeze and as fun as the collection of napkin art in back: Axton Kincaid, Brandy Shearer, Kitten on the Keys, Toshio Hirano, and Yard Sale have popped up in the past. Also worth a looky-loo are Thee Parkside‘s ( free Twang Sunday and Happy Hour Shows: a rad time to check out bands you’ve never heard of but nonetheless pique your curiosity: Hukaholix, hell’s yeah! And don’t forget: every cover effort sounds better with a pint — all the better to check into the cover bands at Johnny Foley’s (, groove artists at Beckett’s Irish Pub in Berkeley (, and piano man Rod Dibble and his rousing sing-alongs at the Alley in Oakland (510-444-8505). All free of charge. Charge! (Kimberly Chun}



Our complex world often defies simple solutions. But there is one easy way to save money, get healthy, become more self-sufficient, free up public resources, and reduce your contribution to air pollution and global warming: get around town on a bicycle.

It’s no coincidence that the number of cyclists on San Francisco streets has increased dramatically over the last few years, a period of volatile gasoline prices, heightened awareness of climate change, poor Muni performance, and economic stagnation.

On Bike to Work Day last year, traffic counts during the morning commute tallied more bicycles than cars on Market Street for the first time. Surveys commissioned by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition show that the number of regular bike commuters has more than doubled in recent years. And that increase came even as a court injunction barred new bike projects in the city (see "Stationary biking," 5/16/07), a ban that likely will be lifted later this year, triggering key improvements in the city’s bicycle network that will greatly improve safety.

Still not convinced? Then do the math.

Drive a car and you’ll probably spend a few hundred dollars every month on insurance, gas, tolls, parking, and fines, and that’s even if you already own your car outright. If you ride the bus, you’ll pay $45 per month for a Fast Pass while government will pay millions more to subsidize the difference. Riding a bike is basically free.

Free? Surely there are costs associated with bicycling, right? Yeah, sure, occasionally. But in a bike-friendly city like San Francisco, there are all kinds of opportunities to keep those costs very low, certainly lower than any other transportation alternative except walking (which is also a fine option for short trips).

There are lots of inexpensive used bicycles out there. I bought three of my four bicycles at the Bike Hut at Pier 40 ( for an average of $100 each and they’ve worked great for several years (my fourth bike, a suspension mountain bike, I also bought used for a few hundred bucks).

Local shops that sell used bikes include Fresh Air Bicycles, (1943 Divisidero, Refried Cycles (3804 17th St., www.refriedcycles,com/bicycles.htm), Karim Cycle (2800 Telegraph., Berkeley, and Re-Cycles Bicycles (3120 Sacramento, Berkeley, Blazing Saddles (1095 Columbus, sells used rental bikes for reasonable prices. Craigslist always has listings for dozens of used bikes of all styles and prices. And these days, you can even buy a new bike for a few hundred bucks. Sure, they’re often made in China with cheap parts, but they’ll work just fine.

Bikes are simple yet effective machines with a limited number of moving parts, so it’s easy to learn to fix them yourself and cut out even the minimal maintenance costs associated with cycling. I spent $100 for two four-hour classes at Freewheel Bike Shop (1920 Hayes and 914 Valencia, that taught me everything I need to know about bike maintenance and includes a six-month membership that lets me use its facilities, tools, and the expertise of its mechanics. My bikes are all running smoother than ever on new ball bearings that cost me two bucks per wheel, but they were plenty functional even before.

There are also ways to get bike skills for free. Sports Basement ( offers free bicycle maintenance classes at both its San Francisco locations the first Tuesday of every month from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Or you can turn to the Internet, where YouTube has a variety of bike repair videos and Web sites such as can lead you through repairs.

The nonprofit The Bike Kitchen (1256 Mission, on Mission Street offers great deals to people who spend $40 per year for a membership. Volunteer your time through the Earn-a-Bike program and they’ll give you the frame, parts, and skills to build your own bike for free.

But even in these hard economic times, there is one purchase I wouldn’t skimp on: spend the $30 — $45 for a good U-lock, preferably with a cable for securing the wheels. Then you’re all set, ready to sell your car, ditch the bus, and learn how easy, cheap, fast, efficient, and fun it is to bicycle in this 49-square-mile city. (Steven T. Jones)



When money’s tight, healthcare tends to be one of the first costs we cut. But that can be a bad idea, because skimping on preventive care and treatment for minor issues can lead to much more expensive and serious (and painful) health issues later. Here is our guide to Bay Area institutions, programs, and clinics that serve the under- and uninsured.

One of our favorite places is the Women’s Community Clinic (2166 Hayes, 415-379-7800,, a women-operated provider open to anyone female, female-identified, or female-bodied transgender. This awesome 10-year-old clinic offers sexual and reproductive health services — from Pap smears and PMS treatment to menopause and infertility support — to any SF, San Mateo, Alameda, or Marin County resident, and all on a generous sliding scale based on income and insurance (or lack thereof). Call for an appointment, or drop in on Friday mornings (but show up at 9:30 a.m. because spots fill up fast).

A broader option (in terms of both gender and service) is Mission Neighborhood Center (main clinic at 240 Shotwell. 415-552-3870,, see Web site for specialty clinics). This one-stop health shop provides primary, HIV/AIDS, preventive, podiatry, women’s, children’s, and homeless care to all, though its primary focus is on the Latino/Hispanic Spanish-speaking community. Insurance and patient payment is accepted, including a sliding scale for the uninsured (no one is denied based on inability to pay). This clinic is also a designated Medical Home (or primary care facility) for those involved in the Healthy San Francisco program.

Contrary to popular belief, Healthy San Francisco ( is not insurance. Rather, it’s a network of hospitals and clinics that provide free or nearly free healthcare to uninsured SF residents who earn at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level (which, at about $2,600 per month, includes many of us). Participants choose a Medical Home, which serves as a first point-of-contact. The good news? HSF is blind to immigration status, employment status, and preexisting medical conditions. The catch? The program’s so new and there are so many eligible residents that the application process is backlogged — you may have a long wait before you reap the rewards. Plus, HSF only applies within San Francisco.

Some might consider mental health less important than that of the corporeal body, but anyone who’s suffered from depression, addiction, or PTSD knows otherwise. Problem is, psychotherapy tends to be expensive — and therefore considered superfluous. Not so at Golden Gate Integral Counseling Center (507 Polk. 415-561-0230,, where individuals, couples, families, and groups can get long- and short-term counseling for issues from stress and relationships to gender identity, all billed on a sliding scale.

Other good options

American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (450 Connecticut, 415-282-9603, This well-regarded school provides a range of treatments, including acupuncture, cupping, tui ma/shiatsu massage, and herbal therapy, at its on-site clinics — all priced according to a sliding scale and with discounts for students and seniors. The college also sends interns to specialty clinics around the Bay, including the Women’s Community Clinic, Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic, and St. James Infirmary.

St. James Infirmary (1372 Mission. 415-554-8494, Created for sex-workers and their partners, this Mission District clinic offers a range of services from primary care to massage and self-defense classes, for free. Bad ass.

Free Print Shop ( This fantabulous Webs site has charts showing access to free healthcare across the city, as well as free food, shelter, and help with neighborhood problems. If we haven’t listed ’em, Free Print Shop has. Tell a friend.

Native American Health Center (160 Capp, 415-621-8051, Though geared towards Native Americans, this multifaceted clinic (dental! an Oakland locale, and an Alameda satellite!) turns no one away. Services are offered to the under-insured on a sliding scale as well as to those with insurance.

SF Free Clinic (4900 California, 415-750-9894, Those without any health insurance can get vaccinations, diabetes care, family planning assistance, STD diagnosis and treatment, well child care, and monitoring of acute and chronic medical problems.

Haight Ashbury Free Clinics (558 Clayton. 415-746-1950, Though available to all, these clinics are geared towards the uninsured, underinsured "working poor," the homeless, youth, and those with substance abuse and/or mental health issues. We love this organization not only for its day-to-day service, but for its low-income residential substance abuse recovery programs and its creation of RockMed, which provides free medical care at concerts and events. (Molly Freedenberg)



There’s no reason to be ashamed to stay in the city’s homeless shelters — but proceed with awareness. Although most shelters take safety precautions and men and women sleep in separate areas, they’re high-traffic places that house a true cross-section of the city’s population.

The city shelters won’t take you if you just show up — you have to make a reservation. In any case, a reservation center should be your first stop anyway because they’ll likely have other services available for you. If you’re a first-timer, they’ll want to enter you into the system and take your photograph. (You can turn down the photo-op.) Reservations can be made for up to seven days, after which you’ll need to connect with a case manager to reserve a more permanent 30- or 60-day bed.

The best time to show up is first thing in the morning when beds are opening up, or late at night when beds have opened up because of no-show reservations. First thing in the morning means break of dawn — people often start lining up between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. for the few open beds. Many people are turned away throughout the day, although your chances are better if you’re a woman.

You can reserve a bed at one of several reservation stations: 150 Otis, Mission Neighborhood Resource Center (165 Capp St.), Tenderloin Resource Center (187 Golden Gate), Glide (330 Ellis), United Council (2111 Jennings), and the shelters at MSC South (525 Fifth St.) and Hospitality House (146 Leavenworth). If it’s late at night, they may have a van available to give you a ride to the shelter. Otherwise, bus tokens are sometimes available if you ask for one — especially if you’re staying at Providence shelter in the Bayview-Hunters Point District.

They’ll ask if you have a shelter preference — they’re all a little different and come with good and bad recommendations depending on whom you talk to. By all accounts, Hospitality House is one of the best — it’s small, clean, and well run. But it’s for men only, as are the Dolores Street Community Services shelters (1050 S. Van Ness and 1200 Florida), which primarily cater to Spanish-speaking clients.

Women can try Oshun (211 13th St.) and A Woman’s Place (1049 Howard) if they want a men-free space. If kids are in tow, Compass Family Services will set you up with shelter and put you on a waiting list for housing. (A recent crush of families means a waiting list for shelters also exists.) People between 18 and 24 can go to Lark Inn (869 Ellis). The Asian Woman’s Shelter specializes in services for Asian-speaking women and domestic violence victims (call the crisis line 877-751-0880). (Amanda Witherell)



Nothing fancy about these places — but the food is good, and the price is right, and they’re perfect for depression dining.

Betty’s Cafeteria Probably the easiest place in town to eat for under five bucks, breakfast or lunch, American or Chinese. 167 11th St., SF. (415) 431-2525

Susie’s Café You can get four pancakes or a bacon burger for under $5 at this truly grungy and divine dive, right next to Ed’s Auto — and you get the sense the grease intermingles. , 603 Seventh St., SF (415) 431-2177

Lawrence Bakery Café Burger and fries, $3.75, and a slice of pie for a buck. 2290 Mission., SF. (415) 864-3119

Wo’s Restaurant Plenty of under-$5 Cantonese and Vietnamese dishes, and, though the place itself is cold and unatmospheric, the food is actually great. 4005 Judah, SF. (415) 681-2433

Glenn’s Hot Dogs A cozy, friendly, cheap, delicious hole-in-the-wall and probably my favorite counter to sit at in the whole Bay Area. 3506 MacArthur Blvd., Oakl. (510) 530-5175 (L.E. Leone)



When it comes to free drinks I’m a liar, a whore, and a cheat, duh.

I’m a liar because of course I find your designer replica stink-cloud irresistible and your popped collar oh so intriguing — and no, you sexy lug, I’ve never tried one of those delicious-looking orange-juice-and-vodka concoctions you’re holding. Perhaps you could order me one so I could try it out while we spend some time?

I’m a whore because I’ll still do you anyway — after the fifth round, natch. That’s why they call me the liquor quicker picker-upper.

And I’m a cheat because here I am supposed to give you the scoop on where to score some highball on the lowdown, when in fact there’s a couple of awesome Web sites just aching to help you slurp down the freebies. Research gives me wrinkles, darling. So before I get into some of my fave inexpensive inebriation stations, take a designated-driver test drive of and

FuncheapSF’s run by the loquacious Johnny Funcheap, and has the dirty deets on a fab array of free and cheap city events — with gallery openings, wine and spirits tastings, and excellent shindigs for the nightlife-inclined included. is a national operation that’s geared toward the hard stuff, and its local branch offers way too much clarity about happy hours, concerts, drink specials, and service nights. Both have led me into inglorious perdition, with dignity, when my chips were down.

Beyond all that, and if you have a couple bucks in your shucks, here’s a few get-happies of note:

Godzuki Sushi Happy Hour at the Knockout. Super-yummy affordable fish rolls and $2 Kirin on tap in a rockin’ atmosphere. Wednesdays, 6–9:30 p.m. 3223 Mission, SF. (415) 550-6994,

All-Night Happy Hour at The Attic. Drown your recession tears — and the start of your work week — in $3 cosmos and martinis at this hipster hideaway. Sundays and Mondays, 5 p.m.–2 a.m. 3336 24th St., (415) 722-7986

The Stork Club. Enough live punk to bleed your earworm out and $2 Pabsts every night to boot? Fly me there toute suite. 2330 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 444-6174,

House of Shields. Dive into $2 PBR on tap and great music every night except Sundays at the beautiful winner of our 2008 Best of the Bay "Best Monumental Urinal" award. (We meant in the men’s room, not the place as a whole!) 39 New Montgomery, SF. (415) 975-8651,

The Bitter End. $3 drafts Monday through Friday are just the beginning at this Richmond pub: the Thursday night Jager shot plus Pabst for five bucks (plus an ’80s dance party) is worth a look-see. 441 Clement, SF. (415) 221-9538

Thee Parkside Fast becoming the edge-seekers bar of choice, this Potrero Hill joint has some awesome live nights with cheap brews going for it, but the those in the know misplace their Saturday afternoons with $3 well drinks from 3 to 8 p.m.1600 17th St., SF. (415) 252-1330,

Infatuation. One of the best free club nights in the city brings in stellar electro-oriented talent and also offers two-for-one well drinks, so what the hey. Wednesdays, 9 p.m.–2 a.m. Vessel, 85 Campton Place, SF. (415) 433-8585,

Honey Sundays. Another free club night, this one on the gay tip, that offers more great local and international DJ names and some truly fetching specials at Paradise Lounge’s swank upstairs bar. Sundays, 8 p.m.–2 a.m. Paradise Lounge, 1501 Folsom, SF. (415) 252-5018, (Marke B.)



You’ve got a date this weekend, which you’re feeling pretty good about, but only $50 to spend, which feels … not so good. Where should you go?

You’ll appear in-the-know at the underrated Sheba Piano Lounge (1419 Fillmore, on lower Fillmore Street, right in the middle of the burgeoning jazz revival district. Sheba was around long before Yoshi’s, offering live jazz (usually piano, sometimes a vocalist) and some of the best Ethiopian food in the city in a refined, relaxed lounge setting. Sure, they’ve got Americanized dishes, but skip those for the traditional Ethiopian menu. Sample multiple items by ordering the vegetarian platter ($13) or ask for a mixed meat platter, which is not on the menu ($16 last time I ordered it). One platter is more than enough for two, and you can still afford a couple of cocktails, glasses of wine or beer, or even some Ethiopian honey wine (all well under $10). Like any authentic Ethiopian place I’ve eaten in, the staff operates on Africa time, so be prepared to linger and relax.

It’s a little hipster-ish with slick light fixtures, a narrow dining room/bar, and the increasingly common "communal table" up front, but the Mission District’s Bar Bambino (2931 16th St., offers an Italian enoteca experience that says "I’ve got some sophistication, but I like to keep it casual." Reserve ahead for tables because there aren’t many, or come early and sit at the bar or in the enclosed back patio and enjoy an impressive selection of Italian wines by the glass ($8–$12.50). For added savings with a touch of glam, don’t forget their free sparkling water on tap. It’s another small plates/antipasti-style menu, so share a pasta ($10.50–$15.50), panini ($11.50–$12.50), and some of their great house-cured salumi or artisan cheese. Bar Bambino was just named one of the best wine bars in the country by Bon Apetit, but don’t let that deter you from one of the city’s real gems.

Nothing says romance (of the first date kind) like a classic French bistro, especially one with a charming (heated) back patio. Bistro Aix (3340 Steiner, is one of those rare places in the Marina District where you can skip the pretension and go for old school French comfort food (think duck confit, top sirloin steak and frites, and a goat cheese salad — although the menu does stray a little outside the French zone with some pasta and "cracker crust pizza." Bistro Aix has been around for years, offering one of the cheapest (and latest — most end by 6 or 7 p.m.) French prix fixe menus in town (Sunday through Thursday, 6–8 p.m.) at $18 for two courses. This pushes it to $40 for two, but still makes it possible to add a glass of wine, which is reasonably priced on the lower end of their Euro-focused wine list ($6.25–$15 a glass).

Who knew seduction could be so surprisingly affordable? (Virginia Miller)



You may be broke, but you can still stay limber. San Francisco is home to scores of studios and karmically-blessed souls looking to do a good turn by making yoga affordable for everyone.

One of the more prolific teachers and donation-based yoga enthusiasts is Tony Eason, who trained in the Iyengar tradition. His classes, as well as links to other donation-based teachers, can be found at Another great teacher in the Anusara tradition is Skeeter Barker, who teaches classes for all levels Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:45 to 9:15 p.m. at Yoga Kula, 3030a 16th St. (recommended $8–$10 donation).

Sports Basement also hosts free classes every Sunday at three stores: Bryant Street from 1 to 2 p.m., the Presidio from 11a.m. to noon, and Walnut Creek 11 a.m. to noon. Bring your own mat.

But remember: even yoga teachers need to make a living — so be fair and give what you can. (Amanda Witherell)



So the building you live in was foreclosed. Or you missed a few rent payments. Suddenly there’s a three-day eviction notice in your mailbox. What now?

Don’t panic. That’s the advice from Ted Gullicksen, executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union. Tenants have rights, and evictions can take a long time. And while you may have to deal with some complications and legal issues, you don’t need to pack your bags yet.

Instead, pick up the phone and call the Tenants Union (282-6622, or get some professional advice from a lawyer.

The three-day notice doesn’t mean you have to be out in three days. "But it does mean you will have to respond to and communicate with the landlord/lady within that time," Gullicksen told us.

It’s also important to keep paying your rent, Gullicksen warned, unless you can’t pay the full amount and have little hope of doing so any time soon.

"Nonpayment of rent is the easiest way for a landlord to evict a tenant," Gullicksen explained. "Don’t make life easier for the landlady who was perhaps trying to use the fact that your relatives have been staying with you for a month as grounds to evict you so she can convert your apartment into a pricey condominium."

There are, however, caveats to Gullicksen’s "always pay the rent" rule: if you don’t have the money or you don’t have all the money.

"Say you owe $1,000 but only have $750 when you get the eviction notice," Gullicksen explained. "In that case, you may want to not pay your landlord $750, in case he sits on it but still continues on with the eviction. Instead, you might want to put the money to finding another place or hiring an attorney."

A good lawyer can often delay an eviction — even if it’s over nonpayment or rent — and give you time to work out a deal. Many landlords, when faced with the prospect of a long legal fight, will come to the table. Gullicksen noted that the vast majority of eviction cases end in a settlement. "We encourage all tenants to fight evictions," he said. The Tenants Union can refer you to qualified tenant lawyers.

These days some tenants who live in buildings that have been foreclosed on are getting eviction notices. But in San Francisco, city officials are quick to point out, foreclosure is not a legal ground for eviction.

Another useful tip: if your landlord is cutting back on the services you get — whether it’s a loss of laundry facilities, parking, or storage space, or the owner has failed to do repairs or is preventing you from preventing you from "the quiet enjoyment of your apartment" — you may be able to get a rent reduction. With the passage of Proposition M in November 2008 tenants who have been subjected to harassment by their landlords are also eligible for rent reductions. That involves a petition to the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board (

Gullicksen also recommends that people who have lost their jobs check out the Eviction Defense Collaborative (

"They are mostly limited to helping people who have temporary shortfalls," Gullicksen cautioned. But if you’ve lost your job and are about to start a new one and are a month short, they can help. (Sarah Phelan)



How do you get your unemployment check?

"Just apply for it."

That’s the advice of California’s Employment Development Department spokesperson Patrick Joyce.

You may think you aren’t eligible because you may have been fired or were only working part-time, but it’s still worth a try. "Sometimes people are ineligible, but sometimes they’re not," Joyce said, explaining that a lot of factors come into play, including your work history and how much you were making during the year before you became unemployed.

"So, simply apply for it — if you don’t qualify we’ll tell you," he said. "And if you think you are eligible and we don’t, you can appeal to the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board."

Don’t wait, either. "No one gets unemployment benefits insurance payments for the first week they are unemployed," Joyce explained, referring to the one-week waiting period the EDD imposes before qualified applicants can start collecting. "So you should apply immediately."

Folks can apply by filling out the unemployment insurance benefits form online or over the phone. But the phone number is frequently busy, so online is the best bet.

Even if you apply by phone, visit beforehand to view the EDD’s extensive unemployment insurance instructions and explanations. To file an online claim, visit For a phone number for your local office, visit

(Sarah Phelan)

We’ll be doing regular updates and running tips for hard times in future issues. Send your ideas to

Amber India



Whatever you think a tony Indian restaurant might look like, you’re probably not picturing Amber India. On the other hand, if you’re wondering what a tony Indian restaurant smells like, you probably already know: it smells like the regular kind, which is to say, it smells of curry. Amber India smells bewitchingly of curry while looking like, in its elegant stackedness, Postrio.

You step inside from street level — or lane level, since the restaurant lies along a pedestrian plaza, Yerba Buena Lane — and find yourself at the host’s podium, on a small platform, while the restaurant opens out below you like an enchanted, hidden valley. Amber India doesn’t quite have Postrio’s Gone with the Wind staircase or exhibition kitchen, but it does have gorgeous flooring (large tiles of what looks like polished sandstone); impressive columns; a partly coffered ceiling; square leaves of gilded, pressed tin tethered to some of the light fixtures; and atmospheric golden lighting in general. Given the hardness of the flooring material and the scale of the restaurant (which can accommodate nearly 200 people), noise is notably under control.

Amber India opened in the city just this past June, in a neighborhood that has seen drastic changes in recent years. (The restaurant’s siblings, scattered across the Peninsula and South Bay, have been a presence in the Bay Area for nearly 15 years.) For one thing, there is now an actual neighborhood, with people living just steps away — mostly overhead, in the condominiums above the Four Seasons Hotel, and in the many other residential buildings that have sprung up in SoMa. The restaurant is also convenient to shoppers, museum-goers (the new Jewish Museum is just across the walkway, while the Yerba Buena Center and Museum of Modern Art are barely more than one block distant), and out-of-towners.

Why would they come to Amber India, apart from its convenience and style? One reason might be that the food emerging from the kitchen is gratifyingly spicy. We were particularly exhilarated by the dal Amber ($12.95), a shallow dish of black lentils swimming in a thick, rust-colored sauce the menu described as consisting of "cream, tomatoes, and spices." "Spices," in the world of Indian restaurants, is a come-hither word that tells you practically nothing; it doesn’t have to mean "spicy" — i.e. hot — but it does here. Dal is often soupy and can be indifferently prepared in other restaurants, but Amber India’s version had a velvet smoothness that left an erotic tingle on the lips.

If you want the standards, many of them are here. But the menu offers a wide array of imaginative cooking, including the use of unorthodox ingredients. Duck? How about duck tikka kebab ($10.95), chunks of boneless breast meat marinated in spicy yogurt, pan-seared on skewers, and served with an eerily addictive dill-caper sauce the color and consistency of homemade mayonnaise? The meat was beautifully tender and didn’t even need the sauce, but once the meat was gone, we kept dipping out spoons into it as if it were a separate dish.

Thanks to saganaki and The Simpsons, many of us are familiar with fried cheese, but grilled cheese — as in actual chunks of cheese, not packaged in a sandwich — is another matter. Amber offers it as paneer tikka lal mirch ($15.95), elongated cubes of mild white cheese, marinated and grilled. If you’ve eaten grilled tofu, you’ll have a good sense of the look and feel of this dish, although the cheese has more tang.

As a boy, I was unimpressed by the cans of spinach devoured by Popeye the Sailor Man: I liked Popeye, but spinach was repulsive, period, new paragraph. Then, in early adulthood, I discovered saag paneer, an exotic version of creamed spinach punctuated with chunks of white cheese. Every Indian restaurant I’ve been to — except, now, Amber — offers an interpretation of this standard. Amber’s spinach dish is called teen saag ($14.95); it consists of spinach (plus some dill and mustard greens) wilted with cumin and garlic and, for counterpoint, mushroom caps and spears of baby corn instead of cheese chunks.

I would count that dish as vegan, despite a small suspicion that cream was involved. Indian cooking is expansively vegan- and vegetarian-friendly, but if you are a sometime or intermittent vegetarian, or a pesco-vegetarian — or even just some kind of poser — Amber doesn’t disappoint. Our tongues were left pleasurably smoldering by the "thecha" shrimp salad ($9.95), a clutch of small shrimp marinated with garlic and chilis, sautéed, and nested in mixed baby field greens. The masterstroke: a vinaigrette scented with lemon verbena, an herb that, like lemongrass, is lemony in a way distinct from plain lemons.

It’s possible that people eat in Indian restaurants without having naan, but I have never seen such a display. Amber isn’t the place to experiment with the naanless life, either; its flatbreads are wonderful exercises in blistered tenderness, and the signature Amber rounds ($3.95) come with a variety of toppings, including a fragrant and nippy blend of chili and thyme.

On the other hand … $3.95 for a disk of bread sprinkled with a few herbs isn’t exactly the steal of the century. Amber’s prices are, I would guess, about 50 percent higher than the Indian-restaurant average in the farther reaches of the city. So you pay a city-center premium that reflects convenience and the affluence of the surroundings. But you won’t find better Indian food, and in that sense the premium, although steep as a percentage, is modest as a fact.


Dinner: Sun.–Thurs., 5–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 5–10:30 p.m.

Lunch: Mon.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., noon–3 p.m.

25 Yerba Buena Lane, SF

(415) 777-0500

Full bar


Not noisy

Wheelchair accessible

The American imagination



REVIEW If you’re one of the 200,000 San Franciscans who voted for Barack Obama, maybe you’re staring at that map of red and blue states wondering, "How could 56 million people vote for John McCain? Why is there still this incredible swath of crimson belting our country?"

Similar questions have been burning in the minds of liberals since the 2000 election. In 2005, San Francisco resident Rose Aguilar turned them into a quest: "One night, after spending several hours online, sending articles to friends who were probably sick of me barraging them with e-mails and practically falling over political books and magazines I had yet to open, I realized it was time to leave my comfort zone. I needed to turn off my computer and get out into the streets to find out why people vote the way they do and find out if we’re as divided as we’re led to believe."

Red Highways: A Liberal’s Journey into the Heartland (PoliPoint Press, 221 pages, $15.95) is the result of Aguilar’s six-month road trip through reliably red states to ask people why they identify with one party over another, or vote for certain candidates, or don’t vote at all.

Aguilar, the host of Your Call, a public interest radio show on KALW, kept her mic keyed up and conducted hundreds of interviews as she and her boyfriend, Ryan, traveled by van through Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Montana. Some of these talks are with the hotel employees and restaurant owners one might typically encounter on a cross-country road trip. But Aguilar and her partner also venture to places they wouldn’t normally go — places that are mainstays in the lives of many Americans. Malls and churches provide the setting for much of the narrative, but the duo also attend their first gun show, chill out at a water park, and take in a bull-riding event. Nearly every experience is charged with politics — even at Oklahoma’s Bullnanza, Aguilar discovers riders who are heavily sponsored by the US Army.

Aguilar’s easy prose style, no doubt fine-tuned by her daily radio conversations, makes this part-travelogue, part-political inquiry a quick read, with a fine balance of visual observation, first-person anecdote (she outlines the challenges of roadside dining when you’re a vegan), and political fine-tuning. Aguilar discovers that most people like to talk about politics, but feel they shouldn’t. In Kerrville, Texas, she meets two closet Democrats, one who is a registered Republican because there are never any Democrats on the local ballot.

The phenomenon of closeted politics recurs as Aguilar travels deep into red state territory. She also criticizes the media for failing to adequately portray America’s nuances. "We breathe the same air, we live under the same political system, we’ve probably seen the same television and news shows, and most of us grew up going to public schools," she writes. "Yet because we might vote differently once every four years, we find ourselves stereotyped in the national media and separated by red and blue borders."

While exposing the impact of political peer pressure, Aguilar also encounters jarring social inconsistencies — billboard advertisements for strip clubs compete with signs for mega-churches throughout Dallas. With an awareness of such juxtapositions, she seeks a deeper truth in her talks with gay conservative environmentalists in Montana, Republican funders of local Planned Parenthood chapters, and a pro-war Texas vegan. Their tales make her book an important piece of evidence on America’s political complexity. Red Highways uncovers a country full of fierce individuals prone to herd mentality.

Aguilar finds islands of unquestionable compassion. Speaking with churchgoer Bob Bartlett after a service at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian church in Austin, she asks him: ‘I noticed that this is a progressive church. What does that mean exactly?

‘It means we’re open to everybody’s thoughts and we’re open to everyone, no matter what your nationality is or what your religion is or what your sex is. We like all of it.’

"CNN or MSNBC should send a reporter here to challenge stereotypes by doing a segment about religious Republicans who attend progressive churches in conservative-leaning states. This one wasn’t hard to find. There must be others," she concludes.

In a Sept. 29, New Yorker article revisiting Lionel Trilling’s The Liberal Imagination, a collection of essays written more than 50 years ago, Louis Menand wrote, "A key perception in The Liberal Imagination is that most human beings are not ideologues. Intellectual coherence is not a notable feature of their politics. People’s political opinions may be rigid; they are not necessarily rigorous. They tend to float up out of some mixture of sentiment, custom, moral aspiration, and aesthetic pleasingness."

Menand goes on to point out that such assumptions need critical attention. Perhaps now, as the country decompresses from two years of campaigning that resulted in the election of the first black president to lead this diverse, complex, and deeply wounded populace, as people who voted Republican are already speaking about their pride in this historic moment, and as political commentators are already talking about the "purpleness" of the country and blurring of hard lines between states and political stances, writers and reporters like Aguilar will start to look more closely at who we really are. Red Highways deserves a place in the library of modern political Americana.

My call with Rose Aguilar


By Amanda Witherell


Local KALW “Your Call” radio show host Rose Aguilar has written a fascinating account of her six-month road trip through four “red” states interviewing people about their lives and asking them why they vote the way they do. The book, Red Highways, details her interviews and interactions she meets and reveals Aguilar as the kind of reporter who is drawn to apparent contradictions and keeps her microphone on way past the sound byte responses. She and her boyfriend, Ryan, attend a progressive church in Dallas and dine with a pro-war vegan; interview a Republican turned Democrat because of domestic violence in Mississippi; have a close encounter at a gun show in Oklahoma City; and talk with gay, Republican environmentalists in Montana.

The book was published just before the election and I gave her a call today to get her thoughts on Barack Obama’s win, hear some stories that were left out of the book, and talk about how the media could and should be reporting from the real American perspective.

We’ll be publishing a review of Red Highways in Wednesday’s paper, but in the meantime, Aguilar is reading tonight, November 11, at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. You can find other author events here.


Here are some excerpts of my interview with her:

Feast: Mapu tofu ramen



As cross-cultural Asian culinary collisions go, mapo tofu ramen is right up — or down — there with peanut butter–filled mochi, crab rangoon, and sweet and spicy teriyaki potato chips. Not for purity-obsessed traditionalist foodies, cholesterol watchers, or just plain unimaginative eaters, this delightful bastardization will float many a boat of the clean-plate brigade — if only they can find it. Mapo tofu ramen isn’t sukiyaki, chicken teriyaki, shrimp tempura, or tekka maki — it’s far from being a Japanese menu staple. But until wasabi noodles emerge to wipe spice lovers’ sinuses clean, the few places that do serve this pepper-bedecked dish will be guaranteed pilgrimages from heat-seizers who appreciate that pleasure ‘n’ pain combo of sneeze-inducing chilies and comfort-giving brothy benevolence.

Just a noseful of ramen swirling in soup sends me back to the jillions of noodle stands riddling train station platforms all over Japan. Their presence paralleled the ironclad reliability of the country’s public transportation system. While you waited for your JR car, you plonked your yen in a quaint automat machine and pushed a button indicating your bowl of choice, be it udon or ramen, curry or karage. The machine issued you a ticket, which you forked over to the white-kerchiefed lady behind the teensy, tablet-shaped counter. Out came your bowl, in a few Shinkansen-speedy minutes. As the wet, bone-deep chill of a Japanese winter whipped across the raised platform outside, past the shivering salarymen and shuddering office ladies, you inhaled the noodles, using the chopsticks as a slender shovel, and noisily slurped the bonito-laced soup — the greater the gusto and the more audible the consumption, the greater the appreciation. Stops at the noodle stand became a warmth-endowing ritual disguised as a quick, tasty snack.

So how did Japanese ramen — itself a much-loved, long-ago import from China — come to be paired with numbingly spicy, sinus-clearing mapo tofu? The dish brilliantly pits nutritious tofu — so revered that "eating bean curd" can mean "taking advantage of or flirting with a person" in Chinese, according to Chinese Regional Cooking — with ground pork, or occasionally beef, and mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorn. I’ve found some of the finest examples of mapo tofu outside of Sichuan — ones that are a far cry from the brown-sauced, veggie-bedecked form it sometimes assumes stateside — in Japan, where heat-delivering comestibles like kimchi have also found favor. The premade mix you’ll find in most Japanese groceries is a decent approximation of the dish named, as legend has it, after a pock-mocked Sichuanese woman whose tofu swimming in meat sauce was worth traveling great distances to sample.

But who decided to first couple Sichuan-style spice with Japanese ramen? Online searches show mapo tofu ramen popping up on menus occasionally in Hawaii, Texas, and southern California. But my first brush with nose-clearing, sweat-beading heat came at Genki (Healthy) Ramen (3944 Geary, SF. 415-630-2948, in the Richmond District, under streamlined, vaguely disco-like decor. Curtains of reflective spangles and modish thread-strung lamps hang above flat-screen TVs showing button-cute J-pop nymphets serenading CGI kittens. Right now it might be the only spot in Bay Area to get a bowl of the genuine article — in both the mapo tofu and ramen departments.

The bowl arrives with a side of daikon pickles, sweet enough to cut the heat. A delicate isle of red, white, and brown mapo tofu lies perched amid flecks of green onion atop an al dente mound of slithery ramen noodles. Concentric circles of chili-hued sauce, oil, and soup expand out from the small mound of tofu specked with small yet not negligible nubs of pork, like a fatty, psychedelia-savory fever dream. The sauce is ever so slightly sweet and oyster sauce–ish, and soup delivers a distinct, radiating kick of space. Later the waitress tells me the cooks simmer pork and garlic all day to make the tonkatsu broth. Spice-snorting bliss — a marriage of the bland, serviceable refinement of tofu and the oily goodness of pork. This is every vegan’s nightmare, though unlike bacon-wrapped tofu, one gone deliciously right.

I venture out in search of more, on the rumor that Suzu Noodle House (1825 Post, SF. 415-346-5083) in Japantown and Katana-ya (430 Geary, SF. 415-771-1280) near Union Square serve spicy tofu ramen that compares. But no such luck. Suzu aims to please with a fine broth and toothsome noodles, but the spice level lacks the red-faced power of Genki. And Katana-ya’s spicy tofu ramen is more of a kimchi tofu ramen, sporting bits of pickled cabbage. It can be considered the soupy counterpart to its kimchi fried rice.

And so it’s back to Genki we go: if some Sichuan chili fans are right, getting healthy should always involve such a delicious sweat.

>>More Feast: The Guardian Guide to Bay Area Dining and Drinking

Mashed up



SONIC REDUCER Remember the bad ole days when giving a damn about food was uncool? When it was all about toughing out the gurgles in the gut — or snatching sheer, pleasure-free sustenance by grabbing a cheapie, microwaveable green burrito from 7-Eleven and shoveling it down the gullet before racing to the hardcore show at the Vet’s Hall.

Well, M.F.K. Fisher be praised and pass the white truffle oil and broccolini. Times have changed, and the signs of the shift in this chow-fixated city of biodynamo-organo-locavores have even seeped into its musical crannies, from shakuhachi player Philip Gelb’s organic, vegan cooking class-feast-performances and curator Brianna Toth’s dinner shows in her Mission District kitchen to Hawnay Troof/Vice Cooler’s mini-vegan cook-zine and Godwaffle Noise Pancakes brunches that gird gingerbread griddle cakes with quality noise. We won’t even mention all the musicians who also cook or wait for a living. Jesus Christ in a chicken basket, even big pop shots like Alex Kapranos have license to poop out tomes like Sound Bites: Eating on Tour with Franz Ferdinand (Penguin, 2006).

So when I smelt Lost in the Supermarket: An Indie Rock Cookbook comin’, I had to try some recipes and find out how this collection of treats from this oddball yet provocative assortment of music-makers came about. Authors Kay Bozich Owens and Lynn Owens were clearly indie fans of the most eclectic variety. Belle and Sebastian’s and Fugazi’s chosen eats are paired with Japanther’s and USAISAMONSTER’s. Some recipes tickle the taste buds like Icelandic experimentalist Mugison’s — say wha? — Plokkfishkur, a.k.a., fish stew. Others resonate like a zen koan (see Xiu Xiu’s take on tofu — "3. Eat it with a fork. 4. Stare out the window"); test one’s, erm, taste like 16 Bitch Pile Up’s "Birthday Cundt Cake," an anatomically correct, iced red-cake interpretation of a dismembered torso; or tease the imagination as with Carla Bozulich’s "Recipe for a Melodramatic End."

Lynn Owens attributes the hearty response that he and wife Kay received to the pervasiveness and renewed cool of foodie culture, the mindfulness with which people are paying attention to food and its origins, and the low-cost and creative side of cooking-it-yourself. "The kitchen is a place for creativity," says Owens, who teaches sociology, concentrating on radical politics and social protest, at Middlebury College in Vermont.

"And it is cool again: dinner party culture is big now." Additionally, he says, many musicians saw it as yet another outlet: "To an extent, cultural producers are branching out — now you don’t just do one thing anymore."

The project kicked off when the couple moved to Connecticut a few years ago: Lynn — who once made pizzas in SF alongside his friend, Deerhoof founder and 7 Year Rabbit Cycle leader Rob Fisk — was teaching at Wesleyan, and the bored and unemployed Kay began e-mailing bands about their favorite recipes, not expecting anyone to write back. But they did — with at times startling passion. "The Country Teasers, who actually have a reputation of having music that’s super-misanthropic, were super-duper helpful," Lynn marvels. "Almost everyone in the band sent recipes, and they introduced us to other bands who wanted to participate, and then when they played in Providence, R.I., they invited us to come to the show." Lynn went so far as to pull rank as a Wesleyan instructor in order to get alumni Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls to cough up a chocolate zucchini cake recipe. Students were enlisted as test kitchen guinea pigs.

Piqued by Lost‘s inclusion of multiple chili and mashed potato recipes, I decided to try my hand with the taters, a band favorite, natch, because they’re "filling and relatively cheap," as Lynn puts it. Black Dice’s Eric Copeland, another active contributor with multiple recipes and advice, forked up a relatively simple mashed potato recipe made of potatoes, sour cream, and "spices," which meant seasoned salt, pepper, and other mystery add-ins. Decent, but not as imaginative as I’d like from a Black Dicer.

The real revelations were Gris Gris member Oscar’s "Jalapeño Mashed Potatoes" and Solex’s "Amsterdam Mashed Potatoes with Sauerkraut." The former’s combo of almost-carmelized, hot-sweet jalapeños and onions combined with mash and chunks of queso fresco was an outright oral fiesta. The latter Dutch doozy was comfort food Eurostar deluxe, juxtaposing bland creaminess with sour ‘n’ savory sauerkraut, onion, and buttah. You won’t find Alice Waters or Thomas Keller level cooking in Lost, but fans of, say, starving college student cookbooks or quirky compendiums of Spam or ramen recipes will find plenty of tasty notions here — as delectable as all the aforementioned potato heads’ music. As the Rae-monster might roar, "Yummo." *



The Michigan acid-rockers and the Brooklyn avant explorers kick out the jams. Wed/8, 9 p.m., $8. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF.


Oakland vocalist John McCrea and company put the rock into their politics — and raise money for Proposition H. Fri/10, 9 p.m., $49.50–$99.50. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF.


Whoa, these guys look like the alternate cast of Entourage. Fri/10, 8 p.m., $37.50–$77.50. HP Pavilion, 525 W. Santa Clara, San Jose.


Quintron makes an appearance in Lost in the Supermarket with a lemon meringue pie recipe. Sat/11, 9 p.m., $15, Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF.


UK soul diva Duffy teams with ex-Eureka-ite Sara Bareilles. Sun/12, noon–5 p.m., $25. Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF.

March to stop the Moth Spray


Photo courtesy of Vegan Reader

Moth spray activists are planning to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday, May 31, to protest government plans to spray the Bay Area with moth pheromones.

Folks will gather at 9 am on the San Francisco side in the bridge parking lot, begin their walk at 10 am, and rally at 12 noon at the West End of Crissy Field, between Mason Street and the Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center. (Presumably, no one is going to try the Tibetan monks’ stunt of climbing the bridge, this time dressed as Light Brown Apple Moths.) You can find more information about the details of the march, here.

UC Davis scientists continue to challenge the United States Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Agriculture’s claims that the moth poses a severe threat to agriculture and that the aerial pesticides will effectively eradicate the pest.

But the CDFA is fighting back.

In a recent press release, the CDFA claimed that “aerially-applied moth pheromones have been used around the world for more than a decade with no indication of harm to people, pets or plants.”

“To date, the only impact on the environment or living things is confusion in male moths looking to mate with females,” CDFA officials claim.

PETA vs. Gore



GREEN CITY Al Gore’s 2006 Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth invigorated the global warming debate, and the environmental movement owes him a great deal of appreciation. After all, they don’t just give away the Nobel Peace Prize like samples of teriyaki chicken at Costco.

Yet some activists point to a gaping hole in Gore’s strategy to prevent climate change through lifestyle change: where’s the meat? For more than a year, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has hassled Gore to set an example by not eating animal flesh, and more important, to use his group, the Alliance for Climate Protection, to explain that vegetarianism is an important tactic in the fight against global warming.

PETA has the facts to back up its case. In 2006, the United Nations released a 400-page report concluding that global greenhouse gas emissions — which include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen dioxide, among others — from livestock production surpass emissions from all cars and trucks combined. That same year, the University of Chicago released a study saying that converting to an entirely plant-based diet lessens one’s own ecological footprint about 40 percent more than switching from an average American car to a Toyota Prius.

Of course, changing to a hybrid doesn’t prevent anyone from getting to where they want to go — which, for most people, includes the butcher shop.

Last March, PETA began its campaign with a polite invitation asking Gore to try meatless fried chicken. When it received no response, the campaign turned to tougher tactics. The animal advocacy group created a billboard depicting a chubby caricature of Gore munching on a drumstick, alongside the words "Too chicken to go vegetarian? Meat is the No. 1 cause of global warming." PETA has been buying space for the ad near the sites of Gore’s speaking engagements, and periodically sends letters asking him to address the issue.

Perhaps the issue strikes too close to home. Gore spent much of his childhood on his father’s cattle ranch in Carthage, Tenn. At his father’s memorial service in 1998, Gore remembered the ranch as a positive influence as a young boy. He explained how he learned to "clear three acres of heavily wooded forest with a double-bladed axe" and "deliver a newborn calf when its mother was having trouble."

Yet PETA notes that the clearing of forests has left 30 percent of the earth’s dry surface dedicated to livestock production, and that cattle farts and manure alone are responsible for more greenhouse emissions than cars.

According to the Alliance for Climate Protection, it’s not Gore’s responsibility to address the issue: "There are a lot of top 10 lists about personal behavior, about people monitoring their own involvement," said group spokesperson Brian Hardwick. "We recognize that there are many causes to climate change and causes of global warming. But we don’t think it’s our job to hone in on every detail."

Meat appears to be a glaring omission on the group’s Web site, which includes lengthy lists of ways people can help prevent global warming, including everything from keeping car tires full to changing incandescent light bulbs to energy-saving compact fluorescents. But the group doesn’t suggest anything drastic. They don’t ask people to stop driving; rather, they ask people to drive less by carpooling or walking. Neither do they ask people to stop using central heating at home; instead they ask people to remember to not run the heating when they’re gone.

Hardwick says this moderate approach is about building a movement, and indeed, they now claim 1.1 million supporters. "Our movement is designed to be inviting to people of all walks of life," he said. "Our emphasis in our campaign is that we want people to join together and demand solutions from our leaders."

PETA, which typically takes a vegan-or-nothing approach, has recognized the Alliance for Climate Protection’s strategy and isn’t asking the group to adopt an anti-meat stance. According to spokesperson Nicole Matthews, PETA would be content with a recommendation to eat less meat.

"If people reduce or eliminate their meat consumption, of course it would help reduce that household’s emissions — and certainly [help] the aggregate change as well," Hardwick admits. But, he was quick to add, "Eating less meat is good; changing laws is better."

Keeping it raw



SONIC REDUCER Who took the sex outta my rock ‘n’ roll? You gotta wonder, watching the Virgins — looking all of 12, collectively, and working the style and charisma of boys whose mothers still dress them — who played a Noise Pop show March 1 at Mezzanine. Sure, the New York City combo can write a good song — far better than those by the old-enough-to-know-better Gutter Twins, who were messing with almost two-decades-old, decayed grunge tropes across town at Bimbo’s 365 Club that same night. But they weren’t kidding when it came to picking a name: far be it from the Virgins to be mentally undressed. They looked like they were safely tucked into fresh, clean underwear — no holes bitten through by groupies — much like those other hotties in prep clothing, Vampire Weekend.

Where to find lusty, lascivious pop? Even Mariah Carey is giving brain cells top billing with her upcoming album, E=MC2 (Island). When it comes to the once-squeaky-clean Jacksons, "Don’t go there" Michael tops "Yeah, that’s sexy, sexy, sexy" Janet with his 25-year-old classic Thriller (Sony) — despite the former’s hopes in picking up where Control (A&M, 1986) left off by focusing on the dance floor with her likable, pillow-talking Discipline (Island). Sex? There are no bejeweled nipples in sight — and as for Jacko, the gloves are off and Neverland Ranch has been foreclosed. And the Vampires and Virgins definitely aren’t providing any.

Perhaps it’s time to turn to more wholesome pleasures like, say, jogging. Yoni Wolf of Why? — a self-proclaimed member of the Bronson Pinchot Fan Club, Anticon stalwart, and stealth heart-rate-raiser — will turn you around. "I can tell you right now, if you don’t know the power of endorphins, it’s a beautiful, wonderful thing," raves Wolf, 28, on the line from his Oakland abode. "I’ve never been a jock because I’m not coordinated. But to jog, you just have to move your legs around. You don’t need to catch a ball or hold a ball and get knocked down. I don’t even remember why I started doing this — probably ’cause I got a little gut and I gotta knock this off. Yeah, eat a midnight snack … "

Yep, it’s funny how passion plays out. Why?’s new disc, Alopecia (Anticon), returns to the lost love pined over on Why?’s last album, the breaking-through-after-breaking-up Elephant Eyelash (Anticon, 2005), and settles happily into its own sense of resignation — or as Wolf puts it, "hopeful frustration" — about that girlfriend and about life. Honestly, Wolf bedazzles with bared-belly, gutsy rhymes about jerking off in museums, "blowing kisses to disinterested bitches," a childhood fear of that ShowBiz Pizza bear, "eating pussy for new fans," "sucking dick for drink tickets at my cousin’s bar mitzvah," and "using Purell till my hands bleed and swell" — and that’s just in one track ("Good Friday").

Working with Why? cohorts — brother Josiah and Doug McDiarmid — as well as Fog’s Andrew Broder, Mark Erickson, Thee More Shallows’ D. Kessler, and ex-Beulah-ite Eli Crews, Wolf has stripped off the stray mustaches he’s been hiding behind to fully expose his pungent, punchy, stream-of-consciousness rhymes. Highly specific, yes; weirdly sexy, uh-huh — right down to the CD title, named for the mysterious disorder in which hair follicles halt production.

"You don’t suffer from alopecia?" I venture.

"What are you trying to say, I’m hairy?" jokes Wolf. "I’m a monkey? I actually suffered from it for a minute — on my penis."

Nah, nah, nah, the vocalist actually had a coin-size patch of affected skin for two years: "I have a theory why mine started happening — the hand of god came down and touched me on this one spot — no, I stepped on a bottle in a river and I got some sort of infection." It lingered throughout the period that Why? wrote, recorded, and mixed the new full-length, like an uninvited sweetheart. "It was looming and ominous and weird. At first I thought it was a fucking STD," Wolf says.

Slug of Atmosphere ended up setting him straight at a show in Baton Rouge, La., Wolf continues, and in the end, the bald patch "symbolized that period of my life for me, the creation of this record. For me, it was this little patch of honest skin: honest flesh with no covering or pretenses of an attempt to cover itself up, a little patch of baby skin that was really soft. That’s what I was thinking, a return to the raw." Oh, and it’s a tad sexy: "It’s a pretty word," Wolf adds. "It sounds like a flower." *


With Dose One, Cryptacize, and DJ Odd Nosdam and DJ Jel

Thurs/6, 9 p.m., $13

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF



The Portland indie-psych outfit love them some land of the dead — and some Robotech. Thurs/6, 9 p.m., $6. Hotel Utah, 500 Fourth St., SF.


SF’s Crucial Blast ambassadors resurrect classic rock, post-punk, and sludge for giggles. With Old Time Relijun and Tea Elles. Thurs/6, 9:30 p.m., $8. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF.


Libya rocks — thanks to the Bay’s Heavenly States, who invest a whole lotta soul into their forthcoming Delayer (Rebel Group). With Citay. Fri/7, 9 p.m., $12. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF.


The atonal Aussie Siltbreezers eschew bone meat, instead cutting to the ‘core with militant vegan deconstructo-noise. Opening as Tomes, Loren Chasse and Glenn Donaldson delve into the dark, dank folk flip of Thuja. With Curse of the Birthmark. Sat/8, 9:30 p.m., $7. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF.

New soup for you!


Day is done, gone the sun, and let’s have soup. The sun is lingering a little longer these days, but winter still abides in the garden, it remains damp and chilly inside, and if nothing else, we can warm our hands in the steam that rises from our bowls of soup.

Like all repertoires, the soup repertoire is in need of constant tending. You prune the ones that don’t quite work or show signs of reduced drawing power while being alert to new prospects. Much as I love butternut squash soup, for instance (and its near relation, kabocha squash soup), I’ve stricken it from the list, in part because of domestic unrest and in part because a great many restaurant kitchens turn out some version of it between November and March, and this creates an overkill issue.

Meanwhile, there is the matter of additions. The good soupist craves ideas, and when, for instance, a neighbor told of an excellent broccoli-leek soup she brought home one day from the Bi-Rite deli, the soupist’s ears pricked right up. Broccoli-leek? Could this be just a version of potato-leek with broccoli added? The soupist can’t speak for the Bi-Rite kitchen, but potato-leek with broccoli added does make a lovely, cream-of-broccoli-like soup, except with no cream.

Procedure: Clean a large leek by trimming the root end, removing the green leaves, thinly slicing the white bulb, and separating and cleaning the rings in a large bowl of water. Heat some sweet butter or vegetable oil in a soup pan, add the leek rings (with a pinch of salt), and soften, stirring occasionally. Don’t let the leek turn brown. Add a head of broccoli, rinsed and coarsely chopped, along with a large russet potato, peeled and cubed. Add about four or five cups water or stock — chicken stock is excellent but not vegan — bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Puree with an immersion wand or in a blender, add some ground or cracked black pepper, and salt to taste.

A nice springtime variation is to substitute green, or fresh, garlic (now showing up at farmers markets) for the leek. You will need three or four green garlic stalks, since they’re much slenderer than leeks. These soups cool very appealingly, even down to room temperature, but if your hands are blue, serve them hot.

Paul Reidinger


Dining in the off-hours


LATE LUNCHES One of the things that makes Don’t-call-it-Frisco such a fine place is the disproportionate ratio of successful slackers to office drones who live here. You know the type: they sleep in until 10, read the whole newspaper over a bagel and coffee, get some sort of exercise, and then spend the rest of the day creatively earning money. I’m one of them — hell, you’re probably one of them. Waiters, bartenders, freelance mortgage brokers, writers, graphic designers … there are all sorts of creative types doodling around the city during off hours, working after the sun goes down and eating their meals whenever they please. The only problem? When you finish breakfast at 11 a.m., you want lunch around 3 or 4 p.m. — and many power-lunch spots serving the corporate world close between 2 and 5 p.m., when the earliest cocktailer trickles in. So where do late lunchers eat? For those of you who think outside the cubicle, here are a few restaurants that’ll serve you no matter what time the lunch urge strikes.

Everything about Bar Bambino (2931 16th St.; 701-8466, is carefully rustic. In the restaurant’s front window, a rough-hewn community table seats 10 and a soft white Italian marble bar reaches all the way back to an open section of the kitchen, displaying cheeses and charcuterie. A few scattered indoor tables give way to a quiet, heated outdoor patio. The menu shows owner Christopher Losa’s love for northern Italy, where he lived for several years: the food is simple, traditional Italian, like the polpetti, pork-and-veal meatballs in a rich tomato sauce with dark chard. There’s nothing superfluous on the plates (order some sides for that), and the dishes are affordable. "I’m all about gastronomic progression, but how many times a week can you eat peppered sardines in cilantro foam?" laughs Losa. "Sometimes you just want a plate of really good pasta." The highly polished Italian wine list offsets Bar Bambino’s simple food.

If you want to know where the really good meals are, follow the chefs. When San Francisco’s culinary heroes have slept off last night’s shift (and postshift drinks) and finished their coffee, they head to Sunflower (506 Valencia and 3111 16th St.; 626-5022) for cheap and authentic Vietnamese eats. Sunflower has two locations: a tiny (like, four tables tiny) space on Valencia and a larger dining room around the corner on 16th Street. Both locations share the same kitchen, which speedily produces hangover-curing dishes like sticky wontons (stuffed with pork, rolled in rice, and deep-fried) and all kinds of pho, with the requisite Mission vegan options available. The industrial-strength Thai iced tea or coffee is sweetened by plenty of condensed milk and will keep you buzzing long into the evening. The produce is fresh and the meat is nondubious, something of a rarity for a pho restaurant.

Absinthe (398 Hayes; 551-1590, hasn’t gotten a lot of press in the past couple of years, but that’s not because the restaurant has slipped any. The Yelpers and the new-restaurant junkies may have gone to feed on fresh prey, but good ol’ Absinthe remains a staple of opera diners and cocktail connoisseurs. The bar’s lounge area stays open through Absinthe’s lunch rush, dinner rush, and the post-opera blitz. Sure, you’ll drop some coin on a meal at Absinthe (a decadent lunch for two plus cocktails runs about $100), but you’ll eat, and be treated, like royalty. Forget about the tired waitstaff dying to drop the checks so they can go home — the service here is as good as the Chartreuse cocktails and the fresh crab.

Restaurant Lulu (816 Folsom; 495-5775, is a total find in the restaurant wasteland that makes up this part of the SoMa corridor. It has the best salty, lemony mussels around, hands down. The industrial-chic decor is at odds with the impeccable and friendly service (read: no pretense, no attitude). Lulu’s is perfect for a hefty lunch circa 3 p.m., after a midday spin at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art or the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

The kitchen at Perbacco (230 California; 955-0663, will only do a bar menu between lunch and dinner, but it’s worth a trip to the heart of the Financial District for some ultra-authentic Italian snacks and drinks. The house specialty is the charcuterie plate (the sassy little meat-chef slices everything on a vintage machine right behind the bar), but everything’s good. Try their signature cocktail as a brightly acidic complement to the heavy, comforting meatiness offered on the rest of the menu.

OK, so you never want to hear the words "Asian fusion" again. I know: I don’t either. But buck up and check out Ozumo (161 Steuart; 882-1333, on the backside of Steuart. If you just can’t bear to order anything with the word "fusion" in its name (your loss), you can still try the sushi. Ozumo is where the other servers in the area head for their post-lunch-shift drink — in case you wonder who the raucous group in the front lounge are. If you sit up there too, you can even pick up a wireless signal from next door. Hey, it’s like you really are in an office … but with cocktails. Viva la SF-slacker lifestyle! (Ella Lawrence)

Monk’s Kettle



First, although it’s early, let’s hand out our first annual Best Restaurant Name Award. This year’s winner is the Monk’s Kettle, which is a witty, memorable, and — since the place in question is a craft-beer bar with food to match; ergo, a kind of hipster tavern — evocative phrase. Everyone loves a monk, and kettle is just fun to say, especially after a fancy beer or two.

The Monk’s Kettle is not a brewpub. No beer brewing is done on the premises, which are probably too snug anyway. The deal instead is a wide offering of beers from around the world, in the manner of Toronado or Moe Ginsburg’s; some are draught, many others are in bottles, but all are served in one of the stunning array of specialty glasses stacked behind the bar like crystals in some extraordinary ice formation.

Pardon is hereby issued to those who don’t recognize the space as the recent home of a Thai restaurant, Rasha, and before that, of Kelly’s Burgers. The footprint is the same — deep and narrow, with the sizable, mirror-backed bar and a semiopen kitchen along the right side and, on the left, booths snuggled against the windows — but the smell of old grease is gone, the color scheme is now one of muted earth tones, and the harsh lighting has given way to halogen pinpoints and, above the booths, glowing disks that look like the shells of some huge mollusk.

But the aesthetic makeover, though thorough and stylish, is dwarfed as a marker of change by the crush of people trying to get into the restaurant. A year ago Rasha seemed to be largely empty, despite good food at moderate cost, a bright red neon sign, and a prime location; the Monk’s Kettle, at age two months, is already wall-to-wall crowds on weekend evenings, with even more people spilling out onto the sidewalk. And they’re young, hipstery people.

If the wealth of craft beers is part of the Monk’s Kettle’s appeal to this social cohort, so too must be the food, which is a surprisingly vegetarian-friendly version of pub grub. Many of the most memorable dishes are meatless and would do credit to the kitchen at Greens. But hipsters like their burgers too, apparently; on a recent evening while eating at the bar, we were flanked by young burger eaters dressed à la mode, two and three to a side.

The burger ($10.50) is good. The meat is grass-fed Niman Ranch and is served on a dense, chewy bun from La Brea Bakery. A slice of cheese (various choices) adds $1.50, and the American-style fries are fine. But there’s nothing exceptional here. As for the house-made veggie burger ($9.50): half a gold star for innovation, since the patty is falafel, laid out on the same La Brea bun instead of stuffed into a pita pocket with tahini sauce.

On the other hand, the Monk’s Kettle does offer quite a few treats you won’t regularly find on menus in the Mission or around town. There’s a fresh pretzel ($6.50), for instance, twisty soft and served with whole-grain mustard and a cheddar-ale sauce for dipping and dunking. We also liked the lightly crisped black-bean cakes ($8.75), a pair of slim disks scattered with roasted-corn salsa and artily piped with chipotle crème fraîche. Bruschetta ($8.50) — toasted bread spears smeared with cannellini puree — were plated in an overgrown garden of mixed greens and resembled statuary half hidden amid unkempt tendrils, but the greens were enriched by sautéed mushrooms and chunks of white cheddar cheese, bringers of flavor, texture, and heft.

Butternut squash soup ($6.50) needs special handling to rise above its usual station as a cold-weather commonplace. Do pepitas, the little pumpkinseeds of Mexican cooking, answer the call? The Monk’s Kettle kitchen installed them as a scattering across the surface of the soup, and they did their best, but the soup, while creamy, was a little too sweet and unfocused to satisfy, even with pepitas. It was also, however, nicely steamy, which brought some relief to my sniffly friend across the table.

Also nicely steamy was a bowl of Jude’s vegan chili ($6.50), a black-bean preparation laced with tomatoes, mushrooms, and olives. We did catch a whiff of some faint, faintly exotic, eastern Mediterranean spice in there and found ourselves thinking more of Turkey than Texas: mushrooms and olives in chili? The Turks, it must be said, prefer chickpeas to black beans. (The chickpea is thought to be native to southeastern Turkey.)

The kitchen seemed to be in possession of a mushroom mother lode, because tasty fungus recurred as a ragout in the day’s surprisingly elegant potpie ($14). I say elegant because the ragout had been baked in a handsome white crock with fluted sides, under a tarpaulin of butter-flaky pastry worthy of a beef Wellington. The potpie had the look of a huge, family-style dessert — a giant pot de crème, possibly, lurking under the pastry.

We never quite got around to actual dessert, but we did dabble in the beers (whose listings go on for several pages), in part to see which glasses would be used to serve them. St. Bernardus, a dark, caramelly Belgian brew ($7.75 for an eight-ounce pour), arrived in a vessel that looked like a giant cognac snifter, while Bitburger pilsner ($6.25 for 14 ounces) was presented in an attractive if slightly disappointing pilsner glass, a close relation of the ones I have at home. Mr. Cider, meanwhile, partook of the Fox Barrel black currant cider ($4.50 for eight ounces); this was served in a wineglass look-alike and was refreshingly unsweet in the European manner but did not really taste of black currant — a presence in name only, but we liked it anyway.


Mon.–Fri., noon–2 a.m.; Sat.–Sun., 11:30–2 a.m.

3141 16th St., SF

(415) 865-9523

Beer and wine



Wheelchair accessible

Your funny Valentines



SONIC REDUCER "It’s 60 percent embarrassing and 40 percent hot. And the hotness is derived from how embarrassing it is. Or maybe that’s just me."

Talkin’ ’bout Valentine’s Day, the big VD, that bad case of lovin’ you, with a digest-to-impress din-din and a small but meaningful token of my esteem. Specifically, Club Neon organizer Jamie Guzzi, a.k.a. DJ Jamie Jams, is speaking of Club Neon’s fourth annual Valentine’s Underwear Party.

Yep, I know you know good times sans culottes have been happening for aeons — years, even — on a, ahem, more informal basis, way before Fuse TV’s Pants-Off Dance-Off. But guarens, it’ll be way sweeter and sexier at Club Neon: the first year at the Hush Hush, in 2003, "people were pretty tentative, and there were still lurkers," Guzzi says. "When you hear about these sorts of events, it’s more of a creepier crowd. When people first hear about it, they think it’s a Power Exchange or more Burning Man kind of thing — a lot of people you don’t want to see in underwear leering at each other. But this is a more indie crowd, and the kids are all cute and twee, and everyone shows up in American Apparel underwear." At least the clothing company’s soft tease is good for something more than selling terry cloth hot pants: vive le thunderwear as social equalizer!

"When you’ve got a couple hundred people in underwear, it’s pretty hard to front," Guzzi says, explaining that the idea emerged after he got frustrated with kids dressed to the nines vibing one another. The bonus: once stripped down at Club Neon’s key soiree, Guzzi claims, "you end up realizing that a lot of your friends are way cute. It shuffles the deck in terms of who’s attractive!"

And thank St. Valentine for dynamos like Guzzi. Sour grapes, bitter pills, badasses, bummed punks, gloomy goths, and hardcore realists have long realized all holidays have become co-opted as multimillion-dollar promotional vehicles to buy more, by playing off residual guilt, goodwill, or simply that overarching existential emptiness concerning life’s perpetual gerbil wheel. But what if you decide to suspend disbelief and descend into the commercialized maelstrom, mindfully participating in the recommended shopping, wining, and dining rituals? You’re accustomed to rocking outside the system, so what to do with your bad self when you need back in? Still no reservations? I’ve got a few ideas for every subculty cutie.

Indie Rock Ian Grub: fixed with a laid-back bike ride to Bernal Heights’ MaggieMudd for Mallow Out! vegan cones. Gift: an all-show pass to the Noise Pop or Mission Creek music fest or a steamy copy of the baby-making Juno soundtrack.

Hyphy Heather Grub: grind down on maple syrup–braised short ribs at the bupscale 1300 on Fillmore. Or for old times’ sake, snatch Sunday brunch at the latest Powell’s Place in Bayview (2246 Jerrold) now that gospel star Emmitt Powell has been forced to relocate. Gift: she voted for Barack Obama, but today she’ll swoon for Mac Dre’s Pill Clinton (Thizz Ent., 2007).

Metal Sven Grub: pick up a nice red wine and some stinky cheese for a Mountain View Cemetery picnic in Oakland — pretend you’re downing the fresh blood and putrid flesh of virgins. Gift: Santa Cruz combo Decrepit Birth’s Diminishing Between Worlds (Unique Leader) inspires … birth control.

Techno Cal Grub: nibble sour plum, shiso, and flaxseed sushi and other vegan Japanese delights at Medicine New-Shojin Eatstation. Gift: avert your eyes from the Versace boutique on your way outta the Crocker Galleria minimall, and here you go, the Field’s From Here We Go Sublime (Kompakt, 2007)

Country Kat Grub: fried rabbit — oh hell, we’re in former cow country, go for the porterhouse at the deliciously ’40s-western retro-authentic Hayward Ranch. Tip the blue-haired waitress well — she’s gotta have the patience of St. Val to deal with you two after your fourth Bloody Mary. Gift: seal the deal with Queen of the Coast (Bear Family, 2007), a four-CD box set of tunes by Bonnie Owens, who stole both Buck Owens’s and Merle Haggard’s hearts.

Jam Band Jessie Grub: grab your nut cream at Café Gratitude and chase each other around the table with wheatgrass shots. New game: if you don’t make me utter the goofy menu item names, I will be grateful. Gift: crash into the Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City Music Hall Blu-ray DVD (Sony, 2007).

So hurry up and give your favorite pop tot some love — or you just might find yourself without on VD.


With DJs Jamie Jams, Emdee, Little Melanie, and Aiadan

Thurs/14, 9 p.m., $5

Make-Out Room

3225 22nd St., SF


J’adore Dengue Fever’s new Venus on Earth (M80), and the band provides the perfect post-love-in aperitif with Sleepwalking Through the Mekong. The John Pirozzi documentary on the Los Angeles combo’s trip to Cambodia ended up involving more than anyone anticipated. "Every contact was, like, ‘Don’t worry about anything! Just show up! Everything will be great!’<0x2009>" tour mastermind and bassist Senon Williams explains. "We’d be, like, ‘Where are we playing?’ ‘I don’t know. Just show up!’ So we were all nervous going over there. We had all our instruments, but we needed amplifiers and PAs and a crowd to play to." Fortunately, Dengue Fever were quickly booked to appear on Cambodian Television Network, and a two-song turn mushroomed into 10 numbers and a two-hour appearance. "Instantly, we became famous across the country," Williams tells me, "because everyone watches TV there."


Fri/15, 9:30 p.m.; Sat/16, 12:30 p.m.; $10.50

Victoria Theatre

2961 16th St., SF

Get Your Rocks Off


By Colleen McCaffrey

Female erotica, wine and vegan cookies: no, not a perfect first date, although it would be good a place to take one. It’s that time of the month again: second Saturday, when female and trans literary talents – both well-established and up-and-coming – congregate at Femina Potens for the Award-Winning literary erotic event, Sizzle.

“We like co-presenting those [because] two people can learn a lot by sharing the stage with a hero and then having the same attention and soapbox for emerging artists still developing their own voice,” says host Madison Young, who is currently working on her memoir, The Tale of a Bondage Model, due out this spring.


Check it twice




<\!s><0x0007>Panda Bear, Person Pitch (Paw Tracks). One of the few albums that deserved the hype, Person Pitch delivered what Animal Collective could not.

<\!s><0x0007>Various artists, Zanzibara, Volume 3: Ujamaa (Buda Musique). Ujamaa focuses on 1960s Tanzania and recalls the ecstatic languidity of Tabu Ley Rocehrau and the imprint’s Angola ’60s compilations.

<\!s><0x0007>Various artists, Dirty Space Disco (Tigersushi). Parisians Pilooski and Dirty Sound System are some of the most exciting discoveries of the year.

<\!s><0x0007>Thomas Fehlmann, Honigpumpe (Kompakt). This was the year I got back into minimal techno after a few years away. Lodged somewhere between Kompakt’s "Pop Ambient" series and Superpitcher, Fehlmann made his strongest album since 2004’s Visions of Blah.

<\!s><0x0007>Lilith Records. In 2007 the enigmatic new label that appears to come from the Russian Federation reissued lavish vinyl versions of Caetano Veloso’s Araca Azul, Harmonia’s De Luxe, Tim Hardin 2, No New York, Claudine Longet’s Colours, Black Merda’s Black Merda, and Cluster’s Zuckerzeit. The only reissue imprint that rivals them in scope and quality is the Bay Area’s Water Records.

<\!s><0x0007>Iasos, Inter-Dimensional Music (Iasos Unity/Em, 1975). With so many new artists taking the easy electronic-prog route, it’s good to realize there’s much more where that came from — in the place between space rock and new age. This makes me think of Alice Coltrane and Robert Fripp and Brian Eno’s Evening Star (Editions Eg) but doesn’t really sound like any of them. The sleeve is incredible.

<\!s><0x0007>Niger: Magic and Ecstasy in the Sahel DVD (Sublime Frequencies). The last 15 minutes, focusing on Tuareg musicians, contain some of the most ecstatic and tranced-out jams I’ve heard or seen.

<\!s><0x0007>Various artists, Brazil 70 (Soul Jazz). No longer borrowing from John Cage or the Beatles, Jards Mascale, and Novos Baianos ushered in what may be the most exciting time in Brazil’s musical history.

<\!s><0x0007>Frank Bretschneider, Rhythm (Raster-Noton). He may be working in the domain of clicks and cuts, but instead of pursuing pure sine wave research, Bretschneider — picking up where SND left off but surpassing them — mimics the rhythms of dubstep, minimal techno, and hip-hop. Listen loud and your mind will be rearranged.

<\!s><0x0007>Shit Robot, "Chasm"/"Wrong Galaxy" (DFA). Yes, the name is awful. Nevertheless, DFA’s recent signing of this Markus Lambkin project is too good to pass over. Lambkin has been learning from the best of Carl Craig and Berlin and Cologne techno, and his full-length is eagerly awaited.



(1) <0x0007>Miles Davis: The Complete On the Corner Sessions (Sony Legacy)

(2) <0x0007>Ace Records: Bob Lind, Elusive Butterfly: The Complete Jack Nitzsche Sessions; various artists, Phil’s Spectre III: A Third Wall of Soundalikes; and various artists, Hard Workin’ Man: The Jack Nitzsche Story, Vol. 2

(3) <0x0007>Bloodcount, Seconds CD/DVD (Screwgun)

(4) <0x0007>Clockcleaner, Babylon Rules (Load)

(5) <0x0007>Terminal Sound System, Compressor (Extreme)

(6) <0x0007>ugEXPLODE label: Nondor Nevai, The Wooden Machine Music, and Flying Luttenbachers, Incarceration by Abstraction

(7) <0x0007>Down, Over the Under (Down)

(8) <0x0007>The Pipettes, We Are the Pipettes (Cherry Tree/Interscope)

(9) <0x0007>Slough Feg, "Tiger! Tiger!," Hardworlder (Cruz del Sur)

(10) <0x0007>Tesla, "Ball of Confusion," Real to Reel (Tesla Electric Co.)



<\!s><0x0007>Aretha Franklin, Aretha Live at Fillmore West (deluxe edition) (Rhino). So electric you’ll get goose bumps.

<\!s><0x0007>Jason Lindner Big Band, Live at the Jazz Gallery (Anzic)

<\!s><0x0007>Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy, Cornell 1964 (Blue Note)

<\!s><0x0007>Sam Yahel Trio, Truth and Beauty (Origin). Talented friends get into the groove of a young man and his keyboard.

<\!s><0x0007>Joshua Redman Trio, Back East (Nonesuch)

<\!s><0x0007>Joe Henry, Civilians (Anti-). Fiercely literate adult rock without acronyms.

<\!s><0x0007>Wayne Shorter Quartet at the Mondavi Center, UC Davis, Feb. 2.

<\!s><0x0007>Jason Moran with T.S. Monk and ensemble, the Monk Town Hall Concert, Herbst Theatre, May 19. A large band swings very, very hard.

<\!s><0x0007>SFJAZZ Collective, Live 2007: Fourth Annual Concert Tour (SFJAZZ). Smart arrangements with the necessary new blood of underrated pianist Renee Rosnes.

<\!s><0x0007>Kiki and Herb, American Conservatory Theater, July 13. We need their holiday show.

<\!s><0x0007>The Sea and Cake, "Up on Crutches," Everybody (Thrill Jockey). The song I couldn’t stop playing.



<\!s><0x0007>MIA, Kala (Interscope)

<\!s><0x0007>Feist, The Reminder (Cherry Tree/Interscope)

<\!s><0x0007>Calle 13, Residente o Visitante (Sony)

<\!s><0x0007>Chamillionaire, Ultimate Victory (Motown)

<\!s><0x0007>Kanye West, Graduation (Roc-A-Fella)

<\!s><0x0007>Apostle of Hustle, National Anthem of Nowhere (Arts and Crafts)

<\!s><0x0007>Jose Gonzalez, "In Our Nature" (Mute)

<\!s><0x0007>El-P, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead (Definitive Jux)

<\!s><0x0007>The Federation, "It’s Whateva" (Southwest Federation/Reprise)

<\!s><0x0007>Chingo Bling, They Can’t Deport Us All (Asylum)



(1) <0x0007>Aaron Ross, Shapeshifter (Grass Roots Record Co.). The Hella member’s solo LP is ragged singer-songwriter stuff that seems to do everything wrong. It’s strident, too long, and too loud; it’s chirpy and pained; it must have broken a guitar’s worth of strings. And then, somewhere around the point it stops being ugly, it becomes transcendent — an album with more heart than any I’ve heard in a while.

(2) <0x0007>The Arcade Fire, Neon Bible (Merge). How quickly you realize the stunning last song, "My Body Is a Cage," will be a testament to the trust the Montreal group has built, understood, and not yet defaulted on. Few groups have a better sense of what they are and mean, and the Arcade Fire know what they do right: write hymns.

(3) <0x0007>MIA, Kala (Interscope). On her second album, Maya Arulpragasam turned a government-forced world tour into an excuse to make her music even better traveled.

(4) <0x0007>Ferraby Lionheart, Ferraby Lionheart EP (Nettwerk). Lush, antique, richly sung pop that plays like an argument for Jon Brion. Wes Anderson will one day base an entire script on a Lionheart disc.

(5) <0x0007>Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raising Sand (Rounder). The best moments on this gorgeous, out-of-nowhere release are when you’ve been listening to sweetheart old-time country pop, then realize you are listening to Robert Plant. There’s a whisper of "Gallows Pole" in "Fortune Teller" and "Going to California" in "Please Read the Letter," and that’s the great pleasure here: an almost mystical Led Zeppelin overlay in music that’s nowhere near classic rock.

(6) <0x0007>Black Moth Super Rainbow, Dandelion Gum (Graveface). Psychedelia wouldn’t have a bad name if more of it were like this. The rural Pennsylvania group counters séance vocals and guitar and keyboard spazz-outs with focus and snappy drums.

(7) <0x0007>St. Vincent, Marry Me (Beggars Banquet). Anne Clark is a Sufjan Stevens crony, but Marry Me is eventually hers alone. Sinister electrofuzz, deft polyrhythms, and scarily chameleonic vocals give her indie pop a postmodern turn.

(8) <0x0007>Blitzen Trapper, Wild Mountain Nation (Lidkercow). At turns pure classic rock — all jammy blues riffs and sun-dappled vocals — countrified songwriter stuff, and something loudly proggy and textural, Wild Mountain Nation sends salvos in several directions.

(9) <0x0007>UGK, UGK: Underground Kingz (Jive). Bun B and Pimp C sound ecstatic to be back at it, and they turn in a two-disc Southern hip-hop epic with cameos that are actually exciting. André 3000 is drawly and perfect on "Int’l Players Anthem," and hearing Dizzee Rascal over this beat is a treat.

(10) <0x0007>Miracle Fortress, Five Roses (Secret City). Montreal’s Graham Van Pelt shoots straight for the Beach Boys here, which means his songs sound a little derivative and a lot lovely. Pop’s melodic purism, dressed up for audiophiles.



<\!s><0x0007>Percee P, Perseverance (Stones Throw)

The long-awaited solo album from Bronx legend Percee P does not disappoint, with its intricate rhyme schemes and exceptional production from Stones Throw’s resident maestro Madlib. Alarmingly dope from start to finish, with collabos with Diamond D and Vinnie Paz. Look for the remix album in January.

<\!s><0x0007>Prodigy, Return of the Mac (Koch)

A lot of older fans gave up on Mobb Deep years ago, and their horrible last record seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. But on this independent release, Prodigy comes alive, spitting flagrant murder raps over Alchemist’s outstanding blaxploitation-style beats. Unfortunately, P is heading into a three-and-a-half-year bid — I hope he finishes his new solo joint first.

<\!s><0x0007>Kamackeris, Artz and Craftz (Mindbenda)

Also known as Kwite Def or KD, Kamackeris is a New York rapper best known for his work with Monsta Island Czars and a show-stealing appearance on the first MF Doom album. He’s blessed with one of the grimiest voices in hip-hop, and his rugged yet introspective wordplay shines over X-Ray’s cinematic tracks. Completely slept on but crazy good.

<\!s><0x0007>Camp Lo, "Ticket For 2" (self-released)

These cats have been MIA for a minute, and it’s been a full decade since their classic debut, but Cheeba and Suede come back something serious on this ultrasmooth single produced by longtime homey Ski Beatz. Unfortunately, it’s not on their recent album, but it’s all over the Internet.

<\!s><0x0007>Snoop Dogg, "Sexual Eruption, a.k.a. Sensual Seduction" (unreleased)

Man! While T-Pain, Akon, and countless others assault the airwaves with their hypercomputerized, later-era Cher-style "R&B," Big Snoop takes it back to the Roger Troutman essence, freaking the (virtual) talk box on this ode to female orgasm. The song is awesome enough, but the throwback video, complete with flying saucers and a keytar, is something to behold.

<\!s><0x0007>50 Cent, "I Get Money," Curtis (Aftermath/Shady/Interscope)

He lost the sales battle with Kanye West, G Unit is fading fast, and Curtis is his worst LP to date. However, even his millions of haters have to admit: this song is a banger.

<\!s><0x0007>Devin the Dude, live at South by Southwest, March 14

Mild-mannered but funny as hell, Devin has been putting it down for a long time now, winning fans with his mellow storytelling rhymes, low-key singing, and affinity for all weed and women. I saw him live three times this year, but this show in his home state was the best: he rolled with the Coughee Brothaz and injected some much-needed funk into the indie-centric convention.

<\!s><0x0007>Third annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival

Unlike the more hyped-up "Rock the Bells," this festival got everything right. Free show, great location on the water in BK, and all-day performances from Ghostface, Sean P, Large Professor, El Michaels Affair, Dres from Black Sheep, and others. Throw in surprise appearances from Chubb Rock and Jeru, and you’ve got middle-aged rap fan heaven.

<\!s><0x0007>Sonic Youth at the Berkeley Community Theatre, July 19

As part of the "Don’t Look Back" concert series, in which artists perform a classic album in its entirety, Thurston Moore and the gang revisited their 1988 epic Daydream Nation (DGC) to the delight of a sold-out crowd. Next time I hope they do Bad Moon Rising.

<\!s><0x0007>ZZ Top at Konocti Harbor, April 21

All I can say is "wow." Despite my driving several hours to and from Clear Lake and getting rained on the entire time, this was amazing. These dudes are mad old, but they put on a better show than most kids a fraction of their age.



(1) <0x0007>Rufus Wainwright, Release the Stars (Geffen)

(2) <0x0007>Tinariwen, Aman Iman (World Village)

(3) <0x0007>Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raising Sand (Rounder)

(4) <0x0007>Betty Davis, Betty Davis (Light in the Attic)

(5) <0x0007>Miles Davis, The Complete On the Corner Sessions (Sony Legacy)

(6) <0x0007>Donnie, The Daily News (SoulThought Entertainment)

(7) <0x0007>Gogol Bordello, Super Taranta! (Side One Dummy)

(8) <0x0007>Hanson, The Walk (Three Car Garage)

(9) <0x0007>Babyshambles, Shotter’s Nation (Astralwerks)

(10) <0x0007>Beirut, The Flying Club Cup (Ba Da Bing)



<\!s><0x0007>Playing to a confused crowd in Beijing, China, then riding on the back of a motorcycle cab. The next day I was eating at a vegan buffet in a mall where you paid not by what you ate but by how quickly you finished.

<\!s><0x0007>In the Netherlands, I performed to 550,000 people on drugs who think that camping out in sewage is "awesome." Lots of moms and dads with huge glazed eyes, hula-hooping and juggling glow sticks at 4 a.m.

<\!s><0x0007>XBXRX having to sleep at a (dirty and unkempt) brothel. There were bloodstains and tire treads (?) on my pillow. *

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Shelf help



WISH LIST My family of origin is so nuclear that on smoggy days a mushroom cloud can be seen above the suburb where my parents still reside. During the holidays we gather there to rehearse and stage the roles we will alternately perform and resist in the ensuing year. While Dad tracks holiday cards sent and received on an Excel spreadsheet, Mom dons a pair of felt antlers and holes up in the kitchen. As for me, I revert to fatigued, endless reading, as if by some cruel law of repetition I have returned to that sullen moment in junior high when my only friend suddenly became popular, leaving me with nobody but books as my companions. Without intervention, I might remain in this half-hypnotized state, rereading Flowers for Algernon until the world outside grows dim, like a dream I can barely remember. This year, however, I’m readying myself with an eclectic batch of new books, books that make me want to participate instead of turning into a listless blotch of angst. These titles provide critical frameworks for dissent, suggest avenues for engagement, and probe cultural blind spots — generating new aesthetic possibilities along the way.

I, for one, like to kick off the holiday season with a powerful dose of well-researched feminist analysis, supplied this year by Susan Faludi in The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America (Metropolitan Books, 368 pages, $26). It’s akin to taking vitamins to ward off the winter cold that’s going around the office. I read some Faludi, I ask my brother to help out in the kitchen. Faludi argues that a highly gendered mythology reasserted its virulent hold over the national psyche (as writ large by the national media) in the wake of Sept. 11. Drawing from an abundance of sources, she parses out the myth: strong male heroes rescue helpless girls, feminism is dismissed as a frivolous and dangerous mistake, and cowboys and manly men rise again to keep the home soil safe. In debunking this overblown narrative, Faludi demonstrates that it doesn’t actually help those it valorizes, nor does its rehearsal expedite an increase in national security or political accountability.

Investigating the symbolic construction of identity and myth from the angle of art, Tisa Bryant’s Unexplained Presence (Leon Works Press, 167 pages, $15.95 paper) takes up "black presences in European literature, visual art, and film." Fusing criticism, film theory, and fiction with a keenly poetic ear, Bryant reenters cultural artifacts to open up these symbolically loaded but structurally silenced or backgrounded characters and motifs. Her stories trace the ways in which black subjectivity is distributed or denied within pictures and plots, between viewers and artworks and artists, and in acts of conversation and debate, of queer identification or refusal to see. What is most remarkable is how Bryant transforms these elisions into acts of imagination, restoring or reconfiguring partially glimpsed subjects via fleet and surprising sentences that traverse the distance between representation and meaning.

Renovating symbolic systems can be hard work, and nothing restores a fatigued body and mind like making changes to the physical infrastructure — such as sawing through your drainpipes to divert "barely used" household water from sewers to gray-water systems for gardening and washing clothes. Sexily linking the macro to the micro, the locally grown junta known as the Greywater Guerrillas has expanded its how-to know-how into Dam Nation: Dispatches from the Water Underground (Soft Skull Press, 416 pages, $19.95 paper), a collection of essays that examine the global plight of water misuse and attendant broad-scale ecological impacts. I don’t think it undermines the gravitas of the issue to mention that portions of the book are a sheer pleasure to read, especially when editors Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, July Oskar Cole, and Laura Allen (illustrations were supplied by Annie Danger) detail their efforts to "disengage from the water grid" by taking plumbing into their own hands.

What James Kochalka takes into his hands in American Elf Book Two: The Collected Sketch Book Diaries of James Kochalka (Top Shelf Comics, 192 pages, $19.95) is his life, tidbits of which he transforms into daily diary comics. Visually and verbally, Kochalka risks a silly, reckless sweetness — a sampling of titles includes "Romance of Life" and "Everything was fine until the old wakey wake." The strips are also a little bit perverted and weirdly honest, as Kochalka’s elf-eared stand-in catalogs a receding hairline, farty dairy hangovers, and arguments with his beloved and salty-mouthed wife. As the pages and days pile up, the effect is infectious, such that, while under the diaries’ spell, I began to sense secret fissures of creative potential and magic in the mundane flow of everyday life.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope Romero, and the army of flavor lovers they run with have changed the landscape of vegan cooking. In Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook (Marlowe and Co., 336 pages, $27.50), Moskowitz and Romero draw inspiration from a variety of international cuisines, without making any claims to authenticity. The resulting recipes (mole, saag, and lasagna, to name a few) are adventures in surprising flavor combinations. A helpful foreword details how to stock a vegan pantry, and tips offered alongside the easy-to-follow recipes instruct on where to find specialty items or how to organize your cooking tasks — advice that, as an unskilled, distractible cook, I found particularly useful. An appendix of menus ranges from rich party foods to low-fat and easy-to-prepare options.

Printed in large type, so it’s easy to read when splayed open next to a bicycle, the repair-manual portion of the illustrated Chainbreaker Bike Book: A Rough Guide to Bicycle Maintenance, by Shelley Lynn Jackson and Ethan Clark (Microcosm Publishing, 256 pages, $12), builds from the ground up. Starting with the ethics and rewards of skill sharing, it moves on to detail parts, tools, and instructions for system-by-system checkups and repairs. The book’s second half comprises reprinted issues of the Chainbreaker zine, originals of which were lost when zinester Jackson’s New Orleans home flooded after Katrina. The zines complement the how-to portions with a wider view of the bicycle’s cultural impact — e.g., the role of bikes in the women’s clothing revolution, the democratizing potential of this low-cost form of transportation. Note: the book hits shelves in February, but aspiring bike enthusiasts can order it now at

And to come full circle … Sherman Alexie’s first young adult (and graphic) novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown Young Readers, 240 pages, $16.99), reminds me that a return to YA reading can be the opposite of mind-numbing — when undertaken with a book that’s emotionally spring-loaded, linguistically gymnastic, and devastatingly funny in turns. Drawing from his experiences growing up, Alexie tells the story of Junior (a.k.a. Arnold True-Spirit Jr.), a comic-drawing Indian kid who leaves his reservation to attend an all-white high school. Between racism at school and conflict with friends on the reservation, Alexie nails the ups and downs of a young artist learning to navigate by his own radar, amid competing claims from family and a sometimes encouraging but often deviously indifferent world. Ellen Forney’s inspired illustrations channel Junior’s manic, tell-it-like-it-is sensibility and provide a visual anchor for Alexie’s loquacious narrator.

Hummus for the Holidays


Tired of turkey? Had it with ham? Chucking the…yeah, well, you get the idea.

By Amber Peckham

If the holiday fare for the last few years has become as boring as your relatives, you might want to sign up for the free – yes, free – vegan cooking class being offered by Wellness Central on November 18. The class will be held in the Loughborough Center and will last around 90 minutes. Vegan nutritionist Patricia Allen Koot will present, and nationally syndicated host of Go Vegan Radio, Bob Lynden, also will make an appearance.

Without the Wellness Central class, this is what your meat-free meal will look like.

Crazy quilt



SUPER EGO I like weather. It’s everywhere this season. But it’s also all over the map: patches of drizzle here, swaths of squinty sunlight there, chilly threads of breeze, and a soft, wet batting of fog. Should someone call People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on dog days? Are Indian summers racist? What color Converse matches my knockoff Burberry umbrella? Weather’s so confusing!

Fortunately, the forecast in Clubland is much more predictable: crazy, as usual. Partly rowdy with a high chance of gusty accordion and slight pratfalls on the runways. Now’s the time when dance floors get "wild" and club folks scramble like chipmunks to store up glowing insanity for the long winter ahead. I’m reminded of boob-tube scream queen Elvira’s immortal "Monsta Rap": "Somethin’ put his nuts on tha side of his head / What in the world were they thinkin’?" Below are some upcoming offbeat joys to enjoy.

PS Every day is Halloween, duh. Check out the Noise blog at for my depraved fright-night party picks.

Face the fear and drink it anyway! That’s my motto. It’s tattooed on my inner thigh, right next to a butterfly on a Harley, a rainbow of dancing M&Ms, and Tweety Bird pulling dental floss out of his ass with a pair of scalpels. I live for scary cocktail confrontations. But I’ve never quite been able to overcome my fear of clowns. It’s not so much the clowns themselves that terrify but the flesh-eating bacteria that live in their eyes and squirt out when they blink. Honk, honk!

Still, the line between a good night out and a full-on circus grows ever thinner with each new Burning Man, and circus-themed parties are starting to develop subgenres. For instance: Big Top, which successfully mixes double entendre (it’s a queer thing: "big top" — get it?) and three-ring silliness into one whapping flapdoodle of a monthly Sunday shindig. Promoters–club whores Joshua J and Rayza Burn, who fervently insist to me that they’re in no way "hot for clown," lay on the DIY pancake pretty thick. No slick fire-twirler troupes here — just a tipsy bunch of drag queens in rainbow fright wigs, guest DJs devoid of shame, and cross-eyed kids sporting giant shoes. Somehow it works. This month: a homo fashion costume ball with designer Kim Jones in the DJ booth.

I can’t tell you how to make money, but I can tell you that every time I hear the word milonga I pitch a yard’s worth of tango tent. Let’s pitch together — to the lively plucks and wheezes of local sensations Tango No. 9, an all-star Bay Area quartet celebrating the release of their self-released CD Here Live No Fish with a big ole Piazzola party at Café Cocomo (lessons luckily offered for us absoluto beginners). This is one of those nightlife events I occasionally recommend not because it’s going to be a drunken orgy of unfortunate plumbing leaks but because there’ll be an element of seductive danger. As in, how many heels will I break trying to get to the center of one of my several hot Argentine dance partners? Three licks.

"If there’s anything close to the authentic madness that is true Balkan partying in the Bay Area, it is us," Boban, promoter of the raucous quarterly Kafana Balkan party, told me over the phone. "People come to let it loose in true Balkan-region style. They get up the next morning, maybe with a little hangover, ha, and then they are refreshed in their daily maintenance of the machine." I should add here that Boban has the kind of deep, heavily accented, tinged-with-grins voice that could probably lead anyone into mountainous, oud-and-cümbüs-driven bliss. Lately, indie rock has embraced the Balkan spirits, but Kafana’s no mere Gogol Bordello–Beirut–Balkan Beat Box hoedown: DJ Zeljko brings the Rom and rakiya-fueled real, with selections from the likes of Boban Markovic Orkestar and Fanfare Ciorcarlia. It all whirls round in a carnivalesque atmosphere that includes clowns from Bread and Cheese Circus and live Bay Area Balkan band Brass Menazerie. Plus, Kafana’s a benefit for Humanitarian Circus, which performs for Kosovar orphans. Grab your dumbek and get — sorry — Mace-down-ian.

Vegan donuts are on fire. Nondairy sprinkles litter the runways; free-trade glazing greases the underground wheels of Monday nights. WTF? I’m talking about the sweet monthly Club Donuts, a manic multimedia fiesta that’s celebrating its hole–in–one year anniversary next month. Fab fashion shows, live bands, dance troupes, kitsch movies, and a hot mess on the dance floor have been Donuts’ delicious MO for a fat and fluffy year now, and the anniversary party promises to hit new monthly-Monday-night heights, with a live performance by Hey Willpower and DJs Calvin Johnson and Ian Svenonius joining resident Pickpocket on the decks. (It’ll be "ambrosial, ecstatic," the club’s breathtakingly hottt promoters Kat and Alison promise me. "Total visual and aural immersement, with lots of free vegan donuts.") Plus, you know, cute young Mission party artists. I’ll take half a dozen to go. *


Fourth Sun., 7 p.m.–2 a.m., $3


198 Church, SF

(415) 861-7499


Nov. 12, 9 p.m.–2 a.m., $8


3223 Mission, SF


Nov. 10, 8 p.m.–2 a.m., $10–$25, sliding scale

12 Galaxies

2565 Mission, SF


Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m. tango lesson, 8:30 p.m. performance and party

$15, $20 with lesson

Café Cocomo

650 Indiana, SF

Feast: 5 tables for one


It’s such a cliché to say, "I hate to eat out alone." What’s to hate? True, it’s different from eating at home in your pajamas with a Scarface DVD for company, but when you’re on the go, you’re on the go, and there comes a point when grabbing another soggy sandwich at the corner market just won’t do. Sometimes you have to sit down, regroup, and eat something hot that doesn’t come out of a microwave or a cellophane packet. Peruse the latest Stop Smiling, or, god forbid, meet new people. Here’s a short list of a few places where eating alone doesn’t feel like an excerpt from No Exit — and the only hell involved is choosing just one entrée.


While I was living in Madrid, solitude was hard to come by. Everyone went out in large groups, and day or night the streets were never empty. It was in the lively corner cafés of Lavapies that I honed the ability to be alone despite being constantly surrounded — gleaning respite within the chaos. Sometimes I like to relive those gloriously jumbled evenings of unfamiliar faces, clattering platters, and a graciously retiring waitstaff. At Esperpento, as in Lavapies, I can camp out in the corner with a dog-eared book, sipping a second fino, nibbling my boquerones, patatas, and olives (Spanish comfort food) as the Missionista jet-set ebbs and flows around me.

3295 22nd St., SF. (415) 282-8867


OK, I admit it. I have something of a fetish for erratic Eurostyle dining. Much like Esperpento, Café Prague never lets me down in this regard. There’s ABBA on the radio. The cooks are frequently having uncomfortably loud discussions in the back that sound like they would be a lot of fun to eavesdrop on, if only I spoke Czech. The place is almost invariably out of the soup I want (though it does have more than 10 to choose from). What it boils down to for me, though, is that Café Prague serves my favorite spinach salad in town. Bigger than my head, it comes adorned with an entire hardboiled egg, chunks of addictive bacon, a slab of focaccia, veggies, and chunky blue cheese dressing. I wouldn’t call it an authentic central European spinach salad by any means, though Café Prague has the hookup on goulash and strudel too if you’re into it. But I am into spinach, and this is where I eat it.

584 Pacific, SF. (415) 433-3811


It takes a certain gumption to force your hungover self out of the homestead on a Sunday morning for a solo brekkie. But sometimes the cupboard is that bare, and it’s times like these when places like the Golden Coffee fulfill a need you might not even have known you had — for example, the need to eat a $6 steak, or the need to drink half a dozen coffee refills over a plate of crispy, golden hash browns (or chow mein!) cooked to greasy perfection by the middle-aged Asian grill master to the lilting strains of classical music. Seated elbow to elbow around a horseshoe-shaped countertop, the patrons of this landmark greasy spoon may not always agree on sports teams, career paths, or politics — but we can all agree that breakfast is a very important part of our day.

901 Sutter, SF. (415) 922-0537


One reason to come here alone is because it’s so impossibly tiny that if you try to enter with more than one (short) friend, you might not make it beyond the front door. By yourself, you have half a chance of finding an empty bar stool — eventually. While you wait, nursing a juicy sangria, there is plenty to feast your eyes on, as every available surface of the place is decorated with a Dali-esque array of limbless misfit toys with mohawks, loteria cards, doctored lithographs, and dioramas containing giant rubber insects. Being social is more than just the name of the place: it’s the entire point. So leave your homework at home where it belongs and strike up a conversation with the Cuban expat beside you while plowing into a satisfying plate of black beans and rice or nibbling on a crispy chicken empanada.

1109 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-7659


After a long, hard afternoon shopping at Amoeba Records, you might find yourself in the awkward position of needing an immediate noodle transfusion (don’t scoff, it happens). Too cramped and clattery to be a good venue to bring anyone with whom you might want to have a conversation, the Citrus Club, a pan-Asian noodle house, is a great place to fly solo while you down some hot and sour soup from a bowl big enough to bathe in afterwards. A bit of a hipster magnet, it has vegan options and sake cocktails too. Best of all, the inevitable lines can be easily circumvented by sitting at the counter — an action that delivers its own smug reward.

1790 Haight, SF. (415) 387-6366*

Feast: 8 places to get your chocolate on


It all starts innocently enough. One day you decide to order a mocha instead of your usual cappuccino; the next you grab a few Ghiradelli squares from the impulse aisle at Safeway. By the end of the week, you’ve blown your savings at Joseph Schmidt and are curled in a fetal position, watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on loop, stuffing your face with take-out pastries from Tartine. Scharffen Berger and Cocoa Bella are only the tip of the iceberg — San Francisco is host to one of the premiere chocolate cultures of the world. Submitted here are eight places to get your cocoa fix — no golden ticket required.


Most San Franciscans know Fog City News as a gargantuan newsstand tucked into the insufferably bleak confines of the financial district. This Market Street storefront might sport the largest collection of periodicals by far in the Bay Area, but it’s also home to one of the largest selections of chocolate bars in the country. Every person on staff is a chocolate authority, well schooled in the nuances of the cacao bean and happy to help you choose from the hundreds of options. Just remember not to refer to any of the products as candy — they take their chocolate seriously here.

455 Market, SF. (415) 543-7400,


Sure, it’s novel to insist that chocolate is at the top of the aphrodisiacal pecking order, but we all know that when it comes to stroking the libido, nothing can topple alcohol from its throne. Luckily for us, every bartender with a cocktail shaker and a boredom streak fancies themselves a mixologist. The folks at Circolo have taken it a step further with their White Chocolate Martini, an inspired combination of Godiva chocolate liqueur, Chambord, and Frangelica. The deliciously creamy result is decadent enough to make even Dionysus blush.

500 Florida, SF. (415) 553-8560,


Recent studies trumpeting the antioxidant qualities of chocolate have raised eyebrows worldwide, but while the jury is still out on the cocoa bean, there isn’t a skeptic alive who would dare challenge the medicinal benefits of tea. The experts at Charles Chocolates have collaborated with the Berkeley tea room Teance to create the Tea Collection, milk chocolates infused with tea such as oolong, jasmine green, and even lichee red. No flavor-drop shortcuts for this boutique chocolatier — the leaves are actually steeped in milk to make sure every subtle note of the tea makes it into the chocolate.

6529 Hollis, Emeryville. (510) 652-4412,


Chocolate has been consumed as a beverage for thousands of years, so anyone who sets out to make the perfect cup of hot chocolate has a long history to contend with. With its extensive menu of cocoa drinks, Bittersweet Chocolate Café is up to the challenge. From the exotic spices of its White Chocolate Dream to the pepper and rose of its Spicy! concoction, this Pac Heights café shows Swiss Miss who’s boss.

2123 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-8715,


Mole is hard to get just right. The delicate balance of chile peppers, spices, and Mexican chocolate stewed together at the perfect ratio is something only a well-seasoned grandma can truly master, but Colibri comes close. Its flavorful Mole Poblano is prepared in classic Puebla style and represents the savory side of chocolate well. Bonus points for an obscenely large tequila selection.

438 Geary, SF. (415) 440-2737,


During my vegan days, ice cream always proved to be a challenge. Once the thoughts of cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip, or the holy combo of chocolate and peanut butter started swirling through my mind like so much chocolate marbling, Tofutti Cuties just didn’t cut it. Thank goodness MaggieMudd realizes that vegans love chocolate too! The flavors scooped out at this Bernal Heights sweet spot taste better than their dairy counterparts. Seriously. Really. No joke.

903 Cortland, SF. (415) 641-5291,


Anthony Ferguson just might be insane. The mad scientist behind San Francisco’s most eccentric culinary boutique, Cacao Anasa, runs his confection shop like a laboratory. No flavor is off limits in Ferguson’s kitchen: curry, basil, ginger, roses — hell, even merlot — all make their way into his artisinal truffles.

(415) 846-9240,


The original gangster of San Francisco’s chocolate scene was founded during the gold rush, when a French immigrant realized that miners were willing to pay top dollar for fine chocolate. Guittard is still the oldest family-owned chocolate company in the United States; its baking products remain the top choice of pastry chefs world-round. The secret is in the simplicity: pure cane sugar, full-cream milk, and premium cacao beans have made Guittard’s a consistently perfect chocolate for almost 150 years.

10 Guittard, Burlingame. (650) 697-4427,