Thursday, June 30, 2011

San Francisco's Newest, Most Glamorous Ultra Lounge

If you love old Hollywood glamour you'll love Monroe. It's swanky, sultry and very glam. The first thing I noticed as I stepped over their threshold earlier this week is that the lounge is polished and gorgeous inside!

Located on Broadway Street between Kearny and Montgomery, Monroe resides in a neighborhood that reflects the diversity that comprises the city of San Francisco itself. While the short section of Broadway Street where the lounge is located is a red light district, home to numerous strip clubs and adult shops, just a block and a half from Monroe you'll find the landmark City Lights Bookstore. Immediately to the north is North Beach, San Francisco's famous "Little Italy" district known for its many Italian restaurants, bars and music clubs and to the south you'll find both Chinatown and the Financial District.

This image from the Monroe SF Website

DJ Jason Mitchell and Duncan Reyes photographed by Carl Mindling

So what brought me to the city on a very rare, rainy, summer night in June? It was time for Duncan Reyes' Martini Madness! Duncan is both a Wedding and Event Planner designing stylish weddings, corporate and social events for his clients here in the Bay Area and beyond.

Duncan Greeting Some of His First Guests to Arrive

There are banks of U shaped couches along the side wall. I grabbed a spot in one and spent the first half of the evening chatting with my friend and industry colleague Gabriela Reid.

From my vantage point I could see two bars: The main long bar as you enter on one side of the lounge. . .

 . . . And this smaller bar near the front of the other side of the lounge. I LOVED the large, mirrored lighting fixtures.

DJ Jason Mitchell kept the party hopping with great music that was just the perfect loudness to fill the room and allowed guests to converse without having to scream to be heard over the music. There's a fine line between too loud and loud enough to keep a party going and Jason knows where that sweet spot is.

Though Monroe offers cocktails, wine and bottled beer, I had my usual club soda with lime. That night it was extra fancy with a two toned lemon-lime twist.

The lounge has a bar bites menu of which I was able to sample this slice of Flatbread pizza with fresh asparagus, caramelized, onion, black pepper, fontina cheese and thyme. It was tasty!

This photo by Carl Mindling

Hanging out with Amy Frugoli, Nicole Lisanne and James Burkart. LOL Clearly I was happier to be photographed with James than he was to be photographed with me. I kid, I kid. James is a really friendly guy who's always ready to smile. I think the camera just caught him by surprise :D

Despite the rain people turned out in droves often arriving in groups as many carpooled to the city from the South Bay.

I had a fantastic time and want to thank Duncan Reyes for organizing yet another memorable evening for his wedding industry friends and colleagues. Nobody does it better than you Mr. Reyes!

If you're looking for an event venue with character Monroe features 3,000 square feet of space with both private and semi-private event spaces for groups of 6 to 200+.

Or if you're just looking for somewhere to meet friends for drinks in a really luxurious setting Monroe may be just the spot.

473 Broadway Street
San Francisco CA 94133

Monday, June 27, 2011

70º and Sunny in Santa Cruz

The official temperature in San Jose last Tuesday was 96º. It was sweltering and I was feeling pretty miserable by noon.

So what do you do when you have out of town guests and it's too hot in the South Bay? We headed over the hill to the Santa Cruz Beach Boadwalk and Municipal Wharf where it was a perfect 70º complete with sun, blue skies and a light cool breeze.

It cost $12 to park at the Boardwalk and we had a great "babies" wildlife experience out on the wharf.

First we spotted a trio of sleeping sea lions snoozing on a dock. So cool because this was the youngest baby sea lion I've ever seen. You can tell it's not newborn because it's fur is beginning to shed beneath its neck. My guess is that it's a few months old and just beginning to molt to its shorter adult coat.

I was surprised to see that sea lions have tiny tails!

If you're ever in Northern California and spot a sea mammal in distress did you know you can contact the Marine Mammal Center for help? They rescue and rehabilitate approximately 600 marine animals each year.

To report a distressed marine mammal call (415) 289-7325.
Or you can file an online report by CLICKING HERE

While photographing the sea lions I turned around and spotted a seagull nest under the wharf.  If you look really hard you can see the baby just to the right of the sitting adult.

So cute!

Sometimes I really wish I had a real zoom lens.

When the nesting adult took off to stretch its wings I could see there wasn't one, there were two babies in the nest!

This adult had a small fish that the babies began pecking at. This was the first time I'd ever seen baby seagulls. They were really cute and not at all colored like the adults. They were brown, grey, kind of creamy colored and splotchy looking, like Kitai's friend Lulu who is part Catahoula Leopard Hound.

We also saw this young Brown Pelican out at the end of the wharf.

As an adult its coloration will change with its neck turning more white and its forehead taking on a golden yellow coloration. As an adult its wingspan will be 6 to 8 feet!

While it was cool to see a pelican so close up, and even though it looked perfectly healthy, it was worrisome because it shouldn't have been this approachable. According to the police officer who was there keeping an eye on it, it was letting people walk up to it and pet it. She had already called the proper animal services department and was hoping they would make it out soon to take a look at it to see if it needed help.

Here's a bit of bird history for you. The production and use of the pesticide DDT in agriculture began in the mid 1940's. The Brown Pelican became an endangered species in 1970 due to the use of DDT in agriculture and the factory production of DDT that discharged high amounts of residue and waste into the environment. DDT caused the shells of the pelican's eggs to thin to the point that the eggs would break before hatching causing a high mortality rate that stopped next generations from forming. When the government banned the use of DDT in agriculture in 1972 the birds began making a comeback, particularly along the Southeast and California coastlines.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, in terms of nests, in 1970 there were 727 nests counted in California when the Brown Pelican was given protection under the Endangered Species Act. In 2004 there were 6000 nests counted so for now the species appears to be out of danger though oil spills will continue to take a toll on the birds that live along the southern coastline of the United States.

The Sky Glider was the only ride that wouldn't make me motion sick.

There are lots of rides including a Giant Dipper roller coaster, Looff carousel, water, and all kinds of the usual fast motion spinning, swinging and falling type rides that would make me motion sick in less than 5 seconds so I never partake in the amusement park aspect of the Boardwalk.

We parked in the far lot at the end of the Boardwalk and were told after 5:00 PM all the rides would go down to 1 ticket per ride instead of the usual 3-5 tickets per ride. That's a good deal because the tickets are basically $1 each and if you don't want to spend the money on an all day wristband waiting till evening is a great way to economize.

And while I'm always up for a big, soft, hot pretzel, I knew the choices of snack food down on the Boardwalk wouldn't really agree with my more healthful idea of junk food as evidenced by this Deep Fried Twinkie and Oreo cookie booth. . .

So we made a stop at The Penny Ice Creamery downtown on Cedar Street before hitting the Boardwalk. I had this double scoop waffle cone filled with Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream atop a scoop of Blueberry Lemon Verbena.



This place just kills me. Every time I go I'm sad that they don't have the flavor I had on my previous visit. And every time I go I try a new flavor and love it as much as the last one I thought I loved the best.

And why do I say it's healthful junk food? From The Penny Ice Creamery website:
The region's best organically cultivated and wild fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs are the cornerstone of the menu. Likewise, The Penny Ice Creamery takes pride in using only organic dairy, eggs, and sugar.
So the next time it's too hot where you live in the Northern California, take a peek at the current temperature in Santa Cruz and if it's lower than where you are, a day at the beach might be the perfect solution!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Palo Alto, Epicurean Food Tour

Our June Food Adventure was old and new favorite places to eat in Palo Alto, CA. Stops included: Shokolaat, Fuki Sushi, Mediterranean Wraps, Cool Cafe and Calafia.

Along with my fun loving foodie friend Carl Mindling we spent the day visiting several great areas like University Avenue and the Stanford Campus after attending the LYFE Kitchen Fork Lifting Ceremony at 10:00 AM that morning.

Because we were in Palo Alto, a city well known for being the home of the prestigious Stanford University, I thought I should use a an equally impressive word in the post title, hence the choice of "Epicurean."

To be honest I wasn't even sure what it meant so I looked it up:
Ep•i•cu•re•an |ˌepikyəˈrēən; ˌepiˈkyoŏrēən|
• ( epicurean) a person devoted to sensual enjoyment, esp. that derived from fine food and drink.
While I don't think I am particularly devoted to food in a "sensual" way I have been told many times that my photos of food would qualify as "food porn" so there you have it.

This month I made our restaurant list (with addresses and lunch hours) and instead of printing it I put the file on my iPad. It worked great! An added bonus was when one restaurant asked about our blogs I was able to pull up last month's East Bay Food Tour post to show them.

Shokolaat was a place I'd read about online that I had to go to. I call it a "place" because it's four things in one: A restaurant, patisserie, chocolatier and lounge.

Not only are their pastries beautiful, another huge draw for me was when I read on their website that their products are made from organic and humanely certified milk, cream, butter, flour, and sugar. That alone made me love the Shokolaat before I'd even tried their desserts!

We ordered at the patisserie counter then found a comfy spot in the lounge area to enjoy a breakfast of treats!

My first order of the day was a glass of pomegranate juice (I think it was around $4.00 but lost my receipt) with a fresh lime wedge.

And what to eat? There were so many choices! I was leaning towards the Framboise Mousse in the lower right corner. It's a raspberry mousse encasing a vanilla creme brulee with genoise sponge cake and a white chocolate glaze topped with a fresh raspberry. . .

Jaconde Sponge, Coffee & Praline Mousseline, Chocolate Ganache and Espresso Sirop with a flake of Edible Gold Leaf.

But I finally chose this very demure Opera Cake ($4.90). It was subtle, elegant and not too sweet. One bite and I could taste a light coffee flavor from the mousseline and espresso sirop. That's not a typo, "sirop" means "syrup" in French.

The thing that really made me want to sample the Opera Cake was that it contained joconde sponge cake, which is the cake I learned to make during my first Daring Bakers' Challenge.

Our next stop was inspired by the GIrl Geek Dinner I'd attended two nights earlier in Palo Alto.

Hosted at Palantir Technologies our guest speaker that evening was Linda M. Krieg who after a 20 year career with the FBI became the Assistant Executive Vice President of Operations at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

She and the Girl Geeks at Palantir outlined how they are now working together since Palantir offered to work with NCMEC pro bono to create an improved database system that allows NCMEC to cross reference multiple databases (missing children, registered sex offenders, geographic areas, suspect vehicles, etc.) to help identify either suspects or who an abducted child is when someone thinks they may have witnessed an abduction in progress.

The dinner that evening was hosted by Fuki (pronounced foo-key) Sushi Japanese restaurant and for me it was fantastic because rather than offer one or two vegetarian options there were several which included a Vegetable Gyoza, a Wakame Seaweed Salad and several kinds of sushi: Avacado Maki, Oshinko Shiso Maki, Umekyuri Maki, Kappa Maki, Jumbo Roll and my new all time favorite, their Vegetable Tempura Roll.

I knew Carl would love the Vegetable Tempura Maki Sushi so it was our first lunch stop that day. Located on El Camino Real Fuki Sushi is a well established restaurant known for their high quality, traditionally prepared food. The ambiance is very "Japanese" with ikebana floral arrangements, beautiful artwork, warm colored wood, shoji screens and window coverings and four distinct, understatedly elegant, dining areas that include two dining rooms, tatami rooms and a sushi bar. Overall the restaurant has a welcoming feel that says "come in, enjoy your food and be comfortable."

As soon as we were seated our waitress brought us a complimentary spicy bean sprout salad.

I'd brought my own chopsticks which is part of my eco-friendly campaign to create less waste when I dine out..

Carl wanted to try two things so we ordered the Konsai Age ($8.00) which was Kabocha (squash), Renkon (lotus root), Fresh Bamboo Shoots, Gobo (burdock), Carrots and a single green Shiso Leaf all fried tempura style. It was served with a dipping sauce and was delicious! The lotus, squash and carrot were my favorites.

And we shared a Vegetable Tempura Roll ($8.00).

It's a reverse roll where the seasoned rice is on the outside and the inside is filled with tempura carrot, tempura green beans, avocado, lettuce and a slice of nori seaweed. OMS (Oh My Sushi) this roll is AMAZING. Love, love, love it and will be back to have it again and again. I didn't even add wasabi or soy sauce. I just ate it plain off the plate and it was perfection.

BTW Carl loved it too.

Our next stop was Mediterranean Wraps, one of Carl's favorite places to grab a bite.

We had the Falafel Deluxe Wrap ($6.95) which along with falafel is filled with lots of veggies including eggplant & potato.

To be honest I'm not a huge fan of wraps, in fact I usually don't care for them at all but this one was really good and I'd happily go back for another. The wrap itself was thin and not too doughy and the flavor of the fillings melded together perfectly while the soft and crisp veggies and crunchy texture and fluffy interior of the fried falafels all simultaneously contrasted and blended together nicely.

I should have taken a photo that showed the bright green interior of the falafel but I was so busy eating I forgot. Sorry for that.

Our next stop took us by surprise. Carl mentioned Jesse Cool's Flea Street Cafe just as I was reading about her Cool Cafe online. Talk about synergy. What we didn't realize was that the Stanford location of the Cool Cafe is located in the Cantor Arts Center on the Stanford campus. Yowsa! What a grand entry to lunch!

As we entered the museum I was kind of shocked because I'd never heard of the Cantor Museum before. Collections include art from Europe, America, Asia, Africa and Oceania, modern and contemporary works as well as Native American art and the Stanford Family Collection. I can't wait to go back and spend a day peeking around.

We walked through the main entry, through a small exhibit area and down a long hallway. At the end of the hall on the right is the Cool Cafe.

A small counter area with informal indoor and outdoor seating awaited us.

Notice the Separation of the Tea and Lemonade Before Stirring My Arnold Palmer

The first thing to jump out at me on the menu was the Arnold Palmer ($2.75). My friend Gordon Garb had ordered one at dinner at least a year ago. It was the first I'd ever heard of an Arnold Palmer. In case you're as unfamiliar as I was, it's a combination of iced tea and lemonade. Nice because I don't really care for iced tea and though I love lemonade it's usually too sweet, so they cancel each other out combining to form a cool and refreshing not-too-sweet drink.

As an entree we ordered the Balsamic Beet and Goat Cheese Salad ($9.50). This was one of my two favorite things I ordered that day. The portion is very generous. More than enough to be an entire meal. The mixed lettuces were fresh, the goat cheese creamy with a bit of tang and the beets were nice and sweet. The walnuts were slightly spicy with just a bit of hot flavor to them. Definitely a winner of a salad.

After the fact, while researching for this post, I learned that Jesse's restaurants use ingredients harvested and produced sustainably and regionally. Being a locavore restaurant has many benefits including supporting the local economy and helping to sustain local farms. Cool Cafe uses as many organic ingredients as possible with a focus on ingredients produced without petrochemicals, artificial coloring, growth stimulants, antibiotics or pesticides. And seriously, we could taste the difference. The food was so fresh and flavorful.

The only downside was the limited vegetarian options on the menu. While delicious sounding meat options abound there were only two vegetarian entrees to choose from. So for vegetarians the choices straight off the menu are slim and for vegans the only option would have been the lettuce salad. That's not a criticism persay, more of an observation. I will be going again because I loved the food and the way it's produced.

For dessert we shared the Warm Berry Cobbler ($5.00). It was delish. The fruit was good but the cobbler top was really the standout element of this dish. It was a nice, light, sweet cake, not biscuit-like at all. I really loved this and would order it again though Carl was torn between the cobbler and the butterscotch pudding so we may have to order two desserts next time.

Our final destination was Calafia located in the Town and Country Village shopping center at Embarcadero and El Camino Real.

Owner and Chef Charlie Ayers is best known for the six years he worked as the executive chef of Google Inc., a position he won in November of 1999 in a cook-off, judged by the company's 40 employees. Charlie's wanted to create "fine food for the fast crowd" and Google, Inc. was the perfect place to bring his concept to life.

A really neat aspect to Calafia's menu is that along with the brunch, to go and catering menus there's also a "vegetable menu" and a "meat eater's menu." For vegetarians and vegans this is a huge win that the vegetarian menu is equal in size to the meat eaters side of the menu. Awesome.

Calafia Offers Indoor, Outdoor and Bar Seating at the Open Kitchen

I'd had the Burrata and Potato Pizza ($13.00) once before but wanted to have it again so Carl could try it. Burrata is a rich and creamy fresh mozzarella cheese. For the pizza it's combined with Yukon Gold potatoes and thin coins of zucchini. I added some freshly ground peppers and was happy as can be.

Not only are the toppings yummy, the crust is really tasty too. I love pizza crust that actually tastes good instead of it being a tasteless bread vehicle with which to transport said toppings into your mouth. Crust with flavor is a huge bonus.

Carl had the Vegetable Soy Lentil Quinoa Burger ($13.00). It consists of a patty of ground vegetables, pureed organic tofu, lentils, brown rice, quinoa, basil and garlic stacked with a citrus beet relish and smashed avocado on a multigrain bun. It sure was pretty!

While the flavors were nice he said the bun was a bit too dense for his taste. I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of multigrain breads. They are often rather heavy so even though they're healthier than an enriched bun I usually prefer either a simple whole wheat or enriched white bun or bread in most situations.

Someday I'll try this but will probably order it with no bun and the side salad and fork and knife it :)

And the big moment, the funniest part of my food adventure was the Mocha ($5.00) I ordered at Calafia. Why would a mocha be such a big deal? Because it was the first time I'd ever had a cup of any kind of coffee. . . In my entire life. LOL

I tried a sip of coffee over 25 years ago and didn't like it so I'd never tried it again. Hubby has a mocha every day and occasionally will tell me I should start drinking coffee. I always reply it's a habit I don't need to start.

Did I like it? I did. It was tasty with milk, chocolate agave syrup, cocoa powder and a shot of espresso. Yummmmmm I can just imagine how good it would taste and how cozy it would make me feel on a cold and rainy day with a grilled cheese sandwich.

I find hot chocolate to be too sweet so the mocha was a grown up version of hot chocolate. The first few sips had just a tiny bitterness to them. I'm not sure if it was eating the pizza or just the mocha cooling but after a few minutes the flavor changed. The bitterness was gone and it was smooth and creamy tasting like coffee ice cream in a glass.

So as always, the whole idea with our food adventures is to inspire you to try a new restaurant or dish wherever you live. Go to that cool place or hole in the wall that everyone is raving about or chase down that food truck and try something new :)

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Friday, June 17, 2011

A Monet Inspired, Silk, Hand Beaded, DIY Evening Purse

Last week I was cleaning out my workroom and came across two things I'd like to share with you. One is this hand beaded evening purse I made years ago. I love this purse and have only used it a couple of times because it's so special. Because I don't really know how to sew well with a machine I kept it simple in shape and did a lot of hand sewing to add in the strap, zipper and lining.

I loved the color palette of this purse. It is very Claude Monet, water lilies, impressionistic to me. Calm, serene and beautiful.

The beading however was easy because this was the other thing I found, the sampler from a class I took years ago at a really cute shop called Rosemille that used to be located in Willow Glen, CA now relocated to Stillwater MN. The store offered all kinds of design classes and Kenneth D. King, a couture designer from San Francisco, was teaching a beading class so I signed up.

Kenneth was super fun and he brought his very sweet Cocker Spaniel Daisy with him while he taught the class. That made me a fan of his right off the bat since I love dogs so much. Daisy was friendly and very well mannered. Kitai in the same situation would be a terrible distraction squeaking his rubber chicken, trying to sit on people's laps and running around the room with a fit of crazy zoomies. LOL

Kenneth was already famous when I took that class probably around 15 years ago. His resume is impressive and begins in 1985 when he began creating original design, one of a kind hats and home furnishings that were picked up by Maxfields in Los Angeles. Soon celebrities like Elton John, Cloris Leachman, Don Johnson and Geena Davis became collectors of his work.

From there he moved into clothing creating stunning couture that featured both strong sculptural aspects combined with intricate and innovate detail work. His work is very flirty!

"Kenneth D. King Design is a small haute couture house that has a distinct aesthetic identity. King produces one-of-a-kind, made to measure pieces for women and men, as well as limited-edition pieces for boutiques."

Here are close ups of some of the beading techniques I learned that day in Kenneth's class. Come to think of it I think this is the only design class I've ever taken. It was fun. I really should find more to try when I have some free time.

Front and Back

So one day I thought to myself I should use as many techniques as possible from that class and put them all into a single item. Because I don't know how to sew clothes a pillow or a purse were my two options because I could sew squares and rectangles. LOL

I used dupioni silk and my sewing machine to create the body of the purse.

Beginning from the top, this is the beaded strap. I used sets of three to five glass delica beads (size 15/0) to create the tiny clusters of blue and lavender beads from end to end and all around the fabric strap which was a piece of trim I bought off a spool.

Along the top line I combined a row of vintage, orchid colored, translucent sequins with a beaded fringe of size 8/0 glass seed beads and Swarovski Austrian Crystals.

Across the center of the purse I used pressed glass petal shaped beads and delica seed beads to create this blooming, trailing vine. I think I sketched the pattern on paper first then transferred it to the fabric but it was so long ago I honestly don't remember for sure.

In the center of each flower is a 6mm, dark purple bluish, Swarovski Crystal Marguerite bead.

And along the bottom was a small strip of sea-foam colored fabric trim that I embellished with minuscule vintage sequins and delica glass beads, larger fish scale vintage sequins that had the holes coming off a tab on one side instead of being in the middle of the sequin and another beaded fringe using the same pressed glass beads as I'd used on the flowers but this time hanging from the bottom of the purse and set in place with more size 8/0 seed beads.

After putting so much work into the beading I thought I better finish the purse properly so I hand-sewed this zipper in. I'd never done this before so it took a few tries.

After putting the zipper in place I then hand-sewed in a lining in a contrasting shade of dupioni silk.

Not too shabby for a first attempt at a beaded evening bag. But it was a lot of work. I started but never finished another. I'll have to find it and work on it on a rainy day.

There is no question that Kenneth is an outstanding designer but one of the most memorable things about him to me has always been the way he creatively marketed his first book. The man is brilliant! His book Cool Couture has the most interesting beginning of any book I've ever heard of.

After writing the book and filling it with photos and diagrams about sewing techniques, this is what the publisher came up with for the cover and the title Designer Techniques was so mundane. Ugh. Seriously? Yawn. It was pretty awful as far as Kenneth was concerned. But the publisher had final say and this is the cover the book was shipped with.

End of story?

Not so fast.

Being the creative force that he is Kenneth found a way to work around the publisher by producing his own book jacket with the title "Cool Tricks" and shipped it for free to the stores that were carrying his book. I'd imagine every shop was happy to switch out the covers because Kenneth's was fun and fresh and his title Cool Tricks was so much more original and appealing and really reflected him, his aesthetic and personality.

When I purchased his book I received both covers which is why I could photograph both of them for you for this post! Since then the book has been updated, republished and was renamed Cool Couture.


If you'd like to take classes from Kenneth you will find him in NYC where he relocated years ago shortly after I met him. He now has 15 other sewing instruction (CD) books and you can learn more about his upcoming classes and his books on his website by CLICKING HERE.