Berkeley Bowl on Valentine’s Day

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So now that a month has gone by, lets finally talk about Valentine’s Day. Ha! Just a tad behind, right?

This year was cool because Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday, which meant that Max was actually off work and available to spend the holiday with me.  My mom and Uncle Wen were in town and stayed with us for the weekend, and during the weeks leading up to their visit Max and I toyed with going for a nice dinner on Valentine’s Day with everyone.  But, ya know, when it comes right down to it, Valentine’s Day is The. Worst. day to go out to eat at all but the neighborhoodyist of neighborhood joints.  You get a shitty tasting menu and they charge you more for it.

Instead, we all day-tripped to Berkeley hitting up Acme Bread‘s original location before heading to the massive and OMG Berkeley Bowl.  Then Max cooked up a delicious meal and we all sat around our tiny table in our small San Francisco apartment.  It was intimate and beautiful-all the things Valentine’s Day should always be.

Pictures from our day in Berkeley and our night in below.

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And, of course, no celebration would be complete without a cheese plate and a bottle of champagne sabered off the balcony!

 

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Vik’s Chaat & Market in Berkeley

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I’m always hounding Max to tell me where to eat.  I figure he knows what’s up since he’s in the biz and all, but surprisingly, he generally has very few suggestions for me, especially ones that don’t break the bank.  So I was pretty excited when he turned to me while on his computer the other day and said, “There’s this Indian street food place in Berkeley I’d like to try.”  I put Vik’s Chaat & Market on the physical (or digital) and mental list I keep of restaurants to check out in San Francisco and waited for the right time.

The right time came when we were planning our mini road trip out to Oakdale to pick up Roulot.  We were already driving hours out of our neighborhood, so why not tack on a few more minutes and swing through Berkeley to try this place? Plus, getting a dog was definitely a Megan-centric activity, so I thought it would be pleasant to do something for Max that weekend, as well.

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So Chaat (literally “to lick”) is a term describing savory snacks, typically served at road-side tracks from stalls or food carts in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.  Traditionally, this road-side snack was served on a leaf and was so tongue-tickling that one could not resist licking the last morsels from the leaf before discarding it. Trying street food is one of the best parts about traveling to new places, and it’s a delicious window into new cultures.   Think tacos, bahn mi, or jerk chicken.  Some of the best stuff around.

Vik’s Chaat has been said to have the best chaat in the United States, so that’s quite an endorsement. I’m told it grew in response to the burgeoning Indian population that came along with the growth of Silicon Valley near by.

It is a no muss no fuss restaurant, a warehouse actually. The food is ordered from a counter food court-style and served in paper (if you’re taking it to-go) or metal trays, and most of the food is vegetarian, through they do have weekend specials incorporating meat. They have daily curries, samosas, and other snack foods and sweets. It is jammed packed every weekend and during the lunch and dinner hours. The prices are very reasonable.

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We sampled a whole host of different items, including Dahi Batata Puri, Bel Puri, Aloo Tikki, Samosa Cholle, and Keema Samosa , but we’ve been back twice now and the Sev Puri is our favorite. We could each eat 2 orders of these to ourselves.

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Afterward, you can peruse the Indian market where they have EVERY KIND OF LENTIL YOU’VE EVER IMAGINED and some that you couldn’t have.  There are frozen prepared items, as well, which seems like a good thing to know about. Max was really into the market, but we both die for the food.

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I even took my mom and Uncle Wen there when they came to visit this past weekend.  But more on that later.

Dim Sum & Bordeaux

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Clearly, I’m not pro photographer, but I do have a pretty nice camera and I do sometimes manage to take a decent photo with it.  I want to be so good at photography.  I really do.  I have made a few weak-ass attempts to really learn how to be awesome at it, but I haven’t been able to really commit to anything long-term.  I won’t bore you with the details.  I plan to get to it one day.

In any event, despite my non-professional status, because Max is what we jokingly refer to as “food famous” he was asked to write a blurb about where he enjoys drinking Bordeaux wines for Eater so I got to take some pictures to accompany his writing.

It was cool because it was just an excuse for us to go to Yank Sing and enjoy some dim sum, as we often do on weekends.  We embarrassingly took a bunch of super stagey photos and drank good wine and enjoyed yummy food, so all in all, it was a lovely morning.

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Max enjoys drinking wine with just about everything, hence our new dog named Roulot, and it is pretty trendy these days to pair wine with unexpected, generally low-brow foods for that cool dichotomy effect.  Since Max enjoys almost all Asian cuisine, he was excited to share his musings about pairing a Bordeaux Blanc with our typical dim sum order, particularly har gow and xiaolongbao, rice noodles with pork, shrimp and chive dumplings.

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And yes, I took every single one of those pictures, so I’m a little bit proud.  Power couple! haha.  The photos above are ones Eater didn’t use, save the top photo of Max, so I thought I’d share them here.

If you’d like to check out Max’s writing on Eater you can find it here.

 

A Coffee Lover’s Walking Tour of San Francisco

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Even though I’ve been in San Francisco for a good 9-1/2 months now, I still feel like I’m just getting to know the city.  I still haven’t ventured into half of the neighborhoods or found my favorite-well, just about anything (though I have found my favorite pizza delivery, Village Pizzeria Restaurant on Van Ness).  I know LA like the back of my hand having lived there for 28 years and miss that familiarity a ton, but I want to know my new city with that same kind of intimacy.

A common thing I’ll do with a free half day is walk to a destination coffee shop in a neighborhood of San Francisco I haven’t explored.  Coffee is a great time suck because (a) it’s freakin’ delicious and (b) it isn’t super costly.  I won’t say the going rate of $4.50 is exactly cheap for a latte, but the way things are in this city, it isn’t on the high end, that’s for sure.  And the walking is a bonus, too, it keeps me feeling active, and I end up getting to see even more of the city by strolling through it.  I’ve discovered the cutest neighborhoods this way, like Presidio Heights and Alamo Square.

Below are a few of the coffee shops that have warranted a walk.

Blue Bottle in Hayes Valley:

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This one is less of a destination than a habit, actually.  The Blue Bottle Kiosk on Linden Street is just a few blocks from my house and in one of my favorite walkable ‘hoods, Hayes Valley.  I took my mom here when she came to visit and it was the start of her love affair with the San Francisco latte.

Honestly, I’m not even sure why the lattes (and probably the coffee, too, but I’m a pussy and like to drown my coffee in milk) are so, so, so much better here than they are in LA.  I want to say it’s the milk, but correct me if I’m wrong here.

Interesting fact-This was the first Blue Bottle location in San Francisco, I believe.  It began as a kiosk run out of a friend’s garage in the Linden Street alley, and is still totally quirky that way.  Click the link above for the full scoop.

The Mill on Divisidero:

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You know I’m not from around here because I say Divisidero and not Divis.

Anyway, right away upon moving here, any women who wanted to make a plan with me always suggested we have our date at The Mill.  However, as is the way of things, none of these well-intentioned plans ever came to fruition, and I found I still hadn’t been to The Mill until two weeks ago.

Like a few other places around town, toast is the jam.  Ha! Toast is the jam.  But, ya know, it’s the thing you go there for.  I thought it was really neat that you can watch them making the fresh bread right there while you wait for your coffee.  And you will wait.  The line is always super long.  When I went in the late afternoon on a Friday, the line was almost out the door.

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I loved the interior, so spacious and airy, but I generally do like coffee shop interiors.  Basic bitch here, all the way.  And speaking of, don’t wear your sweatpants to The Mill, as there is a decent chance you’ll run into someone you know, ‘cus it’s super hip and trendy.  I hardly know anyone up here, and still had the misfortune of not being recognized at first because I “looked different” in my sweatpants than I did when we had dinner together at her house.  hahaha!

Sight Glass in SOMA:

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SOMA is actually an area with which I’m pretty familiar.  Max works there, so I often drive him to work or meet him there for a meal.  And no, I didn’t walk to this one.

On one of my return drives from dropping Max at his restaurant, I fell in love with the exterior of Sight Glass.  I tried to take my mom there when she visited, but we couldn’t find parking and ended up at Jane in the Tenderloin, which is practically my second home here and where you’ll find me just about every Saturday morning.

After being thwarted initially, I made it there by making Max get up early-ish on a day he worked, so we could go for coffee and share a pastry.

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And you can tell he was beyond thrilled to be there in the morning.

This place really reminded me of the LA coffee shops we had in our neighborhood like Bar Nine; very sparse in that cool industrial way.  Excellent use of negative space.

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I mused with Max about how great it would be if I were one of the many people we saw who could do work in a place like this.  I could never do it because I’d want to eat all the goodies and drink coffee constantly, so I would be broke and fat.

And there you have it!  There are a few other places I’d like to mention, so maybe I’ll do another post like this on another day.  But I think I’ve probably inundated this page with enough coffee shops and pictures of coffee shop interiors for a minute.

The Painted Ladies

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Last weekend when Max was working I decided I had waited long enough to try SF’s beloved coffee shop, The Mill, so I just up and walked there.  You really can walk just about anywhere in this city if you’ve got a couple of hours on your hands.  If you’re curious, I had a coffee, but I did not try any of the famous toast, even though it sounded so delicious and looked great!  Next time.

My walk took me through an area of town I’d never been before called Alamo Square.  Every block is full of the quintessential San Francisco houses of the Full House variety, only even more majestic and opulent in some cases.

When I got home, a little research and a look out the window allowed me to figure out that the famous Painted Ladies were really very close to where I live.  Today I visited them   and enjoyed a coffee at Alamo Square Park.

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Playing tourist.  Wishing I had a selfie stick?

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A Weekend In Napa at the Cardinale House

Today is my birthday! I’m 30 years old. Birthdays are great at helping to show you all the love you have in your life-I’ve been lucky enough to be flooded with texts and phone calls and Facebook wishes.  There is certainly a common theme: You’re 30! How does it feel?

It actually works out nicely for me because I have always felt like my 30s were gonna be good for me.  My dad used to say I was born 30 years old, and I’m just looking forward to the things that come with a more adult life-buying a house, having children-all that.

I always enjoy that little bit of time every year when Max has turned a year older, but I still haven’t.  I get to say I’m with an older man. Haha!

As part of his 30th birthday celebration (but really, it was more of an excuse to do this really cool thing with cool people), we were given the run of this beautiful guest house up in Napa that belongs to the Cardinale Winery.

We invited some friends to stay with us there and threw a dinner party!

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Cardinale was such an incredible host.  When we arrived, the estate’s farmer hand-delivered us a box of farm fresh, picked that very day produce and herbs.  The boys who would be cooking, including Max, decided to prepare a pork loin to go with all these amazing fresh veggies, so we headed over to Oxbow Public Market to get the rest of what we needed.

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While we were there we visited Gott’s Roadside for burgers and hotdogs.  The ahi burger is just nuts good! So that’s my recommendation if you hit up Gott’s, but honestly, I’m fairly sure you can’t go wrong.  Everyone enjoyed what they got at Gott’s (ha!-I’m such a dork).

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Once we got back, we spent the evening playing games, talking, and drinking excellent wine, of course.  Eventually, the boys started cooking and made us a really awesome meal.  It was so cool to be gathered around this epic table in this gorgeous house (all decorated for Christmas, by the way!) with a bunch of our favorite people.  There was a lot of wine talk, but my friend, Martha, and I had many other substantive non-wine conversations without the boys!

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Thank you, Cardinale! It was an amazing weekend never to be forgotten.

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We are so lucky to get to have all these incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.  As I’m looking back on the photos of the weekend, I almost have to pinch myself.  Life doesn’t get much better than this!

Christmas Skate Date

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It’s funny how the things we love most in life are usually also the things that can drive us the most batty.  This goes for people, too.  Like those we love the most have the ability to get under our skin-because we CARE.

Christmastime is no exception to this rule.  Because I love Christmas so much and want it to be so magical, I also find it to be a rather stressful time of year, which is why I haven’t been able to come here to update my blog as regularly as I’d have liked.

However, with the employment of several lists and all the time management I can muster, I’ve managed to complete most of my tasks for the holiday and will be, after this weekend, where I want to be with my holiday prep.

Still, the most important thing is to enjoy the season.  Being in the city, there isn’t much of a natural wintery feeling going on (oh-besides it suddenly becoming freezing and raining all the time.  SF, where did that come from, huh?), so we faked it and went to Union Square to go ice skating.

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The rink is small and gets crowded and chewed up quickly, but we actually thought it was worth it for the price, and we only stayed about a half hour actually skating.

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Max isn’t usually one for the outdoors (does this count?) or athletics (does this count?), so I thought I’d likely school him on skates, but he was surprisingly quick and, for the most part, stayed on his feet.  He definitely lapped me a few times.  Clearly, my idea was to make my base as wide as possible to avoid falling down, as you can see from my wide-legged, old lady stance.  Whatever.  It worked.  Didn’t fall once! Ha!

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I tried to take a video of Max and his mad skating skills, but holding my phone and trying to stay upright proved too difficult for me, so pictures will have to suffice this year!

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Obligatory hipster feet picture!

P.S. Hot chocolate is essential, so Pro Tip, if you are going skating in Union Square, the nearest hot chocolate is at the Starbucks up the street.  The nearby hotels do not have it-I did the research for you.

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Me when Max convinced me to accompany him to a hotel bar across the street because they would “for sure” have hot chocolate. They did not.

 

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Me when we bit the bullet and went to Starbucks and I got my hot chocolate.  Mission accomplished!