Tag Archives: San Francisco

Hi-Fi Fifteen: Geography

What makes a person feel a strong connection to a strip of land? The Olympics are here, and I’m doing my best to root for the USA. I’ve never been very patriotic and am not particularly proud of my dusty little Northern California hometown.

Still, I am constantly moved by artists paying tribute to their beloved geography. For this month’s Hi-Fi Fifteen, the three of us contributed songs titled and about the love of neighborhood, state, and country. We follow the moon, moving west to east from our Pacific coastline to the valley of the Himalayas.

Continue reading Hi-Fi Fifteen: Geography

The Joys of Independent Bookstores

Since I’m the only one in the general vicinity of this website who doesn’t think every book should contain “splash pages” and that dialogue should be contained in bubbles and consist mostly of exclamations and vapid expository pronouncements, I’ve been tapped to say a few words about National Independent Bookstore Day.

The short version is, I’m in favor of independent bookstores. Not only can you find all manner of superhero stories — intended to be disposable entertainment for children, but for some reason ending up being “boarded and bagged” like holy relics — you can also find that weird manga shit and probably some of those adult coloring books, too. So, go to an independent bookstore — today, if possible. Most of you need not read any further.

The long version, for those of you who like things that take longer than five minutes to read — the pleasure of independent bookstores lies in real books. Perusing an independent bookstore should be agenda-less. If you’re looking for something specific, well, that’s what Amazon is for. You should discover things at independent bookstores. Things you never knew you needed, but once seen, you cannot live without. Continue reading The Joys of Independent Bookstores

Melky Cabrera – A Fan’s Take

Prior to Wednesday’s news, I had spent the better part of two months admitting to anyone and everyone that I was wrong about Melky Cabrera. Coming into the 2012 season, I was far more ready to embrace Angel Pagan and an everyday Nate Schierholtz than a guy whose last tour of the National League was an abysmal turn with the Braves in 2010. Then came the hits, and the Melkmen, and the hits, and All-Star Game, and the team records, the hits and the Pennant Race.

When I heard the news, I skipped right over shock and depression and barreled directly into rage. In small part for making me feel like an idiot: I had been apologizing for my preseason Melky doubts almost as much as I was demanding Brandon Belt playing time. Most of the rage, however, stems from the fact that, as a Giants fan, I felt that our community had finally worked its way free from the specter of the steroids era. The 2010 World Series team erased past postseason failures along with past performance-enhancing scandals. The 756 plaque in right-center field is about as subdued as it gets for an organization that typically loves to throw a party.

I’ve heard the experts speak for years about how the guidelines and repercussions may not be strict enough. I saw last year’s NL MVP Ryan Braun become the first to successfully overturn a fifty-game suspension. Earlier this season we lost Mota to a second offense. I understand that PED abuse hasn’t gone away. But when it happens to the Giants, when it happens to a guy at the center of a playoff-caliber team, I knew we would have to deal with people like this guy who thinks that the Giants should forfeit position in the standings.

And this is where the real rage comes from.

Yes, Melky won the All Star Game MVP, and it’s an embarrassing image, now, to see him hoisting that trophy. But it wasn’t Melky, but a triple off the bat of another Giant, Pablo Sandoval, that broke the game open. And it wasn’t Melky, but Matt Cain, who stifled the bats of that vaunted AL lineup. And it isn’t Melky, but Buster Posey, the hottest hitter in the game since the All Star break, who is at the center of our pennant hopes down the stretch.

The East Coast Bias is a real thing, ladies and gentlemen, and these caustic reactions demanding All Star Game reversals and team penalties are further proof. Maybe Ryan Braun just had a better lawyer. Or he makes a better poster boy for American baseball. He won the MVP, beating out a more deserving (as much as I hate to admit it) west coast player, and somehow dodged a deluge of bad press. A notable new Giant gets caught, and writers want to invoke Serie A rules and send the entire squad to triple-A.

The most notable example of the aforementioned writer’s ignorance is when he suggests that the Giants’ pursuit of Hunter Pence could have been driven by the fact that the front office knew that Melky was taking testosterone and were arming themselves in case of a suspension. First of all, why would an organization that has made such strides to emerge from the Game of Shadows go right back to the thinnest ice on the pond?

Secondly, if you’re going to write on baseball, pay attention to baseball. All of it. Even the teams that start games when Ohioans are putting on their pajamas. The Giants pursued Hunter Pence last year before Melky was even an offseason possibility. Coming into this season, there was nothing solid about the Giants’ outfield, and it had remained a key point of trade pursuit since April. Did you really think Pagan, Blanco, and Schierholtz were foregone conclusions? Do you read any west coast press? What about statistics: other than Cabrera, which Giants outfielders were doing so well that trading for Pence seemed superfluous? Ever look at the standings, or what other west coast teams are doing in a pennant race? The Dodgers had just traded for Hanley Ramirez, and were rumored to be in the market for Pence before settling for Victorino. To think that these were not the primary factors in the deadline deal that brought Pence to the Bay is asinine.

I get it: guys like this get paid to piss people off. He even designates a section on his blog called “Hate Mail” to archive irate responses from readers (most of whom, I’ll admit, sound like morons). He stimulates discussion with controversy. And just to be sure he’s not simply trying to make a reasoned argument, but would rather have internet commentators react with frothing mouths, he serves up a statement like, Giants: “Steroid Central.” Disregard the fact that, since 2005, when MLB’s new policies on PED suspensions kicked in, the Rays, Mariners, and Mets have all had as many 50-game suspensions as the Giants (a whopping three apiece). Forget the Braun debacle. Ignore Clemens, Sosa, Giambi, and Palmeiro, and all the other high-profile Mitchell Report targets. I wonder if this, or any other writer with a similar agenda, has even been to AT&T Park and witnessed a crowd of fans in love with their team, savvy about baseball, and now, collectively disappointed and enraged by Melky Cabrera. Steroid Central? How dare you.

It’s always been tough being a Giants fan. It was tough on me as a kid when the A’s were the dominant team in the Bay Area. In the 90’s when we never cleared that playoff hump. During the Bonds era where everything was shrouded in suspicion and 2002 when it felt like we were the villains defeated in a Hollywood ending. Hard still in the internet era when more and more Californians ignore geography and history and adopt “favorite” teams all around the country; in 2010 we were the underdog cinematic heroes, but it hurt me a little to see so many locals buy into the east coast media promises of Phillies or Rangers dominance.

Damn you, Melky Cabrera, for making it hard all over again.

But it won’t make me stop loving this team, loving September baseball, or defending this town and its fanbase as the best in baseball. Now, let’s take care of the Padres this weekend. East coast writers, continue to glance over boxscores in the morning. We have no need of you.

The Most Perfect of Wednesdays

128 years of Giants baseball, and it hadn’t ever happened. Until tonight.

In more than a century of Major League Baseball, more than 300,000 starting pitchers have taken the mound. Only 21 had ever pitched a perfect game. Until tonight.

On Wednesday, June 13, 2012, Matt Cain became the 22nd player in MLB history to record a perfect game.

When the ball left Chris Snyder’s bat in the top of the 6th, the bar where I was watching the game let out a collective groan. That turned into a rolling cheer when Melky Cabrera leaped to catch the ball at the wall.

An inning later Jordan Schafer laced one to right-center that looked ticketed for a double. Gregor Blanco made the greatest catch of his career. And everyone in the bar remained on his or her feet until that final out.

I love Matt Cain. I love this team. Go Giants.

Procrastinators Alert! California bans Foie Gras in T-Minus sooon!

That’s right…June 31st is coming fast…

You:  Fast to what?

Me: The end of Foie Gras dummy!

If you are not yet out the door with the car keys and an Open Table rez, you are probably torn between the desire of tasting something good and the desire to do good.  But don’t worry, I have to sort out the scuffle between my taste buds and my Mirror Neurons (read: animal empathy) every time I am at the kitchen table.  So allow me discus…

The human battle of the senses between gastronomic euphoria and spiritual purity does not rage on stronger in any other place than right here in The Golden State.  California is the melting pot of the modern world, where foodies and activist coexist in one big, “happy” place.  On July 1st however, when the Foie Gras ban takes place, the balance may shift in dramatic fashion, as one group’s rights will be imposed over another.

The irony here is that by banning Foie Gras, that the activist groups are the ones who are taking rights away from the people.  History has shown that when it comes to food, nothing last forever.  Google: Prohibition, Chicago Foie Gras Ban repeal.  And the people who actually have done something to improve the quality of food and general welfare of animals are the people who embrace good food.  Google: Slow Food movement, Alice Waters.  Yes I must admit being Vegan can be great for the environment and all, but if you think PETA is turning people into vegetarians by stalking and harassing omnivores, think again

I am glad the Foie Gras ban is now coming.  To be honest, I probably didn’t have my first bite of Foie until 2004, when the ban countdown was started.  I don’t think the ban will last forever.  But I am not a gambling man, I invite you to take part in the Foie gras tastyness and decide for yourself if see what all the fuss is about.

Remember June 31st is the last day to get yours in CA, who knows when we might see Foie Gras on a Californian menu again. Below is a short list of restaurants that serves the decadent dish on any given night.

L’Ardoise’s Foie Gras Terraine and buttered toast

L’ArdoiseBistro Central ParcChapeau!

San Francisco, CA

I call this the axis of super nice and awesome French bistros.  They all meet the following requirements; charming neighborhood locations, great chefs and owners, unpretentiously good, classic French restaurants at reasonable prices.  These are all must try’s for any San Franciscan resident, and what’s best all these are for some reason perfectly unattractive to tourists.  They all serve Foie Gras in some fashion; seared, terraine, on a salad, etc.  All good and won’t break the bank.  A perfect place to start your venture into the Foie Gras excitement.

Incanto’s Foie Gras Ice Cream

San Francisco, CA
Chefs Mark Pastore and Chris Cosentino are probably some of the more outspoken chefs for the repeal of the ban, which makes this place good one to try.  Incanto could be described as New Italian, fusing classic Italian flavors with fresh, yet simple dishes.  The buzz around this place Is about the Foie Gras Ice cream!

Animal’s Foie Gras Biscuit and Gravy

Los Angeles, CA

I have been wanting to try this place for a while now.  Popularized by their no animal part goes to waste ideology, Animal has really set a great example on how to appreciate food the right way.   With the Foie ban looming, Animal has been host to 12 course foie extravaganzas, and an equal number of Pro-Geese PETA protests.  No better place to get in on the action in my opinion.

Morimoto’s Duck Duck Goose

Napa, CA

Japanese Fusion brainchild of Iron Chef Morimoto, blends Western Classical cooking techniques with hip intellectual Japanese tastes.  I have had the honor of trying the original Morimoto in Philadelphia (where the city has a Foie Gras week, celebrating the decadent ingredient).  To attest to how good this stuff really is, the best dish at an acclaimed sushi restaurant was the seared Foie Gras, how ‘bout them apples?!

La Folie’s Seared Foie Gras on Toast topped with Caviar and Balsamic reduction

La Folie, Jardiniere, Fleur de Lys
San Francisco, CA

Frenchity French French.  These are the big names in town if you want “real” French cuisine.  I say that because each of these restaurants come with the stereotypical idea that when you go French, you are going big, big names, big flavors, big price tag.  If you have a taste for fatted liver, and have the wallet to back it up, then you can literally put your money where your mouth is. These chefs are known to have multiple dishes of Foie Gras on the menu.  If you are trying to stalk up on Michelin Stars or whittling down that James Beard Award winners to eat list, these restaurants are probably on your menu.

Poets, Pundits, and Wicked Men: The (Side)Streets of San Francisco

My favorite quote regarding San Francisco comes courtesy of Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin. In a piece for a tourist magazine, The Guest Informant, he describes his first visit to the City by the Bay. In 1969, he was a junior naval officer with one day to explore before being shipped off to Vietnam, so he bought a ticket on a sightseeing bus and decided to take in the landmarks.

Minutes later I was climbing into those amazing hills, up where the world is all wind-worn greenery and ivory towers against the blue. There were, I soon learned, no “sights” to be seen so much as a single sight: the City itself – a gilt-edged landscape out of Maxfield Parrish, engulfing as a dream. – “My First Glimpse of the City”

He goes on to advise that the best way to see San Francisco is “to put on your sneakers and start walking.” Maupin’s favorite pedestrian route guides you through a plethora of cinematic landmarks, from All About Eve to Vertigo. This most recent President’s Day Weekend jaunt, however, was inspired by a different kind of landmark: alleys and sidestreets bearing the names of writers who, like Maupin, have literary connections to my hometown.

In typical Top 5 fashion, I present my favorite streets, ranked correspondent to my affinity for the writer (but perhaps influenced slightly by the location of the urban byway in question).

5. Jack London Alley, just south of Rincon Hill, between Bryant and Brannan Continue reading Poets, Pundits, and Wicked Men: The (Side)Streets of San Francisco