Archive for August, 2004

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely . . . .

You can always go – downtown.
Okay, so that song really is better suited to New York – at least in my mind (there’s not much neon here, and downtown SF – especially the T-loin isn’t the place to forget all your troubles, forget all your cares).
When good things do come to the neighborhood, however, I like to support them (see my previous post on the market).
A few years back, McAllister Street welcomed Soluna Cafe. I know what you’re thinking. “A few years back? So it isn’t new, why blog it.” Because, the metroblog didn’t exist back then. Duh. And life is hard for restaurants – especially in that ‘hood. Now, if you don’t mind . . .
Soluna Cafe, at the corner of McAllister and Larkin, is a nice, almost reasonably priced venue providing the perfect refuge from the hard grayness of the Civic Center and “Civic Center Adjacent” areas. I’ve been there for lunch and dinner, and for my fair share of early morning coffee and bagel breaks. Today was my first lunch after an 8 month absence – so it’s possible dinner and morning offerings have changed (because my student discount certainly has. Dammit. That was a nice feature).
They describe their menu as “California Cuisine” – which calls to mind the scene in L.A. Story and basically means they serve, uh, food. With, you know, like, a salad and balsalmic and stuff. I’ve heard the dinner dishes described as “small plate” – though the price belies that shorthand for Americanized-tappas-order-and-share mentality that goes with the small plate trend.
Their website touts a 3 course “pre-performance” prix fixe menu for $23.95 – something I haven’t tried – but it gives an indication of their target clientelle. Soluna also offers after-dinner dancing and DJ’s – something I’ve noted on late nights on campus, but have yet to enjoy (they are frequently reserved for private parties, as well – something to keep in mind). Thursdays they offer “Twilight” from 6 – 10pm – a “type of dinner theater – a consortium of DJs and visual artists who come together to create delight for the eyes and ears while the kitchen, the bar crew, and service staff take care of the rest.”
Lunch is good – the menu is pretty standard – salads, sandwiches, etc. The burger is great. So is the BBQ pork sandwich. All are served with tasty garlic fries and a green salad (sparing you that awkward “I want the fries but I should order the salad” noontime decision-making agony). They have a limited selection of beers, but a full bar and coffee service almost make up for it. Lunch ranges from $8 to $15 and our lunch-for-two came to about $42 with tip (a bit pricey for the fare and setting).
Most servers I’ve encountered are friendly and helpful. We had a bit of a snippy waitress today, but not worth too much of a complaint.
Soluna isn’t the best value in the area – but the food is tasty, served efficiently, and it beats the pants off most everything else on the street (for those lacking time or drive to get to Hayes Valley). And from a social consciousness perspective, it’s a small business coming into an economically depressed area in an effort to build a tax base and keep opera, theater, and museum goers from taking the road more traveled to Chevy’s. For that alone, they deserve your consideration.

The hunt for The Dress in the City

Flying in the face of those who dare question the integration of personal lives in blog entries, I will hereby post an entry that has to do with one of those most personal of tasks: The hunt for the perfect wedding dress.
The fiance proposed to me in July 2003, and ever since then dreams of white chiffon gowns haunted my mind. I did not want a train, nor a veil, nor a huge overblown production of a gown. But I did want something elegant, yet simple. As my mind raced with possibilities, time flew by, and since we had not decided on a date yet, thoughts of the wedding sort of fell by the wayside. That is, until a month or so ago when we finally decided to set the date on February 12, 2005. The wedding would be a casual one, in a backyard garden, so I had to find a dress to fit. I stuck with my idea of casual elegance, and I began my wedding gown search online. I started to go through Citysearch and various bridal sites to seek out a bridal salon/boutique in San Francisco, especially one that would fit within my measly budget. I didn’t know whether to go J. Crew or Vera Wang (the bridesmaid dresses that is; I could never afford those full-blown gowns). But one can only learn so much from a website. It was time to do some pavement-pounding.
First stop, Grace Couture. I had noticed on their website that they were having a sample sale for 50% to 75% off all gowns. It sounded like a deal. So I grabbed the #1 California down to Locust Street, hiked up the small hill, and found that there were quite a few brides-to-be ahead of me. The sales ladies seemed busy tending to them, and sort of left me on my own to filter through the remaining samples. I felt rather lost in the small store, and those beautiful dresses seemed intimidating and overwhelming. The prices of the dresses were shocking. Sure the sale was 50% to 75% off, but the original retail prices of the gowns were anywhere between $3,000 to $5,000 — even if you took 75% off the tag, it would still be astronomical. I decided to select a few anyway, which were then placed in a holding area as I waited my turn. It was 3 p.m. by then, and there were still a couple of ladies ahead of me. It then dawned on me that I probably wouldn’t have time to really try on the gowns anyway, as the store closes at 4 p.m. The sales lady noticed that too, and politely saw me out. She asked me to come back the next day at 10 a.m. when the store wasn’t as busy. Scared off by the prices and the borderline pretentiousness of the whole experience, I didn’t (If you still want to take advantage of the 50% sale though, you only have until this Saturday before the sale ends).
Instead, I made an appointment at Just Engaged Bridal Salon. I saw the ad on Citysearch, and I read the customer testimonials. It seemed quite good, I thought. The salon’s website boasts that all of their dresses are under $1,600, with a majority of them under $1,000. That definitely sounded more like my kind of store than the one before. Encouraged by the pretty gowns on their website, I decided to make the appointment as soon as possible, which happened to be earlier today.
It was more of a hassle getting there than to Grace Couture, as the Just Engaged salon was clear across town in the SoMa/Potrero Hill district. Also, as I climbed up the steep Utah Street hill, the out-of-the-way location made me wonder about whether this was the right place. But all my doubts were cleared as soon as I entered the store. Deb DeFanti, the owner of the salon, greeted me personally. She was the only person there, and she guided me through everything. She gave me the rundown on the prices and the gowns, which were separated into the formal and less-formal. She told me upfront that there would probably be an additional $100 or so for alteration costs, and that they don’t do them in-house (However, they do have a relationship with a particular seamstress, and they usually recommend her for alterations). She then said I was to pick out any dress I wanted, and she would personally assist in dressing me up.
And that’s exactly what happened. I picked out several dresses, and she recommended a few. After I changed into my undergarments, she then became my personal dressing assistant — she helped to place the dress on for me, made a few necessary adjustments on-the-go, gave honest opinions, and even took several digital snapshots of of me in the dresses (I had brought along a digital camera to help me make my decision). She put me completely at ease, and was very friendly and helpful. After trying on half a dozen dresses, I finally decided on three I liked best. Of those three, we narrowed it down even further by trying and retrying the dresses and comparing the digital photos.
In the end, I had picked the one. Yes, ladies and gents, I had found The Dress. And the best thing of all? The price of the dress was only $285. I am not kidding you. Even with alterations, it would only cost around $390 (Aside: As it turns out, the seamstress for the alterations lives just a couple blocks from me!). The dress is a beautiful Jessica McClintock ivory satin gown, with laced cap sleeves and detailed beading on the bust. It’s perfect. And I wouldn’t have ever found it had it not been for the gracious help of Deb DeFanti. For any of you in San Francisco who are looking for a low-cost high-quality solution for your wedding gown needs, Just Engaged Bridal Salon is the place for you. I can’t recommend it enough.

Nice Tomatoes

Over the past two weeks I’ve traveled over 3000 miles, passed through 14 states and one province, and ended up back here in San Francisco, just in time for the Wednesday morning Heart of the City farmers’ market in UN Plaza. It’s been about a year since I last visited – the only thing I miss from my old neighborhood. I worried, at first, that my favorite tomatoes – the best I’ve ever had – wouldn’t be there anymore. But there they were. When I was a regular shopper, they sold under a sign for “Two Dog Farms.” The sign was missing today, and the crowd of people prevented me from confirming the name of the source for you. But it’s the “dry farmed” that is key. A happy, organic, good for the earth process that leaves each fruit with a characteristic rough patch on the side – not to be confused with a blemish of any kind. They’re sweet, juicy, and perfect each time. Last time they resembled romas in shape and size. Today, more round, more vine-ripened looking. I’m a few hours from digging in, but I have all confidence in their perfection.
Your next chance to catch these tomatoes – along with other vendors’ fine flowers, fresh cheese, breads, and honey is Sunday morning.

Mijita Cocina Mexicana

A new Mexican restaurant opened in the Ferry Building yesterday. Well, it was open to some of us yesterday and to the rest of the city today.
All the Ferry Building Marketplace vendors got the chance to try out Traci des Jardins’ (of Jardiniere) newest culinary experiment and I was one of the lucky few. We were given Mad money and allowed to order whatever we desired from the brand-spanking new Mijita menu.
I brought home some booty and my husband and I sampled the chips and guacamole (to die for) and their tacos de carnitas, which were “crisped braised pork in soft corn tortillas with red tomatillo salsa, cilantro and onions.” It was damn good. I also tried the Mexican wedding cookie but it was much cakier than I prefer. The green salsa is quite incredible, and I can’t wait for the weather to turn cold, so I can grab a cup of Mexican hot chocolate. The sopa de albondigas (beef and pork meatballs in a tomato-based broth with vegetables) sounds quite tempting, as does the jicama, grapefruit, and avocado salad with pumpkin seeds.
With a take-out window positioned near enough to the ferry platforms to make commuter ordering a breeze, I suspect this bright terracotta-tiled eatery will be a huge success. Mijita even boasts weekend specials of chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, and chorizo con huevos.
I know where I’m eating on my next lunch break — a bottle of Mexican Coke is already calling to me.

Rockers in the House

I wonder if it’s a true sign that you’re a San Franciscan when houseguests start appearing underfoot.
Yes, indeed it’s true.
When I first moved to the bay area a few years back, my place was immediately turned into the crash pad for countless guests including but not limited to sorority sisters, internet buddies, family members, highschool friends, and college biblestudy mates. This was a great thing as it assuaged my imediate sense of home-sickness and lonliness by having those that I loved physically near to me. Within hug’s reach and occasionally underfoot but in a good way. It also forced me to explore the area wildly, recklessly, and aggressively as I put together lists of things to do both touristy and not.
In the 6 weeks that I’ve taken up residence in SF proper, my home has already been host to Comic artists, the little brother of my roommate/politician and three very talented musicians (Annie Lin, Kris Racer, and Henna Chou) who found themselves at my doorstep at near midnight because other housing plans fell through. I have another friend visiting and crashing here this weekend who is planning on moving out here in the next few weeks. That equals on average 1 houseguest per week I’ve lived in SF. Wow.
Fascinating and lovely conversations kept me up til nearly 4 Am. That and late night noshing of noodles.
Late Night Grub recipe for a Warm Evening
* Wide Rice noodles: Cooked thoroughly and then rinsed with cold water and drained
* Dipping Sauce made to taste from
Soy Sauce
Sesame Oil
White Vinegar
* Furukaki
Ladle a pool of diping sauce into a bowl
Curl a small handful of the cold noodles (drained well) into the bowl on top
Sprinkle with Furukaki of your choice (I always have several bottles on hand including two vegetarian versions w/o dried fish flakes in them)
If you’re interested in seeing a few of my houseguests perform this week, please plan for it. It’ll be AWESOME. I had the opportunity to see Annie perform twice this year. Once at SXSW in Austin during FrayCafe and once for Locus Arts
SAT AUG 21 – San Francisco, CA
Club Lamia
3910 Geary Boulevard
(415) 876-4080
Email for reservations
9 pm
Annie Lin performing as duo w/ cellist Henna Chou
w/ Goh Nakamura, Kris Racer
SUN AUG 22 – Palo Alto, CA
Art 21
539 Alma St.
(650) 566-1381
7 pm
Annie Lin performing as duo w/ cellist Henna Chou
Purchase advance tickets at

I Mean Sir

Everyone likes an excuse to get dressed up, right?

Well, what’s a better excuse to get dressed up in your best formal fashion than a talent contest? And, since we here in the city are usually pretty civic minded, this isn’t just any talent contest. It’s also a benefit for PAWS, a local, volunteer run organization that, among other things, provides support to people living with AIDS and other disabling illnesses through the joy of animal companions.

So, go get yourself gussied up. Don your tiaras and pearls, dig out your leather and lace, and think about using those socks for something other than your feet, because it’s time for the 9th annual Drag King Contest, presented by Drag Strip. From suits to jocks, hunks to punks contestants of all stripes will be judged on “talent, creativity, orginality, humor, make-up/facial hair and fashion”.

The best part is, for the gals who may wonder how ‘the other half’ lives, you don’t have to bite your lip in jealous agony. No! You can participate. There’s a drag-king workshop scheduled before the contest that will help king you up and teach you how to strut your stuff.

Where: DNA Lounge, 375 11th Street @ Harrison, SF

When: Thursday, August 19th, 8pm until 2am, show at 9pm

How much: $15 – $35

Other stuff: Advance tickets available at Retro Fit Vintage, 910 Valencia, and dnalounge. Drag King workshop from 6-7.30 PM.

If Life Was Like a Movie, All Movies Would be This Good

I’ll admit it. I don’t live in the city.

I live in the East Bay, and so many of the things that I do, like, and write about also happen to be in the East Bay. I will also freely admit that I have to have a pretty compelling reason to brave the traffic and cross that bridge, so I’m always looking for a good time close to home. When I lived in Los Angeles, my partner had a friend who lived in Hollywood and refused to believe that anything of value happened more than 10 miles away from her home in any direction. That was the cut off line for her, and maybe you have one, too.

If that’s not the case, or if you, like me, are taking advantage of the cheap rents and available parking of the East Bay, then you might be up for some movies tonight.

If you’ve never been to the Parkway in Oakland, you’re totally missing out. It’s so good I almost don’t want to write about it, because it’s already hard enough to get a good seat in the place. To illustrate why this place is so fantastic, let’s go through the list of some common reasons people have for not going to the movies:

  • There’s nothing good out!

All lies. There are plenty of good movies, old and new, being played in theatres across America. The Parkway is one of these places. In fact, tonight is the Oakland International Black Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender film festival. There are several feature length movies, and a bunch of short films on the program. If that doesn’t float your boat, they are also showing a rockumentary called Festival Express, Richard Linklater’s long overdue sequel, Before Sunset, Anchorman, and I, Robot. The Parkway is also home to an award winning Rocky Horror show, as well as the hip-tacular Thrillville.

  • I’m tired of dealing with screaming babies, or fifteen year olds making out in the seat in front of me.

No joke. That’s why the Parkway rocks. On most nights admission is limited to 21 and over. However, because it’s a fact that parents like to go to movies, too, every Monday night is Baby Brigade. Babies get in free. Those without babies might want to choose a different night.

  • Those seats just aren’t comfortable. And the food is freakin’ overpriced. And it sucks, too. I may as well sit at home on my couch and drink beer.

Or you could go out and sit on your couch and drink beer. It’s true. The Parkway is filled with couches and tables. You can order a pizza, some fresh popped popcorn, nachos and, I kid you not, really good beer, and kick back in the comfort of your own home. Sort of.

Actually, it’s better than your own home. There’s no catbox that needs cleaning. You can’t hear your neighbors thumping bass stereo. Your mom’s not going to call in the middle of the best part of the movie (unless you don’t turn off your cellphone, jerkwad).

But, whatever. If you don’t want to go support small local business and watch worthwhile entertainment, that’s fine with me. That leaves more couch for me, anyway.

Save the Arthouse

Last night I went to one of my 3 favorite art house theatres in SF. The Landmark theatre has indie punk kids selling you popcorn and posters about Peaches Christ (Drag Queen Extraordinaire) up on the walls and a pink lady’s bathroom, and from what I hear – an octogonal toilet for gents. It warms my heart and is within walking distance of my apartment. I brought my own snacks of tofu jerky and pinapple jelly candy into the theatre. It’s a weird taste combination but better than you’d think.You feel almost college underground theatre critic black turtleneck and clove cigarettes silly again.
Earlier in the year I watched Anna May Wong films while sipping sake and slouched in the seat of the Castro Theatre. Jon Jang performed an amazing live score that he had composed specifically for the screening of Picadilly during the SFIAAFF. Black & White films while under the influnce of Sake is *always* a very good thing. You can’t do that at the Metreon, folks.
This past weekend I was yon at the 4 Star Theatre for the Asian American Film fest, catching Conduct Zero. Gotta love that friends in the community can be personally and directly be responsible for bringing in foreign films (Korean, specifically) for the event.
It’s fairly criminal that Art House theatres are on the verge of extinction with the 4 Star’s impending shutdown in May.
In which case, we consider what we need to do to save the arthouse.

It’s been a Richmond District landmark for a century, but on May 9, 2005, the 4 Star movie theater is set to join the Alexandria, Regency, Royal and a laundry list of other neighborhood movie theaters by shutting its doors for good.
Frank Lee, who since 1992 has owned the eclectic theater, which specializes in art-house, foreign and particularly Asian films, has been informed by the property’s owner, the Canaan Lutheran Church, that he must vacate the premises when his lease runs out. The church plans to renovate the 4 Star and occupy the building, at 2200 Clement St., which it purchased in 2001.
Lee, however, isn’t going quietly. With strong backing from the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation, he is attempting to save the theater by exerting community pressure on the church. To that end, he has begun an online campaign at “The Alexandria’s gone, so we are the only ones left in this Inner Richmond area,” Lee said. “The Coronet’s on the move. The Vogue is on the move. So this entire west side of San Francisco, aside from the Balboa, will be gone.

Classic Gaming Expo

If I had to choose between my NES and Playstation 2, I’d ditch PS2 in a heartbeat – afterall, its not about polygon count, its about fun. For those who share the same sentiments, the seventh Classic Gaming Expo is going on this coming weekend (Aug 21st-22nd) in San Jose.
Alongside classic games, theres a swap meet, so you can pick up an old copies of Adventures of Link or whatever floats your boat.

APAture 2004 Launch Party

Yes, after this third post today, you’ve found me out – I’m all asian, all the time. Unless I’m loving some big white booty, that is.
Seriously, though, APAture is a great local art festival for young APAs, held by SF’s own>Kearny Street Workshop (the nation’s oldest APA multidisciplinary arts org.)
And tonight’s launch party sounds like it should be pretty aight:Odessa Chen is threatening to get all Emo all over, Golda Supanova is going to be doing something rad, judging by her name. And from the RSVP list, Metblog friends Jane Kim (for school supe!) will be Master of Ceremony, and editrix Min Jung Kim will be there, too. Me? I’m at the mercy of the friend-mob, but will try to show some support, too.
Club Lamia, 3910 Geary and 3rd Avenue. (avenue, not street; not downtown)
More info here
And just so you know, this is for everyone, not just APAs, so come on down, feel the love. Especially.
(kidding, PC Police, kidding)

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