Thursday, July 29, 2010

california dreamin'

The Red Vic is a worker owned and operated movie house on Haight Street where you can see an eclectic mix of films and sit back and enjoy your popcorn in a wooden bowl and your hot chocolate in a ceramic mug.

One night I saw Fish Tank here. It was one of the best films I've seen in a while. A gritty British film about a girl growing up in a housing project and trying to find a way out. It leaves you in a bit of a daze afterwards. The performances are brilliant. A song that features predominantly in the film is California Dreamin'. I knew the Mamas and Papas version but had never heard the Bobby Womack, it's amazing. You can listen to it below.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


It's kind of funny that Canada is known as the land of the donut, I guess because Tim Horton's is such a ubiquitous sight in cities and towns and along stretches of highway. But I find California to have much more variety and presence when it comes to donut shops. On 24th Street in the Mission there are two great donut shops within a five minute walk. The Jelly Donut is a little no-fills place with blissful crullers. You will likely get a few donut-holes tossed in your bag for free. Down the street Dynamo Donuts features such flavours as lemon pistachio, chocolate rosemary almond and banana de leche.

It's the same in LA. You might think oh LA, diet and health food, but no: think donuts. You will see gems straight out of the 50s and 60s, hole in the wall places, and will often see a DONUTS sign tucked in among a jumble of strip mall shops. And there is a world of difference between these homemade donuts and those that are factory made and shipped out to stores.

When in LA my friend and I always try to make a stop at Daily Donuts at the corner of Hillhurst and Franklin in Los Feliz, across from the local library. You could easily walk by this nondescript shop and not know that you are missing out on delectable donuts. When we would go there in the morning there was always a dapper looking man kind of resembling Dexter Gordon at the corner table, reading the paper and bantering with the counterperson. Later my friend saw a magazine article about him, he had many movie roles including Gone with the Wind and played jazz in Paris in the 50s. And maybe right now he is sitting in the sunshine filtering through the plate-glass window and enjoying a coffee and donut.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Sandwitches

The Sandwitches are a San Francisco trio with a retro garage girl-group sound. Their debut CD is called How to Eat Ambient Sadcake and has lots of great tracks. Music to enjoy as you are waking up with your morning cup of coffee! You can check them out below playing "Back to the Sea" at Amnesia in the Mission...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

grand old movie palaces

Of course the thing to do today is watch movies at home on your dvd player or computer but there is nothing like seeing a movie at a grand old movie palace.

One of my most memorable San Francisco movie experiences is seeing Cabaret screened at the Castro Theater- a movie palace built in 1922 featuring a wonderfully ornate interior. Before the show a wurlitzer pipe organ emerged from the middle of the stage and we were treated to a ten minute musical performance before the red curtain parted. You really feel you are there for something special! The packed house cheered for both the opening and closing credits.

Along Mission Street there are a few crumbling old movie palaces that have been totally neglected and are now either empty or like this one below housing a parking lot. The red seats are still packed into the alley next door, a reminder of better movie days. So get out to see a movie sometimes and don't let these places become lost treasures that you can only hear about in memories but not experience!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Garlicky Pesto & Potato Pizza

There is a little rock n roll pizza joint called Escape from New York that makes really good pizza slices. I tried to re-create one of my favorite slices- the You Say Potato- at home, and here is the recipe. I just used packaged greek flatbread instead of making homemade crust but it still turned out pretty tasty!


2 flatbreads or pitas
1/4 cup pesto
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 medium red or white potato
2 heads of garlic
olive oil, for drizzling
chopped basil

Slice off the top of the garlics and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap in tin foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350. Cool a bit and then peel the cloves.
Cut potato in half and boil in a pot of water for about 20 minutes, until you can pierce it with a fork. Cool a bit and thinly slice.
Spread pesto on the two flatbreads. Scatter most of the mozzarella on top. Add potatoes and garlic cloves and top with the rest of the mozzarella. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake on a baking sheet at 350 for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped basil.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

listening to a podcast...

For the podcast assignment I went to the New Yorker fiction site and chose to listen to Karen Russell read Carson McCullers' short story "The Jockey" which was published in the magazine in 1941. After the first couple of sentences I realized I had read this story before but kept listening anyways. The story is about a jockey confronting three men- a trainer, a bookie and a rich man- at their dinner table, and their dismissal of him.

I enjoyed listening to Karen Russell discuss the story and McCullers with the fiction editor Deborah Treisman before and after the reading (it was interesting to learn that McCullers divorced her husband after he forged his signature on the back of the cheque she received from the New Yorker for this story!) but I would prefer to read the story in book form. I found if there was a really good passage or description I wanted to read the actual words and go over it again in my mind and as I was doing that the story just keeps going. I guess you could pause and go back but then you lose the flow. So yes, I would prefer to read it. But having said that, I did see some other writers whose work I enjoy in the list of fiction podcasts and will probably go back one day and listen to a couple. Podcasts could be an interesting addition to the library website.

Anyhow, just to end with a San Francisco slant, if its a rainy afternoon and you want to spend awhile with a book (or your ipod and podcasts) and a coffee, try Coffee To The People on Masonic Avenue. They have a selection of books to read if you don't bring your own!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

the shoe garden

Alamo Square is best known for its famous postcard view of the Painted Ladies on Steiner Street with the downtown skyline in the background. Tour buses rumble along Hayes Street and stop just long enough for tourists to take their snapshots and then move along. So most people will probably miss seeing the little shoe garden at the top of the sloping hill beneath the trees. Sneakers, heels, boots, all types of footwear nestled among the garden. It is something you could even do in your own garden at home...

Thursday, July 8, 2010


One evening while browsing at Amoeba (well actually going in there to buy something specific and then staying until the announcement that the store would be closing in a few minutes) I came across a strange homemade-looking double CD called Frisco Styles with a primitive patchwork picture of the San Francisco skyline on the front. I couldn't resist a five dollar deal featuring bands named Onion Flavored Rings, Veronica Lip Gloss and the Evil Eyes and Nick Denvers Neck and songs such as Positively Treat Street and A Not So Pretty Sight in Steinbeck Country. It turned out to be a two and a half hour mix of punk, reggae, experimental instrumentals, dreamy pop, garage bands.....a whole mix of stuff that was happening on the local music scene.

San Francisco has been known as a music town for many years so occasionally I will write a post about my favorite local music, both old and new. I will begin with one of- if not the- patron saint of San Francisco music, Jerry Garcia. Mission in the Rain is one of my favorite songs from his solo 1976 album Reflections. If you want to hear Garcia I recommend Reflections and also his solo debut from 1972 simply called Garcia. With those two albums you'll hear classic songs like Deal, Sugaree, It Must Have Been the Roses, Might As Well. At first on Garcia when you hear Eep Hour you might think what the heck, but then after a few listens it all flows together.

What about live Garcia? Just a few months ago Rhino released a double CD called Let It Rock, a 1975 show by the Jerry Garcia Band at the Keystone in Berkeley. Featuring Garcia, his longtime cohort John Kahn on bass, the brilliant keyboardist Nicky Hopkins and drummer Ron Tutt moonlighting from his job with Elvis, this is a wonderful way to sit back and enjoy the sounds of an intimate club show. Or if you are lucky enough to find it used, the double CD titled Jerry Garcia Band from 1991 with a very unique colourful drawing of a band and audience by John Kahn is a fantastic live album featuring cover songs like Dear Prudence, Simple Twist of Fate, Stop That Train and Evangeline. Garcia really makes these songs his own.

Happy Listening! More recommendations to come.....

Monday, July 5, 2010

horchata & agua fresca

After wandering the streets and alleys of the Mission you can drop into a taqueria, maybe take a seat on the little front patio at La Taqueria, and rest your feet and watch the parade go by as you sip a refreshing horchata or agua fresca. If you want to try one at home here are a couple recipes. They both make two big servings.


1/2 cup long grain rice
1/2 cup water
2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Place rice in a bowl with enough water to cover and let it sit out on the counter overnight. Next day drain the water. Place rice, 1/4 cup fresh water and 1 cup milk in blender and blend until the rice is ground up. Add sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Blend again. Add remaining 1 cup milk and 1/4 cup water and blend again. Strain through a fine strainer. Chill. Stir before serving.


2 cups cold water
1 cup ice
2 cups strawberries, cut in 1 " pieces (or mango or watermelon)
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tb lime juice

Place everything in a blender and blend on high. If using strawberries, strain if you want. Stir before serving.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Mission district is one of San Francisco's most colourful neighbourhoods: al pastor tacos or a super burrito to fill you for the day at one of many taquerias, bustling Latin American fruit markets, cavernous thrift stores and dollar stores, dusty diners, side streets of bright painted fairy tale houses, the chiming song of the ice cream man, pupusas stuffed with beans and cheese, a man in a powder blue suit strolling by with a parrot on his shoulder, cardamom ice cream, maple-apple-bacon donuts, Mexican fabric shops and hair salons, boys with slicked hair and baggy pants jostling with each other at the 24th St. BART station, the oasis of Dolores Park, steep narrow stairways leading to cheap rooms with bleary eyed men stumbling down in the morning, Ethiopian Thai Indian Middle Eastern French whatever kind of food you crave, and murals everywhere, everywhere- alleyways, fences, doors, mailboxes, are some of the murals from Balmy and Clarion Alleys.....

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I just created my shelfari bookcase. It's a mix of stuff I've really enjoyed recently and over the last say ten years or so. So lots of stuff! And I will keep adding to it as I shelve books at the library and see a book and remember "oh yes that one." Every single one of these books grabbed me and allowed me to become absorbed in their worlds, they are all books that when I finished the last word I sat back and muttered "wow."
Three of my favorite bookshops in San Francisco- City Lights in North Beach, Booksmith in Haight Ashbury and Dog Eared Books in the Mission- all have sections with an eclectic mix of stuff selected as recommendations by staff. So my shelfari bookcase is inspired by those great bookshops.