Samovar Tea: Luncheon Lounge

Pretty much since the first Samovar Tea Lounge opened in the Castro a few years back, I’ve been a devotee. I figured anyone as dedicated to introducing the art of tea from cultures around the globe as Jessie (the owner) is–in a cursed location in the midst of the dot-bomb era, no less–deserved my patronage. And he instantly earned my devotion.

On a recent afternoon, I snuck away from the piles of paperwork and untended emails that perpetually haunt me to luncheon at the new ‘Zen Valley’ location on the border of Hayes Valley. Like the other Samovar spots, this one has lots of gorgeous light and a chill vibe. The added dose of mellow from the Zen Center across the street makes it an even more tranquil locale and a new favorite hangout when I want to check out for a spell. Not only is the tea menu extensive and carefully selected, the tasty food pairs beautifully with the teas. I noshed on the curried egg sandwich accompanied by this bright, refreshing, berry/herbal Schizandra infusion iced tea. It’s described as a 2000 year old “adaptogenic tonic” that ‘gives you whatever you need: energy, relaxation, beauty, sexual prowess…’ I figured I couldn’t really lose.

SF Street Food Fest

If you’re in town Saturday, August 22, I’d recommend checking out the debut of SF Street Food Festival. Bring an empty stomach and walk or ride your bike to maximize calorie intake and minimize the aftermath.

(Sadly, I’ll miss this so please report back! And please don’t feel too sorry for me, I’ll be slummin’ it at Sea Ranch.)


I don’t have alot of occasion to head downtown, so it took me awhile to discover Farm:Table, a gem in the Tendernob. It’s a whisper of a place, like a best kept secret (which, I think it still is.)

All the food is of the moment and changes daily. There’s no strict rule for the menu offerings, but typically, there are savory & sweet breakfast creations borne in the teeny kitchen. A few weeks ago on my first visit, I opted for the sweet selection (I know….big surprise!) — toasted slices of walnut bread smeared with marscapone and topped with super juicy cherries. It was a bfast revelation for me.

The owners are not only super nice and friendly, they’re genuine in their love of what they do. The decor is simple and clean. From the name, I think I was expecting a big rustic farm table, but found a nice square communal table with benches and sweet, fresh flowers in the center.

Another day, there was a somewhat accidental tomato tasting menu (she got a little carried away at the farmer’s market): heirloom tom soup, cherry tom salad and a BLT w/ avocado &, yup, more toms. I loved it! That bright juice on the table was a really lovely watermelon/strawberry sip of refreshment on one of our rare warm, sunny days.

The coffee is definitely worth mentioning, cuz it’s from the fabulous Verve roasters in Santa Cruz. If you haven’t tasted their beans, you are in for a treat!

For those of you with canine companions, it’s a pooch friendly location (at least at the few tables outside) with treats all around.

I suggest hitting up this place before the masses discover it.

Are You a Food TV Junkie?

If you’re a Top Chef and/or Food Network junkie and missed this article in last Sunday’s NY Times Magazine, you might want to check it out.

This is not news to anyone who’s known me for more than five minutes, but I’m a huge Michael Pollan fan. I remember being at an event several years back when he wasn’t well known (yet) and in a room filled with glitterati, he was the one I was most eager to meet. I had to laugh yesterday when someone complained on set that this brilliant intellectual ‘Just can’t shut up!’ [If I told you who said it, you’d laugh hysterically at the irony…but then I’d have to kill you (please note: this just an expression of speech.)] I, for one, am happy MP keeps on writing, talking and getting people to listen. I say Bravo! — yes, as in Top Chef.

The Erwin Olaf photos that accompany the article are phenomenal (these are just a few of them). How fun would it have been to style that shoot?!?

There are a whole slew of priceless quotes in the article and Mario Battali’s made me laugh out loud: “Look, it’s TV! Everyone has to fall into a niche. I’m the Italian guy. Emeril’s the exuberant New Orleans guy with the big eyebrows who yells a lot. Bobby’s the grilling guy. Rachael Ray is the cheerleader-type girl who makes things at home the way a regular person would. Giada’s the beautiful girl with the nice rack who does simple Italian food. As silly as the whole Food Network is, it gives us all a soapbox to talk about the things we care about.”

…and then there are blogs for the rest of us!

Scrumptious Sculpture

Wow, I can’t believe a month has gone by since my last post (thanks to those who’ve been gently reminding me that I’m overdue). I’ve been busy working all over creation — and playing hard, too. I have so many discoveries to share and just not enough time to get it all out there. Get ready for an onslaught!

To start, I’ve made it to the new SF MOMA Rooftop Sculpture Garden a couple of times since it opened in May. If you haven’t discovered this little getaway, find it and then don’t promote it too much to folks you know or it will cease to be a best kept secret.

Blue Bottle Coffee won the bid for resident coffee bar in the space and they’re off to a good start with their usual good coffee and, refreshingly, attitude-free service. I’m told (and hopeful) some breakfast pastry selections are in the offing.

Everything’s served in or on the always gorgeous Heath Ceramics and the always fabulous Recchiuti chocolate is featured in the cocoa drinks and confections.

I have to admit I was skeptical about the Mondrian cake, thinking it might be a ‘beauty is skin deep’ kind of treat. But the cake was moist, not too sweet, with a nice crumb and ganache that was perfectly smooth and creamy.

And the ice cream sandwich ode to Katharina Fritsch’s poodles includes Humphry Slocombe ice cream, so you kinda can’t go wrong. Maybe we can lobby for a Secret Breakfast version for those 21+.

I didn’t get a photo of the new aprons the girls on staff wear, but they’re really groovy, Japanese-designed little numbers. You know, if you’re into aprons like I am, just thought I’d point it out…

Basically, the gist is this: this spot is great for enjoying some sculpture with your coffee/tea/treat. And if you’re a member of the museum, you can bypass everyone in the general line and beeline it up there right when the museum opens and have it, virtually, all to yourself.

Loading Dock Luncheon

The first day our lunch showed up at the studio in this packaging, I was hooked before I even took a bite. Packaging pushover, that’s me. AND it’s all compostable — extra points! So then I learn it’s Doug Monsalud (of the famed LRE Catering) and his crew that are behind the brainchild kitchenette. They’re rolling up the door at the loading dock and cranking out ‘spontaneous organic covert nourishment’ Monday through Friday from 11:30 to 1:30, or ‘whenever they run out’. This is definitely known to happen, so I recommend going on the early side.

The menu is simple and changes daily: a coupla sandwiches, salad(s), housemade chips and/or chicharrones, freshly baked cookies and some sort of seasonal drink like strawberry rhubarb refresher. You can check out the menu, posted daily, to get your salivary g’s in gear. kitchenette also serves up plenty of friendly neighborhood attitude and smiles which, I have to say, is counting for more and more in my book these days.

There’s nothing fancy about the digs; but if you’re staying, there’s bench space and lots of folk around you who also love good, simple, tasty fare, so you know you have at least that much in common.

This little sign is what to look for on Illinois St, just about in the middle of the block between 20th and 21st Streets, in Dogpatch.

To kitchenette, I think I can say on behalf of all of us who work in the vicinity of the American Can building, a big fat Thank You!!