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.

Food, Glorious Food (Inc.)

This film is a beautiful thing! Not the reality of our industrialized food system, to be sure, but the efforts of Director Robert Kenner and Michael Pollan, our most eloquent advocate for establishing a safe and sustainable food system. I’ve been doing my best to help spread the word for many, many years and am just so happy and thankful there’s finally a mainstream film to broadcast the tale (and hopefully reassure my friends and family that I’m not a total nutcase).

Before going to see Food, Inc. last night, my friends and I had dinner at Cafe Gratitude. For any of you who know the place and its amazingly delicious (and healthful) food, you know the ‘question of the day’ can sometimes be, ‘What are you grateful for?’ Today, I am especially grateful to live in an area with so many wonderful farmer’s markets filled with plentiful, sustainably grown food. I’m also grateful that so many talented, creative people are making wonderful products using produce and meats grown and raised by these dedicated farmers. Living in San Francisco, it’s easy and convenient for me to make good food choices. It’s my hope that we can all work toward the day when we may all share these same choices.

Happy-ness in Healdsburg

Has anyone else noticed that Healdsburg just keeps getting better? I’ve become really quite smitten with this little town for it’s ever-improving eats and shops, and the very do-able-in-a-day distance from San Francisco. It’s just the right speed for a little downtime out of town.


My most recent Healdsburg obsession is 14feet. — a fantastic home design store where the super-nice owners, Mike and Marne, bring together vintage and contemporary so gorgeously, you don’t even notice the line. I found so many incredible grub-related gems parsed throughout their collection, it’s hard to know where to begin.

There’s everything from these über-groovy, hand-crocheted potholders in vibrant, though not-quite psychedelic, colors…

…to more subdued/zen/wonderfully soft, hand felted and stitched bowls…

…to luxurious, upholstery fabric market totes made lovingly by Marne’s mum…

…to my absolute favorite pieces in the store. I mean, seriously. Check out these plates. How much fun would it be to have a dinner party and serve your guests on these plates only for them to be greeted at the end of the meal with a personalized message!?! Tip: you might want to consider placecards.

Or if you’re having some friends ’round for tea, these could be fun.

And for your own amusement, there are the Seven Deadly Sins — one for each day of the week.


When it’s summertime and foggy in the city, I often think about venturing to Healdsburg to sit in the garden at Barndiva and enjoy a meal or even just a drink. It’s one of my favorite spots to dine and drink al fresco.

The food style here is fresh with bright flavors and provides the added bonus of being sustainably sourced. This past weekend, my tribe gathered for Father’s Day and shared a variety of delicious dishes for brunch. The fav’s of the group were the garlic roasted prawns alongside a fried green tomato topped with a Hollandaise smothered, poached egg.

And the other fav was the elegant beef hash atop roasted potatoes with a tangy watercress salad.

My family’s funny about dessert. No one will ever say they want dessert, but put it in front of them and they will clear every single sugar/butter/cream-laden crumb and drip from the plate.
This chocolate and berry mousse cake actually got me thinking this flavor combo can actually have merit from time to time, when done right. And while I’m pretty vehemently opposed to non-functional garnishes (don’t get me started on mint…), I did think the Bachelor’s Button flower lent a nice bit of color and cheer.

Next door to the restaurant is the Barndiva shop where you can pick up all kinds of things new and not so new, locally and not so locally made. I snapped up a jar of quince marmalade as a souvenir. This way, I’m sure to conjure the image of the lovely Barndiva garden while I munch my morning toast at the kitchen counter before dashing out the door to work.

Flying Goat Coffee

One more little addendum to the Healdsburg experience: if you’re wanting a good cuppa Joe before driving back home, Flying Goat Coffee (just across from 14feet.) serves up flavorful fair-trade, shade-grown, house-roasted brew. And for those of you who, like me, prefer their coffee frothy, the milk is local and organic. Consider yourself forewarned, you’ll also be confronted with a tempting variety of pastries and cookies baked in-house, daily.
Happy trails!

Burger Bliss

As soon as I found out Orson was serving lunch during the week, I hightailed it over. I already knew I’d enjoy sitting at the gorgeous marble bar where, even on a gloomy day, beautiful light pours in through the massive skylight. Plus, chef/owner Elizabeth Falkner always has something new up her sleeve that I’m happy to try. Little did I expect I’d find my new favorite burger! There are a few righteous burgers in town, but I kid you not, the Orson burger kicks ’em all to the curb. I eat maybe a burger a month but this one’s so incredibly delish, I went back just a couple days later for another –with a different friend.

Here’s the deal….the lightly grilled bun (baked in-house, of course) is pillowy soft, buttery and, miraculously, doesn’t get soggy. The burger comes with a trio of condiments, which are a Cobb relish (egg, bacon, bleu cheese), truffle mayo and house steak sauce with a chili/chipotle kick. Elizabeth recommends slathering it all on the burger along with the pickled carrots and onions. I wholeheartedly agree, though recommend saving a little of the truffle mayo for your duck fat fries. You know, just in case you’ve soaked up all the heavenly brown butter Bearnaise sauce that comes with those fries, you’ve got a little extra deliciousness to dip into.

And I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time leaving one of Elizabeth Falkner’s restaurants without having a little something sweet. So I capped off that rockin’ burger with a chocolate cupcake — rocky and road on the outside. How cute is that!

Then I rolled myself on out the door with a full belly and a big smile….and I just might roll myself back in again next Weds. night to watch Top Chef Masters on the huge digital screen over the bar. Did anyone else catch the episode last night? All I can say, is: totally unexpected outcome (and sign me up for one of those chocolate chip cookies, please).

Holy Crack!

I spied these little innocent-looking cookies, all sweetly packaged, and brought a batch home to try. After a morning filled with sorting receipts, invoicing, attending to the bazillion emails lurking in my inbox and tracking down produce that’s 4 months out of season (tasks that are among the joys of being a food stylist), I opened up the bag of Clarine’s Florentines. Whether that was after lunch or in place of it, I can’t recall. At any rate, this photo (above) was taken at approximately 1:37 pm.

Six florentines later and with a still seemingly insatiable craving for more, this photo was taken at approximately 4:08 pm to document my newest food addiction. Not that this has in any way *replaced* my addiction to Sweet Revolution caramels, mind you. I just now have to add even more mileage to my weekly runs. Thanks, Clarine! Love ya. Mean it.