California-Style: Pauline’s Pizza

California-style | Pauline's Pizza

Some places like Pauline’s Pizza take a long time to find their way on this blog because, they’re just “no brainer” good — they’re so good it almost seems too obvious to mention them. So, if you like pizza and live in the Bay Area chances are you’ve been to Pauline’s and that you’re a fan too. We always get their signature pesto pizza as well as whatever seasonal salad is on the menu… and if we haven’t eaten ourselves silly, we go for the gold with a goblet of rich, chocolate mousse for dessert. The fam stopped in at Pauline’s for an early dinner recently and as you can see we had a great time so I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves. Continue reading

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Cheap & Yum: We Heart This Green Onion Bun

Living in proximity to Clement Street as we do, dim sum, buns and bubble teas are the snackables in greatest supply. Luca and I often run in to grab something to tide us over or to take to the park for an impromptu picnic.

One day I caught a sidelong glimpse of these green onion buns from Clement Restaurant (Clement Street, Between 7th and 8th Avenue). I felt a little hunger pang, heard their siren call and so we popped in. $0.70 later we were enjoying one of the best buns in recent memory. I think the stars aligned, it was still warm from the oven, pillowy, sweet, savory… and did I mention crazy cheap? We’ve since returned and eaten more than our fair share of buns which were definitely good although maybe not quite so transcendent as our first. All in all an excellent bite for a mere $0.70. Luca gives this one two big thumbs up!

For nearby playing, Luca also suggests Mountain Lake Park. A low key park that stretches from Funston to 8th Avenue along Lake Street (you can enter the park from 12th or 9th Avenue).  Amenities include a playground (older play structure, but still fun), tennis courts, meandering walking trails, big grassy areas, half basketball court, covered “card” pavilion,  and one of San Francisco’s only natural fresh water lakes. By the playground (Funston end of the park) there’s an old-school cement slide that older kids will love (and bathrooms!). It’s a great place for running around, strollering, dog walking or, of course, enjoying your snacks from Clement street.

Artsy Spring Picnic at the de Young Museum

Inspired by the Getty Museum picnic that Giada de Laurentiis’ created for her Food Network show, we  recently organized our own artsy picnic adventure with our little ones and a few friends. You’ve got to love the ease of the picnic playdate. Just pick the time and place, make it a potluck (and cross your fingers for good weather) and you’re good to go!

We decided the de Young Museum’s Osher sculpture garden would be the perfect spot for our picnic and selected two dishes from Giada’s menu (pasta with goat cheese and butternut squash, and apple-mint punch), along with some other tasty bites. [Stay tuned — we’ll be posting recipes later this week, along with our checklist for “primo picnicking.”]

Runaway kids are always a concern at picnics, so the sculpture garden turns out to be ideal because it’s enclosed except for one small entrance which is manned by a guard. And the lily pond just outside the museum entrance makes for a perfect rendezvous point since there’s plenty to entertain until everyone arrives. The kids loved running around the little paths and looking for turtles sunning on rocks in the pond. The two stone sphinxes offer a bit of fun climbing, too.

Next we meandered inside the museum and up to the de Young’s observation tower. A lot of people don’t know this part of the museum is open to the public at no charge (we love free!) — it’s a must-do for locals and visitors alike. The elevator lobby has some great hanging wire sculptures by local artist Ruth Asawa, lit so that they cast mesmerizing shadows. Great spot to talk to the kids about shadows, lighting and art.  Have some fun by making your own shadows. 🙂 When you step out of the elevator, you get an amazing 360 degree panoramic view. You really feel like you’re hovering in the air above San Francisco with a spectacular view of our beautiful city.  The day we visited, it was a crisp, sunny day but the view on a foggy day has it’s own appeal.

It didn’t take long before hunger, and the siren call of Giada’s pasta set-in and we headed back down and out to the sculpture garden (again free – yay!). There’s plenty of lawn to set out a blanket and kick a ball and it’s great place to soak in a little bit of art. If you can’t get it together (common problem) to make a picnic, the de Young cafe has a pretty appealing menu. There are also plenty of sandwich, dim sum and snack options in both the Inner Richmond (~8th & Clement) and Sunset (~9th and Irving) neighborhoods for a quick “grab and go” before heading into the park.

In between bites, our young picnickers got up close and personal with the outdoor sculptures, including the ceramic apples by Ulla and Gustav Kraitz and the giant safety pin by Claes Oldenberg. Ria and Luca spent a good part of the picnic sitting under a sculpture pretending it was a tent and that they were on an elaborate camping trip.  Letting their imaginations run wild, the rocks around them became different animals and they sang silly, made up songs. Sitting there in the sun and listening to their chatter was a happy reminder to us, often harried, adults about taking a few minutes to soak up some of life’s simpler pleasures. Picnics have a way of doing that which is another reason we love them so much.

By the time the kids dove into the basket of strawberries one mom had brought, it was almost school time or nap time so our lovely museum picnic wound down to a close. Luckily, for those of you with more time and stamina than us, there are lots of nearby places to continue your adventure.

  • Take a walk to the Conservatory of flowers (Enjoy the fantastic flower displays out front for free and do some log rolls down the sloping lawns. There is an entrance fee for the Conservatory.)
  • Grab a little spot of post picnic tea and climb the rainbow bridge at the Japanese Tea Garden (entrance fee charged)
  • Burn off some more energy at the “Blue Playground” just inside the park at 8th and Fulton (free)
  • Run around in the music concourse between the de Young and the California Academy of Sciences (free)
  • Take in the California Academy of Sciences (entrance fee charged without a membership)
  • Wander though the gardens of the world at the nearby San Francisco Botanical Garden (free)

A few notes on parking, restrooms and coffee!

You can usually find parking along JFK Drive, although you should be prepared to walk a bit since the museum and aquarium draw big crowds. This picnic spot is extra kid-friendly because there are restrooms right inside the museum lobby. The museum’s café opens right into garden, so you can always pick up a little something extra if you need it (a coffee for mom or dad, perhaps?).

Taco-Truck Chasers!

We are a little bit obsessed with taco-trucks (ok, maybe a lot).  So much so, that Ria and I have become taco-truck chasers.  I even tried to convince my husband that I needed a taco-truck so I could cater parties when I wanted to.  That didn’t really fly.  No taco-truck for me.  Though I am not really sure what I would serve – what would a Singaporean taco look like?  🙂

Our last annual holiday party was catered by Kung-Fu Tacos.  Super-duper hit.  One of those parties that people (kids as well) are still talking about.  Some guy (shall remain nameless) ate 17 tacos!!  The kids kept going back for more.  Chinese tacos are the way to go.  To test the truck out for our party, I had my friend Anu drive us all downtown in her mini-van.  Anu was double parked with 3 whiny and hungry kids while I stepped out to buy a couple of each type of taco. Then we made our way to a nearby playground for the taste test.  (Clearly, a requirement for being my friend is a willingness to go out of your way for food).  The tacos passed with flying colors, though I must admit that the novelty of getting food out of a truck adds a great deal to the tacos’ appeal.

Ria and I recently drove to Burlingame on a beautiful sunny day to check out Curry Up Now.  A food ‘venture that had been on the agenda for a while.  They now have a second truck (jealous!) that is parked in the Financial District at lunch time.  The food was vibrant and spicy and the proprietor very friendly and funny.  The wait was long but well worth it.  We were greedy, ordered too much, ate too much and felt just a little bit ill afterwards…..can’t wait to go back!

Do check out these trucks someday or have them cater your (kids b’day?) party!

More Reviews for Kung-Fu Tacos:
Kung Fu Tacos on Urbanspoon

Giant Sundaes on a Sunday

I am surprised it took me so long to hear about Fenton’s Creamery in Oakland – it is supposedly a Bay Area institution.  And of course, once I found out I was on a mission to go on a food ‘venture.  Ria and I got ourselves all fired up by looking at the photos on Yelp and the Fenton’s website (do check out & drool).  The strategy was laid out – which sundaes we were going to eat and how we were going to share the entree so we would have plenty of room for ice cream.  The whole week was spent obsessing about the dream sundaes.

We begged and prevailed and Papa took us one Sunday evening across the bridge for our great ice cream adventure.  At Fentons, we were greeted by spectacular crowds and immediately the strategy changed.  Dinner at Little Shin Shin restaurant (supposedly the best Chinese restaurant in Oakland) down the street and takeout sundaes afterwards.

Finally the moment of truth came, we ordered a junior black & tan.  While we waited, Ria and I walked around and gawked greedily at other people’s cartoonishly large sundaes.  Ria even before eating a bite kept saying, “Let’s come back with (insert name of friend)”.   Ok, stop already.  She definitely possesses some of my more annoying traits.

It wasn’t great ice cream.  Maybe the giant expectations I had ruined it for me. Great to look at, but unfortunately not great in the mouth.  Maybe, we are spoiled by Bi-Rite and homemade ice cream.  I was so ready to be won over but wasn’t.  Ria, on the other hand had stars in her eyes and could not believe that she was being allowed to eat so much ice cream.  That in itself I think was enough for her.

As we drove away, I was thinking how Fenton’s is everything that is good and bad about America all in one sundae.  I swore never to eat ice cream again (yeah, right).  That brought to mind Berthillon in Paris where they give you such tiny scoops that you leave and 10 years later you are still dreaming about their ice cream.  While I was waxing philosophical on ice cream, Ria prattled on and on about how much she loved Fenton’s and wanted to go back, maybe for her birthday party.  I guess for some of us, size is everything.