Sketchbook: The Buena Vista (& how to make BV’s Irish Coffee)

San Francisco Sketchbook_The Buena Vista

The Buena Vista, SF by Luca

The Buena Vista is the spot when you need a dose of old school San Francisco. It’s not really about the food because the magic of The Buena Vista  is much more in the ambiance, the sounds of cable cars in the distance, the bartenders in white jackets, the mix of tourists and regulars, and that impressive line up of Irish coffee glasses running the length of the beautiful wooden bar.

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Sketchbook: Afterschool Snackin at The Mill

A Little Yumminess_The Mill_San Francisco.jpgToast and Jam at the Mill SF.pngSummer’s gone and school is back in session once again. As life keeps getting busier and busier and it seems like our foodie wanderings — those opportunities to just follow our tummies — are harder and harder to find. Ahhh… those lazy days of long walks with sleepy kids in strollers and copious hookey days from preschool are a thing of memory at least for my oldest. So on those precious days when we don’t have a lot going on afterschool, I find myself even more determined to keep on squeezing in little food adventures where we can. For me, those little moments of nibbling on something new and delicious with my guys are golden.

Last week, sunny weather and a random turn off onto Divisadero Street landed us at long last at The Mill. Simran and Ria are enthusiastic fans of Josey Baker Bread at The Mill (especially the cinnamon toast), but this gem of a bakery and coffee shop had somehow gotten stuck at the the top of our “to do” list and lingered there for way, way too long. It’s all about great bread made with lots of TLC here and the ambiance is pretty fun too. The room is big, open, and airy with cool art and long communal tables. We swooped into a fat slice of toasted wheat bread with a thick, glossy layer of homemade strawberry jam and refreshed ourselves with cold glass of milk (and a cup of Four Barrel coffee for me). Racks of deep brown crusty loaves are a happy sight on their own but in combination with a giant batch of strawberry jam bubbling away in a big copper pot — we were transported to toast and jam nirvana. As we fetched our snack from the pick up area we couldn’t help but pause an extra minute or two to take in deep, heavenly breaths of berry-scented air. I dare anyone not to smile and do their happy dance in the midst all that strawberry goodness. Under normal circumstances, I almost always prefer to eat my toast and jam in PJs but The Mill’s extra yummy version is definitely worth venturing out for.

The Mill, 736 Divisadero Street, San Francisco (


The Mill_San Francisco.jpg

A few friends dropped by to join us for snack time.

A few friends dropped by to join us for snack time.

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

Sketchbook: High Tea at Dartealing Lounge (San Francisco)

Dartealing Lounge - San Francisco - A Little Yumminess

My mom recently treated me and the bambino to an English tea service at the adorable Dartealing Lounge in San Francisco. My mom reminds me of Simran in that she has a long list of things to do, and is one of those rare and impressive people who actually get around to checking things off. Whether it’s jet setting the globe with my dad, attending the ballet or symphony, discovering a new place to hear jazz or finding a cute new place for tea, my mom’s always got the scoop and is generous with her invitations.

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Gimme Chocolate

Don’t hate me when I tell you that  I spent last Saturday afternoon wandering the streets of San Francisco sampling chocolate — exquisite, hand-crafted chocolate from around the world — with a professional chocolate enthusiast as my guide.

I knew that there was a thriving artisan chocolate scene here in the Bay Area, but what I didn’t know is that in just over a mile (the distance from the landmark Ferry Building Marketplace to Union Square) you can find a dazzling array of chocolate from every corner of the globe that traverses the most traditional styles to farthest frontiers of new wave chocolate-making. It really blew my mind to learn that the whole world of chocolate is sitting right here on my doorstep… I just needed to know where to look.  As an example, one of our most unusual tour stops was Fog City News on Market Street (yes, it really is a news stand). Way back when, they started stocking a few selections of specialty chocolate alongside the usual m&m’s and snickers, and over time their collection has grown to the hundreds, comprising bars, bon bons and truffles from dozens of countries. As a bonus, you can also find tons of hard to find publications including more than 20 international editions of Vogue magazine!!

Beth, our friendly tour guide from Gourmet Walks (can you say best job in the world?), took us to seven destination-worthy shops for tastings and shared lots of history and facts along the way, vastly deepening my appreciation of the noble cocoa bean. I can’t say that the walk was rigorous enough to counteract all those velvety bites in their smoked salt-sprinkled, burnt caramel-drizzled, tea-infused glory but I can say I came home with one of the best doggie bags ever.

[If you don’t have the chance to take Gourmet Walks’ chocolate tour, try the Ferry Building Marketplace or Bi-Rite Market for a selection of some of the top chocolate being made right here in the Bay Area.  Also check out our food adventure to Chocolatier Blue in Berkeley. ]

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My Gourmet Walks tour came courtesy of Cloud 9 Living which offers an impressive selection of  thoughtfully curated “experience” gifts for every kind of person on your list — from chocolate lovers to adrenaline junkies. With the holidays coming up, you’ll find inspiration to make that someone special’s day (or year!) with a surfing lesson, flying trapeze class, stock car ride along or photo safari. You might even find something to add to your own holiday wish list. There’s a lot of great stuff to choose from, so go check ’em out!

10 Minute Halloween Crafts: Mummy Jars & Monster Hands

Halloween is about costumes and candy of course, but it’s also about that special feeling of fall in the air,  pumpkins patches and (my favorite) having some fun with spooky decorations and treats. When we lived near Belvedere street in San Francisco’s Cole Valley neighborhood we used to eagerly await the transformation of this normally quaint and quiet tree-lined street into “Hell-evdere” in the weeks leading up to Halloween. It’s a hot spot for trick or treating on Halloween night, but even more than that we loved the chance to take October afternoon strolls to look for ghosts up in the trees, admire the pumpkins decorating the beautifully preserved Victorian homes and to crunch dry leaves along the way — and of course end our walk with hot chocolate at Boulange de Cole.

We love bringing a little of that Hell-vedere spirit to our current digs, so when October 1st rolls around Luca and I waste no time getting to work. This year we put up a giant spider web in our window, invited some friendly ghosts to inhabit the tree in front of our house, and made a mini graveyard out on the sidewalk. We also made some time to do these two super fun, and super easy spooky crafts which we recommend for anyone with the craving for a little Halloween fun.

Mummy Jars 

I’m filing this one under “stuff I tagged on Pinterest and actually got around to making”. Because loose and messy wrapping gives the best result (even more loose and messy than our mummies above would be good), it’s a great project that even younger kids can do from start to finish. And if you ask me and Luca, any craft that involves googly eyes gets an automatic thumbs up.

you’ll need:

  • glass jars
  • first aid tape or gauze (you can also use strips cut from paper towels, tissue or toilet paper, see note below)
  • glue dots, clear tape and/or white glue
  • scissors
  • googly eyes
  • votive candles or LED tealights
  1. Wrap first aid tape or gauze around the outside of each jar to cover it completely. Tuck in the ends or use a glue dot or clear tape to secure them. We found that that you get the best result by wrapping in an irregular pattern (zagging up and down as you wrap). For this craft, loose and messy is the way to go.
  2. Stick on googly eyes with glue or glue dots. If using glue you will have to allow some drying time for the glue to set before your mummy jar will be ready to use.
  3. Light with a votive, or better yet and much safer, an LED tea light (you can find them at Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and sometimes your local drugstore.)

We also got a nice result by wrapping one of our jars with 1 1/2″ – 2″ wide strips of paper towel (strips of toilet paper, white tissue paper would work too — but I wouldn’t use a regular sheet of paper because it will be too stiff). If using paper, paint the jar with a thin coat of white glue before wrapping it to help make everything stick. You may also need to dab on additional glue as needed  as you wrap to make sure paper strips adhere well the the jar. 

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Monster Hands

These popcorn-filled monster hands are a fun little snack meets mini craft project — easy to put together, with just a touch of sugary fun. Keep it simple or make this more of a cooking project by customizing popcorn with your favorite sweet or savory spice mix, or even try our favorite white chocolate popcorn recipe with a dash of witch-ly green food coloring. What a cute goodie bag for a Halloween bash, a school carnival or just to take to friends in the neighborhood.

you’ll need:

  • Food Service Plastic Gloves (like this kind here)
  • Candy Corn
  • Popcorn or snack mix of your choice
  • Yarn or Raffia

Making these monster hands is pretty self-explanantory. Just push a candy corn down unto each finger to make fingernails, then fill the rest of the hand with popcorn leaving enough room at the top to tie the glove closed. The two sides of the glove have a tendency of sticking together making it hard for kids to push the candy down into the fingers. Adults can help by using a chopstick to separate the layers of the glove before filling.

You might also like: Spooky Snacks for Halloween (Mimi’s Creepy Fingers and Wiggly Orange-Mango Tummy Ticklers), What to Do with Leftover Halloween Candy: Milk Bar’s Compost Cookies 

Destination Sandwich: Salumeria SF

We haven’t made it to Flour + Water, the much hyped San Francisco pasta hot spot  but we’re inching our way closer with a recent visit to Salumeria, Flour + Water’s new little brother at 20th and Florida’s Streets. Salumeria as you might guess from the name, is an artisan Italian deli where you can find a hand-picked selection of cured, meats, cheese and condiments, but it’s also a worthy eat-in or take out sandwich destination. In other words, Salumeria is our new latest excuse to drive across town to the Mission.

While my heart still belongs to SF’s old school Italian delicatessens (Molinari’s in North Beach, Lucca in Marina and Luca Ravioli in the Mission), Salumeria has plenty to drool over and the stylish surroundings and cool neighborhood are a pretty nice treat too.

Check Out:

  • 2-3 daily sandwich specials, salads, soups, antipasti and cheese plates. We  split one of the daily sandwiches featuring housemade salami, mortadella and a tasty briny-mustardy tapenade with a perfect little kick. But one look at the chicken salad made us wish we had tried that too. The sandwiches are about $10 but they are big enough to share with a friend possibly (hopefully!) leaving you enough room to  try one of their other offerings.
  • Salumeria’s deli counter is an antipasto platter’s dream come true. Think house made salami, antipasti and a hand-picked selection of cheeses, oils, honeys and other goodies.
  • Grab and go or dine-in in style. Salumeria borrows Central Kitchen’s dining room during lunch so there’s ample seating if you decide to have a sit down lunch. The industrial, concrete fountain entertained my little squirmer while we waited for our food (happy mom!) and unlike many places we go, there was plenty of room to roll the old stroller in and stow it in a quiet corner.
  • If you drop by Salumeria on Saturday, look for the Weekend Pasta Project. It’s a pasta kit created by the team at Flour + Water containing all the components and instructions to make a stellar pasta creation at home. A recent kit included tagliatelle, braised pork, summer squash, tomato confit and pinenuts. Just say yum!

Nearby places to eat, shop or play:

  • Pop in for a little art at Southern Exposure is just down the street. The gallery is open noon to 6 (closed Sunday and Monday), and features the work of up and coming Bay Area artists.
  • Just on the other side of the 101 freeway, The Potrero Hill Community Garden is a  great place to take in views of the Mission and Twin Peaks. The kids will probably be interested to know that the garden stands on the site where the famous “Goat Lady” of Potrero Hill used to graze her herb of 18+ goats in the 50’s (there’s more about the Goat Lady on the garden’s website).

You might also like some of our other sandwich and salumi-related adventures: