Shop Hoppers

As a non-driver city dweller who loves to cook, I have to admit I was a big fan of Webvan. They never let me try to buy anything they didn’t have in stock. The fruit and vegetables they brought me were as gorgeous as if I’d picked them up from the farmers market. Their selection was on a par with Andronico’s or even Whole Foods. And their substitutions didn’t suck. I truly wish they had started out charging us all delivery fees so that there would be a chance they’d still be around today.

Continue reading “Shop Hoppers”

PHOTOS: An SF Scary XMAS

Thanks to my friend Sharon, I have now confirmed that SF has a house that would do my suburban Christmas Tree Lane residents proud.

Located on 21st, a few crests of the hill past Noe as you drive towards the Mission, there is a house that replicates the North Pole, complete with oversized stuffed animals in the guises of Hello Kitty and Sponge Bob, a towering Christmas Tree, and even a real live Santa Claus. Suspiciously, my photo of Santa came out pitch black despite the holiday lights…

Merry Chrismukkah!

PHOTOS: Scary XMAS continues

Perhaps one of the scariest elements of holiday decorating is gaining insight into the strange sense of humor lurking beneath the jolly surface of some Christmas Tree Lane residents.

What, exactly, inspired the above homeowners to use masking tape to attach a lone red bulb to a scary white and black reindeer’s nose? And at first glance, the holiday lights wrapped around the bridle looks like barbed wire in the daylight.

If I recall, the people with the melted snowman were also host  to this gaudy plastic Precious Moments nativity scene.

It appears this household has decided Santa is best encased in a crippled helicopter, sans reindeer.

Look carefully at the above tree lot snowman. Pay special attention to the yellow snow next to the smirking house pet.

Is Santa, lost in the desert, following the North Star under the watchful eye of the Precious Moments angels?

PHOTOS: Hive-a-licious

60% of the Hives turned out for a live interview on Live 105 during their Metreon broadcast on Saturday, December 11. Howlin Pelle was charming and exceptionally accommodating to fan requests to sign tickets, promo flats, t-shirts etc., and to pose for — and tae — dozens of photos. I had my white vinyl copy of Veni, Vidi, Visious signed byt he Hives in attendance, which leaves me wondering what I’ll need to do to obtain the other 2 signatures… Is a trip to Sweden in my future?

More Hives Live 105 on-air appearance photos from their Metreon meet and greet.

PHOTOS: Scary Xmas Snowmen

Snowmen seemed to be the non-denominational Christmas decor of choice this year. Dozens of houses had this same wire snowman:

Of course, not all of the snowman looked alike, despite their shared point of creation; some snowmen seemed a little more disheveled than others.

I personally liked this Cubist snowman, who appeared to be comprised of wire closet storage boxes covered with some sort of fake plastic snow:

But this next guy, is he a polar bear or a snowman? And why is he wearing a pink jacket and mittens with black combat boots?

And finally, isn’t it a bit scary for the small children to have melted snowmen like this all over your front lawn? Why exactly did these folks move to Christmas Tree Lane anyhow?

PHOTOS: Scary XMAS Intro

No matter how pretty it may seem to drive past Christmas Tree Lane on a cold winter’s night, those holiday lawn displays are pretty darn scary in the daylight. Some of them look like the aftermath of a wild party even, with the previously merry hosts slumped over a pile of presents.

Take this Santa for example. Face down in the front yard at 2 in the afternoon. Was it a result of too much egg nog, or something more sinister? The "Beware of Dog" sign makes it seem all too possible that it’s the latter.

More photos to follow.

PHOTOS: 2004 SF/SPCA Holiday Windows

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For the past few years, I’ve gathered up coworkers to participate in the SF/SPCA‘s annual Holiday Windows fundraiser and adoption event.

From now until December 24, a multitude of frisky, adoptable homeless cats and dogs, kittens and puppies will be frolicking in the O’Farrell-corner windows at Macy’s Union Square.

In my opinion, this is a vast improvement over the annoying animatronic Disney Scrooge/Mickey scenario of recent years. Well, except for the inevitable traffic jams it causes on Stockton Street. But I can get over that more easily than hearing the Christmas Carol story over and over and over.

The shelter cats and dogs will be appearing in the windows every day, from one hour after the store opens until one hour before it closes (check daily store hours for exact times). SF/SPCA representatives will be on hand at the Adoption Outreach booth, on Macy*s 1st Floor, to assist potential adopters, accept donations,  answer questions.

If you would like to volunteer at The SF/SPCA Holiday Windows at Macy*s Union Square, contact Kay Harnish-Ladd at (415) 522-3543 or kladd@sfspca.org. Shifts last 2 hours and consist of handing out information on the available animals and The SF/SPCA and collecting donations.

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PHOTOS: show going



I get actively bummed out when I go to a show at a venue that doesn’t allow taking photos (like the Interpol show at the Warfield a few weeks back). After many a night spent at Great American Music Hall, and the cool Live 105 Studio Sessions at the Metreon, I’ve gotten used to taking photos while listening to loud live music.

I’ve made a few photo albums of my favorite recent show photos. have a look:

I hope for there to be more such photos here soon…

NYC Holiday Whirlwind


Two layers of cashmere sweaters, boots, fuzzy scarf and gloves, topped off with a three-quarters length leather jacket barely took the edge off the 20-something degree early morning temperature, as I briskly walked down Fifth Avenue last December, against the flow of the humming Midtown Manhattan morning commuters, sliding onto the sidewalks from the streets on the patches of ice which, still in the skyscrapers’ shadows, had not yet thawed.

I ignored the cold, even though my cheeks were a garish shade of pink. I was a California girl on a unique mission: I was in search of a television-perfect Manhattan Holiday weekend, complete with extravagant holiday windows, gourmet delicacies flown in from Paris, and ice skating at Rockefeller Center.

I’d come into the city on a red eye flight, and dropped my bags at my Grand Central area hotel, grabbed a vanilla latte, and set out on my quest. The gleaming art deco Rockefeller Center was my first stop on my whirlwind holiday tour. Metal barriers kept tourists from cutting through the plaza, as the television crewmembers rushed around what would be the set for that evening’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony. I was lucky to still able to get in a few tranquil minutes of watching those more graceful than myself skate on the festively decorated, below-street level Rockefeller Center Skating Rink.

First opened on Christmas Day, 1936, the Rink has attracted over a quarter million people each year, and has been featured in countless movies, making it a must-see on my quest to take in NYC holiday traditions. The skaters, gliding around the rink in circles or figure eights, appeared to be blissfully unaware of the screech of the electrical tape and the sound checks going on amongst the crowd above them.

Rockefeller Center was a good launching point for my holiday windows tour. The holiday windows of Barney’s, Bergdorf Goodman, and Saks Fifth Avenue, noted by multiple friends as the most imaginative in years past, were my key stops. Simon Doonan’s “Sex in the City” inspired windows at Barney’s, were funny (comedy is always a key aspect of his window designs). But it was Linda Fargo’s “A Holiday Dream” window, with its opulent nighttime landscape of black and white swans, Swarovski chandelier, and huge baroque mirror at Bergdorf Goodman that really grabbed me.

A morning of window-shopping in windy cold conditions called for a lunchtime respite at Fauchon’s tea salon. After a short wait in the doorway, I was rewarded with perhaps the best table for people watching. While I waited for my my pot of Earl Grey with flowers tea and petite yet perfectly filling foie gras sandwich ($27 with tip), I leaned back in the reclining gilt-covered chair, with the signature Fauchon pink-and –white striped upholstery, to enjoy my unobstructed view of Madison Avenue’s lunchtime shoppers.

The narrow salon was packed with couples enjoying a romantic interlude in the middle of the workday or after some serious site seeing, plus several independent women enjoying pots of tea and an array of pastries. While I was halfway through my tea, an older woman was seated at a table in the corner, with her back to the storefront wall, facing my table. It became clear after her conversations with the waiter that she was a regular, and that I was seated at her regular table. Full of holiday spirit, and anxious to start my holiday shopping in the attached shop, I chose not to linger at the table, and flagged down the waiter for my check.

This Fauchon storefront had a comprehensive selection of the products the company markets in the United States. Contrary to what the store manager tried to convince me of, it does not, however, include the same range of products as the Paris shops. Most notably, the “potted duck” (duck rillettes in a pantry-ready glass jar) was absent. I snatched up a dozen small jars of unusual condiments (such as the mustard with cocoa), and the milk jams (vanilla, caramel, coffee), plus several pink tin canisters of individually wrapped madeleines (a treat I’d fallen in love with the previous Spring in Paris), and decided this year’s presents would have a culinary theme.

A nap back at the hotel was a necessary luxury before hopping on the Metro at Grand Central and heading to SoHo for additional window-shopping and dinner at Slow Food favorite Savoy. After a failed attempt at a meet-up with a local friend, I decided to still try for dinner at Savoy.

Savoy is a cozy, two-story jewel box of a restaurant on Prince at Crosby. Despite my lack of reservations, I was allowed to sit at a tiny round table next to the picture windows in the front of the downstairs bar. I ordered a glass of house red wine and the charcuterie plate ($12) to start, which featured a few paper-thin slices of Serrano ham, their own house cured sopressata, which was good, and their house cured mortadella, which was amazing. These treats were accompanied by house-made condiments (pickles and a scarlet colored mustard made with figs that was as attractive as it was delicious), and a tiny taste of a house-made pork rillette, and little toasted bread slices. They had also brought me a breadbasket with three presumably house-made breads) but it was mostly neglected due to the temptations provided by the charcuterie.

My entree decision was easy to make — as soon as my affable waiter started to say that the night’s special entree was venison ($28). Venison is one of my all-time favorite treats, and exemplifies the holidays to me. I was pleased he didn’t ask me how I wanted it cooked; that small detail, on the heels of the impressive starter, gave me a certain level of certainty it was going to be marvelous, as well as instilling my faith in the chef and the restaurant.

The venison came out with dark edges and the requisite/desired non-bloody but still vibrant red-pink middle, surrounded by a light sauce of its own drippings, on a bed of roasted brussels sprouts and roasted chestnuts (for that perfect winter touch), and a big fluffy bed of pureed and whipped parsnips that looked exactly like a mound of mashed potatoes but had all the rich earthy taste I’d expect from parsnips. I savored the bites of this meal.

My final holiday “to do” was to meet up with a friend from home, Greg, who happened to be in town, so we could see the Christmas tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. To beat the crowds, we met right as the museum opened, and made a beeline for the tree. For the past 35 years, the museum has decorated an immense tree with a unique and growing collection of eighteenth-century Neapolitan angels and cherubs scattered across its branches, and a colorful array of crèche figures flanking a Nativity scene at its base.

Standing in the Medieval Hall, looking up at the 50 large, individually decorated angels suspended from the tree, surrounded by the smiling faces of the tourists and locals alike who had made the pilgrimage to this shrine to the spirit of the holidays, I received my first gift of the season: Greg escorted me to the café overlooking the Central Park, where we enjoyed a cup of coffee, and a lively conversation about our childhood holiday traditions, which was an ideal way to wrap-up my holiday whirlwind tour of New York.

The Ice Skating Rink at Rockefeller Center is open October to April. See www.therinkatrockcenter.com. or call (212) 332-7654 for hours of operation and cost.

Holiday Windows. The major concentration of holiday windows with the most lavish decorations tends to be on Fifth from 53rd to E. 59th, and Madison from 57th to E 81st. For an armchair tour of NYC holiday windows past, visit the Fashion Planet website (http://www.fp1.com/) and choose the 2003/4 holiday windows link.

Fauchon, The Madison Avenue outpost has closed, but the Park Avenue location (442 Park Avenue at 56th Street, is still open.

Savoy, 70 Prince St. (Between Crosby and Lafayette Sts.) (212) 219-8570.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street. (212) 535-7710. Annual Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche, November 23, 2004–January 7, 2005, Medieval Art, 1st floor .