Monday, July 21, 2008


Friday shopping is starting to become a habit. This past Friday...7/18...I was up at 5:30 a.m. not to get in line for another iPhone, but, rather, to get to my local Nordstrom for the start of the Anniversary Sale. This is a terrific once-a-year event when the store brings out many of it new items for the Winter season. The entire store is on sale...that means, men's, women's, children's, and gifts and home stuff too.

Now, granted, shopping for winter clothing in the middle of July is not everyone's cup of tea, but at discounts on some items close to 40% off what will be full retail prices in a few months, I can handle it. And, the stores are air conditioned so, what's the problem with tryng on Winter coats and pants?

My Nordstrom opened at 7 a.m. on this, the first day of the sale. I got to the door at 6:55 a.m. and they had already let customers in.

First thing I noticed was that there was no complimentary coffee table by the Nordstrom cutting back on customer amenities?

Undaunted, I headed for jewelry and a few pairs of earrings. Next on my mission was a Nike workout outfit for a young friend who is turning 21. As I started up the escalator, I spied, in the men's department, not only the coffee table but, also on it, Danish pastries and muffins. At the second floor, I headed for the down escalator for my coffee and what had to be the world's best pain raisin, raisin danish.

With proper nourishment, I headed back up to the second floor where I bought the Nike outfit.

From there on, I was in sort of free fall mode...I wandered from department to department...two pairs of winter slacks, a dressy top, another birthday gift for a friend, a black sweater, some cosmetics...I was truly in heaven and remained in the store until about 11 a.m.

When I emerged for air, I made a quick run over to the Apple store

where, one week later, there was still a long line waiting to buy an iPhone! I said hello to one of the assistant managers who gave me a bottle of Watermelon water, what Apple retail is handing out to its customers who are patiently waiting in line.

This Friday, I promise myself, I will get some work done to pay for all my shopping.

One final Nordstrom note: The Anniversary sale runs through August 3.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dinner at Daily Grill before seeing A Chorus Line

So it was off to San Francisco last week with J, R, and K to see a preview of A Chorus Line at the Curran Theatre.

Where to have dinner before the show? The Union Square area is filled with dining choices...we thought about Cheesecake Factory thinking that R and K, who are college age, would particularly enjoy it, then I considered Kuleto, where I've recently enjoyed their excellent service and tasty pasta dishes, and finally, I decided on Daily Grill.

Daily Grill is just one block from the theatre. The food is classic American. The dining room is modeled after the big city grills of days past. The original version of the Daily Grill, called The Grill on the Alley, was opened in 1984 in Beverly Hills. Now there are Daily Grills in 24 locations around the United States. The San Francisco location was opened in 2002.

Open daily from 7 a.m., Daily Grill is a great choice for a business breakfast or as a place to meet out of town friends who are staying in downtown San Francisco. It's one of my favorite places for lunch when I am shopping on Union Square. And, of course, it is an ideal place to have dinner before a show.

The menu is extensive and there is something on it for just about every taste and appetite. Daily Grill is an excellent place to come with kids.

I am always tempted by the Grill Classic section of the menu which offers Chicken Pot Pie, Meat Loaf, Braised Short Ribs, and a Grilled Vegetable Plate. Steak lovers must indulge in one of the Grill's Aged Corn Fed Angus Beef steaks which are hand cut daily and cooked to interesting aside about the steaks is that they are served with vegetables and potatoes and are priced between $25 and $32 for a generous serving, a refreshing departure from the practice of some of the local upscale chain restaurants where the steaks are served with no garnish at have to order your side dishes...and are priced considerably higher.

Back to the menu, there are meal-sized salads, seafood dishes, pasta, chicken, and such more casual fare as a cheeseburger, a club sandwich, and the California Turkey Melt sandwich.

In addition to the large menu, there are daily Chef's Specials and a Fixed Price, $25.95 dinner. Three of us decided on the Fixed Price Menu. It started with a choice of a cup of soup or a Mixed Green or Caesar Salad. We all started with soup...cold Gaspacho for J and me, Bean Soup for R.

Of the five entree choices, J chose the Petit Filet Mignon that was topped with an herb and blue cheese crust and served with a Bordelaise Sauce and Spinach Mashed Potatoes. R ordered the Grilled Salmon with Lemon Butter Sauce and served with Sauteed Spinach and Shiitake Mushrooms.

I chose the Seared Lemon Chicken Breasts served with Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto.

Not tempted by the Fixed Price Dinner, K ordered the Fish and Chips which were Panko Crumb-coated Tilapia Filets with Shoestring Fries and Cole Slaw.

The third course on the fixed menu was our choice of Hazelnut Kahlua Creme Brulee or a glass of Pinot Noir. We all chose the Creme Brulee. K could not pass up New York Cheescake, garnished with Hot Fudge Sauce and fresh Strawberries for dessert.

She was definitely pleased with her dessert selection.

Our meals were all perfectly prepared, delicious, and in generous servings. The service was attentive and efficient. Our waiter made us feel welcome and special even though we were certainly not the biggest spenders in the dining room. I will return again soon.

Going on to A Chorus Line, J and I felt that either the show has not aged well since we first saw it over 30 years ago. The young adults with us had never even heard of it until presented with the opportunity to see it. They thought it was good but not great.I think the show could have been better cast, particularly the role of Cassie who is a far cry from Donna McKechnie who was the original Cassie.

It runs over two hours without an intermission. ..that's our review of it.

Friday, July 11, 2008

APPLE iPHONE 3G LAUNCH: 7/11/2008 !!!

My alarm was set for 5 a.m.

At 6 a.m., I headed for the Apple Store in Walnut Creek and Jim and Louie headed to the AT&T Store on Broadway Plaza. By 6:15 a.m. we determined that the line at Apple was much much longer than that at AT&T, but the party atmosphere was much better at Apple, where the store manager was working the line that went around the block, well past Barnes & Noble, and the local TV stations were set up, in hopes of getting some news worthy interviews and video clips.

Why were perfectly sane (??!!) people lining up in the early morning hours? Because...AT 8 A.M., BOTH APPLE and AT&T were opening their stores to start selling the much awaited iPhone 3G.

So, the immediate decision at 6:15 a.m. was festivity over shorter wait. Shorter wait won out and off I went to the AT&T store. Although the line at the AT&T store snaked around the back of the store by the parking garage (not very beautiful), we still managed to create our own kind of festive atmosphere.

And, the AT&T staff could not have been nicer and more friendly. They brought us planning worksheets and pens so we could have all our pertinent information ready when we bought our phones. They also came around several times with bottles of water to make sure we remained hydrated and kept cool...we're in the midst of a heat wave out here.

As with waiting in line for any special event, we made friends with our line mates...a recent high school grad with her Dad...they were in line to get an iPhone for Air Force pilot, and an architect.

At 8 A.M, sharp, the doors opened and the first group of customers entered the store.

As we got closer in line, Jim made his last phone call on his Verizon phone...from here on in, it is AT&T all the way!

Even Louie tried to stay on his best behavior...was there a black 16 gb in there waiting for him as he joined our Family Plan? He'd need unlimited messaging too, of course!

We stayed positive as the first customers started coming out of the store, bags in hand.

And, carrying their chairs and other gear that had sustained them during their wait in line.

Once we were in the store, our sales person, Grace, efficiently created our new account. The one glitch was that the store could not activate our phones on site, as had been expect. The iTunes network was overloaded and we had to do it on our own at home.
By 8:50 a.m., we were out of the AT&T store, with two iPhones in hand.

Our new friends had their phones too...and, the about-to-be college girl and her Dad, not only bought an iPhone for Dad, they got one for her too!

From there, we headed over to check out the scene at the Apple Store...the line still snaked around the block and the crowd remained cheerful. When a group of customers entered the store, the staff cheered them loudly.

The sidewalk looked the worse for wear...from a night of Apple faithful living on the streets of Walnut Creek, but the crowd remained optimistic about snaring a 3G iPhone!

And, before I headed home to activate my iPhone, I stopped to visit with the Men of

, the people who made it "happen" for those who did not want to camp out in front of the Apple Store for three days to be a the front of the line. These guys had been here since Wednesday...hopefully, they made enough money to buy their own iPhones!
As they relaxed under a tree and checked for their next waiting assignment, they told me that they not only wait in lines, they also are available to run errands, and to do just about any job you are willing to pay them to do.

And, one final, final note...I got interviewed by KTVU-TV when I returned to the front of the Apple Store and I and my new iPhone were on today's Noon news!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


As a fan of Chez Papa Bistrot on Potrero Hill, I was eager to try out its new downtown San Francisco location in Mint Plaza, Chez Papa Resto. Some may consider its location to be in SOMA (South of Market) as it is off 5th Street, between Market and Mission Streets.

Before entering Chez Papa Resto, I was a bit apprehensive about where I was going. I had exited the San Francisco Centre on Fifth Street mid-block between Market and Mission Streets and had to walk to the end of the block to cross Fifth Street...I really wanted to jaywalk because Jessie Street, where the restaurant is located, is almost directly across from where I came out of the San Francisco Centre. Walking into Mint Plaza at 6 p.m., I was surprised at its emptiness and was, from a distance, uncertain that I was in the right place until I spotted Chez Papa Resto's small sign hanging above the entrance.

Once inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the simple and sophisticated decor of the dining room and bar.

I knew my French was rusty when our server greeted us in French and I tried to respond to him. Not to worry...English is definitely the main language spoken by the staff. But, since most of the staff is French, dining here offers the added bonus of providing the opportunity to practice your French.

We were a party of four on a Girls Night Out. While we looked over the menu, we enjoyed our Epi bread, which was accompanied by a bowl of two tapenades, one made with black olives, one made with green olives. Their presentation in a divided white bowl make me think they were the yin and yang of tapenades. I decided not to share this thought with my friends as we devoured much of the bread and all of the tapenade...our attentive server brought us another serving of tapenade when he spotted our empty bowl.

We shared two appetizers to start:

Fried Squash Blossoms that were stuffed with Mozzarella and Goat Cheeses and the Green and White Asparagus Salad.

Then, we were on to our main courses. With about half a dozen Entree choices, the four of us were able to sample much of the menu. We ordered Grilled Loch Duart Salmon, Lamb Daube braised in chateauneuf du Pape, Roasted Monkfish served Bouillabaisse style, and a Vegetarian Plate.

If you've not heard of Lock Duart Salmon, it is a Scottish farm raised salmon that restaurateurs and environmentalists consider to be of the same high quality as wild salmon. Chez Papa Resto's preparation with a Citrus Melange, Orange Braised Fennel, and Opal Basil, was delicous and beautifuuly presented.

The Lamb Daube is a traditional French stew. I sample one of the cubes of lamb and it was a rich sauce subtly flavored with Chateauneuf du Pape wine and ganished with colorful vegetables.

The Vegetarian Plate was composed of a selection of the day's vegetables. It included Ratatoille, Potato and Fennel Gratin, Asparagus, Carrots, Fennel, and Peas.

I think that the Roasted Monkfish that I ordered was the most interesting of the four dishes, mainly because of its presentation. I was first served a bowl in which there was the Monkfish, Clams, Clamari and slices of potato. Then, our server returned with a pitcher of Bouillabaisse-like broth which he poured over the fish...the menu describes the broth as a "Boullabaisse Fumet." Finally, I was presented with a small platter on which there was Rouille, shaved Gruyere cheese, and toasted thin slices of bread...I chose to put some Rouille on the toasts and submerge them in the broth; I sprinked the Gruyere over the fish.

We chose two desserts to share:

Profiteroles, a French classic of cream puffs filled with ice cream and topped with warm chocolate sauce. Usually, restaurants serve three Profiteroles in a serving. Thoughtfully, our server brought us four, so we each got our own Profiterole.

Our second dessert selection was a very untraditional Strawberry Ravioli. Instead of being made with pasta, the raviolis were made from a sort of gelatinous fruit leather and they were filled with a thyme and honey cream filling. The ravioli were topped with a fresh strawberry puree that had pieces of strawberry in it...very creative, very tasty.

Our lovely dinner and visit ended with complimentary glasses of sweet wine that were presented to us after dessert.

To sum up, the food at Chez Papa Resto is just the kind of French food that I most enjoy...casual bistro-style Provencal dishes prepared with fresh, high-quality ingredients. Presentations were beautiful. Service was attentive without being intrusive. Co-owner, Marc-Henri Sempere stopped by several times, just to chat and even humored us a bit by tolerating our speaking in French. We left Chez Papa Resto feeling very happy and satisfied.

A few more observations: The dining room is intimate, seating about 70 people. Although it was busy throughout our meal, the noise level was low enough for us to easily carry on conversation at our table...a refreshing change from some of San Francisco's "hot" restaurants where it is impossible to hear or talk with your dining companion. Prices are reasonable for the quality of food: First courses average $14 and entrees average $25. Our dinner for four, with a bottle of wine, was about $50 per person, including tax and gratuity. While the large outdoor patio was not being used during the dinner hour, I can imagine that it would be a lovely place to enjoy lunch or weekend brunch on a sunny day.