Wednesday, November 23, 2011

San Francisco Auto Show is in town through November 27

I might be in the market for a new car in the next year but am not sure what I might buy. My gut feeling is that I will stick with the same brand that I've been driving for the last 17 years...not the same car, just the same brand.

But, before I purchase a car, I like to check out all brands that might have the car for me.

Since the San Francisco 54th Annual International Auto Show is in town this week, I headed off to the show today to get a first look at all the new models of cars.

Admission for adults is $9 and they only accept cash. Children age 12 and younger are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.

The show is fun because you can sit in most cars and, from what I experienced, at most displays, the people working there actually know something about the cars. Each company has a desk with sales info and there are a few interactive activities at the show as well. You can drive the all-electric Nissan Leaf (be sure to sign up when you get there or reserve a drive time online to schedule your drive). There is a drive simulator which I really wanted to try my hand at, but it was too crowded today with pre-teen boys!!!

And, if you have a '65 Mustang sitting in your garage, you might want to consider turning it into a pool table à la this one that is at the show

The show features such luxury cars as the Fisker Karma,

McLaren, and Lamborghini.

On the other end of the spectrum, you can check out the new Scion IQ (they are even giving one away!!),

see the newest VW Beetle,

check out the Volvo S60

and touch and feel the complete line of Fords, Toyotas, and Hondas. Just about every auto company that sells in the United States is represented.

For me, going to the show was an efficient way to see a lot of cars in one place. Unfortunately, I didn't see any cars that made my heart beat a little faster. I prefer a smaller car with high performance, and there are very few out there that appeal to me.

When I got into San Francisco, I was famished and stopped on my way to the show at The Melt, one of the City's new Grilled Cheese sandwich restaurants. Grilled Cheese sandwiches are the current new food trend and The Melt is a fun place to go.
Choose one of the selections of Grilled Cheese sandwiches with or without the free options of bacon and sliced tomatoes, add a cup of soup, if you want to make your meal a "Combo," place your order at the counter, and wait while your sandwich is made to your order. There is plenty of seating inside and at sidewalk tables and I observed that many customers got their sandwiches to go, probably to take back to their offices.

My lunch choice was "The Outlaw" combo: Grilled Colby Jack on Eight Grain Bread with a cup of Spicy Black Bean Soup and a small bag of potato chips...perfect for a cold drizzly day that today is, but pretty perfect anytime.

The Melts are $5.75 and The Combos are $8.75. You can also order just a cup or bowl of soup or a sweet melted sandwich.

One last word on strategy for the Auto Show: unlike most big shows at the Moscone Center, there is very very little in the way of food for lunch or a snack; I only found one rather unappealing Food Court in Moscone North. So, either plan to eat somewhere in the neighborhood as I did, or bring your lunch. The Melt closest to Moscone Center is at 115 New Montgomery Street. It is open every day except Sunday and a few holidays.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


We don't have a subscription to the San Francisco Symphony any longer but we still treat ourselves to a few concerts every season.
Attending fewer symphonies has meant that we are not dining as regularly in the Civic Center/Performing Arts district as we used to. It also means that I am not as up to date of what's changing in this neighborhood.

So, before a symphony a few weeks ago, we decided that rather than having dinner at one of our two "regular" favorites, Paul K and Hayes Street Grill, we'd try Boxing Room, the relative newcomer that is where Citizen Cake used to be at the corner of Gough and Grove Streets.

Boxing Room is the newest restaurant in the Absinthe restaurant Group. Five of the six Absinthe Group restaurants are here in Hayes Valley; the one loner is not far away in North Beach (Comstock Saloon).

Boxing Room features traditional the Cajun and Creole dishes of New Orleans and coastal Louisiana. The dining room is casual. The menu is moderately priced. The staff is efficient and friendly.

I was tempted by just about everything on Boxing Room's menu.

While we tried to decide what to order,

we munched on the complimentary flatbread crackers and pimento cheese spread that is served to all instead of bread and yummy!

I'm a pushover for a Po' Boy sandwich and Boxing Room's gives you a choice of Fried Shrimp, Oyster, or Catfish Po' Boys. I chose the Catfish. The Po' Boy is served on a toasted roll dressed with tartar sauce. Hushpuppies come with the Po' Boy.

In the dim light, my Po' Boy and Hush Puppies don't look very colorful, but they sure were tasty.

Just to try one of the Side dishes, I ordered a Side of Braised Greens, which was big enough to share with Jim.

Jim chose the Fall Vegetable & Mushroom Gratin, a large casserole of roasted vegetables in a delicious mushroom sauce, topped with cheese and breadcrumbs.

For the sake of "research" we did share the Apple & Hazelnut Cobbler for dessert, but truly had more than enough to eat with our main courses. Sorry, I didn't photograph the Cobbler, but just immediately dug in; is was served with Burnt Cinnamon Ice Cream.

We are already planning our next dinner at Boxing Room. I'm anxious to have the Deep-Fried Alligator appetizer and then one of the gumbos and stews...current choices are Smoked Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, Crawfish Etoufee, and Gulf Shrimp Creole. I'd get a side of their tiny corn bread muffins to go with this meal. Next time for dessert, I'll either have the Beignets or Pecan Pie.

I am seeing a trend toward lower meal prices in some of this area's newer dining spots. At Boxing Room, just about all main courses are priced under $20. Other newish moderately prices places include The Grove and the very new Dobbs Ferry. And, these newer restaurants are open to diners all day every day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ready to Nosh

I am a big fan of Groupons and eagerly read my daily emails from Groupon to see if there are any offers that tempt me to purchase that day's offerings. Most Groupons offer food, merchandise, or services at at least half their full price. The Groupon is for sale for just one day but, once purchased, has anywhere from a few weeks to a year to be used.

Today, Mary Ann, Harriet, and I used our Groupons for a Ready to Nosh San Francisco Food Truck Walking tour.

As many of you who live near large cities know, food trucks have come a long way from the "Roach Coaches" that used to pull up outside my office building each day to sell pre-packaged sandwiches, pastries, and other snacks and beverages. The Food Truck movement got its start in New York City and seems to be in every metropolitan area. Chefs, both well-known and fledgling, offer their freshly-prepared foods from their trucks.

At least in San Francisco, the different trucks move to different locations on different days. They are popular particularly for lunch among the downtown office crowd who want a quick well-prepared meal for a moderate price; eating out in the City can be pricey.

While I have gotten a bite to eat at some Food Trucks around town, I really haven't explored them in depth.

Ready To Nosh promises several stops with lots to eat. Their tours are given most days at mid day and also in the evening. They start in different parts of San Francisco, depending of there the trucks are situated that day.

We met our guide, Nick, at 11:30 a.m. today at the foot of Market Street in front of One Market Restaurant (where a sandwich at lunchtime costs $16.75!!).

Our meeting place was right across the street from the Occupy San Francisco encampment and across the Embarcadero from the Ferry Building. Mary Ann and I got into town a few minutes early and took a walk by the encampment.

Things were pretty quiet at almost noon and there was a visible police presence on the periphery (three police cars and SF police on foot), just keeping an eye on things.

We also took a quick look at the WPA murals by Anton Refregier at the Rincon Center, formerly the site of San Francisco's Rincon Annex Post Office. The murals were begun in 1941 and depict the history of California.

As soon as our group had gathered, Nick walked us across the street to Alicia's Tamales

where we started our tour with Chicken Tamales, freshly made by Alicia.

Alicia's is not a food truck per se, but rather one of the many food stands that set up at lunch time near the Ferry Building. Nick started us off here so we'd have a "little something" to eat before getting to our first truck stop.

Alicia's Tamales cost $3 each and have a variety of fillings from which to choose. They are delicious and one would have been enough for me for lunch...but, there was more to come.

We then walked up Market Street, with Nick telling us a bit about life in and the history of San Francisco. The others in the group, other than my group, were all visitors to San Francisco, so they were anxious to hear about San Francisco from Nick's perspective and we enjoyed his stories as well.

We saw an F-Line Trolley, one of the historic trolleys that runs across San Francisco from the Ferry Building.

We'd never seen a "convertible" F-Line trolley but, rather are used to seeing the bright orange ones on this special trolley line. Here is the open air trolley.

Our destination was an alley off Mission Street near First Street where three food trucks were busily serving the line of hungry people on their lunch hours.

I checked out the website posted on the sign at this alley for Truck Stop and found a calendar with a daily schedule of which food trucks will be there between 11 and 2 on any given weekday. So if you have your heart set on Senor Sisig's Filipino Fusion Food, Monday is the day. But if it is Indian Curry you desire, come this Tuesday. And, one of the trucks scheduled for this Thursday is The Rib Whip, a BBQ truck that has its own smoker installed on board!!!

Nick had placed our food orders in advance with two of the three trucks. While we waited, he ran over to a nearby store to get us soft drinks,

We each got a full serving of Garlic Noodles with skewers of Shrimp, Beef, or Chicken from An the Go, a truck run by the An Family whose first restaurant Thanh Long dates back to 1971.

Our other food was Filipino Tacos from Senor Sisig. The tacos were delicious and filled with freshly grilled meats and vegetables.

We took our truck food back to the courtyard behind the alley where there are outdoor tables. The Monday Farmer's Market was busily going on in the background.

Our tour ended a Yerba Buena Plaza.

Harriet went back to her office and Mary Ann and I stopped at SFMOMA for a bit of art and ended our day with coffee, tea, and cookies at the Blue Bottle Cafe in the rooftop garden on the top level of SFMOMA.

Blue Bottle's coffee is made cup by cup, to order. Their pastries at the museum are inspired by works of art in the Museum. The napkin under our cookies directed us to look around the roof top art for specific works that each cookie represents...clever and just that little sweet something we wanted after our many-cuisine lunch tour.

My take on Ready to Nosh: It was fun but not exactly what I expected. I thought we would taste more food, rather than having only three full servings. I would have liked to go to more than one Food Truck stop. I even brought a supply of Ziploc bags, thinking we'd be having just little bites of this and that as we walked across the City. I liked the combination of it being a sightseeing and eating tour. Even Harriet, who works near the Alley where we stopped, did not know about its food trucks. We made discoveries and had a lot of tasty food, for sure.

But, if I had paid the full price of $45, I would have felt it was a bit too expensive. At our Groupon price, it was a bargain and a fun outing with good friends.

Ready to Nosh provides all the food and soft, our food costs would have been $15 plus the cost of a soft drink, just about what we paid for our tour. We were advised beforehand that the tour did not include a tip for our guide and we did tip Nick who took good care of us...such good care that after we left him, he called me to suggest a place that Mary Ann and I stop for something sweet because he knew we were talking about having a little dessert after we left him.

Thanks, Nick! It was fun.