Sunday, June 23, 2013


We had tickets last night to see "Sylvia," at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco's Fort Mason. Since there are few dining options at Fort Mason, we splurged on dinner at Green's before the play.

"Sylvia" is a play by A.R. Gurney (whose work includes"Love Letters"). This production is by Shakespeare at Stinson and Independent Cabaret Productions.  There will be two more performances at Fort Mason, on June 27 and June 28, and one more in Mill Valley at the Sweetwater Music Hall on June 30.

When I heard the story line of "Sylvia" in a radio review, I knew it was a "must-see:" an empty-nester couple adopt a poodle-mix dog named Sylvia. This opens up a tale of midlife crisis, love, marriage, and jealousy.  Oh, and Sylvia's persona is that of an attractive young woman. As parents of a poodle, and with an otherwise empty nest, how could we resist?

"Sylvia" is wonderful, insightful, and often funny. Both Jim and I recommend it. Even before the show started, everyone in the audience with whom we talked, immediately pulled out photos of their dog to show amusing start to a satisfying evening of theatre.

It's been awhile since we last dined at Green's but we've loved this restaurant since it first opened in 1979.  Greens was, and still is, a pioneer in establishing vegetarian cuisine in the United States.  Green's elevated vegetarian cuisine from the heavy, grainy, bland dishes offered in small "niche" cafés in remote neighborhoods to the level of the best of fine dining in the United States. The restaurant is open every day except Monday for lunch (or weekend brunch) and dinner.  The menu is à la carte except on Saturday nights, when they serve a Prix Fixe 4-Course Dinner, priced at $56 per person.

The dining room looks out on San Francisco Bay, with a perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge and, if you dine at the right time, a San Francisco sunset.

Our dinner started with a Cucumber salad served with wedges of cheese, olives, and herbs from Green Gulch Farm, the San Francisco Zen Center's farm in Marin County, which provides the restaurant with much of its organic produce.

From the selection of five Appetizers,

Jim chose the Ricotta Corn Cakes served with a herb salad, Romesco sauce and Crème Fraîche.

My appetizer choice was the Warm Artichoke, Spring Pea, and Fresh Garbanzo Bean Salad.

Between us, we tasted two of the three main courses.

For Jim, it was the Sweet Pea Ravioli with Morel Mushrooms, Spring Peas, Savoy Spinach, Spring Onions, Herb Butter, and Grana Padano cheese.

My Eggplant and Summer Squash Gratin was topped with a Fromage Blanc Custard. A Tomato and Roasted Garlic Sauce, Grilled Polenta, and Broccoli di Ciccio were among the garnishes for my dish.

Our dessert choices were

Flourless Chocolate Torte with Sea Salt Caramel Gelato for Jim

and Sorbets with Mexican Wedding Cookies for me (sorbet flavors were Strawberry, Raspberry, and Chocolate).

This wonderful meal, while a bit more than I could comfortably eat, was delicious, creative, and beautiful to look at, from start to finish. It was the perfect start to a lovely night out.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


When I was in Boston a few weeks ago, I spent most of a day in and around Copley Square.  I was curious to see what evidence of the Boston Marathon bombings remained as well as to revisit one of my favorite parts of Boston.

Historic buildings surrounding Copley Square include the Boston Public Library (1895; the first public library in the United States to allow people to borrow books), Trinity Church (1877), the Old South Church (1874), the John Hancock Tower (1976), and the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel (1912).

Copley Square, and the surrounding several blocks, known as Back Bay, was where my father worked most of his career. Summers I worked at his office and spent many a happy lunch hour browsing in the exclusive shops that lined Boylston and Newbury Streets from Arlington Street all the way up to Massachusetts Avenue.  Jim and I bought most of our art from galleries on Newbury Street.  I did research for many a high school and college paper at the Boston Public Library.

Today, this area is the main "nice" shopping area of downtown Boston, but it is not as exclusive as it used to be.

A bit to my surprise, in the short time since the Marathon bombings, there was little sign of damage or destruction. There are scattered memorials to the Marathon victims, but, nothing very organized...all very impromptu.

Frankly, I was surprised at how "normal" the area looked.

The biggest memorial is right in Copley Square.

On a warm May day, it was attracting many; a sobering reminder of what had so recently occurred just a block away.

What impressed me most was the "wall" of running shoes.

The most moving Marathon memorial for me was that on the wrought iron fence around the Arlington First Church.

Visitors were invited to write a mesage on a ribbon and tie it on the fence.

A few shops had memorials in front as well.

This is the Lord & Taylor whose surveillance cameras videos helped establish the identity of the bombers.

And, the Marathon finish line is still painted on Boylston Street.  Some locals have told me that it is always there but this is the first time I've ever noticed it.

But, for the most part, life in Back Bay was going on as it always has, particularly on a balmy spring day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


It's been more than 30 years that our group of 6 friends have been getting together to cook, eat, and visit every three or four months. That's not to say we don't see one another in between, or want to, but with our busy lives, sometimes it's just at our dinners that we get to visit.

The host house is responsible for the main course and the other two couples bring first course and dessert. This time we were at Colesie and Frank's.

Colesie had a beautiful hors d'oeuvre tray ready to accompany before-dinner drinks. I especially enjoyed the almonds in the shell, something I've never had. Turns out that Trader Joe's sells these almonds.

The "boys" comandeered the hors d'oeuvre tray and seemed very happy to have done so.

Arlene made the first course, a salad of fresh Spinach, Arugula, Strawberries, and Goat Cheese, all purchased that morning at her local Farmer's Market.  It tasted as wonderful as it was beautiful.

We talk pretty much non-stop throughout the evening.

Colesie went all out with her main course: Moroccan Chicken Bastilla with a Carrot side vegetable. Again, beautiful to look at and a delightful complexly-seasoned dish. This dish takes quite a bit of time to assemble and prepare, but it is worth the effort.

My dessert was individual cherry Clafoutis, inspired by the fresh cherries at my Farmer's Market.  I made a special apricot Clafoutis for Arlene who is allergic to cherries.

 I topped the Clafoutis with pistachio ice cream.

Needless to say, we ate well and laughed a lot, enjoying our very long friendship.

Until the next time...


It was not that long ago (2007) that Ike's was a single sandwich place in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood with a long line of hungry and faithful customers who lined up all day long for one of Ike's large, creative, tasty sandwiches. On sunny weekend days, Ike's served as many as 1200 customers.

But the neighbors complained that there were just too many people going to Ike's. They put enough pressure on Ike that he had to leave that first location and relocate in another spot, not far away. Owner Ike Shehadeh's plight got not only local media attention, but even go written about in the New York Times.

Fast forward to today, a few years later, and Ike's now has at least 10 branches, the newest of which is in Walnut Creek.  And, yes, there is a line out the door most of the day from their 11 a.m. opening until their 8 or 9 p.m. (depending on the day of the week) closing. I've read that Ike's is even expanding to southern California.

At the Walnut Creek Ike's there are a few tables inside and two tables outside on the sidewalk. And, yes, the line waiting to order can be long. Most customers take their sandwiches back to work or home, or eat on one of the public benches in downtown Walnut Creek.

The price of a sandwich averages between $10 and $11, not inexpensive.  But this is a sandwich that weighs at least a pound. Sandwiches are served warm, on your choice of freshly-baked breads, with a bag of very tasty chips (you choose from about half a dozen choices), and such free additions as lettuce, tomato, pickles, peppers, Dirty Sauce (a garlicy creamy spread), and more.  You'll also find a Caramel Apple Tootsie Pop in the bag with your sandwich.

My friend Kirsten, referring to their generous size, describes Ike's sandwiches as "dinner sandwiches" rather than "lunch sandwiches."

Jim and I had lunch today at Ike's and we both took home half of our sandwiches because they were bigger than we could eat for one lunch.

Jim had the "Name of the Girl I'm Dating," a combination of Avocado, Halal Chicken, Honey Mustard, and Pepper Jack. He had his sandwich on Dutch Crunch bread, said by many to be the best bread choice.

I, who can't pass up a tuna sandwich, had "Chipper's Fave," Tuna, America Cheese, and Avocado, on Whole Wheat.

The sandwiches have catchy names. Many are named for local sports icons. There are lots of vegetarian  choices. Next time I might try the "Natalie Coughlin" (breaded eggplant, avocado, cheddar, and french dressing) or the "Going Home for Thanksgiving" (turkey, cranberry sauce, Havarti, Sriracha) or the "Paul Reubens" (pastrami, swiss, french dressing, poppy seed coleslaw), or the "Steve Young" (meatballs, bacon, marinara, pepper jack), or....who knows? So many choices.

At noon time the staff was efficient and friendly. Can't wait to try more.