Monday, July 23, 2007

Wrapping Up Our First Year in San Francisco

As we noted in our previous entry, July marks our first full year in San Francisco. We still can’t believe that we’ve been here for a year already but in honor of our anniversary we’ve put together a "Best of San Francisco" list.


We haven’t gone out to eat all that much as we’ve been trying to eat healthily and have been busy experimenting in the kitchen but we wanted to share a few of our favorites all the same.

Best Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant: Millennium – Such inventive dishes, like their edamame gnocchi and stout ice-cream. Millennium, our favorite restaurant in San Francisco, is vegan but markets itself as vegetarian so as not to scare away casual diners.

Best Taqueria: Taqueria San Jose – Great food, not so great neighborhood. Our tasty dinner for three was less than $10! The taquerias in the Mission are still the best deals in the city.

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant: Fattoush –While we usually cook our own Middle Eastern dinners (falafel, tabuli, raita, hummus, baba ganoush), we have yet to perfect the phyllo dishes that Fattoush is known for.

Best Dim Sum: Yank Sing – $$$ but worth it. The best Dim Sum this side of the Pacific.

Best Tapas Restaurant: Cha Cha Cha – If only for their strong sangrias and lively atmosphere.

Best Tea: Ten Ren Tea Shop – We’re still hooked on their Pearl Jasmine tea with its strong aroma and flavor. Go easy on it though: this tea contains powerful anti-oxidants which caused us to break out in sores for weeks…we’ve cut back our consumption since then.

Best Dive Bar: Zeitgeist – This biker (bicyclist) bar is almost always crowded and you will likely have to wait an hour for your food, deal with the surly bartenders and sit near the port-o-potties, but it’s still a blast. They have a Golden Tee arcade game in the back and the tamale lady makes her rounds so nobody goes hungry while waiting for their order to come up.

Best Coffee Shop: Philz Coffee – Coffee is serious business on the west coast and everyone in San Francisco has a favorite cafe. For a long time our favorite was Blue Bottle Coffee. Then Philz opened a shop next door to our old apartment and we haven’t gone anywhere else since. Even after our move to Noe Valley, we still make trips back to our old neighborhood to pick up coffee. Philz holds coffee tastings three times a week. Every floavor is worth trying but our favorite is Jacob’s Wunderbrau.

Best Grocery: Rainbow – An independent, collectively run, worker-owned and operated cooperative which provides natural, organic, vegetarian food and environmentally and health conscious products at an affordable price (how’s that for a bit of free advertising?!). You can buy anything in bulk, which helps with saving costs and wastes.

Best Farmer’s Market: The Ferry Building Farmer’s Market – Our favorite Saturday morning destination.


Best Outdoor Concert: Bridge School Benefit Concert – Still the highlight of our SF experience. We can’t wait to bring everyone we know to the 2007 show.

Best Indoor Concert: Travis – We had such a blast doing the pogo to ‘Why Does it Always Rain on Me?’ with 1000 other fans at the Fillmore. Travis played all the songs we wanted to hear and Fran did a solo encore of ‘Flowers in the Window’ with an unplugged acoustic guitar and no microphone.

Best Indoor Festival: Green Festival – Still tops our indoor festival list. We’re looking forward to the 2007 Green Festival to check out new environmentally-conscious products as well as all advancement in green.

Best Outdoor Festival: Power to the Peaceful – We had a great time last year hanging out in the sun, listening to music, eating raw pizza and watching all of the beautiful freaks walk by. This year we are especially excited about the festival season as 2007 marks the 40th year anniversary of the Summer of Love.

Best Magazine: Common Ground – Still free, green, conscious.

Best Record Store: Amoeba Records – Whether you are a Sk8r Punk or a Deadhead, a Hippie or a Hip Hopper, Amoeba is THE place to go for music.

Best Movie Theatre – Kabuki Theatres – Remember when we were young and going to the movie meant sticky floors and creaky seats without much padding? The seats at Kabuki are like hundreds of little padded thrones in which to sit while enjoying your movie. Feel free to remove your shoes…even the floor is clean!

Best Lecture: The Dalai Lama – He came to San Francisco on his tour to promote positive change in today’s world. The Dalai Lama is charismatic, clever and very funny; the talk was perhaps more entertaining than enlightening.


Best Class: All of them! – Last year it was painting and yoga. This year, we learned to meditate, snowboard, speak Mandarin and sew! Next on our list is a cake decorating class, reiki and more Mandarin.

Best Monthly Event: Cafe Gratitude Nights – Every month, CafĂ© Gratitude, one of the best raw restaurants in the city, hosts parties that bring together people from all over the Bay area. The parties usually include live music as well as live performances from various local artists. One of the more memorable performances was a man who recited his own poetry standing on his head! The energy is always positive and the vibe fabulous. Seriously one of the best evening gatherings we’ve experienced yet.


Best Neighborhood: Noe Valley – our new home! Noe is kind of like the epitome of what a San Francisco neighborhood should be with its sidewalk cafes and cool little independent shops. Noe offers great views of the city as well. The best view? From our deck, of course! On a clear day, we can see all the way to Oakland.

Best Park: Dolores – Surrounded by palm trees, Dolores Park is THE weekend destination of the young for some fun in the sun. And for good reason; it’s the prettiest park – and one of the sunniest - in San Francisco.


Best Trip North: Only an hour north of us begins the beautiful vineyards of Sonoma, Napa and Calistoga. We have been wine touring a few times now, and we’ve learned a lot about wine and the art of drinking it. One of our favorite tours is the private tasting given at Sterling Vineyards, situated in the hills of Calistoga. Jean Pierre gave us a very educational tour, which ended with a blind taste test! We also recommend the sparkling wine tour and restaurant at Chandon.

Best Trip East: If ever we find ourselves pining for snow, all we have to do is drive two+ hours to the east and we find ourselves in the heart of Lake Tahoe. Last winter, we learned how to snowboard at Heavenly Resort in North Lake and we are already making plans to return this coming winter to improve our riding.

Best Trip South: One of the biggest and best aquariums in the nation is 2 hours south, in Monterey. It’s home to "The Kelp Forest," a three-story tank full of animals (from sharks to sardines) which recreates the wild life found in the bay waters. In two weeks, we are going back to the aquarium with our one-year-old-nephew in tow. We’re hoping the weather is warm enough and we can kayak among the sea otters.

Best Trip West: We are only about 15 minutes to Ocean Beach, so there isn’t much to the west to explore but we’ve been told that at certain times of the year, round trip tickets to Hawaii are only $150! We haven’t been yet but are very excited to try it out soon.

So that wraps up our first year. We’ve tried to cram in as many activities into one year as we could. But we aren’t ready to slow down just yet. On to year #2…

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Apartment 2.0

It's been a full year since our move to the west coast (can you believe it?!?!) and the first thing on our To Do list for this year was to find affordable housing. While we loved the convenience of our apartment in SOMA - where we could roll out of bed at 8:15 and still make the 8:19 train to the peninsula without breaking a sweat - we needed to find a place we could actually afford.

So, in mid-June we began our apartment search: pouring over the listings on Craigslist each day, attending open houses each evening. It was an incredibly painful process as everybody else in San Francisco appeared to be looking for housing at the same time we were. The owner of one Craigslist posting placed a follow up ad to ask people to stop contacting him: he had 68 emails and 160 phone calls inquiring about the apartment within 24 hours of posting it.

The search quickly became overwhelming. We shifted our search from neighborhood to neighborhood to try to find an affordable (ha!) place with a commute that wasn't prohibitive. We looked in Potrero Hill but kept reading scary articles in the newspaper about certain parts of that neighborhood (everyone says it's up and coming but at present it seems to be more coming than up); we looked in our old neighborhood, SOMA, but couldn't find anything we could afford; we explored Glen Park but couldn't find anything nice enough to offset the 2 hours commute each way; and finally we found Noe Valley, which we immediate loved.

Noe Valley sits amid the hills in the heart of the city. Everywhere you look there are huge, beautiful Victorian houses and gorgeous views of the city. 24th Street is lined with cute independently owned shops (24th Street Cheese Company, Noe Valley Bakery & Bread Company, Noe Knit, Phoenix Books) and the Noe Valley Farmers' Market sets up between Sanchez St. and Noe St. every Saturday.

We attended every open house in the area for two weeks and turned in applications for a handful of them, but kept losing out to doctors and lawyers and other rich 20-somethings with stable jobs and huge bank accounts (I overheard someone on the train last year say that San Francisco is where thirty year olds go to retire - I don't know if he was quoting it from elsewhere but it has stuck with me ever since).

Finally, just as we were growing desperate - we had to vacate our apartment in two weeks and had guests coming before then - we found a jewel of an apartment, applied and were accepted the next day! Not only was it less expensive than most of the apartments we were looking at, but we instantly felt at home there.

With a little help from our friends (thanks again Lily, Mike, Eric, Adam and Suzanne!), we moved in on July 4th and have spent the last two weeks getting settled in to our new apartment and exploring our new neighborhood.

Our apartment (the lower half of a Victorian built in 1899) was built on top of a giant rock atop a steep hill so we have great views from our deck and living room windows. The hills can be a bit painful at times, especially after a long day of work, but we are trying to look at the positive side of things and expect that doing the hills seven days a week will soon get us in the best shape of our lives.

We were hoping to spend as much time as possible on the deck - watching the sun rise over our morning coffee, watching it set in the evenings - but the foggy season hit San Francisco right around the time we moved in and there is a thick, creeping mist that has been sitting over the city for the last ten days. Still, we've been told that the fog should lift in the next few weeks and summertime in San Francisco will begin.

I'll upload some photos of our new place now - we hope to add pictures of the neighborhood soon.

Links to references:

Pictures of our New Apartment

Our New Apartment in Noe Valley

The View from the Street

Staircase up the Rock

Noe Valley Hills

The Deck (on a clear day)

Lily and Pearl Relaxing on the Deck (July 4th)

View from the Deck


Dining Room



Office Area

Kitchen (view 1)

Kitchen (view 2)

Kitchen (view 3)

Kitchen (view 4)