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January 18, 2011

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Punch Line Comedy Club

June 30, 2010

There’s nothing quite like a good night of comedy, your sides aching, tears streaming down your cheeks.  San Franciscans have been getting their laughs on at  Punch Line for decades, and last night I found out why.

When I think of comedy clubs, I think of a warehouse-like setting with black floors that turn sticky from booze  after every show.  I picture cheap tables with uncomfortable chairs bought from some wholesaler down in L.A.  But Punch Line is different.  It has a cozy, intimate feel, so no seat is very far from the stage.  The stage itself is pleasant to look at even without a comedian on it, as they have this cartoon-like painting of the city as a backdrop.  Even the floors are nice (hardwood), and if you time it right, you can nab a table with a couch.

The quality of the comedic talent this club attracts is top-notch.  Last night we saw a variety of comics, including the hilarious Hannibal Buress, a writer for SNL who was recently voted best comic in New York.   We also saw some great local talent, Louis Katz, who has been featured on Comedy Central and HBO.

Quick Lunch Near Union Square: Cafe Venue

June 8, 2010

If you  are a tourist and want food that locals would eat, instead of the on-the-ground version of airplane food served to tourists, you usually have to wander a good way from the tourist-infested zones.   There might be more upscale restaurants that atrract tourists and locals alike, but what if you just want to have a simple lunch?

Well, if the “tourist ground-zero” at which you find yourself is Union Square, I have just the place.  I actually discovered it just last Sunday.  It’s called Cafe Venue, and I’ll tell you why, if you’re near Union Square and want a quick bite to eat but abhor fast food, this is the place to go.

1) It’s located only half a block away from Market Street. which means that to walk there from the heart of Union Square takes maybe 5 minutes if you walk slow and the traffic lights take a while to change.

2)   The menu features lunch staples such as sandwiches and salads.  The food is what I think of as typical Bay Area food – food with a fusion twist.  I’m not talking about your average “deliberate fusion” food, where the chef tries to make everything thoughtfully exotic.  I mean “regular” food like sandwiches and salads made with ingredients like avocados, sundried tomatoes, Thai penaut sauce – basically ingredients that would be considered out-of-the-ordinary in most other parts of the country but standard for this area.  Also “very California,” is the variety of fresh juices they offer.

3)  They have some outdoor seating.  There are actually only a few tables, but if the sun is out (and you have a sweater or jacket to protect you when the wind starts blowing), I highly recommend one of these tables.  So many different typesp of people walk past; it’s a great place to “people watch.”

Chipotle Mexican Grill

June 1, 2010

Any combination of  beans, rice, a variety of meats, cheese, guacamole, salsa, sour cream wrapped up in a tortilla are called what?  If it’s a corn tortilla, they’re called  tacos. If it’s a flour tortilla, they’re called burritos.

I want to stop eating animals, but I find it hard to resist tacos made with steak (carne asada) or burritos made with pork (carnitas). Luckily for my conscience and waistline, I don’t go to taquerias (restaurants featuring an assembly line of cooks putting together tacos, quesadillas and burritos behind a counter) very often.

My favorite taqueria is in the Mission district (where you’ll find a lot of the best Mexican food), but getting there from my apartment near Union Square involves taking Muni, which I am spoiled not having to take often since I walk to work and use my car when venturing to a “distant” part of the city.

So what does all this have to do with Chipotle?  It’s a chain restaurant that allows customers to walk down an assembly line of servers who put together their food as the customers make their way down the counter.  My second-favorite taqueria in the Mission district actually has a similar setup, where the customers indicate which of the ingredients behind the counter they want.

I prefer a real taqueria, but I do find Chipotle to be an excellent alternative to other fast food options.   Somehow the food seems more fresh.  After a couple of documentaries and news shows, I now fear the frozen beef patties and chicken nuggets at other fast food vendors’.

My husband also likes the fresher aspect.  Unlike me, he cannot read Spanish and does not have enough taco-ordering experience to confidently order at a Mexcian taqueria.  That’s why he loves the menu at Chipotle; it’s very, very simple to use for someone who is not super familiar with ordering “taqueria style.”

Last week witnessed the grand opening of a Chipotle location right in the Union Square area (on O’Farrell near Powel).  Those of us who pass by their every day on our way to work have been intrigued since the “Burritofication in Proggress” signs went up and a new franchise was clearly popping up.

The hubby and I missed the grand opening, but we did go Chipotle the day after, since we live close to the Union Square area.  The food seemed less unhealthy than other fast food options we had on our walk home.  I am proud to report I got a vegetarian burrito, spared some animals, saved time by not cooking and tried out the latest place for tourists and shoppers near Union Square to get their taco fix. A New Way to Travel

May 12, 2010

When you live in a beautiful city that lots of people want to visit, like San Francisco, you get a bit jaded.   That lovely park at the top of Nob Hill?  A place where neighborhood dogs love to go and mark the trees and bushes.   Riding  one of the iconic cable cars?  A way to get to and from work that you always pray is not so packed with tourists that you can’t wedge  yourself into a tiny space with someone’s arm in your face and someone’s bag against your back.

San Francisco’s such a great city, but I catch myself often not appreciating it as much as I should.  That’s why I love when my husband and I  have people visiting us from abroad – especially if it’s their first time in the city.  Suddenly I start to see the city through their eyes.  Their sense of wonder rubs off on me, and I get a rush of civic pride.  I want to show off my city, take them to all of my favorite places.

Another benefit of having international visitors is that we get to practice the languages we know other than English.  My husband, for example, has someone with whom to speak Norwegian when friends from his native Norway visit.  I brush up on my interpretation skills when we have Spanish-speaking guests.

For these reasons, I was happy to find an online community called Tripping.  Its website allows for global hospitality exchange.  Here is how it works: You register on the site (takes less than a minute) and then search for members living in your desired destination. You browse through the list of registered users (and their profiles) then explore their availability for hosting.

Hosting means that the local member of Tripping (“Host”) gives the travelers (“Trippers”) a genuine experience of their culture through everything from meeting up for a cup of coffee, to taking them to their favorite restaurant (that most tourists never see), to sharing their home with the Trippers.

For me, being a Host through Tripping would give me the perfect opportunity for re-charging my “Appreciation of the City” battery.   Also, as a Host I would in turn be able to experience part of the Trippers’ culture just by hosting them.

Interacting with strangers who are intrigued by other cultures and genuinely want to experience the country on more than just a superficial touristy level I foresee as being very positive.  I’ve traveled a lot and stayed in strangers’ homes, and I always ended up making friends.  That’s the beauty of hosting a Tripper; then when I want to visit their home country, I will have friends with whom I can stay.

Bay Area Mija: An Introduction

March 23, 2010

Welcome to the blog Bay Area Mija.  Mija is a Spanish contraction for mi hija, which means “my daughter.”   It is used as a term of endearment.  The first few years of my life, I thought it was my name.

That’s the “mija” part.  But why Bay Area?   Well, the area in which you live can have such a profound effect on you – your lifestyle, personality, values and life views.  One example that comes immediately to mind is a New Yorker.   It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing, trying to figure out if certain areas and cities attract and retain certain kinds of people or if certain places transform their residents.  Regardless of the causality, residents of a certain region behave and think in certain specific ways.

I grew up in Monterey County, just south of the Bay Area and after 5 years back East moved back to California – specifically to San Francisco, where I have been living the last few years.  The culture here is part of the fabric of my being, so in writing about my views and experiences, I will be writing largely about the Bay Area.

How is my life typical of a Bay Area resident?  I am multi-lingual, will have children whose grandparents on both sides were not born in the US, have a strong affinity for entrepreneurship, value the beauty of nature and want to act in an ecologically and socially responsible manner.  My general life view is one of tolerance and aversion to war.  The origin of the ingredients in my food – fresh, organic, local – is very important to me.

Hello world!

March 21, 2010

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