Tag Archives: california

Tourist in My Backyard: San Francisco Treats

20 Aug

The fog engulfs the Golden Gate bridge one summer day.

When I get a case of the travel bug and running off to South America, Egypt or some other equally exotic location isn’t possible, I like to pay a visit to California’s ‘ City by the Bay’: San Francisco. Since my best friend, Kat, moved there two years ago I find any excuse to board the hour-long flight: The Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Halloween, spring break, a Tuesday in the middle of semester, a cheap flight alert… and I’m off!

The city’s charm extends beyond its unique architecture, hilly streets and foggy summers and into the culinary realm, delighting the palates of foodies and laymans alike. These are the five San Francisco treats I can’t miss:

1. The ‘Dirty Hipster’ at Loving Cup – You won’t find this amazing frozen yogurt concoction on the menu but it is the number one treat I have to have while in San Francisco. Frozen vanilla yogurt, oreo cookies and nutella swirled and ground to perfection make the Dirty Hipster a creamy, gritty indulgence that I don’t dare pass up. The Loving Cup specializes in rice puddings (which are also worth trying) but its their custom blended yogurt that everyone adores. 2356 Polk Street

2. ‘Green Eggs and Ham Benedict’ at Pork Store – This spin on traditional eggs Benedict is also not on the menu, but makes ‘special’ appearances  from time to time and is worth asking the waiter for, with a little wink and a nudge. Poached eggs, country ham and asparagus sit atop a toasted English muffin, covered in green hollandaise  sauce on a warm plate with hashbrowns. It is the ultimate hangover cure and the perfect way to start your Haight-Ashbury sightseeing since it sits right in the heart of the infamous hippie district. 1451 Haight Street

3. Cocktails at Absinthe – The only experience I had with absinthe before discovering this bar was a few wild nights in Europe – sugar cubes, lighters and all. I had to destroy the evidence because the burnt forks I used to melt the sugar into the strange green liquor connotated a heroin habit and I wasn’t about to raise any suspicions.

Absinthe is the perfect place for a date with its dim but warm lighting and impressive range of gourmet ingredients and appetizers. It has an old-fashioned feel and stands out in a world of generic bars and obnoxious clubs. If you’re a cocktail connoisseur who appreciates ingredients such as kaffir lime-pepper syrup and brandied cherries, then this is your place. 398 Hayes Street

4. Crepes at The Crepe House Any crepe is amazing here. Savory, sweet, a la mode … you can’t lose. I prefer ‘the Mediterranean’  (cheddar, onion, tomato, feta, olives, artichoke and avocado) or the ‘Hawaiian’ (cheddar, ham, onion, mushroom, brown sugar, soy sauce and pineapple) for my meals and the Nutella-strawberry dessert crepe for any other time of day. The Crepe House flourished in the last sixteen years and has expanded to included three San Francisco locations. Take your pick! 429 Gough Street, 1755 Polk Street or 1132 Valencia Street

5.‘The Breakfast Burrito’ at The Grove – Be warned, this breakfast burrito is huge! I like to get it for breakfast and save the other half for lunch. The scrambled eggs, refried beans, cheddar and jack cheeses, salsa, and avocado mixture wrapped up in a grilled tortilla is very Californian and the rosemary country potatoes are its perfect accompaniment. The inside of the Marina location has a ski-lodge vibe and the outdoor seating is prime for San Franciscan people-watching. And if you’re only in the mood for a drink, skip Starbucks and try their lavender lemonade or mocha chai. Choose from any of the four San Franciscan family-owned locations: 690 Mission Street, 301 Hayes Street, 2016 Filmore Street or 2250 Chestnut Street

Tourist in My Backyard: Best Coast @ the US Open

9 Aug

Courtesy of the beautiful Lisa Aoyagi

I absolutely adore Best Coast. Their angst-driven lyrics about unrequited love and the pitfalls of dating make me wish I had their tunes to comfort me when I was in high school. And “Summer Mood” epitomizes California garage-pop and makes me feel understood and close to home even when I’m in a far-off land.

When I heard they were playing a free show at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach I had to play hooky from work – there was no way I was going to sit in an office when I could have a quintessential Orange County experience in Surf City, USA. Best Coast didn’t go on until 5:30 PM so we made a day of it. The cooler was full of Blue Moons and my flask was full of vodka. We parked miles away from the beach in a residential area to avoid the insanely inflated event parking fees and sipped our libations as we walked to the beach.

The US Open itself was pretty anti-climatic, even though we stood on the wet shore just a few yards from the action. The beach was packed with locals, tourists and teeny-boppers, who couldn’t have been older than 16 and were wearing unflattering and uncalled-for Brazilian-cut bathing suits with obnoxious writing all over their bodies proudly displaying their phone numbers or the words “free hugs”, “single” or some kind of ridiculous hash tag. I prayed to God I would not run into my 18-year-old sister because if I saw her dressed like that I would have to bury her in the sand until I could find her a cover-up.

Just before the show started we left the half-naked kiddie display to grab a drink on Main Street. We ended up at Sharkeez and ordered Long Island Iced-Teas that tasted like lemonade and cost $8. Do not go there. The chips were stale and the $7 shots weren’t even an ounce. Thank God for my flask…

When it was time we joined the herd and pushed our way through the massive, tightly packed crowd from the side of the stage and tried our best to get as close to the front as we could. The crowd waited anxiously for the threesome to appear and wailed as lead singer Bethany Cosentino started strumming her guitar. Do not be fooled by Best Coast’s surfer-stoner vibe or they’re less than perfect acoustic renditions – they have serious talent and are even better live because you can hear the full depth of their sound. Their “I Want To” and “Boyfriend” performances made me fall in love with these songs even harder because I got to feel them and at one point I found myself dancing so hard I bumped into my poor neighbors.

Best Coast is moody, melodic and punky but watching them perform as I swayed, singing along with sand between my toes, felt like the proper way to experience this band. Their name is Best Coast after-all and here we were – on the coast.

Tourist in My Backyard: San Diego LGBT Pride Festival

25 Jul

As a California native and proud supporter of LGBT rights,  I can’t believe that with all the wonderful cities in my state holding annual pride festivals I had never been to one. So when my best friend Kat invited me to join her and her fabulous cousin, Austin, for the last day of San Diego’s Pride Weekend, I jumped at the chance.

I didn’t know what to expect. I’d seen festival pictures before where everyone dressed in brightly colored outlandish outfits adorned with wigs, props, fake eyelashes and glitter (think Club Kids of the 90s), so that morning I sifted through my closet and tried to find the most pride-friendly, rainbow-colored garment I could.

I settled on my usual look. I like earth tones, what can I say?

Seth Green and Macaulay Culkin in the Club Kid cult-classic “Party Monster”

I met Kat in Huntington Beach and Austin picked us up on his way from L.A. The electro-dance tunes of Britney Spears and whoever was on the latest top 40 list were bumping and Austin did interpretive dances to their lyrics the whole drive down. I was thrilled: it wasn’t even 11a.m. yet and we had a club in our car.

We decided to skip the Pride Parade and Block Party in Hillcrest and went straight to the W Hotel since Austin knew one of the people throwing the massive pool party. We grabbed our drinks at the bar downstairs and made our way through crowd to the third floor deck that floats in the middle of downtown. There were half-naked gay boys as far as the eye could see,  some in dramatic outfits and others looking like they might still be in the closet.

I was feeling overdressed in my shorts and tank top when a Speedo-wearing cutie tapped me on the shoulder as he walked by and said, “You’re the hottest bitch here.” I blushed and said thank you.  He smirked and walked away.

“I could get used to this,” I said to Kat and Austin, with a beaming smile and a boost to my ego. I reveled in how nice it was to get a compliment from a man with no ulterior motives.

The rest of the day continued in much the same fashion as each person we met greeted us with love and sincerity. Boys gushed to Kat telling her she looked like Lady Gaga and Austin innocently kissed his friends on the lips as they said goodbye.  Even as we left the W Hotel pool party and went bar hopping the theme continued and people saw past your gender or your reputation and accepted you for who you are.

Months after same-sex marriage was legalized in California in 2008, the LGBT community’s landmark victory was taken from them with the passage of Prop 8,  or Prop HATE as we refer to it, which amended the earlier decision and limited marriages between a man and a woman. Even though same-sex marriage licenses issued before Prop 8’s passage were still legally recognized,  equal rights supporters knew we’d taken ten steps backward.

Pride weekends, however, feel like a step in the right direction because they’re filled with love and acceptance. No matter who you are or who you’re into: you’re welcome. All races. All backgrounds. All genders. It was eye-opening to see so many men who might be minorities in their day-to-day lives congregating in a brotherhood that dared them to be free. Pride weekend is not about sexual preferences and “alternative” lifestyles. It’s about celebrating who you are.

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