Archive for the Category »San Francisco «

  Less People Traveling This Thanksgiving – How About You?

According to the Automobile Club predictions, fewer people will be traveling this Thanksgiving. How about you?

Do you prefer staying home, assuming you will be with friends and family, or do you like traveling?

Me? I love love love hosting. I’m in my zone with a bird in the oven. I love the chaos and creativity amidst guests mingling nearby.

A long time ago, I used to segment produce for a San Francisco morning TV show. I would produce all the food and wine segments, and got to meet some of the finest chefs from some of our country’s most delicious restaurants.

I have saved some of my favorite recipes and have made them through the years on Thanksgiving. One  is a dessert  that Chef Bradley Ogden from Lark Creek Inn created for us.


Lark Creek Inn was one of my favorites while living in San Francisco – it is now the Tavern at Lark Creek, and hopefully just as good. It had such a beautiful setting in the Redwoods.

I thought I would share this recipe with you in case you are still planning your holiday menu, and give you a slice of a famous San Francisco area restaurant. Next time you travel to the Bay Area, you may want to make a reservation :)




5 eggs

2 cups pumpkin puree

3 cups half and half

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup sugar, granulated

3 Tbs vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean, scraped

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

4 cups plus 1/2 loaf cinnamon raisin bread, day old, cut into 3/4 inch cubes

2 Tbs butter, unsalted


Whipped cream

Powdered Sugar


Preheat oven to 325. Whisk together eggs, pumpkin, half and half, sugar, vanilla and spices. Strain through a fine strainer. Butter a 9 x 11 pan . Place cubes of bread on bottom, then pour in half of the custard. Let it sit so bread can absorb the custard, top off with the rest of the custard and bake in a water bath for 40-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Let the pudding cool at room temperature, but serve while still warm. Serve with whipped cream and dusted with powdered sugar.



  Travel Tip Tuesday: Know Your Bridge Tolls When Traveling


The new east span of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge is open today – after years of retrofitting and rebuilding and a $6 billion dollar price tag. The original bridge was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta quake.

Travelers – when you drive through the Bay Area, there are about eight bridges you could potentially encounter depending on where you go. All the bridge tolls can get confusing. For example – there are different tolls for different times of day on the Bay Bridge.  And – most importantly, you need to have cash to cross the bridges, unless you pay in advance online. If you don’t have the cash, you will receive a violation notice in the mail with a $25 fee.

Here is where you can pay in advance online

To make things more confusing to visitors, the Golden Gate Bridge at the other end of San Francisco takes no cash whatsoever. It is an all electronic toll system – no stopping, no fumbling for cash, etc. If you don’t pay online before hand, you will be sent a notice with the amount you owe for the bridge crossing (based on your license plate.) Luckily, there is no additional fee on top of that.

For more info go to

Happy Travels -



  Bicoastal Beans Taking on Starbucks – Look For Them

One thing I love about traveling is having coffee all around the world. And I’m not talking about running to the local Starbucks in Paris.

No surprise, but in the Bay Area, the buzz is all about another bean breakthrough. Don’t all delicious new food movements come from San Francisco? (OK so after living there for 9 years, I am biased.)

It is called Blue Bottle, and yes folks, it is a courageous coffee shop taking on the Starbucks’ of the world… and by the looks of the lines out the door at the downtown San Francisco shop, they are on their way.

Why should I write about this? For one, if you are a coffee seeker like I am, Blue Bottle makes amazing coffee – totally fresh, and beans grown pesticide free. They say they get their beans from the fields to their customers within 48 hours. You can TOTALLY taste the difference – the coffee is deep, and not bitter. They started out in farmer’s markets, and attracted customers who are passionate about food.

My friends and I were laughing – and you must be warned – they are serious about their java. Don’t even think about ordering a half caff double skim eggnog latte….

My friend tried ordering a single shot latte, and was stared down. Guess she missed the sign above.

The Coffee Nazis have arrived.. Although, they are kinder and gentler on their website, stating they “offer elderly and pregnant women seats on the bus…and brush and floss daily.”  Gotta love coffee makers percolating with personality.

Blue Bottle is worth a trip – there are a few dozen of them opened on each coast – Bay Area and New York. Check the website for more. And remember – no special orders :)

  #2 Top Place For Kids in San Francisco

In Front of Zeum, San Francisco

Zeum is unlike any kids museum I have ever seen. I even don’t like calling it a musuem because that implies something that it isn’t. What it IS is a home to creative activities that stimulate kids’ imaginations and expose them to multimedia creations. It is San Francisco’s hands-on arts & technology museum where kids can explore animation, sound & video production, live performance, and visual arts.

My kids spent hours in the claymation area..where they got to create their own character with clay….

….then shoot a short movie (think Gumby) and take it home on a CD.

Of course, I bought a bunch of clay when we got home, but why is it the same toy at home is just not as entertaining???

They also made puppets…

And my favorite part was when they performed in their own music video in the production lab.

We brought kids ages 4-12, and all of them were engaged in the unique activities for hours.

Have a great weekend!

  Top Three Things To Do With Kids in San Francisco

All this gloomy weather we’ve been having in Southern California until recently was reminding me of my years living in San Francisco. It is foggy and cold there almost all summer long. I was there last summer during the end of August, and seriously, I was colder there in one night than the entire winter I lived in Chicago. Don’t doubt me until you’ve done it.

The moral of that little rant is: Visit S.F. (don’t call it San Fran in front of the locals) in September or October. Yes, I know the kids are in school. But that is really the best time to go, especially if you want to enjoy the outdoors. What some travelers may not realize is that yes, San Francisco is a foodies’ heaven, and a sophiticated metropolis, but it is also a outdoor lover’s playground.

So my top thing to do with kids in the City by the Bay, which isn’t in many guide books, is to bike along the bay. Trust me on this – it may sound like a lot of work, but it is the best day you may have there.

Here’s how we did it last summer:

First go to  Chinatown. Head straight to one of the kite shops – easy to find.  We bought a colorful and inexpensive kite here. This is a must.

( If you have time you can walk the streets’s more crowded and not as clean as North Beach, the Italian area of the city, or Japantown, but still is interesting.)

Next stop: Blazing Saddles Bike Rentals at 2715 Hyde St at Fisherman’s Wharf near Ghiradelli Square.

Note to readers: There are five other Blazing Saddles locations, so if there is one you can walk or take public transportation to, I recommend it. Parking is difficult to find and expensive.

We rented bikes for our two older kids, and my youngest sat in a cart attached to my bike.

From there we took one of the most picturesque rides from Ghiradelli Square…through Aquatic Park..all along the bay. You have a great view of Alcatraz…and sailboats dotting the water. Go forward through Fort Mason….then to the Marina Green.

By the way – all of this is easy to find because there is one main MOSTLY FLAT bike path which you simply follow…and secondly because our bikes came equipped with GPS attached to our handle bars. Pretty nifty.

The Marina Green is a long plot of grass along Marina Blvd with fantasic mansions on one side of the street, and the bay on the other. This is a great people watching spot that teams with sunbathers, roller bladers, joggers,volleyball nets and the St Francis Yacht Club a little farther west.

BUT what makes this a stand out spot is: it is ALWAYS windy. Enter stage right: the kite from Chinatown.

Take some time and fly the kite – if you can’t fly one on the Marina Green, you can’t fly one anywhere. If you can fit it in a backpack, a blanket would be handy so you can relax and watch your kids fly once they don’ t need your help anymore.

Hungry yet? Up on Chestnut St in the Marina district, (near my old apartment!) is my favorite deli – Lucca.

It is in institution for those who are patient enough to wait on the long lines for one of their fresh sandwiches and deli meats. It has been around – or I guess I should say survived considering all the chains that have gone in on Chestnut St – for 80 years. It is a family owned business, and is located in what used to be the garage of a three-story apartment building. That being said, just by the nature of the deli’s size, it is always crowded. Better to keep the kids outside while you go in and admire all the hand made ravioli, prosciutto hanging from the ceiling, and  gourmet cheeses. Order a few sandwiches and drinks and go on your way… hop on the bikes and head to Crissy Field, just west of the Marina Green.

Crissy Field recently underwent a major restoration that preserves it’s environment and makes it more visitor friendly.  We stopped at the nice kid-friendly beach where wind surfers flock….ate our lunch and played baseball at a nearby picnic area….and then rode all the way to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The kids loved it. And shall I go for the cliche and say I left part of my heart there too?

The next top two SF spots for kids coming up later this week.