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Chez Panisse

Despite both DPaul and I having lived in the Bay Area more or less 20 years apiece, and despite being avid diners, neither of us had ever eaten at the world-famous Chez Panisse. This is something we have long wanted to remedy, and have discussed doing so with various folks. At long last, our dear friends Nick and Russ made it happen, and better yet as a very thoughtful wedding gift. After one abortive attempt where we languished on the waitlist, they were finally able to land us a reservation last week, at 6 pm on Friday, February 13. Our excitement mounted as the date drew nearer.

On the big day, I planned to leave my Redwood City office sometime shortly after four, a time that normally allows for easy commuting all around the area. But the best laid plans of mice and men, and all that. I ended up having to give a presentation, which delayed my departure to slightly after 4:30. I had to drop my colleague off back in the city. It was raining and the Friday before a holiday weekend, and traffic was unusually bad for that time of day.

Crawling up the 101, my blood pressure rose as the time slipped inexorably by. By the time of our 6 pm dinner reservation, I was still in downtown San Francisco, stuck in dead-stop traffic waiting to get on the bridge. Veins throbbed in my temples as I screamed expletives at the top of my lungs. I sent DPaul a one-word text message: "Hopeless." I was on the verge of tears. The evening was ruined, and I would not be dining at Chez Panisse that night. The disappointment was crushing.

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Daiquiri days and tiki nights

Daiquiri

Food and drink bloggers tend to be a merry lot; DPaul and I are certainly not alone in our pursuits of things hedonistic. It generally takes little provocation to get a group of local bloggers to assemble to consume something of interest, in groups large or small.

Last year, Jen organized a come-as-you-are series of outings to case out the various bars and beverages featured in the 2008 edition of Food & Wine Cocktails, 17 of which were from Bay Area locales. A schedule was built, and week after week a cadre of bloggers and booze enthusiasts traipsed to watering holes in San Francisco and beyond in search of these rarefied concoctions. So regular and assiduously attended were these events, they became referred to as our "book club."

Sadly, as it turned out, relatively few of the cocktails in the book were available for the tasting. It stands to reason in an artisanal cocktail center like San Francisco that menus change with the moods and seasons, but some instances were just outright silly. At one location, the cocktail was on the menu, but is apparently never actually served, since they don't stock one key ingredient, a Belgian Trappist ale, that is both perishable and expensive. In one other case, the cocktail was not — and had actually never been — on the menu. Of the comparatively few cocktails featured in the book that were of offer, some were simply disappointing, though often there were superior drinks available at those locations. Ultimately, only a few stood out; my personal favorite was the Tommy Gun at Bar Drake.

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Where to buy junk: Urban Ore

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On a beautiful, balmy mid-February day, DPaul and I were compelled to undertake a field trip to Berkeley. Shocking, but true: We actually crossed the bridge.

Our main impetus for this excursion was to go to Sari Palace on University Ave to pick up a couple of Jodhpuri suits that we had had made for Saturday night’s Mardi Gras event. This in itself is reason enough to go to Berkeley; we each had a gorgeously embroidered, beaded and brocaded suit made custom for less than off-the-rack at Men’s Wearhouse.

But it was a lovely day, and as long as we found ourselves out in the Eastern colonies, we opted to avail ourselves to one of my greatest pleasures, Urban Ore. A self-proclaimed "ecopark," Urban Ore is a scavenge yard chockablock with the detritus and flotsam of countless renovations or demolitions. While it’s not the place to go if you’re looking for something very specific, you are almost certain to find something you didn’t know you needed.

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In a past life, when I was doing theatrical set and prop design, I practically lived at Urban Ore. When your budget is under $100 and you need to effectively build and furnish an entire house, this is where you start.

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I Am Curious

So it seems that everyone but everyone (in the blog world) is buzzing about quirky nouveau-hippie CafĂ© Gratitude. The restaurant's dishes, featuring all organic and even mostly live ingredients, sport self-proclamatory names, like I Am Thankful (Thai coconut soup), I…

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Two offal dinners

Must be innards season, cuz there are two hoof-to-horns special meals lined up at two of the Bay Area's best Italian restos. Tonight through Friday, Berkeley's Oliveto is serving up The Whole Hog, offering up a remarkable selection of dishes…

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