Category Archives: Lifestyle

NYC part 1: Almanac

For many, many years, I have made a Spring pilgrimage to NYC to take in the culture, style, and attitude that is uniquely New York – and, of course, to visit my dear friend, Kiki, and her wonderful husband, Scott.  My bite from the Big Apple always includes a meal at one of the city’s finest (Alain Ducasse (closed), Le Bernardin), most iconic (The Four Seasons, The Rainbow Room), or buzziest (Cipriani Downtown) restaurants.  While I am privileged to delight in such gustatory pleasures and sumptuous surroundings, my favorite NYC boites are those of Chef Galen Zamarra.  Mas (farmhouse) is my most favorite restaurant, in the world, ever. The food is divinely elevated French fare with a touch of California a la Alice Waters. The ambiance is a perfect balance of elegance and hipness (two concepts that don’t usually go together). When I am at Mas, I am at home.

Given my spiritual connection to Mas, I could not wait to try Galen’s newest restaurant, Almanac. Galen is a Northern California boy who grew up surrounded by the beauty of the Santa Cruz mountains and coastline.  His love and appreciation of nature is present in every aspect of his cooking. You won’t find rabbit tortellini with Thumbelina carrots (adorable, right?) anywhere else but Chef Galen’s kitchen. The idea for Almanac grew from Galen’s own “almanacs” – journals he kept of his daily trips to farmers markets while a chef at Bouley. In his almanacs, Galen recorded what foods were fresh, seasonal, and complementary. These culinary observations were the foundation and inspiration for Almanac.

Almanac. You are now entering a zone of deliciousness and sophistication (two of the CCC’s favorite things).
Kiki excited to enter Almanac. (Even though it was Spring, it was still chilly!)
There is something for everyone on Almanac’s wine list. If you are not sure what to choose, a charming sommelier is always nearby.
The leather banquette in the bar with the sweetest embroidered cushions. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a cocktail here?
Oh, and I did mention that Galen and his beautiful wife, Katie, are friends? Aside from the fantastic meal, the best part of the evening was spending time with Galen and Katie. 🙂
Watercress and scallop soup. This light and effervescent soup was also hearty and comforting. How is that possible?
Nobody does chicken like Galen – perfectly tender and the perfect size! Here, it is served with grilled spring onions, morel mushrooms, and potato. Again, Galen balances refined cuisine with easy deliciousness.
As is the CCC way, Kiki and I were both happy and tipsy at the end of a wonderful evening. (Photo by Scott.)

Almanac.  Counting the minutes until I can worship at the Shrine of Chef Galen again!

Fog City Fun!

I love guests! It is a pleasure for me to show visiting friends and family around my beloved city and most favorite state. For a long time and to this day, I insist that all guests visit Alcatraz.  The boat ride to the island offers a different perspective of the city and the bay. The history of Alcatraz is fascinating – you MUST do the superlative audio tour. The National Park Service is constantly renovating and expanding the buildings you can visit. The gift shop is excellent. 😉  If those weren’t reasons enough, I recently discovered a new one – Fog City. Formerly known as the Fog City Diner, the restaurant and bar were recently renovated and Fog City is now an intergral part of the CCC’s Tour of Alcatraz.  I was thrilled to be able to take my sister, Annie, and her boyfriend, John there after our day on The Rock.

But first, a few pics of Alcatraz…it must be done.

Selfies – so much more fun with besties.
Sisters. Alcatraz is always a bit chilly and windy so dress appropriately.
As a nurse practitioner for the San Francisco County Jails, I can honestly say that “the cell” has not changed much. They are still small and dingy.
The doctor will see you now. When you visit Alcatraz do not miss the recently re-opened hospital building. From the clinic to the psychiatric isolation cells, you will leave with the creeps.
A snowy egret in a garden on the north-west side of the island. Alcatraz is a bird sanctuary for all kinds of seabirds.
FINALLY! We arrive at Fog City! Located on the Embarcadero at 1300 Battery Street, the original Fog City Diner opened on this spot in 1985.
Most of the space in Fog City is taken up by a long, circular bar. Is there a more perfect perch for the CCC? No, there is not.
The Best Bloody Mary (for the CCC); Brown liquor of some variety for Annie and John; a Sam Adams for fun.
The food is also delicious. Bar food with a California Hipster twist.
Should be I concerned that I look tipsy in most of my blog posts? Hmmm….No.

Feel Tipsy. Visit Fog City!

Sonoma Sis

Recently, my sister, Annie and her boyfriend, John, came to SF for a visit.  In accordance with the CCC’s Rules of Good Hostessing, we, of course, spent a day in wine country.  We are lucky in the Bay Area to live so close to a bounty of incredible wineries, it’s sometimes hard to chose where to go.  This is why for all things wine I turn to my wonderful friends, Pamela and Anton. They know wines and they know wine country.  In addition to one of my favorite wineries, Medlock Ames (see my review here), Pamela and Anton also suggested Michel-Schlumberger and Dry Creek Vineyards ending at Rustic for a late lunch.  Yes, it was a wonderful day!

annie and john at Medlock Ames
Annie and John at the Medlock Ames tasting room. Get ready for tastiness!
garden at medlock ames
Seasonal and sustainable gardens, in addition to delicious wines, are part of the Medlock Ames philosophy.
Medlock Ames interior
The Medlock Ames tasting room is the diletante photographer’s dream. Lots of interesting things to shoot and lots of depth to the light and shadow.
Mom and Me at MA
My mom, Bev, and I enjoying some of Medlock Ames 2013 Lower Slope Chardonnay. I don’t always love Chard because of the fat, buttery taste but Medlock Ames does a nice job with this one. It’s crisp, lemony, and light – more like a sauvignon blanc – but then isn’t that the dream of all chardonnays to be more like a sauv blanc 😉

After a fantastic start to our day at Medlock Ames, we moved onto Michel-Schlumberger, quite possibly the most elegant winery in Sonoma. Jean-Jacques Michel planted the first vines here in 1979. The Dry Creek Valley soil and climate are ideal for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Chardonnay grapes.  In 1991, Jacques Pierre Schlumberger joined with Michel bringing with him a 400-year family history of wine making. Of note, Jacques Pierre is a descendant of Conrad and Marcel Schlumberger founders of Schlumberger, a global company that serves the technology and project management needs of the oil and gas industry.

MS entrance
The winery is housed in a lovely Mission-style building. The quintessential setting for a Sonoma Winery.
MS flowers
Gorgeous flowers greet you at the winery entrance.
driveway of MS
Perfectly pruned olive trees line the winery’s driveway.
DA, EM and John at MS
My dad, Tom, John, and me enjoying some bubbles. Nothing wrong with that!   (I must point out what an excellent hair day I was having. I also really liked my outfit.)
MS food paring
The food from left to right: a cream of mushroom soup made with seven kinds of mushrooms – heavenly; a pork belly slider with cilantro and jalapeno; and for desert, a gingerbread cake, the perfect pairing with Michel-Schlumberger’s 2012 Port.

In addition to wine tasting, you can also do a food pairing at Michel-Schlumberger. Perfect for the peckish taster. The food was delish and the wines were lovely.  The zinfandel was the crowd favorite.  It was particularly special because, our host, Ryan, was the vinter for this wine.  He and father founded Leonhardt Vineyards and they have been making Zins since 2007. Don’t tell the folks at Michel-Schlumberger but you can buy Ryan’s wine at Trader Joes! 

enjoying lunch at MS
A fabulous lunch with fabulous people in a fabulous spot. Fabulous!
Dry Creek
Next stop: Dry Creek Vineyards. Home to some of the best sauvignon blanc around.

Founded in 1972 by David S. Stare, Dry Creek Vineyards was the first in the area. Before the winery, Dry Creek Valley was rather desolate with only a few family farms and prune orchards.  I went crazy for their sauvignon blanc and joined the wine club.

Dry Creek Private Room
As a wine club member, I am looking forward to enjoying winery parties in their private room. (Fancy!)
Dry Creek Grounds
In keeping with Sonoma winery style, Dry Creek’s grounds are beautiful. You can buy a bottle of wine from the winery and have a picnic.
I call this selfie, “Drunkie”. From the red stains around my lips I enjoyed more than just sauvignon blanc! Thank you to John for being the designated driver.
Francis Ford Coppola
After all that wine tasting, it was time for some hearty fare at Francis Ford Coppola’s restaurant, Rustic. In true Hollywood style, the winery also has a huge pool where, for a fee, you can rent a little cabin and enjoy the Sonoma lifestyle for a day.
Dad at Rustica
Tom is ready for lunch.
To what should we toast? To good food, to good wine, to good friends, to a good life!

Adventures with Claire and Julia: No. 3 – Safari West and In-N-Out Burger

On Claire and Julia’s last full day of their trip (sad face), we took a trip to Safari West in Sonoma.  Located on 400 acres of gorgeous wine country, Safari West is home to more than 90 species of African wildlife.  Safari West is also a breeding center for endangered birds.  Founded in 1993 by Nancy and Peter Lang, Safari West is committed to the well-being and preservation exotic animals and birds.  Conservation through education is a primary goal of Safari West and one of its educational mainstays is a fantastic three-hour tour of the property in open-air four-wheel drive land rovers and jeeps. You can also spend the night on the property in luxury tents complete with hot showers and hardwood floors – the smidge of roughing it every cocktail camper desires.

1 Safari West Group Shot
My parents, Bev and Tom, were able to join us for this adventure. Here Tom, Bev, Claire, and Julia wait to board the truck for our tour.
2 Flamingos
Flamingos. Their name comes from the Portugese word, “flamengo” meaning “the color of flame”. They are social creatures and their colonies can number in the thousands. These large groups help with protection and the sharing of scare resources. Safari West has greater and lesser flamingos both from Africa but these elegant creatures also live in Central and South America. I love their long, skinny legs! I wish mine were so slender.
3 Impala
This gorgeous being is a male Impala (male because he has horns). Impalas can leap to heights of 10 feet and cover distances of more than 30 feet with one jump. The impala is the envy of professional basketball players everywhere.
4 ostrich
A female ostrich on the move. These flightless birds have been around since the Early Miocene period, meaning at least 14 million years. According the fossil record, the ostrich has not changed very much from the Miocene to today. In seeing this ostrich I felt like I was connecting to the history of the world.
5 Zebra
I just love the Zebras! I could spend hours staring at their stripes. So trippy.
6 Giraffes
Who doesn’t love giraffes! With their long graceful necks, sweet eyes, and funny ears, the giraffes are a favorite of visitors to Safari West.

After our Safari adventure, we were, of course, famished.  Julia and Claire had never been to In-N-Out Burger and requested we stop at the one in Mill Valley.  When I learned that my parents also had never been to the best burger place in the world, dinner there was mandatory.  If you have never been to In-N-Out, it is well worth a trip. They only make a few things: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, the famous “Double Double” (two cheeseburgers under one bun), french fries, and milkshakes.  May I recommend the following menu: 1) The Double Double; 2) French Fries; and 3) Vanilla milkshake.  You will not be dissapointed.

6 Julia and Claire at In and Out
Julia (left) and Claire (right) enjoying their cheeseburgers, In-N-Out style.
7 EM enjoys In-n-Out
I used think that I was never happier then when I was at a bar drinking with friends. Now I think I might never be happier than when I am eating In-N-Out with my wonderful neice, Claire, and her lovely friend, Julia. What a charmed life I do lead.

Adventures with Claire and Julia: No. 1 – Muir Woods and The Pelican Inn

I love my niece! Her name is Claire and she is one of the kindest, funniest, coolest people on the planet.  Imagine my delight when she and her equally wonderful friend, Julia, came for a visit over their February break.  They were escaping the soul-crushing Boston winter for some California sun and fun.  In addition to hanging-out in the hottub (did you think the CCC wouldn’t have a hottub?) and eating all the junk food our mothers won’t usually let us eat, we had some excellent SF-Bay Area adventures. Our first stop was Muir Woods in Marin County.

Named in honor of John Muir (the founding father of the National Park Service), Muir Woods is home to 240 acres of old-growth coastal redwoods – one of the few remaining groves in the area. The land Muir Woods sits on was originally owned by William and Elizabeth Kent. They purchased the land in the early 1900s.  In 1907, a local water company wanted to dam the nearby Redwood Creek and flood (read: ruin) the valley. The Kents thought this a terrible idea. When the water company threatened eminent domain, the Kents donated the land to the federal government effectively avoiding local jurisdiction and court proceedings. (Sneaky!)  In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt designated Muir Woods a national monument (the first ever from private land). The president wanted to name the location “Kent Woods” but the Kents insisted the glorious redwood grove be named after John Muir. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Kent (and John Muir and President Roosevelt) for ensuring we can enjoy Muir Woods now and into the future!

1 Muir Woods Entrance
Julia and Claire at the entrance to Muir Woods. (Don’t tell the folks at Disney, BUT…Muir Woods is really the happiest place on earth!)
2 Muir Woods Main Path
A view from the main path at Muir Woods. The first two miles into the park are flat. There is a lovely, wheelchair accessible boardwalk as well.
4 Catherdral Grove
People really do “enter quietly”! It’s fun to hear how visitors’ voices drop to a whisper when they enter Mother Nature’s House of Worship.
3 Muir Woods Red Woods
It is strange to think that these towering beauties started from a seed the size of a tomato. Many of the redwoods in Muir Woods are over 500 years old, with the oldest being 1200 years! If only I was aging as well.
5 Ocean View Trail Head
For our hike we chose a six-mile loop: Ocean View Trail to Panorama Trail to the Dipsea Trail. This is an excellent hike that shows the best of Muir Woods. You also get the two-mile uphill climb done early in the hike.
6 Hiking the Ocean View Trail
Claire and Julia climbing the Ocean View Trail.
7 Julia Joe Photo
Julia keeps it real with an old school Minolta that uses film! (Do you remember what “film” is???)
8 Made it to the Top
Julia (left) and Claire (right) smiling at the top of Ocean View Trail. It was a bit cloudy that day but the Pacific Ocean is still visible in the background – hence the name, “Ocean View”.

Is it time for lunch yet?  Yes, it is!  No trip to Muir Woods is complete without lunch at The Pelican Inn.  In the style of a Tudor inn (indeed, much of the inn’s decor is from English buildings built in the 16th century), The Pelican Inn serves tasty pub fare perfect for hungry hikers.

9 Pelican Inn Sign
Named in honor of Sir Francis Drake’s ship, “The Pelican”, the inn is a perfect spot for lunch, a drink in the pub, or a romatic getaway with that special someone (ooh, la, la!).
10 Drinks
Yay! Cocktail time! An Arnold Palmer for Julia, a Shirley Temple for Claire, and a pineapple cider (never again) for me.
12 Julia and Clarie at Pelican Inn
Julia and Claire enjoying The Pelican Inn’s famous fish and chips. We couldn’t help but wonder, “does anyone ever eat those peas?”

Adventures with Claire and Julia: No. 2 – The St. Francis and Balmy Way

No trip to SF is complete without lunch at the St. Francis Soda Fountain and a Mission Mural Walk – especially on a perfectly warm, sunny day. In continuous operation since 1918, the St. Francis Soda Fountain is one of the best diners anywhere ever. I always enjoy the N.Y. Ruben with fries and a chocolate malted milkshake.  I also always make sure I am wearing pants with a little give!  One of the most fun things about having two teenage girls visiting us was enjoying the junk food that I ate when I was a teenage girl but now avoid as an adult. Our meal at the St. Francis Soda Fountain was a perfect compliment to our diet of Girl Scout cookes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, and Laughing Cow cheese rolled in pieces of salami (but that’s another story).  Fortunately, our St. Francis gluttony was balanced by a walk in the Mission and exploring the many beautiful murals there.

1 St. Francis Soda Fountain
Julia and Claire deciding on lunch at the St. Francis.
2 Mission Girls
I love this mural! “Once a Mission girl, always a Mission girl.” Doesn’t it make you want to be a Mission Girl?

The Mission district is covered with colorful, artfully-crafted murals especially along 24th Street. It’s easy to do your own self-guided tour but Precita Eyes Visitor Center has several tours to chose from and lots of useful information about the murals and the area.

3 Balmy Way
A one-block street between 24th and 25th streets, Balmy Way is the epicenter of the Mission Murals.
4 Cuidado Hay Perro
One of the most interesting “Beware of the Dog” signs I have seen. I love the repeating pattern of the face on this fence.
6 Mujeres Revolucionares
Many of the murals depict the struggles of Latin-American people both in and outside of the United States. I call this beautiful mural, “Mujeres Revolucionarias”.
7 Uncle Sam
Other murals are political reflecting the community’s concerns.
5 Hombre 66
Some murals are just super-cool. How could you ever be in a bad mood with this chic fellow to greet at your door?
8 Girls in front of murals
Claire and Julia in front of one of the more colorful walls. It still surprises me when I remember that people actually live on Balmy Way! What a pleasant street on which to reside.
9 Virgen de Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Mission.

A 500-year old Catholic icon, Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most familiar religious figures in the world. In most representations of Our Lady, her eyes are downcast and her head is tilted to the left. The artist, Patricia Rose, turned the head to the right so Our Lady could look into Balmy Way and made her eyes open. Rose said, “she’s a mother so she would have to be watchful”. What a wonderful thought and a most beautiful representation of Our Lady, a figure who gives comfort and solace to those in pain. Comfort and solace, things we all could give and recieve a little more of!

My Experiential Reality

Since 2008, every few months I get together with my good friends, Susan and Meera, to discuss our shared passion for phenomenology**.  “What is phenomenology?” you ask.  Why, it’s the philosophy of human experience!   Although developed by the grumpy and, at times, unpleasant German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, phenomenology is grounded in ancient Greek thinking and shares some aspects with Buddhism.  What I love most about phenomenology, is that our experiential realities –  that is, our feelings, our sense perceptions, our interpretations, our EXPERIENCES, count as important in understanding and making meaning within our worlds.  In this meta-data-show-me-the-numbers driven life, I find it reassuring and delightful that, in phenomenology, our whole-body experiences are valued as knowledge and representations of the truth. I also love that phenomenology gives me a reason to see two wonderful friends every few months, or my “phenomenology ladies” as my husband, Brian, calls them!

It’s not all deep thinking when the three of us get together. We talk about ourselves and our lives, and of course, eat delicious food and drink fantastic wine!  Our past few gatherings have been week-end retreats at Susan’s and her husband, Charles’, Santa Cruz Mountain lodge.  It’s a lovely place complete with fruit orchards, views of the Pacific, and wonderful wineries to visit – a perfect activity when we need a rest from our scholarly discourse. 😉

1 The view
The view from Susan and Charles’s lodge. Yes, that is the Pacific Ocean.
2 Flowers and Bees 2
One of the lovely flowering trees on their property. The bees approve!
4 Flowers
I love these exotic beauties! Does anyone know what kind of plant they are?
5 Olive Tree and orchard
Susan and Charles’ orchard. Complete with pear, apple, grapefruit, and avocado trees. They also have a very large olive tree. One year, Meera and I cured olives from the tree. They were not bad. Mine were quite salty though.
5 Sally
Sally – a phenomenologist’s best friend.
6 Little People
Susan and Charles’ house is full of interesting objects. I spent one afternoon taking photos of their objet d’art. These little people turned out the best.
6 Swiss Chard
Both Susan and Charles are fabulous cooks, so we always eat well when we visit. Here is some fresh Swiss Chard about to go into our dinner: a tasty vegetable frittata.
8 Loma Prieta Vineyards
Finally! Wine tasting! This is now a bonafide CCC blog post! The Santa Cruz Mountains have a small but growing wine region. This is the view from Loma Prieta Winery. They have a gorgeous outdoor patio where you can bring a picnic and enjoy their wines – and this beautiful view.
9 Susan
Susan. Of course, her outfit matches the wine; the mark of an authentic California Cocktail Camper.
10 Charles 1
Charles. Yes, he is the most interesting man in the world.
13 Wright's Station
Our next stop was Wright’s Station. I loved the wines there. They were “blended and integrated” (an inside joke between the CCC and her phenomenology ladies!).
13 Wright's Station Bar
The bar at Wright’s Station. I love the lighting concept!
15 Wine Glass
One of Wright’s Station “blended and integrated” pinot noirs. (Photo by Meera.)
13 EM 1
I am never happier than when I am sitting at a bar drinking with good friends. (Photo by Meera.)
16 Susan and Meera
My phenomenology ladies, Susan and Meera, standing on the patio built by Charles. Thank you ladies for being such a fantastic part of my experiential reality!

NOTE: If you are interested in learning more about phenomenology, I recommend checking out Hans-Georg Gadamer and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

The Hang-Over Cure

As the CCC, I preach the responsible enjoyment of all alcoholic libations. However… Sometimes my best laid plans for moderation go awry especially when I have two fabulous friends in town ready for a night out.  Recently, my friends, Kiki and Sue, traveled to SF for business.  How lucky was I that they cleared their schedules for an evening of conversation and cocktails with me!

Our festitivies started at the bar at the Four Seasons, or “4S” as we like to call it and ended with dinner at Scala’s.  The 4S is a lovely place and a perfect meet-up for ladies as fancy as Kiki and Sue but it’s not a go-to place for me generally.  While the service and selection are excellent, it doesn’t have the San Francisco flavor that I love so much – too many men in sport coats with Blackberries and absolutely no hipsters!  Still, we managed to enjoy ourselves thanks to delicious Sidecars, delightful bubbly, and excellent conversation.

The highlight of the evening was our late supper at Scala’s Bistro. Scala’s is quintessentially SF. The food is tasty and Italian (are those two words synonyms?) and Natalie, the maitre’d, is the most glamorous, charming person in town.  She always greets you with a hug, a smile, and a “how are you, Dah-ling?”. You’ll leave Scala’s feeling full AND like a celebrity.  Whether you are local or from afar, I recommend a trip to Scala’s – a true San Francisco Treat!

Needless to say, when the Scala’s staff turned the overhead lights on full blast, we knew it was time to depart. The pain we would experience the next morning was far, far, far from our minds.

Ladies night with Sue and Kiki
Selfies at the 4S. Why was I suprised my head hurt so much the next day? (NOTE: Uber was our designated driver for the evening. While our livers may disagree, we still maintained the CCC’s rigourous standard of responsible imbibement.)

I managed to get through the morning with motrin, caffiene, water, and the excitement of getting to spend the afternoon with Kiki!  While no marathons would be run, we knew some time outside followed by a late lunch would put us right.  The Presidio with its beautiful views and easy walking paths was the place for us.

Eucalyptus grove
There’s nothing like a walk through a grove of eucalyptus to clear your head. The Presidio, first Indian land then Spanish and U.S. military bases, is full of eucalyptus, lending a clean and soothing fragrance to the park.
Tree Line
Wood Line. The gracefully placed row of eucalyptus trunks is an installation by the artist, Andy Goldsworthy. It’s calming to walk along this path and ponder how the artist was able to perfectly align the trunks.
View from Inspiration Point
Our next stop was the Presidio’s Inspiration Point. How can one not be inspired?
Spire, another Andy Goldsworthy installation, is a short walk from Inspiration Point. Goldsworthy created Spire in 2008 of aging cypress trees cleared to make space for new cypress plantings. It stands over 90-feet tall but will eventually be obscured by the now young, but growing, cypresses.
Tree Bark 1
Spire Close-up 1.
Tree Bark 2
Spire Close-Up 2. (Can you say, “artsy”?)
Comissary Sign
With our heads and livers clearing, it was time for lunch! The Commissary is Traci Des Jardins‘ newest restaurant. How could we go wrong with the words, “kitchen” and “bar”, on the sign!
Entering Commissary
Located in the Presidio’s former Officer’s Club, The Commissary offers California fare with a Spanish twist. Kiki entering the restaurant. She, smartly, refused to be photographed from the front for this posting.
Did you really think we wouldn’t have a cocktail? A lager for me and some sort of smoky brandy drink with coffee beans for Kiki. A little hair of the dog… The food was very satisfying with a great charcuterie and cheese plate, olives, country-style pate and lots of buttery, crispy bread.
EM with Beer
Feeling better by the minute! A lovely afternoon with a good friend truly is the best hang-over cure. And, my rough start to the day was well worth the wonderful evening I had with Kiki and Sue. Thanks Ladies for bringing a some glamour and fun to my life!

The CCC’s San Francisco Favorites #4: The de Young and BFFs

Recently, I had the good fortune of three wonderful visits to the de Young Museum. These visits were particularly special because I had some of my best BFFs (Best. Friends. Forever.) join me.  As the CCC, I never mind doing things alone but any activity is always so much more fun with a buddy or two.

We went see the de Young’s current show, Keith Haring – The Political Line.  For you SF-Bay Area locals, this show is a must-see.  For those of you planning a visit to SF, the de Young is a must-go. Orginally founded in 1894 as the Fine Arts Building, the de Young is now one of the preeminent museums in the western United States with its extensive American, African, and Oceanic art collections.  Its special exhibitions have included works by Dale Chihuly, Ruth Asawa, Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier, and now Keith Haring. (The show is on view through February 16, 2015.)

1 DeYoung Entrance 2
The Keith Haring show was one of my favorites. My memories of his work were from when I was a teenager. I think I had a Keith Haring Swatch Watch! This show highlights what a signficant and profound artist Haring was (and still is). His work continues to resonate with our current political and social landscapes.
2 DeYoung Exterior 4
In 2000 the de Young underwent a five-year renovation by the Swiss Architecture firm, Herzog & de Meuron. The design was controversial with many residents feeling it was ugly and didn’t fit with the overall sensibility of Golden Gate Park where it is located. Yes, change is always hard! Now the modern exterior is loved by all. Also in this photo are a 19th century sculpture of the history of wine making and a sphinx from the early days of the de Young.
3 DeYoung Exterior montage pdf 2
950,000 pounds of copper and 300,000 pounds of glass were used to create the building’s facade. The copper, over time, will develop a green patina reflecting the verdant setting in which the de Young is nestled. I love the varied circular themes and textures of this building!
4 De Young Garden
The de Young has a fabulous outdoor garden that must be enjoyed. It’s a perfect place to let your little ones run around and “get the wiggles out” as my mother used to say. I am not sure of the artist who created these strange, rather creepy, sculptures. Maybe they were put in the garden to make sure the kiddies don’t misbehave too much!
5 Cafe Lunches montage pdf
Of course, no trip to the de Young is complete without relaxing in the Cafe. The food is tasty and you can sit inside or out, weather depending. I LOVE the Les Charmes Sancere they have on offer! It has all my favorite qualities in a wine: minerality, cripsness, and just enough fruit (melon, I think). A perfect compliment to good conversation with good friends. (The food from left to right: chicken stew, butter lettuce and beet salad, chocolate chip cookie, cheesy quiche with greens.)

But enough about the de Young, the garden, the Cafe…the real stars of this post are my BFFs!

5 Kiki
Visit 1 with Kiki. Friends for over 20 years, Kiki is one of my life’s treasures. Who else could wear a shirt with leather ruffles for sleeves?
6 EM Carol necklace retouched
Enjoying lunch with Kiki. The beautiful necklace I am wearing was given to me by Kiki’s mother, Carol. Carol has known me since I was a twenty-something twerp.
7 Meera and Crystal
Visit 2 with Meera and Crystal. I met Meera in my first week of PhD school. We’ve been friends ever since. How lucky am I to have a friend like Meera? VERY! Crystal is Meera’s charming daughter. It’s easy to see where Crystal gets her good looks!
8 Lee, Bev, and EM
My sister, Lee, and my mom, Bev, also joined for Visit 2. A happy person is one who can count her family as her friends. Yes, I am a happy person!
9 Annie and EM
Visit 3 with my sister, Annie. Selfies are always better with a bestie!

After enjoying the Cafe and each other, we were ready to spend time in the galleries with Keith Haring, who is the REAL star! Keith Haring was born in 1958 and died of AIDS at the age of 32.  His work is colorful, playful, vibrant, and completely radical. Through his art, Keith Haring took on racism, capitalism, power, and repression.  He cared deeply about people and his work was an expression of that caring. To me, Haring was the Universe’s muse. The world and its most human concerns spoke through him. Perhaps this is why Haring never did sketches or any preparation for his work.  He just started painting, inspired by the human and cosmic energies around him.

10 Keith Haring Combo
These paintings were done on large, commercial use tarps. Here you can see Haring’s playful and dynamic spirit at work while taking on repressive power, religious freedom, and a human’s right to be who he wants to be.
Keith Haring 4
Annie enjoying the show and the accompanying excellent audio tour. The cartoon human and the barking dogs were prominent themes in Haring’s work. The dogs were frequent symbols of oppressive and violent power.
12 Keith Haring Outdoor Sculpture
One of the many sculptures Haring created during his short life. I hope this one stays even after the show closes. Haring was one of those people who makes you ask yourself, “how can I be a more positive force in the world?” For me, it starts with being ever grateful for the wonderful friends and family in my life! Thank you for the reminder, Keith Haring. And thank you dearest friends and family!

Wine Country Cousins!

My parents and I were thrilled when our cousin, Bambi, and her husband, Dan, paid us a visit. Bambi and Dan hail from the East and came to California to visit one of their sons who was working in San Diego.  As part of their West Coast adventure, they rented a car and traveled up the Golden State’s gorgeous coastline and ending in San Francisco. It’s not often that our East Coast cousins come west so we wanted to make their visit super-special. Is there any better way to host out-of-towners than with a trip to the Wine Country?   We think not!

In planning our wine county tour, Bambi and Dan asked that we visit a winery where we could learn about how wines are made, in addition to enjoying a tasting.  My sister, Joanna, had spoken highly of Medlock Ames, a winery in Healdsburg. When I checked out their website, it seemed an ideal place for learning and tasting.  Founded in 1998 by two friends, Chris James and Ames Morison, Medlock Ames creates wines in a completely organic and sustainable way. The winery is powered by solar energy and their grapes are grown without pesticides or chemicles. And yes, their wines are delicious!

1 Heading out on the tour
Starting out on the Ranch Tour. When I made the reservation, they told me the tour would last 90 minutes. Who knew that, Stacy, our knowledgeable guide would spend three hours teaching and tasting with us!
3 Olive trees
Medlock Ames farms only 55 of its 338 acres of land. In addition to grapes, the winery also grows, harvests, and cures its own olives.
2 Olives
Harvesting the olives.
4 Strawberries in the garden
One of the most special parts of the tour was spending time in the winery’s fabulous garden. We were able to pick fresh strawberries from these plants! The garden is grown to feed the staff but also to attract beneficial insects that will protect the grape vines. It’s a method of keeping bugs and microbes away from the vines without chemicals.
7 Thomas Jeffersons zinfandel vines
These zinfandel vines were cloned from a vine from Thomas Jefferson’s own winery!
6 Thomas Jefferson's vines
Another view of the Thomas Jefferson vines.
9 Bambi and Dan
Bambi and Dan enjoying Medlock Ames bucolic environs. Bambi is a special person to me because, growing up, she was one of my baby-sitters. We were even roomies during summers  on Cape Cod! It’s wonderful to now be friends as adults.
10 EM and Tom
The CCC with dad, Tom. Stacy, our guide, called this spot at the winery, “picture perfect”. I don’t think she is wrong.
8 tasting from the casks
One of the most fun parts of our tour was tasting the wine from steel and oak casks. The taste and texture of the wine certainly changes as it moves from steel to oak to the bottle. (Bottle is best!)
8 Cask storage room
The grounds of the winery are beautiful. Here is one of the outbuildings used for storing casks.
8 One of the outbuildings
Another interesting outbuilding.
11 Dan and Bambi at the tasting
Dan and Bambi about to partake in a most fabulous tasting. The Medlock Ames wine portfolio includes Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Red Bordeaux Blend (my favorite!). They also bottle their own olive oil, verjus, and preserves.

During our tasting we were fortune to meet Ames Morison, one of the owners and wine makers.  He was generous with his time answering all of our questions about their process. We were so impressed with him and Medlock Ames’ committment to creating delicious wines through environmentally conscious methods. As Dan said to Ames, “what you are you doing is really important and it’s what everyone should be doing.”  Very well said, Dan!

If you are looking for a unique and personal wine tasting experience, visit Medlock Ames. It’s bright, earthy, and elegant with a lingering finish of many happy memories! Thank you Bambi and Dan for inspiring us to visit!