San Francisco

Anthony’s Cookies grand opening


Another gourmet treats shop joined the burgeoning scene in the Mission. Anthony’s Cookies opened today to a line that stretched around the corner.


As one of the officials present said, it takes courage to start a business in this economic climate. Specially in as business-hostile a city as San Francisco, if I may add.


Inside the store was a buzzing hive of activity, with the eponymous proprietor busy preparing batches of free cookies for the awaiting hordes. At $5 for a half dozen, these cookies are a steal. I tried the double chocolate chip, it came fresh from the oven and had a strong chocolate aroma and the right texture. All in all, a great addition to a neighborhood that already has more than its share of good places to indulge a sweet tooth. I added him to my Google map of recommended bakeries, ice cream parlors and sweet shops in San Francisco.

Not-so-heavy baggage

Frequent travellers know the right piece of luggage can make or break a trip. Tumi and Hartmann have their rabid fans, as do Travelpro, but the brand I recommend is Briggs & Riley. Their designs may not be the absolute most stylish, but their warranty is by far the best – they will repair any damage, even if it is caused by the airline, no questions asked. Even Tumi does not offer such a warranty, despite the princely prices they charge for their wares.

I just bought a second Baseline 28″ Superlight from Michael Bruno on Market Street near Castro. That hole-in-the-wall shop is the absolute go-to place for Briggs & Riley, and they offer significant discounts over list prices. Most quality luggage is seldom ever discounted, so it is refreshing to get quality service from proprietor Lou Briasco as well as a very nice price (too low to advertise without incurring the wrath of the manufacturer).

The Moss Room

Another recently opened restaurant, this one in the new Academy of Sciences museum in Golden Gate Park. The restaurant itself is in the south wing (to the right when facing the main entrance), it is a bit tricky to find as they don’t have proper signage yet. You need to purchase admission if you are having lunch, but not for dinner. You can easily find parking around in the evening, just keep in mind parking is forbidden after 10PM, making reservations after 8PM more costly because parking in the museum garage.

The restaurant itself is in the basement floor and the decor is lackluster, just a wall covered in moss that gave the room its name. The overhead lights in the handblown glass are incandescent bulbs, a bit disappointing as you would expect a place that makes a big deal of sustainability to use CFL or LED lighting.

I had the smoked trout salad with fingerling potatoes, quail egg and horseradish as a starter. A variant on the classic French bistro dish hareng pommes à l’huile, it is competently executed but that dish mostly emphasises the ingredients and does not showcase the chef’s style. The main course was cavatini with wine-braised duck sugo, which was superb, the duck moist and tangy, the cavatini (small rolled tube-like pasta filled with ricotta and parmesan) complemented the sugo perfectly. It reminded me of a similar dish made with lamb I had at Zaré in Napa. The dessert was a chocolate torte with walnut-cocoa nib sablés. The shortbread were delicate and crumbly, and the torte itself a welcome change from the ubiquitous flourless chocolate cakes, with its two alternating textures of cake and ganache.

The service was good, friendly and attentionate, yet inobtrusive. Sadly, it seems this restaurant did not get the memo about the tanking economy and how menu prices should trend downwards. At $57 for three courses, this is definitely on the high end. It needs to go down at least $15 before I can unreservedly recommend it.

Nettie’s crab shack

This restaurant recently opened in Cow Hollow. Their sense of timing is less than fortunate, what with a predictable restaurant bloodbath just over the horizon, but they claim to offer simple crab shack fare prepared with fresh ingredients. I had a crab roll with shoestring potatoes there today.

The crab was OK, not outstanding. The shoestring potatoes were indeed cut very fine, slimmer even than Zuni’s, not the mere frites that some places try to pass as pommes allumettes or shoestring fries, but they were not served hot and really should have been put in the oven prior to serving.

It’s not bad food, but the price is too high, before we even consider the coming recession. If you’re hankering for a crab or lobster roll, the Woodhouse Fish Company on Market and Church is a better choice.

Crissy Field

One of my happiest experiences in the Bay Area was the reopening of Crissy Field as a national park. They were handing out free kites. I flew mine for a couple hours of pure, carefree, unalloyed fun, then gave it to three kids who had arrived too late to get one.

Crissy field is one of the windiest places in San Francisco, and ideal for flying kites. I am not sure who thought it would be a good place to build an airfield, though…