Holiday Markets in the Bay

It’s finally “winter” in SF! I love this time of year – it’s when pumpkin-flavored dishes grace restaurant menus, wintry scenes enter storefront displays and outdoor ice rinks magically survive in a 60 degree setting. Without a big shift in weather, these few hints are reminders that a new season is here. Along with scenic & savory enhancements, it wouldn’t feel like winter without the enticement of holiday gifting. Over the next few weeks, holiday markets will pop up around town to satisfy our local shopping needs. These are a few I’m looking forward to visiting, especially El Mercado which is hosting a tamale-making class during market hours.

Dec. 5 | Oakland Art Murmur, Oakland

Dec. 7 | Temescal Alleys Holiday Artisan Fair, Oakland

Dec. 5-7 | El Mercado, Ghirardelli Square, SF

Dec. 6-7 | West Coast Craft, Fort Mason, SF

Dec. 6-7, 13-14, 18-24 | Berkeley Potters Guild Annual Holiday Show, Berkeley

Dec. 13 | Remodelista Market, Heath Ceramics, SF

Dec. 13-14 | San Francisco Bazaar Fort Mason, SF

Gems of Temescal Alley

When I first heard about Temescal Alley, I imagined one long alleyway tucked between gritty streets in downtown Oakland. In reality, the “alley” is a modern, sun-filled walkway located between busy Telegraph Avenue and the residential homes of the Temescal neighborhood. You would miss it if you didn’t know it was there, but follow the signs and once you step foot inside, you’ll feel transported to a SoCal town like Venice or Palm Springs.

The side-by-side shops were once a horse-stable, thus explaining their petite size, low ceilings and narrow pedestrian walkway. Long gone are the days when these stalls were filled with hay and horses – the stable has been elegantly finished with modern collectibles and signage. There’s nothing else quite like it in the area. The trendy boutiques cover the full gamut of desirables – women’s and men’s apparel, jewelry, doughnuts, coffee and home-wares. Explore with a friend and make a day of it!

The Mixing Bowl The Mixing Bowl Scrumptious breakfast and lunch options to eat immediately or to take away. Also sold are freshly-made jams, granola & baked goods.


Ruby's Garden Ruby’s Garden This store will make you smile with its boldly colorful assortment of clothes, gifts and toys for babies and children.


Esqueleto Esqueleto What a gem! This shop is packed with jewelry of all kinds. It’s a perfect spot to find a gift, bling for yourself or even an engagement ring!


Crimson Crimson Horticultural Rarities An adorable shop featuring succulents, air plants, wall art and interesting table tchotchkes. They also create one-of-a-kind bouquets for special occasions.


Marisa Haskell Marisa Haskell This popular local jeweler sells mostly hammered brass necklaces, bracelets and a few earrings and rings to complement any boho-chic wardrobe.


Standard & Strange Standard & Strange A hip men’s shop that carries a versatile range of shirts, bottoms and accessories. Consider this a go-to spot for men’s apparel & gifts.

Check out all of these shops in Temescal:

Ali Golden
Mind’s Eye Vintage

Standard & Strange

Ruby’s Garden

Marisa Haskell

Crimson Horticultural Rarities
Homestead Apothecary

Eat & Drink
Bakesale Betty
Doña Tomás
The Mixing Bowl

Coffee & Snacks
Cro Cafe
Doughnut Dolly

Local Chocolate Shops


Valentine’s Day is just two days away and if you have a sweet tooth like me, chocolate is probably on your mind. There are plenty of local chocolate shops in San Francisco that sell hand-made morsels, made from high quality ingredients and packed tight in tasteful packaging.

Here are some places to find exceptionally delicious boxes of chocolate.

Recchiuti, Embarcadero
Conveniently located in the Ferry Building, Recchiutti has pre-packaged and a la carte chocolates to choose from. They also make treats such as chocolate covered cherries and a dense, dark chocolate sauce. Insider tip – ask for a sample.

TCHO, Embarcadero
The local chocolate bar company, TCHO is located on the Embarcadero. They offer free tours of the factory and sell petite squares of chocolate in various flavors that fit nicely into a variety of well-designed boxes.

Christopher Elbow, Hayes Valley
This shop artfully crafts individual pieces of chocolate that are sold a la carte for boxes that hold 4 pieces to 48 pieces. Select from unique flavors like Passion Fruit or Spiced Orange.

Dandelion, Mission
One of the newer chocolate shops in SF, Dandelion is located on Valencia Street in the Mission. You can watch the chocolate-making in process as you select your goods.

Little Nib, Dogpatch
The little sister branch of Recchiuti, this shop offers the same pre-packaged chocolates that are sold in the Ferry Building at an alternate location in the Dogpatch.

XOX Truffles, North Beach
A resident of North Beach for some time, XOX Truffles specializes in hand-made, melt-in-your-mouth truffles. Sip on decadent hot chocolate while the French owner assembles your gift.

CocoaBella, Cow Hollow + Downtown
This locally-owned shop features chocolate imported from all around the world. Assemble a custom box with pieces, flavors and stories that span the globe. Pictured above.

Where to Buy Flowers

A reminder to all of those with a hunny at home – Valentine’s Day is on Friday! Luckily, these days the pressure to book a prix-fixe dinner has tapered off in lieu of more original plans, but the age old tradition of gifting flowers to the apple of your eye is still as relevant.

You can usually get a beautiful bouquet at a decent price at one of the many colorful stalls in the Financial District, Union Square and even in your hood. The drawback to these flower stalls? They don’t deliver. Plus, the selection could be sparse by the end of the day on Friday. Don’t think that means you have to call a 1-800 number! There’s always room for a little surprise within tradition and it could be time to spring for an artful, one-of-a-kind arrangement.

A blooming trend in the floral world has been to assemble what’s fresh, in season and locally-grown which means looking beyond roses and the run of the mill flower stall. This is where floral artists differ as the experts. If you’re in the market for something new and inventive with the option of delivery, these florists pick from the best California blooms to create unique, memorable arrangements. Your perception of a bouquet will be forever changed and so will your annual tradition.

These are some of the best places to find bouquets around the city.

Modern arrangements:


Natalie Bowen Designs, SOMA
Natalie is best known for decorating weddings, events and local eateries with her floral art which you can see on display at Foreign Cinema. This week she’s assembling your own personal work of art for pickup or delivery. NBD’s work pictured above.

Birch, Hayes Valley
Walking into this shop explains the style you can expect from an arrangement – its minimal, modern aesthetic emphasizes the unique beauty of each stem. For an artful, simple and elegant bouquet, order ahead for pickup.


Rustic arrangements:


Farmgirl Flowers, Haight
Choose a burlap-wrapped bouquet or a clear vase and look forward to delivery of a custom arrangement based on that day’s local flower availability.

Home.Sweet.Flowers, Haight
Lorena and her team assemble unique burlap-wrapped bouquets made up of California-grown flowers and deliver them by bike. Bonus for the sender – the delivery is not complete until an “awe pic” of the recipient with their bouquet is sent your way.

Petale, Potrero Hill
Petale assembles single succulents, succulent boxes and various styles of petite bouquets in mason jars to choose from. Two delivery options – next day or same day delivery for a $10 price difference. Petale’s work pictured above.

East Bay

Crimson, Temescal
A plant shop in Temescal Alley filled with succulents, air plants and indoor garden accessories, Crimson also offers floral design services. Order a custom bouquet for pickup on Friday.

Gorgeous & Green, Elmwood
The name says it all – G&G is a retail shop with cards, gifts and most importantly flowers. Choose from a a one-of-a-kind locally-grown bouquet wrapped in recycled paper or fitted in a glass vase, for pickup or delivery on bicycle to the East Bay only.


Traditional arrangements:


In Water, Pacific Heights
Situated in the heart of Fillmore Street, In Water has a retail shop you can visit if you prefer to walk away with your bouquet instead of having it delivered.

The Bud Stop, Cow Hollow
This flower stall is an exception based on their artful arrangements and unique selection of single stem flowers. It’s a dependable, go-to shop on Union Street.

Photo credits: 1 | 2 | 3

Host a Meal at Cookhouse

Balcony by Pamela Palma

In this city of ours, hosting a meal can be a tight squeeze. Through trial and error, I’ve decided 10 is the maximum number of guests my tiny apartment can manage, and that’s with spillover into our living room. I love playing hostess but due to the dimensions of our current space, dinner parties are usually limited to a handful of friends. I dream of a day where I can invite anyone and everyone – “we’re having a dinner on Friday, just stop by, bring whoever!” That’s my dream scenario and when I found out what the private venue perched above Vesuvio in North Beach actually was, I couldn’t wait to check it out.

Getting buzzed in and walking up the narrow staircase gives the sense of entering a friend’s apartment, and once you reach the main space, it’s as cozy as if you were standing in an extension of your own living room, if your living room could extend. But better than having dinner at either your home or your friends’ place is dining in a comfortable setting without doing any of the cooking or cleaning. Cookhouse‘s staff will plan the details for your dinner party, cocktail hour, bridal shower or whatever you choose to celebrate, making the event as DIY or full service as you wish.

Cookhouse by Philipp Weitz

The wide open loft space features a long dining table and a full chef’s kitchen with an island in between. For a seated dinner, the table will hold twenty-five at one long table. To maximize the space for more guests, the tables can be separated for a standing cocktail party. The kitchen island can be used as a buffet to serve already prepared bites, as a hands-on work station for a cooking class, or as front-row seats to watch while a chef preps the meal.

Cookhouse will help you pre-order cooking supplies, beverages and service staff. All you need to do is pick a date, order invitations and then find something to do with all the extra time on your hands. You’ll arrive alongside your guests, totally relaxed to sip champagne while knowing a home-cooked meal is on its way. Enjoy the breeze and view from the balcony that overlooks Columbus Avenue, then step back inside when you’re ready for privacy. After dinner, continue your party on the street below. Depending on what you’re looking for, one of these might fit the bill – the new & improved Tosca, Comstock Saloon or Vesuvio, the Beat-style bar downstairs. For more recommendations, check out the North Beach Leisure List.

Bon appétit!

Photo credits: Pamela Palma / Philipp Weitz

Spots to Visit in SLC

Salt Lake City

This past week I traveled to Salt Lake City for the first time to represent Leisure List at ALT Summit, an annual bloggers conference. 700 bloggers including myself flew to SLC alongside hundreds of others attending nearby conferences such as Sundance and Outdoor Retailers. The short drive from the airport to The Grand America Hotel reminded me of the view approaching other mountain towns like Boulder or Denver, with a snow-capped skyline hugging the outskirts of a cluster of modern, glassy buildings. The air was crisp and dry, but with extra time to explore, I set out on my usual mission to find the local flavors of Salt Lake.

Coming from San Francisco, I was convinced that all I needed was to be dropped off in one or two of the hippest hoods and I would find places to shop, eat and hang. After testing multiple ways to get around – by cab, on foot, riding the TRAX light rail, and also winding up on empty streets in the middle of the night alone – I realized SLC is way smaller and sparser than I expected. With little time on your hands, here are a few tried and true spots to make the most of your visit.

Neighborhood “9th & 9th”
If you are looking for a quaint pedestrian one-stop mix of shops, cab it or drive to this intersection: 9th & 9th. To set your expectations, this is literally just an intersection with about a dozen shops to explore, but with a yoga studio, gelateria, theater and two restaurants, in SLC, this would be considered a happening hood.

Eat: Pago
Pago highlights fresh and local ingredients, using artisanal products from the nearby area. The unique flavor combinations made for a fun menu to read and of course, there’s an innovative wine list to match.

Shop: Zuriick
Zuriick has a beautiful showroom of high-style leather shoes for men and women. The space itself is lovely and so are the products on display.

Shop: The Stockist
The Stockist is a petite, but very full boutique of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories that caters to the young and hip.

Drive 1 mile to…
Eat: Finca
This tapas restaurant is stand-alone but worth the visit. While I was salivating over the entire menu, I only ordered dessert – a cinnamon rice pudding with a creme brulee-styling topping that is out of this world.

Neighborhood “Downtown”
After spending time at 9th & 9th and asking the locals where to head next, I was surprised to hear Downtown as the repeated recommendation. Even though I craved to discover a charming and walkable neighborhood away from my hotel, these spots are pretty convenient to get to on foot.

Eat: Pallet
Pallet features an open, brick-walled dining room with high ceilings, wooden narrow tables, and warm vintage lightbulbs. With one-word menu items like “Risotto” or “Lamb” it’s easy to order and focus on the lovely ambiance.

Snack: Eva’s Bakery
A cute, French-style bakery complete with a brightly-colored storefront. Eva’s has the usual baked good culprits along with a perfectly sized lunch menu of light salads and entrees. Grab a coffee to-go or sit for awhile and admire the trendy staff and decor.

Coffee: The Rose Establishment
This spot serves Four Barrel Coffee (native to San Francisco!) and is one of the more modern coffee shops downtown. Look forward to house-made granola and fresh-baked pastries to go with that pour-over coffee.

Shop: The Green Ant
On the slight chance you are interested in antique shopping, The Green Ant is conveniently located on East Broadway. Adjacent is a similar mid-century home store called Tomorrow’s House. Both shops carry a range of decor from full-size furniture to wall art to tchotchkes.

Photo credit: Hotel Monaco

San Francisco Highlights of 2013


It may already be 2014, but it’s never too late for some reflection. This past year brought a lot of positive change to our little big city, offering those of us who call San Francisco home even more to lush over. I’m thankful for all that it offers – the fantastic weather, the countless scenic landscapes and most of all, the entrepreneurial spirit that promotes continued growth and improvement every single month aka more places to shop, eat and play!

Here’s my list of stand out events and expansion within San Francisco last year.

1. Bottle Rock Music Festival launched in Napa, pairing together the best elements of wine country with music.
2. Coqueta opened on the Embarcadero, providing SF with top notch tapas and cocktails.
3. City Target was born inside of the revamped Metreon, enhancing the previously bland 4th street intersection.
4. Lyft took off and persevered facing adversity from cab companies. Affordable, prompt rides are becoming a standard in this city of limited public transportation.
5. Good Eggs started delivering across the Bay Area, providing locally-made groceries to your doorstep. Side-note, I also started working here in 2013!
6. Tosca was rescued and reinvented by celebrity restaurateurs from NYC. The house cappuccino machine still exists in its original form from 1919.
7. The Bay Bridge received two face lifts; first to inherit a multi-million dollar light installation and second, to replace the Oakland end with a newer, stronger bridge.
8. Bi-Rite Creamery opened a second location on Divisadero so you no longer have to wait in the never-ending line by Dolores Park.
9. Batkid kept our streets safe for a day with support from the City of SF and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
10. Blu Dot opened in the Mission, giving us a modern mid-priced furniture store to flock to.
11. Waiheke Island Yacht Club set up shop for 6 months to bring the flavors of New Zealand to our home turf.
12. Art Pad took over The Phoenix Hotel for the third year, using each hotel room as a separate gallery show.
13. Makeshift Society flourished beyond its 2012 launch towards a notable group of members, art classes for all and backing to open a Brooklyn location.
14. America’s Cup was hosted in San Francisco for the first time in its 34 year history.
15. SF Jazz Center opened in Hayes Valley, enough said.

+ Leisure List launched in 2013! I’m thankful to have found a way to share my local discoveries with readers like you. Cheers to 2014 and all that is yet to come to San Francisco!

Photo credit: Jeremy Brooks / Foter / CC BY-NC

November Events in the Bay

Harvest Time

It’s November, one of my favorite months! Food and harvest events continue while art markets and indoor entertaining appears for the holidays.

Nov. 2 | Dia de Los Muertos Procession & Festival of Altars, Mission

Nov. 2-3 | 15th Annual A Wine & Food Affair, Sonoma County

Nov. 2 – Dec. 28 | Okeanos Intimate at Aquarium of the Bay, Embarcadero

Nov. 9-11 | Free Entrance Days in National Parks

Nov. 13-17 | Napa Valley Film Festival, Napa

Nov. 13 – Dec 31 | Cirque du Soleil Amaluna, SOMA

Nov. 16 | Good Eggs Harvest Festival, Dogpatch

Nov. 16-17 | West Coast Craft, Fort Mason

Nov. 17 | SF Etsy Arts Market, Mission

Nov. 20-24 | Flavor! Napa Valley, Napa

Nov. 23-24 | San Francisco Vintners Market – Harvest Hoopla, Marina

Nov. 28 | Turkey Day 5K, SOMA