Christmas in Norway in San Francisco

Hei og god jul. That would be Norwegian for ‘hello and Merry Christmas’, something you might hear if you stop by the Norwegian Holiday Fair at the Norwegian Seaman’s Church this Friday and Saturday (10-4). Can you say waffels! The annual fair is a kick-off of sorts to the holiday season, especially for the Bay Area’s large Norwegian population. It’s also a peek inside the world of one of the many ethnic groups in and around San Francisco.

Speaking of Christmas, wasn’t it invented in Norway? You’ll believe it when you see some of the white-haired Father Christmas look-a-likes in their hand-embroidered sweaters. There’s various Norwegian trinkets and food products to buy, as well as baked sweets and beverages from the cafe, and waffels!  And if Christmas isn’t your thing, Scrooge, it’s at least a chance to visit the church with the best view in the city. 2454 Hyde Street (between Francisco Street and Chestnut Street).

Finding a good bank/credit union in the Bay Area

Bank Transfer Day has come and gone (Nov. 5), but the movement to transfer money from big banks to smaller community banks and credit unions continues. But transferring an account can be a little bit of a challenge, especially for people who’ve banked for years at Wells Fargo, Chase or Bank of America and have no idea where to go. Rest assured though, the benefits are many: most credit unions require a minimal amount ($35-100) to open a new account, and don’t charge monthly fees on checking accounts and other transactions. Continue reading Finding a good bank/credit union in the Bay Area

Defining ‘Bay Area’

So what do you consider ‘Bay Area’? I’m never quite sure how far the border extends, what to include, what to leave out. It’s like neighborhoods in the city: where does the Upper Haight end and Cole Valley begin? Logically, I’d consider the Bay Area to be made up of suburban and metro areas. In the North Bay, that would mean it ends at Novato. The South Bay would end at San Jose. East Bay, the towns along the 680 like Danville and Walnut Creek. Continue reading Defining ‘Bay Area’

Bridge School Benefit an all-star affair

The Bridge School Benefit concert is this Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 22 and 23, at Shoreline Amphitheater, and is one of the best music events around. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a better lineup at any of the Bay Area’s many festivals. Now in it’s 25th year, the annual concert was started and continues to be organized by Neil Young and his wife Pegi. She also helped found the school for children with severe physical and speech impairments.

The all acoustic concert this year features a lineup of:

  • Neil Young
  • Dave Matthews
  • Arcade Fire
  • Foo Fighters (Sunday only)
  • Eddie Vedder
  • Los Invisibles, featuring Carlos Santana, Cindy Blackman Santana & Guests
  • Beck
  • Mumford & Sons
  • Tony Bennett (Sunday only)
  • Devendra Banhart
  • Norah Jones with The Little Willies
  • Jimmy Fallon (MC Saturday only)

Good luck scoring tickets. For Saturday’s show, there were only a few single seat tickets left as of Tuesday.


Fleet Week followup: the Blue Angels flyover

The Blue Angels came to town recently for Fleet Wek, October 8-9, and I was fortunate to spend the weekend at the Fisherman’s Wharf Hyatt for the big event. They say the best seats for viewing the two-hour air show are on a boat on San Francisco bay, but boats aren’t allowed in the bay during the performance. Instead I settled for second best, watching from the fifth floor rooftop of the Hyatt, about two blocks from the water, with minimal obstructions. Continue reading Fleet Week followup: the Blue Angels flyover

Best wine bars of the Bay Area

If I get together with my friend in his crappy apartment kitchen, we drink beer. If I’m on another friend’s patio watching the sunset as the lights of the city come up, we drink wine. Beer is like a comfortable old sweatshirt that’s been washed a hundred times. Wine is like a velvet dinner jacket that fits you to a tee. Beer is your favorite football team on TV. Wine is a Monet exhibit at the museum.

This is a long way of saying that when judging wine bars, the setting can be just as important as the vintage on offer. Continue reading Best wine bars of the Bay Area

Half Moon Bay’s great pumpkin fest

Here’s a suggestion for this coming weekend to get you in the autumn and Halloween mood — the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival. The annual event now in its 41st year takes place Saturday and Sunday, Oct 15 and 16, and generally celebrates all things pumpkin, which grow in abundance around the area.

The centerpiece of the weekend is the display of world championship pumpkins, the winner this year weighing in at 1,704 lbs. There’s also an expert pumpkin carver at work on a giant pumpkin, as well as pie-eating contests, costume contest and pumpkin carving for all comers.

The Great Pumpkin parade starts at noon on Saturday, and the Pumpkin Run/Walk at 8am on Sunday. Besides that, Main Street is lined with booths as far as the eye can see, including an area with food, beer and wine, and live bands. It’s a fun time for all ages, and a great excuse to get out of the city and down the peninsula to the coast, and small town Bay Area. Oh, and admission is free.

Aub Zam Zam: story of an Upper Haight original

I used to live around the corner from Aub Zam Zam, a neighborhood bar on Haight near Belvedere that’s been around as long as anyone can remember. But every time I tried to go, it was closed, its unpredictable hours never coinciding with mine.

Bruno Mooshei, the owner/bartender who took over the place from his father (who opened it in 1941), had developed something of a reputation over the years, and I wanted to see if it were true. Continue reading Aub Zam Zam: story of an Upper Haight original

The Bay Area’s best pizza

There’s an old joke about how sex is like pizza. Even when it’s bad, it’s good. But that joke isn’t so funny in San Francisco. There’s a dearth of passable pizza in NorCal, one of the enduring mysteries of San Francisco: with the entrenched foodie culture here, and with pizza such an American staple, you’d think good pies would be found all over the Bay Area. Yet, no. And it’s not even close. From my previous lives in the Midwest (near Chicago) and the east coast (Miami), I assumed good pizza was a common everyday occurrence everywhere in the good ‘ol U.S. of A. Which is why I was so surprised to find it so lacking when I moved to the Bay Area, and why it took some actual research to sniff out the goods. Here’s the best I came up with. Continue reading The Bay Area’s best pizza

San Francisco’s best sports bars

San Francisco is a good sports town. The Giants and 49ers consistently sell out, even during disappointing seasons, and most any bar or restaurant in the city is sure to have a TV or three with a game on. But when you absolutely positively have to watch your team, a sports bar is where you need to be.

Continue reading San Francisco’s best sports bars

The Best of the Bay Area for travel, discovery and cultural exploration