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.

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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

Must see music fest

To me, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival has always been special. Part of is the spirit of the fest, with the founder and organizer Warren Hellman putting it together every year for the love of the music and offering it for free. The other part is the music. I’ve always had a thing for bluegrass and the incredible musicianship you find in performers like Earl Scruggs, Steve Earle, Ricky Skaggs and Del McCoury. It really doesn’t get any better than this. Continue reading Must see music fest

Best hole-in-the-wall restaurants of San Francisco

I recently had a friend visit the city who’s one request was good, cheap ethnic food. In other words, hole-in-the-wall restaurants in questionable neighborhoods with often less than stellar health department grades. But at the same time, places offering food you would actually write home about, and for less than ten bucks. There’s no shortage of cheap restaurants in the city, but finding those diamonds in the rough takes a little work. So after some careful research, here’s what I came up with: Continue reading Best hole-in-the-wall restaurants of San Francisco

Books and beer: five top places for both

In my perfect world, all bookstores would serve beer.  Buy a copy of Ulysses, get a free pint of Guinness. Mark Twain’s Autobiography would come with discounts on Anchor Steam. William Faulkner? bottles of Dixie beer. If so much great literature was written under the influence of alcohol, shouldn’t it be read the same way?

Fortunately, there are a number of establishments throughout San Francisco and beyond that offer good, unpretentious reading environments while serving up a variety of excellent brews. Following are five favorites. Continue reading Books and beer: five top places for both

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