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It was in Fort Bragg that I first heard about Scoma’s. A couple from even farther north was raving about this San Francisco seafood house.

A year passed before I tried it; I went there for lunch.

I was underwhelmed. The food was San Francisco-okay but nothing more. Since Scoma’s is in the middle of Fisherman’s Wharf, a.k.a. the Tourist Rez, despite those raves from the Mendocino County couple, it was pretty much what I expected.

That was probably 2015. Then, in mid-2019, I had my second Scoma’s lunch. This one blew me away. The homemade clam chowder ($9/12)  was filled with fresh clams, rich in milk, heavy with potatoes. The Louis Salad ($28) mixed Dungeness crab and tiny bay shrimp with crunchy-fresh lettuce, ripe tomatoes, a perfectly boiled egg, two colors of beets and more. As for the Torta Setteveli cake ($9), the combination of chocolate cake, hazelnut cream, chocolate mousse and praline crunch tasted as sublime as it sounds. Not a crumb was left on the plate.

Did I remember my 2015 lunch wrong? Had my taste buds morphed? I asked a staffer. “No,” she said, “you got it right. About three-and-a-half years ago, we made major upgrades in our menu, our produce, pretty much our everything.”

“Our everything? Examples, please.”

“Sure. Scoma’s seafood is so fresh because we have our own fishing boat — look out the window, she’s coming in now. The rest of the seafood’s so good because we pay other fishermen top dollar, and they give us first choice. When you first ate here, we got our lettuce from Sysco; today it’s raised by organic farmers. And, we’re now fully compliant with Seafood Watch. And, we keep winning Wine Spectator awards.”

“Okay, I get it. I can taste the difference. And my taste buds thank you.”

Scoma’s Restaurant. 1965 Al Scoma Way, Pier 47, San Francisco; 415 771-4383

Monday-Thursday: 12-9; Friday-Saturday: 11:30-9:30; Sunday: 11:30-9; https://scomas.com

 

 

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Skin!

From now through January 20, 2020, the California Academy of Sciences is presenting Skin: Living Armor, Evolving Identity.

Skin protects the porcupine fish from the teeth of the deadly piranha, the Kenyan farmer from the Equatorial sun, the black rhino from just about everything.

Skin also creates identities, ideals of beauty, excuses for hate and exclusion.

All this is covered in the exhibit. What is not — to my surprise — is skin’s key role in attraction, sensuality, sex, and, QED, reproduction of our species.

The Academy sits just across from the de Young art museum in San Francisco’s beautiful Golden Gate Park.

 

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This week only! Bouquets to Art (June 4-9, 2019)

It’s the de Young Museum’s most popular exhibit, and it’s now in its 35th year. Flower artists pair up with art from the museum’s collection and create an original homage — out of stems and leaves and blooms. The event is jam-packed with women wearing flowers in their hair. Bouquets to Art closes June 9.

Photos by Effin Older

https://deyoung.famsf.org/bouquets-to-art?gclid=Cj0KCQjwrdjnBRDXARIsAEcE5Ylr40nDl9suBc1iurSPA91groVFGRxMjLDmr_TxVME5O9mm58T0YuoaAr5PEALw_wcB

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ONE of the great pleasures of reviewing restaurants is finding largely undiscovered gems. We hit wonderful Capannina on opening night. Found Brenda’s on a stroll through the Tenderloin. Lime Tree is where I take my Writing For Real students after a class at the Richmond Library. We came across Persian Alborz on a rainy movie night. And discovered Progress when the line for State Bird was too long to wait.

Last night, we added Boho to the gem list. It’s a newish, smallish and easy-to-overlook restaurant in one of San Francisco’s Food Zones—Steiner Street between Chestnut and Lombard.

While Executive Chef Andrei Bushuev describes the menu as “creative New American cuisine with contemporary European influences served at friendly prices,” I’d say, “Perfectly cooked, carefully chosen menu items, regardless of origin.” And add, “Great variety of varietals at unusually reasonable prices.” And toss in, “Among the few San Francisco restaurants quiet enough for romance.”

By whatever descriptives, Boho is a gem. The scallops (MP) — plump, moist and cooked to perfection. Beet salad ($14) — enhanced with citrus and pistachio to brighten the beets’ essential bland. Roasted whole branzino (MP) — classic Mediterranean fish, served tip to tail, and again, cooked to perfection. Braised short ribs ($36) — served with lightly cooked baby carrots, lightly charred Brussel sprouts and polenta. Desserts ($12-14) — delightful mixes of tastes and textures; the Chocolate Yuzu Mousse gives your tongue its favorite flavors — orange, almond, hazelnut and, of course, chocolate.

Boho’s wines, by the glass and bottle, come from France and Italy and, also, Suisun Valley, Santa Rita Hills and El Dorado, California. And Mexico.

But here’s a warning about the weekend brunch. Unless you’re Mr. Creosote, order the Breakfast Board for two. Or three. The serving platter groans under two eggs, two patties of Boho’s homemade sausage, a lotta crisp bacon, a pile of prosciutto, mixed greens, roast spuds, and a generous helping of freshest fruit ($27). And if that doesn’t leave you feeling full, end the meal with either the brioche-based French Quarter bread pudding ($13) or one of the three sweet crepes ($10). You’ll leave with a smile.

Boho: 3321 Steiner Street. Dinner served Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday from 5:30 to 10; Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to 11. Brunch is offered on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (415) 374-7518 and www.bohosf.com.

 

 

 

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When travel and food writers (yeah, I’m both) hate to write about a place or a restaurant, it’s usually because we think … It’s just perfect the way it is. God, I hate to spoil things by telling the world about it.

Though I think Troya is a splendid San Francisco restaurant, that’s not why I hate to write about it.

Why I hate to tell the world about Troya is because that’s where we go to watch Golden State Warriors play basketball. We grab the last two seats at the counter, the ones closest to the TV, order our first course and a glass of Talbot pinot noir, and start cheering/groaning/high-fiving/weeping — all the stages of grief and relief that Warriors’ fans experience in nearly every game.

I don’t want to tell the world about Troya because I don’t want you to take our seats.

But responsibility calls. Troya, in the beating heart of San Francisco’s Fillmore Street, is a Turkish-Mediterranean delight. The wait-staff are friendly, smart and food-wise. The room is quiet (except for our groans and hand-slaps) enough for real conversation. The prices are San Francisco reasonable. The dishes are generously sized and perfectly seasoned. And the desserts … we’ll come to the desserts.

But start with the Turkish trio dips: hummus, yogurt, and red pepper, ($18). If you’re alone, choose one for $7; with the accompanying pita, this is one filling starter.

For mains, I like the harissa spiced meatballs ($18) and Effin loves the vegetable moussaka ($17.50).

As for desserts, at most Mediterranean or Turkish or Middle Eastern restaurants, I avoid them; they’re too sweet for my palate. At Troya, they’re a knockout. The kunefe is a warm, baked, sweet and cheesy pastry big enough for two or more. Ditto the sutlac, a Turkish rice pudding. It comes sprinkled with cinnamon and almonds. They’re each $9. And aromatically delicious.

Troya: 2125 Fillmore Street, San Francisco. Sunday-Thursday 11a.m.-9:30 p.m.Friday & Saturday open till 10 p.m.  https://www.troyasf.comand 415 563-1000

Go Warriors!

 

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Andy Warhol: Beyond the Soup Can

If you ask anybody to name the most famous contemporary (OK, almost contemporary) artist, nine times out of ten, they’ll say, “Andy Warhol.”

They’ll be right. Between the Campbell’s soup cans, the Marilyn Monroe portraits, the Brillo Pad boxes, and Warhol’s saucy blonde wig, he was the most outrageous, most innovative and most game-changing artist of the late 20th century.

Through September 2, SFMOMA is celebrating Warhol big time.  The mega-exhibit covers most of one floor of the museum and parts of two others. All the classics are there, including those famous/infamous cans, along with Warhol’s sketches, self-portraits, movies, books, posters, TV shows and more. Tell your readers to book early — everybody wants to see Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again.

 

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The most exciting exhibit I’ve seen this year is at MoAD, Museum of the African Diaspora. Coffee, Rhum, Sugar & Gold will run through August 11. 

          Though I approach anything subtitled “A Post-Colonial Paradox” gingerly, in this case I should have let my guard down. It’s not doctrinaire, not a visual polemic — the show is filled with real art; some of it, extraordinary art. 

Visually, it’s a treat for the eyes; thematically, a challenge to the mind. And while it “looks at the legacy of European colonialism in the Caribbean through the work of 10 contemporary artists,” it does so through colorful, creative art, not a hit on the head with a sledge hammer.

          For your readers visiting San Francisco, I recommend starting at MoAD, then bouncing to its two neighbors, SFMOMA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the CJM, Contemporary Jewish Museum. That’s one full, art-filled day.

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Looking to buy in a quiet area with spectacular views, beautifully kept lawns, bubbling fountains and sparkling ponds? And never hear a word of complaint from your next-door neighbor?

Look no further than Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. Plots are currently available for $5,000 to $8,000 for a single grave. If money is no object, check out a primo plot where $400,000 will buy you a modest, uninhabited mausoleum. Renowned residents who are already “committed” to the Mountain View community include architects Bernard Maybeck and Julia Morgan, J. A. Folger (the coffee guy) and Domingo Ghirardelli of chocolate fame. For more name-dropping, the cemetery was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted whose landscape designs include Central Park in New York City, the Stanford University Quad, and the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Although it’s privately owned, the cemetery is open to the public. Dog walkers, picnickers, and lovers out for a sunset stroll are frequent visitors. Docent-led tours begin at 10 a.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month and last about two hours. For a private tour, contact Kristie Ly (510) 658-2588. For all tour options, check the website.

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Confess — unless you’re Asian, you don’t know what a tiffin is, do you?

Confession — neither did we.

Resolution — a tiffin is:

  1. A Scottish cake that’s not baked.
  2. A town in Ohio.
  3. A multi-layered lunch pail.
  4. All of the abo — yes, of course; 4’s the right answer.

But in San Francisco, 3 is righter still. Since June, 2018, Le Colonial(see that entry) has been serving Sunday night tiffin dinners. In this French-accented Vietnamese restaurant, tiffin is another way of saying family-style.

Here’s how it works. You’re handed a menu, from which the table must choose Tiffin Dinner 1 (three tiers, $19 per person) or 2 (four tiers, $29 per person). Then —and here’s where it gets tricky — all tablemates have to agree on one course from each tier. Spring rolls or crab cake. Curry shrimp or lemongrass chicken. Garlic noodles or fried rice. And so forth.

Agreement reached, food ordered, and a few minutes later, the waiter appears, carrying a stack of round, stainless steel containers. He deconstructs them and passes them around the table.

We chose the coconut-crusted crab cake, jumbo shrimp curry, wok-fried jasmine rice and green beans with shitake mushroom garlic oyster sauce. Followed by, for six dollars, a flourless cake dessert.

Delicious. All delicious. And served in the tropical, old Vietnam, wicker chairs and ceiling fans that is Le Colonial, a San Francisco gem.

 

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