San Francisco Bay Area


Kepler's Books in Menlo Park may have barely survived, but other venerable indies are hurting. The main Cody's Books store on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley is closing. I have fond memories browsing through (and even buying!) books there. Although its two smaller stores will remain open, this hurts.

Courtesy of San Francisco magazine and Check, Please:

It’s odd that, now that I’m living in the South Bay, I seem to be going to San Francisco more often than I was in Berkeley. In fact, I’ve gone up once a week for the past 4 weeks: to visit Francis, Simona, Rich, and Agata [photo]; Ame and Chris’s wedding reception; a Super Bowl party with Jon; and a Lincoln Highway Association meeting [photos]. And I’m probably going up next week to visit Norman. It’s all about being done with grad school…

There a few restaurants that have been featured on Check, Please! Bay Area on KQED Channel 9 that I want to try out.

  • Ninna in Oakland: Mediterranean/Thai fusion. Sounds weird, but all three reviewers thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Piperade in San Francisco: Basque
  • Bissap Baobab in San Francisco: Senegalese
  • Aziza in San Francisco: California-inspired Morrocan (or is it Morroco-inspired Californian?)
  • Salang Pass in Fremont: Afghan
  • Manresa in Los Gatos: but only if I win the lottery

With Check, Please! reviews, your mileage may vary. For example, Vik’s Chaat House is a favorite place of Berkeley students for chaat. 2 out of 3 reviewers weren’t impressed with it, but one of them doesn’t like Indian food in general, and the other one usually orders Chicken Tikka Masala and was bewildered by the chaat menu. Argh! This place definitely deserved better reviews. Thankfully a ton of people have defended the restaurant on the Check, Please!‘s web site. I’m tempted to chime in.

It’s also unfortunate that the vast majority of restaurants that are reviewed are around San Francisco. I know there is good food down here in the South Bay — it just may not be in the most classy setting (OK fine, they’re all in strip malls). Which reminds me, there’s a hole in the wall that serves great pot stickers and noodles in west San Jose (near Cupertino): Tong Dumpling Pot. Highly recommended.

Both Hong Kong and Taipei have RFID smart cards available for paying fares on subways and buses. Taipei even knocks 20% off of each subway ride. You don’t need to take the card out, just hover your wallet over the reader. It’s amazingly convenient. The Bay Area desperately needs something like this, especially since we have over two dozen transit agencies (which is stupid, but that’s another topic). The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has been testing such a system, TransLink, for almost four years. Let’s go people! What’s the holdup?

I don’t think many readers of this blog live in Cupertino, but Measures A, B, and C would have region-wide impact. These measures would set limits on building density, height, and setback from the street; only part of Vallco would be exempt. Any other exemptions would need a citywide vote, paid by the developer. Proponents want to preserve Cupertino’s suburban character, but these measures are way too extreme. Passing them would just continue ugly sprawl.

For example, the height restriction (36 feet maximum) means that the new library and Apple’s corporate headquarters would be in violation. The Senior Center and the new Peet’s Coffee/Panera Bread building would violate the setback restriction (35 feet minimum). These are not urban skyscrapers by any means. It’s not too often you find a Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Club on the same side of an issue. They are both against Measures A, B, and C, as are virtually every elected official in Cupertino. I’m with them.

Today was the second day of the grand opening celebration at the de Young Museum, and it was in full swing. Ben and I planned to meet at 10 AM, but when I got there, I found no parking within the park and settled for the new parking garage underneath the Music Concourse. It ended up being $15 for 4 hours — painful, but worth not circling the park for an hour. Then I got in line, which at the time stretched from the museum entrance all the way out to 8th Ave and JFK Drive, about 200 yards. A volunteer guessed it would take about 1½ hours, but it ended up being “only” 45 minutes, and granted, the line moved faster than I expected.

There is so much to see at the museum that we chose to concentrate our visit in three areas: the tower, where you get great views of the city; the special exhibition on Hatshepsut, the only female pharoah of ancient Egypt; and American paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries. I really enjoyed the Hudson River School and trompe-l’oeil paintings, but there were a few pieces of contemporary art that also caught my eye, including a stainless steel “fake rock” by Zhan Wang. As for the building itself, it’s very unusual, but in a good way (IMHO). I hope the copper holds up in the salt air… [photos]

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