Sidebar is an upscale, Nouveau American joint along the Grand Avenue side of Lake Merritt. Its website boasts Mediterranean, seasonal, local, and comfort foods among its qualifications, so think dressed up French fries, with smoked paprika in Sidebar’s case, and quality meats served with fresh pickled veggies and relishes. I went at lunch. The menu was a shorter version of the dinner one with fewer options not in salad or sandwich form. As it was lunch, that suited me and my companions just fine. Especially because the cocktail list wasn’t shortened at all.

The staff was lax on seating—we had to wave down the barman and a busser to get a table though the restaurant was not busy. But our server was attentive and the food and drinks came out with no delays. The décor was pleasant with whimsical lighting and mostly small tables with one large round booth in back. A central bar divides the space; the other side hosts a communal picnic table. Cherry-red wood abounds.


Did I mention the cocktails? That is most definitely where Sidebar excels. I believe this beauty is the Locavore ($10) with Crusoe organic spiced rum, Fruitlab organic orange liqueur, house-made ginger syrup, lime juice, seltzer, and mint.


I say I believe it’s that drink because we didn’t ask particulars—my companions just wanted a cocktail with ginger and that’s what our server brought. Whatever it was, the drink hit all the right marks for a refresher on a warm weekday: light, vivacious from the mint and ginger presences, and enough rum flavor that you don’t forget what you’re drinking. Plus, I’m a sucker for tin cups. Yes, yes, I passionately hate the mason jar drinkware craze for its affected rustic imagery, but I’m all over those cups. I accept my hypocrisy.

My own drink was the Caged Heat ($10) made with B & E bourbon, tamarind, ghost pepper, cardamom, and lemon juice.


If you don’t like spice, this is not the drink for you. It is absolutely the drink for me. The ghost pepper rose up at the end of every sip, coating my throat with a sensational fire that stopped just short of scorching. Cardamom is also a favorite cocktail ingredient of mine, and it provided the complex sweetness needed to play with that pepper heat. Tamarind grounded it in earthiness, the end result being a well-mixed and memorable drink.
Read more →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

A Mural Tour in the Mission


I love murals. As with all art, however, I don’t understand the history or technique of what I’m gaping at, so I was excited when my friend invited me to check out the Precita Eyes Muralists tour with her. Precita Eyes is an association of artists who work with the San Francisco Mission community to create and preserve mural artwork on the area’s many decorated businesses and personal residences. They sponsor proposals to bring about new murals, teach child and youth art classes, and take the lead in restoring many of the murals that have been in the area for the nearly 40 years of the organization’s existence.

Tours are held every weekend for $20 per adult—check the website for the full range of prices and tour types. We took the classic tour.


It begins at the Precita Arts Center at 2981 24th Street with an informative—and appreciatively short—slideshow of the history of muralists and the murals done by notable artists within San Francisco. Our first in-the-flesh mural was seen as we exited the makeshift theater and entered the gift shop.


Why yes, that is a ballerina skeleton! I thought it was beautifully colorful and fun, and the artist is none other than Patricia Rose, who is likely to be your tour guide as well as she is the director of the tours program.

Patricia Rose, showing off electrical-box art.

Patricia Rose, showing off electrical-box art.

Make sure you take the time to explore the gift shop. It has several early sketches for large-scale murals on the walls in addition to a lot of really interesting souvenir items. More interesting than another magnet of Alcatraz Island, I promise you.

From the Precita Eyes center, we stopped at the Harrison and 24th St. intersection to check out the restoration work of their young muralists.


Working with a pre-existing piece, the artists expanded on the theme of Aztec legends to create a vivid mural for the community to enjoy. Right across the street is another example of how talented young artists can be.


That mural decorates the bottom floor of the Missions Girls center, and the Mission Girls were responsible for its creation. It’s a wonderful example of paint mimicking graffiti artwork.

Read more →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Justino’s Rainwater Vinho Madeira

Justino’s Rainwater Vinho Madeira
Madeira, Portugal


The color of this Madeira is beautiful, a sunset invoking autumn leaves and a fire waiting at home. It smells of brown sugar syrup, dates, and grilled oranges. As with most dessert wine, it has impressive legs, though it’s thin bodied. The alcohol heat is mild, nothing the sweet citrus can’t make you forget. My initial impression of grilled citrus holds up upon tasting; the orange notes taste concentrated in their sweetness and profile, giving it nice depth of flavor. In a way, it reminds me of an orange-scented crème brulee. In another way, it reminds me of a moist spice cake. Both images are pleasant.

I could easily see this affordable little Madeira being a return visitor at our house. Thanks to Doc’s Wine Shop in Hayward for recommending it.


Other Bloggers’ Thoughts:

Zilch, zero, nada. There are reviews out there for ones aged 5 years and older—much older—but not for these 3-year upstarts.

Reviewed 22 Mar 14.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather