Monday, March 31, 2008

Macbook Air Ad

The MacBook Air ad. I can't lie, the catchy song makes me want that computer so bad! (In case you were wondering, the song is called New Soul, by new artist Yael Naim)

Great Stuff on TV

For the most part commercials on television are mediocre at best. Sans Superbowl commercials, which for the $2.5 million per thirty-second slot, they better be! However, a few businesses are breaking past the slump and have gotten pretty creative. Here are a few commercials I absolutely love!

First: The Dunkin Donuts ad that bashes 'starbucks talk'. Its hilarious!

Second: posted below....the Macbook Air ad...I love it!

Third: The new Band-Aid brand commercial, it has a little boy and girl singing the classic "I'm stuck on band-aid, because band-aid's stuck one me!" song. I couldn't find the video on-line, but watch for it on TV, its adorable!

Un, Dues, Trois: 1 buttermilk pancake, 2 eggs, 3 strips of bacon

Zazie: a quaint French bistro in Cole Valley. Cole Valley: a quaint neighborhood in San Francisco, California. Now that we have the location pinpointed, let me tell you why Zazie is the perfect place for Sunday bunch—despite the list you will inevitably put your name on, and the twenty minutes (give or take) you will wait to get a table. Plus, the way I see it…the short time you will wait, just gives you some extra time to relax and enjoy your outing, considering the extraordinarily busy lives we all lead. And a line outside a restaurant tends to be a good sign. Lets face it, who wants to eat in an empty restaurant…it is empty for a reason people.

Zazie is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; however, we will be focusing here on Zazie’s amazing brunch! Menu options at this tiny bistro cover quite a range from delicious Gingerbread pancakes and French Toast Tahiti (with caramelized walnuts and bananas) to Dungeness Crab Benedict and Eggs Monaco (prosciutto and tomatoes provencales). The brunch is technically the breakfast menu with a handful of extra items, including eight different sandwiches. Trust me each one is as delightful as the next.

This bistro is perfect for a date or catching up with family and friends. If you are not a talker or you are on an awkward date and need something distracting there are a few tables out in front of the restaurant. This will give you a great view of the ever-bustling Cole Street, and inevitably something to talk about or at least look at. The tables inside are squished together a bit; I guess they are trying to make the best of their cozy little space. The best place to sit is on their deck outside in the back. Drenched with sun (if it decided to come out that day) and toasted up be electric heaters—you get a bit more space and who doesn’t love to eat outside. (I obviously do!) As I mentioned before Zazie is also open for lunch and dinner, and their menu options are no less extravagant or wonderful than their breakfast/brunch menu. Next time you are looking for a delicious place to go for brunch head to Cole Valley and eat at Zazie—it will blow you away.

A Little Note: Zazie is closing for the month of April. The restaurant is getting a little tune up with a new kitchen, and new plumbing and electrical. Don’t worry when they re-open, Zazie will still feature the same delicious menu and the same friendly staff will be back!

Tattoo Mania!

What: Body Art Expo
Where: Cow Palace (Daly City, just outside San Francisco)
When: March 28-30
Who: Anyone and Everyone that loves body ink!

The Body Art Expo may not be in San Francisco anymore; however, it is traveling around the states over the next couple of months. There will be shows in Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles!

The Body Art Expo is the largest tattoo show in the world, so if you happen to live in any of the aforementioned cities...don't miss it!

A few thoughts/warnings: It's pricey ($22 a head, plus $8 parking), and if you don't like the buzzing sound of a tattoo gun: Stay Away...because there are about 500 of them tattooing at the same time!

Celebrity Chef & Cosmopolitan Cuisine

Citizen Cake is a scrumptious restaurant, bar, and patisserie, located on the edge of Hayes Valley in San Francisco. San Francisco has droves of delicious restaurants; however, the chef at Citizen Cake is what sets Citizen Cake apart. Elizabeth Falkner, the executive chef at Citizen Cake, is no stranger to awards and media attention. During her early years, Falkner focused on ‘the pastry kitchen’, but her imaginative cooking style lead to greater things…like her own restaurant. Magazines including: Food & Wine, Gourmet, and San Francisco Magazine, have praised Citizen Cake’s modern and innovative approach to food.

I came across Citizen Cake while watching the Food Network about a year ago. Elizabeth Falkner was on Iron Chef America challenging Cat Cora, in Battle: Honey. Although Falkner lost to Iron Chef Cora, she blew me away with her creativity and delicious food. I was ecstatic to learn that Falkner had her own restaurant in San Francisco (where I live). That next weekend, I drove down to Hayes Valley with my boyfriend to divulge in her creations…unfortunately, it was closed for remodeling.

After seeing a re-run of Rachel Rays $40 a Day that featured Falkner’s restaurant, I knew I had to go there! So after about a year, I was finally able to eat at Citizen Cake…and let me tell you, it was pretty delicious. The menu at Citizen Cake has so many delicious items, which are all reasonably priced, the least expensive item is six dollars and the priciest meal is thirteen. The menu options are not typical by any means…in a good way. A few examples include: “What that boy could do with brisket hash a sunny side up egg and balsamic”, “crispy cream is too sweet move on to these donut balls with our glaze and jam”, and “a souffléed pancake betty’s and apparently the Dutch style with garnish”. I ordered the pancake, which was garnished with a cranberry compote. To be completely honest, I was not blown away. The pancake was a little “eggy” and the tartness of cranberry topping overwhelmed the dish. However, my date ordered the brisket hash and it was amazing!

The ambiance of Citizen Cake was interesting; between the bar, the restaurant, and the pastry shop, there was a lot to take in—but on a positive note, there was something for everyone! The bar is great for drinkers (obviously), the restaurant is perfect for trying an exciting new meal, and the pastry shop is great for kids. Even though I did not love my meal, I cannot wait to go back and try one of Falkner’s new creations!

Taylors: All American...All Amazing

Taylor’s Automatic Refresher. Enough said, but let me explain. This place is perfect in almost every possible way—the location, the food, the ambiance. Taylor’s is a delicious burger joint located in the Ferry Building (Spot 6) in San Francisco. Location wise it could not be any better, not only it is on the bay with gorgeous views of the Bay Bridge, it is also only a few blocks from AT&T Park and Market Street shopping. Taylor’s serves classic American food including burgers, French fries, and milkshakes—but it does not stop at that. There are eight different burgers including the Western Bacon Blue Ring (WBBR), which is as much of a mouthful to eat, as it is to say. The WBBR is a burger topped with an onion ring, crumbled blue cheese, bacon, pickles, red onion, and BBQ sauce; and that monstrosity is only $8.99.

Taylor’s also offers a variety of sides like garlic fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings, and chili cheese fries. And as I said before don’t think the options at Taylor’s stops with burgers and fries; they also serve chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, soups and salads.

To top it all off the beverage menu has treats for adults and kids alike. If you enjoy a beer or glass of wine with your burger and fries Taylor’s has a wonderful selection including: Fat Tire, Blue Star Wheat, Boont Amber Ale, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet. However, if you are keeping it PG (or you are not 21) Taylor’s also has seven different milkshakes, root beer floats, and mix-ins (malt, Butterfinger, Heath, and Oreo). If I have not convinced you yet that Taylor’s is the perfect placed to go for an ‘automatic refresher’…well then you are a tough sell! But seriously go there.

Leibovitz Exhibit...Don't Miss It!

Annie Leibovitz is one of the most influential photographers of our time. Photographs of nude pregnant Demi Moore and Queen Elizabeth are incredible works of art, which have put Leibovitz on the map. Leibovitz has photographed just about every celebrity who is anyone, including Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Kate Moss, Chris Rock, Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the list goes on. Leibovitz has worked for extremely large magazines that include Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Rolling Stone. Her amazing collection of works does not solely focused on famous people. In her exhibition at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, some of the most beautiful photographs are of her family and friends, including author Susan Sontag. The exhibit features 175 of Leibovitzs’ photographs from 1990-2005. From her smiling baby daughter to her best friends dead body, each picture has something to offer.

I have been a huge fan of Leibovitz for as long as I can remember. When I saw the nude of Demi Moore photo, I was hooked. Not because Moore was beautiful or sexy, but because the composition and angle and everything about the photograph was perfect. Leibovitz is constantly taking photographs of beautiful people; however, when I look at the pictures the famous people seem to fade into the background and it is so much more about the photo itself.

If you love Leibovitz’s amazing photography as much as I do, you cannot miss the Legion Of Honor exhibition. It gives you the chance to see an amazing collection of work by one of the most influential photographer’s of our time. The exhibit will only be at the museum in San Francisco through May 25st…so hurry!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bridge Toll $4, Bar Cover $15, Cold Beer $4.75... Getting thrown from a Mechanical Bull PRICELESS

Every night out is bound to have some ups and downs. However, the ups of heading out to Saddlerack, a country western bar in Fremont, CA, far outweigh the downs. San Francisco is not exactly known for its killer nightlife but areas like the Marina, the Mission, and Union Square have some pretty decent bars and clubs. Most of the bars in the city tend to be filled with thirty-somethings or old men; neither group is particularly appealing to a girl in her twenty’s (i.e. me). Saddlerack is exactly the solution for someone longing to escape the San Francisco bar scene.

At first, Saddlerack doesn’t exactly add up considering the fourty-five mile drive, a four-dollar toll on the Dumbarton Bridge, and having a DD (designated driver) is critical because it is quite a hike out there. Looking past the aforementioned facts this country western themed bar has so much to offer. As you walk inside within the first three and a half steps is a huge table of ice-cold beer, if beer isn’t your forte take about ten more steps ahead and you will have one of three full bars. Looking for a quicker less painful way to get liquored up? Lucky for you they have the Pit Stop, which is a barber chair that you pay six dollars to sit in while someone pours alcohol down your throat. Still not satisfied? Saddlerack also has a game room with pool tables and darts, an oxygen bar, a mechanical bull, and fresh made nachos, tri-tip sandwiches, and other delicious treats in Mom’s Corner. The food table is worth noting because it is basically a picnic table run by a bitter old woman, and it even has a sassy sign that warns customers Don’t Mess With Mom. For anyone that has been yearning to country line dance Saddlerack is the perfect place. Between the DJ and live-band, this bar plays non-stop country music with a few pop songs mixed in. This crowd does not need the Electric Slide or Achy-Breaky Heart to line dance, on the upper dance-floor people had a different line dance for just about any song.

I hope I have convinced you that the 45-minute drive is worth it to have some country western fun! Oh and just one more thing…I am not sure if Saddlerack thinks it is in Vegas or something but the bars are cash only and their ATM fee is $4.75, so I strongly suggest you bring your own wad of cash.

Monday, March 3, 2008

9th Annual Chicago Irish Film Festival

“The Wednesdays”, a quick 13 minute film directed by Conor Ferguson, opened the 9th Annual Chicago Film Festival on February 29 at the Beverly Art Center. This hilarious movie is about an elderly couple Mr. and Mrs. O’Leary, who get caught up with the law after taking advantage of having access to ecstasy, and make their Wednesday’s worth while again by indulging in the drug. When the law comes knocking sweet (and very old) Mrs. O’leary doesn’t think it’s a big deal even though the two are discovered to have more than 125 pills. The sweet couple and the ridiculous plot line set the stage for an amazing film fest organized by Jude Blackburn.

Blackburn has spent the last nine years doing everything in her power to bring culture and opportunities to the Beverly Art Center, which she was President of for 8 years, by bringing amazing Irish films, directors, and actors to the south side of Chicago. She even travels to Ireland for two weeks every October to attend film festivals in Cork and Dublin, to find the perfect films and guests for the festival. The 9th CIFF began February 29th and ends March 5th, the fest will include thirty-three screenings and two live concerts. Blackburn has worked hard to put the Beverly Art Center on the map of Irish Film screenings, a few of the films will even be the premiers in the US and or the Midwest including Front Line, Dot.Com, and Garage.

The CIFF brings much needed business and publicity to the Beverly Art Center, which is a non-for-profit state of the art multi-disciplinary cultural center. Many companies including Bushmills, Baileys, and Guiness sponsor the fest and also home of the Chicago White Sox, US Cellular Field. Because of the importance of the festival, the Beverly Art Center has also snagged the Special Honoree title in the neighborhood St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which brings in hundreds of thousands of people to the south side of Chicago. Special guests of the CIFF this year include musician and film director Nick Kelly, The Cloonans a 3rd generation Irish family band, and film directors Ross Whitaker and James Kelly.

The Chicago Irish Film Festival has grown so much since its first festival in 2000, and it does not show any signs of slowing down. Thanks to Jude Blackburn and many volunteers at the Beverly Art Center who work wonders to put this thing together, the predominantly Irish Catholic neighborhood has a world class festival to be very proud of!

(The photographs feature festival director Jude Blackburn, film director James Kelly, and myself)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday Ritual: Fajitas & Family

As the third largest city in the United States, Chicago is no stranger to world-class museums, shopping malls, architecture, and most importantly restaurants. However, as a Chicago native I have found that restaurants off the beaten path and sans the celebrity chefs tend to be the best choice. I am not sure if your family has a favorite place to eat, you know the place you go for every birthday and holiday and any other excuse you have to dine out. Well my family does and this past weekend with my godson in tow, we ate at our favorite restaurant for the first time with four-generations of Blackburns!

Walking into Mario’s Tacos, a tiny authentic Mexican restaurant on Old Western Ave on Chicago’s far south side, is overwhelming in the best way possible. I know the menu by heart the staff by name, and that I am with my family (a.k.a. the people I love most in the world!) Mario’s became a staple in our family when I was about six and at twenty-one it shows no sign of fading. Society today is hard to keep up with because everyone seems to be busy 24/7, whether it is school or work, piano lessons or basketball practice—trust me it is always something. Finding time to spend with family seems to only get harder, thankfully our family found Mario’s a place we went to enjoy each others company and some bomb Mexican food.

In my family as my two sisters and I got older (and busier) it seemed like we hardly saw each other and Mario’s came to the rescue. For 4 years, our family (mom, dad, two-sisters, and grandma) went there every Sunday and the delicious house made chips, salsa, and guacamole never got old. In the winter the steaming and spicy Carne de Puerco covered in melted chihuahua cheese could warm you up better than any hot chocolate around. And in the summer there is no better place to enjoy the hot Chicago sun than on Mario’s patio while sipping a Gold Margarita on the rocks with salt and eating a fresh taco salad.

Maybe it seems like it was more about the company than the food, but to this very day Mario’s Tacos is my favorite Mexican restaurant; and trust me I have been to my fair share, factoring in that my family takes a yearly trip to Mexico. Regardless of whether it is the food or the people I would strongly suggest your family, or even a close group of friends, find a great restaurant where you know will always bring a smile to your face.

Best Barista: Centrally Located

In a city like San Francisco, it is hard for independent coffee shops to compete with the usual suspect like Starbucks and Peets. Thankfully, some do survive including Central Coffee, which is located on the Northeast corner of Central and Hayes, right next to a Hayes bus stop which is great for the business and the businessmen alike. Central Coffee has managed to thrive by staying true to themselves and providing a cozy, laidback, and eclectic atmosphere for their customers. Central Coffee seems to break every rule that Starbucks and Peets stick to: none of the furniture matches, the music is anything but mainstream, and most importantly the Internet access is FREE! When you walk into Central Coffee you instantly feel comfortable, the music is relaxing and everyone inside are extraordinarily nice (customers and employees alike).

Ali, the owner of twelve years, has clearly worked very hard to set Central Coffee apart from the coffee industries moguls. It is a very “neighborhoody” place explained Michael, who has been a Central Coffee employee for six years. “We have a lot of regulars. We know their names and what they want. I think that is important…something you would not find at most Starbucks,” said Michael. Central Coffee offers a full menu, and Ali is adamant that everything they serve is made of all natural and fresh ingredients. Central Coffee has at least ten different types of bagels at any given time including jalapeño, plain, egg, blueberry, onion, combination, garlic, and pumpernickel! In addition to the wide variety of bagels that CC offers, they also have savory cream cheeses that will leave your mouth watering. The delicious cream cheese flavors include: roasted garlic with fresh herbs (my personal favorite!), smoked mozzarella with slow roasted tomatoes, smoked salmon with dill, and habanero jack with roasted peppers.

The cozy coffee shop has everything you need when it comes to the perfect cup of Joe experience. A random mix of tables and chairs are great for reading the Chronicle, getting work done on your laptop (using CC’s free wireless internet), grabbing one of the obscure books that fill up the bookcases in the shop, or just relaxing with a cup of coffee or a spinach pesto quiche. To be honest I have been a Starbucks fanatic for as long as I can remember and I even drank the same Venti Chai Tea Latte every single day. However, since moving 1/2 a block from CC I have ended my long-term relationship with Starbucks and always find myself at Central Coffee ordering a large (much sweeter) Oregon Chai Tea!