According to TV psychologists, Americans have a bad case of “frugal fatigue” – emotional exhaustion from not spending money. The new buzzwords hit the airwaves with perfect timing: just before the start of the holiday shopping season. Here are my Fab Five picks for curing a case of frugal fatigue on the Northside’s four most popular shopping streets: Polk, Union, Fillmore, and Chestnut, along with my Fab Five casual lunch spots on each street for replenishing your energy mid-spree (since, like most people suffering from frugal fatigue, you’re probably out of shopping shape).
Fields Book Store
1419 Polk Street (at California),
If you think this is some New Age leftover from the ’80s, you’re wrong – Fields features what they call “soulful and scholarly books from the world’s spiritual traditions.” If you have someone soulful, scholarly and spiritual on your list, here are Five Fab books at Fields:
1. Masonic Myth by Jay Kinney
2. Eat–Taste–Heal: An Ayurvedic Guidebook and Cookbook for Modern Living by Thomas Yarema, M.D., Daniel Rhoda and chef Johnny Brannigan
3. Athanasius Kircher’s Theatre of the World: The Life and Work of the Last Man to Search for Universal Knowledge by Joscelyn Godwin
4. Welsh Witches and Wizards by Michael Howard
5. The Illuminated Rumi with translation by Coleman Barks and illuminations by Michael Green
1542 Polk Street (at Sacramento), 415-771-4649
Marcato Atlas 150 pasta maker If you have the right tools and ingredients, making fresh pasta is a simple task. You can spend hundreds of dollars on a KitchenAid mixer and pay an extra $150 for the pasta attachment, or you can spend about $80 and do it the old-fashioned way with the world’s most popular manual pasta maker, the Marcato Atlas 150. Made in Italy of shiny chrome, it’s as beautiful as it is versatile. I used to help my grandfather make pasta as a kid with his hand-cranked machine – it’s a really fun way to bring the family together and get something delicious out of it, too. Marcato’s exclusive “wellness” rollers are made from a special alloy that ensures no residue on the dough, no oxidation when in contact with water, and it’s easy to clean. $79.95
Other Fab Finds: Put together a gourmand gift basket Italian-style with Fratelli Cucchiara extra virgin olive oil – one of the best from Sicily; San Marzano tomato purée – made from the world’s best sauce tomatoes; Umbrian lentils – prized legumes that retain their texture and flavor when cooked; a Bialetti pizza baking set that includes serving rack, stone, cutter, and recipes – the entire set costs less than one medium pizza from your favorite
Naomi’s American Dinnerware and Art Pottery
1817 Polk Street (near Washington) ,
If you know someone who collects American pottery, you’re bound to find the perfect gift here. Owner Naomi Murdoch, who has had his shop on Polk Street for nearly 40 years, is a renowned expert on the topic: he has written six books, appeared on Martha Stewart’s TV show live, and has been featured in Stewart’s magazine 18 times. The shop is floor-to-ceiling antique ceramics with over 1,500 brands represented from 1900 to 1952. He also has over 30,000 pieces of Bauer, colorful pieces that resemble Fiesta but are far more valuable: Fiesta is still made by Macy’s, and the vintage pieces are no different than the ones made today.
2206 Polk Street (at Vallejo), 415-771-0656, www.theinteriorvisions.com
Floral porcelain teacups
Even if this weren’t one of the coolest places on Polk Street, I would still want to visit the adorable parakeets that serve as the shop’s mascots. With items ranging from $30 for silk flowers to
$48,000 for an antique 1789 armoire, Interior Visions is an eclectic slice of shopping heaven. Ritualistic tea is making a comeback, and you can’t enjoy the ritual without the proper tea service. These teacups come in four patterns (all in gift boxes that match the teacup pattern) that are based on French designs and range from an Asian-inspired red-and-white toile pattern to a soft pastel green and lavender design. Choose from a three-piece set (teapot, cream and sugar); “Tea for Two” (two mugs with two small teabag holders in the shape of a teapot); or a set of four cups (or mugs) with saucers. $28–85.
Other Fab Finds: A wide array of chandeliers – from crystal to art glass; large emerald green mirror mosaic vases; decorative semi-precious jeweled pillows by Los
Gatos-based Zailey Designs; pastel-hued powder-coated steel folding garden table and chairs with cut-out designs made in the south of France.
2430 Polk Street (near Filbert),
CicciaBella cowgirl slippers
I first set foot in Cat Seto about four years ago because I saw a pair of CicciaBella in the window and fell in love. Designed by Cindy Farina, these cowgirl slipper-boots are constructed from faux suede and faux fur with embroidery and topstitching, and they have a rubber outdoor sole. Not only are they whimsical and stylish, they’re so fluffy, comfy and warm that you’ll never want to take them off. They come in a variety of fun color and design combinations in sizes small, medium, large, and extra large for women and small/medium and large/extra large for kids. $39.50 adult sizes; $31.50 child sizes
Other Fab Finds: Custom stationery for events (including holiday cards); eco desk calendar; Royal Jelly soaps by Gianna Rose Atelier (two beautiful honey-scented bars with a shimmer of fine gold glitter); Eco Kit (everything you need for proper eco-friendly correspondence); unique handmade mixed media gift boxes of paper, glitter and porcelain that are pretty enough to be the gift (we feature “Une Cachette,” a sparkling rendition of the Eiffel Tower, on our cover).
FAB FIVE PLACES TO LUNCH ON POLK STREET
Piccadilly Fish and Chips
1348 Polk Street (at Pine),
The best fish ’n chips in town at rock-bottom prices; flaky, white cod is cooked to order – dipped in batter and dropped into the oil before your eyes – and the proper thick-cut chips are double fried (partially cooked and then dipped in oil to brown just before serving). Two pieces of fish with chips, a drink, and some super-creamy house-made slaw will set you back around 10 bucks.
1412 Polk Street (near Pine),
This Indian/Pakistani cuisine is a cut above the average and features Halal meat and a wide array of vegetarian offerings using fresh ingredients and spiced to order. Fantastic dal, chicken tikka masala and lahori choley (chickpeas slow-cooked in a spicy sauce). Quick and tasty wraps feature tandoori meat, chicken or fish, or herbed, spiced vegetables. All-you-can-eat lunch buffet for $7.99 features 10 items that change daily.
Swan Oyster Depot
1517 Polk Street (at California),
The wait for just 12 stools can be mind numbing, but the experience will wake you up – fresh seafood served with lively conversation from guys behind the bar. Excellent oysters, shrimp, Dungeness crab Louis, and smoked salmon.
Tai Chi Chinese
2031 Polk Street (near Broadway),
An unremarkable facade leads to a fresh, inexpensive Hunan and Mandarin menu that includes
topnotch renditions of salt and pepper ribs, red braised tofu,
hot and sour cabbage, and
2348 Polk Street (at Union),
Chef-owner Toi Sawatdee rises each morning before the sun and heads off to the markets to gather fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and seafood for that day’s menu. Named a Top Woman Chef in Northside San Francisco’s 2007 “Best of Food & Wine,” Sawatdee’s specialties include crispy rice
salad; Thai-stick-marinated prawns (wrapped in a crepe and deep fried); mieng kum (roasted coconut, peanuts, ginger, and red onions served with spinach greens for wrapping); and curries from
a comforting pumpkin version to a green version with salmon.
1869 Union Street (near Laguna),
Pyrrha intaglio necklaces
For the fashionistas on your list who covet the hippest, hottest trends, look no further than one of my all-time favorite stores, Jest Jewels. From Betsey Johnson to Tarina Tarantino, you’ll find unique trend-setting accessories that are as beautiful as they are timeless. My favorite? The sterling silver intaglios by Pyrrha – each one is cast from a 19th century wax seal, and every design has a symbolic meaning taken from family heraldry: two hearts intertwined represents forever; the cherub and anchor seal reads “Hope remains with me even in the storm;” the rose bush signifies true love and says “Thy sweetness is my life.” What’s the best-selling intaglio? The one that reads “Carpe Diem,” which of course is “Seize the Day” in Latin. The seals come in a variety of shapes and sizes; each one hangs from a sterling silver chain and has a card that explains the symbolism behind it. $115 to $225
What’s the best selling item in the store? The LOL Rollover Dog – a stuffed dog with a sensor that laughs hysterically and rolls over – priced at $20 (see him in action on their Web site).
Other Fab Finds: Costume rings and pendants celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Wizard of
Oz by Tarina Tarantino; Bibi
chunky hand-cast jewelry featuring hearts, crosses, Swarovski crystals, and religious medallions; Virgins, Saints & Angels rosary necklaces (as seen on Bravo’s series, The Real Housewives of New Jersey); Tai Rittichai rustic, hand-hammered metal and crochet bracelets representing serenity and peace; tiny initial pendants made of sterling silver
or gold vermeil dangling from delicate chains.
The Enchanted Crystal
1895 Union Street (at Laguna), 415-
Katherine’s Collection mermaid ornament
I’ve been obsessed with mermaids since childhood, but you don’t have to be a mermaid collector to love this good-sized, extremely detailed, fanciful ornament handmade of mesh, resin, glitter, and tiny pearls. $38
If you have a collector on your list, The Enchanted Crystal, an iconic fixture on Union Street, has it all: turtles, bears, frogs, horses, elephants, fish, dolphins, cows, cats, dogs, and mythical creatures from unicorns to dragons. You’ll find dolls, figurines, ornaments, prints, and more. Owner Dennis Beckman is best known for having the largest selection in the City of Mark Roberts collectible elves, and every year the faithful come to check out the limited-edition designs. Beckman also designs and creates custom masks – he’ll even match the mask to your gown.
Other Fab Finds: Mark Roberts “Ruler of Revelry” collectible elf; blown glass sea creature ornaments; sparkly costume cocktail rings for kids and adults; Dennis Beckman peacock feather custom-made mask; elegant crystal perfume bottles.
Images of the North
2036 Union Street (near Buchanan), 415-673-1273, www.imagesnorth.com
Inuit dancing bear sculptures
Owner Lesley Leonhardt is celebrating 30 years on Union Street making Inuit collectors happy, but Images of the North is not just for serious collectors – anyone who loves the beauty of art from the Arctic will love the fabulous pieces in this iconic Union Street store. Images of the North has one of the most extensive collections of Inuit art in the United States, and offers the ﬁnest art from all areas of the Arctic by both well-known and up and coming new artists. Each work is personally selected from the Inuit cooperatives or directly from the artists and ranges from exquisite miniatures to important works of art, all museum quality. I love the playful “serpentine dancing bears” by artist Johnny Papigatok (Cape Dorset, Canada) as well as the majestic serpentine bear by Ottokie Ashoona, another artist from Cape Dorset, Canada. $250–$650
Other Fab Finds: Sterling silver with turquoise, opal and coral jewelry; Hopi fetishes; fabulously
exotic ceramic and bronze masks; ancient mastodon ivory beads; stunning prints.
2070 Union Street (near Webster),
Boho “Joey Jr.” fingerless gloves
When I walk my pit bull, Jasmine Blue, on cold mornings in the park, there are certain tasks I must perform (picking up after her and tossing peanuts to the squirrels) that aren’t conducive to wearing gloves. Even my fingerless gloves, which really aren’t fingerless, restrict mobility. At Uko, a shop specializing in clothes and accessories by boutique French designers, I finally found a pair of truly fingerless gloves that allow a full range of picking-up-and-tossing motion. Not only are these gloves by Boho soft, warm and functional, they’re also cool, with strappy bands covered in black and silver buttons, including one that fits over your thumb to keep them on. They’re made of a hand-washable cotton/Lycra knit and come in black or my favorite, dark heather
Other Fab Finds: Tough but feminine bead chain bracelets; ornate brushed silver rings; unique, one-of-a-kind clothing for men and women by boutique French designers; distressed leather shoulder bags from Paris; gossamer scarves embellished with silk and wool decorations; ethereal, delicate silver jewelry.
2072 Union Street (near Webster), 415-929-0231, www.thecollectorscave.com
Giant microbes plush toys
Yes, you read it right: cuddly microbes. Perfect for the science geeks on your list, choose from sore throat, red and white blood cells, common cold, bread and beer yeast, pimple, heartworm, stomachache, TB, rabies, chicken pox, maggot, sperm and egg … you get the picture. Each plush microbe comes with a picture of what the real thing looks like under a microscope. $7.99 to $24.99
Other Fab Finds: Leggo Mindstorms programmable robots (Collector’s Cave has a large selection of Leggo toys); comic books and character figurines; autographed sports memorabilia; trading cards; board games.
FAB FIVE PLACES TO LUNCH ON UNION STREET
1909 Union Street
(at Laguna), 415-440-4450,
La Boulange has nine San Francisco locations and is best known for its fresh-baked breads and pastries, but you can also find some wonderful lunch options, especially the open-faced sandwiches. Try the goat cheese with Portobello mushrooms; roasted chicken with bacon, Swiss and Dijon sauce; ham and Swiss with béchamel; and the smoked salmon with cucumber, crème fraîche, shallots, and capers. You can also get La Combo – a half sandwich with a cup of soup or side of greens for $7.
1944 Union Street (near Laguna),
Perry’s has been the dining anchor of Union Street in Cow Hollow for 40 years. It’s a favorite of politicos, San Francisco’s old-guard elite, and a whole new generation discovering the beauty of a classic cocktail and a homey, satisfying meal made with quality ingredients. Lunch favorites include the grilled local artichoke with Meyer lemon aioli, deviled Dungeness crab cakes, traditional potato skins with Hobbs bacon and melted cheddar, the club sandwich made with fresh-roasted turkey, and the venerable Perry’s burger.
Nettie’s Crab Shack
2032 Union Street
(near Buchanan), 415-409-0300, www.nettiescrabshack.com
Besides the famous Sunday Night Crab Feed, Nettie’s has a lot to offer shoppers who lunch. On a sunny day, sit on the front patio while enjoying a bucket of the best steamers in the City – tender and juicy, prepared simply in their own broth with bay leaves, celery and bits of onion. A recent special produced a stellar take on the Waldorf salad with crisp butter lettuce, persimmon, apple, house-smoked trout, celery, and candied walnuts in a light buttermilk dressing. Sandwich standouts include an oyster po’ boy, “naked” (no mayo) Maine lobster roll, and a halibut BLT.
3006 Buchanan Street (at Union), 415-921-3003, lacanastasf.com
All of the family recipes served at La Canasta are made lovingly with fresh, high-quality ingredients and no lard – it’s about as healthful as Mexican food can get and still taste good. I love refried beans and at La Canasta I can have my beans guilt free with their “smashed” pinto beans, cooked over a long period of time until they have the same smooth consistency as their unhealthful counterparts. Try the carne asada fajitas burrito – slices of lean marinated steak that are tossed on the open-flame grill right when you place your order. Soft and crispy tacos, empanadas, nachos, tamales, and soups (especially the pozole rojo) are also great options at this tiny Cow Hollow takeout spot.
2223 Union Street
(near Fillmore), 415-771-7771, www.gaminesf.com
Gamine (a French term for “a mischievous young woman”) is a lively, inviting, neighborhood bistro offering reasonably priced, classic French fare. Enjoy excellent mussels prepared three ways;
escargots with garlic butter; baked cambozola with roasted garlic; savory crepes (don’t miss the prosciutto, brie and béchamel version); and a seared tuna niçoise salad.
1905 Fillmore Street (at Bush),
415-776-2100; 2410 California Street (near Fillmore), 415-776-9002,
Taika red owl espresso cup and saucer
For functional whimsy, check out the Scandinavian/Japanese designs at Zinc Details (their California Street location is a showroom for their furniture, rugs and lighting collections). Seasonal dinnerware from Taika comes in several adorable patterns, but my favorite is the red with blue owls. Buy one piece or buy the set. Precious, yet chic and unique – gift-giving doesn’t get better than that. $25
Other Fab Finds: Taika bowls, plates, mugs and more; Kikkerland Jolly Trolley Shopping Cart in white faux patent leather (great for the farmers’ market).
2000 Fillmore Street (at Pine),
Fashionably water-resistant, limited edition Italian boots
Hip, young Italian designer Paolo Iantorno is famous among leather lovers for his wonderfully made, limited edition shoes, which he sells at only two stores in North America – both are in San Francisco, at 524 Hayes and at 2000 Fillmore. These knee-high boots make a big statement in either cherry red embossed patent or two-tone, hand-died leather. They have major trends for the season (tall, adjustable, retro, laces) yet, like most of Paolo’s designs, they’re timeless. And not only are they fashionable, they’re practical – water resistant with a rubber sole. $349
Other Fab Finds: Handbags, shoes, and more – all are handmade and limited edition.
Gallery of Jewels
2115 Fillmore Street (at California),
738-karat faceted blue topaz necklace
If you’re looking for classy bling, this is the place (Gallery of Jewels has another Northside store at 2101 Union and a third on 24th in Noe Valley). They specialize in lovingly handcrafted jewelry by local, regional and international designers. One night I was leaving Vivande after dinner with my friend, Alan. I barely remember saying goodbye because I was lured to a necklace glittering under the lights of the front window of the Fillmore Street store. It was a gorgeous, faceted 738-karat blue topaz necklace with an 18-karat white gold clasp by San Francisco designer Carolyn Hunter, who specializes in simple, elegant pieces that allow the gemstones to shine – literally. It is the most beautiful blue topaz necklace I’ve ever seen, and perfect for someone special on your list (like the local newspaper editor!). $2,854
Other Fab Finds: Unique sterling rings and earrings with pearls or semi-precious stones starting at $50; sparkling diamond rings with open prongs ready to be set with your gemstone or theirs starting at $950 (prices range from $50 to $5,000 with a costume jewelry line
2133 Fillmore Street (at Sacramento),
Utopia Collection Man/woman vase
Looking for whimsical chic? Look no further than Jonathan Adler’s Fillmore Street store. After getting his first order from Barney’s in New York City in 1995, business boomed; two years later the young pottery designer hooked up with Aid to Artisans, a nonprofit based in Peru that helps craftspeople in developing countries to make products for the American market, which Adler works with until this day. He has expanded with a cool, fun furniture collection, but pottery is still the main focus. The man/woman vase is made from brown stoneware that peeks through a sheer white glaze. It’s perfect for … well, a man or a woman, just like the two sides of the vase. $595
Other Fab Finds: Matte white stoneware giraffe lamp (versatile enough for a child’s room or the office); signature lacquer nesting cubes in an array of colors; needlepoint backgammon board in a white acrylic tray.
Fredericksen Hardware & Paint
3029 Fillmore Street (near Union),
10.8v Dremel lithium-ion cordless rotary tool
You didn’t think we’d forget the woodworkers on your list, did you? Fredericksen Hardware has been proudly serving the Marina on Fillmore Street since 1896. While you will find the usual hardware store inventory like light bulbs and screws, Fredericksen is so much more than that (see our other Fab Finds below). If you want a great gift for the handyperson in your life, check out the Dremel 10.8v lithium-ion cordless rotary tool. The variable speed control allows you to set the speed of the tool to match any of its 40 accessories, the lithium-ion battery can maintain a charge up to two years in storage, and it’s considered the fastest, strongest cordless rotary tool out there. Polish, grind, cut, sand, carve, and more all with one compact tool. $79.99
Other Fab Finds: Le Creuset and Emile Henry cookware; KitchenAid mixers and other products; fun and funky stemware; Leatherman (a modern-day version of the Swiss Army Knife) in four styles and two compact versions.
FAB FIVE PLACES TO LUNCH ON FILLMORE STREET
Woodhouse Fish Co.
1914 Fillmore Street
(near Bush), 415-437-2722,
Like the original location on Market Street, the Fillmore Woodhouse has Dollar Oyster Tuesdays, a lobster roll as close as you can come to New England – sweet, tender meat lightly dressed with mayo on a buttery toasted flat-sided sweet bun – and fried whole-belly Ipswich clams flown in fresh from Maine, but they switch it up a bit with offerings like the “Fribs” – faux baby back ribs actually made of fish in BBQ sauce. Don’t miss the do-it-yourself lemonade.
2125 Fillmore Street (near
Carlo and Lisa Middione have been serving their authentic southern Italian cuisine in Pacific Heights for over 30 years. They do it today the way they did it back then – the pasta and fennel sausage are made fresh daily, and they use fresh, seasonal ingredients. Carlo’s food reminds me of childhood meals with my grandfather, a Sicilian immigrant, and Vivande is my go-to Italian restaurant. While other regional Italian eateries have followed in Middione’s footsteps, he was the first and he’s still the best. Classic comfort pastas I love include aglio e olio (garlic, red pepper flakes and olive oil); Romana (cream, butter and Parmesan); and salsiccia (house-made fennel sausage, bell peppers and marinara sauce). The refreshing chicken salad with poached chicken, peas, cucumbers, red onions, and mayo served with hard-boiled eggs, sliced apple, spinach, tomatoes, and olives is a signature, as are the fried oysters served in a trencher of bread.
Real Food Company
3060 Fillmore Street (at Filbert), 415-673-7420,
The deli counter at Real Food features a bounty of freshly made salads, entrees, soups and sandwiches. All sandwiches can be made whole or half and include classics like roast beef and turkey as well as veggie burgers and falafel. Salads also range from classics like potato and egg to couscous, lentil, quinoa, and Asian-inflected noodle and tofu versions. When its available, (which is hardly ever these days), Real Food makes the best macaroni salad in San Francisco – a perfect balance of al dente pasta, mayo, green onion, pimento, and black olives.
What’s Up Dog
2211 Filbert Street (at Fillmore),
All right, I’m cheating a bit, but just around the corner from Fillmore Street on Filbert is a tiny hot dog stand that features a dizzying array of franks and sausages including the signature all-beef eight-inch dog (you can also get an organic, grass-fed version) served over a dozen ways. I like mine straight up with mustard and sauerkraut, but if you like yours messy, the North Beach (fire-roasted tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, garlic, and fresh basil) is a winner. If you don’t want beef or pork, try lemon chicken, vegetarian kielbasa or sweet Italian tofurky dogs.
3199 Fillmore Street
Despite the fact it’s been around since 1913, (making it one of the oldest saloons in San Francisco), the PlumpJack Balboa Cafe remains one of the “in” spots in Cow Hollow. The interior is elegant (and pretty much untouched) yet cozy, and the crowd is the same – an eclectic mix of regulars in jeans and T-shirts and visitors dressed up for a day of shopping. The Balboa is best known for its burgers, served two ways (on a baguette or an old-fashioned bun), and it never disappoints. Other hits include the classic chopped salad and Cobb salad, and calamari fritti with Bloody Mary cocktail sauce.
2080 Chestnut Street (at Steiner), 415-929-8868, www.rabatshoes.com
Prairie Underground Cloak hoodie
Made in Seattle of organic garment-dyed cotton, this hoodie is not only fashionable, it’s practical. Dress it up or dress it down, this warm, soft, long sweater is one the season’s must-haves, and it nips in at the waist for a flattering fit on every body type, making it Rabat’s bestseller. $242
Other Fab Finds: Wide belt (another must-have) by Streets Ahead in distressed brown Italian leather and hardware; Hobo International leather handbags; Michael Stars super soft, colorful T-shirts; platform boots (another must-have) in an array of shapes and colors.
2100 Chestnut Street (at Steiner),
Earth Friends Rag Dolls
It’s never too early to teach your kids to be earth friendly, and now they can learn with this heirloom-quality rag doll handcrafted of natural and recycled materials like organic yarn hair, hemp skin, and recycled plastic stuffing. In each doll’s backpack is a packet of seeds to grow an oxygen-producing plant. With one of the toughest economic years in recent memory fresh in their minds, shoppers are going retro, back to cotton and wood toys like these soft, comfy, low-tech dolls. At its flagship store, Giggle stocks everything you’ll need for a healthy, happy baby. $70
Other Fab Finds: North America Bear Co. rag dolls; Okiedog “fropper” bouncy bike; North America Bear Co. ABC of Animals activity mat; Zolo Bobbles Multi-sensory Trinkets by Kushie.
2117 Chestnut Street (at Steiner),
Nikon Coolpix S70 touch screen camera
The folks at Fireside have been serving the Marina district since 1954 with a knowledgeable staff that can help everyone from the amateur to the pro. The Nikon Coolpix S70 is equipped with 5x zoom, 12.1 megapixels, and a 3.5-inch iPhone-like “swipe motion” touch screen. It comes with a leather case and a two-year extended warranty. Choose from red, black or two-tone bronze (pictured). This compact, user-friendly camera is sure to please the photo bugs and the techies on your list. $369.95
Other Fab Finds: Flip high-
definition video camera; pocket binoculars; Nikon and Canon cameras and lenses.
2251 Chestnut Street (at Avila),
Bird, by Andrew Zuckerman
There are few things in life quite so pleasurable as browsing a neighborhood bookstore, and Books, Inc. is one of the best. Ask any of the helpful, knowledgeable staff for a recommendation, and they’ll find something perfectly suited for each of the bookworms on your list. Andrew Zuckerman’s Bird (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2009) is one of the most beautiful gift books I’ve come across in years, filled with colorful, unique, gorgeous painting-like photographs of the world’s colorful, unique, gorgeous birds. You could stare at this book for hours and still not see every detail. Anyone who loves birds, photography, nature, or just a beautiful book for the coffee table will love Bird. $60
Other Fab Finds: A few more suggestions from the Books, Inc. staff – For cooks, Ad Hoc at Home: Family Style Recipes by Thomas Keller; for dad, The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America by National Book Award-winner Timothy Egan; for historical novel lovers, Wolf Hall (winner of the Man Booker prize in 2009) by Hilary Mantel; for short story lovers, All That Work and Still No Boys by local author Kathryn Ma (she was the first Asian-American to win the Iowa Short Fiction award for these engrossing tales of family, race, immigration, and relationships).
2379 Chestnut Street (at Divisadero),
Wrought iron cookbook holder with weights
New kid on the block We Olive is an olive lover’s dream come true, with over 20 California ever-changing oils from extra virgin to flavor-infused – and they’re all available for tasting! They also have olive products for the bath and kitchen, a selection of vinegars, and gift items like my favorite, the wrought iron cookbook holder. Besides being beautiful, what’s special about it? The little iron weights that keep the pages flat! And it’s as economical as it is clever. $22.50
Other Fab Finds: Olive oils dispensed from a fustino (large stainless steel drum) and sold by the ounce; Dachshund oil and vinegar cruet set; Martini Madness almonds (they look like olives, but there’s a chocolate almond inside!); two-tiered wrought iron serving tray with green ceramic platters; mini olive oil trees in terracotta pots.
FAB FIVE PLACES TO LUNCH ON CHESTNUST STREET
Let’s Be Frank
3318 Steiner Street (near Chestnut), 415-674-6755, www.letsbefrankdogs.com
All right, I’m cheating a little again, but let’s head around the corner of Chestnut onto Steiner to check out my favorite hot dog company on the planet, Let’s Be Frank, a small, local company with recipes crafted by Sue Moore, former “meat forager” for the renowned Chez Panisse. Grass-fed beef is higher in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and lower in fat, sodium and calories than traditional beef, and Let’s Be Frank dogs come from humanely raised free-range cattle (they make a mean turkey dog, too). They also sell pre-packaged franks and condiments.
2120 Chestnut Street (near Steiner), 415-921-7873, www.luccadeli.com
Lucca is a Marina staple, serving up delicious sandwiches, salads, and entrees as well as selling meats, cheeses, pastas, and dry goods from their old-fashioned deli counter. Opened in 1929 by Mike Bosco and partners Maggiore Colona and Italo Cencini, Lucca is still family owned and operated today with the same pride and care by Bosco’s grandchildren, Paul Bosco and Linda Bosco Fioretti. Each sandwich is made (and priced) to order from a great selection of cured meats and cheeses, and they roast their own beef, turkey, chicken, and ham. Imported Italian whole marinated red and yellow peppers make their trademark pepper spread, rolls are delivered fresh, and even the pickles are sliced daily. One of my favorite things about Lucca, though is their sausages, including biroldo (blood sausage, with or without raisins); Calabrese; Coteghino; Sicilian fennel; and Fra’Mani classic and spicy-cooked Italian.
2142 Chestnut Street (near Steiner), 474-6888, www.dragonwell.com
The premise behind Dragon Well is to serve classic Chinese dishes in a more healthful fashion, and it works. I think they make the best wonton soup in town – plump dumplings filled with pork, scallion and cabbage swimming in a light chicken broth and topped with fresh mushrooms and spinach. They have a lunch special ($8 to $9.50) served with jasmine or brown rice – I especially love the wok-tossed prawns: big shrimp lightly battered and stir-fried with garlic, red chilies, peas, carrots, and onions in a sweet and spicy sauce. Other standouts include tomato, beef and tofu; Mongolian beef; and garlic eggplant.
Marina & Kebab
2257 Chestnut Street (at Avila), 415-441-9010, www.hayeskebab.com
This family owned and operated Mediterranean restaurant and catering service is the sister to the original spot in Hayes Valley. The food is fresh, good and reasonably priced. It’s also a great place for vegetarians and vegans – the appetizer combo plate, one of my favorites, can be made either way, and includes hummus, babaganoush, mast o sir (yogurt with shredded cucumber, diced fresh dill and garlic), falafel, couscous salad, kalamata olives, dolma, and feta cheese. The lavash bread wraps are also terrific – gyros of slowly cooked, thin-sliced marinated lamb, beef and chicken with lettuce, tomato, onion, and tahini sauce; there’s also a falafel (my favorite) version and one with grilled, assorted fresh vegetables and feta cheese. Save room for the rice pudding, a creamy mixture of rice, milk, organic sugar, vanilla bean, and cinnamon.
2268 Chestnut Street (at Avila), 415-922-4588
Judy’s serves huge, satisfying breakfast and lunch dishes made with quality ingredients, and they were doing it long before it was cool. The stuffed French toast is a favorite, made from farm-style egg bread stuffed with cream cheese, sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with bananas. They always have plenty of fresh fruit on hand (one of their signatures), so you can also get your French toast smothered with strawberries or whatever is in season. I also love the BLT, a double-decker version of the classic.