Category Archives: 2015

100 Hours in San Francisco

Those of you who have been checking my blog might be noticing a dry spell. I am planning a few upcoming trips this year, but I thought I would share a few recent activities with you. This weekend, we hosted some very good friends from Vancouver. Bennett and Colleen were arriving with some very serious dining plans that included Delfina, Mourad (the new Moroccan restaurant where Melissa works) and Nopa. We were to fill in the gaps between dinners, with epic walks, sights, and activities to justify the indulging among San Francisco’s best eateries.

The long weekend began on Thursday am, with a pickup at the airport. If you are coming from Canada like our BC friends, beware of the confusion between domestic and international airport locations. Customs and immigration might occur in Canada, but the airlines might still arrive in international or domestic, depending on the airline.

After hugs and greetings, we eventually set off on a specific shopping pursuit. At Bennett’s request, we ventured to Noe Valley to the Union Made store where Bennett and Gee Kin have bought elegant and hip men’s clothing. It didn’t hurt to have a 40% off January sale. Gee Kin likes to shop there (on Bennett’s recommendation) to keep up with the techie world, even if the prices are a bit steep. He found a great jacket there with super long arms that suited his proportions and was flattering for his next step out into Techie SF.

After this purely hedonistic venture, we recovered at Kasa on Eighteenth Street. Regarded as one of the best meals in town under $15, the home headquarters version on the food truck, this spartan shop eventually served a line out the door after we purviewed the menu of Indian specialties and ordered.  Three of us ordered a “Thali” lunch special of pork or lamb and three sides for $11.50.  I had the “Kati” roll with lamb. You can check out the menu at

We drove our guests home via the upper Market area and made a quick stop at Twin Peaks for a view of the city. Being a perfect day of 65 degrees, we had no problem with the usual windy bluff it normally is at the top. To top it off, it was reasonably clear and we could see Mt. Diablo in the East Bay, 50 miles away.

After a nap back at the ranch, we headed back to the same neighborhood in Noe Valley for dinner at Delfina.  We enjoyed the banter with the waiter over the descriptions of wine and food we eventually ordered, and the meal was predictably delicious.
Day 2 started off with a morning walk down through the Inner Sunset to the DeYoung Museum to see the Keith Haring exhibit. While not particularly my thing, Haring had a following in New York and used spontaneous, street art to make his political statements. He covered many contemporary issues, including the Aids Crisis, racism, and world hunger.

We brought a picnic lunch to enjoy in Golden Gate Park in the unseasonably warm January weather. In the backs of our minds were the worries about the lack of rain that gives us beautiful guilt-ridden days of summer in the middle of winter. We skipped the wine but toasted our friendship on tofu and cloud’s ears, an ethnic dish, beet salad, sauteed kale, and fresh bread from Tartine (earned the night before).

After breezing past the adjacent Academy of Sciences, we headed over to Green Apple Books in the Richmond District. Another venerable local institution, this bookstore has expanded its footprint to the Inner Sunset where it shares space with LeVideo. It helped to bail out another well-loved service that has seen better days from a bygone era of VCRs and DVDs. I bought another used copy of “The Orientalist”, one of my favorite books, and a signed copy of a dessert book by the pastry chef at Chez Panisse for Melissa.

Our dinner that evening was a stunning introduction to Mourad. This new restaurant by Mourad Lahlou at 140 New Montgomery in the renovated AT&T building, is where Melissa works as pastry chef. We were lavished with new menu items produced by Mourad’s new Chef de Cuisine, Chris Kajioka, and our own Melissa. After being warmly greeted by Mourad, we were treated to a back-of-the-house tour of the kitchen. It was exciting to see this new venture long in the planning stages come to fruition, and we are so proud of Melissa’s dedication and success to her craft.

Day Three on Saturday was occupied by a walk from home to the North Side of the city to Chestnut Street. Gee Kin led our guests through Golden Gate Park. By pure accident, they found the sculptured heart painted by their friend Hung Liu perched along the Broderick steps leading to the Marina. You’ll hear more about this artist momentarily.

We regrouped just before dinner to drive over to the East Bay via the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge. We could still see the remnants of the former Bay Bridge alongside the spanking new version, to explain the reason for another bridge. Being seismically compromised, SF Bay Area residents recognized the importance of sustaining this vital transportation link between two major cities in California. While it was originally estimated at $1 Billion, it ended up costing $6.4 Billion and several years longer than anticipated.  Oh well, a bit off.

Our dinner with Hung Liu, a Chinese artist living in Oakland, was very illuminating. She and her husband Jeff shared with us their experience doing and selling art in the US. She is an accomplished artist and was teaching at Mills College until recently. You can see a sample of her work here, that represents a young Chinese bride with a bird in a cage superimposed on the image. We visited her studio in East Oakland after a classic meal at the Bay Wolf Restaurant on Piedmont Avenue.


Day Four started with an early morning tour of Alcatraz Island, with a featured exhibition of Ai Wei-wei’s work. While the location may have been perplexing to many, it was a fitting venue for highlighting the issue of political dissidents and the importance of activism. Ai Wei-Wei used his expertise and talents as an artist to convey this message to many who would not otherwise attend an art museum nor a prison. He cleverly and adeptly combined the two experiences into one to convey an important message. Below is a picture of the kitchen at Alcatraz.

The kitchen at Alcatraz

Believe it or not, this day was capped by SuperBowl Sunday! No, we were not above succumbing to social influence. After lunch at Nopa on Divisadero and a quick tour of the neighborhood market, we hunkered down for the afternoon and pigged out on beer, guacamole and chips, finger food, and split pea soup. What more could you ask for on a lazy Sunday afternoon?

Our final day of the endless weekend was topped by a final walk from home to Hayes Valley via Upper Market. We shot past UCSF at Parnassus to Seventeenth Street, and then down the hill. Bennett and Colleen did some serious shopping on Hayes Street. I managed to get them to the Glen Park Station to head to the airport at the end of the day just in time for my final German conversation class on time!

A few notes:

Urban walking is one of my passions! You can find out more about 5 day sagas from San Francisco to Napa or San Jose and more at

You can see some of Melissa’s amazing desserts on Instagram at _melissachou.

For followers: Look for new postings in Early March for a week in New York City visiting museums and the New York Metropolitan Opera (Carmen, Don Giovanni and Manon). Another trip to Germany for the Dresdenmusikfestspiele in May is upcoming, and another world trip is in the works for late Summer. Stay tuned!

Mexico City Art and Architecture

You can view my latest video of art and architecture in Mexico City at:

The Palacio des Belles Artes renewed my inspiration for Architecture. Seeing the original drawings in large-scale formats at the top of the building, “in situ” with the surroundings for which it was designed, led me to believe that every building should have a place to show its design! While not necessarily practical for all, the value and purpose of doing so for this building were certainly evident.

The exterior perspective, model, and elevations are transferred to full scale grandeur, as are the interior atrium and domed area of the museum and the main auditorium. As mentioned previously, I saw an excellent production of Rigoletto one night and sat in the prime orchestra seats for only $60 US! I’m going back!

Frida Kahlo’s life history was tragic and fascinating. She was born to a German-Hungarian father, who was a photographer. Her mother was Mexican-Spanish. Her work and attire always reflected her alignment to Mexican culture and is regarded as Mexico’s most famous woman artist.

She had polio at the age of 6 and a serious accident at 18, when the bus she was riding was hit by a streetcar. She required over 20 surgeries in her lifetime that resulted in her use of numerous prosthetic devices. She was in constant pain but managed to produce incredible works of art. Her focus on headgear was an attempt to divert attention from her body. One foot was shorter than another, so her shoes were modified to fit each foot, and she wore corsets and long dresses to obscure her distortions. The clothing in the exhibition were only recently discovered in a storage room of the house 50 years after her death.

She was born in 1907 and died in 1954. Despite this short life span, she was married to Diego Rivera twice. After being separated for a short period the first time, they remarried. They traveled outside Mexico to San Francisco, New York and Europe. Many of their works are inspired from these travels.

I hope you will enjoy the delicate sensitivity from this talented artist’s work, and appreciate the strong influence of Diego Rivera on her life. Her mantra was “Viva la Vida!”

Here’s hoping you all were able to “Viva la Vida” in 2014 and will do more of the same in 2015!!

Destination 3 of 10: Paris



1. Join Melissa for some awesome food spotting near the apartment on Rue du Bac in St Germaine des Pres. (update: done)
2. Visit the Arab Museum to understand better the incredible contributions to science and math led by the Arab world (and hopefully the French are no longer so stuffy as to resist translations of material in English!) (update: done)
3. Make stops at Mora and Dellerhin to introduce Karen to the French version of Sur La Table.(update: Dellerhin only)

Destination 2 of 10: London


1. Revisit the places where I lived in London for five months when I was awarded the Branner Traveling Fellowship from UC Berkeley. I studied the Chinese in London and how ethnic minority communities were formed. (Update: done)
2. Make a stop at the British Museum to see if there are any relics of the Silk Road trade when Bokhara, Tashkent and Samarkand were major settlements. (Update: missed due to time used to sort out a problem with accommodation in Paris)
3. Do as much walking as possible to savor the new sights and sounds of a city once known and now much more mellowed. (Update: done)