Thursday, April 29, 2010

Happy hour tacos make me happy!

Dear London,

Can we please *try* to get some good Mexican food? And when your menus list 'street tacos', could they perhaps be cheaper, and contain more than one little cube of chicken and a few chunks of tomato and onion? Ideally, this is what we are aiming for:

I went for black beans, with carne asada in one of the tacos, and al pastor in the other. They were both equally yummmmmy.

Pancho Villa's happy hour tacos - $1 tacos, Mon-Fri, between 3-5pm - are probably the best value meal I have ever come across, and they are SO delicious, it's sheer madness.

Two tacos, complete with free chips and as much salsa as you can shake a stick at for $2 is a favoured dindins of mine. The salsa bar (which, incidentally, is amazing, with around six different types of salsa and various other tortilla chip-eating accoutrements) also has pickled carrots and jalapenos - throw a few of those in, and you're sorted.

Happy hour tacos, I love you so much that I want to cover you in taco flavoured kisses.

Banksy's on a mission.

One of the many great things about San Francisco is stumbling upon street art, pretty much wherever you go. I find it curious and smile-inducing to come across fun sidewalk graffiti, colourful murals and cleverly thought out stencils at various random places across the city.

So, when I heard that British guerilla graffiti artist Banksy had struck in the Mission, a couple of blocks from my house, I went to take a peek...

Unfortunately someone else had already tagged right next to the image by the time I got to take a photo, which is annoying, as it kind of ruins the overall effect of the piece.

The popping-up of this new mural above the bar Amnesia, coincides with the release of the Banksy movie 'Exit Through the Gift Shop', which leads me to wonder, is it a real Banksy?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From jittery moves to new blues shoes...

Yesterday was spent mostly coffee shop-hopping, resulting in a totally cracked out Mel. Caffeine normally doesn't have any sort of effect on me, but wow, I was so jittery and fidgety and spaced out really was a very bizarre sensation, feeling drunk without actually consuming any alcohol. As I typed away on my beloved Macbook, I didn't even realise that my feet were tap-tap-tapping...

My local coffee shop Rodger's on the corner of 20th and San Carlos is offering free drinks between 4-6pm every Monday this month, and they have a very extensive selection of delicious coffees to choose from - I would definitely recommend stopping by there for a strong, tasty brew. When I went in last week the gentleman who made my coffee informed me that the trick was to 'aerate' it (ie. when the coffee is made, transfer it back and forth between two containers a few times to let the air in and cool it slightly - kind of like how you open a bottle of red wine to let it breathe before you drink it). I'm sure there is probably something to be said for this technique, as it was a tasty cuppa.

After my cracked-outness subsided, I headed over to Bender's to say happy birthday to a friend who was celebrating there and munch on a little sushi selection. This bar has a sushi chef who provides healthy and tasty bar food every Monday, which I think is a great idea, and makes a welcome change from the deep fried foods that are usually on offer in pubs and bars.

I didn't stay at the bar long, as I was keen to go and try out my new dance shoes that I had bought earlier in the day. As much as I hate to admit it, I think it may be time to hang up my silver grecian sandals. They have holes in them, and the sparkles don't sparkle anymore....but they are so comfortable! Sigh.

I decided it was time to see what San Francisco has to offer in terms of blues dancing. So, I headed on over to the nearby Polish Centre, where they run the club night Shades of Blues every Monday.

Wow. I had a lot of fun...

Not only do you get to dance under the watchful eye of the Pope, but you also have the opportunity to get down and dirty to some awesome tunes (a slow and sultry version of Blondie's Heart of Glass!) in a relaxed and comfortable environment with good (low) lighting until 1.30am. There is even a beanbag corner where you can lay back and chill if you need to take a breather. So this is where all the blues dancers have been hiding...RAAAWWWWWWR!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hello Sailor!

One of the things I really love about being in the bay area, is that I get phone calls from friends asking me if I want to go sailing.

There really is only one answer to that kind of question...Aye aye Cap'n!

So on the most perfect Sunday morning, a group of us set sail on the bay, complete with a yacht-rock playlist and a kitchen fully stocked with snacks and booze. I made a huge jug of Pimms to bring a little Britishness to the bay...unfortunately I didn't end up drinking any, due to my seasickness. Yes. In typical fashion, trust me to get seasick.

Luckily a nap helped matters. Honestly, it was the weirdest sensation, I started to feel so extremely tired and drowsy, I could hardly keep my eyes open or make conversation and I felt like the only thing that would settle my queasiness would be to lie down and shut my eyes to make it all stop.

Luckily, Seamonster Mel awoke in time to munch on a ginormous piece of fried chicken (really, I can't believe that chickens that big actually exist) as we sailed past Alcatraz and under the Bay Bridge. It was interesting to see the new part of the bridge that they are currently building, right up close like that. This was also a particularly serene part of the water, all sunny and calm, which was perfect, given the queasiness that I had previously experienced.

It was at this point that I had a chance to climb to the front of the boat and lay down on a huge pillow. I was tempted to pull a 'Titanic' pose, however, given that I was up front with Libby, rather than Leonardo, I refrained (plus, given the aforementioned seamonsterness, I'm not sure how great my rendition of 'My Heart Will Go On' would have been....and far be it from me to subject anyone to Celine Dion, in any case).

Another great discovery aboard the ship was Safeway's artichoke dip. I know this has nothing to do with sailing, but I like to talk about food and holy moly that stuff is addictive and delicious - especially when scooped up on pretzel chips. Yum.

Only in San Francisco...

Spending a lazy sunny afternoon in Dolores Park is one of my favourite things to do. I love people watching, stretching out in the grass with friends, and watching the world go by.

Saturday was another such day, and it really didn't fail to disappoint. As well as the usual mix of park loungers, from the hippies to the hipsters, there was also a really pretty loooooong trail of multi-coloured balloons floating in the sky. It stayed in place for most of the afternoon, and I have no idea what it was attached to - it looked as if it was somehow magically hovering in place...this would not surprise me, as this city is kind of magical. Eventually it flew away though...

Another highlight was the presence of a sheep in the park! After the initial amazement of seeing a cute, three month old sheep on a leash, this was also something that didn't really surprise me...just another Saturday in Dolores...

Slims, Slackers, Skanking, Sparky's!

It's been ten years since I first went to see The Slackers in London, and I have to say, they still have it.

Their show at Slim's on Friday night was sooooo much fun!!! The sound was awesome, and they had so much energy that you couldn't help but skank the night away! Slim's is a good venue and you are able to get pretty close to the band so you can really see everything that's happening on stage.

It was impossible not to dance along to their music as it's so feel-good, and has a beat that makes you wanna move your much so that although we had started off watching from a little further back, by the end of the show we were right at the front of the stage bouncing around. Good thing we got in as much dancing as we did, because we ended up making a 3am stop at Sparky's for sandwiches, which, going on my sandwich, was probably not the best idea...I'm just glad we resisted the milkshakes!

There were quite a lot of teenagers (or, at least they looked young) at the show and many of them clambered up on to the stage for a dance during the encore, which was funny. I would have loved to have done that at the show, ten years ago, when I was their age...oh who am I kidding, I could still probably be persuaded to do that...

I came away from the show happy and nostalgic, complete with an I ♥ Vic bumper sticker. There's just something about that New York accent of his...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Brunch, beach and boogie!

The Number 49 led me out of my endz and into North Beach yesterday for the 'unemployed brunch'. What better way to start the day, than with fruit, frittata, french toast and friends? The route set out for me by saw me hike up a really steep hill (complete with many steps) to get to said destination. This was probably a good thing, considering the cinnamon-raisin french toast consumption that was to follow...

With my belly full, I was all set for a delightful trip to Crissy Field beach, where it gave me great amusement to watch an unattractive dog sidle over to a random family and pee on their stuff. Not cool...but amusing nonetheless.

As well as a great view of the Golden Gate bridge, we also got to see a whole bunch of kite surfers(?) try to do their thing....and fail. It was highly annoying watching them practise their sport! First the kite would (kind of) get up in the air....then the guy would (kind of) get up on his surfboard...then the kite would fall....then the guy would just wasn't happening. The guy was getting further and further out into the water, but making no progress, and this, I tell you, was frustrating to watch.

We also encountered ROBOT MAN who looked like a wind surfing transformer (he also seemed to faff about a lot and not actually get in the water). There was something slightly creepy about him. The aforementioned ugly pooch nearly peed on his surfboard - I dread to think how he would have reacted, and what he would have done with his transformer powers, had that happened.

Our drive home saw us narrowly avoid getting onto the bridge (which we did not want to do) due to Rebekah's curiosity. I'm really glad to see Rebekah behind a steering wheel, as I can only imagine the adventures that this will lead to...

The night ended with a dancey dance to the Martini Brothers at Le Colonial. Although there is not a huge amount of space to boogie, it is a great venue, kind of swanky. There is a restaurant part downstairs, with outdoor seating, so I am keen to try out the food there sometime - I have it on good authority that the lobster is delicious too...

On my last visit to Le Colonial I drank around 3 glasses of water over the course of the night (dancing=thirsty mel) and no booze. Clearly this gave me a reputation with the bartender, as when I walked up to the bar last night, he looked over, raised his eyebrow, and said 'water?' snark, snark, snark. I was actually going to ask for water, but ended up ordering a cucumber gimlet, just to prove him wrong.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Londoner's guide to San Francisco.

On Monday I randomly bumped into Petunia and The Vipers (who I went to see at Hotel Utah last week - see previous review) at one of my favourite taquerias, Pancho Villa. It was a nice surprise to see them and meant that I could enjoy some great company whilst having dindins, rather than be a hermit and take my burrito home to snaffle down whilst stalking people on facebook....*ahem*...

As it turned out, their tour had taken them to LA after their SF show, and they were back in town for a couple of days on their way back home to Vancouver. It was decided that I would be their designated foreign tour guide the next day, and so on Tuesday afternoon I took them on a little moochie pooch 'round the Mission. As well as vintage shopping, we managed to: eat bi-rite ice cream, take in the view of the city from Dolores Park, drink a couple of (pitchers of) margarita at Puerto Allegre and most importantly, procure fake moustaches.

Being the 20th of April, I cannot remember the amount of stoners who wished us 'Happy 420'...but then I don't think they could remember that much any case, there were a lot of 'em.

In the evening we headed to Verdi Club, which is probably my favourite place to dance in the city. Tuesday Night Jump offers lindy and balboa lessons, followed by freestyle dancing to live swing and rhythm & blues, provided by house band Stompy Jones. It is such a treat to have the opportunity to dance to a live band every week, and they really are fantastic musicians!

I really like the variety of people that this club attracts - all ages, different styles, some dressy, some non-dressy, variety of dance styles etc.

Last night was probably the most fun time I've had there, as it was packed full of great dancers and there was a real buzzing atmosphere! My happy feet danced the night away and it left me with a huge smile on my face - so many wicked dances! I had a particularly high-energy dance with the winner of this year's jive competition at Viva Las Vegas who was visiting from Denver. It left me completely exhausted but exhilarated! FUN!

I didn't drink any cocktails at Verdi last night, but can I also just mention that they make a good drink - in particular I enjoy their cosmopolitans. Somehow, sipping from a martini glass seems to fit in quite well with the glamorous art deco style of the place. What wasn't quite so glamorous was my late night, super al pastor burrito on the way home...but damn it was tasty.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A birthday BBQ bonanza - Yeeehaaaaw!!!

From now on, I want all bbq's to be hillbilly hoedowns - it makes it just that much more fun.

I crossed the bridge to the East Bay for a friend's birthday bbq yesterday, and it was the most perfect, beautiful day, filled with wonderful people, food, drinks, a fire and live music. So American, and so awesome. It was about as hillbilly as a deep fried Twinkie. The only thing that could have made it better would have been ribs....and Hey Presto! There they were, in my mouth....and in my teeth. Thank heavens for tooth floss. Oh sweet, sweet ribs, how I love you...

Bbq's are my favourite, but I have to say, this was the bestest barbie I have ever been to! It was a real treat to be in the presence of so many talented musicians who entertained us all around the fire, well into the small hours. I am now trying to decide whether I should learn to play the banjo or the ukulele...

The arrival of corn bread later in the evening pleased me greatly and momentarily helped to distract me from the realisation that I could probably eat my body weight in M&M's - wow they are moreish.

I feel so lucky to have made so many lovely friends through the bay area swing dance scene, and it was great to meet even more friendly people at the party. I continue to be welcomed with such overwhelming kindness and generosity that I really feel at home here. Now if only I could take everyone back to London with me when I eventually have to return...

She killed it with kisses and from it she fled...

I feel like I've seen more live music in the past week than I have in the last few months! Fellow Brits, Florence and The Machine played a sold out show at Mezzanine on Saturday, and although I watched them through a tequila and champagne induced haze (*ahem*) I thought they played well and had the audience captivated throughout the whole set.

Florence is a real English rose, and she twirled around the stage in a long, flowing white dress which added to her ethereal quality. She has a powerful voice and sang her LUNGS out (see what I did there? Lungs? The album title? Never mind.) although I have to admit, I get a little bored of her voice after a while...

That being said, I enjoy her lyrics and the passion that comes across so strongly in her performance.

Things I really liked:

1)There is a real freedom in Florence Welch's presence.
2)The song 'Dog Days are over' - I love this song, so I enjoyed watching them perform it.
3)There was a harp.

I'm not overly keen on Mezzanine as a venue, I think there is a weird atmosphere to the place. But I like the fact that you have the choice of watching from the balcony or at ground level.

I'm glad that I had the opportunity to see them play a relatively small-ish venue, as they are fast becoming more and more popular and I have a feeling that their London shows will keep getting bigger...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Salad is sexy.

I finally went to a local grocery store on Mission today, because I was hankering for a delicious salad, and it was time to stock up on supplies. Well WHO KNEW that you could buy an iceberg lettuce for 30 cents....THIRTY CENTTTTTSSSSS! I am saying a big screw you! to the supermarkets, because there is no way they could have matched my ginormous bag of fruits and veggies for $10.

This makes me happy! Now, how to resist the temptation of buying 500 bunches of parsley for $1...

This salad was definitely worth risking bumping into someone I knew in my pyjamas and sunglasses...

Rootin' tootin' hillbilly hoedown!

The Hotel Utah was my venue of choice for a country infused musical bonanza last night.

This show made me happy. There really is something to be said about the idea that 'when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you.' Rick, the frontman of the first band, Hotsie Totsie Hillbilly Jazzbos, has an infectious smile to match the fun, catchy tunes he sings. I was highly amused when my friend was asked up on stage to shake her maracas....or, well, to shake the set of maracas they provided her with for one song!

The steel guitar is fast becoming one of my favourite instruments, and there was more to come in the next band, The B-Stars, who I first saw a couple of weeks ago at Viva Las Vegas. Their music makes me want to get up and dance....although I'm also quite happy to sit and watch them, as they are always dressed well, and it still fascinates me how the double bass player, Eric, can play when one of his hands is in a huge bandage and splint. Apparently this is due to an accident during his part time job as a knife thrower's assistant....or no, wait, it was down to a freak spanking incident...oh, actually, I think it was a can opening any case, I've seen the scar, and it aint pretty.

The headliners were a band from Vancouver - Petunia and The Vipers. They rocked! One word for you: kazoo. Oh. Yes.

I would highly recommend seeing this band, who had an interesting style, with a lot of their songs starting out quite slow and dark, and then speeding up into kazoo fun times. The majority of their music was rockabilly or Western swing, but they also threw in some boogie. Oh, and there was yodelling involved...

This is kind of a strange comparison to draw, but the songs which started out slower and darker, with the double bass being played with a bow, reminded me a bit of Black Heart Procession. Ok, so they are completely different, but there was just a little somethingsomething about the haunting sounds that led me to this conclusion. Hmm. You can listen to some of their numbers here:

Top night, and I was completely sober, which is testament to how fun and captivating these bands are! It did make me wish I'd brought my cowboy boots with me though, as I felt like the only person who wasn't bootiful.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

And if music was the food of love...

Last night I went to see Frank Turner at The Rickshaw, and I have to say, he played a blinder! What a fun show! I'm always excited to see British musicians in San Francisco, as they often play more intimate venues. Plus there's something strangely satisfying about knowing you are from the same country as the band and you all live in the same country - but none of you are there, so you have some sort of connection that you wouldn't have if it was at a show in the UK...if that makes sense?!

Actually, it seems the Brits were out in force last night, with a range of shows taking place across SF and Oakland ahead of Coachella festival in SoCal - Muse, LaRoux, Thom Yorke and Erol Alkan. How annoying that all of these gigs were on the same night. Anyway, I decided to go with Frank Turner, as I'd never seen him live before, and I liked the idea of supporting a lesser known musician with the added bonus of being at a smaller venue. I was glad I chose to go to this show, and I even got to chat to him for a bit before he took to the stage!

I'll be honest, I didn't pay much (any) attention to the two support acts. In fact, most of the time I don't really bother with the warm up bands at these types of gigs unless I know their music - I know I could be missing out on something amazing, but it's a risk I'll take. So instead, I immersed myself in drinkiepoos, meaning I was suitably merry by the time FT came on.

I was impressed at how well he played and how great the sound was. He also interacted with the crowd really well, which to me is an integral part of the live music experience. The venue was pretty packed and the crowd loved him - they demonstrated this by singing along to everything! It seems like he is definitely the kind of musician who has a loyal following of fans who know all the words to all his songs. I particularly love 'The Road' so I was happy that he played that and I got quite excitable...until a mini mosh pit formed and someone fell on me. I was unhappy that he didn't play 'Substitute' because that's my favourite. Waaaah.

All in all a really fun gig! I definitely want to see him again - and it seems I am not the only one, as his gigs in London are getting bigger. He already played a couple of sold out shows at The Roundhouse in Camden this year and he is set to play Brixton Academy in December.

The night ended with a quick venue change to the Edinburgh Castle for a boogie to the sounds of 1964, although my recollection of that is tinged with if only I could forget my decision to succumb to the advances of a particularly cheesy slice of late night pizza before bedtime...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bright light city set my soul on fire...

It's been nearly two weeks since Viva Las Vegas and I am still marvelling at all the fun I well as planning my return next year...

What a truly amazing weekend of good old fashioned fun and frolics! After hearing about Viva a couple of years ago, and never having had the chance to go, I finally got round to it this April and it was definitely worth the wait. As well as catching up with friends, I also made lots of wonderful new friends, listened to a lot of great music, admired all the fabulous outfits, got my buffet fix, lusted after all the vintage and retro clothes and accessories on sale, danced my little socks off...and drank booze out of a plastic cowboy boot. Of course.

As well as being entertained by bay area favourites The Hi-Rythm Hustlers, The B-Stars and The Royal Deuces - all of which played blinding shows - I gotta say I was wowed by the wonderful Wanda Jackson. She still has it. In bucketloads. She pulled in a huge crowd, but as ever, that didn't stop my happy feet and I still managed to find space for a dancie dance. Fun.

As a fan of weekenders, I have to say that this has been my best one to date. It had the perfect balance of bands, djs, dancing, style, vendors, glamour and entertainment (fashion show, burlesque competition, tiki pool party, jive contest, car show...) and the fact that it was all held at one hotel (The Orleans) made it really easy to flit about. It was also great to be in the comfort of a hotel, as opposed to the damp and crusty old chalets of the UK holiday camps...I suppose I was particularly comfortable, given that when I went to check in, I was informed that the hotel was very full, so I had been upgraded to a suite. Hello jacuzzi hot place....3 televisions...

My trip was rounded off nicely when I went to board my flight to San Francisco and I was informed that the flight was very full, so I had been upgraded. Lots of legroom = happy Mel.

Luxury, you have found me, and I never want to give you up.