Bolivian Surprise – Peña Pachamama

8 12 2008


When I was in college back in Ohio, I went to a performance one night and my world got blown open. I’d never heard anything like Sukay before – they were a Bolivian band that had so much spirit and energy and played instruments I’d never even imagined. I loved it so much that on my college student budget I brought home three albums. (Yes, albums. Be quiet.)

Imagine my surprise when years later I ran into the same band here in San Francisco. Except that now they are not only a band – brother and sister team Eddy and Quentin Navia run Peña Pachamama, a unique, intimate supper club in North Beach that serves traditional Bolivian dishes alongside raw, organic cuisine and fantastic live music by gifted artists from around the world. A typical week looks like this:

slyWEDNESDAY: New World music – Latin, Flamenco, Mediterranean

THURSDAY: Traditional flamenco music and dance

FRIDAY: Hot Cuban music

SATURDAY: Sukay (Yes, THE Sukay!) – World music and dancing celebrating Carnaval throughout a different Latin country, Bolivia and the Andes, Cuba, Spain or Brazil

SUNDAY: Early show – open floor world music dance groups; Later show –  Middle East music and dance

Going to Peña Pachamama is a unique experience. It’s like getting on a boat – once you’re in the door, you’re just along for the ride. It’s a San Francisco – er, Bolivian – experience I recommend for everyone!  Like Robin Williams said, Peña Pachamama “is the kind of place even the Amish would dance.”


Mission Mission

25 07 2008

If you couldn’t tell by now, I really like San Francisco but I love the Mission.  Earlier this week I stumbled across a great blog called Mission Mission. I want to steal all their stuff. Instead, I’ll just put a bug in your ear to head on over there and see what they got going on.

Here are a few of their recent posts that make me tingly all over:

New Tractor-Seat Stools at Mission Pie

Fruit on Your Fruit Trees Going to Waste? – About some Mission neighborhood people who give away their excess harvest to folks who can really use it at Treat Commons Community Garden (at 23rd and Treat) every Sunday from 1-3pm. They take donations! Tired of tripping on those apricot stones? Now you can do something useful with your fruit before it rots on the ground. Free Farm Stand.

Haiku Reviews of Mission District Taquerias  – Refers to another blog ( that does bi-weekly haiku restaurant reviews.  This week she did Mission taquerias. (She’s not as thrilled with Pancho Villa as I am). Here are a couple of the reviews of the reviews:

3409 24th St. (@ Valencia)

clean, well-lit, quite fine.
burritos yes, tacos no.
sometimes a bit bland.

   Yep, Papalote in a nutshell.

2288 Mission St. (btw 18th & 19th Sts.)
3211 Mission St. (@29th St.)
1003 Market St. (@ 6th St.)

ugh. why? well, it’s bad,
it’s dirty, and it’s not nice.
I don’t get it. blech.

   Wait, what!? Actually, it’s good, it’s no dirtier than Farolito, and it’s nice. I totally get it. Yum!

Famous for Eating Tacos

23 07 2008

You never know what’s going to happen when you’re waiting for your friend to show up for dinner. A couple nights ago I was ouside Pancho Villa Taqueria on 16th Street (between Mission and Valencia) when a news crew showed up to do a story about salmonella-tainted jalapaNos. Lucky me!

By the way, my vote for best burrito has always gone to Pancho Villa. When I was there the other night, though, I had truly the BEST BURRITO EVER. I think the secret is getting it with refried beans – the regular pinto kind, not refried black beans. Yum! Oh, and mild salsa this time (no jalapeNos 😉 ).

Here’s one of my favorite photo sequences of my Uncle Ernie in Pancho Villa a few years ago.



What’s YOUR favorite burrito in town?


New England Vacation in San Francisco

21 07 2008

I’m not getting away this summer. So good thing my friend Donna finally persuaded me to have dinner last week at Woodhouse Fish Company. I’ve been hearing about it and passing it by for a few years since it replaced Cafe Cuvee in the Castro. I thought is was some upscale fish place, and was so delighfully surprised that it was more low-key and I actually felt for a few moments like I was on vacation in a New England village rather than sitting on Market Street (at 14th) staring at Safeway and watching traffic go by.

Our server was delightful, the food came fast, and it was DELISH. Here’s the confession – it’s not really the healthy kind of fish place. It was more like deep fried everything. But GOOD deep fried, if you know what I mean. You did know that authentic foods have less calories than their fast food counterparts, didn’t you?

BTW – Donna got the do-it-yourself lemonade… they bring out all the ingredients – lemon juice, simple syrup, water – and you get to mix it to your taste.  Fun and yummy.

What’s your favorite vacation-getaway-in-a-meal spot?


9 07 2008

A few years ago my friend Clover stumbled across a restaurant in the Mission on its opening day, ate there three days in a row, and wouldn’t stop talking about it until I agreed to join her for dinner there on day #5.

And I understand why! In those days, Medjool was less crowded but just as yummy as it is today. Featuring delicious small plates from three distinct

Photo by Malcojojo (flickr)

Photo by Malcojojo (flickr)

regions – North Africa, Southern Europe and the Middle East – Medjool is one restaurant, but it offers so many different food experiences. 

It also offers different kinds of dining experiences. The main dining room is large and airy, with bold colors and and exotic lighting and fixtures. Upstairs, there’s a balcony for large groups whose style is more “colorful hip.” Everyone’s favorite place, though, is the Sky Terrace on the roof, where in addition to Medjool’s great food and drink, you get a unique view of San Francisco.

What’s YOUR favorite experience at Medjool?


More on Numi…

1 07 2008

Last week I posted about my visit to the Numi Tea Garden.  On Sunday there was a great article in the Chronicle’s Sunday Magazine about the brother/sister team that head this unique company. The article describes Reem and Ahmed Rahim as “The Artist and the Alchemist” – what a beautiful combination.


Previous post about Numi.


Numi Tea Garden

23 06 2008


I once met a guy who was really into tea. He’d spend hundreds of dollars to import special teas from Asia and would offer an elaborate tea tasting to anyone who was interested. I was interested, but honestly, I couldn’t tell much difference. I’m glad there are people who do this – I’m not one of them.

Then a few weeks ago I found the Numi Tea Garden. Maybe it should be called the “New-Me” Tea Garden, because I have a new appreciation for special teas.

numi teasAfter getting lost with my sister in industrial Oakland, we found it. The environment could use some feng shui help (wink, wink), but they get points for trying. And everything else was great! We got there at the end of the day and were the only ones in the place. The receptionist also turned out to be our server, a friendly woman who was happy to answer all our questions about the teas and the traditional Chinese tea service she brought us. I ordered the Puerh Mini Tuocha Green Tea and felt like I’d just discovered a new continent. We also got a cheese plate to die for (get the soft cheeses!).

This is a fun and novel place to take out-of-town guests, or just to go and enjoy yourself. Bottoms up!


What’s your favorite tea experience?

Here’s another post on Numi Tea Garden.