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It’s a rare 90-degree day in San Francisco. And it might be worth a drive to the Sunset to sample some
Marco Polo Gelato. I just tried this for the first time last week and I can’t believe I’ve missed it all these years. The name of the place is apt: creamy Italian gelato with lush asian flavors. I had fresh mango and lychee gelato, but there was also sesame, jackfruit, durian, taro and more. It’s now one of my must-try’s if you’re visiting SF.

Harvard Square — the food post

Spending the day in Boston and Cambridge. I’m here for a the retirement concert for Harvard’s John Stewart, who is a major influence in my life — but more on that in a post later today, or late tonight.

It’s a beautiful time of year in New England. Though it’s cold and windy, the trees have turned green and the Yard looks beautiful. Definitely going to grab some pizza and a steak-and-cheese at Pinocchio’s, and have already gotten my ice cream fix at Toscanini’s. These are the musts for me whenever I’m here.

Truth to be told, Boston isn’t a great place for eating (though it has improved since I was in college). It’s somewhat reassuring to note that the tradition of bad dining continues here. For example, I noticed a new restaurant right near the utterly horrendous and inexplicably popular Border Cafe. It has one of the worst names ever: “Fire & Ice: an Improvisational Grill.” Bravissimo!!! So bad for so many reasons! It’s right up there with Reno, Nevada’s very own “Choices: a Dim Sum Cafe.”

South of the Border

After spending so much time in Canada this year, I thought I’d balance it out with a quick trip with Tom to Mexico City. We did the normal tourist stuff during the day: the Museum of Anthropology, the pyramids of Tehotihuacan, the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It’s amazing how much Magic there is in Mexico — from Catholic miracles, to human sacrifices for the plumed serpent. It’s pervasive in the art and culture of the place. I could feel a kind of supernatural hum as I walked around. By night, we went out on the town and saw a different city. Super-sophisticated restaurants (a Mexican-asian-French one that was actually good), and a lot of emphasis on electronica in the club scene. It was only a short trip, so I didn’t have time to check out the Mexican art that I’m into, but hey — I climbed a pyramid!

Attention, food lovers of Kitchener, Waterloo and environs!

Do you like chocolate? At the Kitchener Market on Saturday I met a chocolatier named Katharina Ortner who has started a wonderful thing called Anna Tolazzi Artisan Chocolates. It’s in the corner of the Market on the lower floor, where there’s a raised platform.

Anyway, these chocolates are incredibly good. As good as you’d find anywhere in the world. Please visit her so her business will thrive.

End transmission.

Organic music?

I was shopping at Whole Foods yesterday (one of those “better food for higher life-forms” markets), and noticed that they were selling a few CD’s in the checkout aisle. What were they selling you ask?

Kenny G. and Jim Brickman!

By their own organic standards this music should not be permitted. It is artificially sweetened and highly processed. Lame. Lame. Lame. Why do the organic food folks have such terrible taste in music?

Oh yeah, and whenever there’s an NPR story about an interesting new band — forget it. 99% chance they will suck.


Out here for the weekend to celebrate my brother’s birthday …

Soup Dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai. I was eager to compare them to my faves in SF, Shanghai Dumpling King. I thought the dumplings at Joe’s were generous with the soup, and the crab, pork combination was tasty, but I think the better overall package is in SF at Shanghai Dumpling King. The skin of the dumpling is more supple, and the over all dumpling experience is more tasty and sensuous overall.  Joe’s ain’t bad, though.

Then — directly to the new MUJI in Soho, smaller than the one I was in in Hong Kong, but still had lots of good stuff. I bought some more plastic containers for my conducting nerd stuff.

Dinner at Eleven Madison Park. It was amazing and perfect as only a fancy NYC restaurant could be.  Though my brother tempted fate when he told the chef, “Boy, you sure like foam on your food.”  “There was only foam on two of the dishes!” he protested.  He was cool though, and did not come out later with a meat cleaver.

A visit to The New Museum. A really cool building on the lower east side that opened a week ago, but boy was the art BAD. It was an exhibition called UNMONUMENTAL.  But it was more than that, it was un-good.  Four floors of piled up crap. Stuff like this is hard to judge, but I get so happy looking at Richard Tuttle’s piled up crap and got nothing out of this. I dunno.

Really good kebab on a street corner in Astoria.

And lots of QT with my nephew!


There’s a new sheriff in town!

Germany, Thanksgiving, & Strange Pug Behavior

I’m up here in Sun Valley, Idaho, with my family for Thanksgiving. Early morning is spent doing business — this morning I was listening to potential Beethoven 9 vocal candidates via mp3’s sent to me from my artistic administrator at the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. During the auditions I noticed that my parents’ dog

(a Pug named Ginger) sun-valley-pictures-053.jpg howled whenever she heard a soprano or a mezzo, but remained silent when she heard a baritone or tenor. Hmm.

I enjoyed my time in Germany with the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie. They really enjoyed making music, and the German approach to accents, rubato, and sound were different than what I’m used to, and quite interesting. I liked the roundness in the sound and the “whoomph” they brought to accents in this program of Scuhmann, Bruch, and Grieg. I hope to see them again soon … (also it was fun to be driven to concerts on the Autobahn at 100+ mph!)

SF Karaoke!

Haven’t Karaoke’d in a while … first stop was Cordon Bleu 5 Spice Chicken restaurant. Menu item No. 5 consists of 5 Spice Chicken, Shish Kebab, Imperial Roll, and rice covered in Meat Sauce for just $8! Then we hopped next door to Encore Karaoke Lounge where I sang “Night and Day” and “I Just Called To Say I Love You.” If I had stayed a little longer, I probably would have tried to sing “Save A Prayer,” “Careless Whisper,” and “Surreneder” (by Cheap Trick, since I’m working with them in a few weeks). As you can see, my taste in Karaoke leans towards the ballads. I guess I’m a crooner.

Food and Music …

Highlight of the week — walking around Louisville at lunch I came across a BBQ attached to the back of a truck. There seemed to be a good crowd, so I settled down for a pulled pork sandwich, which was amazing. In the meantime, the cashier’s radio was blaring some R&B that was as good as anything I’ve ever heard. “What’s on the radio?” I asked. “Johnnie Taylor,” answered the chef.

It was an incredible food and music moment. Words can’t describe it.

For the record, the songs were “Good Love” and “Last Two Dollars.”

3 Good Restaurants

Sakana Suahi (Santa Barbara): in a posh minimall in Montecito you will fine some very fine, creative sushi that is even more beautiful than the people.

Nishimura (LA): One of my modern sushi idols has opened an eponymous restaurant in WeHo. A lot of the same stuff from his former projects like The Hump and R23, but more intimate. Very few tables, beautiful room, super-refined.

King of Shanghai Dumplings (Outer Richmond, SF): Dumpling goodness. Classic Shanghai dumplings with rich and flavorful broth exploding through the thin yet al dente skin, awesome spicy won ton with some sort of peanut hot sauce, and good noodle dishes as well. I will return.

Good eating this holiday season. Happy New Year!