San Francisco


Guide to Celebrating Valentine’s Day, Bay Area Style

Valentine’s Day is upon us. Images of hearts and cupids are everywhere. What’s on your agenda for this special day? If you’re still open to ideas, we’ve got some for you.



What’s on the menu for Valentine’s Day? This year, it’s all about salt, sugar, bacon and beer. And chocolate, of course, in every way from molten to heart-shaped. Here’s a pick from our list of delectable local treats.



A box of chocolates and flowers might earn you some points, but you’ll definitely score by making something homemade. And you don’t even have to create something overly complicated. It’s the thought that counts. So here is a heartfelt and handmade recipe for Gooey Baked S’mores. Plop a heart-shaped marshmallow on top of some chocolate and a graham cracker, light it on fire and you are set! It is that easy. And that tasty!



So you don’t have a boo. No biggie. Sure, it’s fun to hold hands and have someone buy you an eclair for no reason and all that jazz. Loving someone else is super. But there’s another form of love that predates loving someone else: the love you have for yourself a.k.a. The Greatest Love of All!  Here are a few ideas of ways to spend your Valentine’s Day. Read it here on KQED Pop.



Conversation hearts and chocolate samplers fill the grocery aisles, your inbox is filled with coupon deals for roses and romantic dates, and your grandmother has yet again asked if you have a “special friend.” Dan Slater, author of Love in the Time of Algorithms visited KQED’s Forum recently. Here’s some advice on how to make sense of the online dating scene.

The Best Hotel Bars in the Bay


A good hotel bar is a happy place, an elegant but relaxed haven where gussied up guests—locals and tourists alike—mix in right alongside post-work corporate casual and fresh-off-the-ferry explorers still in their sneaks and Alcatraz sweatshirts. The very atmosphere casts a more glamorous sheen over everyone. By the varied nature of their clientele, a constant stream of strangers, hotel bars carry just a hint of chance and mystery, and a sense that anything could happen.

Here’s a roundup of our favorites.


There’s no dearth of hotel bars in downtown San Francisco: the classics (e.g. Top of the Mark and the Starlight Room) to the modern lounges conveniently clustered on Geary Boulevard around Taylor Street (Hotel Monaco, Hotel Adagio, and so on). But apart from the tired, contrived, and sometimes creepy ones, these classics rise above the rest.

Redwood Room, The Clift Hotel (Geary at Taylor)

The Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel is a delight of “lodge deco”—as if Nick and Nora Charles shined up the Ahwahnee Hotel. Beautifully designed and decked out in wood panels and Art Deco details, this place exudes class and a chic sense of humor. The real action is at the back of the lobby—the Redwood Room—where the paintings slide and shift and a DJ keeps the night crowd lively with subdued house music. The bar itself, with its towering mirrored display, is breathtaking. For a quieter experience (i.e. where visitors can have an intimate conversation), check out The Living Room directly across from registration. Same booze, but with lush sofas and deep sinking club chairs.

Parallel 37 and The Lounge, The Ritz-Carlton (Stockton at California)

This lush bar might best be described as Mad Men set in the woods, with tables and counters fashioned from gorgeous slabs of trees surrounded by low-slung Danish modern furniture. For a more cosmopolitan setting, enjoy the handcrafted cocktails in The Lounge with the skyline for company.

The Clock Bar, Westin St. Francis (Union Square)

After a whirlwind shopping tour in Union Square, the Clock Bar at the St. Francis offers a lovely and easily accessible respite from the crowds—as well as a great stiff drink. It’s small, but comfortable and worth a stop for the tired and chilled.

(In a case of an exception proving the rule, honorable mention does go to the Tonga Room, which, for those with a sense of humor and a yearning for balmier climes, offers that unique tiki bar experience—really, who can resist drinks served in coconut shells with umbrellas?)


Paragon, Claremont Hotel (Berkeley)

Located in the posh Claremont Hotel, this bar is spare and modern without being cold. Paragon offers stunning views of the sunset and the San Francisco skyline, especially pretty when it’s lit up at twilight. Take advantage of East Bay weather and enjoy cocktails on the deck. Live jazz Fridays and Saturdays.

Five, Hotel Shattuck (Berkeley)

Five is actually a restaurant in the Hotel Shattuck with a sweet bar and lounge that’s very easily accessible by BART (downtown Berkeley station). Make sure to catch the “after hour happy hour” offered everyday from 7-9pm.


Hedley Club Lounge, Hotel De Anza (San Jose)

Since the 1930s, the Hotel De Anza has presided over downtown San Jose’s sparkling social scene. The beauty of the hotel is amplified by its storied past (one of San Jose’s few Zig Zag Moderne buildings). Inside, visitors can relax in the Hedley Club Lounge amidst art deco elegance. Settle back in a plush armchair or enjoy a table on the patio and, with Al Green softly crooning, you can actually enjoy a conversation. Live jazz Thursday-Saturday evenings.

The Grill on the Alley, The Fairmont (San Jose)

Located off Cesar Chavez park, the Fairmont boasts not one but three hotel bar options: the Pagoda, the Bamboo Lounge, and The Grill. Skip the first two and go straight to The Grill, which has an elegant Rat Pack feel with deep leather booths and a build-your-own martini menu.  It also has a patio and great people watching.


The Pelican English Bar, The Pelican Inn (Marin)

The Pelican Inn transports you to another time and place: an English inn and pub tucked onto the rocky ledge of the Marin Headlands. Dark and cozy, it’s the perfect foil for coastal fog. Hike from Tennessee Valley and enjoy a pint by the fire as a reward. Enjoy a meal at the restaurant or take advantage of the pub’s bar menu and warm up with some English comfort food. On nice days, take your lunch on the patio, then stroll down to Muir Beach. (Nice to note that the Pelican takes advantage of its proximity to organic coastal farms and ranches, serving local meats and seasonal vegetables from the Zen Center’s Green Gulch Farm next door.)

Farely Bar, Cavallo Point (Sausalito)

Tucked under the Golden Gate Bridge, Farely Bar at Cavallo Point offers stunning views of San Francisco, the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge—day or night. The bar has a distinct Northern California charm with a beautiful antique tin ceiling, leather club chairs and fireplaces. Enjoy drinks inside or out (they even provide blankets on the outdoor patio to keep stargazers warm in the evening).  Music Monday nights.

– By Deb Zambetti


What Are You Doing for New Year’s Eve? Seven Ideas for Celebrating in the Bay

Flickr: Dwan.Mac

It’s always tough to decide what to do on the final night of the year. Below, we’ve made it easier for you to make a choice.

1.  Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. Early Bird New Year’s Eve Party

One of the benefits of living on the West Coast is that you can watch the ball drop on the East Coast before reasonable bedtime. Bring the whole family to the Early Bird Party at Half Moon Bay Brewing Co. and eat, listen to music and New Years it up, all before 9pm.

2.  The Fresh & Onlys at The Chapel in San Francisco

If you want to see some great music and enjoy a little of the craziness that is New Year’s Eve in the Mission, this show might be just the ticket. The Chapel is the new venue on Valencia Street that everyone has been talking about since September and this show is full of the perfect awesome rock and roll to help you ring in 2013.

3.  Erykah Badu at the Fox Theater in Oakland

Maybe you want your New Year’s Eve show a little more dramatic? There is no way Erykah Badu at the Fox won’t be amazing. Besides the fact that the Fox is one of the most beautiful venues in the Bay, Erykah Badu has literally never disappointed anyone?

4.  New Year’s Eve at Laughing Lotus in San Francisco

For some people, New Year’s Eve is a panic-inducing event that will never live up to expectations and generally ends in some sort of humiliation. Want to avoid over-drinking to cover up your anxiety and then watching someone else kiss your ex-boyfriend at midnight? How about yoga, chanting, music and dancing at Laughing Lotus? Get some exercise, get some perspective, get some community and wake up in the morning with a good attitude.

5.  Noon Year’s Eve at the Bay Discovery Museum in Sausalito

If you want to make sure your kids get a good dose of New Year’s Eve countdown-ing but don’t want that to get in the way of your more adult nighttime plans, take them to Noon Year’s Eve and let them countdown to noon instead! There’s even a special noontime ball drop.

6.  Hot Buttered Rum and Family

What would Bay Area New Year’s Eve be without some bluegrass? Everyone’s favorite, Hot Buttered Rum will keep you dancing all the way into 2013.

7.  Winter Wonderland in Downtown San Jose

Here’s a way to make New Year’s Eve live up to expectations: carnival rides and ice skating! Bring the whole family to downtown San Jose for an active and exciting and affordable kid-friendly New Years Eve.

— By Lizzy Acker




6 Ways to Escape the Fog in Less Than an Hour!

Updated: June 2, 2014

Flickr:Marcin Wichery

The lack of seasons in San Francisco is a sore point for many of us, and the subject of plenty of digs. But here’s the truth that makes those weather-related barbs slide right off our backs: Even in the soupiest thick of fog, all it takes is an hour’s drive and you can be somewhere where you don’t need a light sweater at all. (Of course, you’ll want to keep one in your backpack. You’ll need it for the ride home.)

1. MT. TAM

It’s hard to believe there is a forest on a mountain just an hour outside of the home of Rice-A-roni and cable cars. Mt. Tamalpais is full of places to hike, bike and view the fog-shrouded city, outside of the fog. Any level of hiker can find a scenic, exhilarating hike. You can look for native flora, like chaparral plants, rare and endangered plants, and when in season lovely wildflowers. With so many different routes to choose from, your best bet is to seek out some recommended loop hikes that go through all kinds of different terrains, from shaded woods to sweeping coastal trails.


Sweeney Ridge, between San Bruno and Pacifica is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which means sometimes you can even get a themed walk led by a ranger. Beware, the hiking is a bit steep but if you make it to the top, you’re rewarded with an amazing view. Bonus: bring your binoculars and look for hawks!


Flickr:Bryce Edwards

Whether you take a car, a bike, a bus or the ferry, it doesn’t take too long to get over the Golden Gate Bridge and down into Sausalito, where you’re almost always guaranteed a sun rays and shadows. Walk down Bridgeway and find a cheeseburger or an ice cream cone to enjoy while looking out over the water to the city. If you have kids with you, make sure you stop by the Bay Area Discovery Museum and check out the Imagination Playground.


Get on your bike and take BART to Downtown Berkeley for a leisurely ride around town. You can use the Biking and Walking Map to navigate the wonderfully wide bike lanes. Head to the Marina or explore U.C. Berkeley’s campus. Check out the street vendors and musicians on Telegraph Avenue and eat like a college student for an afternoon by getting cheap pizza and self-serve frozen yogurt by the pound. You deserve it after so much bike riding in the sun.


Here’s a secret: the people who misquote Mark Twain, saying “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” have never been to Dogpatch. This neighborhood on the east side of the city is as far away from the ocean as it is possible to be within city limits, which means it’s protected from the fog by two sets of hills. The neighborhood is pretty industrial but it’s up-and-coming, with fun brunch spots, bars and a great butcher. If you see the fog rolling in, hop on a bus to the Dogpatch and buy yourself a few more hours of sunshine.



While San Francisco does have its own beaches, the typical wind patterns make them not quite the most relaxing spots to for summer sunbathing or playing in the water. Less than an hour’s drive north is beautiful Stinson Beach, where the fog typically lifts by late morning, leaving a wide, inviting stretch of beach while still keeping a little of that wild, Northern California feel. You can grab picnic lunches from a variety of eateries in the small village, and stop for ice cream on the way home. A day spent here feels like a mini-holiday.

-By Lizzy Acker