Posts Tagged ‘Gay Travel’


January 13th, 2013 Comments off

Image via Passport

The San Francisco Agenda was Passport’s first pop up blog, and we hope you enjoyed all the great people and places we discovered and shared with you. By inviting writers and photographers from around the world to contribute to our Pop Up Blogs, we hope to provide you with an insider’s knowledge of the people and places that make each city we visit unique and exciting.

Each of the blog postings from the San  Francisco Agenda are archived here to help you plan your visits to wonderful the City by the Bay. A big thank you to Jim Gladstone for his amazing reviews and interviews.

BTW: What city would you like us to feature in our next Pop Up Blog? Let us know.

All the best from Team Passport!

Insider tips: Author Michelle Tea

July 10th, 2012 Comments off

For 15 years, San Francisco author Michelle Tea has spearheaded Sister Spit, a loose collaborative of roadtripping queer writers and performers that brings alcohol- and vegan meatloaf-fueled evenings of cabaret-styled provocation to college campuses, community centers, and art spaces around the country. This fall, venerable SF publisher City Lights will launch an entire line of Sister Spit Books, to be curated by Tea, whose own past novels, including the lesbian landmark Valencia bode well for what promises to be an edgy, engaging imprint. We’ll keep SF Agenda readers informed about local authors and events related to Sister Spit, but while we wait for news, we asked Michelle to answer our Insider Tips questionnaire about some of her recommendations for SF visitors and locals.

 What’s your favorite SF cultural institution?

 The GLBT Historical Society. Their archives are open to the public, and contain really incredible artifacts – Harvey Milk’s Levi’s, Sylvester’s sequined stage costumes, a bar stool from the legendary ‘female impersonators’ nightclub Finnochio’s. They have the entire collection of every On Our Backs ever published (who knew Dorothy Allison was writing for them at the start?! Not me!). One gentleman left the Society a collection of his lovers’ pubic hair, all neatly collected in little glass jars and labeled with their names. It’s really a fun and vast collection, and they also run a storefront museum in Castro on 18th Street that shows different aspects of the archives with cultural context. San Francisco is really lucky to have this institution!

What’s the best spot to take in a view of the city?

Probably the view from the top of Dolores Park. The park itself curves out beneath you like this pretty green bowl, and then beyond that is the city. It’s a great, inspiring view, especially on a sunny day. At night I like the view of the waterfront when you’re driving back over the Bay Bridge. It looks so charming and exciting, old fashioned somehow with the ferry building, but totally not, with the giant buildings.

Michelle Tea has to eat and run (Photo: Amos Mac)

You are one of the best dressed literary ladies around.  Where do you like to shop.

For clothes, in the Mission, I like the Candy Store Collective and The Bell Jar. For vintage Stone Pony and Painted Bird are great and for actual thrifting, Community Thrift and Thrift Town. In a city of mad thrifters you can still find treasures at these places! I also love high-end consignment and discount stores, and good places for that are Sui Generis and in the Castro (second hand stuff you can’t afford the first time around) [Ed.: Honey, love that store, but I can't afford most of their stuff the second time around either!], and My Roomate’s Closet in the Marina (where Philip Lim and Costume National go to die).

For interesting ephemera I like 826 Valencia (which is like a fun house on top of being an actual store, where one can open drawers and discover dioramas, or get themselves swabbed. That would be a trap door of mop heads tumbling down on you.) and Paxton Gate and Viracocha, which is like a beautiful art installation you can buy earrings at.

For books I love Dog Eared Books, which are new and used with a fantastic remainder table. And City Lights is the best is like being in a museum and  wonderful bookstore at the same time. There is so much history, and then shelves of the best edgy and political work that is out right now. A whole alcove dedicated to zines and chapbooks, and a whole floor dedicated to poetry! Unheard of!

What would you tell visitors are San Francisco’s “must eats”? 

I am obsessed with the tacos and burritos from Pancho Villa on 16th Street in the Mission, in particular their chili verde chicken, which is stewed and delicious. I like to get ‘baby burritos’, which are slightly smaller version of the giant ones that can be a bit too much. You can pick spinich or chili tortillas, and there are tons of bean options, like 10 different agua frescas and a giant salsa bar. Also, for a really special and slightly otherworldly dining experience, check out Outerlands, in the Outer Sunset just blocks from the ocean. It looks like it was made by ocean-dwelling gnomes, with driftwood and plants hung on rusting chains, and the food is really great.Their Sunday brunch is awesome, and the wait can be annoying but a few doors down is Trouble Coffee, a little shop that sells only three things – coffee, fresh young coconuts (they slice the top off for you) and thick slices of cinnamon toast. Get some caffeine and a snack to tide you over and browse overpriced but lovely hippie wares at The General Store. If it’s a nice day check out their backyard, which has a big old picnic table and a lovely little greenhouse.

And for the best, most extravagant meal of your life, splurge at Atelier Crenn, a Michelin-starred restaurant where a wildly talented and creative French chef serves up Asian-inspired dishes with the help of molecular gastronomy.The menu is a poem, and on my visit one of the desserts came with smoked fog. Yes, fog.

More food, drink, and—gulp—death, after the jump Read more…

Celebrating the Golden Gate Bridge at 75: The bridge in cinema

May 24th, 2012 Comments off

This Sunday, May 27, city is going all out to celebrate the official first day of  Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th anniversary year. There’s a full slate of waterfront festivities featuring bridge-related art and science exhibits; displays of antique cars and boats from 1937,  when the bridge was first opened; and an evening fireworks display to cap it all off.

The celebration is just getting under way though, with activities—including daily walking tours rich in details about the bridge’s history and engineering—spanning the summer. So if you decide to skip the crowds this weekend, there’s lots more ahead. One of our favorite upcoming tributes is…The Bridge on the Big Screen Film Series

The Golden Gate may never have won Hollywood’s golden statuette, but the bridge is featured in the films screening on Saturday nights at the Presidio (FREE ADMISSION):

  • It Came from Beyond the Sea, May 26 – outdoors
  • Howeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco,  June 2 – outdoors
  • Superman: The Movie, June 9 – outdoors
  • Vertigo, June 16
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, July 21
  • A View to a Kill, August 18
  • Monsters vs. Aliens, September 15

Alas, 2011′s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, with loads of intense action on the Golden Gate, the streets of San Francisco, Muir Woods, and even the Cable Cars isn’t included in the series.  Click here for an awesome clip.

And get a gander of Grace Jones and Christopher Walken ogling the bridge, after the jump.

Read more…

Insider tips: Novelist Lewis DeSimone

May 22nd, 2012 Comments off

Lewis DeSimone

Last night, I had the pleasure of joining novelist Lewis DeSimone at a City Arts & Lectures event where John Irving discussed his new novel, In One Person, which chronicles 50 years in the life of a bisexual man.  DeSimone’s own new book, The Heart’s History,  focuses on four years in the life of a circle of gay Bostonians.

DeSimone’s fellow local literary luminary Michele Tea has praised The Heart’s History for its perspective on ”the slow assimilation of a larger gay culture that used to be more angry and badass.”

DeSimone studied at Harvard, but has made his home in San Francisco for 19 years now. He lives in the midst of the Castro, but has badass insider tips that will take you all over town…


What’s your favorite cultural institution in the city?

Davies Symphony Hall.  It’s a beautiful space, with great acoustics and comfortable seating.  One of my favorite events of the year is the Symphony’s opening gala.


How about your favorite view?

My favorite view in the city is from the top of Market Street, when the whole skyline just opens up before you.  My favorite view of the city, though, is on 101 south, when you emerge from the Waldo Tunnel just before the Golden Gate Bridge. Even though I know what to expect by now, every time that view of the bridge and the city emerges, it’s miraculous.


Where do you recommend for shopping?

I love to stroll along 24th Street in Noe Valley.  It has wonderful little shops and restaurants, and the street life is totally charming.

Dim sum, fine dining, and sightseeing tips, after the jump


Read more…

The Bay Club, escape within the city

May 21st, 2012 Comments off

The Bay Club provides an escape from the office from early morning to late at night

Alas, the San Francisco Agenda’s restaurant coverage doesn’t only show up online.  It also shows up on my waistline.

Which led me to visit Bay Club San Franciso, one of the city’s swankiest gyms.

Frankly, “gym” doesn’t cut it. With five squash courts, 11,000 square feet of yoga and pilates studios, two indoor pools, a full-size basketball court, and a relentless schedule of group exercise classes, this sprawling, light-filled facility at Greenwich and Sansome near Levis Plaza is a daily vacation of sorts for many of its members, who avail themselves of the club’s free shuttle services that zip Financial District workers to and from the club on a regular loop that runs from 6:15 am to 8:45 pm.

If you bus over to the Bay Club for a work break, you may find it suits you to spend the rest of the day here. The enormous locker lounges offer sitting areas with plasma televisions running stock tickers and sportscasts, and there are quiet, glassed-in cubicles where you can plug in a laptop and get some work done between laps in the pool and shvitzes in the steam room. The spacious café has soundproof glass walls overlooking the squash courts where you can enjoy a light meal. And with wifi that flows as freely as the sweat here, you may find the Bay Club more conducive to accomplishment than your office space. Watching the constant parade of ruddy post-exercisers certainly provides far more inspiration to work out than the jellybean jar on your receptionist’s desk.

Pilates and yoga are offered one-on-one, and in group classes

Once you’ve succeeded at knocking out both your work and your workout, reward yourself with a treatment at the club’s full-service Sanctuary Spa. Spa services are also available to the general public…and if you get a facial or massage, you get full access to the Bay Club’s facilities all day.

Insider tips: Writer-performer Kirk Read

March 27th, 2012 Comments off

The always colorful Kirk Read (Photo: Toby Jantzen)

This Friday and Saturday night, March 30 and 31, Kirk Read presents his latest one-man-a-palooza, Computer Face,  at The Garage. Kirk manages to make performance art charming, even as he laces it with all manner of playful perversity. The yarns spun in Computer Face include a fantasia of touring with the Republican presidential candidates as a tagalong sex worker. SFAgenda asked Kirk to honor us by being the first local notable to answer our “Tips for Tourists” questionnaire. His replies do not disappoint…

What are some of your favorite cultural institutions in San Francisco?
I like the indigenous art gallery at the de Young. It’s an amazing place to go tripping on mushrooms because it’s so perfectly lit. The masks come alive. You should go with someone because the masks are powerful and there is high potential for a meltdown.
I am a huge fan of the Center for Sex and Culture and do events there a lot. Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence, to me, are the essence of what San Francisco is. They champion pleasure, kindness, intellect and art.
And Joe Landini of the Garage is a sort of saint, taking in all these performance art strays and giving us an unpretentious place to do our work. I love doing my stuff there because it used to be an auto garage and now it’s a theater and so much of that mechanic aesthetic carries through. Joe is a big ol’ bear. That’s probably part of it.
I would argue that the sex clubs Eros and Blow Buddies are cultural institutions and they are definitely two of my favorite places. I love that at Blow Buddies people walk around with beers and smoke cigars on the patio.
What’s the best view in the city?
The top of Bernal Heights is a place I take visitors because it captures the vastness of the city. It’s mythic up there. I did a naked photo shoot in the grass once and accidentally rolled in dog doo. That place belongs to dogs. I still don’t know what is going on with that tower up there. I really should use my google function, but it’s nice to have mysteries in life.
Kirk chews the fat about food and restaurants after the jump…

The (4-year-) old Rrazzle Dazzle: San Francisco’s intimate nightclub, The Rrazz Room, celebrates another year

March 26th, 2012 Comments off

Rrazz Room impresarios Rory Paull and Robert Kotonly flank diva CeCe Peniston (Photo: Pat Johnson)

Last Wednesday night, a most eclectic constellation twinkled in the San Francisco night.  The Rrazz Room at the Hotel Nikko, perhaps the United States’ most adventurously booked boîte, celebrated its 4th anniversary with a benefit for St. Jude’s Hospital for Children. The evening’s “Whoa, how the heck are these acts gonna share a stage?” kind of lineup proved utterly successful. It reflected the wide-ranging tastes of Rrazz owner-impresarios Robert Kotonly and Rory Paull, long loathe to have their club perceived as a ‘cabaret’ with all the attendant stereotypes of dowager princesses downing too many expensive martinis to the songbook standards of their faded youth.

While the Rrazz’s quirkily curated booking calendar always incorporates some of same great interpreters of song who ply their trade at Manhattan’s Carlyle, Feinstein’s, and the late-lamented Algonquin Oak Room (Tyne Daly, Betty Buckley and Amanda McBroom have all played the intimate 186 seat room over the past couple seasons), Kotonly and Paull cast a much wider net. Well-regarded soul, R&B, gospel, comedy, jazz, burlesque and drag acts are a regular part of the offerings, as are some of the Bay Area’s best local talent—fortunate to have the chance to perform in such a jewel box of a venue.

Natalie Douglas, a sublime interpreter of song (Photo: Pat Johnson)

And so, last Thursday’s highlights swung like a drunken metronome from Edna Wright—spark plug sister of Darlene Love—belting “Want Ads,” a 1970 hit with her group, The Honey Cone; to local percussion legend Pete Escovedo and his sons pounding out a volcanic set of Latin jazz; to CeCe Peniston riling up the crowd with her dance club classic “Finally”; to a revelatory rendition of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Natalie Douglas, who deserves to be a household name.

More on the anniversary gala, and Rrazz room April highlights after the jump 

Read more…

Bridging gay generations: The art of Daniel Dallabrida

March 23rd, 2012 Comments off

Daniel Dallabrida, artist

This Monday, March 26,  at 7 p.m. a multi-generational gathering of gay writers and performers will participate in “Younger Than Jesus: Older Than Aids” at the magnet community space in the Castro. The evening is an extension of artist Daniel Dallabrida’s current exhibition, discussed below…

“I want today’s young gay men to realize that those of us in our fifties and beyond have something to offer,” local artist Daniel Dallabrida told John and I over drinks at the  Eureka Lounge a few weeks back.

“Those of us who lived through the AIDS crisis can walk down the street here in the Castro and feel like we’re invisible today, in this culture of Glee and gay marriage and kids coming out in junior high school.”

Even the setting of Dallabrida’s current exhibition addresses the tensions and connections embedded in his art: His photography and photographed mixed-media collages are on display through next Wednesday, March 28, at magnet, the Castro’s sexual health services center, where so many of today’s young gay San Franciscans are regularly tested for HIV.

The small exhibit, titled  In Now’s waters burn the stars of Then, features works that combine Dallbrida’s casual, snapshot of denim clad, mustachioed gay men circa 1980—the united, unknowing members of a generation soon to be decimated—with posed, slickly lit images of twinks, bears, pigs and other self-proclaimed subtypes torn from the colorful party flyers that confetti the Castro today.


Read more…

The Castro is Cooking: Jake’s Joins Restaurant Renaissance

March 22nd, 2012 Comments off

In a food-frenzied city like San Francisco, it’s remarkable that the gay-centric Castro neighborhood has been something of a culinary wasteland. But the Stro’s reputation as a vortex of grinding and black hole of dining has begun to evolve over the past couple years.  Alternatives to Jell-O shots, pizza slices, burritos, steam table dumplings, and penis-shaped Hot Cookies have been arriving at a nice clip.

Chef Erik Hopfinger

Worthy newcomers include tapas emporium Canela, dependable Starbelly with its lovely tented porch, and the nationally acclaimed Frances.  The latest addition to that list is Jake’s on Market, a versatile new watering hole in the space that housed longtime favorite 2223. Jake’s owners Tim Travelstead and Brad Becker (the restaurant is named for the couple’s son) have collaborated on a menu that ranges widely in both its dishes and its price points, with a clear intent to build a clientele of neighborhood regulars as well as diners from further afield.

Chef Erik Hopfinger—a season four Top Chef alum—has cooked at Butterfly and Circa, but it feels like he’s hitting his sweet spot with the slightly upscaled comfort food he’s presenting at Jake’s (Dude’s straight, but I wouldnt be surprised if they form a fan club headquarters a few blocks away at the 440). His smarts show up in an appetizer that our server deemed “The Tupac and Biggie of Crabcakes,” a pairing of two tablespoon sized morsels, one—on the West Coast of the plate—made from fresh Dungeness crab and accompanied by Meyer lemon aioli; and a second—on the East Coast—composed of Chesapeake blue crab with Old Bay aioli. Its a clever presentation, and there’s no doubt you can taste the difference between the Pacific crab’s sweetness and the Atlantic’s salinity.

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Drinks ‘n’ nibbles in North Beach, at Campanula Kitchen

March 21st, 2012 Comments off

North Beach has long been one of San Francisco’s most popular neighborhoods for an early evening stroll. It’s dense with terrific little tourist spots, from one-time Beatnik hangouts like the Vesuvio bar and Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s still-going-strong City Lights Books, to Diego Rivera murals, to the Church of Saints Peter and Paul with its creepy statue of Saint Lucia holding her eyeballs on a platter.

While a perfectly pulled espresso has never been hard to find in this historically Italian American enclave (Try the legendary Caffe Trieste, or the wedge-shaped Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store) dining options have tended to lean heavily toward the heavy: Mega-portions of red sauced pasta and other Little Italy staples.  But last year saw the welcome opening of Campanula Kitchen, a great spot to drop by for nibbles and drinks without weighing yourself down.

Shareable late night savories: pork belly dice.


And sweets: ice cream finger sandwiches. (Photos: Campanula Kitchen)

On the sunny southwest corner of Washington Square, Campanula’s floor-to-ceiling windows provide a terrific view of the comings-and-goings of the neighborhood’s dramatis personae (hipster artistes, Sicilian grannies, Chinatown cool kids, and, yes, the dreaded gentrifiers). Look up a little higher and take in one of the best views of Coit Tower in town. Now, turn your attention to the menu of small plates.

Hopefully you’ve come with a group of three or more, because there’s a slew of great tastes to share here. Go for the wild boar sliders, the balsamic-napped burrata cheese dusted with crunchy pistachio bits, the homely looking but intensely flavorful lamb meatballs, and the deep-fried green olives stuffed with ground sausage—maybe the perfect drinking snack.  Good thing, too, because Campanula has one of San Francisco’s best happy hour deals beyond the Castro, with fancy pedigree drinks like the Alameda Mule (Hangar 1 Chipotle, fresh lime, and ginger beer) for a mere $4. Better yet, on Friday and Saturday nights, the happy hour specials are also featured from 10 p.m. to midnight.