Thursday, December 20, 2012

Giving the Gift of Experience 2012


I'm sure you've heard that experiences are appreciated and more memorable than things. Speaking personally, I have no more room for stuff. If it doesn't fit in the refrigerator or my jewelry box, it's going to be tough to find a place in my overstuffed apartment. But a tour or a class is something I always appreciate. You know what they say, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Here are my ideas for the best experiences in San Francisco and beyond...

A stop at Craftsman & Wolves for a treat
Edible Excursions
Neighborhood food walking tours are not just for tourists! In fact, most of the people who go on Edible Excursion tours are locals. Even if you know your own neighborhood, have you really dug into Japantown or the up and coming parts of the Mission? Nothing could be better than going with an expert.

I've been on several of Edible Excursions tours and loved all of them. The most recent tour is of the 18th Street corridor and what could be more fun than hanging out with one of the tour guides, local DIY diva Karen Solomon! She not only lives in the Mission but can make great personal recommendations for where to eat, drink and shop in the area. See the murals at the Women's Building, nibble on pizza, slurp a sangria and have a lick of ice cream all the while learning about new and not so new hot spots on 18th Street and Valencia Street. Tours range from $50-75 and are well worth the price given how much food you'll eat and fun you'll have.

San Francisco Cooking School
Just last month I got a chance to take a tour of the newly launched school and to chat with some of the instructors. I was really impressed. The space on Van Ness is gorgeous and the teachers experienced and enthusiastic. What sets this school apart is that even the classes for non-professionals are hand's on, not just demos. Learn how to make and decorate cupcakes from Kara of Kara's Cupcakes! Learn to make pasta from Viola Buitoni! Buitoni, a name synonymous with pasta. Make Asian dumplings with Andrea Nguyen, author of the book, Asian Dumplings.

The Boothby Center for the Beverage Arts
I have a confession to make, I am lousy at creating cocktails. Oh I can follow a recipe like anyone else, but coming up with something new is a challenge. I love learning about spirits and playing with them. In San Francisco we actually have a non-profit organization dedicated to to preserving the cultural heritage of saloons and their cocktails in San Francisco, while also celebrating California's culinary philosophy and tradition via special public events, publications and educational seminars. I would LOVE to take a class with one of my (and I think everyone's) favorite local bartenders, Reza Esmaili and learn to make market fresh cocktails! But check out the schedule and find something that rings your bell.

Forage SF
I've been fascinated by the foraging trend. I grew up in the Bay Area and ate fish and seafood, mushrooms and fruit all harvested locally by family and friends. I've been on many nature walks and mushroom hunts and always learned a lot. Forage doesn't just hold markets and dinners, but wild food walks. They are two hours, held in both San Francisco and the East Bay and cost only $40. If no one buys me this as a gift, I plan on buying it for myself!
Autumn in Italy
Are your ready for the trip of a lifetime? I just came back from Emilia Romagna, and created a slide show for Frommer's on what has to be one of the best food destinations in the Italy. My friends and fellow bloggers and Italian food enthusiasts Hedonia blogger Sean Timberlake and Italy in SF blogger Vanessa DellaPasqua who runs Global Epicurean have put together a second trip to Italy (on the heels of their sold out first trip), this time to focus on gathering porcini mushrooms, but also to try formaggio di fossa, visit a tartufo festival, learn to make pasta and piadina and of course get up close and personal with Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto and balsamic vinegar in their birthplace. And so much more! Check out the full itinerary and make someone's dream come true.