HOLIDAZE IN THE BAY AREA
It is so much fun to act like a tourist and visit San Francisco’s best, and that’s what happened when I ventured to the popular Pier 39 to have lunch at Fog Harbor Fish House. Coming across the walkway from the second floor of the Pier 39 Parking structure puts you right in front of the restaurant, and what a great view from its entrance to see the giant lit Christmas tree (and flood of traffic below I didn’t have to run across). Kudos to the three generation Warren Simmons family who have made a wonderful effort to give us menu offerings that showcase all sustainable seafood offerings aligned with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch: Guidelines.” I was pleased to see the menu focus on seasonal fresh choices, use of local purveyors, very generous portions at non-tourist pricing. We had exceptional service and welcome from General Manager Ryan Simmons, who is carrying on the tradition of the Simmons family being leaders in the restaurant industry. Put that with the views of the Bay, the waterfront and the sea lions and you’ve got the best San Francisco has to offer. The House Specialty Shellfish Platter fed all four of us Silicon Valley tourists Carol Fong, Carolyn Jow, Nancy Mar and me to our hearts content added to a bowl of creamy award winning clam chowder. Nice to see Pier 39’s developer Warren Simmons and his son Scooter and grandchildren Nicki and Ryan bringing quality enterprises like Fog Harbor Fish House, Wipeout Bar & Grill and Pier Market Seafood Restaurant to San Francisco visitors.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze sounded like just the thing for a Christmas outing, and so it was with action packed entertainment for two full hours for every age group to be enthralled. Had a chance to speak with two of the stars, sisters Buuyankhishig and Erdensuvd Ganbataar who have thrilled audiences with their aerial and contortion acts since they came from Mongolia in 2002. When I asked them how did they learn these talents, the oldest one said, “It all started when our father, a musician/conductor took me to a circus. I was so enthralled with the performances, my father took me to meet a contortionist teacher to test my flexibility and enroll me as her student.” Eventually the two girls enrolled in the Mongolian State School of Contortion and studied there following regular school every day. The girls said all little girls in Mongolia want to grow up to be contortionists and all the little boys aspire to be wrestlers. The sisters have been with Cirque Dreams, based out of Florida for the past 8 years, and their biggest thrill was performing on New York’s Broadway in the only circus show to ever make the Broadway stage. This is their second time performing in San Francisco and they are especially excited because they know many Mongolians live in the area and hope they will come to see them perform. This Cirque Dreams, a SHN presentation at the Curran Theatre is the best excuse for coming out of the cold to see an international cast perform astonishing feats such as the Mongolian sisters do aerial forms midair on a red sphere, skaters doing acrobats, penguins teetering on plastic containers, children performing balancing acts, graceful aerialists flying into the audience, and the amazing magic act where dancers change clothes at the 2 second drop of a surrounding curtain. The stage was never void of some type of circus feat throughout the show. RUSH – It closes on the 15th of December.
When going to the San Francisco Symphony at Louise Davies Hall, I always stop in at O3 Restaurant two blocks away on Van Ness Avenue to have the best Asian fusion cuisine prepared by congenial Tai Truong. One night, I met up with S.F. Supervisor David Chiu, S.F. Entertainment Commissioner Steven Lee, Lee’s Delicatessen Owners Claudia and LeRoy Quan to enjoy delicious fresh oysters, exceptional pad thai, a full array of special appetizers and nice spicy curry seafood clay pot.
Speaking of the S.F. Symphony, this fine orchestra continues to thrill audiences with a variety of programs every holiday season. Stars like trumpeter Chris Botti and songstress Diane Reeves thrilled audiences to standing ovations, and Burt Bacharach’s one night performance has been long sold out. Check the schedule, however, as there are programs for young and old, from accompanied movies to sing-a-longs to New Years Masquerade Ball.
A sunny day in San Francisco lifted the spirits of eight friends who have known each other for over 40 years, some back to their UC Berkeley days. These ladies, all lively Silicon Valley citizens now, spent the day ogling the Bulgari diamonds exhibit at the DeYoung Museum and capped the day off with dining at the magnificent Garden Court of the Sheraton Palace Hotel. Friendships are what make every day a special one, agreed my old friends, Muriel Kao, Lovelle Shak, Gloria Hom, Dali Jones, Madelene Schwabacher, Pauline Fong and Pat Lum, my WOW sisters (namely Women of the World, or do you like Wise Old Women instead?)
Crossing our beautifully lit San Francisco Bay Bridge to Berkeley, a comical Tristan & Yseult awaited happy patrons at the Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre. It’s hard to describe this Kneehigh’s version of the old favorite but just say the spoof is filled with surprising physical feats, comical nuances where sometimes you feel like laughing, other times crying. It has toured nationally and internationally and wherever it went, people said it touched the hearts of all with the burning question being “Can one truly love two people?” Whatever the answer, fellow theatre-goers Bill and Sonya Lee agreed this is a fun innovative show to see and performances will continue to January 6.
San Jose’s hidden theater gem, City Lights Theater Company has brought another crowd pleaser to town called Coney Island Christmas, a great holiday show for all ages and all faiths. The story evolves around Shirley Abramowitz, a young Jewish girl who is cast as Jesus in her school’s Christmas pageant and the reaction from her immigrant parents. We bow to Executive Artistic Director Lisa Mallette for bringing this Bay Area premiere to San Jose. It’s such fun to be able to go out and find a show that is light, cheerful and full of music and merriment for all to enjoy, said Sunnyvale friends Chuck and Deanna Leong. Escape the shopping malls and take in this downtown theater while the show runs til December 22. Ticket info: (408) 295-4200 or cltc.org.
I love Christmas shows and TheatreWorks’ LITTLE WOMEN hit the spot to celebrate the holidays meeting the four precocious New England sisters we had all read about in our younger days. This exhilarating Broadway musical is overflowing with laughter, tears and memorable songs as we follow the beloved feisty aspiring writer Jo on her path to romance, heartbreak and enduring sisterhood. This familiar story is made so much more interesting with a fine cast of actors and wonderful music, according to theatre-goers Gloria Hom and Violet Yoshimura from Hawaii. It plays to January 4 at Luci Stern Theatre in Palo Alto so visit theatreworks.org to order tickets.
Eightieth birthdays are always a milestone and what better way to celebrate than being surrounded by over 130 friends at a gala Chinese banquet. So thought Cupertino’s Paul Char who was feted with his favorite guava cake, and a gourmet luncheon at China Stix of Santa Clara. Family travelers to the party included Cecil and Hazel Leong from Seattle, Deanna Wong from Portland, OR, and Shareen and JC Fat with children Michele, Michael and Marissa along with Stacy and Merlin Lai with children Katherine and Thomas, Lina and Ken Fat from Sacramento. During lunch nostalgic music and old time movie videos played on the big screen during the luncheon along with a youtube showing of Hank Quock’s musical he/she routine. The audience had fun serenading birthday boy Paul to comical lyrics I composed for this fine friend.
Don’t forget – there’s still time to get your tickets to see the premiere of TERRACOTTA PRINCE, presented by Dennis Nahat and the Dalian Acrobatic Troupe in their version of a Chinese Nutcracker Suite. Call Shannon at (408) 966-8023 and if you say you’re Gerrye’s group, a discount will be extended to you. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this innovative Christmas show, so hope to see you there.