What’s new in San Francisco?

New attractions in the city with the Golden Gate Bridge
By Phyllis Steinberg

It has been three years since I was in this “City by the Bay” and there were so many new and exciting things to do and places to visit that I wanted to tell Gallagherstravels readers all about them.

The newest attraction, which is a must see in San Francisco, is the Asian Art Museum which opened in March at its new home at the City’s Civic Center. The museum’s core is a permanent collection of more than 13,000 objects, spanning 6,000 years of history and representing the countries and cultures throughout Asia.

The museum’s new site was created through the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the city’s former Main Library, a 1917 Beaux Arts-style building recognized as one of San Francisco’s most important historic structures.

Stepping back in time and across the continent of Asia, the museum contains three floors of treasures that you will enjoy viewing. Be sure to allow at least three hours to go through this massive collection of items. You’ll see a decorated box belonging to the Maharaja in 15th century Pakistan, an Elephant Throne from India, a crowned Buddha and throne from Burma and so much more.

If you like baseball, a visit to the new Pacific Bell Park is a must. The old Candlestick Park where the San Francisco Giants previously played is now used for concerts and other activities. Pacific Bell Park opened in 2000 and has a fascinating tour program.

What fun! During the nearly two hour adventure through this San Francisco waterfront landmark and home of the 2002 National League Champion Giants, I along with a small group of tourists, got to learn how the unique ballpark was built and saw many of the facilities that only the players and staff usually get access to.

The tour started with a short film which told the history of the Giants franchise. Then inside the big league clubhouse, a chance to sit in the visitors dugout, step out onto the field and visit the player’s locker room.
Like VIP’s, we were escorted into one of the sky boxes where big corporations bring favored clients to watch the game in style.

The tour is for all ages and quite fascinating. Our tour guide was so knowledgeable, there wasn’t a question about baseball he couldn’t answer. Pacific Bell Park is a beautiful stadium and easy to reach. I took the subway and the train stop is right in front of the baseball park.

The San Francisco Ferry Building has reopened with a dramatic renovation . The ground floor is designed to become a gourmet market and arcade comprised of 47 shops featuring many of the Bay’s artisan food producers as well as restaurants and cafes. Spend the afternoon looking at the various products and craft items then stop and have a lunch. There are things here that you simply won’t find anywhere else.

I also enjoy trying new restaurants and have never really had a bad meal in San Francisco. I like to search out new places and this trip I found the wonderful and modestly priced “Aziza”. The chef is Mourad Lahlou, a native of Marrakech and his Moroccan cuisine is top notch. Self-taught, Lahlou creates beautifully plated dishes with the heart of homestyle food. Organic and locally produced ingredients are prominently featured on a thirty-dish menu that contains Lahlou’s unique creations and modern versions of Moroccan classics.

I tried the Chef’s five course tasting menu ($39 per person) which encompassed the entire range of the menu. The meal began with an organic green lentil soup with a lemony tomato base, a shear delight. Then out came the new star spinach and feta fingers, a bastilla, a pie of baked phyllo dough filled with saffron braised chicken and spiced almonds, draped in powder sugar and cinnamon. All were savory and sensational.

For my main course, I chose steamed saffron scented couscous with stewed lamb, a specialty of the house, and equally tasty.

The restaurant, opened in 2001, has belly dancers performing on weekends and is worth a visit. I was there on a Monday evening so I didn’t see the show, but the food was more than enough of a reason to seek out Aziza.

Not new, but tried and true is the Charles Nob Hill restaurant on Jones Street. This elegant 10-table gourmet restaurant is expensive but still remains one of my favorite places to dine in San Francisco. At the top of the hill on Jones Street, this small elegant eatery serves nothing but the best in style. The chef always gives you little extra dishes with his compliments and when you leave you get a little black box filled with truffles. Need I say more?

Compton Place Hotel is another elegant place to dine. With roomy and comfy booths and tables spread out with plenty of privacy, this place is great for a power lunch. I ordered lobster salad but the presentation was too beautiful to eat, never fear, I succumbed and devoured the entire presentation.

If you are planning to stay in San Francisco and have never been there before, I highly recommend the Mandarin Oriental. My view of the city from the 47th floor was spectacular. The service was also outstanding. Mandarin Oriental Hotels, wherever they are located, always deliver a first class experience. There are a bit on the pricey side, not in everyone’s budget.

More moderately priced is the Kensington Park Hotel, just steps from Union Square and all the fine department stores including Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. The staff is friendly and the rooms are adequate. The hotel is not air-conditioned, but you seldom require air conditioning in San Francisco. I enjoyed my stay at the Kensington, especially the ability to use a computer for free at anytime. Many hotels charge for that service.

Photos by Phyllis Steinberg

For more information about San Francisco, visit www.sfvisitor.org
Or call toll free 888-782-9673

For tours of Pacific Bell Park, call 415-972-1800 or visit www.giantsenterprises.com

*Charles Nob Hill Restaurant
1250 Jones Street
415-771-3542

*Campton Place Hotel
340 Stockton Street
866-597-9330

*Mandarin Oriental Hotel
222 Sansome Street
866-833-9330

*Kensington Park Hotel
440 Geary Street
1-800-553-1900
Or 415-788-6400

*Aziza Restaurant
5800 Geary Blvd
415-752-2222

Asian Art Museum
200 Larkin Street, Civic Center
415-581-3500

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