World Trip 2015: What to Do in Prague

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After traversing through Zurich for two days, the next stop was Prague.

For lack of a better term, Prague is a cool-ass city. It’s full of young people (although that could also have been because of spring break) walking to and from bars, sights, restaurants, and alleyways. People wear multi-colored pants – which if you know me then you know this is basically what I wear all the time – and there is a historic realness in the air that makes you want to explore.

Aesthetically, Prague looks like a mashup of Paris and Florence – red-roofed buildings flanked by giant gothic structures and bridges. While to me, Paris is still better, I can’t deny that having a castle in the city skyline is pretty damn awesome. I’m also convinced that the Prague Castle is actually Hogwarts, which makes me wonder what other sorts of magic lurks in this city.

  

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World Trip 2015: What to Do in Zurich

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Last May, I called up one of my close friends at 1 a.m. and instructed, “I found this crazy flight deal for March. Check your email and book it too.” Ten months, four spreadsheets (you know me), and a very necessary purchase of Nike Flyknits later, we set off with an amalgamation of friends from all walks of life. In two weeks, we traveled around the world, covering New York City, Zurich, Prague, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and Kyoto on a trip that could possibly only describe us as #planehopperz, or batshit crazy.

  

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My Favorite San Francisco Desserts

Having lived in the Bay Area for most of my life (San Mateo to Berkeley to SF), I’ve seen the transformation of pastry over the years. In the 90s, there was an emphasis on Americanized desserts – large, billowy creations channeling Cheesecake Factory proportions. That segued into the dieting fad, where all things sugar were taboo and desserts took a back seat to most menus.

I’m stoked to see that pastry is back in the game – SF Chronicle’s Rising Star Chefs this year are all pastry chefs for the first time ever, and more and more people are clamoring to get a taste of creations that resemble those of Europe and Japan – small portions with bursts of contrasting flavors using high quality ingredients. These other countries figured it out years ago, so it’s about time that we in the Bay Area followed suit.

  

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Spotlight: 20th Century Cafe

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If anyone was wondering why I fell off the face of the blogging earth the last couple of weeks, it’s due to a mixture of starting a new job (!) and frantically planning my two-week getaway at the end of March through Eastern Europe and Japan. And if you know anything about how I travel, that means spreadsheets and food.

As part of my Eastern European food “research” (eating is totally research), I visited 20th Century Cafe over the weekend, a year and a half old establishment tucked away in Hayes Valley. Brimming with natural light from the large windows and white interior, the cafe touts pastries and savories inspired by Prague, Vienna, and Budapest; pastry chef Michelle Polzine traveled through these areas some years back and vowed to bring them to SF, and so the cafe was born.

  

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Spotlight: Aster by Way of Coi

Aster pop-up at Coi

Plate of snacks: Nori gougere, radish with miso, and pig’s head croquette with yuzu aioli

San Francisco is no novice to the pop-up scene – we see pop-ups featured on every to-do newsletter, email, and date night suggestion. But there is a method to the pop-up surgence that is rooted less in creating exclusive, in-the-know opportunities and more in background logistics, permits, and labor laws.

Aster, the latest restaurant slated to open next month at 22nd and Guerrero, is the newest venture from the Daniel Patterson Group, who of course oversee Coi. In the midst of preparing for the grand opening, Chef Brett Cooper (of Outerlands fame), popped up at Coi for the last four Mondays, when Coi is usually closed. While he was able to test dishes by way of a four-course prix-fixed menu, I had to the opportunity to eat during one of those nights and preview what Aster will be like.

  

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