Thursday, May 31, 2012

San Francisco - Day 2: Golden Gate Park / Haight / Forbes Island

Day 2 was Sunday and we started out with some wandering and shopping around Union Square.  That one Zombie drink and 2 additional beer minimum from the piano bar hit me more than I would have expected.  Liquor before beer, never fear is a bunch o BS!  :o)

Heart of Union Square
Another beautiful day!  Union Square.
"Victory" statue up close
Famous sandwich place along the ride to Golden Gate Park

After letting breakfast and some Coca Cola set in, I was ready and off we went for day 2 of our double-decker bus tour.  We took the green line over to Golden Gate Park to see the Japanese Tea Gardens and also got to see the hippie Haight/Ashbury area and the 'Painted Ladies'. 

Concourse between the Academy of Science and de Young Museum
California Academy of Sciences, check out the roof garden
Cool hanging flowers that looked like grapes at the Japanese Tea Gardens
Japanese Tea Gardens at Golden Gate Park
Japanese Tea Gardens at Golden Gate Park
Japanese Tea Gardens at Golden Gate Park
Me on top of a very steep bridge to climb at Japanese Tea Gardens
The Haight-Ashbury district is noted for its role as a center of the 1960s hippie movement. The earlier bohemians of the beat movement had congregated around San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood from the late 1950s. Many who could not find accommodation there turned to the quaint, relatively cheap and underpopulated Haight-Ashbury. The Summer of Love (1967), the 1960s era as a whole, and much of modern American counterculture have been synonymous with San Francisco and the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood ever since.

Haight and Ashbury Streets, some of the most stolen street signs anywhere
Famous 'legs' above the Piedmont boutique
Cannibis Company, thought it was a pot place, but guess it is a clothes store

The "Painted Ladies" are the Victorian homes made famous by the Full House TV show.  Everywhere you look...everywhere you look.  Now you'll be singing that all day.  I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with the shots I got from my cell phone from the top of a moving bus.  They're the best pictures we have of the ladies.

The famous "Painted Ladies"!
Nice side view as we drove by!
We had a great day exploring Golden Gate Park and seeing the famous hippie areas around Haight/Ashbury.  For a place where marijuana is legal as long as you are a card carrying medicinal user, we did not see hardly anyone taking advantage of the law.  We smelled it close by I think a total of 3 times and 2 of the times were homeless people.  Quite surprising.  Apparently legalization does not make everyone turn into weed junkies, at least not out in public where we were. 

For dinner that evening we had reservations at Forbes Island.  That is a unique man made island that was formerly the floating home/party palace of Forbes Kiddoo.  He is a rich man that made his living building house boats for people in Sausalito back in the 70s.  There were no rules/regulations back then and anyone could purchase a house boat, anchor off the ritzy area of Sausalito and not have to pay any rent or fees/taxes.  He created his own lavish floating island, complete with a small beach, waterfall and underwater/above ground living areas. 

The rich folks on solid ground that were paying taxes and large rent/mortgages eventually were successful in enacting laws to regulate house boats and in the mid 80s, business dried up.   He tried to sell his island in 1986 for 2 million dollars, but was unsuccessful.  Fast forward to today and Forbes Island has been a San Francisco landmark for over 20 years, floating just off Pier 39.  Forbes can routinely be seen driving the shuttle boat from the pier to the restaurant.  Here is a good article about the history of the island and how it ended up at it's current location just off Pier 39. 

The food was very good and the atmosphere and uniqueness of the Island/restaurant is definitely worth a visit!

Forbes Island lighthouse
Apple tort dessert, sorry we didn't think to take pictures of dinner
View of Alcatraz from the Forbes Island lighthouse
View of the city from the Forbes Island lighthouse
Wifey made me do it..I seem a little too happy, no?
Be sure to click on one of the pictures and then scroll through them in original size to get the full experience!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rochester Plate Sauce

Over the Memorial Day weekend the wifey cooked up a homemade Garbage Plate, complete with the special sauce courtesy of Jim from  And I have to say, it was amazing!  The sauce is a great blend of sweetness along with a hint of hotness that really adds so much flavor to your plate!

We always go with the traditional cheeseburger plate with macaroni salad and homefries.  Mmmm, I'm craving another one just thinking about it.  The Garbage/Trash plate was born in Rochester NY and it is one of those things that you truly miss when you move away. 

I have to admit that when it comes to Garbage or Trash plates, I would usually go to Empire or Penfield Hots, because those were the two places that were closest to where we lived at the time.  When it came to the sauce, I'd usually get it on the side.  It was a meat sauce blend that really didn't have a whole lot of flavor/heat.  To me it was more of just an additional meat sauce to add to the overall pile of food.  So I wasn't sure what to expect from the Rochester Plate Sauce.

I have to say, we were really blown away at how flavorful and tasty the Rochester Plate Sauce was.  It was not merely just an additional level of messiness to add to the plate, it was really a huge enhancement to the overall plate experience and we both said several times, "Wow, this is SOOOO good!"  

I'm not just saying that, it really was a great mix of a cinnamon or nutmeg on the sweet side along with a nice kick of tingly hotness.  But it is slight, not at all overpowering.  It's really the perfect mix of sweet and heat and I can see how it could enhance lots of different things in addition to the traditional Garbage/Trash plate.  I know for sure we will not be doing up a plate in the future without adding some Rochester Plate Sauce to the mix.

I really appreciate Jim from providing some free samples for us to try out.  He put together a really great product and he also has a great site with easy to follow recipes on how to create your own plate from start to finish.  He also recently added recipes for Dos Gustos Tacos, Bark at La Luna Margaritas and Mac and Cheese.

Definitely check out the site and also be sure to like his Facebook Page to keep up with the latest developments.  Jim is very passionate about his plate sauce and it shows in the quality of the product.  If you haven't tried it for yourself yet, I would highly recommend you stock up for when a craving for a plate hits!  So yummy!

And if you'd like some more Garbage Plate visuals, check out my sister Jen's review as well.  She's got lots of pictures and a full breakdown of the plate creation process.

In full disclosure, I received a free sample of the plate sauce to try out.  This review was completely my own and I was not compensated in any way.  This is just really good sauce and I wanted to share my experiences so that others can enjoy as well!  Try it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Apple App Store - Free App of The Week

I don't normally post on weekends, but I wanted to let you know about this incase the deal expires soon.  

The Amazon App Store for Android has been doing a Free App of the Day (FAOTD) for over a year I think.  Initially there were some good free games and apps, but over time it's been harder to find real good apps/games worth the download on a daily basis.  I'd say I probably grab the FAOTD once every 2 weeks, but it's still fun to check every day to see what's free. 

It appears Apple may be following suit, realizing people like free stuff, but on a smaller scale.  They appear to be offering a free app of the week.  The first free app of the week they offered is Cut the Rope Experiments.  That is a great choice.  Cut the Rope is an excellent game and I can only assume the Experiments sequel is even better, so definitely head out there now and grab it if you have an Apple device.  

That is great to see Apple getting on board with some of the things I like about Android, hopefully it is something they continue going forward.  That along with the recent Jailbreak has me liking the idea of switching over to the iPhone 5 even more. 

Be sure to grab Cut the Rope Experiments while it is still free!  And keep an eye on the App Store twitter feed for the latest info.  Are you psyched up or what?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Latest Apple iOS Jailbroken

I don't have any iOS devices currently, but it's good to see the Jailbreak community is alive and well and getting quicker in their response times.  I will most likely Jailbreak my phone if I get an iPhone 5, so it's good to see that it shouldn't take took long after they come out for that to happen.

Here is the official article from pcmag:

Absinthe 2.0 Untethered Jailbreak Released for iOS 5.1.1

Source image: pcmag

Looking to install unofficial third-party apps on your newly updated iDevice? You're in luck. The Chronic Dev Team this week released a new untethered jailbreak for devices running iOS 5.1.1.

"After copious amounts of work and many sleepless nights Absinthe 2.0 is finally here to jailbreak your device," the group announced in a Friday blog post.

The developers said the jailbreak, dubbed Absinthe 2.0, was a "large collaborative effort between Chronic-Dev Team and iPhone Dev Teams (Jailbreak Dream Team)."

Why jailbreak a device? As most people are aware, Apple is very particular about the apps that it allows in its App Store. Only Apple-approved apps will run on iOS devices, but there are some apps that tech-savvy iPhone users still want. By jailbreaking your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you can get around Apple's restrictions and install whatever app you like. Beware, however. Most jailbreaks void any warranties you might have on your device, so Apple won't help you if you turn your phone or tablet into a brick.

That being said, the dev team said Absinthe 2.0 will work on all iOS devices running 5.1.1, except for the handful of iPad 2s running the 32nm A5 processor. They insisted that it's one of the "easiest jailbreaks to use (so easy your grandma could do it)."
The download links are available in the blog post, and here are the directions for installation, according to the dev team:
  • Make a backup of your device in iTunes by right clicking on your device name under the "Devices" menu and click "Back Up."
  • Settings > General > Reset > Erase all Content and Settings.
  • Open Absinthe and be sure you are still connected via USB cable to your computer.
  • Click "Jailbreak" and wait.
  • Return to iTunes and restore your backup from earlier. Right click on your device name under the Devices menu in the left panel of iTunes and click Restore from Back Up, then select the latest backup you created before.
Apple released iOS 5.1.1 on May 7 with five fixes, including a bug that could prevent the new iPad from switching between 2G and 3G networks. It also improved the reliability of using the camera's HDR option from the Lock Screen shortcut, as well as synching Safari bookmarks and Reading Lists.
The release comes about six months after the Chronic Dev Team and pod2g released the first untethered jailbreak for the iPhone 4S and iPad 2.

For more from Chloe, follow her on Twitter @ChloeAlbanesius.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

San Francisco - Day 1: Wharf / Bridge / Tonga Room

Saturday - Day One  

Here is a quick break down of the main activities for our first full day:  Double Decker Tour Bus with San Francisco Deluxe Sightseeing to Fisherman's Wharf  / Pier 39, Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point; Dinner at the Tonga Room in the Fairmont Hotel; Johnny Foley's Piano Bar.

We woke up to a nice daytime view of Union Square and the shops nearby.  The biggest one in view is the humongous Macy's, complete with the most popular Cheesecake Factory on the top level. 

Huge Union Square Macy's with most popular Cheesecake Factory on the top level

After taking in the view and having some breakfast at the hotel restaurant, we headed over to Union Square to hook up with one of the double-decker bus tours.  We did not plan out specifically which double-decker tour bus company we were going to use before we arrived, but that was our plan all along. 

There were a few different bus companies running regular tours from that location.  We utilized the first one we came upon and it was $30 each and that included 2 full days of unlimited hop-on/off service.  I didn't think we'd use the second day, but we definitely did.  The majority of our first two days was spent on top of one of the double-decker busses and it really provided the best way to see the major sites around the city, while offering the ability to snap lots of good pictures along the way.  

Example of one of the buses we rode on.  Perfect weather for it!

The way the bus works is that you can hop on/off at any of their main stops, of which there are plenty along the way.  Depending on which route the bus is taking, there will either be another bus by in about 30 minutes or it may take around an hour or so.  However, there is no need to get off if you don't want to.  You can start and stop in the same location.

They have 3 main routes, the blue line Downtown San Francisco tour, the red line Golden Gate Bridge tour and the green line that goes to Golden Gate Park.  You can see their routes and map here.  On this first day we started out with the Downtown tour, followed by the Golden Gate Bridge tour.

Our main goal was to get our bearings in the city and to see all of the main areas in a short amount of time.  Then based on what we saw, we could return to any specific spots that we wanted to spend more time at.  It turned out to be perfect for that and it worked out really well.

The Downtown tour started out right by the hotel at Union Square and then goes by Chinatown, goes through the North Beach/Little Italy area, on down to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf, back through their Civic Center area where all the governmental building are located and on back to Union Square.

The tour is starting, out hotel is just ahead on the left. 
Nike Store
Entrance to Chinatown
There were a ton of Italian Restaurants like this in North Beach/Little Italy
All garlic, all the time
View of Lombard Street with good camera zoom
Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman's Wharf restaurants
Pier 39
There are a lot of restaurants and shops at Pier 39
The sea lions are on the docks towards the end of Pier 39
View of Alcatraz from Pier 39
Toilet?  Yes, they have a few of these self-cleaning weird toilet pod things
Toilet instructions
Boudin's Sourdough Bread at Fisherman's Wharf
Hyde Street Pier
Black Magic Voodoo Lounge
Lotus, Bentley and Lamborghini dealer...Mmm, Lambo
Civic Center Government Buildings, real gold on the top part
Right above the head is a falcon's nest, it keeps the pigeons away
Ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, I got to ride up front down below
Great view!
View from the lookout point
Back safe and sound at Union Square, after a great day of exploration
Good times!
After a great day of touring around the city and the Golden Gate Bridge, we returned to Union Square, back to our hotel and then got ready to head to dinner at the Tonga Room inside the Fairmont Hotel.  That restaurant was something we saw on one of the Anthony Bourdain shows.  He was there putting down several mighty strong drinks while watching a band float by, over what was formerly the hotel pool and it started to rain inside the restaurant!  Definitely a unique place that we just had to try out.  I recorded a video on my phone of it raining inside the restaurant, but found out it didn't record, bummer. 

It has a Polynesian/Tiki feel and there are portions of ships throughout the restaurant.  The food was ok, the restaurant itself and the drinks are definitely the draw here.  I ordered a Zombie, which was the primary drink Anthony had when he was there, only I just had one and whew, all you need is one, trust me.  Several versions of rum are in there, including 151 and by the end, that is all you taste.  The wifey ordered a similar drink and had to change it up for a Pina Colada instead, because it was so strong. 

The EXTREME uphill walk to dinner that we didn't realize we had to make
A small portion of the Tonga Room
Floating Stage at the Tonga Room
Zombie Time!
After dinner we made the trek back down. You'd think after a really strong drink and going downhill that it would be a ton easier to go down, but it's so steep that it is even a challenge doing that.

Time to head back down!
We then got back to the room and I was a bit restless and still ready to go out and do something, since it was Saturday night and only around 8:30pm and apparently that drink was affecting me more than I thought. So we ventured out and thought we were walking into an Irish pub, but ended up walking into the downstairs piano bar portion of an Irish pub instead. Which was fine, but boy were the beers pricey and they had a 2 drink minimum. We hung out for about an hour and I was making the wifey hang out until we heard a good tune and we finally just said the next one is the last song, good or bad and they did up some Sweet Caroline from Neil Diamond, the night was complete!

Sweet Caroline...bum bum bum...Good times never seemed so good...So good so good...

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