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PUBLIC FORUM, PRIVATE LIFE: Mayor Gavin Newsom caused some titters at his Oct. 18 appearance before the Noe Valley Democratic Club and the Friends of Noe Valley at St. Philip's Parish Hall. Although the mayor was scheduled to appear at 6:30 that Wednesday evening (as we noted in last month's calendar), his staff gave Friends president Richard May about a week's notice that Newsom would be early (something he is not known for), arriving at 6 p.m. sharp.
"We got the word out quickly on various e-mail lists and by word of mouth," says May, "and we had somewhere around a hundred people show up at 6, which is not bad for a midweek dinner hour. A lot more showed up during the next half hour."
Mr. Mayor arrived on time. But first he strolled down 24th Street, asking kids, teens, and adults their opinions on problems in Noe Valley. Once he bounded into St. Philip's, he was ready to address all our issues--Muni, panhandlers, housing costs, Bell, the Real Food debacle, etc.
Looking spiffy in a coat and tie, Newsom did a lot of speechifying over the next hour, talking about both local and big-picture stuff, like disaster prep and health care for all. To keep him on track, Supervisor Bevan Dufty read questions on cards handed up from audience.
Thirty minutes into the show, Dufty read a question that asked for Newsom's comments on recent media stories about his hairstyle and love life. Dufty, of course, was reading this one tongue-in-cheek. He had just appeared on the front page of the Oct. 13 Chronicle with his friend Rebecca Goldfader and their newborn daughter, Sidney Maely Goldfader-Dufty (born Oct. 2). The Chron story came after Pete Wilson made some curious comments on his KGO Radio talk show, calling Dufty's baby, among other things, "a travesty."
But I digress. Mr. Mayor acknowledged that he was getting tired of the media's endless comments on his "gel-free hair" and the women he dates. "I didn't put gel in my hair one day, and all of a sudden it becomes a news story," Newsom joked.
Then he got serious. After explaining how passionate he was about being San Francisco's mayor, Newsom said that as a single man in his late 30s he was finding it very difficult to strike a balance between his public and private life. He confessed to all those assembled that at this point in his life the scales were tipping toward private life. "Don't be surprised if I don't run for mayor for a second term," Newsom announced.
Say what? Everyone there knew Gavin Newsom was honestly contemplating taking a break from public life.
"I've never heard that before," said Dufty after the mayor departed.
By Sunday, Matier & Ross reported they'd "sat down with the mayor Friday. He sounded off on everything from our reporting on his briefly gel-free hair to his new 20-year-old girlfriend." Surely they brought up his comments in Noe Valley, because he was quoted as being "absolutely not convinced" he would run again.
As all you Chron readers know, the newspaper has since had follow-up stories quoting "his chief political strategist, [Noe Valley resident] Eric Jaye," who assured M & R that Newsom's reelection campaign was "moving along rapidly."
Dufty got the mayor's point, though. "I know what he means. I am having the same difficulty in finding a balance between my public life, which I love doing and am very passionate about, and trying to have a private life, too. It really gets tough when Sidney is described by a radio talk show host as a travesty, which frankly I found shocking. But he is entitled to say what he wants, and the public's response has been very heartwarming."
About the mayor's visit, Dufty adds: "I have received tremendous feedback from that Noe Valley meeting, and everyone liked the mayor's openness, knowledge of the issues, and self-deprecating style of humor."
By the way, baby Sidney went to her first public event, a St. Paul's festival, in mid-October. If you were there, you might have wondered why Bevan was not wearing socks. "Well, I was giving Rebecca a chance to rest, and I was changing on the run. I was quite sure I had put my black socks in my pants pocket for the change, but when I pulled them out to put on, all I got was a burp cloth!"
Afterwards, he, Sidney, and Rebecca went over to Joe's Café on 24th Street for brunch. "It was a lot of fun for us all. Rebecca and I ordered omelets and Sidney had a little breast on the side."
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REAL FOODLESS: A question to the mayor about the Real Food debacle produced little response, because little can be done. "It would be misleading to suggest that the city is in a position to buy that building," Newsom said. "But I think it is a blight, and perhaps the city attorney could do something about that."
I wouldn't be surprised if the owner, Nutraceutical Corporation, seeks a demolition permit to replace the store on the ground floor and create residential units upstairs. How could anyone be against that, right? To be real, then, it's at least three more years of a real empty storefront.
Newsom also expressed concern that so many food markets were closing around the city. With Bell Market getting a new owner, we may be one of the lucky ones.
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IN GOOD TASTE: The recent openings of Toast and Pescheria on Church Street have apparently been quite successful, and now more people are flocking to the area that's become Upper Noe's "restaurant row."
Pescheria seafood restaurant looks like a hit. (For the gastronomical details, see Store Trek on page 29 of this issue.) Manager Mario Nocifera says the crowds are pouring in. As an extra enticement, Pescheria is the only restaurant on that end of Church with a full liquor license.
Toast has been open almost two months, and "the response of the neighborhood has really been remarkable," says Anise Naser, who with his brothers Kamal and Eddie operates the eatery seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
"Before we opened, we sensed that the neighborhood was worried that the change would be bad because Hungry Joe's had a very loyal following," Anise explains. "But the response has been overwhelming, and now on a typical Saturday we are serving about 300 meals."
According to Eddie Naser, the number-one customer favorite is the corned beef hash. "We boil it for two hours with spices, and then hand-peel each strip into hash and grill it with onion," Eddie smiles.
Kamal and Eddie run Toast on the weekdays, and Anise, who has another job, works the weekends. Those of you in Glen Park know that Anise's "day job" is being a dentist at Diamond Dental in downtown Glen Park.
A couple blocks over at Incanto, head chef Chris Cosentino has recently completed a competition with Chef Mario Batali on the Food Network's "Iron Chef." The standoff was actually taped on Oct. 6, and will be aired sometime in February, according to Incanto manager Katie Mathis. "We signed a confidentiality agreement with the network, so we can't say anything about it right now."
Cosentino is known for the culinary magic he works with offal: liver and kidneys and things like that. As for Incanto's most requested dish, Mathis says that while the menu changes daily, one of the most popular entrees is the braised pork shoulder. Cosentino was unavailable for comment because he was attending Terra Madre, an international "slow food" conference in Torino, Italy.
Meanwhile, everyone is wondering when the former Mikeytom, also at Church and Day, will be transformed into a restaurant. Neighbors report that workmen are at the site, but the permit on the window says the project has until Sept. 18, 2007.
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SHORT SHAKES: Up on 24th Street, the consensus in the neighborhood after the Oct. 21 Noe Valley Harvest Festival is that the fair was just right this year. Although everything was great, especially the music, the best event in my opinion was the stroller obstacle course. FNV prez Richard May says finances for the event worked out (meaning it didn't go over budget) and Norine Traci-Maloney did a super job of coordinating the whole show. Encore!
The day after the fest, Isa's Salon on Castro Street closed its doors to paying customers and provided services for free to residents of a battered women's shelter. Isa's gave each woman a makeover, including a massage and facial.
Artsake, the art supplies store on 24th Street, will be giving a free Sennelier oil pastels workshop, led by Savoir-Faire product expert Charlotte Hampton, on Saturday, Nov. 4, starting at 2 p.m. The shop also offers art classes by Jim Myrick, who showed his work at the store during Open Studios in October. Artwork by local artist Caren Lorber is currently being displayed in Artsake's front window.
Speaking of windows, Eye Q Optometry on 24th near Noe had a stunning Halloween display this year, with references to the creepy movie The Ring and God knows what else. A little girl mannequin whose back is to the window is staring into a static-filled TV, white chairs are piled in a jumble to the ceiling, and the giant letters "THEY'RE HERE" are pasted on the glass. Yikes! They'd better have a lot of candy.
A truly gorgeous window is the one at Gallery of Jewels on 24th Street near Castro. Owners Dona Taylor and Bill Hoover report they just completed a remodel that transformed the place. "I put in handmade mosaic tiles on the floors, refinished all the cases, and put up all new walls using handstamped linen fabric. I also bought a beautiful antique crystal chandelier at our local Alemany flea market," says Taylor. Go take a look.
The neighborhood's most famous window is that of Harry Aleo of Twin Peaks Properties. Aleo is still mourning his prize-winning racehorse Lost in the Fog. But he has been getting hundreds of letters and condolences from all over the country. The November issue of San Francisco magazine features a nice article about our local icon.
Congratulations to the San Jose/Guerrero Coalition to Save Our Streets, whose members received an award of $8,000 from San Francisco Beautiful for their greening of the median strips crossing Cesar Chavez. The group (www.sanjoseguerrero.com) will be doing another planting, this time on Nov. 4, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Duncan Street near 29th. Bring gloves and a spade or shovel.
Ten free trees is what Upper Noe Neighbors president Vicki Rosen says were just approved for planting on Church from Cesar Chavez to 30th by the San Francisco Bureau of Urban Forestry. "They also gave us a list of 25 properties along Church Street which have been pre-approved by the Bureau for a tree planting," says Rosen, "so we will now write to those 25 property owners to see who will be interested in a tree planting." If you are a property owner along Church and want to make sure you're on the list, call Rosen right away, at 285-0473.
The Friends of Noe Valley invites you to come celebrate Noe Valley's 160th birthday at St. Philip's Parish Hall from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9. As you history buffs know, it was in 1846 that Mexico granted 4,443 acres of land to our founding father, José de Jesus Noe, who turned the valley into a cattle farm.
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SO YOU THINK YOU CAN MOBU: Noe Valley has a new dance studio opening at the corner of Sanchez and 23rd, in the spot vacated earlier this year by Dirt Cheap Travel. "The new maple hardwood floors were finished by October's end," according to Takami Craddock, who says the studio will probably be up and running this month.
"We will call it the Mobu Dance Studio," says Craddock, whom you may know from her many years of teaching dance at the Noe Valley Ministry. She also operates a studio in the Sunset District. Now, she says, "all our programs will be transferred to our new studio, which involves about 60 dancers in our children's classes as well as all those in the adult program."
Mobu, by the way, means "dance" in Japanese, and it's also the name of Craddock's performing dance troupe, which will rehearse at the new studio.
Yoga, meditation, and Pilates classes are planned for the site, and hopefully tai chi lessons will be given by local Chinese medicine man Morey Fox, who has his office down Sanchez Street near 24th.
Do any of you remember when that storefront used to be the Edison Market?
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GOVERNMENTAL HEALTH: Before I go, I want to ask those of you who may have been freaked out after seeing the documentary Loose Change (mentioned in last month's Rumors) to get some perspective by going to a U.S. State Department web site, usinfo.state.gov/media/Archive/2005/Sep/16-241996.html. It will set the record straight on many, but not all, of the issues raised by the documentary, which is about odd occurrences on 9/11/01.
And don't forget to do your civic duty and vote on Nov. 7. That's all, folks.