We're suckers for lemon meringue pie. The combination of flaky pastry, smooth tart filling, and airy topping, if done right, never fails to thrill us. (Sometimes we like it even if it's done wrong.) But Serpentine's Meyer lemon tart with toasted marshmallow and blood-orange sections thrilled us as never before. That's because we've never had a lemon meringue pie that threatened to float off its plate and disappear into the stratosphere. It looks like a farmhouse pie made to finish a dollhouse feast: a thin, fragile pastry round layered with sweet-tart lemon curd and crisscrossed with a lattice of carefully browned marshmallow meringue. Here's a sweet that deserves the cliche: it melts in your mouth.
The year 2006 was bad for the casual, sometimes ironic activity of hitting buckets of golf balls, for that was the year SOMA's beloved Mission Bay golf complex shut down and became a vacant dirt lot (which it remains). But relief can still be had within the city proper. The range at the esteemed, very clubby Presidio Golf Course is perched just inside Golden Gate Park, next to the Arguello entrance, so you can slip in largely undetected with your credibility intact. The fairway veers sharply to the right, which does a number on your perspective but is very forgiving to a whiplash slice. It also slopes down, way down, giving the appearance of balls shooting into the distance when they might only be falling straight down (a boon if you've brought a friend along). It's also set in one of the nicest areas of the city, ringed by the Presidio's famous trees and offering sweeping views. The complex also provides a six-hole putting green with an option rarely seen at public courses: You can pull out your wedge and chip onto it. Fees run from $7 for 35 balls to $12 for 100.
When bookstores vanish, so do their author appearances, a point that was sadly hammered home in 2006 when A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books crapped out. City-bound authors, however, weren't out of luck, given that the Booksmith was ready and willing to add to its already stellar speaker series. The events at the independent store, which changed owners last year, are still under the firm hand of coordinator Tom Gladysz, who has organized more than 900 events over the past decade, drawing local authors, touring hotshots, and award winners — along with Daniel Handler in each of his various guises. Last year saw a bunch of big names, among them William Gibson, Greil Marcus, Jonathan Lethem, William T. Vollmann, China Miéville, and Chuck Palahniuk, along with legions of newcomers such as first-time novelist Keith Gessen, who parachuted into the shop at the end of April, two days after launching another weary hit on McSweeney's and Dave Eggers via The New York Times. Kudos, Booksmith, for welcoming even tools!
Size does matter in health clubs. You don't want to feel like one of those workout ants, following a trail of sweat to the next machine, and then have to stand and wait because of overcrowding. Try the Sports Club/LA's numbers on for size: 127,000 square feet over three floors, including six exercise studios and eight lanes in the pool; 50 private trainers; 120 weekly group exercise and yoga classes; two hoops in the full-court basketball gym. And the 4,000 square feet of the cardiovascular center is filled with more than 100 workout machines so there's no waiting, even during the 6 p.m. afterwork rush. There is a steep initiation and a monthly fee to belong to this megaclub, but in return you get to sweat in luxury surrounded by earth tones and mini-waterfalls. You also get access to the relaxing spa and an upscale hair salon. But what puts it over the top for us is the full bar. Yes, you can take your place next to the striver guys and execugals and join the not-too-exclusive Train and Trash club.
With a half-dozen of them in San Francisco, skate shops are not exactly rare in this town. But the city has been missing a back-to-basics shop — that is, until Mission Skateboards opened late last year. Instead of overtly catering to money-burning sneakerheads the way other shops do, co-owner Thorin Ryan provides skateboarders with a firm-handshake sort of place. Skate videos old and new loop on a projection screen, and the clerks are always down for a sidewalk barbecue (beer provided!). The shop carries a healthy stock of decks by Deluxe and Girl Distribution, and a grip of wheels and trucks, including Ace. A knock to the store, though, is its limited shoe selection (only DC, Nike 6.0, Puma, and Converse). That's okay for the time being; get your Vans at FTC, but buy everything else here.
Part florist, part pet shop, this chaotic, cramped spot is lined with all kinds of fascinating aquatic creatures you never knew you wanted to take home. It is not unusual for kids to leave begging their parents for a pet dragon eel, Pacman frog, or Atlantic stingray. And the small flower shop at the front gives you a compelling idea for one-stop shopping — what offbeat pal or relative wouldn't love a bouquet and a chambered nautilus?
Each Laotian scarf, pair of Malian earrings, Indian block-print tablecloth, and bar of Bolivian chocolate has proudly come to this Noe Valley store via fair trade. Translation: They were made by artisans or farmers who received a living wage in a worker-owned co-op or farm where they have collective bargaining power. Global Exchange was cofounded in 1988 as an international human rights organization by Medea Benjamin (also the cofounder of feminist antiwar group Code Pink) and now has fair-trade stores here, Berkeley, Portland, and three others coming soon in Washington, D.C. The benefit for the artisans is a given, but there's a perk for the customer as well: Eliminating the middleman often makes for more reasonable prices, and you can walk away without the sneaking suspicion that someone in the developing world is being screwed.
The rise of Netflix has picked off plenty of mom-and-pop video stores. The laziness factor of getting movies delivered to your door even affects the most thoughtfully curated shops like Le Video, which, as its name suggests, is owned by an actual French proprietor. And while Netflix may have the quantity, Le Video has the heart. That isn't to say you can't find movies of all kinds at this 28-year-old fixture of the Inner Sunset. Le Video's staggering selection is the strong arsenal that has so far protected it from extinction. Its international selection is so exhaustive that it includes countries like Nepal and Vietnam. Into cult films? At Le Video you can rent all 21 volumes of Grindhouse Follies or 27 volumes of Big Bust Loops. There's more here than can reasonably be covered without the possibility of feeding the parking meter again. Mainstream bases are covered, but it's also a haven for subcultures. It's downright difficult to leave here empty-handed, whether the craving is for a hoity-toity BBC drama or the ultimate in lowbrow underground cult flicks.
Global warming ensures that it is not quite so unbearably foggy, cold, and desolate out by Sloat Garden Center's original location as it was nearly a half-century ago at its inception. But it's still just plain good sense to wear a layer or three out to this nursery, located near the Pacific Ocean and just across from the San Francisco Zoo, because its true highlight is the outdoor area of plants that are hearty enough to withstand our microclimate craziness, alongside garden embellishments that are way more sophisticated than gnomes. Indoor plants get their due glory here, too, with a selection so gorgeous that impulse buying is a real and present danger. Amazingly, the center is closed just three days a year (Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day), so avid gardeners are rarely without this source of green-thumbed joy.