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Blame Canada

Wednesday, Mar 7 2001
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North of the Border Bacar has already had its first battle with the almighty tourist. A Canadian travel group of about 200 negotiated to rent the restaurant on Thursday, Feb. 15, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for a promised $20,000 in spending. As the event date approached, General Manager David O'Malley sat down with the Canadians' event coordinator, who, to his surprise, asked how the restaurant wanted its payment in Canadian dollars -- which works out to a somewhat less stellar 11 grand in U.S. currency. With some last-minute finagling the parties worked out a $14,000 deal. Meanwhile, Chef Arnold Eric Wong has thrown out all of his Celine Dion CDs and Wine Director Debbie Zachareas will be scrutinizing her Canadian wine selections.

Say What? The new Charlie's at 1838 Union is not only full of Prada and Marina frat boys but it is also so loud that the menu should come with earplugs. That's too bad, because the beautiful food prepared and presented by Chef Garret Martindale, formerly of the Pan Pacific Hotel, is quite good. During one recent visit Harry used his bionic eavesdropping abilities to listen in on the neighboring party's discontent. Upon deciding to skip dessert one patron snarled, "We are going to the Warfield to stand by a speaker, where it might be quieter!" Harry would have joined them, except that he wanted dessert. The lively 14 top (for you non-foodie types, that's a table of 14 people) on this particular Friday night didn't help the noise level. Given the loudness and the restaurant's small size (fewer than 50 seats), owners Michael Schwab and Jeff Silver might want to limit the table size, especially on busy weekend nights; such a big table only adds to the din. Martindale says they're hoping to add quieter courtyard dining behind the restaurant. Harry is holding his breath.

Thai One On Is a maître d' burnout support group forming? If there were, it'd be led by Nick Peyton (Gary Danko) and Doug Washington (Jardiniere), two of San Francisco's top hosts, both of whom fled for Thailand after leaving their posts. Peyton, who called it quits to work on his house with wife Carla, packed a bag and jumped a plane to meet Washington, who had been traveling in Europe since November. And no, the rumors are not true that Peyton is going to work at Masa's -- so quit e-mailing Harry these ridiculous stories!

All Hail the Queen "It ain't easy being queen!" read the invitation for the opening of Annie Gingrass's new cafe, Desiree, at the San Francisco Film Center. But if that's really the case, you wouldn't know it to look at the tiny but glam Presidio pit stop: Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Desiree is the coolest new eatery to open in ages. Gingrass makes the royal treatment easy to come by with great colors, marble, fabric, and furniture -- oh, and a yummy pork cutlet on sourdough with balsamic fruit mustard sauce and chicken salad wrapped in a green onion crepe with soy lime vinaigrette. If you'd like a more expansive setting, here's a recipe fit for a king: Desiree box lunch, blanket, and a picnic spot with a bay view.

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Harry Coverte

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  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

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    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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