San Francisco

A Fall Wellness Weekend in Northern California's Tri-Valley

 Photo Credit: @VisitTriValley

Photo Credit: @VisitTriValley

The perfect weekend away for me means hassle-free city access, garden-to-table dining and gorgeous scenery fit for a proper unplug. According to the Wine Spectator and local, anonymous wine loving philanthropists, the next great Northern California wine destination is the East Bay's Tri-Valley area. The trip takes about an hour from SF and most area airports: 45 miles east of San Francisco, 35 miles from OAK, 54 miles from SFO and 100 miles from SMF. For visiting New Yorkers sans driver's license and anyone else preferring not to get behind the wheel, it’s the only wine region accessible by public transit - take BART to the Pleasanton/Dublin stop and Lyft or Uber from there.

Tri-Valley’s main wine hub, Livermore, has been growing wine since the 1840s but it wasn't until recently that notable restauranteurs started moving, turning it into a favorite weekend destination for the urban wine set. With a kind invitation from the Tri-Valley tourist board, I packed up a bottle of green juice and a coffee for the 50 minute ‘road trip’ to learn how to turn a wine getaway into a wellness weekend.

Settling In

As adventurous wine drinkers are discovering the region’s tasting rooms, the Tri-Valley area is planning to open its first branded full service hotels in the next few years. At the moment, the area’s best charming and independently owned properties include The Rose in Pleasanton and the Purple Orchid Inn in Livermore. If staying close to the wineries in modern home or rustic coolcabin digs are more your style, check out local listings on Airbnb. Once you drop your bags, head into one of the Trivalley’s towns for a welcome glass of the area’s finest.

Clean Eating

Pop into Double Barrel in Livermore, Coco Cabana wine bar in Dublin, or the Vine in Danville for a glass of local goodness to get into the weekend state of mind. Healthy dining in the area is plentiful, from white tablecloth dinner on a winery at The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards to hip expat city chefs doing their wine country thing at Sabio in Pleasanton. The best way to find plant-based, gluten-free fare is at one of the local eateries specializing in local produce - they are more often than not happy to whip something up. I dined at The Restaurant at Wente and they prepared a wonderful vegan, gluten-free meal. Daytime eats are easy to find - for Livermore’s best espresso check out the new Rosetta Espresso. For quick, healthy lunchtime bits try Ofelia’s in Livermore and local favorite vegan dining spot Blossom.

Getting Up, Working Out

You want your tush whooped by a creatively sequenced flow class? Dragonfly Yoga in downtown Livermore offers a range of class styles and levels. Owners Stacy and Suzannah both teach wonderful classes for a full mind/body recharge from sweaty vinyasa with inversions to restorative yin classes. Crossfit classes abound in the Tri-Valley area, and local boxes include Crossfit LivermoreSchubox in Pleasanton and I Will Crossfit in Dublin. Barre is picking up popularity, and the newly opened Pure Barre in Pleasanton teaches their signature method mostly to local young, fit professionals. Other studios worth checking out include Absolute Barre at The Quad and Livermore’s Mindful Movements Pilates studio that just started teaching a barre class a few times a week.

If SUP, hiking, kayaking, or anything on a lake with 360 views of the surrounding nature is more your speed, check out the Del Valle Regional Park - a 15 minute drive up the mountain.

Hitting the Spa

Check out Elegant Alchemist at the Three Palm co-op space to see Leah for amazing bodywork and facial treatments. The space is a gorgeous pre-war home owned by a hair stylist who wanted to create a space for herself and her over 15 colleagues to be able to offer spa and salon services to the area. Other spa spots include Lavandu and Drift in Pleasanton, and Blush! in Dublin.

Yoga in the Vineyard

My favorite healthy activity that Livermore offers that its wine country neighbors to the north do not is a regularly scheduled yoga on the vineyard. Throughout the spring and summer season, Dragonfly Yoga partners with a local winery - last year Wente, this year Concannon - and teaches a sunset, mixed level class followed by wine and bites. Each class is $25, BYO mat. 

Small Production Wines

Most of the wineries in the area are family owned, and many of these are being run by fourth and fifth generation. During my stay, I loved the wines and tasting room at Steven Kent. In addition to their tasting room they have a reserve room for members, in which they offer vertical tastings of their famed Lineage and Premier labels as well as small group seminars with their winemaker and other top wine personalities in the Tri-Valley. Other must-do Livermore wineries include Nottingham Cellars3 StevesLas Positas Vineyards and McGrail Vineyards.

Shopping

The largest outlet mall in California is located a stone’s throw from downtown Livermore, San Francisco Premium Outlets. There are few lines you can’t find here. On the activewear end - they have an Under Armour, Nike and New Balance. And as for post-gym: there’s a Bloomingdales, Saks Off 5th, Prada, Bally, Rag and Bone, Jimmy Choo, Theory, Maxmara, Bruno Cucinelli. It’s endless - pack plenty of water and snacks.

Checking Out

Pack up your wine, your local olive oils and any local spa goodies you may have purchased and head to Rosetta for an espresso for the road.

What to Pack

Don’t bring too much if you’re planning on hitting the outlets. You can find a season’s worth of essentials here. Days are warm, nights are chillier. As with any wine country, bring layers! And extra bags for shopping and wine to bring home as gifts.

Join us this Saturday for a Mother's Day Pre-Game

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It's a sweaty, self-care Saturday for anyone (from moms to those who just want a good sweat and spa day before Sunday's family time) produced by us and hosted by our partners at Hotel Zetta in San Francisco. The morning will start with a Pilates Bootcamp taught by MNTSTUDIO founder (and boss mom) Elaine Hayes, followed by Burke Williams manicures and our favorite new rose by Domaine de Cala

For details and to grab your ticket, visit Eventbrite. Be sure to use promo code WAblog for $10 off of admission! 

SoulCycle's New HIIT Class is Murder, in the best way

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Right after our first set of intervals, as I gasped for air amid encouragement from instructor Laura Crago, I thought well, gym cycling classes are toast. After more than a year in a development by a team of master instructors, SoulCycle launched its new SoulActivate class on Tuesday, February 27. And it is a bitch (but in that I DID IT AND NOW I CAN DO ANYTHING kind of way).

Less about the sweaty playfulness and clubby choreography that put SoulCycle on the map, the hour-long, HIIT-style Activate class is the answer to critics who say Soul rides aren't scientifically optimal training for the cardiac system—a number of competing gyms and cycling studios have long focused on "smarter" programming that centers on increasing heart rate and strength training. Now, with an aggressive studio expansion and a following of veteran riders who could complete the traditional SoulCycle class in their sleep, the company is upping its game with the addition of this endurance-building class in studios throughout the Bay Area, New York, and Los Angeles.

The class begins as usual, with a warm-up song and a series of climbs and sprints with the brand's signature tap-back and push-up movements. At about minute 20, though, things took a more serious turn.

An extended weight-training session gave our legs a break but worked our arms using multiple, heavier weights than Soul's traditional rides. And then our instructor sprang it on us that we were in for some gnarly HIIT.

"This is how Olympic athletes train!" Crago shouted, pumping us up. "Pushing your heart rate as hard as you can, followed by real rest, is proven to make you a stronger rider, make you faster, make you better."

At what would have been halfway through a standard SoulCycle ride, we began a series of six intervals, turning up the resistance on our bikes until it felt like pedaling in quicksand. We spun as hard as we could for 20 seconds, then took a one-minute rest, our legs completely still, our chests heaving. After each run, Crago marked the number of sprints we'd completed on a whiteboard behind her; after the first, my legs felt thoroughly worked, my lungs like they were going to explode; after the sixth and final run, I felt like someone really should be handing me a medal.

After a brief reprieve sprinting on a lighter load, we rolled into a second set of intervals. I think I laughed as Crago announced what was coming—I'd barely finished that last set alive. (At this point in the class, a normal 45-minute ride would be over and I would be halfway down the street grabbing protein waffles at Project Juice.) But she wasn't joking, and we instead embarked on a series of eight sprints, 20 seconds each with just 10 seconds off. I honestly don't know how I made it through, but once we moved onto our final sprint song, I was high on my own oxygen and would do whatever she asked.

It's important to note that this class is definitely not for noobs: SoulCycle recommends riders take at least 10 standard classes before signing up for Activate. For experienced riders who already incorporate SoulCycle into a weekly fitness regime, the brand advises taking the new class about two times per week. For myself, I think once a week, as a way to really test and push my cardio system, is plenty ambitious.

Prices vary per market, more info at soul-cycle.com.

True Food Kitchen and the Benefits of Anti-inflammatory Dining

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After first trying True Food Kitchen in its hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona, I've become hooked to the chainlet's sit-down take on anti-inflammatory, casual dining. Serving up flavor-forward, East-meets-West cuisine that caters to vegans, vegetarians and those with gluten sensitivity, menu items are based on the dietary philosophy of wellness superstar and father of integrative medicine Dr. Andrew Weil. Located in native Arizona, and now Southern California, Northern California and 10 other states (PA, TN, CO, FL, MD, GA, CO, IL, TX and VA). 

We chatted with Dr. Weil while he was in town to get the 411 on the anti-inflammatory diet, why the Bay Area is perfect for True Food Kitchen, and his favorite dishes on the fall menu.

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7x7: For those not yet familiar with the True Food Kitchen ethos, could you give us an introduction?
Dr. Weil: The mainstream American diet is pro-inflammatory, meaning it gives us the wrong kinds of fats and carbs, and not enough of the fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices that protect us. Our menu is based on my extensive research into chronic diseases and findings that many are rooted in chronic inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet provides steady energy from ample vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, dietary fiber and and protective phytonutrients. Optimizing for health and longevity means reducing inflammation through foods with these specific protective elements. Foods such as mushrooms and turmeric.

How did True Foods Kitchen come into fruition?
I'm a very good home cook and, despite friends telling me over the years to open a restaurant, I was never tempted to because I knew nothing about the restaurant business. But then nine years ago I was introduced to Sam Fox of the Fox Restaurant Group and ended up proposing what became the True Food Kitchen concept: A restaurant that would serve really good food that was also nutritionally correct. At first, he thought that I was talking about bland tofu and sprouts, but Sam became convinced after I cooked him and his wife dinner at my home. They actually liked it! A space opened up in Phoenix and he skeptically agreed to give the concept a trial run. From the moment the doors opened it was a remarkable success. It's very gratifying to me that the food that I've cooked and enjoyed over the years is appealing to many people now.

So excited for the Palo Alto opening! Do you think that those working in tech are particularly prone to inflammation?
We knew we wanted to be in Northern California, and I think Palo Alto will be great for us. As for the area with relation to health, I do think techies are particularly prone to the stress of information and media overload that comes with the industry. I hope the culture of True Food will be a little bit of an antidote to that. For techies, learning some principles of the anti-inflammatory lifestyle is particularly important.

Until then, what is your favorite San Francisco meal?
I've always liked the Slanted Door and Greens. They are two of my favorites. I mostly cook at home when I'm in Tucson, so in San Francisco it's great for me to go out and try things I can't get at home.

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What are some stand-out seasonal menu items?
We have an autumn salad that I think is terrific. For starters, we have charred cauliflower, roasted Brussels sprouts, and chiogga beet bruschetta with almond ricotta. Our ancient grains bowl is wonderful with its a mixture of grains, hemp seeds and miso-glazed sweet potato. (Editorial note: order it with the tofu, the best). 

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Can dessert be anti-inflammatory?
My favorite is our squash pie, a personal recipe of mine. It's vegan and full of antioxidants. The delicious whipped topping is made from coconut—it's a wonderful dessert.

How does wine fit into a balanced, Weil-approved diet?
I based the anti-inflammatory diet on the Mediterranean diet for which we have a great deal of scientific evidence as to its benefits. I tweaked it by adding Asian influences such as mushrooms, soy, ginger and turmeric. In the Mediterranean diet, wine is included, especially red wine which has proven benefits. The key is moderation. I do drink red wine and sake, but not every night. On our menu, we've tried to include organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines as much as possible.

What are some important ways people can manage inflammation on a day-to-day basis?
My greatest challenge is to convince people that there is no difference between good food and food that's good for you. Diet is a huge factor in the body's inflammation. Another way to cut down on inflammation is to avoid environmental toxins such as secondary smoke, which is a strong inflammatory agent.

Practicing how to limit stress through breathing techniques and meditation is hugely helpful. In addition, I think there are certain herbs and spices that have anti-inflammatory properties, particularly ginger and turmeric. There are some supplements you can take that have anti-inflammatory activity, but I think exercise and control over diet is the most important.

True Food Kitchen, for more information on the anti-inflammatory diet, as well as breathing and meditation techniques, visit drweil.com.

San Francisco's Best Vegan Restaurants - Updated Fall, 2017

 @GreensRestaurant

@GreensRestaurant

Healthy vegan restaurants are not nearly as easy to find in San Francisco as one might think. And easy vegan brunch in SF? Forget about it! Living the SF VitalGuide every day means wading through paleo lunch spots and surprise shutterings (RIP Seed + Salt) to stay on top of the yummiest vegan sushi, biggest acai bowls and most decadent vegan bbq. The following are our fall 2017 picks for must-eat vegan and vegan-friendly breakfasts, lunches and dinners in San Francisco. Let us know what you think!

 @theplantcafeorganic

@theplantcafeorganic

The Plant
3352 Steiner St; Pier 3 The Embarcadero #108, 101 California St
$$$
Om
Try the basil pesto tofu scramble, Sambazon bowl (acai berries blended frozen mango and strawberries, topped with banana and granola), or any of their smoothies, juices and great coffees. The Embarcadero location is on the water with bay views. The Marina location is right off of Chestnut Street, the area's main shopping thoroughfare.

Nourish
189 6th Ave and 1030 Hyde St
$$
Vg
Bright, sweet and with recently added Nob Hill digs, Nourish Café is a perfect healthy brunch hideaway. The coconut flour and quinoa waffles taste a million times more decadent than they are, and the banh mi salad will fill you up for a day’s worth of urban adventures.

Out the Door
2232 Bush St
$$
Om
Chef Charles Phan's more relaxed spin on his popular restaurant Slanted Door's is in an off-the-beaten-path location in the Fillmore neighborhood. The menu offers plenty of yuba-filled noodle dishes and veggie sides. What OTD is missing in waterfront views it makes up for in its feel like a local vibe.

Bouli Bar
1 Ferry Building
$$
Om
No tofu or tempeh here, but the delicious seasonal vegetables and perfect Mediterranean platter make for a satisfying light lunch. Bouli's hidden location inside the Ferry Building, flattering lighting, and lovely wine list make it a go-todaytime date spot.

Greens
Fort Mason, A
$$$
Vg
For special occasion lunches with a view, book a table at this first wave vegan restaurant in Fort Mason. Dishes such as lentil, tamarind and coconut milk soup are infused with ethnic flavors. Greens has prime real estate for watching the sun set over the Golden Gate Bridge.

StJorge

Café St Jorge
3438 Mission St
$
Vg
At the edge of the Mission and Bernal Heights, Cafe St Jorge is an adorable, Brooklyn-y hipster haunt for recharging over pastries, Stumptown coffee, and a perfectly sized quinoa salads. Plus, there's free wifi.

Shizen
370 14th St
$$
Vg
Just order all the rolls (with a side of their famous ramen). If you must choose, the spicy tofuna is a good, simple start to a meal at the Mission's prettiest izakaya spot. It's impossible to order 'wrong' from the last page's specialty rolls.

 @GraciasMadreSF

@GraciasMadreSF

Gracias Madre
2211 Mission
$$
Vg
The original Gracias Madre has fewer whispy celebs and oversized shades than the LA location, but the lack of glitz is made up for with a prime Mission location. Don't miss the pumpkin and cashew cheese quesadillas and avocado ceviche.

Burma Love
211 Valencia St
$$
Om
The tea salad is the star at Burma Love, but a number of curry and noodle entrees are available at this local favorite, no-reservations Burmese eatery. Wait it out at the eatery's busy bar, where drinks are made with local spirits and coconut water right from the nut.

For a full list of our up-to-date vegan favorites in the Bay Area, get your San Francisco VitalGuide here

 

Parsley Health's $1800 Functional Medicine Membership is SO Worth it!

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Parsley Health celebrates its first year of functional medicine in the Bay Area with an educational fete.

Parsley Health SF, the only functional medicine clinic whose offices are located within WeWork, is turning one on December 5. If you're in the Bay Area, everyone's invited to pop by that day to listen to founder Dr. Robin Berzin talk microbiomes (gut bacteria) and biohacking (DIY 'hacks' to optimize your health) while they sip on a bulletproof matcha latte. But what is Parsley? When I heard that the super-buzzy New York-based organization, a pioneering mind-body medical practice, had quietly opened a San Francisco outpost soon after its LA location, I signed right up for a full new-patient intake. As a person who works in the wellness industry, I regularly meditate, run and spend more time than normal in Bay Area boutique-fitness studios. But I haven't had an old-fashioned check up since SoulCycle hit the West Coast (ahem, 2013).

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Ahead of my visit, I filled out a mountain of new patient paperwork on personal and family health, using a digital-patient portal. During our hourlong-plus visit, Dr. Tiffany Lester reviewed my medical history (and my family's) in detail, not leaving any mind-body stone unturned, before she performed a basic physical exam. After my visit, she recommended some baseline testing (blood panels, cortisol screening) to get a data-based overview of my health.

Parsley acts as a primary-care office, and you can talk to your doctor in person or online regarding everything from testing questions to prescription refills. On average, traditional doctors' offices write a prescription for 70 percent of visits, while Parsley's doctors only write an Rx 10 percent of the time. Their goal is to treat patients holistically for total mind-body health through regular doctor's visits, dietary recommendations, vitamin supplementation and a robust health-coaching system. Rather than writing prescriptions, Parsley physicians might write a recommendation for a meditation class or acupuncturist, therapist or fitness classes.

This holistic approach to health is available exclusively to Parsley members who fork out $1600 to $1800 per year for membership. Included is an initial 75-minute visit with a doctor like the one I had, followed by biomarker testing that could include in-home tests and blood work to asses a baseline for health, and then a second 60-minute doctor visit and three additional 30-minute visits to assess progress. In practice that lengthy first session felt like a huge departure from my previous annual check-ups. The average traditional doctor spends around 15 minutes with patients, while the average Parsley visit is 50 minutes - they have time to dig into everything. After that biomarker testing, members receive five health coaching sessions over 12 months, in-person or digitally, with a staffer trained in functional nutrition to create a game plan to put into practice what the doctor recommended. Together between the Parsley team, members receive a seven-part health plan to optimize health at every level - diagnostic testing, mental health, fitness, nutrition, coaching, supplementation and coaching support. Beyond the office, members can access Parsley Perks in the patient portal that include discounts on all supplements and protein powders they sell, as well as access to wellness partners including free Headspace and Thrive Market memberships.

Just last month they launched a Parsley Assessment for commitment phobes that, for $500, packs in what would cost around $2,500 at a traditional clinic: a 75-minute intake, biomarker blood tests, a seven-part map to health, a 45-minute meeting with a health coach and access to the members-only perks program. And for those who can't get enough functional medicine support, Parsley has also launched a Premium Membership that includes additional visits with the doctor and nutrition coach, as well as 'priority visits and messaging'.

If you, like me, haven't been to the doctor in ages because you hate waiting rooms and someone throwing prescriptions at you in between the five other patients they need to see in the next ten minutes, Parsley's whole person approach might be for you. // 8am and 5pm, Dec 5th, RSVP for Parsley events at eventbrite.comparsleyhealth.com

A Fall SF Fitness Challenge, Yoga at the Aquarium and our Other Favorite Ways to Get Fit this Week

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The only wellness news you need in the Bay Area this week:

MNT 10 Challenge, started Nov 6 through 19

SoMa's prettiest fitness location, MNTSTUDIO, is hosting its annual MNT10 fall challenge starting this week. This Pilates and barre challenge asks that participants complete 10 classes in 14 days, with sweet swag for the 10 high achievers who take the most classes including gear from Outdoor Voices and ToeSox, as well as local beauty goodies from local brand Whyld and more. Those who accept the challenge receive 20% off of 10-pack class packs and retail throughout its duration. To bring the challenge into your kitchen, an add-on cleanse with MNT's in-house nutritionist is available for an extra $50. // Nov 6-19, 766 Brannan St. (SoMa), mntstudio.co/mnt10

SoulCycle's New Ride

It's hard to believe, but after ten years of sweaty-spiritual empire-building, SoulCycle is upgrading their bikes for a second time. Most notable is that they are going from the signature SoulCycle yellow to a sleek black. Noticeable only when you ride are changes to the ride itself: a new magnetic resistance gear for a smoother and more consistent ride and a sleek aluminum frame and more customizable settings throughout. NorCal is the first region to get the new bikes on the west coast, and you can take one for a spin starting November 7 at the Castro studio and November 9 at Soma. // soul-cycle.com

Holistic Health Fair at The Center, SF

If you're in the market for a holistic healing modality but don't know your reiki from rolfing, this Saturday's Holistic Health Fair is a one-stop shop to explore all of the wellness things. Local vendors will offer mini-sessions of everything from bodywork, massage, acupuncture, reiki, coaching, tarot, sound healing, aromatherapy and more. The Center will be pouring tea and serving healthy bites all day long. A sound healing concert will wrap the afternoon. // 548 Fillmore St. (Lower Haight), Snag early bird tickets (starting at $25) on eventbrite.com.

Yoga at the Aquarium

This Thursday, Cal Academy of Sciences is teaming up with Yoga Tree, Outdoor Yoga and Motiv to offer a night of aquarium-side, silent-disco yoga. Have your pick of aquatic scenery: either roll out your mat around the Philippine Coral Reef or the jellyfish-filled Water Planet. Class will be accompanied by a DJ set by DJ Avani. If you're up for a surf and turf yoga experience, Yoga Tree's Dianna Oppenheim is leading a savannah-side yoga session in the African hall. Post-yoga activities include mind and body talks, meditations led by WITHIN, cocktails and a peek at Motiv's new ring tracker. // $12 for members; $15 for non-members, 55 Music Concourse Drive, (Golden Gate Park), calacademy.org

Credo Beauty Panel

Fillmore's natural beauty mecca Credo Beauty is hosting a wellness panel on healthy skin this weekend hosted by Angela Tafoya of Lonny and featuring healthy living experts Josh Rosenbrook and Molly Alliman. Listen closely for tips on how the panelists and moderator Angela maintain their ridiculously glowing skin the natural way. // Nov 10, 2136 Fillmore St. (Pacific Heights), credobeauty.com

Life Skills: Surviving Food Festivals with a Dietary Restriction

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My grandmothers would not approve of wandering through a big social affair juggling drinks and food in each hand and stuffing my face with mini entrees along the way. And certainly not on board with my peppering the host/chef with questions like ‘is there any dairy/meat/eggs/gluten in this beautiful dish you’ve slaved over’? But that’s the nature of food festivals, and the dietarily restricted brave enough to attend. Despite the disapproval of my grandmothers and the occasional ‘omg there is literally nothing for me to eat’, I’ve turned eating and drinking well at these events into a sport: how many healthy and plant-based bites can I cobble together in a sea of foie burgers, pork baos and bread-bread-bread?

After a month of back-to-back food fests (including the polar opposite Tastemakers SF and Veg Society’s VegWorld Fest), I put my survival tactics to the test. After living to tell the tale, here is my take on food fest need-to-knows:

1. Eat before you go

This is really survival 101 for me. Unless you’re the kind of eater with an iron stomach and an open mind to all things meat and fried, fuel up in advance. If you forget and arrive with an appetite but without options to match your dietary constraints, chances are you’ll end up hangry and unleash that hanger on things you normally wouldn’t normally like a mouthful of truffle fries, random rice side dishes, chips and guac and margaritas (guilty of this with all of the above). Which is fun until it isn’t: tummy ache and regret are 100x worse than a hangover imo. If you instead pre-game eat before the event then you can spend more time mingling and sampling a combo of healthy and slightly naughty bites without being an insatiable, ravenous beast.

At Tastemakers last weekend, a first time event in San Francisco, the only vegan bites were a delicious-but-teeny kiwi popsicle and squares of chocolate from my fave SF chocolatier Dandelion chocolate. Had I not done it up on spaghetti squash and meatless meatballs earlier, I would have been starving or my blood sugar would have been cray. At VegWorld Fest, most of the options were treats - so after a pre-game meal I tried one dairy-free ice cream bar and didn’t need to stuff myself with fried empanadas or greasy noodles.

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2. Get info in advance

Get the scoop before the day of the event. Email the organizers, DM their social person on Instagram, whatever you have to do to inquire about vendors making something to fit your dietary restriction. Maybe you’ll be surprised to hear there is someone doing vegan, paleo waffles. Or that unfortunately all you’ll be able to do is drink and eat dark chocolate (this happens to me a lot) so that you can prepare accordingly. This brings me to:

3. Don't be late

Arriving fashionably late is not a thing when it comes to crowded, buzzy food and drinks events. Getting there right when the doors open is the way to guarantee you get as much as you can, sans potential queuing, have the freshest food and get to chat with vendors before they are sweaty and exhausted. At an extended evening affair like Tastemakers SF, that ran from 7pm - 1am, the early birds were the only ones who got to try the IG-famous donut wall. Most of the food was gone by 1030pm, which was the time I was able to get a drink in my hands due to crazy queuing. At niche or more casual events like VegWorld where some vendors were serving food out of large containers - I’d rather have something early rather than after 50 people have talked over the food, getting who knows what into it. Having arrived there thirty minutes after it opened, I had my pick of where to eat - and was able to nab the hot ticket items like Conscious Creamery’s decadent chocolate-covered hazelnut ice cream bar.

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4. The best ones are in new places

Getting to run into friends and say hi to favorite restaurateurs while sipping craft cocktails is one of the main reasons to visit a food festival at home. On the road though, checking out a local Pinot fest or Sake Saturday is an easy way to try all of the restaurants on your ‘must visit’ list in one go and possibly make new local friends.

5. There is no dress code

Unless explicitly stated on the invitation, dressing for a food event is a moving target. At Tastemakers, the first woman I saw at the entrance was teetering out of the venue on black stilettos, strapped into a white Herve Leger band-aid dress. The first guys I saw when walking in were in plaid shirts, hoodies and casual jeans. Inside, it was all-out-glam, just-out-of-bed and everything in between. At VegFest, well, we know what the fashion is like at grassroots vegan events: lots of vegan slogan tees (my favorite was a vegan bad bitch cropped version), Tevas and hiking gear. Basically, I would think even my grandmothers agree that ‘you do you’ is the best policy when it comes to crowded food parties.

Evacuating Wine Country Fires and How to Support

 Courtesy of Sandman Santa Rosa

Courtesy of Sandman Santa Rosa

A 3:30am Call in Santa Rosa

I woke up Monday morning at 3:30am to the landline ringing in my hotel room at Santa Rosa's Sandman hotel, a design-y, recently renovated nouveau motel downtown. I picked up after three rings and all within the next minute, maybe a minute and a half, I was told to 'evacuate and evacuate now because the fire was closest to your building', threw on pants/sweatshirt/shoes and grabbed what I could with one arm on the way out to the car. At some point during all of that I opened the front door to assess what was going on, and how big of danger we were in, and a huge billow of thick smoke blew right in, and along with it howls and screams and gusts of wind. 

Once we got downstairs and to our car, we followed another car leaving from the hotel lot as it made a right onto the main road. Because this was the first time I'd stayed in Santa Rosa I had no idea where I was or how to navigate. And because the entryway to the hotel was already in flames, and much more so the vegetation across the street, following someone who might know more than me was what my fight or flight mechanism deemed safest. Seeing we were driving into more fire - to the left and the right and raining from above, my fiance turned around to avoid driving into any larger fires that might lay ahead. At this time there was no news or emergency warnings distributed via mobile to say what this fire was or more importantly what to do and where to go. We were clueless and just trying to GTFO. 

On the other side of the street from the hotel property was a gas station, with a fire truck at one of the pumps and a very calm looking fireman next to the truck. We pulled in, I hopped out of the car (in my nightie/yoga pants/sweatshirt combo) and taking in his relaxed-despite-armageddon all around vibe, attempted to be super chill about the 'why is everything on fire and am I going to die in it?' thoughts swimming in my brain. 

He told us how to get to the freeway going south, where to go and all in such a calm way . We found the onramp, which was also on fire, plowed through the smoke and flames and booked it back home to San Francisco. All the way looking at flames to our left and listening to some super unprepared late night easy listening DJs on the radio try their best to share updates on what was happening. 

Despite the horror of evacuating without knowing what it was we were running from, where to go and where the fires were coming from, I lost nothing. The hotel I stayed at was spared, and the beyond gracious hoteliers have managed to return all of my belongings: phone, clothing, wine in the last couple of days.  I cannot imagine what it's like for those who went through this process to lose every.single.thing. The North Bay communities have been devastated, and continue to be ravaged, by these insane fires. 

So what can we all do? Short of getting a firefighting license or vet tech certificate, most of what these communities are asking for are donations. Cash, clothing, supplies. 

Here are some of my favorite organizations, and how to get involved:

Sweat to support in SF

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Sonoma SPCA x Well + Away ride at SoulCycle Castro
Many of the shelters in the Sonoma areas are taking in evacuated families, both those who have lost their home and those are waiting to find out if they still have one, but are unable to accept animals. Sonoma SPCA is temporarily housing so many of these evacuated animals, but also housing strays and treating those who have been burned in the fires. Join us for a Saturday afternoon ride with instructor Chris on October 21 at SoulCycle Castro in SF, all proceeds will benefit Sonoma SPCA. Sign up via Eventbrite

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MNTSTUDIO benefiting Napa Valley Community Foundation
MNT's studio director Carlie Long is a Napa Native with family throughout the Napa area. MNT is hosting a mat Pilates bootcamp class this Saturday, Oct 14, at 9am. Sign up via MindBody

Outside of the Bay Area

Make a donation in any amount to the following funds:

Well in SF: Sober Dance Party, Yoga at Bloomies and the class Pop-up

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Daybreaker Breaks Dusk

From the creators of the early-morning, non-alcoholic dance party series known as Daybreaker, comes Dusk, this Friday night at Grace Cathedral. The party starts with an hour of yoga taught by Paige Earl, followed by a booze-free dance party DJ'd by the team at Opulent Temple. If you're up for this sober shindig, boozeless happy hour treats will be provided. But be sure to BYO yoga mat if you're planning to take class. // FridayOct 6; yoga 6:30-7:30pm, dance party 7:30-9:30pm; at Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St. (Nob Hill); tickets ($25-35) available at daybreaker.com.

Vinyasa 40 Stories Up

Loews Regency Hotel is bringing Sky Deck Yoga back this fall for those wanting to downward dog with a 180 degree view of the city. Now through October 31st, and in partnership with Wheel House, the property will host two weekly Saturday morning classes: one athletic power Vinyasa class, the other a precision Vinyasa with an emphasis on alignment and breath. Both classes end with tray-passed green juice from in-house restaurant Brasserie S&P. Yoga mats and towels are provided. // $25 per class, Saturdays, Loews Regency, 222 Sansome St., (FiDi), loewshotels.com/regency-san-francisco.
 

Core Power + Rosé All Day At Bloomie's

To kick off its October Pink campaign, Bloomingdale's is hosting a pink-themed morning yoga class, taught by Core Power instructor Monica Kaufman, accompanied by pink wine and goodie bags from Spiritual Gangster. What does this mean for your weekend? Saturday morning yoga and rosé literally all day (10am to 4pm), courtesy of Coravin. There is a $10 reservation fee, 100 percent of which will be donated to the breast-cancer-fighting Carey Foundation and Marisa Acocella Marchetto Foundation. // Yoga mat and goodie bags included; doors open at 8:30am, yoga at 9am; Bloomingdales, 845 Market St., (SoMa); sign up at Eventbrite.

Sunset Hike on the Peninsula

Get outside to soak in the fall sights and smells with the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST). Amid the glow of the setting sun, trek five miles from the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve to the top of Mindego Hill (newly opened to the public). Snacks will be provided at the top of the hike, and POST guides will be on-hand to share the history and planning of the lands they protect. // Free, Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, (Redwood City); reservations at Eventbrite.

Strength, Spirit and Recovery

If this is the first you're hearing of Taryn Toomey's pop-up class at The Assembly, sadly both Saturday and Sunday sessions are sold out. Keep an eye on the waitlist to sign up for all of the other wellness options the Assembly has in store for its first full weekend of fitness, mindfulness and creative coursework. Classes include HIIT-style strength with Tony Forte, spiritual-strength with Rachael Brooke (of the famously packed 7am SoulCycle classes), and new mobility class called 'The Release' with local fitness celeb Liz Letchford. Art-focused mandala making and a private tour of new work led by artist Heather Day round out the weekend. // The Assembly, 449 14th St. (Mission), theassemblysf.com

Take Your Down Dog Outside, Clean Up Your Makeup Routine and Party Like a Healer this Week in SF

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Yoga on the Plaza with Bay Club

It’s a gorgeous week for taking your workout al fresco, and this Thursday the Bay Club is hosting a free yoga class at The Plaza in FiDi. Led by Bay Club instructor Jennifer Kelly, this is the last class in a weekly series celebrating national yoga month. After a 60-minute flow, post-class refreshments will be served - because what’s better than day drinking outside in yoga pants? The class itself is an all-levels Vinyasa flow class set to music broadcasted through attendees’ individual, wireless headsets. Donations will be accepted onsite to support Team G Childhood Cancer Foundation.  
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5:30pm check-in, Bay Club Financial District, 555 California St. RSVP at Eventbrite.

 

The Center SF Turns Two

Home to breathing workshops, monthly moon circles and esoteric wellness modalities from EFT Tapping to Reiki, The Center SF is having itself a birthday party on Thursday, September 28. Festivities will include tarot readings, astrology, live music, healthy snacks, beverages and plenty of dancing.  
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7p.m. - 11p.m., Tickets are available for a requested donation of $10. The Center, 548 Fillmore St (Lower Pac Heights). www.thecentersf.com/

 

Work Hard, Sleep Hard

Mattress Firm and OrangeTheory Fitness are hosting a ‘Work Hard, Sleep Hard’ pop-up event on Saturday, September 30. Through 12 p.m., Mattress Firm will be onsite showing off their latest offerings and sharing advice on how to up your slumber game for enhanced athletic performance. Mattresses will be in-studio for testing, or post-workout napping, after the a.m. sweat sesh, and Revive Kombucha will be serving beverages. First class is free at OrangeTheory for new students.  -
OrangeTheory Fitness, 343 Sansome Street #125, 8:30a.m - 12:30p.m. www.san-francisco.orangetheoryfitness.com/

 

Your Best Face Forward

FaceWest is now open in the Marina. Get your makeup done with cruelty-free, vegan, clean beauty products curated by Bay Area native owners Pavla and Petra Langer. Makeup artists can put a look together for you for anything from opening night to ‘natural makeup 101’. Pro tip: if you’re running from makeup to an event with zero time for hair, they have blowdryers and styling tools on-hand for quickie hair styling, too.  
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FaceWest, 3236 Scott St. (Marina). www.faceweststudio.com/

 

Laughing Lotus Class @ Athleta Sutter

Home of the signature lighthearted and soulful Vinyasa yoga style, Laughing Lotus is the studio of the month at Athleta Sutter. This Saturday, BYO mat for an hour of all-levels yoga flow with a Laughing Lotus instructor. After class, yogis have the run of the store before it’s open to the public, as well as a chance to win an Athleta gift card and complimentary refreshments.  
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 Athleta Sutter Street, 255 Sutter St (Union Square). Free, 8:30a.m. - 9:30 a.m. stores.athleta.net/store-4146/

Sweat Your A** Off This Weekend with Tone It Up and FitFest

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This Saturday Brings a Fitness Double-Header

This weekend, two of the season’s biggest fitness events are going head-to-head on opposite sides of the city. In one corner, San Francisco’s homegrown, inaugural FitFest is taking place at Crissy Field from 10am-4pm. In the other, founder Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott of Los Angeles’ fitness empire Tone It Up are taking over Civic Center Plaza for the SF stop of their national tour from 12pm - 5pm.

How do you choose?? I’ve been seriously considering carbing up Friday night in order to jet back and forth all day to lunge with K+K (as the Tone It Up community refers to founders Karena and Katrina) in SoMa then Sweat and Flow with Shauna Harrison in the Marina, then back to Civic Center for push-ups and HIIT with Jillian Michaels. But if you are trying to fit anything else into your day, like a meal or any other non-workout activity, you may need to narrow down Saturday’s ambitious plans. To help you in what is bound to be a choice harder than K+K’s abs, here are the breakdowns of what’s happening at each event.

Tone it Up Tour

On their inaugural cross-country tour, K+K and BFF Jillian Michaels are leading nearly two hours of HIIT-based strength workouts and a dash of yoga.

Doors to the SF tour at Civic Center Plaza open at 3:00pm, with a 30 minute Core Power yoga session kicking off the afternoon in a back-to-back series of three workouts. From there celeb trainer Jillian Michaels will lead a second 30-minute workout, and to wrap up the workout, K+K will lead a 45-minute session in the style of their famous Booty Calls posted daily on ToneitUp.com. After the workout, VIP ticket holders are welcome to meet and greet with the Tone it Up crew between 6:00-8:00pm in the Rose garden. Perks include free massages courtesy of Zeel and post-workout rose.

FitFest

Founded by Bay Area local and super fit festival producer Nate Mezmer, FitFest is also in its inaugural year with a lineup of national and local fitness bosses leading classes on a main stage, as well as smaller sessions peppered throughout Crissy Field.

Gates open at 10am, and a 50 minute, deejay-accompanied Vinyasa session led by The Pad’s Nicole Cronin starts at 1030a on the main stage to get the morning going. Shauna Harrison’s Muscle and Flow and Janet Stone’s Beyonce yoga classes follow on the main stage for some serious hometown heat. Visiting instructors include Kerri Verna of @BeachYogaGirl and Kaisa Keranen of @KaisaFit, both teaching in the afternoon. All day long, SF’s fit crew like Nate Chambers of Roark Gyms and Kokoda Fitness will be teaching short sessions on strength and mobility. Mindfulness sessions will include a journaling session with Julie Aiello of Outdoor Yoga and a panel discussion on the mindful hustle for healthy entrepreneurs.

I’ll be doing my best cross-town shuffle to pack in as many sweat seshes as possible, before crossing the finish line with K+K and rewarding myself with rose and massages.  

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Tone It Up Tour tickets are $110 per person, $220 for VIP with Jillian Michael, $260 for VIP with K+K, Civic Center Plaza. FitFest tickets are $80 per person, Crissy Field.


 

Where to Meditate Now in SF

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Mindfulness is a buzzword that's been creeping into realms with previously no ties to zen living—while we can get down with meditating over our morning coffee, we're just not that into those conference room meditations startup HR managers keep pushing.

At this point, we should all be meditating—the practice has been clinically proven to help our brains with everything from basic function to anxiety disorders—but on the other hand, places like Spirit Rock and the San Francisco Zen Center aren't exactly welcoming for casual practitioners or beginners: Their days-long workshops and 90-minute classes, while amazing, are best suited to those who know what they're doing. We need a better point of entry. There are various meditation apps out there, and that two-minute meditation at your desk is better than nothing, but we want a place where we can focus for a short bit, and a real live person to guide us through.

The answer: San Francisco's new meditation pop-ups.

"Life in the Bay Area has become crazier and more hectic than it needs to be—everyone I know now wants to integrate meditation in their lives to offset stress," says Jing Lee, a former Athleta exec who recently founded Pacific Pause, which teaches beginner-friendly mindfulness meditation sessions that are short enough to work in between commuting and conference calls. Lee plans to open a modern, brick-and-mortar space soon, but until then she's popping up inside The Assembly, a new Mission coworking space that also offers fitness classes, on Thursday nights this fall. Lee's sessions last just 30 minutes, and there are three options on offer: Mindfulness 101, ideal for beginners; a body scan meditation to promote physical awareness; and a gratitude practice to help cultivate kindness. Lee says half an hour "is the sweet spot that makes it beginner-friendly but still enough time for someone who meditates on a regular basis."

If you keep hearing the word mindfulness, it's because many modern practitioners subscribe to the tradition, also known as Vipassana. The reason, Lee feels, is that "Mindfulness meets people where they are. It's an especially approachable type of meditation for the western world," she says, because it uses "non-esoteric, everyday language." It can be more accessible to beginners than some of the more traditional styles, such as Zen and Transcendental mediation, that require specific sitting postures or time- and cash-intensive trainings.

Opened in June of this year, Within is another pop-up offering half-hour mindfulness classes, located inside FiDi's chill second-floor yoga studio Moksha Life Center. Founded by Hannah Knapp and Megan Parker, a New York ex-pat accustomed to Manhattan's various drop-in meditation studios (that's right, SF has, oddly, been slow to adopt this trend), Within aims to capture worker bees before they start their day, offering just two classes with 8:15 and 9am starts, two days per week. Knapp says classes are intended for students to "exercise the muscle of attention in the present moment, and then use that muscle to set an intention for the day ahead. Getting still first thing in the morning," she continues, "really gives people the spaciousness to see what they want for that day." The founders, both refugees from the world of startups, plan to begin offering classes five days a week in September, and are thinking brick-and-mortar after that.

Pacific Pause and Within are currently the only two studios dedicated to super-accessible mindfulness meditation teachings in SF, but there are other opportunities to cultivate your mindfulness practice. The Pad(1694 Union St., Cow Hollow) offers a weekly, 45-minute Monday night "sit"; Against the Stream (rotating venues) offers longer sessions in a variety of styles in SF and the East Bay; and, for ambitious beginners and pros, veteran instructor Howard Cohn gives a 90-minute weekly meditation and talk through Mission Dharma (rotating venues).

This is a story I originally wrote for 7x7, posted on August 30. 

// Pacific Pause classes are $18 at The Assembly, 449 14th St. (Mission), theassemblysf.com; register at eventbrite.com. Within, classes are $18 at Moksha Life Center, 405 Sansome St. (FiDi), withinmeditation.com.