Matthew Murphy

As the holidays approach, we’re coping by escaping into Harry Potter’s world, dreaming of the perfect espresso shot, and more. Here’s the Best of the West this week

Sunset Staff  – December 16, 2019 | Updated January 9, 2020

Hogwarts by the Bay

Matthew Murphy

ICYMI, J.K. Rowling penned a six-hour play that continues Harry Potter’s saga into adulthood—and it’s now being performed on stage in San Francisco, one of only two locations in the U.S. (the other is, natch, NYC). SF’s Curran Theater is hosting the West Coast premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which has already received rave reviews on Broadway and other cities around the world. I took my eight-year-old (who’s in peak Hogwarts mode, devouring the original book series faster than I can type this) on opening day and we were 110% captivated by the drama, humor, poignant themes, and impressive production value. I won’t spoil any details except to say, diehard Potter fans will want to see it. The SF run goes through July 2020, but best to book your tickets ASAP. —Jessica Mordo, associate digital director

Tickets, starting at $59
   

  

Dreaming of a Flat White Christmas

Courtesy of La Marzocco USA

Every year my wife asks me what I want for Christmas and I annoy the heck out of her when I say “nothing.” My answer comes from a lifetime of trying to edit out things that aren’t well made, timeless, and built to last. And as I find myself with fewer things, I’ve discovered I want them to be the best possible version of themselves, which is why this year I surprised her when I said I wanted a La Marzocco Linea Mini espresso machine. A downscaled, home kitchen-friendly version of the iconic espresso machine seen at the best cafes from Sicily to Silver Lake, the Linea Mini is a gleaming thing of beauty, particularly in stainless steel, with dual boilers, temperature adjustment for precise brewing control, and a powerful steamer. Yes, it’s a pricey $4,900, but it shares parts, materials, and functionality with its larger professional sibling and is the sort of object that becomes an avocation for its rabid coffee geek fan base who see perfecting a pull as a near Zen-like meditation on existence. I’m not convinced my wife will indulge me this year, but I’m hoping the side benefit of a lifetime of delicious ristrettos, macchiatos, and cortados might just sway her. —Hugh Garvey, executive editor

Linea Mini Espresso Machine, $4,900
   

Rail Pass Cocktails at Pabu San Francisco

Courtesy of Pabu

I’m normally wary of restaurants like Pabu, the kind of mega-concept place situated purposely in the midst of the Financial District to separate bankers from their cash. But as slick and spendy-seeming as it might be, the spot really surprised me the first time I popped in, with izakaya-based fare and inventive cocktails that use the characters of Streetfighter II (a seminal title of any 34-45-year-old’s youth) as themes. Surprisingly, the drinks actually paid off the premise, creating a 1+1=3 kind of alchemy that was more than just rote nostalgia. This wasn’t just new branding on the same old juice: By selecting ingredients and, occasionally the temperament or fighting style of their patron warrior, general manager Ron Bonifacio and team turned these into the cocktail equivalents of the game itself. You wanted to try all of the characters, even if you couldn’t make your way through in one sitting. Now, Pabu has launched a new cocktail menu taking inspiration from Tokyo’s rail lines, themselves a subject of obsession (and sometimes, frustration) by many who’ve had the pleasure of visiting Japan. Sip your way through the menu—which visually mimics the actual rail pass portfolio that is stamped and documented carefully by docents in the stations—with drinks pegged to the Yamanote (pictured), Ueno-Tokyo, and other lines. —Matt Bean, editor in chief

Boichik Bagels

Courtesy of Boichik Bagels

Aficionados have long lamented that there are no good bagels in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the last few years, more and more shops that think outside the subway-tile box have opened, each one making that claim a little harder to cling to. But these newcomers mostly serve Montreal-style bagels, less salty and more noticeably sweet than the NYC-style noshes that most East Coast transplants are used to. Now, finally, comes an entrant that aims to shut down all talk of inferior NorCal products. New Jersey native Emily Winston has opened a shop in Berkeley, Boichik Bagels, serving boiled and gas flame-licked treats that went through nearly five years of testing and pop-up sales to perfect. They hew closely to Winston’s memories of childhood trips to H&H bagels in Manhattan, and with their tiny holes and crunchy, toasty crust, they’ve had Berkeleyites lining up in the rain for an hour or more—and coming back again and again. You can get a little taste of New York yourself Wednesday through Sunday, but be prepared to stand in line—and to get there early. The day’s run always sells out well before lunchtime. —Nicole Clausing, digital producer

Let There Be Lights

Creative Commons photo by Visitor7 is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Yes, there are Zoo Lights and infinite other, probably better, holiday light displays around the West, but for me, nothing beats the old-school charm of Portland’s own Peacock Lane, now in its 90th year of operation. Residents of this diminutive Southeast Portland street are required to festoon their Tudor-style homes in colorful lights, which most do with the appropriate amount of aplomb (but if I’m being honest, my favorite is the one house on the block that really can’t be arsed, and grumpily puts up their one or two HOA-mandated pieces of flair). Bring a flask of Rumpelminze to make your hot chocolate more festive, and take a stroll up and down the street with your friends and family—lights are on from December 15-31. —Heather Arndt Anderson, garden editor

Traveling with a Best Friend

Chase Dekker/Getty Images

This year, I’ll be spending Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day in Arches National Park (with some fam time in between). I’m driving almost 2,000 miles round trip to visit my folks in Colorado, just so I can bring my pup Woody along, as he’s too big and way too clumsy for airplane rides. That’s a long way to roll for the sake of a furry friend, but I’m committed to sharing as many adventures with him as possible—and I can’t wait to watch him romp in the snow for the first time. I’m also psyched to take advantage of what I hope will be some quiet, contemplative moments in the park (it’ll be my first time there!) on either end of my trip. I can’t think of a better place to set my intentions for the new year: more camping excursions with Woody, more time in more of our amazing National Parks and Forests… and also maybe a new set of tires. —Kate Wertheimer, travel editor

Golden State Pickle Works

Creative Commons photo by Sharon Hahn Darlin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

My weekly routine includes a mandatory visit to the Temescal farmers’ market in Oakland. In addition to being one of my favorite little markets, it’s right next to a park where I can let my children release a fraction of their limitless well of energy: a win-win for all. After browsing through the produce stands, I head to the prepared foods section for a sampling of pickled and fermented items from Golden State Pickle Works. They have everything from salad dressings (including an Everything Bagel flavor with buttermilk, fermented fennel, onion, garlic, and seeds), to pickled “kosher dill radishes,” golden beet slaw with turmeric, and shots of probiotic pickle juice. The glass jars are reusable and returnable for a $.50 refund, if you can ever manage to remember to bring them along. My faves from their stand: the allium mayonnaise and fermented green salsa. —Ellen Fort, food editor

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