Monday, August 17, 2009

LoL San Francisco: Tango Gelato

Now, not many of you know this, but I'm a fiend for ice cream - vegan, store-bought, homemade, I'm all over any kind of frozen custard. However, I only recently got into gelato. I remember having it once&being totally unimpressed, but after trying it again back home, a fire has been ignited in me &now I am a gelato-consuming furnace of CHOMP (Miss Lumpy, now with 100% more wut?). Taking this nonsense into account, it's no surprise that when I was walking down Fillmore street &spotted Tango Gelato, I was pulled almost magnetically into the store. Painted a light, soothing sage contrasted with dark wood-tones, smelling of bread &that inherent sweetness ice cream parlors usually possess, it is the perfect place for a date or a quiet afternoon with a good book - fun fact, my choice was Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
A trend that I love in gelato shops is serving real food as well, usually paninis or salads, and Tango does not disappoint. They have a few choices of pre-chosen paninis as well as a board of "build-your-own" options. My creation was pesto, chicken, and goat cheese on focaccia, and I can honestly say it was the best panini of my life. They also offer small individual pizzas - rectangles of, oh, seven or eight inches long by four inches wide, and though they had a few selections, the only one they had available when I went was Veggie - fine with me! But leads me to believe they get them pre-made, or they have someone come in once a week to make a bunch &then freeze them, so if that bothers you, I'd opt for a sandwich or salad. I adored the veggie, &even my very, very carnivorous friend enjoyed it immensely.
Now, as for the pièce de résistance: of course, the gelato. Stars of smoothies and sundaes, you can find the menu of flavors online (click the picture above for a link!); their offerings feature classics like vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio, but also include Green Tea, Dulce de Leche, Blackberry Cabernet, and - sigh! - Crème Brûlée, among others, and if you couldn't tell, the latter was my favorite, though I greatly enjoyed the Blackberry Cabernet as well. The other flavors I tried were amazing as well, though I admit I was disappointed in the green tea flavor, as it was much milder than I was hoping for.
As far as pricing goes, I would say this is a lower-price destination. While the gelato is a bit pricey (compared to ice cream - it's pretty average for gelato), at $3.50 for their small and $7.00 for a pint (with, of course, other options in between) and $4.25 for a slice of vegetarian pizza, going in around lunchtime and getting a panini is your best bet. Because it can be hard to watch the grill and serve the high volumes of gelato orders they get at night at the same time, they don't offer paninis for dinner time - a shame, because at $6.50 for a big sandwich with salad and a free "chico"-size gelato, it would be the best-priced dinner in town.
Lolita-specific: What's more lolita than expensive, luxurious, glorified ice cream?! Kidding, of course, but seriously, if you're looking for a good time with a friend or two in one big photo-op, you've found it. Like I said, the entire store is a soft sage green contrasted natural hardwood, as seen in the picture above, and the walls are hung with black-and-white photographs from a local photographer. The booths are plush and fit two and four, respectively, so this isn't a great place for a large group, as the handful of small tables also only fit two or three comfortably. However, if you're looking for a cute place for a friend or two, or for a quick stop if your group is jonesing for gelato.
All in all, I definitely give it 4.5/5 stars. The food is excellent, the gelato is amazing &while they don't have many flavors, those they do have are a good mix of conventional &creative - my only concern is that everything except the panini was really a bit more than I'd like to pay. The staff is also friendly&helpful, &rather tolerant of my favorite ice cream-shop hobby: sampling as many flavors as possible. If you're visiting San Francisco &have a high-class sweet tooth, you would be doing it a great disservice if you left town without stopping by Tango Gelato.
(Part of Lolita on Location: San Francisco)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

LoL San Francisco: Queen Anne Hotel

(Part of the Lolitas on Location: San Francisco series)

The Queen Anne Hotel in San Francisco
The Queen Anne Hotel in San Francisco
As I write this, I sit on a satin-covered settee before a fireplace. My feet crunch the Persian-style Victorian rug, and a porcelain cup of tea sits next to me on a marble coffee table, complete with gold filigree engraving. Above the fireplace, I contemplate an oil painting of the lady of the house entertaining a papal figure with her violinist, all of them coiffed and adorned in the style of the Sun King‘s court. In the other room is a wooden grand piano, crystal chandelier, and a young blond man who looks up every time I cast my eyes in his direction.

The main stairway in the lobby - an elevator is also available
The main stairway in the lobby - an elevator is also available
It’s hard to believe I’m still in the twenty-first century, but my fellow parlor attendant is chatting on the cell phone to our family back home, and the young man is wearing jeans and a hoodie. I’m in the Queen Anne Hotel in San Francisco, a period hotel on Sutter Street. Down the street from Japantown and only a few blocks from Fillmore Street with its shopping &Victorian rowhouses, the Queen Anne is in Pacific Heights, a prime location for tourists with a flair for shopping and dining, as well as an appreciation of historical architecture.
The Queen Anne herself is four floors, with both an intricate cherry staircase and a gold-and-burgundy elevator, and contains 48 guestrooms total. It opened as “Miss Mary Lake’s School for Girls” around the 1890’s, making it one of the oldest structures in Pacific Heights, and was restored in the 1980’s as the Queen Anne Hotel after passing hands a few times during the century between. The lobby/parlor is a grand space with burgundy walls & window hangings and mahogany wainscoting, crystal chandeliers and two ornate fireplaces. Afternoon tea with cookies &sherry is served every day from 4 - 6 PM, and a complementary breakfast is served in the ballroom every morning, 7 - 9 (though I should note, it‘s not really impressive - bagels, toast, fruit, cereal, juices). The entire hotel is an antiquer’s dream, as almost all the furniture is from the building’s time of origin or around there, and every landing and room has it treasures. The hotel staff is very friendly and eager to help, and are full of suggestions and local knowledge, and there is town car service every morning at 7:45, 8:45, and 9:45, to anywhere in the city.

A small portion of the lobby
A small portion of the lobby
This hotel is not trapped in the past, however. Breakfast is accompanied by a toaster oven for your bagels and microwave for your oatmeal. Each room is equipped with modern televisions and mini-fridges, and the bathroom is almost disappointingly 21st-centrury - personally, I was half-hoping for a pull-chain on the toilet. The hotel is also equipped with high-speed wifi - theoretically. More on that later.
The guest room itself is beautiful - high ceilings, a beautiful color pallet, and huge, comfortable beds. The closet is very large, and the bathroom isn’t really tiny, either, and it has a bathtub, something many modern hotels have nixed. I almost wish the bathroom was more old-fashioned - lovely marble, but the tiles on the floor also cover the walls and surround the bathtub, which is also sadly modern - in a perfect world, the tub would be a brass-and-porcelain claw-footed monster, though I don’t doubt that in some of the fancier suites this would be a possibility. It’s comfortable, though, and not unattractive, so clearly my standards are just unrealistic. There is also a small sitting area with two armchairs, a nice wooden table, and a lamp.
While there is little else I can say badly about this hotel, as with anything, there are some discomforts. The shower in our hotel was broken when we checked in, to the point of being unusable - however, this was fixed when it was brought to the front desk’s attention, and after we left for the day so we didn’t need to put up with the noise from the plumber. The biggest concern for me, however, is the internet - I don’t have it. For some reason I am entirely unable to connect on either of my laptops, and on those rare times I can, there’s no signal. However, if this problem affects you on your stay, there is a desktop in the lobby available to guests. Another slight annoyance is, due to the age of the hotel, a great lack of outlets, meaning I can’t charge my cell phone, camera battery, and laptop at the same time. I’m sure I'll survive somehow. Also, they don’t have a pool or air conditioning, though in San Francisco, where it doesn’t often get much over 80, neither of these are necessities, in my opinion - however, they do have fireplaces lit all night to stave off the chill of evening.

The parlor fireplace, in front of which I sit writing!
The parlor fireplace, in front of which I sit writing!
Lolita-specific: The closet is large &deep, perfect for petticoats & even your largest dresses. They come equipped with sturdy wooden hangers that won’t stretch or damage your clothes, however, they have no pants hangers, so if you have any delicate skirts you don’t want to drape over the bar on said hangers, you should probably bring your own. The internet is provided, through wifi (theoretically) and the lobby computer. There is also a nice vanity/dresser next to the door, so if you’re sharing your room with another lolita you can coif yourselves at the same time without squishing into the same mirror. There are many places for photos, as most of the floors have lovely benches, settees, and armchairs scattered around, as well as some lovely art.
In conclusion, I would give it about 3.5/5 stars, which kills me, as this hotel is a Taurean art-and-beauty Nirvana, and my inner bull is going into overdrive at the multitude of rich colors &fabrics. However, the inconveniences must be taken into account. While they aren’t bothering me much, they are exactly that - inconvenient, and they may bother someone else more than I, so they deserve to be taken into account during a review. Even still, I’m having a great stay, and I would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone spending any amount of time in San Francisco - especially a lolita.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Traveling in Lolita: Packing

So, it's finally here: Vacation! Whether you had to request time off weeks in advance from work, or happen to be on Spring Break (or both, as is usually my luck), finally, you have a few days to get away from the daily grind &relocate to smoother sailing. You've chosen your destination, you've selected your mode of transportation, you've taken care of lodgings. Now, all that's left is one of the most daunting for a lolita: Packing.
First off, some required reading. Seasoned lolitas may remember the post by livejournal user tsu_ on the egl community, the Lolita Travel Guide. For those who do not or need a refresher, there's the link. The article is very helpful &covers all stages of your trip, from planning to disembarking, so I'm going to address you all as an audience who already knows the points she makes. Now, I'm going to go have a cup of tea & some cookies while you read that.
Okay, all set? Good. Some of the things I'm going to say may now sound slightly repetitious, but don't worry - if it's covered in detail by the other article, I won't bother here. However, packing was mostly left out, except for a very short but informative paragraph, mostly on proper petticoat packing &a few suggestions on what types of pieces to pack.
The equation provided in the article is a wonderful starting point, however the only example given is for a week's stay, &doesn't cover accessories or other things - including non-lolita items to bring! So, let's talk about that. Say, for example, you only plan on wearing lolita for two days. Your easiest option is: one skirt, two cutsews (blouses are fine too, but much more likely to wrinkle, and we all know how those hotel irons are), however, if you want a bit more variety, I suggest: One skirt, one JSK, and one cutsew, with accessories that would go with either. This will give you two distinct looks while still not taking up too much room. The skirt could also be swapped out for a OP &the blouse dumped for a day for a totally different look - if you choose a dress instead, I'd go for one without a built-in petti, to save room.
Now, onto choosing those pieces. Obviously, you know your closet better than anyone, so you'll know best what colors or motifs to lean towards, depending on your tastes & collection. My suggestion is to go for plainer base pieces, the pieces that will be present in both outfits - plain, lace-topped white socks, white hairbow, white shoes, white blouse or cutsew - then chose an interest piece - pintuck-and-pearls jumperskirt, or coveted print skirt - to set off & add more interest to both outfits. Also, if you're unfamiliar with the climate you'll be traveling to, layering is your friend- always have a nice cardigan or bolero in your carry-on, just in case. An example:
See how the interest piece in these outfits are the skirt and the jumperskirt, respectively? The blouse gives it a more mature, classic look, while the bow & shoes enhance the inherent sweetness. The shoes are also lightweight flats, which would fit more easily into luggage than heels and would take up less of the weight requirement.
A few more random tips:
  • If you have an organza pannier, now is the time to bring it. It won't get smooshed in your luggage like a regular tulle one will, and if you want to wear it on an airplane, it's easier to gather around yourself &can be piled under you and sat on if it's in the way of other passengers - really, though, it's best if you just pack it.
  • Packing anything delicate? A mini-crown or a piece of jewelry you don't want crushed? Wrap it lightly in your organza pannier. I also use mine stuffed into purses to keep their shape.
  • Organize your suitcase. Put all your socks in a quart-size ziplock bag, all your accessories in the inside pocket, etc. Also, if you've got quite a big of stuff, roll instead of fold.
  • If you're flying, wear a pair of comfortable flats. Passing through airline security is not the time to worry about unbuckling your Tea Party shoes! Also, your feet swell at high altitudes, so you'll be more comfortable if you just slip them off during your flight &then squeeze back into them once you've landed.
  • Bring at least one non-lolita outfit. Say you suddenly realize that an absolutely immaculate new nightclub opened up a block from your hotel, or you get asked out to fancy lolita-inappropriate dinner by a young heir. Trust me, if either of these things happen, or any other multitude of possibilities, you'll want a nice dress & heels. Or conversely, what if the people you're traveling with realize they want to take a bicycle tour of the historic district? Therefore you should also bring jeans &sneakers, because like I said, anything could happen.
  • Take lots of snacks in your purse! Bring an empty water bottle &fill it at a water fountain after you pass through security. Try to stay away from candy & other sugary treats - bring a granola bar or some dried fruit. Not really related to packing, but good to know - caffeine dehydrates you and makes it harder for you to adjust to jet lag, as does sugar, so stay away from coffee &soda on board if you're getting off in a different time zone.
  • If you're going somewhere loli-friendly - Japan, Paris, anywhere that has lolita stores - or even just anywhere with really good shopping, just bring a carry-on, and fold up a duffel bag or another medium-sized fabric suitcase to keep inside it. That way, if you buy a lot, you can just pack up the duffel and have it checked.
  • In the same vein, most airlines let you bring two bags with you: a purse and a carry-on, which gets stowed in the overhead compartment. If you're going on a longer trip &don't want to check a bag, bring small backpack or larger purse than you would usually use as well as your carry-on, with your normal purse folded up inside the latter. That way, once you get checked into your hotel, you can just transfer things to your smaller, more convenient purse, but still have enough room for everything you need without paying for the checked bag.
  • Getting an in-flight meal? Lucky you! However, in my experience, even if you don't have any dietary restrictions, opt for a restricted meal - vegetarian, kosher, etc. You will be served first & the food is usually healthier. Plus, who wants to eat airline meat anyway? Yuck!
Ladies &gentlemen, I write this article because I am about to embark on my first flight in almost two and a half years - gasp! My first time being on an airplane NOT headed for Tokyo in over six years! Instead, I'm headed for... Japantown, in San Francisco. Yeah, I'm still a loser.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Surviving an Anime Convention

Or, "Who are these people & why are they wearing tails?!"

As many of you know, I attended both Connecticon & Otakon this summer, for the first time in many years. I've been attending conventions since I was 12 years old, but I took two years off to deal with money, etc., so it was interesting to go back - while it was still familiar (still knew the BCC like the back of my hand, I'm proud to say!),it took me a while to get re-acclimated with the scene & remember that here it is completely normal to see people being tackled from nine yards simply for love of the character they're portraying, or a boombox &impromptu rave in the middle of the hallway, complete with men in tight pleather pants bootydancing &grinding with themselves (ohh-ohh-oh-oh). I made note of these feelings, these things that had once been accepted with mildly benign interest and now where enough to make me stop dead and stare in a mixture of curiosity&horror, &have compiled them into a list for my fellow lolis who may be finding themselves in this situation soon. First, a list for first-time congoers, lolita or not.

General Convention Conventions:

(for a vocabulary list, see below)

  • Accept. You are going to find yourself in an incredibly strange atmosphere, incomparable to anything that I personally have had the joy of experiencing, &I mean that sincerely. Some of the things in this list you will find odd or concerning, but remember that the people who are doing them are just that - people, who are different from you but still worth observing & getting to know.
  • Personal space does not exist. Or rather, most people at anime conventions are very physical, loving people who will hug or glomp you without warning or asking, and that's the less-threatening side side. Mostly before my lolita days, I've had skirts pulled up, been groped, kissed at random, and tackled outside of benign glomping, all on multiple occasions.
  • Do know that you don't need to tolerate this. If someone is making you uncomfortable, it is perfectly normal to tell them so & remove yourself from the situation. These people don't mean you any harm; they're just trying to have fun, &many of them don't realize that con-culture is very different & overwhelming to those who are unused to it.
  • Rooming: Six people in a room with two double beds is not odd. In fact, if sharing a room with people one doesn't know well (which one should really never do in the first place), one should not expect a bed. Bring blankets/a sleeping bag &expect a spot on the floor. Most likely you will not need them, but it isn't unheard of. I've been in rooms with two people in each bed (or more), three on the floor, one in the closet, &one in the bathtub& this is really not even the worst I've heard about. Be forewarned.
  • The lines are long. If you're going to a large convention, pre-register, as most conventions now offer Thursday night pre-reg pick-up from 4 or 5 to 9 or 10, depending on the convention center's hours. Take advantage of this - at Otakon, this line as I observed it (I was sitting next to it the whole time having a picnic & wearing a big black bat mask - don't ask) was maybe around... upwards of 1000, I'd imagine though I'm horrible at estimates, over the course those five hours - this is much better than the 7,000+++ you'll be faced with in your pre-reg line on Friday, &that's not even taking into consideration at-con registration. Also, it's cheaper. Personally, though, as I didn't decide to attend early enough to pre-reg, I was in the registration line. My friends &I slept on the sidewalk, in line, all night, because it was better to wait in the cool Baltimore summer night than the unbearable heat of the day. I recommend this, but only if you are in a group of close friends.
  • That being said, con-goers look out for each other. I can't tell you how many times I've seen crying girls comforted by people they've never met before, valuable items turned into lost & found instead of kept, &spots held in line. This is not necessarily the rule, but nor is it the exception - I've been harassed &rescued, both by people I didn't know, more times than I can count at anime conventions, so while of course there are skeevy people there, there are good ones too.
  • Be one of the good ones. If someone comes up to you looking panic &talking like you're old friends, play along: they're most likely looking for a way out of an uncomfortable situation. Go along with it, so long as it doesn't endanger you. This is something I saw employed a lot by my cosplay friends, especially those in scanty outfits being pursued by obliviousmen behaving inappropriately. Be a friend &help them out. I've never had a bad experience doing so.
  • Go to the Artist's Alley! The people who have booths here are some of the most interesting people at conventions, &they're more than willing to start a conversation with you about their art or the convention or usually pretty much anything. It's also great to support your local market, &there are lots of one-of-a-kind treasures waiting for you here. Some of my favorite lolita pieces are from the Artist's Alley.
  • Go to the big events. The masquerade, opening/closing ceremonies, anything that's highly publicized is probably really good. If you're not into anime you may not get all the jokes, but the writers of these events usually take non-anime-watchers into account while writing their scripts.
  • People-watch. Mingle. Talk to anyone who seems interesting. They almost always are, &this is how I met some of my oldest &closest friends. These past two conventions this has included two people from my state at Otakon in Baltimore, one of whom goes to my future school!; most of the New York City lolitas, a group of steampunk pirates; several future higher-ups of any convention that's anything; and a multitude of high-profile cosplayers, lolitas, &artists.
  • Be nice to emplyees, both of the convention & the establishments. Convention staffers are just following the rules &trying to get other people to do the same, & this can be very difficult & mentally taxing on them, so listen, be nice, &try to help them do their jobs. Also, when dealing with employees of the various establishments you will frequent, remember that this is probably one of the most difficult weekends of the year for them. Be very polite in dealings with front desk & the concierge, &remember to tip housekeeping& bellhops, especially those who do a good job.

&now, an annotated vocabulary list:

  1. glomp. To hug with enthusiasm, occassionally with a running start - if someone asks you if they can do this, use discretion with your answer, though oftentimes they won't.
  2. Yaoi- a genre of anime that favors relationships, usually explicit, between two men. The counter part of this is
  3. Yuri, which is the same between women. I mention this because, though signs have been outlawed in many conventions these days, it used to be common to see signs along the lines of "Will yuri for pocky!" Which leads us to
  4. Pocky: a very popular snack among congoers, pocky is a Japanese treat comprised of a biscuit covered in different flavored chocolates - pretty yummy, &if someone offers it to you do give it a try (so long as, of course, the normal standards for taking candy from a stranger apply - make sure you watch them unwrap it. I'm saying, you never know)!
  5. Also, add to this list any internet memes or 4chan jokes that are en vogue at the time of the convention, including but not limited to "Fuck I lost the game", "OVER 9000!!!!", "The cake is a lie" &most of Encyclopedia Dramatica.

As for lolita-specific tips, Victoria Suzanne has made a wonderful post about this at Lolita Charm that covers most of the basics. If I realize that I have anything to add to this, I'll probably just do it in comments on the post itself.

(note to the intersted: is the hiatus over? I will have to get back to you on that, honestly, as it mainly depends on whether or not I have free wireless at the hotel in San Francisco, where I will be from August 11-17th forthe BABY opening - I'll keep you posted! un til then, please keep answering the poll to the right!)


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