Buena Vista Cafe: The San Francisco Treat

The Buena Vista and Irish Coffee have become an icon of San Francisco history. While Irish Coffee originated in Ireland, it was refined to perfection at the Buena Vista on the Wharf which is still the best place to sit and enjoy a glass looking out over the bay.

The trick in making a proper Irish Coffee starts with the glass. It is a 6 oz glass as you see in the picture. 6 oz being the optimal amount to perfectly mix all of the ingredients and the Buena Vista seems to have a lock on these glasses. I luckily have a few from the 50’s that my parents picked up when they were all the rage.

You start by pouring hot water into the glass to heat it up to a proper temperature then pour the water out and fill the glass with coffee to about 3/4’s full. Add two cubes of sugar and a shot of Jameson’s Irish whiskey, no other whiskey will do. The secret technique which took a few years for Jack Koeppler and Stanton Delaplane to figure out was how to keep the cream from sinking to the bottom. It turns out that aging the cream for about 48 hours and briskly frothing it made it float. You would then pour it over the back of a spoon to neatly let it float on top creating a drink of Ireland that was inherently native to San Francisco.

While the Buena Vista sell’s Irish Coffee glasses to the public for $5.95 each, those aren’t the real Irish Coffee glasses of legend. There is no handle on them and they appear more goblet-like than the originals. Apparently what makes this drink taste so good is the glass. At least that’s what people have been saying recently. I’m not sure if that’s true or not which means I’ll have have to pull out a bottle of Jameson’s and brew up some coffee and do a taste test.

Probably the two people who helped make the Buena Vista and Irish Coffee well known as the “San Francisco Drink” were Stanton Delaplane and Herb Caen, though Herb often ordered, “Irish Coffee, hold the coffee”. For those who don’t recognize the name Stanton Delaplane, he was one of Herb Caen’s co-horts at the S.F. Chronicle and if I remember correctly Herb’s column was on one side and Stanton’s was on the other.

As a kid I looked up to these two because they made San Francisco more than it was. They were old school, kind of like Sean Connery was old school Bond compared to Timothy Dalton who’s now old without the school. That’s probably why I liked things like scotch and vodka martini’s before I was old enough for people to think I should be drinking them. Irish Coffee is one of those old school drinks that I think needs to make a comeback with the vodka and redbull crowd. Irish Coffee was the vodka and redbull of the old days. It turned you into a wide awake drunk so that maybe you’d remember how stupid you acted the night before.

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Baghdad by the Bay: The Show

It is official! I have decided to expand for the new year by not just writing about San Francisco, but also I’ll have a podcast available in iTunes of interviews with the famous, infamous and unknown people in and around San Francisco offering their take on what life in San Francisco is all about for them.

This will probably start on a monthly basis, but expand as time goes on. If you have something to say about San Francisco and are interested in being on the show then by all means contact me.

First, the show will be audio only, but as time goes on I may add video to the show as well. It will be available through iTunes and as always, sponsors for the show are always willing to be considered. Hopefully, you’ll be a San Francisco based business since the website is dedicated to San Francisco.

Here’s a little promo you can listen to, or if you’re a podcaster and use it on your show make sure to let me know so that I can give your show a plug back as well. Enjoy!

If you could, please click on my sponsors ad below. You don’t necessarily have to purchase anything unless you want to, but at least the click will add money to my daughter’s schooling fund, or if you like you can click on our donation link and donate even a dollar.

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Happy New Year to all! GOOD MORNING!

I got out of bed this morning at 7am. Probably because I went to bed at 11pm last night ushering in the new year with the citizens of New York and Nashville. I don’t need any more fun than that since being in my late 40’s and it’s cold and rainy out and we didn’t have access to a babysitter [like you could find one on New Year’s Eve], so we hunkered down with the television for enjoyment.

We laughed as the people complaining about snow and not being able to get to work or the grocery store when we just have to worry about putting on another layer of clothes and a thicker jacket when we go outside. For being the New Year’s Day, I woke up feeling pretty good, but I can’t remember the last hangover I’ve had in years and I still drink. I think my ability to get up happy in the mornings is because now that I have a daughter I get exercise again. We have year round available playgrounds although sometimes in winter they’re a bit wet, we have good weather here, neither too bloody hot or too bloody cold. We don’t need to blow all our dough on air conditioning in summer and heat in the winter, thought we’ve had to turn the heat on a bit this year.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but I’m going to make one this year. As you can see I’ve changed the look of the blog. I’m also going to be using 2011 to expand and make the site look more professional. I WILL NOT be adding adsense crap that no one clicks on to make my site look uglier. I will move around the city more and get outside the Sunset District more to show you more of San Francisco. I will be using better equipment to bring you better pictures and video and lastly, I will be interviewing some of the more interesting people around the town for the occasional Baghdad by the Bay podcast. Mostly audio, but sometimes there will be video involved as well.

I’ve always prided myself that I can get you to any street in San Francisco [barring traffic] within less than 30 minutes. I know this town and how great it is. I have friends from around the world who want to know how they can migrate here to live. Some do and make it, for others it’s just a working vacation that lasts them a few months and then they leave dejected that they couldn’t make it here. I wouldn’t look at it that way. I’d say you had a long vacation that you had to put in some work. Those of us who were born here usually have a family member who wisely invested in a house so you have some equity to draw on at some point.

We get people like Anthony Bourdain who dislikes San Francisco because of Alice Waters which when I meet him someday I’m going to knock him upside the head with a big white truffle and point out to him that Alice Waters is in Berkeley, not San Francisco. He’s beginning to warm up to us after he did a show here, but he hasn’t yet found some of the rockstar chefs we have here or cultural spots that don’t involve people sitting on urine stained bar stools picking up their drinks off of bars soaked for the past 75 years of swill being spilled onto them and maybe cleaned up afterwards. Bourdain needs to see the Beach Chalet/Park Chalet. He needs to see Java Beach and Surfer’s Row at the foot of Judah street that’s growing into a thriving community. YOU need to see these places too if you haven’t because there’s a calmness to the area that you don’t feel like you have to drop an eight ball of coke to fit in.

Then of course there are places like Mara’s bakery in North Beach that has a wonderful selection of Italian pastries and cannolis to cry for. Some of the Mission street taquerias where you better know how to count in Spanish because that’s how they call your order number. Let us not leave out the sourdough bread that people would buy at the airport to bring home with them or the dungeness crab that made this city. These are the things I’ll be bringing along in 2011.

Lastly I wanted to share a bit of amusement I had this morning. I was checking my stats for the site and was looking at what words people were using to find my site. Now it used to be my talking about why medical marijuana would increase revenues to the California coffers. Now apparently I’m attracting readers who are looking for drunk+redneck+sex. I guess my one article about Sunset rednecks is reaching farther than the wafting smoke of marijuana.

To all of you I wish you a prosperous new year that will put you and San Francisco in a much better position than 2010 did. May the year bring you smiles and happiness which is because you’ll be making more money at a job that doesn’t suck for a change.

Wax Museum @ Fisherman’s Wharf

Normally, I like to be really proud of the things in San Francisco. This is one of the times I’m not sure what to say. I love wax museums, but after visiting Madame Tussaud’s in London and Las Vegas all others pale by comparison. That being said, this is still a kind of fun place to go. I love the wharf for it’s kitschiness. There’s lots of schlock for sale and every other shop on Jefferson Street sells either candy, t-shirts, cameras or antiques. I don’t understand the antiques part, but in between these little oddities there’s a bit of fun.

Today, thanks to SFKids.org, we got a free pass for the family to the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf. What totally surprised me was that while it had been awhile since I’d been there it seemed much smaller than it used to be. Thomas Lee Fong purchased the property in 1962 and opened the wax museum in 1963. It wasn’t much, just the wax figures against black backgrounds. The place kept growing over the years and there was a big ruckus in the 80’s when they made a likeness of Michael Jackson who came out for the unveiling event. I remember Michael was jumping around on top of the cars parked next to the museum and it was all caught on tape for the home audiences to gawk in shock at.

In 2000 they did a complete remodel and now the entire ground floor is the wax museum. It used to occupy all four floors, but now it’s only one floor and that somehow makes it bigger. They have done some decent work in setting up the dioramas with the wax figures, but other than that the likenesses aren’t exactly top shelf. Our daughter enjoyed the whole show of walking around and looking at people who aren’t moving. I’m sure if they had a wax Elmo she would have exploded, but they didn’t. I do remember the Chamber of Horrors being a lot more gruesome than it is today. During the remodel they moved all the Chamber of Horrors stuff down the street to have a cavalcade of the grotesque for the tourists. We’re talking a rack that you could twist the wheels and listen to the wax “victim” scream in agony or the Iron Maiden complete with a body dripping blood as well a quite a few impalings. You don’t have to worry about that anymore. Just remember that we walked slowly and took lots of pictures [encouraged by the owners], but I think we did the entire museum in under 15 minutes.

The SFKids.org website was a great resource for us here as if we had to pay it would have cost us over $50 total for the museum, parking and lunch. In the end we got away with only having to spend about $20. Check out the gallery below, but be warned it’s very dark inside so the photos are a little blurry and grainy.

Photo of the day: 20081125

Museé Mechaniqué

©2008 Eric Kauschen
©2008 Eric Kauschen

A place to experience what life in San Francisco was like prior to the invention of videogames, cell phones and social networking. This photography is from a diorama of a country fair where after you insert 50¢ it comes to life. You can see this at Pier 41 on Fisherman’s Wharf.