REVEALED: Neighbor Darcy Lee’s Sordid, Secret Sha Na Na Salad Dressing Recipe

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As she is with so many things, Neighbor Darcy was into Sha Na Na long before it was cool.

Today, of course, Neighbor Darcy is the proprietress of the fabulous Heartfelt general store on Cortland. Yet many moons ago, she was rather close (wink wink) with a member of Sha Na Na. The salad days did not last, alas. But she did get a gen-u-ine rockstar salad dressing recipe out of the deal — and her relationship with that salad dressing continues to thrive and prosper to this very day.

Now that we are in peak salad season, Bernalwood is proud to bring you this (only slightly sordid) story about how Neighbor Darcy acquired the secret Sha Na Na salad dressing recipe, why it’s still so very tasty, and how you too can enjoy the secret Sha Na Na salad dressing your own Bernal doo-wop greaser den.

Darcy writes:

The best and easiest salad dressing I ever learned to make was from the wife of Scott Simon, a member of the band Sha Na Na.

When I was 20 I worked as a waitress for the summer in Mashpee, Massachusets. Sha Na Na rehearsed for their summer tours there, and I dated one of the members. (oh, geesh) His name was Dave (Chico) Ryan — he was the handsome bass player who sang “Teenager In Love.”

We didn’t go out for long. But he took me to New York when they played in Central Park, and afterwards we partied with Keith Moon, who was a big Sha Na Na fan. (Strange but true.) Keith Moon was insane that night. We ended up at a night club disco with a lighted dance floor, and Keith Moon left the Sha Na Na boys with a huge check to pay.

Later, I met one of the band member’s wives and had dinner at her home in Westchester. She made a salad that was truly delicious. I asked about the dressing. She said, “A good salad dressing is good olive oil, not too much vinegar and salt. Really a lot of salt.”

To me, as a kid totally out of my element, she seemed sophisticated and worldly, in a Mad Men way.

I still use that basic formula, although I like to add ingredients to keep things interesting. I love the reaction my salads generate, and my book club loves them, so here’s how I do it:

DRESSING
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
A big pinch of salt (don’t hold back)
Pomegranate molasses (optional)
Moscatel vinegar (optional, instead of champagne vinegar)

SALAD:
Romaine lettuce
orange pieces
Avocado
Toasted sliced almonds

I think it’s refreshing to get away from Balsamic as a go-to ingredient. I taste more flavors when the vinegar is lighter and not as pushy. In her wonderful cookbook “Root to Stalk Cooking,” Bernal’s own Tara Duggan uses Moscatel vinegar as an ingredient, and that’s become my new favorite. (Don’t think Muscatel the cheap wine; this is a light vinegar from Tarragona, Spain.) If I only have regular wine vinegar in my cupboard, I like to add a whimsy ingredient to the dressing. For instance, with this salad, a teaspoon of pomegranate molasses is great too. I buy mine at Samiramis Imports at 25th and Mission.

I get the packs of Romaine hearts at Good Life, cut the ends off and wash the leaves. After they dry, I chop them roughly, vertically across the leaf. When you slice the oranges, it’s important to get as much as the white pith off as possible. If you are bringing this salad somewhere, wait to add the avocado because it looks really lovely, freshly sliced on top.

Enjoy the sunshine and bring a sweater for that killer breeze!

PHOTOS: via Darcy Lee

Tonight: Bernal’s Own Emperor Norton Will Be on TV

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As you may recall, the (in)famous Emperor Norton, self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States, lives in Bernal Heights. Or, his modern-day doppleganger does. That is, when he’s not taking tourists on San Francisco walking tours.

Now, he also rules the small screen, because tonight our own Emperor Norton will appear on the Travel Channel’s “Monumental Mysteries” show:

Don Wildman inspects a bizarre acorn-shaped sculpture that commemorates an otherworldly event; explores the world’s smallest skyscraper that was once at the center of an outrageous scam; and investigates an engineering wonder inspired by an eccentric figure.

HINT: That “eccentric figure” is Emperor Norton, and the engineering wonder is the Bay Bridge.

Tune in tonight at 9 pm to watch Neighbor Emperor Norton tell the tale.

PHOTO: Emperor Norton, during a recent sighting at 331 Cortland. By Telstar Logistics

Star Sighting: Martha Stewart Dined at Ichi Sushi Last Night

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Perhaps you heard the rumors swirling around La Lengua last night?

Well, they’re true: Martha Stewart was in San Francisco yesterday, and she stopped in for dinner at Neighbor Tim and Erin Archuleta’s Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar in Bernal Heights.

Here’s the proof, via Twitter — with a cute little typo to provide a perfect touch of “I’m writing this while totally buzzing on Ichi” Marthenticity:

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PHOTO: Top, via Wikipedia

UPDATED: Paulie’s Pickling on KQED’s “Check Please, Bay Area” Tonight

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It’s showtime! Cortland’s Paulie’s Pickling, which may be Best Jewish Deli in San Francisco, will be the focus of tonight’s exciting episode of KQED’s Check Please, Bay Area.

Neighbors Paul and Liz, the soft-spoken proprietors of Paulie’s Pickling, didn’t give us the heads-up about this. No, we heard it from the street, in the Jweekly:

CHECK, PLEASE: A “Check, Please! Bay Area” episode featuring Paulie’s Pickling will debut at 7:30 p.m. April 24 on KQED-Channel 9, with many replays to come. Also, the show will air on KQED radio (88.5 FM) at 6:30 p.m. April 27.

“Check, Please!” features three Bay Area residents giving their opinions after sampling three local restaurants (each recommended by one of the participants). Paulie’s Pickling, a Jewish-style deli counter in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights, will be the first segment.

“I have no idea who nominated us,” said Paulie’s co-owner Liz Ashby, who was raised Orthodox in Newton, Mass. “But when the producers called and asked if we wanted to be on the show, I said, ‘Of course!’ Who would say no?”

Over a two-month period, the “mystery diners” came in to eat, and on two occasions, the KQED crew came by to do some filming and interview Liz and the other owner, her husband, Paul.

Neighbor Liz is right. Who would say no?

One quick P.S. about the whole “Best Jewish Deli in San Francisco” thing. There’s this. And there’s also this:

For Passover earlier this month, your Bernalwood editor had two actual Jewish grandmothers over for dinner. One Jewish grandmother was raised in Brooklyn; the other in Jersey City. With two actual Jewish grandmothers at the table, your Bernalwood editor did not want to run the risk of screwing up the traditional Passover brisket. So I asked Neighbor Liz from Paulie’s if I could order a few pounds of her rather amazing brisket instead, to serve to two actual Jewish grandmothers. Neighbor Liz said no problem, and it came with some wonderful gravy, and I heated it all up, and dayenu it was incredible. But you don’t have to believe me when I say it was dayenu incredible. Two actual Jewish grandmothers at our Passover table certified that the brisket from Paulie’s Pickling was dayenu incredible. They were very impressed.

So there you go.

Keep that in mind as you listen to whatever the mystery diners have to say on “Check Please, Bay Area” tonight. In your Bernalwood editor’s house, Paulie’s Pickling is Jewish Grandmother Tested and Jewish Grandmother Approved.

UPDATE: It’s live!

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

Star Sighting: Mayor Lee Visits New “Mission Bernal Merchants Association”

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Star Sighting!  Earlier this month San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was seen hobnobbing in the Bernal flatlands to show his support for the Mission Bernal Merchants Association, the new group that appears to have deftly navigated their recent naming challenges.

Here’s the mission statement:

The purpose of the Mission Bernal Merchants Association (MBMA) is to facilitate unity of action among the merchants and nonprofits in the MBMA, San Francisco, in order to protect, promote and preserve the business conditions within the Mission Bernal Commercial District. The Mission Bernal Merchants Association is defined as that area inside the following boundaries: Mission Street from Cesar Chavez to Randall Street, 29th Street from San Jose Avenue to Mission Street in San Francisco.

Mayor Lee dropped in as part of his regular Small Business Friday tours to speak with with La Lengua Mission-Bernal merchants about business concerns and neighborhood issues. Neighbor Erin Archuleta (of Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar fame) shares these notes about the MBMA’s most recent meeting, along with details about the next one:

This past meeting resulted in drafting agenda items pertaining to merchants in the neighborhood, such as a visit with our Police Captain; a chance to host a Networking Mixer; and opportunities to participate in planning events that would benefit our community. The group is open to all business owners in our corridor along Mission (and just off Mission) between Cesar Chavez and Randall Streets.

Our next meeting is:
Monday, May 12th
10 AM
at PizzaHacker (3299 Mission Street at 29th Street)

PHOTOS: Mayor Lee at Ichi Sushi and Secession Design, courtesy of MBMA

First Openly Gay American Idol Contestant Raised in Bernal Heights

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Neighbor Barbara brings the glamorous TV celebrity news that Emkay Nobilette, a contestant on the current American Idol, is an OG Bernal native:

I noticed on sfgate that an SF kid made the top 30. I sent the link to my daughter (away at college) who recognized her as her schoolmate at Buena Vista who used to live up the street from us on Treat. I haven’t seen her in almost 10 years so had no idea we knew her. Now I have a reason to tune into Idol again!

Emkay Nobilette is also the first openly gay contestant on American Idol. You can watch her sing — and come out — right here:

PHOTO: via Fox/American Idol

Bernal Heights Library Manager Featured in Celebrity Librarian Photo Shoot

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America’s librarians held a big get-together in Philadelphia last month, and Photographer Kyle Cassidy was on hand to take some pictures:

When you think of a librarian, what image comes to mind? Photographer Kyle Cassidy ventured to the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia in January to explore that question. In between networking, educational events, and panels, librarians from across the country stopped by Cassidy’s makeshift studio to sit for a portrait. The result is a celebration of the diversity in the librarian community.

Representing the Dominion of Bernalwood, our very own Bernal Heights Library Branch Manager, Mel Gooch, stepped in front of Cassidy’s camera for a celebrity librarian photo shoot. That’s her up above. Gooooo Mel!

PHOTO: Mel Gooch by Kyle Cassidy