When films were modern art

By Jerome Tarshis

By way of calling public attention to its 75th anniversary this year, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is making a major advertising push all over town. The lion’s share of advertising mentions “The Anniversary Show,” a survey of seven and a half decades of painting, sculpture, and photography in the museum’s permanent collection. Almost lost in the hoopla is the museum’s recognition of its on-again, off-again commitment to having a film program, which included an early experimental filmmaker from the neighborhood.
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Urban forest gets local friends

The plum trees are blooming in Alta Plaza Park.

Friends of the Urban Forest will mark a major milestone in the neighborhood on Saturday, February 20: For the 1000th time, a team of volunteers will plant trees on city streets.

Environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill will address the volunteers when they gather at 9 a.m. at Rosa Parks Elementary School at 1501 O’Farrell Street, between Webster and Laguna. Hill famously lived in a Humboldt County redwood tree for two years to prevent a lumber company from cutting it down.

Approximately 85 trees will be planted this weekend. Nearly a third will go to Rosa Parks School, which won a “green makeover” contest among San Francisco public schools. Most of the trees going to the school are native to California, including California buckeyes, coast silktassels and western redbuds.
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Lilith comes to Fillmore

Lilith opened at 2029 Fillmore with music and dance.

“Fillmore is beautiful — the best shopping street in town,” enthuses Sharon Haag, who was a devotee of the French clothing designer Lilith even before becoming the manager of its new neighborhood boutique. “I’m so happy to be here surrounded by things I love,” she says.

Lilith opened over the Valentine’s Day weekend at 2029 Fillmore, aiming to suit women of many ages, sizes and body types. Its less expensive Lunn line offers basics. The upscale Lilith label provides dresses and separates with couture details — including a little black dress that’s already been wildly popular.
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Uncovering a red brick beauty

At Pine and Steiner, the new home of the California Pacific Medical Center Foundation.

After a year behind scaffolding and decades under paint, the red brick beauty of a building at Steiner and Pine was unveiled Wednesday afternoon when the scaffolding came down.

Inside it houses the California Pacific Medical Center Foundation. But it’s the outside that commands attention, now returned to its original appearance in 1897 when the building was built for the telephone company. It’s been sitting empty for years, and at one point hospital leaders considered selling it to nearby St. Dominic’s Church. Instead they decided to create a home for the foundation and other administrative offices. When rebuilding began early last year, it was unclear how extensive the restoration would be, and the plans assumed the brick building would be painted once again.

“It was a good surprise,” says Eric Stein, the hospital’s director of space and property management. “It’s beautiful brick. It was meant to be exposed.”

Baker & Banker: back where they belong

Baker & Banker's dining room manages to be glamorous and homey all at once.

Jeff Banker moved to San Francisco on December 31, 1997, ringing in a new year and a new life as the chef he always knew he would become. He found a job at Postrio, Wolfgang Puck’s Union Square hot spot, and an apartment on Bush Street, not far from a popular neighborhood restaurant called the Meeting House.

“It was really close to my house,” he says. “I used to walk by that place all the time, and something drew me to go in and ask for a job. I wanted to work in a small restaurant again.”

By then he had been at Postrio for two and a half years, but still he was a little surprised to be hired as the Meeting House chef de cuisine. Soon he realized that’s because the partners were splitting up. “It was a big, weird mess,” he says.

He’d married pastry chef Lori Baker, another Postrio alum, and she’d come to love the Meeting House space as well. But they let it go and moved on to work in some of San Francisco’s favorite restaurants — Bix, Bizou, Fifth Floor, Eos and Home, plus stints in Paris and Italy and travels in Asia.
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A place with a past

1701 Octavia Street: an address with lots of stories, some possibly true.

By Chris Barnett

It’s a simple Victorian storefront at Octavia and Bush, but the building housing Baker & Banker has a notorious past.

Vintage San Franciscans will remember the spot as Robert Restaurant Francais during the 70s and 80s — a small and stylish place with a popular appetizer not listed on the menu. One day the cops busted through the front door — without reservations — just as one of Robert’s kingpins disappeared out the back door, much to the disappointment of patrons who favored his cocaine-to-go-go.
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Fat Angel flies in

Fat Angel's golden mascot at Fillmore and O'Farrell.

A new cafe and wine bar — Fat Angel — is now open in the Fillmore Jazz District behind Starbucks at 1740 O’Farrell. And it’s promising to be a neighborhood place.

“Fat Angel was born out of a passion for the Fillmore District,” say the owners, who live nearby and have made the neighborhood a key part of their business plan. “Fat Angel’s mission is to become the Fillmore’s benchmark in food, service, price and atmosphere.”

Their mascot — a honey of a golden angel — was rescued and repurposed, like much of the interior, from a previous life in another part of town.

Video on Facebook: the angel arrives