The Earth Element…Etcetera

Map Ceiling

When I was in grade school, I used to love to draw maps of faraway places.  Usually, these were locations that existed only in the vast caverns of my mind, but others were based on real destinations such as London and Paris.  Since then, I’ve always had a particular fondness for maps and globes.  I get a slight thrill when I open a work of fiction and see a map of the story’s imagined environment printed at the start of the book.  Or when I walk into an antique store and spot an old globe among the various bric-a-brac. You can imagine my surprise when I looked up and noticed the ornately painted map ceiling at Etcetera.  This stylish and quaint French-owned wine bar, located in the Mission area of San Francisco, is one of my favorite places to visit when I journey to the City by the Bay.

Et Cetera Interior

Rich, fiery red, and earth tones of brown, taupe and oak take command of the space.  These colors work perfectly together as red, symbolic of fire, feeds directly into earth, which the other hues represent.  Red is also the most auspicious color in the palette, and is known for attracting attention, luck and passion.  Earth colors, such as yellow, mustard or brown, help to support fire tones in a healthy and beneficial way.  Etcetera makes an impressive use of these colors.  Many businesses select red and yellow (or versions thereof) to draw in people to their environment.  Notice that most fast food establishments have red and yellow as dominate parts of their color scheme. (I also chose the same colors for this website.)

Et Cetera Window

Intimate seating is located within the establishment, and outside tables flank the entrance.  I also really like the compass on the ceiling, placed right over the door.   For those not in the know, there are four main schools of thought concerning Feng Shui:  Classical, Black Hat Sect, Western and Pyramid.  Classical Feng Shui (what my personal feng shui education is based on), uses compass directions to help guide energies throughout an environment.  The other schools do not generally use them.   Also known as Compass School Feng Shui, I refer to their specific principles time and again when analyzing an environment.  But rarely do I see compasses so beautifully displayed as here.  And it’s painted right next to the map (we’ve already established I like the ceiling artwork).

My favorite San Franciscan Wendy and I went to Etcetera during their amazing Happy Hour.  Et Cetera Logo Six days a week from 5:00 – 7:00, one can get a single tapa and a glass of house red, white or rose wine for $10.00.  That is a highly auspicious deal.  So we took advantage of the special, and did two rounds of this addictive combination.  Their tapas menu changes frequently, but below are the items we recently sampled.

La Paradou 2009 Grenache

Le Paradou Grenache 2009 – I opted to go with the House Red.  Their house wines change periodically.   Lately, it has been this delicious grenache from France.  The name of the winery, Paradou, refers to old watermills scattered about the hills of Provence.  A medium bodied wine, this red was seductive and delicious.  I had two glasses.  For more information about Paradou, please visit their website here:  http://www.paradouwines.com/en/   In the photo above, one can also see the charming square stools used as seating.  These were upholstered in a lush fabric almost like velveteen.  I found them to be very comfortable, and am even contemplating building a couple for my apartment.

Prosciutto and Asperagus

Prosciutto and Asparagus – Tender asparagus drizzled with olive oil and herbs.  Fragile folds of prosciutto mingle casually among the greenery.  Refreshing and tasty.

Brie Crostini with Fig

Brie Crostini with Fig – Warm figs tucked under a blanket of melted brie, on a hardened bed of crostini.  Rich and decadent.

Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed Tomatoes – Cheese and mellow spices nestled in tomato halves.  Comfy and appealing.

Beet Tiramisu

Beet Tiramisu – I had no idea beets could be so sensual and alluring.  More of a beet parfait than a tiramisu, this savory creation starts with a prime foundation of beets at the bottom, with a second story of beet mouse built atop that.  The penthouse level is unsweetened whip cream.  A beautiful wood element in the form of a single orchid is planted amidst the cream.  Although I’m not particularly a beet enthusiast, I found this parfait to be sublime and delectable.  Perhaps I should explore the world of beets more often.

Alsacian Pizza

The Alsacian Pizza (Flammenkuche) – A flammenkuche is a classic dish originating in Alsace, France, similar to a flat bread pizza.  Melted cheese is not always present, and creme fraiche acts as the sauce base.  My favorite is the Alsacian.  Soft, diced ham, slight browned, and carmelized onions completely cover the luscious crust.  This is not on Happy Hour, but I have to get it on each visit.  Intoxicating, this accompanied the grenache extremely well.

Et Cetera Art and Sconce

Rotating artwork from various local artists cover their gallery wall.  I also really like the wall sconces, which permeate the room with a soft, warm glow.

Wine Barrel Half Table

I am also fond of repurposing items for new use.  I love this wine barrel table.  It is literally a wine barrel spliced in half, and makes for a great conversation piece.  I also like the elements present here.  First, you have metal as part of the barrel.  Wood is also a part of it, but the wood here is dead, therefore it’s actually more of an earth element.  The brown hue also lends itself to the earth family.  Water is represented in the black shade of the metal, and in the curvature of the table.  I would absolutely have this in my home.

Et Cetera Sombrero Globe     Although they are not technically made of earth, maps and globes are definitely suggestive of the earth element, and can be used to further enhance earthen concepts in an environment.  To our left we have a globe that resides in one corner of Etcetera.  I’m not sure what the story behind the sombrero is resting upon it, but I’m sure there is one.  I also like the rooster and the lion.  In feng shui folklore, this bird is said to bring luck and joy into people’s lives, and is the only animal capable of eating a centipede (one of the Five Poisons.)  Roosters are also the only animal that acts as nature’s alarm clock, crowing every morning to celebrate the start of each day.

Lions have a rich history in feng shui folklore as well.  This large feline is a powerful symbol of protection, and is used throughout the world in front of palaces, banks, hotels, casinos, businesses, museums, and private homes.  (Some of my favorite metal lions reside just outside the British Museum).  In addition to their protective and guarding qualities, they are also known for attracting good fortune and wealth.   Other lion-esque creatures also roam the folklore landscape.  The most prevalent of these being the Fu Dog, a combination Lion-Dog.  These are usually placed in pairs, one male and one female, and act as sentinels for entrances to prosperous environments, such as select buildings, gardens, or neighborhoods.

The service at Etcetara is top-notch.  We were well taken care of by the stylish Alexandra and the debonair Alejandro (I believe it was his first or second day on the job).  Aside from their Happy Hour, they also have a few other deals present, such as their Tuesday Night Special:  One pizza or two tapas and a bottle of select wine for $35.00.  Various events are hosted here throughout the year, and board games are available on request should one have an instant craving to play chess.  Although I am back in my native Los Angeles at present, it will only be a matter of weeks before I find myself traveling the globe again to San Francisco, and having some wine … at Etcetera.

Et Cetera Row Houses

Etcetera Wine Bar

795 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

415 926-5477

Hours:  Tuesday – Thursday  5:00 pm – 12:00 am,  Friday – Saturday 5:00 pm  – 1:30 am,  Sunday 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm,  Happy Hour – Tuesday – Sunday 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

http://www.etceterawinebar.com/

Take a Bao

According to some, the term Dim Sum in Cantonese means Pointing to your Heart’s Desire.  To the more general populace, it is the name given to Chinese appetizers, snacks and some breakfast cuisine.  I found my heart’s desire in a quaint little bistro in Studio City called Take a Bao.  Located right on Ventura Boulevard, this restaurant offers a great Happy Hour that I was dying to check out.  I was also curious to see what feng shui elements are at play here, based solely on the use of rectangles.  Rectangles in feng shui are symbolic of the wood element.  The wood element is beneficial in a variety of ways, including new life, business growth, and stability in a nurturing environment.  It is also considered the ideal shape for a residential dwelling.  Wooden rectangles painted an earthy gray are the predominate decoration outside the bar.  And inside, the rectangle shape can be seen throughout.  Take a look at the the interior below.

Rectangles are everywhere to be seen, from the tabletops, to the shape of the windows and doors,to the chair backs, and even on the table caddies.  Now while the restaurant is predominantly modern in its design, I really liked some of the vintage touches added to the environment – such as the elegant blue and white urn pictured here, and the carved side cabinets (painted black to match, of course.)  It’s a classy mixture of old and new items.

And now on to the food!  The Happy Hour at Take a Bao is quite good, with bao and small plates ranging in the $2.00 – $4.00 category, and alcoholic beverages from $4.00 – $7.00.  And their regular menu prices aren’t bad, either.  It is more of a casual style restaurant, where one orders from the register, and the items are brought to you.  We decided to sit at the bar. And here’s what we had:

Banh Mi Bao – Grilled pork, chiles, carrots, cilantro, bean sprouts and a spicy garlic aioli are the dominate headliners in this masterpiece.  Unlike other varieties, the bao here at Take is more like a mushu or a taco, with one’s choice of a white or wheat bun, stuffed with the desired filling, and presented on a wooden board.  Lettuce is also available if one doesn’t want the carb of the bun.  I opted for the wheat option, pictured above.   Savory and mouthwatering, I could have consumed these all night…but I only had the one.  Notice the green rectangle underneath the bao.  The wood element makes yet another appearance with the material of the cutting board, the rectangular shape of the little mat, and the green color of the little mat…intriguing.  The wood element also signifies freshness as well.

Old Fashioned – One of my favorite cocktails, this classic beverage is made with Maker’s Mark bourbon.  Notice the large, solitary ice cube in the glass.  With only one ice cube, the drink doesn’t get watered down as much as with multiple pieces of ice. Very stylish, this drink is strong and bold – definitely not for the faint of heart.

Tofu Popcorn – Bite-sized tofu cleverly deep fried into the most stunning snack.  Garnished with scallions, and served with a delectable cilantro-cashew sauce, these quickly disappeared into the cavernous realms of my stomach.  I would venture to say that even those who do not care for tofu would like this dish.  I highly recommend it.

Sumac Steak Fries – A timeless bar food classic!  These thick cut wands of potato goodness are seasoned to perfection, served with ketchup on the side.  Simply great.

The other drinks I had here were:

  • Raymond “R” Collection Field Blend – A rich and romantic red wine blend.  One can taste the cherry influence amidst the deep tannins
  • Gizz Fizz- Vanilla based beverage with Seagram’s Gin.  Sweet and refreshing.
  • Creamsicle – A dream come true!  An amazing mixture of fresh orange juice, vanilla, and vanilla vodka.  Not overly sweet, but just right.  A perfect dessert cocktail.

The bathrooms here are also a little more social than most.  The sink for both restrooms is a long, stainless steel tub located in the hallway with a large mirror above.  One aspect I really like here is the use of stones at the bottom of the sink.  Stones are an earth element, and when used correctly, can help ground the room from precious chi (energy) draining away down the drain.  This is also especially important in keeping abundance and wealth within an environment.  For most of my clients, I usually do not recommend stones for the bottom of a sink because they can be difficult to clean.  However, I love how it looks, and do this in my own home.  If one wants to use these to help keep abundant energy within a residence, I suggest getting smaller stones or river rocks and placing them in a wide bowl or container.  Place said container on top of the tank of the toilet, or on a shelf directly above the tank.  Rinse these stones out about once a month.  If you really like the idea of stones in the sink, I suggest getting perhaps four or five large, flat stones and placing them over the drain.  The flatness of the rocks will make them easier to clean, rather than lots of small stones or pebbles.  Also, notice the shape of the sink – it’s another rectangle.

Another thing I like about Take a Bao is the convenient parking.  In a city where everyone drives, finding parking is important.  A generous lot is provided for patrons – this becomes valet in the evening, but during Happy Hour it shouldn’t be an issue.  I found parking around the corner near Carpenter Elementary on a residential street.  This bar is definitely one of my new favorite spots.  Take a Bao deserves a standing ovation.

Take a Bao

11838 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

818 691-7223

Hours:   Happy Hour:  Monday – Friday 4:00 – 6:00,  Bar:  Monday – Saturday 11:30 – 11:00,  Sunday 11:30 – 10:00

Note:  Kitchen usually stops serving an hour before closing, except for their special late night menu on Friday and Saturday.

http://www.takeabao.com/