Dinner and a (Christmas) Show
Whenever possible, I love to see live entertainment. Whether it is a sports event, a concert, a play, a musical, a comedy show, or anything else, there is something special about being at a venue with other people, enjoying and celebrating talent collectively. I especially enjoy live entertainment during the holidays. Below are some great holiday performances from around the bay area that I would recommend, as well as nearby restaurants where you can stop for a bite, before or after the show.
A Christmas Carol and Dinner at ROOH
Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in December of 1843. Since then, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge being visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, has been recounted at Christmas time, by thousands.
I saw one such retelling recently in San Francisco, at the beautiful Toni Rembe Theater in Union Square. The acting was wonderful, the costumes were a mix of both classic and avant-garde, and the sets were grand, yet they reflected the gritty and bleak tone of Dickens' text where appropriate.
I enjoyed every moment of Scrooge's journey as he bah-humbugged his way through his evolution from a miserly, discontent and lonely man, to a philanthropist filled with joy. Dicken's most celebrated work, A Christmas Carol, beautifully encapsulates the Christmas spirit.
The theater is steps from Macy's Great Tree which stands 83 feet tall, in the center of Union Square, and sparkles with over 40,000 lights. Grab some hot chocolate and watch the holiday shoppers and carolers, or grab a pair of skates and take a few laps around the outdoor, ice rink that is adjacent to the tree.
A little over a mile from the theater is ROOH, a restaurant specializing in modern, Indian cooking. The San Francisco restaurant is part of a six-restaurant chain that includes locations in Chicago and New Delhi, India. As long as you steer away from the butter chicken and order the other authentic and creative dishes, you won't be disappointed.
Plantation rum, pea flower, lychee, ginger and egg whites.
Milagro reposado, tamarind, pineapple, habanero bitters.
This presentation, incorporating dry ice, was exciting and unexpected.
Pulled Laal Maas Bao
Pulled laal maas (lamb), steamed bao bun, greens, sriracha mayo.
Grilled shrimp, gongura chutney, green garlic oil, fennel salad.
Tandoori monkfish, bay shrimp kichdi, coconut, nira garlic.
Christmas with C.S. Lewis and Dinner at Masa
Christmas with C.S. Lewis is a one-man play that I attended at the Marin Center in San Rafael, California. In this play, Lewis recounts the significant events in his life, including his childhood, relationship with his family, his faith, his marriage, his career and his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis draws the audience in (and even includes them at moments) in such an intimate way, that you feel like you are indeed spending Christmas Eve in his home, in deep conversation with C.S. Lewis himself. It's a conversation that takes you through a range of emotions - curiosity, sadness, joy, surprise, laughter and so much more.
On your way into the theater, you walk through the Bartolini Gallery where you can view their current exhibits. There is no admission fee, so come early and stroll through the gallery to enjoy their current installation.
In the neighboring city of Novato, about 15 minutes away from the theater, is Masa's Sushi. This family-run restaurant is known for their authentic, Japanese sushi prepared by award-winning chef, Masa Okugawa. Masa's is located on Grant Avenue in the quaint, downtown district of Novato. (I was lucky enough to visit on the first Friday of the month and participate in "First Friday's on Grant," an outdoor, food, music and cultural festival.)
We started the meal off with a green tea beer, which I have never tried before, and really liked.
Sake Special Appetizer
Salmon with cherry blossom and dashi gels, ginger and shredded daikon.
Corn tempura with matcha salt.
Seared salmon with white soy.
Aji, Kohada and Kamasu
Japanese horse mackerel, gizzard shad and barracuda.
Hamachi, Hamachi Toro and Kanpachi
Yellowtail, belly of yellowtail and wild amberjack.
The Nutcracker and Dinner at Agave
If you have never traveled with Marie and the Nutcracker prince to a magical land and met the Sugar Plum Fairy, I highly suggest it. Having not seen the Nutcracker for many years, I decided to see this year's performance by the Oakland Ballet Company, in their home at the Paramount Theater.
The Paramount Theater is one of my favorite venues in the Bay Area. This historic, art-deco style building was constructed in 1931 in downtown Oakland. It is hard to miss with its 110-foot high sign, decorated with puppeteers directing a colorful collection of performers below them. Originally built as the largest capacity movie theater on the west coast, the Paramount is now a performing arts center that has hosted legends including Bob Marley, Ravi Shankar, Maya Angelou, James Brown, The Temptations and Richard Pryor.
Upon entering the theater, we were welcomed by the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir, lining the staircase and singing Christmas carols. The holiday decorations in the theater were warm and inviting and beautifully accented the theater's decor and architecture.
The Oakland Ballet's performance of Graham Lustig’s Nutcracker was absolutely beautiful in its story and execution. The scenery was magnificent and the costumes were imaginative. The Oakland Symphony's performance of Tchaikovsky’s score was flawless and completed the experience perfectly.
Across the street from the Paramount Theater is Agave Uptown, a Mexican restaurant serving Oaxacan cuisine. Oaxaca is a state in southern Mexico and the hometown of Executive Chef Octavio Diaz. Chef Diaz travels to Oaxaca several times a year to bring back authentic ingredients and small batch mezcals for moles and cocktails that you will find on the menu, along with unique dishes served in Oaxaca.
Masa filled with chorizo, epazote and potato, served with a black bean paste, cabbage, queso fresco and tomatillo salsa.
Tasajo and Carnitas Tacos with Black Beans and Rice
I hope this post inspires you to enjoy a lovely meal somewhere you haven't been before, and attend a live performance near you, that celebrates the holiday season.