Six Creative Ways to Say ‘I Love You’ (With Food!)

Food is already a great way to say “I love you,” but here are some ways to make it even more memorable when saying I love you this Valentine’s Day!

Idea #1: Making Edible Pancake Art Together

Pancakes cook quickly and are liquid in uncooked form, making them perfect for some edible art! Get a sauce bottle, fill it up with pancake mix (easy recipe here), and get creative together!

This is what a sauce bottle looks like a la Chef's Catalog

This is what a sauce bottle looks like a la Chef’s Catalog

Level 1: write each other’s names in cursive!

Level 2: make pretty heart-shaped pancakes

Heart Shaped Pancakes

Level 3: get 3D and colorful with food coloring

3D Panckes

Idea #2: A Picnic…Underneath the Stars

Anybody can do a cute picnic…instead, do one under the stars! Go to your favorite park at night, set up a couple of blankets, and have a nice intimate dinner (by candlelight if you can swing it). Then drink some champaign or wine and look up at the night sky.

If you’re in San Francisco, unfortunately, the night sky will look like this.

Black Sky

Instead, you can look at the skyline from Alamo Square Park, Bernal Hill, or (if you’re willing to travel farther) Mission Peak and see this.

Alamo Square Park

Alamo Square Park

Bernal Hill

Bernal Hill

Mission Peak a la Michael James Photo Studio

Mission Peak a la Michael James Photo Studio

Idea #3: A __ Crawl (ice cream, tacos, coffee, $4 toast…)

What do you two like? Pick the top 3-5 places that serve that and have a tasting. Then, rank everything and see if you agree!

Here are some initial ideas for San Francisco:

  • Ice Cream: Birite, Humphrey Slocombe, Three Twins, Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous, Smitten
  • Tacos: La Taqueria, Tacolicious, LOQUI (hidden gem!), Padrecito, La Oaxaquena, Taqueria Cancun
  • Coffee: Ritual, Four Barrel, Blue Bottle, Contraband (check out our espresso and drip coffee class this Saturday, February 8)
  • $4 Toast: Trouble Coffee, The Mill, Tartine Bakery

Idea #4: Home-Made Chocolate Fondue

Almost everything tastes better dipped in chocolate. If you two agree on this, this is a good activity for you.

First, figure out how to melt chocolate.

Then look through some initial ideas of what you can dip in it! Here are a few creative suggestions to get you started:

  • rice crispy treats
  • mini cream puffs (frozen)
  • mochi (frozen)
  • thick cut potato chips
  • crystallized ginger

Beware: this might get messy…but that might be a perk 😉

Idea #5: Couples Iron Chef Potluck

If you want to make this Valentines Day a social activity with friends, have a Iron Chef-themed potluck. Have a few friends who are willing to sit it out set up a secret ingredient, let everybody know at the same time, and sit at the judge’s table. Then, all the contestants can start cooking on the day of the event a 3-course meal including this key ingredient. Once people arrive with their food, have judging and then tasting!

A spin on this is to have an around the world potluck — pick a type of food like noodles or dumplings that is present in every culture and have each couple represent a part of the world. Each person or couple then brings the dish from their part of the world. For example, people representing China would bring dumplings but people representing Mexico might bring empanadas.

Iron Chef

Premium Idea: Bring a Chef Home

Use a service like Kitchit to bring a chef into your own home. We recommend doing a cooking class (estimated at about $200+), but you can also just lean back and have the chef cook you a great meal.

Idea #6: Combine wine, cooking and dancing for an evening you’ll both remember!

There are so many couples’ activities around food include wine tastings, cooking classes, or food tours. Why not combine all three and come to our Antologia Vinoteca experience on February 8? Get ready for a fully hands-on cooking class on ceviche, a three wine tasting flight, some sangria and flatbreads, and maybe even some salsa dancing if you’re in the mood (with tips from owner Carlos ;)). Here’s a lovely picture of how one couple plated their ceviche the last time we hosted this:

Nothing says "I love you" like ceviche, made and plated by a Simmr guest at Antologia Vinoteca!

Nothing says “I love you” like ceviche, made and plated by a Simmr guest at Antologia Vinoteca!

8 Can’t Miss Menus in SF Dine About Town

Today is the 2nd day of Dine About Town (“DAT”), a bi-annual event that promises 10-25% discounts at over a hundred SF restaurants through January 31st, 2014. Dine About Town menus offer two-course lunches for $18.95 & three-course dinners for $36.95.

Finding the restaurant with the best Dine About Town offerings requires some digging. Luckily, Simmr has taken care of all the work for you! Here’s a list of our favorites:


The Cavalier’s marble floors and red leather banquettes

1. The Cavalier: The Cavalier certainly didn’t skimp on their Dine About Town menu, giving guests the option to pick two mains for each of the two lunch courses (instead of slapping on a dinky dessert as the second course). Not only will you get your pick of the best reviewed lunch items (we recommend the Fish and Chips that Michael Bauer wrote about or the Farro and Roasted Beets for vegetarians), you’ll probably be able to feed two with just a Dine About Town menu for one, saving at least $9 off the menu prices. Also, here are some secrets about The Cavalier you probably didn’t know:

2. La Mar Cebicheria Peruana: This waterfront Peruvian establishment even threw in an extra course on their DAT lunch menu, making sure you leave happy with some delicious seasonal sorbet in your stomach and saving you between $11 and $15 on your meal through DAT. You have to try the Cebiche Clasico and the for the vegetarians out there, both the Empanada Tamalito and the Causa Vegetariana are tasty, so take your pick. You’ve also probably rarely had quinoa served the way it is at La Mar, wok fried with bell peppers, eggs, soy sauce, and fried egg noodles! If you’re in the mood for a drink, try the Pisco Sour — everyone on Foursquare has been raving about it for ages!

3. Absinthe: Absinthe has been on the Eater38 list for many years now, and is old gold here in San Francisco–one of the few restaurants that has maintained a stellar reputation for over 15 years of operation! What we like about Absinthe’s DAT menu is that it actually offers up dishes not typically on their menu. Not only that, but what amounts to be a free dessert from Absinthe means a lot more to us than it would at another restaurant, because Absinthe’s dessert chef, Bill Corbett, was named one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America. So you know we’re excited when we read “Apple Pie Panna Cotta” as the second course on Absinthe’s DAT lunch menu! Remember, though, Absinthe’s Dine about Town lunch menu is only offered Tuesday through Friday.


1. Roka Akor:  Others have said it and we agree, especially if Prime Beef Filet with Chili Ginger Sauce sounds amazing to you. Roka Akor’s menu is the best Dine About Town has to offer–you’ll save almost $30 on a meal here through DAT! Not only that, but we started drooling when we read “Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake with Sightlgass Espresso Ice Cream.” Roka Akor opened only 6 months ago, is on the Eater heatmap, and we’ve been completely wowed by their food presentation–just check out these pictures! Just don’t take your vegetarian friends, because there won’t be much for them to eat.

2. Fog Harbor Fish House: Fog Harbor Fish House is a 100% sustainable seafood restaurant–they buy fish every single day and typically receive fish within 24 hours of it being caught, so you can expect some fresh seafood. While you eat, you’ll get some beautiful views from Fog Harbor’s Pier 39 location and as a bonus for Dine About Town guests–2 hours of free parking after 6pm in the Pier 39 garage! Depending on what you order, you’ll save between $8 and $16 on your meal–we hear the oysters and crab are both amazing. Don’t say we didn’t warn you though–it is a bit touristy looking as is anything in the Pier 39 area.

Vegetarian AND Omnivore-Friendly Options

We don’t recommend that you take your vegetarian friends to Roka Akor or Fog Harbor Fish House, but here are some equivalently excellent options that are great for vegetarians, too!

1. Chapeau!: Chapeau is one of the ONLY restaurants participating in Dine About Town that is rated more than 4 stars on Yelp (with over 1800 reviews, too!) Why do they even participate if they’re already so good? We think it’s probably because of their location in the less frequented Richmond district of San Francisco. People already rave about Chapeau’s Prix Fixe menu as being a great deal, but DAT makes it even more affordable (by $8). Furthermore, Chapeau takes its service seriously, which can often make or break a restaurant experience. Wendy and I went on a rainy day and they went out of their way to make sure we were able to stay dry on our way out — no wonder they got SFWeekly’s Best Service recognition in 2012.

2. Isa:  Unlike many other restaurants doing DAT, Isa decided it wanted to give you a four-course meal instead of just three. For two of these courses, you won’t even know what to choose, because you’ll be looking at 7+ options, each! We recommend the dungeness crab salad and the seared scallops. Vegetarians, the spaghetti with Himalayan truffles and truffle risotto are both delicious. Isa is great for big groups (even groups of 20) and has an adorable heated patio in the back. Try the wine list, too — Isa picks the most talented of winemakers to work with. Side tip: Dishes will come out as they are ready so tell your wait staff if you’d like them all to come out at the same time.

3. Dosa on Filmore (more so than Dosa on Valencia):  If you haven’t been to Dosa before, Dine About Town is a great way to try it.  Instead of making the third course of their DAT menu a little $7 dessert, Dosa decided to give patrons an EXTRA entree for the third course, so not only will you get to try many of Dosa’s signature dishes, but depending on what you order, you’ll save over $18 off their typical menu. Having been to Dosa, I can tell you that the portions are very generous and I’d guess that one DAT menu is probably enough to feed two. Putting the great value aside, Dosa does a wonderful job of serving, as ‘Check, Please!’ describes it, “innovative South Indian faire” without compromising authentic South Indian flavors. As an added bonus, Dosa uses natural, free-range & grass-fed lamb, cage-free eggs, antibiotic-free & hormone-free chicken, and sustainably-caught fish and non GMO oils. Feels like something out of Portlandia, eh?

For restaurants other than the ones listed above, Dine About Town is not the best way to dine. Four reasons why

  • Many of the best restaurants aren’t participating: We could make a ‘Simmr heatmap’ of all the hot restaurants in San Francisco that aren’t doing Dine About Town and it wouldn’t look too different from Eater’s 38 list….
  • Incentives aren’t aligned: The event overall caters to individuals who don’t normally eat out at $$ or $$$ establishments or who are traveling into San Francisco. Neither type of guest is likely to return again. Therefore, many restaurants aren’t incentivized to make much of an effort to leave guests happy. What restaurants expect:

  • Not a great value: Over a dozen of the 100 restaurants we looked at in our analysis actually leave you at a disadvantage for doing Dine About Town–charging you more through Dine About Town than you’d pay if you went in on a normal night and got the same dishes! Many others only amount to a $2 discount or at MOST a free dessert.
  • Nothing special about most menus: Many of the menus are offered on a day to day basis and few restaurants have made an effort to give you a great sampling of what’s spectacular on their menu.

So if you’ve tried all the above recommendations or if none of them tickle your fancy, you ought to

  1. Treat yourself to a nice meal at Mason Pacific, one of Simmr’s top picks for San Francisco and recent winner of a Michelin Bib Gourmand.
  2. Go try State Bird Provisions and notice every restaurant you’ve ever eaten at fade in your memory with each bite. We’ll be raffling off some spots in our group reservation on February 12th to Simmr members in a few weeks (sign up to be a member here).
  3. Get a truly special experience at Radio Africa and Kitchen, a completely underrated gem of a restaurant in the Bayview. We even have the hook ups to get you a personal kitchen tour, and sauce making class and a chance to meet Chef Eskender himself for only $10 more than the DAT dinner menu.

Let us know if we left off some stellar menus and tell us where you wind up going!

9 Ways to Score that Impossible Reservation

Welcome to San Francisco, where even the late Steve Jobs can be turned away from a popular restaurant, where Pizzaria Delfina installs a live video stream to help customers monitor the wait time, and where a remarkable restaurant called State Bird Provisions generated the creation of “reservation bots” that book tables as soon as they become available (code here).


Alas, what to do? Here are some insider tips on how to increase your chances of getting that hot table.

1. Become a regular

No matter how successful a restaurant is, their aim is to get repeat, loyal customers. So, if you find a place you really like, revisit them. Get to know the staff. (Simmr events are designed to help you get to know the people behind the business as friends!) Also, one of the best kept secrets is that people in the industry help each other out — so if you’re a regular at one place, you can potentially have the staff call another hot location and speak on your behalf.


2. Get noticed

If becoming a regular isn’t an option, get noticed in some other way. We recommend attending a Simmr event and meeting the people at the restaurant in an intimate setting. You can also like them on Facebook, follow on Twitter, leave comments, and leave Foursquare tips — trust us, it makes a difference!

Don't get noticed like this

Tossing your hair will not get you noticed

3. Book at the right time

The best times to make reservations are:

  • 2-4 weeks in advance
  • 2 days before your desired date. Find out when restaurants confirm their reservations and call around that time because that’s when cancellations open up new seats. Prime tables held for VIPs or friends of the house are also generally released back into the reservation system at around this time.

4. Use your hotel concierge / credit card (especially AmEx)

Ask your hotel concierge for information on that city’s best spots. A good concierge will show off the best his/her city has to offer and will get you a seat. Restaurants are happy to accommodate concierges because they are one of their key channels to get the word out.

5. Walk in

Every restaurant holds tables. Once they decide that Scarlett or Brad isn’t going to show that evening, they will free up these tables for walk-in customers. This tactic also has the perk of getting you some of the best tables.

6. Dine in pairs

Grab one friend and one friend only — any more than that and you’re requesting that a host find you a 4+ person table. Having just one friend also makes sitting at the bar, where you can often order off the full menu, easier.


7. Be willing to eat early

Restaurateurs often need help filling early tables, but toward the end of the night, tables are often filled by walk-ins and people who linger over dessert.

8. Manners, manners

The reservationist has probably talked to 20 other people like you in the last hour, all of whom were just as desperate, whiny, and threatening. Make them remember and want to help you — be courteous and empathetic.


9. Escalate

Ask for a manager. Sometimes just the act of asking for a manager will make a reservationist comfortable enough to make an exception. And if you do get the manager, make a case for why you deserve a last-minute table. Insiders say restaurants are turned off by those claiming to be hot shots or big spenders. A better strategy is to cite special circumstances — a spouse’s birthday, an important client coming to town, a burning desire to visit the restaurant while in town for the weekend.

What NOT To Do


Even if it’s telling them it’s your birthday. At least have somebody else in your party tell them it’s your birthday.


As you probably noticed, most of these tactics involve getting remembered or noticed. Dining with Simmr makes this happen because you’re meeting the restaurant chef/owners in a small setting and you’re learning something unique about the business that you can bring up when you visit again! Check out our upcoming events and fast track your way to all the perks of being a regular!