Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Dog Days of Summer in Dogpatch

Dayna, Eggs and Gabe
If you live in Dogpatch and you have a dog, you probably hang out at Espirit Park. (Not to be confused with Park Espirit, next door.) Dog owners, or as I was corrected recently, caretakers, love the social aspect of letting their dogs run off-leash while they chat with other caretakers.  Our dog, Rex, is a ball stealer, so we have to be careful to keep an eye on him. He loves to play keep-away.

One day, we decided to take the camera and get a few shots of some of our neighbors with their dogs. These are a few of our favorites.

We will be gone for a few weeks but will return soon to bring you more profiles of the fascinating folks who live and work in Dogpatch.
Bobo and Robin
Otty and Kasper
Carma and Leela

Peter and Boulder

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Different Drum: Meet Michael and Jacky Recchiuti of Chocolate Lab

Michael and Jacky Recchiuti in the Chocolate lab, still under construction. 
Rumors that Michael and Jacky Recchiuti, owners of the much loved Recchiuti Confections, would be opening a cafe near their Dogpatch offices were swirling in the SF food world long before the signs went up in the window proclaiming that Chocolate Lab would soon open.

But then nothing much happened in the former home of Piccino Cafe who had vacated the blue building for a much brighter hued building down the block.  Anticipation mounted as another SF favorite opened in the spot.  Danette and Eric Scheib of local clothing company Lemon Twist opened a temporary home there.  But when the Recchiuti's opened their Little Nib shop a few short steps down the block -- we all wondered when the cafe would finally debut. 

Turns out Little Nib is an occasional pop-up shop featuring a selection of their boxed chocolates and other confections.  And maybe it is also a staging area for the larger Chocolate Lab that is finally under construction at the corner of 22nd and Tennessee and slated to open this September.

Chocolate Lab will have chocolate desserts and confections as well as other classic pastries, ice cream and a savory menu of sandwiches, charcuterie and cheeses as well as coffee, wine and beer. 

We spoke with Jacky and Michael as electricians strode in and out of the space and the building landlord buzzed around purposefully.  As soon as Michael and Jacky arrived, residents and merchants alike appeared almost as if they had been watching the space for any Recchiuti sightings.  All wanted just a quick word with them and we felt like we were handling rock stars as we pulled them away from the interested onlookers.

Well, they are certainly culinary rock stars but ones that don't mind working hard to realize their vision of what they want Chocolate Lab to be when it finally opens its doors to their many fans.  And their excitement at showing off what they think is particularly cool and novel about the space --  like the bank of ovens mounted on a rolling cart to the unusual hand dryer in the bathroom -- make them seem more like a couple just starting their first company than the owners of a world renowned chocolate company.

Why do you do what you do?


We have wanted to do something like this for a long time.  Although Michael is known as the chocolate guy he is first and foremost a pastry chef.  I think people often forget that.  He has been a teacher at a culinary school and has been at the forefront of many pastry trends.  Chocolate Lab will give him a venue where he can create both classic and new pastry offerings.

I'm the creative director of the company and working on this space has really given me a chance to use my design and creative background.  I'm typically behind the scenes at our company working on branding, packaging and so on.  Although this space will of course parallel the branding we have done for Recchiuti Confections, it is a much bigger and more visible extension of our brand and in a way, allows me to think "outside the brand" in developing what this space will ultimately look like.  I'm fortunate and grateful that I have built a strong team so that I can spend the time needed to get this space just the way we want it.

I'm also excited to be working with a lot of local talented artists and designers -- Eric Heid is helping us design the space, the greenery will be from Flora Grubb, blown glass from Nate Watson and so on. 

We are going for a turn-of-the-century apothecary feel but in a contemporary way!


I have a passion to improve what I do even if it is in subtle ways and even if I'm the only one that notices. I believe in always trying to find better ways to do what you already do -- keep doing it over and over to get better.  I want to constantly learn and improve. 

Like our Ferry Building shop this will give me a way to test new chocolate confections.    Also I have felt a real pull to go back to the classics.  I hope to offer both traditional pastries as well as my new creations. 

This space is a mix of industrial darkness befitting its Dogpatch roots but is also light and airy as a modern cafe should be.  The floors are oak with an ebony finish and will have black steel baseboards.  The walls will be lined with elm wood and large mirrors will reflect back the natural light into the room.  We are trying to use as many repurposed items as possible -- the original exhaust hood from Piccino Cafe is still here as is their butcher-block counter, for example.

Why Dogpatch?

When we returned to San Francisco from the East Coast in 1997 the dot.com boom was in full boom.  We wanted to open our chocolate company but we couldn't afford anything!

The owner of the American Industrial Center, Greg Markoulis, made it possible for us to have a business here -- he took a chance on us.  He and his father did that for Joseph Schmidt, the original San Francisco chocolate maker and I think Greg felt good about taking a chance on us because of that connection.  He really connects with the passion and drive of his tenants.

We also live in Dogpatch.  We love the community of people in this neighborhood.  This is a place where you can be anything you want to be. 

Who is another fascinating person you have met in Dogpatch?

The artist Susan Eslick.  She is an amazing artist and knows all about the art scene in San Francisco.  But more than that -- she is a great and hilarious storyteller!

What is an interesting story that has happened to you in Dogpatch?

The day we moved into our apartment a guy dressed in a suit runs up to me and asks if I'm Michael Recchiuti.  When I tell him, "yes, that's me" -- he runs to his apartment and brings me a bottle of champagne to welcome us to the neighborhood.  Turns out he had just gotten married but he took the time to give us a bottle of champagne!

I think this story really speaks to the welcoming feeling of this neighborhood.  Of course, I had to make him wait while I ran in the house to give him a box of chocolate!

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?


I would be a ceramicist!  I'm just getting into it but I love it.  I would do everything from bowls to sculptures.


I would be playing the drums and giving music the time it needs to get really good at it.

Ok, we love the name Chocolate Lab.  Is there a story behind the name?

Well, the kitchen is Michael's laboratory and there are dogs in Dogpatch....


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Right Here, Right Now: Meet Mimi Moncier of Giggling Lotus Yoga

Mimi Moncier of Giggling Lotus Yoga in front of the full-length curtains.
We thought the tagline of Right Here, Right Now on the sandwich sign announcing that Giggling Lotus Yoga studio was open was not only catchy, but also brilliant.  Brilliant because some long ago memory of the song by the 90's band Jesus Jones supplied the next line:  "right here, right now, there is no other place I wanna be..."

Well, that might just only be in our memories but once you meet Mimi Moncier, owner and teacher of Giggling Lotus, you will also feel there is no other place you wanna be.

Although a ground floor location is typical of most exercise studios, the studio's third floor location in the American Industrial Building gives the studio the benefit of the foot traffic of busy Third Street without the noise.

Colorful signs point the way like a trail of breadcrumbs to the orange painted doorway of the studio. A wall of windows flood the studio with light but multi-hued Indian sarees are at the ready when the light becomes too intense or a more intimate environment is desired.
The resulting effect is one of calmness yet energizing at the same time.

Sort of like Moncier herself who is not only a certified yoga instructor, but also an accomplished commercial architect, painter, and teacher.  She was trained at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center, a local studio located in the Mission District.  In March 2012 she focused her considerable energy and talent into opening Giggling Lotus.

Why do you do what you do?

I love connecting with people to help them become embodied -- to help them become present and more aware in all of their human experience whether good or bad.  I feel that most people tend to live outside of themselves.  We practice Vinyasa yoga, at this studio.  Vinyasa yoga is breath-synchronized movement to a series of poses -- it's very dance-like in its movement.  We feel it helps to unite both mind and body and we want you to sustain that connection on and off the mat.

So it is a physical workout because you are working hard but it is a mental workout because the breathing relaxes your mind and helps to release the chakras system, or energy flow, throughout your body.  We practice a form of Vinyasa Yoga that is called Lotus Flow -- a type of yoga created at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center where I was trained.

I grew up in the South and lived in New Orleans for many years.  I started my career as a commercial architect and have worked on many many projects including the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.  I also lived in Boston where I left architecture to go back to school to study painting.  When my husband and I moved to San Francisco in 2007 I enrolled in the San Francisco Art Institute and received a masters in painting.  I later taught students at the Academy of Art.  Opening this studio brought all those interests together -- movement, color and space.

Eventually I plan for the studio to be a type of hybrid space where we offer not only yoga, but also other artists can stage performances whether it is dance, video or some other type of art installation.
Light streams into the studio at Giggling Lotus Yoga.

Why Dogpatch?

When we first moved to this area we kept hearing that Dogpatch/Potrero Hill neighborhoods were the sunniest in the city.  Since we are from the South we need our sunshine!  So we live just a few blocks away from the studio.

We fell in love with the eclectic nature of the neighborhood and the mix of residential and light industrial buildings appealed to us as architects. 

When I started looking for studio space I didn't look anywhere else but Dogpatch.  Although this studio had a former life as a pilates studio, it didn't quite fit our needs.  The owner of the  American Industrial Center, Greg Markoulis, really worked with us to make it fit our needs and the type of yoga we want to teach. 

Who is another fascinating person you have met in Dogpatch?

There is a couple that we first were introduced to when we lived in New Orleans.  Unknown to us, they also live in Dogpatch as well as New Orleans!  When we moved here we didn't think we knew anyone, then we find out that they are here as well.  The reason this is interesting to me is that San Francisco lets you honor your roots -- you can live here and still be from the South or wherever you are from -- you don't have to give up that part of your identity to fit in.  I have lived other places where that wasn't always the case. 

What is an interesting story that has happened to you since you moved to Dogpatch?

This happened on one of our very first walks around Dogpatch.  It was a very quiet Saturday morning and the neighborhood seemed really empty.  Then, strangely, we saw this really gorgeous fashion model cross the street.  She seemed really out of place in this quasi-industrial part of town.  Then we saw another model and then it seemed like everywhere we looked there was another.  We couldn't figure out what was going on.

Then we turned the corner and saw the Dogpatch Studios sign with lots of sleek, hip folks going in and out of their building.  We realized it must be a photo shoot or some sort of event.  Later at the original location of Piccino Cafe we had a good laugh about how confused we were!

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?

I've never been happier than I am right now.  But if I hadn't opened this studio I would be in my other studio, my art studio making art everyday. 

Ok, so what is with the unusual name of your studio?

The name is a bow to our teachers at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center.  But it is also a fun name and we wanted people to relax and laugh.

After all, yoga is an act of kindness toward oneself!