Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Design for columnist intake

Out There

Braun hair dryer (HLD 4) (1970), design by Dieter Rams, part of Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams at SFMOMA. (Photo: Koichi Okuwaki)

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Is it any wonder Out There is in danger of landing on the cover of Muffin-Top Editor Quarterly? Scope out the menu at a recent press lunch we enjoyed at Trace, the chic new restaurant that's replacing XYZ at the W San Francisco hotel. Spiced eggplant with grilled scallion and crispy rice, corn panna cotta with pickled watermelon, housemade ricotta agnolotti with shaved summer squash, wild Monterey salmon with fresh shelling beans, cippollini, and fennel pollen, rib-eye with gnocchi, trumpet mushrooms and savoy spinach, and fig & vanilla crepe with brown-butter ice cream and oatmeal streusel. Urrp!

All of this goodness was washed down with samples of their signature libation Trace Limeade (junipero gin, fresh cucumber, lime, jalapeno), Schramsburg Brut, Simi Chardonnay, Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, Justin Cabarnet and Robert Mondavi Moscato. Helmed by Executive Chef Paul Piscopo , Trace intends to "fuse the vibrant, local personality of the Bay Area with a dedication to socially responsible cuisine." Socially responsible deliciousness, we'd say. They open to the public on Sept. 5.

Meanwhile, it was oh so fitting that Out There attended a preview of the SFMOMA Department of Architecture + Design exhibition Less and More, The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams on the same day last week that Apple's Steve Jobs announced he was stepping aside as CEO. Because without the clean, stripped-down aesthetics of Rams' groundbreaking and now-classic industrial design, there would be no such thing as Apple cool. Brushed aluminum did not spring forth fully formed from the brow of Zeus .

Rams was key in moving postwar German design forward and beyond the huge footprint of the Bauhaus aesthetic after the horror of the Third Reich. If you've ever admired the harmony and balance in the design of Braun consumer electronics, you know Rams' work. We were surprised to find that we owned a few Braun items, a coffee grinder and a portable alarm clock. These objects, along with Braun's early stereo equipment, cameras and monitors, were clearly built to last. Rams attended the preview, standing unobtrusively in the back of the gallery. His philosophy of design was also present, in the form of his "10 principles of good design," a manifesto of sorts reproduced on the back wall. (Through Feb. 20, 2012.)

Reasons #1,000-#1,004 as to why Out There can't seem to slim down: the "modern German food and beverages" provided by SF restaurant Schmidt's during the reception that the Architecture + Design Forum presented following the Dieter Rams preview in SFMOMA's Schwab Room, namely: Pea pancakes with house-cured salmon and chive sour cream, wild mushroom and sauerkraut strudel, grilled kassler and curried apricot kebabs, and the piece de resistance (or however that translates into German) of all passed appetizers, kohlrabi and herbed quark on a pretzel crouton. That's what we call a well-designed hors d'oeuvres!

Freddie 4ever

Yes, this next item is about karaoke, but it's about karaoke for a cause. The event is all about Freddie Mercury , who in a better world would be alive to celebrate his 65th birthday this year. The event is Freddie for a Day, and in the words of its presenters, "Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen , died 20 years ago. This year would have been his 65th birthday, and we'll be raising the roof in Queenly style. It's the San Francisco edition of a worldwide fundraiser, now in its second year. Freddie for a Day is the brainchild of Liz Swanton , web editor of the Mercury Phoenix Trust , the AIDS charity set up in Freddie's name in 1992 by Mercury's Queen bandmates. Dressing up as Freddie is encouraged. Note: free mustaches!"

It all happens on Mon., Sept. 5 from 4-9 p.m. at the Mint Karaoke Lounge, 1942 Market St., in SF. FfaD events are also taking place in Brazil, Paris, Bulgaria, Austria, Germany, and of course, the good old U.K. For more info, go to

Bespoke suite

British singer/songwriter Kate Bush is such an artist sui generis that for her latest (and rare) album Director's Cut (Fish People), she revisits tracks from two of her midcareer (and more obscure?) albums, The Sensual World and The Red Shoes. As she puts it in her liner notes, "Keeping the best original performances from the musicians but stripping out the tracks, adding new scenes and textures before sewing it all back together, it has become something of a director's cut, but in sound, not vision. When it came to singing these songs again, it was like trying to open a door with the wrong-shaped key. So I changed the key, and the door began to open."

We like these songs well enough, though these are not the two K.B. albums we'd have chosen to reconceive – The Kick Inside or The Dreaming, her breakthrough Hounds of Love, or even the later, underrated Aerial seem yeastier. Still, it's great to hear Kate's retake of "Molly's Soliloquy" from Joyce's Ulysses ("yes first I gave him a bit of seedcake out of my mouth") in "Flower of the Mountain" (originally "The Sensual World"), or the lyricism on "Moments of Pleasure." "On a balcony in New York, it's just started to snow./ He meets us at the lift like Douglas Fairbanks waving his walking stick, but he isn't well at all./ The buildings of New York look just like mountains in the snow.

"And I can hear my mother saying, 'Every old sock meets an old shoe.'"

Graham Leggat at opening night of the 2011 SF International Film Festival. (Photo: Steven Underhill)

And don't forget

Yes, Virginia, there will be a Free Live Simulcast Opera in the Ballpark this fall. San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Giants: two great classic teams in our one little cowtown! This time the free live transmittal to the ballpark is SFO's production of Puccini 's Turandot, live from the Opera House on Sunday, Sept. 25 at 2 p.m. Think of it as a day game with blue hairs instead of White Sox. We are told the big HD screen at AT&T Park glows ever brighter during the daylight hours. Sign up online for early entry and a chance to win a "Grand Night at the Opera" at

RIP Graham Leggat, executive director of the San Francisco Film Society and the San Francisco International Film Festival, 51. In public and in person, a gracious and charismatic man.

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