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Downtown Store Openings: Bacca da Silva, Joe's Jeans and Herve Leger

If you’re anything like us, you’re looking at the limp economy as a glass half full instead of one that’s half empty. It just means fewer shoppers to compete with over a greater number of post-Thanksgiving day sales, no? If your inner shopping optimist draws you to downtown to sniff out the Black Friday deals, we also recommend checking out a few new shops that have recently opened in this ever-changing shopping district.

Revamped "Arabian Nights" is Something to Ululate About

There are moments in Mary Zimmerman hip and lively adaptation, “Arabian Nights” (just extended at Berkeley Rep) when the layers upon layers of the play’s shaggy-dog stories produce a punch drunkenness in the audience. We may have expected a old-world tableau of Egyptian intrigue. What we witness are winding yarns within yarns that tell far fetched tales of oddballs; a farting man, an randy green grocer with a big “cucumber”, a scabby, dribbling, gruesome bride. The comedy is low. The sub-plots dizzying.

What we know about the SF cocktail scene that the Times doesn't

Did anyone else read the article in the New York Times food section Wednesday about bartending philosophies? Rather fitting, given that this is the anniversary of Repeal Day. We were pleased as rum punch to see a mention of hometown hero Daniel Hyatt from the Alembic, who was categorized, rather grandly, as a neo-classicist. You can keep tabs on Daniel’s activities at the Alembic by visiting his blog, alembicbar.blogspot.com.

Marimekko's Holiday Treats

Finnish design company Marimekko just revealed their winter 2008/09 collection, which features a whimsical variety of fabrics and covetable design accessories. Their new line of easy-care, machine-washable cotton velvet fabrics come in three vintage-inspired designs, while other quirky, frost-bitten themes show up not just by the yard, but on mugs, tea towels, serving trays, tablecloths and ornaments. marimekko.fi/eng

Local Artist Spearheading SF Bike Coalition's Silent Art Auction

Even though he’s a nine-year member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, local artist Jonn Herschend, 41, is quick to note that he isn’t a cycling fanatic (sfbike.org). “I don’t talk about bikes all the time,” he says. “It’s just a facet of my daily life.” What’s kept Herschend active in the advocacy group, however, is its dedication to improving bike safety and creating a citywide biking network. Herschend is giving back by spearheading the silent-art-auction portion of the SFBC’s annual fundraiser, Winterfest, held at SOMArts Cultural Center on December 7. The event—which features free valet bike parking and live entertainment — draws local politicians, artists and bike enthusiasts.

Adele Sweeps San Francisco

Gleefully referencing her appearance on the infamous “Sarah Palin episode” of Saturday Night Live, Adele giggled to Shanghai 1930’s packed room, “I guess it didn’t work out so well for her, but it certainly worked out for me!” Indeed it did. An established hit-maker in her native UK, Adele had yet to break into the American music scene by late 2008. That is, until she scored the musical spot on SNL’s October 18 episode, was seen by an estimated 14 million viewers, and topped the iTunes charts the very next day.

What Your Drink Says About You (And Maybe Your 'Hood)

1. Shot of Patrón You think you know, but you have no idea.
2. Pacifico and a shot of anything Fine-dining restaurant employee.
3. Sommelier Sidecar Your knowledge of wine is not as good as you think it is.
4. Vodka Soda Marina chick (even if you're a guy).
5. Jack and Diet Ex–frat boy who spends too much time at the gym.
6. Dark and Stormy Seasoned drinker who's "on the wagon."
7. Milk of Millennia You're likely from L.A.
8. Mojito European tourist who will later ask whether we know of a good disco in the area.
9. Vodka Red Bull Show us your ID.

California Wines by the Half: What to Drink

2006 Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay
Citrus and apple with a hint of toast and spice. Tightly wound, this wine insinuates that even a half bottle will keep nicely for a few years. ($22)

2005 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs
Gorgeous and complex, this wine has the perfect balance between sharp, laser-like structure and deep, hedonistic richness. ($16)

2006 Robert Sinskey Carneros Pinot Noir
Sinskey has the touch when it comes to Pinot. Notes of red cherry and cranberry have an underlying bed of loam and tea. The fresh acidity is integrated for a velvety texture. ($19)

Ordering Drinks: How to Get Served in SF

DO have your entire order ready, for yourself and your friends. No bartender has the time to meet each member of your posse. And when we finish making your margarita, please don't say, "Oh, and two more of those."

DON'T whine, "My drink's too sweet." Politely say that you like it a little more tart, and we'll be happy to fix it for you.

DO be patient.

DON'T ask to have your drink made extra strong. Would you ask a chef to put an extra steak on your plate for no charge?

DO have your money or credit card ready. The moment to dig through your purse is not when there are 50 people behind you.

The Rise of Miss Saigon

Make no mistake—Miss Saigon isn’t going to revolutionize the dodgy block on which it sits (at the corner of Sixth and Mission streets). It is, however, a good place to get lunch if you’re tired of the options at the Westfield SF Centre. The utilitarian, but spic-and-span, dining room is run by an efficient workforce that bustles about, delivering Vietnamese coffee and fussing (in a good way) over the guests. Menuwise, it’s the usual suspects: We have no complaints about fried squid with scallions and garlic (#14) or the delicate threads of green papaya in the classic salad named after it (get #9, shown here, the version with shrimp and pork). Linger too long and you’ll be subjected to a viewing of violinist André Rieu’s DVD of love songs, shown on three televisions.

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