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Aziza chef Mourad Lahlou vs. Paula Wolfert

What do Aziza chef-owner Mourad Lahlou and Sonoma-based Moroccan food expert Paula Wolfert have in common? Not much, as it turns out. I just spent the weekend at the annual CIA Worlds of Flavor conference, where old guard and new guard rubbed shoulders, swapped recipes and took in demos on everything from Syrian pastry making to live fire grilling. It’s one of the more well-organized and inspirational food conferences out there; you should consider putting it on your calendar for next year, when the theme will be street food of the world.

Winter Wonderland in Lower Haight

'Tis the season for drinking and buying it seems, as yet another neighborhood is rolling out the discounts and booze for a night of festive shopping. Lower Haight has some definite gems in the home decor department, such as Doe, Xapno and Mickey's Monkey so make sure to stop by for discounts and assorted revelry (also check out Doe's art opening for works by Chantal deFelice).

Sale at Chronicle Books

S.F.-based publisher Chronicle Books is known for its unique selection of titles and subject matter (cough, What's Your Poo Telling You, cough), but for the Architecture or Interior Design buff there are some particularly great gift ideas to be had. And now through December 5th you can enter promotional code FRIENDS at checkout to receive 35% off your purchase plus free shipping - not bad!

A few recommended titles:

 

Pop-Up Department Store Opens in the Upper Fillmore

Important notice for procrastinators everywhere: there's officially no excuse to buy a lame present this year. Starting December 1st and for the remainder of the holiday season, the good folks from CITIZEN:citizen have put together a sort of pop-up department store in the Upper Fillmore, offering quality design goods at warehouse prices.

Hayes Valley Holiday Block Party

Design lovers of the city over are no doubt familiar with the choice home decor pickings over in Hayes Valley. From Propeller  to Plantation, there's a little something for everybody, from the "minimal modernist" to "over-the-top maximalist". But if your style tends to lean more towards the "cardboard-boxes-as-coffee-table recessionist", don't count the neighborhood out yet. Their annual Holiday Block Party is this Friday, and along with live entertainment there will be free food and drinks. And maybe a free box or two if you're lucky. For more information on the event, click here .

Make Santa Happy with Eco-Friendly Stockings

Just because we’re all grown up now and have our own chimneys doesn’t mean we’re not still waiting for santa. But perhaps (and not to be ungrateful) he could fill one of these organic-cotton/hemp stockings ($55) from L.A.’s Amenity Home for us instead of the usual polyester sock? Snatch 'em up at Spring on Polk Street. 2162 Polk St., 415-673-2065

Happy Owlidays from Night Owl Paper Goods

There are many choices for 100 percent recycled, eco-conscious holiday cards, but Night Owl Paper Goods makes the ones I find most charming. I first received one from my husband on Valentine’s Day, and I cannot bear to part with it. Printed on FSC-certified paper made to look like birch wood, this messenger is as compelling as the message. $15 each (less when your order in quantity);

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.

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