Christopher Caen: Doing our best to chase the rainy days away

With all the rain continuing to pour down upon us, indoor activities in the 49-acre Wood have become even more important. And some events you look forward to regardless of the weather. One little get-together is the luncheon know as “The Monday Group.” Hosted by Chris Boskin, Diana Dalton, Grace Prien and Gretchen Leach, the gathering at the back of the Big Four is one of the more entertaining salons around. Smart people and a hard audience to keep.

The group covers the gamut of the social strata and even some below the social strata. Grumpy local columnists for one. As we went around the table and introduced ourselves, The Examiner's own P.J. Corkery stood up and mentioned the book he is writing with Willie Brown. Given that the guest of honor was the San Francisco Opera's David Gockley, P.J. mentioned how the book could also be considered operatic in parts. One of the local wags down at my end of the table immediately grinned at us and announced he had the perfect name for the opera. “Yo'thello!” he grinned deviously. It was that kind of room.

When Genelle Relfe rose she spoke about her prowess at fundraising for many local nonprofits and how people had become leery of sitting next to her at lunch. “After all,” she said. “I am a professional pickpocket.” It was a tough room, but Gockley held everyone in check as he spun a vision for the Opera for the future that has something for everyone and some global goals to set. It was an impressed room when he finished and if you can hold this room then the success of the Opera is in good hands.

But back to the rain. Because, after all, what other subject is there. Strange de Jim checks in with relief that the rain seems to be tapering off. He e-mailed in, “Not that we'll need it, of course, but do you know how to build an ark?” You think Home Depot knows how to cut lumber by the cubit? And around here getting two of each animal could turn out to be very interesting. Furthermore, does the combination of all those creaky old knees in the Giants' outfield and all this moisture seem like a really bad idea? Just something I think about as the rain goes pitter-patter on my roof.

We do have the earthquake to talk about, and the Fior d'Italia is at it again. The Fior was one of the institutions along with the old Bank of America that quickly sprung back to life to start the rebuilding. Fior was back in action almost immediately at their old location on Broadway with a tent out front and serving meals within a week. This month you can get a full three-course meal from them for the price of (awww, you guessed it), $19.06. And the only thing shaken this time around will be your martini.

And speaking of things that are leaking, Will Durst can't help himself with all the leaks coming out of Washington. His biggest problem is he can't figure out if we should call our noble leader the Chief Leaker, the Chief Executive Officer of Leakwell Incorporated or Chicken Leaker. I know, we really have to try and get Will out more often. The damp is getting to his noggin.

Don't know what to do when stuck inside? Janet Tandy is a connoisseur of all things culinary and San Francisco, so she comes across recipes from our past all the time. The current favorite of hers is the recipe for the infamous Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake. Not ringing a bell? OK, time for a quick jaunt to the historical files. The old Blum's downtown was a real good old-fashioned soda joynt with all the trimmings. That included witheringly pink banquettes and that most San Franciscan of items, surly servers. Many customers swore by the tuna fish sandwich, but what makes most old-timers go all swoony were the Coffee Cakes. Basically an amalgam of corn syrup, sugar and espresso, it was guaranteed to blast you into orbit and prepare you for an afternoon of shopping.

But wait, the story continues. For the Blum's of my generation was the old Fantasia Confections in the Laurel Shopping Center. It was also the home of one of the last Zim's, but that's another story for another rainy day. Anyway, many people would argue over the merits of the Blum's Coffee Cake versus the Fantasia Crunch Cake. Yet here is the wee little item: little did they know that the man responsible for both was indeed the same man. Ernst Weil was a baker at Blum's and then started Fantasia in 1948, making him probably the sweetest man every to grace our shores. And if that isn't a thought to chase these rainy days away, then I don't know what is.

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