We constantly seek and find comfort in people, places, spaces, memories and so on, consciously or subconsciously. San Francisco is one such connection for me. It’s a city I’ve come to truly love and appreciate for it’s free spiritedness that is infused all around in varying degrees. Over the last two years, I’ve been splitting my time between Bangalore and SF – due to the nature of R’s work at the moment – and it’s been such a lovely opportunity to get to know another city intimately. We’ve stayed in at least four neighbourhoods and I’ve explored the city happily on foot and by local trains. There’s something so endearingly childlike about SF, as if the artist within is unafraid to play. Doesn’t that sound like the freedom we yearn for ? Maybe that’s why the resonance.

sf.blog3-40valencia st, mission

The whole maybe greater than the sum of it’s parts, but when exploring a place, that couldn’t be further away from the truth. It’s the little lanes and hidden nooks, forgotten graffitis, hidden notes inside aging books that quietly tell the real stories. And so, there’s a magical little locally owned bookstore by name of Dog Eared books located in the heart of Mission which does exactly that. I spent hours buried in a mountain of carefully curated books, while admiring the charming touches of quirkiness and quaintness evident throughout the place, much like the city itself.

sf2014.doubles5dog eared escapades

There’s a precious collection of Antiquarian books and I found a gorgeous copy of an 1870 edition of HW Longfellow poems for a friend. The telling sign of goodness at any bookshop is usually tucked away in the less conventional sections. There’s an aisle dedicated for the Noir genre alone. And there’s lots of SF Noir to be found there. Goes without saying, but there are a couple of carefully curated out aisles – among the first few in fact – dedicated to LGBT and sexuality, replete with some antiquarian selections even !

sf.blog3-32a corner of quiet joy

Just how does time pass like that in a bookshop ? Or maybe it doesn’t and just is. There’s a book trilogy that goes by the title ‘Forgotten cemetery of books’ by author Carlos Ruiz Zafon that comes to my mind as we speak. All the plots lead to labyrinths of ancient libraries, book mazes et al. I wouldn’t mind finding myself in a similar plot. My hardworking imaginative head does wander to see if quaint bookshops have hidden labyrinths stowed away mysteriously. And then, just like that, I know that I need to get myself a coffee, wake up and finish my errands :) But I hold on to the wanderings and always will. In an era where books are no more than a pieces of digital files, bookshops like these are treasure troves that infuse the romance back into real bookshelves. I can’t wait to go back to Dog Eared and get lost again. Surface, get a coffee, and scour for other haunts.


Between bookshops and other daily adventures, eating is not just a simple daily need but one that is sacrosanct. I love my Indian food, but once the traveler shoes are on, I’m craving just about everything else. That’s not too much, is it ?  Oysters are usually up on the everythingelse list, and this time around, and on my 31st birthday, we made it to Swan Oyster Depot, after having given up on half-a-mile-long waiting lines, last two times.

sf.blog3-27                                                    swan oyster depot

I might add that while I was a happy camper at Swan, somehow the mystery of the super long lines remains unresolved. After having done some reasonable Oyster tasting over the years, I thought this wasn’t exactly above all else though it was really good, particularly the Kumamotos. The seafood chowder was apparently divine, the partner said. And I noted steaming bowls being supped on by almost every other diner. So perhaps therein lies the Swan secret ? And, the family that runs surely add to the charm and warmth. Sometimes, that really does make it all worth it. no ?


After having dined and lunched and brunched fairly well in the city, a little hole in the wall tucked away in Cole valley called Zazie got my heart. What’s not to fall in love with a place where warm wooden tables are filled with freshest of local abundance ? Zazie is tiny in size but glorious in the warmth it exudes in the food, staff, the loud cacophony of conversations and most of all, simplicity. This is where the several-star rated places fail. In keeping the food simple (read uncomplicated), the surroundings unpretentious.

sf2014.doubles4zazie, warmth and...
sf2014.doubles2 copylong conversations...

I love the French inspired Californian fare at Zazie. They have beautiful brunches with the best blueberry pancakes and the poached eggs cannot be more perfect. Their secret pancake flour is also available for sale in small batches.

baconbaconbacon bacon !

And sometimes, usually on Sunday mornings a bacon craving sets in like a strong current and one such day, the we followed the current to a cute little bacon ONLY cafe called BaconBacon in Ashbury. Not only are you met with the mouthwatering aromas of the cafe’s namesake commodity but also a crazy impatience to harass the staff to dish out one of the ‘bouquets’ which essentially mean a tasting bacon bunch. Yum. I’m never going to be able to forget the pepper crusted strip of bacony goodness. Needless to say, every.single.thing on the menu and otherwise is bacon or derivative thereof. I didn’t blink an eyelid when grabbing the much coveted jar of the signature bacon jam (so good!) or for that matter even the bacon flavoured toothpaste for my bacon worshipping brother-in-law.

sf.blog3-10persimmon love of the season

Did I mention we also cook a lot more when in SF ? it just somehow happens more organically. I suppose when in India, there’s so much more work related stuff that as much as I want to cook, I give in to the lame excuse of being tired or just get lazy. There’s also one other thing, however. The local farmers markets. These are big on inspiration and the smallest one is good enough to incite even a noncook to have a go. I wish we had more farmers markets here in homeland. We do have those, but I mean in a more organized, accessible-to-all kinda local produce amalgams. R & I go on farmers market overdrive when in SF. This is where our staple shopping happens and we get totally greedy on greens, sourdoughs, cheeses, fruit, eggs and honey. After the initial greed is dealt with, we get more greedy on lapping up beer and some delish and no frills truck food. Given that we are more than normal eaters, we try hard to earn the ticket to sin by way of good long runs, by the piers, or R’s favourite running track by the Marina. One of the things I miss most about the US when in India, is being able to run outdoors.

sf2014.doubles8fort mason farmer's market

We were living in the Marina district last time around and so, very close to the historic Fort Mason port which has beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Alcatraz. Fort Mason, aside from being a former US army post (for over 100 years) and a historic landmark, is also a cultural/convention center. Lots of art festivals, artist meets, markets happen here, and there was a really nice Women Crafter’s Festival which I could go to, last time around and also the super fun  Bark and Whine ball – fundraiser organized by San francisco SPCA for homeless dogs, the very best of it’s kind and educational in it’s own right, given that dogs are among the greatest loves of my life.

homemade fruit sodas & lavender
sf2014.doubles10edible flowers & rainbow chard
sf insta2brenda's french soul food; craftsman & wolves

Many a weekday nights when work (my work tends to follow me everywhere i go) would precedence over experimenting in the kitchen for my favourite lab rat, R., we’d head over to Roam to grab a beautiful artisan burger and then make a quick dash to our favouritest bar in the city – the Alembic on Haight street.

alembicthe alembic

Nothing I say here will do justify our obsession of this little gem of a spot. I’m sure the boys here know how to get the old fashioned right the way nobody else can. So I rest my case. :) oh, and those blistered Shishito peppers touched with a dash of EVOO and coarse sea salt. What can I say. Somewhat like Alembic, ambience wise, but just as spunky and stylishly rustic is Trick Dog tucked away deep in Mission. We didn’t quite haunt it as much as the former, but loved the vibe and the super creative cocktails. How does Olive Oil Martini sound for a start ? It really was exquisite. On a separate note, there’s such a charm to tucked away, rustic-industrial spaces and there a many of these to be found SF. Maybe it’s a style I’m drawn to but it surely but it’s good to see that our design sensibilities are moving away from the over crowded, embellished victorian madness to the contemporary rustic with an old world charm still intact. Like the Bluxome street winery below. A beautiful, sprawling winery that makes incredibly good Pinot Noirs among others – all on site. We kind of stumbled on this place, but I have no doubt we’ll be going back!

sf insta3bluxome street winery

Another restaurant which charms exactly as I have just described above is Piccino in the Dog Patch neighbourhood. So chic, small, warm and wonderful.The Burrata or the Buffalo mozzarella salad maybe my favourite ever salad given that I am not really into salads. Give me a smoothie any day! Anyhow, this just maybe the very best Burrata salad on the west coast, or so I have heard from fellow SF foodies. I love that the drinks at Piccino are served in lovely little mason jars and would also blame these beauties for enticing an already drunk girl into more sin. The artisan ravioli tossed in some beautiful truffle oil still has my heart.


There is one place however, where we choose to abstain from alcohol. That place is called Lavash in the Outer Sunset district. Persian and unbelievably well made food. We’d fool ourselves about going to Lavash on the pretext of “eating healthy” (apparently by sticking with just the kebabs) but obviously that cannot be. As I’ve suggested, the beef kebabs might kill you. They are that good. As are the signature stews and the most exquisite pistachio-rosewater icecream like a big juicy cherry on top. Again, coming from someone not so crazy about icecream – that P&S icy creaminess is a trip to heaven and back. Over time, we’ve figured out that Lavash will be a place to aim for only when we’ve earned the opp to binge shamelessly.

sf 4instalavash (top left)

 Alongside Lavash, our other favourite Asian food (read binge) place is Betelnut on Union street in Cow Hollow. Classic with a gentle twist. Perfect and sweet. If a restaurant can get their Roti canai right then I’ll give them full marks. But only if they are well equipped with happy, friendly bartenders as Betelnut does. Happy bartenders always make me happy. And they are a strangely comforting sight, no doubt.

As you see, I can and will go on if not for time constraints at the moment. In this SF essay thus far, I have tried hard to condense as much as I could and as they say, less is more. Despite all the subtractions, it looks like I’ve ended up with a 1700 plus word post so I’m far from the less is more idea :) But I had to share my love of this city, spill it out and share away before it overflows and slips into the bad box of unspoken love. I trust those of you visting will find mostly good suggestions here in this post, and here. If you have suggestions for me, please chime in as I have an upcoming trip to my favourite city.

sf.blog3-22a view of alcatraz from fort mason
IMG_5952a glorious morning at fort mason 

_MG_0103and my favourite kinda day at a favourite kinda place - dog beach at crissy field

I will be back with a third installment of my SF food etc chronicles in a few months. This time perhaps I will touch a bit more on the non edibles as well. :)

x, ramya


The Circle of Infinity

shell1 copy

This shell sits on my desk and just looking at it brings me so much calm. It reminds me of the beautiful process of renewal, that it is the very essence of every moment and the most valuable constant in this continuum.

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Little Brownie Girl.

I grieved her loss in phases. The grief came in waves and only now has it settled. Settled enough for me to be able to write about it. It has been three months since we lost her, our darling streetie girl, Brownie. Somehow, I found it rather hard to make peace with her loss. Perhaps because she was with us, yet on her own. Because we weren’t aware of what brought about the fatal accident that would eventually take her life, while under our care. Because we were left helpless after trying over and over again, to save her precious life. I was so numb the day she left, that even tears wouldn’t form in my eyes. By the time they gushed down, she was in doggie heaven, presumably chasing away other dogs, because that’s what she’d do – so her best friends Yogi & Angel could walk away, with the road to themselves.

photo (6)

Over the years, I have grieved for the beautiful doggie souls that have touched my life and left almost as soon as they had come ( as it seemed to me) and what struck me most with Brownie’s leaving was how differently grief manifests with each loss, how it shows up in the most uncertain of places and how it changes you fundamentally by reinforcing that truth that death is not permanent. It takes that course of grief to know that it is not. And each time, that is what life is trying to reiterate through grief. But it’s not that easy, is it? It never can be.

brownie (2 of 2)


But that is the truth and so my darling girl is living with us now. I still feel her gentle licks, hear her silly i-love-you howls, and I can see through her crystal clear, bright brown eyes. The doe eyes that had captured R’s heart, the day he met Brownie girl on the street and led her home, two years back, which was the beginning of this precious bond with our favourite streetie. She came home almost every evening from then on, after her daily meanderings about the area. Almost. Until she went missing for a few weeks last year, and resurfaced with injuries that would eventually take away her little mortal doggie body.

Her soul is here, however. With me, as I write this at last, and therefore setting me free.

brownie last

“God’s finger touched him, and he slept.” ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Sleep well my sweet child. For there is so much play ahead of you.

brownie (3 of 2)


Simple Abundance & A Year That Was

Time or what we believe is time, truly eludes us. Does it not ? Before we realise, we are in the morrow. And so another year goes by. A rather remarkable one, a sort of rite-of-passage kind of a year for me – filled with joy, sweat-blood-tears, puppylove, milestones and big bursts of stupidity thrown in for a good measure. Made that much more interesting by way of constant travel, wonderful projects, and just so much learning, self and otherwise. The most important one being just to simply be. And then, to be gentler with myself and those I love. No more resolutions than that, for everything else will simply follow or fall into place.

2014 started on a bitter-sweet note, strangely it did that way for many close to me, but two weeks into the year and I feel peaceful and far less turbulent. With Sankranti, the harvest festival having just passed us by, I wish for simple abundance, awareness and creativity to fill my days and wish the same for each one of you.

 chair blue (1 of 1) copy copy


CUPA cal 2014 (450 of 581)

My life is entwined with a non-human species called dogs, in a manner of pure blessing. Over the years, I have found simple answers or somethings-like-that, to life’s complex questions through daily living with my puppies and all the fellas I get to interact with.

For the past three years, I have had the opportunity to work with CUPA and it’s amazing team on the theme based annual calendars. Every calendar is a series of carefully captured and curated images, created over many months, and aims to spread an urgent message of love, by showcasing the wonders of the simple possibilities that are all around us. The calendar project is also an important fundraiser for CUPA, where every single penny from the proceeds goes into caring for the helpless, injured, homeless creatures. I look forward to this project each year for the light and the great learning that it brings into my life, the incredible humans involved, and of course the balls of pure joy that come with four legs. The support we have received in this regard, over the years, from you all has been so moving and on behalf of team CUPA, I’d like thank you all deeply.

I’m ever so happy to share another close-to-my-heart CUPA calendar. For the year 2014, we went with Rescue for the theme. Spanning across various rescues consisting of canines, felines and wildlife (at CUPA’s wildlife wing, WRRC), this year’s compilation of photographs pays homage to both the beautiful creatures and their caregivers – who work tirelessly to help and provide them with loving, gentle care at all times. Photographed at CUPA’s various centers around Bangalore and WRRC, the photographs express, albeit in a small way, the joys and the profound empathy that belies Rescue.

As always, I appeal to you all to join hands in this effort and spread the love. Every purchase is precious to enable the bigger cause at play. All the details for purchase of the CUPA Calendar 2014 are in this poster below. Thank you all again. xo

I’d like to dedicate this year’s calendar to our dear streetie, Browine, who we lost recently.

cupaposter(1) 2014


A Dream called Real

holga instant composite

Mulling on some blurring lines from my here-and-now.

{The photographs above were captured on a Holgaroid on FujiFp 100 C instant film}


One Seattle Weekend.

pike place

One early April weekend. A gloomily romantic, mysteriously wet city enthralled my senses. I’m for the most part a gloomy-weather person, so you see it was naturally appealing. Anyhow, a post from April popping up now ? Because I tend to lose track of time and am terribly afflicted by a vice called procrastination. Hmmm, okay, it’s also a moment thing. You know when you think, let me post these, like, now ?

So, back to this lush, wet, grey city S.


It was a two day thing, but I know I want to go back. A short span visit, in my head, also means eat-as-much-as-you-can-before-you-leave. So we did some meticulous restaurant exploring. The crisp simplicity of the culinary finesse, in general, blew my mind. Farm to table in the every sense of the word. Simple, fresh, exuding the essence of  local bounties of the surrounding hills and the Pacific.


If you have one weekend in Seattle and love your oysters as I do, then head straight to Walrus & the Carpenter. For the O’s and to break some gorgeous loaves over some gorgeous wine. Follow with the Mejool dates lightly brushed with sea salt and luxuriously warm EV Olive oil. Yes, it is as sensuous as it sounds :)

pike place2

We headed to the Pike Place Market the next day, after lunching with some friends. To just soak up some of the local energy. PP might be touristy, but it is one special congregation of tourists, locals, urban monuments, native American art, color, texture, moisture and the sweet-pungent  local market air mixed with the aromas of fresh coffee grinds. The greyness doesn’t seem to be a deterrent at all, rather it does indeed add to PP’s eclectic, moody atmosphere. Effervescent local sellers, glistening produce, heady smells, the buzz….what’s not to love ?  As usual, there’s always the occasional connection with a beautiful stranger or two :)



Plenty of aimless walking, street combing, and running-for-refuge-from-the-chills later, we hopped into some bars, dripping and cold, for some wonderful live music to warm up to, because the next day there was only one thing we could do after all the merrymaking. To eat a little more before heading back home. And so we dined at Spinasse. This was and will be one of the most special Italian meals I’ve ever enjoyed. I won’t go into the details of the fare but will suffice to say that the place somewhat defined my experience of Seattle itself. Unpretentious, crisp, intimate and so very elegantly rustic.


The Unbearable Lightness


Where there’s light, there’s also darkness, and together they weave a beautiful world for us to exist. As we waddle along, we realise that the light is  beautiful because of the darkness and vice versa. No ? 


A Love Note.







Despite the whirlwind that this year has been, I have found my moments to dwell in and romance my favourite season.

These were photographed during a recent family weekend in Coorg. On my iphone, since I decided to go sans my dearest loyal companionbeast (the SLR) for a change :) The companionbeast and I are back together now. On assignment in a tropical paradise where the monsoon has been eluding me.

I am sure we’ll have our moments. I feel it.


blog june13 copy

“Is not the pastness of the past the more profound, the more legendary, the more immediately it falls before the present ?”

~ Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

So much to say, yet nothing flows. Funny, the last couple of weeks of photographing by the/in the ocean seem so long gone. It was on assignment and just in a matter of days I had gone from being completely terrestrial to a mermaid (well, sort of :) deep in the turquoise waters of the Indian ocean. Even touched some clouds, in the process, I might add. In all honesty, some milestones happened and fears overcome. I realized I liked not belonging anywhere but to be everywhere.

When I'm ready, I'll share more from the earth-water-sky days ! :) Be back shortly with another edition of the super long-pending San Francisco and Seattle foodie moments.

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