Friday, October 21, 2011

Best Menu for Christmas Dinner

photo by Celeste Hutchins

Tired of traditional roast turkey and ham for Christmas dinner? Try fixing chicken in a different way that's sure to be a winner with family and friends. Along with a cheese dish, mandarin salad, roasted potatoes, date nut bread and best ever apple pie, holiday guests will feel like kings.

Party Food Ideas for Christmas

The festivities begin with a healthy and colorful appetizer before dinner, like an attractive fruit platter. Place strawberries, cantaloupe and pineapple on a bed of ruffled red leaf lettuce for an eye catching dish. In some areas, however, fruit can be pretty expensive during the winter, so a great alternative would be a cream cheese and salsa dip with tortilla chips.

To make it, put an 8-ounce block of cream cheese onto a small serving plate and spoon some salsa over it, letting it drip down the sides. Microwave for one minute, and then serve it with tortilla chips. For larger groups, two blocks of cream cheese can be stacked, and then the microwave cooking time is doubled to two minutes. This very simple appetizer is extremely popular at parties.

Colas and other sodas can be boring and take no thought, while a delicious fruit punch livens any party. The punch bowl can be garnished with floating orange slices, each topped with a maraschino cherry. Or straddle the bowl with an orange slice. Another beverage to serve at Christmastime would be Sparkling Apple Cider, which mocks champagne and is a favorite non-alcoholic party beverage for children.

Christmas Dinner Menu
  • Rolled Cheddar Chicken (click here for the recipe)
  • Herb Roasted Potatoes
  • Mandarin Salad
  • Sourdough or Garlic Bread
  • Relish Tray, with mini or sliced dill pickles, olives and marinated artichoke hearts
  • Best Ever Apple Pie or Birthday Cake for Jesus for dessert
Balsam Hill LLC

Christmas Dinner Recipes

How to Make Herb Roasted Potatoes:

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. coarse Kosher salt
  • 30 small new potatoes, quartered
  • 1 small onion, cut into rough chunks
  • Ranch dressing
  1. Place the olive oil, rosemary leaves, thyme, black pepper and Kosher salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix well, and add the potatoes and onions. Toss and mix well again.
  3. Put the coated potatoes and onion chunks on a shallow roasting pan.
  4. Bake at 425* for 45 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375*, stir potatoes slightly so they don't stick, and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Makes 8 servings. Serve the potatoes with Ranch dressing on the side.
Rolled Cheddar Chicken and Herb Roasted Potatoes have different cooking temperatures and times, so if two ovens are available, use one for the chicken and one for the potatoes. If only one oven is available, change step 4 of the potato recipe to "Bake at 425* for 45 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350*. Stir potatoes slightly so they don't stick, and then put the Rolled Cheddar Chicken on another shelf in the oven. Cook the potatoes (and chicken) an additional 40 minutes, and remove only the potatoes from the oven, allowing the chicken to bake another 10-15 minutes. Cover the potatoes with aluminum foil to keep them warm."

How to Make Mandarin Salad

  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, torn
  • 1/2 bunch Romaine lettuce, torn
  • 4 medium stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 green onions (with tops) thinly sliced
  • sweet-sour dressing (below)
  • 2 11-ounce cans of mandarin orange segments, drained
  1. Cook the almonds and sugar over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is melted and the almonds are coated.
  2. Cool on wax paper and break apart.
  3. Store the almonds at room temperature.
  4. Place the iceberg and Romaine lettuces in a large bowl.
  5. Add celery, onions, sweet-sour dressing and orange segments. Toss well.
  6. Add the almonds and toss again. Serve immediately. Makes 8-12 servings.
The sweet-sour dressing should be made ahead of time: combine 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 4 tbsp. sugar, 4 tbsp. vinegar, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tbsp. snipped parsley, two dashes of red pepper sauce and two dashes of pepper. Shake all the ingredients in a tightly covered jar and refrigerate.

Dessert for Christmas Dinner

Since Christmas is Jesus' birthday, why not bake him a cake and top it with candles for a child to blow out? A festive white cake for the occasion is Red and Green Christmas Cake. For those who prefer pies over cakes, Best Ever Apple Pie would also be a fabulous encore to the meal.

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How to Propagate Plants Cheaply With Cuttings

photos by Dianne Smith

Geraniums, roses and begonias are just a few of the many varieties of flowers that can be quickly multiplied through cuttings. Commercial nurseries grow many of their plants from leaf or stem cuttings off a parent plant, but anyone can master the simple technique. The process circumvents nature's usual propagation from seedlings, saving time and money.

Planting Cuttings Saves Time and Money

With daily watering, stem cuttings will sprout roots equal to the maturity of the stem, a shortcut to the growing process. Within a short time, the plant will look older than it is and be ready for planting in the ground. In a winter climate, this is a head start on spring planting.

Propagating new plants from cuttings is also economical as Mother Nature doesn't send an invoice. A garden can multiply itself using her free gifts of plant cell regeneration, rain, and sunlight. For a 
Cut Stem on Slant
Underneath a Node
garden filled with a variety of flowers, ask friends and others for permission to use cuttings from their prize rosebushes and flower beds. A beautiful garden can thus be grown cheaply.

A plant cutting can start its new life in a pot indoors during any season, but during late spring or summer, it can be planted directly in the ground. For the best results, begin with "easy to grow" plants like fuchsias, lupines, chrysanthemums, geraniums or begonias.

How to Propagate a Geranium or Begonia Cutting
  • a geranium or begonia plant
  • pot containing soil or a garden after the winter frost
  • scissors or small pruning shears
  • plant hormone root powder, if desired
  • water
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  1. During the early morning or evening, cut a three to eight-inch long stem from the mother plant 
    Remove Leaves at Node
    one-half inch under a node, the place where a leaf is sprouting. Use a "young stem," rather than an older part of the plant, and pinch off its developing tip. Make the cut on a slanted angle, so as to maximize the new growing surface.
  2. Gently remove any leaves from the lower two-inches of the stem, including the node.
  3. Wet the cut end of the stem. If desired, dip it in a hormone root powder that can be purchased at a nursery, and shake off the excess.
  4. Make a one to two-inch deep hole in a pot or a shady spot in a garden after the danger of frost is over. Plant cuttings need warmth and moisture to flourish.
  5. Carefully place the bottom of the stem in the dirt hole. Push dirt into the hole and pat it down firmly all around the stem. Make sure the dirt covers one-inch above the bottom node. 
    Plant With Dirt Covering
    One-Inch Above the Node
  6. Water the dirt around the stem, and repeat the watering every day for ten days. 
  7. The plant will have taken root, and should be watered and fertilized with the rest of the garden.

The Frugal Gardener. Videocassette, Creative Marketing Corporation, 1986.

Ivy Geraniums Grown From Stem Cuttings

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Candlelighters Halloween Fundraiser in Fremont, California

photos by Dianne Smith

Halloween Fundraiser
The Fremont halloween Ghost House is off to a great start in 2011, earning a record $8,900 on opening night. In 2010 the first day brought in $6,700, according to board member Cathy Leslie, still an excellent amount for a halloween fundraiser. Candlelighters haunted house is an icon in Fremont, drawing people from all over San Francisco Bay and beyond for sixteen days every fall, from October 15-30. One woman said she drove from Lodi just to eat one of their famous caramel apples.

D & G Produce on Fremont Boulevard provide 8,000 fresh Granny Smith's and volunteers hand dip them on site in caramel, peanuts and candy. Other treats are lollipops, hot dogs, chili, nachos, sodas, hot chocolate and hot cider. Festive game booths offer a pumpkin walk, ring toss, duck pond, wheel of fortune and bean bag toss. There are also booths for photos, face painting and a general store selling small halloween trinkets.

Haunted House Registration Desk

Fremont Haunted House Fundraiser

The theme for 2011 is a haunted hotel and every corner of the Carriage House looks the part. Cobwebs hang from ceilings and caskets reveal their ghoulish contents. A creepy lobby with a registration desk greets visitors and points them toward a dark hallway. Guest rooms along the walls have numbers and the doors are locked, so visitors proceed through a maze of other rooms, including a parlor scene with a piano and harp played by skeletons. 

The hotel kitchen apparently serves gruesome fare, with brains sizzling in a frying pan and purple smoke ascending from a saucepan. Dirty dishes and a cookbook entitled Spells, Potions and Creepy Concoctions line the shelves. Spice jars are fillet of snake, spider juice and wool of bat. A human torso minus its skin, bat and a vulture all hang from hooks like meat in a packing plant. Moving on from the unappetizing scene is the hotel's clinic, with Dr. Jake taking care of a bedridden patient with rats crawling over him.
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Candlelighters Volunteers

Many high schoolers serve at the Ghost House to meet their 40-hour community service requirement. However, there are a number of areas requiring adult workers, including positions as board members, which the organization is actively seeking. Currently nine board members oversee the non-profit, with dozens of other volunteers serving as heads of committees, chairs of the stores, refreshments or rooms in the Ghost House.  

Halloween Carnival
An executive member serves about fifty hours per year, including setting up the carnival during any of the five Saturdays prior to opening day. Associate and new members volunteer twenty hours. Candlelighters kicks off each season with a big bash the eve before opening night and also gets together every three months at a luncheon. Compared to other fundraisers, the work is fun, taking only a few hours out of people's schedules during eight weeks in the fall, but rewards lasting all year. The Ghost House raises about $80,000 every October and the money is doled out to worthy charities throughout the other eleven months, with a particular focus on ones dedicated to education. Past recipients include the YMCA, Pregnancy Choices Clinic of Union City, and several schools, libraries and civic entities. Any non-profit meeting their criteria may apply for funds every other year.

The Ghost House is located at The Chadbourne Carriage House on Fremont Boulevard at the Fremont Hub (between Mowry Avenue and Walnut Avenue). Admission is $3.00 for the haunted house and tickets to play games cost only a quarter. For general information, visitors can call 510-796-0595 or view their website. Rumor has it that the historic Chadbourne Carriage House is actually haunted. Ghosts are certainly prevalent every October, so perhaps the rumor is true.

Candlelighters Ghost House 2011

Read more: Fundraiser Ideas for Halloween

Best Stocking Stuffer Ideas at Christmastime

Best Stocking Stuffer Ideas
photo by Jim Capaldi

The main presents are wrapped and under the tree, but what about the stockings hanging from the mantel? Oftentimes stocking stuffers are an afterthought to Christmas shopping, but they can be some of the best presents received. It doesn't even have to cost much. Here are some great gift ideas for men, women and kids.

Gift Ideas for Stocking Stuffers

Some people regard gift certificates to be impersonal, but that isn't true when they correspond to the receiver's interests. They can be purchased in small or large amounts conveniently at most grocery or drug stores, fitting any budget. Here are some suggestions:

  • Jamba juice
  • Starbucks or Noah's Bagels
  • iTunes for someone with an iPod
  • Kindle store of for someone with a kindle
  • Apple store
  • favorite restaurant
  • movie theater or
Dancing Deer Baking Co

Another idea is to visit the local dollar store, which is filled with cheap items. Perusing their aisles will mine goodies priced for only a dollar. Other things to please people of all ages and tastes are:

  • paperback book
  • personalized coffee mug
  • address book
  • Brag book photo album
  • CD's
  • blank CD's or DVD's
  • DVD's
  • Whitman Sampler or other brand of chocolate
  • candy cane
  • caramel corn
  • Christmas cookies
  • Christmas ornament, homemade or otherwise
  • disposable camera
  • box of Altoid breath mints with a ribbon around it
  • reading light
  • bookmarks
  • deck of cards
  • USB flash drive
  • postage stamps
  • pocket calculator

Stocking Stuffers for Women

  • toiletries like a toothbrush
  • emery boards
  • hand lotion
  • perfume
  • nail polish
  • nail kit
  • scarf
  • hairbrush or comb
  • travel size items like tissues and Hand Sanitizer (Target Stores have a section devoted to these useful items)
  • gloves

Stocking Stuffers for Men

  • tire pressure gauge
  • cologne or aftershave
  • razor
  • comb
  • hair gel (if he uses it)
  • money clip (Sky Mall offers one that many men like)
  • batteries for the TV remote or other item he uses that requires them
  • key ring
  • travel sized items like shaving cream, toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • travel maps
  • gloves
  • mini tool kit
  • wallet
  • pocket knife
  • flashlight
  • golf balls
  • lighter

Stocking Stuffers for Cooks

Perusing a Williams-Sonoma store will give buyers all kinds of things to give someone who loves to cook or bake.
  • specialty food like coffee beans or bread mix
  • gourmet jam
  • herbal teas
  • whisks
  • pizza cutter
  • big spoons
  • candy thermometer or cake tester
  • vegetable brush
  • spatulas

Stocking Stuffers for Kids and Teens

  • journal
  • costume jewelry like a bracelet, necklace, ring, earrings or barrette
  • festive looking socks
  • stickers
  • $5 or $10 in an envelope
  • pen set, marker set
  • mittens
  • Rubik's cube
  • Sudoku, crossword and other similar games
  • small toys
  • whistle
  • doggie leash, collar or treats if a pet owner
When stumped over what to get a picky person, think of his or her favorite store and then go browse the aisles for potential gifts. Sporting goods and even hardware stores have small items by the cash register that interest their particular customers, and this is a great place to find suitable items. For something humorous, Spencer's Gifts has a great variety of small things sure to bring a laugh.

Shopping for Christmas stocking stuffers should be fun and easy when the recipient's age and tastes are kept in mind. The joy is not only experienced by the receiving, but also by the giver as he watches the reaction his carefully chosen presents elicit.
Balsam Hill LLC

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Best Side Dishes for Thanksgiving Dinner

Best Side Dishes for Thanksgiving Dinner
photo by Christian Lemus

Broccoli Cheese Casserole and uncooked Cranberry Orange Relish are fabulous side dishes to go with a Thanksgiving turkey dinner. Some recipes become family traditions at holidays, like Cranberry Orange relish. This simple to make, wonderful chutney is tangy and sweet at the same time, and so much better than canned cranberry sauce. Once a host or hostess serves this recipe, it will become an annual event.

Cranberry Orange Relish Recipe

Besides the taste, the best thing about this side dish is that it needs to be made two days ahead of time, freeing up precious time the day of the dinner party for other things, like entertaining guests.

  • 4 cups or 1 pound of cranberries
  • 1 whole orange
  • 2 cups sugar
  1. Grind the cranberries in a food processor or finely chop with a knife.
  2. Remove the seeds from the orange. Also remove the white stringy portion, if preferred, as it can taste bitter, and use only the yellow portion.
  3. Stir the orange and sugar into the cranberries.
  4. Place the relish in a covered jar and refrigerate for two days to ripen. Serve as a compote with meat or fowl. This recipe serves about eight to twelve people.
Balsam Hill LLC

Broccoli Cheese Casserole Recipe

Party givers are always on the lookout for a casserole to use as a side dish, and adding vegetables to a meal is a must. Green bean casserole is so commonly served at holiday dinners it is almost boring. Why not try another casserole that uses nutrient-rich broccoli? This is a recipe sure to become a family favorite, its appearance required at all holiday dinners.

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup of chopped celery (113.4 grams)
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion (75.6 grams)
  • 16 oz. package (453.6 grams) of frozen broccoli flowerettes
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 8 oz. (126.8 grams) jar of Cheez Whiz
  • 3/4 cup (170 grams) INSTANT Minute Rice (Cannot be regular or long grain rice; it must be Instant)

  1. Place the butter, celery and onion in a saucepan and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Cook the frozen broccoli according to the package directions, usually on a stove with a little water. Drain the water when it is done.
  3. In a 3 quart (2.84 liters) casserole dish, gently stir together the celery and onion mixture, broccoli, soups, Cheez Whiz and rice.
  4. Bake uncovered in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176°C) for 50 minutes, until the top is browned. Serves about eight.
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Best Ever Stuffing Recipe and Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving Turkey and Stuffing
photo by Christian Lemus

Turkey dressing stuffed inside a Thanksgiving bird will lengthen the roasting time, but it will absorb the succulent flavor of the turkey. The stuffing recipe cannot be written without including the instructions to roast the turkey as the two go hand in hand. Here's how to make this most traditional of holiday entrees.

First of all, when buying the turkey, allow one pound (453.6 grams) for every two people invited to the feast, or more if leftovers are desired. Then when ready to cook, make sure the giblets are removed from the body cavity and the neck area, or the wishbone cavity. Many chefs cooking their first Thanksgiving dinners are unaware there is a bag of organ meat inside their turkey and inadvertently roast it with the bird. This isn't always a fiasco but highly undesirable, and will most assuredly make the cook the butt of family jokes every Thanksgiving thereafter.

Prepare the turkey for roasting by rinsing it with cold water and patting it dry. Then rub the insides with a little salt. In a small cup, mix some olive oil, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, ground pepper and a dash of oregano, and then brush it all over the poultry. Put 2 bay leaves under the skin at each breast.

Bread Stuffing Recipe for a Holiday Turkey

There should be 3/4 cup (170 grams) of stuffing to each pound of turkey. For this stuffing recipe, large turkeys are best, but if the turkey is ten pounds or less, the stuffing can simply be placed in a crock pot and set on low heat while the turkey is roasting.

  • 6 tablespoons of chopped onion (85 grams)
  • 3 cups finely chopped celery (380.4 grams)
  • 2 cups of fresh mushrooms, chopped (453.6 grams)
  • 1 stick of butter (not margarine)
  • 14 slices of day old bread, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (2.4 grams)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (2.4 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (4.76 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage (4.76 grams)
  • 8 tablespoons of water or chicken broth, or a little more (113.4 grams)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional but delicious if they are included (113.4 grams)
Balsam Hill LLC
  1. In a large pot, cook the onion, celery and mushrooms in the butter until tender.
  2. Add the bread cubes and the seasonings, and then gently toss.
  3. Toss with enough of the water or broth to moisten.
  4. Add the walnuts or pecans and gently stir.
  5. With a large spoon, ladle the stuffing into two areas of the turkey, the body and the neck cavities.
  6. To keep the stuffing from leaking out, secure the wishbone cavity with a metal skewer. For the main body cavity, generally the two legs can be tucked under a flap of skin, but skewers may still be needed to close it. Insert a meat thermometer in the center of the inside thigh muscle, away from the bone.
  7. Roast the turkey, breast side up and the wing tips twisted under the back, at 325* (162.8°C) until the meat thermometer reads 180* (82.2°C). If not using an oven bag, loosely cover the top of the bird with foil. During the last 45 minutes, cut the band of skin between the legs and the tail. Remove the foil and baste the bird with the juice in the bottom of the pan every so often to keep it moist. The cooking time is as follows:
  • 6-8 pounds 3.5 - 4 hours
  • 8-12 pounds 4 - 4.5 hours
  • 12-16 pounds 4.5 - 5.5 hours
  • 16-20 pounds 5.5 - 6.5 hours
  • 20-24 pounds 6.5 - 7.5 hours
Reynolds oven bags are great for roasting turkeys as they reduce the time and make the meat very tender and juicy without having to baste it. Simply toss a spoonful of flour into the bag and shake it so that it is well coated, then add 4 celery stalks and a quartered onion. Carefully put the stuffed bird inside the bag, with the breast side up and the wing tips twisted under the back, close with the nylon tie, and then place it in a roasting pan. 6 slits should be cut in the top of the oven bag to allow steam to escape. With an oven bag, the cooking time for a stuffed turkey is as follows:
  • 12-16 pounds 2.5 - 3 hours
  • 16-20 pounds 3 - 3.5 hours
  • 20-24 pounds 3.5 - 4 hours
When the meat thermometer indicates the turkey is done, the bird should be removed from the oven and set aside for 15 minutes or even longer, still in the oven bag. Meanwhile, slit a corner of the bag and let the meat juice drain into a container, which can be used for homemade gravy. Then remove the stuffing and carve the turkey for a fabulous feast!

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Monday, October 3, 2011

City Guides Walking Tour of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco

Garden Court of The Palace Hotel in San Francisco, California
photos by Dianne Smith

City Guides offers free walking tours throughout San Francisco, fascinating jaunts led by locals who love their city so much they donate their time to share it with others. The Palace Hotel, an historic landmark, is located at the southwest corner of Market and New Montgomery, above the entrance to the Montgomery Street Bart Station, and tours lasting about an hour begin on Saturdays and Tuesdays at 10:00 am and on Thursdays at 2:00 pm.

The Palace Hotel Walking Tour

The Palace Hotel
On the morning of October 1, 2011, the tour group meeting in the lobby was so large, two docents divided them in half and led separate tours. Cara Tramontano was an excellent guide, making the hotel's colorful history come alive.

William Ralston
  At the time the hotel was built in 1875, it was "the grandest hotel in the world," according to Andrew Carnegie. No expense was spared in its luxurious and sturdy construction, a seven story structure with two-foot thick concrete walls embedded with iron supports. It was the brainchild of William Ralston (1826-1875), who envisioned San Francisco as a world class city someday. Unfortunately he died just before his beaux arts hotel was completed, and it fell into the hands of his partner, William Sharon, whose family then held it for decades.

The opulent building had the first elevator west of the Mississippi, a "rising room" of sofas that could hold twenty to thirty people. 755 lavishly furnished guest rooms each had their own bathrooms with flushable toilets, air conditioning and electronic call buttons for room service. Meals were served with fine china, silver and crystal, and electricity was installed as soon as Edison invented the lightbulb in 1879. 

The Rebuilt Palace Hotel
Overlooking the Garden Court
From The French Parlor
The infamous 1906 San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fire destroyed the hotel, but it was painstakingly rebuilt in 1909 to more modern standards. The hallway of the second floor mezzanine level has a photo gallery of the original and rebuilt buildings.

The Garden Court, originally the horse carriage entrance, became a magnificent restaurant, with a tinted glass ceiling of 63,000 individual panes to bring in natural sunlight. The ceiling is reinforced with seismic webbing and attached to a second glass canopy. Crystal chandeliers weighing 750 pounds each suspend over elegantly set tables.

The cuisine always showcased the finest of local agriculture, introducing California's bounty to an international clientele. Some well known foods like Green Goddess salad dressing and chicken tetrazzini were created here. The list of luminaries who dined in the Garden Court are too numerous to mention, but one memorable guest was Nikita Kruschev in 1959, at the height of the Cold War. The kitchen crew called it "a horrible night" because he gave a speech in Russian lasting over two hours.

The grand ballroom is called the Ralston Room, and its signature feature are the chandeliers with their crystals cut into apple shapes and then chained together into giant pears. Another large room for conferences is Sunset Court, an area of new construction on the roof of the old building.

The French Parlor and The Pied Piper

French Parlor at The Palace Hotel

Overlooking the Garden Court is an ornate reception hall called the French Parlor with fancy arched windows. During Prohibition, the windows were boarded up and covered with red velvet, turning the parlor into a glorified speakeasy. Apparently San Franciscans didn't take the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution seriously during the fourteen years it was in effect, and the Palace Hotel was one of the worst offenders.

The Pied Piper Bar and Grill

City Guide Tour
Pied Piper Bar & Grill of
The Palace Hotel
The Pied Piper Bar and Grill is another intriguing part of the hotel. The old-fashioned gentlemen's bar with dark mahogany walls and rich, comfortable furnishings has witnessed the consummation of many business deals, the men puffing away on their cigars and pipes. The centerpiece of the bar is an amazing 1909 painting by Max Parrish called The Pied Piper of Hamelin. The famous artist was asked "to do a nice painting," and since children's fairy tales were highly popular, chose one of them for his subject. He painted his wife as one of the women, and the children depicted were ones he personally knew. He also included himself as the main character, tooting away as the Pied Piper.

The painting is a prize possession of the Palace Hotel. Someone once offered $7,000,000 for it, but they wouldn't bite. Prominently displayed under the painting is a 100-year old bottle of cognac. One shot costs $125 and the person who drinks the last drop will get to keep the bottle. The bar leads to another mahogany paneled room with a grand piano, glass ceiling and more artwork that pictures famous San Franciscans like Lotta Crabtree, an actress who got her start in San Francisco and gifted the landmark Lotta's Fountain to the city.

Also profiled is Emperor Norton, a beloved crackpot from the 1860's and 70's who told everyone he was the Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. He strutted around the streets in regal clothing, making public proclamations and printing his own currency. Everyone humored him, allowing him free meals, lodging and the best theater seats. When he died, 10,000 people attended his funeral.

The Palace Hotel is part of its San Francisco's cultural heritage, a fabulous place that has witnessed history within its walls and regularly hosts celebrities of all stripes. For anyone interested in learning more about the city's past, City Guide's walking tour of the hotel should top the list of things to do.

Glass Ceiling of French Parlor

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