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A Swinging Scientific Soirée at the California Academy of Sciences’ Big Bang Gala

April 26, 2013
Kirsty Gumina


A typical Thursday night at the California Academy of Sciences finds the Academy bustling with its very popular, hip and successful NightLife program. However last Thursday, April 18, was not your average Thursday night: instead, the museum was packed with party-goers enjoying the Academy’s biggest night of the year, Big Bang: Party After Dark! in conjunction with the annual Big Bang Gala.

IMG_0938As guests streamed into the Academy for Party After Dark! they were welcomed by vibrant, colorfully decorated human butterflies, gracefully towering above on stilts. Attendees were first received in the Piazza, specially adorned with graphic black and silver lounge furniture, delicate orange flowers and bold black bars.  Music piped through the building as bartenders started whipping up cocktails and pouring wine. The evening’s specialty drink, our very own Spa Collins, was a hit: a zesty and refreshing concoction of vodka, lemon and lime juices, simple syrup, pickled ginger, mint leaves and cucumber slices. Buffets of scrumptious finger foods were open to those hungry for Chicken Siu Mai, Fried Chicken Sliders and Crispy Purses of Swiss Chard, Preserved Lemon and Feta – to name a few edible delights. Bars and buffets continued outside in the East Garden, where the Del Popolo pizza truck was also stationed, dishing up pizzas to guests checking out Rock the Bike featuring DJ Izzy Wise.

IMG_0856Towards the end of the night, DJ Mayer Hawthorne threw down on the turntables in the Piazza, where guests danced up a storm. As guests left the event, they were tempted by abundant candy buffets offering up a wide array of treats to satisfy any sweet tooth.

The gala dinner, which took place for a smaller group prior to Party After Dark! was also a tremendous success. Gala diners were invited first to participate in one of two lectures in either African Hall or the Planetarium by two of the world’s leading natural scientists in the field of biodiversity: James Balog and William McDonough.

Upon the conclusion of these illuminating discourses, attendees were lead into a tent impressively designed by Blueprint Studios, who drew design inspiration from the natural world that the Academy helps to protect. Decorative green and brown walls enclosed diners in an intimate setting, topped off with multi-shaped geometric chandeliers – hanging like stars against the clear-top tent. Succulents and vibrant floral arrangements in stone containers ornamented the tables, alongside candles floating in   vases of water.


In this atmosphere of natural wonder and beauty, guests supped on fresh antipasto until the service of the first course, a Monterey Artichoke Salad with Shaved Fennel, Butter Lettuce, Chiogga Beets, Spring Peas, Artichoke and Chenel Cheese. Seared Halibut followed replete with Potato Turnip Puree, Fava Beans, Romanesco Broccoli, Carrots Vichy, Cipollini Onion and a Lemon Dill Beurre Blanc. A delectable dessert course of Raspberry Sorbet with Santa Cruz Berries in a Nougat Basket followed for those who saved room for dessert.

IMG_0894Revelers at both the Big Bang Gala and Party After Dark! not only enjoyed a rollicking grand time, they also helped to raise money for the sustainability and conservation programs for the Academy of Sciences. We are already looking forward to supporting these great initiatives with next year’s Big Bang!

To find out more information about the California Academy of Sciences and its programs, please visit their website at:

The Exploratorium at Pier 15: A New Home and a Renewed Love of Learning

April 15, 2013
Kirsty Gumina

The Exploratorium, one of San Francisco’s most beloved and interactive museums, has found a new home in Pier 15 and on Friday, April 12, we got a sneak peak at the cutting-edge space during the Opening Gala reception. It goes without saying that we were blown away.

Openin Gala for Exploratorium

Full of wonderful, thought provoking exhibits – for both the young and old alike – the Exploratorium is one of the leading museums where science is presented as an interactive activity and where all are encouraged to dive in to discover, or rediscover, one’s love of learning. When the new Exploratorium opens to the public in just a two days, a quarter of the 600 exhibits will be brand new, taking inspiration from its new location on the Embarcadero and highlighting the Museum’s dedication to implementing green technologies. From top to bottom, the entire building is an architectural testament to green reforms: the roof is the second largest solar roof in the City and the pipes in the floor use water from the bay every hour to heat and cool the building.

NOpenin Gala for Exploratoriumestled among all the fascinating scientific displays, the Opening Gala proved as fun, creative and diverse as the exhibits themselves. The VIP reception was hosted in the East Gallery which was sprinkled with a wide variety of lounge furniture vignettes, from a 1970’s VW bug camp set-up complete with tie-dye and bean bags, to a charming antique, Shabby-Chic arrangement. Mingling among these vignettes, guests took in the breath-taking view of the Bay Bridge and tasted passed hors d’oeuvres such as Grilled Prawns with Tamarind and Powdered Lime, Long Braised Pork Cilantro Empanadas with Avocado Crème, as well as Spring Peas and Mint Chilled Soup Shots served in test tubes.

As the sun set over the Bay, VIP diners headed up to the Observatory for dinner. Sleek minimalist glass tables, adorned with silver branch-like placemats and illuminated “O” centerpieces – a trademark of the Exploratorium – complemented the stunning view of the San Francisco Bay. Here, invitees were treated to a delectable three course meal starting off with Maine Lobster, Gem Lettuce, Oranges, Chioggia Beets, Baby Arugula and Hearts of Palm, followed bya hearty entrée of Grilled Grass-Fed Mignon of Beef, Braised Onion and Mustard Seeds, Smoked Potato Gratin, Colossal Asparagus, and Pommery Mustard Sauce. A trio of small desserts rounded off the meal with an Almond Tuile with Fresh Raspberries, a Chocolate Mousse with Bacetti Gelato and a Financier Pyramid.

Openin Gala for Exploratorium

The excitement and exploration did not stop after dinner. More guests poured in to enjoy an energetic after party where they reveled in mouth-watering desserts, a full bar and live entertainment by Reggie Watts, Tainted Love and Capital Cities.

The doors of the revamped Exploratorium officially open on the morning of April 17th, but if you are not able to make it during business hours, be sure to stroll by Pier 15 after work on April 17th or 18th so you can catch a glimpse of a striking video installation by Obscura Digital. Whatever your schedule, definitely find a time to pay a visit to the Exploratorium to enjoy this beautiful new space andto immerse yourself in a realm of marvel and curiosity.

To find out more about the Exploratorium, please visit their website at:

Raising the Bar: The Refreshment of our Cocktail Program

February 5, 2013
Kirsty Gumina

Callan party at the City View Metreon

At McCalls, we strive to keep up with constantly changing trends while also thinking ahead of the curve with experimental and progressive programs. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to our bar initiatives.

Last fall, we sent 15 of our most skilled bartenders to one of the most prestigious and cutting edge mixology academies, The Beverage Academy at Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco. There, over the course of several weeks, our team refined their technical craft and explored the world of small batch spirits with some of the industry’s expert mixologists. Using tintures and herbs, they were trained to devise innovative cocktail creations and to realize the significance of fresh ingredients.

With this education and training, and an inevitable burst of reinvigorated confidence, our bartenders turned mixologists are charismatic, well spoken, and knowledgeable, keeping up to date with the ebb and flow of spirits and cocktail evolution. As such, the McCalls bar program promotes the utilization of fresh organic seasonal produce and herbs in conceiving unique cocktail concoctions that look to the future by infusing the old favorites of the past with the new inclinations of the present, but always including a twist, or spank, of our own.

Feel like whipping up your own cocktail at home? Try these two original recipes from our Beverage Manager, Roberto Franco.

Nonino Aperitivo

In a pint glass, mix with ice:

  • 1 oz. Hendricks Gin
  • 1 oz. Amoro Nonino
  • 1 oz. Cocchi Americano
  • ¾ oz. Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 healthy dash of celery bitters and a pinch of basil leaves muddled together
  • Spoonful of honey
  • Shake well and strain over a martini glass
  • Garnish with a spank of basil (slap the leaves on the back of your hand to release the aromas)

The Nutty Ginger

In a pint glass, mix with ice:

  • 1 oz. Aperol
  • 1 oz. Nocino Walnut Liqueur
  • 1 oz. Fresh lemon juice
  • Spoonful of ginger syrup
  • 2 healthy dashes of Peychauds bitters
  • Shake well and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass
  • Garnish with fresh pickled ginger


Dancing Into the 80th Season of the San Francisco Ballet

January 29, 2013
Kirsty Gumina

This past Thursday, January 24th, the San Francisco Ballet celebrated its 80th season with a black tie gala that gave nod to the global diversity of this prominent artistic institution as well as the City it calls home. Swathed in colorful modernity and eclecticism, with a delicious menu and vividly graphic design, the San Francisco Ballet sent a clear message about the transcendental power of dance – a language that remains universal in this international modern age.

Blueprint Studios choreographed the bold design aesthetic in City Hall, where pops of bright colors and graphic details were abundant. South Light Court was scene to a lively cocktail reception decked out in decorative blue shelving towers, yellow flowers and framed panel images of compasses. Guests enjoyed cocktails crafted behind gold bars and nibbled on delectable bites of Curried Quail Egg on Brioche Toast, Duck Confit Cigars with Red Currant Confiture, as well as Short Rib Grilled Cheese Morsels with Gruyere and Fig Marmalade sandwiched between Cinnamon Raisin Pullman bread.

Dinners in the Rotunda and North Light Court were just as effervescent as the reception. In the Rotunda, softly illuminated floral-like chandeliers danced overhead a sea of reclaimed wood dining tables adorned with
canary yellow glass candelabras, orange flowers and retro chartreuse suede chairs. The Rotunda staircase, a grand statement in itself, was embellished with a blue, yellow and orange color blocked carpet. Equally as impressive as the Rotunda, the chartreuse draped North Light Court was not to be outdone. Shocks of red and blue punctuated the room and metal globe-like centerpieces gently rotated over the dinner tables eliciting thoughts of travel and the passage of time.

Against this colorful background, attractively dressed attendees were served a three course meal by our chefs that commenced with Veloute of Wild Mushroom Soup served over a Shiitake Mushroom and Gruyere Bread Pudding, followed by the main course of Chicken Merguez Sausage & Leek Stuffed Guinea Hen accompanied with Herbed Cheese Grits, Romesco Broccoli, Petite Zucchini, Parsnips, Carrots and completed with a Shallot Marsala Sauce. Lambrusco Poached Pears topped with Mascarpone Crème, Biscotti Crumbles, Zabaglione-Mocha Gelato and Caramel Brittle was served for dessert, a sweet note to end the dinner portion of the evening as guests made their way to the War Memorial. There guests reveled in a “Prosecco Promenade” and a one-night-only performance of a series of eight short globally inspired dance pieces.

After this impressive and beautiful show, an after party at City Hall awaited the crowd where DJ Chris Clouse, DJ Sebastian Concha, Freddy Clarke and Wobbly World moved guests to show off their own dance techniques into the wee hours of the night. The supping wasn’t over either, with a plethora of savory and sweet bites available to satiate dancing induced hunger including: Sandwiches of Prosciutto, Fresh Ricotta and Braised Rapini, Lemongrass and Coriander Vichyssoise, House-Made Dim Sum, a wide assortment of Maki and Nigiri Sushi, Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce and Petite Fortune Cookie Cones with Espresso Mousse.

Bravo, bravo to the San Francisco Ballet on another stunning and energetic opening night gala! At 80 years young, we are exited to see where you will chasse next in the wonderfully diverse world of dance.

To learn more about the San Francisco Ballet and its 2013 season, please visit:


Christmas at McCalls: Giving Back to Our Local Community

December 27, 2012
Kirsty Gumina

The holidays are a special time of year when we like to surround ourselves with our nearest and dearest, as well as a time to give thanks by aiding those in need. This Christmas, McCalls was excited to give back to our community due in part to our partnership with Food Runners, a local organization that works to assuage hunger here in San Francisco, and our second annual partnership with the sisters of the San Francisco branch of Fraternité Notre Dame, a soup kitchen with worldwide reach.

Leading this collaborative effort from our team was Tim Stewart, Kitchen Safety Manager and one of our many talented chefs. Building on our current relationship with Food Runners, who picks up our leftover food and delivers it to numerous soup kitchens in the Bay Area throughout the year, Tim was able to foster a connection with the sisters of the local chapter of Fraternité Notre Dame and volunteer some much needed services for the holidays: a kitchen and a few extra sets of culinary hands.

The sisters of Fraternité Notre Dame typically prepare and serve hot food for up to 300 people in need every afternoon out of their “Mary of Nazareth” Soup Kitchen in the Tenderloin. They also prepare and deliver food to nearby senior citizens and others who are not easily mobile and need meals delivered to their homes.

Upon learning about this wonderful organization through Food Runners, and their inspiring efforts to feed the hungry, Tim wanted to find a way for us to give back. So, on Christmas Eve day and Christmas morning, McCalls opened up its doors to our prep kitchen and many of our own staff generously volunteered their time and culinary skills to help prepare Christmas feasts from food charitably donated from many San Francisco benefactors. Once prepared, Food Runners picked up the meals from our kitchen and delivered them onsite to the sisters who served them up to at least 400 homeless people on Christmas Eve at the Fulton Street Plaza as well as in Bayview, and at least another 400 people on Christmas Day at their Tenderloin facility.

We send big thanks to Fraternité Notre Dame, Food Runners, our volunteer chefs and Tim for organizing and getting involved in such a wonderful endeavor.

On behalf of the entire McCalls team, we hope you enjoyed a happy holiday and wish you and yours a healthy and prosperous New Year!

If you would like to volunteer or learn more about Fraternité Notre Dame, please visit their website at:

If you would like to volunteer or learn more about Food Runners, please visit their website at:

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