While other cities’ citizens trudge along on treadmills, San Francisco’s inhabitants are busy super-modeling and beach-combing for their supper. Calorie counting doesn’t add up when you can have an actual Italian grandma teaching you to make ricotta gnocchi. If you feel inspired to capture your San Francisco experience in an embossed leather-bound comic book, that can be arranged too. And don’t worry about blowing the budget – many San Francisco workshops are cheap or free. Here are five of the best in town.
Work a sidewalk like a supermodel
Doesn’t matter what size or shape you are, with attitude and a fierce face you can turn any San Francisco sidewalk into your own private runway. Vogue magazine poses inspired a dance style that started at drag balls before hitting the mainstream with Madonna’s Vogue video. Now you can learn to strut your stuff like it’s 1990 with Vogue and Tone classes at San Francisco’s Dance Mission.
No portfolio is required to reach supermodel status in San Francisco: just bring your original fashion sense and work ethic to the dance floor. To prepare for your star turn at San Francisco’s top clubs, pull on your best legwarmers or yarness (that’s a yarn harness, naturally) and earn your Professional Model certificate from San Francisco drag star/comedienne Darcy Drollinger at SexiTude. Sorry, a supermodel paycheck isn’t included, though you do earn the inalienable right to act fabulously bored while wearing nothing but a boa.
Prefer not to go it alone? Then channel your best Beyoncé with the Bay Area Flash Mob, which offers free online tutorials and donation-based classes in San Francisco. Once you’ve got the routine down, you’re ready to join flash mob performances on San Francisco street corners – or even organize one in your own hometown.
Beachcomb for your dinner
When you’ve had your fill of Mission burritos and Chinatown dim sum, it’s time to look elsewhere for dinner – like the beaches of San Francisco. Former Department of Fish and Game ranger Kirk Lombard will show you how to find urban edibles on the shores of San Francisco in his Sea Foraging Adventures. You’ll work up some muscle working the mussels free from the boulders along the city’s watery edges, and work up an appetite trawling the city’s beaches for bullwhip kelp to turn into tasty pickle. Even fishing pros who have been there and caught that will learn something new from Kirk: how to make a snare for Dungeness crab, weave a Pacific herring net, even sniggle eels under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Beachcombing may be a summer activity elsewhere, but winter low tides reveal mollusks galore here – and winter is prime Dungeness crab season in San Francisco. But no matter when you plan your adventure, dress warmly and with a waterproof layer. The Pacific Ocean is chilly year-round, and there’s no telling when the fog will roll in.
Vegetarians and forest dwellers might prefer mushroom foraging classes with Forage SF. If you’re anxious about picking the kind of mushroom that inspires psychedelic posters for shows at the Fillmore, leave the foraging to the pros. Professional foragers are indispensable at San Francisco’s trail-blazing fine-dining restaurants, including Coi and Benu.
Embroider your breakfast
Please forgive our table manners. San Francisco is the home of Instagram, Foodspotting and Yelp, so local foodies compulsively whip out smartphones to photograph their breakfasts. But here’s a thought: if you really love chicken and waffles that much, why don’t you embroider them on your shirt? It’s a more creative way to brag about your breakfast, and a handy way to cover unsightly stains. Learn how to embroider your food at Workshop, where San Francisco’s most hardcore techies go to learn low-tech, hands-on skills from home-brewing to hair-teasing. Embroidery 101 will show you essential skills as you learn to sew pictures of your favorite San Francisco meals that would make fine souvenirs – or worthy merit badges for your favorite chefs.
If you catch the needlework bug, the all-day Sewing Bootcamp is like a hackathon for your clothes, covering basic machine-threading to advanced button-holing. You’ll also learn to make beer-can cozies perfect for Dolores Park picnics, and tote bags to avoid the city-mandated 10-cent charge for grocery bags. No matter how much you Instagram, nothing proves your San Francisco artisan foodie street creds quite like whipping out your own handmade bag at the Rainbow Grocery checkout.
Make ricotta with your new Italian grandma
Walk through the North Beach neighborhood and you’ll get tantalizing whiffs of Italian home cooking that’ll make you nostalgic for the Italian grandma you never had. Some locals claim that it’s impossible to get an authentic Italian meal in San Francisco, but that’s not true – they just need to check Lonely Planet restaurant listings (ahem), or borrow an Italian grandma for the day at the San Francisco Cheese School. Here octogenarian nonna Sara Sporsonelli schools Italians and non-Italians alike on the key to legendary lasagna and mythical cannoli: homemade ricotta cheese.
And for more idyllic Italian cooking pasta heiress Viola Buitoni teaches classes at 18 Reasons. Just be careful who you invite to try your ricotta gnocchi – once those delicious clouds of cheese melt on their tongues you may be fielding marriage proposals in Italian.
Emboss like a boss
Your epic journey of discovery through San Francisco deserves to be commemorated. It would seem fitting to capture it on your Bay Area-invented smartphone and SF-based social media, but you could do it in another even more quintessentially San Franciscan way: with a hand-embossed ‘zine. From San Francisco ‘70s punk ‘zine pioneer V Vale’s Search & Destroy to novelist Dave Eggers’ ‘zine publishing empire McSweeney’s, ‘zines have captured the restless DIY spirit of San Francisco. For further inspiration, browse the ‘zine collections at San Francisco Main Library , free-speech trailblazer City Lights Bookstore and 826 Valencia, the youth literacy nonprofit affiliated with McSweeney’s.
And when you’re ready to get inky, Center for the Book will teach you how to letterpress, bind and emboss absolutely the best San Francisco ‘zine you ever made. If you can bear to part with your leatherbound ‘zine – or just want to show it off – come back for the Alternative Press Expo, the rebel San Francisco offspring of San Diego’s Comic-Con. Here you can find free workshops to hone your craft, including inventing your own superhero – perhaps one that supermodels, forages, embroiders, makes cheese, embosses, and lives to tell the tale. Sound like anyone you know? Other towns may surprise you, but in San Francisco you will surprise yourself.