901 Cole at Carl
415.566.3063 Would I go again?
Yes, If I'm meeting someone from Cole Valley. Ambiance:
Yuppie couples from across town meeting their coupley friends who live in Cole Valley. Prius-driving, Asian fusian loving couples. Couples? Yes, that's right. Best:
The wine list. Eos owns a wine bar right next door. So that means flights of wine for the whole table! The house cured bacon with the burger was oh so thick. (Admittedly, Eos and their asian fusianness would probably prefer not to be remembered by their bacon. But it was really very tasty). There's something for everyone on the menu which means even fussy visiting parents from the MidWest will find something they like.Worst:
Service was slow. Very slow. Popular so you're likely to be disappointed if you don't make a reservation.
4238 Park Blvd.
Oakland, CA 94602
(510) 336 1180www.bellanico.net
Would I go again? Yes. If I'm meeting someone from Oakland.
Ambiance: Local Cal-Italian eatery. Is Cal-Italian a phrase? This isn't your aunt in Illinois' Italian food. This is seasonal Italian food made from local, sustainable organic products. We like to know what farm lambie came from here in California.
Crowd: Glenview/Oakland locals.
Best: Charming service, charming waitress. And truly seasonal Italian food such as the ricotta stuffed and fried squash blossoms. So Spring-y! As was the Brocolli Rabe Zuppa which was a thick soup that was so green and healthy I practically glowed with vigor after I ate it. The pork belly and grilled romaine salad is to die for. Literally, you may fall into cardiac arrest as you tuck into it but it's well worth the risk. I'd recommend having that as a main course, not as a starter as suggested.
Worst: The lemon tart dessert looked suspiciously as if if the tart shell was found in the back of the freezer. Still, I didn't have any room for dessert after such yummy prior courses so I only had a bite of it.
Labels: Glenview, oakland, restaurants
2400 Polk Street at Union
415 928 5797http://www.anticasf.com/
Good, cozy neighborhood restaurant where you can get predictably decent Italian dishes. Great for families, children are certainly not frowned upon. And popular with locals dining alone. In other words, a comfortable establishment that wears well like a familiar woolly sweater. The Tartufata Salad is quite luxurious.. greens daintily dressed in a vinaigrette of truffles. The Beef Carpaccio doesn't disappoint. And for mains there's the usual selection of pasta, fish and meat dishes.
2316 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94109
Would I go again? Honey, will you take me?
Ambiance: Sparkly treats come in small boxes and they are opened at the linen'd tables of the hushed La Folie.
Crowd: Gooey-eyed couples, couples that used to be gooey-eyed and broke but can now afford to eat here but having nothing left to say to each other, and visiting foodies.
Best: The food is outstanding at La Folie and the service charming without being icky. You'd be challenging yourself and annoying your dining pals to find a lousy dish. Kick off the meal with the day's foie gras appetizer and enjoy every plump, satiny non PC bite. Pigs feet and sweetbreads terrine for starters gently ready the tummy for the many other dishes ahead. Meats and fishies are popular on the menu but every evening there is also a vegetarian set menu. Desserts are knock-out and a little unexpected such as the Warm Edam Cheese Souffle with Fromage Blanc Sorbet, Crispy Bacon and White Sesame Tuile. Do we even know what Fromage Blanc is in America?
Worst: A bit too much When in Doubt Dribble Truffle Oil on Top.
113 N. Robertson, Los Angeles
Tel: (310) 274-8303
Would I go again? Yes after a shopping trip on Robertson.
Ambiance: Kitsch shabby not too chic but cozy with an extraordinary number of american flag motifs on the wall.
Crowd: TMZ fans hoping to spot celebs. And those who don't squeal at the cost of a $35 bowl of pasta. And women with really big lips.
Best: The food is good and the service is too. Caprese salads are usually a pithy disappointment but here it was delicious with good tomatoes and chopped basil and top notch mozzarella (though, I'd suggest why not serve it with Burrata Mozzarella to really take it up a notch). The pasta with seafood was delicious and incredibly generous with the shellfish including large plump mussels and one of the better juicy (not overcooked, yay!) shrimps I've sunk my teeth into for a while. For the budding starlets there's a light vegetable soup that won't cause a bursting waistline, and the tuna ceviche is served with as many chopped veggies as it is with tuna.
Worst: Silly, trendy wannabes who keep their baseball caps on when eating dinner.
La Terrazza dell’Eden
Via Ludovisi 49 · Rome 00187
Would I go again? During the day, or in the summer at sunset.
Ambiance: Restaurant With a View and an army of waiters
Crowd: Those who an afford a meal that is $250/person. Romans on a date, British couples staying at the hotel, and business folks. Ties not worn by everyone but the locals certainly do dress up for the occasion.
Best: The view is to die for and really the only reason to come to this restaurant given all the other great options that surround you in Rome. Or, if you're wanting to impress someone who doesn't know better. About the view, it's definitely tops during the day rather than in the evening .. Rome doesn't really sparkle at night the way other cities do. The Amberjack tartare starter was tasty. The cheesecake was the best part of the meal by far. The people-watching was entertaining.
Worst: The food is no great shakes. And for the price, it should be a religious experience. In fact, F and I agreed that the food at Piazza D'Angelo is just as tasty. The gnocchi was mediocre (over 30 euros), and the prawns and pork belly were a very odd mixture that certainly did not tantalize the taste buds but rather but them in a foul mood. The prawns were more akin to creatures in shrimp cocktail, small and inferior and wondering why they were being sold for 45 euros. The beef tartare (in fact was carpaccio) was alright though rather doll. While the cheesecake was delicious (the winner all evening!), the hair it was resting on was momentarily alarming. Though, truth be told, I'm not too bothered by the odd hair and ploughed on.
The Reflexology Shop
250 Kings Road, London SW3Would I go again? Definitely.
020 7349 9475
Ambience: Downstairs crowded flat
Crowd: Women. Who are truly into reflexology and don't need to see and be seen at the glam spa.
Best: Price. And the one hour reflexology treatment which is heavenly. Practically the best experience ever at a spa. (Though spa is a rather generous term to use for The Reflexologist). Your rocked back in a delicious chair and then for one hour your tootsies and legs are massaged. Utter bliss.
Worst: Possibility of blissing out and thus snoring. (Suddenly you are that person, The Snorer-Snorter.) So cramped. It's basically a one room garden studio with a window out to the legs of those walking along Kings Road. And because it's just one room, it means you're on top of the other patrons and can hear everything including their cell phones going off and their chattering to the staff (though staff do a good job of keeping it hush hush). Of course, the cramped conditions does lend to the rather cosy feel that reminds you you're spending less than most others in Chelsea. Ha ha.
The Reflexologist offers both reflexology as well as massages.
Eight Over Eight
392 King's Road, London, SW3
Tel: 020 7349 9934
Would I go again? Indeed. And I do often! When in a bind and need a good standby.
Ambiance: Datey, double datey. Dark and flirty bar area.
Crowd: Their parents are baby boomers. They live in Chelsea. Or they wished the lived in Chelsea. And they make money, gossip and go to hair salon often. Celeb sightings.
Best: Great Asian food with something for everyone. I write "Asian" because it's a bit of everything East of Calcutta: sushi, curries, bbq and unusual salads. The black cod is always a winner. The chili salt squid is heavenly and crispy and blatantly unhealthy. And the dark miso soup is delicious and soul-warming with many bits in it. Open 7 days a week and open late.
Worst: Can be a little too loud and rah rah. The tuna tartare tastes good but the eye appeal is low. It needs some wonton chips for scooping purposes! Martinis are too small but in keeping with most London martinis. Unfortunately. The restaurant has that annoying policy only letting you have a 2 hour reservation.
347 Presidio Avenue, San Francisco
Tel: 415 563 8841
Would I go again? And again.
Ambiance: Affordable luxury
Crowd: Presidio Heights ladies who lunch at lunchtime, and a neighborhood restaurant at dinner where no one wears t shirts.
Best: Price and open seven days a week
Worst: Not my neighborhood restaurant.
Smack bang in the middle of Presidio Heights, Garibaldi's offers Med cuisine in a quiet (take note, a rarity!), elegant setting. Hair is well coiffed here, and Upper Playground t shirts are not welcome. Not trendy for many years, Garibaldi's is an old trusted friend and favorite restaurant. For those who might want to catch up on some Sacramento street shopping, swing by afterwards for a drink; The cocktails always catch me by surprise by their snazziness, and the bar nibbles are better than they are at the Carlisle. For dinner there is a prix fixe menu for about $30 that is a steal. If you're keen on small plates, there is a wide selection from the antipasti menu, starters and salads. They offer valet parking but if you're coming in the evening, you can probably find parking on Sacramento Street.
114 Main Street, Tiburon
Tel: 415 789.5636
Would I go again? Yes. Not a destination restaurant though.
Ambiance: Low key, relaxed neighborhood restaurant
Crowd: Subscribers to Forbes, Fortune and The Wall Street Journal, locals of Tiburon and Belvedere
Best: Grilled baby octopus. And such friendly service.
Worst: Nothing. It's comfortable.
The Cottage Eatery is tucked on the ground floor of an old cottage on Tiburon's historic Ark Row. Come evening, the tourists have left and the small restaurant is filled with locals catching up with their neighbors. The atmosphere is comfortable and low-key and so is the food. The baby octopus is well worth ordering, and the chicory salad delicious as a starter. The pressed suckling pig was a special of the day and if you're lucky it may reappear on the menu.
Mill Valley, CA
Would I go again? Yes
Ambiance: Jolly and warm
Crowd: Over forties who have a second house in Tahoe
Best: Salmon Tartare
Worst: Weird location
And a roadhouse it is.
Buckeye is literally the last gasp as you leave Mill Valley and hop onto 101 South towards San Francisco. The restaurant is precariously situated off the shoulder of the highway's entrance ramp with a crowd of Range Rovers and other fancy Marinite cars littered around it.
It's a jolly atmosphere inside.
We ate in the bar, at the bar. The bartenders were old school and friendly. Your best friend, not a hipster mixologist. Much as I like hipster mixologists. That's just not the scene here. It's warm and welcoming and warm again. Not a twenty-something hangout.
The infamous Oysters Bingo are a must as an appetizer. They're creamy and gently cheesy, baked. The Salmon Tartare with wasabi caviar was yummy .. went down very smoothly. And looked tasty to the eye too! For mains, we enjoyed Manila Clams and Andouille Sausage Linguini with Pinot Grigio and Garlic. Kiss me tomorrow, not tonight.
The menu will appeal to everyone. There are many choices on the pasta, fish, meat and, yes, more meat front. Including liver! Which is worth noting simply because it's so rarely seen on our menus here in San Francisco. A crying shame, too.
A nice sidenote, our neighbors at the bar shared the remainder of their bottle of wine with us. They were concerned about driving home. How generous. I woke up with a headache the next morning.
Nob Hill Spa at The Huntington Hotel
1075 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Would I go again? Yes
Ambience: City lux spa
Crowd: Lunching ladies and five star hotel guests
Worst: Feels a little cramped
The Huntington Hotel is such a keeper in San Francisco. It sits there atop Nob Hill quietly next to its flashier neighbors The Mark and The Fairmont, steadfast in its delivery of fine service and well off the conference circuit.
The Nob Hill Spa is attached to the hotel, and offers ten treatments rooms where you can be pampered, slathered, salt-scrubbed and rubbed. And afterwards, you can sit by the indoor infinity pool and enjoy lunch or dinner. (Great spot for getting together a bunch of friends - have a treatment and then enjoy lunch together by the pool.) The views from the pool are spectacular over the south side of San Francisco.
The Lavender Sugar Scrub was a delicious 50 minutes of scrubbing followed by showering and a proper rub down with oil. The spa offers the usual menu of massages and facials as well as LED Light Therapy (think younger healthier skin), and Ancient Healing treatments.
For those who live in the Bay Area, a night at the hotel and a trip to the spa would make a wonderful low hassle escape from home.
Ranch0 La Puerta
Ambiance: Adult civilized camp
Crowd: Bay Area, NYC and SoCal mostly women who didn't want to have to dress up for dinner
Best: Meeting the other guests
Worst: The border crossing
The first year I was dubious. I was a spa novice. But I was badly in need of a warm getaway, and an active pampering, and Rancho la Puerta proved to be the ideal place for a respite. Destination spas can tend to feel exclusive, requiring you do dress up at night, look the part and flash your baubles but Ranch0 La Puerta is truly a rest from all that fuss which in some part accounts for the loyal clientele who come back year after year.
Days start early at The Ranch, and every morning before breakfast there is a variety of hikes to choose from for all levels of fitness. And that includes the eager triathlete to the soft couch potato. The Ranch is located at the base of a mountain and it is from there that the hikes climb up, up and up or for the less enthusiastic, through the property's endless gardens. Of course, you can sleep in but guilt tends to creep up on you, and you'll find you head to bed early to make the 6:15 call of the trail.
Mornings are taken up with classes. Yoga, spinning, weight lifting, tennis, stretching, no part of the body is left untouched! Or, like me, if you're truly coming to slow down entirely, you can sit by one of the three pools and catch up on your reading and watch the others rush from gym to gym. The afternoons are a much slower pace with people drifting off to the spas, to the pools to a yoga class. No matter what your fitness level, or your interest in moving your body from zip to hyper, you'll find a rhythm to the days that suits you.
There are three spas on the property and many guests spoil themselves with at least one treatment a day. (By day six you'll truly have had enough of such attention). The menu is extensive, and I've never been disappointed. Sometimes in the cooler months the scrubs can be rather chilly in the treatment rooms. But just the experience of relaxing after your treatment by the hot tub in the changing area is enough to calm even the most frazzled person. And as the week unfolds you can see guests unravel to their more calm selves.
I've come alone to The Ranch a few times and also with friends. Both are great experiences. At mealtimes you sit with others at communal tables so there's no eating alone in a corner but instead you meet such a variety of interesting people and colorful characters some of whom you'll keep in touch with year after year.
The Ranch recently opened a cooking school where you can both take hands-on classes or watch demonstrations. The facility is top notch, and I'd highly recommend trying to do both.
The food has greatly improved since my first visit except for the desserts which I still find a bit dodgy and mysterious. But you're not going to a spa for dessert, now, are you? The food is healthy but for those who aren't there to lose weight (any many aren't), you can have as much food as you want and you'll never go hungry. There is always a fish option, and the fruits and vegetables typically come from the property's gardens. Mostly, it's delicious.
Overall, you'll leave The Ranch inspired to look after yourself better, you'll be well rested, and you'll have had a full week to let your imagination run wild without the distraction of the daily grind.
MEDOC MARATHON in Bordeaux, Francehttp://www.marathondumedoc.com/ Wine, oysters and running. Right up my alley.
Years ago I read about the Medoc Marathon in a British newspaper, and the reporter indulged so that he had to poop out at about mile 16.
Indulged in wine so.
Taking a decidedly Gallic approach to running, the Medoc Marathon route winds through dozens of vineyards in the Medoc/Bordeaux region of France. And, bien sur, the vineyards generously provide wine to the thirsty runners along the way, just what the throat is screaming for in the September French heat.
As you can imagine, the training regime for this marathon was great on the legs and a mild strain on the liver.
The spectators at the Medoc Marathon are cheery(wine in glass, glass to mouth), plentiful and encouraging with the little kids putting out their hands so that you'll low five them as you run by. The wine is lined up along lengthy tables in dixie cups, and as you approach the final five kilometers, there are food stations of shucked oysters, entrecote steak and hunks of fromage. Your guts won't know what's hitting them at km 40! No one's here for a fast time so runners hang out around the tables stuffing themselves as much as their body will allow them.
The route is slow and hilly, and rather warm as the race doesn't start until 9am. How civilized. Slightly less civilized is the tradition of everyone dressing up for the run. Imagine trotting along dressed as a chicken for 26 miles. The novelty wears off quickly.
Fittingly, as you cross the finish line you're handed a bottle of Bordeaux.
Don't come for a fast time, but do come for the overall fun factor and quirkiness. This is running as it should be! And then spend a few days in the region who is warm and charming.
It was tough booking a hotel near the race start so we ended up staying about an hour away but that worked out finely. Don't leave the hotel til the last minute.
2044 Fillmore Street, 2FL
San Francisco, CA 94115
(888) 894-8811 T
Would I go again? Everyday!
Ambience: Cool relaxation zen baby
Crowd: Tidy looking yoga loving Pac Heights women
Best: Steam room in the changing room
Worst: Hard sell on products
Ahhh, indeed! From the moment you walk up the stairs and enter into the International Orange headquarters to the time you leave, you'll truly feel all your stresses slip away. The design of International Orange is my favorite in San Francisco for a spa: Cool relaxation, uncluttered space, it's a haven for anyone suffering from urban exhaustion.
The facials are thorough, and during the in between times, your hands and tootsies will be massaged and lathered up in moisturizer. You can add a foot treatment to your session if your feet are feeling sad and dry. And peels and collagen treatments are also available as are scalp treatments. The few massages I've had at IO have been good.
For the yoga enthusiasts out there, IO has a daily yoga schedule including a lunch time yoga session for all levels. The room is bright and light, and in the afternoon the sun streams in.
Very appealing is the $350 monthly membership where you can enjoy unlimited yoga, and three services. Now, that would be a wonderful gift to give oneself! All in the name of healthy body healthy mind.
Kabuki Springs and Spa
1750 Geary Blvd. (@Fillmore)
San Francisco, CA 94115
Open daily 10am - 9:45pm
Would I go again? Yes
Ambience: Community spa, jiggly body bits hanging out
Crowd: A no frills lot
Worst: Sauna that is too cold
You feel righteous going to Kabuki Springs and Spa in San Francisco's Japantown. There's nothing frou-frou about the spa, and the community aspect of the baths makes it more akin to going to the spa in Istanbul than on Fillmore Street. And the prices are friendly too. Low key pampering.
You can visit the spa just to take the waters, or you can go whole hog and also enjoy a massage, facial or body scrub. The baths themselves are typically single-sex alternating days so be sure to check on their website; they do have co-ed days too which is very popular with couples.
The baths include a cold plunge pool, a large hot bath, a sauna (not hot enough!) and a steam room as well as traditional Japanese showers. A neat experience in the middle of San Francisco.
Every time I've received a massage here I've been blown away by how good the therapy is. The massages are done in a large room that is broken up into small private cubicles. Most enjoyable.
To finish off the relaxing event, enjoy a meal out in Japantown.
Would I go again? Yes
Ambience: A woodsy romantic forgotten restaurant
Crowd: Locals who live nearby, and hikers
Best: Fireplace and the view
Worst: Cheesy music that wouldn't go away
Mountain Home Inn is the starting and end point for my favorite run on Mount Tamalpais, a five mile loop that let's you savor the best that the mountain trails have to offer: expansive views across the forests and valleys of Muir Woods out across to the Pacific Ocean, dappled lit trail ways that are cushioned and bouncy on the step from the fallen pine needles, noisy waterfalls and rickety bridges, and, finally, the prize at the end which is a glass of wine at The Mountain Home Inn.
Perched on the edge of Panoramic, a road that runs along a ridge of Mount Tam, Mountain Home Inn is conveniently located across from a popular parking lot where a number of trails meet. It was such a glorious February Saturday afternoon, one of those afternoons where you sit back for a moment and smugly think, Gosh, It's February and they sure aren't enjoying such fine weather today in Manhattan. It would have been criminal to have not squeezed every last moment of light out of the day, and so despite having run from Tiburon to San Francisco in the morning, a hike was in order. As long as it was followed by a lovely glass of Wine with a View at Mountain Home Inn.
And so we each enjoyed a glass of wine looking out at the sparkly orange reflections of the sunset on the East Bay windows. The Inn has a small bar, and they offer California wines only, a pleasant selection. There are about a dozen tables out on the balcony that look out over Mill Valley, Marin and towards the East Bay. The wine was a treat but it would have been even more enjoyable if the restaurant bought some heating lamps and offered some tasty treats to enjoy with the wine. Perhaps just even a plate of Marin cheeses. Anything. Peanuts?
As we got ready to leave, we walked by the dining room and peered in. For a building that has such mind-blowing views, the restaurant has no windows and is a wildly uninspiring room. But the fire was roaring as was the hunger in my belly. Despite it being a Saturday evening, they were thrilled to be able to seat us immediately, right next to the fire. Magic! And quite romantic too (I'd recommend asking for the tables near the fireplace).
The menu is a set price ($38) for three courses which certainly takes away any confusion with trying to figure out what you are going to eat. J and I both started with the Asian Pear and Green Salad which sounds terribly boring, and while there were no surprises we both agreed the greens were delicious. Other choices was a Carrot and Ginger Soup which was too reminiscent of a compulsory Home Economics class I took when I was 11, and a Goat Cheese Tort which was no doubt good but perhaps too daunting for a three course meal.
Mid-way between our slightly dull but tasty salad, we became aware of the loud bleating of R&B music which was decidedly unsettling on our ears and our appetites. Mostly because it was so out of place. We willed the music away throughout the meal but to no avail. Word up Mountain Home Inn, R&B might not be the music of choice for a dinner on Mount Tamalpais.
For mains, J had the Grilled Salmon which came with some miso aioli squirted on top and a large pile of lentils and crispy tasty Brussels sprouts. Lentils - I love lentils particularly when they're resting on a bed of bacon (lentil and bacon salad!) but there's an unfortunate trend right now to serve hearty lentils with fish in San Francisco. Anyway, J gave the fish a thumbs up, and it was indeed good. I had the Blackened Pork Chop which was very blackened and fun to eat right down to the bone. The pork chop came with rosemary fries which had potential. Except they weren't crispy! Soggy rosemary fries are enough to make anyone want to have a wobbly towards the end of a long day. Also on the side was a small pile of curly brussel kale, my favorite health food. I'd order the dish again.
For dessert, I had the Pear Crisp with Ice Cream. Very disappointing! The crisp was mildly warm at some time and the darn ice cream had no chance of melting. Sigh. I like a crisp that is burbling and where you have to rush to eat the ice cream before it all melts. No chance here. J had the Berry Sorbets which were terrific and the serving was very generous.
Great service, ok food, wonderful location. Lots of potential at this place, just a shame they don't make a few small improvements.
Kona Village Resort, Big Island, Hawaii
Would I go again? Yes. If they took a zero off the day's rate
Ambience: Tropical paradise
Crowd: Wealthy hippy families who own both a Range Rover and a Prius and who are here for the 19th time
Best: Hearing the waves at night
Worst: Hauling our suitcases half a mile along a sandy road to our car because we hadn't "booked" someone to pick them up from our room upon departure
Kona Village Resort and the Four Seasons are right up next to each other on the lava of the Kona Coast on the Big Island. They couldn't be more different. The Four Seasons is the height of over the top service, squeaky clean amenitities, and excellent service but with a bit of a corporate vibe. Kona Village looks like its hey day was back in the Seventies (twenty years before the Four Seasons arrived as a neighbor) and the service while friendly isn't terribly good. But the clientele are fiercely local and probably secretly thrilled everytime someone gives the resort a negative review. All the more room for them! Kona Village is a spendy family camp that is perhaps resting on past glowing reviews.
Rather than boring old traditional rooms, guests at Kona Village stay in hales which are Hawaiian cottages with thatched roofs. Some of the hales at the resort are right up on the beach while others are spread around the tropical ponds and woods. The latter, while cosy looking and I suspect appealing to kids, appear as if they'd be a fine breeding ground for numerous buggies. We stuck to the staying by the ocean. Very pleasant hearing the waves of the sea at night. The hales are plain inside - no air conditioning, tv or radio and probably looked as they did inside twenty years ago.
The way the resort works is that you pay a flat rate fee and that includes most of the activities at the resort and your meals. By activities, that means using the kayaks or snorkeling equipment. You still have to pay $25 for a yoga class which seemed a bit steep! Once you settle into the rhythm of the resort, you'll notice some similarities between Kona Village and camp. Nothing much changes year to year or day to day. No doubt that is the appeal to many of the repeat guests.
The highlight of the resort is the wonderful beach that looks out towards the West. You can walk into the water and within ten feet put your head down with your snorkel gear on and see dazzling colorful fish. And during whale season, you'll see the whales jumping farther off shore as we did. Kids go nuts for this beach and there's a raft a little ways out in the water which is great for practicing your dive bombs.
For those who want swimming pool swimming, there are two small pools. They are surrounded by deadly uncomfortable chairs that saw their heyday during the Reagan years. Best to stick to the beach.
The food is iffy and the portions skimpy. The second night we snuck out through the gate that separates the Kona Village Resort and the Four Seasons and had dinner at the Four Seasons so as to avoid a less enchanting meal at Kona Village as we'd had the first night. I suspect the fact that the food is included in the daily rate is what accounts for its lack of appeal. There's little incentive to impress.
There's a very small gym and a couple of massage rooms. The highlight of the gym was noticing that both Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs have come with their families to the resort many times - their names were on the frequent guest board. Nuts! I find it really hard to fathom paying as much as we did for what we got more than once in my life. For a tenth of the price you could go to Emandal on the Eel River and have far better food, be cut off from email, and save your pennies. Silly rich hippies who want to get away from it all and live simply AND pay to do so dearly, I don't get it.
One week at the resort for a couple costs about $9000 if they get a hale on the ocean front.
Four Seasons on the Big Island - Hualalai
Would I go again? Yes
Ambience: Luxurious but not quite home away from home, a little too corporate feeling
Crowd: New Money
Best: Sitting outside at night in the spa area. And wonderful service.
Worst: Ouchy on wallet
From the moment you drive up to the reception at the Hualalai Four Seasons you are swept up into the world of Four Seasons service where the staff are keen to satisfy your every whim and desire. Of course, you pay for such service handsomely.
Hualalai is on the Kona Coast of the Big Island. It's about ten minutes from the airport making it the most convenient resort to stay at, the minimum amount of fuss if you want a quick and simple escape from, say, California. Given the amenities of the hotel, you might find yourself seeing no need to leave the compound for a few days. Surrounding the hotel are Four Seasons Villas so if you have a crowd of people coming to the Big Island you could rent a house rather than stay at the hotel itself, and you'd still have access to everything at the resort.
The grounds are impeccable at the hotel. All of the rooms have a view of either a golf green or the ocean. We opted for an ocean view room with an outdoor lava shower (heavenly!) though I think a room overlooking one of the golf greens would have been just as pleasant. What is a treat is to enjoy coffee or breakfast on your patio in the morning. Four Seasons tends to cater for business people who are on holiday and can't quite disconnect as well as those who are on a business trip but want to feel like they are on holiday . There is wireless throughout the entire resort, around the swimming pools and in the rooms. No complaints about our room at all, it was comfortable, clean, had all possible potions and a comfy bed.
There are a few different swimming pools at the hotel. Our favorite was the "quiet" pool which while it wasn't particularly quiet was the most pleasant swimming pool. Slightly OTT, the pool help offer to spritz you with Evian water to cool you off. When that happens, you momentarily feel guilty at being indulged so. It seemed that most adults at the hotel did want to be at the quiet pool so there was often a shortage of seats, and a whole lot of politics as far as finding a place to plant your pearly white bum. There is a kiddie pool, a family pool and then a saltwater pool that is filled with fish where the hotel will provide you with snorkel gear so you can poke around underwater. The fish pool looked unappealing.
There is an extensive spa and gym which was just brilliant fun to enjoy. We took a few spinning classes which were as good as any in NYC or SF, and we putzed around in the gym which was super clean and well equipped. The spa services are ouchy on the wallet but done well. Well worth checking out are the men and women's changing areas at the spa. If you go in the evening you can sit out in the hottub in the dark and enjoy the stars and follow that off with an outdoor shower. Now, that was a highlight! For the tennis and golf lovers, you'll be well looked after. There is a Jack Nicklaus 18 hole golf course and eight tennis courts.
If you're just going to the hotel for a few days, you could happily eat at the restaurants at the resort and not get sick of the menus. For amazing water views, the Pahu i`a restaurant (where the food is less daunting than the name), serves a fine dinner with much seafood on the menu. Breakfast is also served at this restaurant and that's a huge affair with a dizzying number of options. Mostly, though, it's the view there that is so spectacular. Above the Pahu i`a is the Lava Lounge bar which is far less cheesy than it sounds. They have a colorful selection of martinis from which you can choose as well as a good bar menu with sushi and other tasty bits. The Alan Wong restaurant has no water view (it overlooks the golf course) but it has a wonderful ambiance and the food was delicious. The specialty is Hawaiian food and certainly one of the more memorable dishes was the starter of "Soup and Sandwich," a tomato soup and a foie gras, kalua pig and grilled cheesy sandwich. For an evening drink, you must pull up at the Beach Tree Bar on the edge of the beach. Noisy mixed cocktails are whipped up and you're just feet away from the water's edge.
For families with kids, there's an array activities and babysitting services.
One week at the resort for a couple who don't go overboard but get a room with a view costs approximately $10,000.
560 Divisadero Street @ Hayes
San Francisco, CA 94117
Phone (415) 864-8643
Nopa has really settled into its stride. What a wonderful restaurant both for hip and happening atmosphere as well as for tucking into some tummy-pleasing food. It's a young Zuni. As a neighbor, I can guarantee you Nopa has become a neighborhood restaurant. As a neighbor who comes often and finds the restaurant buzzing, it's a destination restaurant for the entire city's inhabitants and so is always full and humming. And as it seems like there aren't many restaurants where this is the case, Nopa is really a lot of fun to enjoy whether you're alone or with others. There's a friendly communal table where you can enjoy your dinner and meet others that I particularly like sitting at both on my own and with company. The crowd is entertaining and a bit of everything.
Fortunately for us, unlike Zuni, Nopa has a long bar where you can actually sit down and savor their thoughtful drinks and food menu. There are about half a dozen "regulars" on the cocktail menu that sit put month by month (my favorites, The Elderflower Gimlet and the thirst-quenching Dark and Stormy), as well as tipples that feature the month's alcohol. This month it is absinthe where the Old Growth Swizzle makes a statement with vodka, cassis, absinthe and ginger beer. The bar staff are to-the-point and both friendly and serious about their drink. As they should be.
The food has come a long way since the restaurant opened, and I can now say as a regular who's eaten all the dishes, there really isn't anything on the menu that disappoints. Some favorites on the starter menu that would be criminal to not try include the Salad of Home Smoked Bacon, Poached Egg and Chicories which is absolutely divine. The bacony bits are big and chunky and not hiding behind any runny egg yolk. Good for sharing with a group because for one it is rather rich is the Warm Goat Cheese with Pickled Beets and Crostini. You'll be glad for those beets as they help cut the cheese in your mouth. Really more of a main course though it makes its appearance on the starters is the flatbread of the moment which changes often. Essentially it's a very thin-crusted topped with piles of things .. currently on the menu is a flatbread with fennel sausage (lots of it!), ricotta and escarole. The Wine Braised Calamari is served on a big toasted piece of grilled bread and is delicious and messy with the aioli that is served on top of it. The Fritto Misto came with a surprise, and that wasn't the little sardines but satsumas that had been lightly breaded and fryed - delicious and surprising!
For mains the Grass Fed Hamburger is always a mouth-watering option for those who can't decide, very tasty (ask for all possible toppings) and the fries are particularly finger-lickin' good if you ask for some aioli to go with them. The chicken I like so-so but often I think it could do with just a little bit crispier skin. Sure it's bad for you, but at least make it bad and good. Plus, the size, it's too big! The Baked Pasta dish is a solid dish, and impossible to not like given the bacon and cheese burbling throughout it as it leaves the oven. It's very, very filling, one that after about three bites I'm fully sated. The Roasted Cod tastes good but I can't quite warm up to the pairing with lentils. Sure, it tastes good but on the eye appeal front, not a favorite of mine. The Country Pork Chop is large and pleasing.
On the dessert front I always stick with the trio of sorbets. Mostly because they come with a couple of sesame shortbread cookies and I can get enough of them.
Cost for two people is around about $100. One big eater, one smaller eater.
2355 Chestnut Street in the Marina
Tel: 415 771 2216
Overall: Good for a late night low key date restaurant if you like wine, pizza and meaty bits.
After hearing Michael Pollan blow on enjoyably about the benefits of eating mostly plants at a City Arts and Lecture, J and I headed off for a late dinner at A16. A16 has a significant portion of their menu dedicated just to cured meats. I walk by the restaurant often in the evening heading home from the gym and it is still packed night after night. And on OpenTable, good luck getting a res at a time that might suit your visiting parents. Hence, we arrived at quarter to ten in the evening for our dinner. Very Euro. James would have been proud. Typically when James invites us over for dinner he suggests we arrive at ten which I've found causes his American male friends some confusion as to whether they should have one dinner or two dinners.
I was hungry. But nevertheless, we walked into the restaurant, sat down and I was overcome with the memory of a boar-laden midnight meal that we shared with J and P a few years ago in Florence. My stomach is still heavy from the memory and I felt a slight panic that perhaps the fine food of Campania and Naples brought to me at A16 was perhaps not the best choice for the evening. But we soldiered on.
J and I both ordered the beet and radicchio salad with olives with the intent of starting the meal off lightly. A valiant effort but one perhaps sensible given the late hour. The salad was quite tasty but light it was not. The plate was laden down with red beets and sprinkled with delicate radicchio leaves. Heavy on the beets, light on the green bits. Perhaps we've been spoiled of late with the sudden popularity for gem beets on Bay Area menus. Shame!
We shared a plate of the roasted sardines. I can never resist ordering sardines whenever I see them on the menu. J stays quiet - I'm fairly certain he's not a fan. These three bad boys were sliced in half and laid flat like pancakes and covered in a layer of mostly crunchy breadcrumbs with soft capers. Tasty. One and half will do you finely - three might be overkill unless you dream of sardines.
For mains I stuck with a small plate of the tuna conserva. It was resting on a smeared layer of fava bean puree and fanning out from the plate were pieces of homemade crackers. Ech. It didn't do much for me on the eye appeal front. Tasted quite good though but I wouldn't order it again as the tuna and fava beans just seemed too heavy together to me.
J ordered one of the pizzas, a Funghi pizza with mozzarella. The menu is quite pizza-centric and I suspect they are the best bet on the menu. Very tasty, both of us enjoyed it immensely.
We ordered a couple of side dishes of vegetables and while they were tasty they had all the eye appeal of school food glopped into a bowl. Tasty roasted squash and braised kale.
For dessert we tried a couple of the sorbets. J complained that while they tasted alright they looked unappealing.
The takeaway being that the food is fine but the presentation leaves much to be desired. But it's quite dark and cozy inside, the wine list is extensive (do ask for some suggestions as you're bound not to recognize some of what's on offer) and overall is a good date place for late at night.
Bourbon and Branch
501 Jones Street, San Francisco
Zinc ceilings, flickering candles, chintzy red wallpaper and a full selection of Compass Box Scotch and I was sold on this establishment. So cosy! Drinking cocktails is a serious business and Bourbon and Branch does not take the airy fairy approach. They offer drinks for those who aren't ashamed to knock back a few. And they offer a weighty menu for those who like choices. They've dug through the cocktail history books and resurrected some long forgotten hiccups. (As called in an old Memphis Junior League cookbook I have on my bookshelf.) And the amuse bouche drinkie is a nice touch. It says, Let's Get Things Started but Please be Patient While Your Drink is Made From Scratch.
By now the novelty of needing a password (easily obtained through their website) to be granted entry has rather worn off. But given the slightly dodgy neighborhood, the password protected door keeps the ruffians out without the poncyness of a bouncer. And we don't need ponce in San Francisco!
The clientele is a mixed bag. Some young hipsters, some visiting folks staying in nearby hotels, and a real bore of a guy next to us blabbering on to his date about all things money.
The bar is in the Tenderloin but on the Union Square area edge so not a total drag to get to, and there are plenty of parking options nearby for those who want to drink and drive. (No no no!)
This is just an update.
2029 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94114
F and I haven't been to Mecca for a while. Maybe over a year. Our loss! The chef, Randy Lewis, is definitely serving the best dinner in the Castro.
Last night, I prepared some roadies (from-scratch-margaritas, no less), and we walked down to Mecca for a Sunday night bite to eat. It was one of those rare not-too-cold San Francisco September evenings where the fog had not come in and the residents were out on the street, stunned and cheerful that the wind wasn't threatening to blow them towards Berkeley.
The bar, the shape of the bar, is almost enough reason to go to Mecca. Shaped like an egg with rotating lights, it provides a wonderful vantage point from which to people watch. Plus the lighting is forgiving, lots of candles, so everyone looks as good as they're ever going to look. With that in mind, this is a good first date place. And the cocktail menu is NOT run of the mill dull.
F started with a crab bisque that really stole the show. It arrived sealed in a glass jar, and was layered with yummy bits - great chunks of crab, and marbles of tapioca. I had the arugula salad otherwise known as the deconstructed arugula salad, I kid you not. Very tasty, very small, very London Fashion Week.
For mains we had the loin of lamb which is fairly unusual to see on a San Francisco menu, and F ordered the halibut which was buttery, buttery buttery! The halibut was an absolute winner and should be ordered again by you. The french fries, a side order, are crispy and salty and some of the better ones I've had in a while.
Ordering dessert after guzzling all the fries seemed just a little OTT and so we walked home, happy at our rediscovery and promising to go back again soon.
Pigalle, 520 Hayes Street, SF 4pm-2am daily
best place for an unpretentious glass of wine in Hayes Valley (the only one
perhaps?), Place Pigalle is part gallery and mostly dark watering hole for the
pool-playing, Puma-wearing, sestina slinging, microbrew-slurping HV hipster.
With its reddish walls, and dim lighting, this hangout is comfortable (thumbs
up to the couches) and cozy. The crowd is younger than the rest of the nearby
restaurant bars. Or maybe it's just that they aren't all dolled up and on-show
and on their way to the Opera.
The review of Blondies
will be short. The martinis are too big and I forget any experiences I've had
there after the first eight minutes. But typically, it goes like this: I'm stuck
in the Mission waiting for CC, I grab The Guardian and head over to Blondies.
I order a dirty martini, they serve me a two gallon drink in an upside down
lampshade, I sit at one of the three tables outside, and then I watch people
walk by most of whom are wearing funky glasses and cool shoes. I always contemplate
ordering some sushi next door but pretty soon I'm so full from the sheer size
of my drink, and so dozy from the sheer size of my drink, that I need to have
a taxi ordered for me and I go home and pass out until 7am the next day when
I find that CC has left me 4 voicemails.
There's a pool
table in the back that I haven't used since I was about 22. But it's there and
others use it. The menu of drinks is extensive. Think up any weird combo for
a martini and they'll have it. It's dark enough inside that everyone looks beautiful
but not so dark that you're terrified to sit down. Rather popular with visiting
Northerners (Specifically Whites, Snob Hillites, etc.) on Fridays. Definitely
a good spot to accelerate your way towards inebriation, and secure an approving
glance from Baccus.
de la Press
352 Grant Avenue
San Francisco, CA
Tel: 415 249 0900
Located down on Expat corner, Cafe de la Press and its international
newsstand will briefly temper any Euro's feeling of homesickness. Here you can
buy Paris Match (or Heat and Now) and sip a cap while sitting out on the sidewalk
enjoying a fag and watching the poorly dressed and desperately cold tourists
pour out of Chinatown.
The food is, yes, French. Nothing too imaginative, all quite pricey, and the
service leaves a great deal to be desired. That said, I'm a fan of this place
mostly because of the excellent newsstand inside. And the Croque Monsieurs aren't
so bad either.
601 Third Street
San Francisco, CA
Tel: 415 392-5311
I counted 14 television
screens in Zeke's. It would be physically impossible to come here and not have
a full-on brilliant view of the game, any game (different screens, different
It was 11am on a gorgeous Sunday and the bar was packed, a motely crue of old-school,
pre 1995 SOMA locals, frat boys who had dragged their tolerant girlfriends,
The Piker and me. It was the Piker's birthday and he insisted that we have a
kick-off Bloody Mary before heading down to the races in San Mateo. The Bloody
was good. Basic and spicy. And cheap. $3.50.
Zeke's serves food, so if you need a greasy spoon breakfast, you won't be disappointed.
1230 Grant Ave.,
Tel 986 8612
Dinner with the
boys, the visiting Aussies, and a couple of bottles of shfancy wine: what a
recipe for gut-busting laughs. Add to that the stop in your tracks food from
The House over in North Beach, and the evening was quite quite memorable.
The House is a
little restaurant, Asian inspired, right at Grant and Columbus. It's small with
only about 12 tables squished into the space but it's bright (too) and airy
and not a hole-in-the-wall by any means. The other folks in there? Far more
refined (and quieter) than we were. Hip, together looking, hair cut every five
weeks. Good for them.
CC was a pro. He
knew just what to order and took control. We kicked off the evening with the
most gobsmackingly delicious appetizer I've ever had, the deep-fried salmon
roll with hot to trot Chinese mustard ($7.50). Holy smokes, it was crispy, and
the mustard was just perfectly tingly. We also tried the ahi tuna tartare which
was tasty but then it's always good. Presentation was a balancing act of fried
nori chips. To amuse ourselves at our end of the table, Archie Bunker and I
ordered a half dozen oysters. Good.
The fishes were
delicious for the mains (all in the $18 range). The tuna with wasabi didn't
sit around long on the plate, and the sea bass with garlic gingery soy was another
winner. For the red meat eater, there's plenty of choice: pork chops, steak
and lamb all involving something peppery and spicy.
The teas at The
House are heavenly. Treat yourself. They seem a little pricey but they are so
very worth it. Thumbs up for the jasmine pearl ($5.50).
532 Jones St.,
San Francisco, CA 94102-2008
Phone: (415) 928-0333
Eating at Shalimar
is more akin to a meal you might have at the train station while waiting for
the Shatabdi Express rather than sitting in the Tenderloin. And I can assure
you, this end of Jones is all 'Loin, no 'Nob. There isn't an ounce of pretension
here. Not one iota. Most remarkable about this eatery is just how damn cheap
it is. Cheap and fast and crowded and steamy. And tasty. The food is Northern
Indian and Pakistani. The atmosphere is frenetic canteen with dodgy lighting.
The clientele is everyone and their 14 cousins.
A and G-Love suggested
we tuck into a little soul-warming Shalimar dinner after the Symphony's performance
down at Yerba Buena on 9-11. The tandoori chicken, our most extravagant order
at about $4, was heaven: a butterflied quarter of chicken seeped in flavour
and soon, history. The garlic naan, very garlicky as the garlic was barely cooked.
We'd wished we had ordered more. The chickpea and lentil dishes were sloppy.
Lamb curry, fine. Don't expect to be served, order up at the counter.
800 South Van Ness at 19th St.
San Francisco, CA
I've always found Sacrifice to be an unremittingly depressing bar. From the location -- the corner of Pimp and Wino -- to the ill-conceived and worse-lit steps in the entryway, it is not welcoming. Every time I go there, I swear I am not coming back. But a Posthoc reader requested a review, and we live to serve.
I already knew what the place was like on Friday nights -- druuuuuunk, thanks to a 2-for-1 happy hour special. So me and my sister Melinda, a fellow Posthocker, headed to the big yellow bar last Wednesday to check out the midweek action. It started out badly; a doorperson tried to shake us down $3 to listen to a deejay. And more bad news: my sister's Sam Adams was $4.50, which is outrageous for the Mission.
Then the night turned a corner. My 12-oz Jack and Ginger was only $5, which seemed a steal after the beer; I ran into some friends who live around there; the deejay wasn't completely heinous; and the late great Wendy O. Williams's Reform School Girls came on the TV. The bartender, like all the staff there I've met, was cool and nice at the same time. And scuttlebutt has it that the kitchen is reopening around the end of September.
So if you like hard liquor and house music, Sacrifice might be a good addition to your Mission bar crawl. It would be a crime to spend the whole night there, though, with Little Baobab a block away. Stay tuned for more on the best Senegalese nite spot in the city...
3223 Mission St.
S San Francisco,
Located deep in
the Mission District, Odeon Bar hosts an eclectic mix of comedians, circus acts,
performance artists, bands, musicians, and DJs. With its large, candle-lit back
corner booths, this bar lends itself well to a night of intimate conversation.
Patrons of the Odeon, however, are always encouraged to be part of the show.
On Mondays aspiring DJs can bring their own records to spin. Tuesdays have the
Odeon regulars taking over the place for Burning Man Decompression Night and
Dr. Hal, the Odeons resident genius, answers audience questions every
Wednesday. On weekends, there are major acts or DJs for a cover charge of three
to five dollars. Bar customers short on cash can always spin the Wheel of Chance,
which might have them dancing on the bar, doing dishes, or winning a free Blue
Healer, the bars signature drink with implied curative powers that are
532 Columbus Ave
Phone: 415 399-0499
Late night dining
in San Francisco is a bit of a struggle. Apparently we all like to go to bed
early. Except in North Beach where scores of
wannabe EuroTrash roam the streets after 10pm. If they're hungry, they can go
to Rose Pistola though I don't think any of them do so. The restaurant is open
until 11:20pm when the kitchen closes.
It used to be great.
Last meal I had there was fairly dodgy. Hopefully that was just a one-off experience.
I had a Rocky Range chickie that was slimey and fatty and far from scrawny.
To start, I tucked into Tuna Riviera which involved tuna with olives and egg.
Basically, a nicoise salad sans lettuce. Blah. Unremarkable.
On the plus side,
Rose Pistola does have a generous selection of small dishes which are great
for late night eating without the thud in your stomach. And if you're a bit
hungrier, there's a generous selection of fish dishes, pasta, pizza, your typical
Ital-Californian menu. And you can sit outside. Always a plus.
Eat here if you're
in the neighborhood and it's late and you're hungry. Don't make a trip across
Divisadero at Pine Street
It's an East Coast
frat house party in Lower Pacific Heights. Mid-week is strangely crazy busy,
Fridays are quite peaceful. Don't expect to hear a darn thing anyone else says
when the Bowl is overflowing. There's little reason to come here unless you
happen to live in the neighborhood. At which point, it becomes your hood bar
that serves decent, normal, not ethnic, not confusing food. (It's also part
of the Bohemian Cafe next door). Thank God It's Not Another Creperie. Burgers,
chili, some sort of potato hash business, it's all filling stuff at under $10