San Francisco Getaway Weekend Blog – Aug 6-11
Sun. Aug 8th, 2011
The Best Chefs of 2011:
Really the best of the best as far as food and wine goes. I have been to many of these types of events, but the SF experience is truly one to remember. An extensive array of wines, beers and spirits were featured: Davis Bynum, Sequana Vineyards, Hop Kiln, Inman Family, Sonoma Cutrer, Benovia, Davis Family, Dutton Goldfield, Papapietro Perry, Ancient Oak Cellars, Arista, DeLoach, John Tyler, Landy Family, Merriam Vineyards, Merry Edwards, Mueller Winery, Anchor, Brewing, Bordeaux, Brugal Rum, Cointreau, Combier, Campari, Domaine de Canton, Hendrick’s Gin, New Zealand Winegrowers, Heston Winery, Marimar Estate, Plymouth Gin, Rhone Valley Wines, Riverbench, Ruffino, San Francisco Brewer’s Guild, Simi, Skyy Spirits, Stella Artois, Trumer Pils, VeeV Acai, Wente Vineyards, Yamazaki. My all time favorites were the Chardonnay’s from Davis Bynum and Sonoma Cutrer, both very buttery and golden, just the way I like it! Then there was the sumptuous Tallulah 2007 Grenache-Syrah-Mouvedre (GSM), oh so yummy.
The chefs and their restaurants held their own, each with such individual style: Dam Keough & Bill Corbett – Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, Suzette Gresham – Acquerello, Jose Lemus – Balboa Café, Mike Selvera – Bar Crudo, Bruce Hill – BIX, Nancy Oakes & Dana Younkin – Boulevard, Justin Simoneaux & Carlos Espinas – Boxing Room, Justin Deering – Café des Amis, Charlie Ayers – Calafia, Srijith Gopinathan – Campton Place, Elizabeth Falkner – Citizen Cake & Orso, Kevin Weber – Cliff House, Christopher & Veronica Laramie – eVe, Tom Pizzica – Food Network Host, Melissa Perello – Frances, Bridget Batson – Gitane, Gaston Alforo – Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, Cesare Casella – International Culinary Center of California, Dennis Arvizu – la mar, Toi Sawatdee – Lemongrass Thai Cuisine, Daniel Corey – Luce, Eddie Blyden – Miss Pearl’s Jam House, Mari Takahashi – Nombe, Ravi Kapur & Pamela Mazzola – Prospect, Jennifer Biesty – Scala’s Bistro, Charles Phan – The Slanted Door, Heaven’s Dog, Teague Moriarty & Matt McNamara – Sons & Daughters, Adam Timney – Starbelly
Mitsunori Kusakabe – Sushi Ran, Mark Gordon – Terzo & Roses Café, Xavier Salomon – The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, Ed Vigil – Vin Antico, and Sally James – Australian Chef and Author. My most memorable culinary experience was the Petrale Sole with fried articoke strands, each one dished up by order, Jennifer Biesty of Scala’s Bistro; I went back for seconds and thirds.
The food demonstrations were very entertaining and offered up some new recipes. Chefs Gary Danko & Joanne Weir did their take on deconstruction of a BLT. Gary Danko did a BLT soup, interesting, but not to my liking. Joanne Weir did a BLT salad that was so unique, literally took my breath away. Here’s her Recipe:
Joanne Weir’s BACON, LETTUCE AND TOMATO SALAD WITH CREAMY AIOLI DRESSING
6 slices thick-slice apple-smoked bacon, 1⁄2″ pieces, about 6 ounces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups rustic bread, cut or torn into 1-inch cubes
12 cups mixed baby salad greens
8 ounces various cherry tomatoes, halved
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise (OK, if you have to, store-bought)
Freshly ground black pepper
Place the bacon in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook, turning occasionally, until the bacon is golden and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Reserve. Remove the pan from the heat. Let the pan cool 5 minutes.
Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan. Remove and reserve 1 tablespoon for the dressing. In the pan, add the olive oil and crushed garlic. Cook over medium heat until the garlic turns golden and remove. Discard the garlic. Add the croutons and cook, stirring and tossing until golden, 5 minutes. Season with salt. Remove from the pan and reserve.
In the meantime, place the salad greens and cherry tomatoes in a large salad bowl.
Add the reserved bacon fat back to the pan. Add the minced garlic and vinegar to the pan and whisk together. Add the mayonnaise and whisk together. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the vinaigrette and the bacon to the lettuce and tomatoes and toss together. Serve immediately.
This is a new take on an old favorite, I highly recommend that you try this, it really surprised me! This was by far my favorite food item at the Best Chefs 2011, thanks Joanne!!!
Check into Phoenix Hotel:
The likes of Keanu Reeves, Joan Jett, Vincent Gallo, Little Richard, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Psychedelic Furs and Pearl Jam; The Killers, Bloc Party and The Shins have all graced the rooms of this ecletic Rock and Roll Motor Inn. This is a San Francisco landmark, two decades of funky, irreverent, young-at-heart, retro imbibing. You never know who might be strumming a guitar, posing for a photo shoot or just kickin’ it by the pool.
What can you say about this Rock and Roll staple that has not been said so many times before…Fun, Fun…Fun!! When I arrived at this Joie De Vivre Property they were of course having a pool party, with blazing hot people and music. I was a little tipsy from all of my wine tasting at the Best Chefs, all I wanted to do was to crawl into bed and take a nap. You know what they say, no rest for the wicked! The music was so loud that I did manage to get in a wink or two, but the dreams were filled with the young beat of SF house music. After my quick nap, I hoped into a glorious bath, and then had a bit of wine on the smoking patio. My room was so simple yet ethnic, with its Caribbean theme, it was the perfect stop in a very hectic day. The bed was large and comfortable, all the amenities were included. Each of the 44 spacious guestrooms surrounds a lush central courtyard and pool. The pool is so fun, it is around 85-90 degrees, and so you feel like you are a baby floating in a warm bath. Guestrooms at Phoenix Hotel feature complimentary Wi-Fi service and cable TV. The three Deluxe King rooms and three suites also have refrigerators, microwaves and coffeemakers.
The newly appointed bar and restaurant Chambers has an amazing collection of vinyl, just like a library but with a hipster take on record stacks instead of books. What a statement, what a concept! Very smart to tap into this musical legacy with real records as a decoration, I was impressed. The crowd echoed my youth in San Francisco, all innocently doe eyed, with a badass party attitude. A lot of young eye candy! I tried a couple signature cocktails, but came back to their great wine list, with a 2009 Stephen Ross Edna Valley Chardonnay.
The Phoenix serves a nice continental breakfast poolside, fruit, cereal, croissants, coffee, juice etc. The Phoenix offers up everything you could want in your travels to SF. This is retro at it’s best, the old motor inn vibe with a 2011 twist. Get in your car, do not pass go, head straight over the Golden Gate Bridge to this once in a lifetime find.
My host Alex was so wonderful; he made me feel like I was the most special person in the world. Chef Carlos completed the package by being very charming, and catering to my every whim. This was a fantastic dining experience. I paired most of my food with 2 Chardonnays – Robert Mondavi and Chateau St. Jean. My meal started with a few salads: The Caesar, Buffalo Mozzarella salad and Spinach Pancetta. All of them very good, but my favorite were the spinach pancetta – it had a sweet dressing with lots of pancetta to please any palate. Moving on to Secondi, a glorious Clam and Mussel Pasta, all deliciously fresh with a very mild tomatoes sauce, just to enhance the shellfish freshness. Pumpkin ravioli, with just the right amount of seasonings and zing. Chef Carlos recommended the primi: Cioppino, Lamb Chops and Butterfly Shrimp. The Chardonnay paired very well with the seafood, and the Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon paired equally well with the lamb. The chops were in a red wine reduction sauce, very tender with a tantalizing flavor. Everything was great, but the shining moment went to the Butterfly Tiger Prawns. They were lightly egg battered and fried in butter, sweet and succulent, one big party in your mouth. The deserts were also terrific; the Crème Brule took the grand prize, light with a great delectable crunchy top. All in all Cesario is a hidden treasure, a great find, and highly recommended by me!!!
Mon. Aug 9th Check into Red Victorian:
What can I say about this experience, better to let sleeping dogs lie or dinosaurs roam the earth. Sami Sunchild is a guru in her own right, all you need to do is go to www.redvic.com and you will see her self proclaimed all knowing, guru superstar. Sami Sunchild is creator and founder of San Francisco’s Red Victorian Peace Center. There are hundreds of her paintings on display at The Red Victorians Gallery of Meditative Art. She has posters of all of her quotes and saying for sale in the café. In all she is a marketing wizard, making all things Haight Ashbury, Summer of Love cool, at least that is what I thought. I really wanted to meet her and talk to her after checking out all things Sami Sunchild on the Internet. Upon my arrival she was downstairs in the café area. I walked up to her and said hi and she politely asked who I was and said hi, and welcomed me to her hotel. When I checked in the gentlemen behind the registration desk who seemed to know who I was and that I was arriving. He said oh yes I know who you are. I had spoken to Sami and emailed her a few times to make sure I had confirmation, and to let her know that I would be bloging about my stay. Sami is 87, and still appears to be very sharp. I guess I should have recognized that far away look in her eyes when I checked in. The room was on the 3rd floor, with a very twisty scary staircase. The Garden Room was ok, but really needed a major overhaul, and a good cleaning. It boasts rounded bay windows that accommodate a seating area, no television, and a 1990’s alarm clock radio, which basically is your only form of entertainment. The best news is that you are right on Haight Street where The 1967 Summer of Love, and the SF Hippie movement all began. At night there is so much to do, I went to bar Deluxe and saw a local comedy show, what the comedians lacked in material the ambiance of this place made up for hands down. The Street echoes the hippies of the past. There was a group of guys with signs that said photos with dirty hippies for a buck. The hippy culture is big business, all the stores memorabilia is very expensive. Most people book hotel room with the knowledge that they are only in it to sleep, which is what this hotel is all about. Unfortunately sleep was not at a premium during my stay, the mattress was very old and stubbornly hard, you were almost afraid of bed bugs, but hey I would not want to start that rumor. The Old Victorian served up a nice breakfast, you can choose a menu item of the café menu and coffee and juice. OK in a nutshell, Miss Sami Sunchild did not know who I was and preceded to treat me like a tourist, I never got to talk to her at length about her history with Haight Ashbury and The Red Victorian. To my embarrassment she asked for payment for the room, which was 149.00, way too high and not worth it, especially since I had cut a deal with her. My whole idea of peace and contentment with my stay and visit with The Red Victorian went right out the window. If you want a Haight Ashbury experience you can stay there, but please do not come with any unusual requests, and know it is what it is, as for me I would skip it next time around.
Wednesday, Aug 10th, Lunch New Delhi:
Now this is what I call luxurious cuisine; Chef and Owner Ranjan Dey serves up some Indian dishes that are hard to forget. Leaving a lasting taste of all things India in your mouth, wanting so much for this experience to never end. Even President Bill Clinton mirrors my same thoughts, as well as the great Sir Anthony Hopkins, as their favorite SF landmark.
Ranjan Dey is the man behind the New Delhi Restaurant’s around the world. He started his career in the food business at the age of 14 at Calcutta’s Park Hotel as a vegetable cutter. After graduating from Institute of Catering Technology, Hotel Management and Applied Nutrition, he worked at the Grand and Great Eastern Hotels in Calcutta before moving to New Delhi, where he worked in Akbar and Janpath Hotels. He then moved to Hong Kong where he spent two years as a senior Chef in the kitchens of the Maurya Sheraton Hotel in New Delhi. After this he opened quite a few New Delhi restaurants first of which in Kowloon. In the 1988 New Delhi San Francisco was born and the rest is history.
Ranjan Dey is also the host of the PBS show “My India,” which is a cultural, culinary travel shows all about India. The show spotlights 8 cities, and takes you inside the minds of those who live there, as well as learning to prepare indigenous dishes of those foreign lands. His colleagues Martin Yan of Yan Can Cook and galloping gourmet Graham Kerr are big fans and have shared a few meals together. Graham Kerr said, “Has exactly what is takes to tell India’s culinary story”. Martin Yan of Yan says that the New World spices videos. “Highlights the rich history and culture of India.
He has a product line called “New World Spices,” which are nothing like curry powders. “I created these delicious spice blends for my restaurant with four things in mind — tasty, healthy, quick. & Easy,” says Dey. His spices include; New Delhi barbeque spice, Calcutta lemon mustard curry, Kashmir mild curry, sweet & Tangy mango soup masala, Madras tamarind hot curry. On New Delhi’s fantastic menu there is a section called Ranjan’s specials where he only used his own New World spices. Chef Ranjan graced me with this tasting menu. My favorite was the Balti Style Mango Prawn, a stir-fry Indian style with imported alfonso mango pulp and tropical fruits. Seasoned with his Sweet and Tangy Mango Masala. The Papadams were also excellent, with 2 nice dipping treats. The Samosas were also a feast for my palate, freshly prepared, using potatoes, peas and Indian spices. I completely enjoyed my lunch with Ranjan; he is filled with entertaining stories. New Delhi was named the finest Indian Restaurant in the US by the New York Times and for good reason. Ranjan is animated and excited about his restaurant, his family and Indian cuisine, all the reason to plan a visit to this wonderful eating-place.
Check into to Hayes Valley Inn:
Located in a fun part of SF, that is ever changing and growing, close to the Opera House, Symphony and Ballet, City Hall, Asian Art Museum and the architecturally acclaimed San Francisco Public Library, and all public transportation is a block away. The Hayes Valley Inn is a nice retreat in a very engaging city. Spot the gorgeous greets you very large spotted dog lounging away in the hall of the first floor. Spot makes you feel like you never left home! Stephanie adds just the right amount of friendliness to make this B&B a very memorable experience. My room at the top floor over looked the corner of Gough and Hayes, a very busy commuter intersection. Some how they manage to make The Hayes Valley Inn quiet and comfortable, and very inexpensive. With it’s nice newly appointed green drapes and it’s very comfortable beds, you feel like you are in the lap of luxury. It offers many great amenities: entirely non-smoking, complimentary extended continental breakfast, dog-friendly, daily newspapers in the parlor, wi-fi and guest computer with printer, iron, hairdryer and other accessories available, secure bike storage, Sink and vanity in each room.
With nearby services: special 24 hour $15 rate parking, bus passes – kiosk at Powell and Market, City Hall, dry cleaner/laundry, discount theater tickets, 24/7 doctor on call, Walgreen’s Drugs
The wc’s and baths are located in the hallway, which is how most European hotels operate, you really don’t even notice after an awhile and are not in conveniences by both being outside the room. This hotel is very elegant. A true find. My most favorite thing is that our hostess Stephanie was so gracious to invited me for fine Champaign after my dinner, and does her hotel business in her baby dolls in the morning, she is a trip and the best thing about this property!!!! The breakfast was all a weary traveler could want, lots of different cereal, fresh fruit, yogurt, waffles, nice sweet rolls, ham and cheese, all self serve, and all very fresh and delicious. You really feel at home away from home here, 2 big thumbs up!!! Thanks Stephanie.
Dinner at Isa:
This is the shining jewel in a city where there is no end to different food experiences. I paired these 2 wines with all of my menu tastings. The Sedna, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2006 with all seafood items and the Merlot, Frost Watch, Sonoma County, 2007 with the Risotto and the mushrooms, and of course with the Chocolate Cake desert.
I started off with Tomales bay Point Reyes oysters and the half shell with a spicy orange mignonette, and moved on to the fresh amazing Dungeness Crab Salad with apples in butter lettuce and a lovely dressing. The crab was so juicy and fresh, with the fruit as an amazing compliment. Next was the delectable Smooth Corn Soup with parsley, chives & cream, very rich, with great sweet corn flavor. The Seared Scallops with corn, favas, cherry tomatoes, mashed potatoes & truffle sauce, just the right amount of everything, all blending together in one giant symphony. This dish was my favorite; anyone that knows me will tell you I am a sucker for scallops, but good scallops!! The simply sautéed Sea of Cortez wild prawns with parsley, garlic & lemon, perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of pop in your mouth flavor. Potato wrapped Sea Bass with capers, Fresno peppers, parsley, tomato confit, brown butter & lemon juice, crunchy, yet moist and flavorful. Truffle Risotto with baby shiitake, hon shimiji mushroom & reggiano, very rich and perfectly cooked. The Merlot was lovely with this dish. The local mushrooms with garlic, jus de veau & parsley was a great accompaniment to the risotto, and equally great with the Merlot. The flourless chocolate cake, vanilla bean gelato for desert just melted in your mouth, the Merlot dazzled with new flavorful choc lately notes. The whole experience was unique and empowering. My hosts Sameera & Elias Memon have created this tented gem amongst many other dining experiences, but this one will leave you begging for more. Perhaps my favorite foodie moment in my San Francisco Getaway, I will crave those smooth flavors of all of Isa’s marvelous bounty, one to be remembered and celebrated!