Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Over spring break, we rented an apartment in North Beach, San Francisco.  We were a few blocks up the hill from Washington Square Park (pictured below).  On nice days, the park is often filled with locals hanging out, practicing tai chai or displaying their artwork.  We even saw a guy flipping pizza dough!   The Saints Peter and Paul Church is located at the square.  This is the church where Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio had their wedding photos taken.  (They weren’t permitted to wed in the church because Marilyn was divorced).

All over North Beach (and SF for that matter), you see beautiful old Victorian buildings.  But you can always tell that you’re in North Beach because the telephone poles are painted in the colors of the Italian flag (red, green & white).  These painted poles delineate the boundaries of North Beach.

North Beach is one of the most popular neighborhoods in San Francisco.  I now know why … they have the best cafes, bakeries, delis, and boutiques!   I want to go back and live there for a month or so!!

Here are our favorite picks of North Beach ….

North Beach Restaurants:

Best Italian Restaurant:  Tony’s Pizza

Tony’s Pizza is located on Stockton Street at the corner of Washington Square Park.  It was our favorite pizza joint.  As you can tell by the crowds, it’s many others’ favorite, too.  Be prepared to wait a while for a table.  The nice thing is that they take down your cell phone and give you a call when your table is ready – great for those that like to browse in the nearby boutiques.

Tony’s offers 9 different styles of pizza — ranging from Napolean wood-fired pizza at 900 degrees to Classic American at 550 degree gas ovens to Coal Fired pizza at 1000 degrees.

We ended up getting a coal fired pizza called the New Yorker with natural casing pepperoni, sliced Italian fennel sausage, ricotta and fresh garlic and oregano.  It was one of the BEST pizzas we’ve ever had.  You may recall, my husband LOVES pizza.  He believes it’s a food group all on it’s own — so we have tried many a pizza!

I loved how they served bread slices in tomato cans along with a tray of dipping sauces:  a garlic honey sauce, olive oil and a roasted red pepper sauce.  Great idea for our home pizza parties!

Best Italian Restaurant:  Sotto Mare

Sotto Mare Oysteria & Seafood at 552 Green Street was my favorite restaurant.  They have daily seafood specials that are listed on the board outside.  The evening we were there, they had sand dabs – which I love!  But, Sotto Mare’s claim to fame is “the best damn Cioppino.”

There is always a wait at Sotto Mare.  The man that greeted us was a feisty, older gentleman.  He asked us if we wanted lobster and handed us this lobster.  He told us to go two doors down for a drink while we waited for a table.

My sister-in-law introduced our family to cioppino a few years ago.  Since, it’s been a family favorite – so we all ordered cioppino.  Sotto Mare’s Cioppino is enough for two — with crab, shrimp, mussels, calamari and clams.  The broth is a thick, flavorful, tomato base … that is so delicious you want to soak every inch of it up with the crusty bread.

It’s a messy dish, but everyone gets a red and white bib and they bring you a roll of paper towels.  Can’t wait to enjoy Sotto Mare’s again!

Best Coffee Shop:  Caffe Greco

Caffe Greco was our favorite spot for coffee in the mornings.  It’s located on Columbus Avenue and they only take cash.  They serve the best cappucino and espresso!  It’s the place the locals go — as so many of the customers knew each other.

We tried several other places … Cafe Roma and Cafe Trieste, which had great coffee, but our preference is Greco.

Best Pastries:  Stella Pastry & Cafe

Across the street from Caffe Greco is Stella Pastry & Cafe.  We bought fresh pastries most mornings to take back to the kids.  They have a wonderful assortment.  They also have great coffee.

Best Boutiques:

Our home was located a few blocks up from Grant Avenue.  Grant Avenue has many cute boutiques — offering unique items.  The hours vary by store — and you often need to ring or knock, as store owners can be in the back.  Here are my favorite finds on Grant …

1)  Mashka Jewelry was a great find (at the corner of Grant and Green Street).  Natalie and I spent quite a bit of time browsing and talking to the owner (who is the designer of the jewelry).  We purchased some beautiful jewelry.  It’s worth browsing the store just to see how creatively the jewelry is displayed (on old books, in glass domes, in bird cages).

2)  Schein & Schein at 1435 Grant Avenue is another lovely find.  They sell antique maps, prints and books.  The store hours are a bit sketchy – it’s best to call and confirm hours.

3) Paparazzi at 1424 Grant had beautiful, unique clothes in the window.  I never got to go in the store, as it was always closed when we walked by.  It’s definitely a must on the next visit.  They also have stores in Cow Hollow and Tiburon.

4)  City Lights Booksellers and Publishers is located on Columbus at Broadway (not Grant Avenue, but worth a mention).  City Lights is one of the few remaining large independent book stores — and has become a world-famous experience for book lovers.


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I just returned from a “girls’ trip” to Park City/Deer Valley, Utah.  This was our 18th year of getting together at a ski destination for a few days of skiing, catching up, eating & shopping.  We started out as a bunch of single gals, most of us working in the tech industry.  Now years later, we’re all married or with significant others, have kids, pets and very different lives.

We live all over the U.S., but we still make time to come together for a great few days of “girlfriend time”.  As I explain to my husband each year, it’s much cheaper than therapy and oh, so much better!!!

This year, we went back to a favorite destination … Park City.  We were there during the first weekend of the Sundance Film Festival.  I’ve never seen Park City so crowded!!!  While it’s fun to see a few celebs, we did decide it’s best to go to Park City at the end of Sundance or avoid the festival all together.

During the festival, there is no parking on Main Street (and what limited parking you can find is expensive).   You have to get dinner reservations at least a month in advance.  And, most of the nicer restaurants only offer pre-fix meals.  Many of the hotels and rentals jack up the lodging prices.

Utah hadn’t received much snow this year.  The first day of the festival it started to snow.  And, I believe it is still snowing in Park City.   Beautiful!

We do love Park City because of the great restaurants & shopping.  But our big draw is really the Deer Valley Ski Resort.  In 30 years of skiing, it’s my all-time favorite ski mountain.  It’s well-groomed, limited crowds, no snow boarders and has amazing services & ammenities.  And, there are many great lodging options near Deer Valley.  We always love to rent a condo or home — which makes for an affordable place when split among friends — and also provides a great place to hang out after skiing.

Here’s my “best of” list if  you’re considering a trip to Park City …

Favorite Restaurants:

  • Purple Sage – 434 Main Street.  A long time favorite of ours.  It’s known as an American Western Bistro.  The food will not disappoint.  Order the Butterscotch Pudding.  It’s amazing.
  • Reef’s – also on Main Street.  We tried Reef’s for the first time this trip.  It was a delicious Mediterranean meal.  And, the service was exceptional!
  • Cafe Terigo – Italian meets French at 424 Main Street.  Great for lunch or dinner.
  • Chimayo – at 368 Main (look for the orange hanging lights).  Great Southwestern food.
  • Empire Canyon Grill at Deer Valley – the best food on the Deer Valley ski mountain.  It’s become our destination of choice for lunch when skiing.

Restaurants we wanted to try, but couldn’t get in (due to Sundance crowds) …

  • J&G Grill at the St. Regis.  J&G gets great reviews both on food and service.  Reservations are a must (and you need to get them well in advance for Sundance).
  • Talisker on Main.  I tried to get reservations 2 weeks in advance of our trip.  They only had seatings at 10 pm.  The restaurant is small, but looks wonderful.  Next trip!

We’ve eaten at most of the restaurants on Main Street.  Some of the ones that have been around for ages (Grappa, Wahso) are no longer favorites.  And, if you’re in Park City during Sundance, you need to get reservations weeks in advance.

Favorite Shopping Spots:

  • Silver Lake Village Shops at Deer Valley (on Royal Street) — it’s great to browse these clothing and ski shops, to see what the “beautiful, wealthy skiiers” wear.
  • rootd — Cute home accessories and jewelry store at 577 Main.
  • Butera Home — off Main Street on Herber.  Barclay Butera’s original home & design store is in Newport Beach.  It’s an all-time favorite store of mine.  His store in Park City is perfect for the mountain cabins and homes!
  • Fatali Gallery at 556 Main St.  This gallery features the landscape photography of Michael Fatali.  You’ll see some of the most amazing photographs of Southwestern U.S. scenery.  It’s best to go to the gallery at night, when you can see the impact of lighting on the photographs.
  • Olive & Tweed – fun fashion and jewelry on Main.

Lodging Tips:

  • Some of the most beautiful homes and condos to rent are in the Deer Valley area.  We’ve used VRBO(Vacation Rentals by Owner) and some specific Deer Valley lodging websites to locate lodging.  If you are there to ski Deer Valley, here are the great areas (many ski-in/ski-out):
    • If you are there to ski Deer Valley, Silver Lake and Black Bear are great locations (many ski-in/ski-out).
    • If money is no object, the St. Regis is at the base of Deer Valley.  And, the Montage is between the Deer Valley and Park City ski resorts.
  • If you are renting a home or condo, it’s great to stock up on food at Whole Foods Market (Redstone Center) or Fresh Market (closer to downtown Main Street).
  • If you enjoy wine and beer, remember that the grocery stores don’t sell alcohol (with the exception of 3.2% beer).  Snow Creek Plaza has the best wine selection in Park City.

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We celebrated my husband’s birthday on Saturday.  We’ve had so many birthday dinners and celebrations over the past month, that when I asked Jeff what he wanted to do for his birthday, he answered “something different, like wine tasting.”

We went to WineWorks (a local wine store & bistro) on Oso Parkway & the 5 Freeway with Jeff’s parents and his brother and sister-in-law.  WineWorks has a great selection of wines — many from boutique wineries.  They feature their wines in “light, medium and full-bodied” categories, so it makes it easier to select wines.  They serve wine flights, 3 oz. tastings, 6 oz. glasses and wine by the bottle.

They get some great boutique wines and have pretty decent prices.  The servers and owners are very knowledgeable — and can make great recommendations on wines and food pairings.  On Saturday, Denny was our server.   We mentioned several wines that we really like and he made some great alternative recommendations:

  • Jocelyn Lonen Chardonnay – Carneros 2007
  • Olson Ogden Pinot Noir – Sonoma Coast 2007
  • Jeff Runquist Petite Syrah – Enver Salman Vineyard 2006
  • Fontanella Cab – Mount Veder, Napa Valley 2007

WineWorks has a full menu with appetizers and entrees. We ordered a number of appetizers, based on what we’ve liked from past visits and recommendations from our server Denny.  The food is quite good!

Our favorite appetizers are:

  • Brie Fondue served with bread & pear slices
  • Lamb Meatball Sliders with spinach and sun dried tomatoes
  • Pulled Pork Crepes with a peach poblano sauce
  • Filet Mignon Sliders
  • Seared Ahi (served as an appetizer) with Wasabi cream and a honey balsamic sauce

WineWorks is a great place to go with friends.  It’s a great atmosphere with live music on the weekends.  It’s best to make reservations if you’ve got more than 2 people.  And, they have a nice happy hour called HappyWines from 4 pm to 6 pm.

We finished off Jeff’s birthday by having a dessert tasting at his parents.  Jeff’s mom had decorated the table with brightly colored napkins and ribbons — making for a festive end to the evening with dessert and coffees.

Happy Birthday Jeff!

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Last night we celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday at the restaurant Studio at the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach.  Studio is located on the cliffs overlooking the ocean.  The views are magnificent from the restaurant!

The service is outstanding — friendly, knowledgeable, professional staff.  And the food … is one of the ultimate eating experiences in Orange County.  It’s expensive, but it’s a great place for special occasions and out-of-town guests.

My husband and his brother ordered the chef’s tasting menu. At a restaurant like Studio, the tasting menu is definitely the way to go.  Here’s a “visual tour” of the tasting menu.

Chef Strong’s Tasting Menu

The first course was a white asparagus salad with smoked salmon.  It was amazing and so tender!

The second course was tempura squash blossoms stuffed with cheese and salt cod, served with micro greens.  It melted in your mouth.

The third course was poached halibut with roasted tomatoes, greens and orecchiette pasta. The halibut was so light and moist.

The fourth course was veal medallions with a cherry reduction, potatoes and spring fava beans.

The fifth course was a French cow’s milk cheese served with truffle honey and candied macadamia nuts.  This was my husband’s favorite course.

I thought the desserts were the best.  The sixth course was a trio of crepes with nutella, an orange sauce, candied oranges and orange sorbet.

I ordered the carrot cake for dessert.  It was a very unusual pairing … carrot cake brioche, light cream cheese frosting in a funnel of burnt sugar and coconut sorbet with candied ginger.  Delicious!!!

We all had a wonderful evening. If you get a chance to try Studio, you won’t be disappointed! I’ve added it to my list of favorite restaurants in Orange County.

Happy Birthday Linda!

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