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It was that time of the year for a family reunion. Given my background as a travel writer, my duties have always been in the “Where should we go, what can we do and where can we eat?” categories. For this trip, I passed on the food assignment. Why? It’s become a nightmare. I yearn for the days of old when peanut and gluten allergies didn’t exist; when there were no vegetarians and picky eaters were not accommodated.  One didn’t ask for substitutions or dressing on the side.  And, don’t even get me started on kale!  Clearing that off my table (so to speak), my job was pretty easy. Our destination was Paso Robles in Central California.  It’s an eclectic mix of wineries, farming and tourism, with an interesting history.

Our first stop was a tour of the award winning Eberle Winery. Gary Eberle is a pioneer in the region and a true renaissance man. The kids loved Eberle’s wine cave and the adults were very pleased with the tasting room. For tour reservations, calendar of events and Cellar Club perks, check out their website, www.eberlewinery.com.

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Since California is the food trough for America, what could be better than visiting a farmers market? It’s held in Paso Robles on Tuesdays from 3 – 6 PM. Twelve local farms are represented in a festive street setting. Their motto is “Buy Local, Eat Fresh.” More can be found at www.northcountyfarmersmarkets.com.

The Paso Robles Culinary Arts Academy (Google it) was a nice surprise. Their goal is to help high school juniors and seniors train for jobs in the food service industry. Their Academy Cafe, rated 5 stars at Yelp, is worth a stop. They work closely with local farmers and have reasonable prices, plus you support an effort to get young adults working. They are open Tuesday through Friday for breakfast and lunch.

Studios-on-the-Park is a cooperative for artists working in all mediums, There are six individual studios and six galleries to explore; it’s a sensory delight. It is a perfect destination to combine with wandering around historic downtown Paso Robles. Logon to www.studiosonthepark.org for upcoming shows, featured artists and events.

Pioneer Museum was a hit with the kids. There’s a schoolhouse, displays of early California life, artifacts and historical literature. Admission is free. For details, go to www.pasoroblespioneermuseum.org.

Don’t miss the Estrella Warbird Museum, www.ewarbirds.org. It is dedicated to military aviation, its history, as well as restoring and preserving military aircraft. Besides a dazzling display of planes, there’s armament, missiles, military vehicles (including tanks), weaponry and a curated library. Another section of the museum was a huge surprise; the spectacular Woodland Automobile Display.  The exhibit includes sprint, modified, midget, exotic, classic and muscle cars. It’s considered to be “One of the finest automotive museums in Central California.”

Travel Notes

Where to stay? My recommendation is the La Quinta Inn & Suites. Included in the rate is a big buffet breakfast, great location, free wi-fi, business center, guest laundry, parking, comfortable rooms and heated pool. For reservations, logon to lq.com.

If you are planning a two day visit to Paso Robles, make it three (there’s lots to do), plus most of the top tourist spots are only open Thursday through Sunday. For more, go to the Paso Robles visitors website at www.travelpaso.com. Many thanks to the various websites for information and photos.

 

Photography by Yuri Krasov

There were times when we haven’t even heard about it. We just lived our lives and once in a while turned back to weed out the bad memories and dwell on the good ones relaying them to our friends and family for the umpteenth time. Nowadays we’re much more sophisticated! We plan great experiences in advance and gift them to our loved ones and to ourselves instead of material goods that eventually lose their appeal anyway. Some of the greatest and most memorable experiences are found in Northern California – the best looking part of America – and yes, I’m biased!

Afternoon Tea at the Claremont, a Fairmont Hotel in Berkeley/Oakland

2. Lobby Lounge

The 100-year-old historic hotel that looks like a white castle in the hills, the Claremont is known for its long and glorious culinary tradition. Executive Chef Chad Blunston, responsible for all meals to be had on the premises of this 276-room grandiose luxury hotel, admittedly favors the weekend Afternoon Tea at the Claremont Lobby Lounge & Bar, and for a good reason.

3. Chef

“We’re creating memories,” says the Chef who once witnessed a six-year-old girl turning to her mother with the words, “Mom, I like everything here so much, I’ll remember it all my life!” There’s a lot to remember about a spacious sunlit room with a great view of the San Francisco Bay visible through the manicured palm fronds, and the amazing treats offered at the Afternoon Tea.

4. Etoile at Claremont Tea

So let’s start with a glass of exquisite Etoile rose champagne from the bar (Schramsburg, Blanc de Blanc, California, and Domain Carneros, Brut, Napa are on offer with the tea menu). It sparkles in the afternoon sun, and sets the mood for a very special date, be it a couple’s getaway, a family outing, or an elegantly dressed woman’s solo retreat.

There are so many teas on offer – black, green, white, and mélange – that the list is presented on an iPad, with photos of the leaves and an option to read extensive blurbs about their origins and characteristics. Then, upon your choosing of a particular kind, a cart with multiple glass jars filled with tea leaves will make an appearance, and your favorite tea will be brewed in a white porcelain teapot in front of you.

Then an amuse bouche will arrive – a goat cheese and walnut gougere in our case, followed by a three-tiered serving tray, filled with traditional finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries prepared with a contemporary twist.

5. Claremont tea food

On Tier 1 there are Blueberry Almond Whole Wheat Scuffins and Citrus Thyme Scones accompanied by the innovative Quince preserve and Crème Frâiche. Tier 2 offers the most unusual Peas and Carrots (Minted Pea Butter, Heirloom Carrots, Crunchy Peas); Santa Barbara Smoked Salmon (Pumpkin Seed Butter, Horseradish Curds, Crispy Croissant); Dungeness Crab Salad with watercress, wrapped in cucumber ribbon; Chino Ranch Egg Salad (Laurel Mayonnaise, Brioche fingers), and Vadouvan Chicken Salad on Hazelnut Turmeric Crostini. Tier 3 presents Eucalyptus Posset, Crunchy Coconut Profiteroles, Olive Oil Madeleines, and TCHO Chocolate Financiers.

If you can name a fancier array of tea treats, let me hear about it!

Overnight Stay at La Belle Epoque Bed and Breakfast in Napa

6. La Belle Epoque BandB

Among so many cute historical bed-and-breakfast inns in Napa Valley, La Belle Epoque stands out. It’s surrounded with flowering fragrant rose bushes planted along the sidewalks on both sides of the street corner; it’s freshly painted in whimsical colors, and through the wide first floor windows you can see lace curtains, period furnishings, and Tiffany lamps even before entering the charming Victorian house.

7. Inside La Belle Epoque

Inside, it’s a beautifully appointed estate still bearing the memories of the original owners, the Shwarz family, who lovingly built and maintained this Painted Lady house in 1893 – now on the National Register of Historic Homes.

8. Glass

There are six rooms in the main house, each adorned with the period stained glass windows, and antique furniture and art pieces, plus four suites in the recently added The Buckley House across the street – all with tasteful turn-of-the-century decor.

 

9. Tracy Mahr

As is always the case, the best memories are created by people. The inn’s GM, as well as a hospitable greeter and a chef, Tracy Mahr, makes this place very special for everyone by taking care of all the guests’ requests, providing knowledgeable concierge services, and including a three-course gourmet breakfast and a light afternoon tea with her own wonderful baked creations.

10. Breakfast

Day Trip to Eureka and Humboldt County

11. Author in Rockefeller Forest

California’s Redwood Highway actually starts immediately after San Francisco and Golden Gate Bridge with the Muir Woods National Monument. It’s an enchanting place, if you have the ability to ignore enormous crowds of tourists seeking solitude in the majestic redwood grove. But drive farther north, past Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino (surely each one gorgeous in its own right) and you’ll find an unspoiled wilderness of giant redwoods in the many national and state parks of Humboldt County, like Redwood National Park, a World Heritage Site.

15. Roosevelt Elk

The world’s tallest trees can be seen here, as well as rare Roosevelt Elk, named after President Theodor Roosevelt, and found only in this area.

12. Carson's Mansion

Eureka (founded 1850), the central city of Humboldt County and a historical seaport, in its heyday on par with San Francisco, boasts a beautifully restored Old Town of gorgeous Victorians, and a recently renovated waterfront boardwalk along Humboldt Bay. Here, in the oldest part of the town start Haunted History Ghost Tours (company owner Eric Vollmers) led by local historians and actors, like Dr. Alexandra Service. The tour includes extensive sightseeing, fun tantalizing ghost stories, and some seriously important facts about the area’s not so spotless history.

In Eureka’s open air museum of architecture, the Victorian Seaport, there’s the famous Carson’s Mansion, “the most photographed house in the world” faced by the poetic Pink Lady across the street.

More wonderfully restored Victorians, called Butterfat Palaces are found in the nearby Ferndale, formerly known as Cream City due to its abundant pastures and fast-developed dairy industry.

13. Lighthouse in Trinidad

To the north of Eureka, there’s a tiny town of Trinidad, named after the Caribbean island, with dramatic cliffs, a red-roofed Memorial Lighthouse, and overgrown with cypresses and forget-me-nots walking trails with stunning views of the ocean, and then the breathtakingly beautiful rocky shore of Patrick’s Point State Park.

14. Patrick's Point State Park

To the south, there’s the world-famous redwood preserve, Avenue of the Giants, with an especially memorable Rockefeller Forest, delivered to us intact by lumber industry thanks to a million dollar donation, shelled out by the millionaire touched by nature.

16. Samoa Cookhouse

And if you really want to walk down the memory lane and get a good piece of authentic experience, head to the historic lumber camp restaurant, Samoa Cookhouse – the last surviving cookhouse in the West, where the tradition of communal tables covered in oilcloth and huge portions of fried chicken with all the trimmings at miniscule prices is alive and well. The Historic Logging Museum next door contains a comprehensive collection of period tools and household items, and historical photographs.

Dinner at Farallon Restaurant in San Francisco

17. Farallon

One of the legendary San Francisco restaurants, Farallon on Union Square, founded in 1997 by the celebrity restaurateur Pat Kuleto and star chef Mark Franz, continues to wow its guests with the freshest seafood, an excellent international wine collection, and the magical atmosphere of underwater world conveyed by the art glass chandeliers inspired by octopi and jellies.

18. Entrance

The recently hired new Executive Chef Jason Ryczek and Wine Director Luke Kenning create memorable pairings of skillfully prepared seafood and meat courses with rare wines.

20. Abalone

Young and tender Cayucos farm-raised abalone with house-cultured brown butter and white balsamic seafoam finds its perfect match in 2013 Albarino, Alberto Nanclares, Rias Baixas, Spain.

Sonoma foie gras torchon is especially succulent with 2008 Royal Tokaji from Hungary.

21. Tokaji

A paella-style saffron rice served in a cast iron skillet with clams, Spanish octopus rings, and Devil’s Gulch rabbit shreds, is complimented by 2014 Gobelsburg Kampal Gruener Veltliner from Germany.

Oak-grilled Dixon lamb with fiddleheads, ramps, and morel yogurt goes nicely with 2013 Cabernet Frank, Long & Reed, North Coast, California.

19. Dining room

Exquisite desserts include port-pouched rhubarb with shortbread, frangipane, caramel, and brown butter ice cream, paired with a 5-year-aged madeira, and lavender-lemon grass panna cotta with tapioca, huckleberries, and poppy seed tuile, paired with late harvest pinot gris from Carneros.

 

We had made reservations for the boat trips from the Everglades National Park and we had paid in advance the steep price for The Mangroves boat trip and on the next day the 10,000 Islands Boat Trip. We knew there were no refunds or cancellations, no matter the reason.  If you are staying in the Everglades National Park Flamingo campground check your map because we made boat reservations thinking they were near the campground. We were not aware that the ones listed on the National Park website which we purchased are at the North Entrance to the Everglades at Everglades City, about a three-hour drive from the Flamingo campground, at the bottom of the park.  However, there are other boat trips you can arrange out of Homestead, or near Flamingo RV Camp in south of the Everglades. Just be careful when booking from the National Park site lists.  We found out our trips were from Everglades City and could not be changed, so we changed our camping reservations.

We highly recommend taking both boat tours: Mangroves and 10,000 Islands and also the local air-boat tours. Each is a different and unique tour. If you wish to stay in a campground nearby there are several in Chokoloskee Island or Everglades City. The 10,000 Islands tour boats hold so many and go so frequently each day that you can buy those tickets on the spot, but the Mangroves tour holds only 6 passengers and these tickets, the true Everglades experience, should be purchased ahead of time because they go in any weather except severe lightning and hurricanes.

2  white pelicans flock

From the dock at the National Park Museum/Office we took the 10,000 Islands Tour in pouring rain, but we enjoyed it. The overhead cover is for sun protection and does little for rain, since it blows in. The 90 minute ride is on an outboard motor boat which holds 49 passengers and goes about seven and a half miles out among the many, many mangroves small islands all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. We saw various birds braving the downpour and numerous dolphins playfully jumping up into the raindrops. It was fun, especially seeing the huge flock of white pelicans on the sandbar, huddling together with heads tucked.

At the Everglades City National Park Museum and Visitor Center we arrived 45 minutes early for our first Mangroves Boat tour. It was a good thing because, although we were told to go to the dock at the Observation Tower, there were no signs there and the tower office was closed. We asked the nearby store and restaurant, but it was still confusing to find the correct dock with many boardwalks to get through the dense mangrove forest to the water.  Finally, we saw the boat arriving.

3  entering mangrove tunnels

The comfortable boat has only 6 individual and padded seats. The motor can travel in low tide in only three inches of water if it attains enough speed to lift the motor above the muddy bottom. So the boat speed varies due to tides and whether in large open waters or in the very narrow canal tunnels, which are natural and created by the mangroves. David was an excellent tour guide, very considerate in taking photos of tourists at particularly good places, and able to answer all our questions. We cannot imagine how these captains keep from getting lost in the maze of mangroves surrounding the protected waters of the National Park.  Sometimes they have to rescue lost tourists who cannot find their way back in rented kayaks and canoes.

4  white ibis in red mangrove roots

David slowed or stopped the boat to identify and tell the habits of each of the different birds we saw in both the Turner River and within the National Park waterways. This is a birders’ paradise with hundreds of different species either living here or migrating through. He knew so much about each one and gave us ways to identify them in flight or in trees. This made the trip so interesting. We learned much about the mangrove jungles:  Three of the world’s 50 species of mangroves live here. The black mangroves are identified by the straight up trunks and black bark. Their roots, called snorkels, grow straight upward out of the water like thousands of spikes. The white mangroves also grow straight and tall with roots like normal trees, which go into the ground and are not exposed.  The red mangroves are the ones whose strange and eerie roots create the natural tunnels. The roots grow downward like vines from the upper parts of the trunk, and when they reach water they appear to make the tree walk. The lower roots grow downward like long clusters of arms balancing the tree and firmly grounding it to the soil.  These make the thousands of red mangroves begin to bend over and create weird tunnels above natural brackish water channels.

The 90 minute trip through these mangrove tunnels is fascinating! Although there are thousands of mosquitoes year-round, they only bothered us when the boat stopped for photos or narration. But repellent and sun protection are absolutely necessary. The quiet outboard motor boats (instead of noisy air-boats) on these tours by private concessionaires are the only ones sponsored by the National Park. The noise pollution of the air-boats is considered to be detrimental to the wildlife, and since we heard many of them at our RV Park we know the noise is very loud, even a fairly long way away.

5 gator at everglades

We saw a very large American alligator lying placidly in the only sunny spot on this cloudy day. The only other land mammals which live in this jungle are the nocturnal bobcats, “tide-turnal” raccoons (come out at low tide), and mangrove squirrel. The Everglades are the only place where both American alligators, who live in fresh or brackish water, and the American crocodiles, which live in salt or brackish water, share their habitat peacefully. There are many kinds of lizards, spiders, snakes, and crabs.

6  stone crab

This is the stone crab capital of the world. To eat these delicious offerings is environmentally friendly because the crabbers only remove the leg with the largest claw from the stone crab and return the crab to the water. Within a short time the crab grows another claw leg and the next year the largest crab claw leg is harvested. The crabs can live healthy for many years going through this process of re-growth. I was so relieved to know no animal had sacrificed its life for us when we enjoyed our first delicious stone crab at the restaurant known as the local best of Everglades City: City Seafood. This is a modest establishment that serves terrific homemade seafood meals. You can select alligator, conch, stone crab, frog legs, and the other traditional fruits of the sea like scallops, shrimp, other crabs, many fish, all caught locally and served fresh from the day’s catch.  Delicious!! We highly recommend this restaurant!

Photography by Yuri Krasov

Some call it the best county in California, and some are just lucky to live and work here. As if the fertile and abundant land stretching from the ocean to the mountains wasn’t enough for a resounding success, Sonoma County is also blessed with talented folks who grow grapes and cattle here, make wine, distil spirits, brew beer, make cheese, cook amazing dishes and express themselves in countless art forms.

A short picturesque ride up north from San Francisco delivers us to this heavenly place, easy to navigate with the help of Sonoma County Tourism’s maps and guides, and visitor-oriented educational programs put together by the Sonoma County Winegrowers’ and Sonoma County Vintners’ associations.

Our Sonoma County experience is wonderful and festive, just like those neat vineyards on the green hills, peppered with wild flowers and studded with California oaks.

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As is customary in the best homes of Europe, our day in Sonoma starts with a glass of champagne… or three – at the famed Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards.

Hailing from Spain, and carrying on the great tradition of Spanish cava that has to be aged in caves, Gloria Ferrer boasts its own cave cellar, an exhibition of multiple awards won by the brand, an art collection of vintage and contemporary champagne glasses, Bubbles and Bites room for club members, and a sunlit tasting room with an outdoor terrace.

In addition to tasting Gloria Ferrer’s pinot noir- and chardonnay-derived bubblies the guests can enjoy a stunning view of vineyards and mountains from the winery’s enviable top-of-the-hill location.

I must admit that in all my life I’ve never opened a bottle of champagne before. It used to be always someone else who opened it for me. This time, at Gloria Ferrer, I’m entrusted with a precious bottle of Royal Cuvee 2007 with its distinct purple label and golden foil, first produced in 1987 for the royal family of Spain. Since then all other Royal houses of Europe got it, and the White House now places its orders for the Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee brut, made of hand-picked Carneros grapes, year after year.

Feeling the weight of responsibility on my hands I’m holding the Double Gold winner from the Sonoma Country Harvest Fair 2015, of which only 3000 cases were made. I’m advised to hold the French handmade bottle “like a baby,” to gently release the cage, to rotate the bottle until the cork gives (pointing away from the people in the room) and finally to release the cork almost noiselessly and without spilling a drop of the perfectly balanced blend, aromatic and full-flavored from the late harvest.

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St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, where we venture next, introduces a new program, implemented this year as part of Sonoma County Vineyard Adventures program.

A self-guided Vineyard Walk is a 1.2 mi tour with a handout map and 10 interpretive stops along the St. Francis’s certified sustainable vineyards. The Walk, during which we are accompanied by the friendly winery dog, Will, is accompanied by a tolling bell (made in Assisi, Italy) from the winery’s own bell tower, and of course with the tasting of St. Francis richly-flavored distinct wines – 2014 viognier from Wild Oak Vineyard, 2012 cabernet sauvignon from Lagomarsino Vineyard, and 2012 merlot from Behler Vineyard.

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At Farmhouse Inn, owned and operated by Catherine and Joe Bartolomei, siblings and fifth-generation Forestville farmers, we sit down to a white-tablecloth lunch, prepared by the Estate Chef Trevor Anderson.

Amuse bouche of red radishes covered in miso butter, garnished with beet pesto and topped with smoked tea leaves is the most delicious radish I’ve ever tried!

The first course – pork belly and candy cap mushroom hash with hedgehog mushrooms and pickled mustard seeds is paired with Moonlight Brewing Company’s “Misspent Youth” dry pale ale – a classic American pale ale – soft and smooth with slight bitterness.

Second course – beef tenderloin, braised beef arancini and fava leaves – is matched with medium-bodied 2012 Lost and Found Winery pinot noir from Russian River Valley; its label adorned with an international symbol for lost and found – an umbrella and a glove under a question mark.

Our dessert course, prepared by the Pastry Chef Phil Ogiela, presents Gianduja ice cream, pear cider gelee, and hazelnut lace with Asian pear slices and caramelized hazelnut, and 2014 Tilted Shed Ciderworks Barred Rock barrel aged cider.

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To walk off all the delicious lunch calories, we make a short excursion into Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, where a knowledgeable docent Glen Blackley takes us on a short trail through the majestic redwood grove. Here, walking into a tree trunk hollowed by a fire I feel just like a mouse, but it’s a safe, magical, fairy-tale feeling…

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And then there is the Barlow – formerly the world’s largest Gravenstein apples processing facility, and now a bustling marketplace of Sebastopol’s diversely talented producers of art, wine, food, spirits, and various crafts.

Tibetan Gallery & Studio is a working artist’s studio and a retail shop of exotic jewelry and fascinating trinkets. The artist, Tashi Dhargyal is currently working on a giant painting – the first thanbochi (a very large thangka for special prayer ceremonies) painted by a Tibetan outside of Tibet. The project is going to take up to five years, and when completed, the canvas will be two stories high. It is being made with hand-ground mineral pigments and 24K gold leaf. When finished, it will tour museums before being donated to a monastery.

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Spirit Works Distillery produces grain-to-glass vodka, gin, barrel gin, sloe gin, barrel reserve sloe gin, straight wheat whisky and straight rye whiskey – all tasting amazing and bottled beautifully.

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MacPhail Tasting Lounge provides a complete tasting experience of MacPhail Family Wines. Exceptional pinot noir is the trademark varietal of the family winery, made of fruit coming from the most coveted vineyards of the Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley. The wines are paired with charcuterie, artisanal cheeses from local makers, and fruit jams made in house.

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At the end of the day of wonders, we are having dinner at Zazu kitchen + farm – the award-winning genuine farm-to-table restaurant, owned and operated by a husband-and-wife team – celebrity chefs Duskie Estes and John Stewart, founders of the Black Pig Meat Company.

The dinner starts with Black Pig antipasti and the freshest salad of chicories, blood oranges, pomegranates, and pistachios. The seasonal main course is porcini noodle Stroganoff with Sebastopol mushrooms, arugula, and Redwood Hill goat cheese.

The participating winemakers introduce their outstanding wines: Balletto Vineyards & Winery – Anthony Beckman (2012 brut rose from Russian River Valley); Laurel Glen Vineyard – Bettina Sichel (2012 Sonoma Mountain Estate cabernet sauvignon) and The Callings – Sandy Robertson (2014 pinot noir from Russian River Valley).

1. Sonoma Vineyards

Coming up in Sonoma County:

Farm Trails events familiarizing visitors with the local agriculture, artisanal producers and family farms. Spring Tour: Blossoms, Bees & Barnyard Babies April 30 and May 1; BBQ, Brews Barn Dance May 21; Gravenstein Apple Fair August 13 and 14; Fall Tour: Weekend Along the Farm Trails September 24 and 25; and Farm to Fork Fall Festival October 22. www.farmtrails.org.

Free farm tours of Tara Firma Farms that sustainably grow cows, pigs, and chickens delivered to households, businesses and farmer’s markets through CSA program. Tarafirmafarms.com.

Here’s how you can get to Sonoma County.

Get the FREE Visitors Guide and Wine Map Discover Things to Do Browse Wineries & Wine Find Hotels & Lodging and Deals

 

 

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Photos by Terry Zinn

Having been to Santa Fe a number of times, it is always fun and relaxing to again visit those dining establishments that made an impression over the years. This fall the eating adventure led me to sample several familiar popular gourmet dining venues, and none mentioned here disappointed.

The Compound, http://www.compoundrestaurant.com/ located just off of artist filled Canyon Road, is an all-time favorite for the sophisticated palate. In an upscale adobe styled dining room, you can succumb to the temptations of; a Stacked Salad of Romaine, Tomato, Ham, Blue Cheese and Hard Cooked Taos eggs with Avocado Ranch Dressing topped with Free Range Chicken.

If your luncheon appetite is not quenched, for dessert you might try the Bittersweet Chocolate Marquis of Pistachio Gelato, Apricot Pistachio; or the Orange Olive Oil Cake of Fig Jam, Lemon Curd and Crème Fraiche. Your evening plans might include a return to the Compound to enjoy a night cap or light supper at the intimate bar. With seating only about ten people, reservations are recommended.

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The La Fonda Hotel http://www.lafondasantafe.com/la-plazuela holds many historic adventurous tales due to its early Santa Fe birth in 1640, but the restaurant, La Plazuela, has been a long time favorite for its casual, attentive, and never disappointing selections.  Your selections might include: a spinach salad with grilled hazelnuts, with gluten free prosciutto bathed in a cranberry vinaigrette. Your entre might be the Alaskan Silver Salmon with lemon cilantro butter sauce, or sweet and buttery hearty pork tenderloins with pineapple glaze and papaya vinaigrette.

Top the meal with a Chocolate Molten Cake of dark chocolate truffles, dark rum cream glaze, which accents the dessert’s warmth and coolness. It is impressive when your server knows the term “Ice on the Pond” when ordering your extra cold, extra dry Martini, which is served to perfection.

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While the décor has been renovated in recent years, the hand-painted side glass panels remains the restaurant’s signature Santa Fe tradition. Your high expectations for Santa Fe service, ambiance and dining are always met at La Fonda. Be sure and take time to visit the shops at La Fonda and the outside entrance to the top fashions of Rocki Gorman, a noted fashion and jewelry designer.

If you have not discovered the surprising and intimate atmosphere of Santacafe, http://santacafe.com/ you are missing a treat. Here inside white adobe, small dining areas, complete with a hint of Georgia O’Keeffe styled décor, you will find the best fresh Chimayo Red Chile onion rings available anywhere.

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But this seemingly simple appetizer is only a prelude to an array of tasty selections including: Blue Corn Chicken Confit of enchiladas of red and green chili, or the healthy pan seared salmon roasted with fingerling potatoes over a kale and spinach lime cream. It’s known during high season to have one of the best outdoor patios for celebrity sightings.

While the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi has undergone a dining room renovation, to open up the bar for casual tequila tastings and encourage conversation, the restaurant retains its elegant atmosphere and gourmet menu. You might start off your evening with a Kettle One Citron Pomegranate Martini, or a selection from one of their fine wines.

A flavorful good soup is an invitation to a gourmet meal and the Anasazi sweet potato soup was a perfect complement to the autumn weather. The Buffalo Empanada over an Avocado Mouse is personally recommended as is the fashionable crusted Salmon with baby beets, parsnips in a tamarind sauce. For dessert, you can play like a child with the Fried Ice Cream reminiscent of an outdoor campfire’s s’more.

You can’t leave Santa Fe without a nighttime visit to La Cantina next to La Casa Sena restaurant http://lacasasena.com/ . At the Cantina, the waiters treat you, between serving food courses and beverages, with their favorite contemporary and Broadway styled songs. Many of the talented singers are biding their time here, saving their money before jumping into the Broadway pool of performers. Feel free to order a Mexican styled dinner, or just a beverage with their chips and dip. The congenial atmosphere, the prompt and friendly service is a fitting farewell to the enchantment that is Santa Fe.

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Consider your Santa Fe visit between high tourist times like the Santa Fe Opera Season or the Indian Market. In this way you can be assured of obtaining your preferred dining reservation times, and Santa Fe will have a more accessible feel and friendliness.

Photography by Yuri Krasov

 

In America, the beautiful, not many cities have their own face, their unique character. In the majority of American cities an observant traveler often experiences a kind of déjà vu: street names start with Main and delve into a roster of Presidents, or just go through alphabetical and numerical orders; the same bank and retailer logos bookend every street in every town in every state, and similarly dressed folks buzz around, running their identical chores.  New Orleans, Louisiana (or NOLA, as its dwellers call their passionately beloved city) falls out of this routine like a golden nugget from gray sand.

Bourbon Street

NOLA is a constant celebration, for a reason or no reason, officiated by the motto, Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler! which means in French, “Let the Good Times Roll!”

The good times are mostly self-made by the suave, upbeat and resilient residents of New Orleans, since the fate is not always favorable, and the circumstances are often detrimental.

Garden District tour

Throughout its colorful history the city withstood yellow fever epidemics, floods and tornadoes, social and political turmoil, and not too long ago – the infamous Hurricane Katrina and its devastating aftermath.

And yet, the city is constantly bustling with creative energy, attracting tourists and artists from all corners of the world, drawn to its indelible optimism, its legends and traditions, and its generous spirit.

live oak

house with terrace

A Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour on a double-decker bus by City Sightseeing New Orleans will take you to the Garden District, where the ancient sidewalks are blown up by the roots of century-old Virginia live oaks; their branches covered with bright-green sprouts of Resurrection fern and pale swaying moss beards… Here, the houses of native Cajuns and Creoles, and the newly arriving after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 American settlers, stand next to each other in stark contrast of architectural styles, daily habits, and life philosophy.

Superdome

The bus rides past the gilded statue of Jeanne d’Arc, the city’s patron saint; around the French Quarter, stops at Jackson Square with St. Louis Cathedral – the oldest in the United States (since 1794), and visits sites as diverse as The National World War II Museum, Louisiana Superdome, Mardi Gras World (the largest in the world workshop of carnival floats and costumes), and several historic cemeteries.

cemetery

Those are called “cities of the dead” for a reason. Spectacular crypts and mausoleums form streets and squares lined with palms and elms. The city dwellers learned to bury their dead above ground long ago, after Mississippi floods washed out the coffins from the graves in the below-the-sea-level areas of New Orleans… Since then people were carefully choosing their “last real estate” to accommodate families, social circles, and professional associations. A whole fire brigade is buried in a vault at Lafayette Cemetery. In times of mass disasters the demand was overwhelming the supply. According to the historical chronicles, a record number of 37 family members were buried in the same grave during the yellow fever outbreak of 1878.

Napoleon House

The history is alive on the streets of the Big Easy. Napoleon House Bar and Café on Chartres Street is located in a 1797 building erected by the then city mayor to meet and greet Emperor Napoleon in New Orleans. That plan was destroyed by the Louisiana Purchase, but the Mayor Girod House is a National Historic Landmark, and while on the first floor you can indulge in the house specialties like Pimm’s Cup cocktail and mufuletta sandwich, the second floor, almost completely intact since its construction, is now open for weddings and other special events.

Napoleon muffuletta

Although the nearby Bourbon Street is crowded with boisterous out-of-town revelers day and night, Hotel Le Marais around the corner offers a quiet respite to a weary traveler. This chic French Quarter boutique hotel features cozy, well-appointed rooms with contemporary design, four-star amenities, included breakfast, and friendly personable service.

Le Maraisle marais courtyard

The hotel’s lively bar Vive! opens into a courtyard with a heated swimming pool, and serves signature cocktails; the first one upon your arrival – complimentary!

Sucre macarons

There’s a number of great eateries in a short walking distance from Le Marais. On the second floor of the classic Parisian patisserie Sucré with colorful macarons and eclairs in the shop windows there’s a newly-open upscale haute cuisine restaurant Salon by Sucré. In addition to select international wines, artisanal beers, and creative cocktails, one of the brand founders and the acclaimed chef, Tariq Hanna offers its guests a refined menu of enticing French-inspired dishes. On the Amuse list there’s an amazing combo of Belgian fries of thrice-fried potato with chive cream and American bowfin caviar elegantly served in a porcelain egg shell. Another amazing creation is called Corn Pups and presents “lollypops” of Mortadella in corndog batter with honey mustard.

On the Savory part of the menu there’s a not-to-be-missed Foieklawah – a whimsical and delightful construction of seared foie gras, pistachio, fig jam and yogurt in Phyllo dough.

Brennan's interior

The Brennan’s Restaurant was originally opened on Bourbon Street in 1946, but later moved to the Royal Street location into a historic building constructed by the great grandfather of Edgar Degas! Now, after a thorough restoration, the restaurant is one of the city’s best, with positively Impressionist atmosphere, impeccable service, and Creole cuisine with staples like turtle soup, fried squab, and classic steak in brandy sauce.

Cafe Beignet

Cafe du Monde

Breakfast at Café Beignet on Bourbon Street is bound to be festive – even at an early morning hour a jazz singer is entertaining the fans of music and delicate, crisp, generously covered in powdered sugar beignets, served hot from the oven. A non-stop 24-hour service is offered at the world-famous Café du Monde known for NOLA’s traditional chicory coffee and beignets, beignets, beignets!

Great jazz musicians play nightly at the Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse inside the posh Royal Sonesta Hotel. Dim lights, cozy tables for two, red curtains and velvet armchairs immediately transport you into the golden era of classic jazz.

Frenchmen street

street musicians

The best evenings in New Orleans are spent on Frenchmen Street, just down the Mississippi river from the French Quarter. It’s a hotbed of jazz clubs, bars, cafes, and various street musicians, tirelessly performing the most romantic, most profoundly-touching, most popular music in the world! The majority of places ask you to buy just one drink and revel all night. That’s what I could’ve done many more nights, vaguely daydreaming about the good times, if it weren’t for my too short visit to the golden NOLA.

Downtown NOLA

Find all necessary information about traveling to New Orleans, LA at: www.neworleanscvb.com.

Photography by Emma Krasov

Besides its steel and iron legacy, its 446 golden-yellow bridges, its contemporary eds and meds flagships, and its renowned sports teams of Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is known for preserving and developing multiple art institutions that had first arrived on the high tide of its industrial magnitude at the turn of the last century.

The city of the Golden Triangle formed by the rivers Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio, and surrounded by picturesque wooded hills, carries on its reputation as a distinguished cultural metropolis, boasting an impressive number of historic and contemporary art spaces that should be high up on any city visitor’s list.

2. Carnegie Museum

Carnegie Museum of Art started collecting the “Old Masters of tomorrow” since its opening in 1896. There are more than 30 thousand pieces of painting, sculpture, photography and decorative crafts in the museum collection. Its massive Hall of Architecture, founded in 1907, remains the largest in the USA assemblage of 140 plaster casts of world-famous architectural masterpieces from the Parthenon in Athens to St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. The expansive wall space around the museum’s three-story grand staircase features The Crowning of Labor mural by John White Alexander, a distinguished American artist, who depicted Pittsburgh’s 19th-20th century progress through the blend of symbolic imagery and naturalistic details. The museum founder, Andrew Carnegie is shown here as a knight in shining armor, crowned with a wreath by a winged angel.

3. Clayton

At Frick Art and Historical Center, experienced guides lead tours of Clayton – a meticulously preserved 11-room home of Henry Clay Frick, Pittsburgh’s great industrialist and art collector. His daughter, the last occupant of the estate, Helen Clay Frick, who died in 1984, had established The Frick Art Museum, and opened the family home filled with the exquisite Gilded Age furnishings, art pieces, and decorative elements to the public. At the white-columned museum building, besides the collection of European masters from the 14th through 18th centuries, there’s a rotating exhibition Forbidden Fruit: Chris Antemann at Meissen, now on display through January 10, 2016.

4. The Frick Museum

This elaborate and festive show is a result of several years of collaboration between a contemporary American artist and Europe’s oldest porcelain manufactory (since 1710). In her largest project to date, Antemann created a witty parody on the 18th century Baroque culture of hedonism and decadence, fittingly displayed in the galleries featuring paintings by Fragonard, Watteau, and Boucher.

Even The Café at the Frick lives up to art lovers’ expectations of refined entertainment, serving up inspired lunch fare, like maple-smoked eggplant soup finished with cream and lemon-infused olive oil, and blue crab salad sandwich on brioche roll.

5. Andy Warhol Museum

The Andy Warhol Museum, located in a seven-story building, explores the legacy of the most innovate and controversial contemporary artist from his confident figurative school drawings to book illustrations and commercial advertisement, to silkscreen images and pop art works that made him world-famous. It’s easy to spend an entire day in this fascinating space. Museum visitors tend to group on the first floor staring at the live cam video from Andy Warhol’s (1928-1987) graveside, or taking 3-minute screen tests of themselves with a 16 mm camera, just like the artist’s friends used to do in his studio, The Factory, or playing with his inflated foil “silver clouds,” toys, and costumes. Traditional distinctions between art and consumerism continue to be challenged, and the meanings of true and fake glory continue to be diluted and redistributed by the artist’s unconventional approach to his own and others’ work and ideas in the many galleries of the museum.

6. Mattress Factory

Mattress Factory is a museum of contemporary site-specific installations commissioned by the curatorial body of the institution, housed in the former factory buildings, and produced by international artists. Living Things by Jacob Douenias + Ethan Frier is a 3D piece composed of bright green live spirulina algae in glass containers, custom-made circulation- , carbon sequestration- , heating- , and lighting systems, surrounded by assorted furniture. The artists’ statement reads. “This installation reveals the phenomenological qualities of the highly beneficial micro-algae and challenges visitors to consider what the future of the domestic environment may become in the context of the precarious agricultural and energy needs of a ballooning population.” Presented in another building, Trace of Memory by a Japanese-born Chiharu Shiota consists of black yarn stapled in geometric patterns over vacated rooms in the old creaky building filled with antiquated suitcases, books, bed, chairs, sewing machine, and wedding dress. Altogether the museum collection includes 17 works created for the spaces in which they are displayed.

7. Society for contemporary craft

At the Society for the Contemporary Craft, a profoundly meaningful exhibition Mindful: Exploring Mental Health through Art is currently on display through March 12, 2016. The goal of this highly creative and artful show is to break down societal stigma associated with mental disorders. Featuring more than 30 works by 14 contemporary artists, Mindful examines not only the impact of mental illness on society, but the role of art in encouraging self-expression and offering guidance in understanding the condition and seeking effective treatment.

In his sculpture Echoes Michael Janis reflects on social interactions and complex behaviors by using pairs of images of overlapping faces in fused glass arranged to create a new, third face with its own expression. “One cannot change without leaning a little further into the shared world, and without recognizing that even in one’s solitude, one is always at some point touching someone else,” reads the artist’s statement.

8. Laurel Highlands view

Just an hour drive to the east from Pittsburgh, an art and architecture treasure trove awaits in Laurel Highlands – a region of 3000 sq. miles of dense forests, serene lakes and roaring waterfalls.

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, in 1959, and extensively renovated this year, includes the 30 000 sq. ft. building and a series of landscaped gardens and outdoor terraces. The museum collection, established through a bequest from a local philanthropist Mary Marchand Woods, reflects the national and regional history and culture with a strong emphasis on American Western and modernist art, the city of Pittsburgh and its development in paintings of the early 20th century artists, the works of female artists, and others.

Not far from the museum, The Supper Club restaurant in the 100-year-old building of the Greensburg Train Station, headed by the Executive Chef Greg Andrews, serves farm-to-table seasonal fare, like heritage chicken, house-preserved vegetables, and Clover Creek cheeses.

9. Fireplace in Nemacolin

A humongous collection of art from sculptures by Alexander Calder and Fernando Botero and prints by Mucha and Norman Rockwell to Tiffany lamps, Baccarat and Waterford crystal chandeliers, and silk Hermes scarves, is amassed by Joseph A. Hardy III at his enormous estate, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, that encompasses a lavish Chateau Lafayette, modeled after the Ritz in Paris; airplane hangar; Auto Toy Store (a vintage automobile museum); spas for humans and canines; a zoo with tigers, lions, and bears (mostly rescued animals) and a Wildlife Academy; art studio for resident artists; two-story shopping gallery; golf courts; casino; pool, and Falling Rock boutique hotel, designed by Frank Lloyd Write.

The Nemacolin’s Executive Chef Sean Eckman and Pastry Chef Scott Tennant leave the resort guests wishing for nothing with their upscale culinary creations based on seasonal local ingredients and creative well thought-through combinations of bold flavors and textures.

10. Fallingwater

Two most famous Frank Lloyd Write’s buildings in Laurel Highlands attract throngs of visitors from all over the world. Fallingwater, commissioned in 1935 by Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr., was supposed to be built with a view of a waterfall, but the visionary-architect decided to place the house on top of a 300-million-year-old basalt rock with the waterfall so its dwellers would “live with the waterfall” not just watch it from their windows.

11. Kentuck Knob

Kentuck Knob, the 1954 house of I. N. Hagan that was supposed to be built on top of a hill, was cut into the hill instead – in accordance with Write’s principles of organic architecture. The house is covered with a green patinated copper roof, and its bedroom windows are on the ground level to better observe the life of moles and gofers populating the hill. The house was fully designed by Write, but built by his apprentices. When the happy owners repeatedly invited the aged yet constantly busy with new projects famous architect to come and look at his own creation, he replied, “I don’t have to come see the house. I envisioned long ago what you’re observing now.”

More information at: www.visitpittsburgh.com, www.laurelhighlands.org.

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Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s three Maritime Provinces that include New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Its capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the second smallest Canadian province, the first being Prince Edward Island. The population was 921,000 in 2011. The seaport town of Yarmouth is the home to a very large fishing fleet and a launching point for visiting French-speaking Acadian and the English-speaking communities. My Nova Star cruise ferry docked there in the early morning. After clearing customs Neil Mackenzie, from the Yarmouth & Acadian Shores Tourism Association, was there to greet me and arrange for my rental car. We were to spend a few hours together visiting the W.L. Laurence Sweeney Fisheries Museum, the Firefighters Museum of Nova Scotia as well as Yarmouth and Cape Forchu Light Stations.  Lunch was at Shanty Café, a quite unusual eatery where everyone (except the GM) had barriers to employment, either mental or physical. One has a good feeling after a meal here, and the food was quite good. I was to return to Yarmouth for my last night before re boarding the Nova Star back to Portland.

Church along the Evangeline Trail

It had been raining for the past three days as I started my 185-mile drive to Wolfville and the Annapolis Valley Wine Region. I decided to take the local Evangeline Trail, which ran parallel to the highway. The Acadian Shore is home to communities with roots that are over 400 years deep. The Musee Eglise Sainte-Marie is the largest wooden church in North America. How could I not make a brief stop at Smuggler’s Cove that was a prime location for the smuggling of liquor during prohibition in the 1920s? In Annapolis Royal I did spend an hour in the National Historic District and at Port-Royal National Historic Site to learn about the Acadie culture. There are over 135 registered heritage properties in Annapolis Royal. It was still raining so I did not visit the outdoor grounds. It was a straight run to my overnight home- Blomidon Inn in Wolfville.
blomidon_inn

There are 31 rooms in this very charming Victorian era inn with all the comforts of home including complimentary Internet & HDTV in every room.  It was still raining so I did not venture into the acres of gardens surrounding the inn. I was lucky that Michael Laceby checked me in, carried my bag up to my room and acted as the captain/sommelier for my dinner. His family is the owners of the property. Everything ordered for dinner was from local Annapolis Valley products and fresh catches from the waters of Nova Scotia. With a superb wine list it was no surprise to learn that the number 1 wine critic in Canada Tony Aspler was staying at the inn & joined me for breakfast the next morning.

Nova Scotia wines at dinner- Blomidin Inn Wolfville

I took the suggestion from Tony Aspler about new wineries that I should visit. My first stop was at the not yet open Lightfoot & Wolfville. They plan to open a public retail space in 2016. Their focus is on the classic vinifera grape varieties including: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and other German-styled whites. My other stop was at Benjamin Bridge Winery, which was almost impossible to find since they did not have a sign and were open by appointment only. As luck had it the one person I asked was on her way to work there and showed me the way. They produce excellent sparkling wine, including my favorite Nova 7. I then went back into town to meet Susan Downey, the proprietor of Grape Escape Wine Tours. Since I was her only passenger we stopped at three wineries including: Luckett Vineyards, certainly the most modern winery I visited. Opened in 2011 Peter Luckett owns a chain of boutique grocery stores and he has spared no expense for this 9,000 case winery. L’Acadie is a 2,000 case organic winery opened in 2004. Owner Bruce Ewert moved from the Okanagan Valley of British1 Columbia. Gaspereau Vineyards is a 6,000 case winery with 35 acres planted in grapes and specializes in the Riesling varietal.

Nova Winery Tasting Room

Tidal Bay is a new appellation (June 2011) wine. It highlights the characteristics given to Nova Scotia wines by the unique combination of climate and terroir in the province – and it pairs amazingly well with the local seafood. Among the wines being used to make the Tidal Bay blend are l’Acadie Blanc (most planted white grape varietal in the province), Seyval Blanc, Geisenheim 318 and Vidal Blanc, which must make up at least 51% of the blend singularly or in combination. There are a selection of other locally grown whites that can be added to the blend to increase the aromatics. Winemakers have the choice of choosing which of these wines to blend and the percentage of each so that it can be a unique wine to each winery. The wines must be less than 11% alcohol with high acid levels. Each winery must submit its wine to a five-person panel of wine experts to determine if it meets the standard to bear the Tidal Bay designation. There are presently 10 wineries authorized to produce a Tidal Bay wine.

tidalbay-heading-new

I had a three-hour drive back to Yarmouth for my overnight stay at MacKinnon-Cann Inn. My last night in Nova Scotia I needed to stay close to the waterfront since my Nova Star cruise ferry left early in the morning. I also had to return my rental car. The local tourist office arranged for me to stay, and have dinner in the historic district at the MacKinnon-Cann Inn. Built in 1887 it is an example of the Italianate Victorian style. Co-owner Neil Hisgen and his partner are also renovating several other historic homes in the district. I am not sure I heard him correctly as to how much money they have invested in renovating the 7 rooms. I think he said over 1 million dollars. It shows in that all the very large rooms reflect a different era from 1900-1960. I was one of only 2 dining in the restaurant that night but what an experience. Chef Michael Howrys moved from the west coast of Canada and their loss is Nova Scotia’s gain. I don’t think I have a better meal anywhere I have traveled.

After a light breakfast I was off to the ferry and my return to Portland.

For Further Information: www.yarmouthandacadianshores.com, www.annapolisbasin.com, www.fundyfun.com, www.exploreannapolisroyal.com, http://www.wolfville.ca/, www.winesofnovascotia.ca/wineries, www.grapeescapetours.com, www.blomidon.ns.cca, www.mackinnoncanninn.com, www.novastarcruises.com, www.capeforchulight.com

http://www.novascotia.com/see-do/attractions/port-royal-national-historic-site/1462

www.firefighters.museum.gov.ns.ca, www.sweeneyfisheriesmuseum.ca, www.allwaysUs.com, www.tidalbay.ca.

Photography by Yuri Krasov

The more I travel around the globe the more I appreciate home. Granted, my home is San Francisco – the legendary American city of sophistication, elegance, and intellectualism as well as artistic spirit, inclusiveness, and openness to everything new and exciting.

I like to play tourist in San Francisco – visit its gorgeous hotels, eat in its posh restaurants, marvel at its museums and historic theaters, walk along the sights of unparalleled natural beauty. Swept with Pacific winds, steeped in summer fog, or baking in the hot autumn sun this city is endlessly magical, eternally majestic.

As a frequent traveler, I also appreciate all the little things that are readily available for the tourists (and for the locals) within the hospitality industry of San Francisco. The downtown Palace Hotel – one of the most magnificent hotels in the world – recently implemented a daily tea service in its spacious Garden Court restaurant, lavishly decorated with Italian marble columns, Austrian crystal chandeliers, and potted palms under the enormous Edwardian-style glass dome.

For a weary business or leisure traveler, just arriving from a long journey, what can be better than a pot of hot fragrant tea, beautifully served in the most welcoming space, alongside the light and elegant meal of freshly made finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries?

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How I wish I could have THAT in so many hotels in so many cities of the world, where the only thing I could count on without venturing out was a full bar (as if I needed alcohol after all those dehydrating hours in the air) and deep fried bar food, heavy and greasy, and not helping at all!

But let me start from the very beginning. The daily tea service was inaugurated at the Palace Hotel in the glamorous year 1910. The corridors of the Garden Court were crowded with guests in opulent dresses and hats of the Belle Époque. Since then it became a staple of the hotel, and over the years, the iconic dining room has become part of San Francisco history, and afternoon tea – part of its many traditions. Shared stories of fond childhood memories, bridal and baby showers and engagement celebrations have helped make a tea at the Palace a truly magical experience. For 105 years, the tradition has continued, but for the past few decades, tea has been served only on Saturdays and over the holidays. Today, this Saturday Signature Tea experience continues, while the Palace has added a more contemporary daily service in the GC Lounge (in the front area of the Garden Court). Specifically designed with the modern traveler in mind, Tea Time with its restorative attributes can now be enjoyed every day.

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Saturday Signature Tea

Signature Tea is served exclusively on Saturdays from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., and is one of a kind experience. Service is upscale, and fine china and silver are used to present delicate tea sandwiches and house-made scones with Devonshire cream, lemon curd and fruit jam. The sandwich assortment might include Sonoma breast of chicken with toasted almonds on brioche bun; roulade of salmon with chive crème and salmon roe on dark rye bread; asparagus and egg salad with Dijon parsley aioli on mini-croissant; lobster and shrimp on buttermilk toast, and Black Forest ham and artisan cheese with lavender mustard aioli on focaccia.

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Assorted pastries are served on a three-tier tray, and are always abundant and breathtakingly delicious. A variety of teas – black, green, white, oolong, herbal – from the most reputable tea distributors in the world includes classic blends and creative infusions with high, medium and low caffeine. Signature Tea is always enhanced by the decadent ambiance with large bouquets of freshly cut flowers and live harp or piano music. Reservations preferred.

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Tea Time

Tea Time is served Sunday through Friday from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. It is offered in the GC Lounge. Tea Time restores an experience more than a century old, now re-imagined for today’s savvy, cosmopolitan traveler. Service is refined but a little less formal. An a la carte menu showcasing locally sourced items allows visitors to enjoy the time-honored tradition with a casual approach. Tea Time menu options might include warm crab and Asiago cheese tart, organic egg remoulade sandwich, panini toasts with artisan meats and cheeses, and smoked salmon roulade. On a sweet menu there are raspberry tart, sweet and salty walnut short bread, dark chocolate torte, strawberry and almond milk gelee, and house-made scones with all the trimmings. What a great way to relax and reinvigorate, have a break from sightseeing and shopping, a friendly meeting, or a brief business discussion. Tea Time in the GC Lounge is perfect to relax after a long flight, or recap the day’s adventures and plan for the night ahead. Reservations are not required.

7. Raspberry tart Thursday

The Palace Hotel offers 556 newly renovated rooms, three ballrooms, 45,000 square feet of function space with 23 meeting rooms and 4 executive boardrooms, a self-contained conference area and full service business center. Luxury features include three famed restaurants – The Garden Court, GC Lounge and Pied Piper, 24-hour in room dining, and a newly renovated Fitness Center and indoor pool. Centrally located, the Palace is steps away from the Financial District and Moscone Center, and within walking distance from designer boutiques, shopping areas, cable cars, the Embarcadero, Ferry Building Marketplace, Chinatown, AT&T Park, museums and theaters.

For tea reservations visit opentable.com or call 415-546-5089. Menus and more information are available at sfpalace.com.