Sometimes the best experiences are in your own backyard, and in this case, it’s San Francisco. Consider being free of the hassles of flying, the tedium of making sure toiletries are in three ounce bottles. Recently, my husband and I decided to experience the local hotel scene – while taking public transportation to minimize our carbon footprint. We spent 16 hours at each of three very different properties in the City and had some of the most relaxing, delicious, fun times ever.
The InterContinental, with its shimmering turquoise glass rising 32 stories, is conveniently situated just south of Market Street. The interior is modern; the lines are sleek; and the feel is pure comfort. Our room was on the 29th floor – enveloped by views of San Francisco through floor-to-ceiling windows. And as we found everywhere we stayed – the beds are plush, the technology kicked up and the unwinding is easy.
No problem getting to dinner – we took the elevator down to Luce, the hotel’s Michelin starred and stylish restaurant located street side. Named to celebrate the creation of a Super Tuscan wine; Chef Dominique Crenn is at Luce’s helm. She’s talented, focused and exciting. You can taste her passion in every bite.
From the seasonal menu, we paired several of the farm fresh starters – baby lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, artisan cheeses – with a NV Besserat de Bellefon, a French Brut Rosé. Tagliatelle pasta smothered with Dungeness crab, topped with trout caviar and drizzled with a Mandarin olio verde was mouth watering with a 2006 Thalassitis, an organic dry white from Santorini, Greece. The pintade (guinea fowl) served two ways (pancetta stuffed breast and thigh confit) with white beans and wild mushrooms was tender and juicy with a lively organic 2006 Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Anne Amie vineyard.
Part of our “escape plan” was to visit a sister property of the hotel. After dinner, we zipped up Nob Hill to the Mark Hopkins and the Top of the Mark for after dinner cocktails and dancing. Sunday night means piped-in music, but the setting is sublime with a panoramic view of San Francisco.
In the morning, we ambled into Club InterContinental. Open most of the day with time-appropriate food service, cocktails, coffee – we found everything we needed to start the day. And then we were off – back to the real world.
Hotel Palomar was next – a quick walk from Muni and five floors up on Fourth Street off Market. This Kimpton hotel exudes a sexy and sophisticated feel – from the dark woods and splashes of color throughout to the low ceilings and parquet wood floors that are laid out in geometric patterns like an M. C. Escher drawing.
The luxe rooms have plenty of space to practice yoga. Forget your props? Not a problem – just phone the front desk and in no time, you’ll have a mat, block, yoga strap – complimentary instruction is offered on the television. Ready to slip into something comfortable? You’ll love the fun leopard, zebra and giraffe print robes, camisoles and boxers (all available for purchase).
Time to join the Manager’s wine reception. In the Fifth Floor Bar, guests help themselves to wines selected by Emily Wines, the Fifth Floor’s Master Sommelier (more on Emily in a minute) and pay as they want according to suggested prices. From here, it’s simply a few steps to dinner at the Fifth Floor, a one-star Michelin restaurant.
Executive Chef’ Jennie Lorenzo’s featured flavors are a rich combination of what’s available in the Bay Area and in Gascony (southwest France). The tasting menu starts with the wine choice and then pairs the food. It’s fitting since Emily Wines is only the second woman to pass the difficult Master Sommelier Exam (and with the highest score on the first try).
Our gastronomic experience started with a Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc 2006 from Marlborough that had the oyster, shaved jalapeño, balsamic pearls and citrus jus of the kampachi crue dancing. Fresh water eel with oxtail ragout and wild mushrooms was ideal with a Joseph Roty Gevrey-Chambertin Champs-Chenys 2005. Batting third was the Muscovy Duck Cassoulet paired with a Roth Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2005. The richness of chocolate mousse was smoothed nicely with a Dows 20 year Tawny Port and Gascon coffee.
Barely able to move after dinner, we managed to walk to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel for our “sister” experience. We headed to Harry Denton’s Starlight Room for an expansive view, cocktails and dancing to hip hop and rock spun by a D. J.
After coffee the next morning, it was back to work, but with a third experience waiting in the wings.
Galleria Park, Joie de Vivre’s small European boutique hotel, is conveniently located on Sutter Street in the heart of the financial district. Housed in a building dating from 1911, the interior combines art deco designs with modern flair. You’ll find a park and jogging track on the third floor. There is a small fitness center, but upon arrival we preferred joining guests in the lobby for complimentary wine and conversation.
Instead of staying at the hotel, we chose to walk to Millennium (managed by Joie de Vivre). Executive Chef Eric Tucker is a crowd pleaser with his focus on organic products, sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices and healthy, vegan cuisine (no animal or dairy products). This gastronomic experience isn’t just for vegetarians.
Instead of a seasonally changing Market menu, we opted for dishes that are always available. The sesame crusted oyster mushrooms, kicked up with an Indonesian spiced bean-plum dipping sauce, paired perfectly with a Prosecco di Valdobbiadene. The Mediterranean roulade, a mélange of potatoes, kale, grilled onions, Merguez sausage, toasted almond romesco sauce came alive with the Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre L’Hortus Pic Saint Loup 2005 from France. And finally, we got exotic with coconut black pepper crusted tofu – lemongrass marinated with grilled oyster mushrooms, red curry sautéed edamame and Asian vegetables, kaffir.
After such a sumptuous meal, the only things left were to head back to the hotel, crawl into our comfy bed and have sweet dreams.
It’s fun to treat yourself to a getaway at home. And if it’s San Francisco, you’ll be energized and remember why you live here. It’s good for your mental health and easy on the environment.
IF YOU GO:
Accommodations: InterContinental San Francisco: Reservations and information: 415. 616.6500, 888.811.4273; 888 Howard Street, http://www.intercontinentalsanfrancisco.com.
Hotel Palomar San Francisco: Reservations and Information: 505-954-9630, 12 4th Street, http://www.hotelpalomar-sf.com/. Galleria Park Hotel: Reservations and information: 800.792.9639, 191 Sutter Street, http://www.jdvhotels.com/galleria_park.
Restaurants and Bars: Luce at the InterContinental San Francisco: Reservations: 616.6566, http://www.lucewinerestaurant.com/. The Top of the Mark at the Mark Hopkins Hotel: Reservations: 616.6916, 999 California Street, http://www.topofthemark.com. The Fifth Floor: Reservations: 348.1555, http://www.fifthfloorrestaurant.com; Harry Denton’s Starlight Room at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel: Reservations: 395.8595, 450 Powell Street, http://www.harrydenton.com. Millennium: Reservations: 345.3900, 580 Geary Street, http://www.millenniumrestaurant.com.