Ladies’ San Francisco by Emma Krasov

Photography by Emma Krasov

When my female friends and I decided to leave our husbands, boyfriends, and male companions at home and venture into the city on our own, we settled at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco overlooking the Embarcadero waterfront.

The reason for choosing this hotel was its prime location right on Market Street across from the historic Ferry Building Marketplace overflowing with California bounty. Other reasons for staying at Hyatt were spacious rooms with sweeping views; an architecturally stunning lobby mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest hotel lobby in the world; the hotel’s reputation for service excellence, and a new initiative called “Hyatt Has It,” inspired by insights from female travelers.
This initiative deserves a few good words. During the customer outreach campaign implemented by the hotel, on the top of the list of suggested things to have at hand were frequently forgotten items, like toothpaste and razors, and requests for healthy menu offerings, like smaller portions and gluten free dishes. Hyatt Regency San Francisco responded by providing guest amenities and services tailored to individual preferences. Now a forgetful traveler can request and keep anything from deodorant, hair brush, and nail polish remover to lint mitt, Woolite, and wine opener. Hyatt guests can also borrow or buy phone and computer chargers, power adaptors, humidifiers, tea kettles, yoga mats, and many other useful things.

The guests’ dietary requests were met with compassion and understanding by the Hyatt staff. Our group had a chance to learn it firsthand at the Skinny Cocktail Reception at the penthouse Regency Club, and during Healthy Balance Breakfast at the Eclipse Café in the gorgeous lobby.

Upon our arrival on Friday night, I briefly stopped in my room to change for dinner. I was very pleased with the balcony high above the Bay, the elegant furnishings, the snow white bed with many-many pillows, and was slightly shocked by a KenetMD amenity set on my bathroom counter. What woman wouldn’t love to have it all in one place – not only lotion and facial wash, but also foot lotion, lip balm, pulse point fragrant oil, and even face and pillow mist!
But I had to hurry – a hotel limo was waiting downstairs to take us to the “bachelorette’s party central” – Asia SF. On the outside it’s an unassumingly looking club on a street corner, however it’s booked solid every night and the patrons are admitted in groups at particular times so they wouldn’t interfere with the ongoing show presented by the beautiful transgender “ladies of Asia” on top of a long bar.

While the graceful performers are dancing and lip-sinking in their leather, feathers, and sequined outfits, the serves, dressed in black, deliver creative cocktails named after each lady dancer in the joint, and Asian-inspired cuisine – tuna sashimi, miso-glazed salmon, chicken satay, grilled shrimp, crab cakes, and tender cuts of meat.

Since our visit fell on a Friday night, we received a special Friday-Saturday-only service – red carpet arrival photos; and had a chance to dance a little ourselves in a downstairs bar before our reservation time.

“The more you drink the more beautiful we look” – a joke du jour at Asia SF that never fails to make birthday parties and wild girly gatherings laugh. Our wild night at the club ended with rather child-like, but very enjoyable miniature ice cream cones of exotic flavors – coconut, yams, and Jack-fruit.
Early Saturday morning we followed Cynthia Motta, Hyatt Regency Banquet Chef, to the Ferry Building Farmers Market on a scouting/buying tour in preparation for our Chef’s Table dinner that night.

Focused and confident in her chef’s white, Cynthia proceeded from one vendor to another, sampling and buying fresh strawberries and dried herbs, smoked trout and purple potatoes, trumpet mushrooms and sauerkraut – all the ingredients she carefully planned for an elaborate and exquisite meal we were about to enjoy in her kitchen.

When it came time for dinner, Chef Motta’s 8-course Ferry Building Farmers Market Menu was served with so much style and panache that our private ladies-only event felt like a royal reception at some kind of a secret fairy society.

Each course was as original and creative as the next, and harmoniously balanced in taste, presentation, and portion size – ahi tuna sashimi with citrus verjus, seaweed salad, and avocado; potato and leek vichyssoise with thrice cooked potatoes, spring garlic, and crescenza; smoked trout and quinoa salad with Cara-Cara oranges, English peas, and yogurt dressing; Mt. Tam risotto with lacinato kale and grilled artichoke; sablefish with spicy carrots, Zuckerman’s asparagus, wild ramp and lemon-basil oil; Prather Ranch country pork rib roast with jalapeno kraut, cousous pillow, and apple chutney; Marin Sun Farms grilled lamb chops with Far West mushrooms, Rancho Gordo beans, and quince pepper jelly; and Swanton’s strawberry shortcake with fresh basil biscuit, chamomile zabaglione, and wildflower honey.
On Sunday, we ventured out to try our own cooking skills at La Cocina, a remarkable San Francisco institution that serves as an incubator kitchen for budding entrepreneurs. Developed in the Mission District as a visionary program designed to streamline marketing success for low-income food producers, La Cocina provides affordable commercial kitchen space, helps with loan opportunities, and insures access to industry experts and markets for its participants. Among those who benefit from La Cocina’s shared resources and effective support system are many rapidly growing small businesses mostly owned by talented women from immigrant and underprivileged communities.

Dionne Knox, a successful owner and chef of Zella’s Soulful Kitchen in Oakland, CA, who greeted us at La Cocina’s well-equipped kitchen space, took up a challenging assignment of teaching our group how to cook some of her popular dishes: pan- fried chicken, white cheddar mac-n-cheese, honey buttered corn bread, and green salad with red wine vinaigrette.

Even though our master chef Dionne repeated several times that we are making a “basic” fried chicken and a “basic” green salad, some mishaps, like twice the amount of vinegar to half the amount of oil were bound to happen. Cooking for a group of people larger than two is never easy, but with the tireless help of our mentor and La Cocina’s youthful staff members, an excellent meal of Southern staples was eventually put on the table and enjoyed by all.
To round up our weekend, we headed to one of the many wondrous museums of San Francisco. A small but highly informative Antique Vibrator Museum is located inside Good Vibrations store. The company motto “Creating a buzz since 1977” refers to its function as an education-based retailer of high-quality sex toys and other related products displayed in a clean, safe, and female friendly adult store with welcoming and well-trained “sex educator sales associates.”

In her presentation to our group, the museum curator and staff sexologist Dr. Carol Quinn relayed a fascinating history of a vibrating medical device invented in 1869 by an American physician for treating “hysteria” and other “female disorders.” The museum holds the largest antique vibrator collection for display in the world, accounting to over 100 artifacts from 1800s to the modern era.

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