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Flavors of Hawaii


On our annual ten-day adventure to Waikiki this year, my friend and I decided to splurge and stay for a few days on the beach at the luxurious Sheraton Waikiki. From our spacious 29th floor oceanfront room, we enjoyed a breathtaking view of Diamond Head and of the early-morning surfers. During the day, our coveted wristbands gave us entry to the Infinity Edge Pool, one of the world’s best infinity pools, where we relaxed for hours as the turquoise waves of the Pacific Ocean broke dramatically in front of us. The abundance of fresh towels and the frozen grapes provided to us poolside were additional treats, as was conversing with our friendly fellow guests from Australia, New Zealand, and beyond.

All that time in the pool made us quite hungry, so our first night at the hotel, we decided to take full advantage of the inviting dinner buffet at the Sheraton’s Kai Market where from the restaurant’s patio we could continue to gaze out at the gorgeous water as the soft strains of live Hawaiian music drifted over from the bar. We were fortunate to spend some time that evening with Executive Chef Darren Demaya, who talked about the farm-to-table approach that is so popular now. Basically, farm-to-table means that, as much as possible, restaurants serve local food acquired directly from its producer, whether it be a ranch, a fishery, or a farm. This approach helps support local industries and also results in fresher food.

Chef Demaya explained how years ago the restaurants imported most of the fruit, vegetables, meat and fish from the mainland. Then Hawaiian chefs started to work more closely with local farmers, fishermen and ranchers. Demaya noted that both the farmers and the restaurant take great pride in this utilization of local products, and, thus, at Kai Market place cards indicate when a particular dish is “created from local inspiration.” Featured Asian and Hawaiian dishes may contain Molokai sweet potatoes, Maui onions, Ho Farm tomatoes, beef from the Big Island, or locally caught ahi or tako while the dessert table offers delicious cakes and pies from Ted’s Bakery on the North Shore.

As our three-night stay at the Sheraton Waikiki evolved, we wanted to experience another of its restaurants, RumFire Waikiki, which also has a beautiful view of the ocean and of the dramatic, fiery Hawaiian sunsets. RumFire offers interesting choices of appetizers, like fried edamame, spicy ahi poke, mahi tacos and kalua pork nachos. The kimchee fried rice has been on the menu from the very beginning, and it remains there because it’s so good. Of course, there are also plenty of tropical cocktails to choose from. You may want to try the popular lava flow—rum with strawberry and banana puree, crème de coconut and pineapple juice. With its lively music, later in the evening RumFire definitely becomes one of the hot spots for the younger crowd.

One night when you are nearby, be sure to walk over to the Sheraton Waikiki Helumoa Playground (the children’s pool area on the Diamond Head side of the building) at 8 p.m. and/or 9 p.m. to see the wonderful Liquid Light 3D show, which lasts for about five minutes. Colorful digital animations of erupting volcanoes, ocean life, hula dancers, and more are projected onto rocks, plants, deck chairs and the pool. You do not need to be a guest of the Sheraton Waikiki to see this delightful free show.

For a touch of history and to take in another spectacular sunset, one evening we strolled next door to the sophisticated Mai Tai Bar at the world-famous Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Enchanting live Hawaiian music greeted us, and once again we chose from an intriguing selection of appetizers—coconut shrimp, chicken satay skewers, firecracker Thai chili shrimp, and seared rare ahi tuna. For an extra special occasion, private cabanas are available here. Per their website, for up to 10 guests, there is a $350 charge plus a minimum spend for two hours.

If this is your first time at the Mai Tai Bar, then I’m going to suggest you order one of their famed Mai Tai’s. The origin of this drink is disputed. According to Wikipedia, Victor J. Bergeron claimed to have created it in 1944 at his restaurant Trader Vic’s in Oakland, California, while Trader Vic’s rival, Don the Beachcomber, claimed to have invented it in 1933. The way the Trader Vic’s story goes is that Bergeron fashioned a special new drink for some friends who were visiting from Tahiti. One of his friends tasted it and exclaimed, “Maita’i roa ae!” or “the best,” and so accordingly Bergeron named his drink the Mai Tai. Although I can’t really vouch for this story, it is fun to enjoy sipping one of these tropical concoctions at the Mai Tai Bar.

If you are a foodie and plan to visit Honolulu this December, you might consider making a reservation for the Royal Feast, one of the Luxury Collection Epicurean Journeys offered quarterly at the Royal Hawaiian. An intimate dinner celebrating the 90th anniversary of this elegant, historic hotel will be held on December 15 at 6:00 p.m. in the Kamehameha Suite (The Royal Hawaiian’s Presidential Suite) and will be “fit for a king and queen.”

For a hands-on experience, the next day an interactive cooking class is offered at 10:00 a.m. Chefs featured at the prestigious James Beard House will guide you in the making of local dishes, and then, of course, you’ll be able to eat the fruits of your labor for lunch. Epicurean Journeys are the latest in a series of landmark culinary events that the Royal Hawaiian’s Executive Chef Colin Hazama has created in collaboration with Chefs Chris Kirksey, Shaymus Alwin, and Carolyn Portuondo. For more information on these special events, go to http://www.royalhawaiian.com/dining/epicureanjourneys/.

I must say that, personally, the Sheraton Waikiki is my favorite hotel on Oahu. The balance of our trip was spent at a timeshare, The Imperial Hawaii Resort on Lewers. Having a two bathroom, one bedroom condo with a kitchen and dining area there, plus a small deck, also has its advantages. We are thinking next year to do our three-night stay at the beginning of our trip at the Royal Hawaiian so will have to report back then on what it’s like to stay at the “The Pink Palace of the Pacific.”

If you want to consider a stay a little further out past Diamond Head, I highly recommend The Kahala Hotel & Resort, which overlooks both Diamond Head and Koko Head. It’s another beautiful setting and is situated away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, yet with a rented car, Uber, or a cab (bus if you’re adventurous), you can be in town in about 15 minutes. Additionally, the hotel does offer a complimentary shopping shuttle to all guests, which provides transportation to Waikiki, the Ala Moana Shopping Center and the Kahala Mall.

One of the great benefits of staying at The Kahala is being able to observe six dolphins cavorting in the pond at the hotel. Dolphin Quest, a partnership that was formed by two world-renown marine mammal veterinarians, Dr. Sweeney and Dr. Stone, offers the opportunity to interact with these playful creatures and is open to non-guests. Programs start at $149.

The Kahala offers five restaurants: Plumeria Beach House, Seaside Grill, The Veranda, Hoku’s, and Arancino at the Kahala. In keeping with the fresh food, farm-to-table concept, their executive chef often fishes in the morning and then brings his catch in to be served in the hotel’s restaurants. We chose to have lunch at the lovely open-air Plumeria Beach House with its fabulous 180 degree ocean view. I thoroughly enjoyed the portobello mushroom panini with seasoned fries. My friend ordered the six-variety poke bowl, which is also a great choice.

As an update to last year’s story, I am happy to report that the Seaside Bar & Grill on Kuhio in Waikiki (not related to the Seaside Grill at the Kahala) is still in business. In fact, our favorite server, Cisco, is also still working there and we, of course, asked to sit in his section where we enjoyed their still available $4.95 breakfast special.

With its wonderful view of Diamond Head, another of our other favorite places for breakfast is the Hula Grill at the Outrigger Waikiki, where we love their delicious acai bowl and have a very difficult time choosing between the banana macadamia nut and the tropical (with pineapple, strawberries and coconut) pancakes. Both are amazing!

On Kalakaua Avenue the renovation of the International Market Place has been completed. Thankfully, they managed to keep the iconic century-old giant banyan tree. Although we really miss the tradition of visiting the old market place, progress does go on. In the same spot that was originally opened in 1956 as a commercial retail and entertainment center, there is now an open-air, three-story shopping and dining center with about 100 stores including everything from Burberry, Christian Louboutin, and Saks Fifth Avenue to Trina Turk/Mr. Turk. For dining, there are many options, such as the Eating House 1948 (Roy Yamaguchi), Stripsteak (Michael Mina), b. Patisserie (San Francisco pastry chef Belinda Leong), Flour & Barley Brick Oven Pizza, Herringbone, The Street, and more, several of which we plan to explore next year.

For more information about the hotels


Learn How To Start a Wine Collection from Master Sommelier Brian McClintic

Master Sommelier recommended
Brian McClintic is a Master Sommelier
Brian McClintic Master Sommelier

Brian McClintic is a Master Sommelier and documentary film star in the movies SOMM and SOMM: Into the Bottle. We asked Brian how a first-time wine collector should start a wine collection. Doing a quick Google search will result in a handful of articles on the subject, but each article requires a starting budget of $10,000!


We challenged Brian to give us tips on starting a collection by spending no more than $1,000.


“I like the $35-$55 range with starting a cellar.  That’s the range I use for 99% of the wine I buy and for Viticole as well.” (Viticole is Brian’s newest venture, an online wine club and travel blog that focuses on domestic and imported selections that can’t be found on the open market.)


Obviously, that’s not going to be a lot of bottles before you hit $1,000, but anything lower priced is typically not worth cellaring. There are exceptions, but few and far between for something that is farmed and produced responsibly.


When it comes to a buying strategy, start with the producer first and work your way out.  In other words, instead of saying you should cellar Northern Rhone Wines or Barolo, start with bankable producers, following them in subsequent vintages. “To me, the old world still represents tremendous value,” McClintic said.


Here are a few thoughts on Brian’s favorite producers in different styles. All are farmed organically:


Light, Crisp Whites

Martin Muthenthaler Bruck Riesling $50 SRP. This Austrian producer has just started being imported to the states and is making some of the finest dry Riesling on the planet. Expect the current release to drink well young and cellar 20+ years.


Richer Whites

Gonon ‘Les Oliviers’ Saint Joseph Blanc $37 SRP.  This Marsanne-dominated blend will give Chardonnay drinkers something to love. Gonon’s Syrahs are extremely age-worthy, but the whites tend to eclipse the reds in the cellar.



Light Reds

JL Dutraive Fleurie ‘Terroir Champagne’ $44 SRP.  This Cru Beaujolais is so delicious now but in the last couple of vintages (’14 & ’15) it demonstrates the hallmarks of a wine that will last 15 years plus in ideal conditions.


Big Earthy Reds

Domaine Tempier Classique $45 SRP.  It appreciates in every vintage from the moment the next vintage drops.  The wines are accessible now and can age comfortably for 40 years plus in the best vintages. Can be tough to find and usually sells out every year. A 2014 half- bottle is still available for around $27. Check it out.


Parting words of wisdom from Brian as you journey down this obsession: “Too many people get fridge happy after a few drinks and open up something they shouldn’t. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way and now store all my wine off-site for this reason.”


About Brian

After 20 years in the restaurant/retail industry, he founded Viticole, an online wine club and travel blog that focuses on domestic and import selections that can’t be found on the open market.  By the 1st of every month, Brian travels to a wine region and offers out a special cuvee directly from the winery door in real time.  You can follow his travels and join the monthly wine club at: http://viticolewine.com


Editor’s Note:

Here are some wines that are similar in style to the ones above and more readily available to try.


If it’s tough to find a Martin Muthenthaler Bruck Riesling, then go for either Austria’s Pichler-Krutzler Trum Riesing 2013 ($30) or Schloss Gobelsburg Tradition Riesling 2013 ($50). Equally impressive, less expensive, and a beneficial addition to our collection.


For a domestic equivalent to the Saint Joseph Blanc give a white Rhone from Tablas Creek out of Paso Robles ($22) or Booker ($48) a shot. Tablas Creek partners with iconic Chateau de Beaucastel, so their wines are remarkably French in style. Booker’s Eric Jensen has a way with white Rhones that make him a standout in California.


America has nothing to compare to the Cru Beaujolais, though the world’s favorite light red wine, Pinot Noir, is becoming more entrenched in California, and the quality is rising (as are prices — expect to pay above $50 for most good-quality examples). Sanford ($60) and Babcock ($21) from Sta. Rita Hills are excellent investments; so are Hahn ($23) and Pisoni ($55) from the Santa Lucia highlands. Farther north, turn to Landmark and Patz & Hall ($87).

9 Amazing San Francisco Bakeries With Fresh Takes on the Classics



San Franciscans know good bread. While many tourists might go searching for a sourdough bread bowl filled with clam chowder soup at Fisherman’s Wharf, the Bay Area’s gluten connoisseurs know that the city’s water-and-flour mecca can be found in the Mission District at Tartine Bakery & Cafe, where pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt and her husband, celebrated baker Chad Robertson, pull rustic loaves of bread, as well as cookies, cakes, confections and tarts from the oven.



Marla Bakery is located in Outer Richmond. (Photo by Yuichi Sakuraba)

The acclaim garnered by Tartine stems from the bakery’s return to the basics. Robertson uses two main ingredients, flour and water, to craft his renowned bread. With no additives, cheeses, or spices, Robertson’s simplified approach to the culinary art has reintroduced San Franciscans to a staple food they thought they knew so well. Using natural fermentation and an assortment of grains, from ancient to sprouted, Robinson limits himself to the most primitive method of making bread, which allows distinct natural flavors to reveal themselves during the fermentation and baking process. Even nearly 15 years after opening, a long line can be expected at Tartine as faithful patrons and tourists alike are drawn to the wafting smell of a freshly baked bounty.

But great bread does not stop at Tartine—delicious dough can be found all around the city. Whether searching for sweet treats or savory sensations, nearly every neighborhood in San Francisco plays host to its own beloved bakery.



Tartine is a renowned San Francisco bakery. (Photo by Eric Wolfinger)



1. In North Beach, San Francisco’s Little Italy neighborhood, stop in for a traditional pastry at Stella Pastry & Cafe. Established in 1942, this quaint shop is a lovely reminder of Little Italy’s bright history. Sit at one of the small tables in front of the cafe to enjoy an after-dinner espresso and dessert, along with some excellent people-watching on Columbus Avenue. (446 Columbus Ave.; 415-986-2914)


2. Recently named by Bon Appétit magazine as bakery of the year for its flaky croissants, the small Arsicault Bakery in the Inner Richmond neighborhood also serves an array of sweet, mouthwatering masterpieces. (397 Arguello Blvd.; 415-750-9460)


3. Possibly San Francisco’s most delightful pastry shop, Miette charms with delicate sweet bites that taste as good as they look. Beyond petite pastries, cake stands and vintage dessert dishes can be found in stock. Periodically, baking and cookie decorating classes are held at either the Ferry Building or Hayes Valley locations. (Ferry Building: 1 Ferry Building; 415-837-0300) (Hayes Valley: 449 Octavia St.; 415-626-6221) 



Classes are sometimes held at Miette. (Courtesy of Miette)


4. A jewel of the Inner Sunset located just two blocks from Golden Gate Park, Arizmendi Bakery is a worker-owned co-op that specializes in producing artisan breads and gourmet pizza. Fill a bag with savory treats before heading into the park to explore the nearby Japanese Tea Garden, de Young Museum or the California Academy of Sciences. (1331 Ninth Ave.; 415-566-3117)


5. Marla Bakery Restaurant is a picture-perfect find in the Outer Richmond area. Try a  scone made with dry Jack cheese, caramelized onion and black pepper, or indulge in savory galette or quiche, which are only served on weekends. No matter when you visit, be sure to enjoy a pastry and glass of Champagne on the bakery’s charming patio. (3619 Balboa St.; 415-742-4379)


6. Since 1983, The Acme Bread Co. has been baking robust loaves that are served at many of San Francisco’s favorite restaurants. Though primarily a wholesale bakery, Acme does have two locations serving up over 100 different products. While the main hub is across the bay in Berkeley, the bread maker also has a shop in the Ferry Building. (1 Ferry Building; 415-288-2978)



More San Francisco Bakeries

7. Mr. Holmes Bakehouse (1042 Larkin St.; 415-829-7700)

8. B. Patisserie (2821 California St.; 415-440-1700)

9. Craftsman and Wolves (Caw Valencia: 746 Valencia St.; 415-913-7713)


– Briana Verdugo

7 Great Sandwich and Soup Eateries Around New York City



Some historians claim that the soup and sandwich duo that launched America’s love affair with these iconic lunch menu items was the grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup combo. Post-World War II, school cafeterias served the classic, economical sandwich with soup to ensure that children were getting adequate levels of vitamin C, found in tomatoes. Though it was a bit of a drab beginning, the combination sparked decades of innovation that has led to more creative—and delicious—opportunities for stacking, stirring and dipping. Today, it’s a widely accepted fact: Nothing tastes better with a sandwich than a piping hot bowl of soup to dip it in, and when it comes to these lunchtime combinations, New York City has the pairing down.



Lucky Strike is located in Soho. (Photo by Edward Youkilis)


Whether you’re seeking something beyond the basic bread, cheese and tomato ingredient combination—which you can’t go wrong with, as evidenced by countless eateries throughout the city—or crave the comfort of familiar flavors, the city is teeming with lunch locales that will satisfy every craving, from egg-based sandwiches to vegetarian pairings and classic soup renditions. Grab a bite at one of these establishments for the perfect cold-weather pairing that will help you mix up your lunch routine and ward off the chill this season.


1. Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop boasts a litany of customizable sandwich offerings and seven different types of soups, which means it’s the perfect one-stop shop for all of your lunchtime cravings. Pair the restaurant’s Open Face Tuna Melt with the Manhattan clam chowder (available on Fridays only), or opt for a peanut butter and bacon sandwich with matzo ball soup for a classic comfort food meal. And though the restaurant’s motto is “Raising New York’s cholesterol since 1929,” it is possible to get a healthier soup and sandwich option at Eisenberg’s: Try the vegetarian vegetable soup, available every day except Monday and Wednesday, with a grilled chicken sandwich. (174 5th Ave.; 212-675-5096)


2. New York City’s ubiquitous Hale and Hearty Soups, with more than 30 locations across New York City, offers countless variations of the classic that are anything but basic. Each iteration of the eatery offers a unique set of menu items that are seasonally inspired, with specials that change daily. And with so many different made-from-scratch soups and sandwiches, it’d be possible to try a different combination every day of the year; thankfully, Hale and Hearty Soups offers a daily lunch combo special that gets you half of a freshly made sandwich and a bowl of soup so you can work your way through the menu. No matter what you order, expect robust flavors and tantalizing recipes inspired by cuisine from around the world. (462 7th Ave.; 212-971-0605)



Hale and Hearty Soups has 30 locations across the city. (Courtesy of Hale and Hearty Soups)

3. During lunchtime Monday through Friday, from noon until 5 p.m., and during weekend brunch, patrons of Soho’s cozy Lucky Strike eatery can indulge in the avocado and toast open-faced sandwich, which comes topped with two sunny-side up eggs, tomato, shallots and crema de aguacate over sourdough toast. Of course, the sandwiches are even better paired with the flavorful French onion soup, a popular item at the eatery that’s perfect for dipping and counts as one of the best French onion soups in the city. Lucky Strike also offers a soup of the day, and additional sandwich items like the grilled tuna sandwich and New York strip steak sandwich. (59 Grand; 212-941-0772)


4. At popular New York City eatery Sarabeth’s Park Avenue South location—the restaurant also has locations in the Upper East Side, Central Park South, Tribeca and the Upper West Side—gourmet breakfast sandwiches are served until 3:30 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and until 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Try the kale and eggs, served with baby kale, market vegetables and smoked marcona almonds, on an English muffin, or sandwich the salmon eggs Benedict between two halves of a flaky croissant. Either egg-based sandwich option is instantly enhanced by the restaurant’s tantalizing Velvety Cream of Tomato Soup, which elevates the comfort food staple. (381 Park Ave.; 212-335-0093)


More Soup and Sandwich Eateries


5. “Via Quadronno [makes] the best vegetable soup in the Upper East Side … and also a great stracciatella alla romana [soup with] parsley sparked egg-drop and chicken broth, [which pairs well] with the Via Quadronno panini (genoa salami with brie and fresh celery sauce) or the primavera panini (goat cheese, tomatoes, chopped romaine with black olive pate).” (25 E. 73rd St.; 212-650-9880)

6. “Bouchon Bakery … [is a] Thomas Keller casual lunch spot [that] offers fresh soups and salads in the beautiful Time Warner Center. … My favorite dish is the San Marzano Tomato Soup,” Torruellas says, noting that it pairs well with the restaurant’s Croque Madame sandwich. The French favorite is made with toasted ham and cheese on brioche with a fried egg and sauce Mornay. (10 Columbus Circle; 212-823-9366)

7. “BEC, located in Chelsea, is a small cafe—the name stands for ‘bacon, egg and cheese.’ You can’t go wrong with their delicious sandwiches. [It’s a] modern space for a casual breakfast—even late in the afternoon. There is not a lot of space to sit but the cozy space is really nice to go for the [BEC] classic: applewood smoked bacon, New York sharp cheddar cheese and two eggs on cheddar- and bacon-crusted brioche,” which Torruellas says is perfect when enjoyed alongside the eatery’s signature Alpha-BEC (chicken noodle with seasonal vegetables) soup. (148 8th Ave.; 212-633-8020)


– Elizabeth Nutt

8 of the Best Taco Joints in the City of Los Angeles


Every city has its iconic food: New York’s bagels, Chicago’s pizza and New Orleans’ beignets. In Los Angeles, tacos reign supreme. Whether you like them traditional, with carnitas, carne asada or al pastor, or mixed up with flavor fusions like tofu, kalbi and kimchee, LA has nearly every type of taco you could conceive of—and many you couldn’t. As chef concierge Lori Coyle says, “When one thinks of Los Angeles, you think: sunshine, sandy beaches and epic tacos.”



For a taste of Baja-style tacos, head to Mexicali Taco & Co. (Photo by Paul Yoo)


Despite its popularity, the exact origins of this folded favorite remain unknown. Some trace it back to the 18th century to the silver mines of Mexico, while others say they hearken back to the traditional meals of the indigenous people of the Valley of Mexico. But regardless of its history, today Los Angeles has made the taco its own, whether that means chefs like Roy Choi at Kogi reinventing the tortilla dish with ingredients like kimchee, or Wes Avila and his food truck Guerrilla Tacos bringing seafood-stuffed versions to the street. In the City of Angels, one thing is clear—it’s the tacos that are heaven-sent.



Guisados has multiple locations throughout Los Angeles.

1. Featuring fresh, handmade tortillas, Guisados always has a line—and for good reason, since the menu features a ton of Mexican favorites with a gluten-free twist. The bistek en salsa roja (steak in red sauce), tinga de pollo (spiced, shredded chicken) and chicharron (pork rind) tacos in particular are standouts.  (Multiple locations; Echo Park: 1261 W. Sunset Blvd.; 213-250-7600)


2. Mexicali Taco & Co. offers up a taste of Baja, with a variety of dishes straight from Mexicali, Mexico. Choose from al pastor, asada, pollo, chorizo and even a vegetarian option on a flour or corn tortilla. (702 N. Figueroa St.; 213-613-0416)



Los Angeles has many traditional taco joints. (Courtesy of Loteria Grill)


3. Travel to Yucatan with the help of Chichen Itza Restaurant and its menu full of authentic southeast Mexican fare, like the fish tacos, tacos de chicharron or tacos de poc chuc (pork marinated in citrus). (3655 S. Grand Ave. #C6; 213-741-1075)


4. North Africa meets Mexico at Revolutionario, with tacos featuring lamb pastrami with scrambled eggs, beef brisket bacon and Algerian merguez (a mutton-based sausage) with chorizo. (1436 W. Jefferson Blvd.; 424-223-3526)


5. Korean-Mexican fusions are ubiquitous in Los Angeles, and Cha Cha Chili does it well. The kalbi and bulgogi tacos are a standout and come with the classics: lettuce, cilantro and salsa. (4625 Valley Blvd.; 323-222-8900)




More Options


6. Loteria Grill (6333 W. 3rd St.; 323-930-2211)


7. Komodo proves that it knows what combinations work with its fusion of Mexican and Asian flavors. Order a combo so you can try as many as possible. (8809 W. Pico Blvd.; 310-246-5153)


8. Petty Cash Taqueria (7360 Beverly Blvd.; 323-933-5300)


Ashley Burnett



6 Romantic Hot Spots Throughout San Francisco



In a city filled with art, culture, incredible restaurants, music and more, it’s easy to share a day of of fun with someone special. Jeremy Holman, marketing ambassador and former concierge supervisor at Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square shares his picks for a romantic day in the bay.



Take a bike trip to Sausalito, which is right across the bridge. (Courtesy of f11photo/Shutterstock)

Biking for Two

“For a romantic afternoon, there is no better way to start off a date than by taking in the sites of San Francisco via bicycle—tandem, of course. The route through Crissy Field to the Golden Gate Bridge has the most breathtaking views and opportune spots to stop and share a special moment. You can also head through Cavallo Point and Sausalito [across the bridge] to get views of the city skyline.” (Golden Gate Bridge Bike Rentals & Tours: 2157 Lombard St.; 628-444-3385)


Date Night

Beach Blanket Babylon is the perfect date night activity and a quintessential San Francisco way to capture the special magic of the city. With over 15,000 performances since its inception in 1974, the Club Fugazi is continuously sold out and promises a night of laughter shared over an intimate table for two, just large enough to hold a bottle of Chianti.” (678 Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd.; 415-421-4222)


Romantic Libations

“For a cocktail after the show, the name of my choice says it all: Located directly on the bay, Waterbar is a picturesque setting for a romantic cocktail. The restaurant also has an incredible oyster selection with a floor to ceiling aquarium.” (399 The Embarcadero; 415-284-9922)


Amorous Settings

“While sharing a famous Waxman’s Restaurant meatball might be my favorite icebreaker for a first date, Cafe Jacqueline has the most romantic dinner setting in the city. I always recommend planning ahead for Cafe Jacqueline, and her perfect souffles.” (Waxman’s Restaurant: 900 North Point St.; 415-636-9700) (Cafe Jacqueline: 1454 Grant Ave.; 415-981-5565)


Perfect End

“To end the perfect date, I recommend splitting San Francisco’s world famous dessert—one Ghirardelli Sundae with two spoons, please.” (900 North Point St.; 415-474-3938)


– Briana Verdugo

Making the Most of San Francisco’s Artistic Community


San Francisco nourishes an important artistic community and an entire trip can be spent discovering the galleries and museums that make up this thriving scene. Leo Ramos, head concierge at Taj Campton Place, San Francisco shares his picks for an art-filled day about town.



Buena Vista Cafe makes for a great start to an artful day. (Photo by Wally Gobetz)



Farm Fresh

“From Union Square, after enjoying a quick breakfast bite from … Farm:Table, enjoy a ride on the historic cable car across town and into Fisherman’s Wharf. Try to board the Powell-Hyde line. The wait is definitely worth it as you will be riding along with great views of the bay and Alcatraz Island (make sure you sit facing east and toward the front). Because the cable car ride can leave you with a chill as a result of the open seating, without doubt you will need to stop at Buena Vista Cafe to enjoy [its] famous Irish coffee … .” (Farm:Table: 754 Post St.) (Buena Vista Cafe: 2765 Hyde St.; 415-474-5044)


Artistic Inclinations

“You will then be making your way to the San Francisco Art Institute to view Diego Rivera’s ‘The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City.’ Diego Rivera is one of Mexico’s and the world’s most celebrated and notorious muralists … .” (800 Chestnut St.; 415-771-7020)



San Francisco has always had a thriving art scene.


Cotogna Cuisine

“After your visit to the Diego Rivera [mural], walk down to Columbus Avenue and head over to North Beach. For a full-service lunch walk to Cotogna at Pacific Avenue and Montgomery Street. The restaurant serves delicious wood-fired pizzas and homemade pastas that cater to the most discerning palates. This dining option is certainly on the foodie ‘musts’ while in SF.” (490 Pacific Ave.; 415-775-8508)


Art and Decor

“Catty-corner from the restaurant is Hedge Gallery, one of San Francisco’s most prominent galleries/furniture stores. They have some of the most functional and decorative furniture pieces available. Think stark design for everyday use. If you are looking for a conversation piece for your home or office, this is it.” (501 Pacific Ave.; 415-433-2233)


Michelin-Rated Restaurant

“To finalize your art-filled day with two Michelin stars of approval, Campton Place Restaurant must be your destination. Aside from the quintessential boutique lobby showcasing beautiful fine art from Meyerovich Gallery, the edible works of art created in the kitchen will leave you in awe.” (340 Stockton St.; 415-955-5555)


Briana Verdugo


Solo Suggestions for Travelers Heading to San Francisco


With so many eateries, parks and historic sites to discover, the mission district of San Francisco is a perfect place for the solo traveler. Chinatsu Anzawa, concierge at Palace Hotel, San Francisco offers her recommendations for enjoying the Mission District when traveling alone.



San Francisco is a great choice for those traveling solo.


Worth the Wait

“BART will take you to 16th Street and Mission Street, then walk about 10 minutes to Tartine Bakery & Cafe to grab one of the best Morning Buns. There may be a little wait, but the line moves fairly quick and it is worth waiting.” (600 Guerrero St.; 415-487-2600)


Delightful Dolores

“After getting delicious Morning Buns and coffee, walk one block to [Mission] Dolores Park. Dolores Park is one of the most cherished parks by many locals. You’ll find green lawns shaded by tall palm trees, a soccer field, many tennis courts, basketball courts, … playgrounds and [a] play area for dogs. On sunny afternoons people gather at the park to play, picnic, lounge [and] walk their dogs. Be sure to go up to the hill for spectacular views of the city’s skyline and beyond.” (19th Street and Dolores Street)


On a Mission

“[Within a] two-block walk from Dolores Park is the Mission San Francisco de Asis—Mission Dolores was founded in 1776 and is the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco. This mission survived [the historic] 1906 earthquake and fire. There is a self-guided tour you can take, and the tour includes the mission, the basilica and one of the only cemeteries within the city of SF.” (3321 16th St.; 415-621-8203)


Artisanal Coffee

“Less than [a] 10-minute walk from Mission Dolores, Clarion Alley will show you really cool murals. The murals in this alley range from political events to pieces about the changes happening in this neighborhood. After checking out murals on Clarion Alley, walk along on Valencia Street, which is filled with local boutiques, lively restaurants and cafes. Four Barrel [Coffee] and Ritual Coffee [Roasters] … [are a couple] of [the] best places to grab some artisan coffee.” (Four Barrel Coffee: 375 Valencia St.; 415-896-4289; fourbarrelcoffee.com) (Ritual Coffee Roasters: 1026 Valencia St.; 415-641-1011)


A Variety of Eats

“Finishing up your day, the Mission District can offer you exciting dining experiences ranging from great Mexican food to upscale, trendy restaurants. … El Techo is a rooftop bar located on the top floor of Argentinian steakhouse, Lolinda. It offers amazing night views of SF… [and] is the best place to end exploring the Mission.” (2516 Mission St.; 415-550-6970)


– Briana Verdugo


10 of New York’s Best Toy Stores


Whether you’re a hopeful child with a lengthy gift list during the holiday season, or an adult who’s still a kid at heart, there’s something magical and universally appealing about toy stores. They’re cheery, bright and have the potential to trigger both immense happiness and excitement, as well as nostalgia. And despite the closing of New York’s iconic F.A.O. Schwarz in 2015, the city remains a mecca for toy, game, craft, doll and stuffed animal enthusiasts. There are countless shops with equally extensive inventory—some brand-new and others that have remained fixtures in the city for decades.



Build-a-Bear Workshop lets kids create their own furry friend. (Courtesy of Build-a-Bear Workshop)

But a new toy trend is also picking up speed in New York, revolutionizing the ways kids and families shop today: build-it-yourself opportunities that offer kids a unique experience during which they’re able to bring to life their wildest toy fantasies. Instead of scouring aisles of toys that any child could have, these new, hands-on creative opportunities abound, allowing kids to come up with something that’s distinctly their own. No matter who you’re shopping for this season, you’ll find that perfect toy in New York City—even if that means you’ll be making it yourself.  



1. The Lego Store at Rockefeller Center boasts a Pick & Build Wall, where fans of the celebrated toy brand have an opportunity to choose their own bricks, deciding on elements such as shape and color. With this option, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to creating one-of-a-kind, customized Lego sets and structures. (620 5th Ave.; 212-245-5973)


2. Though it’s technically an art studio, Tribeca’s Color Me Mine offers kids an opportunity to paint everything from comic heros and ceramic characters—ranging from Spider-Man to Hello Kitty—to animal figurines and sports paraphernalia. Fun for all ages, Color Me Mine lets kids choose a pottery object to paint and, after it’s fired, take home. (123 Baxter St.; 212-374-1710)


3. Kaleidoscope, a toy store aimed at encouraging creativity while also promoting educational experiences for kids, boasts an extensive selection of toys, games and crafts for children of all ages. But the shop also offers countless build-it-yourself and crafting opportunities for kids, whether they’re interested in creating their own wooden pirate ships or designing a duo of fashionable friendship bracelets—and everything in between. Additionally, starting in September and through the school year, Kaleidoscope opens it doors to kids, offering crafting and make-it-yourself opportunities for patrons who visit after school. (8722 3rd Ave.; 718-491-2051)



Kids create customized dolls at American Girl Place. (Courtesy of American Girl)

4. At American Girl Place, kids can browse the store with their dolls in tow, and no matter what imaginary scenario they have in mind that day, there’s an outfit, accessory or furniture set available for purchase that will cater to it. Plus, with the store’s Truly Me Signature Studio, kids can create their own line of fashionable clothes or a backpack for their dolls in in three easy steps. (609 5th Ave.; 877-247-5223)



5. Much of Toy Tokyo’s inventory comes directly from Hong Kong and Japan, but the shop also carries a litany of domestic toys and collectibles, too. Fans love the incredibly diverse selection, which includes vintage, retro and rare toys. (91 2nd. Ave.; 212-673-5424)


6. Dinosaur Hill’s window and in-store displays delight children and adults alike just as much as its retail offerings do. The shop sells everything from “handmade wonderments” like quilts and hats, to hand-carved wooden animals and finger puppets. (306 E. 9th St.; 212-473-5850)


7. The Children’s General Store, which underwent renovations and technology upgrades this past summer, offers a carefully curated and wide selection of toys, games and activities. Here, you’ll find everything you’re looking for, be it a hula hoop, stuffed animal or accessories fit for a princess. (168 E. 91st St.; 212-426-4479)


More Places to Shop

8. Build-a-Bear (2655 Richmond Ave., Staten Island Mall; 718-698-1477)

9. Kidding Around (107 E. 42nd St.; 212-972-8697)

10. Mary Arnold Toys (1178 Lexington Ave.; 212-744-8510)


– Elizabeth Nutt

An Itinerary for a Great Girls’ Getaway in New York City


Gather your girlfriends for a weekend of fine dining and fun, with the help of these recommendations from Jeanie Voltsinis, chef concierge at Viceroy Central Park.



The NoMad Bar is located in the Flatiron District. (Photo by Daniel Krieger)


Global Cuisine

Vandal, is very new, with the same ownership of Tao … and all of their restaurants are very conducive to fun,” especially this latest Bowery addition, which offers global cuisine in a two-level space that boasts a bar, lounge, restaurant, garden dining area, private dining room and a cellar/bar lounge. (199 Bowery; 212-400-0199)


Lively Lounge

Beauty & Essex is very lively… it’s more of a loungey area that you can hang out in, and the cool thing with it is you walk through a … [pawn shop] before you even enter the restaurant.” (146 Essex St.; 212-614-0146)



Take a boat ride around the island with Classic Harbor Line. (Photo by Chris Biggins)

Cruising with a View

“I would recommend one of the boat cruises that take groups around the island. There are cruises that are almost private, where you can enjoy beer and wine and really beautiful views around the island—Classic Harbor [Line] is more conducive to private groups and it’s nice,”—and available year-round. (Chelsea Piers, Suite 103; 888-758-9038)


Interactive Entertainment

Sleep No More is a production that’s like an interactive play … it’s super sexy, and before you even get to the show you’re in this jazz bar with a live performer and you have a cocktail and then once it’s time to go to the performance, someone leads you around to different rooms and it’s just really pretty fun and amazing.” (530 W. 27th St.; 866-811-4111)


Libations and Bites

“If you’re looking for proper cocktails, I’d head to The NoMad Bar, which is part of The NoMad Hotel … [just north of] the Flatiron District, with a restaurant from a very famous chef in the city. But the bar itself, which is adjacent to the hotel and restaurant offers amazing cocktails, and they do have food as well, but people definitely go there more for the drinks.” (10 W. 28th St.; 212-796-1500)


Elizabeth Nutt