Numerically speaking, this San Francisco Favorite is #5 but really the Hog Island Oyster Farm in Marshall, CA is the CCC’s Number One San Francisco Favorite. Located 50 miles north of SF in beautiful Marin County, the Hog Island Oyster Farm is most special to me. In my two decades of living in San Francisco, no place holds so many joyful, delicious, and occassionally silly memories. (Ask my husband, Brian, about the time I offended a lady over the oysters she ate in Las Vegas. I didn’t mean to be snooty.) There is no better place than Hog Island for savioring freshly shucked oysters while you sip a glass of champagne and soak in the sun (I’m not meaning to be snooty. 🙂 ). Truthfully, there is nothing snooty about Hog Island Oyster Farm: rustic picnic tables overlooking Tomales Bay with the hills of Tomales Bay State Park in the background. It’s an idyllic locale perfect for appreciating the good things in life with your friends and loved ones. If you are a tourist, Hog Island is a great place to observe us local folks engaged in our Northern California lifestyle, that is, eating oysters and drinking champagne (we don’t mean to be snooty).
Recently, I was thrilled to bring my wonderful friends, Sandy and Jim, to Hog Island. They are no strangers to the NorCal lifestyle or the good things in life. (And, they are absolutely NOT snooty!)
Thank you Sandy and Jim for coming to visit and creating another happy Hog Island Oyster Farm memory for me. Here’s to the good things in life: friends like you.
“The CCC Celebrates in CT!” If that is not a perfect aliteration then I do not what is. Just saying it makes me happy as the phrase conjures wonderful memories from my visit with good friends, Aimee and German, in Fairfield, CT. As the “rush, rush, busy, busy” of another holiday season descends on us, there is nothing more calming than remembering the warm, easy days of summer – especially when the memories were so fun to make!
Aimee is my culinary soul-sister. She has taught me so much about cooking and I occassionally teach her something too! We love to cook together and this trip we were inspired by Laurie Colwin’s book, “Home Cooking”. Part cookbook, part memoir, Colwin’s warm and friendly prose makes you want to get in the kitchen and create. Following Colwin’s chapter, “How to Avoid Grilling”, we prepared the perfect summertime meal: marinated short ribs, potato salad with cucumbers and creme fraiche, and heirloom tomato salad with red onion and soft boiled eggs. I am salivating with the thought of that meal!
After a busy morning of shopping, it was time for…wait for it….
Hours of cycling and meaningful conversation makes the ladies hungry. Time for a Fancy Lady Lunch at Artisan.
After all of our feasting and fitness, it was time for some culture. Aimee’s cousin, Andrea, recommended the Annual Sergio Franchi Summertime Concert. Sergio Franchi was an Italian-American tenor in the 1960s. His dreamy voice and even dreamier looks made him popular in both operatic and contemporary music venues. He founded the Sergio Franchi Music Foundation to support young vocal artists. The Foundation’s annual concert, now in its 20th year and hosted by his glamorous wife, Eva, is a celebration of up and coming young opera stars. The day-long event is a great way to enjoy the summer sun and hear some of opera’s greatest hits, like Turandot’s Nessun Dorma and Carmen’s Habanera. What made the day even better was that we were joined by our favorite friend, Kiki!
Thank you Aimee and German for a most special week-end and being most special friends. I think “The CCC Celebrates in CT!” should be my new mantra.
I love to cook. Cooking is a wonderful way to shake off the stresses of the day and keep myself busy during the week-end. It’s also a chance to sip wine and listen to Beethoven – two of my favorite activities. More significantly, spending time in the kitchen allows me a chance to reminisce about the lovely people in my life who have helped me become a better cook, like Aimee, Sandy, Meera, Susan, Bev, and Lee – and that makes me happy. Recently, I read a NYT article about The Four Seasons restaurant, where I have had the good fortune to dine with Kiki, and was inspired to make their recipe, Chopped Lamb Steak with Pine Nuts. My version was probably not as refined as the restaurant’s but it was still quite tasty and I will certainly make it again.
Listen to Beethoven! This piece is, “Presto” from Piano Sonata No. 6 played by Jonathan Biss. Whatever your musical tastes, Beethoven will be a welcome addition to your library.
I’ll say it: SF in the summertime sucks. It’s cold, windy, grey, and there is absolutely NO summer time culture. That means no outdoor bar-b-ques, no balmy nights, no cocktail cruises. Perhaps most depressing is that my family and friends on the East Coast all gather together for regular outdoor bar-b-ques, balmy nights, and cocktail cruises. What is a sad CCC to do? Buy a plane ticket and get myself there! My most recent Cape Cod visit was particularly joyful because my husband, Brian, joined me, we celebrated my sister’s marriage to her, now, wonderful husband, Drew, and I was there for 12 days! Yay!
Our vacation started with the wedding week-end. Drew and Joanna hosted 100 family and friends at Drew’s parents’ lovely home complete with gorgeous gardens and a refurbished barn.
After a week-end of wedding festivities, Brian and I spent most days fishing on Lavinia, my mother’s 17-foot Boston Whaler.
Of course, it wasn’t all fishing. We also celebrated the Fourth of July marina style! Drew, the true Cape Codder that he is, organized a boat parade where our patriotism was on display ever so mightly.
All that patriotism and fishing makes a girl tired. Time for cocktails! Kingman Marina is the premier spot to keep your boat in the summer months. It is a full-service marina but perhaps more importantly, home to The Chart Room – Megansett’s quintessential Cape Cod eatery and the best Mud Slide you will ever drink, ever, in the world.
Thank you to Cape Cod and to all my family and friends there. You are the perfect antidote to the San Francisco Summer!
P.S. For those of you disinclined to believe I can actually fish, press play…. 😉
On my Spring 2015 pilgrimage to NYC, I had the best intentions of artfully documenting all of our cultural excursions with a few pics of the cocktails thrown in for good measure. And, indeed, I thought I was doing this. However, in reviewing my photos when I returned home, I discovered my documentation was heavy on the cocktails, light on the culture. So, you will just have to take me at my word that Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series at the MoMa was mind-blowing and Wendy Wasserstein’s “The Heidi Chronicles” is still relevant to women today, because I have no photographic evidence to share.
What my photos did reflect was what a super-fun – might I even say, rockstar – time I had with my two wonderful friends, Aimee and Kiki and their fantastic spouses, German and Scott. So, this edition of the CCC is a tribute to the good friends who love us in spite of ourselves!
Our fun started at the Baccarat Hotel aka The CCC’s Heaven. I have never been in such opulence while being treated with such loving kindness. I am not kidding. The Baccarat staff really IS happy to see you and they really DO care that you have a good time. By the time we left, I wanted to hug everyone.
After several hours of luxuriating at the Baccarat, Kiki and I headed out to meet our dear friend, Aimee, at the theater for The Heidi Chronicles. When this wonderful show was over we went to (guess what?) another bar!
After The Lambs Club, it was time for a rest and then preparations for our night out on the town. And yes, of course, some champagne.
Feeling relaxed and refreshed, we headed out to meet Aimee and German at The Conrad, our home away from home for the evening.
After drinks and snacks at the Conrad, German brought us to the dance club, Gonzalez y Gonzalez. I was fearful that my terrible dancing would make everyone run away. Happily, I could get lost in the crush of super coordinated Latin dancers and quietly do my “Tall Woman Dance”, as Kiki once called it, against a wall. (Oh, and yes, margaritas were drunk. Tequila shots were done.)
It’s true the next day, we were not at our best. The pounding head and upset tum were worth it given all the fun we had the night before – when do you ever say that about a hangover? Fresh air would be our cure. We headed to the New York Botanical Gardens for healing natural beauty. If you have never been, the gardens are really a must see – anytime of year.
Thank you wonderful friends for the happy memories! May there be many more tributes to you in the future!
For many, many years, I have made a Spring pilgrimage to NYC to take in the culture, style, and attitude that is uniquely New York – and, of course, to visit my dear friend, Kiki, and her wonderful husband, Scott. My bite from the Big Apple always includes a meal at one of the city’s finest (Alain Ducasse (closed), Le Bernardin), most iconic (The Four Seasons, The Rainbow Room), or buzziest (Cipriani Downtown) restaurants. While I am privileged to delight in such gustatory pleasures and sumptuous surroundings, my favorite NYC boites are those of Chef Galen Zamarra. Mas (farmhouse) is my most favorite restaurant, in the world, ever. The food is divinely elevated French fare with a touch of California a la Alice Waters. The ambiance is a perfect balance of elegance and hipness (two concepts that don’t usually go together). When I am at Mas, I am at home.
Given my spiritual connection to Mas, I could not wait to try Galen’s newest restaurant, Almanac. Galen is a Northern California boy who grew up surrounded by the beauty of the Santa Cruz mountains and coastline. His love and appreciation of nature is present in every aspect of his cooking. You won’t find rabbit tortellini with Thumbelina carrots (adorable, right?) anywhere else but Chef Galen’s kitchen. The idea for Almanac grew from Galen’s own “almanacs” – journals he kept of his daily trips to farmers markets while a chef at Bouley. In his almanacs, Galen recorded what foods were fresh, seasonal, and complementary. These culinary observations were the foundation and inspiration for Almanac.
Almanac. Counting the minutes until I can worship at the Shrine of Chef Galen again!
I love guests! It is a pleasure for me to show visiting friends and family around my beloved city and most favorite state. For a long time and to this day, I insist that all guests visit Alcatraz. The boat ride to the island offers a different perspective of the city and the bay. The history of Alcatraz is fascinating – you MUST do the superlative audio tour. The National Park Service is constantly renovating and expanding the buildings you can visit. The gift shop is excellent. 😉 If those weren’t reasons enough, I recently discovered a new one – Fog City. Formerly known as the Fog City Diner, the restaurant and bar were recently renovated and Fog City is now an intergral part of the CCC’s Tour of Alcatraz. I was thrilled to be able to take my sister, Annie, and her boyfriend, John there after our day on The Rock.
But first, a few pics of Alcatraz…it must be done.
Recently, my sister, Annie and her boyfriend, John, came to SF for a visit. In accordance with the CCC’s Rules of Good Hostessing, we, of course, spent a day in wine country. We are lucky in the Bay Area to live so close to a bounty of incredible wineries, it’s sometimes hard to chose where to go. This is why for all things wine I turn to my wonderful friends, Pamela and Anton. They know wines and they know wine country. In addition to one of my favorite wineries, Medlock Ames (see my review here), Pamela and Anton also suggested Michel-Schlumberger and Dry Creek Vineyards ending at Rustic for a late lunch. Yes, it was a wonderful day!
After a fantastic start to our day at Medlock Ames, we moved onto Michel-Schlumberger, quite possibly the most elegant winery in Sonoma. Jean-Jacques Michel planted the first vines here in 1979. The Dry Creek Valley soil and climate are ideal for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Chardonnay grapes. In 1991, Jacques Pierre Schlumberger joined with Michel bringing with him a 400-year family history of wine making. Of note, Jacques Pierre is a descendant of Conrad and Marcel Schlumberger founders of Schlumberger, a global company that serves the technology and project management needs of the oil and gas industry.
In addition to wine tasting, you can also do a food pairing at Michel-Schlumberger. Perfect for the peckish taster. The food was delish and the wines were lovely. The zinfandel was the crowd favorite. It was particularly special because, our host, Ryan, was the vinter for this wine. He and father founded Leonhardt Vineyards and they have been making Zins since 2007. Don’t tell the folks at Michel-Schlumberger but you can buy Ryan’s wine at Trader Joes!
Founded in 1972 by David S. Stare, Dry Creek Vineyards was the first in the area. Before the winery, Dry Creek Valley was rather desolate with only a few family farms and prune orchards. I went crazy for their sauvignon blanc and joined the wine club.
On Claire and Julia’s last full day of their trip (sad face), we took a trip to Safari West in Sonoma. Located on 400 acres of gorgeous wine country, Safari West is home to more than 90 species of African wildlife. Safari West is also a breeding center for endangered birds. Founded in 1993 by Nancy and Peter Lang, Safari West is committed to the well-being and preservation exotic animals and birds. Conservation through education is a primary goal of Safari West and one of its educational mainstays is a fantastic three-hour tour of the property in open-air four-wheel drive land rovers and jeeps. You can also spend the night on the property in luxury tents complete with hot showers and hardwood floors – the smidge of roughing it every cocktail camper desires.
After our Safari adventure, we were, of course, famished. Julia and Claire had never been to In-N-Out Burger and requested we stop at the one in Mill Valley. When I learned that my parents also had never been to the best burger place in the world, dinner there was mandatory. If you have never been to In-N-Out, it is well worth a trip. They only make a few things: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, the famous “Double Double” (two cheeseburgers under one bun), french fries, and milkshakes. May I recommend the following menu: 1) The Double Double; 2) French Fries; and 3) Vanilla milkshake. You will not be dissapointed.
I love my niece! Her name is Claire and she is one of the kindest, funniest, coolest people on the planet. Imagine my delight when she and her equally wonderful friend, Julia, came for a visit over their February break. They were escaping the soul-crushing Boston winter for some California sun and fun. In addition to hanging-out in the hottub (did you think the CCC wouldn’t have a hottub?) and eating all the junk food our mothers won’t usually let us eat, we had some excellent SF-Bay Area adventures. Our first stop was Muir Woods in Marin County.
Named in honor of John Muir (the founding father of the National Park Service), Muir Woods is home to 240 acres of old-growth coastal redwoods – one of the few remaining groves in the area. The land Muir Woods sits on was originally owned by William and Elizabeth Kent. They purchased the land in the early 1900s. In 1907, a local water company wanted to dam the nearby Redwood Creek and flood (read: ruin) the valley. The Kents thought this a terrible idea. When the water company threatened eminent domain, the Kents donated the land to the federal government effectively avoiding local jurisdiction and court proceedings. (Sneaky!) In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt designated Muir Woods a national monument (the first ever from private land). The president wanted to name the location “Kent Woods” but the Kents insisted the glorious redwood grove be named after John Muir. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Kent (and John Muir and President Roosevelt) for ensuring we can enjoy Muir Woods now and into the future!
Is it time for lunch yet? Yes, it is! No trip to Muir Woods is complete without lunch at The Pelican Inn. In the style of a Tudor inn (indeed, much of the inn’s decor is from English buildings built in the 16th century), The Pelican Inn serves tasty pub fare perfect for hungry hikers.