A few weeks ago, I was planning a business trip to San Francisco, and I did not want to hassle with driving back to Sacramento after dark. The event I was planning and would be working in the city was a catered food and wine event at a major car dealership, and I knew I would be exhausted by the end of the evening. That’s when I decided to stay overnight in San Francisco, preferably close to the dealership.
Lucky for me, I have been and stayed in San Francisco several times and have a bit of a history and relationship with the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. I have been invited to past events, such as the opening of their 46th floor lounge, Cityscape. Cityscape is located inside tower one of the Hilton (which also happens to be the largest hotel on the West Coast).
The Cityscape has a 360-degree view of San Francisco and beyond. Through it’s 14ft floor-to-ceiling windows, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, Chinatown, AT&T Park, the Marin Headlands, Nob Hill, Oakland, and giant barges on the Bay. Now that Cityscape Lounge is open to the public, it’s at the top of my list for must-see sites in the City. Below is the video I took inside the Cityscape last year. I am using it because the Cityscape was closed (for a private event) the evening I stayed at the Hilton, and I was not able to obtain any new footage. Enjoy!
I connected with the marketing team at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, and they were able to place me in a beautiful tower room with a patio overlooking Union Square. I was happy to be back and able to check in and relax in my room before I headed to the event at the dealership that evening.
Of course the rooms inside the Hilton SF Union Square are spacious, modern, and the beds are beyond comfortable, but it was the new amenities since my last stay that were really impressive. First, there is a touch pad tablet in the rooms that is personalized to each guest. You can basically explore the entire city and find things to do during your time in San Francisco. There are recommended activities and restaurants, and you can see several menus to check out exactly what a certain restaurant offers before you make a reservation.
Not only can you become a San Francisco travel expert from your room, you can also workout at any time of day or night (with just a swipe of your hotel key) in the newly-renovated fitness center on the bottom floor of tower one. It’s a 2,800 square feet Precor®-equipped fitness area with a Cardio Theatre personal viewing system, ellipticals, treadmills, and free weights. There is also a towel and water station so you can stay fully hydrated during your workout. I really enjoyed being able to tune into Food Network and watch live time as I put in seven miles on the treadmill, and I can proudly say I didn’t miss my gym in Sacramento the slightest! Can I move in with you, Hilton San Francisco Union Square? 😉
There are refrigerators in the rooms, and you can purchase wine and snacks (like the ones below) at the lobby café/store (Herb N’ Kitchen, click for menu). I also tried the Turkey Cobb Salad for dinner that evening, and it was very satisfying.
If you are looking for more of a full service experience, you can head over to Urban Tavern which features a full menu of locally-inspired cuisine (click here for menu), and highlights 50 wines within 50 miles, Bay Area beers and indigenous spirits. I dined there during my last stay, and here are some photos of the delightful dishes Andy and I sampled!
Here’s the part where I post a bunch of pictures I took from my 44th floor room 🙂
After my workout, I enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Poached, (click here for PDF menu), located on the lobby level of the Hilton. Below is a You Tube video of items available (everything!) on the buffet. I was really impressed by the Congee bar with several toppings, as well as the availability of healthy items. (There’s also lots of pastry, cereal, bread, bagels, too, if that’s your thing.)
Things to do this season!
There are lots of activities for the whole family during the holiday season, and the Hilton San Francisco Union Square welcomes you during this festive time of year. As you can see in the photo above, Union Square is fully decked out with lights and a Christmas tree, and they have their Holiday Ice Rink open for business! There’s even a package rate that includes accommodations, 2 ice rink tickets, and a Bloomingdale’s 15% savings certificate! Follow this link for full details/to take advantage of this offer!
A Charlie Brown Christmas LIVE!
A Charlie Brown Christmas—LIVE! at Davies Symphony Hall is an experience you won’t want to miss. The performance begins with a reception in the lobby, so make sure to arrive early. The lobby will be filled with festive decorations and activities, including gigantic Christmas trees and special Peanuts décor. There will be several performances beginning this Thursday, Dec 21st and running until December 24th, 2017. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.
A Christmas Carol
Over at the American Conservatory Theatre, you can enjoy a performance of A Christmas Carol. Performances run Wednesday, Dec 21st-Sunday Dec. 24th at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary Street. For more information, click here.
A New Year’s Event with Seth McFarlane and the San Francisco Symphony
Sunday, December 31st, at 8:00pm, Davies Symphony Hall
Celebrate in timeless style with Academy and Grammy Award-nominated singer, songwriter, actor, producer, and director Seth MacFarlane, who brings a winning combination of rich crooning and cool pizazz that would do Frank and Dino proud. Watch him light up the stage with the San Francisco Symphony in a dazzling concert of finger-snapping jazz standards and holiday favorites conducted by Edwin Outwater. For tickets click here.
Another amenity I found impressive is the valet parking service. As you are checking out, you can text the code (ten minutes before you are ready to leave) on your valet ticket to the valet number (see above) and they will fetch your vehicle for you so you don’t have to wait for it.
Cityscape Lounge is open seven days a week from 5pm-Midnight. You can find the Hilton San Francisco Union Square on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter here. Tag them on social media with #hiltonfunionsq. Much thanks to the marketing team at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for your hospitality. I’ll be back soon!
*I was given a one night stay, breakfast, and parking in exchange for this informative blog post.
If you’re reading this, it’s actually AFTER Christmas now and I am late in bringing you my twelfth Christmas pick. Oops. I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. If you are still looking for gift ideas, you’ve come to the right place. Maybe the gift you chose was a big fail and you need something completely different. I am here to help!
But first, a special shout out to Esther Price Candy in Dayton, Ohio. I ordered a one pound box of assorted chocolates for Andy and an eight ounce sugar free box for myself a few weeks ago to arrive in time for Christmas. Esther Price is Andy’s favorite candy and I order it for him as a special treat every year just for Christmas. Unfortunately, the box from Esther Price turned up missing at the UPS store. (Even though someone had signed for them at the store on the 19th of December, they were gone by them time Andy came to pick them up.)
I contacted Esther Price and they took very good care of me. They immediately shipped out a replacement order next day air with no charge to me! It was around 1pm on Monday the 23rd when I called about my missing package). By the next day (the 24th) at around 1pm UPS arrived with the candy. So very awesome!! Thank you for your great service, Esther Price. We got the candy just in time for Christmas! 🙂 You can find Esther Price on Facebook here.
Now for day 12 of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: Tickets to the Zinfandel Experience.
The Zinfandel Experience features four festive, celebratory events over three days and offers a diverse selection of Zinfandel wines and styles from renowned producers and emerging wineries. The events also showcase Zinfandel producers’ spirit of collaboration and community. Set at the historic Presidio overlooking the San Francisco Bay and the iconic Four Seasons Hotel, the Zinfandel Experience is the largest single varietal tasting of its kind, bringing together top producers and wine lovers to celebrate America’s grape.
Over 100 ZAP producer members will participate in the 2015 Zinfandel Experience. Thirty-four winemakers will participate in Epicuria on Thursday, January 29 at the Golden Gate Club, Presidio of San Francisco. Over 30 winemakers will host tables at the Zinfandel Experience Dinner and Live and Silent Auctions on Friday, January 30, 2015 at the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco. Over 100 winemakers will participate in The Tasting at the Golden Gate Club and the Film Centre, Presidio of San Francisco Saturday, January 31, 2015.
A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, ZAP was founded in 1991 at a time when Zinfandel was the underdog with a cause. A small group of passionate winemaking pioneers and Zinfandel lovers joined to create a movement that would elevate the understanding and status of Zinfandel wine – rightfully establishing it among the premier varietals of the world.
Attending 2015 Zinfandel Experience is more than going to a fun and lively wine tasting event. It’s also about making deeper connections with others who love Zinfandel as much as you do. It’s about introducing your friends to a meaningful part of your life. And it’s about discovering new ways of bringing Zinfandel’s magic into the world.
Day six of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover goes to the VinniBag.
The VinniBag is a reusable travel bag with inflatable air chambers and is designed to provide superior protection against impact and leakage.
The VinniBag can be used for wine, olive oil, liquor, fragile items etc., and can hold most 750ml bottles—even larger magnum bottles (Bordeaux style only).
The Vinnibag exceeds all airline requirements and has been independently tested for alititude and temperature changes.
The VinniBag is recyclable & 100% USA Made. You can actually send used VinniBags back and the company has them turned into garden hoses to help keep our planet green and will give you a discount on your next VinniBag purchase.
The VinniBag is made by Ellessco, a women-owned company originally founded by a mother and her daughter (who still get along!). Their passion for travel, design, and technology led them to develop innovative products for life on the go.
The Vinnibag is $28 and $25 if you buy 2 at a time. You can purchase them here.
Why do I love the VinniBag? It’s pretty simple. It gets our wine from point A to point B with no bottle breakage. Andy and I have used it repeatedly over 3 years and it’s never failed. It even transported a magnum of Scribner Bend’s Black Hat Tempranillo to Mexico in perfect condition. Thank you, VinniBag! 🙂
You can find VinniBag on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here. Check back tomorrow for day seven of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover! Cheers!
Having a ham on the table during a holiday gathering is pretty much a tradition in my family. Especially on Christmas Eve. They are great on their own, with a side of mustard, or my favorite is leftover ham chopped into cubes and reheated in a saute with onion and kale or chard and some dried cranberries. In this blog however, I developed a recipe to make the ham the star of the show. It’s got all the wonderful herbs present in a holiday meal, with orange and zest that compliment the ham’s saltiness.
A big thanks to Whole Foods Market for allowing me to try one of their delicious holiday products, a ham from Wellshire Farms. I ended up with a (half) traditional boneless ham. I liked this ham because I was able to create my own recipe to heat the ham, as well as carve to my liking. (I liked. A LOT). 😉
Preheat oven to 325°. To reheat your ham, I recommend using a roasting pan with a rack, one with a bottom that you can pour some water in to help the ham retail moisture while it reheats. A meat thermometer is a pretty good thing to have as well. (Tip: A 4-pound boneless ham will serve about 12 people, and this marinade will be enough for that size).
4 Tbs fresh rosemary
2 Tbs fresh sage
2 Tbs toasted fennel seed
2 Tbs chopped garlic
2 Tbs orange zest
1 Tbs black pepper
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup olive oil
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until completely blended (mixture will be a pretty bright green). Paint the ham with the mixture using a BBQ brush. (You can also pour it over or use your hands, but a brush will coat the ham nicely. Set aside while you prepare your side dishes.
Cover the ham with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Bake until the internal temperature reaches 140° (Allow 7-8 minutes per pound). Remove the foil and place the oven on broil. Leave in for 2 minutes. This will give the top of the ham a nice finish.
Here is a link with videos to Wellshire Farms entire line of hams.
Wellshire Ham Details (traditional boneless ham)
60% less fat
No preservatives and no antibiotics
Free of nitrates, no artificial ingredients or preservatives!
The natural wood smoke and rich tasting ham make a savory combination.
You can get creative with your own unique glaze.
Ham lays flat for ease of cooking and carving.
(This ham is wrapped in clear packaging, other varieties of Wellshire Hams are wrapped in red, gold, and silver foil).
To save yourself time, you can order your ham online by heading to Whole Foods Market’s online shopping cart here.
The other dishes in the photo above will be forthcoming over the next week (hopefully): Pommes Anna and a wilted spinach & kale, chestnut, & cherry salad with roasted shallots. Happy holidays!
Here’s a little roundup of gift ideas for your favorite food or beverage enthusiast!
First up, I’d like to mention Bela Sardines.
- Bela Sardines are high in protein, very low in fat with little or no carbs!
- Rich in omega-3 fatty acids (helps reduce the occurrence of cardiovascular disease), extremely low in contaminants such as mercury.
- A good source of vitamin D, calcium, B12, Co Q10, and protein. Enjoy this wholefood vs. a vitamin.
- BELA Sardines do NOT contain any GMOs
- Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Wheat Free and Kosher, and are extremely low in contaminants such as mercury.
- Bela sardines are not heavily processed or engineered like other on-the-go nutrition options, such as nutrition bars or supplements, and are rather a naturally nutritious wholefood for any health conscious individual.
- The Paleo dieters dream meal.
Sustainable: BELA Sardines, the classic Mediterranean sardine (Walbaum Species Sardina Pilchard) are wild caught by local Portuguese fishers from the Atlantic Ocean, hand packed in traditional European manner and canned at the port within 8-hours of the catch; each effort ensures our sustainability is unsurpassed. The aluminum tin is also highly packable and recycle-able.
Affordable: A tin typically rings in under $3 at Whole Foods Market and online at PlumMarket.com. They are also available across these regions in: Harris Teeter (South East), The Fresh Market (Mid-Atlantic/Southeast), Sunflower Markets(Southwest), Mollie Stones (Bay Area), Fairway (NYC), New Seasons (Pacific NW), as well as Vitamin Cottage (Rocky Mountains)
A fish symbolizes good luck, fertility and creativity – include a sardine dish on your party menu!
Bela sardines come in 4 different flavors:
Lemon Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil
As you would eat them in London, our famous lightly smoked sardines and the finest Portuguese extra virgin olive oil infused with lemon.
Lightly Smoked in Olive Oil
Simple. Delicious. Lightly smoked sardines packed in the finest Portuguese olive oil.
Lightly Smoked in Tomato Sauce
Mediterranean style, these sardines are lightly smoked and packed in a light tomato puree with a splash of the finest Portuguese extra virgin olive oil.
Cayenne Pepper Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This is a true Portuguese favorite, lightly smoked sardines in the finest extra virgin olive oil infused with Cayenne pepper.
Next up, Balls of Steel!
Balls of Steel are two stainless steel coolers which chill whiskey or spirits faster than ice. BOS will keep spirits at the optimal temperature level without hindering the spirits taste so that one can enjoy the full flavors of their beverage and hold onto those low notes which any spirit veteran strives to protect.
Most importantly BOS supports a cause that is positively changing lives of those not only suffering from testicular cancer, but as well as their family and friends. Creating a support network for those struggling and supporting the research for a cure.
Other items for purchase on the a Balls of Steel website are BOS bracelets, BOS T-shirts, and BOS tongs to remove the coolers from your favorite beverage.
For the wine lovers, I’d like to present Ritual Pinot Noir:
The holidays are supposed to be full of celebration and fun, and Whole Foods can help take the hassle out of things like making a grocery list, figuring out what to make and how much, not to mention the hours of time you will save not having to prepare the meal.
I picked up my grocery bag full of items last Friday night, and on Saturday evening before the Clarksburg Country Run (Half Marathon), Andy and I tried them out as my pre-race meal.
The food came in a nice insulated zip up bag. (Most of the items were not Paleo, so I stuck to trying two or three things and made a salad and parsnip chips to complete my meal).
First in the bag was a fully cooked – Roasted Petite Diestel Turkey
If you read this blog, you know all about Diestel turkeys, raised in Sonora, CA by one of the last family owned and operated turkey ranches. The bird was a smaller size breed (perfect for 2-4 people!!). It comes perfectly cooked so all you have to do is reheat before serving. The turkey is Global Animal Partnership Step 3 Rated and retails for $54.99 | 6–8 lbs
Even though the Diestel’s turkeys don’t need gravy, the next item in the bag was a quart of:
Turkey Gravy–Whole Foods gravy is slow simmered with fresh veggies, roasted turkey, garlic and herbs. All you have to do is heat before serving and enjoy with any of our all natural turkey options. For $8.99 you get 1 quart.
Whole Foods Market Pull Apart Rolls we received in the bag were made by Grateful Bread. They come plain, but to jazz them up, I brushed them with melted butter, and added sea salt and herbs de Napa (an herb blend of lavender, sage, rosemary, and thyme). The rolls are $1.99 for the 6PK, and $2.99 for the 12 Pack.
I sliced some apples to eat with the block of Borough Market Foods Stilton.
The cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk with vegetarian rennet.
Texture is creamy and buttery, and pretty strong. It also pairs with Tawny Port, Pork, Pears, Figs,Walnuts, or honey. Borough Market Foods Stilton is made for WFM and is a bit younger than some other Stiltons, giving it a creamier texture. The cheese costs $18.99 per pound.
I did have a piece of the Celebration Toffee, as it was my pre-race meal. 😉
The candy is a collaborative effort between Whole Foods, Allegro Coffee, and Enstrom’s Candy Co. in Grand Junction, Colorado and is exclusive to Whole Foods Markets. These all natural toffees are available covered in Milk Chocolate or Dark Chocolate. The toffees are made with Allegro Celebration Caffe coffee. The toffee is actually studded with coffee beans and is 100 calories per piece. It goes for $9.99 for an 8 ounce container.
Last but not least, there was a WFM Pecan Pie in the bag. I only tasted the pecan topping and I am just not sure what Andy did with the rest of it. 😉 The pie is $16.99 for a 9″.
As for what to drink with dinner, a safe bet is always a Pinot Noir. It’s bigger and more fruit forward than burgundies, but softer than other red meat-centric red grapes. Pinot Noir can walk the middle ground–a much needed characteristic when it comes to Thanksgiving: a multi-course feast of many different flavors. The featured Pinot Noir this month at Whole Foods is the HRM Rex Goliath Pinot Noir.
To view the different options available for ordering you can go here. If you are overwhelmed by the choices (there are so many!) You can try their Traditional Roasted Turkey Dinner that serves 8 people for $99.99! That’s only $12.50 per person. It contains: a Fully Cooked Diestel Turkey • Savory Herb Stuffing • Mashed Potatoes • Turkey Gravy
Dinner Rolls • Classic Cranberry Relish • and a Pumpkin Pie.
Happy Holidays! P.S. Last day to order for Thanksgiving is November 19th!