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.
This week, Andy and I were invited to try out the new winter menu at Seasons 52. Seasons 52 describes themselves as a fresh grill and wine bar that offers a seasonal menu inspired by the appeal of a farmer’s market and what’s good now. I would also add that they cater to people who enjoy dining out, but like to stay calorie conscious. That pretty much describes me, and why I have accepted every invitation the restaurant has sent my way. I really love the concept of the restaurant and enjoy the food!
We started out in one of the banquet rooms, (other writers were also invited and gathered there) to taste a few of the featured wines and flatbreads. Andy and I passed on the flatbreads (which Seasons 52 does specialize in because they can make them very seasonal—by swapping out the toppings when the seasons change—and low in calorie). However, later on we found out that they can make any of the flatbreads on the menu with a gluten-sensitive dough! I have been to the restaurant 5 or 6 times now and I never knew this! 🙂 More on the gluten-senstive flatbreads later, but before I get too off track, let’s get back to the wine tasting at the beginning of our evening:
I particularly enjoyed the Catena Cabernet Sauvignon, a reasonably priced food friendly wine, that is a recent addition to the Seasons 52 wine list. Their international wine list features 100 wines and offers at least 52 of them by the glass.
During the wine tasting, Andy and I met up with Susan Cooper (who writes the blog Finding Our Way Now) and her husband. Since both of our websites have shifted towards wine, we decided to sit together during dinner and talk about some of our current and future projects.
I started out with this rosé of Syrah from Casas del Bosque. It was an off-dry wine and a great appetizer in my book. 🙂
Speaking of appetizers, this is the gluten-friendly flat bread I mentioned earlier. We chose the Grilled Garlic Pesto Chicken with fresh mozzarella cheese, balsamic onions, roasted red peppers and arugula. The entire appetizer clocks in at 490 calories. It’s called “gluten-friendly” as opposed to “gluten-free” because the kitchen and oven are exposed to gluten. Celiacs should always take extreme caution when dining out, but people who are gluten-free for other reasons can enjoy this flatbread as much as I did! 🙂
Of course, there are dishes that are not gluten-free, but still worth a try such as the Black & White Lobster Ravioli.
The raviolis are made with squid ink and egg pasta, and topped with shitake mushrooms and roasted red peppers. The dish is finished with a sherry-lobster sauce. (320 calories)
If you’re looking for a cocktail in between your appetizer and entrée, Seasons 52 currently features a Bourbon Berry Bramble and a Cranberry & Sage cocktail to enjoy this holiday season.
Entrée time! I think Andy and I were really feeling the seasons change and both ordered red meat for dinner.
I ordered the Grilled Flat Iron Steak Salad: Bibb lettuce, butternut squash, grilled red onion, a cheddar tuile and horseradish vinaigrette. (450 calories).
I wish I would have known the presentation of my salad was going to be so dramatic, because I would have filmed it and posted the video. The salad is brought out in on the plate with a cuff/ring around it and then it is released upon service. It was like “voilá” here’s your steak salad. I ordered dressing on the side because truthfully, there’s so many flavors going on, I didn’t really need it. Cheddar tuile, I wish I could wrap you around me like a blanket. 😉
Andy ordered another meaty dish: The Oak-Grilled New York Strip. Ut was a soy garlic marinade, charcoal roasted vegetables, Yukon potato mash and a 15-year aged balsamic drizzle. (750 calories) Whoa, Andy, hope you don’t plan on eating dessert.
Just kidding! I love it that Andy is willing to tag along with me and try all this incredible food. We both agreed that the steaks on the salad and on his entrée were perfect (medium rare).
By the way, our server was John. You’ll need to know that because you will want to ask for him when you visit Seasons 52. Here’s what he looks like if you need to chase him down. 😉
Truthfully, I am amazed this kid isn’t working as a wine rep. He knew almost as much as one. This is an instance where server training has really paid off. John is just as enthusiastic and passionate about wine as I am. Maybe. 😉 Anyway, if there are not enough reasons to stop by Seasons 52, do so, so that you can be waited on by this guy! 🙂
More wines (some of our server John’s favorites) he allowed our table to try. I went with sparking wine (sorry, John!) because these days, I try to keep the alcohol content down while I am out and about. 130 calories per glass in the prosecco, by the way. 🙂
And then it was time to order dessert! 🙂 At Seasons 52, they have a portion-controlled dessert menu that is brought out so you can see exactly what you are ordering!
I passed on the dessert plate, because I was actually so full from dinner, but I heard great things about the S’More dessert as well as the gingerbread dessert from my table mates.
This Friday (Black Friday) you can enjoy Seasons happy hour menu from open to close. With $8 specialty cocktails, $6 select glasses of wine and $5 Chef-inspired small plates, there’s something for everyone!!
Special thanks to the management at Seasons 52 for setting up this special tasting. We’ll definitely be back!!
12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: Josh Cellars Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon Duo
It’s day ten of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover and today’s pick comes from Josh Cellars. It’s their duo of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
These are inexpensive to mid-priced wines, and a great gift for your boss, co-worker or neighbor. They are also wise choices to bring to Christmas dinner to share with the family.
The Sauvignon Blanc is a drink now and pairs well with a starter salad, cheeses and seafood, and the Cabernet Sauvignon you can enjoy now with a main course like this Salt and Pepper Crusted Prime Rib with Sage Jus! There are also definite aging capabilities on the Cabernet if you have the patience to wait. 😉
The Sauvignon Blanc costs around $17 and the Cabernet Sauvignon around $16. Both can be found at Total Wine and More.
For every bottle you purchase until Dec 31st, they will donate $1 to Operation Homefront and their special Holiday Meals for Military program.
Operation Homefront’s Holiday Meals for Military ensures troops and their families have what they need for a healthy and plentiful holiday meal. In 2014, they will be distributing 8,000 meals in 21 locations across the country.
About Operation Homefront:
A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 2,500 volunteers with nationwide presence who provide emergency and other financial assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. Operation Homefront has provided assistance to thousands of military families since its inception in 2002. Recognized for superior performance by leading independent charity watchdog groups, nationally, 93 percent of total donations to Operation Homefront go directly to programs that provide support to our military families. For more information, go to www.OperationHomefront.net.
About Josh Cellars:
California vintner Joseph Carr’s line of Josh Cellars wine is named in honor of his father – a passionate stock car racer and war veteran who was as unassuming and approachable as the wines that bear his name. Josh Cellars offers bold, complex and approachable wines handcrafted for drinking with family and friends. Sourced from vineyards across the Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Mendocino County, and even the Central Coast of California, Josh Cellars offers six California varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and a new red blend, “Legacy.”
Tune in tomorrow for day eleven of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover! Cheers 🙂
12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: Domaine Chandon’s Limited Edition Blanc de Noirs, Holiday 2014
The countdown rolls on with day four of 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover! For day four, I’ve selected Domaine Chandon’s Limited Edition Blanc de Noirs, Holiday 2014.
Wrapped in chic winter-white and emblazoned with the golden phrases “The Party Starts Here,” “Pour on the Fun” and “I Am the After Party,” these Limited Edition bottles are as fun to give as they are to pour.
The wine retails for $24.00 per bottle (standard 750mL) and $19.20 per bottle for wine club members.
Head over to Domaine Chandon’s Estore to purchase. They’ve got a special offer on ground shipping with the purchase of a case and if you use ground shipping (enter code BUBBLES12), you can still get the wine in time for New Year’s Eve if you order by 12/18.
Also, check out Domaine Chandon’s entertaining and hosting tips over on their site!
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!
Last week, Andy and I had the privilege of attending a private wine tasting at Total Wine & More to select my holiday picks that will be featured in the Sacramento area Total Wine & More stores, as well as right here and right now on cavegrrl.com. For the next month, I’ll be pictured next to my wine selections (with a tag that will resemble the one below) in Sacramento area stores with a link back to this website.
Total Wine & More is pretty much my version of a Chocolate Factory and Theo Snyder is my Willy Wonka. She’s the manager of the Arden Total Wine & More, and has come to know my tastes in wine. For the tasting, she pulled several wines for me that were a refreshing departure from the normal Chardonnay and Pinot Noir picks synonymous with Thanksgiving and other holiday meals.
And now, I get to pass them on to you. As not only fantastic beverage choices that will leave your taste buds dancing, but also as picks of value. Nothing in this round up is more than $29.99 per bottle, and you could actually buy all 6 wines on my list for $112!
First up is a sparkling wine that hails from Lodi! It’s the Oak Ridge Sparkling Wine (Private Cuvee) that as far as we know is probably a bubbly made from grapes of Pinot and Chardonnay. It’s $12.99 per bottle and approachable for all of your party guests. It’s off dry, and spectacular with appetizers… a great pairing with anything that has little cheese or a buttery crust. I like sparkling wines so much I could drink them during my entire meal. 🙂
Next up is a wine made by Shenandoah Vineyards (Sobon Family Wines). It’s their 2011 Amador Chenin Viognier Blend. I don’t want to give away my favorite wine of the tasting so soon in the blog post, but I have to tell you… this is the wine I am really still thinking about a week later. It was so unique. It was earthy, buttery and had a certain petroleum characteristic to it. I really love those kinds of wine. They can stand by themselves or pair beautifully with the first course of your holiday meal! Well done, Sobons! A true gem for the $14.99 price. 🙂
For my next pick, we’ll travel into Placer County near the Newcastle/Auburn area to Dono dal Cielo. That’s the 2009 Zinfandel (Foothills) I have chosen to drink with our holiday meal. Maybe you aren’t on speaking terms with your parents, but this wine will ease the tension and have everyone singing together by the second course. It’s also the most expensive wine of my picks coming in at $29.99, but I am pretty sure that’s cheaper than therapy and a whole lot more palatable.
Let’s travel back to Lodi for a visit with one of my favorite wineries, St. Amant. They make two of my favorite local wines in existence: a Barbera and a Tempranillo (the grapes in the Tempranillo hail from Amador). You can find both the Barbera and the Tempranillo at Total Wines & More, but for today, let’s focus on their Tempranillo. Tempranillo is probably my favorite red wine. I love the subtle fruit and the earthiness of the varietal. If I see it on a wine list next to any other red wine, I always choose it. It’s typically cheaper than most other reds, but far more interesting. I would drink this Tempranillo with any of the following ingredients: mushrooms, truffle, olives, meats like pork chops, prosciutto, pancetta, etc, stews, hard cheeses.
Are you ready for a powerhouse wine? Then try the 2011 Macchia Barbera Delicious. ($21.99) Macchia is located in Lodi and makes some of the best (and more potent) wines in the region. Barbera is an Italian grape varietal is the second most widely planted grape variety in Italy. If you are into big and bold, you’ll love the Delicious. It’s an intense concentration of berries with a 14.8% alcohol content.
When God gave out wine making talent, he gave an unfair advantage to Paul Sobon. I don’t think he could make a bad wine if he tried. He’s also the winemaker behind my final holiday selection, and a perfect ending to any celebration, the 2011 Sobon Zinfandel Port ($14.00, 375 mL). Port is something I only drink on very special occasions (and usually during winter) because its sugar level is very high. I treat it like dessert: I would rather have a little glass of it with some fruit and cheese instead of a piece of pecan pie any day! Another reason I like port is because it keeps longer than other wines do in the refrigerator, so no pressure to drink it all in one day. (Even though I don’t think that will be a problem with the Sobon port!)
For the person who has everything, or for the shopper who doesn’t want to purchase another meaningless gift, the World Vision Gift Catalog offers an alternative (or addition to) traditional holiday gift giving.The catalog has more than 250 items ranging in price from $16 to $39,000 that help children and families in need here in U.S. and around the world.
Included in the catalog are several items that foodies on everyone’s gift list might enjoy such as Family Food Kit, farm animals, fruit trees, drought-resistant seeds and many more. In addition, World Vision offers Maximum Impact Fund gifts that are used where resources are most desperately needed.
With a financial contribution, the gift giver can select one of 36 items that can be given to a loved one and at the same time help a person in need.
I recently chose this Fair Trade Coffee Set that includes coffee from Ethiopia, Sumatra, and Costa Rica blended by OneCup.org and is delivered in a baghand-sewn by local women with a hand-carved olivewood scoop. The bag is beautiful and well-made, and the olivewood scoop is very unique.
If you’d like your very own Fair Trade Coffee Set or would like to give it to someone as a gift, leave a comment for me below — and share this post via Facebook or Twitter. I will pick a winner at the end of the week and have the coffee sent directly to you!
Last week I was sent two boxes of wine samples from TastingRoom.com, a unique online retailer that enables consumers to discover and consume wine in several formats. The company is currently promoting a new series of celebrity chef wine samplers, curated by Chef Emeril Lagasse.
The two collections, Emeril’s Holiday Party Sampler and Emeril’s Everyday Sampler, include Emeril’s favorite wines from around the country, his suggested wine and food pairings for every meal, and customized tasting notes.
Emeril’s Holiday Party Sampler is a party-helper that offers the perfect pairing from Thanksgiving to New Years and every occasion in between. Priced at $39.95 per wine sampler, the collection includes:
- 2010 Schug Carneros Chardonnay
- 2010 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
- 2010 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
- 2007 Jake-Ryan Cellars Bald Mtn. Vineyard Zinfandel
- 2009 Gundlach Bundschu Sonoma Valley Merlot
- 2009 Clayhouse “Show Pony” Red Cedar Vineyard Paso Robles Petite Sirah
Emeril’s Everyday Sampler is a hand-selected collection of wines ideal for long lunches with friends or everyday dinners with the family. Priced at $32.95 per wine sampler, the collection includes:
- 2011 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc
- 2010 Dr. Frank Finger Lakes Semi-Dry Riesling
- 2010 Coppola “Director’s Cut” Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
- 2010 Il Cuore “The Heart” Mendocino County Barbera
- 2010 Decoy Winery Sonoma County Merlot
- 2010 Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Syrah
We brought the Everyday Sampler with us on our recent trip to Ixtapa, and enjoyed tasting the wines on our private patio outside our hotel room. This past weekend, we brought the Holiday Sampler with us to Incline Village and played a little game of “guess the varietal”. The bottles are really the perfect size for tasting (even shared by two people), and serve just the right amount to sense the wines properly (tannins, bouquet, color).
TastingRoom.com‘s innovative wine samplers are curated collections of six premium wines from around the world packaged in small 50ml (1.7 oz.) bottles. Their wines by the glass allow consumers to enjoy a single 100ml (3.4 oz.) glass of wine (singles or 4-packs) similar to a restaurant experience but without leaving home. TastingRoom.com‘s wine club allows members to make their own selections for each shipment, which includes a sampler and two bottles of the recipient’s choice. Whether it’s by the taste, by the glass or by the bottle, TastingRoom.com lets consumers enjoy wine the way they want it.
TastingRoom Inc. uses its patented TASTE Technology™ to transfer wine directly from regular-sized wine bottles (750ml and up) into smaller formats. A focus on wine quality drives every step of the transfer and testing process so that wineries and consumers alike can rest assured that the samples are a true representation of the original. TastingRoom.com customers can be confident they will enjoy every bottle they buy because they are able to sample the wine prior to making a purchase.
Hey! I am headed out on vacation–sorry no blogs for at least a week or so, but I wanted to throw a wine pick your way before I go. We made cabbage rolls and stuffed delicate squash with some ground Diestel turkey chorizo and had some spinach bread on the side, so that we could try out this Merlot/Pinot Noir blend in a PURSE! LOL… It’s made by Cantina di Soave and the label is called Volére. Show up with it at your next holiday gathering, and you’ll be the hit of the party! 🙂 Each $15 Volére cardboard purse (with a bag-in-box setup inside) holds about 2 bottles of wine.
Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to all! 🙂