Category Archives: Great Finds

Holidays at The Hotel Healdsburg

Holiday tea is served in style at the Hotel Healdsburg.

Holiday tea is served in style at the Hotel Healdsburg.

 

Sonoma Wine Country always sparkles, but even more so during the holidays.

With everything ablaze in festive lights, it’s a wonderland without the true toll of winter.

There’s no better place to experience it, too, than at the Hotel Healdsburg, as I found out when I was invited as an overnight guest recently.

The 56-room boutique hotel, right on the square, is co-owned by celeb Chef Charlie Palmer, who lives with his family just four miles away on a 36-acre spread. The hotel was his first venture upon moving to the area in 2001. It sports one of his restaurants, Dry Creek Kitchen, as well as a lifestyle store, Lime Stone, operated by his wife Lisa.

For the holidays, the hotel gets dressed up with strings of lights, and both tabletop and 6-foot-tall decorated trees. The contemporary fireplace in the lobby lounge is always aglow with a warm fire. Nearby is a help-yourself station where you can assemble your own cups of spiced cider or hot cocoa complete with cinnamon sticks or mini marshmallows.

Dry Creek Kitchen -- all done up for the holidays.

Dry Creek Kitchen — all done up for the holidays.

The lounge also has a full bar, with plenty of tables and chairs around the fireplace, to enjoy an afternoon glass of wine or morning breakfast, which is included in the price of the room.

Now through Dec. 23, the lounge also serves a popular Holiday Tea on weekends from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. It’s $34 per person with tea and food; $43 with wine; and $14 for kids under 12 who get a choice of tea, cider or hot chocolate.

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From Roy’s — Or The Story of the $50 Panettone

From Roy's dark chocolate panettone -- fit for a king or queen.

From Roy’s dark chocolate panettone — fit for a king or queen.

 

When I told my husband, who is notoriously frugal (he’d call himself, “cheap”), that I was writing a story about a pastry chef who makes a $50 panettone, he was beside himself.

He rolled his eyes, completely flabbergasted. Who in their right minds, he thought, would pay that much for an Italian Christmas bread that you can get for a song on the shelves at Cost Plus?

Then, I cut him a thick slab of the handmade dark chocolate panettone made by From Roy’s of Richmond. He put a forkful in his mouth. He let out a sigh. Then, he actually said, “OK, I can see paying $50 for this.”

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Chowing Down at Honolulu’s Mahina & Sun’s and The Pig & The Lady

Chef Ed Kenney sporting the world's craziest mug at Mahaina & Sun's.

Chef Ed Kenney holding the world’s craziest mug at Mahaina & Sun’s.

Chef Ed Kenney’s New Mahina & Sun’s

OAHU, HAWAII — Chef Ed Kenney never in his wildest dreams thought he’d have a restaurant on Waikiki Beach.

The touristy scene just wasn’t his particular cup of tea. After all, his other restaurants — Town, Kaimuki Superette, and Mud Hen Water — are all mere steps from one other in the quieter, residential neighborhood of Kaimuki.

But when Aqua-Aston Hospitality got the idea for revamping an old motel in Waikiki, they wooed him for a year until he finally agreed to open Mahina & Sun’s there in the Surfjack Hotel.

When he first saw the property, it was deja vu. Kenney chuckled, remembering that he once was a regular at a punk rock club that was on the premises.

The social media-sensation of a swimming pool.

The social media-sensation of a swimming pool.

The fun artwork.

The fun artwork.

Movies pool-side at night.

Movies pool-side at night.

Call it fate. But Kenney’s forward-thinking, Hawaiian farm-to-table cuisine seems right at home in this super cool and funky fun space.

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A Visit to Koko Head Cafe, Tin Roof, and the Huge Shirokiya Village Walk

Breakfast is served -- by Chef Lee Anne Wong at her Koko Head Cafe.

Breakfast is served — by Chef Lee Anne Wong at her Koko Head Cafe.

Honolulu’s Koko Head Cafe

OAHU, HAWAII — Even if you think you’re not a breakfast person, you will be after eating at Chef Lee Anne Wong’s Koko Head Cafe.

The down-home Hawaiian diner entices from the get-go, as I found when I was invited in as a guest two weeks ago.

Three years ago, the former “Top Chef” contestant made the big move to Hawaii from New York, after falling for a local farmer.

Shortly afterward, she opened her lively joint that serves only breakfast and brunch.

Whether you favor sweet or savory, you’re sure to find something to enjoy.

Fruit-topped bruschetta.

Fruit-topped bruschetta.

Each day, there is a different dumpling offered.

Each day, there is a different dumpling offered.

For us, that meant Breakfast Bruschetta ($6) — toasted bread slathered with macadamia yogurt and garnished with fresh tropical fruit. I’d eat this every morning quite happily.

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Pedigreed Pasta

A simple pasta dish becomes extra special with Community Grains organic whole grain pastas.

A simple pasta dish becomes extra special with Community Grains organic whole grain pastas.

 

There are a lot of things to like about the new varieties of Community Grains pastas.

First, they’re all made from organic whole grain that’s grown and milled in Northern California.

Second, they boast transparency in the process — labeling each box with a code that you can plug into its Web site to find information about the farm that grew the particular wheat, the seed source, type of wheat, soil it was grown in, and not only when it was milled but by what type of mill.

Third, at a time when commodity wheat is grown for high yield and uniformity, the varieties of wheat that make up these pastas are grown for their distinctiveness and flavor. The pastas are made in small batches using Italian bronze dies, then slowly air-dried to enhance the wheat flavor.

And fourth, what flavor it is. While so many supermarket pastas just offer something to put sauce on, these artisan pastas can handle the simplest of toppings because they have enough flavor and character to stand out all on their own.

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