Category Archives: Travel Adventures

Why Harbor House Inn Needs To Be On Your Radar

Vermillion rockfish caught just off the waters at Harbor House Inn.

Vermillion rockfish caught just off the waters at Harbor House Inn.

 

ELK, CA — A good three hours drive north from San Francisco through winding roads of vineyards and redwoods, this place is definitely off the beaten path. But it is making quite the splash.

Built in 1916, Harbor House Inn reopened this spring with decidedly new life. New owners bought the 9-room inn in 2005, and have spent the past few years not only meticulously restoring but improving it — most notably, with the restaurant.

They doubled the size of the restaurant kitchen and managed to lure an incredible team to oversee it: Executive Chef Matthew Kammerer, former executive sous chef at Michelin three-starred Saison in San Francisco. Husband-and-wife, Sous Chef David Hopps, formerly of Saison, and Pastry Chef Elise Hopps, previously of Craftsman & Wolves in San Francisco. Chef de Partie Holden Tal from Michelin two-starred Commis in Oakland. And sommelier Corrina Straus, a veteran of both La Folie in San Francisco and Michelin three-starred Manresa in Los Gatos. Amanda Nemec, former program manager for media operations at Facebook and Kammerer’s partner, is the inn’s general manager.

The entrance to the inn and restaurant.

The entrance to the inn and restaurant.

The magnificent view from the back of the property.

The magnificent view from the back of the property.

Executive Chef Matthew Kammerer (right) in the kitchen that doubled in size.

Executive Chef Matthew Kammerer (right) in the kitchen that doubled in size.

A few weeks before it opened to the public, I was invited to be a guest to come check it all out. (Full disclosure: I was hired to write some of the inn’s marketing materials.)

The Mendocino Coast town of Ellk has all of 200 people, and this inn, situated on a bluff right over the ocean, really does make you feel a bit like you’re in the middle of nowhere. There’s little else directly around it, save for a herd of shaggy-haired Highland cattle across the road.

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A Return Visit to Timber Cove Resort

Tender octopus with kimchi and squid ink-fortified black bean puree at Coast Kitchen at Timber Cove.

Tender octopus with kimchi and squid ink-fortified black bean puree at Coast Kitchen at Timber Cove.

 

JENNER, CA — What a difference six years makes.

That’s the last time I stayed at Timber Cove, a resort that sits on 23 acres of breathtaking coastline between Bodega Bay and Sea Ranch.

Perched on a bluff right over the ocean, the inn’s setting has always been jaw-droppingly beautiful. But the rooms, refreshed here and there haphazardly over the years, were stuck in a time-warp. There was too much dark wood that made everything feel a little cabin-claustrophobic, not to mention the fact there was a dark green triangular bathtub out in the open in the corner of the bedroom for some odd reason.

But fast-forward to 2014, when new owners took over, and closed the hotel in 2016 for a sizeable 6-month renovation of not only the main building, but all the rooms. Originally built in 1963 from a design by a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright, Timber Cove reopened fully at the end of 2016 still possessed of its classic architecture, but looking not only restored and refreshed, but downright fun and cool.

The entrance to Timber Cove.

The entrance to Timber Cove.

The view from the resort.

The view from the resort.

That’s what I found when I was invited back as a guest of the inn earlier this month. Renowned architectural firm Gensler worked with celeb designers, Robert and Cortney Novogratz of The Novogratz firm in Los Angeles. If you caught the Novogratz’s HGTV show, you’ll recognize their breezy California-casual style here.

They’ve injected whimsy throughout, as well as playful retro touches in a nod to the era in which the hotel was originally built.

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The 34th Annual “Taste of Yosemite” — Plus A Change to the Next Scheduled One

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel in all its majesty.

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel in all its majesty.

 

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA — There may not have been snow here last week, but there was plenty else to ignite the senses.

A bevy of celebrated chefs took to the stage and kitchen in the 34th annual “Taste of Yosemite” at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (ahem, yes, the Ahwahnee to sentimental folks like myself).

I was thrilled to be the guest moderator/host at the first two sessions of this winter-time bonanza that features cooking demos and grand gala dinners.

Chef David Bazirgan of Bambara in Cambridge, making a return to California, where he cooked for 13 years.

Chef David Bazirgan of Bambara in Cambridge, making a return to California, where he cooked for 13 years.

Chef David Bazirgan's tasting of hummus, eggplant puree, and cashew romesco.

Chef David Bazirgan’s tasting of hummus, eggplant puree, and cashew romesco.

For 34 years, the event has taken place throughout January. But look for the 35th one to break tradition.

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Eating My Way Through New York: Chef-Tastic

The whole duck confit at Cosme that takes four days to make.

The whole duck confit at Cosme that takes four days to make.

Cosme

When planning this trip to New York, one of the places highest on my list to dine was Cosme.

A couple of years ago, while attending the “Worlds of Flavor” conference at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone campus in St. Helena, I had a chance to try a little of Mexico City-chef Enrique Olvera’s innovative cuisine.

Ever since, I have been hooked. And craving more.

Herb guacamole.

Herb guacamole.

Complimentary purple tortillas and Marcona almond dip.

Complimentary purple tortillas and Marcona almond dip.

This is not your standard tacos and burritos taqueria. This sleek establishment is all about modern Mexican cuisine with star power. The prices reflect that. Yes, guacamole is $17 here. It’s a beautiful bowl of deeply rich smashed avocados strewn with micro herbs and served with huge purple tortilla chips that you break apart to scoop.

If you’re already balking at that price, then this isn’t the place for you. When you walk through the doors, you have to vanquish the notion that Mexican food has to be cheap in order to be worthwhile.

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Eating My Way Through New York: Won’t Break the Bank

The smoked chicken sandwich at Roberta's.

The smoked chicken sandwich at Roberta’s.

Roberta’s

The iconic New York pizza may be a huge, greasy, foldable slice. But Roberta’s in Brooklyn is where true pizza connoisseurs flock.

At this funky place, you enter this cement fortress of a building through scuffed wooden doors to a alpine-lodge-like dining room crammed with long, wood communal tables.

A bird-eye view of the pizza making.

A bird-eye view of the pizza making.

The dining room at lunch time.

The dining room at lunch time.

The massive wood-fired pizza oven is to your right. You get a clue as to how much attention they pay to the pizzas here when you see a pie go into the oven. It’s never left alone for long. The cook is regularly rotating it, and lifting it, leaning the edge of the crust toward the flames to kiss it with char before turning it again and again.

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