Category Archives: Travel Adventures

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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Sacramento’s Grange To Get a Facelift

 

The top-selling zabuton at Grange.

The top-selling zabuton at Grange.

When Sacramento’s Grange reopens tomorrow, it will have a refreshed look.

I’m curious to see how this farm-to-fork downtown restaurant will re-imagine itself, as I had the chance to check it out a month before the redo, when I was invited in as a guest of Grange and the swank Citizen Hotel.

Downtown Sacramento is undergoing its own renaissance, what with the opening of Golden 1 Center, home of the Sacramento Kings, just a stroll away.

With Chef Oliver Ridgeway’s farm-to-table sensibilities and an industrial, masculine setting of concrete columns, soaring windows all around, and black steel pendant lights, the restaurant has long been a popular venue. The bar area in particular gets packed early in the evening whenever there is an event going on at the arena.

Grange's former look.

Grange’s former look.

I started with a Blueberry Shrub ($13), a refreshing sip of gin, lemon, thyme, and Luxardo sour cherry syrup, made extra puckery with Buckeye Creek blueberry rice vinegar. It’s a great way — and a pretty one — to rev the palate up.

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Eating on Maui’s Kaanapali Coast

Hula Grill's poke tacos.

Hula Grill’s poke tacos.

 

MAUI, HAWAII — Imagine three miles of sand and water so entrancing that it was once the retreat for Hawaiian royalty. That’s what Kaanapali beach on Maui’s west side is all about.

I had a chance to check out some of the food in the area when I was a guest on the island last month, courtesy of the Hawaii Visitors Bureau.

There’s almost always a line outside Hula Grill — for good reason. It has a coveted place right on the beach. In fact, the outdoor tables and chairs are planted right in the sand with a stunning view of the ocean.

There’s often live music, too, including the likes of Derick Sebastian, an award-winning ukulele player and singer.

A popular place to dine where you can dig your toes into the sand.

A popular place to dine where you can dig your toes into the sand.

It’s a perfect place for a casual, no-nonsense lunch. The Hula Caesar ($9) features local upcountry romaine, garlic focaccia croutons and shredded parmesan. I added seared ahi for another $10. I missed having anchovies, but I appreciated that the salad was lightly dressed.

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Basking in Luxury at the Four Seasons Oahu

Brunch -- local fruit, banana bread and honeycomb -- is served at the Four Seasons Oahu.

Brunch — local fruit, banana bread and honeycomb — is served at the Four Seasons Oahu.

 

OAHU, HAWAII — Staying at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina is every bit as posh as it sounds.

When my husband told a co-worker that we’d be staying there complimentary, as guests of the Hawaii Visitors Bureau, she gasped, “Do you have the right clothes for that?”

My husband and I also quickly calculated that the total price of our room for two nights nearly approached the cost of one month of our mortgage.

But if you possess the means, wow, what a way to relax in paradise.

A former Marriott, the property was completely renovated a year ago. Its 17 floors sport 371 rooms, the majority of them ocean front.

Our room with a view.

Our room with a view.

The resort will deliver cold beverages to you by the pool or beach via these babies.

The resort will deliver cold beverages to you by the pool or beach via these babies.

A wedding chapel on the grounds.

A wedding chapel on the grounds.

The lobby decor.

The lobby decor.

Take a load off in one of the airy sitting areas.

Take a load off in one of the airy sitting areas.

An especially nice touch is an iPad in the room, which among other things, allows you to order room service from any of the property’s five restaurants and lounges.

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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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