Category Archives: Wine

Great China Restaurant Is Beyond Great

The best Peking duck you just might ever have --- at Great China.

The best Peking duck you just might ever have — at Great China.

 

The first clue that Berkeley’s family-run Great China is quite unlike any other mom-and-pop Chinese restaurant comes when you pull up to the front door.

Even on a Sunday evening at 4:30 p.m., you’re likely to find a line of about 30 people, waiting patiently for the doors to open a half hour later.

Once you step inside, you get your next clue. The restaurant may carry a moniker of generations past, but its interior is all clean-lines contemporary with concrete floors, exposed ducts,  a waterfall-edged wood bar countertop, polished wood tables, pendant lights and oversized abstract canvases on the walls.

The restaurant was established in 1985 by Mike and Jenny Yu. It is now run by their sons, James and Tai, the latter who designed the restaurant space after a catastrophic fire destroyed the original location a few blocks away in 2012.

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Reveling In Modern Cal-Indian Cuisine at Campton Place

Campton Place restaurant's famed Spice Pot dish.

Campton Place restaurant’s famed Spice Pot dish.

 

Naan formed into rolls as fluffy as classic Parker House ones and hiding a center of ricotta. Cauliflower florets garnished with ethereal turmeric foam. And familiar-tasting cumin-scented potatoes and peas, but uncannily presented in a flower pot spewing wisps of dry ice.

That’s the unique, incredibly elegant cuisine served at Michelin-starred Campton Place in San Francisco by Chef Srijith Gopinathan. French techniques are applied to traditional Indian flavors with inspired Bay Area flourishes to create food that evokes time and place.

That’s what I found when I was invited in as a guest a few weeks ago. It had been a few years since I last dined at the restaurant. The food has grown more personal with Gopinathan really showcasing his native India and adopted city of San Francisco in memorable ways.

The dining room.

The dining room.

Just a few steps from Union Square.

Just a few steps from Union Square.

My husband and I checked into our complimentary room at the Taj Campton Place Hotel. 

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Santa Clara Square Welcomes the Newest Fleming’s Steakhouse

A goblet of ahi poke at Fleming's Santa Clara.

A goblet of ahi poke at Fleming’s Santa Clara.

 

With Whole Foods, Il Fornaio, Sur La Table, Books Inc., and other businesses, Santa Clara Square has been hopping.

Even more so now with the opening of the newest Fleming’s Steakhouse nearly two months ago.

Be prepared to scour the parking lot for a space if you dine here, though. That’s because the lot is surprisingly compact, given the number of businesses. And there’s no street parking nearby. One can only wonder how much more congested the place will get once Puesto restaurant opens, too.

As it is, prepare to circle around quite a bit to snag a space. We did on a weeknight, when we were invited in as a guest of the restaurant. We ended up giving in to valet parking in front of Fleming’s. It will set you back $7. You pay with your credit card, then text when you are done with dinner to have your car ready and waiting when you leave.

The dining room.

The dining room.

A partition of wine bottles.

A partition of wine bottles.

It’s a handsome restaurant with a glassed-in open kitchen at the back. The dining room has large booths, and a dramatic light fixture that may make you think of a UFO. Floating shelves of wine bottles act as a partition between the bar and dining room.

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Vineyard Cake

Vineyard Cake, when Napa and Sonoma are on my mind.

Vineyard Cake, when Napa and Sonoma are on my mind.

 

With the searing news footage, the loss of lives, the destruction of homes, and the terrifying speed and ferocity with which this catastrophe all happened, Wine Country weighs heavily on our minds lately.

The series of deadly conflagrations that swept through Napa and Sonoma counties in a flash in the past two weeks left an indelible mark. Lives will be forever changed. Rebuilding will be a long, slow, painful and costly process. The fires of 2017 – and all they wrought — will not soon be erased.

We donate money. We volunteer our help. Still, we feel rather helpless in the face of the enormity of the destruction.

What else to do? In the months, and years to come, simply don’t forget. When the regions are no longer front-page newspaper stories or the lead item on the 6 o’clock news, don’t let Napa and Sonoma fall off your radar. Buy the wines to enjoy this Thanksgiving. Or send a bottle to friends across the country for Christmas. Plan a trip to Wine Country in to support hotels, restaurants, boutiques, and tasting rooms. Moreover, as you get ready to do your annual income taxes, take a deduction and do good at the same time, by making a donation to the Napa Valley Community Foundation or the Community Foundation Sonoma County.

And then bake this cake.

That may sound like a crazy idea, but there is something to be said for really being present in the moment, for taking the time to focus singularly on a place or a thing, that makes us truly appreciate it.

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Kicking Back on the Central Coast of Oregon

A view of the Oregon coast.

A view of the Oregon coast.

 

Gleneden Beach, OR. — If all you know about this state is its artsy, quirky city of Portland, take a drive to the central coast to see a whole ‘nother side.

That’s just what I did when I was invited with a few other food writers a few weeks ago to stay at Salishan Spa & Golf Resort, following its multi-million-dollar renovation and opening of its new restaurant, Samphire.

The hotel is about two hours from Portland. Its 250 acres of forested land hug the rugged coastline that gets its share of sunshine and misty days at this time of year.

The view outside my room at Salishan.

The view outside my room at Salishan.

The 500-case wine cellar at Salishan.

The 500-case wine cellar at Salishan.

You'll be relaxing in no time at the spa.

You’ll be relaxing in no time at the spa.

The 205-room property was developed in 1965. The cozy, rustic-chic hotel is decorated with $500,000 worth of art, created by Native American, and other Oregon and Washington artists.

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