Category Archives: Great Finds

San Francisco’s Landmark InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel Nears Its Centennial

The Margherita naan flatbread at the Nob Hill Club at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel.
The Margherita naan flatbread at the Nob Hill Club at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel.

As someone born and bred in San Francisco, I am mortified to admit that until last month, I’d never taken the elevator all the way up to the Top of the Mark, the iconic 19th floor bar in the grand dame InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel.

With such a celebrated landmark in your own backyard, it’s easy to get jaded, thinking it’ll always be there, so you keep promising yourself to get to it one day.

Well, one day finally came this month, when I was invited to stay overnight, and enjoy dinner and cocktails at this venerable hotel that will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2026.

Everywhere you turn, there is a sense of history in this gilded property. As the saying goes, “They don’t make places like this anymore,” and they sure don’t.

The grand entrance atop Nob Hill.
The grand entrance atop Nob Hill.
The lobby.
The lobby.

Mark Hopkins was one of the founders of the Central Pacific Railway, and a bit tightfisted with his wallet, jested Connie Perez-Wong, the hotel’s creative director, as she gave me a tour of the property. It was his wife, Mary, who convinced him to build her dream home here on top of Nob Hill — all 39 rooms of it. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to ever move into it. Instead, in what some might call a cougar-like move, Mary ended up marrying the home’s interior designer, who was considerably younger than her, and moving into the hilltop home with him.

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Epic Tarragon Roast Chicken That Lives Up To Its Name

What makes this dish epic? A juicy roast chicken plus an addictive creamy sauce -- all made together in one pan.
What makes this dish epic? A juicy roast chicken plus an addictive creamy sauce — all made together in one pan.

Few dishes satisfy like a great roast chicken.

And this particular one is truly sensational.

It may not have the most shatteringly crisp skin, but I’ll forgive that because what it does possess is even better — a fabulous creamy sauce flavored with white wine and loads of tarragon that cooks up conveniently in the same roasting pan.

In short, “Epic Tarragon Roast Chicken” is indeed epic.

This straightforward recipe is from “The Farm Table” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. It was written by Julius Roberts, a farmer and former chef of the acclaimed Noble Rot restaurant in London.

After growing disillusioned and burnt out from the stresses of cooking professionally, Roberts decided to leave the big city to return to the land. A first-time farmer, he writes evocatively about his journey to create a small, self-sufficient farm where he learned animal husbandry, foraging, and what it really means to live, breathe, and eat by the seasons.

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A Visit to the New Il Mercato de Che Fico

La Mortazza fociaccia sandwich, sold by the pound, at Il Mercato de Che Fico.
La Mortazza fociaccia sandwich, sold by the pound, at Il Mercato de Che Fico.

If you’re a fan of the food at Che Fico in Menlo Park and San Francisco, you’ll be glad to know you can now easily tote some of those same specialty Italian dishes home to enjoy.

That’s thanks to the new Il Mercato de Che Fico by owners Chef David Nayfeld and Matt Brewer, that opened last month across the way from Che Fico Parco in Menlo Park’s Springline mixed-use development.

Chef Chris Timm, who oversees the market, was kind enough to show me around and let me sample some of the goods on a recent afternoon.

Chef Chris Timm.
Chef Chris Timm.
The entrance on El Camino Real.
The entrance on El Camino Real.

The gourmet market’s entrance is right on El Camino Real, so it’s easy to access, especially if you snag street parking or opt for the development’s underground garage that’s patrolled by a robot sentry no less.

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In Praise of Curtis Stone’s Spiced Barbecue Lamb Ribs with Labneh

Sink your teeth into juicy lamb ribs flavored with warm spices.
Sink your teeth into juicy lamb ribs flavored with warm spices.

If you love pork ribs or beef ribs, you really ought to give lamb ones a go.

Because they boast even more flavor and tenderness, along with an incomparable juicy, fatty richness that’s a pure guilty pleasure.

“Spiced Barbecue Lamb Ribs with Labneh” is a sure-bet introduction to them. The fool-proof recipe is by celebrity chef Curtis Stone, and comes from his acclaimed Hollywood restaurant, Gwen, which he operates with his brother, the restaurateur Luke Stone.

And despite the recipe name, you don’t even really need a barbecue grill to make these. They can be made entirely in the oven, if you like.

It’s from the book, “Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes” (Abrams, 2023), of which I received a review copy, which was written by Eater’s restaurant editor, Hillary Dixler Canavan.

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Psst…The New Suspiro at Santana Row Has A Secret Speakeasy

Paella de carne at the new Suspiro in San Jose.
Paella de carne at the new Suspiro in San Jose.

The new Suspiro, which opened in San Jose’s Santana Row last month, offers up delightful Spanish and Peruvian specialties, along with an intriguing attraction:

A secret, reservation-only speakeasy tucked away in the back with its own private entrances.

How surreptitious? The press materials I received never even mentioned it. If you go to the Suspiro web site, you won’t easily find anything written about it either. That is, not until you scroll to the very bottom of the page to find a red star symbol underneath the restaurant’s phone number. Click on it, and it will take you to the Instagram page with a link. Click on that, and you’ll see yet another link to make a reservation at the speakeasy via Resy. You’ll also see a link there for “members,” where you can apply to be one. Although I was told it’s unlikely a membership will ever entail a fee, it may entitle you in the future to special perks.

The stylish dining room.
The stylish dining room.

So, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant a few weeks ago, this was all news to me. As was the fact that the executive chef is Yerika Munoz Rodriguez, a woman who had Frida Mexican Cuisine and Cantina Frida in Beverly Hills, and worked with celebrated Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio at Astrid y Gaston in Mexico City. That’s because all the press materials only included the name of Oscar Santos, the chef de cuisine, a Barcelona native who spent time working at that city’s Michelin-starred Enigma by Albert Adria.

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