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Destination I Do

Bay Area, Beautifully

Words by Carolyn Gerin

The Bay Area doesn’t have a bad angle, and the truth is, there aren’t many places I can say that about. The best part about living here? You can be somewhere glorious in under an hour. We have it all: crashing waves, rolling hills, towering redwoods, bountiful vineyards and majestic purple fog that rolls in every evening. The foodie scene is off the hook and the social vibe is ripe with start-up swagger and artistic, eclectic innovation. Engaged couples and honeymooners who seek nature and an urban edge will find it right here.

San Francisco

Start your adventure on the waterfront: Hotel Vitale on the Embarcadero has a full view of the illuminated Bay Bridge. A certified-green hotel, this room-with-a-view is luxe and comfy, with sweeping panoramas. Head to the Americano Bar, enjoy a cocktail and hob nob with S.F.’s fabled digerati. Chef Cory Stewart serves up farm-to-fork American fare with a Cali-Italian vibe. Check out the farmers market every Saturday at the Ferry Building right across the street.

The Clift Hotel’s got dark sparkle, with a "mod historic" vibe perfectly tuned to the local hipster crowd. Cocktails at the Redwood Room are racy with video "paintings" of Italian soap opera stars whose eyes follow your every move. Sink into a leather banquette in the Velvet Room for an intimate dinner for two. Chef Thomas Weibull works with local farmers to bring seasonal, organic dishes like rich beef shortribs. 

Carousing begins at the Make-Out Room in the Mission District. With a 1940s carnival vibe and silver streamers from vaulted ceilings, enjoy S.F.’s best margaritas in town while being serenaded by a French chanteuse. Head to Bar Tartine for Chef Nicolaus Balla’s slow-food style and Hungarian influences.

Paris can wait – big flavors come from the tiny kitchen at Bouche. Sit ringside at the bar and observe a fleet of culinary wizards under Chef Nicolas Borzee conjure up Gallic magic like wild boar and duck confit croquants – c’est bon!

The Mystic Hotel by Charlie Palmer is a sleek boutique tucked away off Union Square – their mod-meets-Victorian décor rooms are comfy, yet cool. The film-noir inspired Burritt Room bar/restaurant boasts expert mixologists and craft cocktails. Canoodle in a curtained booth and enjoy the live jazz over lobster risotto.

Prepare to be dazzled by Michael Mina’s sleek "French meets Japanese" dining experience. Savor the deconstructed lobster pot pie, the tuna tartar and sparkling Champagne. The décor is a mélange of earth tones shot with metallic accents and spectacular art.

Saratoga

Hit the road for stunning Saratoga, nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains – under an hour’s drive from San Francisco. Stay at the Saratoga Oaks Lodge, a comfy retro-motor lodge and a great basecamp for adventures ahead. Start off at Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards for scenic horseback riding and wine tasting. Work up an appetite for Casa de Cobre’s organic, Michoacan enchiladas and fresh-squeezed margaritas with agave.

Get ready for your close-up at James Craig Salon – perfect nights call for runway-worthy hair: you’ve got a hot date later under the stars at the Mountain Winery - enjoy the biggest names in music, sip Cabernet under the stars and revel in the ultimate romantic evening.

Daybreak brings hiking through the stunning Hakone Japanese gardens. After, enter the Zen emporium of Preston Wynne Spa for a deep tissue massage with essential oils and become one with the Universe.

The big night begins at Cinnabar Wine Bar – enjoy local music on the patio with a glass of Sonoma Zinfandel. As the day turns to dusk, get your glam on for Chef Peter Armellino’s Plumed Horse, a Michelin star masterpiece. The sexy, modern lounge sets the stage for a night of culinary marvels. The parmesan soufflé is a stand-out.

Chef Josiah Sloane at Sent Sovi brings on the Cali-French flavors in his cottage restaurant, where small farms and local wine makers inform his stellar menu. Slip back to the wine lounge to sip and savor the end of a perfect meal.

The Basin serves modern, farm-raised American fare and boasts over 20 signature martinis. Dine under a huge oak tree at dusk and enjoy duck confit and local wines.

Sausalito

Hop the ferry and enjoy a brisk 30-minute ride to Sausalito from San Francisco, depositing you on the dock directly in front of Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa perched on a hillside overlooking Richardson Bay. Daydream and watch the sailboats while enjoying the sun and a good book. Later, head to Poggio’s for freshly caught local seafood and Napa wines.

The Bay Area brings it all: beauty and brains (and all in close proximity). Wine Country, the mountains, the ocean and the
bay are at your fingertips, so lift a glass to toast your grand adventure together.

Photos courtesy of (in order of appearance): Michael Mina, Hotel Vitale, Bouche, The Mystic Hotel

This article first appeared in Destination I Do's Fall2013/Winter 2014 issue. You can order a copy here.

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