Famous for its sweeping bay views and gingerbread Victorian houses, San Francisco is an epicenter of the haute lifestyle. Haute Living invites you to sample the charms and scale the steep streets of this one-of-a-kind city.
By Elizabeth Joyce
San Francisco Seaplane Tours
Coastal living demands harmony between land and sea, and coastal dwellers must be at home in both. A seaplane adventure to the grand Napa Valley wine growing region lifts visitors to a third-dimension-San Francisco is yours by air, land, and sea. Beginning in the quiet of Richardson Bay in Sausalito, just four miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the planes strike out to the north. For 40 minutes, all of the famed Sonoma Valley will be at your feet as you make for Lake County and the unspoiled Ceago Vinegarden estate. With a gentle splash on the waters of Clearlake, the seaplane will taxi up to the rolling hills of the famous winery for a casual tour of the villa and grounds. At last, bliss is yours, as you lounge in the Mediterranean courtyard for a private wine tasting. Altogether, the three hours spent suspended above mighty California and hidden away in its lush vineyards will be nothing short of unforgettable.
1700 17-Mile Dr.
Pebble Beach, CA
The purlieu of the very finest American golfers, Pebble Beach Golf Links has played host to the most prestigious tournaments, including the annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the U.S. Open Championships. The cliffy coastline edges the course and stuns the duffer who dares to walk in the footsteps of the giants who have played this course for nearly a century. Consistently rated the No. 1 public course in the country, these links are probably the most well known in America. The misty rye grass fairways, designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, are legendary. Measure your game against the Jack Nickalaus-designed par-three 5th hole, but beware the breezes off the ocean. Afterwards relax at the spa, take a trophy back from the pro shop, or check into the luxurious resort that serves the course.
Epic Roasthouse opened with a roar early in 2008. Chef Jan Birnbaum presides over a custom-built wood-fired grill and a large wood-burning oven that crackle in concert with the raging fireplace in the main dining room. There, white cloth delicately drapes over stately mahogany tabletops as smoky leather banquets line the room. Steel-framed windows that afford a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge dominate the walls. Every steak is presented aged and bone-in, and tableside aged prime rib service reaches every table. Kobe beef and Carlton Ranch pork and lamb anchor the menu. The restaurant’s blunt “Stuff You Want In a Steakhouse” section showcases a solid series of sides. While the industrial-chic, aggressively meat-centric vision might not please the more persnickety patron, seekers of a luxe turn on surf and turf are sure to be seduced at Epic.
The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton
600 Stockton St.
Star Chef Ron Siegel brings panache to the parlor at the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, as he weds modern French cuisine with Japanese fare in the grand dame of fine hotels. The elegant environs feature stately molding and a muted palette with pops of color through the bold and bright art that adorns the wall in the 92-seat dining room. Iron Chef-winner Siegel, who trained in the kitchens of Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Michael Mina, trots out specialty ingredients, especially spices and salts, and features entrées like Champagne-poached Alaskan halibut and starters like pork belly with grilled Asian pears. A private dining room that seats eight to 18 might be the perfect place to indulge in the finest the 12,000 bottle state-of-the-art wine cellar has to offer. Six or nine course tasting menus with vegetarian options allow the chef and sommelier to truly put on a show.
125 Third St.
The gleaming white walls and harmoniously minimalist design makes the sanctuary that is the Remède Spa seemingly a temple of purity. The experience at the celestial 9,000-square-foot spa at the San Francisco St. Regis Hotel begins at the lounge-inspired cedar-lined locker room, where guests, clothed in cashmere throws, sample artisanal cheeses and hand-made truffles along with chilled Champagne. Next up are the customized skincare treatments, developed in Laboratoire Remède, that channel the power of the Formula Core’s proprietary technology. These treatments are exclusive to St. Regis Hotels & Resorts. Later, guests move to the still waters of the indoor infinity pool that looks out on a view of the city. This sophisticated spa serves both the privileged guests of the hotel as well as savvy San Franciscans. Just as St. Regis Hotels promise to provide tailored experiences unique to their distinctive guests, Remède Spas do the same.
San Francisco Symphony & Opera
201 Van Ness Ave.
Two special seasons begin on Van Ness Avenue this September. Both the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Opera play cultural ambassador to the City by the Bay, presenting the very best in high art and fine artists. The SFS, founded in 1911, features Michael Tilson Thomas in his 14th season as music director. Seventeen weeks of performances will follow a glamorous gala that kicks off a season that will include: two world premieres, a composer residency program, and the first Schubert and Berg Festival-all the classics will be heard as they were meant to be on the largest concert hall organ in North America. Across the street, the second largest opera company in the United States, founded in 1923, will present 75 performances of 10 operas. Verdi classics will bookend this season, as Simon Boccanegra opens it and La Traviata closes it. In the meantime, Two of Puccini’s best loved and most performed works, La Bohème and Tosca, as well as Gershwin’s prized American folk opera, Porgy and Bess, will be presented in the historic War Memorial Opera House.
252 California St.
Aqua is all at once the standard and the exception. It is known for its world-class seafood cuisine that sets the benchmark, and also for the almost two decades of impeccable service and consistently remarkable creations that set it apart from others of its class. Executive Chef Laurent Manrique brings traditional French techniques and a conservative approach, which result in balanced and harmonious dishes. The tasting menus paired with wine selections from a list that is tuned bi-weekly to reflect new finds are far and away the most popular choices at the restaurant. Patrons revel under theater-style lighting amid 12-foot high bouquets that add visually, but are artfully restrained in scent (so as not to interfere with the palatal main event). Onyx, marble, and maple wrap around diners, yet a muted crème palette governs the décor. Aqua is undeniably the finest at what it does-celebrating the very best natural delights the bay has to offer.
Westin St. Francis
335 Powell St.
In the culinary world, Michael Mina’s name is spoken in reverential tones. Hence, it is fitting that his first eponymous restaurant would find its home in the historic San Francisco landmark, the Westin St. Francis. Since its opening in 2004, the soft-hued dining room of Michael Mina has been a landmark for fine American dining. As diners delight in extravagances like a Kobe beef rib roast with truffle fries at the feet of classically grand columns, the glow of gold Murano lighting falls on the warm chestnut palette of the décor. Oenophiles find enchantment in the 3,000-bottle wine cellar, and it’s a perfect retreat for theater lovers who stop in after a show at a nearby stage. Michael Mina has no difficulty pleasing them all and has the accolades to prove it: Bon Appetit’s Chef of the Year in 2005, San Francisco Magazine’s Chef of the Year in 2005, the International Food and Beverage Forum Restaurateur of the year in 2005, and the first to receive Wine Spectator’s Award of Grand Excellence in a restaurant’s first year.
The French Laundry
6640 Washington St.
At The French Laundry, time moves slowly to nurture ripening romance. The path into the two-story stone house passes through a pastoral garden of country roses and seasonal herbs. Inside, the 15 table restaurant presents a divine dining experience, a three- to four-hour affair that that must be properly planned two months in advance-reservations are taken a minimum of eight weeks in anticipation. Jacketed diners are served the finest French dishes that chef/owner Thomas Keller has to offer. Each day he creates two new nine-course tasting menus where no ingredient appears twice. Every element of his restaurant sings with emotion, from the lovingly blended signature coffee to the passionately presented extra, extra virgin olive oil. Nothing at this restaurant is anything less than storybook.
The Claremont Resort and Spa
41 Tunnel Rd.
Charming is the word most used to describe this shining castle in the Berkeley Hills. Originally envisioned as an English estate on 22 landscaped acres, the Claremont made its debut in 1915. Since then, the elegant hotel has embodied the grace of a bygone era, opening its lavish halls and rose gardens to fairytale weddings, catering to every need of the tired executive, and enchanting all of its guests with spectacular views of the city skyline. Meeting spaces with natural light foster healthy concentration, the indulgent spa envelops the senses with a vast array of treatments, and two appealing outdoor pools are the children’s favorite. Jordan’s, the signature restaurant, serves meals fit for a king and is the East Bay’s only four diamond restaurant. A jazz concert series livens up the evenings, but overall romantic relaxation is the watchword of the Claremont vision.