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Surrounded by rolling hills, orchards and beautiful vineyards, it feels like you’re under the Tuscan Sun. No surprise that Kenwood Inn & Spa, its design inspired by a Tuscan Villa with golden stone, is a Sonoma favorite. California’s Sonoma wine country is more than double the size of neighbor Napa and with its gorgeous scenery, superb farm to table dining and esteemed grapes, it’s easy to fall under its spell. Kenwood reopened last April after a huge renovation following last year’s fire damage and it looks better than ever, and the reimagined spa will reopen in the Spring of 2019.
The picturesque two and a half acre resort, with plant and flower filled courtyards, vine covered passageways, fountains and statuettes, offers a serene hideaway. Handsomely decorated rooms and suites with chandeliers, antiques, paintings, a fireplace, Jacuzzi and marble tubs are now lighter, with warmer colors and have new rugs, bedding, satin drapes, flat screen TV’s and espresso machines.
Relaxing poolside in a sun lounger or a cabana is the perfect place to kick back in style. Early evening guests gather on the terrace for a wine and cheese tasting to sample some of Sonoma’s best. Whether strolling the lush grounds or lolling on my private terrace gazing at the stunning countryside, it felt like I was at a Tuscan Pallazzo.
It’s ideally located within close driving distance to the towns of Glen Ellen, Sonoma, Healdsburg and Napa in addition to the many nearby wine excursions, farmers markets and excellent eating establishments such as Salt & Stone. This newcomer, just down the road from Kenwood, opened to praise from locals and visitors alike. David and Diane LaMonica, former owners of excellent Café Beaujolais in Mendocino, brought their creative artistry with them and their new venture is thriving. The menu includes succulent tuna ahi, Dungeness crab cake, cast iron roasted mussels with tomato saffron broth and red pepper rouille, cioppino plus barbecue specials from their smoker such as a pulled pork sandwich – with funky music playing in the background. The outdoor terrace with views of the lily pond and splendid vineyard is a great spot for lunch.
Another kind of dining experience is happening at Single Thread in Healdsburg with Kyle Connaughton’s Japanese inspired tasting menu created with wife Katina’s artisanal produce from their nearby farm, winner of the Restaurant To Watch Award in the 2018 edition of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. The AvroKO designed wood and ceramic room sets the mood with its elegant Japanese-y design.
The culinary soiree begins with rooftop cocktails and proceeds to the main ground floor dining room for the eleven course tasting extravaganza. My feast commenced with small delicacies reflecting seasonal produce and moved on to a gourmet parade of exquisite dishes, such as halibut with stone fruit and tosazu( Japanese vinegar), shima aji (striped horsemackerel) with squash relish, zucchini puree and herb dashi (soup stock) and American wagyu with coal roasted beets and komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach.) All were sublime and so aesthetically pleasing, they looked like pieces of art. There’s more! The food is presented on earthenware made by the Nagatani family of Iga, Japan, 8th generation master potters.
SAUSALITO – ENCHANTING WATERFRONT GETAWAY
Heading South from Sonoma: It’s hard not to gush about the town of Sausalito, its breezy, artsy aura and yacht filled harbor front dotted with bustling cafes, trendy boutiques, artisan shops and hip galleries. This charming bayside enclave, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, enchants one and all. Trident waterfront seafood eatery, Poggio for Italian fare and the legendary No Name Bar, hangout of famed musicians such as Jefferson Airplane and Bob Dylan – where you can still hear good live music – ( all on Bridgeway, the popular main drag ) are some of my favorite haunts.
For visitors flying into San Francisco, as well as anyone seeking the ultimate getaway, luxe Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa will not disappoint. Located hillside, this glamorous 19th century historic mansion overlooking San Francisco Bay offers spectacular views of the marina and the city skyline in the distance. The boutique property contains restored rooms and suites with striking Victorian accents, fireplaces, balconies and plush décor.
The real dazzler is the 5000 square foot Alexandrite Suite (3500 square foot interior with a 1500 square foot terrace) Named after the gemstone that attracts positive energy, the ultra swanky two bedroom suite with stylish modern décor is bathed in hues of light blue and dove with floor-to-ceiling foldaway glass doors. Other features include a nine panel Samsung media wall, hot tub on the terrace, an office and a workout area. Elevating its fabulous quotient, the Alexandrite Suite also comes with a yacht to sail on the bay, a Mercedes ML 350 Blutec, a chef, fitness expert and other dedicated staff. All that for just $25,000 a night.
SAN FRANCISCO – TRENDY HAYES VALLEY
The scenic 30-minute ferry ride from Sausalito to San Francisco is a delightful attraction in itself. While there, I savored the remarkable art at SFMOMA which has been a big hit since its 2016 debut. Then I went on a foodie feast at some of the city’s best in Hayes Valley. Formerly a marginal neighborhood Hayes Valley has become the city’s latest epicenter of cool with voguish shops, cafes, buzzy bars and outstanding eateries.
Husband and wife chefs Evan and Sarah Rich wow the stylish crowd with inventive North California fare in their Michelin 1- star Hayes Valley gem, Rich Table. High quality ingredients, locally sourced are perfectly prepared in a rustic chic setting that attracts adoring fans nightly. Some of the many delectable dishes include black cod, bok choy, chanterelle, ginger, scallion; grilled pork belly, watermelon and the addictive sardine chips, among many others.
Acclaimed chef Corey Lee made French food cool again at Monsieur Benjamin, another Hayes Valley favorite. Impressively flavorful, authentic food inspired by Parisian bistro culture is served in a sleek minimalist setting with an open kitchen in this always packed hot spot. Some standouts from the extensive menu such as poached shrimp, court bouillon, trout roe tartlet, gulf flounder gratinee and Arctic char amandine, are melt in your mouth delicious. You can’t visit Hayes Valley without stopping in fashionable Absinthe Brasserie & Bar for Mediterranean fare or curated cocktails. It’s so romantic; if you’re not in love when you arrive, you will be by the time you leave.