San Francisco

Golden Gate BridgeOne of my dearest friends lives in San Francisco (yes… it would be the legendary Premila), so I am fortunate to visit the city regularly. Since San Francisco has the luxury of a vast supply of fresh and locally produced and sourced food and wine, the tasty possibilities are infinite. You kind of can’t go wrong here. That being said, I do have my go-tos and am asked frequently to list them. Et voila:


Blue Bottle Café

1 Ferry Building
+1 510 653 3394
Blue Bottle is for those who truly appreciate all of the passion that goes into a superbly prepared cup of coffee. Amateurs, please stay home. It helps to minimize the queue.


Bourbon and Branch

501 Jones Street
+1 415 346 1735
This chic speakeasy is a sassy place for sexy cocktails before or after dinner. Head toward the hidden back room. Reservations are required.

Press Club

20 Yerba Buena Lane
+1 415 744 5000
If pressed for time and a trip to Napa/Sonoma can’t be squeezed in, this is a convenient wine tasting room “teaser”. Each area is marketed by visiting vintners who have hands-on knowledge of the vinification of their wines and the story of their winery. Generally speaking, the staff are incredibly knowledgeable. Sadly, I’ve not seen the kind of foot traffic required to keep this great concept going. Consequently, over the years, it seems that there have been fewer visiting vintners.



1 Mission Street
+1 415 543 6084
A little upmarket, but if you fancy a more casual dining experience, just belly up to the bar. The food is divine and consistent. I love this place.

Hog Island Oysters

1 Ferry Building
+1 415 391 7117
East coast v west coast? I’m all over oysters from the west coast – those briny, creamy, succulent bivalves. Get the Kumamotos and ask for guidance on their other fresh options.


Noe Valley/Mission
1320 Castro Street
+1 415 285 0250
I’m a sucker for flavorful Spanish tapas. Contigo is easy, fun and adorable.


560 Divisadero Street
+1 415 864 8643
Meals are extremely fresh while being very mindful of sourcing. This place is always packed and the cocktails hold their own. Random, but they are obsessed with Mas de Daumas Gassac (Grand Cru of the Languedoc), which I get. You’ll notice this as soon as you crack open the wine list.


Tartine Bakery

Noe Valley/Mission
600 Guerrero Street
+1 415 487 2600
Make sure you hit the gym to burn off all of that butter because once you catch a whiff of what Tartine has to offer, you won’t be able to resist. On many an occasion, I have done a quick stop here before the airport to grab a little treat for later.


Michael Recchiuti Chocolate

One Ferry Building
+1 415 834 9494
Since I first discovered Mr. Recchuiti’s chocolates (10+ years ago when the stores for the Ferry Building were still in the tented Farmer’s Market across the street), I have never left the great city of San Francisco without carting away these insanely delicious confections. Peanut butter pucks are my absolute fave, especially now that I’ve relocated to Europe and they don’t quite get the symbiotic relationship between peanut butter and chocolate. Fleur de sel caramels are a very close number two.


One of my Favorite Destinations: Saint-Barthélemy, French West Indies

For years while working on the trading floor, I’d hear fellow coworkers rave about their fabulous holiday with their spouse in St. Barth’s. At the time, I was single. My best friend Premila and I had a blast traveling the world together, often visiting many “romantic” destinations – Santorini, wine tasting in Tuscany… you get the picture. However, I told Prem that I wanted to save this particular romantic destination – St. Barth’s – for my future, unknown husband, whom I lovingly referred to at the time as “Mr. Man.” Years later, when I finally met “Mr. Man,” we did make it to St. Barth’s. We both fell in love with it. We even got married there. Prem and I did eventually visit St. Barth’s together, where she did a bang up job of officiating our wedding ceremony.

I can’t get enough of this gorgeous place. From New York, we can take an early morning flight and be on the beach with cocktail in hand by early afternoon. It’s not the cheapest place on earth, but it’s such an amazing experience… the island, the food, the people. My husband is French, so it offers a bit for both of us. The combination of these elements makes St. Barth’s one of our annual trips (um, we throw Vegas in there too). I am frequently asked to list our faves. Et voila:



L’Esprit Saline
Anse de Grande Saline
+590 590 52 46 10
This laid back, Vietnamese inspired restaurant kept everything fresh and simple. We loved it so much that we visited it twice on our most recent trip. We started with freshly prepared humus. I could really taste the tahini. Next, we had tempura-fried shrimp over arugula salad with thick balsamic vinegar and an Asian dressing. I had the shrimp on skewers with amazing fresh herbs and garlic over a sweet potato purée and snap peas. My husband opted for the Daurade, which was perfectly cooked and served with just enough butter and lemon. It was also accompanied by the potato purée and snap peas. We were told to save room for the molten chocolate cake with passion fruit and crème. L’Esprit seems to be a local favorite.


Le Sereno
Grand Cul de Sac
+590 590 298 300
Full disclosure: We had our wedding here. Maybe I am partial, maybe I am not. What I do know is that they made our entire experience magical, from the food, to the organizing, to the details. The staff was on top of its game, but I especially have to thank the restaurant manager, Jean-Pierre Giroux, who is a class act unto himself.

Hotel or dining… Le Sereno is our go-to in St. Barth’s. I’d describe this restaurant as casual fancy. The location and staff are amazing. The chef is very talented. The restaurant manager runs a tight ship and is very attentive to detail. Some of our absolute favorite dishes here are the Pata Negra, salads (especially the ones with seafood), fish and pasta. If you read my articles regularly, you are already aware of my obsession with Pata Negra. Their fish is super fresh and the selection depends upon the fisherman’s luck from that day. If you want to keep it simple and control costs, opt for lunch or a snack instead of dinner, but go. Their mixology can’t be beat. Le Sereno has great options for cocktails with and without alcohol. There were a few expecting couples at the restaurant and hotel this time around who were on holiday and enjoying a little R&R prior to baby time. For those who do drink, as an experiment, I dare you to ask for a cocktail without alcohol. See what you get at most restaurants – possibly orange juice, grapefruit juice or exotic cranberry and soda water. Really people? A little effort here… Le Sereno has all bases covered. Even if you don’t go for a meal, do have a cocktail here as the sun goes down over the cove, and maybe a snack like Pata Negra (is my brainwashing working?). Our favorite cocktail is a Mojito with strawberries, which we nicknamed Le Sereno Mojito. I included the recipe below.

Case de L’Isle
+590 590 27 58 68
This French gastronomic restaurant is situated at the Isle de France hotel on Flamands Bay. We went for dinner, but it would be a very tasty option for lunch as well. You can hear the waves crashing as you dine, creating a very romantic atmosphere. My sea bass was perfectly crispy on the outside and flaky in the inside. They served it over their “famous” cooked down fennel. It was superb. The lobster bisque was also a hit, but be prepared, as this dish, no matter how you slice it, is rich. They also serve a risotto of the day, which is amazing. We indulged, but we were certain to hit the gym the next day.

For those who enjoy cigars, they also have a cigar menu. They just ask that if you partake, that you comply with their request to smoke elsewhere to prevent “influencing” everyone else’s dining experience. Unfortunately, this time around, we had an arrogant and self-important man nearby who possibly couldn’t read and chose to smoke right next to everyone for a while. The staff was so polite and initially didn’t confront him because they figured that he’d get it. He didn’t. Eventually, the staff had to request that he move. Who are these people? The food was great. The atmosphere (sans the cigar guy) was very romantic. We’d definitely revisit.

Super Fancy

Le Gaiac – Hotel Le Toiny
Anse de Toiny
+590 590 297 747
This is for your over the top, blow the bank, super fancy meal. Be prepared to make a little dent in your credit card, but it is a special dining experience. The veal chop is always a treat. They bake it in a crust of sea salt. Their seafood dishes are fail-proof. Their wine list solid. Listen for their specials too. One time, we had their pasta, which was prepared tableside in a giant wheel of Parmesan cheese. I am certain that it was fat free. They are big on the tableside preparation here, but it’s kind of festive and changes things up a bit.

Don’t Really Understand the Hype, but Maybe for Someone Else?

Eden Rock
+590 590 297 999
The hotel made Conde Naste’s 2010 Gold List and it is a Relais et Chateau. A lot of people swoon over Eden Rock. I admit that I don’t get it, but I am including this restaurant because perhaps it’s for someone else? It is very “St. Tropez” and that’s just not my gig. I also found it to be very pricey. That being said, again, many rave about it and they do have fantastic views. The restaurant is perched out on a rock, which jets out a bit from the beach. For those in my camp, it is an interesting place to have cocktails and people watch during the day. At night, they shine a giant light on the ocean that says “Eden Rock,” so depending on your shtick….


  • Gouverneur Beach – You must go. It’s stunning, rustic and a beautiful experience. Just be with the waves and ride them in.
  • Scuba diving – Sharks, tons of tropical fish… just do it.

Recipe: For Those Who Can’t Make it to St. Barth’s, But Want a Little Tasty Treat at Home: Le Sereno Mojito

My sister-in-law and her boyfriend were smart enough to ask for the recipe before we left. (Merci bien Marion et Lio.) This particular cocktail always makes our family smile. We hope it has the same effect on you. Note: The glasses featured in this photo aren’t the ones we use for Le Sereno Mojito. We opt for a tall glass, but I can assure you that those featured in this photo from our après mariage soirée did have one or TWO Sereno Mojitos.

In a cocktail glass, put ice and strawberries chopped up in little pieces. Add some brown sugar and a few mint leaves. Mix 1/5 vodka, 3/5 blood orange juice and 1/5 sparkling water. Close your eyes and think of the beach!

Et pour mes amis et famille français:
Dans un verre à cocktail, mettre de la glace pilée et des fraises coupées en petit morceaux. Piler soigneusement tout ça ensemble. Rajouter de la cassonade et quelques feuilles de menthe. Mélanger, rajouter de la vodka (1/5), du jus d’orange sanguine (3/5), et du Perrier (1/5). Fermer les yeux et se croire sur la plage!

Burgundy – Les Domaines Bouchard Père & Fils

Les Domaines Bouchard Père et Fils

15, rue de Château – 21200 Beaune
+33 3 80 24 80 24
On a perfectly crisp autumn day, I visited Domaine Bouchard, which is located within the regal 15th century Château de Beaune. Domaine Bouchard includes 4,000 square meters (13,123 square feet) of cellars (yes, this is not a typo) and 321 acres of vineyards (33 acres of Grands Crus and 183 acres of Premiers Crus). Oui, c’est vrai mes amis, Bouchard Père et Fils is massive. Yet, as gargantuan as they are, they hosted each guest with the utmost warmth and intimacy. This also holds true for the care in which they craft their wines. Despite their historical contributions to wine as a whole and their Burgundian legacy, Bouchard exhibited nothing but humility and true passion for wine. If you plan a trip to Burgundy, a visit to Bouchard is mandatory.


Their colorful history dates back to 1731 when a family of cloth merchants, who used to sell wines as they were traveling to and from the north of France, realized that selling wine was by far more lucrative than their cloth trade. So in 1731, they packed up the cart and moved to Burgundy to focus on wine full time. They were extremely successful in their new wine venture and in 1810, the family was able to purchase the Château de Beaune, a castle that had been used by the King of France to monitor and establish control of Burgundy, a region which had been independent from France.

The château and all of its contents (including the massive cellars stocked with elegant wine) were seized by the Nazis during the occupation of France in WWII. The Nazis loved good wine and helped themselves to as much as they could get their hands on. However, someone had the foresight to put a fake wall in front of the older part of the cellar, so the great library of wines was preserved. How fantastic is that?

My husband’s grandfather Pépé Tin was in a Nazi camp during the occupation of France. Years later, whenever he would open a good bottle of wine, he’d smile, have a sip and say “that’s another one the Nazis won’t get.” As a result of someone outsmarting the Nazis, the museum section boasts of a decent volume of older wines, with 2 bottles dating back to  1846 (1 Chablis and 1 Meursault Charmes). Christie’s recently auctioned off one of these older bottles (1864 Montrachet) for 10,300€. These wines have been maintained in the proper temperature and handled gingerly, so, despite their age and fragility, they are indeed drinkable. Interestingly, for these older and treasured bottles of wine, to ensure the preservation, Bouchard changes the corks every 20 to 25 years. Isabelle Philipe, External Relations Manager for Bouchard, shared the following with me, “The oenologist tastes only one bottle (of the lot for that year) and uses it refill the other ones and then puts new corks. The bottle we use to refill the other ones is of course from the same appellation and same vintage. We carry out this changing of corks regularly the whole year long, which represents thousands of bottles each year.”library

Presently, the château stores 2.5 million bottles. By the way, there’s another 2.5-3 million bottles stored in at their logistical plant in Savigny lès Beaune, which rotate quickly as orders get filled. At the plant, they bottle, label and ship, but it is not open to the public. Each year, Bouchard produces 3-3.5 million bottles of wine, with about 18% coming from their own domaines. The bulk of their production comes from acting in their capacity as negociant. Bouchard exports 52% of their production, with the residual 48% remaining in France. That’s 1.5 million bottles to the Frenchies each year! Clearly the French imbibe what Bouchard produces. Bouchard shared with us that typically, a winery in this region can export around 70% of their production. They just opened their tasting room in the château 3 months ago.

When you are established, you can do and say whatever you want. You’ve earned that right and if people don’t like it, who cares. Sometimes, you end up setting the standard. My friend Premila has a friend with a 96 year old grandmother. She keeps her garage stocked with liquor (just in case there’s another depression and she needs to barter). Everyday at 5PM, she has a cocktail. If she happens to be en route to someplace at 5PM, she packs a traveler for her daily ritual. (She is no longer able to drive – so don’t fret). Bouchard is one of the granddaddies of Burgundy. They are established can do whatever they want. That’s the way it is. I love wine, but like so many things in life, some get caught up in pompous and stuffy rules. Or, they blindly follow the leader instead of marching to the beat of their own drum. While there is often logic with many of the guidelines with wine, keep in mind, first and foremost, it is meant to be enjoyed. You can make your own rules sometimes. Tastings at Bouchard start with red wines and end with white (so reverse of convention). Our guide at Bouchard stated, “It’s the way we’ve always done it and we are determined to keep it this way.” They prefer for palates to end on a light and clean note, rather then “laden with tannins.”

Tasting Notes

(Please note, because Bouchard exports a significant volume of wine in countries all over the world with various import fees and taxes. As such, they have asked that I not display the prices for the wines we tasted at the site, so prices have been deliberately omitted below.)
Reds (100% Pinot Noir)

  • 2003 Côte de Beaune Villages Rouge (negociant) strawberries, vanilla, minerality, fruity, tannins; heat of 2003 shows
  • 2000 Beaune Marconets Premier Cru (Domaine Bouchard) cherries, decent tannins, freshly cut wood
  • 2001 Corton Renardes Grand Cru (Domaine Bouchard) cherries, tobacco, slight hint of coconut and leather with some mushrooms; very pleasant color and finish;  ready to drink now

Whites (100% Chardonnay)

  • 2003 Beaune (Domaine Bouchard) melons, fresh, creme soda, minerality
  • 2006 Meursault Premier Cru (negociant) hazelnut, creme soda; I wrote the word “love” next this one.
  • 2003 Beaune du Château Blanc Premier Cru (Domaine Bouchard – a blending of various Premiers Crus from Beaune) creme soda, apples, honeysuckle
  • 1997 Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru (Domaine Bouchard) apples, honey dew melons, jasmine, minerality, elegant finish

What did I buy, why and what would I pair it with?

We purchased all of the wines at a very good price compared to what we’d pay in the States. Luckily, I have a father-in-law who happily offered to store our wine in France for us.

  • 2001 Corton Renardes Grand Cru – I’ve always said Pinot Noir is everyone’s friend. It goes with almost everything and offends no one. Fish, chicken, duck, pork, red meat… it’s all good with all of the above. This Grand Cru had complexity with a silky finish.
  • 2003 Côte de Beaune Villages – I just couldn’t beat the complexity and minerality for this price point. They already aged it for me. What can I say? With that fresh melon and minerality, shellfish and fish would go very nicely and it wouldn’t break the bank.
  • 2006 Meursault Premier Cru – I am thinking a perfectly butter poached lobster for this guy, although I think it could hold its own paired with a juicy roasted chicken with savory herbs, duck (because of that bit of apple) and fish. We had this wine with a butter nut squash soup over the weekend. The rosemary and sage in the soup was spectacular with this wine. I did write the word “love” next to it while I was tasting… enough said.