Staycation w/Out There
by Roberto Friedman
Once upon a time, Out There went on lots of world trips. Nowadays, not so much. That's all the more reason we make sure to make plenty of whoopee at home. We do live, after all, in one of the world's most visited small cities, beloved by tourists and world travelers. San Francisco seems to register vividly in people's imaginations, for better or worse. Maybe it's all the classic movies set here. Blame it on Vertigo.
Big reason we enjoy our brand of Staycation is that we're blessed to be able to live here in the wonderful world of SF. Oh, OT knows all the flaws in our little cowtown. But we also know its beguiling charms, not all of them alcoholic. Another big reason we get to Staycation is the generosity of hoteliers in this city, as well as of restaurateurs and impresarios. If they're mentioned at all in our column, it's because we believe in them. Otherwise, why would we bother?
Other night we were staying in a corner room at the Stanford Court hotel, watching dusk settle over the skyline. With two big windows set at right angles six stories up, there was plenty to see. Two crisscrossing cable car lines like rollercoasters climbing the steep streets of Nob Hill. On one side, all the star skyscrapers: the TransAmerica Pyramid, the B&A behemoth. (We know, those corporations are long gone.) The deep-blue Bay, the Bay Bridge flashing Leo Villareal 's brilliant Bay Lights, Treasure Island, the great beyond. From the other window, an intimate view of the Fairmont , its elegant back elevation with wrought-iron balconies. The beautiful gardens with their immaculate fountain under colored lights. The wall with the Fairmont logo, its capital F for our last name.
The bartender at the hotel's Aurea Cafe was friendly and easy to chat up. Even when it got suddenly busy, he remembered our drinks and was snappy with them. Space at breakfast the next morning was at communal tables, so you were forced to say at least a good morning to your fellow guests. All good practices.
The Stanford Court is proud of its history with the city, and strives for the local angle in its decor. In a nod toward the tech world, pillows on lobby furniture read Ctrl, Alt, Del. Elevator music is by Bay Area bands, lobby art by Bay Area artists. Cute postcards feature the Telegraph Hill Parrots, the Stow Lake turtles. We truly felt like we were vacationing in our hometown. It was sort of like glamping, except in a hotel room.
A few nights later we were invited to dinner at the St. Regis San Francisco's the Grill restaurant. The Grill, which began as a pop-up concept in March, is now a permanent restaurant offering breakfast, lunch and dinner in the hotel. We enjoyed Executive Chef Franck Desplechin's new three-course tasting menu inspired by the season ($65, wine pairings add $25). The Potato-crusted Sea Scallops arrived as an appetizer, with heirloom tomatoes, corn, capicola and barbecue aioli. Consensus: Yum. Our entree was Kobe Ribeye, with parsley bone marrow, forest mushrooms and veal jus, very savory and satisfying. Dessert was Pluot Baked Alaska: sable biscuit, toasted almond creme fraiche ice cream, and pluot sorbet. All paired with impeccable wines. Service was personable and attentive, even obsessively so. The Grill is now a central SoMa dinner spot, right at the nexus of exciting cultural ferment: the re-opening of SFMOMA, the renovation at MoAD, the programming at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the recent dedication of the Mexican Museum.
On Wednesday, you could find OT chilling in the iconic Redwood Room in the Clift Hotel for their Indian Summer media launch, to introduce a new seasonal food and cocktail menu. Many of the new menu items feature honey from the Clift's own Rooftop Bee Sanctuary and herbs from its Herb Garden. General Manager Michael Pace was our guide for a "Modern Classic" ethos tour of the Clift, built as the first "earthquake-proof" hotel in 1915 after the great earthquake of 1906. The Redwood Room has just been named one of the 10 best hotel bars in the country in the USA Today "10Best" travel award contest. Being hometown regulars, we were there first.