Lollipops -- and More
Debbi, having a sweet tooth, set her sights on the chocolate/lavender lollipops in The Dining Room -- an acclaimed "special occasion" restaurant that specializes in serving local, organic cuisine with a French and Japanese influence. "Some of our chefs go to the Farmers' Market twice a week," said Shelly Auyeung, the hotel's public relations coordinator. Ms. Auyeung further explained that Chef Ron Siegel even grows herbs at his own home, which he adds to the menu (he was the first American to win the Iron Chef Competition in 1997, where chefs are required to make a meal of surprising assorted ingredients). In fact, the menu also lists the local farmers and purveyors that have determined the restaurant's daily-changing menu, listing, on our visit, 14 vendors including Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes, Calif., Biagio Artisan meats in the Bay Area, and County Line Harvest in Marin County.
Our dinner was a delight, including the elegant surroundings that included tassels and trim, fine fabrics, expensive starched linens, gorgeous flowers and original paintings. The first course featured 11 offerings -- everything from white corn and pepper soup; abalone with sugar-snap peas; and squid-ink linguine. The second course offered seven entrees, including truffle-encrusted halibut; Alaskan king salmon, and rabbit. We had the salmon and it was a delicious ensemble of fish, artichoke ravioli and sugar snap peas. For dessert, there was a darling candy cart (hence, the lollipops), but we ultimately chose some black raspberries as the least caloric way to go, although we did taste some of the petits fours including almond-butter cake, and passionfruit marshmallows. Deb even got a homemade cherry lollipop to take away. Three-course menus are available for $74 (it includes first and second courses, and desserts, but no coffee, tea, alcohol or tip). No jacket and tie are required. As we said, this is a special-occasion restaurant, and on our visit we saw numerous couples who appeared as though they were celebrating a special event. The Dining Room has won numerous awards -- including the coveted Mobil five-star rating in 2009, and other accolades from the American Automobile Association (five diamonds); Zagat, Michelin, Gault Millau and Food and Wine Magazine. It's clearly a winner.
How Green It Is
We wish to point out that in October 2005 the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco became the first hotel in the world to install United Technologies Corp.'s Power PureComfort 240 power solution -- which reduces power usage by 20 percent, conserves energy and protects the environment. Since then, the hotel has launched other green initiatives -- including aggressive recycling and composting programs -- even the "house car" is a hybrid vehicle. All families traveling with children also receive a 24-piece education puzzle, designed to inform them of earth-friendly practices such as water conservation, recycling and energy reduction. If you're concerned about the environment -- and who isn't -- you can rest assured that this hotel is doing its part -- and then some.
Travel to King Tut and Alcatraz
Through March 28, 2010, San Francisco's de Young Museum is exhibiting Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. In honor of that, the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco has partnered with the museum to offer an array of privileged experiences. Guests booking the hotel's new "Front-of-the-line at King Tut" package that has been designed to shorten the wait time for guests of the hotel. Prices from $429 per room, per night, it features overnight accommodations in a deluxe guestroom; two VIP tickets to the exhibit, including priority entry; and overnight valet parking.
If you're in the area, we also highly recommend a trip over to Alcatraz, one of the area's top tours. Alcatraz and history go hand-in-hand. Once home to some of America's most notorious criminals, the federal penitentiary that operated here from 1934 to 1963 brought a dark mystique to "The Rock." The presence of infamous inmates like Al "Scarface" Capone, and the "Birdman" Robert Stroud helped to establish the island's notoriety. To this day, Alcatraz is best known as one of the world's most legendary prisons. You'll take a quick ferry ride over to "The Rock" and view the tiny cells and dreary atmosphere. Everyone also receives an audio tour, allowing you to fully experience what it was like to be an inmate. For tickets, visit www.alcatrazcruises.com -- the official source for tickets to Alcatraz island. It was quite a counterpoint -- to visit the dark, dank prison -- and then go "home" to the Ritz, where unabashed luxury is the name of the game.
By Debbi K. Kickham and William D. Kickham. Esq.