Field Notes: Restaurant, Hotel and Food News

The President’s Terrace opens in Palo Alto, Dawn Ranch Hotel celebrates a grand reopening in Guerneville (Sonoma), chef Kathy Fang curates a dining experience in San Francisco and Larkmead Winery in Calistoga (Napa) re-mixes its tasting experiences.

Kutilda's Thia Tea at the Hotel Graduate's President's Terrace restaurant and bar
Kutilda’s Thia Tea at the Hotel Graduate’s President’s Terrace restaurant and bar


After intermittent closings due to the Bay Area’s inclement winter weather, President’s Terrace, the rooftop bar and loungey restaurant at The Graduate Palo Alto reopened with epic cocktails from local shaker maestro Bad Birdy and a tighter focus on seafood. Don’t miss Kutilda’s Thai Tea, topped with almond foam and matcha or the Weekend at Burning Man, which artfully blends tequila, pineapple and elote syrup in the cutest mini olla. Though there are smaller plates of Monterey Bay ceviche (halibut when I visited), kampachi crudo and the like, the food is designed for sharing – the Presidential crudité and heaping plates of kale Caesar easily feed a small group.  The gorgeous Spanish colonial furnishings of the lobby and downstairs restaurant, Lou & Herbert’s, is similarly reflected in the retro lamps, rich fabrics and clay roof tiles. Its’ nice here, especially as the sun begins to set over the western hills.

San Francisco

A multi-course meal, designed to your culinary tastes and preferences from Chef Kathy Fang of contemporary Cantonese restaurant FANG is part of a Suite Escape package from Hotel Zelos. Offered only during the months of June and July, the  package includes a one-night stay in a Deluxe Suite and dinner for two, including a meet and greet with Chef. A $50 Uber gift card for transportation to and from the restaurant is also included or walk the 3 ½ blocks each way to take in the sights at Yerba Buena Gardens.

New Cocktails at San Francisco's Estiatorio Ornos: Pontus.Rhea.Kronos; photo courtesy of Mina Group
New Cocktails at Estiatorio Ornos: Pontus.Rhea.Kronos; photo courtesy of Mina Group

What does a cocktail menu inspired by the origins of the Greek world and their gods of creation bring to mind? As crafted by Lead Bartender Jose Luis Merino Calderon at Estiatorio Ornos, a Michael Mina restaurant, that means a low-alcohol Aphrodite named for the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty pulsing with the essence of wild elderflower, citrus juices and soda water and a God of Olympus, a riff on a classic Vesper Martini served for two, the vodka poured from a sculpted ice block at the bar. I’m lookin forward to the Ouranos named for the god of the sky. With bourbon, Aperol, all spice, and house made tamarind shrub, it’s Calderon’s Paper Plane and I’m flying.

Estate tasting at Larkmead, with charcuterie, cheese and wine
Estate tasting at Larkmead

Napa and Sonoma Wine Country

Earlier this spring, Calistoga’s Larkmead Winery launched new tasting experiences that focus on wine education and connecting with the vineyards. Translation? The indoor-outdoor Estate Tasting includes a walking tour of the vineyards and winery, digging in on the family’s sustainable growing methods and the history of the 125+-year-old estate and a private, seated tasting of four red wines, including library selections, accompanied by cheese and charcuterie. The shorter Salon Tasting is a seated experience with a focus on three current release red wines.

Fern's Cottage at Dawn Ranch
Fern’s Cottage at Dawn Ranch

After a years-long rejuvenation, Dawn Ranch celebrates its grand reopening over Memorial Day weekend. Named after a giant confier that graces its 22 acres of grounds, the hotel and lodge, which plays host to 73 cabins and chalets on the south bank of the  Russian River in Guerneville, plays up the rustic location with comfortable beds, furniture designed for lounging and unique items, like Fender guitars and Swarovski binoculars, to add to your luxurious, not-quite-outdoors experience. A brand-new spa includes redwood soaking tubs, a wellness lounge, and a meditation garden along with the usual assortment of steam, sauna and treatments. Nightly s’mores around a campfire, daily yoga and meditation and the sounds of the river and wind rushing through the cypress are included with your stay.

The perfectly dressed salad at the dining room at Dawn Ranch
The perfectly dressed salad at the dining room at Dawn Ranch

The lodge boasts multiple fireplaces – one in the lounge/foyer and one in the onsite dining room, where chef Fernando Trocca curates local ingredients to present plates of understated elegance. Many of the guest rooms have working fireplaces, too. In the warmer months, meals are available on the outdoor patio, often with live music. Though all three meals are available, brunch is when you can sample white fish tacos with an irresistible black bean aioli. I enjoyed a plate at the bar with views of the patio, an excellent reintroduction to western Sonoma County.

a Dawn cypress garlanded with star lights
A Dawn Cypress dressed for the holidays

New In Town

I also write the New In Town column for Marin Magazine, which includes restaurants and more. To keep up with what’s going on in Marin, please head over there.