Never let it be said that leaving a town like Carmel-by-the-Sea is easy, but road trips do, by definition, require movement. So, on Day 21 of my great California adventure, I took one last glimpse at the seaside village of Carmel as it faded from view and rolled onward to the final stop of what had already been an epic tour of the Golden State’s finest assets.
Pulling into the San Francisco’s bustling TenderNob neighborhood, a wave of nostalgia, threaded with vivid memories of all the people and places that I had encountered in the run-up to that very moment, played like a slideshow in my mind. To be fair, the slideshow had actually begun queueing at the start of the two-plus hour trek from Carmel, which included a brief detour through lovely Santa Cruz, and continued on during the surprisingly brisk, unobstructed afternoon drive along Highway 1. However it was only once I found myself in the gritty heart of San Francisco that the collective clamoring of all these memories became too prominent to ignore. That said, I will save the trip down remembrance road for my closing post, and focus instead on the first 24 of the last 48 hours in my LivingWells California journey.
The jumping off point for my stay in San Francisco was the boutique Hotel Adagio, the third and final property from the Autograph Collection on my California itinerary. In a previous post about San Diego’s Pier South Hotel, I joked that I was starting to think that the signature of the Autograph brand might very well be the superior views that appeared to be the stock-in-trade of every hotel in the collection I had yet to experience. It was a notion that was only further affirmed when I stepped off the elevator onto the Hotel Adagio’s 16th floor and walked into the spacious Samuel Suite in which I would be laying my head for the evening. I was already suitably impressed by the suite’s formal dining room, living room and fireplace, when I stumbled out onto the enormous terrace and saw San Francisco spread out before me in almost naked glory.
If you’ve been following this trip, my predilection for boutique hotels is by now certain to be abundantly clear and the landmark 171-room Hotel Adagio, which was originally built in the late 1920s, celebrates just about every reason for my preference. Recently renovated, the Adagio’s public spaces are contemporary and chic, the rooms are well appointed, and despite its modest size, the hotel boasts a well-equipped and modern gym, mini-business center and a stylish bar called The Mortimer that specializes in craft cocktails that have earned the boite a place among San Francisco’s hottest new bars. Perhaps, best of all, the hotel is situated in the thick of San Francisco life just steps away from Union Square, Moscone Center, Market Street, North Beach, Chinatown and three of San Francisco’s most historic theaters. In other words, much of the city happens right outside the doors of the hotel.
Because it was such a gloriously beautiful day when I arrived [Note to self: Who knew San Francisco had such marvelously temperate fall weather?] I decided to spend a few hours taking advantage of my suite’s terrace and view before heading down to the Castro for dinner at Chef Nick Ronan’s Beso restaurant.
Beso is an intimate and casual space, hidden away in a corner just off Castro Street, where Chef Ronan and his culinary team prepare a seasonal menu of Catalan tapas using organic, baby specialty produce and herbs grown exclusively for Beso and the Bisou Group family of restaurants at their very own farm called Napa Kitchen Gardens. They call it “seed-to-table” dining and it’s so much more than a novelty. It’s something of a revolution, which is exactly what Chef Ronan hopes to create with his own special brand of bistronomy that is catching on like wildfire across San Francisco.
An imposing, yet approachable figure, Chef Ronan careens around Beso like the host of a mildly raucous nightly dinner party, greeting guests by name and occasionally sitting down for a chat with them. Seemingly unencumbered by the ego and desperate shyness that dogs so many of the current crop of ‘rock star chefs’ Chef Ronan is the maestro of not only his kitchens but also his dining rooms and everything plays along in time with his lead.
I began my meal with an excellent Rosé recommended by the house, which paired brilliantly with the first round of tapas to arrive at the table which included the bruschetta-esque pan con tomate, simply toasted bread topped with farm fresh tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil, roasted Brussel sprouts tossed with chorizo and a bright heirloom tomato salad that perhaps commended the Bisou Group’s exclusive gardens most highly. Next came crispy Hampshire pork belly served atop olive oil crushed potatoes, pickled onion, king oyster mushrooms, and smoked paprika vinaigrette that was at once comforting and innovative. Every flavor was perfectly refined and there was freshness in every bite. Prior to dining at Beso, I was familiar with bistronomy but I had neither heard of nor experienced ‘seed-to-table’ dining. After dinner, I was an avowed fan of both.
Tomorrow it’s on to not only my last day in San Francisco, but also the last day of this tour, but before we go there, here’s a quick look back at the day in pictures:
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