A Taste of the Bay Area with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

June 21, 2016

A few months back, I participated in a food tour around the Bay Area with Fairmont Hotels. A whirlwind but very fun tour with a wonderful group made for 3 days of nonstop food and laughter. The Fairmont group has a location in Berkeley, San Francisco and Sonoma; we stayed for one night in each location and spent the days sampling the food in each area. I selected a few of my favorite spots to highlight in this post to serve as recommendations for those traveling to the Bay Area. I hope you enjoy this virtual Taste of the Bay Area tour!

Our first stop was spending the night in the Claremont Club and Spa, a Fairmont Resort, in Berkeley. The resort sits atop a hill at the boarder of Oakland and Berkeley. We started with breakfast at Antoinette, a brasserie within the resort, and then headed out on a food tour of the Berkeley/Oakland area.

La Marcha stood out as a great lunch (delivery only) and dinner spot with their extensive selection of tapas and paella. Be sure to treat yourself to the olive oil citrus cake with saffron ice cream for dessert. Shakewell was also a fun and festive spot that serves Mediterranean cuisine (with their own special twist of course), and a creative cocktail selection. Be sure to check them out for brunch and happy hour too.

For dinner, head back to the Claremont Club and Spa and eat at Antoinette or Meritage. As of April 2016, I was notified that Antoinette has temporarily closed (hopefully re-launching soon!), but in the meantime Meritage remains open and is also a great option for breakfast and dinner at the Claremont. 

On Day 2, still in food coma from Day 1, we rolled ourselves into a van and departed for San Francisco. We were to stay the night in the iconic Fairmont San Francisco, but first, we explored the staple food spots in the Mission (thanks to the Foodie Chap Tour).  

If exploring the Mission, I'd recommend starting at Craftsman & Wolves for a cup of coffee and breakfast. The first time I visited this spot, I was pleasantly surprised with the coffee. They serve Highwire Coffee Roasters, and in this city with so many great coffee options, I'd say it is surely worth a try. For breakfast try the Rebel Within. If you like an egg on anything (as I do), this is the perfect combination of cheesy-savory-fluffy-muffin complete with a perfectly gooey egg baked inside. Pretty much my ideal breakfast. 

For lunch, head on over to Tacolicious to sample some of their tacos and also their speciality tequila drinks. I'm a sucker for a cocktail with a spicy kick and they have some great options here.

There are several great snack options in the area, such as cheese and beer at Mission Cheese, ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery, hot chocolate at Dandelion Chocolate, bread and sweet goodies at Tartine Bakery, or around the different stalls at San Francisco's Ferry Building (located along the Embarcadero).  

If you still have some room left, a great dinner recommendation is Petit Crenn. That will be the first place I revisit my next time in San Francisco! 

Our next stop was exploring Sonoma and spending the night at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. While in Sonoma, we gave our stomachs a rest and explored a few wineries. Two wineries that stood out to me during the trip were Blue Farm Winery and Deerfield Ranch Winery (I'm quite eager to try their "clean wines"). And if you are looking for an unforgettable dinner in Sonoma, book a table at Santé, the award winning restaurant located in the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. 

A special thank you to Fairmont for bringing a lovely group together, for many the many laughs shared during this trip and for all of the delicious food stops.

The Legend of Munnu

June 20, 2016

On a recent shoot for Barneys New York, I visited the Munnu showroom on the Upper East Side and had the pleasure of meeting Creative Director, and son of the late Munnu Kasliwal, Siddharth Kasliwal.

Munnu Kasliwal was the public face of The Gem Palace, the legendary jewelry empire based in Jaipur, India. If you are not familiar with The Gem Palace (don't feel bad, I wasn't either before doing some pre-shoot research), I suggest reading their history as it is quite impressive. I was personally blown away by their story and felt that I was in the presence of royalty while in their NYC showroom.

Jewelry has historically been interwoven with social and political structures in India. During the Mughal Empire (dating back to 1526), gems served as displays of power and also investments of wealth. Therefore, Mughal emperors were highly dependent on jewelers to create opulent pieces that would justify and reinforce the emperors' royalty and status. The Kasliwal family did not fall short of this expectation; for decades, the Kasliwal family served as jewelers to the Mughal royalty. It is no surprise that the Kasliwal family was then invited to work within the royal palace of Jaipur as the crown jewelers when the city was constructed in the 1700s. Jaipur remains the home to the Kasliwal family today and also the home of their iconic shop, The Gem Palace. 

Munnu's work and craftsmanship gained him a cult following including royals and celebrities such as Princess Diana, Oprah Winfrey, Mick Jagger and Arab sheiks. He struck out under his own name in 2001 and had his designs featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art the same year. I wasn't lying when I said that the history was quite impressive! I don't want to give away too much on here, as the interview with Siddharth on The Window is a great read. Head on over there for more!