I highly recommend Sushi Ran in Sausalito which gets the highest ratings for sushi in the Bay area (along with Morimoto in Napa, where we had reservations but decided to leave due to crazy noise and a Vegas-y vibe). Along with a beautiful sushi menu, there is a “from the kitchen” menu of “Pacific” offerings, all truly fantastic. They passed my personal sushi litmus test with a quite excellent chopped yellowtail and scallion hand roll – perfectly seasoned warm rice, still-crisped Nori and rich, creamy, very fresh fish.
(Sushi Ran, 107 Caledonia Street, Sausalito, CA; tel. 415.332.3620, www.sushiran.com)
THE FREMONT DINER
Step out of your car at this quaint roadside diner in Sonoma and some serious barbecue smoke hits you hard. Not only are they smoking their own meats, they’re growing ingredients at the farm out back. We arrived in time for Snacks rather than Mains, but the heaping, yummy plates of BBQ Brisket Nachos and homemade Gumbo sustained us quite well.
(The Fremont Diner, 2698 Fremont Drive, Sonoma, CA 95476; Tel. 707.938.7370,www.thefremontdiner.com)
It seems there’s a burger at every turn in California, and Gotts Roadside in gorgeous St. Helena may be one of the most picturesque places to wolf one down. Hardly a mecca of haute-cuisine, Gotts is a cool roadside stand and backyard picnic-table seating. I chose to go somewhat healthful with an order of Ahi Poke Tacos, but the truth is, I was really jonesing for one of those Niman Ranch burgers and some fries.
(Gotts Roadside, 933 Main Street, St. Helena, CA 94574; Tel. 707.963.3486, www.gotts.com)
GREEN STRING FARM
Green String is a 140-acre farm in Petaluma, just a few minutes away from my lovely hosts’ home. Bob Cannard, one of the partners along with Fred Cline, has been farming for 30 years and was one of the early providers of local produce to Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley. Although the farm is not certified organic, they maintain sustainability standards that exceed organic standards. The stand is a treasure of freshness and bounty.
(Green String Farm, 3571 Old Adobe Road, Petaluma, CA 94954; www.greenstringfarm.com)
If you’re leaving town from Oakland International, have your parting meal at Camino. Housed in a down-to-earth brick walled room with soaring ceilings and long communal tables, Camino was one of the most interesting meals I’ve had in ages. Owner/chef Russell Moore is a 20-year Chez Panisse alum who enjoys cooking over a 9’ wide open-hearth, sourcing ingredients locally, changing his menu daily and packing a ton of flavor into each dish. For starters we tried the wood oven-baked local oysters with absinthe, breadcrumbs and fennel salad, which was at once both totally clean and richly flavored. The grilled pork leg with greens, radishes and anchovy was a nice balance of fatty, woody pork richness aside the crisp acidity of a little salad. It was “Little Bird Monday” so we tried the prix fixe featuring wood-grilled quail and a fabulous chicken ballotine with fresh horseradish (and spatzel, spinach and sauerkraut salad). Though I’m not usually a huge dessert person, the true showstoppers of the night were our two sweet selections. Walnut Meringue with (the most outrageous) grapefruit-chile sorbet and citrus was pretty mind blowing. Bay leaf yogurt pudding with buckwheat cookies started off as smooth and oddly delicious and just got better with each bite. A pretty fab ending to my whirlwind trip!
(Camino, 3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610; Tel. 510.547.5035, www.caminorestaurant.com)
Just a few random notes. My favorite California landscape is found in the hills – of Sausalito, Berkeley Hills, Hollywood Hills, Bel Air, Mill Valley, Del Mar, etc. I love the vegetation, views and distinctly Californian architecture. I didn’t take any pics this trip, but I could spend all day driving in the residential, vertigo-inspiring hilly areas of Sausalito and Berkeley.
From left: an olive tree, apartment building in Oakland, Tomales Bay, Rose Garden in Oakland, tree/sky
I did catch a few shots, though, of sunset in Sausalito. We spotted The Spinnaker Restaurant, which, I swear, was probably featured in a 1973 episode of “McMillan and Wife” or “Streets of San Francisco.” Just think: dark (greasy) patterned carpet, dudes in brown polyester suits with long sideburns, cig-smoking women in Pucci-patterned haltered jumpsuits, a sultry cocktail lounge. OK, the people weren’t really there, but the place, the logo, the carpet and the lounge were all in full view. And about that view: the place features floor to ceiling glass walls overlooking the Sausalito waterfront to the San Francisco skyline, Bay Bridge, Alcatraz and Angel Island. I wouldn’t dream of eating here as the menu, like the décor, is straight out of the ‘70’s; but the cocktails are outstanding.
From left: Sausalito waterfront with the ferry in view, The Spinnaker, park on Sausalito’s waterfront, The Spinnaker 70’s logo
(The Spinnaker Restaurant, 1000 Spinnaker Drive, Sausalito, CA; tel. 415.332.1500, www.thespinnaker.com )
Finally, if there are not a million other reasons to love this area of the country, come for the food and vegetation alone. Goodness abounds. My favorite retail trend is that seemingly every gourmet food store offers lovely little nosegays and floral arrangements to bring home for your dinner table (or to your hosts’). That alone is enough to make me love it here. Thanks Matt and Anne for a helluva trip!!!
Top row: floral arrangements ready to take home for dinner; Second row from left: vintage-y Coke bottles, Ternetta vermicelli, the most fabulous drip coffee makers at Ritual Coffee, Ritual Coffee, Ponzu Curd tarts at Morimoto in Nappa
I’m not proud to admit it, but in my life, there have been moments of retail exploration that have thrown me into a state of total adrenaline rush. This occurred the first time I stepped into Ralph Lauren’s Mecca of luxury shopping at his 72nd Street and Madison Avenue “Mansion” (remember the ’80’s?). Dean and Deluca similarly made my whole being shake the first time I saw the Prince Street store and then again the West Broadway emporium. It’s been a while, but once again my body and mind have been thrown into overdrive by the shopping experience at SHED in Healdsburg, CA. I would seriously move to Healdsburg simply to be close to this incredible business.
Clockwise from top right: lunch of Mezze Plate (white bean Hummus, roasted Kabocha Squash, marinated Beets, Feta and Olives and the most yummy strained Greek Yogurt with black sesame seeds), the Coffee Bar, outdoor gardening center, the façade, logo, “Cook” section
Who are Cindy Daniel and Doug Lipton, owners of Home Farm in Dry Creek Valley and the people with such impeccable taste and talent to curate such a perfect collection of food, home goods, gardening tools and sundry items in one gorgeous steel and glass structure which they built to house it all? When I asked our café server who owned the place, I was told that the couple were “farmers” and not much more. I’m overwhelmed and I want to know them. The 10,000 square foot structure houses dry good shopping, food market, restaurant, fermentation bar (more on that below), garden center and an event space upstairs; somehow it all integrates seamlessly.
From top: The produce section, sandwiches at the Coffee Bar, fabulous charcuterie, cookies and pastries at the Coffee Bar
The official drink of California these days (other than wine, of course) seems to be the Shrub. A Shrub is actually a Colonial-era concoction combining pureed fruit, a bit of sugar and –get this – vinegar, which then gets topped off with a generous spritz of soda water. It’s quite refreshing and only about 1 in 10 sips screams of vinegar. Though I saw Shrubs around and about, SHED sells a variety of flavors at their show-stopping Fermentation Bar, along with Kefir on tap and Kombucha on tap. In the Larder, fermentation was on view in row-upon-row of house-made kimchi, sauerkraut and other preserved foods; the theme continued with an array of do-it-yourself fermentation gear in the Cook section.
Clockwise from top left: our lunch table, the Fermentation Bar, Shed Shrubs, the shining taps at the Fermentation Bar
From top: Riess white enamel cookware, enamel measures, natural cork bowl and wood spoons, nutcrackers and wooden boards, goat hair dusters, handmade brooms and slingshots
Clockwise from top left: Bellwether Farms fresh Ricotta, restroom area, Eat section, private labeled Anson Mills heirloom grains, teeny floral arrangements, La Chamba clay cookware, Jacobsen salty black Licorice
Left to right: breads, jars of fermenting vegetables in the Larder, Apple Crisp, Askinosie chocolate bars, baked muffins and scones at the Coffee Bar
The Coffee Bar – check out those white tiles!
25 North Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448
It’s been a long, cold winter on the east end of Long Island, and though I love being home-based in East Hampton, these times remind me that we are water-locked at the end of a 100-mile “island.” It was time to get out of Dodge, so last weekend I took a quick jaunt to one of my favorite places on the planet, Northern California. My good friend Anne Millett (of the fabulous stationery company Mira Aster) and her husband Matt hosted me for four action-packed days of fun and exploration around Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties. The farms, the food, the 70+ degree sunny weather, expansive of beauty all around – it’s all so good. We packed so much in that I couldn’t possibly show it all, but tune in for the next few days for some of my favorite highlights.
HOG ISLAND OYSTER FARM
The perfect moment. That’s what we found at Hog Island Oyster Farm on Tomales Bay. This is simply the grooviest spot ever. We went early in order to grab space at one of the communal picnic tables, but if you’re a good planner, you can actually reserve a table for the day (call at least a month in advance). Groups come with picnics, wine, dogs and barbecue items in tow and seem to hang out endlessly. The spot is so gorgeous, it’s tough to pull yourself away. THIS is a place to have a party!
Clockwise from top left: the stand, oysters on the half shell, barbecued oysters, happy slurping people, the entrance, a happy party, all-gone bbq’d oysters, the reserved tables by the bay, center – menu sign
The best oysters I’ve ever eaten – this is the main thing we found at Hog Island. Though the menu includes a salad and some cheese and charcuterie options (Cowgirl Creamery is a neighbor in the next town of Point Reyes), we kept it simple with the farm’s oysters two ways: on the half shell and barbecued. Both were utter perfection. My fabulous florist friend Ariella Chezar swears she can eat 40 at one sitting. I’ll be spending the summer perfecting the barbecue technique, which is like nothing I’ve ever come across on the east coast (see recipe below).
Left to right: groovy gathering, the farm, table by the bay, the barbecue
Fun fact: one of the company’s founders, John Finger, hails from the North Fork of Long Island and studied Marine Biology at Southampton College.
On the way to the Farm: garage doors featuring local Abalone shells, the view from the picnic area, house numbers on driftwood
Hog Island Oyster Farm
20215 Shoreline Highway, Marshall, CA 94940
TOMALES BAY STATE PARK
Following our feast at Hog Island Oyster Farm, a quick trip to Point Reyes Station and Cowgirl Creamery, we continued a stunning drive around the horn of Tomales Bay to the state park for some staggeringly gorgeous views. About an hour up the coast sits Bodega Bay, which is where Hitchcock filmed “The Birds.” We were lucky to have a warm, sunny day, but it’s easy to see how a bit of fog and chill could transform the vibe into something quite spooky.
Hog Island Farm Style Grilled Sweetwaters with Garlic Chipotle Butter
Served at Hog Island Oyster Farm. (Recipe from their website)
Smokey and sweet and a touch of heat. Grilled Garlic Chipotle Butter oysters have become a favorite at the farm. Our friends & customers call them finger-lickin’ good. We’re pretty sure your friends will be speechless.
50 Hog Island sweet water Oysters
1/2 lb (two sticks) unsalted butter softened to room temp
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup bourbon (plus a nip for the chef!)
3/4 cup finely chopped garlic
Half of (10 oz) can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped.
The Butter (can be made up to one week in advance, keep refrigerated)
In a medium bowl, dissolve the brown sugar with the bourbon. In a food processor or blender, combine the softened butter with the bourbon/brown sugar mixture and add the garlic and chipotles. Mix on medium/high speed until well blended (OK if some chunks remain). Lay down a sheet of parchment paper (12″ or so), scoop the butter compound onto the sheet working to form a long row. Roll the butter in the parchment, like a burrito, folding the ends as you go. Refrigerate for about two hours or until firm. The finished roll should be the dimension of a cube of butter, only longer (about a foot). When you are ready to grill, slice 1/8″ pats of butter from the butter log and place on top of your shucked, raw oysters. Allowing the butter to melt as the oysters cook. *You can also skip the log-roll and leave the butter in a airtight covered bowl (refrigerate after making). Scoop a tablespoon of the mixture onto each oyster as they grill.
Open a cold one and fire up your grill to medium hot. Pre- shuck a few dozen oysters and remove the butter from the fridge. Place a pat of butter onto each shucked oyster and get those ‘sters on the grill. Open another cold one while you watch the butter and oysters begin to bubble. After about 2-4 minutes of bubbling and sizzling remove the oysters from the heat. The oysters will be ready when the edges of their meat begins to curl and the butter sauce is bubbling hot. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Enjoy with a frosty beverage.
Then make some for your friends.
Bling Bling. Candy-colored Fun. Rockin’ Rocks. However you think of gemstones whipped into ring-finger adornment, you’ve got to admit: A girl’s gotta dream. My favorites are diamonds and emeralds (and absolutely anything by JAR), but there’s not a ring on this page that I turn would down. The wedding is amazing, though it lasts just one fabulous day. That engagement ring hangs around a whole lot longer. Here’s to some Summer Dreaming…
1. Viren Bhagat Columbian Emerald and Diamond Ring 2. Antique Georgian Diamond Cluster Ring 3. Huguette M. Clark’s D color Emerald Cut Diamond Ring 4. Topaz and Diamond Cluster Ring c. 1950 by Berganza 5. 12.22-Carat Fine Sugarloaf Emerald and Diamond Ring 6. Sapphire and Diamond Estate Ring 7. 15.75-Carat Yellow Oval Diamond Ring 8. Colored Diamond Bonnet Ring by JAR 9. Vintage 5-Carat Emerald Cut Diamond and Emerald Halo 10. Victorian Diamond Cluster Ring 11. Laroche Freres Art Deco Diamond Panel Ring 12. Tiffany & Co. 13. Diamonds, Sapphires and Emeralds 14. Tiffany & Co. Platinum, Diamond and Onyx Ring 15. Graff Yellow Cushion Cut Diamond 16. Art Deco Ruby, Diamond and Platinum Ring 17. Erica Courtney Zoey Diamond and Gold Engagement Ring 18. Bulgari Emerald and Diamond 19. Ceylon Sapphire and Diamond 20. Lily Safra’s JAR Diamond Drop Charm Ring 21. French Sapphire and Diamond Ring c. 1912-1920 22. Berganza Ornate Diamond Cluster Ring c. 1920 23.Edwardian Ruby and Diamond Rosette Cluster Ring 24. From the collection of Lily Safra 25. Antique Old Mine Cut Diamond and Emerald Ring 26. Diamond “String” Ring by JAR 27. Art Deco Emerald and Diamond Ring c. 1925 28. Fancy Yello 6.74-Carat Ring 29. Bentley & Skinner Deco Ruby and Diamond Cluster Ring 30. Belle Epoque Aquamarine Target Ring with Diamonds and Sapphires 31. Orange Sapphire and Diamond 32. Emerald Cut Diamond 33. 4.55-Carat Diamond with Sapphires 34. Chopard Deroule la Red Carpet 35. Paolo Costaglie Paraiba Tourmaline and Diamond Ring 36. Van Cleef & Arpels Columbian Emerald 37. Target Ring 38. 50’s Ascher-cut Diamond Ring 39. Russian 5-Carat Demantoid Garnet and Fancy Colored Diamonds 40. Hemmerle Rose-cut Ruby Ring
For my money, New York Weddings (New York Magazine’s bi-annual wedding book) is the single best guide for anyone getting married in the New York area. We’ve been proud to be included in their featured vendors section for several years and are excited this month to have a favorite wedding featured in their pages.
Linda and James had been together for 11 years and wanted to create a sacred ceremony
celebrating their relationship and including their grown children. When Linda first called me, she had booked Gurneys as a location for their weekend celebration and was looking for help creating an environment and menu that reflected her vision. The goal was to create a beach wedding and outdoor reception that felt festive and elegant, yet casual. She loved an organic look but also wanted to incorporate punches of color, specifically orange, pinks, yellow and greens.
The ceremony was an important moment to welcome their guests, 120 close family and friends. Because the day was hot and guests were invited to a mid-day beach ceremony, we welcomed them with chilled water bottles (via Hamptons Water Company) and flip flops as well as bags for their street shoes. When guests arrived at the ceremony benches, they found hand fans and parasols in beachy earth tones, greens and lavenders to match the tulle fabric ribbons strung from the driftwood altar structure.
Hand sewn ceremony programs featuring the couple’s insignia Sneha symbol were anchored by a river stone at each seat. As part of their ceremony, the couple and their children performed a sand ceremony, each helping fill a keepsake bottle with sand they had collected from the Montauk beach. The bride looked stunning her blush-colored Vera Wang “Farrah” dress.
For cocktails, Gurneys passed hors d’oeuvre and created abundant food stations featuring raw bar items, sushi, antipasto, cheese, crudite and fruit as well as a colorful punch station to augment the bar. We designed the decks with seating vignettes of outdoor furniture and airport tables utilizing big punches of bright orange and celery-green. Lots of market umbrellas were placed around the decks to keep guests cool and comfortable.
As guests entered the dinner tent, they were seated at long tables covered in ivory cotton with a taupe runner. The centerpieces were custom-made wood boxes running the entire length of the table filled with wheat grass and local summer zinnias in punchy bright colors. Square rattan chargers and square white plates were found at each place setting along with either a lime faille or lavender linen napkin and menu card featuring each guest’s name.
Gurneys chef was ultra-accommodating and created the exact custom menu we requested: Chilled Montauk Lobsters with Lemon Tarragon Aioli; Sliced Grilled Sirloin Steak with Chimichurri Sauce; Farro Salad with Fresh Corn. Tomato, Cucumber, Feta and Parsley; Grilled Asparagus dressed with Olive Oil and Lemon. The bride supplied a recipe for a Pink Champagne wedding cake filled with Raspberry Mousse and Fresh Raspberries, which was delicious!
Age-old friends toasted the couple with beautiful, heartfelt memories and wishes for their future. As the heat of the day dissolved into thunderous rain, guests danced and partied until the bitter end, most leaving with heaping boxes of gummy candies, M&M’s and assorted goodies from the candy display.
James and Linda, you’re a gorgeous, loving couple with amazing family and friends. We were so honored to be part of your day.
Designing and planning weddings, events, parties, spaces and fun of all varieties. Celebrating life in the hamptons, sometimes yearning for my home town of NYC. Loving art, design, travel, food, fashion, architecture, photography and all things beautiful. Hoping to spend more time on the beach, in my garden, driving with the top down, traipsing in any far-away land. Posting any little thing that catches my fancy and hope you'll come along for the ride.
The Hamptons Wedding Planner