Saturday, December 23, 2006

Good Seafood with an Ocean View

Finally there is a restaurant with seafood that's as good as the view. Sam's Chowder House in Half Moon Bay has top notch food along with nice views of the Pacific Ocean.

I had heard about the planning for this restaurant for many months but had missed news of its opening. Earlier this week, my wife and I had the opportunity to dine at Sam's. We are both East Coast natives, with West Coast sensibilities, who are picky about our seafood.

Upon arrival, we immediately noticed that Sam's has the ambiance of an East Coast seafood joint: nothing fancy and a bar with sports on the big screens. However, being on the West Coast, Sam's has a good wine list and some microbrews on tap. In addition, the menu tells you that Sam's "do(es) not thicken their chowders with tons of flour," fries their food in "cholesterol- and trans-fat-free vegetable oil," and "serves sustainably-fished seafood whenever possible and practical."

The real test, though, is the taste of the food; and we gave Sam's a tough test. My wife summered in Maine and is extremely picky about lobster rolls. I am a native of Baltimore and am the same way about crab cakes. We both felt that Sam's serves the best lobster rolls and crab cakes in the Bay Area. My wife believes a good lobster roll has three ingredients: fresh lobster, butter, and a roll. Sam's serves the mayonnaise on the side for those who prefer a little dressing on their roll and adds a fourth ingredient -- celery. For me, crab cakes should be all crab with just a little binder to hold the meat together. Sam's crab cakes passed the test but, not unexpectedly, are made with Dungeness Crab rather than my favorite Blue Crab. Excellent coleslaw accompanied both dishes. The crab cakes came with fresh, thin-cut fries and the lobster roll with house-made potato chips.

I highly recommend a visit to Sam's. On a nice day, dine outside so you can watch the waves while you eat. Sam's Chowder House is located on Highway 1, just south of Princeton Harbor. To make a reservation call (650) 712-0245. More information may be found at

Monday, December 11, 2006

Where to Stay in San Francisco: Part IV - Financial District

The Financial District lies between Union Square and the Embarcadero (waterfront). This district is home to banks, law offices, and many other businesses. On weekdays, this part of San Francisco is bustling. At night and on weekends, the Financial District is pretty quiet.

If you are coming to San Francisco to conduct business in this part of town, there are a few big hotels located in the heart of the Financial District: Omni, Mandarin Oriental, Hyatt Regency, and Le Meridien. These are all well-known international brands. The Mandarin Oriental is probably the most upscale of these and is home to a well-regarded restaurant Silks. On weekends, discounts may be available from these hotels as they tend to attract weekday business travelers.

Just outside of the heart of the Financial District is the Hilton Financial District. This new hotel is across from Portsmouth Square, where the Financial District meets Chinatown.

Just south of the Financial District, along The Embarcadero, are three boutique hotels: Hotel Vitale, Hotel Griffon, and Harbor Court Hotel. The Vitale has a hot bar scene in the Americano Restaurant. All three are close to Steuart Street's restaurant row, which includes Ozumo (Japanese), Boulevard (one of the top rated restaurants in the city), Shanghai 1930 (Chinese with jazz), and Chaya Brasserie (Japanese-French fusion). The Ferry Building, with its Marketplace, is just a block away.

I recommend staying in the Financial District if you are working in the area and proximity to your place of work is a priority. If you are willing to walk a bit, then try one of the hotels along The Embarcadero or in the Union Square area (see previous post). You will find more life in these parts of town after work and on weekends.

If you are planning a trip to San Francisco, let Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel do all the work for you. We'll make your hotel and restaurant reservations and suggest activities that might be fun for you. For more information, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.