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You’re not a true SF foodie until you try legendary restaurant, Campton Place

Campton Place3

Written by Meaghan Clark, Photos by Kingmond Young

I’m the first to admit I’m a bona fide foodie. I like my restaurants sealed with a “hot” or “new” label, and have waited in line for cruffins, snapped Instagram photos of side-street tacos, and stayed up late to secure OpenTable reservations for State Bird Provisions (to no avail).

So when an opportunity came around to try a decades-old restaurant in the heart of Union Square, I was skeptical. There’s no line around the corner and the place had a small digital footprint.

I deserve to be slapped.

For anyone with Bay Area connections, ask about Campton Place. With its rich history, the restaurant has opened the kitchen door for many of the Bay’s renowned chefs like St. Helena’s Todd Humphries and James Beard award winner Bradley Ogden.

The beauty behind the restaurant, located within Taj Campton Place, is that it defines fine dining in a way that “hot” places like Al’s Place and Petit Crenn only wish they could replicate. I’m talking about a wait staff that refills your water at just the right time without making you feel like they’re hovering, or tossing your cloth napkin aside when you’ve stepped to the restroom to get you a new one. Each little detail that accompanies your visit to Campton Place is refreshing and “new” in the sense that we don’t see this kind of service anymore…and I haven’t even begun to describe the food.

Spicepot at Campton Place
Spicepot at Campton Place

Without hesitation, we decided to take on the Spice Route menu, a six-course display of some of executive chef Srijith Gopinathan’s signature creations. It was ambitious, yes, but when else do you get the chance to spoon tamarind chutney out of a terra cotta pot that’s sitting on a bed of acorns and pinecones whilst dry ice delivers a mist of “San Francisco fog”? The spice pot alone is enough to venture away from your social circle; it’s a dish you aren’t likely to come across on your latest hunt for what Thrillist calls “the best” macaroni and cheese in the city.

Surprisingly, the audience wasn’t as stuffy as I’d expected on a Wednesday night. And while I’m not the first to describe the lackluster décor often associated with hotel-based restaurants (the Chronicle called is “fusty” last year), and a restroom hidden within the lobby alongside overstuffed lounge chairs and a giant crystal chandelier, I came here for the cuisine.

Of course, it was truly the food that stood out. Celebrating a second Michelin star this year, Campton Place would be nothing without the visionary talents of executive chef Srijith Gopinathan, who joined the culinary powerhouse in 2010. Upon his arrival, the Southern Indian native earned the restaurant its first Michelin star, which he’s followed up with one every year since then.

The beauty behind Srijith’s menu isn’t just the continued excellence, but the expectation that there’s constant innovation – like his incorporation of seasonal ingredients. As an SF foodie I’m used to enjoying changing menus and daily dishes, but for an institution like Campton Place – and signature dishes like the spice pot that have been on the menu for years – I was pleasantly surprised to see that the menu still keeps diners on their toes. This winter, everyone has squash on the menu but Srijith’s addition of Indian spices to a ladle of squash puree complimented the rest of the menu while adding a touch of modernism.

Campton Place

Without hesitation I can claim that I’ve never tasted a better pairing than the one I did at Campton Place – the cod and Riesling were like peanut butter and jelly; for once I finally understood what it meant to taste a complementary pairing. The cod exploded with flavor after a sip of my wine, a varietal I usually don’t enjoy for its sweetness but made my taste buds explode with happiness after just one sip/bite.

I could parade about the variety of each specific dish, but it’s all been documented before. Campton Place should still be where the foodies, bloggers, and PR stars go, and not because it’s new or hot or because the latest listicle from some newbie online publication tells you to go there.

The beauty behind great San Franciscan cuisine is that it has a history, and Campton Place is one of those places that has kept history alive. For more information, visit www.camptonplacesf.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Francisco Weekend Getaway to Cambria

Written by Meaghan Clark

Anyone who has visited a small coastal California city will likely feel an odd sense of nostalgia when visiting Cambria – narrow streets lined with locally owned antique shops, a sprinkling of ‘for lease’ signs, and a hodgepodge of restaurants offering up everything from Mexican to Italian.

Though bite-size, Cambria is the perfect counterpart to any hectic city lifestyle. Don’t worry about packing the latest fashion trends for your evening outing, making an endless stream of reservations, or book excursion after excursion. Cambria’s appeal is the anti-city where long afternoons spent watching 5,000-pound elephant seals or strolling along Moonstone Beach make you forget about “FOMO” (at least for the weekend).

El Colibri Boutique Hotel, Cambria
Image courtesy El Colibri Boutique Hotel

We escaped for a getaway that began at El Colibri Hotel, a contrast of sorts from the traditional beach motels or bed & breakfasts that line Main Street. Despite its youth (the hotel opened in 2010), El Colibri delivers comfort with in-room fireplaces, a luxurious spa complete with Jacuzzi tub, and educated staff that make it feel right at home in this rustic town.

WHERE TO EAT

Linn’s

Quintessentially small town appeal is the bread and butter at Linn’s, or rather the olallieberry at Linn’s. This mogul family owns much of the West Side in the shape of various restaurants, gift shops and packaged goods. Linn’s Easy as Pie, Linn’s Restaurant and Linn’s Fruit Bin are all equally comfortable in setting as they are hearty in country samplings. As cliché as it might seem, no one here will bat an eye – order up an olallieberry pie, warmed, or a breakfast pastry to savor the sweet local flavors of Cambria.

Indigo Moon, Cambria fine dining, best restaurant

Indigo Moon

For any San Franciscan, finding an outdoor space is an anomaly, In Cambria, Main Street is lined with patio after patio, but Indigo Moon isn’t just packed because of its tree-lined deck and star-filled views. The food or is equally as spectacular for both lunch and dinner (plus weekend brunch), with hearty portions and favorable pricing. Highlights from brunch included the eggs benedict, grilled chicken, brie and apple sandwich, and spice rubbed wild salmon salad.

Robin’s Restaurant

Robin’s is the Ritz Carlton of Cambria. Precocious (but not too pricey), Robin’s Restaurant offers unique cuisine in a fantastic setting. A landscaped deck offers prime outdoor seating for brunch, lunch, and dinner and the eclectic menu caters to every taste bud in your party. Don’t be concerned about sharing a pasta special, Thai noodles or a curry alongside artisan cheese plates or spring rolls – the flavor combinations are always on point.

WHAT TO DO

Upon arrival, kick off your shoes and take advantage of your proximity to Moonstone Beach Boardwalk where locals typically enjoy sunset. The rocky beach is breezy and warm, and the perfect welcome to your Cambria stay.

Image courtesy Hearst Castle
Image courtesy Hearst Castle

Cambria often gets overlooked. Its seaside neighbor, San Simeon, boasts one of the world’s largest estates in the States. Hearst Castle is a short drive away and well worth the visit. Book your tickets for a Sunday morning Grand Rooms Tour (extend your stay with a Cottages & Kitchen Tour) and forget the crowds or lines.

As your bus tour winds down the road back to ground level, keep an eye out for Piedras Blancas Light Station, your next destination. Reserve a tour and escape into history alongside the rocky shores.

While you’re in San Simeon, stop at the vistas to view the elephant seals where, depending on the season, hundreds or thousands of elephant seals bask in the warm sand and sunshine of W R Hearst Memorial State Beach.

Nitt Witt Ridge, Cambria tourist attractions

If you’re ready for an unusual encounter that’s been marked as a historical landmark, escape to the Nitt Witt Ridge a collectors obsessed-turned museum that offers daily tours. After your experience, sample the day’s tastings from local brewery Cambria Beer Co. (open daily).

WHERE TO SHOP

Cambria shopping, Garden Shed

Garden Shed is an oasis within walking distance of downtown, offering an eclectic collection from local artisans. With DIY in their blood, everything in the 6,000 sq. ft. indoor/outdoor space is appealing in their unique displays, friendly faces and original collections. Peruse for the afternoon, or if you’ve got a green thumb and ample outdoor space, find something for the garden.

Wineries are ingrained in any city dweller escape, and Cambria offers a great selection of local vineyards offering weekend tastings on State Route 46.

Stolo winery Cambria wine tasting

Local favorite is Stolo Family Vineyards, located just off the beaten path. The Stolo family lives on the property where their 94-point Syrah was created, as well as refreshing and ceremoniously scrumptious Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. The $8 tasting fee is a steal compared to any Napa getaway, and bottles ranging from $25 to $50 are a must, as they can’t be purchased anywhere else.

Thank you again to El Colibri Hotel for hosting us and Archer and Hound for setting up our destinations. Feel free to check out more things to do at Visit Cambria.