DAY 6 — WOW! We are staring down on San Francisco from the 45th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel—one of the tallest buildings in the city. The rooms occupy the top eleven floors of the city’s third tallest building. We see the City, the Bay, all the way to Alcatraz, it seems. (Check out the window-framed bathtubs!) www.mandarinoriental.com
The hotel has new innovative packages—“pairing” two rooms for adult children traveling with their families (at a 25 per cent discount), spring break packages and even a new book club — MO Reads — offering complimentary books to guests and the chance to join a virtual book club (www.goodreads.com) and author benefits to support www.roomtoread.org, which improves children’s literacy in developing countries.
I think this is the best view of San Francisco I’ve ever seen! I love that there is a complimentary town car available to take us to our last dinner in the city—Waterbar, the seafood restaurant on the Embarcadero with its stellar view of the Bay Bridge and waterfront and focus on sustainably caught seafood. (www.waterbar,com)
We’re especially excited to eat here after a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and learning about Seafood Watch (www.seafoodwatch.org) — that making better choices to eat sustainably caught seafood will help protect the ocean and sea life. The Waterbar, we learn, features the freshest sustainable seafood available.
It’s a fun place too with its huge windows overlooking the waterfront and 19-foot floor to ceiling circular aquariums filled with fish from the Pacific Ocean swimming around pier pilings. The executive chef and partner Parke Ulrich is focused on the Bay Area’s focus on seasonal cooking and local ingredients. Come for the new lunch menu that includes the Down the Line (Prix Fixe for $24—three courses featuring a daily changing menu). There’s also the $1 oyster of the day.
We opt for a selection of West Coast oysters from the raw bar—one of the largest in the city focusing on oysters from boutique farmers. Including Cove Miyagi and Preston Point, The shrimp are the largest I’ve ever seen in a shrimp cocktail.
My daughter Reggie, who works at the Marine Mammal Center (www.marinemammalcenter.org) in Marin County is thrilled to be in a restaurant that takes sustainability so seriously and serves such delicious food.
I have Oak Roasted Hawaiian Ono that is served with ground chick pea falafel and harissa. The menu says the fish was caught aboard the Kay Mary out of Honolulu. My husband has citrus Spice rubbed Tombo Tuna “hook and line caught aboard the VAK 2 out of Honolulu while my daughter orders Chili Roasted Steelhead “sustainably raised in the Cascade mountains of Washington. Her boyfriend Dan Foldes orders grilled sole filet “responsibly raised by Creekstone Farms.”
After learning at the California Academy of Sciences (www.calacademy.org) how food choices — like ordering local grass-fed beef can reduce our carbon footprint and at the Monterey Aquarium (www.montereybayaquarium.org) how so many fishing practices are depleting the ocean’s resources, we dig in with gusto. We have no guilt — except for indulging in the deserts of course (especially loved the warm chocolate pudding cake!)
Waterbar is one of several restaurants along the ever changing Embarcadero a short walk from the restored Ferry Building. We loved the Vietnamese food at the Slanted Door (www.slanteddooor.com) that showcases produce as well as ecologically farmed meat, game and poultry found at farms around the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Waterbar is an ideal place for our last dinner in San Francisco—hard to believe sitting in such a sophisticated setting that earlier that day we were out looking for whales in Monterey (www.chriswhalewatching.com). We spotted several California Gray Whales from among the ocean swells but the dolphins were the best part. They swam and dived and jumped alongside our boat. Wow!
After this trip to San Francisco, I don’t think I’ll ever buy or order fish the same way again. No more farmed salmon!
On our last morning, we eat breakfast at the Mandarin Oriental. Is the smoked salmon from wild or farmed fish, my daughter asks the waiter.
“I’ve never been asked that before,” he admits and goes to find out. Wild salmon, he reports.
Reggie nods approvingly.