Skip to main content

Style Magazine

Have Fork, Will Travel

Jun 18, 2009 06:13AM ● By Super Admin

Reality bites, but so too does escaping from it. Culinary vacations, those that allow food and fun to intersect deliciously and creatively, feed all the senses at once. Luckily there are two nearby food capitals – San Francisco and St. Helena, and one that’s just a hop, skip and flight away, Sedona – that, year-round, provide visitors with an indulgent docket of foodie must-dos. But before you bite off more than you can chew, dig into our best-ever meal plan.

St. Helena

This charming quarter of Napa Valley offers travelers a chance to sample and sip the favored flavors of the wine country. With specialty chocolatiers, boutique wineries, locally harvested ingredients, and one world-class culinary school, St. Helena is the best place to...

Celebrate the Season’s Eatings

Order up: Culture and cuisine.
Tip: The Napa Valley Mustard Festival, a three-month extravaganza held January through March, celebrates the vibrant art and agriculture of the wine country. The annual event stages a variety of culinary, entertainment and artistic events at landmark locations throughout gorgeous Napa Valley.

Fulfill Grape Expectations

Order up: A crush course in wine tasting.
Tip: Meadowood, a rustically elegant resort and frequent stopover for celebrity guests, offers a comprehensive wine education program, including wine excursions and vintner dinners, as well as discussions about grape growing, wine storage and the art of reading wine labels.

Extend an Olive Branch

Order up: Home-harvested olive oil.
Tip: The grape’s only wine country rival, the olive, is the star of Sonoma Valley’s namesake festival honoring the edible. Like its aforementioned sister fest, the Olive Festival, held December through February each year, hosts a variety of events that spotlight the olive’s impact on wine country cuisine and agriculture, including olive martini tastings and pairings.

Pick-up a Gourmet Picnic

Order up: Epicurean delights.
Tip: Dean and DeLuca, a high-end and high-priced specialty market on the way into St. Helena, offers wine country visitors hard-to-find ingredients from across the globe and freshly prepared picnic fare. Grab some fresh pears and stinky artisan cheese and head across the street to the family-owned V. Sattui Winery for a not-too-sweet bottle of Riesling and a picnic spot under a shady tree.

Remember When

Order up: A haute dog.
Tip: Taylor’s Automatic Refresher, a fancy-pants retro diner, is a St. Helena staple and boasts the longest lines of any eatery in and around the Napa Valley. For its menu of true-blue American lunch fare with a wine country twist – milkshakes and duck confit tacos – Taylor’s is a refreshing antidote for wine and cheese hangovers.

Shape Up Your Culinary Skills

Order up: Baking and Pastry Arts Boot Camp.
Tip: The gorgeous, statuesque Culinary Institute of America at Greystone offers one of the world’s top culinary degree programs for budding chefs, but also cooking demos, classes and several weeklong Career Discovery Boot Camps for career changers and armchair chefs.

Take Class Action

Order Up: Lessons in cooking with tequila.
Tip: Under the expert instruction of noted Chef Joanne Weir, and inspired by her best-selling book, Tequila: A Guide to Tyles, Flights, Cocktails and Bites, this weekend instructional starts with a cocktail reception at Weir’s home, continues with lessons on cocktail pairings and cuisine, and finishes with a sit-down meal. Weir hosts a variety of ongoing classes for home cooks, serious chefs, and casual imbibers.

Supper Globally, Eat Locally

Order up: A mid-week feeding.
Tip: Every Wednesday evening at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, guests of Cindy’s Supper Club are invited on a culinary adventure that celebrates food common to one part of the world. Whether it’s to London for Gastro Pub, Spain for tapas, or Turkey for Crunchy Zucchini Flowers, Chef Cindy Pawlcyn cooks up something delicious.

Think Outside the Box

Order Up: Freshly baked savories.
Tip: Foodies who cannot afford to eat at French Laundry (few can) in hoity-toity Yountville are encouraged to stop by Chef Thomas Keller’s other French hotspot, Bouchon Bakery, which carries a variety of authentic breads, pastries, tarts, and even pet treats. Bouchon’s packaged specialties (try the homemade granola) make great souvenirs.


San Francisco

The City by the Bay is famous for its food, glorious food! San Francisco lures legions of globetrotting foodies with its culinary diversity, from traditional Russian tea and authentic Italian pizza, to traditional Dim Sum and fresh-off-the-boat seafood. World-famous hot dogs at AT&T Park, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it watering holes, and entire neighborhoods peppered with ethnic eats are just a few things that make San Francisco the best place to...

Kill Two Birds With One Stone

Order up: Dinner and a movie.
Tip: Enjoy reel entertainment at Foreign Cinema, which satisfies appetites for both film and fare. This “industrially chic” Mission district restaurant serves fantastically good cuisine (the oysters are first-rate, and so are the chilled soups) while screening equally delicious art-house films, setting a romantic scene worthy of a Jean-Luc Godard film.

Eat Your Heart Out

Order up: A little bit of everything.
Tip: Taste of the Nation, in support of Share Our Strength’s mission to eradicate childhood hunger, is one of the premier culinary events in SF, which begins with a Tasting Reception and follows with a VIP Dinner prepared by some of the best chefs in the city and beyond.

Experience the Counter Culture

Order up: A counter seat near an open kitchen.
Tip: Hayes Valley hotspot Bar Jules epitomizes the neighborhood restaurant, only with decidedly more vibe and much better food. Pleasantly unpretentious, a counter seat in this atmospheric restaurant is served with a great view of a wood-fired grill, with a side of lively conversation.

Market Watch

Order up: Organic eats.
Tip: The best place to go to market is the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, held Tuesdays and Saturdays along the Embarcadero. Besides providing fresh fruits and veggies, as well as artisan fare from noted Bay Area farmers, this event also sponsors cooking demos and culinary events, and showcases unique homemade wares of local crafters.

Go Down Mexico Way

Order up: One tamale, two tamale, three tamale, four!
Tip: One of the most festive events in all of SF, A Taste of Tamales by the Bay, is an annual festival in homage to that staple of Mexican cuisine – the tamale. Sweetening the deal are the event’s top-shelf margaritas.

Have a Novel Idea

Order up: A collectible cookbook.
Tip: Omnivore Books offers the most comprehensive collection of books on food and drink in San Francisco, from coffee table-sized cookbooks to classic memoirs by the Who’s Who of the culinary world. The selection of books from local authors is particularly impressive.

Be a Good Neighbor

Order up: A sidewalk table for two.
Tip: The historic neighborhood of North Beach is chock full of authentic Italian restaurants (that make really, really good espresso). Many of these eateries have charming sidewalks and outdoor patios like the cafes and tratorrias of Rome, and similarly rustic cuisine.

Listen to Confessions of a Linecook

Order up: Kitchen confidential.
Tip: The amusing podcasts of author and cook Richie Nakano, whose blog has garnered an avid foodie following, gives insight the Bay Area culinary scene and beyond, without leaving the comfort of your living room.

Pour it On

Order up: One or more of 300 international brews.
Tip: The San Francisco International Beer Festival has plenty of brew and even more buzz on tap for guests of this lively event—arguably the best place to find a brewed awakening within city confines, while also helping a good cause (proceeds support the Telegraph Hill Cooperative Nursery School). Scrumptious edibles from some of the top restaurants in SF are also provided.

Mix It Up

Order up: The Galapagos.
Tip: One of many creative, thirst-quenching cocktails served up at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar in Hayes Valley, where Top Chef contestant and Executive Chef Jamie Lauren commandeers the kitchen, The Galapagos contains, among other surprises, pepper syrup, lime and grapefruit juices, and brandied cherries. The atmosphere of this restaurant is tops, too!

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Order up: A latte fun.
Tip: The Blue Bottle Coffee Company, a micro-roasting kiosk operation, brews the best cappuccinos in SF – bar none. What makes them so good? Perfect foam created by a barista who takes the gig seriously. The coffee here is about as far removed from Starbucks as you’ll find – and a million times as good.


Sedona, AZ

This culinary destination is just a short flight from Sacramento and features a variety of foodie finds for the epicurean traveler. The Southwestern gem boasts immaculate views of Red Rock mountainscape, and offers fine fare blended with a unique fusion of Native American history and world-class modern amenities, all of which make Sedona the best place to...

Hit All the Right Notes

Order Up: A melodious meal.
Tip: As a Sedona landmark, Rene at Tlaquepaque has provided quality food and service for over 30 years. Nestled in a south-of-the-border-style, high-end retail center, Rene’s Mexican courtyard, French and Southwestern-infused menu creates a symphony of eclectic flavors and an unforgettable dining experience (the rack of lamb is divine!). Add to it weekends of live native flute, guitar and percussion performances, and you’ve got a harmonious marriage of music and cuisine.

Dress Down For Dinner

Order Up: Nourishment for the body and soul.
Tip: For ultimate pampering, fresh and healthful cuisine, and even some soul-searching, Mii amo, a Destination Spa at Enchantment is calling. Here, serenity meets savory. Guests of Mii amo enjoy a luxurious “journey” of spa treatments and fine fare that is both nourishing and filling. Minimize your finger-lifting by relaxing poolside and enjoying luscious cocktails delivered by affable and accommodating staff. Chef Steve also hosts weekly cooking demos. Dinner in your robe? It’s expected.  

Have a Tea Party

Order Up: A spot of tea and so much more!
Tip: Experience High Tea Tuesdays at The Jazz Bouquet. Make reservations by the preceding Saturday and partake in an afternoon featuring 20 different varieties of green, black, jasmine and herbal teas. The selection varies but includes a traditional tea menu of sandwiches, pastries and truffles with all of the appropriate accoutrements. Add to this light jazz entertainment and you’ve got a wonderful group outing.

Sample Sweets

Order Up: Sweet tooth satisfaction.
Tip: The Sedona Fudge Company offers a variety of the classic sweet treat and a multitude of olde candy shop favorites. With a “sample any and everything” attitude, like their Web site claims, the folks at Sedona Fudge really are the “sweetest guys and gals in town.”

Go Hog Wild

Order Up: Wine and Swine...kind of.
Tip: The javelina are swine-like desert dwellers sometimes spotted in the Red Rock canyons of Sedona. An unlikely run-in with one would not be ideal, but to catch a glimpse of the pig’s cousin in a much more enjoyable setting (on the label of delicious wines), Javelina Leap Winery demands a visit. With an eclectic tasting room open daily and bold and luscious reds, Javelina Leap is the perfect place to sample Zinfandels and pick a souvenir bottle.

Dine Waterside

Order Up: French fare with American flare.
Tip: With French-inspired American cuisine, and a creekside locale, L’Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek boasts an exquisite menu and extensive wine list. Each season brings with it a new menu, but no matter when you dine, rest assured the experience will satisfy. We suggest visiting in the fall, when outdoor dining beckons and the season’s vegetables abound.

Veg Out

Order Up: A Vegan vacation.
Tip: D’Lish Very Vegetarian offers an extensive 100-percent vegan menu. For the health-conscious and vegan-curious, D’Lish’s delicious menu contains a wide variety of natural, raw, and organic options, from soups, salads and sandwiches to Southwestern fare, desserts and organic teas.

Satisfy Cinema Cravings

Order Up: Silver screen on a silver platter.
Tip: The Sedona Film Festival has a 15-year history of presenting world-class films and workshops. Each February, in addition to a weeklong exhibition of excellence on the big screen, the festival offers superb fare at receptions and parties catered or hosted by local fine dining establishments.

Have Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

Order Up: A taste of class.
Tip: Test your culinary skills at Tastebuds Culinary Studio’s Sedona Cooking Class. Discover a plethora of ethnic cuisines, or have a class customized to a specific theme. Using pure, simple ingredients, Tastebuds will have you creating gourmet meals in a jiffy.

Enjoy a Labor of Love

Order Up: A feast of love. 
Tip: A famed establishment, Dahl and DiLuca brings rustic romance and delicious fare to the table. Owners and operators Lisa Dahl and Andrea DiLuca manifest their love affair with cuisine through two fine dining restaurants, Dahl and DiLuca and Cuchina Rustica, and a gourmet deli and wine gift shop, A’Roma. Enjoy an intimate meal and be sure to pick up a bottle of vino to celebrate the evening.