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The Best of the South Bay 2015
San Francisco magazine | Photo: Courtesy Harley Goat Farm | June 23, 2015
The best yoga, seafood delivery, and goats south of San Francisco.
Cooking Class: Kitchentown
1007 Howard ave. (Near North HumBoldt St.), San Mateo, 650-458-8080
This San Mateo startup has the one thing every home cook with a pinch of ambition dreams of: a shiny, state-of-the-art kitchen in which to hone one’s chops. The 10,000-square-foot space is the backdrop to a rotating roster of classes: sushi rolling, pie baking, an organic baby food workshop. Classes are taught by local chefs and food celebs, like paleo guru katie kuiter, whose boot camp gives students a week’s worth of fresh food to take home to their tiny kitchens. Runner-Up: Baking Arts, San Mateo
Hotel: Epiphany hotel
180 Hamilton Ave. (Near Emerson St.), Palo Alto, 650-666-3311
Joie de Vivre has built a business around matching property to place, and Palo alto’s year-old epiphany Hotel is no exception. the 86-room boutique comes with all the Silicon Valley bells and whistles: free Wi-Fi, g-link docks for your tablet, lots of collaborative work space, plus a guest ledger that’s seen the likes of Mark zuckerberg and Marissa Mayer. Brightest idea of the bunch, though? the blinking lobby chandelier, designed by local design studio Ideo.
Runner-Up: Rosewood Sand Hill, Menlo Park
Beer Garden: Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant
895 Villaa St. (Near Castro St.), Mountain View, 650-963-9568
Before Steins opened in 2013, Mountain View’s happy hour scene got about as much traffic as google+. today, the german-style brewhouse—with its long communal tables, shaded patios, and wide-screens flashing the ballgame—is thelanding pad for the after-work crowd. Yes, that means tech bros, but it also means 31 taps pouring a river of craft brews, from Belgian triples to whatever seasonal the almanac guys are brewing. Order by the half pint to sample your share.
Runner-Up: Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, Half Moon Bay
Surf Spot: Linda Mar Beach
Cabrillo Hwy. and Crespi Drv, Pacifica, Parks.Ca.Gov
Just 10 miles north of one of the biggest waves on the continent (Mavericks), linda Mar, aka Pacifica State Beach, is everything a beginner board jockey could ask for: safe, roomy, with a steady serving of chest-highs. You’ll see your fair share of shredders when the swells are ripe, but this isn’t the kind of place where locals stake claims. Newbies are more than welcome, with surf school Surf Camp Pacifica using the beach as a classroom many mornings. Runner-Up: Montara State Beach, Montara
Field Trip: Harley Goat Farm
205 North St. (Near Pescadero Creek Rd.), Pescadero, 650-879-0480
What started with six pet goats and a ramshackle barn over 20 years ago has blossomed into nine acres of pristine pastureland, home to a herd of 200 alpine goats (and some llamas), candlelit hayloft dinners, and some of the fluffiest chèvre in the state. You’ll sample the goods in the gift shop, but don’t leave without taking the guided tour. Highlight: getting to hold a baby goat!
Runner-Up: Lemos Farm, Half Moon Bay
Beach For Kids: Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
Lake St. and Nevada Ave., Moss Beach, Parks.SMCgov.org
Children tend to be curious and low to the ground, a perfect combination for tide-pooling. and there’s no better place to do it than Fitzgerald Marine reserve, just south of Montara State Beach off Highway 1. Hike a short cypress-shaded trail to a shallow reef that’s home to hermit crabs, sea urchins, and 126 species of snails. rangers are on hand to point out each intertidal oddity.
Runner-Up: Bean Hollow State Beach, Pescadero
Classical Venue: Bing Concert Hall
327 Lasuen St. (Near Campus Drv.), Stanford, 650-724-2464
Stanford’s two-year-old, $112 million concert hall wraps all 842 of its seats in a tight circle around the stage, which means that if you’re seated in the front row, you’re toe-to-toe with the performers. that could be the university orchestra or jazz great Chick Corea. Whoever it is, be sure to sit still and listen. the hall’s acoustics were designed by the great Yasuhisa toyota, the ears behind Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA., and he created a series of sail-like panels that billow around the auditorium, doubling as giant video screens.
Runner-Up: Amphitheater at the Mountain Winery, Saratoga
Hiking Trek: Slow Adventure
Usually when the words “epic coastal hike” and “Northern California” are involved, it’s in reference to Big Sur. But golden views lie just beyond the hills of San Mateo. Meet Slow adventure, a tour company offering a self-guided inn-to-inn hike (from $845) from Half Moon Bay to Pacifica that covers 20 bluff-hugging miles over four days. each morning you’re sent off with a trail map, and each evening your bags magically appear in your room. take that, Big Sur. Runner-Up: Monte Bello Open Space Reserce, Los Altos Hills
Museum:Computer History Museum
1401 N. Shoreline Blvd. (Near La Avenida St.), Mountain View, 650-810-1010
If your iPhone 5 is starting to feel like an artifact, it’s time for some perspective. Mountain View’s Computer History Museum takes on the last 2,000 years of tech innovation, from the abacus to the apple Watch. take the docentled tour through the analog gallery and learn about inventions like the short-lived $10,000 Honeywell kitchen Computer, which spat out recipes. The 1969 tagline: “If she can only cook as well as Honeywell can compute.” The company sold exactly zero.
Runner-Up: San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose
Public Gardens: Hakone Estate & Gardens
21000 Big Basin Way (Near Jacks Rd.), Saratoga, 408-741-4994
One of the oldest Japanese gardens in the Western hemisphere, Hakone is so much more than manicured plants. Yes, there are plenty of flaming maples and gurgling ponds fat with koi, but it’s the little things that make this 18-acre Saratoga hills retreat so special, like the traditional tsukubai (water basin), where guests purify their hands before a tea ceremony. Views stretch clear out to San Jose, which is either 15 miles or a world away, depending on how blissed-out you are.
Runner-Up: Japanese Tea Garden, Central Park, San Mateo
Eat + Drink
Taco Joint: Taqueria el Grullense
1280 el Camino real (Near Jackson Ave.), Redwood City, 650-368-3737
El Grullense is the big buckle at the center of Redwood City’s ever expanding taco belt. There are locations scattered throughout town and beyond, but this family operation on el Camino real is the taco bar by which all others are measured. The recipe is simple: warm tortillas; tender, slow-cooked meat—beef, pork, or, yes, goat—a pinch of diced onion and cilantro; and a zippy salsa. order three (or four if you mean business), sit down, eat, and pretend you’re in Michoacán.
Runner-Up: Chavez Supermarket, Redwood City
Roadside Diner: Alice’s Restaurant
17288 Skyline Blvd. (Near La Honda Rd.), Woodside, 650-851-0303
Depending on whom you ask, Alice’s is either a biker bar, a tourist trap, a family diner, or a hangout for hikers taking on nearby Portola Redwoods State Park. and come Sunday afternoon, it’s all of the above. Camp out on the redwood-enshrined deck, dig into a monster omelet with thick-slab bacon, and watch the parade of Harleys and vintage cars pull in.
Runner-Up: Buck’s of Woodside, Woodside
Tasting Menu: Manresa
320 Village Ln. (Near North Santa Cruz Ave.), Los Gatos, 408-354-4330
It’s not a cheap meal—$198 per person, plus another $158 for the wine pairing, to be exact—but calling what happens at David Kinch’s holy laboratory “a meal” isn’t quite accurate. over a dozen tweezerserved courses, everything you think you know about food will be turned upside down. What might seem like simple tomato bisque turns out to be a strawberry gazpacho. and that dirt-like substance in your salad is actually a mixture of seeds, stems, and ribs from veggies. a meal? More like a magic show.
Runner-Up: Plumed Horse, Saratoga
Craft Distillery: Old World Spirits
121 Industrial Way (Near Harbor Blvd.), Belmont, 650-622-9222
Take a peek at the top shelf at your favorite Bay Area cocktail bar and you’ll likely notice the handiwork of Davorin Kuchan, a third-generation distiller whose small-batch hooch has been mesmerizing mixologists for years. At old World Spirits, he makes everything from triple-distilled absinthe to a brandy-aged walnut liqueur, but really it’s all about the gin. The flagship Blade Gin, with hints of citrus and candied ginger, can elevate even the laziest g&t, while the spendier oak-aged Rusty Blade drinks more like a fine cognac. Taste them side by side during a tour of the small Belmont distillery the last Friday of every month.
Runner-Up: Essential Spirits Alambic Distillery, Mountain View
Butcher Shop: Pape Meat Co.
25 Hillcrest Blvd. (Near Broadway), Millbrae, 650-697-2232
Pape is just what the Peninsula needs: a go-to meat market that can handle your weekday shopping list and the occasional protein splurge. You want a bone-in prime rib that’s been dry-aged 90 days? Pape can make it happen. But this isn’t some trendy butcher with tattooed meat-artisans pushing flavor of-the-month cuts. Pape still does business the way it did when it opened in 1958. With first names, firm handshakes, and quality meats.
Runner-up: Dittmer’s Gourmet Meats and Wurst-Haus, Los Altos
Ramen: Orenchi Ramen
3540 HoneStead Rd. (Near Princeton Way), SaNta Clara, 408-246-2955
People like to complain about the wait at Orenchi—40 minutes to an hour and 40 minutes?!—but in the end, no one remembers it. Because the moment you dive into a porkrich bowl of the signature tonkotsu ramen, with its chewy noodles, green onions, and soft-boiled egg, all you care about is the next bite. Show up early for the tsukemen, a deconstructed dish of cold noodles that you dip into an intense pork-laden soy broth that’s been simmering for 18 hours. Not that anyone’s counting.
Runner-Up: Ramen Dojo, San Mateo
Wine Tasting Room: Wine Bar 107
300 College Ave. (Near Prospect Ave.) Los Gatos, 408-354-6150
Who knows how many startups have been launched over a glass of Testarossa’s silky chardonnay? Regardless of the number, when the Los Gatos winery opened Wine Bar 107 a few years ago, it quickly became a Silicon Valley hangout. It’s easy to see why: the indooroutdoor space is large and full of old-world charm. Set up at one of the fire pits on the sycamore-shaded patio for a sampling of the winery’s pours, including its famous single-vineyard pinot noirs.
Runner-Up: Cooper- Garrod Estate Vineyards, Saratoga
Homewares: Harvest Furniture
Locations in San Carlos, Lost Gatos, and Menlo Park; ShopHarvest.com
Harvest dubs its style “unpretentious yet sophisticated,” which translates to a mix of rustic and reclaimed furniture—the kind that can send you into a passionate disquisition on the merits of Indian teak. If you’re looking to turn back the clock with your home decor, check out the vintage collection, which includes everything from French oyster baskets to back issues ofSunset from the 1960s.
Runner-up: Parkgate Home, Menlo Park
Record Store: Vinyl Solution
151 W. 25tH Ave. (Near Flores St.), San Mateo, 650-571-0440
Vinyl Solution specializes in not specializing. Which is to say, you can score a used copy of Hall & Oates’s Big Bam Boom for three bucks or a sealed French edition of Madonna’s Sex book for 200. Thousands of new and used records, CDs, DVDs, and tapes jam the aisles, as well as an interesting mix of audio and musical equipment. The key to navigating it all, says owner Tommy “Toonz” Predovich: “Go slow and know what you want.”
Runner-up: Streelight Records, San Jose
Bookstore: Kepler’s Books
1010 El Camino Real (at Ravenswood Ave.), Menlo Park, 650-324-4321
Kepler’s has all the hallmarks of the modern stay-afloat bookstore: The obsessively curated staff picks, the left-leaning nonfiction, a comfy kids’ nook. But now the 60-year-old Menlo indie is upping its events game. It’s expanding its lecture series, bringing in bigname writers and thinkers like Jane Smiley and Pulitzer-winning historian david McCullough. And through a partnership with Peninsula arts & letters, the store will play host to a weekly radio show.
Runner-Up: Linden Tree Books, Los Altos
Plant Shop: Half Moon Bay Nursery
11691 San Mateo Rd. (Near Pilarcitos Quarry Rd.), Half Moon Bay, 650-726-5392
Half Moon Bay Nursery isn’t your garden-variety plant outlet. Spread over three lush acres, the mega-nursery has everything you could possibly need to kick-start your garden, from potting soil and terra-cotta containers to annuals for under a buck.Tthe lot is arranged by botanical theme, with greenhouses for succulents, tropicals, and perennials. No idea what those words mean? Talk to Brad, the head green thumb, and he’ll get you fixed up with something sensible for the backyard.
Runner-Up: Yamagami's Nursery, Cupertino
Dog Walker: Bay Area Pet Pals
Servces San Mateo to Palo Alto, BayAreaPetPals.com
Lynda Mortensen is a pet person, the kind who had to stop volunteering at the local shelter because she took home all the animals. So six years ago, she started Bay Area Pet Pals, a dog-walking, pet-sitting service with a dozen employees—and not your typical teenage leash-draggers, either. Dogs are walked individually, roughly three times a day, and Lynda is certified in pet CPR and first aid. But don’t worry, all walkers are proficient in fetch.
Runner-Up: Paws Dog Camp, San Mateo
Yoga Studio: Being Yoga
1863 El Camino Real (Near Murchison Dr.), Burlingame, 650-552-9642
Sandwiched between a Starbucks and a sushi restaurant in a blank-stare Burlingame strip mall, Being Yoga is bizarrely situated. But it might be the cleanest, brightest sweat den in the Bay area, with pristine hardwood floors and a laid-back, attentive staff. after a recent renovation, the studio rolled out
an expanded menu of classes—some 50 per week—ranging from full-bore Bikram to silent meditation.
Runner-Up: Samyama Yoga Center, Palo Alto
Spa: Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
1 Miramontes Point Rd. (Near Fairway Dr.), Half Moon Bay, 650-712-7000
First off, it’s the Ritz-Carlton. If you’ve come this far—strolled the coastal trails, sipped reserve pinot by the fire pit—then you already feel like you’ve won. So why gild the lily with a trip to the spa? Because it contains 16,000 square feet of deep-tis- sue decadence replete with coed mineral baths, tsunami showers, roman plunge pools, and all the complimentary cucumber water you can swallow.
Runner-Up: Spa Lux, Redwood City
CSA: Royal Hawaiian Seafood
Let's face it: Most of us are out of our depth when it comes to picking susatainsble seafood. Farmed or wild? Trawled or trapped? The options can seem endless. So when longtime South City seafood purveyor Royal Hawaiian, a favored seafood privider of Monterery Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, launched its Fishbox program last year, we were hooked. Twenty-five bucks a week gets you about a pound of off-the-boat fish. So you can have your salmon and your conscience too.
Runner-Up: Fifth Crow Farm, Pescadero
Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco