April 15, 2008

San Diego, California: Britt Scripps Manor; hotel review

Britt Scripps Manor  406 Maple St./4th Ave., a few blks. from Balboa Park, (888) 881-1991, (619) 230-1991. 9 rooms; $205 to $515. Evening wine; full breakfast.

This multi-gabled 1887 Queen Anne-style Victorian mansion is a historic landmark. It features a striking turret, wrap-around porch, and a two-story original stained glass wall depicting morning, noon, and night in changing colors throughout the day—also an opulent parlor, hand-carved oak staircase, and music alcove with 1883 Steinway Art Case piano signed by Henry Steinway, great grandson of the founder. Exquisite attention is paid to details. Each individually decorated room represents a different design genre from the Victorian period, and each is equipped with a flat screen TV, bathrobes, and cashmere throws. Some bathrooms have claw-foot bathtubs. The exterior is painted in the original Victorian colors of yellow and red with green trim. Out front, the oldest Camphor Tree in North America--planted in 1865—is fragrant with menthol.

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San Diego, California: Asti Ristorante; restaurant review

Asti Ristorante  728 5th Ave./W. G St., in Gaslamp Quarter, 619-232-8844. L M-Sat, D daily, SunBr.

This restaurant is named for Asti, a historic Italian town located in the northern Piedmont region that is acclaimed for its outstanding wines, white truffles and a medieval bareback horse race called “Palio.” The Interior of this European-style restaurant has tall ceilings and red brick walls, but the fenced-in front patio has heat lamps and is fabulous for lunch in any weather. The menu is extensive and features a bargain three-course lunch special.

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Half Moon Bay, California: Sam’s Chowder House; restaurant review

Sam’s Chowder House  4210 N. Cabrillo Hwy. (Hwy. 1), (650) 712-0245. L-D daily; $$$. Reservations taken.

This New England-style seafood house boasts excellent views of the Pacific Ocean from almost every table. Outdoor seating is also an option. Specialties include fresh fish, live lobsters and crabs, and a raw bar. Choose from New England (white) or Manhattan (red) clam chowders, and count on the award-winning lobster roll sandwich as always a good choice. Drinks are creative and fun—anyone for a Strawjito? A seafood market (W-F 4-8, Sat-Sun 12-8.), sells locally caught fresh fish and specialty seafood items and side dishes plus picnics-to-go—the all-inclusive lobster clambake pot is an easy way to entertain right on the beach but requires 48-hours notice--and Sam’s is family-friendly, too.

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Santa Cruz, California: West Cliff Inn; hotel review

West Cliff Inn  174 West Cliff Dr., (800) 979-0910, (831) 457-2200. 9 rooms; $$$-$$$+. All gas fireplaces. Afternoon snack; full breakfast.

Built as a private home in 1877, this 3-story Italianate Victorian is now a historic landmark. It boasts a view of the beach and Boardwalk from some rooms and from its two porches. But it’s not your grandma’s Victorian. Inside, it features clean-lined, contemporary finishes and accents throughout. One room has a private outdoor hot tub, and breakfast is served in bed for a small fee. The inn is well position for an easy walk or ride (the inn has bicycles for loan) to the Wharf, beach, and Boardwalk.

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San Francisco, California: Troya Restaurant; restaurant review

Troya Restaurant  349 Clement St./5th Ave., (415) 379-6000. L F-Sun, D daily; $$. Reservations accepted.

Contemporary Turkish cuisine is served here in a light-filled room with a pleasing view of the street. Signature mezes, or starters, change regularly and include delicious delicacies such as borek (filo dough stuffed with fresh spinach and pine nuts), dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with braised lamb), and warm olives. A meal can be made from mezes alone, but it would be a shame not to try one of the entrees, perhaps a vegetarian moussakka or a satisfying manti (handmade ravioli). Turkish deserts include baklava and kunefe, which are even better with a cup of thick Turkish coffee or refreshing peppermint tea.

Before or after dining, duck in to Green Apple Books & Music (506 Clement St./6th Ave., (415) 387-2272. Daily 10-10:30.) and 6th Ave Aquarium (425 Clement St., (415) 668-7190. M-F 11-10, Sat-Sun 10-10.) for an enjoyable browse.

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