Le Marocain Restaurant (at La Mamounia)
La Mamounia is the most storied hotel in a city full of beautiful properties. It was recently shut down and lovingly and magnificently restored. Part of the experience Le Marocain Restaurant is passing through this storied palace. The restaurant, located in a traditional style riad centered around an inner courtyard, offers both traditional and contemporary cuisine. The salad course consists of a dozen small bowls of locally sourced ingredients (some quite spicy!). The movie-setting mood of the dining area is enhanced by the live traditional music and authentically attired (and handsome) waitstaff.
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
London’s full of fabulous parks with our favorite ones consisting of the gorgeous trio of green expanses stretching west to east through the middle of the city: Hyde, Green and St. James. But on your next visit, go a little farther east to London’s business district then straight up 525 feet to the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street, a unique public space spanning three storeys and offering 360-degree views across the City of London. Wander around the beautifully landscaped gardens and an open-air terrace with a full-on view of the famous Shard, and grab a drink, coffee or snack and enjoy London’s highest public garden. Entrance is free though you have to reserve ahead of time via the site. This may sound horrible but on a recent visit there were no more spaces available so we booked as handicapped and got in. Photo: Ed Salvato
SANTA ANA, CA
The downtown scene in Santa Ana has been blowing up lately, a slow takeover as Orange County’s art and gay center, and the new Barrel Room, which opened this past March, is the newest hotspot. The brick-walled, industrial cool restaurant, helmed by a gay chef, is a cool wine bar serving fine eats and cheeses, tapas-style food, and a buzzy vibe. The paninis and salads are among the best in town. The Barrel Room, which opened to rave reviews, is a must-stop in DTSA, if you live nearby or you’re heading to OC for Gay Days at Disneyland (October 2-4) or a day-trip jaunt to one of its nearby, exquisite beach towns.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Hotel G San Francisco
The Hotel G is a good choice for visitors who wish to be near Union Square and some of the most popular must-see items on the first-timers to do list: the cable cars; the Ferry Terminal (with lots of great restaurants, cafes and unique shops); Alcatraz (an incredibly well-curated tour whether this is your first trip to San Francisco or your umpteenth like ours). It’s also a few minutes walk up from the Muni and Bart, thus an easy trek to Castro, Noe Valley and other hip spots. G features a restaurant that we didn’t try but a hidden gem pub/oyster bar on the second floor that we did. It’s on the same floor as the well equipped gym, hidden behind a door with no markings and offers awesome fresh oysters, craftsman-like cocktails and lovingly pulled draught beers. The rooms include complimentary WiFi, water and nespresso. If you can request a room on the ‘14 line, do so. Ours (214) was a quirky suite consisting of two bedrooms, a living room, a foyer and three bathrooms one of which we didn’t discover for 24 hours. Though you may wish to be on a higher floor if you stay over a Saturday night and you’re a light sleeper as there are several clubs and bars in the area.
SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA
The Hungry Cat
Visitors arrive in California with the expectation of finding super farm-fresh ingredients, locally caught seafood and fabulous wines. You’ll find all three at the Hungry Cat Santa Barbara — the third of a small group of California restaurants, with the other two in Hollywood and Santa Monica — with the added benefit of attentive, friendly service. The atmosphere, like the menu items, is fresh, light and contemporary. We tried a mint lemonade (non alcoholic) and Luke’s lemonade (vodka based) and both were refreshing. They only serve the freshest seafood they can source and a nice way to sample a lot of it is to order the two-tier platter ($85) which can serve up to three hungry pescavores. If the sea urchin is available try it. It’s a bit disconcerting to see the urchin’s spiky exoskeleton but it is so tasty with a hint of the sea.
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PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA
Located on East Amado Road just off the main commercial street of Palm Springs you’ll find Tropicale Restaurant, which has been around since 2008 but we hadn’t yet visited. We finally had an opportunity to do so on a recent visit. The restaurant has a supper club feel especially the high-backed banquettes and chandeliers in the interior but we prefer dining on the lush outdoor terrace (which is over 2,000 square feet). The restaurant offers happy hours, live jazz, sushi Sundays (5pm-9pm) and other programming (check the website) and is popular with locals and visitors alike. An added bonus: Many of the waitstaff are attractive. The cuisine emphasizes the Pacific Rim with a number of Asian seafood dishes available but also delicious, fresh (and inexpensive) pizzas. Tropicale’s desserts, all made on premises, are fabulous, or you can opt to walk around the corner on to North Palm Canyon Drive and check out the Ben & Jerry’s.
Photo: CEBI Imagery