Maria Hunt

Correspondent

  • Oakland, CA, USA

Maria Hunt is a correspondent who lives in Oakland and covers the Bay Area and Wine Country for Forbes Travel Guide. She also is a freelance food and wine journalist for other luxury lifestyle publications. Hunt — who authored a book on sparkling wine cocktails — believes bubbly is meant for sipping anytime. She’s followed her love of fine sparkling wine and cuisine to Champagne, the Penedès outside of Barcelona, Poland and Italy. The Chicago native’s work has appeared in Forbes.com, The Christian Science Monitor and The St. Regis Bespoke, among other publications.

  • On September 30, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    Does The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco offer couples’ treatments?

    The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco does offer couples’ treatments in a posh private suite. The couples’ suite is in the heart of the spa and offers an expansive view overlooking the stone unicorn and lion on the façade of a historic building across the street in the Financial District. Inside, you’ll find a pair of massage tables side by side, as well as a pair of cream-colored chaise lounges with gold bolster pillows. You’ll notice the impressive gleaming onyx backsplashes on the pair of sinks spread with a full selection of toiletries; the suite also includes a private shower. The staff can customize your room environment by varying the brightness of the light and the hue as well. It can also put on soothing music, or bring your own MP3 player and having your favorite songs piped through the massage table. Though the San Francisco spa is new (it opened in October 2012), the luxurious couples’ spa suite has already been the site of at least one marriage proposal that was met with a yes.
  • On September 30, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What is the style of The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco?

    In keeping with the Asian philosophy that informs the treatments at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental San Francisco, the style of the spa reflects a luxurious Eastern aesthetic. The serene spa on the third floor of Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco is done in soothing shades of gold, cream and brown. The entry is furnished with low couches covered in a nubby tan fabric, where you’ll sit for the welcome ritual (an attendant greets you with a tray bearing a cup of hot tea from the signature Jing line, a hot towel and a purple orchid; then he helps take off your shoes and put on spa slippers). The back wall has a subtle pattern that evokes water, while Asian nature motifs emerge when you look closely and notice the camellia pattern in the bronze wall coverings and custom art with stylized lilies. Further in, you’ll notice details like fu dogs, opulent Asian fabrics and bamboo flooring. But the one piece that epitomizes the style of the San Francisco spa is the elegant and regal statue of Quan Yin, the goddess of mercy who guards the corridor.
  • On September 30, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What is the best way to get an appointment at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco?

    It’s effortless and quick to secure an appointment at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco. If you’re just seeking information, send an inquiry via the spa’s website. But the best way to get an appointment at the luxury spa in the heart of the Financial District is to call the spa concierge. The concierge can answer any questions you may have about treatments at the therapeutic spa, which blends Asian philosophy with modern aromatherapy. The spa concierge will get your email address so she can send an appointment confirmation and itinerary. She also will secure your credit card number to hold the reservation and let you know about The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco’s cancellation policy, which requires at least 24 hours’ notice to grant a refund.
  • On August 1, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What is the best new restaurant in San Francisco?

    The best new restaurant in San Francisco is State Bird Provisions, which offers a uniquely warm and casual dining experience with creative small plates served in a dim-sum style. That's not just my opinion; the married chef duo of  Nicole Krasinski and Stuart Brioza just picked up a James Beard award for the Best New Restaurant in America for 2013. While you never know just what might be on the ever-changing menu, you're sure to find signatures like the crispy fried quail (California's state bird) with provisions, savory sourdough and sauerkraut pancakes, guinea hen dumplings in an aromatic broth and an addictive ice cream sandwich. Other dishes like oysters, Dungeness crab with farro or a granita with citrus segments, rhubarb and fennel reflects the best of the particular season. Even though it can take up to two months to snag a table at State Bird Provisions, rest assured the cuisine and genuinely warm service make it worth the wait.
  • On August 1, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    Where is the best sake in San Francisco?

    The ancient rice beverage sake is quite fashionable these days, and San Francisco is the place to explore a fine selection of sakes.  At Nombe, an izakaya (Japanese for "drinking house") in San Francisco's Mission district, co-owner Gil Payne has complied a sake list that’s considered one of the best in the region. Nombe offers sakes ranging from the sweet and fruity nigori to nuanced and subtle junmai daiginjo. His selection goes even deeper with styles like nama, a young a fresh sake; yamahai, an acidic and bone dry sake with hints of leather and tobacco; and koshu, and aged sake that offers aromas and flaovrs of caramel and nuts. All of these styles pair well with cuisine; actually Payne says sake pairs with pizza, grilled meats and even cheese just as well as it does with tempura and sushi. If you're looking for a special bottle to take home, head to True Sake in Hayes Valley — it was the first shop devoted to sake in the U.S. And if you want to do a little tasting and learn more about how sake is made, make the trip to the Takara Sake tasting room and museum in Berkeley. 
  • On August 1, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What are the best concert venues in San Francisco?

    The San Francisco area has a vibrant music scene, and whether you like to enjoy live music in a space that’s intimate or one that’s thrilingly expansive, you’ll find it here. For decades, jazz fans have flocked to Yoshi’s in San Francisco’s Fillmore and near Jack London Square in Oakland. San Francisco Symphony Hall’s posh environs may inspire you to dress up to hear a concert starring Janelle Monae, Tchaikovsky or diva Jessye Norman. The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – named for the legendary concert promoter – is a historic mid-sized arena in San Francisco that draws acts like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to Lady Gaga. The Fox Theater in Oakland’s trendy Uptown District is a beautifully restored Spanish-Moorish showplace that's hosted Lenny Kravitz; just a couple blocks away the Paramount Theatre offers a stunning Art Deco palace that hosts  symphony concerts, classic movies and the Nutcracker ballet at Christmas. And for mega-concerts with acts like Phoenix or Justin Timberlake, head to the HP Pavilion in San Jose.
  • On July 28, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What are the best sushi restaurants in San Francisco?

    San Francisco may lack L.A.'s ultra-expensive sushi dens like Urasawa and Nobu, but there are still a handful of places to go for pristine and fresh fish made into sushi. 

    Chef Tim Archuleta of Ichi Sushi wows San Francisco sushi fans with his super-fresh and artfully carved nigiri and sashimi, thrilling omakase menus, and dishes like albacore tuna tataki and sea bream with kabosu juice, shiso, green tea salt and yuzu kosho. Soon he and his wife will open a new Ichi with a raw bar, sushi bar, full kitchen and mixed drinks in a larger space at 3282 Mission St.

    Ozumo's two locations in San Francisco and the East Bay bring a modern vibe to the sushi experience, from signature Asian-inspired cocktails to specialty rolls to robata grilled skewers. In Oakland, head to Piedmont Avenue to find offers B-Dama, a super authentic spot with a small sushi bar, an ever changing menu of seasonal hot dishes and yakitori. For a more festive time, head down the avenue to Itaba, a new sushi spot sleekly done in natural wood; their generous happy hour offers a selection of rolls and cocktails.
  • On July 1, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What restaurants have the best views in San Francisco?

    San Francisco is a city that’s blessed with many scenic vistas, but some of the most stunning views are of the bay. For impressive views of the water and the Bay Bridge’s fantastic new light installation, I’d head over to the Embarcadero area. Epic Roasthouse is a popular locale, both for chef Jan Birnbaum’s meaty New American cuisine and the unobstructed views of the water and the Bridge. Seafood lovers will want to explore Water Bar next door, which has a very well-trafficked happy hour with freshly shucked oysters and other delicacies from the deep. A bit further down the Embarcadero, The Slanted Door is a great choice if you want to enjoy Charles Phan’s creative Vietnamese-inspired cuisine and Asian cocktails while gazing out at the water.
  • On July 1, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    Where is the best ice cream in San Francisco?

    For a city that’s in cold and fog much of the year, San Francisco has a a stellar selection of ice cream. I think that’s because the Bay Area has so many talented chefs and great ingredients so ice cream makes a fun way for them to express their individuality. Whether you love vanilla or Rocky Road, there are several ice cream shops in San Francisco and Oakland that you won’t want to miss.

    Bi-Rite Creamery is the undisputed king of salted caramel ice cream; theirs is deeply flavored with just the right notes of burnt caramel and salt.  If caramel’s not your thing, the lavander and the roasted banana are delicious too.  Since Bi-Rite can have queues — especially for soft serve — that rival those outside your city’s hottest nightclub, I suggest picking up a pint at the market across the street and taking it back to your hotel.

    For novelty flavors like Secret Breakfast (corn flakes and bourbon), beet or Vietnamese coffee,  head to the quirky Humphry Slocombe in the Mission District. But my favorite place for an ice cream indulgence is Tara’s Organic Ice Cream, which offers creative seasonal and organic ice cream in Berkeley and Oakland’s Rockridge. While I love her nutmeg ice cream, and the black sesame in a handmade sesame cone, the most heart-stopping flavor is the summery sweet corn – trust me.
  • On June 19, 2013
    Tom Flournoy is now following Maria Hunt
  • On May 24, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    Where is the best shopping in San Francisco?

    San Francisco Travel Association photo by Scott Chemis As with most quests, the best place to look depends on what you’re seeking, and shopping in San Francisco is no exception.


    For clothing and shoes, the best place to go is the Union Square area, which is easily accessible from the Powell BART or Muni train stops. On the square itself and in the three-block radius, you’ll find department stores including Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, Barney’s New York, Nordstrom’s and Blomingdale’s. For more distinctive jewelry and high-end housewares, head to Gump’s, which is a San Francisco institution. Specialty shops in the area include Britex Fabrics, Bulgari, Uniqlo and Agent Provocateur.


    If you’re seeking gourmet foodstuffs and cooking paraphernalia, head to The Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. Further out, the MarinaMissionHaight and North Beach neighborhoods are all lined with quirky shops and boutiques, selling exactly what you didn't know you were looking for, be it a handmade mid-century lampshade, a tiny mouse skeleton, a vintage coat or a bespoke gentleman’s hat.


    San Francisco is basically a shopper’s paradise.
  • On May 22, 2013
    Maria Hunt is now following Catherine E. Toth
  • On May 15, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What are the best restaurants in San Francisco?

    Saison seasonal foraged greens  - photo by Bonjwing Lee Trying to narrow the best restaurants in San Francisco down to just a few spots is not easy. The entire San Francisco Bay Area is blessed with gorgeous produce, creative food artisans and wonderful wines. Stellar and well-known restaurants that bring all those elements together include Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Manresa in Los Gatos and The French Laundry and Redd in the Yountville. Here are five places to dine now in San Francisco: 

    1. State Bird Provisions. Chef-owner Stuart Brioza and his wife Nicole Krasinski borrowed the dim sum concept for their unsassuming and friendly Fillmore District restaurant. You’ll be presented with colorful dishes priced at $6 to $20: poached seafood salsa over whipped avocado with crispy tortilla, pillowy pancakes with ever-changing flavors, tangy eggplant and summer tomato salad, fresh Dungeness crab atop farro and the namesake dish: fried quail with tangy sweet-and-sour onions shaved cheese. They've just won the James Beard Award for the nation's Best New Restaurant of 2013. But despite all this, it’s the warmth and spirit of hospitality that keeps guests coming back.

     



    2. Saison. An exquisite evening awaits at Saison, the urbane and intimate restaurant in SoMa. Working in his open kitchen, chef Joshua Skenes crafts distinctive and visually stunning tasting menus from the best ingredients from all over the world.  Whether it’s a morsel of sea robin, locally foraged greens you eat with your hands or a dish of caviar with sea urchin, all the dishes are kissed by fire in some way.  The experience starts with a pour of Krug Grande Cuvée and might include world-class white wines from the 5,000-bottle cellar or a seasonal cocktail if you prefer. Dining at Saison is dear, but so is the experience. 

    3. Frances. There’s a quiet and feminine beauty to the décor and Melissa Perello’s cuisine at Frances in the Mission. The greatest discoveries are the small plates like Cherrystone clams baked with kale brusssels sprouts and bacon, Black Venus rice with Dungeness crab or chestnut soup with apples, cipolline onions and hedgehog mushrooms. Plan ahead for reservations or make an adventure of snagging a seat at the bar.

    4. Benu. French Laundry alum and James Beard-award winner Corey Lee has created an urbane and artistic temple of gastronomy. While à la carte menus are available on certain days, the full experience includes a progression of signature dishes like monkfish liver terrine, chicken velvet and 1000-year-old quail eggs on custom serving pieces.

    5. Cotogna. This is the kind of Italian food that makes you feel like you’re in country. Michael Tusk’s hyper-seasonal, quirky menu bounces from wood-fired pizzas with exquisitely browned and poufy crusts to silky pastas to housemade porchetta with succulent meat and chewy skin. The golden, olive-oil soaked focaccia is one of the low-key delights; you’ll eat every inch. Be sure to try a glass of wine or one of the cocktails with an Italian accent.

     

  • On May 15, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What are the best restaurants in San Francisco?

    Saison seasonal foraged greens  - photo by Bonjwing Lee Trying to narrow the best restaurants in San Francisco down to just a few spots is not easy. The entire San Francisco Bay Area is blessed with gorgeous produce, creative food artisans and wonderful wines. Stellar and well-known restaurants that bring all those elements together include Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Manresa in Los Gatos and The French Laundry and Redd in the Yountville. Here are five places to dine now in San Francisco: 

    1. State Bird Provisions. Chef-owner Stuart Brioza and his wife Nicole Krasinski borrowed the dim sum concept for their unsassuming and friendly Fillmore District restaurant. You’ll be presented with colorful dishes priced at $6 to $20: poached seafood salsa over whipped avocado with crispy tortilla, pillowy pancakes with ever-changing flavors, tangy eggplant and summer tomato salad, fresh Dungeness crab atop farro and the namesake dish: fried quail with tangy sweet-and-sour onions shaved cheese. They've just won the James Beard Award for the nation's Best New Restaurant of 2013. But despite all this, it’s the warmth and spirit of hospitality that keeps guests coming back.

     



    2. Saison. An exquisite evening awaits at Saison, the urbane and intimate restaurant in SoMa. Working in his open kitchen, chef Joshua Skenes crafts distinctive and visually stunning tasting menus from the best ingredients from all over the world.  Whether it’s a morsel of sea robin, locally foraged greens you eat with your hands or a dish of caviar with sea urchin, all the dishes are kissed by fire in some way.  The experience starts with a pour of Krug Grande Cuvée and might include world-class white wines from the 5,000-bottle cellar or a seasonal cocktail if you prefer. Dining at Saison is dear, but so is the experience. 

    3. Frances. There’s a quiet and feminine beauty to the décor and Melissa Perello’s cuisine at Frances in the Mission. The greatest discoveries are the small plates like Cherrystone clams baked with kale brusssels sprouts and bacon, Black Venus rice with Dungeness crab or chestnut soup with apples, cipolline onions and hedgehog mushrooms. Plan ahead for reservations or make an adventure of snagging a seat at the bar.

    4. Benu. French Laundry alum and James Beard-award winner Corey Lee has created an urbane and artistic temple of gastronomy. While à la carte menus are available on certain days, the full experience includes a progression of signature dishes like monkfish liver terrine, chicken velvet and 1000-year-old quail eggs on custom serving pieces.

    5. Cotogna. This is the kind of Italian food that makes you feel like you’re in country. Michael Tusk’s hyper-seasonal, quirky menu bounces from wood-fired pizzas with exquisitely browned and poufy crusts to silky pastas to housemade porchetta with succulent meat and chewy skin. The golden, olive-oil soaked focaccia is one of the low-key delights; you’ll eat every inch. Be sure to try a glass of wine or one of the cocktails with an Italian accent.

     

  • On May 15, 2013
    Maria Hunt answered the question: Maria Hunt

    What are the best restaurants in San Francisco?

    Saison seasonal foraged greens  - photo by Bonjwing Lee Trying to narrow the best restaurants in San Francisco down to just a few spots is not easy. The entire San Francisco Bay Area is blessed with gorgeous produce, creative food artisans and wonderful wines. Stellar and well-known restaurants that bring all those elements together include Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Manresa in Los Gatos and The French Laundry and Redd in the Yountville. Here are five places to dine now in San Francisco: 

    1. State Bird Provisions. Chef-owner Stuart Brioza and his wife Nicole Krasinski borrowed the dim sum concept for their unsassuming and friendly Fillmore District restaurant. You’ll be presented with colorful dishes priced at $6 to $20: poached seafood salsa over whipped avocado with crispy tortilla, pillowy pancakes with ever-changing flavors, tangy eggplant and summer tomato salad, fresh Dungeness crab atop farro and the namesake dish: fried quail with tangy sweet-and-sour onions shaved cheese. They've just won the James Beard Award for the nation's Best New Restaurant of 2013. But despite all this, it’s the warmth and spirit of hospitality that keeps guests coming back.

     



    2. Saison. An exquisite evening awaits at Saison, the urbane and intimate restaurant in SoMa. Working in his open kitchen, chef Joshua Skenes crafts distinctive and visually stunning tasting menus from the best ingredients from all over the world.  Whether it’s a morsel of sea robin, locally foraged greens you eat with your hands or a dish of caviar with sea urchin, all the dishes are kissed by fire in some way.  The experience starts with a pour of Krug Grande Cuvée and might include world-class white wines from the 5,000-bottle cellar or a seasonal cocktail if you prefer. Dining at Saison is dear, but so is the experience. 

    3. Frances. There’s a quiet and feminine beauty to the décor and Melissa Perello’s cuisine at Frances in the Mission. The greatest discoveries are the small plates like Cherrystone clams baked with kale brusssels sprouts and bacon, Black Venus rice with Dungeness crab or chestnut soup with apples, cipolline onions and hedgehog mushrooms. Plan ahead for reservations or make an adventure of snagging a seat at the bar.

    4. Benu. French Laundry alum and James Beard-award winner Corey Lee has created an urbane and artistic temple of gastronomy. While à la carte menus are available on certain days, the full experience includes a progression of signature dishes like monkfish liver terrine, chicken velvet and 1000-year-old quail eggs on custom serving pieces.

    5. Cotogna. This is the kind of Italian food that makes you feel like you’re in country. Michael Tusk’s hyper-seasonal, quirky menu bounces from wood-fired pizzas with exquisitely browned and poufy crusts to silky pastas to housemade porchetta with succulent meat and chewy skin. The golden, olive-oil soaked focaccia is one of the low-key delights; you’ll eat every inch. Be sure to try a glass of wine or one of the cocktails with an Italian accent.