Saturday, December 31, 2011

Grand Hyatt San Francisco (Review)- San Francisco, CA

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Exterior Night

The Grand Hyatt San Francisco was our pick for the Bay Area trip we took in early April. At the time, the hotel was still under renovation, and recent reviews on the hotel were average. The rates however, were much better compared to the other Hyatts in the area. This was surprising since this hotel has the "Grand Hyatt" branding, yet companies like Zagat rate this hotel below the other Hyatt properties in the area, which include the Hyatt at Fisherman'sWharf and the Hyatt Regency.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Lobby
(Check-In Area)
Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Lift Lobby
Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Signs
The lobby was quite dark when we arrived, and everything had a yellow tint. However, during the day, sunlight flowed through the windows and created a much brighter environment.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Concierge

Our check in experience was fine; the employees were friendly, if not as professional as in some other hotels.
Joanna Husk, the concierge (also part of Les Clefs d'Or Concierge) which helped us later during our stay, was really helpful in providing us an overview of the San Francisco area. She answered all of our problems with ease and even gave us her business card just in case if we had any other questions. When we asked for maps, she gave us two for convenience-- one with a closer scale of the area and one with a larger scale to easily comprehend locations, and went through all the major neighborhoods and highlighted key transportation/neighborhood zones.

Regarding parking, the Grand Hyatt employees guided us to the 450 Sutter Garage, which the hotel has a deal with (at the time of writing, 36.48 USD inclusive of tax with in and out privileges). Although stated as a self-parking facility, we felt that the Sutter Garage operated more like that of valet parking; the employees there took control of driving the car into a parking spot and driving the car back to the garage entrance when we wanted to drive somewhere.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Fountain
Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Orchid

A relaxing mood was created with the various decorations placed throughout the hotel to create ambiance.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Saltwater Taffy

During our last day of the trip, the hotel also offered free saltwater taffy; this was a nice way to end our San Francisco trip.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Before Renovation Elevator/Lift Lobby
(old, not renovated floor)
Grand Hyatt San Francisco: After Renovation Elevator/ Lift Lobby
(current: newly renovated)

At first, it was quite surprising to meet the  renovated floor which our room was situated at; since both the lobby and the elevator were quite dark, the bright elevator lobby that we saw when the doors opened was a big contrast. The only problem was that it had a newly renovated smell too; this should not be a problem now.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Double Beds Room Panoramic- Day and Night
(cracks are a result of photo stitching software)

This time, when photographing the room, I took a different approach. Besides the usual detail pictures, I took some pictures for photo stitching purposes. 

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Room- 4 Corners 1
Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Room- 4 Corners 2
Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Room- 4 Corners 3
Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Room- 4 Corners 4

In addition, I decided to take pictures of the room from four different corners. Here are the results. The rooms are definitely much fresher in feeling and are now consistent with the modernness that Hyatt tends to have among its renovations. Like its Hyatt peers, the renovated rooms have a special color scheme; with these rooms it is red and brown and grey in various tones as well as some blue tinted glass found in entrance area. There's a lot of globalization here; so many of the items in the room that I did not suspect were actually manufactured in other parts of the world. You can probably find the various manufacturers if you look closely, but I am not going to release their names on the blog. Hyatt probably would hate me if I did.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Pillows and Bed

The mattresses in the rooms are Hyatt's own "Grand Beds," which are really soft thanks to a thick pillow-top layer. I'm not a reliable source on these beds since I prefer the opposite, but the bed was certainly comfortable and in good condition.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Telephone

Really convenient in the room is the phone placed at the nightstand (there's also a second phone placed on the desk next to the television as well). The Grand Hyatt San Francisco calls this the "Dual line Uno-Bitell Media phone with AM/FM radio, alarm clocks and MP3/iPod docking capabilities." This phone, situated at the nightstand, is certainly that functional, and is really easy to use. The speakers are also quite substantial; music is easily heard in the room even when the phone is not placed on maximum volume. Neither of the two phones found in the room are as pretty or high-quality as this Bang and Ofulsen phone that I saw in the floor's hallway, but their functions are quite amazing.

The nightstand itself is also functional, offering two outlets on the side. A twisty Hyatt pen, paper pad, light, and wired internet cable can also be found there. I found the location of the internet cable to be awkward; wouldn't the desk be a better spot for those who need a wired internet connection? 

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Automated Blind Switch

These rooms also offer automated blackout curtains, which is quite convenient. A plasticky wire like curtain serves as the day curtain and runs on three tracks.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Nightlight, Bedding

Reading lights, like those found on some airlines, also provide additional convenience.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: TV/ Desk

The television and desk combination offers ample room for placing items as well as plenty of work space for those who need it! There are also books located on the above shelf, which have really diverse topics ( Civil War, Savage Pilgrims, and Colors and Swirls) for a hotel room.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Media Jack Pack

This "jack pack", which offers connections to the television as well as outlets for charging devices, is also another really convenient feature of the room. Along with the other two outlets found at the nightstand, I had no problem charging the different devices that I used during the trip.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Safe/ Fridge/ Coffee-maker

A fridge, safe, and the usual Hyatt coffee items are located below the LG LCD television.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Sink/Mirror
 Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Toilet/Shower
Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Grohe Showerhead

The bathroom likewise continues the same design features found in the other parts of the room; the modern design of the Kohler and Grohe products found in the bathroom is beautiful but does not let practicality suffer. The sliding door likewise provides a convenience by saving much needed space in the bathroom. Water pressure for the shower head was somewhat weak; on the other hand, the toilet flushed with vigor.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Toiletries

Toiletries here are the standard White Ginger Portico toiletries and Aquafresh toothpaste found in other Hyatts in California. The soaps have gotten smaller over the years, but that's not really a problem.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: View 1
Grand Hyatt San Francisco: View 2

Our view was not spectacular, but that was because we were on the ninth floor. Higher floors at the time were not renovated yet, but definitely request one, as the view of San Francisco from the Grand Hyatt is quite amazing.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Stay Fit Gym 1
Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Stay Fit Gym 2
Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Stay Fit Gym 3
Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Stay Fit Gym 4
Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Stay Fit Gym Water Dispenser

During our trip we also visited the Grand Hyatt's Stay Fit Gym, which is nicely outfitted with a vast amount of different Life Fitness machines (treadmills, leg press, leg curl, leg extension, bench press, vertical chest, et cetera) and weights. For comfort, headphones are also provided to attach to the machines for music, and water dispensers and wet towels are provided.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco: Exterior Day

For 129 USD a night, this is a fine room; it is not large but quite decent for one or two guests. The simple modern design is quite pleasing, and the room is very functional; the designers certainly put a lot of thought into creating the room. However, I do advise in getting a room with a higher floor, or away from traffic, as my companions commented that they could hear street noises from their room (we were on the ninth floor). Their room also had a problem with the black-out curtain, of which the employees did not fix as quickly as other hotels in the same caliber would have done.

People who want a king bed room should also book early, perhaps a month or more before booking. We got double bed rooms for both rooms since all the king bed rooms were fully booked.

Here's a video of the double/double beds room also, if you prefer watching a video instead of viewing the pictures. Apologies for some blurry/out of focus moments!

Grand Hyatt San Francisco
345 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

Tel: (415) 398-1234

Thanks for reading. Wishing all a happy new year!

Find the rest of the posts in this series at this trip's TRIP INDEX.

P.S. The lobby area is now being renovated, and the hotel will have a port-cochere as part of the renovation. See the renderings on Hyatt's Youtube page

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boudin SF- Irvine, CA

Boudin SF- Irvine, CA: Exterior

One of my first introductions to the Irvine outside of UC Irvine was a conference that I attended two years ago. You can see some of the posts I wrote about it by clicking HERE. Well this year, I attended the same conference again, and we had to find a place for breakfast. After looking at the dismal options at the Cafe inside the Hyatt Regency (a good thing: a small cup of coffee is 1.50 USD there), we headed out mindlessly to find some restaurant. It did not take long for us to find Boudin SF, which was just right across the street from the hotel's main entrance.

There, it was like a smaller version of Boudin at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf; there was yet again another window display of a baker at work, a line to purchase food, a large display of various breads, and a large sitting area to enjoy the food. Since it wasn't sunny indoors, I could capture the baker working without getting much glare from the window.

The Boudin SF concept is similar to that of some "fast-casual" restaurants, like Panera. The customer orders their food at a line, and he or she has their own control on seating and drinks. The employees have control over the food, delivering the food to the table, and making sure that the food meets the customer's expectations.

Boudin SF- Irvine, CA: French Toast

The menu expectedly parallels with that of Boudin's flagship location's cafe. Boudin SF offers some breakfast selections too, such as the sourdough french toast (5.99 USD). It was probably one of the darkest, most flavorful looking french toasts I have seen in a while. Another friend enjoyed a bacon and cheddar cheese sandwich (4.29 USD), which was definitely larger, fresher, and cheaper than what was being offered at the hotel.

Boudin SF- Irvine, CA: Clam Chowder

The rest of the group, including I, enjoyed bowls of clam chowder (5.99 USD). Boudin usually offers these in bread bowls, which was what my friends ordered the clam chowder with, but I asked them to omit the sourdough bread bowl (resulting in a price decrease of 50 cents). What I got instead was a bowl of clam chowder but with a sourdough roll on the side. The sourdough at this location's Boudin SF was quite different than that of the flagship location; the crust was thin, and almost almost smooth in appearance, while the interior of the bread was extremely soft and had a lack of large air bubbles. The clam chowder, on the other hand, was just like that of Bistro Boudin; it was thick and was full of vegetables and clam flavor.

Based of the observations of the kitchen freshly preparing the majority of the items, the in-store bakery, and the food we enjoyed, Boudin SF is quite similar to the original in San Francisco. All the favorites are here, along with some additional items, but at prices that are much more easy to ingest. (for example, that clam chowder would cost about 1.30 USD more in San Francisco)

Boudin SF
2803 Main Street, Space A
Irvine, CA 92614
Tel: (949) 222-9111

Boudin SF on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden- Arcadia, CA: Leaf
Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden- Arcadia, CA: Water Droplets
Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden- Arcadia, CA: Pomegranates
Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden- Arcadia, CA: Ladybug on
Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden- Arcadia, CA: Plant
Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden- Arcadia, CA: Bauer Lawn and Fountain
Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden- Arcadia, CA: Bauer Lawn and Fountain

Wishing all a merry Christmas and a happy holiday!

All the pictures in this post were taken at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia, California; the grounds have been closed since early December due to the windstorm, but on Monday, December 26, 2011, the Arboretum will be open to the public again. Workers and volunteers (like me) have been working hard to bring back the Arboretum's splendor. Go visit and take lots of pictures, just like I did a month ago for these pictures. I have more pictures of the Arboretum which you can see by CLICKING HERE

(Disclosure: This post was written on my own interest and for your information. Besides, we need some holiday-like pictures on the blog.)

Thanks for visiting. This week's post is on Bistro Boudin in San Francisco, if you have not read it already. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bistro Boudin- Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA

Boudin: Boudin Logos- Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA

After reading David Ng's article on Boudin, I reminded myself to visit the Fisherman's Wharf location on a future trip to San Francisco. So, after visiting UC Berkeley, we promptly went back to San Francisco for a late lunch at Boudin.

Bistro Boudin: Kitchen-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
Bistro Boudin: Interior-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA

The Fisherman Wharf's location is a prime tourist spot; its glass windows and prominent logos make it distinctive among the other buildings in the area, and it houses five different sections: Peet's Coffee and tea, Baker's Hall, Bistro Boudin, Boudin Museum & Bakery Tour, and Bakery & Bakeshop. There is plenty to see and do in just this confined area! We skipped viewing most of the building and went upstairs to Bistro Boudin, a full-service restaurant.

Bistro Boudin: Hot Water-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
Bistro Boudin: Sourdough Bread and Butter-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA

One will pay a premium at Bistro Boudin for its full-service capabilities, dining environment, cutlery, and additional items on the menu. Several selections, however, are the same as those of Bistro Boudin, but  presented in a more casual manner. Paper or plastic serving ware replaces the heavy porcelain serving ware for diners ordering downstairs. As we were to realize later, eating downstairs would be a much quicker and cheaper option compared to Bistro Boudin; unless a slow, lengthy meal is what you prefer, eating downstairs is a wiser choice.

The complimentary fresh sourdough bread was nicely tangy; tender on the outside and crisp and crackly on the outside, it was scrumptious, especially after walking on the Berkeley campus during the morning. The crust had a rustic pattern to it that I did not see at another Boudin location; the pattern of this bread had more variation in color, while in the other location, the appearance of the crust was almost uniform. The butter, on the other hand, was typical, although it was nicely piped.

Bistro Boudin: Manila Clams-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA

Our first appetizer, the Manila Clams (13.95 USD), arrived when we had almost finished the entire bread basket! The clams were cooked with pancetta, onions, parsley, white wine, and garlic butter; these ingredients provided a rich, smoky broth to the fresh clams. We finished this appetizer quickly; it didn't take much to empty the entire dish, especially since the portion size was so small.

Bistro Boudin: Boudin Sourdough Bread Bowl with Clam Chowder-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA

Our second appetizer was the Boudin Sourdough Bread Bowl (12.95 USD), which was filled with clam chowder (crab and corn bisque is the other option). This bread bowl is larger than that of the "petite" bread bowl on the Bistro Boudin menu; the "petite" portion is actually the same portion size as the downstair's offering, but with an added markup of about 70 cents. We really liked clam chowder here; it was not too salty and was lightly creamy, with plenty of clam flavor and clams in the breadbowl. I liked how the vegetables still held their texture, especially the potato chunks. Waiting for the first appetizer to arrive and the lapses in service though, we had barely enough stomach space to eat the bread bowl's crust, but did enjoy the interior of the bowl, which retained some sourness while gaining the seafood flavors from the chowder.

Bistro Boudin: Classic Chicken Club-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA

The Classic Chicken Club (13.95 USD) was decent for most of the dish; what made it not enjoyable was the extremely dry chicken. Another service problem was found here; my companion requested that the bacon be omitted, but instead plenty of thick-cut bacon pieces greeted us when it was served. The rest of the dish was tasty; the same quality sourdough made a presence here, and the vegetables in the sandwich were fresh. The thin-cut, fragrant french fries, pickle, and coleslaw were likewise tasty and liked by everyone at the table. In particular, the coleslaw was refreshing since it had some horseradish, and was something cool and refreshing in comparison to the crisp, savory fries.

Bistro Boudin: Sourdough Baguette Burger-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA

My other companion ordered the Sourdough Baguette Burger (13.95 USD), which had Creekstone Farms beef, toasted baguette, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and cheddar cheese (as requested by my companion). I did not get to try this, and nor did my companion make much comment on it. The same sides of coleslaw, pickle, and french fries also appeared here.

Bistro Boudin: Fish and Chips-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA

My Fish and Chips (19.95 USD) was better. This had several large pieces of tender fish that was dipped in an Anchor Steam beer batter and fried to golden brown; the fish was tender, flaky, and moist, while the crust was very thin and fragrant.

Bistro Boudin: Condiments-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA

Ketchup, yellow mustard, dijon mustard were some additional condiments provided. I made most use of the ketchup and the tartar sauce for my meal; some malt vinegar would have made the dish even better!

It would have been a pretty enjoyable meal, but the exceedingly slow and unfriendly service was detrimental to the dining experience. That and the exorbitant pricing (although yes, the rent at Fisherman's Wharf is probably extremely expensive), while offering decent food is a combination that does not work.

Bistro Boudin
160 Jefferson Street
San Francisco, CA 91433
Tel: (415) 351-5561

Bistro Boudin on Urbanspoon

Boudin: Boudin Museum & Factory Tour Entrance-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
Boudin: Bread Basket-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
Boudin: Animal-Shaped Breads-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA

After the meal, it was time to look around Boudin. The upstairs section also houses the Boudin Museum and Factory Tour, which entrance requires a fee. A beautiful display of sourdough welcomes visitors to the upstairs section.

Boudin: Production Process-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
Boudin: Production Process-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
Boudin: Production Process-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
Boudin: Production Process-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
Boudin: Production Process-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
Boudin: Breads-  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA

The large windows nevertheless still make for a great viewing of the demonstration factory. All these pictures above were taken through their windows!

Visiting the location that has been featured in so many different pieces of media, whether it be online or on television, was a great experience.For those who do not have the chance to visit the Fisherman's Wharf location, some of the other Boudin branches also do offer large windows to view the bakers at work, as well as the cafe menu. You can see a video that I took of a baker making bread in an Boudin location in Irvine, CA by clicking here.

Find the rest of the posts in this series at this trip's TRIP INDEX.