Malcolm Lee explores the unspoilt wilderness of San Francisco on a whirlwind road trip.
Exploring the hidden gems of San Francisco
The Gold Rush. The Summer of Love. Silicon Valley. San Francisco has many nicknames. She’s like a chameleon who changes every year. It’s a city unlike any other in the United States.
Working long hours at my restaurant Candelnut makes me yearn to travel. I jump at any given chance to take both long or short trips to recharge and gain new inspirations for my dishes. Last July, I spent two weeks spent in San Francisco, which was just what I needed for my mind, body and soul.
Conquering Yosemite Valley
I had the crazy idea to spend a couple of days in Yosemite during summer. I wanted to witness the full beauty of Mother Nature so my plan was to hike up to Nevada Falls and Bridalvail Falls, as well as Mirror Lake; I have heard plenty of lovely stories from friends who went to the latter.
During my hike to Nevada Falls, adorable squirrels were out in full force, even though they seemed more interested in the backpackers who were trying to keep their food safe. They made hiking up the stairs to reach the the top of Nevada Fall less painful. Being at the top, sitting on the warm granite and feeling the cool sprays of water from the fall takes your mind off stress and problems.
Mirror Lake, on the other hand, was not as impressive as the sandy beaches and views of the granite walls above, but it was interesting to learn about its history and why visitors were once charged for admission. I spotted a group of teenagers tubing on the lake. Tip: remember to bring a tube and join in the fun.
Bridalveil Falls was the highlight of my days in Yosemite Valley. Not only is it the most accessible waterfall (you’ll see it when you enter Yosemite Valley), it is also, in my opinion, the most beautiful waterfall you’ll ever see. Plunging at 189 meters, the Bridalveil
Fall has a light and swaying flow; when the sunlight hits you’ll be surrounded by an ethereal mist. The most exciting part of my hike was when I came face to face with a grizzly bear. It was just a few meters away from me but it merely gave me a look through and went about its merry way. Now, this is an experience to speak about.
Eating through the Golden City
When it comes to dining, you have to try Singlethread Farm Restaurant. It offers three 11-course, kaiseki-style menus daily. Each showcases the current moment in nature and uses produce that is at its absolute peak, as determined by chef Katina Connaughton’s Japanese belief that there are 72 microseasons throughout the year, rather than simply spring, summer, autumn and winter. The ingredients come from her five-acre plot in the nearby San Lorenzo vineyards and the rooftop garden atop the restaurant, while meat and seafood are sourced locally. The wine list features a great selection of global wines and Japanese sakes, but its catalogue of rare Californian vinos is the standout. If you can, stay at one of Singlethread’s five guest rooms – hosting guests overnight according the principles of omotenashi, the Japanese style of hospitality which anticipates a guest’s every need, has always been an integral part of the concept. There are cosy touches in the rooms, including a fireplace, heated bathroom floors, a huge soaking tub and a Japanese toilet. There’s a space-age-silver Ratio coffee maker and Teforia tea maker (the latter scans your choice of tea pod and sets the water temperature and steeping time
automatically); treats in the complimentary snack bar include pressed juices and homemade ice creams in flavours like rhubarb, and lavender and sunflower seed.
Another interesting stop is Lazy Bear, an underground supper stop. You sit where you’re told, eat what’s placed in front of you, and make polite conversation with strangers throughout the meal. Each course seems familiar. (There is just one menu a night.) Chef-owner David Barzelay can’t get too adventurous, but each dish has unexpected elements that will make diners sit up and take notice. The crisply seared scallop is flanked by bright yellow sunflower petals, a hint of persimmon, brown butter and crisp sunchoke chips. Try the matsutake soup, an intense mushroom broth infused with Douglas fir that tastes the way a fresh-cut tree smells.
From Rush Creek Lodge I headed to Big Sur, a very worthy road trip destination for anyone who loves the outdoors. The rugged stretch of coastline offers stunning beaches and mountains and also some really great restaurants. Take Highway 1; despite the longer travelling time, the views of the Pacific Ocean, rocky bluffs, sandy beaches, towering redwoods, and vibrant green hills are worth the extra time spent on the road.
Make a pit stop at Pebble Beach for the nearby Spyglass Hill Golf Course. There are picturesque views as well, all of which you can see on this scenic drive. Stop at Fanshell Overlook to view a white sand beach where harbour seals are. The Cypress Point Lookout offers one of the most dramatic views of the coast in the entire state. Check out The Lone Cypress, which has stood
alone, clinging to its granite pedestal for over 250 years.
Don’t miss the Natural Bridges State Beach. It’s famous for the natural arch in the huge rock located right off of the shoreline. This stop is a must-do as it’s the only one of the three original arches that remains and is in danger of collapsing due to erosion. If you don’t see it now, you might not see it ever. Keep an eye out for migrating gray whales, monarch butterflies, and sea otters. There are also tide pools where you might be able to spot hermit crabs, urchins, and sea stars.
Malcolm Lee is the head chef and owner of the first Michelinstarred Peranakan restaurant, Candlenut. Lee, is also the first Singaporean recipient of the Miele Guide Scholarship. Infusing modern techniques with traditional flavours. The 33-yearold chef has created several notable dishes, such as the Buah Keluak Ice Cream – buah keluak nut ice cream made with 80 percent Valrhona chocolate, served on a bed of salted caramel, chocolate crumble and topped with milk chocolate espuma.
The crisply seared scallop is flanked by bright yellow sunflower petals, a hint of persimmon, brown butter and crisp sunchoke chips. Try the matsutake soup, an intense mushroom broth infused with Douglas fir that tastes the way a fresh-cut tree smells.
TREATS by Lazy Bear: Gummy Bear, Cosmic Brownie, Macaron and Gold Nugget Lazy Bear’s Honey, Banana, Walnut Lazy Bear’s Seaweed, Kale, Matcha
Early Winter in Sonoma County, a dinner series by Singlethread Farm Restaurant Hillside Villa Decks, Rush Creek
El Capitan, Yosemite Valley Wine down with a glass of vino after arriving Winemaker Weekends, Rush Creek Lodge Singlethread Farm Restaurant