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Author Archive

#AFCOTRAVELS – A World Built Around Instagram

By: Michael Gorecki


Human’s are visual beings. We rely on our sense of sight much more than any other of the senses. What we see has a huge reaction on how we act and what we do. That is why it is Instagram, an imaged based app, is one of the best marketing tools out there. Instagram appeals directly to our strongest decision-making sense, our eyes. With over 800 million active users, having a visually stunning Instagram is extremely important in attracting new business. Case in point, my trip to Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand.


When I made my itinerary to these countries Instagram was my best friend. Instead of having to navigate through language barriers, poor website designs, and tons of reviews – I would simple judge a place, activity, location by how it looked on Instagram.If a restaurant or hotel did not look visually appealing I would move on to the next spot until I saw somewhere that caught my eye. From a user standpoint Instagram made making travel decisions quick and easy, I loved it. From a business standpoint Instagram could be their saving grace in breaking through the noise of these heavily competitive and saturated tourist destinations.


Through Instagram, companies are able to achieve a powerful social presence and increases their reach through content that they make themselves. The ROI on Instagram can be extremely high if companies can create a captivating account.


Below are the hotels & restaurants that were able to capture my attention and earn my dollars.



  • Chapung Se Bali @chapungsebali – just look at those amazing infinity and plunge pools
  • Mozaic @mozaicrestaurantubud- along with being one best in Asia, Mozaic has an Instagram account that highlights not only the food but the dining experience as well.
  • Sunday’s Beach Club @sundaysbeachclub – has a compelling mix of both awesome beach shots as well as lifestyle-centric photography



  • Matcha Mylkbar @matcha_mylkbar – this place was an Instagrammers paradise with rainbow-colored smoothies in skull glasses to charcoal lattes.
  • Arbory @arboryeatery – delicious food shots with happy people… who could say no to that?



  • Baduzzi @baduzzi – a foodies heaven, and Restaurant of the Year 2014


#AFCODRINKS – Marcelle Explores The Beehive

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the newly opened Beehive on 19th and Valencia. It was a Thursday night, which I expected to be packed. To my surprise, there were quite a few empty spaces at the bar – perfect for me and my group. I had eaten at Farmhouse Thai for dinner prior, so did not try any of the food dishes at The Beehive – for this write up I’ll focus strictly on the beverages.  Throughout the evening, I sipped on three (very different) cocktails, outlined below.


  • Thunderbird | Avion Reposado Tequila, Campari, Passionfruit, Bergamot Thyme Jelly, Lime, Tonic ($14) – served on the rocks in a tall glass
  • Nightingale | Mezcal, Kumquat, Cinnamon, Cointreau, Lemon, Ale ($14) – served on one ice large ice cube in a tall glass
  • Bikini Drifter | Havana Club Blanco, Mount Gay Black Barrel, Coconut Pineapple, Anchan Chamomile Falernum ($14) – served in an extra tall glass with crushed ice throughout


The first one, the Thunderbird, was the cocktail that each person in my group initially opted for. To our dismay, it was not any of our favorites. I love passionfruit, but felt that something tasted a bit too harsh in the mix of it all. Next, the Nightingale was lovely with a very strong smoky mezcal taste. While I love mezcal, I would not suggest the cocktail to anyone who isn’t a fan of mezcal. My favorite of all three was the Bikini Drifter. It is a beautiful purple drink, which tastes delicious too – just like the bartender’s spin on a piña colada, but at the same time, much more unique and classy. I’ll also add that all of the straws used in their drinks are compostable. A very nice touch but also gets soggy throughout!


I do recommend The Beehive for anyone looking for creative cocktails and wants to spend some time in the Mission. I plan to head back to taste the dishes at a later date. Next time, I’ll sit in a totally different area as there are three different sections of the room – bar seating, high top seating in the middle and darker/lounge seating in the back. Enjoy!


The Power of 3rd Party Online Bookings in the Hospitality Industry

Why 3rd party companies dominate hotel bookings and restaurant reservations.

By: Michael Gorecki


How often do you go to page two of Google when looking something up? Probably, not a lot. Instead you type a new question in the search bar and keep rephrasing that question until what you are looking for pops up in the top three or four results. Who has the time or patience to scroll through page after page? That is why, in today’s economy, it’s not gold or oil that is the most sought after resource, it’s our attention.
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#afcoeats – Maya’s Visit to State Room: Brewery. Bar. Kitchen.

My best friend lives up in Sonoma County so sometimes we try to meet in the middle for a weekend brunch or dinner. A few Sundays ago her husband, an avid home-brewer, suggested a brewery in downtown San Rafael called State Room – Brewery. Bar. Kitchen.  With San Francisco Brewing Co. getting ready to open at the time, I happily obliged – always interested in checking out similar concepts in different geographic locations. Speaking of locations, who knew San Rafael had a cute little downtown? I definitely did not until this trip.


We looked at the menu and ordered individual entrees and then decided that we needed to try one of their wood-fired pizzas. Everything was cooked well and tasty! For beverages, I started with a bloody mary and then tried one of their flights (four, five-ounce pours) with Tropicali Guava Pale, Altered State, Barnstormer Farmhouse Ale, and my favorite the Liquid Sunshine Deluxe (or “LSD” as the servers corrected me) – “a  medium bodied New England style IPA with big citrus hop flavor and aroma. Hazy, like a glass of orange juice, and good “til the last drop.”


Overall, I’d go again and recommend it for those who find themselves in the area. It’s not huge, but there’s outdoor seating on a covered patio and the inside has a beautiful industrial looking bar, lots of live plants everywhere including a living wall, visible beer tanks, and  a small game room in the back.


As we were leaving, we noticed another brewery (Tamalpais Brewery & Taproom) getting ready to open just up the street. Maybe San Rafael is going to be the next great craft beer destination…

New Client Oren’s Hummus

The Bay Area favorite serves up their famous creamy hummus from Palo Alto, Cupertino, and Mountain View and operates a complete catering company and packaged food line. Hailing from Tel Aviv, Oren Dobronsky managed four successful start-ups before opening the first location with his wife Nancy to satiate his desire to bring his homeland’s bold flavors, authentic pita, and hummus to California.  Nancy and Oren joined forces with longtime restaurant consultant Mistie Cohen and her husband, and chef, David Cohen to expand the successful restaurant group. Freshly baked pita and Israeli imported ingredients complement a full dine-in menu that consistently exceeds diners’ expectations and has led to the three existing outposts to become fan favorites with serious followings. For more information and updates on the restaurant, please visit and follow along on Facebook and Instagram. 

Veronica Experiences The Charter Oak

Intrigued by the number of fine dining establishments opening casual dining concepts, I made my way to St. Helena for my first round of research. The Charter Oak, located in what once was Michael Chiarello’s Tra Vigne, is the latest project from the team at three Michelin starred Restaurant at Meadowood.


Upon entering the beautiful brick building, we were greeted by a gorgeous patio leading to a massive wooden door. As soon as we stepped into the dining room to take our seats, my eyes were immediately drawn to the open hearth. It was the restaurant’s focal point, where the action began. Luckily, we sat close enough to where I could feel the warmth radiating and could smell a faint smoke coming from the fire. I watched in amazement as one chef worked her magic around the hearth – chopping away at the counter while making sure to turn the meat and vegetables on time.


As we order a few appetizers, our server made sure to ask us if we knew where our utensils were located. This was one of the many interesting details about the experience – the utensils are conveniently stored in a hidden compartment built into the table. The atmosphere screamed rustic and cozy with wood and metal furnishings and unique choice of dishware. Service was attentive and timed impeccably. They gave us just enough time in between each course, as not to overload us with the shared dishes, and our server was well versed in the immense wine list.


We began with a selection of starters but the star of the day, and perhaps my new favorite appetizer, was the dip of Marin brie with trout roe and potato chipsI would describe this dish as elevated snack food to be eaten with a nice bottle of chardonnay in your best fuzzy slippers. For the main course, I ordered a hearty beef rib served with beets dried over the fire. Thankfully, the meat fell right off the bone to save me from looking like an animal as I devoured all of the delicious fatty bits off the meat. Admittedly, I snuck some of the hot sauce from the bottle they gave my boyfriend for his fried chicken sandwich.


After the first and second course, we pondered on driving over to Bouchon Bakery for a sweet treat but our plans were immediately halted. A dessert cart arrived at our table, dim sum style, and a server recites the offerings. Captivated by the selections, we give in and order dessert. We ordered the pavlova with preserved strawberries and olive oil custard and buffalo milk ice cream, which she proceeds to plate by our table. Both never overwhelmed with too much sweetness; just the right finish to a delicious meal.


For drinks, I enjoyed a whiskey and burnt rosemary cocktail, brought over to the table inside of a flask and poured into a coupe glass. The rosemary is burned, thrown into the flask, gets covered, and the smoke from the rosemary is infused into the cocktail. An excellent cocktail for those looking for some excitement on their taste buds! With my beef rib, I paired with a Rafael et Fils cabernet sauvignon from their extensive list of Napa Valley wines.


Takeaway: details, details, details! From the hidden utensils compartment, perfect serving time of dishes, to the complimentary mini soaps in the restrooms, The Charter Oak utilized the importance of details. As a first-timer, the details kept me engaged in my experience and excited to find little quirks. Also, with the rise of fine-casual, elevated but approachable comfort food is in. I’m ready to find more ways to fancy up the potato chip dip!


Marcelle’s Adventure in Spain

Each year, I try to take one or two big/international trips. I was fortunate to travel to Barcelona, Spain this March. While I was there for only one full week – not long enough – I made the most of each day. I visited museums, toured cathedrals, churches, monuments, enjoyed Gaudi buildings, spent time by the beaches and in the parks, checked out the music scene…


But let’s be real, I was really there for the food (and the sangria).


The food and beverage items I consumed at every chance I could get included:

  • Café con Leche – I’m not typically someone who drinks coffee every day, but there is something particularly incredible about the coffee in Spain. I ordered it with steamed milk (latte style), no sugar.
  • Baked Goods (especially croissants and sandwiches) – Again, baked goods are not something I order everywhere I go, but I couldn’t resist the flaky croissants and skinny baguette breads, crispy yet somehow soft and fresh altogether.
  • Gelato – I think I ate gelato every day I was in Barcelona, sometimes 2x/day. I didn’t realize Spanish gelato would be so different from the gelato I was used to. My favorite flavors were Coconut and Hazelnut.
  • Sangria – When in Barcelona, order a jug of sangria at every restaurant you see. I don’t care what time of day it is, just do it.
  • Vermouth – Don’t forget the vermouth! Spanish vermouth quickly became my favorite drink. Get it with a slice of orange, and you’re in heaven.
  • Jamon Iberico –Thinly sliced cured ham from pigs who are fed an acorn diet, unique to Spain and Portugal. Some restaurants even go as far as hiring someone whose title is strictly “Jamon Cutter.”
  • Pan con Tomate – Though simple, this was one of my favorite tapas. It’s truly just bread (typically toasted or grilled) with Spanish olive oil, fresh tomato, and often fresh raw garlic rubbed across the bread to let the flavors soak in.
  • Paella – I had to try at least one kind of paella at most restaurants for dinner. To my surprise, I often found the meat and seafood flavors to be a bit overbearing – the veggie was my favorite of all.

    Out of the wide variety of restaurants I tried, I want to include two that stood out to me: Bar Cañete and Caravelle. Though I loved many, many more, these two represent the diverse flavors I discovered eating my way through Barcelona. Meanwhile, they also offer a different “vibe” – for lack of a better word – than some of the others.


    Bar Cañete


    Bar Cañete is definitely a gem in the “La Rambla” area of Barcelona – which most locals will say is not the best area for food as restaurants are overpriced and geared towards tourists. This was not the case here. The restaurant was recommended by another fellow af&co. employee, and wow, so glad I listened to her advice. Bar Cañete had to have been one of my favorite restaurants ever experienced. I loved everything from the aesthetic (open kitchen with a long L-shaped bar, plants galore, beautiful plate ware), to the service, to the wine list, to each of the dishes, and more.



    The Tuna Tartare was to die for. It was made with wild tuna, mascarpone, trout caviar, avocado whip, and crisps. So delicious that we placed a second order towards the end of our meal, right before dessert. I also loved the fried Cordoba-Style Eggplant, thinly sliced and deep fried in sugar cane honey. And of course, their Cañete-Style Garlic Shrimp was hot, buttery, and fresh with the perfect amount of garlic we all love.




    I visited Caravelle towards the end of my trip, when I was *shockingly* getting (sort of) sick of traditional Spanish tapas. After so many plates of padron peppers, croquettes, olives, and papas bravas, my taste buds started to crave a bit of a change. Caravelle was recommended as a go-to spot for brunch, but after perusing their dinner options featured throughout their Instagram page, I knew I had to give it a try. The concept was not only a restaurant for brunch, lunch and dinner, but also a microbrewery with a selection of unique craft beers.



    The Oak-Smoked Beef Rib plate (for 2-4) was their limited time special of the night, and one of the best dishes I’ve consumed to date. It was plated on a large wooden cutting board, served with French fries, pickled vegetables, avocado whip, and grilled zucchini. Some other dishes I loved included the Raw Salmon Tostada made with jalapeño harissa, tomatillo pico, and crispy tostada, the Meatballs slow cooked in tomato sauce with parmesan ricotta, and the Roasted Miso Cauliflower with roasted carrots, kale puree, and crisp baby beets. They also had a unique Banana Old Fashioned Cocktail and Elderflower Sangria – both of which I had yet to see featured elsewhere.

    Nico is Opening in Jackson Square!

    After a six-month hiatus, critically acclaimed modern French restaurant, Nico, will begin a two week preview period this Wednesday, April 25th. During these first few weeks, the restaurant will be open for lunch service only with refreshing non-alcoholic beverages as they wait for their final beverage license to take effect.


    Reservations can be made directly through the website, We hope to see you there!




    Gen Z vs. Millennials and Why Restaurants Need to Take Notice

    By Lauren Graffort


    Millennials–you can love them or hate them, but if you’re in the hospitality industry, you simply can’t ignore them. They’ve surpassed baby boomers this year as the largest living generation, which means they also have the most collective disposable income to spend on dining out and taking trips. Their purchasing patterns, values and behavior have been analyzed and dissected for years by now, and every restaurant or hotel worth its salt has a strategy in place to bring them in.


    But what about Gen Z? It may sound premature, but despite not yet being old enough to legally consume alcohol, those born after 1995 are already making their presence felt in the hospitality industry. They spent $78 billion at restaurants in 2016, and according to a recent QSR article, it’s not too soon to start devising a strategy to appeal to Gen Z. However, there are a few important ways that strategy needs to differ from how the industry approaches millennial customers.


    Unlike their millennial counterparts, Gen Z has never known a time without smartphones–this includes their dining experiences. While millennials may remember having no choice but to call for reservations, much of Gen Z has likely never placed a phone call for a reservation. Instead, they’re used to interacting with apps or tablets. Their comfortability with technology permeates every aspect of the dining experience, even before they enter the restaurant. As such, smart restaurant owners understand that they need to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. A seamless mobile web experience is a basic requirement and a presence on their favorite food delivery apps, like Caviar or DoorDash, is even better–but the golden ticket is a well-designed, easy to use proprietary app that actually enhances the dining experience and fosters brand connection, even when a Gen Z diner is not in the restaurant.


    Another key difference is Gen Z’s diversity, both in their demographic makeup and their menu expectations when dining out. Gen Z is the most diverse generation ever, with only 54% in the U.S. identifying as Caucasian. This also naturally influences their tastes and preferences, with fusion cuisines being hugely popular. But just blending various global flavors isn’t enough–Gen Z-ers, like millennials, also care deeply about authenticity, nutrition and environmental impact. They want to know where their food comes from, how healthy it is, and if it’s an accurate representation of that particular culture’s cuisine.


    Although they share some similarities, Gen Z presents a set of unique challenges for the hospitality industry. The restaurants who are forward-thinking enough to capture this emerging group will be rewarded for their foresight in the long run.



    Digital Screens and Their Effect on Check Averages

    By: Michael Gorecki

    Could check averages be increased by using an online or digital ordering system? According to a study conducted by the University of Berkeley, they can1. The reason, they believe, is caused by a phenomenon called the online disinhibition effect.

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    af&co. Eats – Michael Explores His New Neighborhood and Visits Flores

    A restaurant, when done right, gives a guest a unique culinary and social experience. Flores, in San Francisco, is a restaurant done right. A bright, buzzy neighborhood restaurant cafe serving traditional Mexican cuisine & sophisticated craft cocktails, Flores SF carries its vibrancy throughout the restaurant in every way possible. From the waving palm leaves on the ceiling to the colorful murals on the walls, Flores brings its brand to life and leaves no stone unturned. Every guest touchpoint from start to finish is thoughtful and executed to the highest of standards (this is an Adriano Paganini restaurant).


    If you ever find yourself dining in here, these are my recommendations for food and beverages:

    You must start off with the guacamole and some ceviche mixto. Order the pulpo dorado with cranberry beans, pico de gallo, and serrano and you can’t go wrong with the tacos de pescado, fried cod tacos, cabbage slaw, chipotle aioli, and lime. If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, the quesadilla huitlacoche with dino kale is delicious. For drinks, order a mezcal margarita.. or two.

    af&co. eats – Lani Pays a Visit to Uma Casa

    A longtime affinity for both Portuguese food and Chef Telmo Faria’s cooking led me to Uma Casa – one of San Francisco’s only Portuguese restaurants located in Noe Valley. I first experienced Faria’s Portuguese dishes at a pre-opening pop-up for Uma Casa that was held at Maven in 2016 – I was sold after just one taste of his mariscos.


    Uma Casa’s menu offers a variety of options to share with a group. We started with the Azeitonas: warm olives, olive oil, lemon, garlic, herb; the Pão com Manteiga: house-made bread, chouriço butter, olive butter (I could eat that chorizo butter every day!); and the Pasteis de Bacalhau: salt cod fritters and cilantro mayo. The Grilled Lamb Meatballs and Pan Seared Octopus were also huge standouts for the table, followed by Faria’s renowned Frango Churrasco – a grilled half Mary’s Chicken with piri-piri glaze, fries, and greens. An uncommon dish for the Bay Area, I couldn’t have been more excited to find piri-piri chicken in my neck of the woods after experiencing it abroad.


    My visit only further confirmed that I need to take a trip to Portugal in 2018 – and in the meantime, I couldn’t be more thrilled to experience their style of cuisine at both Uma Casa and Faria’s forthcoming fast casual piri-piri chicken concept he’s opening with Khalid Mushasha this spring: Piri Pica!

    The Ever-Expanding List of Quick Service Restaurant Brands and Fast Casual Concepts

    By Marcelle Mulier

    If you would have asked me how I felt about Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) brands a few years ago, I would have rolled my eyes at you. Having grown up in an extremely health conscious family, I quickly adopted a negative outlook on any QSR concepts. I tended to put all Quick Service Restaurant brands under the same umbrella as fast food chains ― filled with nothing but high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified ingredients, and factory farmed meats.

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    Lauren G. Discovers a Hidden Gem in Nob Hill

    I’ve lived in Lower Nob Hill (or the Tenderloin, depending on who you ask) for almost two years, so I was surprised that I wasn’t previously aware of KEIKO à Nob Hill: an intimate and elegant restaurant, newly anointed with its first Michelin star. Turning thirty is as good a reason as any to splurge on a fancy meal – especially one that’s practically in my backyard (if I had one) – so I decided to try it out.


    Located on the ground level of an apartment building at the top of Nob Hill, I must have walked by this place a dozen times without noticing it. Once inside, it had the feel of a small, exclusive club with a reserved, Old World ambiance. After a few tasty bites, the nine-course French/Japanese tasting menu began with a delicate uni and cauliflower dish, which I loved. The A5 Wagyu beef with Iberico ham foam was my husband’s favorite. The best dish of the meal, however, was dessert: a play on white chocolate cake with “essence of raspberry” served in a tiny glass with a delicate spout for sipping. Raspberries are my all-time favorite fruit, and it did not disappoint. It was not a reduction, not a sauce, not a coulis – just raspberries in liquid form. I forgot my table manners and slurped it all down.


    As wonderful as the food was, the wine pairing stole the show. Seven wines and one sake were served, and each time the sommelier reappeared I was giddy with excitement for what he’d bring next. All were delicious, but my one of my favorites was the sommelier’s own Cabernet Sauvignon, produced in St. Helena during his time as a winemaker, with the bottle designed by Mary GrandPré–illustrator for the Harry Potter books. Another favorite was a 1988 port–the year I was born.


    KEIKO à Nob Hill is definitely a special occasion restaurant, but one that’s well worth the price. It also taught me an important lesson–always, always do the wine pairing.

    Marcelle Goes Back in Time at The Speakeasy

    For those not familiar with a “Speakeasy,” it is defined as: “An immersive theatrical experience with an underground bar, crooked casino, and cabaret featuring the best routines of 1923.” Since alcohol was illegal until 1933, bars were also illegal, and therefore those attending any Speakeasies were always instructed to be silent during their time spent in the establishments. To take part in one of these experiences in the present day, one must dress in full 1920s costume, turn his/her phone completely off and put it away (no photography allowed), and remember to… Shh… SPEAKEASY!


    Within each Speakeasy is a variety of actors, however, it is said that no one knows who is acting and who isn’t. The Palace Theater in San Francisco holds the shows each month at an undisclosed location in the city. They often say that the Speakeasy will soon be ending, however so far, they continue to go on. In January, a group of girlfriends and I decided to try out the experience.


    When my ticket confirmation email read, “You have a watch repair appointment tomorrow night. Visit for details and meeting location,” I truly did not know what to expect. In order to find the Speakeasy location, I was directed to look for the person wearing the red hat and the red scarf in front of Mee Mee Bakery. Upon my encounter with the person wearing the red hat and red scarf, he directed me to another man, who directed me to another man. This third man asked me for my first and last name in exchange for my entrance ticket, which looked like an old school medicine prescription more than anything. After receiving the ticket, I was finally pointed in the direction of the Speakeasy entrance.


    This particular Speakeasy entryway was below a clock shop, somewhere between Chinatown and North Beach. The doorman was dressed in 1920s garb and quickly knew where to point us to next. He told us to go down the stairs and through the broom closet, and on the other side, we would be just where we needed to be. At first, I was skeptical, yet as soon as I stepped through the broom closet door, I felt as if I were truly living in another century. The fact that both phones and credit cards were prohibited definitely added to this feeling, and I grew to love it.


    We started off in the casino, where actors and actresses broke into character at random. My friends played a few rounds of craps (not for real money), while I found the nearest server to take our drink orders. I was handed a drink menu set in an old fashion style, unlike any other menu I had ever seen. The menu started with the “Lighter Fare” – two champagne-based cocktails; leading to the “Beer, Wine, & Bubbles” section. On the other side, were three different sections of cocktails, each divided by their price. The first section was $18, the second was $16, and the third was $14. As these high cocktail prices would never be found in the 1920s, they read “18 cents,” “16 cents” and “14 cents” – nice touch!


    My girlfriends and I ordered a variety of cocktails including a “Black Manhattan,” “The Velvet Sea,” a “Vieux Carre,” and the “Russian Mistress.” We tasted each other’s drinks but found ourselves gravitating towards the ones that we ordered first. My favorite of all was the Vieux Carre – made with rye, brandy, carpano antica, and Benedictine. I tend to enjoy more spirit-forward cocktails, and whiskey is typically my go-to spirit, so I found this one to be particularly delicious. The ingredients used were clearly very high quality, and the bartender balanced everything perfectly. My second favorite cocktail was The Velvet sea – made with aged rum, velvet falernum, lime, and bitters – however I stuck with ordering my Vieux Carre as the night progressed.


    After spending a good amount of time in the Casino, my group made our way to the bar, where a couple of very interesting scenes were acted out. I was impressed by the level of talent amongst the actors and actresses. After the bar, we headed to the cabaret, which turned out to be our favorite room of all. We spent most of our time there watching the stage set with dancers, short plays, and even contortionists. The night ended with a couple of faux police officers “breaking up” the evening and kicking everyone out through the backdoor, which again, simulated a real 1920s experience.


    Overall, my friends and I truly enjoyed the Speakeasy. With everyone dressed up in outdated attire and in a secretive underground location, I felt almost as if it were a break from reality. I would recommend the show to anyone who is interested in doing something totally different and new – just be prepared to spend $100 on your ticket and $100 on a few quality cocktails. Bites and appetizers are also served should you choose to order food. Enjoy!


    Food Halls: The New Marketplace Combines Hospitality, Retail & Lifestyle

    By Brooke Secor

    Food Halls are popping up all over the place, and for good reason. Operating costs continue to rise across the county and owners of restaurants, bars and hotels are developing new business practices to counter the impact of skyrocketing rents, the lack of affordable workers and the high costs of food supplies. The new school of development includes full-service restaurants, bars, shopping and plenty of ways to relax and connect with your neighbors while supporting local purveyors by a one-stop shop. Blending traditional sit-down eateries with delis, grocery stores, and highly integrated retail spaces have been trending for the past few years with no signs of slowing down. Retailers struggling to stay competitive in a landscape dominated by online shopping are using hospitality to sell experiences and lifestyles and restaurants are looking for sales beyond the menu. Housing developers are finding it important to incorporate retail, great food and beverages as amenities.  


    Over the past decade, the United States has seen an increase in development of urban areas that include more emphasis on mixed-use buildings and innovative marketplaces. Although public marketplaces have long been popular in other countries, the rise of the automobile and plenty of undeveloped space in suburban areas led many to be replaced by modern shopping malls. A generation or two later, malls sit abandoned or are being replaced by “lifestyle centers” that mimic an urban experience. Unifying communities and infusing neighborhoods with businesses that aim to bring local eateries, bars, makers, and craftspeople together is at the heart of urban development and many are doing it all under one roof. Sharing overhead costs allow small business to thrive in part of a larger marketplace while the combined foot traffic leads to increased sales.


    It’s no secret that locals and tourists alike have been flocking for decades to the 200-year-old French Market in New Orleans or legendary Pike’s Place in Seattle. Baltimore, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco and many other cities have long-standing public markets that have proven to be successful business models and tourist destinations. The newly renovated Union Station in Denver combines a truly functional transportation hub with boutique shopping, gourmet dining, hip bars and a chic hotel just as NYC’s Grand Central has done for 150 years. Furniture retailer Restoration Hardware has opened three restaurants in their stores where every dining table, napkin and plate is for sale.


    Dimes in New York City has notably stood out as one a successful recent example of a restaurant selling a lifestyle along with groceries, a deli, and house brand skin care while Eataly has been doing it for years with a growing footprint. Similarly, Beans & Barley in Milwaukee started 40 years ago as health food store that began to offer hot food and has since expanded to a full restaurant that serving many items that can be taken home from their adjoining grocery store and deli.


    Taking a cue from public markets across the world, China Live and Tartine Manufactory are two of San Francisco’s favorite places to spend a couple hours indulging in food and drinks with plenty of places to sit with a cup of coffee or tea before you peruse the myriad of curated artisan products and local crafts. If you’re at the latter, visitors can linger in an Eames era chair sipping a Gibraltar and flipping through a copy of Kinfolk. China Live integrates a tea counter alongside a standing cocktail bar just outside the dining room which features eight different food stations, each with specialized equipment for dumplings, charcuterie, and even an earthen Chinese oven. The emporium includes retail space filled with imported culinary ingredients, cooking tools, and upstairs one of the city’s most expensive and exclusive options for fine dining awaits at Eight Tables.


    What’s next? We’re looking forward to visting SoHo’s furniture and design store Roman and Williams Guild with the recent addition of La Mercerie, a cafe, bakery and restaurant in the shared space. Fast casual restaurant, Locol, from celebrity chef/restaurateurs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson is partnering with Whole Foods Market in Silicon Valley. Brewery Bhavana in Raleigh, NC combines a library, florist, dim sum and a brewery in a beautiful space built by friends. Cameron Mitchell Restaurants in Columbus, OH is planning a food hall that will act as an incubator for new restaurants. Food has always been a connector and a social experience. We love this trend and can’t wait to see how it continues to evolve.  

    Amanda’s Cozy Night at Glen Ellen Star

    A window-front table to watch the sleepy town of Sonoma drive by. Dinner by a simple and single candle across from a cozy open kitchen where patrons can watch each dish being created from start to finish. Solid and worn-in wooden floors create a rustic and polished vibe for the Glen Ellen Star.

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    Your new go-to brunch spot

    Bluestem Brasserie was recently recognized by the Travel Channel as a go-to brunch spot in San Francisco alongside Foreign Cinema! Chef Trevor Ogden’s new brunch menu includes favorites like their Short Rib Crepinette, Burrata Frittata, Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Sandwich, and Pastry Chef Lori Baker’s epic Cinnamon Roll. Click here to view their complete brunch menu.

    Brooke Discovers The Richmond’s Best Crab & Tiki Drinks

    Over the past four winters in San Francisco, one tradition I’ve made is getting together with friends to head to PPQ Dungeness Island in Richmond for garlic noodles and crab. This is one of the quintessential experiences in our city and just one of many Vietnamese restaurants serving up this delicious combination of buttery noodles and whole Dungeness crabs with plenty of garlic and beer. PPQ is a favorite for their relatively low prices and set menus made for indulging. Continue reading

    Raise The Roost: Tastes Like Chicken

    By: Michael Gorecki and Katie Haggart


    Give ‘em the bird! Chicken is back and is growing in popularity. Rotisserie chicken, fried chicken, chicken sandwiches… high-end chefs are embracing chicken and elevating its status so high that even royalty is proposing over it (congrats Harry and Meghan!). It’s cheap, delicious, and couldn’t be more comforting. And hey, we’ll take all the comfort we can get in these crazy times.

    Continue reading

    #afcodrinks – Maya Explores the Tenderloin

    Deep in the heart of the Tenderloin on the corner of Turk and Taylor streets, there is a new bar open called 98 Turk, or BIIG… it has been called both. I arrived after dark and, honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place as there’s only a dim glow from inside, the door is locked, and I apparently missed the sign that said to knock. Once inside, the walls are wood panels and the décor seems to be sourced from several first-Sundays at Alameda Flea Market – there’s taxidermy, a beautiful bar cart in the corner which was used to serve the folks sitting at the window, and Continue reading

    #afcoeats – LS Does the Big Apple

    A couple months back, I took my annual long weekend in NYC. I tried a new spot for every meal and here are three that stood out – the quick and dirty, if you will. 


    The Office

    Synopsis: Located within the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, this is an intimate speakeasy serving classically inspired food and drinks brought to you by the one and only Grant Achatz. 

    Highlights: Black truffle explosions (these flavorful raviolios are worth the hype), mussels (that broth! Soak it up with the bread), extremely skilled/professional bartenders and FOH team.

    Take-away: The Office features a beautifully designed and super swanky interior with a clubby lounge feel. This is worth a stop for anyone seeking a Grant Achatz experience outside of Chicago. You can describe a season, color, movie, or feeling and the bar team will whip up a creative and one-of-a-kind drink like you’ve never tasted before. This was a nice finish to our day gallivanting across Central Park and visiting the Met. Keep in mind there is no standing room, it is by reservation only and as soon as they open “The Aviary” side (under construction when I visited), this place is going to be even harder to get a table at. 


    Momofuku Nishi

    Synopsis: Located in Chelsea, this is David Chang’s latest NYC addition to the Momofuku group (besides his delivery only concept). Chef Joshua Pinsky creates Italian-inspired dishes with unexpected techniques and ingredients, largely of the Asian variety. 

    Highlights: Bucatini Cacio e Pepe, a green juice based mezcal cocktail that was out of this world (looks like it’s already off the menu due to seasonality)

    Take-away: We actually stumbled upon this spot on our way to a movie theater around the corner and were able to grab a seat without a reservation, though perhaps that’s unusual given this was the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend when locals typically clear out of the city. The food was tasty and comforting and the bartender (we sat at the bar) was friendly and knowledgeable. A great neighborhood spot!



    Synopsis: This is Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s latest ABC Kitchen spinoff – a bright and cheery vegetarian restaurant. 

    Highlights: fresh spinach spaghetti (broccoli, kale, preserved lemon, garlic, parmigiano, saffron, crumbs), fried wild rice (market vegetables, fermented tumeric and carrot, cilantro, fried egg), “brain” tonic (brahmi, gotu, kola, kale, ginger, spinach, lime).

    Take-away: I ended my trip with this meal and it was the perfect finale – I love my gluttonous eating but I also love to balance everything out with a few bites of the nutritious meets delicious variety. This need not be only a work-day lunch spot; they offer an exceptional beverage menu including cocktails, cold–pressed juices, “vibrations” tonics, shakes, housemade sodas, teas, and kombuchas. Definitely worth a visit for those who have an appreciation for cuisine on the healthier end of the spectrum, without sacrificing flavor. I walked away feeling blissful, satisfied and wishing there was one in San Francisco. Hint hint, Jean-Georges! 


    Additional top tastes from the visit: 

      • Soy keema (quail egg, lime leaf butter pao), butter chicken kulcha, and crab claws (butter-pepper-garlic, cauliflower) from Indian Accent


      • Miso wings (black sesame, scallions, house spicy miso sauce) – hands down the best chicken wings I’ve ever had, brought to you by Bar Goto


    Get Cozy with Mr. Espresso


    • 2¹⁄³ oz. Sugar
    • 1 oz. Cocoa Powder
    • 1 orange Orange Zest & Juice
    • 2 tsp. Cinnamon, Ground
    • 1¹⁄³ oz.
    • 72% Dark Chocolate
    • 1 cup Heavy Cream



    • Bring the sugar, cocoa powder, orange zest, juice, and cinnamon to a boil. Let it sit out and infuse for 10 minutes.
    • Add the chocolate and blend until combined well.
    • Add the cream and blend. Strain.


    ***To make the mocha, add 2 oz. of syrup to a shot of espresso, whisk, combine. Top with steamed milk or whipped cream, garnish with shaved chocolate or leftover orange zest.


    The Kitchen of the Future

    Sally the Salad Robot is an efficient cost-cutting robot that is here to make preparation in the kitchen so much easier. As WIRED puts it, she is a “Green Goddess.” Read more about Sally and Chowbotics in this article.

    Gott’s Expands to Walnut Creek

    Gott’s Roadside, a Northern California staple, officially opened its doors to their first East Bay location in Walnut Creek on December 7th. The location on South Main Street is nestled in the heart of the Broadway Plaza shopping district, and they will be open from 10am – 9pm daily. This will be followed by their newest location at Bon Air Greenbrae opening soon! A tried and true local favorite, Gott’s will continue to serve up their bonafide favorites such as the Cheeseburger, Ahi Poke Crispy Tacos, and the new Impossible Burger. In addition to their incredible menu, they are offering seasonal crab specials this December until January 2018. You can find their full menu here.


    Gott’s Walnut Creek is located at 1275 South Main Street and is opened daily from 10am-9pm. Follow Gott’s @gottsroadside for the latest news!

    PSL Season Is Here!


    Pumpkin spice season is officially here and Mr. Espresso has the perfect recipe for you to re-create! Stay tuned for this years Holiday Recipe Booklet to come. Enjoy!


    SYRUP 32oz Squeeze Bottle



    11⁄2 cups Water
    11⁄2 cups Sugar
    21⁄2 tsp. Fresh Grated Nutmeg 3 sticks Cinnamon

    1 thumb Fresh Grated Ginger peeled and pounded to release aromatics

    1 tbsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
    15 Cloves
    1⁄4 cup Sweetened Condensed Milk 1⁄2 cup + 4 tbsp. Pumpkin Pie Filling

    1) In a saucepan, bring all the spices and sugar to a boil.

    2) Turn off heat, allow to cool, then strain through a cheesecloth.

    3) Add condensed milk and pureed pumpkin, stir.

    * To make a 12 oz. latte, add 1 oz. syrup to cup, pour two shots of espresso on top, stir, add steamed milk, garnish with cinnamon.

    Chowbotics Has a New Website


    Chowbotics has launched it’s new and improved website and check it out here. The website is better equipped at informing people about what Chowbotics can do. Through a new chat feature, visitors can ask direct questions to the Chowbotics team and receive a prompt reply. The new site also features a blog where CEO Deepak Sekar and other guest writers will be publishing short posts about robotics, wellness, and innovation. Take a quick peek here!

    Starbird San Jose Opening

    Calling all chicken lovers! Starbird‘s second standalone location recently hatched in San Jose’s new Brokaw Center. Pay the new location a visit to experience their signature positively delicious chicken and from-scratch ingredients for lunch and dinner daily.


    Named a 2017 “Breakout Brand” by Nation’s Restaurant News, Starbird is the brain child of San Francisco-based innovation agency, The Culinary Edge, and its venture division, The Culinary Edge Ventures. Founders Aaron Noveshen, Stephen Goldmann, and Steven Goldstein formed TCEV to be an incubator for revolutionary dining concepts and Starbird is its first launched concept. An additional outpost in Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium followed the brand’s flagship Sunnyvale location.


    Starbird San Jose is open Monday to Saturday from 10:30am to 10pm and Sundays from 10:30am-9:00pm, with a third Foster City location on its way. Orders are accepted in-store, online, from the mobile app, and via UberEATS and Eat24. Starbird also partners with Zesty to offer corporate catering. For more information and news on Starbird, please visit and follow along on Facebook and Instagram!

    James Beard Taste America SF

    Many thanks to all of our local supporters who attended this year’s James Beard Taste America event at Fairmont San Francisco on Friday, October 27th. The evening hosted San Francisco’s brightest culinary stars and raised crucial funds to support the James Beard Foundation’s mission and many programs, including scholarships for aspiring local culinary students. Thanks in part to your generosity, we are pleased to report this year’s event was our best yet!


    Our Taste America® tour gathers 100 of our country’s most talented chefs to celebrate “local flavor from coast to coast.” In San Francisco, the stars shined bright with culinary talent. Our reception Chefs, David Barzelay of Lazy Bear whipped up his infamous scrambled eggs, Evan & Sarah Rich of Rich Table delighted with Olivier’s bacon–heirloom tomato toasts, Mourad Lahlou of Mourad served aged Lamb Tartare with osetra caviar and crackers, Val Cantu of Californios created Crispy Lobster Tacos, Melissa Perello of Frances and Octavia served up marinated Squid with jimmy nardello pepper relish, and host chef, Oscar Gonzalez of Fairmont served Spring Lamb Birria with hominy, chicatanas, and salsa roja.


    James Beard Award Winner and National All-Star Hugh Acheson of Five & Ten, Athens, GA kicked off the four-course dinner with a fall vegetable salad with pickled shrimp, crisped wheat-berries, and uni boiled dressing, followed by liberty farms duck with yuba noodles, enoki mushrooms, and smoked vinegar broth from James Beard Award Winner and Local Star, Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions and The Progress. Chef Hugh dazzled guests with Grilled Snake River Farms Wagyu Beef New York Strip Steak with stewed wheat-berries and chestnuts; broccoli leaf kimchi, charred leeks, and beef fat vinaigrette. The dinner ended on a sweet note with Guittard Boca Negra Cake with candied ginger cream and huckleberries created by James Beard Award Winner and Local Star, Nicole Krasinski of State Bird Provisions and The Progress.


    This major undertaking would not be possible without the participation of amazing patrons like you. We look forward to seeing you next year San Francisco!


    Check out photos from the San Francisco event here!

    People’s Choice of the Year – ROOH!

    We are so proud to share that ROOH won the People’s Choice Award at the second annual Saucy Awards put on by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. For those who don’t know, The Saucy Awards are industry-driven awards recognizing the excellence of the San Francisco Bay Area culinary community. The team celebrated the win on November 6th at the Herbst Theater and couldn’t have done it without your votes. Congratulations to ROOH and the rest of our local industry community for their recognitions! Cheers to you!

    Lunch Delivered by Herb’n Vegan

    Vegan food doesn’t have to be boring! We forced (most of) our team to branch out of their comfort zones and had lunch delivered by our longtime friend, Stacey Ellis, founder and chef of Herb’n Vegan. The majority of our team are meat-lovers so they were hesitant when they heard we were having a vegan lunch. However, they were pleasantly surprised when they discovered that vegan food could be just as delicious as meat. We enjoyed a lovely spread containing Herb’n Reuben sandwiches made from tempeh and tofu ricotta, Curried “Chicky” Salad sandwiches made from jackfruit, all accompanied by Tomato Basil Soup and Quinoa Salad. To top it all off, we ended our meal with Rosemary Shortbread cookies. Our team thoroughly enjoyed everything we tried and Madison even considered becoming a vegan.


    Check out Herb’n Vegan online and order a delicious lunch for your office or have Stacey cater your next event! | | 310.367.4912

    AFCO Eats: Vanessa Gets Served at Santé

    I was fortunate enough to visit Sonoma a couple weeks before the North Bay fires. To think that the picturesque rolling hills are now covered in ashes is heartbreaking. My heart goes out to all of those affected by the fires. I decided to write about my experience at Santé with the hopes of encouraging tourism to the area to help promote a speedy recovery.


    Sonoma may be known for its wine, but amongst the rich history and friendly locals, I rediscovered the art of good service and the beauty of properly savoring a thoughtful meal at the Fairmont Sonoma’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Santé.


    Arriving at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is an experience in itself; one drives up to the hotel to find a cascading fountain, firepits perfect for welcoming a cold night with a craft cocktail and good company, and a lobby that is both chic and inviting.


    We are seated in a classic-meets-modern dining room with rich velvet and leather details and an impressive wall of wines that extends beyond where the eye can see. An iPad is provided to us with a seemingly endless wine and beverage list – perhaps the only point of our experience that was a bit disconnected where technology seems to take a backseat to an experience that favors dining as a journey of the senses – an intimate communal gathering if you will.


    The restaurant’s sommelier brings our wine, introduces the aromas, and welcomes us to Sonoma. A minute after he leaves, we are greeted with an amuse bouche of cucumber with local goat cheese and a still hot-out-of-the-oven quiche. Who doesn’t love to be greeted with a complimentary flavor bomb of deliciousness? We instantly had the impression that this was about to be an EXCELLENT meal. Takeaway: the amuse bouche is ready for a revival. Surprising and delighting customers will never go out of style.


    But that’s not all. It may be common to receive a bread basket at the table, but after finishing off our amuse bouche bites, we were greeted with a tray of ten fresh-baked slices of bread, ranging from lemon poppyseed to 12-grain. Our server also brought a plate of two local kinds of butter and fresh sea salt, providing recommendations on which butter paired best with which bread. After exchanging looks of “this must be too good to be true” with my boyfriend, these, too, quickly disappeared off of our plates. I remind myself, yet again, that I need to learn how to bake my own bread.


    After perusing the menu composed of seasonally-driven dishes with ingredients sourced from local farms, we decided on:


    Salad of Heirloom Tomatoes from “The Patch” with burrata mozzarella, compressed and marinated melon, sherry & shallot vinaigrette, balsamic, petite basil 

    Filet Mignon of Black Angus Beef with Yukon gold pommes purrée, glazed seasonal vegetables, cabernet & black truffle bordelaise sauce

    Pan Seared Pacific King Salmon with garden squash, sweet pepper pipérade, corn purée, Parisienne gnocchi, basil & garlic pistou emulsion


    And last but not least…our waitress informed us of the Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé with chocolate Anglaise sauce. Due to preparation time, you have to order it at the beginning of the meal. We were sold on this item from the beginning and were not disappointed in the least. C’est superbe!


    I would highly recommend visiting this Sonoma treasure. It is a true testament to the beauty of fine dining: being greeted with outstanding service, connecting with those you love over a quality meal, and slowing down for a few minutes to fully appreciate how a creamy, freshly-churned butter from a farm five miles away can put the biggest smile on your face.

    Holiday Party Round-Up

    Celebrate the Holidays with ROOH!

    With holiday season swiftly approaching, ROOH’s tailored private dining options are optimal for corporate and private events. ROOH is a reflection of the vibrant culture and spirit of contemporary India, offering artisanal cocktails and unique seasonal menus. Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar is known for creating menus that are an amalgamation of the best California produce, regional Indian flavors and modern gastronomic techniques.

    Private dining at ROOH features the option to enjoy a full bar, handcrafted wine selections, artisanal cocktails, beer, and whiskey flights, as well as prix fixe menu options or passed hors d’oeuvres. Their menu can be tailored to any event. For further inquiries or to book an event over the phone, please call (415)-525-4174. Additional information can be found here.


    Private Parties, Banquets, Weddings and Special Events at One Market Restaurant

    For exceptional service and experienced large party support, think One Market. One Market can happily host everything from a large cocktail party to a special intimate dinner. We have experienced staff that will work with you to make sure your event is a success. Located at the foot of Market Street in downtown San Francisco, this iconic location is right across from the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge allowing you to take in the sights. While dining, you can enjoy the historical streetcars passing by and see the towering heights of the Financial District making it the perfect holiday party venue.

    Please contact Nicole Held or Serena Collins in our Banquets and Special Events Department for more information or to book an event.

    Phone: 415-777-2233

    Email: Special Events at One Market Restaurant


    Celebrate in Style in Sausalito
    Poggio Trattoria is a classic Italian trattoria that showcases a menu of Northern Italian cuisine with local, seasonal ingredients created by Executive Chef/Partner, Benjamin Balesteri. Located in the heart of beautiful downtown Sausalito, Poggio offers private dining rooms located upstairs that accommodate groups from 10 to 150 guests. Chef Balesteri creates menus that include favorite Poggio dishes with a staff to take care of all of your needs. Call 415-332-7771 or visit us online.
    Poggio is located at 777 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965.


    Treat your staff or loved ones to a wine country getaway just outside the city
    Wente Vineyards, located in Livermore, was established in 1883 and has been one of the oldest family-owned wineries in the United States. Its beautiful 47+ acres of land, as well as its restaurants and winemakers studio, offer a multitude of options for private events.


    Looking for a polished party and event spaces in San Francisco and beyond? 
    Offering seven locations and counting, Bay Area fish house Pacific Catch offers unique private dining options for guests across the Bay Area. Space offerings differ slightly at each location but all provide the ideal venue for everything from seated dining to standing receptions. The private, tranquil settings also boast a blend of indoor and outdoor options and have the capability to accommodate meeting presentations or personal slideshows. Visit Pacific Catch on the web for location-specific contacts.


    Host a holiday party for friends or the office at San Francisco’s favorite beer hall

    With a seating capacity of 125 guests, lofty ceilings, a spacious beer hall and a private dining room, Buffalo Theory is the ideal venue for your next private event. Whether you’re hosting a company holiday party, a product launch, or something as intimate as a birthday dinner, our amazing space has something for everyone. Take the stress out of the planning process with our pre-set beverage and dining packages. For inquiries about our group and private dining packages, including minimum reservation amounts for each venue, please email us at or
    Download Our Event Kit Here.


    Create an event to remember at El Paseo

    From corporate gatherings to intimate celebrations, El Paseo is the perfect place to host your next event. Our four private dining rooms and two heated outdoor patio spaces can accommodate groups from 8 to 56 people. Each space is as unique and charming as the next with rich and timeless design details that provide a warm atmosphere for occasions of all kinds. Guests can enjoy an array of menu options ranging from reception-style passed appetizers to a family-style coursed dinner. For those hosting a large affair, full buyouts are also available. El Paseo offers floral design, décor, A/V, and specialty linens for an additional charge. For more information, please email We look forward to working with you to design a memorable event.


    E&O Kitchen and Bar Knows How to Party 

    From birthdays to business meetings, E&O offers seven unique private event spaces and customizable catering options for groups of 10-300. Their expert events team is here to help create your ideal affair. For more information, e-mail the team at

    Party Downtown at Hakkasan SF

    Located on the second floor of downtown SF’s iconic One Kearny building, Hakkasan offers a stunning 10,000 sq ft space that accommodates up to 165 seated guests and up to 300 guests for standing receptions. Overlooking the bustling Market and Geary Streets, Hakkasan has several private dining rooms including The Jade Room, an intimate space with a single round table, seating 8-12 guests; The Dragon Room, a semi-private dining space that can host groups of 12-28 for sit-down dinners or groups of up to 40 for reception-style events; and The Ling Ling lounge, available to host groups of 55 for a seated dinner or 65 guests for a reception. For private dining reservations, please call 415-829-8148 or email

    The First Robot Chef at Twitter


    This past month Twitter invited Sally the Salad Robot to it’s headquarters in San Francisco to be a guest chef. Twitter periodically invited guests chefs to cook for it’s staff during lunch, but this was their first robotic chef! Read more about Sally’s adventures at CNBC.


    Meet the New af&co.



    Former Restaurateur, Anne Le Ziblatt Joins Forces With 30 Year Industry Veteran, Andrew Freeman


    San Francisco, Calif. (September 21, 2017) – Andrew Freeman, president of one of the nation’s leading hospitality and marketing consulting agencies, announced today that he has brought on a partner, Anne Le Ziblatt, to continue the evolution and growth of the company he founded twelve years ago. A catalyst behind the move was to expand the agency’s capabilities and provide additional executive level leadership as a foundation for future growth. The newly formed af&co. will continue to offer public relations, marketing, consulting, and creative services to restaurant and hospitality clients coast-to-coast, as well as expand the agency’s physical footprint in additional geographical markets.


    After twelve years of being the sole proprietor of Andrew Freeman & Company, and seeing consistent growth year after year, Freeman – who has been named as one of the Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International – seized the opportunity to bring on a partner that would complement his strengths and maximize the agency’s potential.


    “One of our key strengths as an agency has always been a deep understanding of the hospitality industry and a philiosphy of partnering with operators to really drive sales,” says Freeman. “Anne’s experience as an operator will strengthen this expertise and bring our client services to an even higher level of excellence.”


    Le Ziblatt brings over fifteen years of hospitality service, operations, and finance experience to af&co., as the former proprietor of Tamarine Restaurant & Gallery (Palo Alto, California) and Bong Su Restaurant & Lounge (San Francisco, California). She will be spearheading the development, communication and implementation of effective growth strategies and operational processes for the agency, as well as providing day-to-day leadership and management to the af&co. team. Freeman will continue to focus on the overall creative direction and progression of the agency, serving as the driving force behind the public relations and marketing divisions, as well as oversee the agency’s national Consulting Services Group which works with multi-concept operators, chains, hotels and other companies to develop, launch and refine restaurants and other culinary experiences.  This division has represented a significant area of growth for the agency over the past five years due to increased competition and rising guest expectations in all segments.


    Freeman, now with over 30 years in the industry, opened the doors to Andrew Freeman & Company in November 2005. Since then, the agency has seen exceptional organic growth which can be attributed to the opportunistic nature and entrepreneurial spirit of the agency and Freeman himself.


    Le Ziblatt was first introduced to Freeman when she hired the agency to represent her restaurants. The two became friends and Freeman later presented her with the unique opportunity to transition from being a successful restaurant owner and operator to partner, offering a fresh perspective to the firm that other communications and branding agencies just don’t have. Le Ziblatt stated, “I understand what restaurateurs care about and we’re going to be able to tailor our services to our clients even more now because of it. This agency always had a revenue focused approach, but we have tremendous potential now that we are working in tandem from both sides of the business.”


    What started as a one-man marketing consultant company has grown into one of the nation’s leading hospitality and marketing agencies, offering services including creative and concept development, brand strategy, public relations, social media management and culinary event planning. Over the past twelve years, Freeman and his team have launched and promoted over 300 hotels and restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. In 2007, Freeman started the agency’s annual trends report, which quickly became an industry standard.


    Both Freeman and Le Ziblatt will continue with their philanthropic endeavors including those focused on women’s organizations and LGBT empowerment alongside partnering to support organizations such as Dress for Success, Meals on Wheels and San Francisco Food Bank. This partnership is laying the groundwork for the legacy Freeman has always had the vision of building. In the future, af&co. will continue to be a place where talent is developed, creativity is fostered, careers are built, and clients’ stories are shared with the world.



    About af&co.

    af&co. is an innovative restaurant and hospitality consulting firm, headquartered in San Francisco with clients across the country. The high-energy hospitality agency offers a unique blend of expertise in marketing, publicity and creative services. The af&co. team will do whatever it takes to build awareness for clients and ultimately increase sales. af&co. offers tailored, flexible programs that include: creative/concept development, brand strategy, recruiting, graphic design, public relations, sales/marketing, training, event management, and more depending on the clients’ needs. The af&co. team is creative, direct and fun, and focuses on the areas that they are passionate about: restaurants and beverages, travel and hotels, and lifestyle personalities and products. For more information, visit or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.


    About Andrew Freeman

    Named as one of the Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International, Andrew brings a combination of experience, passion and creativity to every endeavor.  Prior to opening af&co., Andrew was Vice President of Public Relations and Strategic Partnerships for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, where he launched over 40 hotels and restaurants as well as the global brand. Andrew has also worked at the legendary Rainbow Room, Russian Tea Room and Windows on the World, where he was vice president of public relations and marketing. In 2016 and 2017, af&co. was named by the San Francisco Business Times as one of the Top 50 LGBT-Owned Businesses in the Bay Area. Andrew is a contributing editor to numerous industry magazines and blogs and guest speaker at Industry conferences. af&co.’s annual trend report is highly regarded and has garnered tremendous worldwide coverage.


    About Anne Le Ziblatt

    Joining af&co. as Partner in 2017, Anne brings over 15 years of hospitality operations and finance experience to lead the firm’s development, communication and growth strategies. As Director of Marketing and Communications at Kroll, a global risk management services firm, she developed and led product launches, developed advertising and public relations campaigns, oversaw internal communications, and architected corporate events. Switching gears into hospitality as a restaurateur, Anne ventured to create dining destinations reflective of the high style cuisine found in Southeast Asia’s metropoles. She opened Tamarine Restaurant & Gallery in Palo Alto (a Forbes Global Power Dining favorite) in October 2002 and later launched her second successful restaurant enterprise, Bong Su (Esquire’s “Top 20 Best New Restaurants”) in San Francisco.

    Dig It – Andrew the Dancing Queen

    As you may know, each year my besties and I head off for an adventure abroad and this was our 12th journey together. From Israel to Spain (three times) to Australia to Sicily, we have certainly seen the world. And the memories are simply amazing.


    About two years ago – my friend John, who usually goes along with whatever we want to do (“we” being his wife, Sharee, my gal pal and travel wife, Linda, and me) declared that he would like to go to Scandinavia. He was going to be turning 60 in 2017 (PS –He looks fabulous. He’s a complete metrosexual and he says he owes it all to the show Queer Eye For The Straight Guy) and he really had a dream to see Sweden and Norway. We normally like warm weather spots – a few days of touring and then some beach time but we agreed that, for John, we would celebrate in Swedish style.


    On to the research phase: John got to reading books and I was lucky enough to find a wonderful travel advisor, Sim Uzkuraitis from Firebird Tours. This guy is awesome – use him.  We had a long conversation about what he thought we should see and do and then the gang chimed in and we settled on a great trip. Once we got there, we realized we had completely overscheduled ourselves and canceled a few of the Viking outings (trust me, if you’ve seen one Viking ship, you’ve seen them all). So our trip was planned and we got ready to go.


    Unfortunately, tragedy struck when my best pal Stuart was diagnosed with throat cancer so we put the trip on hold for a year to focus on him. While his battle was rough, I am happy to report he is healthy and happy.


    Again, I can’t thank Firebird Tours enough for their flexibility with our plans. They were great and we were able to reschedule the new dates and they honored as much as they could. So off we went in August! And despite some initial skepticism, some rain, some cold temps, some very quiet nights and way too much fish – this was truly a terrific trip. We were in the land of the happy people; it was clean, it was crisp and I am telling you, the people were really welcoming and proud.


    Here’s a quick overview of our stops and our highlights.


    We flew SAS Airlines (very efficient) into Oslo. We arrived to some light rain in the afternoon and got right out there. We explored the city and were charmed right off the bat. We stayed at the conveniently located Hotel Folketeateret, which was perfect, although slightly too modern for us. That night we checked out the Opera House and heard music playing on the pier across the way. We ended up crashing a local professionals party and did some dancing! The next day we met our wonderful tour guide and off we went to see the city. The highlight of the day was Frogner Park and it’s magnificent sculpture garden. We also stopped at the royal grounds, City Hall and the Folk and Viking Ship museums.  Dinner that night was at Lofoten on the water for some wonderful seafood.


    The next day, our real adventure began with our destination being Balestrand — a charming village located near Norway’s largest Fjord. The trip involved two trains and a boat ride with the highlight being the train ride to the mountain town of Flam. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. Let’s talk about Balestrand. It was small and quaint and being an active group, we quickly knew that for the 2 ½ days we were going to be there, boredom would set in fast. (It’s my fault – I told Sim we wanted to disconnect and he took it literally.) The historic hotel, Kviknes, was indeed pretty magnificent and our rooms had wonderful views.  Since there was only one restaurant in town, we opted to enjoy the hotel, take long walks and runs in the rain – and get to know each other better. We did get the fun opportunity to go to the movies with a bunch of the local folks at the schoolhouse. We saw Dunkirk – which was a very intense vacation movie.


    Onward! Back on the water and through the Fjords to Bergen – trust me this fishing city (the second largest in Norway) is exquisite. Our hotel, the Clarion Admiral, was our favorite of the trip – stylish and a perfect location. Our first dinner was at Marcus Samuelson’s restaurant in the hotel. It was really tasty. The next day we had a fabulous tour of the city including a ride up to the highest mountain on a funicular. The views were spectacular (though we were a bit chilly).  Then we got to see the old fish market and wooden villages; the city is a mix of old and new and we loved it. We ended our visit with a trip to the Bergen Ice Bar –which was a hoot. We donned parkas and drank vodka out of glasses made of ice. We had dinner at the fish market that night –which I highly recommend. It was a short but lovely stay.


    Next stop –Stockholm. Okay everyone, you heard it here first. YOU MUST VISIT STOCKHOLM AT LEAST ONCE IN YOUR LIFE. It is a stunning, cosmopolitan city and we loved it. We stayed in old town at the Victory Hotel. It was perfectly located though, I will admit, the owner collects maritime antiques and puppets which adorned the hotel and they creeped us out a little bit; we thought they might come to life late at night. For meals, my good pal and client, Chef Staffan Terje of Perbacco/barbacco, made some recommendations—all of which were great. We ate well – three nights and three delicious restaurants: Grodan, Bistro Sud, and my favorite was Sture Hof. We had a really fun city tour which included an elaborate changing of the guards ceremony at the Royal Palace and then we got to see some of the wonderful neighborhoods. We also checked out the Vasa and Skansen museums — historical insights to Swedish and Viking life.


    BUT THE HIGHLIGHT OF HIGHLIGHTS OF THIS STOP CAN BE SUMMED UP IN ONE WORD –ABBA!!! We spent our first afternoon (about 4 hours) at the ABBA museum which was awesome. Then the next night, we went to ABBA THE PARTY and it was the best experience of the trip. It’s an interactive dinner and show all set to ABBA hits. Once the show is over, the floor is cleared and a dance party starts. We were there for five hours and literally danced for three of them. I can’t recommend this enough. Mamma Mia, did we have a ball!


    On our last night, Stockholm was having its annual KulturFest and the city was full of energy with performances by the symphony, the opera and world-renowned DJs and bands. It was like Outside Lands but it was all of the city and get this – free!!! We had a ball and it was a great way to say farewell to Sweden. We walked back to our hotel a bit blue about the journey coming to an end and left early the next morning to head home.


    Along the way we met wonderful, welcoming people and it will be a trip that we will remember forever.

    Went There For the Oysters. Left a scholar.

    What makes a restaurant great? Many would say, the food, the drinks, or the service but while those are all important I would have to disagree. What I believe makes a restaurant stand out from the crowd is the concept and The Dorian SF has a concept that takes the dining experience to the next level.

    At the Dorian, guests not only get to indulge in delicious food and refreshing libations but are told a story from a different time period. Through the use of tasteful decorations and thoughtful collateral the space is transformed into a saloon or parlor of the old days where you can imagine the intelligentsia and freethinkers would go to discuss and exchange ideas. And although I went there with the specific goal of eating some oysters (which sadly, they were out of), I left with something I didn’t expect, feeling like a scholar, inspired by the atmosphere that the Dorian SF has so perfectly and strategically created.

    Definitely would recommend!

    By: Michael Gorecki

    New Client Alert – Acacia House + Atrio

    We couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with Acacia House and Atrio Spa, both located at the luxurious Las Alcobas Napa Valley.


    Following our kick-off meetings and a tour of the gorgeous resort grounds, our team enjoyed a lovely lunch at Acacia House, the recently opened signature restaurant by acclaimed Chef Chris Consentino (Cockscomb, Jackrabbit).


    Acacia House at Las Alcobas provides an inventive approach to relaxed Napa Valley fare. Consentino takes the prevailing seasonal sensibility of California’s wine country and offers familiar dishes with a refreshing twist of refinement that showcases his signature brand of bold and balanced flavors. The restaurant offers pairings with a selection of the best and most unique of the regional wines complimented with some European accents, as well as a bar program serving an array of well-balanced cocktails, garnished with herbs from the garden, and seasonally-inclined Bellinis.


    Atrio, the 3,500 square foot spa and wellness center, offers a fresh Napa Valley spa experience featuring an apothecary counter and a menu of services rooted in healing techniques used for over 2,000 years across different cultures. The spa focuses on enhancing well-being with mind-calming treatments and ancient massage techniques.


    Learn more by visiting and read the San Francisco Chronicle’s 3.5-star review of Acacia house here.

    Progress at Goat Hill

    Summer renovations at Goat Hill Pizza are looking great! Goat Hill’s flagship location, Potrero Hill, is getting a remodel to accommodate for a dedicated delivery section. David Sturno, chief executive officer, says that the renovations will help speed up delivery times to pizza lovers throughout San Francisco’s Southside neighborhoods and we can’t wait for them to be finished! You can read all about what is happening right here.


    Sally The Salad Robot has made her debut!

    Now is your chance to catch Sally the Salad Robot in action. Calafia Cafe & Market A Go-Go in Palo Alto, California is Sally’s debut location!


    Sally is Chowbotics first food service robot that creates custom salads. Her ingredients are chef-selected, updated seasonally and loaded daily. Her technology protects the integrity of ingredients and ensures precise caloric counts. With a 3×3 footprint, Sally is flexible and fast, efficiently (and cheerfully!) preparing salads in no time flat!


    Look out for Sally in future locations including convenience stores, office break rooms, cafeterias, hotels and restaurants across the country.


    Stop by Calafia Café for a salad by Sally. To learn more about Sally, visit!

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