Chef Corey Lee is a trailblazer in San Francisco’s food scene with his three-Michelin-star restaurant Benu and In Situ at SFMoMA. When he’s not wowing diners with his innovative dishes, he’s finding inspiration, amazing food, and a little Zen throughout Northern California’s diverse landscape. Below, he reveals where to find the most luxurious getaways and experiences in the Golden State.
The iconic Meadowood resort in California's Napa Valley wine country is what Lee refers to as the “ultimate luxurious camp.” The property includes 85 lodges and suites among its tree-packed hillsides, each featuring fireplaces or terraces that overlook the grounds. Aside from the amenities, including a new spa that opened as part of a $60 million renovation last year, a trip to Meadowood is not complete without dinner at its three-Michelin-star restaurant, helmed by chef Christopher Koslow. In addition to a $330 or $500 tasting menu, guests can choose wine pairings from a 6,000-bottle wine list. “It’s a dining destination,” says Lee. “For me, it’s the reason I go.”
Saison, San Francisco
The three-Michelin-star restaurant in San Francisco started as a pop-up restaurant, but has since turned into one of the great American dining experiences, says Lee. “That’s a restaurant where they go to no end to provide the highest quality of everything, from food to décor to flatware.” Saison chef Joshua Skenes curates an up to 18-course seasonal tasting menu that costs $398 per person, one of California’s most expensive meals. Though pricey, the restaurant doesn’t have a dress code, and the ambiance is relaxed, letting diners focus on the inventive menu. “The experience is about enjoying the products, not about just indulging in this luxurious lifestyle,” Lee says. “It’s about being comfortable and enjoying good food. To me, that’s my favorite kind of luxury.”
Lee, an avid golfer who learned the game from his father, enjoys the courses in Northern California: The temperate weather makes golfing available year-round, and adds a bit of entertainment to the game. “You see the fog roll in and the weather change hour by hour as you’re playing.” Lee loves playing at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, which offers both tranquil views and challenging golf courses. Located on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, The Ritz has two championship golf courses—the challenging Ocean Course, and the classic Old Course, designed by Arnold Palmer and architect Francis Duane. “It’s this great escape where you can connect with nature and have some real quiet time,” Lee says.
Manresa, Los Gatos
David Kinch’s contemporary American restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos represents quintessential California farm-to-table. Founded in 2002 and rebuilt in 2014 after a massive fire, Kinch’s tasting menu—all sourced from local farms—was rewarded with its third Michelin star in 2016. “When you eat there, the luxury is in how the menu reflects its area and its ingredients, rather than opulence or setting,” explains Lee.
Mission Ranch Hotel, Carmel
“If you go to the Monterey Peninsula, it has one of the great golfing destinations in the world: Pebble Beach,” says Lee, who stays at Mission Ranch Hotel during jaunts to the world-class golf course. Once a dairy farm, now a 31-room luxury resort restored and owned by actor/director Clint Eastwood, this luxury cottage is located in the southern tip of Carmel, and provides breathtaking views of the Monterey coastline. The 22-acre property features a restaurant, piano bar, and farmhouse cottage-style rooms with fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. After a day of golfing, enjoy a glass of wine on the heated patio, where guests can watch sheep graze as they sip.
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