Saturday, December 31, 2016

Best of the Best 2016

Which are the best restaurants, spas, and travel destinations? At the end of 2016, I am rating the following (in order of best to worst), based on my personal experience.


Even though it has not been rated my Michelin, Mama's Fish House on Maui is our favorite restaurant in the world. Using only the freshest fish caught of Maui, Mama's Fish House combines an authentic Hawaiian atmosphere with exceptional cooking, and magnificent tropical setting (overlooking Maui's North Shore, near the famous Ho'okipa Beach), to create an unforgettable dining experience.
  1. Mama's Fish House, Maui, Hawaii 
  2. Manresa, Los Gatos, CA (3 Michelin Stars)
  3. The Plumed Horse, Saratoga, CA  (1 Michelin Star)
  4. Lagoon Restaurant by Jean Georges, St. Regis, Bora-Bora, French Polynesia 
  5. Solbar, Calistoga, CA  (1 Michelin Star)
  6. Gary Danko, San Francisco, CA  (1 Michelin Star)
  7. Weinstube Baldreit, Baden-Baden, Germany 
  8. Plachutta, Vienna, Austria 
  9. Humuhumunukunuku'apua, Maui Hawaii 
  10. La Foret, San Jose, CA (Michelin Rated)
  11. Bouchon, Napa, CA  (Michelin Rated)
  12. Eataly, WTC, New York City (and Munich)



We have had pizza everywhere in the United States (New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, etc.), France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, etc. So far, our favorite pizza restaurant is Keste Pizza in Greenwich Village and Eataly in New York City. There was a wonderful, small pizza restaurant that had the most amazing pizza in Paris - but I cannot recall its name. From what I heard, the absolute world's best pizza is to be found in Naples, Italy - but I have not been there yet.
  1. Keste Pizza, Greenwich Village, New York City (Keste #1)
  2. Eataly, WTC, New York City ("Capricciosa" pizza)
  3. Juliana's Pizza, Brooklyn, New York City (#1 Special)
  4. Pizza My Heart, Los Gatos, CA (especially "Manresa" only available on Sunday's)
Gelato and Ice Cream

Our favorite gelateria was in Bologna, Italy. We also tried many exceptional gelaterias in Florence, Siena, Lake Como, Venice, and Lucca.
  1. Gelato in Bologna, Italy (near Piazza Maggiore)
  2. Gelato in Florence, Siena, Lake Como, Venice, Lucca (Italy) 
  3. Bella Gelateria, Vancouver, BC 
  4. Grom, New York City (also in Florence and Siena) 
  5. Eataly, New York City (and Munich)
  6. Lappert's Ice Cream, Maui, Hawaii


Our favorite spas so far have been in Baden-Baden, Germany, but we've also heard or exceptional spas in Austria (which we have not tried yet).
  1. Aquadome, Laengenfeld, Austria
  2. Friedrichsbad Therme, Baden-Baden, Germany 
  3. Caracalla Therme, Baden-Baden, Germany
  4. Alpentherme Gastein, Bad Hofgastein, Austria 
  5. Miri-Miri Spa by Clarens, St. Regis, Bora-Bora 
  6. Solage, Calistoga, CA 
  7. Scandinave Spa, Whistler, Canada 
  8. Tabacon, Costa Rica 
  9. Indian Springs, Calistoga, CA 
Books (2016)

My favorite book for 2016 is The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. I did not realize the magnitude of the work the brothers accomplished. I also really enjoued reading Now - The Physics of Time bu Richard Mueller.
  1. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
  2. Now - The Physics of Time by Richard Mueller
  3. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  4. Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters by Chesley Sullenberger
  5. Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood by Cathy Young
  6. American Road Trip by Ilya Ilf, Evgeny Petrov
  7. Championship Tennis by Frank Giampaolo
  8. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide To Thriving In The Age of Accelerations by Thomas Friedman
Rock Albums (2016)

There were not that many rock albums that I really liked in 2016, but "WALLS", "Blues of Desperation", and "Heavy Entertainment Show" were my favorites.
  1. "WALLS" by Kings of Leon (especially Waste a Moment)
  2. "Blues of Desperation" by Joe Bonamassa  (especially Drive No Good Place for the Lonely)
  3. "Heavy Entertainment Show" by Robbie Williams  (especially Party Like a Russian)
  4. "Cleopatra" by The Lumineers (especially Ophelia)
  5. "I Still Do" by Eric Clapton 
  6. "25" by Adele 
  7. "Squad Goals" by Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox 
  8. "PMJ and Chill" by Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox 
  9. "Stranger to Stranger" by Paul Simon 
  10. "Wonderful Crazy Night" by Elton John 
  11. "Nobody but Me" by Michael Buble 
Rock Concerts

My favorite rock concert was Elton John's Made in England Tour in Tacoma Dome. It was my frist Rock concert and a truly amazing experience. I have been to his other concerts, i.e. the Red Piano in Las Vegas, but they did not have the same atmosphere and intensity.
  1. Elton John's Made in England Tour, Tacoma Dome, Washington on 9/9/1995 
  2. Leonard Cohen, HP Pavilion, San Jose, 11/7/2012. 
  3. The History of the Eagles, HP Pavilion, San Jose, 1/29/2013 
  4. Postmodern Jukebox, The Warfield, San Francisco, 12/13/2015 
  5. Big Bad Vodoo Daddy, Harrah's Hotel and Casino, 5/30/2015 
  6. The Gipsy Kings, Mountain Winery, 8/27/2014. 
  7. Carlos Santana, Shoreline Amphitheater, 2002

My favorite opera is Carmen by Georges Bizet, due to the fantastic music and dramatic story. I am also partial to Puccini, especially Madame Butterfly.
  1. Carmen, Houston Grand Opera
  2. Madame Butterfly, Houston Grand Opera, 1993
  3. Marriage of Figaro, San Francisco Opera, 6/21/15
  4. Barber of Seville, San Francisco Opera, 11/23/13
  5. La Traviata, Houston Grand Opera
  6. Don Giovanni, San Francisco Opera
  7. La Boheme, San Francisco Opera,  11/22/14
  8. The Magic Flute, San Francisco Opera
  9. Lucia de Lammermoor, Houston Grand Opera
  10. Elektra, Houston Grand Opera
  11. Salome, Houston Grand Opera

Musical Theater

My favorite musical is Chicago (most recently seen at Ambassador Theater on Broadway), but I am huge fan of Kander & Ebb musicals (which also include Cabaret). I also really like most musicals by Cole Porter (Anything Goes, Kiss Me Kate!) and George Gershwin (Crazy for You).
  1. Chicago, Ambassador Theater, Broadway, New York City 12/18/2016. 
  2. Fiddler on the Roof, Broadway Theater, New York City, 12/23/2016 
  3. Cabaret, Orpheum Theater, San Francisco 
  4. Anything Goes, Golden Gate Theater, San Francisco, 1/19/2013 
  5. Grease, Orpheum Theater, San Francisco 
  6. Monty Python's Spamalot, Orpheum, San Francisco 
  7. Kiss Me Kate, Orpheum, San Francisco 
  8. Saturday Night Fever, Orpheum, San Francisco 
  9. Showboat, War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, 6/13/2014 
  10. 42nd Street, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, 7/15/2017
  11. Mary Poppins, Orpheum, San Francisco, 5/12/2013 
  12. Mamma Mia, Orpheum, San Francisco
  13. Phantom of the Opera, Orpheum, San Francisco, 8/21/2015
  14. The Book of Mormon, San Francisco, 1/7/2014 
  15. Cats, Neil Simon Theater, New York City, 12/24/2016 
  16. The Lion King, Orpheum, San Francisco
  17. Les Miserables, Orpheum, San Francisco
  18. Hello Dolly!, Orpheum, San Francisco
  19. Mathilda, Orpheum, San Francisco, 7/23/2015 
  20. Fosse, San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
  21. Annie, Portland, Oregon

Theater (Drama & Comedy)

I am a extremely partial to William Shakespeare's dramas, especially Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear. Having seem them long ago, I don't have any exposure to more recent productions.
  1. Emma, TheatreWorks, Palo Alto, 12/4/2015 
  2. Les Liaisons Dangereuses, New York City, 12/22/2016 
  3. Disgraced, Berkeley Rep, Berkeley, 12/12/2015 
  4. Cyrano, TheatreWorks, Mountain View, 4/24/2016 
  5. Outside Mullingar, TheatreWorks, Palo Alto, 10/7/2016 
  6. The Hard Problem, Geary Theater, San Francisco, 10/19/2016 
  7. Daddy Longs Legs, Lucie Stern Theater, Palo Alto, 12/3/2016 
  8. Oleanna, Houston, 1992

Hiking Trails

Half-Dome was the longest, toughest hike I have done. It has fantastic overlooks on Yosemite Valley. However, the other hikes in Silver Falls State Park in Oregon are also fantastic.
  1. Half-Dome, Yosemite, CA 
  2. Silver Falls State Park, Oregon 
  3. Dipsea Trail, Sausalito, CA 
  4. Big Basin Redwoods, Boulder Creek, CA 
  5. Castle Rock State Park, CA 
  6. Mt. Shasta, CA 
  7. Point Lobos Natural Reserve, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA 
  8. Lassen Volcanic National Park, Mineral, CA 
  9. Huddart County Park, Woodside, CA

Ski Resorts

My favorite place to ski and snowboard is at Whistler, near Vancouver, British Columbia. Whistler usually has great snow with minimal elevation gain, excellent, inexpensive restaurants, and a great youthful vibe (with many other nearby activities such as tubing, ice skating, dog sledding, cross-country skiing, & snowmobiling) . It's also has a great Scandinave Spa!
  1. Whistler/Blackcomb, BC, Canada (best resort) 
  2. Mount Hood Meadows, Mt. Hood, Oregon 
  3. Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, CA 
  4. Mt. Bachelor, Oregon 
  5. Kirkwood, Lake Tahoe, CA 
  6. Heavenly, South Lake Tahoe 
  7. Mt. Rose, East Lake Tahoe, NV 
  8. Sierra-at-Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, CA
  9. Sugar Bowl, Lake Tahoe, CA (closest resort) 
  10. Northstar, Lake Tahoe