Flashback to My First Shanghai Thanksgiving at Jean-Georges Restaurant

Jean-Georges restaurant at Three on the Bund, the 1916 colonial building.

Reflecting back on my first Thanksgiving holiday in Shanghai, I recall I decided to host an elegant Thanksgiving dinner for my international group of friends, as many of them were  unfamiliar with this traditional American holiday.

I wanted to offer them the best, so I planned my dinner party at the award-winning New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Shanghai restaurant. His first signature eatery outside Manhattan, this branch is located in Three on the Bund, a 1916 neo-classical building.

Yes, the restaurant is known for its French cuisine, but the chef on this occasion was American-born Eric Johnson, so I knew he’d understand just what was called for.

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San Francisco Social Diary: A Century Of Good Taste — The Life of Culinary Icon Cecilia Chiang

Centenarian and culinary icon Cecilia Chiang, pictured with her family in Beijing, migrated to San Francisco and revolutionized American appreciation for authentic Chinese food with her groundbreaking restaurant, the Mandarin.

During this time of Covid-19 and all its ramifications, it’s comforting to hear the inspiring story of Cecilia Chiang, a still-vital culinary icon who most recently celebrated her 100th birthday.

Cecilia Chiang, credited with introducing Americans to authentic Chinese cuisine and hailed as “the Julia Child of Chinese food” by acclaimed chef Alice Waters, is a great American success story. Cecilia is still as engaging today as when we first became friends back in the 1970s. She celebrated her 100th birthday with a spectacular party in San Francisco.

Opened in 1961, Cecilia’s legendary San Francisco restaurant, the Mandarin, was arguably the best Chinese restaurant in the U.S. for over 30 years. Today, she continues to inspire everyone from friends and colleagues to top chefs and restaurateurs the world over. She challenged the American idea of Chinese food and transformed our appreciation for authentic cuisine whatever its origin.

The beloved Cecilia Chiang celebrated her 100th birthday at 3-Michelin-star Benu in San Francisco and received a letter of congratulations from California Governor Gavin Newsom.

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San Francisco Social Diary: 2016 Festival Napa Valley, Part II

The 2016 Festival Napa Valley is coming up in July, celebrating music, performance, food, and wine, at stunning venues.


Festival Napa Valley, one of America’s premiere summer destination events, will offer a dazzling roster of cultural and culinary attractions from July 15-24, 2016, its eleventh year. Eminent classical, opera, jazz, and dance artists will perform, and intimate food and wine affairs will be hosted by the region’s top vintners.

Over the years, the Festival has introduced me, along with other visitors, to many artists, local vintners, and wineries that aren’t on the tourist route maps, which has given me an insider’s view of the California wine country lifestyle. If you want to share this experience, have a terrific time, and meet the locals, this is the way to go. Put it on your calendar for this year (and next, as well!).

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San Francisco Social Diary: 2016 Festival Napa Valley

The 2016 Festival Napa Valley is coming up in July, celebrating music, performance, food, and wine, at stunning venues such as Opus One winery, seen here.


Napa Valley – Festival Napa Valley, one of America’s premiere summer destination events, is presenting its eleventh season July 15-24, 2016. The glorious ten-day fete features a dazzling roster of exclusive engagements by preeminent classical, opera, jazz, and dance artists paired with intimate food and wine affairs hosted by the region’s top vintners.

Among this year’s star-studded lineup are Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth, jazz legend Sergio Mendes, classical violinist Sarah Chang, award-winning conductor Carlo Ponti (son of actress Sophia Loren, who will be in attendance), and the San Francisco Ballet.

Visit festivalnapavalley.org to see all of this season’s performers and venues.

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Shanghai Social Diary: Treasures of China’s Heritage Part 4

On a nine-day trip to China with the GHF (Global Heritage Fund), I explored some truly incredible, off-the-beaten-path historical sites, including three days at my favorite stop, the stunning ancient walled city of Pingyao.

Treasures of China’s Heritage: Touring with the Global Heritage Fund
(Fourth of a Seven-part Series)

Fujian and Shanxi

I recently had the privilege of taking a nine-day trip to China in the company of board members of the Palo Alto-based Global Heritage Fund (GHF)—an organization devoted to supporting underdeveloped rural areas worldwide. Although I’d previously traveled extensively in China, this unusual excursion was uniquely enriching and memorable. It’s my pleasure to share this experience with you in a series of recollections illustrated primarily by my personal photographs. Links to the other installments in this series can be found at the end of this article.

After resting up from our first magical day in historic Pingyao, we looked forward to more experiences in the ancient walled city, including an up-close encounter with the walls themselves.

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Shanghai Social Diary: Treasures of China’s Heritage, Part 1

On a nine-day trip to China with the Global Heritage Fund, I explored some truly incredible, off-the-beaten-path historical sites, among them the Xuankongsi Hanging Temple that clings to the side of a mountain in northeast China.

Treasures of China’s Heritage: Touring with the Global Heritage Fund
(First of a Seven-part Series)

For many, a trip to China is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, usually limited to the must-see places such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, and the other major cities. But if you have the opportunity to make return visits to this vast and varied country, I highly recommend stepping off the tourist trail and venturing into the provinces.

I first visited China in 1987 and quickly fell in love with its intoxicating beauty, rich culture, and welcoming people. I immediately vowed to return—and not simply as a tourist. Since 2008, I’ve lived in China off and on and have seen many places that are still largely undeveloped and therefore undiscovered by outsiders.

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Shanghai Social Diary: Shanghai Dining

One of my favorite activities in China is sampling authentic regional food, such as the Shanghainese fare of Jesse Restaurant, a favorite among tourists and locals alike.

One of the great pleasures of traveling, to me, is the chance to sample the extraordinary variety of cuisines around the world. Some of the most exotic meals I’ve ever tasted were in Asia, thanks to Chinese friends who made sure I didn’t overlook any of the best dishes on the menu.


I’m savoring the memory of a whirlwind two-week “culinary discovery” trip of Asia with stops in Hong Kong, Taipei [Taiwan], Singapore, and Shanghai, organized by George Chen, the restaurateur behind San Francisco’s Betelnut and Shanghai 1930.

George’s latest project is China Live, an upscale Chinese food emporium (à la New York’s Italian Eataly), planned for SF Chinatown. (I’ll be sharing details on this highly anticipated attraction in an upcoming column.)

Our first restaurant stop in Shanghai was the “original” Jesse, a “hole in the wall” that draws hordes of locals and foreigners in search of traditional Shanghainese cuisine.

Our group of culinary adventurers included Stephanie Lawrence, Richard Miyashiro, Cecilia Chiang, George’s wife Cindy Chen, George Chen, and Jeanne Lawrence.

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Shanghai Social Diary: Culinary Adventures in Shanghai

When in Shanghai, I love trying foods both new and traditional. One of my favorites is Beggar’s Chicken, one of the famous dishes of China.

One of the many reasons I travel is to taste the various cuisines of the world. In Shanghai, I’ve had the opportunity to entertain and dine with my friends in a variety of venues. In this dispatch, I’ve picked a few dining experiences that were special.


On a lovely Saturday afternoon, I met up with my friend Han Feng, the peripatetic designer of fashions, opera sets, and costumes, who spends alternating months in New York City and Shanghai.

Han Feng and I had lunch at the luxury Andaz Hotel in Shanghai’s Xintiandi neighborhood in the former French Concession.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Spring in the City ~ Charitable Events in San Francisco

Among the Bay City’s many recent charitable events was the fashion show/lunch benefit for the San Francisco Ballet, sponsored by Neiman-Marcus at the Fairmont Hotel.

Civic-minded, cosmopolitan San Francisco offers cultural activities for every age and interest. Here are highlights from some philanthropic events I attended recently.


The San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary held its annual spring fashion show fundraiser at the Fairmont Hotel, this year in partnership with Neiman Marcus, the Dallas-based luxury department store.


In a nice coincidence, displayed in the Fairmont lobby on the day of the Ballet benefit was one of the outrageous costumes from San Francisco’s Beach Blanket Babylon, the world’s longest-running musical revue.

Perched atop Nob Hill, the luxurious Fairmont Hotel was the perfect venue for the San Francisco Ballet fundraiser.

In celebration of its 40th year, the pop culture-spoofing show Beach Blanket Babylon is displaying costumes around the city.

One of the over-the-top hats that are hallmarks of the show, this one features such iconic San Francisco sights as the Transamerica Pyramid, City Hall, and the “Painted Ladies” houses across from Alamo Square Park.

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San Francisco Social Diary: San Francisco’s Winter Social Season 2014

San Francisco kicked off the winter 2014 social season with a collection of events, including the dazzling and completely sold-out SF Ballet opening gala.

Deciding to winter in San Francisco turned out to be a brilliant choice. New York City has suffered through record cold and snow, while San Francisco experienced an uncharacteristically warm and dry January. The social season was heated here, too, as you’ll see from the following reports.


The San Francisco Ballet’s 2014 Opening Night Gala performance on January 21 brought its theme, “Phenomenal,” to life! A record 3,200 balletomanes filled the War Memorial Opera House to see the company deemed “a national treasure” by the The New York Times when it appeared at Lincoln Center last fall.

The chairs of this wildly successful event included Auxiliary Gala Chair Tanya Marietta Powell, Gala Dinner Chair Patricia Ferrin Loucks, and DĂ©cor Chair Shelley Gordon, along with Richard Barker as Honorary Chair.

The evening’s glamour quotient could not have been higher. The ladies dazzled, gowned in rich jewel tones and many also adorned with Bulgari baubles in support of the jewelry house that underwrote the launch party. (Not hard to muster enthusiasm for this show of support!)

Ballet Gala committee members Marie Hurabiell, Shelley Gordon, Alison Mauze, Suzanne Thornton, Patricia Ferrin Loucks, Richard Barker, Tanya Powell, Betsy Linder, Cathy Goodman, Debra Taylor, and Judy Anderson.

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