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Che Fico restaurant a casual place as cool as the name suggests

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Chef David Nayfeld is a Bay Area native who, after four years at Eleven Madison Park in New York and a year in Europe, has returned home. His time away, he said, helped make clear the kind of restaurant he did, and did not, want to open.

“I want this to be a casual neighbourhood restaurant, not somewhere posh and Michelin-starred,” he explained. “I want this be a place where you come in to eat good food; where my mom and her friends can come in.”

The dining room and wood-fired pizza oven, nicknamed Loretta, at Che Fico in San Francisco.
The dining room and wood-fired pizza oven, nicknamed Loretta, at Che Fico in San Francisco.  (DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN photos / the new york times)

His mom’s friends may well come in to Che Fico, but likely will have to line up to do so — the chef’s high-profile resume and the four-year waiting period that preceded the restaurant’s March opening made for a proper hype machine, quickly fuelled by visits from Gwyneth Paltrow and Anderson Cooper.

Reservations are hard to come by, but those willing to wait in the early-evening line — as I did on a recent Wednesday — are quickly rewarded with one of the 48 seats reserved for walk-ins.

Hype aside, Che Fico delivers on Nayfeld’s mission. The second-storey space is light-filled and expansive, with an open kitchen showcasing a wood-fired pizza oven (nicknamed Loretta) and fig-festooned wallpaper — Che Fico translates to “what a fig,” slang for “that’s so cool!” As I sipped on an herbaceous, gin-based Coriander cocktail, I noted the soundtrack — the Talking Heads faded into Mos Def before switching to Bob Marley and The Cure. Pretty cool.

Having secured a pair of window seats, my date and I dove into the menu — all dishes are meant to be enjoyed family style, including a worthwhile antipasti of wood-fired octopus with crisp-edged cubes of melty pork belly. The menu evolves to highlight seasonality — such as an excellent summer vegetable salad featuring fresh mozzarella, stone fruitsand blossom-topped zucchini — but remains consistent enough to feel familiar to regulars.

Familiarity explains a section dedicated to la cucina ebraica, or Jewish cooking — a nod to Nayfeld’s roots (his parents immigrated to California from the Soviet Union via Rome in 1980). The grilled, chopped duck liver, topped with Technicolor pickled onions and paper-thin turnip slices, is rich and luscious enough to create a new generation of offal lovers.

Fresh pastas, made in-house, are standouts: We tried a perfectly al dente cappelletti filled with caciocavallo cheese and topped with sweet fava beans and morel mushrooms. Pizzas have proved to be more controversial; made using a wild sourdough starter, crusts are cooked to a brown-black char. I place myself squarely in the pro-crust camp: Our pie, studded with chunks of fresh sausage and topped with a flurry of thinly shaved raw mushrooms, had a pleasantly just-caramelized flavour.

Secondi are bacchanalian in scale and serve two, at least; a platter of wood-grilled Marin Sun Farms pork included ample hunks of fatty chop and belly, crisp-fried skin, roasted onions, pickled cherries and a bowl of greens dressed with pickling liquid to be eaten with your hands as a palate cleanser.

Or you could save room for Angela Pinkerton’s desserts. The pastry chef, a fellow Eleven Madison Park alum, has created a menu of Italian-leaning sweets centred on seasonal fruit, including a toothsome olive oil cake topped with fresh strawberries and house-made elderflower gelato. (Pinkerton is at the helm of the casual dinette, Theorita, which is scheduled to open downstairs this week.)

That’s the real mark of Che Fico’s neighbourhood restaurant status, though: It’s suited to celebratory groups sharing a whole lamb loin and solo diners enjoying a glass of funky aglianico and hand-cut tagliatelle al ragù at the bar alike. Che fico indeed.

Che Fico, 838 Divisadero St.; 415-416-6959; chefico.com. An average dinner for two, without drinks and tip, is about $150 (U.S.)

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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)

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(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at marriott.com.

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel

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(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on Marriott.com.

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!

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Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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