2 months Ago
The Experiences Auction is our first collaboration with renowned auction house Sotheby's that explores how experiences might inspire, enrich, and bring you happiness. Among our offerings is a meeting with Forest Whitaker, which puts you at the center of this holiday season’s anticipated film, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”
Below is an excerpt from Alexandra Owen’s interview with the actor and activist, in which he talks about entering the “Star Wars” universe as rebel leader Saw Gerrera and his work at The Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI), for which this auction will benefit.
To read the entirety of Alexandra’s post "5 Questions with Forest Whitaker," go here. And to join Forest at the “Rogue One” exclusive screening in London and attend the after-party, place a bid online by December 9 here. If you're like us, and can't get enough of "Star Wars," you'll also want to check out the Los Angeles premiere and our treasure trove of autographed merchandise, which includes a suitcase filled with "Rogue One" toys and action figures.
Sotheby’s: How did you prepare to play Saw Gerrera in "Rogue One?"
Forest Whitaker: There’s a rich history of who Saw Gerrera is and where he originated, since the character existed in Star Wars lore before Rogue One was filmed. I started to prepare by looking at his journey throughout the Clone Wars series, and worked to understand Saw's sense of leadership on Onderon, his home planet. Then I explored how he began to fight back in the militia, and tracked the ways in which his training evolved: becoming a rebel as the war continued and ultimately even becoming too extreme for the rebels. Alongside a movement coach, I worked to figure out the significance of Saw's staff, which was imbued with great significance and the memories of his past.
Saw was trained by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker themselves, so the staff was much more than a walking tool; it was a way for Saw to incorporate his Jedi training and that philosophy into his existence. The staff also served as a reminder of the battles, which caused Saw to lose his leg, and helped me to build the character's emotions on my own. I saw how the loss of his friends and family pushed him to understand that the universe was being destroyed, and resulted in him becoming a freedom fighter in order to stop the destruction of the universe.
S: You’ve taken on a diverse range of roles. When you sign onto a movie, are you drawn to particular types of characters, scripts or themes?
FW: As an artist, I'm always attempting to continue to grow and find new ways to challenge myself. I seek to understand the connections between each character I've played throughout my career, as well as how they each relate to humanity. So, I look to choose characters, scripts and themes that help me to continue to explore that humanity, and which centre around our relationships within the world and the ways we can improve the quality of our lives.
S: Could you talk a bit about the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative and what inspired you to start that organization?
FW: WPDI is an organization that I created in 2012 to mobilize young women and men from places that have been impacted by conflict or violence. In 2006, I was working on "The Last King of Scotland" in Uganda when I met Sam Okello. He was enrolled as a child soldier in the civil war that tore the north of the country for years. He told me of the campus he had created, Hope North, to rehabilitate former child soldiers. Too often, these children have lost everything. These youths needed more than assistance. I gave a lot of thinking to this and eventually came up with the main idea behind WPDI – to gather young women and men who come from traumatized communities and give them a unique set of skills as mediators, communicators, and entrepreneurs. My view is that we can help peace if we help communities transform from the inside, on their own terms. This is where the young people I train and support through WPDI are so important. They can bring about positive change that is based on global awareness, but that remains in tune with local realities.
3 months Ago
Every holiday sparks a flurry of activity and while we understand the lure of checking off your list as quickly as possible, it would be a mistake to skip over IfOnly’s one-of-a-kind gifts only available by auction. We believe these extraordinary experiences are worth the extra effort to surprise and delight.
IfOnly’s live auctions are thrilling and fast-paced. Fortunately, here’s a handy cheat sheet, which provides an overview of the process.
Step 1: Log in or sign up at IfOnly.
Our auctions are open to registered members only. Credit card information is necessary to place and confirm bids. You’ll only be charged if you win the auction.
Step 2: Place your bid.
Once you place a bid, you’ll be taken to an order page. By clicking the green “PLACE BID” button you’re consenting to pay for the auction item if you win. As a rule, you cannot cancel or retract a bid. How much should you bid? Starting and incremental bids are determined by our luminaries and will be stated on the page.
Step 3: Track your auction.
We make it easy to monitor auction items with email notifications and a prominently placed countdown display on each page. You can also find a one-click tool to export auction end dates into your calendar, so you'll always be in the know.
Step 4: Watch the final moments.
Part of the fun of an auction comes down to the final minutes. The auction clock is designed to give you a chance to respond to higher bids, so that you’ll never be outbid if you’re serious about one of our offerings. In the last two minutes, each new bid will extend the auction time by two minutes.
If you’ve won, what happens next?
You’ll receive an email confirmation and your credit card will be charged with the final bid amount. Besides tax on certain items, IfOnly does not charge additional premiums. Soon after, you’ll receive a call from our concierge to congratulate you and begin the process of redeeming your purchase.
We think IfOnly’s auctions are the jewels of our extraordinary collection of experiences. They are once-in-a-lifetime adventures that make for memorable gifts. And as the best gifts are, the thought is everything Your recipient will appreciate the extra time it took to acquire their gift and the story that comes with winning a fiercely contested auction.
We couldn't have done this without the help of our developers, members, and partners, whose feedback has made our auctions a success for the important charities that we support. To peruse IfOnly's entire catalog of celebrity-driven auctions, go here.
6 months Ago
7 months Ago
Berkeley, California is just 14 miles east of San Francisco, and yet it feels like its own quirky universe. The town is a haven for artists and eccentric thinkers and a base for grassroots activists. And thanks to a history of bucking status quo and embracing alternative forms of expression, Berkeley also happens to enjoy a flourishing health and wellness scene.
One of its native daughters is Lila Volkas, a certified life coach, holistic nutritionist in training, yoga instructor, illustrator, and kombucha brewing instructor, who shares her enlightened lifestyle as a local luminary on IfOnly.
Should you find yourself in Berkeley, here are a few of her recommended spots, selected for their good eats and good vibes.
In a cozy cave-like setting right in the hustle and bustle of downtown, Berkeley Acupuncture Project makes Chinese medicine accessible by providing a sliding scale cost per treatment. It's my favorite place to destress. 1834 University Avenue
I feel my whole body smile after eating a colorful plant-based meal from Potala. The vegan Tibetan restaurant keeps things simple with a daily menu made from seasonal and organic ingredients. Don't be fazed by the simplicity of their dishes, because it will be the most delicious plate you've ever had. My favorite is their complimentary kukicha tea that feels deeply grounding.Their agave-sweetened desserts are the perfect end to a nourishing meal. I love going here on lunch dates with friends because the atmosphere is homey and quiet and perfect for deep conversation. 1045 San Pablo Avenue
This grocery store brings to mind the Garden of Eden. Mounds of seasonal fruits and vegetables line the shop and enchant the senses. The abundance of in-season produce makes me feel so grateful to live in California. I am a big mushroom lover, and they have a whole aisle dedicated to fungi. 1550 Hopkins Street
You can feel the magic as you enter. You'll marvel at their walls stacked with glass jars filled with various herbs for medicinal teas and tinctures. 2482 Telegraph Avenue
My other favorite herb store is Twisted Thistle Apothecary. Walking in there feels like you've walked into a giant altar with bowls of crystals, incense, and smudges filling the shelves. They also have some fun festive herbs for a night out. 2508 Channing Way
This eatery serves gluten-free and paleo dishes in their beautifully designed restaurant and market. It's a dream meal come true as they sustainably source organic ingredients for their dishes. I love their probiotic coconut yogurt, which is a total cloud in your mouth and their unique camel milk that is a true taste from the desert. I sometimes bring a book and snack on some of their signature yucca chips and a kombucha while enjoying their sunny outdoor seating. 2085 Vine Street
Worker owned and operated since 1976, this postage stamp-sized juice shop also serves organic comfort dishes, salads, and desserts. I like the rice bowl with kale salad and their homemade ginger soda. 2114 Vine Street
To explore Berkeley with Lila as your guide, reserve a spot by July 30 on her Wellness Walking Tour, offered on August 6. Enjoy Paleo-approved yucca chips, herbal teas, ane more while meeting wellness experts and learning to approach everyday food as medicine.
8 months Ago
Andy Spade’s contributions to the modern gentleman’s wardrobe are numerous — from tortoise shell glasses and desert chukka boots to utilitarian man bags and tongue-in-cheek monograms. Lately, he’s turned his refined eye to elevating our pajamas. Citing the storied journalist George Plimpton known to roam the Paris Review office in boxers and Pablo Picasso, who churned out masterpieces in little more than shorts and a robe, Andy believes comfort inspires brilliance.
Just in time for Father's Day, he’s curated a selection of can't fail gifts for dad, including socks milled by the purveyor of socks to the British Royal Family and tailored pajama shirts that are versatile enough to be worn out. Much of his inspiration for creating traditional wares with a modern twist can be credited to his dad, a copywriter during the Mad Men era. To mark Andy's witty additions to our site, IfOnly asked him to share a few of his favorite Father’s Day memories.
IfOnly: How did your dad inspire you?
Andy Spade: He always has had a great sense of humor. He worked as a copywriter in advertising in the ’60s and ’70s, and I ended up as a copywriter in New York City in the ’80s and ’90s. He also has great style.
IO: Who else is an inspiring dad to you?
AS: My uncle, John Spade. He was the opposite of my father, a loyal family man who was always there for me growing up. IO: Any advice for dads aspiring to earn Best Dad Ever status? AS: Be present with your children. Truly listen to them and always be engaged. Give them a strong value system and make them laugh.
IO: What gift on IfOnly would you love to gift to the dads in your life?
AS: I would love to take my “dads” on a family weekend exploring old-world Venice!
IO: What is one of your most memorable experiences as a dad (or with your dad)?
AS: I think it’s the little things like walking to or home from school and talking to my daughter about her day. Also, I loved swimming with her in the pool when she was little and going to the park to play on swings and in the playground. Those are my fondest memories.
Peruse Andy Spade’s entire collection for creative dads, traditional dads, and all kinds of dads here.
9 months Ago
Ever wondered what it's like to see San Francisco from new heights? Nicole, the author of Wildlandia, shows us her adventure from IfOnly's Midday Seaplane Adventure along with her dog, Jack. You may have even seen Jack before, the dog that can balance anything on his head.
"We took off from Sausalito (just north of the Golden Gate Bridge), then flew over the city, circled around Alcatraz and the east bay, before heading north along the coastline up to Point Reyes. It was so cool to look down and see the giant redwood trees in Muir Woods, and take turns spotting gray whales off the coast."
"Jack was our co-pilot. Well, actually, we decided at the last minute that it would be too loud for him in the plane (preserving his hearing was more important) – so he stayed back on the dock with Ava, the woman who wrangles the plane in after it lands (thanks Ava!). Once we landed, Jack jumped inside the plane so he could see what we had been up to! It was so much fun. We were reminded just how beautiful this place we call home really is."
"I’d probably have to say my favorite parts were flying close to the Golden Gate Bridge and seeing the huge cliffs on the coastline. It was so cool to see another perspective of the San Francisco Bay. That, and seeing Jack on the dock doing his happy dance when we returned."
"As you know, we’re into living life to the fullest. Experiences rank higher than any material good could to us. For this experience, we used IfOnly, a company that specializes in “Experiences For Good”- extraordinary experiences that give back to charities. We loved it – and it’s great if you’re looking for something local to do while visiting a new city, or even doing something extravagant.."
"IfOnly is a great marketplace for incredible experiences. Not to mention an awesome way to give the gift of adventure to your friends and family."
Want to hear more from Nicole? Visit her amazing blog, Wildlandia.com!
10 months Ago
From hikes through rice paddy fields to spa treatments in the jungle, the mother-and-daughter adventurers didn’t have to do much to convince us that experiences, not things, are the best ways to celebrate their special bond.
World traveler and National Geographic photographer Laura Grier goes everywhere — and often in the company of her mother Isabel Blankmeyer. In honor of Mother’s Day, we asked both mom and daughter to share highlights and traveling tips from their three-week trip to Bali.
IfOnly: How does your mother inspire you?
Laura Grier: My mother taught me to respect who you are meant to be.
IO: How did your mom help you become the woman that you are today?
LG: When I was 13 years old, I was sent to the principal’s office for talking too much in science class. That day my mother gave me one of my first life lessons. She plainly asked me, "What are you good at?" And I said, I am adventurous, fearless, and creative. She then asked, “What are you not good at?” I said waking up early, being in the same place everyday, and studying. Based on my reply, she concluded she didn't see how I could be a scientist. At the time I thought she was shattering my dreams of being a zoologist. My mother then asked “What is it about zoology that you love?” I said that I wanted to travel the world, to experience new people and places, and to be around animals. Then my mother suggested that I be the photographer documenting the scientists. And it was like a light bulb went off. That conversation has shaped my entire career ever since!
IO: How are you celebrating Mother’s Day?
LG: I have decided that I am not buying objects as gifts anymore; instead, I am buying experiences and memories for both of my parents. They don't need any more stuff and spending quality time with them and having adventures is much more meaningful.
IO: What were some of the highlights from your Indonesia trip?
Isabel Blankmeyer: The scuba diving adventure on our trip to Flores Island was one of those things in life that I always dreamt about doing, and Laura was the one who made it possible. What I experienced underwater was more beautiful and surreal than I could have ever imagined.
And having one-on-one time with Laura my youngest daughter, I got to know her better as an adult. We had spa treatments in the jungle, met new friends, and went on adventures and were almost stranded by an erupting volcano. I also really enjoyed watching Laura at work, photographing artisans around the world. It was really fun being her assistant.
IO: What kinds of experiences and moments do you most cherish with your daughter?
IB: Being able to talk and to do things together without any other distraction. It’s very rare for a mother of four to have one on one time with any of her children. To cherish time alone with Laura and to experience daily adventures like motorcycle rides or impromptu hikes through the rice paddy fields of Bali was very special.
IO: What are some lessons that your daughter taught you?
IB: Laura has resilience, an adventurous spirit, and and never gives up when something doesn’t go her way. On our trip she was determined to get me to Flores island, despite the erupting volcano and airports closures. She always finds a way.
IO: What is your favorite photograph that Laura has taken of you?
IB: We took photos of each other when we were sitting on the deck of the phinisi boat on a cot having my coffee with the clear blue water and boats in the background. I was so relaxed and felt on top of the world. I couldn’t believe it was really happening and that we were living on a boat and sailing around to Komodo Island and through the islands of Indonesia.
IO: What are some tips for moms and daughters planning to travel together?
IB: Give each other a little bit more space. I was always wanting to talk to Laura, because we never get to see each other, but I didn't realize it was Laura's vacation as well. Each day allow yourself to have your own time for an hour and just relax or reflect on the day. I would also say to enjoy and savor every moment you have with your daughter. It is a luxury to be able to spend time together — and takes tons of photos.
To retrace Isabel and Laura’s adventures in Indonesia, peruse Laura’s photography workshop, now available to IfOnly members.
11 months Ago
Over Big Game week, IfOnly’s corporate team delivered an extraordinary experience for a venture capital client. The tech industry's biggest players gathered at The Fillmore in San Francisco to see a private performance by John Mayer followed by an after-party at the legendary jazz club The Boom Boom Room. To recap the evening, we asked IfOnly’s VP of Sales Mimi Almeida to share her winning party formula.
IfOnly: What was the request from the client?
Mimi Almeida: They wanted a progressive one-night event including an exclusive dinner, an invitation-only private performance for 420, and an after-party for 200.
IO: What were some of the challenges your team faced?
MA: The challenge was to design an event right before the Big Game. Our invitation would have to stand out during a hectic week of corporate entertaining and have long-term recall for the audience.
IO: In the end, everyone had a wonderful time. The party lit up social media and was well received in the press. How did you turn it into the talk of the town?
MA: The recipe for success began with an amazing ingredient list including a visionary client, legendary and contemporary luminaries, and an eclectic audience. Folded into that was exceptional planning and execution. Then we added two iconic San Francisco venues: The Fillmore for dinner and the private concert and The Boom Boom Room for the after-party. The main draw was the talent: one renowned singer-songwriter John Mayer and one up-and-coming, Grammy-nominated artist Leon Bridges. In every recipe there is a secret ingredient and to surprise and delight, we had Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead join John Mayer on stage.
IO: Who was in the audience?
MA: A mix of well-known tech titans, corporate CEOs, up-and-coming tech whiz kids, and local and national celebrities.
IfOnly: Who designed the menu for your VIP guest list, many of whom are epicureans?
Mimi Almeida: Our Director of Culinary Michael Murphy assembled a trio of celebrated chef luminaries who defined California cuisine: Nancy Oakes of Boulevard, Traci Des Jardins of Jardiniere, and Emily Luchetti of Park Tavern and Marlowe. To fuel the after-party, we hired Del Popolo Pizza Truck. No one left hungry.
The IfOnly for Business team is standing by with unparalleled access to exclusive venues, notable luminaries, and extraordinary experiences that engage, retain, and reward your audience. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
11 months Ago
Since launching our close encounter experiences with the San Francisco Zoo, IfOnly has sent members to wander among lemurs, to pet a hedgehog, and to march with penguins. And the best part? In the very short time since starting our partnership in December of 2015, we have raised over $40,000 for wildlife conservation.
In collaborating with the zoo, we had the pleasure of getting to know their human friends, the zookeepers and vets, who care for the animals' wellness and know everything about their behaviors and rituals. IfOnly has worked closely with zookeepers to unlock behind-the-scenes access without altering day-to-day operations. From hand-feeding giraffes to meeting an endangered red panda, these experiences go beyond general ticket admission for an unforgettable day with your loved ones.
To peruse all of our close encounters and to book your own insider day, visit our San Francisco Zoo Shop.
A Year Ago
On this holiday of flying cherubs and frilly lace, more is more. Rather than think outside the box, IfOnly started with our bestselling chocolate box and layered on decadent extras: an itinerary of acclaimed restaurants, private jet transportation, meetings with chefs, 10 nights of luxurious accommodations — and the World's Most Extravagant Chocolate Box was born.
The original Constellation Chocolate Collection is comprised of 21 pieces that take you on a journey through the minds of 21 notable chefs. For Valentine's Day, IfOnly's Culinary Director Michael Murphy added a sprinkle of stardust to create a chocolate box that goes beyond just experiencing top chefs. Our dream offering takes you on a moveable feast, unlocking in-person access to the culinary world's biggest players.
If you're wondering what makes a box of chocolate worth $100,000, it's a ten-night trip that takes you to six dinners at the country’s most renowned and hard-to-reserve restaurants. Travelers will also meet with trusted tastemakers on both coasts; embark on a champagne flight while mid-air on a private jet; deepen their appreciation of food with guided wine and chocolate tastings, dine at Chez Panisse, Le Bernardin, Quince, Barbuto, and the list goes on. Here, in Michael’s words, is how he masterminded this food lover’s dream trip.
IfOnly: What was the idea behind the original chocolate box?
Michael Murphy: Do you remember the little yellow Whitman sampler box? When I was a child, I was given one by my aunt every Valentine’s Day. As exciting as it is to get a box of chocolates, the map portion of it was even more exciting. I matched up which was a chocolate cherry, which was a coconut, which was hazelnut and as I discovered each chocolate one by one, I began to understand taste. And our Constellation Chocolate Collection elevates that. So, there’s such legendary chefs as Michael Tusk and Gary Danko who have their own personal favorites that define the restaurant.
IO: IfOnly's latest offering, the World's Most Extravagant Chocolate Box, is not just a box of chocolates, it’s a gastronomic tour. What considerations went into arranging it?
MM: I figured that in certain rarefied circles, people who know Barbuto would also know and appreciate Quince. There are certain landmarks in America’s culinary scene that I wanted to recognize and put on this road map of taste discovery.
IO: And how did you assemble the fascinating group of dining companions?
MM: Whoever indulges in this offering is already passionate about food and wants us to unlock access to the best of everything. And so, I sought out influential culinary tastemakers. One is Adam Sachs, a James Beard Award-winning journalist who now heads Saveur magazine as the editor-in-chief. Another is acclaimed author Alice Medrich known as “the queen of chocolate.” And there is Michael Bauer, the legendary food and wine editor and restaurant critic who has been at his post at the San Francisco Chronicle for 26 years. He knows the west coast food scene intimately as he dines out every night.
IO: How should one prepare for such a grand trip?
MM: Be prepared for the gluttony to overtake you. You’re putting yourself in their hands. That’s what I do whenever I visit a restaurant. Try to go with open eyes and an accepting demeanor. All a chef wants to do is make you happy and that goes from the executive chef down to the starting chefs. I would suggest that you do a bit of research. Read just the right amount, so that you’ve prepared yourself, but don't read so much that you can’t be surprised.
IO: And if you’re still saving up for the trip, what should you give to your date this Valentine's Day?
MM: Our latest chocolate offering would be the grandest of all romantic gestures, a bucket list for food lovers, a splurge, an epic trip of discovery, a lavish gift for someone you love, and also a very expensive one. For those whose budgets are a bit more modest, IfOnly’s original chocolate box will still take you to the best restaurants in the country. Our 21-piece Constellation Chocolate Collection is available to purchase for $75 and our 9-piece is $32.
A Year Ago
When IfOnly’s Culinary Director Michael Murphy says he has the answer to stress-free holiday entertaining, you listen carefully and take notes.
As a giver of fabulous parties and of excellent restaurant recommendations, Michael is sharing 20 of his favorite SF spots for celebrating out; each adventure is unique, good for groups, and under $100 per person, promising a lot of jollies for the price. Currently not on IfOnly’s site, consider these experiences off-the-menu offerings and exclusively available through our concierge.
To book any of the revels below, kindly email email@example.com or call 415-376-4640.
Idea No. 1 Go to the Swiss Alps without leaving town: Have a fondue party in the lodge-like setting of Pacific Heights restaurant Matterhorn.
Idea No. 2 Take high tea with bubbles and bites while perched on the fifth floor of Neiman Marcus’ restaurant Rotunda.
Idea No. 3 Learn to mix the boozy fruit punch known as the Pimm’s Cup while popping deviled quail eggs at The Cavalier.
Idea No. 4 Master the art of making fresh tortillas and salsa with a little patience, practice, and guidance from Chef Andrea Lawson Gray, the author of Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes.
Idea No. 5 Wash down an assortment of pinxtos with artisan-crafted gin and tonics at Michael Chiarello’s tapas restaurant Coqueta.
Idea No. 6 Host the world's most gourmet pizza-making party at Michael Tusk’s authentic Italian eatery Cotogna.
Idea No. 7 Watch flour and water magically transformed in a two-part pasta lesson and lunch at Mission’s iconic California-Italian pioneer Delfina.
Idea No. 8 Sink into the most private booth of Tyler Florence's eatery Wayfare Tavern for fried chicken and other tasty morsels.
Idea No. 9 Keep it classy at Original Joe’s with a cocktail demo led by a tuxedoed mixologist paired with savory fare inspired by the Mad Men era.
Idea No. 10 Keep it low-key with a weekend brunch at the Mission’s most charming alfresco spot, the patio at Foreign Cinema.
Idea No. 11 Throw a party at Park Tavern with bar bites and demos from the restaurant’s friendly mixologists.
Idea No. 12 Tipple Campari libations in the delightful company of San Francisco Chronicle’s restaurant critic Michael Bauer.
Idea No. 13 Pub and grub inside a national park at the craft-beer sanctuary Sessions in Presidio — and take in views of the Golden Gate Bridge over flights and bites.
Idea No. 14 Praise another kind of holy trinity: burgers, bourbon, and beer at the restaurant Dirty Habit hidden away on the fifth floor of Hotel Zeloes.
Idea No. 15 Skip Chinatown and head to South Beach's Yank Sing for a bespoke dim sum lunch.
Idea No. 16 Sit on the dock of the bay while treating your favorite vegetarians (and reluctant vegetarians) to a seasonal meal at the seminal meat-free restaurant Greens.
Idea No. 17 Visit a real-life chocolate factory in the heart of the Mission for a private tasting and tour of Dandelion Chocolate.
Idea No. 18 Embark on a cheese education with wine and beer pairings at Mission Cheese.
Idea No. 19 Tell tequila to move over and get to know mezcal, the small-batch spirit hailing from Oaxaca and other regions in Mexico, with Mezcalistas blogger Susan Coss.
Idea No. 20 Reserve a tapas and paella party atop Russian Hill at the cozy neighborhood Spanish spot Zarzuela.
A Year Ago
In November 2010, Christina Stembel took her entire savings, an amount of $50,000, and founded Farmgirl Flowers. It was her entry into a $3 billion industry dominated by four companies who delivered by her assessment “ugly,” "roundy-moundy," “half-dead” flowers. To challenge the establishment, she offered just one daily arrangement of locally grown flowers in a trademarked burlap wrap.
Telling a customer she couldn’t pick her favorite flowers but could expect a surprise of seasonal blooms was a gutsy first, and early on, her account dipped down to a nail-biting $411. Now delivering across the country from SF’s storied Flower Mart, Christina shares her success and lessons on the business she started around her kitchen table.
IfOnly: What was the inspiration for Farmgirl Flowers?
Christina Stembel: I worked at Stanford and at the time oversaw events for the school. I couldn’t understand why the flowers cost so much. I don’t think it’s a good value for the money. That was really what I set out to fix.
IO: What are some ways your company is revolutionizing the cut-flower business?
CS: You know when you have 50 flower options half of them are going to be thrown out. The waste in the industry is huge: 40 to 60 percent of flowers that are bought are never sold. They end up in a compost bin. If you buy the tulips, they have to subsidize the lilies that are going to be thrown out. Everything we buy we use. That’s what allows us to offer a designer bouquet at a generic price. We haven’t hit over one percent of waste over a year and a half. We are at .27 percent right now in waste. We do farm visits with the team and once our team saw how hard everyone was working on the farm, our waste went down even further.
IO: You’re a champion of American-grown flowers. Can you tell us about the field-to-vase movement?
CS: I’m really passionate about supporting local farmers because they adhere to local standards. Everybody thinks because it’s flowers, it’s a green company but it’s the furthest from that. Twenty percent of the chemicals that [South American importers] ship the flowers in are carcinogens that we don’t allow in this country any other way other than flowers. In the U.S. farmers are paying living wages: an average of $104 a day versus $6 a day [in South America which is less than half of the region's minimum wage]. We need to support the farmers who pay their workers a living wage and that’s why I choose American grown. It’s not because it’s a marketing ploy. It’s just the right thing to do.
IO: How has domestic floraculture been affected by the global outsouricing of flowers?
CS: From an environmental impact standpoint, shipping flowers from South America to Miami then to a flower mart in San Francisco or LA doesn’t make sense. These flowers are traveling thousands of miles in jets when there are growers just 20 miles from here growing the very same exact thing, or they were until they were put out of business. There used to be 150 commercial-sized growers in California 25 years ago, and now there are five.
IO: How has the modern sensibility for flower arrangements evolved?
CS: What was considered modern before was 12 roses lined up in a square vase. That’s not modern anymore. When I came up with our aesthetic, I was making what I wanted to receive. That was my mantra. Don’t ever send something out that you wouldn’t personally want to receive. When our team members order arrangements to send out, I don’t let them make special ones for their friends or their mom or anyone. If we’re making something special that means the one we are regularly making isn’t good enough.
IO: Do you offer one bouquet even for weddings?
CS: We don’t even let our brides pick their flowers. We have the same model, but we do give them two options: Do you want the prim and proper or the wild child? We all prefer the wild child.
IO: Was it difficult to educate your consumer to appreciate your one-a-day arrangement?
CS: It’s part of the process that makes us really unique. We’re going to surprise you. We’re going to exceed your expectations. We promise. We have a 100% guarantee. If you don’t like it, let us know and we’ll give you your money back. Not having to give money back has been really good.
IO: There are a lot of flower startups in the market. What’s different about Farmgirl Flowers?
CS: Farmgirl Flowers is the only female-founded flower startup. All of them are male founded and it shows because the thing that they don’t put the emphasis on is the product. They put the emphasis on the technology. We put the money on our product. We don’t hire fancy photographers. We have a lot of people who want to run our social media campaigns. I do it. I’m also really proud of the fact that everything is in house. All of our team members have medical insurance and workers’ comp. I believe that if I treat people really well that they will do a really great job. We have a lot of heart in our product more so than most people in the industry.
IO: What are the aesthetic considerations behind your arrangements?
CS: In the beginning, I really liked monochromatic arrangements because I was scared of looking like a grocery store arrangement. Then, I would put these pictures up [on social media]. Everyone would say they’re gorgeous, but where’s the color? So I created a recipe that uses one bold color, one muted color, and one neutral. Only one arrangement means we have to appeal to the people who like the bright colors and those that like the muted ones.
IO: What’s your design process like?
CS: [My lead designer Rhiannon Smith] sends me an inspiration board. It has color swatches and pictures. For instance, a house we saw in Pacific Heights where the colors really went together. I’ll send her notes. I’m very particular about color.
IO: Any favorite colors?
CS: I didn’t realize that I’m a peach junkie. I love peach. It’s the new neutral. You put it with purple, pinks, reds, oranges, and blues. It goes with everything.
IO: What are you looking forward to this fall?
CS: Leaves and foliage are a big thing. We love using persimmons, pomegranates, and edibles in the arrangements that inspire the mood. It’s our take on the pumpkin spice latte basically.
Can't get enough of Farmgirl Flowers? IfOnly has partnered with the it girls to host a workshop at their headquarters inside SF's Flower Mart. Learn more here.
A Year Ago
In celebration of IfOnly's local launch, we're going California dreaming: we've handpicked the things that make San Francisco so charming and the equally charming local luminaries to show you around.
The wholesale market, the second largest in the country, features hydrangeas in every hue, orchids of every variety, succulents of all shapes; it's everything a modern day flower girl would want.
IfOnly Guide: Rhiannon Smith, the city’s it-girl floral designer and owner of Farmgirl Flowers
Navigate the 60 vendors and learn her foolproof formulas for creating gorgeous bouquets.
The world’s most gourmet terminal: Since 1998, the 65,000 square-foot nave, once a working baggage area, is a showcase of the bay’s best food purveyors, launching household brands like Blue Bottle coffee and Scharffen Berger chocolate.
IfOnly Guide: Liam Mayclem, Emmy-winning host of local KCBS’ segment “Foodie Chap” Embark on a moveable feast of local delicacies led by a beloved food broadcaster who has personally interviewed many of the purveyors inside the Ferry Building.
The bay is home to world champion teams and storied franchises. On game days, the bars are crowded, the stadiums are packed, and everyone is in team colors.
IfOnly Guide: Smash Mouth’s Steve Harwell, rockstar and devoted sports fan
The “All-Star” rocker is game for anything: whether it’s AT&T Park to root for the Giants, Levi’s Stadium for the 49ers, The Coliseum for the Warriors, or the SAP Center for the Sharks on home ice.
SF’s relationship with weather is famously complicated. On the days when it’s sunny, the entire city goes outside.
IfOnly Guide: Alexandra Kenin, Founder of Urban Hiker
Avoid the crowds and head to the Presidio. Not many people, not even locals know that the former military base is now a national park with hiking trails, world-class art, and exhilarating views.
With its panoramic bay views and mild climate, SF is a wonderland for joggers.
IfOnly Guide: Jen Revelli, Triathlon Coach
Join the Ironman competitor at the Golden Gate Bridge for 180 degree views and endurance-enhancing tips in this two-in-one cardio and sightseeing experience.
It’s a daily ritual among the bon vivants of our city — unless it’s Tuesday (see below).
IfOnly Guide: Debbie Zachareas, proprietor and wine expert at The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant will help you crack the oenophile code while enjoying a few choice sips.
IfOnly Guide: Darren Main, Mystic and Yoga Guru
No ordinary yoga session, Darren takes his class of 600 on a powerful centering journey inside the Gothic landmark.
IfOnly has a few ideas depending on your mood. While most spots will leave a few seats available for walk-ins, we suggest that visitors make reservations and not leave this part of their itinerary to chance.
Marlowe Burger: Head to Anna Weinberg and Jennifer Puccio’s casual annex for the town’s most famous burger.
A16: Just a stone’s throw from the Presidio, this neighborhood restaurant is famous for its authentic Neapolitan pizza.
State Bird Provisions: Secure a seat at this innovative tapas menu — or get a drink next door at sister restaurant Progress.
Mourad: Sample the flavorful tagines at this California-inflected Moroccan restaurant.
Coqueta: Nibble on tapas at Michael Chiarello’s hot spot set against the beautiful views of the Embarcadero.
As night falls, many residents will retire to the city’s bars or spend a night at the ballet or symphony. IfOnly does one better: Combining high-brow culture and booze in one.
IfOnly Guide: Dorka Keehn, SF Public Arts Commissioner and artist herself
Tour the city as she takes you to her favorite installations and discuss the art scene over a drink. You’ll see works by Jim Campbell, Ned Kahn, James Turrell, and Dorka herself.
To peruse more inspired experiences with local luminaries in San Francisco, visit our entire collection of delightful offerings here.
A Year Ago
A match with Andre Agassi decades in the making
Planning a 40th birthday is a whole different beast than one's 30th, and for that reason, IfOnly has a few ideas. You could set sail for the edge of the world while benefiting eco fund Lindblad-National Geographic.
Or, you could go on a very fast ride funding Haitian Relief.
Or, treat your loved ones to an exquisite feast for Tipping Point.
Or, as one of our clients did, challenge your childhood hero to a friendly game on his court.
Our client, a Londoner, enlisted IfOnly as his personal concierge to create an unforgettable trip halfway across the world. There, he met the town’s most prominent’s locals: tennis power couple Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf who donated a portion of the sales to Children for Tomorrow. Having never ventured to Las Vegas, which can be an overwhelming city to the uninitiated, everything was taken care of: dinners at critically acclaimed restaurants, a suite with the best view of the Strip, customized wine tastings, and backstage access to the most transportive of shows. And yet, all these experiences were only openers to the main event.
On the day of the match, it was sunny with a bit of breeze. Andre and Stefanie met our client and his wife on the court. There were pointers on how to swing, a friendly game of doubles, and one very special moment — one play that will be recounted with relish over countless drinks and dinners. It was a point scored over Andre. The champion took it in stride, and after the session, he worked with the pro shop on hand-selecting a racquet for our client's style of swing as a memento of their time together.
The lesson of 40th birthday planning: when in doubt, go big, of course, and more importantly, make it memorable. And should your experience involve a match of skill, make sure there's evidence, as in this highlight reel. IfOnly had arranged for Andre's personal videographer to be on site. Watch the resulting video here.
Plotting a big birthday that will top all others? Enlist IfOnly’s Concierge as your partner in crime. Call (415) 376-4640 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For a private clinic with Andre Agassi or Stefanie Graff, go here.
A Year Ago
Allow us to present our gift guide of 40 exhilarating experiences we know moms everywhere will adore. What inspires such confidence you might wonder? Our list was inspired by her greatest lessons. For teaching us to never be afraid, to seek out adventure, and eight other life-changing lessons, we’ll be reciprocating in kind — with bliss-out weekends, master classes, once-in-a-lifetime journeys, and more.
Visit IfOnly to peruse our entire selection of experiences, many under $100. Highlighted below are some of the most talked about gifts in our edit that have somehow found their way onto our own wish list. Lesson number one just so happens to be “every so often, indulge yourself.” Whatever mother says, it’s never wrong.
Lesson No. 1
Every so often, indulge yourself...with one of Oprah's Favorite Things
Tulips and roses are lovely — but imagine mom’s delight when she opens a box of fresh-cut gardenia vines. Beautifully scented and the flower of surprise and new possibilities, they will add beauty to her home. And did we mention they are one of Oprah’s favorite things? Float the blooms in a bowl for a different and unique arrangement.
Lesson No. 3
Own your style... with a personal session with Veronica Beard
Every season, fashion-forward women await the beautifully designed collection from New York duo Veronica Miele Beard and Veronica Swanson Beard prized for their chic and endlessly versatile pieces. Now it’s mom’s turn to be styled by this dynamic duo.
Lesson No. 5
Make time to cook... with a lesson from Alice Waters
Invite your mom to meet Alice Waters, and together they’ll craft a lovely four-course, farm-to-table menu, fusing seasonal ingredients with classic culinary technique. Having the chef who sparked the good food revolution show you her favorite preparations is the ultimate for any epicurean. If you love your mom’s home-cooking, it’s the gift that will keep on giving.
Lesson No. 7
Set a lovely table...let a wine expert curate your sips
Show us a mom who doesn’t love wine. Make this guaranteed-to-please gift extra special with a trio selected for their pretty floral notes by wine expert Debbie Zachareas.
Lesson No. 9
Begin an adventure...tour Florence with an Italian jetsetter
Wine and dine mom in Italy. Let her see the famous piazzas and Renaissance masterpieces at her own pace, squired by an Italian nobleman Count Vittorio Carioni.
To see all ten lessons and their accompanying gifts — including balloon rides, wellness camps, and other memorable experiences for mom — visit our Mother’s Day Gift Guide here.
A Year Ago
For a walk-through of notable works in his private collection.
By day, Trevor Traina runs IfOnly. Off duty, he is one of San Francisco’s pre-eminent collectors of modern photography. His not-so-secret alter ego is revealed when you visit the office, which is a veritable gallery with wall-to-wall pieces of genre-defining works. There's Ann Collier in the lobby; Tina Barney in accounting, and Nan Goldin in Trevor's office.
A self-proclaimed “art omnivore,” the tech entrepreneur dallied in 19th century American art before becoming fascinated by modern photography. What pulls him in is the medium's storytelling; there's a beginning, middle, and sometimes shocking denouement, captured in one moment. Truly smitten, “If I couldn't afford the photographs, I'd buy the posters,” says Trevor, “and if I couldn't afford those, I'd have the postcards.”
Trevor has acquired over 300 photographs, and his collection is growing. In 2012, the deYoung organized “Real to Real,” an exhibit of 100 of his works, serving as a cross-section of modern photography. If you missed it, he is offering tours of his private collection on IfOnly. Here’s a glimpse of what you might see in situ at his home in Pacific Heights.
Diane Arbus’ Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967
“The greatest photo of the 20th century,” in Trevor’s opinion. “Twins are copies of the same negative in a sense, and this photo is so great on so many levels.” While some might see a ghostly black-and-white portrait, he “finds them cheery, sweet little girls — charming and fun and witty."
Lee Friedlander’s New York City
Many photos from Trevor’s collection, like this one, highlight his interest in fashion as costume and the theatricality of the everyday while unexpectedly depicted in a gritty documentarian style.
Andreas Gursky’s Dortmund
Fascinated by the technical virtuosity of German photographer Andreas Gursky, who pioneered large scale digital printmaking, Trevor had to have this one. The scale of this image is conveyed in the thousands of individual faces of soccer fans.
William Eggleston’s The Red Ceiling
One of the cornerstones of his collection, this all-over monochromatic photo was displayed at MOMA in a breakthrough exhibit on color photography in 1976. “While there were other great photos in the show, color—the rich red—is essential to this one," explains Trevor, "and without it, the photo would lose all impact.” Rock fans might also recognize the photo as the album cover of ‘70s band Big Star.
Tina Barney’s The Landscape
This large-scale photograph by American photographer Tina Barney hangs in IfOnly’s office. It is a tableau of a seemingly ordinary family gathering until you see the watchful side glance of the central woman. What could she be up to? It makes an intriguing ice breaker, as we often ask our visitors to interpret her look.
Thomas Struth’s Yosemite
The majesty of wide open spaces and the freedom of the road trip are recurring themes of Trevor’s collection. “As a California native, I love to see Yosemite so represented.”
Interested in seeing more of Trevor's collection? Purchase the tour here with a portion of sales benefiting Tipping Point whose mission is to fight poverty and empower families in San Francisco.
A Year Ago
On the eve of the James Beard Foundation Awards, celebrating its 25th year, we remember the father of American cuisine.
In 1946, a caterer and shopkeeper named James Beard went on TV to do the first-ever cooking show “I Love to Eat” on NBC. It would launch his career as an authority on food. Before James Beard, to be gourmet meant nibbling on frog legs and other specialtés de la maison. Bored with the French having all the fun, Beard instead championed local specialties, particularly dishes made at home like salmon, meatloaf, and the food his mom raised him on in Portland, Oregon. Believing that American food belonged in the same pantheon as French and Italian cuisines, he went onto write more than 20 books that established a culinary canon. Among the standards that have become our national identity thanks to Beard include: crab louis salad, bloody marys, and hamburgers.
Since his death in 1985, James Beard has become a legend. He earned the title “dean of American cuisine” a reference to the James Beard Cooking School he founded in 1955. He has been compared to a Walt Whitman for advocating America’s exceptionalism, “a giant panda, Santa Claus and the Jolly Green Giant rolled into one” by the NY Times food critic Craig Claiborne, and a father figure widely beloved by this generation of chefs, critics, and restaurateurs. Among them is IfOnly’s Culinary Director Michael Murphy, who once met the man and had a “Luke, I am your father moment” over Triscuits and Monterey jack cheese. Michael remembered Beard being a kind, gregarious, and lovely host.
The Award Show
Every first Monday of May, the culinary industry comes together for the James Beard Foundation Awards, what former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl and just about everyone in the industry calls the “Oscars of the food world.” With Robert de Niro and Martha Stewart mingling with the country’s biggest chefs, it is the most glamorous event organized by the foundation, whose mission is to continue America's culinary heritage through scholarships and programs. In its 25th year, the gala will be held on May 4th, and for the first time it will move from New York’s Lincoln Center to Chicago's Lyric Opera.
For the second year in a row, join the celebration and attend the James Beard Awards with our exclusive tickets. Treat yourself to delicacies and experiences from semi-finalists and past winners. When attending the gala, do as Michael does: “have a proper lunch before you go” (the lines for food and drink are long), “no whistling or crazy whooping as your restaurant's name is announced by the presenter,” and don’t forget to “congratulate everyone.” As for the after party? Thomas Keller's for caviar and champagne.
A Year Ago
The artisanal preserve maker on why the old ways are the best ways and how jam goes with everything.
On the day of our visit, June Taylor had just come from hand-picking thirty-five pounds of Meyer lemons in her friend’s backyard. If she weren't showing us around her Berkeley kitchen, she might have also picked the wild fennel she spied along the marina. The London native and maker of highly inventive artisan jams is turning a dilemma in her head. “Do I want to do Meyer lemon with lavender, geranium, rosemary, myrtle, bay, sage…” She trails off. “And that’s the headache.”
Considerations like this one have informed her 25-plus year career of making jams that strike just the right balance — savory rather than fruit-forward (read not too sweet) and sparkling with lucid flavors. In other words, her jams are like fine wines. Last fall, IfOnly Culinary Director Michael Murphy collaborated with June to create an exclusive Triptych of Small-Batch Artisanal Preserves comprised of clementine marmalades, candied citrus peel, and a fruit syrup. Curious what our favorite marmalade maker will be doing with those lemons? And how best to enjoy her small-batch creations? Hint: it’s not just on toast.
IfOnly: How would you describe your work?
June Taylor: We work by hand. We produce all of our preserves and confections in the Still Room. It’s old-fashioned, historic, and pre-dated.
IO: The Still Room is the name you’ve given to your storefront and headquarters. What’s the significance of it?
JT: A couple hundred years ago, it was a special room on the side of the kitchen and the woman of the house would have overseen it. She would have had an assistant or two and they would have distilled lotions and medicines from herbs and flowers and they would have preserved from the gardens and orchards. So our work is a nod and honor to that time and that spirit. It’s a method and a style.
IO: Why did you decide to open your own jam making company?
JT: It was a constellation of three things: [wanting to work for myself], having a baby and deciding that I would not feed him commercial food, and the belief that you couldn’t get a good marmalade anywhere anymore — here or in Britain. So, I was teaching myself marmalade making and with the encouragement of Steven from Redwood Hill Dairy, I started selling my marmalades in the market. That’s the history!
IO: Tell us about your fabulous collaborations.
JT: Recently I worked with Michael Recchiuti at The Lab to make a six-course meal. I also made a chocolate bar with the Mast Brothers using my citrus candy. And when I go to Japan, I like to work with chefs there. Yuri Nomura from Eatrip in Tokyo used multiple products to create some beautiful meals in her restaurant while I was there. I also collaborate with Michael Tilson Thomas to bring preserves to the San Francisco Orchestra as their holiday gifts each year. Collaboration is definitely the way I like to go.
IO: Do you have a personal favorite from your collection?
JT: I love marmalades. They offer deep, developed flavors that can be sweet, bitter, and sour. Their complexity intrigues me.
IO: And if you were stuck on a desert island?
JT: If I can take three preserves they would be Santa Rosa Plum Conserve, Red Cloud Apricot Conserve, and Three Fruit Marmalade.
IO: Did you go to culinary school?
JT: I was guided to go to a technical high school in the UK from the ages of 11 to 18, where I studied cookery for seven years. I was essentially trained as a cook with two years of classic French cuisine (made consommé once at the tender age of 16). It was the foundation for all of my subsequent food work: first as a baker, then preserve maker, and confectioner.
IO: How has your palate evolved over the years?
JT: I have become bolder in my use of as little sugar as we can get away with. I explore flavors from unusual sources such as pine and cypress trees and wild herbs. By pairing two fruits, two herbs, or three of each, you can learn about the interaction of different flavors. Which is dominant, which is in the background, how to create balance between them.
IO: You often use heirloom fruits. Where do you find inspiration for your unique and unusual ingredients?
JT: My dad was a very keen gardener. We grew most of our own vegetables. Not much was bought from stores. Since then my inspiration has come from reading British antiquarian preserving and confectionary books, and I have been fortunate to study books from the 1500’s onwards. I read and imagine. I discover fruits in books and then try to search them out here. For example, medlars, Reine Claude Doree plums, greengages, and damson plums.
IO: Do you have a favorite historical period that’s informed your jams?
JT: I am particularly fascinated with the Tudor era; a time when the cuisine of Britain was entering a Renaissance and sugar was beginning to make its appearance in foods.
IO: When you’re not buying from sustainable and organic farms, you often forage. Why gather ingredients this way?
JT: My model is about a time we inevitably, without thought, ate what was around us without calling it a choice. I want to embrace the fact that it’s important to eat urban food. It’s really about being observant in one’s environment, and that principle of gathering is the same perspective I take in the work.
IO: Do you have a favorite harvesting season?
JT: It has to be winter, because I love the graphic look of trees in winter and it feels closer to home in climate. Also, we make marmalades then, which are my personal favorite preserves.
IO: How do you like to enjoy your jam?
JT: I have long worked with fruit and savory herbs to encourage my customer to break out of the toast and jam mold. In Britain, we have a long tradition of putting fruit with meat, cheese, and fish, and I hope very much that I can inspire my customers to enjoy our preserves that way.
Have a gourmet tip? IfOnly’s Culinary Director Michael Murphy is always on the hunt for his next culinary luminary. Contact him at email@example.com
A Year Ago
We follow the money to Bangladesh for a status report.
Last spring, IfOnly donated a sizable sum to Charity Water — and we have wonderful news to report. Our funds have been sent to Bangladesh. A country the size of Iowa with a population of over 150 million, Bangladesh is one of the most densely inhabited areas in the world. Because 16% of the population lacks access to water and 42% lacks access to sanitation, it has gotten the attention of Charity Water, whose mission is to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.
When we checked in with Charity Water, we learned our donation will be used to provide clean water access to two schools for 500 children. We also received a video documenting their status, which we are happy to share with you. Building and partnering with the local community will take some time (approximately 18 months), so stay tuned for more updates coming soon.
A Year Ago
Today, the James Beard Foundation announced the nominees for the 2015 James Beard Awards.
At IfOnly, we're honored to work with so many talented epicurean minds. They push boundaries, delight diners, and create memorable experiences in new and profound ways.
This year, 15 IfOnly luminaries and their establishments were recognized with James Beard Award nominations. We're delighted to share them with you:
Suzanne Goin, Lucques, Los Angeles - Outstanding Chef
Dana Cree, Blackbird, Chicago - Outstanding Pastry Chef
The Spotted Pig, NYC - Outstanding Restaurant
Michael Mina, Mina Group, San Francisco (Michael Mina, RN74, Bourbon Steak, and others) - Outstanding restaurateur
Quince, San Francisco - Outstanding Service
A16, San Francisco - Outstanding Wine Program
The Progress, San Francisco - Best New Restaurant
Rajat Parr, Mina Group, San Francisco - Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional
Jonathon Sawyer, The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland - Best Chef: Great Lakes
Jonathan Waxman, Barbuto - Best Chef: NYC
Matthew Accarrino, SPQR, San Francisco - Best Chef: West
Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski, State Bird Provisions, San Francisco - Best Chef: West
Corey Lee, Benu, San Francisco - Best Chef: West
Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction - Television Program, in Studio or Fixed Location
"A New Napa Cuisine" - Photography
Once again, congratulations to all the nominees! You can view the full list here.
For an experience with our roster of nominees and previous award-winners, please visit our James Beard Shop.
We'll be watching when the winners are announced on Monday, May 4th, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. In the meantime, make sure you follow @IfOnly and @BeardFoundation for the latest on the 2015 Awards.
2 years Ago
Every day, our goal is to delight our customers; to facilitate experiences they’ll remember forever. And every experience supports a great charitable cause chosen by our luminaries. Whether a beautifully signed cookbook or a once-in-a-lifetime ballooning experience, a portion of the proceeds of everything sold on IfOnly benefits charity.
One of these amazing organizations is DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. With your help and the support of these famed authors, we funded "Microscopes for Curious Minds!", bringing 4 new and high tech microscopes to an AP Biology class.
We couldn't resist sharing the letters of thanks from students in the class that received funds. We hope these letters delight you as much they did us!
Thank you so much for your generous donation to our class for the new microscopes! The new light microscopes will allow us to study topics in Biology much more deeply. Our old microscopes only allowed us to magnify up to 400x, but the new oil immersion objective lens will allow us to magnify up to 1000x. This cutting edge technology will have a major impact on our education, so I would like to thank you again for your generosity. These microscopes will have a lasting impact on our school.
Thank you so much for your generous donation in order for us to receive these new compound light microscopes! We have been in need of new microscopes for a long time, and to finally have some new, unscratched, and clear instruments is very exciting! We are very happy and so are our teachers! We can’t wait to be able to look at cells more closely with a new additional lens. Again, thank you so much!
Here's to extraordinary experiences and the wonderful causes like DonorsChoose.org you support!
2 years Ago
Resolve to make 2015 a year of profound experiences. Here are 10 New Year's Resolutions you’ll be excited to keep.
Channel your inner chef
Resolutions are about becoming the person you want to be. Start by becoming the chef you’ve always wanted to be. Immerse yourself in a lesson from a culinary master, Christopher Kostow, or find monthly inspiration with our Recipe of the Month Collection.
Commit to be fit
Fitness should be an inspiration, not an obligation. So instead of trudging away at a few miles on the less-than-pleasant treadmill at your local gym, dive into a private workout with Jerry Rice or get the Spartan treatment over a weekend with Joe De Sena, the creator of the Spartan Race.
Embark on an adventure
As a kid, every time you walked out of the front door you embarked on an adventure. In 2015, recapture that spirit. Recapture the thrill of the unknown and the excitement of pushing yourself. View the Grand Canyon like never before or heli-ski with an Olympian. Make 2015 your adventure.
Look your best
Nothing instills more confidence than knowing you look your best. In 2015, you can have this confidence every day with a personalized video styling session from the Rachel Zoe studio or a personal shopping experience from Lori Goldstein.
Improve your game
Whatever game you play, the best way to improve is by learning from a master. Their wealth of knowledge can transform your own understanding. A stroke analysis from Brad Gilbert or a lesson from chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley might be just what you need.
Entertain with style
The best experiences are shared with others. Commit to entertaining in style this year with our In-Home Chefs. They’ll make your next dinner party or get together, like the Japanese Omakase Style Dinner Party, something your guests won’t forget.
Broaden your horizons
Humans are explorers. We have an innate curiosity about the world—a hunger to unwrap its mysteries and discover its boundaries. Tap into your inner explorer with something you’ve only dreamed of, like a nomad trip to Haiti with photographer Russell James.
Refresh your interiors
Design your interior to reflect your aspirations. You’ll be brimming with inspiration as you walk past your hand-signed Atlantis Space Shuttle print and your limited edition print of a design sketch from Oscar de la Renta.
Indulge your palate
Explore world-renowned restaurants like never before. Get a new perspective on a culinary masterpiece with a private meal at your residence from Chez Panisse. Or bring one of San Francisco’s best restaurants to you, with the Moveable Feast from State Bird Provisions.
Sharpen your mind
Whatever you have in mind for 2015, make it a collection of meaningful experiences. To view more, click here.
2 years Ago
Last year, IfOnly presented 12 of our Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-winning chefs with a challenge: create a caramel that represented their unique culinary voice through one confection. As the creative flavor combinations rolled in – from pomegranate molasses to maple black truffle – each caramel distilled the chef’s culinary point of view and provided a glimpse inside the restaurant’s lauded kitchen.
A favorite project of IfOnly's team, we asked them to do it again this year. Michael Murphy, our Director of Culinary Development, collaborated with the chefs to unleash their creativity and build a distinctive and unique collection of caramels, each one handcrafted by the pastry chefs of each illustrious restaurant.
Today, we’re sharing with you the inspiration behind a few of these one-of-a-kind caramels.
Chef Joshua Skenes of the newly awarded 3 Michelin-starred Saison cultivated a recipe using grilled butter from Saison’s personal pasture of cows to create a sumptuous caramel that flawlessly portrays the restaurant’s commitment to honoring the best of each season.
Michelin-starred Chef Justin Cogley, who forages from the Carmel sea each week in order to create his award-winning menu at Aubergine, worked with Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza to craft a delicious caramel that truly celebrates the tastes of Monterey Bay, using foraged candy cap mushroom and maple.
Inspired by their new-age Moroccan restaurant Aziza, perennial favorite Chef Mourad Lahlou and Pastry Chef Melissa Chou highlighted preserved lemon to create a salty yet sweet confection that perfectly represents the flavors of traditional Moroccan cuisine while also showcasing the fresh local ingredients of Northern California.
Food & Wine “Best New Chef” in 2014 Matthew Accarrino of San Francisco’s Michelin-starred SPQR made his own nocino, a popular Italian black walnut liqueur, to incorporate into his caramel and blended it delicately with sea salt, while across the bay Chef Daniel DeLong of Sir and Star took inspiration from the Marin terrain, crafting an exquisite caramel of brown butter and Bolinas beets.
The Constellation Caramel Collection is the perfect way to experience the culinary genius of many of the world’s most legendary chefs, while also supporting a worthy cause. Great care has been taken into creating a truly fitting presentation box, and the result is the ultimate gift for you or your loved ones this holiday season.
2 years Ago
A quick recap as to why Thanksgiving is incredible:
1) It’s the start of the “Holiday Season,” a.k.a. the best part of the year.
2) Yearly traditions (I always lose to my Dad and Cousin in golf).
3) Too much pumpkin pie.
4) Too much turkey.
5) Just the right amount of football.
But, what if I told you there was an equally incredible holiday you could have before Thanksgiving. Yes, we’re talking about Friendsgiving, and we’re here to tell you all about it. Let’s dive into a quick Q&A.
1) What is Friendsgiving?
It’s Thanksgiving, but with friends—All of the food, drinks, general revelry and joy, but with your friends on a night and in a location of your choosing. It’s your chance to get all the important people in your life you don’t have a blood relation to and say, “Yes, I’m very thankful for you but could you please also pass the stuffing?”
2) Why is Friendsgiving good?
See answer #1.
3) How can I plan my Friendsgiving?
Easily! Thanks to our In Home Chefs, you just get your friends together, pick a date, and not have to worry about who’s cooking, cleaning, or failing to live up to their family’s expectations!
So get to it and book an In Home Chef. May we suggest a few options?
The Holiday Favorites Multi-Course Makeover, a beautiful multi-course holiday feast right in your home from Ryan Rondeno.
The Family Style Feast, a selection of hors d'oeuvres and small bites from Chef Adam Banks.
A Classic American Dinner Party, with tasty farm-to-table dishes that will warm you up and enliven your palate, from Tamara Hathock.
The Fall Flavors Tasting Menu, a progression of hearty, artfully composed, soul satisfying dishes from Graham Heldreth.
2 years Ago
It’s what they actually want
72% of people would rather spend money on experiences. Yet we still give things. Change that, and give them what they actually want.
They definitely don’t have it
Clothes. Devices. Gear. They have that already. You know what they don’t have? An ear-to-ear smile after lapping heli-skiing runs in British Columbia. The palpable memory of an exquisite meal cooked by a Michelin-starred chef. Photos of them and their favorite musician backstage at the concert they’ll never forget. Give them that.
No one else is giving it to them
They’ll always remember you. You made it possible. You knew what they really wanted. You knew what would fill them with joy. Good job, you.
We take care of the details
Buying a product is easy. Creating an experience can be complicated. But not with IfOnly. Our concierge team of hospitality experts will plan every step of the way for you and your recipient. In other words: Take the credit, we’ll do the work.
The best gifts give back. At least 10% of each IfOnly experience purchased benefits a charitable cause.
Connect them with their idol
Everyone remembers meeting their hero. IfOnly can help you be the person who made that meeting possible.
An experience is unforgettable
The memory of an experience will be the gift that keeps on giving. Sharing photos, telling animated stories, pondering that thing they learned—these are the indelible moments an experience provides even after the experience is “over.”
Share the experience with them
Shared experiences are the cornerstone of relationships. Give a gift that you’ll both be talking about for the rest of your lives.
The box is just the beginning
When they open the IfOnly handcrafted box, they’re opening a world of anticipation, excitement, and wonder. They’re opening the fulfillment of a dream.
This year, give them what they want most but don’t have: An experience.
2 years Ago
Let’s face it: Halloween is a big deal, and no matter how much candy you collect, or how creative your costume is, no look is complete without makeup. Whether you’re going for spooky, sweet, or sultry, take your costume to the next level with a professional makeup or styling session with one of the industries best.
Scaring is Caring, and at If Only we want you to look good and feel good this Halloween. No matter if you are dressing as the scarecrow to your daughter’s Dorothy for a night of trick-or-treating, or getting glammed up for a late night out on the town. Let our luminaries’ help you complete your look while giving back to some worthy causes.
Benefiting Tipping Point. We’ve enlisted top stylists to help you make your Halloween costume inspiration a reality! Professional Halloween makeup sessions are available in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Benefiting Operation Smile. In Los Angeles you can experience the red carpet treatment first hand by getting your makeup done by Academy Award winning makeup artist, Valli O’Reilly. O'Reilly is responsible for bringing the classic story to life in Tim Burton's Alice and Wonderland.
From pirates to extra terrestrials, transform into your wildest dreams with Emmy Award winning special effects makeup artist, Dean Jones. Jones is best known for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation, X-Men: First Class and The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
Besides being talented and famous what do George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Viola Davis and Kirsten Dunst all have in common? They have all been styled by Callan Stokes. Add your name to that list with a personal Halloween wardrobe styling session with top costume designer and wardrobe stylist, Callan Stokes.
2 years Ago
Whether you're hosting people or going to a party this Halloween, we have two cocktails from the IfOnly Cocktail of the Month Collection that are sure to delight your fellow revelers.
Michael Bauer - The Rhodie
2 ounces Bulleit bourbon
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons pure maple syrup, or more to taste
2 teaspoons fresh lemonade
Fill a cocktail shake with ice, add all ingredients, secure the lid, and shake until you think you'll pass out. The drink should be frosty and iced cold.
Dale Degroff - Harvest Moon Cocktail
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
4 ounces fresh apple cider
3 dashes Dale DeGroff's Pimento Aromatic Bitters
Fill a highball glass with ice and pour in the bourbon, apple cider, 2 dashes of the bitters and stir. Finish with 1 dash of Dale DeGroff's Pimento Aromatic Bitters and grate nutmeg over the top.
Fresh grated nutmeg
If you're really looking to make a splash, scale the recipe for 15-20 and serve it in a pumpkin. Find out how on Dale's website.
You can view the full IfOnly Cocktail of the Month Collection here.
2 years Ago
1. Your Table is Ready
Your place. Your time. No “Set your alarm for 4 a.m. so you can hop online and get a reservation at that restaurant for that big dinner, and oh shoot it’s 4:01 and the table is already booked.” Don’t do that. That’s miserable. Instead, book the precise details you want.
2. Dine by Design
Farm-to-table is great. But sometimes you don’t want the farm at your table. Choose from hundreds of chefs, menus, and styles to get exactly what you want.
3. Doing the Dishes Might Build Character
But enjoying the company of your guests is more fun, so don’t sweat the small stuff. From prep to serving to cleaning, we take care of everything.
4. Tend Your Own Bar
That $30 bottle of wine that magically turned into a $75 bottle at the restaurant? Let’s agree to make it $30 again. Plus, no need to worry about differing tastes. With no corkage fee, everyone can drink what they prefer.
5. Explore New Frontiers
Not the same old meat and potatoes. Our chefs bring fresh cuisines and perspectives, offering you the chance to do more than eat -- even though eating is pretty good by itself.
6. More than a Caterer
Our chefs and servers are not “between gigs” actors or people that have never seen the inside of a kitchen. Our chefs are dedicated professionals with outstanding resumes. Don’t be surprised if one of them ends up on next season’s “Top Chef.”
7. Prices Compare to a Restaurant
Starting at $110 per person, the cost for a private chef is comparable to a restaurant. Plus, there is no need to worry about how much to tip or how to split the check; gratuity is included and everyone can pay separately.
8. Be Comfortable in Your Own Space
No overzealous maitre'd. No sitting in uncomfortable chairs next to a huge party that's talking loudly about whatever it is people talk loudly about. Just you and your friends in the comfort of your own surroundings.
9. You’ll be the Toast of Your Friends
You’ll throw an incredible party. Your friends will love it, and they’ll love you. That’s what this is all about, right? it, and they’ll love you, and that’s what this was all about, right?
Click here to learn how to book an incredible chef for your next celebration, party, or event.
2 years Ago
Bad news: Summer is officially over.
Good news: Some people had incredible experiences this summer with IfOnly, and they want to tell you about them.
"Having the opportunity to tour backstage, handle the costumes and walk the stage will be something I remember for years and years to come. Oh...and I got to meet Lady Gaga. What made this entire thing worthwhile is knowing that while I was having the time of my life, I was also supporting a tremendous cause in the Born This Way Foundation. Learning more about the foundation from it's co-founder and one of its directors added greatly to the experience. As the night came to a close, I was sad to go, not only because I had such an amazing time but also because the people of IfOnly and BTW Foundation felt like friends!"
Patrick, San Jose, CA
"This experience was beyond anything I have ever imagined. I would have never dreamt of something so amazing. Touring the stage, meeting the people who make this show what it is, seeing, feeling, and touching costumes, seeing all it takes to make the artRAVE happen. It was such an honor to have dinner with Cynthia, and learn more about what the Born This Way Foundation and where it is going. It was an honor to meet Lady Gaga, and to meet the IfOnly team. They were so kind and helpful with anything. This is something I will remember forever, and something I will cherish, thank you so much IfOnly!"
2) Apprenticeship with Chef Corey Lee at Benu
Wayne, San Francisco, CA
"The experience was eye-opening. For me, this event will change my outlook on the way I eat, drink, and cook. I had a wonderful time chatting with Chef Corey Lee and Sommelier Yoon Ha about food, wine pairings, and philosophies of both. The entire staff including Chefs Brandon, Courtney, James, and Alan were extremely kind and accommodating.
Dinner service was wonderful as well! They were able to help us surprise our father for his birthday. The food was excellent, and the staff attentive. What a wonderful experience!"
3) Meet and Greet with Chris Cornell During Soungarden's Tour
Monica, Dallas, TX
"It was AMAZING! Chris Cornell is as nice and approachable as he is talented. My only wish was: IfOnly there were more time..."
4) Private Tasting with Chef Laurent Manrique at Bar Bordeaux
Carol, New York, NY
"My husband and our friends got to enjoy our wonderful tasting with Chef Laurent last night. What a truly wonderful experience! The setting, wines, and food were spectacular. We learned a lot and had such an enjoyable time. It was all made that much more special with the charm and passion of Chef Laurent. We were so sad to leave by the end...we could have stayed all night and enjoyed the company of Chef Laurent. Best of all, the money goes to a great cause."
To discover your IfOnly experience, see what's new.
2 years Ago
Labor Day is summer’s last gasp. Whether you’re sitting on the beach, out in the mountains, or just relaxing at home, enjoy the end of summer with these hand-signed books from our luminaries.
Refine your inner entrepreneur, even if you’re sitting on the beach, with this memoir from a Twitter co-founder.
Follow photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank’s quest to capture the essence of the quintessential American woman.
Read what Oprah Winfrey called, “The new manifesto for women in the workplace,” from Facebook’s COO.
Spend quality downtime checking out some of the world’s most beautiful gardens and interiors.
2 years Ago
The ALS #IceBucketChallenge has taken the internet by storm, and some of our luminaries have jumped in to support the cause. Here are a few of the best.
2 years Ago
Imagine if someone had accidentally left Candlestick Park’s field gate open, and you suddenly had access to the home of the famed San Francisco 49ers. Then imagine walking walk onto the field, putting on a jersey, and joining the team for practice.
That is exactly what a few lucky guests from IfOnly were able to do this past weekend with our Legends of Candlestick Private Practice package. Joining the team as honorary 49ers for the day, our members found their own place on the field. They chatted with football icons such as Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Roger Craig, grabbed some photos, and joined the team when the sports heroes came out to practice. The passes flew and the conversation flowed. As they shared funny football anecdotes, our members’ title of “honorary player” began to feel authentic.
When practice slowed, Joe backpedaled as one of our lucky guests awaited his pass on the other side of the stadium. Joe spotted him and threw the football to our attendee, who received it in the end zone, essentially replicating Joe’s historical pass to Dwight Clark in the 1982 NFC Championship Game – a catch that made NFL history.
The next day our guests returned to watch the players battle it out on the gridiron. As the seats began to swell with supporters, our guests were privy to sideline seating, close enough to feel the wind of the players moving on the field. They watched on intently as Joe Montana and his team of fabled 49ers played against NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino and many others for the very last time.
The players, the fans, and the games were filled with respect and amiability. As the 49ers made an ultimate and winning touchdown in the final moments, the reverence for this final farewell to Candlestick Stick Park was practically tangible. The harmonious final play was the perfect close to a long history of on-field turmoil, and our six honorary players were able to give this legendary stadium the goodbye it deserved.
2 years Ago
Summer is here and so are the days of backyard barbecues, refreshing brunches, pool parties, and outdoor entertaining! Our roster of A-list food and wine tastemakers excel in the art of entertaining, and we’ve worked together to help you craft the ultimate summer party. Entertaining al fresco just got a whole lot easier with these exclusive IfOnly offerings.
Get fired up with a hand-signed copy of Michael Chiarello’s Live Fire Cookbook. Michael is a master of cooking over fire, and with over 100 of Michael’s most tried and tested surefire recipes, along with tips on how to cook with open flame and embers, your party will be transformed from a casual backyard barbecue to an epicurean feast.
After feasting on some carnivore delights, imbibe with this women winemaker collection, featuring some of the best wine in California. Specially selected by wine expert Debbie Zachareas, these bottles are the perfect accompaniment to warm weather cuisine. Her tasting notes will not only ensure the perfect pairing, but will also add a touch of elegance and sophistication to your summer soiree.
Have you ever met an ice cream you didn’t like? If the answer is no, then there’s no better way to escape the summer heat than by hosting an ice cream social with award-winning pastry chef Dana Cree. Dana has combined her fine-dining background with her love of ice cream to create creamy gourmet pints of goodness that have become cult favorites. Dana crowd-sources her ideas for flavors from her community, and now she will come to your home and craft customized flavors just for you.
These exclusive offerings will win over any crowd, impress guests, and create a family-friendly fête that you’ll remember long after summer has ended
2 years Ago
IfOnly is thrilled to announce our latest group of incredible talent: poker champions. We’ve partnered with six of the most successful players in poker history to offer you a plethora of amazing experiences. Today, we are going behind-the-scenes with these poker stars to get the inside scoop on their infamous poker nicknames. From a love of heavy metal to dropping out of high school, the stories might surprise you.
Phil shot into poker stardom in 1989 when he became the youngest person ever to win the World Series of Poker Main Event. At just 24, his young age, competitive personality, and occasional temper tantrum led to the nickname “Poker Brat.” Today, Phil is older and wiser yet just as colorful and entertaining as he was 25 years ago.
Daniel’s decision to drop out of high school just one credit short of graduating so that he could pursue a professional career in poker was met with mixed reviews, but it paid off – by the time Daniel was 24, he was the youngest winner in poker history to win a WSOP bracelet. His impressive poker achievements at such a young age earned him the nickname “Kid Poker,” and though Daniel is no longer a kid, he’s still one of the most accomplished poker players in the world.
Before he became a poker pro, Antonio was bringing in close to $400 an hour as a professional magician. Often wowing crowds with his repertoire of magic tricks at the poker table, it’s no surprise that his nickname is “The Magician.” Though Antonio might be just as good at magic as he is at poker, one thing is for sure: it was skill – not magic – that led him to his $18,346,673 record-breaking win, the biggest cash prize in poker history.
Many people think that Liv’s “Iron Maiden” nickname is due to her hard demeanor and stone cold poker face, but it actually stems from the model-turned-professional-poker-player’s love of heavy metal music. A dedicated metalhead, Liv’s impressive poker winnings – over $2.5 million – are often spent expanding her electric guitar collection.
It’s easy to recognize when Phil’s at the poker table: his signature hooded sweatshirt (hood up) and sunglasses earned him almost $3 million in winnings, and the nickname “The Unabomber.” However, comparisons to Ted Kaczynski stop there – Phil’s friendly, boisterous, and over-the-top personality is known to turn even the most mundane event into a party.
Jamie may have won over $12 million in tournament winnings, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $300 million he has helped raise for charitable causes worldwide. After winning the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event, Jamie decided to put his poker energy into helping others. Using his celebrity status to affect positive change globally, Jamie might be even more passionate about philanthropy than he is poker.
With these poker pros around, bluffing is more than just a skill – it’s an art form. From private poker lessons to inside access at the World Series of Poker Tournament, get ready to take a seat with the high rollers and learn how to play like a pro with no limits.
Click here to check out our new poker offerings.
2 years Ago
Summer vacation is a time when kids get to run around in the sprinkler and take a break from their studies, but it also gives parents a terrific opportunity to get in some quality moments with their children. Many parents worry that their kids will be subjected to the pitfalls of summer boredom, but this can be easily combated by giving your child an experience that promotes family bonding, or one that makes one of their dreams come true. With our exclusive offerings, your child will come out of the summer months excited to return to school and ready to tell their friends all about the incredible moments you shared together.
I think we can all agree that a nice gourmet meal can really hit the spot – but what if your kids were doing the cooking? Let Chef Matthew Accarrino of San Francisco's acclaimed SQPR restaurant play teacher as he takes your child through a step-by-step lesson in fine cooking. You can rest easy knowing that your kids are in capable hands, as Chef Accarino was voted "Best New Chef" in 2014 by Food and Wine Magazine.
While you are welcome to join in the pasta making fun, you could also just sit back with a glass of champagne selected by SQPR's Wine Director Shelley Lindgren, and watch as your children’s eyes light up when they discover the joys of homemade cooking. To top it off, this Pasta Making and Champagne Party finishes off with a three-course lunch in the SQPR dining room, with your child's creation as the main event.
What’s the one thing that adults and children usually agree on? Chocolate! Take your love of the sweet stuff to new heights with an evening chocolate making experience at Woodhouse Chocolate in Napa Valley. Master chocolatiers John and Tracy Anderson will show your family how to turn quality ingredients into molded works of delicious art. The kids will love choosing shapes based on their own interests and decorating the finished creations. At the end of the After Hours at Woodhouse Chocolate experience, your hard work will be sweetly rewarded when you take home your own box of homemade chocolates.
Experience Lady Gaga
Summer with your kids may also mean summer with your teenagers, so if your children are't so child-like anymore, this may be just what would make their September essays of "how I spent my summer" stand out from the rest. And, imagine the look on your teenager's face when they see their idol walking towards them, ready to take a few selfies and talk about their shared love of music. Meet Lady Gaga for the Ultimate Little Monster Experience at artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball Tour, where you and your Gaga obsessed kid can meet the pop icon in an exclusive meet and greet complete with a gourmet meal, photo session with Gaga, and premium tickets to her concert. Surprise your Little Monster with this dream experience that will become the greatest day in their young life thus far.
Designed to help you spend more time together, get outside, and make dreams come true, these exclusive IfOnly offerings will make sure that summer is anything but boring.
2 years Ago
One of the best things about IfOnly is that we have the honor of helping people make their dreams come true. When Lady Gaga partnered with us to offer her Little Monsters the ultimate concert experience, we knew we were getting something special, but we were blown away when we heard from one of our attendees about just how marvelous it was.
Her night with Lady Gaga exemplifies what IfOnly is all about – creating extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime experiences that connect people with their idols, ignite inspiration, and help others. Every experience is unique, but here is hers.
Gaga is my absolute fave. I own every album and all of her singles. I’ve been to seven concerts. I really connect with her, and she has inspired me to accept who I am. I just love her, and I try to live my life how Gaga would. When I got the chance to meet her with IfOnly, I was insanely excited. The whole experience went so above and beyond my expectations that I don’t even know where to begin, but I’ll try. To sum it up: It was mind-blowingly awesome.
When I arrived I was given a packet with backstage passes, tickets, this really rad Gaga lanyard, and then escorted into a private room with the other people there for the tour. It was a pretty small group, less than ten people. The room was beautiful! There were flowers everywhere, a lot of food and appetizers, and a full bar. A host came out to greet me and show me around. He went over the timeline with me, answered any questions I had, and just got me really pumped up for the rest of the night. As we were chatting, another woman came in and started talking to us. It was Cynthia, Gaga’s mom! The night had just started and I was already talking to Gaga’s mom! It was incredible.
After a few minutes of mingling and hanging out, the tour started. We were shown the background dancers dressing rooms, and we got to see them getting ready, stretching, stuff like that. Next up was the costume area. Outside of getting to meet Mother Monster herself, this was one of the best parts of the whole experience! There were three designers in the room and they were prepping her costumes for the night. We saw them putting together clothes, and one of them even let me hold the headwear from one of her costumes. I’m obsessed with Gaga’s fashion, so words cannot describe how amazing it was to see and touch her costumes, right in front of me! I couldn’t stop smiling
We headed back to the stage area and watched the dancers rehearse. One of the designers asked us if we wanted to see Lady Gaga’s quick-change room, and we all kind of started to freak out with excitement. We went backstage again and they took us into this tiny room underneath her piano that had an elevator that goes right up to the stage. Then, get this, I got to go up onto the stage, just like Gaga! It was such a pinch-me moment.
Then it was time for the highlight of it all… meeting Gaga! We were taken to Gaga’s private green room. Her dad and her manager Tommy were already there and they chatted with us while we waited for Gaga. After a few minutes, Gaga arrived, and she had her puppy Asia with her! She talked to us, and then took pictures with each of us. I was expecting a group photo, but she let each of us take a picture with her individually. It was just amazing. Afterwards we couldn’t believe that that had just happened. It was all we could talk about. We met Lady Gaga! It was so cool.
We went back to the private room for dinner before the show, and what happened next really sums up why I love Gaga so much and feel such a connection to her. Maya, from Gaga’s “Born This Way” Foundation, and Cynthia, Gaga’s mom, both joined us for dinner. They shared with us all of these incredible stories about Gaga and about the foundation. It was really inspiring, and it led to a great discussion about life, standing up for what you believe in, fighting for equality, and accepting yourself for who you are. The cool thing about being a Little Monster is that we all share this bond where it doesn’t matter how old you are or what your gender is, we just connect. Being surrounded by other people who understood that was so motivational and encouraging. It was magical.
After dinner, we went to watch the show. Our seats couldn’t have been better – right in the middle with an awesome view of the catwalk, the piano, and the main stage. As expected, Gaga was fabulous! Even though I was watching with thousands of other people, everything that happened earlier made me feel like I was more than just a fan, but part of the team. It was such a special experience, and truly one of the best nights of my entire life.
Gaga stan and Little Monster
This experience took place in San Jose, but don’t worry – Lady Gaga is still offering this to her Little Monsters at the upcoming shows listed below:
2 years Ago
Bill Cosby once said, “Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope.” Buying gifts can be hard, especially when your dad is the kind of man who has it all. This Father’s Day, IfOnly has put together a collection of unique gifts to help you show him how much you care. From the poker tables in Las Vegas to a hot air balloon ride over Mount Everest, these one-of-a-kind gifts will make his year.
A lot of people will tell you that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so what better way to spoil Dad than with a few culinary delights? Treat him to an afternoon apprenticeship with legendary chef and “Top Chef Masters” star Jonathan Waxman, or help him stock up his wine cellar with a consultation from world-famous sommelier Rajat Parr. He can also put his mixology skills to use with this specially curated collection of cocktail recipes.
For years, your Dad has been an inspiring force – protecting you, believing in you, and making you feel like the most important person in the world. As he soars over the top of Mount Everest in a hot air balloon and becomes one of only a handful of people to see the summit of the highest mountain in the world, you will inspire him in ways he has never imagined.
With lessons from some of the best sports instructors in the world, you can repay Dad for all the lessons he taught you growing up. Let him learn from the legendary instructor that taught Jack Nicklaus with a private golf clinic, or help him practice his backhand with a private lesson from tennis pro and star coach Brad Gilbert. He can even live out his football dreams with this private training session from Hall of Famer Jerry Rice.
Chances are you have at least a couple memories that include Dad rocking out to a Beatles song, so treat him to premier tickets to Sir Paul McCartney’s final show and let him become part of music history as he watches one legend say goodbye to another at the final concert ever at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
Even the man who has it all won’t have these impossible-to-get gifts, and we promise that Dad will love them even more than soap-on-a-rope. This year, he won’t even have to pretend.
2 years Ago
“If you’re goin’ to San Francisco be sure to…” we all know how the song goes, and chances are if you have visited the city by the Bay you have seen the lovely sights the city has to offer. But there’s plenty more beyond the traditional sightseeing checklist. The typical San Francisco tourist weekend goes something like this: hang off the side of a cable car, shop in Union Square, sample sour dough, eat dim sum (and then some) in China Town, see the Pier 39 sea lions, pay a visit to the painted ladies, climb Coit Tower, cruise to Alcatraz, drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, and wind your way down Lombard street. If you are looking for new things to do in San Francisco allow us to plan your weekend with these unusual attractions. Wearing flowers in your hair is completely optional.
Depending on when you arrive you might meet “Karl the Fog” as he rolls into town almost every morning and evening, but if you miss him be sure to follow him on various social media channels, after all, you are in San Francisco now - time to get tech savvy. Regardless of what the San Francisco weather is doing, you and five guests can take your taste buds on a tour of Italy with one of America’s foremost experts on Southern Italian wine, Shelley Lindgren. Sip, swirl, and connect as Lindgren guides you through a personal wine seminar, no passport necessary.
You might want to try a cup of San Francisco favorite Blue Bottle coffee to energize you for the big day ahead. If you are a 49ers fan, your dream is about to come true as you head to a private quarterback camp with football legend, Joe Montana. You will look at film and draw up plays before heading out onto the field to perfect your own skills. Learn the trade secrets from a Hall of Famer and cherish the memories of working with one of the great minds of football history. After working up an appetite on the field you and a guest will stroll past the dining room and sit down to supper in the kitchen at Alice Waters’ renowned restaurant, Chez Panisse. There is no telling what will be on the ever-changing seasonal menu, but you are sure to taste the very best of what local farmers have to offer.
You won’t have to look outside to know what the weather is like; in San Francisco you can hear it. Listen to the foghorns while you get ready to join Michael Allen for a round of golf at one of the most prestigious golf courses in America, the Olympic Club. Ranked the 26th best course in the country, the Lakeside Course is both beautiful and challenging. After a day outside spend some time in the kitchen with Chef Thomas McNaughton. Whether you are Italian, or just wish you were, McNaughton will have you making perfect pasta in no time! Enjoy an intimate pasta-making class before sitting down with friends to an exquisite meal with wine pairings.
Wherever you call home, we hope that you will look back on this one of a kind San Francisco weekend full of extraordinary experiences and say that you met some gentle people there.
2 years Ago
Quaint towns, two lane highways, countless wineries and picturesque vineyards; the Napa Valley is a region full of beauty and taste. Whether you are a wine coinsurer looking to forgo crowded tasting rooms, or new to Napa and experiencing this magical region for the first time, our one of a kind experiences will make for a wine country weekend you will never forget.
The best way to experience the grandeur of the Napa Valley is from the sky, and our helicopter and wine tasting tour is the perfect blend of adventure and beauty. You and a guest will tour Napa Valley from above in a personal helicopter piloted by legendary cult winemaker Heidi Barrett. Once on the ground, Barrett will lead an extensive tasting from her exclusive private collection and you’ll enjoy a gourmet lunch at a private mountaintop property. After lunch it is time for a sweeter side of the Napa Valley that the whole family can enjoy! Spend a few hours with private kitchen access at the acclaimed Woodhouse Chocolate in downtown St. Helena. Under the guidance of master chocolatiers John and Tracy Anderson you will create both memories and delicious custom desserts.
Take to the sky again in true Napa style; a private hot air balloon. Learn about the culture and history of this breathtakingly beautiful region from premier Wine Historian, Lecturer, and Cultural Ambassador for Robert Mondavi Winery, Nina Wemyss as you glide over countless vineyards. We promise you will land with a new understanding and appreciation for this special place. Later in the afternoon head to Darioush where you and your guests will lunch under the pistachio trees at the private residence garden of proprietors Darioush and Shahpar Khaledi. Enjoy family recipes, paired with Darioush limited release and library wines as Wemyss continues to unfurl the history of wine. An afternoon at Darioush will be a cultural and culinary experience you won’t soon forget.
Join tennis pro Brad Gilbert for an hour hitting session on the gorgeous Meadowood courts. It will be an afternoon of exercise and entertainment, as Gilbert is sure to regale you with stories from his incredible career while you rally back and forth before sitting down to lunch. After a day spent eating and exercising you and a guest will dive into an apprenticeship with culinary master Chef Christopher Kostow and his team at The Restaurant at Meadowood. Return later in the evening for a celebratory dinner at the Chef’s Counter.
If you’re a Napa veteran, this weekend will deliver a whole new perspective on the region’s activities and restaurants, and if it’s your first visit it will surely leave you clamoring for more.
2 years Ago
My mom was a middle school math teacher for 40 years. Her students called her “Mama Lynch.” She was tough, but fair, and was very much the kind of teacher older kids were delighted to greet in the supermarket, or the bank, many years after being in her class. My mom was generous, compassionate, loyal. She was a friend to people in a way that many are not capable.
I grew up in the days when you could leave your kids in the car while you ran into the store, and when my mom did that, my brother and I turned every knob and lever in the car up to Level 10. When she put the keys in the ignition, the radio would blare, the windshield wipers would flail, the heat would blast…and she allowed herself to fall for it many, many times.
My mother devoted everything to my brother and me. She got her Master’s Degree at the dining room table, after seeing to us first. She was the Den Mother, the Soccer Mom, the CCD Teacher – you name it, she was there, ready for duty, hyper-involved, proud as hell no matter what the outcome.
She was Old School Italian, and our being boys only heightened, I think, her belief that we were the two most important, talented, handsome dudes on the planet. If she could have, she would have frozen us in time at around age 7, dressed impeccably in proper shoes, not “sneakers” (only allowed on “gym days”). Why wouldn’t she want to hold onto us as boys? Boys are always around, and they’re cute, and for a while you’re the center of their universe. I have a seven-year-old now, and I know I’ll be heartbroken when he decides to move to New York, or wherever, in 10 or 20 years. I’ll take every hug, every morning snuggle, every “I love you” and put it in the bank as my hedge against the days when he doesn’t call for two weeks. I’ll try to be as strong, as understanding, as supportive, and as generous as my Mom was – a tall order by any measure.
If I can get close to her example, I’ll consider it a success. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Love, David.
2 years Ago
From the moment we arrive in this world we begin making memories with our mom. Our mothers shape how we grow and what we know. Whether we are born to them, or find them along the way, these exemplary women add to our lives in every way. With Mother’s Day approaching we asked several of our luminaries to share with us on the subject of mom. While their responses may vary, one thing remains constant; motherhood is the ultimate extraordinary experience for good.
Sometimes the littlest things remind us of our mom.
“I remember the smell of CHANEL No. 5,” executive food and wine editor and restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle Michael Bauer recalls. “There was always a bottle next to the sink in her bathroom, and it was the only fragrance she ever wore.”
Even as adults, it seems like no one can make it quite like mom. “My mother was the best cook ever, half French half Italian,” Margrit Mondavi, Vice President of Cultural Affairs at Robert Mondavi Winery remembers.
For restaurateur and chefs Cecilia Chiang and Mourad Lahlou watching their mothers inspired what would become their life’s passions. “My mother taught me everything I know about food, culture and entertaining, basically how to enjoy life,” Chiang said. “Mom for me is all about trust, comfort, lineage and storytelling through food,” Lahlou explained. “It’s simply unconditional love.”
And sometimes our life’s passions are an acquired taste. Debbie Zachareas, Managing Partner and Wine Buyer at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant fondly remembered the first time she served her mom red wine after becoming a wine professional, and her mother commented that it smelled like the fruit rotting in her fruit drawer. “I told her maybe it was time to clean her fruit drawer. Over the years I persuaded her to drink great sweet wine, her favorite was Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris, Clos Windsbuhl, and so we made some progress.”
With so many unique memories and lessons it is impossible to summarize what motherhood means to everyone, but portrait photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank describes it eloquently: “Motherhood is the most beautiful human experience of all,” she said. “It breaks your heart wide open and leaves you forever changed."
2 years Ago
Every mother wants to make their child’s dreams come true, so this Mother’s Day we want to help you give your mom that something special she’s always dreamed of with our unique selection of Mother’s Day gifts. Whether it’s a tote filled with fine wines just for her or a one of a kind experience, like a gourmet chocolate making class that you’ll share together, you will find our selection of unforgettable Mother’s Day gifts are just as special as the homemade cards you made her as a child…and we promise she’ll treasure them just as much.
Make her a Guest in her Own Home. It’s OK if you didn’t master the Mother’s Day breakfast-in-bed tradition as a child; we have a recipe for something better. Enjoy a Mother’s Day brunch at home prepared by celebrated chef, Mourad Lahlou, featuring exotic Moroccan fare. The Iron Chef America champion has a sweet spot for mothers, after all his restaurant, Aziza, is named for his own.
Make Memories Together. A wise mom once said, “your presence is my present,” and it’s true, there is no better way to celebrate mom than doing something special with her. For those looking for a unique Mother’s Day gift we have a great selection of experiences you both will love, whether it is learning to make chocolate from bean-to-bar with the founders of Dandelion Chocolate, or how to procure the perfect piece of produce with a private tour of Manhattan’s Greenmarket led by Chef April Bloomfield. Click to learn more about all of our exclusive experiences with mom.
The Picture of Motherhood. Make a memory and share it with generations to come during a very special portrait session with Claiborne Swanson Frank. Whether you’re an only child, or one of many, Frank will have no trouble capturing the essence of your beautiful relationship. This portrait session with an acclaimed photographer is a Mother’s Day gift she will treasure for years to come.
Indulge her Great Taste. Looking for a good Mother’s Day gift for a mom with great taste? We have compiled the best our tastemakers have to offer. Toast her with our Women Winemaker Collection featuring the best bottles from wine country’s female winemakers selected by wine expert Debbie Zachareas and presented to your own wine connoisseur in a handsome tote. See what other Mother’s Day goodies our tastemakers have compiled.
Frivolous, but Thoughtful. Every mom wants something they don’t particularly need, and these personalized books signed by our tastemakers are the perfect addition to any kitchen or coffee table, a great Mother’s Day gift she can enjoy the whole year through. From fashion to culinary we have a book bound to pique her interest, be it a James Beard Cookbook autographed by Alice Waters and Thomas Keller or a signed book by Hamish Bowles on Vogue Living. Click here to see the full selection.
What She’s Always Wanted. Out of Mother’s Day gift ideas? Give her an experience certificate and she can choose for herself. She will love the thought and treasure the memories!
Julie Anne Herrin
3 years Ago
The Constellation Chocolate Collection is back for a second year and the 2014 offering is absolutely jaw dropping. Last year, we invited 10 chefs to participate. This year, so as not to rest on our laurels, we have included artisan chocolates from 25 incredible culinary talents spanning the country. The flavors are amazing. From an Agastache Caramel Chocolate Truffle from Chef Teague Moriarty of Sons & Daughters, to a Raspberry Conserve & Jasmine Flower from Chef Paul Lemieux of Auberge du Soleil, each chocolate truly provides a sweet bit of insight into the culinary style of each chef.
We had a fabulous time opening every sample delivery from the chefs, all gathering around each time the UPS man rung our bell, oohing and ahhing over the gorgeous chocolates, each more beautiful than the last. What has been even more intriguing though is to hear the inspiration for each of the flavors. Chef Tyler Florence's was inspired by the smells and flavors of Northern California and has notes of smoked redwood, Marin fennel pollen, El Paseo honey, Bay laurel and Marin sea salt.
Some of the flavors had such incredible stories behind them that we couldn't not share. Chef Candace Rowan of A16 told us why they selected Torrone as the flavor for their chocolate; "With its pure and grounded simplicity, Torrone holds the essence of what draws us to our beloved Southern Italy. One of its key ingredients, honey, is steeped in the region's history, as Campania's bees and their inherent quality were regaled among Virgil's epic poems as far back as 30 B.C. And so it is that we've chosen Avellino's tradition of apiculculture to provide that perfect sweet infusion for our IfOnly Valentine's Day Chocolate Assortment. Traveling throughout the small towns at the base of Montevergine in Irpinia, the heart of the country's Torrone production, we have been graced by visits to producers that honor the inheritance of family recipes offering a testament to sustained quality. And without fail, their every wall is donned with a myriad of framed photographs of dignitaries -- be they popes or kings or world leaders -- blissfully indulging in a hazelnut or chocolate-dipped Torrone from the area. A16's Candace Rowan is presenting her own "variation on a theme" with a version of Torrone that is softer and chewier, a style that provides a lovely complement to the delicate and crisp honeycomb."
Chef Matthew Accarino shared another of our favorite stories behind what sparked his flavor, Black Walnut and Green Walnut Liqueur Nocino. "Inspired by the two walnut trees on a farm i work closely with which offer the amazing green walnuts as a harbinger of early spring each year." But finally, the sweetest inspiration came from Chefs Mark Sullivan and Robert Vallejos of Spruce who said "The inspiration for my flavor is my fiancé. She is exotic, delicate, and beautiful, just like the flavor of a Kaffir lime."
Chefs Melissa Chou and Mourad Lahlou of Aziza, now legacy participants in the Constellation Collections having participated in both the original chocolate collection as well as our holiday caramel collection never cease to inspire us with both their flavors and their beautiful presentations. This year, they have contributed a Verbena, Cassis and Sesame Chocolate. Each individual confection has the thinnest most delicate individual pieces of chocolate affixed with chocolate glue all over the surface creating an almost faceted look.
Finally, we asked the chefs who they would gift the box to for Valentine's and these were some of the best answers! Chef Michael Tabatabai of The Village Pub whose flavor is Earl Grey Ganache, Candied Bergamot and Milk Chocolate said he would give a box to "Chef Rikki Garcia of A.Q." because "She would share each one with me and I'd love to try them all." Chef Michael Tusk said he would give a box to Blake Lively! And finally, Alice Waters told us, "I would share this beautiful box of chocolates with my daughter, Fanny."
Julie Anne Herrin
3 years Ago
Are they celebrating a milestone birthday? An anniversary? Perhaps they are adding a new degree to their wall. Or, maybe it's just a random Tuesday. Regardless, there is an IfOnly experience perfect to commemorate the occasion.
We at IfOnly are firm in our belief that gifting someone a once-in-a-lifetime experience should feel incredibly special. In fact, the experience should begin with the box itself. We have worked to make sure that all of our gift packaging is lovely including those that contain experience certificates.
Packaged in a lovely leather-style box and wrapped with our signature green satin ribbon, recipients know they are about to open something special the moment it's in their hands. Inside, we enclose a handwritten note with your personal message. As they turn the page, they will find a booklet with the description of the IfOnly you have gifted them and instructions on how to schedule with our concierge team. As a bit of extra fun, we always make certain that the interior of the box is themed to reflect the experience itself. Whether lined with wine corks for an experience with a sommelier, or backed with faux turf for a meet & greet with their favorite athlete, every IfOnly experience begins with this fun and keepsake-worthy presentation box.
"Check out my @Ifonlypage for some cool experiences with me!"
Julie Anne Herrin
3 years Ago
At IfOnly, we have the fortunate role of helping people's dreams come true--whether it be meeting their favorite athlete, learning to prepare a dish from a chef they admire, or connecting with a musician they idolize. Occasionally, the way an experience plays out is extraordinary, blowing even us away. Spencer's story is one of these.
Spencer purchased a meet & greet from IfOnly with Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell while he was on his solo tour this fall. He and his mom entered the show and headed backstage where they met Chris and hung out and talked for 10 minutes or so. Spencer, a musician in his own right, talked to Chris about Seattle, his own music, and one of his favorite Soundgarden songs, 'You Know My Name.' Chris started talking with Spencer and they came up with a new arrangement of the song. But this is where something incredible happened. Chris invited Spencer to perform the song with him during the concert--on stage! In Spencer's own words, "It was so crazy! It went really well, the crowd loved it!"
We often hear stories of our luminaries going above and beyond, connecting with a fan and truly making dreams come true. It's not every day this happens, but when it does, it's music to our ears.
Julie Anne Herrin
3 years Ago
Many great ideas have begun on the back of cocktail napkins, but when combining the talents of 12 Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-winning chefs, you'll need a bigger canvas. The specific idea that required the entire paper placemat at one of our favorite local spots, Chef Michael Tusk's Cotogna, was what has become the Constellation Caramel Collection.
Michael Murphy, IfOnly's Director of Culinary Development, sketched out the concept: challenge 12 of the country's greatest chefs and their pastry teams to craft an incredible caramel to represent their culinary point of view while also raising money for a worthy non-profit. With the idea literally in hand--he took the placemat--Michael began calling. He wanted representation from all over the country so phones in kitchens in Virginia, New York, San Francisco and Chicago started to ring. And then, we waited. With what flavors would they come back to us? When chefs as talented as the likes of Michael Mina, Robert Curry, Mark Ladner, and Daniel Humm are asked to deliver their most creative ideas, the rest of us can't even begin to guess what flavor combinations they will dream up.
Then, the incredible flavor profiles started to roll in. From Chefs Mourad Lahlou and Melissa Chou from Aziza in San Francisco, it was to be pomegranate molasses, urfa chile, and dehydrated black olive and from the team at Benu, Chefs Corey Lee and Courtney Schmidig, it was maple black truffle. From Chefs Paul Kahan and Dana Cree of Chicago's Blackbird, it was rooibus lemon. Chef Dana Cree shared that rooibos is one of her favorite flavors and that ground it in the style of matcha it pairs incredibly well with caramel. Her favorite caramel from the collection was Chef Brooks Headley of Del Posto's champagne vinegar.
When Chef Schmidig delivered her amazing caramels, we asked what had inspired them. "We, myself and Chef Corey Lee, were sitting in the kitchen at Benu and brainstorming. We wanted it to reflect the season, and thus the maple but we also wanted it to be a bit savory. Benu, you know, isn't a normal restaurant, so we wanted the flavor to also be a bit different and that's where the truffle came from."
Chef Mourad Lahlou was most excited about the dehydrated olive Chef Melissa Chou had selected for their caramel. They had wanted their flavor to be really unique which we have to say we think they more than accomplished, capturing the attention of every editor who has written about the Constellation Caramel Collection.
The wild honey and bee pollen caramel is from Atelier Cren and Chef Juan Contreras has worked for the past year with bee keepers all over San Francisco to collect honey from enough hives to design a very special dessert they just launched in the restaurant. Their caramel is inspired by that very special dessert. Chef Contreras noted that when they were preparing the caramels, the local bees, smelling their nectar, started to visit their kitchen forcing them to close all of the windows and doors!
This brings us to the Sightglass Coffee caramel from Quince pastry Chefs Alen Ramos & Carolyn Nugent. Every week, they make Saturday morning shopping trips with Chef Michael Tusk to the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. One of their favorite places to go is the Sightglass Coffee kiosk. For them it's a quintessential San Francisco experience - excellent coffee, views of the Bay and bountiful local produce. When they were thinking about a delicious flavor, Alen and Carolyn wanted something harmonious to the caramel and unique to San Francisco and Sightglass Coffee made perfect sense!
We are pleased at IfOnly to not only have created a gift perfect for the epicure on your gift list, but to also support worthy causes. 100% of the profits from the Constellation Caramel Collection will be directed to The James Beard Foundation, which works to support education and initiatives for those in the food industry-- continuing our ethos that living well is also defined by giving back.
If you've received your Constellation Caramel Collection, which is your favorite flavor?