Bay Area & Wine Country – Guest Post

This weeks guest post is wonderful for many reasons, for starters this last week of school has been insane! With parties and sleep overs and running all three kids in every which direction around town, there was no way a decent blog post was going to get done. My best food friend Eric stepped up and sent me a post about his recent trip to Northern California. Also it has all the elements that I love amazing food, great photos and road tripping! I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I did, but fair warning they will make you want to get in your car or buy a plane ticket and take this trip for yourself!

Bay Area & Wine Country

Our friends of 16 years, Ron & Cheryl, moved to The Bay Area back in 2010. The main reason they moved from AZ was economics. They are both nurses and for them, the earning potential in this area is considerable. The housing and other day to day costs are also considerably higher than most areas, but the place has a ton to offer. For anybody who even likes wine a little, the exploration & entertainment possibilities are endless. There are so many beautiful areas it’s actually difficult to keep track of them all. The other reason I would like to think that they moved was to provide us with a vacation spot and establish us as semi-permanent house guests. A home away from home for Stacey and I, our Northern California Outpost if you will. This was our 6th visit in 3 calendar years. Obviously for them to be able to tolerate me at such a pace, they must truly be great friends. And, they are. Although my friends don’t share my level of ridiculous when it’s comes to being a food enthusiast, I’m not sure who does, they really do give a decent effort trying to appease me whenever possible. AND….. They are REALLY, REALLY close to Napa & Sonoma!

In a spur of the moment decision, that went pretty much like this…..

Cheryl texted and said, “Why don’t you come for Ron’s Birthday weekend after next”, mostly thinking we weren’t going to be able to go. After receiving the text I immediately took the Ipad to the patio, logged into www.southwest.com, my preferred carrier of choice, and grabbed my phone. After getting the deciding vote – consent – APPROVAL, I then texted back. “We arrive at 11:40AM on Thursday the 18th. We depart at 4:30PM on Monday the 22nd. See ya in 12 days.” This then prompted an actual old school telephone call to our landline to verify that I wasn’t full of crap. After confirming this was indeed true, excitement set in for both parties that we were actually going.

A week prior to leaving we were told that a two night stay in Wine Country was on the schedule. I was absolutely thrilled to hear this. Ron rented a house on the RussianRiver in Guerneville, in Sonoma Country. We arrived on time in San Fran and dropped our stuff off at home. Packed a bag for two days and were headed to Sonoma.

First stop – Fish. Just north of the Golden GateBridge in Sausalitois a cool restaurant we had been to before called Fish. http://www.331fish.com They’re really into sustainable fishing and their menu reflects responsible choices of what is currently abundant in the food chain. Everything they serve is outstanding. It’s located right in the marina so seeing all the boats docked there just adds to the experience.

Portuguese Red Chowder. Tomatoes, Linguica, Clams, Smoked Paprika. YUM!!!!! .

Scallop Tacos. Delicious.

Oyster Po’ Boy

Fish & Chips

After lunch we headed to Healdsburg. Since sugar and alcohol intake are unlimited when on vacation, I always make bakeries and dive bars top priorities. Where I grew up we had a variety of ethnic bakeries close by. German, Italian, Swedish, Polish-Eastern European, and then just “normal” bakeries. Ron saw Costeaux French Bakery on some TV show and the reviews online were more than solid. It did not disappoint. I tend to over order no matter where I am and bakeries are no exception. Everything in the place looked amazing. Macarons, tarts, cookies, croissants, bread sticks, bread, and an incredible Midnight Chocolate Truffle Cake for Ron’s birthday. All of it was excellent.

Costeaux Bakery, HealdsburgCA.

Dark Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart

Pecan Tart

Raspberry Macaron

What a beauty.

After leaving Costeaux, we headed to our rental house on the Russian River. The house itself was a bit dated but the view from the deck looking directly out over the river, with the 200 foot redwoods in the backdrop, was all that really mattered.

Can you see the person in the shadow?

Woke up the next day and ate breakfast at The Garden Grill www.gardengrillbbq in Guerneville. It was excellent. I had the Crab Cakes Benedict with a side of Sourdough French Toast. I am a lover of all things Benedict. On an English muffin, on a biscuit, with bacon, with avocado, with Canadian bacon, with cheese. The yolky hollandaise is one of my favorite things of all time to eat. This dish was AWESOME.

Crab Cake Eggs Benedict with Roasted Potatoes.
After breakfast we went off to a visit a few wineries. There’s just something about wine tasting and being in Californiathat excites me. It’s one of my favorite things on earth to do. I guess it’s as simple as this. Wine country is absolutely gorgeous, I absolutely love wine and usually great food is involved. Tastngs in Napa are typically $10-$15 and sometimes $20. In Sonoma they’re usually $5. Sometimes they’ll have another set of selections to taste that they call “Reserve”. Those are generally more but you’ll be tasting more expensive wine. Most of the time you get to sample small amounts of 5-7 wines. The Sonoma vibe is significantly less snootier and way more down to earth. Typically the tasting fees are waved should you make some sort of minimum purchase. It’s basically an onsite sales strategy to almost guarantee a sale. Significant discounts are typically available for any kind of volume purchase. Although the tastes are small, it’s not difficult after 3 stops, and an estimated 15 samples, to become slightly, if not mediumly, intoxicated. The intoxication factor also plays a role in how much you’re spending. If you’re a free flowing spender when you’re buzzed, like me, you really need to be careful. Flying home on a plane is a good safety measure to limit how much you buy.

I’m pretty sure we currently belong to 8 wine clubs. Basically the wineries ship wine to your house 4 times a year and then charge your credit card you gave them when you signed up. You don’t have too much to say about what they send other than red or white. The wineries usually send pretty decent stuff. Plus, if you belong to their club and visit in person, they wave any tasting fees and take care of you. Early on when I first started learning about and drinking wine, in the late 90’s, I discovered Alexander Valley Cabernets. Almost every one I ever tried was delicious. I love a ton of Napa Cabs too but I think based on the timing of discovering AlexanderValley, and then finally making it there in person back in 2010, it will always be a place I hold near to me.

Based on how many wine clubs we already belong to, I knew that joining anymore would probably not be the wisest of decisions. HOWEVER, we did join one more this trip. AlexanderValley Vineyards. www.avvwine.com. Their wine tasting is free, if you can believe that. After you join their club they take you into their cave storage and let you drink the wine right out of the barrel. One of the cooler things I have done while wine tasting. Mike was the person who took care of us and he was awesome. I am so glad we joined. My brother turns 40 this December and I was the one who turned him on to The Alexander Valley more than a decade ago. I brought back a Magnum of Cabernet we can drink for his birthday.

We drank in this cave! Right out of the barrel. And…it tasted great.

Magnum (1.5L) I brought home in my suitcase.

After we wrapped up at AlexanderValleywe headed back to Guerneville. We found a pretty decent Dive Bar and had a few cocktails before dinner. If I lived in Guerneville they would quickly know my name at Pats. I met the fire chief of the town who told me some good jokes.

Pats – Downtown Guerneville.

We ate a pretty standard dinner at The Northwoods Golf Club and then headed back to the house to play cards and eat cake for Ron’s birthday.

Heading back to Foster City the next day we went back over the Golden Gate and took the Pacific Highway down to HalfMoonBay. It was a balmy 62 degress in San Fran and everyone was enjoying the weather.

We made it to Half Moon Bay Brewery and had lunch. Oysters, Ceviche and Fish & Chips were the highlights. www.hmbbrewingco.com

While in Half Moon bay we went to the harbor and bought 5 dungeness crabs off a boat named the Irene Marie. $6 a pound. 5 crabs were $45. I didn’t notice the name of the boat until we already made the purchase and John gave me his card. That was my grandmother’s name so I found that pretty cool.

John offered to take our picture. I countered with getting on his boat and getting my photo snapped with him.

Stopped at a farm-stand on the way home and bought a large box of strawberries that were picked that morning. I converted a few pints into a puree later and made strawberry margaritas with Silver Patron and Cointreau.

The next day we went to Copenhagen Bakery in BurlingameCAfor breakfast/lunch. Highlights included crepes with lingonberry jelly and a shortbread jelly thing that was dipped in chocolate that was OUTSTANDING!!!!!!

crepes

Shortbread Jelly & Chocolate. Truly outstanding.

We went home the next day which was way too soon. My goal on our next visit is to bang around Chinatown for a while and go back to Tony’s Napoletano Pizza in the North End, which is outstanding.

I realize that this post has nothing to do with kids, recipes, mom’s hectic lives & low sugar cocktails. Steph tells me it’s worth reading so I have no choice but to believe her. I hope it’s enjoyable for a few minutes.