Friday, July 10, 2015

Sound Bites 20.0: Northern California

I'm A few weeks ago, HC and I drove up to San Francisco and "wined and dined" (ok, not always wine) our way around northern California.  Here are some of our favorite places from our road trip.

San Francisco

If you like cheese... 
  • Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick Cafe & Milk Bar serves breakfast until 10:30am.  We ate these very filling breakfast items:  
    Baked Egg Sandwich / Cheese Toasties
    • Baked Egg Sandwich with sauteed mushrooms, Gruyere & herbs.  Added pancetta bacon 
      I had to get this because I love mushrooms.  I almost questioned adding pancetta, but everyone thought I was crazy not to, so I did it and I definitely don't regret it.  
    • Cheese Toasties - open-faced grilled cheese made with Calbot Clothbound Cheddar with caramelized onions & maple mustard
      Not as small as the name implies.
    • Poached Egg on cheese grits
      I thought this was a side item, but it was filling enough to be a meal.  
  • Ferry Plaza Farmers Market takes place at the Ferry Building every Saturday (8am - 2pm) and Tuesday & Thursday (10am - 2pm).  I wish we hadn't eaten so much for breakfast because some of the cheese stands were generous with their samples.  
If you want some oysters without the long wait...
  • Hog Island Oyster Co. actually has a stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.  You can order from their Raw Bar or even take some home!  
If you like creative and tasty bar bites...
  • ABV has a standout food menu.  What we ate: 
    Goose Salame / Kimchee Fritter
    • Goose Salame
      I've never tried goose in the form of salami before and it was great.  Glad it wasn't just the meat alone. 
    • Kimchee Fritter
      I thought this would be in the form of several small fritters, but I guess it was listed as a singular fritter, and it big fritter. 
    • Falafel Lamb Dog
      So, I thought this was going to be a hot dog of some sort.  I have to admit that I was disappointed when I saw it arrive in the form of two corn dogs because I dislike corn dogs, but to my surprise, it was delicious.  Using falafel to replace the corn bread (which is what I hate about corn dogs) was genius.  This was one of my favorite dishes here.  I was actually craving it the rest of the night.   
If you want good cocktails...
Gran Cobbler / Cool Runnings / Coffee Cup /
El Vampiro / Spanish Negroni
  • Forgery has been open for almost two months now.  It's not really close to much, but don't let that deter you because the drinks are great and so are the bartenders.  We drank:
    • Gran Cobbler - Gran Lusso Vermouth, raspberries, absinthe
    • Cool Runnings - Appleton VX Rum, Byrrh, grapefruit, nutmeg
    • Coffee Cup - Coffee-infused Bombay Gin, Pimm's, Thai chile, ginger ale
    • El Vampiro - Fidencio Unico Mezcal, Manzanilla Sherry, Creme de Cassis, salt 
      It was my cousin's birthday, so the bartender surprised him with his name in his cocktail! 
    • Forged & Bound - Wild Turkey 101 Rye, Montenegro, Galliano Ristretto, green chartreuse, bitters 
      Yes, there was a snake in HC's drink.
If you like toast...
  • Trouble Coffee has a damn good cinnamon toast...and coffee, grapefruit juice, coconuts, and a small assortment of pastries.   Hear the fascinating story behind the shop on This American Life


If you want to pack a picnic...
  • Lazzini's Market has a great selection of made-to-order sandwiches, local wine and beer, and the kind of snacks that would make any Whole Foods customer happy.  We got this to munch on with our wine later in the day:
    • The Godfather sandwich - hot BBQ tri-tip, pepper jack (HC swapped out the cheddar cheese), pepperoncini, red onions, BBQ sauce and mayonnaise on a soft French roll
      The amazing smells coming from the BBQ grill outside may have been a factor in us ordering this sandwich, but I'm glad we did because the tri-tip was SO good.  Definitely want to try their other BBQ items next time. 
If you like bubblies...
  • Iron Horse Vineyards has a great collection of sparkling wines that you can enjoy while taking in their gorgeous view.  My favorites wines were: 
    • 2010 Ocean Reserve - 100% Chardonnay
      I usually hate Chardonnays on account of their butteriness (One time I had a Chardonnay that was so buttery it tasted like popcorn. Gross).  I didn't even notice a hint of butter in this wine.  $4 from the sale of each bottle goes to National Geographic's Ocean Initiative.  I love Nat Geo photos and ocean photography, so this bottle was practically begging me to buy it. 
    • 2010 Rainbow CuvĂ©e - 69% Pinot Noir, 31% Chardonnay 
      Its release celebrates diversity. 
If you want to have wine by a stream...
  • Arista Winery has a peaceful Japanese garden along with other spaces where you can relax with your wine.  We enjoyed their: 
    • 2014 Ferrington Vineyard Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley
    • 2013 Smokey Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel
If you want to impress someone...
  • Gary Farrell Winery's Terrace Tasting allows you to enjoy a stunning view of the Russian River Valley from their terrace with a wine flight and cheese pairing.  If you can't get a reservation, the view from the tasting room is still impressive.  
If you really love beer...

Carmel Valley 

If you have a special event...
  • Holman Ranch* is popular for weddings, but they're also equipped to handle events like corporate retreats and relaxing getaways. We: 
    • explored the wine cave and got to try some wines from the barrels.  The cave naturally provides cool temperatures, which are effective for storing and aging wines. 
    • toured the vineyards and the lovely property.
    • dined at the restaurant they own, Will's Fargo Steakhouse.  It reminded me of The Hitching Post II.  Will's Fargo doesn't just serve steak, they also have: 
      • French Onion Soup
        In the past I've found this type of soup to be overly heavy on the cheese and extremely salty, but I really liked this version.  Not too salty and the cheese was good.  I actually wish I had more soup when I finished it.  
      • Goat Cheese Ravioli, garlic, tomato, Parmesan cream sauce
      • Roasted Free Range Chicken, "Sauce Marchand de Vin", potato gratin, mixed salad
        I wouldn't normally order chicken at a restaurant, but this one was actually pretty tasty and I liked having a break from the meat with some salad and potato.
      • Warm Truffle Cake, Holman Ranch olive oil ice cream 
        I overheard a guest raving about the ice cream on the way to the restaurant. 
    • went to the game room and joined some other guests playing pool and throwing darts to the soundtrack of a jukebox.  I can see why this room is known as the groom's favorite room.  
    • slept in charming, western-themed guest rooms.  The tranquility of the ranch reminded me of camping...but with the comforts of a hotel. 
    • ended our stay with a morning hike.

More about Holman Ranch:

Song Pairing:
Gooey by Glass Animals

* Holman Ranch was a media sponsored trip.