Hi friends! So, just a few weeks before our blog going “live”, I took a quick 4 day trip with my good friend Laura. We were celebrating a “special birthday” of hers. But, I won’t say which one 😉
Laura and I have been friends for about 20 years and she’s a great travel companion! I call her “my gastronomy friend”! (check out my fancy word :)) We both LOVE to eat great food and drink great wine and most of our time together is based around these 2 activities with lots of laughter thrown in!
So, I’d like to share a little with you (in a condensed fashion) about our 4 days of eating and drinking wine in San Francisco, Napa, and Sausalito. A GREAT GIRL’S TRIP!
We arrived at our hotel, The Clift, late afternoon. It is a fabulous 4-star hotel just steps from Union Square. Super hip and cool! We found out Saturday night that The Clift Hotel is also a happening hot spot! Their legendary Redwood Room is hopping with cool people, cocktails, and great dance music!
Of course we were hungry and ready to have our first (of many) glasses of wine so we freshened up and Ubered on over to Cafe Claude. It was a quick ride over. Less than 10 minutes.
I’ve been to Cafe Claude twice and couldn’t wait to go back! “Cafe Claude is a modern day evocation of vintage Paris in the heart of San Francisco” located in a little alleyway. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights they have live music. Just so happened this was a Thursday night so we got to enjoy a little live music as we dined. We opted to share a few things. This is Laura’s favorite thing to do every time we go out to eat… Sometimes I don’t want to share when I’m really hungry but, I find it’s a great way to order so that we get to try several things. We started with the Moules Frites (mussels & french fries), then had the Escargots, and finished with the Steak Frites and Haricots Verts. It was tres bon!
Friday we got up early to catch the 1-hour ferry ride over to the Napa area. It was a glorious, cool, crisp morning in San Francisco. Tip: Make sure to pack for layering when going to the Bay Area. Mornings tend to be cool but, it can warm up a bit in the afternoons. But, not always… Some days never warm up much especially when it’s cloudy. Another unusual feature of San Francisco weather are the micro-climates. San Francisco is a city with microclimates and submicroclimates. Due to the city’s varied topography and influence from the prevailing summer marine layer, weather conditions can vary by as much as 9°F (5°C) from block to block, sunny in one neighborhood and overcast in another. While we were there we heard several times from the locals that July can be one of their chilliest months! Who would have thought!?
We hired a driver to take us around Napa. At first, I kinda wanted to rent a car and drive ourselves around “Thelma & Louise style” 😉 I thought that could be a fun way to get around and go where we choose, and I know people do it all the time but, I quickly realized after our first vineyard stop that driving was not for me! I happily welcomed the luxury of being driven from place to place.
Here we are at the first vineyard Judd’s Hill. It actually ended up being my favorite stop of the day. It was very welcoming and intimate.
Judd himself was even on site tending to a vegetable and herb garden next to the terrace where we were sitting. He was more than happy to chat with us and take a few photos. And, our sommelier, Todd, was just fabulous! We sat there for 2 hours and I really could have stayed longer but, onward we must go.
On to Sequoia Grove! This is where we had our lunch for the day. Outside under the majestic Sequoia trees! Sequoia Grove wasn’t quite as “intimate” as Judd’s Hill but, we really enjoyed it here also. The tasting room is actually in a 110 year old barn! My favorite wine was the Rebelliuos Red!
I must say, I don’t recall what the name of our 3rd stop was ;( It did nothing for me. Oh well…
Last stop. Already!! Wow, the day goes by fast! You really need several days here. Next trip! Anyway, my friend Laura LOVES champagne! So, naturally or final stop would have to be for some bubbly! Our driver took us to Domaine Chandon.
It actually has a Visitor Center!! The place and the grounds were huge! Not really what I think of when visiting wineries but, it was nice and we did enjoy or bubbly. We ordered our flights of bubbly and some truffle popcorn and enjoyed the end of our day in Napa lounging in some adirondack chairs on their gorgeous lawn.
Ahhh, life is good…
Back is San Fran and weary from our day of drinking (poor us) we decided to eat at the Slanted Door which is at the Ferry Building where we exited the ferry. I love the Slanted Door! And, it’s right there! So, this was a no-brainer.
I had been here on a previous trip and it was on my list to return. It’s a trendy restaurant serving Vietnamese fare in a glass-heavy space with bay views. They are usually quite busy. Reservations are recommended but, fortunately after a short 20 minute wait we were seated.
We shared some Vietnamese Egg Rolls, Shaking Beef, and some warm mint tea. It was a nice way to end our 2nd day.
Saturday morning, another glorious morning, we decided to hop on the Big Red Bus to see as much of the city as we could. I’ve gotten to where I do this in every city I visit that offers this as it is a great way to see lots of sights and learn some interesting facts and history about a city. And, it’s hop on hop off with your 24-hour ticket. You can get off and explore anywhere you like.
Here we are with nice hair before going over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Here we are windblown and cold (temp drops about 20 degrees as you cross) as we go over the bridge 🙂 The guy on the far right of the picture doesn’t look a thrilled as we do…
After winding through the city we decided to “hop off” at China Town. Did you know that it’s the largest chinatown outside of Asia! And, the oldest in North America.
We needed to buy our kids some of the obligatory China Town gifts and we were on a mission for Dim Sum! Now, I had heard not to eat Chinese food in China Town as it’s overly touristy and there are much better places in San Francisco to eat Chinese food. I prefer to visit places off the beaten path and less touristy anywhere I go. But, we were told that there were some pretty good Dim Sum places in China Town so we decided to give it a try. We ended up at Great Eastern Restaurant on Jackson Street.
Apparently, President Obama stops by here when in San Francisco so we thought it must be pretty good 🙂 I’m not getting into politics here people! Just saying…
We waited about 30 minutes to be seated (it was 130pm on a Saturday). Then enjoyed some hot tea and a light lunch of dim sum.
We ate a “light lunch” because we had to save room in our tummies for the next spot! We Ubered our way over to the historic Swan Oyster Depot. I realized this place existed about a week before we left for our trip. I’m so glad I did! This place is amazing! A seafood heaven! Family run since the 1940’s. Food critic, chef, author, and world traveler Anthony Bourdain once said, “If I read about myself dying at this counter, I’d say to myself, that was one lucky guy”.
It was 345pm and we waited in line outside for about 1 hour (they close daily at 530pm) before being seated at the long marble counter in this 100 year old establishment. It’s small ( I believe it seats only 16-18 people at a time) but, bustling and lively! And, the family running the place were happy to chat and make sure we had a good time!
We dined on the freshest of raw oysters and giant cold, boiled shrimp. We washed it down with a refreshing glass of white wine. Finally!! My first glass of wine for the day! Unfortunately, they were out of crab by the end of the day 😦 otherwise, I would have been gobbling up some of those bad boys! Next time!! Yes, there will be a next time! And, I highly recommend that you go there when in San Francisco. Stand in the line! You must!
Ah, our last full day in San Francisco… We decided to take a ferry over to Sausalito. It’s a quick 30 minute ride. “This little seaside town in SF’s back yard has unbelievable scenery, protected “banana belt” weather, and a laid-back Mediterranean atmosphere. If you are driving don’t miss the nearby & gorgeous Marin Headlands”. Lots of great information can be found on the Hidden SF website.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day. As usual, we were hungry and thirsty 🙂 Like I said, eating and drinking are 2 things Laura and I really enjoy doing. We took a 5 minute walk over to The Trident restaurant. We wanted seafood and great views and we got both! They have a huge deck that over looks the water. It was so peaceful watching the sail boats go by. We shared a platter of fresh seafood, some yummy truffle fries and, some refreshing Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay to wash it down. It was just what we needed to start our explorations of Sausalito.
The rest of the day we spent browsing the shops and galleries in this idyllic little town buying a few souvenirs along the way. We ended our day at The Madrigal Family Winery Tasting Room. The Madrigal Winery is actually in Calistoga. I hope to visit there on my next trip out to the wine country. It looks like a stunning vineyard from the photos displayed in their Sausalito tasting room. Definitely stop by the tasting room if you are in Sausalito!
Back in San Fran we departed the ferry at Fisherman’s Wharf this time. This is a very touristy place but, nonetheless, I’m glad we got to walk around there a bit before heading back to our hotel. If you go to San Francisco with your kids this is surely an area they will like. LOTS of shops, activities, performers and waterfront dining. There is an aquarium and a Ripley’s Believe It or Not, among other things. This is also where the famous Pier 39 sea lions are. Wish I had a better picture to show you but, the sun was facing my camera and it was hard to get a good shot.
There are usually hundreds and sometimes thousands of sea lions lounging and playing of the floating docks at Pier 39. They draw quite a crowd!
Back to the hotel for our final 😦 evening. Hungry and thirsty again… We decided on Italian! After a little research (I look to Trip Advisor a lot on vacation and honestly, I’m usually happy with what I find), we decided on Seven Hills in the Nob Hill neighborhood. Seven Hills is #6 of 4275 restaurants in San Francisco! It is a quaint little restaurant with only about 20 tables.
They have a great wine list and even have some gluten free offerings. The waitstaff were super nice and are more than happy to help with our selections. It was nothing short of wonderful. A great way to end our 4 days in the City by the Bay!
Note: We pretty much Ubered everywhere we went in the city. It was super reasonable and all the Uber drivers we had were nice.
Before I sign off, I must say that there are a lot of things that we didn’t get to do with our limited amount of time but, we sure tried! And, there’s always next time!
San Francisco is definitely a place I will return to! Until then I’ll be California Dreaming!