So, after an amazing Napa trip with my professional wine-tasting in-laws, I took the week off and did my best impression of a Real Housewife of Silicon Valley. Mainly, this meant that I went to expensive boutique exercise classes. I went to my favorite SPX pilates class and realized that my core has no strength. I also tried out Soul Cycle for the first time, which was interesting. It’s basically a very fancy spin class that charges a LOT of money to pedal furiously in the dark led by enthusiastic instructors with excellent playlists. I enjoyed it but was worried that I would fall off my bike during the arms section where a rider bounces up and down the handlebars in a sort-of pushup motion while standing up and pedaling very fast. I felt that this was either going to lead to my face being bashed in or falling over. Falling over would be bad because the bikes are very close together and I would have fallen on someone. Fortunately, neither happened. Hooray!
Soul Cycle has a lot of aficionados who like both the workout and the positive vibes that are preached along the way. I enjoyed myself and would definitely go if it was less expensive but since it’s not, trial membership only for me!
I also ate delicious food! I’d grab an Americano at Alexander’s and one day, I treated myself to a shave ice at Teaspoon on Castro St. It was delicious!
SMS and I also went to an Indian restaurant for dinner that featured seating inside of rickshaws and buses. It was so cool! We went after climbing at Planet Granite one night and I couldn’t believe we had never gone together before. I loved it!
After a week of leisure, we flew down to San Diego for my cousin Jim’s wedding. I had an awesome time hanging out with SMS, my brothers, my cousins, and my aunts & uncles. SMS and I also tried scooters for the first time, which were a lot of fun. I had seen my cousin on InstaStory and I knew I wanted to try. I was definitely the slowest in the group but it was a great way to get to brunch. My brothers, SMS and I went to brunch the Sunday after the wedding, which was a lot of fun. One of my brothers barely had any time between brunch and his flight but he made it. Hooray!
A long-standing weekend trip finally arrived last week! SMS and I had made plans with his parents to go to Sonoma/Napa for Veteran’s Day weekend. Linda and I had made reservations in the mid-Summer for lodging and a few special tastings. A few other tastings and our dinner reservations were made just before the weekend. It was a nice mix of long-term planning and last minute spontaneity. It was a wonderful trip.
Our Saturday started in Mountain View, when SMS and I dropped off a pair of climbing shoes at our friends’ house. This was a nice stop for two reasons. One, Michelle made us a delicious breakfast sandwich (finely chopped kale in eggs for the win!) and two, we saw a tree full of parrots!
I had heard about the parrots in San Francisco but I hadn’t realized that they migrate up and down the peninsula. Michele was much less enamored with the parrots since she says they are quite loud in the morning. When we were there, we didn’t hear squawking but we heard the rapid typewriter-like cadence of a dozen or so parrots cracking open their breakfast of choice, hard red berries. It was pretty cool to us so we stood outside for a bit before heading up to Santa Rosa to pick up Rip and Linda.
Our ride was uneventful and after picking up Rip and Linda, we headed to Lancaster Estate for our first tasting of the weekend. Linda had booked a cave tour and tasting, which was very cool. It also had the added benefit of being indoors, which was nice since air quality was a slight concern due to the wind-carried smoke from the Camp Fire fire. Petya was our guide. She was very interesting because her background in the wine industry was initially through sales and imports of Bulgarian wines. We really enjoyed the cave and our tasting in the library just inside the cave entrance, which looked like a hobbit door opening into the hillside.
We had a little time before our next tasting, so we decided to share a pairing per couple at Hawkes’ tasting room which was conveniently on the way. Hooray! The wines were good and I enjoyed them quite a bit, both the merlot and the cabernet sauvignon. The tasting was complimentary thanks to Rip’s membership.
After Lancaster, we headed over to Comstock Winery, where I had booked a pizza and wine pairing. Comstock’s grounds are really beautiful and would be a great place for an outdoor picnic on a warmer, less smoky day. There are several outdoor games and beautiful gardens. The pizzas were quite good, all wood-fire oven baked and with really nice flavor combos. The wines were not quite as good compared to our tastings earlier in the day but we somehow managed to drink them. We’re so resilient.
Finally, we stopped in the Medlock Ames tasting room, which is one of the clubs I belong to. We had a delicious rose and several reds, mostly cabs. I really like their wines a lot and the tasting room was quite nice. We also got the tip to check out Ehlers from Patrick the Pourer, which ended up being a great tip we used on Monday.
So, after an amazing Dry Creek appellate focused day, we headed to our hotel in St. Helena, Napa. We stayed at the Vineyard Country Inn, which was slightly more affordable than other Napa hotels (this is not saying much). The suites all had a sitting area, comfortable bed, small kitchenette, bathroom, and fireplace. We did not light a fire since SMS pointed out there was enough smoke in the air already. Linda made a reservation at Market restaurant, which was really good. SMS and I split a chopped salad and Korean short ribs. Both meals were pretty heavy (even the salad since it was held together by eggs, bacon, and mayo) but we were happy with splitting the two. We ordered table s’mores for dessert, which was a lot of fun to make. We discovered a new way to categorize people: marshmallow on fire types vs slow golden roaster types.
After rolling home and sleeping very well, we were ready for our Napa Sunday! More wine, MO-RE WINE!! I had made a 10:30 reservation for a cave tour at Schramsberg, which Linda was really looking forward too. I know 10:30 is early but one, it’s champagne and two, that’s all that was left even though I had booked months earlier! It was definitely a busy holiday weekend for Napa, despite not being the peak Summer season.
The cave tour was amazing. Our tour guide Noelle was fantastic. I had been on a cave tour in the past but this was better than I remembered. I was most impressed by the story of how removing the yeast from the champagne was discovered by Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, the “Widow Clicquot” of Veuve Clicquot fame! I loved the history behind the champagne, especially since it featured a total badass of a woman!
The hand-picked cave with its draping cave lichen is a marvel. For our tasting, the atmosphere was further enhanced by candelabras on the table with real candles. The candles also have the side benefit of demonstrating there’s enough oxygen in the cave so if you’re feeling light-headed, it’s the bubbly, not the air.
After a great tour, we headed to Gott’s Roadside for lunch. The line was huge and next time, we know to call in an order! The food was really good and I enjoyed a Cowgirl Creamery grilled cheese with a small side of butternut squash soup, featuring sneak attacks of scathingly hot squash chunks.
After lunch, we went to a winery recommended by Linda’s cousin, Trinchero winery. We tried several of the flights, to include a Petit Verdot, several Cabs, one Merlot, and a Chardonney. We enjoyed the wines but the reds were pretty tannin-y for our tastes. I thought it was the type of red wine that people who enter chili eating contests would like- people more hearty than myself. Even the tasting room was very macho, with stuffed game birds arranged on the walls, to include a rooster fight.
Then it was time to get ready for our early-ish dinner at The Charter Oak. It is a new-ish, buzzy restaurant that Linda had heard about and secured reservations for Sunday night. It was delicious! Everything was family-style so we all shared bites and plates, getting a really nice sample of all the flavors. The meals were mainly made on a prominently featured hearth with customizable trays and pans within it. It was very impressive. It’s hard to pick a favorite but I really liked the charred broccoli and burrata salad. I tried to recreate it at home with mixed success. I think I need a mega-hearth in my kitchen…and a sous chef or two.
Finally, Monday rolled around. Linda and Rip, no amateurs at this game, had booked their flight for the early evening so…more wine tasting! After checkout, we headed over to Ehlers at our new early time record of 9:30. They had just opened and Bernard, my soon-to-be-BFF, said that they were booked for the day and that a tasting wasn’t possible. When I asked about what a tasting entailed, he said 1-1.5 hours of tasting and discussing wine, or maybe Game of Thrones. I told him I was only on Season 3 but I only had to say the words “Jamie Lannister’s hand” and Bernard pulled down glasses for a “splash” tasting! Hooray! Maybe it was the convivial spirit of discussing TV characters’ plights, but I thought the wine was delicious! We bought a few bottles and, really, Ehlers turned out to be the serendipitous highlight of the trip!
Afterwards, we went back into St. Helena and walked around. Then we went to the Culinary Institute of America and browsed around in the gift shop. Then we piled into the car to head towards Napa, first stopping at the French Laundry Garden in Yountville. It is my Dad’s least favorite garden in the world (“It’s so pretentious!”). Most everyone else doesn’t seem to mind it. Then we went to Oakville Grocery for lunch. We ordered delicious sandwiches and sat outside on a really pretty, not too smokey (yet) day.
Next, we stopped at Foley Johnson Winery, where Rip gets free tastings thanks to his Lancaster membership. The wines were fine but, in contrast to my BFF Bernard, the pourer at FJ was, as I wrote down sarcastically, “Mr. Personality,” aka, a jerk! But it was free wine and we got pretty pictures of grapes still on the vines, which was super late for a Napa Harvest. As we heard several times during the weekend, the Napa Summer of 2017 had only one heat spike instead of the usual six so the grapes just kept going.
We went into Napa and walked around Oxbow Market. We weren’t hungry so no purchases there, although I do really like the place. We walked to a toy store so I could get a small present for our friends’ kid, whom we were going to see later that evening.
We decided we could fit in one more wine tasting (yay!) and we decided to check out the Foley Food and Wine Society (FFWS) tasting room at The Village at Vista Collina resort. We tried a delicious chardonnay (Courtney’s Couvee) followed by several reds, to include a Merus cabernet sauvignon that was amazing. And expensive. Boo! Why do the two go hand in hand?! It was a really nice experience and a great way to end the weekend.
Then we dropped Rip and Linda off at the airport, which was about an hour northwest of the FWWS tasting room. Wine country is huge! Then we went to our friends’ house for a late dinner of lamb and “Indian risotto,” which Jyotsna made with more traditional Indian spices since she decided that traditional risotto is too bland. Dinner was great and it was so nice to see Akshay and Jyotsna- they’ve moved about an hour north of Mountain View so we’re no longer neighbors. But they can’t shake us! We’ve made tentative plans to spend New Year’s Eve together! I can’t wait!
And if you’re still reading, congratulations! This was a doozy, boozy weekend recap!
SMS and I had another amazing California weekend! The weather was gorgeous and we spent a lot of time outside. On Saturday, we started off in San Francisco at the Wooden Spoon. It’s located next to the Swedish-American Hall and has some Swedish-inspired dishes for breakfast/lunch/brunch. I got the most Swedish dish of Swedish pancakes with lemon curd and lingonberry preserves. It was delicious! After breakfast, SMS and I took a walk to nearby Corona Heights Park and took in some pretty spectacular city views. I went without my phone so no pictures for the blog but if you’re looking for a short urban hike, this place fits the bill.
After brunch, we headed back down the Peninsula. We went to Thomas Fogarty Winery, where we sat outside with a glass of wine. The wines were good and the patio was nice, but that was the only place that drinking outside was allowed for tasting room visitors. The patio doesn’t overlook the Valley so SMS thought that it wasn’t well planned, which I agree. We walked around the grounds and it does have a spectacular view. A wedding was about to start and the private event spaces were gorgeous with a covered eating area that did have a view and was beautifully decorated.
The next morning, SMS made me breakfast. We had bacon and eggs with two 2-yolk eggs- so much luck in that meal! We had climbing plans for later that afternoon so we decided to go on a hike to Windy Hill. We’ve been meaning to do it for awhile but other plans kept getting in the way.
Windy Hill was beautiful! We parked on a nearby street and started our hike by following the signs to Spring Meadow trail to Spring Ridge Trail. The trail was mostly a packed road up the golden grassed hill. There was no shade along this portion. Then we walked along the top of the hill, following Anniversary Trail to Lost Trail. Then, we descended down Hamms Gulch trail, which was beautiful and shaded. If (when!) we go again, SMS and I agreed that reversing the loop would be better since there would be shade during the strenuous uphill climb. Downhill would be in the Sun and walking towards the Valley view, which is quite spectacular.
After our hike, which was seven miles instead of my predicted five, we grabbed a quick lunch at Annachikadai where I ordered delicious pakora bread with mutton curry. Then we went to Planet Granite and had an awesome climbing session. I felt very strong for not having climbed recently so it gives me hope that I can get better once I’m able to train consistently.
Then we went to The Halford, a gastropub with lots of beer options. SMS’ climbing friends are really nice and it was a great dinner. Afterwards, we went into the Baker’s Village bakery that had a lot of Japanese-style sweets. I was in heaven! Looking the place up, it actually is a Korean bakery but reminds me of the not-too-sweet treats in Japan that also featured toasted sesame seeds.
The next day, we took the morning off from work and grabbed breakfast followed by a walk through San Jose’s Rose Garden. There was a sign saying that it was voted the best rose garden in the US. It surprises me that Portland’s rose garden was beat but regardless, this is a very pretty place. I don’t think we were there during peak rose season but it really is amazing how many there are.
The weekend after an East Coast family trip, SMS and I made our way from Silicon Valley to the Central Coast. First stop? Great-Uncle Al’s 90th birthday party in Arroyo Grande!
Before we went to the party, we stopped at our favorite taco place in nearby Pismo Beach, Papi’s Grill. We ordered a few tacos and they were delicious. The potato taco is always a hit and a few of the meat ones were also very tasty. Then we checked into the SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel and went to the beach for a bit.
Uncle Al is SMS’ grandfather’s younger brother. The brothers are both very active and live life to the fullest. Although there was no formal toast, Uncle Al got up at one point to tell us “terrible news:” “I just went to DMV and they renewed my license…for five more years!” It was very funny. Although as I type it, it sounds worrisome- I promise, it was light-hearted!
It was fun to see family members, including SMS’ aunt and uncle whom we don’t see as often. We had tri-tip for dinner, which was pretty delicious. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and watched the sunset. It was a pretty great day.
The next day, SMS and I went to a local bar to watch the World Cup final. I am an unabashed follower of sports when it comes to championship games. The road to the championship? Not so much but when it’s time for the finals, I’m usually there. It was a good game and both teams played with gusto. I was rooting for Croatia as the underdog but France winning was also ok.
After the game, we checked out of the hotel and headed for Paso Robles. We had decided to take a couple days off and go wine-tasting with SMS’ parents. Since we were early for check-in, we headed out to do what we do best- drink wine! Our first stop was at Eos winery, where Rip had a complimentary tasting due to reciprocity from another wine club he belongs to. Our pourer was really nice but the wines were…ok. We enjoyed talking to her and she gave us a tip that was AWESOME (more later) so it wasn’t a bust but we definitely didn’t buy any of the wines.
Rip wanted to try Niner winery so off we went for a tasting and possibly lunch. There, by total chance, we ran into his sister and brother-in-law. We enjoyed a tasting and decided to eat lunch at the on-site restaurant. It was really good and the outdoor seating even better. It was a really nice lunch setting and it was very enjoyable.
Although we had gotten the message that our hotel rooms were ready, we decided to keep going with wine tastings (yay!). Since Justin is an old favorite and a little out of the way from the places we were planning on for the next day, we headed there. We split wine tastings there and I bought a few bottles. We ambitiously thought we’d drink them while we ate S’mores later at the Hotel Cheval but that ended up not happening. So SMS and I still have them. Darn.
We headed back to town to check in and then go to dinner. We went to Thomas Hill Organics, which has excellent food and a beautiful indoor/outdoor covered patio. Afterwards, we went to Hotel Cheval’s famed evening S’mores which ended up driving me crazy. Let me say, SMS thinks I shouldn’t write about this because it does make me look slightly insane. He is probably right but I press on, regardless.
So, first, you cannot make your own S’more. There is a s’more concierge/waiter who takes your S’more order and then makes them for you. He is taking orders from many people who would like s’mores and yet, he can only make two at a time. Not the best system in the world but this is not the part where I lost my mind. What was driving me crazy was his insane level of inefficiency and resulting level of stress. It’s like the scene in August: Osage County when Abigail Breslin’s character states she doesn’t eat meat because she’s ingesting an animal’s fear. Well, I was eating a person’s stress while eating a s’more, which is antithetical to the s’more experience. Also, why could he not move his s’more ingredient wagon next to the fireplace where he was actually making the s’mores rather than running back and forth. Wwhhhhhhyyyy?!?!? Argh, just let me make my own s’more! Except I couldn’t. And the whole experience made me weirdly grouchy because I am crazy. The end.
So, if you’re still with me rather than reporting my fragile mental status to concerned authorities, we had another day of wine tasting the next day! After a delicious breakfast, which featured a buffet and, thankfully, not a breakfast s’more waiter, we headed out to Villa San Juliette, which had been recommended the previous day at Eos.
It was amazing! The wines were really good- I ended up becoming a member! Also, the tasting was $10 and a lot of wines were served. SMS ordered a pizza because his hunger levels were reaching imminent crisis levels and it looked delicious. We spoke to the chef for a bit and he really knew his stuff. I sort of wanted to eat there because everything he described sounded amazing, but we had already made plans for Daou which is another great experience. But before I move on to Daou, if you are in Paso Robles, I give Villa San Juliette my highest recommendation!
Rip has been a member of Daou for a long time and loves their wines. It also sits on top of the largest hill around for miles so the view is spectacular. There is an outside sitting area that is covered so, although it is quite hot, it’s comfortable in the shade as there’s often a gentle breeze as well. We had a great tasting there and lunch.
Our lunch was rather late so we decided to head back into town for happy hour rather than try and squeeze in another winery. We got some so-so ice cream but later, went out for a really nice dinner at La Cosecha. I ordered the seafood stew that was delicious but I wasn’t quite hungry enough for. Still, I ate all the good stuff and tried not to waste any food! Afterwards, SMS and I headed to an outdoor spa at River Oaks Hot Spring & Spa. He made the reservation and it was really a good idea! Afterwards, we still had room for a s’more so we hung out by the fire again. This time, I was more chill. Not uncoincidentally, there was a different s’more guy.
The next day, it was time to go. We ate breakfast and then packed up the car. It was a great mini-vacation and a fun way to celebrate family.
After a busy start to the month, SMS and I decided to continue the trend by taking a road trip to Newport Beach to visit his grandfathers and show off SMS’ new car. It turned into even more of a family affair because we were also able to visit our newest nephew who is, of course, super cute!!!
On Saturday, we headed to a coffee shop that SMS wanted to show me: Companion Bakeshop in Santa Cruz. He had been there as a pre-mountain biking meeting spot and thought it was delicious. It was! We ordered coffee, toast, a pastry, a baguette and a strawberry pie, which had rave reviews on Yelp. [Aside: Yes, I use Yelp. It’s actually pretty helpful. I don’t get too in the weeds but glancing at the reviews helps get a feel for the place. It’s even useful for overseas travel.]
Then we went to Monterey to visit my newest nephew. Ghah! He is so cute! I was glad we could visit because there was definitely a lot going on for my brother’s family. It was a quick visit but I got to hold a teeny-weeny baby and pose for some pictures.
Then we were off to Newport Beach. The drive was quick and painless. We stopped in Paso Robles at the cutest lunch spot owned by a few really friendly locals. It’s called Galley Bite and the staff, including the cook/owner, were really nice! I highly recommend it- delicious food without getting caught up in a fancier downtown “Wine Country” place. In fact, I stopped typing for a bit so I could write a quick TripAdvisor recommendation- small businesses need support!
Then we arrive in Newport. We hung out with SMS’ parents and his grandfather that night. We had a delicious dinner. It had been awhile since we had seen them so it was a really nice time. The next morning, we shared breakfast before SMS’ parents took off. Then we headed over to visit SMS’ other grandfather. We took pictures with the car and just really had a nice time with family.
On Sunday, we headed back and stopped in the Santa Barbara Funk Zone. It is super cool and although we were thinking of eating at Lark, we passed a food tent with Poseidon incarnate inside. He was selling oysters, lobster rolls, and uni. Yes, yes, and yes! The tent was outside a little winery so we had some wine tasters to go along with our lunch. It was an excellent stop.
We walked to Handle Bar Coffee shop and ordered a nitro coffee (me) and decaf espresso (SMS). We also inhaled an adffogato. Seriously, it’s like we hadn’t eaten all day. After that interlude of pig-a-liciousness, we got back into the car and drove back to Mountain View. Google maps sent us on a backroad adventure near Gilroy, which was really beautiful in the twilight. Even though it was a lot of driving, it was an awesome weekend!