Sonoma Saturday

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SMS and I on the rooftop of Singlethread

What an amazing birthday weekend!  SMS and I had an epic few days in Sonoma.  We had so much fun together and I’m definitely sad it’s over.  But rather than drown in my pinot-tinged tears, let me tell you about our trip!

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Wisteria at Preston

We started on Saturday morning with an ambitiously scheduled 11 a.m. tour at Preston Farm and Winery.  Yes, well, that didn’t happen.  We stopped in Oakland for breakfast and even though we passed on the wait at the delicious looking Sequoia Diner, our drive there was a bit more of a detour than I realized.  We went to the World Ground Coffeeshop, which was pretty cool.

I called Preston Farm and they told us not to worry, that they’d even refund the tour charge once we got there!  Lucky us!  Preston is in the Dry Creek appellation of Sonoma. I picked it after researching several Sonoma wineries.  I liked the fact that there was a produce farm in addition to the winery.  In addition, they grow Mourvèdre grapes, which I really like in red blends.  They’re actually releasing a 100% Mourvèdre in a week so I might buy it off their website!

It’s not terribly difficult to get to although the last half mile is on a packed dirt road.  The gardens are beautiful and it is an idyllic place to sit.  There is a bocce ball court which, if I were to make a Mean Girls t-shirt for Preston, it would say, “On weekdays, we play bocce” since there were several (!) signs saying bocce was not to be played on weekends.

SMS and I each had a tasting.  We tried two whites and four reds.  We thought they were fine, but not mind-blowing.  We bought the white blend “Madam Preston” since it was our favorite of the flight and the tasting fee was waived with a bottle purchase.   Free wine!

The wine pourers were all really nice.  We got several biking recs and a few other tasting room suggestions.  One of the women enthusiastically endorsed our planned Monday tour at Medlock-Ames so we were excited about that!

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View at Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve

After Preston, we went to Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve.  We parked on a residential street near the trailhead and went on a two mile walk/hike.  There were really pretty views of the valley and it was a nice way to spend some time on a gorgeous day!

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Rockpile, the tasting room next to Rockpile, the construction site

After our hike, we went into Healdsburg.  We stayed at America’s Best Value Inn, which was fine.  It was clean and inexpensive, which was our goal for that night’s stay!  We walked into town, which I thought would be easy.  It was not.  There’s a construction zone for a roundabout that the locals, if you bring it up, will immediately start to vent about how long it’s taking and how ridiculous the whole thing is.  What was funny though is that there is a tasting room right on the developing roundabout called Rockville, which is very appropriate.  I think the name precedes the construction site though.

We went to the Idlewild tasting room, which was recommended to us at Preston.  The winery focuses on Piedmont, Italy wines.  The flight, which we shared, featured 5 single varietals, 2 white/3 red.  We also tried the Rosé, made from 47% Nebbiolo, 28% Barbera, and 25% Dolcetto.  Most rosés are made from Pinot Noir grapes so this was an interesting variation.  I got a full glass, which was definitely a great choice.  We talked with the pourer Scott for awhile!  He was very interesting and quite knowledgeable about the wine/restaurant scene. He is a somewhat recent transplant, having arrived from NYC about three years ago.

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Flowers at Shed

While the wines were good (especially paired with an incredible cheese plate- Piedmont Sola and a buffalo Camembert), we decided not to buy any bottles.  I think we were too lazy to carry them!  We headed over to Shed, where we had a reservation.  I had wanted to eat there since our last visit so I was really happy to go.

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Cheese, Salumi, Pickles- Shed

At Shed, we split three plates, which was a lot of food (as pointed out by SMS before we ordered).  I ordered the cheese/salumi plate and the ricotta-nettles dumplings.  Both were very good.  SMS ordered the savory toast, which was excellent.  The toast was pretty heavy since there was a lot of butter soaking the bread, topped by pesto and other toppings.  I never thought I would say there was too much better on toast but this one was slightly toeing the line.

After a great dinner, we headed back to the hotel.  It was time for bed in anticipation of Sonoma Sunday!

Mele Kalikimaka

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Santa’s Helper!

For Christmas 2017, my family decided to meet in a tropical location since the past two Christmases have been ski vacations.  Since Zika is endemic in many tropical areas, Hawaii was one of the few Zika-free places we could go.  Twist my rubber arm!

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Diamond Head, Waikiki

My parents booked a house near Hanalei, Kauai which was awesome because the North Shore is my favorite part of the island.  We were between Hanalei and the Na’pali Coast so it was a really awesome location.  On the way, I had a several hour layover in Honolulu so I went to Waikiki.  It was beautiful!

I walked on the beach and stopped at The House Without a Key in the Halekulani Hotel.  I had a few drinks while listening to Hawaiian music.  It was so idyllic!  I also have a new tropical drink favorite.  Move over Pina Colada, meet Hale Passion (Rum, Passion Fruit, Almond, Coconut, Light Cream)!

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Catch-up: Fall 2017

Alright, whoever guessed that I wouldn’t keep up with the European vacation posts gets their money back and more.  Forward this post to seven friends and in 30 days, a check from a very legitimate source will appear.

I kid, I kid.  Although I will finish the posts, I’m afraid I’m going to have to do a linkback similar to the Switzerland trip from last year.  A lot has gone on this Fall and I’ve done myself a disservice in not keeping up with my blog in real time since the main purpose of this thing is to serve as an e-diary for the places I go.

So.  After an amazing September vacation, it was a bit of an adjustment to realize that the vacation we had been planning for almost a year had come and gone.  It was so awesome and we had the best time.  SMS and I had a wonderful time with his family in Italy, which was sandwiched between a road trip encompassing Germany, Lichtenstein and Switzerland before and Slovenia & Germany after.  Things that happened in October and November include…

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Southern Roadtrip, Day 10: Savannah Breakfast

Good morning Savannah!

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We had ordered our B&B breakfast as room service so we could eat on our balcony.  Here’s to somewhat poor life choices since the surrounding beauty was somewhat diminished by the intense heat.

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Breakfast was amazing although half-way through, we transitioned back inside.  We split one order of the blueberry bread pudding and one order of the Eggs Benedict.  It was so much food and all so delicious!

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We left the beautiful Kehoe House and drove to Savannah Airport.  The trip was amazing and we saw so.much!  We definitely saw everything we wanted.  Maybe next time we’ll try to cut some things out to reduce driving time but knowing us, we’ll still probably try to cram everything in!

Total Mileage:

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Southern Road Trip, Day 8: Grayton Beach to Apalachicola

After a night’s sleep interrupted by a door-slamming, loud-talked neighbor (boooooo!), SMS and I had breakfast at the Hibiscus cafe, which was included in our B&B package. We split the multi-grain pancakes and an egg dish and were really happy with the meal.

After breakfast, it was time to hit the road.  About 45 minutes into the drive, we stopped at Seaside, which was an exquisitely cute town.  The beach and water there looked spectacular although we didn’t go in.  There were a lot of Airstream trailor “food trucks” that were serving pretty delicious looking things but we weren’t hungry at all.  I told SMS that this was my ideal beach food- still junk food, but over-priced and artisanal.  SMS and I agreed that this sounded very white to say.

I also checked out Seadog bookstore, where I ended up talking to one of the ladies there for awhile.  We swapped book recs and I walked out with three!  She and her husband split her time between Seaside and Memphis.  She was very interesting to talk to and I’m glad I met her!  We figured out that we shared the same first name so no wonder we thought highly of each other.

I had heard good things about Rosemary, but we drove through and I just checked it out through the window.  In the future, I think a Florida Panhandle vacation centered on Seaside would be pretty awesome.  Maybe I’ll visit my sister when she’s living in Pensacola!  

As we headed for Apalachicola, we were entering oyster country.  We stopped at Indian Pass Raw Bar for a late lunch.  It’s so popular that there was still a long wait but it was worth it!  The local oysters are meaty but with a very mild taste- not particularly briny or butter-y, which is how I’ve always thought of dividing oysters.  We shared oyster, gumbo and a slice of Key Lime Pie.  We also self-served ourselves a draft beer and made our check on the honor system orange tab.  It was a pretty great experience!

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We drove through Apalachicola and crossed the two bridges to St George Island.  We drove through the State Park, which had beautiful beaches but some biting flies so we didn’t last too long.  It’s weird- the bites don’t hurt severely but they are pretty annoying!

Our hotel was off of Airbnb and check-in desk-less.  It was amazing!  A beautifully restored building with gorgeous hardwood floors and pretty decor.  We went out and sat on the balcony for a bit while trying to figure out what to do for dinner.  

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We decided to head over the bridge to Eastpoint to eat at Lynn’s Quality Oysters, which had rave reviews.  It was also a Southern Road Trip jackpot because our waiter had the thickest regional accent of the trip.  He was a super skinny, super nice oysterman who was waiting tables on the dinner shift.  He told us the back porch was his turf and that if management left him alone, he could manage the whole thing on a busy night.    That night, it was just us and one other table so we talked for a bit.  

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We ordered raw and baked oysters.  The raw oysters were so good we wished we had just stuck with those, but I had been interested to try the variation since we really hadn’t had oysters any other way since our grilled oyster experiences in Japan.

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We left just as they were closing and took two slices of Key Lime pie to go.  We ate on the balcony of our hotel and they were absolutely delicious.   SMS and I usually share dessert but that night, my slice was mine!  It ended up being a good decision because the slices were medium-sized and amazing.  Sharing would have been hard!

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Southern Road Trip, Day 7: Pensacola to Grayton Beach

We woke up in Pensacola and hung out with the Topp family while they got ready for their day.  The nanny came and we offered to watch the littlest one for a bit, but the nanny had her own schedule and decided to take her.  Boo hoo!

We decided to make ourselves feel better by heading to the beach.  It was a beautiful day and we started out at one of the Pensacola beaches near a hotel.  We stayed for about an hour before deciding to explore further East down Santa Rosa Island.

Away from the hotels, the Gulf Islands National Seashore is a nature reserve with incredible beaches.  It would be a great place for road biking since there is a strict 25 mph speed limit for cars.  We stopped at Beach 32 and thought it was the most beautiful beach of the trip.  The picture below doesn’t do it justice but the water was crystal clear, perfect temperature and the sand was a fine, sugar-like consistency.

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After a beach morning, we stopped at the Shark Bite food truck, which had a lot of good Yelp reviews.  We were too late for the breakfast menu but the lunch offerings were pretty good.  I had the Jerk Pork tacos while SMS had the Shrimp and Chorizo.  I would definitely recommend this place- the daily lunch specials also sounded delicious.

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After a quick stop at Donut Hole Bakery in Ft. Walton beach where we picked up a slice of key lime pie, we continued on to Grayton Beach.

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Grayton Beach was absolutely beautiful.  We went down the street from our hotel for an early dinner/late snacks at Chiringo and then we went to the beach to watch the sunset.

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After sunset, we headed back to the hotel.  We were a little hungry so we went to AJ’s Grayton Beach, which was pretty terrible.  The oysters were spoilt and the rest of the food was not great.  A definite do-not recommend.

Southern Road Trip, Day 6: Vicksburg to Pensacola

I woke up and went for a run.  If it’s so humid that it feels like you’re running through a shower, do you have to shower afterwards?  (Answer: yes, duh!).  After the run, I showered off and we had breakfast at the Bezinsky House.  We talked to the owners for a bit before heading off to the Vicksburg Military Park.  SMS wanted to check out the USS Cairo, a well-preserved “Ironsides” boat from the Civil War.  It was sunk by a remote-operated landmine and the silt of the river preserved it for many years.  

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The reconstruction efforts were extensive and resulted in a pretty incredible display.  The engineering of the ship with the turbine steam engine was really interesting, although there was no reconstruction of the steam engine connection to the turbine for moving the paddlewheel, so I was a little confused.  Also, it was pretty amazing to see the weak spots in the ship design.  Although it looked like an armor-covered large toad, there was definitely an Achilles heel where the turbine was located since it was rather exposed with no cannons stationed nearby.

After the USS Cairo, we drove through the battlegrounds on the way to the Interstate.  We crossed the Mississippi into Louisiana where we were disappointed to learn that the drive-through daiquiri stand didn’t open until 1.  We backtracked through Jackson with another stop at Deep South Pops after lunch at New Southern Food near the hospital.

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Then we made the long push to Pensacola where we were staying with friends from my residency.  We had an awesome night catching up over takeout from McGuire’s.  We also “helped” put their kids to bed, which I don’t think was particularly helpful since the kids were all revved up over their visitors.  They were very cute!

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