Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gualala and the Napa Valley – February 2011

With Southwest airfares at an all time low ($30 each way!) I decided to fly to Oakland and drive up to Gualala.  I took the Bart from the airport to San Francisco as I wanted to turn in the car in San Francisco in order to visit some of the great museums when I returned on Friday.  Enterprise Car Rental was minutes from the Bart stop so I was on my way to Yountville over the Golden Gate Bridge in a flash! 
First stop was lunch at Redd Restaurant ( for tuna and hamachi tartar with Asian pear dice and crispy rice and their signature sautéed scallops on cauliflower puree with toasted almonds and raisins – yum.  Over to highway one and a beautiful, winding drive along the coast to St. Orres in Gualala ( where I was to have dinner and stay the night.   There are wonderful little creekside and meadow cottages you can stay in scattered over the grounds among the forest trees, some with ocean views.   I had booked “fern canyon”, a little creekside cottage but was upgraded to the luxurious black chanterelle complete with sauna, jacuzzi and spacious patio with a view of the ocean.  Dinner was in the inn’s ornate dining room with Chef Rosemary Campformio presiding.  My wild mushroom ravioli and  huckleberry bread pudding with caramel sauce were outstanding with both mushrooms and huckleberries foraged by Rosemary!!!  Breakfast consisting of fresh squeezed orange, fruit fruit, homemade granola and milk, scrambled eggs on crisp English muffins was delivered to the door in a bento box promptly at 8:30 a.m.   So, I made some coffee, ate my delicious breakfast sitting on my patio and enjoyed the quiet of the forest and the wonderful view of the ocean – it doesn’t get much better than that!!!
Sea Ranch ( is about 20 minutes south and quite a community in itself.  It is noted for its distinctive architecture which is not permitted to detract from the scenery.  A friend of a friend lives there so I was able to visit one of the ocean view homes.  Although just a simple timber frame structure there are glass windows everywhere overlooking the ocean!!!  I borrowed their sea ranch pass so I could walk the bluffs along the ocean but first made a stop at the famous Two Fish Bakery ( nearby for some banana bread and coffee.  It’s a tiny little place where everyone seems to know everyone and has great pastries!!  The day was beautiful and sunny so I walked down to the black beach and along the water before heading on down to Yountville.

Along the way in St. Helena I stopped at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen ( for lunch.  My udon salad with seared ahi tuna was excellent.  I walked along main street visiting some of the shops then drove to Yountville where I stayed the night at The Bordeaux House (  I wandered down Washington Street to Ad Hoc (, one of the many Thomas Keller restaurants in town, where I had dinner.  There is only one menu per night and it is always excellent.  The restaurant is casual, bustling with activity and filled with people.  Thursday night’s menu was endive and watercress salad with capers and tapenade, grass feed steak with roast vegetables, blue cheese with honey and cinnamon beignets with chocolate sauce and cream.
I took a lovely walk in the morning through the vineyards and then had breakfast at Bouchon Bakery nearby.  They make a nice selection of French pastries and croissants hot from the oven.  After breakfast I drove back over the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco and returned the car.
Lunch was at A16 near Scott/Chestnut Streets where it’s fun to sit at the bar and watch the cooking going on.  My arugula salad with dates, whole roasted almonds and ricotta salada, mushroom pizza with dandelion greens and chocolate mousse tart were all delicious.  Afterwards, I took a bus to the Legion of Honor ( to see the Pulp Fashion exhibit by Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave.  She has created elaborate hand painted fashions, jewelry and even shoes out of rag paper.  The miniature paintings and illuminations by Arthur Szyk also on display were delightful.
Dinner at Frances ( that night was great fun.  I made my 9:15 p.m. reservation two months in advance and was lucky to have that!  It is a tiny space serving little interesting plates of food.  Tables are close together but everyone is having such a great experience it doesn’t seem to matter.  I had baby golden beets with oranges and arugula, octopus with radishes and red onions, scallops on parsnip puree and a persimmon cake.  The F bus back me back very close to the Crescent Hotel (www.crescentsfcom) where I like to stay arriving about midnight!!!
After breakfast the next morning at Sugar Café ( nearby, I walked down market street to the ferry plaza farmer’s market ( , which is open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings.  There are vendors selling fruits, vegetables, spreads, chips, Indian sauces, etc.  as well as restaurant trucks serving everything from huevos rancheros to sushi!!!  I often see unique fruits and vegetables I have eaten just days before for sale, i.e cardoons. 

The Contemporary Jewish Museum is only 5 minutes walking distance and I wanted to see the Curious George Saves the Day exhibition before lunch and my flight home.  There were about 80 illustrations and books on display in which the lives of their authors and illustrators, Margret and H.A. Rey, are intertwined in many ways.  A final lunch at Chez Papa Resto, a French Bistro ( was wonderfully French, i.e. fresh pear and arugula salad with almonds, tuna Nicoise salad with quail eggs and fingerling potatoes and a pistachio ice cream filled éclair with warm chocolate sauce poured over the top.  Fully satisfied I boarded the Bart and headed to the airport and home.  Until next time…

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