Sunday, November 18, 2012

San Francisco and the Napa Valley - October, 2012
After a quick one hour 20 minute flight with Southwest Airlines I arrived at the Oakland airport about 10:25 a.m.  I took the Bart into San Francisco, left my bag at the hotel and started to walk towards Spruce ( on Sacramento where I had lunch.  Passing Grace Cathedral and many old interesting homes in the Presidio Heights area, I arrived at Spruce on Sacramento, another very cute little shopping street.  Lunches are always wonderful at Spruce and I was delighted with my golden potato gnocchi with red kuri squash, poached egg, pecans, sage and toasted pumpkin seeds.  Dessert was an adorable little plum tart with walnuts and tiny little plum slices. 

I walked down Stanyan Street to Fulton where I entered Golden Gate Park.  Since it was such a beautiful day I walked around Stowe Lake and into the Japanese Tea  Gardens.  Afterwards, after a quick stop at the hotel to check into my room, I took the bus to my favorite restaurant in the city Frances ( .  In order to dine at Frances you have to plan two months ahead to make sure you get a reservation.  It is a small casual “bistro” with delicious little plates so creatively prepared.  My first course was a canning glass jar filled with cauliflower puree topped with little roasted florets on top and served with thin lavash bread topped with nigella seeds.  Second course was a baby kale salad with duck confit and medjool dates followed by pumpkin risotto with roasted chanterelle mushrooms and parmesan cheese.  Dessert was a little chocolate torte and “pecan pie” – a pecan tart topped with chocolate “cake” and served warm with caramel sauce and nut ice cream.  Everything was sooooooooo good!!!

Breakfast at Sugar CafĂ© and then a walk to the ferry building with all its food stalls and little shops, up the embarcadero to pier 39 and then to SFMOMA.  There were some new works by Alessandro Pessoli and a small exhibit called “Paul Klee’s circus” but nothing exceptional.  Three course lunch at Michael Mina ( was outstanding!!  First course was ahi tuna tartare with habanero infused oil which has been a traditional dish in his restaurants for many years.  Second course was seared ahi nicoise w/Jidori hen egg and a crouton topped with chopped hard cooked eggs and tomatoes.  Dessert course was a chocolate and peanut “abstract” with caramel, peanut ganache, etc.  Afterwards I took the bus to the De Young museum which is open late on Friday nights and saw the exhibition on Rudolf Nureyev, the famous Russian dancer/choreographer.  There were 80 costumes which he wore in his ballets and many photographs of him dancing.  The William S. Paley Collection of modern painters was also very good.  Later in the evening I had dinner at Nopa ( and sat upstairs overlooking the open kitchen.  The place is always bustling with people and the food is creative and excellent.  I had duck breast with cranberry beans, walnuts, arugula and warm grapes and a chocolate torte with hazelnut caramel and whipped cream.  The bus system in San Francisco is so fantastic that it is easy and cheap to get around so I took the bus back to the hotel…

In the morning I took the bus to the Enterprise Rental car lot and headed to Muir Woods just over the golden gate bridge.  I took a really nice hike through the redwoods to a lookout point where you could see the bay bridge and the panorama of the ocean.  It was such a perfect day.  On to Yountsville where I had lunch at Redd ( .  which consisted of tuna tartare with yellow fin and hamachi, a small order of scallops with cauliflower puree and butterscotch pudding with two little shortbread cookies for dessert. 

It took another 2 hours to get up to Gualala and St. Orres ( where I stayed the night but the drive was beautiful especially along the coast.  As it was a weekend night I could only stay in the hotel; otherwise, there is a two night minimum.  I prefer staying in the little cottages in the meadows but will have to plan better next time!!!  Dinner in the lovely dining room overlooking the pacific ocean was the delicious wild mushroom ravioli and decadent chocolate cake for dessert.  I slept with the window open so I could hear the sounds of the ocean….lovely….

In the morning I walked along the bluffs overlooking the ocean in Sea Ranch, a very unique community of homes, before heading back down to Yountsville for lunch.  I had a delicious roasted grape salad and fig tart at Bottega and then drove on up to Calistoga stopping at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park.  It is a lovely park with several trails through the redwoods and up to some nice view points as well.  I stayed at an adorable little bed and breakfast not to far away called Fanny’s ( on Spring Street.  After checking in and organizing myself I wandered along the main street filled with cute little shops and museums and had dinner at Jole (  in the Mount View Hotel.  I ordered the tasting menu and loved every bite!!!  It started with a mushroom empanada, scallops with curry and fresh pumpkin, duck breast and duck confit with celery root puree and stout cake with pumpkin ice cream to finish.

Deana, the innkeeper, fixed an amazing breakfast for me in the morning:  crisp apple pastry, fresh fruit, thin vegetable frittata topped with organic greens, baby tomatoes and shaved parmesan, muffins, bagels, coffee and juice!!!

After a nice leisurely walk around town, I drove back to San Francisco to return the car.  I wandered around the Jackson Square area to visit some of the art and poster galleries before having lunch at Cotogna ( , a casual little Italian bistro.  First a pear, prosciutto salad with smoked almonds and arugula followed by luscious tortellini filled with cheese and butternut square drizzled with brown butter and sage.  Dessert was a thin crisp plum tart topped with honey ice cream.  Now I was ready to hop on the Bart and head home!!!

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