Friday, December 13, 2013

San Francisco/Napa Valley – November, 2013
Near the end of November, I flew up to Oakland, took the bart into San Francisco and checked into the Golden Gate Hotel on Sutter, a cute little bed and breakfast inn with a very friendly cat who wanders in and out of your bedroom!!!  I took a longgg walk down Post, up Hyde and over on Sacramento to have lunch at Spruce which I usually really enjoy.  This time the menu was rather limited and I was a bit disappointed with what I chose… 

Bus to the Legion of Honor to see the watercolors by the famous Swedish master Anders Zorn. There were also a few paintings on display by Matisse which I also enjoyed.  Had a fabulous dinner at Frances, one of my all time favorite restaurants.  It is small but so comfortable and friendly.  I ordered some winter squash with a green sauce, roasted beets with sunflower and sesame seeds and a warm cauliflower panzanella salad with kale and date.  Dessert was a delicious chocolate walnut torte with caramel sauce!

In the morning I rented a car and drove towards the napa valley, stopping at the cornerstone gardens ( in Sonoma.  What an incredible place!!!  There are several unique gardens designed by local architects and landscrape designers and some wonderous galleries and shops selling “big” art!  Definitely worth an hour or two stop!  On to Napa where I wanted to have lunch at Tarla Mediterrean Grill for obvious reasons!!!  “Tarla” means “fields” and the restaurant specializes in Turkish/Mediterrean fare.  I had some hummus/pita bread, a small spinakopia and some baklava.  It was a nice little restaurant but the food was not particularly memorable.  I wandered over to the Oxbow Market nearby and when it started to rain I headed on to Calistoga where I would be staying at Fanny’s (, an adorable bed and breakfast inn, for two nights.  I checked in, found my very sweet room and wandered down the main street of Calistoga, checking out the little shops which were still open.

Dinner that night at Redd in Yountsville where I had only had lunch in the past so I decided to splurge and go for the tasting menu. I was NOT disappointed!!!  It started with creamy sunchoke soup with sunchoke chips, followed by tuna tartare with Asian pears and fried rice, scallops with cauliflower puree, almonds and capers, duck breast with farro, kale and chanterelle mushrooms, Sonoma lamb with couscous and arugula and chocolate mousse cake for dessert!!!

In the morning I took a walk around town before having breakfast at Fanny’s.   Deanna fixed French toast with berries and syrup which was delicious and then I headed out to Napa to visit the Di Rosa Galleries ( where I had booked a guided tour.  There are sculptures and very unique art inside the enormous house and buildings owned by Rene DiRosa as well as outside all over the grounds.  I was so fortunate to be the only one booked for the 10 a.m. tour so we spent almost 3 hours looking at some wonderous things!   Afterwards I drove to St. Helena and had lunch at Cooks on Main Street.  The portabello mushrooms and crescenza cheese on focaccia bread with arugula and theflourless chocolate cake with whipped cream for dessert were both excellent!!!

Driving back to Calistoga I stopped at the Bothe-Napa Valley Park and wandered through the redwoods until it started to get dark and then stopped by the Castel di Amorosa, an authentically styled 13th century Tuscan castle and winery just to have a look around.  You can take a tour of the castle and sample their wines but it was too late to do either one.  I returned to Calistoga to “regroup” and then set out for the Farm in Sonoma (almost next door to di rosa galleries!!!) for a delightful dinner.  The Farm is in the Carneros Inn with high ceilings, a fireplace and fabulous food.  Again I decided on the tasting menu and had:  Mendocino uni with sunflower sprouts, crudo of Hawaiian kampachi with edamame and radish sprouts, lobster nicoise with tomato jam, California squab with toasted farro and slow cooked garden greens, crispy shortrib with truffled salsify, redwood hill goat cheddar with hot pepper jelly and ricotta beignets with persimmon four ways!!!

In the morning Deanna fixed crisp little apple puffs for breakfast and I returned to San Francisco and turned in the car.  Lunch at Prospect, a restaurant owned by Nancy Oakes of Boulevard was wonderful.  I started with kabocha squash hummus with pomegranate seeds and homemade crackers and followed with a prosciutto/eggplant caponata/arugula and burrata cheese platter.  Dessert was a decadent salted chocolate caramel tart with caramel sauce and caramel ice cream!!!  I could barely make it to the De Young Museum after all that food!!!  There was a veery extensive Bulgari exhibition of their jewelry through the ages which also contained some pieces from the collection of Elizabeth Taylor.  Ongoing videos of famous people were shown wearing some of the jewelry on display which was quite interesting to see.  David Hockney’s “big” exhibition was also quite interesting with his large scale, multi-canvas oil paintings and digital movies shot with multiple cameras of the English countryside.

Dinner at Nopa, another of my favorite restaurants, was great fun.  I like to sit upstairs overlooking the kitchen where you can see all the “action”.  I had crisp flatbread topped with tapenade, squash, caramelized onions and crescenza cheese sprinkled with arugula.  Dessert was a chocolate pot of cream with cocoa nib cookies!!!

In the morning I stopped by the Xanadu Galleries on Maiden Lane designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and housing some very fine Asian art.  Lunch at Cologna near Jackson Square was a burrata cheese salad with beets, a crisp slab of freshly made focaccia brad and a “chocolate bar” for dessert.  Bart back to Oakland Airport and a quick flight home.  It was a really great trip.  I saw so many new and wonderful things, tried a few new restaurants, tasted some delicious food and thoroughly enjoyed myself!!!  Until the next time!!

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