San Francisco, California
We are fortunate to have family in SF to make visiting affordable! We love exploring this city and all its neighboring fun (as you can see from the multiple SF posts on this blog!).
Breakfast/Lunch: The Grove.
Kevin and I took an early morning flight that got us into SF around 10AM. Since my brother was at work and we were starving, we made our way to his go-to spot, The Grove. Our first time here, we walk in and we were handed a menu- the setup was quick service style so you order, pay, then sit. This workflow is really conducive when you do not have time to wait to be served, or have all the time in the world with no pressure to move (we saw people from both groups represented!). I ordered the smoked salmon and goat cheese sandwich and Kevin got the grove breakfast sandwich with an iced coffee. We settled into a nook and the food was promptly delivered to our table. Kevin raved about the iced coffee (wish I had first hand descriptors for you) and enjoyed his sandwich. I loved my lox sandwich as well- super tasty! Affordable, delicious food- I can see why this is one of my brother’s favorites.
We took a car to the Embarcadero area to walk around the piers. It was Fleet Week so we were able to catch glances of the different planes performing their routines- including flying right over the Bay Bridge. Walking in and out of several piers, including getting Kevin a taste of Blue Bottle Coffee, we met up with my brother after work and caught up with him for awhile.
Dinner: Ben Thai Cafe
Wanting to be fed and close to our evening activity, a quick Internet search brought us to Ben Thai Cafe for authentic Thai cuisine. Kevin ordered the crab pancake (Hoy Tod- Thai mussel pancake variation), my brother ordered the sweet and savory squid (Indonesian inspired dish) and I (perhaps boringly) ordered the Pad Thai (but it was very good!). My brother and Kevin’s dishes were both so delicious and dishes we had not yet encountered before. While we definitely could have stuck around and had a few more items to test, we were on a time limit and had to bounce.
Our day trip today was Point Reyes for a day of hiking.
Breakfast: Station House Cafe
We pulled into Point Reyes Station which displayed a typical small one road town. Staple stores can be found, along with our breakfast destination the Station House Cafe. We arrived close to opening at 8AM to a light crowd and we were handed their extensive breakfast menu. My brother got the huevos rancheros, Kevin for the french toast, and I got the station house breakfast with a griddled blueberry muffin. Everything (everything) was so delicious- everything you could possibly want out of breakfast, especially prepping for a day of hiking! I would never think to grill a muffin and now that I have, I do not want muffins any other way. We would easily return to this place in the future if our travel put us back in the Point Reyes area.
Hiking: Point Reyes National Park
We continued driving until we got tot the entrance of the Point Reyes National Park at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. We knew there was good hiking out here and being close to the coast, we were hoping for some ocean views as well. It was the perfect day for hiking and with full stomachs, we made our way on the trail to Sky marked on the map. Kevin had read there was a gorgeous view at the top so we gradually made our way up. The hike was not challenging but parts were definitely steeper than others. As we closed in on the top, our excited grew and then overwhelmed with disappointment when this was out view:
Where was the ocean view??? As we analyzed the map, we were hoping to be higher in elevation to be able to see father since we only hiked halfway between the Visitor Center and the ocean. Oh well! We unfortunately did not have enough time to venture the second half of the mountain to the ocean (for another trip!) as we had reservations to get to!
Lunch: Hog Island Oyster Company
Kevin found this gem while researching ways to fill out our Point Reyes day. Hog Island Oyster Farm was not a far drive from the mountain and while parking was extremely limited and the place was very crowded, we found a spot down the highway making it to our 1PM reservation. We started with a one hour tour of the farm, learned about the farming techniques, and finishing by a tutorial on how to shuck an oyster- not as easy as it looks at oyster happy hours! We were then brought to our picnic area where we had a grill and table for oyster fest. Looking around, we came significantly unprepared! While we did have a bottle of wine, the tables around us had their grills fired up and complete picnic accompaniments not just for the oysters, but for an entire meal. We put in our order of oysters, which ranged from type and size of oyster, of three dozen medium oysters in total. Kevin and I can eat two dozen at an oyster happy hour ourselves so we figured this number did not feel unreasonable… Until we saw the size of the oysters. Happy hour oysters are about half the size of the medium oysters we ordered. Armed with our shucking gloves and knife, we spent the next hour perfecting the shucking technique. I think we had our fill of oysters for the next year! Such a fun experience!
With day light still left, we decided on our drive back to stop by the Point Reyes Beach. Since hiking would take too long, we drove to the beach and spent time with the Pacific Ocean (freezing by the way!). After some time on the beach, we made our way back to the city.
Dinner: Pizzeria Delfina
In need of something to absorb the ocean that sat in our stomach (sea water from all the oysters!), pizza seemed like the perfect food. Pizzeria Delfina was local to my brother’s area and well rated. With a minimal wait, we got ourselves seated and ordered three pizzas (knowing we should be able to tackle three pizzas as opposed to our struggle to finish three dozen oysters!)- margherita (tomato, fior di latte mozzarella, basil), panna (tomato sauce, cream, basil, shaved parmigiano), and salsiccia (housemade fennel sausage, tomato, sweet peppers, onions, mozzarella). Definitely hit the spot and we really enjoyed the freshness of the pizza and the creative variety.
Needing ice cream (always), we went down the street to the popular Smitten Ice Cream. Made to order (causing the line to get out of hand at times), the ice cream made with liquid nitrogen creates smooth and creamy ice cream. The perfect way to end the day!
Another early morning, so we did a quick grab-and-go smoothies from Friache before jumping back in the car for another journey over the Golden Gate Bridge. It was Napa Day!
Winery: Silverado Vineyards
First winery on the list was Silverado Vineyards as it is one of my favorite “treat yourself” Napa Cabs. We did the “Taste of Silverado” level tasting that included a Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Merlot, and the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Additional wines we were treated to were a Rosé and one of their flagship cabs, the SOLO Stag’s Leap Cabernet. Enjoying all the wine on the beautiful terrace and exploring the tasting room, this was one of the top tastings we have had in Napa! Our host was so friendly and interested in educating us- it was such a nice treat.
While it is typically a rule for us not to have the same thing twice on trips to expand our experiences, I would not allow us to pass up the opportunity to have fried chicken at Addendum in Yountville. With extremely limited hours, we arrived with minutes to spare before they closed at 2PM. Since there were three of us, we got a bucket of chicken and three pieces of corn bread. I can’t even describe accurately how unbelievable this chicken is… it is the perfect representation of what fried chicken is capable of- the gourmet of friend chicken. If you are in the Napa area, make this you lunch destination in between all the fine dining options in Napa (Only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s from 11AM-2PM so plan accordingly!).
Winery: Miner Family Wines
Miner was next on the list as it was a co-worker’s recommendation and because PlumJack was closed for a private event (boo!). Walking into the beautiful tasting room, we were immediately greeted with a glass of wine. Their tasting included a Napa white, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet, and their flagship The Oracle. A lot of wine in one tasting so definitely a good value! Some wines were better than others for my palate but you could tell they make serious wine here. Miner has even served the President (Bush Jr I believe). Wine’ed out, we began our journey to Sonoma.
Dinner: Cafe Citti
Our evening plans were in the remote areas of Sonoma so before we took the plunge, we wanted to grab dinner. Just before the turn to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, a shopping center with several dining options, we settled on Cafe Citti, an Italian bistro. Quick service style and with complete customization- you pick you pasta, you pick your sauce, and you are done! Grab a table and the food is brought out to you. While it was not the best pasta of our life (Italy trips have ruined us for life), the sauces were tasty.
Kevin stumbled upon the Robert Ferguson Observatory in the remote part of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park that hosted a “Star Party” that included presentations on various topics (ours was the moon for National Moon Day!) along with the opportunity to view through the Observatory’s three telescopes. Excited was not the word – we were giddy at the chance to see the stars, and hopefully planets, in this environment. A bit of a scary drive up to the top if the mountain only lit by our car lights, we eventually arrived at a gate where we were greeted by the happiest two women we have seen! It was an $8 parking fee per car along with $3 per person for the star party- barely breaking the bank for a Saturday night out! We continued to drive until we made it to the parking lot where we were greeted again by two of the happiest men- everyone here was so happy and friendly, genuinely excited to see you! We began to walk up the hill to the Observatory and we noticed about twelve telescopes set up along the walkway. “Do you want to see Saturn?” Um, yes! We got there just in time to witness Saturn before it dropped below the horizon, rings and all. It was incredible! As we learned, the telescopes set up on the walkway to the Observatory were all enthusiasts that brought their personal telescopes to take advantage of the clear night and share their passion. “I know its Moon Day and all, but it is too bright! Ruining my entire view”, we heard them exclaim. We were in awe of the full moon and here is was an uninvited friend at the Star Party. After observing many of the enthusiast’s telescopes and different star patterns, we made our way into the Observatory. We sat for the 15-20 minute presentation on the Moon then we rotated through the three telescopes.
- The first telescope was the Reflector Telescope (40 inches and weighing 1/3 of a ton!) which when coordinates were entered on a computer, the telescope would spin to match those coordinates then take pictures that then appeared on a monitor for everyone to see. People would choose different stars and systems that would appear on the screen in a matter of minutes.
- The second telescope was the Refractor Telescope was a more traditional telescope but on a massive scale (two meter long refractor). When we were with this telescope, the focus was on the moon. You could witness every nook of the surface of the moon. It was so bright that it took several minutes for our eye sight to completely adjust back to the darkness.
- The final telescope at the Observatory was the Robotic (CCD) Telescope that is completely computer controlled and folds the light path to develop the image off a 14 inch mirror. Capable of capturing images over millions of light years away, this powerful telescope was able to show us some stunning images of systems, novas, and more. It was also equipped with a lazer pointing into the sky to show the darkness of where you were looking at the image in the telescope.
We could have spent all night here. Wishing we did not have a long drive back to SF, we knew staying later came with its own challenges. We slowly walked back down the walkway stopping with each enthusiast again to see what new stars they were viewing, catching glimpses at a few shooting stars in between. Visualize the most intense Milky Way ban with an unimaginable amount of dots- sparkling dots. Millions of stars at the Star Party. If this Observatory was close enough, we would be here at every Star Party (about once a month on average). The staff here are all extremely informative and excited to share their passion with you.
Not having brunch plans before leaving your house in a major city on a Sunday is a rookie mistake that we committed today. After trying several places, we finally found a place willing to take our money in exchange for food- Olea, offering “simple Californian fare”. While online rates were not stellar, we had limited options as we were approaching our afternoon plans and did not want to go without eating. While we were seated immediately, there was a decent line when we got our food and even when we left. I got the challah custard toast with strawberries, Kevin had the BLT and avocado sandwich, and my brother got the sweet corn cakes with eggs, tomatillo and avocado sauce, Cotija cheese, and plantains (had to look that one up!). We all agreed that we were very impressed with our meal- perhaps because we did not have expectations or build up when we got there since it was a last minute decision, but it was very good!
Escape the Room (again)! We met up with my brother’s friends to try the Real Escape Game‘s newest addition, 8 Suspects. Unlike the traditional escape room model, this version was clue styled, a who dunnit game that gave you an hour to figure out who the murderer was out of a party of guests (a profile taken on by each participant). This was so much fun and I hope that more games like this arise that provoke logic rather than a series of combination locks- so fun, good job Real Escape Game!
After our game, we grabbed a snack at the Hawaiian based Basik Cafe for acai bowls and smoothies! Kevin and I had not had these before but were totally into it! Everyone got something different and all the items were fresh and delicious. I would be here a lot if there was one nearby! A great healthy snack option.
We then made our way to the Marina to watch the planes for Fleet Week. The maneuvers and routines are truly spell binding and death defying! We got to see the sonic boom as well! And the noise from the airplanes- like loud claps of lightening in mid air. These planes are doing amazing things and it is a joy that the service people share this- thank you for all your service for us to our country!
Dinner: Brenda’s French Soul Food
Recommended by a few people, we wanted to make sure we fit Brenda’s into our day somehow! Since this is a very popular location that does not take reservations, we tried to get here as close to 5PM open as possible to grab seats. We were seated with minimal waiting and enjoyed the jazz band playing as we got to our seats. Our eyes were way bigger than stomachs as we gwaked at the menu. I ordered the BFC (Brenda’s fried chicken) with three piece of chicken, a biscuit, collard greens and since I cannot help myself ordered a side of mac and cheese for the table. My brother got the cornmeal-fried shrimp Po-boy sandwich on a french roll topped with chipotle rémoulade and Kevin got the pork belly with cheddar grits and spicy tomato bacon gravy. Silence took over the table as our food arrived and we barely came up for air. Enormously full, we had to take the chocolate beignets to go as on principle I would not leave without them, even if they would not fit in our stomachs at that moment. Everything here was amazing and I completely understand the hype! It was a great way to end our trip.
Early (I mean early like 6AM flight) morning flight to get back east at a reasonable hour to acclimate to the end of vacation and time zone before starting right back at work on Tuesday. It is always challenging when coming back from vacation- no matter how long it is- a weekend or an extended weekend- it doesn’t get easy. The break of routine brings refreshing life back into the day pushing monotony away. What are some things that you do to help get back after time away from work or your daily routine?