Trying to eat something delicious, each and every day.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Russian River Vacation: Day 4

Sadly, we couldn't stay on the Russian River forever. Sunday morning we checked out of the vacation house and caravaned south, stopping at Hartford Court and Iron Horse wineries along the way.

Here's a shot of the vineyards from the top of the hill at Iron Horse. Everyone loved the whites and bubblies here. I especially liked the wedding cuvee.

Continuing on, we stopped in Sebastopol for lunch at Martha's. The calamari appetizer was tasty! Bigger pieces than normal, nice and hot from the fryer.

The portions were enormous! Here's J's seafood burrito, which would have been enough for two or three of us to share.

I made the mistake of thinking I could finish a platter of food. Omg. I did not get very far into this carne asada and seafood enchilada combo, delicious as it was.

After that, it was back to SF. We took our tourists to Chrissy Field for some Golden Gate Bridge photo ops.

We did not make them walk up the stairs to the bridge entrance.

For the rest of the afternoon we completely forgot that we owned cameras. We went to Emporio Rulli for drinks and Shanghai House for dinner, and then got some desserts at Stella Pastry to take home. Yum! It's not every day I get to end the evening with a napoleon, sacripantina, and a tiramisu.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Russian River Vacation: Day 3

We started our Saturday morning being happy healthy wilderness explorers. A big group of us drove out to Armstrong woods and split up into three different groups who wanted to do hikes of different levels of difficulty.

Armstrong Woods is great because there is a short flat loop through the redwoods that's accessible to people who want to walk slowly, and is also accessible to those who just want to drive through a forest.

However, there are also trails that lead to the top of some pretty steep hills overlooking the Russian River Valley. My little trio thought we were going for a 3 mile jog through the flat area, but we ended up hiking for eight miles and hitting the summit. We wish we'd brought water, but the views were incredible. It was a little different from any scenery I've ever seen: really lush mountainsides of pine tree, eagles soaring overhead, and lush valleys of long wavy grass. There was a mix of wooded and open areas, and some ponds and creeks along the way.

After that hike, we were naturally starving. After a quick shower we regrouped with everyone and had a delicious lunch at Stumptown Brewery. This is C's plate of ribs, which was extra large and came with a tall glass of blueberry beer because the server forgot her order. I think the ribs and fish and chips are the best things on the menu, though our pulled pork sandwiches weren't bad either. The food is homey, cheap, and plentiful. And the beer is good! J's favorite was the Xporter, which is dark and sweet. I like wheat beer so the Rat Bastard was right up my alley.

I was too tired and tipsy most of the afternoon to do much more than lie on the deck and sunbathe. Other people went down the the river and waded around or floated on inner tubes.

Look! Nature! A mother duck scooting her baby ducklings down the river.

And a weird little caterpillar living on the large redwood that grew up from the ground in the center of the house's many decks. No one touched it because of its rather intimidating coloring.

So pretty! If only I could have this view every day. All while sipping vodka sweet tea with a wedge of lemon, of course.

Dinner was another delicious home cooked meal. N made garlic bread with fresh garlic, J grilled up polish sausages and garlicked salmon, we recycled the pesto and watermelon salads and added a green salad, and I baked up some fresh parsley biscuits and made sweet tea cocktails for everyone. One of the great things about a RRV vacation is that we don't have to spend a lot to have a great time.

We spent the evening eating pie, playing cards, Scattegories, and Scrabble, trying unsuccessfully to light a fire, drinking wine, and admiring the stars outside. Great company, great food, great time.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Russian River Vacation: Day 2

Day 2! We headed out bright and early. After a pit stop at Blue Bottle for lattes, we were on our way over the Golden Gate Bridge and headed toward Marshall, CA.

We made a pit stop at Marin Sun Farms. Thank goodness for big signage.

Since we were there, we picked up a dozen eggs for the group. Beautiful! It doesn't make a flavor difference, but I love that their eggs come in different colors. Unfortunately, we didnt' get any blue ones this time.

After a few more distractions in the form of Cowgirl Creamery and a roadside cherry stand, we were at Tomales Bay Oyster Company. Picked up two dozen oysters there and another dozen at Hog Island before continuing north.

Based on Chowhound and Yelp reviews, we stopped at Spud Point Crab Company in Bodega Bay for lunch. It's still a family owned spot, and according to the website the owners still go out and catch the crabs every morning. I have to say, they have some of the biggest Dungeness crabs I've ever seen in my life.

And as luck would have it, I ordered the last order of crab cakes they had that day! Delicious. Tender and flavorful without any perceivable filling, with a very mild sauce.

J had the crab sandwich, which was lightly dressed with mayo and more cool and lightly flavored than my fried crab cakes.

We shared a clam chowder, which to me was just the right thickness. I had to resist seconds of it.

After that, there was nothing to do but head to the house! It was bigger than any of us expected, with sprawling decks and this view to the West. The neighbors had a fantastic garden.

The view to the east was a little more mountainous and equally breathtaking.

After a short break to take in the view and snap some photos, E and I headed out to fix a nail in our tire, shop for food, and stop by Sophie's Cellars for wine, pie, and wine tasting suggestions. Then it was time to head home and grill up some tri-tip steak!

Dinner was a delicious family style affair. Our group was not complete when we started eating, but that didn't stop us from having a great time. This is a pesto pasta salad with plenty of fresh tomatoes and cucumber.

There was also a watermelon salad, always appropriate for a warm summer evening.

And as requested by many, we had a stunning cheese plate. I brought some Beecher's No Woman that I'd gotten in Seattle, and we had a variety pack from Cowgirl Creamery that included a goat cheese, a triple cream (Mt. Tam), St. George, and a Pt. Reyes Blue.

Since it was so pungent, the Pt. Reyes had to live on its own plate.

Grilled jumbo oysters from Tomales Bay. I'm not sure anyone ever loves these, but J always insists on them.

Small raw oysters. I don't remember if this is a Hog Island sweetwater or a small Tomales Bay. Either way, they were great. No one had room for the Mom's Strawberry Rhubarb pie I got at Sophie's, but we polished off the two bottles of wine easily. I have to admit, the guys at Sophie's really know how to pair a wine. The crisp white we had and the Portuguese red both went perfectly with our meal.

And here's our view from the dining table. Life really doesn't get better than getting to look out on all this while eating a fantastic meal of California's bounty.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Russian River Vacation: Day 1

What a weekend! We're finally home from vacation and I'm ready to start re-capping. C and E got in Wednesday night, and after a good night's rest we were off to a rollicking start on day one of their vacation, which was a walking tour through several neighborhoods.

We started off with a healthy breakfast of fried eggs on whole wheat toast and homemade yogurt with raspberry compote.

The eggs were from Prather Ranch in the Ferry Building, which always carries pasteured eggs from Soul Food Farm. The yolks aren't the most orange I've seen, but they have a distinctly rich and nutty flavor.

We bussed down to the Mission and took a walk through one of the alleys with murals in them. I love this one of Where the Wild Things Are.
I also love this because it's so incredibly elaborate and fun to look at. I forgot the name of the artist, but I've seen an entire gallery show of this type of art. It's amazing.

Our first coffee stop of the day was the original Philz on 24th. Drip coffee poured to order. E had a Turkish, which has a lot of cardamom and a mint leaf in it. I had the Arabic, which was rich but not exceptionally flavored. C had a decaf Peruvian and loved it even though she doesn't handle caffeine well. After grabbing these, we kept walking.

Several blocks later we were at Ritual Roasters. E's caffeine craving was still going strong and he had a cup of black coffee from the Clover machine. I have to say, that's a good cup of coffee: clean, crisp, almost like wine or tea in how clear and bright it was. E said he could have drank it all day.

But even coffee fiends need to stop for lunch. We had carne asada and lengua tacos at El Cumbre.

Mmm, lengua. My visitors claimed to never have had lengua tacos before, and were impressed with the meat's tenderness.

After lunch, we wandered around a little and discovered the new Paxton Gate toy store. It's an amazing space with really fun handmade toys.

More coffee! Four Barrel was our third stop. They have a really cool open space with high ceilings, boars' heads mounted on the wall, and a lot of cool antique machinery on display.

E and I shared a cappucinno.

After all that coffee, it was time for dessert. We took a stroll towards Noe Valley and shared a cup of bread pudding at Tartine. As always, the custardy bits were delicious.

More dessert. I couldn't resist; it was only a block away! Bi-Rite ice cream. I had the caramel swirl and E had cherry almond. Everyone tasted the salted caramel, which is still my fave, and C decided she doesn't like lavender in food.
We enjoyed our ice cream as we walked back toward Market Street via the Castro. Then we hopped on an F car and stopped in at Zuni for afternoon drinks. Of course, we got the famous bloody mary.

We also got some shoestring fries to munch on, along with bread.

More coffee! We were really full after the huge bloody marys and all those fries, so we took a walk and ended up at the Blue Bottle on Linden Alley. E and I had Gibraltars.

After that, we walked all the way home and basically passed out for awhile before dinner at Zitouna. This is the Mosaic of Africa assorted salad plate. It was fine, but it was kind of too many things on one plate for me.
Mint tea with plenty of sugar.
House made Merguez sausages. They were good, but I begin to suspect Merguez is not for me. It's always on the dry side.
Lamb tajine with white beans. Really really tasty broth and fork tender meat.

Vegetable cous cous. I didn't know that all the cous cous dishes come with a side of vegetable soup, or I would have gotten cous cous with meat on it. In any case, the cous cous was perfectly cooked and the vegetables were very refreshing.

After dinner we went to Bourbon and Branch. My favorite drink of the night was the Devil's Advocate, even though I had to steal this photo off flickr and I"m not sure if that's what it is.

And, because enough is never enough, we had late night snacks at La Mar. This is the chifa ceviche.

And the Nikkei, which along with the classico retains the title of favorite ceviche flavor. What a day: four great restaurants, four of the best coffee roasters in SF, two of my favorite dessert places, and farm fresh eggs. And that was just Day 1! I was very proud of my visitors.

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