Our annual visit to San Francisco this year was in September, a beautiful month to see the City by the Bay. We did some touristy things, saw friends and family, and ate like royalty in this restaurant city.
by NiceGinna on August 6, 2011
This year we stayed for a week in the Sonoma Valley. A friend recommended a ride out to Jenner, where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean. It's a beautiful drive, out through Guerneville with forests of redwood trees. Then we arrive in the charming town of Jenner where there are a couple of interesting looking restaurants and great views. People are kayaking and canoeing on the Russian River; birds are nesting; and sea lions are basking in the sun. A lovely spot!
Each year when we visit San Francisco, we like to pick a sunny day and take the ferry from the Ferry Building to Sausalito. The views from the ferry of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge and back to the city are beautiful. In Sausalito we enjoy looking in all the shops, although things are pretty expensive in this touristy town. This year we bought sandwiches from Venice Deli and just sat along the water and had a picnic, always an economical option. Other times we have eaten at the Scoma's branch there or one of the other inviting places. Then back on the ferry for the trip back to SF. Makes for a lovely outing.
by NiceGinna on September 23, 2009
We were out to celebrate my daughter's birthday at lunchtime and found this great place in downtown San Francisco. The entry is a bit noisy, but with an attractive bar. We were seated in the back near the kitchen, where it was a bit quieter. Nice white table linens, nice atmosphere. It was a place Andrea was eager to try and she was right.We started with one order of Vitello Tonnato, a favorite appetizer, which we all shared. The thinly sliced veal was topped with the tuna sauce. I wouldn't say it was the best vitello tonnato I've ever had, but it was good.For main courses David ordered the short ribs which came with delicious mashed potatoes and green beans. He thought it was great. Andrea and I each had a pasta: hers was ravioli stuffed with rabbit and mine was tagliatelle topped with a 5 hour pork "sugo" (sauce). Both were terrific. We all shared a nice bottle of pinot bianco. The wine list was extensive and interesting.We decided to share one dessert which Andrea chose: a butterscotch budino with chocolate ganache. One was really almost enough for the three of us, it was so rich. And probably one of the best desserts I've ever tasted. Heavenly. A nice touch: the chef added "Happy Birthday" in chocolate to the plate (even with no advance order).Service was excellent. Our waitress was knowledgeable and friendly but not intrusive. All in all, an excellent meal. About $160 for the three of us, including wine ($40) and tip.
by NiceGinna on September 27, 2009
We were celebrating my daughter's 40th birthday, so of course went to a place that she and her partner really like, RNM. It's a small, cozy place, but very modern in feel. There's a large-screen TV at the bar, which we felt detracted from the overall feel, but otherwise a nice place with a "living room atmosphere". The great part is the menu, as should be the case in any restaurant. There are about ten "small plates" - we chose four for starters for the six of us. One of the highlights was one that my daughter always orders, the grilled romaine with St. Agur cheese, apples, and hazlenuts. It was terrific. But the heirloom tomatoes with a cornmeal crust and layered with fresh mozzarella, was terrific too. For the main course, a couple of people had the mini-hamburgers. My daughter and I split the Ahi tuna salade nicoise, which was outstanding. Others had the ribs. Everyone was really happy.The service was great, but of course, my daughter and her partner are regulars. We had ordered a birthday cake, but we ended up takiing it home. Another friend had ordered a very fancy dessert: 3 ice cream cones with house sorbets with fresh fruit and a side order of molten chocolate cake. We thought this would not carry out well and finished it off on the spot. Quite the celebration!
We were actually heading for Golden Gate Park to go to the new Science Museum, but it was such a lovely day, we thought we shouldn't spend the time inside. We took the N-Judah line to 9th Avenue and Irving. The park is just a block from there and the entrance to the Botanical Gardens is just inside the entrance to the Park. We got there about 1 PM on a weekday and we happy to find that there was a free walking tour starting at 1:30. We waited for that and very much enjoyed our guide, Mr. Wilson, who obviously loves the park. It was about a 1 1/2 hour walk, through the Mediterranean area, the South African area, the rain forest, and so on. I'm sure each tour is different. A great way to spend a sunny and warm afternoon in a city where you've already seen the major and even minor tourist sites.
by NiceGinna on September 29, 2009
We were out for a beautiful day, exploring Point Reyes with its dramatic scenery and distinctive wildlife and interesting history. For lunch we headed to Point Reyes Station, an old and charming town in the area. We'd heard about the new restaurant by chef Christian Caialazzo. The restaurant features local and organic ingredients in its imaginative menu, based on Southern Italian cuisine. The atmosphere is rather industrial with no table linens, which also increases the noise level. Service is slowish, but friendly and informed.We ordered a lovely bottle of pinot bianco from the Friuli region to accompany our food. Friends ordered an oyster pizza that was beautiful to look at with its bright green leeks. The crust was outstanding - crunchy but delicate. They loved it. My husband had the seafood stew with mussels, shrimp, clams settled in among the tomatoes and potatoes. I ordered the insalada caprese which was 5 varieties of heirloom tomatoes - yellow, orange, purple, green, and red - with the mozzarella and basil. I gobbled up every bit of the dressing with the wonderful bread. I also had a bowl of kale and cannellini beans which was decent but a bit of a disappointment, with too many carrots and not enough beans which were the reason I ordered it; it also did not taste of the parmesan cheese which it was supposed to include.For dessert we ordered one for all of us: absinthe ice cream with a peppermint patty on top. It was delicious. The patty must have been more than 1/4 " thick and just wonderful. The absinthe gave the ice cream that delicious licorice flavor. This all sat on another wafer - perhaps a ginger snap? - making an ice cream sandwich. The bottom wafer, however, was difficult to cut and didn't really add anything.All in all, we were very pleased with our choice and would come back when in the area. (Closed Tuesdays)
by NiceGinna on October 1, 2009
We spent a day exploring the wild Point Reyes Seashore with its great views. Sir Francis Drake landed here in 1579, in the beautiful inlet named for him. And you can see the distinctive Tule elk, wandering over the hillsides like ghosts, with their pale color standing out against the green of the hills. These animals were once in danger of extinction but now have become almost too numerous. After a walk along the sea, we investigated the Pierce Farms, built in the late 1800's. The complex includes a cow barn, a place to churn the butter, a large farmhouse, and even a school. In the 1890's, the butter was well known and sold to the very best restaurants and gourmet food shops in San Francisco.The park is huge and has many areas to discover. The Welcome Center is informative, with a good display of the wildlife habitats in the area.
by NiceGinna on September 27, 2008
We love to do home exchanges and have done them in many countries. We do this through www.homelink-usa.com and have found it to be a great way to travel. Imagine what a hotel in SF would cost for two plus weeks! Instead, we were in a private apartment on Taylor Street in exclusive Nob Hill, with a bedroom, living room, dining room, and stocked kitchen so that we could have breakfast and other casual meals at home, another terrific savings.This was our third straight year staying in this particular home, while the owner was in our place in Nice, France. My daughter lives in SF, so it's great to have a place to stay near her, but not "on top" of her. Two weeks is too long to stay with ANYONE!We highly recommend exchanging!
by NiceGinna on September 28, 2008
Having a car in San Francisco is not a necessity. It might even be a nuisance and definitely an unneeded expense. The bus system is easy to master; there are maps available at the tourist office and other places around town, showing where they go. The ride costs $1.50 but only $.50 for Seniors; you are given a paper receipt torn at the hour that the ticket lapses, so you can make transfers for a couple of hours. The subway system is also easy, whether the BART or the Metro system. Along Market Street, one of the main streets in town, there are trolley cars reminiscent of earlier days; these are the same price as the buses and may be used with a transfer; they will take you from the Ferry Building to the Castro.Everyone wants to ride the Cable Cars, at least on the first visit. The tickets these days are $5.00 for a single ride, but there is an "All Day Fare" for $11.00, so take advantage of this and ride to your heart's content!
One of our favorite places to have a casual breakfast (served all day) or lunch is the BV, a San Francisco institution since 1916, located at the end of the Powell and Hyde Street Cable Car. In 1952 they introduced their "Irish Coffee" which is a must although good beers and wines are available. The hamburgers are great and the crab salad is delicious and there are many other tempting items. The atmosphere is busy and noisy (but not too), very festive.
by NiceGinna on April 7, 2009
The fairly new De Young Museum is one of the great museums in Golden Gate Park. They have a nice outdoors sculpture museum and then displays inside. The last year we were there was a special exhibit of Chihuly glass work, which we've seen in several different venues (Kew Gardens, Chicago Botanical Gardens, etc) and always enjoy. Another year there was an exhibit of wonderful quilts made by a group of descendants of slaves. EAch year there is something different and something worth seeing.There is also a terrific tower attached to the museum with outstanding views of the city and the park.
We arrived at Poggio, in picturesque Sausalito, expecting a really wonderful meal at this heavily recommended Northern Italian restaurant with Executive Chef Peter McNee. The entrance/desk area is crowded, with little room for people waiting for a table, and chaotic. We eventually were led to our reserved table, which seemed a bit crowded too. The waitperson explained about the specials for the evening, stressing the first course of mozzarella with various "fillers"; this was confusing as we thought each was a separate plate but found, when we ordered it, that it was a plate of one serving of each described dish. They were too highly oiled, which tended to cover the taste of the individual ingredients.The second course of salads was better. Mine was greens with salata ricotta and peaches, well dressed; a friend had a more vegetable salad with summer squash and green beans that was excellent also. My daughter had the endive with gorgonzola, hazelnuts, and apples, which she loved.The main courses were very good. I went for the house lamb meatballs (a first course size), not usually a favorite of mine, but these were terrific, accompanied by a tomato chard sauce. A friend had the halibut with wax beans and lemon butter and thought it wonderful while David had the grilled scallops (again, a first course size) with basil which looked great. Andrea had the spit-roasted hog with figs, escarole, and pancetta, a "wow" of a choice.The desserts were very disappointing. Andrea and her partner ordered the Afigato, a combination of coffee and ice cream, which was so-so.. David and I shared the peach tart which was very dough-y and not very peachy. A sad end to a good meal.Then when the check came, the total on the Visa slip didn't match the total on the bills. How could that happen? Anyway, a strange end to the meal.
The town of Sonoma, in the beautiful wine country, is charming, with its Mission San Francisco Solano built in 1823, and interesting shops. But we were headed to the restaurant, The Girl and The Fig, for a wonderful lunch. (There's a branch, The Fig Cafe & Winebar in Glen Ellen). We ordered a bottle of rose, a lovely accompaniment to a light lunch. I had a wonderful salad of arugula with chevre cheese, toasted pecans, and figs dressed with a port vinaigrette; a friend had the duck confit with blue cheese and a sherry vinaigrette which he loved. David had delicious grilled salmon while another friend had a light omelet. For dessert we shared a chocolate hazlenut cake while our friends shared a lavendar creme brulee - decadent! The feeling in the restaurant is friendly and casual, but with professional service. The bar area, with its old wood bar, is very inviting.
Each year we meet up with DAvid's cousins who live in Sacramento; they come down to SF for lunch and always choose to go to Scoma's, a touristy place, way overpriced, but always good. The seafood - you can still get abalone, but for a very steep price - is wonderful and we all generally stay with that. I had a crab stuffed ravioli, a large portion, in a butter sauce. One cousin had the Crab Louis, a huge salad that even he could hardly finish. David and one cousin had the snapper, which was delicious; David took half back to our place for a supper! The service is old-world, with Italian spoken by all. Each main course is around $30!
The small town of Larkspur, just a short ferry ride from San Francisco, is list in the National Register of Historic Places. The turn-of-the-century shops will intice you. But we were there for pizza at Picco. We sat outside where there were heaters keeping us very comfortable. For six of us we ordered 4 pizzas: the Margarita from Naples, with mozzarella, tomato, and basil which represent the Italian flag; a definitely non-standard one with shrimp and pancetta that was yummy; one with sausage and pepperoni which I found too spicy but everyone else loved; and the special of the evening, a lamb meatball pizza. The crust on these pizzas is amazingly light and wonderful. With a couple of bottles of Italian red wine. we were all well satisfied!There is a fancier restaurant attached to the pizzeria, also called Picco; I've heard it's very good but have not tried it.
We spent a couple of days with friends up in Santa Rosa and one day, while there, we visited wineries and had lunch in Sonoma. One of our favorite wineries was the St. Francis Winery. Our pourer, Philippe Gresset (French), started us off with a delicious Chardonnay from Sonoma County (2007); I don't particularly like California chardonnays, but this one was more in the French style and was outstanding. When Philippe learned that we lived in Nice, France, he went "off list", serving us a few wines that would not normally be served to tasters. I was interested in trying their rose, which we drink a lot of in Nice, but was disappointed in theirs. But when I told him I enjoyed the wines of Gigondas he served up a 2005 Mourvedre, Pagani Vineyard in Sonoma which was delicious. We also enjoyed the 2004 Merlot, from Wild Oak.Then we headed to the town of Sonoma for a wonderful lunch. See the write-up of A Girl and A Fig!
I love the Ferry Building, which went through a major preservation several years ago. From here you can catch a ferry to Sausalito or Larkspur, but it's a destination itself for its twice-weekly produce market on Tuesdays and Saturdays or the inviting shops and restaurants inside. There's a wonderful wine shop - just pick up something to eat at another of the shops and bring it to the wine shop where you can sample the wines and enjoy your food. There's a great olive oil shop where I buy Stonehouse Blood Orange Olive Oil which I use for making shrimp scampi to add another layer of citrus. There's a Sur La Table for all your kitchen needs; there's a butcher, a bread shop, bakeries, and several restaurants. It's a charming venue.
Michael Tilson Thomas is the famous conductor of the San Francisco Symphony. We were lucky enough to get tickets for a gala evening in celebration of the 90th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein's birth. The orchestra started with music from "West Side Story" and then brought out a soprano and a baritone to do a couple of numbers from a less well-known work, "A Quiet Place". The second half included "Meditation No. 1 from Mass" with Peter Wyrick on the cello. On the lighter side there were songs from "On the Town", "Trouble In Tahiti", "West Side Story" ("Gee, Officer Krupke"), and others. A terrific evening.Of course, the program is different all the time. But it seemed that tickets were available - there were many empty seats on the evening we were there.
We visited several wineries in this less well-known (than Napa) wine country valley but our favorite was Ferrari-Carano with its beautiful Villa Fiore and lovely gardens. You would be forgiven for dreaming that you are in Italy! The wines offered are Zins and Sauvignon Blanc and they are decent; we particularly enjoyed a Fume Blanc and the Moscato dessert wine. The climate here, affected by both coastal and inland influences, is ideal for growing grapes. There is a comfortable wine-tasting room and you are able to visit the cellars where the more expensive wines are poured. The gift shop has nice items.
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