Saturday, August 31, 2013

Day 7 Winchester House & Napa Valley

So it was time to say goodbye to the city of San Francisco.
 It wasn't so hard saying goodbye to Oakland and our "neighborhood"
 and heading down to San Jose wasn't much of a treat for the eyes either!
 So this was our destination for the day: Winchester House. This is the place that the crazy lady owned that was under construction for years and years, well constantly actually. She was hoping the construction would keep all the spirits away who had been killed by Winchester guns. Well that's one theory anyway. So after doing some research online I decided we needed to take both the regular tour and the behind the scenes Tour. That was our first mistake. The regular tour would have been enough. It was interesting and I recommend it once but once will do it for you.
Here you can see the door to no where. It's open and on the 2nd floor.

 Our problem was the tours together took almost an hour longer than they were supposed to. They figure if you want the behind the scenes tour you are in no hurry...wrong. We didn't get out until 3 and we knew then we were in trouble. You see I have made reservations weeks before for the Napa Valley Restaurant Bottega that is Michael Chiarello's signature restaurant.

When we checked the gps it said it would take 75 minutes to get there from the Winchester House...ha! Our reservation was at 5:15. It was obvious in about an hour of sitting on the freeway we weren't going to make it so we were in the pit of despair. I called them and they said we could come at 5:45. Yeah still couldn't make that. So they said just get here when we could and they would get us a high table if it was after 6:30. So we got there at 6:50. We were a wreck from the traffic and frustration of it all but very grateful they could accommodate us at all. The staff was amazing. They told us no worries everything was alright and our fine dining experience began a few minutes later. We were so excited ...

The bread and spread was incredible. It was garlic, butter and olive oil with cheese & herbs.

My salad...Insalata del Uve organic greens, verjus vinaigrette, oven-dried grapes, candied hazelnuts, pecorino

Christina's "Green Eggs and Ham" caramelized prosciutto wrapped asparagus, crispy soft cooked egg, asparagus green garlic sauce and Cambazola cheese

Mendis' appetizer was razor clams

My main course was fabulous!! Potato Dough Raviolo filled with spinach and ricotta, black truffles, farm fresh egg yolk, sage brown butte. It was incredible.

Christina's Pasta - can't remember what it was exactly. I know it had crispy meat, asparagus and homemade fettichini. And I know it was great.

Preserved Meyer lemon spinach & Creamy ancient grain polenta

Mendis' Smoked & Braised Short Ribs

 Yeah we ate it all! Don't judge.
We couldn't decide on dessert so we got four. Again don't judge it was the right thing to do. My berries were delightful.

Mendis got the ricotta cream filled doughnuts

Christina got the cherry espuma and honey rosemary gelato and we also got the cookie and biscotti plate

It was a two hour dinner but it seemed like we weren't even there for an hour. The wait staff was incredible just whisking food back and forth. We asked the waiter about Michael Chiarello and how often he was even there. He said he just got back from Italy and had been there the other day. When he shows up he usually just works in the prep kitchen inventing new dishes or sometimes he comes out and expedites things on the line. We were fascinated since we were familiar with him from the Food Network. After dinner I went to the bathroom leaving my phone (camera) on the table. When I was on the way back to the table walking through the lobby, Mendis and Christina were standing and gesturing to the lobby ... and sure enough Michael Chiarello was right there in his chef whites greeting some people. I was too chicken to interrupt and just stared and ran back to our table. That was really fun. He is super high energy which doesn't surprise me at all. We wandered around a bit outside after dinner and saw a big private dinner party on the terrace so we think that's where he sprinted off to after he left. 
It was an evening we will never forget. We had so much fun eating so many wonderful things. We felt like grownups. If we are anywhere near Napa Valley again we have got to go back. It makes us really sad we couldn't get into his new restaurant Coquetta in San Francisco. I bet it also would be incredible.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Day 6

We loved having the car so we did it again for another day in San Francisco. I thought we could start by taking the 49 mile scenic drive then that way we would see every cool thing in the city. But we couldn't find a map to find where it started. We just kept driving all through downtown so we did see every thing we wanted but not the way we wanted to...stupid one way streets.
Once we gave up we found the stupid signs everywhere!
As we were driving around  doing our scenic tour ourselves we stumbled into the Painted Ladies. That was pretty exciting. I was never a fan of Full House but who cares because about a million other Movies were shot here...

There were beautiful Victorians everywhere. I bet they cost the bucks to own. We headed over to Golden Gate park as we continued on our own version of the tour. It was pretty huge and a beautiful park.
Queen Wilhelmina tulip garden

Chinese Pavilion
I really wanted to see the Japanese Tea Garden while we were there but that was crazy. We couldn't find it anywhere. We had the general area and we knew where it should be but the one way streets and things made it so hard to get to it. Finally we went through the back way and got there on foot. Of course there was a charge for that as with pretty much everything there.

It was pretty tiny but it was beautiful there. Too bad we couldn't spend the whole day in the Golden Gate Park because there were tons of things to see and do there.
We decided to go do the things we really wanted just in case we ran out of time so we criss-crossed the city all afternoon.
Coit Tower was something we wanted to see up on Telegraph Hill. We were going to go up but of course it cost $$$ and mostly the line was really long. Apparently once you got up to the top it was plexiglassed in so we scratched that part off our list. Time was a wasting!

Coit Tower had one of the famous self cleaning toilets but of course it was out of order darn it.
We decided we wanted to go back to the Presidio in the daylight and see the famous Hitchcock site once again so back we went to the other side of the city! It was worth it though.
Then we figured what the heck we were right by the Palace of the Fine Arts so we wanted to see that. It's gorgeous!!

Loved this place
Finally at this point we were getting near the end of our list of must see places. One more big one remained. We hadn't gotten on a trolly yet so back we went...

We had an hour wait so we entertained ourselves by freezing to death inline, listening to the panhandling musicians and getting a kick out of the signs.

It was well worth the hour long wait. I knew it would be fun but it was super fun. We got off in ChinaTown so we could have some dinner there in keeping with our international food theme for the trip.

Hunan Home for dinner.
ChinaTown was fun but surprisingly dirty. Yes it creeped me out a bit hoping the kitchen was at least clean! It was a fun experience though and I am so glad so did it. We had to walk straight up another huge mountain of a street to get to the trolley stop. So we were pretty excited to see it some chugging along. SO imagine our surprise when we found out we were on the wrong stupid trolley. We had to walk about 7-8 blocks back at the end of the line but it was okay because we were going to need to walk off the calories we would put on at Ghiradelli Square next. Yes...Again...we were really cold from the Cable Car and wanted a hot chocolate and we figured what better place. After that we paid our $30 parking tab and went back to our hotel in Oakland for the night. It was a great day.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Day 5

 Well we decided to take the car today! haha We also picked out the things we really wanted to make sure and do while we had the car so we headed to Lombard St first thing.It was kind of a pain to get to with all the one way streets and tourists like us everywhere especially during the day.

Even though it was totally a tourist thing to do we really loved driving down Lombard Street and if we hadn't been so hungry we would have done it again! But food was calling and we just did it the one time.

This bread display was amazing. It's a little hard to see the bread sculptures but there is a teddy bear, crab, alligator, turtle, lobster etc amidst all the yummy loaves of sour dough bread they are famous for here.

Awesome lunch with soup in a bread bowl and sandwiches at pier 39 Boudin.

We could see the fog rolling in so we headed to the Golden Gate Bridge since that was a must do for us

 We drove across the bridge which was really fun. Lots of traffic but it was such a bucket list thing. After we drove across we parked so we could get out and walk on the bridge. It was a hike just to get back to the bridge even.
Thank goodness we had jackets because it was cold and windy. We had such a fun time out there though.

hangin on to the 1st tower!

The scale of that bridge is incredible. It is massive.

We walked all the way down almost to the far tower and back.

Alot of wind

I almost got creamed by a bike when I stepped out to take this picture.

We got a kick out of these signs even though there is really nothing funny about it.

the hordes of people all walking and biking the bridge!

We just stopped all along the way and watched the ships and boats. The water was mesmerizing.

We spent forever watching this wind surfer. He was out there catching air and performing for all of us.
We went almost to the second tower but the fog was too thick and we had more to see so we walked back. Still it was quite a hike for the day but we really thought it was one of the highlights of our trip!

We drove through Sausalito and Mill Valley then drove out to Stinson Beach area.

As you can see the fog was thick and boy was it cold. It was fun though.
That's Mendis- the only one of us who braved the cold and fog and wind so long

Christina & I went through Muir Woods where there are some redwoods. It was gorgeous.

Mendis answered emails etc while we did a quick tour of the place. Okay not so quick but we tried to be.

 After our Aussie dinner (Outback) in Sausalito we headed out to this park to watch the sunset and take more pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge. More fog. More wind. More cold.

We could see the Presidio at the bottom of the bridge from the top and just knew that's where they filmed the scene from Vertigo where she jumped into the bay so we went looking for it and were SO excited when we found it. Unfortunately it was dark by then but we were still pumped we found it.
It was really getting foggy so it was time to head back to our hotel. This time we must have missed a turn or something because we were having a heck of a time getting back on the correct freeway. Luckily we fired up the gps and got headed toward the Oakland Bridge. Going over that bridge is fun but going back not so much. It is miles and miles long but going toward Oakland you are on the bottom lever. All I could think about the whole time was the earthquake when a portion on that bridge fell with cars on it!! Hated it!!