L.A. Chowhounder Recap of SF/Wine Country Trip
First of all, MANY THANKS to all of you and your terrific recs. We had an amazing time despite the heat wave (which limited our winery visits somewhat, we average about two to three per day). Our trip was about a week, first part in wine country and then SF. Here's a recap of the hits & misses. Let's start with WINE COUNTRY first --
Since we were going at the height of season, we didn't want to pay $200 plus for a Best Western (and the good one was sold out!) so we opted to have our "home base" in more affordable Santa Rosa and ended up having one of our best meals there, at SYRAH.
This place was really wonderful. Hubby and I like to share so we can try a lot of things. Of course, started with a glass of Syrah (from Matanzas Creek) which inspired us to go to the winery outside Santa Rosa (and ended up being one of my favorite wineries). We split the cheese plate. Portions were small, but the cheese was delicious - -all local and unusual. We then got a wonderful salad and split the steak entree (a very big portion, easily splitable) which left room for dessert -- the best dessert of the trip, a yummy slice of chocolate pie. It was just a fantastic meal for about $100.
Another night, we also had a really enjoyable dinner at Joseph's which is located in the hotel we were staying in (Hotel La Rose, a lovely, old historical hotel). The hotel served a surpisingly good complimentary European Breakfast with fresh baked goods from Joseph's (bagels and scones), fruits, cheeses, and lox. We definitely took advantage of this. I'd recommend staying in Santa Rosa if one doesn't mind driving (about 45 mins to Napa) and want to avoid the ridiculous prices (plus Santa Rosa is fun).
Top Wine Country Picks:
SYRAH in Santa Rosa (as mentioned)
MATANZAS CREEK: A rarity -- the place is gorgeous and so is the wine.
SCHRAMSBERG ($25 pp for tour, tasting & history -- go!)
DOMAINE CARNEROS: Okay, when we first pulled up, I was tempted not to even go in. Total faux French chateau -- this side of tacky. We went in and despite the tourist trap of it all, had a wonderful (and filling) cheese plate and a terrific sparking wine sampler. Really good place for a snack.
COPIA: We had a lot of fun. They had an exhibition of diners which my husband really enjoyed. In fact, this was one of my husband's fav places and he's not a big foodie. I could see a true gourmand finding Copia sorta basic but amateurs like me (and hubby) had a ball. Also, definitely check out a seminiar.
DI ROSA: husband loved this, but wished we took a longer tour.
Cakebread Cellars -- enjoyed the wine, but it's sorta a circus
Bistro Don Giavanni(dinner) - it was pretty good, but no A16 (more on that later)
We had reservations for Bistro Jeanty but it was too darn hot (over 100) and we weren't hungry enough. Went back to the hotel and had bad pizza.
After touring the wineries, we made a list of all the wines we enjoyed and went to "the" wine market in Napa (name escapes me, close to Copia, very well known) and purchased about ten wines there. The market didn't have everything but the woman working there was extremely knowledgable and (hopefully) gave us good recs (we'll see). We easily saved $100 by doing this (and yes, we purchased many wines at the actually wineries -- if I loved something, I got it there).
For me, the wineries that were the most beautiful (i.e. Artesia) and had enticing art galleries (i.e. Hess), the wines were rather uninspiring. A good example of a place that's got a low-key beauty but forcuses on the wine is Matanzas Creek.
BUT THE BEST MEAL OF THE TRIP -- MANKAS LODGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Whoever recommended this, thank you! We went here for Sunday night dinner (on the way into the city from Santa Rosa) -- and what a deal. It's about $60 pp but you get a five course dinner, they tell you what you're having, but trust me, it was all good. Everything is caught or gathered that day. It was AMAZING! Not one boring or uneven course -- that night they were serving cheese biscuits... leek soup... fish and chips... filet mignon... and ice cream sundaes for dessert. 3 of them! The first was corn ice cream (yes, you read right) with candy corn on top. Very artsy, but the chef was smart, the last two sundaes were traditional and soooo good (yeah, the ice cream corn was sorta weird but fun). I LOVED THIS PLACE! Supposedly Thomas Keller goes here and if that's true, I can see why.
Okay, on to SF -- or Frisco as I know how much the natives love to hear that (kidding!).
We went to ZUNNI for their roast chicken and this ended up being my husband's favorite meal. I've been chiding him since -- when we first got there and he found out it would be an hour to wait for the bird (it wasn't, more like 45 mins) he was ready to order something else, but I told him that's why we were there! You can't do that to a foodie! Our double date orderd the chix too and we had a great meal.
Also loved A16 (the pizza was amazing). We went to Canteen for breakfast which was also swell. At the last minute, we got tixs for "Love Janis" (a must if you're a Janis Joplin fan) and in a pinch we went to nearby Cafe Claude which was very medicore (in L.A./Silverlake we have a much better version called Cafe Stella). A hounder had rec Olivito but I couldn't find it listed -- I later found out it's L'Olivito! This would have probably been a better option. Oh well, they can't all be winners.
Oh, and another favorite meal, our cab driver recommeded Y BEN HOUSE for dim-sim and it was great! We loved that we were the only gringos there. We shared a table with another family and had a fun and cheap ($18 for dim sim for two) time.
REGRETS (I've had a few):
FERRY BLDG -- since we were in the city early in the week, we didn't get to go to the big Saturday morning market which meant that my fav yuppish Mex stand in the back (where they make fantastic chilaqueles) wasn't there. Wah!
In closing, I'm super jealous and hate you all -- I WANT TO LIVE HERE! Seriously, a big thank you to everybody. All your recs were the tops. Let me know when I can return the favor!!!
"Manka's ... Everything is caught or gathered that day."
One might get the impression from the cute descriptions on the menu that everything came from the farmers down the road that morning, but that's a bit of an exaggeration. E.g. "Bill's pork" is what most of us would refer to as Niman, and it comes from Iowa.
Wow, fun trip! As an SF hound recently transplanted to LA, I would be eternally grateful if you had suggestions for places in LA (westside, willing to travel) that even begin to compare to the places you went in terms of quality and price. I'm finding SF hard to beat in terms of value, though there are plenty of spendy restaurants in LA...hope to see you on that board!