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Culinary trip suggestions in U.S. for the fall?

Big birthday and want to go for about a week somewhere in United States where my palate will be excited and eyes will be happy with the beautiful scenery. I live in CT so want a change... Thanks

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  1. Go to Napa/Sonoma or NOLA for a big change. I'd prefer Napa/Sonoma for a week over NOLA, but you'll eat well in either. Are you limited to the US though? I mean if you've got a week why not head overseas and really challenge your pallette?

    1. any suggestions on places to stay, would prefer a B&B, spa etc.. Also any specific wineries or restaurants that we should go to? Thanks again,

      3 Replies
      1. re: nbermas

        we went about five years ago, so some of this info might be a bit outdated, but here's what I remember:
        we liked Sonoma a lot more than Napa--lower key, smaller wineries, fewer tasting charges, etc. If we were to do it again, we'd probably hit Sonoma for 5 days and Napa for 2 (to go to some of the heaviest hitters.)

        We stayed at Applewood in Guernville (sp) in the Russian River Valley. We enjoyed it a great deal, and the food was great. We had one dinner there which was not only fabulous, but not tremendously expensive. The breakfasts were amazing.

        We ate at Auberge du Soleil for our big (i.e. most expensive) meal (couldn't get reservations at the French Laundry). It was one of the best meals of our lives. On recommendations, we got there early and had a (very expensive) cocktail on the deck before the sun went down. The view was amazing. Then we went inside for a tremendous meal.

        In Sonoma we had a lovely lunch at The Girl and the Fig. In Napa we hit a great, and I think pretty famous, drive-in, which I believe was called Taylors. Really fun combination of mini bottles of local wine, onion rings, seared tuna burgers, and milkshakes. We also had some great picnic lunches in between wineries; there are lots of small upscale groceries with lovely local ingredients.

        some of the wineries I remember liking the best: Matanzas Creek, Hop Kiln, J, Simi (took a tour there), Gundlach Bundshu, Ravenswood, Mill Creek, and Merryvale.
        As I remember it, though, half the fun was looking at the map over breakfast and choosing a plan of attack, then changing it midday as we drove by somewhere that looked good.

        1. re: nc213

          I agree, the Applewood Inn is great... it's quite a drive though, so bear that in mind.

        2. re: nbermas

          If you like champagne, I definitely recommend going to the Schramsberg vineyard...you get a great tour that exposes you to all elements of the champagne (technically sparkling wine) making process. And then the tasting was amazing...they were very knowledgeable and gave us samples of some of their best stuff. It was the most expensive tasting I went to ($20 or $25?), but the most enjoyable...and honestly the generous samples we tasted were worth more than whatever we paid. Another favorite was Sterling vineyard...not for the wine, which I wasn't a huge fan of, but for the beautiful grounds. The tour includes a tram ride where you have a great view of it all. Look up their website--I'm pretty sure I printed out a 2 for the price of 1 coupon, which made it all the more worthwhile, considering I didn't like the wine that much.

          My favorite restaurant I tried in that area was Mustard's Grill. Excellent food, in a warm atmosphere.

        3. My recommendation would be to check out Ramekins in Sonoma. They have a culinary school and catalog of classes offered. You can also check out Localwineevents.com for any wine pairing dinners that might be offered during your preferred travel dates. Lastly, I'd recommend looking at the California wineries mall website and searching by varietal or appellation for your preferences. There is a winery in Knight's Valley that has guest houses. It is centrally located relative to Napa / Sonoma / Alexander and the Russian River valleys.

          Keep in mind that many wineries require reservations on weekends for tasting (particularly in Napa).

          1 Reply
          1. re: Andy Jacob

            I would say that the small boutique and cult wineries require reservations but not most of them. It always helps to call however, and make a res if you can. Sometimes that gets
            you some special tastes.

            Nbermas, there are hundreds of recs of wineries and restos on the San Fran Bay Area Board. Go to it and type Napa or Sonoma and you'll unearth a huge amount of stuff.
            Happy travels.

          2. I love New Orleans on so many levels, and would love to do Northern California, but would you consider going north? Montreal is an incredible food destination from the cheapest end to the highest. It's cheap too, so you could do a NOLA/Montreal week and spend the rest of your life trying to bring your cholesterol down.

            1. Check out Michael Bauer's recommendations for the top 100 SF/ Wine Country restaurants--he's a bit stuffy in his writing, but rarely wrong. (www.sfgate.com) One of my favorite Wine Country memories is staying at Vichy Hot Springs in Ukiah (right outside of Hopland & some great microbreweries--about 1 hr north of Healdsburg, heart of Sonoma and home to a lovely restaurant by Charlie Trotter--and Healdsburg has one of the most fun Tasting rooms ever by Rosenblum). Vichy Hot Springs is the only place in the world outside of France that has naturally carbonated mineral springs--rent a gorgeous Victorian-feel cabin, hike through the hills on their trails, check out the ancient redwood forest nearby (it feels like a church for all denominations--holy, spiritual, ancient) then after a lovely dinner in Hopland, come back up and sit in the rough-hewn Victorian tubs and cover yourself in what feels like hot champagne. Nothing beats being surrounded by warm "champagne" in an antique spa tub while looking up at shooting stars in the sky...

              O.k.--now I can't wait to go back! :-) www.vichysprings.com

              1. You can't beat Seattle for great food and gorgeous scenery. I'd also suggest beautiful Vancouver, BC if you don't mind leaving the country. I've lived in the SF Bay Area all my life, where we claim to have the best food and scenery ;-) but my palate was extremely happy in those two cities.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Junie D

                  Add portland and complete the trifecta for the Pacific Northwest!!!!....Portland has a very good restaurant scene emphasizing local ingredients and very innovative chefs! My favorite restaurant there is Wildwood, which does some fantastic local dishes. Its a very food-restaurant centered city.

                  Salumi is in Seattle!

                  Granville Market is amazing! And EXCELLENT Chinese food in Vancouver and Richmond. Sushi is also EXCELLENT in Vancouver.

                  Portland- 3 hours to Seattle which is 3 hours to Vancouver!!!!!

                2. I went to Santa Barbara (city and wine country) for a long weekend a few weeks ago and was blown away.

                  1. Not disagreeing with previous great suggestions of SF/Napa/Sonoma, Seattle/Vancouver, and NOLA. Just want to throw one more out: New Mexico. Spend time in Santa Fe and Taos visiting galleries/museums, etc and can also include Durango/Telluride Colorado and Four Corners area.

                    I have had memorable meals at Santa Cafe and Geronimo (both Santa Fe).

                    The high desert is beautiful that time of year.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: HDinCentralME

                      Wow do I agree! There are wonderful places to eat and stay in Santa Fe- Santa Cafe- Coyote Cafe, etc. and a beautfiul ride to the Ranch at Chimayo among others. The Inn of the Anasazi is fabulous and has wonderrul food. Also,there are come Indian Reservations where you can eat lunch at a communal table with the triabl chief and others. New Mexican food is fabulous, the museums are wonderful and in the summer the open air Opera is beautiful (even if you don't like opera). Take a day trip to Acoma Sky City and eat tamales on the reservation.

                    2. Depending on when you'd be going, besides the wine country, which can be cool and to me *not that terribly unlike the N.E. coast* ... you might consider some places in the South, or even Key West. Pretty scenery, quite good and very different food there... New Mexico sounds interesting too though I've never been there.

                      I've been in CT, VT, NY etc. and to me 'away' would mean a completely different landscape, which a Southeastern beach or New Mexico would provide. Yes, I know Northern California is fundamentally different from the N.E. coast, but not as dramatically different to me. Same deal w/the cuisine, I think.

                      You could also do Bermuda (OK, I know that's not U.S.), which is certainly a change and not so far away. I had really good food (and drinks!) when I was there. It's a 2-hour nonstop from NYC and under $300 roundtrip.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Cinnamon

                        There are so many themes for trips. The Southwest/Sante Fe idea is good. Vancouver is fun. But heck you could do a fall apple trip through Washington state, eating and drinking cider as well as wine. You could do an artisan cheese trip through Vermont, California or Washington. You could do a working wine harvest trip. You could do a Route 66/Diners
                        trip. You could do an exploration of bar-be-cue as it changed from North Carolina,
                        through Kentucky up into Tennessee and then into Texas, using Calvin Trillin's writing as
                        a guide. Each area has a "philosophy" of barbecue and opinions are fierce. You could do an oysters trip if you're into that and the oysters are cooperating. You could make your focus completely on lobster...or steak...or hash browns...or great quality dives. Pick a theme.
                        Have a helluva good time and post again with a report on your adventure.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          Don't forget the Southeastern US! Especially the Low country region that includes Savannah Georgia and Charleston South Carolina. Gullah food is amazing (my bias I am half Gullah).

                          If you want to sample food from all over Latin America and the Caribbean- Miami and surrounding areas would be another culinary delight.

                          Only down side is the fall can have unpredictable weather due to hurricaine season.

                      2. If you decide on Napa, be sure to stop by Mustards Grill. Have been there several times and the food is consistently amazing, generous portion sizes----save room for dessert. The chef, Cindy Pawlcyn, is a James Beard award recipient.

                        If it's the view you're looking for, then Auberge Du Soleil will capture it all for you along with awesome french-inspired food. I'd recommend lunch since it's quite expensive there, and you'll get the same view at lunch anyways....

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: domestic diva

                          Also I would offer my home town, the city of big shoulders, Chicago as another venue. Fall is a time of year when there is less humidity and less likely for snow:)

                          Chicago is a richly diverse city with many ethnic neighborhoods, amazing architecture wonderful museums and music (and some of the most devoted sports enthusiasts you will ever find). You're not too far away from southern Michigan and Wisconsin where the changing leaves are also beautiful. Harvest time is great for apples and apple ciders, beautiful pumpkins.

                          1. re: drmimi

                            Oh yeah, I'm going to Chicago next month.......the food there is FANTASTIC......although artery clogging! Wow.....such heavy foods...but its great stuff all around!