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New poster in desperate need for help with itinerary in SF/Napa!

Newbie here! Just wanted to say first of all that I LOVE this board, and (when I have time, which is rare) thoroughly enjoy searching through it. As a little intro to myself... I'm 22 and just graduated from NYU, but I'm from the Chicagoland area (Highland Park, to be exact), and have evolved a newly discovered passion for cooking, food and the food industry--a wannabe foodie of sorts, I suppose... I love it for the same reason I love to travel-- seeing whats new out there (farmers markets, ethnic stores, restaurants, products, etc), the gastronomy/culture/history behind it all, trying and creating new flavors and ingredients and seeing what goes together, etc. I'm into that whole Slow Foods scene, but I'm sure I don't need to explain much seeing that this is, afterall Chowhound, and we are talking about SF here.. point being, I want to go into the food industry in some way, and am now exploring my options because they are so ridiculously overwhelming and vast...

Which brings me to the fact that I'm going to an open house with my parents to check out the associates degree program at the CIA at St. Helena, which is on Thursday, June 28th from around 9am-1pm-ish. I have been to SF Bay area and Napa once before for a week, but was with my boyfriend of the time, and so obviously did not have the same amount of money to spend as I do now. This is partially a culinary adventure for me, part birthday present, part exploration, and part trying to convince my parents to move here and see why I'm so obsessed with it. So we leave on Sunday 5 pm flight, and I really really need help here with some suggestions, food and otherwise. I love most foods, but have a particular affinity for the Cal cuisine, Contemp/New American, globally influenced foods and combining foods in ways you cannot create yourself, I LOVE seafood and raw bars, Japanese food, Mediterranean influenced food (my parents are Israeli so I love Med fare, and all things Med influenced...African, Morroccan, French, Vietnamese, you name it) Things I know I want to do/reservations I have already made (but subject to change upon suggestion) are:

1. Gary Danko's on Thursday, 8 pm... I adore exploring different cheeses, and have heard they have one of the best cheese plates, but have heard both positive and negative reviews.
2. Kaygetsu on Saturday, 7:30 pm. I really love the kaiseki concept, and have been dying to try it. I also love Japanese food and seafood, especially raw seafood, and I love the simplicity and elegance of something like this. I think I am also going to Koi Palace for dim sum (parents have never had dim sum) in Daly City for brunch.
3. Staying in St. Helena Wednesday night

Things I want to do:
1. In St.Helena, I obviously want to explore Napa Valley and go to at least once winery. How long do you all think I need there? We are arriving Wednesday night at the SF airport at about 6 pm.
2. Show my parents Chinatown, Japantown (those stores are an overwhelming delight), Muir Woods, North Beach, probably Fisherman's Wharf, which I have seen. I could definitely skip Haight/Asbury bc I stayed there and would rather devote time to other things. I also have never been to SoMa and around there, so I want to explore SoMa for sure, and anything else suggested.
3. Farmer's Market/ethnic markets/stores
4. Chez Panisse possibly?

1. Would we have time to still see Monteray or Carmel or surrounding areas at all? Should I just stick to SF?
2. Will we have enough time at Napa Valley? I only did Thursday reservation for Gary Danko's because it was the only spot available, if it's inconvenient and there are other suggestions let me know.
3. We love to walk (though we will have a car that we'll rent), and love doing little tastings of stuff on the way (for example, North Beach bakeries, etc). Best areas for good walking to see people, culture, shopping (book stores, clothes, anything else...)?
4. Where should we dine on Wed. night? Somewhere in San Fran when we get in or somewhere in Napa around St. Helena so we can go there and go to our accomodations after?
5. Definitely want to go to Muir Woods, but not make it an all day event... when should we stick Muir Woods in there? California is unbelievably beautiful and I want to make sure to incorporate some of that as well, but I suppose that's what Napa is there for too.
6. General info, advice, or help about an itinerary that incorprates these elements is much appreciated...

Wow, that was one of the longest posts I've ever written, I apologize. As you can see, I'm a bit overwhelming and want to ensure a great trip, but need help! I'm putting much faith in my fellow foodie's and relying on you guys :) Thanks soo much and looking forward to a response!

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  1. I am exhausted and dizzy, LOL.. wow you want to cover a lot. Congrats on your graduation!!! Well I love your spirit..

    I am not going to touch Monteray or Carmel I don't know the food down there enough to stir you in the right direction. There is so much here in the north bay and napa, I would include Sonoma if anything.

    As far as time in each place it depends on how much exploring you want to do?
    You could have a day in SF then next day drive up to Muir woods, take HWY 1 up and cut over at some point and head over to St. Helena- that is a beautiful drive and there are lots of treasures along the way and places to stop.. can be done in one day..but why? If you decide this would be of interest, I can list my favorites and you will get lot's of other great suggestions.

    Do some search on the wineries, there are day trips planned out for people that have asked the same question.. then we can narrow it down.

    you mentioned your love for raw fish, I would highly recommend going to Bar Crudo in SF- you might enjoy sitting at the counter/ bar watching them make beautiful raw dishes.

    Also, in Healdsburg for lunch go to Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar..I prefer Sonoma to Napa and the Westside Road that can lead you into Healdsburg has many fun smaller wineries, just a thought.
    plus if you are in Healdsburg on Tuesday they have a fun fun Farmers Market, lots of yummy foods too on Tuesday, see post- http://www.chowhound.com/topics/413509

    In SF- food wise
    china town/north beach
    Hayes Valley is a fun neighborhood for shopping with some good foodie places
    Mission- lot's of great food options combined with shopping
    I would skip Fisherman's Wharf..however go to the Ferry Plaza..the farmers market is on Sat. if you can't make the farmers market then go anyway when you can fit it in.

    East Bay-
    Berkeley for the afternoon maybe

    If you can tighten up your itinerary some I will add more.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Lori SF

      ShikaSfrn if you can write out your dates only, from when to when are you here and which times you have filled, don't have to say what place specifically just what area it would help logistic wise.. Your post is a bit hard to read.

      1. re: Lori SF

        Thanks! Yeah you're right, I'm all over the place... I think I'm abandoning the whole Monteray idea. I would much rather devote more time to SF/Napa/Sonoma.

        I'm coming in June 27th, Wednesday into SF Airport. It arrives at about 6 pm, and we will be renting a car.
        We will probably have lunch at Greystone CIA in St.Helena on the 28th since we are ending the campus tour around lunchtime. I have reservations on Thursday, June 28th at 8pm at Gary Danko's (overrated? I just want a great cheese plate...), and reservations at Kaygetsu at 7:30 on June 30th at Kaygetsu for the kaiseki. I want to do dim sum at Koi Palace per high recommendation from my friend, and it seems logical to do that Saturday afternoon on the 30th, since Daly City and Menlo Park are both South of San Fran. I leave on Sunday, July 1st on a 5 pm flight.

        I've heard of Bar Crudo- sounds really great. Ame also sounds great. As I said, I love the lightness and freshness of Cal cuisine, and enjoy more of smaller portions rather than 1 large dish... hope that cleared things up a bit, apologies for the ramblings, it happens when I'm overly excited, hah.

    2. First, welcome! Second, chowhound frowns on too much discussion of non-food topics (like numbers three and five), so although we may work in some info, we should keep the topic food-centric.

      Okay, on to the food questions.

      First, the obvious: anyone who is passionate about food should visit the Saturday morning farmers' market at the Ferry Building -- especially this time of year when the stone fruit and summer produce are really starting to come to a peak. Yes it's expensive and overrun by tourists, but it's still amazing.

      If you can get your parents to spring for Chez Panisse, do it. If you don't want to do the whole downstairs thing (or can't get a reservation), you should do the upstairs cafe for lunch or an early dinner and combine it with a walk around the "gourmet ghetto" (since you love cheese, don't miss the amazing Cheeseboard across the street, but note that the Cheeseboard is closed on Sundays).

      I'd extend the walk through North Beach through Chinatown -- I personally like the touristy parts on Grant St., but if you want to see where the real action is going down, walk down Stockton St., where the Chinese residents still shop. Lots of grazing to be done there!

      If your parents insist on Fisherman's Wharf, do read some of the postings here -- particularly rworange's -- which will help you sift out the decent food.

      I think that you should skip Monterey/Carmel. They're lovely places to visit, but in the amount of time you have, I think it's too much to pack in -- I'd go for quality, not quantity. There are so many wonderful food destinations in the Wine Country, that I recommend if you have extra time you spend it there. There are quite a few excellent restaurants in St. Helena, and I'd recommend eating there, rather than eating in the City and driving up after dinner -- you'll be much more relaxed and enjoy your meal (and your wine!). Terra and Martini House are two of the more recommended places in St. Helena. Redd has been getting mixed-to-poor reports recently. Ad Hoc is a great place to go if you like the concept: one set menu of comfort food a la Thomas Keller.

      Have fun and don't forget to report back and tell us what you did and didn't like!

      4 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Great suggestions, thanks!

        I really do want to do more of Sonoma and Napa, but since we have Thursday reservations, I'm not sure how/when to go back and do it. And similarly with the Farmer's Market, I really do want to visit the one at the Ferry building, but if I'm going to Koi Palace on Saturday, my friend said I should get there at around 10 or I will have to wait for at least an hour. Does it seem like I could go to Koi Palace another time? I'm just not familiar on distances of places from SF... I definitely want to do Chez Panizze, is it logical to do that on Friday night since reservations on Saturday are at Kaygetsu?

        I've been to Redd, and it was unbelievable when we were there, though one of the dishes was a definite miss. I think I'll stick to either Terra Or Martini House (leaning towards Martini House)...

        1. re: ShikaSfrn

          The farmers' market opens early, at 8 a.m. If you wanted to get up early and do that you could probably still make Koi Palace (one trick at Koi is that you can call ahead and get a number, to cut down the wait). Given the choice, I'd go to the farmers' market, though -- its unique, and you'll kick yourself later that you didn't go. There's lots of great prepared food there as well that would make breakfast (or lunch). Koi Palace serves dim sum every day, if you can work it in somewhere else on your schedule.

          If all you want from GD is a cheese plate, then I'd skip it. Go to the Cheeseboard and put together your own cheese tasting for a fraction of the price. Actually, I think you just have cheese at the bar at GD -- you might want to check that out. Maybe replace it with Bar Crudo, which sounds like much more your thing.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            I agree with Ruth on Koi, you can go there anytime..Hit the FP on Sat. you can have some great eats- Frog Hollow pastries are killer be sure to pick up some of their perserves to take back with you, the peach is really good on pork or toast, etc. Start at Blue Bottle Coffee stand for great cup of coffee..and or get something from Primavera for breakfast.. just have fun roaming around..You must see Boulette's Larder inside the building really good panrty items and prepared foods and the space is very cool like you are in someone's kitchen.

            I cannot speak for Gary Danko's I have not been and just not interested..as Ruth said the Cheeseboard or you can get great cheese in the Ferry Plaza or up in Napa and Sonoma to do your own thing.

            I guess you are going up to St. Helena Wed. night? Maybe have dinner in SF then drive up? I would stay in napa/sonoma thurs.-friday..get up early sat. and head to the city, hit FP farmer's market, then spend the rest of the day in SF,maybe a part in Berkeley have dinner over there or back in the city. Sunday go somewhere great for brunch or breakfast, hang out some in the city and go to Koi on the way to the airport? then at the airport probably around 3PM?

        2. re: Ruth Lafler

          I agree that doing Monterey and Carmel would probably be just too much given the rest of your itinerary...however, if you do go down that way, check out the Salinas taco trucks (see the posts on the California board) that have been causing quite an interesting dialogue in the news lately.

          Chez Panisse is also closed Sunday.

          I would also agree with Ruth's suggestion of skipping Gary Danko, especially if you are going for the cheese, and since it seems to mess up the itinerary.

          One dim sum option is to go to Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Milbrae instead of Koi Palace: I think it can be almost as good, and it is certainly a great introduction to dim sum, and they take reservations, so you could plan to get there around 11 instead of at ten.

          or have dim sum as a break during your Chinatown walking tour. Do not make the mistake of assuming that you can't get good dim sum in Chinatown. Check out the postings for Gold Mountain, Kan's (ignore the barkers, it really is good), Louie's...

          Muir Woods can get verrryyyyy verrrryyy crowded, especially in summer and since you will be here on what is a holiday weekend for all intents and purposes (weekend before fourth of July). Get out there by ten am or you might not find parking. Personally, I would skip it. It isn't on the way back from Napa either, which it sounds like your latest thought.

          Your enthusiasm is great, but keep in mind that your parents aren't 22 anymore...I think you are trying to pack in a bit much. Concentrate on the Chow, or concentrate on the sights, but don't try to do it all.

          I also wholeheartedly agree that you should try Aziza; Cal-Moroccan and very unique.

        3. First Off ....Congrats on graduating from NYU! I am a fellow alum (Gallatin '98). I think it was the best place on earth to go to school! :)

          While you're in Napa/Sonoma there is a great winery on Silverado Trail called Luna. They specialize in Italian varietals like Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio. They are worth it just for the tasting alone, but I know that they also do a sit-down food and wine pairing. I don't know when they have one scheduled, but you can look them up and check to see if they are having one while you're in town.

          I second the trip to the Ferry Building Farmer's Market. I suggest you get there the earlier the better. Also, if you want to trade in Gary Danko for something else, I reccommend Boulevard. They have a spectacular menu. Reservations are hard, but not as hard if you go for lunch. If you want to try something different, there is a place in the Inner Richmond called Burma Superstar. They are affordable and DELICIOUS, one of my fave spots in the city.

          In Northbeach, there's a new place called Nua. I've never been, maybe someone else who's been there can report back.... But it looks really good.
          Have a great time. GO NYU!!!! :)

          1. WOW!

            Your enthusiasm is impressive and congratualtions!

            Wed. night- it depends where you are flying in to. If you are flying in to Oakland, do not head into the city but head straight for Napa. If into SFO, maybe have dinner in SF, you'll probably be really hungry.

            If dinner in St. Helena, you might consider Market. Super-casual, very well prepared, home-style cooking. If in SF... that is a tough one, I can't imagine after a plane ride you'll want to go out to a swanky restaurant at all... I'll try to think of something.

            Go to Karl Lawrence / Sequoia Grove after your Thursday thingy. Make an appointment for 1:30ish with Ric Henry. 707.963.2702. Tell him your story!

            In SF -- I like other restaurants better than Danko: The Dining Room at the Ritz, La Folie, and most of all, Fleur de Lys. But, Danko is certainly famous for its food and FdL and (to a lesser extent) La Folie are more traditional French restaurants, which it sounds like you are less interested in.

            Given your interestes, I would STRONGLY encourage you to check out Ame. Japanese fusion with lots of raw fish on the menu.

            I also strongly suggest Aziza based upon your parents -- the best Moroccan restaurant I've ever been to.

            Slanted Door is slightly controversial on this board, it isn't authentic. But nonetheless, it is my favorite Vietnamese restaurant that I've been to.

            You won't have time to hit Monterey or Carmel and do SF properly.

            8 Replies
            1. re: whiner

              Yeah, I'm definitely going to do the Saturday Farmer's market... I'm still debating whether to do dinner in SF or Napa. I guess my main question is what is there to do in Napa/Sonoma? I myself love the wineries, and the whole wine culture and how it pairs with food. But if it is only that, I want my parents to enjoy themselves as equally as I am, though they will want to experience that as well.

              I'm definitely willing to nix the GD idea and replace it with Ame or Bar Crudo. My parents love French food, and I do as well but enjoy it less traditionally (though La Folie does look excellent)--I'm not too into the heavy sauces, etc. I should also mention we don't eat pork, and I barely eat beef... I guess since Bar Crudo and Ame are similar (raw bars), I should pick one or the other, though I'm not sure I really want to, hah. I'm also doing the kaeseki on Sat. night, so there is definitely enough raw fish going on :) If there are any other closer suggestions for great kaeseki that would make this itinerary more convenient, I'm open to that as well.

              So now I have: dinner Wed (leaning towards in SF... maybe I could do Ame/Crudo then? I wouldn't mind a nice place but I think FdL would be a little too much), Thursday do Napa/Sonoma (Martini House?), drive Friday morning to SF and tour Mission/Castro/SoMa/North Beach and at night do Ame/Crudo, Saturday morning do the farmers market then do Chinatown/Japan/North Beach and drive to Kaygetsu at night. Lastly, brunch at Koi Palace on Sunday. Obviously I'm unfamiliar with the districts and the proximities, so I'm not sure how to combine those walking tours... I guess I would do Muir Woods on the drive to SF on Friday morning, but I'm not sure. Does this sound better? Suggestions?

              1. re: ShikaSfrn


                Sounds good. I love Martini House. I didn't mean to give the impression that Ame is a raw bar. It is Japanese fusion that happens to incorporate many raw fish ingredients. Here is their sample dinner menu:


                (the main page is just www.amerestaurant.com


                There really isn't much t see in SoMa once you leave the touristy area around the Metreon.

                Union Square is next to Chinatown is next to North Beach is next to Fisherman's Wharf. That is a great walking tour.

                1. re: ShikaSfrn

                  Japan town is not walking distance from North Beach (while Chinatown is adjacent). Otherwise, that schedule looks great. Your parents will enjoy Napa -- who doesn't enjoy a drive in the country with great wine and food? In addition, some of the wineries are architecturally interesting and have other things to offer (the art collection at Hess, for example). If you drive back through Sonoma, the town square in Sonoma proper is very pretty and both foodie and nonfoodie attractions (like the Mission Sonoma, which is interesting if your parents aren't familiar with the history of the Spanish in California).

                  1. re: ShikaSfrn

                    If you have dinner in SF on Wednesday night you can stop in at the Ritz Carlton Bar for the Champagne Flight, this would be a fun way to kick off your adventures..it's a lovely relaxing room and a have a bubbly flight.

                    only on Wednesday 6:30-9:30, $39.00 per person
                    600 Stockton and very close to Bar Crudo!

                    Just a thought

                    1. re: Lori SF

                      That sounds amazing, but I'm confused, the Ritz thing you're suggesting is in addition to dinner, correct? The Dining Room does look incredible, and that's the only info I can find, nothing about a Champagne flight... but your suggestion is veryyy tempting. Possibly the best restaurant I've ever been to in the U.S. was a French-Japanese one in NY, so the Ritz is appealing. Thanks for all the advice, you guys are amazing! And where exactly is Richmond? And I know I sound like I want to plan everything (sorry), it's one of my downfalls, but my theory is plan a few nice restaurants and then wing the day stuff and walk around a LOT to just relax, see things you just can't plan, and have a generally laid back cultured experience interspersed with some swank...

                      In terms of setting up an appointment with that guy-- does he do lunch and wine? If he could do later than 1:30 then we can do it after lunch... how many wineries is practical to do in a day?

                      1. re: ShikaSfrn

                        One must distinguish between Richmond, a city in the East Bay, and the Richmond, a district in western San Francisco. If mapping you must get that

                        1. re: ShikaSfrn

                          I was suggesting going to the Ritz Bar for pre dinner dinks. The Ritz bar does this champagne flight that is very fun. Then walk over to Bar Crudo which is very close or cab it to Ame ( I have not been there).

                          Here is a number for the Ritz Bar if you need the info.. 415-773-6198

                          The Richmond is a district or neighborhood if you will in SF, outer and inner richmond district. Here is a link to show you all the different neighborhoods..each one has it's own vibe and feel..kinda like Chicago
                          Not all the restaurants mentioned will be here, just to give you a guild and a feel.

                          1. re: ShikaSfrn


                            Ric will set up an appointment whenever. I mean, he needs to be available, but other than that...

                            Hopefully if you go Mike Trujillo will be around. He is the winemaker and one of the premier winemakers in the Napa Valley.

                    2. ShikaSfrn,
                      I got dizzy reading your post. The objective of your trip is to convince your parents that you going to CIA is prudent? Limit your focus to meet that end. Can't tell where you are staying on all nights, except St. Helena 1st night. My suggetion is to spend most time in Napa Valley with balance in SF. I'd skip Danko's and Daly City. Try Terra, since you have been to Redd. Go to places that might reflect houses where you would do an externship or (if you ever get to this idea) forego school in favor of aprenticeship. You might try Ad Hoc or Bouchon while in Napa. As for wineries... There are so many and you didn't state what your preferences are. Once you get up to the valley ask around and go where the wind takes you. Since your focus is on cooking, don't stress the wineries.
                      I get your enthusiasm. California has beauty at every turn and the Bay Area has nuances in every corner, you don't need your parents to see all 12,000,000 people in their resplendant culinary diversity to make your case.
                      As for San Francisco, if you are into Japanese, go with you reso at Kaygetsu. Perhaps try Zuni for the raw bar, Mediterranean inspired food and terrific mix of people watching. Great for lunch or mid day in bar area. from Zuni you could walk over to Hayes Street area and check out street scene there. When you have Japanese, walking out of Japantown and then into and around Fillmore Street will stimulate both you and your parents.
                      Keep it simple and stay focused on your goal.
                      Have fun. Your parents raised you, so they must be somewhat astute...

                      1. Sounds like it's going to be a fun trip!

                        My parents visited in February and I wrote this post about their visit. Might be helpful in terms of figuring out neighborhoods to visit, etc.


                        If you go to Muir Woods, which I would definitely recommend, you could combine it with food that is out in the Richmond, which is better to access w/ a car anyway. Lori's suggestion of combining Muir Woods with a bigger trip to Napa area would be good too, but it seems like logistically this wouldn't work.

                        So one suggestion is to drive out to Muir Woods in the afternoon (4 pm or so?) and walk around, then drive back over the GG Bridge in the evening and have dinner in the Richmond (Aziza, various Asian places, etc).....or alternatively, have lunch in the Richmond and then go to Muir Woods. Moral of the story - if you are driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, you might as well stop in the Richmond for food too (if you intend to go there at all).

                        Overall, I don't think you can go too wrong here. Sounds like you'll have a great time regardless - definitely go to as many farmer's markets as possible, esp. Ferry Building, and take time to explore. I'm excited to read your post after your trip!

                        Dave MP

                        1. Can I say that I think the people that recommend trading Gary Danko out for Boulevard and so are on are missing the "cheese plate" point? I suspect they have either never had the cheese service at GD or are not cheese-obsessed freaks.

                          I order the cheese course at restaurants whenever possible and I PROMISE YOU - GD has the best cheese plate in the SF. Most places slap a few unripe, cold cheese on a white plate with a cracker, charge $25 and call it a cheese plate - makes me want to slap them back!

                          So if you're a cheese lover, keep GD on your list -- proper cheese service is rare, a thing of beauty and one of life's true pleasures! You could have the cheese service at the bar so if you wanted to save $$, calories and/or time, that may be the way to go.

                          In NO WAY does going to a store (even Cheeseboard or Cowgirl) and buying cheese replace the experience of GD's cheese service.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: larochelle

                            Maybe I missed the "people" recommending she swap out GD for Boulevard. I think most people were suggesting Ame/Bar Crudo, which were in keeping with the OP's comments about how much she loved fusion and raw bars.

                            I don't think she and her parents should sit through a whole (expensive) dinner just for the cheese course (and I'm a total cheese fanatic), especially if they can be served the cheese course at the bar.

                            1. re: larochelle

                              I was less than impressed by the cheese plate at Gary Danko. The free samples at the Cheeseboard were more generous and quite frankly better. I would substitue the cheeseplate at Gary Danko for cheese sampling at some cheese shops and cheese makers ... Cheeseboard, of course in Berkeley, Cowgirl in the Ferry building, Andante ... especially Andanta (figaro, gotta get the figaro) at the Saturday Ferry Plaza, Vella Cheese in Sonoma.

                              As to Muir Woods ... if the point is to see a Redwood, just drive through the parking lot of Lark Creek Inn in nearby Larkspur. Nice trees, same thing, no drive. If it wasn't such a short trip, fine. But Muir Woods is a place where you want to hike a bit rather than rush through with a "look, a redwood". You see on tree, you see them all. Look at the redwoods at Lark Creek ... just don't eat there. Drive over to Sausalito and check out the houseboats, continue up the road along the water in Sausalito and then take the winding road to Baker Beach with the breath-taking views of the bay area. Stock up on picnic supplies and eat al fresco while drinking in the view.

                            2. Oh, I just saw the "small tastings" part of your post like bakeries in Northbeach. I think that's a great idea..... I say hit up Victoria Pastry company on Stockton, then go to Columbus and hit up MARA's and Stella's. They are all within two blocks of each other, but I think you'll find MARA's has different fare.... try the Raspberry ring. Also, while in northbeach, you should make a sweet stop at xox chocolates. They sell bite size truffles in something like 25 flavors, and you can get a box of 20 pieces for $8.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: mlucier

                                I remember going to Victoria Pastry and Stella's, and the first thought I had was that I HAVE to take my dad there--he's a huge coffee and pastry person, as am I. I think I'll maybe do the cheese are the bar at GD at some point...if time permits. I guess I'll skip Muir Woods, I just remember being blown away, and want to show my parents how inexplicable that type of scenery is--again, huge nature/traveling people. So I'll stick to Chinatown/Japantown/North Beach/Missin over the 2 days, seems as though there's not much at SoMa. What exactly is Castro, and where are these restaurants in that regard?

                                1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                  The Castro district is the "gay" neighborhood, and is not particularly known for its restaurants (the opposite, in fact).

                                  If you want a mind-blowing view without going too far out of your way, be sure to stop on the Marin headlands on the way back from Napa. Don't get sucked into the vista point by the bridge -- from the last exit before the Golden Gate bridge, take the road going westbound up the headlands and then pull out into one of the wide shoulder turnouts (look for all the other gawkers) where you can stand and look down on the bridge, with the city beyond and the ocean to the west. Spectacular. From the bridge it's a straight shot into the Richmond district (first exit off the bridge will take you that way), if you want to have dinner at Aziza.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Wow, thank you guys SO much for all the links and numbers! So we're doing the champagne flight (great suggestion) and then Bar Crudo on Wed night, then driving up to Napa Valley. 9am-1pm is CIA tour, and then probably lunch at Greystone or somewhere close. Then we will do a winery (Silverado Trail to Sequoia?) and check out the driving, and then dinner in Napa Thursday night. My debate is about Friday... I want to do Sonoma, do you think I can do it the same day after a winery?

                                    I guess I don't know how long to spend in Napa and Sonoma and whether to do Thursday and any of Friday in Napa, or just Thursday in the North and more of San Fran. We can leave Friday morning and get to Muir Woods by 10 and make it quick, because I think my parents definitely want to see it, and then continue to SF for lunch, walk NB, chinatown, union square. From the link sent, Hayes, Mission, Bernal Heights, Fillmore...they all sound so great, but I guess I'll just browse through those later to get a better idea of what I want to do specifically, no need to bore you all, haha. Dinner in Chez Panisse Friday night. Saturday more of SF, Kaygetsu in Menlo Park for dinner.

                                    So lastly, is it better to stay overnight in Menlo Park and then be closer to Daly City for 11 brunch at Koi Palace? I want to ensure a great dim sum experience, but now am debating whether to spend half the day on Sunday doing something else since I'm so overwhelmed with the possibilities, haha.

                                    You guys have been great, looking forward to the advice!

                                    1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                      no need to stay in Daly City, stay in SF and it's about 20 min if that by car.

                                      1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                        You have alot on your plate, but if you or your parents are chocolate lovers, then I highly recommend a brief stop at Woodhouse Chocolates on the main drag in St. Helena. I thought the handmade chocolates were superb and special.

                                        We got the 12 pc. box for $20 and kept them as cool as possible in an ice chest, but some did melt a little (it was low 90's that day). I might just get a few to eat on the spot next time if storage was an issue. Favorites include: bananas foster, gianduja, quatre epices, honey, and pistachio. I regret not trying their chocolate-covered salted caramels.

                                        Photo of storefront:

                                        Photo of window display:

                                        Photo of case:


                                        Have a great time and hope your visit to the CIA is fruitful! Look forward to your post-visit report.

                                        1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                          If you don't already have a reservation for Chez Panisse Friday night, you might be out of luck (missed whether you booked that one or not). Book it immediately if you can.

                                          Remember that it will take you some time to get from SF to Berkeley to go to Chez Panisse (particularly if you are driving on the last Friday night of the month which you will be and at the start of a holiday weekend when lots of people will be trying to get out of town); it could take you an hour or even more at rush hour from downtown SF to Berkeley, and count on ten or fifteen minutes to find parking near CP. You might want to consider public transportation to get to CP (BART, then either a cab or walk the 3/4 mile or so from Downtown Berkeley BART/subway station to CP).

                                          If you are lucky and there is no traffic (hah!) it will take you an hour and a half to get from Napa to Muir Woods, and then about an hour to get back to San Francisco from Muir Woods. However, the chances that you won't have SERIOUS traffic that day is small. Keep in mind that it can take twenty to thirty minutes to drive from the Golden Gate Bridge to Union Square when traffice is bad.

                                          So, it is likely to take you an hour and a half to get from Muir Woods back to the city. I just don't think you have time to do that Friday and also have lunch in San Francisco, walk north beach, chinatown, union square, and then go to CP, even if you get an early start from Napa, unless your reservation for dinner is rather late. If your parents really want to see Muir Woods then I'd stock up on picnic supplies before you leave Napa and plan to have your lunch there.

                                      2. re: ShikaSfrn

                                        If you are 22, your parents might be only in their mid to late 40s (or even younger). While Bay Area eating is wonderful, they might enjoy hike to help the food settle as well as seeing the scenery and so get a chance to enjoy the meals more. If they're athletic, go to Muir Woods or Point Reyes and hike and re-develop the appetite for eating. Take a picnic basket from the Ferry Building's many places or Emporio Rulli or... and enjoy. Remember to let them relax here so they don't get the impression your time will be mostly spent hunting the best cheese! (Also, and I don't know them and how into the-sky's-the-limit dining they are, but would they like a few inexpensive meals sprinkled in, just to show you're thoughtful and prudent?)

                                        If they're not so athletic, have that picnic near the Palace of the Legion of Honor and see upclose where the ocean flows under the Golden Gate Bridge: i.e., the Golden Gate itself. It's a spectacular view. If you want to have dim sum and then head across the bridge, have it at Ton Kiang on Geary at 23rd. It's not the most authentic, but it's light and flavorful and every newbie at dim sum I've taken there has been enchanted without feeling bloated.

                                        They will LOVE sitting with espresso and pastry at Stella's. No need to know the rest of the neighborhood's no longer the Italian neighborhood it was in the middle of the last century. In fact, it's turning Asian! If they like literature make sure and take them into City Lights and Coppolo's coffee house--just don't rely on it for great food.

                                        The Castro is not what it once was and hence less a tourist gawk-a-thon than in its heyday. If you have three days and want to see SF/East Bay/Wine Country, forget Monterey! If you come here your parents will return.

                                    2. I guess I could figure you were from NY in your fast paced style. As a native of SF I agree with Madge. KEEP IT SIMPLE and remember TRAFFIC is factor especially in Marin and downtown

                                      1. I'm shocked that considering you mentioned specifically that your parents love Mediterranean food that no one has recommended Aziza (my current broken record -- it is my favorite restaurant in the city and I think the most innovative).

                                        The likes of Gary Danko, Martini House, etc are relatively the same in their haute cuisine influence. Aziza is Moroccan on an upscale level that truly innovative. I would make that your Wednesday dinner. Seriously.

                                        Skip Japantown and Carmel/Monterey. The best restaurant in Japantown is Kappa and as it only seats 10, needs reservations.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Carrie 218

                                          There are several of us who recommended Aziza! I agree that the OP should try it. Perhaps our recommendations got buried in this dizzy whirlpool of an itinerary! :-)

                                          1. re: wolfe

                                            I love the enthusiasm but am totally dizzy. My suggestion is to pare the itinerary way back to enjoy what you've chosen rather than rushing to get to the next place.

                                            * stay in St. Helena for first 2 days. Tour of CIA, eat at Greystone. Also, stroll Main St.. Would go to Schramsberg for unique champagne tasting in 19th century caves. I've taken many out of towners there -- they all love it. Dinner at Terra or Martini House or down to Yountville for Bouchon or Ad Hoc.
                                            * next day in Napa: lunch at Taylor's Refresher (can't have all high end food -- wonderful burgers and atmosphere). Another winery in the afternoon. Change of pace? See art collection at Hess or Clos Pegase. Dinner at one of the above.
                                            * to SF the next day and for the rest of your stay, visiting Muir Woods on the way. Muir Woods takes 2 hours max but very crowded in the afternoon. Get there at 10am, go on to the City for lunch.
                                            * skip Carmel and Berkeley: too much time in transportation. Hit North Beach, Ft. Point under the Golden Gate, Chinatown, Union Square and Ferry Building. Skip Japantown, Richmond and SOMA --too much driving. Walk, look, eat and relax. Do one fancy meal per day, pickup food (eg. nosh at the Ferry Building) for the other.
                                            * let your parents enjoy the scenery, atmosphere and food. Don't kill them off!

                                            Looking forward to your report!

                                            1. re: cortez

                                              Hmm good considerations... Muir Woods might be out then... might drive over Friday night to eat dinner in Berkeley because I've heard so much about Chez Panisse, and don't mind eating in the cafe in terms of needing reservations. Is traffic still crazy that way and take too long? I could also just do a lesser dim sum in Chinatown, though I've heard so much about Koi that I'm thinking maybe I could drive there Friday afternoon after looking at one of the galleries mentioned above, and then have all of Sunday for San Fran as well. Anyway, now that I know Koi isn't so far, I could spend Sunday and Sat in San Fran and have a less rushed time in Napa, which is definitely good advice! Thanks for the Woodhouse and Aziza rec-- I made reservations for Wed night for the Champagne flight and reservations at Bar Crudo afterwards as suggested because it sounded fun, but we may be really exhausted. Depending on whether you all think I can do dinner at the cafe at Chez (is it really THAT worth it?) if driving from Napa, I can maybe change Friday to Aziza.

                                              I'll definitely slow it down and take in the sights, knowing that I will be back for more!

                                              1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                Chez Panisse is definitely worth it IMO. However, even in the cafe you will need reservations, and it may be too late to get them. I assumed you weren't eating downstairs unless you already had a booking, though last minute cancellations are obviously always a possibility. Anyway, CP is one of the few places I would choose over Aziza, but it partly depends on what you are in the mood for....CP is all about the food and the wine (and might be a great place to sample some cheese btw); Aziza has great food though probably not as great as CP, but also has a bit of a hip vibe (not too much of one) and has terrific cocktails. (CP is beer and wine only).

                                                A tough choice, but I am guessing since you apparently don't have a reservatioon that may make the choice for you. Aziza is on Open Table, so you can (and should) book there right away; you will have to call CP in the am to see what they have.

                                                Neither one is that difficult to get to from Napa (other than traffic wise) but you would go different ways. Take a look at mapquest. And I am not sure what you mean traffic 'that way', but traffic could well be difficult to crazy whether coming from Napa to Berkeley or from SF to Berkeley.

                                          2. How fun... it's like playing Sudoku...

                                            How's this -

                                            Wed night: Dinner in SF (Ame or Bar Crudo)

                                            Thurs: Lunch and dinner in St. Helena (Terra - dinner only, or Martini House - serves lunch F-Sun, dinner every night) and/or Yountville (Bouchon - servers lunch and dinner, or Ad Hoc - dinner only). Silverado Trail during the afternoon (one vote for Robert Sinskey for really food-friendly wines)

                                            Fri: Go up to Calistoga - that's where Schramsberg, Sterling, and Clos Pegase are. All are interesting even for people who aren't hard core wine drinkers (Schramsberg requires a reservation, the other two don't. Sterling has a tram that takes you up to the winery - beautiful view of the valley). Then start heading over to Berkeley for dinner at Cafe Chez Panisse. The Cheese Board closes at 6 - you'd want to spend at least half an hour there - time might be too tight, and you may not really want a) eat dinner at 6 pm or b) kill a few hours in Berkeley between cheese sampling and dinner (not to say you wouldn't want to... but given the number of things you want to do, and the fact that hanging out in Berkeley wasn't one of them, I'm guessing it would be a no).


                                            Drive to Muir Woods. Return to city, lunch at Mandalay or Burma Superstar, explore Golden Gate Park (or go to Japantown), then Aziza for dinner. I suppose you could theoretically also still go to Berkeley for dinner, but make sure you leave plenty of driving time.

                                            Sat - Ferry building, Chinatown, North Beach. Kaygetsu for dinner.

                                            Sun - Koi Palace for dim sum, spend the rest of the day in the Mission. Make sure you get ice cream at Bi-Rite. Dinner at Delfina or Bar Tartine. Or snack on tacos and burritos all day.

                                            Re: cheese tastings - it sounds like you've probably already dropped GD, but I wanted to add my two cents - I've had it and it's good, but the one at Picholine is better (or was, when I went years ago, but reports are stil good). I'm willing to bet Artisanal's pretty great too. Also, you may not make it to the Cheeseboard this time, but you will love it - it's friendly and accessible (I was too intimidated at Murray's Cheese Shop to ask for more than 1 or 2 tastes).

                                            Re: Sonoma - I love Sonoma, but I really think it's too much driving - save it for another trip.

                                            12 Replies
                                            1. re: daveena

                                              Seriously, you guys are good. I wish I had time to eat dinner on Sunday and explore more, but unfortunately our plane is at 5, so we'll probably need to leave SF around 3 (we'll be carrying on). I still think we can spend from about 1-3 in SF after Koi though, I'll just play it by ear at this point. My mom is calling about reservations at Chez Panisse for Friday... we'll plan to leave Napa around 3ish on Friday since the cheeseboard closes at 6, it should take about 2.5 hours with traffic, no? If that doesn't work, we'll try get the Aziza reservations or something else if that doesn't work, possibly change the Wed night Ritz/Crudo extravaganza and replace it with CP, though my flight gets in at 6 and so would not see the cheeseboard :( Sad... but there's always next time. And fyi- been to Artisinal and if you're ever in NY, it's so worth it.

                                              1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                I hope you all have a fab time, let us know how it all goes.. Artisinal is great!

                                                  1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                    Depends on where you mean by "Napa" (the city or the valley) but 2.5 hours should be adequate (you'll be going opposite to the commute/weekend getaway traffic). The visiting NY hound I took to the Cheeseboard was blown away by how helpful the staff was (and I actually thought our guy was a bit on the brusque side that day). You usually have to take a number (playing card, actually) and wait, but once you're waited on, you'll have that person's full attention for as long as you want, and they'll insist on you sampling everything you're interested in.

                                                    1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                      I've checked this thread over the last few days -- my brain went into overload each time --and it was only when daveena sorted things out into a prioritized itinerary that the vertigo stopped.

                                                      I live near the CIA in Napa Valley and have been there quite often for work in the last 14 years, and I would like to ask you to please make the focus of your journey here your culinary school visit and your career goals.

                                                      I truly don't wish to dampen any of your enthusiasm – all that energy and spirit are a thing to behold -- but what you are considering is a very expensive proposition, and one that deserves careful thought. After your formal visit/tour to the CIA on Thursday morning, make sure you spend plenty of time -- at least the entire afternoon -- talking to the teachers. Make appointments to do so now. For the moment these appointments are more important than dinner reservations. Get a real assessment of what it's like to attend school and what happens afterwards in the real world.

                                                      Offering the associates program is brand new for this CIA campus; in the past the Greystone CIA has offered classes only to working professionals and specialized programs in baking and pastry, etc. So a few important questions to ask are "Is this program ready and adequately staffed, with available kitchen time and equipment?" That's a big one. "Have they ironed out the kinks yet? Is Hyde Park the better campus for this program? Are the teachers dedicated to this program only or are they double-timing and also teaching in another program?" Ask a number of teachers to get a variety of opinions. Request that their answers be candid and honest. Be wary about “being sold” a program, especially since this is a new program that needs to be launched and populated. Talk to students.

                                                      Also, spend a bit of time discussing your career goals. There are a lot of frustrated and disappointed culinary school grads out there, who make a meager non-livable wage with no health benefits and no weekends or holidays off, and who cannot pay off their enormous culinary school loans, and I don't want you to be one of them.

                                                      It's important that your enthusiasm and desire for this to work out don't cause you to overlook some of the difficulties of attending culinary school or of the culinary profession itself, and the fact that this CIA campus *might* not be ready for this program yet. You're right, the number of options in the culinary world "are so ridiculously overwhelming and vast."

                                                      On Friday, meet further with teachers and students and check out the town where you'll live if you attend the school here. Spend an afternoon in St. Helena, pick up a couple of local newspapers (the St. Helena Star and the Napa Register) and check out the price of rental housing (gulp) and the lay of the land. With your interests, I couldn't recommend the restaurant Terra more highly, with its brilliant Californian-Asian cuisine. Ame in San Francisco is its sister restaurant, also run by Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani.

                                                      If you have time Friday, visit a couple wineries -- again Daveena is right: head north out of St. Helena not quite all the way to Calistoga and check out Schramsberg and perhaps a winery or two with culinary programs, for which you’ll need a special appointment with the culinary director or chef.

                                                      From my experience, Friday late afternoon/early evening traffic heading into SF from St. Helena (via the East Bay or the Golden Gate) can be a brutal, hellish 3- or 4-hour ordeal. I’d figure at least 3 hours (details upon request) if driving during that time. Please bear in mind that St. Helena is nearly an hour north of downtown Napa, especially for someone unfamiliar with the terrain.

                                                      You may wish to stay another night in Napa Valley and on Saturday make your way south into SF via Berkeley for The Cheese Board (better than any cheese plate!), Berkeley Bowl, Monterey Market, etc. I cannot adequately describe the enormous pleasure I felt and the impression these markets made upon me when I visited them for the first time 17 years ago! Not to be missed, though they will be jammed on Friday and Saturday, or perhaps those visits can wait for another time.

                                                      Another option is to head directly into San Francisco and explore the many possibilities there the remainder of Saturday and Sunday. The recs above certainly sound like you’re in able hands.

                                                      On this trip, I would forego Muir Woods, Monterey, Carmel and Sonoma because of driving time and the time needed to enjoy these places. It's easy to underestimate driving times in the Bay Area, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. I'm concerned about your getting frustrated and not being able to make your reservation times or cover all the ground you want to cover because of traffic.

                                                      So my best advice: make your culinary school visit your focus and explore that thoroughly. Everything after that is a second priority. Be careful you don’t plan too much, not only for your sake but for your parents. Give them ample time to discuss their impressions wtih you and to give you their advice.

                                                      ~~Apologies for the long post.~~

                                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                                        Great post. More than makes up for not knowing the Richardson Bay Bridge.

                                                        1. re: wolfe

                                                          Ah, you remembered that! Thanks to you, I am now edified.

                                                        2. re: maria lorraine

                                                          Don't ask me why, but I've been reading all of these posts and this one makes A LOT of sense. I agree that the focus of this visit should be checking out the culinary school thing - you can always visit all of these fabulous places recommended on subsequent visits.

                                                          As far as my random thoughts on restaurants, Ame is fabulous and though I've not been to Terra, based on the fact that they are sister restaurants, I would recommend that. I think the arrival night champagne flights at the Ritz and a couple block stroll to Bar Crudo sounds just right after your flight.

                                                          Summertime traffic in the Bay Area can be a real zoo - I live in the Marina in SF and it can take 30 minutes to get to the Golden Gate Bridge from here - even though we are right next to the bridge and there are no on-off ramps between the Marina and the GGB! Traffic back into SF can also be brutal on the GGB in the 5ish time frame. Highway 80 in the Berkeley area can also be very crowded on weekends. I'd minimize the freeway jaunts so you don't drive yourself crazy. That said, I'd save Chez Panisse for another time.

                                                          I agree with the suggestions of Aziza - a great experience and you can easily get to it from the GGB on your way back into SF.

                                                          Congratulations on your graduation and enjoy your visit!

                                                      2. re: daveena

                                                        I like the Burma Superstar suggestion. It wouldn't be *too* crowded on Friday at lunch, which would be nice. So if it were me, I would go with daveena's friday plan B. Driving across GG Bridge is also fun, and this plan allows that.

                                                        I also agree that getting to the Mission is worthwhile, especially if it's a nice day. Dolores Park Area is nice to see, and Bi-Rite is great.

                                                        Dave MP

                                                        1. re: daveena

                                                          No reservation needed at Schramsberg unless you are doing their wine and food pairing, and that is only Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 1130am

                                                          1. re: fyoulady

                                                            Shramsberg *does* require a reservation. This from their website at

                                                            "Schramsberg generally offers four scheduled tours a day: 10:00am, 11:30am, 1:00pm & 2:30pm. The cost is $25 per person. Please allow approximately one hour and fifteen minutes for the visit. All visitors to the winery must be over 21 years old. Visiting Schramsberg is by appointment only, as our space is limited."

                                                            Excellent posts about the excellence of Schramsberg on this board, Talia. Read them.

                                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                                              Addendum: Visiting Schramsberg may make it easy to forego the Champagne flight.

                                                        2. Other options for Dim Sum, without having to go all the way out to boring Daly City, are Ton Kiang in the outer Richmond (22nd and Geary) or Yank Sing in the Rincon Center (101 Spear St, near Embarcadero). I've eaten at both and both are really good. This might also help on travel time if you chose one of these.

                                                          13 Replies
                                                          1. re: mlucier

                                                            Yeah, I've heard that Yank Sing is controvertial--way overpriced and overrated, so I think I'll still to Ton Kiang if I don't go to Koi. Or are there any great places in Chinatown you guys know of that have really great dim sum as part of a walking tour, just to grab and go?

                                                            And an update about reservations:
                                                            1. Chez Panisse only has a 9:45 on Friday... I booked it just in case, but that's really just too late I'm thinking, especially if we have to go back to SF, and too long to just waste in Berkeley (since I definitely want to go to the Cheeseboard and would get there at 5:30ish).
                                                            2. My dad also made an 8:15 reservation at Chez Panisse on Wednesday (our flight gets in at 6). Is it better to do the 8:15 on Wed at CP, forego the Cheeseboard/Friday night thing, and cancel the Ritz Champagne flight/Crudo Bar reservations we made for Wed. night?

                                                            Just want to know how much its really worth it... still debating between Castiloga (both parents and I haven't seen) and Muir Woods (parents haven't seen), because I definitely want the relaxing winery thing, but don't want to bog my parents down with too much of the same thing. Guess this stuff I can play by ear, but I do need to figure out the reservations--what's the better plan?

                                                            I'm getting so excited!

                                                            1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                              There have been at least as many negative reports on Ton Kiang, if not more, than on Yank Sing. (though I haven't been; I did like Yank Sing the last time I went, but then I wasn't buying either). The good places to get dim sum in Chinatown would be sit down, not grab and go, but there is no reason you can't sit down for a bit, especially since you will want a rest (well, maybe you won't, but your parents might :-)) Chinatown is quite hilly as you may know.

                                                              To me, Calistoga is a stay and chill a while type of a place (visit a spa,perhaps have a mud bath...) not somewhere to just drive up to 'see'. I am not really sure what there is to 'see' that you can't see in Napa. If the goal is just wineries, you don't need to go the entire way to Calistoga...

                                                              Personally, I would take Chez Panisse over Bar Crudo/Ritz, but I guess it depends how much you want raw fish and to visit the cheeseboard. You will be hard pressed to find enough to do between 6 or so and 9:45 in Berkeley that doesn't involve food, unless you go to a movie, can fit in a play, or really love bookstores, in which case Black Oak Books almost next door to CP might keep you busy for a while (they close at 9, I believe).

                                                              Look at it this way: isn't your hope to be coming back for good soon? There will be lots of time then to do everything.....

                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                For what its worth, I am a tried and true Ton Kiang fan. Much prefer it to Yank Sing. However, it has been 7-8 months since last I went and in that time, another Ton Kiang fan has posted on this board that her most recent experience was not particularly good. Maybe she just hit it on an off day. Hopefully. But... well... that is all I have to say I guess. I say Ton Kiang is much better, but there is a chance that is an outdated opinion.

                                                              2. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                                Sorry if you already posted this already - are you flying into Oakland or San Francisco? I think that would determine whether you can make the 8:15 res at CP... would be really hard to land at 6 at SFO (assuming that your flight gets in on time), get your rental car, and be in Berkeley on time. Oh, plus you have to find street parking. It might even be a little tight if you fly into OAK.

                                                                Oh, another thing I was thinking... if you do Saturday at the Ferry Building and Sunday in the Mission, you should definitely collect snacks for the plane... I forgot to mention Tartine Bakery in the Mission (the one Mark Bittman named the best bakery in the US, which may be a bit... hyperbolic. But it is a very good bakery). I love their gougeres and tarts. It's right by Bi-Rite Creamery. Burritos make good plane food, too. I'm actually not a fan of Mission-style burritos in general, but I could see myself digging into one happily on the plane.

                                                                1. re: daveena

                                                                  Good info about Calistoga-- might skip it if people think that means I could replace it with Sonoma. If not, I kind of want to see the champagne cave thing and the Hess, etc....

                                                                  I guess I don't need to have the most incredible dim sum experience possible, as long as its pretty damn good, haha. Would Koi really take that much longer? According to mapquest its only 15 min away, which might be worth it, but then again I'm not sure if they really take into account the traffic, and not sure how bad it might be... we'll see how it goes on Sunday though.

                                                                  We fly into SFO and get in at 6, but the car will be ready and rented for us (my mom and I are on the same flight but my dad gets in earlier, we all will have carry on bags), so I think we could get there, and if we're a little late hopefully they'll seat us. I'm definitely sad about no cheeseboard, but it makes no sense to go on Friday, so I'll keep the CP at 8:15. I cannot WAIT to go there!

                                                                  Good info about Mission! I've heard about Tartine and have really wanted to go there, so that's a good reminder. Now I have to just print out all this info! Thanks guys!

                                                                  1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                                    I agree w/ susancinsf that Calistoga is a very "chill" place and not much to see besides those wineries you may be interested in. Now if you are interested in a spa treatment, then that's the place to go. The town is quaint, but nothing really grabbed me as special. A cave tour would be very cool though; next time we go to wine country, I def. want to do that.

                                                                    I personally would save Sonoma for another time when you can truly linger a bit and enjoy it. We saw it on our third day, but it felt rushed and I didn't really get a good impression. Since you are considering going to school in Napa Valley, then I'd explore that area as much as possible.

                                                                    BTW, I thought Koi Palace was fantastic the one time we went about 6 mos. ago. Wait for two of us on a Sat. around 12:30pm was about one hour. If you think your parents are up for that sort of thing, then go for it. My parents would think I was nuts and start getting very grumpy.

                                                                    1. re: Carb Lover

                                                                      Yeah, when I mentioned Calistoga, I was thinking more about the wineries in that area (since Schramsberg and Clos Pegase were both recommended as being interesting for non-wine people, and I remembered loving Sterling on my first ever trip to Napa Valley) rather than the town itself. I love the spas there too... but somehow, the OP's trip doesn't quite sound like a relaxing spa vacation : )

                                                                      1. re: daveena

                                                                        Thanks, all. A couple things... firstly, I can see why you all think I'm pretty crazy (rightfully so), but I really do enjoy the laid back thing, I was in an all-over-the-place kind of hectic state at the time, haha. NY has just made me very assertive and always wanting to make sure I can do what I can so things go well. But then when I visited SF for the first time during spring break, I fell in love with the people, the lifestyle, and the atmosphere that NV and SF had to offer. I remembered what it was like to slow down, and I loved it (I feel as though Chicago has the balance--laid back and still a great city). I just loved the fact that NY is a walking city, and that's the only reason I'm excited to walk all over SF, haha.

                                                                        Secondly, I have been considering a career in the food industry, and so am trying to gain experience as to what I like. A few months ago, I got a job in a French restaurant very close to me (entrees are about 20-25 for dinner...nothing really fancy but it's pretty nice). I was very excited, and knew it would be a lot of hard work, but after a couple months, am very disheartened (too much detail to go into). I am not unwilling to work very hard and be dedicated to something if I enjoy it or think it's going somewhere, but this job really has really taken the passion and fun out of cooking for me. So I've realized that the restaurant business, or at least the back of the house, is not where I want to be. I've always had a head for business though (as you can see, I do have the past paced business mind in me), and so am leaning more towards restaurant development, an entrepreneurial endeavor, or something else that I'm not quite sure of... but you need to have a great understanding of the food in order to successfully run the business side of things in the food industry. The point is, I booked this trip for the CIA when I was very much considering the culinary aspect and working the back of the house, and only later discovered while working at my current restaurant that I would much rather have cooking/baking as my passion and hobby, rather than a profession. So I still want to see what the CIA has to offer and think it would be beneficial to go hear what they have to say from the top guys, and I'm sure I would enjoy a culinary school (I would love to learn the technicalities and theory behind food), but I recognize how silly it is for me to blow all that money if I don't want to directly be involved in that aspect, and should probably just take a few cooking courses here and there instead.

                                                                        So I guess my focus isn't as much on discovering the school, but more into involving my parents directly in what it is I love surrounding food. Don't get me wrong, they love food, but don't quite get the whole gastronomy and intense culture of the movement. We all love a relaxing spa vacation, trust me--I live for a great spa getaway--but I want them to get a balance of that, and the whole SF foodie scene and to experience the worlds I love.

                                                                        Anyway, that was long, I didn't expect to tell you guys my life story, but there you have it! :) I think I'll just see what my parents want to do on Friday during the afternoon, though Muir Woods, Sonoma, and Monteray are definitely out. I'll save that for the next trip... Sorry to make you all dizzy continuously, but of course I am grateful for all the help.

                                                                        1. re: ShikaSfrn


                                                                          Let me know if you were unable to meet up with Ric (or decided not to). I can put you in touch with several other very well regarded winery owners/winemakers for private tours and tastings (for free). It really sounds like you would enjoy that a lot more than stopping by Mondavi, etc for a generic tasting.

                                                                          1. re: whiner

                                                                            That is very kind, thank you! I left a message for Ric about 20 minutes ago, albeit a very awkward one, haha. We'll see if he calls back... I really do want to reach him or do some sort of tour other than the touristy Mondavi thing.

                                                                            I'm reading a bit about Sonoma now, and it seems so nice and right up our alley. I know it doesn't make sense to try it, though the drive might be nice and we're having a hard time finding places to stay. Anyway, thank you and I will definitely take you up on that offer!

                                                                          2. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                                            Reading this reminds me of my "eureka" moment... on my first visit to the Saturday Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building, I stared, stunned, at an array of maybe 5 kinds of beautiful, jewel-like figs. I listened to the vendor describe each kind, and realized that all around me, there were hundreds of similar conversations going on between people who really, really care about food. I had just moved from NYC, which, despite being a wonderful restaurant town, doesn't have the same pervasive culture of food fanaticism, And I realized that either a) I'm not insane, or b) everyone here is as insane as I am. Either way, it felt good not to be hanging out on the right tail of the bell curve anymore.

                                                                            That said... the best way to expose your parents to this, and to convince them that you belong here, is to spend as much time as possible talking, walking, and eating - i.e. *not* stuck in traffic.

                                                                            I see that you haven't entirely given up on the idea of Sonoma yet : ) Quick question - are you talking about Sonoma, the town, or Sonoma, the county? Also, you mentioned that your parents aren't really into wine. Sonoma's wineries definitely have less for them... What are you picturing, in terms of spending time in Sonoma? Would everyone enjoy just driving around and eating lunch before heading back into SF?

                                                                            1. re: daveena

                                                                              Update: Ric called and we're meeting at 2:15, I think this might be cutting it close in terms of the CIA visit... I didn't really tell him my story or anything and completely forgot to ask him about pricing, and also forgot to tell him I have 2 more people with me... whoops... what are the costs and how long would it be, generally? Off course your offer of a free tasting from some of the best guys sounds very tempting :)

                                                                              By the way, I never introduced myself to the board, but my name is Talia.

                                                                              And we're going to forego Sonoma and leave it to another time--you all are right, too much driving and traffic is no fun, and for this reason we're skipping Muir Woods, too. I think we're going to try Calistoga, either Christopher Inn, Chantric Inn, Pink Mansion, Harvest Inn, or Craftsmann Inn... whew! Yeah we definitely should have gotten a head start on this stuff... I'm judging this primarily by the breakfasts they have to offer rather than anything else, anyone familiar with the breakfasts?

                                                                              Off to work, will check back in later!

                                                                              1. re: ShikaSfrn


                                                                                If you think it will be more like 2:30 just let him know. It can last as long or as short as you like and the tasting will be free. (I've been there for 45 minutes; I've been there for over 2 hours.) You can also ask to sneek some tastes of the Sequoia Grove stuff (people not in-the-know have to pay) and some barrel samples. If you're lucky, Michael Trujillo (the winemaker and also part owner) will be there and he will help you on your tour as well. There will be no Karl Lawrence wine to buy, but since Mike has taken over complete control of Sequoia Grove (starting in the 2002 vintage) their quality has skyrocketed and you may find something you like there.

                                                                                FYI: Just so you know the story when you get there...Karl Lawrence is a small wine-geek winery located behind Sequoia Gove; Mike Trujillo, one of the nicest people I've ever met, and one of my favorite winemakers in the valley is the part owner / winemaker. His other projects are Herb Lamb Vineyards (winemaker) and Sequoia Grove (president/winemaker). Karl Lawrence releases wine twice per year- to mailing-list customers and a handful of restaurants and retail shops. (The spring release is their major release, then they release a few hundered bottes of "reserve" single-vineyard wines in the fall.)

                                                                                If you like, I can shoot Ric an e-mail that you are a friend... hopefully that will help and he won't be angry at you that I forgot to send in my 2004 vintage regular bottling order form! ;-)

                                                              3. in st helena, try tra vigne.

                                                                1. Way to much driving . Your plane may be late you will be tired spend the first night in San francisco We just came back, dinner at Kokaria {check spelling }was are favorite not stuffy but the freshest fish meats appetizers Medditerranean friendly service and we preffered it to much more high profile check out web site for Myth wich was are first choice but was closed . Definately stay in St. helena for two nights and relax spend some extra bucks and stay somewhere great Meadowood or the intimate Poetry InnN . The service at Redd was a little stiff for us albeit great food IF you have connections it is MIssion impossible but the french launryry was twice the best meal we have had Skip tra Vigne and ad hoc Terra should be very nice > The winery is a no brainer Douroush is fine wine and they do a private wine and cheese tasting 50.00 per person . Another winery Is Dell Dotto wich takes you into the caves wich is a lot of fun . YOu can probably fit Muir wood in either going to or coming back fom ST. HElena Have Fun

                                                                  1. Maria Lorraine's post of caution and constraint was far more eloquent than my attempt. I too am a San Francisco native and have lived in Napa Valley for 7 years.
                                                                    Take a deep breath, slow down and attack the most important things first. At 22 you do have some time to try EVERYTHING, just may not in one long weekend. It truly is possible that your agenda could leave you trapped in traffic and not near anywhere you want to be when you want to be there.
                                                                    If CIA is where you want to study, spend your time there and near there. Make that the commitment.

                                                                    1. As others have said your enthusiasm and sprit caught our attention.

                                                                      Reading your thread here’s what you have set in stone

                                                                      WED JUNE 27TH

                                                                      Arrive 6pm
                                                                      Either champagne flight at The Ritz with dinner at Bar Crudo
                                                                      8:15 reservation at Chez Panisse
                                                                      Staying in St. Helena Wednesday night

                                                                      THURS JUNE 28TH

                                                                      9am – 1 pm – Check out associate degree program at CIA in St Helena
                                                                      2:15 with Ric Henry.

                                                                      FRI JUNE 29TH

                                                                      Possible Muir Woods
                                                                      Possible Chez Panisse at 9:45

                                                                      SAT JUNE 30TH

                                                                      Morning at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
                                                                      7:30 pm - Kaygetsu in Menlo Park for dinner

                                                                      SUN JUL 1ST

                                                                      11 am – Koi Palace
                                                                      5 pm flight.

                                                                      This is what I have gleaned from your objectives:

                                                                      - This is partially a culinary adventure for me, part birthday present, part exploration, and part trying to convince my parents to move here and see why I'm so obsessed with it.

                                                                      - I have been considering a career in the food industry, and so am trying to gain experience as to what I like.

                                                                      - I love it for the same reason I love to travel-- seeing what’s new out there (farmers markets, ethnic stores, restaurants, products, etc), the gastronomy/culture/history behind it all, trying and creating new flavors and ingredients and seeing what goes together, etc.

                                                                      - involving my parents directly in what it is I love surrounding food. They love food, but don’t quite get the whole gastronomy and intense culture of the movement.

                                                                      Given that, I’d use this opportunity to get to look behind the food scenes. Use the trip to talk to some of the people who make the food scene what it is. Some of these top names are surprisingly accessible. Here would be my suggested schedule

                                                                      WED JUNE 27TH

                                                                      Arrive 6pm
                                                                      Champagne flight at The Ritz with dinner at Bar Crudo
                                                                      Drive to St. Helena

                                                                      THURS JUNE 28TH

                                                                      9am – 1 pm – Check out associate degree program at CIA in St Helena
                                                                      2:15 with Ric Henry.
                                                                      Drive down to Sonoma and stay there
                                                                      Dinner at either
                                                                      - The General’s Daughter, the girl & the fig, La Salette

                                                                      FRI JUNE 29TH

                                                                      Vella Cheese in Sonoma
                                                                      Drive to Berkeley
                                                                      Light snack at Café Fanny (Alice Waters café) with a visit to the wine store next door and Acme Bakery
                                                                      Walk across to Chez Panisse and see if you can get into lunch at the café
                                                                      If not, go to Gregoire around the corner
                                                                      June Taylor’s Still Room (1-4)
                                                                      Berkeley 4th Sreet shops … Teance, Sketch, Café Rouge meat counter, the Pasta Shop
                                                                      Bakesale Betty’s
                                                                      Alameda Hangar One Vodka tasting
                                                                      Drive to SF and check into a hotel for two nights (maybe near Ferry Plaza like the Hyatt, Vitale, Harbor Court, Griffon)
                                                                      Dinner at Aziza or any other SF restaurant that has caught your attention
                                                                      (cheese plate at the bar at Gary Danko on the way back to the hotel?)

                                                                      SAT JUNE 30TH

                                                                      Morning at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
                                                                      Quick tour of North Beach / Chinatown
                                                                      Drive over the bridge to Muir Woods and Marin headlands
                                                                      7:30 pm - Kaygetsu in Menlo Park for dinner

                                                                      SUN JUL 1ST

                                                                      11 am – Koi Palace
                                                                      Go back to SF and pick up on what you might have missed as time permits
                                                                      5 pm flight.

                                                                      That is still quite ambitious, but there are specific reasons I’m making those recs.

                                                                      Chez Panisse is probably one of my favorite restaurants, but it is just that … a restaurant IMO, enjoying a dinner there after a long flight and then having to drive to St Helena with an early morning appointment the next day is going to throw your whole trip off. People are going to be tired throughout the trip. Your parents might not have your energy (I’m probably their age) and your objective of getting them to love the Bay Area is defeated.

                                                                      Get to know some of the vendors. It is late, but you might email some of the vendors and see if you can talk to them about your career plans. Send Vella Cheese an email and see if you can talk to someone there. Check out the website for The General’s Daughter and ask to talk to the chef while there. He’s quite personable. He’s also a Gary Danko fan and has picked up some tips in that kitchen when he closed the restaurant down for a month to work with Danko. The owner of the restaurant, Betty is also a lovely person and might give you some ideas about the food industry and what running a restaurant is like.

                                                                      La Salette also has a very personable owner/chef that you could probably chat with if you email ahead. The girl & the fig … wouldn’t try it … just a nice restaurant, but they are on the icy side.

                                                                      Find the Cheeseboard site and read up about them. Maybe you could arrange to speak to them about the cheese business.

                                                                      You probably could get your Chez Panisse fix with lunch at the upstairs restaurant. If not Gregoire would be worthwhile. It is takeout gourmet food, but there is a three-seat counter and picnic tables and you can chat with Gregoire himself as pots bubble. He could probably give you career ideas.

                                                                      June Taylor who runs a fabulous jam company is very accessible on Friday afternoons. You could take a peek behind the scenes at the kitchen where she makes her jams and jellies.

                                                                      She is located near the 4th Street stores. You could speak to the owners of Sketch Ice Cream or Teance Tea Room. It is also a nice, if yuppie food area.

                                                                      See if you can email Bakesale Betty and talk to Alison and her husband on what it took going from selleing baked goods at a farmers market to running a highly successful bakery which, quite frankly, is better than Tartine, IMO.

                                                                      Check out Hangar One, an artisan Vodka Maker, and chat with them.

                                                                      If you stay at one of the hotels near the Ferry Building you can walk across the street the next morning and talk to some of the top vendors in the country and see some of the top chefs in the area doing their shopping.

                                                                      Go early in the morning … 7am. Meet up with your parents later. Talk to some of these people when they still have time (I gets busy after 9am). Some friendly vendors are Andante Cheese, Rancho Gordo, Fatted, Calf, Marshalls Honey. You might even email CUIESA which runs the market and see if you can talk to anyone there about ideas for turning your interest in food into a career. All vendors and CUESA info in this link

                                                                      After you and your parents have seen the market, go over to North Beach / Chinatown. Stop by XOX a little chocolate maker where you can see the process and chat a little more. Graffeo Coffee across the street is also good to stop by.

                                                                      After walking over to Chinatown, you can take off and go to Muir Woods for a while before heading to Menlo park.

                                                                      If you stay two nights at the same hotel in SF, you don’t have to deal with check-in / check-out. On a Sunday morning Boulette’s Larder has some nice beinets and light breakfast items.

                                                                      Should you decide to spend more time in the Napa / Sonoma area (they really are close) you might consider visiting olive oil producers and doing some tastings

                                                                      Whatever you do, hope you will report back on what you tried.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                        she is cute and so are all of you! I say slow down.. have your immediate plan when you get into the city.. enjoy!!!! Now after your CIA tour enjoy the wine counrty, I know when I go up there it's hard to pull me back to the city.. the sun, the air, the food, the wine... there are so many options up there and you can wing it. If you all decide hey let's get some fog then come back to SF and you will have a great list of places.. make a reservation in SF and if you feel like staying up North then it's a cell phone away to cancel, no hard feelings. California is slower than NY.. get into the rythem.

                                                                        1. re: Lori SF

                                                                          What would I do without you guys? You're great, really. I'll be sure to report back!

                                                                      2. The BEST place I've eaten in Napa (which is not a ton of places, but I know good food)
                                                                        Is - The Big 3 Diner -- I know sounds like it would be "OK" I was skeptical (spe?)
                                                                        at first, my sisters and I did a spa day at the Fairmont in Calistoga - near Sonoma - and The Big 3 Diner is part of the Fairmont -- OMG!!! to flippn die for. We had the chef come out.....to thank him. They have a full bra and meals are fresh, I mean sooooooo fresh!!!! I had a shrimp and veg roll with a spring salad ugh!!! amazing.... we had calamari as an appetizer and that was amazing too!!! one of my sis's had an organic cheeseburger - so fabulous and then my other sis got some fancy meal that was good too....anyways...... call the Fairmont in Calistoga I think it is the Fairmont Mission Inn.
                                                                        Looking for good wine.....Vissatui winery ;) hehe... enjoy

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: rachellemybell

                                                                          Uh, that diner is part of the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, north of the city of Sonoma in Boyes Hot Spring, not in Calistoga or Napa Valley. Politely disagree with any recs that detour into Sonoma city or Sonoma county for this trip. Just too far and too much. As far as V. Sattui, I tasted through their line a few weeks ago, and I'll repeat what someone else aptly called the winery: V--Pa-tooeeey! Trying to save you from disaster here, Talia.

                                                                        2. OOh in SF - try Pasha's (it's Morroccan) totally loud and fun atmosphere.
                                                                          They even have a belly dancer - I've been several times and they never fail to show me a good time... food wise, drinks etc.

                                                                          11 Replies
                                                                          1. re: rachellemybell

                                                                            Whiner- I think I'll take you up on the offer about e-mailing Ric, thanks! I really want to learn about the wine culture and what's behind it (and show my parents), and I know this will be a great start.

                                                                            All of these recs have been so great, now I just have to sift through it all :) We've already booked Pink Mansion in Calistoga for Thursday night, so I think rworange's itinerary is right on, but doesn't make sense to head up to Sonoma (even though I've been dying to go to the girl & the fig and Vella Cheese, and the suggestions about General's Daughter is great). Just a few last minor questions (sorry! You guys didn't think I'd let you off that easy, did you?)...

                                                                            1. Where is Lakespur? I don't want to rush Muir Woods, but want to show my parents great views. If it's on the way to SF, could I drive through to see the same forests as rworange suggested? I'm thinking the drive in itself will be incredible enough to show them...

                                                                            2. After Ric, what would be recommended to see? I've gotten suggestions of Schramsberg, Sterling, Clos Pegase, Dell Dotto, Luna, Douroush, Hess... I don't want to just experience the same thing over and over, is it worth it to do another winery? It seems as though the Hess is something different architecturally and has art, so perhaps I could stop by on my way to Berkeley Friday morning, or maybe after Ric? What about COPIA?

                                                                            3. What time is good to leave for Berkeley in terms of traffic to get there around lunch-ish per rworange's suggestion?? Our B&B provides a gourmet breakfast or something at 9, I think... maybe I could ask them to prepare it around 8:30 to leave earlier...

                                                                            4. How long would you allow with traffic to drive back to SF from Berkeley if we wanted to have dinner at Aziza at 8ish?

                                                                            1. re: ShikaSfrn


                                                                              Depending upon how much time you spend with Ric, you may just want to call it quits for wineries... or not. If not...

                                                                              Part of it depends upon the direction you are heading. Of those you listed, I like Schramsberg and Del Dotto. Both are expensive tours (I think Schramsberg is like $20/person and Del Dotto may be up to $40/person). Both offer unique experiences. Schamsberg is almost certainly the best winery in the New World for sparkling wine. Not the best values, but very very good wine. Del Dotto you can tour the caves and even create your own blend from different barrels. I'd see if Thys (pronounced "tie") or Georgia is available and I can give you a name to drop -- they might reduce your fee, I dunno, but at least they'll treat you well. Schramsberg is farther out into wine country, Del Dotto is heaing back toward SF.

                                                                              Luna makes good value wines. I've never been. It is right near Del Dotto, on your way back toward SF.

                                                                              Plumpjack (new addition) is right near Sequoia Grove (Ric). I don't know how much the tasting is, it can't be cheap -- but they make really good wine and they do open their reserve, which is nearly a $200 bottle of wine (not really worth it in the current vintage). My friend, Tony, is the winemaker, so I might be able to hook you up with him if you like. (Please don't report my comment on value of the reserve to him ;-))

                                                                              Also a new addition... I really like Chappellet -- that is a bit out of your way, atop Prichard Hill, and I have absolutely no 'in' there. But they make solid wines at varying price points and they are solid with 5(!) different veriatals. They are open to the public but by appointment only, I believe. No idea about price of tasting.

                                                                              Also a new addition... Etude (on your way back to SF) is doing some great things right now, I don't know what the tastings there are like (another friend controls the cellar there so I just go and see how the wines are every now and again). But they are a classy property; the wines are really great, especially now that John Priest has (bascally) full control. (For those in the know... Obviously I have nothing bad to say about Tony Soter, the founder, and one of my favorite winemakers; but in the transition from him to Priest I think the wines lost a bit of their way -- now they are back on track)

                                                                              I'm not a huge fan of Sterling, Darioush, or Clos Pegase.

                                                                              1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                                                I'd go to Shramsberg because they make champagne and it is a different process. Also it is a large scale-winery as opposed to the more personal tour you will take with Ric.

                                                                                I'd try to leave Berkeley 6 and not later than 6:30. Friday night everyone is going into SF for entertainment and the Bay Bridge is backed up. Also it is a long ride up Geary to Aziza which is not that far from the Pacific side of SF.

                                                                                If you get into the city too early, continue up Geary and have a drink or coffee at the Cliff House. It's not a place I'd recommend for food, but the view is fabulous and I enjoy a drink there when killing time in that neighborhood.

                                                                                Also if you got in early due to the traffic gods smiling on you, Japantown is right on Geary so you could do a drive around the block or a quick walk around and kill time there instead of the Cliff House. Personally I don't think you will have time to kill, but you never know. Keep in mind Aziza is about 15 minutes from Japantown ... long drive up Geary ... long.

                                                                                I've never been much into Japantown, but that's just me. Ohhh ... another time-killer on your route up Geary to Aziza ... Creations Desserts. It is a few blocks beyond 19th Ave and has the most wonderful mango mochi.

                                                                                Your B & B breakfast time will work just fine. After a 9am breakfast the traffic will be gone.

                                                                                I have a convoluted sense of distance so take this with that. I've also been thinking that if you are going to Marin/Muri Woods after Ferry Plaza, you should think of picking up picnic supplies at the Farmers market ... and maybe some pork buns and egg custart tarts from Golden Gate Bakery in Chinatown ... and XOX chocolates for dessert ... get the caramel.

                                                                                When you cross over the GG bridge from SF, the hills to the left are the Marin Headlands. The drive up there is spectacular and would be a great place to do a car picnic while drinking in the view. You could also then head down the hill to Sausalito with equally stunning views from the water level ... and wonder at the houses clinging to the hillside. Just past the houseboats there will be a left (you can use OnStar) that will take you to Larkspur. If you don't want to pack picnic supplies there is Fish retaurant in Sausalito which has a charming area on the dock to eat at picnic tables and has delicious seafood. Then you could continue on to Larkspur or Marin Woods. If you don't go into Muir Woods proper, it is mainly the area around Lark Creek Inn that has the nicest redwoods, though I'm sure locals will correct me if I'm wrong.

                                                                                I'd say a direct drive from SF to Larkspur without the Marin/Sausalito detour would be average 30 minutes, maybe 45 at most. BTW, from the Ferry Building, just drive along the waterfront. That will take you past Fisherman's Wharf where you can do a drive-by with your parents and then the Marina Green with the wonderful view, great houses, St. Francis yacht club and people flying colorful kites along the green. That will be the scenic route to the GG Bridge rather than Lombard. If you drove into the Presidio from the Maria there is Just Franks at the end ... a natural hot dog cart that most Chowhounds like. Another snack option.

                                                                                Larkspur is a cute little town with some good food spots ... Pico Pizza and Emporio Rulli for baked goods. Lots of choices food-wise so you have the option of eating where and when it strikes your fancy ... or tummies.

                                                                                Also, just a final dim sum thought. I haven't been to Koi Palace and my impression is the food is fabulous but the service can be brusque. I'd still go there. However, maybe you might consider a small snack at the ever-controversial Yank Sing when you are at the Ferry Building. It is about a block away in the lovely remodeled Rincon Center which has a fountain that rains from the ceiling.

                                                                                Yank Sing was my first dim sum experience and it left me with a permanent favorable impression of dim sum. They are very nice to newbies. I've since upgraded my taste in tea, but I loved their jasmine tea on every visit. So maybe a plate of sesame buns and some tea ... not the whole dim sum. Then your parents would have a comparison point ... and could enter the great dim sum debates.

                                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                                  Great info!

                                                                                  About the wineries-- after Ric on Thursday, we want to explore and drive around the Valley for a bit, I think on the way we can do Schramsberg. Although, have you heard of Robert Sinskey? I remember hearing that name a few times, any info?

                                                                                  We're going to do Berkeley on Friday afternoon and drive up after we go get breakfast. If we get there are 12, we can go to CP, June Taylor, 4th St Shops, Bakesale Bettey's, and Vodka tasting as suggested... how long do you suggest we can comfortably do that in? I think leaving at 4 would be sufficient, but then traffic is probably really bad around then, no? We would like to maybe have time to kill in SF to see Japantown as suggested, since it's next to Aziza, is there time? We were thinking to park the car in our Hotel (Vitale) right next to FP. It's about 45 dollars every time you park in the hotel garage. If you all say it's going to be a long drive to Aziza down Geary with stop and go traffic, then is it better to do BART? Or park and then walk?

                                                                                  Sat. we're planning on FP, then NB/Chinatown, and seeing the Marin headlands before Menlo Park. Sunday to Koi as planned, or Ton Kiang, and Mission district.

                                                                                  And I promise, these are my final questions ; )

                                                                                  1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                                                    No, you definately need that car for Aziza ... a good half hour by car from your hotel.

                                                                                    .There is a bus but it is a waste of your good time and taking it back late at night would be a lot of waiting and not pleasant. Just drop people at the Vitale and use one of the many public lots in the area. While the public lots have no in and out privledges either, they are much, much cheaper. In that area late at night you could even find free street parking with a little looking. Be careful though because the meters are 7 days a week and you need to start feeding them pretty early in the morning. The CUESA site I posted in another link has local parking options in that immediate area. At most, the walk is about 2-3 blocks and even less. Don't remember the rates but no where near the Vitalie price, especially on the weekend.

                                                                                    You can probably do all that comfortably. Stay loose. Check the Hangar One site for hours. If you need to drop something,. I'd drop Bakesale Betty if time gets tight and put June Taylor high up. It is not a fancy or big place but interesting and the opportunity to talk to the jam maker ... btw ... her syrups are astounding. You might want to bring some home. Pricy but well worth it.

                                                                                    Don't forget Cheeseboard is right across the street from Chez Panisse and worth the five minutes just to drop in and look around.

                                                                                    And Japantown is not right next to Aziza ... 15 minutes ... maybe a few miles ... city streets.

                                                                                    Four or 5 would get you safely into the city with time to look around Japantown. i'd go for Koi since you've been wanting to go there. The mission while interesting is a bit gritty so you need to decide how ok your parents are with that especially if you are showcasing the Bay Area.

                                                                                    I haven't seen a lot of high marks for the Vitale's food, but no one has reported about the breakfast there which sounds interesting. I would NOT breakfast there on Saturday as all the food you will want is at Ferry Plaza, but for a Sunday morning nosh ... who knows ... no promises ... and if it can be sent up room service ... all the better. See if you can get the Vitale to book you a room facing the Bay Side. I lived nearby for a long time and the view of the bay is spectacular.

                                                                                    If you need other parking, route or non-food advice, feel free to email me. My address is on my My Chow page.

                                                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                                                      Just a small niggle...I think Bakesale Betty is a great example of a new business model for a "food" company. Not only is Bakesale Betty successful and well-trained --she puts out an amazing array of products -- she also has this wacky independent persona that's part of her brand. She's kind, young-ish, got her start in the farmer's markets, kept her overhead low, and grew the business. My sense, Talia, with your energy and curiosity and business sense, you may really enjoy a visit there and perhaps talking to Betty (Alison) herself. Near Berkeley in Oakland at the corner of Telegraph and 51st. 510-985-1213. Nearby, Pizzaiolo. http://www.bakesalebetty.com/

                                                                                    2. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                                                      On the transport between hotels, Japantown, and Aziza - yes, the 38 MUNI (not BART) will get you from Union Square to Japantown in about 8 minutes -- and then Aziza further down the line in about in another 10 minutes -- consider a cab. Less hassle then trying to navigate unfamiliar streets and paying for parking, ultimately the taxi will be roughly the same money and less of a head-ache.

                                                                                      1. re: Carrie 218

                                                                                        Just a thought though. On a late Frday night how long is that wait going to be for each bus? My only concern is that the poster is going to read that as the bus is the easiest and quickest way to go. That on top of an agressive trip schedule.

                                                                                        Yeah, if the trip to Aziza wasn't such a straight trip up Geary and rental cars didn't carry OnStar, the cab might be good. I never had great luck with cabs on Friday night and the farther out from the center of the city, the harder to get one. So there's the usual 20 minute wait ... under good circumstances ... for each location. Then getting home there's hoping some cab is going to go way up Geary to pick you up ... ten years of dealing with SF taxis has left me permanenly disallusioned.

                                                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                                                          Leave car at hotel and cab it... very simple and no worries. easy to get a cab from union sq. have the restaurant call for one to return. yes sometimes you have to wait a bit but so much easier for the first timers driving in this city and parking. I live in this city an almost never take my car out for dinner or to meet up with friends and it's a given that I will have wine.

                                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                                            The 38 busses run every ten minutes or so. And I've never had any problems catching cabs FROM Aziza - the trick is to cross the street to catch one going in the direction back towards Union Square. I'm in that neighborhood several times a month and have never had to wait more than 5 to 10 minutes before I've been able to cab. And I'm someone who doesn't own a car and really hates the bus -- I use cabs almost every day...

                                                                                            I would only advise against driving if one is not familiar with the city. Getting out of Union Square -- with all the one-way streets -- can be daunting.

                                                                                        2. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                                                          Aziza has valet parking (maybe $12?), I think it's worth it to take your own car there.

                                                                                          Here's a useful website with public parking lots in SF listed -

                                                                                          Quick note - Hangar One is geographically separate from the other places you listed - it's in Alameda, and at least a 20 minute drive from the Berkeley places.

                                                                                  2. Hi Lori,

                                                                                    I am addicted to all of the great cal/international small plates restaurants in San Francisco of which there are many. Below are a list of really good to excellent ones I have eaten at recently (all are small plates so you can try 2-3 items per person YUM):

                                                                                    Pesce: small plates italian/med seafood in Russian Hill. $15 Cioppino and 4-5 types of fresh oysters daily. Try the black olive gnocchi...it is delish.

                                                                                    ANDALU: cal/international in the Mission on 16th. Try the halibut, ahi tartar tacos, kobe/basil sliders, gorgonzola fondue with pears, and braised short ribs. All very good to excellent and all plates are between $7-12.

                                                                                    SOLSTICE: cal/international in Pacific Heights. Try the thai boullibase. It is SOO good...has shrimp, mussels, clams, and scallops. The broth is amazing.

                                                                                    You will also have fun in all of these places. They are lively and hip as well combined with great food. Everything is very fresh and reasonably priced.

                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: luckygrlllll

                                                                                      You guys are a wealth of info and I love it. New thought-- what if I did the scenery way and drove along the coast (I think going to the Marin Headlands is pushing it, but just before the GG bridge) and then to Aziza? I'm kind of dreading the long drive down Geary (would much prefer to walk--parents too, but it does seem really far), and then if I wanted I could see Japantown Sunday or Saturday?

                                                                                      Whiner- Schramsberg and Plumpjack seem like definite possibilities, though I'm going to see what time Ric is done and how my parents feel afterwards, but I would love those names or if sending those e-mails, that is very kind. I read another post about Robert Sinskey and it seems very pretty as well so I may try that, we'll see.

                                                                                      Anyway, love the info and I will be sure to report back! rworange--may ask you about some route info, etc ; )

                                                                                      Thanks for everything!

                                                                                      1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                                                        You probably read my report on Robert Sinskey; I highly recommend it! You might even try to contact Maria Helm Sinskey, the culinary director, and inform her of your career interests and see if she's available to talk to you and provide a kitchen tour when you visit. If not, maybe one of their cooks can meet w/ you.

                                                                                        Here's info from their website about scheduled tours:

                                                                                        1. re: ShikaSfrn


                                                                                          I e-mailed Ric and he knows I sent you. I didn't tell him how I "know" you but he knows that I am very active in the online wine community. My name is Andrew.

                                                                                          If you become certain you are going to Plumpjack, let me know and I'll call Tony Biagi, the winemaker and a drinking buddy of mine, if you would like.

                                                                                          Powell Yang, who owns winodepot, is fine with people dropping his name to Georgia and Thys at Del Dotto... just tell them you got the contact info there ;-) (I'm friends with Thys, never met Georgia but she has been there forever).

                                                                                          As I said, I love Schramsberg wines, but cannot be of any help. Never been to Sinsky and haven't had enough of the wines to comment.

                                                                                          And don't worry about driving down Geary. You do NOT want to walk from Union Square to Aziza -- way too far and also through bad neighborhood (the tenderloin).

                                                                                          Plus, after living in the Village for four years, I really don't think you'll be intimidated by Union Square -- even if you never drove, you were probably IN enough cars downtown to know how it all works.

                                                                                          1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                                                            Hey Talia - are you talking about driving down the coast, then over the GG, on Friday afternoon, after hanging out in Berkeley for most of the day? Or are you talking about dropping the Berkeley day-trip plan, and going straight from Napa? The second option is doable... I wouldn't do the first.

                                                                                            BUT I think it's reasonable to go directly from Berkeley (or Alameda, if you manage to squeeze in Hangar One) to Aziza. Whether you park your car in Union Square and take a cab to Aziza, or drive directly to Aziza, then bring your car back to Union Square, you still have to drive in Union Square at some point in the afternoon/evening. I do find Union Square very confusing to drive in, and would print out a Google Map of Union square to take with me, just in case, though.

                                                                                            1. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                                                              Unless you drop Berkeley, you won't be driving along the coast or going near the Golden Gate Bridge on Friday but coming back on the Bay Bridge. If you are checking into your Hotel before dinner, it is the first exit off the Bay Bridge.

                                                                                              Maybe I over-stressed the ride up Geary. The only point was to watch the time. It is five miles from your hotel ... but it is Friday and it is on city streets. Yahoo maps says 15 minutes, but I'd say 1/2 hour is comfortable. By driving 10 more blocks to the Cliff House for a before dinner drink if you have time you will see the Pacific side of the coast. As others have said, it is cab-able if you don't want to drive. If you take a cab and want to stop by Japantown, just factor in a little time to catch the next cab.

                                                                                              It is probably one of the straightest routes in SF as you can see from this map.

                                                                                              Again, I'm not a Japantown fan. It is fine if you live here and have a specific target of going to eat at a restaurant there or pick up some groceries there at a less than impressive market, it is little more than a small mall. I'd just have your cab driver circle the block on your way to Aziza.

                                                                                              If you think that is too much for you , Slanted Door and Boulevard are next door to your hotel and are a block walk. I know everyone might disagree with me, but i'd pick Slanted Door. Boulevard is just too much of the same of everything else you are doing.

                                                                                              The Marin Headlands are literally at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is the hill that part of the bridge is built on and where the water from the bay flows into the Pacific. To drive along the coast on Route 1 would take considerably longer and not enough bang for the buck for your type of trip. What it gets you is a lot of twisty roads.

                                                                                              If you want a coast drive, on Sunday after Koi Palace, go down 101 to 92 and drive over to Half Moon Bay . The drive over 92 goes over a resevoir that is in the San Andreas fault.

                                                                                              In Half Moon Bay you could always pick up some sandwiches at the San Benito deli for the flight home. They have some of my favorite sandwiches on house-baked bread. Then you could drive up the coast, see the crab boats in Princeton and surfers, and up the road through Devil's Slide which literally does fall into the sea it seems every winter when the rain starts. In Half Moon Bay, Sam's Chowder house might be a good stop for a drink on the beach. Then where route 1 hooks onto 280 you are close to the airport and it might be a nice way to spend the few hours between Koi Palace and your flight. It is A LOT more scenic than that stretch of route 1 north of the Golden Gate.

                                                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                                                I always tell people to go to Slanted Door, although I really don't think they are going to have a problem getting to Aziza... and I think they'll love it.

                                                                                                If you do want to go to Slanted Door, you need to call at exactly 5:30pm the day you want to go -- reservations will be full now, but they always hold a few tables open for people who call at exactly 5:30 and speak with the hostess.

                                                                                              2. re: ShikaSfrn

                                                                                                I think you should take the scenic route.. no need to rush from A to B..just enjoy.

                                                                                                Shikasfn this city is very small and a walking city. You could walk around Japan Town and contiue a to walk up around Filmore Street (Pacific Heights) see the link I attached on neightborhoods, lot's of shops, cafes and just a lively neighborhood in general. You can go to Bittersweet - A Chocolate Cafe orTango Gelato for a treat, or get some coffee There are MANY scenic walks around there. Then you can cab it to Aziza which is not far from Japan Town about 3 miles and a 10-15 min cab ride. I walk all over the city and to dinner most times, then cab it back.

                                                                                                You could walk it from Pacific Heights, just walk on California Street and take all the way to 25th Ave.

                                                                                            2. DON'T drop your reservation to Gary Danko...I can say I had one of the best meals I've ever had there...everything else will be "gravy." Have fun!