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Sep 28, 2009 01:01 PM

Upcoming visit to San Francisco/Napa/Sonoma- Feedback?

Hello, West Coast 'Hounds. I've been stalking your thread quite a bit over the past few months while trying to put together our eating and drinking itinerary for our upcoming trip from Boston next week.

This is what I've come up with so far- please let me know if I am going down the wrong road with anything or if something else might be better! We are real beer geeks, as well.

Arrive in SF on Sunday 10/4:
lunch- burrito in the Mission
happy hour- meeting some friends at Eos
dinner- don't know- maybe Eos, maybe something else, maybe wander to the hotel and sack out.

Monday 10/5:
Anchor Brewery Tour
lunch at the Monk's Kettle
dinner at Gary Danko

Tuesday, 10/6:
lunch- Slanted Door (I know it's gotten mixed reviews, but I am intrigued.
)dinner- AME
drinks- Toronado

Wednesday, 10/7:
driving up to Calistoga, will likely stop at Moylan's on the way
Calistoga Inn for dinner (it's near our B&B and it will be more mellow than our dinners previous and after. Also, near a brewpub!)

Thursday, 10/8:
lunch- Silverado Brewing
dinner- Cyrus
vineyards- Cakebread, Honig, Schramsberg
brewery- Bear Republic

Friday, 10/9:
lunch- French Laundry (!!!!!!)
I know it's weird with their amazing wine selection, but does anyone know if they carry any local beers that they can pair for a course or 2? Also, can you order some non-alcoholic drink pairings and some wine pairings? (I'll be driving, so I want to be careful)
breweries- Russian River, 3rd Street Alehouse

Saturday, 10/10:
not too much planned at this point (need a little breathing space and room for spontaneity!) except dinner at Ubuntu (the name cracks my software developer husband up Every. Single. Time.)

Sunday, 10/11:
Brunch at Ad Hoc

Then driving to Mendocino, where we don't have too much planned. I have a list of more low-key casual eateries, but no set plans or reservations (Libby's, Lauren's, Moosse, Piaci Pizza) A couple higher end places I have on my radar are at the Albion River Inn, Restaurant at Stevenswood, and 955 Ukiah.
Vineyards, maybe- Navarro and Husch
Breweries- Ukiah Brewing, Anderson Valley, North Coast Brewing

Wednesday 10/14 we return to San Francisco where we will be dining at Coi for dinner.

Thursday we go home and have a steady diet of thin gruel and water for the following 6 weeks. Or maybe just a fast.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Warnings? Advice for ordering?

I can't even describe how excited we are for this vacation. As you can see, we are going All Out for it- it's our 5 year wedding anniversary and we've been saving and planning for this almost since we got married!

Also, thank you all SO MUCH for your awesome posts and reviews. Very, very helpful.


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  1. Oh, forgot to mention, for breakfasts in San Francisco, we are hoping to hit Zazie's, Dottie's and Brenda's Soul Food. Maybe Dottie's on the first morning when we are still jetlagged so can get up early enough to get in there without a long wait.

    3 Replies
    1. re: noradeirdre

      Great itinerary! Looks like you've ton a lot of research.

      The best meal of my life was at Cyrus so you will have a wonderful time.

      Since you like beer, I highly recommend Third Street Aleworks in Santa Rosa on your way up to Calistoga. I think they have the absolute best beer (food there is mediocore). In fact, I just heard they won a bronze medal for their stout at this year's Great American Beer Festival.

      If you're looking for a breakfast place is Calistoga, Sarafornia is where all the locals go. It's really good and the people are always friendly.

      1. re: calalilly

        I'm not sure the Third Street Aleworks in Santa Rosa will be on their way.
        That route requires taking 101 to Santa Rosa and going over the mountain,
        rather than coming up Napa Valley via Highway 29 or Silverado Trail. Just
        a thought.

        1. re: maria lorraine

          We were planning to go to Third Street the same evening we hit Russian River, so hopefully that will work out.

    2. Really great itinerary, and you've built in a good amount of downtime and space for your own discoveries. If you're up for it on your Saturday morning in Napa, I had a really great brunch at the Boonfly Cafe earlier this summer. Don't miss the doughnuts.

      6 Replies
      1. re: JasmineG

        I like Boonfly but the new Fremont Diner a few miles down that road so outclasses it.

        I'd suggest Brix rather than Ad Hoc for a fabulous Sunday brunch set in a lovely vinyard with a top class chef and pastry chef.

        Napa: Brix brilliant brunch buffet - an American classic … From Laughing Bird shrimp to Fatted Calf pate to carved beef filet to hot blackberry cobbler

          1. re: rworange

            Yes, definitely Brix for the last of the beautiful weather - try to get a table on the patio - heaven!

            1. re: rworange

              p.s. maybe try to swing up to Auberge one of your free afternoons just for the beautiful valley view and a refreshment or snack at their bar deck.

                1. re: noradeirdre

                  Yes, noradeirdre, that link is what I was referring to. They have a wonderful deck off their bar that overlooks the valley - great for a light meal or snacks/drinks. In the afternoon it can be hot and bright - take dark glasses and a hat if you're sensitive to the sun - worth the ambiance/view (pricey)

          2. I get the impression that you guys are beer people. That being said, a few places to consider (definitely recommend Toronado and Monk's Kettle):

            City Beer Store (SOMA) - Great selection of beers sold at regular retail price, but you can pay $1 to drink them in the store.

            Magnolia Pub (Upper Haight) - Brewery with hit-or-miss food, but great beers. You could also go to Alembic up their street and get Magnolia beers with more consistent food.

            La Trappe (North Beach-ish) - Great selection of Belgian beers with traditional, well-prepared Belgian food (delicious mussels, frites, waffles)

            Just down the street is Rogue - although the food is nothing special and I suppose the concept of a bar with lots of Rogue beers could be cool especially if you're coming from Boston, but nothing too special.

            There are also the Pyramid breweries/restaurants - the food isn't anything spectacular, although I wouldn't consider it as awful as some reports - and Pyramid beers are good.

            The Trappist (Oakland) - no food (other than a few cheese platters), but a great beer selection - very knowledgable staff and can get a bit crowded - check for special events.

            Pizza Orgasmica (a few locations) has great homebrewed beer, but the pizza is overpriced and pretty bad, you'd feel cheated if you went to San Francisco and ate their pizza - more of a good place to meet friends for a drink or two.

            It's pretty out of the way, but the Sierra Nevada brewery in Chico is a great brewery with a great restaurant.

            The French Laundry does indeed have beer, both draft and bottles, it's all the way at the end of their wine menu - markups are pretty ridiculous, not surprisingly.

            If you are intrigued by the concept of the Slanted Door, go to Aziza instead - the Moroccan equivalent except with better food and value, as you don't have to pay for a view.

            10 Replies
            1. re: vulber

              Page 98 of TFL wine list.
              Blue Apron Ale, Brooklyn (750ml) 25
              Huyghe Brewery, "Delirium Tremens," Belgium 15
              Hitachino Nest, "White Ale," Japan 12
              G. Schneider & Sohn, "Aventinus," Germany (500ml) 18
              St. Peter's, "Porter," England (500ml) 14

              1. re: vulber

                That's an extraordinarily nice list.

                the trappist is a great reason to get over to oakland. Great feel, great beer. Very near BART, if that works. And you get to see a little of oakland. I don't know where you fit it in, but ...

                I'm glad you're going to russian river brewing. The only brewery of note not on your list is Lagunitas, but lots of people carry them. A few extras might be: Lucky 13 and Zeitgeist. Zeitgeist has a seriously 20something bike messenger feel you're not getting elsewhere - you'll either feel really old or you'll groove on it. Lucky 13 is also very local. Both bow their heads to Toranado, but if you want to walk around the castro or come down from twin peaks, you might need a little refreshment and there you are.

                You will, in fact, really enjoy the Slanted Door. Just set the expectations right: the food is good and fresh, but it aint the ritz. It gets written off by people who eat a lot of local vietnamese and wonder why they're paying so much extra. The answer is the gorgeous view, nice service, and general swankness. And after the slanted door go hang around Cowgirl creamery. What's been happening in sonoma cheeses is mindboggling. Cowgirl doesn't have everything, but they'll get you started.

                Consider calling TFL about the beer thing - you might get special beer-centric courses or amuse. Give them a challenge ----

                Re Ubuntu: for. gods. sake. if the tasting menu is on, do it. Call and ask if the tasting menu is on. Beg them. It's light and interesting and I'd rather eat something like that again than TFL (which is once in a lifetime, but I will never forget the beetberries. Never.)

                Saturday: drive that nice hill road over to sonoma and knock around there. Fall in love with the relaxed pace while Yountville is overrun. poke around the town square and do a winery run, finding something unfound. I found this little storefront doing a 10 cheese all-sonoma cheese tasting, blew my socks off. Couldn't tell you the name, not sure they had an obvious sign.

                1. re: bbulkow

                  Saturday: drive that nice hill road over to Sonoma and knock around there.
                  Which nice hill road? Do you mean the Oakville Grade to Trinity Road, possible site of the Grand Prix de Napa/Sonoma? I love it, Mario Andretti would love it.

                2. re: vulber

                  One note re: Trappist. While they do only offer a few cheese platters, you can go next door to Tamarindo, order there, and bring it back to the Trappist.

                  468 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                  1. re: adrienne156

                    I've always found Tamarindo to have miniscule portions for lots of money; last time I was there they gave me 3 tortilla chips with dip for $9.

                    When I'm in that area and need to eat, I prefer a nice hearty Cambodian meal at Battambang.

                    1. re: vulber

                      I haven't eaten at Tamarindo enough to be a huge supporter (3-4 times), but I remember liking what I ate and didn't find the prices unreasonable ($5-$12) considering they bill themselves as a small plates place. That being said, I am a huge fan of Fonda and Cesar and some people make the same comments about these places - small portions for the money - although Fonda more so than Cesar. I don't remember the portions being dissimilar to Fonda, would you say they are comparable? I also understand Tamarindo has larger daily dinner specials, but I've never partaken.

                      My mentioning Tamarindo was mainly stating that it was an option since I don't think it's advertised.

                      1. re: adrienne156

                        I have not been to Fonda or Cesar so I can't make that comparison. I understand the small plates concept - Cha Cha Cha does it better than anyone else, but I found the plates to be pretty spartan; and it's too bad, because there's no other food like this around for quite a ways.

                        1. re: vulber

                          I hear ya. One little point though: imho Cha Cha Cha is not in the same boat as Fonda, Cesar, or Tamarindo. I ate at Cha Cha Cha A LOT with friends in college (woohoo for $13 pitchers of sangria!) and the portions there are actually more generous than what I've found to be typical and the food quality/quantity ratio may account for this. I'm not saying that the food doesn't taste good, but their angle on small plates is different from the others aside from the obvious.

                          This is tonight's menu at Cesar:
                          (Tonight looks like a great night to go, btw - those padron peppers are enough to lure me in


                          Here's Fonda's:

                          Here's Tamarindo:

                          Ok, enough highjacking. I do like your beer list though.

                          1. re: vulber

                            If you're talking about the Cha Cha Cha on mission, there is *no way* that place is in the same league as Fonda or Cesar.

                            Although it depends on what you're looking for - if you want a plate of large, fairly good nachos with your beer, Cha Cha Cha, if you're looking for duck tacos and an exquisite cheese plate or Pimentos de Padron or Paella, got to Fonda or Cesar.

                      2. re: adrienne156

                        The Trappist has more choice of food than they used to: a three-cheese platter, a salame platter, and a "duck duck goose" charcuterie plate.

                        When I'm hungry after a session there, I often go around the corner to B Restaurant.

                        The Trappist
                        460 8th Street, Oakland, CA

                        B Restaurant & Bar
                        499 9th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                    2. On Wednesday, if you don't go to Jole in Calistoga you will be missing one of your best meals of the week. Here is our meal from a few months ago. The chef had the hottest place in Philadelphia a couple of years ago.


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tom246

                        wow, great review- I changed our reservation. We will be eating there on Wednesday, per your suggestion! Thank you for the heads up.