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Trip Report--Calistoga & SF

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Spent the last week in the Bay Area on our honeymoon…wanted to give some notes/reports of our experiences. Spent lots of time perusing the boards before the trip, so thanks for all the help!

Mayo Reserve Room in Kenwood for their 7 course food/wine pairing. Loved the experience and thought all wines and food were quite tasty. We expected the portions to be small, so we weren’t disappointed…but I thought I would add that I wouldn’t go to this starving.

Bar Vino—Calistoga
Snacked on the Calamari & the Shrimp Pappardelle. Enjoyed the addition of squash & zucchini in the Calamari. The pasta was incredibly delicious. Very flavorful!

Jole—Calistoga
More snacking… Had some delicious cheeses and tried the pork belly per some notes on this board. Was hoping for more flavor from the pork belly….but would give the place another try if in the area. Loved sitting at the little bar.

Café Sarafornia- Calistoga
Had seen some contradictory notes on this place. Ate breakfast before a day of wine tasting and it was perfect for that….we weren’t looking for anything gourmet. Definitely adequate for eggs, hash browns, toast, and pancakes.

Wineries (Spent the day with Leslie from Valley Girl Tours…loved her and the choice of wineries to fit our preference of wine)
Chateau Montelena (Had to go after seeing Bottle Shock!)
Summers (Very casual, fun atmosphere)
Bennessere (Small tasting room, but big wine! Very friendly staff.)
Duckhorn (Beautiful building and enjoyed being able to sit down and relax while trying the wines)
Viader (Gorgeous view and our favorite wines of the day!)

Solbar- Calistoga
Stayed at Solage, so we tried out the Solbar for an early dinner after our wine tasting. Sat at the bar and tried out their “house” Solage wines—Chardonnay and Cab—both were good values and after much tasting during the day those worked for us. Thought the bartenders were great.
Snacked on the cheese plate while we waited for dinner service to start at 5:30. Shared the shrimp lettuce wraps (as recommended by the ladies at Chateau Montelena) and thought they were very good. It was fried chicken night which we were told was a favorite, so we shared an order as it sounded like plenty of food. (Included a salad, sides, and dessert.) The salad was especially delicious. DH loved the mac and cheese side. The chicken itself was cooked perfectly, but could have used more seasoning.

Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen for lunch—St. Helena
Enjoyed the atmosphere. Felt formal, yet friendly and casual at the same time. The people at all the tables around us seemed to know each other and it was fun to see Cindy herself walking around. I had the tamales. Good flavor, but I should have paid more attention to the menu as it was more of a play on a tamale and not exactly what I was looking for. DH had the pork shoulder enchiladas which he loved and I tried…very delicious.

We headed back to the city after lunch with just one stop at Cline which was great for trying a long list of affordable red wines, some quite unique.

Alfred’s Steakhouse
Enjoyed the dinner and found it to be a great value. To start, you were given a lot of martini for the price. I did the stimulus special with a filet and found it to be a great cut of meat. DH tried the Alfred’s cut. He thought it was a bit tougher than he hoped, but he thought it was flavorful. We shared the crab cocktail as an app. and would order again. We shared onion strings as a side, but they were cold when they arrived which was disappointing. We liked the bread pudding dessert, but were quite full by then.

FINO
This was an unplanned dinner and I do wish we’d have ventured out a bit more, but we had a long day, were feeling a bit starved at the time, and just wanted something within a block or two of our hotel that didn’t require reservations…some quick online searches (including the chow board) brought me to FINO. A small, Italian restaurant. The food was very good and we had a great bottle of Claret for under $40. The arugula salad was especially tasty. I had shrimp with pasta (just labeled as Gamberi I believe) for dinner. The shrimp were lightly breaded, which I did not expect…but they were delicious, so I couldn’t complain. DH devoured his order of Chicken Parmesan.

Spruce
Well, this was the most highly anticipated dinner for me, which perhaps made it difficult for it to live up to my expectations…but it was still a very nice evening.
We went nearly an hour early in hopes of enjoying some cocktails at the bar before dinner, but the bar was really too crowded to be comfortable. Note: It was a Friday night, so perhaps we should have known better. (I will give the bartenders props though…as they were very aware of our presence and we didn’t wait long for a drink, despite the crowd.) We can normally handle a crowded bar, but with so many people eating dinners at the bar, it felt odd to stand over them. We were shown to a little couch in the rear hallway, which did make it nice to spread out…but we felt a bit odd sitting outside the bathroom. This did give us plenty of time to peruse the wine list. We chose the Lang & Reed Cab Franc from the under $60 list and were happy with the choice. The wine list was extensive, but we were surprised that we didn’t see more California options. We set along the wall for dinner and enjoyed having ample space at our table. We started our dinner with the American cheese sampling. (Yes, more cheese for us, but it included Midnight Moon…my favorite!) I had the herb and greens salad (basic, but good and fresh tasting). DH had the pumpkin soup which he thought was very good. For dinner, DH had the Lobster which he found to be excellent. I went with the bass with a lemon sauce and some tasty little potatoes of which I wish there would have been more. The dish was good, but not amazing. It was our last night in SF, so I felt compelled to order seafood before heading back to the Midwest…but I do wish I would have tried one of the meat dishes.

A couple other food/beverage related notes.

We did the Anchor Brewing tour and would definitely recommend that for any beer lover.

We did get our In N Out burger fix down by the wharf one day for lunch. In search of a having an afternoon cocktail with a view, we escaped the wharf chaos and stopped in the Franciscan. Their bar tables give you a great view of the water and come equipped with binoculars which made us laugh. We had a drink and shared a half order of their supposed “world famous crab” on a sizzling plate. I was not a fan of the crab drenched in an unattractive brown garlic sauce….but it was fun to laugh at ourselves wearing plastic bibs in a booth that came with binoculars.

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  1. Good trip report. You covered a whole spectrum of places in a short time. I will say that Alfred's has passed its prime. While it does have its charm and nostalgia, the food doesn't make up for it. My last steak there was overcooked and tougher than my pair of Nikes.