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Need suggestions for 5 day trip to SF/Napa Valley from NYC

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Hi SF 'hounders,

I'm from NYC and it's been nearly a decade since I've been to San Francisco. I've been reading and salivating over the years of the food scene in SF. Advance warning: I will be a bit all over the map as to what I really want to ask and plan from this posting.

I will be traveling to SF on 6/1 and depart on the late evening of 6/5. I will be traveling with my family (my parents and my sibling - we're all adults) and we're ethnically Chinese. I haven't really mapped out where or what we're doing yet but am willing to plan the activities around based on where we're eating. We are traveling around in a rental car.

Need suggestions:
- Good Chinese food (sadly, Chinese food in Manhattan's Chinatown is not as good as it used to be. Flushing is a different Chinese culture) but we don't really care for Taiwanese food

- Chinese bakeries (heard/read good things about Golden Gate Bakery for dan tats; I remembered enjoying Kee Wah Bakery (I also went to their shops in Hong Kong) and Sheng Kee Bakery)

- American/French-style bakeries (I really want to go to Tartine and eat their bread)

- Emblematic casual restaurants of San Francisco*

- Other notable casual restaurants (any cuisine but Indian/Middle Eastern - parents do not care for them, unfortunately)*

- Sushi restaurants

- A Mexican restaurant (Mexican food in NYC is pretty lackluster, imo)

- High end dining - I have some vague notions as to where I want to eat but not sure where to really allocate my time and money for this since I have one real splurge meal for myself (my family will be eating somewhere else since they don't really have the same obsession as I do for food). The ones I've been thinking about are Atelier Crenn, Benu, Saison, Coi, and French Laundry. Price isn't an issue and I'm not planning to pair with wines or any beverages. I just want creative, delicious food but not sure what are the differences of cooking styles between each restaurant except for Crenn (more molecular/Modernist I remember reading) and Saison (ingredient driven sort of like Roberta's in Brooklyn, NY).

*Ideally, we're looking to spend no more than $30-40 pp and not including drinks, tax and tip.

Any suggestions would help since, as you can tell by reading my lengthy request, I've been out of touch with the dining scene.

Thanks in advance,
Tina

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  1. Wow, you'll get lots of opinions on this one! My take:

    - Be specific where you're staying in SF. It isn't a great driving town. And your price point is way too low, I'm sorry to say. Even without drinks we regularly spend from $60-150/person dining at the better restaurants. Only lunch and ethnic places will stay within your indicated price/pp.

    - There were never a lot of Japanese in SF. The immigration entry points for Japanese were Los Angeles and Seattle. The food here is no better than what you are used to in NY, and a lot more expensive/less creative than what's happening in LA (my brother lives down there, so we keep each other abreast of the local foodie scenes).

    Korean and SE Asian are the big things here, but I have to say if your parents are like my Hong Kong in-laws, they won't be happy eating those cuisines more than once or twice during the trip. The one 'hole in the wall' we go into the city for is Shanghai Dumpling King, because their dumplings are better than anyone else's, including the similarly named Shanghai Dumpling House in San Mateo. Not all their stuff is good, and the stir-fries are a waste of time, but man, those dumplings rock!

    - Chinese food isn't as good in SF as it used to be, either. The mid-1980's were the high point due to a confluence of factors, but those restaurateurs have retired and their kids too over-educated to want the family business. There's decent Chinese spots in the SF neighborhoods, but nothing to stop traffic over.

    Most wealthy Chinese moved out to the suburbs in the Peninsula, but they are also very tight with money (yes, more of my relatives-by-marriage). The Chinese food is a touch better but not by much, because the clientele just won't pay for good quality ingredients and above-average execution. When they don't eat Chinese, they think Elephant Bar & Grill is a splurge. That kind of mentality doesn't make for great Chinese food.

    - For your splurge, it's up to you what to pick. You've only got one dinner, so check the menus, reviews, and photos on-line, and decide what floats your boat. We loathe Modernist cuisine so any place that emphasizes it, isn't where we'll go. You've got to make reservations, and the French Laundry is a long drive away from SF, assuming you can even GET a reservation with them. Napa/Yountville/Calistoga are crammed with good/great restaurants, but that's a tough day trip when you're talking rush hour traffic going out, then a long drive after a big meal coming back.

    My DH and I are older so we prefer more traditional cuisine, what is sometimes called French Contemporary or California-French: La Folie (always our first choice; we've eaten here 3x this past year) and Fifth Floor comes in just second, David Barzigan is amazing when he's "on". If we were going to Napa for a one-off dinner I'd go to La Toque, which is hidden inside a bland Westin hotel across the Napa River - Ken Franks is a genius in his combinations and the dining room is simply gorgeous, clean and contemporary with a full-height fireplace.

    If you are really serious about that $40/pp budget - I'm assuming that's per meal, BTW - then you'll need to approach SF the way you'd approach the same budget in NYC. That means a lunch downtown will be good sandwiches at Specialtys or a Cal-Mex burrito; in the SF neighborhoods a small Mediterranean cafe or average dim sum place. Some of these places are very good indeed, but they won't be any better than the same serendipity back home.

    That should be in the $20/pp range - you want good food, not just cheap eats, as a tourist - so that will give you a better budget for dinner of $60/pp.

    7 Replies
    1. re: tre2012

      +1 for almost all tre2012's suggestions.

      some others:

      chinese:
      - yum's in fremont
      - z&y if you don't want to leave the city.
      - yank sing if you want "nice" setting and service and are willing to pay the price for it.

      emblematic casual restaurants of San Francisco: not sure exactly what you mean by this, but i'd suggest looking into:
      - barbacco
      - tadich
      - swan's
      - sotto mare
      - boulette's larder (lunch)
      - one market (lunch menu specials)
      - la mar
      - flour + water
      - azizza
      - kokkari

      in general, i'm not a la folie fan, except for their foie gras, but that's just me. fifth floor is good.

      many of my friends who moved to nyc from the bay area consider the mexican food in nyc to be really terrible, so you might consider focusing on mexican in sf.
      - taqueria cancun
      - la taqueria
      - el farolito
      - tacolicious
      - mijita
      - nopalito i haven't tried yet but is supposed to be good.
      - colibri is good, but perhaps not worth the price, at least for me.

      all these mexican places are at different price points and levels of cleanliness / niceness, so do a bit of research on them before you pick them.

      don't know how to help you with your splurge solo meal -- what have been your favorite fancy places in new york or elsewhere? in general, i'd suggest saison -- they have a nice bar in front of a wood-burning oven that it would be very nice to sit at as a solo diner. gary danko also has a very nice bar to sit at, and would be at a much lower price point. very different style of food, though.

      edit:

      for sushi i'd recommend ino, though the place is controversial and the chef and his wife are grumpy sometimes.

      1. re: Dustin_E

        The emblematic SF restaurants I meant are the kind of restaurants that I will never find in NYC, especially the kind of food and experience that makes it SF. Say for example in NYC, I suggest to certain people to try out Katz's Deli, Momofuku Ssam Bar, Keen's (for steak), Shake Shack (well, it's not really NYC anymore since Danny Meyer is doing a global expansion with this brand), etc.

        1. re: chocokitty

          Chocokitty - I agree. Your NYC examples is precisely the recommendations I am also looking for in SF.. or any city for that matter

      2. re: tre2012

        Thanks, tre2012 and Dustin_E!

        Sorry to hear/read that Chinese food isn't what it used to be. I guess I should have broken down the multi-question post into smaller posts until I come up with the major critique instead.

        The ideal spending isn't entirely restricted but we certainly don't want to go $100 pp unless it really warrants it.

        Yes, my parents are from Hong Kong. My mother is more open-minded to other cuisines, unlike my father who doesn't care so much about other SE Asian cuisines. The dumplings might appeal to them as a simple lunch.

        Are there good lunch prix fixe options in SF like NYC?

        1. re: chocokitty

          just to be clear: chinese food in sf doesn't compare to hong kong. (i was in hkg over the holidays.)

          most of the michelin stared places in sf don't do lunch -- so no lunch values that compare to le bernardin or jean georges.

          one market has a prix fixe starter and entree for $22 -- a great value imho.

          cotogna also has prix fixe lunch for $25, but they also serve the same thing at the same price for dinner. cotogna is a chowhound favorite (but not one of my favorites.)

          i don't know nyc dining well (i've visited a few times, never lived there) but the places i've listed above are all decent recs. in particular:

          swan's (old school oyster bar / raw seafood joint)
          taddich (old school cooked / grilled seafood and some meats joint)
          boulette's larder (upscale local organic breakfasts and lunch)

          i'd suspect are only-in-sf places.

          jai yun is upscale chinese / shanghaiese, and you probably won't find anything similar in nyc. but it is expensive and perhaps not a great value. ~80 per person all in.

          i think la mar and azizza are considered only-in-sf types of places, but i'm not sure.

          i think if you order selectively, $30-$40 is very doable.

          1. re: Dustin_E

            For mexican, I would recommend La Taqueria for the best taqueria style in SF. The best burritos, tacos and quesadillas. Simple, extremely tasty and super casual. For sit down, still casual my choice would be Nopalito. For me I'd pass on Farolito and Cancun as far as the taqeria goes, Colibri has pretty darn good guac if you just want a snack and a drink.

            1. re: Dustin_E

              La Mar is a chain and their newest location is in NYC. I have heard that the SF location is much better though - its spot on the water certainly is!

        2. Definitely check out the Ferry Building Sat. before 1 p.m. Great produce, small eateries and lunch places. It's a little hard to get in and out, during the farmers market, so I wouldn't drive there (a lot of hotels are around there, so depending where you are staying you may be able to walk - Embarcadero BART station is also right there).

          I would advocate taking one day and driving up to Sonoma/Napa or over to the East Bay. San Francisco in the summer (though you are going early in the summer) gets very, very foggy and cold. The rest of the bay though is still beautiful. Even if y'all don't drink, there's enough to do in Sonoma/Napa to be worthy of a day trip.

          For high end dining, I am not too, too familiar with NY, but I feel like you can get restaurants like French Laundry there. They use excellent quality ingredients to make excellent quality food - but it's not particularly unusual in methods, flavors etc.

          Saison just implemented a new policy which requires one to pay for your full meal up front - which I think as a visitor, would not be worth being boxed in to the reservation like that.

          This board is currently in love with Atelier Crenn, you won't be able to find something similar in New York. For one, the chef is perfectly willing to mix different styles of cuisines and ingredients into her dishes which I think is rare on the east coast. Also, they are very good at showcasing what's great about California produce. on the other hand, and I think others will disagree, my meal took me out of my comfort zone in terms of flavors, textures, techniques 3 or 4 times. The room is small (only has one bathroom) and doesn't convey "special experience" at all. Plus the meal took 4 1/2 hours which is an extremely long time (and we eat fast). The pastry chef is freaking amazing by the way. Best desserts/mignardaises I've ever had.

          Benu I think is also very rare, and would be hard to find in NY. There are definitely Asian influences to the food, but it is also decidedly a Western restaurant. Everything is very well executed. Room is spacious and comforting, but not particularly remarkable. I really enjoyed the effortlessness of the meal here, and many more dishes stick out in my memory as really enjoying. Desserts are good - not a highlight. Beverage pairings would def. tip me in favor of Benu. But if your party does not drink - it's close between Atelier Crenn and Benu.

          23 Replies
          1. re: goldangl95

            Thanks for the input on high end dining, goldangl95!

            I'm more into creative food.

            Reading over your thoughts between Crenn, Benu, and Saison. It seems Crenn has a slight edge over Benu. If somehow I can persuade my family to go to Benu how much would you figure to spend if we ordered a la carte?

            I know I'm confusing myself even further about the splurge meal, but what do you (or anyone else on this board) thinks about Manresa and Coi?

            1. re: chocokitty

              no a la carte at Crenn. but isn't WD50 kinda similar to Crenn? (i've never been to wd50.)

              if you don't mind the drive, i think manresa should definitely be your splurge choice -- very uniquely bay area, and is held in high regards by both old-school diners who don't like cleverness of places like crenn AND people who like innovative dining.

              there are long, long threads on chowhound comparing all these places -- confuse yourself even further by reading some of them :-)

              1. re: Dustin_E

                commis in oakland also deserves a mention -- of these innovative places it definitely offers the best value and is the lowest priced by a fair amount.

                1. re: Dustin_E

                  Thanks, Dustin_E!

                  I would compare Crenn (from photos I've come across food blogs) more akin to Alinea (I ate there this January) than WD50, I think...

                  I was referring to Benu for a la carte, not Crenn.

                  As for Commis, I heard of good things too. I know I'm going to be comparing many notes and thinking about it for the next few weeks about the splurge meal. But thanks for reminding me about this restaurant.

                  1. re: chocokitty

                    I think you should really consider Commis. Like Dustin_E said it is a great value and probably one of my favorite restaurants in the Bay Area. If you dine alone you should get a counter seat. To me, it would be harder to dine alone at Saison or Benu.

                    1. re: JonDough

                      Since I'm not familiar with the Oakland area, if I choose to dine at Commis, where should I send the rest of my family in regards to dinner that's nearby?

                      1. re: chocokitty

                        Great China should be reopened by then. Not super nearby, but given how long a meal at Commis lasts the timing would probably be fine for them to drop you off and pick you up. Lots of reports here:

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/389071

                        1. re: chocokitty

                          Good point. It didn’t occur to me that your family has to eat too :). I listed a few suggestions below. I hope some people more familiar with Oakland can chime in.

                          Driving time from both restaurants (times are based on mapquest):
                          Dopo – Italian - 1 minute probably 10 minutes walking. It is up the street from Commis. Dopo’s sister restaurant Adesso is up the street as well. Great for cocktails and salumi.
                          Barlata – Spanish – 4 minutes
                          Wood Tavern – American – 7 minutes
                          Oliveto – Italian – 6 minutes
                          A Cote – French – 5 minutes
                          Burma Superstar – Burmese – 4 minutes

                          1. re: JonDough

                            Dopo, Adesso, and Barlata could all be problematic as they don't take reservations.

                            1. re: JonDough

                              second Burma Superstar . . . just had another fine meal there tonight (at the Alameda location). I feel compelled by the tea leaf salad there and I can't figure out how to make it at home. I haven't been to the SF location, but hear it is great as well. It's very reasonably priced, extremely flavorful, and well executed food in a simple atmosphere.

                              1. re: vday

                                The hard part of making lapat dok at home is finding somewhere to buy the tea leaf. Burmese Kitchen uses a higher-quality version than most other places.

                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/403497

                            2. re: chocokitty

                              Looking at restaurants on or near Piedmont Ave where Commis is located: Pizza Pazza down the street is good. Also GetA for sushi, but it is tiny and there usually is a long line. Messob further down the street for Ethiopian, or B-Dama for yakitori and other izakaya style fare. Dopo's also good (cal-italian) but a bit pricier than the other places. Dopo doesn't take reservations and there is often a wait at dinner. With the exception of maybe Dopo and B-Dama you can definitely get under $30-$40pp for those places.

                      2. re: Dustin_E

                        WD-50 uses a lot of the same techniques but I found it more interesting than good, and my meal there pretty much wiped out whatever interest I had in and confirmed my prejudices against modernist cooking. Reports on Crenn have been making me think of giving it another try.

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/836684

                      3. re: chocokitty

                        I've never been to Coi.

                        Manresa is not worth the drive imho. It's about a 2hr drive from the city, and there are plenty of equivalent options in the city. Chez Panisse in Berkeley may be a good option for outside the city. Good, comforting food that show cases California cuisine from the pioneer of California cuisine. The Chez Panisse cafe for lunch is also a good lunch option. Berkeley, in the East Bay, is only a 20 minute drive from SF.

                        Crenn is more risky and ambitious than Benu, but I ended up enjoying my meal at Benu more (though this admittedly could be influenced as I said before by the most thoughtful beverage pairing I've ever experienced at Benu). I think if you can be forgiving of the misses due to the laudable scope of her ambition, I'd go with Crenn. If you want an enjoyable, creative meal, I'd say Benu. Both fyi are perfect portion size wise.

                        Benu only offers a la carte during midweek. And I don't really know anything about it I'm afraid (re portion sizing/cost).

                        1. re: goldangl95

                          what are the equivalent options to manresa in the city? i think quince or saison are the closest, but they are still quite a bit different from manresa imho.

                          1. re: Dustin_E

                            I don't think there's anything like Manresa in SF. I don't think any of the Michelin-star-type places in SF have a farm connection as tight as Manresa has with Love Apple Farms.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Crenn actually has rather tight connections with her purveyors. See article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                              Also, and perhaps I'm not the most sophisticated about these things, but what exactly about the food at Manresa makes it any more unique than any of the others?

                              So Benu isn't equivalent to Quince which isn't equivalent to Saison etc. They, admittedly, all have their differences. But what makes the differences between Manresa and the others so unique that it is worth an hour and a half commute each way for someone who is here on a 5 day journey?

                              I don't ask this to be argumentative. It's just I've been to Manresa, and a few of these other restaurants, and I certainly could not ascertain something that made Manresa such a cut above.

                              1. re: goldangl95

                                With only five days in the area, I wouldn't go to Los Gatos. Or for that matter Yountville.

                                1. re: goldangl95

                                  >> if you don't mind the drive

                                  is the condition on which i recommend manresa. french laundry is out because there's per se in Manhattan.

                                  saison, coi, benu, crenn are all good, but are too "innovative" and "trying to hard" for my tastes. i don't need my food arranged with tweezers, and i don't need my food to look like a painting. manresa does some of this too, but at least the flavors or ingredient pairings are rarely particularly challenging, and the "modernist aspects" are perhaps 25% of the enjoyment, rather than ~60% for the other places.

                                  fwiw, i've been to manresa 4 times, and the rest only once. but haven't been back in a year or two because of the drive, and because they now have a less flexible a la carte menu.

                                  1. re: Dustin_E

                                    Per Se is not the same as TFL. But you can essentialy drop it because you have little chance of getting a res.

                                    1. re: mick

                                      how is per se different from TFL? i've only been to the latter, but the menus look very similar.

                                      1. re: Dustin_E

                                        I feel for one the atmosphere, ambience and locations create greatly differing experiences. True, there are similarities on the menu but the food will very somewhat depending on seasonal ingredients etc.

                                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Not having eaten there; I would say COI. If Patterson is using the same kind of many ingrediants at COI as the direction he set for Plum, then it might be the closest. Saison is a little simpler.

                        2. Go to Bar Tartine for dinner, you can try the bread without having to buy a giant loaf.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Frankly, I don't mind buying a huge loaf of bread and lug it home if it's really *that* good. :)

                            In regards to Tartine, is there a particular favorite bread that you favor or all breads in general are very good?

                            1. re: chocokitty

                              They keep talking about adding more varieties, but Tartine Bakery makes only one kind of bread, which you can get with walnuts, sesame, or olives added. I prefer the plain ("country").

                              Bar Tartine makes some other breads currently served only in the restaurant.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Re: Dustin-E. Just to be clear, La Mar and Aziza are Not only in SF type places.

                                1. re: mick

                                  Aziza's pretty much unique. Where else are you going to get Cal-Moroccan food?

                                  La Mar's a small international chain with branches in seven other cities.

                                  1. re: mick

                                    thanks -- looks like la mar has a branch in new york :-)

                                    i knew they were in several cities, just thought sf was the only one in the us. i was wrong. :-)

                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Actually. I have seen the litlle wagon several times making the trip from Tartine to Bar Tartine. There are loaves in there that I have never seen in the bakery although they came from the bakery.

                              2. So after some discussion (with my family) and lots of internal flip-flopping about the tasting menu restaurants, I have some vague notion of what we are doing but still have lots of gaps since it's still 2.5 months left until we fly over to SF.

                                Please critique or any suggestions to this very rough itinerary is appreciated:

                                Day 1 (Friday): We're landing at SFO at 3 PM and plan to head directly to Golden Gate Park just because. I'm planning to skip any snacking of sorts because I've booked a table to Atelier Crenn for the tasting menu. Issue is: Where to send my family for dinner?

                                Day 2 (Saturday): Still figuring it out but probably head out for either dim sum at Yank Sing or to the Farmers' Market at the Ferry Building and graze through (I'm eyeing on 4505 Meats' burger).

                                Dinner - I'm still thinking.

                                Day 3 (Sunday) - I don't know where to go to breakfast but as a family, we're trying to be careful because we're all going out to have dinner at Manresa to celebrate my dad's birthday.

                                We might consider visiting Love Apple Farms prior to dinner. Does anyone know if they do permit people walking around their grounds?

                                Day 4 (Monday) - Most likely heading out to Napa/Sonoma Valley to check out some vineyards and olive groves.

                                Dinner related side note: I found out many restaurants in SF aren't open on a Monday... We might be considering having a Chinese (Cantonese) banquet-style dinner.

                                Last Day or Day 5 (Tuesday): Head out to Oakland for Blue Bottle's Roastery. I love coffee and even though there's 3 outposts in NYC, I want to see the original place. Suggestions for eats for lunch around there?

                                Even though I haven't really set dates, I'm thinking of having a lunch at Cotogna (heard the pizza is good from around this board and from a friend of mine), ice cream at Bi-Rite and/or Humphrey Slocombe, and maybe eat at Swan Oyster Depot and AQ. I am thinking of trying out Four Barrel coffee as well.

                                Other questions in mind:
                                1. What are your favorite bakeries? Besides Tartine and Acme for bread, who else do you like?
                                2. Who do you like for upscale-ish pastries and cakes? If you want an idea, I'm thinking in terms of style to Dominique Ansel in NYC (link: http://dominiqueansel.com/ )

                                21 Replies
                                1. re: chocokitty

                                  Don't miss the Saturday Ferry Plaza farmers market.

                                  Lots of places are open Mondays:

                                  http://www.chow.com/search?query=Subj...

                                  If you have your luggage in the car, don't park on the street.

                                  1. re: chocokitty

                                    you could order lightly at yank sing and still enjoy some snacks from the ferry building farmer's market -- they're only a couple blocks away. or visit the farmer's market while you wait for a table at yank sing. i did this last weekend with some visitors.

                                    1. re: Dustin_E

                                      No need to wait for a table at Yank Sing, they take reservations.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        i try to avoid reservations when they aren't absolutely necessary, especially when traveling, as it seems like a chore to have to arrive at a specific time. but for yank sing, i'd suggest just calling whenever you feel like leaving the hotel and heading over there -- at its busiest, there's usually ~45 minute wait.

                                        1. re: Dustin_E

                                          Not having reservations in San Francisco often means long waits or being turned away from most popular restaurants.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            for yank sing that is not the case.

                                    2. re: chocokitty

                                      Nearish Atelier Crenn: A16 (Italian)

                                      Advice about driving to Manresa - if you are driving straight to that area, from SF, and it's light out take the 280 freeway instead of 101.

                                      280 is far more scenic - much better drive.

                                      1. re: goldangl95

                                        just be aware that an a16 meal is 1.5 hours max, and an atelier crenn tasting menu meal is ~3 hours minimum.

                                        1. re: goldangl95

                                          Thanks for the tip!

                                          Prior to Manresa we're planning to stop by Love Apple Farms to see the produce and animals the restaurant uses. I haven't Google Map it yet but I'm presuming it's a similar route?

                                          1. re: chocokitty

                                            To visit Love Apple Farms you need to sign up for a tour.

                                            http://www.growbetterveggies.com/grow...

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Thanks, Robert!

                                            2. re: chocokitty

                                              Yes. Love Apple Farms is rather far form Manresa, but in a direction where it still makes sense to take 280.

                                              The pretty stretch is once you are heading out of the city on 280 until the 85 South.

                                          2. re: chocokitty

                                            <Day 4 (Monday) - Most likely heading out to Napa/Sonoma Valley to check out some vineyards and olive groves.>

                                            Napa Valley is small and probably easier to do in a day trip. Sonoma is not a "valley," it's a whole County and it's HUGE. Wineries and everything else are quite spread out.

                                            You could go to the town of Sonoma and hang in the square and do a variety of tastings there, but otherwise everything is very spread out. I would suggest focusing on a few specific places in one location or the other.

                                            McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma makes what is maybe the best olive oil in USA, fwiw. but they don't do tours.

                                            1. re: ChefJune

                                              An idea. The Round Pond Olive Mill in Napa (does Olive Oil and wines). I haven't personally been but have heard excellent things about both the olive oil and the wine. Unclear from their website if you need an appointment...

                                              Regusci, Pine Ridge and Frog's Leap are relatively low key wineries off the Silverado trail. No need for appointment and nice estates.

                                              1. re: goldangl95

                                                I am thinking of going to Round Pond Olive Mill/Winery in Napa. I'm still thinking where else to hit up around Sonoma (even though it's quite a drive).

                                                Relating to this particular trip, I remembered way back when my parents drove through Sonoma Valley we randomly stopped at a roadside farm stand to buy a couple of oranges - and it blew my mind. Tasted like warm, happy sunshine and it's very sweet. I still remembered that experience to this day.

                                                Do you know of any particular farms that have a great fruit grove or farmstand around either areas? Thank you!

                                                1. re: chocokitty

                                                  As said earlier, lots if not most San Francisco restaurants open Mondays, SF isn't Paris.
                                                  If your doing just one day in wine country, I would not try and do both Napa and Sonoma. Pick one and be happy with it. Someone mentioned Sonoma being huge, doesn't mean you have to cover it all. Plenty of wineries within close proximity of town of Sonoma itself.

                                                  1. re: mick

                                                    I think you (and possibly a number of others) are misunderstanding me. I'm still figuring out where I *really* am going.

                                                    The only definite things I have that's set in relative stone are my dinners at Atelier Crenn and Manresa (with the farm tour at Love Apple Farms prior to dinner).

                                                    Noted that the wine country is relatively huge and that SF is not like Paris (re: Mondays). I want to know my options and over time, hopefully within the next few weeks, I'm whittling it down to a manageable itinerary/agenda. I need options because my family's taste doesn't necessarily go along with everything what I would like (obviously).

                                                    I'm trying for 2-3 wineries and figure a lunch around the Sonoma region. Dinner at SF is still up in the air. (I haven't gotten a chance to look at the list yet.)

                                                    I do hope to come across a farm not really to walk around and explore, per se, but to get a chance to see, touch, taste and feel California fruit on a farm for the sake of that old (powerful) moment. I'm not trying make an effort to drive to "Farm X" there but would be great to know there's one somewhere along the way.

                                                    1. re: chocokitty

                                                      The French Laundry's garden is open to the public.

                                                      1. re: chocokitty

                                                        In the town of Sonoma, our 3 favs for lunch are (in order of preference):
                                                        1) Depot Hotel, outside by the pool (these few tables are popular, you SHOULD reserve. In fact, you should reserve everywhere, because you're coming during tourist season). DH is 2 blocks off the Square, near the Depot Museum and 4.7mile bike path which leads to General Vallejo's Lachryma Montis historical house. Depot Hotel's menu sounds standard, but everything is very nicely prepared, light and creative.
                                                        2) La Salette: In an alley off the square, locals love this place with its CA-Portugese food, although skip the seafood stew which has way too many red bell peppers diced into it. The cod fritters are superb, the best anywhere (yes, even better than Bouchon/Napa).
                                                        3) Girl & the Fig: G&F is a real charmer, even tho the food's on the simple side. But when you're outside in the sun (hat and glasses, please) with a glass of good wine and a plate of good cheese and bread, who cares? Get the burger or the duck confit if you want some meat, though. The charcuterie platter is really skimpy.
                                                        --------
                                                        If you have time and the date works out, schedule a tour (appts ONLY) at the Marin Cheese Factory in western Petaluma (about 20 min one way drive from Hwy 101). Right now they are closed for remodeling but should be open again by the time you are visiting. The tour is short (you must wear the protective paper suits they give you, so don't wear a skirt!) and a lot of fun. Their cheese is very good, not great; their best we think is the Marin French Gold, a smooth and delectable triple-creme Brie from all Jersey milk (Jersey cows give the smallest amount but the richest and best milk). The grounds are beautiful, there's picnic tables, and the company store has a nice selection of wine, snacks, jams, bread and crackers (and cheese, of course!) for a casual meal.

                                                        1. re: tre2012

                                                          For sonoma cheese, if you don't want to get all the way out for the tour, hit the tasting at the cheese shop at 412 E 1st, in the courtyard. You can get a half dozen cheeses, where you describe what you like. Charming and a great introduction to sonoma cheese.

                                              2. re: chocokitty

                                                Day 1: send your family to Delfina. Although I imagine there are places like it in NYC, it's quite emblematic, and quite good. And, surprisingly, all new yorkers seem to like Slanted Door. I know you said no SE asian, but think of it as SE asian inspired californian with a really nice view. Knowing which side of town your hotel is on would help.

                                                Day 3: Manresa - if you're going to spend a day, there are a lot of hikes and redwood trees between SF and Los Gatos. You can even take the stunning coast road. If you take the coast, stop at Half Moon Bay at Ketch Joanne or Princeton Seafood (cheap). You can even literally buy off the boat and have them cook it for you. (my suggested route would be pacifica -> hmb -> san greg -> rte 84 -> rte 35 -> rte 9 -> los gatos). There are a lot of wineries in the Santa Cruz mountains above Los Gatos, one of the few really worth the trip is Ridge, which also has a stunning view. You might not have time for all that; but think of it.

                                                Day 5: Not to burst your bubble, but the Webster St BB is not "original" --- BB was great years before they moved there. I was getting mine mail-order in 2007, I think. Do yourself a favor and get some four barrel - but that's not unique, I wandered into someplace in the lower 20th area and they were brewing four barrel. I do love 4BL.

                                                If you do go over, take the ferry at least one direction. It's a great outing if the day's even marginally nice. That'll drop you at Jack London Square. Embrace your inner tourist and eat at Bocanova. Outside seating, very pleasant, good food. It's fairly young and hip like the 'hood there, but it's not WOW, because the WOW places are dinner only. It's not touristy (Scott's is touristy). Another option is Pican, which everyone likes, which isn't right on the water. I'm a fan of Everett and Jones because I am nostalgic for the old Flint's, but E&J is only Good Bbq not Great.

                                              3. Yes, Sheng Kee Bakery!! There one on 19th & Irving is nice and spacious.

                                                Tartine is delicious. I would also recommend Arizmendi Bakery on 9th & Irving, it's a local favorite.

                                                Sushi Boat is fun because the boats go around :)

                                                Mexican, pretty much anywhere in the Mission. YUM. I also like ChaChaChas on Haight or in the Mission for tapas. SO good. Get the platanos (tiny fried bananas).

                                                I would recommend French Laundry. There's a buzz going around about it lately! Also, Foreign Cinema in on Mission & 20th is great as well as Dobbs Ferry in Hayes Valley.

                                                Enjoy your trip! Let us know how it goes :)