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Advice on SF/Napa/Big Sur my dining choices?

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cherie May 30, 2012 01:12 PM

I would love some feedback on my preliminary dining choices for a special trip with my husband in late August to San Francisco, Napa, and Big Sur. We like most types of food, but prefer healthier, lighter food.. We are in our mid-40’s and we like bistro-type places (but prefer to sit next to each other and to be able to hear each other), and also places with a unique, lively, stylish, and/or romantic ambiance. We love to eat outdoors and/or waterfront (but don’t really want to sacrifice food quality for it). Here is what I have so far for dinner choices – we are fully open to input/suggestions.

2 nights in SF: (we will be staying on Market Street in SoMa area)

~Friday night: Boulevard, or maybe Zuni Café (note: we don’t get very excited by roasted chicken).

~Saturday night: (my husband’s birthday): Quince or Atelier Crenn or Farralon.

3 nights in Napa:

~Sunday night (staying at Carneros Inn): the Farm at Carneros Inn.

~Monday and Tuesday nights (staying in Yountville and would like to dine in Yountville): 1 night at Bottega, and 1 night at Redd or Redd-Wood…or maybeBouchon or Bistro Jeanty, if not too heavy.

*2 nights in Big Sur:

~Wednesday and Thursday nights: dinner 1 night at Post Ranch Inn’s Sierra Mar, and the other night at the Restaurant at Ventana Inn, or maybe something more casual for 1 of the nights.

*Last night in SF: dining with friends (and their children) and will leave the choice to them.

Thanks to all in advance!

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    goldangl95 RE: cherie May 30, 2012 01:27 PM

    Quince/Atelier Crenn/Farallon are all very different, so it depends what you want. Atelier Crenn is definitely two steps more adventurous (in terms of cooking techniques) . Some people like that sort of experimentation, others find it too much. I personally found it uneven, but others on this board love it. (Desserts are awesome).

    There are definitely mixed reports on Bouchon and Bistro Jeanty. There's actually been a lot of buzz on this board about Morimoto's lately. Bouchon is disappointing to me, but I'm not familiar with the other two.

    1 Reply
    1. re: goldangl95
      CarrieWas218 RE: goldangl95 May 30, 2012 01:51 PM

      I had lunch at Bouchon last week and was a bit disappointed for a reason I can't quite finger. Service was stellar and the food was good, but maybe I am getting jaded and bored here (I live in Napa).

      Redd-Wood is more low-key with wood-fired pizzas so Redd would be the more interesting choice. I adore Jeanty but it is very standard French food (i.e., not as healthy as you might want).

      I have only eaten at Bottega during the winter months when everything was heavy and rich; again, not quite on the lighter, healthier scale you might be looking for but I haven't seen their summer menu.

      You might want to consider Brassicas. Although upvalley a bit from Yountville, it has some beautiful outdoor dining and the Middle Eastern twist to the cuisine is refreshing and unusual for the Napa valley and quite delightful.

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      sfbecky RE: cherie May 30, 2012 02:29 PM

      Big Sur Bakery is one of my favorite restaurants, it is great food and just the right atmoshere for casual Big Sur, still romantic at dinner...make reservations. Sierra Mar is stunning for both food and view. I stay at Ventana often, but usually skip the restaurant there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sfbecky
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        cherie RE: sfbecky May 30, 2012 05:18 PM

        Thanks everyone so far!
        sfbecky--I really like the idea of Big Sur Bakery one night and SierraMar the other! Thank you.
        Goldangl95--Morimoto is right up our alley and I was considering it (we love Japanese/sushi/Pan-Asian) but we were hoping to stick around Yountville. Plus we do a lot of that at home, and have already been to Morimoto in Florida. We will have to mull it over.
        As for Brassicas, CarrieWas218--we were hoping to dine within walking distance those 2 nights in Yountville--but man that place looks so good and we do want to visit St. Helena at some point. So I we will have to think about that too.
        I am leaning towards Crenn for my husband's birthday... But I'm not sure. Does anyone have anything to say about Quince?

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        skwid RE: cherie May 31, 2012 10:01 PM

        We were just in big sur and I would definitely recommend Sierra Mar for one meal. Big sur bakery is nice and casual with good food. For napa morimoto's is a bit out of the way and there are plenty of good eats in Yountville. Don't forget bouchon bakery in the morning.

        2 Replies
        1. re: skwid
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          BAnders RE: skwid Jul 3, 2012 08:26 AM

          When I went to Big Sur Bakery last summer, they ran out of bread, believe it or not, so we had very limited choices. Not sure if this is common, but I'd recommend eating on the early side to avoid this very disappointing circumstance!

          1. re: BAnders
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            cherie RE: BAnders Jul 3, 2012 08:35 AM

            Thanks BAnders, I will keep that in mind. We have 2 nights in Big Sur. Do you think Big Sur Bakery and Sierra Mar are good picks for our dinners?
            (...By the way...in regards to the remainder, I ended up booking Bottega and Redd for our 2 Yountville nights.)

        2. bbulkow RE: cherie Jul 2, 2012 08:21 PM

          Friday night: skip zuni. Boulevard, maybe, but there's so much fresher stuff in town, boulevard is turning into an old war horse. If you want view, do SlantedDoor or Waterbar or even One Market or Chaya. If you want something more San Francisco and bistro-ish, Zero Zero, flour + water, frances, incanto, Aziza, Barbacco, Bar Agricole, AQ, the list goes on. Or even jet over to Oakland (the "cool part of san francisco") and eat at Plum, right by the BART, my favorite place on the face of the planet. I would chose based partially on whether you are no alcohol, wine, or cocktail; how adventurous you feel (incanto is for adventure).

          1 Reply
          1. re: bbulkow
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            cherie RE: bbulkow Jul 3, 2012 06:14 AM

            bbulkow--Thank you for the suggestions for Friday night! Our plan has totally changed for Friday--we are now taking the Alcatraz night tour--so we need an early place (4:30) with a great happy hour menu convenient to Hotel Vitale and/or Pier 33. I was actually thinking Chaya Brasserie so I am glad you have suggested it, or possibly Americano in the Hotel as a back up plan. For my husband's birthday on Saturday, we'll hit the Ferry Building/Farmer's Market in the morning, maybe check out a cable car ride and/or walk around Chinatown in the afternoon, and I'm thinking I will take him to Quince for dinner...

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            HoosierFoodie RE: cherie Jul 3, 2012 10:10 AM

            Good itinerary. The only thing I would change is Bottega. We were there in May and the food was good, though not great, and the service poor. We won't be back. Redd Wood, at lunch at least, was very good. Big Sur Bakery is worth at least a lunch stop. Been to Sierra Mar and it was outstanding. Its been a long time since we've been to Ventana Inn and I think they completely re-did everything since. Love Boulevard.

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              weshoke RE: cherie Jul 4, 2012 12:03 PM

              If you're not that in to roasted chicken, I would skip Zuni and go straight to AQ Bar. Their summer menu is practically flawless and the price point is amazing for what you get. Also their cocktails are so so good. It's not far from Zuni, so it wouldn't be a huge change in itinerary. Recommend: Eel and Potato, Grilled Watermelon salad (one of the best things I've had in quite some time), Cucumbers and Scallops.

              1. lrostron RE: cherie Jul 4, 2012 12:24 PM

                For your trip to Big Sur, you might consider Nepenthe, casual, rustic food with an incredible view of the ocean. This place has an incredible history It is mentioned quite often on the boards here, it's worth checking into here or online.

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