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5 Days in SF/Napa


Since most of the questions here are very general, I'm going to try to be a little more specific.

Here's how my trip with my wife is scheduled:

June 25 - San Francisco - staying right on edge of Chinatown

June 26/27/28- staying in downtown Napa (Westin Versasa)

June 26 - San Francisco - staying right in the Mission (near 18th/Valencia)

Here are my questions:

1. Decent place for lunch in Chinatown. I've been to China 15 times. Is there anything in SF Chinatown that isn't super touristy? Good dim sum?

2. Diner first night. Since day #1 will be tourists,

1. is the Slanted Door worth the money/wait?
2. Is there a restaurant in North Beach worth eating at that isn't a typical chicken parmagian type restaurant?

My time in Napa:

1. Ad Hoc - feelings on this. I've eaten at Bouchon in Las Vegas and the French Laundry isn't in my budget since my daughters need to go to college someday

2. Bottega - I like Michael C. Is this place worth the money. Looks nice online.

3. Downtown Napa - Zuzu - have heard good things

4. Any particular Vineyards that are worth eating at?

5. Last day in SF. Is there any chance I am going to be able to eat at Mission Chinese for lunch on a Saturday? I really want to eat here

6. Any other foodie recommendations in Mission/Castro/Haight. My entire last day will be spent roaming around this area to eat and drink.

Thank you for the help.

Mark Adamowicz
Sutton, MA

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  1. 1. is the Slanted Door worth the money/wait?

    Opinions are divided on this matter. I personally believe it to be okay, though I wouldn't wait on line for it.

    2. Is there a restaurant in North Beach worth eating at that isn't a typical chicken parmagian type restaurant?

    Albona, which serves Istrian food, which is like Italian food with an Eastern European slant. I like that place a lot.

    5. Last day in SF. Is there any chance I am going to be able to eat at Mission Chinese for lunch on a Saturday? I really want to eat here

    They do take out and delivery. If you're staying in the Mission, this should be easy.

    6. Any other foodie recommendations in Mission/Castro/Haight. My entire last day will be spent roaming around this area to eat and drink.

    The Mission has a million things to eat. The Castro and Haight, on the other hand, you can skip, at least from a food perspective. Frankly, I think you can skip the Upper Haight completely, as it is essentially a shopping district for tourists and teenagers (if you must eat there, go to Alembic), but in any event, if your primary concern is food, stay in the Mission. I'll let others compile the list...

    2 Replies
    1. re: dunstable

      For your Napa choices, I'd consider these over ZuZu (all are walkable from the Westin):

      * fancy: Morimoto for lunch, dinner or late night drinks. We go for lunch where the sets are delicious and good value.

      * medium: Hog Island at the Bar: vibrant and still fresh and inventive. The Italian Fisherman's stew is a must.

      * cheaper: Gotts (formerly Taylor's Refresher). Going there tomorrow for my favorite: rare ahi sandwich with sweet potatoe fries. Lunch or dinner.

      * drinks: upstairs at the Thomas. Third floor outdoor deck overlooking the river towards the Oxbow.

      Moving upvalley, I'd skip Bottega and taste Chiarello's new Coqueta in SF as suggested above. Redd is a must. Lunch on the front patio is a steal and the most pleasant locale in Yountville. As to Addendum, I loved it last year but not anymore. They've seriously reduced portion size of the fried chicken. No longer special. Ad hoc is great if you sit at the bar. Don't need reservations and can order a la carte rather than the whole set menu which is too voluminous. Skip Jeanty-- too old school French. Reddwood is good for Pizza, pasta and cured meats.

      Have fun!

      1. re: cortez

        I will admit that The Thomas has a great view, but that is about all it has going for it...

        I hated the "scene" of over-dressed 20-somethings drinking and partying too loud and I found the food beyond mediocre; small portions, uneven combinations, and generally over-wrought service.

    2. For North Beach, I adore Sotto Mare's and Rose Pistola's cioppino. Wouldn't bother with chicken anyway... I also think Slanted Door is incredibly over-rated and LOUD.

      I am a huge dissenter on Bottega as the food is heavy and over-wrought (in my opinion). Others love it, but I have been extremely underwhelmed.

      I am also not a huge fan of Ad Hoc only because you are relegated to whatever they are serving that day, with no choice of options if you don't like a particular ingredient.

      I *LOVE* Zuzu and would, instead, direct you to Redd for something more interesting and cutting edge, Goose & Gander in St. Helena, Angele, and Bistro Jeanty.

      For vineyard recommendations, it really helps to know what you are looking for in a winery experience; styles of wine you like, money you are willing to spend on tastings, interest in wine-making versus art and architecture, etc...

      1. Getting into Mission Chinese should be no problem.

        The Mission's where the action is as far as food and drink, skip the Castro and Haight. There are so many options it would help to know more about your interests.

        1. My wife and I really like Slanted Door. That said, we usually make it a lunch spot and spend some time at the Ferry Building before or after.

          Bottega, IMHO, is definitely not worth the money. We had good enough food, far from great or even very good, but just terrible service. Almost two hours for two courses. No offer of dessert, coffee, after dinner drink...nothing. There are so many other good options. Bistro Jeanty, Redd, Redd Wood, Ad Hoc, Bouchon all in the same general area.

          1. You might want to check out Chiarello's new restaurant, Coqueta, in SF instead of Bottega. That's probably where his attention is right now. The initial reports,

            1. 1. Chinatown is really filled with tourists or elders who are too poor to go to better places on the west side of SF or out in the suburbs (I grew up and live around there). That said, R&G Louge is pretty good cantonese but well-known to tourists and concierges and nothing amazing if you've eaten at top places in China or, especially, Hong Kong. For dim sum, I think everyone agrees Yank Sing's two locations downtown are the best in San Francisco, and the most expensive. In Chinatown, Lai Hong Lounge is a step down in both regards, but not bad.

              2) Slanted Door is not worth the wait or the price—you can really do just as well at modern Vietnamese places for 1/3 the cost as long as you don't care about fancy service and surroundings. Back when Slanted Door was at its original location in the mission it was a lot cheaper and, frankly, more special.

              3) Yeah, most places in North Beach are laughable imitations of tourist food. The only place I know of that isn't bad is Park Tavern, which is really just a classic American bistro (it's the team behind Marlowe).

              4) Ad Hoc is fine. If it wasn't for the The French Laundry/Thomas Keller brand name I don't think it would be as highly regarded.

              5) Bottega. Not really worth the money, though not bad or anything. You can do better for the same price or less when it comes to fancy Italian in the Bay Area.

              6) Mission Chinese Food is totally doable. Either go early/late or take out/deliver, as dunstable suggested.

              As to your other questions about first dinner and Mission/Castro/Haight, do some of your own research. There are tons of posts here and maps on sites like eater.

              1 Reply
              1. re: W42

                "Slanted Door is not worth the wait or the price—you can really do just as well at modern Vietnamese places for 1/3 the cost as long as you don't care about fancy service and surroundings."

                That's a somewhat false comparison. Cheap Vietnamese places give you a lot more bang for the buck and they don't tempt you to screw up your palate with world-class cocktails, but they don't use the same quality of ingredients and don't offer the same level of beer or wine.

                SD serves some original dishes you won't find elsewhere. The high prices are in line with other bay-view restaurants on the Embarcadero. Personally I'd go to Out the Door on Bush instead.

              2. Hi,

                Thanks for the tips.

                6 responses, only 1 comment about Chinatown. Looking like it may not be worth a stop. Especially since I've eaten all over Hong Kong and in Southern China for 15 years. I live near Boston's Chinatown which is really good/authentic, but not feeling the love on the lack of comments. Got it.

                Ad Hoc - at $52 fixed price per person, may not be worth it either. Although picking up some fried chicken at the Addendum part of the restaurant for lunch might be the right move.

                Bottega - not so positive reviews

                Slanted Door - for the price, these were not overwhelmingly positive reviews.

                Zuzu - seems worth it considering I will be able to walk to it.

                North Beach - hmmmmmm

                Mission Chinese food is a lock. I think the Mission will be easy to eat and drink anything decent with my eyes closed.

                Ok - Back to Napa - I can figure out vineyards, but one decent dinner that feels like "wine country" - That kind of sounds stupid, but not sure how else to describe. I don't want to feel like I am in NYC or anywhere else...


                Mark Adamowicz

                9 Replies
                1. re: markadamowicz

                  Napa dinners that will feel like "wine country"

                  - Goose & Gander (St. Helena)
                  - Redd (Yountville)
                  - Angele (downtown Napa)
                  - JoLe (Calistoga)

                  Also, consider stopping at Oxbow Market in downtown Napa for a great Napa experience.

                  1. re: CarrieWas218

                    Thank you Carrie,

                    We are staying at the Westin Verasa. I think Oxbow Market is close on foot to us.

                    I will read up on the other places.

                    1. re: CarrieWas218

                      Ok, back to San Francisco, I have to ask about some of tony bourdain's recommendations since he's generally pretty good wherever I go:

                      Comstock saloon
                      Lipo Cocktail Lounge
                      Taddich Grill
                      Tonga room
                      Yuet Lee Chinese
                      Swan Oyster depot

                      Mark Adamowicz

                      1. re: markadamowicz

                        Are you into drinking scenes? If so, I think Bourbon & Branch, Smuggler's Cove, and Alembic are more fun and interesting than Comstock and Lipo.

                        Taddich is famous for being around for so long, their old-world atmosphere, and cioppino. No reservations - you have to wait with the crowd.

                        I adore Swan but it is also a long wait, regardless of when you go and they are only open from 10:00 to 4:00. Worth the wait to sit at the 14-seat bar for incredibly fresh oysters.

                        1. re: CarrieWas218

                          Definitely into drink scenes. My last day we will be staying in the Mission. Just trying to figure out where to eat dinner the first night. Bourbon and Branch has no food I think...figure I'd stay up towards the area our hotel is the first night (edge of Chinatown).

                      2. re: CarrieWas218

                        I can second Redd, big time. My fiancee and I loved our tasting menu there.

                        Angele was very pleasant as well, though, to me, not on the same level.

                        We also loved dining outside at Cindy's Backyards Kitchen in St. Helena for a somewhat more casual meal that screams Napa Valley.

                        1. re: CarrieWas218

                          Couldn't agree more about Redd. Great food & walking around Yountville definitely feels like Wine Country. My wife and I loved the tasting menu when we visited last summer.

                        2. re: markadamowicz

                          Staying on the edge of Chinatown, for a weekday lunch I suggest:

                          Shorty Goldstein's: pastrami / corned beef
                          Wexler's: slightly upscale BBQ & BBQ-inspired dishes
                          Tlaloc: Mexican with produce from its own farm
                          Galette 88: 100% buckwheat crepes better than I've had in Paris
                          Paledar: Cuban + some Colombian dishes

                          1. re: markadamowicz

                            R & G: Go there for the crab .. always fresh. Don't sit in the basement and they take reservations.
                            Yank Sing 101 Spear St. (They also take reservations, good to go no later than 1 pm because they might start running out. Shrimp dumplings (and more) excellent.
                            Tadich: (Closed Sunday but other days EASY to get a table if you go for late lunch or early dinner .. they don't close in between lunch and dinner. Very fresh fish (not just fish), not pretentious.
                            Addendum: get that fried chicken, so worth it.
                            Swan: If you go between 4-5, should not be much of a wait.
                            Yuet Lee: Not very fancy but excellent food. I don't eat calamari or clams in black bean sauce, but others always order this. I like the salt & pepper (or called spicy?) sparerib (really a cutlet) .. no one else comes close to doing this like Y.L. Chow Fun good. Fresh lobster or crab Chinese style.

                          2. Hi friends,

                            Thank you for all of the input. I appreciate it.

                            Here's where I think I am right now

                            day 1:
                            lunch at R&G (since it will be close to hotel)

                            then Alcatraz tour and wonder down embarcadero

                            eat something in the ferry building for early drink/snack

                            take a cable car or something similar...wander around do some more mandatory touristy stuff like Lombard street etc (wife's first time in SF)

                            drinks somewhere (maybe the bubble lounge - happy hour all day, seems decent) or somewhere in the general vicinity of the hotel

                            I think I need to eat dinner at State Bird Provisions. I know its not near the area I am staying in, but it looks kind of perfect

                            back up to Chinatown area for a night cap....suggestions?

                            day 2

                            need breakfast somewhere around my hotel....edge of Chinatown. we pick up our car at 9am to head north

                            drive to napa, stop at domaine carneros for something fizzy

                            check into hotel (westin versas), continue north to ad hoc's addendum for fried chicken for lunch

                            maybe opus one, this had been on my bucket list for years

                            somewhere else after that

                            redd for dinner. looks like this is universally liked as a good choice for eating and feeling like we are in wine country

                            day 3

                            model bakery for breakfast or bouchon bakery or both?

                            vineyard tbd

                            Oakville grocery for lunch supplies, find a vineyard to have a picnic

                            head back to downtown napa/our hotel. Zuzu for dinner

                            day 4 - last day in napa

                            spend the day roaming around downtown, oxbow market for lunch, use the napa drink card and do some tastings and probably some type of hog island happy hour

                            day 5 - Saturday

                            back to SF, staying in the Mission, eating and drinking day

                            Mission Chinese for lunch

                            Bi- Rite for Ice Cream

                            I have a long list of Valencia street places to east and drink, seems like it will be a matter of narrowing them down, not finding a decent place.

                            bar tartine for dinner?

                            Comments on above?

                            Mark Adamowicz

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: markadamowicz

                              Seems like a good itinerary except that State Bird Provisions is nearly impossible to get reservations for and the walk-in scenario can take up to three hours (stand in line starting at 3:30 or 4:00, when they open at 5:30 and hope to be eat in the first two hours of service).

                              I wouldn't incur that kind of stress on a vacation considering there are so many other amazing places you can eat in the city: SPQR, Gitane, Alembic, Rich Table, A16, Nopa, etc...

                              For your picnic day in Napa, it is hard to find a vineyard that allows it. But Oakville Grocery itself has picnic tables and that might be easiest spot, once you have your food.

                              Along with the Napa drink card and would recommend - in your downtown wanderings - Vintner's Collective, which specializes in pouring a huge variety of tastings from smaller wineries that aren't large enough to have their own tasting rooms.

                              1. re: CarrieWas218

                                thank you carrie

                                State Bird doesn't look like an option in that case. Will go back to finding a place closer to the area I will be staying in. I've been down the vacation/waiting in line road before and this is not the vacation for that. (I need to stay married as well, ha!)

                                Taddich grill looks close and has some history behind it. Might be worth it. Not staying in the best food area (on bush street), might just me worth cabbing it.

                                Thanks re: downtown as well the vintner's collective looks like it is worth checking out.

                                Thanks re: picnic table info. Looks like they are getting harder to find at the vineyards without joining a tour or paying for a table,

                                Mark Adamowicz

                                1. re: markadamowicz

                                  Just a thought if you are staying on Bush Street nearish Chinatown for a splurge dinner: I have not personally had the pleasure but Sons and Daughters has been getting some love on this board lately. Might be worth a look if money is not too much of an issue. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/894697

                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    Thank you, I did take a look at S&D after reading about it for a while. I think I will save some of that money for Napa. I appreciate the suggestion.

                                    Mark Adamowicz

                              2. re: markadamowicz

                                You know you need to book Alcatraz tour on line ahead of time, right?

                                Before you go to Bi-Rite for ice cream (18th/Dolores) go to Tartine Bakery 1 block away (18th/Guerrero) always a line. Pick up something to snack on later maybe.

                                Best cable car ride: stand in line at Market/Powell. Be sure to get on the cc that ends up at Beach/Hyde (2 lines begin from here; this is the BEST route. (It's not as great a view on the return route.) It passes Lombard St but don't get off. If you want to see Lombard, take a cab later or walk it if you have that kind of energy.

                                1. re: walker


                                  Yes, I booked Alcatraz tickets a couple of weeks ago. (Our first day in SF is Tuesday, June 25).

                                  Tartine Bakery is definitely on my radar. I think I need 20 days in the Mission to get through my food and drink wants....alas, I only have 1 day.

                                  Thanks for the tip re: Cable car ride.

                                  Mark Adamowicz

                                2. re: markadamowicz

                                  Regarding Napa on Day 3 and 4:

                                  With this itinerary --

                                  model bakery for breakfast or bouchon bakery or both?
                                  vineyard tbd
                                  Oakville grocery for lunch supplies, find a vineyard to have a picnic
                                  head back to downtown napa/our hotel. Zuzu for dinner
                                  spend the day roaming around downtown, oxbow market for lunch, use the napa drink card and do some tastings and probably some type of hog island happy hour

                                  -- you are missing out on the great beauty of the Napa Valley, IMO.

                                  My big criticism of your itinerary is that you're staying in the City of Napa much too much and not really seeing Napa Valley.

                                  The beauty of Napa Valley blossoms at Yountville and goes north. Napa is an urban city; it's not the rapturous green and miles of breathtaking scenery that makes Napa Valley so wondrous.

                                  The valley is easy to navigate: two major thoroughfares going north and south, many crossroads going east to west. It's a snap to explore wineries, and have dinner in Yountville, Rutheford or St. Helena and drive down to Napa to your hotel at night. Especially if you're at the Westin.

                                  Were it me, I'd sleep in the city of Napa, and possibly have dinner there also, but I'd never organize my days in the confines of an urban environment when the entire reason for visiting Napa Valley is north of the City of Napa.

                                  So, re-plan Days 3 and 4. Look up St. Helena restaurants and wineries. Also Yountville, Rutherford, Oakville, Calistoga. Check out Google Maps and the satellite views to get an idea of what I mean.

                                  Organize your tasting according to districts: Spring Mountain, Oakville, St. Helena, Stag's Leap. Check out the wineries at the Rutherford Dust Society website. If you're in Rutherford, it's 10 minutes to St. Helena. Make calls to winereis and be polite and personable; you never know when a picnic table might appear that is not usually open to the public. You will have a much better time at wineries if you make reservations -- it will be more personal and educational.

                                  The City of Napa has its draws, but take advantage of them after dark.

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    Hi Maria,

                                    Thanks for the info. I get what you are saying 100%.

                                    Let me try to explain the method to my madness. I'll be in Napa for 3 days and 3 nights (get there wed morning-ish and hit the road Saturday morning).

                                    I figured Wed and Thursday will involved driving all around napa vineyards etc.

                                    All of my meals on Wed will be in Napa (Redd for dinner).

                                    breakfast and lunch on Thursday will be in Napa. Thursday night we will take advantage of the pool at the hotel and being able to walk downtown for dinner.

                                    Finally, on Friday, I figured could be a walking day around downtown napa. Take it easy. Not have to drive all day and roam around using the wine card.

                                    So, I think out of the 3 days, 2 are almost exclusively getting out and seeing Napa, not chained to the hotel at all.I'm really looking for beautiful experiences, not necessarily drinking as much wine as I can. My wife and I did the Italian version of this trip 2 years ago (Florence/Tuscany/Florence) and it was virtually tour free and we weren't checking the clock every 5 seconds.

                                    I think Domaine Carneros, Sterling for the Gondola, Joseph Phelps.... I'll keep reading suggestions. Would love to have a glass up on Opus One but $120 (or so) for 2 people is a bit steep.

                                    Maybe my agenda in previous emails skipped the fact that most of my days would be seeing that beauty of Napa!

                                    Thanks and looking forward to comments.

                                    Mark Adamowicz

                                    1. re: markadamowicz

                                      You're still not getting what I'm saying, or I'm not being clear.

                                      It seems you are using the word "Napa" to describe Napa Valley, so your post is not clear. The City of Napa is what's known as "Napa" -- it's at the south end of Napa Valley, and is quite uninteresting, except for a surging night-time restaurant scene. "Napa Valley" refers to the vineyards, agricultural areas, etc. for which the region is known. So, if you use that terminology, I'll/we'll be able to understand what you mean.

                                      My recommendation, again, is for you to explore Napa Valley, not center your visit around the City of Napa, as you indeed are doing. Dinner is fine there, but so are the many other choices upvalley in Yountville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga.

                                      I sense you are worried about driving, and I'd urge you not to be. It's easy to get around -- this is not Italy.

                                      Please forgive my directness but your itinerary is terrible. Your focus is the City of Napa, and your choices for wineries in Napa Valley is poor. Sterling is a terrible choice of winery, as is Opus for what you get. If those wineries are what you're thinking, then what you are reading for suggestions is dated or uninformed. There are so many more beautiful options, even if your focus is not primarily wine-tasting.

                                      Please read more here on Chowhound before you plan your trip to get better ideas that will make all the difference in the quality of your experience. You can research my comments on threads on Napa wineries to get an idea of what I like, and read others' helpful comments as well.

                                      Forget the Wine Card -- it's a bad idea unless you want to stay put in the City of Napa (and why would you??), and even then it has imposing limits.

                                      1. re: markadamowicz

                                        Second on what Maria says. Napa Valley is what made the place world-famous. Napa was just a funky working-class town where farmers and winemakers bought supplies and equipment.

                                        In recent years the city and developers have spent millions trying to derail tourists on their way to Napa Valley, with increasing success.

                                  2. Hi Maria,

                                    I'm an engineer, I appreciate directness, no problem.

                                    Yes, I was misusing Napa and Napa Valley

                                    other than waking up and going to sleep in Napa, all of Wednesday will be spent in Napa Valley

                                    on Thursday, I'll have dinner in Napa (Zuzu), but the rest of the day will be spent in Napa Valley

                                    Friday was the day I thought we might spent exploring a bit of downtown Napa. Seems like that is a really bad idea?

                                    We have 3 kids, who will not be travelling with Us. The reason I mentioned a few of the vineyards that I did is because they look gorgeous (I've been to Napa Valley before, but a long time ago). I'm not interested in 2-3 days of long vineyard tours. I've been on tours before. I'm looking for beautiful scenery, not spending $80 for the 2 of us everytime I get out of the car.

                                    I'd love some suggestions on where to visit in Napa Valley, sort of the reason I started writing. In Tuscany, despite my super planning, we made things up as we went along and had the time of our lives. No rushing from one place to another to make deadlines or schedules. I'd like to recapture a bit of that on this trip, rather than we need to be here at 10:30, here at 12:30, here at 2:30 and here at 4:30 and a 7pm dinner reservation....does that make sense.

                                    Thanks again for the honesty, wouldn't have it any other way.

                                    Mark Adamowicz

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: markadamowicz

                                      << I'm not interested in 2-3 days of long vineyard tours. I've been on tours before. I'm looking for beautiful scenery, not spending $80 for the 2 of us everytime I get out of the car. >>

                                      Not at all what I'm suggesting, just so you know. That's an extreme on one far end of the spectrum, and wouldn't pass muster with most Chowhounds. Though most wineries will charge something to discourage freeloaders and drinking fests, so expect to be charged something. If you make reservations, there is a greater likelihood you won't be charged.

                                      <<No rushing from one place to another to make deadlines or schedules. I'd like to recapture a bit of that on this trip, rather than we need to be here at 10:30, here at 12:30, here at 2:30 and here at 4:30 and a 7pm dinner reservation....does that make sense.>>

                                      Yep. I get it. A leisurely pace. That's what I'd do as well. If you're rushing, you haven't planned enough cushion time. But you still need to plan, and to make winery reservations.

                                      Many wineries cannot accept any visitors whatsoever unless there is a reservation (it's a legal thing that is easily tap-danced around), so do not be discouraged by setting up visits.

                                      Here's a link to many threads with Napa Winery suggestions: http://www.chow.com/search?query=napa...

                                      1. re: markadamowicz

                                        Heading up into the mountains and hills are the best ways to get a patio + scenery without much cost (though Napa frankly - is expensive - tastings average $30-45 these days - though you can share almost everywhere). Bottles are $50-200.

                                        The other option is to head south to Carneros (this region bridges Sonoma and Napa). It's less pricey and more laid back there. This is a good itinerary for Carneros:


                                      2. FWIW: we don't drink, we eat, and were in Napa in mid-April for three days. We usually go up twice a year and since we're retired, we eat at as many places as possible with our preference being well-balanced, clean flavors with great sauces properly applied (meaning not too much nor too little).

                                        OK, those biases out of the way, here's our current take on where we've gone the last three years and how we'd rank them overall. This is of course strictly personal so YMMV:
                                        1. Etoile@Domaine Chandon/Yountville
                                        2. Brix/Yountville (twice)
                                        3. Auberge du Soleil/Rutherford
                                        4. Solbar/Calistoga
                                        5. La Toque/Napa (twice)
                                        6. Lucy@Bardonesso/Yountville
                                        7. Jeanty/Yountville
                                        8. Bottega/Yountville (twice)
                                        9. Redd/Yountville
                                        10. Angele/Napa
                                        11. Bouchon/Yountville (twice)
                                        12. Oenotri/Napa (twice)
                                        13. Mustards/Yountville
                                        14. Don Giovanni/Yountville

                                        Etoile comes in at #1. They blew us away in April. Perry Hoffman is brilliant, and it's the first Cal-French restaurant we've been to that makes me feel like La Bourgogne's spirit lives on, despite my love for Passot's La Folie in SF. And get that Chandon 24-yr old brandy for after-meal. Stunning!

                                        Brix is our choice for the best CA-style dining in the wine country. Chris Jones' food has that balance we look for, with great creativity and execution. We tell people who ask, if you like excess go to Oenotri or Mustards. If you prefer quality over quantity, come to Brix. It isn't as ethereal as Etoile, but it costs a whole lot less.

                                        Auberge would rank higher if it weren't so expensive. And only if you could get that front-side patio table, every time. There's only 4 tables by the wall on that patio, and they are the primo seats. On a fine day looking out over that stunning view, it's a truly CA moment. You'll understand why we live in this crazily expensive, traffic jammed, earthquake-prone area as you eat that perfect veal-lobster sandwich on brioche and finish it with a French cognac.

                                        Solbar would be #1 on most lists and deservedly so. The location is a bit remote which gives it a lovely country feel, assuming that said country is populated with multi-million $$$ houses with elegant European modern décor. You can eat light (spa style) or heavy at Solbar, and both ways are excellent.

                                        Everybody else falls well below those four. La Toque would rank up with the first four IF they would stop being so blasted inconsistent, but Ken Franks apparently doesn't care so the Jekyll-and-Hyde continues. Lovely dining room, but it costs too much to play Russian Roulette. Our first dinner was absolutely flawless. Our second had clumsy service and I sent three out of my four courses back to the kitchen – something I have never, ever had to do in 45 years of dining.

                                        Many people love Jeanty; we liked it but didn't love it. Lucy gets my nod simply because the food was better than Redd (those Reuben sliders are yummy!), the parking is free valet (important in summertime), and the outdoor patio is a masterpiece of Japanese-inspired landscaping, one of the finest I've ever seen. Bottega gets points for a couple of things: their panna cotta is yummy, the steaks are tasty, and we whole-heartedly admire how they handle four times the volume of tourists that everybody else has. Otherwise the food is simple, nothing amazing, and the salad greens are always wilted – not surprising since those 5,000 halogen lights are blazing down on everything.

                                        Redd was a style we don't admire. The vaunted pork belly needed about four cups of steamed rice for the oversweetened/oversalty sauce. The soup was an example of why more leeks and more butter are not an improvement. We managed not to laugh out loud when the waitress told us in all seriousness, "All our cheeses are semi-soft. Except for the ones that are harder." Ummm, right.

                                        We'll give Angele the benefit of the doubt. We went shortly after the new chef had arrived from NY. We found the food incredibly greasy and heavy for summer weather, but I'll assume he's pulled back and lightened up, since Angele made Michael Bauer's Top 100 this year (I think? Haven't paid as much attention since the SF Chronicle went to pay status).

                                        Bouchon was another that was very good the first time but gave us that feeling of "you're tourists and won't be back any time soon, so why should we bother?" on the return visit. Finding the pickled cherry pepper garnishing the lobster bisque was the give-away clue that this second meal wasn't going to be anything like the first one. If you can't imagine those flavors together, don't even try....it didn't work for us, either.

                                        Oenotri was great when it first opened but disastrous this past April. Bigger plates with sloppier execution. In this day and age, who overfries fish and makes a watery sloppy pizza? Sheesh. What a waste of great service! Mustards only escapes being last because of Don Giovanni, which was worse. I've never been an admirer of Cindy Pawlcyn's cooking, and now realize I never will be. Both of them are close to Brix - Mustards in fact is right next door - so Brix is where you'd find us.

                                        Have a great time no matter where you go!

                                        1. Hi,

                                          Ok, I have a few for Redd and a good case against it. Hmmmm.

                                          Honestly, my wife and prefer to sit at the bar, linger, order a bunch of plates and just relax without the rush of getting the next reservation ahead of us in as is with table seating a lot of the time. Plus, the thought of one protein and one or two vegetables in front of me for an hour is kind of boring to me.

                                          That being said, a sit down meal in Napa is probably the right thing to do.

                                          Brix looks wonderful. Etoile is in a winery which makes it very interesting to me as well.

                                          You may have convinced me to go to Brix now....

                                          Any input on Vineyards?

                                          How about vineyards to visit?

                                          12 Replies
                                          1. re: markadamowicz

                                            Brix has a great vineyard view and a spectacular garden. But, the food is absolutely routine. It is also the designated stop for Bus tours which stop for preset and preselected meals.

                                            Decent. But, not worth a stop.

                                            1. re: cortez

                                              I'm sorry you feel that way about Brix. We've gone twice since Chris Jones left Girl & Fig/Sonoma in mid-2011 and feel he has really widened his repertoire at Brix. The white and green asparagus salad with housemade gribiche last month was stunning, a perfect taste of spring. Most places make a mediocre gribiche, more like Kraft tartar sauce - Jones does a masterful rendition with just a little more bite from the minced shallots than you would expect. It was luscious with the halved hard-boiled quail eggs.

                                              Spouse's salmon was perfect and the intense whole grain mustard sauce was just the right amount, kept within bounds so it didn't overwhelm the fish, nor the fabulous fresh fava beans. My duck breast and confit was luscious, far better than Bouchon or Mustards managed.

                                              Desserts were also ideal for spring, and better than any other place in Napa except for Etoile. The rhubarb-strawberry parfait was amazing, not oversweetened the way 98% of kitchens make it. Service has always been very good, and both times it's been almost empty when we've gone (most people seem to eat late for both lunch and dinner in Napa, we've noticed).

                                              cortez, when did you go to Brix and what did you have that disappointed you so?

                                              1. re: jaiko

                                                I've been lately and have had two great meals there. And I'm extremely picky.

                                                I must admit I was surprised, but flavor and freshness are flavor and freshness.

                                                Whatever Brix has done to get the restaurant back on rails has worked.

                                                1. re: jaiko


                                                  Thanks for your detailed reply. My last visit to Brix was one year ago where my wife and I shared a series of appetizers at the bar. I had not been there for awhile because of near constant turnover of chefs and owners over the past 7 years. The apps were ok but not worth a detour or required next visit.

                                                  I may have been sidetracked or overly influenced by the several busloads of tourists who arrived en masse during my visit. They were herded to the window seats to see the beautiful garden and served the preordered meals arranged by their tour operator. Nothing wrong with that. But, it did detract from the atmosphere and gave the menu an institutional feel difficult to avoid when you're serving 40 meals at one time to one group.

                                                  With your endorsement above, I'll give Brix another chance.

                                                  Thanks again.

                                                  1. re: cortez

                                                    FYI - my recommendation for Brix is OFF until we try their new chef. Chris Jones left right after we ate there - per Brix's newsletter dated today 6/12:

                                                    "Welcome David Cruz: Our kitchen is now being run by the uber talented Dave Cruz. In the short month that he has been with us, Dave has made some impressive changes with our menu. Dave trained with Thomas Keller and his most recent position was Executive Chef at Ad Hoc in Yountville."

                                                    I haven't been completely impressed by the Keller alumnis so am now reserving judgment on Brix until we return again to Napa.

                                                    1. re: jaiko

                                                      Golly. Another chef. Why, I wonder.

                                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                                        Chris Jones stayed for almost two full years. These days that's actually not too bad a stretch. I'm wondering if the Kellehers might be difficult to work for?

                                                        Or, Jones might have gotten an offer to work elsewhere that he just couldn't refuse - he's certainly good enough. His clam fritters were one of the finest dishes we've ever had the pleasure of putting in our mouths, LOL...and we usually rank clams as our least-favorite seafood!

                                                        1. re: jaiko

                                                          Chef hopping in the valley is a pretty frequent occurrence. Unless the chef himself/herself is part owner, many of these restaurants are stepping stones towards bigger properties or investor interest towards their own place.

                                              2. re: markadamowicz

                                                It would be a shame if you didn't make it up to the Mountains during your stay. I realize you don't want to make appointments but a few worthwhile ones will make your visit so much more memorable. And please don't hesitate to share tastings (cuts down on cost and helps avoid being wined out by dinner) Here are a couple of threads which I think cover some of the best Napa has to offer visitors.


                                                Some of my favorites are Pride Mountain*, Keenan*, Vincent Arroyo, Neal Vineyards, Joseph Phelps*, Elyse-small but love their grenache) *Beautiful scenery

                                                Others (pretty too)- Chappellet, Sinskey, Pine Ridge, Farella-Park. Honig's on my list to visit as I've enjoyed their wines at home (reasonably priced).

                                                Napa is easy to get around and stay on the Silverado trail to avoid heavy traffic.

                                                I also agree with other posters who say there's not much to do in Napa. Although it's been a couple of years, did love Zuzu (small plates). Try lunch at Solbar at Solage resort in Calistoga; love the open scenery there. Highly recommend lunch at the bar at Rutherford Grill...love the chicken salad, tuna platter & French dip (generous portions).

                                                1. re: ceekskat

                                                  If you are determined not to make appointments, staying off the main highway helps - and you are going on weekdays which helps too (make sure to check some wineries are not open 7 days a week).

                                                  Wineries like Regusci or Signorello are solid, have beautiful surroundings, don't require appointments and don't have the name recognition of say Darioush or Duckhorn so they tend to be quieter. Not cheap though. I think if you go to Duckhorn in the morning on a weekday though - you should be fine - not sure what their current appt policy is.

                                                  1. re: goldangl95

                                                    Napa Valley wineries, in some cases, have this odd appointment thing. Even if you're at the electronic gate, and don't have an appointment per se, if you ring the buzzer at the gate and say you'd like to taste, then you have an appointment. It's a legal thing.

                                                    So call ahead and make appointments. Build a cushion so you're not rushed. You can always switch them around, or say you'll be a few minutes late.

                                                    But make appointments. It's just like making a dinner reservation, but because of winery regulations, it's required. It'll be worth the effort, as goldang says.

                                                  2. re: ceekskat

                                                    Oops, didn't proofread carefully. Swap the Keenan with Neal for beautiful scenery. Love Keenan & Vincent Arroyo for their casual, unpretentious environment and they are picturesque.

                                                2. Chinatown-Great Eastern is good for dinner.

                                                  North Beach-I'd go to Original Joes. Fun and vibrant place but sorta not your regular NB place. House is another place in NB that serves very good food but its fusion.

                                                  Mission-Try Limon-they're chicken is the best.

                                                  1. Ok, 40 or so comments later, here's where I stand. Would love some more tough love opinions:

                                                    day 1:

                                                    arrive at airport, 9:45, check into hotel (executive vintage court, edge of Chinatown), 10:30am.

                                                    skip Chinatown for lunch and take a can over to Swan Oyster Depot for early lunch. I think I've seen to much of this to miss it and this is my one shot

                                                    take a cab/etc (how else?) over to pier 39, see some loud seals and head to pier 33 for my 1:30 Alcatraz tour

                                                    After tour is down, take embarcadero street car down to Ferry Building and sit down somewhere inside for a snack and a drink.

                                                    Market Street Car to Powell Street Cable Car, get off at Ghiradelli Square. Walk down to Lombard Street, make my back to Chinatown (best way?) and check into Hotel.

                                                    Eat Dinner at Tadich Grill.

                                                    Wander back toward Chiantown and look for a place for night cap. Li Po Cocktail Lounge maybe?

                                                    day 2

                                                    need breakfast somewhere around my hotel....edge of Chinatown. we pick up our car at 9am to head north

                                                    drive to napa, drop bags off at Westin Verasa

                                                    TASTING AT SILVERADO - COMMENTS?

                                                    Addendum (Ad Hoc) for lunch

                                                    After lunch

                                                    TASTING AT OPUS ONE AND/OR CAKEBREAD AND/OR OR CAYMUS - COMMENTS?

                                                    Redd or Brix for dinner .Haven't picked one yet

                                                    day 3

                                                    bouchon bakery for breakfast (or model bakery near hotel)

                                                    STERLING - I KNOW, I KNOW, BUT THE GONDOLA. HAVE TO DO IT

                                                    CASTELLO DE AMOROSA SINCE I WILL BE IN TH AREA

                                                    Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen or Taylor's Refresher (or the new name) for Lunch

                                                    JOSEPH PHELPS FOR TASTING - COMMENTS?

                                                    RUTHERFORD HILL FOR TASTING - COMMENTS?

                                                    head back to downtown napa/our hotel. Zuzu for dinner and walk around and have some drinks....

                                                    day 4 - last day in napa

                                                    Since everyone seems against spending a whole day walking around downtown napa, perhaps I wil explore the Carneros area in the morning?

                                                    DOMAINE CAERNEROS TASTING?

                                                    Oxbow market for lunch and spend the rest of the day in downtown napa (or by the pool at hotel). Find a place for dinner in Napa Downtown that night. Hog Island oyster bar for happy hours seems like a good time.

                                                    Question: I read about Ovid. I can't afford the wines but would love love to see the property. Is it unreasonable to write and ask for a tour and if they have a tasting knowing I won't buy a $175 bottle of wine from them? Should I come clean and just email the owners?

                                                    day 5 - Saturday

                                                    back to SF, staying in the Mission, eating and drinking day

                                                    Mission Chinese for lunch

                                                    Bi- Rite for Ice Cream

                                                    I have a long list of Valencia street places to east and drink, seems like it will be a matter of narrowing them down, not a problem finding a decent place.

                                                    bar Tartine for dinner

                                                    COMMENTS WELCOMED!

                                                    Mark Adamowicz

                                                    27 Replies
                                                    1. re: markadamowicz

                                                      You are a brave guy to take all this tough love feedback! Congrats.

                                                      Only comment: I've taken a private tour of Ovid. Wonderful. Pritchard Hill, location of Ovid, is the absolute premier vineyard area of all Napa Valley. No fee. I bought one bottle of wine. Absolutely delicious. Do it! Then, take the bottle to your Mission District restaurant in SF. Celebrate your trip. Enjoy!

                                                      Have fun.

                                                      1. re: cortez

                                                        I think their wine starts at $175... Ouch!

                                                        1. re: markadamowicz

                                                          Mark. That's correct. But, consider this "stretched" math: in general, a super premier tasting and tour easily costs $50 per person. Free at Ovid. So, a $175 bottle of wine effectively costs you $75 for two. You taste multiple vintages there and walk around the property. Worth $50 per person, easily.

                                                          Then, take that $75 wine to a restaurant. Assuming a $25 corkage, its $100. What would that same wine cost you on a wine list? $400 plus. So, you effectively paid $100 for a $400 wine at a restaurant.

                                                          Expensive? Yes. Stupid? No, if you value very, very premium wines.

                                                          Think it over!

                                                          1. re: cortez

                                                            "you effectively paid $100 for a $400 wine..."
                                                            Ortiz, I love your way of thinking!

                                                            1. re: brandygirl

                                                              Thanks Brandygirl.

                                                              This contorted wine math has now spread to my wife. Last week, she went to a fundraising auction for a non profit botanical garden. She came home with an exquisite bottle of 1982 Bordeaux which we will take to a nice restaurant ($25 corkage) for our next anniversary. Her logic: the price was high but less than 25% of the price it would have been on a fancy restaurant wine list. This way, when we drink it, we will feel shrewd and smart rather than extravagant and impoverished.

                                                              I congratulated her on the purchase and look forward to savoring that wine.

                                                              It's the "new math" for wine!

                                                              1. re: cortez

                                                                Plus presumably some of it was tax deductible, or at least, went to a worthy cause. Win-win-win!

                                                      2. re: markadamowicz

                                                        If you want Redd for dinner, book soon. I couldn't get a decent time so am going for lunch instead. I think Addendum is only open certain days?

                                                        Am totally stealing your Mission crawl although am doing dinner at Commonwealth. :) Thx in advance.

                                                        1. re: markadamowicz

                                                          Well, since we've planned your whole trip, I might as well finish off with a couple more suggestions.

                                                          Get in line for Swan's as early as you can possible stand without ruining your vacation.

                                                          Skip Tadich Grill, especially when there are so many amazing dinner options in this city. Yeah, I know there's some "history" behind the place, but the food really is nothing special at all. On the other hand, I can't tell how much you care about food—your other activities during the day seem more like those of a stereotypical tourist—so then maybe Tadich is something you want to check off your list?

                                                          If you really want a decent drink around Chinatown, go to the Comstock Saloon (the food is pretty good as it's part of the Absinthe Group around town). Most bars in Chinatown are really depressing, and not in a cool-divey kind of way.

                                                          1. re: markadamowicz

                                                            Pier 39: They are Sea Lions, not Seals. As you walk in, stay to the left, water side .. this is where they hang out.

                                                            Cable Car at Powell/Mkt: you want the one that ends up at Beach/Hyde. (I forgot to tell you to have an Irish Coffee there at the Buena Vista.) Ghiradelli is a block away -- you don't need to go there unless you want to browse in the little shops.

                                                            You said you'd then walk down to Lombard St. It's
                                                            UP AN INCREDIBLY STEEP HILL. I suggest you take a cab and ask to be driven down Lombard (from Hyde to Leavenworth) then continue with cab to your hotel or Tadich. (I love Tadich .. really fresh fish, lots of other stuff on the menu, fair prices, unpretentious. The fried sand dabs are great, broiled petrale sole, some like their cioppino. I always order the fried shellfish.)

                                                            1. re: walker

                                                              Sea lions! Right.
                                                              Thanks for the Lombard St. tip. I will get the sand dabs, my wife will get the cioppino I think the plan is.

                                                              1. re: walker

                                                                Just wanted to add re: Tadich .. there are people who work in the financial who eat lunch here nearly every day, it's not just for tourists. Once I strayed and ordered lobster thermador; it was pricey, not that great. Just keep to the fresh fish, simply prepared, that's my advice. Also, I would not bother with the shrimp cocktail. (The side vegetables, like asparagus, are good to order.)

                                                                1. re: walker

                                                                  Re: your snack at the Ferry Bldg .. can you save a little room? It's a 2 minute walk to Yank Sing, 101 Spear, between Mission/Howard. They slow down a bit after 1pm. DON'T go to their take out place, not as good. Go inside, sit down and definitely get the Har Gow (shrimp dumplings). I also like chicken in lettuce cups, individual portion of Peking Duck and the egg custard tarts. Tea is nice. The shrimp chow mein you have to order, it's $17 but really good quality.

                                                              2. re: markadamowicz

                                                                Tadich's menu is a minefield so be sure you know what to order.

                                                                How do completely fake places built as tourist traps end up being "have to do it?" To me they're a form of cultural pollution.

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  I think at this point the OP has had a fair amount of warning that many of the places he is picking are not what locals nor people who are experts in food/wine would go to.

                                                                  I guess as long as there isn't a complaint after. My fear (which happens occasionally with acquaintances) is they say they want to do their own thing. Pick a bunch of stuff they heard of in a guidebook etc. I tell them that some people like to do this but it's built for tourists, is not good quality etc. Then they go anyway and condemn the food/wine quality/experience e.g. oh I don't know why people say food in SF is so good, or I don't know why people claim Napa is a great wine region it's so crowded and the wine is bad.

                                                                  I realize I shouldn't take it personally but I hate that now that's what is going to be represented as SF or Napa to their friends and family.

                                                                  1. re: goldangl95

                                                                    To put it another way, prepare to be disappointed.

                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                      I'm not gonna lie, when I'm in other cities, sometimes I do try the touristy stuff, just so I can have the experience. Usually it's something that doesn't take up too much time, so the first time I'm in whatever city, I will try a Portillo's hot dog, or a Geno's steak, or a Voodoo Doughnut, whatever. If I'm ever in Pittsburgh, the first thing I eat will be a Primanti Bros. sandwich, even though I'm sure there are probably much better food options there.

                                                                      At the higher level, I did go to Charlie Trotter before it closed, despite the chorus of people saying that it was past its prime, that there were better options. It's true, the meal was not out-of-this-world amazing, but I'm still not sorry we went. After the meal, we were given a tour of the kitchen and the TV studio and met Mr. Trotter himself. Overall it was a wonderful time, touristy or not.

                                                                      1. re: dunstable

                                                                        There are touristy things that are worth doing, that locals do as well, such as going to Alcatraz, getting sand dabs or rex or petrale sole at Tadich Grill, or braving the line at Swan Oyster Depot.

                                                                        Then there are phony places built only to attract tourists that locals avoid, such as Pier 39, soup in a bread bowl, Viansa, Sterling, and Castello di Amorosa.

                                                                    2. re: markadamowicz

                                                                      Good breakfast is a bit thin on the ground near the Vintage Court. The closest solid sitdown breakfast that we've found is Café de la presse. We've also enjoyed farm:table but it's really tiny, with shared seating. Sweet Woodruff has good food but is counter seating only, with breakfast available on Sat and Sun.

                                                                      FWIW we've done a dozen trips to SF in the last six years and I can understand the OP's food choices and activities in the city for his first foray. He is, like me, a tourist in your wonderful city, so touristy things and longer-standing, better-known restaurants are reasonable choices, at least at first.

                                                                      I have the same reaction when visitors to my hometown of Vancouver want to go to Gastown and other places -- I have to keep reminding myself that they are clichéd to me, not necessarily to others!

                                                                      We've tried and enjoyed all the places the OP listed in SF (except Swan's as I'm not into oysters). Lombard Street is fun to drive down but we've walked as well -- it was only on a much later trip that we discovered Vermont Street http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermont_... which has its charms (and no traffic!). Petrale at Tadich was delicious but expensive and I've since had better for cheaper at various places around town, albeit as specials.

                                                                      I still love riding the cable cars and wear out my Muni pass doing so (best deal going if you plan to take the cable car more than once which you will if you are staying at the Vintage Court -- ask for a room ending in 17).

                                                                      The Ferry Building is great for food and drink with or without the market (beautiful architecture too especially if you can get upstairs). I recall our Alcatraz tour with such fondness that I've been angling to do a night tour. The sea lions are hilarious plus it's amazing to see so many in such an urban setting. Hyde Pier is another v. cool thing in the dreaded Fisherman's Wharf area -- it's not all cheap t-shirts and crappy food if you do your homework. Walking through Chinatown (go one way on Stockton and the other on Grant for the full effect) is cool particularly if you come from a place with no Chinatown or one that is no longer viable, as I do.

                                                                      Have a wonderful trip!

                                                                      1. re: grayelf

                                                                        Re: Swan .. I, too, do not eat raw oysters but that's only one of the items they sell. I think most people get the prawn or crab salads or cocktails. Very fresh crab!

                                                                        One older gentleman goes in there several times a week and gets 4 crab legs to go, it's about 1/3 lb, not much. His little treat, I guess. They know him by name and his order rarely varies.

                                                                        1. re: grayelf

                                                                          Oh Grayelf - what Walker said! i had no idea you'd eschewed Swan only for oysters... i love the place, for the ambiance, the bread, the cocktails, the crab, the lobster, tartare, the clams, the smoked trout! and yes, even the clam chowdah. (of course, i do love raw oysters.) i love sitting there with a cold beer or a glass of Muscadet and watching the goings on. for me, as a slice of San Francisco, way better than Tadich. i think you'll love the scent. and i think your auxiliary stomach would like it too.... i may have to drag you there next trip.

                                                                          1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                            Maria - I myself wanted to go to Swan......but we get to the hotel around 10:30 am and Alcatraz tour around 1pm and I figured our very first meal probably shouldn't involve a long line and staring at our watches. Shame it isn't opened later!

                                                                            1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                              Eh, Swan is quite overrated IMO. It's extremely old school, and the prices are science fiction. ($20+ for some crabmeat on iceberg lettuce? Please.)

                                                                              If it didn't have a ridiculous wait it might be worth going to eat the scallop crudo, but I wouldn't lose sleep over missing it.

                                                                              1. re: Josh

                                                                                The crab salad is enormous and the crab is FRESH. On the wharf, they sell little cups of crab that has come out of a can! It's a lot of labor to pick out that crabmeat everyday. You can also get cracked crab there and pick it out yourself and dip it into melted butter or other sauces.

                                                                                I like to get it to go .. the to go line is very short.

                                                                                1. re: walker

                                                                                  I can buy fresh dungeness elsewhere, and have it with a more inspiring accompaniment than shredded iceberg and pink mayonnaise dressing. I know the place is an institution, but I felt like it was much too expensive for what was on offer and the line was incomprehensible.

                                                                                  1. re: walker

                                                                                    There are lots of places in SF to get crab that's alive when you order it. That's what I call fresh.

                                                                                    Being better than the crap some places at No-Fishermen's Wharf palm off on tourists is a pretty minor accomplishment.

                                                                                2. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                  Yes it's true... i like to arrive at 11, no later, and then the wait isn't so bad. But then you want time to sit and enjoy. You can't do it all in one trip! You'll have a great time!

                                                                          2. I don't know, seems overall like an If-It's-Tuesday-This-Must-Be-Belgium itinerary to me, given the geographical (not to mention gastronomic) scope encompassed by SF AND Napa Valley in 5 days. But if you say that's to your taste...

                                                                            Just for contrast to spin some ideas, if I were plotting out such a trip (as actually done in many, many unfamiliar regions), I might allocate five days in one promising SF, or Napa Valley, neighborhood and start actually to get to know it in a little depth and substance. (12 days preferably.) Get to know some locals personally, follow their good advice, and discover angles unavailable on Chowhound. Find yourselves invited to say a new restaurant or winery opening, along with a few consuls-general or whatever, and the inevitable, often affable, corps of assorted industry reps, journalists, etc. Show real interest in what the new business is doing, and in turn be appreciated and invited further. It's remarkable how things like that can snowball, and you find yourself making long-term friends, occasionally being interviewed on local TV, etc. I am not kidding. This is a depth rather than breadth approach, but it's hard to script in advance. PS I'm an engineer too.

                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                            1. re: eatzalot

                                                                              This idea of data grabbing from locals only works occasionally often times locals don't have the money/inclination to eat and drink the way Chowhounders do.

                                                                              Thoughts on your tasting ideas:

                                                                              These wineries are the prestige well-publicized names (in order of preference) I'd pick at most two:

                                                                              Joseph Phelps - far above the rest in terms of wine + tasting experience
                                                                              Opus One (con a real rip off tasting wise might be just better to buy a bottle at Costco and call it a day)

                                                                              If none of those work out consider Inglenook (appt only) Chappellet (appt only) or Hall (their appt only facility with the caves) or Darioush (walk-ins OK) (much maligned on these boards but I like their wines)


                                                                              These are random and very average (note doesn't mean bad) Napa wineries:

                                                                              Rutherford Hill

                                                                              I would replace with:

                                                                              Chimney Rock
                                                                              Pine Ridge
                                                                              Regusci or


                                                                              These are awful tourist traps, would do zero if it was me, but everyone is different

                                                                              Castello Di Amorosa

                                                                              1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                I'm not an engineer, but this would definitely be my approach as well. It's hard to not be a tourist when you first visit any place, but I think you will get so much more and have much more memorable experiences by getting in depth and getting to know neighbors, going shopping at local markets, just hanging out at cafes and meeting people over drinks etc.

                                                                                eatzalot also brings up one of the limitations of chowhound (and other internet boards): you really are getting only a few perspectives as it is the truly dedicated posters who respond to the same questions that get posted over and over again. Furthermore, none of us really know your tastes or what kinds of experiences you have had, so our recommendations are vague and generic at best. I know I give very different suggestions to friends based on what I know about them, but that's just not possible here.

                                                                                1. re: W42

                                                                                  Of course the approach I sketched doesn't always work out; but after considerable experience, I find that it works out often enough, and sometimes amazingly well, well enough to far more than make up for when it doesn't.

                                                                                  You'll notice, if you've read, that I wrote nothing against including Chowhound among your advance research -- only against trying to script the whole experience from it.

                                                                                  (FWIW, this Chowhound poster answers excruciatingly repetitive question themes only because I ignore most of them.)

                                                                                  1. re: W42

                                                                                    That's strange. I've actually felt very well guided by chowhound when I travel - and have had better look with the chow recs than random people on the street recs. Mainly because it is a specific type of person who hunts/takes the time out for food + wine experiences while travelling and has the resources and desire to spend their time that way.

                                                                                    This is especially true with wine recs, where yelp and other sources are much more about the experience than the actual wine being served.

                                                                                    1. re: goldangl95

                                                                                      My sense of what eatzalot wrote is that, through conversations with locals/winery employees, you ask, "Who has a beautiful winery, or excellent wines, or a wonderful tasting experience?" That works quite well.

                                                                                      You don't ask this question of random people on the street, but rather of locals, who live or work here, or who are in the wine business.

                                                                                      It's the same as chatting with a couple at the next table at a restaurant, and after some connection and conversation, you ask them their favorite picturesque spots, or restaurants, or where the locals eat, or their personal favorite places. This is part of the serendipity of the road.

                                                                                      Of course, Chowhound is a great resource. Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but the OP's itinerary suggests he has not read about Napa Valley wineries in the other current Napa threads going, or about the best wineries to visit by doing a Chowhound search of previous posts. I'm confused why he has not. Those threads are a rich vein of ore.

                                                                                      As locals (I'm in the wine business and a road warrior), Goldang and I have both spent a lot of time exploring Napa Valley and listing hundreds of tips in Napa Valley threads -- tips on what we've found to be the best. Carriewas218 is another local resource -- she has a fantastic palate -- but there are also a handful of other longtime Napa Valley insiders who post.

                                                                                      The Carneros thread alone that Goldang recommended is a great resource, and maps out a complete beautiful day. I only wish our OP would dial in that thread, along with others.

                                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                        I completely agree with your post.

                                                                                        Also to eatzalot and w42 I didn't mean to denigrate getting advice through locals I just meant to convey that getting good information about Napa wineries in the $50-180 bottle range can be like trying to get good information about Michelin 2 and 3 star restaurants (or a relatively obscure cuisine - say Malaysian). Going with wherever the wind takes you results in some awesome experiences, but they won't lead you to a particular goal unless you ask in the right places. But this is from someone who likes to plan out itineraries before hand - so this may be my prejudices speaking.

                                                                                        1. re: goldangl95

                                                                                          Hey, I also obsessively research and plan everything—and probably drive my friends and family a little crazy in the process.

                                                                                          But just to be clear, I'm not suggestion everyone should just randomly meander and hope to trip across something amazing. I've seen too many trips wasted on such hopes and it's probably why I do so much research now. The odds of finding a "hidden gem" as an outsider are about as low as finding a gem in real life, and expensive/famous places are usually booked well in advance.

                                                                                          So while chowhound is a decent start to get a sense of the big names, you really need some locals/experts who have a sense of your tastes or past experiences. For example, if you're interested in fine wines or 2-3 Michelin star restaurants, I would suggest asking either friends who share both your interests and tastes or winemakers, collectors, chefs and front of house staff that work with such places.

                                                                                          If you don't know enough people at home to provide this kind of advice, just leave some flexibility in your schedule so you can start asking around at the first few places you visit (p.s. people who love their fields of work are usually delighted to talk to someone who shares their passion and you might even get slightly special treatment or extras just by asking good questions or for recommendations about other nice places).

                                                                                          And I, too, would agree with everyone word that Maria Lorraine wrote.

                                                                                          1. re: W42

                                                                                            "Me too."

                                                                                            Nota bene, on a Bay Area internet forum thriving several years before CH started, which is to say in the 1980s, someone recommended Sonoma County for winery exploration on grounds that in the Napa, "one is treated as as a tourist." My reaction was, what's the problem, given that one IS generally a tourist? I suggested that a useful approach, if you really want to avoid tourist treatment, is not to be one. Learn about particular wineries and ask trenchant questions. Get to know people in the industry if you are seriously interested in its products. Bring something to the party.

                                                                                            I have visited many wineries in very many regions, both as tourist and non-tourist. Either can be great, just be clear on the difference. It's fun to party and drink in idyllic country settings. (Which many tourists call "wine tasting," though all serious wine fans and trade people I know distinguish tasting from drinking -- if you claim to "taste," but actually swallow, at wineries in some places, like Burgundy, you may not be invited back.)

                                                                                      2. re: goldangl95

                                                                                        I agree, with the caveat that sometimes chowhounds make recommendations that don't take into account the cost/benefit of logistics for visitors. Sure, if you live in the city a recommendation for some off the beaten track spot is great. But if you have limited time and transportation constraints, the "cost" of trekking to that spot might not be worth it, given the number of high-quality more accessible options.

                                                                                        I've made several trips to Italy over the last five years, and although I check out chowhound religiously, I rarely end up following up on those tips, because too many other considerations intervene. Walking into some unknown spot near where your other activities have left you tired and hungry because the posted menu and the atmosphere are appealing has its own rewards (although it helps to have well-developed chow senses).

                                                                                  2. Thank you to everyone again, I love Chowhound and everything about it.

                                                                                    A couple quick points about me since I've seen some direct and indirect comments.

                                                                                    1. I've been on chowhound for 9 years. I have researched other threads on Napa Valley.

                                                                                    2. I am a food guy. I cook, I have a garden, I make beer, wine, limoncello, bread, cheese, sopressata...anything I can figure out, I try it. I recently bought this www.kettlepizza.com to try to take my grilled pizza up a level. If I find a conch in the ocean when I am in Cape, I walk back to my parent's cottage and cook it for dinner. My 3 daughters eat anchovies out of the can and have been to dim sum in Boston's Chinatown more than most adults will in their entire life. Food runs in our family. They are used to following me around to find weird places that I have read about.

                                                                                    I'm on instagram at @markadamowicz, you can check out some pics from my last china trip....or my constant food pictures in general.

                                                                                    3. I generally go out of my way (and by default, any coworkers/friends/etc with me do by default) to avoid chain restaurants and am always seeking out mom and pop places, holes in the wall, etc. Most people on this board probably are. I tend to stay away from high end restaurants and prefer eating a lot of small plates at the bar.

                                                                                    4. I've been lucky to travel in my life. I've backpacked around Europe a couple times and even through they both were 8 countries in 12 days kind of trips, I don't regret a second. Ofcourse it is nice to spend a week or more and dig into the country, but I may never go back to Bruges, Geneva or Salzburg and was happy to spend a day there. I have been back to London, Paris and Italy for extended and more focused trips. I've been to China 15 times for work, mostly Hong Kong and southern China....During my travels, I had no shame going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, taking a double decker tour bus in London, seeing Victoria Peek in Hong Kong. Touristy stuff puts things in perspective. If I am in New Orleans, I will (and have gone) to Café Du Monde for beignets. If I ever make it to Venice, I will probably overpay for a bellini at Harry's.

                                                                                    4. My first day in San Francisco is supposed to be touristy. Sea Lions, Cable Cars, Lombard Street. Tadich Grill has been around forever and I'll probably eat cioppino there. My last day in SF will be spent in the Mission and will be the antidote for the first day.

                                                                                    5. Napa - I've been before, but just for a day. I want to feel like I am in wine country. I can drink unbelievable wine any day of the year at home or in a restaurant where I live. My sister is part owner of 4 restaurants, they have access to great wines. I'm not going to Napa just to taste (or drink, since I probably won't be spitting most of the time) great wines. I'd like to have a glass of wine and look out over the vineyards. Everyone seems to hate Sterling on this board, but if there is one gondola in wine country, I'm probably going to ride it. If there is a castle, I will probably pull over and take some pictures. This is a kid-free vacation and I'm shooting for pure enjoyment for my wife (and myself). Its not a research trip and although I'd love to drink some world class wines, it's not the only focus of the trip. Places like Redd and Brix are not my scene at all, but they sound like beautiful places to eat in napa valley where I will feel like I am in napa valley on vacation. I love talking to people for suggestion while on vacation, but waiting for those things to happen doesn't always work out when you only have 3 days to see an area....I live outside of boston and the places I enjoy I would probably not necessarily recommend to a first time visitor to boston to get a taste of local flavor....

                                                                                    Ok, with all that out of the way....

                                                                                    Thanks for the other vineyard suggestions, I'm sure I'll spend the rest of the weekend honing in on some final selections.

                                                                                    I love the vineyard recommendations.I contacted Ovid and will see how that turns out.

                                                                                    Thanks again, keep comments anger/hate/love/fun coming my way!

                                                                                    Mark Adamowicz

                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                      Thanks for the further explanations, Mark, and good luck with your visit.

                                                                                      A meta-note on this forum as trip-planning source:

                                                                                      As an experienced person with evident depth of knowledge in some regions, you may understand a quirk here that is characteristic of online food and wine discussion sites, so much so that Google, for instance, dramatically stressed it a dozen years ago when presenting its (then) 20-year archive of existing Internet newsgroup content. The quirk is that longtime contributors, especially unusually respected and informed ones like maria, being human of course, can with time become touchy at even an _appearance_ that someone newly arrived on the board is, once again, asking to have things explained to them -- while standing on one foot -- that are readily accessible in far FAR more depth by self-service, researching archived threads. It leads to a certain number of responses consisting entirely of links. It is among the behavioral gaffes to which longtime regulars on a board like this are most sensitive. New questioners who are experienced in such forums, and consequently very conscious of this point, tend implicitly to show good form and grace by unambiguously demonstrating (as opposed for instance to asserting) that they have performed their own due diligence on the forum already, which then frames and narrows their questions, and also, relieves said regulars of bearing, successfully or otherwise, the whole burden of grace attendant on the situation.

                                                                                      1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                        Got it. I read quite a bit. I always get concerned on some of the older ones and especially with restaurants, how quickly things can change in a year....also, these boards are voluntary/fun....not jobs...right?

                                                                                        1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                          Well, one or two regulars on this board do seemingly make it their full-time avocation! :-)

                                                                                          Anyway, regarding currency of researchable recommendations: Queries on visit itineraries are about the most frequent threads on this board, several per week, so there is never a shortage of recent content. That some regular posters gave links earlier in this thread implies that they consider the linked content current enough.

                                                                                      2. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                        You would probably love the threads on great inexpensive eats in Napa Valley.

                                                                                        I understand the appeal of kitsch; in small doses, I seek out those places also.

                                                                                        So, in that vein and just to be clear, IRT to the gondola and the castle:
                                                                                        The "gondola" is not a gondola as you might find in Venice, but a 5-minute tram ride. See a photo here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserRe...

                                                                                        The view from the South Terrace of Sterling is stunning; the wines aren't.

                                                                                        Right across the street from the entrance to Sterling is Clos Pegase. It's a Michael Graves building. Get out and walk around. Again, the wines aren't so great, but the building, the sculptures and art (all free) might be of interest.

                                                                                        Castello di Amorosa is a "fake" castle that resembles many in Italy. The wines are deeply flawed, and the admission price is very steep, especially so given such flawed wines. But roll on by; the view from the outside will hopefully be adequate. BTW, the view of the Castle from the South Terrace at Sterling will give another look at it.

                                                                                        It's always my goal to provide recs that are workable, and also the best (in general, or for the money) for the individual Chowhound given their tastes/preferences. I seek out experiences at all price points, and try to be respectful of visitors' travel times, logistics, and native time zones. I urge visitors to plan adequately, but not to over-schedule, and to remain open to serendipity and suggestions from insiders while here.

                                                                                        1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                          honestly, the castle is dreadful No one seems to have mentioned the HESS Collection,a stunningly beautiful place with a simply amazing art collection don't go for the wine - no entry fee for the gallery

                                                                                          1. re: Mariana in Baja

                                                                                            Thanks Mariana.

                                                                                            You are totally correct about Hess. It's an absolutely stunning art collection housed in a pristine and near empty gallery space. For art-interested visitors to Napa Valley, I always recommend Hess and di Rosa (which I toured again yesterday). Di Rosa's incredible setting (lake, meadow and up Milliken Peak) never fails to impress visitors. The funky 2000 piece art collection and wandering peacocks top it off!

                                                                                            1. re: cortez

                                                                                              Oh for sure DiRosa - I was a volunteer guide there when it first opened. But I think it requires the whole tour which takes up several hours - Hess is easy in and out. But they could for sure drop into the gatehouse at DiRosa and get a taste. And Artessa is also stunning - I think maybe the name changed?

                                                                                              1. re: Mariana in Baja

                                                                                                It still seems to be Artesa, and I agree it's beautiful. One thing I like is that it's the only winery in the area I know of where you can really see and get a sense of the Bay, and better understand its influence on the region, particularly the Carneros area.

                                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                  Re: Artesa. It's a stunning building and quite unusual, designed by Catalan architect Domingo Triay.

                                                                                                  Barely visible even if you're near it as the building is mostly bermed into the hill -- an engineering feat of sorts if the OP is interested. After a little slump, Artesa's wines are coming back fairly strong.

                                                                                                  A lovely day would be to have breakfast at Fremont diner, visit the di Rosa Preserve and Artesa (nearly next door to one another), head over to Adastra*** or Saintsbury, and eat lunch at some point at Boonfly. Return to the City of Napa via Old Sonoma Road (this is a shortcut back to the City of Napa that goes through two pretty valleys) and Truchard Winery on that road (very high quality chard, Pinot and Syrah; lovely people). All these places are in one general area, and described in detail on the Carneros thread.

                                                                                                  And, Ruth, I liked your commnent about the location of the Carneros region at the north end of San Francisco Bay. The unique climate and soil conditions of that area make it a good spot for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, two grapes that require long and relatively cool ripening seasons.

                                                                                                  Mariana, Artesa was formerly named Codorniu Napa, and was founded by the Catalan Codorniu house of sparkling wine. A number of years ago, the winery shifted its focus from sparkling wine to still wine using the same grapes.

                                                                                                  The Carneros region's suitability for growing Chard and Pinot mean several sparkling houses are based there, or grow their fruit there: Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon, Mumm, etc.

                                                                                                  Even so, I much prefer the sparkling wines of Schramsberg Winery, located in-between St. Helena and Calistoga. The caves alone are a structural phenomenon -- to be inside them I always feel like I've been transported to France. And a half-mile from Sterling if the OP is interested.

                                                                                                2. re: Mariana in Baja


                                                                                                  Thanks again. FYI, di Rosa has recently received county approval to lengthen its open hours and move towards drop ins (rather than formal tours only) to see the entire 200 acre property and 2000 art works. Stay tuned!

                                                                                                  1. re: cortez

                                                                                                    +3 on the The Hess Collection and the diRosa.

                                                                                                    The Hess Collection is phenomenal.
                                                                                                    Not to be missed, IMO.

                                                                                                    Their two tiers of wine are also interesting. The lower tier of wine -- Hess Select -- is very ranked among the Best Buys in wine nationwide.

                                                                                                    The upper tier of wine shows the beauty of the Mt. Veeder growing area (AVA) with its clear, direct mountain fruit (brambly, often raspberry/blackberry) and wonderful acidity.

                                                                                                    The di Rosa is mentioned in the very helpful thread on Carneros, which has a great itinerary:

                                                                                                    Goldang linked to this thread earlier.

                                                                                              2. re: Mariana in Baja

                                                                                                I have been to Hess many times. The wines are sometimes very good, particularly the Estate bottles. The collection is superb, and the environment is very conducive to enjoying the wine and the art. Bring your camera. A very, very photogenic winery.

                                                                                            2. Hi,

                                                                                              Thanks for the followups

                                                                                              Maria - I understand what gondola is. I've watched videos, talked to friends who have done it and the fact that you refer to a "stunning view" on the property is the reason I am going. I did not plan on doing anything but peeking at the castle and was planning on a quick stroll around Clos Pegase since the MG designs look interesting.

                                                                                              Golddang - I don't trash cities food/wine scenes. Where am I going in San Francisco to be disappointed? Swan Oyster? Taddich? Mission Chinese? - not sure I will be disappointed with any of those. I'm not going to Sterling for wine....I will end up at some other wineries that are great. I wrote Ovid, but have not heard back from them yet. Will Redd or Brix disappoint me>? who knows, not exactly poorly reviewed. Addendum, Hog Island, Cindy's Back Yard? I think you may have misread some of my plans....

                                                                                              You just may underestimate the amount I plan/read/talk/ask/watch etc before a vacation....It is nice when people say...."if you are thinking of that, this may be a better option" rather than "those are awful".....

                                                                                              I'm watching Bullitt riht now. I understand it is an old movie about San Francisco, but it still is fun to watch!

                                                                                              I'll continue reading and asking questions...

                                                                                              Mark Adamowicz

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                I actually enjoyed the tour at Castello. The double-barrel vaulting of brick in the wine cellars is a masterpiece of workmanship. There are only 8 craftsmen left in the world - all in Italy - who know how to do it any longer.

                                                                                                And tasting the wines with chocolate afterwards was kinda fun. A friendly place, and those fat happy chickens in the garden were a thrill to visiting kids; it was a kick to watch!

                                                                                              2. ....Has anyone ever done the Epicurean Summer Evenings (on Thursdays/Fridays starting again soon) at Signerello?

                                                                                                Mark Adamowicz

                                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                  Hey Mark,
                                                                                                  New to Chowhound, but want to chime in with a couple of winery tips from a Napa tour guide's perspective...
                                                                                                  The Vintners Collective in DT Napa is a great place to taste a very nice variety of small boutique producers making excellent wines. Amongst the selections are Matisse by Phillip Melka, Krupp Brothers, Buoncristiani, Rolando Herrera - $25 tasting is highly recommended.
                                                                                                  Going up valley, check out Laird at Hwy 29 and Oak Knoll across from Trefethen, famous winemaker Paul Hobbs began his consulting career there and still is involved making the wines. Great price / quality ratio. Their Red Hen Ranch Chardonnay is a beautiful example of California style Chardonnay with all its buttery goodness and a crisp finish.
                                                                                                  To experience more personalized tastings and get away from the more commercial wineries I love going up Spring Mountain. Once you commit going up the mountain make sure you visit more than 1 winery. Keenan is a great choice, Sherwin is another fave (by appointment only). Pride Mountain at the very top of Spring Mountain has some of the absolute best picnic tables and a great place to picnic with goodies bought on the valley floor before you head up the mountain. Bon voyage!

                                                                                                  1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                    I take that as a no on Signerello Summer Evenings? Looks like it could be interesting

                                                                                                    1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                      Mark, they were a newly-added feature to Signerello just last year and they were not heavily marketed at that time. I imagine it was something they wanted to try on the quiet to test the waters so this year it will just be re-starting and it seems they are marketing it a little more heavily now.

                                                                                                    2. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                      Have not been but they do have a beautiful view from their outside patio, plus a full commercial kitchen and wood burning oven. I imagine it would be a good event.

                                                                                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                          Yeah. Full commercial kitchen may be a bit of an exaggeration but it is large shiny and metal with tons of space and tons of restaurant industry appliances (it read full commercial kitchen to me - but I'm not in the industry). They have a resident chef and a wood burning oven for pizza.

                                                                                                          Sorry - when I said "have not been" I meant have not been to the particular event in question. I've been to the winery.

                                                                                                          1. re: goldangl95

                                                                                                            I was referring to the wines, and if this winery warranted a visit given so many other better options. Even with merely passable wines, oven-fired pizza out on the patio with a view might be fine.

                                                                                                    3. OK, revised itinerary in a few days

                                                                                                      swan oyster out - first stop of the trip may should not involve a line

                                                                                                      taddich - might be rethinking

                                                                                                      brix - out

                                                                                                      redd - still a contender
                                                                                                      ad hoc - addendum for lunch....

                                                                                                      joseph phelps - looks like a winner


                                                                                                      sterling - still going to do it
                                                                                                      schramsberg looks kind of beautiful inside

                                                                                                      10 days to go....

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                        hi Mark.....a few comments for you.
                                                                                                        You did the right thing by eliminating Brix; your meal quality shoudn't hinge on whether there is a private party going on or a bus unloading a group of people.
                                                                                                        Don't rethink Tadich, you will enjoy it. Pay attention to what others are telling you about what to order: flat fish (sand dabs, petrale sole, etc) cracked crab claw cocktail, chiopino (sp).
                                                                                                        If I were you, I would eat at Redd. The food is good, the wine service is great (bringing your own bottle, and why wouldn't you) and the vibe is terrific. I must admit that it's loud, but all in all it is reflective of Napa Valley.
                                                                                                        I would not consider Ad Hoc, unless you are talking about picking up fried chicken from Addendum for a picnic lunch.
                                                                                                        Cakebread....why? They do a nice job with making visitors comfortable. But this is Napa Valley, and you can find better quality elsewhere. That's what all these posters are trying to tell you.
                                                                                                        By the way, don't be scared off of Mustards. It has been around for so long, that everyone out here is tired of it. But that doesn't mean that you won't like it.. The food is still good, although no longer cutting edge. But still tasty, and I love the roadhouse feel of the place. It definitely says Napa Valley.
                                                                                                        I think you are going to really enjoy your trip.

                                                                                                        1. re: pinotho

                                                                                                          Let me add my endorsement to pinotho's comments and recommendations. To my taste, they are on the money:

                                                                                                          Mustards over Brix everytime. Had lunch at the Mustard's bar last week: Tuscon white bean soup with the calamari salad paired with Cade Sauvignon Blanc. Great banter with the skilled bartender. A classic.

                                                                                                          Redd all day long. Lunch on the patio out front is one of the best experiences and best values in the valley.

                                                                                                          Slight dissent to Addendum as they have tweaked the menu and radically reduced the portion size for the outstanding fried chicken. Still delicious but not such a value as last year.

                                                                                                          Tadich. Don't fight it, do it and enjoy it. Cioppino a must. Dip the french bread and consider a martini. Sit at the bar or get a fabulous booth for a bigger party.

                                                                                                          New thought in SF: Michael Chiarello's new Spanish place, Coqueta, on the Embarcadero in SF just north of the Ferry Building got an incredible 3 1/2 stars from the SF Chronicle today. Ive been there once -- loved the space and really enjoyed sharing the many small plates. I'm normally skeptical of Michael's ventures (ie Bottega). But, this is a winner.

                                                                                                          You are so patient gathering such divergent and diverse advice for your trip. Overall, have fun!

                                                                                                      2. Hi,

                                                                                                        Ok friends, round 10 of the itinerary, will be there next Tuesday. Feel free to shoot as many holes in this as you like. I welcome it at this point:

                                                                                                        Tuesday - June 25

                                                                                                        airport bart to powell, taxi to hotel.

                                                                                                        drop bags off at hotel around 10:30am

                                                                                                        Executive Hotel Vintage Court
                                                                                                        650 Bush Street

                                                                                                        Take cable car south to California street cable car toward water.

                                                                                                        Lunch in Ferry Building at any of following

                                                                                                        Out the Door
                                                                                                        Hog Island Oyster Company
                                                                                                        or eat at Farmers Market

                                                                                                        If time, take Embarcadero Street Car up to Pier 39 for loud sea lions

                                                                                                        Pier 33 – Alcatraz boarding at 1pm
                                                                                                        Return at 3:30pm

                                                                                                        Telegraph Hill
                                                                                                        Lombard Street
                                                                                                        (not sure how to navigate above...taxi...foot...etc?)

                                                                                                        Back to Hotel to Check In

                                                                                                        Pre dinner cocktail with an umbrella:

                                                                                                        Li Po Cocktail Lounge
                                                                                                        Address: 916 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108
                                                                                                        Phone:(415) 982-0072

                                                                                                        Take Cab to Tadich Grill:
                                                                                                        Tadich Grill:
                                                                                                        Address: 240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111
                                                                                                        Phone:(415) 391-1849
                                                                                                        Dinner until 9:30pm


                                                                                                        R&G Lounge
                                                                                                        Address: 631 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108
                                                                                                        Phone:(415) 982-7877
                                                                                                        Dinner until 9:30pm

                                                                                                        After dinner drink:

                                                                                                        Comstock Saloon:
                                                                                                        Address: 155 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
                                                                                                        Phone:(415) 617-0071

                                                                                                        Wednesday – June 26

                                                                                                        Check out of hotel and walk to Car rental place

                                                                                                        Pickup 9:00am
                                                                                                        City Rent A Car
                                                                                                        1433 Bush Street (Between Polk & Van Ness
                                                                                                        )Fiat 500

                                                                                                        Drive to Napa.....need breakfast between SF and Napa?
                                                                                                        Golden Gate Bridge stop?

                                                                                                        Drop bags off at hotel:
                                                                                                        Westin Verasa Napa

                                                                                                        Fried Chicken Lunch in Youtville at Addendum (back of ad hoc)
                                                                                                        6476 Washington Street
                                                                                                        Yountville, CA 94599
                                                                                                        t : 707.944.2487

                                                                                                        Buy Bottle of Overture at Opus One?
                                                                                                        Address: 7900 St Helena Hwy, Oakville, CA 94562
                                                                                                        Phone:(707) 944-9442

                                                                                                        Domaine Chandon
                                                                                                        Address: 1 California Dr, Yountville, CA 94599
                                                                                                        Phone:(707) 944-8844

                                                                                                        Address: 8700 Conn Creek Rd, Rutherford, CA 94573
                                                                                                        Phone:(707) 963-4204

                                                                                                        or Stay in Yountville.....How about Mondavi? St. Supery/Pine Ridge?

                                                                                                        Dinner at Ad Hoc
                                                                                                        Address: 6476 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599
                                                                                                        Phone:(707) 944-2487

                                                                                                        or, more likely...

                                                                                                        Dinner at Redd
                                                                                                        Address: 6480 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599
                                                                                                        Phone:(707) 944-2222

                                                                                                        Check back into Hotel

                                                                                                        Thursday – June 27

                                                                                                        Breakfast at Bouchon Bakery

                                                                                                        Address: 1111 Dunaweal Ln, Napa, CA 94515
                                                                                                        Phone: (800) 726-6136

                                                                                                        Scramsberg Vineyards
                                                                                                        Address: 1400 Schramsberg Rd, Calistoga, CA 94515
                                                                                                        Phone: (707) 942-4558


                                                                                                        Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen
                                                                                                        Address: 1327 Railroad Ave, St Helena, CA 94574
                                                                                                        Phone:(707) 963-1200


                                                                                                        Gott’s Roadside/Taylor’s refresher
                                                                                                        933 Main St
                                                                                                        Napa Valley, CA
                                                                                                        (707) 963-3486

                                                                                                        Terrace Tasting at Joseph Phelps
                                                                                                        Address: 200 Taplin Rd, St Helena, CA 94574
                                                                                                        Phone:(800) 707-5789

                                                                                                        Drink at Auberge Du Soliel
                                                                                                        Address: 180 Rutherford Hill Rd, Rutherford, CA 94573
                                                                                                        Phone:(707) 963-1211

                                                                                                        Back to Hotel

                                                                                                        Dinner at Zuzu
                                                                                                        Address: 829 Main St, Napa, CA 94559
                                                                                                        Phone:(707) 224-8555

                                                                                                        Friday - June 28
                                                                                                        Breakfast at model Bakery

                                                                                                        Address: 4500 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558
                                                                                                        Phone:(707) 255-5990

                                                                                                        Address: 4411 Redwood Rd, Napa, CA 94558
                                                                                                        Phone:(707) 255-1144

                                                                                                        Rest of Day in Downtown Napa

                                                                                                        Morimoto for Bento Box though may be too late...
                                                                                                        Hog Island Oysters
                                                                                                        $20 taste of the town? or DT Vintners?

                                                                                                        Saturday – June 29
                                                                                                        Leave hotel at 9am, head back to San Francisco

                                                                                                        Spend the day walking around Mission/Valencia

                                                                                                        Tartine Bakery for snack or Craftsman and Wolves?
                                                                                                        Mission Chinese for Lunch
                                                                                                        Bi-Rite Creamery
                                                                                                        Bar Tartine or St. Vincent for Dinner.

                                                                                                        Thanks for all feedback in advance,

                                                                                                        Mark Adamowicz

                                                                                                        33 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                          BART to Powell: Taxi: be sure to be on North side of Mkt St .. shorter cab ride to your hotel since cars cannot make left turns on downtown part of Mkt St.

                                                                                                          After checking in your hotel, walk up Bush to Powell and make sure you get on cable car that will end up at Beach/Hyde. BUT if you have to be at Pier 33 by 1 pm that does not leave enough time for cable car (they are slow) AND lunch. I suggest you take a cab to Ferry Bldg and eat at Hog Island, then walk or take a cab to Pier 33 as the streetcars are not that frequent.

                                                                                                          After Alcatraz, get taxi to take you down Lombard St and then back to your hotel.

                                                                                                          After Li Po, it's down hill to walk to R & G or Tadich. I love Tadich but one good thing about R & G, they take reservations .. specify no basement seating and get the crab. But if you arrive at Tadich a bit before 9 pm, the wait should not be long.

                                                                                                          1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                            California St. cable car to the water from your hotel is a bit tricky due to some physical logistics. Options follow:
                                                                                                            1. Turn right going out of your hotel, then turn right (north) on Powell and walk two blocks up the hill (very steep!) to catch the California St. cable car at California & Powell -- that will take you almost to the Ferry Building. Don't try to catch the Powell St cable car for the two blocks up the hill -- they're usually very full on that stretch.
                                                                                                            2. For a much easier walk, turn left leaving your hotel, and then left (north) again on Stockton, and walk the two blocks up to California.

                                                                                                            1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                              Unless you really don't like walking, Li Po to Tadich is a pleasant downhill stroll. Jai Yun is also nearby.

                                                                                                              It might be easier to hail a cab if you got out at the Montgomery St. BART. Or just catch a shared-ride van at the airport, that would be around $35 for two vs. $16.50, a lot of convenience and time savings for the modest extra cost, heading into the City there's little or no wait.

                                                                                                              1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                As a fellow tourist, I like your SF eating itin, well done! You might want to bag your Saturday dinner reso soon as your two choices are pretty popular.

                                                                                                                We've tried every transport mode in from SFO to the Vintage Court and settled on BART. It takes the same amount of time even in rush hour, you know where you're going to stop (shared van can be a goat path), and you know the driving is going to be sane :-). I suppose there is always the chance of a breakdown but it's prolly less likely than a traffic jam, which we've been in virtually every time we've driven.

                                                                                                                Consider walking up from the BART station when you arrive if your luggage is wheeled -- it's kind of fun to be in the maelstrom of the cable car turnaround/Union Square vibe right away. Yes, it's uphill, but only the last two blocks are challenging and you can take them at your own pace.

                                                                                                                You can also buy one-day Muni passes at the little kiosk next to the turnaround right away and use them for the whole day.

                                                                                                                1. re: markadamowicz


                                                                                                                  Just got back and I promised I'd comment on the Westin. Location was nice, just up the block from Oxbow Market, very convenient for breakfast as Model Bakery was open early (although I found the sandwich needed a wee bit of salt). Easy to walk around Napa as well. The wifi is spotty though especially if your room is far at the end of the hall, we actually had to change because we got virtually no signal on any of our 4 devices. We had dinner downstairs one night at The Bank, they had a nice enough half bottle selection although we opted for cocktails (being wine-d out). They do happy hour tapas and wine tasting between 5-7 in the lobby, it was a small no tasting room winery on the evening I ventured down. I believe you can park on the street yourself although there was no additional charge to valet the car (aside from tip).

                                                                                                                  Bi-Rite, worth the wait in line. I preferred the Salted Caramel to the fancy place in Paris on Ile St Louis (?). Comstock, very nice cocktail the waiter recommended based on what I said I liked. Redd, I think well worth it for dinner, was very happy there for lunch, the hamachi and tuna tartare was really refreshing with good textures and flavour. Glazed pork belly was also really good, if not super rich, on it's own, I found it a bit too much but with the apple puree, it really shined.

                                                                                                                  Taylor's Refresher...loved the garlic fries, they reminded me of fries in Buenos Aires, with the garlic and parsley oil in it. I had a stomach ache and still managed to polish off quite a few they were so good. Had the texas burger, it was good but not great. The toppings made it while I found the patty flavour got lost but great texture on the patty, not overworked. Thought the bun could be better, got a little squishy from the juices.

                                                                                                                  Mission Chinese is closed for summer holidays until July something. I went to Mission Cheese which I really enjoyed, nice selection and relaxed pace of life.

                                                                                                                  Sorry for the hodge podge approach and hopefully this helps!

                                                                                                                  1. re: bdachow

                                                                                                                    This was very very helpful. Thank you to EVERYONE who helped me. Did you visit any wineries?

                                                                                                                    I leave tomorrow for my trip...! Can't wait although day 1 in san Francisco seems to be all rain. Alcatraz may be a wee bit cold/wet. Could be worse!

                                                                                                                    Mark Adamowicz

                                                                                                                    1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                      >>"Alcatraz may be a wee bit cold/wet."

                                                                                                                      Then you will get the true SF summer experience!

                                                                                                                      1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                                                                        LOL. Actual rain, which they're predicting for tomorrow, is actually quite rare in the summer. But I think Alcatraz is much more atmospheric in the rain! Maybe add an Irish Coffee at Buena Vista to the itinerary.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                          My wife and I have been on only 3 trips sans kids (we have 3 daughters) in 12 years....Bermuda and Tuscany both started out day 1 in rain and the rest of those trips are wonderful. Its sort of a tradition....

                                                                                                                          Looking into Calistoga mud baths at the moment. Maybe a nice birthday present for my wife on our last day in napa.

                                                                                                                          any advice on the following places for tastings:

                                                                                                                          chateau montelena
                                                                                                                          Freemark Abbey
                                                                                                                          Beau Vigne
                                                                                                                          St. Supery

                                                                                                                          again....looking for casual tastings with interesting/beautiful surroundings....not necessarily long educational tours...

                                                                                                                          still a little in shock that Mission Chinese will be closed....ugh.

                                                                                                                          Mark Adamowicz

                                                                                                                          1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                            Mud baths in Calistoga are great, especially after a couple of pints at the Calistoga Inn. Smell takes a little getting used to, but very relaxing. We have always enjoyed St Suprey, don't miss the hidden gems on the Silverado Trail, Black Stallion is one of them.

                                                                                                                            1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                              Rain is supposed to be light, supposed to be clear in afternoon .. after this, we begin a warm spell but in SF itself, always cool in summer, always need a jacket and scarf, esp. going to Alcatraz.

                                                                                                                              1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                                I'm not a fan of mud baths specifically, but there are lots of spa options in Calistoga. You have lots of recommendations for pretty wineries throughout this thread. At this point I think you need to get out a map and see where some of them are in relation to each other and put together some clusters. Also, take the Silverado Trail (one of only two main roads running up the valley) whenever possible, as the traffic on 29 gets old really fast and it's not as scenic (IMHO).

                                                                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                  Ruth knows. Not a fan either of mud baths either.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                    Thank you. Yes, I have a great map of all of the vineyards, just was wondering if I had missed anything specific...

                                                                                                                                    I think the mud bath, like parachuting, is something to try once and a good story to take back with me from Napa.

                                                                                                                                    I'm really grateful for all of the advice the past month. Thank you again for all of the tough love.


                                                                                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                                      Here's the trip so far

                                                                                                                                      I'm @markadamowicz in Instagram if anyone wants to see the adventures

                                                                                                                                      6/25 - we left the house at 3am!

                                                                                                                                      BART from airport to SF was easy. Walked up hill to drop bags off.

                                                                                                                                      Walked to Ferry Market. Bought a samosa from a vendor. Had wonderful oysters, beer and conversation at the Hog Island oyster bar. Just beat the crowd by 5 minutes

                                                                                                                                      Bought a "cured meat in a paper cone" at Bocccalone and a beautiful sandwich for later.

                                                                                                                                      Had an espresso at blue bottle coffee

                                                                                                                                      Bought a tamale and papoosa from vendors in the farmers market

                                                                                                                                      Grabbed a taxi and headed to pier 33 for Alcatraz tour. Made it by only 5 minutes! Glad we had tickets, next available are in July 7! Alcatraz was awesome and it was overcast, we never saw rain!

                                                                                                                                      Walked to pier 39 through all of the awful shop area only to get to completely sea lion free docks!! My friend saw them last week, but they are gone for a while I guess.

                                                                                                                                      Walked through even more awful fishermans wharf, but an in b out burger made it bearable.

                                                                                                                                      Continued on to ghiradelli square and then walked up to Lombard street and halfway down it and back up. Ride the cable car back to our hotel.

                                                                                                                                      Had a wonderful dinner at R&G lounge after walking through Chinatown. The salt and peeper crab and salt and pepper calamari were perfect. The bok choi was perfect. There was a 30 minute wait, but we found searing at the bar and Mai tai's passed the time. I'll be in Asia a week from Sunday and this meal stood up to Hong Kong standards.

                                                                                                                                      We walked the Comstock saloon and had 2 absolutely perfect cocktails. Great bartender. Cool space. Jazz on the balcony. Loved everything about it. My wife was too tired to check out Mr. Bing's we walked back to the hotel (lots of walking today) after being up 24 hours straight.

                                                                                                                                      June 26

                                                                                                                                      Walked a beautiful cool mile to grab our Fiat rental.

                                                                                                                                      Stopped by the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts for a leisurely morning stroll. Nice and serene.

                                                                                                                                      Someone recommended we stop in Sausilito so after driving over the golden gate which was too foggy to even see until we were on it, we ate at an outside cafe looking at the water. This town is beautiful. Wow.

                                                                                                                                      We made a spontaneous stop at Domaine Carnerous for a picture and ended up having a flute of bubbly each outside overlooking complete paradise. Glad we stopped and we talked to one of the waiters for 10 minutes. He highly recommended we check out Artesa around the corner.

                                                                                                                                      Artesa was a joy. Beautiful grounds. I had a 2 for 1 tasting app. We ended up staying here over 2 hours. Tasted lots of wines on and off the menu at a leisurely pace. Our taster was a joy to speak with. We had her to ourselves at the tasting bar for Nearly the entire time. I don't really like Chardonnay and ended up buying a bottle. Best I have ever had. Ended up with 2 free corkscrews as well. Just a perfect wine country experience filled with great conversation about food and travel and got some local insight into where to go and where not to go.

                                                                                                                                      Checked into the Westin Verasa and headed north.

                                                                                                                                      Stopped at Oakville Grocery despite the fact that Dean and Deluca now own it. Had 2 just ok sandwiches, but bought a bottle of wine and homemade pickles too. Eating outside looking at the vineyard sipping wine made it all worth it.

                                                                                                                                      Took some pictures of Opus One and jumped on the 4pm mondavi tour and tasting, last available for the day. This was the opposite of our moring/afternoon experience at Artesa, but I wanted one full blast tour and our guide did a great job and outside and inside the winery was great to see. That will be it for tours on this trip unless we get off the waiting list at shramsburg today/tomorrow.

                                                                                                                                      Drive down to Yountville to plot dinner. It was hot out, but shade helped meltdowns. Everything here seems to close at 5pm and it was 6pm at this point.

                                                                                                                                      We walked around town and the grounds of Ad Hoc. Ad Hoc was closed for a private event though the restaurant and grounds were completely empty.we saw the area that they grow some of their herbs etc. my wife may have eaten the best tangerine of our lives off one if the trees. Shhhhh.

                                                                                                                                      We ended up finding our way to 2 open seas at the bar at Redd. GREAT bartenders! Each had a glass of wine and then a complimentary scallop dish appeared. So good. We ordered tuna tartare with some crispy rice and avocados. Total perfection. Then a complimentary yellow tail appetizer appeared. Wow again. We ordered the pork belly which was cooked perfectly and the taste of Hong Kong came though. Finally we got some fried calamari. Who cares, right? Well, it had tamarind sauce under it. What a surprise to taste how this worked so well together. New flavor combination for us. Finished with a perfect bourbon and honey/chai/bitter Lemon soda cocktail. Great conversations, leisurely pace and flawless food.

                                                                                                                                      We walked around town a bit more, saw where Bouchon was, it was pretty busy. Found a grocery store open and bought some Rose, A Napa IPAD beer, some cheese and pretzel bread that came from Bouchon bakery. Enjoyed some back at the hotel.

                                                                                                                                      Great First day in Napa. All if the research helped so much.

                                                                                                                                      Today...we'll see. We have 2:30 tasting at Joseph Phelps scheduled. May go to St. Supery this morning, back track to take a shot at an Addendum lunch and then JP at 2:30 and drink up at Auberge after that.

                                                                                                                                      Mark Adamowicz

                                                                                                                                      1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                                        Sounds like you are having the perfect SF/Napa holiday so far!

                                                                                                                                          1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                                            Sounds to me like you should move here!!!

                                                                                                                                            I'm so happy you both are having such a "perfect" time. I'm very surprised you're able to walk the steep hills .. and, with luggage, no less.

                                                                                                                                            I come away from this report realizing how significant it is to have good interactions with the service people.

                                                                                                                                            At least, make your next visit here longer!!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: walker

                                                                                                                                              Yay on the trip so far! Redd sounds right up my alley -- we really need to get back to wine country, it's been too long. And glad the walk up to the hotel with luggage was fine for you. I'm not at all "sporty" and always manage it, as I said above, by taking those last two blocks at my own pace.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: walker

                                                                                                                                                Ok, back to reality, but here's how the rest of our trip panned out:

                                                                                                                                                June 27 - Thursday

                                                                                                                                                Walked down to Model Bakery next to Oxbow. Had the best English muffin breakfast sandwich of my life and a pretty decent double espresso. Peek into Oxbow Market to scope out plans for later

                                                                                                                                                We drove directly to Schramsberg to beg for a tour since they were all booked up for days. They said they would be happy to see us at 11:30am. It was 10am.

                                                                                                                                                Walked around Clos Pegase and took some pictures of the MIchael Graves building/sculpture...very cool. No one there that early.

                                                                                                                                                Buzzed over to Sterling and took the gondola tour. Extraordinary views, subpar wines...as expected. So glad we did it for the views and we were up in the area anyway.

                                                                                                                                                The Schramsberg tour was the greatest. We toured the caves, our guide was fantastic (and from Massachusetts as so may people we met on this trip were) and we sampled 6 types of sparkling wine by candlelight. Home run is all senses.

                                                                                                                                                Had lunch at Gott's. We loved everything about this. Green chili cheesbuerger, garlic fries and three unbelievable Ahi Poke tacos. Wow. This place is a great experience on a nice day

                                                                                                                                                We had a tasting at Jospeh Phelps at 2:30. Alternated between inside and outside since it was about 100 degrees out. Beautiful views, great tasting room, really great wines and everyone was friendly. We lingered here for a while since the views were just stunning.

                                                                                                                                                Had 1 drink each (the cheapest we could get) at Auberge Du Soliel and once again were spoiled by the visual riches of this area.

                                                                                                                                                Drove back to the Westin Verasa and walked down to Oxbow and had a glass of wine and cheese sampler inside the market. Great Bartender (they all seem to be great around here). We then walked downtown to the Chef's night deal. WOW. Thousands of people, had some wine out on the street, empinada's from a truck and talked to Marine Core League people (my father-in-law is one back here and I have an auxillairy guest card these guys got a kick out of). Met some other people and juts talked and laughed for a couple hours. Headed back on foot to the hotel. Great day

                                                                                                                                                June 28th - Friday

                                                                                                                                                Got up around 5:30am and went for a stroll downtown. Quite a difference from the night before.

                                                                                                                                                We drove to Yountville and ate breakfast at Bouchon Bakery. I had a ham and cheese croissant, bacon and cheddar muffin and a double espresso (I've never had a regular cup of coffee in my life surprisingly). They mixed my order up and I waited a little longer than usual so they gave me a package of shortbread cookies and and a ham and cheese baguette for the road.

                                                                                                                                                We did a tour of Mumm at 10am, but didn't stay for any samples....just wanted to learn a little more about bubbly.

                                                                                                                                                My wife wasn't feeling 100% and it was 105 out so we strolled around Mt. Helena and then back to Yountvile. I bought some salt in NapaStyle and took some pictures of the French laundry garden.

                                                                                                                                                We had lunch at Ad Hoc/Addendum. The fried chicken was great and a crisp glass of rose on a hot day hit the spot. I really like this outdoor space.

                                                                                                                                                We headed back to the hotel via Silverado trail and spent a couple hours in the pool eating some bread and cheese we picked up and some cured meat from the Fatted Calf we bought on the way home.

                                                                                                                                                We headed back downtown and had a dynamite night art Zuzu. The bartender was really coll, we got 2 seats at the bar. Had a perfect peach salad with pecorino and a pork-ish taco with bean and some anchovies and poached egg on well oiled toast. I loved every bit of these tapas. Had a tasty Piny the Elder beer. Some people invited us next door to Morimoto for drinks, but we passed and walked back to the hotel since we were leaving for San Francisco in the morning.

                                                                                                                                                We stopped in Berkeley to get my daughter a sweatshirt since I named her after this town. No deal. We did find a pair of shorts that said Berkeley. I got my picture under the Chez Panisse sigh which made me happy.

                                                                                                                                                We returned the Fiat to the rental place and took a cap to our apartment we rented in the mission on 18th and Valencia. Cool area.

                                                                                                                                                I had a sausage and softboiled egg muffin at Crafstman and Wolves, we went to a lot of stores and stuck our head into St. Vincent since tey were doing a tasting with some snacks for lunch.

                                                                                                                                                We ended up staying here 90 minutes. Did a beautiful Rose tasting and the owner, David Lynch, talked to us nearly the entire time. He used the be the wine buyer for Babbo and I asked him lots of questions about people he knos like Mario batali, april bloomfield, gabrielle Hamilton, chad roberetson, and the owner/founder of Eataly. I gave him a rundown of some of my food hobbies and he was impressed. Great guy and the curry egg, beet egg and shrimp and tomato on toast went perfectly with all of the wines. I told him a few easy ways to grill pizza too. Funny stuff. We brainstormed on a book about 10 cool things everyone should know how to do.

                                                                                                                                                I got my haircut at FSC and a glorious warm shaving crea/straight razoe shave of my neck. Super interesting barber as well. Great time.

                                                                                                                                                We stopped at a pupoosa-ria off Valencia and had a chicken and beef and a couple of beers. Hard to find these back home.

                                                                                                                                                People wetre getting ready for the oncoming parade (the "ladies" parade is the more polite way of describing it).

                                                                                                                                                We popped in Locanda for a cocktail each, it was busy but minty cold cocktails hit the spot.

                                                                                                                                                We watched the parade from different points for an hour or so and then headed back over to Valencia and finished the night at Bar Tartine.

                                                                                                                                                Beautiful cocktails, great local beer, pickled mushrooms, beets, carrots and cauliflower, unbelievable sipcy peppers with goat cheese, potato bread with sour cream and dill and for dinner we split a green chile seafood stew. Hit the sack after this and were at the airport this morning by 4:30am to fly back.

                                                                                                                                                THANKS TO ALL FOR ALL OF THE HELP AND RECOMMEDATIONS. YOU GUYS MADE MY TRIP WHAT IT WAS...

                                                                                                                                                Mark Adamowicz

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                                                    you really did it right! glad you enjoyed, loved the reports.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for all the specifics! Glad you had a special time.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                                                    sounds fab! glad you loved Artesa - one of my favorites.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                                                      "but an in b out burger made it bearable."
                                                                                                                                                      I just love that....not really sure why.
                                                                                                                                                      Glad you are having such a good time, Mark. Keep it up, and keep us posted.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                *Beaulieu Vineyard, not Beau Vigne....

                                                                                                                                                1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                                                  Would skip Beaulieu if you want scenic. They just have tasting rooms and no view.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: goldangl95

                                                                                                                                                    Old school here: I love the mud baths. They are so 1950's at Dr. Wilkensen's. You are deep, deep in thick mud -- more like wet cement. No yuppification. But, I also like the Russian & Turkish Baths on East 10th St in New York. Unforgettable, but not for everybody.

                                                                                                                                                    For a more upscale version, try the mudslide at Solage, also in Calistoga. IMHO, this is the best spa in Napa Valley with extensive pools and treatment rooms. You apply the delicate palate of various muds to your bodies (designed for couples) in a heated treatment room rather than jump into a molten tub. Cleaner, more discrete, less old school.

                                                                                                                                                    Take your choice. But, I'd do one or the other. Taking the mud is Calistoga is a unique opportunity.

                                                                                                                                                    Looking forward to your trip report.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cortez

                                                                                                                                                      Cortez, you are bringing me back to going for it....at Solage. Might be the best of both worlds....

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                                                        Solage is a great spa. I went with girlfriends a couple years back and had a great experience.

                                                                                                                                                        As for wineries, I did Robert Biale (felt very wine geek-ish), then our tour through Sonoma did Saintsbury (very relaxing, tasting in the garden, however it was windy so a bit chilly but they had blankets), Scribe (picnic tables overlooking the vineyard, super relaxed and fun different styles of wines, think unoaked chard), Imagery (cool setting, artwork in gardens but was a bit busy and the last of the day so my tastebuds were shot). Then I had an appt at Smith Madrone (super informative but casual, hard to get to but chatting with Charlie, the winemaker and tasting over his desk in the warehouse was fun), swung past St. Clements (had an order to fill) and Ballentine (one of my fave Zins).

                                                                                                                                                        Good luck and you'll have loads of fun, I know I want to go back already!

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: cortez

                                                                                                                                                        Ok, just realized addendum is not open for lunch on Wednesdays....so....my Yountville area winery Wednesday afternoon needs a different lunch place......amazing what I find out last minute...


                                                                                                                                                        1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                                                          If you haven't reserved for dinner at Redd and they're Full. Maybe try them.for lunch instead. Sorry for.the fat finger typos.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                                            Make sure you have a reservation at Schramsberg - they are by appointment only

                                                                                                                                          3. I'm feeling good about San Francisco, still could use some help on my latest Napa Itinerary. Thanks in advance.

                                                                                                                                            Mark Adamowicz

                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: markadamowicz

                                                                                                                                              Drive to Napa.....need breakfast between SF and Napa?
                                                                                                                                              >> Not really necessary. In the morning(ish), the drive to Napa is an hour-and-a-half or so.

                                                                                                                                              Golden Gate Bridge stop?
                                                                                                                                              >> Only if you REALLY want to stop and take pictures. If the weather is clear, it can be lovely. If it is foggy, don't bother.

                                                                                                                                              Drop bags off at hotel:
                                                                                                                                              Westin Verasa Napa
                                                                                                                                              >> You will be right next to Oxbow. You could grab some breakfast there; the Huevos Rancheros at C-Casa or a breakfast Tartine from Model (I love those).

                                                                                                                                              Fried Chicken Lunch in Youtville at Addendum (back of ad hoc)

                                                                                                                                              Buy Bottle of Overture at Opus One?
                                                                                                                                              >> If you really like spending that kind of money. You could channel those funds into better wine elsewhere, I think.

                                                                                                                                              Domaine Chandon
                                                                                                                                              >> I like the artwork and the food tastings.

                                                                                                                                              >> Meh.

                                                                                                                                              or Stay in Yountville.....How about Mondavi? St. Supery/Pine Ridge?
                                                                                                                                              >> St. Supery is my favorite of your list - but moreso for their unusual grapes. Ask for the stuff that is poured for the club members or anything unusual. They also have GREAT artwork. Mondavi is another Disneyland-like winery in its ability to process customers. Find something smaller and more personal, IMHO.

                                                                                                                                              Dinner at Ad Hoc

                                                                                                                                              or, more likely...

                                                                                                                                              Dinner at Redd
                                                                                                                                              >> Redd.

                                                                                                                                              Thursday – June 27

                                                                                                                                              Breakfast at Bouchon Bakery

                                                                                                                                              >> Because you want to ride a gondola? Otherwise, a pretty wasted visit.

                                                                                                                                              Scramsberg Vineyards
                                                                                                                                              >> Great choice.


                                                                                                                                              Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen
                                                                                                                                              >> My least favorite restaurant in St. Helena. I prefer Cook or Goose & Gander, but I'm not that big on her fusion flavors.

                                                                                                                                              Gott’s Roadside/Taylor’s refresher
                                                                                                                                              >> Good burgers, but expensive and *very* filling. My choice there is pretty much always the Ahi Burger.

                                                                                                                                              Terrace Tasting at Joseph Phelps

                                                                                                                                              Drink at Auberge Du Soliel

                                                                                                                                              Back to Hotel

                                                                                                                                              Dinner at Zuzu
                                                                                                                                              >> I love this place. Very unassuming with lovely tapas.

                                                                                                                                              Friday - June 28
                                                                                                                                              Breakfast at model Bakery
                                                                                                                                              >> Grace's Table also has a nice sit-down breakfast and Sweetie Pies also has great pastries (better sticky buns!)


                                                                                                                                              >> Love their artwork!

                                                                                                                                              Rest of Day in Downtown Napa

                                                                                                                                              Morimoto for Bento Box though may be too late...
                                                                                                                                              >> Try for this. It is the best way to taste his food without spending too much money.

                                                                                                                                              Hog Island Oysters
                                                                                                                                              $20 taste of the town? or DT Vintners?
                                                                                                                                              >> I don't think it is worth it - especially since it is summer (months with "R" and the oysters are flabby and milky).

                                                                                                                                              Saturday – June 29
                                                                                                                                              Leave hotel at 9am, head back to San Francisco
                                                                                                                                              >> You could consider breakfast at Boon Fly on your way out. Amazing bacon Bloody Marys and individual to-order doughnuts. MUST HAVE!

                                                                                                                                              Spend the day walking around Mission/Valencia

                                                                                                                                              1. re: CarrieWas218

                                                                                                                                                Golden Gate Bridge stop?
                                                                                                                                                >> Only if you REALLY want to stop and take pictures. If the weather is clear, it can be lovely. If it is foggy, don't bother.
                                                                                                                                                Practicing your understatement? The view from the vista points is "lovely." The view from the Marin headlands to the west of the bridge is spectacular. Depending on the fog pattern, it can even be worthwhile on a foggy day. So plan to stop and take a personal look at one of the most breathtaking views in the world!