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Archive for the ‘San Francisco’ Category

This week’s travel idea was inspired by the recent NYC marathon.  Watching it on TV reminded me of when I ran the race a few years ago.  Back then I was pretty active in signing up for races all over the city.  While it was great challenging myself physically, what I loved most about those races was the ability to go places I’ve never been before.  The NYC marathon winds through all five boroughs and took me through neighborhoods that I never even knew about.  I think that for those who love to run, a marathon-cation is truly an epic way to experience a city.  There are numerous marathons that give you an up-close-and-personal experience of the location, like the Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Disney World (!) marathons.  But I’m sure that one of the most scenic would be the Big Sur Marathon that happens in the Spring.  While the marathon is already full, there are numerous smaller races that you can still sign up for.  What could be more wonderful than spending half a day running along the beautiful Pacific Coastline and then spending the rest of the weekend wining and dining in nearby Carmel?

Featured Travel Idea: Carmel-by-the-Sea

 top: chateau julien, la bicyclette, carmel mission

middle: l’auberge carmel, big sur marathon, mission ranch

bottom: carmel beach, point lobos state reserve, downtown carmel

First off, book a stay at the L’Auberge Carmel, a beautiful boutique hotel that looks like it was plucked straight from the French countryside.  As luck would have it, Voyage Prive is having a flash sale on the hotel in a few days so you may score a great deal!  The race is on Sunday so you may want to take it easy before then.  Go for a leisurely walk on Carmel Beach, one of the most serene and scenic beaches on the Pacific Coast.  Then visit the Carmel Mission and stroll through the poppy gardens.  Or head to charming downtown Carmel where you can shop, eat, and browse art galleries.  You’ll want to fortify for the big race tomorrow so have a delicious dinner at Casanova or La Bicyclette, two restaurants that are known for great food and great atmosphere.  After the race, why not unwind with some wine tasting at Chateau Julien Wine Estate.  Travelzoo also happens to have a great deal that includes wine tasting for 2, a bottle of wine and appetizers, all for $25*.  Cap off the weekend with a visit to the historic Mission Ranch for dinner and music.  If you’re lucky, you may even see Clint Eastwood there.

*disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with these discount websites, I just enjoy spreading the word on good deals!

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The mission burrito, oh how I love thee.  While the hubs and I didn’t go out on our usual Friday date night, we did enjoy some yummy Mexican take-out.  San Francisco is known for Mexican food and Mission Street is chock full of taquerias that offer light on the wallet, delicious food.  Ask any local and they will surely have a different opinion on where to find the best burrito.  However, Taqueria Can-Cun does boast the distinction of best burrito 10 years in a row (and boast they do, it’s printed on their menu!).  We have been to other taquerias but so far our favorite is this place.  While the ambiance leaves much to be desired, the food more than makes up for it.  The menu is fairly simple and while they offer other typical Mexican fare, by far the most popular item is the burrito, but not just any burrito, the Super Burrito!  Suffice it to say you will not leave hungry!  The hubs always opts for the carne asada, while I always order the marinated pork.   They’re both delicious.  Other items we’ve tried include Super Nachos with marinated pork and Menudo, which is a traditional Mexican soup, served only on weekends.  Both are good and recommended.  The restaurant is open until 1am on weekdays and 2am on weekends, which is always great when you’ve got a late night snack attack!

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Taqueria Can-Cun

2288 Mission Street, between 18th & 19th St.

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I have a love-hate relationship with the San Francisco hills.  Living on top of a hill, it’s always a little windier and chillier than the rest of the city.  Not only that, but if I want to take a walk, grab a cup of coffee, or grocery shop, I simply walk down the hill which is all well and good, until I have to drudge up that blasted hill later to get home.  I convince myself that my rear will thank me one day, but I have yet to see any changes.  However, living in a hilly city also means unbelievable views.  I’m constantly amazed that no matter how many hills I climb up, I will always get a different view of the city that takes my breath away.

The hubs and I are fortunate enough to live close to Buena Vista Park and Corona Heights, two parks that are literally a block apart but offers a slightly different perspective of the city.

There are several entrance points to the Buena Vista Park, from the bottom at Haight Street, all along Buena Vista Avenue, and also at the top at Upper Terrace.  Once you enter the park though, it’s like another world, you don’t feel like you are in the middle of a major city until you get glimpses of the skyline through the trees.

Since the park is elevated it makes for a good workout just by walking to the top.  There’s paved trails, unpaved trails, and stairs within the park, making for a nice, varied walk.

It’s a wonderful park to bring your pooch or if you want some peace and quiet since it’s mostly frequented by locals looking to work out or walk their dog off leash.  We have been to the park about every other week since we moved here and we’ve never seen more than a handful of people during our entire walk.  There’s also a children’s playground, tennis courts, dog run, and benches sprinkled throughout.  It’s probably a 1 hour leisurely stroll to the top and back down again, making for a wonderful way to get some fresh air.

If you have time, exit Buena Vista Park at the Upper Terrace entrance, walk a block to Masonic Avenue, take a left and head straight to Corona Heights Park.  This park is mostly barren, a stark contrast to the heavily wooded park you just came from, but if you climb to the peak, you will have an expansive unobstructed view of downtown San Francisco.

My sentiments exactly!

What: Buena Vista Park and Corona Heights Park

Where: Multiple entrances to Buena Vista, Roosevelt and Museum Way for Corona Heights

Activity: Hiking, Walking (~1 hour round-trip, Easy to Moderate)

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Last Friday, the hubs and I took advantage of Outback’s free steak dinner promo.  While Outback certainly is delicious and can make a great date night (I love me some bloomin’ onions and wings), it’s a popular chain so I’m sure most of you guys don’t need me to tell you about the food.  Not to fret though, I had the pleasure of trying the famous Hog Island Oyster Company for lunch the following day so I’ll tell you about that experience!

Those of you who have visited or live in the San Francisco Bay Area know that going to the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market on Saturday is a must for any food lover.  And it’s even better when it’s a gorgeous day.  But of course that also means that there’ll be tons of other people there so be prepared to wait!  My friends and I ended up waiting close to 1 hour, but we were able to snag an outdoor table with views of the Bay Bridge so it was all worth it.  Since there was 4 of us, we decided to split the Oyster Bar Mix.  Our server made sure we had 4 of each kind of oysters for a total of 2 dozen so we’d all be able to try everything.  The oysters were a-mazing!  Each one was so tasty and refreshing.  The highlight for the whole table was the New Zealand oysters (sorry, I can’t remember the exact name).  My friend is from New Zealand, which is known for some of the best oysters in the world, and even he thought it was especially good!

We also ordered the grilled cheese sandwich, the clam chowder, and a light mixed greens salad.  I didn’t try the grilled cheese but my friend, who loves cheese, said that it was really delicious.  The clam chowder was also tasty.  It’s thinner than what you’d typically expect of New England clam chowders, but it did have an abundance of fresh clams (with the shell and everything!).

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Needless to say I would highly recommend Hog Island to anyone who’s an oyster enthusiast.  If you ever get the chance though, visit their oyster farm up in Tomales Bay (about an hour and a half north of SF) for a true farm-to-table experience.  You can buy fresh oysters to go, shuck them on-site at their picnic grounds, or have a meal at The Boat, which offers various shellfish, cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, and charcuterie from Fatted Calf, all good stuff!

Hog Island Oyster Company

1 Ferry Building, Shop #11

and

20215 Highway 1

Marshall, CA

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I hope everyone is enjoying their extra hour of sleep, drinking, tv-watching, whatever, tonight! I know I’m a bit late with this post, but better late than never right?  So a few weeks ago, my friend and I trekked up to Napa Valley for a biking tour.  I was a bit apprehensive at first, mainly because of 1) the early meeting time and 2) drinking and riding sounded like it could be hazardous.  But I’m so glad I did it!  It was such a great experience and it really gave me the chance to appreciate the beautiful scenery between wineries.

There’s a number of bike tour companies in Napa Valley, but we ended up selecting the explicitly named Napa Valley Bike Tours since they offered half day tours as well as full day ones.  We liked that we’d be able to visit 2-3 wineries with the tour and finish in time to have lunch wherever we wanted. Also, the half day tour allowed us usage of the bikes for the rest of the day so we were able to visit more wineries at our own pace as long as we returned the bikes by 5:30 in the evening.  I would highly recommend this option since you have more flexibility while still getting some of the tour benefits.

We started the tour in Yountville, which is a really charming town (check out my travel inspiration post!).  I grabbed some coffee and a few muffins from the Yountville Coffee Caboose, about half a mile down from the bike shop, for breakfast and snacking throughout the day (I highly recommend the morning glory muffin!), although that proved unnecessary since the tour provided energy bars.

The first stop was to the spot of the first winery in Napa where our guide, a highly energetic 60 year old lady, gave us the history of California and Napa Valley.  It was interesting and informational, but for those of you who aren’t interested in that kind of stuff or have a short attention span, you can amuse yourself with the cow pasture across the way, as I did.

Afterwards we visited Sawyer Cellars, a small family owned winery that has tastings by appointment only.  One of the benefits of the tour is that the guides really know the area and they are able to recommend the less touristy wineries.  We then headed to St. Helena Olive Oil Company, which is a really cute store full of different kinds of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pasta sauce, mustard, and more, all of which you can taste with bits of bread.  And boy did I try them all!  I really fell in love with the truffle olive oil but at $45 a bottle, I really couldn’t justify buying it then, but maybe I’ll take the dive and buy it the next time I visit.  Finally, after what seemed like a long bike ride, we visited our last winery, Rutherford Hill Winery, which as you can guess by the name, is on a hill.  So while it made for great views, it was quite an effort reaching it.  After that, my friend and I returned back to Yountville on our own since the rest of the people on the tour paid for the full day.

Overall we really enjoyed the tour, however I do wish it had been better organized.  Since my friend and I were the only ones on the half day tour, we were placed with the full day tour and was expected to leave after lunch.  The full day tour group is of course able to take things more leisurely so I felt like we were shortchanged since we only visited two wineries which went about an hour and a half over the estimated time.  If the tour had been organized specifically for the half day, we probably would’ve finished on time or been able to squeeze in a 3rd winery.  The only other thing I feel I should mention is that while the website lists the bike tour as easy and on flat to rolling roads, I would say it’s moderate with some uphill roads.  I’m pretty fit, yet I found myself exerting quite a bit of energy on the trail.  Nonetheless, I would still recommend this activity.

 Sawyer Cellars vineyard

view from inside St. Helena Olive Oil Company

view from the picnic area at Rutherford Hills Winery

along the Silverado Trail

What: Napa Valley Bike Tour

Where:  6795 Washington Street, Yountville, CA

Activity: Biking (~20 miles round-trip; Moderate)

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Armed with a Bloomspot deal (similar to Groupon, sign up!), the hubs and I ate out at Piqueo’s last Friday.  The restaurant is located in the lovely Bernal Heights neighborhood.  Have you guys been? It’s such a quaint neighborhood, with cafes, markets, and little shops like Dog Eared Books (love the name!), that I’m making a mental note to come back for a visit during the daytime.  Also, nearby is the Bernal Heights Park which is known for being one of the most dog friendly parks and boasts wonderful views of the city.

Anyway, back to the restaurant.  Piqueo’s serves contemporary Peruvian cuisine.  They offer a variety of tapas and also larger entrees.  We had been craving cebiches for a while so of course we shared the Cebiche Mixto as an appetizer.  While the fish pieces were a little larger than we’d like, we’re used to the bite size pieces, it was still tasty and refreshing.  For our entrees, we shared an order of the Clasico Paella and the Adobo, which is pork shoulder braised in adobo sauce.  The paella was chock full of seafood, which is great, however I did wish they had put more rice into the dish to make it a little more substantial.  The adobo dish was so delicious.  It was perfectly cooked and the meat was especially tender.  Again, we opted to skip dessert and decided to stop by Mitchell’s Ice Cream for some take-away ice-cream.  There’s just something so wonderful about curling up on the couch with a bowlful of ice-cream!

Piqueo’s

830 Cortland Avenue, between Ellsworth & Gates St.

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Woodhouse Fish Co. is one of those restaurants everybody would want in their neighborhood.  It has a casual, yet lively atmosphere, friendly staff, and a good selection of seafood staples.  The only negative is that it’s so popular that there is always a wait and they don’t take reservations.  Despite the wait though, their offering of comfort type food is enough to keep us coming back.

We started with a bowl of their creamy New England clam chowder and the fried whole-belly Ipswich clams.  The clam chowder was wonderfully thick and creamy with a great taste that is not too salty or greasy.  We’re a sucker for fried calamari so the fried clams were a nice change.  It had a nice clam-y taste and you could tell that it was fresh.  Definitely brought back memories of eating fresh seafood by the seaside.  For our entrees, the hubs HAD to have the split-top Maine lobster roll, really the reason why we tried the restaurant in the first place since he has never had a lobster roll before.  Of course he also HAD to order the larger version which is 6 oz of creamy lobster meat in the same size bun! He definitely enjoyed the lobster chunks and thought it was tasty, however at $26, it’s a bit steep for him to be ordering it on a regular basis.  I decided to try the stuffed artichoke, a dish that seemed out of place amongst all the fish and shellfish options, but had great reviews.  And let me tell you, it was delicious!  Take a look:

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First, the artichoke is split in half and grilled.  Then, one half is filled with Dungeness Crab and the other half is filled with Bay Shrimp.  Finally, it’s served with a light refreshing salad and garlic bread.  Okay, I’m going to admit something embarrassing, the hubs and I sat there for a good minute wondering how to eat the artichoke before we finally flagged the waiter down and asked her 😦 what??!!  The only artichoke we’ve ever had come in dip form! Hey, you learn something new every day right? So anyway, after we learned that you basically eat it like edamame (nibble on the thick part of the leaf to get the taste and then eat the tender part that comes off easily), we happily nibbled each and every artichoke leaf! To be honest, the seafood part of this dish was a bit bland, but I guess it complemented the artichoke well since it was so flavorful.  The salad was also a good complement to the artichoke and the garlic bread helped to make the dish a bit more substantial.

Overall it was a good and informative dining experience! Our only complaint would be that the meal ended up a bit pricier than we were expecting.  Next time we come back though will definitely be a Tuesday to take advantage of their $1 oysters!

Woodhouse Fish Company

1914 Fillmore Street, between Wilmot & Bush St.

and

2073 Market Street, between 14th & Reservoir St.

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