Of course, while in San Francisco, I could never miss an opportunity to experience the joys of wine country. It was completely different than my experience in Southern France. Napa is absolutely beautiful! Even though it was raining, it was such a serene area. I could live there forever, drinking wine and eating cheese! Small things make me happy. I was chatting with one of the girls who worked at the winery, who said something that made me think. She said that working at Artesa has taught her that wine and good food is not a luxury – it is something that everyone can enjoy from time to time! You don’t have to be a millionaire to take some time to do things you love. There was definitely a similar philosophy in my house in France – but here I sometimes forget it. My host mom taught me that food and wine is one of the great joys of life, and I love meeting people who reinforce that philosophy!

The first vineyard we visited was Artesa Winery. This was so modern – the shop was actually carved out of the ground, and was located on top of a hill that looked over all of the vineyards. Outside was waterfalls and sculptures that added to the beauty. Inside, the artwork and architecture was simplistic and natural, adding to the very earthy feel of the winery. Most importantly, the wine was delicious! Yes, I did taste it at 11am. Go big or go home. My favorite was the Chardonnay.

The next vineyard we went to was Buena Vista . This was totally opposite from Artesa. It had a more country feel, located in a barn with a walk-around loft on the top. Our sommelier was excellent – he had us all laughing as he taught us how to pair wine with food. He made us taste an acidic red wine and swirl it all around our mouth. Then, he gave us a little piece of cheese, and told us to eat it at the same time as we are tasting the wine. The acidity in the wine completely disappeared, and the taste was a whole lot more smooth. It was crazy how different the taste was, because they food took away the taste of the acid. He explained to us how to balance bold wines with foods high in fat and protein. I learned so much about food and wine tasting – plus I tasted so many different kinds of wine! He showed us the importance of aging a wine by giving us one red from 2008, and another from 2007. They tasted completely different! Be sure and age your wines people!

Bartholomew winery was our final stop, and we actually were too tired to taste any more wine! But the views were majestic, we stumbled along the gardens smelling flowers and people watching. Overall, a great day in Napa!

I definitely was still craving more at the end of the day. I felt like I only got a little sample of California wines and now I want more! Maybe someday soon I’ll be back!?

San Francisco

I just got back from a fabulous trip to San Fran! Let me tell you, that city is foodie heaven. I didn’t eat one bad thing the entire trip! My favorite meal was at the Organic Plant Café on the Marina. A recommendation of my friend who lived in SF, I had the most delicious veggie burger I’ve ever had. It was beet based, with lentils and mushrooms inside. Yumm :) I wish I took a picture, but I ate it too fast to show you! I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who is visiting the city. The juices looked fabulous too, but I was stuffed from my sandwich.

Other foodie highlights include clam chowder at Scoma’s in fisherman’s wharf, as well as breakfast next to our hotel in Union Square at Scala’s. I loved their smoked applewood bacon, eggs, and fresh fruit!One of my favorite things about San Francisco was how friendly the people were, as well as the excellent safety and accessibility of the city. After going on one trolley ride, we got a handle on the bus system really quickly. If we ever needed help, all we had to do was open a map and someone would ask us if we needed guidance in the right direction. It was also easy to take a boat to the towns surrounding SF – although we didn’t have enough time to do that ourselves.

Waiting for the trolley on Powell St in Union Square

I also loved the farmers markets, and abundance of local farmers and independent stores that seemed to be thriving despite the presence of large corporations. Walking around the market at the Ferry Building Markeplace was near torture: I wanted to buy everything! My mom and I bought local olive oil called Stonehouse, after a long and thought-out tasting. I did tons of olive oil tasting in France, so it was fun to try some California olive oils. There most popular house oil tasted like fresh-cut grass! I loved the blood orange flavored olive oil, which I thought would be great in a salad dressing.

I do not look like a happy camper - I was hungry watching everyone eat delicious food outside on a gorgeous day!

While we were there, we stayed with my mom’s uncle and aunt in Concord, a suburb of the city. He took us into Oakland one day, and we went to the Oakland Museum of California. I loved it! We learned all about the history of California – from the Gold rush to the sixties. I guess I never realized how diverse the state is. We also saw lots of cool art by artists who come from California. I would highly recommend this museum – especially for children. It was just renovated, and it is very kid-friendly. It almost reminded me of the “please-touch” museum in Philadelphia! Lots to do.

Oakland Museum of California

I got a kick out of this: "spinach in a can"

Finally, the last day of the trip I got to see my friend from college, Gustavo! He gave us a great tour of his favorite parts of the city. We went to the parish where he grew up, Mission Dolores. This is a must-see – one of the oldest churches in the country. It is located in a really funky neighborhood, with cool boutiques and trendy bars. We got some excellent Mexican food – I love love love burritos. I also tried horchata, a typical Mexican drink made out of rice, almonds, and cinnamon.  It was said to be brought over to the new world by the Spaniards. It looks like milk – but tastes nothing like it and is completely dairy free! Horchata is rumored to cure hangovers…I did not get to try this theory out but it is good to know for the future!

Mission Dolores

I had a great time in SF, my first time on the West Coast! It was a lovely change of pace, and hopefully I will be back to this amazing area soon. Oh, how the travel bug bite is poisonous…