Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I left my heart in San Francisco...or maybe Sonoma...


My friend, Lindsay, invited me to Sonoma where we stayed with her aunt, uncle, and two cousins. I knew that it would be an experience full of fun, excitement, beautiful scenery, learning, and great cuisine.
Deep into the nation's official "Wine Country", we explored multiple vineyards in Sonoma as well as Napa Valley. Here we are pictured at Gloria Ferrer overlooking the 95 acres of vineyards on the property. It was an incredible view of the countryside, and I already miss the smell that fresh air fragrant with the scents of olives and grapes!!
It was an education visiting the different wineries, as there are so many different fermenting processes, types of grapes, flavors, aromas, styles...etc. It was so very interesting! I have never been greatly interested in wine, but learning more about it and realizing the complexity of it all really gave me a high appreciation for the beverage.

"Taylor's Refresher" is a staple establishment in the Napa Valley area. There are only two locations of this quaint eatery. The ordering takes place at a walk-up counter off of a huge wall menu that includes burgers, salads, sandwiches, and milkshakes. I had the freshest California Cobb salad I have ever eaten along with deliciously crispy chili-sprinkled sweet potato fries.

Another picture at Gloria Ferrer. This is a sparkling wine vineyard. Technically, only sparkling wines from a certain district of France can be called "Champagne".
Here I am enjoying some herb focaccia bread, an apple, and fresh gruyere cheese from the famous Dean & Deluca market in Napa Valley.

Okay, okay, so I am usually not a fan of Mexican food. But when in California...on Cinco de Mayo...among a large Hispanic population...there is only one thing to do. (Or eat.)
I dined at MAYA with Lindsay and her family on May 5th, and it was a wonderful meal. The food was lighter and fresher than the usual Mexican fare in Tennessee and other parts of the country. It was not all smothered in white and brown goop, and there were a lot of vegetables involved!
I enjoyed a pulled chicken taco salad with fresh guacamole and pico de gallo.

A chic, upscale restaurant in the CLIFT HOTEL downtown San Francisco.
Also the location where I enjoyed one of the best meals I have ever had in my life!! Yes, most definitely one of the top three!!
Asia De Cuba is super trendy, and the ambiance definitely plays a role in the overall experience.
-Crispy tofu with asparagus, pear-mango sauce, mango-cucumber-jicima salad
-Cuban BBQ chicken, mango salsa, coconut sticky rice in banana leaf
-Plantain fried rice with avocado
The delicious flavors EXPLODE in your mouth, and the mixture of textures and tastes creates a culinary pleasure unlike any I have ever experienced. I am actually still craving that tofu...

Imagine: Waking up, getting on your bike, riding on country roads through vineyards and olive trees...the sun is shining and your hair is blowing in the crisp deadlines, no appointments...The perfect morning.
But then, to make it even better, you ride into Sonoma Square where there is an adorable European patisserie called "Basque Boulangerie".
This was reality for Lindsay and me during our stay in Sonoma. The homemade oatmeal, fresh fruit, and freshly baked country sourdough bread with butter was quite a start to our morning. We sat in the park of the square and enjoyed the rose gardens while enjoying our breakfast. Ahhhhhhh!!!

B.R. COHN was one of my favorite winery stops. This unique establishment is located in Sonoma Valley and showcases wines and olive oils. We participated in our first olive oil tasting here...pictured are some of the many olive oils and vinegars that B.R. COHN produces and offers for sale.
I tasted a balsamic vinegar that has been aged 25 years!! It was absolutely delicious - mellow and sweet. I could totally pour it over ice cream as a syrup!
I purchased a bottle of an olive oil (made from B.R. COHN olives) that was mixed with balsamic vinegar and infused with herbs. Perfect for bread dipping!

On the flight home, (which was a bit sad), I ate a delicious, juicy orange that I had packed for the trip. It was from Lindsay's aunt and uncle's orange trees behind their house! How nice would that be! My last little taste of California...

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