Happy in Healdsburg

I’m so behind on posts that I actually had another trip to SF before I even finished blogging about my first one. Here’s the last post about that first trip, I swear! So post wine tasting, Alan planned for us to spend the day exploring downtown Healdsburg. It’s a pretty small city, but the downtown area is packed with food, shops, galleries and novelty shops. Since it was a Sunday, there was actually a flea market in the middle of the town square!

I was on the lookout for a cute throw for my room, something like these ones here. No luck on that front though. There were tons of vendors, but we got there right before it ended. So we had to zip around through all the stalls just to see everything. Definitely didn’t have time to dig and bargain for all the stuff I wanted. We did however walk away with this giant blue sheet metal elephant for Alan. It needs to be sanded down around the edges and there were talks about coating it in a new color or material. I’ll let you know if we ever get around to that.

The bartender at the Coppola Winery recommended we visit SHED if we were big foodies. It turned out to be equal parts grocery store and cafe. Organic produce, charcuterie, cheeses, fresh jams, cooking supplies and more were all laid out in the front of the store. Halfway through, you meet the hostess who’ll seat you in the dining area in the back. Very hip, farm-to-table vibe. We checked out the menu and walked through the store portion, but just weren’t feeling it.

Turned out to be a tapas kind of day. Bravas  is a tapas bar with a very laid-back, Spanish atmosphere.  We ordered a plate of asparagus with brie and tangy orange zest because I’ve got a pretty big soft spot for asparagus. Alan wanted to try the duck meatballs with tomato sofrito and a green olive tapenade. You get a plate of two slider-sized meatball burgers, which were okay. They were a little dry to me and we both agreed they could use a little kick. My favorite of our orders was the octopus with fingerlings, smoked paprika, and olives.

The thicker part was succulent and tender while the thinner end was crispy and a little chewy in the middle. With some fresh lemon and olive oil, mmmm! It was all definitely enough to hold us over until dinner. Then it was time to walk off some of those calories. We went through a few art galleries, stopped into little bookstores and eventually ended up grabbing dessert. So much for burning off the calories, I guess.

Noble Folk  is a desserts shop that serves homemade ice cream, pie and coffee on the side. We split a scoop of almond with cardamom and a scoop of thai tea. Nice, sticky ice cream. The flavors are super aromatic. For any of you from the Westwood area, it was a lot like our local Saffron & Rose Ice Cream. 

After that we decided to just sit and relax in the square where the flea market had been earlier. This was one of my favorite parts of our trip, just talking and seeing Healdsburg. Anything’s fun with good company, right? We ended the night by driving out to Applewood Inn, which you can read all about here!


Wine Tasting in Sonoma

Bellies full of delicious Thai food, we headed North for a little over an hour into Sonoma County. The drive through Sonoma was gorgeous, just acres and acres of lush green vineyards on both sides of the road. It was such a stark contrast to the dry, yellow drought-ridden farms you pass on the way up. Wine-tasting had been on the to-do list since we started planning the trip, but it turned out one of Alan’s coworkers family actually owned a winery. So we lucked out and got a private tour of Robert E. Young’ s Estate Winery.

We met David and Kelly outside of their public tasting room. They poured us a couple of glasses and showed us some of the barrels they had adjacent to the tasting room. Kelly explained bits of their family history, gave us quick lessons on wine making and answered all our newbie questions about the process. Then they took us into the tunnels where all the wine barrels are stored and aged in pitch-dark, perfect temperature caves. They told us the story of they had strung up lights and had held some part of their wedding there in the tunnels. We snapped a quick picture with all the barrels before we left (top).

We went back to the tasting room and refilled our glasses with another red wine and took a short walk up through the vineyards. It turns out the estate was founded on a spring, which allows them to keep the vineyards so well kept even with California’s drought. They also had a llama. Say what? He followed us for a bit and then decided to ignore us for grass. Anyway, we walked to the peak of the vineyards and could look over the entire estate and a few of the surrounding wineries as well. Not a bad view, not bad at all.

The estate was a small one compared to the others, but it was homey and beautiful all the same. And I’m not huge on wine, trust, I’m very much so a beer girl. But the wine was delicious. I was especially a fan of the first merlot we had. I’ll try and scrounge up the actual name somewhere. Anyway, before we left, they took us into their private wine cellar and pulled out a white wine for us to take home. It was actually one of the wines from their wedding years ago.

We ended going to the Coppola Winery afterwards, which was much bigger and definitely had more eye-catching structures. But to be honest, I felt like it was a little too touristy. It felt almost gimmicky. There was an open public pool, a museum of Coppola artifacts and our entire wine tasting, our bartender just kept spouting facts about Coppola and his films. The focus was really not on the wine or the grapes. Our visit at Robert E. Young felt personal, cozy. There was a strong family presence and an emphasis on making great wine. Coppola’s was equal parts restaurant, hotel, day-club and museum. Maybe if you’re a die hard Coppola fan, this is the place for you. But my second wine-tasting trip? I would stick to small private family estates. Good wine, good people, good stories.

Thai Temple | Wat Mongkolratanaram

Well that’s a mouthful. I originally wanted to make a post that had everything we did our second day up North. But we honestly did so much in that one day and I wanted to highlight the individual spots that we visited. So I’ll be breaking it up into separate pieces. We had kind of a cranky first day, but this day started off so much better. Our first stop was Wat Mongkolratanaram, a Thai Buddhist temple known for serving brunch on Sundays. Located in Berkeley, it’s a pretty popular place for Cal kids. I’ve never been so jealous of them before. This place was good. Sooooo good.

One of the folks living right next to the temple came all the way out of his house to let us know that we could park in their driveway to grab food. We walked all of ten feet to get to the temple and spent a little bit of time looking at the cool features and snapping photos. People started spilling in, so we hurried inside to grab some goodies before the lines got too long.

Technically, the temple cannot actually sell food. So the whole system is based on donations through proxy vendors. That way the monks themselves never handle physical money. You go up to the vendors and pay them a dollar per coin for however many coins you would like. There’s a poster up that gives suggested donation amounts per food item. Then you take the coins to the monks and trade it for portions of food.

$15 ended up being enough for us to try everything that we wanted. We got green curry, pad thai and the pork green beans. I know it’s not the most appetizing looking picture in the world, but oh man, this was amazing. The pad thai was pretty standard but I loved the curry and the pork green beans. Spicy and delicious!

We also ordered a Thai tea and these little desserts. That was the best thai tea I’ve ever had and it came in a regular-sized fountain drink cup. I wish we had gotten one more to go. The little white round desserts below are Kanom Krok, a cross between coconut pudding and coconut pancakes. Super squishy and creamy and sweet! Alan really liked these. I liked them too, but I preferred the crispy fried taro beside them. So crunchy!

It’s not a fancy establishment by any means. Food is served in to-go boxes and sold outdoors under portable canopies. The seating is all communal in a series of picnic tables, but it has a real community vibe to it. We were both stuffed and completely satisfied. Just goes to show, great food does not have to equal a sad wallet.

Just writing this post has me craving it again. Anyone know of any Thai temples that do a similar thing down here in LA? Please, my stomach will thank you.

San Francisco | Day One

We made the drive up from Los Angeles to San Francisco early Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend. We originally had a ton of plans to go tour the city, hike, maybe even shop a little before our dinner reservations at Bar Crudo. One thing led to another and we ended up getting to our airbnb place a lot later than expected. It was my first time booking with airbnb and we’d done it pretty late. I was pretty sketched out, especially since the place was in Oakland, too. The neighborhood wasn’t bad though and our host Noah was pretty nice. The place had been described as bohemian, but that was a definite understatement. It was brimming with skulls, wooden staffs, dreamcatchers and all sorts of animal tokens. The whole-shebang. Not sure how I felt about the shared bathroom, but honestly we didn’t spend too much time there. We mostly came back just to crash. Anyways, we relaxed a little bit after the long drive then headed into the city.
Bridges! Bridges everywhere! Driving through SF was a pain. The tolls and traffic and my God, the parking. It may have been worse than LA and that’s saying something. The bridges were always fun though. After finally getting parking we kind of just explored a little. For the most part, we stayed in the outskirts of the town. Making into downtown would have made us late for dinner reservations so we just hung out around the Divisidero area.
I don’t know why, but I was digging this door. San Francisco’s definitely a city with character. The streets are crazy slopes lined with colorful rows of apartments all with personalized touches.
We ended up doing happy hour at Bar Crudo then stayed into our dinner reservations. I’ll make a separate review post on our dining experience there sometime later.  We finished dinner a lot earlier than expected so decided to just hang around while the sun was still out and check out the neighborhood. There was a little park nearby so we did a couple of laps through its various walkways and stopped to look at the Painted Ladies for just long enough to snap a picture. We debated heading home and coming back into the city later for actual nightlife adventures or possibly meeting up with a few friends. In the end, all the exhaustion from the drive won out. It was a little chilly so we tucked into the Mill, a small coffee shop, to escape the cold and grab a sip. Another post on that later! We stayed and chatted until closing then made the drive back to Oakland to relax for the rest of the night.
Look at this poor goob. Just trying to enjoy his coffee and toast without me taking a thousand pictures. That first day in San Francisco was actually pretty stressful at times. Turns out we’re plan people, plan people who can’t make decisions when hungry. The stretched out drive didn’t help much either. It was still fun though, even the drive. Climbing into bed that night, I just felt grateful for how patient this guy is and excited for the plans we had ahead of us.

Coming Home

This three-day trip through San Francisco and Sonoma County was a long-time coming. We had been trying to squeeze one in before Alan started the new job, but it never happened until just now. We packed the days with things to do and pretty much collapsed into bed every night. It felt so good to drive back into the city. It feels even better to be sitting in bed after a warm shower. It was an incredible weekend though. Wine country was so beautiful and lush and we tried some of the best food out there. Photos and stories to come, but for now, it’s just good to curl up in my own bed. Hope you all had amazing Memorial Day weekends, too!

Wind and Waves

This past week has been hectic. The only down time I’ve had all weekend was sleeping. So, our kayaking trip was a much needed breath of fresh air, figuratively and literally speaking. We had a free two hours of kayaking within the little bay at Marina del Rey, and we spent all of it paddling to the outer wall and back. I got a tandem with the roommate (who you should follow here) and snapped a couple photos of her while we waited for everyone to pack up and leave. The bay’s pretty crowded with small fishing boats, paddle boarders, seals and other kayakers. You have to be pretty cautious about not getting hit.

Back in the highschool/middle school days, my family used to go kayak fishing every weekend in the earliest hours of the morning. It was one of the few things we all loved to do together. We haven’t gone in ages since we sold all the kayaks, but it felt great to get back on the waters again.

Spring Break in Vegas

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Four years of college and my spring breaks are usually pretty tame. It’s work, home, eat and sleep. I have no problems with that routine at all, but I have to say spending this past weekend in Vegas for Spring Break was a ridiculous amount of fun. We booked a suite in Vdara with a bunch of friends and it was a gorgeous room. It was also super close to the Cosmopolitan, which ended up being super convenient for us.  We ended up seeing Laidback Luke at Encore and Alesso later that night at Marqee. Everything in between and the next day was just pure food. But a post on that in due time.

I wish we had had time to just hangout on the strip, but we had to head back Sunday afternoon to get everyone back in time for work on Monday. Guess we’ll have to save that for next time!