Soaring, sampling and being spoiled

I apologize in advance to the length of this post but Rick and I just returned from an eight day road trip to Northern California. It was part anniversary trip and part reconnecting with family and friends that are much missed and not enough seen.

We had a blast as we took off and travelled west through Nevada and over the Sierra mountains into California and the beautiful area north of the San Francisco Bay. We packed some snacks in a cooler, loaded “Pepe- our little mule”…(Jeep) with presents from our missed Holiday trip in December, threw in our bags and headed out.

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 We started with a two day stay in Petaluma where we explored Napa and Sonoma, the Tomales Bay area including Point Reyes National Seashore and the light house at Point Reyes.

Our first breakfast was a selection of much anticipated almond croissants and other pastry from our favorite little bakery in Tomales. Their pastries are amazing and it’s fun to sit on a bench outside and happily chomp away while life passes by. This is farm country so you have to get there pretty soon after they open or they may sell out of whatever you’re craving. They are only open Thursday through Sunday. So get there early and leave some for us please!

pastries from Tomales Bakery

Tomales Bakery PO Box 397 27000 Highway One Downtown Tomales, CA 94971 (707) 878-2429.

 Later that morning we took an amazing ride in a 1941 Stearman open cockpit biplane from Vintage Aircraft Company out of Sonoma Valley Airport. Rick and I couldn’t get the grins off of our faces during the entire 40 minute ride. The take off was smooth and the landing even smoother courtesy of our pilot, Tom Morris. We flew out over the hills of Sonoma and Marin County and circled over Tomales Bay. It was one of the most fun experiences I have ever had. Thanks Tom!

Our Stearman experience

When we finally came back to earth we headed north and over the mountain with a brief stop at a Petrified Forest and headed into Calistoga for lunch. I would mention the Bistro we went to -which had a lovely outdoor dining area- but the service was very poor and the food forgettable. So ‘nuf said.

We headed towards Napa and stopped at Beringer Vineyardswhere we had a lovely tour of the caves and a superb wine tasting of their Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon
Blanc and a dessert style 2004 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc.

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A quick stop at Dean and Deluca  in Napa Valley (with requisite drooling and pining) and our day was coming to a close.

That evening at Semolina in Petaluma we enjoyed a delicious dinner of our favorite Butternut Squash Ravioli. Although the premises are reminiscent of a remodeled chain type restaurant building, we highly recommend it for the food and service . Both are excellent.

The next morning we packed up to head to San Francisco after a morning side tour to Point Reyes Lighthouse. We tried to stop at Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes station but they evidently close during the week.

The day was foggy and windy near the ocean but seeing the light and hearing the foghorn in service was romantic in a “Wuthering Heights” sort of way.

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The climb down to the lighthouse is equivalent to a 35 story building. So get in shape before you go and take advantage of the resting stations along the way. When you see kids running down and up (repeatedly)… restrain your urge to kick them. 🙂

Afterwards we enjoyed a “dashboard picnic” at Sir Frances Drake Beach. It was delightful with freshly picked cherries, apples, Comte Reserve de Granges cheese, fresh sourdough baguette and assorted olives and nuts. Red wine in paper cups made the romance complete.

Traveling over the hills towards San Rafael we enjoyed deep green forests complete with  a  deer in the road.

We had to make my usual ritual stop at Dharma Trading Companyfor some beautiful yarn and textile supplies (and more pining.) I was pretty restrained though-(haha! says Rick.)

Heading over the Golden Gate Bridge we ended up at the Metropolis Hotel in downtown SF. It is an artsy “personality” hotel. Nice inside… but I guess I wasn’t thinking about the area. If you are squeamish about walking through street life of all kinds you might want to search elsewhere. However, if you are adventurous and not afraid of being panhandled right and left or will not be intimidated by random screaming in your direction…you’ll be close to Union Square, the financial district and some pretty good shopping.  I visited my “palace of shoes” otherwise known as DSW San Francisco- 4 floors of shoes and handbags and since my nickname from my sisters was once”Imelda” – you can guess that I was in heaven. Then I had an all too brief stop at Sephora. Cosmetics and shoes it’s enough to make a “warpaint and shoe junkie” cry.

I’ve been to SF many times on both business and pleasure but had never bothered to ride on a cable car before. So this time we took a ride from Powell and Market over the hills and down to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was an experience. I loved the cable car and the old fashioned system and marveled at the driver’s dexterity.

As for the wharf- crowded and touristy is not our thing but sometimes you just go with the flow. We had a sit down meal which was expensive instead of grabbing a bowl of clam chowder on the street. Afterwards we walked around to see a few ships and tried to avoid the gewgaw shops. We missed the Ferry Building market altogether-dang! We had planned to stop in Chinatown but were frankly worn out by then and longed for a veg-out in our room. That night we had a simply great meal back in our hotel room that we got to-go from a small neighborhood restaurant-Siam Thai noodle house on Mason. Pad Thai noodles and a Pumpkin Curry with rice mmmm.

After we checked out of the hotel and collected our Jeep, we stopped at the San Franciso Herb Company and loaded up on tea, herbs and essential oils. It’s a playground for herbs and spices and also potpourri ingredients, if you’re into those. We’ve been coming here for many years and always find it a must do.

We hunted up a hobby store that Rick wanted to check out, poked around there a bit and then headed over the Bay Bridge to Berkeley and the Scharffen-Berger factory. This factory is a little slice of chocolate heaven and it definitely smells like it. They have a restaurant on site and give free chocolate factory tours where they allow you to take photos and give you chocolate to sample. Did I say heaven? Of course you buy lots of chocolate and goodies at the factory store- of course you do… I bought lots of chocolate and a molinillo for frothing hot chocolate. Yes I did!

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After we tore ourselves away from Scharffen Berger we headed to our friends Jeff and Michelle Machado’s home -another slice of heaven on earth where we are completely spoiled and pampered. Poor us 🙂

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I’m sorry my pictures don’t do enough justice to the works of art that Jeff just seems to be able to throw together on the spot: Warm vanilla sauced berries over vanilla ice cream; eggs with pesto atop pan grilled herb focaccia; halibut and asparagus with a succulent citrusy-buttery sauce. I didn’t get photos of the decadent potato gratin (I would have gladly had it for every meal after that -including desserts) or the buttermilk-blueberry with Meyer lemon pancakes covered in real maple syrup and smoky thick cut bacon prepared for us as breakfast on the morning we departed. (I am craving it all over againg as I write ) So spoiled!!!!

Jeff is an outstanding chef magnifique and Michelle commutes to an outside job and works tirelessly with Jeff in their (extremely fabulous) catering business. Well – catering is not a sufficient description, anyone who might be lucky enough to hire        Jeff Machado Elegant Cuisine is going to have a dining experience like no other. You may think I am biased and I admit that having Jeff cook for you might bias you, but I assure you he’s worth it. He’s the kind of chef that coaxes the best flavours and textures out of the best ingredients. Being in his kitchen makes you re-evaluate and try to up your game.  The Maison Machado (as we like to call it) is an oasis of comfort and elegance- thanks for the spoiling -we love you! And thanks for taking me to Cicero’s Pizza, which I am still craving by the way. I know I’m using a lot of superlatives but believe me it is still faint praise.

We were able to see Rick’s parents for a couple of lunches and some time at their home. It’s always great to be with them but you always feel a pang as you drive away. It’s hard to live far away from those you love.

We missed seeing his sister and hope to spend some time with her in our next travels. On our way back to Utah, we took a detour to surprise his brother for just the briefest of hellos, a stop in Sacramento at RC Country hobby shop for some more RC airplane foraging  and then we were off back over the Sierras and Nevada desert to our own little nest in good old Salt Lake City.

We were glad to go on an adventure – and so glad to come home to our own slice of heaven.

Kipling- “I am the cat who walks by himself, all places are alike to me”, missed us too but he was able to spend some quality time with our very kind and fabulous neighbor, Kim – thanks so much!

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3 comments

  1. Tamami says:

    Hi there!
    Yup! I indeed have the said book! 😉 And I love it too – beautifully designed with quality binding. Mind, it’s a little heavy for me to read in bed. (I like to drool over the recipes & imagine them baking…)
    Anyway, I noticed that you’ve linked my blog! Much appreciated, thanx!

  2. Gabi says:

    Hi Tamami,
    I hope you get to go yourself soon. 🙂 Everyone should before they don’t offer free tours anymore. The factory is quite small- they only produce a few thousand pounds of chocolate per day compared to 30 times that amount at larger less artisanal type factories.
    As a side note I also love the book on The Essence of Chocolate by Robert Steinberg and John Scharfenberger. Check it out if you don’t have it already. But of course Cocoaand Me surely does… 🙂
    http://www.amazon.com/Essence-Chocolate-Recipes-Baking-Cooking/dp/1401302386
    Take Care,
    Gabi

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