Thanks again everyone! I had a truly wonderful time, and I am very envious of all of you Bay Area hounds.
Be warned that this is long, but perhaps future travelers might find it helpful. I know I've benefited immensely by following previous threads.
I started the day off with a late morning jaunt over to Tartine Bakery. Thank you for insisting that I go there. I ordered a tarte au citron, a croissant and a café au lait. They were out of fresh-squeezed OJ by that hour. The tarte au citron was very good. It was a little creamier and less tart than the style with which I’m most familiar, but delicious nonetheless. And it was garnished with a beautiful little edible flower. I was less impressed with the croissant unfortunately. I found it to be huge, and so a little off in terms of its proportions: it was a little on the dense and heavy side. Does anyone else find this? The café au lait was perfect in every way though. I also really liked the laid-back vibe of the place. I managed to find a seat – surprising given that it was packed. As I left, one man even approached me and asked if I really just ate two pastries for breakfast. Yes, yes I did. Is it really so uncommon? *grin*
I really valued the opportunity to check out the Mission. I loved walking around that district; it just had so much character and activity. It actually reminded me some of the lower town of Quebec City, though of course bigger and busier.
I skipped the Mission burrito, unfortunately. I was following my stomach on this one, and I wanted to save room for the Ferry Building. (As an aside, not that it is in any way similar, but I was able to hit a taqueria down south in LA earlier on.)
For lunch I had intended to graze my way through the Ferry Building – and I did end up circling around a few times checking out all the shops – but I wanted to sit down and relax after traveling a lot the previous day. I missed out on the cannele totally - didn’t see them at Boulette’s Larder, and I thought it might not be wise to follow up on my patisserie brekkie with more patisserie. I ended up at the bar of the Slanted Door. I ordered the grilled lemongrass pork over rice noodles with imperial rolls, cucumber and mint and a glass of the Lange Reserve Pinot from Oregon; it couldn’t have been any more perfect. I was worried that the grilled pork might be a little boring or dry, but it was not at all. The lemongrass marinade really made it. Even the two ladies next to me commented on how good it looked. It was great to have the variety of the imperial rolls too. Still wanting to relax for a bit, I ended by lingering with the Art Tea, a blooming jasmine tea with lychee flower. It was presented in a wine glass. Beautiful. At $7, it’s not cheap though.
For dinner I scooted over to Berkeley and dined at the Chez Panisse Café, after the brief obligatory stop at Berkeley Bowl where I picked up a bottle of Lillet Rouge (not to be found where I live, unfortunately) and some gorgeous baby minneolas. CP met and surpassed all expectations. The service was excellent: patient, helpful, graceful and not intrusive. I had a nice beet salad to start, but for the main – and this surprised me – I went with roasted chicken. It’s generally not my favorite thing, but it was delicious when served with couscous, chickpeas, harissa and charmoula. Even more delicious when paired with the CP zin. Ended off with the kirsch-amarena ice cream and chocolate sauce; also not normally my thing but paired really nicely with a glass of banyuls. The whole experience was absolutely great.
This day ended up being quite random and food-packed. But it was so luscious.
I missed breakfast – which is a bit of a story. I ended up driving to Sonoma after all. While waiting for the Girl and the Fig to open, I popped across the street to the El Dorado Café (I *think* that was the name), for a latte and shortbread cookie. Then headed to Girl and the Fig for their cheese plate with fig cake, nuts and baguette. I wish I could start every day with cheese.
Had a bite to eat at Bovolo in Healdsburg a few hours later: pork butt sandwich. Fantastic. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more spicy kick to it, but it was great just as anyways. Their fromage frais & lavender gelato is out of this world.
Hit up some wineries in the afternoon, and then ended up at Cyrus for dinner. I had intended to go to Zin, but on a whim decided to do Cyrus. The whole experience was wonderful – probably one of the best of the trip. I heeded CH warnings and opted not to sit at the bar be/c of some service concerns. As a female patron in my mid-twenties, I dined at a two-top, alone, and I received the best service I have ever in fact received. I was totally blown away. The host, servers and sommelier treated me with such respect and grace. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the choreography of the service throughout the night: every movement was perfectly timed, and everyone was totally on their game. The food was also out of this world. Needless to say I was thoroughly stuffed, and a little tipsy, by the end of the whole day. And as I left towards the exit and prepared to grab my coat off the hook, an invisible hand popped out from around the corner and beat me to it.
Had a bite to eat and a coffee at the Flying Goat. The place was crowded, understaffed and borderline unpleasant, though I assume it’s not always like this. For those going to Healdsburg, note that both Bovolo and Downtown Bakery are closed on Wednesdays in the off-season. It seems to be the town’s slow day.
And then I just drove through the valleys. It was the most delightful experience. I checked out Yountville (lunch was the veggie sandwich from Bouchon Bakery; their macaroons and Madeleines were also delish!) and then headed to Round Pond for their Olive Oil and Vinegar Tour and Tasting. Thank you CH for this rec! It was a really great experience, especially given that I was driving myself around wine country (it was such a shame to pour out half - or more - of my tasting flights at each of the wineries).
I headed to Ubuntu for dinner. It was good but not standout, though since I was in a bit of a rush and couldn’t linger I’m not sure I enjoyed it to the max. I had the farm egg with robuchon potatoes, homemade brioche, mushroom and wine bordelaise (and no wine because I was driving shortly after). The service was very professional though.
That’s it folks. Thank you again for all of your suggestions. It was a fab trip. Everyone I met was so friendly and helpful. My absolute favorite part was being there during the peak of citrus season. The beautiful orange and lemon trees really made it, as well as their delicious and fragrant juices. There are so many more things I’d have liked to seek out, but I only had so much time and belly space. Definitely next time though.