Thanks for the suggestions a few days ago for our mini-trip. Unfortuantely, most recommended going further north, we were only going to Napa and then east from there.
That ruled out most of the wineries, so we had a coupon for a free tasting at a place downtown (Wineries of Napa Valley). It's for the tourists, but hey, that's what we were! It was small and quiet enough so that my husband actually felt comfortable tasting wines with me. The woman helping us was interesting and full of good information on the varietals that I wasn't familiar with. It was a good mini tasting of 5 different smaller wineries. No sales pitch (though we did end up buying a bottle of a semi-sweet white that my husband liked).
We thought about going to Pearl or Julia's Kitchen at Copia, but we had stopped for Krispy Kremes on the way up (I was born in the south, KK still is the world's best breakfast!) and weren't that hungry, so there's a little diner-type restaurant in the same downtown area: Gillwoods Cafe. We figured it'd be a step up from Denny's, but we could then be on our way.
I was pleasantly surprised with our meal as everything was very fresh! My husband ordered the hamburger and it was cooked to his standards (med rare). I asked for a half sandwich (not on the menu) and they accomodated me. So I got a half of a grilled cheese and tomato. I used to be a big fan of tomatoes, but last year they were so bad that I didn't eat many and I'll say that I was expecting the whitish, grainy tomatoes that I see at most diners. The tomatoes that came on both of our sandwiches were so deep red and juicy that I ended up asking for more to eat with just a little s and p. In addition, the fries were obviously hand cut and fresh.
All in all, a very pleasant "homey" meal for under $15 with tip (for two).
We'd planned on eating at C2 at the casino, but the bingo that we really enjoy went until 10:30pm, so we ended up eating (not so good) snacks in the bingo room. I made my husband promise me a good lunch on the way home!
But after gambling all night, we slept in too late to make it to SF in time for lunch. We ended up stopping in Vacaville at a place I've eaten at once before: Merchant and Main Grill. I'll have to say, I really enjoy this as a tasty lunch spot. I asked for a half-portion of the pasta, while they didn't do that, the server offered to box up half from the kitchen. Good service always makes us enjoy a meal more. We had the grilled artichoke with merlot aioli. Too much olive oil made it a bit greasy, but the grilled flavor was great. He had the hamburger (if it's on the menu, he's going to order it). It came out on great bread and was huge, but way over cooked for his taste (well done). He was hungry enough to not send it back. Plus he said that the tasty blue cheese on top worked well with the slight char. I had the Chipotle Penne. It has tomatoes and pine nuts that add interesting flavors with the very slightly chipotle tasting cream sauce.
While it wasn't the "fancy" food weekend I had hoped for, I was happy to find locally owned restaurants that were able to use really fresh food to make the normal grill staples exceptional.