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Thanks to San Francisco Chowhounds

susimon | Feb 28, 200809:06 AM

Last week my husband and I finally took our 50th birthday trip to San Francisco and the wine country. Thanks to San Francisco chowhounds we had wonderful dining experiences. The following is our itinerary:

Arrival in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon - ate at Bodega Bistro - short walk from the Hotel Monaco - We loved the food and the service, which was quite friendly. We ate the papaya salad with beef jerkey -- what flavors and textures; then the squab which was, as we say in the south, finger licking good. We then shared a pork dish whose name I forgot to write down, but it was in the Hanoi Street Food section of the menu and was served with fresh lettuce, carrots, cucumbers and herbs for wraps and was sliced very thin and served in a broth. Delicious! They served a complimentary flan for dessert which was very nice.

Thursday on to Napa/Yountville. Lunch at Ubuntu was incredible. The flavors and textures were outstanding. We started with marcona almonds with lavendar sugar and sea salt. They were deliciously flavored and we were lucky enough to have a good number left to pack up and take home with us. We then had the radish salad which consisted of four or five types of radishes beautfully prepared. Although radishes have never been my favorite vegetable, I could eat this salad every day and not grow tired of it. My husband then ordered the mushroom pizza and I ordered the cauliflower in the cast iron pot, both of which were delicious. The cauliflower was both pureed and roasted with a delicious cream sauce and bits of orange for acidity. It was incredible.

We then checked into the Auberge du Soleil, which was everything we anticipated, and rested up for our dinner at The French Laundry. I wish I had sufficient powers of description to do justice to our dinner at the French Laundry. The combination of flavors was remarkable, each dish as good as the next. Suffice it to say that I think Thomas Keller is a genius and his food is inspired. Favorites of the meal were the Oysters and Pearls (I've never tasted anything like it), the fois gras with almond glaze, orange relish, and celery branch, the lobster with globe artichokes, garlic and argula, the rabbit sirloin with bacon, turnips, and English peas, the granny smith apple bavarois with dijon mustard ice cream, and the donuts, which we only knew to request because of suggestions by SF Chowhounds. The only negative was that after we ordered wine with the sommelier's help, we had a question for him. Although we asked our server for the sommelier two times, he never came back. But that slip in service did not mar a truly remarkable meal.

Before leaving the wine country we returned to Yountville the next day for lunch at Bouchon. Once again we really enjoyed Thomas Keller's offerings. Oysters on the half shell and salmon tartare and very friendly service in a warm bistro setting.

Friday evening, back in San Francisco at the Monaco, we had reservations at Aziza. However, because they were late reservations and we were very tired, we canceled the reservations and walked over to Bodega Bistro. Once again we had the papaya salad to start, followed by the pancake with shrimp and pork. The salad was again delicious and the pancake was light, airy, and flavorful. They served the pancake with lettuce, herbs, cucumbers and carrots, but we found we liked it by itself. The lettuce and herbs seemed to overpower the lightness of the pancake. After dinner we walked back to the hotel and went to bed sated.

Saturday brought a trip to the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building then lunch at Hog Island Oyster Company. We shared a mixed green salad, which really hit the spot. My husband then had the sweetwaters and kumotos, while I had the grilled cheese sandwich, which in my view is one of the best sandwiches I 've ever eaten. The blend of cheeses was just right and the bread was toasted to perfection.

Saturday night found us in Chinatown for a glimpse of the Chinese New Year Parade and dinner at Jai Yun. We did not know what price meal to order so we picked the price in the middle ($80). We had an array of flavorful dishes, all of which were interesting. The only drawback was we had no idea how many dishes we were going to get and when the service would end. Among our favorites were the cilantro dish, the cucumber dish, the abalone, and a paper thin noodle dish.

In sum, many thanks to SF Chowhounds for their input, suggestions, and comments. You insured our eating experiences in the San Francisco area would be memorable.

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