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Trip report – San Francisco and Sonoma (Russian River Valley) – long

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Trip report – San Francisco and Sonoma (Russian River Valley) – long

LauraB | Jun 28, 2011 08:16 PM

My husband and I recently got back from a trip to SF and Sonoma from Minneapolis. I read a lot of posts before coming and wanted to thank everyone for their advice in various threads. Overall, it was a quite successful food and drink trip (and the weather was beautiful – warm and sunny).

San Francisco – Day 1

After getting off the plane and grabbing sandwiches at ‘wichcraft (it was right across from where we parked the car, we were starving, and the sandwiches were fine), we wandered towards the Ferry Building. We stopped at the farmer’s market and got a basket of strawberries. They were my first “real” strawberries of the year – the ones CA ships are just not the same and the local ones are just now starting to be ripe. We also tried some tasty fennel and orange salami from Boccalone (I love the “Tasty Salted Pig Parts” logo) and just enjoyed being surrounded by so much tasty looking food.

On the way back to the car, we happened upon Cask. I wish we had a liquor store with such an extensive selection of bourbon, bitters, etc in Minneapolis!

For dinner that night we went to Zuni with a couple of friends who were very nice to let us stay with them for a few nights. The four of us shared appetizers of anchovies, frisee salad, squab liver crostini, black lentil soup. The soup was the highlight of the appetizers – it was very nicely balanced. My husband and I split the chicken. It was indeed quite good chicken, especially the dark meat. Hamersley’s in Boston I think still holds the “best chicken” prize in my book, but I liked the skin on the Zuni chicken. The bread salad was good and the greens provided an interesting bitter contrast. Cherry tart for dessert had very nicely flaky pastry.

Sonoma/Russian River Valley – Day 2

The next morning we stopped at the Fremont Diner for brunch on the way (or at least not crazy out of the way) to the Russian River Valley. I loved the biscuits, especially with the homemade rhubarb jam!

Tastings that afternoon were at:
Porter Creek Vineyards – I like their style of winemaking and the lack of pretention. I especially liked the Fiona Hill Pinot Noir – restrained, but with a nice note of cherry-type fruit.
Thomas George – The cave/grounds were very nice. In general, I did not like the wines quite as much, but they did have a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir that we liked.
Williams-Selyem – You have to be on their mailing list to make an appointment (which we did after trying their wine at a restaurant last year). It was a bit hard to find (no sign/gate), but once we made it in, we loved the wine and found the low-key tour to be quite interesting.

We had dinner that night at Scopa on the plaza in Healdsburg. The space was a modern, a bit noisy, but had a nice cozy/friendly vibe. We split an excellent ricotta/pepper jam crostini and meatballs for appetizers. I had the braised duck pappardelle, which was delicious. The ricotta cheesecake was fine, but I liked the savory dishes here better. Overall, found the food to be tasty, sort of a combination of Italian cooking with my conception of “California” cooking.

Russian River Valley – Day 3

The next morning after breakfast at our B&B (Farmhouse Inn – it was a pretty awesome breakfast), we stopped at the Healdsburg farmer’s market where I got one perfect peach. :-) We then headed to:

J Vineyards – We stopped here because we had recently had a nice sparkling rose from this winery. They were having a “Pizza and Pinot” day when we were there so we also turned it into lunch. I liked some of their non-sparkling wines, but I preferred the sparkling wines.
Ridge – We tasted on their terrace. I especially liked their Zinfandel blends.
Copain – They had a fascinating blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir called P2. It was a nice balance. In general, I liked their winemaking style. The grounds are beautiful. We spent quite a while just sitting in the chairs overlooking the Russian River.
Merry Edwards – Nice Sauvignon Blanc (richer than usual) and Pinot Noir.

For dinner that night, we ate the restaurant at the Farmhouse Inn and very much enjoyed our experience. We each had the four course dinner with wine pairings (which were good matches, but no one wine struck me enough to write it down). I started out with a special of soft shell crab with sweet corn and red pepper sauce. The crab was perfectly crispy. My husband started with buffalo tartar and bone marrow crostini which he devoured and declared delicious. For the next course, I had burrata with picked vegetables and artichoke salad. The combination of the intense creaminess of the cheese with the acid in the vegetables was very good. He had the fois gras. For the main course, I had duck breast with nettle spatzle and a cherry sauce. It was very tender. He had rabbit prepared 3 ways. He especially liked the confit-style preparation. My dessert was amazing – crispy almond cookies, amaretto mascarpone mousse, cherries, and a zinfandel sorbet. He had the chocolate soufflé with a bourbon sauce. Throughout the service was excellent.

Sonoma/San Francisco – Day 4

We again started out with delicious breakfast at the Farmhouse before starting our drive down the coast (along 1) back to San Francisco. Along the way, we stopped at Hog Island Oysters (in Marshall). We got some tasty bread, Cowgirl Creamery cheese, Fatted Calf Chorizo, and some delicious Sweetwater Oysters. It was a bit chaotic (a group of two was manageable, more started to get tricky based on my observations of other groups).

Back in San Francisco, I finished off the weekend with a “girls night date” with a friend at Bar Crudo. We tried two different crudos: halibut with coconut milk, oranges, hot and sweet peppers and ono with lime, rhubarb, shallots, and avocado. We loved both of them – a nice mix of flavors, but still allowing the taste of the fist to come through. We also had a tuna confit dish (fine, but an odd presentation – seemed like separate chunks of ingredients rather than a put-together dish), seafood chowder (a bit too rich for my taste – tasted more of cream than seafood), and a local rock cod taco (very good). I thought the crudo dishes were the best of the evening - light, fresh and creative.

For dessert, we stopped at Bi-Rite creamery for a couple of pints to bring back to accompany a homemade apricot cake. I loved the lavender honey ice cream – just the right amount of lavender. The salted caramel was good, but I have had other salted caramel ice creams that I like better (try Izzy’s if you are ever in St. Paul, MN).

San Francisco – Day 5

Time to go home. ☹

Thanks again for all of your advice – it worked out quite well for us.

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Zuni Cafe
1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Bar Crudo
655 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

Porter Creek Vineyards
8735 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448

Cowgirl Creamery
1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111

Farmhouse Inn
7871 River Rd, Forestville, CA 95436

Boccalone Factory - Not Open to Public
1924 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

Scopa
109 Plaza St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

Fremont Diner
2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA

Fatted Calf
320 Fell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

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