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trip report: SF and Sonoma

Terris | Feb 24, 200407:02 PM

Hi all -
Just back from a combined business/fun trip to San Francisco. I had pretty limited opportunities to dine out, so wanted to make the most of them. I love to eat but am also a cheapskate. Here's where we ended up:

Mocca (on Maiden Lane by Union Square): Wandered over here for a late lunch with husband, who was also here for business. I had the mixed seafood salad and he had the squid and both were fantastic. A little pricey - okay a lot pricey - but we took advantage of a break in the weather and sat outside and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for the rec.

Helmand: Met up with a friend who lives in town for dinner and turns out he'd wanted to try this place. I checked it out and saw the rave reviews. We were basically the only ones there for dinner on a Wednesday night, which was kind of a downer, but the food was absolutely wonderful. I'm hooked on Afghan food now (was a new cuisine for me.) We started off with the appetizer that was something beef wrapped in some sort of dough. And oh my god that bread! I had the vegetarian special for dinner - pumpkin and eggplant - wow. The guys had some sort of beef dish that was spicy - I can't remember the names now. Everything was fantastic.

Thirsty Bear: Ended up here for drinks and not quite dinner munchies. Loved the place. Really really enjoyed the vanilla beer, far more than I thought I would. And I'll be honest, there was a fair amount of alcohol involved, both before and after we got there, so the food is a little hazy. Looking back at the menu, I believe we got the calamari fritos, the patatas, the artisinal spanish cheeses, and the baked goat cheese. Everything was yummy and we were a happy crowd.

Cafe Tiramisu (on Belden Lane): Love the little alleyway with the lights and all - very fun. Service was spotty, but the bread was addictive and our pastas heavenly. I had papardelle with shrimp and spinach and it was fabulous. Of course we had to get tiramisu for dessert and it was pretty darn good. Overall a good experience.

Lulu: This is where we ended up for the birthday dinner that I posted a thread about earlier. I have to say I read the negatives on the board, but we had a fabulous time. The service was a little off - a bit too long between sitting and getting drinks, between drinks and ordering, etc - but the food and atmosphere more than made up for it. We started with the mussels, which were a hit. The goat cheese ravioli was out of this world, the rotisserie chicken and the duck special were fabulous, and the acorn squash went so fast I could barely get a taste. I liked the family-style setup - it was cool to get to try everything. Our group of 6 splurged and got three desserts, all of which were fabulous. The birthday girl was happy and so were we.

Wine Tasting in Sonoma:
Like troopers, we went to 8 wineries. It's all about the sip and dump.

Roche: I think this was one of my top two. They have this setup where you can taste out of the barrel that was fun and different. Wine was excellent and staff was great.

Gloria Ferrer: missed the tour but bought two glasses and enjoyed the nice tasting room and the view.

Schug Carneros: husband had what he declared the best merlot ever here. No frills tasting room was a bit crowded but enjoyed the experience.

Gundlach Bundshau: Had higher expectations of this place. Staff was not particularly friendly or helpful.

Lunch break at the Viansa Cafe. Service a little slow, but that foccacia is good and we enjoyed getting real food. We also loved tasting all the cheeses at the Sonoma Cheese factory.

Ravenswood: there's one in every bunch - mass production, zoo of a tasting room, zero helpful staff. Oh well, it was kind of fun having the chance to taste 5 different zins.

Arrowood: took away any bad feelings Ravenswood left behind. What a wonderful place. Excellent wine, great staff, gorgeous tasting room. We could have stayed here for hours.

Matanzas Creek: worth the drive - such a beautiful place! Staff not particularly helpful or friendly but good wine in a nice setting.

We then tried St. Francis, but they were closed (it was 5). However, they were kind enough to recommend Mayo, which was open later. So glad we stopped by there! The owner/tasting room guy was a riot, and we loved the wine. Incredible port. Really fun experience and a great way to end a great day.

Although technically, our day ended at dinner - at Meritage in Sonoma. We had debated between Girl and the Fig and ended up at Meritage. Glad we did, if only because of the tasting menus, which were fun. Nice wine list, good service, and wonderful food. Overall an excellent experience and I can't wait to get back to that part of the country (live in Northern VA.) Thank you so much for all your posts on this board (I did a LOT of searching) and for all your responses to my specific queries!

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