For Thanksgiving this year, the hubs and I decided to take a break from hosting and flew out to California to visit Scott's big sister and her husband, who live in Sonoma. It was a nice break from hosting duties, and the perfect excuse to take some time off to eat yummy food and wine taste! We spent a few days in San Francisco before heading up north to Sonoma.
Day 1: San Francisco
We took a veeery early morning flight from Charlotte to San Francisco. By the time we arrived early afternoon, we were starving! Off to Tartine Manufactory thanks to the recommendations of basically everyone. They're famous for their bread, so we split a couple sandwich-y things.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening strolling around Mission district. It's the neighborhood that used to be home to a large immigrant population and the LGBTQ community, so it's a really funky and eclectic mix of bars, restaurants and shops. Also there's a chocolate bar right next to a cheese bar. So go there.
For sunset, we stumbled upon Dolores park with a view of the skyline.
For dinner, we went to Hawker Fare, a Laotian restaurant. Southeast Asian food is probably my favorite - I just love all the different spices and herbs and chiles! The menu is family style - perfect for sharing.
Day 2: San Francisco
Running is our favorite way to explore cities, so we decided to start our morning with a jog through Land's End park. Even though I've been to San Francisco many times, I hadn't made it to Land's End, and I'm kinda kicking myself for missing it until now. It's a park built on a rocky bit of coastline southwest of the Golden Gate and the Presidio. We took the coastal trail, which takes you to the ruins of old baths from the 1800s, shipwrecks, and gorgeous views of the bay.
For breakfast, we hit up Jane on the recommendation of a few of my dietitian friends. I had the most perfect avocado toast topped with pickled shallots, jalapenos, and a poached egg. I love the fancy toasts in San Francisco. The bread is incredible and they always serve it on really thick slices. We also split a chocolate croissant.
After showering up, we visited 21st Amendment Brewery and watched my Giants actually win a game!
When in San Francisco, always get dim sum. They're famous for their Chinese food. If you've never had dim sum, it's a traditional Chinese way of eating where carts filled with small plates of dumplings and other yummy dishes are pushed around. You just point at what you want and eat until full...err, stuffed. We went to Yank Sing, which is a little more upscale dim sum. It was really good, but I think we got there late so they weren't serving a lot of my favorite dim sum dishes.
After a much needed craft beer and dim sum induced nap, we went out to Pacific Heights to hang out with one of my dear friend's from high school, Meredith, and her husband Nick. She was just days from popping out her first baby! Last time I saw her at a wedding earlier this year, she was just weeks along, so it was crazy to see her right before having her baby too!
After hanging out at her house for a bit, we walked around Pacific Heights, which is a gorgeous neighborhood with historic homes and shops, but warning - HILLS. There was one spot I actually considered stopping to take off my boots with heels to walk down.
For dinner that night, we went to Flores, a Mexican restaurant in Pacific Heights. We sat outside to take advantage of the people and puppy watching.
For dessert, we stopped at Loving Cup for soft serve mixed with cookie dough and oreos. I really wanted to go to another ice cream shop we passed, but it was up one of those treacherous looking hills so we nixed it!
Day 3: San Francisco to Sonoma
Scott went out for a run and picked up breakfast while I hung out in the hotel and got some work done. There was a cute little cafe, Mazarine Coffee, near our hotel, so he picked up two fancy toasts for us to split. I am so grateful for a husband who has the same food tastes as me, because it makes it so easy for us to split meals.
That morning we were taking the ferry across the bay where Caroline was picking us up. So we spent the morning hanging out at Ferry Marketplace - basically food lovers paradise. They filled the ferry building with restaurants, food stands, and artisan food shops. We had a few snacks, then picked up some fancy bread and mushrooms to bring up to Sonoma.
On our way up to Sebastopol, we stopped in Santa Rosa to go to Russian River Brewery, Scott's favorite. If you're into craft beer, you know they're famous, but we were kinda dissapointed this time. We got the sampler of their beers and a lot were just ok. While we were there, we also went to Hen House, which we much preferred.
After beers and a pizza, we stopped for reflexology massages nearby. Caroline is pregnant, so she had become a bit of a regular there!
Back in Sebastopol, a little town right outside of Santa Rosa where Caroline and Neil live, we relaxed for a bit before heading out to Handline for dinner. They make Californian cuisine - lots of fresh ingredients and seafood with a Mexican flare. The hubs and I split a few dishes and I wrapped up with a cup of local soft serve for us all to split. Washed it all down with a glass of hibiscus aguas fresca which was so refreshing!
Day 4: Sonoma
The next day preggo Caroline took us out wine tasting in Sonoma. Mad thanks to her for driving us around while just being able to smell the wine! We started off at Fog Crest, where we were the only people there. We enjoyed this gorgeous view and a cheese plate on their patio. And I had the first chardonnay I've ever liked! Apparently, I just have expensive taste in chardonnay ;)
Then we hit up our second winery at Flanagan Wines and added a few more bottles for our collection.
After wine tasting and snacking on some cheese along the way, we had an epic tapas lunch at Bravas in Healdsburg. They lost one of the restaurants in their group in the fire, Willie's Wine Bar - one of our favorites from our first trip out. So make sure you hit up one of their spots if you make it out to Sonoma.
We were all starving by the time we got out there - you can tell with all the rich dishes we ordered - normally we're all vegetable lovers and would have a little more fresh and green on the table! Being so hungry, I definitely ate well past full, I'd say a solid 9-9.5 on the hunger fullness scale. Definitely didn't feel good afterwards. And because I was so hungry (and wine tipsy), I certainly didn't eat my meal mindfully and savor it like I wish I had. But that's okay, we all make mistakes in eating. And we live.
After a wine and food nap, we met up with Caroline and Neil's friends at a local bar for trivia night. The first round was psychology, which I totally rocked - knew that degree would come in handy one day!
Day 5: Sonoma
The next day both Caroline and Neil had to work, so we borrowed their car and went on a road trip around Sonoma, driving north to Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, the out towards the coast, down through Bodega Bay, and back to Sebastopol. If you head out that way, I highly recommend you take a break from wine tasting to do the same. The drive is absolutely gorgeous through miles and miles of wineries and forest and there's tons of cute towns to stop in along the way.
We fueled our road trip with an incredible breakfast at Wild Wood Cafe in Graton. It's this vintage-y looking cafe off the main street in Graton, where they serve classic breakfast food with an Italian flare.
From there we hit up Armstrong Redwoods park. It was one of our favorite places the first time we went out to Sonoma, but we mostly hung out on top of the mountain and enjoyed the views, rather than exploring the redwoods. This time we went on a nice long hike through the redwoods. They're not as big as Muir Woods or Redwoods National Park, but the park is a lot quieter and less touristy.
Right outside the park is the town of Guerneville (formerly known as stumptown after they cut down the Redwoods to build it). It's a really cute place to explore and shop, but we just had time for a snack at Big Bottom Market, home of world famous biscuits that Oprah picked to put on her favorite things list a few years back. They definitely lived up to the hype! We split a regular biscuit with butter and jam and a ham and dill biscuit, plus coffee.
Then we hit the road and drove out towards the coast. It was crazy because a couple miles out, you're just driving through mountainous redwood forests, then all of a sudden you come up on the coast. We could see it coming on our google maps, but we didn't believe it until we saw the Pacific over the horizon.
We eventually made our way to Bodega, where we stoped at Fishetarian to split epic rockfish tacos and a cup of clam chowder. They have a great deli and fish market there if you're staying somewhere nearby.
Once we made it back to Sebastopol, we met up with Neil at Hen House Brewery to wait for Caroline to get off work. Their gose was two very enthusiastic thumbs up.
Once Caroline was off work after a late day at the hospital, we met up at Ramen Gaijin. I had seen Caroline constantly posting pictures of their ramen on instagram, so it was a must that we had to go! Per Caroline and Neil's recommendations, we split a big plate of their mixed pickles, pork belly yakitori, and fried chicken thighs with miso ranch for an appetizer. I had their vegetarian ramen and Scott had their spicy pork ramen. There were plenty of leftovers for breakfast the next morning - I love noodle soup for breakfast!
Day 6: Thanksgiving in Sonoma!
For Thanksgiving, Caroline, Neil and their family host a huge potluck dinner with friends and family at a little community center out towards the redwoods. They picked up a turkey for Scott to fry, and we made a mushroom and winter squash casserole to take. It was a random thrown together dish, but it turned out so great! I had a ton of people ask for a recipe on my insta-stories, but I really didn't use one. Basically I just roasted butternut and kuri squash, sauteed a bunch of mushrooms with bacon, onion and garlic, tossed it all together in a casserole dish and baked in the oven with a topping of gruyere cheese and panko breadcrumbs. I'll try to recreate with dinner sized servings for the blog sometime!
Here's some snaps of our holiday celebration!
The next morning, it was an early flight home to Columbia! Thankfully we know we're headed back soon to visit the newest addition to the Hartley clan in March.
P.S. A bunch of people were wondering how Santa Rosa and Sonoma were after the fires. The fires were obviously devastating, but thankfully didn't cross the highway near where our family lives. We didn't go out of our way to see the damage - part of me wanted to, but part of me felt uncomfortable gawking. Other than when we dropped Caroline off at work one day at the hospital, we didn't see any damage whatsoever, but the glimpses we saw were just awful. If you're thinking about visiting, there's huge chunks of downtown that are totally fine and in Sonoma, only a couple winery's were affected. We wanted to do some volunteer work one day helping to rebuild, but from the research I was doing, it seemed like they hadn't even started really, as they were still making sure the sites were safe and bringing people back to what used to be their homes. Anyway, when we talked to people there, they said the best thing you could do to help was come and bring tourist dollars, so if you need an excuse to drink wine and feel good about it, head out to Sonoma!
More wine and California: