A San Fran Christmas

To say the drive from Pebble Beach to San Fran was beautiful would really be an understatement. 
Picturesque mountains meeting the Pacific Ocean seemed like heaven to Husband and I. The best of both worlds mere minutes from each other.
We took our time with the drive. Stopped for a few photo ops and a pint at the Half Moon Bay Brewery.
San Francisco in the winter is still a little chilly. Most mornings the fog was so heavy you couldn’t even see the tops of buildings.
In spite of being exhausted an a bit cold we bundled up and hit the streets to check out SF’s #1 seafood restaurant called Sotto Mare to partake in the regional specialty, cioppino. Cioppino is a dish that originated in San Francisco and consists of a boat load of seafood (crab legs, shrimp, scallops, muscles, clams) in a tomato broth and sometimes a bit of pasta thrown in. With each bite we fell more in love with this delicacy. By the end we were sopping up the last remnants with the buttery soft sourdough bread, stuffed, but almost ready for another round. We were thankful we had a 10 or so block walk home as we waddled out of the restaurant. The Trip Advisor reviews had said it was like walking into an Italian family reunion and it didn’t disappoint! After walking around Union Square with the magic of the ice skating rink and brightly lit Christmas tree wrapping around us, we ended the night with a few $2 nightcaps at the Mexican restaurant and bar around the corner from our hotel.
On our first full day we walked (and walked, and walked) down to the Port area to check out the market. We drooled as we walked past local creamery shops, meat farmers, handmade desserts and finally a shop that only sold mushrooms and mushroom related products, at which point I made a beeline for the truffle goodies…and left with a jar of white truffle salt 🙂  Relying on Trip Advisor again we lunched at The Slanted Door, and again we were totally pleased with the food.
Post lunched we walked past all of the ports and down to Fishermen’s Wharf.
Known as a tourist trap by many locals, yet undeniably worth the visit for a bowl of fresh chowder or a steamed dungeness crab, the wharf area was crawling with people.
Next up was The Cannery…
and Ghiradelli Square, home of the original chocolate shop. We were greeted with their seasonal peppermint bark, but never did make it back for a cup of hot chocolate 🙁
That evening we grabbed a few beers at the White Horse Tavern (where you can get a free hot dog with your brew!) before going to dinner.
We decided to hit the # 6 rated restaurant on Trip Advisor and walked to a more secluded area of SF to eat at Kokkari. Personally I feel it should have been rated higher. We walked into a crowded restaurant where we were told it would be two hours before the next reservation time was available or we could battle our way to the first come first serve seats at the bar where there was already a line of people jockeying for position. Surprisingly within ten minutes of arriving we were summoned and shown to a table right in front of the ginormous fire where a whole lamb was slow roasting beside a lined of chickens on the spit. We dined on an appetizer of grilled vegetables with greek yogurt, grilled octopus, and the grilled specialty of the day – lamb, that had been slow roasted, filled with lemons and other goodies, and frequently basted with oil and lemon juice until it was so tender you could use a fork to eat it. The drippings were used to brown the fingerling potatoes and resulted in a treat that melted deliciously in your mouth. For dessert we went for the baklava ice cream, which was so kindly picked up by a stranger I had met on the elevator. We left with full tummies and full hearts at the kindness of the people we had met.
On day two we had decided to make the drive to wine country. We would only have time for one winery and we wanted to somehow get the Redwoods in so we set off at warp speed to try to cram it all into one day.
The Redwoods were just 15 minutes from downtown San Francisco. We hurriedly paid the fee and basically ran through the short half hour loop, stopping only momentarily to snap a few shots.
These guys were HUGE!

Our wine tasting had been scheduled for 2:00 and we made it with only minutes to spare (it was an hour and a half away).
The vineyard is family owned and was started by a young man named Fred who basically taught himself everything there is to know about making wine.
We were in such a rush we hadn’t eaten lunch so we were very thankful for the cheese plate!
We actually learned quite a bit we didn’t know about wine.
And left feeling a little like family ourselves.
Definitely planning on coming back to Napa to do it right!
Our tasting guide had recommended we go to a place called Zazu’s for dinner, which was slightly out of our way, but led us through a little town called St. Helena. The town was small and charmingly quaint, full of one of a kind bakeries, olive oil shops and locally made trinkets.
The we drove down the “Hollywood Road” of wineries with the big guys like Robert Mondavi lining the street. Just outside the vineyards we came across the Silverado Brewing Co. where we stopped for a beer.
And then drove out to what seemed like the middle of nowhere to eat at The Next Iron Chef contestant Duskie Estes farm-to-table restaurant. The restaurant and farm raises their own pigs so obviously pork was their specialty. In addition to the meat they grow quite a few of their own vegetables and practically everything they serve is handmade and local. We started with the fresh bread and butter before our appetizers of bacon wrapped dates and a brussels sprout salad (I recreated this salad at home and it has become a BIG hit with our friends and family, recipe to come!). Our main course was a thick cut pork chop with a truffled topping. Then we drove in the dark back to the hotel and more or less fell into bed.
On our final day we made a point to walk the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. It was big. It was a little windy. It wasn’t very golden, but it was very loud!
That evening we took part in the infamous happy hour specials at the Tunnel Top Bar before finishing our trip with dinner at Fino’s Italian Restaurant.
I never expected to love California so much, but I CANNOT wait to go back again. San Francisco has now secured it’s place as my second favorite city in the US!

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