Thursday, October 29, 2015

Napa Finale

Beautiful Sunrise!

Our last day in Napa was abbreviated since we had to head back to an afternoon OR case (me) and a flight (Linda and Rip).  I did go for a 5.5 mile run in the a.m. which was farther than I wanted to go but that's what happens when there's an unanticipated road closure along the shorter route.  The run was gorgeous since the sun was rising and Napa was shrouded in riverlets of fog.  I even saw a hot air balloon.

Breakfast was amazing at the B&B and then it was time to go.  *Sniff*  It was a wonderful weekend and one I hope to do again in the future.  I had such a fantastic time with SMS, Linda and Rip.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Napa Wine Tasting Day!

The Fab Four at Jericho Canyon
We woke up and rolled straight out of bed to an awesome breakfast!  Our B&B Wine Way Inn features a great breakfast spread every morning.  We had a dutch pancake in a castiron pan, blueberry muffins, yogurt and granola, roasted peaches and French-press coffee.  Yum! 

After breakfast, I went into town to  pick up some picnic treats and fill up the car.  Don the Driver came over shortly thereafter and we were off to the tastings!
Another shot of Jericho Canyon
Our first stop was Jericho Canyon.  It’s a small, family-owned winery that cultivates 40 of its 100+ acres.   We met our guide Brittany and headed up the hill to view the spectacular view from the top.  The vineyards were a gorgeous green and golden hills, trees, scattered buildings, cliffs and vineyards made for a very picturesque viewing point.  We took in the view for a bit while Brittany explained some of the history of the place.  Then we headed back down and into the cave where we looked at all the barrels before sitting down to a tasting.  There were some great reds and we all liked the wines a lot.  The tour was just the four of us and it was really awesome to have such a focused experience. 
Nickel and Nickel Barn
We had to go a little earlier than we would have liked but we were heading down the road to Nickel & Nickel, a single-vineyard per wine winery that SMS and I really enjoyed a bottle from recently during a fancy celebration dinner.  We arrived a few minutes late but we joined the group in the parlor of the main house and listened to the rest of the overview.  We toured the grounds and saw several restored barns that had been brought in from other parts of the US.  We walked past the equipment used in the production process before ending up in the barrel cellar, which is different than a barrel cave even though they look about the same inside. I think it has to do with whether it’s dug into the ground vs. a hillside. 

Then we went into the dining room and had a wonderful tasting of 4 cabernet sauvignons and 1 pinot noir along with 3 delicious cheeses.  The wines were exquisite and we had a really great time.  I joined the wine club a few days prior, mostly to offset the cost of the tastings but after the tasting, I’m really looking forward to the wine now too!

The porch of Venge
After Nickel & Nickel, we headed to our picnic lunch, which we had in a park in Calistoga.  Then we went to our last vineyard of the day, Venge.  Venge had a beautiful porch overlooking the vineyard and we had a nice time kicking back and enjoying the wine.  Our pourer was a pretty funny guy, some of it unintentional on his part.  Some his adjectives weren't the best ("disgustingly big") and he sort of botched the story about the wine being named in honor of the owner's dead dog.  I referred to it as Dead Dog Wine from then on out, which I think was missing the point.  

Afterwards, we returned back to the B&B.  We stopped in at the Tank tasting room so SMS could try out the pinball.  Then we had a glass of wine back at the inn before heading to JoLe for dinner, which was another hit!  I had scallops with grits and okra, which was pretty delicious.  We headed home after sharing dessert and wishing Linda a Happy Birthday one more time.  It was a great day and we really had such a great time!

Mumm Champagne and Calistoga

On Saturday, the excitement was second only to Christmas morning.  It was time to go to Napa- hooray!  We all got up and were ready around the same time so we headed out to Panotiq for breakfast and coffee.  I had a pain au chocolat while everyone else got breakfast sandwiches either on a croissant or French biscuit  (the real name is eluding me right now).

We hit the road and arrived in Napa around 11.  Thank goodness- it was time to eat again!  Well truthfully, even though eating and drinking definitely were the themes of the weekend, we were still a little full from breakfast.  So we walked around the Farmer’s market (last of the season!) and Oxbow market to pick up some picnic provisions.  We got back in the car and headed up to Yountville where we had an awesome picnic in the French Laundry gardens.  There are several picnic tables on either end of the garden and it was really an exquisite setting.  Our picnic was  delicious and then we walked through the gardens before heading to our first tasting!

Our tasting was at Mumm, in honor of Linda’s birthday and her preference for sparkling wines.   We had a reservation on the Oak Terrace and it was really nice and relaxed.  Our pourer was knowledgeable and I learned the best takeaway tip.  If the sparkling wine is not made via “method traditionale,” the carbonation and sugars are added artificially in the second stage which is the way to make a hangover in a bottle.   So, you don’t need to spend a lot but look out for those production methods!
SMS did this climb!
After the tasting, we went to the photography gallery.  There was a landscape photography exhibit by Ben Nixon, which was excellent.  SMS is convinced that the photographer must be a rock climber because he took picture in several places SMS recognized and several other places that SMS now wants to go.  There was also an Ansel Adams gallery with prints there on long-term loan.  Even though the photos exist in multiple prints, SMS explained that Ansel Adams printed each one by hand so each is unique due to subtle differences in darkroom manipulation techniques.  It was a small, but excellent, collection.

Then we were off to Calistoga!  We arrived at the B&B a little earlier than planned so we headed into town and tried wines at the Huge Bear Tasting Room.  Afterwards, we headed back to the B&B to rest up before dinner.  We went out to Evangeline, a French-Creole inspired restaurant with a huge patio.  We split three amazing salads- heirloom tomato, pork belly with egg and shaved persimmon-pear.  Afterwards, I had smoked salmon.  Everyone’s dishes were really nice but to me, the salads were the standouts. 

Then, after a day of eating and drinking, we were tired!  So we walked back despite Rip’s exhortations to keep the party going.  We went to bed, ready for our Sunday Funday of tastings complete with a driver!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Winery Warm-Up: Ridge and R&W, Saratoga Wineries

Linda and Rip.  This picture is actually from Mumm but I seem to not have taken any pics on Friday.  I must have been missing my muse, SMS!
Argh!  Grumpy me!  I typed an entire post on my iPhone in the car and when I went to my drafts folder, it's nowhere to be found.  Boo!

BUT, there is a saving grace!  I get to write about my awesome Friday again!

So, after a fairly worthless day at work on Thursday due to my excitement about the upcoming weekend, I went for a run Friday morning and then headed to the San Jose airport to pick up my in-laws Linda and Rip.  SMS doesn't have a lot of vacation days yet so I took the day off and hung out with my favorite (and the best!) in-laws.

After a smooth pick-up, we headed into Mountain View to pick up some picnic provisions for our day's planned activities- wine tasting!  Yes, it was going to be a wine tasting weekend to celebrate Linda's birthday but I thought it would be fun to get a jump on our Calistoga plans by heading up to the local hills and tasting at the wineries with incredible views.

Our first tasting was at Ridge Winery.  We had a nice tour and walked through several of the vineyards, which was nice to get a feel for the farming element of wine making.  I know that sounds a little silly, but I feel my wine experiences mostly focus on the final product so it was cool to be out in the fields.  Besides, the tasting was still part of the experience!  We went into their dining room and tasted some excellent Estate wines, paired with some cheese and olive tampenade.  Yum!

After the tasting, we headed outside to the picnic tables and had a really delicious picnic.  It was a leisurely time and we were really enjoying the weather and the view.  Then we headed off to our second winery of the day, R&W.

R&W has the most exceptional view of Silicon Valley.  It really is the draw for me, but we also had a great tour given by Bill.  He walked us through the entire process and showed off all his equipment from the grape de-stemmers, fermenting tanks, barrels, the bottling machine and the cellar itself.  I'm sure I'm leaving out a few crucial steps, but it was a pretty awesome layout and helped me understand the sequence and timing of making delicious wines.

Afterwards, we had another tasting, this time with a Syrah and 3 Cabernet Sauvignons.  We all preferred the Cabs, which is in line with our normal tastes.  We bought a few bottles and headed out, slightly jealous of this little slice of paradise on the hill!

As we headed back into the valley, we decided to stop at Shell Shock for some $1 happy hour oysters.  They were delicious and SMS joined us straight from work.  After oysters, we headed home for dinner.  I made cod, cauliflower rice and poached tomatoes and peppers.  It was a very carb-less meal which I thought was ok given our upcoming Napa trip.  The only thing I wouldn't do again is take the Whole Food's guy recommendation that cod ~ halibut.   Wrong!  It's true the consistency is close but the flavors are pretty markedly different.  Not that anyone would mistake this for a cooking blog, but I thought I'd pass along lessons learned!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

San Francisco

I love the scale in this photo!
This past weekend was split between being mellow and venturing out. On Saturday, I went for a run with my running club which was a lot of fun. I ran the 5K distance at a pretty good clip and then enjoyed some fun conversation at Starbucks afterwards.

The rest of the day was pretty mellow. SMS was out with his climbing friend so I went to the library and read a book for an upcoming book club. 

The next day, we decided to head up to the city. We had brunch at Outerlands, which was pretty awesome. I love their lavain bread, which we had toasted. Then we each had "Eggs in Jail," a very fancy version of egg-in-a-hole. It was good but I think next time I'll get something a little more adventurous...maybe a Dutch pancake. 

SMS and I got to pika pura and made cool photo stickers, complete with anime eyes!
After brunch (and a pre-brunch stop at Trouble coffee to restock on beans), we went to Japantown to check it out. There was an art walk that day where we bought a "passport" and went to 16 different stops throughout the 6 block area and got the book stamped with original designs by different artists. It was a fun way to explore the area!

As the girl shouted into her cell phone, "I'M IN MARINA!"
After Japantown, SMS wanted to check out another part of San Francisco so we decided to head over to Cow Hollow and the Marina area. It was a really pretty area with a lot of fancy shops. We stopped in for a drink at one of the restaurants and watched the end of a football game. Afterwards, we walked to the water where they were breaking down the setup for the Nike half-marathon. 
Alcatraz in the fading golden hour!

We skipped dinner in the city since we weren't hungry and headed home. It was a nice day with a lot of walking, exploring new-to-us parts of the city.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Reel Rock and the Oddball

SMS and I had fun plans for our workweek evenings this past week.  On Monday, we went to the Mountain View Arts Center to see Reel Rock, a film festival in its 10th year.  The films focus on rock climbing and mountaineering.  SMS has attended a few in the past so I was excited to see the show.

The seating was general admission, open seating which we didn't realize at first but we still got ok seats in the balcony first row.  There were four films with an intermission, which featured a very poorly executed raffle/prize giveaway.  My takeaway from the giveaway- don't toss a bunch of non-aerodynamic packages into the crowd and expect to look cool.  The way the packages flew, it looked like the guy had no upper arm strength and/or wasn't athletic.  Don't look that way in front of a bunch of climbers!

My favorite film from the first half was A Line Across the Sky, a documentary covering the Fitz Traverse, a 7 summit ridgeline climb of over 13,000 vertical feet.  The climb was done by Tommy Caldwell and Alex Hommold.  It is an impressive accomplishment and the documentary did a good job of conveying the unglamorous hard work that is behind such impressive endeavors and adventure.

The second half had two excellent films.  One covered the sport of high bouldering and one guy's quest to get out of his own head and climb an incredibly difficult route.  It's pretty amazing how vulnerable the guy was willing to be on film regarding his anxiety and self-doubts.  The second covered an event called Horseshoe Hell, a 24-hour climb-a-thon competition where competitors collect as many points as they can by climbing routes focusing on quantity and difficulty.  It was awesomely funny because of the narration and the comments by one of the climbers, Nik Berry.

Speaking of funny, on Tuesday we went to the Oddball Comedy Festival at Shoreline Ampitheater.  We almost didn't make it because we were feeling a little slow after work but we decided to muster up the energy and head out.  We biked to avoid traffic, which is a totally awesome call especially for after the show.  The comedy show was great.  My favorite comedian is John Mulaney, although Amy Schumer and Aziz Ansari also had good sets.  I highly recommend the show if it's coming your way and there are a few comedy specials I would like to watch in the next few weeks.
Hail to the Chef!
And that's pretty much it for fun!  On Wednesday, we had a more typical night in.  Thursday was Grand Rounds for me where I saw a great talk on reconstructing cutaneous defects.  Last night was pretty mellow but totally awesome since SMS made his amazing pizza, accompanied by a delicious salad with roasted beets.  Yum!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Saratoga Wine Trail with New Friends

So, I have a new friend!  We met at the Mountain View Running Club's Thursday night run.  We ran together for a bit, hit it off and realized that since we lived near each other and ran about the same pace, we should become running buddies.

We met up for our first run together near the Steven's Creek Trail entrance.  We started running and everything was going smoothly.  She pointed out the three mile marker and I thought to myself, "Sweet!  Time to head back home!"  

As I pivoted around, she said, "Oh, uh, actually I run 10 miles in the morning."  

Sagoy!  Who does this!?  10 miles on a workday/weekday morning.  That is insane!  But I was trapped.  We were on a semi-dark trail since the sun hadn't even risen yet and I didn't want to ditch her.  Besides, I was feeling pretty good so I decided that I could hang and run 10 miles.  And I did!  I haven't run that far in awhile but we kept up a good pace and it was nice to add some distance, albeit accidentally. 

So, we met up on Wednesday and did the same thing.  My legs are a little stiff and achy but overall, I'm exciting about upping my mileage.  We decided we wanted to hang out and introduce our husbands to each other so we decided to go wine-tasting on Saturday.

27Strings at Garard Estate
It was an amazing time!  We hung out with several of J and A's friends at two local wineries along the Saratoga Wine Trail.  Our first winery was the Cooper-Garard Estate.  They have a nice tasting room adjacent to a large equestrian area.  We found a spot to sit and spread out our picnic offerings, which was basically a highlight reel of all things delicious at Trader Joe's.  We ended up having a big group and we were siting right in front of the bluegrass band that played for about an hour.  We had to stay quieter than we would have liked since there were people behind us that were really into their bluegrass but eventually, the band stopped and we got to socialize more.  Don't get me wrong, the band was great but I was also excited to talk to our new friends!
View from R&W
The winery is in the Santa Cruz Mountains and SMS and I stayed for a bit with a couple who had arrived late.  They were fun to talk to but eventually, we parted ways from Garard and headed to R&W winery.  When we arrived, SMS and I instantly wished we had left Garard earlier because the view from R&W is absolutely spectacular.  All of Silicon Valley is laid out before you and it is really a very impressive site.  We saw the Apple building construction site, Moffett Field and really the whole area from South of San Jose all the way to the Bay Bridge.  SMS and I spoke with Bill, one of the co-owners for awhile and he was a really interesting person.  The conversation was pretty wide-ranging and we had a lot of fun.

Then, we went to Jack Rose in Los Gatos, which was a cool tavern with a good food menu.  SMS and I shared a pizza and then we felt pretty done for the day.  We headed home and were really happy to have met so many nice couple friends.

The next day, SMS and I had a pretty mellow day.  I went to the Farmer's Market and SMS went bouldering, which he's been more into lately.  It was a great weekend with a mellow Sunday which was nice since we had several plans for the work week.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Entrepreneurial Thought Leadership Series

Purple Cotton Candy and Sunglasses!
 SMS and I went to the second Entrepreneurial Thought Leadership Series talk at Stanford on Wednesday afternoon.  We managed to get out of work a little on the early side and head over to the Huang Engineering Center on the Stanford Campus.  It was an amazing event and the turnout was spectacular.  We couldn't even get into the auditorium although there was an AV set-up in the lobby that allowed us to hear the panel discussion.

There were three panelists- Christina Smolke, a bioengineering professor; Steve Jurvetson, a partner-level venture capitalist and Astro Teller, the head of Google X.  I suspect Mr. Teller was the reason for the huge turnout but who knows.  The panel looked backwards and forwards along the timeline of tech development and was fairly interesting.  I wasn't the biggest fan of the moderator.  She was a little too in love with her own cleverness and her questions were convoluted.  I think she was trying to channel a NPR Terry Gross-like style and wasn't completely successful.
Foreground, Marty McFly's car Background, Newest Tesla!
Afterwards, there were several companies displaying their products and free food!  I got to try on the Oculus VR goggles which were amazing.  It is still sort of a novelty type of entertainment- I could sculpt a "clay" structure and manipulate it in various ways- size, orientation, decoration, color.  It was really, really cool.  We also saw the Back to the Future car and got free cotton candy.  It was a really fun event and I think we'll go again if we can swing the somewhat early start time (4:30).

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

2 Days, 1 Night in Napa

Last weekend, SMS and I went to Napa.  I was off-call and was able to venture a little farther away than normal.  We are going next month as well with SMS' parents but even though the two trips are close together, I kind of wanted to get my "Napa Newbie" trip done.  It was nice to get the lay of the land and see a few places that I had heard about to weed out the "Repeat.  Must do again" from the "'s to somebody's taste, but not mine."

Coffee Scales for Pour-over at Ritual
On Saturday, I got up for a run and then we were off a little after 9.  We arrived in Napa by 11 and headed to the Farmer's Market.  It skewed towards ready-made goods more than produce but it was a a lot of fun.  We bought figs, which I hadn't seen in Mountain View for a few weeks.  We also had sandwiches for an earlier breakfast from "A Proper Sandwich."  We split the sandwiches- I favored the roasted delicata squash with caramelized onions, fig spread, greens and pepitas on a hearty bread. SMS ordered the pimento cheese sandwich which was tasty but basically, a holiday cheese ball smashed into a sandwich.  I wasn't quite expecting that but still, it's nice to try something different.

Oxbow Market- crowded but awesome
Although we were full, we wandered through Oxbow Market.  It is super cute and airy with lots of great stand-alone shops, mostly food service.  It is similar to the Ferry Building in San Francisco and the San Pedro Market in San Jose.  There's a Hog's Head Oyster bar, a restaurant called The Kitchen Door, Ritual Coffee, and C Casa, a great Mexican food place that is pricy for Mexican food but relatively inexpensive for Napa :/
How to strap that to a car...
After looking at Oxbow, we decided to make a big driving loop up the Silverado Trail and back on the 29 to Napa, where I had booked our last-minute hotel.  The whole area was very crowded- it's harvest time!  We stopped in St. Helena and window-shopped.  We found a motorcycle rental shop with some jet-engines out front.
I think this looks very Wild West...with gourmet tastes!
We also went to Oakville Grocery, which was smaller than I thought and although the building was historically interesting, I was a bigger fan of Oxbow.  I was definitely glad that we stopped though because I had heard so much about it.

Even the cheese at V. Sattui are crowded, ha ha.  But delicious!
Then we went to V. Sattui for a late lunch and glass of wine.  There are large picnic grounds there and  although the layout was nice, neither one of us really liked it.  And to be honest, most people's rave reviews are usually in context of when they had already had a few tastings and then went to V. Sattui and really, that's how it struck me- a place that would be more fun if you were drunk.  You know, get a little food, drink a little more, relax under a tree or on a picnic bench.  Definitely fun in the right mindframe but as a stand-alone stopping point in Napa?  I recommend a pass.
The French Laundry

We stopped in Yountville to take ultimate tourist photos at The French Laundry.  We also walked around the gardens which were very impressive.  So well-laid out and perfectly ordered with excellent irrigation set-ups.  There was also a chicken coup/playground for chickens and a greenhouse.  It was really cool to wander in there.

Then we went to Napa, checked into our hotel, had a cookie and milk break at 6 and headed out to dinner.  We walked towards the downtown where we had dinner at Carpe Diem, which was really fun.  We each had a shot of yellow lentil soup and then we shared a salad and a flatbread.  I had a flight of the "interesting reds," which included a pinot noir I really liked (usually I find them a little too light and fruity).
Tasting Time!

Hess Courtyard and small pond with little goldfish
The next day, we had breakfast at the hotel which was carb-tastic!  We each had a waffle and then we split a homemade blueberry-banana mini-loaf.  Yum!  Then we headed out to Hess Winery, which was fantastic.  We went to the tasting room first where we tried a flight of three cabs (we liked 2010 the best) and a flight of four varied wine (I liked the Syrah).  Our pourer was really nice and the room was very cool.  We wandered around the gift shop and then went to view the attached museum/private collection of Mr. Hess, which is an incredible modern art collection.  After 40 minutes, we went on a tour of the vineyards and buildings which was about 30 minutes, but got the main points across.  It was a really pleasant, fun place and we were big fans!

Very cool collection and layout
Working winery next to the art!
After that, we decided to head home after a lunch at C Casa in Oxbow Market.  We stopped at UC-Berkeley and walked around for a bit. We also went to the top of the campus tower and had a great view on a pretty clear day.  Then we went to Stout Poutine so that SMS could get his poutine fix that he had had since reading about poutine in Berkeley.  They are really good but maybe a little much after a food-centric weekend!

Westward view from the tower
Then, we headed home and prepared for the week.  It was a fun weekend get-away and makes me really excited for our trip in a few weeks!  I've made some reservations and hired a driver so it will be a little more wine-centric.  Hey, maybe we should stop at V. Sattui!