Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Weekend Updates and Sonoma!

Kettle is a gift from Mom!
Hello!  SMS and I have taken a little breather from our weekend road trips and enjoying Mountain View.  It's nice to enjoy our place and each other!  Two weekends ago was a little cloudy/rainy so we were pretty low-key.  Saturday, SMS joined me at running club, which was a lot of fun.  I'm not sure if SMS would describe it as "fun," but he's trying to work out a little more consistently and it's fun to do together.
AWESOME breakfast!
 Hmm, what else?  SMS made me a fantastic breakfast on Sunday morning before we went to the Farmer's Market.  The produce we bought was fantastic. Before going to the market, we stopped at the Tesla statue where it looked like SMS was getting anointed as a knight.  We also went shopping for work shirts and stopped by the Tesla store.  We finished up our afternoon with a climbing session at Belmont Gym, which was a nice change of scenery.
Tesla says, "Go forth, young man."
This past weekend was a little busier but just as fun.  On Saturday, we went to run club and had a really interesting conversation about patents afterwards.  No, seriously!  After we cleaned up at home, we went to our new house where we signed the lease, which was really exciting!  The place has a garage, orange tree, cute interior and is right off the running trail.  It was a great find!

Then we headed home where I took an epic nap (win!) and SMS hung out with a friend of his who is leaving for NYC soon. That evening, we hung out with two new friends at Bier Haus.  SMS and I had never hung out there for dinner but the food was excellent and I really liked the two beers I tried- a Doppelbock and a Marzen.

The next day, SMS and I headed up to San Francisco for breakfast before heading up to Sonoma with friends.  He was navigating and found a really delicious restaurant Park Chow in the Sunset/Richmond District.  After breakfast, we wandered into San Franpsycho, a probably-too-cool-for-us clothing store where I got an Outer Sunset shirt.  Yay!

Then, it was off to Sonoma where we went wine tasting at Williams Selyem and Woodenhead.  The wines, especially at WS, were delicious.  I'm not normally a huge fan of pinot noirs but the whole experience was really amazing.  The tasting room at WS is gorgeous and with the beautiful weather, the doors were open, a breeze was blowing and it was really idyllic.

After the two wineries, we headed to Armstrong State Natural Preserve to take in some big trees.  I think the group was getting a little tired by that point but it was nice to go back to the park, especially since we were so close.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Birthday weekend, Part 4: Palo Alto, SJC

After an amazing birthday weekend, I got a little extra bonus time to spend with my parents.  I had Monday morning off from work so after saying goodbye to SMS, I hung out in the morning until they woke up.  Then we ate breakfast and had coffee.

We had a small window of time before we had to leave to the airport, so we went to the Stanford museum, The Cantor Center for the Visual Arts.  We went to the Rodin Sculpture Garden and then we went inside for a few minutes.  Better a glimpse of beauty and art than none at all, right?

I thought Mom and Dad would like the 19th & 20th Century European Galleries.  The space is beautiful and really well laid-out.  I saw an older Picasso that I really liked (1909?).  The bottom left corner in particular had a beautiful palette so I snapped a picture for future inspiration.

Then, le boo, it was time for Mom and Dad to go to the airport.  I drove them to SJC and was pretty sad.  BUT, we had a great weekend and everyone is happy and doing well so really, I feel very lucky.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Birthday Weekend, Part 3: Napa, Mt Tam, Muir Woods

Cloudy start to our estate tour! The dog is Jasper, annihilator of sticks.
Sunday started off with another round of Bouchon pastries (for the win!), coffee and juice.  We all went out to pick our favorite(s) and then ate back at the house.  We walked around the estate and saw the horse exerciser- a rotating soft gate that apparently makes the horse move along at different paces in the ring.  The horse we saw could pass for a unicorn, sans horn, and didn't seem to mind nor was it breaking a sweat.

Sunny by noon!
Around 11, Mom's cousin came over and it was really nice to catch up with him.  The day started off cloudy but by the time we all left at noon, it was another gorgeous sunny day.  I decided to enjoy the beauty of Marin County by going to Mt. Tam and Dad really wanted to see Muir Woods.
Top left is my favorite piece in the Hess, "The Metamorphosis;" Barrel Room and more art.
First, we went to Hess winery to check out the art museum and tasting room.  The tasting room is very cool and we went into their barrel room after the guy noticed us looking through the window and told us we could go in.    The modern art collection is varied and interesting even if some of the works make me feel like I can do it too (I probably can't.  Probably).

Close up of my birthday flowers :) and Oxbow Market
Afterward, we ate lunch at Oxbow Market.  Dad was craving pizza so we shared three pies from Ca 'Momi.   It was excellent and such a good call!  Mom and Dad really liked walking around the market as we waited for our pizzas.  We sat outside at a table for four and really had a nice time.  Mom got her glass of wine comped by the guy taking our order inside, which just shows she still has it!

The road to the Mt Tam Peak is long but nice in that it eliminates that long walking part that some people don't like about hiking.  There's a 0.7 mile loop trail that gets a person to the summit so we all went on that.  There were some grumblings at the top about why the lookout tower wasn't open (grumble, grumble) but the views were magnificent and I think overall, we were pretty happy we went for the hike.  Someone did point out that the views from the parking lot were about the same as the ones from the top though (One gues- Dad!).

Then we headed back down the mountain to Muir Woods.  My National Park Pass got us in for free (yay!) and we went on the 1 mile boardwalk loop that took us past three distinct groves and several other Sequoia sempervirens.  It's pretty amazing and I'm glad we went to Muir Woods on the way back rather than add more time by going to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.  The trees in Armstrong are larger and the area is slightly less tamed (aka, no boardwalk) but sometimes, it's nice to avoid too much car time.

Mt Tam and the Golden Gate!
Then, it was time to head home.  We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and took the 280 back.  I had plans to make food at home but people were hungry and hungry now so we went to the best taco truck, Super Tacos El Conrro!  It's a converted ambulance with four people inside making the most delicious tacos.  If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend.

We were all pretty tired when we got home but we splurged on dessert and shared some Dolce wine before going to bed.  It was the perfect end to a day!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Birthday weekend, Part 2: Napa!

After sleeping soundly in the guesthouse's comfortable beds, we woke up to celebrate my birthday!  SMS and I were up first so we headed to Bouchon Bakery for pastries.  We ordered a delicious assortment including a croissant, almond croissant, chocolate almond croissant and pain au chocolat.  In order to disrupt the theme, we also ordered two cinnamon donuts that came with the hole.  Both were delicious.  The cake texture was incredibly perfect- I've never had a donut like it!

We brought the pastries back to the house where we ate and got ready for our day of strenuous wine glass lifting.  Our first appointment was at Schramsberg Vineyards for some sparkling wine, which seemed like the only civilized option that early in the morning!  But before the tasting comes the tour, which was excellent.  Rimpel gave us an overview of the winery's history, including the role Schramsberg sparkling wine has had in international-US affairs and State Dinners.  After that, it was time to tour the cave!
Rows and rows of champagne- what a lovely sight!  See the pickax marks on the upper left?
The first 1/6 mile of the cave was hand-cut by Chinese workers who were out of work after building the trans-Continental railroad.  The pick-ax marks are still there!  It reminded me of the cave system in Yokosuka.  The caves were pretty awesome, especially now that they've been expanded and hold millions of bottles of sparkling wine!

Rimpel reviewed the champagne making process, which is pretty cool.  First, the wine is made similar to any winery.  Then there's a secondary fermentation that happens within the bottle when sugar, yeast and wine are added.  The bottle is capped with a beer bottle top and left to age fo
r several years.  Prior to bottling, the bottles are inverted and twisted in huge holding racks by "riddlers" over the course of a few weeks to get the yeast to settle out right above the cap.  At the end, the neck is placed in glycol to freeze the neck, the cap is removed, the ice plug shoots out and a cork/cage are placed.  The process was fascinating and Rimpel explained it really well.
Happy frog in the Schramsberg pond!
After all that walking through the caves, it was time for the tasting!  We went into a small dining room and had two Blanc de Blanc, one Blanc de Noir and one Rose. They were all fantastic.  A nice surprise was the J. Davies cabernet sauvignon in the middle.  It was surprisingly delicious.  It was full-bodied and really, really smooth.  I loved it!  Mom signed up for the wine club and I don't know, I may soon be joining her!  (Oh wait, I just did!)

After our fantastic tour, we walked through the gardens which were really beautiful.  Napa in the Spring on a sunny day is absolutely gorgeous.  Then we headed into Yountville where I had bought tickets for the Taste of Yountville event.  The event went from 12-5 and featured a lot of different restaurants and local wineries.  There was also a tour of the French Laundry gardens, which three of the four of us liked (Dad!).  We had a great time walking up and down the street, grabbing our bites to eat such as shrimp and grits, mini-slider and ribs while washing it down with multiple wine tastings.  I think it would have been dangerous if we spent all afternoon there!
View from the Far Niente's main house balcony
Instead of spending all afternoon in Yountville, I kept an appointment I had made at Far Niente for 2 o'clock.  SMS and I are Nickel & Nickel members, mostly for the complimentary tastings!  Ok, ok, the wine is good too.  But the tastings are so expensive that by joining the wine club, it almost comes out even between the shipment costs and the complimentary tasting benefit.  Since SMS and I had been to Nickel & Nickel before, we wanted to try Far Niente.

Far Niente Caves.  Old vs new label on the right.
Our Uber drive out there was great because I got some awesome insights as to when you do and do not want someone throwing up in your car.  I would have thought you'd never want someone to throw up in your car but how wrong I was.  Cornell taught me that you get reimbursed $400 by Uber and the place he uses to clean it up only charges $160.  So on a slow night, it really helps you come out ahead.  I said I'd be tempted to buy fake throw-up.  He said he's thought the same thing but that the last rider gets charged so someone would probably complain.
Tasting time!
The tour was also amazing.  Reed walked us through the winery and described the process.  We also walked through the caves, which were among the first in Napa.  The caves were really cool although different in appearance than Schramsberg.   In the caves, we went into the wine library which was an awesome sight.  I wanted a bigger bag so I could sneak a bottle away.  I kid, I kid (mostly).
The car barn and a view of the main building
The tasting was great.  The highlight for me was trying Dolce, an incredible dessert wine that I have a bottle of but never tried.  It is so sweet and delicious!  We also had two chardonnays and two cabernet sauvignons.  The wines were paired with excellent cheeses and really, it was completely delightful.  The balcony door was open, the breeze blew through and the whole scene was so idyllic.

After Far Niente, we headed back to Yountville via Uber.  We caught the last hour of the festival and we had a great time.  Then it was back to the house to relax until dinner.

Dinner was at Ad Hoc, a Thomas Keller restaurant.  It was nice to have a birthday dinner in such a quintessential Yountville restaurant.  The short ribs supplement and cheese course were definitely on point.  The salad and dessert were also pretty good. The service and ambiance left a little to be desired but no matter, with great food and great company, it was an awesome end to a great birthday.

We got home around 10 and even though we wanted to build a fire, we were done!  We all went to bed, looking forward to more weekend adventures the next day!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Birthday Weekend, Part I: Alameda and Oakland

I had the most amazing birthday weekend!  Per the agreement with my mother, I am now 21+ while she is 29+.  We'll have to talk to Brady to work her into the equation but right now, things seem fair.
Oakland Alley
So.  Saturday was my birthday but the whole weekend was awesome.  On Thursday, my parents flew into town and I picked them up at SJC.  I drove them home and headed into work for afternoon clinic.  I managed to sneak out a few minutes early and we went to Shellshock for the $1 oyster happy hour.  I learned something new about my Mom.  She doesn't like raw oysters.  Oh, well, there were plenty of other delicious items on the menu.  SMS met up with us a little later since he has a real job and the four of us had a great time hanging out.  We stayed for awhile, headed back to the house, had a night cap and went to bed.
Dad's old hanger is actually 21, but this is a nice picture of the best parents ever!
The next day, I took the day off and I hung out with my parents.  Although it would have been awesome if SMS could have hung out with us, he's trying to build up his vacation days.  Mom, Dad and I headed to Alameda where we lived from 1987-1989.  We passed by our old house, which is in slight disrepair.   They were surprised to see it since they were told it was demolished after the 1989 earthquake.  We headed toward the runway where Dad tried to figure out which hanger was his old squadron.  He figured out that it was the one that now houses St. George's spirits where we celebrated by having a tasting.  The spirits were good as were Dad's reminiscences.  
Swan's Market, full of deliciousness!
We stopped by the Alameda Naval History museum which, unfortunately, is only open on Saturdays and Sundays.  So, off to lunch at Swan's Market in Oakland. I had never been and it was absolutely fantastic!  There are several terrific restaurants/food stands/standalone shops crowded into a larger market building.  I think Dad won the ordering competition with his incredible meatball sub but I wasn't too far behind with an arugula/farro/cucumber/almond/grapefruit/avocado/soft-boiled egg/lemon-anchovy vinaigrette/pecorino salad.  Yum!  We both got our dishes from the Hen House and I would definitely go back!
Mom ordered a lunch set from B-Dama which was fine, but not what she was expecting.  It was a Japanese-style lunch set but with American portions.  She ordered the karage, or fried chicken, but instead of popcorn-style fried chicken, it was basically super-fried and breaded chicken wings. I wasn't super-fond of the miso broth, which was quite fishy/clammy.
Oh yes.  All is right with the world.
Since we had already eaten plenty of food, the obvious place to go was Fenton's, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor that Dad took us to a fair amount when we were kids.  We ordered sundaes that were so good!  Afterwards, we were in a slight sugar coma but it was totally worth it!

We headed back down to Mountain View to meet up with SMS.  We hung out at the apartment for a bit before going out to dinner.  Since Mom and Dad had never been to In & Out, we decided to have our dinner there.  Mom knew In & Out as "the place Adele goes when she's depressed her piano's out of tune" but afterwards, she knew it as the place with Animal-style fries!

Then it was time to hit the road for Napa.  I had rented an awesome cottage on AirBnB and we had big plans for the next day.  The cottage was absolutely beautiful and an amazing place to stay.  We went to bed and we all slept very well!