Wednesday, May 30, 2012

One day in Napa

My parents are bringing their friends down to see the Giant's game on June 9.  They've decided to stay in Napa and take the ferry from Vallejo directly into McCovey Cove.  They just discovered that in order to purchase tickets, you must either do so at the Ferry Terminal in Vallejo, or fax an awful lot of personal information in letter form to no one in particular.  Their arrival time won't be until after the terminal closes, and faxing didn't sound too appealing.

My mother and I bartered - Michael and I would go get the tickets if she would treat us to lunch at one of my favorite places - Rutherford Grill, in Rutherford - just outside of Napa.

So, on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, we headed off.  Traffic was actually pretty amazing.  We got the tickets purchased, took note of the parking lot location, and were back in the car in less than 10 minutes.  It looks like a pretty convenient way to avoid the AT&T Park traffic/parking nightmare.

We headed north on 29, and when we reached American Canyon we found all of the people.  From there to Rutherford, it was a pretty constant almost 10 mph drive!  Luckily, the scenery was nice.

We got to the Rutherford Grill about five minutes past our 2:45 reservation time due to the traffic.  They had no problem with this, and we only had about a 10 minute wait for a table.  I was so excited that I was practically gyrating - I love this place and hadn't been in over 10 years.  We were happy to wait outside by the boar fountain.  It reminded me of playing Lord of the Rings Online...(let's see who gets the reference.)

So, we got seated and ordered.  We started with their spinach artichoke dip.  It was wonderful!  Our entrees were a butternut squash enchilada for Michael (they accidentally made two instead of one, sucks to be him!) and the pork ribs for me.  The ribs were even better than I'd remembered!

Sorry for the lack of pictures of the food, but they have a strict "no cell phones in the dining room" policy, which I love.  I didn't want to risk getting kicked out before eating my food!

After the wonderful meal, we decided to try to find an alternate route into Napa.  We discovered that you can take 128 to the Silverado Trail, so we decided to try it.  It was a nice little drive, except for the torrential rain that lasted all of 10 minutes.

Once in Napa, we made a beeline for the Oxbow Public Market, where I would live if I could.  I was so excited to see that Oxbow Produce and Grocery had organic red grapes.  Red grapes are my absolute favorite, but lately all I can find are ones that are treated with sulphur dioxide, which I'm allergic to.  The only organic grapes I've been able to find locally are green.  I bought a bunch, which wasn't enough.  Need to go back! 

While I was browsing grapes, Michael decided to try their juice bar's Wowie Zowie.  It's carrot, apple, ginger, and lemon juices together.  It was delicious!

As Michael waited for his drink to be made, I boogied across to Kara's Cupcakes.  I love them because not only are the cupcakes very good, but also their bakery is certified green, and they use only organic and sustainable ingredients.

I grabbed myself a vanilla chocolate, and Michael a carrot cake (of course).

We made our way around through all of the vendors and back out to the car for the drive home.  It was a short visit, but so fun!  Our hope is to return soon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Coastal escape

Michael had a little comp time, so he decided to take May 21 and 22 off - four day weekend! We started it off by going to lunch at Sandy's Cafe before hitting the Gilroy Premium Outlets.  This place is amazing!  They've got everything you could want from Coach to Corningware.  We putzed around here for about four hours - and that was going through fast!  We had to pick up a dress shirt and jacket for Michael since he shrunk out of his.  I also needed a sweater since mine was too big as well!

After that, we stopped a while so we could see the solar eclipse before driving on to the coast.

We checked into the Sanctuary Beach Resort in Marina.  It was pretty nice, but I'm not too sure that it was worth the price.  We were given a deluxe "ocean front room."  The ocean was about 500 feet away, across dunes that you are not allowed to walk on.  This means that to get to the beach from your room, it can be quite a hike.  We were in room 701, all the way at the left of the property.  Our view was only partial, in my opinion:

Here's what it looked like from out on the deck:

Rooms to the right of ours:

The staff that we encountered were nice and accommodating - there just wasn't many of them.  We had quite a wait for check-in due to there being only one person at the desk who was on a long phone call.  Once we got checked in, we were loaded up in a golf cart and taken to our room.  They don't allow cars down by the guest rooms, which was awesome.  Instead, you have your own personal golf cart.

The room overall was nice.  There were a couple of things that were a little aggravating, but not deal breakers.  First of all, there are no nightstands, so you have nowhere to set a glass of water or anything of that sort near you in bed.  There is no counter in the bathroom, just pedestal sinks, which makes girlie primping difficult.  Also, the bathroom was neglected.  The toilet seat was chipped and stained, the wall paint was peeling, and there was a dead plant outside the window.

Those are the only negatives that I found worth noting, other than the price of course.  We slept fantastic, listening to the waves through the open window.

On to the food!  The first night, we ate at California Pizza Kitchen since we don't have one near us anymore.  We didn't eat much of our pizzas, so we took them back to the room and had them for breakfast for the remaining days that we were there.  I did have my first hot chocolate of the trip, though:

The next day, we wandered around in Carmel and at lunch at the Grill on Ocean Avenue.  This was the second time we ate there.  This time, we both had the sand dabs and the chocolate mousse cake:

We then walked back up the Ocean Avenue hill and drove to the Carmel Mission.  There's free parking, but a $7 admission fee.  That place is gorgeous!

After wandering around in there for a short while (it's so much easier on a weekday to see everything), we drove down Highway 1 toward Big Sur.  I highly recommend this drive, but be sure to pack your patience - the drivers here either go 10 below the speed limit, or pass on blind corners.  Be careful!  Our favorite place to stop is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.  There's a $10 parking fee, and you get to wander along a trail that leads to a cliff overlooking the ocean, and this:

Worth it!

After admiring the view, we went back to our hotel in order to get ready for dinner at the Chart House.  This is one of our favorite places to eat, in part because that's where we had dinner the night of our wedding.  Definitely make reservations, and show up early to try to get a table by the window.  The crab cake appetizer is wonderful, as are the Midori Margaritas!

After checking out the next morning, we headed for the Cannery Row Antique Mall.  This place is two stories of goodness!  Make sure you check the small lot for free parking so that you don't have to feed the meter.  Everything was a lot of fun to look at, but we left empty-handed.

Shopping makes us hungry!  We headed to Fisherman's Wharf to refuel and browse.  Lunch was at the Old Fisherman's Grotto, which unfortunately seems to have gone downhill a little bit.  The fried calamari was just what I was wanting, but our entrees left something to be desired.

After we ate, we browsed the shops at the wharf, then decided we'd better head home as to not get stuck in rush hour traffic.

All in all, it was a fun little getaway.  I would love to do it again sometime - midweek in the Monterey area is fantastic!