Irving and I just got home from a weekend getaway to San Francisco to visit my brother and sister in law. It was our first time to both be away from David (gulp!), but he enjoyed his own “getaway” at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and I think he would have liked to stay a few more days!
Andy and Kirsten put together a full food and wine lovers’ tour of the San Francisco area. They were so thoughtful, and sought out great restaurants with tons of vegan options (neither of them are vegetarian) (UPDATE—Kirsten’s now a vegetarian, woo hoo!). Thanks guys!
I started my food vacation on the flight down to SF. Every time I fly with Alaska I get my favorite tapas picnic pack. It comes with hummus, crackers, olives, apricots and dried apples, almonds, and a square of dark chocolate, all for $6. It is such a good deal, and so satisfying! Most airlines carry something similar…keep your eyes open next time you fly!
Shortly after we arrived on Friday night we enjoyed pizza from Andy and Kirsten’s favorite place, Jules’ Thin Crust Pizza in Danville, CA. They have a huge selection of pizza toppings with so many unique combinations. Best of all, they have a vegan pizza with vegan cheese (I often order a pizza without cheese which is good in its’ own right, but I’ve been curious to try a truly vegan pizza)! Mine was topped with olives, red onions, tomatoes, and romaine lettuce. And of course, we enjoyed some delicious wine with dinner too.
Saturday was our day out in Napa and Sonoma so we left the house early and grabbed a quick bite at Starbucks. I enjoyed a multi grain bagel, fruit cup, and an iced coffee with soy milk. On to Napa…
Our first visit was to the Chappellet Winery in St. Helena, CA. Andy and Kirsten are members and frequent visitors there, so we were lucky to get a private tour. Our guide, Jonathan, took us up to a beautiful lookout above the winery. We enjoyed 6 different wines, and an incredible view.
Jonathan also explained more to me about vegan wines. Turns out that many wine makers use animal products to purify and filter their wines. I won’t get in to all of that here, but if you are curious to know whether your favorite wine is vegan or not, check out barnivore.com.
Our first tour ran a bit late so we didn’t have time to stop for lunch on our way to our second tour of the day. Good thing I packed my Trail Mix Truffle balls…we gobbled them up too quickly to get a picture, but I will be making them later this week and will do a separate post with the recipe. They were amazing!
Our second tour and tasting was at Benziger Family Winery, in Glen Ellen, CA. They are a biodynamic winery. Here is a quote from their website explaining biodynamic farming:
Biodynamics is the highest level of organic farming. Developed in the 1920’s, Biodynamics views the vineyard as a single organism. With this approach, eliminating synthetic chemicals is just the beginning. Biodynamics goes further, encouraging biodiversity, a closed nutrient system, the use of homeopathic teas and a close personal connection to the land.
It was so interesting to see how everything worked together. Old wine barrels were broken apart and used for garden arbors, plants that attracted certain helpful bugs were planted instead of using pesticides, and cover crops are planted to keep the soil fresh (can’t rotate the grape vines like you can with other crops).
We enjoyed 2 hours of tasting and touring, and I was so thankful for the quick snack in the car. Kirsten and I also enjoyed fresh apples from the winery garden, which helped to hold us over until dinner!
We had planned on heading home for a break after all of the wine tasting and having a late dinner, but since we missed lunch we knew that wasn’t going to happen! We stopped by one of Andy and Kirsten’s favorite Mexican restaurants in Sonoma, CA—Taqueria la Hacienda. We ordered the best guacamole I had ever had (and I’m not a huge guacamole fan) and devoured it! It had chunks of avocado, tomato, and red onion, mixed with smoothly mashed avocado and lime juice.
For my entrée I had the Vegetable Chimichanga…essentially a fried burrito! It was delicious (how could it not be?). It was stuffed with veggies and topped with more awesome guacamole. It was served with a side of rice and whole black beans (tip: most Mexican restaurants serve whole beans if you ask, a healthy alternative to refried beans!).
No Mexican meal would be complete without margaritas. We ordered a pitcher of organic margaritas…since they were organic they’re guilt free, right?
On Sunday, after a much needed good night’s sleep, we headed into San Francisco for some sight seeing, but not before enjoying a bowl of my sunshine granola that I had brought for Andy and Kirsten (I think I owe them another batch!). Our first stop was at the San Francisco Farmer’s Market in the Ferry Building, where I happily discovered a vegan donut booth—Pepples Organic Donuts. It was hard to choose between so many great flavors, but in the end I split a Philz Coffee donut with my brother…we were happy with our choice!
We moved to the other end of the city to see the sea lions at Pier 39. They are hilarious! We also found a souvenir shop with trolley cars…Irving and I figured it was a pretty good gift to bring home for David who LOVES trains right now!
We then began what seemed like an endless walk (ok, just a mile and a half, but I was wearing ballet flats!) to Greens Vegetarian Restaurant. I kept reminding myself that it was worth it though, because my walk burned all the calories from my lunch, right? I first heard about Greens Restaurant two years ago. Vegetarian Times did a Thanksgiving spread on them, and I made several of their recipes. We gave Kirsten and Andy a gift card to the restaurant for Christmas because they had just moved to San Francisco. So when we decided to go down for the weekend, Kirsten made us reservations for Sunday lunch! So glad we could go there, everything we had was delicious!
Each couple shared a bowl of Moroccan Garbanzo Soup. There were garbanzos (obviously), carrots, celery, zucchini, and onion in a tomato broth that had cumin and hints of curry in it. The soup was delicious, and I will be recreating it soon!
For my main course I had the roasted eggplant sandwich. I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but the rest of the sandwich ingredients looked so good, and if someone is going to make a good eggplant sandwich it is going to be a vegetarian restaurant! So glad I went for it…it was awesome! The bread was spread with romesco, a red pepper dip. Then it was stuffed with caramelized onions, tomatoes, greens, and roasted eggplant. It came with a side of potato salad, but not just any ordinary potato salad! Yukon gold potatoes, green and yellow wax beans, capers and shallot were tossed in a champagne vinegar Dijon sauce…yum!
Once we were completely stuffed we took to the streets again. We walked not quite a mile before getting to Ghirardelli Square. I enjoyed a dark chocolate coconut martini for “dessert,” and picked up a few yummy dark chocolate bars to bring home…one filled with orange cream, and the other with sea salt and almonds. I’ve sampled them both and they are so tasty…I love dark chocolate!
Our final stop of the day before heading to the airport was the Golden Gate bridge. I’ve seen it so many times in the movies, but seeing it in person was so impressive! We walked out to the middle and watched sailboats, kite surfers, and another sea lion out enjoying the water and the beautiful sunshine. What a treat to have such amazing weather!
I enjoyed one more tapas picnic pack for dinner on the way home! Needless to say, we’ll be eating a bit lighter this week as we recover from an amazing foodie weekend! Thanks for planning Andy and Kirsten…we had a great time!