San Francisco/Napa Valley: PART TWO

The next day, we woke up early to squeeze in a trip to the Ferry Building Marketplace before leaving the city.  This place was recommended across the board from my friends and coworker so I was willing to sacrifice a few hours of sleeping time to get there 🙂

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My eagerness may have gotten the best of me since we arrived before the place even opened.  Vendors were just beginning to set up shop.

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As promised by our friends, this historic building is a food lover’s haven – fresh local fish, artisan cheeses, various wines, specialty meats, and freshly baked bread under one roof.

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Our first stop was Acme Bread, one of the first shops to open their doors that day.  Not only does this place have fantastic bread and an incredible selection, but many of the ingredients they use (like 100% of their flour) are organic and locally sourced.

Originally a wholesale bakery for high-quality restaurants (including Chez Panisse! – another bucketlist restaurant of mine), they now have two retail shops – one of which is here.  It was therefore imperative that we buy a loaf to accompany us on our road trip later that day.

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To supplement our bread, we stopped at Cowgirl Creamery next door, another local gem but with more national acclaim.

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What’s great about this little shop is the customer service.  Once your number is called, an expert cheeseman/cheesewoman (or at least that’s how I like to refer to them) is there to assist you in finding just the cheese you are looking for.  They ask you a number of questions about your tastes and they then select some samples for you to try until you find what you want… an experience that would otherwise be overwhelming considering how many different kinds of cheeses there are to choose from!

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We took some cheese with us for the road and ended up eating Cowgirl Creamery cheese several more times throughout the trip (more on that later).

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Meanwhile outside, an entire lineup of unique food vendors awaited us.  I was still full from leftover Tony’s Pizza (see my last post) but I thought these nectarines would go nicely with our bread and cheese.  Fast forward to a few hours later: they were the best nectarines I’d had in a long time.

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Patrick wavered between a number of food stalls, but ended up surrendering to his meat and potatoes affinity with rotisserie chicken and roasted potatoes.

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The outside of the meat was really delicious and flavorful, especially with a squeeze of lime juice.

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We also decided to try the Korean tacos at another vendor.

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I was surprised to see that it came wrapped in nori instead of a tortilla.  The “taco” was really, really good but not very practical for biting into, especially when sharing!  Also the juice from the meat was dripping everywhere.  But despite user difficulties, I want to stress how delicious this was!  I could really go for two or twelve of them right now.

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At this point, it was time to begin our departure from the city.  But not without first pausing to gaze up at the zigzag road where a number of tourists were already lining up to ride down or walk along it.  Not so sure I’d want to live in one of the surrounding apartments.

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Since we had to drive over it to leave the city anyway, we saved the Golden Gate Bridge for our last San Francisco stop.  We decided to check out both sides of the bridge, first for this view:

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… and then we stopped along the other side for this view (panoramic shot taken with Patrick’s iPhone):

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We didn’t stay too long since we wanted to conserve our energy for the next leg of our journey:

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The Redwoods have been on my bucket list for a long time, so I was excited at the chance to finally see them up close.  Our friend Jenn had recommended Muir Woods and it turned out to be an amazing location for this!

Apparently plenty of other folks thought so, too.  The only minor setback we experienced was the limited parking!  We ended up parking about a 15 minute walk from the park entrance (but totally worth it).

The park has a number of trails with varying levels of difficulty.  We chose a trail slightly off the beaten path but not too strenuous since we wanted to still be able to take in our surroundings.

If there was ever any question as to why they are called “redwoods”:

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What I find most fascinating about Redwoods is that they can live up to 2000 years.  Many of the trees have been around since the Middle Ages.  It was nearly impossible to capture the height of an entire tree in one shot, but we tried with iPhone’s panoramic feature.

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We also took some shots from a distance to try and capture the scale of these guys.

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Good thing I’m used to feeling short 🙂

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I thought this particular patch of trees looked like they belong in a fairytale:

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When we reached the end of our trail, we stopped at the Muir Woods Trading Company Cafe where Patrick bought a sandwich and a lovely Valrhona brownie.

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I’m just reading that this place was featured on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” for their grilled cheese and tomato soup, which I will have to return and try sometime.  I will say that I didn’t think Patrick’s sandwich was anything out of the ordinary until a courageous chipmunk jumped onto our bench and tried to steal Patrick’s sandwich right from his plate!

At this point, it was finally time for the part of our trip I had been looking forward to the most: wining and dining in Napa Valley.

When we arrived in Napa, we drove straight to our first destination: Domaine Carneros, another amazing recommendation from Jenn.

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This place is known for their sparkling wine and pinot noir so we decided to split a flight featuring the best of both of these items:

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They were both outstanding, but I was mostly in love with the sparkling wine:

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We also ordered the cheese plate which featured a selection of cheese from Cowgirl Creamery along with some crostini, nuts, and dried fruit.

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And to top it off, we had a lovely view to accompany our late afternoon snack.

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There must be something about courageous animals in this area because this bird sat here almost half the time, hoping for a share in our bread (or maybe he was after the wine).

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Next we checked into our hotel, then headed to downtown Napa to explore a bit before our dinner reservations at 8pm.  We were surprised to find the Farmer’s Market in full swing when we arrived, which apparently occurs every Thursday evening right in the heart of downtown.  It was one of the biggest farmer’s markets I have been to, spanning several blocks with food trucks, food stalls, chef demonstrations, etc.  In many ways, it felt more like a festival.

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We walked around the entire perimeter before heading to Carpe Diem for dinner – an awesome recommendation from our friend Ann.

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This place is famous for their ostrich burger but all of their food has a fun, innovative quality to it.  We ordered the Soup of the Moment which happened to be Avocado Soup,

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Spiced Pulled Pork Lettuce Cups (my favorite!),

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P.E.I. Mussels with Spanish Chorizo, Lemongrass, Tomato, Shallots and White Wine (YUM!),

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“Quack N’ Cheese” (aka macaroni and cheese with duck confit, caramelized onions, and diced tomato),

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and this brick-oven flatbread featuring proscuitto, asparagus, and preserved meyer lemons.  (This one ended up being our least favorite as the lemons tasted a bit bitter and overpowered the dish.)

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Overall, a great way to spend our first night in Napa!

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The last of our wining & dining adventures on the way 🙂

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2 thoughts on “San Francisco/Napa Valley: PART TWO

  1. Everything about this post makes me happy. You literally had my idea of a perfect day in San Francisco and Napa! I actually haven’t been to Acme Bread in the Ferry Building yet. I’ll have to fix that soon. 🙂 And I’m so with you on the customer service at Cowgirl Creamery!

    I am in awe of your pictures from Muir Woods. That place is just so peaceful – sorry to hear about the parking snafu, though. And I love that you visited Domaine Carneros first in Napa! What a great welcome. We had the same problem with those hungry and brazen birds, haha.

    Next trip I am totally hitting up the downtown farmer’s market and Carpe Diem. Great recap!!

    • Monica says:

      Yes, it was quite an ideal day! Thanks again for the amazing recommendations! We loved Muir Woods and Champagne at Domaine Carneros was very much the perfect way to kick off our first Napa visit 🙂

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