Happy Valentine’s Day!!
Photo credit: RamseyStreetDesigns on Etsy
I’m a big fan of the message on the above print. Whether it’s a holiday or not, it’s always important to remember that you are loved. If you are celebrating Valentine’s Day, I hope it’s wonderful. If you’re not a fan, then happy Thursday!
Last weekend I went on a special trip with one of my first-ever Valentines…Mama Bender! It’s a girl’s weekend that has been in the works since my wedding. After all of the amazing planning and creativity my mom put into making my and Bobby’s big day special, I promised her that we would pick a place and go. It may have taken another two years, but thanks to a joint Christmas present from me, Bobby, my brother and Papa Bender, Napa 2013 became a reality. And so last Friday, we boarded our plane bound for San Francisco.
The last time I visited San Francisco and Napa was during my honeymoon, so it was great to be back! There were several places on my list that I was eager to visit again, but this trip was also about exploring new territory, and I’m excited to share our adventures with you.
We landed late Friday morning and were greeted with sunny skies and 50-degree temperatures that were perfect for walking around in. One of the first stops? The Ferry Building, of course!
I was like a kid in a candy store the first time I visited, and this time was no different. My mom could also immediately sense just how awesome the Ferry Building is, not only for foodies but for anyone who likes to eat delicious food (aka everyone). We made our way to Blue Bottle Coffee for a pick-me-up first thing.
It was still just as tasty, and the lattes just as pretty as I remembered.
We also picked out a couple of freshly baked cookies to share: snickerdoodle and molasses.
Our next stop was the Cowgirl Creamery – after all, there must be cheese to go with the wine.
The staff members were all so wonderful in helping us narrow down our choices, offering samples of our favorite types of cheeses as well as some new ones to try. Ultimately, we left with a lunch box full of six varieties: Ombra, Wilde Weide, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Devil’s Gulch, Mt Tam and Red Hawk. These cheeses traveled well throughout the entire trip and some of them even came back with us to Arizona. They were all amazing!
We continued wandering around the marketplace, but soon enough another store caught our eye: Stonehouse California Olive Oil.
Last but not least, we stopped by Pepples Donuts to pick up breakfast for the next day.
After we had finished our ooh-ing and ahh-ing in the Ferry Building, we made our way over to Fisherman’s Wharf, an area of San Francisco that Mama Bender remembered fondly from past visits.
We stopped by one of the street vendors along the way to pick up some dungeness crab, which is in season right now and absolutely delicious. There was also some rock crab underneath.
We enjoyed the views from Ghirardelli Square…
…and the unique sights and sounds of the San Francisco trolleys.
Before we knew it, lunchtime had arrived. After looking up several of the restaurant options online, we ended up at Scoma’s Restaurant, which has been around since 1965. How could we go wrong?
To kick off the trip, we each had a glass of Benziger chardonnay. We had plans to visit Benziger, and this chardonnay made us even more sure that it had to be a stop. It was completely refreshing.
Mama Bender and I both started off with a bowl of clam chowder. Delicious!
We also shared the crab-stuffed portobello mushroom, which was served with a yummy side salad.
Our first official meal was a huge success! After lunch, we walked down to Pier 39, passing these knobby sycamore trees as we went. Apparently they cut them back so that they grow even more full and rounded when the leaves return.
Of course, the real draw of Pier 39 are those sunbathing sea lions!
They are so hilarious and entertaining to watch. Between the huge ones who bask in the sun all day and the babies who purposefully try to kick each other off the docks, it was a good time.
Before we knew it, the afternoon was drawing to a close and it was time to head across the Golden Gate Bridge toward Napa. It’s such a treat to look out at the ocean as we drive parallel to Alcatraz and watch the city grow smaller behind us.
We decided to kick off the Napa adventures immediately upon arriving with a tasting at Girard.
We had a sampling of whites and reds, and each one of them was a hit. My favorite was the Artistry, a blend of each of the Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Merlot and Malbec.
We snapped a quick girl’s weekend picture at the end of our tasting.
And then it was time to head to our final stop of the day: Mustards Grill!
Nearly everyone who gave me a restaurant recommendation in Napa said Mustards was the place to go, and they weren’t joking. We started out with some fantastic salted bread and butter, as well as the calamari, which was served under curried slaw and fresno chilies.
Mama Bender chose the lamb special for her entrée, a red wine braised shank with mashed potatoes, piquillo peppers and capers. The marinade and sauce with this dish were so good they could have been a meal of their own.
I chose the rib special, which was a chocolate barbecue sauce over spare ribs served with a cocoa nib slaw and honey jalapeño cornbread. I think “chocolate barbecue sauce” says it all about this one!
Whew! It’s hard to believe that was only day one. I feel so fortunate to have had this weekend with my mom, and look forward to sharing more of our trip with you.
Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day – and happy birthday to Brittany!