Friday, October 2, 2015

california, here we come: san francisco

Our great California trip has come and gone. Don't you hate how vacation takes forever to get here and then is over so fast? I feel like we crammed a lot into a few days though, so of course I will have to write about it in painstaking detail so I never forget a thing. You've been warned. I'll bold the best stuff in case you want to skim.

We left early on Saturday morning so we could spend the late afternoon and evening in San Francisco. We flew into Oakland because it was a lot cheaper, but traffic to get into San Francisco was pretty crazy (an hour and 20 minutes to go about 25 miles, I believe). We stayed at the Marriott Marquis San Francisco and I think they must have my job listed next to my Rewards number because we were immediately upgraded to a junior suite at check-in. It had a sitting area with a TV and then another TV by the bed and ample counter space in case we wanted to bring some food or wine to the room. The TV system wasn't working right and I mentioned it at check-out since I couldn't just check out through the TV and they took $100 off our bill. Fantastic service. The hotel's location was also great - plenty of shopping (though they were chains) and dining nearby and close enough so that we could take the BART (subway) to our first stop of the afternoon. The only drawback was that the offsite parking was hard to access (and valet was twice the price!) but we made it work.

After checking into the hotel, we went to Tartine Bakery, known for their bread that comes out of the oven daily at 4:30. We arrived around 4:45, and there was a line. Fortunately, it moved fast. Since carrying a baguette around the city didn't sound very appealing, we settled on a croissant and a lemon tart. I loved how pretty the tart was, and it had a tart lemon flavor and a sweet crust. The cream on top wasn't too sweet but added just enough to take some of the sourness away. Plain croissants aren't really my thing, but this one was very buttery and flaky.

 Trying to be artsy with my fancy camera while waiting in line | lemon tart | croissant | pastry counter

After that, we went two blocks to Dandelion Chocolate, a dessert spot I was dying to try. They do different kinds of dessert flights. When I asked the woman who took our order about them, she said the brownie bite flight was the only thing they currently had, so I ordered it: three different brownie bites made from chocolate from different parts of the world. The idea behind it and the presentation were great; the brownies themselves, not so much. One I downright didn't care for (too molasses-y) and the other two were just okay. Andrew ordered a s'more bite and the chocolate was too rich, the marshmallow too large, and the graham crust delicious, but there wasn't enough of it. As we were eating our treats, they put out a Chef's Dessert Tasting that I would have loved to try (and that the cashier could have told me was on its way) but it was too late. I was bummed! Andrew planned for us to try two more places - Craftsman and the Wolves for coffee and Bi-Rite Creamery for ice cream - but I was already full and knew we had dinner soon, so I was ready to move on to something with less food.

Sign, s'more, and brownie bite flight (Guatemala was the best and Papua New Guinea was the worst!)

I had to do at least one touristy thing in San Francisco, so we went to Fisherman's Wharf. It has all of your typical tourist stuff, including chain restaurants, overpriced souvenirs, and tons of people, but I'm glad we went. I would have loved to visit Alcatraz if we had more time and I really enjoyed the sea lions. They were just hanging out and "talking" to each other for the tourists. The views over the water were also lovely - there's nothing like that in my part of Texas!

The island looking thing is Alcatraz - I wish we had time to visit!

So many sea lions!

We had dinner reservations at a place called The Progress, which was nominated for a James Beard Award and has all the buzz of a place we would want to go to on our one night in town. I loved the idea behind it - it's a set price per person and you can choose six plates off of the menu to share (or five plates and you each get your own dessert). You get a pencil and you bubble in your choices, scantron-style. We arrived early and had cocktails and they were excellent (I can't get enough citrus-y gin drinks lately). A plate of snacks arrived first - they were not on the menu, so they were a total surprise. The first bite was a piece of grapefruit (which I normally hate) with cardamom and it was so incredibly good. It sounds so simple, and it probably was, but the flavors together were so unexpectedly fantastic that I wanted to order a bowl full for dessert. I also surprisingly really liked the whole anchovy (another thing I normally hate) and the shishito peppers. Everything on the plate was really, really good, with the exception of the grape thing. The stuff underneath it was gritty and I felt like I was eating dirt. As far as dinner went, the meal was great. The restaurant is hard to describe but we had some cheese fritters with corn and tomatoes that I loved and some potato-sauerkraut dumplings with plum preserves that the waitress recommended that were fantastic (the waitstaff will rarely ever steer you wrong!). We skipped dessert, though I wish I had saved room. I loved The Progress.

Snacks | Melon soup with albacore | Mt. Tam cheese fritters with corn and tomato | Potato-horseradish dumplings with plum preserves | Lamb merguez with octopus and squid | Charcuterie salad with fried pig ears

We tried to check out the hotel's 39th floor bar, but it was too crowded so we called it a night pretty early. The next day, we made a stop at the Full House house since it was close to our breakfast destination. The house is just a regular house in a neighborhood with other houses that look very similar. The owners have to hate it. I didn't see any space for the basement recording studio or Uncle Jesse's apartment. We had breakfast at B. Patisserie, a bakery that smelled like heaven. Andrew wanted the kouign amann, which they are known for, so we got both a plain and a chocolate. I ordered the banana chocolate almond croissant because it sounded incredible. And it was. Far denser than a traditional croissant, but with very pronounced flavors and a little lightness in the center to keep you from feeling like you ate a cake. I would have gladly ordered another, but I knew there was more food in my future.

The amazing croissant is on the right | I loved all the little public parklets outside of so many restaurants - we had breakfast at this one | The Full House house, with a fresh coat of paint.

After breakfast, we drove to Chinatown. There was a festival going on, so many streets were shut down in favor of booths. The set-up was just beginning, and we didn't have much time, so I got a Chinese money cat that I came for, found the famed Chinatown gateway, and we went on our way to Sonoma.

The weather was beautiful (though warmer than I expected), the architecture so different from what I'm used to, and the hills were quite a workout. I really loved San Francisco and would gladly spend more time there, but I'm definitely happy with my little taste of the city. We took the Golden Gate Bridge out of town and headed past Sausalito for Wine Country.

Views from the car window. Love those hillside houses!


  1. We went to San Francisco recently and we went to was neat but it was a little creepy being there and in hindsight I wouldn't have been sad if we hadn't done it. I would have rather gone over the bridge into Sausalito (we didn't have enough time to explore that side) honestly!

  2. I should always read your posts after I've eaten lunch, now I'll be dreaming about something to eat until noon.

    I love all the pictures, I bet the people who live in the Full House house have to be fans. I can't imagine living in a house people take pictures of and in front of constantly if I wasn't a fan.

  3. i LOVE SF! we were going to go to alcatraz when we were there but the water looked way too choppy so we didn't bother.

  4. mmm dessert flights.
    also great pics!!!!!!!

  5. Oh man, visiting the California coast is one of my dreams! Looks awesome!

  6. The Progress sounds like a great experience, most of your food stuff looked great that I saw on IG.

    I hated Fisherman's Wharf but was dying to see seals and saw none when we were there. Sad panda.

    I did not get to Sausalito, just drove by it like you guys on the way out of town, but I am definitely doing that when I go back.

  7. I would love to go there someday. The Progress sounds like so much fun. I love that idea.

  8. Glad you got to experience it on the warmer side, because it can get really cold. SF is such a pretty City. I haven't been in a while, but Alcatraz was my favorite part of the trip. I also enjoyed China Town.

  9. Dessert flights?! HELL YES!!!
    "I didn't see any space for the basement recording studio or Uncle Jesse's apartment." Bahahahahahahaha! Dude, that would SUCK to have that be your house!!! lololol

  10. I love that you guys "eat" like we do, and have food destinations back to back :) I want to go to the wharf. The Progress sounds wonderful! We have got to get our trip planned but it might be next year now :( I want to go when it is a bit warmer. So disappointing about the chocolate! Boo!

  11. I would love a wine and dessert flight together...OMG. This looks like such a great trip. There are so many places on my list to visit, and San Francisco is definitely one place.

  12. Move on to something with less food??? Blasphemy! Haha! Looks like and sounds like lots of good and bonus on the refund for the TV not working, more money for good eats.

  13. oh my gosh, you are totally making me want to visit! the lemon tart looks so good, and plain croissants are totally my thing haha. and i will definitely make a note of that hotel, what great customer service. lol @ the 'full house' house, i had no idea it was a real house, the owners must hate it! i like the idea of the dessert flight, but the brownie one doesn't sound very good, sorry it wasn't :(

  14. sounds like a fun and delicious trip! jealous of all of those yummy desserts!!

  15. So my boyfriend and I had a breezy chat about, "maybe we'll do a trip to San Francisco/Napa/Sonoma next spring" last night, and now after reading this post and seeing all of your DELICIOUS photos, it's a done deal. I'm sure after I knock out your Sonoma post our plane tickets will already be booked. Looks like you guys did SF right in the short time you were there!

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