Friday, December 03, 2010

Another California journey...

We headed out to Mountain View for Thanksgiving with Lisa and Matt last week.  Despite all the hullabaloo about security pat-downs and the new imaging machines at airports, we had no problems.  We left on Wednesday at what the media had said was going to be the busiest time at the Orlando airport, but the place was almost empty.  There were more TSA agents standing around than passengers.  And, a week later, coming home, it wasn't any worse in San Francisco, though Penelope got directed through the imaging doohickey for no explicable reason.  Oh well, no wrecks, no drown-dings, in fact nothing to laugh at a' tall.

Wednesday night found us at Akane's sushi bar, where we took Lisa and Matt for dinner.  Can't visit California without sushi at Akane, without question the best sushi in the state!  Thanksgiving Day was peaceful and relaxing.  Lisa had gotten a pre-cooked turkey from Whole Foods, which made dinner preparation really easy.  She made up her Granny's turkey gravy, though sadly without giblets because the pre-cooked turkey didn't come with any.  The Whole Foods dressing was the best Penelope said she'd ever had, I whipped up the candied yams, Sandi (Lisa's mom) contributed a great tossed salad, and I ate so much that my tummy was bursting by early evening.  Nobody had room for the amazing 7" high apple pie that Lisa had gotten from the fund-raiser at her job - Gunn High School in Palo Alto.  So, we had to have some for breakfast on Friday.

Friday was a busy day for us.  We had lunch with my old history consulting buddy, Tony Kirk, who drove over from Santa Cruz and met us at The Left Bank in Santana Row, San Jose.  He is a wonderful story-teller and we had lots to catch up on.  After a couple of hours of rest back at Lisa's, we headed up to Palo Alto to meet Ben and Julie Kline for dinner.  We ate at Evvia, a Mediterranean (really Greek, I think) restaurant, devouring the best spring lamb chops ever (so said Penelope), and other delicious dishes. 

Saturday, we slept in late, and then stayed around the townhouse in Mountain View, visiting with Lisa in the morning and settling in to relax in the afternoon while she and Matt went off to do chaperon a student activity (parking cars at Stanford's football game).   But we soon were to restless to just sit around, so we went up to the Palo Alto Square movies to see Fair Game, the Valeria Plame story.  What a good movie!  Almost the entire audience actually applauded at the end!  If you haven't seen it, you really must.

That evening we met old friends Bob and Laura Miller along with Sandi at a new (to us) restaurant in downtown San Jose: Fahrenheit.  Excellent food and very good service, though the ambiance left a bit to be desired, what with the dining area and the bar not really separated from each other.  The next morning we said goodbye to Lisa and Matt, heeding Benjamin Franklin's warning that fish and company begin to smell after three days (and we were there three nights).

The second half of our journey began when we checked into the Marina Village Inn in Alameda, right adjacent to the marina gate where Dog Days is located.  We were met by Tony Kay and Lin Hullen, friends from the Encinal Yacht Club, with whom we had lunch at Pier 29 overlooking the Ballena Bay marina and then went off to tour the U.S.S. Hornet aircraft carrier, a museum for several years now on the old Alameda Naval Air Station.

Later that evening we went down to Tony and Mary Oliver's Cal 39, Chance, which is docked just near Dog Days, where we had a bottle of wine and then went off to the Mint Leaf, a new and very wonderful little French-Vietnamese restaurant nearby.  If you're ever in Alameda, don't miss it.  We liked it so much we went back the next evening by ourselves.

On Monday we took a mid-morning ferry from Alameda over to the Ferry Building in San Francisco.  The ferry building has been turned into a major attraction with shops where you can get the best organic meats and produce, cheeses, chocolates, cooking ware and other wonderful things as well as eat at any number of top-rate restaurants.  Tony and Lin had said we should eat at the Slanted Door where the sushi is excellent, but we got pulled into the Hog Island Oyster Bar for two dozen oysters -- some from Tomales Bay just north of San Francisco and some from Puget Sound.  We love oysters, and had shared a dozen at the Left Bank only two days before, but we can't get enough.

Then we walked up the Embarcadero to Pier 39, where we ended up having sushi at Hana Zen, second story, end of the pier, overlooking Alcatraz and the bay.  Then we wandered over to catch the ferry back to Alameda around 3:30 pm, and spent a bit of time listening to a steel band playing nearby.  It was one of the most beautifully clear days I've ever seen in San Francisco.  Truly breathtaking!  ...  That evening, after dining again at the Mint Leaf, we went over to the Encinal Yacht Club, where the Monday Night Football crowd was gathered.  We weren't sure who we would see, but were pleased to see several friends -- Lance and Sue Bateman, Tony Oliver, Rod Kidd, and Rob and Carol Woltring, with whom we spent quite a bit of time catching up.

Tuesday was our last day in the bay area, and after we checked out of the Marina Village Inn, we drove up to Napa Valley to do some wine tasting.  After stopping in the town of Napa and picking up some great maps showing real detail about the valley's 400+ wineries, we started up the Silverado Trail to our first stop, Luna Vinyards, where we sampled grapes from the vine.  Their sommelier was a wealth of knowledge and we ended up leaving with a couple of bottles of 2007 Sangiovese and a 2007 Cabernet.  He told us where we could find some good Zinfandels, which we dearly love, so our next stop was to the Robert Biale Vineyards, only a few minutes away, where not only did we taste some wonderful Zins but we decided to buy four bottles as well as take a year's membership in the Black Chicken Society, which cost a bunch but will give us four shipments of excellent wine through next year.  (The Black Chicken name comes from the nickname for wine during prohibition -- if you wanted a jug of wine from the winery, you called and ordered a black chicken.)

Our next stop was the Steltzner Vineyard on Silverado Trail, where we hoped to get some Malbec.  Unfortunately, they were fresh out, so we settled on a couple of other wines and got three more bottles there.  We also sneaked into the wine cave, which was open and unmanned, and got a glimpse of wine being aged in barrels.  By now we were hungry, so we searched out the Brix restaurant in Yountville, where we had a wonderful lunch and another good glass of Napa Valley wine before heading to our last stop, Jessup Cellars, to buy two more bottles, completing a case.  Now about 4:00 pm, we drove to Buffalo's Shipping in the town of Napa and shipped our case of wine back to ourselves in Deland.

After an hour-and-a-half drive to San Francisco Airport via the Golden Gate Bridge, we collapsed into our bed at the Marriott and had a good nights sleep before entering the long silver tube to take us home on Wednesday.  But good times were not entirely over.  On our way out a week before we'd stopped in DFW at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen (terminal A adjacent to gate 25), where we had a great New Orleans style meal.  So, on our way back, we made a beeline for it again, and, naturally, had a dozen oysters as well as other good stuff.  Don't miss it when you fly through DFW.  It's the best airport food you'll ever eat -- because it simply is not airport food.

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