Monday, November 19, 2012

California Honeymoon!

Since I have been MIA on the blog for all of October, I thought our readers deserved a lengthier post!  As I previously posted, Mr.3 and I treated ourselves to a wonderful two week honeymoon in California and we were gone a good chunk of October.  We had the BEST time...despite both of us being sick the majority of the trip and Frontier Airlines losing my luggage (thankfully on the way back)!  Here's the highlights and low lights of the trip (I'm starting with the low lights to get them over with, because really, I don't have that much to complain about!):
Low Lights

1. Frontier Airlines - In addition to losing my luggage on our way home (and an extremely poor customer service experience coordinating the delivery of that luggage), Frontier was not very upfront about its scheduled stops when we booked our tickets.  I hate layovers with a passion, but we decided to take a flight with one schedule layover from D.C. to San Fran because we liked the times and the price better than our other options.  Both layovers were scheduled for about an hour-ish in Denver which is a pretty good airport (the booking was listed as: DCA-DEN-SFO and SFO-DEN-DCA).  What was NOT listed was a stop in Omaha, Nebraska on our return flight during the Denver to DC segment.  We had also searched for these tickets on Frontier's website using the search parameters that excluded flights with more than 1 stop...evidently that means per segment.  Our detour added about 2 hours onto our trip and when we arrived at the airport we were asked not to deboard, so we spent about an hour sitting on the plane with no food or drink other than what was in the snack bag I had packed (ironically, I had packed peanuts, which airlines no longer give out).

2. Sickness- Mr. 3 started showing signs of our bug about 2 days before me and we were sick pretty much the whole entire trip.  Even almost a week later and I was still coughing and sneezing.  I'm happy to say that this didn't impact us too much.  We just had to nix our plans to ride bikes in Monterey and we were only able to go on one hike in Big Sur (which we wheezed and sneezed our way through).

3. Service - It was the strangest thing...but we service in a lot of the restaurants was a little bit lacking.  Even some of the places we liked, we had to asked to be served and we even had to request the check on numerous occasions.  I'm chalking it up to West Coast laid back mentality, but it was sooooo strange and also slightly annoying.

Highlights

1. THE FOOD - Nom nom nom nom.  Almost everything we ate in California was delicious.  We had one meal that was just flat out bad and one meal that was lacking in flavor but the ingredients still tasted so much more fresh than what we get on the east coast!  Be prepared, I'm devoting a large segment of this post to my foodies!  Recommendations based on our superior taste testing:

Sonoma County
The food in Sonoma was wonderful!  I would have even been happy getting take out from Oliver's Market, the local grocery store (it's like Whole Foods meets a farmer's market with some junk food brands like Doritos thrown in!).

Russian River Valley Brewing Company - Wings, beer (it's a micro brewery!  I don't drink beer, but Mr. 3 said they knew what they were doing!), and pizza bites.  We saw other diners taking home cases of the bottled brew.

Sunflower Caffe - The California Egg Sandwich.   To.die.for.  Peppered bacon, herb and olive oil infused goat cheese spread, baby arugula, on a french bread roll.

Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria - This pizza is also to die for...outside of Italy, probably the best I've ever eaten.  They cure their own meats!  I recommend the Elmo, which has in-house made prosciutto cotto, garlic, olive oil, gorgonzola, and red onion.

Monterey
So the pickings in Monterey on Cannery Row where we stayed were pretty slim.  The options mostly cater to tourists...and evidently those tourists without discerning tastes.  Our best meals were found slightly farther away in Pebble Beach and Carmel.

Roy's - We had sushi, dessert, and wine.  The place is very pricey, but Mr. 3's stepdad and mom recommended it to us, so we decided to give it a go.  The view is amazing and it's located inside the beautiful Spanish Bay Inn.  I highly recommend anything served with ice cream...specifically the coconut and raspberry flavors.  Ask for a side of chocolate sauce and you will be in heaven!

Stillwater Bar & Grill at the Pebble Beach Resort - Monterey Bay crispy calamari and whatever salad they might be serving that has trout on it.  It was some of the best fish I've ever eaten!  Also pretty pricey, but you definitely cannot beat the view and it's on your way through the scenic and oh so famous 17 Mile Drive!

Big Sur Bakery - It's one of the few places to eat in Big Sur, but it was amazing!  We had fresh mushroom soup and a salad with butter lettuce, fresh salmon, and a meyer lemon sauce.  Yum!

San Francisco
The food choices in San Francisco are amazing.  My theory is that if you don't serve great food in a city like San Francisco, you go out of business pretty quick...soooo if you see a restaurant that's been open a few years, you can pretty much guarantee a great meal!

The Ferry Building - Tons of food options at the Ferry Building, but I specifically love the San Francisco Fish Company.  Great fries and oysters!

Chez Panisse Restaurant - A couple of our sweet friends surprised us with a trip over the Bay Bridge to Berkeley for a dinner at this famed Alice Waters restaurant (she started the California foods movement).  We ate in the Cafe upstairs (which is like sitting in an upscale California tree house).  Everything is locally sourced (except the wine list, which is French and Italian mostly).  The menu changes daily based on the ingredients available and it shows!  Everything was sooooo fresh.  It's hard to make a recommendation (since the menu varies daily), but the hand cut pasta with basil, fresh ricotta, and cherry tomatoes was the table favorite and the sorbet for dessert was super yummy!  Thanks to Andy and Bailey for such a fun night!

Brenda's French Soul Food - One of my fab-u-lous former roomies took us to Brenda's French Soul Food.  While it's in the Tenderloin district of San Fran, is a less favorable part of town, I suggest you take a cab because the food is worth it!  You must try the hush puppies, the mac and cheese, and the fried chicken (I can't say that I've tried the chicken...Mr. 3 ate it so fast I didn't even really get a chance to give it a good once over!).  Thanks Devi for all the fun and calories!


2. THE VIEWS - The state of California might be most beautiful per square mile in the U.S.  The coastline can definitely compete with the Cape Cod and the rural countryside, while not green, has a certain beautiful quality to it.  San Francisco is now probably one of my favorite cities.  I can't really explain it, so here are some photos that sadly do not do it justice!

Sonoma County

17 Mile Dr.

3. THE WINE -  Since Mr. 3 and I spent so much time in wine country, I'm devoting a little bit of this post to where we went and what we learned.  Long story short, I'm a sweet wine person and Mr. 3 loves sauvignon blanc and spicy red wines.  Finding something we can agree to drink is not easy.  On this trip we discovered that we both love chardonnays from the Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley.  I decided that I liked the oak taste but I hate anything with pepper (green or black).  Mr. 3 found he didn't like any of the cabernet sauvignons but loves the area's zinfandel and a few pinot noirs.  I cannot believe how wonderful our time in Sonoma was or how much we learning about the wine making process!  We are by no means wine snobs, but it's nice to know that we don't have to aimlessly grab random bottles of wine at the store anymore.  Here's a list of all the wineries we visited (I've put * to let you know where we both liked the wine so much we bought a bottle!).  I should note that Mr. 3 was the designated driver...and before you go thinking we are two newlywed lushes, we drank lots of water, ate lots of food, and often shared tastings or dumped out what we didn't like at first sip.

Day 1 - Alexander Valley Region
*Simi - Excellent chardonnay.  Facility was really cute and pretty!  Like drinking wine in a beautiful woodland home!
Francis Ford Coppola - Ick.  Facility is amazing, but wine was no better than what you find in the grocery store aisles.
Clos du Bois - Runs a large portion of their operations on solar power.  Excellent reserve white wines.
Trione - Great chardonnay and helpful staff.  You also receive a piece of chili infused dark chocolate to go with your red wine!

Day 2 - Sonoma Valley
Gloria Ferrer - All that sparkles!  Beyond beautiful scenery and facilities.  Mr. 3 is not a fan of the sparkles, but I can't get enough of them!  I tried the cuvee and the blanc de noirs.  Yumminess all around.  I also recommend sampling their wine filled chocolates and purchasing some body wash in the gift shop!
*Vinasa - Another wonderful facility with amazing views.  This winery comes complete with a marketplace featuring light gourmet fare and fun gifts.  We bought a cheese platter, crackers, and bottle of wine and took in the scenery on the terrace.  I recommend the chardonnay.
Anaba - Very small operations run on wind power.  Pinot noir was excellent.
Barthlomew Park - Organic wine that Mr. 3 loved so much he considered becoming a wine club member!  The sampling takes place in a historic home turned women's asylum turned tasting facility.  There is a museum on site detailing the history.
Gundlach Bundschu - Very fun grounds to explore!  They provide parasols to shelter yourself.  I think we both enjoyed the cuvee.
*Kunde - Great facility and gift shop.  It's a beautiful place to stop.  Mr. 3 enjoyed the zinfandel and the savignon blanc.

Day 3 - Southern Dry Valley & Russian River Valley
Alderbrook - Mr. 3 liked most of the wines here, which specialize in zinfandel.
Twomey - Excellent everything...including reds, which I'm usually not a fan of at all. Great panoramic views and a small selection of fun gifts.  We would have bought a bottle of almost everything they had...but at $40ish and up, not exactly in our price range!  The staff was really helpful!
*Matrix - LOVE the pinot noir.  Very small operation, with a great selection of wines!
Foppiano - I honestly can't remember much about this wine...not because I was drunk, but because we got to talking to another couple who live in Hawaii and were vacationing in California (aka the golden couple).  I do remember that the girl manning the tasting room was very nice and let us snag a few oranges off the tree out front!

Day 4 - Napa Valley
Cakebread Cellars - We stopped in Napa on our drive down to Monterey.  This winery was recommended to us by one of Mr. 3's clients.  The facility is so pretty and they take you into a well landscaped courtyard for your tasting.  I think I would like to live at the Cakebread owner's house which is also onsite.

4. THE SPINDRIFT INN- Hands down our favorite place to stay.  We would go back in a heartbeat.  We booked this hotel because the price was right, the location was great on Cannery Row in Monterey, and it was named the most romantic hotel by Trip Advisor.  We had a wood burning fireplace in our room, a window nook overlooking the cannery, breakfast in bed everyday (served on a silver platter and included in our rate), complimentary wine and cheese hour, and wonderful staff.  We could walk to everything, including the famous Monterey Aquarium, and it was also right on the beach!  We loved our room so much that we actually discussed modeling our future master bedroom suite in a similar style (but future home buying is far off and by far off, I mean whenever we hit the lottery or sell some of our vital organs).

5.  LA FOLIE - Ok, I know I mentioned the food already, but La Folie was seriously a highlight of our trip and deserves a separate entry of its own!  Mr. 3's mom and stepdad gave us a generous gift certificate and made all the arrangements so that we could dine at the best restaurant in San Fran on our last night of our honeymoon. 

We walked in thinking this will be a meal of a lifetime and we would never again spend this much on a dinner for two...we walked out saying we would never visit San Francisco again without also being able to afford a dinner at La Folie.  I have pictures to document all the delicious food porn, but our favorite dishes from our individualized, 5 course menu selection (plus complimentary dishes courtesy of the chef) included: tempura duck egg (hands down the best dish and possibly the best thing I've ever eaten!), butter poached lobster served over pumpkin ravioli, smoked salmon lollipops topped with caviar, quail and squab stuffed with mushrooms and wrapped in crispy potato strips, cheese souffle, and the lemon bar that comes with the huckleberry baked Alaska.  YUM!  (FYI: Despite all the eating and boozing, we still walked a lot...both of us gained 2 lbs, but I took the weight off in about 2 weeks!  Thank you miracle Zumba.)
Huckleberry Baked Alaska
I must say that we were absolutely, positively miserable with our gluttony the entire rest of the night (to the point that I felt my stretchy tank top was too binding and I had to ask Mr. 3 if I could wear his size large men's t-shirt).

Odd Side Note

The Clift Hotel - This is the hotel we stayed at in San Francisco.  It is a part of the Morgans Hotel Group and I found the design of the hotel very conflicted.  In the lobby area, it looked like Salvador Dali had thrown up all over a gentleman's library (think lots of leather seating and wood paneling...but with surreal art and furniture thrown into the mix).  However, the guest rooms looked like upscale Ikea (oxymoron?) in shades of chrome, glass, and lavender.  Overall, it looked nice...just conflicted.  We also had to ask for the sheets to be changed because they looked like they had self tanner all over them....they were replaced with other dirty sheets.  After looking through the room, which included armchairs with outdoor quality cushions, a price list for EVERYTHING in the room (including an intimacy kit containing...well intimate things...we like to keep this blog PG), and other easy to clean items...we determined that we might be the wrong clientele for this group.  HOWEVER, I must say, that the customer service at the hotel was impeccable.  The doorman  and concierge were polite and helpful.  We got a free honeymoon upgrade and a partial refund for our stay after we informed the front desk about the sheets issue.

Other Recommendations for a California Honeymoon!
If you are still with me on this article, yay!  I applaud your blog reading endurance and you totally deserve Posh Purpose bonus points!  Here are a few links to our favorite things about California that I didn't go into much detail about:

Alcatraz Tours
Golden Gate Park
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Union Square Shopping
Healdsburg, CA - cutest little town square!
17 Mile Drive

We didn't get to ride a trolley, visit Hearst Castle, or visit Pfeiffer Beach....all of which means we will be going back!  For anyone thinking about a trip to California, I'll try to post a budget break down on how we spent our traveling monies soon!