Saturday, May 24, 2014

Week 49: San Francisco Adventures--Part II


 San Francisco Bay Area/Wine Country
Food + Drink + lots & lots of photos

More San Francisco Bay Area Food & Beer... 
Okay, it's mostly beer... 

Albany Taproom in Albany, CA
If you're just joining in on this Bay area adventure, 
you should check out last week's post:  
 
If you've been along for this crazy ride from the beginning,
as you were...

So I don't know how obvious this is from these posts, 
but we kind of like beer and food...


We get excited finding new places with large beer selections
because back home we are limited to a select few
bars or restaurants with decent beers on tap.
Yet another downside to being from the Midwest, I guess.
David enjoying an
Iron Springs Casey Jones Imperial IPA

Still, David has become quite the beer aficionado
since he and a group of friends (aka The Brew Crew)
started homebrewing their own beer.

They have actually brewed 60+ batches!

With that in mind, 
we may get a little carried away sometimes...

I was very impressed with the Albany Taproom.
I normally seek out ciders and fruit beers
and many places focus more on "real" beers
and completely ignore the other end of the spectrum.
Moylan's Pomegranate Wheat, Two Rivers Blood Orange Cider,
E.J. Phair Face Puncher IPA, Knee Deep Hoparillo Triple IPA
 The Moylan's Pomegranate Wheat (Novato, CA) and the Two Rivers Blood Orange Cider (Sacramento, CA) were both delicious! I had never had a pomegranate beer or blood orange cider before so I was really in for a treat.  I would definitely order them again.  

David couldn't say enough about the E.J. Phair Face Puncher IPA (Pittsburg, CA) and Knee Deep Hoparillo Triple IPA (Lincoln, CA).  For most of the trip, I heard about how West Coast IPA's are pushing the limits and how he really wanted to get a feel for some authentic brews while we were in the area.  These beers did the trick!

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Beer Revolution in Oakland, CA
I think the sign says it all...
Later in the week, we met up with an old friend from high school who lives in Oakland so we spent much of the day visiting places she recommended before finally meeting up with her at The Trappist.

Beer Revolution in our experience was a dark, loud place, but apparently that is not normally the case.  We happened to be there during Bay to Breakers so that may explain the staff's less than sober behavior.  Regardless, the beer selection was amazing, and we'll definitely be back if we're in the area.  David ordered an Altamont Hella Hoppy Double IPA (Livermore, CA) and I had a Dust Bowl Shame & Desperation Raspberry Coffee Porter (Turlock, CA).  There are no words to describe how great my beer was.  The combination of raspberry and coffee is pure perfection, and I don't even drink coffee!  David, largely agreed, but he was still on an IPA kick.

homeroom mac + cheese in Oakland, CA
Our next stop was a restaurant called homeroom that is entirely devoted to mac & cheese.  How could they go wrong?  

I really enjoyed the entire concept of this place.  Everything from the menu to the walls in the bathroom follows the school theme.  The walls of the bathroom are plastered with school photos, the walls in the restaurant are wallpapered with library catalog cards.  In fact, that is how their "frequent diner" program works.  You fill out a card and file it away in the drawer (alphabetically of course) for the next time you visit.  After ten trips, you get a free mac & cheese.  
Jalapeno Popper Mac & Gilroy Garlic Mac w/ Bacon

How awesome is that??

Of course, they also have phenomenal food.  David ordered the Jalapeno Popper Mac (sharp cheddar, cream cheese, jalapeno topped with panko breadcrumbs) which definitely lived up to its name.  Meanwhile, I was in my own little private heaven with the Gilroy Garlic Mac w/ Bacon (gouda, sharp pecorino, roasted garlic).  If you ever get the chance to stop by homeroom, this is the dish to order.  Make sure you remember to add the bacon!

Our adorable dining buddies
The great thing about the Bay area is that there are dogs everywhere!  These two cuties belonged to the people at the next table over.  They were beyond excited by the constant activity on the patio.  People kept stopping to pet them, and they remained surprisingly energetic with every new face they saw.  Still, it was clear who their hearts belonged to at the end of the day.  At one point they broke free and went running over to their owners!  
So heartwarming it made us miss our baby, Loki, even more.

(For those who don't know, Loki is our 8 yr old Husky-German Shepherd. 

The Trappist in Oakland, CA
Finally, we made our way to The Trappist to enjoy a few more craft beers and catch up with my old friend, Emily.  She told us she had recently volunteered at a cat video film festival which none of us knew what to make of, Emily included.  She was placed in charge of the VIP area because even cat video film festivals need to project an air of exclusivity.  

And, no, Grumpy Cat did not make an appearance... I asked...

As far as beverages go, I tried the Moonlight Reality Czeck (Santa Rosa, CA).  Mostly because that is a great name for a beer but also because I was in need of a lighter beer after the mac & cheese.  David went the other route and ordered a Malka Dry Stout (Israel) then a Brewfist Terminal Pale Ale (Italy). 

Moonlight Reality Czeck & Malka Dry Stout
(not pictured -- Brewfist Terminal Pale Ale)

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Wine Country Food

The Fremont Diner in Sonoma, CA
First of all, I fell in love with the Fremont Diner.  It has that laid back diner feel with a little extra retro thrown in for good measure.  There is a rusty vintage pickup truck sitting out front with the diner's name shamelessly emblazoned on the side.

In fact, if there is one thing this diner knows besides incredible food, its branding.  Everything from these mason jar water glasses to the coffee mugs to the photo op "Visiting Sonoma" postcard painted on the side of the patio fence, reiterates that, yes, you are indeed at The Fremont Diner.

Of course, they can do whatever they want as long as they continue to churn out such unbelievably tasty dishes as the Chicken & Waffles we ordered along with a side of Cornbread with Honey.  Neither David nor I had ever had chicken and waffles before but this dish was both sweet and savory with a little kick from the chicken seasoning that really elevated the meal to a whole new level.  And, you can't go wrong with cornbread and honey.
Chicken & Waffles w/ Cornbread
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Stout, Coffee, Cookies & Cream, and Greystone chocolates at
Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, CA
Unfortunately, the restaurant wasn't open on the day we went (because we did not plan ahead and kind of went there on a whim), but we were able to sample some chocolates at The Culinary Institute of America - Greystone.  They also offer cooking demonstrations on Saturdays and Sundays which would have been nice to check out.  Oh well, maybe next time.
Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena, CA




 Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen is a must-stop destination in St. Helena.  Cindy Pawlcyn is an award-winning chef/author who has brought her own style to wine country cuisine with not one, not two, but three restaurants in Napa Valley: Mustards Grill, Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, and the latest CP's Wood Grill.  She has also played a part in the creation of over a dozen other restaurants in the Bay area.  After visiting Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen on recommendation, it's easy to see why this place is so popular.  The staff is friendly and extremely knowledgeable.  David was torn between duck breast and rabbit tostada (since he had never had either) and he was able to talk through the pros and cons of each dish until he came to a decision he felt good about.  The food is spectacular in both presentation and flavor.  The restaurant itself feels upscale yet approachable.  Everything is very reasonably priced for what you get.

Rabbit Tostada, red chile salsa, black beans & feta
Pasta of the Day: Clam Linguini
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Hiking & Other Scenic Wine Country Photos

Scenic drive in Napa Valley

Vineyard at Jack London State Historic Park

Silos at Jack London State Historic Park

Silos at Jack London State Historic Park

Silos at Jack London State Historic Park


Jack London State Historic Park


Taking a break to pose next to the amazing backdrop
at Jack London State Historic Park

Wooded trail at Jack London State Historic Park

Jack London State Historic Park

Pointing out another lizard by the "lake" at Jack London State Historic Park

David and me posing by the "lake" at Jack London State Historic Park

Grape vines in the foreground & scenic hillside in the background
at Jack London State Historic Park

David taking in the view at Jack London State Historic Park

Silos at Jack London State Historic Park

Wildlife at Jack London State Historic Park

Wildflowers at Jack London State Historic Park


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Redwood Photos
Admiring the redwoods at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

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Coastline Photos
Sonoma Coast State Beach

Sonoma Coast State Beach

Wildflowers at Sonoma Coast State Beach

"Can you believe how amazing this place is?!"
 

Pelicans along the coast




 
Coming up:  Week 50: Winner, Winner, Steak Dinner (with a Japanese flair)

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