In fact, Michael and I haven't been up to the Bay area together in almost two years. We've each been up a few times without the other to visit friends and family or go to a conference or biking clinic, so a trip together was long overdue, in my opinion.
We pushed off early-ish on Friday (but not too early) and headed north to Monterey, our first stop for the weekend. On the drive, we enjoyed the wildflowers which were in full bloom, coloring the hills with bright reds, yellows and purples. It's rained so much this spring that everything is SO green - we definitely took in all of the colors that we could. It was a brief afternoon/evening in Monterey. I used to live in the Monterey area which is a great place to visit but not the best place to live if you are 30-something and single. Still, I'm a bit nostalgic about the area now, and we both love to visit it!
We stopped off at our favorite wine tasting room - Talbotts - and then went to a second tasting at Bernardus. All of the tastings were super fun! These tasting rooms are in Carmel Valley, which is usually a bit sunnier than on the coast of Monterey, but it was a grey, overcast day, even in that part of the peninsula. We spent the evening with some friends and stuffed ourselves at one of my old favorite restaurants, Peppers. After dinner, we slipped into a food-induced coma at the very early hour of 9:00-ish!
Saturday was a VERY busy day, starting in the South bay, heading to the city and finishing up in the East Bay. We stopped off and visited family for brunch (waffles, eggs and bacon), then pushed on to San Francisco where we visited some friends who live smack dab in the city, right by the ubiquitous Alamo Square Park. They don't live in one of the "Painted Ladies", as the row of Victorian houses is known, but they are a block away from the park.
After an afternoon that involved sitting on a stoop and drinking a beer, we pushed off to Berkeley. Most of my trips up to the San Francisco area involve the city with visits to Marin, so it was something new and different to be in Berkeley for the night. We were adventurous with our food choices, eating at an Ethiopian restaurant with some friends of Michael's. I think that it's been well over five years since I've had Ethiopian food. I don't know if I'd eaten REALLY good Ethiopian before, but this place served tasty food, which we destroyed over the course of the evening! We ended the evening back at Damien's place, drinking some wine and playing with their cats.
On Sunday, we drove around different neighborhoods in Berkeley before heading to another neighborhood just north where we would be spending the night some friends who are new home owners. On schedule for the day: A day trip to Napa. It was a great trip, despite torrential rains. We first stopped off at the Oxbow Market in Napa which is a bit like the Ferry Building in San Francisco, except that it's much smaller. The four of us shared a bunch of oysters from the Hog Island Oyster Company (they were SO good!) and then moved on to eat burgers and fries. Michael and I, fortunately, split the burger. After lunch, we ventured on in the rain to explore some wineries, but there were few and far between that were actually open due to the Easter holiday. Still, we enjoyed plenty of wine, and our final stop was "Mumms" where we decided to buy a bottle of champagne (or sparkling wine, since it really isn't champagne from France) rather than do tastings. While we were sipping on the wine/champagne, Michael took a picture of one of the servers who looked sort of like Bernie Madoff (I emphasize "sort of").
After a fun evening that involved more food and a breakfast that consisted of chicken and waffles, Michael and I left the East Bay area around 10:30 am Monday morning. Let me go back to breakfast though...
Chicken and waffles - a combination of which I had heard much but never dared to go there. I was still quite trepidatious about the combination, but it was amazing! And why wouldn't it be? Golden waffles, crispy fried chicken, home-made gravy and high-quality syrup. Michael actually made the decisive order, but I helped him finish them off.
Last stop before we returned to the city for the evening: Marin. We met yet another friend, and headed further west, to Point Reyes Station. It definitely falls in the category of a "quaint little town", overrun with tourists, like us. Still, we enjoyed the block-and-a-half that is the town. We had originally planned a hike somewhere along the coast of Point Reyes, but the Sunday rain and wet ground deterred us. So, we enjoyed a relaxing lunch at Stellina, which was a treat.
After lunch, we headed back to San Francisco and checked into our hotel for the night - we stayed at a surprisingly nice place, the Mark Hopkins. It is right at the top of Nob Hill, and our room was on the 16th floor, so we could appreciate the views when we looked out the window towards the East Bay.
Before heading south yesterday morning, we made one final stop: Dynamo Donuts. This may have been THE reason for the entire trip. For well over a year I had wanted to try a donut from this place after reading about their "Bacon Maple Donut". Yum! It was easy to get on and off the freeway, and the stop did not disappoint at all. Despite my high expectations, it totally exceeded whatever I could have desired. They served VERY good coffee, and we ended up trying three donuts: Chocolate spice (brushed with chipotle dredge!?!), Apricot Cardamon and, of course, the Bacon-Maple donut. Can you tell how excited I am?
And here is the rather incredible bacon donut:
Now that we're back home, it's time to eat like normal people do (no more bacon on a daily basis, that is), spend lots of time with our dogs and grade papers. Ah, back to reality!
Not that it's a depressing place to be. I was just as happy when we returned to our sleepy little town as when we departed on Friday morning. This trip actually felt like a vacation, despite all of the running around, because we really relaxed and didn't spend each day tied to a tight schedule. What a fun time we had!