Wednesday, August 24, 2011

California Dream: Napa Vacation Days 3 and 4

In case you missed Part 1 of our Napa Valley Vacation….

Continuing where I left off from our Napa dream vacation…..

Day 3: Monday, August 15

We knew when we planned this trip that we wanted to reserve a day to spend in San Francisco.  That is one of the main reasons why we rented a car.  Since San Francisco is about an hour south of Napa, we decided to make it a full day excursion. 

First was breakfast.  Before we hit the freeway, we grabbed something to eat at The Sunflower Cafe, which sat right in downtown Sonoma. 

Our hotel kept recommending this spot to grab breakfast so we figured it had to be good.

I had a hard time choosing, but eventually stuck with what I knew best…oatmeal.

I was so impressed by the fresh local made Kefier on the menu and asked for this on the side.

We found a quaint little table outside and filled our bellies before the long day ahead.

Before San Francisco, we made a stop in Mill Valley for a glorious morning hike in Muir Woods National Monument.

Muir Woods is known for their breathtaking views and the massive redwoods.

We did the moderate Ocean View trail that lead us right up to the top of the mountain.

On the way down, I took the ideal opportunity for an impressive photo shoot.

 Plank that!!

After a vigorous morning hike, it was time for lunch.  We cleaned up and made our way into San Francisco.

Lunch was the first thing on my mind and luckily the first place I saw was exactly what I was hoping for…

Authentic San Francisco Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl.

I fully believe in taking advantage of each cities most well known fare when visiting and Boudin's sourdough is definitely one of them.

 Toly apparently feels the same.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Fisherman's Wharf and taking in the sites….

For you Kath
 Later in the day, we moved north to Sarasota.

Another gorgeous town.

With a full day of sightseeing behind us, it was nearing dinner but we were both pretty full from lunch and the many samplings we partook throughout the day.

We contemplated eating in the city, but figured it would be better if we waited a bit and made the drive back into Sonoma.  That way we would be hungry and wouldn't have to drive back tired.

This ended up being a fantastic decision because we stumbled into an incredibly authentic and charming Italian Restaurant that was probably the closes to Italy I'll ever get.

Della Santina's 

This restaurant was actually one of Rachel Ray's features and has won numerous awards.

I knew I was in the mood for fish and after the waiter convinced me that the salmon would be the best salmon of my life, I couldn't pass. 

He was right, this was salmon perfection.

We wasted the night chatting for hours, sipping on cappuccino, and taking in each other's company.

But what would this authentically delicious Italian meal be without the icing on the cake….

 Or Tiramisu for that matter.

Day 3….Success!

Day 4: Tuesday, August 16

Happy Anniversary to us!!! 

Tuesday was our 3 year anniversary and clearly the best day of the trip.

When I did research on wine tours in Napa, I found a few that seemed a bit sketchy. I then remembered when Jenna posted about an unforgettable experience she had with Platypus Tours and decided to look into it.

The Platypus Wine Tour is known for creating a unique and exclusion tasting experience that goes to 4 different wineries. The bus picked us up at 10am, where we were greeted by a few other couples.

Our first stop…

Whetstone Wine Cellar

Whetstone was formed by a young winemaker and his wife.  They nestled their tasting room in a small italian inspired villa that was remote yet unbelievably breathtaking.

Whetstone is most known for their one of a kind Viognier, originating from the Russian River Valley and this quickly became my new favorite wine.

By 11am, we set out for our next tasting….

William Hill Estate Winery 

Another gorgeous estate that came equipped with a view.

We were served lunch at this point.

By this point, we were starting to feel good but still had 2 more tasting ahead of us.

Third stop….

Razi Winery

Probably the least favorite of the four, but still notable.  After the tasting, things started to get silly.

The fourth and final stop on the tour…

All I can say is, thank God we had a driver.

We had such a blast on the tour and were completely impressed by the service and the entire experience. Well worth the money!

I'm not sure how people do this for a living because after a full day of wine tasting, I ended up like this…

Apparently it's a sport and I need more practice than I thought.

I was so thankful we made 9pm dinner reservations although I probably could have slept right through the night.

Good thing I didn't though because I would have missed out on quite possibly the best dining experience of my life.


I knew Chef Michael Chiarello's restaurant sat in Napa but I almost forgot until someone at our tastings told us that we had to go here for our anniversary dinner. It is one of the most well-known ristorantes in the valley and will leave you speechless.

True fact: I have always loved Michael Chiarello and used to watch his show almost every day.  I didn't actually expect him to be at his restaurant but wouldn't you know, he was there, cooking my dinner!!!

I wanted to get a picture but I chickend out.  Just take my word, I was star struck.

To begin this journey of food delicacy, Toly and I split a starter.

“Succotash” forno roasted summer squash & sweet corn, cherry tomato, ricotta & chili stuffed squash blossom, arugula leaves, corn pudding

And after much debate, I finally made my choice….

Mediterranean Seafood Brodetto mussels, Gulf prawns, clams and Monterey calamari, forno-confit tomato broth, olive oil crouton, paprika saffron rouille

The picture simply does not do this justice.  Hands down one of the top 3 best meals of my life.

As stuffed as we were, dessert could not be passed….

I can't remember exactly what this was, but just think a crumbled lemon almond cookie with a carmel and sea salt gelato over a shot of espresso. 

I died! 

What a remarkable way to spend our anniversary and one that I will never forget. (Okay, so parts are fuzzy but that is why we have cameras. ;) 

Day 4 and 5 will wrap us this series and will be coming shortly….