Vacation Recap: Part I: Sonoma & Napa, California

I wanted to share a few photos of some of the highlights from Jaime and my recent California vacation.

St. Francis Winery & VineyardsI couldn’t help laughing a bit as I was flipping through the photos of our vacation because about 90% of the photos we took were either of food or us sitting in restaurants with food, but I swear we didn’t spend the entire vacation eating.  This is the first of two posts.  It contains some of the highlights from our time in and around Sonoma and Napa.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this part of our vacation is that we arrived with no planned activities other than a dinner reservation at The Girl and the Fig (french country) the first night so the vacation really took shape based on what we were feeling at the moment and we spent a lot of time lingering over meals and talking.  (Whenever possible, I like to have a plan—and a recommendation—for our first meal in a city to try to avoid arriving in a place tired and hungry and ending up eating at the first place we find, which usually seems to be fast food.)

Burger (The Girl and the Fig, Sonoma, CA)On our first full day in California we went to a food and wine pairing at St. Francis Winery & Vineyards (just a heads up: their website makes sound).  I really enjoyed the pairing, although in full disclosure, I should probably say that I really enjoyed the food and the view from where we were sitting in the tasting room as I only tasted the first wine since red wines don’t sit well with me and all of the pairings except one were reds.

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards - Prosciutto and Parmesan KnodelWe also got a chance to talk to the chef, David Bush, who came out after the pairing to talk to everyone.  A lot of the recipes from the winery’s pairings are provided on their website.  I think that’s a nice touch as visitors can try to make a dish that they had at the winery to remember their visit and those who haven’t visited can try their hand at the recipes at home.

Jaime and I like the winery so much that after the pairing we spent most of the rest of the afternoon sitting on their lovely patio just talking, watching birds play in a bird bath, and admiring the gorgeous view.

St. Francis Winery & VineyardsSt. Francis Winery & VineyardsSt. Francis Winery & Vineyards - Lavender While in wine country we also went on a tour of the Benziger Family Winery, where I enjoyed learning about the wine making process, taking in the scenery, and having lunch under the trees.

Benziger Family Winery Benziger Family WineryWe had so much good food on this vacation that it was very hard for me to choose a few highlights of our restaurant visits!

I enjoyed our entire meal at Cafe 522 (comfort food with a twist)—a bacon tartlet, pan roasted halibut, a warm lemon chess pie with blue berries, and a bite of Jaime’s berry cobbler with ice-cream—but the highlight for both Jaime and I was the pan roasted halibut, which was nicely seared on one side.

Halibut (Cafe 522, Sonoma)The menu was on the small side—the night we were there the menu featured two vegetarian entrees, two fish, and two “land” (a meat and a poultry)—and I can’t recall what the dining room looked liked, but I remember the food and each dish we had seemed to have been given careful attention.

I also enjoyed the food at Brix (farm-to-table French/California) in Napa, although I must admit I was a bit distracted by the beauty of the grounds.

Dessert (Brix, Napa, CA) Jaime and I really enjoyed sitting in the vineyard after dinner and strolling through the garden, which was bathed in the honeyed light of the setting sun.

GrapesIt was one of those beautiful summer evenings when time seems to slow down.  I would have liked to linger longer, but alas, with the sun setting it started to get cold!Garden (Brix, Napa, CA)At El Molino Central (Mexican), I liked the fish tacos.  The fish was deep fried, but didn’t feel overly heavy to me when paired with mounds of shredded cabbage and sliced radishes.  Also, I really liked the red mole Jaime ordered.  It was rich and complex and reminded me of some mole that one of my mom’s acquaintances made for us when I was around seven or eight years old and that I have been searching to match ever since.  El Molino Central is very casual; we placed and paid for our orders up front with the cashier and then walked through the kitchen area to get to the picnic tables on the patio out back.  Initially I was a bit hesitant to walk through the kitchen, but we just followed the lead of the couple in front of us and no one seemed to blink an eye.  From what I could tell walking through the kitchen to get to the patio seemed to be the norm and there were only a couple of seats—presumably for those getting take out as there were no tables—up front.

Fish Tacos (El Molino Central, Sonoma, CA)Towards the end of our time in wine country, I remembered that one of the awesome bloggers whose blog I follow—Kate from Centsational Girl—lives in the area so I jumped on her blog via blackberry to see if she had any suggestions regarding things to do in the area, which she did! Since time was short, I didn’t get to explore her suggestions as much as I would have liked, but I did enjoy wandering around Sonoma Plaza using some of her suggestions.  I’ll just have to go back . . .

I’m not a travel expert, but these are some of things I enjoyed in the Sonoma and Napa area.  With the exception of El Molino Central, we made dinner reservations at all of the restaurants in advance—although sometimes only a couple of hours before dinner via Opentable.

Look for Part II of my vacation recap on my blog next week.  It will contain some of the highlights of our time in San Francisco, which was not quite as food centric.

What activities do you enjoy doing while on vacation? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

I was not paid or perked for this post.  I just wanted to share some things I enjoyed during my vacation.

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Vacation Recap: Part I: Sonoma & Napa, California — 4 Comments

  1. Wow Marie, looks like you had a great time, amazing scenery, good eats, great wine! So glad you were able to visit my local area, hope you carry a little piece of it home in your heart!

    • Hi Kate, Thanks so much for stopping by! I enjoyed seeing some of the places you’ve blogged about. My husband and I were walking in the plaza and walked by the spot where you had your anniversary picnic, which jogged my memory. I wish I had remembered earlier that you’ve blogged about the area as your day trip post has so many ideas that look like fun. I guess this just means I’ll have to take another vacation!

  2. Pingback: Vacation Recap: Part II: San Francisco, California | Scissors and Spoons

  3. Pingback: Vacation Photobook | Scissors and Spoons

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