San Francisco Getaway // CAAMFest

While the first day of my Napa getaway consisted of wine country relaxing, the second day was all about big city living.

After a well rested night fit for a queen in our respective plush queen beds at Bardessono, my girlfriend and I woke up early, ready to take full advantage of day two of our two-day getaway. The hotel has free bike rentals, and luckily they had just two sunny yellow cruisers that were calling our names. A morning bike ride sounded like a great way to begin the day. With the open road in front of me and vineyards to my left and right, I freely coasted down the road. I never knew I had “ride a bike in wine country” on my bucket list, but I do now, and I’ve got photos to prove it.

Driving back to San Francisco in our Buicks, the group reconvened at The Slanted Door inside the Ferry Building. Just like in Napa, I’ve been to the Ferry Building dozens of times but never once have I ever stepped through the [slanted] door. A fresh, lighter take on traditional dishes, it’s a great place to try Vietnamese cuisine for the first time if you’ve never had it. Although I found myself wishing there was more fish sauce flavor, I can see why this place remains to be a favorite amongst locals and visitors alike.

With the mini road trip now behind us, we wrapped up the getaway in style. After a glam session at Blowology Dry Bar, we were whisked away to the Castro Theater (my first time there!) to view the opening night film, The Tiger Hunter, for CAAMFest. If you didn’t already know, CAAMFest is the largest Asian American and Asian Film festival in the nation, having just celebrated its’ 35th year. The Tiger Hunter hit all the feels – I laughed, I cried, and laughed until I cried, all the while snacking on buttery popcorn. The film was really good, and what made it even better was the Q&A session with some of the cast and crew. You can’t quite make out the actors’ faces from where we were sitting, but I was still starstruck. I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see him with my own eyes, but Napoleon Dynamite is all growns-up.

All in all, it was a fun trip and I’m glad I got to experience this mini-getaway. Despite everything being so local, there were a lot of firsts for me on this trip. It just goes to show that you don’t have to travel halfway across the states (or even around the world, although I certainly encourage that), just to explore new places and try new restaurants – and if you’re lucky, you’ll rub elbows with a celebrity.

Napa Getaway

Though Napa Valley is just a little over an hour’s drive from where I live, I’ve only been there a handful of occasions. My visits are usually spent in a crowded wine cellar, elbow to elbow with other wine lovers and tourists from near and far for an unforgettable glass-swirling educational wine tasting experience. How’s the body, length, and finish? And what about those legs? Yes, I’m still talking wine here.

Recently, I had the opportunity to experience Napa in a more relaxed way. Buick invited a group of us on a getaway to wine country. I grabbed a girlfriend and packed my bags for the mini road trip! The day was gorgeously sunny for a leisurely drive in our Buick LaCrosse, and we took full advantage of the moonroof to relish in a piece of the cloudless blue sky.

Kenzo Estate Winery is nearly as big as the city of San Francisco, and with their higher than your average vineyard elevation, they even boast a cool mild microclimate that is reminiscent of Fog City as well. The drive into the estate feels exclusive – after entering the gate, we drove down a one mile stretch of winding road surrounded by a tranquil fortress of trees as we approached the property. We were greeted with a glass of their Sauvignon Blanc, the only white wine that they produce. It was light and refreshing, especially after a long drive, but I’m more inclined towards whites more than reds anyway. The beautifully lit wine cellars had a distinct sweet smelling aroma as we entered, providing a relaxed ambiance despite the cool temperature drop. Best fun factoid on the wine tour? The tunnels were designed and constructed by the same folks who did the tunnels for our public transit system (BART) – only there are no delays here unless it means I need to wait a minute too long for a refill of vino.

Next stop on our drive was nearby Yountville, a quaint little town known for their exclusive dining experiences. Boasting the most Michelin-rated restaurants per capita (book at least two months out for The French Laundry), this is certainly a place that’ll cost more than a pretty penny. Window shop at cute boutiques with wine themed everything you don’t need, then take a stroll outside to enjoy Yountville’s many outdoor sculptures as a part of their art walk – perfect for the little ones to climb on while you get your drink on (not in public, of course).

I eventually worked up a sweet tooth for some, je ne sais quoi. Well, when you’re in Yountville, one of four locations where the famed Bouchon Bakery has their store front, the decision is easy. It was my first time having the macarons there, and what can I say, c’est délicieux!

With gourmet options abound, deciding what to order can be more of a chore than a pleasant experience. If indecision’s your middle name, then the chefs at Two Birds, One Stone’s got your back. Their omakase style menu means the chef will choose the best selection of plates for the night – so just sit back and enjoy the dishes as the come, each one a surprise! Self-described as “California-inspired yakitori,” the dishes are a perfect blend of east meets west. Many of the flavors I’m used to in Asian cuisine were infused with freshly plucked ingredients that so typify the Californian food movement. My favorite was the black kale salad with chicken and the radishes with goat milk butter. It was definitely a case of my eyes > stomach, for I was too full from the delectable appetizers by the time the wagyu short ribs were served. Just a spoonful of dessert sealed the deal – their coconut milk panna cotta with passion fruit curd is lightly sweet with a hint of tartness; I especially loved how the creamy texture juxtaposed with the crisp rice pearls dusted with a hint of matcha. There’s always room for dessert in my book!

We retreated back to Bardessono Hotel and Spa where we checked in earlier. With separate quads and suites spaced out in a minimalist zen-like layout, I found myself in a calm and reflective oasis. It’s the perfect place to unplug by the fire pit with a glass of wine, or to take a dip – or at least get your toes wet – in their rooftop pool. But if you’re like me and forget to bring a bathing suit, well the suites have ample room to relax in with all the amenities a girl could wish for and more. After a long day of driving, wining, and dining, it didn’t take long for me to catch some z’s.

Stay tuned for day two of my mini road trip!

Portlandia

Fred and Carrie, where you at?

Portland is known for many things: beers, bikes, hiking, hipsters, no sales tax, food trucks, and strip clubs. Luckily for me, there wasn’t a drop of rain in the forecast on my recent trip to the Pacific Northwest. With unseasonably warm temperatures, I couldn’t think of a better summer getaway as I ate, drank, and shopped my way around PDX.

Shop till you drop.
Ranked as one of the most hipster friendly cities in U.S., it is no wonder that Portland has the highest vintage shops per capita – how else would hipsters find such cool hipster threads? I spent a delightful afternoon shopping at the many vintage boutiques in the Hawthorne district. Boutique Goodwills with vintage Coach bags? You bet. I put a slight dent in my pocketbook, but it was well worth every pretty penny to buy a vintage pocketbook.

Nom nom nom.
Food trucks exist in every big city, but Portland wins in quantity, boasting several hundred in the city. Although I didn’t eat anything particularly memorable, their food truck scene is still impressive due to its omnipresence. No matter what neighborhood I drove through, I encountered a cluster of food trucks every couple of blocks. For the Portlanders, this is just a regular part of their everyday life. They don’t need a street festival or designated day of the week (as they do in the Bay Area) to round up the trucks. Brick and mortar places are worth mentioning too. Every restaurant, cafe, or bakery I passed offered a drool worthy menu. Bacon doughnuts, savory waffles, bloody Marys, or bone marrow ice cream? Take your pick. Or try them all, as I did.

Everything is coming up roses.
I got the chance to escape the heat of the concrete jungle just minutes outside the city at Washington Park. The cool canopy of trees shrouded me from the summer sun. Although it was no replacement for a real hike in the woods, it was just enough greenery for this city girl. There’s a reason Portland is called the City of Roses, for it is home to one of the largest rose gardens in the United States. Many cities boast a rose garden of some sort – but this one is quite spectacular. With beautiful hues of red, pink, orange, yellow, lilac, and in fragrances unimaginable, this is simply the most beautiful rose garden I have ever seen.

Hippity Hops.
A trip to Portland wouldn’t be complete without visiting a couple of breweries and downing a pint or two. Again, Portland sets another record, this time for having the most breweries than any city in the U.S. (or is it the world?). While I’m more of a cocktail girl, I hopped on the hops bandwagon because when in Portland, one has to drink beer. Whether it was stopping traffic while pedaling on an 8 person brewcycle from brewery to brewery, to snacking on a pretzel necklace at an all day international beer festival, I have never downed so many beers in my life, and I probably never will again.

Dolla dolla bill y’all.
Don’t quote me, but I read that Portland also holds the record for the most strip clubs per capita. I was a strip club virgin prior to this trip, and without a benchmark, I can’t say my experience was anything special. I will say I was very intrigued with the female form. How the heck do they walk around in those heels? Even as the naked ladies lured me to join my friends in the front row, I assured them I could see everything just fine from where I was seated. Needless to say, no photos were allowed inside.

These are just a few highlights from my trip, but there is still so much more to explore. Who knew Portland held such a track record for having the most of anything? I wasn’t able to get a grasp of Portland street style since I was too preoccupied with all of the above to even notice. I guess I’ll have to save it for my next visit.

If this fashion thing doesn’t work out, then travel writer for hire!