April 12, 2011

Head Over Hills for San Francisco (and Sonoma): Part III

On this episode of Head over Hills...we leave San Francisco and go to Sonoma. Healdsburg, to be exact. We’ll see how Sarah doesn’t let travel logistics get in the way of eating good food, we’ll finally hear about the strangers at the bar (way less interesting than it’s been made it out to be), and we’ll figure out who those weirdos were at the coolest restaurant in Healdsburg (or not).

Can you tell that I’ve been watching way too much Bravo lately?

But seriously, I’ll stop with the SF and Sonoma food after this post. For one, I’m getting sick of talking about it myself, so everyone else must really be sick of it. And just today, two different people asked me, “So, I know what you ATE in SF, but what did you guys DO?”

We did stuff, promise. We were good tourists.

But here we go, highlights from the end of the trip:

Making new friends @ Scopa

I’ve realized over the past year how Minnesotan Zach and I are. Some of this I’m proud of. Some of it, I’m not.

We actually didn’t have any set dinner plans the first night we got to Healdsburg, but I had read good things about a place called Scopa. I called to see if they had any reservations for that night, was told they didn’t, and that if we wanted to sit at their small bar, we should get there by 5:20. So, we strolled up around 5:15, a good 15 mins before they opened, and waited at the door. An older guy, about 70, was sitting there already reading a book. Shortly after, another couple showed up (prob late 50’s). And with that, the six seat bar was full before Scopa even opened.

And with that, we had made four new friends. As we were standing outside the door and they were starting up conversation, they were talking about how they like to sit at the bar because they can talk to the other people seated there. This started to make me antsy. I don't sit at the bar because I want to talk to others. I sit at the bar because I can’t get a seat at a regular table. (Broders is the exception to this, but people at the Broders bar don’t talk to each other. They’re Minnesotan.). I prefer not to risk knocking elbows with my fellow diners and I prefer not to talk to new people. Yes, I have true Minnesota blood in me.

But we made the best of it, and it wasn’t as bad as I had thought. It was actually enjoyable, and they offered to take our picture.

Delicious food: loved the meatballs with homemade bread. Really loved Zach's braised chicken with polenta, and really really loved the panna cotta with huckleberry sauce. Who knew panna cotta could be so great?

The wine divas @ Barndiva

You could call us gawkers. I’m sure we were super obvious.

We spent our last real dinner, our last night in Sonoma, at Barndiva, totally enthralled by the couple next to us.

They had a notebook out that they kept passing to each other that they appeared to be taking serious notes in. At first, I thought they were food critics. I initially got excited about this, and then started feeling very small and insecure about hauling out my camera to take pictures for my amateur food blog.

But then it became clear that they weren’t food critics. Then our theory was that they were in the wine business. They rattled off the wines they had tasted that day, what they would pair well with, and discussed what they would “hold” on. We were intrigued.

Until they started running down the list of top lessons they have learned while being married for five years, giggling. Puke. At that point, I tried to focus on my food, and drown it out. Done.

Luckily our food was interesting. Surprisingly fabulous, after a week of fabulous things. I wish the designer of the restaurant could decorate my house. I wish the person who designed their cute little business cards would design some for me. And I wish their chef would cook for me every night.

I had a delicious salad that I loved most for its beauty.

And then a lasagna that will likely live forever as the most interesting lasagna I’ve ever eaten. Assembled after being cooked, the meat sauce was somewhat traditional, but had balsamic something running through it that broke up the richness. Fresh layers of homemade pasta. An arugula pesto on the side. A small scattering of grilled seasonal veggies on top that were more of a garnish than anything else. Creamy delicious ricotta. Super fresh, not heavy.

And for dessert: a trio of profiteroles with creamsicle ice cream, chocolate salted caramel ice cream, and crème fraiche ice cream. Loaded with chocolate sauce. Garnished with caramelized bananas. Plate. Eaten. Clean.

Have food, will travel

Planner me always makes sure to pack snacks. Anyone who has half of a brain that travels with me also makes sure I pack snacks. I don’t really subscribe to the whole, “We’ll just stop at Mc Donald’s thing.” And I really don’t like to try restaurants that just happen to be on the way that I know nothing about. I’ve had many a bad meal under that plan.

So, I’ve gotten scrappy (and rather brilliant) over the years.

This is what I ate for breakfast the morning we left SF for Sonoma. I hadn’t had Tartine’s bread yet and was horrified by the prospect of not having Tartine’s bread before I left. I mean, I had had everything else on their menu. So, part of our order the morning of our 40 minute wait was toast. Thick, toasted, uber-crunchy, perfect toast. With butter and apricot jam. I happily ate it from a to go box on my lap as the GPS guided Zach safely and accurately (pleasant surprise) out of town.

The night before we left to come back to Minneapolis, we stayed at a hotel by the airport because our flight left at 6:00 am. I knew the food prospects by the hotel would be less than stellar for dinner. So I convinced Zach to go the Ferry Building that afternoon to collect picnic supplies. We’d have a hotel room picnic. It is a feat in and of itself that we had made it to the Ferry Building that day. We had the rental car. We had been in the rental car all day. And there were some crazy parking rules going on again (no parking after 3 this time…and it was 3:15), but Zach persevered. About seven illegal u-turns about ten unnecessary blocks circled. A good amount of patience depleted.

But worth it. We had ourselves a quite tasty hotel room picnic despite no plates and no napkins. (When in need, paper bags make good makeshift plates or food tents).

Creamy goat cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, Marcona almonds, grapes, orange and fennel salami from…the meat place. Can’t remember the name. A half bottle of wine (that we wished had been a full bottle), and some sour gummy cherries.

Happy. :)

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