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Two wineries this weekend, Sonoma town / Glen Ellen / Kenwood, low key, high quality

Two of us are making a day trip from SF Saturday. Our plan will include a little hike (Jack London SHP or?), either a picnic or El Molino Central, depending on how warm it feels, and a visit to, probably two wineries in the vicinity. Trying to avoid extra driving. I prefer small wineries, and a more restrained, old-world winemaking style, (particularly Pinot and cab, though we drink white too), and a friendly staff, pretty surroundings a plus. Past successful day trips have included Joseph Swan and Porter Creek in the RRV, and Robert Keenan and Schweiger on Spring Mountain. Here's what's appealed so far, but each has issues, and I'm very open to suggestion:
Wellington
Mayo (not sure about quality here?)
Hanzell (looks awesome but a little put off by the $45pp cost, and they're above our normal buying price range, which is usually under $50, including reds)
Sojourn, but like being out in the vineyards
Adastra looks fun, but further afield

Not interested in Benziger. Your thoughts and ideas appreciated!

Jan 30, 2014
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Is Central Kitchen really as pricey as Chez Panisse

I was surfing the net, trying to make sure I had the right restaurant reserved for the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and came across the "top 100 restaurants" on sfgate. They have Central Kitchen labeled $$$$, in the same category as Chez Panisse, Coi, etc. Can that be true? To look at the menu online, it seems more similar to Cotogna, Nopa, or Frances, unless their portions are bite-sized. I've been tripped up by this before, when I thought Cavallo Point's $29 steak on their menu might be larger than 1.5oz.

Set me straight - cause this wasn't meant to be a Chez Panisse - priced dinner!

Nov 05, 2013
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Our next nice Dinner - Central Kitchen, Outerlands, or Rich Table? [San Francisco]

Also loved Aziza, btw, so suggestions don't have to be cal-ital.

Oct 24, 2013
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Our next nice Dinner - Central Kitchen, Outerlands, or Rich Table? [San Francisco]

My favorite restaurant recently is Frances (in fact, I'm tempted to simply return), but we don't get out to eat upscale that often, and want to see what's happening in the food world. Also love Cotogna and Incanto, but AQ was too stiff and contrived for us. So, where next, between Outerlands, Rich Table, or Central Kitchen, or suggest an addition, given our preference for this general price range, relaxed atmosphere, and especially, yumminess. Need to be able to actually make a reservation for 4. Thanks!

Oct 24, 2013
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

AQ - SF

We just came back from dinner at AQ. While I enjoyed my meal, I'm sorry to report that the rest of my table were underwhelmed. I had the brussels sprouts and the swordfish, and I guess I was playing it safe, because bacon makes everything better. They were both very tasty. But the other diners left feeling less than thrilled, and I rather agreed with their assessment of their dishes. I tried the lamb tartare, which I had high hopes for, but which really only carried the fatty taste of raw lamb, and mint. I felt some salt and acid would help, but maybe I didn't get some of the garnishes, as I really only tried the meat. And my mom was a little flummoxed by the octopus dish, as it was quite strongly doused with squid ink, of which she is not a fan, though the menu didn't mention it. Plus, the biggest component of the dish was the tete de cochon, which she also wasn't quite prepared for. I tried the tete de cochon, and wasn't excited, though the squid ink sauce tasted good to me.

Actually, several members of my table had a hard time ordering, as the a la carte menu is limited. With about 6 appetizers and 6 entrees, one of which was turkey and cranberry, and each one containing a more adventurous ingredient, like charcoal, not everyone was seduced by the vague descriptions. And in the end,despite being relatively sophisticated diners, they found the whole concept a little precious, overcooked, if you will.

One nice thing our server did was to bring us a dessert on the house, the chocolate mousse on a whisk, when he heard it was my husband's birthday, and we weren't going to order any. And my cocktail, the caribbean knife fight 2, was tasty, though be warned, on the sweet side.

Nov 20, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

How much do you tip when you get take-out? [Moved from SF Bay Area board]

Let's say you've ordered indian food for take-out, at the counter or over the phone. I normally don't tip 15%, because it wasn't a full service meal. But I want to tip something - do you tip 10%, or just a couple of dollars even if you've ordered $80 worth of food?

Oct 26, 2012
leeinsf in Not About Food

Best winery for a picnic on Spring mountain, that's not Pride?

Thank you everyone for your suggestions. We ended up visiting Robert Keenn Winery, then Schweiger. We tried to make an appointment at Smith-Madrone, but they were bottling next day and not accepting visitors.
Laura at Keenan was friendly, and they were harvesting their cab grapes, so we got to taste grapes and some fresh juice, which was fun. Nice wine and particularly loved their cab franc (at $60 too expensive for my bank). Bought a bottle of 10 chard, and a 08 cab, and their merlot was tempting, too. Also, we did picnic at their tables. While the tables don't have a "big" view, to us the view of the vineyard below, along with the soulnds of the working winery, was lovely.
Schweiger was fun too, although James our host was in danger of writing us off as yahoos without big wallets. This always annoys me - why should I have to work to warm them up to the fact that I do have taste, a little, and can buy, a little. (If they do that to SFers who've made 20 Napa trips, how do they treat folks from Kansas?) Luckily an industry worker showed up and tasted with us, which warmed James up, and we had lively conversation and some good wine. He let us taste a 98 (I think) cab, which was lovely. We debated style diferences in the 07 cab and the 07 Dedication, their blend. I bought a bottle of the 07 cab.
Looking forward to next time!

Sep 29, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Help me narrow 4 SF restaurants down to 2

We took them to Cotogna last year, but Locanda sounds great. Locanda or Incanto? They both sound great to me.

Sep 26, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Help me narrow 4 SF restaurants down to 2

For example, I'm now thinking of Incanto or La Ciccia instead, and the reservations would be easier.

Sep 26, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Help me narrow 4 SF restaurants down to 2

Thanks everyone for your thoughts. AQ it definitely is. Not to overthink this, but the choice between the other two is more of a puzzle, for a few reasons. 1) the only reservations I could get at either, still 2 months away, is 5:15 for Frances and 5:45 for F+W. Not a killer, but hardly ideal. 2) Flour+Water has the fresh pasta slant I think the parents could get behind, but Frances, not sure how to excite them about yet another intimate CA restaurant. Aziza they loved, because it was so fresh for them. Am I missing an option at this price point, while staying stylish, and without heading to Asian or Latin?

Sep 26, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Best SF Breakfast

I'm addicted to Art's Cafe on Irving: 2 eggs, hash browns, Crystal hot sauce. If hash browns made into a crispy crepe-like disk of yum aren't enticing to you, don't bother. Though the bibimbop is good too.

Sep 25, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Help me narrow 4 SF restaurants down to 2

I'm a decent cook / foodie who doesn't get out much (little kids + no $!) My mom and her boyfriend are coming to town for Thanksgiving, from Venice Beach (their taste: Tasting Kitchen and Gjelina's.) We'll eat out twice at dinner, once at either:
Commonwealth or AQ
The other time at either:
France's or Flour + Water

I've never eaten at any of them (tho I live here), but last year we enjoyed our meal at Cotogna. We'll probably branch out for lunch to something more exotic, but that's not part of this post.

We're looking for excellent food, casual / stylish people and digs, and prices at, well, the price level of the restaurants mentioned. Thoughts? Am I missing something exciting?
Thanks!

Sep 25, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Best winery for a picnic on Spring mountain, that's not Pride?

I think we're narrowed down to Keenan and Smith-Madrone, based on affordability and laid back tasting experience. If anyone recommends a third to pair with these two, please tell!

Sep 21, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Best winery for a picnic on Spring mountain, that's not Pride?

I like the Trespass idea, and love cab franc, even though their pricing is veering out of our affordability range. Barnett's website specifically prohibits outside food, but I'll ask when I call (kind of a bad sign in my book, though.)

Sep 21, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Best winery for a picnic on Spring mountain, that's not Pride?

Husband and I are taking a day trip to Napa or rather, Spring mountain, next Wednesday, and want to visit 3 wineries. We like low key, friendly places, with well-crafted wine and at least a wine or 2 below $50 so we can buy a bottle if we want, and we'll be bringing picnic supplies. A picnic spot with a view (and a bottle of their wine) would be great, and I'm a sucker for a garden. We enjoy visiting Pride but would like to try new places this trip.

Some options we've noted:
Barnett
Smith-Madrone
Keenan
Terra Valentine
Cain (but perhaps reservations are hard to get?)
But it's hard for me to get a sense of each winery's distinct "feel", and I would welcome other suggestions. Want to narrow the list based on wine quality-to-price, plus a generally relaxed atmosphere. I love to taste reds, but often buy white due to Napa prices.

Sep 20, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Santa Fe: Comments on Coyote Cafe and Tabla de los Santos, please

We'll be there in a week and I'd love to hear your thoughts re Cafe Chimayo?

Jun 02, 2012
leeinsf in Southwest

interesting happy hour tonight (Friday) til 7 or later, in SOMA, the mission, or Castro?

We want a good happy hour, with some tasty food options, in one of these neighborhoods. Ideally, the parking also won't be so awful we'll need to walk half a mile in the rain. Thoughts?

Mar 16, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Russian River valley day trip - picnic spot, help to narrow winery list?

Sorry for the poor editing- typed that on an iPad!

Feb 05, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Russian River valley day trip - picnic spot, help to narrow winery list?

RRV TRIP REPORT
We had a great time. First stop was Joseph Swan. Rather wish we didn't stop here first, as I drank coffee the drive up, and didn't feel I had a good frame of reference for the tasting, but gotta start somewhere! please forgive my uneducated notes that follow. The two pilots we tried were very different from each other, and had a hard time deciding which to purchase. Trenton View (I think, and can't remember the vintage) was a lighter wine, much more Burgundian, as the pourer put it. The 09 Cuvée de Trois, which I bought a bottle, was more fruit, and to me an interesting dark note in the middle, I really want to try it again.
Second stop was Rochioli, as they were pouring a newly released estate Pinot, and I thought it was a good picnic option. Frankly, to me the wine was soft and round and elegant and fruity, but not layered. The server assured me that it needed a few years, but I couldn't get excited. A 2010, the youngest red we tried. At their pricing, nothing called to me, so though they seemed a good picnic option, we moved on.
Third stop was Thomas George Estates. The cave is cool, and the pourer nice enough. First pour was an unoaked chard that tasted like apple juice, odd. Then the 09 estate Chardonnay, with vibrant fruit and very restrained oak, which I ended up buying. The two pinots poured were both tasty, but at $60 beyond my budget. Particularly liked the Campbell-----(ranch?). We had a great picnic here after tasting, sparkling water only but great food, and had the area to ourselves.
Last, and best,stop was Porter Creek. At first there was only one other couple, but unfortunately it quickly became crowded with more folks than at any other winery, despite having the smallest space. However, an assistant winemaker was pouring, and he was fabulous. Would love to return and ask more questions. Loved the reserve elegance of the reserve Pinot and the old vine Pinot, but due to price, purchased the Fiona hill. Everything I tried was tasty and interesting. Trying the juicy chewy tannin Carignan was fun. Trying the low acid, butter oak viognier was fun, especially in comparison with the chard, but struck me as a little heavy.
To sum up, loved the low key Shaw and Porter Creek, probably at least partly because they felt more approachable. And I also had they sense that they were letting their wines' individuality come through a little more, but that could be just my imagination.
Stopped at Andy's on the way home, for some good coffee. (hubby hardly tasted at all, and manned the wheel.)
Thank you all so much for all your good tips. Can't wait to return and educate myself some more with the places we missed!

Feb 05, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Russian River valley day trip - picnic spot, help to narrow winery list?

I'm good with downscale, funky, chickens and a shed. "Nice setting" was too vague, and not every winery has to check off every box. But we want a little of the bucolic winery experience, whether elegant or more farm-y, and seeing a range would be good. Lynmar sounds good, as long as elegant doesn't also mean uptight. Given we want to relax, and enjoy the countryside, Dutton-Goldfield may not make the top 3. The westside Road options seem like a good fit, if they'll pour a nice pinot or two.

Feb 04, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Russian River valley day trip - picnic spot, help to narrow winery list?

This is great, but hasn't narrowed my list much! We're going to stick with the RRV appellation, so we're not driving all over. And we've decided to keep the focus more on pinots. The only one I feel committed to is Joseph Swan, for great pinot and QPR. And a nice setting is worthwhile too. So my question now is, which two offer the best combination of excellent, balanced pinot and nice setting between:
Lynmar (we supposedly get to taste free w/ Visa Signature)
Hartford Family
Gary Farrell
Rochioli
Dutton - Goldfield
Arista
Porter Creek
Thomas George (also free w/ Visa Sig.)
(Merry Edwards is closed Sundays in winter)

Feb 04, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Russian River valley day trip - picnic spot, help to narrow winery list?

We're taking a day trip to RRV from SF tomorrow (Super Bowl Sunday). Been to Sonoma town area / Napa so many times but never visited wineries in RRV. Primarily interested in tasting pinots, but tend to drink whites on a daily basis so open to that, and to be honest, I like sparkling as well. Here are some options, but we need to narrow it down to 3 or 4 that are driveable in a day trip:

Hartford
Lynmar Estate
Twomey Cellars
Dutton Estate
Joseph Swan
Gary Farrell
Rochioli

We also want to picnic, and have seen Hop Kiln and Arista mentioned as good spots. Any other suggestions? And where to get supplies, beside Whole Foods in Sebastipol?

One more criteria is price - since our budget is somewhat limited, a better quality-to-price ratio, and wine in the $30 range, is better if we're actually going to buy anything. But we're happy just to taste, if the winery is a little larger, and not making a special effort just for us.

Thanks so much for your thoughts!

Feb 04, 2012
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

What's the best sit-down mexican with margaritas in SD?

How is Cantina Mayahuel? The trifecta of moles, happy hour, and margaritas sounds very good. (We'd be eating on a Monday or Tuesday night.)

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Cantina Mayahuel
2934 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116

Jul 30, 2011
leeinsf in San Diego

What's the best sit-down mexican with margaritas in SD?

Thanks for the options. We're staying in La Jolla, but have a car and may be touring about a bit. It does seem a tough equation - reasonably priced, tasty food, with good margaritas can be hard to come by.

Jul 30, 2011
leeinsf in San Diego

What's the best sit-down mexican with margaritas in SD?

We're visiting from Sf and wondering what's the best sit-down mexican, either old-fashioned or new-fangled, with good margaritas, and preferably good guac, in SD?

Jul 29, 2011
leeinsf in San Diego

Best berry pie in SF?

After reading about Duarte's pies, it occurred to me that for my birthday on Wednesday, I want a berry pie! But I'm not going to drive out of town for it, so, where can I buy great pie in SF?

Feb 07, 2011
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Finally, finally, finally -- real bbq in Northern CA

Far as Memphis minnies goes, I'm from Memphis born and raised, and that may be barbecue but it's NOT Memphis barbecue. 'Course to me, barbecue is ribs, period. Barbecue is a very local thing and I don't particularly like their version. I guess they're really a Carolina barbecue, with sweet, mustardy, vinaigary sauces.

Jun 19, 2010
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Kid friendly restaurant with good food and adult drinks in San Francisco

This isn't really to answer your question, because the food isn't top-notch, but Park Chalet is a great place to take kids, especially if it's nice out. You can eat outside, and the kids can roam and run around in G.G.P. We sometimes let our kids play outside after they've finished dinner while we're inside as well. The kids menu is basic but cheap, and they do certain specials some nights, like Taco Tuesday, that also keeps costs down. We stay away from the Beach Chalet upstairs though.

Jun 16, 2010
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Any tasty upscale mexican in SF?

Thanks everybody! I've always wanted to try Nopalito but it never wins since they don't serve tequila. Sad, I know. But now it's all good!

Jun 03, 2010
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area

Any tasty upscale mexican in SF?

I have my go-to taquerias, and the places I go to drink margaritas, but in terms of tasty mexican you can take out-of-town older relatives to, that feel a little spruced up (and serve tequila!), where do you go? Is Mamacita tasty? I haven't tried Poc Chuc either, but I'm worried it won't feel upscale enough.

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Mamacita
2317 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123

Poc Chuc
2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Jun 03, 2010
leeinsf in San Francisco Bay Area