California dreaming

Since returning from San Francisco and Napa, my mind has been racing with a plan for my next visit. As I mentioned last week, I'd never been to California before, and she definitely didn't disappoint. I'm convinced that one does not visit this area of the world only once in their life, and I'm secretly planning another trip in the not to distant future. Martin and I spent two feet and leg aching days traipsing up and down San Francisco's unforgiving hills and only scratched the surface, but loved every minute of it.

Day one started with our hungry stomachs calling for a substantial lunch after we made our way from the airport to the hotel. Nopalito, in Lower Haight, was our destination and we were rewarded with a sunny window spot and two chilled glasses of "Death and Taxes", a Moonlight Brewing Company black lager. As we quenched our traveler's thirst, we munched on spicy corn nuts as they brought us a bowl of Totopos con Chile to share. Home made tortilla chips doused in salsa de arbol, topped with cotija cheese left us licking our fingers as we squeezed wedges of lime and dipped them in crema. Their signature carnitas followed with house made corn tortillas and pickled vegetables- perfect with the black lager.

Needless to say, we needed to walk off the heavy lunch and only San Francisco's streets know how to make you shed a few pounds. As bike enthusiasts, we visited the Mojo Bicycle Cafe to revive ourselves in the late afternoon. After seeing death-defying feats of fixed-wheel cyclists skidding to stops on brightly colored bikes, we decided we were thankful for Chicago's flatness.

Later in the day, I chased uphill after cabs to take us to the next foodie destination, only to realize that in the end, making the trip to Berkeley to Chez Panisse on our first day was too much of a trek. Somewhat disappointed, but too exhausted to care, I've vowed to return some day soon. To brighten the spirit of my taste buds, I reminded myself that we had booked a table at Delfina for the following evening and fell deeply asleep dreaming of a morning at the Ferry Building and the Golden Gate Bridge.

I awoke bleary eyed the next morning to a call from my sister and her husband, Stacia and Andy, who were at the airport in Chicago on their way to join us. From the sound of her voice, her cold had worsened and the only medicine awaiting her on the west coast was a fantastic combination of cough syrup and wine.

We quickly headed to the Ferry Building for breakfast where my husband promptly seated himself at a cafe to sip coffee and nibble a croissant while I indulged myself amongst the food stalls. The market outside was in full swing and inside, I was drawn to Cowgirl Creamery.

Even early in the morning, I can't fight the urge for cheese. The macaroons at Miette also proved to be a temptation.

We had just enough time to finish our coffees outside on a bench overlooking the bay when we headed back into town to meet Stacia and Andy.

We spent the afternoon with them on a cruise around the bay, passing underneath the Golden Gate bridge and circling Alcatraz. Even as the cold wind whipped through our hair and threatened to toss us overboard, we felt lucky to have seen these two iconic sights up close.

That evening, we made our way to Delfina in the Mission district, and as we slid into our seats, the waitress poured a stunning Syrah to start off the evening.

We each ordered pastas to start with, passing them around with eyes rolling at the melt-in-your-mouth goodness. The unanimous winner was a special of the evening- a pappardelle with duck sugo, a ragu of sorts that's been passed through a sieve until it is so rich that it coats each noodle with its deep, delicious flavor.

The salad that Stacia and I shared may seem as if it wasn't the star of the show, but I'm a sucker for a great salad, and this is definitely one to try at home. Try this lemon vinaigrette paired with little gem lettuce, blue cheese (they used Pt. Reyes), radishes and sieved hard-boiled egg. Season well and drizzle the dressing. I could have eaten a huge plate of it.

We shared portions of Fulton Valley roasted chicken and perfectly cooked pork chops before calling it quits and heading straight for dessert wines. On our way back to the hotel, we were starting to see the affects of a weekend indulging in food and wine and realized this was only the beginning. The following day we would leave the city behind for wine country. Napa was calling my name.

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