get out…

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… and explore

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Where: A certain tunnel in the Marin Headlands

Wearing: These boots and these cut-offs

Why: Sometimes paleaolythic discoveries are just a drive across  the Golden Gate Bridge away


Happy adventuring my friends! Until next time — send me a comment, & follow on pinterest, and instagram.

XO

adventures along the 38th parallel

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The two constants in my life are change and California.

And driving across the 38th parallel this past week, watching ecosystems swing from arid to foggy, watching my dashboard thermometer go from 102 (39 C) to 62 (16 C) in the space of 2 hours, reminds me that California IS change.  And so therefore the only constant in my life is California.  And this is a wonderful feeling.  From gently sweeping vineyards, through narrow mountain roads and towering redwoods, to the foggy, craggy coast — every turn in California brings a new and breathtaking surprise. In balmy Napa I stayed in a gleaming retro Airstream and had the perfect little taste of California wine land. Crossing through Sonoma and into Mendocino the landscape grew more mountainous, and I had an unexpected adventure with some sights and spots along the windy 128 Freeway. Finally on the windswept shores of the Pacific I gathered wildflowers, hiked with steer horns, and dined on gourmet French food with a stunning view. Read on to discover all of my highlights for your next NorCal road trip…

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WINE COUNTRY

There are many other, far more comprehensive wine guides to wine county, but for a quick overview — heavy reds love the hot climate of Napa in the valleys, while lighter pino noirs and white grapes flourish in the cooler coastal climates. Heres some spots in Napa and Eastern Sonoma to try:

Bouchon Bakery is just across the road from the French Laundry produce garden (photographed above). Stop by the bakery for delicious giant macarons, or for the fluffiest, airiest quiche I’ve ever had, and then go for a stroll in the garden and contemplate the fact that these tomatoes and squash blossoms will shortly become involved in a $200 dinner.

Scribe Winery is right across the border from Napa in Sonoma county, and to this date has been my favorite wine tasting experience. Guest sit at a picnic bench overlooking the vineyard and hills (and if you look in the right spot you can even see Sutro Tower rising above the bay fog 50 miles away) and interact one on one with a wine expert who pours tastes and provides snacks. The wines are all a little unepxected in some way — a non-sweet reisling, a dry chardonay, and an unfiltered pinot noir. The grounds are beautiful, and don’t pass up the chance to check out the main houses’s hip bathroom (photographed above).

The Oxbow Market in downtown Napa has moved as much of the Ferry Building north as possible, so SF locals can skip the Hog Island Oyster Bar, Fatted Calf, Gott’s Roadside,  Three Twins Ice Cream, Pica Pica and Ritual Coffee to head straight to C Casa for unique tacos (the seasoned buffalo with goat cheese was my favorite, followed closely by the salmon tacos with poblanos). This is also a great spot to pick up local cheeses and freshly baked baguettes to carry out to the vineyards, or a bottle to take back home with you once the tasting rooms close around 5:30pm.

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HIGHWAY 128, MENDOCINO

You’ve got a couple options to get out to the coast from Napa and Sonoma, but highway 128 is one of the most scenic and remote. The road twists and turns over mountains, through valleys, and under majestic redwoods. As you drive along make sure to pull over and enjoy the scenery as often as possible and stop here:

Scharffenberger is my favorite American bottle of bubbles hands down, so imagine my surprise when it turns out their wine cellar is tucked away on a quiet stretch of this highway in Mendocino. I drove right past it at first and brought the car to a screeching halt to spin around. After the pricey wine tasting in Napa ($20-30 per person regularly) you’ll pinch yourself at Scharffenberger’s $3 tasting fee, which is waved upon the purchase of one of their many bottles of bubbles or light reds. If you want to keep indulging in a little wine tasting, you’ll pass by a handful of other vineyards along the way to the coast, all of which feature similarly remarkable tasting fees.

The Boonville Hotel has prix fixed farm to table dining in a cozy, cute setting if you’re looking for a sit down meal along the road, or pick up picnic supplies from the Boonville General Store. And make sure to pull over and fuel up on Flying Goat Coffee in the adorable small town of Healdsburg before turning on to Hwy 128 — their espresso is divine.

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ALONG THE COAST

There’s so many little towns and beaches to pull over in along the Northern California Coast. On this trip I chose remote and foggy Albion, but I also strongly recommend Anchor Bay and the Mar Vista Cottages. If you do find yourself further north in Mendocino county, here’s a couple tips:

Between 5 and 6pm the Albion River Inn has a great happy hour deals with wine, cocktails and an impressive whiskey collection. Pick up a glass from the bar, and recline on cliffside chairs outdoors overlooking the rocky, beautiful coast.

For fine dining the Ledford House is cooking up delicious French cuisine and shaking strong cocktails. Get a seat overlooking the ocean, and wait for the nightly live jazz to begin for a romantic evening.

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LOCAL COMPANION

At this time, I must confess that I know absolutely nothing about Napa, and in truth, all of these winning wine country destinations come from a super cool new service through Airbnb.  Local Companion — a new and until recently top secret experiment — provides a portable and customizable concierge service. Bay Area local Sophia chatted with me through the app and once learning my tastes gave me options for food and wine tasting she thought would best fit me, and even called restaurants and vineyards on my behalf to get me reservations. As we all know, having a local’s knowledge is SO crucial to getting the most out of a short trip, especially somewhere new. While I may have a decent grasp on SF, I was pretty clueless about wine country, and thanks to Sophia I had the best wine tasting experience of my life, in a place I probably never would have stumbled on on my own.

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So far this service is limited to the Bay Area and Tokyo, but I’d love to have something like this in every new city I travel to.

What are you favorite things to see, do, eat and drink in Northern California? Send me a note in the comments, and be sure to follow me on pinterest and instagram for a daily dose of inspiration.

Thank you for reading!

XO

GIVEAWAY — win an Edible Excursion

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One of my favorite travel memories comes from a walking/eating tour led by a city local when visiting Istanbul. I had already fallen head over heels in love with Turkish food, coffee and tea, and this tour allowed me to indulge in all these things while also discovering so much about the history and culture of the Turkish people. Whenever I visit someplace new I want to learn everything about it, and there’s really no better way to do so (in my humble opinion) than by spending your time abroad with locals.  Even when traveling through semi-familiar US cities, the experiences recommended by friends in each destination have always trumped whatever spots I found by wading through the murky bog of yelp or touristy to-do guides.

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That’s why I could not be more excited to host this giveaway with the Bay Area’s own local food and drink tour guidesEdible Excursions. Only Edible Excursions hooks you up with a small group of likeminded food and drink lovers to explore the bay area’s most diverse, out-of-the-way, and fascinating neighborhoods and nooks; tasting, drinking, and chatting along the way with your incredibly knowledgeable (these folks are at the head of the food scene here) and super friendly guides, and the crafts and trades men and women behind the scenes your guide will introduce you do. You’ll discover local’s-only secrets, and taste the best the already foodie-centric bay area has to offer.  I have FOUR tickets to award TWO lucky readersREAD ON for all the details and your chance to win!

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PRIZE #1

DAYTIME TOUR OF OAKLAND’S TEMESCAL TASTES

Temescal, a hipster neighborhood in North Oakland centered around Telegraph Avenue, has emerged as an eating destination, home to innovative offerings by creative food producers in a culturally diverse community known for its innovative eats, artsy vibe and community spirit.

Find out where these food makers got their start – whether at pop-up restaurants, fine dining establishments, or farmers’ market stands – and learn about their edible businesses and commitment to fare with flair.

Tastes may include: organic ice cream, Ethiopian injera and wot, grilled cheese, Baja-style fish tacos, fresh Korean fare, iced coffee and Indian street food.

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PRIZE #2

EVENING TOUR ALONG THE MISSION’S 18TH STREET

The Mission District is bursting with so many global flavors and culinary favorites that even locals can’t keep up. The Valencia Corridor, a rapidly changing food landscape, is home to some of the busiest and buzziest food ventures in the Bay Area.

On a night when this area is especially lively, guests have a chance to talk with chefs, store owners, and restaurant employees who share behind-the-scenes stories about their creative, critically-acclaimed, and award-winning fare, as well as attending the area’s only farmer’s market featuring local, fresh grub and produce. No waiting in line to try some of this neighborhood’s most coveted bites!

Tastes may include: tacos & tequila, seasonal produce, pastries, artisan sausages, wine & cheese pairing, chocolate tasting, and more!

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HOW TO WIN:

1) Like Edible Excursions on Facebook here and let us know in the comments along with your email address

2) Follow Edible Excursions on twitter here and let us know you did in the comments

3) Like my blog on Facebook here (if you haven’t already)

4) And then just leave me a comment! Let me know which tour you’re interested, or if you’d be game for either one, along with your email address to win!

THE FINE PRINT:

There will be one winner for each tour, and the prize includes TWO tickets which are good until the end of the year. So even if you’re not in the area, you have 6 months to make it on over to the Bay! If you’ve got a trip planned this year already Edible Excursions is the perfect add on to complete your food and drink adventures in the land of farm-to-table dining and craft everything. I’ll be picking two winners at random in one week, on July 23rd, so HURRY and apply to win!

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!

XO

lost girl

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We’re halfway through the year, and it’s been such a race to get here. The only thing to do was to take a breather for a few days. An escape in which to linger and remind oneself of January’s goals before plunging forward into another half of 2014. For me this has been a year of gold mining; I’m trying everything, and sifting through all the sand, letting junk fall to the ground in search of the real treasure. Treasure like this cottage in Albion, which I dug through dozens of Airbnb listings to find. I never met the owner, but I could tell immediately that he or she is a human after my own heart; someone who’s worked so hard to move all these pieces of history along through time together in one marvelous package.

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I had packed this little black number for a nice dinner on the town, but it turns out there was no town; only a few cottages clinging to steep cliffs along a lost section of the California coast. So I wore the dress anyway, and cooked down chops I’d brought with me and alliums from the back yard on the old Wedgewood oven. Blackberries were growing in over the fence, so I picked those too, and with cheese and bread it all together for a quiet dinner in, while I watched the fog drift through the pine trees and thought about gold mining.

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DRESS: MONORENO/TIGHTS: FREE PEOPLE

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Where is your head at in this turning point in the year? Are you ready for the next half of 2014? Send me a note in the comments, and be sure to follow me on pinterest and instagram for a daily dose of inspiration.

Thank you for reading!

XO

snapshots from a shared blogosphere

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As always, bloggers are seduced by the globe and the clock. In one of our 24 time zones, I pour hot water over coffee beans in San Francisco, and 8 timezones away, another girl is sipping a cocktail with friends at the end of the day. We know this intellectually, but it’s difficult to get your hands around it — this chain of storytelling that allows me to have close friends I’ve never met who send me their stories from distant shores. To visualize this global narrative, and celebrate our connection, four bloggers (including myself) have brought you this visual guide to the interlocking hours in our lives around the world. We will not be handing off a baton, but instead showing the same minute in all four of our cities. At the exact moment that it’s 8am in the morning for me in San Francisco, it’s 11am for Naomi in Philidelphia, 5pm for Julie in London, and midnight for Judith in Seoul. I invite you to travel throughout the day and globe with us — please read on, and follow each story below to its respective author’s blog.


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Today I had my morning coffee in Paris.

For a few months now M has been in and out of the house at all hours of the day and night; working behind the scenes on a special project for one of San Francisco’s many tech startups — Airbnb. Somehow along the way he drew the short end of the stick and became a permanent fixture on the 6am weekend shift. I don’t know about you, but I’m cursed with the inability to fall back asleep once I’ve been woken in the morning — not matter what time of the morning — once I’m awake, that’s it. So when I was woken this particular Saturday early in the AM, I tossed and turned for an hour or two, and then decided to follow him.

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Airbnb is one of those glossy tech companies that keeps a full time kitchen staff, serving its employees breakfast, lunch and dinner — but not on the weekends, and there aren’t really a lot of food options this early in the day in San Francisco. We’re a town that likes to sleep in and start the weekend around noon with a boozy brunch. If you’re up before then your best bet is one of our many coffee shops serving up freshly baked pastries and small bites, which is just what I did, so today picking up a breakfast sandwich for me and a sticky carmel morning bun for M from a nearby bakery (L’acajou to be precise) just around the corner from Airbnb’s HQ. The giant building is quiet at this hour; early light streaming from the enormous skylight over the central courtyard, and when I take the elevators up I can see the night fog just beginning to thin over the Eastern half of the city. There may be no kitchen staff working today, but the 169,000 sq. ft. HQ is fully stocked from one side to the other with artisanal coffee, beer and wine on tap, make-your-own-sandwich stations, in-house yogurt, bins and bins of granola and other dry goods, and more Smegs than I could imagine in my wildest dreams. Until visiting Airbnb, I’d heard a lot of rumors about the insane perks available in the start up industries – they’ll do your laundry, change the oil in your tires, there’s masseuses on staff, full time baristas! – and if Airbnb is any sort of indicator the truth is a bit less glamorous, but still rather mind boggling. No full time barista (here you brew your own pour overs) but still an environment unlike any office space I’ve ever seen.

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The beans here are from De La Paz, a local roaster I hadn’t really experienced before the office introduced me to them. Now they’re the only thing I buy for my own home. Today I pour myself a steaming cup into thick mugs and slip away to a quiet room. Airbnb has around a dozen conference rooms — each one themed to replicate a different Airbnb listing from around the world, down to every last piece of wallpaper, photograph, or amount and flavor of donuts. And on a day like this, there’s hardly a one of the hundreds of weekday employees around to find it it unusual when I settle in with my coffee and laptop to Paris, Milan or Bali. Beginning the day like this may be an earlier start than I would have chosen, but I’ve come not to mind it so much. Today, I have Paris all to myself, and I kickstart my weekend over strong coffee and bloggery, while all around me the glass walls begin to lighten, as the summer fog pulls away towards the ocean; brightening our little corner of the world.


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Here in Philadelphia on a Saturday morning, I had four friends walking in the door. As they arrived, I was putting the finishing touches on a brunch spread I had prepared using my favorite local and organic ingredients. For me, two things are important when it comes to food: home cooked and ethically-sourced. It’s not necessarily the most common way to consume food in this country, but it is one that is held in high regard. People here love a home cooked meal. And people here love food they can feel good about. Also, it should be noted that brunch is a very American thing… a brilliant custom if you ask me…

See and read all about Naomi’s Philadelphia brunch over at her blog – Numie Abbot


The Gun

There are a lot of things I could be doing in London at 4pm on a Saturday, but if I’m honest, I’m usually at the pub. This is partly because it’s always raining and I need to take cover, and partly because the national sport of England is getting outlandishly drunk on every imaginable occasion (2pm on Tuesday? Sure, I’ll have a beer. 11am on Sunday? Pour me a pint, sir.).

It’s really because pubs have always been hubs of social interaction in the UK. It’s a unique phenomenon that I’ve never found anywhere else, and it works amazingly well. Every neighborhood has it’s “local”, as they’re called, and everyone ends up there at, say, 4pm on Saturday…

See and read more about Julie’s favorite pubs over at her blog – A Lady in London


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It’s midnight now in South Korea, and I’ve already had a delicious dinner of pizza and beer with my boyfriend in Itaewon. We usually have date night on Friday and go out for dinner and a movie, but the air about tonight feels a bit different than normally. Maybe we’ve had one too many craft beers or maybe it’s the change in the weather as it slips further and further into a sticky, humid summer that is making us crave a different kind of fun tonight. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we find what we’re looking for: strong cocktails, conversations with strangers, and a guilty midnight snack. After a brisk walk around the streets passed noisy lounges and overpriced wine bars, we decide the area we’re in doesn’t have what we want, so we hop in a cab and take the short drive to Noksapyeong. We feel the electricity in the air the moment we hit the busy streets crowded with people from all over the world… 

See and read all about Judith’s midnight hour in Seoul at her blog Chasing Glitter


macarons de bouchon bakery

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Sorry for the long silence this week! I’m off on an adventure that so far has included airstreams, fat cats, lots of fog, and the largest macarons I’ve ever seen. Somehow Thomas Keller has found a way to increase macaron technology to support the size of the treats seen above while still managing to keep that exquisite macaron texture — crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside. In addition to the traditional flavors of pistachio, raspberry, lemon, chocolate etc., seasonal options include espresso, blueberry and salted caramel. These cookies were super satisfying, although I may have overdid it by ordering the big box of 8. Fortunately, these macarons are made fresh daily, and therefore could last up to a week or so in the fridge before getting stale.

Now if only Bouchon Bakery weren’t 50 miles away from SF…

More NorCal adventures and other surprises ahead! In the meantimefollow me on pinterest and instagram for a daily dose of inspiration, and be sure to leave me a note in the comments – I would love to hear from you!

Thank you for reading!

XO

Photography by MB Maher