San Francisco + Napa Valley

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In honor of wrapping up 2019, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite travel spots from the year. (Honestly, I’ve been meaning to do this for forever, but doing things in 2019 got in the way of blogging about them.) Anyway, let’s kick this off with San Francisco.

I got lucky enough to visit the City by the Bay twice this year. So, I’m sharing a few spots from each visit—but mostly from the Memorial Day weekend trip I took with five friends to SF and Napa that was all around eating amazing food, drinking incredible wine, and spending an afternoon in the sun at BottleRock Music Festival.

SF Eat + Do

There are about eight billion amazing places to eat and things to do in San Francisco. These are just a few of my latest favorites. 

Bar Agricole: It’s known (and awarded many times over) for its contemporary design and its bar program. As a sucker for beautiful spaces and great cocktails, I loved it. (Tip: It’s hard to see from the street, so look carefully for its discreet entry.)

Hog Island Oysters: It may be a bit touristy, but this waterside seafood restaurant continues to be one of my top picks. My favorite time to go is for Saturday brunch after wandering around the always-amazing Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. (Tip: They don’t take reservations, so get in line early.)

Noosh: Eater.com named this Mediterranean restaurant in Pacific Heights one of the most anticipated restaurants in the country before its opening last spring—and it lived up to the hype. It’s bright and modern and made for Instagram. The kebabs are amazing, the hummus is ridiculously creamy, and the pork flatbread with egg and roasted garlic will blow your mind.

Liholiho Yacht Club: If someone had told me that a Hawaiian/Indian/Chinese restaurant that plays rap music and is known for its spam fried rice would be one of my favorite meals of the year, I would not have believed them. But this place is incredible. Reservations are notoriously hard to get, but you can snag last-minute seats at the bar. This is the kind of place where you should come hungry and open-minded—and definitely order that spam fried rice (pictured above).

The Presidio: This military-post-turned-park offers a look at local history and panoramic views of the bay. Have lunch (and a margarita) on the patio of Arguello behind the historic Officer’s Club and then take a walk along the water all the way up to the entrance of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mission Dolores Park: Start with a shopping trip on the nearby Valencia Street—there are tons of great shops including one of the country’s only Everlane stores. Then, on a sunny afternoon, buy a bottle of cold wine and go stretch out on the warm grass to people watch in this bustling park known for its sweeping views of the city skyline.

Napa Eat + Drink + Do

I cannot pretend to be a wine connoisseur and I didn’t make reservations early enough to get into French Laundry. But these were a few of my favorites from my latest trip to wine country.

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Bouchon Bakery: There are plenty of ways to taste renowned chef Thomas Keller’s food around Napa, but this charming order-at-the-counter bakery in Yountville is probably the easiest and least expensive. Get there early—the secret is out and the line is always long—and pick up pastries to enjoy before a day of vineyard visits.

Ad Hoc: Sure, it felt strange for a Southerner to travel all the way to Napa for buttermilk fried chicken, brisket, and mac and cheese. But this family-style restaurant (another by Thomas Keller) was the perfect kind of cozy and offered much-needed hearty fare to soak up a day of wine drinking.

Gott’s Roadside: I know this is technically a chain. And it’s definitely not Thomas Keller. But I really love this casual burger and milkshake joint. Gott’s is North California’s answer to fast food with a menu that includes organic produce, sushi-grade fish, Impossible Burgers, and local Napa wines all with a 1950’s diner vibe. After days of spending way too much money on fancy meals and drinks, this felt just right.

Cakebread Cellars, Scribe Winery, and Caymus Vineyards: These were my three favorite wineries/vineyards from this trip. Each of them were gorgeous and had incredible wines. You’ll want to do the tour at Cakebread, lunch at Scribe, and a tasting on the patio at Caymus. Scribe was by far our favorite (because we’re very basic and it was an Instagram dream). It was an almost-too-picturesque place for a light lunch on the breezy terrace eating vegetables straight from their garden and an afternoon drinking too much of their crisp rosé.

BottleRock: As soon as our day at this music festival ended, we were talking about returning again. It was so good. In addition to great music (we were there primarily for Mumford & Sons, which put on an incredible show), the food and drink offerings are next level—it is, after all, smack in the middle of wine country. So, instead of your typical festival fare, there are booths and demos from Michelin-starred chefs and wine from some of the best vineyards on earth and over-the-top cocktail bars. It felt like Disney World for adults, and was one of my favorite days of the entire year.

 

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