Trip to NorCal

Reentry is never easy, especially when you’re leaving behind the most delicious produce in the country.
Evan and I spent Thursday through Monday traveling around northern California, visiting my family and friends and eating a LOT. We arrived late into SFO where my aunt Susan picked us up and drove straight to her and my uncle Ron’s condo in Santa Cruz.
Maeve, my best friend from junior high, lives in SC and stopped by with her fiancé for some bagels the next morning. It had probably been five years since I’d seen her. IMG_1053
After breakfast we got back on the road, headed to Carmel. I didn’t remember ever visiting Carmel, but it’s gorgeous! We drove the famous 17 mile drive, and stopped into the Pebble Beach Lodge. That place is not messing around.
The beaches in Carmel have the whitest sand of anywhere I’ve seen in California.
We even found some stray golf balls in the sand along the 10th hole. Naturally, Evan had to climb up for a better view.
The shopping along the main street is phenomenal. We popped into one store that only sold dips and sauces.
It was the Mecca of Samples. Literally, you could taste any sauce you want. The Cabernet Sauvignon spread was amazing on top of ripe cantaloupe. If only you could fly carrying more than 3 ounces!! 
For lunch we stopped into A.W. Shucks Oyster Bar. I had the most amazing beer battered fish and chips salad ever.
This was only the beginning of the delicious fried food to follow on this trip… In case we hadn’t eaten enough already, we stopped into a bakery that boasted delicious smelling chocolate macaroons, almond twists, cookies and cakes.
Then it was back in the car to head north and east to Lathrop, home of the Dell’Osso family farm. On the way, we stopped at a fruit stand off the highway that was more of a food theme park, nestled into the rolling golden hills of Hollister, California, called Casa de Fruta.
The fresh fruit and vegetables in this place were to.die.for. It’s all grown by farms nearby and as fresh and ripe as you’re going to get. This may not seem that exciting, but it’s pretty remarkable how different fruit is here compared to back DC. I grew up eating honey dew melons that were soft and tasted like melon, not bright green bricks. There’s nothing like an apple, apricot, or plum that is ripened on the tree.
Not only does this place sell produce, but they have chocolate dipped fruit of all kinds, dried fruit, fruit pies, nuts, fudge, etc etc.
We picked up my Oma’s favorite kind of pie, apricot. When we bought it, it was still warm (!!)
A short hour later, we arrived at the ranch!
The ranch has turned into much more since Susan and Ron opened a pumpkin patch and corn maze back in 1997. Now it’s more of a theme park/county fair from September to December, with a train, zip line, ropes course, pumpkin blaster, haunted house, snow mountain for sledding and ice skating rink. You kind of have to see it to believe it.
Anyway, Friday night we went over to my Oma’s house for dinner. My uncle Ron got out a couple nice bottles of wine for us to bring…that man knows his wine.
She outdid herself as usual, with little appetizers and a meal of beef wellington, fruit salad, salad, green beans, biscuits with honey and mashed potatoes.
If you’ve never had beef wellington, it’s a puff pastry pocket surrounding a piece of steak and liver pate, all baked together.
Very true to Oma’s style of cooking, and delicious as always. For dessert, I had a piece of the apricot pie topped with vanilla ice cream.
I was up bright and early on Saturday morning (I never adjusted to the time difference), so Susan and I hit the gym. I’ve gone with her to gym classes before and am usually left in the dust. This time we went to Body Pump – essentially aerobics while holding a barbell – but I was able to keep up this time!  The one downside to this killer workout was the soreness of my thigh muscles. I was struggling walking around hilly San Francisco the next day. Honestly, I’m still having trouble walking today.
The rest of Saturday was spent running around little Lathrop with Susan, including but not limited to the BBQ Cook Off at the Senior Center. We ate some saucy grilled chicken, listened to some Christian rock and met just about everyone, including Chaka, Mayor of Lathrop. Luckily, we had the excuse of “rushing to the airport” to pick up my sister, Sophie, to extricate ourselves from lengthy conversations at the Cook Off.
We did, in fact, need to rush off to the airport to pick up Sophie, but not before stopping in Sacramento at a waterfront restaurant for a drink and some appetizers. Pearl on the River was exactly what we were looking for.
 Speakeasy’s Big Daddy IPA was a gem we uncovered at Pearl, and happily continued to find in restaurants in the Bay Area. We went a little crazy on the appetizers, ordering fried squash blossoms, calamari, Caprese salad with delicious crunchy croutons, and a melon and prosciutto salad.
We scooped up Sophie, then head back to the ranch in time for the big birthday barbecue. It was no small spread at this barbecue.
Appetizers came out: guac, cream cheese with pepper jelly, cream cheese with barbecue sauce, and the crowd favorite, bacon wrapped hot dog bites baked in a brown sugary sauce.
Dinner included a California classic, Tri Tip grilled with rosemary and garlic, grilled corn which was fantastic with absolutely nothing on it, grilled zucchini, garlic cheesey bread, roasted asparagus, the most delicious fruit salad (I’m telling you, I can’t get over their produce), roasted potatoes….
When it was time for dessert, we went to put the candles into the cake, but found it had cracked under the pressure. (We blame the strawberry jelly filling) But notice the valiant effort to tooth pick the cake back together.
Hence, the birthday pie.
Sunday, we packed everything up and Susan, Ron, Sophie, Evan and I drove to San Francisco.
A tradition of ours is to eat Dim Sum in Chinatown whenever we go to San Francisco, so that’s precisely what we did.
Four Seas is our preferred Dim Sum location, and it’s as authentic as you get. Dim Sum is essentially Chinese Tapas, but they bring around various dishes and ask if you’d like it.
They keep a tally of your dishes, and continue bringing you dish after dish until you finally say stop. The sesame balls are my favorite: deep fried rice dough with a peanut curd mixture in the middle. We walked around a bit together before Susan, Ron and Sophie left us at Ghirardelli.
I knew San Francisco was hilly, but no one told me it’s that hilly. I literally thought Lombard street was sloped at 90 degrees, until Evan pointed out that was impossible.
But the views are O.O.C.* IMG_1148(*out of control)
We briefly got mixed up in the wrong side of town, got hollered at by a few homies asking if we were lost, then I picked up a map from a hotel to point us in the right direction. First we met up with a family friend of mine and his girlfriend for drinks in the Mission neighborhood at Zeitgeist – SF’s #1 beer garden. (picture from website, it was actually packed when we went).
Zeitgeist Beer Garden
From there, we met our friends Emery and Chris, who are currently traveling along the west coast, for dinner at the E & O Trading Company.
The corn fritters are famous, so we couldn’t say no to those.  I wasn’t feeling so great, so I just ordered a salad with goat cheese and plums as my dinner.IMG_1151
Followed by a brief night cap, then took the BART back to the Piedmont area where my very considerate family friend, Jill, picked us up, brought us back to her house for the night, then took us to the airport the next morning. Not an easy place to leave, especially with so much family in the area, but I’ll be back soon. After all, I haven’t even been to Napa yet. What kind of foodie am I? 


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