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Laundry On Sundaes

Every beginning is only a sequel, after all, and the book of events is always open halfway through.

Tag Archives: napa

I seriously LOVE living in the Bay Area – there’s just so much to do here no matter what you’re into! Here I’ll be sharing some of the fun stuff we did last fall and winter.

Treasure Island Flea Market

A fun place to check out local artisans and grab some food at food trucks! It’s held on the last weekend of every month and entry is $3.

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Cat Town Cafe

A cat cafe in America?! I knew I had to go when I first found out this place was opening in Oakland. The place is pretty small and we needed reservations when we went last year. There’s a cafe area where you can buy drinks and snacks, and a separate play room with the kitties. A must visit for cat lovers!

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Twitter Holiday Party at the Exploratorium

We had been to the old Exploratorium back when it was still at the Palace of Fine Arts, but last year’s Twitter holiday party was held at their new location at Pier 15, so it was the perfect chance to go check it out!

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All the exhibits were open but we didn’t have time to hit up everything with so many people there. Plus, there were delicious food to be had and drinks to be drunk, even ones made by the robot bartender:

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Will have to revisit some day soon!

Sonoma Coast State Park

I am absolutely in love with the California coast, and there’s no better place to see it in all its glory than this gorgeous park! Plenty of trails and beaches along a long stretch of the coast line.

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Devil’s Slide

Another place to admire the beautiful Cali coastline! This one is very close to SF and is an urban “hike” along a stretch of highway that’s no longer in use. Pretty cool place to check out!

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There’s also this cool abandoned bunker at the south end of the trail:

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Calistoga

We went on a relaxing weekend trip to Calistoga last winter. We stayed at the Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort, which had several indoor and outdoor hot springs. We also paid for a couple’s mud bath that was very interesting! A fun way to rejuvenate.

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We also visited a couple of wine tasting rooms, my favorite of which is the tasting room for Romeo Vineyards. The lovely garden setting filled with lights made for a very cozy and romantic evening!

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We also went hiking at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park on this trip. There are some really nice trails and we hiked for 6 miles!

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On the drive home, we couldn’t help it but stop and enjoy these gorgeous yellow flowers all along the road! Napa Valley is such a dreamy place.

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Cartoon Art Museum

A fun little museum in SF! We had a Groupon or some other voucher for it so we went to check it out. I had actually been there once when I was visiting SF back in 2011, but they have different exhibits all the time so it was a whole new experience.

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Sausalito

We went to Sausalito for brunch one morning and took a stroll to see the houseboats! Very quaint and charming.

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I feel like I still haven’t really explored Sausalito very much (seems like we only ever stop there for food haha) so I would like to come back and explore the city some more some day!

Grizzly Peak

Gosh, this is such a magical place. Located in the Berkeley Hills, it offers a beautiful view of the Bay Area. It was cloudy in SF when we went, but you could see the tops of the buildings just peaking out from under the cloud covers, which made it look like the city was floating. I would absolutely love to go back when it’s clear, or to watch the sunset!

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Hopefully this gives you some ideas for things to do in the wonderful Bay Area! There will be more posts like this coming soon because like I said, there’s no shortage of fun here!

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So I finally have a little break from studying (but not really because studying never ends in dental school, but at least I’m done with midterms). Sooo I’m going to try to catch up on some posts! This was from more than a month ago from our 5th anniversary trip to Napa.

Here we are wine tasting at Artesa Winery. The views were gorgeous and the wine was great. We ended up getting a bottle of the 2012 Albarino, which was our favorite from the tasting.

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After that, we drove to Domaine Carneros for the Art of Sparkling Wine tour. Our tour guide was really knowledgeable and we learned a lot about the process of making sparkling wine.

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We also had many generous pours to taste throughout the tour, which left us sufficiently and happily buzzed afterwards. They also had the most beautiful chateau and hedges.

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After the winery visits, we went to our hotel and relaxed until dinner time. We had our anniversary dinner at La Toque. We went with the prix-fixe 3 savory courses plus dessert menu for our meal. Yufei had the Chef’s Garden Vegetable and Green Salad for his first course:

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And I had the Cauliflower Horseradish Velouté with Maine Lobster and Tender Vegetables. It was so good to eat lobster again – I couldn’t even remember the last time I had it!

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For his second course, Yufei had the Veal Tenderloin:

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And I had the Beer Battered Alaskan Halibut:

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Third course for Yufei was the Rib Eye with Fiscalini Cheddar Pearl Tapioca
and Rutherford Red Wine Sauce. I had a bite and remember it being really yummy!

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My third course – Duck Breast with Fried Polenta and Huckleberries, also very good.

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I can’t remember or find the exact names of your desserts anymore, but they were served with these little cute candles. I think Yufei had some kind of apple crisp type dessert with ice cream.

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And I had a pavlova, which is a meringue dessert with a crispy crust and a soft center. It was really different but I liked it a lot.

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After our meal, we also had a selection of candies and other sweets, and we were given a signed copy of the menu. (Funny story: our waiter asked us in the beginning of our meal if we were celebrating anything special, and Yufei told him it was our 5 year anniversary. The waiter thought it was our wedding anniversary and asked us what we owe our success to. It was too weird and awkward to correct him so we just went with it for the night. And I had to make up some BS “married wisdom” on the spot to answer his question. Hahahah.)

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The next morning we decided to go to the Jelly Belly factory since it was really close to our hotel.

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We went on the factory tour and got free small bags of jelly beans at the end! After that we dropped by Erickson Ranch for a little bit. IT was a cute little farm with fresh fruits and veggies and a pumpkin patch. I really wanted to get a pumpkin there but then we didn’t have a good way to get it back home from the rental car place.

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They also had this chili roasting station and it smelled so good!

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In the end we just ended up buying some fruits and a jar of homemade apple butter from their market. After that, it was time to go home. It was such a fun and relaxing weekend and the perfect way for us to celebrate 5 years together.

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Phew, it’s been a while since I last wrote. I had been so busy the past couple of weeks: went to Napa, came back to SF, went to Boston for my Harvard interview, came back to SF, went to the Twitter holiday party with Yufei, and add to that work, house chores, Christmas shopping… But more on all of that later. This post is dedicated to the highly anticipated dinner at the French Laundry! Before actually talking about the dinner, I will say that I am very happy to be accepted at all 3 dental schools I had interviewed at (NYU, UCSF, and UoP), so I did earned my meal!

Yufei and I drove to Napa on the afternoon 2 Sundays ago. Our dinner reservation was at 5:45, so we had a couple of hours to walk around and explore downtown Napa a little bit before that. When we decided to drive to the restaurant, it was nearly dark. I kind of wish that we could have seen everything when it was still light out, but that’s winter for you. Still, the garden area looked quite charming in the twilight.

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The restaurant itself was in a two-story building. We were greeted and seated in a table in the corner of the first floor.

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As you can see, we were one of the first guests to arrive, but the dining room filled up to capacity as the night progressed. We were given the menus for the night: the chef’s tasting and the tasting of vegetables, both 9 courses. The wine list was on an iPad. We both decided to go for the chef’s tasting, but with a few substitutions for Yufei since he doesn’t eat shellfish. There were also a couple of courses that had a choice, but all the alternatives had a pretty hefty supplement, so we skipped on that even though it would have provided even more variety.

We got 2 glasses of sparkling wine to start, and waited for the amuse-bouches to arrive. They were the same ones we had at Per Se, the the gruyere cheese gougeres and the salmon cornets.

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Both were delicious and just as I remembered them, though I wouldn’t mind having them more frequently than every 2 years! Soon after, our first courses arrive. I was so excited about the legendary oysters and pearls, a sabayon of tapioca pearls, oysters, and white sturgeon caviar. I had seen countless photos of this dish and I was finally about to experience it in person! The dish was much smaller than I had anticipated (I guess pictures can be deceiving after all); the center of the dish where the food was was around 2 inches in diameter.

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The small size of the dish added to the delicateness of it, as did the tiny mother of pearl spoon provided to eat it. I really loved this dish. It was delicate yet rich, and all the flavors worked together perfectly. Yufei got the first course from the vegetable menu since he doesn’t eat oysters. It was a parsnip velouté with banana, pecans, and served with a spoon coated in maple syrup. I tried it and it was really good!

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After the first course, we were presented with 2 different butters and several types of bread.

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How cute is the little beehive-shaped butter? After the bread came the second course, salad of fuyu persimmmon with radicchio, broccolini, and red walnut.

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I guess the persimmon was meant to be exotic, but as a Chinese it really wasn’t, haha. I enjoyed the dish but didn’t find anything too special about it. Next came the seafood courses. First, a sautéed fillet of Mediterranean lubina, with petit radish, edamame, ginger, and a scallion and matsutake mushroom porridge.

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It was also kind of Asian-inspired, as with the persimmon salad, and it was quite good. The next course was lobster, so Yufei got another substitute, another fish course, this time a sturgeon.

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I tried a bite of it and I was a big fan. It was very flavorful and meaty and delicious! I went with the original lobster course, the sweet butter-poached Maine lobster with grapefruit, sunchoke, fennel, and hazelnut.

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The dish actually kind of reminded me of the lobster dish I had at Eleven Madison Park, maybe because they both had fennel in it? Anyway, another great dish! We barely ever go to seafood restaurants and I think the last time I had lobster WAS at EMP so I definitely enjoyed this yummy crustacean! The fifth course was the Four Story Hill Farm poularde with bacon, chestnuts, yam, and brussel sprouts.

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This was another favorite dish of the night. The meat was very flavorful and juicy and I love chestnuts! Next came another meat course, the Elysian Fields Farm lamb ribeye, with carrot, petit onions, Tokyo turnip, peppercress, and naverin sauce.

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It was a pretty good dish. At that time I was getting a bit tired of all the meat, and I’m not a huge fan of big pieces of red meat in the first place, so I don’t think I enjoyed this dish as much as Yufei did. We were getting pretty full, and that was the last meat course, so we decided to take a little break from the food and take a walk outside. They had a beautiful Christmas tree in the garden, so we took some photos by it.

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(As you can see, I went with dress #1 from my poll earlier and I was very happy with it! #1 won out but a slim margin but I think it was a good choice. A friend said on my Facebook that the lace collar would look better in photos, and she was right!)

And here is the famous blue door (in terrible lighting):

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After our little walk, we came back inside and continued our gastronomical adventure. Next came a cheese course, the reblochon, served with russet potato “gnocchi à la Parisienne,” celery branch, pruneaux d’agen, and black winter truffles.

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It was a good transition course from the savory main courses to the desserts, which came next. The first dessert was a blood orange “mimosa” with champagne granité, brown sugar streusel, and fresh cream sherbet.

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It was very light and refreshing, a good palate cleanser I suppose, before the final dessert. There were again 2 choices for this course, so Yufei got the chocolate torte, with Pearson Farm pecans, cinnamon whip, and banana ice cream.

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I got the other choice, the bakewell tarte, with Rome beauty apple compote, pain de gêne, and toasted oat glace.

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Both desserts were simple yet well done, a solid end to the meal. Except it wasn’t really the end, since there were still a couple more things! First we were brought this gorgeous wooden box full of housemade chocolates in a variety of flavors (passionfruit, coconut, salted caramel, etc.) and we could pick as many as we wanted. And then – the part I was really excited about – coffee and doughnuts! I loved the little cinnamon and sugar dusted doughnut balls and the cappuccino semifreddo so much at Per Se that I wanted to make sure we get them at the end of our meal here, so I asked our server at the very beginning to bring them to us. They were just as good as the first time I had them!

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They also brought us a bowl of macadamia nuts, but we were so full at this point that we only ate a couple. They offered to bag them up for us to take home and we gladly accepted.

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We were also given a little tins of shortbread cookies, as well the copies of the menu (with my personalized message of “congratulations Wendan” at the top) before we left. There was another beautiful Christmas tree in the reception area, so Yufei and I took one final photo in front of it before leaving for the night.

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It was definitely a memorable meal and night! It was the most money we had ever spent on a meal, and maybe it wasn’t the wisest financial decision to spend half a paycheck on a meal when I’ll be neck-deep in student loans very soon, but I’m glad that we had the chance to experience the French Laundry. So lots of thanks to Yufei for an amazing dinner that I won’t ever forget.

P.S.: Since we had eaten at Per Se before the French Laundry, it was inevitable that I was making some comparisons during dinner. The quality of the food and service was comparable at both places, as expected. And it’s not really fair to compare a 5-course lunch to a 9-course dinner, but we were very satisfied with both meals. Overall I feel like Per Se had more of a modern and open feel, while the French Laundry felt more homey and intimate. Part of this probably had to do with the time of the day we ate and the lighting in the room (daylight vs. candles), but the different atmospheres were definitely also a part of the different visions for the 2 restaurants.

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