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San Francisco Grafitti Art

Have you ever dreamed of being dropped off in a city and told to just wonder around and eat, drink and shop for 48 hours?  Well I have. In fact, it’s a reoccurring dream for me.  So, when Cracker Barrel Cheese told me I was going to get to do just that in San Francisco, I pinched myself.

If you’ve been paying attention, I have been working with Cracker Barrel Cheese over the last few months creating some creative content focused around the culture of cheese.  We kicked things off by eating and drinking our way through Chicago, learning about the history of cheese and the passionate people who make Cracker Barrel Cheese.  Since then, I have been sharing my food and wine discoveries, party planning tips and how to host a wine and cheese party.

My next assignment was to visit San Francisco and literally eat, drink, shop and be on the look out for all things cheese. Here is a taste of what I experienced in exactly 48 hours in San Francisco.

Bay Bridge San Francisco

The Ferry Building

The Ferry Building is a must when visiting San Francisco, it is located along the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street very close to the Bay bridge. It is filled with amazing culinary delights and unique shops. Go there hungry. Ciao Bella Gelato is a must for gelato or sorbet and Minette is famous for their salted caramels, among other delicious confectionery treats.  Not only is the Ferry building filled with great places to eat but it is a great place to find unique gifts, great books and even fresh produce from Farm Fresh to You.

Cowgirl Creamery Sign 2

Cow Girl Creamery

Cowgirl Creamery is the award winning makers of artisan cheese and is located inside the Ferry building, we stopped by for a cheese sampling. They even have a 30 minute Cowgirl Creamery Experience which includes the story of Cowgirl Creamery, their experiences in cheese-making, a tasting of three cheeses and a special item from Sidekick, their adjacent, cheese-centric eatery.  This is very much like being in cheese heaven.

Wine Merchant Wine Flight

Next, we headed over to The Wine Merchant and ordered a wine flight sample. The Wine Merchant is a retail store filled with wine from around the world that also has a wine bar that also serves a variety of small plates with Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, Acme Bakery breads and a selection of charcuterie and olives. They host regular special events where you can meet some of the local winemakers and they also offer educational classes to learn even more about wine and the art of entertaining.

SPQR Japnese Kobe Beef mushrooms and shaved black Australian truffle

SPQR in San Francisco

It was very close to dinner time and we searched on Google for the top restaurants in San Francisco. A restaurant called SPQR was highly recommended one review even recommended trying to get a seat at the Chef’s table.  Without high hopes of getting a reservation (since San Fran is a foodie haven) we were shocked to find out they had two spots just open up at the chef’s table at 7:30pm, we were in luck! They ask if we were celebrating anything special or the reason for the visit and I told them I was a a writer in town for the weekend and had heard wonderful things.

SPQR Saffron Rotini
SPQR Carmel Penacotta

From the moment we sat down we were greeted with a warm welcome and escorted to the chef’s table.  The chef’s table is a high top counter overlooking the kitchen where you get to see all the action. There were about five chefs all bustling around the small space but it appeared to look like everything was in total sync.  We noticed one dish being plated several times, it was the saffron rotini with veal bolognese. Since it looked to be like a crowd favorite, that’s what we ordered!

Our server did the wine pairing for us based on what we ordered and we started off the meal with a teaser of an appetizer, a spoon with Japanese kobe beef, mushrooms and black Australian truffle, compliments of the chef. It was wonderful and if that was any indication of the rest of our meal, I knew we’d be very happy. I started with the treviso di verona salad which included honeyed bacon, goat cheese and pecans.  My saffron rotini was as good as it looked and with my first bite I instantly knew why it was so popular.  The deserts were out of this world.  We ordered almost all of them.  Do yourself a favor and order both the blond panna cotta and the cinnamon bombolini.  You will not be disappointed.

Call to make your chef’s table reservation now!

Clos du Bois Wine Barrels Savvy Sassy Moms

Wine tasting at Clou du Bois, Sonoma CA

We had a car pick us up and drive us to Sonoma, which is about an hour and half drive outside of San Francisco. It was the perfect day for a drive out to wine country. I highly recommend taking the time to get outside of the city to visit one of the local wineries. We had a private wine tasting at Clos du Bois and a very special lunch created by the chef.  Thanks to Cracker Barrel Cheese, this portion of the trip was set up ahead of time.

We arrived and our host was delighted to have us and from the moment she started talking I could hear the passion for wine in her voice.  She gave us a brief history of the Clos du Bois brand and the founder, Frank Woods who was devoted to bringing the french style of wine making to California.  Famous for their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir they are also very well known for their award winning sustainable agriculture, eco friendly practices and solar initiatives. The Clos du Bois winery includes 4 acres of solar panels that provide 85% of their energy.

The tasting room is open daily and anyone can schedule a wine tour and tasting, including private group tours, picnics or a chef’s lunch.

Next we headed over to Healdsburg…

HealdsburgShopping
Healdsburg, CA

Let me start off my saying…I want to live here. This quaint little town of Healdsburg is what you might just call – perfection.  The center of this town square has a park and the streets are lined with wine tasting rooms, restaurants, boutiques, bookstores, coffee shops and even a very retro candy store that will leaving you feeling very nostalgic.

The Shed Healdsburg, CA
The Healdsburg Shed is a gorgeous new lifestyle store that features a variety of culinary foods, books, kitchen and garden supplies as well as cooking classes.  You can also grab a bite to eat, have a coffee or enjoy a glass of wine.  Upstairs is an event space for educational classes or private events.

Cheese Plus
Cheese Paper

Cheese Plus

While walking along Polk Street, well known for it’s coffee shops and local restaurants and bars we stumbled upon Cheese Plus. This is a one stop shop for cheese, meats and accompanying foods like jams and treats. This is a great place to stop and pick up some things before heading out for a picnic in the park by the waterfront near Ghirardelli Square where you can take in a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge.  And who knew there was specific cheese paper?

Blue Bttle CoffeeBlue Bottle Coffee

Next up on our adventure, we hit up a famous coffee spot called Blue Bottle Coffee. Blue Bottle Coffee will only sell coffee that has been out of the roaster for 48 hours so that every cup is guaranteed to be delivered at it’s peak flavor. A part of this coffee shop looked a little more like a science lab than a coffee shop. All of this serious coffee making made a  flavorful and powerful cup of coffee.

This was an incredible 48 hours and as you can see, we really packed it in. I realize now that this trip was not really about San Francisco but more about passion and people living their passion.  Every piece of food, wine, coffee and cheese we indulged in was hand crafted and created by deeply passionate people. I wish more people could experience what I experienced in these 48 hours because witnessing so much passion is a bit infectious. I know for me, it has only fueled my desire to get busy living my passion even more.

SanFranciscoTrip2013

 

 

 

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By far and away one of our favorite, favorite, favorite spots to go for a little staycation is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It is about an hour and a half drive from the Bay Area but always gets the “2 thumbs up” from our little man. Our general itinerary looks like this (yes, we go that frequently):

Intercontinental Monterey

9:00 Depart San Francisco

10:30 Arrive at the Intercontinental, check in and buy tickets for the Aquarium (they are 2 days for the price of 1).

11:00 Walk over to the Aquarium which is a block away

12:30 Meander over to El Torito for some great sea otter and dolphin sightings while dining

2:45 Head Back to the Aquarium to see various animal feedings at 3

4:00 Let the smell of Nestle Toll House guide us across the street for some warm cookies and milk

Monterey AquariumAbout the Monterey Bay Aquarium

It was founded in 1984 by four marine biologists and gift funding from David & Lucile Packard, and based in the former Hovden Sardine Cannery, The Aquarium’s goals are to educate people on the marine-world that makes up Monterey Bay and beyond through the use of state-of-the-art aquariums, displays, interactive exhibits, and presentations. There is a huge emphasis on everything being done tastefully, humanely and educating in a manner that everyone can understand. Some of the exhibits thatwe love are the sea otters, penguins, sea horses, jellyfish and the feeding of the kelp forest.

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Depending on the nature of our trip, we generally stop at the Aquarium for a couple more hours the next morning before heading back home. While, we generally center our trip around going to the Aquarium several times per trip; it is nice to make a pit stop with the whole family in Carmel or Pebble Beach.

Family Travel Tips:

1.  Buy Aquarium tickets at the Intercontinental: 2 days for the price of 1 or purchase them ahead of time at AAA or at the Intercontinental Hotel

2.  Check out the Gilroy Premium Outlets on your to or from the Bay Area…one of favorite outlet stops is Lululemon 🙂

3.  Snag a window seat at El Torito and one is sure to see sea otter cracking clams on their chests, whales and pelicans galore

4.  Check Travelzoo for great hotel deals on the Intercontinental or Portola Hotel and Spa

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I might be a little bias and think that every time of year is a good time  to visit the Bay Area…In particular, this time of year is so ideal. With a slight chill in the air and a puddle left over from yesterday’s rain, there is something so cozy and romantic about bundling up and heading out to a festive holiday activity in the Bay Area. So far some of our favorite holiday hot spots include:

Downtown WC Ice Skating

 Ice Skating Downtown Walnut Creek: Open daily through January 13th…perfect spot to take a break from all the holiday shopping hustle and bustle downtown. Literally walk out of Neiman Marcus or Pottery Barn and within minutes you could be lacing up your skates.

Train of Lights at the Niles Canyon Railway: All decked out in lights for the holidays, the Niles Canyon Railway provides a historic train ride experience all year-round from the 1880’s depot in Sunol and from the Niles Station in Fremont. With tickets sold out most nights, get your tickets ahead of time to ensure a seat.

trainoflights

Tilden Christmas Fantasy: Not only will you be able to ride the antique, hand carved merry-go-round, it feels like a true fantasy with decked out Christmas trees all around and themed holiday light displays lighting up the hills of Tilden Park. Although almost slight disastrous for my 2 year old, the hubby and I enjoyed seeing one of the largest Christmas ornament displays in the Bay Area. Yummy treats, hot drinks, carolers and nightly visits from Santa and his live reindeer will truly make you feel like you are walking in a winter wonderland.

tildenxmasfantasy

Winter Workshops at Habitot: Like most 2 year olds, my little man is OBSESSED with trains. If your little one is a train-aholic, you must come check out Habitot’s annual train display. You can peek through the window of Suite M and see a small scale locomotive choo-chooing through a winter wonderland scene. With this train scene as inspiration, toddlers can create railroad track patterned pictures, paint with wheels, etc. Next year, we hope to plan ahead and reserve a spot with in the Gingerbread House Workshop. It looks like a super fun mommy/daddy and kiddo activity making a gingerbread house. With all the supplies  and space provided…it sounds like all the holiday fun sans the mess…icing on the gingerbread house if you ask us!

gingerbreadhouseworkshop


Magical Tea Time at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins
It is the perfect mix of kid entertainment and chic “mommyness.” Kiddos of all ages are entertained by a renowned magician and face painter as well as ginger cookie decorating station (no you don’t have to sneak one out with you…they encourage you to take one with you :)). Parents and kiddos are sure to enjoy mouth watering gourmet bites and upscale teas. I am pretty sure that this is going to be my new holiday tradition with my little man, we had far too much fun getting all dressed up and going on a mommy and son date! We are already awaiting the dates for the Magical Tea next year so we can deck the halls once again at the Mark Hopkins!

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week as Eddie and his stroller head out to San Francisco to check out the Holiday Scene at the Fairmont, Oakland Zoo Lights, and much more holiday fun…

This post was sponsored by Spotivate: Connect. Discover. Experience
Spotivate is a destination for discovering the best local experiences for your family.

In the Bay Area? Spotivate has launched in San Francisco! Don’t worry Spotivate is coming soon to a town near you! Spotivate on Facebook and Follow Spotivate on Twitter

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With the rainy season coming upon us any day, we try to get out as much as possible to enjoy the sunshine. Just the other day, we checked our library card’s Discover and Go section and found free passes to the Bay Area Discovery Museum…SCORE! We loaded up the car with our snacks, drinks and lunch and headed over to Sausalito.

Upon arrival, we saw the most beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge and sail boats galore. This probably would have been an entire afternoon of fun in itself but we headed inside the discovery museum. We started at the Lookout Cove. For the kiddos, there is about 2.5 acres of outdoor fun from pirate shipwrecks to a huge sandbox full of sea creature to a simulated landslide area. For the mommies, there is the most spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge from almost any angle. Phenomenal!

Next, we moved on to the outdoor building blocks area known as the Imagination Playground. My little guy was in heaven building, jumping and demolishing.

Next up, the Artist Studio. Organic water-resistant smocks are available upon entry and highly recommended as little ones are drawn to their special painting walls. From there you can move on to the homemade play-doh table and special crafts. Our special craft was painting with colored glue and glitter…FUN FUN, messy FUN! Best of all, clean-up is happily done by the staff.

Last stop for us was the Outside Tot Spot. Although smocks are available, every single kid seemed to be soaked in water. With an ever-flowing faux rock stream, toddlers have a ball playing with the water and plastic frogs and fish. Shrieks of happiness can be heard with every splash. We easily spent 45 minutes in this area…note to self: Make sure this is your last stop as your child will be happily drenched from head to toe. Sunscreen and an extra set of clothes are a must do!

While we did not make it to every area of the Discovery Museum, we will surely be back to check it all out. It is certainly a one-of-a-kind indoor/outdoor family museum that offers a full range of activities for children ages 8 and younger. Every facet of the Museum is hands-on, tactile, developmentally enriching and technology free. A definite must-do when visiting the Bay Area.

www.bayareadiscoverymuseum.org

Moms, what are the best museums for kids in your city?

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In the last few months, I have had several friends with their families that have come out to the San Francisco Bay Area for various reasons. With the Bay Area being as big as it is, it can be overwhelming to figure where the kiddo “hot spots” are. So, if anyone is heading up this way, here are some of our favorite hot spots:

California Academy of Sciences: It is huge place and one could spend days here. It houses a natural history museum, planetarium, aquarium, rainforest dome (a must see) and a living roof.

 

Bay Area Discovery Museum : It is an indoor and outdoor children’s museum at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. All of the activities, which include an art studio, discovery hall, lookout cove, tot spot and wave and wind area, are all  hands-on, child-led exploration and discovery. While this place is hours and hours of fun for the little ones, the view of the Golden Gate Bridge is spectacular for parents.

Oakland Zoo : A fantastic outdoor space to talk your kiddos on a long walk while enjoying hundreds of animals. We are very excited for the “Native Californian” animal exhibit to open!

 Monterey Bay Aquarium   The Aquarium is little bit of a drive from San Francisco but situated right on the coastline. It holds thousands of plants and animals, representing 623 separate named species on display as well as pumping in a high circulation of fresh ocean water right  from the Bay. Our favorite areas include the sea otters, jelly fish, sun fish and shark tank and as always the penguins. My little guy is usually starving by the time we leave so we immediately head out to El Torito where we catch a seat by the window and can catch sea otters and dolphins playing in the ocean. This aquarium cant be beat!

For anyone traveling this way and looking for more kid-friendly activities, restaurants, hotels, etc…comment and I will try to do my best to point you in the right direction! Happy Travels!

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