Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Springtime in San Francisco (and Napa for a little while)

SF Ferry Building Tower
You might think I've been going to San Francisco a lot lately, and you'd be right - but I've had some good excuses. This one was one of the best - my oldest friend (in terms of the time we've known each other) Moira, is having a baby boy, and I wanted to be there for her shower.

Moira and I met in a swimming class when we were four years old, and grew up around the corner from each other. We weren't always the very best of friends - in some ways we were almost more like sisters - with that same rivalry and need for independence. At some point though, after getting back in touch when I moved to the Bay Area in the mid-90s, we realized the intrinsic value of having known each other for twenty-some odd years - and started to really relax around each other. We still sometimes go for months at a time without talking, but it always feels like it was yesterday when we do see each other. I don't think you can ever know anyone as well as someone you knew as a child.
Copia - Mustard Festival
The shower was scheduled for Sunday, and since I hadn't been up there in a while and felt up for an adventure, I conned talked Tommy into going up to Napa on Saturday after I flew in. We weren't going to get up there until about 2 PM, so we didn't really have time for wine tasting - instead the plan was to go to Copia and have dinner at Ad Hoc, in Yountville. I had checked out the Copia website earlier, but somehow missed the fact that the Mustard Festival was taking place there that day - until the day before I was set to leave. It still seemed like a fun thing to do, so we stuck with the plan. After picking me up at the Embarcadero Bart Station, Tommy drove us up to the wine country.
Mustard Festival - Napa
After winding our way through the newly-sophisticated downtown Napa, we arrived at a crowded intersection with a huge parking lot on the right side, and a large market complex on the left side - just past that we saw Copia - looking like the venue of a major sporting event with the big tents and thronging crowds everywhere.
Mustard Festival - Napa
Admission to the festival was $35. including ten tasting tickets - with additional blocks of tickets available. The tastings were generally at least three to five tickets apiece, meaning the food tickets went faster than you might have thought. When we started exploring the venue, we realized it wasn't really a restaurant tasting event - I had some tacos from Compadres and Tommy had a Niman Ranch burger - and after we walked around for another hour or so, we picked at slices of Filippi's pizza and some Ben and Jerry's ice cream. It wasn't exactly bad, but it certainly wasn't worth the price of admission. Most annoying was the fact that about 50% of the booths were selling merchandise. Call me crazy, but I don't really think I should have to pay to buy something.
Copia Interior - Mustard Festival
The wine tasting was inside Copia, and several of the tables were already abandoned - apparently they had run out. We tried some mead that tasted like mold, served by a surly man who wouldn't talk to us, and a really mediocre red wine, served by a guy who wouldn't even look at us. At least on the plus side, they didn't ask us for tickets. I finally gave up and took some St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc. There were also some desserts by Whole Foods - some key lime tarts and eclairs.
Cookbooks at Copia
We went in the Copia bookstore, which stocks scads of cookbooks, gift items, cookware and wines - a great place to find a gift for a foodie back home. After that, we wandered over to the new market complex just to the west of the Copia center, called the Oxbow Market.
Oxbow Market in Napa
The market is sort of a mini Ferry Building - it just opened a few months ago, and is not even yet fully occupied. There is a Mexican restaurant, a chocolatier, an ice cream parlor, a culinary antiques vendor, a coffee bar, and a few other vendors - you can find a full list and description here. Next door is a building housing a Taylor's Refresher, a Fatted Calf retail outlet, and a Model Bakery, just like the one in St. Helena.
New Taylor's Refresher in Napa
While we were at the Copia event, we had checked the night's menu for Ad Hoc on my phone, and we weren't too impressed. Green salad and steak - it sounded like something I could make at home. Based on the menu, our tasting afternoon, and our mounting level of exhaustion, Tommy and I decided to cancel dinner and head back to the City. Even though it was Saturday night and we didn't have reservations, we figured in a city of a thousand restaurants we should be able to find something to eat. Luckily we weren't disappointed...

Next up - Spork and a North Beach Moroccan Baby Shower!


  1. My wife and I did recently a 10 day bike tour through Napa/Sonoma etc. and we visited twice Ad Hoc. It were two of the best restaurant visits last year. People will be disappointed if they expected FL level food but if there is one style of restaurant I really would like to see in Saan Diego then it is something like Ad Hoc where you get home style food with top quality and some nice twists and outstanding, relaxed service for a very reasonable price.(We never had so much discussion/fun with our waiters before anywhere. They even remembered our names at the secodnvisit two weeks later). If you go the next time to Yountville I highly recommend Ad Hoc.

  2. I love eating in San Francisco/Bay Area. Have you been to Boulette's Larder? It's where I head on every visit. Sometimes more than once...

  3. honkman - good to know - I am sure we'll make if back there soon. I agree that SD could use more restaurants like that.

    Anonymous - I LOVE Boulette's! Their breakfast is amazing and I love their cookies. They put them in a little wood basket wrapped in tissue - gets me everytime.

  4. Aw I've been dying to head up north for wine and great eats. Glad you had a blast on your trip!

    By the way, thanks for introducing me to Eclipse Chocolat. The Spring Tasting Platter was amazing. I think I'll be making quite a few more visits!