Everything we ate in northern California



Barrak and I just got back from a long weekend in northern California. We went out for a big trail race in Auburn, California, near Lake Tahoe, and built a wine country visit around it. We ate and drank so well. The vistas — Redwoods, Pacific ocean, palm trees, eucalyptus trees, and constant sunshine — were STUNNING. And, I read a great book during the long flights to boot. So, it was a good trip.

Here’s everything we ate, with star ratings:

*= Good
** = SO good
*** = AHH-mazing

THURSDAY – Arrival Day


Lunch in Sacramento**
We sat outside in the sunshine and killed a tower of poke nachos for lunch at the Iron Horse Tavern in a cute little area in downtown Sacramento. These were no ordinary corn chips — more like the fancy homemade flour tortillas you can buy at Whole Foods. They were topped with huge chunks of raw ruby tuna and avocado and drizzled with some spicy mayo-based sauce. So good. One of the servers was from Columbus and came and sat with us. Small world.

Dinner in Guerneville***
This was our big expensive dinner of the trip — the only one we had a reservation for — and sort of a consolation prize for not being able to get into the French Laundry. The Farmhouse is a Michelin-starred restaurant with a sommelier and a fixed-price menu. Our server was an older guy who was like the butler in the movie Arthur if the butler in Arthur was jolly all the time. Our first courses were asparagus soup with Dungeness crab and gin-cured Ahi tuna. For our second courses (these are small plates), we chose the grilled octopus and crispy pork belly with quail egg. Our main courses were Alaskan halibut on risotto with spring veg and chardonnay buerre blanc (above) and rabbit done three ways. Dessert was a cheese plate. By the time we got our bill, I could barely keep my eyes open (we’d been up since 3:30 a.m. Eastern time and it was around 10 p.m. Pacific time). The cost was equivalent to a week of day care, two months’ of DirectTV or mulch for the entire yard (maybe). Was it worth it? I’m still deciding but leaning toward yes. Experiences not stuff, right?

Where we stayed
Autocamp in Russian River. So cool. You get your own high-end airstream: Casper mattress, Schoolhouse Electric lighting, Malin + Goetz products in the bathroom, giant fire pits everywhere and good coffee in the morning… all in the middle of towering Redwoods.

FRIDAY – Pre-race Day


Breakfast in Guerneville***
On the advice of the hip chic working the open-air lobby/cantina of the Autocamp, we had breakfast at a place called Big Bottom Market in downtown Guerneville.  We had warm, sloppy yet fresh “Veggie Sandos” with perfectly hard-boiled egg, baby spinach, grilled peppers and onions, Havarti cheese, pesto and aioli on ciabatta bread. And we split “Oprah’s favorite biscuit” with housemade blueberry jam and soft butter. Holy God, it was good. This was probably our favorite meal of the trip and it was $18.

Lunch in Santa Rosa
We split a basket of jalapeno & cheese-smothered pizza crust bites at the Russian River Brewing Co. Bad order, especially right before a race. We hardly ate any of it.

Dinner in Auburn
We went to some nondescript ale house in Auburn. It stunk. I got a house salad because I didn’t want to eat any meat. Barrak got himself In n’ Out burger afterward.

Where we stayed
Holiday Inn Auburn



Breakfast in Auburn
A Honey Stinger Waffle around mile 10, plus about 7 orange wedges during two aid station stops. I’ve never had orange wedges during a race and wow, they hit the spot.

Lunch in Auburn
They had a big party at the race finish line. So after finishing my 25k and not knowing anyone (Barrak and his friends were running the 100k) I wandered around looking for Advil, struck out, and decided to make a plate from the Mexican buffet. I didn’t want any meat so it was a vegetarian platter of rice, beans, grilled peppers and veg, and guacamole. Then I waited about four hours for Barrak to come through.

Dinner in Auburn**
After spending some time in the hotel hot tub with chilled champagne and cold beers, we went out in search of a decent dinner. We ended up at a place in downtown Auburn called Carpe Vino that was surprisingly good. Our party of three shared Skuna Bay salmon, mussels, halibut, veal breast, foie gras, pork cheeks and a great bottle of wine called Farm.

Where we stayed
Holiday Inn Auburn

SUNDAY – Explore-wine-country Day


Breakfast in Sonoma***
At the recommendation of my friend Beth, we hobbled the half-mile from our hotel to the cute little area known as Sonoma Plaza and had brunch at The Girl & the Fig. We sat outside among a LOT of women who brunch and had mimosas, a bloody mary, a peach bellini, smoked trout eggs benedict and lobster eggs benedict. Top-notch.

Lunch in Napa***
Heard about this place from Beth too. The Oxbow Public Market has lots of different vendors, food counters and restaurants — like a big Eataly. Even though we were barely hungry, we bellied up to the bar at the Hog Island Oyster Co. and had the most amazing raw oysters and grilled oysters. The grilled oysters tasted like steak. They were finished with a compound butter of horseradish, dill and lemon. Incredible.

Dinner in Sonoma
Again, we weren’t that hungry when dinner rolled around so we bought charcuterie from the Fatted Calf, artisan cheeses, a jar of local honey and a Model Bakery baguette from the Oxbow Public Market. We spread it out on our hotel bed, and split a bottle of Kamen cabernet. By this point, I was already tired of eating and pretty sick of red wine.

Where we stayed
Inn at Sonoma – A Four Sisters Inn. Great proximity to the Sonoma Plaza (so we could walk), right across the street from a Peet’s Coffee and relatively affordable. Still, I didn’t love this place. I thought it was kind of creepy and dated.

MONDAY – Let’s-wrap-things-up Day


Breakfast in Sonoma**
We had breakfast at the popular Sunflower Caffe on the Sonoma Plaza. Barrak had a great beet bloody Mary, I had an incredible peach bellini with a wedge of real peach soaking at the bottom. I had gently scrambled eggs with goat cheese, cherry tomatoes and spinach. Barrak had a burrito. All good.

Lunch in Sacramento
Based on a Thrillist list, we hit Burgers and Brew back in downtown Sacramento, across the street from Iron Horse Tavern. It was OK.

Dinner in Sacramento
We’d turned in our rental car that afternoon so we were stuck with hotel room service. Now I love a good room service club sando but here, cheese quesadillas seemed safest.

Where we stayed
A Four Points Sheraton by the airport. We spent most of the 90-degree afternoon by the pool reading a book. Er, I did. Barrak handled the car rental return, which took forever to the point that I started to get worried about him.

TUESDAY – Travel Day

You know how this story ends, right? Airport food at I-don’t-know-what-time-zone-we’re-in, pizza delivery for dinner when we finally arrived home.


Anniversary road trip!

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Barrak and I took a little road trip to the northern Georgia/North Carolina area for our 10th wedding anniversary. We stayed in a super-cool modern glass-walled house in the woods (our first experience with airbnb), drove into Asheville twice for some awesome Spanish tapas at Curate, fried chicken and biscuits at Tupelo Honey and craft beer at Burial, toured the Biltmore, got presents for the kids (and my mom for watching them), walked behind waterfalls, ran/hiked to the top of Raybun Gap where we were literally in the clouds, got carsick on the winding roads heading up to Highlands, NC (that selfie was right after our run back down the mountain and about 20 minutes before I dry-heaved on the side of the road), had the best eggplant parmesan of my life at a tiny shack halfway up a mountain in the middle of nowhere called Bella’s Junction Cafe (think Merlotte’s of True Blood fame), and listened to a lot of Prince. Happy anniversary honey.


Staycation 2015: The End

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I’ll save you the suspense: It was one wet weekend.


We headed up to Mohican to check into the lodge and get Barrak ready for his race, a 50-mile trail race through Mohican State Park.


The Amish restaurant, Der Dutchman, is right off the exit so we stopped there for lunch. They have great fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

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The Mohican Lodge is charming but it smells a little like a dry cleaners. There’s heavy, hot dampness but it also smells clean. A little creepy and 197os too, like we were staying at the Overlook Hotel…


…right down the street from Crystal Lake.


Barrak shaved himself a Thomas Magnum mustache to get his racing mojo on.


And Magnus got his first pair of water wings since the pool didn’t have life vests or a shallow end.

Highlights of the evening: after swimming in the over-chlorinated indoor pool, we ate deep-dish pizza on the balcony of the lodge’s restaurant, then Greta puked it all up around 10 p.m. while Magnus watched the last 30 minutes of Thelma & Louise. I don’t think anyone got a good night’s sleep thanks to the AC turning off then roaring back to life every 15 minutes.



Barrak got up at 4 a.m., left the room at 5 a.m., and started his race at 6 a.m.

When the kids and I got up a few hours later, it was pouring. Looking out from the balcony, my heart just sank knowing Barrak was out there running it. Turned out he would be running in that rain until after nightfall.

After a disgusting French toast breakfast that tasted like white packing peanuts drizzled with maple syrup, the kids and I checked out of the lodge, paid for Bucky the stuffed animal deer that had been so helpfully placed in our room, and drove over to try to meet Barrak at the half-way point of the race.


The kids waited so patiently for Barrak at the half-way mark aid station. Under a tree. In the rain. We finally got to see him. Due to the conditions–the trails were like chocolate milkshakes–he was behind his usual pace. I was starting to get worried about a twisted ankle or something. By the time he came through, the kids and I were soaked. I thought he might decide to throw in the towel but he decided to keep going.

After seeing Barrak, we estimated we had another 6 hours to kill, at least. So we toured nearby Malabar Farms, which is the estate once owned by Louis Bromfield, a novelist, screenwriter and farmer. The big claim to fame is that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall got married in the Big House on the property. The house is preserved with all the furniture, artwork, books, etc. from the ’40s. Greta thought it was neat. Magnus thought it was BORING. I was just proud of myself for finding the damn place.

After that, we went back to the lodge, had lunch, ran into a co-worker in the ladies room (so random!) and hit the indoor pool again (there’s a sauna!)


Finally at 8 p.m. Barrak finished his first 50-miler. The kids ran out to him and crossed the finish line with him. Aside from severe chafing and an iffy toenail, he was in good shape and eager to “get the fuck out of here.” He was just done. So were we.


We celebrated Father’s Day back at home and enjoyed the simple pleasure of wearing dry clothes and having dry hair. And the second season of True Detective premiered. It’s gonna be a good summer.

Staycation 2015: The Middle

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Rained out! So any thoughts of a pool day were torpedoed. Instead, I took a Les Mills BodyPump class at the gym (such a weird feeling when you’re a 9-to-5-er to be at the gym at 10:30 in the morning) and we cleaned out the junk cabinet above the computer, which had been a hodgepodge of cough syrup, crazy glue, lighters, acrylic paints, allergy pills, a razor for scraping gunk–you know, all the stuff you wouldn’t want within easy reach of children. Barrak has been a tear reorganizing the garage, the basement, closets…everything. So I started the junk cabinet and he finished it. He’s got a knack for it I have to say.

I had dinner with a friend Wednesday evening at Basi Italia. I had rigatoni with spicy pomodoro and we split a butterscotch budino, which is an Italian pudding, with almond cookies and freshly whipped cream, strawberries and drizzled butterscotch. Custards and creme brûlées are not typically my cup of tea, but this was really good. Light.


No staycation would be complete without a trip to the zoo. And no trip to the zoo would be complete without photos of Greta navigating with a zoo map and Magnus on an animal statue.

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When we got home, I had some things to do on my own. But when I saw Greta plant herself at the computer, I just couldn’t leave her. So we decided to go do girl stuff, just the two of us.

First, we went to Sweet and Sassy and used our certificate for a free toenail polish change (she also got a glitter star on her cheek). Then we browsed in the mall, checking out Justice, Claire’s and Barnes & Noble. Then, because the sun was out (finally) we had gelato cones at Coppa Gelato in Westerville.

This little outing is one of my favorite memories of the week.

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Staycation 2015: The Beginning

After two back to back years of going to Destin, FL followed by two back to back years of Disney World, we decided to keep our summer vacation low-key this year.

Although my visions of spending weekdays at the pool were rained out, we had some fun times nonetheless.

Here’s how the week started out:


We had awesome burgers for lunch at Flip Side at Easton. Then we bought some new sunglasses for the kids at GAP Kids, and saw the movie Jurassic World. Big fun!

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Because Barrak is Clark Griswald, we were on the road to Cedar Point, the amusement park in Sandusky, OH, by 8 a.m. Magnus was too short to ride many of the rides. There was a special Dinosaurs Live attraction with huge animatronics, which was cool to see on the heels of Jurassic World. The Peanuts, including Snoopy, are a big deal at the park. Magnus got a stuffed Woodstock.

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Greta rode the Gemini (above). Such a classic. I rode it with her. It felt so good to scream so unabashedly. Magnus rode something called the Pipe Scream with Barrak and Greta. I wouldn’t ride it – too nauseating for me. In fact, they were 20 minutes delayed getting on it because of “guest illness.” When he got off it, he was AMPED. He drank an entire bottle of Dasani in two long chugs.

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We battled some pop-up rain showers but made it work. We were there until 4 p.m. (!)

After leaving Cedar Point, we drove 20 minutes away to Kalahari, which is a sprawling resort with an indoor water park you wouldn’t believe, and an outdoor pool we didn’t get to use much because of the unseasonably cool temps and rain.

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Kalahari has an African animal theme, which Magnus’s pet elephant, Elephant, was pleased about.

We showered, got back in the car and Google Mapped our restaurant destination, Bay Harbor. Turned out, we ended right back on Cedar Point property, next to the marina.

The food was good but Barrak described it as a “sensory deprivation tank” which is very apt. We were the only table there for most of our dinner. There was NO music or Muzak or even white noise. It was weird. You could hear every clink of silverware. Greta had a $6 PB&J. Magnus had most of my $35 filet mignon.


More mom-screaming on indoor water slides at Kalahari, including one that felt like we were being flushed down a toilet on a raft. Some of these water slides are big enough for a family of four to go down together on a raft. There are huge drops that make your stomach flip, and in pitch-dark. In retrospect the place seems a little risky and loosey-goosey on safety. But, we survived and had a ton of fun.

After we checked out, we drove up to Port Clinton to have fried perch sandwiches at Jolly Roger, a local favorite.


Then we picked up some supplies for the 4th of July (to set off out of state, of course).


I love the drive between Columbus and Sandusky. So many pretty farmsteads. And bratwurst shops in Bucyrus!

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Home sweet home with a glass of pomegranate sangria and a bag of Boom Chicka Pop kettle corn.