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

SATURDAY – Race Day

 

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.

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