10 November 2006

a (wonderful) change of plans

so... i'm a total pussy. san francisco is lovely, but until i can have a wee surgical procedure on my right knee, it's not my kinda town. it looks flat on a map, yo. i think the only part of town that actually IS flat is the waterfront. plus, there were an assload of USC alums in town. they don't call it the university of spoiled children for nothing, you know. the trojans were in town (well, actually down the road in palo alto) to play stanford. everywhere we turned there they were. i think the prospect of having to wait in line for 2 fucking hours to eat breakfast was what finally made me snap.

i enjoyed my wee stay in SF, had a great dinner with wen'l at a place called brick on friday night. everything is plated to share at brick, which made for a surprisingly romantic meal. i had a meltdown on sutter st., walking back to our hotel from jam-packed union square. we checked out when we got back. we weren't going to go home, but we were going to get outta dodge. we went to fisherman's wharf and had lunch on our way out of town. everything i've ever heard about the place was true... total tourist trap. BUT, everything i've ever heard about dungeness crab is also true. it is just better up there. we had crab cakes and a lovely chowdah for lunch, and watched the fog recede from the golden gate bridge. the crab house had a fantastic view of the bay, and i got chills just looking at alcatraz.

we drove over the golden gate, which was being re-enshrouded (is that a word?) by the fog by the time we got there. wen'l had never driven over the bridge, never been in marin county... we had a lovely drive up to the napa valley. neither one of us had ever been there, and we learned a few interesting things on the way up there. did you know the leaves on grapevines turn colors? i didn't. it's absolutely gorgeous.

we ended up staying at the first place we found, a place called the wine valley inn. my only requirement was that our night's lodging wouldn't break the bank like some places up that way can (ie, the auberge du soleil in rutherford). we relaxed, got settled and started thinking about where we'd eat dinner. it was our anniversary, after all, and dinner had to be somewhere worthy of the occasion. after much discussion, we came up with a place, got ready, and headed on down. we were told that w/o a reservation, we wouldn't be seated till 9:45. i wanted to be about half done with the bottle of 1999 veuve clicquot we'd brought along by that time, though, so we ended up going with what was my husband's first choice, a place called angèle, right on the banks of the napa river. click the title of this post to check out their website.

what a fabulous meal! we picked the *palourdes au basilic*, a ragoût of littleneck clams, prosciutto, white wine and shallots as our appetizer. i'm definitely going to do that at home. wen'l had the *magret de canard*, a duck breast w/ roasted figs, baby turnips and duck jus. i had the *boeuf bourguignon*, something i've been known to do here at home. it was one of the specials that night, and wen'l said he knew when he heard they had it that i'd be ordering it. it was tres delish. they put haricots verts in their version, something i'll definitely be trying out. yum! we each had our own dessert. normally we split one, but i wanted this banana thing with caramel ice cream and an almond crust, and wen'l is not the biggest fan of hot bananas. he had the chocolate fondant. gawd, i'm being very clinical about it, aren't i? we didn't have our camera with us or i'd have taken some pics. angèle is in a restored old boathouse, and it's breathtaking. the ceiling in the main dining room especially. absolutely romantic, and the place left me aching for something like it in our neck of the woods. food like that (rustic french... yum!) and atmosphere like that are something sorely lacking in orange county.

so after dinner we made our way back to room #41 of the wine valley inn and uncorked our champagne. we had veuve clicquot (the nonvintage stuff, which is quite lovely actually) at our reception and we've made it a habit to drink it for all our special occasions since. this year called for something special though. firstly, we were going away for our anniversary. hell, we didn't even have a honeymoon! secondly, we're doing better financially now and spending more than about $40 wasn't going to put us in the poor house. the 1999 was a decent-sized bump up from what we're used to. i think next year we might go whole hog and get la grande dame. i'm mighty curious about it now. the next morning we had breakfast at a place in town and made our way out to the hess winery. we couldn't very well be in napa and not do a tour and tasting, right? even if it was before noon?

here it is:

beautiful, no? and what a lovely day it was! just getting there was a treat. the mountain road leading up to the winery was amazing, and the air smelled alive in a way i don't think i can explain. we toured the grounds and the art gallery housed in the building above. i bought a book about wine, a nifty new corkscrew to replace the rickety one i've been using, and a bottle of their 2003 cabernet sauvignon that we ended up sampling during our tasting. i picked a winner! i'm going to serve it at wen'ls birthday dinner in december. i think it'll go great with the turner new zealand rack of lamb i'm going to do.

we headed back home after our time at hess, and decided the next time we head up to napa that we're going to do it right. start way up in the northern part of it and work our way south. do like 4 or 5 wineries a day. have a wonderful dinner in one of the local restaurants (and we'll remember to make reservations this time!). i'd even recommend a getaway to the napa valley to anyone, whether they were into wine or not, especially in the fall. it was just breathtakingly beautiful and there's plenty to do besides slowly get drunk.

it was a wonderful weekend after all.

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