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san francisco in the fall and napa valley during crush

by Sally Bernstein

We had 7 days of eating, drinking and sightseeing planned. We decided to divide our time between the city and wine country and it turned out to be a perfect plan. The following hotels, restaurants and winery were the highlights of our trip. With an overwhelming abundance of things to do, I found fall to be a very busy time in San Francisco due to conventions and in Napa Valley due to the crush. Hotels rooms and restaurants should be booked months in advance, as soon as you know your plans.

San Francisco diners are quite fortunate to have Dosa, actually 2 Dosa restaurants. Most Indian restaurants in the US offer North Indian cuisine but Dosa showcases Southern Indian food. The name of the restaurant refers to a Dosa, a rice and lentil crepe with various fillings. The most traditional is Masala Dosa filled with mashed, spiced potatoes, onions and cashew nuts. Dosa also offers 12 other fillings, including a White Truffle Masala. But that is not all. We enjoyed an appetizer I had never experienced, Dahi Vada, or lentil dumplings topped with yogurt, piped with tamarind and mint. Next we ordered Fish Moilee, or Alaskan halibut pan-sautéed in a coconut sauce with spices, and Mango Prawns, a Karnataka-style, green mango pulp, tomatoes, chilies, and mustard seeds. I could go on and on. Dosa is truly a find.

There are two Dosa locations. The original Dosa, opened in 2005, is in the Mission District. And its larger sister opened in 2008. Both have bars with comprehensive wine and spice-infused cocktail programs. Owners Emily and Anjan Mitra certainly know what they are doing. We could not have had a better meal to start our trip.

Cavallo Point, the lodge at the Golden Gate Bridge, sits on the Marin County side north of the bridge in Sausalito. It is part of the Golden Gate National Parks and offers both Historic Lodging and Contemporary Lodging. Our room overlooked the Golden Gate Bridge and offered all the amenities one could want, such as a super comfortable bed, fireplace, and an expansive bathroom. Cavallo Point has a popular bar named Farley. Just like its namesake Farley, the popular San Francisco Chronicle comic-strip character created by the late Phil Frank, Farley Bar is a Bay Area favorite. Rocking chairs on the patio offer another favorite spot from which to view the bridge. Other features at Cavallo Point include the Murray Circle restaurant and the Mercantile store, which showcases eco-friendly clothing; tasteful jewelry and accessories; and innovative products by local artisans. There is also a cooking school onsite offering classes Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays. There is a Healing Arts Center & Spa at Cavallo Point with its own outdoor meditation pool. Healing Arts Services include: acupuncture, acupuncture & massage, clinical massage, energy work, hypnotherapy & guided imagery, herbs and nutrition. The Tea Bar, Wellness Workshops and Integrative Medicine are all part of this restful spa experience.

Goose & Gander is a welcome addition to the Napa Valley dining scene. Tucked away on a side street in St. Helena, Goose & Gander is all about choices. You can choose your dining atmosphere. You can choose to dine inside adjacent to the open kitchen or downstairs at one of the few tables that surround the dark clubby bar area or outside on the open patio area, complete with fountains. The menu too has choices. For those who like to order numerous smaller dishes there are 16 choices, 5 of which are salads. Popular items include the Roasted Bone Marrow, Seared Day Boat Sea Scallops, and Watermelon and Rock Shrimp Salad, which is a perfect blend of colors and tastes. My Grilled Candy Strip Figs was excellent, with duck prosciutto, tiny greens, saba, fontina cheese and olive oil. Other choices include Ceviche with avocado and taro chips, Braised Manilla Clams and San Marzano Tomato Soup, which was made even better by the inclusion of crème fraiche. Popular entrees include the Pan Roasted Chicken Breast and the Seared Striped Bass. But there is more such as the Coconut Cake and the Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart, a very rich chocolate tart served with coffee ice cream and vanilla sauce. A sweet ending to a VERY tasty meal.

Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa offers a perfect location if you want to experience the town of Napa and the wineries up and down Highway 29. Located just north of downtown Napa, off 29, this renovated Marriott has a complete spa and fitness center, many rooms for business meetings and lots of outdoor spaces for relaxing. You can relax around the heated pool or hot tub, the many fire pits, the indoor and outdoor lobby or the bar. The 275 guest rooms are appointed with Marriott’s Revive bedding, which makes for a very comfortable night’s sleep. So whether you come to Napa Valley for hot-air ballooning, horseback riding, winery tours, nearby golf, shopping or to visit friends, the Marriott is a comfortable place to stay.

Cindy Pawlcyn’s Wood Grill & Wine Bar offers classic American fare such as Sweet Crispy Pork Belly, Dad’s House-made Potato Chips with Blue Cheese dip, Brown Derby Cobb salad, Napa Cab Braised Short Ribs, Niman Ranch Burger with Cindy’s Secret Sauce, and West Coast Crab Roll. Cindy, known for Mustards Grill and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, has proven she is an expert at comfort food. CP’s offers an indoor contemporary setting, a family-friendly kids’ menu and a large tree-shaded patio for outdoor dining, with live music Thursday nights. My lunch of Crispy Squash Blossoms (with Bellwether Farms ricotta), Dungness Crab Louie and Cindy’s “Doesn’t Have To Be Your Birthday” Chocolate Layer Cake was a winner.

brings a breath of fresh air to St. Helena and Napa Valley by offering breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch and dinner in a comfortable neighborhood restaurant setting. Their wood-beamed interior and fireplace add to the ambience. Seating is either inside with some seats at a community table in front of the open kitchen or outside patio seating. The menu features rustic, wood-fired cooking seasonally inspired from Rudd Farms’ local gardens. We visited for brunch and thoroughly enjoyed our food. I am a biscuit fan and when I saw buttermilk biscuits on the menu, I knew I had to try one. The day’s offering was filled with cheddar cheese and was delicious. French Blue also has a Cream Cheese Frosted Pecan Cinnamon Roll for those wanting sweets to start their day. We tried the Oven Baked Blueberry Pancake served in a skillet with a side of maple syrup and the basic egg plate with a side of bacon. For a fun cocktail, try the Ramos Fizz, a mix of gin, egg white, orange juice, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg.

Auberge du Soleil offers a world-class view of Napa Valley from its deck and some very tasty food. We arrived at 11 on a Sunday morning and had no problem securing 4 seats on the wraparound deck. The Bistro & Bar menu offers lighter fare than their Restaurant and we were happy as clams with our Charcuterie and Local Artisan Cheese Presentation. Croutons, Caper Berries, and Cornichons accompanied the Charcuterie, & Whole Grain Mustard and the Cheeses were all from California. But it is the atheistic of Auberge that sets it apart from other spots. The drive up the hill, the seasonal arrangements when you enter, the world-class service, the food and the view all make Auberge du Soleil special.

Executive Chef/Owner Bob Hurley, who has been a Yountville fixture for many years, owns Hurley’s Restaurant. Bob knows his way around a kitchen, previously at the Napa Valley Grille and for the last 10 years he has had his own restaurant. The menu at Hurley’s changes 3 times a year, seasonally, and Bob leans toward Mediterranean influences (better to pair with the local wines). Bob is also known for his game cooking. For my dinner appetizer I chose Eastern Rock Crab Cakes with mixed citrus, shaved fennel and herb salad covered with grapefruit tarragon vinaigrette, which were quite good. On to the Horseradish Crusted Atlantic Salmon, served with basil potato puree, asparagus and a red wine butter sauce. This was perfect for me after a full day of Napa Valley fun. If you are looking for a basic salad and meat dinner, try the Hearts of Romaine Salad and the Oakwood Grilled Mid-Western Aged 12 oz Rib Eye. Hurley’s has a large open patio adjacent to the bar that is a favorite of local winemakers and visitors to the valley. Come relax with a glass of wine after a hard day of wine tasting.

Ram’s Gate Winery Sonoma is one of the newer wineries in Wine Country. It is located at the entrance to Sonoma Valley with 30 acres under planting. Ram’s Gates bottles Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the signature grapes of the Carneros and Sonoma regions, as well as Late Harvest Zinfandel, Sparkling Brut, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. This boutique, artisan winery deserves a visit to sit in its courtyard, which anchors several wine tasting areas. Come enjoy the panoramic views and 30-foot tall ceilings or linger by the fireside lounge. Inside you’ll find a farm-to-tasting room culinary program and much more.


1700 Fillmore (@ Post)
San Francisco, CA 94115

Cavallo Point Lodge – the Lodge at the Golden Gate

601 Murray Circle

Fort Baker

Sausalito, CA 94965


Goose & Gander
1245 Spring Street
St. Helena CA 94574

Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa
3425 Solano Avenue
Napa, CA 94558

Cindy Pawlcyn’s Wood Grill & Wine Bar
641 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574

1429 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574

Auberge du Soleil
180 Rutherford Hill Road
Rutherford, CA 94574

Hurley’s Restaurant
6518 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599

Ram’s Gate Winery Sonoma
28700 Arnold Drive
Sonoma, CA 95476

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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