Gorgeous Gorge Views

From a recent trip to Washington State.

From Quincy WA

We stayed at an Airbnb, hosted by Bob, that boasted this bucolic view 
out back.  If headed to a concert in the area, consider staying here with friends
and family!

The view from Tendrils, Cave B Winery
For brunch, Tendrils at Cave B Winery offers a nice spread of food and 
this view. 

Crust, tasty homemade sourdough

Straight from the oven and ready for a little butter!

Starbucks Reserve In the Name of Coffee & Croissants

It's no secret, I am a hard core coffee connoisseur and also a fan of Starbucks anything.  A recent visit to the new trendy Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Capitol Hill (Seattle) served up my quintessential favorites:  coffee, croissants and cool vibe.

We have a Reserve near where I live in California, but I'm not yet convinced it can rival the essence of Capitol Hill.  But if I'm craving a caffeine buzz, I could be convinced!

Summer fruit signals the heat is ON!

You know it's summer when...

  • Peaches and nectarines pop up everywhere
  • You feel a need to fire up the grill...just because
  • It's 9pm and you're still outside (and it's light!)

Cool in Camas: Beacon Rock & Thunder Island Brewing Co.

I have made the trip from the Bay Area to the Pacific Northwest more times than I can count and it's always been the same:  hit the road early, stop at the Olive Pit (a family favorite) and drive all the way to Seattle in one long stretch.

This year I changed things up and stopped to meet a good friend in Camas, a town dubbed "Best Place to Live" by some and a well-kept secret that's not so secret when you see all the development buzzing around.  Either way, my experience hit all the high notes:  awe-inspiring hike, food combined with truly local, fresh ingredients and soul-filling relaxation due to the mellow vibe that's all Pacific Northwest.  It's like a spa at it's best:  expansive, nurturing and sporty...but without the barrier of entry fees (except for the state parks).

A few notables if you venture to Camas with friends or family:
  • Beacon Rock Trail.  Stunning and a must-see.  About an hour, steep in some places.
  • Thunder Island Brewing Co.  You can sit by the Columbia River and nosh on fine fare.
  • 360 Kitchen & Bar   A pleasant surprise with gourmet-chef worthy dining.
  • Burgerville.  518 NE 3rd Ave, Camas, WA 98607.  Seasonal menu addition:  Walla Walla onion rings.  Wow.
Every once in a while a detour becomes a huge blessing and in my case, a pretty mind-blowing one at that.  It's time to move on but the view from Beacon Rock is indelibly etched into my memory and a "greatest hit" from the Summer Roadtrip of 2016.

Bucatini carbonara at 360 Kitchen & Bar, Camas WA

Taken from Beacon Rock Trail, Stevenson WA

Dumpling House in Arcadia CA

On our road trip from San Diego to San Francisco we stopped in Arcadia to see a relative.  We planned to have dumplings at Din Tai Fung but the 2 hour wait wasn't on our bucket list that day.

Instead we drove down the street and made a stop at the Dumpling House which was a surprise and a big delight.  Soup dumplings, spicy eggplant and fried rice all were heartily consumed and enjoyed.

Although I have few reasons to be in Arcadia, this place is on my list in case of a chance encounter!

Dumpling House
921 S Baldwin Ave, Ste A
Arcadia CA  91007

Glen Ellen Star and Fremont Diner

Napa and Sonoma are synonymous with great wine and spirits but the dining scene is a star player in
my book.  Below are a few new standouts from my recent visit, each on a slightly different spectrum.

On the casual side is the Fremont Diner, a good choice as you make your way up to your favorite winery.  Situated off Highway 12, the Fremont Diner offers visitors covered outdoor seating (allows dogs!) or the more traditional diner setting. Either selection at the prime eating hour (lunch?) will likely require a wait, especially if it's nice and sunny out.

We ordered a variety of dishes with standouts being the sausage and also the fried chicken biscuit. Other items:  shrimp grits and the deviled eggs.

Fremont Diner
2698 Fremont Drive
Sonoma, CA 95476
(707) 938-7370

The fried chicken in a biscuit at Fremont Diner.  Can life get any better than this?
Another standout located in Glen Ellen is the Glen Ellen Star.  Our selections included the mixed salad with 8 minute egg (perfectly cooked with a still runny center) margharita pizza and flat iron steak. We ended the meal with homemade ice cream (butter pecan) and a short drive home.

Glen Ellen Star Salad with "8 minute" egg
Glen Ellen Star
13648 Arnold Drive
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
(707) 343-1384

Lola's Bistro in Cheese Country - Hilmar

Hilmar is my kind of town:  located in the heart of foodland and boasting a sign that reads "Did you bring your cheese?" as you enter.  A town after my own heart!

On a short visit to pick up some milk to make--what else--cheese, my pass-through allowed for two stops, lunch at Lola's Bistro and a few cheese samples at Hilmar Cheese.

Although we showed up after the lunch hour (right as they were closing) the folks at Lola's opened the doors and served us!  Amazing.  We had a great meal of fish and chips, broccoli cheddar soup and a well-cooked burger.  The food was great but it was really the passion from the people and the laid-back setting that put this over-the-top.

Thanks to the amazing staff!

Lola's Bistro 
19920 1st Street
Hilmar, CA 95324

Hilmar Cheese 
9001 Lander Avenue
Hilmar CA 95324

Chic Cantonese at Hakkasan SF

From start to finish my recent lunch at Hakkasan was a delightful experience.   The chic setting, the menu and finishing touch (macarons) made for a memorable moment especially when combined with a favorite friend.

If you find yourself on Market street in San Francisco it's worth a visit.  Below are a few photos which tell the story of my lunch and the beauty of the presentation.

A small starter of my favorite dumplings.
Followed up with savory beef in a crispy noodle funnel.
Capped by the perfect dessert:  macarons in many flavors!
1 Kearny Street
San Francisco CA  94108

Happy Heart Day From Sonoma CA

Right now I’m sitting in one of the most beautiful places overlooking a sunset while dressed in jeans and t-shirt.  Did I mention it’s February and I’m in Sonoma CA?   Ok, so I am one lucky person.  And if you think I’m partaking in “humble bragging” (it’s actually a term!) the sentiment is humbly sincere with no bragging intended. 

My appreciation for this moment is due somewhat in part to the obstacle course of life throughout 2015.   When my frustration reached a fever pitch and I complained someone said “the universe is telling you something” and I believe I mentally rolled my eyes.   But it’s true, the message-while on the opposite ends of the spectrum-came through loud and clear:

Slow down to appreciate the people and things around me but…
“Stuff happens” so look forward and move on (faster)…

While this post is too late to be my new years resolution and too early to forecast total bliss in 2016, it’s enough to enjoy the setting sun and be grateful for what’s to come.