July 25, 2013 – Dinner at Bridges, Danville, CA

It is good to be home again. The weather is pretty warm but the upside to warmer temperatures during the day means that dining outdoors in the evening is a possibility. How many times have we been bundled up at the park or on Fourth of July due to radiational cooling!!!

We meet our very good friends Karen and George for a pleasant evening of dining and listening to live music at Bridges in Danville. George follows the calendar of Ken Cooper, a local singer/guitarist, who plays soft rock covers from the 70’s. Ken is playing tonight at Bridges so we are gently entertained while having a lovely dinner. Of course that means we are with an older demographic but I think we have all come to terms with our place in society. After all Mick Jagger turned 70 this week and Paul McCartney is 71. (How did this happen!!!?)

As usual I only have food pictures. George, John and I order Mexican prawns with a Thai red curry~coconut milk sauce, a crispy noodle cake and garnished with cremini mushrooms, mint and toasted peanuts. It is very good. I especially like the crispy noodle cake.

Mexican shrimp with Thai red curry coconut milk sauce and crispy noodle cake

Mexican shrimp with Thai red curry coconut milk sauce and crispy noodle cake

Karen who is more of a straight forward meat and potatoes kind of person orders a pan roasted pork chop with a blueberry goat cheese chutney accompanied by charred green beans and mashed potatoes. There is ample gravy on the plate as well. The whole presentation is a little Flintstone like.

Pork chop with mashed potatoes and gravy

Pork chop with mashed potatoes and gravy

What a great welcome home!

July 23, 2013 – Sonoma County Wine Tasting

Here it is the last day of our Annniversary Trip. After a nice breakfast at the Gaige House we head out for a little wine tasting. We are going to try a couple of new wineries today. Our first stop is at Wellington Winery where we like a couple of pinot noirs and have a good conversation with Ron behind the bar. He suggests some other places we might try and gives us some free passes to them.

Our next stop is at Imagery Winery. They still consider us wine club members so we are able to get the discount and a free tasting. We enjoy a crisp rose, the cabernet franc and the mourvedre.

John discussing the merits of a particular wine with Bull behind the counter

John discussing the merits of a particular wine with Bull behind the counter

We head on to Deerfield Ranch Winery with bottles jingling in the back of the car. Deerfield Ranch’s tasting room is in their cave and is very nice. We sit down and Ben brings us various wines to try. The wines are made in such a way as to reduce their histamines which I am very enthused about. We think that their caberbet franc is spectacular.

John making notes at Deerfield Ranch Winery

John making notes at Deerfield Ranch Winery

Lunch pickings are slim and we end up at Cafe Citti. We both order the gnocchi which Ron from Wellington Winery has recommended. The gnocchi is very good but it is absolutely swimming in pesto. I wouldn’t order it again.

Back out on the wine tasting road we stop at Muscardini Winery and pick up some zins. Our final stop is at Chateau St. Jean where we relax on the tasting porch and Bob brings us some tastes. We are pretty much tasted out but it is always a pleasure to sit on the porch and enjoy the view.

The view from the porch at Chateau St. Jean

The view from the porch at Chateau St. Jean

We stop and buy some sandwiches to have for dinner at the Gaige House. Over dinner we reminisce about our trip and what we liked best. I think for us the thing we always like best is being together.

July 22, 2013 – Ferndale to Glen Ellen, CA

Not too much to report today. We spend most of the day driving down from Ferndale to Glen Ellen where we will spend the next two nights before heading home.

In Healdsburg we stopped for lunch at Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar.

The view from our table of Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar

The view from our table of Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar

The menu is all small plates which means you will be spending a lot for lunch. We had four items.

Fried calamari with a sweet spicy glaze.  The taste of the glaze took over the entire dish.

Fried calamari with a sweet spicy glaze. The taste of the glaze took over the entire dish.


Hamachi ceviche with taro chips  YUM!

Hamachi ceviche with taro chips YUM!


Crab cake, a little dry

Crab cake, a little dry


Former fish tacos

Former fish tacos

Then we stop at Safeway and pick up a sandwich for supper.

We make it to the Gaige House in Glen Ellen at around 4 which gives us enough time to settle in and arrive downstairs for the wine and munchies hour. The Gaige House is a real favorite of ours especially the Zen suites. Unfortunately we booked too late to get one but we still have a nice king room on the second floor of the house. Ironically, every place we have stayed we’ve been on the second floor with no elevator. This makes for real difficulties with my knee and I am definitely like an old person going up and down the stairs.

A bit after wine and munchie time we spread out our picnic on the back deck. It is a beautiful warm evening and I think a better choice than eating out again.

John opening the wine for our picnic

John opening the wine for our picnic

July 21, 2013 – Humboldt Botanical Garden and Ferndale, CA

Shortly after breakfast we leave for the Humboldt Botanical Garden about 10 miles away from Ferndale. The day is overcast (as is every day as far as we can tell), windy and chilly, only about 54 degrees. We are pleased for the overcast because it will make the colors of the flowers more apparent rather than being washed out.

It seems that the Garden is a work in progress. There’s no permanent building and some of the gardens are annotated as “future.” But what they have is very nice and we spend a few hours roaming the garden trying to identify different flowers and shrubs. Some are labeled and some are not. Here’s a little of what we saw –

Blanket flower and bee balm (I tried to grow bee balm in MA)

Blanket flower and bee balm (I tried to grow bee balm in MA)


John and a hollyhock compare heights

John and a hollyhock compare heights


John works hard at identifying plants. The purple ones closest to the walk are heuchera "plum pudding."

John works hard at identifying plants. The purple ones closest to the walk are heuchera “plum pudding.”


Euphorbia

Euphorbia


The rose "Julia Child"

The rose “Julia Child”

There’s also a section devoted to plants native to the area and lots of benches to sit on and contemplate the Garden.

California wild rose

California wild rose


Lupine

Lupine


John studies the brochure on one of the many benches

John studies the brochure on one of the many benches

Finishing up at the Garden we make our way back into Ferndale to look at the many Victorian houses and buildings. Ferndale was built upon dairy farming and the houses are known as “cream or butterfat palaces.”

Queen Anne Victorian 1894

Queen Anne Victorian 1894


Another Queen Anne but in the Eastlake style

Another Queen Anne but in the Eastlake style


The Gingerbread Mansion

The Gingerbread Mansion


The Palace Saloon, the westernmost place to get a drink, 1902

The Palace Saloon, the westernmost place to get a drink, 1902


Now housing the gift shop, Gazebo, this 1898 store was built in the Eastlake stick style

Now housing the gift shop, Gazebo, this 1898 store was built in the Eastlake stick style

In the midst of all this Victorian viewing, we stopped at a vegan/vegetarian restaurant for a fine lunch. I have come to the conclusion that if we stop at a vegetarian or Mediterranean place that I will always find something I like.

After resting up a bit we head down to the tavern where a table has been reserved for us. I think we spend more than most people because as the days have worn on the staff has become more obsequious.

We have enjoyed our stay in Ferndale but are ready to spend some time under sunnier skies.

July 20, 2013 – Eureka, CA

“I have found it!,” I mean we’ve arrived in Eureka, CA. We were here about 5 years ago and one of the best things that we did was to go to the Blue Ox Millworks. It’s still the best thing to do. Eric Hollenbeck is the proprietor and driver behind the force that is the custom millworks, historical park and high school for kids at risk. There are only 11 custom millwork shops left in the U.S. Five years ago he gave us a personal tour and he was just as gracious this time. The tour starts by a demonstration of hand driven machines.

The buildings at the Blue Ox Millworks are pretty rundown but the woodworking is fabulous

The buildings at the Blue Ox Millworks are pretty rundown but the woodworking is fabulous


Eric Hollenbeck operating the foot pedal scroll saw.

Eric Hollenbeck operating the foot pedal scroll saw.


Eric operating a table saw with another saw in the foreground

Eric operating a table saw with another saw in the foreground


The school that he runs at the Blue Ox is the school of last resort for kids who have not been able to manage traditional high school. They go to two hours of class and then spend the rest of the day at the Blue Ox learning different skills. There is, of course, woodworking and carpentry but also blacksmithing, photography, spinning and textiles, and printing. There was a reunion of the past 5 years of graduates recently and 55 former students attended. All of them had made something of themselves and some had even managed to buy houses. Eric is very proud.
John in the workshop

John in the workshop


The lathe shop

The lathe shop


The printing press

The printing press


Type set. The kids set, print and bind their own yearbooks

Type set. The kids set, print and bind their own yearbooks


An old treadle sewing machine

An old treadle sewing machine

The newest machine in the shop is from 1948. Most of the machines are manually operated. Although the place is still really rundown, we can see advancements over the past five years.

Maybe in another five years John will grow tall enough to reach Paul Bunyan's belt

Maybe in another five years John will grow tall enough to reach Paul Bunyan’s belt

After our visit we stop at the Lost Coast Brewery Brewpub for a little refreshment.

The offerings

The offerings


John in his traditional pose

John in his traditional pose

Refreshed, we make our way to the Broadway cinema and enjoy a movie. We see The Lone Ranger which has been thoroughly panned. This means we will like it. Yes, the tone of the movie is a little jumbled and the story is hard to follow at times but JOHNNY DEPP!!!
We have dinner at the hotel because there is really nowhere else to eat in Ferndale and have an early night.

July 19, 2013 – Ft. Bragg to Ferndale, CA

Since there is no breakfast at the Surf and Sand, John and I had scoped out a place last night for this morning. It is called Egghead’s. Seems fitting for John and me. But once inside, it is a whole new world of Oz memorabilia. There are pictures from the movie, a yellow brick road in linoleum, a large mural of various characters watching the movie ala Mystery Science Theater 3000, and cutesy named menu items. John and I each had the Lion Mighty which was the usual eggs, toast, potatoes and bacon. Oz must be selling at a premium because this breakfast which we can get on the senior special at our local breakfast place for $4.99 was $9.49! But it was enjoyable to look at all the stuff on the walls.

When we saw the sign for Egghead's we did not notice the Oz references

When we saw the sign for Egghead’s we did not notice the Oz references


but soon we realized that there was no place like Egghead's restaurant

but soon we realized that there was no place like Egghead’s restaurant


so we just settled back and followed the mango brick road

so we just settled back and followed the mango brick road

After our surreal breakfast I am interrupted by a call from Kaiser. They have had a cancellation and I can have surgery on my stupid knee at the beginning of August. Oh joy. This puts us back time-wise I have to complete an online surgical info sheet.

Finally we are off and have a beautiful trip up the coast. The sun is out and even though it is still in the upper 50’s, it is a beautiful day.

Breakers off shore

Breakers off shore


Rocks beneath the surface shoot up plumes of spray

Rocks beneath the surface shoot up plumes of spray


Rocks are sculpted by the water into interesting shapes

Rocks are sculpted by the water into interesting shapes

Leaving the shoreline we traverse a forest of redwoods. We cannot pass up the opportunity to drive through a giant redwood. This is a scam. The tree is not for driving through but our $5 lets us visit the gift shop and use the restroom.

Don't drive thru tree

Don’t drive thru tree

Since our original day’s plan called for us to traverse the mountains on sketchy roads and we have opted out of that plan, we are left with some extra time. We see a sign that says “visit our cheese factory in Lelota” and we are in. The cheese factory has a window where you can see the workers making cheese and a retail shop. We don’t care for the cheese and pass up the buying opportunity.

Lelota cheese factory

Lelota cheese factory


Cheesemakers working with the curd

Cheesemakers working with the curd

At this point we stop for lunch at a grocery store deli in Scotia and then make our way to Ferndale. At the Ferndale museum we learn that the beach is not far away. We decide to finish our afternoon at the beach. The best thing about a northern California beach is that you don’t have to wear a bathing suit. No, not a nudist beach. It is so cold and windy that outerwear is required.

The beach west of Ferndale

The beach west of Ferndale


Mary in beach attire

Mary in beach attire


Finally we check into our hotel, the Victorian Inn. Ferndale is a town that time left behind and is chock-a-bloc with Victorian houses. Our hotel and room are much in the same mode.
The Victorian Inn, Ferndale, CA

The Victorian Inn, Ferndale, CA


Our Victorian room

Our Victorian room


Strangely this is the third bathroom on our trip not enclosed by a door.

Strangely this is the third bathroom on our trip not enclosed by a door.

Later we go down to the Tavern for some drinks and appetizers. Finally we have dinner in the strangely empty dining room.

John at the beautiful Victorian bar

John at the beautiful Victorian bar


The view from our dining table

The view from our dining table

July 18, 2013 – Guerneville to Ft. Bragg, CA

We have planned a week’s trip for our anniversary. We started from home yesterday and drove up to Guerneville. Today we make the trip from Guerneville to Ft. Bragg and then we will continue up the coast to Ferndale and Eureka before heading back with a stop in Glen Ellen before we get home.

After a very nice breakfast (included) at the Applewood Inn and stopping for picnic supplies at Safeway, we are off on the next leg of our adventure. Our GPS, Jack, keeps telling us to turn back and take the highway. We ignore him and take the twisty road into the fog and redwoods that heads to California 1, the coast highway. Our first stop is an overlook just north of Jenner. Since the marine layer has not yet burnt off, the coast is gray and menacing. The Pacific Ocean is just not a friendly body of a water. It is cold and pierced with rocks. The tides can bring in a tsunami or a freak wave that can overwhelm and drown the unwary. There are few beaches mostly just cliffs, definitely not family friendly. But it is gorgeous.

Rocks in the foggy Pacific north of Jenner

Rocks in the foggy Pacific north of Jenner


John looking hot in the cold

John looking hot in the cold

Finally the sun breaks through and the temperature rises to about 60, a heat wave. We stop to take a few pictures while the sun lasts.

Blue skies!

Blue skies!


Blue skies for now but the marine layer lurks at the horizon

Blue skies for now but the marine layer lurks at the horizon

Further up the coast we turn down a street and find a little fishing port. Ports are few and far between on the Pacific. We read a monument honoring 15 Japanese men who sailed 11,000 kilometers from Japan to this little port in a 15 meter wooden boat in 1913! It was their dream to come to the United States. We walk out on the pier where fishermen have just brought in their catch of salmon. They are dickering about weight and price. There is much salty language.

The entirety of Port Arena.

The entirety of Port Arena.


The losers in a game of Go Fish

The losers in a game of Go Fish

My eye is caught by a sign on the pier. It could be a metaphor for marriage.
P1010934

Our next stop is at the Arena Point lighthouse. In order to get close to it we would have to pay $7.50 each. We decide to admire it from a distance and also take a look at the ocean and the wildlife.

Point Arena Lighthouse

Point Arena Lighthouse

Cold man and the sea (2)

Cold man and the sea (2)


Sea lions

Sea lions


Blue heron

Blue heron


Water rushing through a hole in the rock

Water rushing through a hole in the rock

After a while we stop for a picnic lunch at some tables near the ocean. It is so cold and windy that we finish our lunch in the car and take no pictures.

It is slow-going traveling on California 1 and our trip of less than 120 miles to Ft. Bragg takes most of the day. We check into our motel in Ft. Bragg. Our room is most unusual. The bathtub/shower divides the bedroom from the bathroom. Whose good idea was this!

Bed, bathtub, bathroom. Weird.

Bed, bathtub, bathroom. Weird.

The best feature of the room is the view. With the door open for natural air conditioning we will be able to listen to the ocean all night.

The view from our room

The view from our room

Tonight’s dinner is sort of a pilgrimage. Maybe seventeen years ago we took a trip with Jonathan up the north coast. Sarah was away doing a band thing or maybe at camp. I am not really sure of the timing of this adventure. Anyway, one of the places we had dinner was called The Restaurant in Ft. Bragg. As a complement to “The Restaurant” sign outside, on the door leading out on to the street is a sign saying “The Rest of the World.” Jon asked us to take a picture of it. Our dinner there tonight is an homage to the fish we saw on the dock today, grilled king salmon.

Dinner at The Restaurant started with bagna cauda

Dinner at The Restaurant started with bagna cauda


The salmon was very fresh and good.  The rest, meh.

The salmon was very fresh and good. The rest, meh.


The Restaurant, Ft. Bragg, CA

The Restaurant, Ft. Bragg, CA

From the interior, "the rest of the world"

From the interior, “the rest of the world”

July 17, 2013 – Anniversary dinner at the Applewood Inn

Our dinner at the Applewood Inn turns out to be very good food-wise. We order the five course tasting menu with wine pairings. We arrive a few minutes early for our 7:30 reservation. The place is packed! Since most of the people appear to be our age or older we wonder whether they were offering an Early Bird Special. We stand around for quite a while waiting for someone to acknowledge our presence. Finally the hostess comes and tells us that our table is not ready and to wait in the bar for 10 minutes or so.

Okay, we go to the bar and sit down. We are the only ones at the bar. And by only I mean there is no bartender in sight either. We sit there for a while and finally someone comes to get something for someone in the dining room. As he leaves, I ask him if he can help us. Oh, sure he will help us. We get a glass of wine each. Soon our table is ready and we are looking forward to our food adventure.

Our waiter is the guy from the bar who also seems to be the sommelier. The waitstaff seems a little overwhelmed by the crush of people. We flag someone down to bring bread. The first part of our meal which is cold is very prompt. The wine pairings are good. (I’ll comment on the food in the pictures’ captions.) The things that need cooking are much slower. The wine gets poured for the dish and then we wait and wait. We eat our bread. We ask for more. They bring out two heels and a sliver. We ask our waiter/bartender/sommelier to get us some real bread. They’ve run out of bread! The heels they gave us were all they had left. So as I said the food was very good but the service was frantic and piecemeal.

"Happy Anniversary, Mary " (CLINK!)

“Happy Anniversary, Mary ” (CLINK!)


"Happy Anniversary, John!"

“Happy Anniversary, John!”


First course - Pea soup with mint and parmesan  I am actually eating the dreaded pea soup and enjoying it. Maybe the best course of the evening.

First course – Pea soup with mint and parmesan
I am actually eating the dreaded pea soup and enjoying it. Maybe the best course of the evening.


Second course - oven roasted beet salad with goat cheese, pistachios and kumquats in a hibiscus reduction Very good although the beets were a bit mushy

Second course – oven roasted beet salad with goat cheese, pistachios and kumquats in a hibiscus reduction
Very good although the beets were a bit mushy


John assiduously taking notes

John assiduously taking notes


Third course - scallop with uni and Yukon gold mashed potatoes Very yummy except potatoes were a little cold

Third course – scallop with uni and Yukon gold mashed potatoes
Very yummy except potatoes were a little cold


Fourth course - lamb chop with sherry grilled chorizo, grilled wax beans and mint chimichurri Very good. John loved the beans.  I did not.

Fourth course – lamb chop with sherry grilled chorizo, grilled wax beans and mint chimichurri
Very good. John loved the beans. I did not.


Fifth course- dessert, either cheese or sweets. We got one of each. This is the cheese plate

Fifth course- dessert, either cheese or sweets. We got one of each.
This is the cheese plate


This is the sweet plate. By sharing we were able to cut some of the sweetness. We also got candles for our anniversary.

This is the sweet plate. By sharing we were able to cut some of the sweetness. We also got candles for our anniversary.

July 17, 2013 – Happy 41st Anniversary to us!

Yay, today is our anniversary. Forty-one years. Wow, does time fly. Such important milestones must always be celebrated with a special day or group of days and, of course, a festive dinner. For our anniversary we are headed up to Guerneville to the Applewood Inn and restaurant. We plan on tasting some wine along the way and having a picnic lunch. Tonight we will have our festive dinner at the Applewood Inn Restaurant, a Michelin one star.

We reach the Graton Ridge Winery around 12:30 and settle into their picnic grounds. We are prepared with our picnic pack and delicious lunch.

John spreads out the tablecloth for our picnic

John spreads out the tablecloth for our picnic

The picnic area is nice. It has picnic tables and Adirondack chairs as well as a bocce ball court.

Graton Ridge Winery bocce ball court

Graton Ridge Winery bocce ball court

Nearby grapes are growing.

Baby grapes

Baby grapes

We also have a great companion, Bella the dog. Bella is very adept at catching a ball in her mouth while flying through the air. Although we are not great dog fans, we have a good time tossing the ball to Bella who dutifully returns it to us for another throw.

Bella catches her ball

Bella catches her ball

In the bright sunlight of a beautiful afternoon with Bella as our companion, we have lunch.

Our picnic lunch

Our picnic lunch

After lunch we mosey into the tasting room and try their wines. We buy a zinfindel and a pinot noir as well as an apple cordial.

John at the tasting bar of Graton Ridge Winery

John at the tasting bar of Graton Ridge Winery

It is still too early to head up to Applewood Inn so we stop at Russian River Vineyards. We do a little more tasting and buying. Now it is time to head on to the Inn.

The Applewood Inn is very pretty, set in orchards and with towering coastal redwoods as a backdrop. We are given a glass of champagne and shown to our room which is lovely. The sheets on the Temperpedic bed are great. We check the tag and they are made by Frette. I think I’ll get some until I check the prices online, almost $2000 for a king set!!! The rest of the day until dinner is used relaxing and getting ready for our big dinner. (Separate post for dinner.)

Applewood Inn courtyard as seen from our balcony

Applewood Inn courtyard as seen from our balcony


Applewood Inn with coastal redwoods in background

Applewood Inn with coastal redwoods in background


Our room is named Michelangelo

Our room is named Michelangelo

July 6, 2013 – Happy Sixth of July!

Today the family gets together for a Fourth of July celebration on the sixth. I have some new Lego sets for Nathan and Sam which are a big hit. Nathan puts his Star Wars set together very industriously.

Nathan reads the directions and carefully starts crafting his Star Wars ship

Nathan reads the directions and carefully starts crafting his Star Wars ship


More studying of the starship's plan

More studying of the starship’s plan


It's coming along very nicely!

It’s coming along very nicely!

Needless to say Nathan completes his Legos task quite quickly and goes off in search of something else to do. In the meantime, Jon, Ryan and I work with Sam on his gas station. Sam is not as adept as his older brother handling the little pieces. But he is happy with his results even if he merely improvises.

Jon and Beeba help Sam with his Legos

Jon and Beeba help Sam with his Legos


Mom and Sam play Legos

Mom and Sam play Legos

During the day we spend time in the pool and decorate our own flags. My flag is from Beeblandia and Nathan designs one from his country, U.S.S. We also make tissue flowers in red, white and blue. John grills some flank steak and we dine outside.

It is a fun and exhausting day for everyone.

June 26, 2013 – Napa adventure with Cathy and Brad Ritch

One of the really nice things that occurred on our trip to China was meeting Cathy and Brad, fellow travelers and wine fans. We decide that once the trip is over that we will get together since they live only about an hour away and close to Napa Valley. They follow through and invite us up to their place for a day of wine tasting. And what a day it is!

After meeting at their lovely home, we go to Pine Ridge Winery for a picnic. Brad procures a very nice Chenin Blanc and we dine on various deli delights accompanied by the tasty white wine. After lunch we head to the Del Dotto Winery. It is a tasting experience like no other we’ve had.

Del Dotto Winery

Del Dotto Winery

The winery interior is based on a conglomeration of Venetian palaces – marble and mosaic floors, epic sized wall paintings, crystal chandeliers. From the main tasting room we are ushered into the wine cellar where we will taste the wine from the barrels.

Cathy and Brad with us at Del Dotto Winery

Cathy and Brad with us at Del Dotto Winery

Wine cellar

Wine cellar

Since Brad is a member of their wine club, we get a VIP tour. We get to taste A LOT! We also learn about the barrels and how they affect the wine and compare French Oak to American Oak. The wine is really fine.

Brad talks to  our guide while John does side by side tastings

Brad talks to our guide while John does side by side tastings

John and I buy four bottles which won’t even be bottled until 2014. But we’ve tasted it from the barrel and it is definitely worth the wait! Our tasting ends with pieces of panini and charcuterie selections. It has been a unique experience.

Later we stop back at Pine Ridge for a tasting and to pick up a few bottles that we can actually take with us.

The fun continues with dinner at the Green Valley Country Club where Cathy and Brad are members. The clubhouse is beautiful and the food is very good. After an overnight at their place and breakfast back at the club, it is time to leave. We have had a wonderful time and look forward to having them down to our house and Livermore Wine Country. It won’t be the same fabulous wines but we hope to reciprocate with another really fun experience.

Cathy and Brad

Cathy and Brad


Mary and John

Mary and John