Day One SF Pizza Tour

Doc had an itch to find the best pizza in San Francisco……well there are over 200 pizza places, so the best one after extensive research and narrowing it down to 11 pizza places. You will have to check out his blog to find out what his criteria was, I was just along for the ride and the pies!
First stop was the all famous, according to Doc, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. It was packed for 3pm, but we found two seats at the bar. I loved this place. They had quite an intriguing drink list, I had “the savage” made with vodka and blueberries among other ingredients. It was so delicious! We got a pie to share, the basic Margarita pizza. It was very simple yet flavorful. The basil and dollops of mozzarella were obviously fresh. The crust was thin appeared wood fired and slightly chewy (in a good way). The staff were fast and friendly. This place was packed for a reason…..it’s a must go!
Second stop Golden Boy. More like gross boy! After we stopped here I had to ask Doc “seriously, we went from Tony’s to that!?” Again I’m not sure what criteria Doc was using but he should have thrown this place out the window. It’s a small shop, headbanger music blasting with slices in the window. I could tell just by looking at them that it wouldn’t be good. Deep dish crust, which I like, but it tasted old not fresh at all. To sum it up the pizza reminded me of when we were kids and my parents would buy us those single frozen think crust pizzas that you heat up in the microwave and thought were so delicious cause you were like 5 and didn’t know any better. The one highlight they had a decent beer list on tap.
Next up: Pizzetta 211…..very good. They had a smaller interesting pizza list with wine and beer only. All of their pizzas were unique with a wide variety of flavors. We chose a two cheese pizza with rosemary and pine nuts. It was tasty. I love rosemary so if you do too it’s a good choice. Very thin crust and crunchy. I had a small glass of rosé with it which was a good pairing. They also had some delicious sounding salads that I would get if I went back. Very hipster feel environment, small small cooking area. It’s the kind of place that gets packed with a line around the corner.
After that we took a little break because my belly was about to burst. Several hours later we ventured out again! Doc wanted to hit TWO more places but I had to say no. My taste buds were almost pizza-ed out! Last stop was Little Star Pizza. They had thin or Chicago style pizzas to offer. Also a good variety of draft beers. We got their Mediterranean salad, which was nothing special but at that point I needed some greens so it was good. I ordered a thin crust garlic, tomato, zucchini pizza that didn’t have any red sauce. Doc got a Chicago style combo pizza. I enjoyed mine. It had lots of garlic flavor and the veggies stayed slightly crunchy not floppy and flavorless like some veggie pizzas. The Chicago style pizza was not that great. It tasted and had the texture of cornbread with a pasta sauce thrown on top after it was cooked. Not impressed with it at all. I have had, what I think, is authentic style Chicago pizza and love it and this pizza was not at all like it.
Overall my favorite was Tony’s Napoletana. The flavor of the pizza, the drinks and the staff were all excellent. I did think to myself could it be due to pizza taste bud fatigue? But I really don’t think so because I really enjoyed out last stop and the pizza I had ordered which is a close second. So I can say without a doubt Tony’s was the best!

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Paso….the good, the bad, the ugly

Well the fan 4 ventured out for our annual Paso Robles trip. This years theme day 1 old favorites day 2 all new wineries. As you know all of our different personalities by now I will not spend much time on each sip of wine I had and the detailed tasting notes. I’m here to speak to which ones were great, fun and interesting and which ones sucked (to put it bluntly). Of course these are only all of our opinions I leave it up to you to decide for yourselves.
Day 1- of course it was amazing! Hello! They are all of our favorites and must try places! The usual suspects Terry Hoage, Kukkula, and Hearthstone. This trip I enjoyed all three very much but Kukkula was actually my favorite. This is unusual because Terry Hoage always takes the cake when we visit, don’t get me wrong it was delicious per usual but Kukkula is really doing some fantastic things with their estate wines. My favorite at Kukkula was the 2008 and 2011 Sisu. It’s just so rich and smooth drink alone or could pair with food.
My must take away from Hearthstone was their 2012 Pearl a white blend (60% Roussanne, 40% Viognier) and 100% amazing! The creaminess and apricot accents of a good Viognier with just a little extra flavor from the Roussanne. Terry Hoage must take home was the 2011 5 Blocks this is always a favorite of mine regardless of the vintage.
As we were driving back into town Brax and Doc wanted to check out Whalebone. The server was funny and more pleasant then the wine I’ll say. I wasn’t a fan of their “Bob Wine” they did have a blend that was drinkable called Boneyard. I wouldn’t go back to this place. Doc like their Bob Wine and is convinced he is going to pull a fast one on me one night and thinks ill love it in a blind tasting. We shall see I say!
We decided to keep with our tradition of cheese and bread with pizza for dinner. We stopped at Pithy Little Wine Co. It was the only shop that had cheese and was open after 5pm. Well we were robbed I tell ya! 65$ for three cheeses, a buffalo salami and a small loaf of bread. We were silly enough to purchase instead of going to Trader Joes up the freeway (to our credit we didn’t realize there was one in Paso, nor did we check). The purchases were good but again 65$ was ridiculous.
Day 2- I’ll keep this short. The good: Jada. The bad-Robert Hall, Vino Robles, Mitchella, Denner. The ugly- (this pains me to say this because of course it was MY pick!) Arroyo Robles.
Jada was good. Ari was our tasting guide. He was great and very much so added to the positive experience. They are doing interesting things with their wines. They are using the Tannat grape for blending and a new process of using cement instead of barrels to age the wine. Whatever they are doing it’s working. My favorite was their 2012 XCV unfiltered White Rhone Blend. They are ones to keep an eye on and a must visit. Not in the same category as Kukkula or Terry but I can see them doing some great things.
The bad-well they were placed in this category for various reasons. Robert Hall is big production and we all knew this going in but Hill had heard good things and we were thinking we could taste and get things that were small production that maybe you can only get at the winery. I didn’t really like anything all that much, it all seemed to tart. Christina was our host and she was really great. She gave us a tour and was very knowledgable.
Mitchella- I remember tasting some of their wine and thinking it’s ok but I was distracted by the server who was far more friendly and interested in the wine clubs members that were there tasting. If this is how they treat their visitors I don’t see how they will get any additional members. She spent enough time to pour literally a sip of wine and would walk back over to entertain this couple who obviously were members. Maybe if she had been more attentive I would not have been so turned off and liked the wine better. The thing is even if the wine is amazing it’s all part of the experience the adds to the taste….in most cases because if the wine is take your shirt off amazing and the people suck I may still like the wine the opposite is true that if the wine is so horrible you can’t even stomach it but the server is fabulous it doesn’t mean the wine will be any better. In this case the wine was ok but the experience turned it into mediocre.
Vino Robles- Let me say the tasting room is very pretty. They have a huge fire place and beautiful wood furnishings. Bob was our tasting host. He was nice but once some guy who wrote a wine book came in and introduced himself we were put to the side. He forgot about us a little but was still nice and he was apologetic for making us wait. The wine was again ok. It was not worth the price. They were priced in the 40$ range not super expensive but not worth it. Nothing was God awful but nothing was knock your socks off either. I could have done without.
Denner- Denner is simply placed in this category because of price and the snobby Napa feel it gives off. The wine was actually pretty tasty. Bold with lots of flavor. I enjoyed all of them but my favorites were the 2011 Dirt Worshipper and 2010 Mother of Exiles. You have to make an appointment to go taste, you get a code and enter via a big steel gate. All the wines are expensive and priced in the 60$ range. They just give off the Napa attitude and while, yes I admit the wine is good, it’s not good enough for the snobby attitude you get when you are there.
Ok the last category-the ugly! Again this is so painful for me because due to my competitive nature I for sure thought (secretly to myself of course) my pick is going to be the highlight of the trip and a new favorite. Well I was so so so wrong. As I stated in my last blog I picked Arroyo Robles for their variety and the bubbly. They had interesting things such as an Albariño, Tempranillo and an almond sparkling. Well all I can say is that after the first few pours it was so bad that I had to ask the guy if these bottles had been opened for a while. I seriously was not intending for it to come out wrong but I just thought these have to be spoiled. But when he replied I just opened them yesterday and then opened a new bottle right in front of us and had us taste I knew that it was just the way the wine tasted. They all just tasted like they were open for way to long. The crazy thing is red or white they all had that distinct flavor to them. The bubbly was not bad at all, and after I had made the comment about the wine being open to long I bought two bottles of the sparkling because I felt so terrible! Definitely a skip.
Dinner was at Buena Tavola. Pretty decent Italian food. Not sure if I would go back on our next trip but it was good. We all pretty much had pasta. It was not store bought that’s for sure but nothing was exceptional.
So that’s the good the bad and ugly short of it all!

Off to Paso!

We are on our way for our annual trip to our favorite place….Paso Robles! Today we are going to head to our most loved wineries Terry Hoage, Kukkula, and Hearthstone. Tomorrow we decided to try all new places. One winery picked by each of us. My pick is Arroyo Robles. I picked it because it has two sparklings and a decent variety but not too many where you wonder if they are picky with what they make or just putting everything out there that they can and hoping for a hit. We also are going to try a new restaurant for dinner to keep the theme going. Hopefully we will find new gems and new favorites to post about!

Arcadia Restaurant San Jose

Doc, my dad and I were invited to revisit this restaurant after a not so great experience we had last June. The way things got started was by a review I had written on Yelp that was not very favorable to the restaurant. As you know I don’t sugar coat things and that review was no different from any other. The senior manager of food and beverage operations for the restaurant Kevin Clark read my review and wanted me to come back and try it again. He was very gracious and responsive that when I wrote him back we were able to set up a time for dinner with my dad and Doc. Here is a little info on the place to set the stage. It is a steakhouse in the Marriott hotel downtown San Jose. It has a chic upscale vibe to it with low romantic lighting and an open feel to it. My prior visit was a late lunch date that ended up leaving us with the feeling of poor service and bad food. This most recent visit was extremely different. We were seated and introduced to our waiter Charles right away, who was very attentive and friendly. I was impressed with the wide selection of California wines and very happy with the drink menu. Doc and I shared the Bourbon Bramble which was made with fresh fruit and was very tasty. Shortly after being seated Kevin came and met with us. He was great! Extremely knowledgable, funny and makes you feel very comfortable. He started us off with Iron Horse 2008 sparkling. Doc liked it, and while it was good not really something I would order. A little too yeasty for my taste. Kevin then sent over two appetizers made special for us. A puff pastry with Brie over a balsamic reduction and mini gruyere grilled cheese sandwiches with a tomato soup fondu. The puff pasty was flaky and delightful while the Brie was not warm enough and the reduction was way to overpowering. The fondu was better but lacked a little zest if you will. Nothing special as my dad put it. Next we had salads. I got my favorite type of salad beets with cheese. This particular salad was made with a huge hunk of burrata in the middle. The beets were soft, fresh and flavorful while again the overall salad was lacking something. The giant cheese ball paired well with the beets but was a little too much. The main course was steak for all of us….after all it is a steakhouse (at least that’s what Doc commented when I wanted to order the lobster pot pie!) I had the filet with chimichurri sauce. The meat was of top quality and prepared nicely. The sauce was oily and again lacking. Doc makes an excellent chimichurri sauce that always knocks my socks off so maybe I was expecting a little to much. As my dad put it “not crazy about the sauces but the meat is very good”.
During our meal the service was excellent and it was not just us that I noticed the great service being extended to. I watched Kevin walk around paying very close attention to everyone. He would strike up conversations with other tables and be in the kitchen overseeing the food as well. He was very detail oriented and it showed in his service that he provided. He thoughtfully sent over dessert for us to try after dinner. Carrot cake and a chocolate peanut butter cake that were both beautifully prepared and served but my favorite were the cinnamon sugar beignets with a caramel cream dipping sauce. Ohhhh yum. They were so delicious I wanted to take some home. Served hot out of the oven. Even better than I remembered from the French Quarter!
Overall the food is good. I would like to see a little more creativity and flavor but the basics like the meat are very good. Service was excellent. Maybe the day we went for lunch was a fluke because this was a completely different food and service experience.

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Napa Explored

Hill and I took a trip to Napa with some good friends for a little one nighter getaway. First stop, always a must Patz & Hall. We had our usual sit down with three chards and three pinots. My favorite was the Burnside Pinot. Earthy, mineral-ly with a cherry cola finish.
Second stop and I must admit the most disappointing was Far Niente Winery. Craig our host was friendly, knowledgable and funny. Although we had a pleasant experience, the wine was a let down. I mean hello 150$ for a bottle of wine that really should be around 80$ at the most. They are living off of their name rather than living up to it. The winery itself was beautiful with gorgeous views. We did taste the Dolce and it was good but not for 85$. Paso Ports makes way better dessert wine. Happy that we stopped by but won’t be back.
We ended our day at Mumm. Who doesn’t love a sparkling wine at the end of the day? Nothing out of this world but did the trick. My fav was the Cuvée M slightly sweet with a refreshing taste.
The plan was to stop by Trespass on the way home. Boy am I glad we did. The owner Donny was such a delight. Down to earth and funny. I felt like I was in Paso instead of Napa because he did not have the Napa arrogance…..but he did have some great wine. He does all reds mostly cabs and great blends. My favorite was his 2009 Cab. Very complex and so good you could drink it all by itself or pair it with a nice juicy steak to create a memorable dinner.
On a whim we stopped at Paraduxx Winery. Travis helped us with our tasting. My favorite was their “GSM” more like SMG as Travis put it. So tasty with chocolate covered cherry flavors on the finish. Smooth, light and beautiful in color and taste.
Overall a great time exploring with new found favorites and one big disappointment. Oh well it can’t always be perfect and I guess I’m not too sad because if Far Niente was all that and a bag of chips I would be broke :) I guess it’s all in how you look at it.