Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas in the City

So the week prior to Christmas, Big Bad came down to my new office location to tell me exactly how much I suck as an attorney during my annual evaluation. He even wrote an oh-so-lovely page expressing his true feelings about me. Despite his scathing comments, I still received my final raise and final step approval. All things considered it was a little Christmas miracle. But miracles aside, I was so.very.happy to have a week off for our holiday trip to San Francisco.

Driving conditions were good and we had a beautiful drive through the Grapevine. As you can tell in my previous post, we made a short stop to play in the snow.

Our first destination was actually Napa in order to visit Eddie's sister and her husband. J&W recently got a puppy, Riley, and were also dogsitting another dog, Yorkie. With each other to play with, Jack and Riley were in heaven. Yorkie decided the youngsters were too wild and crazy and hid out under the table.

Sunday night we had dinner at Elements. There is a wall of wine in the restaurant, held in place by a series of open racks. Why am I mentioning this? Because I unknowingly brushed against a bottle and knocked it clear off the wall. It was just mere luck that I didn't cause a chain reaction and take out the entire bottom row of wine. So embarrassing. I didn't take pictures of our food, but if you ever check it out you must try the tuna carpaccio with nicoise garnishes, either the black cod or the salmon and the semolina cake with meyer lemon mascarpone. And is you are a Pinkberry fan you will love the apple tart with greek yogurt sorbet.

The next day W suggested that we take a tour of the Castello di Amarosa winery. It was a great tour for both wine drinkers (such as me and W) and non-wine drinkers (Eddie). Built by Dario Sattui of V. Sattui fame, the winery is modeled after an old European castle. Many of the materials were imported from Italy and Austria, with some of the bricks having been used in other castles. There was even a replica of a dungeon with all sorts of cool torture implements. Here is the dining hall.

Much of the castle is used for wine storage and aging. Overall, I preferred the Castello wines over the V. Sattui wines. There were a few misses, such as the merlot, but I walked out with three bottles (dry gewurtztraminer, chardonnay and the blended red "Il Brigante"). Even though there are over 100 rooms and several events are hosted throughout the year, the winery has no plans for on-site lodging.
My battery started dying on the tour and during the tasting, so I made sure to save my last shot for the exterior of the winery.

Monday afternoon we drove to my family's home in San Francisco and spent some quality time with my folks. The next afternoon I met up with some of my old PCX friends for lunch. I should have been at home resting since I had (and still have) the most miserable cold ever, but it had been way too long since I had seen my friends. We went to a casual sandwich and salad shop in the FiDi.

The food was quite good. But I completely forgot to take pictures since the three of us started gabbing right away and never stopped until we parted ways. I miss these flower named girls.

After lunch I set out for an annual holiday tradition. Along the way I caught glimpses of some SF landmarks. This is what I used to see every morning walking out of the BART station.

I took this picture to prove a point for tourists. You do not need to stand in the middle of the intersection in order to take a picture of the Chinatown gate. Repeat: do not stand in the middle of a busy downtown intersection for pictures.

Finally I reached my destination. For every year as long as I can remember, I have gone to Union Square to see the Christmas tree, the windows at Macy's and the ginormous tree at Neiman-Marcus.

When I was a kid, the windows at Macy's had the most elaborate displays. In recent years they have downscaled the decor for a very good cause. Partnering with the SF SPCA, the store now features adoptable shelter animals in its windows. There is always SPCA staff on hand inside to take care of all the animals' needs, as well as staff outside to collect donations for the no-kill organization. The doggie and kitty condos are all well decorated and stocked with toys and other comforts.

You can see Neiman's tree through the windows. The base is on the first floor and the tree goes up all the way to the glass topped Rotunda.

As much fun as I had on Tuesday, I paid the price for it that night. My cold got a lot worse. Blech. But I just reminded myself that being sick on vacation was still TONS better than being at work.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were fairly low key. Most of the time was spent with family, old family friends or curled up on the sofa. I needed to conserve my limited energy for Friday. In what has become a holiday tradition for me and Claire, we went to the Embarcadero Center for a little ice skating.
The rink is set up from November through January. I love skating outdoors.

The rink was crowded, the ice was bad and it was too early for the Bay Bridge and Embarcadero Tower lights to come on, but can one really complain about this? Winter in California rocks.

After skating we walked across to the Ferry Building & Marketplace. We picked up a gingerbread cupcake to share from Miette and stopped by Peet's for a cup of coffee. As we enjoyed our goodies at one of the communal tables in the building, we were highly entertained by the 50-ish woman at our table who was trying to pick up on a 60-ish married man. Her M.O. was to offer him her cookies. I kid you not.

By the time we finished our coffee it was time to meet FogCityDweller for our annual BFF holiday dinner. A few years ago we decided that spending time with each other over a good meal would be better than gift we could exchange with each other. This year we went to Beretta, a new restaurant that has taken over the location of one of our old favorites. RIP Last Supper Club. :-(

The restaurant was actually bustling, but we were the first party of the evening to be seated in the downstairs dining room.
Beretta has a creative cocktail list. On the left is FogCityDweller's Spiced Sazerac with spice infused apple brandy, sugar and orange bitters. On the right is my Acadian with rye, sloe gin, lemon, honey, absinthe and rosemary.

The antipasti dishes are definitely meant to be shared by no more than two people. Tiny but tasty. It's a good thing the three of us share so well. We started off with the meatballs in spicy tomato sauce. We also had zucchini parmigiana but I spaced out on taking a photo of it.

We shared the saffron risotto with osso buco. Delish. This was my favorite dish of the evening.

We ordered the spicy italian sausage pizza. The sausage was definitely spicy and the pizza tasted good, but Mozza's definitely has the edge.

We also ordered the mushroom and fontina pizza. This was a bland, boring disappointment.

Even more disappointing was the dessert menu. There wasn't a single thing that sounded appealing to any of us. And we love our sweets! Most of the offerings featured gelato or sorbetti which seemed so out of place for the season. Did not compute.

The remainder of the weekend flew by, filled with visits to more family friends. Eddie received a rapid introduction into the world of Indian hospitality. We had to have chai and snacks at every house we went to. Saying "no thank you" is simply not allowed. I was a bad wife and forgot to (a) forewarn him and (b) explain how to pace oneself for chai madness.

I could have easily spent another week in SF. There never seems to be enough time to see all the people I would like to see or to do some the activities I can only do in the City.

A final bit of SF randomness on our way out of town. Get it? :-)

Monday, December 29, 2008


Must blog about last week and my visit to SF, but in the meantime (since I'm a lazy blogger and all) enjoy these:

Jack trying to snatch a snowball away from me.

Jack posing in the snow.
Jack with his cousin Riley, a Portugese pointer.

Riley the puppy (and already three times the size of Jack) trying to cram into Jack's bed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Peace, Joy & Love to All

Kick up your heels and enjoy the day ..... merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Week in Pictures

Disclaimer: Bad photos ahead. I was too tired or too buzzed while taking most of them. Or in a moving car while tired and buzzed. Don't worry, I wasn't driving. Well, except for the last 2 pictures. But I wasn't tired or buzzed then I swear!

Last Friday we gathered with our neighbors at Fleming's Steakhouse to celebrate some very important birthdays. While we were waiting for our table we amused ourselves by taking pictures while wacthing the antics of a man who claimed to be Mr. Jack Ass at the hostess desk. Poor hostess. Jackass even asked her how far along she was. Um, she wasn't pregnant. :-/
Black napkins for the ladies in LBDs. White napkins for everyone else.

Eddie received a hilarious and appropriate gift.

Pretty ladies and ...... their pretty martinis.

This is SC Fabulous recreating her shunning of our waitress, who seemed to have issues with SC Fabulous.
Lobster tempura appetizer. Worth the $25.

Fleming's has a massive wine list. I always try to choose something I've never had before. On this trip I had Educated Guess cabernet sauvignon. On the left you can see the chocolate dipped peppermint sticks KB Squared made for us.

I had the chef's special for the evening: two 4 oz. filet mignons with seared scallops, seafood risotto and fried goat cheese. In the background you can see the famous Fleming's potatoes: a gratin baked with cream, jalapenos and cheddar cheese. Yum.
Birthday girl B with the creme brulee.

Birthday boy Eddie with the Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich: chocolate cookie crust, peanut butter mousse and a touch of raspberry jam. To.die.for.

Group shot ... we closed the place down!
The next night we got dolled up for a holiday party thrown by a local defense firm. Clearly we need to work on our Facebook-style self portraits. There weren't any wild shenanigans at the party despite the free flowing alcohol and mock casino tables. A good time was had by all.

The birthday bash for Eddie continued on Sunday. We woke up bright and early (for a weekend at least) to get a walk-in table for brunch at the Mission Inn. The Sunday brunch here is fantastic. Definitely make reservations in advance if you're inclined to check it out.

The grounds are all decked out for the holidays.

I loved the look of this mantel. I am totally copying this look sometime in the future.
Me with the oppressed snowman. He was bound down with wire around his neck and feet. Poor Frosty.
Busy elves.
We sweated off all those calories at brunch by hitting the steam room at Kelly's Spa, followed by an 80 minute massage in one of the spa villas, followed by more time in the steam room and lots of herbal tea in the relaxation lounge.

Thursday night we drove out to a neighborhood in our city renowned for its holiday light displays. Despite it being somewhat late and a weekenight, there was still a lengthy wait to enter the main street. Jack's face sums it up.
We tried to pass a little time by making Jack drive. He wasn't going for it.
Finally. Lights!

This one reminded me of a gingerbread house.
Even Jack perked up when he saw the lights.

Ice skaters!

Disney was well represented too.

The newbies explained themselves.

I hate driving in the rain, but I appreciate the drive after storm clears out. I love the juxtaposition of palm trees, snow capped mountains and a bright blue sky.