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Bay Area between the Holidays

After Thanksgiving in Philadelphia, we headed back to San Francisco for a couple weeks. I got home the night of Tuesday, November 28th and flew out again on the morning of Wednesday, December 13th. We made good use of our time though.

The first weekend I was home I made my way over to Jeffrey’s Toys on Kearny. This shop has a story. The store that is now Jeffrey’s Toys was founded in 1938 as Birdies Variety, then Birdie’s Toy House after WWII. In 1966 a new couple took over the store and gave it the name we know today. When I moved to San Francisco it was where I went to buy comics, but sadly in 2015 they closed their Market Street location due to increases on their lease (the storefront they moved out of is still empty). It wasn’t the end of the story though! They moved their shop to Berkeley, which I never visited. The location was far from BART, and I started shopping at a couple comic book stores in Berkeley that I could just take BART to. Thankfully they got the opportunity this year to come back to San Francisco. They opened their store on Kearny, barely a block from their Market Street location, in October. My visit in December was my first time back, and I was so happy to visit. They had all the comics I needed in stock and I was happy to see that the store was having a bustling Saturday afternoon.

Sunday was spent making our way down the east bay to Castro Valley where we enjoyed some Rita’s waterice (an east coast original like us, now in California!) and worked on a secret mission. Then up to Berkeley for dinner at our favorite BBQ place.

Later in the week I got to meet up with a couple friends, one of whom was visiting from Philadelphia and wanted a proper burrito. A couple of us now-locals met up with him at Ferry Building and headed over to Taqueria Cancun in the Mission. Yum. We also quickly discovered as we went looking for beer that it was holiday party season, the first two breweries we stopped at were closed for private parties, but the third time was the charm!

Our final weekend in the area for the year was spent in wine country. We’re members of a winery in Napa and one in Sonoma. Usually we do casual day trips up to each when it’s time to pick up wines, but we had a couple shipments to pick up this time since so much was closed during the wildfires earlier in the season, so we decided to spend the night up in Napa.

The first stop on Saturday was lunch at our beloved Bouchon Bistro. We had a few minutes before our reservation, so we swung by their popular bakery first to pick up some snacks for the evening. Lunch itself was spectacular as usual. We enjoyed a caviar appetizer, which I had last time and have since had dreams about. The real secret to dining here though is finding the pasta entree that includes the generous portion of freshly shaved truffles on top. The truffles come out in a fancy box and are shaved tableside. This time it was a ravioli and vegetable dish, appropriately drowned in butter and then topped with the truffles. So good. I dream of these truffle dishes too. Lunch wrapped up with a stroll through V Marketplace across the street.

Hagafen Cellars was the first winery on our list. They make Kosher wines that we can use to celebrate holidays and also enjoy over Passover. Sadly, they suffered some damage during the wildfires. They lost some equipment, a building, and their chickens perished, but the cat was rescued and the tasting room and main building escaped damage.

Our next and final stop for the day was Rutherford Hill Winery where we are members. We enjoyed a lovely tasting next to some little gas fire pits they had around the members area. We picked up our shipment and also availed ourselves of a deal they had on six of their early 2000s Merlots and blends, which we also got to sample.

Things wind down in Napa winery-wise around 5PM, so it was time to check into the Harvest Inn where we’d be spending the night. We’d been there before and had dined at the restaurant, so we went looking for something a bit different, ending up with a late dinner at Farmstead down the street.

Our room had a view of the vineyards, which we finally got to see as we enjoyed a leisurely morning.

The next pair of wineries were in Sonoma valley, so we took a drive through the Enchanted Hills. It’s quite a drive. Lots of crazy turns and hills throughout. It was also here where we saw a lot more fire damage, these hills really took a hit. Still, forests are resilient and in most spaces you look past the healthy surviving trees to see the burnt stumps of those less fortunate.

We survived the hill drive, even if I felt a little queasy and made our first stop, at Imagery Winery to do some tasting and pick up our shipment of wines. We may have picked up a couple extra bottles too.

On our way to our final stop we picked up lunch in Glen Ellen and enjoyed a picnic at Benziger Family Winery. We hadn’t planned on buying any more wine, but upon arrival we learned that they had done another run of their Gewürztraminer. It’s so good, we bought three bottles. As an additional treat, our host in the tasting room used to work for BART doing some of their communications work for the trains and he had some great stories.

We then departed home before we bought any more wine! Once back in San Francisco we stopped for a quick sushi dinner before heading home.

It was back to work on Monday and Tuesday. Our time in San Francisco concluded by celebrating the first night of Hanukkah on Tuesday evening.

Tuesday night MJ led the way on our journey back to Philadelphia. He took an overnight flight out, and my flight was the next morning, with Caligula!

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