Sonoma Summer

Summer is a wonderful time in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. The days are long and the nights warm, the river languid and inviting.

Relaxing on the river

Relaxing on the river

We typically spend time in the late fall at my mom’s house near the river — hunting mushrooms, sitting by fires and exchanging early Christmas gifts. But when my mom and her partner, Bruce, asked me to come cook for an event at our family winery, I saw the perfect opportunity to extend a one-day event into a nine-day family vacation!

We began the trip with the dazzling journey up I-395 through the Sierra Nevada toward our destination — Lake Tahoe. En route, we stopped at the Bodie State Historical Park, a Gold Rush-era ghost town on a high plain complete with saloons, churches and schools, a firehouse and a mortuary. It was one of the most hauntingly beautiful places I’d ever been, beds and dressers and whisky bottles and barstools still visible through the windows.

A hotel in Bodie

A hotel in Bodie

Our three days in Nevada at Lake Tahoe involved burgers and beaches, gin tonics and margaritas and lazy time around the home of our friends, before we made the four-hour journey across the state of California, from the eastern border to the western sea.

The family winery, Wine Guerrilla, is part of a winery association called Route 116 — the road on which the 11 wineries are located, also known as the Gravenstein Highway for the iconic apple trees that line the route. The particular event is called Grill 116 — a “wine and grilling competition.” Each winery is given a certain number of tickets which they can sell to members of their wine club or, at a premium, to the general public. The event was on a Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Bruce asked if I would make my “famous” grilled tri-tip sandwiches with aioli.

Tri tips on the grill at Wine Guerrilla

Tri tip on the grill at Wine Guerrilla

I set up on the sunlit back patio and began grilling at about 10:30, and like clockwork, the first guests arrived in their wine bus at 10:59, and set to immediately ogling my grill. It was time for a glass of wine.

I had the first sandwiches out by 11:20. For those of you not familiar with this particular sandwich, it’s tri tip grilled medium rare, sliced and piled on fresh rolls (in this case from the wonderful Nightingale Breads across the street from the tasting room), slathered with garlicky homemade aioli and topped with arugula. Some folks with aversion to bread or perhaps a deep appreciation for grilled meat sopped with jus right off the cutting board hung around as the tips came off and humbly asked for a taste.

Wine Guerrillas Andrea (my mom) and Bruce

Wine Guerrillas Andrea (my mom) and Bruce

“Are these your famous tri tip sandwiches?” several wine-happy patrons asked as they emerged from the tasting room, and I wondered how a designation I had bestowed upon my sandwiches myself had reached the general public.

My mother contributed to the meal with her own “famous” barbecue jalapeño mac & cheese and tasty cole slaw. Toward the end of the day her equally famous cookies appeared, the grilling was done and I relaxed in the tasting room with a glass of wine and signed “Grillin’ with the Wine Guerrilla” cookbooks (which feature my tri tip recipe) and bottles (which feature my artwork on the labels). I guess you could say it was my 15 minutes of fame in Sonoma County.

The sandwiches

The sandwiches

I hadn’t realized until we’d gotten well into the event that it was actually a grilling competition. “You’re my pick for best!” several people winked on their way out, waving their ballots as proof. I looked at the dishes other wineries were serving listed on the ballot, and the only one that really gave me pause for concern was a lamb and mint slider one place was offering. The fig panna cotta sounded interesting — but for a grilling event!? I had ’em licked… And now, we await the results of the voting.

On Sunday, we invited our friends the Schneiders who were camping on the river nearby over to my mom’s for a barbecue. Much more Wine Guerrilla zin was opened while we ate barbecued oysters and baby back ribs and fried local chinook salmon. And the next day, we got out of mom’s hair and left for San Francisco.

Our whole crew eating dumplings at the Imperial Tea Court in the Ferry Building, San Francisco

Our whole crew eating dumplings at the Imperial Tea Court in the Ferry Building, San Francisco

If you are a food lover, a highlight to any visit to San Francisco is a nice long stop at the Ferry Building. In other words, it’s pretty much #1 on my itinerary every time we’re in the city. And my pal Donnie — a food lover among food lovers — had never been there. It would be like introducing a child to a whole box of all new crayon colors!

We first strolled the length of the market, a long colonnade of vendors inside the historic building, taking it all in. And then, we began to eat — charcuterie “cones” at Boccalone, dumplings at the Imperial Tea Court, raw oysters from the San Francisco Fish Company, boules from the Acme Bread Company and cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. The children, bless their little hearts, got stuck by the tantalizing spread of free samples at Stonehouse California olive oil, where despite continue rebukes from their parents they managed to fill up on tiny bread cubes dipped in various flavors of oil. On the way out of the building, we grabbed a few plates from Out the Door, the takeout counter of the venerable San Francisco Vietnamese restaurant, the Slanted Door, and ate at some tables outside with glasses of Lagunitas IPA for the boys and house red for the girls.

Fiddlehead ferns, lobster mushrooms and more at the Ferry Building in San Francsico

Fiddlehead ferns, lobster mushrooms and more at the Ferry Building in San Francsico

There would be no will for walking the Embarcadero back to our hotels near Fisherman’s Wharf, so we hopped a vintage street car appropriately from Los Angeles (I had been hoping for the beautiful Milan car) and rolled north toward a well-earned nap.

Our last day in San Francisco: Our friends had left for home, our attempts to get a spot on the booked-through-July ferries to Alcatraz failed, and we found ourselves at Jack’s Cannery Bar watching the U.S. lose to Belgium in the World Cup, sipping Anchor Steam and eating more oysters. Later that evening, we made it to our favorite easy-with-kids grown up restaurant, Rose Pistola, in North Beach. I texted photos of my Wagyu carpaccio to Donnie who was halfway home to Topanga, and he confessed to considering turning around…

Wagyu carpaccio at Rose Pistola, San Francisco

Wagyu carpaccio at Rose Pistola, San Francisco

Leftover tagliatelle with lamb and fava bean ragu made a tasty lunch the next day on the drive home, threading the endless unchanging farms and grasslands of the San Joaquin Valley, west of the Sierras we’d passed through nine days before, completing our epic California loop.

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15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rachelocal
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 12:14:07

    Looks like fun, but more importantly, delicious!

    Reply

  2. Jessamine in PDX
    Jul 05, 2014 @ 18:25:09

    Oh my god. I love everything about this post and reading it made me so jealous. I have been wanting to visit a good ghost town and take pictures. Bodie looks like the perfect specimen. And then tri tip sandwiches, wine and a stop in San Fran? Sounds like a fantastic trip! Side note: I finally opened my bottle of Wine Guerrilla zin on Thursday night with a friend. It was awesome — thanks again for sending it to me! We plowed right through it (perhaps a little too quickly) as we snacked on burrata, olives and a chunk of Parmesan. It was a good start to a long weekend. =)

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Jul 05, 2014 @ 22:03:27

      Sounds like you need a California vacation next — SF Ferry Building, Wine Guerrilla tasting room in Sonoma, spookiness in Bodie, and then So Cal for pupusas, tri-tip sandwiches, shopping and more Wine Guerrilla. ; ) (Glad you enjoyed the wine, BTW!)

      Reply

  3. desidramalogues.wordpress.com
    Jul 06, 2014 @ 06:09:51

    Wow. All those pictures are making me hungryyy! Totally motivated to get up and cook now!

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Jul 06, 2014 @ 13:41:09

      Then my job is done! 🙂 Head to one of those Tokyo department store basements, buy some fish and get cooking. 😉

      Reply

      • desidramalogues.wordpress.com
        Jul 06, 2014 @ 14:56:06

        haha, experimented with a prawn gratin — not sure if I was very hungry or it was all the cheese, but it turned out pretty good! 😀 Looking forward to more posts! 🙂

      • scolgin
        Jul 06, 2014 @ 16:55:09

        Cheese always makes everything better. 🙂 So you’re an Indian girl living in Tokyo, how interesting… do you make more Indian food? Or do you make Japanese food? Or strictly gratins. 🙂

      • desidramalogues.wordpress.com
        Jul 07, 2014 @ 12:40:35

        Haha the gratin was inspired by you, it’s my definition of fancy! I usually stick to Indian food, its comforting and reminds me of home – also I might be biased but it tastes SO GOOD! Haha my Japanese food knowledge is limited to ramen.. Have you experimented with a lot of Japanese/indian food ? 🙂

      • scolgin
        Jul 07, 2014 @ 14:39:11

        I cook a lot of Japanese food, if you look around on my blog (in the recipes, for example), you’ll see sushi, tempura, ramen and a bunch of other stuff. I’m a little intimidated by Indian food — so many spices! 🙂 We have large Indian communities and a lot of good Indian restaurants in Los Angeles, so I usually just leave the Indian to the experts.

  4. Rituparna
    Jul 09, 2014 @ 13:10:16

    beautifully captured snap

    Reply

  5. emiliamueller
    Jul 10, 2014 @ 00:57:03

    I shouldn’t have read this! I feel hungryyyy! ;)) I love San Francisco….! 🙂

    Reply

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