Tour de Cocktails (San Francisco Trip)

A view from the end of the Golden Gate Bridge looking toward Sausalito.

“I have always been rather better treated in San Francisco than I actually deserved.”

– Mark Twain

Last month, I had the pleasure of joining two friends, Kevin and Jamie, on a journey to San Francisco. Departing from Chicago, we would’ve taken any weather over 40 degrees, but were fortunate to have landed on the first sunny day in weeks. The sunshine continued with us throughout our stay! We were whisked away by friends of friends and treated to the perfect San Francisco weekend.

Saturday, we landed and immediately decided a drink was in order (it was a long flight AND the trip was based around Kevin’s birthday AND it was already 11am!), so we headed to Trou Normand in SoMa. Delicious cocktails, on the pricier side (as if cocktails aren’t always on the pricier side), but worth it.  In the afternoon, we got lunch at the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building, and chose some cheese from Cowgirl Creamery and bread from Acme Bread to snack on. We found a bench on a pier and settled in. We were literally sittin’ on a dock by the bay, wastin’ time, but with cheese :)

Jamie holding a carafe of mimosas at Kitchen Story.

Sunday, we brunched at Kitchen Story in Castro – delicious food! Also, bottomless mimosas 😉 Maybe the food wasn’t good? Did we even eat? Was it really called Kitchen Story? Kidding, it was delightful.

Delores Park in San Francisco.

After brunch, we met some friends and made our way to Dolores Park. The day was beautiful, sunny and clear, everyone was out (gay pun intended). All you need is a nice day, blanket, and bottle of wine and Dolores Park will change your weekend. Obviously we needed a snack after all the relaxing in the sun, and with our pastry queen Jamie by our side, we knew sweet treats weren’t too far away (Tartine Bakery).

Land's End at sunset.

We grabbed a drink at Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant then walked to Lands’ End to see the sunset. Breathtaking. See above. For some reason, perhaps Pinterest, the restaurant flour + water has been ingrained in my mind (also I love Italian food!), so we tried it out for dinner – great food, a little pricey for what we got in my opinion. While waiting for a table, we grabbed a drink at Trick Dog down the street – this place was much more our style with cocktails, appetizers, and unique decor.

Pastry Queen’s Drunk Food Pick: Hot Cookie

Buena Vista Park

Monday, our pastry queen woke up and went out into the big city, risking it all to get us some treats from Mr. Holmes Bakehouse. Yummmmmm. We grabbed some wake up juice from Reveille Coffee and set off for Buena Vista Park (pictured above). The views were UNBELIEVABLE! It was a pretty long and steep hike, so naturally our next step was margaritas and lunch at Nopalito, an organic Mexican restaurant. Pastry queen insisted we get Bi-Rite Creamery ice cream, and we didn’t argue 😉

Alcatraz

Jamie and I were in San Francisco a few years back and weren’t able to get tickets to visit Alcatraz, so this time we were set on getting tickets early and planning around the activity. Alcatraz is one of those places that you think is going to be overrun by tourism and guides shouting “Al Capone was here!!”, but it was quite informative and the island was well preserved. Besides the tour, the boat rides to and from the island are so fun! We picked the night tour, so as we headed out the sun was setting(ish), and as we left the moon was reflecting across the water, with the lit up bay bridge in the background, so pretty.

We decided to go course hopping (see an article I wrote about course hopping here), and started with cocktails and appetizers at Hops & Hominy. Next on the list: Rye, where we were each mesmerized as the bartender concocted our drinks. Last (okay not really last, but the last notable place before the trashy well drinks and beer partying began), we stopped by Local Edition, enjoyed some cocktails, and listened to a live jazz band. Okay, we stuck to one course… cocktails and appetizers. The concept still works!!

Pastry Queen’s Drunk Food Pick: Bob’s Donut & Pastry Shop

Bench near bay in Sausalito

Tuesday morning we realized we had so much leftover cheese from our excursions Saturday, so we went on a mission (but not in The Mission) to find bread to eat it with. I came across Josey Baker Bread at The Mill and got a loaf of black pepper parmesan. Apparently this bread is quite sought after in the area, and we got the last loaf! It was HEAVENLY! After the bread/cheese meal, we knocked out some of the classics: wandered the Japanese Tea Garden, walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, took a ferry back from Sausalito. Jamie and I fell in love with Sausalito last time we visited, though we were just little babies drinking mocktails… this time around, we stopped by Madrigal Family Winery Tasting Salon & Gallery for wine tastings, a great end to the afternoon! The ferry back dropped us off at Fisherman’s Wharf, so we took this opportunity to climb the stairs to Coit Tower (it was closed, check hours beforehand).

Before the dinner of a lifetime, we went to Whitechapel for a drink – the cocktails were delicious, but the service wasn’t great considering it was a Tuesday night and it was incredibly hot (most of SF doesn’t have air conditioning, I understand). For the GRAND FINALE of our SF trip, we made a reservation for The Progress. Here’s the thing with family style menus – I always end up paying $70 for a fourth of a salad because I’m vegetarian. I have never felt so included as I did at The Progress. The waitress let me choose MY OWN four dishes to get in small portions!! That way the others at the table could get their dead animals and stuff. It was phenomenal, I’m rarely able to enjoy four different courses, so this meal was quite the treat!

Pastry Queen’s Last Drunk Food Pick: Nizario’s Pizza (I know, right?!)

 

Check out Jamie’s FourSquare list for other recommendations, or see the ones mentioned in this post below.

Drinks:

Trou Normand

Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant

Trick Dog

Rye

Local Edition

Madrigal Family Winery Tasting Salon & Gallery

Whitechapel

 

Food:

Kitchen Story

flour + water

Nopalito

Hops & Hominy

The Progress

 

Treats:

Cowgirl Creamery

Acme Bread

Tartine Bakery

Hot Cookie

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse

Reveille Coffee

Bi-Rite Creamery

The Mill

Bob’s Donut & Pastry Shop

Nizario’s Pizza

Trader Joe’s Best (Addicting) Items

A round-up of my favorite addictive snacks from Trader Joe's

This isn’t one of those “here are the healthiest items at Trader Joe’s” or “you can make a week of meals for $25 with this Trader Joe’s grocery list” article. This is a binge-worthy “you must try these foods if you have a soul, a stomach, and you’re not lactose or gluten intolerant” type of article. THESE are the items I cannot resist when shopping at Trader Joe’s.

  • Le Delice de Bourgogne & Fig & Olive Crisps – this creamy brie-like cheese is heavenly, especially atop the sweet, chewy crackers
  • Popcorn with Herbs & Spices – alright, I’ll admit it took me a while to warm up to this one, being a replacement for the beloved Beurre Meuniere Popcorn, may she rest in peace. The flavors are a refreshing change from the typical butter or cheddar. Add a touch of class to your “I don’t really want to go outside so I’ll just close the curtain and pretend it’s night” Saturday at 4pm Netflix binge.
  • Parmesan Crisps – these babies have been hiding from me until recently. Good news – they go with everything: soup, salads, breadsticks, more cheese, chocolate, icing, butter, avocado, etc. But mostly vegetable soup, in my experience.
  • Dark Chocolate Bar Caramel with Black Sea Salt – if after reading that name, you need more justification, we can’t be friends. I feel comfortable saying this is my all time favorite chocolate bar. Vosges, the Hershey’s Factory downtown, nothing compares.
  • Tarte aux Champignons – the O.A. (original addiction). This tart has been with me through tough times, happy times, scary times, all the time. It’s my go-to drunk food (classy, right?) but must be cooked at 425 degrees which takes a really long time and sometimes you’re just kind of tired from drinking and you fall asleep with your oven on. Three times. Don’t do that. This tart is quite thin, so don’t plan on sharing!

I am not responsible for any addictions hereafter. Eat at your own risk! – R

MORE Zing and Pep Cookies

MORE Zing and MORE Pep Cookies

MORE Zing and MORE Pep CookiesWhile pondering what to name these cookies, I thought about how a reasonable person likely never would have made them. MORE MORE MORE is my motto. Chocolate ice cream with caramel swirls and sea salt and raspberries and hot fudge and sprinkles and cookie dough and brownie chunks? I’m in. Moderation is for punks.

Okay, okay, I don’t want to lose all credit from the cutie foodies – I appreciate an elegant, Instagrammable dessert as much as the next guy, but there’s just something about chocolate that makes me want to unleash the baking fury. This recipe has been added to by fellow restraint-less bakers three times around, so I felt the name was appropriate. Inspiration below:

I got the recipe from Kitchenist who got the recipe from Martha Stewart. Basically, Martha Stewart is the Kevin Bacon of the baking world (and of the bacon world?). I’m almost positive every recipe in the world originated from a Martha recipe. Also, I was born in 1990 and always assume nothing happened before that time.

As I believe is fully clear by now, I am soooo not good with self-control, and I added a ton of cayenne to these babies. If you don’t like living your zesty life on the edge, add less, no one’s watching (I hope?). Be sure not to over bake these cookies! They harden up quite a bit post-oven, so take them out right when they get that crusty outer layer – YUM.

Recipe for MORE Zing and Pep Cookies (per dozen):

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate (either chips or cut into chunks for melting)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup toffee bits (I use Heath Bits O’ Brickle Bits)
  • 3 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • sea salt for sprinkling

Directions (in the order I prefer, because I can’t multitask and always burn the chocolate if I start with the melting part and the oven is on for far too long and the kitchen gets hot):

1. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and set it to the side. We don’t need that right now. Oh, in a bowl, not on the floor.

2. In a larger bowl (this is the main bowl, better be a good one), use a mixer to beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F (it’s time!). Melt chocolate and butter together in a small saucepan over the stove. Be careful not to burn the chocolate as your cookies will taste like… burnt chocolate.

4. Add the melted chocolate/butter mixture and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Stir in the toffee bits and cayenne with a spoon – if peanut butter and molasses had a batter baby, this would be it, so don’t even try to use your electric mixer.

5. Scoop spoonfuls of batter on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 1 to 2 inches apart – they don’t spread much. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt and/or cayenne pepper over the top of each cookie, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes (as said before, keep an eye on them to be sure they’re not over baked. Cool on a towel (or a wire rack if you have such luxuries and don’t live in a small studio apartment).

6. This is the most important step. I know it’s cheesy to have “Enjoy!” as a directional step, but the way in which you enjoy these cookies is crucial. Despite my infamous lack of moderation, I feel the responsibility to warn you that the sea salt on these cookies makes them highly addicting, so you MUST invite friends over when they are almost done or you WILL eat them all yourself. Okay, whew. Enjoy!

Rachel

New Year, Same You

newyearsameyou
newyearsameyou
Hi! Wanted to let you know, you don’t have to radically change your life just because some Roman decided to make a calendar based on the moon and the tides and his sister’s period or whatever. You really don’t have to change. You can, and I totally support you (maybe just in spirit, I really don’t have the time), but you don’t HAVE to change. What I find more helpful than the “I’M NEVER GOING TO EAT GLUTEN AGAIN” resolutions is goal setting.

“If you have more than three priorities, then you don’t have any.” – Jim Collins

Try to focus on three areas of your life you’d like to improve over the course of the next year (or until your next birthday, or until you move, or until you’ve reached the results you desire). For example, in 2015, I would like to:
1. improve my comedy skills
2. advance my career
3. increase my presence in the blog world

Now, determine a few things you can do THIS MONTH to reach your previously set goals. A task you can control; “working out 3 times a week” rather than “fit into my prom dress.” For example, in January, I plan to (relative to each goal above):
1. research comedy classes to take, perform at 3 open mics, write one detailed/humorous life story
2. connect or reconnect with 2 people in a related field, read 1 book (this may sound impossibly easy to some, but I hate sitting still), determine 3 routes for current business idea
3. connect with 1 Chicago blogger, compose 2 posts (look! I just wrote one!), go on a photography excursion after learning a new skill online

See?! Not so bad, and likely stuff you were going to do anyway.

I promote my blog most on Instagram and follow many talented Chicago bloggers and photographers. I find myself often envying their perfectly styled, natural-lit, aerial view photos. I have to remind myself I’m not a professional photographer nor a style blogger, chef, mixologist, or hipster.

“Good for her, not for me.” – Amy Poehler

Knowing you’re working on your goals and doing the best you can also helps halt the comparing; especially if you’re a blogger or hold a lot of weight in social media. A guy once told me a girl should only wear her hair in a ponytail if she’s going to the gym, otherwise she must not give a shit. Social media is sort of like stupid boys. Makes you feel self conscious, but really, you know it’s not true. Here’s a lovely post on why your life doesn’t have to be a Pinterest board. Throw your hair up in a pony & read away!

These are your goals! You can change them at any time you wish, and never have to justify it to anyone but yourself. I reduced my open mic goal this month from 5 to 3 – whatever you feel is reasonable! Share your goals with your close friends so they can help you! One friend of mine wants a portrait taken this month to use on LinkedIn (my photography project) and another wants to read the book I’m reading (#GIRLBOSS, my book of the month), which both help motivate me rather than pressuring me.

Best wishes in the new year!

Rachel

Mental Staycation

Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland

Trinity College in Dublin, IrelandAs I prep for my trip to Boston this week, I am reminded of a thought I had when my friend Maggie (pictured above talking to our Couchsurfing host at Trinity College campus in Dublin) visited last month: Why are we social butterflies when traveling?

While at Burwood Tap, a neighborhood bar, Maggie wanted to see what was on the jukebox, so she… joined the next guy who approached it and helped him choose a song. While doing so, she began talking to the group of girls next to the jukebox. She returned to our table, sat for a moment, and said “those girls seem really cool; I’d like to talk to them again” … and then she did just that.

Why was this so shocking to the rest of us at the table? Why was it so absurd that she would go continue a conversation with seemingly nice people? Are we all so afraid of a conversation going poorly that we can only bear the thought when in an unfamiliar city with people we will likely not see again?

Give yourself a mental staycation this week. Spark a conversation with someone on the bus (CRAZY, I KNOW.) Say “good morning” to people on your way to work. Go up to the fun group of people at your favorite bar and INTRODUCE YOURSELF. Be a social butterfly like Maggie and pretend you’re on vacation. Most importantly, be kind and enjoy yourself!

Have a great week! Can’t wait to tell you all about Boston when I return :)

Rachel