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 😉


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.


Trou Normand

Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant

Trick Dog


Local Edition

Madrigal Family Winery Tasting Salon & Gallery




Kitchen Story

flour + water


Hops & Hominy

The Progress



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

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 :)


Useless Knowledge of Florence: a Travel Guide


Florence Travel Tips & Must-dos

it’s been months since i studied abroad in florence; i’ve had a lovely time reminiscing for this post! it thrills me to be able to share this abundance of knowledge i have of florence. after many facebook message guides to friends abroad, i thought “if only there was a convenient way to collect all my favorite must-sees in florence!”. then i remembered: i have a blog.

the image above includes photos i took of my favorite florentine adventures. from my experience, i’d highly suggest you:

  • climb to the top of the duomo (florence’s cathedral) on a clear morning
    • better than giotto’s tower, in my opinion! the atmosphere is incomparable
  • hang out with the statue of david at galleria dell’accademia
  • browse the galleria degli uffitzi
  • marvel over palazzo pitti & boboli gardens
  • cross ponte vecchio (touristy but fun to see)
    • this is the bridge with all the jewelry merchants
  • visit piazzale michelangelo
    • great views of the city
  • santa maria novella church
    • while you’re there, check out the beautiful officina profumo farmaceutica
  • shop at mercato centrale (i lived near here)
  • take the ATAF bus #7 to the hilltop village of fiesole (gorgeous view of florence & tuscany)
    • it runs every half an hour until almost midnight. the line starts at the santa maria novella train station

…and on to my favorite food experiences:

  • breakfast
    • grab a pastry and espresso at any bar
  • lunch
    • mario trattoria | only open for lunch, so don’t miss out!
    • gusta panino | perfect for a quick sandwich
  • dinner
    • acqua al 2 | great meal with a dessert sampler
    • san michele all’arco | delicious homemade pasta
    • trattoria parione | the restaurant i enjoyed my final italian meal at before my journey home!
    • gusta pizza | grab a pizza and take it to piazzale michelangelo – no use waiting inside for a table when you can enjoy a nice view nearby!
  • apertivo (delicious italian appetizers served with the purchase of a drink)
    • kitsch | begins at 7:30pm | €7
    • negroni | begins at 7pm | €8
    • oibo | begins at 7:30pm | €8

florence is a horrible city to navigate (take it from the girl who wandered three hours dragging luggage on cobblestone streets)… so, I made you a map!
pull the full map (with key) up on your mobile while you have wifi & you can use it around the city!

if you have any questions, feel free to ask!
||| happy travels! | rachel |||

Travel | Taste of Randolph


okay, i’m a little behind… but still had to share. how could i not with all of these amazing restaurants? below are our top pics from the taste of randolph this past weekend: thyme & oregano kettle corn from the tasting room, chips & and a hefty helping of quac from de cero, spinach arancini from marcello’s , tacos from belly q & a gorgeous view on the patio of city winery.
Taste of Randolph Chicago collage

Travel Tip Thursday | LA



finally, a travel tip stateside! this tip is for those of you heading to la. we had read lovely reviews about church & state, a french bistro in central la, on yelp and had to try it for ourselves. below, you’ll see the bar area, pear & brie flatbread, le cachat, tarte aux champignons & escargots de bourgogne en croûte.

my apologies for the dark pictures, this was the first week with my new camera & we ate outdoors (highly recommended, weather permitting).