For decades, Wine Country has attracted Bay Area locals and tourists alike for weekends of imbibing and dining amid bucolic vineyards. Then, breweries such as Russian River Brewing Company and Lagunitas Brewing Company joined the party in the '90s, enticing people from across the globe to try Wine Country’s other beverage of choice. But now dozens of other breweries and taprooms have popped up in Napa and Sonoma counties, giving the wine industry a run for its money. Here are several that opened in 2017, with even more scheduled to open doors in 2018.
In July, Beer Baron Bar & Kitchen opened up its third Bay Area location in downtown Santa Rosa, just a few blocks from Russian River Brewing on 4th Street. With about 25 craft beers on tap and an extensive (to the tune of 400) list of local and hard-to-find whiskies, this has quickly become a go-to spot for after-hour drinks. Plus, its comfort-food menu of fried chicken and waffles and Cajun mac and cheese is definitely worth a stop.
Then 2 Tread Brewing Company joined Beer Baron in downtown Santa Rosa a few months later with a September debut. The brewery’s open space gives customers a front-row seat to the brewing process. IPAs, cream ales and farmhouse ales are crafted onsite using specialty ingredients that change with the seasons, while burgers, flatbreads and an innovative bites menu, including sweet potato tots and fried shishito peppers, are also up for grabs.
Bear Republic Brewpub is another long-standing brewery that attracts people to Sonoma County, which is why the opening of its second location in Rohnert Park this past September was widely welcomed by the community. The same beloved menu of burgers, pizzas, local cheese boards and charcuterie plates pairs nicely with the brewery’s delicious homebrews, including its famous Racer 5 IPA.
After much success in Berkeley, Fieldwork Brewing Company expanded by opening taprooms in other parts of the Bay Area—landing in downtown Napa’s popular Oxbow Public Market as of late 2016. Enjoy a sampler flight off the brewery’s always-rotating tap list. Better yet, take some brew ha-ha home using a growler or the brewery’s very own Crowler cans.
Tannery Bend Beerworks is small—some used to call it nano-sized, in fact—but it prides itself in producing local, small-batch beer. Opened last spring, the new taproom accommodates a five-barrel system, which produces about 250 gallons of beer a week—a long way from its nano-brewery days of 15-gallon batches. Created by the team behind Napa’s popular Oenotri restaurant, the brewery combines brewing techniques with a culinary bent, drawing inspiration from local ingredients. Case in point: The Bancal Belgian winter ale gives off aromas of freshly baked banana bread.
Stone Brewing, Southern California’s largest brewery, is making its way up north and opening a new taproom in Napa, scheduled for March. Its downtown location in the historic Borreo building will feature a 10-barrel pilot brew system, guaranteeing that Stone’s iconic beers, including its Stone IPA, can be replicated onsite. Communal tables and outdoor fire pits will complete the inviting feel of the space.
If you can’t make it up north to Napa and Sonoma, the Blue Brew Bus offers brew tours throughout Livermore and San Leandro to the east. Up to 20 people can board the bus to start the tour with a “cheers beer” in a souvenir beer glass. Then, the bus will visit three area microbreweries, one of which will give a production facility tour. Past tours have included stops at Altamont Beer Works and Drakes Brewing. Bottoms up!
Chinatown doesn’t run short on superlatives. The buzzing neighborhood is the biggest and oldest Chinatown in the nation, and its vibrant, lantern-strung streets grow even more spirited during Chinese New Year. This February, celebrate the Year of the Dog by exploring Chinatown’s atmospheric alleyways, dazzling facades and countless eateries, from casual dim sum joints to trendy Michelin-starred dining rooms.
On Feb. 24, 2018, the Year of the Dog kicks off with a bang when an elaborate Chinese New Year parade snakes its way through Union Square and Chinatown with dancing dragons, thundering drums and the crackle of exploding firecrackers. Also contributing to Chinatown’s vivid streetscape are the many murals that grace its buildings and alleys. Erin Jang’s recent “Chinatown Flavor” transforms a stairway along tiny Vinton Court with bold stripes and a colorful list of Chinese food faves.
Hidden on historic Ross Alley—the oldest alley in San Francisco—diminutive 41 Ross Gallery features community-based exhibits such as “Chinatown Home Cooking,” which profiles local home cooks via photos, recipes and the short film “Sunday Dinner.” At the Chinese Historical Society of America museum, immersive displays tell the challenging story of early Chinese immigrants in America inside a glorious 1932 building designed by Hearst Castle architect, Julia Morgan.
Chinatown's market-filled sidewalks brim with bins of exotic fruits such as spiky rambutans and citrusy buddha's hands. Have a new favorite blended into a fresh juice or smoothie at Juicy Fruit. At the modern Steap Tea Bar, premium globe-hopping teas inform an extensive menu of fun, inventive boba drinks. Come happy hour, seek out Cold Drinks, a plush clandestine cocktail lounge that marries rare scotches with Asian flavors.
For a quick bite on the go, you can do no better than dumplings plucked from giant steam baskets at Good Mong Kok Bakery and crispy, ginger-infused chicken wings at neighboring New Golden Daisy. The beloved, century-old Sam Wo has new digs, but its popular down-home dishes remain the same including their signature BBQ pork-filled rice noodle rolls. Katsu House dishes up customizable poke bowls from a cozy take-out shop situated amidst the colorful balconies and temples of Waverly Alley.
Down the street, Michelin-starred Mister Jiu's reinvigorates Cantonese dishes such as a roast quail with homemade Chinese sausage in a dining room overlooking bustling Grant Avenue. At China Live, a culinary temple to Chinese cuisine, you can shop exquisite pantry staples and cookbooks at an upscale boutique, slurp tingly dan dan noodles at Market Restaurant and vie for a coveted seat at the ultra high-end Eight Tables.
A James Beard Award-winning chef, TV personality and prolific cookbook author, Chef Charlie Palmer has proved himself to be a successful entrepreneur with a restaurant, hotel and retail empire spanning coast to coast. In addition to his his famous flagship Aureole restaurant located in New York City’s One Bryant Park, he has dining establishments in Las Vegas and Washington DC. In his home base of Northern California Wine Country, he owns Harvest Table in St. Helena, Dry Creek Kitchen and Spirit Bar in Sonoma and the new Charlie Palmer Steak in downtown Napa, as well as two hotels.
Where do you send visitors to eat around here?
There are so many great choices on both sides of the hill, but here are some of my favorite choices: In Napa, Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. I love their charcuterie and cheddar biscuits. And CIA at Copia. It’s a great concept at the new Copia campus. And you can't go wrong at Cook or Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen.
As for Sonoma, I live in Healdsburg, so I definitely eat out more on that side, and the list is a bit longer: Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar, where honestly, all the seafood is delicious. Diavola in Geyserville is my favorite for pizza. Dino [Bugica] does an amazing job in the kitchen there. Campo Fina in Healdsburg also has great pizza, and it's a great place to bring visiting friends and family. I also love Chalkboard for the incredible handmade pastas that Shane McAnelly puts out.
What’s your favorite local winery?
This is like picking your favorite child. I have so many favorites, but my favorite wine is pinot noir, and Tom Rochioli [of Rochioli Vineyards] makes the best pinot in the world.
What’s an overlooked Wine Country activity?
My wife Lisa and I hike pretty often in Sonoma County, and I don't think the hiking spots get nearly enough recognition out here.
Describe your perfect weekend in town.
I'd spend it with my wife Lisa and my four boys: Courtland, Randall, Eric and Reed. We'd spend the afternoon at Iron Horse Vineyards and then go out to dinner at Diavola.
What local wines do you enjoy sipping?
Where would you pick up a gift or souvenir?
Oxbow Public Market in Napa is great for foodie gifts. I try to stop by whenever I'm down by Charlie Palmer Steak Napa. If you're looking for artwork or something longer lasting, try one of the Aerena Galleries locations.
What’s your favorite town in the region?
Healdsburg, hands down. It's where we live, and it's the most beautiful place on earth!
Any tips for visitors coming up from San Francisco for a day of tasting?
If you're just visiting for a day, head to downtown Napa. It's only an hour's drive, and you can hit many different tasting rooms in town. It's really hard to try and do more than two wineries in any one day, so if you pop in and out of several tasting rooms in Napa, you can try more.
In recent years, visitors have flocked to Wine Country in greater numbers than ever before. But as attending various regional events and booking winery tastings becomes mainstream, there are still plenty of diverse ways to experience the cultivated vineyards that cover Northern California’s rolling hills and gently sloping valleys.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor, an art aficionado, a food lover or a collector of hard-to-find cult wines, the cornucopia of working vineyards and tasting rooms across Napa and Sonoma counties has something special to offer every visitor.
There’s a first time for everything
The Mondavi name has long been synonymous with Northern California Wine Country. At the Robert Mondavi Winery, guests can enjoy guided tours in English and Mandarin Chinese and sip approachable merlots and fume blancs selected for folks trying out wine tasting for the first time. Pop over to nearby V. Sattui to pick out a bottle of the winery’s popular rosé. Then, stock up on picnic supplies from V. Sattui’s gourmet deli and enjoy dining al fresco on the vineyard’s beautiful grounds.
Inglenook offers a special experience for newbies and wine lovers alike. The daily Heritage Tasting, led by knowledgeable wine educators, showcases several of the winery’s finest wines with a cheese pairing. Oscar-winning film director Francis Ford Coppola and his film royalty family own Inglenook, and while you probably won’t see a Coppola on the grounds, their commitment to fine craftsmanship is infused into the property’s every detail.
Some sparkling wine lovers say fellow bubbly sippers shouldn’t miss Scharffenberger. While that’s certainly good advice, Breathless Wines offers another opportunity to sparkle. Founded by three sisters, this beautiful tasting room also offers visitors the option to tool around the grounds in a restored vintage Vespa complete with a sidecar for one lucky passenger.
Art for art’s sake
Winemakers have exceptional taste, so it’s no wonder many collect and display their own art acquisitions at their wineries. Mumm Napa, renowned for its delicate bubbles, displays fine art photography in a gorgeous gallery designed for that exclusive purpose.
You can drink in the famous art collection at Hall Wines before you even set foot on the property’s rich soil. The shiny stainless steel “Bunny Foo Foo” sculpture leaps above the lane, and all across the property, visitors encounter more delightful large-scale sculptures while enjoying Bordeaux varietals, including cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay.
Donald Hess has spent his life collecting art from masters like abstract painter Robert Motherwell, and at the Hess Collection Winery and Art Collection, you can soak in the eagle-eyed collector’s exquisite taste. And at Donum Estate, a newer collection features some of the biggest names in the art world. Reservations are required to visit the estate and sip its signature pinot noir. The sculptures by superstars Ai Wei Wei and Louise Bourgeois only further enhance the experience.
Feast for the senses
Most tasting rooms offer basic cheese and wine pairings, but in the agriculturally rich regions of Northern California, many wineries employ award-winning chefs and offer dazzling culinary experiences to enhance the flavor and enjoyment of their wines. One of the best examples is Ram’s Gate Winery, renowned for its palate pairings. Available by reservation, chef Taylr Benhnam begins with five single-vineyard wines and prepares culinary delights to compliment each.
Known for its zinfandel, Seghesio Family Vineyards is also beloved for its food-driven wines. To experience both in a beautiful setting, check the calendar for specials, or request your own private experience with chef Peter Janiak, famous for his delicate pastas that pair perfectly with the winery’s Italian varietals.
Historic Simi Winery is one of the nation’s oldest wineries and offers private lunches and dinners by reservation. Chef Kolin Vazzoler crafts casual picnics and three-course seated meals to share and enjoy with the winery’s finest estate wines, including bright pinot noirs and an aromatic late harvest riesling.
Join the cult
Some of the country’s finest winemakers won’t sell their bottles to just anyone. Only the most dedicated fans, who travel to the winery or visit the few restaurants pouring the wines, can enjoy these highly coveted, limited-edition offerings. One of Napa’s newest reservations-required estates, Alejandro Bulgheroni, focuses on handcrafted small production cabernet sauvignon.
From grapes grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Ceritas Wines produces limited-edition chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. Email to inquire about a tasting at the Healdsburg winery, one of the only ways to enjoy the Ceritas experience. Arnot-Roberts, also with a reservations-required tasting room in Healdsburg, has a wide portfolio of exquisite, rare wines, including bold syrahs and French oak barrel-fermented chardonnays.
Kosta Browne’s acclaimed portfolio focuses on pinot noirs and chardonnays. While still retaining its elusive charm, the esteemed winery will open its first hospitality space in the spring of 2018, located in its new small-lot fermentation cellar and offering reservations to non-members seeking the chance to experience the winery.
Take your furry friends
While many wineries keep animals on the grounds and do not allow visitors to bring their pets, some encourage dogs to accompany their owners for wine tours and tastings. Benziger Family Winery, St. Francis Winery and Vineyards, and Larson Family Winery all welcome dogs. Dutcher Crossing Winery even has its own winery pup, Dutchess.
For half a decade now, the kouign amann has been a staple in San Francisco pastry cases. With origins in Brittany, France, this treat can be thought of as a mix between a palmier cookie and a croissant. At B. Patisserie, chef Belinda Leong has been perfecting her version of this treat, something like a caramelized croissant, for 12 years. Flaky, light, crunchy, gooey, buttery and addictive are all fitting descriptors.
Oakland-based Starter Bakery’s version of the kouign amann, available in San Francisco at Reveille Coffee Co. locations, has its own twist. Like a traditional croissant, the signature pastry is layered with salted butter. But unlike a croissant, it's also layered with sugar and baked in a pan lined with more butter and sugar. The result is buttery, salty, sweet and caramel-y. Varieties are made fresh everyday: traditional, chocolate (made with local TCHO 68 percent) and seasonal fruit.
The Rebel Within
Craftsman and Wolves
The specialty item at this modern patisserie from James- Beard-nominated chef William Werner is a savory breakfast muffin that has asiago cheese, green onion and breakfast sausage baked into the mix and a full soft-cooked farm egg in the center. Praised by GQ and Bon Appetit magazines, it sells out nearly every day.
La Boulangerie de San Francisco
This decadent pastry from the popular local chain starts in the French tradition: A baked plain croissant is cut in half and filled with frangipane (almond cream) before going back in the oven. This version, however, has a slight twist, with extra frangipane and shaved almonds added on top.
This flaky bun is a cult favorite at the internationally famed bakery in the Mission neighborhood. It’s made with laminated croissant dough, which makes for a light and layered interior and a crisp and intensely caramelized exterior, and sugar and cinnamon. Orange zest gives a subtle, fresh tang that balances the buttery sweetness.
Mariposa Baking Company
The most popular pastry at the gluten-free confectionary with a prime outpost in the Ferry Building Marketplace is also free of dairy and nuts. Soft, sweet and cinnamon-y, it’s a perfect breakfast treat.
When Steve McQueen tore through the streets of San Francisco in a Mustang GT in the 1968 film “Bullitt,” it was history in the making. The iconic chase scene would inspire countless other thrill rides on film (and perhaps a few McQueen wannabes in real life). But it was more than impossibly steep roads that made San Francisco the perfect setting for the film. Unique architecture, commanding views and natural beauty are assets that have made San Francisco the co-star, if not the lead character, in hundreds of films.
San Francisco had its first starring role in the silent era. In 1924 director Erich von Stroheim insisted on shooting on location (a difficult challenge at that time) when he made “Greed,” his legendary adaptation of Frank Norris' novel “McTeague: A Story of San Francisco.” The Hayes Valley neighborhood, now a stylish district of restaurants and shops, was a principal location in this harrowing tale of a dentist brought low by alcoholism and avarice.
Since von Stroheim's time, San Francisco has continued to exert a pull on filmmakers. In the 1940s and 1950s, it was the location and inspiration for some of the greatest film noirs. Private eye Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) pursues his partner's killer in “The Maltese Falcon” (1941). From his vantage point on Bush Street on Nob Hill, Spade watches the construction of the Stockton Street Tunnel connecting Union Square to Chinatown. In “Dark Passage” (1947), escaped convict Vincent Parry (Bogart again) walks the Filbert Steps and hides out in the stunning Art Deco apartment building at 1360 Montgomery St. Scenes from Orson Welles’ classic “The Lady from Shanghai” (1947) included Sausalito, the Steinhart Aquarium, Portsmouth Square and Chinatown; the famous hall of mirrors shootout took place at an amusement park in Ocean Park (although the scene was actually shot at the Columbia Studios). A Polish concentration camp survivor (Valentina Cortese) finds new perils await her in “The House on Telegraph Hill,” named for a mansion with commanding views of the bay. (Look closely at the Bay Bridge, and you will see the Key trains that used to traverse the span.) Eli Wallach is a hired gun on the prowl in “The Lineup” (1958), an odyssey that takes him to the Mark Hopkins Hotel, the Steinhart Aquarium and the old Sutro Baths next door to the Cliff House.
The movie that perhaps best takes advantage of San Francisco as its setting is Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” (1958), his classic romantic thriller starring James Stewart as a retired detective obsessed with doppelgangers played by Kim Novak. This haunting film, considered by many to be the best ever made, was shot at Fort Point in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, Mission Dolores, the Palace of Fine Arts and the Legion of Honor—even the apartment where Stewart's character lived is an actual address: 900 Lombard St.
Mission Dolores and “Vertigo” itself play key roles in Jenni Olson’s documentary essay, “The Royal Road” (2015), a meditation on nostalgia, desire, California’s Spanish history and the movies. Experimental in nature, the film is also an evocation of San Francisco’s recent past as Olson blends into her narrative film she shot all over the city over a more than 20-year time span. Capturing longtime landmarks like the Bank of America clock that once stood on Rincon Hill (since supplanted by a high rise) or the 17 Reasons Why Sign that loomed over Mission Street, “The Royal Road” underlines the nature of a changing city. “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins’ first feature “Medicine for Melancholy” (2008) similarly focuses on transformation in the city, but within the context of 24 hours as a couple traverses the city, including at a stop at the Museum of Africa Diaspora.
For Clint Eastwood, San Francisco has been a place to operate on both sides of the law (as an actor, that is). In “Dirty Harry” (1971), the movie that started a franchise, Eastwood is a cop pursuing a serial killer, taking the chase to Dolores Park, Washington Square, Saints Peter and Paul Church in North Beach, Alamo Square (home to the famous “painted ladies” row of Victorian houses), Kezar Stadium and other memorable locations. In “Escape from Alcatraz” (1979), he is a convict plotting a prison break in this drama filmed on the fabled rock.
The city’s infinite variety has lent itself to an equally diverse list of movies. The Summer of Love spawned “Psych-Out” (1968), an exploitation freak-out starring pre-stardom Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern as hippies in Haight-Ashbury. San Francisco's long-standing military base (originally established by the Spanish in 1776) inspired “The Presidio” (1988), a murder mystery starring Mark Harmon and Sean Connery. (Since de-commissioned, the base is now a national park as well as the home of the Walt Disney Family Museum.) Local legend met local landmark in “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993), as late San Francisco resident Robin Williams, playing an actor who dons the disguise of a middle-aged British lady to play nanny to his own children, rides the Hyde Street cable car in the family comedy that was shot all over San Francisco and the bay, including Pacific Heights, North Beach and Oakland's Jack London Square. “Colma: The Musical” (2006), the irresistible story of three teens trying to find their way in the world, takes place partially in San Francisco with scenes notably shot in the Mission. But it also an homage to the city’s titular neighbor with its infamous cemeteries—Wyatt Earp and Joe DiMaggio are among the town’s “residents”— and its suburban homes and its lively, legendary dive bar, Molloy’s Tavern.
True stories of San Francisco inspired such well-received films as the 2003 documentary “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” and the Oscar-winning “Milk” (2008), a drama about the pioneering days of the gay liberation movement. The movie meticulously depicts 1970s Castro Street; as part of the production, the historic Castro Theatre’s neon sign was restored. “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” (2015), adapted from Phoebe Gloeckner’s autobiographical novel about a 15-year-old’s wild youth, similarly evokes the city in the 1970s. While most locations had to be dressed to look of the era, Spec’s, the half-century-old North Beach watering hole and museum, already looked the part.
Speaking of North Beach, two films from 2014 capture different eras of the neighborhood famous as a home to Italian immigrants and Beat Generation writers. “Big Eyes,” the story of Walter and Margaret Keane and the true authorship of the famous Keane paintings, captures a vibrant 1950s home to galleries and night clubs. “Man from Reno,” a mystery revolving around murder and missing persons, was shot all over town, including at the Hotel Majestic. But it is the scenes shot in North Beach, on the streets and at the famed saloon Vesuvio, that make the most vivid impression, revealing a neighborhood perhaps less glamorous than its 1950s heyday, but still rife with cafes, bars, restaurants and other entertainment.
In recent years, Woody Allen returned to the city where he shot his second feature, “Take the Money and Run” (1969), to make “Blue Jasmine” (2013). Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for playing a woman on the brink of madness in a comedy/drama filmed all over the city, including the Mission, Ocean Beach, West Portal the Haight-Ashbury's exotic Zam bar and venerable waterfront restaurant the Ramp in the city's Dogpatch neighborhood.
Even Marvel Comics has found inspiration in San Francisco. In the Disney animated feature about a young robotics genius battling evil, “Big Hero 6” (2014), San Fransokyo is a glorious imagining of what they city might look like with its singular architecture married to Tokyo’s gleaming skyline. The live-action “Ant-Man” (2015) takes a grittier approach after an opening scene set during a bucolic drive through the Marin Headlands overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge gives way to protagonist Scott Lang’s (Paul Rudd) urban reality of the city’s tumultuous Tenderloin.
Clearly, San Francisco continues to work its spell. These are not the first or the last filmmakers to discover what every San Franciscan knows and what every visitor discovers: The place is magic.
Just across the Golden Gate Bridge is an enchanting land filled with gentle rolling hills, the world’s tallest trees and dramatic shorelines. The best way to experience the many hidden gems in Marin County is to explore them by foot. Here is a list of the top five hikes that you’ll never forget. Each offers a different level of exertion and distance. We start with the easiest and work our way to the most heart-pumping, thrill-seeking hike of all.
Nestled between the Sleepy Hollow divide in Terra Linda and the Mount Tamalpais Cemetery is a tranquil two-mile hike that is ideal for a town and country afternoon. Legend has it that the name "Sorich" came from the milk that was “so rich" produced by cows that grazed the 64 acres. When you visit, you can see why. This gentle hike starts with a comfortable walk through grasslands, eucalyptus woods and oak groves that leads you to a ridge where you're greeted by stunning views of the Bay including San Francisco and Mount Tamalpais. Return the same way and then stroll over to San Anselmo Avenue for some window-shopping. End your afternoon with a much-deserved decadent lunch at L'Appart Resto, a divine French Bistro at 636 San Anselmo Ave.
Location: Take San Francisco Boulevard in San Anselmo until it ends. The parking area for Sorich Park is there.
Muir Woods: Canopy View to Lost Creek to Fern Loop
Muir Woods is home to some of the tallest tress in the world and being in their presence can be a life-changing event. Especially when you think that many of these trees have been alive for more than 700 years. The hike starts with a gradual uphill walk where you enter an awe-inspiring canopy of redwood trees. At the Founder’s Grove, follow the Canopy View trailhead, take the Lost Trail turnoff and descend into the deep forest of Douglas redwoods. Turn left at the Fern Creek trail where it leads to the main Muir Woods trail. The surroundings will spark your imagination. So, make sure to look for fairies, hobbits and magical beings that dance in the cathedral-like sunrays that fall from between the redwoods. To continue the magic of the day, stop off at the Mountain Home Inn perched atop of Mill Valley, where you can stay the night or simply enjoy a feast for both your eyes and your belly. The Inn rises above the lush redwoods and offers breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay and the redwood forest below.
Length: 3 miles
Location: Muir Woods National Monument, 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley
The four-mile loop around the peaceful Bon Tempe Lake guides your through wooded areas and beautiful shorelines. First, swing by Taste Kitchen and Table in Fairfax, California, and pick up a few sandwiches and snacks for a picnic by the lake. The lake is only 10-minute from downtown Fairfax. Don’t be surprise if you want to start singing “The Sound of Music” when you step out of your car. You won’t be the first. The lake and its tranquil surroundings give you the feeling that you just entered the set of a happy musical.
If you love wildlife as much as hiking, then this is the hiking tour for you. It is a completely curated experience where you get to choose what you want to see and where you want to hike. Some of the favorites to find are bobcats and owls. If you are traveling with children, this is an ideal hiking experience.
Location: If you are staying in the area, they will pick you up from your hotel, if not, then you will meet at the entrance to Point Reyes National Seashore.
Palomarin to Alamere Falls
This hike is by far the piece de résistance of all local hikes. It is a lengthy 8.2 miles to Alamere Falls, but the breathtaking reward that awaits you and your sore legs is worth the distance you traveled to get there. The trail winds through lush fern groves, steep coastal tracks, and flat lakeside paths. You finally hike down a steep ravine, where you can feel the mist of the waterfall tickle your face. Once on the beach, look up and see the magnificent Alamere Falls in action. After this strenuous hike, head over to El Paseo Restaurant located at 17 Throckmorton Avenue in Mill Valley for a hearty dinner and well-deserved cocktail.
Locations: The hike begins at the Palomarin Trailhead, about five miles north of the town of Bolinas.
It's 2018, the Year of the Dog and the perfect time to visit San Francisco—home to one of the world's largest Chinese New Year celebrations. The festivities culminate in February with the annual Grand Parade, starting at the corner of Market and 2nd streets. The streets sparkle with glittering floats, red lanterns, colorful flags and giant dragons stretching for blocks.
Whenever you visit, don't forget to pass through North America's only authentic Chinatown Gate—the giant green guardian of Grant and Bush adorned with dragons and lions. And that's just for starters. From downtown to the Mission District, the treasures and curiosities of Chinese culture await explorers. But you'd better start practicing using those chop sticks now.
Golden Gate Bakery
No trip to Chinatown is complete without a taste of Golden Gate's world-famous $2 egg tarts. The only problem with this local landmark is you never know when it will actually be open.
Fancy Wheat Field Bakery
Fancy Wheat Field is unquestionably the most pristine bakery in Chinatown and decidedly less authentic, offering classic Chinese pastries like pineapple buns and pork sung buns. Check out the additional locations if you're around Excelsior or the Outer Sunset.
House of Nanking
Situated at the cusp of North Beach, House of Nanking is one of the most popular and appetizing spots in San Francisco, featuring complex flavors, affordable prices and no frills service. You can't miss the sesame chicken, chili eggplant and the stunning wild blossoming tea.
Mission Chinese Food
Many locals swear this is the best Chinese-inspired food in town despite being in the heart of the Mission. The sign on outside says Lung Shan Restaurant, but nobody calls it that, so it’s easy to miss. The tea smoked eel, thrice cooked bacon and kung pao pastrami are crowd favorites.
Lai Hong Lounge
This expansive dining room is as authentic as it gets. In addition to the heavy rotation of dim sum, other popular dishes include the baked pork buns, shrimp noodle rolls and crispy duck buns.
Mister Jiu's sets the bar for elevated Cantonese cuisine. Every dish is a work of art with inventive twists on Chinese classics. The impeccable service lends to the romance and helps justify the sizable check.
This cult favorite originated as a food truck and expanded into a brick and mortar location in the Tenderloin. The Chairman is renowned for their signature bao. Imagine exotic proteins like Coca Cola braised pork and miso cured tofu stuffed in a chewy bun—available baked (more substantial) or steamed (cheaper).
Li Po Cocktail Lounge
Li Po is a hot spot among hipsters and locals alike. It's known for having funky decor, a relaxed vibe and arguably the city's best Chinese Mai Tai. This quirky dive bar is endorsed by Anthony Bourdain, which just about sums it up.
Just across the street from Li Po is Chinatown's second coolest bar, complete with a signature beer that comes in a green Buddha-shaped bottle. The service is consistently solid with knowledgeable, friendly bartenders.
Right Up Your Alley
Recognized as the oldest alley in San Francisco, Ross Alley was once notorious for brothels and gambling houses. Check out the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory and get a free sample fresh off the press.
Stroll down this picturesque alley into another era, seemingly another country. Waverley Place is lined with temples and brightly painted balconies adorned with ornamental iron railings. It's most notably featured in the Amy Tan novel “The Joy Luck Club.”
See the Sights
Chinese Cultural Center
This extensive visual arts and community center offers an evolving array of modern art exhibitions. They also offer a popular two-hour democracy walking tour through Chinatown.
All About Chinatown Tours
Get an insight into the city's rich Chinese heritage on this two-three hour excursion with an optional dim sum lunch. The tour departs from Old St. Mary's Cathedral, which was the first Asian church constructed in North America.
Down to an Art
Chinese Historical Society of America
For a deep and intimate perspective on American Chinese culture, check out the extensive historical archives and impressive art museum.
Asian Art Museum
Located in the heart of the Civic Center, the Asian Art Museum boasts a wealth of Chinese art in its permanent collection.
Invest $21 in a one-day Muni Pass to hop on the cable cars and buses all day. Otherwise, it's $7 per cable car ride—no transfers.
Under the rolling Oakland Hills is Rockridge, a picturesque residential neighborhood full of early 20th-century bungalows and independent stores. Follow College Avenue to find great shopping, restaurants, cafes and bars.
Literary nerds can delight in the selection of new, used and sale books at Pegasus Books. The Staff Picks alone draw quite a crowd, not to mention the hundreds of carefully curated magazine titles available. However, the store’s weekly book events are what give it a sense of community that’s kept it a neighborhood staple since 1969.
Get lost in the narrow walkways at Maison d’Etre before deciding on the perfect pillow for your couch. The wide variety of novelties allows the home designer in you to envision a French-inspired pied-a-terre of your own.
To get another taste of Europe, Rockridge Market Hall sells imported international goods to the lucky area residents (and visitors) who shop here. French cheeses, Italian olive oils and Swiss chocolates are just a few of its highlights.
The ramen at Ramen Shop combines Japanese cuisine with California farm-to-table fare, influenced by the three owners’ time spent working at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. An expanded restaurant space, Asian-influenced morning pastry menu and recent launch of ramen takeout kits (summer 2017) show how the restaurant continues to deliver exactly what customers want. That even includes an extensive cocktail list, with a large selection of top-shelf Japanese whiskies.
Bite into a delicious slice of deep-dish pizza at Zachary’s Chicago Pizza. Known for its Chicago-style pies, the restaurant also serves up thin-crust pizzas, using the same house-made pizza dough and cornmeal-dusted crust.
New to the Rockridge scene, Duchess debuted in December 2016 and has become equally popular for both its restaurant and bar. Open for dinner and weekend brunch, patrons should try the braised lamb or duck confit sandwich, depending on the time of day. Then, top off your meal with a Humble Root cocktail made from turmeric tea–infused gin.
Start your day off right at Cole Coffee, located at the north end of College Avenue. A complete remodel and expansion of the popular café opened in September 2017. Its fresh look complements the same pour-over coffee that has lured locals to this spot for at least 27 years. Ten types of coffee beans, roasted fresh every 24 hours, are available for purchase by the pound. As evening nears, let the Barrel Room entice you to visit. Sit amid shelves of wine bottles just begging to be tasted at this neighborhood wine bar. Because the wine-flight menu changes regularly—focusing on everything from Eastern European wines to Western Italian wines—you’re almost guaranteed to taste a wine you’ve never before tried.
Once home to the rollicking saloons of the Gold Rush’s infamous Barbary Coast, Jackson Square today exudes a cool sophistication. The historic neighborhood charms with tree-lined streets and enchanting 19th-century buildings, its former boozy dens replaced by Michelin-starred restaurants and stylish boutiques.
Strolling the neighborhood’s many upscale shops serves as a de facto walking tour of its captivating, historical architecture. Check out the stunning, recently restored Belli Building (circa 1850) where you’ll find modern flannels and tin cloth jackets from heritage outfitter Filson. In a connecting showroom, Shinola gleams with superior, expert-crafted goods such as bicycles, watches and audio equipment. Neighbor Allbirds features sporty, sustainably made kicks fashioned from merino wool in a concept store situated on Hotaling Place, a charming alleyway lined with hitching posts from bygone stables.
On nearby Jackson Street, pop into French clothier A.P.C. for simple yet impeccably designed men’s and women’s apparel, and Guideboat Co. for refined outdoor wear fit for a lakeside weekend in the Adirondacks. At Eden & Eden, browse modern jewelry and covetable home goods, and don’t leave without a local guidebook from the stacks of design tomes at William Stout Architectural Books.
Mingle with the neighborhood’s creative types over pastries and pour overs at Réveille, a jet-black coffee truck parked at Pacific and Sansome streets. Sip contemporary grogs at Barbarossa Lounge, a dramatically lit, multi-level cocktail den with design references to its former life as a jail. At Taverna Aventine, duck downstairs to the speakeasy-style lounge whose eastern wall is a 150 year-old rough-hewn seawall, a reminder of the city’s original shoreline.
In contrast to its rough and tumble past, Jackson Square might now be the only San Francisco neighborhood with multiple three-Michelin star restaurants. Coi recently nabbed a third star with the artful precision of its 10-course, seafood-focused tasting menu. Three-star Quince has long wowed diners with ultra-refined dishes sourced from its organic farm, while its casual next-door sibling, Cotogna, features supple homemade pastas and rustic dishes roasted over a crackling hearth.
At Japanese steakhouse Roka Akor, you can pair buttery Wagyu beef with pristine sushi in a serene dining room or enjoy happy hour bites in a sleek subterranean lounge. Turn down Gold Street, one of the neighborhood’s many atmospheric brick-lined alleyways, and you’ll discover Bix, a dazzling 1930s-styled supper club that serves up classic cocktails and live jazz every evening.
San Francisco and Vienna are a world apart but for winter 2017-2018, the two beautiful, bustling cosmopolitan cities seem to be showcasing similar midcentury style. With the Legion of Honor Museum’s opening of a historic new exhibition, a master class in Austrian art history arrives in California for the first time. “Klimt & Rodin: An Artistic Encounter” (on view through Jan. 28, 2018) celebrates the inspired relationship between the Vienna Secession painter and the French sculptor, who influenced each other’s work but met just once, in 1902.
A century after their respective deaths, this expansive exhibit brings some of their most groundbreaking endeavors to the West Coast, curated by Gustav Klimt scholar and the former director of Vienna’s Leopold Museum, Dr. Tobias Natter. Don’t miss the reproduction panels of Klimt’s celebrated “Beethoven Frieze,” the piece inspired and eventually led to the meeting of these two visionary Modernist minds.
Afterwards, we suggest that you head to one of the handful of Central Europe-style eateries in San Francisco for a fully immersive experience.
Where to Get a Taste of Central Europe
Leopold’s: Known for hearty Bavarian-Austrian schnitzel and boots of German beer, this convivial Russian Hill gasthaus also features a selection of Austrian wines by the glass.
20th Century Cafe: California meets Central Europe at this charming cafe serving wines from Austria and Slovenia, Russian honey cake—and some lucky days, the owner-pastry chef’s take on Viennese specialty, sacher torte.
Paprika: This inviting Hungarian-style Mission District bistro serves salty soft pretzels and savory goulash and keeps Czech lagers and pilsners on tap.
In San Francisco, the holiday season doesn’t bring snowfall or smoking chimneys, but we make our own traditions. Here are some of locals' favorite seasonal rituals.
Beach Blanket Babylon Holiday Performances (all month)
The nation’s longest-running musical revue celebrates the holiday season with its ongoing satire of the biggest names in pop culture and politics in these playful presentations of holiday song and dance. Club Fugazi, 678 Green St., 415.421.4222
The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes (Dec. 1-23)
Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sofia from the popular 1980s television show return to San Francisco's Victoria Theater this month, but this time they’re played by four comic drag performers. This annual tradition brings plenty of laughs and over-the-top costumes. Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St.
Elfstravaganza: Making the North Pole Gay Again (Dec. 8-9)
This seasonal performance by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus at the Nourse Theater and Castro Theatre features 250 elves in holiday drag, fabulous reindeer, Mr. and Mrs. Claus singing opera and more. 275 Hayes St. and 429 Castro St., 415.865.3650
San Francisco Symphony presents A Charlie Brown Christmas—Live (Dec. 21-24)
The symphony performs Vince Guaraldi’s timeless music as live actors portraying Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy and the whole Peanuts gang take the stage. The concert begins with a family-friendly reception in the lobby that features festive decorations and activities, including a giant Christmas tree and special Peanuts decor. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., 415.864.6000
A Christmas Carol (Dec. 1-24)
Now in its 41st year, this San Francisco holiday classic returns with legendary Bay Area actors James Carpenter as Ebenezer Scrooge and Ken Ruta as the Ghost of Jacob Marley. This version of the Dickens classic—originally adapted by Paul Walsh and Carey Perloff—features a cast of dozens, live music and elaborate costumes. Since it began 41 years ago, the American Conservatory Theater’s “A Christmas Carol” has been performed more than 1,200 times to a collective audience of well over a million. A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary St., 415.749.2228
New Year's With SFJazz (Dec. 28-31)
Hailed as the “king of the funky saxophone and one of the primary architects of modern R&B,” Maceo Parker and company take over SFJazz Center for this funky New Year’s week celebration. The altoist has contributed classic funk solos to James Brown hits, played alongside George Clinton in Parliament/Funkadelic and has toured with artists including Keith Richards, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Prince. Bay Area blues legend Sugar Pie DeSanto opens the show. 201 Franklin St., 866.920.5299
A New Year’s Event with Seth MacFarlane and the San Francisco Symphony (Dec. 31)
Seth MacFarlane is best known as a television producer, but he’s also an Academy and Grammy-Award nominated singer and songwriter. In the tradition of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, MacFarlane performs Broadway and jazz hits accompanied by the symphony. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., 415.864.6000
Norm Lewis at Feinstein’s at the Nikko (Dec. 10)
Tony-Award nominee Norm Lewis sings his interpretation of holiday favorites as well as the songs that made him one of the leading men on Broadway.
In a college town like Berkeley, if you’ve seen one coffee shop, you’ve seen them all. One, however, on Channing Way, just a few blocks from campus, pours a unique twist: It’s operated entirely by refugees.
The shop, 1951 Coffee Company, is linked to a program to train political refugees with the skills they need for careers slinging coffee in the United States. Founders Doug Hewitt and Rachel Taber, both in their 30s, started the business and training program to provide a platform of self-assistance for these newcomers to the country.
“Through training, refugees become connected to a specific industry, which gives them a competitive edge that general job training classes don’t always offer,” says Taber.
Hewitt adds: “Working at the coffee shop puts people right in the middle of American culture where they can interact with other Americans every single day. It allows them to become a part of the fabric of our country, which is an important place for them to be after what they’ve been through to get here.”
Officially, 1951 Coffee began in 2016. A year earlier, Hewitt and Taber had met working for the International Rescue Committee in Oakland, and shared a dream of creating a business to help refugees assimilate into American society. Hewitt was roasting coffee on the side and knew the coffee industry would be a soft landing spot for some of the folks who he and Taber wanted to help. So the duo formed a nonprofit and formulated a plan of attack.
The first order of business was a name. Ultimately they chose 1951 Coffee after the year the United Nations first defined and set forth guidelines for the protection of refugees.
Next, they set up a 40-hour training program, held regularly at Regeneration Church in Oakland. Hewitt worked with independent coffee shop owners and other friends in the business to build a two-week curriculum that blends book study with on-the-job practice. Students learn about the differences between coffee drinks. They learn how to use point-of-sale technology such as Square. At the end of the second week, there’s also an open-house demo day during which baristas ply their craft in front of managers from local coffee shops looking to hire.
“The refugees aren’t people who have job experience here in the U.S.—they’ve never been here before so this is the first [employment-related activity] they’re doing,” says Hewitt. “The open sessions allow them to add something of substance to the whole interview process.”
So far, about 70 students have graduated the class, and nearly all have found jobs in the industry.
Of course the training program is only one half of the business at 1951 Coffee. Once Hewitt and Taber saw how many of their graduates were being hired elsewhere, it hit them: Why not create their own coffee shop where graduates can work to earn $13-$15 per hour (and even more with tips)?
The shop opened on the ground floor of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley in January of this year, and now is open daily. To build out the space, Hewitt and Taber retained the services of local design and architecture firm Montaag, and the company became an investor in the business, too.
Montaag spent months working on the project, ultimately settling on a design that mimics the different-colored lines that crisscross across a public transportation’s system maps. Today, when you visit the coffee shop, the motif is omnipresent—starting on the sidewalk out front and leading patrons right up to the front counter.
There are other subtle (and not-so-subtle) touches designed to emphasize the refugee experience.
In a back corner of the seating area, a tiny map of the world has pins representing the countries from which employees hail: Bhutan, Burma, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and Eritrea. There also is a giant signboard behind the main barista station that explains what the average refugee’s journey is like.
For Taber, the broad-sweeping effort is everything.
“The No. 1 thing for me is that we are striving to help people new to the country find dignity,” she says. “The reality is that the jobs they find most often are not always dignified. The way they are treated by most Americans is that they are feared or pitied, but they’re not treated as a human. And we want to combat that.”
Face of the Program
Perhaps nobody embodies the 1951 mission better than Meg Karki, a 28-year-old refugee from Nepal who came to the United States six years ago to escape political persecution.
Karki connected with Hewitt and Taber within months of his arrival and almost immediately signed up for classes in barista school. He describes his first few weeks of work as a barista as “bad,” but notes that eventually he learned. Today, Karki is manager of the café and now also runs the training program—two big jobs in the world of 1951.
“For me this isn’t just about the coffee shop; it’s about the fact that people can come to the United States and, with help from very generous people, do anything,” says Karki, who originally is from Bhutan. “For me, and for other [refugees] this is still a land of opportunity.”
1951 Coffee, 2410 Channing Way, Berkeley. 510.848.6252
Stretched along the Petaluma River between the Pacific coast and California Wine Country, Petaluma earns high marks for its pastoral setting and small-town vibe. About 40 miles north of San Francisco, the community also has cultural and culinary highlights well worth a journey. “Petaluma is on the way to a lot of really great local wineries and the Sonoma Cheese Trail, so it’s easy to stop by on the way to those,” says Angelo Sacerdote, who opened Petaluma Pie Company in 2010 with his life and business partner, Lina Hoshino. “There’s real natural beauty here and a great agricultural history that people are working to keep alive as well.” To explore Petaluma’s noteworthy attractions and new additions, plan a day or a weekend trip to the Sonoma County city.
Where to Eat
This time of year, holiday treats top the list of popular items at Petaluma Pie Company. The cafe’s pumpkin pie recipe, reformulated for the 2017 season, features a swirl of maple syrup and brown sugar; the apple pecan crumble with salted caramel is a reported favorite of staff members and guests alike.
Petaluma Pie sources organic butter, eggs, milk and other ingredients locally, working with First Light Farm, Devil’s Gulch Ranch, Cowgirl Creamery and additional regional partners to create its sweet and savory menu items. Sacerdote says customers appreciate the bakery’s commitment to local producers, and his team enjoys the opportunity to serve fresh flavors while supporting neighbors.
Travis Day of Petaluma’s Thistle Meats also values the accessibility of farm-to-table elements.
“We are right down the road from most of the farms we work with,” he says. “Because we’re sandwiched between Healdsburg, San Francisco and Napa, it seems inevitable that this community would have a significant culinary scene.”
Day took over Thistle Meats earlier this year, and his whole-animal butcher shop and salumeria serves fresh meats, charcuterie, prepared foods and a petite lunch menu. He brings an extensive culinary background to his work, which means that customers will find more than just traditional cuts and cured meats.
“We make our own sauerkraut. I’ve fermented a ton of green tomatoes. We’ve canned Bolognese and tomato sauce, too, so we can carry those products through the winter season. We’re constantly pushing the envelope to see what else we can bring to the market,” Day says.
The Drawing Board also opened in downtown Petaluma in the past year, introducing another sustainably minded option that showcases the area’s orchards, ranches, dairies and vineyards. Not far away, Vine and Barrel holds tastings and special events at its bottle shop and wine bar, focusing on local blends and spotlighting boutique reds and whites through its wine club. Brewsters Beer Garden + Restaurant rotates regional selections through its 30 taps and offers cocktails, lunch and dinner in a family-friendly setting that has open-air Beer Garden + Restaurant rotates regional selections through its 30 taps and offers cocktails, lunch and dinner in a family-friendly setting that has open-air tables, a bocce court and a children’s play area. Lagunitas Brewing pours its signature and seasonal brews and serves food in a lively setting on the edge of town.
Things to Do
Petaluma’s postcard-pretty, pedestrian-friendly downtown district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A former Carnegie Library built with locally quarried stone now houses the Petaluma Historical Library & Museum, with exhibits that spotlight local Native American culture, industry and heritage. The 1904 structure centers on a striking leaded-glass dome and also retains round leaded-glass windows and original interior woodwork. McNear’s Mystic Theatre, built in 1911, and the adjacent McNear’s Saloon & Dining House remain popular more than a century after rising on Petaluma Boulevard. Vaudeville acts were the Mystic’s original headliners. Today, the venue hosts performers ranging from Jackie Greene to Colin Hay to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
Just across the river, the Petaluma Arts Center holds concerts, film screenings, theatrical events and rotating exhibitions in a historical railroad station freight building. The neighboring Petaluma Visitors Center, set up in a 1914 train depot that’s also adjacent to the downtown SMART (Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit) station, is a good place to seek out additional information and itinerary suggestions.
Stroll Petaluma’s downtown streets to explore galleries, antique shops, clothing stores and specialty shops. At the Petaluma Seed Bank, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds sells non-GMO seeds, gardening tools and gifts in a stately former bank building. (The company has announced plans to move to another Petaluma Boulevard North location in the spring of 2018.) Copperfield’s Books brings an array of new, used and rare titles together in 10,000 square feet of retail space spread over multiple floors. To the north, off Highway 101, more than 60 major brands offer clothing, shoes, home goods and other items at the Petaluma Village Premium Outlets.
Petaluma Calendar: Winter 2017
Holiday Lighted Boat Parade
Brightly lit boats travel the Petaluma River Turning Basin, treating downtown guests to a festive holiday gathering. Dec. 9
My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra
Learn about the life of the beloved American singer and actor while enjoying performances of some of his most beloved songs at the Cinnabar Theater. Dec. 15-Jan. 14