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Belated: San Francisco Food Recap

I’ve been meaning to write a recap about all the delicious food I ate while in San Francisco, but as the days and weeks (and now months) passed, I completely forgot. But after being reminded multiple times, I’m finally doing it! Better late than never, right?

After our fun trip in Disneyland, we took a 45 minute plane ride up to San Francisco to spend a few days before heading home. When it comes to trip planning I like to stick to what I know: food, and I leave the rest up to everyone else. So, prior to the trip I spent some time looking up restaurants, per the usual, and was thrilled with the amount of vegetarian and vegan restaurants I found with glowing reviews, along with tons of other restaurants and must-do suggestions. I knew going into this half of the trip that the majority of it would be spent doing two things: walking, and eating.

We arrived in San Francisco mid-day, so after a quick check-in at the Intercontinental San Francisco, we headed to Fisherman’s Wharf via trolley. Riding the trolley was simultaneously super cool and kind of terrifying. I couldn’t help but think of my mom who would have been mildly terrified to know I was hanging off the side of the trolley mere inches away from parked cars as it flew up and down the rolling hills of San Fran, controlled only by a man pulling and pushing levers. Mildly dramatic, but the truth (though not nearly as terrifying in real life as it would be for a mother thinking about it, I’m sure).

Lombard St!

Lombard St!

After spending some time walking around and admiring the tons of seals, we decided to have dinner at Pier Market Sustainable Seafood Restaurant, overlooking the bay. I started off the meal with an Anchor Steam beer since it’s a San Francisco institution, and devoured the pesto penne seen below. There is blackened swordfish on top that I didn’t eat, but I was told it was delicious… and I don’t doubt it was considering how awesome the pasta was. When we got our receipt, I noticed there was a note suggesting a trip to the Biscoff Coffee stand the pier nearby. Being completely obsessed with Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter and Biscoff Spread, I knew I had to get over there for dessert, immediately. I ordered a Biscoff latte, and it was as delicious as I had hoped, and helped warm me up since it was windy and quite cool for an early September evening (for me). After that we headed back to the hotel for an early night, and were up nice and early for the next day of fun.

Pasta at Pier Market Sustainable Fish

Delicious pasta!

One place I knew I needed to get to quickly was the Ferry Building, which is why I started my day there. It came highly recommended to me by a bunch of people, so I knew I had to get there early in the trip to make sure I had enough time. I absolutely loved the Ferry building! It was awesome – food, little shops, and they have a farmer’s market there on the weekend. I had a breakfast of Blue Bottle Coffee, and Cowgirl Creamery toasties. I’ve had Blue Bottle Coffee before in NYC, so I knew I had to have it in it’s birthplace. And, as someone who absolutely loves cheese, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have food from creamery! I ordered the cheddar toasties, which were two pieces of perfectly crunchy and chewy bread topped with grain mustard and melted cheddar cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee, the best!

In addition to grabbing breakfast, I saw an adorable canvas tote bag with birds all over it that I had to get, and I also picked up some chocolate for a friend (and myself) from Recchiuti Confections. Before leaving I decided to get a second coffee from Peet’s, to make sure I was sampling all the different kinds of coffee the locals love. We walked past the America’s Cup, and made our way to the Painted Ladies, which was another must-do on the list.

Painted Ladies

Painted Ladies!

I must admit, this trip was so long ago (over three months), that I don’t remember the exact order of events for each day, but that isn’t what this post is about – it’s all about the food!

One day we decided to venture to the Mission District with only one goal: a mission burrito. After scouring Yelp and Foursquare, we decided on Taqueria El Farolito. As soon as I looked at the menu I knew exactly what I was getting… they had a burrito with a chile relleno stuffed inside! The burrito was huge, and everything I could have dreamed it would be. And now that I’ve written about it, I want one.

Mission Burrito!

Mission Burrito!

After letting the mound of fried burrito deliciousness settle in my stomach, at the recommendation of a bunch of friends we headed to Monk’s Kettle for dinner. This is a (very small) gastropub that has so many beers to choose from it can be kind of overwhelming. Thankfully the waiters and waitresses as well as bartenders are more than happy to help you pick out a beer. I zeroed in on a beer that I’d heard so much about and knew I could only get on the west coast, Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny The Elder.

Scranton Swimming box in the background!

Scranton Swimming box in the background!

It was as awesome as everyone said, and it helped ease the pain of having to wait an hour for a table in a small restaurant. And I should mention that while I don’t have any pictures of the food, it was phenomenal. We had a cheese plate (heaven) to start, and I went with their chickpea and spelt veggie burger. I couldn’t have been happier with the entire experience, and riding the bus home later at night is always fun and filled with characters.

Strikin' a pose at the Golden Gate Bridge

Strikin’ a pose at the Golden Gate Bridge

The second to last day involved being super touristy with a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge and a breakfast burrito at the little Warming Hut that was actually really delicious! After a lot of walking around, we refueled at Source, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant that wasn’t too far from our hotel. I ordered the Hummus platter and paired it with a house made kombucha, which were both awesome. I wanted to try everything on the menu, but resolved myself to grabbing a vegan twinkie on the way out instead of getting a second meal.

Hummus plate with falafel

Hummus plate with falafel

Our final day was spent up in Sonoma and Napa Valley, stopping at a few wineries. I had two favorites; Cline Cellars because their wines were phenomenal (we bought some to bring home with us – if you’re ever there, try their Cashmere wines), and V. Sattui Winery because they had an awesome little deli where you could buy food and then just sit outside and relax with wine. Also, the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards (yes, the same family that invented THE jacuzzi) has a little shop inside their main tasting building called The Olive Press that has tons of different kinds of fresh olive oils and balsamic vinegars. As soon as I locked eyes with their jalapeno olive oil I knew I had to have it. It was so good I bought a bottle to bring home with me, and have been babying it every since.

Jalapeño olive oil

Jalapeño olive oil

Before I knew it, it was time to pack up and head home. It was so fun to spend the majority of this trip based around delicious food… and I feel like I didn’t even crack the surface of the San Francisco food scene!  But at least that’s a good excuse to have to go back.

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Eating Through Disney: Character Dining

One of the few times I wish I had children is when I go to a character breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s always such a treat to see the kids light up as a character makes their rounds and arrives at their table (it’s kind of cute to see the little ones that are petrified of the characters, too). Since I don’t have any children and am not planning on having them anytime soon (or ever…), the next best thing is to go with friends. Even though not all of our character meals were spent with others, we still had a blast. And yes, we went to more than one – three to be exact!

Our first character experience was breakfast over at The Beach Club’s Cape May Café, with Krissy the day after the marathon! I had never been, so I was more than game to give it a try. I do remember way back when (I’m talking elementary school) having breakfast at the Yacht Club, and I’ve eaten at Beaches and Cream, but that was it. We took a bus from our hotel (Pop Century) over to Hollywood Studios (which I refuse to recognize as HS, it’ll always be MGM to me), and walked over to the resort, passing the Boardwalk, Swan, and Dolphin hotels on the way. We even strolled by mile 24 of the marathon, and I made sure to stop and strike a pose.

Disney-001

The view these resorts (Boardwalk, Beach, and Yacht) have is phenomenal, so I made sure to snap a picture. I wouldn’t mind waking up to that view on vacation! And, being that there is an actual boardwalk and a path that takes you from the resorts to Hollywood Studios, it’s a great place to get in a run… though the last thing on my mind the Monday after a marathon is running!

beachclub_view

Breakfast was delicious – they had your typical breakfast fare including eggs, hot and cold cereals, breakfast meats, pastries, etc. The highlight was of course the visit from Minnie, Goofy, and Donald, who had a little fun with us at our table. The tables are covered in paper (think Macaroni Grill) and when Donald came over he wrote a note to us for doing a good job on running the races over the weekend. Then, after an interaction with our waitress, Donald came back later to write that he was #1, and scribbled out our waitress’s name! Of course, Minnie made her way back around and detailed for us that Mickey was in fact number 1, followed by herself, Daisy, and THEN Donald. We were in hysterics the entire time – I love when the characters interact and joke with you! I even noted how their handwriting was so impressive using just little crayons, and Krissy immediately said “I don’t know what you’re talking about Danielle – that’s Minnie!!” Boy do I love feeling like a kid! We had so much fun, we spent almost 2 hours there and basically closed down their breakfast service. I’d call that a success!

krissy_brunch

Finally meeting online friends is the best!

The next character adventure took us to The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom for breakfast. I’ve eaten here before (at least two other times that I can remember), for both breakfast and dinner. Winnie The Pooh was (and still is!) one of my favorite Disney stories, so I love getting to see him and his friends. I actually remember waiting in a long line to have Eeyore sign my “autograph” book the first time I went to Disney World, and when I finally got up there and handed him my book, the cast member with him informed me he was unable to sign my book due to his “paws” (apparently the character costumes weren’t intuitive back in 1992 and Eeyore’s wasn’t pen-friendly), so I took my picture, and then started to hysterically cry out of embarrassment and not having his signature. As I’ve observed in the years since, I see that Eeyore can in fact now sign autograph books – those lucky kids! But I digress…

Disney-002

Aside from the characters, my second favorite part about the Crystal Palace is the atmosphere. It’s such a bright restaurant, and one that I think feels very “Florida.” In addition to the great atmosphere, I love the kid’s section they have for food, cutely named “Pooh’s Corner.” During breakfast they offer what they called stuffed French toast, but to me is more like a giant zeppoli that’s been covered in a cinnamon and sugar mixture… heavenly! Like I said earlier in the post, sometimes I feel funny without any kids at character meals, but the woman at the table next to us (with two young boys) leaned over after one of the characters had come to visit and exclaimed “you two are so cute! I love it!” That definitely made me feel better about being such a big kid. We even had  visit to our table from an absolutely adorable little girl in a Tinkerbell costume. She came over to us, sat down, and just smiled. Her mom came over and grabbed her while saying “sorry honey, but Tinkerbell isn’t part of this character breakfast!” … it was so cute.

Disney-003

The final character breakfast stop was at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort. I stayed at the Contemporary back in 1995 when my dad happened to be on a business trip to Orlando (score!) and the hotel is just as fabulous as I remembered. Of course, the selling point to a 10 year old was the monorail IN the hotel, and I still think it’s the coolest thing ever. Eating at Chef Mickey’s as a child was a ton of fun, and since I’m barely an adult (sure, my age may say so, but my actions say otherwise), I knew it would be just as fun on this trip. This was actually our last meal of the trip; we didn’t have a park ticket for the day since we had to leave at 2p, and getting to the Contemporary was easy – hop on the resort bus to Magic Kingdom, and then walk over. I can say without a doubt that this was by far my favorite breakfast buffet (and I had three on the trip!). There were a ton of vegetarian options (and just a lot of options in general), and everything was really delicious. Besides, how can you not love your meal when you’re visited by Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto?!

Disney-004

I’m definitely planning on doing at least one character breakfast while we’re in Disneyland at the end of the summer for the Dumbo Double Dare – I’ve got to experience the characters on both coasts!

Have you ever done character dining? Did you like it?
Where should I eat while I’m in Disneyland (I’ve never been!)?

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Eating through Disney: EPCOT

Planning and eating are two of my favorite things, so when it comes to planning where to eat on vacation, you know I’m all over it. I especially look forward to planning meals for our Disney trips, because there are just so many options. And with all the countries they have in EPCOT, it gets tough not to eat there every single day! Since they began offering the dining plan, we’ve taken full advantage which allows us for one table service meal each day of our stay. We ate in EPCOT twice; once in Italy on Saturday evening, and once in Mexico on Tuesday night.

Since I’m newly vegetarian (5 months strong!), eating in Disney this time around was definitely different, but no less delicious! I think I struggled the most in EPCOT’s countries because I wanted to try everything, and didn’t necessarily want to hassle anyone about my dietary restrictions. But, it was easy enough and I still enjoyed my meals and of course (maybe more importantly), drinks!

epcot

In order to prepare ourselves for the Marathon on Sunday, we had an early reservation in Italy at Tutto Italia on Saturday. Italy actually has two restaurants; we ate at Via Napoli two years ago so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try their other option. I ordered myself a big bowl of spaghetti (it came with meatballs but I had it without), and loved every bite. I didn’t take a picture just because it was a bowl of spaghetti (nothing super special), but trust me when I say it was yummy. Since we were on the Disney Dining plan, our meal also came with a drink and dessert. Even though I was full from my carb loading, I couldn’t pass up Italian dessert! I ordered the tiramisu and my husband had their cannoli at the suggestion of one of the waiters. He actually came over to tell us if we ordered the cannoli, not to use a fork, because it’s better with your hands. Obviously after that humor we had to try it! He noticed us enjoying the cannoli utensil-free and was psyched to see we took his advice. You know what they say; when in Rome…

canoli-001

Delicious cannoli with an awesome cinnamon plate design!

On Tuesday we had a late dinner reservation in Mexico’s La Hacienda de San Angel. We actually ate there last year, and figured we’d try our hand at a later reservation with a request to sit by the windows since the restaurant is on the Seven Seas Lagoon, where they shoot off fireworks for Illuminations. Ever since I began visiting Disney World (back in 1992!) my family has always eaten in Mexico, but up until my trip in 2011, there was only one restaurant – San Angel Inn. So I’ve been sure to keep the tradition alive and eat in Mexico on every trip (since it’s basically my favorite cuisine EVER), but vary the restaurants, which means next time it’s back to the Inn! Anyway, dinner was fabulous – we started with some melty cheese and tortillas and margaritas. Dinner was tacos with the most amazing sauce and crunchy cabbage for me, and pork for the husband. Everything was served with rice, beans, and tortillas… so much delicious food! We finished our meal just in time to enjoy the fireworks during dessert. They actually turn down the lights in the restaurants lining the lagoon, and broadcast the music into the restaurant itself – it was so awesome! I would highly recommend trying to get a reservation later in the evening (Illuminations are at 9p, so anytime after 8 works), and heading to the restaurant first thing that day to request a window seat (you can’t request it ahead of time).

canoli-001-2

My delicious tacos!

Prior to our meal in Mexico, though, we decided to sample some beer of the world. I know that a lot of marathoners do a “drink around the world” after the race, but I know that I would never last. And actually, it isn’t just marathoners that do it – I must have seen at least 5 different groups with special t-shirts just for drinking around the world. We started in Canada, and made a stop in the United Kingdom and Germany. To save on money and not to ruin our dinners, we shared the beers and then switched to a margarita during dinner (as mentioned above). I of course could have continued with drinks in all the other countries, but didn’t want to over do it. I give credit to the people that are able to legitimately drink their way through the countries – I don’t think I could do it!

In all of my trips to Disney, I’ve eaten in most countries, but there are some still on my to-try list, including Canada, Morocco, Germany, and France. It’s hard to make reservations at new restaurants when I’ve loved my experiences at all of the restaurants I’ve tried! I suppose that just means I’ll have to keep visiting every year – such a shame.

What’s your favorite Disney EPCOT restaurant? 

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Cajun Creole in New Brunswick

On Friday night, the fiancé and I joined a few friends to celebrate a friend’s new job, as the editor of New Brunswick’s Patch.com. Since the site officially launched on Friday morning, it was only appropriate to celebrate that evening. It was a nice way to kick off a new turning point in her career, especially because I know she’s worked really hard to get everything ready. I’m looking forward to reading the articles on the site, and I’m also looking forward to contributing! That’s right, you can now find this blog on New Brunswick’s Patch under their “Local Voices.” I’ll also have the opportunity to do some other writing (restaurant reviews, etc.) which I’m really looking forward to.

So, to celebrate we headed to The Old Bay in New Brunswick, which is a restaurant and bar serving up Cajun Creole cuisine. I’ve been a few times, but only to meet friends for drinks, so I was excited to try their food. So like I always do, I checked the menu ahead of time and was immediately drawn to their jalapeno corncake appetizer. Other than that, though, I had no idea what I’d order, which is rare. So, it wound up being a game time decision!

Jalapeno Crab Cakes

I decided to go with the Andouille crusted red snapper, that’s served over edamame succotash and wilted spinach. I was hoping it would have a little kick from the andouille, but that was something a dash of hot sauce easily fixed. The edamame succotash was amazing – I would have ordered an entire bowl of it if I could!

Andouille Crusted Red Snapper

The fiancé decided to get two appetizers as his dinner, and went with the Bayou fish tacos, and their version of beef pies, which were both really good (of course I had to sample them!).

Bayou Fish Tacos & Beef Pies

I washed everything down with some Victory Summer Lovin’ ale, which was nice and light, crisp, and fruity – just the way I like my beer!

I would defintely recommend The Old Bay – especially if you’re looking for a bunch of appetizers and drinks. Plus, if you stick around on most nights after 10pm they have drink specials, and live music!

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