Happy Memorial Day, and a huge thanks to those who have served or are serving in the military!
As we enter into summer, you might be gearing up for a vacation, so I’m sharing about my recent San Francisco vacation today, in case you visit Northern California in your travels this year! Not only were the areas we visited absolutely gorgeous, but the food exceeded my expectations! This is such a gluten-free friendly city! (While I DID deviate from my grain-free and dairy-free diet more than usual, I still was able to find some paleo-friendly foods, too!)
Rather than cramming in a week’s worth of food and highlights into one gigantic post, it seemed to work better as a two-part post! So today, I present you with Part 1 of my tour of Sausalito, San Francisco, and Napa Valley, with the primary focus being the amazing, gluten-free FOOD! 🙂**Please note that I am not being commissioned to review or advertise for any of the restaurants or locations in this post. This is purely an account of our travel experience for informational and entertainment purposes only. Enjoy!**
Day 1: SAUSALITO
When Mark and I began to plan our San Francisco getaway week, we knew we didn’t want to stay in the city. While I do love the hustle and bustle of city life and the closeness to all of the shops, restaurants, and downtown activities, I knew that it wouldn’t be quite as restful a vacation if we stayed in SF. So, I began searching for nearby towns that were a little quieter and had better parking situations, since we planned to rent a car for excursions.
I stumbled upon the quaint, waterfront town of Sausalito and I was immediately drawn to the Mediterranean-style homes on the hill, boutique shops and non-chain restaurants, and spectacular views of the city, bridges, and nearby islands. Not to mention, a ferry within walking distance, which we could take in and out of downtown SF. We were fortunate enough to find an open apartment and stayed in Sausalito for the week. This was the best decision we could have made- Sausalito was a true gem and we would stay there again in a heartbeat!Our first day in Sausalito was unplanned, where we walked the Bridgeway (main drag) and side streets and stumbled upon some wonderful restaurants and cafes. Our first dining experience of the trip was at Copita, an open-air Mexican restaurant that many tourists stop in after they get off the ferry from San Francisco. It may not be a local’s top choice, but Copita has a 100% gluten-free menu. Since fully gluten-free restaurants are difficult to find in Pittsburgh, I was sold. While Copita was pricey with small portions, we went for lunch, so it worked for us. We started with a shared appetizer of a “Trio of Tamalitos” – the first with duck and salsa, the second with black beans, plantain, and queso fresco, and the third with roasted pork, pickled onions, and habanero crema. Yum, yum, and more yum!While they were small, each one packed so much flavor! Mark’s favorite was the black bean tamalito, which was so unique and interesting. Mine was the pork tamalito, which just melted in my mouth. We finished with a “Fried Pork Belly” taco and a “Carne Asada” taco on homemade tortillas. Both were insanely good. The pork belly was so tender and the steak with caramelized onions had a nice, smokey flavor. This was the way to kick off our food week! Check out Copita for a higher-end Mexican experience that you won’t regret.
To work off our lunch, we hiked around the Marin Headlands, which was one of the most beautiful places of our entire trip! The views are breath-taking and it’s worth fighting the crowds to find a parking spot and walk around the various lookout areas. After spending the day out, our first dinner of our vacation was actually a dinner IN. When we travel, we try to find rentals that include equipped kitchens, due to my food issues and also so that we can do a little cooking, since we try not to eat out for every meal. I recommend doing this, if you can! You’ll definitely save some money, and it’s fun to cook together! (At least, we think so!)
I packed enough protein bars so we never had to buy breakfast out, along with some kitchen essentials, like spices, condiments, and coconut oil, to use for lunch and dinner. We were also well-stocked on snacks, thanks to my Top 5 Paleo Travel Snacks that I pack on almost every trip. We got groceries nearby to round out breakfast and lunch, and chose two simple dinner ideas – one of which was nachos.We spent an embarrassingly long time drooling over the zillions of salsas and guacamoles that we saw at the market. After selecting some, we used them along with refried black beans, ground turkey, peppers, onions and spread it all over a bed of non-GMO organic corn chips. We broiled the nachos and served them with steamed veggies. It was an easy, inexpensive, and perfect meal to eat on our little balcony with a spectacular view!
DAY 2: SAN FRANCISCO
We spent our second full day in downtown San Francisco after taking an early morning ferry into the city. I scheduled a walking tour for us so that we could get a good feel for all of the different neighborhoods and cultures, since the city is so widespread and has SO much to see! We toured with The Real SF walking tour company and did a full day tour, led by local SF natives. They did a great job of leading us through streets, parks, alleys, landmarks, and more on foot, and in cable cars, Muni buses, and the BART metro system.
One of our first stops was in Chinatown, where we visited a fortune cookie company that made their fortune cookies in-house. The place smelled heavenly, and while I couldn’t eat the cookies, I enjoyed watching them being made by hand!After Chinatown, we trekked around Russian Hill, which was absolutely beautiful. So many gorgeous, expensive homes! I loved the steep streets, even though I would never be able to drive in this city! Forgive me for looking like a total tourist with my camera in this photo! We made a brief stop for a snack in a local cafe, where I found the best almond milk I’ve ever had! It was called Turmeric Mylk by Project Juice. Turmeric is a superfood spice that is supposed to help fight diseases and inflammation, but you usually find it in savory dishes. I was skeptical of this drink, but it was actually fantastic! A creamy almond milk that was sweetened with dates and filled with chai spices, with a hint of color from the turmeric. SO GOOD. While in the Russian Hill area, we got to wind our way down the historic curvy Lombard Street, which is a very famous area of town. It was crazy standing at the bottom, watching cars weave slowly down the hill. Only in SF!After more walking, picture-taking, and bus-riding, we landed in Pacific Heights, a ritzy area full of lovely shops and restaurants. This was our lunch location, so we had our pick of eateries. Our tour guide mentioned a gluten free-friendly option called Glaze on Filmore Street, featuring Japanese street food. No convincing needed. Glaze was amazing! They make all of their own sauces in-house, including gluten-free teriyaki. They were also Paleo-friendly, so I ordered a Chicken Teriyaki Salad Bowl. The chicken was perfectly cooked, the salad crispy and refreshing, and the teriyaki sauce was sweet and spicy. Super filling and totally fueled us for the rest of our sight-seeing tour!
We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting parks, a marina with a view of Alcatraz, and Victorian homes like the ones you see in “Full House.”Another highlight was visiting Ghirardelli Square, where we were greeted with free samples of Dark Chocolate Blueberry bars. We didn’t get a lot of time here, so Mark and I made a mental note to return later in the week to pick up some souvenirs.Our tour’s last stop was to the colorful Mission District, where we walked through streets full of murals and smelled the tantalizing aromas of burritos, tacos, and other Mexican treats. Mark and I knew we had to come back to the Mission on our own so we could try some local Mexican food!
After a long day of sightseeing, we boarded our ferry back to Sausalito and we ate a simple homemade dinner of roasted chicken, baked white sweet potato fries, and spinach salad. It sounds like a pretty basic meal, but what made it great was Tessemae’s Dressing and Marinade! If you haven’t tried this, PLEASE do. They make natural, gluten-free and paleo-friendly salad dressings, sauces, and marinades. We used the ranch variety as a chicken marinade and a dressing on our salad. DELISH!
By the end of the tour, we felt like we really had a good feel and appreciation for San Francisco, and we looked forward to returning at the end of the week for more sights, Mexican food, and Alcatraz! (All of which I’ll cover in Part 2!)
DAY 3: NAPA VALLEY
So many parts of our trip were on my bucket list, with a big one being Napa Valley. I am by no means a wine connoisseur, but I do enjoy an occasional glass of wine with a special meal or celebration. I also have seen enough pictures of Napa to know just how beautiful the area is, so I couldn’t wait to drive through the vineyards in person!
We chose several wineries to visit – Artesa Winery for it’s modern architecture and stunning views, Domaine Chandon for it’s famous sparkling wine, and Castello di Amorosa for the medieval castle and crowd-pleasing winery tour and tasting experience.
Artesa was our first stop in the morning. Just check out how gorgeous this place is! It’s built right into a hill and surrounded by pools, artistic statues, and vineyards. Since it was early in the day, we didn’t come to taste the wine, but purely to admire the surroundings.After a walk around the grounds at Artesa, we stopped for lunch at the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa Valley. If you visit Napa, be sure to stop here! It’s a huge indoor market with a wide variety of artisan foods, gourmet gifts, and local restaurants. We chose C. Casa to for lunch, since they were another fully gluten-free eatery with sustainable fish, grass-fed beef, and locally-sourced ingredients. I had the Fresh Crab Taco, complete with spicy peppers, avocado, garlic aioli, cilantro, and fresh lime vinaigrette It was light and refreshing with a spicy kick. Definitely just what I needed before our afternoon of wine-tasting!From here, we visited Domaine Chandon winery. It was really a tranquil area, complete with a fishpond, walking paths and a bridge, and a serene picnic area. Unfortunately, the tasting room had been reserved for a special event, so we just walked around the grounds and checked out their wine shop. Since we couldn’t try the sparkling wine on site, we just bought a couple of these cute mini bottles of Brut Classic (a dry white wine) to pack and try at home! They made great gifts for our families, too!Our final winery, Castello di Amorosa, was probably the most impressive. Just look at this castle! It was built to be a replica of a medieval castle, complete with a banquet hall, dungeon, and even a torture chamber (yikes!), all of which we saw on our tour. We also tasted some Cabernet Sauvignon out of a barrel, which I really enjoyed, followed by a full tasting of 10 wines in their underground tasting room. We ended up purchasing a bottle of their La Fantasia wine, which is a sweeter, fruity red wine that I think will be perfect for a summer dinner party!To round out our lovely day in Napa, we visited the quaint town of Yountville, home to many notable restaurants, owned by award-winning chefs. I’m a huge fan of the world-renowned Chef Thomas Keller, who has his restaurant group in Napa. One of his restaurants is The French Laundry, which is one of the few in the US that has 3 Michelin stars – a sign of pure excellence. Since The French Laundry would have cost us a week’s worth of dinners, we chose to try Bouchon, Keller’s slightly less expensive French Bistro.Our Bouchon experience was mostly good, with the highlights being the appetizers, the attention to detail, and the exceptional service. They were also able to adapt any dish to be gluten-free, which I appreciated. The one flaw in our visit was the Moules au Saffran dish that I ordered. 🙁 It was just a bad batch of mussels – not much else to say about it. I did, however, really enjoy the appetizers we tried. The first was the Deviled Eggs, which had very classic flavors that you would expect from deviled eggs, but these were the biggest, creamiest deviled eggs that I ever had! The Salade Lyonnaise was my favorite of the evening – a poached egg, crispy bacon lardons, and a mustard vinaigrette atop crispy mixed greens. I love a good poached egg! Mark’s entree of Poulet Roti was also quite tasty – a perfectly roasted chicken paired with bacon and baby peas in a chicken jus. Since the meal was still fairly pricey and I wasn’t happy with my entree, Bouchon didn’t quite live up to my expectations. But, I don’t regret the experience and I would still recommend the Yountville area if you plan to dine in Napa Valley.
We didn’t have to go far for dessert that evening, since I was thrilled to discover that directly next to the restaurant was Bouchon Bakery, full of beautiful French pastries. I was pleasantly surprised to find gluten-free macarons here, so we picked out two flavors to enjoy on our drive back to Sausalito. And wow, these Pistachio and Salted Caramel Macarons did not disappoint! I loved the lightness of the cookies with very creamy, rich fillings. The Salted Caramel was our hands-down favorite. A sweet ending to an unforgettable day in the wine country!Thanks for journeying with me through Part 1 of my gluten-free foodie tour of San Francisco! Stop back here on Wednesday for the epic conclusion of our trip with more tantalizing food photos and travel experiences from Muir Woods and Muir Beach, the Mission district, and Alcatraz! Plus, find out what our favorite restaurant of the trip was! It’s a MUST-TRY if you visit San Francisco!
Oh, and I didn’t forget about recipes – I’ll have a new one coming your way this week, so stay tuned! Wishing you all a fun, relaxing Memorial Day! 🙂