State 21: California - November 27, 2017
“If you are going to San Francisco be sure to wear a flower in your hair”
Scott Mc Kenzie
We woke up at a Walmart in Dixon, CA having had a restful night sleep. The day started with a disagreement between Nate and I about the "Famous Food" for California. I thought the famous food should be Napa Valley Wine, but Nate doesn’t drink. Nate thought the famous food should be San Francisco Sourdough Bread, which totally grosses me out. To compromise, we decided our famous food for California will be a split decision, and I would go first. Off we went 49 miles West to Hagafen Cellars for my choice of the Cross Country Couple’s "Famous Food" for California; Napa Valley Wine.
Located in the heart of Napa Valley’s premier wine region, Hagafen Cellars was founded in 1979, and the first commercially released vintage was harvested in 1980. In the ensuing years, the winery has grown from a small partnership to an established company whose wines are distributed throughout North America and throughout the world. The two sides of wine production are grape growing and wine making. Fine wine begins by growing lucious grapes in the vineyard. The well-drained soil of Napa is ideal for the growth and production of ripe, rich, intensely fruity estate bottled wines. After the harvest is completed, the second step begins; wine making. Wine making presents a unique challenge each year, since each growing season and harvest are unique and different. A Winemaker should never seek to change the flavor of the fruit, but should instead strive to showcase the best nature has produced. For over 35 years, Hagafen wines have been served at the White House to every sitting US President since Reagan, and to visiting foreign dignitaries including: Egyptian President Mubarak, King Hussein of Jordan, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Today, Hagafen wines would present their finest vintages to mwah! I have never been to a wine tasting, and I very rarely even drink. I really wish my Cousin Lisa was here today as she is very knowledgeable about wine. I am way outside of my element here, but this is what my cross country trip all about!
We entered Hagafen Cellars via a ¼ mile dirt driveway leading straight through the center of their vineyards to the winery. After parking Rosie, we made our way to their tasting room consisting of a single story 12 x 12 foot stone building. The right side of the tasting rooms interior featured both individual bottles and cases of wine for sale, and the left side featured a bar with stools and a large window overlooking the vineyards. Please see the pictures below.
Upon taking a seat, I informed the bartender I was interested in a wine tasting. I do not know what the correct name is for one who serves wine, so if anyone knows please educate me. The bartender presented me with a menu, and asked me to choose 5 vintages to sample for $20. He inquired about my wine preferences, and I in turn asked for his recommendations as this was my first time. He began to describe each available vintage to me in exhaustingly great detail! He might as well have been speaking Swahili! I ended up just choosing 5 wines from the menu at random.
I am not a wine connoisseur by any means, but I will attempt to explain each to the best of my abilities. The 1st wine I sampled was their Chardonnay. It tasted oaky, acidic, dry, and I greatly disliked the taste. The 2nd wine I tasted was their Pinot Noir. It was neither dry nor sweet, and tasted very plain. The 3rd Wine I sampled was their Clarinet. It had a pleasant tart flavor with a hint of cranberry, and a woody aroma, which interestingly was not represented in the flavor. The 4th wine I sampled was their Sauvignon Blanc Late Harvest. Although it is a dessert wine, it was far too sweet, and tasted strongly like cork. I disliked this wine the most! The last wine I sampled, was their White Riesling. Also a dessert wine, it tasted fruity, yet mild and watered down. It possessed the best aroma and the perfect amount of sweetness. Although White Riesling was the best one I sampled, it was still disgusting. The wine is pictured below in the order described.
The bartender offered to waive the cost of the tasting if I purchased a bottle, but I respectfully declined. There is nothing I sampled that I would want to taste ever again! On an interesting note, I did not know you are supposed to spit out the wine after tasting it. I was wondering what that metal bowl on the bar was for. It would have been nice if this was explained to me, as I left feeling a tad tipsy!
After departing Hagafen Cellars, we drove 55 miles Southwest to Point Reyes National Seashore to see the Cross Country Couple’s "Historic Location" for the state of California; The San Andreas Fault. The San Andreas Fault is a continental fault formed where the Pacific Plate and North American Plates meet, and extends approximately 750 miles through California. There have been 2 major earthquakes along the San Andreas fault in the 20th century. The first was the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, which had a 7.8 magnitude, killed 3,000 people, and destroyed 80% of the city. The second was the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which had a magnitude of 6.9, killed 63 people, injured 3,757 others, and was televised live during the 3rd game of the 1989 World Series between the Giants and the Athletics. Even more disturbing, scientists believe the next “BIG ONE” is long overdue along the Southern portion of the San Andreas Fault, which runs beneath the densely populated cities of Los Angeles and San Diego!
Our research revealed, the San Andreas fault runs beneath Point Reyes National Seashore. There is even a hike called the Earthquake Trail, which follows the fault line. So the conversation prior to departing between Lori and I went something like this, “Hey Lori! Do you want to go for a romantic nature walk along the most famous and volatile fault lines in the entire world?”. To which she responded, “Sure, let’s go!”. You got to admire her sense of adventure! Please see the pictures below.
The Earthquake Trail is a ½ mile loop trail, which follows the San Andreas Fault line for approximately ¼ of a mile. I was expecting to see a huge jagged crack in the earth, and then gaze deep down into a black abyss! In actuality, there was only 6 wooden poles painted light blue sticking out of the earth to signify the location of the fault line. However, there was one inclination of the areas violent past! By looking at the old trees around the fault line, you could tell something very traumatic once occurred here. The trees and their branches were growing in very peculiar directions and angles, which was very eerie to witness! Hiking the Earthquake Trail proved to be a tad anti-climactic, but perhaps my expectations were a bit unrealistic. On our way back to Rosie, we came across a family of black tail deer, and wildlife living in the wild is always a pleasure to see! Hiking the Earthquake Trail along the San Andreas fault was a fun and memorable way to spend an afternoon!
After departing the San Andreas Fault, we drove 29 miles South to San Francisco for my choice for the Cross Country Couple's "Famous Food" for California; Boudin Sourdough Bread. Established in 1849, the Boudin Bakery is a San Francisco Bakery famous for it's sourdough bread. The bakery was established by French immigrant Isidore Boudin, who blended the sourdough techniques of gold rush miners with traditional French techniques. Their secret recipe consists of 4 simple ingredients; flour, water, salt and mother dough. In fact, the simplicity of their recipe was so successful, the bakery still uses the exact same dough developed during the California Gold Rush in 1849! If consuming 160-year-old bread dough sound nauseating, you are not alone! This was the reason Lori was very hesitant about eating their sourdough bread. I promise you there is science behind the process, and eating their bread is not as disgusting as it sounds. Just the fact that they have been making the same bread since before the Civil War, is evidence of how safe and delicious their bread must be!
Boudin does not use commercial yeast, but instead uses a variety of wild yeast, bacteria, and other local microbes resulting in natural fermentation, which in turn makes the bread rise. However, the secret to Boudin sourdough bread is the mother dough! For over 160 years, each day’s batch of bread begins with a portion of the dough left over from the day prior, which is called the mother dough. Due to the unique combination of microbes used in the fermentation process, the mother dough can only live in the fog cooled climate of San Francisco. On a microscopic level, it is actually quite plausible I am eating bread from the exact same dough as did the miners from the California Gold Rush!
Boudin Bakery currently has over 30 locations throughout California. Today, we would be visiting their Fisherman’s Wharf location along the San Francisco Bay to sample their bread, go on a self-guided tour of their bakery, and visit the home of the mother dough! Please see the pictures below.
The majority of the bakeries walls, and even part of their ceilings, are made of glass allowing you to see their entire operation from start to finish! I always appreciate a transparent food service operation, especially when using 160 year old dough! The entire process was very clean, well organized, and very interesting to witness. We even got to see where the mother dough lives, but it was unfortunately is locked behind a metal door. Please see the pictures below.
After touring their bakery, we walked to the other side of the building to their café. The time had finally come to sample their world famous 160 year old sourdough bread! Although, sourdough is not my first choice for bread, it possesses the capability to enhance an entrée If used in the correct manner. I opted to order one of their tomato soup bread bowls. Although I hate tomato soup, it is one of Lori’s favorites! She ate the soup, and I had the bread. Tomato soup is naturally very acidic, and I worried coupling it with a sourdough bread would be too overwhelming for the pallet. However, they cleverly tapered the acidity by making the soup cream based, and I surprisingly found the tomato soup quite delicious! The exterior of the bread had a hard crispy crust, and the interior was warm, soft and fluffy. While the sourness was present, it was in no way overwhelming! Bourdin sourdough bread was definitely better than most others, and Lori even decided to give the bread a taste! Please see the pictures below.
After departing the Boudin Bakery, we walked along the shore of the San Francisco Bay to Pier 39. Opened in 1978, Pier 39 is a tourist attraction which includes shops, restaurants, a video arcade, street performers, and aquarium, and a 2 story carousel. Although the aforementioned is not our scene, the entire pier was decorated for Christmas, and was an ideal backdrop for a relaxing evening stroll. Please see the pictures below.
The end of Pier 39 offers excellent views of Alcatraz Island, The Old Port Gate, Angel Island, the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. Lori and I had previously visited the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz during our honeymoon 5 years prior, and chose to visit the San Francisco sites we had yet to see. Please see the pictures below.
Next, we headed towards Pier 39 to see the sea lions. The California sea lions have always been present in San Francisco Bay on Seal Rock. However, in 1989, docks for personal water crafts were installed along Pier 39, and the sea lions moved from Seal Rock to the newly installed docks. The reason for the migration remains unknown, but it is speculated the sea lions feel safer closer to the shore of the bay. Although there are drastic fluctuations in the number of sea lions on the Pier 39 docks, as many as 1,701 have been reported at one time. Many of them are recognizable to researchers, and some of the regulars have even been given their own names! The boat owners docked at Pier 39 began to complain about the odor and noise of the sea lions, and the difficulty in avoiding the animals on the docks and in the water. The story caught national attention, and the sea lions at Pier 39 became a tourist attraction. In the end, the boats were relocated elsewhere, and the docks were given to the sea lions! This is where the Cross Country Couple caught up with the sea lions at sunset. Please see the pictures below.
After departing Pier 39, we walked to Ghirardelli Square. In 1893, Domenico Ghirardelli purchased the entire city block in order to turn it into the headquarters of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. In the 1960s, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was sold, production was moved off site, and the property was put up for sale. To prevent the site from development, a San Francisco family named the Roth’s purchased the land. In what would come to be the first major adaptive and reuse project in the US, The Roth’s converted the square and it's historic brick structures into a restaurant and retail complex. Today, Ghirardelli Square is a public square with over 40 shops and restaurants and a 5-star hotel called the Fairmont Heritage Place. To preserve the original purpose of the property, the lower floors of the Clock Tower are home to Ghirardelli's retail chocolate shop. In 1982, Ghirardelli Square was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, we live in a disposable society. If a button pops off your shirt, throw it away, and go buy a new one. If a building is old, tear it down and build another. The Roth’s were visionaries, and I was excited to finally visit Ghirardelli Square! It was already dark when we arrived, and the Square was brilliantly illuminated for the holidays. Please see the pictures below.
Although most of the retail stores were already closed for the day, The Ghirardelli retail store and soda shop were open, and both were quite the experience. Upon entering, we saw Domenico Ghirardelli's original 19th century chocolate machinery still making chocolate for customers even to this very day! Solely for nostalgia purposes, Lori and I split one of their world famous Ghirardelli hot fudge sundae’s for $12.00! Since I integrated raw organic cacao into my diet, all other chocolate has become less appetizing. When it comes to commercially produced chocolate, Ghirardelli is better than most, but not good enough for me to actively seek it out. While we are on the topic, Hershey’s should not even be considered chocolate! Please see the pictures below of our visit to the Ghirardelli Retail Store and Soda Shop!
After departing Ghirardelli Square, we headed back to reunite with Rosie. Along the way, we happened across a baked potato restaurant, and filled our bellies with a pair of delicious loaded stuffed veggie potatoes! After dinner, we discussed where to spend the night, but there were very limited choices for overnight parking in San Francisco! There were no Walmart’s, no Cracker Barrels, no truck stops, no campsites, a city ordinance banning overnight parking, and even the roach motels were well over $100.00 per night! Since all of our go to overnight options were a no go in the city by the bay, we decided to try our luck at a casino! Although Lori and I are not gamblers, casinos are our option of last resort to park for the night as they are always open, have large parking lots and tons of security. However, casinos tend to be noisy, smelly, smoky, and can attract criminals and desperate people. Therefore, we try to avoid them unless we have no other options, and tonight there were no other options. Tonight was the first night we would sleep at a casino, and neither of us were thrilled with the idea. Nevertheless, we felt blessed to have a safe and free place to park Rosie for the night.