Friday, May 2, 2014

The Bucket List

Last week, my family and I hit the Pacific Coast Highway and ventured towards Napa Valley, California. Before hitting the road, we fueled the car, and our bellies. Urth Caffe has been on my list of places to dine at for months and since the title of this blog is called, The Bucket List, this was the first thing to cross off my list. 

Urth Caffe is known for its organic coffees and teas. Each cup comes topped with a unique design inscribed into the steamed milk. I had the multigrain waffle which was made with oats, flax seed, wheat germ, and whole wheat flour, and was topped with fresh strawberries and bananas. It was delicious and I'm not ashamed to admit that I ate the whole thing. My mom ordered the bread pudding which was to die for. I definitely recommend trying it. 

After breakfast, we hit the road. First stop, Santa Barbara. We had only begun driving and were already going in the wrong direction! But, we did come across Peterson's Ranch which had a beautiful display of fresh produce. We took this opportunity to stock up on snacks for the car ride.

As soon as we entered Santa Barbara, we stopped at a local winery for some wine tasting of course. It was a beautiful day to sit outside and relax. Then, we walked around the farmers market which was extremely impressive! The selection of fruits and vegetables were gorgeous.

The next day, we got back on the PCH. The views were incredible! We stopped at Elephant Seal Beach, which pretty much speaks for itself. There were hundreds of seals laying on the sand. Further up the coast we stopped in Big Sur for a bite to eat. Nepenthe sat on top of a cliff providing us with the most breathtaking views of the oceans and mountains.Then, we continued up to Carmel and Monterrey.

That night we stayed in San Francisco. I had been there once before and fell in love with the city. This time around it was just as much as fun as I had remembered. We went to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market which is renowned throughout the country as one of the top farmers market to visit. The diversity and quality of the produce was truly unique.

As my dad stood on an unusually long line at Blue Bottle Coffee, my mom and I circled around an almond brittle vendor who was handing out samples. After a handful of samples, we decided it was only fair to purchase a few pieces. The vendor also told us that the line my dad was standing on was for the best coffee in the world. One coffee turned into 4 lattes to go.

After too many hours of driving, we reached our destination - Napa Valley. It was time to kick back, relax, and do nothing but eat and drink. We stayed at the gorgeous and homey, Embassy Suites. Couches and fire pits surrounded a lake which was home to a bevy of swans. It definitely had that winery-feel. 

During our stay in Napa, we made a reservation for dinner at the Culinary Institute of America. At the CIA Greystone, student chefs spend their last few weeks of the program cooking and serving guests at a restaurant right on campus. The school was a beautiful stone building overlooking a vineyard. The menu was limited to a few selections for appetizers, main course, and dessert. I ordered Mary's Farm Chicken which was the largest and freshest piece of chicken I have ever laid my eyes on. This was exactly what a piece of chicken was supposed to look like. 

Back to the bucket list. Every vacation, Nance (mom) insists on finding adventure. So, one morning we woke up bright and early and went on a hot air balloon ride. Check off the bucket list! In the first few moments of take off, I was nervous, but as soon as we got up into the sky, it was a beautiful sight. Our pilot was comical and engaging. The thing with hot air balloons is that there are no controls. It's easy to get up, but apparently not so easy to get down. The pilot has to be in tune with the wind and changes in direction. Towards the end of our ride, the wind wasn't on our side, but it was so much fun. Our pilot, Jay, had his crewing running back and forth beneath us trying to get a hold of the rope to pull us down. Unfortunately, the rope wasn't connected and we landed in a levy. Luckily, Jay knew what he was doing and we gave him a second try. We landed safely in a field. 

The next few days in Napa included a lot of bread, cheese, and wine. Some of my favorite vineyards were St. Supery, Castello di Amoroso, and Del Dotto. Napa is a wonderful place to visit and is filled with really wonderful and friendly people. I hope to visit again soon!

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