Category Archives: Restaurants & Excursions

Germany

Part deux…uh, make that part zwei of our trip was to Germany to visit some friends. We hopped on a Thalys high-speed train at Gare du Nord, one of the railroad stations in Paris. Our train took 3 hours and 15 minutes to travel from Paris to Cologne, Germany (or Köln, as the Germans call it). We even stopped at Brussels and a few other towns to let passengers on or off the train. The train was clean and spacious with comfortable seats, and we even had wifi access.

arrivals board

The arrivals board at Gare du Nord. We kept hearing this clicking sound and soon realized it was the letters on the arrivals board flipping to update the info.

koeln cathedral

The Köln Cathedral, which is right next to the train station. Before our train left to go back to Paris, Sam and I took turns running through the rain to admire the cathedral and peek inside.

After arriving in Köln, we met our friends and they drove us to the little town where they live about an hour northeast of Köln. It was dark on the drive to the town, so when I woke up the next morning it was exciting to see the beautiful, wooded hills. This leg of our trip was a welcome contrast to the first part of our trip: Our time in Paris was filled with sightseeing, but in Germany we mostly hung out with our friends, played games and went for walks. The daughter of our friends had a pet rabbit named Anton, and we even took him for a walk. He had a special rabbit leash and liked to hop in the meadow and eat grass.

german hillside

German hillside. So green!

path and woods

One of our walks was on this path alongside a stream.

dessert and bunny walking

It was our friend’s birthday while we were visiting, and she had prepared a feast of German desserts! And here’s our friend’s daughter walking her rabbit. He was hopping around so much it was hard to get a picture of him.

sam rabbit and mushroom

Here Sam is holding Anton the rabbit. And to the right is a very poisonous mushroom. The recent rain in Germany ensured lots of mushrooms popping up amongst the brush and grass.

sam and frau hauer

Sam with his former Sunday school teacher.

One special part of the Germany trip was meeting Sam’s Sunday school teacher from when he was about four years old. Frau Hauer was a missionary in Pakistan for 38 years and was an instrumental part of the children’s ministry in the city where Sam grew up. We went to her home for lunch, where she had prepared a Pakistani meal, and then she took us for a long walk in the hills.

red tree and houses

We got our fix of fall colors in Germany. Look how red this tree is!

sam with pony

I spy a miniature pony.

andrea by stream

And here I am during our walk alongside a stream.

After a few days in Germany, we took the train back to Paris, where our flight back to the US departed from. If you’re thinking of traveling to France, we give Air France two thumbs up. The flight attendants were super friendly (and spoke to us in English…I guess we have “American” written on us!). And not were there TVs in the back of every seat with great movie selection, they served complementary champagne and wine with the meals. I’ll toast to that!

And as you can see, we made it safely back to the States and have shaken off the jet lag. Now I’m sorting through photos to make a photo book (love the look of Blurb books!) and am snacking on the cookies, chocolate and European style jams we brought back as souvenirs. Our trip has inspired me to try a few new recipes, so hopefully I can tackle them soon and share them with you. Ciao for now!

Paris

Bonjour Readers! Here are the photos I promised you of Sam’s and my recent trip to Paris, interspersed with some thoughts. Enjoy!

pastries and andrea

The pastry case at Gosselin, where we had delicious sandwiches, an eclair and a piece of flan. And me, drinking an espresso.

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We began our first day of sightseeing with the fog-shrouded Eiffel Tower. We opted to take the stairs to the second level instead of wait in line for the elevator.

The Highlight: Sightseeing! It was both Sam’s and my first time to Paris, so we decided to purchase Paris Museum Passes and hit up as many sights as we could. With our passes we visited the Notre Dame Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay, the Pompidou Centre and Versaille. The Eiffel Tower was not included in the pass, but we just purchased tickets at the tower and walked up the stairs. And of course, we also enjoyed plenty of free sights: Luxumbourg Gardens, the Champs-Elysees, the Tuileries, the Invalides Garden, Place des Vosges, Bastille, Montmartre, Sacre-Ceour and the Grande Epicerie. We used Rick Steves’ Paris 2012  as our guidebook and couldn’t have been more pleased.

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We would have never gotten anywhere in Paris if it weren’t for the Metro maps and the good old-fashioned paper map we carried along.

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Beautiful, crisp day for a walk along the Seine.

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Eric Kayser makes the most delicious baguette I have ever tasted. This is a picture of their fig bread, which was also really delicious.

Favorite food moment: Eating a warm baguette from the Eric Kayser bakery. Chewy and warm with amazing flavor. Apparently there are a few Eric Kayser bakeries now open in New York City, which means these delicious baguettes are just a little bit closer to home. We also had a really delicious dinner our last night in Paris at a small restaurant bustling with locals. We ordered foie gras, cassoulet, duck conit and tarte tatin. Quintessentially French! There was a French mother and her grown daughter sitting beside us and they struck up a conversation with us. They probably knew as much English as we knew French—very little! They were vacationing from Cannes and were just as excited to be visiting Paris as we were.

meringues and georges larnicol

Meringues in the window at Gosselin, and the immaculate chocolate display at Georges Larnicol, where shoppers can scoop their own chocolate covered nuts and confections.

notre dame stained glass

Stained glass and detailing inside Notre Dame. We stayed steps away from Notre Dame and could hear the bells tolling from our apartment.

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One of the many gargoyles protecting Notre Dame. We walked to the top of the tower so we were able to get a good look at these scary little creatures.

crepe and ice cream sign

What would a trip to Paris be without a crepe? We had both sweet and savory. Also, an ice cream parlor sign inside the Luxembourg Gardens.

champs and arc

View of the Champs-Elysees from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, and the Arc itself.

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Alas, our one destination on the Champs-Elysees was closed for renovation: Laduree.

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I.M. Pei’s pyramid in front of the Louvre. Definitely recommend a night visit to the Louvre if you’re not too tired. There were barely any crowds and it was magical seeing the pyramid and museum lit at night.

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The dutiful tourists, including us, flocked to Versaille. What would King Louis XIV think of all us commoners (and foreigners!) walking round his home?

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The Hall of Mirrors in Versaille.

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And what I call the Hall of Portraits in Versaille.

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The gardens and grand canal stretch out behind Versaille. Off to the right are even more palaces!

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During a brief rainstorm at Versaille, we had a lovely lunch at La Flotille, a cafe near the Grand Canal.

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Versaille woods.

Next time: Quest for the perfect croissant. Most of the croissants we tried were pretty average. I was hoping to find something on par with San Francisco-based Tartine’s croissants, but I think it will take a little more sleuthing. I would also like to visit the Rodin museum and Orangerie next time (and revisit the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay!). We were really happy with how convenient it was to walk from our apartment in the Latin Quarter to the museums and sights, but next time we’d like to stay in the Marais and explore it’s markets, cafes, boulangeries and patisseries.

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Our favorite museum was the Musee D’Orsay. We had a great time eating lunch in their fun cafe.

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Place des Vosges, where these characteristic apartments line the square. Royalty used to live here.

Advice for Future Paris Travelers: (1) Bring two super comfy pairs of shoes if you’re planning on doing a lot of walking. I had only one pair, and though they were super comfy, my feet would have appreciated a change of shoes. (2) As a friend warned me before going, buy a map. Paris is tricky to navigate with it’s hexagonal blocks and not-so-visible street signs. (3) Read up before you go. I read several novels and books about France, watched many French movies and even took an introductory French language class. It was so fun to walk around Paris, see something and think, “Yes! This is what I read about!”

All in all, we had an incredibly smooth, very good first trip to Paris. The city has so much to offer and we would love to back and explore it further, as well as visit other parts of France. I’ll be back on the blog in a few days with pictures from the second leg of our trip–Germany!

Bay Area Excursions

Today I’d like to share with  you three Bay Area excursions Sam and I have taken since Christmas.

Point Reyes and Sonoma

point reyes beach

The road leading to the beach at Pt. Reyes. I marveled at the vivid colors of the ocean and vegetation.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Sam, our friend Rebecca and I took a daytrip to Point Reyes and Sonoma. We braved the chilly wind on the beach at the Point Reyes National Seashore; ate goat and lamb burgers at the Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop; slurped oysters at the Hog Island Oyster Farm; tasted some very good Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs at Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery; and ate disappointing baked goods at the Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg (I guess it’s hard to top Tartine). I can’t wait to go back to the Hog Island Oyster Company for a picnic. They have picnic tables, barbecues and stalls where you can buy oysters to take home or eat on the spot.

 

hog shack

The Hog Shack at the Hog Island Oyster Company, where you can buy fresh oysters to complement your picnic.

sam and oysters

Oysters! We opted for raw oysters, but you can also buy barbecued oysters.

Bike Ride Across Golden Gate Bridge

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Golden Gate Bridge at Sunset, taken from the ferry.

A few weekends ago, Sam and I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and rode our bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. The nine-mile ride was surprisingly quick and easy. There are a few big hills, but I grew up at the top of a very big hill and have learned to power up the hills. We were lucky to have a completely clear, sunny day—no fog spoiled our views. I finally fulfilled my goal of eating a whole crab when we had lunch at Horizons on the pier. Yum! We took the ferry back to Fishermen’s Warf and got to enjoy a beautiful sunset behind the silhouette of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Golden Gate Bridge at sunset.

Fort Point

Right before New Year’s, Sam and I rode our bikes to Crissy Field and went inside Fort Point for the first time. Fort Point is an old army fort at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge that was completed right before the Civil War to protect San Francisco from invaders. You can take a self-guided tour for free or stop by for an organized event, such as a weekly candlelight tour or a Civil War day featuring Civil War Re-enactors (this Saturday, January 28, 10am-5pm). The stone corridors and narrow staircases reminded me touring castles and cathedrals in England. San Francisco may not be a very old city, but it does have its share of history. On the way home, we stopped for lunch at the Warming Hut Cafe and Bookstore, which has a great selection of soups, salads and sandwiches. The Warming Hut is also a great place to buy good quality San Francisco souvenirs, guidebooks and cookbooks.

I love the Bay Area and feel so blessed to live right in the heart of San Francisco. Whether I’m exploring the shops in the City, visiting historical monuments or soaking up the natural beauty, I know there’s always something fun to do—and something good to eat.

Eating Well in Yosemite

group in front of bridal veil falls
Last week Sam and I went camping in Yosemite with my sister Laurel and brother-in-law Joe. Yosemite is the land of waterfalls and granite mountains, including Half Dome and El Capitan. And bears. There are bear warnings all over the place.

laurel cooking

Laurel and Joe love cooking in the wilderness almost as much as they love the wilderness, so they planned our menus for the camping trip and brought along their impressive collection of camping cooking gear. This is my sister Laurel!

turkey 3 bean chili

The first night we had Turkey Chili, Cornbread and Green Salad. The impressive part about the chili is that Laurel made it from scratch at the campsite! She used this recipe from Epicurious.com. Instead of using only white beans, she also used black beans and kidney beans. With an ice chest to keep the ingredients cold and a camping stove to cook the chili on, making the chili on the spot was pretty painless.

We also had freshly baked corn bread.

joe cornbread batter

The secret to baking while camping is to use a Dutch oven heated by coals. In this photo, my brother-in-law Joe is pouring the cornbread batter into the cast iron Dutch oven.

dutch oven with coals

By putting a specific number of hot coals on the top and bottom, Joe knows exactly what the temperature is inside the Dutch oven.

cornbread done cooking

After about 40 minutes of baking, the cornbread is ready! There’s nothing like warm, freshly baked cornbread to accompany a piping hot bowl of chili.

chili cornbread and salad

We had a green salad to round out our hot and hearty meal. The chili was delicious, and I will definitely make it at home this winter.

If you’re curious what we ate the rest of the trip…

Breakfast: eggs, sausage, pancakes or oatmeal
Lunch: PB&J, trail mix, fruit
Dinner: Smothered Chicken served over wild rice, salad
And, to crown off the smothered chicken meal, Joe made brownies in the Dutch oven!  A hot, gooey brownie eaten in front of the fire sure beats s’mores. :)

Here are a few more Yosemite shots:

half dome

Half Dome.

autumnal leaves

Yosemite was showing signs of autumn.

deer

My deer friend. When I peeked under a log to see her better, she peeked down to see me and started posing for me.

yosemite mountains

Mountains.

vernal falls

Sam and I hiked to Vernal Falls.

double rainbow

Can you spot the double rainbow in the Vernal Falls pool?

rocks and trees

Rocks and trees.

el capitan

El Capitan. Apparently people sleep overnight suspended from the rock face. Scary!

sam and andrea bridal veil falls

Sam and me in front of Bridal Veil Falls.

Farm Visit: Cowgirl Creamery and Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop

I know, Cowgirl Creamery and the Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop aren’t strictly farms, but they do make great destinations on a Farm Visit day, not to mention these are the places where farm goods are sold.

After our visit to Drakes Bay Oyster Farm, we drove back to the town of Point Reyes Station, which we had passed earlier. Point Reyes Station is a cute little town, and it’s hard to get lost. Still, don’t confuse “The Old Creamery” with Cowgirl Creamery—The Old Creamery used to house the town’s butter, cream and milk but is now home to the local library. Walk 2 blocks southwest from the library, and you’ll find Cowgirl Creamery located inside Tomales Bay Foods, a barn converted into a retail space for local and gourmet foods. You can watch through a glass window the cheese being made. At the cheese counter, the cheesemongers dole out generous samples of cheese, moving from mild to pungent cheeses. I have a weakness for the Mt. Tam Triple Cream, though I do love the Chevre. In addition to Cowgirl Creamery, Tomales Bay Foods houses a stall of beautiful local produce, a cafe and a clothing shop. Tomales Bay Foods is a great place to buy picnic fare, though beware you’ll be paying tourists’ prices.

The cheese sampling whetted our appetites, and we were ready for more substantial fare. We hopped in the car and drove 2 minutes south to the Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop, just outside the main part of Point Reyes Station. Now, this is no ordinary butcher shop: it is also a hip cafe that serves gourmet burgers, beer and Blue Bottle Coffee. When Sam and I visited Marin Sun Farms in June, we came here for lunch after our farm tour. We enjoyed our lunch so much that we were excited to bring my parents and sister to try the burgers on this outing. Sam and I ordered goat burgers with a soft sheep’s milk cheese and caramelized onions; my mom and sister ordered lamb burgers with blue cheese; and my dad ordered the good ole’ classic beef burger. Oh—and we ordered the lard-fried french fries. The fries were crispy and flavorful, a definite must if you visit the butcher shop. If you like your burgers medium-rare, then this is a safe place to order it medium-rare. Most ground meat travels thousands of miles before it reaches its destination and is at high risk for contamination, but the Marin Sun Farms meat comes from local pastures and is grass-fed, resulting in clean meat and a tender, flavorful burger. And if a goat burger sounds odd, you might be surprised to discover that it is milder in taste than lamb. Eating our way through the day left us quite tired, but a cup of Blue Bottle Coffee was all we needed to energize us for the car ride back to the City and suburbs. I love living in the City, the hub of all that is new and hip, but I also love living so close o the country, where we can take a day trip, slow down and watch our cheese being made and walk in the fields where our burgers were raised.

Observing the cheesemakers at Cowgirl Creamery.

The Cowgirl Creamery cheese counter, where you can sample all sorts of cheeses.

Beautiful produce inside Tomales Bay Foods.

More produce (though I wonder what the bananas are doing there? They’re definitely not local.)

Goat burger with caramelized onions and soft sheep’s milk cheese.

Lamb burger with blue cheese.

Beef burger with bacon and cheddar.

Lard-fried french fries. Quite possibly the best fries I’ve ever had. And they’re not even greasy.