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Archive for October, 2009

Ophelia’s World Cafe

Posted by eemilla on October 25, 2009

Although I’ve seen the ad in the paper and over at Ashvegas, I somehow still managed to forget about the free Just Because Your Asheville concert.  So rather than promptly do the grocery shopping after yoga, I decided to eat lunch at Ophelia’s World Cafe on Eagle Street so I could catch Larry Keel.  This location used to be Bearly Edible, which also does a great festival stand with $1 grilled cheese and the pricier (but still cheap and greasy and good) pesto mozzadillas.  Even though Ophelia’s google listing still references BE, my server informed me they were most certainly no longer affiliated.  Everything on the menu seemed simple to prepare like food one might expect from a food stand, and the lunch menu was a scant page.  I decided on the roasted eggplant quesadilla and tempeh with a side salad over the either of Middle Eastern plates (both with hummus, baba gangouj, and tablouleh with pita and crudites and the more expensive one offering falafel as well).  My salad was a yummy little spring mix with carrots, onion, and raw peppers (green and red) then lightly dressed with their shallot vinaigrette, and my quesadilla was filled with chunks of tempeh, tiny cubes of eggplant, cooked onions and peppers, fresh mozzarella, and pesto in a plain flour shell.  The beer list is good for a small restaurant by most standards, but by Asheville standards it is weak.  The list was fifteen or so deep and consisted of three Abitas, two Sierra Nevadas, two pumpkin beers, and three”local” beers in Gaelic, Cottonwood Pumpkin (of which they were out), and Duck Rabbit Milk Stout.  I thought they had draft beer, but the menu doesn’t denote bottle or draft.  After my initial annoyance at being told to sit wherever then being moved twice, the service was good.  I ate late in the afternoon, being the second to last table before they closed for the dinner shift , and my server neither hovered or ignored me.  I was also impressed with their toilet; it has a button for half flush or full flush.


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10 Fun Facts

Posted by eemilla on October 25, 2009

Thanks to Nicole at Forthright Fattie for the Honest Scrap Award.  Here are my ten unknown to the internet world facts:

1.  I participated in Mock Trial in high school, but I am no good at off the cuff so my attorney dreams died.

2.  Even though I’m all about reducing emissions, I love to drive fast, and I want to be able to drive fast around curves without worrying about sharing the road.

3.   I always thought I would die before I turned 27.

4.  Until I started sleeping with my husband, I had never used the snooze button.

5.  My first car, Tilly, was in Patch Adams.  They used it for two or three weeks, and I got $800.  My parents and I purchased the car for $900.

6.  Over Thanksgiving break traveling through SC on 85, I received two speeding tickets (one on the way home and the other on the way back).

7.  I love dystopian novels and movies (The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, Brave New World, V for Vendetta).

8.  If I weren’t so cheap, I would have a coffee habit.

9.  The traffic in Atlanta drove me to smoke the entire time I (kinda) lived there.

10.  Although I’ve never really lived anywhere aside from AVL (even when I lived in the ATL, I was back home about once a month) and it feels so much like home, I think anywhere that my honey and kitties and doggy and good food are could be home.

If you’re so inclined, leave a link in the comments with your ten unknowns.

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Recycled or Reclaimed

Posted by eemilla on October 25, 2009

This week’s Change the World Challenge from Reduce Footprints is to purchase the recycled option of a product you don’t normally buy the recycled version of, or if you don’t have an item that fits the bill discuss using reclaimed materials.

I have no problem with recycled paper towels or sandwich/bulk item bags, but I do not like recycled paper toilet paper.  It irks me because its manufacturers have the audacity to make it less soft and cost more than conventional toilet paper.  However, I will succumb to peer pressure and give it another go.  Which brands are cushier?

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Posted by eemilla on October 20, 2009

Our last day in San Francisco, we awoke to fog.  The weather punished me for being so grumpy on Sunday morning and not riding across the Golden Gate Bridge.  My wonderful husband optimistically suggested that we run up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower so we could we get a good view and see if the fog might lift so we could ride across the bridge.  Rather than head down to Union Square, we walked up Leavenworth a few blocks then over to Hyde where we caught the cable car and rode it to the waterfront.  We got to ride past Lombard, but we opted not to walk down it.  We tried to catch a bus up Telegraph Hill, but much like the rest of our trip we failed to note where we to catch the bus and which number so we hoofed it.  Unlike the forced march down the Embarcadero, the chilly weather was in our favor.

Coit Tower

From Coit Tower, our chances didn’t look good for biking across the bridge.  We took the Greenwich Steps down, and although the picture I took at the top of stairs looks lush, the Filbert Steps have much better scenery.

Greenwich Steps

Filbert Steps

We meandered around trying to decide what to do in lieu of our bike trek.  Ina Coolbrith Park and Macondary Lane and the Octagon houses were on my wish list so we set off for Ina Coolbrith based on my shorthand notes but without the benefit of a map (no free wi-fi!).  We ended up finding Macondary Lane and walking through it, and then realizing that we had missed the park by a block.  The park has nice views, but for the hike I preferred Buena Vista.  After walking in circles to find the park, I forgot about the Octagon houses that were only blocks away (although most likely steep uphill blocks away) so we caught the cable car that runs on Mason and took it back to home base for much deserved shower.

On our last San Francisco night we dined at Le Colonial; it is a very lovely Michelin starred restaurant with elegant decor.  Of course we were underdressed, but our server didn’t seem to mind.  He did, however, seemed determined to sell us the most expensive items on the menu even though we did not request his opinion.  Our entire meal was delicious and eclipsed by the superiority of The Slanted Door.  I enjoyed an ahi tuna tartare with taro chips for my appetizer and spring roll dish that I was instructed to eat like the bánh xéo from earlier in the week.  Le Colonial provided the best service of any of the restaurants we dined at, and their food was good (if not divine).

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Sunday at The Slanted Door

Posted by eemilla on October 19, 2009

Our Sunday was a could’ve, should’ve day.  First we slept in a bit later than we should’ve, second we could’ve gotten bagels for breakfast the night before.  We strolled down to Union Square to catch a bus to the Fisherman’s Wharf where we going to rent bikes to ride through the Presidio and across the Golden Gate Bridge down into Sausalito to enjoy a mid afternoon lunch and catch the ferry back; however, it was my lack of food and general bitchiness that threw a wrench into our plans this time.  I think I was worried about whether my out of shape body would be able to bike the few miles.  So instead we walked down the Embarcadero in the blazing sun and against the flow of pedestrian traffic away from the gapping tourist trap of Fisherman’s Wharf.  At the Ferry Building, things suddenly looked much brighter (figuratively as I don’t think it could’ve gotten much brighter literally).

The Ferry Building

The Slanted Door beckoned our empty bellies, but the thirty minute wait directed us to the bar.  I began with a kir royale to quench my thirst, and my husband went with an unfamiliar wheat beer.  Our seat at the bar was directly in front of the raw prep station so we both ordered a half dozen raw oysters; I opted for West Coast options which were all quite delicious, and my husband ordered the plate as is and also enjoyed it thoroughly.  With our fortune at the raw bar, we decided to share a live scallop; it was absolutely heavenly with its fresh creamy saltiness.  If I could regularly eat raw animal this tasty, I would never dream of giving up flesh.  Following with the Bay Area obsession, my next drink was Summer on the Danube which consisted of sparkling wine and elderberry liqueur; I do now love elderberry liqueur.  For my next dish I moved to the hot side and ordered the bánh xèo (Vietnamese egg crepe); the food runner was kind enough to tell me how it is normally eaten as I most likely would’ve skipped the leaf lettuce completely which would have greatly taken away from the dish.  The crepe is sliced then wrapped in the leaf lettuce then dipped in the sauce then eaten.  All of the flavors came together to make this dish my favorite from the trip, from the slight bitterness of the lettuce to the earthiness of the mung bean sprouts to the clean crispness of the mint and basil leaves to the sweet, spicy ginger of the dipping sauce to the greasiness of the cooked crispy egg.  I have not stopped craving this, even after I attempted to make a vegan alternative that was less than awesome.  The ginger pushed me into a dark and stormy, which is a drink that has sentimental value; I first enjoyed it the week before we married in Key West, and this trip to our friends’ wedding doubled as a big three (legal) years anniversary celebration for us (albeit a couple of weeks before the actual date).  This version is the epitome of a dark and stormy.  Their house made ginger syrup is the secret; it has such a powerful ginger punch that cuts through and combines with the sweetness of the dark rum and the soda to make bliss in a cup.  After the dark and stormy and the egg crepe, my tofu entree was good, but I really only remember the exotic sweetness of the lemongrass.  Our service was slow with many long moments of trying to get our bartender/server’s attention to order the next drink or dish or get the check; however, the food was wonderful.

We slowly strolled out of the Ferry Building into the bright sunshine and decided since we were in the Financial District we might as well hit the SFMoMA.  Much like the MoMA, the SFMoMA was overwhelming at times.  I enjoyed many of the pieces, but others annoyed me.  One piece was a short Airstream style travel trailer; another was a colorful painting that I initially liked, so I read the placard for it to discover the protrusion was a piece of elephant dung.  The photography exhibits were the highlight and made the admission (twenty dollars including the five dollar surcharge for the Richard Avedon exhibit) worth it.  Unlike many museums, the SFMoMA allows non flash photography.

Virgin Mary



Exhausted from all the walking and alcohol, we walked through the Yerba Buena Gardens but decided to skip through it.  We caught the F line back to the Embarcadero so I could check out the Diego Rivera murals in the Rincon Center (another example of us backtracking).  We then rode the California car up to Nob Hill so we could see the Fountain of the Turtles and Grace Cathedral.  The cathedral was amazing and humbling; I respect churches that spend all their money on doing good works, but I love and cherish the magnificent buildings that religious congregations build.  I took photos of the doors called The Gates of Paradise, but I felt disrespectful taking photos of the interior.

doors of Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral door close up

Grace Cathedral door close up

After the cathedral, we returned to the apartment for a refreshing 7 and ginger and showers.  For dinner we decided that nothing could possibly top our lunch plus we were reeling from the cost; Uncle Vito’s on Powell St seemed like a good place for cheap eats.  Cheap they were, but even so the service and food left much to be desired.  The service I can forgive, because it was cheap.  The food, however, was bland, boring, and not even worth repeating.  If ever in San Francisco, avoid Uncle Vito’s.

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The Wedding

Posted by eemilla on October 18, 2009

After our amble around Nob Hill, North Beach, and Chinatown, we returned and got ready to bake in our finery.  Fortunately, the dress code was casual with the bride and bridesmaids in embellished daisy flip flops and the groom and groomsmen in Chacos.  Even so, it was hot.  We have lost the record for having the hottest wedding ceremony ever (Key West in October at 10am, and everyone was pouring sweat).  Hot is hot is hot, and I hate sweating in dry heat just as much as I hate sweating in Georgia.  We had a ten minute stroll to the Powell St BART then a forty minute train ride (the fare is less than five dollars!) out to Pleasant Hill then a fifteen minute shuttle to the ceremony, which provided ample opportunity to get mussed up.

I know it sounds cliched, but the ceremony was just beautiful.  They were married under this fantastical oak tree on top of a hill with views of the surrounding valley.  Her parents’ home was full of light, and the ground were littered with little touches (like the sunflowers in the bowling balls and the flower fountain).

While I expected my favorite part of the ceremony to be the reading of “Invitation” by Shel Silverstein by a friend of the bride’s son accompanied by an interpretive dance by a friend of the groom’s daughter, I was really touched by the bride’s sister-in-law’s reading (“The Invitation” Oriah Mountain Dreamer).

As to my concerns about the wedding fare, they were washed away with the first hors d’oeuvre I popped into my mouth (Checkers Catering handled it).  I saw three trays circulating; one of shrimp on a wonton chip (I don’t do shrimp so I didn’t try this one), a stuffed mushroom, and a caprese slider.  The sliders surpassed the others, with cherry tomatoes so ripe and sweet and tangy coupled with creamy fresh mozzarella and a basil leaf; the serving trays had a balsamic vinaigrette in them so each slider came dressed.  The main buffet started with a fresh spring mix salad then a mashed potato bar followed meat and poultry stations with rolls (I didn’t find the portabello mushrooms and when I was directed to their location I had missed them); of course, there was plenty of beer (two from New Belgium Brewery and Miller Lite with a Sierra Nevada keg making a late night entrance) but with the heat the white wine was hit hard and early.  The cake was nice and moist, and its frosting was not overly sweet.

Between the heat, sweat, the morning wander with another full day planned, and an hour trip back to the city, we were ready to head back around nine.  I begged to wait to see them off, but the taxi had already been called.  If only we had known that we would pass the limo on the way down the driveway we probably could’ve held out to send them on their mini moon.  Like we did, they will be taking their real honeymoon after the wedding dust (and excitement and stress) has settled.

We used a taxi five times during our week long stay with two trips being to and from the ceremony.  The forty minute train ride cost $4.90 one way, and it runs every twenty minutes from around 4a to after midnight five days a week (Saturday it starts around six am, and Sunday it starts around eight).  Public transit done well rocks!

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Chinatown and Top of the Mark

Posted by eemilla on October 17, 2009

On Wednesday, my honey dubbed me Drill Sergeant because I was determined to take in as much of the city as we could during our week stay (with days eaten by travel, wedding events, and weather) so before we had to get ready for the 40 minute BART ride to Pleasant Hill, we checked out Union Square and Chinatown.  My favorite part about San Francisco’s and Vancouver’s Chinatowns were the gates and the bilingual street signs (although Vancouver has a better gate).  I also loved how CitiBank and Bank of America gussied up their buildings (the Bank of America we drove past in the Castro actually had rainbow flags hanging in the lobby).  For his lunch and dim sum fix, my honey ate at the Four Seas; I did not partake as I was not yet hungry, but the service was abysmal.  Although we arrived at lunch, he only saw two dim sum trays before our time constraints required us to leave.  After several minutes of being by passed I gave my credit card to the hostess which she delivered to the wait staff; we waited another several minutes for someone to appear with the receipt.  A lady we had not seen arrived with our check, but rather than drop it she hovered over our table while my husband completed it.

SF Chinatown Gate

Gate guardian

Chinatown Street light

After all the waiting and watching him eat, I realized that I might not be eating for several hours (depending on the wedding reception fare) so we wondered around Chinatown making our way back to North Beach, but Italian wasn’t calling my name.  Somehow (I cannot be trusted to navigate), we missed Portsmouth Square but (walked several blocks north and out of the way and) found Washington Square and St Peter and St Paul Church so we caught a bus back down Columbus where I did take this neato shoot of Cafe Zoetrope and the TransAmerica Pyramid.

Cafe Zoetrope 26Sept09

Heading back to the apartment, we caught the California car that led us to the Top of the Mark which we had missed on our previous day’s itinerary as a drink spot.  I am glad we visited during the day as my honey took some gorgeous photographs of the city.  I enjoyed a lovely fourteen dollar Valley salad (baby spinach, grilled endive, Point Reyes Bleu, tomatoes, and candied walnuts)  along with my fourteen dollar a glass pinot noir.  I must say that the salad was delicious with a surprisingly generous portion, and my pinot noir was rather tasty (Gloria Ferrar).  I decided to forgo the $23 a glass Moet White Star (please note this bottle retails for around $60), but I did understand that I was paying for the breath taking views not whatever was being served.  In fact our server assumed we just wanted to take the pretty pictures as he brought us our drinks and the check before I had a chance to order lunch.

Grace Cathedral from Top of the Mark

Golden Gate Bridge from Top of the Mark

SoMa and Alcatraz from Top of the Mark

After such delightful daytime views, I insisted we return for evening views.  Unfortunately, the loudest New Englanders imaginable sat one table away recalling their days of drunken debauchery; however, I did get to sample a 12 year old Jameson pour with my molten chocolate cake.  The pour wasn’t as enjoyable as I wanted (it was more like scotch than my beloved Jameson), and the cake was dry and missing the super chocolate divinity of the last molten cake I enjoyed (thanks Rezaz).  My honey did enjoy his $13 Mojito more than his $10 chardonnay from our previous visit.

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Solo Friday

Posted by eemilla on October 16, 2009

Friday left me unexpectedly flying solo due to a change in the pre wedding events.  Being the shirking violet that I am, I decided to stick to familiar territory.  I caught MUNI 71 to the Haight in order to capture my super touristy Haight-Ashbury photo and get my mom “something hippy” (this was her verbatim request).  Although I arrived three hours later than our first outing, I still could not bring myself to photograph the sign nor could I purchase something hippy for my mom since it all seemed like shit I could I easily and cheaply get in Asheville.  However,  I did hit the Conservatory of Flowers that we had skipped on Wednesday due to our need for food.  It was pretty much the same as visiting the Biltmore Estate’s conservatory, albeit for much less money (five dollar admission).  They had orchids galore as well as a number of pitcher plants, but in the final wing, I was so hot that I cut my tour short.

Conservatory of Flowers Golden Gate Park




pitcher plant throat


I walked through the Haight to the much under rated (at least in the travel books I read) Buena Vista Park.  The climb is steep (very San Francisco) and shady, but the views are well worth it.  I did not arrive early enough to catch the bridge before the fog rolled in, but I still snagged some awesome city views with the bridge peeking out.  All of the parks make Asheville and the National Parks Service seem so draconian; none of the handful of parks we visited required dogs to be leased in all areas (and I’m not talking about a fenced-in mud pit either).  I then proceeded to get lost in my attempt to enjoy an afternoon tea at Samovar Tea Lounge; I knew the Haight-Noriega bus drove right by it on Wednesday after our Golden Gate Park outing, but I could not recall the address (and I repeatedly failed to write it down or take down a phone number).  So I ended up riding right past it, then waiting for the next outbound 71 (they were only fifteen minutes apart) and getting off a stop too early then walking a few blocks around and finally arriving for my afternoon tea sweaty with my windblown hair giving me a crazy lady look.  The service was slow; I found my own menu on the counter while the staff discussed their weekend plans (at the end of my meal I left my table for the bar to get the check).  I did enjoy the nice spring mix salad  with the veggie quiche; the fruit plate was disappointing with bland figs, strawberries, and melon.  The scone was delightful, even without the clotted cream and jam.  I also enjoyed the black tea plain, with sugar, with milk, and with sugar and milk; I’ve been craving a scone and tea every afternoon since we returned!

25 Sept 09view from Buena Vista Park around 3p

After taming my hair and showering, my honey and I strolled down to his must eat restaurant, Millennium.  We arrived at their door thirty minutes early, so we decided to have a cocktail at the Grand Cafe (same name as the place we held our wedding luncheon in Key West and where I enjoyed my first dark and stormy).  Elderberry liqueur appeared on seemingly every cocktail menu in the city so I decided to enjoy a nice aperitif of sparkling wine and the liqueur de rigueur.  I repeated this selection a few times, and I enjoyed it equally at each stop.  The bar was busy, and as such our service reflected it; the menu looked pricey but interesting, and the interior was grand with its pretty wood and high ceilings.  The dining room proper was elevated from the bar area so it probably afforded a much lovelier atmosphere for a date; the bar area had tables squeezed in wherever they could which was fine for our pre dinner drink.

Millennium is a high end vegan restaurant.  Much to my initial dismay the entire table had to participate in the tasting menu which my husband was set on; however, it all worked out for a delicious dining experience.  Our first course was a trio of ceviche, and unfortunately, I cannot recall anything other than it was delightful and left me eagerly awaiting the upcoming courses.  Although I didn’t recognize it, the menu lists hearts of palm, but how can a sustainable restaurant serve hearts of palm?  The second course was poori, and again my memory fails other than my disappointment at the serving size.  The main course was the best; I had a tamale stuffed with scrumptious chanterelle mushrooms, edamame, and jasmine rice (the menu also mentions nectarines but I don’t see how I would have forgotten my favorite fruit).  He enjoyed the fingerling potato roulade, and while pototoes that aren’t deep fried aren’t generally my cup of tea (I do make an exception for the Noodle Shop’s slivered and vinegared potatoes amuse bouche) I almost wanted to switch plates with him.  The potatoes were cooked perfectly and seasoned divinely; again, I have been craving them ever since.  My adulation of the main course has washed all traces of the dessert from my memory, but my honey said he was shocked at the massive chunk of cake (he also said he really enjoyed it).  Millennium was to be our splurge dinner (although all of our meals were pretty pricey), and it was disappointing that their layout has their two tops crammed together with one person sitting on a banquet and the other facing in a chair.  About mid-way through our entrees, the other two tables had left so we were finally able to enjoy each other’s conversation without having to drown out the neighboring conversations.  Our server was busy with a larger table and a busy section to really bother with our meager little two top, but the buser attended to our drinks and prompt plate removal.  While taking our drink order, she seemed annoyed to have to explain the difference between “sustainable” and “biodynamic” wines; maybe she expected me to know, but neither term has a legal definition so the onus is on those using the term to define it.  However, snotty server or not, the food was great, and I would certainly return.

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Climate Change

Posted by eemilla on October 15, 2009

The facts supporting climate change have been widely reported across numerous media outlets; I wanted to post this to add one more blog to the list in support of making drastic changes to our lifestyles.

Climate change is just one of the many ills our society suffers because of our addiction with fossil fuels.  Looking for purportedly cheap coal, we send fellow citizens to work in coal mines; once the vein dies or becomes too expensive, we raze the mountains and dump the top into the surrounding valleys creating wastelands in lieu of forested habitats.  Those stream beds supply someone’s water somewhere in the chain are then filled with poisons and waste from the mining, and during rainy years like this one the fills can create huge landslides (which if it doesn’t kill you isn’t covered under a homeowner’s policy).

Our love of the automobile has lead us to build massive expanses of blacktop.  The power of the car has allowed us to move further and further from work and commercial centers which leads to more traffic congestion then demand for less congested roadways.  The fuel for these vehicles will not last forever, and even if it did, its exhaust is killing us.  Furthermore is the fuel worth the national security risk; what would the economy do if for whatever crazy reason OPEC decided to stick it to us tomorrow?  Public transportation was squashed by domestic automakers, and many people still argue public transportation will never be self-sustaining (thanks for a good jab, Doug Gibson!).  Funny how the sweetheart lease deals we make with big oil doesn’t impugn them.  However, as our population grows the stress on the current roadways will increase while the demand for housing increases, and no one wants to live near the noise and smell of major roadway.

Our food is tied closely to energy prices because almost everything Americans eat is soaked in oil starting from the time the seeds are delivered from Monsanto to their drive to your home in plastic bags in the back of your car.  If you are eating processed foods then you have even more oil on your hands not to mention the spare tire around your middle.

Even if our elected officials refuse to act, we can each do something small like grow some food, bring your own boxes and bags to the store, do without the car, or insulate your home.  These little things when compounded will help, but a phone call or email to elected officials can’t hurt.

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Wine Country

Posted by eemilla on October 14, 2009

Thursday forced us to split up for pre-wedding events; the boys went golfing at Lincoln Park (the fog killed all Golden Gate Bridge photo ops), and the ladies were driven around by a lovely designated driver of a bridesmaid to three Dry Creek Valley wineries followed by a truncated Muir Woods visit (we arrived so late thanks to the congestion we didn’t even have to pay the $5 admission).  Our first winery was Dry Creek Vineyard; this was my first wine tasting (thanks Biltmore for being so understaffed and overcrowded!)  Unfortunately, we did have to pay at each winery (unless you purchased a bottle or more), but at Dry Creek we were able to choose which wines we wanted to sample.  I ended up buying a bottle of their chenin blanc at a grocery store, and at 12.50 I think it’s a nice little bottle.  Our next stop was a short walk across the street at Passalacqua; it reminded me of Biltmore: the grounds were much better than the wine.  Our final stop was Forchini, and it combined a lovely tasting area with pleasant wines.  The tasting room was closed when we pulled up, but by the time our awesome driver got the fifteen passenger van turned around in the small driveway, we were flagged down by (who I assume was) Jim Forchini.  We ate our picnic lunches on his shaded patio, and Jim poured us several glasses of his wines.  With all of the wines he gave what sounded like detailed discussions of the wine making.  I really enjoyed the chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and reserve zinfandel; much to my surprise I preferred the cab to his Chianti styled Papa Nonno.  I thought it was cool that the Forchini wines are estate bottled, and they sell their chardonnay grapes to Sonoma-Cutrer (my overpriced chardonnay of choice).  On our return trip we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, but the fog was so thick that even driving over the bridge, one would have been hard pressed to identify it.

After wine country and Muir Woods, the ladies joined the boys at a dive bar briefly before we adjourned to our twenty top dinner reservation at a sushi restaurant in the Noe Valley, Hamano Sushi.  Of course in classic cliched fashion the boys failed to communicate our dinner reservervations so all twenty of us crowded the tiny doorway to wait for the restaurant to find a solution.  The restaurant threw together several tables with room for most of our party, but the North Carolina contingent ate apart in lieu of being crammed beside the stairs.  The sushi was much cheaper than in North Carolina according to my darling husband (however, we spent more than we would have at a normal sushi outing), but I cannot say that the quality was significantly better.  The selection of nigiri, however, was another plus: I had my first toro.  Of course my first encounter comes as my love of sushi and flesh in general is waning; therefore, I will not be reviewing Hamano other than to say they did a wonderful job of handling our mob.

After our long days and not really knowing which buses to take, we took our second cab ride of the trip home.

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