I visited San Francisco for the first time last month and left my heart as they say.  I knew that it would be a fabulous place to visit, but between the perfect weather with only sunshine days, incredible food and ease of getting around, I cannot wait to return in June.

Here are some food highlights from the city:

Gnochetti at SPQR in Pacific Heights, because baby-sized food is always better

SPQR

I always say that it is my due diligence to do a bakery tour in any city that I visit and San Francisco did not disappoint.  Sift Dessert Bar offered up the classics like cookies, macarons and cupcakes and one unique offering, the Cruffle.  The Cruffle  was not totally unlike a cake pop, I was told it was crushed up cupcake mixed with frosting and coated in chocolate, but even for this sweet tooth, one bite was more than I ever need of that sugar bomb.  My Samoa cupcake was perfection though and their glittery cakes made me want to have a party immediately.

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Once my husband joined me in San Francisco, we were on a coffee mission.  He is a huge fan of Blue Bottle Coffee and he had to sample their siphon-brewed coffee.  It was quite a process and fun to watch, but I am not a coffee connoisseur enough to know if the taste is truly superior.

We enjoyed a fantastic lunch at Kuleto’s which has been in Union Square for many years and offers lovely Northern Italian cuisine including this fig, burrata, balsamic onion and prosciutto bruschetta, roasted beet and arugula salad and rosemary flatbread with roasted garlic and triple cream blue brie.  Our entire lunch was delicious and our cheese cravings were surely satisfied.

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The highlight of our trip was the time we spent in Yountville in Napa Valley.  I am in love.  I was unaware that there were places so quaint, relaxing and beautiful so relatively close to home.  The trip was so lovely that I couldn’t wait to get back and share where and what we ate and the vineyards that we visited.

Our drive to Napa Valley began with a stop by the Golden Gate Bridge because after all, we were tourists.

We then stopped at the San Rafael Farmers’ Market for lunch and I was loving all of the fresh produce that is months ahead of our local farmers’ markets.

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We stayed in Yountville and I loved how many restaurants were within walking distance since Yountville is quite small and all of the shops and eateries on within a few blocks of each other.  I am not a person who likes to stay in hotels, but I guess I can’t claim that anymore because I never wanted to leave the Hotel Yountville where we stayed.   IMG_0060 IMG_0063 IMG_0065 IMG_0104

I especially loved being within walking distance of Bouchon Bakery.  I did a review of the insanely gorgeous Bouchon Bakery Cookbook awhile ago and visiting the bakery each morning we were there was definitely worth each ounce of butter that I consumed.  In fact, the visit made me love my favorite cookbook and Thomas Keller even more.  My favorite bakery splurge is an almond croissant and Bouchon Bakery’s almond croissant is the best croissant I have ever had.  Big surprise, Thomas Keller knows what’s up.

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Speaking of Thomas Keller, the most exciting surprise place that we had the pleasure of dining at was his pop-up restaurant Ad Lib.  I’m sure you know about Thomas Keller’s famous, fancy restaurant The French Laundry which basically gave such prestige to “the tasting menu” as we know it.  We would have loved to have eaten there during our trip, but the restaurant had been closed for renovation since January.  While the restaurant was closed for renovation, Chef Keller was looking out for his staff and elected to open Ad Lib in the Royal Oak at the Silverado Country Club so that they would have a place to work while the Laundry was closed.  So all of the chefs and servers migrated down the road for the brief 10 month lifespan of the restaurant (it will close in October).  It was such a treat to get to experience Chef Keller’s magic in such an intimate setting and everything they put before us was incredibly beautiful and undoubtedly delicious.  We started with the table side Caesar salad, I had the Salmon with dill beurre blanc and my husband had the Chicken Schnitzel (imagine the best chicken piccata you’ve ever tasted and yes that is a normally-sized dinner plate that it is on) and we shared the spring pea and mushroom gnocchi.

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Oh yeah, how could I forget the vineyards, aka the reason people visit wine country!   Enough about food for now.  We visited several vineyards including Domain Chandon, Hess (they have the most incredible art collection that is worth the trip alone not to mention how many wines I loved there), Pine Ridge (I already loved their Chenin Blanc Viognier blend that you can get anywhere) where we did a unique tasting in their wine cave,

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Rombauer (one of my family’s favorite winemakers:  we LOVE their zinfandel and chardonnay and they just came out with their first sauvignon blanc which was nice),

Duckhorn (my new absolute favorite white is their sauvignon blanc) wine labels are the wines that have been served more at White House events than any other American label.  They had menus hanging on the wall from various presidential events that the wines have been served at which I totally ate up.

duckhorn

A couple of our other favorite stops were Frank Family vineyard

 And Mumm Napa, which is now one of my favorite bubbles to drink.

We fueled up during our big day of tasting at a place called Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena and I wish I would have known in advance about the experience that they offer that includes a walking tour of their garden with their chef followed by a tasting menu lunch at the chef’s table.  Next time.  I got their homemade cookies to go for dessert, I’m sure you’re shocked about that one.

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Last stop was a visit to The French Laundry gardens which were so perfect and lovely to walk through.  The chickens were plenty friendly too.  It was so amazing to see the actual garden right across the street from the restaurant.  It doesn’t get any more “farm to table” than that.

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I can hardly wait to return to Napa Valley someday and I would love to hear about any of your favorite places to visit when you’ve travelled to wine country.

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My husband and I travelled to Washington D.C. last weekend for the first time.  I have always known about how much there is to do in D.C. and heard that it is one of the top restaurant cities in the country, and the city did not disappoint me on those fronts.  While I did not spot Olivia Pope (boo), I thoroughly enjoyed our visit.  We went to multiple museums (I still can’t believe the they are free!), walked and biked around the mall to see each of the monuments, and dined at incredibly delicious restaurants and bakeries.

DC

Neither my husband nor I could believe how CLEAN Washington D.C. is!  Even their metro was pretty spotless, and for such a bustling city, we were impressed!

One of my favorite restaurants we ate at was Graffiato by Mike Isabella. The restaurant served small Italian plates and each dish was more surprisingly delicious than the last.  One of my favorite dishes we had there that I must try to recreate at home is the broccolini with red pepper relish, walnut and feta.  Words cannot describe how perfect the combination of flavors in this dish were.

I also found a cocktail that I will be pining for all summer.  The Mexican Mule at MXDC Cocina Mexicana by Todd English was dangerously refreshing.  Something tells me my sister and I will spend many summer nights trying to recreate this little devil.

Mule

I had to visit my absolute favorite cupcake shop, Crumbs Bakeshop while I was in the big city.  The Samoas Girl Scout Cookie Cupcake was literally the lightest cupcake I have ever tasted.  The cake seemed to just dissolve in my mouth.  The caramel filling, chocolate cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut didn’t hurt either.

Crumbs Bakeshop

Finally, we stayed at the Hotel George, a Kimpton Hotel located just a few short blocks from the capitol building and it was such a nice stay.  The front desk staff were endlessly helpful and accommodating.  I love when front desk staff seem to really understand what you’re looking for and give you great personalized recommendations which was exactly what I got when I was looking for a good lunch/shopping area.

Hotel George

I love to stay at Kimpton Hotels when I can because they have so many nice features.  Not only are the hotels usually quaint boutique hotels, but they have a complimentarily nightly happy for guests every night.  Who wouldn’t love a glass of wine on the house while you get ready for your evening?  The Hotel George also had complimentary bike rentals so on our last day, my husband and I were able to cruise around D.C. and see the final sights that were on our list.

As cheesy as it sounds, my visit to our great nations capital, made me truly proud to be an American.  It was so humbling to see and learn more about how much has been sacrificed by others so that we can know freedom.  I can’t wait to return someday.

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I promised you a review for the fun and festive book that was the recipe inspiration for The Best Strawberry Cupcakes that I shared with you earlier this week.

The Best Strawberry Cupcakes {satisfymysweettooth.com}

Trophy Cupcakes & Parties is literally a party in a book.  Jennifer Shea is the mastermind behind Trophy Cupcakes & Parties which began as a cupcake and party shop that she and her husband opened in Seattle in 2007.  By 2008, Jennifer and her cupcakes and hit it big by landing on Martha Stewart who sang her praises.  Success has continued to come her way and Jennifer lives to “make every day a party”.

Trophy Cupcakes & Parties Book Review

Jennifer’s baking basics are using wholesome, high quality ingredients such as local hormone-free dairy products, French chocolate and Madagascar Bourbon vanilla.  She knows that the best ingredients result in the best, most delicious products.  Not only does Trophy Cupcakes & Parties offer cupcake recipes and decorating ideas, but it provides numerous ideas and inspiration for parties to celebrate many occasions.

Trophy Cupcakes & Parties

Trophy Cupcakes & Parties

The book is broken up into chapters with different party theme ideas and then followed by recipes for each of the cupcake and frosting flavors.

Trophy Cupcakes & Parties

Just like the 1st birthday party that I shared with you last week, I love when parties have a theme that carries through from invitation to food and decorations to guest parting gifts.  And this book will have you set with ideas and recipes for any soiree you are planning to throw.  Don’t worry, for those of you who feel overwhelmed by the very idea of beginning to organize all of the festivities that go into hosting a memorable event, Jennifer’s book even gives you a worksheet to help brainstorm all of your wonderful ideas.

Trophy Cupcakes & Parties

So whether it’s a baby shower or engagement party you are looking for inspiration for, having Trophy Cupcakes & Parties as part of your book collection will give you the head start that you need to make your party dreams a reality.

Trophy Cupcakes & Parties

*Sasquatch Books provided me with a review copy of Trophy Cupcakes & Parties but all opinions are, as always, my own.

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When I shared these quintessential New York Black and White Cookies

Black and White Cookies {Satisfy My Sweet Tooth}

with you a couple of weeks ago, it made me so excited to share this unique cookbook with you.  New York Sweets:  A Sugarhound’s Guide to the Best Bakeries, Ice Cream Parlors, Candy Shops and Other Emporia of Delicious Delights by Susan Pear Meisel is literally my dream book.  It divides New York City into neighborhoods and highlights many of the best and most famous bakeries and sweet shops in each area.  As if that guide book wasn’t enough, New York Sweets also shares recipes for some of the best-loved treats from these landmarks!

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The book is divided into neighborhoods:  Greenwich Village & Soho, East Village & Lower East Side, Midtown & Uptown and Brooklyn & Queens.  It highlights some of my favorite places such as Magnolia Bakery in Greenwich Village and Ferrara Bakery in Little Italy.

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And there are so many other bakeries and confectioneries that I am dying to visit that it makes me want to hop on a plane to the Big Apple immediately and take my own personal food tour with this book as my guide!

If you love to read about the history of bakeries or you find yourself visiting New York City anytime soon, pick up a copy of this book and pick at least one bakery from each neighborhood to sample treats from!  What a fun culinary adventure!

*Rizzoli Publishing provided me with a review copy of New York Sweets by Susan Pear Meisel, but all opinions are, as always, my own.

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I have quite a vast cookbook collection.  And while I love to look at different types of cookbooks, there are only a couple in my collection that I consider works of art.  I consider these books art because the writing is so profound that it makes you think of a croissant as a some sort of mythical wonder.  The photographs are so gorgeous and lifelike that you feel like you could pick the item up of the page and just sink your teeth right into it.  The stories behind the author are so inspirational that they make you feel inspired to fulfill your own dreams.

Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel literally took my breath away when I first opened it.

Bouchon Bakery ReviewThomas Keller is somewhat of a god when it comes to the restaurant world.  He has won multiple James Beard awards and his restaurant in California, The French Laundry is world-renound.  This is only one of Keller’s famous eateries around the country.  Chef Keller has a philosophy that involves making patrons feel welcome and providing an extraordinary dining experience.

Bouchon Bakery Review

The Bouchon Bakery cookbook begins with a narrative by Thomas Keller describing his time in Paris when he was in his twenties and how he was mesmerized each day by the smell of baking bread coming from the boulangeries that lined the streets.  Just by reading his story, you can almost imagine that you are smelling the aromas that he smelled and you can fully understand his where his inspiration for opening bakeries came from.

Bouchon Bakery Review

This cookbook is filled with recipes ranging in difficulty from simple drop cookies to fancy pastries that take hours and require attention to procedure such as puff pastry.  The book includes chapters full of cookies, cakes, tarts and even a whole chapter dedicated to recipes that use pate a choux.  Many of the recipes are accompanied by step-by-step photos so that even if the recipe seems daunting at first, you have a visual aid to help you through.

Bouchon Bakery Review

The cookies that I shared from you from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook were these delicious Speculoos Cookies.

Speculoos Cookies {Satisfy My Sweet Tooth}

I am committed to trying Keller’s recipe for pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants) and I can’t wait to have the perfect reason to attempt them. And have I mentioned this book is gorgeous???  Honestly, if you are looking to add a timeless classic that can double as a coffee table book of art to your collection, you need to buy Bouchon Bakery!

Bouchon Bakery Review

*Artisan Publishing provided me with a review copy of Bouchon Bakery, but all opinions are, as always, my own.

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