For my birthday this year, I said f*ck it and decided to indulge a little.
To get a reservation, you need to be on your game. They only take online reservations nowadays and release tables for a 2 month period at a time. So, a few months ago I put on my calendar when they were opening reservations for May and June and hopped on the site when it opened. I was amazed how quickly times and days booked up…within minutes of opening. I managed to snag a Friday lunch time close to my actual birthday.
I’ve never actually dined at multi-starred Michelin fine dining restaurant before, so wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I specifically didn’t want to read too much about other’s experiences because I didn’t want to go into the meal with bias. I read maybe 1 review but mostly for logistics about parking, etc. Prior to this, the only experience at Michelin starred restaurant was at one-starred Solbar in the Solage resort in Calistoga.
We have many numerous trips to Napa so getting there I was on autopilot and didn’t have to worry about directions and which way to go. There was the expected traffic on a Friday morning so we had planned accordingly. We arrived early to Yountville and sat on a bench in front of the French Laundry’s garden (across the street from the restaurant). It was a beautiful day though a bit warm (still I am amazed at just how much cooler it is in Napa than it is in Sac).
Even though it was still a little bit before our reservation, we were anxious to get in and start the experience so we walked through the famous blue doors early.
Just inside the door was a small lobby that felt almost like a boutique hotel/B&B. We were led upstairs to our table immediately. The decor and feel of the place was much like you were eating in someone’s home.
Two weekends ago for the Cesar Chavez holiday, we took road trip over to the coast, north of SF. We hadn’t been to the Bodega Bay before and thought it’d be fun. We found a nice quiet Air BnB that allows dogs. Since check in wasn’t until 3 pm, we woke up on Friday and did our normal thing and packed and finally left the house after lunchtime. It was a relatively short drive that took us past Napa and Sonoma and through Petaluma up into Sebastopol, a small town about 7 miles west of Santa Rosa. Our Air BnB was actually located a few more miles west of this area up in a little hill/mountain area. I really liked that there was a grove of Redwoods right outside the getaway.
After getting settled in, we took the dog with us to one of the dog-friendly beaches, Doran Beach. This was basically a small finger-like projection from the land and was the southern border of Bodega Bay. When we arrived, it was low tide in Bodega and it looked more marsh-like than an actual bay. Later on when we drove by it another day, it looked more like a bay and ocean so it was cool to see the two different levels. Along this litter sliver of land were a bunch of people camping right by the beach and water. The last time I camped was in MI where you drive up to the camp area and set up a tent. Most people on this beach area had trailers or campers but also had some tents set up. Reminded me of a different life I had.
A few weeks ago I ventured out to try some new things after a doctor visit. I had fasted overnight and before the appointment so I could get some blood pulled. However that left me hungry after my visit. I decided to try one of our local coffee roasters that has cold brew coffee on nitro.
First impression was that it looked like a beer. It had a nice foamy head and was nice and chilled. I must say that when taps use nitro, it certainly makes for a much smoother mouth feel of the liquid. I thoroughly enjoyed my first cold brew coffee on nitro. I got the coffee at Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters. It’s a quaint little coffee shop that is no frills.
With my coffee in hand, I headed over to the relatively new Paris Baguette. This chain recently moved up here to northern California after I guess it grew big in southern California. This bakery reminds me of a Taiwanese bakery called 85 Degrees. You walk in and grab a tray and all the bread/pastry products are out on trays or in cubbies. You pick what you want and then take your tray to the register to pay and order drinks as well. I ended up getting a buttered croissant, chocolate croissant, and a croissant with an italian sausage in the middle. They were all delicious.
Even though I was under the weather and tied to being close to a bathroom, the show had to go on and our trip wasn’t going to just end (even though I had fleeting thoughts of telling my wife to go ahead and I’d just go back to Tokyo and hole up in a motel until our flight home). I’m glad that I pushed forward and finished off the trip.
From Kyoto we hopped on the Shinkansen again and continued our trip westward. Our destination was Itsukushima, or Miyajima Island, which is located just off the coast of Hiroshima. We initially thought we’d stop in Hiroshima first prior to heading to the island. However given the time of day when we arrived in Hiroshima, we altered our plans and decided to go to the island first and would check out Hiroshima on our way back to Tokyo the following day. To get to the island you need to take a ferry. Strangely enough there are two competing companies but they operate right next to each other at the ports. One of the ferries is operated by JR and since we had the JR pass, we could ride for free. It was a very short trip (10 minutes) to get across the channel.
For the 4th of July, we decided to do the ultra-traditional hamburgers and hot dogs. I decided I’d like to try my hand at making hot dog buns. I had previously made some burger buns from a random recipe I found online. I didn’t realize that you can use the same formula for both hot dog and hamburger buns. This time I found another recipe on a random blog. For the most part I followed the recipe that was laid out (since this was my first time making it). I amended it due to the fact that I don’t have a stand mixer and therefore have to do all my mixing/kneading by hand. The recipe called for letting the dough rest in the fridge for up to 24 hours so I made up the dough the night before July 4th.