Newly turned 38, I still remember announcing to my fourth grade class that if they get a Valentine’s Day card from ‘Bernie,’ that it was from me. Starting my Sophomore year of high school when I moved away from the Bay Area for almost a year, I started to go by Bernadette again. A few friends take it upon themselves to call me Bernie but you know who has been my friend for a long time, they still call me Bernie. This past weekend, it was a (Birthday) Weekend at Bernie’s… And where I’m happy is at a spa and in wine country. Hawaii will be next month in Maui.
My birthday festivities started out with a much needed spa day at Nob Hill Spa
at the Huntington Hotel
in San Francisco. Julia aka #Instafriend and I both had Colin as our Therapist. Hands down, that man is amazing and I will follow him anywhere. We enjoyed a table by the pool, had many bottles of Cava and lots of food including dessert. Apparently we cleared them out of Cava. Stories were told of how we all knew each other and Julia was the only that didn’t work for me. #BossBabe
We overtook the locker room and got ready for our dinner at Foreign Cinema where we sat outside underneath the heaters, had excellent food, a bottle of Chateauneuf de Pape and had Napoleon Dynamite playing. Our Server, Aggo, was great. The winning course were the desserts and the seabass ceviche was fantastic with gooseberries.
The night took us to Wildhawk, Teeth SF and then to a favorite of mine, Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio. There, I had the last standing girls order cocktails and try their Chicken and Waffles and Shrimp and Grits that I love. Shortly after the clock struck 12 for it to be my actual birthday, I randomly check my email to find that I have been chosen to be one of six Travel Agents to get to go on the familiarization trip to Fiji in February. I was beyond excited.
We checked into the beautiful Argonaut Hotel where I am a Concierge at and was set up in a lovely room. I have been in many rooms delivering wonderful gift baskets and flowers but that night,I got to sleep in one of their luxurious beds and one all to myself! Tons of laughs were shared with Christy and Courtney. A song or two might have been sung. I wake up to look out my window facing the cable car turnaround and Karl the Fog has not lifted to see the Golden Gate Bridge.
Courtney left me in the middle of the morning as she had to catch a Bart train back to Antioch for her 10 AM work shift. What a good friend, then again she’s 10 years younger than me. Good times with this girl. See posts of our trip to Italy a few years back.
I got as quick of a breakfast as I could from The BlueMermaid
and we made our way up to wine country where we ended up at one of three of the scheduled wineries. I may be a planner but some things are not set in stone. I also know that when you wine taste, you don’t set so many restrictions. Wine is involved.
Instead of Chateau Montelena
, we ended up at the MonticelloWinery
in the Oak Knoll AVA (American Viticultural Area). The Event Planner immediately noticed the drop off route for guests and limos. They had tables set up on their lawn and I could see an intimate ceremony in front of the Jackson house.
My intimate group of four girls went into the tasting room. With wine in our hands and non-stop chatter between us, poor Jeremy in the tasting room barely got a word in. I usually take notes on all the wines we taste including what they’re saying about the wine. My notes were just a few things I heard from Jeremy. It’s Ok, we were having a good time. Every now and then I started to geek out with what I have learned so far from my Napa ValleyWine Academy course. It’s very exciting.
Instead of going to Miner Winery as planned, we headed to Jessup Cellars. I usually like visiting wineries versus tasting rooms as I am trying to visit as many California wineries as possible. I’m up to 69 so far but I feel there’s more I’m leaving off. Jessup was recommended by one of the girls and their enthusiasm for it was hard to say no to.
We sat outside under their umbrella. The dark one, me, usually can take the heat as I typically do not burn. I just get darker. But this sun was beating down and my dear friend offered to switch with me. We eventually were basically on top of each other just to stay out of the sun. The tasting room inside was busy but Megan took reallly good care of us and knew her stuff. She also brought us extra items, like their Zinfandel that wasn’t supposed to be available to non-members. But as it was my birthday and I was a Concierge and Travel Agent, (and blogger, ahem!), I think it was in her best interest she did. We bought four or five bottles of just that wine.
At this point, we had to say goodbye to two friends as their time was up with their babysitter and we had to make it to our only winery reservation of the day. I am blessed to have these women in my life. They are strong, powerful, independent women and basically good people and good friends.
Christy and I headed up to Inglenook, where I was embarrassed to pull up my dirty car from the dust from my ride up to Fort Bragg the previous weekend. You check into a human-sized birdcage with glass sides, you’re given a bar code to scan to open the gate. The gates open and you are lead down to the main grounds and house. My father always dreamed of having a house with a long driveway lined with trees. This was it! However, I prefer the lane leading up to the XX house right outside Charleston, South Carolina.
We pull into the parking lot and I immediately see an upgraded event space under trellises with candles hanging and long tables lined with runners and every detail in place. I was geeking out (yes, again) over this gorgeous space and set-up. It was stunning. I would love to hold an event here. Hire me!
We went into the main entrance of a huge wooden door facing the fountains we just passed. Immediately inside was a grand staircase. It automatically reminds me of how much I love Scarlett O’Hara and Gone With the Wind. One day, I would love to lay my eyes on my very own Rhett Butler at he bottom of the stairs eyeing me. “Hes from Charleston. He has the most terrible reputation.” Gotta love those bad boys. If you know what Scarlett says after that to her friend, Kathleen, you’re super cool in my book. Don’t forget about their grand house in Atlanta with the amazing, wide red staircase. So I had to have my photo on this staircase.
Wine tasting takes place in the gated room past the retail shop. We had David as our pourer and he was very educated. He humored me with testing me on my wine knowledge as a wine student and gave us some great tips and tastes. We unfortunately had to go pretty quickly as we had reservations I didn’t want to miss.
We raced down to the Westin Napa near the Wine Train depot and were greeted by a very pleasant Hostess. We were sat in a large booth with space for us to lay out. We reviewed the menu and Christy has never been to a Michelin star restaurant before, nor a tasting experience like she was about to have. We had an option of a 9-course dinner for $220 or a three or four-course dinner with dessert. Wine pairings were optional. And we opted IN.
We went with the four-course meal with:
the Hawaiian Kanpachi Crudo – Citrus Coconut – Leche de Tigre – Plaintain Chips & Black Salt
Paired with the 2015 Riesling Kabinette, Studertt-Prum, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Mosel
Grilled Octopus, Bacalao and Potato Tostones with Yellow Pepper Cafreal
Paired with the 2013 Barbara d’Alba, Marun, Matteo Correggia
Dry Aged Liberty Duck Breast – Leeks and Wood Ear Mushrooms, braised in Lapsang Souchong and Chinese Spices
Paired with the 2015 Bourgogne, Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, Domaine Lechenault
Prime New York Strip Loin with Fiscalini Cheddar Pearl Tapioca
Paired with the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Caravina, Seavey Vineyard, Napa Valley
For dessert, we had two as Christy likes chocolate. Me, not so much.
Triple Baked Buttercrunch Cake – Strawberry Creme Fraiche Ice ream and Silverado Trail Strawberries
Paired with the 2015 Rosa Regale, Brachetto d’Acqui
Gateau Concorde du Chocolat
In one word? Wow. I have had tasting menu dinners before and this was excellent. I ate everything and Christy was amazed. I didn’t know what everything was on the menu but I want to! I would love to be able to work with these sort of ingredients again. The Chef did a fantastic job. Perfection in their presentation was exp
ected and they delivered. Not to mention the team working effortlessly together. They had everything timed perfectly.
We were presented with two amuse bouches. One with mini macaroons with foie gras and a mushroom mouse-like tower on crisps.
The crudo was light and filled with citrus. It was the perfect starter. The octopus was a perfect size. I have had tentacles in a larger format in Santorini and this was edible. The tostones added some firm texture to the plate. Not that the octopus was at all rubbery but added some crunch, if you will. The cafreal was a creamy flavor added to the dry morsals on the plate and it was just enough.
The duck breast that Kim just had at Frolio on Fillmore Street in San Francisco was a winner. I think this would beat that dish. It was a nice big piece of duck with juice and flavor along with a sweet skin. It was tender and the fat melted in your mouth. I loved the vegetables.
For the blogger that does Meatless Mondays and is considering adding a day of going vegan once a week come November, the red meat dish was incredible. The portions were generous, the flavor was heavenly, the roll your eyes back in the head kind of heavenly but the tapioca was like fancy adult mac n cheese. Wow.
But wait, there’s more! Dessert! And we had two coming. Wow. Did I say that already? I was in love with the strawberry dessert. The buttercrunch cake had the texture of the bread pudding with a nice toasted top and came with a strawberry ice cream that I couldn’t get enough of.
Christy ordered the gateau (cake in French) and it was dense but with some mousse which I thought was going to be a bit lighter but it was too much for me. I was already pretty stuffed but I wasn’t going to let it go to waste.
The wine pairings were on point and tied to each dish perfectly. They balanced the meal and the Sommelier was young, talented and a female. Awesome. I asked her why she didn’t pair everything with local wines and she felt she wouldn’t have honored the dish as it would be limited. They carry thousands of different wines so why not?
We were stuffed, happy and after viewing on my Nest that my Boston Terrier broke out of this holding area, it was time to go home. But not before we were greeted by what I assume was the Manager, was presented with two take away treat boxes and a signed copy of the menus by the Chef rolled up in a scroll with ribbon. Inside the box was a fantastic piece of pate de fruit, a wrapped up individual piece of gooey caramel and a macaroon I have yet to try.
Then it was time to go home. Here’s to 38!