19 December 2016

Travelogue: San Francisco, Oct. 2016 - Rain can't drown this city's charms

My wife and I just can't stay away from San Francisco. We first visited 40+ years ago for our honeymoon. We liked it so much, we moved there for a year. Though we didn't stay, we have made many return visits over the years. It's the city we travel to most often for leisure. So we know it pretty well.

Our October trip was technically a business trip. We did have a meeting on one day. But we extended our stay so that we'd have time to take in our favorite activities and visit some favorite restaurants. One little glitch - it rained. Quite a lot, actually. But we still made our way around the city and visited familiar locales. Some of the others who were involved in the meeting used the opportunity to go to museums. The city has great museums. But on this trip, we didn't join them. Another couple had a break of good luck and went on a harbor cruise - no rain, lucky them. We've been on the harbor cruise before. It's fun.

Lodging: The meeting planner made arrangements for us to stay at the University Club on Nob Hill. It wasn't really the kind of hotel that we would normally consider, and we had some problems there. When we checked into our room, there was a very strong odor that made us think of some kind of cleaning product or solvent. It was not at all tolerable. The management was prompt in addressing the problem. But the scent still lingered, and we left the window open and the ceiling fan running the whole time we were there. Also, this is a private club, and club members are their priority. So one night during our stay, we had planned to go to the bar for a drink before dinner. But the bar was reserved for a members-only event. I must say that we found the staff to be very friendly and helpful. But I wouldn't really recommend the University Club for a SF stay, unless you're really into that kind of experience.
Day or night, a walk along the Embarcadero is fun

Of the many times we've stayed in San Francisco, we've never stayed on Nob Hill. Besides the University Club, which I don't recommend, there are other very nice hotels on the Hill. It's actually a pretty good location. Two blocks down the hill one direction is Chinatown. Three or four blocks down the hill in another direction is Union Square. North Beach is an easy walk as is the Embarcadero and even Fisherman's Wharf ... all down the hill. The trouble is, eventually you have to go back up the hill. And it's steep. By the end of our 3-day stay, we all were tired and sore from hiking up the hill. I decided that if I ever stay on Nob Hill in the future, I'll by a cable car pass for as many days as I'm staying. Then I'll walk down, and just ride the cable car up when I return to the hotel.

Music: SF has a good music scene, and my wife and I have found good live music on each of our visits in the past. This time, we only had one free evening. We went to the Top of the Mark (located on the top floor of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel). It's a pretty glitzy place with a breathtaking price tag that goes along with the view. On the night we went there (with a group of people) we heard a very entertaining, high energy R&B band. They were great. The drinks were great. The view would have been great, but it was rainy and foggy, so we couldn't see much.
Dinner at Kokkari

Restaurants: Whenever we go to San Francisco, we always have a dilemma about where to eat. Over the years, we enjoyed many really great restaurants, and we're always tempted to go back again. But on the other hand, there are so many good places to eat in the City that we want to try new places. One of our return visits on this trip was an elegant Greek restaurant - Kokkari Estiatorio. I've written about it on this blog; click here to read my past review. Another return visit was at Rose's Cafe for lunch while shopping on Union Street. Click here for my previous post.
The Bay Bridge, after dinner at Waterbar

  • Waterbar - This actually was a return visit for my wife and me. But for some reason, I never wrote a blog post about it. This time, we went with a group of 8. That can be pretty challenging for a restaurant, especially when it's as busy as Waterbar was the night we were there. They did pretty well under the circumstances. We did have to wait a while for our table, even though we had a reservation for 8:30. But once we got seated, everything went quite smoothly. Our server was very patient, accommodating, and professional. It takes a while for 8 people to decide what to eat. Our server hung back, let us take our time, and then swooped in to take our orders when we were ready. The food was excellent, just as it was the other time we ate there. I started with a seafood chowder and for my meal, I ordered scallops served with sweet potato gnocchi. The scallops actually were an appetizer portion, and there were only two of them. It might not have been enough, but my wife share some of her ample portion of tuna. The ambiance is very chic and attractive. The restaurant is located in the shadow of the Bay Bridge. Our table was near a window and we had a gorgeous view of the bridge and the light sculpture by Leo Villareal. As you would expect, the meal was not inexpensive. But it was worthwhile considering the stylish venue and delicious food.
  • The Slanted Door - A friend of mine recommended this Vietnamese restaurant a few years ago. I never seriously considered it. It's located in the Ferry Building, and I expected that it just catered to tourists and passengers arriving on the ferries from around the Bay. Boy was I wrong. We met some relatives there on a rainy Saturday afternoon, their choice. For a table of 6, we ordered several items from the menu and shared all around. It was excellent. Our server was pretty laid back and not particularly attentive. But his recommendations on what to order were great. I would definitely consider a return visit. 
Lunch at the Slanted Door

12 December 2016

Travelogue: Sonoma CA, October 2016 - Rainy weather, wine, and good food

I read somewhere that in the fall of 2016, Northern California had an unusually large number of rainy days. Too bad for us, that's when we were there. While the rainy weather put a damper on some of our planned activities, we still were able to enjoy wine tasting, good restaurants, some live music, and a cozy, comfortable inn. And it didn't rain the whole time. We did have one day of beautiful weather.

Hotel: Our base for this visit was the Inn at SonomaThis was a return visit for my wife and me. The location is ideal. It's a short walk to the Sonoma Plaza which is the bustling heart of this little wine town. And it's easy to get in and out of town from here for wine tasting and other adventures. 

The amenities are very nice. There's a reception every evening with wine and light appetizers. It's a fun way to meet other people and learn about their wine country experiences. Breakfast every morning is delicious and hearty - a great way to begin the day. They do have a few bikes available for guests to borrow. On a previous visit, my wife and I spent an afternoon biking to 3 or 4 wineries that are located within a few miles of the town. The rainy weather precluded a similar biking trek.

The rooms are spacious and comfortable. I only have one quibble. We had a ground floor room facing the parking lot, and the very bright parking lot light kept the room from getting totally dark. The shades block out most of the light. But if the light would annoy you, try to get a room on the back side of the hotel. Lastly, the staff is friendly, helpful, and accommodating. They're knowledgeable and eager to provide tips on things to do.

Music: My wife and I usually try to find venues with live music when we travel. I didn't really expect much for mid-week in Sonoma. But we were delighted to find the Sonoma Speakeasy. It's located in the Mercado building right off the Sonoma Plaza. We stopped in on a Tuesday night after dinner and heard a great blues band. The web site shows that it's closed most Mondays but has music on stage most of the other days of the week. 

Live blues at the Sonoma Speakeasy

Wineries: I've written a separate blog post about our food and wine pairing at Kendall-Jackson. It was a fabulous experience. Click here to read that post.

  • Kenwood Vineyards: This was our first stop on the first day of wine-tasting. We picked it because it's a wine that we've ordered in the past at restaurants. When we arrived, there weren't very many other customers, and the staff person who was serving us was very accommodating. He included a few extra wines that weren't on the menu. One, an estate bottled Cabernet was excellent. But, he advised us, it's a 'teaser' wine, not available for purchase except as part of the wine club. Too bad. We probably would have bought a bottle to bring home.
    Fall colors and ripe grapes
  • Dry Creek Family Wineries Co-op: We were the only customers in the tasting room for almost an hour. Our server was Shawn (or maybe Shaun). He was very friendly, engaging, personable and funny. (We talked about the term Minnesota Nice. He'd never heard of it. He said he was originally from Massachusetts where people are called Mass-holes.) I liked that the tasting room is a co-op jointly owned by several small family wineries. I told Shaun I spent my career working for a co-op. He was impressed,  at least diplomatically. We had trouble finding wines that we could all agree on. I bought a bottle of Zinfandel that I liked.
  • Foppiano Vineyards: As far as a tasting experience, this was a dud. We picked it because my brother-in-law (who was traveling with us) was familiar with the wines and we were driving right by it after lunch. The staff person serving the wine did not have much personality. She tried to make small talk, but it mostly fell flat. Still, my brother-in-law liked the wine and he ended up buying some to bring home.
  • Francis Ford Coppola Winery: Yes, it's a winery. And yes, I've had their wines and liked them. But on this winery visit, we didn't actually taste any of their wine. We brought along a picnic lunch which we ate while sitting outside on the winery's gorgeous courtyard and patio. Then we meandered through the movie gallery and looked at a vast collection of props and items from Coppola's films. And before we left, we took a walk to view the vineyards and the many different varieties of grapes grown there. It was a very nice experience.
  • Ravenswood Winery: This was the best tasting experience of the trip. It was the absolute last winery visit of our trip. It was late in the afternoon, just a half hour before they closed. The sky was blue and the setting sun was casting long shadows into the valley below the hill where the winery is located. Eagles soared overhead. I've had Ravenswood zinfandels in the past, so I knew I'd like them. But it wasn't just me. All of us agreed that these wines were great. (They're motto is "No Wimpy Wines!" Even though it was close to closing, our server brought us onto the patio, sat us in Adirondack chairs and brought us wine to taste. He joked with us and we had a wonderful time. I joined the Ravenswood wine club and can look forward to quarterly deliveries through the year to remind me of our wonderful visit.
We had lots of fun at Ravenswood. No Wimpy Wine!

Restaurants:

  • Sunflower Caffe: When we arrived in Sonoma, it was already past the typical lunch hour. But we were hungry after our travels (and flight delays). The staff at our hotel suggested the Sunflower for lunch. It's located right on the Sonoma Plaza. The food was good. My wife and I each had soup. It was very flavorful and was served with some nice artisan bread. But it was not cheap. $20 for two bowls of soup and no beverage (we drank water). 
  • The Girl and The Fig: My wife and I have eaten here before and we really liked it. It was good again this time, though our appetites for dinner were a bit spoiled by our late lunch and then a few snacks at the hotel afternoon reception. My wife and I split a Brussels sprout salad that was very good. For my entree, I had trout on a carrot puree, and that was excellent. The others had burgers. I really don't know why you'd go to a nice place like this and order a burger. But I guess it's nice to know that they have it on the menu. Everyone did like their burgers.
  • B&V Whiskey Bar: After a day of wine-tasting (including a big lunch), we just wanted a nice, casual place to get something simple for dinner. This place is located right on the Sonoma Plaza. The menu looked good, so we came in. The ambiance was unimpressive, just a sports bar really. I had a panzanella served with fried goat cheese on top. It was very good. My wife had smoked, roasted chicken that was very good and unusual. Service was friendly but not especially attentive.
  • Dry Creek General Store: This is a convenient place to pick up a light lunch to take on a picnic ... which is what we did. My wife and I split a tart from the deli counter. You also can get made-to-order sandwiches. There are picnic tables outside, and we saw groups of bikers stop in for lunch and to take a break from their rides. We gook our lunches down the road to a winery and had a picnic on their grounds. 
    Complementary starter at La Salette
  • La Salette: I was eagerly anticipating our dinner here. It was a return visit for my wife and me; we ate here on a previous trip to Sonoma and really liked it. Part of the appeal is that it's a fairly unusual ethnic menu - Portuguese. Maybe there are Portuguese restaurants in other cities, but not in the ones where I've traveled. We had some really great fish and seafood. I had the whole roasted branzino which was excellent. We did order Portuguese wine. It felt a little odd to order imported wine in the middle of California wine country. But that's what we did.


06 December 2016

Food, wine pairing in the Sonoma Valley

My wife and I have enjoyed California's wine country for many years. We've frequently been wine-tasting in Napa and Sonoma, as well as other areas of the state. Over the years, our preference for Sonoma has grown. I think in general, the wines produced there suit our tastes better. We also like that Sonoma still has many small family wineries, and we've enjoyed visiting many of them. Napa has many small wineries as well. But it seems like the Sonoma Valley is a little more laid back and less touristy than Napa. 

While we've visited many wineries in California over the years, one experience we never had was a food and wine tasting at a winery. In retrospect, that seems like a foolish oversight. It's a truism that having wine with food enhances the experience of both. Yet, at most wineries, the experience usually is all wine, no food (except for sometimes crackers or breadsticks to help clear the palate.) So on our October trip to the Sonoma Valley with my wife's brother and his wife, we wanted to experience a real food/wine pairing.

We picked Kendall-Jackson in the town of Fulton, a little north of Healdsburg. It was our choice for a couple of reasons. First, the menu (which we viewed online before making our reservation) looked great. Second, it was available mid-day on a Tuesday. We were kind of surprised to learn that even wineries that offer food/wine pairings often don't have them available mid-week. 
In the elegant dining hall where the pairing takes place


The Kendall-Jackson estate is impressive and gorgeous. The room where the pairing takes place is like a large, elegant banquet hall in a manor. The table was set formally with an enticing line-up of wine glasses. 

During the experience, we interacted with a wine steward and two chefs. The wine steward poured our samples and provided some tips on what to look for when sipping the wine on its own compared to how it tastes with the food. 

Online, the web site talks about a 7-course experience. That's true, but it's really served in 3 stages. The menu items change regularly, based on what's fresh and in season. So if you look at the online menu, you should not take it too literally. Here's a run-down of the food and wine that we experienced. 


First we were served a sauvignon blanc with fried green tomatoes topped with marinated cherry tomatoes and a dollop of fish roe. The second white wine was chardonnay and that was paired with garden vegetables and cheese on a polenta cake. To demonstrate how the pairing affects the perception of the wine, our wine steward had us mix and match. It was remarkable. None of us is very fond of chardonnay, and our prejudice was reinforced tasting it alone or with the fried green tomato. But with the veggies and polenta cake, it complimented very well. And conversely, as much as we liked the sauvignon blanc, it wasn't nearly as enjoyable when paired with the veggies and polenta. 
White wine pairings

But all of us really prefer red wine, so we were eager to get on with the next set of pairings. First we tasted a pinot noir with duck breast, charred eggplant, and tomato caponata. As a general matter, I don't particularly like pinot noir. But paired with the duck, it was excellent. On the other hand, I was a little disappointed by the next pairing - zinfandel with a barbecued pork belly slider. I love zinfandel, but I wasn't very impressed by this particular zin, and the slider was not something I'd normally order either. The third red wine was cabernet sauvignon paired with lamb tacos, and that was another real winner. 
From the left - duck, slider, lamb taco

Lastly came a platter with two desserts paired with a sweet muscat wine. One dessert was a buttermilk mousse - very creamy and a little tart, a nice contrast to the wine. The second dessert was caramel corn, which was the hit at the table (though I really preferred the mousse. I gave most of my caramel corn to my wife.)
Dessert pairings - buttermilk mousse and caramel corn

It sounds like a lot of wine. I guess it was. But the experience is spread over 60-90 minutes. So we never really felt a buzz from the wine. 

Then, afterwards, we strolled through the gardens surrounding the estate, and that was very relaxing and interesting. You can view the different grape varieties that go into the wine. But they also have a very extensive garden that yields much of the produce served in the tasting. From start to finish, we spent 3 hours at Kendall-Jackson. 

Overall, it's not cheap. But for us, it was probably the most memorable experience from our Sonoma Valley wine vacation.


20 October 2016

Borough, Mpls revives my faith in sandwiches

I don't usually order sandwiches when I'm out for lunch. It's not that I have anything against sandwiches in principle. It's just that when I'm eating out, I usually prefer something more creative, an entree, or even a salad. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to put some stuff between two slices of bread.

(Exception: Grilled cheese. I LOVE grilled cheese sandwiches.)

Earlier this year, Borough, a restaurant that I really like quite a lot, started serving lunch. So late in summer, when I was downtown during the lunch hour, I decided to give it a try. They have several items on the lunch menu that look good. But for some reason, I decided to try the pastrami sandwich. So glad I did.

Pastrami on Rye at Borough
The pastrami was excellent. Great flavor and very tender. Borough does a nice job with proportions. There's a generous serving of meat on the sandwich, but it's not piled ridiculously high. The sandwich is on a very tasty rye bread that's lightly grilled. Along with the meat on the sandwich is sauerkraut and spicy mustard with a couple of pickle slices on the side. Now this was a sandwich to get excited about. I had a side order of potato salad, made with fingerling potatoes, mustard, egg, celery, and roasted peppers. It was great.

My server was very helpful. I asked him about a catfish sandwich also on the menu. He appropriately raved about it and suggested that I try it on my next visit. So I did. When I was back downtown a few weeks later, I went back to Borough and ordered the catfish sandwich.

Catfish sandwich at Borough
As you can see from the photo, this was a very creative construction. The plank of catfish is blackened and grilled. It straddles two halves of a toasted roll made with goat milk. Piled on the catfish is a generous mound of celery root slaw. There are 3 dabs of hot sauce on the plate and the requisite pickle slices. I loved it. Another excellent, creative and noteworthy lunch that just happens to be a sandwich.

Well, with two great sandwiches in the course of a few weeks, I began to wonder if I've been unfair in my prejudice against ordering sandwiches. So recently, I was shopping at the Ridgedale Mall. It was around lunch time. Ridgedale has several good choices for lunch over and above the offerings in the food court. I've heard good things about Ruscello, the Italian restaurant at Nordstrom's and decided to give it a try. On the menu was a sandwich that sounded good - braised short rib on a baguette. So I ordered it.

Alas. The bread was good. The braised short rib was flavorful. But the sandwich was ... blah. It was just some stuff between two slices of bread. It leads me to conclude that it requires some creativity and finesse to make a sandwich that's worth ordering in a restaurant.

Braised short rib sandwich at Ruscello

18 October 2016

My room with a view

In my whole career, I never had an office with a window. Actually, I guess I'm lucky I even had an office. I understand that the new trend is for something called 'collaborative working environments' and 'nomadic' offices. I'm not sure exactly how it all works, but from what I've heard, you come to the office with your computer and just settle into an open work carrel, or gather round a table with co-workers who are collaborating on a project.

I always tried to be progressive and open to change. I tried to be a champion of more electronic communication and computer technology. (When I retired, I had almost no paper files for the last 7 years of my career. Almost all of my old work records consisted of electronic files stored on my computer.) When I traveled for work, I was pretty comfortable setting up a mobile office in my hotel room. As long as I had a good internet connection, I was able to work and be productive.

But back at the headquarters, I did have an office ... with a door ... that locked. I'm not sure how well I would have accepted giving it up for a permanent nomadic existence. I decorated my office with photos and artwork and plaques and other remembrances. Just no window looking outside.

Now I do. After I retired, I re-purposed a spare bedroom into a home office. I hung some of the same artwork. I put in a nice desk. (It's now almost as cluttered as my desk was at the office.) I have a couch where I sit and read sometimes. I bought a turntable and I play some of my old vinyl records while reading. And there's a big window overlooking my backyard.

Occasionally now, I catch myself gazing out the window. It happened the other day. It was damp and chilly and windy. I watched the autumn leaves tumble to the ground (and started thinking about when I'd have to go out and start raking.)

Actually, it was kind of distracting. Maybe I'm lucky I didn't have a window at work. I probably got more done.


29 August 2016

Postscript: Paris and Italy, Spring 2016

It's been 3 months since my wife and I returned from our 26-day trip to Paris and Italy. I've written separate posts about each of the destinations that we visited. This is an overview of the entire trip with some miscellaneous comments.
We couldn't go to Paris without a pic of the Eiffel Tower

Technology: We took our first trip to Europe for our 25th wedding anniversary in 1999. Of course, I was still working and felt the need to keep in touch. I think I had a cell phone in those days; I can't really remember when I got my first one. But I certainly did not get an international calling plan. Instead, I used a toll-free number to check voice messages back at the office and visited internet cafes to check e-mails.

It's a lot different now. First of all, no more internet cafes. Every place we stayed had free WiFi included with our rooms. We were able to use our iPads to get emails every day plus keep up on news back home, send photos, and check TripAdvisor reviews of restaurants and attractions in the cities we were visiting. At a couple of our hotels, the WiFi connection was not great. But at most of them, it was good enough so that we could even have Face Time chats with our grandchildren back home.

Also, my cellular carrier - Sprint - has a free international plan that I activated before we left for this trip. I had free, unlimited text messages, free, unlimited data (at a reduced speed), and phone calls for 20 cents/minute. Since cellular companies are so competitive, I'm sure that other carriers have similar plans available.

I didn't really use my phone a lot for voice service. But where it really came in handy was being able to use the GPS and mapping apps on the phone for finding our way around. We had a car for about half of the trip. On that first trip back in 1999, we also had a car for a few days driving through Provence in France. My wife was the navigator and I drove (stick shift). We survived, but it was a strain. This time, we used Google Maps and it was fantastic. My wife still was the navigator, and I was still the driver (because the car still had a stick shift). But we plugged the phone into the power port in the car, programmed in our destination, and let the Google voice direct us.

Linda still watched the map on the screen. But for the most part, we relied on the voice directions to tell us where to go. In fact, the only trouble we had was when, for some unexplained reason, Google didn't give us a voice prompt to turn. Linda was watching the map, and she said "I think we should have turned back there." But we'd gotten so confident in the verbal directions that we drove on a few kilometers more before realizing that indeed, we should have turned. In addition, Google Maps helped us find our way while walking, particularly in Rome. I hated to look like a clueless tourist, walking around Rome, holding my phone to get directions. But after getting hopelessly lost on our first day in the city, I did it anyway.
Piedmont was my favorite part of the trip, Barolo wine!

Language: Before our trip, I spent 1-2 hours per day on my computer, working with Rosetta Stone to try to learn a little Italian. I also used Duolingo (a free, online language instruction site). Much to my frustration, it wasn't enough. That's not to say that I was totally clueless. I could pick up occasional words and deduce from context what was being said. By the end of the trip, I was starting to pick up some phrases. But for the most part, I found that either the people we met understood English and if they didn't, I didn't know enough to understand them.

We started our trip in Paris. But since we were only going to be there for 3 days, I didn't bother to study any French. When we arrived, we decided to take the train from the airport to our hotel. We got our tickets just fine and got on the train. But when we got into the city center, the train stopped a few stations short of our destination and everyone got off. A helpful person noticed our confusion and told us that the trains were on strike, and we'd have to find another way to go the rest of the way to our hotel. So we got off the train and found an official-looking person wearing a transit uniform. "Excuse me," I said. "Do you speak English?" "Do you speak French?" he asked me (in perfect English). "No," I admitted. "Not even a little?" he chided me. "No," I said. He sighed and gave me a disapproving look, and then told us where to find the subway to our hotel.

By contrast, in Italy, most of the people we met were apologetic if they didn't understand us. A few times, I would try to ask for something in Italian. They wouldn't understand me. Then I'd switch to English, and we'd be OK.

One more technology tool that helped with language - Google Translate. I used the app on my phone or on my iPad to understand something or to help make myself understood when trying to communicate.
Positano, from the cliffs above the sea

Our itinerary:
Paris - After an overnight flight direct from Minneapolis, we were there for 3 nights. We stayed in a quiet neighborhood just at the edge of the Latin Quarter. The weather was chilly with occasional rain showers. But we had a great time walking around, seeing sights that we'd been to in the past as well as many new sights. Click here for my post on Paris.

Milan - We took a 7-hour train ride from Paris, arriving late in the day. Our hotel was a contemporary business hotel centrally located for most of the things we wanted to see. Besides exploring Milan, we did a day trip to the town of Bellagio on Lake Como. We had one day of heavy rain during our 3-day stay. Click here for my post on Milan and Lake Como.

Lago d'Orta - Besides seeing Lake Como, we wanted to spend some time in the Italian Lakes region. We rented a car in Milan and drove to the town of Orta San Guilio where we spent 3 days relaxing and enjoying the scenic splendor of the lake and quaint little town that doesn't see many American tourists. Click here for my post on Lago d'Orta.

Piedmont - From Orta, we drove to the town of Barolo in the Piedmont region. We stayed for 3 nights at an agriturismo, went wine-tasting, and explored the small towns nearby. We also did a day trip to Turin which was a delightful city (may be worth a return visit some day). Click here for my post on Piedmont.

Cinque Terra - We continued by car from Barolo to Cinque Terra, where we stayed for 2 nights. The main attraction here was to do the scenic hikes between the towns on the coast. The weather was mostly overcast, but that was probably OK. It kept the temperatures cool so that the hiking wasn't so draining. Click here for my post on Cinque Terra.

Lazio, Umbria, Tuscany - We drove from Cinque Terra to another agriturismo in a very small town in the Lazio region, right on the border of Umbria and close to the southern parts of Tuscany. Here we did more wine tasting and explored the small towns in the region. Click here for my post on this part of Italy.

Amalfi Coast - We turned in our car at the train station in Orvieto. After a pretty long day on trains and buses, we arrived at Praiano on the Amalfi Coast. We stayed there for 4 nights, did a lot of hiking in the hills above the sea, did a day trip to see the ruins at Pompeii, and visited several of the other towns on the coast. This part of the trip was similar to Cinque Terra, except that the towns we visited were more sophisticated; there's nothing on Cinque Terra to compare to Positano or Ravello. Between the two regions, I'd go back to the Amalfi Coast in a heartbeat. Click here for my post.

Rome - We concluded our trip with 3 nights in Rome. We walked through the city and saw all the big sights - Vatican Museums, Roman Forum, Jewish Ghetto, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, antiquities everywhere, and great food. Click here for my post on Rome.

In Rome, we saw antiquities everywhere

21 August 2016

St. Genevieve: Come to South Mpls. for a French wine bar

There's a relatively new place in south Minneapolis that's getting a lot of favorable buzz. St. Genevieve is a French wine bar in a quiet residential neighborhood. We had a 7:30 reservation on a Saturday night. So, yeah, they take reservations! Big plus in my book. 

Friends had told us it's quite noisy, and in the entryway, it was. But we were seated at a table near the back, and it wasn't too bad. Probably the most impressive thing was the friendly, knowledgeable, and accommodating staff. It was our first time there. The hostess sat down next to us and explained how things work - mostly small plates, encourage sharing, wine by the glass or bottle, half glasses of wine available. Very nice. 

When we had questions about the wine, our server was very helpful - accurately describing the ones we were interested in. We liked our choices. My wife usually shies away from Pinot Noir, but when she inquired about it, the server noted that it's a white Pinot Noir - Pfeffingen blanc de noir. It was actually a German wine, and my wife enjoyed it. I also chose something that I'd never seen before - a rose of cabernet franc (Plouzeau Chinon Rose). It was an easy-drinking wine that went well with our food.

We ordered 4 plates to eat, not knowing if that would be enough or too much. The server asked about food allergies, and my wife said she's sensitive to cilantro. No problem; nothing we ordered had cilantro. Except, a couple minutes later, she reappeared at our table to advise us that one of the items (squid) had cilantro in the marinade. We thanked her and canceled that plate. So we ended up having the Gem salad, and like other reviewers have noted, the kitchen split it for us and sent it out on individual plates. (Very Nice indeed.) We also had the octopus and an order of pommes frites. The salad was ample, as was the serving of fries. Our other plate, the octopus, was quite small. We didn't leave hungry, but we maybe could have had another plate. 

My bottom line - great ambiance, great service, they take reservations, good food, interesting wine selections (and reasonable prices), shared 3 plates between 2 people and 2 and 1/2 glasses of wine for $60 plus a tip.