Dining & Nightlife, Fitness & Health, San Francisco, TravelCity Files: San Francisco & Bay Area: September 2010

A couple months ago my boyfriend, a former resident of San Francisco, took me to some of his favorite places in the city and surrounding areas.  Despite having traveled to SF a few times, I always find new favorite discoveries every time I visit.  This time, it was even better having a (once) local show me the non-touristy spots.

ONE. La Boulange Bakery — My last morning in San Francisco, my boyfriend and I went to meet up with one our friends at the bakery’s Cole Valley outpost for breakfast right after she got off from a night shift at the hospital.  It had such a local, West Coast meets Paris vibe! This was one of my favorite discoveries in city and a place I could see myself frequent should I ever live in the city.  The bakery serves up a great breakfast (sweet or savory) with ample seating and a vibrant atmosphere.  It’s a much warmer setting than your average coffee shop and the bright paint and decorative colors give it a sunny vibe even on the foggiest of mornings.

TWO. Madrona Manor— When we were in Healdsburg, my boyfriend took me to Madrona Manor for a fancy dinner- and one of the best meals I’ve ever had.  The restaurant offers a variety of tasting menus depending on your appetite with wine pairing and I wholeheartedly recommend the chef’s menu if you have a few hours.  During the summer, they seat you outside on the veranda and you enjoy the most enchanting garden view.  It is incredibly relaxing- much more so than eating indoors in my opinion. The service is one of the best I’ve ever experienced.  In fact, around 7pm when it starts getting chilly in Sonoma, the maitre’d will even bring you cashmere shawls! The entire experience is noteworthy, but the best is watching them make fresh ice cream right in front of your table for dessert.

THREE. The Pad Studios— The second I landed in San Francisco, I made a beeline straight to this yoga and pilates studio. In fact, during my three day vacation, I loved the studio so much that I visited it twice!  The Pad is comprised of The Yoga Pad for various types of yoga classes and The Lily Pad, a reformer pilates studio. The bright studio is located on a trendy boutique filled street near Pacific Heights but the actual practice area is very quite and peaceful.  The facilities are clean, spacious and Zen and everyone from the owners to instructors are all very warm with no attitude.  I dropped in for a lunch power hour which I loved and immediately felt right at home even among the more advanced practitioners.  Classes are not too crowded and the instructor is wonderful about giving individualized attention.  The next day I come in during after work hours to try a reformers pilates class at the Lily Pad.  The group lessons are limited to 4 students only which is just what a first timer like me needed!  Do you ever feel like you’re not doing things right in mat classes but no one comes to adjust you?  Well, that doesn’t happen at the Lily Pad as the instructor is constantly helping you achieve the best form. I walked away from just one classes feeling like I had better posture already.  The Yoga Pad and the Lily Pad offer classes seven days a week throughout the day and will no doubt, become my go-to studio for practice whenever I’m in the city!

FOUR. Ferrari-Carano Vineyards — This Sonoma destination was actually recommended to me by Julia Coney, another beauty and travel aficionado.  Ferrari-Carano has, hands down, one of the most beautiful grounds in all of Sonoma.  It’s impeccably manicured and actually green, which, to my surprise turned out to be quite rare in the dry region. But best of all, they produce amazing wines and offer flight tastings starting at a very reasonable $5.  We ended up buying a few bottles of wine and getting them shipped back to New York!  The vineyard does not allow for picnicing on its grounds, but is just a short drive way from Lake Sonoma which offers one of the most beautiful overlooks in the region.

FIVE. Hog Island Oysters — If you love oysters, you must make a stop to the Hog Island Oyster farm just a little bit north of Point Reyes.  It’s a simple concept- drive up, taste oysters, buy oysters, get a shucking lesson, eat them on picnic benches along the water.  It is such a great experience whether with a significant other or a family outing. The oysters are incredibly fresh and delicious that I didn’t even drown them in the usual sauces.   For those who prefer to stay in the city, Hog Island also operates an oyster bar in San Francisco which I haven’t been to yet but will be sure to put on my list for next time.

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