Archive for the ‘Marin Restaurants’ Category

A Quick Trip to Sonoma: Ram’s Gate Winery

September 2nd, 2014 By jacquelynw

ram's-gate-bar ram's-gate-table

As you probably gathered from your extensive internet stalking and avid research on my background (or maybe just the bio at the bottom of my posts), I’m not from around here.

Luckily, my husband is. I met him on vacation in San Francisco, and the first thing he did after meeting me (literally the very next day) was throw me on the back of his motorcycle, and take me straight to Napa. There he locked me in a 5 star hotel with a champagne drip until I promised to marry him. Well….maybe it wasn’t exactly like that.  But that’s how I remember it.

Since then, I’ve learned a few things about this beautiful area I like to call home. In particular, of course, Marin. I know not to honk in traffic (it’s probably my child’s teacher or my yoga instructor.) I know that I always need to have a vegetarian option at all my dinner parties, made with organic local produce, of course. And I know not to plan anything important when Mercury is in retrograde. But the most important thing I’ve learned is just how amazing it is to live 20 minutes from the wine country.

Case in point – Saturday morning my husband’s parents surprise us with the amazing gift of taking our kids for the day to go play in the beautiful redwoods and creek beds that are Samuel P. Taylor Park. The first thing I’m preoccupied with are my neurotic fears about ticks and poison oak that I will have to deal with when they get home. Although, in all fairness, I also worry about aliens or zombies invading the earth and I am convinced I have brought home bedbugs every time I stay in a hotel. Just to put those fears in perspective, of course.

But the very next thing I think of is throwing on some sunscreen and summery outfits and heading north. Where you might ask?  Wine country, of course. We only have to drive 20 minutes from our place, and there we are – rolling hills of….well dead grass right now….but situated at the top of the first rolling hill of the official front gate of the wine country is the newly renovated property, and borderline tragically chic, Ram’s Gate.

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The first time we came here after the purchase and renovation of what was once the biggest lost opportunity in all of Sonoma, we were so blown away. It is, in my humble and also worthless opinion, at least in the top five, if not the number one spot of tasting rooms in both Napa and Sonoma. At the time we were just stopping in on our way to another destination in Yountville. We had the kids, and the staff was charming and inviting, encouraging our “non-member” party to sit in the plush lounge area. The kiddos were even able to get their fill of the virgin Chardonnay, aka grape juice. We bought some wine, and my husband and I decided to become members of the wine club there. We based our decision on two things: one, it was 20 minutes from our house and two they had a lovely Sauvignon Blanc. Recipe for success in my book.

After deciding to head north, but before our arrival, we grabbed a phone and called our precious Ram’s Gate. Since we hadn’t visited in a while, we wanted to know if there would be room for our last minute party of two. Luckily we erred on the side of overly cautious, otherwise the adorable girl that looked like Julianna Hough with stylishly fuchsia lipstick wouldn’t have been able to seat us. My first impression was that I was a bit turned off. The first time we arrived, and every time since, we were able to just cruise in. But, according to their website, this is a thing of the past.

Once seated inside, at our previously arranged table, I got it. This whole “make a reservation” thing was actually quite nice. Our view of the valley was amazing, and I wasn’t having to tap anyone on the shoulder to get their attention or a pour. We were seated at a table, and given the “Member’s Only Menu” which had a list of all the bottles they were currently pouring, but delectable food pairings. I mean real food pairings, for real foodies. And, I’m not just talking some things thrown together on a charcuterie board.

My first issue, however, was that it was summer, and the only whites they were pouring were Chardonnay. Not that their Chardonnay is/was bad. This is an issue for me personally, but for those of you who enjoy Chardonnay, it will be awesome. There were like 4.  However, I was lucky enough to make it there the weekend they started selling (to members only) the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. A little bit of coercion and a giant “phew” when they agreed to let us buy a bottle and drink it there.

We decided to, in addition to our light, dry and beautiful summer white, to order two glasses of their 2012 Carneros Pinot Noir. OK – now we were ready to order, from both sections of the menu.

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The first thing that came out was what looked like giant hushpuppies. The Wagon Wheel Arancini was not, in fact, hushpuppies. But it is the closest thing I could visually relate it to. Once you cut into said hush puppies you would quickly realize that instead of something dry and crumbly you would find creamy risotto like deliciousness that tasted like mushrooms and hinted at black truffle oil.

We followed that up with the Veal Albondigas. If you’re like me and need to “dumb down” what an “Albondigas” is, they were these giant meatballs covered in a tangy tomatillo and cilantro goo that made them both savory and tingly. And, as it turns out, I’m a fan of both savory and tingly.

From there we moved on to the peaches and burrata. The Sonoma County Peaches managed to be both light and hearty with bright peachy flavors, that yes, cut the cheese nicely. (I think I spend too much time with my 7 year old.)

The Braised Rabbit and gnocchi we inhaled in a matter of minutes. I was utterly speechless.

We decided to order one last plate, and I’m glad we did. It turned out to be my favorite, and it was a little bit surprising. I’m from Texas, so meat and I go way back. But hanger steak is never one of my “go-tos.” The Hanger Steak (yes, that was the name of the item on the menu) was tender, flavor filled and served with a hearty risotto and oregano marinated feta. It was a total zinger and, paired with our choice of Pinot for the afternoon, was by far, the most enjoyable bite that we had.

After that, and since we still had a little sip of the Pinot Noir left, we ordered the Chocolate Budino to finish things off. It was the perfect blend of crunchy, chocolate and warm.

Over the course of the several hours we were there, visiting with the staff and other patrons, we really enjoyed what we saw. The view didn’t feel like we were just off the highway. We felt tucked. We didn’t feel rushed, likely thanks to the reservations set up. We were encouraged to take pictures. The Saturday afternoon vibe there was a beautiful mix of an exciting bustle and taking time to smell the bouquet. Literally.

While it would have been nice to be able to make the drive all the way into Napa, relax by the pool at one of the beautiful five star hotels and have a four course meal in Yountville, this was an incredibly wonderful runner up.

As they say, membership does indeed have its privileges.

Jacquelyn Warner is a Marin based photographer. She was born in LA, raised in Texas, and has been sipping, dipping, hiking, bbqing, shopping and drinking here in the Bay Area for the last 14 years.  She remains constant in her endless search for the perfect spot for just about anything in Marin.

Belcampo Meat Co. at Marin Country Mart

August 18th, 2014 By jacquelynw

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You don’t need a pair of skinny jeans or a handlebar mustache to know that food trucks are bringing to life the next generation of culinary genius.  They are no longer the dark and scary counterparts baring stale doughnuts and questionable tacos of my early years. They are the innovators. They are the mobile front lines that combine fearless entrepreneurial spirit with groundbreaking culinary invention.

It’s no surprise then, when you arrive at the Marin Country Mart on Sunday between 11 and 3 to find the place crawling with hipsters, families and people who forget they aren’t supposed to bring their dogs. The big draw? The event that is now widely known as Off the Grid. There you are likely to find a rainbow assortment of diesel fueled engines serving up anything from lobster rolls, deliciously creative tacos, Asian fusion sandwiches to (of course my favorite) BBQ.

I survey the terrain, trying to decide which line of deliciousness I want to commit myself to for the next 30 minutes. Indecision paralyses me for a moment, when the idea hits me: shop first – eat later.

Since I’m already at the Marin Country Mart, and knowing that I’m hosting a dinner party later in the evening, it only makes sense that I take advantage.  I first head to Rustic Bakery for some sweets, then pop a few doors over to the best butcher in Marin. I’m in search of the crowd pleaser. In Belcampo speak, they call it a Tomahawk Ribeye. I call it meat flavored love.

I walk into the Belcampo store front, and am greeting by, thankfully given the size of the knives they are holding, two friendly butchers, eager to help with everything from cuts of meat, to spices, condiments as well as wine. But, as I am looking around the store, I notice something I didn’t notice before – there is an entire restaurant back there. Chairs, tables, napkins. Like real napkins. The kind that you fold and not the kind that comes on a roll. It was literally the whole deal. I take a peek on the menu, and realize that the last thing I want to do is wait in line for a sandwich and then eat it on a picnic table outside alongside humanity. I want to sit down in this cozy spot and see how the expert linguists of meat serve it themselves.

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My family and I press pause on our meat order at the counter, and saunter over to the dining room with new found vigor. We sit down.  Immediately sit down. Their brunch menu has everything from salads and frittatas to hamburgers and French dips. And, thankfully, for my vegetarian 7 year old, French fries and grilled cheese.

Our orders came quickly, and as soon as the plates hit the tables I’m grabbing a taste of everything. We had a hot dog served in a brioche bun.  Chili that would engage the most elitist Texan.  And a grilled cheese sandwich that I had to arm wrestle my usually hunger striking 7 year old for even just a bite. I couldn’t believe this place hadn’t hit our radar before, despite the countless times we had come in.

The food was so amazing, I felt compelled to share. While I love the idea of not having to wait for a table when I arrive, this is one of Marin’s best kept secrets that just isn’t fair of me to keep.

So, next time you have a special occasion, like your boss is coming to dinner, or your cooking dinner for your wife’s birthday (or maybe your celebrating that its Monday, or Wednesday or Thursday) head over to Belcampo for the meat. But maybe sit a spell, have a sparkling water or a glass of wine, and check it out. I think it could be life changing.

Jacquelyn Warner is a Marin based photographer. She was born in LA, raised in Texas, and has been sipping, dipping, hiking, bbqing, shopping and drinking here in the Bay Area for the last 14 years.  She remains constant in her endless search for the perfect spot for just about anything in Marin.

Brunch at San Geronimo’s Two Bird Cafe

February 11th, 2013 By Stephen Pringle

For one of the the best brunch restaurants in all of Marin head out to the Two Bird Cafe in San Geronimo. What a great way to wake up on the weekend. The food is amazing and the service is top notch. We got up and went to breakfast there last Saturday with the kids and were blown away buy the yummy french toast and the best pancakes we have ever had. The ambiance is rustic and relaxing. We headed out to Point Reyes after that and spent half the day in West Marin. A great way to relax and start the weekend.

Spicy Salsa and More at El Huarache Loco

November 28th, 2012 By Stephen Pringle

El Huarache Loco Restaurant in Larkspur is one of my favorite places for lunch or brunch in Marin. They opened earlier in the year at the Marin Country Mart and have been a hit ever since. They make their tortillas right on site and everything is really yummy and healthy. Try their salads and incredible tacos, and they have the best salsa bar around…the spicy selections make me happy. The Country Mart is the coolest place to hang out on Saturdays. They have a farmers market and tons of cool shops. We like grabbing a big table outside and just letting the kids explore around the fish and turtle pond, or hang out on the giant tree play structures. I hear in the summer they even have movie nights there. See you next Saturday!

Pizzalina Now Open in San Anselmo

October 4th, 2012 By Stephen Pringle

A new Pizza restaurant just opened in Red Hill shopping center across from the Yolanda/Calumet neighborhoods called Pizzalina. Super yummy wood-oven pizza and salads. It has a really nice ambiance, excellent service, and they have a great selection of local brews. The server said they are working on better kid selections, which we think would be nice. We love supporting small mom & pop establishments and the San Anselmo town council is working on limiting chain stores in town, which we support. Pizzalina is in a great location near Memorial Park and is a perfect place to grab a quick bite on the way home from the park. Support local!

Dinner by the Pool: One of Marin’s Best Kept Secrets

August 17th, 2012 By Stephen Pringle

I almost hesitate to write about this place because I would hate to see it get overrun with crowds. Where else can you sit by the pool in Marin and have dinner and cocktails while watching your kids swim? Have dinner at Ricky’s Restaurant at Inn Marin and you don’t have to stay at the motel to use the pool. It’s great on a hot day and is perfect for birthday parties. The early evening we were there they had live music by the pool and people were dancing. Such a cool vibe and just what Marin needs, and the food was really good too.  There’s a large grassy area for kids to run around too, right next to the pool. Hawaii in Marin? Don’t tell too many people about it:)

Food, Music, and Bocce at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael

July 20th, 2012 By Stephen Pringle

I stopped by former Grateful Dead member Phil Lesh’s new Terrapin Crossroads restaurant and music venue with the family recently, and what a great place. We sat outside and had dinner on the water with the kids, sipping beer and margaritas while they played bocce. Locals pulled up in their boats while we ate, and after dinner we headed into the bar for some live music.  The food was tasty, with a nice selection of small plates and entrees to choose from. Looks like they have private lounge rooms to rent as well. The ambiance is super cool and this is one of our new favorite spots! We’re looking forward to checking out a good bluegrass show coming up on August 3rd and 4th.

Terrapin Crossroads
100 Yacht Club Dr.
San Rafael, CA 94901
415.524-2773

 

April 10th, 2012 By Kim Baskind

You may not have heard about Outstanding in the Field, but it’s an exciting culinary adventure that I am just itching to experience. The creators have a mission to reconnect people with the food they eat. They call them restaurants without walls and set up long farm tables in unique places, like in the middle of a vineyard, on a ranch, in a cave, or right by the ocean. We just discovered this but it’s been going on for 20 years. The aim is to bring people as close as possible to the ingredients on their plate–literally so close that they may be grown just a few feet away.

Take a look at the schedule and see if there’s an event for you.  Tickets run in the $200 price range and they have been selling out fast.  If you missed the one you want (we missed the Michael Minna event at Devils Gulch – bummer!) then sign up on the email list so you are sure not to miss out next year.

Outstanding in the Field does many events here in California, but they also travel. How about dining in a vineyard in the Rioja region of Spain? Or sampling some Mahi Mahi, taro, and starfruit at an organic farm on the island of Hawaii? Honey, I think it’s time to plan a vacation!

Sweetlife Bakery & Café: Tasty New Eats in San Anselmo

December 13th, 2011 By Stephen Pringle

Sweetlife Bakery & Café just opened a couple weeks ago in San Anselmo and it’s a fun place to have a casual lunch or dinner. Their pastries are super yummy and the kids will love the pizza. We went for lunch the other day and it was very busy, the food was very good, and the service was excellent. I love the light and bright design of the restaurant, and they have large windows that allow you to peak in and see the fresh breads and pastries being made. Looking through the glass is like getting a behind the scenes peek at Willy Wonka’s factory, without the Oompa Loompas…our kids loved it. They also have a parking lot and there is also a lot of street parking out front, a rarity in downtown San Anselmo. We look forward to many more yummy meals there.

Sweetlife Bakery & Café.  101 San Anselmo Avenue San Anselmo, CA 94960-2800.  Phone: 415-456-4580 www.sweetlifebakerycafe.com

Tasty new bakery in San Rafael

September 2nd, 2011 By Stephen Pringle

Stopped by Ponsford’s Place on Shaver Street in San Rafael for their Wednesday pizza night this week, where they had live music and super tasty and healthy pizza. They also make yummy breads and treats. The menu changes daily and they have cooking classes as well. More info at www.ponsfordsplace.com.

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