I landed in Hawaii and was greeted by a 3-D double rainbow – a good sign of magical things to come in 2015! Happy New Year, everyone. Wishing you and your loved ones nothing but colorful blessings always. XO, Mika
Many believe that living in San Francisco with its multitude of offerings is ultimately superb, and although true on many levels, I believe one of the not-to-be taken for granted perks about living in the Bay Area is the easy access to get out of the city for a quick day trip or an even longer weekend retreat. For those thinking of getting away, the nearby town of Saratoga is an ideal destination to put on the map. Only an hour away from San Francisco, it’s the foolproof mix of food, wine, music, art and relaxation. Saratoga also offers ideal weather for many outdoor activities including hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, golf, and biking.
When venturing out there, here are a few of my Saratoga highlights that you don’t want to miss:
On a recent visit, I visited Cooper Garrod Winery for a bit of wine tasting and a picnic in their rustic, outdoor space surrounded by vineyards and 100-year old eucalyptus trees. The comfortable, casual winery boasts a historic-country ranch setting with an antique barn, horseback riding and valley views. On every last Sunday of the month, there is a combination horse back riding and wine tasting trail ride. And yes, it was well-thought out with the riding taking place before the wine and buffet consumption. Yee Haw!
If you’re seeking some zen in your life, and who isn’t really… this is the place to be. The exquisite landscape is host to the oldest Japanese garden on the Western Hemisphere. Portions of the film Memoirs of a Geisha were even filmed here. Get visually lost in the koi pond or find your peace in the bamboo garden. Think of it as your mini-Japanese vacation spot in the Bay Area.
Executive Chef/Owner Peter Armellino’s elegant restaurant is a favorite among those seeking fine dining in the South Bay. From the contemporary, glass-encased wine cellar to the traditional, elegant souffles, this is the spot to head to for a romantic dinner date, or a bottle of champagne to celebrate life and all its milestones. Their wine selection is no-doubt impressive and includes both the classics and the eclectic. See the list here.
Indulge your inner princess at this boutique of baubles. Owner Deja is a gem and her highly-curated selection includes both exquisite domestic and international pieces. Gather a group of your loveliest lady pals and enjoy a “Sip, Sparkle, Wish” party where you can try on the many glorious jewels from the glass cases, while enjoying desserts and champagne.
With almost every seat being a not-too-far distance from the main stage, this is the concert venue to get up-close and personal to the biggest names in the music industry. From Ray Charles to Foreigner, they have all played here. Founded in 1901, Mountain Winery is a sophisticated gathering point for wine and live-music lovers. Since its inception, the winery has focused on cultivating Pinot Noir and Chardonnays due to the ideal growing soil of the environment. To this day, the winemakers at Mountain Winery use malolactic bacteria and yeast that are indigenous to the environment. Sample the Estate Wine and take in the panoramic view at the outdoor Vineyard Wine Bar.
This is where many of the Silicon Valley set come to relax and beautify. Pamper yourself or someone you love with a facial, massage, or the latest technology (it is Silicon Valley, after all) spa treatment including an infrared Sauna Therapy suite. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they host a Happy Hour Manicure Bar where guests are treated to sparkling wine and sweets paired with their manis and pedis.
You now have no excuse not to add the Northern California city of Saratoga to a future upcoming weekend escape.
Just a short jaunt from San Francisco is the picturesque coastal town of Half Moon Bay – the famed spot where surfers from around the globe gather to attend the annual Mavericks surf competition, and a relaxing spot along the Pacific Coast Highway where some lucky locals get to call home.
One thing residents and visitors have in common when they find themselves with a little free time in this coastal neck of the woods, is a visit to Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. Casual and inviting, this quintessential California surf shack was name one of America’s best beach bars by Travel + Leisure magazine. Beer lovers will appreciate the 1,200 square-foot Mavericks Beer Garden and on-site brewery, where hand-crafted, award-winning Mavericks® Beers & Ales are piped directly to the bar. The Mavericks Amber Ale won a bronze medal in the 2012 World Beer Cup, and the Ocho Barril Saison won Best in Show for session beers and the gold medal in the Wood/Smoke Ale category at the California State Fair in June 2013.
At a recent Beer vs. Wine dinner event, guests were treated to a four-course meal prepared by Half Moon Bay Brewing Company Chef Gaston Alfaro with select pairings of beer and wine from in-house brewmaster James Costa and Hatcher Winery’s Sewell Hatcher respectively.
The evening’s dishes spotlighted local farms in every course and although ballots were taken at the end of the meal to determine a winner, it was no doubt a friendly competition where diners, and all those tinvolved were asking themselves…why isn’t beer and wine simultaneously paired with every meal.
Here are some more photos from the event, and a schedule of some upcoming beer and cheese (yup, you heard it right) dinners taking place at the brewery:
Chicken with Cilantro Lime Vodka Cream Sauce, Red Hawk Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes
Paired with Princeton-by-the-Sea IPA
Savory Spinach and Cheesy Artichoke Bread Pudding
Paired with Bootlegger Brown Ale
Gourmet Grilled Cheese Panini with Housemade Beer Bread
Paired with Big Break Ale
Queso Blanco with Cochinita, topped with Housemade Beer Bread Crumbs
Served with Crispy Pita Chips
Paired with Mavericks Amber Ale
For more info, visit Half Moon Bay Brewing Company