Sometimes we plan meals and sometimes they just happen. Before heading to San Francisco I reached out to a few bloggers to get recommendations as well as doing some online research. Tartine Bakery kept coming up but I kind of figured that there were enough amazing bakeries in NYC to not need to scope out one in California. To my surprise, when our Sunday brunch plans fell through due to a very long wait, our San Francisco local took us around the corner…TO TARTINE BAKERY. Blind, dumb luck. And, the best part – I was with enough people to try 4 things. Everything was tasty, well made, and fattening. This is a splurge and the ingredients might be all natural, but low in fat, they are not. Good thing we walked about 12,000 steps after this meal (according to my pedometer).

Standing in line, I was confronted with beautiful desserts and pastries. Since these rich, specialty items are atypical for me, I wanted it all!

tartine collageHere’s what we went with:

Treat #1 (my choice): Tomato and Spinach Quiche made with Creme Fraiche

  • Perfection. The crust was perfect, the eggs were creamier than any I had ever eaten.


Treat #2: double pain au chocolat (Chocolate Croissant)

  • As good as a European pastry. There were many layers of dough, something that is hard to find in most American bakeries. Not too buttery or sweet.

choc croissant

Treat #3: gougère (savory pastry with  gruyere, thyme and pepper)

  • Don’t the ingredients just sound harmonious? Delicious.


Treat #4: Banana Cream Tart (Flaky pastry coated in dark chocolate with caramel, pastry cream, and lightly sweetened cream)

  • Took a very small but but could see the potential. Fresh chunks of banana, delicate cream, and somewhere in there some sweet caramel.

very sweet banana

To put things very simply:

too beautiful


After passing out at 9pm (12am on the east coast in my defense), I was up  by 6am on Friday. After enjoying a luxurious workout and not having to hurry for the first time in weeks, we got ourselves together to visit Muir Woods. Unfortunately for us, it was pouring, so we hiked under umbrellas. The Redwoods were still beautiful; monstrously sized trees that date back to 1100, pretty inspiring. Imagine living here and coming to hike any weekend you wanted…an annual pass is $20.


After the hike we were drenched and needed hot showers and food, and a bit of relaxation. Later in the day I was taken to a grocery store called Berkeley Bowl. This was Whole Foods on crack, but without the commercial feel; similar to a really large co-op. Here’s the things that impressed me most:


Mixed Green Selection


Loose mushroom varieties


Bulk Bins - this is just the granola

I love NYC and my grocery selection there, but this is just the definition of fresh and healthy. When the choices are this good, I just don’t see how someone could want fast food.

Gary Farrell Vineyard

Long weekends are the best, especially when you’re exploring a place that’s so in tune with your own philosophy. I’m visiting a good friend from NYU that recently moved to Oakland, CA from NYC. My friend is a true New Yorker, she’s complained of the bagels, pizza, no smoking policies, and the suburban sprawl. But, together we’re exploring the good things this area has to offer…wine, fresh produce, and a slower pace. A much slower pace. Here’s a recap of our first day:

We headed up to northern part of Sonoma and started our wine tasting at Gary Farrell. Like I said, the pace is a bit slow, so we ended up staying there for over an hour. The winery doesn’t own their own land, rather they purchase grapes from various vineyards so we were able to go through 6 varietals (including chardonnay, 3 pinot noirs, merlot, and a zin). Since we were there on a Thursday, the crowds were non-existent and the ambiance was calm. The decor reminds me of a nice ski lodge with huge windows overlooking the vineyard.

merlot_gary farrell

After the 9 different tastes, our stomachs got the best of us and we headed South for the downtown Healdsburg area. At this point it was raining pretty hard, but Healdsburg is adorable. Its a quaint little town, no chains, and lots of open kitchens and tasting rooms. We had been hoping to lunch at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen but to our surprise its only open Fri-Sun. We settled on Zin, a restaurant that describes itself as:

American Cuisine with a fresh approach to classic dishes and a comforting home-cooked appeal. By taking the best local ingredients, some of which are grown on our own Eastside Farm, and supplementing them with Artisan products from other parts of the country, such as stone ground grits from Falls Mill in Tennessee, we have crafted a unique version of American Home Cooking.

Starter– Heirloom Apple Salad with Radicchio & Romaine, Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese and Spicy Toasted Walnuts in Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette


Main: Split the Slow Smoked BBQ Beef Brisket with Spicy Texas Sauce, Rancho Beans, Cucumber & Red Onion Salad, Pickles and Pickled Peppers


The restaurant was freezing and the salad did nothing to warm me up. The apples were overpowering, and it felt like it would be a more appropriate dessert for a hot summer day than a starter on a rainy fall day. The slow smoked BBQ beef was good, but nothing jaw dropping. It was warm and filled my belly. Oh, and we did a zinfandel flight with lunch…

After lunch, we headed South and stopped at the Gloria Ferrer sparking wine house. At this point we were pretty tasted-out, so each ordered a glass of sparkling and perched outside. The rain finally stopped and we saw an impressive, full rainbow. The view from Gloria Ferrer was beautiful in general; it captured all the stereotypical elements of rolling hills, vineyards, wild flowers, into one panoramic shot.


After Gloria Ferrer, we negotiated through a lot of traffic, stopped at the Whole Foods in Berkeley, and made dinner with our purchases. The Whole Foods was like any other, but I loved how many bulk bins they had…this picture only captures about half of them!


For dinner we made a pecan and panko crusted halibut with a sweet potato mash and spinach. I ate every last bite and fell asleep by 9pm.


Its Friday morning now and we are heading for our next adventure: see the Redwoods, beach, Golden Gate Bridge.

Is there anything I shouldn’t miss while I’m out here?

I’ve been enjoying a week at a mountain house. Somehow I got lucky enough to housesit for my favorite married couple and I’ve had the luxury of no travel plus a kitchen. To say I am blissful is an understatement. Did I mention there was a pool, hot tub, 115 acres and 5 state parks within a 20 mile radius? Yep, blissful is my state.

What I’ve been eating has been simple food with good ingredients.  I hope this gives you some ideas of how simple it is to make a healthful and delicious meal rather than ordering take-out, picking up, or eating microwavable food.

Whole grain roll with roasted turkey, brie, honey mustard, and tomato

turkey and brie

Grilled Ahi Tuna (marinated with soy & lemon), mixed greens, local tomatoes and corn

tuna and salad

Omelet (local brown eggs), filled with local tomatoes, red onion, lox, and goat cheese

omelet redo

None of these meals took longer than 15 minutes to prepare. 15 minutes! We can all set aside 15 minutes to prepare something that does our body and mind good. Not to mention everything pictured above contains 5 ingredients or less. Quality ingredients.

Part of the picturesque setting I am in this week is the surrounding farms. I was able to locate a farm about 5 miles away and I went directly there to pick up farm fresh brown eggs. If you think you are in a somewhat rural area: Put in your location to Google Maps and search by “farm”, “fresh eggs”, “farm stand”. The farm I visited also makes and sells ice-cream and I sampled the peanut butter and vanilla swirl. One very creamy spoonful of goodness. Near the farm is a vegetable and fruit stand and although I am already getting nostalgic for blueberries, I consoled myself by purchasing the first of the fall apples.

In case you are wondering, I’ve Gone Country.

I travel more than the average person and I know the airport is a likely place for a me to eat more than I need. I know it can’t be just me or there wouldn’t be a million temptations around – salty, sweet, cold, hot, its all there.

But, I’d rather save my splurges on a good bottle of wine and dinner with friends than on some mindless munching in the terminal. Here are some tips to avoid disaster:

  1. Come hungry BUT prepared– I know that seems counter-intuitive from what you always read. Most people say to eat a healthy meal at home in order to avoid airport food. My advice is to bring a healthy meal to the airport. Or find a place that you know has healthy stuff. Business requires me to fly out of Newark (EWR) frequently and I have a “safe” place at each terminal! Truth is, waiting for a flight leaves me idle, and idle is not something I’m good at, so I tend to grab stuff to mindlessly eat while flipping through a junky magazine. Since I know that’s going to happen, I come hungry BUT prepared that way I’m just eating a normal meal at an abnormal location. Ok, that cuts out 30 minutes of the idle time.
  2. Keep your mouth busy – If you still feel the need to mindlessly snack get some gum or suckers.
  3. An Apple a Day – It’s hard to get healthy food at the airport, but you have to admit that even an airport in the deep south will have apples. When you learn that your flight is delayed an additional hour instead of comforting yourself with ice cream you can munch on that granny smith!
  4. Avoid bags of “healthy food”– Trail Mix is nutritious right? Or that box of Wheat Thins that says “Reduced Fat”? Take a closer look at the portions size and do some math. One of those Trail Mix bags has 3.5 servings of 180 calories, that’s ~630 calories!

Hope that helps! What works for you?