Not that we're a total Mission Chinese Food groupie or anything, but when the restaurant opened a second restaurant on the Lower East Side of Manhattan last May, we were literally the first customer through the door. It opened with about 80% of the same menu items as what can be found in San Francisco, but a fresh visit almost a year later finds the East Coast counterpart working toward defining its own identity.
See also: In Praise of the Peas at Mission Chinese
Itching for a snow outing with magnificent views of Half Dome, Glacier Point and Yosemite Falls ... and an easy drive? Consider Yosemite instead of the usual Tahoe run. Hotel options can be Pricelined as low as $65 a night in neighboring Mariposa or you can pretend you are in your own personal Downton Abbey and stay at the more cushy Ahwahnee Hotel, which has hosted dignitaries since opening in 1925. The Yosemite area is snowy and beautiful right now, and on a New Years Eve visit, we were pleasantly surprised to find the park was light on other guests -- minus multiple deer and fox sightings.
The story of how I got into spirits begins with bourbon in the 1990's. I had wanted to learn more about wine, but found the commitment to drink a bottle and the expense a significant barrier for a lone bachelor. A friend of mine had discovered whiskey and insisted I give it a try, and bought me a bottle of Maker's Mark. I loved its sweet flavors (from the wheat) and the fact that opening a bottle didn't require having to finish it to enjoy it at its peak. I had never made the pilgrimage to Louisville, so when Marker's Mark invited me to fly out and visit the distillery for a quick trip, I couldn't say no.
Mendocino Beer, Wine & Mushroom Festival
Where: Locations throughout Mendocino County (check here for full festival schedule)
When: Nov. 2-11
Cost: Varies, but many events are free
The rundown: If you're considering a road trip up to Mendocino County, consider going in the next week and a half during this annual celebration of fungi and light alcoholism. Wineries, brewpubs, and other businesses in the area have planned a plethora of events to consider. Activity levels range from passively drinking and tasting (several events) to paddling a kayak for three-hours to look for mushrooms (Nov. 3).
Love Apple Farms is a biodynamic farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains that has become our default brain image of an idyllic garden ever since we visited last year. Renowned fine restaurant Manresa in nearby Los Gatos is the lucky beneficiary of much of the focus of operations, serving its produce exclusively every day. But Love Apple also generously opens its grounds to the public for special dinners, tomato seedling sales, and weekend workshops. If you're looking for a great day trip that will also arm you with solid kitchen and gardening techniques, this is your heaven on Earth, not too far from home.
Hosting a dinner with a farm is not a completely unusual idea for San Francisco restaurateurs, but such events often feature a lot of meat and animal products, whether a display of whole animal utilization or simply a showcasing of products such as milk and eggs. And so it is worth noting that S.F.'s Millennium Restaurant, a fine vegan establishment, is planning a cruelty-free supper on one of the farms that supplies much of its produce.
As we move into fall and the Great Pumpkin spreads its magic, pumpkin patches pop up all over the Bay Area. For both kids and foodies, Farmer John's Pumpkin Farm in Half Moon Bay is a good first stop. As owners John and Eda Muller note, "We are a pumpkin farm, not a pumpkin patch." And Farmer John's does forgo some of the touristy trappings of pumpkin patches, and instead features one of the largest selections of pumpkins, squash, and ornamental gourds in the Bay Area.
A 45-minute drive is all that separates you from Fairfield's annual cavity-causing celebration known as the California Candy Festival, which takes place Sept. 22-23 at Jelly Belly Candy Company Visitors Center and the Lots of Fun (One Jelly Belly Lane).
An estimated 20,000 attendees are expected throughout the course of the weekend. And while it's easy to make Willy Wonka-type proclamations of an event such as this, the California Candy Festival actually has an "Oompa Loompa Stage" which will feature Oompa Loompa dance performances every few hours.
Harvest time in wine country is quickly approaching and it's time to start making plans to head up north to "help" -- drink wine -- with this year's harvest. While you may be thinking about Napa Valley with its sleek tasting rooms and celebrity chefs, unassuming and rustic Sonoma has just as much to love in a less corporate package. Thankfully, playing tourist in the Bay Area is easy, and discovering more of the region is a whole lot simpler with the Wine Road website and app.
A concierge of sorts for Sonoma County, the Wine Road is a hub for events, planning, and most importantly wineries in the Dry Creek, Alexander Valley, and Russian River Valley. Pick up a tasting ticket from them ($25 for one day, $50 for three days) and get prepaid access and discounts at over 80 wineries. Even if you aren't sure what you want to do or what regions to explore, if the website can't help, they will.