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Travelblog Gone with the Wine

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

Filtering by Tag: San Francisco Bay Area

Visit to Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in San Francisco

Paula Gaston

Few weeks ago we celebrated the Chinese New Year in Chinatown San Francisco. Before the main event of the evening; New Year Parade, we went to eat some Chinese food. Here when you finish eating in a Chinese restaurant, you usually get a little fortune cookie for dessert. We had planned to visit also the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory on the same day, so before heading to the parade area, we stopped at this cute little place.

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CHINESE FORTUNE COOKIE BUT NOT FROM CHINA


I had never thought about it, but the fortune cookies are actually an american thing and most likely, you wont run into the in Asia. No one knows for sure where they originate from, but many believe that they came to America with the Japanese immigrants in 19th, or early 20th century. You can actually still find a cookie a little bit similar to this to be sold in Kyoto, Japan. Some say a Japanese man called Magoto Hagiwara was the first person to offer these cookies to people in the Japanese Tea Garden located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Few others have also claimed to be the inventors of the fortune cookie, but no one has been able to prove it true.

Fortune cookies are made from flour, sugar and sesame oil, and flavoured with vanilla. Originally all the cookies were made by hand but the cookie production got a lot faster when a fortune cookie machine was invented in Oakland, California. Inside the cookie there is a little note with a Chinese phrase or an aphorism, and often some lottery numbers as well.

THE TINY GOLDEN GATE FORTUNE COOKIE FACTORY

When we arrived to the Fortune Cookie Factory we almost turned away after seeing the line. We soon noticed though that it moved very fast, and decided to stay. The reason the line moves so fast is because the factory is actually very small, tiny in fact, and it only takes couple minutes to tour it around. You will see how couple staff members make fortune cookies, and you can buy cookies to take home with you. Among the traditional fortune cookie, there are also some other flavours and fortune cookies covered with chocolate, and even some giant cookies. You can even add your own note inside a cookie. Wouldn’t that be a great hint to someone who is planning to propose?

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

We followed the line inside and bought some chocolate covered fortune cookies to take home with us. Even though the line moved promptly, we had some time to snap couple of photos from inside too. From people who want take photos, they ask either a 50 cent donation or to purchase something from the factory. Fortune Cookie Factory was opened in 1962 and it is owned by Franklin Yee. They produce about 10 000 cookies a day.

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Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory
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About a week after visiting the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory I saw in the news that they might have to close their doors soon. San Francisco’s absurd rent prices are really killing the small businesses. It would be such a shame if the fortune cookie factory would be gone since it truly is a piece of Chinatown’s history and a great little place to visit!

 



We Celebrated Chinese New Year in San Francisco Chinatown

Paula Gaston

Well here we go, it is the start of the Year of the Pig! Or to be even more specific, the Year of the brown pig. For some years now I have tried to make it down to the Chinatown in San Francisco, to see the New Year Parade but there has always been some excuses; rain, sick kids and or something. But finally this year I was able to experience this amazing night. Even though it was a chilly evening, we had a lot of fun listening the fire crackers and watching the parade.

If you want to see how it was, just check out my Instastories on my Instagram account.

THE HISTORIC CHINATOWN OF SAN FRANCISCO

Chinatown in San Francisco was established in 1848, and it is one of the top sights to see among the tourists visiting the city. Almost 35 000 people live over there and it is the most densely populated area after Manhattan. During the history, the Chinatown has seen many thing from earthquakes to confrontations of some Asian gangs. Many Chinese living close by come over to Chinatown for shopping and to different events, the tourist come to see the sights and to eat. While walking on the small alleys of Chinatown you can easily forget that you are in the USA and you are likely to hear more Chinese than English. It is definitely a worth of visit when in San Francisco.

 

THE AMAZING NEW YEARS PARADE

Every year couple weeks after the new year starts they organise a big parade in the Chinatown. At the dawn people gather up along the roads to wait and you can start hearing the fire crackers. If you want to get a front row spot, you have arrive at least an hour before the parade starts. And it goes on for several hours. It end by the tent of the judges who then choose the best performer or float.

The parade is a mixture of Chinese traditions and American parade culture. The whole thing started with a police entourage which then continued with other participants. Since it is a year of the pig, all the decorations of course where made to showcase that. Chinese traditions were the many lion and dragon dancers, martial art performers and other dancers. I think the America was represented by the marching bands and the floats. I especially remember the big dragons and the decorated cable cars which this time were on tires.

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The first parade was held already on 1858, but there are many other New Year events in Chinatown too. They have a New Year Run, Miss Chinatown U.S.A. pageant and even a flower festival. Miss Chinatown was part of the parade with her runner ups. The parade was actually so long that we decided to go get some hot tea and a bite to eat, and then head to home before it ended. We managed to see the end of the parade while walking toward to train station. Even it being so cold, we still had to take some photos of the rest of the performers.

The Grand Finale of the parade was the Golden Dragon. The dragon is made in China, and it is over 268 feet long. It need 100 men to carry it through the parade. And it truly was really magical when it danced very close of us almost touching our jackets.

When we left home we decided that this was a good “practise year” for us. Next time we will come over with a bigger crew, will bring some lawn chairs, coffee and warmer clothes. Now we also know which spots are the best to watch the parade. The best ones are right after the bleacher seats where the performers will stop to do their routine. Or you can always get the seat with $35 and be guaranteed with a good view. Otherwise the parade is free of charge.

This was truly a memorable experience! Happy New Year everyone!

 

Champange brunch in San Francisco's iconic Cliff House Restaurant

Paula Gaston

For several years now, we have celebrated Valentine’s Day before or after the actual day. We got tired of the sold out and crowded restaurants with over priced menus. This year Valentine’s Day was in the middle of the week and we decided to go out for brunch on the following Sunday. For a few years already, I have wanted to eat at the Cliff House restaurant in San Francisco which is famous for its long history in the city. Finally we made it to their Sunday brunch and it was totally worth it!

THE LONG AND COLORFUL HISTORY OF THE CLIFF HOUSE RESTAURANT

Cliff House is located in an amazing spot right by the ocean. It was first opened in 1858, and it has been either rebuilt or renovated for five times. The second Cliff House building was built on the same spot in 1863, and it quickly become a very successful restaurant. The building was later damaged when a schooner ran aground next to it, and the dynamite it was carrying exploded. The building was repaired, but it eventually burned down in a fire on Christmas 1894. The fire also destroyed the restaurants’s records of its famous customers including U.S. presidents and other notables.

Adolph Sutro, who had earlier bought the Cliff House, built the third restaurant after the fire. The new building was a beautiful, Victorian mansion which also got the nickname The Gingerbread Palace. The same year he also started to build the Sutro Baths next to the Cliff House, which would become the biggest inside swimming pool complex in the world at the time. The amazing Cliff House building survived the big San Francisco earthquake in 1906 just to burn down the following year. So started the time of the fourth Cliff House. Also the Sutro Baths were destroyed by a fire later in 1966 but you can still see the ruins of the pools if you visit the area.

After the fire the daughter of Adolph Sutro, Emme Merritt took over, and built a new Cliff House restaurant. After that the building has had several major renovations until it was finally taken over by the National Park System, who updated it with a neoclassical style. Today there is also a souvenir shop in the same building as the restaurant.

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BOTTOMLESS MIMOSAS AND THE DELICIOUS BUFFET TABLE

The Cliff House has two separate restaurants; the Bistro Restaurant and a little bit more formal Sutro’s. Sunday brunch is served in the Terrace Room where they have an awesome view of the ocean. There are three servings and this time we were on the last one, which was at 2 pm. The restaurant seemed very full and I think we might have gotten one of the last tables when we made our reservation.

The brunch comes with the traditional bottomless champagne mimosas, non alcoholic beverages and coffee. And I have to say, our glasses were always full and in many other ways the service was seamless as well. Even our 6 year old was excited, since she got to drink some non alcoholic cider out of a champagne glass, and not from a plastic cup that they usually give for kids in the restaurants here.

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In the buffet they had some traditional breakfast foods like scrambled eggs, Eggs Benedict (my favourite), sausages, bacon and potatoes. They also had plenty of sea food prepared in different ways like fish, shrimp and clams. For us this was a great fit, since we love that kind of thing. One of my favorites at the buffet was the Miso Marinated Salmon Medallions. We also tried some paella, different kinds of cheeses and sandwich meats, and many salads. There were actually so many sorts that I don’t think I even tried all of them. For example, from the giant fruit platter I was only able to try a couple of things, since I was already so full. My ultimate favorite from the desserts was the Butterscotch Eggs made in real egg shells. Nom nom!

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The brunch at the Cliff House costs $65, and the kids were half price. We were happy to see that they didn’t charge anything for our 1 1/2 year old who nibbled some omelette and a tiny piece of salmon. We were not sure if they would charge something for her or not. During the brunch they had some harp music which somehow fit into this space perfectly.

If you have time, you can do a little stroll in Land’s End after the brunch where the Sutro Bath ruins are. In the beginning of the trail at the beach there is a little cave, and if you continue on the trail you will see a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Sutro Baths

Sutro Baths

How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

 

Jelly Belly Factory Tour in California

Paula Gaston

A few weeks ago we did a day trip to the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield. The Jelly Belly Factory is the home and headquarters of one of the most famous candy companies in the U.S.: Jelly Belly jelly beans. For the uninitiated, jelly beans are small, bean shaped sugar candies which come in many different colors & flavors. The Jelly Belly Factory is located only about an hour’s drive from San Francisco, in Fairfield, and is a great place for a quick visit, especially on a rainy day. And the best part is, that visiting it is completely free!

 
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JELLY BEANS ARE BORN

The history of jelly beans go all the way back to year 1869 when young Gustav Goelitz opened his first candy store in Illinois. Jelly beans were born in the 1960s when Gustav’s grand kids were testing new candies and flavors. At the same time the famous Candy Corn candies were born which are especially eaten here in the U.S. at Halloween. In 1966 Ronald Reagan, who was the governor of California at the time, tasted their jelly beans and liked them very much. So much in fact, that he wrote a letter and mailed it to the factory, saying that they barely held a meeting without Jelly Bellies offered. Jelly Belly introduced some new flavours like Root beer, Licorice and many others in 1976, and they instantly become a hit. By 1980 they already had 40 official flavours which are all still sold today.

The climax of President Ronald Reagan’s love of Jelly Belly came when he ordered 3.5 tons of candies for his inauguration in 1981. Five years later the company started a major construction project, and built the candy factory in Fairfield; the one that we just visited. At that time the manufacturer was still known as Herman Goelitz Candy Co., but the name was later changed to Jelly Belly Candy Company. They also opened another candy factory to Wisconsin, on the other side of the country.

Today one can find their Jelly Bellies in most any store in the U.S.

Candy art

Candy art

THE FACTORY TOUR WITH KIDS

The factory tours are done in both factories; in Fairlfield and in Wisconsin. The Fairfield factory is also the company headquarters. Our visit to the factory was a great experience, and this was my 3rd time there. Right when you walk in, you will see the factory store and a waiting area for the tour. Tours go often, so we didn’t have to wait for long in line. The earlier you get there, the less people waiting and a shorter line.

In the beginning of the tour the guide is there to tell you how it works, and shows you a short video. You will also receive some samples of the candies. Then you are free to walk through the factory at your own pace. The tour starts with a group photo with the Jelly Belly mascot, and the photos can be purchased at the end of the tour. After that you will see what happens in the factory. They will do everything from candy making to coloring and packing them. On the walk you can stop and see videos about how the candy is made or about the history of Jelly Bellies. Or you can read all about it on the wall cards. They have also taken the smallest members of the family into consideration, and there are two sets of windows at different heights…and you can go in with a stroller if needed.

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Here they are adding some color to the candy…

Here they are adding some color to the candy…

… and then they are packed.

… and then they are packed.

In my opinion the funnest part of the whole tour was the “Jelly Belly Smell Station”. Different jelly beans of course taste and smell differently, and one can challenge oneself here to match the right smell to the right flavor.

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By pressing the button you can smell the candy flavor from the machine. They also give you a hint, and under that you can find the answer.

By pressing the button you can smell the candy flavor from the machine. They also give you a hint, and under that you can find the answer.

So many jelly beans in every color and taste

So many jelly beans in every color and taste

At the end of the tour everyone got a small bag of Jelly Bellies and a Bean Boozled box. Bean Boozled was a surprise for us since it was not one of the 40 flavors. There were a set of identical looking candies in the box, but with one a normal flavor and another some yucky flavor. We tried dead fish, tooth paste, dog food and Minion farts. Quite gross! Another similar candy box that they have is with a Harry Potter theme. Enjoy!

Would you like to try some Stinky Socks or Rotten Egg?

Would you like to try some Stinky Socks or Rotten Egg?

LUNCH AT JELLY BELLY STYLE AND THE GIFT SHOP

Since we left home early, we hadn’t had lunch yet. This time we decided to eat at the Jelly Belly Factory, since it was raining and we didn’t want to drive around finding a restaurant…and we were hungry already. I was surprised to see that they had a lot to choose from; everything from salads to sandwiches, soups and burgers. I was debating whether to get a salad or bean shaped pizza, but ended up ordering a burger after all. They had some nice, fresh condiments, so one could fill out the burger oneself, and everything looked fresh and tasty. Nice!

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After eating we headed to the gift shop. One has to get some candy after all while in a candy factory! They also have a Sample Bar at the gift shop where you can taste different candy flavors. Everyone gets to choose three flavors they would like to try. I tried some more exotic flavors like Strawberry Daiquiri, Mojito and Peach Bellini. We also got some fresh fudge from the Chocolate Shop. So yummy!

How about some Chocolate pudding or Pancakes & Maple Syrup…

How about some Chocolate pudding or Pancakes & Maple Syrup…

…or something spicier like Tabasco?

…or something spicier like Tabasco?

We had a fun day at the Jelly Belly Factory, and the kids especially liked it. This place was actually on our older daughter’s wish list, but we all enjoyed the visit. So if you are visiting San Francisco or the Bay Area, this isn’t a bad way to spend a few hours!

 

Greetings from the Hello Kitty Mini Cafe in San Jose

Paula Gaston

Last weekend my husband got stuck at London Heathrow due to a stormy weather, and he wasn’t able to spend the Saturday with us. So what to do? A phone call to a friend and come up with a plan. Our plan was to drive over to San Jose to check out the new Hello Kitty Cafe which was opened there during the summer. So we went!

 

The first permanent Hello Kitty Cafe in California was opened to Irvine in Southern California in September 2018. But before that the Japanese company Sanrio opened two smaller pop up cafes. The other one is very close to us in San Jose, and the other in Rancho Cucamonga. We usually spend our Christmasses in Rancho Cucamonga by visiting some family, so maybe we will get to visit the Hello Kitty Cafe over there as well. The actual permanent Hello Kitty Grand Cafe offers some Hello Kitty themed cafeteria products but also a 5 o’clock tea in their special Bow Room. In the evenings this room changes into a cocktail bar, and visiting in it requires a reservation.

But the Hello Kitty Mini Cafe we visited was far from “garnd”. We had read that in weekends they have had even over three hour lines to get in! That is pretty crazy! So we decided that in case of a long lines, we would go hang out somewhere else. But once there, there were no lines at all, so we decided to head in to this pink whole in the wall.

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The Hello Kitty Mini Cafe was truly a mini. There were only room for few people to be in at the same time, and there were no seating at all, or tables. We quickly realised that many people came in to just to buy some t-shirts or mugs, and they had just sold out the latest coffee mug. Hello Kitty truly is a popular character I see, much more than I have ever realised.

We order something to eat, and went out to find a table from Santana Row Park. My cafe latte with a Hello Kitty picture and all the baked good were cute, but they tasted very industrial. Our daughter did not finish her strawberry smoothie and that says something about the taste right there. And I have to say, that the prizes in this place are totally something else, and there not very much to choose from. They definitely cash out with the name of Hello Kitty.

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Unfortunately I have to say, that we were a little bit disappointed by the Hello Kitty Mini Cafe. In Japan we visited a Café de Miki with Hello Kitty and it was designed very well. It was so much fun and had lots of products to choose from. You truly felt like you were inside a “Hello Kitty world”. So we might not return to the mini cafe anytime soon. But I’m glad we went there to see what it was like, and our daughter was excited to see all the Hello Kitty products.

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