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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: USA

One Rattlesnake Burger, Please! - Fort Zion, Utah

Paula Gaston

We are a quite adventurous family when it comes to both traveling and food. While getting older, I have noticed that I can’t be talked into so many silly things anymore as when I was younger, but I’m usually happy to try new foods and especially local delicacies. This time we happened to be in a place which I would categorise straight into that silliness category, and we tried something that is definitely not offered in every average burger joint.

This time we were in Utah in a tiny town called Hurricane which was close to Zion National Park. After driving over there, we quickly realised that the whole town was mostly closed. Utah is a very religious state, and most businesses are closed on Sundays. And it just happened to be an Easter Sunday too, so we ran into the problem of finding a dinner place. After some quick research, our options were: a fast food place, a bad Mexican restaurant or a restaurant a little further away with great reviews. We decided to drive over to the last one, it was called Fort Zion.

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When driving to the parking lot of Fort Zion, we figured we had arrived in a real tourist attraction. But since it was off season, there were only a couple of people other than us. Fort Zion is not only a restaurant, but they also have a big souvenir shop, a western town for photo ops, and a petting zoo. The fee for the petting zoo and the western town was only $1 but we skipped it this time. Their restaurant is especially known for homemade ice cream.

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The actual menu came to us as a surprise. Among the regular hamburgers and such, they also had some Buffalo Burgers, Elk Burgers, Wild Boar Burgers and Venison Burgers. But what on earth is in a Jackalope Burger? A Jackalope is a mythical creature in the U.S. with the body of rabbit and horns of an antelope. Maybe we should have tried that. And yes, then there also was the Rattlesnake Burger that my husband decided to try this time.

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The restaurant itself is decorated as a saloon, and there were many fun details. One of them was a giant playing card with your table number on it which was then placed on your table so that the waiters could bring you the order. Also, when ordering the food we were asked to spin a wheel of fortune. The luckiest ones would get an ice cream cone for free. We did not get the ice cream cones, but we were just happy to get some food before heading back to the hotel.

So my husband went ahead an ordered a Rattlesnake Burger, which I tried as well from his plate. The meat was white, dry and close to the taste of chicken. I would recommend to order it as medium rare rather than well done, since the meat is very dense and dry. I had tasted some snake before, but not sure if it was a rattler. When I studied in hotel and restaurant school, we made all kinds of exotic foods, and we also prepared something out of snake also. Well, now we have tried that too, but I think we both agreed that the regular burger was more to our taste.

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Fort Zion was a fun place to visit and for sure is a popular stopping place when visiting Zion National Park. The food was a little bit disappointing in the sense that they only offered burgers and we didn’t know the menu before getting there. The burgers tasted ok, but there was nothing we could order for our toddler for example. I’m not quite sure why this place had such great reviews online. Maybe they got extra points from the activities they had, or that the ice cream must have been super delicious! But one thing for sure was magnificent… and that was the view!

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After visiting Zion, we headed over to Kanab to see some hoodoos and mushroom rocks, and from there to Page and Antelope Canyon. But more about those cool places little later!

 

Ride a Gondola to a Wine Tasting at Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley

Paula Gaston

Two weeks ago we did a trip to Napa Valley which I already told about you on my last post. We went to view wineries, ate well and enjoyed the mineral pools at our hotel spa. The first winery we visited was Sterling Vineyardsille which right by the city of Calistoga. While driving over the sun came out and the spring day could have not been more prettier.

 

STERLING VINEYARDS

Sterling Vineyards was started in 1964 by an Englishman Peter Newton. He visited California and fell in love with the beauty and wines of Napa Valley and decided to invest in his own vineyard. Later he purchased more land from close by and built a winery building at the top of the mountain hill at the premises. The building got its inspiration from a Greek island Mykonos where Newton used to also live. Winery was first opened to public in 1972.

At some point Newton bought an old church bell from England and brought it with him to the vineyard. The bells originally belonged to St. Dunstan Church which got destroyed in the World War II and was located in London. Today the bells are in use, and they ring in every 15 minutes. At this point I have to admit though, that while our visit to Sterling I didn’t hear or notice the bells, so they must not be very loud.

Sterling Vineyards produces Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Shiraz. One of the biggest achievements for Sterling must of been the win at Ottawa Wine Tasting in 1981. Their wines were also used at 2016 Annual Emmy Awards and 2017 Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. The vineyard have changed owners multiple times in the past, and one of the most interesting owners is the Coca-Cola Company. Today it is owned by a big alcohol company.

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WINE TOUR WITH EVERYTHING

From this winery I remember more the experience than their wines. Up to the winery you take a gondola that fits four people at the time. The views up at the mountain and from the gondola are of course great. Right after getting out of the gondola they have the first tasting spot and then you can start the self guided tour. You will walk through the winery tasting different wines in different rooms, and looking at the wine making videos from huge tv screens.

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The tour ended to a sun deck which had a beautiful view to the vineyard. Of course it would have been even more beautiful at summer or fall time since now the vines didn’t have any leaves. They also had a restaurant at the deck which you access by making a reservation.

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I have to say that the tour was really well organised and they had thought of everything when planning this. But it somehow was lacking some personal contact. Of course, if you pay more you can get a host for your group and better quality wines, but I thought that $35 for a wine tasting was already enough. They sure know how to commercialise everything in Napa Valley. After the tour you get to keep the wine glass as a souvenir. Just like other wineries, this too had all kinds of souvenir shops and other things. But for the first time I saw that some place is selling boxes of wines at the parking lot with discounted prices.

After Sterling we continued to other wineries. This was truly an interesting start for our day at Napa Valley.

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?

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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!

 



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?

 

Super Bowl Sunday - and the Day When All America Got Sick

Paula Gaston

Last weekend all of the United States stopped for Super Bowl Sunday. That is when families and friends gather up to watch the finals of the American football league and to celebrate. Every year we have done that too even though we don’t even follow American football otherwise. Some years we have organised a Super Bowl party at our house but in recent years we have been invited to a friend’s house. So if you happen to be in the U.S. during the Super Bowl don’t miss out on an opportunity for a good party!

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You can certainly head out to a bar or a restaurant to watch the game, but the best parties are of course at people’s homes. Usually you serve up some chips, salsa, guacamole, tacos, chicken wings, all kinds of snacks or bbq. Our family favorite has always been a seven layer dip and tortilla chips. Nom nom! And then of course, there is plenty to drink too… maybe that is why they say, that the following Monday is the national sick day for most Americans. This year they predicted that at least 17.2 million people will call in sick that day. That is why it is called Super Sick Monday.

Our 7 layer dip; refried beans, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, cheese, olives, spring onion

Our 7 layer dip; refried beans, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, cheese, olives, spring onion

Finnish Runeberg pastries for dessert.

Finnish Runeberg pastries for dessert.

I must admit that I don’t understand much about American football, but we ladies are of course waiting for the half time show. And we do enjoy watching the famous halftime commercials, which everyone talks about afterwards. This year a 30 second commercial in the Super Bowl cost 5.25 million dollars. And some of them are actually quite funny, and why not, they must use the best of the best on that field to make the world’s most expensive commercials. This year’s half time show on the other hand… meh! Even though they had one of my favorites: Maroon 5.

A couple years ago the Super Bowl was held only about 15 minutes drive from our home, at the 49ers stadium in Santa Clara. We were able to view some of the party atmosphere when we saw people arriving and the flyover by the Air Force. Unfortunately even then we had to watch the game from the TV since tickets to the Super Bowl are over $2000 for the cheapest, and they are difficult to get.

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Hope you guys had as fun a weekend as we did this week!