Monday, March 27, 2006

Gold Rush Tour of San Francisco

Last week I received an unusual request for a tour. I was asked if I could provide a "Gold Rush Tour" to two visitors. My quick response was, "Sure." This was a chance to show off some sights that are not on my usual San Francisco Tour.

While gold was discovered by James Marshall on January 24, 1848 in Coloma, about 150 miles east of San Francisco, and the mining for gold took place in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, San Francisco was the port of entry for nearly all who came seeking their fortune.

A tour of San Francisco circa 1849 must start in today's Portsmouth Square in Chinatown. Portsmouth Square is the site of the plaza in the Mexican Village of Yuerba Buena. Captain John Montgomery captured the village of 300 people in 1846 for the United States and the following year the village changed its name to San Francisco. The square features a monument to the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson who came to northern California to ask the woman he loved to leave her abusive first husband and marry him.

Nearby is the Jackson Square antique district, home to the oldest surviving buildings in downtown San Francisco. Many of the buildings on Jackson and Pacific Streets between Montgomery and Sansome Streets were built in the 1850s and 1860s and survived destruction in the 1906 Earthquake and Fire three times. Here you can see the buildings where the Ghirardelli chocolate empire began and where William Tecumsah Sherman worked as a banker before rejoining the army and burning Atlanta during the Civil War.

Two nearby museums contain artifacts from the Gold Rush era. The Pacific Heritage Museum houses Asian art, but is on the site of San Francisco's first mint and subtreasury. The art is upstairs and the late 19th century artifacts are in the basement. The Wells Fargo Museum is on the site where the company was founded in 1852. Many Gold Rush era items, including a stage coach, are on display.

There are other Gold Rush era sights in San Francisco, including the Presidio and Mission Dolores. If you want to learn more about the Gold Rush in San Francisco, I would be pleased to customize a San Francisco Tour for you. To book a tour, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Excellent Italian Fare in Noe Valley

I go back and forth between my love for Italian and French food. I've been on a bit of Italian binge recently and revisited a favorite in Noe Valley - Incanto. This isn't your typical North Beach red sauce and pasta place. Rather, here you get interesting Italian-influenced California food featuring the freshest of ingredients. On the day we visited, the menu featured many "leftovers" from the restaurant's annual "Whole Beast Dinner." While duck tongue was too much for my fairly adventuresome palate, we did enjoy the Antipasto platter that featured house-cured meats. I also enjoyed the nettle papparedelle, which must be in season now as they were also included on Sociale's menu, which I discussed in a recent posting. Incanto's menu changes daily, so you are always in for a new treat no matter how often you visit.

Incanto also has a terrific list of Italian wines, as well as knowledgeable staff who can direct you to wines you are likely to enjoy. On my first visit, I said that we enjoyed Sauvignon Blanc and was directed to our first wine made from the Greco varietal. This time I told our waiter that we enjoyed medium to full bodied red wines with soft tanins He suggest we try a wine that is equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Nero d'Avola. (The latter was a varietal that I had never heard of, much less tasted, before.) Again the waiter's suggestion was perfect.

Incanto is located at 1550 Church Street. Dinner is served nightly, except on Tuesday. Reservations may be made by phoning (415) 641-4500.

If you would like to take a tour of San Francisco that visits neighborhoods, such as Noe Valley, that are not on the usual tourist route, call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Italian Food in Laurel Heights

Last minute plans found us dining with friends at Sociale Restaurant in Laurel Heights last Saturday night. This small neighborhood gem is found in a courtyard at 3655 Sacramento Street. Both indoor and outdoor dining are offered.

Sociale features Italian fare with a California accent. While we had to wait to be seated for 30 minutes beyond our scheduled reservation when earlier guests lingered, the staff at Sociale more than made up for the delay by offering us glasses of Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) and two appetizers on the house. We particularly enjoyed the deep fried olives.

We all had salads to start the meal. Two of us had delicious pasta with duck. One of my friends had nettle filled ravioli. I had never tried nettle, which is a green similar in taste to mint. Desserts included tasty goat cheese cake and panna cotta.

In addition to the Prosecco we enjoyed an Acorn Winery Dolcetto. Acorn is a small family-run winery in the Russian River Valley.

Call (415) 931-3200 to make a reservation at Sociale. Winetasting at Acorn is by appointment only. Take one of our Hidden Vineyards Tours and we can include a stop at Acorn. Tour reservations may be made by calling (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mailing me by clicking here.