Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Hiking Among the Elk

The rains seem to have ended for the season and the days are bright and sunny. Now is the perfect time to visit Point Reyes National Seashore; one to two hours north of San Francisco, depending on the part of the park you wish to explore. (For more information, read "Rick's Tips, No. 12."

This past Sunday we left a sunny San Francisco hoping to find an equal amount of sunshine at Point Reyes, where we planed to hike to Tomales Point, one of our favorite trails in the Bay Area. We were not disappointed when we arrived. The sky was bright blue with a few wispy and puffy clouds. The temperature was in the sixties with a fair amount of wind. Nearly perfect hiking weather.

The Tomales Point Trail starts at the historic Pierce Ranch, an old dairy farm, and ends 4.7 miles later at the northern most spot in the park - Tomales Point. The trail travels over rolling hills with breathtaking views of Tomales Bay on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. After our heavy rains this winter, there were an abundance of wild flowers in bloom -- California Poppies, Queen Ann's Lace, iris, thistle, lupine, and others. Plus dozens of tule elk were easily visible from the trail.

As you start the hike, the Pacific Ocean, North and South Beaches, Point Reyes, and McClure's Beach are clearly visible to your left. Further down the trail the panorama moves to your left, where you can see Tomales Bay, the villages of Marshall and Dillon Beach, and Mt. St. Helena in the distance. As you climb what appears to be the last hill, you soon discover that you have not yet reached the end of your journey. There are two more false ends before you finally reach Tomales Point. Here your view includes most of the aforementioned sights, plus Bodega Head straight in front of you.

Prepare for the hike by dressing in layers as the weather at Point Reyes is usually colder and windier than anywhere else in the Bay Area. While it is windy on Tomales Point, you can sit in areas protected from the winds so a picnic lunch is a perfect reward for reaching the point. You can pick up supplies in nearby Point Reyes Station and Inverness. Lastly, there are no restrooms on the trail, but they are available at Abbott's Lagoon and McClure's Beach, which are near the trailhead at Pierce Ranch.

If you want to take a private custom tour that includes a visit to Point Reyes, try our Point Reyes Ramblings Tour. You may book a tour by calling (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mailing me by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Stunning Views from Mount Tamalpais

Recently some guests asked me to take them to the summit of Mount Tamalpais (affectionately known as Mt. Tam to locals). I had not been there for awhile and was once again awed by the 360 degree view of the Bay Area. The East Peak is approximately 2,600 feet above sea level and provides views of San Francisco, West Marin, the North Bay, and parts of the East Bay. Two trails depart from the parking lot. One is an easy, level walk around the summit. The second climbs to the observation tower atop the summit. Both offer incredible views.

We lunched at the Mountain Home Inn. This nearby bed and breakfast has an outdoor veranda with lovely views of Mill Valley. The menu includes sandwiches, salads, and other simple dishes. The restaurant is open Wednesday through Sunday. I suggest you call ahead to reserve a table, especially on weekends. The Inn is located at 810 Panoramic Hwy. in Mill Valley. Reservations can be made for both the restaurant and lodging by calling (415) 381-9000.

If you would like to take a tour that includes a visit to Mount Tamalpais, our Oceanside Vistas Tour is the perfect fit. You can book a private, custom tour by calling (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or by e-mailing me by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Best Italian Restaurant in San Francisco

Over the years, I have eaten at many of the Italian restaurants in San Francisco. But I never made it to Acquerello, an extremely well-reviewed restaurant in Polk Gulch. Last Saturday night I did.

Acquerello is definitely, in my opinion, the best Italian restaurant in the City. Of course, you pay for it. Dinner for two, including tax and gratuity, was $200.

Nowhere on the menu is pasta with red sauce, so you need to think of Italian cuisine in the same light as upscale French cuisine. The extensive list of Italian and California wines will certainly contain one or more wines you will enjoy.

I had the five-course tasting menu and my wife picked from the regular menu. From the "Chef's Surprise" of an asparagus soup, through the sea bass carpaccio, raviolis, guinea hen, and semifreddo, everything was superb. Each course was paired with an interesting Italian wine. I have gotten into dessert wines over the past year or so, and particularly enjoyed the Muscato di Asti. My wife had the freshest mozzarella we have ever tasted. It was air expressed from southern Italy directly to the restaurant. Her duck was delicious. Since she had three fewer courses than I did, our friendly and knowledgeable server brought her a "Chef's Surprise". We were able to share the pasta and dessert courses so she didn't feel too left out.

Acquerello is located at 1722 Sacramento Street (between Polk and Van Ness). The restaurant is open nightly, except Sunday and Monday. Reservations may be made by calling (415) 567-5432 or though Open Table.