Reviews, Travel

Tacos & Pie in LA: Crystal was Right

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Ever since our first trip to Los Angeles in 2010, there are two restaurants that our friend Crystal recommended that we try.

For whatever reason we just weren’t able to work these two food unicorns (foodicorns?) into our trip.

Finally, after about six years and five trips, we decide that we would not leave LA until we made it out to these two must-visits. With a 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature (check out our car Q&A here) loaner courtesy of DriveShop and Mazda ready to transport us to food heaven, we were ready to ride in style and hunger. But mostly hunger.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature | getinmymouf.com

Ready for tacos.

We should have listened to Crystal sooner, because these two restaurants will go down as places that we will force other people to try and that we will write about in letters to our grandchildren…or in a blog to strangers.

ALRIGHT ALREADY! WHAT ARE THE RESTAURANTS?!

The first foodicorn:  Guisados

For those who don’t speak Spanish, guisados translates to “stew” and oh, boy does Guisados stew! They stew all the stew.

They stew so hard.

Guisados LA | getinmymouf.com

Tender stewed meats and vegetables on fresh-made corn tortillas… What more can you possibly ask for? One thing I’d ask for is a mini taco sampler so I could try a bunch of tacos at once.

Guess what? They got that, too.

Guisados LA | getinmymouf.com

Pleasing to carnivores, vegetarians, and pescatarians alike this is one taco party everyone is invited to. Bring your kids, bring your friends, bring your dog–I don’t think they let dogs inside due to health code regs, but if you have any leftovers–wait, what am I saying? There shall not be any leftovers! In fact, you probably won’t order enough the first go around, which will force you to do the walk of under-ordering shame back up to the register.

Embrace the shame, because it dissipates with each bite.

The deep flavor and succulent fillings will have you waking up at night in cold sweats wondering why you can’t get tacos like this back home.

And not stopping by a Guisados is no longer a valid excuse because they have five locations around Los Angeles including The OG in Boyle Heights, Echo Park, Downtown LA (or DTLA if you’re cool), West Hollywood, and Burbank.

***

The second foodicorn:  The Pie Hole

It all started with a t-shirt.

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

In a not-so-subtle way of hinting that we should probably eat at The Pie Hole, Crystal sent me one of their t-shirts.

Not only was it a constant reminder of the pie that needed to eventually be consumed, but it was an amazingly soft and durable shirt. It’s a t-shirt MVP year after year. First ballot t-shirt hall of famer.

If the pie was half as awesome as the shirt, expectations would be met.

Instead expectations were destroyed.

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

The turkey pot pie was so comforting that it felt like a warm labradoodle sleeping next to you on a couch. Thanksgiving came early this year and in the best form: Pie.

That crust, though. So buttery, flaky, and the perfect thickness. I’d love to eat my way out of a sleeping bag made of that crust.

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

Tina’s breakfast veggie hand pie was also so delicious you’ll wish humans had bigger hands (to inflate the average size of hands, which would then in-turn increase the size of hand pies).

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

I should’ve channeled the dark side and ordered a slice of EVERYTHING, but I found some restraint in my back pocket and we shared a slice of Earl Grey Tea Pie. A unique pie for sure, with a subtle flavor of earl grey tea, crunchy pistachios, creamy filling and…oh…that….CRUST.

Much like Guisados, it took us so long to visit The Pie Hole that they now four locations around Los Angeles, one in Orange County, and one in freaking Tokyo! So, if you’re in DTLA, Pasadena, Hollywood, or Glendale grab a slice and open your pie hole.

The Pie Hole LA | getinmymouf.com

Moral of the Story:  When a friend demands that you eat at specific places in the city in which they live, listen to him or her. Think of all the tacos and pie slices we could have eaten if we had heeded Crystal‘s advice? Roughly forty tacos and ten slices of pie (based on ten tacos and two pie slices per trip).

***

Disclaimer: As noted above we were provided a vehicle courtesy of DriveShop and Mazda. Other than being allowed to test drive this vehicle, we were not provided any monetary compensation for this post. All opinions remain our own.

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Travel

Roads Worth Driving: Vint Hill Road

Location:  Prince William County, VA
Length:  9 miles

Thanks to DriveShop and Kia, we were provided a 2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo to test drive for a week (check out our car review). Vint Hill Road was a perfect match for the sporty, yet economical sedan. Much like the well-balance car, Vint Hill Road offers fun driver-friendly twists and turns, a calming rural atmosphere, and plenty of worth wile pit stops for food, drinks, and dogs.

Although the suggestions below aren’t the only places to stop, they’re the only ones we’ve checked out personally. If you’re feeling like wine we’ve heard good things about Vint Hill Craft Winery, and Covert Cafe has a solid following on Yelp.

Pit Stops

Vint Hill Coffee Roasters (thequeensbean.com)

Vint Hill Coffee Roasters | getinmymouf.com

There’s nothing better than a coffee shop that roasts its own beans. Grab a latte to-go to boost your brain before a turbo-charged drive along Linton Hall Road. This coffee house just opened during the summer, so you can feel even better about supporting a new small business, run by friendly locals.

Old Bust Head Brewery (oldbusthead.com)

Old Bust Head | getinmymouf.com
Tucked away, just off the road, this is the definition of a destination brewery. You’d probably never find this place by accident, but chances are good you’ve seen the beer around Northern VA at groceries stores, restaurants, and Total Wine locations. I’m partial to the Graffiti House West Coast-Style IPA, but you can’t go wrong with any of their fine brews.

Vint Hill Dog Park (vinthilldogpark.org)

Vint Hill Dog Park | getinmymouf.com

This pit stop is for all the dogs out there. As the largest dog park in the area, it’s a well-maintained pup park with tons of shade, lots of seating for two-legged animals, and plenty of canine friends. It can get pretty packed on the weekends, so come early to beat the crowds of dogs.

Yankee Farms (yankeyfarms.com)

Yankey Farms Strawberry Picking | getinmymouf.com

No matter the season, Yankee Farms has you covered. From fresh strawberries in the summer, to pumpkin patches and corn mazes in the fall, this farm brings out the kid in any adult. We left with a full basket of strawberries over the summer and can’t wait to check out the fall veggies!

***

Did we leave out any of your favorite spots on Linton Hall Road? Let us know in the comments!

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Reviews, Travel

Enjoy Los Angeles

I love Los Angeles, but I know there are a lot of people out there who have either had bad experiences, or just have zero desire to spend any precious vacation time in La La land.

There’s actually so much to do and so many ways to experience L.A. that, after a few trips, I think I’ve finally figured out how to experience the city in way that can even change the minds of nonbelievers:

Choose Your Location Wisely

Los Angeles covers a wide geographic area, so when planning a trip, try and stay in a location central to most of the things you want to check out. Otherwise, you’ll be spending A LOT of time in traffic.

For my last trip I stayed in this Airbnb guest house, located in Silver Lake. The location had a ton of perks including easy street parking (rare for L.A.), it was central to an infinite number of food options (I’ll touch on that later), and because it’s a residential neighborhood, the atmosphere is much calmer than staying in a hotel in Hollywood.

Silver Lake | getinmymouf.com

Such a calm street. I could totally live here.

If you’re a runner, staying near the Silver Lake Reservoir gives you an easy jogging path to start or end your day. As an added bonus, there’s a dog park nearby, so how can you run past dogs and not have great day? Oh, it is a reservoir, but don’t expect to see any water…

Keep Your Wheels Small

You’ll be doing a lot of street parking (you do know how to parallel park, right?), so make it easy on yourself and rent or borrow a car that’s on the smaller side. Thanks to DriveShop and Mitsubishi, I was hooked up with a 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer for the week (check out our car review here). The Lancer was nice because it was nimble enough to get around easily, yet wasn’t so small that I felt cramped.

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWC | getinmymouf.com

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC

Ridesharing is Your Friend

Although you’ll have to drive most of the time, it’s nice to occasionally not have to get behind the wheel. As much bad press as Uber and Lyft get, I still have yet to have any experience that is anywhere close to as awful as nearly every taxi ride I’ve had.

I also highly recommend using uberPOOL or Lyft Line to share your ride with a stranger. Sounds a little weird at first, but your ride costs will be cut in half AND you might meet some cool people. Thanks to sharing a ride one night, I got some sweet restaurant recommendations from two locals (shout out to Christine & Nick!). Unfortunately I didn’t make it out to their top pick, a new Nashville hot chicken joint in Chinatown, Howlin’ Rays, but I can guarantee I’ll be back soon…

Eat as Much as Possible

If you’re not eating well in L.A., then you’re doing something horribly wrong. I ate so well that it was almost painful (I didn’t wake up hungry once during the trip). There are hundreds of must-eat lists, celebrity chef restaurants, and local-filled dive joints to discover, but here are a few of my favorite bites:

The Fairfax breakfast sandwich from Eggslut (Downtown in Grand Central Market) – Almost custard-like scrambled eggs with chives, cheddar cheese, Sriracha mayo, caramelized onions, on the world’s softest brioche bun. And of course I added bacon. Easily the best egg sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

eggslut LA | getinmymouf.com

Good brews and great burgers from Stout (Hollywood) – Their signature Stout Burger did not disappoint and was topped with blue cheese, Emi Gruyere, rosemary bacon, caramelized onion, horseradish cream, and roasted tomatoes. And with over 30 beers on tap and 4 0z pours, you can sample nearly all of them in one night (thanks to Uber and Lyft). The staff is super friendly as well, and will happily share some celebrity sighting stories (everyone apparently has an Andy Dick encounter) and most of the waiters will even let you read their screenplay. Kidding, I actually didn’t meet any writers, but I did meet a stunt man, stand-up comic, improv performer, and a DJ.

Stout Burger - LA | getinmymouf.com

World class dim sum at Din Tai Fung (Glendale) – Din Tai Fung is a popular international restaurant with only six locations in the U.S. (all on the west coast). Man those soup dumplings…You think you’ve had dumplings, but you just don’t even know! Go with a group and order everything on the menu.

Din Tai Fung Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Cheap eats at Porto’s Bakery & Cafe (Glendale) – Porto’s is one of those places where–no matter how much you order–you always feel like your bill is way too low. This bakery has it ALL. Literally anything you could possibly want. My favorites were the fried potato balls filled with cheese or meat. And dessert…good luck picking one item.

Porto's Bakery Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Porto's Bakery Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Everything at Republique (Hancock Park) – With such huge range in flavors drawing inspiration from around the world, you will definitely find something that hits any craving you have. They cure their own meats. They bake their own pastries. They even have a daily house-made soda special. My Cuban sandwich was perfect and the Tangerine Vanilla Soda was like a liquid creamsicle on steroids. DO indulge in something sweet; my jam-filled bomboloni (basically a filled doughnut…also on steroids) was so good I cried a little.

Republique LA | getinmymouf.com

Indulging in ice cream at Salt & Straw (Larchmont) – Check out these insane flavors. Bet you’re craving ice cream now. I went with two of their staples:  Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache and Stumptown Coffee & Compartes Love Nuts (chocolate-dipped caramel-coated pecans). Ice cream nirvana was immediately achieved.

Salt & Straw LA | getinmymouf.com

A delicious marriage of French, Mexican, and California cuisine at Trois Familia (Silver Lake) – As my final meal in L.A., I enjoyed breakfast of a real champion: Crispy hash brown chilaquiles, sunny side up egg, cotija, salsa macho. I had tears streaming down my face as I took the last bites.

Trois Familia | getinmymouf.com

Take a Hike

With as much eating as you should be doing, you might want to hike off some calories.  Luckily, there are tons of trails to check out like Runyon Canyon, the Griffith Observatory hike, and of course the famed Hollywood Sign hike.

Echo Mountain LA | getinmymouf.com

Thanks to my L.A. hiking buddy (and cousin) Stephanie, I was directed to my new favorite spot:  Echo Mountain. It’s was a reasonable 30-minute drive from Silver Lake and wasn’t very crowded (although it was a weekday). The hike itself is a moderate five-mile round-trip adventure that rewards hikers with scenic views and the ruins of “White City,” a former resort at the top of the mountain. Bring water and sunblock, ’cause you’ll be in a lot of sun.

***

Still not convinced? Fine. Guess I’ll just have to go back for more ‘research’ to try and make a better argument…

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Reviews, Travel

Clifton Café – Clifton, VA

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA | getinmymouf.com

What do my Mom and my dog have in common?

They both love Clifton Café.

My mom always talks about The Magic Pan and how magical (GET IT?!) the crêpes were. Sadly, there haven’t been very many restaurants that serve crêpes around here (a few are starting to pop up now and I’m sure finding crêpes in DC would be easy, but getting my mom to go to DC would not be).

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA | getinmymouf.com

Chorizo & Sweet Corn Fricassee Crêpe

Luckily for us, we discovered Clifton Café, a crêperie in historic Clifton, VA that helps close that gap on those crêpe cravings. Crêpe options range from the savory Dan’s Barbarian Beef (roast beef, Havarti, onions, sautéed mushrooms, jalapeños, tomatoes, and Dijonnaise) to sweet favorites filled with Nutella, bananas, and fresh berries. You can also enjoy sandwiches, salads, wine and beer–and since coffee is a perfect match for crêpes–an extensive latte menu. My sweet tooth always leads me to their Crème Brûlée Latte.

It’s also a great place for  Mother’s Day Brunch and is quickly becoming a new tradition for us. This year, the brunch consisted of a three course prix fixe menu for $38 per person. For our first course, we all enjoyed the Heirloom Tomato & Burrata Caprese–I personally find it hard to turn down any appetizers with burrata.

For our second course, the table was filled with a Chorizo & Sweet Corn Fricassee Crêpe (roasted corn, red pepper and herb fricassee, sautéed chorizo, tomatoes, and gouda cheese), Salmon di Oliva Crêpe (Norwegian smoked salmon, feta, tomatoes, red onion, olive medley, and sautéed spinach with a lemon-basil sauce), and the BBQ Beef Brisket Crêpe (slow cooked BBQ beef brisket over mashed potatoes).

Clifton Cafe - Clifton, VA | getinmymouf.com

Salmon di Oliva Crêpe

To end the meal we all came back together and chose the same dessert, the Fresh Strawberry & Kiwi Crêpe (with lemon curd, powdered sugar and whipped cream). Needless to say, my mom was in crêpe heaven.

Photo May 08, 11 55 17 AM

Fresh Strawberry & Kiwi Crêpe

Enough about my mom. The dog-friendly patio is spacious enough to accommodate  75 pounds of fluffy labradoodle. I wish more places had patios, and of the few that do, I wish they had more room for big canines. The hostess and servers not only welcomed Cooper for lunch, they almost didn’t want him to leave. If he goes missing, I know the first place we’ll look…

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD | #DriveKia | getinmymouf.com

So, if you’re looking for a quaint lunch spot to take your momma to, or if you’d simply like to enjoy some sunshine with your pup, Clifton Café is a perfect choice.

***

Thanks to DriveShop and Kia, we were provided with a 2016 Kia Sorento to test drive for a week (click here for our car review). The epic panoramic sunroof made it the perfect SUV to take for a drive on the scenic and winding roads of Clifton, VA to one of our favorite places to grab a bite to eat.

Photo Jun 08, 1 06 29 PM

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

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Events, Travel

Events DC Presents: Embassy Chef Challenge

Events DC - Embassy Chef Challenge

Photo Credit:  Don Tanguilig

What:  Embassy Chef Challenge
When
:  May 25, 2016 | 6:30 PM
Where: Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004
Cost:  $65
More Info:  eventsdcembassychefchallenge.com

Want to take a culinary tour around the world, but don’t quite have the million frequent flyer miles that it would take to get you there? Luckily, Events DC has partnered with Cultural Tourism DC (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization) to satisfy your mouth’s craving for world domination.

In its eighth year, Embassy Chef Challenge features 19 global culinary representatives from South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe, along with a solid showing from the Caribbean nations. Chefs compete for not only the Judge’s Prize (awarded by local chefs and food writers), but also the coveted People’s Choice Award based on attendee votes.

Events DC - Embassy Chef Challenge | getinmymouf.com | Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

Here’s an amusebouche (in list form) of what you might taste at the event:

  • Filipino Bringhe  (savory seafood paella made with sticky rice and coconut milk)
  • Rum-Infused “Painkiller” Cocktail from the British Virgin Islands
  • Guatemalan Gazpacho del Enchilada
  • Bacon-Wrapped Duck Pâté from the Czech Republic
  • Uzbek Plov (hearty lamb and rice pilaf)
  • Ghanaian Black-Eyed Pea and Shrimp Fritters.
  • Arabic Coffee from Qatar

As you taste the world, you’ll also be surrounded by a vibrant atmosphere with live music and plenty of dancing. It’s sure to be a fun–and delicious–celebration of diversity and global cultures!

And seriously, it’s not like you have anything better to do on a Wednesday night, right?

Events DC - Embassy Chef Challenge | getinmymouf.com | Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

Photo Credit: Don Tanguilig

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Reviews, Travel

Eat + Hike + Sleep: Monterey County, California

Big Sur | getinmymouf.com

Since the strong majority of our vacations primarily involve eating, hiking, and sleeping, it only makes sense to start an ongoing series aptly named Eat + Hike + Sleep. Yeah, you wish you could come up with a title as original as that. Didn’t even need a thesaurus.

The first location up for this series:  Monterey County, California. With all the times we’ve landed at SFO, we always ended up traveling north. There is tons of awesomeness up north like, duh…San Francisco, but also other cool places like Mill Valley, Sonoma, and Napa. I’ve never been, but I’ve also heard that Berkeley is a cool town to check out too. And if we’re talking further north, I enjoyed my time in Sacramento and its surrounding wine country.

Wanting to mix things up on our recent trip out west, we figured it was time to head south and check out what Monterey County had to offer. Specifically, we stayed in Carmel Valley and spent some time in Big Sur cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway.

EAT

Good to Go (Carmel-By-The-Sea)

Good to Go - Carmel-By-The-Sea | getinmymouf.com

Located in the Crossroads Carmel shopping center, this juice and smoothie joint was a convenient stop in between Carmel Valley and Big Sur. Also, with most of our other meals clocking in with a a maxed out indulgence level, grabbing some smoothies from Good to Go was a perfect way to start a day of hiking.

Café Rustica  (Carmel Valley Village)   Cafe Rustica Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafe Rustica - Carmel Valley Village | getinmymouf.com | #foodstories

Cafe Rustica - Carmel Valley Village | getinmymouf.com | #foodstories

Herb-Roasted Half Chicken | crispy artichokes, au gratin potatoes, ratatouille, and kalamata olives

Café Rustica is such a cozy place. I felt like a foreign exchange student having dinner in a European family’s house. That kind of cozy. The portions were generous and my Herb-Roasted Half Chicken dish had like fifteen different sides (er, well four).  I was afraid they might be fattening us up for tomorrow’s special. And also, two words: Crispy artichokes.

Corkscrew Cafe (Carmel Valley Village)   Corkscrew Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Corkscrew Cafe - Carmel Valley Village | getinmymouf.com | #foodstories

Wild Mushroom Gnocchi | parsnips, arugula, pistachio, Brussels sprouts, chive lemon brown butter, & frisee

Corkscrew Cafe - Carmel Valley Village | getinmymouf.com | #foodstories

Roasted Tomato Pizza | mozzarella, basil, olive oil, goat cheese, roasted garlic, olives, tomato sauce

A sign of a good restaurant is one that you visit twice during a vacation. We did just that with Corkscrew Cafe. First of all, they have a bread basket on the menu. At first I was appalled that bread wasn’t free and was ready to fight someone. But the more we thought about it, we realized that if a restaurant is going to put bread on the menu, then it better be the best bread in town. After talking with the server, we found out that “Jason’s Bread” (as it is listed on the menu) is indeed made by Jason, whose sole responsibility at the restaurant is to make bread. He also confirmed that it was magical. So we got the bread and not only was the bread as brilliant as advertised, but the whole freaking meal was just perfect. The Wild Mushroom Gnocchi might have been the most memorable dish of the trip and the chili & honey braised Short Ribs just melted on the plate. I sent the knife back, because there was no need for it. It was so good and we returned the next night. Too bad they were out of bread, but I don’t want to talk about it…  Luckily the Roasted Tomato Pizza and Kale Salad did not disappoint.

Valley Kitchen (Carmel Valley)   Valley Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Valley Kitchen - Carmel Valley | getinmymouf.com

Located in the Carmel Valley Ranch, Valley Kitchen ended up being a perfect way to end the trip with a final dinner in Carmel Valley. The Honey and Goat Cheese Salad as well as the Asparagus and Wild Arugla Salad were fresh and filling. It was also fun playing a game of russian roulette with the cast iron pan fried shishito peppers. Somehow I ended up with all the hot ones. The real star was not the food, but our server (who’s name we forgot to write down)–He was knowledgable about the local wines in an unpretentious way and even allowed us to sample some of the ranch’s own Swing Pinot Noir. His friendliness also allowed us to find out a little bit more about the area and the ranch. The meal and service made it even harder to leave the next day, but I have a feeling we’ll be back soon.

HIKE

Point Lobos State Reserve (Carmel-By-The-Sea)

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve - Carmel-By-The-Sea, California | getinmymouf.com

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve – Carmel-By-The-Sea, California

With a lot hikes, you have to really earn the good views through steep climbs, spider-webs, and losing at least one boot to a mud puddle. But, at Point Lobos, within about five minutes of walking, we were met with landscapes that I wish we could bring back with us to the east coast. The trails are all fairly easy and your reward for what seems like no work at all, is an abundance of blue coves, towering trees, and magnificent cliffs. And as an added bonus, we’re pretty sure we saw a seal give birth. Check off “birthing seal” from the bucket list. A word of warning, parking is limited, so unless you want to park on the street and hike to your hike, arrive as early as you can.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (Big Sur)

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - Big Sur, California | getinmymouf.com

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - Big Sur, California | getinmymouf.com

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – Big Sur, California

As easy and GORGEOUS (yelled with a British accent) as Point Lobos was, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park’s .64-mile McWay Waterfall Trail leads to a blue cove and a flowing waterfall that lands directly onto the beach itself. For a longer, more challenging hike, you can head inland on the 4.5-mile Ewoldsen Trail where you follow a stream along somewhat visible paths. You can park for free fairly easily along Route 1 near the park entrance, but why wouldn’t you want to support the park system? It’s only ten bucks…

17-mile Drive (Pebble Beach)

The Lone Cypress - 17-MIle Drive - Pebble Beach, California

The Lone Cypress – 17-Mile Drive – Pebble Beach, California | getinmymouf.com

2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD | getinmymouf.com

Checking out a beach along 17-Mile Drive with our fun buddy, the 2016 Mazda CX-3.

This is less of a hike and more of a “drive and stop to walk around,” destination, but 17-Mile Drive is still a fun way to kill an afternoon. It’s a surreal contrast between nature, tourists, and a golf course community where the average home price is in the double-digit millions.

SLEEP

Carmel Valley Ranch (Carmel Valley)

Carmel Valley Ranch | Vinyard Oak Studio | getinmymouf.com

The view from our Vineyard Oak Studio balcony at Carmel Valley Ranch

Carmel Valley Ranch | Carmel Valley, CA

Making good use of the double-sided fireplace

We had originally planned on spending our last night in San Francisco before we flew back, but we just didn’t want to leave Carmel Valley Ranch. From the indoor/outdoor fireplaces and outdoor soaking tub on our deck, to sweeping views and live turkeys, pregnant deer, and ranch-made honey, this place was almost as magical as Disney World–except Carmel Valley Ranch has heated bathroom floors. And that doesn’t even touch on the massive list of activities that the resort has to offer which include hiking trails, tennis courts, golf, food demos, horseback riding, and even a chance to collect honey from their onsite bee hives. You could literally stay here for a week and never leave. Yeah, it was totally worth it to wake up at 5 AM to drive two hours to SFO to catch our flight, just so we’d have one more evening here.

Obviously these are only a few of the hikes, eats, and sleeps that can be found in the area. Drop us a comment for your favorite places or suggestions for where we should head next time. There WILL be a next time.

***

Thanks to DriveShop and Mazda, we had a 2016 Mazda CX-3 to play with for a about 500 miles (check out our car review here). Its nimble handling made it a blast to drive along the Pacific Coast Highway.

2013 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD | getinmymouf.com

***

Disclaimer:  We were not provided any free food, lodging, or park entrances for this post. We liked all these goods and services and would gladly pay for more of ’em again.

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Reviews, Travel

The Butcher and Barkeep – Harleysville, PA

The Butcher and Barkeep | getinmymouf.com

The Butcher and Barkeep is the type of establishment every town needs.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a small town, a big city, or even suburbia. There’s not a community on the planet that wouldn’t support a place like this.  A place that takes their beer as seriously as their cocktails and their cocktails as seriously as their food. The menu is thoughtful and interesting, yet the portions are generous for a reasonable price. The cocktail menu makes the joint sound fancy, but it’s plenty casual. You could come here to celebrate a promotion, or stop by for a beer after a rough day at work. It’s hard to peg The Butcher and Barkeep to a specific identity, because it has broad appeal, yet when you visit, you realize they’re doing something so specifically enjoyable that it’s as if they created the atmosphere just for you.

Shrimp & Grits | The Butcher and Barkeep | getinmymouf.com

Shrimp & Grits | cheesy grits, Carolina shrimp, andouille-bell pepper cream

In a time where many restaurants and bars are turning towards a specialized focus, it’s nice to have a place with the culinary cahonas to try to do everything well.

So, what’s the secret?

Food-wise there are no gimmicks. They have southern staples like Shrimp & Grits and Gumbo; albeit with their own interpretation. I suppose the Sexy Fries might sound like a gimmick, but you won’t give a damn. They’re so satisfying because they combining a bunch of comforting flavors, you can eat them by hand, and they go great with a brew. And drizzle truffle oil and Hollandaise on anything and it’s going to be sexy, but that ain’t no secret.

Sexy Fries | The Butcher and Barkeep | getinmymouf.com

Sexy Fries | hand cut fries, fresh herbs, parmesan, hollandaise, truffle oil

Having a huge beer selection definitely helps. And by huge, I mean they’re basically a restaurant attached to a bottle shop and draft house. Ask the bartender for a recommendation and you’ll realize he knows the ins and outs of everything they serve. Had a bad day slogging through 9-to-5? Try a Sly Fox Helles Golden Lager. Grabbing a brew after hitting the golf course with a buddy? Hardywood’s The Great Return IPA. Killing time while the wife works and you’re partial to the art of stout? Yards Love Stout. That’s all well and good, but being an excellent brewhouse is hardly some magic secret to success.

If a restaurant excels in food and is also well versed in its selection of craft beer, there’s no way they’d be able to present a cocktail program that lives up to the already high expectations, right? Wrong. House-infused liquors and homemade syrups fuel libations such as the Matcha Maker (matcha tea infused vodka, elder flower liquor, lemon, anise syrup), Country Pie Old Fashioned (brown butter infused bourbon, luxardo, honey liquor, angostura) and the Winter Mule (black pepper infused vodka, lime, ginger beer, winter spice syrup, nutmeg). The cocktails are complex–not complicated–and so precisely balanced that you can only assume they were designed in a laboratory.

Matcha Maker | The Butcher and Barkeep | getinmymouf.com

Matcha Maker | matcha tea infused vodka, elder flower liquor, lemon, anise syrup

If the secret isn’t the food, or brews, or cocktails, then it’s easy to say that the secret has to be the people. Attentive servers and knowledgeable bartenders can only be the result of a trickling down of great leadership from the owners Gerard Angelini, Cody Ferdinand, and Jeffrey Sacco. 

The simple truth is that there is no one singular reason and that The Butcher and Barkeep is far greater than the sum of its parts, where the sum equates to a place where you want to go to simply be happy. When was the last time you had a meal that made you truly happy? Content without feeling trendy. Comfortable, despite being surrounded by strangers. Satisfied, without feeling like a glutton.

If you’re ever in Harleysville, PA–which is a suburb of Philadelphia–make the effort to stop by The Butcher and Barkeep for a great meal, cold drinks, and an unlimited supply of happiness.

The Butcher and Barkeep
712 Main St, Harleysville, PA 19438
Website:  thebutcherandbarkeep.com
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Yelp
Butcher and Barkeep Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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11 Questions, Series, Travel

11 Questions with Trang Hammond of Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream

Trang Hammond - Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream - San Diego, CA #getinmymouf

Whenever it gets cold here on the east coast, we quickly begin to dream of all the warm, sunny fun we’ve had on the west coast. Specifically, San Diego. And it might seem counter-intuitive, but one of the foods we begin to crave the most during the winter is ice cream. But, not just any ice cream. Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream.

Thanks to my buddy, Mike from The Flying Peanut, we were introduced to Hammond’s a few years ago at their first location in North Park. They serve the Hawaiian-made Tropical Dreams ice cream and the flavors range from classics (Butter Pecan and Cookies & Cream) to more unique tastes like Peanut Butter Guava Jelly, White Chocolate Ginger, and Azuki Bean. With a ton of interesting flavors to try, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of their ice cream flights, where you’ll have a chance to try out up to 32 (yes, thirty-two) flavors at once. You don’t believe it’s thirty-two? Fine, check out this proof on Instagram:

You’re booking a ticket to San Diego now, aren’t you? Our personal favorite ice cream flavors include Lychee, Brown Sugar, Toasted Coconut, and Chocolate Orange. Only 28 more flavors to go!

Hammond’s recently opened up a second location in Pacific Beach, so for any one who doesn’t like to travel too far inland, you now have a solid super premium ice cream option near the beach. And a third location is in the works in Point Loma, too!

Pacific Beach - Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream - San Diego, CA #getinmymouf

Photo courtesy of Trang Hammond.

One of the owners, Trang Hammond, was kind enough to take time out from building an ice cream empire to answer 11 questions about ice cream, Hawaii, San Diego, and all the fun stuff that goes into running your own shop.

1.  Hammond’s serves a ton of unique flavors; are there any that have turned out to be more popular than you expected?

Every flavor is unique and has its own fan base, so to speak. I guess the Vanilla Rose, a new flavor we just debuted, is going pretty fast and is really popular. And of course our Ginger Cream, which I think is absolutely amazing–but I was worried it could be too strong–has been such a fan favorite as well since it perfectly captures the ginger taste while maintaining a creamy base.

2.  Your North Park location is a natural extension, since you and the other owners were already North Park residents – Why choose Pacific Beach for your second shop?

The first time my husband moved to San Diego from Georgia, he moved to Pacific Beach (like any twenty-something male would, I guess). But he lived there for many years and naturally I hung out there with him a lot, so we really got to know the community. We like the area and the community and we just wanted to provide it with a gourmet ice cream scoop shop.

Pacific Beach - Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream - San Diego, CA #getinmymouf

Photo courtesy of Trang Hammond.

3.  My first experience at Hammond’s included an ice cream flight (as everyone’s first visit should), which allowed me an opportunity to sample six different flavors. Were the ice cream flights always part of the original plan when you all decided to open up the shop, or was it a happy accident that was realized along the way ?

The ice cream flight was a happy accident. We offer so many different flavors that my husband, Ryan, actually thought it would be a great idea to be able to try a lot in individual, smaller portions just like a beer flight. And so, I did the research on cone sizes, and flight holders and the Hammond’s Flight was born.

4.  If you could go back in time and give yourself and the other owners one piece of advice about opening up Hammond’s first location, what would it be?

It gets easier. Especially the first location–we opened up right in the middle of summer. None of us ever owned a business before, so we thought we were ready, but we definitely had some growing pains. The community was so warm and welcoming and forgiving that it was crazy, but fun. The first few months before and after opening up is always going to be intense, so looking back, I would tell all of us that it gets easier.

5.  What were some of the challenges that you faced when opening up the second location in Pacific Beach? Was it any easier than opening the first store?

The only challenge I would say with the second store, as opposed to the first store, is that because I knew so much more, there was more to do. With the first store, I was still doing start-up things after the Grand Opening, because I was still learning about everything it took to open an ice cream shop. With the second store (and soon third) I started out knowing everything I needed to do and to have, so the list of things to do, make, and buy was enormous.

Pacific Beach - Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream - San Diego, CA #getinmymouf

Photo courtesy of Trang Hammond.

6.  You’ve mentioned in other interviews that Hammond’s is inspired by you and your husband’s vacations to Hawaii in which you discovered this super rich, unique ice cream that you couldn’t find anywhere in San Diego. Are there any other Hawaiian foods that you wish you could find on the mainland?

Yes, pretty much any poke sandwich, nacho wrap, burger, salad, or appetizer I ever ate in Hawaii I wish we had here in the mainland. As for desserts, I just love the Hershey’s Macadamia Nut Kisses you can only get in Hawaii.

7.  Do you have any go-to restaurants that you always visit when you’re in Hawaii?

Our favorite island is Kauai. We loved going to a sports bar called Backyards for their Ahi Poke Nachos. The Shrimp Station is always a must for us as well. We liked the low key ambiance on vacation. My best memories involve getting a poke burger at a little shack and heading over to the beach with Ryan and just enjoying the moment.

8.  What are some of your favorite North Park restaurants and bars that you frequent? 

North Park is full of amazing restaurants and bars. For bars we really like WayPoint Public, because it has great food and a nice little play area where we can watch our toddler play safely while we enjoy our meal. When I was in college, (many years ago) I studied and hung out at Claire de Lune Coffee Shop all the time. They have great pastries, teas and coffees. There is a new restaurant that just opened called Encontro, which I have been dying to try, but haven’t had the chance. They actually make amazing shakes using our ice cream! And we like going to Lefty’s Pizza for a solid slice of pizza with no fuss. While we’re talking about pizza, our North Park neighbor, Urbn Pizza has really good pizzas as well. And they actually created a drink using our waffle cones. Lastly, when we have friends in town, we like taking them to Urban Solace, it’s got great food and a very nice ambiance. And then after dinner I like going to Hammond’s for ice cream, haha. I can go on and on about North Park, but I think this should suffice 🙂

9.  For people visiting San Diego, what is one attraction (touristy or non-touristy) that they absolutely must check out?

Well, Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream, of course! The tidepools in Cabrillo are always refreshing to hang out around. I grew up loving tidepools, so this is a must do for me. There are many many nice hiking trails in San Diego as well. Really, everyone should check out the diversity and charisma of all the neighborhoods in San Diego: North Park, Hillcrest, Little Italy, Gaslamp, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, Golden Hills, etc. Each area is unique in its own way offering different cuisines and experiences and I think this would be the best way for someone to truly experience San Diego.

10.  What’s your personal preference for holding ice cream: cup, cake cone, or waffle cone?

It depends on the flavor. For example, I love the fruity flavors in a cup, the chocolaty flavors on a Waffle Cone and some of the classic ones like Butter Pecan or Tahitian Vanilla on a cake cone. When I am eating ice cream with someone else, I pretty much always get a waffle flight to share.

11.  Let’s say the President of the United States of America visits your store and wants a six-flavor ice cream flight, but he wants you to choose the flavors. Which six do you serve him?

Oh man, your questions really get into the heart of things! Tahitian Vanilla (something ordinary, easy to please everyone, yet satisfying), Chocolate Coconut Macadamia Nut (it really brings out the Hawaiian flavors and President Obama IS from Hawaii), Chocolate Peanut Butter Oreos (a total guy’s flavor, and really really delicious), Blueberry Cheesecake (Fruity, yet still savory with chunks of cheesecake), Birthday Cake (because his job is so stressful, ice cream with tons of yellow cake, frosting and sprinkles might help lighten the load), and POG (Pineapple-Orange-Guava) Sorbet (everyone needs to try our sorbets–they are dairy free, but bursting with all natural fruit flavors). I think the President would like this, as it would bring him back to his days in Hawaii.

Huge thanks to Trang for chatting with us! If you’re in San Diego, definitely stop by Hammond’s for an ice cream cone…or thirty-two.

Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream
North Park:  3077 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92104
Pacific Beach:  1418 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109
Point Loma:  Coming Soon!
hammondsgourmet.com
Twitter: @HammondsGIC
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Hammonds-Gourmet-Ice-Cream-1428243157432275/
Instagram:  @HammondsIceCream

Pacific Beach - Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream - San Diego, CA #getinmymouf

Photo courtesy of Trang Hammond.

Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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11 Questions, Travel

11 Questions with The Dining Traveler

Jessica van Dop Dejesus - The Dining Traveler

Photo courtesy of Jessica van Dop Dejesus

If you’re a food and/or travel blogger in the Washington, DC area, you probably already know Jessica van Dop Dejesus aka The Dining Traveler. If you don’t, well you’re missing out on a generous blogger and local influencer who pays-it-forward more than any person we’ve ever met. Seriously, almost every cool trip, blogger-friendship, and restaurant relationship that we’ve established over the last year can in some way be traced back to her.

Jessica is currently in the last leg of a Kickstarter campaign to fund her Dining Traveler Guide to Puerto Rico, a photo book and travel guide that portrays the island from a Puerto Rican perspective. Take a moment and check out her campaign video below, then channel some holiday spirit and make a donation to help her close in on her goal. And “donation” is a loose term, since you’re basically pre-ordering the guide along with some other cool perks at different pledge levels (including a home-cooked Puerto Rican meal made by Jessica herself!).

Despite being insanely busy with the campaign, as well as traveling, and finding time to enjoy the holidays, Jessica was kind enough to answer 11 questions about Puerto Rico, traveling, and (of course) food.

1.  What’s the one food dish that you recommend people try while in Puerto Rico?

Where do I start? My favorite places on the islands are the panaderias (bakeries). I love a medianoche sandwich. It’s similar to a panini; a soft baguette filled with roasted pork, ham, and Swiss cheese.

The Dining Traveler - Jessica | getinmymouf.com

Medianoche | Photo courtesy of Jessica van Dop Dejesus

2.  If someone wanted to stay away from touristy areas in Puerto Rico, like San Juan, what area(s) would you tell them to check out?

The west coast of Puerto Rico. Cabo Rojo in the southwest coast has beaches to die for, like Playa Buye and Playa Sucia. The town of Mayaguez for the food; they are known for their artisanal sangria and the guava jelly roll (Brazo Gitano).

Playa Buye in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico

Playa Buye in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico | Photo courtesy of Jessica van Dop DeJesus

3.  What is the one thing that you’d like to share about Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican culture that people might not know?

That Puerto Ricans are very welcoming and open people. Don’t get weirded out when people tell you their whole life story after five minutes of meeting you!

4.  On average, how many days do you spend traveling each year?

This past year I have been on the road over 100 days so far.

5.  You seem to have already traveled almost everywhere, but what’s one country or city that you haven’t visited yet, but would like to?

Peru. It’s my dream destination. We’ve been trying to go for the last two years but something always happens. Hopefully in 2016.

6.  Do you have any travel rituals that you follow before a big trip?

I always wait until the last minute to pack. Does that count as a ritual?

7.  Do you remember your first plane ride?

I was five. We flew Eastern Airlines (dating myself here, LOL). We moved from Rochester, NY to Puerto Rico. I was super excited. The whole family, including our German Shepherd, was on the flight!

8.  When you’re back home in DC, what are some of your hobbies and other activities that you like to do to relax?

I love exploring DC. I enjoy going for a run along the Mount Vernon Trail and admiring the monuments across the Potomac. I also love checking out the new exciting restaurants that continue to pop up in the city.

9.  Okay, it’s late at night and you’re craving a sweet and/or salty snack. What do you make or grab from your kitchen to satisfy your late night hunger?

Well… this food blogger is trying to lose weight! I’m trying to be disciplined! However, my downfall is cheese. We always bring tons of cheese back from Holland, where my husband is from.

10.  You currently live in Washington, DC; what other U.S. city or cities do you think you would enjoy living in for an extended period of time? 

I lived in Miami for three months and truly enjoyed it; there are so many cultures converging in this area. Wouldn’t mind returning. I would be open to living in Chicago or San Francisco. However, I love DC. It will be hard to get me out of here.

11.  If you could have one person from any time period, dead or alive, be your tour guide in any city in the world, who would you choose and why?

I would have loved for Pablo Neruda to show me his native Chile. I studied his poetry in high school and college. His words made me feel as if I was already in the country.

Many thanks to Jessica for taking time out of her non-stop travel schedule to chat with us. Don’t forget to check out her Kickstarter, Dining Traveler Guide to Puerto Rico, before the campaign ends on December 10th!

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Travel

DIY Food Tour: San Francisco’s Mission District

DIY Food Tour: San Francisco's Mission District

When we were preparing for our last trip to San Francisco, something quickly became apparent: The Mission District’s food offerings would require us to set aside an entire day. Now, obviously San Francisco as a whole is one of, if not the best food city in America, so it goes without saying that you could easily create a food tour in any of its neighborhoods. But as I Googled, Yelp’d, and food blogged the heck out of San Francisco, I kept finding Mission District gems that required a visit.

Thus, this is the first in series of DIY food tours that we’ll be posting here on the blog. And what better way to start than with San Francisco?

Aside from all the tasty food stops, the Mission District is also home to a ton of great thrift stores. With the amount of food you’ll want to eat, they’ll be a good way to kill time in between stuffing your face.

How to get there:  All of the places are easily walkable via one of the two BART stations in the Mission district. I will note that there is a bit of back-tracking involved based on the order that I set up; feel free to mix and match your own order to fit what you have time and/or want to check out.

Stop #1:  Breakfast at Craftsman and Wolves

Closest BART Station:  16th Street Mission
Address:  746 Valencia Street, San Francisco 94110
Website:  craftsman-wolves.com
Craftsman and Wolves Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Rebel Within - Craftsman and Wolves

The Rebel Within – asiago, sausage, green onion, soft cooked egg

Having gained attention for their soft-boiled egg-filled sausage and cheese muffin, The Rebel Within, Craftsman and Wolves is the perfect place to start your tour de eating. I fueled up with said muffin and some cold brew; a near perfect breakfast that helps set the foundation for a long day of eating. Although The Rebel Within has garnered the most attention, their pastry counter is worthy of its own mini-food tour, filled with items such as a Thai scone (green curry, candied ginger, coconut) and matcha snickerdoodles. While the food at CAW is exciting, the atmosphere is calm and makes for a spot that’s easy to get some work done.

Stop #2:  Lunch at La Taqueria

Closest BART Station: 24th Street Mission
Address:  2889 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Website:  Ha. Nope.
La Taqueria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Photo Jul 15, 3 12 18 PM

Carne Asada Tacos Dorados - La Taqueria

Carne Asada Tacos Dorados – steak, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, monterey jack cheese

Does La Taqueria have the best burrito in America? I’m not skilled enough in the ancient art of burrito eating to provide an insightful answer. The burritos are good, but that’s not why you’re here (and from experience, eating an entire burrito in the early legs of a food tour is not a smart choice). Why are you here? Four words: Carne Asada Tacos Dorados. A mountain of moist carne asada, covered with salsa, guac, and sour cream, all wrapped up in two tortillas–one of which has been fried crispy with Monterey Jack cheese. This taco satisfies every taste and texture you’d want from a taco. Show up early to avoid lines, because aside from the national attention that this place has received, the locals clearly love it just as much. More than a few native San Franciscans I talked to mentioned La Taqueria as their go-to Mexican joint.

Stop #3:  Dessert at Tartine Bakery

Closest BART Station:  16th Street Mission
Address:  600 Guerrero Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Website:  tartinebakery.com
Tartine Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Banana Cream Tart - Tartine Bakery

Banana Cream Tart – flaky pastry coated in dark chocolate with caramel, pastry cream, and lightly sweetened cream

A James Beard Award winning bakery, Tartine will surely be the reason your sweet tooths will need to spend hours in confession on Sunday. A sucker for anything combining cream and bananas, my instincts took over and I tried their Banana Cream Tart. FYI, objects in picture are larger than they appear. Did I mention food tours are best done with a companion? Yeah, a partner would be really helpful here. However, despite its intimidating size, the tart is surprisingly light. And for you cocoa nib groupies out there, grab a Cocoa Nib Rocher for the road.

Stop #4:  Cocktails at %ABV  

Closest BART Station: 16th Street Mission
Address:  3174 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Website:  abvsf.com
ABV Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Special Note:  This bar opens at 2 PM, so plan accordingly.

Fogerty - %ABV

Fogerty – rye, campari, cacao, orange bitters

Mumbai Mule - %ABV

Mumbai Mule – saffron vodka, lemon, ginger, mint, soda

If you’ve done your job, you should be fairly full and your feet should have marshmallowed from all the walking. This is where %ABV comes into play: Time to take a seat, order some cocktails, and enjoy the company of one of their talented and friendly bartenders. Speaking of talented and friendly bartenders, I want to give a shout out to Eric (90% sure that’s his name) who mixed up some great drinks and was full of delicious restaurant recommendations. I enjoyed a refreshing Mumbai Mule and a strong, yet smooth Fogerty. Although I was too full for any solid food, I’d love to go back to try their kimchee fritters, pimento cheese burger, and some PB&J “ice cream”.

Stop #5:  Ice Cream at Bi-Rite Creamery

Closest BART Station: 16th Street Mission
Address:  3692 18th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Website:  biritecreamery.com
Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Strawberry Soft Serve - Bi-Rite Creamery

Strawberry Soft Serve

An ice cream institution, no trip to the Mission District is complete without a treat from Bi-Rite Creamery. Have time to kill and are still a little full? Stand in the long line headed inside where you’ll find a large selection of their hand-made, small-batch ice cream like vegan strawberry coconut; Blue Bottle coffee with Alfieri almonds and chocolate chips; and brown sugar with ginger caramel swirl. In a hurry? Then jump into the “express” soft serve lane to see what flavors are swirling up.

Stop #6:  Coffee at Four Barrel Coffee

Closest BART Station: 16th Street Mission
Address:  375 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Website:  fourbarrelcoffee.com
Four Barrel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Iced Latte - Four Barrel Coffee

Iced Latte

After some serious eating, drinking, eating, walking, and eating, it will be tempting to crash and sleep through dinner. Remedy that by ending your Mission [District] Impossible with a caffeine boost from Four Barrel Coffee. I did not have a chance to visit the shop, but I did enjoy an iced latte from their stand at the Ferry Building farmer’s market. They roast their beans in-house, so I’m sure their store smells so good you’ll take a bag home as an air freshener. You’ll probably be force-fed coffee from a blue bottle the rest of your trip, so you might as well experience another great west coast coffee house.

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Disclaimer: Visiting these restaurants can result in San Francisco Deficiency Syndrome. Talk to you doctor before participating in any food tour. Also, we were not provided any free goods or services to write this post. 

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