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My Top 7: San Francisco / San Jose / Napa Valley

1. Christmas in the Park // The last time I was in San Jose it was stinking hot… it was such a change to go to California and experience a temperature comparable to at home. It definitely added to the Christmas atmosphere while at the “Christmas in the Park” festival in downtown San Jose. Hundreds of decorated trees lined the streets, vendors were out selling everything from hot chocolate to candy apples, and winter would not be complete without an outdoor skating rink. Thanks to the 5C temperatures, it felt like winter at home!

2. Tra Vigne // Thursday night were invited by a few of the CIA Chefs and Directors to dinner at Tra Vigne in St. Helena. As expected from these foodies, the table was over-flowing with fresh oysters, mozzarella bruschetta and wine. My meal, a Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli, was beyond the best pasta I have ever tasted. I highly recommend Tra Vigne if you are ever in St Helena.

3. The Wydown Hotel St. Helena // It’s not very often I stay in a hotel as chic as this one. The gorgeous lobby was perfectly decorated for Christmas, while the rooms (each with a subtle change in colour scheme) featured chic decor, a king sized bed, and a stunning bathroom.

4.The CIA Building // Friday we spent the entire day at the Culinary Institute of America. In between meetings I was invited on a tour of the campus grounds. The main building, which was built in 1889, was originally a winery owned by the Christian Brothers. In 1995 the CIA, who completely renovated the building into a state of the air culinary school, opened its doors. It was nice to see a lot of the old charm and character was maintained in the building while adding nice modern features as contrast.

5. The Food at CIA // The staff at CIA kindly treated us to a mushroom-centric lunch prepared by the students in their on campus restaurant, The Wine Spectator. The lunch was delicious! And for those of you who are interested, the restaurant is open to the general public, so if you find yourself in the Napa area, they always welcome guests for lunch and dinner! We were also lucky enough to be treated to one of their signature chocolates, made completely from scratch by the students… Chocolate Ganache, yes please!

6. Bouchon Bistro // Have you ever tasted a dish somewhere and said to yourself “I will never forget how good that tasted“? Bouchon Bistro had, by far, the best fresh oyster platter I have ever had. Oysters from Rhode Island, San Francisco, and even Vancouver and New Brunswick. And their bread was absolutely delicious!

7. Being “In The Club” // Thanks to my work colleague, I was able to sit in the Admirals Lounge while I waited for my flight… We had to be at the airport extra early so he could catch his flight, and since we were sharing a rental car, I figured we might as well head to the airport at the same time. Free wifi, coffee, muffins, fruit and TV made the 7 hour wait for my flight more bearable.

Even though I had quite the adventure while in California, I am happy to be home. Now I just have to focus on getting everything ready for Christmas!

How was your week?

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