How to Be a Hayes Valley Girl

We really enjoyed this gourmet food walk. Hayes Valley is a hidden gem that we recently discovered and is a wonderful mix of restaurants, shops, galleries and cafes.

Our tour took us to several places The first was at the Samovar Tea Lounge House. We tried tea that was infused 3 times for 3 different tastings. Couldn’t discern the difference that much but maybe we don’t have a sophisticated “tea palette”?

Next was one of our favorite stops – and that was at Fritz, a chic cafe that serves Belgian Crepes to die for and fries with an array of over 20 delicious dipping sauces. We were served the fries and chose three sauces – White Truffle Artichoke, Pesto Mayonnaise and Kalamata Ketchup. Yum! We could have munched on these all day!

Next door to Fritz was Marino Mexican Seafood Restaurant where we had tasty fish tacos. Very fresh and satisfying. We walked across the street to check out True Sake. We aren’t fans of sake but if you are they have a great variety to choose from.

After a nice walk through the Hayes neighborhood, past elegant Victorians and the San Francisco Zen Center, we stopped at Delessio, an organic deli. We were served a generous plate of a variety of cured meats with some bread and olives. The deli food and desserts on display looked incredible and we want to go back to try some of the dishes.

Ok, we were getting a little full by now but there’s always room for dessert, right? Our last 3 stops were at Miette Confiserie, Citizen Cake Patisserie, and Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates.

Miette Confiserie had European style macaroons which were good but don’t expect there to be any coconut in them. Elizabeth Faulkner (anyone who watches the Food channel may recognize that name) owns Citizen Cake. We sampled the most amazing cupcakes! Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate had some of the most beautifully decorated and delicious chocolate that we have ever tasted! So with overstuffed but happy bellies we rolled ourselves back to our car. We were very impressed with our Hayes Valley tour. Our guide Andrea, was friendly and gave us a lot of interesting tid bits about the area. There were so many other restaurants that we didn’t get to that looked delicious.

We liked the area so much we returned and gave our own little tour with other family members…more then once. (Ok, Fritz fries are amazing but enough of them already)

Baja’s Wine Route and Valleys

There aren’t that many places in Mexico where the combination of land, altitude, seasons, time and weather come together in such a way as to give the ideal Mediterranean conditions for the growing of grape vines, olives, refreshing citrus fruits as well as the collection of honey. One such area is located between the parallels 32o35 and 31o15 North Latitude in the region known as the Wine Route; where not only the Guadalupe Valley (Valle de Guadalupe) but also San Antonio de las Minas, Santo Tomas, Calafia, San Vicente, Las Palmas, and the Tecate valleys extend perpendicular to Baja’s Pacific Coast.

Perfect for a romantic getaway or a family vacation, this part of Baja offers you a number of choices for entertainment. If you choose to venture into the wine valleys, you can start from Tecate in the north, sampling the beer that bears the town’s name, the Cuauhtemoc brewery, founded more than 110 years ago, offers guided tours of their facility Monday through Saturdays, from there you can continue your journey south by highway #3 which will take fist of all to the Tanama Valley where Tanama Wines awaits with its beautiful gardens; continue on and you will reach Valle de las Palmas, there you fill find the Cavas de Don Juan where you can stop by and visit their store which offers products such as grapes, honey, olives and olive oil. To the south of Las Palmas you will find the Guadalupe Valley, also known as Calafia Valley, home of the two largest wine producing houses in the country Casa Domec and L.A. Cetto where you can sample award winning wines and enjoy a tour of the cellars and fields; this valley is also home to Monte Xanic, Chateau Camou, Adobe Guadalupe, Biyaboff with its Russian heritage, Baron Balche where you might just want to take a closer look at the sand by the caves, you’ll be surprised to discover you are standing on grape seeds. Continuing the route further to the southwest, San Antonio de las Minas Valley awaits with Casa de Piedra who offers a course on wine growing, Viña de Liceaga, Viñedos Lafarga, Vitivinicola Tres Valles, Vinisterra, one of the newly established wine makers in the region, all of which offer tours and sampling; some require reservations. If you continue south, 90 km past the city of Ensenada you will arrive in San Vicente Valley home to Vides y Vinos Californianos.

Another option is to start from the south, taking the scenic route (highway #1) all the way to the third toll booth, before entering Ensenada look for the highway 3 exit (Ruta del Vino), toward Tecate, which will take you to the San Antonio de las Minas Valley. Tourist offices in Baja can provide you with a map of the wine route.

Considering that this area is home to around 50 wine producing houses from the large internationally know to the small family owned artisan wine producers, a lot of which are gaining international acceptance winning awards in Nappa Valley, Ensenada and Europe, it is impossible to list all of them and their particular qualities. The best way to experience them is to come down for a visit, along the Wine Route you will find choices of dining from family restaurants to fine cuisine, ranches for camping, artisan centers, museums, wine boutiques, art galleries, small inns and B&Bs, Viñedo Adobe Guadalupe has its own six bedroom B&B plus stables where you can go horseback riding; all of this and the beautiful natural surroundings make this a special tourist destination. Whether or not you come for the wine, the food, ranches and other recreational areas still makes the trip worth while.

The history of wine making in the Baja valleys is speculated to go all the way back to Hernan Cortes, who in 1524 was the appointed governor of the New Spain, ordered the planting of vineyards each year for 5 years, having as a result a grape that was known as criolla, and with it establishing the first wine-producing haciendas in Coahuila, Mexico. During the 16th century, the wine production was extended by the Jesuits to other parts of southern America like Argentina, Peru and Chile; by the 18th century it had extended to Baja California and parts of western United States.

The first vineyard in the peninsula was planted by Father Ugarte a few years after the Nuestra Señora de Loreto Concha mission was established in 1697 in the town of Loreto in Southern Baja. In 1888, on what was the Dominican Mission of Santo Tomas, Francisco Andonegul and Miguel Ormart started the vineyards and wineries of Santo Tomas still in operation today, making this the oldest continuously operating wine producer in Northen Baja. Around 1904 Russian molokan immigrants and their families opposing the war, fled Russia to avoid being recruited by the Czarist armies, originally settling in the Los Angeles area, they soon ended up in Guadalupe Valley, where they purchased land to cultivate their grape cuttings, along with oats, grasses, wheat and barley brought over from Europe. These Russian farmers where the first to bring wine production to a large scale within the valley; the Bibayoff winery, established in 1970 is owned by descendants of that group of immigrants continuing with the family tradition that started in the 1930’s; this winery along with Casa Domecq, established in 1972; followed by L.A. Cetto in 1974 marked the growth of the valleys into what they are today.

If you have ever requested wine with your meal while visiting Baja, chances are that you have tasted some of these wines, in case you haven’t and are unsure to make the trip, there is a closer starting point, L.A. Cetto has a facility close to downtown Tijuana, where they offer free tours of the cellars and sampling starting at 2 dollars; several cultural activities such as concerts, and plays are presented in their venue, also available for your social or business events.

A warning for those living in the U.S.; you will be tempted to purchase more than one bottle of wine to take back home with you. When you come to visit these valleys, be sure to visit this link [], it tells you how much wine you can bring back with you to the U.S. To everybody living in Mexico, feel free to take home as much Baja wine as you like.

The Indus Valley Civilization: An Important Part of Indian History

The Indus Valley Civilization is an important part of the history of India during the Bronze period i.e. 3300 BC to 1300 BC. It mostly centered on the western part of the Indian subcontinent. The civilization reached its peak around 2600 BC and continued till 1900 BC. People of the civilization were heavily dependent on agriculture to support their livelihood. People of the civilization grew rice, peas, wheat and cotton. The Harappa and Mohenjodaro settlements that were part of the civilization, were mostly dominated by the priests who had a grip over the entire civilization. They were often considered as the intermediary between the gods and the masses.

Many gods of the civilization are depicted in the yet un-deciphered seals that bear testimony to ancient Indian history. The most popular of the seals is the one that features a dominant naked figurine with horned head and fierce facial expression. Some other seals have an inscription of a person in a cross-legged meditating posture which is quite similar to the lotus.

While there could have been warriors to defend the civilization, as suggested by the researchers of Indian history, the economy of the civilization was mostly agrarian. Besides, foreign trade was also encouraged as is evident from the port of Lothal.

According to experts on history of India and archeologists, the people of the Indus valley Civilization and Harappa in particular, had a centralized form of governance. They had a distinct political system. Despite the iconic structures like military forts and baths that suggest a thriving public life, the civilization had a coherent political system. However, much of the identity of their leaders still remains a mystery.

The people of Harappa mostly belonged to the merchant class. There were artisans, administrators and people involved in other profession. The lower class was mostly made up of the peasantry and farmers. Not much is known about the religious practices about the people and Indian history hasn’t been able to shed much light on it.

The people of the civilization hunted wildlife and caught fish as a profession. They were able to domesticate several wild animals from the wild species. These include cats, dogs, the humped cattle, buffaloes, camels, pigs, asses and horses. While some Indian history enthusiasts suggest that the Harappan people had also domesticated elephants, there has been no conclusive evidence to prove it.

The economy of the civilization mostly ran on trade and commerce. The rivers and coasts besides which the civilization was spread helped it to boost trade and commerce. Gold was imported from south India, turquoise from Iran and copper from Afghanistan. Researchers of history of India have also found that there existed trade relations with Mesopotamia as well. The discovery of Indus pottery in Mesopotamia ha proved it.