Benziger Family WineryMark’s parents came to visit our new place in Palo Alto over the weekend. We had a grand time and ate extremely well.

The Langers, Rick and Shari that is, drove up on Friday, enduring horrendous traffic since I-5 was closed from mudslides. After 10.5 hours of leg-numbing monotony, Mark and I thought they deserved the best the Peninsula has to offer – Refuge. Words cannot describe this Mecca of pastrami; you have to see and smell and taste it for yourself. This is the sort of place that makes a 10.5 hour drive worthwhile. Oh and I always forget till I arrive:  the bread pudding is truly superlative.

Bright and early on Saturday, we departed for wine country. Last year the Langers visited the weekend before Thanksgiving. On that occasion we were spoiled for fall in Sonoma forever. Hillsides covered in red and orange and purple vines, like waves of New England foliage at waist height. October is too early for such a display, but we enjoyed the green and hints of orange with a side of rain and mist. A mellower variety of autumn.

Latte in SonomaWe started in the square with a craving for fresh bread and lattes. Seems like every time we’re in Sonoma, there’s a good reason to swing by Basque Boulangerie. We laughed over our warm toast and hot coffee, recounting stories of travel mishaps and anticipating the day to come. Between the food, caffeine, and fresh air, it was the perfect way to recharge between the drive and tastings.

For tasting, we first stopped by St. Fancis specifically so Rick could walk trough the vines. Then it was onto Benziger for the beautiful scenery and well stocked gift shop. Let it be remembered that at this very spot we first flirted with the idea of Mark becoming a tasting room pourer instead of retiring someday. After that we broke out some bread and cheese to clear the palate and ready ourselves for the grand finish. We drove a few minutes down the road to our very own Imagery, where we’re wine club members. It was packed! But the service was still flawless in the back room as we happily sampled and picked up our fall shipment. In addition to a few bottles, Shari also walked away with a piece of art!

We circled back to the square for a midday meal at The Girl & the Fig. Everything was stupendous, but I was especially taken by the green tomato jam on Mark’s sandwich. Scrumptious conclusion to a decadent day. Before hitting the road again, we got a bit more coffee and enjoyed the dappled light in the park.

Mark in SonomaWe didn’t need to eat again on Saturday. We read and worked and watched the first few episodes of Pushing Daisies to show the Langers.

Sunday started with (can you guess?) a large, delicious meal. We went to Stacks for the weekend special, Carnitas Pancakes. If you like fried chicken and waffles, you must try this sweet and savory plate. After much gnoshing, coffee, and sharing, we headed to church. There we got to introduce Lydia and the Langers, which was wonderful since she’s probably the person I see most frequently since moving to Palo Alto. Then we swung by Trader Joe’s on the way home to pick up a few lingering ingredients for dinner (we invited my mom to dine with us on Sunday, too).

Mark spent the afternoon working, Rick running, Shari helping and reading, and me… I was in the kitchen. I set the chicken in the Crock Pot, roasted the squashes, toasted the seeds, pre-baked the gingersnap crust, whipped up the pumpkin pie filling, baked the pies, cooked up the orzo risotto, and prepared the salad. Shari and Mark were helpful in turns so it never got to be too much or too messy. I’m very grateful.

My mom came over and everyone had a good time catching up. She and Shari are peas in a pod. That’s how my dad put it when they got to spend 2:2 time with the Langers back during our engagement. The pie was a success (see October Part One for details) and the men took over dish washing after dessert. Again, I’m very grateful.

Monday was another early morning, with a stop at Philz for coffee before the week really started. From there, Mark and I went to work and the Langers made it home (in about half the time of their journey up, by the way). It was a weekend of good food and great company.

Thank you, Rick and Shari, for visiting us. You’re always such pleasant and helpful guests. And we thoroughly enjoy being able to share our life with you.

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