Plan a trip to Sonoma wine country

Of all California’s wine regions, Sonoma may be the easiest to fall in love with. Visit this laid-back land of vineyard-rich valleys, from Sonoma to Dry Creek to Alexander, with the Russian River thrown in

Take a food lovers' holiday

What to do and where to eat on a seafood pilgrimage along California's most delicious drive

1. BODEGA BAY

Seaweed Café Slow food meets west Sonoma terroir at this cheerful restaurant, where you'll find both fish and seaweed on the menu. INFO: $$$; closed Mon-Wed; 1580 East-shore Rd.; 707/875-2700.

2. BODEGA BAY

Lucas Wharf A welcome stop for creamy clam chowder, sourdough bread, local crab, and great Bloody Marys, enjoyed in view of boats unloading their catch. INFO: $$$; closed Thanksgiving; 595 State 1; 707/875-3522.

3. TOMALES

Tomales Bakery The space is so tiny, it's hard to believe that owner Cameron Ryan can turn out enough croissants, nut-studded sticky buns, and savory focaccia and pizzetta to satisfy the crowds. INFO: $; closed Mon-Wed and Thanksgiving; 27000 State 1; 707/878-2429.

4. MARSHALL

Nick's Cove Restaurant The latest collaboration of restaurateur Pat Kuleto and chef Mark Franz of Farallon fame, located in a beautiful little cove of Tomales Bay. The menu changes nightly; look for seared Bolinas halibut and Bodega Bay Dungeness crabcakes with fennel rémoulade. INFO: $$$; 23240 State 1; 866/636-4257.

5. POINT REYES STATION

The Station House Café Dine on Sonoma Coast ingredients ― including Cowgirl Creamery cheeses made just blocks away ― and local meat and seafood. The clubby dining room goes with the homey menu, which offers dishes like fried Drakes Bay oysters. Or take a break from seafood and try the grass-fed rib-eye. INFO: $$; closed Wed and Thanksgiving; 11180 State 1/Main St.; 415/663-1515.

6. SAN FRANCISCO

The Franciscan Crab Restaurant For half a century, the Franciscan has been serving famous and not-so-famous patrons the old standards, including the renowned whole Dungeness crab, along with a few surprises like housemade burrata cheese and cured meats. The glamorous luxury-liner decor and the views of the bay and city skyline are unparalleled. INFO: $$$; Pier 43?; 415/362-7733.

7. SAN FRANCISCO

The Cliff House Come for the spectacular views of the ocean and the Sutro Baths ruins, the renovated historic building, and modern takes on seafood dishes like pan-roasted day-boat scallop salad with yuzu-truffle vinaigrette at Sutro's restaurant ( $$$). Or opt for the more casual Bistro restaurant ( $$), with classic, simple fare like crabcakes. INFO: 1090 Point Lobos Ave.; 415/386-3330.

8. SAN FRANCISCO

The Beach Chalet and Park Chalet At the Beach Chalet ($$), watch the sun set over churning whitecaps as you taste your way through a sampler of house-brewed beers and snack on ahi tuna tartare or buttermilk-fried calamari. Downstairs, the more casual, kid-friendly Park Chalet ($) has no ocean view, but it does have a stone fireplace and glass doors that look out on Golden Gate Park. INFO: 1000 Great Hwy.; 415/386-8439.

9. HALF MOON BAY

Flying Fish Grill A popular fresh fish joint styled like a beach cabana. Its offerings run the gamut from cioppino to the can't-miss fish tacos, which are a delicious study in simplicity  ― perfectly fried cod and a bit of shredded cabbage folded in a warm corn tortilla. INFO: $; closed Mon and Thanksgiving; 99 San Mateo Rd./State 92; 650/712-1125.

10. HALF MOON BAY

Half Moon Bay Inn Restaurant Local seafood has a comfort angle at this inviting restaurant. Standouts include the coconut crabcakes with basil aioli, the surprisingly light salmon BLT on toasted brioche, and the seafood chowder, a creamy mixture of shellfish and salmon studded with sweet corn and bacon. INFO: $$; 401 Main St.; 650/560-9758.

11. PESCADERO

Duarte's Tavern A century ago, Duarte's was a local whiskey watering hole. Today, the fourth generation of the Duarte family is still known for hospitality, serving cioppino, crab melts, creamy artichoke soup, and legendary homemade fruit pies. The ingredients are fresh and lovingly presented, and some of the produce comes from the garden behind the restaurant. INFO: $$; closed Thanksgiving; 202 Stage Rd.; 650/879-0464.

12. CAPITOLA 
 
 

Gayle's Bakery & Rosticceria Gayle Ortiz and her husband, Joe, opened this bakery in 1978 to immediate acclaim for her European-style pastries. Stop here on the way to the beach for gourmet picnic fare, including sandwiches, salads, and, of course, sweets. INFO: $; 504 Bay Ave.; 831/462-1200.

13. MOSS LANDING

Phil's Fish Market and Eatery While the ambience is next to nonexistent (order at the counter, grab your bottle of wine from a self-serve fridge), the seafood is outstanding, especially the spicy, rich cioppino, full of juicy chunks of fish, crab legs, clams, prawns, and scallops. INFO: $$; closed Thanksgiving; 7600 Sandholdt Rd.; 831/633-2152.

14. MONTEREY

Portola Cafe & Restaurant at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seasonal dishes featuring sustainably fished seafood, like marinated white anchovies and crab-and-seafood cakes. Great bay views; use binoculars (provided) to look at frolicking otters while you eat. INFO: $; (cafe) to $$ (restaurant) plus aquarium admission; 866 Cannery Row; 831/648-4870.

15. PACIFIC GROVE

Passionfish Chef Ted Walter and his wife, Cindy, are passionate about sustainable seafood, which he prepares expertly. Order a fish you haven't tried before, and you'll be rewarded with the likes of pepper-crusted sablefish or charmoula-marinated California sturgeon. More familiar items are far from mundane, like the delicately crisp, baseball-size Dungeness crabcake. The setting echoes the simple elegance of the food. INFO: $$; closed Thanksgiving; 701 Lighthouse Ave.; 831/655-3311.

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