Monday, June 13, 2011

Safari in Sonoma County

We went with our friends to a safari in Santa Rosa called Safari West. We were not quite sure what to expect but decided to give it a try. On our way to Santa Rosa, we stopped by one of our most favorite places to eat, Sol Food, in San Rafael. We ordered the famous Pollo al Horno, Veggie Deluxe Sandwich, and the Mango Ice Tea. We also ordered for the first time the Lasagna, which was also excellent. We're always so satisfied everytime we eat here. Our friends also really enjoyed the food.

We got to the safari about 30 minutes before our scheduled 4 PM safari. Who knew that there was a place like this in the North Bay? The first part of our safari was a walking tour around the enclosed area of the park. We got to see some really cool animals: cheetahs, different kinds birds, monkeys, etc. The guide did a really good job explaining interesting stories about the animals. This walking tour lasted around 45 minutes. We then continued on to the safari ride.

Look at the long, white hair

We got a new guide for the safari ride, her name was Erika and she was really cool and knowledgeable too. The first part of the drive was around the compound where the giraffes are. One giraffe came really close to our jeep and tried to chew some of the jeep top :p

Beautiful giraffe!

There were actually cabins also around the park, and some people actually stay overnight. It looked pretty cool to actually stay in one of those cabins. But this time, we only came for the ride. The safari ride lasted around 2 hours. The ride was a little bit bumpy, but it was enjoyable. You can choose to sit up top, or sit on the regular bottom seats. We all chose to sit on the regular seats. If you are more adventurous, or prefer a bumpier ride, or wants a kiss from the giraffe, then maybe choose to sit up top :p

During our ride, we learned some very interesting facts about the animals. Here are some of them that we still remember:
  • The majority of the dessert antelopes are white in color, which is advantageous in their case since it keeps them cooler.
  • Most antelopes have markers which help their brood to identify with them
  • Zebras are actually not a very nice animal, and would sacrifice one of the younger/weaker zebras in their compound if there are predators around
  • You can't actually ride zebras since their spines are not strong enough
  • Buffaloes are very loyal to each other. Our guide told us about the battle of kruger. You can find it on Youtube. It's quite interesting.

In front of our ride

Our safari ended around 7 PM, and we drove down to Napa for our vegetarian dinner at Ubuntu. I had always wanted to try this place, since this was the only vegetarian restaurant in the Bay Area that earned 1 Michelin star. 

Our reservation was at 8:30 PM and when we came, the restaurant was full! They were not able to seat us earlier so we went to the bar and grabbed some drinks. We saw some of the portions and they looked tiny! The guys were worried that they wouldn't get full from the meal. We were seated late, but they comped us with free appetizers. Yay! The meal started out great. The appetizers were all wonderful: 
  • marinated ‘castelvetrano’ olives, tossed in FENNEL frond pesto 
  • local ‘marcona’ almonds,  homemade vadouvan spice, sweet HERBS
  • chickpea in some kind of curry sauce
Our waiter suggested we try the 5 course tasting menu (including 1 dessert), which is served family style, and has bigger portions. We decided to give it a try since we were not quite sure what to order anyway.

So this was our meal: 
slow roasted ‘chioggia’  BEETS and BROCCOLI with YUZU koshð   spiced almond, ‘sheep’ SORREL, pickled BEETS
roast and raw asparagus;  cool burrata coated with s & p potato chip crumbs  potato skin puree, pine nut /currant soffrito, ‘surrey’ ARUGULA

today’s fresh extruded ‘seville’ orange fregola, a sardinian toasted pearl pasta ‘hakurei’ and ‘scarlet damsel’ TURNIPS, GREEN GARLIC, parmesan broth
warm focaccia with truffled pecorino from florence and apricot/almond agrodolce ‘ping pong’ RADISH, CRUDITÉ, FAVA LEAVES, ‘golden’ PEA SHOOTS
organic arbuckle grits cooked with goat’s milk whey, blistered FAVA BEANS english peas confit in allium oil, pistachio, assorted MINTS, LEMON BALM
sesame and smooth chocolate millefeuille chai ice cream, kumquats, citrus crumble

Our dinner was a very interesting experience. Ubuntu is not the typical vegetarian restaurant with brown rice, tofu, salad, etc. It's really a high end restaurant for people who are more on the adventurous side. Almost all the dishes were complex, contained a lot of ingredients, and were presented beautifully. Even though we love fine dining, Ubuntu was a little bit different from what we're used to, and we're not quite sure what to make of it. Some dishes were better than others, but overall, we were left a little confused.

By the time we were finished with dinner, it was around 10:30 and we were definitely ready to go. It had been a fun, tiring day filled with new adventures and good and interesting food :p

Here are some tips from our experience:
  • If you are driving from the south heading up to Santa Rosa, definitely make a stop at Sol Food for some good old Puerto Rican food. The lines are usually long but they move pretty fast.
  • You need to call in to book the safari in advance. They have the drive at 10 AM, 2 PM, and 4 PM. We did the 4 PM drive, but if you are going with kids, the 4 PM ride is probably a little too late. 
  • We wouldn't recommend kids under the age of 3. The ride was a little bumpy and we think kids over the age of 3 probably would appreciate the ride more.
  • If you want to sit up top during the safari ride, be ready for a bumpier ride, and the possibility of being licked by a giraffe :) It should be fun though.

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