OK wine lovers! Looking for a fun alternative to Napa Valley that’s within driving distance of Sacramento and the Bay area?
Andy and I just checked out the Hotel Valencia at Santana Row in San Jose. They’re doing a Wine Weekend Getaway promotion (available Fridays and Saturdays only) that includes luxurious accommodations for two, a bottle of local wine with artisan cheeses and a prepared picnic lunch for a day of wine tasting.
I surprised Andy for his birthday weekend by planning the trip and coordinating some activities we would do during our stay at Hotel Valencia.
Andy did not know much about the birthday weekend in store for him. Just that we’d be driving to somewhere about two hours away, and that wine would somehow be involved (duh!). Speaking of wine, upon arrival, we were greeted with a lovely fruit and cheese plate and a bottle of local wine. Surprise, Andy, and welcome to Hotel Valencia at Santana Row!
For Andy’s birthday dinner that evening, we walked to nearby Fogo de Chao, also located in Santana Row. I’ll be writing a separate blog post about our meal there. It was fabulous! Another benefit of staying at Hotel Valencia is the proximity from your room to delicious places to eat. Just walk there and walk back and no hassles with parking. :)
The next morning, I hit the gym in the hotel for a little damage control. The gym is small, but very nice with three treadmills, two elliptical machines, a stationary bike, and a weight station. There are also towels on ice and a large container of water to take care of your thirst. :)
Following the workout, Andy and I headed down for the complimentary breakfast buffet at Citrus restaurant (located inside Hotel Valencia) that runs from 6-10am daily.
The hotel’s breakfast buffet is the best I have ever seen for being complimentary. There was an assortment of fruits (melons and berries), an oatmeal station, sausages, and an egg dish (the first day was an omelette of sorts, and the second day was scrambled (as pictured above). There is also coffee and juice bar, as well as a station to toast bread and bagels (if that is your thing) ;) It was nice to eat a great meal that we did not have to go out and find or pay extra. A very big bonus for Hotel Valencia guests! :)
The hotel’s interior is very unique, (as you’ll see in several of the photos below). I would describe it as modern with a Spanish flair that is present in the color and even in the hotel’s logo. It has 212 rooms.
Most rooms are approximately 350 square feet and feature views of the Santana Row neighborhood or the beautifully landscaped courtyard. They are furnished with either two double beds or one king bed with custom bedding, 42″ flat panel color TV, an oversized armchair, desk, and private bar. The full bathroom offers a traditional bathtub and shower combination. Rooms feature complimentary wired and wireless high-speed Internet access and daily newspaper, upon request.
Following swimming and sunbathing Then it was time for the rest of the birthday activities to be revealed. I told Andy that first, we would be going wine tasting and then I had planned a larger event that evening that would be outdoors and we would be picnicking in the parking lot. So after the hints, Andy assumed we were headed to a Giants game! Ha… silly him. :P
Equipped with the picnic basket, we set out to explore one of the four wineries to which the hotel has given us tasting passes. After deciding not to purchase wine at our first stop, we decided to head up the mountain to visit and do a tasting at Ridge Vineyards. (We were not given passes to Ridge, but were set on dropping in anyway). Why? Well, Andy and I met over a tasting of Ridge’s Cabernet at the Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden Event nearly three years ago.
The staff at Ridge couldn’t be more friendly and loved hearing about how we met. We tried several of their wines and decided on a full case to take home. Gotta love that industry discount! ;) A big thank you to Ridge Vineyards. We’ll be back to sit outside with some wine and take in the magnificent view at your winery when we have time to stay a little longer!
By the time we were done at Ridge, it was almost time to head down to the main birthday event! A picnic and concert at Mountain Winery: Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
The view through the trees taken at Mountain Winery.
The picnic basket and blanket (above, provided by the hotel–amazing job on the fruit and meats, by the way), and the tailgate party (below) we had at Mountain Winery before the start of the show. I highly recommend tailgating before a concert at the winery to avoid exorbitant dinner costs.
So happy Andy and I finally saw a show together at Mountain Winery. Stu Cooke and Doug Clifford still rock!
PS: Don’t worry Paleo friends, no crackers were harmed/eaten during our picnic (and were returned with the blanket and picnic basket). ;)
We had such a great time over the weekend and at the show! A huge thank you to my friends at Hotel Valencia for helping me arrange a wonderful birthday getaway for my best friend!
Hotel Valencia Santana Row is located at 355 Santana Row, San Jose, Calif. Information about upcoming events and packages are available online at www.hotelvalencia-santanarow.com, or call 866.842.0100 for reservations and additional information about lodging at Hotel Valencia Santana Row.
More about Hotel Valencia:
- 212 elegantly appointed accommodations
- The only hotel located on Santana Row, away from the hustle and bustle of San Jose and Silicon Valley
- Complimentary deluxe continental breakfast served daily in Citrus Restaurant
- Vbar, an ultra modern lounge with expansive balcony views
- Fitness Center
- 4,000 square feet of meeting and event space
- Outdoor year-round swimming pool
- Complimentary wireless Internet in guest rooms and all public areas of the hotel
- Business center with 24/7 access
- Same day laundry and valet
- 24-hour room service
- Handicap accessible facilities
- Santana Row – dynamic mix of upscale shopping and entertainment!
- A myriad of dining options from Strait’s with Singaporean cuisine to
Left Bank, a French bistro. There is something for every palate!
- Santana Row has ongoing programs of street entertainment from music
- Across Stevens Creek Boulevard, Valley Fair mall offers more than 250
stores for your shopping pleasure including a new Luxury Wing as well as
Nordstrom and Macy’s.
- Winchester Mystery House—the world’s oddest mansion. 160-room
Victorian mansion designed by Winchester Rifle heiress.
- Levi’s Stadium – Hotel Valencia is only 11 miles away from the New Levi’s
stadium which is home to the 49ers as well as a multipurpose facility for
other sporting events and concerts.
- Home to NHL’s San Jose Sharks!
Sacramento’s booming food festival scene now has a special day to dedicate to the ever popular party food: the chicken wing. That day is August 23rd at 2pm (until 7pm) at Fremont Park (16th and P streets). event flyer below
I was very happy to team up with Xoso Sports to help promote this event because the proceeds from it will benefit the Food Literacy Center! :) I recently interviewed Nick Berruezo (founder of Sactown Wings and Xoso Sports) and here’s what he had to say about it:
Cavegrrl: How did you come up with the concept to have a wings festival in Sacramento?
Nick: The wing fest concept actually came from a friend of mine, and I hadn’t heard of anything like it in Sacramento. There are a lot of wing lovers out there, and some of them might even be considered fanatical about their wings, so I thought it could be a fun, popular event for Sacramento! Plus, there are some great local restaurants and bars who have some amazing wings, and I thought this event could help bring them future business.
Cavegrrl: What made you decide to name the Food Literacy Center as a beneficiary?
Nick: I met with my friend Nicole Rogers with the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Farm to Fork division, who also serves on the board of the FLC and she put me in contact with Amber Stott with the Food Literacy Center. The FLC has a great mission to educate the community about healthy, sustainable eating and Amber and Nicole were very excited about the event. It seemed like a great opportunity to work together!
Cavegrrl: Please tell me about attendee ticket options. I understand there are different levels.
Nick: There are three different ticket options:
-$10 Event Attendee: Admission only. You can purchase food and full priced beer at the event.
-$30 Wing Eater: Includes admission, 15 wings from Chicago Fire, souvenir beer mug with two free beers, and $2 beer refills.
-$40 VIP Wing Judge: Includes Wing Eater package plus additional 10 wings (2 each from five wing vendors) and a Sactown Wings Judge t-shirt. You’ll be one of only 100 people who get to vote on who has the best wings!
Cavegrrl: Do you have any entertainment lined up for guests of the event?
Nick: So far, our entertainment will consist of games: corn hole, bear pong (giant beer pong), giant jenga, and some live bands, which tentatively include the Golden Cadillacs and Musical Charis.
Cavegrrl: What else do you think my readers should know about the event?
Nick: I think the ticket packages are a great value and we’re hoping that this event grows and becomes an annual event. It’s a great opportunity to not only support the Food Literacy Center, but many local restaurants, brewers, and musicians at the same time!
Awesome, Nick! Also, I want to thank you for generously donating a pair of tickets to give away on cavegrrl.com! :)
TO WIN A PAIR OF TICKETS TO SACTOWN WINGS ON AUGUST 23rd, PLEASE SHARE THIS POST ON FACEBOOK, “LIKE” THE SACTOWN WINGS FACEBOOK PAGE (CLICK HERE), AND LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW STATING YOUR FAVORITE PLACE FOR WINGS IN SACRAMENTO! Please leave some way I can contact you if you win. I will announce the winner on Friday, August 1st! Good luck! :)
The Food Literacy Center’s mission is to inspire kids to eat their vegetables. They teach low-income elementary children cooking and nutrition to improve their health, community and environment.
Every year Andy and I get together with another family for a nice dinner party on the back deck at our house in Incline Village. We collaborate on a menu for our guests and make a fuss over the food and wine. The first year, we tricked everyone into eating a fully Paleo meal. Since then, all the guests know it’s a Paleo meal, and no one seems to mind. :) No one misses the bread or the sugar!
Typically, I am in charge of two side dishes, and Andy grills the meat (main course), makes a big salad, and makes his classic Bacon Wrapped Dates.
I have to say, Summer Solstice Party Number Three was a success and for one of my sides, I made and served these carrots.
I used a stevia sweetener called Pyure Sweet in the recipe. Many thanks to the manufacturer for sending me the samples.
(feeds about 8-10 as a side dish)
1 cup pecans
5 pounds carrots
8 Tbs coconut oil (or butter)
1/4 cup Pyure Sweet
1 Tbs molasses
1 Tbs curry powder
1/2 cup lemon juice
Sea Salt to taste
Cracked black pepper
First, you’ll need to toast the pecans. You can do this in the oven or in a skillet on low heat. Whatever works for you. Just be careful not to burn them. Let them cool once toasted, and give them a rough chop. Set aside.
So, I personally choose the oven to toast my pecans, because it heats up the oven for my carrots that go in next. I have the temp at about 375°F for toasting the pecans. I heat it up to about 400°F when it is carrot roasting time.
Before the carrots go in, you’ll need to clean them up by peeling and cutting them into “french fry” shapes. It’s up to you what size you cut them down, but make sure they are uniform so they will cook evenly. Then, put them on a sheet tray (or two) that’s well oiled/greased (coconut oil or olive oil works best), salt liberally with sea salt, and roast until browned. I would tell you how long to leave them in the oven, but it all depends on how thick you have cut them, so I am leaving that up to you.
While the carrots are roasting away, you can make the curry sauce. Melt 8 Tbs of coconut oil (or butter) together over low heat in a saucepan with 1 Tbs molasses, 1/4 cup of Pyure Sweet stevia blend, 1/2 cup lemon juice, and 1 Tbs curry powder. Make sure all ingredients have combined over the heat (without boiling) and set aside.
Remove the carrots from the oven when they are close to being done. Drizzle the curry sauce over the pan/pans of carrots. Return to the oven and roast an additional 5-10 minutes.
Then the sauce has saturated and cooked into the carrots, remove them from the oven, and sprinkled the toasted pecans over them.
Serve the carrots warm or room temperature. A perfect party side dish and a true crowd-pleaser! :)
Last Wednesday, Andy and I attended a fundraising dinner at Vierra Farms held by Raley’s Food for Families. The purpose of the event was to introduce a new program to supply fresh produce to food banks and to kick off the Fresh Summer Donation drive.
The event was catered by Beth Sogaard Catering. The meal began with a House Smoked Salmon Salad on fresh spring greens with grilled apricots, herb and pollen crusted chevre, shaved celery, cucumber ribbons and a shot of honey-lemon vinaigrette.
The main course was a duo of meats: Raley’s Free Range chicken breast stuffed with sweet peppers, spinach, basil and fontina, and an herb-glazed Raley’s Black Angus Beef tenderloin with a grilled young artichoke, on a bed of truffled potato puree and cherry tomato-basil-sweet corn compote with arugula pesto.
There was a short presentation by both Michael Teel and Jennifer Teel-Wolter. Jennifer then kicked off a donate-by-texting program and guests of the dinner could text the amount of money they wished to donate and their name throughout the evening. By the end of the event, nearly $300,000 was raised!
In honor of National Fruits and Vegetable Month (the month of June), Raley’s Food For Families is launching a pilot program designed to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables at local food banks. Food For Families’ partner food banks throughout Sacramento and Placer counties will now be provided with access to a variety of fresh produce, in addition to dry goods, to distribute in their respective communities. This new program allows food banks to choose what they need in their community.
Raley’s also announces their Fresh Summer Donation campaign, beginning June 9 and lasting through July 31, to help increase donations of fresh produce to local food banks.
Food For Families has raised more than $31 million and donated more than 21 million pounds of dry groceries to food banks in our communities since the program began as a holiday food drive in 1986. Raley’s Co-Chairman and Owner, Joyce Raley Teel, and CEO emeritus, Charles Collings, founded the program.
Today, food banks throughout Northern California and Nevada benefit from this non-profit program. Food For Families helps feed hundreds of thousands of hungry families year round.
Raley’s absorbs all administrative costs of the program with 100 percent of every donation going directly to help feed the hungry. All donated food is distributed by local food banks.
Customers can donate in four easy ways: At the checkstand at all Raley’s, Bel Air or Nob Hill Foods; online at foodforfamilies.org; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/raleysfoodforfamilies.com; or by texting the keyword ENDHUNGER to 85944. 100% of all donations go towards feeding families in need in the community in which the donation was received.
Raley’s will provide a matching donation for every dollar donated during the Summer Donation drive, up to $25,000, now through July 31. Customers can donate at any Raley’s, Bel Air, Nob Hill or Food Source store, online at Raleys.com or on Facebook at Facebook.com/Raleys.
You can find Raley’s Food for Famillies on Facebook here and follow Raley’s on twitter here. Get in on the social media conversation with the hashtag #followthecart. To donate to the program, click here.
Special thanks to Raley’s Family of Fine Stores for most of the photos.
Lake County is a wine region that might not have the cachet of Napa Valley, but I can definitely tell you they are making wines of Napa Valley caliber. Currently, Lake County has over 8,400 acres producing winegrapes. There are now 167 growers and 32 wineries in Lake County. I was first exposed to a large cross-section of wineries who call Lake County home at the Wine, Tunes & Classics event held at the California Automobile Museum last year.
The event combined a showcase of classic cars, music, and featured wineries from the Lake County Winery Association. There, I was able to taste and find several wines I really enjoyed. I was also told about the People’s Choice Wine Tasting that was held in 2013, and unfortunately already had plans for the weekend.
This year, however I am excited to attend the People’s Choice Wine Tasting this coming Saturday at Guenoc & Langtry Vineyards (21000 Butts Canyon Rd, Middletown, CA 95461). The event will begin at 1:00 PM and ends at 4:00 PM.
It will be an afternoon of wine, music, and fun. Music will be provided by the popular band “The Special Guests”. The Yuba College Culinary program will be featuring some of their sweet treats, and food trucks will be onsite to satisfy your culinary cravings and stop by the photo booth to create a lasting memory of the event.
Tickets are $35 per person ($25 if you buy before June 10th with a special promo code–see below). Designated drivers encouraged and will be admitted for free. You must be 21 or older to participate in this event.
The Lake County Wine Competition is open to wines that contain at least 75% Lake County winegrapes and bear a Lake County appellation on the label. Lake County’s reputation for both high-quality wines and high-quality winegrapes continues to grow. The 2013 competition drew more than 120 wines to be judged. This number is expected to increase this year.
People’s Choice Wine Tasting – Special Offer
Treat your favorite Dad to an afternoon of wine, food, music, and fun and celebrate Father’s Day at the People’s Choice Wine Tasting on Saturday, June 14th. Eighteen of Lake County’s premium wineries will be pouring their award winning wines at Langtry Estate and Vineyards. Use promo code “4dad” to get $10 off the ticket price. This offer expires on June 10th. Tickets will be available at the door for $35. For complete details or tickets, go to www.lakecountywineries.org/choice
It was less than a year ago when we last visited Mundaka, a small plates restaurant nestled in the heart of downtown Carmel. Since then, the restaurant has continued to thrive and recently celebrated its 5th anniversary!
During our recent stay at The Vendange Carmel Inn and Suites Andy and I were honored to be invited back to Mundaka for dinner to try some new items on the menu, as well as some of our favorites from last time.
Please excuse the photos in this post. They are rather dark as was the room in which we were seated. ;)
We began the meal by ordering the Bravas: Fried potatoes, brava sauce, aioli. It happens to be one of the most classic tapas in Spain, and a must try at Mundaka.
Of course the Bravas were excellent, but I think the Crudo was the first new thing on the menu that caught my eye. When the plate came out, I was surprised to see such a beautiful presentation of multi-colored julienned vegetables: Carrots, Brussels sprouts, beet purée, candied walnuts.
The juxtaposition to the Crudo dish was the Charcuteria! Time to get our fat on! The plate was composed of Serrano ham, Iberico sausages, house cured lomo. Slice upon slice of meaty goodness. And there was more to come!
I guess you could say our main event was the Carne: Hanger steak, truffle fries, free foie butter. The hangar steak was tender and flavorful, and cooked a perfect medium-rare. The fries were the very skinny variety–like matchsticks, if you will–they soaked up the foie butter that had melted onto the plate from the steak.
Next up: A pan fried sole, salad of baby poached potatoes, grapefruit, arugula, saffron vinaigrette. This was probably my least favorite dish of all, but I still liked it, so that’s not much of a complaint. I just felt like the potatoes were a little clunky and didn’t belong on the plate with the fish.
Dessert #1: Huevo: Fried duck egg, crispy Iberico bits, toast. It was such a simple dish, but the quality of the ingredients and the richness of the duck egg combined with the Iberico was very rich and indulgent. Highly recommended as a starter dish or for a grand finalé!
Dessert #2! Again with the eggs, ha! Tortilla: Potato, egg, onion, sea salt.
So maybe we worked backwards, but my one of my favorite foods is egg, so these plates were like dessert to me. If you’re more into sweets and coffee for your finalé, Mundaka has a dessert, coffee, and digestives menu, pictured below:
What to drink? Mundaka serves a “Party Wine” house wine (red blend) poured from a giant bottle for $5 a glass (if you don’t ask what is in the blend). We enjoyed 2 different cavas (one, a rosé) and switched over to the Party Wine later in the meal. (Below is a photo of the bottle of sparkling rosé that Andy ordered and the glass of cava that I ordered).
Mundaka uses organic, local, free-range, line-caught, sustainable, fair-trade ingredients, and DOESN’T use ingredients containing hormones, pesticides, high fructose corn syrup, or anything artificial. That’s so Paleo!
Mundaka is located on San Carlos Street between Ocean and 7th Ave and open daily from 11am-5pm for coffee/lunch/pintxos and open daily at 5:30pm for Tapas/pintxos. You can download a sample menu here. You can find Mundaka on Facebook here. You can make a reservation at Mundaka via Open Table here.
A big thanks to Mundaka for their hospitality during our second visit. Always a delicious and memorable meal! :)
It’s no secret that Andy and I love wine. I mean, that’s how we met. So, when I was invited to stay at the Vendange Carmel Inn & Suites, a beautiful wine-themed inn about a mile from downtown Carmel, I was more than excited to visit.
When we arrived, Andy and I met with one of the Inn’s proprietors, Brian Lee, and he gave us a little background on the property, and the story behind its concept.
He explained that in 2012, he and his brother Jonathan bought the 86 year-old block of lodging with flowered wallpaper and $40 per night rooms. At the time it was called the Carmel Crystal Inn, and was not exactly the type of place travelers would recommend on TripAdvisor.
Brian then told us about coming up with a new name for the property, and how he and his brother remodeled everything they could without ruining the hotel’s historic integrity. As far as what they should call their new venture, Brian had attended UC Davis, (a university well known for its viticultural program) and had a lot of exposure to wine-centric terms during his time there. He also thought about how the number of wine tasting rooms in Carmel had multiplied since his return from college. He figured putting a wine-themed stamp on the new place (especially a local one) would create a solid brand. So, he pulled “Vendange” (a French word meaning “grape harvest) from the wine making lexicon. More specifically, it’s a French word describing late harvest fruit.
Along with the rename, they finished the bathrooms with stone and Spanish marble, gave each room brand new furniture (including one of the most comfortable beds on which I have ever slept), linens, duvets and down pillows. They landscaped the grounds, drained a foul-smelling pond and put in a gorgeous fire pit in its place, and renovated the lobby with fixtures that compliment the hotel’s history and also reflect the family’s love of wine.
The Lee brothers then partnered with local winemakers (beginning with Twisted Roots). The wineries (13 of them now) sponsor themed rooms and suites that reflect their wineries’ personalities and the feel of their winery’s tasting rooms.
“We wanted to do a theme, but we wanted it to be modern and not antiquey, like so many other places in Carmel,” Brian told us, “We live in wine country, so we chose a wine theme. We wanted to work with the wineries because they make very good wines and we support local businesses. It seemed natural to partner with them. It’s a win-win situation: They get the exposure (and references), and we get the theme.”
After learning a little about the history of the Vendange, it was time to check in!
We were a little hungry from our drive (about 3 hours from Sacramento), so Andy and I really enjoyed the wine and cheese reception (5-7pm on weekends in the hotel lobby). There are both white and red wines from which to choose (so you can do a little tasting), and a few cheeses, salami, grapes, nuts and crackers. It was fun to chat with some other people who had also just arrived.
Then it was off to take a look at our home for the next two nights: The Ventana Room:
The Ventana room was decorated handsomely with custom canvas prints, and the winemaker’s story on the room wall. In the living area, there was a Ventana Vineyards wine barrel that had been converted into a custom snack bar, designed to hold Ventana Vineyard branded snacks and wine for sale. There was also a throw on the bed embroidered with the winery’s logo, and the wall had small vines from the vineyard affixed to them.
Here are some scenes from inside the room:
I was impressed to learn about the green features of the hotel including water saving shower heads and insulation made from recycled blue jeans. Also, the gardens on the grounds are on a drip irrigation system.
I can’t say enough about the bed. Not only was the bedding gorgeous, but the mattress was just the right balance between soft and firm. I felt so refreshed when I woke up both mornings. :)
One of my favorite things about the Vendange is the landscaping and the fire pit. Andy and I had a great time sitting outside both evenings after dinner and enjoying a little more wine by the fire. There is live music by the fire pit in the summer.
Here’s what to expect at breakfast time: A spread of fruit, bagels, pastries, granola, yogurt and coffee, and it’s there for guests from 8-10am. If that’s not early enough for you, there’s Carmel Bakery & Coffee Company on Ocean Avenue about a mile away from the hotel (they open at 7am).
The parking lot even has a wine theme, and the lines to indicate the parking spaces are painted a deep purple inside of white. Here’s Andy’s car parked just outside our room.
Wineries that have a room decorated at the Vendange include: Blair, Cima Collina, Dawn’s Dream, Galante, J. Lohr (a Paso Robles winery that sources Monterey County vineyards), Joullian, Manzoni, McInTyre, Otter Cove, Ross’ Place, Tudor, Twisted Roots and Ventana. If you belong to one of the wineries’ wine clubs, you’ll receive 25% off the rate when you stay in their room.
Vendange is conveniently located a short drive away from the Monterey Peninsula Airport, just off of scenic Highway 1, with free parking for guests. They are minutes away from downtown Carmel’s shopping and fine dining, scenic 17-Mile Drive, and the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Vendange Carmel is located at 24815 Carpenter St., Carmel, CA 93923. Telephone 831.624.6400, fax 831.624.5111. Website: www.vendangecarmel.com, email: reservations at vendangecarmel dot com.
Calling all runners…Come join Andy and me for the 16th annual Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon on May 4th, 2014! We’ll be running the half marathon for the third year in a row, and this year, I will be there as a guest of the race director and reporting on the race itself.
I am very excited about this particular race because it’s held very near my hometown, and during the race, I get to run by my college alma mater, Antonelli. I am happy to be coming home to spend time with family (who I have not seen since last year’s Flying Pig), so I am really looking forward to the trip.
As far as any particular goals, I am just hoping to beat my time from last year, and so is Andy. One of the nice things about this race is that you can get a printout of your time pretty much immediately after crossing the finish line. It looks like this:
I can tell you that the course is pretty tough and very hilly. The hills not so much steep as they are long, but there quite a few of them. I’m not trying to scare anyone away with that disclaimer, I just wanted to warn that this is not a PR course. That being said, the race IS not only fun, but it’s one of the most well-organized races I have ever run. And if you used to live in Cincinnati like me, or you live there now, once you see the course, you’ll agree that it is the best tour of the city you’ll ever take on your own two legs. And the spectators come out and support the runners in droves. Cincinnati definitely has the best cheer section I have ever seen. Mile after mile.
Here’s me finishing my first Flying Pig Half Marathon in 2012. It was my first half marathon and one of the happiest moments in my life!
This year Packet Pick-up (bib, timing chip) is at the Millennium Hotel Cincinnati, 150 West 5th Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202, in the Grand Ballroom. You can pick up your t-shirt and other premiums at the Duke Energy Center, across the street from the Millennium.
Here are the hours of the expo: Friday, May 2, 2014, 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, May 3, 2014, 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
All preregistered Half Marathon participants will receive a commemorative moisture-wicking t-shirt, limited edition poster, goodie bag, and a “special gift.” All Half Marathon finishers will receive a finisher’s medal, a mylar blanket, and Finish-area refreshments.
I recently had the privilege of reading a review copy of Janna Marlies Maron’s (pictured above) brand new book How to Manage Depression Without Drugs: 5 Game Plans to Help Me Get My Life Back.
I was eager to read and help promote the book because I feel it ties in directly with the Paleo lifestyle. I mean, I am not even sure ancient man had the time to be depressed. I don’t even think “depression” existed in the context it does today. A Paleolithic man only had 2 real needs as I see it: 1. Getting enough to eat. 2: Not getting eaten by another animal. I wonder how long it took before real emotions came into play. But one thing is for sure. He didn’t take a bunch of antidepressants to kill the pain. He found ways to deal with pain. Naturally.
In the modern world, there are so many little things on which we hang ourselves. We trap ourselves into thinking we need this or that in order to be happy. We compare ourselves to others, and put immense pressure on ourselves to be the first person at such and such restaurant or the first person to have the latest smartphone. The list goes on. I think it’s a dead end to unhappiness.
And I should know about depression, because I suffer from it, too, from time to time. If you know me personally, you have a little bit of a background about me and know the root of some of the sadness, but I also believe that the most highly creative people (again, me) all suffer from some sort of mental defect. Yes, I am a little mentally defective, but I am still a wonderful human being. And I have a happy song.
Wait, what’s a happy song? You’ll have to check it out in Janna’s new book! :)
Speaking of wonderful human beings, that would be Janna, too. I asked her some questions about her new book, and this is what she had to say:
CAVEGRRL: What was the point when you decided you were depressed enough to seek help from a therapist/counselor?
JANNA: I’ve experienced two pretty low points in the past 3 years. One was at the end of 2010 when I had gone through a bankruptcy, I had been laid off from my job, and the church I had been involved with for about 5 years was ending. The second low point was at the end of 2012, about 5-6 months after I was diagnosed with MS. Both times I remember not wanting to do anything except sleep or lay on the couch and binge-watch crappy TV shows like Gossip Girl. Both times I remember having thoughts like, it won’t matter if I don’t get out of bed today. Both times I remember having those thoughts but also knowing in my gut that something was wrong, because it’s not like me to be unmotivated and apathetic. Both times I knew I wanted to change and that I couldn’t do it by myself so I started seeing a therapist.
CAVEGRRL: What made you decide to write the book? (Also: Did I get the whole book, or was it an abbreviated version?)
JANNA: I write because I believe in the power of personal storytelling. I share my story in hope that it will help or inspire at least one person. So I was writing about my personal struggle with depression on my blog, and what I found was that “depression” is the number one search term that sends people to my blog. It made me sad to think that there were so many people searching for help with something that I know from personal experience can be so debilitating. That’s why I decided to write How to Manage Depression Without Drugs. It’s my personal story that is meant to be a concise guide and a quick read (so, yes, you did get the whole book).
CAVEGRRL: Please tell me about a little about MS, and also a little about your bout with shingles. I know both can be provoked by stress.
JANNA: Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. “Autoimmune” means the body’s immune system attacks itself and, in the case of MS, this reaction affects the myelin sheath surrounding the nerves in the brain and spinal chord causing scars, or lesions, where those attacks occur. There are varying degrees of severity and I was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting MS, which means that the disease can be in remission for any length of time with intermittent relapses of attacks when symptoms can flare up.
Regardless of treatment, a person with MS has a compromised immune system and can be susceptible to getting sick easily. I believe this is why I developed shingles. It happened this past November, which was a month when I completely overextended myself. On top of running ThinkHouse Collective with my husband, publishing Under the Gum Tree, my client work and teaching three college classes, I also hosted a huge event for the second anniversary of Under the Gum Tree and took two writing workshops. It was too much, and on Thanksgiving day I found myself in urgent care with these strange blister-like sores all over the left side of my face.
Yes, stress can provoke both MS flare-ups and shingles. But my experience tells me that it’s usually a combination of stress and other factors that cause a physical reaction. The body stores information in the form of memory and cellular energy, and it can only take so much before it reaches a breaking point.
CAVEGRRL: What are the most important things (in your opinion) a person can do to keep themselves happy?
JANNA: I think it all comes down to self-care. And that is probably different for every person. In the chapter on ritual in my ebook I write about how for some reason in our American culture it’s not okay for use to take care of ourself, because it’s seen as selfish or indulgent. But that’s exactly what we need to be healthy—we need to indulge from time to time. So I would say that we each need to figure out what we need to be happy, and take care of our self in that way.
CAVEGRRL: Do you think depression is a choice?
JANNA: I certainly don’t think anyone chooses to be depressed. However, when we find ourself in that place, the choice becomes: do we want to stay there or do we want to change and find our way back to health? I believe health is a choice.
To see an interview of Janna about her upcoming book, you can click on the interview below:
Here’s the list of dates and events for the virtual tour Janna will be doing with her new book:
April 1: Podcast interview with Alejandro Reyes at Successfool.com
April 8: Interview with Susan Herman at edit2yourcredit.com
April 10: Interview with Kristy DeVaney at CaveGrrl.com <—That’s me!!
April 11: Review of the ebook by Danea Horn at ChronicResilience.com
April 14: Review of the ebook by Ronna Detrick
April 15: ”Life-change can be an adventure. Really.” Guest post on Jennifer Snyder’s Journal
April 17: A reading from the ebook at TrueStory in Sacramento, CA
April 18: RELEASE DATE! If you preordered the book, you’ll automatically get your copy & it will be available for the Kindle at Amazon.
Janna’s blog post announcing the book & book tour: CLICK HERE.
Janna’s book page on her site: CLICK HERE.
preorder on itunes: CLICK HERE.
preorder on Barnes & Noble: CLICK HERE.
preorder on Smashwords: CLICK HERE.
Would you like a FREE copy of the book for yourself? Please leave a comment or share this post and email/tweet/facebook me that you did so. Or, if you want to contact me privately here to enter, that’s OK, too. The winner will be emailed directly with a coupon code to download the book or receive the book in their format of choice.
Now go out there and have a HAPPY Thursday! A friend of mine said to me, “There are seven days in a week, and SOMEDAY isn’t one of them.” ;)
So I am pretty sure that the wine event I am promoting today was specifically designed for me. See, Tempranillo is my favorite red varietal, and the most extensive tasting of domestically produced Tempranillos and other Iberian varietal wines, featuring nearly 40 TAPAS member vintners is about to take place at the seventh annual Grand Wine Tasting held at the Golden Gate Club at the Presidio in San Francisco on Sunday, April 27, 2014. I’m in! :)
Trade and consumers will be able to taste Tempranillos, Albariños, Garnachas, Verdelhos, Tourigas, and many other varieties, in a casual walk-around setting where they can chat with the growers and vintners. Explore the diversity of grapes and styles produced across the western United States. Many TAPAS members are limited-production, family-owned wineries and will be pouring small lot wines that are not widely available. Many of the wines will also be available for sale at this event.
This year’s event will highlight Tempranillo’s aging potential with a Kickoff Seminar comparing pairs of Aged and New Tempranillos from the same vintner. See one of the reasons why Tempranillo is the fastest growing variety worldwide!
The event schedule is:
Tickets are $95 and include early admission to the Consumer Tasting.
2:00 – 5:00 p.m. – Consumer Tasting. In conjunction with the walk-around tasting, the TAPAS Wine School (included with admission) will feature these informative consumer-oriented seminars and guided tastings:
Tickets to the Consumer Tasting are $60.
TAPAS President Stuart Spencer noted, “The TAPAS Grand Tasting is a unique opportunity for you to discover, savor and celebrate this treasure chest of exotic and delightfully food-friendly wines. You will gain appreciation for what some visionary winegrowers are doing here on American soil. Don’t miss it!”
About TAPAS: TAPAS started at the 2004 Unified Symposium, when Tempranillo winegrowers from California, Oregon, Washington, Texas and Arizona met for the first time to discuss their avocation. Since that first visionary group pointed the way, the organization has incorporated and grown to over 100 members. The first Grand Wine Tasting was held at Copia in Napa in 2008, and has continued annually since then, as one of many initiatives to promote Tempranillo and other varietal wine grapes native to the Iberian Peninsula and wines produced from them in North America.
To purchase tickets, click here.
Oops. So I haven’t posted anything since last Wednesday, which was also Wine Wednesday. Well, this one comes from my friends at HALL Wines. Their 5th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff is on Sunday, May 18th, and here’s a press release I received to tell you all about it:
The fifth annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff features an all-star line-up of both San Francisco and Napa Valley based Chef teams vying to win a culinary pairing challenge. Bringing together local foodies and wine for a good cause, over 15 chef teams will compete for a local charity as judged by industry judges (including Sacramento’s own food and wine writer Chris Macias) by creating small bite dishes paired with the recently released HALL 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. During the event, guests will be invited to taste farm-to-table dishes from each chef team paired with the wine and vote on their favorite for the People’s Choice Award.
The 2013 HALL Cabernet Cookoff drew more than 480 culinary and wine lovers and raised $30,000 for the top four winning team’s sponsored charities.
5th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff combining a bevy of well-known culinary teams competing in a food/wine pairing challenge. Chef teams participating in the HALL Cabernet Cookoff include:
- Tyler Rodde, Oenotri
- Victoria Acosta, The Grill at Meadowood
- Rodney Worth & Audrey Perrone, The Pear Bistro
- Corrie Beezley, The Farmers Market Pantry
- Christopher Ludwick, Earth’s Bounty Kitchen & Winebar
- Valentina Migotto & Dario De Conti, Ca’ Momi
- Jesse McQuarrie, Feast Catering
- Brian Overhauser, Jamieson Ranch
- Jason Toji & Spencer Weiss, Press
- Will Wright, Bounty Hunter Smokin BBQ
- Nenad Stefanovic, Intercontinental Mark Hopkins
- Kara Lind, Kara’s Cupcakes
- Mark Dommen, One Market Restaurant
- Alex Marsh, Yankee Pier Larkspur
- Daniel Capra, Paula Le Duc Catering
WHEN: Sunday, May 18, 2014, from 11:00am – 2:00pm PST
WHERE: HALL Wines, St. Helena: 401 St. Helena Hwy. South St. Helena, CA 94574. For more information, please visit www.hallwines.com/cabernetcookoff or via social channels using #cabernetcookoff. To purchase tickets to the event, please visit CellarPass.
And just in time for the warmer temperatures outside, today’s featured wine happens to be from Portugal. It is a lovely, simple, and fruitfully delicious rosé of Aragoñes, Syrah, and Touriga Nacional called Alandra. (Alcohol 13.5%) It’s strawberry-scented and floral.
Last night I enjoyed it with some sauerkraut and sausages, though the best pairing could be possibly be found this spring/summer with food in your picnic basket (meats & cheeses). The screw-top makes this wine convenient for on-the-go. And upon learning the price, I’ll be on-the-go to stock my wine refrigerator! It retails for just $6.99. To find out where you can purchase this wine, contact northamerica(at)esporao(dot)com. Also, my quick internet shopping yielded these results (click here).
If you represent a winery and would like to be featured in a wine/food pairing on my website, please contact me here.
First of all, a big thanks to Holman Ranch for sending me six bottles of great wine to taste and give feedback to all of my readers. Not all wineries are quite that generous, and you make this particular writer feel appreciated for what I do. :)
Now, onto the reviews! :)
I also made a dinner to pair with the wines: Pork and beef meatloaf wrapped in bacon (with a mushroom and shallot sauce), hasselback potatoes, and roasted Brussels sprouts.
The first wine we opened was the 2011 Estate Grown Heather’s Hill Pinot Noir.
The 2011 Estate Grown Heather’s Hill was the best wine to have with food. It’s lighter in color (ruby) and very tight/tart at first. It has lots of aging capability, as it even opens up in a 20 minute time frame. This wine is not as delicate as most Pinot Noirs I have tasted, but it’s got some good characteristics that will make this wine finer as it ages.
The second wine we tasted was the 2010 Estate Grown Pinot Noir. This wine was Andy’s favorite. It is aged for 12 months in French oak.
It’s lower in alcohol, smokier on the nose and palate, and just a little more… Pinot-y. It was a great wine to me because it was a little more quaffable without food, but was also a great pairing with our meal. The mushroom sauce (we had on top of the meatloaf) and this wine are a great match.
Our final wine of the evening (and my favorite) was the 2010 Hunter’s Cuvee Pinot Noir.
This wine was my favorite! I could drink it with or without food. It’s earthy/leathery, but lots of fruitiness as well. It’s the highest in alcohol of all three wines we tried, so no wonder I like it best. Hmmm…
To make the meatloaf, I blended 1 part grass fed ground beef and 1 part ground pork. I seasoned the meat with garlic infused alderwood salt, added two eggs, one 1/2 cup of almond flour, 1 Tbs crushed garlic, and 2 Tbs Bragg’s liquid aminos. Then I wrapped the loaf in slices of bacon and baked it at 400°F until the bacon showed signs it was getting crispy. Test the loaf with a meat thermometer and don’t let it get past 125°-130°F, or you’re gonna be hosed and you might as well use that loaf as a door stop or paperweight. Take the loaf out of the oven just BEFORE or as you reach that temperature range, and it will be perfect.
I topped the finished loaf with a mushroom sauce (for the Pinot Noir pairing, naturally). The sauce was made of shallots, mushroom, white wine, butter, garlic. No recipe there, I just wing it.
If you represent a winery and would like to be featured in a wine/food pairing on my website, please contact me here.
SACRAMENTO – As food and wine pairings continue to rise in popularity, the farm-to-fork capital is offering a different kind of pairing: food and film. The 3rd Annual Sacramento Food Film Festival will take place March 20-30 and will include food, wine and beer pairings with seven films about food. Festival proceeds will benefit California Food Literacy Center, a Sacramento nonprofit providing food literacy education to local low-income children.
“This is a chance for guests to soak up the amazing food and drinks that Sacramento has to offer while also feeding their minds,” said Catherine Enfield, festival founder and food writer.
Movies and Venues:
Ten 22, March 20
The festival’s red carpet premier at Ten22 on March 20 features appetizers, drinks and screening of the award-winning movie, “Spinning Plates.” Cost is $40.
Sterling Hotel, March 22
On March 22, the festival continues at the Sterling Hotel, featuring a sneak preview of the highly anticipated, new Ruhstaller Nugget hop beer, bites from Adam Pechal and screening of “Beer Wars.” Cost is $30.
Lucca, March 25
“Bottle Shock” will be screened at Lucca on March 25 and will include a four-course dinner based on the film. Cost is $40, and $50 if including a wine pairing.
The Guild Theater, March 26
On March 26 the “Cafeteria Man” will be shown at The Guild Theater and will include appetizers, an appearance from the film’s star, Tony Geraci and a panel discussion with local leaders in food literacy education.
Clunie Center at McKinley Park, March 28
Selland’s will offer a family spaghetti dinner on March 28 and screening of “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” at McKinley Park’s Clunie Center. Cost is $15 for children, $25 for adults.
The Guild Theater, March 29
The Guild Theater will screen “The Slow Food Story” for free on March 29.
Sunh Fish, March 30
The festival wraps up on March 30 with a sushi and uni tasting by Billy Ngo from Kru, and Q & A with the film’s producer, Alexander Finden, at Sunh Fish and screening of “Sweet, Sexy Ocean.” Cost is $35.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.sacfoodfilmfest.com.
“We are proud to be the beneficiary of such a creative event that not only gives people the opportunity to enjoy the amazing food of the Sacramento region, but also helps spread food literacy through the creative medium of film,” said Amber Stott, founding executive director, California Food Literacy. “We look forward to good food and good conversations.”
California Food Literacy Center was established in July 2011 to educate and inspire low-income children to eat healthy food. Students learn fruit and vegetable appreciation, how to read nutrition labels, basic cooking skills and environmental impacts of their food choices. The nonprofit also runs the Food Literacy Academy, which trains community members as food literacy teachers. To date, the nonprofit has 60 active volunteers and serves 2,400 kids annually. After just three months of food literacy education, 70 percent of students request the foods they have tasted in class, including broccoli, celery and oranges. Ninety-two percent of K-1st grade students say healthy food tastes good, and 88 percent of children understand how to read a nutrition label. To make a donation: www.californiafoodliteracy.org.
I don’t own a television. Instead, I subscribe to a service that allows me to watch my favorite TV programs (slightly after they have aired). Completely fascinated with food shows, of course Hell’s Kitchen, Masterchef, Top Chef, etc, are all on my watch list. But, there’s another program I have watched every season since its debut, and that is The Biggest Loser.
The Biggest Loser. I am a fan of the show for so many reasons, (although I do have some minor complaints about it). I have seen so many people transform themselves over the years. Much like I did in my mid twenties when I started exercising and began a more healthy eating regimen.
Well this season (season 15) of The Biggest Loser really had my attention most, and I am not sure why. Maybe it was all the people who ended up being “cast” on the show. Maybe it was the theme this season “Second Chances”. Whatever it was, I was enthralled and couldn’t wait until the next episode. I felt for so many of the contestants. I know all about emotional eating… I used to yo-yo 30 pounds back and forth.
This season, I watched pretty openly, happy to see all of the contestants progress. I really didn’t pick anyone to win or have a “favorite”. I was touched by many of their stories and backgrounds. Everyone deserves a second chance. Period.
When I heard David Brown tell his “story” during this season’s The Biggest Loser, I was almost uncomfortably sad, as I am sure any of you that watch the show were as well. The tragedy of being a widower (and father of two daughters) as a young adult, led to his weight gain as an adult.
At 409 pounds, David Brown was given a second chance and a place on The Biggest Loser ranch. During the time on the ranch and the time before the show’s season finale, David lost an amazing 222 pounds (more than 54% of his body weight).
As anyone who watches The Biggest Loser can attest (especially if they are female ;)), David had the most dramatic makeover (probably in the show’s history)…I’d be lying if I said my jaw did not drop after “makeover week” (WOW) and that I didn’t shed tears for him AND his family’s reaction to is new self. (Brown remarried in 2004 and now has three daughters.) DAMN YOU, MAKEOVER WEEK, making me so emotional!! ;)
To be honest, I didn’t see David coming in on the final path to win, and I am not sure if he did either–but he did something amazing which for so many people is still the hardest thing to do… He took the first step on that path to wellness and weight loss, which David refers to as the “winning step”. Then week by week, he transformed himself. And then took second place in The Biggest Loser triathlon.
After a 222 pound weight loss, and 2.2 million steps logged, he comes to the Sacramento area to tell the story of his journey and as a witness of God. He’ll be at Oak Hills Church in Folsom, CA this Monday, March 10th from 6:30 to 8:00pm.
The venue’s address is 1100 Blue Ravine Rd, Folsom CA. Tickets are $10 each or $15 per couple. Dinner is included if you pre-register. To pre-register, please contact Kory Lewis. The email is kory dot lewis at bayside online dot com. Hope to see you there!!
Have you ever heard of Rooster Potatoes? If you haven’t don’t feel bad. Neither had I.
This all-purpose potato is farmed right here in the US in Edison, California! It starts pink, but bakes golden brown with a light yellow fluffy flesh. You can bake it, boil it, mash it, roast it or fry it.
I was sent a bag of Rooster Potatoes to try, and I came up with this recipe (which was originally enjoyed on Superbowl Sunday as part of a giant buffet with other Mexican/Latin American type dishes). You can also make this recipe with any other variety of potato, and sweet potatoes are especially interesting with this spice combination.
1 Kg (2.2 pounds) bag of Rooster potatoes
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs adobo seasoning
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried parsley
Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a cookie sheet or baking dish with olive oil spray or lightly coat it with olive oil. Cut potatoes into 1 1/2″ inch cubes or bite size pieces. Place potatoes in a medium-sized bowl and then set aside. Combine the adobo seasoning, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, garlic powder and dried parsley in a small bowl. Then, drizzle 2 Tbs olive oil (use less or more to your taste/preference) over the potatoes and then sprinkle the seasoning blend over the potatoes to coat them. Place potatoes on the baking sheet. Check on them 15 minutes in and turn them with a spatula to brown evenly. Bake until golden brown.
For other recipe ideas, you can visit the Rooster Potatoes website here.
Lately, I have been very selective in the events I attend and the restaurants, products, services, et cetera I choose to promote, but last week when I was invited to attend the monthly wine dinner held at Dawson’s at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Sacramento, I jumped at the opportunity.
For a while now, Dawson’s has been one of the most underrated restaurants in town. Andy and I had attended a few of the Dawson’s wine dinners last year and found them to be quite economical (despite a $79 per person price which might seem like a lot of money to spend on a Thursday night). The value is to be found in the quality and amount of the food (4 courses with wine pairings), the wine featured (always a higher-end label) and the service (look for Ardy and tip him well–he’s terrific). Dawson’s even offers free valet parking to wine dinner guests upon arrival. I am not sure you can get a better deal anywhere else.
Before dinner, we were treated to a charcuterie, cheese, fruit, and sparkling wine reception. Andy and I were then introduced to the chef (Jason Poole) and the wine representative (LT Nedjar) Mr. Nedjar was there representing the label featured that night: Goldschmidt Vineyards. Follwing our introduction, both gentlemen returned to going over the menu and the wines one last time to make sure the experience would be seamless for the dinner guests.
Upon seating, we were presented with the menu. Typically, the menu and the pairings get published online and via an email blast before the dinner. I love the email blasts because I can sit at my desk at work and daydream about what I am going to eat that evening! ;) Below is the menu from Thursday night’s dinner:
Just before our seating, the sous chef Michael Grande walked us through the menu. Both times I have seen Chef Grande, he has been so enthusiastic about the wine dinner’s course line-up and his excitement is contagious. :) Soon, we were invited into the dining room for the meal to begin.
The first course of the evening was a Hamachi Crudo with baby coconut, Rising C Ranch Melogold Grapefruit, Blood Orange and Avocado Oil, Yuzu Emulsion, and it was paired with the Boulder Bank (a label owned by Goldschmidt) Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2011. The acidity and fats in the dish balanced very well with the Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand-style, high acidity, though not a complete grapefruit bomb. I was actually reminded more of canned peaches, as the wine was a touch sweet.) Still, it was a perfect compliment to the hamachi and the fruit essences in the dish.
The second course was a Coke Farms Baby Beet Caprese Salad with house-made mozzarella (yes!!), an herb salad, morel ash, and finished with double Solera Vinegar. It was paired with the Chelsea Goldschmidt Merlot, Dry Creek Valley 2011. We were told that the grapes that go into this particular merlot are literally on the front of the property at the winemaker’s residence, so they get extra attention. My only complaint about this course was that I wish I had been served a little more of it. :) The cheese had the wonderful elasticity that fresh mozzarella has, with just a hint of salt. The beets were earthy and al dente. The merlot was a delightful pairing for this course.
And then the third course happened. And I was officially wowed. It was a Cranberry Bean Cassoulet with a Confit Duck (leg), house-made boudin blanc, Tails and Trotters Pork Belly, and County Line Farms Baby Mustards. It was paired with two different wines to highlight the different proteins and flavor profiles in the bowl. The first wine was the Forefathers Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2009, and the second wine was the Hillary Goldschmidt Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville 2011. The last time I had duck as part of an entrée was back in the fall at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. It was a grilled breast and braised leg served with roasted wine grapes. As memorable as the main course was at Chez Panisse, I will say without hesitation that the cassoulet at Dawson’s was the better dish. I am still thinking about the slice of crispy pork belly that topped the cassoulet at Dawson’s. For me, it was the best bite of food of the night, and I will be daydreaming about the cassoulet for a long time to come! I could have used an extra slice of that salty, rich pork belly instead of the sausage that was nestled underneath the duck. I am not sure how the dish was intended to eat, but I enjoyed its components one at a time. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but everything tasted oh so right! ;)
Ultimately, to me, the food was more remarkable than the wine (sorry, Goldschmidt!), but there are some really great things going on in the kitchen at Dawson’s. However, the wine made a terrific impression with Andy, as he purchased a case of Cabernet that evening before we left.
But before our exit, we were served coffee and one last course, the dessert. Usually, there is a dessert wine presented at the Dawson’s wine dinner, but this time it was suggested we save a little of the Forefathers Cabernet to pair with our dessert. The dessert was a Dark Fruit Consommé (interesting concept there!) with a Crispy Hazelnut Cake, Dark Chocolate Pave, and Toasted Fennel Oil.
I loved the texture of the cake–it was spongey and soaked up the fruit consommé’s vibrant flavor. The chocolate on top served as a ganache-type frosting. It was a well-executed part of the meal and a memorable finish.
About the winemaker: Nick Goldschmidt, originally from New Zealand, gained international notoriety as winemaker at Simi Winery. Since 2007 he has been a consulting winemaker for several premium brands around the world, and is very well known for his single vineyard, handcrafted, small production artisanal wines that consistently score in the 90s in most wine publications. In fact, all his wines are 100% single variety, 100% single vintage, 100% single vineyard. You can find more information on their website here, or find them on Facebook here.
Dawson’s wine dinners are held every third Thursday of the month and have featured labels such as Alpha Omega, Far Niente/Nickel & Nickel, Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Hall Vineyards, Palmaz Vineyards, and Rodney Strong.
Tip: Check into Dawson’s using your smartphone and receive special perks for being a loyal customer. A free glass of select draft beer using Foursquare or a free glass of select wines using Yelp!
Back in Napa again at last and a return to one of our favorite places to stay: The Meritage Resort. By the way, at the end of this column, read about the inaugural Masters and Makers @ Meritage event being held at The Meritage Resort in February over Valentine’s Weekend. Attention couples, a great way to celebrate!
Here’s the lobby at The Meritage, and a shot of the room in which we stayed.
After checking into our room, we had a glass of wine to kick off a romantic evening. I was so excited to return to the Napa Valley Wine Train for dinner, and this time I was able to bring Andy as my guest. I originally wrote about The Wine Train on my other website: cakegrrl.com. You can read the entry by clicking here. :)
The Wine Train Depot is located at 1275 McKinstry Street in the Oxbow district, just 5 minutes from downtown Napa on foot.
This is a diagram of the wine train. The Napa Valley Wine Train consists of nine rail cars and two engines on point: Lounge Cars (3), Lounge Car with Wine Tasting Bar (1), Gourmet Express Dining Cars (2), Silverado Car Al-Fresco Style Dining(1), Vista Dome Dining Car (1), Power Car (1), Chef de Cuisine Kitchen Car with Glass Observation Corridor (1)
Andy and I were assigned to the beautiful Vista Dome.
The Vista Dome is a 1952 Pullman domed rail car that offers the most private dining experience. The Vista Dome Car is an elevated observation style dining car expertly refurbished using Honduran Mahogany paneling and brass accents. Perfect for a private function or one of our special events, this domed rail car hosts up to 56 dining guests.
Above is a picture taken inside the Vista Dome! I was feeling so spoiled and lucky to be sitting beside Andy. :) Especially when the server brought out the welcome glass of Chandon. All guests on the wine train get a glass of sparkling wine included with their dinner.
Corkage on the Napa Valley Wine Train is $15.00 per 750ml bottle and $30 for a Magnum sized bottle. If you bring one bottle of wine on board and buy a bottle
on board, they will waive the corkage for that bottle. FYI, most of the wines on the Wine Train menu are very reasonably priced.
Here’s a picture the dinner menu we chose from. It is slightly different from the other dining car. Executive Chef Kelly Macdonald offers a unique menu for this dining option with all selections prepared in the kitchen located on the first floor of this car. The meals are freshly prepared on the train using fresh, environmentally responsible ingredients, humanely raised, hormone free meats and fresh, line caught fish. For a closer look, you can click here.
For our appetizers, Andy went with the Salmon Crepe and I chose the Rabbit Confit. The lighting in the Vista Dome was dim, but I did not want to use a flash, so please forgive the photos I took of our meal. They are slightly dark.
The Salmon Crepe is served with Crème Fraîche, American Caviar and Honey Onion Marmalade.
It was a shrimp and seafood bisque, and though we have been experiencing warmer than normal temperatures this winter, the temperature had dropped enough by the time we boarded the train to appreciate a delicious soup. :)
The salad was not for dieters. ;) It was a Red and Green Apple Endive Salad with Gorgonzola Cheese, Hazelnuts and Mustard Vinaigrette. I was happy because I am on a real hazelnut kick right now and have been for a while.
After our second course, a sorbet trio was brought out. I forgot to snap a photo of it. The flavors were mango, pineapple, and mixed berry. They are made by the chefs at the Wine Train and were a wonderful intermezzo.
Then it was time for the entrees. Andy and I both chose the Roasted Beef Tenderloin on Potato‐Fennel Gratin topped with Fried Lotus Root and Red Onion Marmalade in a Red Wine Cabernet Reduction. I had reviewed the menu ahead of time and chosen my entrée and that is mainly why Andy brought the Bell Cabernet. The wine pairing was excellent. And though I gave a little bit of my beef portion to Andy to finish, it was all so good I had nothing left on my plate.
It was quite the adventure walking from car to car and fun to catch some fresh air between courses. It sort of felt like we were in a James Bond movie! After that, we were re-seated to enjoy our desserts, as well as a glass of port that Andy and I shared.
Below is a picture of the dessert I chose, a Chocolate “Pot Pie” and below that, Andy’s dessert: a Blondie with Mint Ice Cream. This job is so tough, isn’t it? In typical fashion, I had a few bites and then shoved my dessert over to Andy, who did not object to finishing it. I was eying the blondie on his plate and asked for the chocolate-dipped edge. He gladly shared with me. I love eating meals with my best friend. :)
Wine Train FAQs I found particularly interesting:
Q: Is a tip included in the price?
A: Optional tipping is solely based upon the guests’ experience on board. It is not unusual for guest to leave 3%-8% additional based upon receiving excellent service. Your tip should be on your food and beverage service (the value of your on board pre-paid meal is $55.00) per person tax included, and not the train fare.
- Q: Is Wine Included?
A: One glass of welcome wine is included with every Wine Train package for guests who are over the age of 21. Wines are included during the Vintner’s Lunches and the monthly Moonlight Escape Dinners. Cocktails, beers and wine can be purchased on board throughout your journey. More than 100 wines are on the wine list and in the Wine Tasting Car.
- Q: Do you have to drink wine on the Napa Valley Wine Train?
A: No, you do not have to drink wine on board the Napa Valley Wine Train. For our guests who do not want to drink wine, we also offer juice, soda, non-alcoholic wines, beers, cocktails and brandies.
During the 3-hour-long, 36-mile (58 km) round-trip between Napa and St. Helena, passengers can choose to enjoy a gourmet meal prepared on board. They can also sample several of the region’s wines available at the wine bar located in one of the lounge cars. The train offers optional stops for tours of Domaine Chandon Winery in Yountville, Grgich Hills Estate in Rutherford, and a motor coach tour of Raymond Winery in St. Helena and ZD Winery in Napa for an additional fee. The train hosts several special events throughout the year including murder mystery dinner theater, vintner’s luncheons, appellation dinners and holiday excursions. Guests are invited to explore the rest of the train after the entree and prior to the dessert.
The Napa Valley Wine Train has been in operation since September 16, 1989 and has now carried more than 2 million passengers.
Here’s a list of special events on The Wine Train, including a special Valentine’s lunch and dinner.
Since I was a return guest, I was presented with some chocolates as a parting gift. (Some guests around us were repeat customers and also got chocolates as well, not just the journalist!) Since I was a little sad my mom (who lives in Ohio) was not there to enjoy this experience with us, I decided to send them to her and they are currently en route to the midwest. :)
The next morning, it was time to pay for all those glorious calories and the night of indulgence aboard the Wine Train. :) Lucky for me, The Meritage Resort has a killer gym with a great view. And I put in over an hour on this bad boy:
Then it was time for a well needed shower, just in time for check out. Thanks for everything to the staff at The Meritage Resort and see you next time!
The Meritage Resort and Spa will host the inaugural Masters and Makers @ Meritage Napa Valley food and wine experience February 14 to February 16, 2014. This celebration will showcase Napa Valley and Sonoma County wines and farm-fresh foods through creative wine tasting experiences, seminars, culinary classes, a wine maker dinner in the Estate Cave, a wine tasting gala and more. Join The Meritage Resort’s Executive Chef, Krisztian Karkus, Master Sommeliers, including Gillian Balance from Treasury Wine Estates/Beringer and Fred Dame with Southern Wine and Spirits as well as some of the best and most well-known wine makers in the region.
The weekend of events is aimed at teaching each attendee, no matter their wine tasting background, from novice to aficionado, more about the wines the Napa Valley is famous for. Guests are able to choose from a variety of educational and fun activities throughout three days of tastings and events with master wine makers and master sommeliers making this the wine event that is not to be missed.
Masters and Makers @ Meritage begins Friday, February 14 with The Master and The Makers Tasting, an Amuse Bouche set to highlight five quintessential blended wines from the Napa Valley. Guests will taste the wines and listen as a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier taste and review each of the wines, giving their opinions and helping guests understand the art of wine tasting. The Friday night Reserve Wine Dinner in the Estate Cave will be led by Master Sommeliers as they take attendees on a food and wine journey and featuring Pine Ridge Vineyards.
On Saturday, guests are able to choose from one of three activities during the day and attend the evening wine tasting gala. The daytime activities include a Custom Wine Tour set to visit three classic Napa Valley wineries with tours and tastings at each, plus a picnic lunch. The Perfect Blending, an educational and hands-on course about what makes the perfect Bordeaux Blend including lunch and your own “Meritage Blend” with a custom wine label. Foodies may want to choose Cook to This! Trinitas Cellars Cooking Class and Wine Pairing, giving attendees the opportunity to create their own multi-course lunch with the help of culinary experts perfectly paired with wines selected by Trinitas Cellars.
The Gala and Grand Tasting on Saturday evening will transform The Grand Ballroom at The Meritage Resort into a majestic tasting room with live music and over 65 wineries from Napa Valley and Sonoma County to showcase many of the finest wines produced in the region. Alongside the wines will be endless culinary creations from the chefs at The Meritage Resort including a selection of seafood, caviars, cheeses, meats and decadent desserts.
Masters and Makers @ Meritage will close on Sunday with the farewell Bubbles & Brunch and a casual afternoon of tasting 30-40 wines at the Appellation Tasting paired with cheeses and charcuterie.
“We’re looking forward to bringing all of the premier wineries to one convenient spot to offer a premiere wine and food experience,” said Michael Palmer, general manager of The Meritage Resort and Spa. “Our goal with the Masters and Makers @ Meritage is to give attendees an exclusive weekend wine and food experience that only Napa Valley can provide.
Masters and Makers @ Meritage 3-Day All Access Passes are $509 per person, and include entry into all events on Friday, two events on Saturday (one daytime event and the evening gala) and all events on Sunday. Guests may also choose to purchase events and activities individually. Discounted room packages are also available, the $950 package includes a 3-Day All Access Passes for two and a two night stay, valid February 14-16, 2014 only. A portion of all ticket sales from The Gala and Grand Tasting will be donated to the Napa Valley’s COPE Family Center. Complete Information is available at TheMeritageResort.com/Napa-Valley-Restaurants/Masters-Makers/.
About The Meritage Resort and Spa
The Meritage Resort and Spa is an extraordinary four-diamond Napa Valley luxury resort set against a hillside vineyard. A destination unto itself, it features 322 Tuscan-inspired guestrooms and luxury suites, seasonal farm-to-table cuisine at the Siena Restaurant and wine tasting in the Estate Cave featuring Trinitas Cellars. Regain a healthful balance with curative treatments at Spa Terra—a lavish underground spa with steam grottoes, soaking pools, treatment alcoves and tranquil walls of water. The resort boasts the most comprehensive event and meeting space in the wine country, including the two largest ballrooms in the Napa Valley, the Estate Cave and three covered terraces. Crush Ultra Lounge offers guests a chance to relax with a full bar, sports entertainment and six bowling lanes. Far more than a place for relaxation, our unique property is an Old World escape from the ordinary. The Meritage Resort and Spa experience is the perfect blend of gracious hospitality, unrivaled amenities and peerless personal care. The Meritage Resort and Spa, We are Napa. TheMeritageResort.com.
Having a ham on the table during a holiday gathering is pretty much a tradition in my family. Especially on Christmas Eve. They are great on their own, with a side of mustard, or my favorite is leftover ham chopped into cubes and reheated in a saute with onion and kale or chard and some dried cranberries. In this blog however, I developed a recipe to make the ham the star of the show. It’s got all the wonderful herbs present in a holiday meal, with orange and zest that compliment the ham’s saltiness.
A big thanks to Whole Foods Market for allowing me to try one of their delicious holiday products, a ham from Wellshire Farms. I ended up with a (half) traditional boneless ham. I liked this ham because I was able to create my own recipe to heat the ham, as well as carve to my liking. (I liked. A LOT). ;)
Preheat oven to 325°. To reheat your ham, I recommend using a roasting pan with a rack, one with a bottom that you can pour some water in to help the ham retail moisture while it reheats. A meat thermometer is a pretty good thing to have as well. (Tip: A 4-pound boneless ham will serve about 12 people, and this marinade will be enough for that size).
4 Tbs fresh rosemary
2 Tbs fresh sage
2 Tbs toasted fennel seed
2 Tbs chopped garlic
2 Tbs orange zest
1 Tbs black pepper
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup olive oil
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until completely blended (mixture will be a pretty bright green). Paint the ham with the mixture using a BBQ brush. (You can also pour it over or use your hands, but a brush will coat the ham nicely. Set aside while you prepare your side dishes.
Cover the ham with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Bake until the internal temperature reaches 140° (Allow 7-8 minutes per pound). Remove the foil and place the oven on broil. Leave in for 2 minutes. This will give the top of the ham a nice finish.
Here is a link with videos to Wellshire Farms entire line of hams.
Wellshire Ham Details (traditional boneless ham)
60% less fat
No preservatives and no antibiotics
Free of nitrates, no artificial ingredients or preservatives!
The natural wood smoke and rich tasting ham make a savory combination.
You can get creative with your own unique glaze.
Ham lays flat for ease of cooking and carving.
(This ham is wrapped in clear packaging, other varieties of Wellshire Hams are wrapped in red, gold, and silver foil).
To save yourself time, you can order your ham online by heading to Whole Foods Market’s online shopping cart here.
The other dishes in the photo above will be forthcoming over the next week (hopefully): Pommes Anna and a wilted spinach & kale, chestnut, & cherry salad with roasted shallots. Happy holidays!
OK, sometimes I trick people into eating Primal/Paleo. Such is the case when I am invited to or Andy and I throw potluck-type parties. And this was the case last Saturday. Being Paleo/Primal at a party can be as scary as Halloween itself! :)
So here’s the great salad (I have named the FALL-iday/Holiday Salad!) brought that served both as a conversation piece, and the main part of dinner for Andy and myself. :) You can use the ingredients below in pretty much any ratio you want––I’ll just give you the framework of what I used. And don’t miss out on the dressing. It really makes the dish!
16 oz container of Organic Girl Arugula (you can also use a little spinach or spring mix if you’d like, but I think arugula tastes the best in this particular salad).
4 medium-sized fuyu persimmons, cubed
Arils of 1 pomegranate
4-6 slices of bacon (thick-cut, Applewood smoked)
1 cup toasted. skinned, and chopped hazelnuts
2-3 ozs. parmesan cheese–shaved…not the POWDERED kind for crying out loud ;)
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, or in my case, a catering pan if you are taking the salad to a large party. :)
1 part lemon juice
2 parts grapefruit juice
3 parts extra virgin olive oil
2 parts honey
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp crushed ginger
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until well incorporated. Dress the salad and serve. If you are transporting the salad to an event like I did, wait until you arrive at the event to dress the salad.
Hey you! Yes, I’m talking to you. You’re the one who bought the institution-sized bag of Halloween candy “for the neighborhood kids”… Like, back sometime near Labor Day. Yes, and I know you put it away in the pantry for safe keeping. Hmmm, but somehow it seems to have all disappeared.
I’m not going to judge you. I like treats myself. The only difference is that I would never buy name brand candy. When I reward myself with a treat, I prefer to know what’s actually in it, and I prefer it to be non-poisonous. I used to really dig Reese ‘s Peanut Butter Cups until I found out how much sugar and other crap are in them…and that they are GMO–Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, nonfat milk, milk fat, corn syrup solids, soy lecithin, PGPR) peanuts, sugar, dextrose, salt, TBHQ. Thus, making them COMPLETELY un-Paleo friendly.
So now I compromise with hazelnut butter cups. You’ve heard of Nutella, right? Well this is about the same thing with way less sugar and all the flavor.
Thanks to Nugget Market for supplying the ingredients.
2 cups toasted organic hazelnuts (skins removed)
2 Tbs raw honey
2 Tbs organic coconut oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor and grind until the mixture becomes a paste. Set aside.
16 oz box E. Guittard Bittersweet Chocolate 72% Cacao Disc Wafers (Melted)
You’ll also need mini cupcake liners, a mini cupcake pan, and some non-stick cooking spray.
1. Place the liners in the pan and spray them with some non-stick cooking spray.
2. Then pour the melted chocolate in the liners until filled 1/3 full.
3. Take a small spoonful of the hazelnut butter mixture and form in into a small ball.
4. Drop it into the 1/3 full liner of chocolate. Repeat for each candy.
5. Set the pan in the freezer for 5 minutes to set the chocolate and filling.
6. When filling is set, cover the rest of each candy with more melted chocolate. Repeat for each candy.
7. Return the pan to the freezer to set all the hazelnut butter cups.
Here’s what they look like when you cut them open! :) Happy Halloween, friends!! :)
You can find all the ingredients in this recipe at Nugget Market.
You can find Nugget Market on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here!
Last Saturday, Andy and I went to a Halloween party and I took these potatoes. They were inspired by a dip that Andy buys for us (occasionally as a treat) at Taylor’s Market. The dip/spread is called Walnut Basil and Blue Cheese Spread, and it’s rather addictive. I thought I would take the same flavor components and make them into bite-size little party treats. It was a big deal that I make a good culinary impression at this party, and I knew these would be well received. PS: They were all gone within a half an hour! :)
2 pounds red, blue, & yellow mini potatoes–if you can’t find these, red ones will do.
1 jar 365 (Whole Foods private label) Pesto Sauce
1/4 cup So Delicious Coconut Milk (or sour cream)
1/2 cup Crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
salt/cracked pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F and slice the potatoes into bite sized pieces. Generously oil a baking sheet and place the chopped potatoes it. Drizzle some oil over the potatoes (how much you use is up to you). Bake the potatoes until they are golden and crispy. Set aside while you prepare the pesto and blue cheese mixture.
For the blue cheese/pesto mixture, combine the pesto and the blue cheese in a bowl large enough to eventually hold the potatoes, too) and mix together with the back of a spoon, add the coconut milk (you can also use sour cream) to thin the mixture so that you can easily spread it on the potatoes.
Then add the potatoes in the bowl with the pesto/blue cheese mixture, and fold them in until the potatoes are well covered. Then place the potatoes back on to their original baking sheet and turn the oven on to the broil setting.
Broil the potatoes until the pesto and blue cheese mixture forms a crust and they look browned/crispy.
Go forth and be the hit of your party!! :)