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Come Fly with Me at the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon & Half Marathon!

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.

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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:

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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!

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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.

The 16th annual Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon weekend powered by P&G will be May 2-4, 2014. Follow the Marathon on Twitter @runflyingpig and ‘like’ their page on Facebook. Hope to see you there! :)


How to Manage Depression Without Drugs: That’s So Paleo!

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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.

Additional links:
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.” ;)


Wine Wednesday: Don’t Miss TAPAS Grand Wine Tasting, April 27th, 2014

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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:

12:00 Noon – 1:30 p.m.  – “Aged Tempranillos”  This one-of-a-kind seminar will feature pioneer vintners pulling aged Tempranillos from their cellars to pair with their current release wines.  Compare mature and young Tempranillo wines and taste how the world’s fastest growing variety mellows with age to become civilized and refined. The session will be moderated by Stuart Spencer, owner and winemaker of St.Amant Winery and President of TAPAS.

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:

Garnacha/Grenache: A great European wine grape which produces world class wines.  Taste an exciting selection of Garnacha wines vinified by premier American wine producers specializing in Iberian grape varietal wines made in the USA. Vino dulce: Taste rare dessert wines crafted by top American winemakers in a variety of styles.

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.

You can find TAPAS on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.


Wine Wednesday: 5th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff Takes Place Sunday, May 18, 2014

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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:

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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.


Wine Wednesday: Esporão 2012 Alandra Rosé

 

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Did you know Portugal ranks 6th in terms of per capita wine consumption in the world?  According to The Wine Institute, the Portuguese drink 42.2 liters of wine per person each year.

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).

To learn more about Esporão Wines, you can follow them on twitter here or find them on Facebook here.

If you represent a winery and would like to be featured in a wine/food pairing on my website, please contact me here.


The Third Annual Sacramento Food Film Festival is March 20-30

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Happy Saturday! I’m just passing along this press release to all of you… looks great and the California Food Literacy Center is this year’s beneficiary!
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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.


David Brown, The Biggest Loser Contestant, Speaks in Sacramento Area, Monday, March 10th

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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!!

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Latin-Spiced Rooster Potatoes

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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.

Ingredients:
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.

You can find Albert Bartlett on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.


Dawson’s at the Hyatt Regency’s Monthly Wine Dinner Featuring Goldschmidt Vineyards

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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! ;)

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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.

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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!

Dawson’s is now one of only two Sacramento restaurants to carry the prestigious AAA four diamond designation.

You can follow Dawson’s on twitter @DineDawsons and find them on Facebook here.


An Evening in Napa: Dinner Aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train and a Stay at The Meritage Resort

And we’re back! Happy 2014! Andy and I took a little overnight trip to Napa a few weeks ago, sponsored by The Napa Valley Wine Train and The Meritage Resort. What a way to kick off the new year.

Us
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.

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Guest-room-final
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.

boarding ticket

TrainDiagram2013This 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.

inside vista dome
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.

chandon
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.

Andy brought a bottle of 2010 Bell Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon to share with our dinner. You can read more about the wine as well as buy it here. We highly
recommend!

bell wine
Our server was Petar, and here is a photo of him explaining the courses featured in the dinner we were to be served.

petar
menu
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.

salmon crepe
Here’s a picture of the rabbit confit. Paleo? Heck no, but delightful and such a great treat. The Rabbit Confit is served on Porcini Toast with Wine Poached Mangoes and Fried Leeks.

rabbit confit
For our second course, I chose the salad, and Andy went with soup special.

soup
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. :)

salad
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.

beef tendeloin
After dinner, we were welcome to explore the train as the servers were busy plating our desserts. Below is a photo of the other dining car.

inside dining car
And here’s a picture of the very narrow kitchen and a cook who obviously loves his job!

wine train kitchen
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. :)

Chocolate Pot Pie
Blondie with Mint Ice Cream

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.

You can find the Napa Valley Wine Train on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.

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. :)

chocolates
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:
treadmill
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!

door meritage
And now some information (provided by my public relations contact) on an upcoming event being held at The Meritage Resort!

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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.


Persimmon, Hazelnut and Arugula Salad with Honey Citrus Dressing

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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!

Salad:
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. :)

Dressing:
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
pinch salt

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.

Thanks to Whole Foods Market for sponsoring the food used in this recipe!! :) You can find Whole Foods on Facebook here and on twitter here. My local store is in Roseville on Facebook here.


Trick or Treat? Treat!! Four-Ingredient Hazelnut Butter Cups (sponsored by Nugget Markets)

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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.

Hazelnut Butter:
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.

    Chocolate:
    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!

    candy


    Scary Good Pesto and Blue Cheese Potatoes (sponsored by Whole Foods Market)

     

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    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! :)

    Ingredients:
    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!! :)

    Thanks to Whole Foods Market for sponsoring the food used in this recipe!! :) You can find Whole Foods on Facebook here and on twitter here. My local store is in Roseville on Facebook here.


    Post-Race Wrap Up: Nike Women’s Half Marathon Series

    It’s been exactly one week since I crossed the finish line in San Francisco at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. I was so honored to have run with the Whole Foods Market team and promote their stores. It makes me so happy to have a fitness/healthy living themed website and that I can inspire others to take care of themselves just a little bit better/more.

    This website keeps me motivated, too. It keeps me in such a good place mentally with food and exercise. I would never expect someone else to live a lifestyle that I had not already adopted for myself. It makes me happy to be nearly 100% gluten free and about 90% sugar free. I feel so grateful that Whole Foods Market reached out to me and offered a place for me in a sold out race, paid for my race entry, and funded nearly all groceries I brought home in the last two months. It was such an advantage to have the best food available to me (local, organic, grass-fed, you name it) to nourish my body and help train for the race.

    So here are some photos I took and some reflections I had on the race:

    I was unable to pick up my bib prior to the Expo, so I attended on Saturday. Props to the staff at the Expo for being so efficient. I walked right up to an open computer kiosk and was helped immediately. I also received my pace bracelet so I knew where to line up for the start of the race the next day.

    monitor
    Then I met with some of the staff at the Whole Foods booth inside the Expo. I was given my team shirt that I was supposed to wear during the race (if I wanted to wear it) and I was all set! Let the nerves kick in…

    gear
    But first, it was dinner at a great restaurant (walking distance from the hotel in which I stayed) called Le Charm. I posted this picture because I was wearing the Nike Women’s Finisher’s necklace from last year that my friend Maria gave me. By the way, if you are ever in San Francisco check out Le Charm (SOMA district). They have a great $35 pre fixe dinner and a very sensible wine list.

    me_nightbeforerace
    A little bit about the race. It’s crowded. Like, really crowded. This race had a record 30,000 participants. And the pace bracelets we were given didn’t mean much because somehow despite being corralled in the second wave of runners, there was a huge bottleneck from people who were walkers/joggers and must have taken off during the first start time. It was bob and weave for nearly the entire race. But, it was the biggest race I have ever run in, so there was really no way around it. And the course was challenging. If you have ever run the Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati, it was similar to that, only a little higher in total elevation gain.

    So, those were the little caveats of the race. And here’s me running in it! :)

    race photo2
    The positives? Quite a lot. The weather was perfect. It was pretty chilly before the start of the race, but I stayed about a half mile from the starting line, so I jogged to it as a warm up.
    The same course I described earlier as challenging, is also quite amazing and scenic. You get to see a lot of touristy San Francisco, as well park areas and some very nice residential areas. I loved running past the Argonaut Hotel, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, and the Buena Vista Café (Fisherman’s Wharf). And one good thing about the hills that start just after that, if you must run uphill, you then get to run back down! Thanks to a few long runs in Incline Village, I am more able to handle/control my downhill running, so I was able to take advantage of the downhills to make up some of the time I lost to the crowds earlier in the race. And I know I was smiling in the photo below because I was feeling strong and there was a great song channeling into my ears. The air felt so good on my head and in my lungs.

    race photo 1

    The spectators were pretty thick along the course and it makes me happy to think that some of them are just locals who got out of bed and wanted to watch all the runners go by.

    My official chip time was 1:55:14, which was an 8:48 min/mile pace. Not a PR, but I am happy with my time considering the circumstances. I finished 139th out of 3065 people. And yes, the part about receiving a Tiffany necklace from a San Francisco firefighter when you finish the race is true!! So, I get to wear my “medal” for this half marathon every single day.

    necklace
    When I got home from San Francisco that afternoon, I ran 3.1 more miles because I knew I would be pretty trashed the next day anyway. I also thought about all the women who had just run the full marathon. And my total for the day 16.7-ish still didn’t even come close to the majestic 26.2. That day got my mileage for the next week off to a great start, and by yesterday I had put in 55.7 miles… which is the most I have ever run in a week. Am I considering a marathon? You bet I am. But I still don’t feel like I am ready. I would like to run at least 3 or for more 1/2 marathons and a 20 mile race before I attempt to run a full marathon. The reason why is because I would like to run the entire marathon as opposed to walking any of it. To me, that’s the point of a race of any distance. To run it as fast as you can on that given day–although nine times out of ten the race will not be perfect, so you suck it up and just try and do your best.

    I took this shot of me wearing my finisher’s shirt and my 2013 finisher’s necklace. You can tell I was tired, but felt so satisfied. Thank you SO MUCH Whole Foods Northern California for asking me to partner with you for this event and I hope we can do it again next year!! :)

    me
    You can find Whole Foods on Facebook here and on twitter here. My local store is in Roseville on Facebook here. The Nike Women’s Series is on Facebook here.

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    Grocery Trip and Dinner from Whole Foods Market (Nike Women’s Half Marathon Series)

    Sorry for the delay on this post! I have been pretty behind on writing. ;) It’s race week! Here’s another healthy recipe brought to you by Whole Foods! -cg :)
    ====================

    First of all, I’d like to again thank Whole Foods Market of Northern California for sponsoring me for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon Series, and giving me a gift card to spend on food during training.

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    This week, my grocery trip/list was light. I had already stocked up (hoarded food, LOL) from a grocery trip a few days ago. So the above was really all I needed to make it through to the weekend.

    1 pound of Brussels sprouts
    1/2 pound of pork sausage
    2 pears
    1 cantaloupe
    1 butternut squash
    1 acorn squash
    1 onion
    1 avocado
    1-6 pack of Zevia Ginger Ale
    1 bottle of Roger d’ Anoia Cava (fueled by the grape!)

    For dinner that evening, I made a stuffed acorn squash with onions, sausage, kale, and basil, with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts.

    photo(6)
    For the Brussels Sprouts:
    1 Pound Brussels sprouts
    1/4 cup olive oil

    Slice the Brussels Sprouts and drizzle them with olive oil, then bake at 385°F until they are golden brown and crispy.

    Now for the squash! You’ll need:
    1/2 pound of pork sausage
    1 acorn squash
    1 onion (sliced)
    1 bunch of fresh basil leaves
    4 cups kale (shredded)
    1 egg
    1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (or parmesan cheese)

    Split, de-seed and place your acorn squash on a cookie sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Prebake the squash at 400° for 30 minutes then remove from oven. Set aside to cool.

    Cook the pork sausage in a medium skillet until it is about halfway done. Remove from the pan. Then sauté the onion in the fat from the sausage. When the onion is browned/translucent, add the sausage back in with the kale, and wilt the kale in the mixture over low heat. Then add the basil last, and wilt it a little as well. Remove the mixture from the heat, and add the egg and the cheese. Mix until completely incorporated. Then divide the mixture into two parts, and stuff each half of the acorn squash. Then return the squash to the oven (385°) and bake the squash until the stuffing is set and the acorn squash is fully baked.

    You can find Whole Foods on Facebook here and on twitter here. My local store is in Roseville on Facebook here. The Nike Women’s Series is on Facebook here.


    The Holidays are Coming! Get Ready with my Wine Picks from Total Wine and More!

    all wines
    Last week, Andy and I had the privilege of attending a private wine tasting at Total Wine & More to select my holiday picks that will be featured in the Sacramento area Total Wine & More stores, as well as right here and right now on cavegrrl.com. For the next month, I’ll be pictured next to my wine selections (with a tag that will resemble the one below) in Sacramento area stores with a link back to this website.

    winelabel

    Total Wine & More is pretty much my version of a Chocolate Factory and Theo Snyder is my Willy Wonka. She’s the manager of the Arden Total Wine & More, and has come to know my tastes in wine. For the tasting, she pulled several wines for me that were a refreshing departure from the normal Chardonnay and Pinot Noir picks synonymous with Thanksgiving and other holiday meals.

    And now, I get to pass them on to you. As not only fantastic beverage choices that will leave your taste buds dancing, but also as picks of value. Nothing in this round up is more than $29.99 per bottle, and you could actually buy all 6 wines on my list for $112!

    First up is a sparkling wine that hails from Lodi! It’s the Oak Ridge Sparkling Wine (Private Cuvee) that as far as we know is probably a bubbly made from grapes of Pinot and Chardonnay. It’s $12.99 per bottle and approachable for all of your party guests. It’s off dry, and spectacular with appetizers… a great pairing with anything that has little cheese or a buttery crust. I like sparkling wines so much I could drink them during my entire meal. :)

    oak ridge sparkling

    Next up is a wine made by Shenandoah Vineyards (Sobon Family Wines). It’s their 2011 Amador Chenin Viognier Blend. I don’t want to give away my favorite wine of the tasting so soon in the blog post, but I have to tell you… this is the wine I am really still thinking about a week later. It was so unique. It was earthy, buttery and had a certain petroleum characteristic to it. I really love those kinds of wine. They can stand by themselves or pair beautifully with the first course of your holiday meal! Well done, Sobons! A true gem for the $14.99 price. :)

    shenandoah chenin
    For my next pick, we’ll travel into Placer County near the Newcastle/Auburn area to Dono dal Cielo. That’s the 2009 Zinfandel (Foothills) I have chosen to drink with our holiday meal. Maybe you aren’t on speaking terms with your parents, but this wine will ease the tension and have everyone singing together by the second course. It’s also the most expensive wine of my picks coming in at $29.99, but I am pretty sure that’s cheaper than therapy and a whole lot more palatable.

    dono zin

    Let’s travel back to Lodi for a visit with one of my favorite wineries, St. Amant. They make two of my favorite local wines in existence: a Barbera and a Tempranillo (the grapes in the Tempranillo hail from Amador). You can find both the Barbera and the Tempranillo at Total Wines & More, but for today, let’s focus on their Tempranillo. Tempranillo is probably my favorite red wine. I love the subtle fruit and the earthiness of the varietal. If I see it on a wine list next to any other red wine, I always choose it. It’s typically cheaper than most other reds, but far more interesting. I would drink this Tempranillo with any of the following ingredients: mushrooms, truffle, olives, meats like pork chops, prosciutto, pancetta, etc, stews, hard cheeses.

    st amant tempranillo

    Are you ready for a powerhouse wine? Then try the 2011 Macchia Barbera Delicious. ($21.99) Macchia is located in Lodi and makes some of the best (and more potent) wines in the region. Barbera is an Italian grape varietal is the second most widely planted grape variety in Italy. If you are into big and bold, you’ll love the Delicious. It’s an intense concentration of berries with a 14.8% alcohol content.

    Macchia
    When God gave out wine making talent, he gave an unfair advantage to Paul Sobon. I don’t think he could make a bad wine if he tried. He’s also the winemaker behind my final holiday selection, and a perfect ending to any celebration, the 2011 Sobon Zinfandel Port ($14.00, 375 mL). Port is something I only drink on very special occasions (and usually during winter) because its sugar level is very high. I treat it like dessert: I would rather have a little glass of it with some fruit and cheese instead of a piece of pecan pie any day! Another reason I like port is because it keeps longer than other wines do in the refrigerator, so no pressure to drink it all in one day. (Even though I don’t think that will be a problem with the Sobon port!)

    sobon port
    I’d like to thank Total Wine & More for asking me to take part in their “Local Favorites” promotion. You can find them on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.


    Whole Foods: What’s in My Grocery Bag? (Nike Women’s Half Marathon Series)

    whole foods loot
    As you can see in the photo above, Whole Foods hooked me up BIG TIME with a goodie bag full of nutritious foods to fuel my training for the San Francisco Nike Women’s Half Marathon.
    There were six Larabars, a bag of kale, two tangelos, two bags of Peeled Snacks dried fruits, a tetrapack of Almond Milk (365 brand), a bag of walnuts (also 365 brand), a jar of Cucina Antica pasta sauce, a bag of Rhythm Kale Chips (my absolute favorite brand), a jar of Maranatha Almond Butter, and a bag of Go Raw Spirulina Chips.

    This weekend, I made a soup with some of the ingredients Whole Foods provided for me (along with some of the foods I bought with a gift card they provided), as well as a post-race kale and egg dish! The soup I made was a butternut squash soup topped with a slice of gluten-free toast and blue cheese walnuts. I cut the toast in the shape of a heart because Andy and I met 2 years ago and we are pretty much celebrating every day over the next couple months.

    photo(3)
    Butternut Squash Soup with Blue Cheese Walnuts:

    Soup:
    (makes 3-4 servings)

    Ingredients:
    2 Tbs bacon fat
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 shallot chopped
    1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
    4 oz red wine
    16oz chicken stock
    6 ozs So Delicious Coconut Milk (Unsweetened)
    salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Topping:
    1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted
    2 Tbs blue cheese

    1 slice (per each serving) gluten-free bread, toasted

    Directions:
    1. Oven roast the butternut squash at until it is tender. Approximately 45 minutes at 375°. Set aside to cool.

    2. Cook the onion and shallot in the bacon fat in a medium-sized pot until they are browned. Add the red wine and allow the onion and shallot to cook further and to caramelize.

    3. Pour in half of the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

    4. Reduce heat to low and add the cooked butternut squash. Cook together for about 5 minutes, then transfer the soup to a blender, and blend until smooth. Add the coconut milk to aid this process. When the mixture is smooth, return it to the pot, and mix in any remaining stock to attain desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

    5. To make the topping, place the toasted walnuts in a food processor along with the blue cheese and lightly pulse 5 or 6 times to incorporate. Do not overmix, or you will end up with blue cheese and pecan spread. You want the nuts to still have a texture to them. Once you make the blue cheese walnuts, you can top the soup with them and serve with the toast.

    Here’s a pretty common scene when Andy and I have dinner together. Our carbs mostly come from wine and fruit. My joke is that I am “fueled by the grape”!

    photo(4)
    We ate the soup with a salad and sausages, and had fruit for dessert.

    On Sunday, I ran a the Urban Cow 5K here in Sacramento and I broke my personal record for the distance by 8 seconds. After the race, I ran another 5K as a cooldown (from the race location back to Andy’s then a loop around the local park), and then I came back to Andy’s house to take a big ol’ bubble bath and prepare my post-race meal: A kale, chicken, egg, onion, and bacon sauté. I can describe it as sort of a fried rice thing without the rice, but with bacon and kale instead. OK, I know that doesn’t make sense, so here’s a picture, and what I did to make it below that:

    photo(5)
    Kale Post Run POWER Breakfast:
    1 onion, chopped
    1 tsp crushed garlic
    1/2 cup shredded chicken
    3 cups kale
    2 eggs, 2 egg whites
    2 pieces cooked and chopped bacon
    salt and pepper to taste

    Sauté the onion in a little olive oil until browned, and add the garlic, then the kale and sauté until wilted. Add the eggs and stir the ingredients in the pan until the eggs are cooked through. Then add the chicken and the bacon and leave on heat long enough to warm the ingredients through. Salt and pepper to taste and serve. Just what I needed after a run!

    So that’s a little bit on what I have been eating! Another recipe to come in a few days and more on the training as well!!

    You can find Whole Foods on Facebook here and on twitter here. My local store is in Roseville on Facebook here. The Nike Women’s Series is on Facebook here.


    I Ran the Run for Courage: The Race to End Human Trafficking

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    I’ll begin by saying that “human trafficking” should just be referred to as “sex slavery” because that’s exactly what it is. Human trafficking is just too light of a term to describe what goes on every day. Even in the United States. Even in my state. Even in Sacramento, California.

    There are an estimated 4 to 27 million slaves in the world today. Slavery by modern standards has been broken into 2 categories by Unicef and the US government: Sex Trafficking and Labor Trafficking. Sex trafficking as: “a commercial sex act that is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”

    And there are 100,000-300,000 sex slaves in the U.S. Right now. In 2013. Typically the victims are young girls (average age is 13) who seek love, affection, approval. Approximately 60% are foster home youths. Vulnerable souls who may be homeless, bullied or orphaned. The statistics are sickening. We live in an evil world.

    Some victims don’t report their situation because they are afraid. Or they are shamed. Or maybe they are just loyal to their “master”. Sometimes it’s just hopelessness that leads their silence. My heart is heavy for these broken souls, and that is why I am trying to help the Run for Courage, Inc. organization and Vicki Zito spread her message.

    Vicki Zito founded Run For Courage after her 17 year old girl was taken from local suburb and made a sex slave for 8 days before the FBI finally came to her rescue. Following the tragedy, and having never heard the term “sex trafficking”, Vicki Zito, Ashlie Bryant, Stephanie Loos, Amy Johnson, founded Run For Courage, Inc.

    Here are some other facts from the Run for Courage website:

    • It is estimated that 100,000 to 300,000 children are being sexually exploited each year in the United States and approximately 1.2 million sex trafficked victims overseas.
    • The average age of the victims recovered in The United States is 13 years; overseas, the average age is 10 years.
    • Trafficking of minor girls is the fastest growing crime in the U.S.
    • Pimps can make up to $652,000 on 4 girls
    • Convictions net 5-8 years in CA
    • With “good behavior” it is much less
    • Convictions net 12-15 years from the Feds

    I found out about the organization when a friend of mine (Jed, winner of the 5K for 3 years in a row) ran the race last year and afterward attended a party that Andy and I were having. He was wearing the medal he won and he told us a little about the race and the cause.

    I then found Run for Courage online, but it still didn’t register to me how much of a massive problem that sex slavery really is (even locally). It was not until this year then I was sent an email from my blogger buddy Margaret asking if their were any bloggers out there who would be interested in covering the 2013 Race for Courage (taking pictures of the race and writing about it). And then there was the moving interview with Ashlie Bryant I heard on the Armstrong and Getty show. You can listen to the interview here.

    I immediately called Erin Walsh (Margaret’s contact for the organization), because my plan was to see if she might be interested in having me actually run the race and write about it from a runner’s point of view. We spoke for a while about the sort of post I would write, and a few days later I was on my way to pick up my race packet at Sports Authority in Folsom.

    I was not sure whether I wanted to run the 5K or the 10K… I was eager to try and improve my times for both distances. I finally decided on the 10K, and decided I would try and break 50:00 mins. (My PR at the time was 50:31.)

    Everything was perfect the morning of the race. The weather cooperated, and I had plenty to eat and just enough sleep the night before. I put on my running clothes and pinned on my number, and I was ready for battle!

    The Run for Courage was one of the best organized local races I have run. There is such a great vibe in the air. There are so many volunteers and sponsors at Run for Courage. Even though we all gathered there together to benefit a cause born out of an unpleasant situation, everyone had a smile on their face. There were even entire families that ran the race together. The course was very well marked and there was always someone to cheer you on and point you in the right direction to keep you on course.

    As for me, I ran as hard as I could. The entire time. The course is not an easy one. It is mostly paved, but it is a bit hilly, and there are many parts of the course where I was running on dirt, gravel, and across several foot bridges. I found a few people to run with that really kept me going, but by the fourth mile, I was getting a little tired. I remembered thinking about a training run i had done the week before that was 11.25 miles long. I remember being at the 9th mile and thinking… “it’s only two more miles and we’re done.” So, I applied the same attitude to this race. I told myself that it would all be over in less than 20 minutes. I was not struggling for air, and I was not in pain. I actually felt blessed. So on I went, and I reached the finish line just 11 seconds shy of my goal. I crossed at 50:10, still a new personal record by 20 seconds! My average pace per mile was 8 minutes and 5 seconds. I was pretty thrilled with that.

    Thanks to Erin Walsh and Ashlie Bryant for allowing me to be a part of the Run for Courage. I only hope I can encourage my readers to run the upcoming race in Oakland on November 2nd, or to join the race next year.

    I hung around a little bit after the race to watch the awards ceremony, and to chat with some others who had also run the race. That day over 2,800 people registered to walk or run and there were 300 volunteers!

    You can run the Run for Courage 5K or 10K on November 2nd in Oakland at Lake Merritt. Learn more and register for the race here.

    You can visit the Run for Courage Facebook page here.


    Total Wine & More Wine Classes and Events

    I’ve had the privilege of attending numerous food and wine events (at no cost to me) since I started writing about the topic in 2005. See, this website is good for something. :) My love of wine began when I was about 24. Someone introduced me to a few labels you could actually get in Ohio back in 2002 without traveling very far: Yellowtail Chardonnay, Penfolds Shiraz, and Beringer (shriek) White Zinfandel. I was intrigued with wine not only because I liked the flavor and smell, but because it seemed to amplify flavors in food and make all the things I cooked taste so much better. Even the White Zinfandel ;)

    So I kept drinking the very mainstream stuff until I came out to California for the first time in 2003. I visited Napa Valley and had my first winery tour at Mondavi. I also saw V. Sattui and Coppola’s estate. It was really something for me to experience. I felt something I had never felt before standing there in front of the chateau at Francis Ford Coppola Winery: like I belonged there. In California. In Napa Valley. On a Sunday. A warm, breezy afternoon, two glasses in. Feeling this warm, true, honest feeling as much as possible. This. Is. The. Life.

    After my inaugural trip, I became obsessed with relocating to California and living my dream.* I worked two jobs and by June of 2004, I made it happen, moving myself and my most essential belongings 2,319 miles in my car in 3 days.

    Fast forward 9 years later, and I am still loving wine, learning more about it everyday and have (not so) secret aspirations to eventually become a sommelier. In an effort to learn more and an indulgence to taste some really great selections, Andy and I recently attended a wine class at Total Wine & More led by Theo Snyder, the manager at Total Wines & More, Arden Location.

    IMG_3153
    It was titled “Romancing the Rhone”. A “Bordeaux, How do I love thee … let me count the ways” class will be offered on Thursday, October 10th, from 6:30 to 8:30pm.

    IMG_3154
    Included with the classes are little snacks (cheeses, fruit, and charcuterie)  that pair really well with the wines, but don’t overpower them. The wine still remains the focal point.

    IMG_3155
    And does it ever. At the class, you get a printed breakdown of all the wines you’ll be trying, as well as a writing utensil to take notes. You can write all the things you liked/disliked about the wines. Theo is an encyclopedia of knowledge and I promise you, you will walk away with something you didn’t know before the class.

    IMG_3156
    My mind was um, blown to say the least with this white châteauneuf-du-pape (25% Roussanne, 25% Grenache, 25% Bourboulenc and 25% Clairette) which I didn’t even know was produced/existed. That one is a must try.

    IMG_3158
    We tried about 6 different wines during the class. Beyond that, they were all French wines (hence the Rhône name of the class) and very obscure to me. I don’t have the chance to try them that often, because I usually try new wines at local fundraisers and wine events, at which mostly local wines are poured. I loved having a forum to taste new things and discuss them with people of all knowledge levels. To hear feedback from other class members noting what they liked and why. And to hear Theo tell me all the stuff I didn’t know.

    Want to get in on the next one? Here’s how. October 10th. If you can’t make that class, but would like to learn more and see a full schedule of wine events, you can click here.

    You can visit Total Wine & More’s facebook page here. Cheers!


    Fueled by Whole Foods! (Nike Women’s Half Marathon Series)

    IMG_3313
    So, I finally had time to get out to Whole Foods and start using the gift card they gave me to feed myself during my half marathon training (the Women’s Nike Half Marathon in San Francisco on October 20th). For about $65 dollars, here’s what I bought:

    • 1/2 Gallon So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk
      (will use in smoothies, sometimes morning coffee)
    • 1 pound bag frozen raspberries
      (will use in protein shakes with protein powder, ice and coconut milk)
    • 1 package Diestel sliced herbed turkey breast
      (love their products, a healthy splurge indeed!)
    • 1 head of organic cauliflower
    • 1 small block of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
      (.25 pounds or so, my biggest splurge on the list!)
    • 3 pound bag frozen triple berry blend
      (will use in protein shakes with protein powder, ice and coconut milk)
    • 2.87 pounds of broccoli crowns
    • 1.17 pounds of organic bananas
      (will use in protein shakes with protein powder, ice and coconut milk)
    • 1.82 pounds of Grenache grapes
    • 1 pound of Organic Girl Super Greens
    • 1.5 pounds of parsnips
    • .75 pounds of coconut flour
      (will use in occasional treats after long runs)
    • ,75 pounds of almond meal
      (will use sparingly to make gluten free bread or occasional treats)
    • 1 orange flesh honeydew melon (my favorite fruit!!)

    IMG_3314
    This was my awesome dinner tonight, almost all of it made from the ingredients on my shopping list today from Whole Foods. It was a Diestel Turkey salad (2 1/2 slices), on a bed of Organic Girl Super Greens (dandelion, arugula, spinach mix), 2 hard boiled eggs, 1-2 Tbs grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, eggplant “croutons” and studded with about 1/2 cup of organic Grenache grapes. I don’t typically use dressing because the egg and cheese make everything so flavorful I don’t need it. :)

    As far as the running goes, I have an app called Runkeeper to log my daily mileage. Here’s a look at my run this past Sunday. I wanted to put in a long run on the roads because I had not done one in a while. I was even wondering if I could make it past 10 miles! Followed by the map are my mile splits:

    run map

    1 mi: 9:05
    +12 ft elevation climb

    2 mi: 9:07 +1 ft elevation climb

    3 mi: 9:01 -10 ft elevation loss

    4 mi: 9:18 -3 ft elevation loss

    5 mi: 8:44 -18 ft elevation loss
    (water stop at 5.25 miles)

    6 mi: 8:59 +23 ft elevation climb
    (ran kinda through the mall and through the tunnel into Old Sac… AWESOME)

    7 mi: 8:09 +15 ft elevation climb

    8 mi: 8:20 -5ft elevation loss

    9 mi: 8:35: +4ft elevation climb
    (water stop around 9 miles)

    10 mi: 8:36 -3ft elevation loss

    11 mi: 8:47 +4ft elevation climb

    12 mi: (last .24 of my run in front of the Sacramento Zoo) 9:38 -8ft elevation loss

    =========

    I am planning on running a short race the first weekend of October, but otherwise will mostly be concentrating on building my road tolerance and endurance.
    If you would like to check out my profile and my running on Runkeeper, click here.

    Look for another post using my groceries from Whole Foods, coming this week and more on my training as well!

    You can find Whole Foods on Facebook here and on twitter here. My local store is in Roseville on Facebook here. The Nike Women’s Series is on Facebook here. Now get out there and go running! :)


    A Fairytale Destination in Carmel Valley: Stonepine Estate Resort

    Chateau Noel
    OK pinch me, because I must have been dreaming.

    But, it wasn’t a dream. It was real…

    The latest cavegrrl.com getaway was to the idyllic Stonepine Estate Resort, located in Carmel Valley. Carmel Valley is twelve miles inland from Carmel, (its more celebrated sibling). To be honest, I preferred Carmel Valley because of the sunshine and warmer temperatures.

    The Estate boasts 330 secluded acres of gently rolling oak-studded hills, an affiliation with the Historic Hotels of America (formerly Relais & Chateaux). The Mediterranean-style Chateau (pictured above) is framed by 12 formal gardens. Chateau Noel includes eight luxuriously appointed suites, each lavishly named and decorated (with namesakes’ approval) after the Hentschels’ (the current owners of the Estate) favorite designers, champagne, china, jewelry, honeymoon location, philosopher and artist. There are also four cottages on the property: the Briar Rose, the Paddock House, the Gate House and the Hermes House.

    foyer
    Inside the Chateau… The Magnificent Foyer

    Our visit was tailored to one of the packages now offered at Stonepine called the Carmel Valley Wine Discovery, which included:

    • 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage Accommodations
    • Welcome Amenity Upon Arrival
    • Full European Breakfast Each Morning
    • Romantic Fireside Dinner for Two in the Chateau Noel
    • Chauffeured Carmel Valley Wine Tour in the Stonepine Rolls Royce (optional upgrades to Cachagua Vineyards are available)
    • Wine, Cheese and fruit at One of Stonepine’s Picturesque Venues

    We were treated to a stay in the Don Quixote suite, which is actually hidden behind the wall of the library on the first floor of the Chateau Noel. The suite features a separate sitting room with fireplace, king bed, two bathrooms and French doors leading to a secluded garden and patio.

    secret passage closedThe Don Quixote suite is hidden behind this wall.

    secret passage open
    doorway to our room
    The doorway to the Don Quixote Suite.

    donquixotedoor

    welcome goodies
    Our welcome amenities: a few snacks and a bottle of wine, a Hahn Cabernet Sauvignon.

    thankyoucard
    The card pictured above was a note from the owners of the Estate, Gordon and Noel Hentschel. They purchased the Estate in 1983 and restored it in 1987.

    Andy and I already felt welcome and knew we were in for one of the best hosted trips I have ever experienced.

    backyard
    This is the private backyard outside the Don Quixote Suite.

    Our room boasted  2 bathrooms (a his and hers).

    kristybathroomI just love bubble baths, so this bathroom was perfect for me.

    andybathroom
    Andy’s bathroom had one of the nicest shower stalls I have seen in a hotel setting.

    After rubbing our eyes and giggling in delight about the state of our room, we got ready for dinner. Typically, dinners are held in the dining room, but the staff at Stonepine had something more special in mind for us. Here’s a shot of the dining room, which is the setting for the Estate dinners.

    dining room

    There is another dining table alongside this one that is identical to it. There are wine bottles of everything (Palmaz, Far Niente for example)
    randomly decorating the room… just waiting to be opened… :)

    We were led into the great room which has a beautiful fireplace and a piano, to enjoy a glass of wine and some appetizers before our dinner.

    fireplace_greatroom
    We sat on the couch and were served a plate of melon and prosciutto, and some salmon bruschetta.

    appetizers
    Then after a while, we were lead into our private dining room for the evening. It was the library adjacent to our room! The setting was stunning/dreamy. I felt like I was on a movie set. :)

    library_dining
    andy_dining_libraryHere’s Andy at the table, and that is the same wall that opens and leads to our room.

    us
    As you can imagine, we were more than happy with the romantic dinner setting.

    soupThe first course was a butternut squash soup with crème fraîche.

    watermelonsalad
    The second course was a salad made of organic baby arugula with watermelon and feta cheese served with a dijon vinaigrette.

    For his entrée, Andy chose the salmon:
    salmon dinner
    It was served with a blend of harvest semoule, edamame and Red Bell Peppers. Look at what a happy diner! :)

    salmon_andy_dinner_full
    I ordered the pan seared filet mignon with mushrooms and merlot reduction served with a potato-parsnip mash, sautéed broccoli and grilled zucchini.

    steak
    And I was very pleased with my meal as well!

    me_2
    Dessert was a chocolate mousse (Andy polished off both of them, and I didn’t get any photos, because dessert just isn’t my thing (anymore) ;) However, I did enjoy another glass of wine and time together in front of the fireplace with Andy. The whole setting was just unbelievable/surreal, and you have to experience it someday yourself.

    The next day, we worked out and ran around the Estate. It was some of the hardest running I have done in a while… basically like a cross country course. Here’s the map:

    run1Then it was off to breakfast. I loved the buffet spread. Plenty of Paleo options!! My favorite was the fruit salad. It had the best raspberries I have ever tasted, so I am pretty sure they were local and probably picked within a day of serving them.

    breakfast buffet
    Andy and I also ordered two poached eggs each, which I have found is the safest way to order eggs so that they don’t come cooked in butter or some strange oil. :) They were served with a sautéed spinach and onion mix and some tomatoes.

    poached eggs bfast day1
    We chose to sit outside that day. I can’t say it enough, but the weather cooperated so much that weekend. It was just nice to sit out in it as much as possible.

    breakfastpatio
    Then a few hours later, our concierge Jordan took us wine tasting in downtown Carmel Valley. That’s him on the right. :) He’s from France and pretty familiar with the grape! Our first stop was Mercy Vineyards Tasting Room located at 40 W Carmel Valley Road, Unit A, Carmel Valley. All the wines at Mercy showcase the Monterey County Arroyo Seco AVA and are sourced from three contiguous vineyards, all located in a specific part of the appellation - the dried riverbed.

    mercy tasting room2
    mercy wine glass
    mercy sauv blanc
    The partners at Mercy come from Foley Estates. The vintners Mark and Mike have known each other over ten years and combined have been in the wine industry for over 45 years. They specialize in chardonnay and pinot noir, but also make a sauvignon blanc and a syrah. They are open for wine sales and tasting Thursday-Sunday, 11:30am-4pm.

    Our next stop was Talbott Vineyards. (25 Pilot Road, Carmel Valley Village) Their tasting room is decorated with a menagerie of bikes and things with wheels, all lining the walls and hanging from the ceiling!

    talbott tasting room
    Talbott Vineyards is an estate winery that grows & produces Chardonnay & Pinot Noir from two of Monterey County’s grand cru sites: their Diamond T Vineyard in Carmel Valley & the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The winery was founded by Robb Talbott, and the wines are crafted by Dan Karlsen.

    talbott motorcycles
    The tasting menu at Talbott has two columns. One for Chardonnay and the other for Pinot Noir. The wines from Talbott were really something to experience. Especially the Pinot Noirs. My favorite was the RFT Pinot Noir, while Andy favored the Sarah Case Pinot. $75 per bottle. Yowza! Thanks 30% industry discount. Like a boss, Andy bought a bottle of each of them plus whatever else I liked. Thanks, Andy. ;)

    Our third (and final) stop was Cima Collina. Their tasting room was also impressive, but in a different way. It looked very country-rustic. The wines were impressive as well. The winemaker at Cima is Annette Hoff and she specializes in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet blends. Andy and I also found some really nice wines to buy there, too. One of our favorites was their Chalone Pinot Blanc, and I really liked their Non-Vintage “Howlin’ Good Red (of which 25% of the profits from the sale of this wine goes to the local SPCA), so again, I made Andy buy some. ;)

    cima collina tasting room
    The folks at Cima really made an impression on me, and I wanted to let you know about their event on October 12th. It’s a fundraiser for the Monterey County SPCA, so if you are in the area and are an animal lover, this is the event for you! See the poster in the photo below for details!

    event poster cima collina
    After all that tasting, I was ready to relax. Jordan drove Andy and I back to the chateau at Stonepine. We relaxed in our room for a little while ;), then shortly after, we walked across the lawn to the Waterfall Pavilion and were treated to an afternoon happy hour wine and cheese presentation. Jordan prepared several cheeses for us to sample along with a bottle of local Chardonnay by Heller. #magic #ilovecheese #jordanhowdidyouknow??

    cheese plate with wine
    Here’s a shot of the majestic Waterfall Pavilion:

    Waterfall Pavillion
    You know those moments in life you wish you could just freeze and live in forever? The afternoon at the Waterfall Pavilion was just like that. :) Here’s a picture from my view sitting in the Pavilion:

    back facade of stonepine
    This was a book I stumbled upon in the collection of books at the Waterfall Pavilion. It was a great read! I got a kick out of reading some of the passages to Andy because he already practiced them (like a good gentleman) ;)

    how to be a gentleman
    After our time at the Waterfall Pavilion, we decided to head out to dinner. We ended up at a place recommended by Jordan called Cafe Rustica. I will recommend the restaurant, too. We sat outside on the patio and were warmed by a little heat lamp. The food was good and my company was even better. It was a charming European bistro. I can’t wait to come back to Carmel Valley and try another one of many dining establishments. I also hear Corkscrew Cafe is a great lunch place. :)

    The next morning we went on another run, this time a little longer. Here’s the map of that run:

    run2
    Not the fastest run of my life, but at least it was a workout. :) After we cleaned up, we headed for breakfast number two. I was feeling a little sad because it was almost time to leave Stonepine, and this is not a place one is eager to leave! This time for breakfast Andy and I ordered an omelet and two bowls of fruit. OK, I eat like a truck driver sometimes. Don’t judge. ;) I gave Andy my croissant (he needed it more than I did, although I did take one bite of it). It was superb, but my omelet was even better, and once again, the fruit was so good: a mixture of 3 kinds of melon, pineapple, strawberries and raspberries. And bottomless coffee. We were spoiled!

    omelet bfast2
    Here are a few more shots I took of the property, as well as some pictures supplied by the PR company who promotes Stonepine Estate:

    rollsroyce
    One of two Rolls Royce owned by Stonepine Estate.

    View from Taittinger SuiteView from the Tattinger Suite.

    groundsThe grounds view from the back of the house.

    barinroomThe bar that was adjacent to our room.

    Stonepine Night-3The incomparable Stonepine Estate at night…

    Andy and I have agreed we will come back to Stonepine (annually, perhaps), as we love Carmel Valley so much. It’s funny because I didn’t know such a place existed even a year ago, yet so many celebrities ( Johnny Depp, Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Diane Sawyer, Brooke Shields, Bill Gates, Jim Carrey, Renee Zellweger, Warren Buffet, The Rolling Stones, Shakira and Joe Montana) have made Stonepine their destination. Now I know why. It’s a very special and private place. Once you are past those gates (and believe me, it’s a high security place for people who don’t want to be seen), it’s like stepping back in time, even into another country.

    I can’t say enough about the kindness of the staff at Stonepine. They are all people I hope to see year after year. Thank you to Relevance PR for arranging my visit and a huge thank you to Gordon and Noel Hentschel for accommodating us. Stonepine Estate is one of the most lovely places we have ever experienced and I look forward to our return.

    You can find Stonepine Estate on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here. For more information on accommodations and room rates, click here or call 831.659.2245.


    Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association’s 23rd Annual Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden Event: October 5th, 2013, 4-7pm

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    It’s that time of year again, and I can’t believe it’s already here! The Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association’s 23rd Annual Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden event presented by Cook Realty, benefitting Sierra 2 Center for the Arts & Community, McClatchy High School Drama Club and Debate Club, and Bret Harte Elementary School will take place on Saturday, October 5th, 2013 from 4-7pm at the Sierra 2 Center.

    If you are a wine lover and only attend one event per year, this is the one you should experience. Make it your mission to visit Taylor’s Market wine booth to meet Dick Ebert (wine guru at Taylor’s Market) and check out “Dick’s Picks.”

    cavegrrl.com readers may recall this event as especially important to me because it is where I met Andy almost 2 years ago. If you don’t know our story, here’s my post from last year to get you up to speed :)

    This year, the event boasts more than twenty of the areas finest restaurants, fifty wineries, and a dozen breweries will be sampling their culinary treats and beverages to nearly six hundred enthusiasts within the halls and courtyards of the historic Sierra 2 Arts & community Center. Attendees will spend an indulgent three hours sampling food and drink, vying for high-end auction items and ‘experiences’, and socializing with other guests. In addition to the usual tasting rooms and outdoor pavilion, the event features an outdoor Craft and Belgian Beer Garden orchestrated by Pangaea Two Brews Café and, as a unique offering, cooking demonstrations by Roxanne O’Brien’s culinary students from American River College’s Oak Cafe.

    The Wine Tasting & Silent Auction committee has confirmed some of its favorites will return again, like The Supper Club, Lucca, Aioli Bodega, Tower Café, Chops Steakhouse, Espresso Metro, Taylor’s Market, American River College’s Oak Café, Dad’s Kitchen, Gunther’s Ice Cream, and Freeport Bakery.

    Scott’s Seafood will also be returning with their fabulous oyster dish. Newcomer of Wicked ‘Wich mobile food truck fame is Chris Jarosz, introducing his brick and mortar restaurant, Broderick’s.

    On the beverage front, the aforementioned Dick Ebert, is again coordinating the more than fifty wineries to bring the palate to a perfect state of seduction. There will be no shortage of ways to pair the food options with the beverages flowing from table to table, with representatives on hand to answer questions and provide suggestions.

    As tantalizing as the gustatory elements might be, they’re not the only aspects of the event that patrons look forward to. Each year over one-hundred fifty items are put up for bid on silent auction or included in a raffle. The spa certificates, unique art and photography pieces, ceramic sculpture, “green building” consultations, fencing lessons, and musical instruments have no problems finding bidders. But the items that cause the most stir are the experience-based packages and the private group dinners. These ‘experience packages’ combine the best in educational and cultural outings, culinary and gustatory adventures, and outdoor recreation experiences. Vacation rental packages for Lake Tahoe, Santa Cruz, and Cabo San Lucas will surely get even the most reluctant bidder in the game.

    In addition to the art, entertainment, and service donations, we have lined up such things as Date Night packages, Private wine tastings in Napa, Cut your own organic Christmas Tree outing, Create the Flavor of the Month at Gunther’s Ice Cream and more. Italian language classes packaged with Italian delicacies and Chianti, Date-night packages including restaurant and entertainment vouchers, private wine-tasting experiences at wineries, and the opportunity to create the ‘Flavor of the Month’ at Gunther’s Ice Cream are small representatives of what will be offered this year. Not to be missed!

    One of the most fun and unique aspects of the Curtis Park Wine Tasting & Silent Auction event is the ‘neighborhood dinners’—privately hosted, themed events for six or more people, donated to SCNA for individual seat purchase by neighbors. This year, more than a dozen of these “dinners” will include themes such as southern-style Kentucky Derby Day brunch, a ‘Pub Crawl’, French and Indian cuisine, Specialty Wine and Cheese pairings, and more.

    The Sierra 2 Center for the Arts and Community is a charming, Andalusian Spanish Revival-style stucco building built in 1923 as an elementary school.

    Located on three lushly landscaped acres in the beautiful Curtis Park neighborhood within easy reach of midtown and downtown Sacramento, the historic site was saved from demolition by SCNA in 1979. SCNA’s members and community volunteers renovated the school, transforming it into a non-profit center for artistic, cultural and educational activities.

    Included as a beneficiary of the event in 2013 are two groups that are as important to the development of young people in our community as any: the C.K. McClatchy High School Drama Club and the Debate Club. SCNA is proud to promote and support these two groups through our fundraising efforts. Additionally, local school Bret Harte Elementary has been gifted with $30,000 since 2003 for its participation in the event.

    The remainder of the event proceeds goes to the upkeep and restoration of the Sierra 2 Center, and to support SCNA initiatives such as the operation of the Senior Center at Sierra 2, hosting neighborhood gatherings such as Music in the Park and children’s playgroups, the artisan festival in William Curtis Park-Curtis Fest, and enhancing general neighborhood quality of life.

    Advance tickets thru 10/2: $35 SCNA Members; $45 Non-members. Tickets from 10/3 to event day are $50 for everyone. To purchase tickets or receive more information on the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association’s 23rd Annual Wine Tasting & Silent Auction, please call the Sierra 2 Center at (916) 452-3005. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.sierra2.org thru 10/2. The Sierra 2 Center is located at 2791 24th Street, Sacramento, 95818

    You can follow the Sierra 2 Center on twitter here and find them on Facebook here.

    RSVP for the 23rd Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden on Facebook here.


    Pig of the Month: The Gift that Keeps on GIving

    At cavegrrl.com headquarters, I frequently get emails from different marketing representatives offering to ship me samples of their client’s product, hoping I will love it and tell all of you about it. Often, I get pitched for products that are gluten-free (but not grain-free) and still get several offers from people to send me candy, cake and the like from my old blog, which I rarely even update. So, it’s refreshing to get a request from a company that offers a line of products I really love.  And this time it’s worth the extra miles on the treadmill.

    I bring to you the Pig of the Month.

    Pig of the Month has taken your favorite meats and snacks and made them even better. Pig of the Month is an online retailer specializing in world famous barbecue.  Their products have been featured in several top national media outlets AND personally endorsed by The Chew’s Iron Chef, Michael Symon, and now, me! :)

    Established in 2010 by Lea Richards after leaving her high stress job in finance, Ohio Based Pig of the Month BBQ is the product of a beloved family tradition and the result of one family’s insanely wild goose chase for the best barbecue. With a smoking technique that was perfected over decades, the company ships homemade, all natural BBQ products ranging from a variety of meats, sides, and sauces straight to your door!

    I have now had the chance to try 3 of the products sent to me by Pig of the Month. Here’s the care package I received about a month ago:

    pigpackageIt contained:
    1. 1 pound of Duck, Pear, and Port Sausages
    2. 1 package of 6 slices chocolate covered bacon
    3. 1 pound Applewood Smoked Bacon
    4. 1 pound Garden Herb Bacon
    5. 1 rack (2 lbs.) Memphis Style Baby Back Ribs

    The first item Andy and I tried were the ribs.

    ribs
    We put together a little dinner around them with mashed sweet potato & cauliflower, as well as grilled vegetables:

    IMG_3177
    Then we tried the Duck, Pear & Port Sausage. I also made Brussels sprouts l’orange and sweet potato wedges with a grapple balsamic ketchup.

    ribs_sausage

    1234981_10200883998195485_376274403_n  salad
    With the Garden Herb Bacon that came in the package, I made an apple, bacon, toasted walnut and arugula salad. I made the dressing with: 1 tsp crushed garlic, 1 part lemon juice, 2 parts apple cider vinegar, and 2 parts extra virgin olive oil, salt to taste.

    pigofthemonth_bacon
    I gave the Chocolate Covered Bacon to Andy for a part of his birthday present. The bacon is made of nitrate free applewood smoked bacon, draped in a layer of 72% Swiss chocolate.

    Other bacon cooking ideas include:
    1. Use the bacon as a wrap around your favorite items when grilling: asparagus, scallops, meats.
    2. Wrap around a feta-stuffed fig or pecan stuffed date and bake in the oven to create an amazing appetizer.
    3. Lay on a rack inside of a baking pan, coat with date sugar, cinnamon, and a little maple syrup or honey and bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes: candied bacon!

    For more ideas, there are a ton of recipes on the Pig of the Month recipe page here.  Use the coupon code “ILOVEPIG” for 15% off your next order. PS: If you live in Dayton, Ohio (where I happened to spend the first 25 years of my life) or the surrounding area, you can pick up your order at their facility!!

    You can find Pig of the Month on Facebook here and on twitter here.


    The Nike Women’s Half Marathon San Francisco: I’m Running with Whole Foods!

    WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! :P

    I’ll never forget how I felt after my first half marathon. Or how I felt right before it. I was so intimidated. I had never run a race longer than 9.3 miles (In November 2011, The Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago), and I distinctly recall not wanting to run another step after that event. But, in May 2012, I ran the Border Energy Cincinnati Flying Pig Half Marathon in just under 2 hours (1:58:49).

    398916_3398662078583_492581039_n
    You can tell from the picture just how elated I was to even finish the race! Under 2 hours part was only icing on the cake. :)

    So now, after running three half marathons, I’m very excited to announce that my fourth half marathon will be the Nike Women’s Half Marathon on October 20th in San Francisco, and I will be running on behalf of Whole Foods!!

    Annually, 30,000+ people come to San Francisco to run the Nike Women’s Marathon (benefiting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society). This year, the race will celebrate its 10-year anniversary and Whole Foods Market will be the official grocery sponsor.

    I am particularly excited to run in a marathon that happens to be the world’s largest women’s foot race (though men participate too). I also heard a rumor that there will be a Tiffany & Co. finisher’s necklace for every runner at the finish line. And that firefighters (IN TUXEDOS!) will be handing them out. Oh. My. You know I’m only in this for the jewelry, right? ;)

    Over the next 6 weeks until the race, I will be working with Whole Foods and keeping track of my food and training right here on my website. During that time, I will be sharing recipes and some of my workouts. I most likely will post in a weekly format to give a breakdown of what I ate and the miles I ran. I feel so honored to be journaling this race and the time leading up to it. A big thanks to Whole Foods, as they are funding my groceries until the race as well!

    Here’s a map of the course (highlighting the full and the half).

    1150595_593351000703360_210732969_o
    It means even more to me that I was given an entry into the race because I am not an elite runner, but more of a “bridge” runner that can connect people doing this the first time to people of an intermediate skill level. Remember, I didn’t do anything more than walking until I was in my late 20′s, and I didn’t start racing competitively until 2 years ago. And now, I’m on a team, too–The River City Rebels. So, if I can do this, so can you!

    Is anyone else running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon or the Marathon? I am really looking forward to it. I have my hotel picked out and am already getting butterflies!! Let’s do this!

    You can find Whole Foods on Facebook here and on twitter here. My local store is in Roseville on Facebook here. The Nike Women’s Series is on Facebook here.


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