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12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: Piatti eGiftcards

It was a very hectic weekend over at cavegrrl.com headquarters, so I apologize for no gift idea yesterday. I will make up for this with two blog posts today and two gift ideas (day eight and day nine of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover).

I’ll begin with Day eight’s idea: eGiftcards from Piatti Ristorante and Bar. The best thing about this gift idea is that you don’t even have to get in your car to buy one. You can complete your transaction entirely online and the eGiftcard is delivered immediately into the recipient’s email inbox. You can personalize it and choose your own design like this:

egiftcard

Then with that they can buy a meal that looks as incredible (and Primal friendly!) as this:

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The eGiftcard is the easiest and most convenient way to treat friends and family with the gift of dining at all Piatti locations:
Northern California: Mill Valley, Danville, Sacramento, & Santa Clara
Southern California: La Jolla
Washington: Seattle
Colorado: Denver
Texas: San Antonio: The Quarry

You can purchase a Piatti eGiftcard here.

You can find Piatti Sacramento on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here. Tune in later today for day nine of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover! Cheers :)


12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: Amoretti Master Sampler Pack

sample package
Are you feeling lucky? Because it’s day number seven and time for another one of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine lover!

Today’s pick is the Master Sampler Pack from Amoretti®.

The Amoretti Master Sampler Pack contains twelve 50ml bottles of Amoretti’s most popular products, broken down into four sampler packs containing three 50ml bottles each.

One sampler 3-pack contains a 50ml bottle of Amoretti Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil infused with the natural flavor and aroma of kalamata olives, a 50ml bottle of Amoretti Aged Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar and a bottle both, blended into a vinaigrette. These bottles are perfect to take with you to work and jazz up your lunch, or to pack along for travel.

The next sampler 3-pack contains 50ml sample bottles of Amoretti’s most popular creamy syrups—Crema di Vanilla, Crema di Hazelnut and Crema di Caramel. If you are Paleo/Primal, you can keep these in the house for guests to use in their coffee! :)

Another sampler 3-pack contains 50ml sample bottles of each of 3 of Amoretti’s most popular sugar free flavors, French Vanilla, Hazelnut, and Caramel with half the calories and carbohydrates of our regular syrups. YAY sugar free! Amoretti actually has a proprietary flavor extraction process that produces a sugar free formulation without the addition of artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners, so I will be using these in my own coffee and sugar free desserts!

The last sampler pack contains a 50ml sample bottle of each of Amoretti’s Organolicious Agave Nectar, Organolicious Blood Orange Flavored Agave Nectar, and Organolicious French Vanilla Flavored Agave Nectar. Agave nectar is a natural sweetener, extracted from the blue agave plant, a succulent plant from Southern Mexico resembling aloe vera. It has all the sweetness and natural flavor of sugar, but with a low glycemic index number.
51vExnSqYzL._SS520_I added a little of the Amoretti French Vanilla Flavored Agave Nectar to my caramel date paste for some cookies I am making tonight for my 1st Annual Gluten Free Cookie Exchange. It was such a flavorful addition. I really loved it!

You can buy the sampler pack here. Bonus: FREE shipping if you happen to have Amazon Prime.

You can find Amoretti on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

Hope you’ll come back tomorrow for day eight of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover! Cheers!


12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: jcoco Chocolate Bars Gift Set

jcoco
It’s day two of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover and my second Christmas selection is this gift set of chocolate bars from jcoco chocolate.

jcoco chocolate is a remarkable new line of American couture chocolate. Like fashion’s haute couture, jcoco draws inspiration from cultures across the globe to create a fresh, contemporary style.

Their line of flavors include: On Dasher! On Ginger!, Peanut Strawberry Baobab (like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich dipped in chocolate), Black Fig Pistachio, Vanuatu Coconut Pecan, Edamame Sea Salt, Agave Quinoa Sesame, Cayenne Veracruz Orange and Noble Dark.

jcoco sent me the three bars you see above to sample and though my favorite of the three was the Noble Dark (72% couverture chocolate with Casa Luker cocoa nibs from Colombia), the most Christmassy flavor was On Dasher! On Ginger, a bar with pieces of candied ginger and a hint of allspice (below).

ginger bar
What I really liked about the packaging of the bars is that each package has three individually wrapped 1 oz bars. This makes it perfect to open a package, take one bar out for yourself, and share the other two in the package with your besties. :) I hope you’ll check back tomorrow for day three of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover! Cheers!

packaging
You can order jcoco directly from their website here. You can follow jcoco on Facebook here or follow them on Twitter here.


12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: SIMI’s Landslide Cabernet Sauvignon

With twelve days remaining until Christmas, I thought I would count down until the big day by bringing you a dozen holiday gifts for the food and wine lover.

I’ll kick off the festivities with day one’s selection: A bottle of 2011 SIMI Landslide Vineyard Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

We enjoyed this wine while at our home in Incline Village a few weeks ago, and we paired it with filet mignon, Andy’s wilted chard, some sweet potato medallions and a salad. It’s always so fun to be up there relaxing in front of the fire and enjoying dinner on the giant wooden table.

The recently released SIMI Landslide Cabernet Sauvignon is a food friendly Cabernet blend: 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec, & 1% Tannat. It is 100% oak-aged for 24 months in French oak barrels, 56% new. It has aging potential, but the tannins are soft enough that the wine can also be enjoyed at your holiday event in the next few weeks.

simi cabernet
SIMI Winery was founded in 1876 by Giuseppe and Pietro Simi. They were brothers who had originally traveled from Tuscany, Italy, to California for the Gold Rush (didn’t pan out so much for them). ;) Instead, they ended up selling fruits and vegetables in the North Beach area of San Francisco. Eventually they bought grapes from the Healdsburg area and decided to make wine in their house. The wine making went a little better than the gold finding, so they then moved to Healdsburg in 1890 to expand their growing and wine production, and bought land with a winery already on the property.

In 1904, both brothers passed away from Spanish flu, leaving the winery to Giuseppe’s 18 year old daughter Isabelle. During prohibition, SIMI Winery survived by making alter wine and wine sold for medicinal purposes. They also shelved 500,000 cases of wine during this time and in 1933 when prohibition ended, lots of thirsty customers flocked to SIMI. I can only imagine!

In 1934, Isabelle designed and opened the current tasting room (fashioned from a 25,000 gallon cask that was installed in front of the winery.

By 1970, Isabelle sold the winery to Russell and BJ Green, but kept a position in the tasting room for many years. Russell and BJ updated the wine making facility and hired MaryAnn Graf in 1973. MaryAnn was the first female enology graduate in the United States. In 1979, Zelma Long became the wine maker at SIMI. Zelma just happened to be the country’s second female enology graduate.

The Landslide Vineyard in the Alexander Valley was purchased in 1982. The Landslide name comes from a series of earthquakes and landslides which occurred in the area. The vineyard has an interesting amalgamation of soils that have shifted from the uplands, midlands and lowlands and is now home to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot that make up the Landslide Cabernet.

Here’s a photo of the full dinner we paired with the wine. Highly recommended! I hope you’ll check back tomorrow for day two of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover! Cheers!

spread2

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

 


Gluten Free Menu Shines at Siino’s Pizza, Pasta and Grill in Lincoln

outdoor shot
A few weeks ago, Andy and I visited a restaurant in Lincoln called Siino’s Pizza, Pasta & Grill. We were originally going to sample the gluten free pizzas as a part of National Pizza Month in October, but instead we decided to go with other items on the gluten free menu.

Siino’s story began in February 2011, when Annalisa Siino opened the doors of her first restaurant as a franchisee. When Annalisa took over, the restaurant was an Original Pete’s, and in just three years Annalisa turned it into her own community establishment and gave it her own name: Siino’s Pizza, Pasta & Grill. The rebranding took place in May of 2014.

Siino’s concept is to partner with local growers and feature their produce/products within the new menu. The menu also includes baked goods from Divine Desserts in Loomis, and hand-crafted brews from Loomis Basin Brewing Company & Roseville Brewing Company.

But back to that great gluten free menu. I am not sure of the inspiration for that, but I was pleased to see a restaurant with a whole section of their menu devoted to gluten free items. Patrons can order pizza, burgers and pasta sans gluten.

Gluten Free Menu
Siino’s also has a succinct and approachable wine list and an even more impressive beer selection. They offer a happy hour from 2-5pm, and an all day happy hour on Mondays, with a $1 off pints and $2 off wine by the glass. Then there is Wine Wednesday, that involves half off bottles and $2 off glasses of wine. Sign me up for that! :)

We chose a bottle of 2011 Chateau St. Jean Merlot, because of its versatility. We decided within a few minutes of looking at the food menu, we were going to both order a burger, so this wine was appropriate.

merlot
Our “appetizer” was a salad— the Balsamic Chicken salad. The salad was composed of mixed lettuce with grilled chicken, julienned salami and mozzarella cheese, red onions, roasted bell peppers and pepperoncinis. It was served with balsamic vinaigrette (easily ordered on the side). Another note: the picture below depicts half of the serving. The kitchen staff kindly split the salad between the two of us.

salad

I loved the local touch on the menu of the Zebra Burger (lovingly named after the Lincoln High School mascot), so I ordered it. It came topped with pepper jack cheese, sliced avocado, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo and a spicy brown mustard.

Zebra burger

Andy ordered Siino’s Mushroom Burger with sautéed red onions and mushrooms topped with melted Swiss cheese. I actually liked this burger more than the Zebra burger. The mushrooms and the Swiss cheese were an incredible combination. We both enjoyed sweet potato fries with our burgers. Sweet potato fries were a nice touch and an interesting alternative to regular fries.

mushroom burger
Siino’s has many great characteristics as a restaurant: a very local gem, family friendly, great beer selection, fun wine list, lots of gluten free options, and I did not mention this previously, but the service at the restaurant was also very good. My only suggestion is for Siino’s to incorporate some local wineries into their wine list, since they are already using local purveyors for their produce.

Thanks to the servers and management team at Siino’s for a fun Friday evening. You can find Siino’s Pizza, Pasta & Grill on Facebook here and on twitter here.


National Pizza Month Concludes with Chicago Fire’s Gluten Free Pizza

facade chicago fire
Our last yummy stop for National Pizza Month was Chicago Fire in Midtown Sacramento.

Andy and I were excited to work with Chicago Fire because it’s so close to home and we had actually been there before a few times (thanks to a $100 gift card that I won at a Christmas party my boss threw last year). Don’t ever try to win Christmas Carol Word Jumble against me. You will lose! ;)

We were able to actually use the gift card twice, so we had already tasted their fabulous version of gluten free pizza and already had a favorite wine we like to drink with our dinner (the Windy City Red blend that Boeger Winery creates just for Chicago Fire). :) We already knew the service was great and were lucky enough once to have a server who had adopted a gluten free diet as well. I am seeing that more often in restaurants and it is very comforting.

It’s been a head-spinning 3 weeks since our visit (my apologies to the team at Chicago Fire for not being a little more timely on this piece–life has been absolutely crazy lately with multiple visits to San Francisco, training for a 20 mile race, working 45 hours a week, and being in the process of moving happening all at once). Still, I remember what a great time Andy and I had that night, and we always enjoy the food at the restaurant. So, here’s a recap of what we ordered:

Starter drinkys!! It was Friday night and I was ready for one of the cocktails I had seen earlier in the day on Chicago Fire’s inventive drink menu! I was interested because I saw a few descriptions that were not going to be sweet (like a lot of other drink menus unfortunately are). I picked the Basil Lemonade with Tito’s vodka muddled with fresh basil & lemon juice over ice. It hit the spot, just as I had imagined it would. Basil and lemon together in my drink, yes please! :) Andy had a glass of Bolla Chianti. OK, now we’re all set…

starter drinks

In an effort to make the entire meal gluten-free, we chose the Baked Artichoke for an appetizer. It’s a whole artichoke, doused with lemony caesar sauce and topped with fresh parmesan cheese. Chicago Fire has quite a Greek influence in their menu and many things are flavored with lemon and garlic. That’s a plus in my book and in Andy’s, too because he is half Greek. :) My favorite part of the artichoke was the cheese on top that had slightly browned and gotten crispy, and the way it tasted with fresh lemon juice on it. It was a great lead in to the salad we ordered.

artichoke

Next up we tried the Chicken Pesto Salad, which is a favorite of mine. It is made of Romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, pesto-marinated artichoke hearts and red onion. We ordered the house made pesto ranch dressing on the side. Pesto is one of my favorite sauces and the dressing that comes with the salad is addictive. ;) The chicken on the salad was grilled perfectly. I recommend ordering a large size salad because it is perfect for sharing if you are a party of two and plan on ordering a pizza as well.

greek salad
I wanted to mention the wine pairing we had. This time, we did not order the Windy City Red that we usually drink, but instead went with a Greg Norman 2012 (Santa Barbara) Pinot Noir (because of the lighter nature of ingredients in our salad and our pizza). We chose the Greg Norman Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara) because it was a better value than the other Pinot Noir on the wine list (La Crema).

greg norman pinot noir
By now it was pizza time! We decided on the gluten free Greek pizza. The Greek is topped with Gyro meat, white Sauce, Artichoke Hearts, Kalamata Olives, Red Onion, Fresh Tomato, Feta Cheese & Pepperoncini and served with what else? Tzatziki on the side. Love it. My favorite part of the pizza (other than the super crispy edges on the crust were the little slices of Gyro meat that had also gotten super crispy/crunchy in the pizza oven. We squeezed the lemon juice over the slices for an extra burst of flavor and the tzatziki lemon combo was just paradise. It’s a real treat for Andy and I to eat pizza/things with crust/bread at all even if it is gluten free, so it was fun to try the Greek flavor combination on a crust. Bonus points for the presentation, one slice of pizza was slightly propped up with the ramekin that held the tzatziki sauce. Beautiful!

greek pizza
Thanks Chicago Fire, we’ll definitely be back for more very soon! We’ll continue to work our way around the menu of gluten free pizzas. We’ve already tried and given thumbs up to the Stockyard and Chicken Pesto on previous visits. :)

Chicago Fire has a loyalty program called Square Points. You can points as soon as you get a Square Points card from your server. By registering online, you’ll be able to redeem your points. Then you can earn more points when you buy food, drinks & merchandise. Some of the rewards from the Square Points membership include a free Deep Dish Delight on your birthday, a free specialty pizza for every 500 points, and free corkage. Of course the term FREE CORKAGE was music to our ears, so we decided to enroll in Square Points, too!

Are you hungry for a visit yet?!?! Good news for you if you aren’t near downtown but live closer to Folsom or Roseville, because in addition to the Midtown location on 2416 J Street, there are 3 other locations: Historic Folsom (Chicago Fire made its debut on Sutter Street in Folsom in March 2003), Folsom at Palladio, and in Roseville at Sunrise/Eureka.

Thanks for the wonderful hospitality and service all the way from the marketing team to the staff at Chicago Fire Midtown. We’ll see you again soon. :)

You can find Chicago Fire Pizza on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.


Farm to Fork Wine Dinner Series: Piatti Presents Matchbook Wines, Spectacular from Beginning to End!

short rib copy

rose
If you missed Piatti’s last wine dinner for the year featuring Matchbook Wines, I feel really bad for you! It was even more than I thought it would be––even though I knew it would be amazing. Piatti is one of my long time advertisers, and I have always been a fan of their food, but I never knew it could be pulled off like this. This dinner was probably one of the best meals I have eaten there. I think it’s mostly due to Chef Lance Carlini who combines his take on Italian cuisine with Farm to Fork/seasonal and brings it to a whole new level.

And then there were my wonderful table mates. So, at the Piatti wine dinners, patrons are sat 6 to a table, so you prepare to make new fellow loving wine friends–at least for the night! I was lucky enough to sit with Sharon, Tamara, Eduardo, and James and be a fifth wheel. :)

servers ready
We were sat fountain side with illuminated trees surrounding us. We had been welcomed with an opening glass of Matchbook’s Rosé of Tempranillo as John and Lane Giguiere (owners of the winery) were making the rounds and introducing themselves to each table.

Then it was onto the opening dish: A wood fired spot prawn with Grass Valley polenta and a hatch chili chimichurri. It was paired with the wine we were already enjoying: Matchbook’s 2013 Rose of Tempranillo, Dunnigan Hills.

shrimp copy
As you can see. the plating was flawless on this dish. My favorite element was the chimichurri (a green sauce made of chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white or red wine vinegar) which I love on anything from seafood to chicken to beef or pork.


The second course presented to us was a Riverdog Farm Potato Gnocchi served with fall squash, Apple Hill apples, lacinato kale and cream. It was served with the 2012 ‘Arsonist’ Chardonnay, Dunnigan Hills. The upfront nose on the wine revealed aromas of toasty oak, caramel apple and crème brûlée. It was an automatic match with the plump buttery gnocchi and apples in the cream sauce. Gnocchi is the only pasta I even missed post-Paleo, so this was like eating dessert for me!  Also, lots of wonderful comments from my table mates––they also loved the squash and apples in the dish. It was the essence of fall! Great pairing, Chef Carlini! :)

gnocchi copy copy

Then it was time to get serious. The third course presented to us was a Tinto Rey Red Braised Short Rib with Thyme Toasted Mushrooms and fresh Horseradish paired with the 2009 Tinto Rey Red Blend, California. The Tinto Rey is a red wine blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, Graciano, Tannat and Cabernet.

So, if you didn’t gather from the course description, the short rib was actually braised in the wine with which it was paired. We didn’t even really need a knife on this one, just a fork to pull apart the meat. Again, the plating was gorgeous and the pairing was genius.

short rib copy

Dessert came soon after that: A Milk Chocolate Mousse with Chocolate Cake, Sea Salt Caramel and Hazelnut––topped with Pomegranate arils. It was paired with the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County. I boxed up the dessert to take home to Andy, but took full advantage of the Cabernet. :) The Matchbook Cabernet Sauvignon has vibrant ripe red fruit characteristics followed by layers of spice and earth and chocolate and that’s enough dessert for me!

dessert copy

I was completely wowed by this wine dinner and I was seated with the best company! Thanks to the marketing and management at Piatti for the great partnership we have had over the years. And thank you, Chef Lance Carlini! Amazing job. :)

As of October 25 this year, Matchbook now has a tasting room located in Zamora here.  GO VISIT THEM! :)

You can learn more about Matchbook Wines here. You can find them on Facebook here and their parent company on twitter here. You can find Piatti on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.


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