Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

Posts tagged “food

Raley’s Food for Families Refresh Dinner at Vierra Farms kicks off Summer Donation Campaign

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Last Wednesday, Andy and I attended a fundraising dinner at Vierra Farms held by Raley’s Food for Families. The purpose of the event was to introduce a new program to supply fresh produce to food banks and to kick off the Fresh Summer Donation drive.

Food For Families Farm to Fork Dinner Vierra Farms

The event was catered by Beth Sogaard Catering. The meal began with a House Smoked Salmon Salad on fresh spring greens with grilled apricots, herb and pollen crusted chevre, shaved celery, cucumber ribbons and a shot of honey-lemon vinaigrette.

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The main course was a duo of meats: Raley’s Free Range chicken breast stuffed with sweet peppers, spinach, basil and fontina, and an herb-glazed Raley’s Black Angus Beef tenderloin with a grilled young artichoke, on a bed of truffled potato puree and cherry tomato-basil-sweet corn compote with arugula pesto.

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There was a short presentation by both Michael Teel and Jennifer Teel-Wolter. Jennifer then kicked off a donate-by-texting program and guests of the dinner could text the amount of money they wished to donate and their name throughout the evening. By the end of the event, nearly $300,000 was raised!

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In honor of National Fruits and Vegetable Month (the month of June), Raley’s Food For Families is launching a pilot program designed to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables at local food banks. Food For Families’ partner food banks throughout Sacramento and Placer counties will now be provided with access to a variety of fresh produce, in addition to dry goods, to distribute in their respective communities. This new program allows food banks to choose what they need in their community.

Raley’s also announces their Fresh Summer Donation campaign, beginning June 9 and lasting through July 31, to help increase donations of fresh produce to local food banks.

Food For Families has raised more than $31 million and donated more than 21 million pounds of dry groceries to food banks in our communities since the program began as a holiday food drive in 1986. Raley’s Co-Chairman and Owner, Joyce Raley Teel, and CEO emeritus, Charles Collings, founded the program.

Today, food banks throughout Northern California and Nevada benefit from this non-profit program. Food For Families helps feed hundreds of thousands of hungry families year round.

Raley’s absorbs all administrative costs of the program with 100 percent of every donation going directly to help feed the hungry. All donated food is distributed by local food banks.

Customers can donate in four easy ways: At the checkstand at all Raley’s, Bel Air or Nob Hill Foods; online at foodforfamilies.org; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/raleysfoodforfamilies.com; or by texting the keyword ENDHUNGER to 85944. 100% of all donations go towards feeding families in need in the community in which the donation was received.

Raley’s will provide a matching donation for every dollar donated during the Summer Donation drive, up to $25,000, now through July 31. Customers can donate at any Raley’s, Bel Air, Nob Hill or Food Source store, online at Raleys.com or on Facebook at Facebook.com/Raleys.

You can find Raley’s Food for Famillies on Facebook here and follow Raley’s on twitter here. Get in on the social media conversation with the hashtag #followthecart. To donate to the program, click here.

Special thanks to Raley’s Family of Fine Stores for most of the photos.


Lake County People’s Choice Wine Tasting to be Held Saturday, June 14th, 2014

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Lake County is a wine region that might not have the cachet of Napa Valley, but I can definitely tell you they are making wines of Napa Valley caliber. Currently, Lake County has over 8,400 acres producing winegrapes. There are now 167 growers and 32 wineries in Lake County. I was first exposed to a large cross-section of wineries who call Lake County home at the Wine, Tunes & Classics event held at the California Automobile Museum last year.

The event combined a showcase of classic cars, music, and featured wineries from the Lake County Winery Association. There, I was able to taste and find several wines I really enjoyed. I was also told about the People’s Choice Wine Tasting that was held in 2013, and unfortunately already had plans for the weekend.

This year, however I am excited to attend the People’s Choice Wine Tasting this coming Saturday at Guenoc & Langtry Vineyards (21000 Butts Canyon Rd, Middletown, CA 95461). The event will begin at 1:00 PM and ends at 4:00 PM.

It will be an afternoon of wine, music, and fun. Music will be provided by the popular band “The Special Guests”.  The Yuba College Culinary program will be featuring some of their sweet treats, and food trucks will be onsite to satisfy your culinary cravings and stop by the photo booth to create a lasting memory of the event.

Tickets are $35 per person ($25 if you buy before June 10th with a special promo code–see below). Designated drivers encouraged and will be admitted for free. You must be 21 or older to participate in this event.

The Lake County Wine Competition is open to wines that contain at least 75% Lake County winegrapes and bear a Lake County appellation on the label. Lake County’s reputation for both high-quality wines and high-quality winegrapes continues to grow. The 2013 competition drew more than 120 wines to be judged. This number is expected to increase this year.

People’s Choice Wine Tasting – Special Offer
Treat your favorite Dad to an afternoon of wine, food, music, and fun and celebrate Father’s Day at the People’s Choice Wine Tasting on Saturday, June 14th. Eighteen of Lake County’s premium wineries will be pouring their award winning wines at Langtry Estate and Vineyards. Use promo code “4dad” to get $10 off the ticket price.  This offer expires on June 10th. Tickets will be available at the door for $35. For complete details or tickets, go to www.lakecountywineries.org/choice

To purchase tickets, follow this link. For more information on the Wine Awards you can visit the website here. Don’t miss your chance this year to be a wine judge!

You can find the Lake County Winery Association on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.


Dametra Café: Mediterranean Fusion at its Finest in Downtown Carmel


Return to Mundaka: A Spanish-Style Tapas Restaurant in Downtown Carmel

It was less than a year ago when we last visited Mundaka, a small plates restaurant nestled in the heart of downtown Carmel. Since then, the restaurant has continued to thrive and recently celebrated its 5th anniversary!

During our recent stay at The Vendange Carmel Inn and Suites Andy and I were honored to be invited back to Mundaka for dinner to try some new items on the menu, as well as some of our favorites from last time.

Please excuse the photos in this post. They are rather dark as was the room in which we were seated. ;)

We began the meal by ordering the Bravas: Fried potatoes, brava sauce, aioli. It happens to be one of the most classic tapas in Spain, and a must try at Mundaka.

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Of course the Bravas were excellent, but I think the Crudo was the first new thing on the menu that caught my eye. When the plate came out, I was surprised to see such a beautiful presentation of multi-colored julienned vegetables: Carrots, Brussels sprouts, beet purée, candied walnuts.

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The juxtaposition to the Crudo dish was the Charcuteria! Time to get our fat on! The plate was composed of Serrano ham, Iberico sausages, house cured lomo. Slice upon slice of meaty goodness. And there was more to come!

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I guess you could say our main event was the Carne: Hanger steak, truffle fries, free foie butter. The hangar steak was tender and flavorful, and cooked a perfect medium-rare. The fries were the very skinny variety–like matchsticks, if you will–they soaked up the foie butter that had melted onto the plate from the steak.

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Next up: A pan fried sole, salad of baby poached potatoes, grapefruit, arugula, saffron vinaigrette. This was probably my least favorite dish of all, but I still liked it, so that’s not much of a complaint. I just felt like the potatoes were a little clunky and didn’t belong on the plate with the fish.

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By this point, we were getting full and decided on a few non-dessert items to close out the meal:

Dessert #1: Huevo: Fried duck egg, crispy Iberico bits, toast. It was such a simple dish, but the quality of the ingredients and the richness of the duck egg combined with the Iberico was very rich and indulgent. Highly recommended as a starter dish or for a grand finalé!

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Dessert #2! Again with the eggs, ha! Tortilla: Potato, egg, onion, sea salt.

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So maybe we worked backwards, but my one of my favorite foods is egg, so these plates were like dessert to me. If you’re more into sweets and coffee for your finalé, Mundaka has a dessert, coffee, and digestives menu, pictured below:

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What to drink? Mundaka serves a “Party Wine” house wine (red blend) poured from a giant bottle for $5 a glass (if you don’t ask what is in the blend). We enjoyed 2 different cavas (one, a rosé) and switched over to the Party Wine later in the meal. (Below is a photo of the bottle of sparkling rosé that Andy ordered and the glass of cava that I ordered).

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Mundaka uses organic, local, free-range, line-caught, sustainable, fair-trade ingredients, and DOESN’T use ingredients containing hormones, pesticides, high fructose corn syrup, or anything artificial. That’s so Paleo!

Mundaka is located on San Carlos Street between Ocean and 7th Ave and open daily from 11am-5pm for coffee/lunch/pintxos and open daily at 5:30pm for Tapas/pintxos. You can download a sample menu here. You can find Mundaka on Facebook here. You can make a reservation at Mundaka via Open Table here.

A big thanks to Mundaka for their hospitality during our second visit. Always a delicious and memorable meal! :)

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Menu:
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To finish, a shot of my stunning dining companion. Love that guy! :)

andy


A Trio of Pinots and Food Pairing with Holman Ranch Wines

 

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First of all, a big thanks to Holman Ranch for sending me six bottles of great wine to taste and give feedback to all of my readers. Not all wineries are quite that generous, and you make this particular writer feel appreciated for what I do. :)

Now, onto the reviews! :)

It was a lot of fun to have a varietal tasting last Wednesday night with Andy. We chose to break into the three different Holman Ranch Pinot Noirs I received in my mixed half case.

I also made a dinner to pair with the wines: Pork and beef meatloaf wrapped in bacon (with a mushroom and shallot sauce), hasselback potatoes, and roasted Brussels sprouts.

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The first wine we opened was the 2011 Estate Grown Heather’s Hill Pinot Noir.

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The 2011 Estate Grown Heather’s Hill was the best wine to have with food. It’s lighter in color (ruby) and very tight/tart at first. It has lots of aging capability, as it even opens up in a 20 minute time frame. This wine is not as delicate as most Pinot Noirs I have tasted, but it’s got some good characteristics that will make this wine finer as it ages.

The second wine we tasted was the 2010 Estate Grown Pinot Noir. This wine was Andy’s favorite. It is aged for 12 months in French oak.

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It’s lower in alcohol, smokier on the nose and palate, and just a little more… Pinot-y. It was a great wine to me because it was a little more quaffable without food, but was also a great pairing with our meal. The mushroom sauce (we had on top of the meatloaf) and this wine are a great match.

Our final wine of the evening (and my favorite) was the 2010 Hunter’s Cuvee Pinot Noir.

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This wine was my favorite! I could drink it with or without food. It’s earthy/leathery, but lots of fruitiness as well. It’s the highest in alcohol of all three wines we tried, so no wonder I like it best. Hmmm…

To make the meatloaf, I blended 1 part grass fed ground beef and 1 part ground pork. I seasoned the meat with garlic infused alderwood salt, added two eggs, one 1/2 cup of almond flour, 1 Tbs crushed garlic, and 2 Tbs Bragg’s liquid aminos. Then I wrapped the loaf in slices of bacon and baked it at 400°F until the bacon showed signs it was getting crispy. Test the loaf with a meat thermometer and don’t let it get past 125°-130°F, or you’re gonna be hosed and you might as well use that loaf as a door stop or paperweight. Take the loaf out of the oven just BEFORE or as you reach that temperature range, and it will be perfect.

I topped the finished loaf with a mushroom sauce (for the Pinot Noir pairing, naturally). The sauce was made of shallots, mushroom, white wine, butter, garlic. No recipe there, I just wing it.

You can find Holman Ranch on Facebook here and follow them on twitter 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.


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.


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.


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

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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.

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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. :)

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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. :)

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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)

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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.

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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.


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.


Timber Cove Inn: A Retreat and Culinary Destination on the Sea

timbercoveinn
I first became aware of the Timber Cove Inn last June through a press release that was sent to inform me of their 50th anniversary. The restaurant inside the Inn, Alexander’s, was serving a pre fixe dinner menu and throwing a Mad Men-era party in honor of the anniversary. I was intrigued, and after a few emails back and forth with the marketing company that sent me the release, I was invited to stay at the Inn last weekend (August 24 & 25th), as well as try a great deal of food at Alexander’s. I can’t say enough about the hospitality of each staff member and the incredible food Andy and I enjoyed at the restaurant. I (and Andy as well for that matter) really got the star treatment without being intruded upon, and the trip was completely private and relaxing.

Once in a while, it’s good to get far, far away from where you work and normally play and try something completely different. Timber Cove Inn is about the most remote place I have ever traveled. We left for Jenner (where we thought the hotel was located) at about 4:45pm on Friday and arrived in Timber Cove at about 8:45.  Timber Cove Inn is actually 13 miles north of Jenner on a winding, slow-moving road. I am telling you this not to deter your travel to the Inn, but so that you can factor it into your travel time. Once we arrived at the Inn, I quickly forgot about the travel time and became fascinated at the Inn’s greatness out in the middle of nowhere. I began to ponder all the logistics of running a hotel of this size and accommodations and just how it might be done. As Baruch Spinoza said, “All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.”

We arrived at Alexander’s for dinner and were seated right next to the fireplace just as the sun finished setting. The restaurant dining room overlooks the ocean and provides a view from most of its tables.

menu and fireplace
The pre fixe menu was still available as an option, but Andy and I stuck to the regular menu for both nights. We kicked off the meal with a glass of wine each (I had a sparkling wine, Schramsberg, and he had a glass of Flowers Chardonnay). Our waitress for our two night dining extravaganza was Stacy. If you’re lucky, she’ll wait on your table, too. Stacy knew the food menu as well as the wine menu very well, despite being a non-drinker. She has traveled to many of the tasting rooms (as the list is predominately if not all Sonoma County wine), and tasted most of the wines featured on the list. We selected the Fort Ross Pinot Noir because of our entrée selections (cioppino and pork), and sipped on our starter whites while the appetizers began to arrive.

crab
The first small plate was a Local Crab & Citrus Salad with Pink Peppercorn Vinaigrette and Fennel Puree. It was probably my favorite plate of the evening, but it’s hard to say for sure. I know the dish was the first thing I tasted during the meal and it really set the tone for what was to come. I started thinking about some of the things on the menu and how the food is similar to things I would make for myself. Not the fancy plating, but the flavors and ingredients that I would choose to go together. “The Chef, (William Oliver), must be reading my mind!” I thought, “I don’t see a thing on here I wouldn’t like!”

beetsalad
The next plate we chose was a Local Roasted Beet Salad with crumbled Chèvre, Almonds and a Sherry Vinaigrette. I really loved all the green on the plate and the two different colors of beets the chef used. The vinaigrette did a great job of corralling all the flavors. I liked this salad so much, I almost ordered it again our second night at the restaurant.

caprese

The last appetizer we chose was a Caprese Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Burrata Cheese and Golden Balsamic Reduction. This was a stunning presentation and tasted even better. The cheese was made fresh that day and it was creamy and salty, which was just the right balance for the acidity of the tomatoes.

Andy went with the Cioppino for his entrée, a mixture of clams, mussels, and huge chunks of tender salmon resting in a zesty tomato broth. Definitely a paleo dish if I ever saw one.

cioppino
Our wine selection was a Pinot Noir by Fort Ross Vineyard “Sea Slopes”. It was very full bodied for a pinot noir and could have even been paired with a steak. The wine also received a “95, Editor’s Choice” rating in Wine Enthusiast. The winery is located fairly close to Timber Cove Inn, off of Myers Grade Rd.

fortrosspinot
I went with the Grilled Pork Chop served with Mixed Local Beans on a bed of Sweet Potato Mashers and topped with Arugula Slaw with a Dijon Jus. Once again, everything on the plate was in complete harmony. My entrée could almost be referred to as comfort food, but with a modern twist. And comforted I was! I was so happy to be there, sitting beside my favorite person in the world and having dinner on the ocean by the fire. And just I stuffed my mouth with a huge bite of pork chop, guess who walks up? The chef. Um, embarrassing… Yes, we were well into the bottle of wine and happy as pigs when Chef Oliver came to the table. I remember being very enthusiastic about the meal, indeed. Of course, he was happy that we were happy. Then, we arranged to meet the next morning to chat more about the restaurant.

porkchop
Tired, but happy after our welcome meal, we went back to our room, and great bottle of local wine and a king size bed was there to greet us.

welcomewine
The next morning, I hit the gym to do some damage control on all the calories I would be taking in over the weekend. You have to pay to play, and Timber Cove Inn had just what I needed to burn some calories. It’s a small gym, but the equipment is great and so is the view from the elliptical machine. Arrive early to hog the treadmill like I did.

gym
Andy went on some crazy death run all the way up hill and then back down again. Whatever, Andy. :) After we cleaned up from our respective workouts, we met with Chef Oliver in the lounge area beside Alexander’s. And I have to say, it was one of the most interesting conversations I have had with someone who I don’t really know all that well.

It’s kind of an exciting thing interviewing chefs. You never know if you are chatting with someone who might get the next write-up in Bon Appetit, or be awarded a Michelin star. Andy and I chatted with Chef Oliver for about an hour and a half (which went by very quickly) and we both felt William is already doing great things at Alexander’s and has a bright future ahead. The biggest question I had for the chef involved the logistics of running a restaurant that is basically out in the middle of nowhere. How often do you get deliveries? Where do your staff live? How far do they commute?

The Chef told me that deliveries come basically every day except for Saturday and some items (such as pork) are actually drop shipped. Some of the staff live in a town close by called Cazadero, some live in Bodega Bay (45 minutes away) and a few of them even commute from Santa Rosa every day (nearly an hour and a half away).

I also asked about his career history and background and found out that he is originally from Maryland, and graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America. Early on, Chef William realized that wine sales were a big part of a restaurant’s success, and so he went to California to learn as much as he could about the industry.

He became a Sous Chef for celebrity Chef Joachim Splichal’s wine country outpost Pinot Blanc.

Much like myself and my discovery of California wine and the agriculture present here, I think Chef Oliver realized this was home. There’s just nothing better than a place where food is made to pair with wine and wine is made to pair with food.

The chef continued to cook for wineries such as Folie a Deaux, Clos Pegase, Mayo Family Winery and Arista, and then went on to Cook St. Helena and Russian River’s Farmhouse Inn. Through the years, Chef William developed relationships with food purveyors that remain in place today and allow him to develop menus that utilize local seafood, cheese and produce that he would not be able to obtain otherwise.

Then the Chef came to Timber Cove Inn. After shaking up the kitchen, dusting off the menu a bit, and putting mostly all local wines on the wine list, things are falling into place. We also talked about the “struggle” of traditional food versus modern. One dessert mentioned was “S’mores”. He tried doing house made graham crackers and marshmallows, and using a much higher quality chocolate, but many people revolted. I’m not sure why. I told him that if I am going to eat junk food, I would prefer it be from scratch junk food. Ah well, don’t worry boring people, Chef William went back to providing pre-packaged ingredients for the S’mores. (There’s a fire pit right outside the restaurant where you can make them).

Of course, I was already thinking about dinner, so we talked briefly about how much we enjoyed the previous night’s dinner and how much we were looking forward to this night’s dinner. We decided in advance on the steak and Chef William spoke a little bit about the dish. The meat is grass-fed and the Worcestershire sauce is house made. We also inquired about the size of the plate because we planned on splitting it (he confirmed the meat serving is about a pound and it is the biggest plate on the menu).

I want to thank Chef William for taking time (out of what would become a very busy Saturday), to chat with us. After our conversation with the Chef, we went over to the restaurant and had a little breakfast (even though after all the steak talk I was ready for dinner!) Andy and I ordered the same thing: 2 poached eggs with fruit and potatoes (served with salsa).

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The potatoes were seasoned with dill, so now I am kind of addicted to that, and have been spiking my sides (butternut squash, sweet potatoes) with the same treatment ever since the trip. The plating of the fruit was spectacular and I was shocked and delighted to see figs make a cameo appearance on my plate. Actually, melon and figs are my two favorite fruits, so you can imagine when the menu just says “mixed fruit” and I am not expecting that much–maybe strawberries or grapes and some banana–and I end up with figs and melon, I am doing cartwheels. Thanks, Chef!! :)

Following breakfast, Andy and I went on a walk around the property at Timber Cove Inn. The Inn originally opened in 1963, and was redesigned and reopened in 2008 ($2.5 million renovation). It is built on 25 acres, and there are two miles of hiking trails for guests of the hotel to use. I will say “hiking” because I they really are not run-able, but great for walking and taking in the ocean view. And that’s what we did for an hour and a half. Roam around the property and take in the views. There are benches around the grounds at Timber Cove where you can sit and face the ocean and just stare out at it. It was great to do just that and enjoy our time together.

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Timber Cove Inn has 47 guest rooms and 2 suites. All rooms offer views of ocean, cove or forest. The Inn was designed by a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Timber Cove Inn reflects his style, evident especially in Alexander’s bar area in the frames around the lighting fixtures. A three-story stone fireplace dominates the lobby and the structure that houses the lounge, Alexander’s, the gift shop and the main lobby is much like a large lodge. The Pacific Ocean outside only 50 yards away.

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Soon, it was time to head back to Alexander’s for dinner. We sat by the fire again, and soon greeted by our server Stacy (from the previous evening). I spotted a gazpacho on the pre fixe menu that I really wanted to try, and asked if it was possible for me to sample it without getting the entire menu. Of course, I never heard the word “no” one time on this getaway, so soon out it came, and even a serving for Andy, too. There were chunks of crab in it, and I think I would have been happy with a large bowl of it and a big glass of pinot noir from the previous night.

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But, no! We had more work to do. More food to taste and explore. And so we decided on the 5-Spice Pork Ribs with a Sweet Chili Glaze and Asian Cole Slaw.

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And the Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops with Corn, Sweet 100’s (cherry tomatoes) and Aged Balsamic:

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I remember really loving everything and for one, eating more than Andy. ;) That evening, I began to consider moving into the Timber Cove so I would have this kind of food every night. Maybe Chef William would let me work a few shifts in the kitchen now and then?

The wine we chose was a Meritage by Flowers Vineyard and Winery called Perennial. Again, a local wine to drink with local food.

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Then our entrée, the aforementioned steak, was presented. A Grilled Delmonico Steak with Brown Butter Mushrooms and served with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes and House-made Worcestershire sauce. Topped with Onion Rings. Of course, the onions and the sauce are not Paleo, but I really didn’t want to be a pain to ask to leave them both off, because I had been enjoying the chef’s food so much exactly the way he intended a normal guest to taste it, I didn’t want to start messing things up now. Besides, if you stay away from the bread basket (but do ask for the chimichurri (YES!!) that comes with it!) at Alexander’s, the menu is pretty close to Paleo/Primal anyway with a few exceptions.

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The next morning, I worked out in the gym again and Andy went off to do his death run before we both got cleaned up and again snagged breakfast before checking out. I had exactly the same thing I did the morning before because I’m telling you, the dill potatoes are addictive. Even though I am so happy to get back to work on Mondays, I was so sad to leave such a beautiful, calm, serene place. I am looking forward to returning to Timber Cove Inn, especially to see the progress of Alexander’s with Chef William Oliver at the helm.

You can find Timber Cove Inn on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here. Read more about the Timber Cove Inn over at my friend Virginia’s website, The Perfect Spot, here.


Fandango Restaurant in Pacific Grove: A Celebration of Global Cuisine

Well, I’m kind of in the mood to celebrate. The past few days have gone way better than my past few months. I started this morning by calling the bank and paying off my school loan. I start working again tomorrow after being laid off twice this year. So that means I get to proceed planning for Andy’s birthday. And, tomorrow is 21 months together! Yep, longevity like a McDonald’s cheeseburger left in a coat pocket! :P

Anyway, if I could pick a place to celebrate right now, I’d go back to Fandango Restaurant in Pacific Grove. We dined there the last night of our Carmel weekend in June. The staff sat us right by the fireplace at a table for two. It was a little chilly that evening and the perfect little nook for our perfect little dinner.

The restaurant was named for the dance (scroll to about 30 seconds in), fast and often furious. The “dance” at Fandango began in 1983, when a man by the name of Walter Georis decided to turn an old house into a restaurant. Among the first customers were Pierre and Marietta Bain, who eventually became the owners in 1986. Pierre was no stranger to the hospitality industry when he took the helm–his family has operated Grand Hôtel Bain at Comp-sur-Artuby in the south of France since 1737, and he had been the manager of Club XIX at The Lodge at Pebble Beach for several years.

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Shortly upon being seated, you are greeted with a bowl of olives, an ample cube of butter and a loaf of fresh bread. The olives have been a staple since the beginning and something the owners feel would be missed by loyal customers if they were to disappear. That’s Andy in the background, frantically flipping through the wine list (which is more like a Bible at Fandango, and I mean that in a good way). Jaw droppage took place when he spotted a 1929 Chateau Lafite Rothschild. OK, maybe another time. ;)

Since the Bains purchased Fandango, they have added an upstairs dining room with its own kitchen, and converted the outdoor patio into a new dining room. What did not change is the atmosphere, the charm of the restaurant and the classic European food. Dishes like steak frites, paella, osso bucco and duck a l’orange offer something pleasing for any palate.

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And what pleases my palate? Sharing a split of Rombauer Chardonnay with my partner in crime. And pairing the wine with seared scallops. A must-have on the appetizer menu.

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We followed up with another appetizer. A classic that happened to be on the specials menu that evening. A caprese salad. The tomatoes were beautiful and just coming into season. It was perfect. I just love fresh basil. It’s probably one of my favorite summer ingredients. It’s the ribbon that ties together the acidity of the tomatoes, the butteriness of the olive oil and the creaminess of the cheese. :)

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For our main courses, Andy and I  ;) decided on this bottle of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, because it complemented both entreés. (You know me, I could drink rosé with everything!)

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Andy ordered the short ribs, a regular menu item, which are slowly braised in red wine and served with seasonal vegetables.

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And I ordered the petite filet and shrimp duo (also a regular menu item). It was served with broccoli and scalloped potatoes. The shrimp were cooked in butter, garlic and wine (scampi). The steak was served with green peppercorn, cognac, wine sauce. I usually order a steak rare so that if it is over-cooked by a little it still comes out suitable for me at medium rare, and I don’t have to send it back. This one came exactly as I ordered it, because this is a place that handles meat and seafood with precision.

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These were just two appetizers and two of many classic dishes served at Fandango. I was tempted by other selections such as the lamb shank, a cassoulet, the lobster tail and even curious to see their take on a hamburger and fries! Other less paleo-friendly selections include canneloni with veal, salmon fettucine, pasta puttanesca, spaghetti siracusa and tortellini maison.

COMING SOON! Fandango Restaurant is celebrating the mushroom for the whole month of September. Pierre and Marietta have created a dish called Mushroom Provencal and are including it with soup or salad to start and dessert to finish for only $14.95. Available September 1-30 (for lunch only).

There are several recipes on Fandango’s website so you can enjoy the restaurant’s favorites in the comfort of your own home, or if you are more interested in learning about the story behind Fandango (it’s a pretty fascinated and celebrity studded one!) you can order the book here. PS: It has a ton of recipes in it, too! I was lucky enough to have Pierre himself sign my copy. :)

You can find Fandango Restaurant on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here. I would like to graciously thank Pierre and his staff for a wonderful meal and service. I am looking forward to dining at Fandango again soon and sitting across from Andy at our table by the fireplace. :)


Total Wine & More’s Local Favorite: My Rosé Picks for August

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A few weeks ago, I was chosen by Total Wine & More for their Total Wine & More “Local Favorite!” program. This program features a local media “influencer” each month and allows them to pick their favorite wines to recommend to customers. For the next month, I’ll be pictured next to my wine selections (with a tag that will resemble the one above) in the Sacramento (Arden) store with a link back to this website.

I was very honored to be approached, and I quickly decided I would select some rosés for the month of August. I couldn’t think of a more perfect wine for summer––a wine that pairs well with almost anything. I feel rosés are overlooked, slightly under appreciated and all too often confused with that sickly sweet white zinfandel stuff that was first made by mistake, (but a serendipitous one for them at that) by Sutter Home in 1975.

No, the rosés I am talking about are so much more than their cloying white zin “dopplegängers”. These wines have finesse, refinement and are fruity and flavorful, yet much drier. I discovered I truly did like pink colored wines again (and the difference between a white zinfandel and a rosé) a few years ago (2008 to be exact) when I tasted the Valley of the Moon Rosato di Sangiovese at the California State Fair’s Grape and Gourmet event. Since then, the rosé thing has been slowly catching on. I have tried and enjoyed several since: Bray Vineyard’s Rose of Barbera and Nichelini’s Rose of Cabernet to name a few.

Since that Grape and Gourmet event, every time the thermometer rises, my go-to wine is a rosé. And I think this summer especially, I am completely obsessed with interested in them and want to try as many as possible so I can learn even more about them.

Andy and I met up with Total Wine’s (Arden Store) Wine Manager Theo Snyder last Friday evening to taste an assortment of French and California rosés, so I could personally recommend three of them to you and the customers at Total Wine & More, Arden.

My first selection is a French rosé, Domaine Rabiotte Aix Provence Rosé 2012 ($11.99). It would fall into the “very dry” category, and it’s almost apricot/peach in color. It’s great appetizer wine, but I would be just as happy drinking it with sushi, a light fish dish, or even pork loin. It’s everything I look for in a rosé and it’s French, so it has sex appeal, no? ;)

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My second pick is the Sobon Rose Rezerve 2012 ($11.99). This rosé is a special blend of grenache, syrah and carignane and another great food wine. I could really smell the fruit when I examined the wine, and I could taste some minerality (I tend to love a little bit of earthiness in my wines) present. I wasn’t shocked that this rosé made my top three, because I have been a Sobon fan for years. Check out their Cougar Hill Zinfandel and their Barbera for more tasty adventures. :)

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My third choice is the Truett Hurst Zin Rosé Dry Creek 2012 ($17.99), which I feel is the perfect rosé wine for red wine lovers who might think they aren’t a fan of rosés. It delivers a burst of flavor and settles in between a Goldilocks-esque not-too-sweet, yet not-too dry flavor. This one works with or without food and if I stuck with straight rosés through a whole dinner, I would have this one for dessert with fresh fruits and cheeses.

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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.


Another Giveaway! Win 2 Tickets to Off to the Races, August 17th, 5:30-8:00pm

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Here’s a press release from my friends at Eres Rice Communications! Don’t forget to leave a comment below and enter to win a pair of tickets to Off to the Races, Saturday, August 17th at the Pavilions!! :) -cg


SACRAMENTO––As Race for the Arts celebrates 15 years, “Off to the Races,” the Race for the Arts’ premiere event, continues its tradition in the beautiful garden setting of The Pavilions Shopping Center on Fair Oaks Boulevard.  Guests will be treated to music performed by six-time Elly Award winner  El Dorado Musical Theatre, along with additional entertainment.

Guests will taste a sampling of wines from Napa Cellars, St. Supéry Vineyards & Winery, Mount Aukum Winery, Sean Minor Wines, Cielo Estate Winery, Barefoot Wines, Heringer Estate Winery, and Lava Cap Winery.

An assortment of scrumptious hors d’oeuvres will be prepared by Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Fabian’s Italian Bistro, Monsoon – Cuisine of India, Roxy’s Restaurant & Bar, Sutter Street Steakhouse, The Mandarin, T&R Taste of Texas, Florez Bar Grill, Cafe Bernardo, and Raley’s Fine Foods, and Starbucks.

Honoring this year’s artwork  provided by world-renowned Sacramento artist Wayne Thiebaud, Capital Confections will be sampling their Sofi-Award winning gelato.

August 1 – 17, enter the Pavilions’ Shopping Spree – a chance to win a $1,000 Shopping Spree at any of the shops in the Pavilions Shopping Center.  Additionally, win $1,000 for your chosen arts organization or school program. One entry form per store per day, please.

“Off to the Races”, Race for the Arts’  premiere event, a wine & food tasting sponsored by The Pavilions
When:        Saturday, August 17
Time:          5:30 – 8:00 pm
Where:       Pavilions Shopping Center, Fair Oaks Boulevard (east of Howe Avenue) Sacramento
Cost:           $50
INFORMATION:  (916) 933-4056, www.raceforthearts.com, and tickets available online and at the door.

You can find Race for the Arts on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.

ENTER TO WIN! Win a pair of tickets to Off to the Races by leaving a comment below. Which one of the featured restaurants (listed above) are you looking forward to trying? I will draw a winner on Friday. Remember, if you follow me on twitter and retweet this blog post, you get an extra entry!


Make Your Favorite Summer-Inspired Recipe with Whole Foods! $20 Gift Card Giveaway!!

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I just made a terrific summer inspired dinner with ingredients from Whole Foods. I spent $54 dollars for everything you see in the above picture. And, it comfortably feeds four people.

My friends at Whole Foods had this great idea for a gift card giveaway on cavegrrl.com and sent me $40 to buy ingredients and showcase a recipe. Well, I spent a little over $40, but I did get more than a pound of chicken sausage (1.12 pounds), a package of sliced pancetta, a 1/2 pound of hazelnuts, 1/3 pound of mushrooms, 1 1/3 pounds yellow squash, 1 1/3 pounds zucchini squash, 1/3 pound of olives, 1 package of tarragon, 3 shallots, 1 lemon, an entire bag of kale salad (1 pound), 2 baguettes made by Against the Grain Gourmet, AND a bottle of French white wine. :)

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And what did I prepare with all of the groceries? A brown butter summer squash linguine with chicken sausage, a warm kale salad, garlic buttered baguettes, served with a French blanc de blancs.

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For the warm kale salad you will need:
1 pound kale salad
1/3 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 package of pancetta, sliced or diced (if sliced, you will want to chop/cut into finer pieces)
3 shallots, finely diced
1 Tbs olive oil

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and sauté the shallots until they are translucent. Then add the pancetta and the mushrooms and cook together until the pancetta browns. Add the kale and turn with the ingredients, allowing it to wilt in the pan. Cover the pan with a lid to help wilt the kale. Add all of the salad and steam until the kale is barely tender. Set aside and prepare your summer squash linguine.

For the Brown Butter Squash Linguine, you will need a tool called a julienne slicer. I just bought one this past weekend in order to make the recipe and it has kind of changed my life. I’ll be making squash linguine at least once a month now! :)

I snagged the recipe from Fine Cooking.com and you can click here to find it.

1-1/2 lb. young yellow (summer) squash (about 4)
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. finely chopped almonds or hazelnuts
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon or parsley
1/2 lemon

You’re basically going to slice 4-6 summer squashes (I used green and yellow) to their core with the julienne slicer. It’ll make fine strips that when cooked are the texture and size of spaghetti noodles (linguine, maybe not so much as the recipe advertises) ;)

You’ll melt the butter and add the hazelnuts cooking until the butter reaches a nutty brown color, about 2 minutes. Then you’ll add the squash and salt. Coat the squash with the butter and hazelnuts, and continue cooking for about a minute. Then you’ll stir in half of the chopped herbs, and squeeze a little of the lemon over the squash and toss. It’s a pretty easy and totally rewarding operation! :)

The sausages were easy to prepare. I bought the house special chicken sausage with spinach and feta, exclusively made at Whole Foods. All I did was sear them in a hot pan and finish them off in the oven. Then, I sliced them on a bias to serve. :)

The bread was prepared with a little bit of crushed garlic stirred into melted butter and lightly brushed on the baguette slices. I placed them under the broiler until they were toasted to perfection.

And that, my friends… is one wonderful meal at about $13.50 per person including wine. :)

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My friends at Whole Foods want to give you a $20 gift card. So, enter by commenting below (tell me your favorite summer recipe or meal), and if you have a twitter account, follow me and retweet the link to this blog post for an extra entry (be sure to leave me your twitter handle in your comment!). I will announce the winner this Sunday. Good luck!

You can find Whole Foods Market on Facebook here (Roseville location here) (Sacramento location here) and on twitter here (national) and here (Sacramento) and here (Northern California)! :)


4th Annual Grape Days of Summer Wine Tasting: August 3rd and 4th

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Here’s a press release from my friends at the Placer County Vintners Association! Hope you can join us for the 4th Annual Grape Days of Summer :) -cg

AUBURN, Calif., July 16, 2013—Many Sacramento residents aren’t aware that there are nearly 20 award-winning wineries right in their own backyard—along the Placer County Wine Trail.  The trail runs from Lincoln to Loomis, Newcastle to Auburn and up into Meadow Vista, which is also convenient for Reno and Tahoe residents.  On August 3rd and 4th from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Placer County vintners invite local residents to try the region’s noteworthy wines at Grape Days of Summer, a farm-to-table wine tasting event.

Vintners are partnering with local restaurants and artisans for the annual event in which attendees will enjoy wine and barrel tastings, complementary fare, live music, vineyard tours and educational experiences.  Educational activities will include sessions on winemaking, farming, sustainable practices in the vineyard and more.  Tickets are $30 per person in advance and can be purchased at http://bit.ly/vKYTb3, $40 per person at the door.

Highlights of Grape Days of Summer include:

  • Celebrate local agriculture at Le Casque with an Alpaca demonstration, hayrides and a historical farm tour.  Food provided by Flower Farm Catering.
  •  Dono dal Cielo will feature the local sounds of Ghost of the Opera House on Saturday afternoon and Two Barrels Shy on Sunday afternoon.  Karen McGillivray, the winery’s owner, will lead educational vineyard tours at 12 and 2 p.m. both days and food will be provided by the Chef’s Table.
  • Have a “A Zinful Experience!” at Lone Buffalo Vineyards, where you’ll experience an interactive sensory tasting, sip the winery’s gold medal-winning 2010 Thunder Beast Zinfandel, and enjoy grass-fed bison and PlacerGROWN beef sliders prepared by Café’ Zorro’s Gourmet Garage Catering. 
  • Popie Wines and Ciotti Cellars will provide an interactive bottling session of a special PlacerGROWN blend of wine and the High Hand Café will provide food & wine pairings.
  • Wise Villa Winery will offer guests live music and gourmet tastes from its on-site bistro.

For a Grape Days of Summer event map and other information, visit www.placerwine.com

ABOUT PLACER COUNTY VINTNERS ASSOCIATION:

The Placer County Wine Trail is organized by the Placer County Vintners Association, a nonprofit association created to provide a forum for wineries to collaborate on events and programs.  Together the Association also develops marketing programs to raise awareness of the Placer County wine region.  The group believes that sharing best practices with all county wineries inspires the vintners to provide a high quality experience for winery visitors.  For more information and maps, visit www.placerwine.com or call (916) 663‐4486.

ABOUT PLACERGROWN:

Supported by Placer County, PlacerGROWN is the information source dedicated to educating residents about the freshest agricultural products the region has to offer.  Through its website, social media channels, and other outreach programs, PlacerGROWN connects community members with the farms, orchards, ranches, wineries, nurseries, farmers’ markets and specialty food stores in one of the most diverse growing areas in Northern California. To discover the bounty of agricultural products produced by farmers who call Placer County home, or for more information about PlacerGROWN, visit www.placergrown.org.

The Placer County Wine Trail runs from Lincoln to Loomis to Newcastle and Auburn and is easily accessible from I-80 and Highway 49.

RELATED LINKS:

Placer County Wine Trail website

Placer County Wine Trail on Facebook

PlacerGROWN website

PlacerGROWN on Facebook

Photo Credit: Barry L Walton


Last Night’s Sneak Peek of Capital Dime

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Yesterday around 9:30am, I received an invitation to a preview tasting of Capital Dime, Midtown Sacramento’s newest (and highly anticipated) restaurant owned by Noah Zonca (former chef at The Kitchen) and Rick Lobley (co-founder of Ink and Empire). I sent in my RSVP with Kobayashi-like hot dog eating speed. OMG! What do I wear?!?!? ;)

What is the concept of Capital Dime? According to the Chef, the restaurant’s goal is to make the farm-to-fork movement accessible to affordable for almost everyone. Most of the the plates will be priced around $10, in a setting that can be formal, but not snobby (there are booths in the downstairs along with a few flatscreen TVs). And their logo is pretty neat, too.

In my opinion, the odds of success are in Chef Zonca’s favor. He waited until the real estate prices were lower to open Capital Dime, and has several long time relationships with farmers and suppliers (securing good pricing for him to pass onto customers). Not to mention all those loyal fans from The Kitchen. And the great location. And the tasty plates were tried:

To start, Andy and I enjoyed a cocktail named “Boxers and Bobbysocks,” created by head bartender Rene Dominguez (who has worked at Ella Dining Room and Bar), containing gin, bitters, muddled cherries and rosemary.

Some of the bites we tasted were (shown above in the slideshow) an artichoke dip on a crostini paired with pulled pork in a mini tostada. The next course was a spicy shrimp and watermelon salad featuring a few Asian ingredients: bonito flakes, fish sauce juxtaposed with fresh mozzarella and squash blossoms arranged beautifully on a tea leaf. I liked the salad more and more with each bite as it took me a minute to wrap my brain around the combining flavors. I like just about anything with watermelon in it this time of year. The next sampler was a slider of pastrami (cured and smoked in house) paired with shoestring fries. The fries were topped with what appeared to be gravy, bacon and cheese. Look ma, no calories!!

The dessert was a soft chocolate-chip cookie. I try to stay away from these types of things, happy with the natural sugar level in my drink, so Andy happily snarfed had four of them. Andy, thanks for taking one for the team, I know it’s hard work. The chef says there will not be a dessert menu and doesn’t currently have a pastry chef. Noah, this is my formal application. LOL. Pick me! I’d serve my gluten-free s’more pie from the party and I put on at Caverna 57 on Saturday.

Capital Dime will be participating in Sacramento’s Bastille Day Celebration on July 14th. They will have a booth with free appetizers from 11:30 am to 3 pm.

Capital Dime is located at 1801 L St., Suite 50, in the former space of L Wine Lounge. You can find them on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here. Here’s a video from last night posted by The Sacramento Bee, with Zonca being interviewed by Janelle Bitker. Andy and I are in the very beginning! :)


Recipe: Rhubarb and Onion Ketchup with Wine Pairing

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Ultimate wine pairing: Rhubarb Ketchup and New Harbor Sauvignon Blanc.

Yes, believe me. It happened. I made butternut squash fries and a nifty little “ketchup” to pair with them. It turns out that the wine I happened to also be sampling was a perfect match for the tangy, tart New Harbor Sauvignon Blanc.

Here’s the recipe, it’s very simple.

3 stalks rhubarb
1/2 large yellow onion
2 Tbs molasses
3 packets of stevia or 2 Tbs honey
1 tsp salt

Chop rhubarb into 1 inch pieces and finely dice the onion. Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a pot and sauté the onion until it’s translucent. Then turn down the heat to low-ish/medium and add the rhubarb. Then add the molasses, salt, and stevia, and about 1/2 cup of water. Cook on low heat until the mixture becomes a thick ketchup consistency.

Its just that easy. Serve on top of potatoes, pork, chicken, or better yet, lamb burgers!

Happy 4th of July! :)


Paleo Panzanella Salad Featuring Julian Bakery’s Paleo Bread

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What do you eat when it’s this hot outside? Salad! This is a great meal for the current weather.
Since going gluten and grain-free, I have denied myself one of my favorite dishes: Panzanella Salad. I was surprised to find out that Andy had never had the salad before.The people at Julian Bakery make Paleo Bread, and they kindly sent me samples of the almond and coconut to use as I pleased––I had the salad in mind. The Paleo Bread™ Almond is Gluten Free, 60 Calories, 1 Net Carb, 7g Protein and 5g of Fiber Per Slice. Grain Free, Soy Free, Corn Free and GMO FREE.Panzanella Salad
Salad Ingredients:
6 cups Paleo Bread cubed (I used the almond variety, but the coconut variety will work, too!)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1  cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons olive tapenadeDressing Ingredients:
1 Tbs finely minced garlic
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (we use Frate Sol)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepperCut the Paleo bread into cubes and toast in the oven until browned. You can also toast the cubes in a pan in some olive oil.

To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, basil, and tapenade. Add the Paleo bread cubes and toss with the dressing. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Allow the salad to blend it’s flavors for about 30 minutes to an hour.

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You can find Julian Bakery on Facebook here and on twitter here. You can buy Julian Bakery Almond Bread in stores at these locations or online here.


And Then We Went to Sonoma for a Day…

It was very convenient that it happened to be our montha-versary ;)

Sunday morning, June 2nd, Andy ran the Lake Chabot Half Marathon. It’s worth noting because he finished 27th out of 179 runners, and it was trail run. (Meaning rather treacherous and very hilly at times).

Then we were off to Sonoma for a night’s stay at MacArthur Place Hotel. I was approached a few months ago via email to schedule a visit to this former 19th century estate just few blocks from Sonoma’s Historic Plaza. Now, MacArthur Place is a luxurious 64-room retreat and spa. I’m not kidding when I tell you: this place is magical.

Each of the Inn’s 64 rooms and suites are individually designed. Suites include special touches like fireplaces, original art, 2-person hydrotherapy tubs and patios or balconies that overlook the estate’s opulent gardens. The in-room shampoos and soaps are made locally with grapeseeds from neighboring vineyards, organic olive oil, lavender and rosemary.

These are beautifully appointed rooms, rich with woods and luxuriant bedding, some with outdoor showers, many with decks where you can sunbathe in privacy. Yes, please.

Upon check in (we stayed in the Azalea suite), I was greeted by a card and a box of chocolate truffles.


greetingcard

Here are some interior shots of our suite:

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  roominterior

I was so excited when I saw the room. It also had a fireplace that could be seen from the huge tub/hot tub.

We decided to change into our swimsuits and enjoy the pool area before dinner. We brought a bottle of dry rosé and some plastic cups and laid out in the sun. It was heavenly. I thought about the fact that we had to check out the very next day and I became momentarily depressed! ;)

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pool
Then it was off to Happy Hour, because Lord knows, I can’t miss complimentary wine. ;) MacArthur Place offers a daily Happy Hour in the Library complete with good local wines and appetizers (cheese, fruit, and crackers) – just enough to get your appetite going for dinner. If you’re lucky, you’ll get Cynthia pouring your wine for you!!

wine_cheese_reception

outsidelibrary
Speaking of dinner, the Inn’s restaurant Saddles is housed in a century old barn that was designed to replicate the barn at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Originally used to house prize Trotter horses and buggies, the Barn is now home to a top-of-the-line steakhouse featuring a wide selection of Prime, Grass Fed and Dry Aged Beef. After Happy Hour in the library, we headed to our room to gussy up again, and then we walked across the property to Saddles Steakhouse.

During that walk, I encountered the largest wall of jasmine I had ever seen! :) It’s just about my favorite thing that grows wild here in California.

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Painting near the ceiling of Saddles Restaurant. So much attention to detail! :)

saddles

Just look at this starving man, ready to eat:andybrioche
Though not gluten-free, we did try out the bread. Come on, it’s brioche, housemade, and comes with two different spreads. If you’re going to treat yourself, this is the time to do it! :)oysters
Andy ordered the Oysters on the Half Shell with house mignonette, and I ordered the Chopped Iceberg Lettuce with bacon, tomatoes & a blue cheese dressing. My plan was to cut up my steak and eat it with the salad… BOOM! Steak salad with blue cheese! :)wedgesaladfilet

All of the steaks at Saddles are aged a minimum of 21 days and are completely hormone & antibiotic free.
I ordered the 6 ounce Filet Mignon and Andy went with the Ribeye. We both ordered the complete dinner option with garlic mashed potatoes, market vegetables, wild mushrooms and a cabernet demi glace ($7 extra menu option, on which I recommend the splurge).

ribeye

We enjoyed a 2010 Cline Mouvedre with our dinner.

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The menu at Saddles offers desserts, but I had more wine and a box of truffles (if necessary) waiting for me back in the room.

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The next morning, the treadmill was waiting for me. The gym at MacArthur Place is small, yet you can still get the job done. There’s an elliptical, a treadmill, a bike and some other standard gym equipment (weights, mats, etc.). You can also opt to run outside, like Andy did.

gym1

The grounds of MacArthur Park are particularly lovely. There are statues made from different mediums everywhere. One piece of giant artwork are these life-sized stone chess pieces sitting on a giant chess board.
chess

MacArtur Park Hotel also offers complimentary continental breakfast (inside Saddles Restaurant) from 7am-10am. Andy and I were able to grab some fruit and a few other things before we checked out and headed back to Sacramento.
          
breakfast

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MacArthur Place Hotel is located at 29 E. MacArthur St in Sonoma, CA. You can find MacArthur Place Hotel on Facebook here. Thanks to MacArthur Place for hosting our stay! We’ll definitely return.


Mikuni Sushi Highlights Gluten-Free Awareness Month with Special Gluten-Free Menu

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May is Celiac Awareness month and Mikuni Sushi has created a special Gluten-Free menu for people seeking to avoid wheat.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.  An estimated 1 in 141 Americans has celiac disease, yet 83% of those who have it are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (also known as NCGS or gluten sensitivity) is a non-specific immune response to gluten that presents with symptoms similar to celiac disease. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity does not result in damage to the intestine, according to preliminary research. It is estimated that about 6% of the population has this condition.  Researchers don’t fully understand the long-term effects of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet is the current recommended treatment.

The demand for gluten-free food has skyrocketed in the past few years, I think as a result of more being discovered about Celiac’s and NCGS. Also, many diets have shown increased weight-loss results by cutting back on wheat or cutting grains out altogether (as we do in the Paleo diet). Let’s face it. It’s hip to be gluten-free, and if you manufacture a product that contains wheat, it’s a great idea to have a gluten-free alternative.

Also, I am of the belief that eating rice is ok in moderation or as a treat. Andy and I might eat at a sushi restaurant once every couple of months, and sometimes we eat rolls/dishes with rice in them and sometimes not. :) I wanted to showcase a variety of dishes with and without rice, even if not completely Paleo.

I sat down with the Executive Chef of Mikuni (Midtown), Daniel Schmoock (who is heading off to Japan this weekend to keep up-to-date on the latest food trends happening in the Far East) to talk about the gluten-free menu and its development. Chef Daniel has been with Mikuni’s for about 15 years and began his tenure with the restaurant group at the Fair Oaks location.

It turns out the gluten-free menu was born from customer demand and a rather lagging economy. The challenge was to make the menu interesting and fun like some of the unique rolls on the established Mikuni menus. A lot of those rolls contain gluten because they have tempura shrimp or vegetables in them. Chef Daniel told me it was also tricky because some of the ingredients used in a normal menu (such us the fish roe or tobiko) had been cured in soy sauce that contains gluten, making the ingredient unsuitable for use in a gluten-free menu. One contaminated ingredient spoils the whole dish. Chef Daniel also commented on the labels of some imported products (frequently used in restaurants) stating that some ingredients are not always entirely listed.

Before our chat was over, he recommended a few of his favorite dishes on the gluten-free menu–The Aerojet Roll and the Gluten-Free Kyushu Hamachi–for us to try first.

aerojet
The Aerojet Roll contains hamachi, tuna, avocado and rice, wrapped in cucumber and a soy wrap.

kyushu hamachiThe Gluten-Free Kyushu Hamachi is Yellowtail sashimi, minced garlic, thinly sliced jalapeños and a special gluten-free citrus sauce.

Andy and I decided on a few other items and a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay to celebrate #Chardonnay Day :)

chardonnayday

GF Black and WhiteOur server recommended the Gluten Free Black and White (pictured above): Lightly seared, buttery Albacore tuna toro (belly), topped with thinly sliced jalapeños, gluten-free citrus sauce and sesame seeds.

GF Sea SteakProbably the most Paleo item on the menu: the Gluten-Free Sea Steak: Seared rare tuna in Mikuni shichimi gluten-free soy dressing on top of daikon radish with sesame seeds. I could probably eat this “allday errrday” and not tire of it. ;)

tekka makiI ordered this roll, the traditional Tekka Maki (tuna roll) because it’s on the regular menu, too. And, it’s just plain good.

gluten free 3 rollFor our last dish, we ordered the Gluten-Free 3 Roll. There’s ebi, fresh salmon, hamachi, tuna, and a little wasabi inside a soy wrap. This was my favorite dish besides the Sea Steak!

There are several other creations on the menu including nigiri and sashimi options, a few other rolls (1,2, and 4 in addition to the #3 we tried) as well as a few salads, gluten-free miso soup and there are non-raw options like Gluten-Free Shioyaki Salmon, Teriyaki Salmon, Teriyaki Chicken and Teriyaki Beef.

On June 1st, the “Oh Snap, Let’s Eat! Mikuni Photo-a-Day Instagram Contest” begins. Each day of June, there will be a theme (like “This is How I Roll” or “Chop it Like it’s Hot”) and a daily prize. To enter, you’ll need to follow @mikunisushi on Instagram and post a photo that best represents the theme of the day with the #mikuniexposed hashtag and mention @mikunisushi. There are no limits to the number of entries per day and you can be as creative as you like!

I also wanted to point out that Mikuni even offers a Karui (Lite) Menu featuring Mikuni dishes that are 500 calories or less, but are not necessarily gluten-free. It’s great to have so many choices. I love it that I could go to Mikuni and splurge with a deep-fried creation on a special occasion (like the recent Here We Stay roll), or just keep it lean on a normal day.

You can find Mikuni on Facebook here and on twitter here. Thanks to Mikuni Midtown for the inside scoop on the gluten-free menu and thanks to Chef Daniel for taking time out to sit down with us before our meal. :)

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