Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

Posts tagged “restaurants

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.


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).

fruitbreakfast
potatoesbreakfast
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.

horizon5
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.

horizon1
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.

gazpacho
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.

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

scallops
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.

flowersmeritage
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.

steak

hoizon3
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.


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! :)


A Monterey Getaway: Visiting the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa

Last weekend, Andy and I joined a group of other travel journalists on a media tour of the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa.

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Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel & Spa (which underwent a $65-million renovation in 2009), features 550 guestrooms (32 suites), a President’s house, TusCA Ristorante, Knuckles Sports Bar, Lounge, fitness facility, tennis courts, fire pit, 2 swimming pools/whirlpools, Accista Spa, and a conference center (with 40,000 square feet of meeting and event space).  It is located next to and overlooks the Pebble Beach Company’s Del Monte Golf Course. The beach and bay are just minutes away, as are prime attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

MRYDM_P146_Exterior_50680

Below is a rundown of all the amenities and services to be enjoyed during one’s stay at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa.

Rooms & Amenities: 550 renovated guest rooms, 32″ LCD flat-panel TVs, iHome stereo with iPod®docking station (love!), Hyatt Grand Bed™, In-room safes and refrigerators, bathrooms with walk-in rain showers, and raised sinks.

Guest Services: Complimentary shuttle from Monterey Airport, Hyatt Fast Board™, PDA Check-in, Self Check-in kiosks, the Regency Club, a 24-hour fully automated business center, a gift shop with wine tasting room, pet friendly, les clefs d’or concierge.

Dining & Entertainment: TusCA Ristorante, award-winning Knuckles Sports Bar, Fireplace Lounge with live entertainment, a coffee bar with barrister, in-room dining.

Meetings & Events: 40,000 square feet of flexible function space, unique indoor & outdoor settings for weddings and social gatherings, innovative catering for onsite and offsite events, expert planners and an AV company on-site.

Activities: 
Accista Spa with full service salon, Pebble Beach Company’s Championship Del Monte Golf Course, a full-service racquet club, corporate team-building events, 24 hour gym,  pools, massage therapy, biking,  jogging and walking trails, YogaAway™.

Local Attractions: Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur Coastline, Monterey County Wineries, Pebble Beach Golf Courses, and Fisherman’s Wharf.

lobby_wide_v1_31337

Our stay at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa began with a check in and storing of our bags in our room. Upon arrival, we discovered this (pictured below) in our room. It was a cheese, nut and dried fruit plate with some sparkling waters (available on the room service menu) Thank you, and yes, please! :)

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After settling in, it was time for our dinner at TusCA Ristorante inside the main lobby building. It was so nice to have dinner at the hotel because we had been traveling for quite a while, and I was a little too tired venture out for fun. TusCA features farm-fresh California cuisine with a Tuscan twist.

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Our first glass of wine was the house Chardonnay: Canvas, by Michael Mondavi, which I am told he makes exclusively for the Hyatt. We studied the menu (lots of wonderful things from which to choose… entrées ranging from pizzas and pastas to main courses both with meat and vegetarian friendly). You can download their dinner menu here (the menu changes) to get an idea of the plates you might see at the restaurant.

Each table gets a basket of bread to begin (a bit laughable to us, being Paleo), but we LOVED the roasted garlic that it came with and shared it before our salads came.

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I ordered an Argula, Bosc Pear, and Reggiano Salad with the Lemon Grape Seed Vinaigrette on the side.

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Andy ordered the Roasted Beet Salad with Frisee, Tarragon, Hazelnut, and Grapefruit Vinaigrette:

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Then we chose a bottle of pinot grigio to drink with our entrées. Danzante, Venezie, Italy.

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Before we chose our main courses, Chef Mike came out to greet Andy and I at our table and to talk to us about this website and the Paleo diet. I thought it was admirable that the chef did a little homework and wanted to prepare a suitable Paleo meal for us! :) He was willing to swap out any noodles or rice with extra vegetables, even for the special that evening: Whole Wheat Pasta with Chorizo, Kale, and Mussels. Since the special could be “Paleo-ized”, that’s what Andy chose. I went with a Chicken Breast with Cauliflower, Cashew, Rainbow Chard and Maple Jus.


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Chef Mike even treated us to a special Paleo dessert: Dried Cherry and Almond Dark Chocolate Bark garnished with a strawberry. We were thrilled. We are so used to just skipping dessert altogether, so it we were delighted by the gesture! :)

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The meal at TusCA was wonderful, as was the service from our waiter, Josh. Thanks again to Chef Mike and staff for our warm welcome to Monterey.

On Sunday, May 12th, 2013, TusCA Ristorante will serve Mother’s Day Champagne Brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Live entertainment will be provided by the David Morwood Jazz Band. Reservations are strongly suggested. You can find TusCA on OpenTable here or call the restaurant at  (831) 657-6675.

After dinner, Andy and I walked over to the Fireplace Lounge (steps away from the restaurant–in fact, you don’t even have to go outside since the lounge is situated between TusCA and the main lobby area). We sat down at a table and ordered a round of drinks while we listened to some live jazz. On weekends, Fireplace Lounge welcomes the local talent of jazz musicians Marshall Otwell and Dr. David Thomas Morwood. There is always entertainment on weekend evenings and Sunday mornings.

Across from Fireplace Lounge is Knuckles® Historical Sports Bar which has been voted by locals as the number-one sports bar on the Monterey Peninsula for ten years in a row. Recently, they launched a Cheese and Beer Pairing Menu, and have introduced California’s first Table Tender system which offers self-service draft beer with two taps at a table seating up to 12 people.


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The next day, Andy, me, and the rest of the invited writers took a tour of the property. The Hyatt Regency Monterey has two heated, outdoor free-form pools (one of which Frank Sinatra once drove his car into). There are also two outdoor whirlpools, a new 12,000-square-foot full-service spa, featuring spa suites and a host of soothing treatments, the Hyatt Stay Fit gym available 24 hours (with men’s and women’s shower rooms), jogging paths; bicycle trails and bicycle rental, a racquet club with lighted tennis courts; tennis lessons available, and the on-property, 18-hole Pebble Beach Company’s Del Monte Golf Course with preferred tee times for hotel guests.

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We were also able to take a look at the new conference center equipped with a total of 40,000 square feet of meeting space, including 10,000 square feet of prefunction space and 19,000 square feet of exhibit space.
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Below is a picture of the carpet in the conference center. I loved it! The unique thing about it is that it is non-repeating in its pattern!

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There is also a President’s House on the property. A four-bedroom, five-bathroom stand-alone home with a complete kitchen, a private patio, a heated swimming pool, and an open-beam living room and den, both with fireplaces (which was occupied at the time of our tour).

After the outdoor tour, our group was given a tour of the Accista Spa facility. I was quite impressed with both the gym and the spa at the Hyatt Monterey. The gym had at least 4 treadmills as well as several ellipticals, stationary bikes, free weights, toning and strength training machines, resistance bands, exercise balls and stretching/yoga mats. Take it from me, this is the place to stay if you love working out! PS: It’s open 24 hours a day!

Each member of our tour group was treated to a spa treatment that morning: massage or pedicure, etc. Andy and I chose a 50 minute Signature Accista Couples Massage. Shout out to Elli (my masseuse) for her great work on my shoulders and legs. In the locker room there is water with fresh fruit in it and in the waiting room there is fresh fruit, water, dried cranberries and pecans. They must have known I was coming. ;) To see all the ways to spoil yourself at Accista Spa click here for their menu.

We had the rest of the day to ourselves, so Andy and I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and then had dinner at the Old Fisherman’s Grotto. I mention the restaurant because I think it’s important you go there if you visit Monterey. It’s so old school, but not outdated. There are great deals on wine and locals get discounts. I had my favorite meal (a Cobb Salad) only with halibut on it instead of chicken. Loved it!

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Then when we got back to the room, we saw a nice little evening snack had been left for us by the hotel staff. (It is another plate from the room service menu). I allowed Andy to do most of the damage on this one, because I still had a few leftovers from our other meals. We poured some wine (we brought some of our own wine on the trip because of the refrigerator in the room) to enjoy before we called it a night.snack2hyatt

A big thank you to the management and staff of the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa. Andy and I were honored to tour and stay at the property and give my readers a look at what your hotel has to offer their guests, as well as so many improvements you’ve made over the hotel’s development. You can find the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Facebook here and on twitter here.

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Rock’n Restaurants Event at the Crest Theatre on April 9th

The second annual Rock ’n Restaurants Event benefiting the California Restaurant Association Issues Political Action Committee will take place April 9th.

As Rock ’n Restaurants approaches, organizers have secured robust support from several restaurants and industry partners that will be integral in making the event possible. The event is slated to kick off with a VIP reception at 5 p.m. April 9 at the the Crest Theatre in Sacramento, with the concert to begin at 7 p.m.

Singer-songwriter Allen Stone will perform. Stone is a soulful performer who The New York Times has compared to Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers. Since the digital release of his self-titled album, Stone has since signed to ATO Records, which brought the album into wide release in 2012. The album has hit Billboard’s Top 10 Heatseekers and entered the Top 5 on iTunes’ R&B/Soul charts.

USA Today has called Allen Stone a “pitch-perfect powerhouse” and he’s performed on the Ellen Degeneres Show, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Last Call with Carson Daly and Live from Daryl’s House and was a featured artist on VH1’s You Oughta Know. But the 25-year-old performer from Chewelah, Wash. just sees himself as “a hippie with soul.”

Like many soul singers, Stone got his start in church. He is the son of a preacher, so whipping crowds into a call-and-response frenzy is second nature. Steeped in gospel music and shielded from secular songs, Allen didn’t discover soul music until he was a teenager and started collecting classic albums from the 1960s and ’70s.

“Soul music from that time wasn’t just about bumpin’ and grindin’ at the club – it was a huge part of a cultural movement,” Stone said. “That’s where my inspiration comes from.”

Rock ’n Restaurants will conclude the CRA’s 2013 Lobby Day event, which involves restaurant industry leaders from across the country convening in Sacramento to discuss legislative issues affecting restaurant with lawmakers at the Capitol.

Sacramento restaurant sponsors donating appetizers for the reception include: Grange, Morton’s Steakhouse, Lucca, Pizza Rock, Museo Mayahuel and McCormick & Schmicks. Alcoholic beverages will be provided by Miller-Coors, Pinnacle Vodka (yes!) and Jim Beam.

Farm Fresh to You and UBER Cab are also in-kind sponsors.

Several CRA chapters also are lending support to the event, including Sacramento, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Diego County and Orange County.

Event tickets cost $50 and will be available to purchase on calrest.org soon. Proceeds from the event will benefit the CRA Issues Political Action Committee.

For more information about the event or sponsorship opportunities, contact governmentaffairs(nospace) atcalrest(dot)org. You can find the California Restaurant Association on Facebook here. You can register for the event here.


Make-A-Wish’s® 25th Annual Winter Wine & Food Fest, Saturday, February 23rd

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Please join me for the 25th Annual Winter Wine & Food Fest on Saturday, February 23, 2013 at the Sacramento Convention Center. Food, Wine Tasting and Silent Auction take place from 5:00 p.m.- 7:30 p.m, and the exclusive VIP Live Auction is from 7:30 p.m.- 10:00 p.m.

1,000+ people are expected to attend this exclusive event, featuring more than 100 of the best local restaurants and wineries. Guests will enjoy a live and silent auction, live entertainment and delicious food and drink from elite restaurants and wineries. Come hear the compelling stories of two Wish Ambassadors, Chris and Emily.

This year, Joe and Pat Harbison are being honored for greatly contributing to this event.

This elegant Make-A-Wish® event raises funds to grant wishes for children ages 2 and 1/2 to 18 with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich their human experience with hope, strength, and joy. All proceeds raised stay within Northeastern California and Northern Nevada chapter and make dreams a reality for our local wish children. Last year this fundraiser was able to grant 87 wishes to children.

This year, there will be more than 300 silent and super silent auction items and about 35 live auction items including the following:

BE A YACHT OWNER FOR A WHOLE WEEK: Go where you want, do what you want.  It’s your boat.  Ninety feet of luxury afloat in paradise. Navigate to the white sandy beaches with breathtaking views of the most incredible aquamarine and sapphire blue-green water you ever imagined of the Exumas chain in the Bahamas. Up to four couples will join the yacht in Nassau where you will be met by Captain Mark Capozucco and his crew. This crew of four will take care of your every need for the next seven days.  Expertly prepared meals by the on-board chef to your liking, and by your schedule.  Your schedule can include a ride across the Bahamas Banks to the Exumas where you will be able to swim with the sharks (if you choose), enjoy the unique swimming pigs off the Big Major Island, marvel at the large local Iguana population, and enjoy endless water activities including the clear “see through” kayaks, jet skis and other on board “toys”. Dining under the stars or in the comfort of the dining salon will be your choice. Maybe a little fishing or a visit or two to the small nearby marinas will fit the bill, or maybe you just have a little reading you want to catch up on.  Curl up and enjoy, lay out and enjoy the sun.  What the heck, do it all! It’s your adventure on Solstice 1!The Yacht is equipped with three comfortable staterooms – a smaller fourth stateroom – a certified Captain, CIA trained Chef and crew. Travel dates to be mutually agreed upon. (airfare to Nassau not included)

Admission is $85 per person ($100 at the door) OR $185 per person ($200 at the door) for VIP tickets. No one under 21 permitted. For tickets contact Melissa Arnold at 916.692.3921 or email marnold(at)necannv.wish.org.

Dine Downtown Sacramento 2013: Blue Prynt Restaurant and Bar

It’s that time again! Sacramento’s Dine Downtown week began yesterday, January 9th and runs through January 18th, 2012. For 10 days only, you can enjoy a special three-course dinner menu at some of downtown Sacramento’s hottest restaurants for only $30 per person.

I returned to both of the restaurants I visited last year because I really enjoyed working with both the owners and chefs, and because Andy and enjoyed the menus very much. So, I’d like to present to you: Blue Prynt Restaurant and Bar.

First, here’s what you’ll have to choose from* this year:

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*Please note that only the mashed potatoes are available with the Prime Rib. :)

We chose a 2009 Rosenblum Syrah Vintner’s Cuvée to go with our entrée. Hint: We didn’t choose the tilapia for dinner. The wine was spicy, yet balanced with notes of cherry and licorice, and would pair well with any game meat. The alcohol on this wine is 15.9%.

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For our appetizer, we ordered the shrimp cocktail. The shrimp (poached in lemon) were fresh and plump and the cocktail sauce was spiced with lots of horseradish.

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We were also brought a basket of house-made foccacia, and though Andy and I don’t normally eat bread, I tasted some and took a photo of the basket so that you will know exactly everything you get for the dine downtown menu. The bread is baked, sliced and then toasted again for your table, and served with butter. A few bites of it made for a good palate cleanser for the wine after eating the spicy cocktail sauce. Another little detail I love about Blue Prynt is their water. Yes, the simple water they pour for you at the table. They flavor it with sliced cucumber. Such a great departure from lemon wedges. :)

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For the second course (by the way, you get more food for $30 here at Blue Prynt than at any other restaurant participating in Dine Downtown), we ordered the seafood chowder and a mixed greens salad.

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The chowder is made with a blend of halibut, shrimp, and salmon with bacon and potatoes rounding out the flavor. Andy ordered it, and suggested I try some. I was pleasantly surprised because I am not a chowder or even a soup fan, and I enjoyed it very much. Especially last night. It was a perfect match for the chilly weather we are currently having. :)

The salad was pretty standard (but loved it). It became more of my main course (so that I don’t overeat). I love ordering an entrée and slicing whatever meat I get on the dinner plate and putting it on top of my salad. That’s exactly what I did last night. The salad comes with cheddar cheese and olives on it. I also ordered blue cheese dressing on the side.

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The stars of the meal were the main courses. Both entrée plates were very sizable portions. I ordered the prime rib. It came with blue cheese and bacon mashed potatoes, asparagus and some au jus for the meat. I really loved the spice rub on the prime!!

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Andy ordered the pan seared venison also served with grilled asparagus and blue cheese bacon mashed potatoes. The venison was so tender and perfectly cooked. Andy let me have a whole medallion! :) The particular cut being served comes from the thigh and the meat was sourced from Australia. The venison also comes with a flavorful mushroom sauce. The mashed potatoes were a great little bed for both entrées, and took on some of the flavor of the different meats on the plate. And anything with blue cheese and bacon makes the world a better place. :)

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As if that wasn’t enough food, it was on to dessert. Andy let me have the rest of his wine (thanks, honey) as he moved on to a giant phyllo dough flower with ice cream and both caramel and chocolate sauces. It’s almost becoming a joke with how much food he can get away with and not gain any weight. I actually like having him around because I can order food I would not normally try, have a few bites, and pass the rest to him. The phyllo flower was beautiful, and reminded me a lot of fried ice cream you would get at a Mexican restaurant.

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I ordered the chocolate-covered strawberries as I did last year. This time, the chocolate was flavored with a little mint. I really liked them. I had two of them, and Andy must have really liked them as well because he had the rest of them… along with about 95% of the phyllo flower and ice cream. :P

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So there you have it. The Dine Downtown menu at Blue Prynt. You have until Friday, January 18th to enjoy the pre fixe menu above, and Chef Jason reports the main entrées will be available on the regular menu in case you’d like to try them after the promotion ends.

I’d also like to mention Blue Prynt’s all-you-can-eat crab feed on February 9th (yes, please!) for $35 per person. PS: That the price didn’t go up from last year. Call the restaurant at (916) 492-2969 for more information.

Blue Prynt’s Facebook page is located here and you can follow them on twitter here. Here is a link to their Happy Hour page. Join them from 4:30-7:00pm for $4 house wine, $3 well cocktails, $2 PBR, and $2 side-car shot with the purchase of a drink (see shot shelf at the restaurant for options).

For a full list of the Dine Downtown participating restaurants and their menus, you can click here.

Join Blue Prynt for Dine Downtown by making reservations on Open Table here.

Check in here on Saturday for my review of Blackbird Kitchen and Bar’s Dine Downtown menu!


Tarla Mediterranean Grill: My New Favorite in Downtown Napa

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Well, I just found my new favorite restaurant. Unfortunately for me, it’s in Downtown Napa, so I won’t be able to visit as often as I would like. The name of the restaurant is Tarla Mediterranean Grill and they serve cuisine that is a beautiful blend of Turkish and Greek influences. It also happens to be located in the same building as one of my favorite places to stay in Napa, the Avia Hotel.

I picked Tarla Mediterranean Grill not only because of its close proximity to the Uptown Theatre (where we were headed later to see Robert Cray and his band), but it was also a nod to Andy’s heritage. Andy is half-Greek, so I thought it would be the perfect choice for his birthday celebration.

Tarla Mediterranean Grill opened last year, and is owned by Yusuf Topal and his wife Breanna. Yusuf’s background is in hospitality, as he was a former maitre d’ and manager of various cruise ship restaurants.

The head chef is Gerry Castro. He attended CIA and has worked for the likes of Far Niente Winery, Ceja Vineyards, Farmstead Restaurant, and Murray Circle (a Michelin starred restaurant in Sausalito).

The restaurant seats only 46, and has a great patio area if you prefer to dine outside. The interior has a clean, informal, and inviting look with tangerine and olive hues in the decor. There are nice touches to each table including candles and turkish white copper cups (in which water is served to guests).

We kicked off the birthday dinner with a half bottle of Malamatina Retsina, and began the meal with Tarla’s Greek salad. I also ordered a side of hummus to use as a dip for the tomatoes and cucumbers in the salad.

Then we ordered the Meatballs served with caramelized eggplant, bell peppers, and fresh tomato sauce.

For my main course, I ordered the Tiger prawns and diver scallops, served with parsnip puree and pomegranate currant sauce. Everything in the dish is Paleo, and it was the first dish that caught my eye on the menu. It was almost like the chef called Andy, asked him what all my favorite foods are, then put some of them together. It was as wonderful as I imagined.

Andy chose the Fresh Alaskan halibut, which is pistachio crusted and served with vegetable ragu and white wine butter sauce. Again, every ingredient was Paleo and once again, unbelievably good.

We finished our meal with 2 desserts. This usually works because I take one or two bites and then pass over to Andy to finish. That way, nobody is deprived. And it was a special occasion, so what the heck. :)

The first dessert was poached apricots stuffed with mascarpone cheese and rolled in pistachios. The sweetness was balanced with the cheese filling, and pistachios just make something that already tastes great, taste even better.

At this point writing my post, I am realizing we really ate a lot of food that night! But wait, there’s more…

The owner brought out a second dessert for us like nothing I have ever seen or tried before! It is called kunefe (shredded phyllo dough baked with shredded coconut and sweet cheese). Not primal or even Paleo, but a nice treat nonetheless. I had a few bites and had Andy finish the rest. The texture and flavor was unlike anything I have ever tried before. Baklava might sound good and traditional, but trust me… try the kunefe. You can thank me later. I liked it so much I am going to work on a gluten-free, sugar free version. :) Just wow.

Other dishes on the menu include spanokopita, calamari, saganaki, chicken and lamb shish kebabs, Turkish stuffed eggplant, and musakka (a traditional dish in both Turkey and Greece). By the way, if you’ve never had saganaki, just do it. It’s amazing.

The other wine we shared at dinner was a 2011 Peju Sauvignon Blanc. The wine list is so reasonable it’s unreasonable! My alcohol bill for the retsina and the sauvignon blanc was only about $35. Also, every Wednesday, the restaurant features a select wine list with bottles 50% off until 7:30pm.

No entree on the menu is over $20, and as you can see in the pictures, the portions are generous.

Tarla Mediterranean Grill  is located at 1480 1st Street, Downtown Napa. To contact the restaurant, call (707) 255-5599. Their happy hour is Monday-Friday 3-6pm, and late night happy hour is 8:30-10pm. They are open Monday-Thursday 11am-10pm, Friday 11am-11pm, Saturday 10am-11pm, and Sunday 10am-10pm.

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


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