Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

Posts tagged “wine

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:

dessert menu

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! :)

bar area

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

andy


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

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So I am pretty sure that the wine event I am promoting today was specifically designed for me. See, Tempranillo is my favorite red varietal, and the most extensive tasting of domestically produced Tempranillos and other Iberian varietal wines, featuring nearly 40 TAPAS member vintners is about to take place at the seventh annual Grand Wine Tasting held at the Golden Gate Club at the Presidio in San Francisco on Sunday, April 27, 2014. I’m in! :)

Trade and consumers will be able to taste Tempranillos, Albariños, Garnachas, Verdelhos, Tourigas, and many other varieties, in a casual walk-around setting where they can chat with the growers and vintners. Explore the diversity of grapes and styles produced across the western United States.  Many TAPAS members are limited-production, family-owned wineries and will be pouring small lot wines that are not widely available. Many of the wines will also be available for sale at this event.

This year’s event will highlight Tempranillo’s aging potential with a Kickoff Seminar comparing pairs of Aged and New Tempranillos from the same vintner.  See one of the reasons why Tempranillo is the fastest growing variety worldwide!

The event schedule is:

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

Tickets are $95 and include early admission to the Consumer Tasting.

2:00 – 5:00 p.m. – Consumer Tasting.  In conjunction with the walk-around tasting, the TAPAS Wine School (included with admission) will feature these informative consumer-oriented seminars and guided tastings:

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

Tickets to the Consumer Tasting are $60.

TAPAS President Stuart Spencer noted, “The TAPAS Grand Tasting is a unique opportunity for you to discover, savor and celebrate this treasure chest of exotic and delightfully food-friendly wines. You will gain appreciation for what some visionary winegrowers are doing here on American soil. Don’t miss it!”

About TAPAS: TAPAS started at the 2004 Unified Symposium, when Tempranillo winegrowers from California, Oregon, Washington, Texas and Arizona met for the first time to discuss their avocation.  Since that first visionary group pointed the way, the organization has incorporated and grown to over 100 members.  The first Grand Wine Tasting was held at Copia in Napa in 2008, and has continued annually since then, as one of many initiatives to promote Tempranillo and other varietal wine grapes native to the Iberian Peninsula and wines produced from them in North America.

To purchase tickets, click here.

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


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

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Oops. So I haven’t posted anything since last Wednesday, which was also Wine Wednesday. Well, this one comes from my friends at HALL Wines. Their 5th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff is on Sunday, May 18th, and here’s a press release I received to tell you all about it:

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The fifth annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff features an all-star line-up of both San Francisco and Napa Valley based Chef teams vying to win a culinary pairing challenge. Bringing together local foodies and wine for a good cause, over 15 chef teams will compete for a local charity as judged by industry judges (including Sacramento’s own food and wine writer Chris Macias) by creating small bite dishes paired with the recently released HALL 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. During the event, guests will be invited to taste farm-to-table dishes from each chef team paired with the wine and vote on their favorite for the People’s Choice Award.

The 2013 HALL Cabernet Cookoff drew more than 480 culinary and wine lovers and raised $30,000 for the top four winning team’s sponsored charities.

5th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff combining a bevy of well-known culinary teams competing in a food/wine pairing challenge. Chef teams participating in the HALL Cabernet Cookoff include:

  • Tyler Rodde, Oenotri
  • Victoria Acosta, The Grill at Meadowood
  • Rodney Worth & Audrey Perrone, The Pear Bistro
  • Corrie Beezley, The Farmers Market Pantry
  • Christopher Ludwick, Earth’s Bounty Kitchen & Winebar
  • Valentina Migotto & Dario De Conti, Ca’ Momi
  • Jesse McQuarrie, Feast Catering
  • Brian Overhauser, Jamieson Ranch
  • Jason Toji & Spencer Weiss, Press
  • Will Wright, Bounty Hunter Smokin BBQ
  • Nenad Stefanovic, Intercontinental Mark Hopkins
  • Kara Lind, Kara’s Cupcakes
  • Mark Dommen, One Market Restaurant
  • Alex Marsh, Yankee Pier Larkspur
  • Daniel Capra, Paula Le Duc Catering

WHEN:  Sunday, May 18, 2014, from 11:00am – 2:00pm PST                                   

WHERE: HALL Wines, St. Helena: 401 St. Helena Hwy. South St. Helena, CA 94574. For more information, please visit www.hallwines.com/cabernetcookoff or via social channels using #cabernetcookoff. To purchase tickets to the event, please visit CellarPass.


Wine Wednesday: Esporão 2012 Alandra Rosé

 

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

And just in time for the warmer temperatures outside, today’s featured wine happens to be from Portugal. It is a lovely, simple, and fruitfully delicious rosé of Aragoñes, Syrah, and Touriga Nacional called Alandra. (Alcohol 13.5%) It’s strawberry-scented and floral.

Last night I enjoyed it with some sauerkraut and sausages, though the best pairing could be possibly be found this spring/summer with food in your picnic basket (meats & cheeses). The screw-top makes this wine convenient for on-the-go. And upon learning the price, I’ll be on-the-go to stock my wine refrigerator! It retails for just $6.99. To find out where you can purchase this wine, contact northamerica(at)esporao(dot)com. Also, my quick internet shopping yielded these results (click here).

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

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


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.


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

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Lately, I have been very selective in the events I attend and the restaurants, products, services, et cetera I choose to promote, but last week when I was invited to attend the monthly wine dinner held at Dawson’s at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Sacramento, I jumped at the opportunity.

For a while now, Dawson’s has been one of the most underrated restaurants in town. Andy and I had attended a few of the Dawson’s wine dinners last year and found them to be quite economical (despite a $79 per person price which might seem like a lot of money to spend on a Thursday night). The value is to be found in the quality and amount of the food (4 courses with wine pairings), the wine featured (always a higher-end label) and the service (look for Ardy and tip him well–he’s terrific). Dawson’s even offers free valet parking to wine dinner guests upon arrival. I am not sure you can get a better deal anywhere else.

Before dinner, we were treated to a charcuterie, cheese, fruit, and sparkling wine reception. Andy and I were then introduced to the chef (Jason Poole) and the wine representative (LT Nedjar) Mr. Nedjar was there representing the label featured that night: Goldschmidt Vineyards. Follwing our introduction, both gentlemen returned to going over the menu and the wines one last time to make sure the experience would be seamless for the dinner guests.

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Upon seating, we were presented with the menu. Typically, the menu and the pairings get published online and via an email blast before the dinner. I love the email blasts because I can sit at my desk at work and daydream about what I am going to eat that evening! ;) Below is the menu from Thursday night’s dinner:

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Just before our seating, the sous chef  Michael Grande walked us through the menu. Both times I have seen Chef Grande, he has been so enthusiastic about the wine dinner’s course line-up and his excitement is contagious. :) Soon, we were invited into the dining room for the meal to begin.

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The first course of the evening was a Hamachi Crudo with baby coconut, Rising C Ranch Melogold Grapefruit, Blood Orange and Avocado Oil, Yuzu Emulsion, and it was paired with the Boulder Bank (a label owned by Goldschmidt) Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2011. The acidity and fats in the dish balanced very well with the Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand-style, high acidity, though not a complete grapefruit bomb. I was actually reminded more of canned peaches, as the wine was a touch sweet.) Still, it was a perfect compliment to the hamachi and the fruit essences in the dish.

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The second course was a Coke Farms Baby Beet Caprese Salad with house-made mozzarella (yes!!), an herb salad, morel ash, and finished with double Solera Vinegar. It was paired with the Chelsea Goldschmidt Merlot, Dry Creek Valley 2011. We were told that the grapes that go into this particular merlot are literally on the front of the property at the winemaker’s residence, so they get extra attention. My only complaint about this course was that I wish I had been served a little more of it. :) The cheese had the wonderful elasticity that fresh mozzarella has, with just a hint of salt. The beets were earthy and al dente. The merlot was a delightful pairing for this course.

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And then the third course happened. And I was officially wowed. It was a Cranberry Bean Cassoulet with a Confit Duck (leg), house-made boudin blanc, Tails and Trotters Pork Belly, and County Line Farms Baby Mustards. It was paired with two different wines to highlight the different proteins and flavor profiles in the bowl. The first wine was the Forefathers Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2009, and the second wine was the Hillary Goldschmidt Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville 2011. The last time I had duck as part of an entrée was back in the fall at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. It was a grilled breast and braised leg served with roasted wine grapes. As memorable as the main course was at Chez Panisse, I will say without hesitation that the cassoulet at Dawson’s was the better dish. I am still thinking about the slice of crispy pork belly that topped the cassoulet at Dawson’s. For me, it was the best bite of food of the night, and I will be daydreaming about the cassoulet for a long time to come! I could have used an extra slice of that salty, rich pork belly instead of the sausage that was nestled underneath the duck. I am not sure how the dish was intended to eat, but I enjoyed its components one at a time. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but everything tasted oh so right! ;)

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Ultimately, to me, the food was more remarkable than the wine (sorry, Goldschmidt!), but there are some really great things going on in the kitchen at Dawson’s. However, the wine made a terrific impression with Andy, as he purchased a case of Cabernet that evening before we left.

But before our exit, we were served coffee and one last course, the dessert. Usually, there is a dessert wine presented at the Dawson’s wine dinner, but this time it was suggested we save a little of the Forefathers Cabernet to pair with our dessert. The dessert was a Dark Fruit Consommé (interesting concept there!) with a Crispy Hazelnut Cake, Dark Chocolate Pave, and Toasted Fennel Oil.

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I loved the texture of the cake–it was spongey and soaked up the fruit consommé’s vibrant flavor. The chocolate on top served as a ganache-type frosting. It was a well-executed part of the meal and a memorable finish.

About the winemaker: Nick Goldschmidt, originally from New Zealand, gained international notoriety as winemaker at Simi Winery. Since 2007 he has been a consulting winemaker for several premium brands around the world, and is very well known for his single vineyard, handcrafted, small production artisanal wines that consistently score in the 90s in most wine publications. In fact, all his wines are 100% single variety, 100% single vintage, 100% single vineyard. You can find more information on their website here, or find them on Facebook here.

Dawson’s wine dinners are held every third Thursday of the month and have featured labels such as Alpha Omega, Far Niente/Nickel & Nickel, Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Hall Vineyards, Palmaz Vineyards, and Rodney Strong.

Tip: Check into Dawson’s using your smartphone and receive special perks for being a loyal customer. A free glass of select draft beer using Foursquare or a free glass of select wines using Yelp!

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

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


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

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

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Back in Napa again at last and a return to one of our favorite places to stay: The Meritage Resort. By the way, at the end of this column, read about the inaugural Masters and Makers @ Meritage event being held at The Meritage Resort in February over Valentine’s Weekend. Attention couples, a great way to celebrate!

Here’s the lobby at The Meritage, and a shot of the room in which we stayed.

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After checking into our room, we had a glass of wine to kick off a romantic evening. I was so excited to return to the Napa Valley Wine Train for dinner, and this time I was able to bring Andy as my guest. I originally wrote about The Wine Train on my other website: cakegrrl.com. You can read the entry by clicking here. :)

The Wine Train Depot is located at 1275 McKinstry Street in the Oxbow district, just 5 minutes from downtown Napa on foot.

boarding ticket

TrainDiagram2013This is a diagram of the wine train. The Napa Valley Wine Train consists of nine rail cars and two engines on point: Lounge Cars (3), Lounge Car with Wine Tasting Bar (1), Gourmet Express Dining Cars (2), Silverado Car Al-Fresco Style Dining(1), Vista Dome Dining Car (1), Power Car (1), Chef de Cuisine Kitchen Car with Glass Observation Corridor (1)

Andy and I were assigned to the beautiful Vista Dome.

The Vista Dome is a 1952 Pullman domed rail car that offers the most private dining experience. The Vista Dome Car is an elevated observation style dining car expertly refurbished using Honduran Mahogany paneling and brass accents. Perfect for a private function or one of our special events, this domed rail car hosts up to 56 dining guests.

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Above is a picture taken inside the Vista Dome! I was feeling so spoiled and lucky to be sitting beside Andy. :) Especially when the server brought out the welcome glass of Chandon. All guests on the wine train get a glass of sparkling wine included with their dinner.

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Corkage on the Napa Valley Wine Train is $15.00 per 750ml bottle and $30 for a Magnum sized bottle. If you bring one bottle of wine on board and buy a bottle
on board, they will waive the corkage for that bottle. FYI, most of the wines on the Wine Train menu are very reasonably priced.

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

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

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menu
Here’s a picture the dinner menu we chose from. It is slightly different from the other dining car. Executive Chef Kelly Macdonald offers a unique menu for this dining option with all selections prepared in the kitchen located on the first floor of this car. The meals are freshly prepared on the train using fresh, environmentally responsible ingredients, humanely raised, hormone free meats and fresh, line caught fish. For a closer look, you can click here.

For our appetizers, Andy went with the Salmon Crepe and I chose the Rabbit Confit. The lighting in the Vista Dome was dim, but I did not want to use a flash, so please forgive the photos I took of our meal. They are slightly dark.

The Salmon Crepe is served with Crème Fraîche, American Caviar and Honey Onion Marmalade.

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

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

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It was a shrimp and seafood bisque, and though we have been experiencing warmer than normal temperatures this winter, the temperature had dropped enough by the time we boarded the train to appreciate a delicious soup. :)

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The salad was not for dieters. ;) It was a Red and Green Apple Endive Salad with Gorgonzola Cheese, Hazelnuts and Mustard Vinaigrette. I was happy because I am on a real hazelnut kick right now and have been for a while.

After our second course, a sorbet trio was brought out. I forgot to snap a photo of it. The flavors were mango, pineapple, and mixed berry. They are made by the chefs at the Wine Train and were a wonderful intermezzo.

Then it was time for the entrees. Andy and I both chose the Roasted Beef Tenderloin on Potato‐Fennel Gratin topped with Fried Lotus Root and Red Onion Marmalade in a Red Wine Cabernet Reduction. I had reviewed the menu ahead of time and chosen my entrée and that is mainly why Andy brought the Bell Cabernet. The wine pairing was excellent. And though I gave a little bit of my beef portion to Andy to finish, it was all so good I had nothing left on my plate.

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

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

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It was quite the adventure walking from car to car and fun to catch some fresh air between courses. It sort of felt like we were in a James Bond movie! After that, we were re-seated to enjoy our desserts, as well as a glass of port that Andy and I shared.

Below is a picture of the dessert I chose, a Chocolate “Pot Pie” and below that, Andy’s dessert: a Blondie with Mint Ice Cream. This job is so tough, isn’t it? In typical fashion, I had a few bites and then shoved my dessert over to Andy, who did not object to finishing it. I was eying the blondie on his plate and asked for the chocolate-dipped edge. He gladly shared with me. I love eating meals with my best friend. :)

Chocolate Pot Pie
Blondie with Mint Ice Cream

Wine Train FAQs I found particularly interesting:
Q: Is a tip included in the price?
A: Optional tipping is solely based upon the guests’ experience on board. It is not unusual for guest to leave 3%-8% additional based upon receiving excellent service. Your tip should be on your food and beverage service (the value of your on board pre-paid meal is $55.00) per person tax included, and not the train fare.

Q: Is Wine Included?
A: One glass of welcome wine is included with every Wine Train package for guests who are over the age of 21. Wines are included during the Vintner’s Lunches and the monthly Moonlight Escape Dinners. Cocktails, beers and wine can be purchased on board throughout your journey. More than 100 wines are on the wine list and in the Wine Tasting Car.

Q: Do you have to drink wine on the Napa Valley Wine Train?
A: No, you do not have to drink wine on board the Napa Valley Wine Train.  For our guests who do not want to drink wine, we also offer juice, soda, non-alcoholic wines, beers, cocktails and brandies.

During the 3-hour-long, 36-mile (58 km) round-trip between Napa and St. Helena, passengers can choose to enjoy a gourmet  meal prepared on board. They can also sample several of the region’s wines available at the wine bar located in one of the lounge cars. The train offers optional stops for tours of Domaine Chandon Winery in Yountville, Grgich Hills Estate in Rutherford, and a motor coach tour of Raymond Winery in St. Helena and ZD Winery in Napa for an additional fee. The train hosts several special events throughout the year including murder mystery dinner theater, vintner’s luncheons, appellation dinners and holiday excursions. Guests are invited to explore the rest of the train after the entree and prior to the dessert.

The Napa Valley Wine Train has been in operation since September 16, 1989 and has now carried more than 2 million passengers.

Here’s a list of special events on The Wine Train, including a special Valentine’s lunch and dinner.

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

Since I was a return guest, I was presented with some chocolates as a parting gift. (Some guests around us were repeat customers and also got chocolates as well, not just the journalist!) Since I was a little sad my mom (who lives in Ohio) was not there to enjoy this experience with us, I decided to send them to her and they are currently en route to the midwest. :)

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The next morning, it was time to pay for all those glorious calories and the night of indulgence aboard the Wine Train. :) Lucky for me, The Meritage Resort has a killer gym with a great view. And I put in over an hour on this bad boy:
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Then it was time for a well needed shower, just in time for check out. Thanks for everything to the staff at The Meritage Resort and see you next time!

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

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The Meritage Resort and Spa will host the inaugural Masters and Makers @ Meritage Napa Valley food and wine experience February 14 to February 16, 2014. This celebration will showcase Napa Valley and Sonoma County wines and farm-fresh foods through creative wine tasting experiences, seminars, culinary classes, a wine maker dinner in the Estate Cave, a wine tasting gala and more. Join The Meritage Resort’s Executive Chef, Krisztian Karkus, Master Sommeliers, including Gillian Balance from Treasury Wine Estates/Beringer and Fred Dame with Southern Wine and Spirits as well as some of the best and most well-known wine makers in the region.

The weekend of events is aimed at teaching each attendee, no matter their wine tasting background, from novice to aficionado, more about the wines the Napa Valley is famous for. Guests are able to choose from a variety of educational and fun activities throughout three days of tastings and events with master wine makers and master sommeliers making this the wine event that is not to be missed.

Masters and Makers @ Meritage begins Friday, February 14 with The Master and The Makers Tasting, an Amuse Bouche set to highlight five quintessential blended wines from the Napa Valley. Guests will taste the wines and listen as a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier taste and review each of the wines, giving their opinions and helping guests understand the art of wine tasting. The Friday night Reserve Wine Dinner in the Estate Cave will be led by Master Sommeliers as they take attendees on a food and wine journey and featuring Pine Ridge Vineyards.

On Saturday, guests are able to choose from one of three activities during the day and attend the evening wine tasting gala. The daytime activities include a Custom Wine Tour set to visit three classic Napa Valley wineries with tours and tastings at each, plus a picnic lunch. The Perfect Blending, an educational and hands-on course about what makes the perfect Bordeaux Blend including lunch and your own “Meritage Blend” with a custom wine label. Foodies may want to choose Cook to This! Trinitas Cellars Cooking Class and Wine Pairing, giving attendees the opportunity to create their own multi-course lunch with the help of culinary experts perfectly paired with wines selected by Trinitas Cellars.

The Gala and Grand Tasting on Saturday evening will transform The Grand Ballroom at The Meritage Resort into a majestic tasting room with live music and over 65 wineries from Napa Valley and Sonoma County to showcase many of the finest wines produced in the region. Alongside the wines will be endless culinary creations from the chefs at The Meritage Resort including a selection of seafood, caviars, cheeses, meats and decadent desserts.

Masters and Makers @ Meritage will close on Sunday with the farewell Bubbles & Brunch and a casual afternoon of tasting 30-40 wines at the Appellation Tasting paired with cheeses and charcuterie.

“We’re looking forward to bringing all of the premier wineries to one convenient spot to offer a premiere wine and food experience,” said Michael Palmer, general manager of The Meritage Resort and Spa. “Our goal with the Masters and Makers @ Meritage is to give attendees an exclusive weekend wine and food experience that only Napa Valley can provide.

Masters and Makers @ Meritage 3-Day All Access Passes are $509 per person, and include entry into all events on Friday, two events on Saturday (one daytime event and the evening gala) and all events on Sunday. Guests may also choose to purchase events and activities individually. Discounted room packages are also available, the $950 package includes a 3-Day All Access Passes for two and a two night stay, valid February 14-16, 2014 only. A portion of all ticket sales from The Gala and Grand Tasting will be donated to the Napa Valley’s COPE Family Center. Complete Information is available at TheMeritageResort.com/Napa-Valley-Restaurants/Masters-Makers/.

About The Meritage Resort and Spa
The Meritage Resort and Spa is an extraordinary four-diamond Napa Valley luxury resort set against a hillside vineyard. A destination unto itself, it features 322 Tuscan-inspired guestrooms and luxury suites, seasonal farm-to-table cuisine at the Siena Restaurant and wine tasting in the Estate Cave featuring Trinitas Cellars. Regain a healthful balance with curative treatments at Spa Terra—a lavish underground spa with steam grottoes, soaking pools, treatment alcoves and tranquil walls of water. The resort boasts the most comprehensive event and meeting space in the wine country, including the two largest ballrooms in the Napa Valley, the Estate Cave and three covered terraces. Crush Ultra Lounge offers guests a chance to relax with a full bar, sports entertainment and six bowling lanes. Far more than a place for relaxation, our unique property is an Old World escape from the ordinary. The Meritage Resort and Spa experience is the perfect blend of gracious hospitality, unrivaled amenities and peerless personal care. The Meritage Resort and Spa, We are Napa. TheMeritageResort.com.


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

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

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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. :)

oak ridge sparkling

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

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

dono zin

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

st amant tempranillo

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

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

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


Total Wine & More Wine Classes and Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

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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.

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doorway to our room
The doorway to the Don Quixote Suite.

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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. :)

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

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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.

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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! :)

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

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And I was very pleased with my meal as well!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Summer Survival Wine Kit Giveaway Sponsored by [yellow tail] Wines

“Feel the heat burning you up, ready or not…”

I feel extremely lucky right now. I live in a small one bedroom condo and the air conditioning works great. I have access to a pool. I might not have a lot of money, but I am counting my blessings now that I have a steady job and the financial bleeding has stopped (until something else dastardly happens). ;)

This week’s temperature predictions top anything I have ever seen since I have been here (it’s my 9th summer) and according to Andy (a life-long Sacramentan) anything he has ever lived through as well. It’s supposed to be 109° today, but rather than bitch about it (like most people) I am going to swim, tan, sweat, drink water, eat ice and just get through it with a smile on my face. I’d like to apologize for said face in advance: melted, smeared and greasy! Ah, the fresh look of summer! Also, there will be lots of bad, half fixed hair (wig) days. Again, sorry. :(

summer

To help YOU make it through the swelter, [yellow tail] Wines has sent me this lovely beach kit, which I am going pass on to one lucky reader. I want to help [yellow tail] introduce their latest wines: The [yellow tail] Pink Moscato (with notes of strawberry and watermelon) and Sweet White Roo (flavors of tropical fruit and lemon sorbet)! They’re a perfect match for your backyard BBQ or bringing to the beach (screwtops!)

The Summer Survival Wine Kit (pictured above) Contains:
One bottle [yellow tail] Pink Moscato
One bottle [yellow tail] Sweet White Roo
One huge beach towel
One pair sunglasses
Set of plastic wine glasses
One straw hat
One pair of sandals
…All in one big pink tote! (sorry, ice cubes not included!)

OK wine lovers (especially you sangria people out there, because this wine makes a great base for sangria or summer cocktail!) :) The Summer Survival Kit is up for grabs for anyone local to Sacramento!

To win, please share this post via twitter or Facebook and leave a comment below. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR 4th of JULY? :) Feel free to share a link to your favorite recipe or blog!

I’ll pick a winner on the morning of July 3rd, so you can have your bag o’ fun by the 4th of July! Stay cool out there. xo

You can find [yellow tail] on Facebook here and on twitter here.


A Weekend in Carmel: The Hofsas House Hotel

Remember a few weekends ago when Sacramento felt hotter than Christie Brinkley in the Uptown Girl video? (Here’s a link for the children in the audience). Well, Andy and I were able to escape the brutality (before melting) on a little getaway in Carmel, kindly hosted by the Hofsas House Hotel.

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It happened to be my birthday weekend, which made the trip even more awesome. And again, so happy to have Andy in my life and to treat him to fun couple of days in return for treating me to great wine and occasional dinners out, as well as most of dinners made at his home on the weekend. Below is the front of the part of the hotel in which we stayed. I have never seen such great landscaping in my life as I saw in Carmel. All the flowers and plants just seem to love the cool (but not cold) climate.


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Upon on our arrival, this spread of wine and cheese (from The Cheese Shop) was waiting for us (a $30 upgrade for hotel patrons), along with a lot of information about the hotel, and two passports for The Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea.

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For visitors to Carmel, the wine tasting passport is $65 which entitles the buyer to one $10 flight at each of the ten tasting rooms. It can be used in one day or spread out over a weekend, several weeks, or even months. The Wine Tasting Passport is available for purchase at the Carmel Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center on San Carlos between 5th & 6th in Carmel-by-the-Sea or for purchase online here.

The Wine Walk by-the-Sea is a self-paced self-guided stroll to ten tasting rooms in the 1×1 square mile of Carmel-by-the-Sea: Blair Estate, Caraccioli Cellars, DeTierra Vineyards, Figge Vineyards, Galante Vineyards, Manzoni Cellars, Scheid Vineyards, Shale Canyon Wines, Vino Napoli and Wrath Wines.

Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea offers the opportunity to savor superior still and sparkling wines without ever having to think about transportation, parking, or even dinner plans. Each tasting room on the Wine Walk will offer recommendations for dinner or call to make reservations. As an added bonus, corkage is waived for bottles purchased at a Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea tasting room at participating restaurants for one bottle per visit, per party. You can find Carmel Wine Walk-by-the-Sea on Facebook here, or follow them on twitter here.

We decided to wait until the next day for the wine walk, as we had dinner reservations at 7:30pm at Mundaka. Before dinner, we sat on the balcony of our room, enjoying the wine and cheese left for us and the beautiful view on an unusually warm evening.

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We also were treated to the Sunset Beach Package (available July-October 2013).

The Hofsas House Sunset Beach package Includes: Wood and starter for a 3 x 3 foot beach fire, Comfy oversized beach blankets to relax upon, all the fixings for s’mores including marshmallows, Hershey bars, graham crackers and long handled roasting sticks (for 10 people), and a safety flashlight.

Total cost for this upgrade is $60. Return the beach package tote bag and skewers and you will receive a $10 refund.  Beach fire must be ordered from the Hofsas House 24 hours in advance and subject to availability. This particular package can be booked through the Hofsas House concierge or if reserving online use Booking Code: HHSunset.

Speaking of upgrades, there are several at Hofsas House. Other packages available are:
1. In-room his and her couples massages starting at $160 for 45 minutes.
2. Hotel room decoration (for a special event: anniversary or birthday theme) for $75.
3. Beach fire setup including flowers, s’mores, blanket, flashlight and message in the sand for $139.
4. Golf add-ons (Hofsas has partnerships with 6 area courses) starting at $65 per person (including cart).
5. Two-for-one admission Monterey Bay Aquarium tickets.
6. Champagne and cheese pairing with Hofsas House engraved flutes.

pastries
Included with your stay at Hofsas House is a continental breakfast, abundant with fresh French Roast coffee, tea, juice, fruit and pastries from a neighborhood bakery. For those of you like myself who do not eat wheat, there is also fruit available. Most importantly, there is a refrigerator in your room, and you can pack necessary breakfast items. We brought a Tupperware container full of cantaloupe. Below is a picture of the lobby, warm and welcoming.

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Below is a shot of the Brut Rosé from Caraccioli Cellars. We stopped at two wineries on the Carmel Wine Walk By-the-Sea and Caraccioli was one of them. If you’re lucky, a sweet young lady named Anyssa will wait on you. You can find them on Facebook here. And on twitter here.

Caraccioli Cellars

The other tasting room, and actually part art gallery we stopped by was Figge Cellars. Along with superb wines, the tasting room was also a unique art gallery with pieces like the one below. You can find them on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

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Each night we enjoyed dinner at local places: Mundaka (in downtown Carmel) and Fandango (in nearby Pacific Grove), but after each we retired to Hofsas.

In Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Theis family is celebrating six decades of European hospitality in this Bavarian-inspired Hofsas House Hotel.

The Hofsas House Hotel is within walking distance of everything Carmel has to offer, including a stunning beach, fine restaurants and shops, and the aforementioned wine tasting. It provides peaceful respite and European charm just minutes from Monterey, Pebble Beach, Big Sur and Pacific Grove. The Hofsas House’s 38 spacious, one-of-a-kind rooms boast European comfort and lovely views, not to mention amenities like fireplaces, private balconies, wet bars, kitchens and patios. Large suites provide the perfect stay for newlyweds and everyone else seeking an extra special getaway. Dutch doors in every room allow guests to welcome in the ocean air, and free WiFi enables them to stay connected if they wish.

The Hofsas House Hotel family works to ensure every visitor’s experience is special, striving to offer the highest quality personal services.  or the personalized concierge services for guests and their families, including their four-legged family members, who are welcome, as well. The pet fees are as follows: $25 fee per night for one dog, and $40 per night for two dogs. If you mention you would like the “Tail Wagging Package” you’ll get these items with your room upon arrival:
1. A Hofsas House dog frisbee
2. Special dog bed
3. Letter from the onsite pet concierge Cajun
4. Tips and recommendations for your four-legged friends stay
5. A Package of treats
6. Coastal Canine Magazine
7. A special amenity package from California Pup

Hofsas House Hotel is located on San Carlos Street, north of Fourth Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea. For more information, call (831) 624-2745 or visit www.hofsashouse.com. You can like them on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.

I’d like to extend my gratitude to the Hofsas House Hotel for hosting us during our stay in Carmel and being a direct ambassador to the wineries and restaurants we visited during our stay.

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