Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

Latest

Hyatt Regency Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill Home to this Year’s National Alopecia Areata Foundation Conference

13707554_10154341708373908_2590272229804752956_n
This year marked the 31st Annual National Alopecia Areata Foundation’s Convention, and this year we convened in Washington, D.C.

What the heck is alopecia? Click here to find out.

Though many rallied at the Capitol to raise awareness and urge their congresspeople to consider legislation that would help cover wigs/hairpieces for a patient diagnosed with alopecia, the home of the convention was at The Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill, where conference attendees gathered together in support of each other, danced together, cried together, dined together, laughed together, learned together, and did nothing short of have a ball together.

You see, for alopecians, this is the most important event of the year where we can get together from all parts of the world and share our experiences. Because sharing and relating is medicine for the soul. The magic of the conference is that it provides a gathering place for people and their families from all walks of life who are affected by this disease.

NAAF empowerment session
I arrived very late on Thursday night, and did not go to Capitol Hill with the others, but I attended a workshop on Friday afternoon called Empowering Lives, Building Resilience, led by Dr. Renee Thomason.

Then on Friday evening, I was treated to dinner by Roti Meditteranean Grill (located in Union Station). It is only about 1/3 of a mile to Union Station (pictured below).

union station
Inside Union Station, Roti is located on the left side of the building, on the lower level.

roti in union station
If you have never tried Roti Mediterranean Grill, it’s pretty much like a build your own burrito place, but instead with Mediterranean food. What drew me to Roti is that they have a gluten-free/gluten-friendly menu with gluten-free pita bread. Probably enough said there, too. I am sure all my gluten-free readers are now just as intrigued as I was!:)

menu from roti
assembly line roti
So, I went with the salad with kabob, tahini sauce, and feta, cabbage slaw #becauseprobiotics!, and a side of hummus with an order of gluten-free pita bread. I would have dined in, but I was ready to head back to my room and relax. Plus, I had some yummy wine to pair with my meal chilling in the refrigerator.

So I scurried back like a hungry little squirrel and spread out my Mediterranean feast on the coffee table in front of the TV in my (rather extravagant for one person) hotel room.

chicken kabob salad from roti
I loved the chicken kabob salad because it was filling and healthy, which is how I like to eat even when I am out of town. I could not tell a difference between this pita bread and regular pita bread, and the side of hummus was enormous, and would be used on other food throughout the weekend thanks to the refrigerator in my room. If you’re curious about the wine, I packed three bottles with me to save money on beverages during my trip. Tonight’s wine was a Chardonnay which is a lovely pairing with grilled chicken.

You can find Roti Mediterranean Grill online here, on Facebook here, on Twitter here, and on Instagram here.

Then for dessert, I snuck down to the Hyatt’s bar, the Article One Lounge, and ordered this cocktail (below) The Ketel One Watermelon Cooler. The title describes exactly the contents of the drink: watermelon, basil, and vodka with a lime wedge. I sat with some other alopecians who were hanging out and having some drinks. I love our community and how you can just ask to sit with someone and you’re accepted. Wig or no wig. It’s whatever makes you comfortable and people understand and can relate.:)

strawberry basil drink
The next day, I headed out to explore Washington, D.C. via foot/running. I did a five mile run from my hotel to the Capitol building and down to the Washington Monument and back and below are the pictures I took during the run (while managing to get 5 miles in).

capitol under construction
washington monument close up
When I got back to the hotel, I finished my workout in the StayFit™ Fitness Center. It is a well-equipped gym with several treadmills, ellipticals, weights, a sauna, locker rooms, an indoor lap pool, and an outdoor sundeck. The gym’s set up reminded me of a greenhouse, as detailed in the picture (below). I ran three more miles and did 20 minutes elliptical thanks to the air-conditioning!!:)

Hyatt gym
Following my workout and gym time, I headed to another conference session: Ask the Experts. The Ask the Experts presentation was a panel of medical and research experts from a variety of fields to answer questions about the different aspects of alopecia areata including treatment and research. Though I don’t attend the conference anymore in search of a cure (I come for the camaraderie), it’s always interesting to hear the latest research.

NAAF ask the experts panel
Following the Ask the Experts panel, it was time to get blown away by the strength and courage of the panel during the Young Adult Perspective presentation. Seven young adults gave their testimony and answered questions from the audience about their experiences with alopecia. I admired this panel of kids (to me, now at 39) because they were diagnosed with alopecia during more formative years. I was diagnosed at 25 and never had to deal with bullying any of the weirdness an adolescent would have to face like these panelists surely did. They all gave helpful advice to audience members, especially the parents of children with alopecia, on what to say, how to react, and what to do to be a community advocate. It was a powerful seminar to say the least.

NAAF young adults panel
Then I headed back up to my room to get ready for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Article One. I had contacted the hotel the week of my trip to see if we could work together on a Paleo meal to feature here on my website. The marketing team for the Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. was very receptive to my request. In addition, I received a room upgrade from a regular room that I paid for to an Executive Suite with many more amenities and a separate living room and sleeping area. My room included a refrigerator and a microwave, 2 televisions, and 2 different air/heating controls for the two rooms in the suite. The Executive Suite includes access to the Regency Club King room (a private access 11th floor lounge with dedicated concierge service, Continental breakfast, daily refreshments, evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres). With the upgrade to Regency Club, I didn’t have to spend any extra money on meals during the day.

I snapped a pic of me all decked out for dinner (before heading up to the Regency Club for some early evening snacks and a glass of wine).

pre dance mirror selfie

cq5dam.thumbnail.744.415
Here’s what the Regency Club room looks like, along with the plate of roasted vegetables I had as an appetizer. How did they know sun-dried tomatoes are pretty much my favorite thing in the world?:)

executive club for ballers

appetizers from executive club
Following my visit to the Recency Club, I headed down to Article One for dinner.

article one front
The restaurant is very contemporary with vibrant reds/burnt orange and browns in its decor, and open to the hotel lobby. I was impressed with the open feel because you can still experience the buzz of the lobby, but still feel like you are tucked away for a private meal.

And a very special and private meal it was for yours truly, as I was treated by the Article One staff and Executive Sous Chef Ryan Ward.

I was thrilled with the amount of research Chef Ryan did on the Paleo diet, and I promise you if you have a dietary restriction, all you have to do is let the hotel know when you make your reservation. The staff will do everything they can to meet your needs and make your dinner a memorable one.

For your reference, here is the wine list at Article One.

article one wine list
Since I was informed what my dinner would be as I sat down, I ordered a glass of wine to pair with it. The Stag’s Leap Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon.

stags leap artemis
Then my meal arrived, served by the Chef himself. It was a Rib-Eye steak, cooked medium rare, with turnips and potatoes. There was also a decadent mushroom sauce (I ordered on the side). Let’s just call it mushroom ketchup because I used it as a condiment for the perfectly cooked bites of steak and tender turnips and potatoes.

rib eye potatoes and turnips
rib eye cooked perfectly
I took another shot to show how nicely my steak was prepared. (Annnd also to show off my nails, of course).😉

Chef Ryan also put together a dessert especially for me with mixed berries and mixed nuts and seeds. I ordered a glass of Pascual Toso Brut (an Argentinian sparkling wine) to have with dessert.

article one dessert
After dinner, I headed back to my room to re-gussy up before the NAAF “Totally Rad 80’s Dance Party”. That’s when I found one last incredible gift from the hotel.

wine and fruit from hotel
The next morning, I headed out on another run, this time to visit the Lincoln Memorial.
I took the following pictures that day, and managed to get a nice 6 miles in:

lincoln monument side
lincoln monument
lincoln monument statue

reflecting pool washington monument
After my workout, which was again finished in the StayFit™ Fitness Center, I got my things all packed up and went down to attend the Closing Session led by NAAF Communications Director (and totally rad DJ) Gary Sherwood, Chief Development Strategist Maureen Smith, and the guest speaker, an NFL linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan Shazier.

Gary

Ryan Shazier. Photo cred: NAAF's Facebook page

Ryan Shazier. Photo cred: NAAF’s Facebook page

NAAF Conference Closing

 

I want to thank the Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. for the room upgrade, as well as the custom Paleo meal and wine I enjoyed during my stay. Everything was perfect including the 24-hour room service (not previously mentioned), which saved me from starving on Thursday night after a late flight and arrival to the hotel. I recommend the Field Greens Salad with Grilled Chicken!

I’d also like to tell you about Hyatt Hotels in Washington 2016 Summer Offer, which is a great deal for anyone who wants to visit D.C. It is available for Hyatt Gold Passport® Members, and offers up to a 15% off stays at participating Hyatt Hotels in Washington DC through September 10, 2016.

Here is the link with more details about this offer: http://www.hyatt.com/content/partnerlandingpage/en/corporate/global/hyatt-member-washingtondc.html

You can find the National Alopecia Areata Foundation online here and find them on Facebook here.

You can find the Hyatt Regency Washington D.C. Capitol Hill online here, on Facebook here, on Twitter here and on Instagram here.

Beginning photo credit: NAAF’s Facebook page

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Cochon555 presents Heritage Fire Napa Lineup

Hello meat lovers! I’m working on a few blog posts myself, but in the meantime, here’s some information on one of my favorite food and wine events of the year from my friends at Cochon 555, Cochon Heritage Fire Napa, taking place on August 21st this year at Charles Krug Winery!

11800452_10205511486039789_1132605859813155866_n
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (June 30, 2016) — America’s cult culinary event, Heritage Fire by Cochon555, returns to Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena on August 21st, 2016. Entering its eighth year of existence, Cochon555 events continue to attract sold-out crowds nationwide, most recently at Heritage Fire Snowmass during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. The greater goal of the Cochon555 family is to promote honest food prepared by singular artisans; to celebrate family farming; and to shine the gastronomic spotlight on the hard-working people who are responsibly (though often silently) raising heritage breed animals.

13619887_10154357557299669_6284618696678648149_n

The Heritage Fire event helps foster the relationship between local farming and emerging chef and restaurant communities, which grapple with having to pay premium prices in order to serve their guests safer, responsibly raised and flavorful food that is also raised locally. Heritage Fire – a premiere, whole animal, live-fire, and outdoor food and wine event – features whole animals roasted over open fires by local and national chefs. The event also benefits Piggy Bank, a farm devoted to providing free heritage breed pigs to small farms in exchange for transparent business plans that are posted online. The all-inclusive ticket is now available online at cochon555.com for $125 (includes beverage pairings, tax and gratuity), along with a mouth-watering  Heritage Fire trailer and video.

11258186_10153802381388352_4082847478601039919_n

Heritage Fire Napa Valley will showcase over 50 notable chefs and butchers, each grilling heritage breed animals en plein air amongst the area’s impressionistic hills and vineyards. The event features responsibly raised food and traditional outdoor cooking techniques, paired with free-flowing wines from more than 35 boutique producers, craft beers from Magnolia Brewing, and small-batch Common ciders. The list of heritage and heirloom foods includes dry-aged beef, whole pigs, lamb, goat, squab, rabbit, duck, fish, chicken, artisan cheeses, oysters, and heirloom vegetables.

Participating chefs include Thomas McNaughton and Evan Allumbaugh of Flour + Water (SF); Adam Sobel of Michael Mina Group (SF); Albert Ponzo of Le Select Bistro (TOR); Andy Ricker of Pok Pok (NYC); Cristiano Creminelli of Creminelli Fine Meats (SLC); Rafael Barrera of Puerto Rico; Marc Zimmerman of Alexander’s Steakhouse (SF); John Sundstrom of Lark (SEA); Jose Mendin of Pubbelly (MIA); Timon Balloo of Bocce (MIA); Kim Wiss of Antica Napa Valley; John Manion of La Sirena Clandestina (CHI); Greg Laketek of West Loop Salumi (CHI); Tiffany Friedman of Butter Root; Joshua Schwartz & Tony Incontro of Del Dotto; David Bazirgan of Dirty Habit (SF); Sacramento’s Ella Dining Room and Bar; Jason Kupper of Heritage Eats (NAPA); Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu Kitchen (SON); Robin Song of Junju (SF); Peter Jacobsen of Jacobsen Orchards (NAPA); Michael Thiemann of Mother – Empress Tavern (SAC); Michael Ginor of Hudson Valley Foie Gras (NY); Jeff Weiss, Author of Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain (SF); Lars Kronmark of Culinary Institute of America Greystone; Trevor Kunk of Press (NAPA); Sophina Uong of Calavera (OAK); Nicolai Lipscomb of The Battery (SF) and many more.

“It’s always an honor to host Heritage Fire in St. Helena,” says Brady Lowe, Founder of Cochon555. “And to have amazing partners like Charles Krug, and the Napa Valley welcome us for this special weekend means things are really heating up this summer. We’re putting the spotlight on heritage species, responsible agriculture, and amazing chefs. St. Helena is now home to Cochon555’s best expression of live-event immersion in the good food movement featuring the best chefs, farmers and sponsors around the country. Guests can expect an epic culinary experience paired with the region’s best wines; this is eating and drinking for a cause.”

In addition to the meat-laden feast, the event also features The Pop-Up Butcher Shop featuring Rob Levitt of Butcher & Larder (CHI); Tracy Smaciarz of Heritage Meats (SEA); and David the Butcher of Marina Meats (SF) alongside Master of Ceremonies Billy Harris (LA) leading the butcher demonstration which raises money for Piggy Bank. Guests can help raise $5,000 by bidding on packages including rare bottles of wine, monster steaks, etched cutting boards and custom knives from Town Cutler. In addition this year, Wines of Germany presents the Wood-Fired Ramen Bar featuring a notable chef, a delicious Tomahawk Pop-Up served with Faust Wines, Wood-Fired Artisan Cheese Bar with California Artisan Cheese Guild and Foie Gras from Hudson Valley amongst many other delights. This is the eighth year in a row Heritage Fire has made its way to California. It is the nation’s only hyper-local, whole animal, live-fire outdoor culinary event cooking and serving 3,500+ pounds of heritage breed animals in celebration of agricultural and animal diversity.

Where: Charles Krug Winery, 2800 Main Street, St. Helena, CA 94574
When: Sunday, August 21, 2016
VIP Admission: 4PM
General Admission: 5PM
Tickets: $125 General Admission
$200 VIP – 1 Hour Early Entry, Reserve Tastings, and Seminar Invitations apply
Purchase tickets HERE

Heritage Fire Napa would not be possible without our amazing lineup of sponsors including, Williams-Sonoma, Wines of Germany, The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley, DRY Sparkling, Martinez Lacuesta, Creminelli, Lake Sonoma Winery, Faust Wines, Magnolia Brewing Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Alysian Wines, Common Cider, Antica Napa Valley, Hedley & Bennett, Cypress Grove Chevre, Coach Farm, Parrano, Sun Noodle, Rappahannock River Oysters, 34 Degrees, and Gulfish.

About the Cochon555 US Tour
The Cochon555 US Tour executes a yearly host of authentic, hyper-local food events focused on raising awareness for heritage breed pigs through the world’s first nose-to-tail pig cooking competition. Created in response to the lack of consumer education around heritage breeds, this epic pork feast visits 20 major cities in North America annually and stages over 60 events. The tour is comprised of an array of live-event expressions including Heritage BBQ (global cultures); Heritage Fire (live-fire event); EPIC Cochon (hyper-premium); All-Star Cochon (fan favorites); and Cochon Island; (agri-tourism). All Cochon555 events cultivate a long-term impact for heritage species raised by family farms, reaching the top culinary markets in North America, while promoting our sponsors’ messages to 16,000 guests by drawing from the biggest names in the hospitality industry, including 2,200+ chefs, 150+ family farms, and 16 culinary schools. Since 2009, 50,000+ consumers have experienced heritage pork for the first time, more than $500,000 has been donated to charities, and over $750,000 has been paid directly to our farmers. Together with winemakers, brewers, distillers, and craft food makers, they create authentic culinary events celebrating champions of the good food movement. For more details about the events and to see videos referencing all the events in the Cochon555 family, visit http://www.cochon555.com or follow @cochon555 on Twitter and Instagram.

About Piggy Bank
Launched in 2015 by Brady Lowe – founder of the Cochon555 US Tour and Taste Network – Piggy Bank is a pig farming sanctuary. Harboring a Noah’s Ark-worthy selection of heritage breeds, it provides free genetics and business plans to emerging family farms. Piggy Bank aims to change the future of food by creating a community in which small farmers can come to learn about safer, more responsible practices, and can benefit from the sharing of genetics, livestock, and the very information needed to not just survive, but to thrive as small businesses. Piggy Bank is dedicated to creating the first Open Source agricultural platform of its kind. The Piggy Bank farm, located in Missouri, raises pigs to be gifted only to communities dedicated to elevating the cause and expanding through a model of social and agricultural transparency. Piggy Bank is a project of The Giving Back Fund, Inc., a Massachusetts nonprofit corporation with federal tax exempt status as a public charity under Section 501(c)(3). Follow the Piggy Bank conversation on Twitter @PiggyBankOrg. For more information about Piggy Bank or The Giving Back Fund, please contact Kerith at piggy-bank.org, watch the video http://j.mp/PIGGY_BANK or visit www.piggy-bank.org.

Studio Movie Grill Hosts The Mother of All Playdates

OK ladies! Grab your girlfriends and “party like a mother”! The movie Bad Moms opens at Studio Movie Grill on July 28th, and they are hosting the ultimate playdate for all moms throughout the run of the movie.

Here’s the deal and there are two price levels:  1. Get together a group of 10 or more of your besties.

2. For $30 per person, you’ll get admission to Bad Moms, plus an appetizer or dessert of your choice, an entrée, and a glass of SMG Cellars Cabernet or Betty’s Blend, or a special Mom-A-Rita Frozen Margarita.

3. For $33 per person, you’ll get admission to Bad Moms, plus an appetizer or dessert of your choice, an entrée, and a glass of Chloe Red Blend 249, or Kung Fu Girl Riesling, or a special Mother-of-all-Ritas Frozen Margarita with a Champagne Sidecar. Both packages include a special “Bad Moms” wine glass.

I am getting together a group on July 30th, and if you are local to Sacramento/Rocklin/Roseville and would like to join us, you can sign up by following this link: I WANT TO PARTY LIKE A MOTHER!!

image1
More about Bad Moms from a press release:
From the writers of THE HANGOVER comes this summer’s most original, outrageous, laugh-out-loud comedy “Bad Moms”starring Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Christina Applegate.

You can view the trailer here.

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

Do you have a group of 10 or more? Book your event at https://www.studiomoviegrill.com/events

Come on, you deserve a night out with your girlfriends and this is the summer must see movie!

About Studio Movie Grill:
Studio Movie Grill modernized the traditional movie-going experience by combining first- run movies with full-service, in-theater dining. Established in 2000, SMG has swiftly grown to 24 locations in10 states. SMG, long considered the leader of in-theater dining exhibition, recently announced a major expansion initiative with plans for additional sites throughout the country. SMG currently ranks the 20th largest exhibitor in the U.S. For additional information, visit www.studiomoviegrill.com.

You can follow Studio Movie Grill on Twitter here and find them on Facebook here.

Save

Superior Farms Lamb Rack and Guest Post!

Remember that time we made rack of lamb and Andy wrote a wine review? 4 years later to the day, I thought I would repost. Thanks Superior Farms for supplying the lamb. -cg

cavegrrl.com

Last week, Superior Farms sent me this beautiful rack of lamb along with a few other cuts of lamb to showcase it a recipe to all of you. On Sunday, (to close out my birthday celebration, and to celebrate seven months together), we grilled the rack and enjoyed it with our usual huge salad.

To prepare the lamb, you’ll mix lemon juice and olive oil in equal parts, and then flavor with sea salt, dried oregano and minced garlic to taste. Then marinate in the refrigerator anywhere from 5 to 48 hours.

Now for the wines!
One of the wines we purchased during our Seattle trip from Fall Line Winery, and the other wine was given to me at a media tasting at BevMo! We knew both wines were perfect for the lamb, and I did mention we were celebrating, didn’t I?:)

The first wine was Michael Pozzan’s…

View original post 453 more words

Over $60,000 Raised for Charity at the 7th Annual HALL Wines Cabernet Cookoff and an Interview with Duff Goldman!

Here’s a little press release (combined with some photos I took that day and some of my comments) on the recent HALL Wines Cabernet Cookoff from my friends at the winery. After that, scroll down to read my interview with Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes and Food Network’s Cake Masters!

On Saturday, April 23rd, over 700 hundred wine and food aficionados helped raise over $60,000 at the sold out 7th Annual Cabernet Cookoff at HALL Wines in St. Helena. Thirteen impressive Napa and Bay Area Restaurants teamed up with a nonprofit of their choice with the goal to create the best dish to pair with 2013 HALL Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Competition was fierce, the wine was inviting, and the weather paired beautifully with this lively philanthropic event.

the scene outside

“Our team is humbled that such talent, both in competing chefs and judges, clear their schedules each April to help us raise money for these noteworthy charities,” says Vintner Kathryn Walt Hall. “Thank you to our generous sponsors and loyal attendees for joining our efforts to make a difference in our community.”

craig and kathryn hall

Five judges, Duff Goldman, Celebrity Chef from Food Network, Leslie Sbrocco, host of “Check Please!” Bay Area, Virginie Boone of Wine Enthusiast, Ian White, SF Magazine, and Ken Frank, Chef at La Toque, took on the impressive task of choosing a runner up and first place winner from dishes like “Cherry Marinated Skirt Steak with Broccolini, Point Reyes Blue, Chive Blossom” or “Black Currant and Rose Macaroon with HALL Cabernet infused Geleé”.

group shot

Mark Dommen from One Market Restaurant in San Francisco took first place with his mouth-watering “Pancetta Wrapped Passmore Ranch Sturgeon Du Puy Lentils, Smoked Garlic, Thyme Jus” benefiting nonprofit Collabria Care of Napa (re-create here). Sorry for the obscene shadow!😦

pancetta wrapped sturgeon
judges choice collabria care
Ca’Momi placed runner up with a delectable “Heirloom Pork & Veal Agnolotti, Savoy Cabbage, Napa Valley Cabernet Pan Jus and Parmigiano Reggiano” aiding organization Do It For The Love of Napa.

Heirloom Pork & Veal Agnolotti
Judges Choice Runner Up Do it For the Love

Restaurants also had the opportunity to raise money for their charity through People’s Choice, a voting system by corks serving as the tallies. First place for People’s Choice was Napa restaurant, Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ, preparing “Fried Chicken with Spring Succotash” with the winnings benefiting Napa Humane.

fried chicken
peoples choice napa humane

Paula LeDuc Fine Catering of San Francisco took runner up of People’s Choice with the “HALL Cabernet Roasted Strawberries with White Chocolate Crumble and Mascarpone Cream,” partnering with nonprofit St Helena Hospital.

Peoples Choice Runner Up St Helena Hosp

Proceeds of both ticket sales from attendees and 15% of purchases of 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Sauvignon Blanc and 2013 Coeur Cabernet Sauvignon were also donated to the participating winning charities. Sponsors of the event included at Magnum Level: San Francisco Magazine, Bright Event Rentals, Certified Parking Attendants, MyOffice Products, and Nixon Peabody. At the Harvest Level: Signum Architecture, DP&F, Benefit Marketing, Harvest Sanitation, Snap Fiesta, Napa Valley Tours and Transportation, Print Inkorporated, Frank Zimmerman and Co LLC, and Culligan Water. Bergfeld Sponsorships included Yelp, Alkar Staffing, UpOut.com, Napa Valley Engraving, Tre Posti, Barbier Security Group, The Lux Productions and Villagio Inn & Spa. Local radio station The Vine, 99.3 was on site to capture the excitement, led by personality “Good Morning Bob!”.

panoramic 2

For more information about the event, please visit HALL Wines. To re-create the winning recipe visit HALL’s Recipe section. Check out the exciting sizzle reel courtesy of Flynn Kelleher here or more pictures from the event available here. Next year, the 8th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff will take place on Saturday, April 29, 2017, tickets available now! The event sold out this year, so make sure to reserve your spot for next year.

I had the chance to sample many of the dishes at the event, but my favorite was the Cabernet Braised Short Rib with Cranberry Beans and Horseradish created by Brix on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I make short ribs with a wine sauce at home quite frequently, so this was just a dish I already like to eat.:)

short rib
I also had the chance to chat with Duff Goldman, star of several Food Network TV shows such as Cake Masters, Duff Till Dawn, Ace of Cakes, Iron Chef America and Kid’s Baking Championship.

andy duff me
I asked him a few questions about the event and his latest show on Food Network, Cake Masters, which currently airs Monday evenings on Food Network at 8pm EST.

ME: So, how did you get involved with the HALL Wines Cabernet Cookoff fundraiser?
DUFF: Well, I’m not really sure, uh… you know, I went to school here, uh for culinary school (CIA), and I probably do (appear at) about 3 events in Napa every year and my name is around, I’m a friend of the valley, and this is the place where I became a chef.

ME: So your new show is Cake Masters. Please tell me a little bit about that.
DUFF: It’s a really cool show, it’s a lot like Ace of Cakes, you know, it follows my staff, we make big crazy cakes, uh, but it’s in Los Angeles instead of Baltimore, so we really up the stakes. So now what we do is partner with special effects houses, so these cakes are really just wild.

ME: Yes, I heard about the Fantastic Four cake, and that it was pretty cool.
DUFF: Yes.

ME: So what cake project were you most excited to do?
DUFF: Uh, well we just made a life-size working R2D2.

ME: That’s so awesome, that’s great. So you’re know for cake decorating, but what on the savory side do you like to make/cook?
DUFF: Well, right now I’m writing a book about soup. I’ve got a soup brain right now.
ME: Yes, I’m sure you probably have soup a lot living in Baltimore, especially during winter.
DUFF: We do, and I actually grew up in Cape Cod, so you know it’s a big soup country up there. It’s cold.

ME: I was reading a little bit about you, and found you started out bread making. How did you transition into making cake and not just cakes but cakes that are really works of art?
DUFF: Well, I was a graffiti artist when I was younger, and I started cooking to make enough money to pay for my spray paint. Uh, I got arrested a lot.
ME: Oh!
DUFF: Yeah, so I had to stop doing that. So then I started doing metal sculpture, bronzing, welding making giant things like that bunny out front (Duff is referring to Bunny Foo Foo, the large metal rabbit sculpture in front of HALL wines created by artist Lawrence Argent). And then, I started working on cars since a lot of my friends liked working on cars–and I was a really good welder, and they were like, hey can you come over and fix this thing, it’s like you know asking an artist to come over and paint your house, and I really liked doing it, so that’s how I kind of got into mechanics…I’ve been a working pastry chef my whole career and then I’d say when I was about 25, I was in a band in Baltimore and the band was doing really well, we were starting to get looked at by record labels.
ME: And you’re a bassist?
DUFF: Yeah, so I quit my job and I started selling cakes out of my apartment to try and help pay the rent while I was trying to be a full time musician.

ME: You’ve always had the pastry thing in the background and you were in Colorado for a while?
DUFF: Yeah, I used to carve ice out there.

ME: Well it was really cool to hear a little bit more about your background and I appreciate your time.
DUFF: Absolutely.
ME: My blog is kind of small and out of Sacramento…
DUFF: Well send it (the link) to me, I want to read it.
ME: *faints* (KIDDING!) Oh I will! Totally, totally. Thank you so much!
DUFF: Nice to talk to you.

Well, isn’t that something?:) Truthfully, I just didn’t want to take up much of Duff’s time, so I kept it short. It was really warm that day and we were standing outside in direct sunlight and he was wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt so probably not the most comfortable place to be and get drilled with a bunch of questions from a nervous blogger. And yeah, I was nervous about interviewing Duff, I admit it. The funny thing is, I had met Duff before a few years ago at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco when he was kicking off his line of cake products (pic to prove it below!), and he was super nice and complimented me on my pink chef coat. But then I met Thomas Keller the next year (if you want to call it met) and I tried to ask him a question and he basically dissed me. So, the encounter with Thomas Keller (famous person) made me nervous that the Duff (also a famous person) thing would go awry. And well, I’d say it went alright. I want to thank Duff again for coming out to HALL and for putting up with me for about five minutes.:)

172851_1719135091458_3528399_o
I also want to thank HALL Wines for inviting Andy and me out again. We always have an incredible experience.

Don’t forget to visit www.hallwines.com or follow their social channels on Instagram here, Twitter @hallwines and on Facebook here. CHEERS!!

Elk Grove Welcomes New Chicago Fire Location

facade

Last Saturday night Andy and I attended a pre-opening dinner at Chicago Fire‘s newest location: 7101 Laguna Blvd, Elk Grove. The pre-opening lunches and dinners were held both on Friday and Saturday in an effort to train the staff and to ensure consistency amongst the other four Chicago Fire locations.

sign daylight
The weather was terrific, so we decided to sit on the patio. The dinner was complimentary for us except for alcohol (and was also free to everyone invited). It included an appetizer, a salad, a pizza and a dessert to share between us. The limitations on food were mainly because it was a training night and an effort to control conditions in service and in the kitchen. It’s kind of like when you are a brand new runner. You don’t just start out running a marathon. You train up to that distance. Likewise, the staff in the new location were learning to run in ideal conditions, a few miles at a time.

I was very excited to be there because I have loved Chicago Fire for a long time. I think it’s a great place for celebrations or just a dinner for two. Also I work for a printer in Roseville (yes, I have a day job) and we print their business cards and takeout menus as well as a few other items. The people running the show at the restaurant are great to work with altogether.

But back to the food we ordered! For our appetizer, we chose the Garlic Fries. Not really something on the diet plan, but a treat to share with Andy and always very tasty/crispy/herby/garlicky. In true Greek fashion, they are served with lemon. Super good. Diet Gods, I am so sorry.😉

garlic fries

We ordered a few starter glasses of wine, but afterwards ordered this bottle of Windy City Red. It’s a wine produced solely for the Chicago Fire restaurants by Boeger Winery. It’s one of their less expensive wines and a very good value. It’s also a great pairing for anything on the menu with red sauce or any pizza that has meat on it!

Windy City Red
Our salad came next and we chose the Pesto Chicken Salad. It’s my favorite salad at Chicago Fire. My second favorite is the Greek Salad, but I can’t resist the pesto dressing. Plus, the chicken on the Chicken Pesto Salad is grilled to perfection, and then there’s all those big cheese shavings on top. I almost wanted to take the salad for myself and leave the pizza for Andy!

pesto chicken salad
Typically, I try to load my plate with greens such as the salad above, and then maybe have 20% of the main course. That way, I have had a lot of fiber, vegetables, etc., and gotten mostly full before I move on to the next course.

Chicago Fire serves a gluten free version of most of the pizzas on their menu. This one is called the Stockyard. If you order gluten free it only comes in one size, but that is OK because with the appetizer and large salad, it was a perfectly shareable size between Andy and myself. The stockyard is a deliciously meat-loaded pizza featuring garlic sausage, pepperoni, salami and Canadian bacon. And of course we got the gluten free crust. I also always order a side of marinara, because I love to dip my pizza crusts in the sauce.

gluten free stockyard
Andy enjoyed an ice cream with caramel sauce, but I decided to pass. Instead, I walked around and took a few more pictures of the interior of the restaurant.

interior one

interior two
As of all the previous visits we’ve had at Chicago Fire, I would call it consistent and very enjoyable. The difference was the great new location, the fun outdoor experience and the well-landscaped area around the restaurant.

front signage night
You can find Chicago Fire on Facebook here, on Twitter here and on Instagram here. Be sure to check out the newest location in Elk Grove now open for lunch and dinner!

Grocery Outlet’s Spring Wine Sale Starts This Tuesday, March 22nd!

Wine Sale
OK wine lovers! Grocery Outlet is holding a huge wine sale where all wines will be an additional 20% off Grocery Outlet’s everyday low prices. It’s the same high-quality wines you love at 50-70% off PLUS 20% more off, so that means you can save as much as 80% on all Grocery Outlet wines during the sale!!
IMG_6603
Yesterday I visited my local Grocery Outlet in Roseville, CA, and spoke to the wine buyer, Michael, about the upcoming sale. He thought my blog cavegrrl referred to wine caves! I never thought of that. That’s actually pretty brilliant. Hmmmm…maybe someday I will rebrand AGAIN as a wine blog with the same URL! Anyway, he was incredibly nice to share about an hour of his time with me. He is passionate about making sure he finds wines customers are going to love. He has a “benchmark varietal” method in which he asks the customer what their favorite varietal is, and if they aren’t sure of that, he finds out something as simple as their preference for red or white wine. Through this process, Michael figures out the customer’s preference of sweet or dry, and eventually can help them pick a wine he believes they will enjoy.

It is that kind of customer service you can get, especially at this Grocery Outlet location, where it’s almost like having your own sommelier, but in a discount grocery store (kind of awesome). And truly, since my visit today, I can tell you there are some really great wines to choose from for the sale coming on Tuesday!

Here’s the lineup I bought today and (all of them I highly recommend):

IMG_6605
From left to right, Cuerda Sparkling Wine ($4.99)–tastes like an $8-$10 bottle and perfect for unwinding after a busy day or blending in a mimosa or bellini, Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc ($8.99)-I will update the description when I try this one, but Randall Graham is behind this one, so I think it will be pretty good. Also, it’s a white wine blend with Roussane, so I am sure I will be a fan. Next is the Paraiso Pinot Noir ($5.99)-a bargain and goes for $24.99  per bottle elsewhere, by the way does Santa Lucia Highlands ring a bell?? You should have seen me try to contain myself with this deal!! Finally, there’s Goss Creek Red Blend ($4.99)-I really loved, tastes like a $15-18 bottle and goes for $16.99 per bottle elsewhere.

IMG_6601
IMG_6602
Not only is Grocery Outlet a great place to buy wine, it’s a great place to find food to pair with your wine!  Today, I bought a bag of Brussels sprouts, an onion, and some Aidell meatballs to throw together a simple and tasty dish!

IMG_6608
Brussel Sprout, Onion and Meatball Sauté:
1 onion
1 small package Brussels sprouts (quartered and pre-cooked in Microwave for 3-4 minutes)
Balsamic Vinegar
1 package Aidells meatballs
salt
olive oil

All you have to do is slice the onion, saute it in olive oil with some salt until translucent, then add the Brussels sprouts––I like to quarter them first and then microwave them for 3-4 minutes to get ahead of the game. Usually, I am tired at the end of the day and I just want to eat and relax, so I am looking for any shortcut possible.

After the onions get browned and are pretty well cooked, add some balsamic vinegar to your liking (2-3 Tbs for me), and then add the microwaved Brussels sprouts and sauté them until browned. Then add the Aidell’s sausages. Cook the entire thing until it’s heated through (the Aidell’s are already pre-cooked, you just have to warm them up in the pan. It literally takes less than 20 minutes to make this dish and it’s a great pairing with ANY of the wines I bought above (especially the Paraiso Pinot Noir!!)

You bet I will be back in the store at 8am on Tuesday to clear out my favorite wines and save an extra 20% off when the wine sale begins! If you love wine, do yourself a favor and visit your local GO March 22-26th!! If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask the wine buyer (if that person is present) or the store manager. In my personal experience (I was a customer before I was compensated for this blog post) and the following held true: the management team at Grocery Outlet just wants you to find the right wine for you and for you to be happy with your purchase.

You can find Grocery Outlet on Facebook here, on Twitter here and on Instagram here.

Join the fun on social media by tagging your posts with #GOWineSale!! Cheers and happy shopping!!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,379 other followers

%d bloggers like this: