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Today is a Special Day

Photo taken by Cristian Morinico, morinico.com

Nine years ago today, I met the man who would become my husband. I was not looking for him. I was not looking for anyone, and quite done with dating for the moment. I was taking time for and care of myself. I was luckily at the very end of getting over someone else and entertaining the idea of never getting married or even into another relationship.

The evening I met him, I was at a wine tasting on October 1, 2011. I met a friend of mine at the tasting and at the end of the event around 7pm, she left and I hung around to see if any wineries were still pouring. I wasn’t ready to go back to my condo and be alone, I guess. Another glass of wine and any small talk with the winemaker or volunteer before I left for the evening sounded just fine to me. I have always loved learning about wine and the wine tastings were my way of doing it without ever setting foot into a classroom.

I saw one table that was still serving, and one man standing in front of it, talking with the person behind the table. When I walked up to the table, I saw the wine being poured was “Ridge Zinfandel”. I had heard of the winery, and from what I had heard, I knew it was quite good. I stuck out my glass, (sort of in front of the man who was still talking to the server, because God only knows when they would have acknowledged my presence otherwise). The man stopped talking and looked down at my glass and his eyes followed up from my glass to my hand to my arm to my face. I was a little embarrassed. I think I asked, “Is this the after party?”, but I really can’t remember what dorky thing line I must have used. All I know is that we began a conversation and shortly after, some of his other friends at the event gathered around. The next thing I knew we were discussing classic cars and then also, all of a sudden, I agreed to go back to his house to see his cars. His friends (who turned out to also be his neighbors) were going to look at them, too, so I convinced myself it was perfectly safe to do this and I would not end up hacked to pieces at the bottom of some rando’s freezer.

And then eventually it was just us in his garage and he asked me if I wanted to come in. Sure, why not? The house looked gorgeous from the outside, so I was curious to see the inside. I was also really enjoying his company. We ended up talking for hours… I don’t think I left until midnight or maybe later. And no, nothing happened. What kind of a girl do you think I am? Well…I am also not a prude, so I did let him kiss me. A lot. But then I left. I had to leave something to the imagination, you know. I left and didn’t even know his last name. He also didn’t ask me for my number. So I thought maybe he was married, in a relationship, or (from the looks of his immaculately decorated home) gay.

Well, the next day, I was still thinking about him and wondering how I might contact him (without driving by his house like a psychopath). Hello internet search! I had little to go on since I didn’t know his last name or his age (he looked about 45 at the time, but who knew he was 53?). So I started thinking about all the things we talked about the night before and thanks to google and a Facebook search, his Facebook profile popped up. So I went ahead and sent him a message. What did I have to lose?

Nine years later and I’m sitting upstairs on my computer in the house I could have been murdered in the night I met the stranger at a wine tasting. We’ve been together officially 8 years and 11 months, and have been married for 3 years and almost 6 months, and I haven’t been asked to leave, so I guess that’s a plus.

So for the single ladies and gentlemen out there, never give up hope. Single people, get out there and do things that you love to do and you’ll find someone else who likes the same things. Having many things in common (the more the better) is a key factor in a successful long term relationship. It will never be perfect, nothing ever is. But the better the foundation you have, the easier it will be to overcome the obstacles. There will always be those, too.

I love you, Andy.

Carmel’s Most Charming Hotel By the Sea: Hofsas House Hotel

Last month (November), we were invited to visit Carmel and to stay at The Hofsas House Hotel, a family-run Bavarian-style boutique inn that celebrated its 70th Anniversary in 2017!

The hotel is as welcoming as it was during my first stay there in 2013 and has undergone some major renovations (new paint and outdoor carpeting outside the rooms) to keep her looking as pink and fabulous as ever!


As the beautiful, wood-carved sign above says, The Hofsas House Hotel has a heated pool… but did you know they also have saunas? I never realized during my two previous stays there were saunas at the hotel, and I just loved using them after my workouts this visit!

The Hofsas House Hotel is located within walking distance of everything Carmel has to offer, including a stunning beach, fine restaurants and shops, and wine tasting. It provides a peaceful respite and European charm just minutes from Monterey, Pebble Beach, Big Sur, and Pacific Grove. The Hofsas House Hotel‘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.

As for our particular accommodations, the room we stayed in at The Hofsas House Hotel had a big comfy bed, fireplace, heated tiles in the bathroom floor (which I didn’t know I needed, but I do, thank you!), and a kitchenette equipped with mini-refrigerator, microwave, sink, and giant coffee pot, which is so necessary for people who don’t want to talk to anyone without coffee first—um, me!! There is even a countertop and barstools for in-room dining. Let’s not forget, there’s also an ocean view from room 45! Why aren’t you here yet?

Treat yourself with the Monterey Wine and Cheese Pairing upgrade at The Hofsas House Hotel (for $30), and you’ll have a bottle of Monterey Wine, two engraved wine glasses, and a cheese plate from the Cheese Shop Carmel ready for you.
🍷
We enjoyed this bottle of 2017 Scheid Vineyards Estate Grown Pinot Noir and two selections of cheese:
1. Fromage D’Affnoi–A brie-like cheese that hails from the Pilat Regional Park in France’s Rhone-Alpes.
2. Mt. Toro Tomme: A firmer cheese named after Mount Toro, which is one of the more prominent summits in the nearby Sierra de Salinas mountain ranges–Tomme refers to a cheese that is made to reflect the terroir of the product made.)


🧀The Cheese Shop Carmel (since 1973) sells countless other varieties of cheese, as well as wine and other gourmet foods. They are located in Carmel-by-the-Sea at Ocean and Junipero.


🍷Scheid Vineyards (since 1972) has a tasting room also located in Carmel-by-the-Sea, just blocks away from the Hofsas House Hotel, and they are open Sun-Thurs 12pm-6pm, and Fri-Sat 12pm-7pm.

 

LUGANO SWISS BISTRO
During our visit to Carmel, we enjoyed dinner at Lugano Swiss Bistro, a not-so-easy to find restaurant located in The Barnyard Shopping Center off of Rio Rd. Typically, we like to walk to dinner someplace nearby our hotel in Carmel-By-The-Sea, however, after returning from a visit to Switzerland back in July, we were longing for another authentic fondue experience and the decor we had seen in Europe. Through some internet research, I found Lugano Swiss Bistro. Not walking distance from The Hofsas House Hotel, but a quick drive and we were there.

Andy and I ordered the Swiss Original Fondue with Sausages. It is served with house salad, dipping bread, steamed vegetables, and apples. We also ordered a bottle of 2017 Bernardus Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands), because let’s face it, Pinot Noir is a very versatile wine to drink with an eccentric dinner like this one.


LA BICYCLETTE
Every time we visit Carmel, we stop at La Bicyclette for lunch/brunch. Nothing beats sharing a bottle of sparkling rosé in the early afternoon… especially when I can pair it with eggs! I had their brunch du jour, and Andy had a lamb tagine dish. If you go, yes, there will probably be a wait. But it’s because it’s that good.




Once you get a table, you’ll get excellent and knowledgeable service, and there’s actually a sommelier on staff! Why am I not shocked to find out the same owners operate Casanova? (Also a must-visit restaurant in Carmel-By-The-Sea.) Tip: Lookout on the hours, they close in the late afternoon for a while and then re-open for dinner guests.

BIG FISH GRILL
On the second night of our trip to Carmel and Monterey County, we visited Big Fish Grill for a hosted dinner on the Monterey wharf. The restaurant is located at the very end of the wharf, and offers rustic charm, classic seafood dishes, and offers some of the best views in Monterey.

Andy and I shared a crab cake appetizer. I ordered the Pacific Rockfish, and Andy ordered the Blackened Salmon. Our wine selection was a 2017 Hahn Pinot Noir. I should note that there is a “locals” special served daily for $13.95. The special includes a choice of Clam Chowder or Mixed Green Salad. You can also add on a glass of house wine or beer for $3.99.



FRIAR TUCK’S


Our last stop in Carmel was Friar Tuck’s on the corner of Dolores and 5th. I immediately fell in love with this time capsule of a 70’s “greasy spoon”. It was established in 1978, and I don’t think ANYTHING has changed since! There was so much charm in everything from their coffee cups, to the mural on the wall, to their wood-carved sign out front. They specialize in breakfast and lunch, egg-specially omelets (13 to choose from on the menu)! Served with toast (no gluten-free here) and Friar Potatoes, our breakfast platters were so good, I have to make this spot a tradition every time I visit Carmel!



Many thanks to our host hotel, The Hofsas House Hotel, for inviting us back to Carmel and allowing us to experience a new adventure each time!



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

A Trio of Upcoming Food and Wine Events

Harvest time is approaching and with that it seems there are also a flurry of food and wine events during the next few months. To give you a heads up on what’s happening and to help you decide which ones to attend, here are a list of three of my favorites. Two are local to Sacramento, and one is in Santa Rosa.

Photo by Visit Sacramento

Legends of Wine
Did you know the largest crop coming out of Sacramento County last year wasn’t rice OR tomatoes? It was wine grapes! Come celebrate the bounty of our county at the California State Capitol on Thursday, September 19th from 6-9p.m. during the 7th Annual Legends of Wine, one of Sacramento’s yearly Farm-to-Fork Festival’s keystone events.

Guests of the occasion can expect to explore unlimited tastes from over 30 regional wineries selected by Darrell Corti and David Berkley (both internationally known food and wine experts). You can buy tickets to the event online by going to http://farmtofork.com.

 

 

 


Pinot on the River
Pinot on the River
moves from Healdsburg to Santa Rosa this year with more than 40 small-production artisanal wineries joining with guest artisan food vendors. The event takes place on Saturday October 5th, 2019 from 11a.m. to 3p.m. at the Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa. At the event, you’ll be able to meet the winemakers as well as mingle with other Pinot Noir-loving consumers.

Proceeds from the event benefit Sonoma County Pride, an organization dedicated to enhancing the lives and well-being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI) people. Sonoma County Pride serves as a liaison with government, businesses, and other organizations on behalf of the LGTBQI community, as well as recognizing and celebrating their history, achievements, and contributions in Sonoma County. The event’s main sponsor is Roadhouse Winery. Tickets are $50, and you buy them online at pinotfestival.com.

29th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction and Beer Garden

The 29th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden returns on Saturday, October 12th, 2019 from 4-7pm. I’ll also be returning to this year’s planning committee, rounding up my favorite restaurants and wineries for your enjoyment.

Returning to support this year’s event are Buffalo Pizza, Casa Garden, Freeport Bakery, Gunther’s Ice Cream, Miso Japanese Restaurant, La Famiglia, Seasons 52, Sacramento Co-op, Sugar Plum Vegan, and more. Featured distributors/wineries are Epic Wines, BellaGrace Vineyards, Bogle Vineyards, Casque Wines, Ironstone Vineyards, Sean Minor Wines, and Wise Villa Winery.

J.J. Pfister Distilling Company will be sponsoring our VIP early entry and providing a spirits tasting as well as a special cocktail for VIP attendees, and Urban Roots Brewing will be sponsoring the VIP area for all the beer lovers out there. The VIP restaurants will be Dawson’s Steakhouse and Seasons 52. The VIP winery will be Silt Wine Company and they will be featuring another label called Fellow Wines of Clarksburg.

Proceeds from the SCNA Wine Tasting, Silent Auction and Beer Garden help support upkeep and maintenance of the historic Sierra 2 Center and Senior Center, community events like the Spring Egg Hunt, Music in the Park and Curtis Fest.

We are still looking for restaurants and wineries who want to showcase their food at the event, and particularly restaurants/wineries to represent different cuisines/wines throughout the world. If you are interested in participating, please contact me by calling 916-612-0035 or email me: misscavegrrl at gmail.com!

For information about participating, donating or volunteering, you can also contact Terri Shettle at the Sierra 2 Center, 916-452-3005. Cheers!
Tickets are now onsale here!

A Wine and Dine in Liechtenstein

Personally, there is nothing that makes me feel more free than the opportunity to travel. The ability to pick a place on the map, book a flight, select a hotel, and plan all the wonderful sights and restaurants I’ll visit during my trip.

To celebrate the Fourth of July this year (and also as a belated birthday present), my husband and I traveled to The Principality of Liechtenstein (a country who is currently celebrating its 300 Year Anniversary). Liechtenstein is the world’s sixth smallest country positioned between Switzerland and Austria. The primary language spoken is German, and its capital is Vaduz. Vaduz is also the location of Schloss Vaduz (Vaduz Castle) and the home of the Prince of Liechtenstein and his family.

The Residence Hotel is also located in Vaduz almost directly below the Prince’s Castle, and it’s the hotel we chose for our home base as each of the four days of our vacation, we planned to drive into different countries for the day and return to Vaduz at night to stay.

The first day of the trip, we flew into Zurich (Switzerland) from San Francisco on a non-stop flight, rented a car, and drove about 90 minutes to Vaduz. Not only is the Prince’s house in Vaduz, but he also has a winery there, and that evening, we walked from our hotel room to the winery, The Hofkellerei of the Prince of Liechtenstein, to attend an all-you-can-eat grill buffet featuring an all-you-can-drink wine tasting.

It was surreal to spend Independence Day at such a magical place. Guests of the event along with my husband Andy and myself were given a welcome toast and seated at tables outside within feet of the rosebush-lined vineyard. We were then dismissed table by table to fill our plate in the buffet line. There were many different items from which to choose: sausages, hamburgers with speck and cheese, steak, fish and shrimp, sauces to dress them, multiple salads, roasted potatoes, breads, and rolls.


I was very excited to taste the wines of another country besides the United States, Italy, or France. Now it was time for an Austria and Liechtenstein degustation. (Tip: degustation means tasting in German. Put that together with “wein” to say “wein degustation” and you’ll be off to having fun and making friends!) At the BBQ they were pouring many wines, but I’ll mention one in particular called Zweigelt, because it’s Austria’s most planted red wine grape, and not widely known in the United States amongst non-wine geeks. The varietal is a cross between Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent, and is described as similar to a Pinot Noir.

I’ll also add that the Princely Winery includes this Vaduz location “Herawingert”, and Domain Wilfersdorf in Austria (why I noted Austria above). Other wines the locations produce are Zweigelt Rosé (what I drank most of that evening, because rosé all day in summer!), Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, F.L. Classique (sparkling wine), Merlot, Chardonnay, and many more.


For dessert, there were multiple flavors of gelato, cheesecake, Linzer torte, petit fours, macarons, tiramisu. No one left hungry, as after dessert, the chefs brought out more plates of sausages and meats as we all lingered on the patio enjoying the wines and the perfect weather.



I’ve never been to heaven, but this al fresco wining and dining experience with views of the Princely vineyard and the mountains must have been close. It had only been a month prior that I had found the BBQ event on the Hofkellerei’s website and told my husband about it. I couldn’t believe I was finally sitting there, and that it was only the first day of our vacation!

The next day would be wine tasting in Switzerland. Until then…prost!

The Hofkellerei of the Prince of Liechtenstein can be found at Feldstrasse 4, Vaduz, Liechtenstein 9490. You can find them on Facebook here and here, and you can follow them on Instagram here.

A Day on the Willamette Wine Loop–Stop Two: Tumwater Vineyard

Last weekend, I visited Lake Oswego, Oregon and the surrounding area on a media trip organized by Mt. Hood Territory. In the blog posts today and to come, I will be featuring some of the places on my itinerary that was specifically tailored to me and readers of this blog. I hope you enjoy my several mini-blogs from Mt. Hood Territory, Oregon.


On the Sunday afternoon of my trip to Mt. Hood Territory, I went wine tasting and visited three wineries in the Willamette Wine Loop. My second stop of the day was Tumwater Vineyard, which in the beginning, was not supposed to be a winery at all.

During my tasting flight I was introduced to the owner of Tumwater, Gordon Root (aka the accidental vintner). He told me that he and business partner Rick Waible had initially intended to develop the land that the winery sits on into a subdivision of about 40 homes. However, after plans were submitted and zoning changes took effect, he was only permitted to build five houses, and would have to think of a way to use the rest of the property. Gordon and Rick then decided to fix their dilemma by removing the trees, blackberries, poison oak and other vegetation on the remaining 45 acres. So in 2015, three acres of Chardonnay and fourteen acres Pinot Noir were planted on the land. An additional five acres of Pinot were planted in spring of 2018, bringing the total to 23 acres.

The houses they did manage to build (in which one of them Gordon resides) were selected for a showcase called Street of Dreams in 2016, and the structure that would become the Tumwater Vineyard tasting room served as the showroom. One of the homes is a massive 7,500 square feet and a price tag of $3.8 million. It features enormous 14-foot doors that open directly out to a view of the vineyard and Mount Hood.

$3.8 million out of your budget? No problem! You can still come by the Tumwater Vineyard tasting room and take in the beauty of the landscape for the mere cost of a tasting flight ($15 for four different wines, but complimentary with purchase of two bottles).


The lineup I tasted was the 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, the 2016 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir, the 2016 Arborbrook Pinot Noir, and the 2016 Prince Hill Pinot Noir. Below is a menu of the wines they have available for sale by the bottle and the glass, as well as a description of the wines in the flight. If you can’t make it into the tasting room, you can buy their wines directly from their website here.

Tumwater Vineyard is located at 375 SW Barrel House Way, West Linn, Oregon. Currently, the tasting room is only open to the public on Sundays, Noon to 5:30pm.

You can like them on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here, and follow them on Instagram here!

Disclaimer: Thank you to Mt. Hood Territory for arranging my trip to Oregon and this stop on my itinerary, as well as paying for my tasting fee at Tumwater Vineyard.

A Day on the Willamette Wine Loop–Stop One: Campbell Lane Winery

Last weekend, I visited Lake Oswego, Oregon and the surrounding area on a media trip organized by Mt. Hood Territory. In the blog posts today and to come, I will be featuring some of the places on my itinerary that was specifically tailored to me and readers of this blog. I hope you enjoy my several mini-blogs from Mt. Hood Territory, Oregon.

On the Sunday afternoon of my trip to Mt. Hood Territory, I went wine tasting and visited three wineries in the Willamette Wine Loop. My first stop of the day was Campbell Lane Winery. Campbell Lane Winery’s story begins in 1966, when third generation Oregonian Leigh Campbell, M.D. and wife Ceille bought land at the end of a country road on Pete’s Mountain (which is positioned above the Willamette River and looks out to Mt. Hood), and named their property “Campbell Lane”. They then hand cleared fruit orchards on the land and planted the largest Pinot Gris vineyard (2.65 acres) in the United States (at the time).

The Campbells expanded the original Stoneridge Vineyard over the next 50 years and experimented with many different grape varietals. The property’s climate, elevation (700-feet), and the soil–called Jory, (a series of deep well-drained soils that formed in colluvium derived from basic igneous rock, and recently officially recognized as Oregon’s state soil on May 23, 2011)–makes the grapes grown there some of the highest quality in Oregon.

In 2014, the first Campbell Lane Winery grapes were harvested and bottled to share with the public, and their current wine list is succinct with just three types: Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Rosé of Pinot Noir. The wines feature the Clan Campbell Coat of Arms (a symbol of courage and hospitality) in the logo on their labels. Campbell Lane has also just grafted 1.75 acres of Pinot Gris vines to Chardonnay, and they plan to release an estate grown Chardonnay in Spring 2021.

For my tasting experience that day, I tried the 2018 Rose of Pinot Noir, the 2015 Pinot Gris, the 2016 Pinot Gris, the 2016 Pinot Noir, and the 2017 Pinot Noir, shown below. Since the tasting room was incredibly busy that day, I moved to a table in the tasting room so I could take my time examining the wines and not be in the way of other customers.



I was not really expecting to enjoy the wines I tried as much as I did. I admit I am kind of a California wine purist and a superfan of Sonoma Pinot Noirs. Sorry! Anyway, I tried to keep an open mind going into the tasting rooms on Sunday, and I am glad I did. From wine number one (the Rosé of Pinot Noir) I was impressed.

I went on to the 2015 and 2016 Pinot Gris, and noted they have a wonderful petroleum quality that I really enjoy. I might be buying some wine after all! By the time I tasted the 2016 and 2017 Pinot Noirs, I was sold. I won’t go into describing them too much, because wine is a very personal thing and who wants to read a bunch of meaningless descriptors anyway? I just know that I liked everything I tried, and I recommend them to you. I came home with the 2016 Pinot Gris  and the 2017 Pinot Noir! I can’t wait to open them at home and share them with my husband Andy. 🙂

Before I left, I walked around the grounds of the winery (which are extremely beautiful) and took a few photos to share with you. I noticed people buying wine by the glass and the bottle and enjoying the afternoon with their families and a picnic of both food they bought in the tasting room and food they brought to the winery themselves. I’d really love to go back with a group of people and do the same thing!

If you need another excuse to visit Campbell Lane Winery, they are having a “Last Friday (of the month)” event tomorrow, May 31st from 5-9pm. Join them for tapas including crostinis, arugula salad, and an apple crumble along with shrimp and chorizo paella from Nineteen 33 Taproom. They’ll also have musical guest Rob Rainwater, performing a “rich mix of originals and classic blues and rock covers.”

Campbell Lane Winery is located at 27411 SW Campbell Lane in West Linn, Oregon. Their current tasting room hours are as follows: Sundays, 12-5pm through December 22, 2019. Last Fridays, 5-9pm March through October 2019.

If you can’t make it to the winery, you can contact the winery and buy wines from the comfort of your own home.

You can like them on Facebook here and follow them on Instagram here!

Disclaimer: Thank you to Mt. Hood Territory for arranging my trip to Oregon and this stop on my itinerary, as well as paying for the wine I purchased at Campbell Lane Winery.

Kyra’s Bake Shop, a Gluten-Free Haven and Heaven in Lake Oswego, Oregon

Last weekend, I visited Lake Oswego, Oregon and the surrounding area on a media trip organized by Mt. Hood Territory. In the blog posts today and to come, I will be featuring some of the places on my itinerary that was specifically tailored to me and readers of this blog. I hope you enjoy my several mini-blogs from Mt. Hood Territory, Oregon.

One of my stops during the four days I spent in Mt. Hood Territory was a bakery in Lake Oswego called Kyra’s Bake Shop. Kyra’s Bake Shop is a completely gluten-free (and 100% celiac safe) bakery that sells gluten-free pastries, cakes, salads, sandwiches, and soups. The bakery is owned by Kyra Bussanich, the only four-time winner of Food Network’s popular show Cupcake Wars.


When I entered the shop, I noticed the steady stream of customers both in line and seated enjoying their gluten-free treats. I believe many of the people I saw were locals, although Kyra’s Bake Shop is definitely known for being a destination place (bringing in customers from as far as Florida and New York who long for celiac-safe goodies).

And I had come a long way from California, too. I made my way to the case, excited to order/try several things. I figured since it was already nearly 1pm (and I had another stop for lunch already planned), I would buy some items to take back to my hotel with me to enjoy later.

If you visit Kyra’s Bake Shop, I recommend getting there a little earlier than I did. Some of the items in the case were already sold out. Luckily, I picked up the last Chicken Pesto Galette, as well as the last two plain bagels. I was so happy to get them that you’d think they were the last two bagels on Earth! I was also tempted to try a Unicorn Cupcake, but opted for a Lemon Marionberry Donut instead (choosing only one sweet item for moderation’s sake). I also selected a Chicken Cobb Salad (for dinner in case I was too tired to go out later that evening). Kyra’s has various flavors of cupcakes and donuts available daily, as well as different kinds of galettes (As you will see in one of the photos below, a galette is like an open-faced savory hand pie.). You can visit Kyra’s website to see what flavors they offer on different days of the week.


Below are photos of two of the items I bought. The Chicken Galette, and the Lemon Marionberry Donut. I decided they would photograph better back at my hotel, so I skipped taking any more pictures of the case, because the items just didn’t look as good in person through the glass. You can see how amazing both the galette and the donut look up close!


My prediction about being too tired to go out that evening came true, and luckily I had the Cobb Salad and the Chicken Galette to fall back on, as well as some wine to pair with them. The galette dough was buttery and chewy and slightly crisp in texture and unbelievably gluten-free! The pesto and chicken filling tasted perfect after having been slightly warmed in the microwave.


This was the first gluten-free donut I had ever tried. There’s a shop that makes them (gluten-free) in Sacramento, but only on Sundays, and it seems like I can never make it over there that day. So, I was very excited to try this one, because I have already had all sorts of gluten-free cookies and cakes. The donut itself had a cake-like texture underneath all that crunchy glaze. I don’t have any other word to describe it except delectable. It was so devilish that I ate it over three days. The glaze was exactly flavored the way anything advertising “lemon” should be. Like a “punch” of lemon, definitely from the use of lemon zest. The marionberry flavor was jammy and delightfully sweet, and a perfect complement to the sourness of the lemon.

I also bought two bagels, and though they were very good and I was so elated to get the last ones that I practically praised God for them, after all the tasting I prefered the galette and the donut! No matter what, though, I’m definitely coming back to Kyra’s Bake Shop next time I’m in Lake Oswego!

Kyra’s Bake Shop is located at 599 A Avenue, Lake Oswego, OR, 97034. They are open everyday from 7:00AM – 5:00PM. You can like Kyra’s Bake Shop on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here, and follow them on Instagram here.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Mt. Hood Territory for arranging my trip to Oregon and this stop on my itinerary, as well as paying for the items I purchased at Kyra’s Bake Shop.

My Top Five Tastes of the San Francisco 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show


A few weeks ago, my husband Andy and I attended the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show put on by the Specialty Food Association. The show is basically the Superbowl of the food world, and the biggest tasting event I have ever attended with items ranging from snacks to cheeses, meats, candies, chocolates, specialty food items, spirits, wines and more!

It’s a great excuse for Andy and I to travel to San Francisco for the day and meet the people behind the products (many of the inventors or creators of the items are there to represent themselves or their brand), foreign and domestic. It was also another way to temporarily satisfy my wanderlust by visiting the booths assigned to items from other countries. Andy went vegan for January, so he was limited on what he could taste, but I was there to sample it ALL… especially the charcuterie and cheeses I don’t normally buy because of the price… and the calories! 😉

After tasting through the entire show in about 4 hours (we moved quickly), I came up with a countdown of my 5 favorite products from the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show, why I liked the food/product, and most importantly, where YOU can find it!

5. Pan’s Mushroom Jerky
Since Andy went vegan for January, we were scanning the show specifically looking for anything he might be able to eat, as well as a vegan product I liked enough to write about it here. I was contacted via email before the show about Pan’s Mushroom Jerky, so I was happy to find their booth and try their offerings.

What is it exactly?
It’s a vegan “jerky” made from shiitake mushrooms. The idea for the jerky was born when its founder Michael Pan was traveling throughout Malaysia visiting extended family. While on his trip, he was offered a rich, savory snack that he thought was a pork-based snack. He discovered that it was a family recipe featuring shiitake mushrooms, and he liked it so much, he wanted to share it with the world!

My Taste:
I tasted the Applewood BBQ flavor. It was very tasty and well-seasoned. It also had the mouth-feel of a real jerky. It did, however have a strong mushroom flavor. Since I like mushrooms, I was fine with that. If I were vegan, I would definitely buy it as a substitute because it has the umami flavor of a meat jerky. The flavor I tasted was smoky, salty, and sweet, and overall pretty yummy.


Where Can I Buy It?
Here’s a link to all the flavors they produce. You can buy the jerky directly from the company on their website. You can also enter your zip code here to see what stores close to you carry the product.


4. Calivirgin Olive Oils
Number four on my list is Calivirgin Olive Oil, and not just one oil in particular, but I was lucky enough to sample several of them. Calivirgin was founded by the Coldani Family, and their headquarters are located at Coldani Olive Ranch. All of the extra virgin olive oil is estate grown, they don’t use any pesticides, and all of their products are organically and sustainably produced. AND a bonus for Sacramentans and Bay Area residents, Calivirgin is a local company! They are located in Lodi, California.

My Taste:
At the show, I was given a Mini Bottle Set that contains 100 mL bottles of the following products: Lusty Lemon Olive Oil, Guilty Garlic Olive Oil, Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Calivinegar Barrel-Aged Balsamic, and Bountiful Basil Oil. I haven’t sampled all of them yet, but I have had the lemon and the basil oils. I used the basil kind to put an extra boost of basil flavor in a vegan pesto I made for my husband! It was excellent.




Where Can I Buy It?
You can buy their products by calling 209.210.3162 or directly from their website HERE.

 

3. Pecan Oil by The Art of Pecan
Counting down to my third favorite taste of the 2019 Fancy Food show. This spot belongs to Pecan Oil, produced by The Art of Pecan.

This brand of pecan oil is unique because it’s pressed from American native (wild) pecans, which have been untouched by fertillizers and pesticides. The resulting flavor is sweeter, and more buttery, and the oil itself has more nutrients. It has a high smoke point (470°F) and can be used as a complete butter substitute. You can find out more information about the oil HERE.

My Taste:
WOW! So incredibly rich, and tasted JUST like drinking pecans. If you are thinking, “Why would I want to drink pecans?” Well, believe me, you do. The flavor is was deep and buttery and would make anything taste good. So much better than some of the other oils I have tried.

Where Can I Buy It?
You can snag some Pure Pecan Oil HERE. It’s $18 for an 8 ounce bottle.

 

2. Counting down to number two, we have the line of meats I tried made by COVAP Specialty Meats & Cheeses!
I would be lying if I didn’t say the Fancy Food show is a forum where the Spanish meat and cheese producers get to show off (in a good way)! Just take a gander at that leg below! It’s from an acorn-fed 100% Iberian pig with a long curation time.

My Taste:
It was one of the most satisfying and silky tastes of Iberian ham I have ever tasted. I would die to have a little slice of this every evening with a big glass of tempranillo.

Where Can I Buy it?
You can buy an entire leg, or you can buy it pre-sliced directly from their website HERE.


I also had the opportunity to try the above chorizo and blood sausage (morcilla) from the same manufacturer! I want to thank the host of the COVAP booth, Juan Ballesteros for allowing me to try each one. Last month, I tried blood sausage (morcilla) for the first time in Portugal and actually liked it! I was so happy to see it at the Fancy Food Show at the COVAP display and I am hoping to work with them on a future food and wine pairing post highlighting food and wine from the Iberian Peninsula.

Where Can I Buy It?
To see ALL the products in their online store (including their cheeses, sausages, ham), you can click HERE.

And… The Number ONE spot in my 5 Best Tastes of the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show goes to…

1. Sartori Cheese’s Espresso Bellavitano Reserve Cheese


SAY WHAT?
You’re rubbing COFFEE on my CHEESE?!? Oh yes, they are. Just hear me out…
Sartori
is a fourth-generation family owned and operated company and they make a full line of artisan cheeses. I actually try and stuff as much as I can into my mouth and in my purse each time I visit their booth. Is that bad? Now that we have an understanding that I really like their stuff (I miiiight have their Merlot BellaVitano in my fridge right now), let’s talk about the particular product they make that gets my Fancy Food #1st place:

My Taste:
OK… let’s talk about the Espresso BellaVitano. Yes, they actually rub freshly-roasted espresso into the aged cheese. It’s insanely good because the espresso has a bitter note and the cheese is nutty and sweet. It doesn’t seem like it makes sense, but it does. And, I didn’t really shove extra cheese into my purse. 😉

Where Can I Buy it?
Lucky for you, you can buy it online along with several other mouthwatering cheeses at the Sartori Online Cheese Shop HERE. Feeling really cheesy? A 20 lb wheel will cost you $317 dollars, but you can get a more reasonable size (5.3 oz) for only $7.75.

OK, that’s all I’ve got for now… Cheers and happy eating!


About the Specialty Food Association

The Specialty Food Association is a thriving community of food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs. Established in 1952 in New York, the not-for-profit trade association provides its 3,800 members in the U.S. and abroad the tools, knowledge and connections to champion and nurture their companies in an always-evolving marketplace. The Association owns and produces the Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows, and presents the sofi™ Awards honoring excellence in specialty food. Learn more at specialtyfood.com.

Specialty Food Association Media Contact:
PR Department, (646) 878-0130, press@specialtyfood.com

Facebook: Specialty Food Association
Twitter: @Specialty_Food
LinkedIn: Specialty Food Association
Pinterest: @specialtyfoodassociation
Instagram: @specialtyfoodassociation

My Top Tips for Travel to Lisbon

Dear Readers, Happy New Year!

Andy and I just returned from our first ever journey to Europe. We traveled to Lisbon, Portugal for 5 days, and I am still rubbing my eyes like it was a dream! I’ve come up with a few lists about the trip…. why we chose Lisbon, how to pack for Lisbon, what to expect upon arrival, and the must-do activities and recommended restaurants in Lisbon. After reading this, it is my hope you are further inspired to travel to Lisbon, or even to travel to a place you have never visited.

Why Lisbon?
Of course, you might ask why I did not choose Paris, Rome, or London for my first excursion across the Atlantic. Somehow, I knew Lisbon would be perfect for us. Here’s why:

1. Lisbon has a very moderate climate in the winter months like San Francisco (which we are used to), and doesn’t rain a lot in winter.

2. Lisbon has a very strong culinary and wine scene. (Important to me, because if the food isn’t good, I’m not interested!)

3. Lisbon has a magnificent history, and is manageable to see many things/places/landmarks in the amount of time (5 days, 4 nights) we actually had to visit.

4. I had a primer on Lisbon thanks to the Somebody Feed Phil documentary hosted by Phil Rosenthal. I modeled a lot of our trip on places I had seen on the show, but at the same time, we went to a few places we found on our own. You can watch the show here. #NetflixandPhil 😛

Phil Rosenthal explores Portuguese cuisine in Lisbon on Season 1 of
“Somebody Feed Phil” (Courtesy of Netflix)

5. Lisbon is on the Tagus River (aka Tejo River) and we love places that have a view/are located near a body of water!

6. Lisbon was the closest place to get to in Europe from Sacramento. If you wait until summer of 2019 to book your trip, lucky you! TAP Portugal will be offering non-stop service from SFO to LIS!

7. Many Portuguese speak English and it is easy to communicate, especially with people who work in restaurants, shops, and hotels.

8. Lisbon is less crowded than other major cities, especially during December.

9. Lisbon has a very good public transit system and you really don’t need a car! Just your legs to take you to a subway, bus, tram, or train stop/station.

10. Lisbon is the perfect mix of old world and new world. It’s an upcoming and modern city, but has the beauty of monuments and cathedrals that are hundreds of years old. You will see evidence of this everywhere. Especially on the beautiful sidewalks!

 

Preparing and Packing:

1. Speaking of the sidewalks, leave your heels at home. The sidewalks and even some of the roadways in Lisbon are made of limestone tiles (aka Portuguese pavement or calçada portuguesa) and are very challenging to walk on, especially in heels of any kind. Don’t worry about looking unhip. I didn’t see any other women in heels, either. Most of the time, I wore these Clarks with a rubber wedge and they were awesome. I also wore these shoes (also Clarks) when I wore a dress.

2. Purchase a converter plug. I found this one and bought it because it converts to EU, Australia, the US, and the UK and it has four USB ports for easy charging.
3. Select a place in your purse or carry on bag to put your passport (preferably a pocket that is inside of the bag and zips up) and always keep it in that place!

4. Pack snacks like nuts, trail mix, protein bars, beef or turkey jerky (my go-to right now is Nick’s Sticks), or pretzels in your carry on in case you get hungry and need a pick-me-up. Sometimes you’ll have to walk farther than you thought in the airport and sometimes the escalator or the elevator will be broken and you will appreciate the extra energy.

5. Pack a travel pillow in your carry on luggage. If you are traveling from the United States, your flight will be long enough to rest. I bought this travel pillow and got a lot of use out of it!

6. Use a backpack for your personal item on the plane and use it when you are sightseeing. I packed a purse (that I never ended up using during our trip). Instead, I used this Pacsafe Intasafe Anti-Theft 20L Laptop Backpack on the plane and to carry my items around Lisbon securely. I stowed both my camera and my wallet in it. I chose this backpack because it is theft-resistant. It is made with slash-proof material in the body and the straps. It also has a pocket with RFIDsafe blocking material for credit cards to safeguard against hacker scanning. It also has locking zippers. I love it, and the peace of mind I had carrying it around and knowing my items were safe was worth the expense. Bonus: the backpack has two pockets for water bottles on the sides.

7. Bring plenty of cash (you can convert to Euros at the airport when you arrive). Most of the non-touristy, local restaurants DO NOT accept credit cards. If you are afraid your cash will get lost or stolen, another alternative to packing a bank roll is to use your ATM card to withdrawal cash. There are several all over the city.

8. Download an app like Duolingo and learn a few phrases in Portuguese. It goes a long way if you can say “please” and “thank you”. Which, by the way in Portuguese is: please “por favor” and thank you “obrigado”.

9. Pack clothing that you can wear in layers. Since Lisbon is on a body of water, it can get windy, and you might get cold. Sometimes you’ll be walking and get too hot. What I am saying is, it’s easier to wear a T-Shirt and jeans on the bottom layer, a sweater or sweatshirt over that, and in winter, possibly a coat over that. You can always take layers one by one off if you get too hot.

10. Invest in a power bank to charge your phone/iPad/laptop. Sometimes you won’t be able to charge your phone on a long flight. Since you’ll definitely want to have a decent amount of power when you land to check your messages, check in with loved ones, and map out the area, it’s a good idea to have a back up power source.

Upon Arrival to Portugal:
1. Expect to wait at least an hour in line to get through customs and into the country.

2. Keep your passport and any important documents in place easy to access, because you will be showing them many times during travel into and out of the country.

3. You will have several transportation options out of the airport. Decide beforehand which one you will choose to get you where you need to go.

4. Before you leave the airport, there is a kiosk near the airport exit to exchange USD to €, and you can exchange as much money as you would like for a flat rate of €5. Again, get as much as you can, because many activities and many of the really good restaurants don’t take credit cards, and you’ll be spending a € here and there, so it’s just more convenient to carry some pocket change.

5. If you only have carry on luggage, you can most likely take the Metro to your destination. The Metro system is mapped out clearly at the airport, and it’s quite easy to figure out.

6. If you have large bags/luggage, invest in a cab to get to your hotel.

7. Be patient. The airport is very crowded–a lot of people who are different nationalities and speak different languages than you do. Practice kindness and don’t be the ugly “in-a-hurry” American.

8. If you are using the Metro or another form of public transit, you can buy a Viva Viagem card. It costs €0.50 and can be reloaded an unlimited number of times during one year after purchase.

9. It can be confusing at first when you land in a new place, but take a deep breath. You’ll figure things out and laugh about how confused you were later. I am hoping to demystify some things with this article, so if you go you will already be a pro!

10. Get ready to have a blast!!

Must-Dos While in Lisbon:
1. Eat at Ponto Final. Take the ferry (from Cais do Sodre in Lisbon to Cacilhas) across to Almada to Ponto Final. If it’s cold outside, wear extra layers and eat outside on the pier. You’ll enjoy phenomenal views of Lisbon across the Tagus (Tejo) River!


2. Visit the Santuário Nacional de Cristo Rei. After Ponto Final, you can walk to a lift that takes you up to a 2-mile path up to Cristo Rei (Christ the King). The Santuário Nacional de Cristo Rei was completed in 1959 after ten years of construction. The statue was built by the support/approval of Portuguese bishops at the Portuguese Episcopate conference in 1940 as a symbol of peace to both plea & thank God for the absence of Portugal in World War II. It’s quite the journey to get there from Ponto Final, but worth it once you get there!

3. See a Fado show with dinner. Fado is a style of Portuguese music that is both beautiful and haunting. It is associated with the word “saudade” or longing, and sort of represents to me a kind of sad hope. It’s kind of described like when you love someone and they go away you miss them and feel sad, but it is a good thing that you miss them.

We found a restaurant with FREE Fado every night beginning at 7pm. The food was fabulous and the Fado singer (or Fadista) was even better! We chose Pastel do Fado, a restaurant Andy happened to find when we were walking around Almada. (It’s near the Lisbon Cathedral). Remember, sometimes when you are seated at a table, there will be food already on the table. It is NOT free. If you eat the bread, butter, olives, you WILL be charged on your final bill. 😉

4. Ride Tram 28 and get a scenic view of the city. Make sure you get on at Martim Moniz (or Campo Ourique) so you’ll have a better chance of getting a seat! You’ll enjoy a memorable ride through Graca, Alfama, Baixa and Estrela screeching and rattling up and down the narrow streets.

5. The Santa Justa Lift: A top tourist attraction, but also a transportation device that takes you from the lower streets of Baixa, up to a platform connecting to Carmo Square. Tip: Get a Viva Viagem card and use it to ride the lift, metro (subway), buses, trams, and funiculars. You can pay €6.15 for 24 hours, or choose the re-load option. You can also pay the extra €2 to climb the observation platform. It’s totally worth it!

6. Go to Time Out Market Lisboa for a meal. Even a picky eater will find something they will like. Time Out Market is like a giant cafeteria, except that there are little food stalls all around the perimeter and the food doesn’t suck. You can find everything from sushi to hamburgers, octopus, several different takes on bacalhau, piri-piri chicken, gelato, chocolates, and the ubiquitous pastry of Lisbon, the Pastel de Nata at Manteigaria.


7. Go to Sintra to see the castles! Take the train from Rossio Square to Sintra (runs every 20 minutes). If you are paying for one-way tickets, make sure you buy two zones or you won’t be able to exit the station. (This might have happened to us!)

8. Enjoy Portuguese Wines! If you are in Portugal, you might as well drink like a local! There are so many wines to choose from, they are very affordable (about €12 average per bottle in most restaurants), and nearly everything is good. Here are a few bottles we polished off:

9. Eat bacalhau! Bacalhau is the Portuguese word for cod, and if you come to Lisbon, bacalhau is EVERYWHERE on restaurant menus. The bacalhau in question is salt cod, which has been preserved by drying/curing with salt. Before it can be eaten, salt cod must be rehydrated by soaking in cold water for a few days, changing the water two to three times a day. This also helps remove most of the salt content. My favorite way to enjoy bacalhau is in a pastel de bacalhau from Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau! It’s basically a cod fish fritter filled with Serra da Estrela cheese. Downright decadent and one of the best bites of food I tried!

10. Stop for a shot of ginjinha! GInjinha is a Portuguese liqueur made by infusing ginja berries (sour cherry) in Aguardiente (an alcoholic beverage that contains between 29% and 60% alcohol by volume). There are several places to try ginjinha. We tasted it at Ginjinha do Carmo, (a stand in Comércio Plaza) exactly one block away from our hotel (so that we could stagger back to our room). The liqueur is sweet and powerful, and sipping it slowly while we talked about our trip was a perfect way to cherish the last moments in Lisbon while standing in the plaza.



Thank you Lisbon, for being so lovely and delicious in every way possible. Andy and I enjoyed everything about our vacation, and we are so glad we chose to travel there to spend New Year’s holiday. The food, wine, and weather were all so perfect. And now I know what it is like to experience saudade…but this time to long for a place. I miss Portugal already, but each day that goes by brings my closer to our next visit, and next time we will visit Porto for more adventures!

Lastly, I want to thank Anthony Bourdain, Phil Rosenthal, and Mark Wolters for giving me a template for travel to Lisbon. Mark Wolters of Wolters World especially gave a lot of tips of what to expect when in Lisbon, and I’m pretty sure Portugal would not have been on my bucket list without all of your influences, and I know my visit to Lisbon was enhanced by all of you.

Saude!

PS: If you liked what you saw on this blog post, there’s more pictures from this trip over on my Instagram page. Be sure to visit and follow me there!

Putting the “Pazazz” in Your Holiday Feast

Every holiday table needs a little pizzazz. And so does every potluck. I present to you today a recipe that even the laziest person can whip together in less than 20 minutes (depending on how fast you can slice), but it will seem like the most gourmet salad you’ve ever made. More importantly, it’s gluten free, nutritious, and just happens to even be vegan. The star of the salad is Pazazz itself. Pazazz apples, that is!

Pazazz is a descendent of the Honeycrisp with a sweet, yet tart flavor. You may or may not have seen them in your grocery store, because they are quite new to the market. Pazazz apples are grown sustainably by second and third generation family orchards, who make sure the natural orchard habitat and the land is protected.

I was sent a box of Pazazz apples by Honeybear Brands to develop a recipe and feature it here. Since one of the main characteristics of the Pazazz apple is its crunch, I decided to use the apples raw. I also didn’t want to add any heat that would change their skin’s beautiful color. With those parameters, I chose to make a simple Fennel and Apple Salad with Lemon and Toasted Walnuts. I wanted a lighter counterpart to all the heavy food we tend to eat at holiday parties and family dinners.

If you go to the Pazazz apple website, you can click on “Find Pizazz” to locate where to find them in your area.

You can find Honeybear Brands on Facebook here and on Instagram here.


Fennel and Apple Salad with Lemon and Toasted Walnuts

4 Pizzazz Apples
1 Whole Fennel Bulb
Fennel Fronds for Garnish
Juice from 3-4 Lemons
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 Tbs Lemon Zest
1 tsp sea salt (to taste)
Cracked Black Pepper (to taste)
3/4 cup toasted, chopped walnuts.

1. Toast and chop walnuts and allow to cool.
2. Combine the lemon juice and the olive oil and whisk together.
3. Core and slice the Pizzazz Apples, with a mandolin or as thinly as you can with a chef’s knife.
4. Do the same with the fennel bulb. Pull the fronds from the fennel and reserve them to use as a garnish.
5. Place the fennel and the apples in a medium sized bowl and pour the dressing over them, making sure to coat both thoroughly.
6. Add the toasted, chopped walnuts.
7. Sprinkle the fennel fronds over the salad for extra flavor and garnish. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6.


Besides leaving you this recipe, I also want to say thank you for reading for another year. I haven’t written as often as I would have liked, but I hope next year it will be more often. This blog has been cavegrrl.com for nearly 8 years now, and I am headed into my 15th year as a blogger. I can’t believe time has gone by so quickly!

I wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season. I am off to travel for the rest of the year, but I will be back with more in January! Follow me on Instagram here to see what I am up to until then. Cheers!

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