I’ll never forget last October (2017). It was a month of great loss. The strange thing was that only days earlier, Andy and I had celebrated our marriage at Caverna 57 with my mother and about 50 or so friends. We were so happy on the last days of September.
Then October came. Las Vegas (where we married in March) was rattled by a great tragedy that Sunday evening. I had to take my mom to the airport so she could fly home on Monday morning (this is never easy, BTW). I went from a great state of joy to being bummed out for the world. Then exactly one week after the Las Vegas incident, wine country caught fire. For a little while, I thought the world was going to end. Smoke drifted all the way to Sacramento by Tuesday and we all knew just how serious the situation had become, however, we faced the heartache of helplessness. Since the fires had popped up all over wine country, and the unusual winds howled on, the fires spread and became unmanageable despite the efforts to fight them.
What do you do when your favorite place on Earth is burning down? It seemed like a nightmare, but how could I even say that? I was not there or displaced from my home. I was not a first responder who had to battle the smoke or the flames. I was sitting safely on the sidelines in Sacramento, a place that would have more of a chance of floating away in a flood than burning up. When the fires were finally extinguished and the smoke cleared, I sent myself on a mission to visit Napa. I realized that reports of the damage had been highly exaggerated in the media. In fact, there were only about 50 wineries with any direct damage, and less than 5 wineries with significant damage! I felt it was my duty to visit, spend money and publicize on social media that Napa had not burned down and was open for business!
It was October 27th when I finally made it out. My real job gets very hectic until the end of the month, but I came as soon as I could. As I was driving through the valley, it was as beautiful as ever! The air was so clear and the sun so bright! All of the wineries on Highway 29 were all still intact and sort of majestic looking in a way.
I scheduled to meet a friend (now one of my very best friends) in St. Helena at Ehlers Estate. I tasted several phenomenal wines there, and even bought a few bottles (though out of my normal price range). If you’ve never been to Ehlers Estate, its located on the east side of Highway 29 on Ehlers Lane. The tasting room is in a beautiful old stone barn surrounded by 42 acres divided into five blocks (based on soil type) and 25 sub-blocks, defined by clone and rootstock combinations. 25 acres are are home to six different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon planted on multiple rootstocks. The vineyard also produces sub-blocks of Merlot, four of Cabernet Franc, two of Sauvignon Blanc and a block of Petit Verdot.
Below, I’ll share a view photos from my tasting at Ehlers Estate. I was impressed with the way they greet each guest with a little personalized sign. Bonus points for spelling my name correctly! 😉
I’m not going to jump into reviewing all the wines, but the most notable one at Ehlers Estate (in my opinion), is the 2014 Merlot. If you know anything at all about contemporary wine culture, you know that Merlot has suffered a bit of a backlash, but it’s finally making a comeback. But drinkers of good Merlot will tell you this varietal never went away! October happens to be International Merlot Month, and International Merlot Day is on November 7th. Worldwide, there are 600,000 acres of Merlot planted. If you happen to be a fan of Merlot, this is the one to try. I am really looking forward to opening it with my mom when I go visit her this year.
My friend and I had lunch at Brasswood Bar + Kitchen, (literally a stone’s throw from Ehlers Estate). We both ordered the diet-friendly Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad, with bacon, carmelized onion, parmesan, and soft cooked egg. I sipped a Diet Coke because I knew I was off to more wine tasting later in the day. My friend had to return to lunch after work, but I was on to Mumm Napa for sparkling wine!
Driving to Mumm Napa down the Silverado Trail was the first time I noticed fire damage or any sign that a fire had come through at all. If you can imagine my trajectory, I was headed south from St. Helena on the Silverado Trail towards Napa, so the damage I began to see was on my left hand side, from the Atlas Peak fire. Still, I was surprised at how little damage there was overall, compared to how much damage had been reported on the radio, internet, and television. Here I was with dozens and dozens of wineries open around me on a gorgeous day, and hardly anyone in them because all of the Valley had (allegedly) burned down. I was giddy to be there and see for myself that it was business as usual. When I arrived at Mumm, I was ready to buy some more wine! But, first, more tasting. 🙂
The wine on the far left is the Brut Prestige, made with 45% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Gris & Pinot Meunier. Lately, it’s my go-to sparkling wine at a restaurant for a starter glass (I usually get the split) because it’s on so many menus and I know exactly what the wine will taste like and that it will make me smile. It’s just under $20 for wine club members, and $24 for non-wine club members.
The DVX is a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. The name of the wine honors the late Guy Devaux, founding winemaker of Mumm Napa. The grapes for DVX come from a half-dozen of the winery’s vineyard sources. The wine is available to wine club members only.
The Brut Rose is a 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay sparkling wine with the most lovely blush/coral/salmon color. It is my favorite sparkling rose under $25, and I bought 3 bottles to enjoy myself when Andy is out of town or is on a “bro date”. 😉
I also bought a bottle of the most interesting wine I tasted while at Mumm. It was a sparkling Pinot Noir. It is made from 100% Pinot Noir and is dark in color like a still Pinot Noir (ruby/garnet). Suggested pairings on the sell sheet for this wine are rack of lamb and prime rib, but Andy and I will open it this Valentine’s Day and we plan on making a turkey breast to pair with the wine. I am pretty sure as of November 2017 this wine is completely sold out.
The Napa River Inn is located within the Historic Napa Mill (built in 1884, and is a National Registered Landmark). The Inn spreads into three buildings with 66 rooms that are designed and decorated to reflect the period (1800s). Most rooms overlook the river and have romantic views. The Inn is located next to restaurants such as Angele and Celadon, Silo’s Jazz Club, Napa General Store, and Sweetie Pies Bakery. For more information/a flashback/torture ;), you can read my post on the Napa River Inn on cakegrrl.blogspot.com located here. NAPA RIVER INN
This time I was in Room 212 and had enough time to take a bubble bath and recharge before heading downtown for more wine tasting and dinner.
Below are a few photos of my room, equipped with a fireplace.
The Napa River Inn also hosts nightly wine tastings, free to its hotel guests. Pietro Family Cellars was the featured winery on the evening of my stay. You can find and try their wines in downtown Napa at the Gabrielle Collection tasting room and store on Opera Plaza at 1000 Main Street.
Backroom Wines must have known I was coming to Napa, because that evening they held a sparkling wine tasting. So close to Halloween, I figured this would be my trick-or treat! Even better was that once I parked my car at the hotel, I didn’t get in it again until I checked out at 12pm the next day.
I headed out to walk over to the tasting, and on my way I spotted a large wooden chair next to a jack o’ lantern ghost. This really was like trick-or-treat! I saw another couple sit in the chair and try to do selfies, but I stopped them and said, “Hey, I’ll take your picture, if you will take mine!” They nodded in agreement.
On a placard at the bottom of the chair, it asks you to tag #riverfrontchair if you post your picture online. Here’s a look at some others who have posed in the Riverfront Chair for Instagram. Fun!
OK, no more shenanigans, let’s get down to real business… more wine tasting! As I said earlier, this tasting was tailor-made for yours truly. I sauntered into the wine shop and plunked my 20 spot down on the bar! Let’s do this thing!
OK, so I did NOT take formal notes at this tasting, nor do I remember a lot about what I had, but I do remember how much fun I had at Backroom Wines, especially because I struck up a conversation with a couple visiting from Reno. I was wearing my GIANT Garmin running watch and it caught their eye. I didn’t end up buying any wine at the store, mainly because I was headed to dinner after, but I highly recommend Backroom Wines for tasting and shopping in downtown Napa!
After I left Backroom, I remember sort of stumbling around and not being 100% sure where I wanted to go for dinner. I finally settled on Carpe Diem, surely lured in by the $%&#! Truffle Fries on the menu. 😉 Yes, I’m that person. I’m the one who orders “truffle” anything.
I snagged a table in the bar, even though the server wanted to give me a giant table. Nope, just me, only need a hightop. Then I ordered a big glass of rosé. Since it seemed like I had already participated in the Winolympics® that day, I was content with one glass with dinner. 😉
My dinner that evening was composed of two small plates: a tuna tartare with seaweed salad, avocado and taro chips and a giant plate of truffle fries. For me, shame would quickly set in, but both dishes I highly recommend!
OK quick selfie at Carpe Diem! 🙂
The Napa River Trail is something I had no idea existed! I found it by accident when I was running back to my hotel from the boot camp class. I’ll certainly be running on it a lot this summer when we go back to Napa for the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway on my birthday weekend!
It was a whirlwind trip, but I packed so much food, wine, fun (and exercise) in 24 hours! Before I close, I wanted to let you know a few facts about the fires in Napa I collected while at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa (in November). I wanted to list them to encourage people to continue to come to Napa and also to continue to buy Napa wines. This includes even the 2017 vintage when it is released.
- 90% of the grapes were harvested before the fires began.
- Winemakers are very optimistic about the overall quality of the grapes.
- It was mainly Cabernet left on the vines, but it is a very resilient, thick skinned grape.
- There are many unknowns about the possible effects of smoke on wine.
- Winemakers are using rigorous and repeated lab testing and will continue to do so.
- Only the highest and best quality will go to market, because the wineries’ reputations are at stake.
There are also a few new places in town, and a few specials going on at places to stay. The Napa River Inn has a specials page located here, but since it’s timely for an upcoming Valentine’s Day trip, I will share their Romance Package, which includes Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, a Bottle of Champagne, and Breakfast in Bed from Sweetie Pies Bakery.
Also, 2018 Napa Wine Tasting Cards are available now. For $15, you can pick up a tasting card and check out ten of Napa’s best downtown tasting rooms (all within walking distance of each other), enjoying wines for half the price. Cards can be re-used with no limit throughout the year. You can buy them here.
In closing, I want to thank the Napa River Inn for offering me a discounted stay and the staff there for making everything perfect, Elizabeth Smith for leading my tasting at Ehlers Estate and joining me for lunch at Brasswood. I’m so glad we met and I can call you my friend. I’d also like to extend gratitude to Tessa at Mumm Napa for her incredible hospitality and service, the staff at Backroom Wines (please do MORE bubble tastings, and I will be there!), and the staff at Carpe Diem. All of these people depend on your visits to make a living. I’ll be back as soon as possible.
One of the most exciting parts of the annual Wine Bloggers Conference is the excursion dinner at an offsite location (most times at a winery with catered food). This year, we bought our tickets ahead of time so we could join our friends Neal and Alyse of Winery Wanderings, who we had met at the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi. They bought their tickets as soon as the Thomas George Estates excursion was announced, and we did as well soon after. The dinner experiences are a hot commodity at the WBC. This time, the tickets were only $20 per person, and I’m not kidding when I say it was the best Andrew Jackson I have ever spent on a wine and food pairing! Don’t believe me? I have the pictures to prove it.
I’ll try to curb my enthusiasm as I detail the evening, but I have to admit I felt like royalty from the moment we left the conference hotel to the moment we returned. We met our dinner group and loaded on to a limo bus. Below is a photo of us on the bus, and you can see the excitement in our faces! We heart wine dinner excursions!
After a long and bumpy ride, we arrived at Thomas George Estates–a bit of a mystery spot for me, because I could not find much information about them on the web. After getting off the bus, I was pleasantly surprised to see our group was being escorted into a wine cave! We were led into a foyer area and presented with a charcuterie spread from Black Pig Meat Company the likes of which I had never seen before. Our glasses were also filled with Thomas George Estates Blanc de Blancs, an estate bubbly made from chardonnay.
We mingled amongst ourselves while sipping the sparkling wine and enjoying our selections from Black Pig Meat Company: Cured Meats, Roasted and Marinated Vegetables, and Hummus with Crostini. I snuck away from the group to take pictures of the tables where we would later be dining. The attention to detail of the table setting was remarkable. Plus, I took a peak at the menu for the evening and I could hardly wait for what was to come!
Our first course of the meal would be a roasted Brussels Sprout Salad, with Black Pig Bacon, Asian pear, Marcona Almonds, Aged Sherry Vinegar, and Bohemian Creamery “Capriago”, an asiago-style cheese made from goat milk and aged between 8 and 10 weeks. This course was paired with a 2015 Chardonnay from the Thomas George Sons & Daughters Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. The best part about this dish was the crispy bacon nuggets and Marcona almonds nestled in the salad hidden like buried treasure. Alyse and I laughed about our disdain for frisée…I did not know someone else shared my dislike of its curly texture and overall annoyingness when trying to cut/eat it. Still, this salad was a major hit with me.
The entrée course was a stunning “Cracklin'” Pork Belly and Star Anise Liberty Duck. It was served with Black Rice, Thomas George Estate-Grown Pomegranate and Watercress. The wine pairing was an Estate 2014 Pinot Noir, Baker Ridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley. The texture of the rice was wonderfully chewy and sticky and was offset by the crispy pork skin and the tenderness of the duck leg. As you can see it was a beautiful presentation and the pomegranate lent itself in both flavor and color. There was also a bit of persimmon on the plate, special to me because Fuyu persimmon is my favorite fruit, and it was my first taste of it that season!
For our final course, we were presented with a Quince & Apple Tartin, served with Bourbon Gelato. I was served a dessert without the crust, as they kindly remembered my gluten free request. I thought the Bourbon Gelato was pretty incredible, especially with the wine we were served as a pairing: an Estate 2012 Late Harvest Viognier from the Baker Ridge Vineyard “Baby Block”, Russian River Valley. Success! The wine WAS slightly sweeter than the dessert, and that is how it should be in a dessert/wine pairing. Lately, I have come to appreciate/enjoy dessert wines more and more, and might have even purchased a few bottles of Pinot Gris in the last month. I used to hate on sweet/dessert wines (like, a lot), so here is my formal apology of sorts.
Our dinner was skillfully prepared by Chef Duskie Estes of zazu kitchen + farm. I asked her to take a picture with me and she kindly obliged (below). I just took a peek at zazu’s sample menu and I’m probably going to have to stop in next time I am in the area! Luckily, we have friends who live in Sebastopol… 😉
Not only were the wines and the meal terrific, the company I shared them with and the memories I have of the evening are unforgettable. Thank you to the staff at Thomas George Estates for your hospitality and to Chef Duskie for her food presentation.
For another account of this excursion, head on over to Appetite for Wine, and read what Kent had to say!
AN IMPORTANT P.S.!!!
The winery is closed to the public during the month of January for annual maintenance and improvements, but will return to regularly scheduled operations on February 1st. So this means you have plenty of time to plan a future visit!
Keep an eye out for more coverage on this website from the 2017 Santa Rosa conference. I’m not sure which direction I will go content-wise, but would like to say something that hasn’t been already said. It was a conference definitely filled with mixed emotions as a result of the fires in October, but definitely an uplifting place to be in witnessing the resilience of wine country and its representatives at the conference. Cheers, and thanks for reading! #WBC17
A few weeks ago, I was planning a business trip to San Francisco, and I did not want to hassle with driving back to Sacramento after dark. The event I was planning and would be working in the city was a catered food and wine event at a major car dealership, and I knew I would be exhausted by the end of the evening. That’s when I decided to stay overnight in San Francisco, preferably close to the dealership.
Lucky for me, I have been and stayed in San Francisco several times and have a bit of a history and relationship with the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. I have been invited to past events, such as the opening of their 46th floor lounge, Cityscape. Cityscape is located inside tower one of the Hilton (which also happens to be the largest hotel on the West Coast).
The Cityscape has a 360-degree view of San Francisco and beyond. Through it’s 14ft floor-to-ceiling windows, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, Chinatown, AT&T Park, the Marin Headlands, Nob Hill, Oakland, and giant barges on the Bay. Now that Cityscape Lounge is open to the public, it’s at the top of my list for must-see sites in the City. Below is the video I took inside the Cityscape last year. I am using it because the Cityscape was closed (for a private event) the evening I stayed at the Hilton, and I was not able to obtain any new footage. Enjoy!
I connected with the marketing team at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, and they were able to place me in a beautiful tower room with a patio overlooking Union Square. I was happy to be back and able to check in and relax in my room before I headed to the event at the dealership that evening.
Of course the rooms inside the Hilton SF Union Square are spacious, modern, and the beds are beyond comfortable, but it was the new amenities since my last stay that were really impressive. First, there is a touch pad tablet in the rooms that is personalized to each guest. You can basically explore the entire city and find things to do during your time in San Francisco. There are recommended activities and restaurants, and you can see several menus to check out exactly what a certain restaurant offers before you make a reservation.
Not only can you become a San Francisco travel expert from your room, you can also workout at any time of day or night (with just a swipe of your hotel key) in the newly-renovated fitness center on the bottom floor of tower one. It’s a 2,800 square feet Precor®-equipped fitness area with a Cardio Theatre personal viewing system, ellipticals, treadmills, and free weights. There is also a towel and water station so you can stay fully hydrated during your workout. I really enjoyed being able to tune into Food Network and watch live time as I put in seven miles on the treadmill, and I can proudly say I didn’t miss my gym in Sacramento the slightest! Can I move in with you, Hilton San Francisco Union Square? 😉
There are refrigerators in the rooms, and you can purchase wine and snacks (like the ones below) at the lobby café/store (Herb N’ Kitchen, click for menu). I also tried the Turkey Cobb Salad for dinner that evening, and it was very satisfying.
If you are looking for more of a full service experience, you can head over to Urban Tavern which features a full menu of locally-inspired cuisine (click here for menu), and highlights 50 wines within 50 miles, Bay Area beers and indigenous spirits. I dined there during my last stay, and here are some photos of the delightful dishes Andy and I sampled!
Here’s the part where I post a bunch of pictures I took from my 44th floor room 🙂
After my workout, I enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Poached, (click here for PDF menu), located on the lobby level of the Hilton. Below is a You Tube video of items available (everything!) on the buffet. I was really impressed by the Congee bar with several toppings, as well as the availability of healthy items. (There’s also lots of pastry, cereal, bread, bagels, too, if that’s your thing.)
Things to do this season!
There are lots of activities for the whole family during the holiday season, and the Hilton San Francisco Union Square welcomes you during this festive time of year. As you can see in the photo above, Union Square is fully decked out with lights and a Christmas tree, and they have their Holiday Ice Rink open for business! There’s even a package rate that includes accommodations, 2 ice rink tickets, and a Bloomingdale’s 15% savings certificate! Follow this link for full details/to take advantage of this offer!
A Charlie Brown Christmas LIVE!
A Charlie Brown Christmas—LIVE! at Davies Symphony Hall is an experience you won’t want to miss. The performance begins with a reception in the lobby, so make sure to arrive early. The lobby will be filled with festive decorations and activities, including gigantic Christmas trees and special Peanuts décor. There will be several performances beginning this Thursday, Dec 21st and running until December 24th, 2017. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.
A Christmas Carol
Over at the American Conservatory Theatre, you can enjoy a performance of A Christmas Carol. Performances run Wednesday, Dec 21st-Sunday Dec. 24th at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary Street. For more information, click here.
A New Year’s Event with Seth McFarlane and the San Francisco Symphony
Sunday, December 31st, at 8:00pm, Davies Symphony Hall
Celebrate in timeless style with Academy and Grammy Award-nominated singer, songwriter, actor, producer, and director Seth MacFarlane, who brings a winning combination of rich crooning and cool pizazz that would do Frank and Dino proud. Watch him light up the stage with the San Francisco Symphony in a dazzling concert of finger-snapping jazz standards and holiday favorites conducted by Edwin Outwater. For tickets click here.
Another amenity I found impressive is the valet parking service. As you are checking out, you can text the code (ten minutes before you are ready to leave) on your valet ticket to the valet number (see above) and they will fetch your vehicle for you so you don’t have to wait for it.
Cityscape Lounge is open seven days a week from 5pm-Midnight. You can find the Hilton San Francisco Union Square on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter here. Tag them on social media with #hiltonfunionsq. Much thanks to the marketing team at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for your hospitality. I’ll be back soon!
*I was given a one night stay, breakfast, and parking in exchange for this informative blog post.
This year will be the conference’s 10th, and it will be held at the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country. We are looking forward to meeting new writers and reconnecting with the ones we met last year.
It is particularly meaningful to me to attend this year because the conference is being held in the area most damaged by the fires that recently took place. It will be wonderful to play tourist in this area and promote this region just when they need us most. I feel it is my duty to serve the area because this wine country (Napa/Sonoma) is the very reason I moved to California. I fell in love during my very first visit to the region in 2003 and moved not far away to Sacramento in 2004 (also a growing hub of food and wine with its close proximity to Amador, Lodi, Napa, Capay, Dunnigan Hills, and more).
Thirteen plus years later I will discover even more of the Sonoma region along with my husband and hundreds of other bloggers. Our itinerary and agenda for the weekend is very exciting for anyone the slightest bit nerdy about the grape.
I am especially happy to be reunited with Elizabeth of Traveling Wine Chick tomorrow and our Oregon friends Neal and Alyse of Winery Wanderings for the Thomas George Estates wine dinner on Friday. I’m sure our interactions won’t be limited to those events, because we just love all three of those awesome people! We even stayed with Neal and Alyse for a few days last June and ran a half marathon in Eugene! Have to burn those wine calories somehow… 😉
While I am at the conference, I am also actively promoting one of my lady bosses, SG Coaching and Consulting. With over 35 years of experience, the SG team creates custom-tailored programs to fit your winery needs. They provide detailed analyses and work with you to make improvements that can will get people into your doors and make your business successful. They offer Digital Marketing, Event Planning, Front Office Improvements, Recruiting and Hiring, and Wine Club Management.
So let’s do this, Wine Bloggers Conference 2017!! Let’s get together this weekend, taste a lot, encourage tourism, learn from each other, inspire each other, network, and taste a lot more. Andy and Kristy Harris from cavegrrl.com are thrilled to participate and share the experience on this blog as well as our social media channels.
See you there! Cheers 🙂
Sharing this playlist with all of you, as the songs mean so much to us.
Thank you to all who joined us in our celebration. We love you.
Special thanks to Cristian Morinico and Morinico Photography.
Here is a link to all of the pictures captured that day:
Kristy & Andy’s Wedding Celebration
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect party or better guests, and I was so lucky to have my mom with me. Thank you, Diana Hicks for traveling so far to be by my side to help me with my dress and to listen to my vows as I said them to Andy. I know it’s a hard trip, but I love it when you come see me and I TRY to keep you entertained for a couple of days.
Thank you to my loving and supportive husband. You really are the best and I got to be queen for a day TWICE! 🙂 I hope you enjoyed everything as much as I did.
Lots of happiness and memories to come!
Forgive the RBF (resting b*tch face) in the photo. Quite honestly, I’ll never forget how happy and excited I was when I took it. It was taken in our hotel room at the SLS Las Vegas, right before we left for the Mon Bel Ami chapel for our ceremony. Andy was in the bathroom and I had just finished getting ready myself. It was finally about to happen. I know, we’re on installment part three of the wedding in Las Vegas, and I still can’t believe it.
But first (a little earlier in the day) we had a little lunch with drinks at the Foxtail Pool and bar at our hotel. This lunch/drinking session was both the best and the worst idea ever. Why? Well…. we had this great drink (Absolut Frozen Lemonade) with vodka and lemon in it. It was probably one of the best drinks I have ever had. Best of course meaning overwhelmingly yummy and best also meaning highly intoxicating! Was it OK to get completely wasted before walking down the aisle? Probably not, but we kiiiinda did. And there was the great food we had with the adult beverage! I ordered the Ahi Poke Tacos and Andy ordered the Caesar Salad with Shrimp.
Oh those tacos, though! They had a yuzu crème fraîche and a truffle soy sauce. Yes, I think everything in Las Vegas has truffle or truffle flavoring involved. 🙂
After our lunch, we headed back up to the room to nap. Though, I don’t think I napped because I had to start getting ready for the ceremony. I gave myself SO MUCH TIME because I wanted my hair and makeup to be perfect. I decided on my Amore Brittany in Medium Brown, and decided to set her the night before in foam rollers.
I remember being very nervous, only because I thought something might go wrong. I was completely ready to get married to Andy… just super concerned about my dress, hair, makeup… then also worried about the place where we had chosen to get married… was it going to be as nice as it looked online? Was anyone going to be there to marry us when we showed up?
Yes. There were people there when we arrived to the Mon Bel Ami. Fun fact: The chapel is located about 3-3.5 blocks away from where you have to go to get your marriage license. We took care of that the day before, though. 🙂
Here’s a look inside the chapel at Mon Bel Ami in Las Vegas. It was just what we needed to get the job done! A big thanks goes out to the staff at the Mon Bel Ami. They really made everything perfect for our special day.
And in case you missed it (HINT: you did because it was just the two of us!!) Here’s the ceremony itself:
My bouquet that was included in the wedding package we bought.
And that was it! We were married and now on to more important things! Like EATING DINNER! 🙂 Seriously, though, I remember sitting in the car after the ceremony and taking a deep breath and just feeling joy. And taking note of that feeling so that I could remember it forever no matter what happens.
We decided to celebrate/have dinner that night at Top of the World in the Stratosphere Hotel. I mean, why not wear your ceremony garb and have your wedding dinner rotating 844 feet in the air!
On the way to the restaurant (in the lobby and casinos of the Stratosphere) people saw us (obviously by our clothing just married) and called out to us/cheered to us their congratulations. It was a beautiful scene! One man even stopped us to take selfies before we took the long elevator ride up to the restaurant. I wish I knew who that guy was… I would have loved to see those pictures.
Speaking of pictures, I took so many from our table, but here are just a few of the view (followed by a rundown of what we had for dinner). 🙂
More deep breathes. This man is my husband now! I can’t believe it! This calls for bubbly! And not just any bubbly, but Champagne in an awesome looking bottle!
Our somm for the evening gave us excellent service. He found out in about 2 sentences that we are two of the biggest wine geeks around, so he stayed at our table for some time to chat. I hope we go back someday and see him again.
Our dinner itself began with the Crab Cake (Lump crab, jicama and green papaya slaw, Asian vinaigrette, Peppadew aioli) followed by a duo of Carpaccio & Tartare (Australian wagyu, Peppadew aioli, truffle salt, lemon). Notice how they snuck in truffle AGAIN?!? Ha! It’s so Las Vegas.
And the Organic Half Chicken for me! (Semi-boneless chicken, roasted Yukon Gold potato, corn salsa, crème fraîche, demi-glace).
I am pretty sure we stuck with the bottle of Champagne and then had wine by the glass. Andy ordered this mango sorbet for dessert. The red object in the glass is actually plastic, not isomalt (ingredient used in cake decorating).
Ready to dive into some chicken!!
That ring looks so GOOD on him! 🙂 This was taken AFTER I tried to eat the plastic thingy that was indeed NOT sugar or isomalt.
I’m Mrs. Harris, it’s official!
Hello, World! Presenting Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Andrew Harris.
And I took this photo of me right before bedtime. What a perfect, beautiful, sacred, day! And the best part is there are so many more to come. We decided that day we would come back to Las Vegas every year on our anniversary because it was just so much fun and so memorable.
And they lived happily ever after…
This year it will be SIX years since I met Andy at the Curtis Park Wine Tasting! It’s an event that is really near and dear to our hearts. We are really looking forward to taking our annual walk over to the Sierra 2 Center in a few weeks to enjoy food, wine and friends. 🙂
If you’d like to read how we met at this event, you can click HERE.
I am happy to share information on this event (which happens to be one of the BEST food and wine tastings of the year in Sacramento) put together by the Sierra 2 Center and I hope you will join us for the 27th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting! -cg
PS: The Curtis Park Wine Tasting Organizers are STILL LOOKING for the following (click the links below for more information!):
- Donations of items for auction or raffle (printable form)
or use this online form
- Participation as a winery, brewery, cidery
- Participation as a restaurant
The 27th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden, one of SCNA’s largest fundraisers, brings local wineries, breweries and restaurants to Sierra 2 Center for tastings. Attendees enjoy delicious food and beverages along with the exciting silent auction and raffle drawings. Items available for bid include original art, spa packages, beach rentals, dance lessons and much more.
Online ticket sales will close at 11:59pm on Oct. 13. After Oct. 13: $60 all. REGISTER FOR TICKETS HERE.
The wedding planning experience is something of a roller coaster from start to finish, but it’s important to keep the end result in mind. The bachelorette party is one of the best opportunities to celebrate this milestone with your closest friends and let some of that anxious energy dissipate. When you think about it, there’s no better place to plan one of these events than the city of Sacramento when you consider the diverse array of activities, bars, and restaurants to chose from that will interest everybody in attendance! There are also some out of the box ideas you might not have thought of before.
Push the Comfort Zone
One of the best ways to start off a bachelorette party is to push yourself with a physical activity at a local spot like Asha Yoga or even pole dancing classes for those who are really daring! It should be noted that any physical activity will always be saved for the period before any drinking occurs. Epic Pole Fitness is another choice that offers an empowering environment to learn new skills while getting in touch with your sensual side, and it’s even better when you’re there with your friends.
Sacramento offers seemingly limitless opportunities to enjoy wine both in the city and in the surrounding areas. It’s always a pleasant and relaxing experience to sip on some locally made wines and learn more information about them. The Underground Tasting Room can be found across the street from the Railroad Museum serving selections from Twisted Twig and Fenton Herriot. Revolution Wines is another destination that shouldn’t be passed up, as they have a full menu of delightful plates like salmon tartine and fruit bruschetta to go along with an impressive selection of wines.
Painting and Sipping
Creativity is something that everybody can appreciate, and that’s why a trip to a spot like the Painted Cork in Midtown is a perfect stop on the itinerary for this type of celebration. You’ll be instructed by a local artist step by step while sipping on your favorite beverage, and that takes away a lot of the intimidation behind creating a piece of art. The piece that you create will be even more special when you look back and remember your bachelorette party.
The best way to tie your bachelorette party together is to ensure that you have a reliable form of transportation. After all, if you plan on drinking, it’s even more important to ensure that safety is a main concern. However, ride share services and taxi cabs don’t offer the same experience that a limousine or party bus does, especially when a group is involved. Investing in a party bus or limo rental often turns out to be the same price as an Uber or Lyft when it’s split up per person, and you’re able to enjoy spacious interiors for socialization. It’s easy to stream your favorite music with the top notch audio systems and auxiliary ports that can be found within the Best Buses in Sacramento!
This post was sponsored by Sacramento Party Buses
BESPOKE: An Exploration of Taste & Thought debuts in Saint Helena on Saturday, August 26 at Charles Krug Winery at 9 a.m. Renowned Food Scholars & Professors Dr. Ken Albala (Pacific U), Dr. Lok Siu (UC-Berkeley), and ROC United Founder/ Forked author Saru Jayaraman to headline day of keynote speeches, panels on labor, noodle-soup lunches, wine tastings, and round table discussions with theme of Origins and Authenticity. The greater goal is to bridge the gaps between the worlds of academia, food culture, and hospitality through a series of inspirational keynote speeches and educational panels and roundtable discussions. The theme for the day is Origins and Authenticity, a way of measuring how we represent and interact with food cultures and, in turn, perceive what we eat, cook, and taste. Below, the line-up for the day:
Keynote Speech 1 – Renowned food scholar, Pacific U Professor, and author Dr. Ken Albala on food cultures, origins, and authenticity with a focus on globally-loved foods like noodles.
Keynote Speech 2 – Anthropologist and UC-Berkeley Food and Ethnic Studies Professor Dr. Lok Siu on food culture, hybridity, and authenticity through a series of culinary case studies.
Keynote Speech 3 – Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United Director and author of Behind the Kitchen Door and Forked Saru Jayaraman on issues of labor in the restaurant business.
Themed Panel on ‘Issues of Diversity, Labor, and Power in the Food Industries’ – ROC United director/author Saru Jayaraman; food lawyer Michael Tenenbaum; UC Berkeley Food Institute Policy Director Nina F Ichikawa. Chaired by BESPOKE Founder Robert McKeown.
Round-Table Discussions w/Speakers – Guests will rotate through tables of 10-12 people, intimately engaging in debate and questions with at least 3 of the day’s speakers. This is meant to foster engagement and discourse beyond ordinary q-and-a format.
100% of the profits go will go to two charities: Piggy Bank (supporting family farms raising heritage breed animals) and the American Friends of the Oxford Food Symposium (student scholarships fund).
“We believe Napa Valley is the perfect place for us to debut this day-long food summit in support of two fabulous charities (Piggy Bank and American Friends of the Oxford Food Symposium),” says BESPOKE Founding Chair Robert McKeown. “By spending a day exploring food and thought for inspiration, education, and social action, we hope to both enrich and change the way our guests perceive not only food, but the industries that define it.”
Cochon555 is a nose-to-tail culinary tour dedicated to supporting family farmers and educating chefs and diners on heritage breed pigs, and on August 27th, 2017, they make their stop on the lawn of Charles Krug Winery in Napa Valley. For a preview, watch the video below!
The Heritage Fire event helps foster relationships between local farms and emerging chef and restaurant communities, which grapple with having to pay premium prices in order to serve their guests flavorful food that is also raised locally, responsibly, and safely. Inspired by global grilling traditions, chefs build their own fires and roast everything from whole lamb, goats, pigs and ducks, dry-aged beef to foie gras, sturgeon, and heirloom vegetables in a beautiful vineyard setting. A decadent event featuring endless helpings of artisan cheeses, charcuterie, free-flow boutique wines from around the globe, micro brews, and more. Tickets start at $125 for an all-inclusive afternoon feast in wine country!
Chefs scheduled to appear:
Thomas Boemer of Corner Table (MSP)
John Sundstrom of Lark (SEA)
William Wright of Helen Greek Food and Wine (HOU)
Duskie Estes & John Stewart of Zazu Kitchen + Farm (Sonoma)
Marc Zimmerman of Alexander’s Steakhouse (SF)
Albert Ponzo of The Royal (TOR)
Christian Page of Cassell’s Hamburgers (LA)
Francis Derby formerly of The Cannibal (NYC)
Jordan Keao of āina Restaurant (SF)
Tiffany Friedman of Butter Root (Sonoma)
Rodney Wages of R.T.B. (SF)
Eric Nyeste of Smokestack at Magnolia Brewery (SF)
Rafael Barrera and Pedro Juan Álvarez Cortés (Puerto Rico)
Evan Allumbaugh of Flour + Water (SF)
Dustin Valette of Valette (Sonoma)
Lars Kronmark of Culinary Institute of America (NAPA)
Blaise Bisbey of Napa Valley Heritage
Tu David Phu of ĂN: A Vietnamese Dining Experience (OAK)
Dominic Orsini of Silver Oak (NAPA)
Scott Ostrander of Foundation Fire (SAC)
Nicolai Lipscomb of The Battery (SF)
Francis Ang of Pinoy Heritage (SF)
Larry Forgione (NAPA)
Alex Lovick of Inglenook (NAPA)
Sophina Uong of Mestiza Taqueria (SF)
Rob Lind of Ella Dining Room (SAC)
Sara Hauman of Octavia (SF)
Kim Wiss of Antica Wines (NAPA)
Peter Jacobsen of Team Toast (NAPA)
Joshua Schwartz of Del Dotto Vineyards (NAPA)
Greg Laketek of West Loop Salumi (CHI)
Brock Macdonald of Beast + Bounty (SAC)
Reema Shroff of Frost 321 (SF)
Chef Robin Song of San Francisco
Guests will also enjoy wine cocktails spotlighting Angostura Bitters and an award-winning lineup of beers from Magnolia Brewing Company. There will be wine selections from over 30 wineries including Silver Oak & Twomey Cellars, BenMarco, Wines of Germany, Antica Napa Valley, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Azzurro Wine Company, Scholium Project, Pax Wine Cellars, Del Dotto Vineyards, Faust, Alysian Wines, Agharta, Trinity Hill, Kosta Browne, CIRQ, Charles Krug, Robert Craig Winery, Priest Ranch, Lando Wines, Qupe, Leviathan, Rombauer Vineyards, ONEHOPE Wines, Rocca Family Vineyards, Jigar & Sedition Wines, Sandeman Porto, and a refreshing, non-alcoholic offering from DRY Sparkling.
ALL THE DETAILS:
Where: Charles Krug Winery, 2800 Main Street, St. Helena, CA 94574
When: Sunday, August 27, 2017
VIP Admission: 3PM
General Admission: 4PM
Tickets: $125 General Admission
$200 VIP -4 hours total incl. early admission + exclusive sommelier and cocktail competition tastings
Purchase tickets HERE
Created in 2008 in response to the lack of education around heritage breed pigs, Cochon555 is a nose-to-tail competition dedicated to supporting family farmers and educating chefs and diners about the agricultural importance of utilizing Old World livestock. We work with every type of restaurant and bar imaginable – Mom-and-Pop, farm-to-table, BBQ, Michelin star – and our participating chefs all share one core value: they source products responsibly. Our epic 2017 culinary tour starts in New York City and culminates with the finale, Grand Cochon. 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.
The Sacramento Hotel Association’s Farm-to-Fork Fall Fundraiser will be held on Thursday, September 21st at the Sheraton Grand Hotel from 4:30-700pm and will feature festive farm-to-fork food stations from local hotels as well as craft beer tastings from local brewers, wine tastings from area vintners, silent auction of gift basket and prize packages, musical entertainment, and a selfie photo booth.
The event will benefit two local organizations that are working to address homelessness in our community—Next Move and Volunteers of America. The net proceeds from the Fall Fundraiser will go toward specific programs of the two beneficiary organizations.
NEXT MOVE | Family Shelter – Next Move, formerly Sacramento Emergency Housing Center, started in 1972. Next Move’s mission is to assist families with children and individuals toward self-reliance. The fundraiser will benefit Next Move’s Family Shelter, serving 17 families with children each night.
VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA | Veterans Family Housing – Volunteers of America Northern California & Northern Nevada’s Veteran Family Housing program is renovating an apartment complex, which was built in the 1950s. The fundraiser will assist with this major renovation. These updated apartment units will provide housing for homeless families with a veteran head of household for either short-term stabilization or long-term supported housing.
Tickets to the event are $40 per person (plus service fee). Tickets are $50 per person at the door. To purchase advance tickets to the The Sacramento Hotel Association’s Farm-to-Fork Fall Fundraiser please CLICK HERE.
Hope you see you there!
One of the things I miss the most being on a Paleo/Primal diet is BREAD. In that category would also be a nice, not too thin pizza crust that I have never been able to replicate with cauliflower. I also wanted to be able to PICK UP the slice of pizza and not have to use a utensil. A lot of gluten free pizza recipes require and knife and fork and leave me feeling like I am eating some sort of soggy polenta dish with tomato and cheese on top.
I finally came up with a ratio/blend of ingredients that make a great gluten free crust, and I will probably never make a cauliflower crust again. I felt confident enough about the crust recipe’s texture and flavor that I made it at the 2017 California State Fair Cooking Demo on the last morning of the fair. Try for yourself, and use the following crust recipe as a base for any kind of pizza you want to make. I am posting the exact recipe below that I made at the California State Fair. 🙂
PS: You’ll need a food processor, 3 sheet pans (at least 9 by 13) a cook top of some kind, and an oven to make this! (Just throwing that out there!) For the oven, place one rack in the middle and one nearer to the top.
2 large sweet potatoes (you can use orange or white, whatever you prefer)
1 1/4 cup nut flour of your choice (I used a ground pistachio/almond blend)
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 Tbs garlic powder
1/2 Tbs dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
Peel and cut your sweet potatoes into roughly 1-2 inch squares and pre-cook them. You can do this any way you want, but I would stay away from boiling them because this will leave them waterlogged and soggy. My shortcut is the microwave. Cook them until they will mush between your fingers with almost no effort. You can also bake them if you want. Tip: Cook potatoes the night before, or even a few days before to shave a little bit off your pizza prep time.
If you are making the breakfast pizza, this is the part where I go ahead and PREHEAT the oven and cook my bacon for the topping at the same time. Even if you’re not making the breakfast version, SURELY you’ll want bacon on your pizza anyway! 🙂 This is an easy way to get the bacon super crispy without burning it. I use a sheet pan lined with parchment paper to cook the bacon. While you’re at, go ahead and line THREE sheet pans with parchment paper. Two you will need for the pizza crust, so parchment paper line them and set them aside for now. The remaining pan will get a layer of parchment and then your 6-10 slices of bacon. Don’t crowd the pan too much, or the bacon won’t cook evenly and it won’t render (get crispy). Once you’ve put the bacon on the sheet pan, place it in the oven and THEN turn the oven on. Heat it to 400°F. You’ll want to cook the bacon slow, so a cold oven is OK to begin with. By the time you’re ready to put your crust in the oven, your bacon will be almost ready and your oven will be the temp you need it. Now on to the crust!
Grind the nuts of your choice (I used a mixture of pistachios and almonds–1 cup ground pistachios, 1/4 cup ground almonds) until they look like coarse sand/start sticking to the sides of the food processor bowl (we don’t want nut butter, just finely ground). Pulse in your parmesan cheese. Add the salt, garlic powder and the dried oregano. Then begin adding your sweet potatoes in stages. You will need to add the water, olive oil, and 3 eggs in between adding the potato pieces so that the mixture continues to blend well. Depending on the size of the potatoes, you might not need to add all of them. Consistency-wise you are looking for a thin cookie dough, but thick cake batter. It won’t be the consistency of pizza dough from a pizza parlor, it will be more loose than that.
Spread the dough mixture onto the other parchment-lined pan. Spread evenly across the pan, no thinner than a 1/2 inch thick. At this time, you can check your bacon. It may or may not be done depending on the thickness of the bacon slices. If it is not done, you can leave it in on the top rack and set the timer to remind you to check it (I go in 5 minute increments). Also, make sure to pour any excess grease off of the pan. Pour the grease into a coffee cup or something you can retrieve it from for later use (I will get to that later!) Place the dough pan on the middle rack and bake for 10-12 minutes.
15 oz can crushed tomatoes
3 Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs chopped garlic
2 Tbs chopped fresh oregano
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp salt
If you want, you can buy a jar of pizza sauce and skip this step all together. I do this when I am pressed for time. If not, add your crushed tomatoes, paste, and herbs and salt to a saucepan and cook together while the pizza crust does it’s first bake for the 10-12 minutes. You will be simmering the sauce until you need to use it. Also, the bacon should be getting done by now, so check it again and take it out if necessary.
Sausage and Shallots Preparation Ingredients:
Reserved bacon grease
1 lb ground turkey
While the sauce is cooking and crust is baking, dice up the shallots. Then, in another saucepan separate from the one you used for the tomato sauce, pour some of the bacon grease you reserved from earlier, heat it up, and sauté the shallots until they are translucent. Add the ground sausage (turkey or pork, whatever your preference) and cook with the shallots, allowing the meat to cook through and brown. When the meat is browned, turn off the heat and set aside. At this point, the first bake of the crust is probably done, so go ahead and take out the crust and place the pan on a heat safe surface.
At this point, fetch the third parchment lined pan, and invert it, making sure the parchment paper stays put. Place it on the top of the crust and flip it over. This is so the pizza crust will cook through/dry out, and you will be able to pick up the pizza/not eat with a fork! Your oven should still be at 400°F. If you are making the breakfast pizza, this is the part where you will peel the parchment off the top of the crust, use the back of a spoon and make little “wells” on the pizza. I make 4 wells for 4 eggs. The wells I am describing are little indentations so that when you crack the egg on the pizza crust, it will not run all over the top. Instead, it will be captured in the little bowl you made for it. Once you have made the wells and cracked the eggs into them, carefully place the crust into the oven for another 10 minutes. This time, use the rack that is higher in the oven, so the eggs will set.
1 bunch green onions
½ cup sun dried tomatoes
6-10 slices bacon
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
OK, we’re almost done! For final prep, chop the green onions and set aside. Also, chop the bacon you prepped earlier and set aside. I also like to measure out the sun dried tomatoes and the cheese and put everything in a row (so I don’t leave anything out). It’s like a little pizza assembly line. 🙂
Take the crust out (the eggs on top should be almost set). Turn the oven temp up to broil (low), you will need to use the oven one last time after you top the pizza (so that the cheese will melt). Begin with the tomato sauce and spread around the crust, being careful to avoid the eggs on top. Then add the sausage, bacon, sun dried tomatoes, green onions, and top with the mozzarella cheese. You should still be able to see the eggs through the toppings.
Place the pizza back in the oven until the cheese on top melts and browns. I like to keep an eye on the pizza through the window on the door of the oven to prevent over-browning. Once the cheese on top is melted, take the pizza out, allow to cool 5-10 minutes before cutting. This is the part where I set the table. By the time I am finished setting the table, the pizza is ready to cut and serve!
Did I leave out anything? Do you have questions? Contact me here!
The next day of our Las Vegas adventure began as each of our mornings do. With a workout! I was off to find the hotel gym and Andy went out for a run. He usually runs 5 miles a day during a vacation that is not wrapped around a race (although a lot of our getaways are).
The gym at the SLS is shockingly small, and every treadmill in the place was taken. Time was an issue that morning (we had two major things to accomplish and were not sure how long each one would take), so I took my run outside to the scenic Las Vegas Strip!
Then it was errand time! The first item to cross off the to-do list was to get our marriage license. This is a very important document you have to have to get married in Las Vegas. Even if you roll up to any one of those chapels, you have to first get the marriage license at the Clark County Courthouse. Also, bring cash. It’ll cost you $77, and the courthouse does not take plastic.
Doesn’t Andy look excited?
After we got our license (by the way, there was barely any wait and it was really easy), we headed to Tuxedo Junction to choose a tuxedo for Andy for the big day! I had found Tuxedo Junction through a web search, and then looked at their Yelp reviews to help me ultimately select them as our preferred vendor! The store manager Armando (Mando) was a tremendous help in putting together a really hip ensemble for Andy. We looked at several styles (and laughed at others) before Andy pointed to one he liked best on the wall. Armando informed us that they might not have everything in that particular style ready to go that day. But after taking Andy’s measurements faster than I have ever seen anyone take measurements before, and a trip to the stockroom, he emerged with an even more stylish jacket and the rest of the pieces of the suit.
Armando guided Andy into a fitting room as I pulled up the Yelp app (there’s a 15% off discount when you check in to Tuxedo Junction) to retrieve the discount. A few moments later, I looked up and there was Andy, dressed up more than I had ever seen him before. Wow. Tears began to well up in my eyes! My husband-to-be, looking pretty much like a perfect mannequin, was standing in front of me waiting for my approval. What a hunk!
I’ll stop gushing and post pictures of the tuxedos that did NOT make the cut 😉 :
The tuxedo needed a few temporary alterations, so we had lunch next door at Gianna’s Pizza… they served a Chopped Chef Salad that we shared that was just enough to tide us over to dinner.
After about an hour, Andy’s tuxedo was ready to be picked up. Since we were not going to have enough time to drop off the tuxedo before leaving on Monday morning, we opted to leave it at the hotel’s front desk and have Tuxedo Junction pick it up (for $10 extra).
Then we returned to the SLS Hotel and our room. Since I was determined to wear my human hairpiece, the Ellen Wille Cascade, to dinner and the show that evening, I began styling my hair. I hot rolled away as Andy caught a nap. And when my hair was done, I did my makeup. And then… it was time to put on the Nicole Miller gown I had rented for that evening. I rented it from a website called Rent the Runway. They offer designer clothing you can rent for a special occasion at an affordable price. They also make receiving/returning the rentals a snap. I also really liked the option of a FREE backup size (that comes along with your order) in case the size you ordered did not fit.
For dinner, we chose to stay at the hotel (because of the Carvey/Lovitz show being at our hotel). The restaurant we chose (Katsuya) and the show (at The Foundry) were literally footsteps away inside the casino. Since we were early for our dinner reservation, we sat at the sushi bar and had pre-dinner drinkys. 😉
Andy opted for the Kiwi Envy… a boozy blend of Bombay Sapphire Gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, kiwi, and lime juice. My God, it was good and I need to replicate it at home soon. Since I was watching calories (Betty Boring) I ordered a vodka and Diet Coke.
As you can see, it truly was happy hour…
Yes, there are three different glasses in front of me, all different wines, and all mine. There goes the calorie watching. Time to have some fun!
Food we had at Katsuya: I chose to be a little adventurous and order this Lobster & Truffle “Chawan-Mushi”. You had me at lobster and truffle. It was like a congee, and I have to say I didn’t LOVE it. It was just ok. But, it was beautiful to look at! Also, Andy and I share food almost every time we go out because it allows us to taste and experience more food. I pick most of the dishes because I am more picky than him. 😉
Next up, I chose the Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic soy reduction and toasted almonds. Very good, but already slightly having panic attacks about my sodium intake, retaining water, and fitting into my wedding gown the next day. So salty, crispy and irresistible!
Then we tried a dish that Andy picked out, the Salmon Sashimi with Caviar. The little pieces of salmon were filled with an onion chutney and then topped with caviar and placed on a little cucumber chip. I really enjoyed this dish. It was easy to eat in one bite–most pieces of sushi I am struggling to remain dainty/eat in two bites and make a mess. This would be a great passed appetizer at a party.
The next dish we tried was my favorite! The Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna. It’s basically a little crispy rice patty on the bottom (the texture of the rice was crispy on the outside and slightly chewy in the middle!!!), topped with spicy tuna and a few slices of jalapeño.
We also ordered a few rolls: The Special Katsuya Roll: Tuna, yellowtail, salmon, scallop, crab and avocado wrapped with rice, soy paper and cucumber, served with wasabi ponzu on the side. It’s always fun to order an atypical sushi roll (cucumber instead of nori on the outside).
Then there was the Tiger Roll. This one was calling my name, and I answered because there was caviar AND truffle oil involved, along with shrimp tempura, cucumber, and avocado.
The wine we chose was an Alsatian Riesling. It was on the drier side and very crisp. It was a great pairing with all the plates we ordered. At that point, we could have ordered more food, but I was getting pretty full. I was also so excited to see the show and ready to get our seats inside the club!
Our seats were pretty close, but then again, the Foundry is pretty small, so I don’t think there is a bad seat in the house. We ordered a few more drinks (wine this time). There is a bar conveniently located in the back of The Foundry. I can’t stop thinking about how much fun we were having and yes, how good we looked! Everyone around us was in a great mood. All major fans of Carvey and Lovitz, I suppose. I had seen Dana Carvey’s Netflix special Straight White Male, 60 (do yourself a favor and watch the special) fairly recently as well as his interview with Howard Stern, and had also seen Jon Lovitz a few months earlier on The Celebrity Apprentice. I could not believe our seats were so great and Andy wanted to see the show just as much as I did! AND THAT WE WERE FINALLY GETTING MARRIED THE VERY NEXT DAY!!
Andy took these pictures of me wearing the Nicole Miller gown. 🙂
I was having too much fun!
It was harder to get a good picture of Jon Lovitz, but I tried! Both comedians’ sets were excellent, and at the end they came out onstage together for a while. Somehow, Andy managed to procure another drink during a bathroom break. It was so fun to see him cut loose and know he was enjoying himself as much as I was.
Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz Reunited have a few shows coming up on June 30th and July 1st, 2017, so you can go to The Foundry’s website and order tickets. It’s so worth it!
So there you have it. We finally got married because we wanted to see a Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz comedy show that happened to be in Las Vegas. 🙂 Next post, the Big Wedding Day!
I feel slightly guilty about not writing anything for this website since November. To be honest, there wasn’t much to write about over the holidays, and pitches in my inbox have not been very interesting or have not been a good fit. So I decided to come back with something very personal which I would enjoy writing about and definitely love reading many times over the years. Please indulge me as I recall the most perfect weekend of my life (so far), March 17-20th, 2017, our trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, where Andy and I got married.
We flew out on St. Patrick’s Day (Friday) on Southwest Airlines directly to Las Vegas from Sacramento, which is probably one of the easiest and shortest flights in existence. I ran 10 miles that morning (it was weigh-in day) and I was doing everything I could do look good for the ceremony (planned for Sunday), so I didn’t have the free cocktail offered to us on the plane (it was only about 3:30 when we took off, and a little early for me anyway).
Thanks to a late(r) check-in, we didn’t get to sit together––Andy was sitting directly in front of me––and I was sandwiched in between two guys in their twenties, passing the time by doing a crossword puzzle (which is one of my go-to things to do to occupy myself on an airplane). People are so weird with their window/aisle seat obsessions. I was admittedly overly annoyed with having to sit between two “bros” and not be able to sit beside Andy. It’s just that I love our time together and know that it’s finite. I already don’t spend enough time with him because we both work so much. I love the person he is while we are on vacation. Andy really likes to have fun when it’s time to have fun. I love that about him. I love sitting beside him and looking over at his profile and his face and I love holding his hand. I love it that he kind of ribs me about stuff. But, I love that he makes me laugh sometimes when I least expect it.
Anyway, I just sat there in my seat and prayed that the flight would be done soon and that my wedding dress (which I had checked in the larger of the two suitcases we checked) would arrive with me along with my designer dress I rented and all of my cosmetics and skincare products. See, it takes a lot to make me look like a girl…I mean, Industrial Light and Magic would shudder at the job. I was on the verge of hiring a team for hair and makeup for this trip, but ultimately I decided I had enough faith in my own skills.
We landed soon, and I was reunited with Andy. We were able to find our luggage right away and get the rental car fairly quickly. Our trip to Las Vegas was a package deal with flight, hotel and rental car all rolled into one cost. I think it was around $1500. I tell you that only because I want to look back ten years from now and laugh/cry about how affordable this trip was.
Our hotel reservation was for the SLS Hotel and Casino, mainly because we wanted to see a show at the same hotel on the next evening. And not just any show, but Saturday Night Live alumni Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz. We figured it would be so great to have dinner at our hotel, then walk across the casino into the nightclub to see two of our favorite comedians, and then be able to walk back to the elevator to head up to our room. We stayed on the 19th floor, room #311933.
We checked in around 5:30 or 6:00, and huddled on where we might go to dinner. The only criteria I had was that I wanted to eat at a celebrity chef-owned restaurant (that night). We had already made plans for Saturday and Sunday night dinner destinations, so this was the only night we weren’t sure where we would end up. We decided to try Guy Fieri’s Las Vegas Kitchen and Bar at the LINQ. Aaaand cue the food and beverage pics!! 🙂
We arrived at the restaurant around 7:30-7:45, and there was probably a 30 minute wait. We really didn’t give a damn. We were both so happy to be in Las Vegas and all checked into our hotel, and to be at Guy Fieri’s restaurant.
To all the Guy Fieri haters, I don’t know what you’re mad about. Maybe you’re just extremely jealous. For me, I find Guy Fieri’s story extremely fascinating. Andy and his mother actually met him during the Tex Wasabi days in Sacramento. I saw him live at a food and wine festival and thought he was very entertaining. I am not sure what all the negativity is about. At the bar, we were actually excited to wait for a table amidst all the St. Patrick’s Day partying and shenanigans of others (which were actually entertaining to watch, as we could see a lot of people were having bachelor/bachelorette parties). While we waited for a table, I had a vodka and diet coke (came with one of those giant ice cubes I like), and Andy had a white wine blend.
We were seated fairly quickly and again, I just remember being so excited about the weekend to come (and all the food and beverages, OK, that, too)! We decided that we would order the Triple T Fries (because I am obsessed with Truffle flavored anything). The description on the menu is as follows: Julienned-cut fries tossed with black truffle & truffle infused gouda, served with a creamy white truffle dip.
For my entrée, I ordered the Italian Deli Salad (crown of prosciutto-wrapped smoked provolone, imported Italian meats and cheeses, romaine lettuce, olives and pickled Italian veggies with chicken breast added). The prosciutto was the largest piece I have ever seen and very thick. I thought I was taking the light way out by getting a salad, but I can imagine Guy himself laughing in my face at my attempt.
Andy ordered the Flat Iron Steak and Smashed Potatoes (8 oz. prime flat iron steak, seared and sliced with garlic smashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, onion straws and chimichurri sauce).
And to pair with our meal, we ordered a Red Wine Blend by Hunt and Ryde Winery, produced by Guy Fieri and named after his sons, Hunter and Ryder.
We had to call it a night fairly early because we had business to take care of the next day (workout, wedding license, tuxedo rental) before dinner and the show we had come to Las Vegas to see: Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz: Reunited, so we headed back to the SLS Hotel immediately after dinner.
The next day, we were off to the Clark County Courthouse to get our marriage license. And that’s where I will pick up with Part Two of We’re Married!
Thanks to a Twitter tasting sponsored by Wines of Sicily, I was introduced to some wines I had never tried before and some varietals of which I had never heard. I also learned a little bit more about how wines are labeled in Sicily, and that there are nearly 50 native grape varietals unique to Sicily.
Sicily is the triangular-shaped island off the “toe of the boot” in Italy and is the largest Mediterranean island.
The weather in Sicily is very favorable for grape growing. It has a lot of bright sunshine and reliably moderate rainfall, but overall a very warm and dry climate.
This warm and dry climate is ideal for grape growing because of the absence of mildew and rot (which doesn’t tend to happen in a drier climate). Much of Sicilian wine is produced from organic grapes (because they don’t have a lot of disease), and therefore do not need to be sprayed with harsh chemicals.
There are 250,000 acres of combined international and native grapes planted in Sicily. The best known native grape varietals are Grillo, Catarratto, Nero d’Avola, and Frappato, of which all but the Catarratto I had the opportunity to sample this week.
Below is a map of the country with wine growing provinces marked with numbers. The names beside the circles mark some of the major wineries in Sicily. For this blog post I will focus on the wines I received from Mandrarossa (Nero d’Avola), Planeta (Frappato), and Firriato (Grillo), which you can easily spot on the map.
Now that we have our geography lesson, next a tasting…
The first wine we tried was the Grillo produced by Firriato. Because wine labels read a little differently in Sicily, I have done my best in the photo below to break down what each item means. It’s rather tricky not being too familiar with Sicilian wines, and because the labels can vary in their layout.
Grillo: It’s pretty much like the Sicilian version of a very light un-oaked Chardonnay. My tasting notes for the Grillo are as such: Light straw color, off dry, flavors of lemon and hints of tangerine. It’s a nice wine on its own, however some pairing ideas would be: grilled fish, shrimp, scallops or vegetables, brie and crackers (gluten free-Paleo style, of course!).
Label breakdown: Varietal (grape) is Grillo, produced by the Winery Firriato, Vintage (year grapes were harvested) 2014, and Brand Altavilla Della Corte; kind of like what model of car it is as in Pontiac Bonneville, the Bonneville part correlates with the Altavilla Della Corte. I hope that makes sense!
Next up in our flight was a Frappato. Frappato is most often used as a blending grape with Nero d’Avola (which you will read more about later in this blog post). In the bottle below, Frappato goes solo…
Label breakdown: Varietal (grape) is Frappato, produced by the Winery Planeta, Vintage (year grapes were harvested) 2015. This time the label does not bear a brand but the Designation Sicilia Vittoria DOC. Vittoria is a town in the province of Ragusa and a DOC is an Italian wine classification (there are 330 DOC titles, each with its own laws overseeing viticultural zone, grape varietals and style of wine). So, it would be sort of like saying Sonoma, California, if Sonoma had only certain grapes it could grow in their county and the wine produced in a certain style.
Upon tasting, the wine very much reminded me of a Beaujolais Nouveau, trying to mature into a more robust wine like a Pinot Noir or a Grenache. That’s no knock on Beaujolais Nouveau (made from the Gamay grape and released the same year it is harvested to showcase it’s fresh and fruity deliciousness), and which coincidentally is about to be released this year on November 17th. The Frappato definitely had Beaujolais Nouveau characteristics, but also had a nice charcoal and smoke overtone.
My pairing suggestions would be roasted chicken and root vegetables, mild to medium cheeses, mushroom-centric dishes, and believe it or not, a cheeseburger, especially with mushrooms on it. This is a fun, affordable, crowd friendly red wine, and keep it in mind for your upcoming Thanksgiving table!
Lastly (but not least, of course) comes the bottle of Nero D’Avola sent to us by Mandrarossa.
Once again, we’ll do the label breakdown. The Producer/Winery is Mandrarossa, the Varietal is Nero D’Avola. The Vintage (which is waaay to the right on the bottom is 2015). The phrase “Costa Dune” means sandy coast, and I am sure that’s an accurate description of the vineyards.
Upon examination, we noted the wine’s deep yet brilliant color, deep mauve, and its richness exuding hints of oregano and plum spice. I am not making this up. I’m going to venture out and say that the things we smelled in the wine probably grow within yards of the grapes.
Therefore, a simple pairing rule to keep in mind is: If it grows together, it goes together. So I’ll say a nice red meat sauce with basil and oregano on top of zucchini “noodles”, an eggplant lasagna, Cincinnati chili, or beef stew. Just have fun with it.
I hope you enjoyed reading a little about Sicilian wines, and that if you see them where you happen to buy wine, you will give them a try.
Thanks to the Wines of Sicily (on twitter @winesofsicily) for sending us the sample bottles (great to taste non-US grape varietals I had never heard of) and to Leslie Sbrocco (on twitter @lesliesbrocco) for hosting the Twitter chat on November 3rd on the Wines of Sicily which can be found here.
Cheers and don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never heard of before! It might just be your new favorite.
This premium wine tasting probably should have been held on Halloween because the wines you’ll get to try are SCARY GOOD. Admission to the event is only $30 per person AND you get food during the tasting! Sounds to me like you should already be penciling this event onto your calendar with a giant permanent marker, but if you need more convincing read on…
First, the tasting is on Monday, November 14th from 5:30-7:30pm. So, if you have plans, cancel them and do this instead! Seriously, if you like great wine at all, Matteo’s Wine and Bistro/Matteo’s Cellar Wine Shop is the place to be.
The food menu served will be: pizza, polenta fries, meatball sliders, empanadas, a bread and cheese tray. So I guess I am running 10 miles that morning. 😉
The tasting will include wines from the following labels:
*indicates a cavegrrl.com favorite
Archery Summit, Arrowood, Bella, Brassfield, Bridesmaid, Borjon, Canard-Duchene, Carmenet, Chalk Hill*, Cliff Lede, Dominus, Don & Sons, Double Canyon, Duckhorn*, Dutton Goldfield*, Fisticuffs, Flowers*, Freemark Abbey*, Fuse, Gerard Bertrand, Groth, Guigal*, Hall*, Hartford Court, Hourglass, Jeio, Kansler, Lewis Cellars, Maldonado*, Mer Soliel, Obsidian Ridge, Petree Cellars, Pine Ridge*, Pride Mountain Vineyards*, Raeburn, Regusci, Resonance, Robert Craig*, Roederer*, Sonoma Cutrer*, VDR, William Harrison*, Yao Ming*
As you can see by the asterisks, a lot of my favorites will be served during the tasting, and I am looking forward to tasting some new favorites I can recommend to you.
Today I am a guest on the podcast Serious Talk. Seriously. hosted by Johnny Flores! We chatted about my rebranding of cakegrrl.com to cavegrrl.com, Paleo, gluten free, bread, Oprah, the importance of having a supportive significant other, alopecia, the changing roles of men and women and even vocal fry! Click below to have a listen and if you enjoy, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes HERE or on Stitcher here. Click the link below to listen! 🙂
Today’s Flights by Night is brought to you by Apothic Inferno. This wine was inspired by the whiskey-making techniques of barrel-aging and is aged in white oak, whiskey barrels. The barrels are charred with flames and first used to age whiskey for years prior to being used to age the wine.
“Those who have come to love Apothic know that we’re always looking to defy convention with unique blends and bold flavors,” said Christine Jagher, Marketing Director for Apothic Wines. “Apothic Inferno brings a rebellious attitude to the wine category – even the label’s dark colors and intertwined graphics elicit a fiery style, the perfect addition to our portfolio.”
The Apothic Inferno is a bold red wine that is on the spicy and herbal side. There are notes of clove and maple, so it’s necessary to pair the wine with a rich and earthy food. That’s why we chose Eggplant Moussaka, and more specifically the Primal Moussaka recipe that appears over on Mark’s Daily Apple. This is the type of meal you want to make on a winter evening. Like a great stew or lasagna, the moussaka gets even better the next night. Since the recipe is slightly labor intensive, you can make two pans at a time and freeze the rest to thaw it out for a no-hassle dinner on another night.
The savory flavors of cinnamon, allspice and fresh dill mixed in with the lamb makes this moussaka a no-brainer pairing for the herbaceous Apothic Inferno.
Primal Moussaka from Mark’s Daily Apple
(Taken directly from the website)
- 1-2 large eggplants, peeled (optional) and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 bunch of kale, chewy lower stems cut off
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
- 1 pound ground meat (lamb is traditional)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- olive oil, for sautéing
- salt and pepper, to taste
Salting the eggplant is optional, but it will draw out moisture and prevent the eggplant slices from soaking up so much oil. After peeling (optional) and slicing the eggplant, place the slices in a colander. Sprinkle the slices liberally with kosher salt. Let the slices sit for 20-30 minutes until moisture appears on the surface. Rinse the eggplant thoroughly and blot dry.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add several slices of eggplant to the hot oil at a time and sauté the eggplant slices, turning as necessary, until soft and just lightly browned. Continue heating oil and cooking the eggplant until all the slices are cooked. Set the eggplant aside.
Boil the kale for 3 minutes. Puree the kale with the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water in a food processor.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat and add onion and garlic. Saute a few minutes then add meat, cinnamon and allspice. Stir, so the meat browns evenly. After five minutes add the dill and the tomato mixture.
Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
As the meat cooks, whisk together eggs, yogurt and nutmeg.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a lightly oiled 2-quart square baking dish, place a thin layer of eggplant then cover with the meat. Layer the remaining eggplant on top, then the yogurt. Top with additional grate cheese if desired.
Bake 45 minutes, or until the top is set and golden brown. Let rest 20 minutes before cutting into the Moussaka.
Apothic Inferno retails for $16.99. To learn more about Apothic Wines and where to buy, visit Apothic.com or Apothic’s social channels. You can find Apothic Wines on Facebook here, on Twitter here and on Instagram here.
In Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Theis family is celebrating 70 years of European hospitality in their Bavarian-inspired Hofsas House Hotel.
The Hofsas House Hotel is within walking distance to the beach, multiple restaurants and shops, and several tasting rooms.
The hotel is also within just minutes driving distance to Monterey, Pebble Beach, Big Sur and Pacific Grove. The Hofsas House’s boasts 38 spacious rooms (all unique) with fireplaces, private balconies, wet bars, kitchens and patios, and the Dutch doors in every room allow guests to welcome in the ocean air.
Before I jump into all the amentities the Hofsas House has to offer, I want to talk about the hotel’s rich history, and what makes the hotel so special. On the Saturday morning of our stay, Andy and I met with Doris Theis, the mother of the current owner of the hotel, Carrie Theis. She was such a joy to interview and she filled me in on a lot of the history of Carmel as well as the Hofsas House.
The Hofsas House story begins with a woman named Donna Hofsas and her husband Fred. They moved to Carmel from Los Angeles in the late 1940s, and purchased four cottages in town. They lived in one of them and rented out the other three. The cottages were the humble beginnings of the hotel, as the main building was built in 1957, adding 25 more rooms.
Donna commissioned her friend, artist Maxine Albro (also famous for painting a fresco at Coit Tower in San Francisco) to paint a Bavarian-themed mural which has since been restored and still remains as a lovely welcome to guests. A swimming pool was also added at that time, making Hofsas House Hotel a Carmel destination.
Fred Hofsas created the mosaic coat of arms, the Latin inscription translates to English as “Leisure with Dignity”.
The various additions to the hotel proved to be very stressful on their marriage, and eventually Donna and Fred divorced. Donna retained ownership of the hotel and in the mid-1960s, she added the north wing and a meeting room. Also around that time, she built her house, and the cottage she had occupied became a family suite (Room 9/10) and is still available to guests today, as well as the three other original cottages.
In 1981, Donna passed away, and her only son Jack took over the Hofsas House Hotel. Which brings us to Doris, the incredible lady I spoke with about the history of the hotel. Doris was Jack’s wife. Together, they had two children: Carrie and Scott. The hotel was very much a family affair and Jack ran the hotel until 1996, when he passed away. Doris and Scott then took over the management from 1996-2000.
Then in 2000, Carrie Theis returned to Hofsas House to become general manager. Carrie was no stranger to the Hofsas House Hotel, because she had been escorting guests to their rooms since she was 8 and working behind the welcome desk at check-in since she was 12. Carrie had pursued a college education and a career path of her own, however, felt it was important to carry on her grandmother’s legacy of service and hospitality at the hotel.
And the hospitality is really what keeps the guests coming back to Hofsas House Hotel. I’m told that there are many guests that return because they know the history and the family and there is simply no other place in Carmel where they would rather stay.
I can understand that. My first visit to Carmel was in June of 2013 and I stayed at Hofsas House Hotel. It was my birthday weekend and incredibly special. I think once you know the family and the history of the hotel, you just have to stay there. For me, it’s like being part of the hotel’s legacy. Below is a shot of the bedroom in which we stayed during this visit.
Below is the incredible view from outside our room.
Hofsas House Hotel is located on San Carlos Street, north of Fourth Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea. For more information, call (831) 624-2745 or visit www.hofsashouse.com. You can like them on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.
Before I go on to recommend some dining in the area, I’d like to list some add-ons the Hofsas House offers that you can book during your stay:
• First is the Monterey Wine and Cheese Pairing (which we enjoyed, there were two cheeses and a bottle of wine in our room upon arrival) for $30. It’s pretty wonderful to finally get to your hotel room and there’s a chilled bottle of wine with cheeses waiting for you!
• Champagne and Cheese Pairing with Hofsas House engraved flutes for $50.
• The Carmel Wine Walk-by-the-Sea Passport for $65.
• In-room his and her couples massage starting at $160 for 45 minutes.
• Decoration of room in a romantic, anniversary, or birthday theme for $75.
• Golf packages that start at $65 per person including cart.
• 2-day pass for the price of one Monterey Bay Aquarium tickets.
And right now and valid until December 31st, 2016, you can celebrate Carmel-by-the-Sea’s 100th Anniversary and Hofsas House Hotels 70th Anniversary with a History Tour! Delight in the special charms of Carmel on a leisurely, fun and informative two-hour guided walk past enchanting Fairy-tale cottages, through secret pathways, hidden courtyards and award-winning gardens. At the end of the tour, you’ll feel like a local. Cost is $25 per person. Guests who book this package will also receive a Carmel-by-the-Sea history book complimentary upon arrival (value $26.00). Learn about the 100-year history of Carmel-by-the-Sea. When booking use promotion code: HHWALKS. (Block out dates apply.)
On Friday evening, we were hoping to visit, Dametra Cafe. Since the restaurant was completely booked, we ended up at Mediterranean Restaurant (the sister restaurant of Dametra and just a few doors down). I have to say, if you can’t get a table at Dametra, Mediterranean is the next best thing. OK, well, except for a few menu items, it’s exactly the same thing. And you even get the same live music! They did not host our dinner, but I am recommending them as a favor to YOU! If you like Greek-Italian-Middle Eastern food combined, you should check it out!
Another routine in Carmel for us is a lunch stop at La Bicyclette. It’s my annual excuse of the year to eat a high calorie lunch and love every bite. 🙂 Right now they have a cassoulet special (you must try). And they have a gluten-free dough which they can substitute for any pizza on their menu (I picked the fig, arugula & prosicutto). Pretty much heaven with the Alsatian sparkling rosé we had.
On Saturday evening, we visited Lover’s Point walked around the coastline for a while, and then and went to the Beach House at Lover’s Point for dinner. It was one of the most beautiful walks I have ever taken and the weather was still really cooperating. It wasn’t cold or rainy that evening.
The Beach House at Lover’s Point is a very popular restaurant. I highly suggest making a reservation and then arriving a little early to have a drink at the bar. The restaurant is right on the water, so the views are spectacular.
For dinner we started out with a Brussels sprouts appetizer. It was prepared with roasted garlic cloves, chorizo, butternut squash, shaved parmesan, smoked paprika oil. I am probably the biggest fan of Brussels sprouts you’ll ever meet, which is funny because I HATED them when I was a kid. Not anymore. Especially when you throw in chorizo AND cheese! This was an interesting dish and I loved the roasted garlic cloves that added a a slightly sweet flavor–balancing out the spicy sausage.
For my entrée, I ordered the Crab-stuffed Petrale Sole with sautéed spinach, smashed potatoes, saffron cream, shaved fennel, micro green salad. I am getting hungry all over again just looking at the picture and remembering the textures of the tender crab and flaky sole and the creamy sauce over the potatoes.
Andy had the Hazelnut Crusted Sand Dabs with charred Brussels sprouts, pumpkin gnocchi, cipollini onions, beurre blanc, arugula pesto, and balsamic glaze. We shared both entrées because they were equally fantastic. By the way, the chef could have put pesto, hazelnuts, or balsamic glaze on a shoe and I would probably eat it. #allmyfavoriteingredients!!
In closing, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming events at the Hofsas House Hotel! One is the hotel’s 70th birthday celebration on Monday, November 7th, at 10:00am.
The event will begin at with coffee and light bites from Paris Bakery, then at 10:15 there will be a ribbon cutting with the Carmel Chamber and a Champagne toast with birthday cake at 10:30. There will also be a property tour and history discussion of the hotel’s 70 years.
Additionally, there will be a raffle to win an overnight stay! To RSVP (required by November 1) to marci at chatterboxpublicrelations.com
The second event is a little closer to the holidays. On Saturday, December 3rd, the 5th Annual Fundraiser for The Carmel Library Foundation will be held. The event will be a Gingerbread House Making morning/afternoon for the family. Together, families can create a gingerbread house to take home and display throughout the holidays. Children will receive one gingerbread making kit, hot cider and a cookie for a $25 donation to the Carmel Library Foundation.
Adults that want to attend will receive a glass of wine of award winning Monterey County wines from Twisted Roots Winery and can enjoy a gourmet cheese and fruit and tray for a $10 donation to the Carmel Library Foundation. Additional glasses of wine can be purchased for a $5.00 donation to the Carmel Library Foundation. (The $10 donation for adults does not include decorating a gingerbread house.)
There will be two sessions and you can sign up for 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.
Cost: $25 per child and $10 per adult (Adult does not include decorating a gingerbread house. The cost to decorate a gingerbread house is $25. All proceeds benefit The Carmel Public Library Foundation.)
Call Carrie at the Hofsas House (831) 624-2745 to make a reservation.
I’d like to extend my gratitude to the Hofsas House Hotel for hosting us during our stay in Carmel and being a direct ambassador to the 5th Avenue Deli and the Beach House at Lovers Point during our stay. Happy birthday to Hofsas House Hotel and happy 100th birthday, Carmel!!
A few weeks ago, Andy and I were invited on a press trip to introduce us to the wineries of Yolo County and a beautiful inn in Winters. We were able to join the group at the lunch stop and for a few wineries afterward. Following our experience that day, I’m excited to share some photos and videos I took as well as some of what I learned. Though Yolo County has been overlooked, it is a definite destination for food, wine, and beer lovers.
The Visit Yolo tourism group consists of Woodland, Davis, Winters, Capay Valley, and Clarksburg. Our visit focused on Capay Valley (Brooks) and Winters and began at Park Winters, a historic boutique inn and restaurant located in a Victorian home, surrounded by gardens and farmland.
We were invited to walk around the property at Park Winters, and I was able to capture many images of the grounds before our special 4-course lunch (orchestrated by onsite Chef Scott Ostrander) was served.
Before I describe the meal we enjoyed, here’s some of the backstory of Park Winters: The property (with a mansion built in 1865 by Yolo County pioneer George Washington Scott) was bought in 2011 by Rafael Galiano and John Martin. They opened the Inn at Park Winters as an event venue and bed and breakfast in 2012. Since 2011, Galiano and Martin have spent 3.3 million renovating the property, the water tower (that is now the “tower suite”), and building a saltwater pool and spa. They also built an event barn equipped with a professional kitchen where the stunning five course prix-fixe menu by Chef Ostrander is created.
I was lucky enough to get a peek behind the scenes at the making of our media lunch and the care and precision that went into plating each course. Yes, there were tweezers involved. I took some video of cooks taking pride in each plate.
Chef Ostrander came out to explain the menu and to meet the journalists he had not previously met inside the kitchen.The Chef is quoted on the Park Winters website as saying, “To me, farm-to-fork is really about utilizing farms and everything they have to offer. If it is tomatoes, that’s fine, but if its tomatoes, apricots, basil, spinach… even better. There is a comfort in knowing that the food you are eating came from just one place. Hopefully not too far away.” It’s a match made in heaven for the Chef and the onsite organic garden at Park Winters. His culinary team also includes Paul DiPierro (Chef de Cuisine) and Taylor Lovelace (Sous Chef).
I was delighted to see a bottle of one of my favorite local Chardonnays on the table, The Arsonist Chardonnay, made by Matchbook Wine Company.
Pretty sure it was fate, but someone also placed an entire bottle of Capay Valley Sparkling Viognier next to me, which happened to be one of my favorites at this year’s Legends of Wine, and I happily sipped it between our courses and wine pairings. Um #Iwasntdriving!! 😉
The menu was spectacular and paired with wines exclusively from Seka Hills, Turkovich Family Wines, and Capay Valley Vineyards, however there were wines from Berryessa Gap Vineyards, Casey Flat Ranch, Matchbook Wine Company, Route 3 Wines, and Simas Family Wines also present on the table for us to enjoy.
I was most impressed with the Gazpacho dish, one of the best I have ever had. Also, it was the most elegantly plated lunch I have ever eaten.
And then there was a dirt road. After lunch, we headed to Seka Hills Winery and Olive Oil production facility, located in Brooks, and producing red and white wines by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation (translated to mean “Home by the Spring Water”). It’s really incredible to experience the Seka Hills tasting room and the land there the olives and grapes grow. And it’s even better to stand on the land and get a vineyard tour while sipping their Viognier!
The below photo is a vine being grafted into another vine. This is a common vineyard process when a vine is inserted in a groove, slit, or the like in a stem or stock of another vine and it continues to grow. This method is used to save the time of establishing a new root system.
Inside the Seka Hills Tasting Room:
Not only does Seka Hills produce great wine, they also produce olive oil and honey! The tasting room is located inside a 14,000 square foot olive mill facility. There are guided tastings available that offer visitors a chance to experience the agricultural products from the Yoha Dehe Wintun Nation.
Coming up on Sunday October 30th, Seka Hills will be having an Olive Crush Festival to celebrate their harvest. It will be in the Seka Hills Tasting Room from 12pm-4pm. There will be olive oil and honey tasting, wine and sangria by the glass, local vendors, live music, food trucks, and mill tours! For more information, you can head over to the Facebook event page HERE.
Capay Valley Vineyards was started in 1998 by Tom Frederick and Pam Welch. The winery produces wines from their own grapes. All vineyard tasks such as pruning, shoot thinning, and harvesting are done by hand. The grapes are harvested at night to obtain cooler fruit to begin the winemaking process. Their winemaker is Terri Strain.
In 2003, after a two year federal process, the Capay Valley was designated an American Viticultural Area (appellation). Capay Valley Vineyards represents their AVA marvelously as they are featured annually in one of the Sacramento’s Farm to Fork Festival’s crown events: Legends of Wine.
You can find Park Winters on Facebook here on Twitter here and on Instagram here.
You can find Seka Hills on Facebook here and on Twitter here.
You can find Capay Valley Vineyards online HERE.
You can find Visit Yolo on Facebook here, on Twitter here and on Instagram here and on Pinterest here.
A few weeks ago I was invited to be part of a media preview at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for the unveiling of their 46th floor lounge, Cityscape. Cityscape is located inside tower one of the Hilton (which also happens to be the largest hotel on the West Coast).
It’s hard to leave out hyperboles when describing the Cityscape Lounge, because it’s almost too pretty to believe. I was giddy as we rode the elevator up and as I watched the number climb on the display. Once inside the lounge, I was awestruck.
The Cityscape has a 360-degree view of San Francisco and beyond. Through it’s 14ft floor-to-ceiling windows, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, Chinatown, AT&T Park, the Marin Headlands, Nob Hill, Oakland, and giant barges on the Bay. Now that Cityscape Lounge is open to the public, it’s at the top of my list for must-see sites in the City.
“No two days look the same from Cityscape, where San Francisco weather flows over the ever changing skyline,” said Lenny Gumm, general manager, Cityscape. “What doesn’t change are the views and the great food and drinks to enjoy with them.”
Lenny Gumm is a veteran bar and lounge manager in which he’s held positions with several local watering holes, including Hotel Rex, One Market Restaurant, Temple Nightclub, DOSA Restaurant, La Urbana and the Four Seasons.
And instead of trying to put anymore of what I saw into words, below are the photos I took and a Facebook live video I broadcasted that evening to give you a full view of the space!
The tables, couches and seats line the windows inside the lounge, which means wherever you are seated, you’ll have a magnificent view. If that’s not enough, here’s a peek at some of the libations and nibbles available to enjoy!
This is one of the drinks from the Cityscape’s signature cocktail menu (drinks all named after areas in San Francisco)––the Mission: Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila, St. Germain, ruby red grapefruit, and lime. Other selections include a Russian Hill: Stoli Elit Vodka, Cointreau, white cranberry, and fresh citrus, a Pacific Heights: Hennessy VS Cognac, Cointreau, squeeze of lemon, a Noe Valley: Tito’s Vodka, Aperol, lemon, agave nectar, splash of Prosecco, just to name a few. The full offering of specialty drinks as well as a list of wines and beer available can be found here.
The media group and I also previewed the Cityscape‘s menu of small plates, designed especially to be enjoyed with the signature cocktails. The appetizers were all neatly arranged on a shelf and we were encouraged to sample all of them and as many as we wanted.
A Cheese and Charcuterie Plate with Beet Pickled Egg, Quince, Grain Mustard, Olives, Black Garlic and a Selection of fine Meats and Cheeses.
The Ahi-Salmon Hamachi Poke with Sweet Onion, Inamona Jus, Micro Wasabi, and Lotus Root Chips
I brought Catherine Enfield of Munchie Musings as my guest and it was a fab Girls’ Night Out. The bonus of the evening was parking the car and never leaving the hotel, so in a way, it was actually a Girls’ Night In!
The photo below is a shot of the suite on the 26th floor (also inside tower one), where the Hilton was kind enough to let me stay for the night. There is a balcony outside the room and a fairly large patio with outside seating to enjoy the views (also incredible at a 26th floor level). I can’t wait to go back and spend the night there again!
The next morning, Catherine and I enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Urban Tavern, located on the lobby level of the Hilton. Below is a You Tube video of items available (everything!) on the buffet. I was really impressed by the Congee bar with several toppings, as well as the availability of healthy items. (There’s also lots of pastry, cereal, bread, bagels, too, if that’s your thing.)
Cityscape Lounge is open seven days a week from 5pm-Midnight. You can find the Hilton San Francisco Union Square on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter here. Much thanks to the marketing team at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for your hospitality. I’ll be back soon!
If you’re anything like me, the last thing you want to do when you get home from a busy day at the office is go to the grocery store (after sitting in traffic for almost an hour), wade through the aisles, figure out what to make, shop for the ingredients, wait in the checkout line, then actually COOK a full meal after all of that.
Now, if I didn’t work full time with a giant commute, I would be planning out multi-course menus for the week, shopping for the freshest ingredients and taking my time with all the preparations. I would be all about making every night’s dinner an event to remember.
But, for most of us, that’s just not a reality. Enter Sun Basket. The product that delivers a weekly box equipped with 3 meals for 2-4, and inside the box includes everything you’ll need to make them.
With Sun Basket there are easy and delicious recipes that YOU choose weekly for 2 to 4 people at $11.49 per meal. You can customize for a Paleo, gluten-free, or vegetarian diet. All recipes are created by top San Francisco chef Justine Kelly and approved by a nutritionist.
The Sun Basket kits are certified organic and sustainably sourced. All the ingredients are pre-measured which is less hassle and creates less waste. You can feel free to skip the grocery store and enjoy the best seasonal ingredients. You might even enjoy an ingredient that is hard to find or you have not tried on your own!
Sun Basket delivers weekly right to your door. The ingredients are shipped in an insulated box so they stay fresh and the packaging is recyclable and reusable.
So what did we enjoy in our Sun Basket? We chose strictly Paleo options for the week and ended up with the 1. Thai Turkey Lettuce Cups, 2. Steaks with Artichoke-Red Pepper Tapenade and Sweet Potato Fries, and 3. Trout in Parchment with Warm Date and Apricot Salad.
Here’s what it all looked like!
Meal One: Thai Turkey Lettuce Cups, recipe HERE.
Of all the meals in the Sun Basket, this was the smallest in portion size, and could be eaten as an appetizer if you are both really hungry. That being said, I enjoyed it the most because of the several levels of flavors with the pickled vegetables, fish sauce, maple syrup, etc. And, there were cashews in there, too, another favorite ingredient of mine. 🙂
Meal Two: Steaks with Artichoke-Red Pepper Tapenade and Sweet Potato Fries, recipe HERE.
And meal three: Trout in Parchment with Warm Date and Apricot Salad, recipe HERE.
If you’re a big eater, then perhaps you might choose the 4 person serving to feed 2 people. I like that the calories and nutritional information is all right there on the recipe card, as well as detailed instructions on how to prepare each dish that is in the box.
One of the best things about Sun Basket is that you can order when you want and skip when you don’t. There is no commitment to order week after week, but you’ll want to order repeatedly once you discover the convenience and taste of the box contents.
Recently, Andy and I had a chance to experience the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa’s stunning remodel. The property, located in the heart of the Napa Valley, has within the last few months, revealed a stunning new resort-style pool and courtyard that will serve as the hub of upcoming weddings, events and activities––from poolside gatherings, dining and yoga, to movies, wine and cocktails under the stars.
Upon arrival, I explored the newly renovated room and was greeted by an exquisite plate of goodies and a fine bottle of wine. A bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon to be exact.
We had a big day ahead of us with two tastings scheduled at Walt Wines and Gundlach Bundschu, so we only had one drink in the hotel’s bar before retiring. As you can see below, the bar area has been updated and is quite beautiful.
The next morning, I snapped a few pictures of the sun outside our room before I took off to the also updated workout facility and spa.
After our workouts, Andy and I went wine tasting, headed to Walt for a Pinot Noir specific tasting, and then to Gunlach Bundschu for a tasting and a lesson on the winery’s history. We ended up spending a few hours at both wineries and then returned to the Napa Valley Marriott to relax by the pool for a few hours before dinner.
After the pool and outdoor excursion, we got ready for dinner and then enjoyed some time in the lobby with a wine tasting. The lobby wine tastings feature different wineries each day. That evening’s featured winery was Raymond Vineyards.
Soon, we settled into dinner at the Marriott’s restaurant VinEleven. Brian Whitmer is the head chef and focuses on American cuisine that celebrates culinary traditions from around the world incorporating locally and sustainably-grown produce.
Andy and I like to order several different items and share them. Our appetizers were the Truffle Fries served with Parmesan Cheese and Truffle Oil:
For our entreés, Andy ordered the scallop special, which upon tasting, we begged for them to put on the regular menu. The scallops were presented on a bed of mushroom risotto and were perfectly seared as you can see in the photo below.
For my dinner, I ordered the Spiced Chicken Cashew Lettuce Cups (which are on the menu in the appetizers section). Since Andy and I share food, it’s not strange for us to order only one main course and 2-4 different appetizers. I believe that it’s possible to get a solid impression of a restaurant this way. Appetizers are one of the most important parts of a menu because they are supposed to intrigue a customer and make them look forward to the next part of the meal.
At VinEleven, you can enjoy a signature summer cocktail at the beautifully lit bar or outdoor patio from 6:30 a.m. to midnight, and as late as 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Heirloom Organic Gardens feature over 2,000 square feet of raised and in-ground beds, a lush herb garden, and a communal dining table that serves 18 guests. After such a grand meal, it was time to retire.
The hotel’s pool and outdoor wedding and event space also proves to be a showstopper. The Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa has made their outdoor space a place where visitors and locals alike can gather. The pool is a sparkling 100-by-30-foot oasis with luxe lounge furniture and umbrellas, cozy fire pits, shady Redwood nooks, and all-day dining. Poolside yoga is available for guests to begin their day and then afterward they can enjoy a swim.
All 275 guestrooms have been completely renovated with a design specifically to mimic the colors and feel of a tasting room. They have warm greys and Earth tones that appear naturally in wine caves, as well as burgundy/grape hues that take on the grape color so familiar in Napa. There is a sliding wooden barn doors with exposed hardware that provides bathroom privacy while creating a rustic wine country feel to the tranquil space.
Crisp white tile, grey granite and luxurious amenities provide a spa-like experience in the bath with electric mirrors for ideal lighting. Modular seating by large windows provide a cozy sitting area to enjoy a bottle of wine or in-room dining.
All guestrooms come fully equipped with a new state of the art guest entertainment system that provides unique content choices such as, on-screen weather, flight data, and Bluetooth® connectivity. The Enseo guestroom entertainment system will allow you to access your Netflix®, Pandora®, YouTube®, Hulu® and Crackle® accounts directly through the guestroom TV.
The Napa Valley Marriott Hotel and Spa $20 Daily Destination Fee includes the following daily amenities:
- Culinary Garden Tour with Sparkling Wine (4pm)
- Yoga Class every morning meet in the lobby (7:30am)
- Preserve Spa Access Eucalyptus Steam Room (8:30am to 12:00pm)
- Specialized Bicycle Access with hybrid bicycles with helmet, available from dawn to dusk
- Bottled Spring Water replenished in your room daily
- Starbucks House Blend Coffee, two available daily in VINeleven Market
- Daily Vintner Pour every evening in the lobby (5-6pm)
- Wireless High Speed InternetTo learn about the Marriott Napa Valley’s special packages, you can click here.
For more information, visit www.NapaValleyMarriott.com or call (707) 253-8600. Become a fan of the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Napahotel and follow the hotel on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NapaMarriott and on Instagram here.