Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

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A Wine and Dine in Liechtenstein

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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



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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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




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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


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

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

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

1. Sartori Cheese’s Espresso Bellavitano Reserve Cheese


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

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

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

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


About the Specialty Food Association

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

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

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


My Top Tips for Travel to Lisbon

Dear Readers, Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Preparing and Packing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Get ready to have a blast!!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

Saude!

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


Putting the “Pazazz” in Your Holiday Feast

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

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

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

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

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


Fennel and Apple Salad with Lemon and Toasted Walnuts

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

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

Serves 6.


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

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


Making Spirits Bright: A Look Inside the J.J. Pfister Distilling Company


The perfect drink always starts with the perfect pour of spirits. And the spirits are pretty perfect when they come from J.J. Pfister Distilling Company located right here in Sacramento!

J.J. Pfister Distilling Company is Sacramento’s only organic “farm-to-glass” distillery. To be an organic distiller, the products produced in the distillery have to be made from all organic ingredients. Also, there can be no pesticides or any other non-organic chemicals used in the distilling process.

Andy and I were invited to a media event at the distillery last month and treated to a spread of hearty appetizers, special cocktails, spirits tasting, and a behind the scenes look at how grain and potatoes turn into some of our favorite adult beverages!

Since this is a food blog, let’s take a look at the tasty vittles the people at J.J. Pfister provided for us, BEFORE I tell you about the distillery and its history. There was a gorgeous fruit and vegetable tray with hummus, gluten free crackers, potstickers, a charcuterie tray, a cheese platter, buffalo chicken skewers (a personal favorite), meatballs, caprese salad skewers, shrimp cocktail in phyllo cups, and even a few things for those with a sweet tooth. No thank you, I’ll have more vodka, please.







OK, enough with the food. Now let’s talk about what we really came for: the spirits! To best showcase the Capitol Gin made at J.J. Pfister Distilling Company, we were served a special cocktail called “Gin-gle Bells” The gin was combined with pomegranate honey, lemon juice, and apple cider, and packed a punch with its spice and herbaceousness. If you’re interested in trying it, the recipe is below.

Gingle Bells Holiday Drink 
• 1.5 oz. J.J. Pfister Capitol Gin
• .75 oz. pomegranate-rooibos honey
• .25 oz. fresh lemon juice
• 1.5 oz. spiced apple cider

Pomegranate-Rooibos Honey
• 2 cups raw honey
• 1 cup water
• 6 bags rooibos chai tea
.75 cups pomegranate molasses

Make pomegranate-rooibos honey. Combine honey and water in a saucepan on medium heat until incorporated. Add tea bags and let steep for 1 hour. Remove tea bags, add pomegranate molasses, and stir. Keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Combine gin, pomegranate-rooibos honey, lemon, and cider in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain mixture into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with apple slices and freshly grated cinnamon.

Though I love a good cocktail, I preferred the gin straight. It was interesting to taste and smell the ingredients: juniper, orris root, angelica, cardamom, cubeb berries, coriander, lemongrass, fennel seed, and lavender (aka botanicals, above) used to make the gin.

After sampling the food and drinks, we were taken on a brief tour of the production facility. While on the tour, we learned that the gin is actually made from an ultra-premium rye vodka base and the botanicals are later added in.

The machine below processes potatoes. Did you know it takes 15 pounds of potatoes to produce just one fifth of J.J. Pfister’s Potato Vodka? The potatoes are, of course, organic, and grown in Klamath Basin in Oregon.


 



The pipe-organ looking apparatus above is called a “Rectifying Column Still”. It has partitions that set up chambers within the still. As the still is heated from the bottom by pumping steam into the bottom and letting it rise, the mash enters at the top and sinks toward the bottom. As the liquid encounters the steam, the heat vaporizes the mash and forces the alcohol up the still. Each time the vapors reach another partition, they get rid of more and more water and grain solids, and eventually become ethanol. The ethanol comes out of the top of the still and transferred into a condenser to become liquid again. Sound confusing? Luckily, we don’t have to make it, we can just drink it!

The name J.J. Pfister comes from owner Kevin Keck’s great-grandfather. J.J. Pfister was born in Switzerland in 1844 and learned the knitting trade with his brother Henry. By 1876, J.J. had moved to the United States and started a business in a one-room factory (in which he also lived) knitting stockings, mufflers, and wristlets to sell on Market Street in San Francisco. This tiny operation eventually grew, and by 1916 the company was making their signature garment, the knit shoulder to knee swimsuit. J.J Pfister also made sweaters, knit caps, baby clothes and athletic apparel. If you tour the facility (which I highly recommend you do), you will see several pieces of clothing they produced.

Fast forward to 2015. By this time, Kevin Keck is a retired physician and his son Brian has earned graduate degrees in both Chemistry and Viticulture and Enology. The men decide to open their own distillery with Brian as Master Distiller. Their new business needs a name and the Kecks decide on J.J. Pfister Distilling Company in honor of their family patriarch, and to carry on his legacy and dedication to excellence.

 

 

 


Very soon, J.J. Pfister Distilling Company will launch other spirits, such as rum, bourbon, and rye whisky. For now though, they have their vodka and gin for sale in their tasting room. If you are still looking for Christmas gifts, they have holiday packaged bottles ready to go, and a portion of sales goes to both the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge and the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex in their missions to restore and preserve habitats for waterfowl and other wildlife. You can also find their spirits for sale at Total Wine & More and Nugget Markets. Click here to see a full list of locations, including restaurants, where J.J. Pfister spirits are available.

J.J. Pfister Distilling Company is located at 9819 Business Park Drive in Sacramento, and is open for touring and tasting on Fridays from 3-6pm and on Saturdays from 12-6pm. To schedule private events or tastings please call (916) 672-9662.

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


Breathtaking Views and Oceanside Fun Await in Pacifica


I have lived in California since 2004, and will admit I had never visited or heard of a small oceanside town called Pacifica until just last month. I was invited on a press trip to check out the little place just 15 minutes south (by car) of San Francisco along with a few other travel writers, podcasters and bloggers.

Quite frankly, once I experienced staying, eating, running, hiking, and basically existing in Pacifica, I felt like i had been let in on a very well-kept secret. I was shocked I had never been there before. I was spooked that it wasn’t more crowded with tourists, but at the same time that’s what I loved about it. I treasured the uncrowded (other than locals) feel to the town. It’s just a day-in, day-out beach town with incredible morning waves for surfers and a small, but great night life for anyone and all to enjoy.

I fled to Pacifica the last week of October when a work event I had organized in San Francisco felt OK enough to leave to coworkers. I escaped just in time to a media dinner at Nick’s Restaurant, an unapologetic old school joint that sits (incredibly enough) right on the oceanfront. I chose the special of the evening, which was tilapia served with butter beans, arugula, and a brown butter sauce and tried several other menu offerings along with other media and influencers seated around our table. I took several photos of the food we enjoyed and I present them to you below (beginning with that mouth-watering tilapia special!):











After introductions and multiple bottles of wine, our group walked over to A Grape in the Fog for even more wine, tarot card readings, and this fantastic cheese plate.


The next day I met up with about half of our travel group to hike along the California coastal trail segment of Pacifica led by Pacifica Beach Coalition’s Lynn Adams, and local trail advocate (and major Creedence Clearwater Revival fan) Jim Sullivan. Along with taking in some really beautiful sights along the hike, we learned the trail doesn’t groom itself and there are several volunteers who give their time to help clear the trail and plant flowers along the path for others to enjoy. There are also beach cleanups that take place on a monthly basis.




After working up an appetite, our group caravanned to the Little Brown Church/Pacifica Coastside Museum for a Pacifica Jack Cheese and Rosalind Bakery bread tasting, washed down with vodka, absinthe, rum, and gin samples from local alcoholic beverage producer, Tripp Distillery.


Pacifica Jack? Yes, according to a historian at the museum, we learned that the recipe for Jack cheese came from Italy straight to Pacifica by way of a man named Stefano Mori. The cheese recipe was allegedly stolen by an employee of the Moris, and taken down to Monterey (to the Jacks Ranch). From there the cheese began being produced commercially and called… can you guess? That’s right! Monterey Jack. Don’t believe it? Well, there is indeed corroborating evidence of Jacks’ theft in the book “Roadside History of California” by Ruth Pittman. Recently, a woman by the name of Kathleen Manning decided to put the Pacifica back in Jack cheese, and went on a mission to track down the original recipe by Stefano Mori. Along with the recipe, she also found a cheesemaker to produce the cheese, and it is currently available to taste and purchase at the Pacifica Coastside Museum.


Not being one to normally indulge in bread, I couldn’t help but wolf down a few pieces of the spongy, brown, baked goodness, speckled with walnuts, that was provided to our tour group by Rosalind Bakery. At the other end of the sampling table, we were introduced to Jason Tripp, of Tripp Distillery (also located in Pacifica). Tripp Distillery is open to the public and often invites various food trucks for their customers to buy food to enjoy with their products. If you visit, look for their original red (as in the color red) vodka (if it isn’t already sold out). You can follow them on Facebook to be notified of special events at the distillery.



Our Friday evening culminated with an appetizer reception and tour of Sam’s Castle (a properly that lived former lives as a Prohibition-era speakeasy, an underground abortion clinic, and a World War II Coast Guard Station, before it was purchased in 1959 by Sam Mazza). The castle tour was all the more interesting because every single room was decorated for Halloween.

I was delighted by the attention to detail and all the spooky props on display. We enjoyed beverages provided by A Grape in the Fog (wine) and (brews from) Pedro Point Brewery. It was real Pacifica trick-or-treating in the dining area with delights from Tam’s Cuisine of China, the Moonraker, Rosalind Bakery, and desserts from the French Patisserie and Shampa’s Pies.










We also took turns sitting on the crimson red velvet throne in one of the castle’s main rooms. I left feeling so lucky to be asked/included on these types of media events and how being a travel writer has opened up so many unique opportunities.



Our lodging in Pacifica was provided by the Lighthouse Hotel. The hotel sits right on the ocean (located in Rockaway Beach Plaza) and many of the rooms offer views of the beach and the mesmerizing waves. It was very clean and comfortable, and I would definitely stay there again. Important information for wine writers: There is FREE wi-fi and there is a refrigerator in your room. Below is a picture of the view from my room!


Ah, Pacifica… a not-overly-crowded charming little town right on the ocean with great eats and friendly locals (and even a golf course)! If you’ve never been to Pacifica, I urge you to check it out. It’s so close to San Francisco and perfect for a mini-vacation by the sea!

This Pacifica Media Familiarization Tour would not have been possible without Mortgage Loan Specialist Darlene Gonzalez and public relations guru Molly Blaisdell. Thank you, ladies! Disclosure: I was invited on this trip at no charge to write about the area, giving my own impressions and opinions.


Starlite BBQ and Whiskey Bar Fires Up the Scottsdale Dining Scene

A few months ago, I visited Scottsdale, Arizona during the National Alopecia Areata Foundation’s Annual Conference. Typically when I travel, my trips become more about the food and wine available at my destination than the main reason for the trip, so I do more research on places to eat/drink than I do on anything else! Since my hotel room at the Gainey Suites Hotel was equipped with a full kitchen, I planned to get groceries and make my own dinner for the first evening. Then on the second evening of my stay, I would dine out. Since I had never been to Scottsdale before, this would require some web surfing on some of my trusted travel sites.

I stumbled upon Starlite BBQ and Whiskey Bar after only searching for a few moments. Since opening last year, Starlite BBQ has been named one of the Seven Metro Phoenix Restaurants you Need to Try Right Now by the Phoenix New Times, as well as one of the 11 Best New Restaurants in Phoenix, Arizona (area) by Eater.comStarlite BBQ was also selected as an 2018 OpenTable Diners’ Choice Winner. This would be the place for Friday night’s dinner for sure!

So on Friday evening, after a short Uber ride, I ended up in a shopping center where Starlite BBQ resides. It sits prominently on the edge of the center, complete a facade decked out with hip white font lettering that can’t be missed. There is an outdoor seating area, but during my visit it was over 100 degrees, so I opted to sit inside and people watch as the filled up the place for dinner.

I sat at a small table against the wall, facing an already lively bar scene and two televisions broadcasting different sporting events–one of them a Diamondbacks game. Across from me on the table was a selection of house-made sauces. I was eager to try them all, but stopped short of squirting the bottles directly into my mouth. First, I selected a beverage to nurse while I contemplated what to eat.

Prosecco was the perfect drink for an opening act. Starlite also has a specialty cocktail menu featuring many whiskey-based drinks, as well as four rotating handles of beer on draft, an ample selection of bottled and canned beer, and a nice list of wines available by the glass or bottle.

While I was selecting my entree, this skillet of cornbread topped with an enormous dollop of melty honey butter appeared on my table. Now this is something I don’t normally eat, but it was really calling my name. The cornbread was still warm, both sweet and savory, and I still remember its delightful texture (just enough crumb without being too dry) even three months later! I’m not exaggerating when I said it was one of the best cornbreads I have ever had.


The Grilled Cauliflower (with Green Goddess, Crispy Black Eyed Peas, Arugula, Pickled Onions) dish really caught my eye (I saw it served to another table as I was about to order), so I snagged one for myself. The dish’s flavor was expertly balanced by the sweet and sour of the dressing (and just enough of it without making the dish soggy), the char on the cauliflower, the crunchy texture of the black eye peas and the peppery arugula.


For the main course, I selected the 1/2 plate of Chopped Pork. It comes with pickled onions and mustard on the side. I ordered a glass of rosé to pair with the pork. I could have gone a little heavier on the wine, especially because of the sauce on the meat, but in the heat of summer, I am hardwired to order bubbles or rose, no matter what the protein or the “traditional” pairing.


I guess you could say I ordered these potatoes for “dessert” and an excuse to try one more dish. Crispy little potato nuggets. This is where the aforementioned BBQ sauces come in. I tried them all on the potatoes and it turns out the middle “Starlite BBQ” is my favorite. I wish my husband had been with me so I could have sampled a little bit more of the menu items. Instead, I was already taking half of the meal back to the hotel in boxes, which was great because it made for the next night’s dinner. In other words, the portions are large and perfect for sharing.

Also good to know: Starlite BBQ supports local organizations and uses local vendors, such as Arizona Beef, organic produce from McClendon’s Farm, fresh breads daily from MJ Bread, and local pecan and mesquite woods to smoke their meats.

Starlite BBQ and Whiskey Bar is located at 7620 E Indian School Road Suite 101, Scottsdale, AZ 85251. You can contact them at 480-553-9330.

They are closed on Monday and Tuesday, and open Wednesday and Thursday from 4pm-11pm, on Friday from 4pm-midnight. They are also open on Saturday for Brunch and Regular Menu 10am-midnight and on Sunday for Brunch and Regular Menu 10am-10pm. The bar is open until 12 Midnight on Wednesday and Thursday, until 2 AM Friday and Saturday and 12 Midnight on Sunday.

You can find Starlite BBQ on Facebook here and follow them on Instagram here.

Disclosure: My meal was complimentary in exchange for social media exposure and this blog post, however my opinions are all my own.


28th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction and Beer Garden Set for October 6th, 2018

The 28th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden returns on Saturday, October 6th, 2018 from 4-7pm. I am honored to be a part of this year’s planning committee, helping to organize some of my favorite local restaurants and wineries for my Curtis Park neighbors and for my husband, who I met at this event in 2011.

This year’s event will feature a special ticket for VIP is available (which includes admission at 3pm for an extra hour of wine sipping and tasting galore). We are proud to announce our VIP Restaurant sponsor will be one of Sacramento’s newest and (hottest) restaurants, The Diplomat, located directly across from our State Capitol building! The VIP wine sponsor will be Ironstone Vineyards.

Purchase tickets for the event HERE.

Returning to support this year’s event are Curtis Park Wine Tasting veterans Selland’s, Dad’s, Espresso Metro, Miso Japanese, La Famiglia Catering, Gunther’s Ice Cream, Casa Garden, Sugar Plum Vegan, and Oak Cafe as well as the culinary students from American River College (under the tutelage of the amazing Chef Roxanne O’Brien).

New to the event this year (so far!!) are Cellar Door Platters (a custom charcuterie, fruit, and cheese platter creation service), Seasons 52, Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, Burgess Brothers BBQ (Antojito’s), Thai Farm House BBQ & Bistro, Buffalo Pizza and Cornflower Creamery, and Adamo’s Restaurant!

Wineries set to participate are Revolution Wines, Moniz Family Wines, Tryphon Vineyards, Matchbook Wines, Seka Hills Winery, Steiner Family Vineyards, and Via Romano Vineyards. If you’re a cider fan, we’ve got Two Rivers Ciders coming, and as always Pangaea Bier Cafe‘s Rob Archie will coordinate his fabulous Beer Garden for all the brew lovers out there.

I have intentionally tried to reach out to restaurants that produce food that not only pairs with wine, but restaurants that will give this event more variety and make it more culturally diverse. If we all have one thing in common, it’s that we need to eat to live. Food can be a great connector to people who have different backgrounds. I feel this event is a great way to taste and get introduce Curtis Park residents to restaurants they might not normally seek out on their own. As one of my favorite travel hosts (and star of Netflix show “Somebody Feed Phil”) Phil Rosenthal says, “Food is the great connector for me, laughs are the cement. It’s all about getting to know people.” Yes!

Proceeds from the SCNA Wine Tasting, Silent Auction and Beer Garden help support upkeep and maintenance of the historic Sierra 2 Center and Senior Center, community events like the Spring Egg Hunt, Music in the Park and Curtis Fest. Additional funds go toward Bret Harte’s 6th grade Nature and Science Camp and the McClatchy HISP program and the debate club.

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

For information about participating, donating or volunteering, you can also contact Terri Shettle at the Sierra 2 Center, 452-3005. No prior event planning is necessary, and it is a great way to connect with neighbors and support your community.

Click —-> donate an auction item, or here to purchase tickets for the event. See you there!


Bourdain and His Impact on Me


Like so many people across the world, I am still processing Anthony Bourdain’s untimely death. Honestly, I feel a little strange to be mourning someone I never met. It bothers me that I am so sad about a celebrity’s passing. Bourdain was not just a celebrity, but a kind of ambassador to all nations, reaching out and breaking bread to make a deeper human connection with all cultures and ethnicities. A role that he never initially intended to play, and quite possibly took its toll on him.

I was much more a follower of Anthony Bourdain long before Parts Unknown. Full disclosure, I didn’t watch the show that much because I thought it got too serious. I preferred the lighter, more food-centric shows like No Reservations and The Layover. But I first became an AB fan when I saw his first TV show on Food Network called A Cook’s Tour. The book of the same name was a follow up of Bourdain’s wildly successful Kitchen ConfidentialThe A Cook’s Tour TV show was born when in addition to an advance from his publisher, Food Network execs threw money into the ring for permission to follow Bourdain around with a camera crew and film his travels. Bourdain reluctantly agreed to allow Food Network do their thing. The first time I saw the show I was hooked. I also bought the book A Cook’s Tour, then I quickly circled back to pick up a copy of Kitchen Confidential. I wanted to read everything Anthony Bourdain wrote, including his first two novels Bone in the Throat and Gone Bamboo. Never before had I read an author’s work that made me chuckle out loud so many times, while opening my eyes to faraway places and different cultures.

Anthony Bourdain made such an impression on me and made me excited to see the world outside of the small town of Franklin, Ohio (my hometown). Even though he was no longer working at Les Halles, I traveled to New York in 2002 to dine at the restaurant. I also tried Dim Sum for the first time in Chinatown (though I skipped the chicken feet that time). I went to Jacques Torres Chocolate. I was all of a sudden a developing (though I loathe the word) “foodie.” I was ready to open my mind to go beyond American staples. I wanted to experience different cuisines and regional specialties, and try dishes you can only get if you go to THAT particular restaurant. Like Junior’s Cheesecake in Brooklyn. BEFORE you could order the Devils Food Cheesecake online. 🙂

The New York trip was not just because of Bourdain, but a big thanks to a long-time friend of mine who had moved to New York much earlier and was able to curate the perfect culinary tour for me during my visit. But Bourdain definitely influenced me to try things I would not know if I liked or not.

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”
-Anthony Bourdain

After the excitement of the New York trip I was ready to leave Ohio. Or at least travel more, but pretty much that was the beginning of the end for me in Franklin. In 2003, I went to Boston, Washington D.C., and to Honolulu, as well as San Francisco, the Napa Valley, and to the city I would eventually call home: Sacramento.

Sacramento? Hey, it is close to San Francisco and to Napa Valley, two cities I love but could not afford to live in at the time. Not to worry, there would be several jaunts to the City and to Napa or Yountville after I started this blog (formerly at cakegrrl.blogspot.com). There were also restaurants of all cuisines to be found right in Sacramento. I was beyond excited. Right away I found a dim sum place, a Persian restaurant, an Ethiopian restaurant, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean… I was hungry for it all. I also fell in love with wine around the same time and frequently visited regions like Amador and El Dorado in addition to my beloved Napa to try all the wines I could and then report back on my blog. My life would never be the same again.

And all the while I lived vicariously through THE travel guru, Anthony Bourdain, eventually tuning in to No Reservations in 2005 and sometimes downloading the episodes to watch on my computer in patches when I did not have a TV or cable. I remember thinking, “God this guy is so cool and so funny, down to Earth and no BS–of all celebrities, he’s the one I would like to meet someday.”

In September of 2010, Anthony Bourdain came to Sacramento and I was lucky enough to see his show as a media guest with pretty decent seats. During the show (towards the end) there was a small audience Q & A session, but I felt like I would not even be close to coming up with an interesting (or original) enough question for AB, so I sat cringing and embarrassed for others as they asked some really dumb stuff. I decided that yes, it would be cool to meet him (but not be cool to act like almost everyone else in this auditorium), so I decided I would see him again on TV, and my guest and I left after the show instead of creeping outside the venue. Can you imagine how many people did this to him? Awkward for everyone involved, so no thanks. 🙂

In 2013, local (Sacramento) chef Adam Pechal appeared with Bourdain on The Taste. I’m slightly jealous not only because he has a picture together with him, but because he got to cook for AB. Via Facebook, Pechal is in the process of planning an event to honor Bourdain that will take place closer to the end of summer/beginning of fall and the proceeds will be donated to a charity (most likely a suicide prevention organization). I will definitely share with readers here when I find out full details.

The first time I saw Parts Unknown, I happened to also be traveling. My husband and I were in Carlsbad, California for a race, and I tuned into the show when were came back from dinner that Sunday evening. It was the first episode, and I was eager to see the new show. I didn’t fully understand the concept and I was surprised the show was different and a little darker, as AB began traveling to places that had been/still are going through poverty, war, and overall turbulent times. I confess I had never really given Myanmar a second thought, and never considered Libya on my bucket list of travel destinations. I would occasionally tune in to some episodes that featured places I did want to visit such as Spain and Las Vegas (which is one of my favorite places in the world). I missed a great deal of Parts Unknown throughout its 11 season run, and now thanks to Netflix deciding to keep the show on its roster for the foreseeable future, I can go back and enjoy each one from the beginning (LINK HERE).

I thought Anthony Bourdain would be around forever, and I guess that’s why I am so sad. Half asleep on the morning of June 8th, waking up to turn off my alarm on my iPhone and then peering into it for the latest news. This time it was “RIP Anthony Bourdain.” What? How did this even happen!? How could he do this? What a nightmare. Why? I can’t imagine where he was in his mind at the time, I can only say I am sorry he was feeling insurmountable pain. I am sorry he felt so alone.

Details are still emerging on his death and the toxicology report has come out, but none of the TMZ stories have made me feel any better or more resolved. My deepest condolences go out to his family and friends, his coworkers, and anyone who had the pleasure of meeting Bourdain. The world has lost an iconic storyteller, but those close to him have lost a son, a father, a brother, a spouse, a comrade.

The time we have on Earth is so precious and finite. Hug the ones you love tightly and remind them how much they mean to you. Make people feel like they matter, even if it’s your server or your barista. If you are lucky enough to have one or both of your parents alive, call him/her/them, you’re probably overdue for a hello. Tonight, Andy and I get to meet some friends for drinks/dinner at a place I haven’t been to in ages, and that makes me so happy. I’m also buying this Zamir Vodka Tshirt for myself so that I too, can spread peace through the message of vodka!

Now I am gonna go watch some more Parts Unknown episodes. I am looking forward to the future and traveling with my husband as much as possible. Besides our annual trip to Mexico, Greece and Spain are definitely getting closer to happening, and thinking about Spanish pintxos makes me giddy. This Tony’s 13 Things I Won’t Leave Home Without made me smile.

Anthony Bourdain, thank you for your contribution to the world. May we all be a little less ignorant about/afraid of people who don’t look or live the same as us.

Photo credit: Travel Channel website, Mozambique journal.


Fit Eats Café and Food Delivery Service Can Help You Reach Your Fitness Goals

Disclosure: I have partnered with Fit Eats to let you know about their awesome cafe and food delivery service that has helped me lose 15 pounds over the course of about a year. Results may vary from person to person. All opinions are my own. Use the promo code kristy65192 at check out to get a $10 credit towards your order!

Truth: I have battled my weight all my life. Correction. I have battled my weight since I was bullied about it in middle school, so let’s say pretty much most of my life. Although I have never been obese, I have been 30 pounds overweight in my lifetime and have yo-yo dieted (up ten pounds, down ten pounds) in the past.

In March of 2011, I adopted at Paleo/Primal diet of no sugar, no grains, and though it helped me overcome binging and helped curb my sugar cravings, I still could not lose the last 10 pounds. The reason why? Even though I rarely miss a day of exercise, quite simply I was eating too many calories than my body was burning off. I was rewarding myself like a dog with food for all the tough workouts I put myself through. Even though I got down to 117 on the Paleo diet, I never stayed there because I didn’t have any portion control. I think I peaked out last July at about 130 before I took major action. I could have actually weighed more than that, but I was too afraid to get on the scale until I lost some weight first!

I know, 130 pounds doesn’t sound overweight to most, but I am only 5’1″ and really do look my best between 110-115 . Plus, I was drinking ENTIRELY TOO MUCH every night and chasing that down with too many snacks (because I just LOVE to eat when I drink)! It was a vicious cycle of punishing workouts/eating and drinking to reward myself for the workouts/guilt/shame/repeat.

On July 5th of last year, I woke up with a major hangover. This is not usual for me, so I really must have tied one during our 4th of July block party. That’s when the shame set in so much I decided to do something about my weight because I truly felt like a marlin. Of course, I have lost weight a lot of times in the past, so I know what is involved and the science is quite easy. You don’t have to go on the Paleo diet to lose weight. You don’t have to go vegan. You don’t have to join Weight Watchers. You don’t have to do a cleanse or do Adkins or start a Keto program or cut everything out that you enjoy. You don’t even need to exercise. I say this carefully because exercise IS important, but if you have a lot of weight to lose, it can be more harmful than good. I truly believe it is more important to clean up your diet before you even consider exercising.

Creating a calorie deficit.
All of the above diets/food plans have been successful with one person or another because they in fact, created a calorie deficit in their bodies–their bodies used the stored calories/energy because they took in less than they needed for the day/week/month. But for most people, Paleo/Primal, Keto, Adkins, are not sustainable for the rest of your life (especially if you are a food blogger like me or have ANY sort of social life whatsoever). There are special occasions where you are going to have the birthday cake or the bread basket with dinner or the side of fries (God, do I love fries). What is most important, is that you don’t have ALL the cake or fries, etc. Trust me, there were plenty of fries that led to the weight gain!

Instead of cutting out everything, I decided I would log my calories (journal them, if you will) with an online food app. I happen to use My Fitness Pal. My calories right now per day are set at 1431. That means I have to eat less than that total in order to lose weight. Since it is challenging to stay under that amount (especially because I like to drink wine with dinner), I exercise 80-90 minutes a day to raise the calorie limit. I like to leave about 1500 calories for dinner.

It has long been argued that weight loss is not possible if most of the calories are eaten at night or if you drink alcohol, but I am here to tell you that is not the case. As long as you have a calorie deficit, your body will lose weight. The key is finding out how many calories YOU personally burn daily just to keep your body alive and running (or your BASAL METABOLIC RATE), and accurately logging everything you eat and drink to create a deficit. It will not matter if it is 100 calories less a day or even just 25 calories, eventually the deficit will add up to 3500 calories and that is roughly one pound. To find your basal metabolic rate (or BMR, and also called resting metabolic rate, click here.

Of course, logging everything you eat does take time, and meal prep takes a lot of time, so it can be a little daunting and seem overwhelming/like a part time job at first.

That’s where Fit Eats comes in!

Fit Eats is a café and food delivery service now serving Sacramento and anywhere within a 300 mile radius of Sacramento. They offer meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner and all of them are labeled with nutrition information. They also offer meals that are gluten free, dairy free, Paleo, freezable, and vegetarian. You can buy 1 meal at a time or buy meals for the whole week, as there is no membership or minimum order.

You can buy the meals in the Fit Eats café (they have a downtown location as well as a location in Roseville), but I recommend ordering online to make sure you get exactly the meals you want because they don’t always have everything in stock in the grab and go refrigerators. If you don’t feel like getting in a car, you have have your meals delivered to your home or office for a $2.99 delivery fee on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, and the delivery fee is waived if your order is over $50.

Since I work fairly close to the downtown location, I like to pick up my meals. They come in an insulated Fit Eats totebag that you can choose to purchase or return to the store. My typical order is 4-5 meals, and I end up freezing one of them just to have an emergency meal on hand if my husband goes out of town or out with friends on a particular evening.

The menu rotates weekly, some menu items leave, some meals are added, some meals remain for a while. Like any good restaurant, this depends on the availability and seasonality of the ingredients being used. The meals come in small and large size and cost anywhere from $7.99 to $12.75. Again the nutritional info is printed on the package, and so are all of the ingredients. The same information is on the Fit Eats website so you can know exactly what you are getting before you order. In addition to macronutrient count, they also list Weight Watchers point values.

But I am all about the macros and calorie counting. When the Fit Eats menu comes out every Thursday, I try to choose meals that are the highest in protein, and labeled as Paleo or at the very least gluten free. Also a plus if it is freezable, but not a deal breaker. I mainly enjoy Fit Eats meals (large size) for dinner, as I usually eat a Quest bar for breakfast and steamed broccoli and egg whites for lunch. Sometimes, I’ll have a light cheese stick or turkey jerky for a snack.

Lastly, Fit Eats meals taste great! I have enjoyed every meal I have purchased so far. Some meals more than others, but everything has been above average and far better than any pre-portioned meal I have ever tried. It’s very hard to go back to anything in the freezer aisle at the grocery store after ordering from Fit Eats. Below are some of my favorite meals and examples of what you will find on the menu. Many of them are already on MyFitnessPal, so all you have to do is search for them! It’s that easy.

 

Steak Tacos with Corn Tortillas

 

Paleo Alla Carbonara with Spaghetti Squash
(one of my all-time favorites)

 

 


Chili Cheese Sweet Potato Fries

 


Rosemary Pork Loin with Red Potatoes and Butternut Squash

(another one of my favorites)

 


Steak and Eggs

 

Shepard’s Pie


Ready to count your macros and enjoy delicious food while doing it? To get a $10 credit to your Fit Eats account, use the promo code kristy65192 at check out.

You can find Fit Eats on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here, and follow them on Instagram here.

You can follow my fitness journey and my other shenanigans in food, wine and travel on Instagram here.


Garagiste Wine Festival Comes to the Heart of Sonoma Wine Country


On May 12th, 2018, the internationally renowned Garagiste Wine Festival comes to the heart of Sonoma, California for the very first time. The festival will showcase the rich variety of small-production wines currently being crafted by some of the most innovative winemakers in Sonoma, Mendocino, Livermore, Lodi, and Napa, as well as other California regions. The non-profit event will be held at the Sonoma Veterans Building near Sonoma’s historic downtown plaza.


Why are the Garagiste Festivals Different? (source CaliforniaGaragistes.com)

1. The focus is on small-production winemaking.
Most other wine events focus on a single region or certain varietal (Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Rhones, etc.), but not The Garagiste Festival. This is the widest range of wines available in one place anywhere, from all over California – Paso Robles, Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Sierra Foothills, and more. Our case limit is around 1500 per vintage so this is hands-on, high-quality winemaking.

2. You can taste over TWENTY different varietals.
Sure, we’ll have excellent Cab, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Zin, and all the faves, but you will also be able to taste Teroldego, Albarino, Riesling, Mourvedre, Petite Verdot, Tempranillo, Grenache Blanc, many different Rosés, amazing blends, and many more. Expand your palate, find new favorites.

3. You will have a hard time finding these wineries on your own.
The majority of these wineries do not have tasting rooms and aren’t on “wine country” maps. We know where to find them and we bring them to you…all in one place. Let us do the work so you can do the tasting!

4. The average price of a bottle of red at our Festivals is about $40.
Nowhere else can you taste so many wines (over 200!) at this price point and level of quality for one low entry fee. You will have an amazing opportunity to taste world-class wines and discover your new favorites without having to commit to the purchase of a whole bottle.

5. No Black Ties Here
Lots of wine organizations hold expensive fundraising events, sometimes formal, sometimes a bit stuffy. Not here – this is casual and fun. As we like to say, “No Snobs Allowed”

6. No Annoying Crowds, Either
Ever been to wine festival where you have to fight your way to the table to get a taste? That doesn’t happen at the Garagiste Festival. We limit ticket sales to make sure you will have a comfortable, uncrowded experience, and even have time to talk to the winemakers. And that brings us to…

7. It’s the Winemakers and Owners themselves pouring their wines.
No robotic, scripted sales pitches like “this wine goes perfect with a Sunday BBQ!” or “Would you like fries with that?” You will be talking to the passionate people who make these wines, and get to hear their personal stories about why they make them. The winemakers love talking to you – they always tell us this is their favorite crowd for which to pour.

8. You help deserving students at Cal Poly just by drinking wine!
We are a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization dedicated to the education and support of future professionals in the wine industry through The Garagiste Festival Scholarships at Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo. Simply by buying a ticket and drinking excellent wine you are doing a good deed. And that makes you a good person!


Over 90% of Northern Exposure participants do not have a tasting room – 90% percent! – so this is truly a singular chance to discover and meet the next great winemakers and get the opportunity to taste their amazing micro-production wines. Your appointment to try these wines is all in one room, right here! You won’t be able to duplicate this tasting experience at any other wine event.

Wineries Schedule to Participate Include:
Betwixt Wines, Brooks Note, Burning Bench, Calstar Cellars, Camlow Cellars, Chenoweth Wines, Crux Winery, Cutruzzola Vineyards, Enoteca Five, Fallon Place Wine, Fields Family Wines, Gordenker Wines, Gregory James Wines, Halcon Vineyards, Kendric Vineyards, La Pitchoune Winery, Lightning Wines, Magna Vita Cellars, Mastro Scheidt, Merisi Wines, Montagne Russe, Montemaggiore, Murder Ridge, Nicolette Christopher, Nowell-Smith Wines, Parmeson Wines, People’s Wine Revolution, Piezo Winery, Powicana Farm, Sosie Wines, St. Romedius Wines, T. Berkley Wines, The Larsen Projekt, Theopolis Vineyards, Trojak-Knier Winery, Tulocay Winery, Two Shepherds, Von Holt Cellars and Weatherborne Wine Co.

The Sonoma Garagiste Festival will kick off at 11:30 am on Saturday, May 12th, with a signature tasting seminar: “The Garagiste Variety Show: Exploring the Diversity of Small-Production Winemaking.” The seminar will focus on the range of wines being produced by Garagiste winemakers, and investigate why garagiste winemakers have stepped away from Cabernet and Chardonnay to work with grapes considered under-the-radar in Northern California. Moderated by McLennan, panelists include: Paul Gordon of Halcon Vineyards and Randy Hester of Lightning Wines.

In the afternoon is the main event: the Grand Tasting, which runs from 2:00pm to 5:00pm. Like all Garagiste Festivals (and unlike many larger wine festivals), the Sonoma festival will limit ticket sales to give attendees a comfortable and relaxed tasting experience with personal winemaker interaction. For a full schedule of events for the day and to buy tickets, click HERE.


Zinfandel Tasting at Beatnik Studios, Sunday, April 8th, 2018

I’d like to let you all know about a special event starring Zinfandel, which happens to be the first red wine I fell in love with!

Shortly after moving here in the summer of 2004, I began visiting Amador and Plymouth, home to some of the oldest vines in California. I quickly developed a taste for zinfandels that were very robust and jammy, and later on the more restrained and lower alcohol zins. I might have also moved on to enjoying other reds, but there’s nothing like a good zinfandel, especially paired with hamburgers, pizza, red sauced foods, and lamb.

Zinfandel first made its California debut in the 1860s, and is now grown almost exclusively in California. It was even considered being adopted as California’s state wine until the bill naming it so was vetoed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. His argument was that the varietal would snub other wines or make them less notable. However, I believe that Zinfandel itself has been slighted and it’s (sweet) rosé version has been the butt of many a wine snob’s joke for years, even though it has been the gateway wine for so many people (including myself!)

So join me in a Zinfandel appreciation event and tasting of California’s true historical grape at Beatnik Studios in downtown Sacramento. We’ll taste zins from all around the Sierra Foothills. The wineries will be arranged by regions such as Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Placer, and Nevada. The winemakers will also be there to talk about the wines they made and why California zinfandel is so special!

Artisanal food purveyors and informative seminars are included with each admission. Bella Familia Pizza is coming out to serve creations made by hand… they’re featuring organic their hand-made dough recipe with local ingredients on every pizza. Like I mentioned earlier, zinfandel and pizza is a match that can’t be beat!

While you’re there, check out the interactive Zinfandel video booth and make plans to visit the nearby wineries you discover. This is an afternoon of Zinfandel exploration you won’t want to miss!

For tickets, CLICK HERE!

JUST THE FACTS…
WHAT: Zinfandel Stories from Sierra Foothills
WHEN: Sunday, April 8th, 2018, 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
WHERE: Beatnik Studios, 722 S St, Sacramento, CA 95811
HOW MUCH: $45 per person
WHY: Because the California wine lineup wouldn’t be complete without zinfandel and you need to taste them all!!
WHO: This event has been organized by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) is a membership-based organization that advances knowledge and appreciation for American Zinfandel and its unique place in our culture and history. ZAP is a non-profit, educational 501(c)(3) organization.

PS: You MUST be 21 or over to attend this event. No one under 21 years of age will be admitted, including babies or infants in strollers or backpacks. No exceptions. Valid I.D. is required to enter all ZAP events.


A Duo of Delightful Wines to Try

One benefit of having this website is that I am often sent complimentary bottles of wine to try so that I will write about them and give my opinion. It makes my job even easier when I actually like the wine and am enthusiastic about recommending it!

This was such the case with the pair of wines I present to you in this post: a bottle of Vivanco Tempranillo Blanco, and a bottle of Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha.

I was highly intrigued by the Tempranillo Blanco, because though I have had my fair share of Tempranillos (red wine) I had never tasted a white one. This wine is actually a blend of 60% Viura, 20% Malvasia, 20% Tempranillo Blanco. It is entirely fermented in stainless steel, which makes this wine fruitfully crisp. I would recommend this wine as a starter glass with appetizers such as cheese, or other tapas of some sort–Tortilla Española and Gambas al Ajillo come to mind. I was really impressed with the wine’s quality vs. the price. If you care to know, the wine scored 89 points in Wine Spectator. You can find Vivanco Tempranilla Blanco online here. As I write this, it’s only $9.99 per bottle. Wine.com also sells it, but they are currently out of stock.

The second wine I tried was the Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha. The wine is a blend of 85% Tempranillo, and 15% Garnacha. It’s a true deep pink versus a pale salmon color, but it is still a dry wine (as sometimes a darker color can indicate a sweeter rosé). This rosé is made using a method called “free-run”, a term used to describe the release of juice from the grapes (after they are harvested) as a result of the weight of being stacked on one another (and before any pressure is applied to crush them). This is a good wine to enjoy with tapenade or a salade Niçoise, paella, and grilled chicken or fish. It also scored 89 points in Wine Spectator. You can find the Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha online here. As I write this, it’s only $8.99 per bottle.


You can find Vivanco Wines on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here, and on Instagram here.

*I was sent these two complimentary bottles of wine so that I might share my thoughts about them with my readers. Photos of the wine and opinions on the wine are my own.


It’s Always Time to Visit Wine Country!

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.

Another notable factoid: Proceeds from tasting fees/sales of wine at Ehlers Estate help support the Leducq Foundation‘s international cardiovascular research programs.

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.

Following my tasting and purchases at Mumm, I made my way to my home for the night at the Napa River Inn. They were kind enough to extend a media rate to me.

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 next day I woke up to join my friend Elizabeth for a Body Boot Camp workout at Napa Fit Body Boot Camp. After, I ran on the Napa River Trail to make it 8 miles total for the day.


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.

A new restaurant/wine bar has opened called Compline. The name Compline refers to end of the working day, when things get quiet and evening settles in. You can sneak a peek at their menu here.

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.

With much love… please continue to stay #napastrong #sonomastrong #winecountrystrong!
Beautiful video done by 3 Rock Marketing and Wildly Simple.


WBC17 Wine Dinner Excursion at Thomas George Estates Winery


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 Estatesa 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.

To connect with Thomas George Estates, you can find them on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here, or follow them on Instagram here. Their website is located here.


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!

If you’re a wine blogger or play one on TV, don’t miss out on the next Wine Bloggers Conference, to be held in Walla Walla, Washington from October 4-7, 2018.

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


27th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction and Beer Garden, set for October 14th, 4-7pm

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!):

 

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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.

 



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Tickets:
Advance until 11:59pm, Oct.13th : $45 (SCNA Members)/$50 (Non-members) Membership can be purchased or renewed during your registration process.

Online ticket sales will close at 11:59pm on Oct. 13. After Oct. 13: $60 all. REGISTER FOR TICKETS HERE.

You can follow the Sierra 2 Center on twitter here and find them on Facebook here. They are now on Instagram here.

 


Sacramento Bachelorette Trips


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.

Wine Tastings
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!


Your bachelorette party in Sacramento is sure to be a fond memory to look back on for years to come. Let the party begin!

This post was sponsored by Sacramento Party Buses


BESPOKE Debuts in Napa on Saturday, August 26th at Charles Krug Winery


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.”

Where: Charles Krug Winery, Carriage House, 2800 Main St. Saint Helena, CA.
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 26
Cost: $55 (students with ID)/$75 (general admission) can be purchased here – http://bit.ly/NAPAtix

Cochon Heritage Fire Lights up Napa on August 27th, 2017

One of the best local (to Northern California) food and wine events of the year is put on by my friend Brady Lowe. It’s called Heritage Fire by Cochon555.

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.

You can find Cochon 555 on Facebook here, on Twitter here, and on Instagram here.


Farm-to-Fork Fall Fundraiser set for Thursday, September 21st at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento


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.

If you’re on social media, use the hashtag #SHAFarmtoFork via Twitter and Instagram. You can follow the Sacramento Hotel Association on Twitter here and on Instagram here.

Hope you see you there!


We’re Married! (Part One)


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!


Pre-Holiday Grand Tasting at Matteo’s Pizza and Bistro Set for Mon, Nov. 14th, 5:30-7:30pm

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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.

To reserve your spot please email Margo(at)pizzamatteo.com. Cheers and hope to see you there! You can find Matteo’s Pizza and Bistro on Facebook here.

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SunBasket Offers a Healthy and Convenient Solution for Weeknight Meals

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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.

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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.

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And meal three: Trout in Parchment with Warm Date and Apricot Salad, recipe HERE.

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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.

You can find Sun Basket on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here, Pinterest here and on Instagram here. To place an order, you can visit https://www.sunbasket.com/home.