Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

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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.


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!


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.


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.

 


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!


Marriott Napa Valley Hotel and Spa Revitalized with a Multi-Million Dollar Renovation

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Recently, Andy and I had a chance to experience the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa’s stunning remodel. The property, located in the heart of the Napa Valley, has within the last few months, revealed a stunning new resort-style pool and courtyard that will serve as the hub of upcoming weddings, events and activities––from poolside gatherings, dining and yoga, to movies, wine and cocktails under the stars.

Upon arrival, I explored the newly renovated room and was greeted by an exquisite plate of goodies and a fine bottle of wine. A bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon to be exact.

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We had a big day ahead of us with two tastings scheduled at Walt Wines and Gundlach Bundschu, so we only had one drink in the hotel’s bar before retiring. As you can see below, the bar area has been updated and is quite beautiful.

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The next morning, I snapped a few pictures of the sun outside our room before I took off to the also updated workout facility and spa.

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After our workouts, Andy and I went wine tasting, headed to Walt for a Pinot Noir specific tasting, and then to Gunlach Bundschu for a tasting and a lesson on the winery’s history. We ended up spending a few hours at both wineries and then returned to the Napa Valley Marriott to relax by the pool for a few hours before dinner.

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After the pool and outdoor excursion, we got ready for dinner and then enjoyed some time in the lobby with a wine tasting. The lobby wine tastings feature different wineries each day. That evening’s featured winery was Raymond Vineyards.

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Soon, we settled into dinner at the Marriott’s restaurant VinEleven. Brian Whitmer is the head chef and focuses on American cuisine that celebrates culinary traditions from around the world incorporating locally and sustainably-grown produce.

Andy and I like to order several different items and share them. Our appetizers were the Truffle Fries served with Parmesan Cheese and Truffle Oil:

truffle-fries
We also enjoyed the Lolita’s Fish Taco with Cod, Mango Pineapple Slaw and Sambal Aioli.

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For our entreés, Andy ordered the scallop special, which upon tasting, we begged for them to put on the regular menu. The scallops were presented on a bed of mushroom risotto and were perfectly seared as you can see in the photo below.

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For my dinner, I ordered the Spiced Chicken Cashew Lettuce Cups (which are on the menu in the appetizers section). Since Andy and I share food, it’s not strange for us to order only one main course and 2-4 different appetizers. I believe that it’s possible to get a solid impression of a restaurant this way. Appetizers are one of the most important parts of a menu because they are supposed to intrigue a customer and make them look forward to the next part of the meal.

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At VinEleven, you can enjoy a signature summer cocktail at the beautifully lit bar or outdoor patio from 6:30 a.m. to midnight, and as late as 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Heirloom Organic Gardens feature over 2,000 square feet of raised and in-ground beds, a lush herb garden, and a communal dining table that serves 18 guests. After such a grand meal, it was time to retire.

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The hotel’s pool and outdoor wedding and event space also proves to be a showstopper. The Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa has made their outdoor space a place where visitors and locals alike can gather. The pool is a sparkling 100-by-30-foot oasis with luxe lounge furniture and umbrellas, cozy fire pits, shady Redwood nooks, and all-day dining. Poolside yoga is available for guests to begin their day and then afterward they can enjoy a swim.

All 275 guestrooms have been completely renovated with a design specifically to mimic the colors and feel of a tasting room. They have warm greys and Earth tones that appear naturally in wine caves, as well as burgundy/grape hues that take on the grape color so familiar in Napa. There is a sliding wooden barn doors with exposed hardware that provides bathroom privacy while creating a rustic wine country feel to the tranquil space.

Crisp white tile, grey granite and luxurious amenities provide a spa-like experience in the bath with electric mirrors for ideal lighting. Modular seating by large windows provide a cozy sitting area to enjoy a bottle of wine or in-room dining.

All guestrooms come fully equipped with a new state of the art guest entertainment system that provides unique content choices such as, on-screen weather, flight data, and Bluetooth® connectivity. The Enseo guestroom entertainment system will allow you to access your Netflix®, Pandora®, YouTube®, Hulu® and Crackle® accounts directly through the guestroom TV.

The Napa Valley Marriott Hotel and Spa $20 Daily Destination Fee includes the following daily amenities:

  • Culinary Garden Tour with Sparkling Wine (4pm)
  • Yoga Class every morning meet in the lobby (7:30am)
  • Preserve Spa Access Eucalyptus Steam Room (8:30am to 12:00pm)
  • Specialized Bicycle Access with hybrid bicycles with helmet, available from dawn to dusk
  • Bottled Spring Water replenished in your room daily
  • Starbucks House Blend Coffee, two available daily in VINeleven Market
  • Daily Vintner Pour every evening in the lobby (5-6pm)
  • Wireless High Speed InternetTo learn about the Marriott Napa Valley’s special packages, you can click here.

For more information, visit www.NapaValleyMarriott.com or call (707) 253-8600. Become a fan of the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Napahotel and follow the hotel on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NapaMarriott and on Instagram here.

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Two Upcoming October Food Events in Sacramento, Mark Your Calendars!

Sacramento is a food lover’s paradise this time of year and there are two upcoming events I’d like to tell you about happening this month. Special thanks to The Grid Agency for passing along the information to me!

The first event is called A Taste of New Sacramento in Old Sacramento. It will take place on Sunday, October 9, 2016 from 11:00 AM-4:00 PM at the Delta King Hotel.

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The food, wine and brews affair will feature breweries such as Rubicon Brewing Company and Calicraft Brewing Company.

Wineries including: Cate Ao Vinho, Lone Buffalo Vineyards, Boeger Winery, Fiddletown Winery, Lava Cap Winery, Van Ruiten Family Winery, J and K Estate Wines, Haraszthy Winery, Merlo Family Vineyards, Cabana Winery, Carvalho Family Winery, Balletto Vineyards & Winery, Bogle Vineyards and Winery. Jeff Runquist Wines, Van Ruiten Winery

And restaurants present will be: Roxie Deli & Barbeque, Sactown Bar and Grill, Ten 22, Indo Cafe, Vallejo’s Restaurant, Bingo B.B.Q, Kupros, Cabana Winery & Bistro, Shady Lady Saloon, Blue Prynt Restaurant, Coin-Op Game Room, Dad’s Kitchen, and Drewski’s.

Proceeds benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children. Featuring a live adoption run by Front Street Animal Shelter. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased here.

But, wait, there’s more….

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The weekend after that, Smoke on the River rolls into town on Saturday, October 15th, 2016 from 1pm to 5pm at 2700 Marina View.

The event is hosted by Sacramento Artists Council, Inc. with its friend and sponsor The Grid Agency. Smoke on the River is a fundraiser for Sacramento Artists Council and will raise money for art programs that assist at-risk children, children of homeless families and fund adopt a school art programs for Sacramento Regional Schools.

Smoke on the River is a state championship and Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) sanctioned event. The event will feature a People’s Choice BBQ award and tastings, People’s Choice award for Best Beer and Best Cider, live entertainment from Swimming in Bengal and Sacramento Jazz Project, and beer tastings provide by local breweries.

There will also be a corn hole tournament at the event with prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.

Full Access Pre-sale Tickets including unlimited tastes of BBQ and Craft Beer/Cider are $35 + 2.75% convenience fee and $40 with a 2.75% convenience fee for credit cards at the door. You can purchase and see other ticket options here.

Featured breweries will be:
Sierra Nevada Brewing
Firestone Walker Brewing
Alaskan Brewing
Hoppy Brewing
Dust Bowl Brewing
Auburn Alehouse
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Device Brewing Company
Shmaltz’s Brewing
Track 7 Brewing
Mike Hess Brewing

Pitmasters include:
UP IN SMOKE
Too Ashamed to Name BBQ
ZomBBQ
RBQ
Bones Sauce n Harmony
The Smoking’ GrOVENators
Old Chico BBQ
Beautforefamilybbq
Ric’s Righteous Ribs
Papa Bobs Backyard BBQ
Smokin Slabz BBQ
Big Poppa Smokers
NutIn2itBut2Qit
Bones N Brews BBQ
Five Hundy BBQ
The Smoking J’s
Smokey Luv BBQ
Canyon Riders BBQ
2 Rolling Bones
Fat Dad’s Barbeque
Hickory and Spice BBQ
Smokin’ the 916
Smokey Valley Q
Ed’s Smoked Out BBQ
Smokin Fatboyz BBQ
Daddy O’s Smokin’ BBQ
Pipin’ Hot Smokers
Simply Marvelous
Rollin’ Smoke
FATTY DRIPPINS
The Brothers Throwdown
Cowbunga BBQ
Bar-B-Que’s-2Go
Git R Smoked
Big O and MO BBQ
Smokin’ Bliss
J&J Smokin BBQ
Franklin BBQ
Son of Smoke
Saltworks
Pit Perfection
G & Pops BBQ
Schaffner Fabrication


Lots of Eating and Drinking (and Eating and Drinking) at Eat Drink SF

shot with sign overhead

It was a tasty scene for fans of food, wine, beer and spirits August 25 – 28, 2016 at Eat Drink SF. The event was held at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

Andy and I attended on the last day of the event on a Sunday afternoon and were introduced to some restaurants we had never tried, as well as a few new wines. There were also some familiar vendors, as Sunday was the “Legacy Grand Tasting” featuring San Francisco eateries that have stood the test of time.

Almost immediately after we arrived, we heard about a “beverage classroom” presented by San Francisco Wine School. The first presentation was on the Wines of Portugal. It was officially titled ViniPortugal. Since we are always looking to broaden our knowledge of wine, we decided to sit in on the seminar & tasting.

beverage classroom

It was led by the founder of San Francisco Wine School, David Glancy. Glancy is one of only twelve people in the world to hold both the revered Master Sommelier diploma and a Certified Wine Educator credential.

discover portuguese wines
In the brief seminar, we discussed 4 wines from Portugal, tasted and examined them.

vinho verde closeup

lady with vinho verde

portuguese wines line up
The tasting was a very worthwhile experience, and a chance to get to know a little bit more on the wines of Portugal as well as a little bit about the San Francisco Wine School, which currently offers 65 different wine education classes.

Of course, we were also there to eat. Some of my favorite bites were as follows:

Nectarines wrapped in speck from Tosca Cafe.
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A caprese salad on a stick.
mozzarella salad

A cod fritter served on greens.
fritter

This Lahmbiajeen (Arabic for “Meat in Dough”) It is fresh baked flatbread with housemade tomato beef sauce, labneh parsley and lemon zest from Reem’s.
reems appetizer

And my food favorite item was this pintxo from Teleferic Barcelona. Pintxo is a Basque word that means “skewer.” This particular pintxo is called a Torito (bull). It has xistorra (spanish chorizo), natural honey and manchego cheese and it is wrapped in puff pastry with dulce de leche.

bull hot dogs
This smoked salmon bite was Scoma’s featured dish, and a favorite of Andy’s.
scoma salmon dish

Now, back to drinking. There was much to choose from. We didn’t taste any beer, but if you are a beer or cider lover, Stella Artois, Stella Artois Cidre (that IS how it is spelled), and Gowan’s Heirloom Cider had you covered.

One of the beverage highlights for me was this Whispering Angel Rose made primarily from Grenache, Vermentino, and Cinsault. A big reason I am a rose fan is because it is a wine that can pair with many different kinds of food.

rep with whispering angel

whispering angel rose

Beaulieu Vineyards was at the event pouring both their classic Tapestry (a Bordeaux blend) and the Georges De Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a treat to taste these wines, because we know their retail value. Tapestry is around $50 and the Georges De Latour is around $100 per bottle. I actually buy Andy a bottle of the Tapestry as one of his Christmas gifts every year.

BV Goerges Latour

Meadowcroft Wines was sharing this lovely chardonnay with us. The grapes are sourced from the Bonneau Vineyard (in the Carneros appellation of Sonoma County).

meadowcroft chardonnay

There were also cocktails featured at Eat Drink SF, and my favorite was this one at the Hangar Vodka booth. It is a combination of grapefruit, elderflower, sage and sparkling wine.

drink with social media
I liked the drink so much, I will admit I had two of them. And I am going to buy the ingredients so I can make it for myself at home.

I love the inspiration I get at tasting events like these and the enthusiasm I see from all the chefs, sous chefs, cooks, bartenders, and tasting room associates. It’s a joy to have another excuse to come into the city and visit Fort Mason and drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. I only wished we could stay a little longer!

SF view

Eat Drink SF supports the Golden Gate Restaurant Association Scholarship Foundation. The foundation grants financial scholarships to students from the Bay Area entering culinary and hospitality programs. Golden Gate Restaurant Association‘s mission is to celebrate and empower the restaurant community through advocacy, education, marketing, events and training.

You can keep up with Eat Drink SF by following them on all their social media channels:
On Facebook here.
On Twitter here.
On Instagram here.

To see more images from the event, you can head over to their Flickr page here.

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New Menu Features and Gluten Free Finds at Yard House

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starter drinks
A few weeks ago Andy and I checked out some new menu items and gluten free options available at Yard House in Roseville. You might remember my visit to Yard House shortly after they opened back in 2011. We kicked off our meal with this round of drinks. On the left is a glass of Zardetto Prosecco (sparkling wine is my go-to opener) and on the right is a glass of Honig Sauvignon Blanc.

gluten free menu
Then it was on to decide what to order. If you are reading this website, you are either eating a gluten-free diet, or you are thinking about eating gluten-free. Yard House makes it easy because there is a separate menu you can ask for when you are seated. The menu features many of items from appetizers to salads and burgers that can be served wrapped in lettuce instead of on a bun, as well as three different gluten-sensitive beers.

brussels and potatoes
Our first appetizer was the Crispy Brussels Sprouts and Ripped Potatoes (served with Malt Vinegar Aioli). It’s featured on the “snack” portion of the menu, but can easily be shared if you are going to be ordering an entrée, too. The dish’s description was accurate as both items were very crispy, yet soft on the inside. The vegetables were highlighted by just the right amount of seasoning and were dressed with the Malt Vinegar Aioli.

For our second appetizer, we decided to try a new menu item (though it is not on the gluten-free menu), the Poke Nachos made with marinated raw ahi, avocado, cilantro, serranos, green onions, nori, sesame seeds, sweet soy, sriracha aioli, white truffle sauce, and crispy wontons. This plate is one of several you can get that features ahi tuna. I like this one not only because it is very shareable, but because it highlights the ahi by merging ingredients that are both used in Asian and Latin cuisine. The combination of the different textures and flavors is delightful.

ahi nachos

What is not delightful is an empty glass, so Andy and I revisited the drink menu and ordered another round. I was curious about the Fresh and Skinny™ Cocktail choices, so I ordered a Skinny Margarita with El Jimador silver tequila and fresh lime. Other drinks on the Fresh and Skinny™ menu are the Pure Cosmo Martini, the Lite Lemon Drop Martini, the Juniper Fusion, and the Citrus Crush. For more information on the Fresh and Skinny™ Cocktail Menu you can click here. Andy ordered another glass of wine, this time a glass of Meiomi Pinot Noir.

skinny margarita
For my entree, I chose the Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad (from the Gluten-Sensitive menu) composed of greens, kale, tomatoes, edamame, carrots, radish, egg, blue cheese, corn, bacon, avocado, ranch. I usually get dressing on the side when I order a Cobb Salad because there is so much flavor (fat IS flavor!) from the blue cheese, egg, avocado and bacon, I don’t need to cover anything up with dressing. I love simple and fresh ingredients and this salad certainly fit that description.

pork burger and fries
For dessert, we enjoyed two more glasses of wine, mine a glass of Protocolo Rose Tierra de Castilla (a Spanish Rosé made from 50% Tempranillo and 50% Bobal. Andy ordered the Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Michael David Winery (Lodi).

round three drinks
Another healthy menu and gluten-free option we did not try, but was recently added is the Red Quinoa Salad Bowl, which Chef Jocson describes as the greatest hits of all super foods. The salad is a nice shareable dish or can be an entrée for one with a garden of kale, parsley, Brussels sprouts, roasted beets, cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, blueberries, baby tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and feta cheese. Guests can request that the cheese be removed for a vegan option. Carnivores can choose to add chicken or steak for a heartier meal.

Red Quinoa Salad Bowl

“In order to stay relevant menus have to evolve,” added Chef Jocson.  “Five years ago no one would have imagined blueberry ketchup, but it’s an amazing condiment for our Kurobuta Pork Burger and ours is made in-house.  These days offering vegan and vegetarian selections aren’t an option, but a necessity as more people reevaluate their diets and intake.  We already have several of such items, including our new Vegan Burger, as well as gluten-sensitive options.”

If you’re reading this blog post, Yard House will have already debuted its new menu items at all 65 locations. Open daily for lunch, dinner and late-night dining, Yard House offers one of the largest selections of beers on tap plus a creative list of cocktails and wine by the bottle or glass.

For more information, visit yardhouse.com or follow on Facebook at facebook.com/yardhouse and the Roseville location of Yard House on Facebook here or follow them on Twitter @yardhouse

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Elk Grove Welcomes New Chicago Fire Location

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

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

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

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

garlic fries

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

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

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

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

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

interior one

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

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


Seasons 52’s Winter Menu Features Savory Flavors and Holiday Cocktails

This week, Andy and I were invited to try out the new winter menu at Seasons 52. Seasons 52 describes themselves as a fresh grill and wine bar that offers a seasonal menu inspired by the appeal of a farmer’s market and what’s good now. I would also add that they cater to people who enjoy dining out, but like to stay calorie conscious. That pretty much describes me, and why I have accepted every invitation the restaurant has sent my way. I really love the concept of the restaurant and enjoy the food!

We started out in one of the banquet rooms, (other writers were also invited and gathered there) to taste a few of the featured wines and flatbreads. Andy and I passed on the flatbreads (which Seasons 52 does specialize in because they can make them very seasonal—by swapping out the toppings when the seasons change—and low in calorie). However, later on we found out that they can make any of the flatbreads on the menu with a gluten-sensitive dough! I have been to the restaurant 5 or 6 times now and I never knew this! 🙂 More on the gluten-senstive flatbreads later, but before I get too off track, let’s get back to the wine tasting at the beginning of our evening:

savignon blanc
red wines
I particularly enjoyed the Catena Cabernet Sauvignon, a reasonably priced food friendly wine, that is a recent addition to the Seasons 52 wine list. Their international wine list features 100 wines and offers at least 52 of them by the glass.

During the wine tasting, Andy and I met up with Susan Cooper (who writes the blog Finding Our Way Now) and her husband. Since both of our websites have shifted towards wine, we decided to sit together during dinner and talk about some of our current and future projects.

I started out with this rosé of Syrah from Casas del Bosque. It was an off-dry wine and a great appetizer in my book. 🙂

rose
Speaking of appetizers, this is the gluten-friendly flat bread I mentioned earlier. We chose the Grilled Garlic Pesto Chicken with fresh mozzarella cheese, balsamic onions, roasted red peppers and arugula. The entire appetizer clocks in at 490 calories. It’s called “gluten-friendly” as opposed to “gluten-free” because the kitchen and oven are exposed to gluten. Celiacs should always take extreme caution when dining out, but people who are gluten-free for other reasons can enjoy this flatbread as much as I did! 🙂

gluten friendly flatbread

Of course, there are dishes that are not gluten-free, but still worth a try such as the Black & White Lobster Ravioli.

ravioli
The raviolis are made with squid ink and egg pasta, and topped with shitake mushrooms and roasted red peppers. The dish is finished with a sherry-lobster sauce. (320 calories)

If you’re looking for a cocktail in between your appetizer and entrée, Seasons 52 currently features a Bourbon Berry Bramble and a Cranberry & Sage cocktail to enjoy this holiday season.

Entrée time! I think Andy and I were really feeling the seasons change and both ordered red meat for dinner.

I ordered the Grilled Flat Iron Steak Salad: Bibb lettuce, butternut squash, grilled red onion, a cheddar tuile and horseradish vinaigrette. (450 calories).

steak salad

I wish I would have known the presentation of my salad was going to be so dramatic, because I would have filmed it and posted the video. The salad is brought out in on the plate with a cuff/ring around it and then it is released upon service. It was like “voilá” here’s your steak salad. I ordered dressing on the side because truthfully, there’s so many flavors going on, I didn’t really need it. Cheddar tuile, I wish I could wrap you around me like a blanket. 😉

Andy ordered another meaty dish: The Oak-Grilled New York Strip. Ut was a soy garlic marinade, charcoal roasted vegetables, Yukon potato mash and a 15-year aged balsamic drizzle. (750 calories) Whoa, Andy, hope you don’t plan on eating dessert.

steak

Just kidding! I love it that Andy is willing to tag along with me and try all this incredible food. We both agreed that the steaks on the salad and on his entrée were perfect (medium rare).

By the way, our server was John. You’ll need to know that because you will want to ask for him when you visit Seasons 52. Here’s what he looks like if you need to chase him down. 😉

server john

Truthfully, I am amazed this kid isn’t working as a wine rep. He knew almost as much as one. This is an instance where server training has really paid off. John is just as enthusiastic and passionate about wine as I am. Maybe. 😉 Anyway, if there are not enough reasons to stop by Seasons 52, do so, so that you can be waited on by this guy! 🙂

wine tasting

More wines (some of our server John’s favorites) he allowed our table to try. I went with sparking wine (sorry, John!) because these days, I try to keep the alcohol content down while I am out and about. 130 calories per glass in the prosecco, by the way. 🙂


And then it was time to order dessert! 🙂 At Seasons 52, they have a portion-controlled dessert menu that is brought out so you can see exactly what you are ordering!

desserts

I passed on the dessert plate, because I was actually so full from dinner, but I heard great things about the S’More dessert as well as the gingerbread dessert from my table mates.

This Friday (Black Friday) you can enjoy Seasons happy hour menu from open to close. With $8 specialty cocktails, $6 select glasses of wine and $5 Chef-inspired small plates, there’s something for everyone!!

Social Media Roll Call:
You can find Seasons 52 on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here and on Instagram here.

Special thanks to the management at Seasons 52 for setting up this special tasting. We’ll definitely be back!!


National Pizza Month Concludes with Chicago Fire’s Gluten Free Pizza

facade chicago fire
Our last yummy stop for National Pizza Month was Chicago Fire in Midtown Sacramento.

Andy and I were excited to work with Chicago Fire because it’s so close to home and we had actually been there before a few times (thanks to a $100 gift card that I won at a Christmas party my boss threw last year). Don’t ever try to win Christmas Carol Word Jumble against me. You will lose! 😉

We were able to actually use the gift card twice, so we had already tasted their fabulous version of gluten free pizza and already had a favorite wine we like to drink with our dinner (the Windy City Red blend that Boeger Winery creates just for Chicago Fire). 🙂 We already knew the service was great and were lucky enough once to have a server who had adopted a gluten free diet as well. I am seeing that more often in restaurants and it is very comforting.

It’s been a head-spinning 3 weeks since our visit (my apologies to the team at Chicago Fire for not being a little more timely on this piece–life has been absolutely crazy lately with multiple visits to San Francisco, training for a 20 mile race, working 45 hours a week, and being in the process of moving happening all at once). Still, I remember what a great time Andy and I had that night, and we always enjoy the food at the restaurant. So, here’s a recap of what we ordered:

Starter drinkys!! It was Friday night and I was ready for one of the cocktails I had seen earlier in the day on Chicago Fire’s inventive drink menu! I was interested because I saw a few descriptions that were not going to be sweet (like a lot of other drink menus unfortunately are). I picked the Basil Lemonade with Tito’s vodka muddled with fresh basil & lemon juice over ice. It hit the spot, just as I had imagined it would. Basil and lemon together in my drink, yes please! 🙂 Andy had a glass of Bolla Chianti. OK, now we’re all set…

starter drinks

In an effort to make the entire meal gluten-free, we chose the Baked Artichoke for an appetizer. It’s a whole artichoke, doused with lemony caesar sauce and topped with fresh parmesan cheese. Chicago Fire has quite a Greek influence in their menu and many things are flavored with lemon and garlic. That’s a plus in my book and in Andy’s, too because he is half Greek. 🙂 My favorite part of the artichoke was the cheese on top that had slightly browned and gotten crispy, and the way it tasted with fresh lemon juice on it. It was a great lead in to the salad we ordered.

artichoke

Next up we tried the Chicken Pesto Salad, which is a favorite of mine. It is made of Romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, pesto-marinated artichoke hearts and red onion. We ordered the house made pesto ranch dressing on the side. Pesto is one of my favorite sauces and the dressing that comes with the salad is addictive. 😉 The chicken on the salad was grilled perfectly. I recommend ordering a large size salad because it is perfect for sharing if you are a party of two and plan on ordering a pizza as well.

greek salad
I wanted to mention the wine pairing we had. This time, we did not order the Windy City Red that we usually drink, but instead went with a Greg Norman 2012 (Santa Barbara) Pinot Noir (because of the lighter nature of ingredients in our salad and our pizza). We chose the Greg Norman Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara) because it was a better value than the other Pinot Noir on the wine list (La Crema).

greg norman pinot noir
By now it was pizza time! We decided on the gluten free Greek pizza. The Greek is topped with Gyro meat, white Sauce, Artichoke Hearts, Kalamata Olives, Red Onion, Fresh Tomato, Feta Cheese & Pepperoncini and served with what else? Tzatziki on the side. Love it. My favorite part of the pizza (other than the super crispy edges on the crust were the little slices of Gyro meat that had also gotten super crispy/crunchy in the pizza oven. We squeezed the lemon juice over the slices for an extra burst of flavor and the tzatziki lemon combo was just paradise. It’s a real treat for Andy and I to eat pizza/things with crust/bread at all even if it is gluten free, so it was fun to try the Greek flavor combination on a crust. Bonus points for the presentation, one slice of pizza was slightly propped up with the ramekin that held the tzatziki sauce. Beautiful!

greek pizza
Thanks Chicago Fire, we’ll definitely be back for more very soon! We’ll continue to work our way around the menu of gluten free pizzas. We’ve already tried and given thumbs up to the Stockyard and Chicken Pesto on previous visits. 🙂

Chicago Fire has a loyalty program called Square Points. You can points as soon as you get a Square Points card from your server. By registering online, you’ll be able to redeem your points. Then you can earn more points when you buy food, drinks & merchandise. Some of the rewards from the Square Points membership include a free Deep Dish Delight on your birthday, a free specialty pizza for every 500 points, and free corkage. Of course the term FREE CORKAGE was music to our ears, so we decided to enroll in Square Points, too!

Are you hungry for a visit yet?!?! Good news for you if you aren’t near downtown but live closer to Folsom or Roseville, because in addition to the Midtown location on 2416 J Street, there are 3 other locations: Historic Folsom (Chicago Fire made its debut on Sutter Street in Folsom in March 2003), Folsom at Palladio, and in Roseville at Sunrise/Eureka.

Thanks for the wonderful hospitality and service all the way from the marketing team to the staff at Chicago Fire Midtown. We’ll see you again soon. 🙂

You can find Chicago Fire Pizza on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.


Farm to Fork Wine Dinner Series: Piatti Presents Matchbook Wines, Spectacular from Beginning to End!

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If you missed Piatti’s last wine dinner for the year featuring Matchbook Wines, I feel really bad for you! It was even more than I thought it would be––even though I knew it would be amazing. Piatti is one of my long time advertisers, and I have always been a fan of their food, but I never knew it could be pulled off like this. This dinner was probably one of the best meals I have eaten there. I think it’s mostly due to Chef Lance Carlini who combines his take on Italian cuisine with Farm to Fork/seasonal and brings it to a whole new level.

And then there were my wonderful table mates. So, at the Piatti wine dinners, patrons are sat 6 to a table, so you prepare to make new fellow loving wine friends–at least for the night! I was lucky enough to sit with Sharon, Tamara, Eduardo, and James and be a fifth wheel. 🙂

servers ready
We were sat fountain side with illuminated trees surrounding us. We had been welcomed with an opening glass of Matchbook’s Rosé of Tempranillo as John and Lane Giguiere (owners of the winery) were making the rounds and introducing themselves to each table.

Then it was onto the opening dish: A wood fired spot prawn with Grass Valley polenta and a hatch chili chimichurri. It was paired with the wine we were already enjoying: Matchbook’s 2013 Rose of Tempranillo, Dunnigan Hills.

shrimp copy
As you can see. the plating was flawless on this dish. My favorite element was the chimichurri (a green sauce made of chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white or red wine vinegar) which I love on anything from seafood to chicken to beef or pork.


The second course presented to us was a Riverdog Farm Potato Gnocchi served with fall squash, Apple Hill apples, lacinato kale and cream. It was served with the 2012 ‘Arsonist’ Chardonnay, Dunnigan Hills. The upfront nose on the wine revealed aromas of toasty oak, caramel apple and crème brûlée. It was an automatic match with the plump buttery gnocchi and apples in the cream sauce. Gnocchi is the only pasta I even missed post-Paleo, so this was like eating dessert for me!  Also, lots of wonderful comments from my table mates––they also loved the squash and apples in the dish. It was the essence of fall! Great pairing, Chef Carlini! 🙂

gnocchi copy copy

Then it was time to get serious. The third course presented to us was a Tinto Rey Red Braised Short Rib with Thyme Toasted Mushrooms and fresh Horseradish paired with the 2009 Tinto Rey Red Blend, California. The Tinto Rey is a red wine blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, Graciano, Tannat and Cabernet.

So, if you didn’t gather from the course description, the short rib was actually braised in the wine with which it was paired. We didn’t even really need a knife on this one, just a fork to pull apart the meat. Again, the plating was gorgeous and the pairing was genius.

short rib copy

Dessert came soon after that: A Milk Chocolate Mousse with Chocolate Cake, Sea Salt Caramel and Hazelnut––topped with Pomegranate arils. It was paired with the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County. I boxed up the dessert to take home to Andy, but took full advantage of the Cabernet. 🙂 The Matchbook Cabernet Sauvignon has vibrant ripe red fruit characteristics followed by layers of spice and earth and chocolate and that’s enough dessert for me!

dessert copy

I was completely wowed by this wine dinner and I was seated with the best company! Thanks to the marketing and management at Piatti for the great partnership we have had over the years. And thank you, Chef Lance Carlini! Amazing job. 🙂

As of October 25 this year, Matchbook now has a tasting room located in Zamora here.  GO VISIT THEM! 🙂

You can learn more about Matchbook Wines here. You can find them on Facebook here and their parent company on twitter here. You can find Piatti on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.


National Pizza Month: ZPizza’s Gluten Free Takeout–Hasty and Tasty!

So picture this: I work in Roseville (as a graphic designer/life saver) from 8:30am-5pm, and last Wednesday Andy and I have to be at a Kings Pre-season game by 7:00pm. Factor in a 30 minute commute time, and 10-15 minutes to get to the game from my house, and there’s pretty much NO TIME to cook and have a meal before we go.

Enter National Pizza Month and zpizza! They have a gluten free menu and salads suitable for a busy person like me.

All I had to do was call them ahead of time and let them know I wanted to pick up my order just a little after 5:00pm. I browsed their website, and chose what looked interesting to me. I thought their website was fantastic at showing what and was not available in gluten free. All you have to do is check a little box in the upper right hand corner, and the gluten free items remain listed, while the gluten items are grayed out. See?

online menu

So two items on the menu immediately caught my eye, beginning with the Arugula Salad! The salad has cucumbers, caramelized onions, parmesan cheese, candied walnuts and guess what? Arugula! Sold! I added on some avocado and chicken breast for an extra charge.

salad

The other menu item that grabbed my attention was the gluten free Italian pizza with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, ham, basil, pesto (yes!!) mozzarella cheese, and black olives. At first I was worried I didn’t order enough food, but as we ate, we both got really full. I guess we’re not used to having a treat as nice as pizza––even the gluten free variety––and any kind of dough is really filling. I had 3 pieces and it was so gooood. The crust was great and really crispy on the edges. The pesto was terrific and I only wish I had ordered extra on the side to dip the crust in! The crust had a nice buttery flavor and even a sort of flakey texture. I am glad I have Andy to eat the other 5 pieces, because I would have demolished them for sure! 😉

italianpizza

Now, onto the wine we had with dinner! 🙂

wines

Andy brought over 2 different wines to have with dinner. The white wine he brought was a 2012 Chardonnay from Mercy Vineyards. The second wine he brought (yep, I am pretty lucky to have such premium wines with a take out dinner!!) was a Cinsaut from Miner’s Leap which is produced from 127 year-old vines in Clarksburg!

Andy said he chose the wine pairing to resist the traditional “pizza wines” like sangiovese or chianti, because this pizza had pesto on it and really lent itself to a lighter style of wine. Enter the Chardonnay from Mercy––a less oakey more fruit forward wine, but still a Chardonnay lover’s wine, and the Pinot Noir mimicky Cinsaut from Miner’s Leap. Try either of these two and you’ll just think wow.

Kind of too fancy for pizza, but hey, gluten free zpizza is pretty fancy–especially before a Sacramento Kings game, so OK I’ll take it. 🙂

You can find Miner’s Leap on Facebook here and Mercy Vineyards on Facebook here.

If you find yourself short on time, order your pizza from zpizza online by CLICKING HERE!!
You can find zpizza on Pinterest here, on twitter here and on Facebook here.

PS: The Kings won the game against the Toronto Raptors, 113-106! 🙂


National Pizza Month: Gluten Free Options Galore at California Pizza Kitchen!

California-Pizza-Kitchen
Happy National Pizza Month!! Yes, October is National Pizza Month, and to celebrate, Andy and I are selflessly sacrificing being strict Paleo 😉 to try out some gluten free pizza options available in the area.

I can’t think of a more iconic place to begin the celebration than California Pizza Kitchen!

It’s been about 6 months since the renovation of California Pizza Kitchen at Arden Fair. This location of California Pizza Kitchen features The Next Chapter menu–updated with fresh and exciting dishes. We were invited to the event along with other local writers and were so impressed by the improvements that I decided I should eventually do a solo feature on their gluten free menu.

Of course, gluten free is a growing trend and a tasty gluten free pizza is in high demand. Especially for a pair of distance runners like Andy and me! 🙂

Here’s are the pizzas that now come gluten free (including the CPK classic BBQ Chicken pizza:

menu
Andy and I decided to order two salads and two pizzas. Hey, I had planned (and completed) a 10 mile training run the next day! 🙂

There are several salads on California Pizza Kitchen’s menu that are gluten free. We chose the Cobb Salad: Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon, avocado, chicken, tomatoes,
chopped egg, beets, fresh basil and Gorgonzola with housemade bleu cheese dressing (on the side). OK, so I love Cobb Salad and pretty much order it whenever possible. I have said in the past that a Cobb might possibly be my choice for last meal on Earth. I know that might sound a little odd, but the combination of chicken, avocado, bacon, and blue cheese crumbles is pretty much my favorite thing. New pizza variety perhaps? 😉

cobb

We also tried the Moroccan Spiced Chicken Salad with Roasted butternut squash, dates, avocado, toasted almonds, beets, red peppers, chopped egg, cranberries, and tossed with housemade Champagne vinaigrette.

moroccan chicken
The Morroccan Spiced Chicken salad was a refreshing take on a dinner salad. I loved the fall notes (cranberry) with the perfectly cooked butternut squash. The salads we ordered were the smaller size on the menu, so I can assure you, the portions are very generous.

Speaking of generous portions, the pizzas came out next! We ordered the Margarita pizza with Italian tomatoes with fresh Mozzarella, basil and Parmesan. Now, I haven’t had real pizza dough in as long as I can remember, but I have had about 10-20 different gluten free doughs since adopting a gluten free diet 3 1/2 years ago. I was pretty impressed with the texture and chew of the dough and the almost crispy edges of the crust. I also liked the sauce and cheese ratio on the pizza–as in, there was plenty of it! (See the slice on the lower right with the extra tomato? Mmmm. That’s the first slice I took! Sorry, Andy!)

margherita
And because we are meat lovers, we couldn’t pass up the Mushroom Pepperoni Sausage pizza with Cremini mushrooms, rustic pepperoni, spicy Italian sausage, fresh torn basil, Mozzarella and wild Greek oregano. I loved the huge chunks of sausage on this pie. Andy liked the fact that the pizza was cut into real wedges as opposed to squares. I was just having fun eating pizza with my best friend, no matter how you slice it. Pizza is something we just don’t get to have a lot of anymore, so it’s a pleasure to find a good gluten free alternative.

pepperoni sausage mushroom
For our wine pairing, we ordered a Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. A reasonably priced, full bodied red wine that reminded me more of a Cabernet. That was not an insult to wine, because typically a Cabernet is a finer wine than Malbec. Andy is always puzzled by my wine tastes and why I like a cheaper Malbec, but my taste in Cabernet is ultra expensive. 🙂 Bodega Tamarí is part of Viña San Pedro Tarapacá, Chile´s second largest group in the wine industry, selling over 27 million cases of wine yearly and exporting wine to 80 countries worldwide.

malbec
I really loved the gluten free pizza at California Pizza Kitchen and I am so happy this restaurant is now giving gluten free people an option besides salad. With the revamped menu and new choices available along with the updated interior, California Pizza Kitchen is a perfect choice for parties or large groups of people. There’s really something for everyone on the menu and it no longer feels like a cafeteria inside the restaurant. Everything on the menu is reasonably priced, making it a good spot for family night out or even a first date.

California Pizza Kitchen has also recently begun a rewards program called Pizza Dough. For every $100 you spend, you get $5 in rewards, redeemable on your next visit. Also, as an incentive to join the program, you get a FREE small plate when you register.

Special thanks to the marketing team I worked with to produce this piece and to Brendon, the Assistant General Manager of California Pizza Kitchen at Arden Fair. I’ll have to try some of those New Zealand Pinot Noirs you told us about. 🙂

You can find California Pizza Kitchen on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.


Frank Fat’s Celebrates 75 Years with a Special Pre-Fixe Menu until October 31st!

Last night, Andy and I were treated to a sampling of Frank Fat’s very best dishes in promotion of their 75th Anniversary Dinner Special.

chef mike

We met Head Chef Mike Lim and he spoke with us before our meal, not only about the food on the 75th Anniversary menu (below), but some other dishes available at Fat’s (a seasonal King Salmon dish and Farm to Fork People’s Choice Award recipient called Forbidden Salmon) and a Peach and Chicken Salad. Chef Lim will also be contributing a dish at this Sunday’s Farm-to-Fork’s Tower Bridge fundraising dinner.

image
First I will highlight the 75th Anniversary Menu items. Instead of trying the most Paleo friendly items on the menu and skipping the Banana Cream Pie, I took one for the team and tried them all! 😉

Before I dive into the food we had, I will discuss the wine. I was distracted by making sure we had reported in with social media via Swarm, Twitter, Facebook, etc., Andy chose a 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewürztraminer. He did this because a slightly sweeter (but not too sweet) wine was going to pair very well with almost all of the food we were going to try (a lot of sweet and sour ingredients). He figured this wine would strike the most balance and it did.

wine pairing

 

chicken salad
First course on the 75th Anniversary menu is a Chinese Chicken Salad: Shredded chicken breast with pickled cucumber, almonds, and a sweet and sour vinaigrette. The chicken is moist and cut in thin strips and there are crunchy fried wontons on top to give the salad multiple textures. The dressing on the salad was an amazing pairing with our wine (as Andy predicted). 🙂

 

honey walnut prawns
So instead of having to choose one main course each (as one would do if ordering from the pre-fixe menu, Chef Mike food bombed us with ALL of the dishes on the menu. Um, OK, twist my arm. (Everything you will see in this editorial except for the Yu Kwoks, Peach Chicken Salad, and Forbidden Salmon were inclusive on the pre-fixe.)  Next up was the Honey Walnut Prawns: Lightly fried prawns glazed with honey sauce, walnuts, sesame seeds. This dish is probably one of the most iconic at Fat’s, so no wonder it’s on the 75th Anniversary menu. It’s sweet, crunchy, and tangy. Again, a great pairing with the Gewürztraminer.

chicken stir fry
Then came the Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry: Chicken breast and mixed vegetables in a Garlic Sauce–the one thing I didn’t feel guilty about eating! 🙂 I love stir fry dishes because of their high protein and vegetables as carb ratio. But of course, tonight would be different and I would have real carbs, as we also sampled the fried rice on the pre-fixe menu.

fried rice
Next the Fried Rice dish: Young Shew Fried Rice: With barbecued pork, Chinese sausage, lettuce, and shrimp. It was nutty in flavor and had hints of sesame oil. The pork in the rice had been rendered so it was slightly crispy. The shrimp were small but plump and the little peas were bright green and fresh––they burst like little caviar when chewed.

At that point in the meal, I knew it would be extremely easy to write about. I sat there and realized how much I was enjoying the food because I hardly ever eat foods like fried rice or shrimp with carmelized walnuts. And hardly ever eating them makes them taste so much better when you do treat yourself!

signature steak
Then, the eagerly awaited (and another signature menu item at Fat’s): Frank’s Style New York Steak: A 5-ounce NY steak smothered in sauteed onions and oyster sauce. We ordered it rare, as you really should. You can’t see in the picture, but it really did come out rare. It was tender and juicy and piled high with onions and the sweet oyster sauce. This also arguably went with the Gewürztraminer.

The 75th Anniversary menu ends in Banana Creme Pie, the ever popular classic dessert at Frank Fat’s. At $27.95 per person, it’s a real bargain and a nice sampling of the food that made Frank Fat’s the empire it is today.

pie

Other food we sampled during the evening that was not on the pre-fixe menu:

Yu Kwok dumplings
Yu Kwok Dumpling: Frank’s special beef and pork dumpling, a Frank Fat specialty. I stopped at two of them, but I would have been happy to have them all. I had been craving dim sum for quite a while, and these really hit the spot. They are crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle, and filled with spiced ground beef and pork. They came with an array of dipping sauces–most interesting a chili sauce with some nice heat and a very interesting flavor that Chef Mike told me came from salted back bean. Yum! 🙂

salad
We were also able to try the Peach and Chicken Salad with honey walnuts and what? Feta cheese. Super seasonal and very Farm-to-Fork–and off the wall, as I have never seen Feta cheese in a Chinese restaurant. Loved it!


forbidden salmon
My favorite dish of the evening was the “Forbidden King Salmon”: Salmon a la Plancha (grilled on a metal plate) and served with with Black Forbidden Rice, Heirloom Tomato and Lemongrass Veloute, Cilantro. It was with this plate I could truly see what Chef Mike is trying to do (and succeeding in doing) at Fat’s. He is using traditional Chinese techniques to make farm-to-fork cuisine. It’s not really a fusion thing, it’s more of using the methods already in place to elevate our bounty of seasonal ingredients.

The salmon dish was also a great example of incorporating different textures. The fish was perfectly cooked and flakey on top, the forbidden rice was almost a little sticky, but not as sticky as sushi rice, and there was a tomato and lemongrass veloute sauce on the bottom that brought the whole plate together.

It was all makings for a course I will not soon forget. Sadly, it won’t be available much longer, as salmon season is fleeting. So do yourself a favor and stop in for lunch to try the Forbidden Salmon. Take a half day off if you have to. It’s really that special.

Thanks to Frank Fat’s restaurant for hosting us, Chef Mike for stopping in the middle of a slightly busy dinner service to talk to us about the food, and thanks to Rosie, our server, who took very good care of us.

The fortune inside my fortune cookie really summed up the whole night:

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Though the 75th Anniversary Menu promotion ends October 31st and from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, Fat’s will be hiding a $75 gift card in different locations around Sacramento that are noteworthy to the Fat family’s history. Clues for the “15 days of Fat’s” promotion will be posted on the Frank Fat’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts as well as on the frankfats75.com website.

The special anniversary pre-fixe menu only lasts until October 31st, so make those reservations ASAP! You can find Frank Fat’s on Facebook here and follow Fat’s Restaurants on twitter here.


Spiced Lamb and Vegetable Kabobs

Probably my favorite thing to make for dinner during summer is kabobs. They’re simple, healthy, and take very little time to prepare. I put together this spice rub for lamb we bought last weekend from Taylor’s Market. It was London broil, and the butcher even cubed the meat for us.

Spice Mix:
1 Tbs Chili powder
1 Tbs Cumin
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Curry
1/2 tsp Salt

London broil Lamb (cut into cubes for kabobs) from Taylor’s Market

Assorted Vegetables
(mushrooms, peppers, red onion, squash)

Mix all the spices together in a small bowl. Place the cubed meat in a medium-sized bowl and pour about 1/8 to 1/4 cup olive oil over the meat. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the meat and oil and mix together with your hands until well combined.

Marinate the meat for about 20-30 minutes.

Chop the vegetables and if you are using wooden skewers rather than metal, allow them to soak in some water while you are chopping the vegetables, so that they won’t burn when exposed to the grill.

Arrange the vegetables and meat on the skewers. Of course, this isn’t rocket science… however you arrange the skewers is up to you. We had a lot of extra meat left, so we ended up doing a few skewers with meat and onions only.

Grill the kabobs until the vegetables are slightly charred and the meat is cooked to your liking.

We paired the kabobs with a Tempranillo from Fall Line Winery.


Paleo Dining: Speak up! Ask questions! Take charge!

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Dining out can be a little tricky on the Paleo diet. Standard restaurant menus are a gauntlet of gluten, sugar, and dairy laden dishes, not to mention the cheap seed oils that are used to prepare them.

The above slide show is from a restaurant at which my Paleo partner and I dined called Coyote Bar & Grill.

In the title I say, “Speak up!” because in order to stick to the principles of a gluten-free, sugar-free diet, you are often times going to find yourself in need of certain menu substitutions to make restaurant meals work best for you. And THAT IS OK! You are the customer, and you are paying for your meal. You should enjoy it and not fret about what the server or the chef will think of you if you ask for something special.

Of course, substitutions and modifications might not work so much in a chain restaurant (especially fast food) because food is not made to order), but typically most restaurants are glad to accommodate a customer with special dietary needs. Especially if they ever want to see that customer ever again.

When we dined at Coyote, we were very hungry from running in the Carlsbad 5000 5K race. Directly after the race, my boyfriend had conquered a half chicken at Pollos Maria, but it was 4 hours later, and his appetite had come back with a vengeance. And I was ready to eat, too, after running harder than I ever have in my entire life.

For our appetizer, we ordered the “Guacamole Especial”, which on the menu is listed as “homemade guac, cheese, salsa fresca, tortilla chips”. All I had to do was ask if they could substitute some sort of raw vegetable for the tortilla chips, and please leave off the cheese. They were very agreeable and the BF and I were able to enjoy a perfectly Paleo prelude to our entrees. 🙂

For my main course, I ordered the Grilled Seafood Salad: Grilled scallops, prawns, fresh fish, mixed greens, Feta cheese, tomato, baby corn & Lemon-Cilantro Vinaigrette. To make it Paleo, all I had to do was ask the server to leave off the dressing, and I picked around the cheese and the baby corn. Everything else was perfect!

BF ordered the Grilled Salmon and asked for double grilled vegetables instead of the wild rice. The dinner also came with a mixed greens salad. We also ordered 4 shrimp skewers ala carte. After my salad, I could only eat one of them. I also wanted to note that instead of dressing, I often mix in guacamole into my greens. That way I avoid sugars and soy oil blends (often GMOs) that are notorious ingredients in salad dressings (even house made ones).

So, remember when you go out to eat, you’re in the driver’s seat. You can choose where to go and several details about your meal (in many cases down to how it is prepared). Don’t worry about being a pain if you ask for something that’s not exactly spelled out on the menu. Ask how things are prepared and stay away from adjectives like “breaded, fried”. Words such as “grilled, raw, steamed” are your new best friends!

Happy dining to all my Paleo friends out there!

PS: If you have any Paleo/Primal dining tips/tricks please feel free to share them below! 🙂


Sacramento’s Dine Downtown Week: Mayahuel and the best steak ever!!

Hello Sacramento! Welcome to Dine Downtown week! I just want to take a moment of your time to recommend a restaurant that might not yet be that well known. It’s called Mayahuel (pronounced Ma-Ha-Kwell) and it’s located diagonally from one of my other favorite restaurants, Ella. You’ve heard of Ella, right?
OK, well back to Mayahuel and Dine Downtown. It starts today and you must try this restaurant. First, they brought out this soup. It was made with nopales, and a little on the spicy side. It was kind of like an amuse bouche. 
During this time, the BF and I made our wine selection for the evening–yes, you can get decent wine in a Mexican restaurant–the Napa Toro Chardonnay. Feel free to like them on Facebook now. 😉 Because it was actually pretty good wine. 
I have to give a shout out to our server, Franscisco. He was the epitome of service. So polite, and so genuinely kind.
After meeting us, he presented the two appetizer choices from the Dine Downtown menu. First, was the Eclipse de Sol: it was composed of beets, orange rings in a citrus sauce with pickled onions, peanuts and a touch of oregano. 
Then came the soup, called Flor de Calabaza con Perfume de Tequila: a Creamy Squash Blossom soup with infused tequila. Yes, please! It was topped with tortilla strips, providing a pleasant crunch.

And now, for the stunning entrées. And I am not kidding here, they WERE stunning. I was so blown away with the flavors, the amount of food on the plate, and how perfect everything was cooked.

First, my BF ordered the Mixiotes de Pollo en Adobo Huasteco: Chicken and mushrooms with nopales in a Cascabel & Pasilla chile Adobo sauce, served with white rice and Mexican zucchini slices. The chicken was super tender and the sauce was mild, yet incredibly flavorful. As you can see, the portion was very generous. The wine we chose previously (the Napa Toro Chardonnay) was a great complement to this dish.
And then, let me present to you, the best steak I have ever had in a restaurant, the Ojo de Costilla con Costra de Chorizo Rib eye steak with a chorizo crust, on a bed of seasoned mushrooms in an adobo salsa. I was literally cutting my steak with my fork. It was exquisite, and I am not exaggerating. If you only try one thing off the menu at Mayahuel, please give this a go, (order it rare or medium rare). It will knock your little stockings off! I didn’t even mention the chorizo. It was so flavorful and added another dimension to the meal.
And then out came the mariachi band… they were wonderful and the crowd was loving it. I was so pleased to see the restaurant packed around us and everyone was in a convivial mood.

Then it was time for dessert. First, our server Francisco, brought out the Pastel de Queso y Chayote (a Chayote cheese cake and mole in chocolate sauce). Mole is a perfect addition to a dessert because of its components and texture. The chayote works in the dessert because it’s a squash and has an inherent slightly sweet taste and tender texture. That being said, I don’t think you’re gonna find this at the Cheesecake Factory, folks, only at Mayahuel! (Thanks to the BF for tasting the sugary treats).

The other dessert option was the Flan de Chile Ancho. It was a flan made with ancho chiles of all things, and finished with Grand Marnier. It has a beautiful strawberry and blueberry garnish. The BF tells me the combination of the ancho and the Grand Marnier was uniquely flavorful.

So, not only do you get the food I just showed you above, but for the $30, included at the end of the meal, is the 1/2 ounce tequila tasting. Our bartender, Oscar, was extremely knowledgeable and passionate, and had a true encyclopedic knowledge of tequila.

The tequila we tried was the Jose Cuervo Platino, and it was served in a champagne flute in order to provide the best tasting experience. It’s truly the stemware that makes all the difference in a tasting. It can really bring out the oaky and fruity notes of a particular wine or beverage. What a nice little digestif, and it was such a treat to get some background information on tequila from Oscar.

If you haven’t been to Mayahuel Tequila Museo, you are missing out on a true downtown gem. Dine Downtown week kicks off Monday, January 9th and runs through Wednesday, January 18th. This event is a great way to try out some of Sacramento’s finest.
Mayahuel is on Facebook here and on twitter here. To make reservations, you can call them at or check them out on Open Table here.

Sacramento’s Dine Downtown Week: Make Blue Prynt Part of Your Plans!

Sacramento’s Dine Downtown week kicks off on Monday, January 9th and runs through January 18th, 2012. For 10 days only, local chefs will create special three-course dinner menus for only $30 per person.

“Whether you’re a foodie, experienced restaurateur or someone looking for a little excitement in your diet, Dine Downtown is a great reason to venture out and dine at variety of restaurants that you wouldn’t normally try.” said Megan Emmerling of the Downtown Partnership. “From fine dining restaurants to casual neighborhood spots, we love seeing the participating restaurants flourish during the 10 days of Dine Downtown.”

Last night, I was fortunate enough to preview the menu that Chef Jason Lockard has created for Blue Prynt Restaurant. Before I even show pictures or describe the dishes, I can tell you that the amount of food you get for $30 makes Blue Prynt a steal. Also, it was a lot of fun to go to a place brand new to me, and to see that their menu was widely accessible to people on different diets.

(Click on the image to enlarge).

To begin our meal, we chose the St. Supery Élu, and chatted about the wine with our server Gary (bonus points to Blue Prynt for knowledgable waitstaff). The evening was already off to a great start because the BF and I love to talk wine!! The Élu is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec, and was an excellent choice to pair with the main course that was to come.

I wanted to mention that if you opt for the $30 prix fixe, you’ll also get big basket of warm garlic bread. My BF and I are gluten-free, so we passed on it in order to leave room for the other courses.

The BF ordered the oysters on the half shell, served with a spicy Thai dressing…

And I ordered the shrimp cocktail, lemon poached jumbo prawns served with a fresh grated horseradish cocktail sauce. I didn’t eat a lot of the sauce, because I love fresh seafood by itself, but I really liked that kicked up horseradish flavor!

The additional appetizer option is a Mushroom Basket and is described on the menu as “a mix of sautéed Dragon Gourmet Mushrooms on a bed of house made rosemary garlic bread topped with creamy goat cheese and wrapped in a cumin dusted phyllo dough”

Now do I have your attention? 🙂

Not only did the prix fixe option include bread and an appetizer, we also had a salad/soup option.
There is a seafood chowder on the menu for a soup choice, but I went with a Caesar Salad, and BF went with a spring mix salad with dill and caper dressing.

For dinner we both ordered the “King of New York”, a 12-ounce choice cut strip loin with a crown royal and royal trumpet mushroom chasseur sauce, and served with blue cheese mashed potatoes and green beans. The mashed potatoes aren’t truly allowed in my diet, but I still had a few bites of them to try. I really loved the incorporation of blue cheese. I boxed the rest up to make room for the thick cut of steak on my plate! Beef and mushrooms is one of my favorite flavor combinations. So classic and never goes out of style, so good move by the Chef to include it on the Dine Downtown menu. Also, I want to explain that we each got a full entrée for our main course (one 12-ounce strip each) and did not have to share this plate. The BF polished his entire meal off Adam Richman style, but I don’t think I made it through 5 ounces before I threw in the towel. 

We also ordered the same thing for dessert (chocolate covered strawberries), so this picture represents what one person receives. We took the other portion home to enjoy later with The Improviser.
The Dine Downtown menu kicks off Monday, but why wait for that? Head into Blue Prynt for dinner tonight. They have a great mix of art on the walls, and even have Chimay on tap! 
Also, there is a Gin Tasting coming up on February 3rd for $12, as well as a Crab Feed on February 11th ($35 for all you can eat.) And if you want to just swing by after a long day at the office, here’s a link to their Happy Hour menu. 

Blue Prynt’s Facebook page is located here and you can follow them on twitter here.

For a full list of the Dine Downtown participating restaurants and their menus, you can click here.


Seattle’s Historic Mayflower Park Hotel

Ah Seattle. Good times. We’ll definitely be back. And most likely, we’ll again stay at The Mayflower Park Hotel, a 75 year-old gem in uptown Seattle.
The hotel began as the Bergonian Hotel on July 16th, 1927 and has been in constant operation ever since. It was designed by B. Dudley Stuart and cost $750,000 to build. The name “Bergonian” came from the hotel’s then proprietor, Stephen Berg, who was a prominent builder at the time. 
Opening prices for rooms at the hotel ranged from $2.00 to $3.50 for one person and $3.00 to $4.50 for 2 persons. Rooms with twin beds were $4.00 to $5.50 and suites were $5.00 to $10.00 per night.
Here’s a picture of the lobby and reception desk inside the hotel, which has been restored with crystal chandeliers, brass and period
antiques.
In 1974, Birney Dempcy formed a limited partnership to purchase the hotel. At the time, it had been foreclosed upon and was very run down. Birney renamed the hotel The Mayflower Park awaiting the development of the city’s Westlake Park.
Following major renovations in 1976 and 1988, the Mayflower Park is always being upgraded and refurbished to keep it as beautiful as it was when it opened in 1927. Recently, the hotel was recognized as one of the Historic Hotels of America because of it’s history and architecture. The Mayflower Park prides itself on being “quite simply, one of a kind” which has become their marketing slogan.
Their logo and marketing pieces are quite beautiful, and here is the
little welcome present that was waiting for me in the room.
Tea, fruit and nut mix, and chocolate truffles were in the bag.
Our room was so comfortable, had 2 televisions, and had the option of converting into two rooms by a sliding door. The couch in our suite’s main room could be pulled out for extra guests.

We stayed on the ninth floor, and it provided a fantastic

view of holiday lights and activities going on below us.

 

One amenity I always look for in a hotel is the fitness room. And Mayflower Park’s is located on the third floor. It is equipped with 2 treadmills, a stairclimber, and 2 stationary bikes, as well as a set of free weights I found very useful. The BF would run outside and I would retreat to the workout room so that later in the day we were free to enjoy our meals at Andaluca, Place Pigalle, and Fall Line Winery.

Here’s another shot of the lobby. There was a Christmas party
in the room upstairs on one of the evenings of our stay.

This is inside Oliver’s, the bar in The Mayflower Park. The spot used to be one of the first Bartell Drug Stores, since the hotel was built during Prohibition and no areas were designated to serve alcohol. The dining area of the hotel was a coffee shop located where Andaluca is now, and in part of that area, Andaluca once lived as a barber shop. Prices in the 54-seat coffee shop ranged from 10 cents for coffee, to 20 cents for chicken broth, and $2.00 for a sirloin steak. Oliver’s (shown below), opened in 1976 and became Washington’s first “daylight” bar. Prior to that, Washington had “blue laws” that prohibited anyone from looking into a lounge where hard liquor was sold.

The huge windows and lights outside made it such a romantic place to be.
Here’s another shot from where I was sitting.

Oliver’s features a special cocktail called The Golden 27, honoring the year the hotel originally opened as the Bergonian. Here’s the recipe:

Golden 27

Half fill a mixing glass with ice, then add 1/4 oz. Lemoncello Lemon Liqueur, 1 1/4 oz. Ketel One Vodka, 1 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin, and a pinch of Gold Luster Dust. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Following dinner on one of the nights of our stay, we had dessert in our room. I found just what I needed on the room service menu… my favorite: fruit and cheese!!
So many happy memories and so much fun in Seattle. Thank you to all my advertising partners!

If you are planning a visit to Seattle, please consider the Mayflower Park hotel. They’ve got a few ongoing specials including one for New Years and in 2012, they are teaming up with the Seattle Art Museum during their showcase of Paul Gauguin.

You can find The Mayflower Park Hotel on twitter here and their Facebook page is here.


Andaluca Restaurant in the Mayflower Park Hotel

Andaluca Restaurant is located adjacent to the Mayflower Park Hotel (where we stayed during our recent trip to Seattle).
Instead of rushing back out to eat after our check-in at the Mayflower Park, we opted to dine at Andaluca. It was so nice to simply walk down the stairs and be seated at our table.
Andaluca had a special that evening (all wines from Washington were at a 20% discount), so we chose the 2009 O’Shea Scarborough Chardonnay to kick things off. This wine release is aged 18 months entirely in neutral oak with barrel fermentation and is a classic oaky and buttery chardonnay.
When it was time to order dinner, we opted for the special Prix Fixe “Tour of the Meditteranean” for $39 per person, so that we could taste a wide spectrum of the menu. It’s a great deal because it includes a salad or soup, three small plates and a dessert for each person.

The beginning-of-meal bread basket comes with a ramekin of house made hummus. Hummus is real treat for me (because I really don’t eat legumes anymore at all), but I didn’t touch the bread. Instead, I used the hummus as a dressing on the salad I ordered.

My salad was a Pear Salad with mixed organic greens, stilton cheese, hazelnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette.

The BF ordered the Green Bean and Roasted Beet Salad with mixed organic greens, goat cheese, marcona almonds, roasted carrots, and sherry shallot vinaigrette.

This is the mini crab tower with dungeness crab, avocado, palm hearts, and gazpacho salsa.
Then it was onto a Beef Tenderloin Skewer with a marsala demi glace. I really enjoyed this one!


Next, I ordered the Grilled Quail with shallots, mushrooms, black currant jus. I had just had an exquisite quail appetizer at Hurley’s in Yountville a few weeks prior, so I saw no reason to quit my quail habit anytime soon. It was cooked perfectly (it’s a tiny creature and easy to overcook).


The BF ordered the Broken Egg Papas Frites made up of fried yukon gold potatoes, chorizo, and roasted mushrooms. I had most of the egg–I love dishes with runny egg.


These are the Roasted Mussels with baby tomatoes, sizzling lemon butter, rosemary, lemons, and finished with white wine.  I have had my share of gamey, metallic mussels, but these tasted sweet and subtle. I would eat mussels all the time if they were more like these.

The next bottle of wine we tried (yes, bottle number 2, don’t judge) was a 2008 Hedges Family Estate “Red Mountain”. It is a blend of 36% Cabernet Sauvignon; 33% Merlot; 14% Syrah; 11% Cabernet Franc; and 6% Malbec. It was full bodied and a great pairing with our desserts… especially my cheese plate (pictured below):


For dessert, I ordered the Cabrales Cheese Selection 1 oz. cow and goat milk cheese blend from the north of Spain, with a pear and almond compote. To my surprise, it was a blue cheese (my favorite!)

This is the Garrotxa plate that the BF ordered. It has 1 oz. goat’s milk cheese from the Catalonia region with red wine tempranillo reduction and grapes and crostini.

Meet our server, Chris. His service was exceptional at Andaluca. Since I had a gift card, he did not know he was going to be written about until I told him at the end of the meal and asked for his picture. He was very knowledgable about the menu and the wine list. Great job!

The head chef at Andaluca is Wayne Johnson. He has been at the helm since 1999. Some of you might have seen his appearance on Iron Chef America this year when he competed against Michael Symon. The secret ingredient was cucumbers! You can see video of the competition here.

If you’re in Seattle or planning a trip there, Andaluca is not to be missed. You can find Andaluca on Facebook here follow them on twitter here, and visit their website here.

Place Pigalle in Seattle: Romance on the Waterfront

Probably the most romantic dinner I have ever had was on November 2nd of this year. My boyfriend made dinner and for dessert surprised me at the end of the meal with my favorite treat: bacon wrapped dates. To be honest, every time he has ever made dinner for me has been very special, and every time I come over to his house it is quite like he is throwing a little party for me. The kicker is that he can really cook, so everything is delicious and I don’t have to pretend to like it. Also, I am no longer in charge of making all the food which is also an added bonus. 😉

But dear readers, while it is fresh in my mind I want to tell you about a restaurant we visited in Seattle just last Friday night called Place Pigalle. My meal at Place Pigalle was THE most romantic dinner I have ever had (so far, that is)! Place Pigalleis located through a little corridor behind Seattle’s Pike Place Market Fish Throwers and overlooks Seattle’s Puget Sound.Place Pigalle began as a watering hole called the Lotus Inn. The Lotus Inn used to be a hub at which sailors could imbibe before meeting up with a lady friend at the bordello upstairs.

A woman by the name of Nellie Curtis ran the bordello (which she masked as a hotel). Then eventually the owners of the hotel, Rosuke and T.K. Kodama, were sent to an internment camp in 1942, and Curtis purchased the hotel lease. She ran her business for years, evading crackdowns and even an earthquake in 1949.

Sometime in the 50’s, The Lotus (equipped with a sawdust floor and an alleged blind accordion player) became Place Pigalle. The name comes from the red-light district in Paris. Patrons of Place Pigalle used to toss beer and wine bottles out the west windows and watch them sail 50 feet down to the sidewalk and ravine.

By the 60’s the biker crowd that frequented the tavern called it “Pig Alley”, and it became a popular venue for bikers and commoners.

In the 70’s, Place Pigalle became a mecca of sorts for artists, merchant marines, hippies and world travelers. Visitors were attracted by the view and the jukebox, which played everything from Edith Piaf to Jimi Hendrix.

In 1982, Place Pigalle was remodeled when Bill Frank (the bartender) took ownership. He made major improvements to the menu and even the equipment in the kitchen (by tearing out the Sears electric range). It was shortly after that, the restaurant began to attract a more serious following by distinctive diners.

Seth and Lluvia Walker now own Place Pigalle and keep a strong commitment to the restaurant’s tradition and history.

Below is a peek inside the dining room, which is on the smaller side, but looks spacious thanks to lots of windows and an enormous mirror on one side of the room.
Bar area at Place Pigalle
At the table, were my favorite flowers, tulips, which I normally don’t see until spring. 🙂
If you go to Place Pigalle, do everything you can to sit at table four. That’s pretty much the best view in the restaurant, which can be very helpful if you are trying to woo someone. 😉
We started with a 1/2 Dungeness Crab for our appetizer. The crab is served with with tarragon aioli, drawn butter, and lemon. To pair with the crab, we ordered a few glasses of sparking wine, and our server suggested a 2008 Prosecco, Bortolomiol, Brut, Filanda Rosé Valdobbiadene, made from 100% Pinot Noir.
I am pretty sure I could have ordered another crab and a bottle of the prosecco for my meal, but I was too excited to order other dishes once I saw the full menu (which I would describe as French-inspired).
 
The BF ordered the Roasted Beet Salad with Baby Arugula, Toasted Walnuts, Chèvre, Shallots, Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette. It is a warm salad, and the Chèvre is rolled in the toasted walnuts in a little cheese ball. The arugula is a bitter contrast to the natural sweetness to the beets, and the flavors are all tied together with the vinaigrette. I ALMOST wish I had ordered the beet salad, but…
I was quite pleased with my Mixed Greens Salad. It was made with Gorgonzola, Spiced Pecans, Roasted Garlic, and served with Wildflower Honey Vinaigrette.

To accompany dinner, we ordered a bottle of a Bordeaux blend, the 2004 Château Greysac, Cru Bourgeois, Médoc. The Médoc part of the name refers to the region (and Médoc is the largest wine making region of Bordeaux, France). A perfect little French wine to go with what was to come next!

For my entrée, I ordered the rabbit roulade prepared with house-made duck and rabbit sausage, argula, onion jam, and a huckleberry reduction. I am a little ashamed to tell you that I pretty much cleaned my plate other than a piece of the roulade I bartered with the BF so I could taste just a little more of…

My BF’s Cattail Farms Lamb Foreshank with a chestnut purée, squash Napolean, and swimming in a little moat of jus. And I think I actually liked the lamb just a tiny bit better than my dinner! As flavorful as the rabbit was, the lamb was on the very next level. With the food and the wine and the company being so perfect, I could not have asked for more. I only wish I could have taken photos of the view from our table, but they just don’t do it justice.

Near the end of our dinner, Seth, (one of the owners of Place Pigalle) came by our table and introduced himself. We talked a little bit about food, wine and social media. Yes, my favorite topics! 😉

Seth graciously posed for a picture with me. 🙂
As I write this I find myself  craving the food we had, and dreaming of the components in the dishes… Like, I have an acorn squash in the fridge and I am thinking about how good the duck sausage (that was in the rabbit roulade) would be baked inside an acorn squash!!
Thanks to Seth, the chef, the sommelier, and the waitstaff for making everything perfect and a night I will remember forever!

Place Pigalle is open for lunch 11:30-3:00 everyday and for dinner 5:30-9:30 Monday-Thursday and 5:30-10:00 Friday-Saturday. They close at 3:00 on Sunday.

You can follow Place Pigalle on twitter here and you can find them on Facebook here. To make a reservation, you can go here or you can call the restaurant at 206.624.1756. Tell them you NEED table four!

PS: (Extra tip) There is free parking available After 5pm in the Public Market Parking Garage. The Public Market Parking garage offers covered parking and is connected to the Market’s Main Arcade by an elevator and sky bridge.