I finally decided to go for it and start my own video podcast.
I’ll be discussing my usual topics: food, wine, travel and fitness, and I will also be welcoming guests to sit at my dining room table and chat over a glass of wine.
I’ll be kicking it off in a few weeks, and I would really love it if you would subscribe.
To subscribe to my channel, please click here and hit the SUBSCRIBE button. See you soon!
I’m a big fan of saving money, and for that reason, I love going to Grocery Outlet a few times a week to see what kind of deals I can find on food (and wine)!
They have an organic section with healthier packaged items and quite often, I am able to find organic meats in there, too, like the Rocky and Rosie organic drumsticks ($2.29/lb.) and thighs ($3.99/lb.) I bought yesterday. I already had the coconut milk from another shopping trip (2 cans for 50 cents!) and planned on cooking with it with whatever meat I found.
In the freezer section I found a bag of rice blend (Quinoa, Brown Rice and Pumpkin Seeds) and a bag of cauliflower rice, as well as some frozen peas. I ended up combining a little of all three (to lower calories and carbs) for a rice blend that I served with the chicken.
The chicken recipe I made is one of the easiest I have ever prepared, but it’s not my recipe. Today I give credit to Epicurious for a wonderful recipe I actually followed to the letter, except for the oven temperature/time (I baked my chicken at 385°F for one hour). My only complaint with the recipe is that it isn’t spicy enough. I would make it again and add some red pepper flakes and perhaps a touch more ginger.
Pro tip: I use the lemongrass paste out of a squeezy bottle and ginger paste from a jar. It’s a little more expensive, but the paste can be put in the fridge and lasts over several recipes, so you don’t have to keep buying it or cutting it up.
1 (13.5-oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk
2 Tbsp. Thai curry paste
2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer layers removed, lightly crushed
1 (2″) piece ginger, peeled, smashed
6 garlic cloves, smashed
4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick; about 3 lb. total)
Toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
cilantro leaves with tender stems,
lime wedges (for serving)
1. Place a rack in top third of oven; preheat to 400°F. Stir coconut milk and curry paste in a 3-qt. baking dish to combine. Add lemongrass, ginger, and garlic.
2. Season chicken with salt (hold back a bit since curry pastes often have a lot of salt). (I used a bowl to mix the coconut milk/curry paste ingredients together and then poured them over the chicken in a glass baking dish). Bake, occasionally spooning liquid over, until chicken is browned, tender, and cooked throughout, 60–75 minutes.
3. Transfer chicken and sauce to a platter. Top with coconut flakes and cilantro. Serve with rice and lime wedges alongside.
In the current issue of Outword Magazine, I wrote a piece on making dessert from Girl Scout cookies. Today I am sharing the second recipe from that article, and my husband’s favorite of the three treats I made (the third recipe will be in the next issue of Outword Magazine, coming March 11th): Toast Yay! Fudge. This recipe features the newest Girl Scout cookie: Toast YAY! This recipe is also one of the easiest things I have ever made. The only tricky part is melting the white chocolate, as it burns easier than milk or dark chocolate does. You can also substitute Lily’s Sugar Free White Chocolate Chips (sugar free and made with Stevia) to reduce the sugar content and carbs in the recipe (there will of course still be sugar in the condensed milk and in the cookies themselves).
1 Package Toast Yay! Girl Scout Cookies, broken into large pieces
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
2-2/3 cups white baking chips
1 tsp vanilla or maple extract
Line an 8-in. square dish with aluminum foil; coat with cooking spray.
Place half of the broken cookies in pan.
In a heavy saucepan (use a double boiler if you are concerned about burning the chocolate), combine the milk, butter and chips; cook and stir over low heat until chips are melted.
Remove from heat; stir in vanilla or maple extract.
Pour over cookies in pan. Sprinkle with remaining cookies.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Cut into squares..
PS: You can buy Girl Scout Cookies until March 28th, so please do! Just go to www.GirlScoutCookies.org and enter your zip code. You can also text COOKIES to 59618 (message and data rates may apply. Text STOPGS for STOP, HELPGS for help).
Professionally, I work for Outword Magazine in Sacramento as a graphic designer, photographer, editor, and occasional writer. In their latest issue I wrote two recipes, one of which I will share with you today: Lemon “Lemonades” Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce.
I know you might be thinking, “I am on the right website? I thought this was a health website. I thought she was gluten free…” Well, sometimes it’s OK to eat the cookies or the cheesecake, as long as you don’t eat all of it. I’m still 90% gluten-free, and still rarely eat desserts, but that doesn’t mean I don’t bake anymore or share treats from time to time. I was pretty hardcore for a few years, but I missed baking and creating crazy treat combinations, so the last few years I’ve come back to it. I’ve also managed to maintain my size, so weight gain is not a big problem anymore. My husband (who has the best metabolism of anyone I have ever met) does a great job of eating everything I make, so it’s not laying around tempting me. I also know the work I have to do at the gym to burn it off, and I would rather not spend more time at the gym than I already do.
PS: You can buy Girl Scout Cookies until March 28th, so please do! Just go to www.GirlScoutCookies.org and enter your zip code. You can also text COOKIES to 59618 (message and data rates may apply. Text STOPGS for STOP, HELPGS for help).
Lemon “Lemonades” Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce
1/2 sleeve Girl Scout Shortbread/Trefoils
1/2 sleeve Girl Scout Lemonades Cookies
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Zest of 1 Lemon
2 Tsp lemon juice
1/2 stick of butter, melted
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 sleeve Girl Scout Lemonades Cookies
Raspberry Sauce Ingredients:
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1-3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon water, divided
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Crust Directions: Preheat oven to 325°F (300°F for convection ovens). Crush the two varieties of Girl Scout Cookies in a plastic bag with rolling pin or in a food processor, then transfer the crumbs to a bowl. Add the flour, zest, lemon juice, and then the melted butter and stir until mixture comes together to form a dough. Press the dough into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan and set aside.
Filling Directions: Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with mixer until blended. Add eggs; beat just until blended. Pour into crust. Bake 40 min. or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 3 hours.
Raspberry Sauce Directions: In a saucepan, combine the raspberries, 1-3/4 cups water and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Mash raspberry mixture and strain through a fine sieve into a 2-cup measuring cup; discard seeds. Add water if needed to make 2 cups puree. Return to the saucepan. Combine cornstarch and remaining water until smooth; gradually stir into raspberry mixture. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook and stir 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat; cool completely. Spread over cooled cheesecake, and if desired, decorate cheesecake with Girl Scout Lemonade Cookies!
I’ve always wanted to be a chef, but never went all in because I was too busy trying to make a living as a graphic designer for the last 22 years. I went to culinary school for a brief period of time, but only finished one semester.
In the past, I auditioned for Cupcake Wars, and two other shows on Food Network. I came close to getting on the show Cooks Vs. Cons, but when it came to logistics, I think they went with someone local to New Jersey where the show is filmed. I have appeared on a few local morning shows, as well as performed cooking demonstrations at the California State Fair, and the Auburn Mandarin Festival.
Just today I saw a contest that I would like to win, and even though it would be a long shot, it’s like the saying goes, “You can’t win, if you don’t enter…”
So that being said, take a look at my pics below for your consideration, and then please vote for me for Favorite Chef. I could win a feature in Bon Appetit magazine and $20,000. I would use the $20,000 to start my catering business and buy space and equipment.
You can vote for me HERE.
The hotel is as welcoming as it was during my first stay there in 2013 and has undergone some major renovations (new paint and outdoor carpeting outside the rooms) to keep her looking as pink and fabulous as ever!
As the beautiful, wood-carved sign above says, The Hofsas House Hotel has a heated pool… but did you know they also have saunas? I never realized during my two previous stays there were saunas at the hotel, and I just loved using them after my workouts this visit!
The Hofsas House Hotel is located within walking distance of everything Carmel has to offer, including a stunning beach, fine restaurants and shops, and wine tasting. It provides a peaceful respite and European charm just minutes from Monterey, Pebble Beach, Big Sur, and Pacific Grove. The Hofsas House Hotel‘s 38 spacious, one-of-a-kind rooms boast European comfort and lovely views, not to mention amenities like fireplaces, private balconies, wet bars, kitchens, and patios.
As for our particular accommodations, the room we stayed in at The Hofsas House Hotel had a big comfy bed, fireplace, heated tiles in the bathroom floor (which I didn’t know I needed, but I do, thank you!), and a kitchenette equipped with mini-refrigerator, microwave, sink, and giant coffee pot, which is so necessary for people who don’t want to talk to anyone without coffee first—um, me!! There is even a countertop and barstools for in-room dining. Let’s not forget, there’s also an ocean view from room 45! Why aren’t you here yet?
Treat yourself with the Monterey Wine and Cheese Pairing upgrade at The Hofsas House Hotel (for $30), and you’ll have a bottle of Monterey Wine, two engraved wine glasses, and a cheese plate from the Cheese Shop Carmel ready for you.
We enjoyed this bottle of 2017 Scheid Vineyards Estate Grown Pinot Noir and two selections of cheese:
1. Fromage D’Affnoi–A brie-like cheese that hails from the Pilat Regional Park in France’s Rhone-Alpes.
2. Mt. Toro Tomme: A firmer cheese named after Mount Toro, which is one of the more prominent summits in the nearby Sierra de Salinas mountain ranges–Tomme refers to a cheese that is made to reflect the terroir of the product made.)
🧀The Cheese Shop Carmel (since 1973) sells countless other varieties of cheese, as well as wine and other gourmet foods. They are located in Carmel-by-the-Sea at Ocean and Junipero.
🍷Scheid Vineyards (since 1972) has a tasting room also located in Carmel-by-the-Sea, just blocks away from the Hofsas House Hotel, and they are open Sun-Thurs 12pm-6pm, and Fri-Sat 12pm-7pm.
LUGANO SWISS BISTRO
During our visit to Carmel, we enjoyed dinner at Lugano Swiss Bistro, a not-so-easy to find restaurant located in The Barnyard Shopping Center off of Rio Rd. Typically, we like to walk to dinner someplace nearby our hotel in Carmel-By-The-Sea, however, after returning from a visit to Switzerland back in July, we were longing for another authentic fondue experience and the decor we had seen in Europe. Through some internet research, I found Lugano Swiss Bistro. Not walking distance from The Hofsas House Hotel, but a quick drive and we were there.
Andy and I ordered the Swiss Original Fondue with Sausages. It is served with house salad, dipping bread, steamed vegetables, and apples. We also ordered a bottle of 2017 Bernardus Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands), because let’s face it, Pinot Noir is a very versatile wine to drink with an eccentric dinner like this one.
Every time we visit Carmel, we stop at La Bicyclette for lunch/brunch. Nothing beats sharing a bottle of sparkling rosé in the early afternoon… especially when I can pair it with eggs! I had their brunch du jour, and Andy had a lamb tagine dish. If you go, yes, there will probably be a wait. But it’s because it’s that good.
Once you get a table, you’ll get excellent and knowledgeable service, and there’s actually a sommelier on staff! Why am I not shocked to find out the same owners operate Casanova? (Also a must-visit restaurant in Carmel-By-The-Sea.) Tip: Lookout on the hours, they close in the late afternoon for a while and then re-open for dinner guests.
BIG FISH GRILL
On the second night of our trip to Carmel and Monterey County, we visited Big Fish Grill for a hosted dinner on the Monterey wharf. The restaurant is located at the very end of the wharf, and offers rustic charm, classic seafood dishes, and offers some of the best views in Monterey.
Andy and I shared a crab cake appetizer. I ordered the Pacific Rockfish, and Andy ordered the Blackened Salmon. Our wine selection was a 2017 Hahn Pinot Noir. I should note that there is a “locals” special served daily for $13.95. The special includes a choice of Clam Chowder or Mixed Green Salad. You can also add on a glass of house wine or beer for $3.99.
Our last stop in Carmel was Friar Tuck’s on the corner of Dolores and 5th. I immediately fell in love with this time capsule of a 70’s “greasy spoon”. It was established in 1978, and I don’t think ANYTHING has changed since! There was so much charm in everything from their coffee cups, to the mural on the wall, to their wood-carved sign out front. They specialize in breakfast and lunch, egg-specially omelets (13 to choose from on the menu)! Served with toast (no gluten-free here) and Friar Potatoes, our breakfast platters were so good, I have to make this spot a tradition every time I visit Carmel!
Many thanks to our host hotel, The Hofsas House Hotel, for inviting us back to Carmel and allowing us to experience a new adventure each time!
The Hofsas House Hotel is located on San Carlos Street, north of Fourth Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea. For more information or to book your room, call (831) 624-2745 or visit www.hofsashouse.com. You can like them on Facebook here, follow them on Instagram here, and follow them on twitter here.
A few weeks ago, my husband Andy and I attended the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show put on by the Specialty Food Association. The show is basically the Superbowl of the food world, and the biggest tasting event I have ever attended with items ranging from snacks to cheeses, meats, candies, chocolates, specialty food items, spirits, wines and more!
It’s a great excuse for Andy and I to travel to San Francisco for the day and meet the people behind the products (many of the inventors or creators of the items are there to represent themselves or their brand), foreign and domestic. It was also another way to temporarily satisfy my wanderlust by visiting the booths assigned to items from other countries. Andy went vegan for January, so he was limited on what he could taste, but I was there to sample it ALL… especially the charcuterie and cheeses I don’t normally buy because of the price… and the calories! 😉
After tasting through the entire show in about 4 hours (we moved quickly), I came up with a countdown of my 5 favorite products from the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show, why I liked the food/product, and most importantly, where YOU can find it!
5. Pan’s Mushroom Jerky
Since Andy went vegan for January, we were scanning the show specifically looking for anything he might be able to eat, as well as a vegan product I liked enough to write about it here. I was contacted via email before the show about Pan’s Mushroom Jerky, so I was happy to find their booth and try their offerings.
What is it exactly?
It’s a vegan “jerky” made from shiitake mushrooms. The idea for the jerky was born when its founder Michael Pan was traveling throughout Malaysia visiting extended family. While on his trip, he was offered a rich, savory snack that he thought was a pork-based snack. He discovered that it was a family recipe featuring shiitake mushrooms, and he liked it so much, he wanted to share it with the world!
I tasted the Applewood BBQ flavor. It was very tasty and well-seasoned. It also had the mouth-feel of a real jerky. It did, however have a strong mushroom flavor. Since I like mushrooms, I was fine with that. If I were vegan, I would definitely buy it as a substitute because it has the umami flavor of a meat jerky. The flavor I tasted was smoky, salty, and sweet, and overall pretty yummy.
Where Can I Buy It?
Here’s a link to all the flavors they produce. You can buy the jerky directly from the company on their website. You can also enter your zip code here to see what stores close to you carry the product.
4. Calivirgin Olive Oils
Number four on my list is Calivirgin Olive Oil, and not just one oil in particular, but I was lucky enough to sample several of them. Calivirgin was founded by the Coldani Family, and their headquarters are located at Coldani Olive Ranch. All of the extra virgin olive oil is estate grown, they don’t use any pesticides, and all of their products are organically and sustainably produced. AND a bonus for Sacramentans and Bay Area residents, Calivirgin is a local company! They are located in Lodi, California.
At the show, I was given a Mini Bottle Set that contains 100 mL bottles of the following products: Lusty Lemon Olive Oil, Guilty Garlic Olive Oil, Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Calivinegar Barrel-Aged Balsamic, and Bountiful Basil Oil. I haven’t sampled all of them yet, but I have had the lemon and the basil oils. I used the basil kind to put an extra boost of basil flavor in a vegan pesto I made for my husband! It was excellent.
Where Can I Buy It?
You can buy their products by calling 209.210.3162 or directly from their website HERE.
This brand of pecan oil is unique because it’s pressed from American native (wild) pecans, which have been untouched by fertillizers and pesticides. The resulting flavor is sweeter, and more buttery, and the oil itself has more nutrients. It has a high smoke point (470°F) and can be used as a complete butter substitute. You can find out more information about the oil HERE.
WOW! So incredibly rich, and tasted JUST like drinking pecans. If you are thinking, “Why would I want to drink pecans?” Well, believe me, you do. The flavor is was deep and buttery and would make anything taste good. So much better than some of the other oils I have tried.
Where Can I Buy It?
You can snag some Pure Pecan Oil HERE. It’s $18 for an 8 ounce bottle.
2. Counting down to number two, we have the line of meats I tried made by COVAP Specialty Meats & Cheeses!
I would be lying if I didn’t say the Fancy Food show is a forum where the Spanish meat and cheese producers get to show off (in a good way)! Just take a gander at that leg below! It’s from an acorn-fed 100% Iberian pig with a long curation time.
It was one of the most satisfying and silky tastes of Iberian ham I have ever tasted. I would die to have a little slice of this every evening with a big glass of tempranillo.
I also had the opportunity to try the above chorizo and blood sausage (morcilla) from the same manufacturer! I want to thank the host of the COVAP booth, Juan Ballesteros for allowing me to try each one. Last month, I tried blood sausage (morcilla) for the first time in Portugal and actually liked it! I was so happy to see it at the Fancy Food Show at the COVAP display and I am hoping to work with them on a future food and wine pairing post highlighting food and wine from the Iberian Peninsula.
Where Can I Buy It?
To see ALL the products in their online store (including their cheeses, sausages, ham), you can click HERE.
And… The Number ONE spot in my 5 Best Tastes of the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show goes to…
You’re rubbing COFFEE on my CHEESE?!? Oh yes, they are. Just hear me out…
Sartori is a fourth-generation family owned and operated company and they make a full line of artisan cheeses. I actually try and stuff as much as I can into my mouth and in my purse each time I visit their booth. Is that bad? Now that we have an understanding that I really like their stuff (I miiiight have their Merlot BellaVitano in my fridge right now), let’s talk about the particular product they make that gets my Fancy Food #1st place:
OK… let’s talk about the Espresso BellaVitano. Yes, they actually rub freshly-roasted espresso into the aged cheese. It’s insanely good because the espresso has a bitter note and the cheese is nutty and sweet. It doesn’t seem like it makes sense, but it does. And, I didn’t really shove extra cheese into my purse. 😉
Where Can I Buy it?
Lucky for you, you can buy it online along with several other mouthwatering cheeses at the Sartori Online Cheese Shop HERE. Feeling really cheesy? A 20 lb wheel will cost you $317 dollars, but you can get a more reasonable size (5.3 oz) for only $7.75.
OK, that’s all I’ve got for now… Cheers and happy eating!
About the Specialty Food Association
The Specialty Food Association is a thriving community of food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs. Established in 1952 in New York, the not-for-profit trade association provides its 3,800 members in the U.S. and abroad the tools, knowledge and connections to champion and nurture their companies in an always-evolving marketplace. The Association owns and produces the Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows, and presents the sofi™ Awards honoring excellence in specialty food. Learn more at specialtyfood.com.
Specialty Food Association Media Contact:
PR Department, (646) 878-0130, firstname.lastname@example.org
Guest Blog Post by Alana Savard
It seems like there is always something new popping up in the Sacramento area! Here are some of the newest eateries, food trucks, and breweries to check out in Sacramento. Whether your ideal is a laid back environment or you’re more into a high energy spot, there’s something that you and your group will enjoy checking out. Looking for a way to visit them without dealing with traffic or parking? This Sacramento and Napa Valley Party Bus offers the perfect solution to all of the inconveniences that often come with a night out on the town.
This food truck serving Sacramento is serving up vegan goods! These tacos are ridiculously flavorful, and you will not be missing meat at all. They also have a delicious menu of hand crafted frozen fruit pops to choose from. Their schedule is listed on their website, and can often times be found at Two River’s and the Our Street Night Market.
The Other Side
There are never enough beer destinations in Sacramento! You will primarily find comfort food on the menu here. The panic fries are the perfect mix of flavors. They also fill growlers here for you to take home and enjoy!
Maya Traditional Mexican Cuisine
Traditional and authentic Mexican food is the focus at this new restaurant downtown. We love the infusion of classic and creative flavors on the menu. It has a charming, rustic interior that gets pretty busy, especially during the weekend. Don’t miss out on their amazing margaritas during happy hour, as it’s a total steal.
Bru Co Taproom
Here’s a new taproom located in downtown Sacramento! We love the cheery, bright atmosphere and their varied selection of brews to choose from. Their selection changes daily, and there are also wine options if you are not a huge beer drinker. If you have any questions about their selection, the staff is happy to give you information and help you make the best decision.
Here is another new food truck that is serving Sacramento, and they’re focused on creating a menu that represents all different cuisines! You can really take your taste buds on an adventure sampling the food here. Some of the dishes include Thai noodle salad, a Mediterranean meatloaf sandwich, Asian pulled pork sliders, and an Indian madras wrap.
And speaking of wrap, that’s a wrap for us now! Here’s to trying something new everyday. Cheers!
I am assisting in planning the Curtis Park Wine Tasting & Beer Garden and Silent Auction 2018, set for October 6th this year, and here’s a little on why this event means so much to me. Here’s a throwback post from September of 2012!
Hope you will join us as a restaurant participant, winery participant, or as a guest of the event. We will have some fun new details very soon to come and I will update you here when tickets are available for this year’s event! Cheers. 🙂
Just to let you all know, this event is kind of major for me. 😉 Last year at the tasting, I met the love of my life! 🙂
Now, I didn’t go WITH my love to the 2011 event, I actually MET him there. Like, he just so happened to be there! How weird is that nowadays? Until then, I had been meeting people via an internet dating website and not having much luck at all. Then all of a sudden, somehow, someway this guy (with all these things in common as me) happened to be single and in the right place at the right time…I am still sort of shocked at my luck!
I had two tickets to…
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My current (and much more glamorous than my previous) job has me working events in San Francisco every couple of months, and I have had the privilege to stay overnight on those evenings (as opposed to driving almost 90 miles home to Sacramento post-party). During the first two events, I stayed at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, and for the last two events (and the subject of this blog post) I stayed at Parc 55, which is right down the street from the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, and also a Hilton property.
I refer to Parc 55 as an Alcatraz-themed hotel, because the entire lobby is decked in memorabilia from “The Rock” such as movie posters, and items collected from the famous prison. However, this hotel is nothing like Alcatraz, and it boasts 1,024 luxurious rooms and countless amenities for all guests. There are also nods to Alcatraz on the menu of the hotel’s main restaurant, dishes such as the “Jailbird Chicken Sandwich” and the “Impossible Escape Burger.”
Location is key and serves as quite an amenity at Parc 55, because you can literally see all of San Francisco from some of its 32 floors that offer breathtaking views of the City and the Bay. The hotel is walking distance to Cable Cars, Union Square, and the Moscone Convention Center. There are many restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, or if you prefer to stay at the hotel, there are three onsite dining venues: Cable 55 Restaurant and Lounge, Kin Khao, and Barbary Coast.
Here is a photo of my room (which was located on the 32 floor). Just out that window were gorgeous views of iconic buildings and landmarks for which San Francisco is so well known.
I could have spent all day staring outside. I don’t know what it is about San Francisco and its tall buildings, but I love looking at them. Here are a few photos I took from two different rooms during my visits.
After my work gig, I came back to my room and this lovely bottle of Chardonnay was waiting for me. The hotel also left some chocolate covered strawberries in my room refrigerator, too. Thanks to the Parc 55 marketing team for making my stays so very pleasant.
There is no room service at Parc 55, however, it you can satisfy your hunger at one of its aforementioned restaurants. On both evenings, I visited Cable 55 on the lobby/reception level of the hotel. Below is a peek of their menu. Giant thumbs up for offering several gluten-free options! It’s always a good thing when I can’t decide what to order because everything looks so incredible!
The evening of my first stay, I decided on Vincent’s Burger (angus beef, thick-cut pepper bacon caramelized beer onions, Fiscalini cheddar) on a gluten-free bun with a green salad* on the side.
*I am still on my French Fry moratorium (put into place post-Las Vegas trip because I had so many French Fries there I will never need to eat them again)!
I also enjoyed a glass (and a half) of Martin Ray Rosé of Pinot Noir with my burger. The restaurant offers a glass and a half option (this one was $17) for those who want a little more than a glass, but do not wish to buy an entire bottle. I was really tired and hungry from the work event, so this meal was really comforting and one of the better burgers I have had in a restaurant. Vegetarians, fear not, as Cable 55 now offers the Impossible Burger on their menu!
On the evening of my second visit to the restaurant, I chose the Cobb Salad (with romaine lettuce, chicken, bacon, hard-boiled egg, heirloom cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, avocado, and Point Reyes blue cheese) and paired it with a glass of Mionetto Avangarde Brut.
Because I had to get up early the next day and return to the office in Sacramento, I returned to my room for the night. Below is me in the lobby of Parc 55 in one of my favorite dresses! I love dressing up for work events!
The next day, I hit gym at Parc 55, 55 Fitness, to workout before returning to Sacramento. 55 Fitness is a nice gym, and bigger than most hotels with several treadmills, bikes, elliptical machines, and also equipped with free weights and a few weight machines.
Check out was a breeze at Parc 55. I checked out a few minutes before 11am, and texted a code on my valet card to signal I was ready to leave. My car was ready for me when I arrived outside. This is just another amenity of extreme convenience available to hotel guests.
Though my stays were short, it’s always a treat to visit San Francisco and take in the views. I still can’t believe I live so close to such a world-reknowned place.
Disclosure: I was given a media rate on May 10th and May 15th at Parc 55, my review and my opinions are my own.
Here’s a press release from my friends at Hilton Hotels, California, announcing a special offer for guests this summer!
From San Diego to San Francisco, Collectible Hilton Key Card Unlocks Exclusive Experiences and Discounts Throughout the Golden State
CALIFORNIA – Hilton hotels in California are offering guests the key to splash into summer with the launch of a California Road Trip package, designed to let travelers experience the best of this iconic getaway destination. Travelers who book the California Road Trip package at over 70 participating Hilton hotels will enjoy complimentary breakfast or premium WiFi as well as exclusive discounts to popular attractions they can “unlock” with a collectible key card.
Designed by Kelsey Quitschau, a watercolor artist, each California Road Trip Hilton key card depicts the distinctive destination in a beautiful painting. Guest can collect all four cards as they travel up or down the coast, enjoying endless sunshine, amazing cities, best-in-class beaches and incredible natural beauty of California. These collectible cards can also be used to receive discounts at local dining, entertainment and attractions.
In San Francisco, guests who book the California Road Trip package can benefit from free Bi-Rite ice cream and sandwiches, a complimentary drink at DOUGHP SF, and discounts at the Exploratorium, GoCar and Anchor Steam Brewery. In Los Angeles, receive exclusive offers on the Catalina Express, the Aquarium of the Pacific, The Jazz Bakery and more. In Orange County, guests can enjoy discounts at select retailers in the Anaheim Packing District, The CAMP and Center Street Anaheim. Guests staying in San Diego can explore diverse cultural offerings with exclusive Hilton discounts at over 20 local museums, as well as unlock a complimentary harbor cruise with Flagship Cruises or a discount at Everyday California, offering the “Original La Jolla Kayak Tour.” There are other opportunities to explore exclusive Hilton discounts on unique local experiences throughout the Golden State.
Participating hotels include some of Hilton’s most iconic properties as well as hotels from the company’s upscale brands like Embassy Suites by Hilton and DoubleTree by Hilton and quality, value-driven accommodations like Hampton by Hilton and Homewood Suites by Hilton. Travelers can soak up the sun at Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton, celebrating their 130th anniversary, catch Disneyland’s nightly fireworks at Hilton Anaheim, see and be seen at The Beverly Hilton, and look out onto the Golden Gate Bridge from Hilton San Francisco Union Square.
The California Road Trip package is available for travel between April 23 and September 30, 2018 and can be booked by visiting Travel.Hilton.com/HiltonRoadTrip.
Hilton (NYSE: HLT) is a leading global hospitality company, with a portfolio of 14 world-class brands comprising nearly 5,000 properties with more than 812,000 rooms in 103 countries and territories. Hilton is dedicated to fulfilling its mission to be the world’s most hospitable company by delivering exceptional experiences – every hotel, every guest, every time. The company’s portfolio includes Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Canopy by Hilton, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, Embassy Suites by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton, Tru by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Home2 Suites by Hilton and Hilton Grand Vacations. The company also manages an award-winning customer loyalty program, Hilton Honors. Hilton Honors members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels have access to instant benefits, including a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose exactly how many Points to combine with money, an exclusive member discount that can’t be found anywhere else and free standard Wi-Fi. Visit newsroom.hilton.com for more information and connect with Hilton on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.
One benefit of having this website is that I am often sent complimentary bottles of wine to try so that I will write about them and give my opinion. It makes my job even easier when I actually like the wine and am enthusiastic about recommending it!
I was highly intrigued by the Tempranillo Blanco, because though I have had my fair share of Tempranillos (red wine) I had never tasted a white one. This wine is actually a blend of 60% Viura, 20% Malvasia, 20% Tempranillo Blanco. It is entirely fermented in stainless steel, which makes this wine fruitfully crisp. I would recommend this wine as a starter glass with appetizers such as cheese, or other tapas of some sort–Tortilla Española and Gambas al Ajillo come to mind. I was really impressed with the wine’s quality vs. the price. If you care to know, the wine scored 89 points in Wine Spectator. You can find Vivanco Tempranilla Blanco online here. As I write this, it’s only $9.99 per bottle. Wine.com also sells it, but they are currently out of stock.
The second wine I tried was the Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha. The wine is a blend of 85% Tempranillo, and 15% Garnacha. It’s a true deep pink versus a pale salmon color, but it is still a dry wine (as sometimes a darker color can indicate a sweeter rosé). This rosé is made using a method called “free-run”, a term used to describe the release of juice from the grapes (after they are harvested) as a result of the weight of being stacked on one another (and before any pressure is applied to crush them). This is a good wine to enjoy with tapenade or a salade Niçoise, paella, and grilled chicken or fish. It also scored 89 points in Wine Spectator. You can find the Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha online here. As I write this, it’s only $8.99 per bottle.
*I was sent these two complimentary bottles of wine so that I might share my thoughts about them with my readers. Photos of the wine and opinions on the wine are my own.
This year will be the conference’s 10th, and it will be held at the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country. We are looking forward to meeting new writers and reconnecting with the ones we met last year.
It is particularly meaningful to me to attend this year because the conference is being held in the area most damaged by the fires that recently took place. It will be wonderful to play tourist in this area and promote this region just when they need us most. I feel it is my duty to serve the area because this wine country (Napa/Sonoma) is the very reason I moved to California. I fell in love during my very first visit to the region in 2003 and moved not far away to Sacramento in 2004 (also a growing hub of food and wine with its close proximity to Amador, Lodi, Napa, Capay, Dunnigan Hills, and more).
Thirteen plus years later I will discover even more of the Sonoma region along with my husband and hundreds of other bloggers. Our itinerary and agenda for the weekend is very exciting for anyone the slightest bit nerdy about the grape.
I am especially happy to be reunited with Elizabeth of Traveling Wine Chick tomorrow and our Oregon friends Neal and Alyse of Winery Wanderings for the Thomas George Estates wine dinner on Friday. I’m sure our interactions won’t be limited to those events, because we just love all three of those awesome people! We even stayed with Neal and Alyse for a few days last June and ran a half marathon in Eugene! Have to burn those wine calories somehow… 😉
While I am at the conference, I am also actively promoting one of my lady bosses, SG Coaching and Consulting. With over 35 years of experience, the SG team creates custom-tailored programs to fit your winery needs. They provide detailed analyses and work with you to make improvements that can will get people into your doors and make your business successful. They offer Digital Marketing, Event Planning, Front Office Improvements, Recruiting and Hiring, and Wine Club Management.
So let’s do this, Wine Bloggers Conference 2017!! Let’s get together this weekend, taste a lot, encourage tourism, learn from each other, inspire each other, network, and taste a lot more. Andy and Kristy Harris from cavegrrl.com are thrilled to participate and share the experience on this blog as well as our social media channels.
See you there! Cheers 🙂
Sharing this playlist with all of you, as the songs mean so much to us.
Thank you to all who joined us in our celebration. We love you.
Special thanks to Cristian Morinico and Morinico Photography.
Here is a link to all of the pictures captured that day:
Kristy & Andy’s Wedding Celebration
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect party or better guests, and I was so lucky to have my mom with me. Thank you, Diana Hicks for traveling so far to be by my side to help me with my dress and to listen to my vows as I said them to Andy. I know it’s a hard trip, but I love it when you come see me and I TRY to keep you entertained for a couple of days.
Thank you to my loving and supportive husband. You really are the best and I got to be queen for a day TWICE! 🙂 I hope you enjoyed everything as much as I did.
Lots of happiness and memories to come!
Forgive the RBF (resting b*tch face) in the photo. Quite honestly, I’ll never forget how happy and excited I was when I took it. It was taken in our hotel room at the SLS Las Vegas, right before we left for the Mon Bel Ami chapel for our ceremony. Andy was in the bathroom and I had just finished getting ready myself. It was finally about to happen. I know, we’re on installment part three of the wedding in Las Vegas, and I still can’t believe it.
But first (a little earlier in the day) we had a little lunch with drinks at the Foxtail Pool and bar at our hotel. This lunch/drinking session was both the best and the worst idea ever. Why? Well…. we had this great drink (Absolut Frozen Lemonade) with vodka and lemon in it. It was probably one of the best drinks I have ever had. Best of course meaning overwhelmingly yummy and best also meaning highly intoxicating! Was it OK to get completely wasted before walking down the aisle? Probably not, but we kiiiinda did. And there was the great food we had with the adult beverage! I ordered the Ahi Poke Tacos and Andy ordered the Caesar Salad with Shrimp.
Oh those tacos, though! They had a yuzu crème fraîche and a truffle soy sauce. Yes, I think everything in Las Vegas has truffle or truffle flavoring involved. 🙂
After our lunch, we headed back up to the room to nap. Though, I don’t think I napped because I had to start getting ready for the ceremony. I gave myself SO MUCH TIME because I wanted my hair and makeup to be perfect. I decided on my Amore Brittany in Medium Brown, and decided to set her the night before in foam rollers.
I remember being very nervous, only because I thought something might go wrong. I was completely ready to get married to Andy… just super concerned about my dress, hair, makeup… then also worried about the place where we had chosen to get married… was it going to be as nice as it looked online? Was anyone going to be there to marry us when we showed up?
Yes. There were people there when we arrived to the Mon Bel Ami. Fun fact: The chapel is located about 3-3.5 blocks away from where you have to go to get your marriage license. We took care of that the day before, though. 🙂
Here’s a look inside the chapel at Mon Bel Ami in Las Vegas. It was just what we needed to get the job done! A big thanks goes out to the staff at the Mon Bel Ami. They really made everything perfect for our special day.
And in case you missed it (HINT: you did because it was just the two of us!!) Here’s the ceremony itself:
My bouquet that was included in the wedding package we bought.
And that was it! We were married and now on to more important things! Like EATING DINNER! 🙂 Seriously, though, I remember sitting in the car after the ceremony and taking a deep breath and just feeling joy. And taking note of that feeling so that I could remember it forever no matter what happens.
We decided to celebrate/have dinner that night at Top of the World in the Stratosphere Hotel. I mean, why not wear your ceremony garb and have your wedding dinner rotating 844 feet in the air!
On the way to the restaurant (in the lobby and casinos of the Stratosphere) people saw us (obviously by our clothing just married) and called out to us/cheered to us their congratulations. It was a beautiful scene! One man even stopped us to take selfies before we took the long elevator ride up to the restaurant. I wish I knew who that guy was… I would have loved to see those pictures.
Speaking of pictures, I took so many from our table, but here are just a few of the view (followed by a rundown of what we had for dinner). 🙂
More deep breathes. This man is my husband now! I can’t believe it! This calls for bubbly! And not just any bubbly, but Champagne in an awesome looking bottle!
Our somm for the evening gave us excellent service. He found out in about 2 sentences that we are two of the biggest wine geeks around, so he stayed at our table for some time to chat. I hope we go back someday and see him again.
Our dinner itself began with the Crab Cake (Lump crab, jicama and green papaya slaw, Asian vinaigrette, Peppadew aioli) followed by a duo of Carpaccio & Tartare (Australian wagyu, Peppadew aioli, truffle salt, lemon). Notice how they snuck in truffle AGAIN?!? Ha! It’s so Las Vegas.
And the Organic Half Chicken for me! (Semi-boneless chicken, roasted Yukon Gold potato, corn salsa, crème fraîche, demi-glace).
I am pretty sure we stuck with the bottle of Champagne and then had wine by the glass. Andy ordered this mango sorbet for dessert. The red object in the glass is actually plastic, not isomalt (ingredient used in cake decorating).
Ready to dive into some chicken!!
That ring looks so GOOD on him! 🙂 This was taken AFTER I tried to eat the plastic thingy that was indeed NOT sugar or isomalt.
I’m Mrs. Harris, it’s official!
Hello, World! Presenting Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Andrew Harris.
And I took this photo of me right before bedtime. What a perfect, beautiful, sacred, day! And the best part is there are so many more to come. We decided that day we would come back to Las Vegas every year on our anniversary because it was just so much fun and so memorable.
And they lived happily ever after…
Today I am a guest on the podcast Serious Talk. Seriously. hosted by Johnny Flores! We chatted about my rebranding of cakegrrl.com to cavegrrl.com, Paleo, gluten free, bread, Oprah, the importance of having a supportive significant other, alopecia, the changing roles of men and women and even vocal fry! Click below to have a listen and if you enjoy, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes HERE or on Stitcher here. Click the link below to listen! 🙂
Today’s Flights by Night is brought to you by Apothic Inferno. This wine was inspired by the whiskey-making techniques of barrel-aging and is aged in white oak, whiskey barrels. The barrels are charred with flames and first used to age whiskey for years prior to being used to age the wine.
“Those who have come to love Apothic know that we’re always looking to defy convention with unique blends and bold flavors,” said Christine Jagher, Marketing Director for Apothic Wines. “Apothic Inferno brings a rebellious attitude to the wine category – even the label’s dark colors and intertwined graphics elicit a fiery style, the perfect addition to our portfolio.”
The Apothic Inferno is a bold red wine that is on the spicy and herbal side. There are notes of clove and maple, so it’s necessary to pair the wine with a rich and earthy food. That’s why we chose Eggplant Moussaka, and more specifically the Primal Moussaka recipe that appears over on Mark’s Daily Apple. This is the type of meal you want to make on a winter evening. Like a great stew or lasagna, the moussaka gets even better the next night. Since the recipe is slightly labor intensive, you can make two pans at a time and freeze the rest to thaw it out for a no-hassle dinner on another night.
The savory flavors of cinnamon, allspice and fresh dill mixed in with the lamb makes this moussaka a no-brainer pairing for the herbaceous Apothic Inferno.
Primal Moussaka from Mark’s Daily Apple
(Taken directly from the website)
- 1-2 large eggplants, peeled (optional) and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 bunch of kale, chewy lower stems cut off
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
- 1 pound ground meat (lamb is traditional)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- olive oil, for sautéing
- salt and pepper, to taste
Salting the eggplant is optional, but it will draw out moisture and prevent the eggplant slices from soaking up so much oil. After peeling (optional) and slicing the eggplant, place the slices in a colander. Sprinkle the slices liberally with kosher salt. Let the slices sit for 20-30 minutes until moisture appears on the surface. Rinse the eggplant thoroughly and blot dry.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add several slices of eggplant to the hot oil at a time and sauté the eggplant slices, turning as necessary, until soft and just lightly browned. Continue heating oil and cooking the eggplant until all the slices are cooked. Set the eggplant aside.
Boil the kale for 3 minutes. Puree the kale with the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water in a food processor.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat and add onion and garlic. Saute a few minutes then add meat, cinnamon and allspice. Stir, so the meat browns evenly. After five minutes add the dill and the tomato mixture.
Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
As the meat cooks, whisk together eggs, yogurt and nutmeg.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a lightly oiled 2-quart square baking dish, place a thin layer of eggplant then cover with the meat. Layer the remaining eggplant on top, then the yogurt. Top with additional grate cheese if desired.
Bake 45 minutes, or until the top is set and golden brown. Let rest 20 minutes before cutting into the Moussaka.
Apothic Inferno retails for $16.99. To learn more about Apothic Wines and where to buy, visit Apothic.com or Apothic’s social channels. You can find Apothic Wines on Facebook here, on Twitter here and on Instagram here.
In Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Theis family is celebrating 70 years of European hospitality in their Bavarian-inspired Hofsas House Hotel.
The Hofsas House Hotel is within walking distance to the beach, multiple restaurants and shops, and several tasting rooms.
The hotel is also within just minutes driving distance to Monterey, Pebble Beach, Big Sur and Pacific Grove. The Hofsas House’s boasts 38 spacious rooms (all unique) with fireplaces, private balconies, wet bars, kitchens and patios, and the Dutch doors in every room allow guests to welcome in the ocean air.
Before I jump into all the amentities the Hofsas House has to offer, I want to talk about the hotel’s rich history, and what makes the hotel so special. On the Saturday morning of our stay, Andy and I met with Doris Theis, the mother of the current owner of the hotel, Carrie Theis. She was such a joy to interview and she filled me in on a lot of the history of Carmel as well as the Hofsas House.
The Hofsas House story begins with a woman named Donna Hofsas and her husband Fred. They moved to Carmel from Los Angeles in the late 1940s, and purchased four cottages in town. They lived in one of them and rented out the other three. The cottages were the humble beginnings of the hotel, as the main building was built in 1957, adding 25 more rooms.
Donna commissioned her friend, artist Maxine Albro (also famous for painting a fresco at Coit Tower in San Francisco) to paint a Bavarian-themed mural which has since been restored and still remains as a lovely welcome to guests. A swimming pool was also added at that time, making Hofsas House Hotel a Carmel destination.
Fred Hofsas created the mosaic coat of arms, the Latin inscription translates to English as “Leisure with Dignity”.
The various additions to the hotel proved to be very stressful on their marriage, and eventually Donna and Fred divorced. Donna retained ownership of the hotel and in the mid-1960s, she added the north wing and a meeting room. Also around that time, she built her house, and the cottage she had occupied became a family suite (Room 9/10) and is still available to guests today, as well as the three other original cottages.
In 1981, Donna passed away, and her only son Jack took over the Hofsas House Hotel. Which brings us to Doris, the incredible lady I spoke with about the history of the hotel. Doris was Jack’s wife. Together, they had two children: Carrie and Scott. The hotel was very much a family affair and Jack ran the hotel until 1996, when he passed away. Doris and Scott then took over the management from 1996-2000.
Then in 2000, Carrie Theis returned to Hofsas House to become general manager. Carrie was no stranger to the Hofsas House Hotel, because she had been escorting guests to their rooms since she was 8 and working behind the welcome desk at check-in since she was 12. Carrie had pursued a college education and a career path of her own, however, felt it was important to carry on her grandmother’s legacy of service and hospitality at the hotel.
And the hospitality is really what keeps the guests coming back to Hofsas House Hotel. I’m told that there are many guests that return because they know the history and the family and there is simply no other place in Carmel where they would rather stay.
I can understand that. My first visit to Carmel was in June of 2013 and I stayed at Hofsas House Hotel. It was my birthday weekend and incredibly special. I think once you know the family and the history of the hotel, you just have to stay there. For me, it’s like being part of the hotel’s legacy. Below is a shot of the bedroom in which we stayed during this visit.
Below is the incredible view from outside our room.
Hofsas House Hotel is located on San Carlos Street, north of Fourth Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea. For more information, call (831) 624-2745 or visit www.hofsashouse.com. You can like them on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.
Before I go on to recommend some dining in the area, I’d like to list some add-ons the Hofsas House offers that you can book during your stay:
• First is the Monterey Wine and Cheese Pairing (which we enjoyed, there were two cheeses and a bottle of wine in our room upon arrival) for $30. It’s pretty wonderful to finally get to your hotel room and there’s a chilled bottle of wine with cheeses waiting for you!
• Champagne and Cheese Pairing with Hofsas House engraved flutes for $50.
• The Carmel Wine Walk-by-the-Sea Passport for $65.
• In-room his and her couples massage starting at $160 for 45 minutes.
• Decoration of room in a romantic, anniversary, or birthday theme for $75.
• Golf packages that start at $65 per person including cart.
• 2-day pass for the price of one Monterey Bay Aquarium tickets.
And right now and valid until December 31st, 2016, you can celebrate Carmel-by-the-Sea’s 100th Anniversary and Hofsas House Hotels 70th Anniversary with a History Tour! Delight in the special charms of Carmel on a leisurely, fun and informative two-hour guided walk past enchanting Fairy-tale cottages, through secret pathways, hidden courtyards and award-winning gardens. At the end of the tour, you’ll feel like a local. Cost is $25 per person. Guests who book this package will also receive a Carmel-by-the-Sea history book complimentary upon arrival (value $26.00). Learn about the 100-year history of Carmel-by-the-Sea. When booking use promotion code: HHWALKS. (Block out dates apply.)
On Friday evening, we were hoping to visit, Dametra Cafe. Since the restaurant was completely booked, we ended up at Mediterranean Restaurant (the sister restaurant of Dametra and just a few doors down). I have to say, if you can’t get a table at Dametra, Mediterranean is the next best thing. OK, well, except for a few menu items, it’s exactly the same thing. And you even get the same live music! They did not host our dinner, but I am recommending them as a favor to YOU! If you like Greek-Italian-Middle Eastern food combined, you should check it out!
Another routine in Carmel for us is a lunch stop at La Bicyclette. It’s my annual excuse of the year to eat a high calorie lunch and love every bite. 🙂 Right now they have a cassoulet special (you must try). And they have a gluten-free dough which they can substitute for any pizza on their menu (I picked the fig, arugula & prosicutto). Pretty much heaven with the Alsatian sparkling rosé we had.
On Saturday evening, we visited Lover’s Point walked around the coastline for a while, and then and went to the Beach House at Lover’s Point for dinner. It was one of the most beautiful walks I have ever taken and the weather was still really cooperating. It wasn’t cold or rainy that evening.
The Beach House at Lover’s Point is a very popular restaurant. I highly suggest making a reservation and then arriving a little early to have a drink at the bar. The restaurant is right on the water, so the views are spectacular.
For dinner we started out with a Brussels sprouts appetizer. It was prepared with roasted garlic cloves, chorizo, butternut squash, shaved parmesan, smoked paprika oil. I am probably the biggest fan of Brussels sprouts you’ll ever meet, which is funny because I HATED them when I was a kid. Not anymore. Especially when you throw in chorizo AND cheese! This was an interesting dish and I loved the roasted garlic cloves that added a a slightly sweet flavor–balancing out the spicy sausage.
For my entrée, I ordered the Crab-stuffed Petrale Sole with sautéed spinach, smashed potatoes, saffron cream, shaved fennel, micro green salad. I am getting hungry all over again just looking at the picture and remembering the textures of the tender crab and flaky sole and the creamy sauce over the potatoes.
Andy had the Hazelnut Crusted Sand Dabs with charred Brussels sprouts, pumpkin gnocchi, cipollini onions, beurre blanc, arugula pesto, and balsamic glaze. We shared both entrées because they were equally fantastic. By the way, the chef could have put pesto, hazelnuts, or balsamic glaze on a shoe and I would probably eat it. #allmyfavoriteingredients!!
In closing, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming events at the Hofsas House Hotel! One is the hotel’s 70th birthday celebration on Monday, November 7th, at 10:00am.
The event will begin at with coffee and light bites from Paris Bakery, then at 10:15 there will be a ribbon cutting with the Carmel Chamber and a Champagne toast with birthday cake at 10:30. There will also be a property tour and history discussion of the hotel’s 70 years.
Additionally, there will be a raffle to win an overnight stay! To RSVP (required by November 1) to marci at chatterboxpublicrelations.com
The second event is a little closer to the holidays. On Saturday, December 3rd, the 5th Annual Fundraiser for The Carmel Library Foundation will be held. The event will be a Gingerbread House Making morning/afternoon for the family. Together, families can create a gingerbread house to take home and display throughout the holidays. Children will receive one gingerbread making kit, hot cider and a cookie for a $25 donation to the Carmel Library Foundation.
Adults that want to attend will receive a glass of wine of award winning Monterey County wines from Twisted Roots Winery and can enjoy a gourmet cheese and fruit and tray for a $10 donation to the Carmel Library Foundation. Additional glasses of wine can be purchased for a $5.00 donation to the Carmel Library Foundation. (The $10 donation for adults does not include decorating a gingerbread house.)
There will be two sessions and you can sign up for 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.
Cost: $25 per child and $10 per adult (Adult does not include decorating a gingerbread house. The cost to decorate a gingerbread house is $25. All proceeds benefit The Carmel Public Library Foundation.)
Call Carrie at the Hofsas House (831) 624-2745 to make a reservation.
I’d like to extend my gratitude to the Hofsas House Hotel for hosting us during our stay in Carmel and being a direct ambassador to the 5th Avenue Deli and the Beach House at Lovers Point during our stay. Happy birthday to Hofsas House Hotel and happy 100th birthday, Carmel!!
A few weeks ago, Andy and I were invited on a press trip to introduce us to the wineries of Yolo County and a beautiful inn in Winters. We were able to join the group at the lunch stop and for a few wineries afterward. Following our experience that day, I’m excited to share some photos and videos I took as well as some of what I learned. Though Yolo County has been overlooked, it is a definite destination for food, wine, and beer lovers.
The Visit Yolo tourism group consists of Woodland, Davis, Winters, Capay Valley, and Clarksburg. Our visit focused on Capay Valley (Brooks) and Winters and began at Park Winters, a historic boutique inn and restaurant located in a Victorian home, surrounded by gardens and farmland.
We were invited to walk around the property at Park Winters, and I was able to capture many images of the grounds before our special 4-course lunch (orchestrated by onsite Chef Scott Ostrander) was served.
Before I describe the meal we enjoyed, here’s some of the backstory of Park Winters: The property (with a mansion built in 1865 by Yolo County pioneer George Washington Scott) was bought in 2011 by Rafael Galiano and John Martin. They opened the Inn at Park Winters as an event venue and bed and breakfast in 2012. Since 2011, Galiano and Martin have spent 3.3 million renovating the property, the water tower (that is now the “tower suite”), and building a saltwater pool and spa. They also built an event barn equipped with a professional kitchen where the stunning five course prix-fixe menu by Chef Ostrander is created.
I was lucky enough to get a peek behind the scenes at the making of our media lunch and the care and precision that went into plating each course. Yes, there were tweezers involved. I took some video of cooks taking pride in each plate.
Chef Ostrander came out to explain the menu and to meet the journalists he had not previously met inside the kitchen.The Chef is quoted on the Park Winters website as saying, “To me, farm-to-fork is really about utilizing farms and everything they have to offer. If it is tomatoes, that’s fine, but if its tomatoes, apricots, basil, spinach… even better. There is a comfort in knowing that the food you are eating came from just one place. Hopefully not too far away.” It’s a match made in heaven for the Chef and the onsite organic garden at Park Winters. His culinary team also includes Paul DiPierro (Chef de Cuisine) and Taylor Lovelace (Sous Chef).
I was delighted to see a bottle of one of my favorite local Chardonnays on the table, The Arsonist Chardonnay, made by Matchbook Wine Company.
Pretty sure it was fate, but someone also placed an entire bottle of Capay Valley Sparkling Viognier next to me, which happened to be one of my favorites at this year’s Legends of Wine, and I happily sipped it between our courses and wine pairings. Um #Iwasntdriving!! 😉
The menu was spectacular and paired with wines exclusively from Seka Hills, Turkovich Family Wines, and Capay Valley Vineyards, however there were wines from Berryessa Gap Vineyards, Casey Flat Ranch, Matchbook Wine Company, Route 3 Wines, and Simas Family Wines also present on the table for us to enjoy.
I was most impressed with the Gazpacho dish, one of the best I have ever had. Also, it was the most elegantly plated lunch I have ever eaten.
And then there was a dirt road. After lunch, we headed to Seka Hills Winery and Olive Oil production facility, located in Brooks, and producing red and white wines by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation (translated to mean “Home by the Spring Water”). It’s really incredible to experience the Seka Hills tasting room and the land there the olives and grapes grow. And it’s even better to stand on the land and get a vineyard tour while sipping their Viognier!
The below photo is a vine being grafted into another vine. This is a common vineyard process when a vine is inserted in a groove, slit, or the like in a stem or stock of another vine and it continues to grow. This method is used to save the time of establishing a new root system.
Inside the Seka Hills Tasting Room:
Not only does Seka Hills produce great wine, they also produce olive oil and honey! The tasting room is located inside a 14,000 square foot olive mill facility. There are guided tastings available that offer visitors a chance to experience the agricultural products from the Yoha Dehe Wintun Nation.
Coming up on Sunday October 30th, Seka Hills will be having an Olive Crush Festival to celebrate their harvest. It will be in the Seka Hills Tasting Room from 12pm-4pm. There will be olive oil and honey tasting, wine and sangria by the glass, local vendors, live music, food trucks, and mill tours! For more information, you can head over to the Facebook event page HERE.
Capay Valley Vineyards was started in 1998 by Tom Frederick and Pam Welch. The winery produces wines from their own grapes. All vineyard tasks such as pruning, shoot thinning, and harvesting are done by hand. The grapes are harvested at night to obtain cooler fruit to begin the winemaking process. Their winemaker is Terri Strain.
In 2003, after a two year federal process, the Capay Valley was designated an American Viticultural Area (appellation). Capay Valley Vineyards represents their AVA marvelously as they are featured annually in one of the Sacramento’s Farm to Fork Festival’s crown events: Legends of Wine.
You can find Park Winters on Facebook here on Twitter here and on Instagram here.
You can find Seka Hills on Facebook here and on Twitter here.
You can find Capay Valley Vineyards online HERE.
You can find Visit Yolo on Facebook here, on Twitter here and on Instagram here and on Pinterest here.
A few weeks ago I was invited to be part of a media preview at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for the unveiling of their 46th floor lounge, Cityscape. Cityscape is located inside tower one of the Hilton (which also happens to be the largest hotel on the West Coast).
It’s hard to leave out hyperboles when describing the Cityscape Lounge, because it’s almost too pretty to believe. I was giddy as we rode the elevator up and as I watched the number climb on the display. Once inside the lounge, I was awestruck.
The Cityscape has a 360-degree view of San Francisco and beyond. Through it’s 14ft floor-to-ceiling windows, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, Chinatown, AT&T Park, the Marin Headlands, Nob Hill, Oakland, and giant barges on the Bay. Now that Cityscape Lounge is open to the public, it’s at the top of my list for must-see sites in the City.
“No two days look the same from Cityscape, where San Francisco weather flows over the ever changing skyline,” said Lenny Gumm, general manager, Cityscape. “What doesn’t change are the views and the great food and drinks to enjoy with them.”
Lenny Gumm is a veteran bar and lounge manager in which he’s held positions with several local watering holes, including Hotel Rex, One Market Restaurant, Temple Nightclub, DOSA Restaurant, La Urbana and the Four Seasons.
And instead of trying to put anymore of what I saw into words, below are the photos I took and a Facebook live video I broadcasted that evening to give you a full view of the space!
The tables, couches and seats line the windows inside the lounge, which means wherever you are seated, you’ll have a magnificent view. If that’s not enough, here’s a peek at some of the libations and nibbles available to enjoy!
This is one of the drinks from the Cityscape’s signature cocktail menu (drinks all named after areas in San Francisco)––the Mission: Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila, St. Germain, ruby red grapefruit, and lime. Other selections include a Russian Hill: Stoli Elit Vodka, Cointreau, white cranberry, and fresh citrus, a Pacific Heights: Hennessy VS Cognac, Cointreau, squeeze of lemon, a Noe Valley: Tito’s Vodka, Aperol, lemon, agave nectar, splash of Prosecco, just to name a few. The full offering of specialty drinks as well as a list of wines and beer available can be found here.
The media group and I also previewed the Cityscape‘s menu of small plates, designed especially to be enjoyed with the signature cocktails. The appetizers were all neatly arranged on a shelf and we were encouraged to sample all of them and as many as we wanted.
A Cheese and Charcuterie Plate with Beet Pickled Egg, Quince, Grain Mustard, Olives, Black Garlic and a Selection of fine Meats and Cheeses.
The Ahi-Salmon Hamachi Poke with Sweet Onion, Inamona Jus, Micro Wasabi, and Lotus Root Chips
I brought Catherine Enfield of Munchie Musings as my guest and it was a fab Girls’ Night Out. The bonus of the evening was parking the car and never leaving the hotel, so in a way, it was actually a Girls’ Night In!
The photo below is a shot of the suite on the 26th floor (also inside tower one), where the Hilton was kind enough to let me stay for the night. There is a balcony outside the room and a fairly large patio with outside seating to enjoy the views (also incredible at a 26th floor level). I can’t wait to go back and spend the night there again!
The next morning, Catherine and I enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Urban Tavern, located on the lobby level of the Hilton. Below is a You Tube video of items available (everything!) on the buffet. I was really impressed by the Congee bar with several toppings, as well as the availability of healthy items. (There’s also lots of pastry, cereal, bread, bagels, too, if that’s your thing.)
Cityscape Lounge is open seven days a week from 5pm-Midnight. You can find the Hilton San Francisco Union Square on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter here. Much thanks to the marketing team at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for your hospitality. I’ll be back soon!
Join us on Saturday, October 1st, 2016 from noon to 4:00pm for the Downtown Truckee Wine, Walk & Shop. This annual event brings nearly 1,000 local and visiting participants to sip wine and sample local food tastings while enjoying shopping in historic downtown Truckee.
Over the past 13 years, the event has donated more than $25,000 to local non-profit organizations. Some of our past partners include: Tahoe Safe Alliance, Girls on the Run, The Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe and Sierra Senior Services. This year our partners are Tahoe Food Hub as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nevada County and North Lake Tahoe
Attendees will receive a commemorative wine glass to sample wine at 30+ venues as well as five food tickets and a map to all participating venues. Get ready to wine, walk and shop!
If you’re a first time attendee, here are some helpful hints to ensure the best experience!
1. Plan Your Route
Four hours may seem like plenty of time to peruse downtown but you will be surprised by how many friendly faces there are to chat with, unique finds to shop for and wines to try. Make sure to take a minute after check-in to look at the map and make note of any wine, food or stores you want to see.
2. Don’t Skip Lunch
Admission to the event includes five food tickets that can be exchanged for food samples at various locations. The food can range from a savory gourmet bite to a more substantial item. Make sure to stop by your favorites early in the event; food has been known to run out.
3. Savor and Sip
Some wineries bring one or two varietals, some may bring five or more so there can be more than 90 different wines to try with no limit on tastings. Need help remembering that incredible Malbec or crisp Sauv Blanc? Ask the wine representative for a cork so your favorite wine shop knows what you’re looking for.
4. Plan Your Ride
Whatever you do, don’t drink and drive. The event contracts with High Sierra Taxi, which gives attendees free rides within town limits during the event and for Reno residents, there’s the Bliss Babe Bus.
Bliss Babe Magazine, Roundabout Grill and Reno Tahoe Limousine have partnered to offer an incredible package deal. For $65, attendees will start their day with mimosas, bloody mary’s and pastries at Roundabout Grill, located in Whitney Peak Hotel in downtown Reno and then ride up to Truckee in style. The package also includes advanced VIP check-in, exclusive gifts from Bliss Babe and a ride back to Reno at the end of the event.
The Downtown Truckee Wine Walk & Shop, benefiting Tahoe Food Hub and Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Lake Tahoe and Nevada County, returns Saturday, Oct. 1 from noon to 4 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $40 or day of for $45. CLICK HERE to purchase tickets. Hope to see you there!
I have never experienced such an interesting wine tasting as the one I’m going to feature in this blog post. For a few years now, we have worked with HALL Wines and attended their events at the winery such as the Annual Cabernet Cookoff Fundraiser and the Kathryn Hall Cabernet Release Parties. We were first introduced to WALT Wines at one of the HALL events (Walt is owned by Vintners Kathryn Walt Hall and Craig Hall), and WALT was also at the Pinot on the River event we attended 2 years ago in Healdsburg.
Since then, both WALT Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have been on my list of wines I would recommend if you are a fan of either varietal, but I never got a chance to visit the tasting room or learn more about the wines they make until a few weekends ago when Andy and I were invited to participate in a new food and wine pairing/tasting called Root 101.
Root 101 examines one Chardonnay and five Pinot Noirs by appellation (geographical region where the grapes were grown). These different appellations can inflect various characteristics in the wine, even though it is the same varietal.
Even though the Root 101 tasting focuses on one Chardonnay and five Pinot Noirs, it should be noted that WALT actually makes 12 different Pinot Noirs, 3 Chardonnays, and 1 Rosé of Pinot Noir and sources their grapes from the Sonoma Coast, Los Carneros, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Lucia Highlands, Anderson Valley, and Willamette Valley appellations.
Not only does the Root 101 tasting showcase a variety of distinct single vineyard wines from regional appellations, the experience comes paired with seasonal bites from Sonoma eatery “the girl & the fig.”
Our tasting was led by Chris Brock, a truly knowledgeable host and wine educator. Before coming to work in the WALT tasting room, he had served a number of years as a sommelier. We were lucky to have him to ourselves, because that would allow Andy and I to get super wine nerdy without boring other guests.
First Chris would introduce the food pairings and tell us we were free to nibble on the food and taste the wines throughout his commentary.
A. Duck liver mousse crostini with Pinot Noir shallots
B. Comte with roasted beet
C. Hot-smoked salmon with créme fraiche and chives
D. Mushroom flan with smoked Shitake mushrooms
E. Terrine with pistachios
F. Truffled Pecorino
Now that we were familiar with what we would be eating (and warned to avoid the truffled pecorino until the end because of its very strong presence on the palate), we were ready to taste and learn about the wines.
First up was the sole Chardonnay of the Root 101 tasting. The Bob’s Ranch Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. It is luscious and full and it is the most expensive of the three Chardonnays available at WALT. The richness of the wine no doubt comes from the sandy and well draining soils that impart stress on the vines. It has just the right balance of oak and fruit. At the tasting I was thrown off a little because this Chardonnay almost stole the show (we were at a primarily Pinot Noir tasting of course) with its floral and fruit and soft vanilla (still a powerful wine) without being all heavy butter and oak.
The First Pinot Noir of the tasting was the Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir sourced from Anderson Valley. The Savoy was something I would describe as Burgundian––less fruit and more earth and mineral notes present in the wine. The Savoy Vineyard is the northernmost vineyard in California from which WALT sources their Pinot, however, there is also the even further north Shea Vineyard in the Willamette Valley (Oregon), where WALT sources grapes for another Pinot which we did not taste that day. I appreciated the omission, because it seemed more appropriate to taste just WALT‘s Pinot Noirs sourced from California and juxtapose their terroirs to examine how vast their differences can be.
The second Pinot Noir we tried was the Pinpoint Extreme, also sourced from Alexander Valley, but from The Corners Vineyard. Interestingly, the letters in Pinpoint Extreme can be reorganized to form the words “Pinot Experiment”. A fitting name because this Pinot Noir is a wine that is a deliberate nod to cutting edge winemaking. It is non-formuliac and is guaranteed to be different from vintage to vintage.
And speaking of cutting edge, I wanted to mention the fantastic rebranding I have seen at Walt Wines. I asked about the logo change and our host Chris explaned that the older logos were similar to HALL Wines in color and at first WALT was sort of housed under the HALL label. More recently, WALT has established a name of its own, and therefore the new logo. The logo is a two-colored “W” with the mainly color being a dark blue, and features a different highlight color from bottle to bottle. The highlight color is actually color coded to reflect each vineyard from which the grapes were sourced.
For instance, the Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley has an olive green highlight. The Anderson Valley wines have a light blue highlight on their “W”. Wines from the Sonoma County Vineyards are highlighted in yellow. Carneros has an orange highlight, and the Central Coast wines have a “W” highlighted in red.
I have been in graphic design for over 15 years, and I am in love with this style of branding, so if I am getting off track in describing the wines, I apologize. I just really like the color coding and think it’s a great learning tool in identifying the differences in appellations.
Moving on, our next wine to taste was my favorite of all, the Gap’s Crown, from Sonoma Coast. The Gap’s Crown had all my favorite characteristics. Medium to high acidity, jammy, ruby fruit and a tad bit of forest floor. Most of the acidity and fruit-forwardness in the wine comes from the vineyard being stressed during its growth. The fog and strong winds and intermittent bright afternoon sunshine are typical for this part of Sonoma County and the Petaluma Gap, and almost always (in my opinion) make for a Pinot Noir packed with personality.
Next up was the wine that happened to be Andy’s favorite, the Sierra Mar, sourced from the Santa Lucia Highlands. Sierra Mar translates to “mountain sea” in English, appropos
for an area with an extreme mountain coastal terroir. The Walt Sierra Mar has more of a smoky presence which most likely originates from the granite and gravely soils the vines grow in. The smoke characteristic along with acidity is Andy’s favorite in a Pinot Noir, and it lends itself to be a very good food pairing wine, especially with foods that also smell/taste earthy. I’m talking about beets, mushrooms, and even salmon, for it has the presence of the sea that pairs with the slight salinity in the wine.
We ended up buying a three year vertical of the Sierra Mar, as Chris was gracious to allow us to sample the newest release and included a previous release. I am already looking forward to opening them all at a time, along with enjoying a meal I have created specifically to pair with the wines.
We ended our tasting with the WALT Clos Pepe Pinot Noir, sourced from Clos Pepe, a 29-acre vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills near Santa Barbara, because it had the most heft. These are the kinds of Pinot Noirs that are pairable with even richer foods, such as the truffled pecorino we had on our appetizer plate. I would call the Clos Pepe slighly brooding, yet refined. There’s full fruit and minerality present like in the wines before it, it’s just a little more melodramatic.
Andy and I both truly savored this opportunity to try so many of the Pinot Noirs in WALT‘s library. The Chardonnay was definitely the icing on the cake and we definitely purchased a few bottles of that, too.
Since place is so important in the outcome of a wine (the point of the tasting), here’s an appellation map so you can see the areas I have discussed where Walt sources their grapes.
About the winemaker: Megan Gunderson Paredes is the winemaker at both WALT and HALL wines. Megan possesses degrees in both Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, and the knowledge of these subjects lend themselves to the scientific aspects of winemaking.
Root 101 is offered daily at 11am & 2pm. The Experience is by reservation only and lasts approximately 60 minutes. It is $60 per person and $40 per person for wine club members. To reserve the Root 101 experience, please call Thrace at (707) 933-4440 ext 3102 or email tbromberger(at)waltwines.com. You can also specifically book a Root 101 tasting by clicking here.
The Sacramento Greek Festival is back this Labor Day weekend and will be celebrating its 53rd anniversary!
Come experience the culture, traditions and fabulous food of Greece right here in Sacramento. All of the food at the festival is homemade by volunteers and is derived from authentic recipes passed down through generations directly from the Greek Mediterranean.
The food menu includes classics like:
- Pitas – traditional tiropita (feta) or spanakopita (spinach & feta).
- Saganaki – flamed kefalograviera cheese with a hint of lemon and brandy.
- Loukaniko – traditional spiced Greek sausage, served with pita bread.
- New Loukaniko – sausage with mountain feta and Kalamata olives, served with pita bread.
- Keftethes – Greek meatballs with tzatziki (cucumber, garlic, and yogurt sauce) and pita bread.
- Gyro – savory slices of lean beef cradled in pita bread, topped with onions, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce.
- Calamari – seasoned strips of crispy fried calamari.
In the dining court there will be:
- Spanakopita – phyllo dough filled with herb seasoned spinach and a blend of cheeses
- Tiropita – cheese puff triangles made with a blend of cheeses, eggs and seasons wrapped in buttered phyllo dough.
- Fasolakia – tender green beans baked with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, herbs, olive oil and seasonings.
- Beef Dolmathes – grape leaves stuffed with rice, ground beef and seasonings.
- Vegetarian Dolmathes – grape leaves stuffed with rice and seasonings.
- Pilafi – rice flavored with butter and lemon juice..
- “The Old Spaghetti Factory” Spaghetti – with browned butter and Mizithra cheese
- Kota Psiti (a la carte) – Baked chicken basted with lemon juice and Greek oregano.
- Horiatiki Salad – traditional village salad made with fresh veggies, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, olive oil, and seasonings.
- Pastitsio – macaroni layered with Greek seasoned beef and cheeses, topped with a creamy Bechamel sauce.
- Roast Lamb (a la carte) – dinner sized portion of the all famous Greek-seasoned lamb.
- Moussaka – layers of eggplant and Greek-seasoned ground beef topped with a creamy Bechamel sauce.
- Shrimp Santorini (Friday only) – shrimp in a tasty sauce with feta cheese and herbs with Pilafi and Fasolakia.
- Stifado Dinner (Saturday only) – a popular and uniquely spiced beef stew with cloves and cinnamon, originating from the island of Cyprus. Served with Pilafi and Fasolakia.
Beverages include Kafeneion (Greek Coffee), Greek Wines and Beer, as well as water and soda. A full menu can be viewed here.
There are also several activities planned during the festival. There will be live music, dancing lessons, choir presentations, and the famous festival raffle. In addition there will be cooking demos and a few eating contests! For a full schedule of events each day, you can click here!
The hours of the festival are as follows: Friday 11am-11pm, Saturday 12pm-11pm, and Sunday 12pm-9pm.
Price of admission is as follows: General $5, Senior $4, and Children (Under Age 12) Free. On Friday (9/3) from 11am-3pm admission is FREE. The price includes admission only. Food and drink are an extra charge and the price varies for each item. The Sacramento Convention Center is located at 1400 J Street, Sacramento, CA, 95814