Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

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A Duo of Delightful Wines to Try

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Headed to Santa Rosa for WBC17

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This weekend, Andy aka (@curtisparkandy, on twitter, and pictured above) and I are headed to Santa Rosa for the Wine Bloggers Conference!

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.

Friday Excursions
    
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 🙂


Andy and Kristy’s Wedding Celebration: My Thoughts

Taken by Morinico Photography

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

Cake by Pushkin’s Bakery and Floral Decoration done by Relles Florist.
Food catered by Florez Bar & Grill.
Event venue: Caverna 57.

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!


We’re Married! (Part Three)


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). 🙂

 



We were there just before the sun started to set and I believe we were able to go around almost 3 times and see the 360° view of Las Vegas. It was just stunning. And Andy looked stunning…


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.



More views. Happy sigh.

Then it was the Colorado Rack of Lamb for Andy (Hoisin orange sesame glaze, crispy rice cake, Las Vegas grown Swiss chard, demi-glace)

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).

 

We also snapped a few pictures of each other during dinner. What a handsome guy!

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.

I am happy and content like I never was before. Thank you, Andy.



And that’s it. We closed the door to our room at the SLS Hotel the next morning and this is the parting shot. See you next year!

And they lived happily ever after…


Mason on the Steve Harvey Show!

Check out my friend Mason Partak and his appearance on the Steve Harvey show. Mason has raised money to help his school learn how to make and serve healthier lunches! 🙂

Mason Partak

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Listen to Me Today on Serious Talk. Seriously.


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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! 🙂

http://app.stitcher.com/splayer/f/58636/48107684

You can like Serious Talk. Seriously. on Facebook here, follow on Twitter here.

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Flights By Night #6: Apothic Inferno and Primal Moussaka

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Happy Halloween!

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.

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Primal Moussaka from Mark’s Daily Apple
(Taken directly from the website)
4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 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

Instructions:

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.

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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.

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One-of-a-Kind Hofsas House Hotel Celebrates 70 Years

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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.

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Fred Hofsas created the mosaic coat of arms, the Latin inscription translates to English as “Leisure with Dignity”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Below is the incredible view from outside our room.

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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!

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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.

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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.


 

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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.

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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.

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Next was a little side salad…

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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.

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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!!

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You can find Beach House at Lover’s Point on Facebook here.

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!!

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Inside the Hidden Food and Wine Gems of Yolo County

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!! 😉

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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.

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So I’m hoping after the pictoral and descriptions, you’ll want to make a trip to Park Winters very, very soon! It’s such a unique and incredible space and a delightful epicurean experience.

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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!

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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.

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Inside the Seka Hills Tasting Room:

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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.

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Our last stop of the tour was Capay Valley Vineyards.

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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.

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Experience the Stunning Views of San Francisco at the Cityscape Lounge

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).

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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!

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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!

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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.

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A Cheese and Charcuterie Plate with Beet Pickled Egg, Quince, Grain Mustard, Olives, Black Garlic and a Selection of fine Meats and Cheeses.

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Chilled Prawn with a “Cioppino” Cocktail Sauce and Citrus Gremolata

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Spiced Cucumbers with Sesame, Crushed Chile, Scallion, and Burnt Peanut

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The Ahi-Salmon Hamachi Poke with Sweet Onion, Inamona Jus, Micro Wasabi, and Lotus Root Chips

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The Kennebec potato crisps served with a black garlic-charred scallion aioli.

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Other menu selections include California Pistachios and Almonds, Avocado Hummus, Dungeness Crab, Beef Satay, and a Selection of Seasonal Sweets Dessert Plate.

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!

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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!

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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.)

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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!