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
So this is a public service announcement of sorts for all attendees of the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference. I am reposting a blog post I wrote waaay back in 2012 about the Portuguese and Spanish varietals produced by Stuart Spencer. If you’ll be in Lodi for the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference, please check out St. Amant Winery.
Also, Stuart Spencer (not only the winemaker at St. Amant, but Program Manager at the Lodi Winegrape Commission as well) will be a moderator at the conference during a Friday morning (11:00am) seminar called The Truth About Viticulture. Panelists at the seminar include: Tegan Passalacqua, Director of Winemaking at Turley Wine Cellars; Stan Grant, Viticulturist, Progressive Viticulture; Chris Storm, Viticulturist,Vino Farms. If you’re a wine geek like me, this presentation is not to be missed!!
I am like, completely psyching myself out right now! Andy and I are looking forward to meeting all of you this week and now I will try and calm down. 🙂
Please enjoy the following from December 2012… a little food and wine pairing. Cheers and happy Monday!
PS: You can find the Wine Bloggers Conference on Facebook here.
If you’ve never heard of St. Amant Winery, here’s an introduction. They are located in Lodi where lately, especially the last 3 years, some of my favorite red wines have also originated.
I first discovered St. Amant wines at a tasting at Treasure Island (in San Francisco of all places) during Fleet Week. I had the St. Amant Barbera and I thought it was the best red wine there. So, my recent interest in local Tempranillos has me searching around Lodi to see what I can find. It’s becoming more and more popular of a varietal there. It turns out that St. Amant has been growing Tempranillo a long time. Their 2009 was their 8th vintage, so I’m guessing they’re not just trying to be trendy. 😉
In fact, St. Amant was growing grapes prior to the beginning of commercial wine sales in Lodi. In 1979, Tim Spencer (the late father of the current owner, Stuart Spencer) owned a couple of acres of Zinfandel vines and grafted them to five Douro Valley Portuguese varieties: TintaCao,Touriga, Alvarelhao, Souzao, and Bastardo. By 1981, he produced his first vintage port.
In 1996, the winery relocated to Lodi. St. Amant (named after Stuart’s mother’s maiden name) is one of the first wineries in Lodi to list Lodi on their label. Since the move, Stuart has been making some of the most interesting and food friendly wines including: a Verdelho, the aformentioned Barbera and Tempranillo, a Touriga, a red blend: Speakeasy Red, and of course the ever popular Old Vine Zinfandel (2 varieties). The current lineup also includes 3 different kinds of Port.
Last night’s food pairing (with the 2008 Tempranillo) was a baked sweet potato topped with broccoli, onions, hard boiled egg, and Diestel Turkey Chorizo. I also added a little Greek yogurt and black pepper. 😉
I encourage you to visit St. Amant this weekend, especially if you are looking for a special bottle of wine as a gift. They are located at 1 Winemaster Way, Lodi, CA. You can also find them at Total Wine & More or fax your order from this form here.
You can like Lodi Wine on Facebook here.
Farm-to-Fork events are kicking into high gear all around Sacramento as noted by the Farm-to-Fork regional events page. Farm-to-Fork Restaurant Week begins on September 8th and takes place for 18 days, along with the Farm-to-Fork Festival on the 24th of September and the Farm-to-Fork Gala (Tower Bridge Dinner) on the 25th of September. But if you’re a wine lover, Legends of Wine (on Thursday, September 16th from 6-9pm) is the hallmark affair of the Farm-to-Fork celebration.
Legends of Wine provides the unique opportunity to sample and discover more about some of the region’s most celebrated varietals, as selected by two of Sacramento’s internationally recognized culinary powerhouses—Darrell Corti and David Berkley. Set against the backdrop of California’s majestic State Capitol, guests will sip a wide array of award-winning wines paired and presented with artisan cheeses and local delights.
Each year of Legends of Wine, Lodi wine has been well represented. I have always been a bigger fan of the region for its Zinfandels (over Amador who I feel produces better Barberas). I bring up the Lodi region because this year it is the home of the Wine Blogger’s Conference taking place next week, August 11th-14th. I am looking forward to learning more about Lodi and revisiting the wineries and taking part in the many seminars planned for the weekend, so that during Legends of Wine, I can chat more in depth with the winemakers about their craft as I try the wines.
Hyatt Regency Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill Home to this Year’s National Alopecia Areata Foundation Conference
This year marked the 31st Annual National Alopecia Areata Foundation’s Convention, and this year we convened in Washington, D.C.
What the heck is alopecia? Click here to find out.
Though many rallied at the Capitol to raise awareness and urge their congresspeople to consider legislation that would help cover wigs/hairpieces for a patient diagnosed with alopecia, the home of the convention was at The Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill, where conference attendees gathered together in support of each other, danced together, cried together, dined together, laughed together, learned together, and did nothing short of have a ball together.
You see, for alopecians, this is the most important event of the year where we can get together from all parts of the world and share our experiences. Because sharing and relating is medicine for the soul. The magic of the conference is that it provides a gathering place for people and their families from all walks of life who are affected by this disease.
I arrived very late on Thursday night, and did not go to Capitol Hill with the others, but I attended a workshop on Friday afternoon called Empowering Lives, Building Resilience, led by Dr. Renee Thomason.
Then on Friday evening, I was treated to dinner by Roti Meditteranean Grill (located in Union Station). It is only about 1/3 of a mile to Union Station (pictured below).
If you have never tried Roti Mediterranean Grill, it’s pretty much like a build your own burrito place, but instead with Mediterranean food. What drew me to Roti is that they have a gluten-free/gluten-friendly menu with gluten-free pita bread. Probably enough said there, too. I am sure all my gluten-free readers are now just as intrigued as I was! 🙂
So, I went with the salad with kabob, tahini sauce, and feta, cabbage slaw #becauseprobiotics!, and a side of hummus with an order of gluten-free pita bread. I would have dined in, but I was ready to head back to my room and relax. Plus, I had some yummy wine to pair with my meal chilling in the refrigerator.
So I scurried back like a hungry little squirrel and spread out my Mediterranean feast on the coffee table in front of the TV in my (rather extravagant for one person) hotel room.
I loved the chicken kabob salad because it was filling and healthy, which is how I like to eat even when I am out of town. I could not tell a difference between this pita bread and regular pita bread, and the side of hummus was enormous, and would be used on other food throughout the weekend thanks to the refrigerator in my room. If you’re curious about the wine, I packed three bottles with me to save money on beverages during my trip. Tonight’s wine was a Chardonnay which is a lovely pairing with grilled chicken.
Then for dessert, I snuck down to the Hyatt’s bar, the Article One Lounge, and ordered this cocktail (below) The Ketel One Watermelon Cooler. The title describes exactly the contents of the drink: watermelon, basil, and vodka with a lime wedge. I sat with some other alopecians who were hanging out and having some drinks. I love our community and how you can just ask to sit with someone and you’re accepted. Wig or no wig. It’s whatever makes you comfortable and people understand and can relate. 🙂
The next day, I headed out to explore Washington, D.C. via foot/running. I did a five mile run from my hotel to the Capitol building and down to the Washington Monument and back and below are the pictures I took during the run (while managing to get 5 miles in).
When I got back to the hotel, I finished my workout in the StayFit™ Fitness Center. It is a well-equipped gym with several treadmills, ellipticals, weights, a sauna, locker rooms, an indoor lap pool, and an outdoor sundeck. The gym’s set up reminded me of a greenhouse, as detailed in the picture (below). I ran three more miles and did 20 minutes elliptical thanks to the air-conditioning!! 🙂
Following my workout and gym time, I headed to another conference session: Ask the Experts. The Ask the Experts presentation was a panel of medical and research experts from a variety of fields to answer questions about the different aspects of alopecia areata including treatment and research. Though I don’t attend the conference anymore in search of a cure (I come for the camaraderie), it’s always interesting to hear the latest research.
Following the Ask the Experts panel, it was time to get blown away by the strength and courage of the panel during the Young Adult Perspective presentation. Seven young adults gave their testimony and answered questions from the audience about their experiences with alopecia. I admired this panel of kids (to me, now at 39) because they were diagnosed with alopecia during more formative years. I was diagnosed at 25 and never had to deal with bullying any of the weirdness an adolescent would have to face like these panelists surely did. They all gave helpful advice to audience members, especially the parents of children with alopecia, on what to say, how to react, and what to do to be a community advocate. It was a powerful seminar to say the least.
Then I headed back up to my room to get ready for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Article One. I had contacted the hotel the week of my trip to see if we could work together on a Paleo meal to feature here on my website. The marketing team for the Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. was very receptive to my request. In addition, I received a room upgrade from a regular room that I paid for to an Executive Suite with many more amenities and a separate living room and sleeping area. My room included a refrigerator and a microwave, 2 televisions, and 2 different air/heating controls for the two rooms in the suite. The Executive Suite includes access to the Regency Club King room (a private access 11th floor lounge with dedicated concierge service, Continental breakfast, daily refreshments, evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres). With the upgrade to Regency Club, I didn’t have to spend any extra money on meals during the day.
I snapped a pic of me all decked out for dinner (before heading up to the Regency Club for some early evening snacks and a glass of wine).
Following my visit to the Recency Club, I headed down to Article One for dinner.
The restaurant is very contemporary with vibrant reds/burnt orange and browns in its decor, and open to the hotel lobby. I was impressed with the open feel because you can still experience the buzz of the lobby, but still feel like you are tucked away for a private meal.
And a very special and private meal it was for yours truly, as I was treated by the Article One staff and Executive Sous Chef Ryan Ward.
I was thrilled with the amount of research Chef Ryan did on the Paleo diet, and I promise you if you have a dietary restriction, all you have to do is let the hotel know when you make your reservation. The staff will do everything they can to meet your needs and make your dinner a memorable one.
For your reference, here is the wine list at Article One.
Then my meal arrived, served by the Chef himself. It was a Rib-Eye steak, cooked medium rare, with turnips and potatoes. There was also a decadent mushroom sauce (I ordered on the side). Let’s just call it mushroom ketchup because I used it as a condiment for the perfectly cooked bites of steak and tender turnips and potatoes.
Chef Ryan also put together a dessert especially for me with mixed berries and mixed nuts and seeds. I ordered a glass of Pascual Toso Brut (an Argentinian sparkling wine) to have with dessert.
After my workout, which was again finished in the StayFit™ Fitness Center, I got my things all packed up and went down to attend the Closing Session led by NAAF Communications Director (and totally rad DJ) Gary Sherwood, Chief Development Strategist Maureen Smith, and the guest speaker, an NFL linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan Shazier.
I want to thank the Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. for the room upgrade, as well as the custom Paleo meal and wine I enjoyed during my stay. Everything was perfect including the 24-hour room service (not previously mentioned), which saved me from starving on Thursday night after a late flight and arrival to the hotel. I recommend the Field Greens Salad with Grilled Chicken!
I’d also like to tell you about Hyatt Hotels in Washington 2016 Summer Offer, which is a great deal for anyone who wants to visit D.C. It is available for Hyatt Gold Passport® Members, and offers up to a 15% off stays at participating Hyatt Hotels in Washington DC through September 10, 2016.
Here is the link with more details about this offer: http://www.hyatt.com/content/partnerlandingpage/en/corporate/global/hyatt-member-washingtondc.html
You can find the Hyatt Regency Washington D.C. Capitol Hill online here, on Facebook here, on Twitter here and on Instagram here.
Beginning photo credit: NAAF’s Facebook page
OK ladies! Grab your girlfriends and “party like a mother”! The movie Bad Moms opens at Studio Movie Grill on July 28th, and they are hosting the ultimate playdate for all moms throughout the run of the movie.
Here’s the deal and there are two price levels: 1. Get together a group of 10 or more of your besties.
2. For $30 per person, you’ll get admission to Bad Moms, plus an appetizer or dessert of your choice, an entrée, and a glass of SMG Cellars Cabernet or Betty’s Blend, or a special Mom-A-Rita Frozen Margarita.
3. For $33 per person, you’ll get admission to Bad Moms, plus an appetizer or dessert of your choice, an entrée, and a glass of Chloe Red Blend 249, or Kung Fu Girl Riesling, or a special Mother-of-all-Ritas Frozen Margarita with a Champagne Sidecar. Both packages include a special “Bad Moms” wine glass.
I am getting together a group on July 30th, and if you are local to Sacramento/Rocklin/Roseville and would like to join us, you can sign up by following this link: I WANT TO PARTY LIKE A MOTHER!!
More about Bad Moms from a press release:
From the writers of THE HANGOVER comes this summer’s most original, outrageous, laugh-out-loud comedy “Bad Moms”starring Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Christina Applegate.
You can view the trailer here.
Do you have a group of 10 or more? Book your event at https://www.studiomoviegrill.com/events
Come on, you deserve a night out with your girlfriends and this is the summer must see movie!
About Studio Movie Grill:
Studio Movie Grill modernized the traditional movie-going experience by combining first- run movies with full-service, in-theater dining. Established in 2000, SMG has swiftly grown to 24 locations in10 states. SMG, long considered the leader of in-theater dining exhibition, recently announced a major expansion initiative with plans for additional sites throughout the country. SMG currently ranks the 20th largest exhibitor in the U.S. For additional information, visit www.studiomoviegrill.com.
Remember that time we made rack of lamb and Andy wrote a wine review? 4 years later to the day, I thought I would repost. Thanks Superior Farms for supplying the lamb. -cg
Last week, Superior Farms sent me this beautiful rack of lamb along with a few other cuts of lamb to showcase it a recipe to all of you. On Sunday, (to close out my birthday celebration, and to celebrate seven months together), we grilled the rack and enjoyed it with our usual huge salad.
To prepare the lamb, you’ll mix lemon juice and olive oil in equal parts, and then flavor with sea salt, dried oregano and minced garlic to taste. Then marinate in the refrigerator anywhere from 5 to 48 hours.
Now for the wines!
One of the wines we purchased during our Seattle trip from Fall Line Winery, and the other wine was given to me at a media tasting at BevMo! We knew both wines were perfect for the lamb, and I did mention we were celebrating, didn’t I? 🙂
The first wine was Michael Pozzan’s…
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Last Saturday night Andy and I attended a pre-opening dinner at Chicago Fire‘s newest location: 7101 Laguna Blvd, Elk Grove. The pre-opening lunches and dinners were held both on Friday and Saturday in an effort to train the staff and to ensure consistency amongst the other four Chicago Fire locations.
The weather was terrific, so we decided to sit on the patio. The dinner was complimentary for us except for alcohol (and was also free to everyone invited). It included an appetizer, a salad, a pizza and a dessert to share between us. The limitations on food were mainly because it was a training night and an effort to control conditions in service and in the kitchen. It’s kind of like when you are a brand new runner. You don’t just start out running a marathon. You train up to that distance. Likewise, the staff in the new location were learning to run in ideal conditions, a few miles at a time.
I was very excited to be there because I have loved Chicago Fire for a long time. I think it’s a great place for celebrations or just a dinner for two. Also I work for a printer in Roseville (yes, I have a day job) and we print their business cards and takeout menus as well as a few other items. The people running the show at the restaurant are great to work with altogether.
But back to the food we ordered! For our appetizer, we chose the Garlic Fries. Not really something on the diet plan, but a treat to share with Andy and always very tasty/crispy/herby/garlicky. In true Greek fashion, they are served with lemon. Super good. Diet Gods, I am so sorry. 😉
We ordered a few starter glasses of wine, but afterwards ordered this bottle of Windy City Red. It’s a wine produced solely for the Chicago Fire restaurants by Boeger Winery. It’s one of their less expensive wines and a very good value. It’s also a great pairing for anything on the menu with red sauce or any pizza that has meat on it!
Our salad came next and we chose the Pesto Chicken Salad. It’s my favorite salad at Chicago Fire. My second favorite is the Greek Salad, but I can’t resist the pesto dressing. Plus, the chicken on the Chicken Pesto Salad is grilled to perfection, and then there’s all those big cheese shavings on top. I almost wanted to take the salad for myself and leave the pizza for Andy!
Typically, I try to load my plate with greens such as the salad above, and then maybe have 20% of the main course. That way, I have had a lot of fiber, vegetables, etc., and gotten mostly full before I move on to the next course.
Chicago Fire serves a gluten free version of most of the pizzas on their menu. This one is called the Stockyard. If you order gluten free it only comes in one size, but that is OK because with the appetizer and large salad, it was a perfectly shareable size between Andy and myself. The stockyard is a deliciously meat-loaded pizza featuring garlic sausage, pepperoni, salami and Canadian bacon. And of course we got the gluten free crust. I also always order a side of marinara, because I love to dip my pizza crusts in the sauce.
As of all the previous visits we’ve had at Chicago Fire, I would call it consistent and very enjoyable. The difference was the great new location, the fun outdoor experience and the well-landscaped area around the restaurant.
OK wine lovers! Grocery Outlet is holding a huge wine sale where all wines will be an additional 20% off Grocery Outlet’s everyday low prices. It’s the same high-quality wines you love at 50-70% off PLUS 20% more off, so that means you can save as much as 80% on all Grocery Outlet wines during the sale!!
Yesterday I visited my local Grocery Outlet in Roseville, CA, and spoke to the wine buyer, Michael, about the upcoming sale. He thought my blog cavegrrl referred to wine caves! I never thought of that. That’s actually pretty brilliant. Hmmmm…maybe someday I will rebrand AGAIN as a wine blog with the same URL! Anyway, he was incredibly nice to share about an hour of his time with me. He is passionate about making sure he finds wines customers are going to love. He has a “benchmark varietal” method in which he asks the customer what their favorite varietal is, and if they aren’t sure of that, he finds out something as simple as their preference for red or white wine. Through this process, Michael figures out the customer’s preference of sweet or dry, and eventually can help them pick a wine he believes they will enjoy.
It is that kind of customer service you can get, especially at this Grocery Outlet location, where it’s almost like having your own sommelier, but in a discount grocery store (kind of awesome). And truly, since my visit today, I can tell you there are some really great wines to choose from for the sale coming on Tuesday!
Here’s the lineup I bought today and (all of them I highly recommend):
From left to right, Cuerda Sparkling Wine ($4.99)–tastes like an $8-$10 bottle and perfect for unwinding after a busy day or blending in a mimosa or bellini, Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc ($8.99)-I will update the description when I try this one, but Randall Graham is behind this one, so I think it will be pretty good. Also, it’s a white wine blend with Roussane, so I am sure I will be a fan. Next is the Paraiso Pinot Noir ($5.99)-a bargain and goes for $24.99 per bottle elsewhere, by the way does Santa Lucia Highlands ring a bell?? You should have seen me try to contain myself with this deal!! Finally, there’s Goss Creek Red Blend ($4.99)-I really loved, tastes like a $15-18 bottle and goes for $16.99 per bottle elsewhere.
Not only is Grocery Outlet a great place to buy wine, it’s a great place to find food to pair with your wine! Today, I bought a bag of Brussels sprouts, an onion, and some Aidell meatballs to throw together a simple and tasty dish!
Brussel Sprout, Onion and Meatball Sauté:
1 small package Brussels sprouts (quartered and pre-cooked in Microwave for 3-4 minutes)
1 package Aidells meatballs
All you have to do is slice the onion, saute it in olive oil with some salt until translucent, then add the Brussels sprouts––I like to quarter them first and then microwave them for 3-4 minutes to get ahead of the game. Usually, I am tired at the end of the day and I just want to eat and relax, so I am looking for any shortcut possible.
After the onions get browned and are pretty well cooked, add some balsamic vinegar to your liking (2-3 Tbs for me), and then add the microwaved Brussels sprouts and sauté them until browned. Then add the Aidell’s sausages. Cook the entire thing until it’s heated through (the Aidell’s are already pre-cooked, you just have to warm them up in the pan. It literally takes less than 20 minutes to make this dish and it’s a great pairing with ANY of the wines I bought above (especially the Paraiso Pinot Noir!!)
You bet I will be back in the store at 8am on Tuesday to clear out my favorite wines and save an extra 20% off when the wine sale begins! If you love wine, do yourself a favor and visit your local GO March 22-26th!! If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask the wine buyer (if that person is present) or the store manager. In my personal experience (I was a customer before I was compensated for this blog post) and the following held true: the management team at Grocery Outlet just wants you to find the right wine for you and for you to be happy with your purchase.
Join the fun on social media by tagging your posts with #GOWineSale!! Cheers and happy shopping!!
Flame and Fire is one of most unique dining destinations in Roseville, and we were finally able to check it out a few weeks ago.
If you already live in that neck of the woods, you probably know about Flame and Fire (located off Hwy 65 in Roseville, Pleasant Grove exit) and their exceptional food. Andy and I had been eager to visit this traditional Brazilian Churrascaria since our visit to another restaurant in the Bay area with a similar concept/dining experience.
What is a Brazilian Churrascaria? Basically, it’s a place where meat is cooked in churrasco style, which translates roughly from the Portuguese for ‘barbecue’. At Flame and Fire, diners can choose from a variety of fifteen succulent types of meat at dinner and seven types of meat and lunchtime. The menu is fixed price and patrons are are served several times throughout their meal.
The food is served by Gaucho Chefs who slice and serve the meats table side. This manner of service is known as Rodizio style and uses a card or chip (with the green side showing) to signal one of the rotating Gaucho Chefs to visit the table and serve what meat he happens to be carrying (cuts of beef, chicken, lamb, pork and Brazilian sausages to name a few). When the diner has had enough, they turn their dining card to the red side to show the Gaucho they do not want more food at the moment.
Before meat service begins, though, guests are invited to visit the salad bar that is packed with over 30 different dishes and sides like Brazilian feijoada (stew of pork and black beans), farofa (a toasted cassava flour mixture), rice and beans. It’s like a compilation of all the best appetizers you’ve ever had.
To the side of the salad bar there are large containers with fish stew, rice and a potato dish with bacon and cheese.
The little kid in me wanted to try everything, but I knew I should save more room for all the meats that would come to our table, so I opted for a salad with a few different toppings and actually used the chimichurri sauce available on the salad bar as my dressing (the healthiest option on the bar because it contains only herbs and oil). TIP: Grab some for your meats later on in the meal. I also tried some of the wonderful cheeses available.
Often, Andy and I order a glass of wine (a starter glass, if you will) just as we are being seated. I usually go for something with bubbles! Then we peruse the wine menu together and find a bottle of wine to share that we think we will both enjoy. We decided on a bottle of Spanish wine made by Numanthia because it would pair nicely with the meat.
I should also mention the little side dishes that are placed on the table to enjoy with every meal at Flame and Fire, pao de queijo (melt in your mouth cheese bread) and fried bananas:
After we finished our selections from the salad bar, it was time for the gauchos to add our table into their rotation of service. It is very lovely to watch the servers come around one at a time and offer you what they are carrying. Below are a few of our favorite items from the evening, and some of what you can expect to see during a dinner service:
We sampled picanha (top sirloin) and the restaurant’s signature meat dish, fraldinha (bottom sirloin) and my personal favorite, chicken wrapped in bacon, Brazilian sausage, filet mignon, lamb chops (Andy’s favorite), pork ribs, parmesan chicken. Everything was so tasty and the interactive service was so much fun!
We were too full for dessert, but Flame and Fire does offer a delicious endings to their feast with a signature Flame & Fire Sovrete (ice cream) or Traditional Brazilian Flan. Also, roasted caramelized pineapple can be sliced at your table!
We’re excited to be invited back to the HALL Cabernet Cookoff this year. This competition celebrates Bay Area chefs with 100% of ticket sales benefiting Napa Valley charities! Here’s a press release from my friends at HALL with all the details. I hope you can join us this year! 🙂
NAPA VALLEY, CA – The HALL Cabernet Cookoff will return for its seventh year on Saturday, April 23. The annual event will feature an impressive lineup of both Napa Valley and San Francisco based Chef Teams vying for a chance to win money for a charity of their choice, by participating in a food and wine pairing challenge. 100% of ticket sales benefit Napa Valley non-profit organizations.
“This event is a sampling of Napa Valley lifestyle at its best,” says Vintner Kathryn Hall. “Guests get to enjoy the most delicious bites from Bay Area restaurants while sipping on our Napa Valley Cabernet. Each year, everyone involved with the Cab Cookoff comes out a winner.”
Chef teams involved create seasonal bites that pair well with HALL’s signature Cabernet Sauvignon and present it to an all-star panel of judges who vote for two Judges’ Awards. Chef teams are also judged by guests in attendance who vote for two People’s Choice Awards. All four awards are announced by Kathryn Hall, who presents checks to the winning chef teams and their selected charities, towards the end of the event.
The 2016 panel judges include celebrity Chef Duff Goldman from Food Network’s Ace of Cakes; TV Personality and host of Check Please Bay Area, Leslie Sbrocco; Wine Enthusiast Critic, Virginie Boone; San Francisco Magazine Wine Director, Ian White; and Michelin-rated Chef, Ken Frank of La Toque.
Additionally, KVON’s 99.3 The Vine and on-air personality “Good Morning, Bob,” will be broadcasting live during the event and feature real time interviews with chef teams, guests and non-profit organizations. Participating chef teams include The Grill at Meadowood, One Market, Harvest Table, The Patriot, Feast Catering, SIFT Desserts, Ca’ Momi, Paula Le Duc Fine Catering, Zola, Brix, Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, Kara’s Cupcakes, and more.
WHAT: 7th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff; a food and wine paring challenge with 100% of ticket proceeds supporting local charities
WHEN: Saturday, April 23, 2016 from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
WHERE: HALL St. Helena – The Great Lawn, 401 St. Helena Hwy. S, St. Helena, CA 94574. For more information call (707) 967-2626.
TICKETS: Early Bunny Ticket: $70.00 (pre-sale ticket ends March 31), General Admission Ticket: $80.00 (March 31 – April 23, 2016), VIP Sky Loft: $125.00 (Access to historic Bergfeld Building, single vineyard Cabernets and small bites from HALL’s in-house Chef team) Tickets Available: www.hallwines.com/cabernetcookoff
The 2015 HALL Cabernet Cookoff drew more than 650 food and wine lovers for a sold-out crowd, and raised $59,000 for local charities. Last year’s winning chef teams included PRESS and selected charity, If Given a Chance, Capital Dime and charity, Food Literacy Center, One Market and charity, Napa Valley Hospice Adult Day Services and The Grill at Meadowood and their charity, Community Resource for Children. Since inception in 2011, the HALL Cabernet Cookoff has raised $250,000 for charities in and around the Bay Area.
For more information, please visit www.hallwines.com/cabernetcookoff or via social channels using #cabernetcookoff.
Quite often, food products are sent to me at cavegrrl.com headquarters to get my opinion on them and to share them with you here if I like them. The latest product I tried and happened to LOVE is barkTHINS snacking chocolate.
barkTHINS are made with Fair Trade and non–GMO certified ingredients and are a delectable treat that fit into a healthy/active lifestyle.
The team at barkTHINS sent me four varieties of their snacking chocolate including: Blueberry with Quinoa Crunch, Almond with Sea Salt, Pumpkin with Sea Salt and Coconut with Almonds. All four of these flavors are gluten-friendly (not made in a gluten free facility, but do not have gluten as an ingredient. My fingers are crossed that they will develop a gluten friendly pretzel/dark chocolate barkTHINS.
My favorite barkTHINS is the Pumpkin Seed with Sea Salt! I really enjoy pumpkin seeds and they have a high nutritional value. My favorite dessert (not every night, but a few times a week if we have a lighter dinner) is a few barkTHINS, some nuts or seeds, a few pieces of dried fruit (like pears or figs), and a small piece of hard cheese.
Andy also tried some of the flavors and noted that his favorite thing about the chocolate was that it really was like bark, each piece was a different shape and size. The only bad thing about barkTHINS is that they are so GOOD that you might accidentally eat the entire bag. 😉
Today’s post will be several in a series I am doing with a company called SunBasket. They are one of several home-cooked meal kit delivery services that have popped up as of late. I am particularly fond of SunBasket because you can order strictly Paleo meals that are organic and non-GMO. I also love the story behind the company.
Additionally, all meals are developed by top San Francisco chef Justine Kelly (formerly of The Slanted Door) in partnership with Sun Basket’s in-house nutritionist Kaley Todd, ensuring that each dish is balanced, nutritious and delicious.
Also, I am excited to bring this company to your attention because the Paleo diet is something that is only truly sustainable if you 1.) Can cook at least a little or 2.) Can carve out the time to cook at least a little. Andy and I are a little spoiled because we alternate shopping and cooking to churn out Paleo/Primal meals everyday. But, we don’t have kids and have pretty flexible schedules to allow the time to do so.
I am thrilled to help introduce SunBasket because they can take the thinking/guess work out of dinner for three nights a week and even do the shopping for you. The meals come complete with everything you need to make three full meals for two people. The only thing you will have to do is the dishes!
For my first box, I was sent 3 meals, one of which was Winter Albondigas with Shredded Cabbage. I was pretty impressed with the way everything was labeled and the pre-printed recipe cards that came in the package.
And chop away I did, as I chopped the onion, carrot, cilantro, cabbage and segmented the lime. The butternut squash used in the meal was already peeled and chopped for me. OK, now that’s easy, because if you have ever cooked a butternut squash, you know what a pain it can be to peel and remove the seeds.
Following the recipe, I sauteéd the vegetables (as you can see below). Meanwhile, I prepared the meatballs that were to go in the soup:
The meatballs were a blend of ground pork and beef (antibiotic and hormone free) with chopped cilantro, egg, and a provided spice packet. I was able to make 11 pretty decent-sized meatballs from the meat and ingredients given.
After simmering and reducing for about 30 minutes, you end up with a delicious meal for two. The soup preparation was so simple, yet the flavor was as if I had spent hours in the kitchen!
Winter albondigas with shredded cabbage
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 4 ounces cabbage
- 1 lime
- ¾ pound butternut squash cubes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup diced tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 6 ounces ground beef
- 6 ounces ground pork
- 1 egg
- Meatball spice blend (oregano-cumin-coriander-garlic)
1. Prep the vegetables
Peel the onion and cut into ½-inch-thick pieces.
Scrub the carrot and cut into ¼-inch-thick half moon slices.
Finely chop the cilantro.
Cut the cabbage into thin strips.
2. Cook the soup
In a sauce pot over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onions, carrots, and squash. Season with salt and pepper and cover, stirring occasionally until the vegetables start to soften, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stirring to coat the vegetables. Add the diced tomatoes, chicken stock and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the soup slightly thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Make the meatballs
In a mixing bowl, combine the ground beef and pork. Add the egg, spice blend and half of the cilantro. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well until combined.
Add the meatballs to the soup. Bring the soup back to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the meatballs are just slightly pink in the center, 5 to 7 minutes.
Cut the lime into wedges. Divide the soup between two bowls and top with the remaining cilantro and cabbage. Serve with lime wedges.
Nutrition per serving: Calories 710, Protein: 37 g, Total Fat: 44 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 21 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6.5 g, Saturated Fat: 12 g, Cholesterol: 185 mg, Carbohydrates: 43 g, Fiber: 12 g, Added Sugar: 0 g, Sodium: 490 mg
A few weeks ago when I interviewed Mason Partak about his Chopped Junior experience and some of his future plans, I asked him to participate in a little something I call the Challenge Cream Cheese Challenge.
See, Challenge Butter (and Cream Cheese) sponsored my cookie exchange last year and sent me coupons for more butter and cream cheese than I could ever possibly use. Of course, the butter coupons I made very good use of and currently have about 15 pounds of butter in my freezer. However, cream cheese is not primal or paleo, so I sent the remainder of my cream cheese coupons to Mason Partak and asked him to come up with a recipe that I could publish on my website.
He gladly accepted the challenge, as he is such a great sport and takes advantage of most opportunities that come his way. I present to you his recipe for the Challenge Cream Cheese Challenge:
2 pkg Challenge cream cheese
1 med yellow onion
1 sm red onion
1 lg head of garlic
6 sage leaves
2 springs of Rosemary
1 pkg chives
1 C Italian blend grated cheese
1.5 C fresh grated parmesan
1 C chopped or sliced nuts (we used almonds)
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Quarter the onions and top the head of garlic. Create a wrap around the garlic with foil so it sits up, it does not have to be closed up. Drizzle the onions and garlic with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until soft. Set aside and let cool. Once cool, squeeze the garlic cloves out of their casings. Isn’t itway fun how they pop right out?
Finely dice the chives and place them in a bowl, set aside. Dice the sage leaves and Rosemary. Once your roast onions and garlic are cool (don’t have to be cold, just not hot), place them in the food processor and pulse until they are almost a paste consistency – not quite though. Add the cream cheese, Italian blend, 1/2C parmesan, sage and rosemary and process unit it is all completely mixed. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. You may need to scrape your food processor bowl and mix again to be sure you don’t have cream cheese lumps. Turn the whole thing out on to a cookie sheet being sure to scrape all the cheesy goodness out of your processor.
Form the cheese into four logs or balls and roll in the chives. When you start to run out of the chives, add the other cup of parmesan and coat with that. Do the same with nuts if you want. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
Serve with a French baguette and crackers, it’s delicious!
Mason says if you have leftovers, it adds a delicious layer of flavor to casseroles. The Partaks have also added it to their white chicken chili, it was so good!
Thanks so much for the recipe, Mason! I will be following up next week at some point with my stuffed sweet potatoes (also featuring Challenge Cream Cheese). You can find Mason Partak online here, on Facebook here and follow him on Twitter here and on Instagram here.
Meet Mason Partak! He’s a 12 year-old culinary mastermind from Auburn, California and a winner on Food Network’s Chopped Junior! You might have seen Mason on TV before doing cooking demos on Good Day Sacramento or in person at the California State Fair.
I have known about Mason and his cookery for a very long time, as I am friends with his mom, Kathy and have watched Mason grow up and mature into the bright, talented pre-teen he is now.
Last month, Mason’s parents invited their friends (including me, YAY) to Pistol Pete’s for a viewing party the very first time the Chopped Junior episode that Mason appeared on aired. None of the guests knew what was going to happen, but we all showed up to see it on the several big screens in the bar. For me, I was just thrilled that someone I knew was going to be on a nationally televised program. I didn’t care win or lose, I was going to show up and support Mason. I would want the same kind of thing from my friends if I ever appeared on TV. I have appeared on local TV segments before and did a pretty good job, but remember being a ball of nerves. I can’t imagine having the chance to be on Chopped or how it felt.
I emailed Mason some questions after the viewing party, and he emailed me his answers. So fun! 🙂
Cavegrrl: How did you get on Chopped and what is the audition process like?
Mason Partak: I think I got selected to audition for Chopped Junior because I was the alternate for Rachel VS Guys season one. They cast 8 kids and I was their number 9. Food Network sent a culinary producer to my house and everything, so they knew who I was. I did have to do a Skype audition for CJ and it was my worst audition ever! I had a terrible day at school and I said cray things, my mom was wondering who the heck I was?! When the call and email came that I had been cast, I was totally surprised.
CG: What was the ingredient (in any of the baskets) that you were the most happy to see?
MP: Totally the Wagyu skirt steak! I had already decided that if I got beef, I was making a taco and that is just what I did. It turned out that my spicy street taco was the best dish of the competition and Max’s in Auburn has it on their menu for the month of January.
MP: I need to salt my food properly, which means a little more than I think I need. I also learned how much video gets shot and not shown when you make a show for TV.
CG: When did you get started and find your love for cooking?
MP: I’ve been in the kitchen with my mom and dad my whole life, they both cook. My mom let me help stir and mix cookies when she baked cookies and then she started to teach me to decorate them like she did in the bakery. When I was four, I wanted to chop things so she taught me how to properly use a knife. When I was eight, I was allowed to do my first live cooking demo and I loved it! I loved performing and cooking and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I loved that people liked watching me cook and teach them how to make recipes.
CG: What is your fondest memory in the kitchen?
MP: Baking sugar cookies with my mom. She has taught me how to decorate sugar cookies to look amazing and finally, I’m getting really good. We open the cookie factory right after Thanksgiving and decorate hundreds of gingerbread and sugar cookies for Christmas gifts. My dad makes different flavors of truffles and those are the Christmas gifts we give our friends and neighbors.
CG: Do you have any favorite tools/appliances when cooking?
MP: My chef knife. Kitchen tools and gadgets are fun and I love to ask, “What the heck is this thing for?” on my You Tube channel, but really, all I need is my sharp knife.
CG: What is your signature dish and why?
MP: I have several award winning recipes, but I love to make fried chicken. I have become very good at getting it just right, crisp on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside and I love to get creative with how I season it. It can be seasoned using a store bought seasoning packet or my own concoctions, no matter what, it’s always really good.
MP: Mason Made Products is a line of sauces, marinades and caramel. Asian Fusion, Organic Citrus Ginger, and my BACON Chipotle Barbecue are a few of the flavors that I love. You can marinate, use in conjunction with other seasonings and spices, and you can even use some of them with a bit of olive oil on salad. When I won Chopped Junior, I told my mom I thought it would be cool to start a business, the sauces are the start, but I am also working on a cook book and I am thinking about making copies of the learn to cook card game my mom created for me to practice cooking.
CG: Any future appearances/plans in the works?
MP: Right now, I’m excited about my spicy street taco being on Max’s menu (110 Grass Valley Hwy Auburn, California) for the month of January and my cooking demos in Auburn, Roseville, Sacramento, Napa, and Petaluma are already excited to have me back as a Chopped Junior Champion. I’m also working on a cream cheese recipe for cavegrrl.com. There is one other thing, but my mom said I can’t share yet, but as soon as I can, I will email you the details, sound good?
Mason, yes! It all sounds incredible and I will be posting your recipe here sometime this week, as well as the recipe I made with Challenge cream cheese. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you!
PS: Alta Vista Community Charter School needs some help finding a sponsor or donations to buy groceries for the kids at the school to learn to cook. This is the same school that Mason helped raise $25,000 for a total kitchen remodel for the children to have access to proper culinary classes. Well, now they need the food with which to cook. Shallots, butter, olive oil, you name it. They need to raise $1,000 for the end of this school year and hopefully they can get a sponsor for next year. If you can help, email me at misscavegrrl at gmail.com and I will put you in touch with the right people! Remember, even five bucks can help a budding chef!
You can find Mason Partak online here, on Facebook here and follow him on Twitter here and on Instagram here. Thank you Mason for sharing your experiences with cavegrrl.com! Check back in for Mason’s recipe later in the week! 🙂
Back in September, Andy and I attended the 70th birthday party of the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar, a legendary tiki bar located in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel. Walking into the room is like stepping back in time to the post-war days of exotic cocktails, food and all things Polynesian. A time when South Pacific food and culture were all the rage, along with the clothing styles to match. Originally, the room housed the hotel’s indoor swimming pool. The pool and its original tiles have been saved, but it’s now equipped with a floating stage for bands to play live music. Every thirty minutes, a thunderstorm erupts, and rain falls into the pool.
The 70th birthday party featured an incredible buffet, cocktails and live music by the Island Groove band. It was surreal to be in San Francisco on a work night surrounded by so many fun people dressed in their best festive tiki attire, laughing and dancing without a care.
The Tonga Room is a true relic, surviving a threat of closure, and thriving to become what it is today. In 2013, the menu was redone and the drink recipes were given an update to match the more traditional style. It was an incredible experience to be part of the celebration.
If you have never been to the Tonga Room, please put it on your list of travel destinations in 2016 or make arrangements NOW to celebrate with them on New Year’s Eve (details below)!!
Get a real taste of what the Tonga Room looks like and all the fun we had at the party. More photos from the 70th birthday celebration can be found by clicking HERE.
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar New Years Eve Luau
Ring in 2016 in a tropical paradise! Tonga Room offers a decadent Luau buffet package featuring a sumptuous buffet, party favors, Mai Tai or Champagne toast at midnight & dancing to The Island Groove band from 7:00pm until 12:30am.
Tonga Room New Year’s Eve Luau: 6:00pm-close
Cover Charge: $30 per person
1st Seating 6:30pm ~ Dinner Buffet:
$89 per adult, $49 for children under 12
2nd Seating 9:00pm ~ Dinner Buffet & midnight toast:
$119 per adult, $59 children under 12
Tonga Room New Year’s Eve Buffet Menu:
• Raw Kushi Oysters with Rice Wine Mignonette & Wasabi Tobikko
• Chilled Crab Claws with Chinese Mustard Dipping Sauce
• Poisson Cru, Sweet & Hot Peppers, Lime Juice, Coconut Shell
• Chilled Soba Noodle Salad with Ponzu Dressing
• Tropical Green Salad: Toasted Macadamia Nuts, Shredded Carrots, Pickled Peppers, Hearts of Palm, Shaved Cucumber, Crispy Wonton Strips, Sesame Soy Vinaigrette, Rice Wine Vinaigrette, Miso Vinaigrette
• Kona Baby Back Ribs
• Assorted Steamed Dumplings
• Red Lentil Soup
• Chow Mein Noodles, Bok Choy, Oyster Mushrooms, Cabbage, Carrots
Mongolian Beef Stir Fry
• Lu Pulu Taro leaf wrapped Corned Beef with braised Cabbage& Coconut Milk
• Huli Huli Chicken
• Vegetarian Tonga Hot Pot
• Whole Roasted 3-day Hoisin-Brined Berkshire Pig:
• Kalua Pork & Tropical Fruit Stuffing, Sweet Molasses Glaze & Apricot- Star Anise Compote
• Mashed Sweet Potatoes
• Wok Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Black Garlic, Sesame Oil
• Chef Attended Sushi Rolling Station: Tuna, Salmon, Amber Jack & Hamachi with all the accompaniments
Dessert Station: Coconut Clafouti, Petite Pineapple Rum Cake, White Chocolate Matcha Mousse, Assorted Mochi
To make arrangements at the Fairmont Hotel and for a glimpse of everything going on this holiday season, you can click here! You can find Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar on Facebook here and on Twitter here. For more information call (415) 772-5278.
This week, Andy and I were invited to try out the new winter menu at Seasons 52. Seasons 52 describes themselves as a fresh grill and wine bar that offers a seasonal menu inspired by the appeal of a farmer’s market and what’s good now. I would also add that they cater to people who enjoy dining out, but like to stay calorie conscious. That pretty much describes me, and why I have accepted every invitation the restaurant has sent my way. I really love the concept of the restaurant and enjoy the food!
We started out in one of the banquet rooms, (other writers were also invited and gathered there) to taste a few of the featured wines and flatbreads. Andy and I passed on the flatbreads (which Seasons 52 does specialize in because they can make them very seasonal—by swapping out the toppings when the seasons change—and low in calorie). However, later on we found out that they can make any of the flatbreads on the menu with a gluten-sensitive dough! I have been to the restaurant 5 or 6 times now and I never knew this! 🙂 More on the gluten-senstive flatbreads later, but before I get too off track, let’s get back to the wine tasting at the beginning of our evening:
I particularly enjoyed the Catena Cabernet Sauvignon, a reasonably priced food friendly wine, that is a recent addition to the Seasons 52 wine list. Their international wine list features 100 wines and offers at least 52 of them by the glass.
During the wine tasting, Andy and I met up with Susan Cooper (who writes the blog Finding Our Way Now) and her husband. Since both of our websites have shifted towards wine, we decided to sit together during dinner and talk about some of our current and future projects.
I started out with this rosé of Syrah from Casas del Bosque. It was an off-dry wine and a great appetizer in my book. 🙂
Speaking of appetizers, this is the gluten-friendly flat bread I mentioned earlier. We chose the Grilled Garlic Pesto Chicken with fresh mozzarella cheese, balsamic onions, roasted red peppers and arugula. The entire appetizer clocks in at 490 calories. It’s called “gluten-friendly” as opposed to “gluten-free” because the kitchen and oven are exposed to gluten. Celiacs should always take extreme caution when dining out, but people who are gluten-free for other reasons can enjoy this flatbread as much as I did! 🙂
Of course, there are dishes that are not gluten-free, but still worth a try such as the Black & White Lobster Ravioli.
The raviolis are made with squid ink and egg pasta, and topped with shitake mushrooms and roasted red peppers. The dish is finished with a sherry-lobster sauce. (320 calories)
If you’re looking for a cocktail in between your appetizer and entrée, Seasons 52 currently features a Bourbon Berry Bramble and a Cranberry & Sage cocktail to enjoy this holiday season.
Entrée time! I think Andy and I were really feeling the seasons change and both ordered red meat for dinner.
I ordered the Grilled Flat Iron Steak Salad: Bibb lettuce, butternut squash, grilled red onion, a cheddar tuile and horseradish vinaigrette. (450 calories).
I wish I would have known the presentation of my salad was going to be so dramatic, because I would have filmed it and posted the video. The salad is brought out in on the plate with a cuff/ring around it and then it is released upon service. It was like “voilá” here’s your steak salad. I ordered dressing on the side because truthfully, there’s so many flavors going on, I didn’t really need it. Cheddar tuile, I wish I could wrap you around me like a blanket. 😉
Andy ordered another meaty dish: The Oak-Grilled New York Strip. Ut was a soy garlic marinade, charcoal roasted vegetables, Yukon potato mash and a 15-year aged balsamic drizzle. (750 calories) Whoa, Andy, hope you don’t plan on eating dessert.
Just kidding! I love it that Andy is willing to tag along with me and try all this incredible food. We both agreed that the steaks on the salad and on his entrée were perfect (medium rare).
By the way, our server was John. You’ll need to know that because you will want to ask for him when you visit Seasons 52. Here’s what he looks like if you need to chase him down. 😉
Truthfully, I am amazed this kid isn’t working as a wine rep. He knew almost as much as one. This is an instance where server training has really paid off. John is just as enthusiastic and passionate about wine as I am. Maybe. 😉 Anyway, if there are not enough reasons to stop by Seasons 52, do so, so that you can be waited on by this guy! 🙂
More wines (some of our server John’s favorites) he allowed our table to try. I went with sparking wine (sorry, John!) because these days, I try to keep the alcohol content down while I am out and about. 130 calories per glass in the prosecco, by the way. 🙂
And then it was time to order dessert! 🙂 At Seasons 52, they have a portion-controlled dessert menu that is brought out so you can see exactly what you are ordering!
I passed on the dessert plate, because I was actually so full from dinner, but I heard great things about the S’More dessert as well as the gingerbread dessert from my table mates.
This Friday (Black Friday) you can enjoy Seasons happy hour menu from open to close. With $8 specialty cocktails, $6 select glasses of wine and $5 Chef-inspired small plates, there’s something for everyone!!
Special thanks to the management at Seasons 52 for setting up this special tasting. We’ll definitely be back!!
A few months ago, I was introduced to a company called Hungry Root. Hungry Root’s mission, via their website is to: Unleash the flavor of vegetables, bring them to the center of your plate, and make them craveable.
OK picky people. I know what you are thinking… Vegetables and craveable are oxymorons! Not anymore. 🙂
Since going Paleo in 2011, I have been a proponent of obtaining most of my carbohydrates from fruits and especially vegetables. 🙂 🙂 🙂
Yes, I am the person who will roast root vegetables like carrots and parsnips until they are caramelized, and eat them for dessert! Maybe that sounds a little nutty, but when you start a true Paleo diet, you omit all processed sugars and so even vegetables when roasted can actually taste sweet!
I was really interested in Hungry Root, because they are making similar things with vegetables that we do on a daily basis, and yet, Hungry Root can ship meals pretty much really to cook with no prep involved other than heating oil in a pan, which is the perfect thing for busy people who need a quick and healthy meal! 🙂
This is the Cauliflower Coucous with Moroccan Almond Curry ($6). This VEGAN side is finely chopped raw cauliflower with a container of Moroccan almond curry made from fresh cilantro, parsley, mint, almonds, raisins and madras curry in the package. It’s super easy to prepare and you can eat the WHOLE container for only 121 calories. I don’t know about you, but I am a whole container kind of gal. 😉
And THIS is the Sweet Potato Noodles with Creamy Cashew Alfredo which contains Fresh-cut sweet potato noodles with creamy cashew alfredo (cashews, sesame tahini, garlic, Dijon mustard, Kosher salt, lemon juice, black pepper), tossed with curried carrots and chopped, roasted chickpeas. The cashew alfredo is absolutely ADDICTIVE. And BOOM, another vegan dish. P.S. There’s so much Vitamin A in the house in this dish, your eyes and skin will thank you just as much as your tastebuds!
The third item we tried was the Almond Chickpea Cookie Dough. Ingredients: Chickpeas, sweet potato, almond butter, sesame tahini, maple syrup, organic cane sugar, vanilla extract, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, vegan chocolate chips. And we loved it so much, we ate it raw. Because it was so HARD CORE yummy that way—and only 60 calories per serving!! 🙂 YAY. Cookies for everyone!!
Want to try out Hungry Root? Well, you’re in luck! The marketing team at Hungry Root sent me a special code to pass along to you so that you can save 20% OFF your order. Just type in KRISTY20 in the promo code field at check out. Also, they are currently running a promotion of FREE shipping for orders over $40. Click here to start shopping!
The Carmel Highlands/Monterey getaway tour continued last weekend, and leg two of the trip was a stay at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa.
Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa is an enormous property featuring 550 guestrooms (32 suites), a President’s house, TusCA Ristorante, Knuckles Sports Bar, Lounge, fitness facility, tennis courts, fire pit, 2 swimming pools/whirlpools, the Marilyn Monroe Spa (a full service body treatment, facial, hair care, waxing, makeup, massage and nail bar), and a conference center (with 40,000 square feet of meeting and event space). It is located next to and overlooks the Pebble Beach Company’s Del Monte Golf Course. The beach and bay are just minutes away, as are prime attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Below is a rundown of all the amenities and services to be enjoyed at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa:
Rooms & Amenities: 550 guest rooms, 32″ LCD flat-panel TVs, iHome stereo with iPod®docking station (love!), Hyatt Grand Bed™, In-room safes and refrigerators, bathrooms with walk-in rain showers, and raised sinks.
Guest Services: Complimentary shuttle from Monterey Airport, Hyatt Fast Board™, PDA Check-in, Self Check-in kiosks, the Regency Club, a 24-hour fully automated business center, a gift shop with wine tasting room, pet friendly, les clefs d’or concierge.
Dining & Entertainment: TusCA Ristorante, award-winning Knuckles Sports Bar, Fireplace Lounge with live entertainment, a coffee bar with barrister, in-room dining.
Meetings & Events: 40,000 square feet of flexible function space, unique indoor & outdoor settings for weddings and social gatherings, innovative catering for onsite and offsite events, expert planners and an AV company on-site.
Activities: Marilyn Monroe Spa with full service salon, Pebble Beach Company’s Championship Del Monte Golf Course, a full-service racquet club, corporate team-building events, 24 hour gym, 2 pools (one of which Frank Sinatra once drove his car into!!), biking and jogging and walking trails.
Local Attractions: Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur Coastline, Monterey County Wineries, Pebble Beach Golf Courses, and Fisherman’s Wharf.
This property has more amenities than any other I have stayed. You really never have to leave the hotel if you don’t feel like it. There’s really something for everyone here, even for families. I discovered that immediately after check in when Andy and I spent some time pool side at the main pool behind the lobby and restaurants. There are giant outdoor games for kids and adults and a play area. The weather was perfect and just warm enough to swim, soak up some rays for a few hours. I read a few more chapters of Dan Barber’s The Third Plate and we sipped some Bogle Sparkling Wine.
Approaching early evening, our media group met at up with David Lambert, Director of Sales and Marketing at Hyatt Monterey. We gathered around the fire pit to talk about the property, wine, Monterey, food and share a little bit more about ourselves and our websites. We were treated to this cheese and fruit plate and a few of my favorite wines: Cakebread Chardonnay and Talbott’s Kali Hart Pinot Noir.
After our gathering at the fire pit, we made our way to the hotel’s main restaurant, TusCA Ristorante, and were all seated at a large oblong table for dinner and drinks. I sat at one of the ends of the table to spare everyone from my left-handedness. 😉 We each ordered an appetizer and entree from the menu, which I would describe as California/Italian Tuscan (hence the TusCA name), and were treated to this amuse-bouche of prociutto, roasted red pepper, cheese and an olive duo:
For my appetizer, I ordered the White Bean Soup with cabbage, celery root, carrot and fennel sausage:
My entrée choice was the Chicken Piccata with sautéed patty pan squash, olive oil smashed potatoes and a lemon caper picatta sauce:
Andy decided on the Swordfish served with roasted root vegetables, citrus, fennel and watercress:
Other entrée selections available are Scallops, a vegan Farro Risotto and several different pizza and pasta dishes. Chef Steve Johnson oversees the culinary functions of the Hyatt which includes TusCA Ristorante, the Fireplace Lounge, and Knuckles Historical Sports Bar and all weddings, meetings and events. You can find TusCa on Open Table here.
The next morning, a few members of our tour group were treated to a one-hour massage at the Marilyn Monroe spa.
It was very relaxing to get a massage after my workout. I had been so busy with work that I had been putting it off for some time (I belong to a monthly massage place in Sacramento and I never seem to get around booking my appointment in advance. I need an assistant!!) At the Marilyn Monroe Spa, the massage session begins with a plush robe and slippers you are given to change into in one of the nicest locker rooms I have ever seen. The lockers are combination, so all of your clothes and belongings are kept safe during your treatment. After you change into the loaner robe, there is a lounge area upstairs that offers tea, water and light snacks (today it was a dried fruit and nut mix). My therapist Kim could really sense that I wanted more of a relaxation massage more than a sports massage, so it was complete chill time and nap time (kept dozing off) for me!
After my massage, I showered in the locker room in a giant walk-in shower with some of their awesome mango body wash. Can I live here? 😉
Around noon Andy and I headed out to explore Monterey, namely to find a lunch spot and to take advantage of our tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The tickets were given to us by the Hyatt Monterey and we were more than excited to go! 🙂
After walking around a bit at Cannery Row, I suggested a place called A Taste of Monterey. I previously had heard nothing about it, just saw the words “wine market and bistro”, and I was convinced we needed to try it out!
This was the view from our table! As wine lovers, we were so fortunate to find a gourmet restaurant that focuses on wine that happens to be right on the oceanfront! 🙂 The service at A Taste of Monterey was spectacular. They offer wine flights to those who want to try several wines at a time and a menu of wine friendly tapas, flatbread pizzas, salads and sandwiches. A Taste of Monterey also has a wine shop on premises and along with wines, they sell cheeses, snacks, and lots of wine-related accessories. If you love wine and happen to be near Cannery Row, stop into A Taste of Monterey for lunch or dinner.
After satisfying our taste buds, it was time to feast our eyes on the wonder of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s such a beautiful place with many different exhibits on the fascinating creatures who live in and near our Pacific Ocean. It’s a museum as well as a giant laboratory that is constantly observing and experimenting with its inhabitants and how to prolong and enhance their lives. The aquarium is appropriate for all ages and provides an opportunity to learn for everyone. Here are a few photos I took during our visit:
We stayed at the aquarium until closing time, because we were fascinated just watching the fish and other organisms carry on about their daily activities. My favorite exhibit is the sea otters. We watched one of them rub its eyes, just like a human. I could have stayed and watched them all day. Adorable! 🙂
After our aquarium trip, we headed back to the hotel to chill out for a while and think about what we wanted to do for dinner. The hotel offered us dinner in TusCA again, dinner at Knuckles Sports Bar or room service. We thought it would be appropriate to eat at Knuckles and check out Monterey Peninsula’s best sports bar for 12 years in a row.
Knuckles menu offers steaks and salads, burgers and buffalo wings, they have 20 beers on tap and 24 HDTVs, a pool table and video games for the kids. We showed up around 7pm and the restaurant was lively and full of sports loving patrons, this night in particular a crew of wrestling coaches. Our server was Yanira—she was very welcoming and good at hearing our requests, as it was pretty loud while we were there. I’m going to blame it one people having a great time! 😉
For our appetizer, I ordered the hummus, served with crudité (not pictured) and pita bread. If I had thought about it in advance, I would have ordered the gluten free bread that you can also order on the sandwiches menu… sometimes even being gluten free I fail to think in advance, so Andy and I shared some pita bread. 😉 The crudité (not pictured is celery and carrots sticks).
Andy’s choice of entrée was the pulled pork sandwich served on gluten free bread and with a side of sweet potato fries and coleslaw. We loved having the option of gluten free bread. The sweet potato fries were crispy and well seasoned. The pork was moist and smoky and flavorful.
For my dinner, I had a Diet Coke with vodka and lime. And then I ordered another. Really good drinks at Knuckles, just so you know… For my main course, I decided I would feast on Knuckles steak salad: a giant platter of spinach, tomato, roasted red bell peppers and sliced steak. The dressing is Gorgonzola, and the salad comes with croutons, both of which I ordered on the side.
Check out Knuckles full menu online here.
Following dinner, we sauntered into the lounge adjacent to the hotel lobby and the hotel’s two main restaurants to enjoy a nightcap and some music. In the lounge there is live jazz very Friday and Saturday night beginning at 7:00 PM, featuring jazz director Dr. Morwood. (Click Here for more information).
Of course I have to mention the Stay Fit gym because I spent a lot of time on both Saturday and Sunday morning. I loved having a great place to workout! Part of this food, wine and travel gig for me is to make sure I work for it. I typically spend 60-90 minutes a day in the gym to offset all the wonderful meals and adult beverages, but I don’t mind. 🙂
After my Sunday workout, it was time to get cleaned up and check out. We were sad to leave such a nice hotel and depart from all the media friends we met, but eager to get home and catch up on work we left behind. I was able to grab a last-minute coffee from hotel lounge (served until 11:30am) during my checkout. What a great trip!
Have you ever just wanted to escape? I mean, just ditch everything and all of your responsibilities?
I was so ready to do that this past weekend!
Lucky for me, Andy and I got the chance to travel to Carmel Highlands and were hosted for an evening at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands. It’s a destination hotel heavy on amenities and a sensory overload of picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean and Big Sur coast.
We were invited to stay there along with a few other writers–including L.A-based bloggers Kat and Kelly of Edible Skinny–and over the course of the weekend (which also included a stay at another Hyatt property) we were treated to dinners, massages, wine tastings and other fun things. For this chronicle, I’ll focus on the sheer excellence of the Hyatt Carmel Highlands and the meals we enjoyed at the restaurants located there. PS: Color me blessed and lucky for sure!
When we arrived at the hotel, we immediately joined up with the hotel tour already in progress. Sacramento is about 3 hours and 30 minutes away from Carmel Highlands. We were welcomed by the hotel staff and a woman from Holman Ranch Vineyards. She poured us a refreshing Chardonnay to sip during the tour. I asked the woman’s name because I thought she just might be “Hunter” for whom one of Holman Ranch’s wines is named, because I had spoken with her before on twitter. She confirmed her name and I laughed saying, “I thought that was you, you’re my favorite wine!” I have written about them before here.
The tour of all the meeting facilities was very interesting. The hotel is equipped with all different sized meeting/banquet rooms to fit different needs (4,945 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting spaces). Although the hotel can support any sort of indoor or outdoor business meeting you can think of and offers full service catering, as well as controlled heat, lighting and audio/visual systems, Hyatt Carmel Highlands is an even more ideal wedding and romantic getaway spot. Below is a picture of the gazebo (the setting for many nuptials).
One of highlights of the hotel for me was the gym/fitness center, which many hotels in Carmel and Carmel Valley do not have. It is small, but adequate for a property of 48 rooms. From the elliptical machines, you can actually see the ocean. I spent a lot of time in that room during my stay! 🙂
After our property tour, we gathered by the lounge and enjoyed some appetizers and Holman Ranch wine. Hunter told us a little more about Holman Ranch and their wines as well as the estate-grown olive oils.
After a few rounds of appetizers and the fabulous Holman Ranch wines, our group relocated to the restaurant, just a few feet away from the lounge. The restaurant at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands is called Pacific’s Edge, and oddly enough, Andy and I almost went there for my birthday in June, but we were staying in Carmel-By-the-Sea, and opted to eat somewhere within walking distance of our hotel. I was thrilled to learn we would be enjoying dinner at Pacific’s Edge with other travel writers that evening at the only restaurant in Carmel with a view of the ocean!
Soon, we were served two new wines: a 2012 Chardonnay by Domaine Eden and a 2004 Austrian wine: Brundlmayer Cabernet Franc, “Vincent’s Cuvée”. Below is a picture of the Chardonnay. Andy and I had more of it with our dinner, as it was a better pairing with our food.
Everyone in our group was given a menu crafted just for us, just for that evening. We were told to choose one appetizer and one main course. For my appetizer, I chose the Zucchini Carpaccio with wild arugula, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, picked mushrooms and lemon olive oil vinaigrette.
Andy went with the Octopus “Confit” with fingerling potatoes, smoked paprika, extra virgin olive oil and Maldon salt. Since octopus doesn’t have it’s own fat to be a confit, the olive oil was used to slowly cook it, hence the name.
Then for our main course, Andy and I both ordered the same meal. We usually try to order something different, but this time we couldn’t resist the special being offered for the evening:
It was a line-caught Chilean Sea Bass with grapes and crispy sunchokes. It was one of the best fish dishes I have ever had. There were several layers of flavor and textures going on within the plate: flakey, creamy, crispy, savory, sweet, umami. It was everything I want in a bite of food. Comforting, but not too heavy. And so perfect I had to show you another picture:
We also happened to capture a picture of one of the other journalist’s dinners:
Then came dessert: I chose the fromage plate and a glass of 2005 Château Guiraud Sauternes.
The next day, after a few hours in the gym at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands for myself—Andy opted to go on a 5 mile run—we were treated to lunch at another one of the hotel’s restaurants (open for breakfast and lunch): California Market.
It was bubbles for me (Domaine Carneros Brut) as I decided what I should order for lunch. The patio of California Market features space heaters to keep you warm when the sun is busy hiding behind the clouds, and gorgeous views of the ocean and the beautiful landscaping of the property. I took the picture below from my table at the restaurant.
I order Cobb Salad a lot in restaurants because it has the trifecta of love: avocado, bacon and blue cheese! 🙂 I ordered the dressing on the side (which was actually a very good Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette). It was the perfect low carb lunch after a long workout! The Cioppino was fragrant of mussels, clams, shrimp and cod with a spicy tomato broth. Andy jumped ship on the gluten free boat (momentarily) to enjoy the crusty garlic bread as a mop, catching every drop of the soup. What a satisfying lunch and sure to keep us full until dinner.
Following our meal, we said goodbye (reluctantly) to the staff at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands–one of the nicest stays I have had in recent memory. I think for me it was really all about the views and the cozy fireplace in our room. And OK, someone DID leave a bottle of my current favorite red wine in my room (how did they know about my love for Talbott Kali Hart??) accompanied by a cheese plate. 🙂
Indeed it was hard to leave, but incredibly excited to tour and stay at the next Hyatt property on our agenda for the weekend: The Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa, which I will be writing about in the upcoming week!
You can find Hyatt Carmel Highlands on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here and on Instagram here. You can find Holman Ranch on Facebook here and on Twitter here. Thanks to Hyatt Carmel Highlands for their generosity and hospitality.