A few months ago, I visited Scottsdale, Arizona during the National Alopecia Areata Foundation’s Annual Conference. Typically when I travel, my trips become more about the food and wine available at my destination than the main reason for the trip, so I do more research on places to eat/drink than I do on anything else! Since my hotel room at the Gainey Suites Hotel was equipped with a full kitchen, I planned to get groceries and make my own dinner for the first evening. Then on the second evening of my stay, I would dine out. Since I had never been to Scottsdale before, this would require some web surfing on some of my trusted travel sites.
I stumbled upon Starlite BBQ and Whiskey Bar after only searching for a few moments. Since opening last year, Starlite BBQ has been named one of the Seven Metro Phoenix Restaurants you Need to Try Right Now by the Phoenix New Times, as well as one of the 11 Best New Restaurants in Phoenix, Arizona (area) by Eater.com. Starlite BBQ was also selected as an 2018 OpenTable Diners’ Choice Winner. This would be the place for Friday night’s dinner for sure!
So on Friday evening, after a short Uber ride, I ended up in a shopping center where Starlite BBQ resides. It sits prominently on the edge of the center, complete a facade decked out with hip white font lettering that can’t be missed. There is an outdoor seating area, but during my visit it was over 100 degrees, so I opted to sit inside and people watch as the filled up the place for dinner.
I sat at a small table against the wall, facing an already lively bar scene and two televisions broadcasting different sporting events–one of them a Diamondbacks game. Across from me on the table was a selection of house-made sauces. I was eager to try them all, but stopped short of squirting the bottles directly into my mouth. First, I selected a beverage to nurse while I contemplated what to eat.
Prosecco was the perfect drink for an opening act. Starlite also has a specialty cocktail menu featuring many whiskey-based drinks, as well as four rotating handles of beer on draft, an ample selection of bottled and canned beer, and a nice list of wines available by the glass or bottle.
While I was selecting my entree, this skillet of cornbread topped with an enormous dollop of melty honey butter appeared on my table. Now this is something I don’t normally eat, but it was really calling my name. The cornbread was still warm, both sweet and savory, and I still remember its delightful texture (just enough crumb without being too dry) even three months later! I’m not exaggerating when I said it was one of the best cornbreads I have ever had.
The Grilled Cauliflower (with Green Goddess, Crispy Black Eyed Peas, Arugula, Pickled Onions) dish really caught my eye (I saw it served to another table as I was about to order), so I snagged one for myself. The dish’s flavor was expertly balanced by the sweet and sour of the dressing (and just enough of it without making the dish soggy), the char on the cauliflower, the crunchy texture of the black eye peas and the peppery arugula.
For the main course, I selected the 1/2 plate of Chopped Pork. It comes with pickled onions and mustard on the side. I ordered a glass of rosé to pair with the pork. I could have gone a little heavier on the wine, especially because of the sauce on the meat, but in the heat of summer, I am hardwired to order bubbles or rose, no matter what the protein or the “traditional” pairing.
I guess you could say I ordered these potatoes for “dessert” and an excuse to try one more dish. Crispy little potato nuggets. This is where the aforementioned BBQ sauces come in. I tried them all on the potatoes and it turns out the middle “Starlite BBQ” is my favorite. I wish my husband had been with me so I could have sampled a little bit more of the menu items. Instead, I was already taking half of the meal back to the hotel in boxes, which was great because it made for the next night’s dinner. In other words, the portions are large and perfect for sharing.
Also good to know: Starlite BBQ supports local organizations and uses local vendors, such as Arizona Beef, organic produce from McClendon’s Farm, fresh breads daily from MJ Bread, and local pecan and mesquite woods to smoke their meats.
Starlite BBQ and Whiskey Bar is located at 7620 E Indian School Road Suite 101, Scottsdale, AZ 85251. You can contact them at 480-553-9330.
They are closed on Monday and Tuesday, and open Wednesday and Thursday from 4pm-11pm, on Friday from 4pm-midnight. They are also open on Saturday for Brunch and Regular Menu 10am-midnight and on Sunday for Brunch and Regular Menu 10am-10pm. The bar is open until 12 Midnight on Wednesday and Thursday, until 2 AM Friday and Saturday and 12 Midnight on Sunday.
Disclosure: My meal was complimentary in exchange for social media exposure and this blog post, however my opinions are all my own.
Sacramento is a food lover’s paradise this time of year and there are two upcoming events I’d like to tell you about happening this month. Special thanks to The Grid Agency for passing along the information to me!
The first event is called A Taste of New Sacramento in Old Sacramento. It will take place on Sunday, October 9, 2016 from 11:00 AM-4:00 PM at the Delta King Hotel.
Wineries including: Cate Ao Vinho, Lone Buffalo Vineyards, Boeger Winery, Fiddletown Winery, Lava Cap Winery, Van Ruiten Family Winery, J and K Estate Wines, Haraszthy Winery, Merlo Family Vineyards, Cabana Winery, Carvalho Family Winery, Balletto Vineyards & Winery, Bogle Vineyards and Winery. Jeff Runquist Wines, Van Ruiten Winery
And restaurants present will be: Roxie Deli & Barbeque, Sactown Bar and Grill, Ten 22, Indo Cafe, Vallejo’s Restaurant, Bingo B.B.Q, Kupros, Cabana Winery & Bistro, Shady Lady Saloon, Blue Prynt Restaurant, Coin-Op Game Room, Dad’s Kitchen, and Drewski’s.
Proceeds benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children. Featuring a live adoption run by Front Street Animal Shelter. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased here.
But, wait, there’s more….
The weekend after that, Smoke on the River rolls into town on Saturday, October 15th, 2016 from 1pm to 5pm at 2700 Marina View.
The event is hosted by Sacramento Artists Council, Inc. with its friend and sponsor The Grid Agency. Smoke on the River is a fundraiser for Sacramento Artists Council and will raise money for art programs that assist at-risk children, children of homeless families and fund adopt a school art programs for Sacramento Regional Schools.
Smoke on the River is a state championship and Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) sanctioned event. The event will feature a People’s Choice BBQ award and tastings, People’s Choice award for Best Beer and Best Cider, live entertainment from Swimming in Bengal and Sacramento Jazz Project, and beer tastings provide by local breweries.
There will also be a corn hole tournament at the event with prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.
Full Access Pre-sale Tickets including unlimited tastes of BBQ and Craft Beer/Cider are $35 + 2.75% convenience fee and $40 with a 2.75% convenience fee for credit cards at the door. You can purchase and see other ticket options here.
Featured breweries will be:
Sierra Nevada Brewing
Firestone Walker Brewing
Dust Bowl Brewing
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Device Brewing Company
Track 7 Brewing
Mike Hess Brewing
UP IN SMOKE
Too Ashamed to Name BBQ
Bones Sauce n Harmony
The Smoking’ GrOVENators
Old Chico BBQ
Ric’s Righteous Ribs
Papa Bobs Backyard BBQ
Smokin Slabz BBQ
Big Poppa Smokers
Bones N Brews BBQ
Five Hundy BBQ
The Smoking J’s
Smokey Luv BBQ
Canyon Riders BBQ
2 Rolling Bones
Fat Dad’s Barbeque
Hickory and Spice BBQ
Smokin’ the 916
Smokey Valley Q
Ed’s Smoked Out BBQ
Smokin Fatboyz BBQ
Daddy O’s Smokin’ BBQ
Pipin’ Hot Smokers
The Brothers Throwdown
Git R Smoked
Big O and MO BBQ
J&J Smokin BBQ
Son of Smoke
G & Pops BBQ
A few weeks ago Andy and I checked out some new menu items and gluten free options available at Yard House in Roseville. You might remember my visit to Yard House shortly after they opened back in 2011. We kicked off our meal with this round of drinks. On the left is a glass of Zardetto Prosecco (sparkling wine is my go-to opener) and on the right is a glass of Honig Sauvignon Blanc.
Then it was on to decide what to order. If you are reading this website, you are either eating a gluten-free diet, or you are thinking about eating gluten-free. Yard House makes it easy because there is a separate menu you can ask for when you are seated. The menu features many of items from appetizers to salads and burgers that can be served wrapped in lettuce instead of on a bun, as well as three different gluten-sensitive beers.
Our first appetizer was the Crispy Brussels Sprouts and Ripped Potatoes (served with Malt Vinegar Aioli). It’s featured on the “snack” portion of the menu, but can easily be shared if you are going to be ordering an entrée, too. The dish’s description was accurate as both items were very crispy, yet soft on the inside. The vegetables were highlighted by just the right amount of seasoning and were dressed with the Malt Vinegar Aioli.
For our second appetizer, we decided to try a new menu item (though it is not on the gluten-free menu), the Poke Nachos made with marinated raw ahi, avocado, cilantro, serranos, green onions, nori, sesame seeds, sweet soy, sriracha aioli, white truffle sauce, and crispy wontons. This plate is one of several you can get that features ahi tuna. I like this one not only because it is very shareable, but because it highlights the ahi by merging ingredients that are both used in Asian and Latin cuisine. The combination of the different textures and flavors is delightful.
What is not delightful is an empty glass, so Andy and I revisited the drink menu and ordered another round. I was curious about the Fresh and Skinny™ Cocktail choices, so I ordered a Skinny Margarita with El Jimador silver tequila and fresh lime. Other drinks on the Fresh and Skinny™ menu are the Pure Cosmo Martini, the Lite Lemon Drop Martini, the Juniper Fusion, and the Citrus Crush. For more information on the Fresh and Skinny™ Cocktail Menu you can click here. Andy ordered another glass of wine, this time a glass of Meiomi Pinot Noir.
For my entree, I chose the Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad (from the Gluten-Sensitive menu) composed of greens, kale, tomatoes, edamame, carrots, radish, egg, blue cheese, corn, bacon, avocado, ranch. I usually get dressing on the side when I order a Cobb Salad because there is so much flavor (fat IS flavor!) from the blue cheese, egg, avocado and bacon, I don’t need to cover anything up with dressing. I love simple and fresh ingredients and this salad certainly fit that description.
For dessert, we enjoyed two more glasses of wine, mine a glass of Protocolo Rose Tierra de Castilla (a Spanish Rosé made from 50% Tempranillo and 50% Bobal. Andy ordered the Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Michael David Winery (Lodi).
Another healthy menu and gluten-free option we did not try, but was recently added is the Red Quinoa Salad Bowl, which Chef Jocson describes as the greatest hits of all super foods. The salad is a nice shareable dish or can be an entrée for one with a garden of kale, parsley, Brussels sprouts, roasted beets, cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, blueberries, baby tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and feta cheese. Guests can request that the cheese be removed for a vegan option. Carnivores can choose to add chicken or steak for a heartier meal.
“In order to stay relevant menus have to evolve,” added Chef Jocson. “Five years ago no one would have imagined blueberry ketchup, but it’s an amazing condiment for our Kurobuta Pork Burger and ours is made in-house. These days offering vegan and vegetarian selections aren’t an option, but a necessity as more people reevaluate their diets and intake. We already have several of such items, including our new Vegan Burger, as well as gluten-sensitive options.”
If you’re reading this blog post, Yard House will have already debuted its new menu items at all 65 locations. Open daily for lunch, dinner and late-night dining, Yard House offers one of the largest selections of beers on tap plus a creative list of cocktails and wine by the bottle or glass.
Last night, Andy and I were treated to a sampling of Frank Fat’s very best dishes in promotion of their 75th Anniversary Dinner Special.
We met Head Chef Mike Lim and he spoke with us before our meal, not only about the food on the 75th Anniversary menu (below), but some other dishes available at Fat’s (a seasonal King Salmon dish and Farm to Fork People’s Choice Award recipient called Forbidden Salmon) and a Peach and Chicken Salad. Chef Lim will also be contributing a dish at this Sunday’s Farm-to-Fork’s Tower Bridge fundraising dinner.
Before I dive into the food we had, I will discuss the wine. I was distracted by making sure we had reported in with social media via Swarm, Twitter, Facebook, etc., Andy chose a 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewürztraminer. He did this because a slightly sweeter (but not too sweet) wine was going to pair very well with almost all of the food we were going to try (a lot of sweet and sour ingredients). He figured this wine would strike the most balance and it did.
First course on the 75th Anniversary menu is a Chinese Chicken Salad: Shredded chicken breast with pickled cucumber, almonds, and a sweet and sour vinaigrette. The chicken is moist and cut in thin strips and there are crunchy fried wontons on top to give the salad multiple textures. The dressing on the salad was an amazing pairing with our wine (as Andy predicted). 🙂
So instead of having to choose one main course each (as one would do if ordering from the pre-fixe menu, Chef Mike food bombed us with ALL of the dishes on the menu. Um, OK, twist my arm. (Everything you will see in this editorial except for the Yu Kwoks, Peach Chicken Salad, and Forbidden Salmon were inclusive on the pre-fixe.) Next up was the Honey Walnut Prawns: Lightly fried prawns glazed with honey sauce, walnuts, sesame seeds. This dish is probably one of the most iconic at Fat’s, so no wonder it’s on the 75th Anniversary menu. It’s sweet, crunchy, and tangy. Again, a great pairing with the Gewürztraminer.
Then came the Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry: Chicken breast and mixed vegetables in a Garlic Sauce–the one thing I didn’t feel guilty about eating! 🙂 I love stir fry dishes because of their high protein and vegetables as carb ratio. But of course, tonight would be different and I would have real carbs, as we also sampled the fried rice on the pre-fixe menu.
Next the Fried Rice dish: Young Shew Fried Rice: With barbecued pork, Chinese sausage, lettuce, and shrimp. It was nutty in flavor and had hints of sesame oil. The pork in the rice had been rendered so it was slightly crispy. The shrimp were small but plump and the little peas were bright green and fresh––they burst like little caviar when chewed.
At that point in the meal, I knew it would be extremely easy to write about. I sat there and realized how much I was enjoying the food because I hardly ever eat foods like fried rice or shrimp with carmelized walnuts. And hardly ever eating them makes them taste so much better when you do treat yourself!
Then, the eagerly awaited (and another signature menu item at Fat’s): Frank’s Style New York Steak: A 5-ounce NY steak smothered in sauteed onions and oyster sauce. We ordered it rare, as you really should. You can’t see in the picture, but it really did come out rare. It was tender and juicy and piled high with onions and the sweet oyster sauce. This also arguably went with the Gewürztraminer.
The 75th Anniversary menu ends in Banana Creme Pie, the ever popular classic dessert at Frank Fat’s. At $27.95 per person, it’s a real bargain and a nice sampling of the food that made Frank Fat’s the empire it is today.
Other food we sampled during the evening that was not on the pre-fixe menu:
Yu Kwok Dumpling: Frank’s special beef and pork dumpling, a Frank Fat specialty. I stopped at two of them, but I would have been happy to have them all. I had been craving dim sum for quite a while, and these really hit the spot. They are crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle, and filled with spiced ground beef and pork. They came with an array of dipping sauces–most interesting a chili sauce with some nice heat and a very interesting flavor that Chef Mike told me came from salted back bean. Yum! 🙂
We were also able to try the Peach and Chicken Salad with honey walnuts and what? Feta cheese. Super seasonal and very Farm-to-Fork–and off the wall, as I have never seen Feta cheese in a Chinese restaurant. Loved it!
My favorite dish of the evening was the “Forbidden King Salmon”: Salmon a la Plancha (grilled on a metal plate) and served with with Black Forbidden Rice, Heirloom Tomato and Lemongrass Veloute, Cilantro. It was with this plate I could truly see what Chef Mike is trying to do (and succeeding in doing) at Fat’s. He is using traditional Chinese techniques to make farm-to-fork cuisine. It’s not really a fusion thing, it’s more of using the methods already in place to elevate our bounty of seasonal ingredients.
The salmon dish was also a great example of incorporating different textures. The fish was perfectly cooked and flakey on top, the forbidden rice was almost a little sticky, but not as sticky as sushi rice, and there was a tomato and lemongrass veloute sauce on the bottom that brought the whole plate together.
It was all makings for a course I will not soon forget. Sadly, it won’t be available much longer, as salmon season is fleeting. So do yourself a favor and stop in for lunch to try the Forbidden Salmon. Take a half day off if you have to. It’s really that special.
Thanks to Frank Fat’s restaurant for hosting us, Chef Mike for stopping in the middle of a slightly busy dinner service to talk to us about the food, and thanks to Rosie, our server, who took very good care of us.
The fortune inside my fortune cookie really summed up the whole night:
Though the 75th Anniversary Menu promotion ends October 31st and from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, Fat’s will be hiding a $75 gift card in different locations around Sacramento that are noteworthy to the Fat family’s history. Clues for the “15 days of Fat’s” promotion will be posted on the Frank Fat’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts as well as on the frankfats75.com website.
When Andy and I visited San Jose a few weeks ago, we dined at a Brazilian churrascaria called Fogo de Chão (pronounced fo-go dée shown). It’s located in Santana Row close to Hotel Valencia, our host hotel for that weekend. A churrascaria is a place where meat is cooked in churrasco style (Portuguese for ‘barbecue’), and it’s pretty much like Paleo heaven. 🙂
If you have never dined at a Brazilian steakhouse before, there is a procedure to the meal, and it’s really quite fun. After being seated, diners are given a cardboard token (looks like a drink coaster) that is green on one side and red on the other. This token is used to signal the gaucho chefs to begin meat service to your table. But first, it’s off to the salad bar!
The salad bar features premium items such as 24 Month, Aged Parmesan, Aged Manchego Cheese, Prosciutto, Brazilian Hearts of Palm, Artichoke Bottoms, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, Smoked Salmon, Italian Salami, Jumbo Asparagus, Tabbouleh and Shitake Mushrooms, not to mention at least large bowls full of different lettuce mixes to use for the base of your salad. It would be easy to get full on just the salad bar alone, so pace yourself.
When you are ready for the meats to be served, turn your token green side up, signaling that you are ready for our gaucho chefs to begin tableside service. This continuous service is known as “Rodizio” style.
There are 16 cuts of fire roasted meats to choose from including top sirloin, filet mignon, rib eye, bottom sirloin, beef ribs, lamb, chicken, pork ribs, pork loin (encrusted in parmesan cheese and linguica (a Brazilian-style, cured pork sausage). The gaucho chefs are very attentive and efficient. I would advise you to come not only hungry, but starving! Below are some of the meats the gaucho chefs serve on a nightly basis:
Pictured from left to right: Lamb (cordeiro), Chicken (frango) Pork Ribs (costela de porco), Pork Loin (lombo), Pork Sausage (linguica), Top Sirloin (picanha), Beef Ribs (costela), Bacon Wrapped Filet and Bacon Wrapped Chicken. Wow! So very Paleo! 🙂
When you are full, you flip the token to the red side until you are ready for more offerings.
The meal also includes limitless service of traditional Brazilian side dishes, including: pão de queijo (warm cheese bread), crispy hot polenta (like polenta fries), garlic mashed potatoes and caramelized bananas. (not so Paleo) 😦
Fogo de Chão is a recipient of the prestigious Wine Spectator Magazine Award of Excellence for eight consecutive years. I chose a reasonably priced Cabernet made by Trapiche (a label I had at least heard of before). It was quite good.
Below, the gaucho chef serves Andy a bacon wrapped filet mignon, and a bacon wrapped chicken.
Then, after we had signaled we were done with our meal, one of the gaucho chefs brought out this cake to celebrate Andy’s birthday. What a fun dinner! Thanks so much to the staff at Fogo de Chão, San Jose for taking such good care of us! 🙂
Lunch at Fogo de Chão San Jose is $34.50 | (Salad Bar Only – $24.50) and is served Mon-Fri 11:30-2:00.
Dinner is $54.50 | (Salad Bar Only – $29.50) and is served Mon-Thur 5:00-10:00, Fri 5:00-10:30, Sat 3:00-10:30, and Sun 12:00-9:00.
Children 6 and under are complimentary. Children 7 to 12 are half price. Any beverages, desserts, tax, and gratuity are additional. An 18% gratuity is added to all parties of 6 or more.
It was less than a year ago when we last visited Mundaka, a small plates restaurant nestled in the heart of downtown Carmel. Since then, the restaurant has continued to thrive and recently celebrated its 5th anniversary!
During our recent stay at The Vendange Carmel Inn and Suites Andy and I were honored to be invited back to Mundaka for dinner to try some new items on the menu, as well as some of our favorites from last time.
Please excuse the photos in this post. They are rather dark as was the room in which we were seated. 😉
We began the meal by ordering the Bravas: Fried potatoes, brava sauce, aioli. It happens to be one of the most classic tapas in Spain, and a must try at Mundaka.
Of course the Bravas were excellent, but I think the Crudo was the first new thing on the menu that caught my eye. When the plate came out, I was surprised to see such a beautiful presentation of multi-colored julienned vegetables: Carrots, Brussels sprouts, beet purée, candied walnuts.
The juxtaposition to the Crudo dish was the Charcuteria! Time to get our fat on! The plate was composed of Serrano ham, Iberico sausages, house cured lomo. Slice upon slice of meaty goodness. And there was more to come!
I guess you could say our main event was the Carne: Hanger steak, truffle fries, free foie butter. The hangar steak was tender and flavorful, and cooked a perfect medium-rare. The fries were the very skinny variety–like matchsticks, if you will–they soaked up the foie butter that had melted onto the plate from the steak.
Next up: A pan fried sole, salad of baby poached potatoes, grapefruit, arugula, saffron vinaigrette. This was probably my least favorite dish of all, but I still liked it, so that’s not much of a complaint. I just felt like the potatoes were a little clunky and didn’t belong on the plate with the fish.
Dessert #1: Huevo: Fried duck egg, crispy Iberico bits, toast. It was such a simple dish, but the quality of the ingredients and the richness of the duck egg combined with the Iberico was very rich and indulgent. Highly recommended as a starter dish or for a grand finalé!
Dessert #2! Again with the eggs, ha! Tortilla: Potato, egg, onion, sea salt.
So maybe we worked backwards, but my one of my favorite foods is egg, so these plates were like dessert to me. If you’re more into sweets and coffee for your finalé, Mundaka has a dessert, coffee, and digestives menu, pictured below:
What to drink? Mundaka serves a “Party Wine” house wine (red blend) poured from a giant bottle for $5 a glass (if you don’t ask what is in the blend). We enjoyed 2 different cavas (one, a rosé) and switched over to the Party Wine later in the meal. (Below is a photo of the bottle of sparkling rosé that Andy ordered and the glass of cava that I ordered).
Mundaka uses organic, local, free-range, line-caught, sustainable, fair-trade ingredients, and DOESN’T use ingredients containing hormones, pesticides, high fructose corn syrup, or anything artificial. That’s so Paleo!
Mundaka is located on San Carlos Street between Ocean and 7th Ave and open daily from 11am-5pm for coffee/lunch/pintxos and open daily at 5:30pm for Tapas/pintxos. You can download a sample menu here. You can find Mundaka on Facebook here. You can make a reservation at Mundaka via Open Table here.
A big thanks to Mundaka for their hospitality during our second visit. Always a delicious and memorable meal! 🙂
But, it wasn’t a dream. It was real…
The latest cavegrrl.com getaway was to the idyllic Stonepine Estate Resort, located in Carmel Valley. Carmel Valley is twelve miles inland from Carmel, (its more celebrated sibling). To be honest, I preferred Carmel Valley because of the sunshine and warmer temperatures.
The Estate boasts 330 secluded acres of gently rolling oak-studded hills, an affiliation with the Historic Hotels of America (formerly Relais & Chateaux). The Mediterranean-style Chateau (pictured above) is framed by 12 formal gardens. Chateau Noel includes eight luxuriously appointed suites, each lavishly named and decorated (with namesakes’ approval) after the Hentschels’ (the current owners of the Estate) favorite designers, champagne, china, jewelry, honeymoon location, philosopher and artist. There are also four cottages on the property: the Briar Rose, the Paddock House, the Gate House and the Hermes House.
Our visit was tailored to one of the packages now offered at Stonepine called the Carmel Valley Wine Discovery, which included:
- 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage Accommodations
- Welcome Amenity Upon Arrival
- Full European Breakfast Each Morning
- Romantic Fireside Dinner for Two in the Chateau Noel
- Chauffeured Carmel Valley Wine Tour in the Stonepine Rolls Royce (optional upgrades to Cachagua Vineyards are available)
- Wine, Cheese and fruit at One of Stonepine’s Picturesque Venues
We were treated to a stay in the Don Quixote suite, which is actually hidden behind the wall of the library on the first floor of the Chateau Noel. The suite features a separate sitting room with fireplace, king bed, two bathrooms and French doors leading to a secluded garden and patio.
Andy and I already felt welcome and knew we were in for one of the best hosted trips I have ever experienced.
Our room boasted 2 bathrooms (a his and hers).
After rubbing our eyes and giggling in delight about the state of our room, we got ready for dinner. Typically, dinners are held in the dining room, but the staff at Stonepine had something more special in mind for us. Here’s a shot of the dining room, which is the setting for the Estate dinners.
There is another dining table alongside this one that is identical to it. There are wine bottles of everything (Palmaz, Far Niente for example)
randomly decorating the room… just waiting to be opened… 🙂
We were led into the great room which has a beautiful fireplace and a piano, to enjoy a glass of wine and some appetizers before our dinner.
Dessert was a chocolate mousse (Andy polished off both of them, and I didn’t get any photos, because dessert just isn’t my thing (anymore) 😉 However, I did enjoy another glass of wine and time together in front of the fireplace with Andy. The whole setting was just unbelievable/surreal, and you have to experience it someday yourself.
The next day, we worked out and ran around the Estate. It was some of the hardest running I have done in a while… basically like a cross country course. Here’s the map:
Then it was off to breakfast. I loved the buffet spread. Plenty of Paleo options!! My favorite was the fruit salad. It had the best raspberries I have ever tasted, so I am pretty sure they were local and probably picked within a day of serving them.
Andy and I also ordered two poached eggs each, which I have found is the safest way to order eggs so that they don’t come cooked in butter or some strange oil. 🙂 They were served with a sautéed spinach and onion mix and some tomatoes.
Then a few hours later, our concierge Jordan took us wine tasting in downtown Carmel Valley. That’s him on the right. 🙂 He’s from France and pretty familiar with the grape! Our first stop was Mercy Vineyards Tasting Room located at 40 W Carmel Valley Road, Unit A, Carmel Valley. All the wines at Mercy showcase the Monterey County Arroyo Seco AVA and are sourced from three contiguous vineyards, all located in a specific part of the appellation – the dried riverbed.
The partners at Mercy come from Foley Estates. The vintners Mark and Mike have known each other over ten years and combined have been in the wine industry for over 45 years. They specialize in chardonnay and pinot noir, but also make a sauvignon blanc and a syrah. They are open for wine sales and tasting Thursday-Sunday, 11:30am-4pm.
Our next stop was Talbott Vineyards. (25 Pilot Road, Carmel Valley Village) Their tasting room is decorated with a menagerie of bikes and things with wheels, all lining the walls and hanging from the ceiling!
Talbott Vineyards is an estate winery that grows & produces Chardonnay & Pinot Noir from two of Monterey County’s grand cru sites: their Diamond T Vineyard in Carmel Valley & the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The winery was founded by Robb Talbott, and the wines are crafted by Dan Karlsen.
The tasting menu at Talbott has two columns. One for Chardonnay and the other for Pinot Noir. The wines from Talbott were really something to experience. Especially the Pinot Noirs. My favorite was the RFT Pinot Noir, while Andy favored the Sarah Case Pinot. $75 per bottle. Yowza! Thanks 30% industry discount. Like a boss, Andy bought a bottle of each of them plus whatever else I liked. Thanks, Andy. 😉
Our third (and final) stop was Cima Collina. Their tasting room was also impressive, but in a different way. It looked very country-rustic. The wines were impressive as well. The winemaker at Cima is Annette Hoff and she specializes in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet blends. Andy and I also found some really nice wines to buy there, too. One of our favorites was their Chalone Pinot Blanc, and I really liked their Non-Vintage “Howlin’ Good Red (of which 25% of the profits from the sale of this wine goes to the local SPCA), so again, I made Andy buy some. 😉
The folks at Cima really made an impression on me, and I wanted to let you know about their event on October 12th. It’s a fundraiser for the Monterey County SPCA, so if you are in the area and are an animal lover, this is the event for you! See the poster in the photo below for details!
After all that tasting, I was ready to relax. Jordan drove Andy and I back to the chateau at Stonepine. We relaxed in our room for a little while ;), then shortly after, we walked across the lawn to the Waterfall Pavilion and were treated to an afternoon happy hour wine and cheese presentation. Jordan prepared several cheeses for us to sample along with a bottle of local Chardonnay by Heller. #magic #ilovecheese #jordanhowdidyouknow??
This was a book I stumbled upon in the collection of books at the Waterfall Pavilion. It was a great read! I got a kick out of reading some of the passages to Andy because he already practiced them (like a good gentleman) 😉
After our time at the Waterfall Pavilion, we decided to head out to dinner. We ended up at a place recommended by Jordan called Cafe Rustica. I will recommend the restaurant, too. We sat outside on the patio and were warmed by a little heat lamp. The food was good and my company was even better. It was a charming European bistro. I can’t wait to come back to Carmel Valley and try another one of many dining establishments. I also hear Corkscrew Cafe is a great lunch place. 🙂
The next morning we went on another run, this time a little longer. Here’s the map of that run:
Not the fastest run of my life, but at least it was a workout. 🙂 After we cleaned up, we headed for breakfast number two. I was feeling a little sad because it was almost time to leave Stonepine, and this is not a place one is eager to leave! This time for breakfast Andy and I ordered an omelet and two bowls of fruit. OK, I eat like a truck driver sometimes. Don’t judge. 😉 I gave Andy my croissant (he needed it more than I did, although I did take one bite of it). It was superb, but my omelet was even better, and once again, the fruit was so good: a mixture of 3 kinds of melon, pineapple, strawberries and raspberries. And bottomless coffee. We were spoiled!
Andy and I have agreed we will come back to Stonepine (annually, perhaps), as we love Carmel Valley so much. It’s funny because I didn’t know such a place existed even a year ago, yet so many celebrities ( Johnny Depp, Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Diane Sawyer, Brooke Shields, Bill Gates, Jim Carrey, Renee Zellweger, Warren Buffet, The Rolling Stones, Shakira and Joe Montana) have made Stonepine their destination. Now I know why. It’s a very special and private place. Once you are past those gates (and believe me, it’s a high security place for people who don’t want to be seen), it’s like stepping back in time, even into another country.
I can’t say enough about the kindness of the staff at Stonepine. They are all people I hope to see year after year. Thank you to Relevance PR for arranging my visit and a huge thank you to Gordon and Noel Hentschel for accommodating us. Stonepine Estate is one of the most lovely places we have ever experienced and I look forward to our return.
Yesterday around 9:30am, I received an invitation to a preview tasting of Capital Dime, Midtown Sacramento’s newest (and highly anticipated) restaurant owned by Noah Zonca (former chef at The Kitchen) and Rick Lobley (co-founder of Ink and Empire). I sent in my RSVP with Kobayashi-like hot dog eating speed. OMG! What do I wear?!?!? 😉
What is the concept of Capital Dime? According to the Chef, the restaurant’s goal is to make the farm-to-fork movement accessible to affordable for almost everyone. Most of the the plates will be priced around $10, in a setting that can be formal, but not snobby (there are booths in the downstairs along with a few flatscreen TVs). And their logo is pretty neat, too.
In my opinion, the odds of success are in Chef Zonca’s favor. He waited until the real estate prices were lower to open Capital Dime, and has several long time relationships with farmers and suppliers (securing good pricing for him to pass onto customers). Not to mention all those loyal fans from The Kitchen. And the great location. And the tasty plates we tried:
To start, Andy and I enjoyed a cocktail named “Boxers and Bobbysocks,” created by head bartender Rene Dominguez (who has worked at Ella Dining Room and Bar), containing gin, bitters, muddled cherries and rosemary.
Some of the bites we tasted were (shown above in the slideshow) an artichoke dip on a crostini paired with pulled pork in a mini tostada. The next course was a spicy shrimp and watermelon salad featuring a few Asian ingredients: bonito flakes, fish sauce juxtaposed with fresh mozzarella and squash blossoms arranged beautifully on a tea leaf. I liked the salad more and more with each bite as it took me a minute to wrap my brain around the combining flavors. I like just about anything with watermelon in it this time of year. The next sampler was a slider of pastrami (cured and smoked in house) paired with shoestring fries. The fries were topped with what appeared to be gravy, bacon and cheese. Look ma, no calories!!
The dessert was a soft chocolate-chip cookie. I try to stay away from these types of things, happy with the natural sugar level in my drink, so Andy happily snarfed had four of them. Andy, thanks for taking one for the team, I know it’s hard work. The chef says there will not be a dessert menu and doesn’t currently have a pastry chef. Noah, this is my formal application. LOL. Pick me! I’d serve my gluten-free s’more pie from the party and I put on at Caverna 57 on Saturday.
Capital Dime will be participating in Sacramento’s Bastille Day Celebration on July 14th. They will have a booth with free appetizers from 11:30 am to 3 pm.
Capital Dime is located at 1801 L St., Suite 50, in the former space of L Wine Lounge. You can find them on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here. Here’s a video from last night posted by The Sacramento Bee, with Zonca being interviewed by Janelle Bitker. Andy and I are in the very beginning! 🙂