Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

Posts tagged “reviews

Luxury for Less at Scottsdale’s Gainey Suites Hotel

Back in June, I traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona to attend a conference. Instead of staying at the big-ticket host hotel, I looked for a less expensive option that was still within walking distance to the event I was attending, and after a brief internet search, I found The Gainey Suites Hotel.

After a giant airline delay in my trip, and missing the first afternoon session of the conference, I finally got settled in my hotel room. Suite 320:

Inside the room was modern, well-furnished, impeccably clean, and well-lit. It reminded me of a small apartment. I remember being very impressed, because the room looked as good or better than it did online, and I was already pretty glad I skipped paying extra just to stay at the conference hotel.


The beds at Gainey Suites Hotel are covered in 300 thread-count linens on a plush, allergy-free featherbed with down pillows, and a duo of cute Gainey Bears for guests to take home. It’s one of the most comfortable beds on which I have ever slept, even more comfy the one I sleep on at home. OK, definitely might move into this place. 🙂

My one bedroom suite was also equipped with a full kitchen (minus an oven). For dinner during my first evening’s stay, I walked over to the Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store next door and picked up groceries to stock the full-sized refrigerator in my room, and made dinner for myself on the stove top and microwave. The room had everything I needed to eat in my room, too, such as bowls, plates, cups, and silverware.

The hotel is walking distance to The Shops-Gainey Village (also where Sprouts Farmers Market is located) a collection of unique shops and restaurants. The shops feature everything from apparel to lifestyle items, and the restaurants offer several different cuisines to suite whatever you might be craving. There is also a nail salon, a day spa, and a salon located in the village in case you need a little polishing up!

Every morning at Gainey Suites Hotel, there is a complimentary hot breakfast buffet, featuring eggs, sausage, bacon, fruit, oatmeal, bagels, pastries, and cereals, along with orange juice, milk, tea and coffee. If you’re on a budget, your first meal of the day is completely covered in your room stay.


Every evening, the hotel has a reception with hot and cold appetizers, beer, wine, and soft drinks. It is unbelievably included in the price of your room. This is to say you could technically get by on breakfast in the morning and appetizers in the evening and not spend any more on food or dining except for a few snacks to store in your full-sized refrigerator!

I really appreciated the HDTV with Chromecast feature in each room, because I was able to watch Parts Unknown on demand during my dinner.


In between sessions at the conference I had some down time, so I decided I would head out to the pool and get some sun. The pool is clean, spacious, and surrounded with plenty of chairs with umbrellas in which to lounge.


Other hotel amenities include: No resort fees • Free Wi-Fi • 24/7 fitness center • Desktop power/charging stations • In-suite coffee makers with complimentary coffee & tea • In-suite hair dryers • Iron & ironing board • In-room safe (lap top size) • Cordless phone/voicemail service • Valet laundry service • Guest laundry facilities • Courtesy shuttle service (within a 5-mile radius, 7am-6pm daily) • Evening room service from The Village Tavern (restaurant next to the hotel, 5-10pm) • Complete business center services with free-to-guest PC and internet services • Daily and weekly passes available for the exclusive Health Club at Gainey Village

You can find Gainey Suites Hotel on Facebook here, on Instagram here, on Twitter here, and read reviews of the hotel on Trip Advisor here. If you’re ever in Scottsdale, definitely make a stay at Gainey Suites Hotel part of your travel plans!

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A Duo of Delightful Wines to Try

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

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

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

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


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

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


Make the Hilton San Francisco Union Square Your Home for the Holidays!

amazing skyline

A few weeks ago, I was planning a business trip to San Francisco, and I did not want to hassle with driving back to Sacramento after dark. The event I was planning and would be working in the city was a catered food and wine event at a major car dealership, and I knew I would be exhausted by the end of the evening. That’s when I decided to stay overnight in San Francisco, preferably close to the dealership.

Lucky for me, I have been and stayed in San Francisco several times and have a bit of a history and relationship with the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. I have been invited to past events, such as the opening of their 46th floor lounge, CityscapeCityscape is located inside tower one of the Hilton (which also happens to be the largest hotel on the West Coast).

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. Below is the video I took inside the Cityscape last year. I am using it because the Cityscape was closed (for a private event) the evening I stayed at the Hilton, and I was not able to obtain any new footage. Enjoy!

I connected with the marketing team at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, and they were able to place me in a beautiful tower room with a patio overlooking Union Square. I was happy to be back and able to check in and relax in my room before I headed to the event at the dealership that evening.

Of course the rooms inside the Hilton SF Union Square are spacious, modern, and the beds are beyond comfortable, but it was the new amenities since my last stay that were really impressive. First, there is a touch pad tablet in the rooms that is personalized to each guest. You can basically explore the entire city and find things to do during your time in San Francisco. There are recommended activities and restaurants, and you can see several menus to check out exactly what a certain restaurant offers before you make a reservation.

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Not only can you become a San Francisco travel expert from your room, you can also workout at any time of day or night (with just a swipe of your hotel key) in the newly-renovated fitness center on the bottom floor of tower one. It’s a 2,800 square feet Precor®-equipped fitness area with a Cardio Theatre personal viewing system, ellipticals, treadmills, and free weights. There is also a towel and water station so you can stay fully hydrated during your workout. I really enjoyed being able to tune into Food Network and watch live time as I put in seven miles on the treadmill, and I can proudly say I didn’t miss my gym in Sacramento the slightest! Can I move in with you, Hilton San Francisco Union Square? 😉

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There are refrigerators in the rooms, and you can purchase wine and snacks (like the ones below) at the lobby café/store (Herb N’ Kitchen, click for menu). I also tried the Turkey Cobb Salad for dinner that evening, and it was very satisfying.

If you are looking for more of a full service experience, you can head over to Urban Tavern which features a full menu of locally-inspired cuisine (click here for menu), and highlights 50 wines within 50 miles, Bay Area beers and indigenous spirits. I dined there during my last stay, and here are some photos of the delightful dishes Andy and I sampled!

Here’s the part where I post a bunch of pictures I took from my 44th floor room 🙂

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tree in hotel

This is the most wonderful time of year to stay at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. The lobby is fully decorated with Christmas trees, just like the one above on the main floor of tower one.

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breakfast one

After my workout, I enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Poached, (click here for PDF menu), located on the lobby level of the Hilton. Below is a You Tube video of items available (everything!) on the buffet. I was really impressed by the Congee bar with several toppings, as well as the availability of healthy items. (There’s also lots of pastry, cereal, bread, bagels, too, if that’s your thing.)

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Things to do this season!
There are lots of activities for the whole family during the holiday season, and the Hilton San Francisco Union Square welcomes you during this festive time of year. As you can see in the photo above, Union Square is fully decked out with lights and a Christmas tree, and they have their Holiday Ice Rink open for business! There’s even a package rate that includes accommodations, 2 ice rink tickets, and a Bloomingdale’s 15% savings certificate! Follow this link for full details/to take advantage of this offer!

A Charlie Brown Christmas LIVE!
A Charlie Brown Christmas—LIVE!
 at Davies Symphony Hall is an experience you won’t want to miss. The performance begins with a reception in the lobby, so make sure to arrive early. The lobby will be filled with festive decorations and activities, including gigantic Christmas trees and special Peanuts décor. There will be several performances beginning this Thursday, Dec 21st and running until December 24th, 2017. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

A Christmas Carol
Over at the American Conservatory Theatre, you can enjoy a performance of A Christmas Carol. Performances run Wednesday, Dec 21st-Sunday Dec. 24th at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary Street. For more information, click here.

A New Year’s Event with Seth McFarlane and the San Francisco Symphony
Sunday, December 31st, at 8:00pm, Davies Symphony Hall
Celebrate in timeless style with Academy and Grammy Award-nominated singer, songwriter, actor, producer, and director Seth MacFarlane, who brings a winning combination of rich crooning and cool pizazz that would do Frank and Dino proud. Watch him light up the stage with the San Francisco Symphony in a dazzling concert of finger-snapping jazz standards and holiday favorites conducted by Edwin Outwater. For tickets click here.

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parking

Another amenity I found impressive is the valet parking service. As you are checking out, you can text the code (ten minutes before you are ready to leave) on your valet ticket to the valet number (see above) and they will fetch your vehicle for you so you don’t have to wait for it.

With its state-of-the-art amenities and breathtaking views, it’s no wonder the Hilton San Francisco Union Square is my go-to place to stay in the City.

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. Tag them on social media with #hiltonfunionsq. Much thanks to the marketing team at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for your hospitality. I’ll be back soon!

*I was given a one night stay, breakfast, and parking in exchange for this informative blog post.


You Light Up My Life: Flame and Fire Restaurant in Roseville

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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.

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The other side says “NO”, but the servers pretty much only saw the “YES” side during my meal. 😉

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.

salad bar one
The salad bar is also adorned with several cheeses such as Origiano Parmesan, Gorgonzola Blue, Coranzon Ronda Manchengo, Swiss and Gouda and cured meats.

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meats and cheeses

To the side of the salad bar there are large containers with fish stew, rice and a potato dish with bacon and cheese.

fish stew

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.

salad bar two
salad bar three
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.

wine

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:

bread
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:

ribs

parmesan pork on plate
cutting pork
pork tenderloin
Picanha
my favorite cut

meat trio
lambchops

andy with meat

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!

gaucho slicing
You can find Flame and Fire on Facebook here , follow them on Twitter here and check out their Instagram page here. Make a reservation to dine at Flame & Fire by clicking here.

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A Look Inside Dr. Bob’s Donuts and DoYos in Roseville

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Last Friday, I stopped by a new place in Roseville called Dr. Bob’s Donuts and DoYos. They’ve been open about 3 weeks now and are the first to serve steamed gluten free and vegan donuts in the area. At Dr. Bob’s, customers are able to fully customize their donuts with different glazes, syrups, puddings, and dozens of toppings. Taking their creations a step further, they can add up to two different kinds of dairy free frozen yogurt to make a DoYo. Donuts AND frozen yogurt? And it’s healthy? Where do I sign up? 🙂

During my visit, I spoke with Tasha Richard, owner and co-founder of Dr. Bob’s Donuts and DoYos. She was neatly dressed in her chef’s attire, and though in the middle of a busy afternoon rush, she made time to answer some of my questions and chat with me about the her culinary background, food philosophies, and the shop itself.

Immediately, Tasha made a strong impression on me as a person who doesn’t want to change the world, but rather wants to help the world change. She and I have that in common as I have tried to help people who want to change their diet with this website and access to my Paleo and Primal recipes.

It’s been a long time coming, but I believe people are finally realizing that “food is medicine and medicine is your food”. There’s a direct correlation between sugar intake and disease. There’s also a connection between foods with highly processed ingredients (enriched flour, high fructose corn syrup) and obesity. It was exciting to interview Tasha because as she spoke to me about the donuts and her products at the shop, she transformed from a soft spoken business owner into a passionate health food advocate!

It wasn’t always like that for the Chef-Owner of Dr. Bob’s. After 25 years in the food industry and a typical American diet, Tasha had fallen into ill health with a myriad of digestive issues. Eventually she went to Hawaii and met Dr. Bob. Instead of prescription medicine, Dr. Bob placed her on an elimination diet. The elimination diet usually involves cutting out foods/ingredients to which people are commonly allergic such as milk, eggs, nuts, wheat, and soy. It took 2 years, but finally Tasha’s health improved and the gastrointestinal problems vanished. Her waistline did a vanishing act, too–she lost 80 pounds!

One of the keys to Tasha’s success and managing an elimination diet was developing a gluten and dairy free treat that reminded her of one of the things she loved and gave up: donuts! (To be honest, I miss those, too!) With her chef background, she worked on the mix for the donuts with Dr. Bob and came up with a blend of: Sprouted Brown Rice Flour, Criollo Cacao Powder, Yellow Pea Protein Powder, Peruvian Maca Powder, Golden Milled Flaxseed, Hemp Protein Powder, Cinnamon Powder, Sprouted Brown Rice Protein Powder, Moringa Leaf Powder, Tumeric Powder, Green Tea Powder, Ginger Powder, Probiotics, and Minerals.

The donut mix is vegan and common allergen free (no gluten, wheat, dairy, corn, eggs, or nuts) and now available for sale on their website and in the Roseville storefront.

products for purchase at register

So how does it work inside Dr. Bob’s Donuts and DoYos? Well, here’s a look inside the shop:

inside store

First, you select a donut. You can choose from vanilla, chocolate, or even unsweetened chocolate. For the uninspired, there are also several premade donuts with glazes and fruit already on them. All of the donuts are kept warm in a glass cabinet.

vanillachocolatepre madechocolate donut with topping
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After you select a donut, you can top it with any of the house made glazes and sauces. This one is the “Ultra Sauce” made with almond butter, organic cacao butter, organic coconut butter, and Dr. Bob’s G* Sweet (a sweetener made with a blend of cane sugar, coconut palm sugar, lo han guo, coconut water powder, and stevia) that is 6 times sweeter than table sugar–meaning you can use less of it and it still tastes very sweet. 🙂

ultra sauce
glazes

After the sauce and glazing station, you can visit the frozen yogurt machine:

fro yo machine
Or not. Since I was going to be driving back to Sacramento, I arranged to keep my donuts and frozen yogurt in separate containers so the frozen yogurt would not melt as quickly.

Then, more toppings are available on the fresh bar next to the yogurt machine. There is fresh fruit like strawberries and kiwi as well as a few different dairy free mousses and chia pudding. Tasha explained to me that some people skip the donuts altogether and just enjoy the puddings and fresh fruit together. It’s really a choose your own adventure at Dr. Bob’s.

yogurts toppings

Next and finally there is the dry bar of toppings. This station gives a little bit of crunch and texture to your creation. There are also a few different agave nectars and honey if you need a little more sweetness.

dry bar toppingsdry bar 2 honey
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Looks pretty good! After you’re all done making your custom donut or DoYo, it’s time to pay. What to drink? There is a small coffee bar across from the cash register and there are also two fresh juices available daily. If you feeling generous and want to take some donuts into the office, they are available in packs of 4, 8, and 12. For pricing and menu, you can click here.

at register

Dr. Bob’s Donuts and DoYos is located at 336 Lincoln Street in old town Roseville. They are open 7 am to 8 pm Tuesday thru Sunday. For more information, you can call them at 916-742-5241. You can find Dr. Bob’s Donuts and DoYos and tons of photos/ideas for donut creations on their Facebook page here and you can follow them on Twitter here. You can also follow them on Instagram here! 🙂

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Dine Downtown Sacramento: Another Shot of Mayahuel!

Dine Downtown kicks off tomorrow (Wednesday, January 9th, running though Friday, January 18th), and I was happy to have been asked by the owner of the downtown gem Mayahuel (Ernesto Delgado), to preview the menu he is offering for the special event.

Mayahuel (which is named after Mayahuel, the Aztec goddess of the agave plant and fertility) has been a dining destination in Sacramento since March of 2011, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite places to go for dinner.

You might remember my preview of Mayahuel’s pre fixe menu from last year, and how much I loved their chorizo-topped rib eye. If you didn’t get to try the steak last year, have no fear! It’s on the Dine Downtown menu again this year. If you’re not a steak fan, Mayahuel has some tasty alternatives, as well as some vegetarian and vegan options.

Andy and I had dinner at Mayahuel on Friday (we had a Groupon and I treated us for our Monthaversary dinner). Then it was back to Mayahuel last night for more Mexican food and the Dine Downtown preview. Since I could eat Mexican food everyday and not tire of it, I was in heaven. 🙂

Here’s a shot of Mayahuel’s Dine Downtown menu and your choices for $30 per person:

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Here’s the low down on what we enjoyed and some pictures of our selections:

Andy threw out a few wines and I immediately went for a 2008 Tempranillo made by Vina dos Rios, (Crestwood Monarch Winery) in El Dorado County.

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Then we were served an amuse bouche (which changes nightly). It was a spicy tomato broth with pasta.

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Then we were served some house made chips accompanied by some tomato salsa. I really love the thickness of the chips and that they almost taste sweet.

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For his appetizer, Andy chose the Flor de Calabaza: Creamy Squash Blossom soup with infused tequila. It was very rich and probably not for the calorie conscious (which Andy is not)! 😉

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My appetizer choice was the Dios de Maíz: Crisp baby spinach, romaine lettuce, sweet corn, black beans, panela cheese, sesame seeds and chile ancho peppers, served with a lime-cilantro vinaigrette. I had the same salad for my entrée on Friday night with chicken added to it, so I already knew what to expect. I am addicted to those cheese cubes!

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Andy is pretty nice about sharing with me, so this time he ordered the Rib Eye with Chorizo: (Rib eye steak topped with chorizo crust, a bed of seasoned mushrooms in adobo salsa). Once again, the steak was cooked perfectly and the chorizo was really packed with flavor and spice.

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For my entrée I went with the Pollo en Adobo: Chicken and mushrooms with nopales in a Guajillo, Pasilla, Morita chile Adobo sauce, served with white rice and black beans. How I missed you rice and black beans. It was such a treat for me, I probably could have had more of them for dessert.

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But for dessert, I ordered the Nieve Flor de la Rosa: a Vanilla ice cream served with Mazapán (a peanut candy) drizzled with caramel and almonds. It was delectable, but I won’t throw Andy under the bus and let you know that he had most of it (oops). I was only in it for the yummy peanut candy (a lot like peanut flavored powdered sugar in a disc shape).

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Andy ordered the Arroz con Leche. It’s rice that is simmered in sweetened milk and flavored with cinnamon, and topped with raisins. That’s me in the background waiting to have a taste. Once I did, I loved the cinnamon and the texture of the rice. And then Andy stole it back and polished it off. Whatever!! 😉

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Notable: Try their NapaToro wine. It is made exclusively for Mayahuel. If you don’t like wine, by all means, have a margarita or ask the bartender about trying some tequila. The staff at Mayahuel is very knowledgeable on the food and beverages they serve and are willing to answer any questions you might have.

Mayahuel is located at 1200 K Street, Sacramento, 95814. You can make reservations by calling 916-441-7200 or find them on OpenTable here.

Mayahuel is on Facebook here and on twitter here.

For more information on Dine Downtown, you can click here.


thinkThin® Bars Review, Guest Post by Andy Harris

CG: This Christmas, the elves at the thinkThin company delivered 2 cases of assorted product to cavegrrl.com headquarters. I’ll preface this post by saying that the line of thinkThin bars are not primal or paleo, but work great if you are an athlete that burns a lot of energy. That’s why I asked Andy if he would be interested in reviewing the bars from a very active person’s point-of-view. I have had the thinkThin products before and I think they are great as a meal replacement/treat. Also, all of the bars we tasted were gluten-free and non-GMO. So, without further delay is Andy’s take on the variety pack we were sent:

I recently sat down with samples of four distinctly different health bars being manufactured and distributed by a company aptly named thinkThin.  These bars are being marketed as low-calorie and gluten-free, with no refined sugar and a really nice balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat.

To preface my review, I will state all four of these bars were unique in their own way, flavorful and satisfying.  I did have my preferences, as I’m sure you will, and I would encourage you to try all their products and see which ones you like best.

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The first one I tried was the Caramel Chocolate Dipped Mixed Nuts.  (From their Crunch line) The packaging caught my eye and, not surprisingly, it wound up tasting every bit as good as it looked.  I don’t normally eat peanuts, but the combination of peanuts, almonds and cashews in a chewy format was very good.  This bar would be particularly attractive to a person who is mixing in aerobic exercise with dieting, as the bar is 190 calories with 100 calories coming from fat.  However, this is a very balanced bar, with 12g of fat, 15g of carbohydrate and 10g of protein.

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The next one I tried was the Dark Chocolate Coconut. (From their Divine line.)
I couldn’t wait to try this one because of my affinity for coconut, and it did not disappoint.  It was my favorite of the bunch, with immensely rich flavors of coconut and chocolate reminiscent of a Mounds bar.  Here again, this one gets more than half of its calories from fat.  It comes in at 170 calories, which I wouldn’t consider a full meal replacement, although it would make an outstanding post-workout energy bar or in-between meal snack.

thinkThin CREAMY PEANUT BUTTER wrapper

Third in line was the Creamy Peanut Butter bar. (From their Protein line.) Like I said before, I don’t normally eat peanuts or anything made out of peanuts, but if you like them, you might like this bar.  The only peculiarity with this bar was that the peanut flavor tasted strange, almost gamey.  You might try it and achieve different findings, and it would not hurt you to try this bar if you enjoy peanut products.  This bar has a very low fat content, 33%, if that’s what you’re looking for, and is quite filling at 240 calories.  If you’re trying to lose weight, this one could function as a full meal replacement, but please beware of the 300mg of sodium, about two to three times the sodium content of the other bars tested for this review.

thinkThin BROWNIE CRUNCH wrapper

Last but certainly not least was the Brownie Crunch(From their Protein line.)  I could envision this bar as being their most popular of the four sampled.  It simply tastes just like a chocolate brownie, including an excellent chewy texture, but without any refined sugar.  The big surprise was that this bar was the leanest of the bunch, with only 70 calories from fat from the entire 240 calorie total.

In summation, I am going to highly recommend this line of products.  They are all made with healthy, natural ingredients and should support an appetite control program with emphasis on exercise and good overall nutrition.

Think Thin bars carry a suggested retail price of $1.99 each, with a box of 10 coming in at $16.90.  If you find a bar you’re particularly enamored with, you can opt for a carton of 6 boxes of 10 bars for $95.40.  With a shelf life of approximately one year, you’re sure to use them during that span.

Think Thin products are widely available at Safeway, Raley’s, Save Mart and FoodsCo., Target, and Trader Joe’s.

You can find thinkThin on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

Tarla Mediterranean Grill: My New Favorite in Downtown Napa

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Well, I just found my new favorite restaurant. Unfortunately for me, it’s in Downtown Napa, so I won’t be able to visit as often as I would like. The name of the restaurant is Tarla Mediterranean Grill and they serve cuisine that is a beautiful blend of Turkish and Greek influences. It also happens to be located in the same building as one of my favorite places to stay in Napa, the Avia Hotel.

I picked Tarla Mediterranean Grill not only because of its close proximity to the Uptown Theatre (where we were headed later to see Robert Cray and his band), but it was also a nod to Andy’s heritage. Andy is half-Greek, so I thought it would be the perfect choice for his birthday celebration.

Tarla Mediterranean Grill opened last year, and is owned by Yusuf Topal and his wife Breanna. Yusuf’s background is in hospitality, as he was a former maitre d’ and manager of various cruise ship restaurants.

The head chef is Gerry Castro. He attended CIA and has worked for the likes of Far Niente Winery, Ceja Vineyards, Farmstead Restaurant, and Murray Circle (a Michelin starred restaurant in Sausalito).

The restaurant seats only 46, and has a great patio area if you prefer to dine outside. The interior has a clean, informal, and inviting look with tangerine and olive hues in the decor. There are nice touches to each table including candles and turkish white copper cups (in which water is served to guests).

We kicked off the birthday dinner with a half bottle of Malamatina Retsina, and began the meal with Tarla’s Greek salad. I also ordered a side of hummus to use as a dip for the tomatoes and cucumbers in the salad.

Then we ordered the Meatballs served with caramelized eggplant, bell peppers, and fresh tomato sauce.

For my main course, I ordered the Tiger prawns and diver scallops, served with parsnip puree and pomegranate currant sauce. Everything in the dish is Paleo, and it was the first dish that caught my eye on the menu. It was almost like the chef called Andy, asked him what all my favorite foods are, then put some of them together. It was as wonderful as I imagined.

Andy chose the Fresh Alaskan halibut, which is pistachio crusted and served with vegetable ragu and white wine butter sauce. Again, every ingredient was Paleo and once again, unbelievably good.

We finished our meal with 2 desserts. This usually works because I take one or two bites and then pass over to Andy to finish. That way, nobody is deprived. And it was a special occasion, so what the heck. 🙂

The first dessert was poached apricots stuffed with mascarpone cheese and rolled in pistachios. The sweetness was balanced with the cheese filling, and pistachios just make something that already tastes great, taste even better.

At this point writing my post, I am realizing we really ate a lot of food that night! But wait, there’s more…

The owner brought out a second dessert for us like nothing I have ever seen or tried before! It is called kunefe (shredded phyllo dough baked with shredded coconut and sweet cheese). Not primal or even Paleo, but a nice treat nonetheless. I had a few bites and had Andy finish the rest. The texture and flavor was unlike anything I have ever tried before. Baklava might sound good and traditional, but trust me… try the kunefe. You can thank me later. I liked it so much I am going to work on a gluten-free, sugar free version. 🙂 Just wow.

Other dishes on the menu include spanokopita, calamari, saganaki, chicken and lamb shish kebabs, Turkish stuffed eggplant, and musakka (a traditional dish in both Turkey and Greece). By the way, if you’ve never had saganaki, just do it. It’s amazing.

The other wine we shared at dinner was a 2011 Peju Sauvignon Blanc. The wine list is so reasonable it’s unreasonable! My alcohol bill for the retsina and the sauvignon blanc was only about $35. Also, every Wednesday, the restaurant features a select wine list with bottles 50% off until 7:30pm.

No entree on the menu is over $20, and as you can see in the pictures, the portions are generous.

Tarla Mediterranean Grill  is located at 1480 1st Street, Downtown Napa. To contact the restaurant, call (707) 255-5599. Their happy hour is Monday-Friday 3-6pm, and late night happy hour is 8:30-10pm. They are open Monday-Thursday 11am-10pm, Friday 11am-11pm, Saturday 10am-11pm, and Sunday 10am-10pm.

You can find them on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.


Fantastic Memories at the Meritage Resort and Spa

I am still daydreaming about the party I attended with RB and my media/journalist friends a few weeks ago. It was the Re-Grand Opening Celebration at the Meritage Resort and Spa.

I can only describe my experience there as “living the dream”. I know it’s cliche, but I truly felt like royalty that evening. The Meritage Resort and Spa cut no corners on the evening, as guests were treated to champagne and caviar, salami and cheese trays, grilled foie gras, pork sliders, and an entire room full of desserts ranging from cakes and pastries to tall jars of M&Ms.

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I was so impressed with the expansion and all the new amenities at The Meritage, that I asked RB if he would bring me back there for my birthday a few weeks later. And he did. 🙂 We spent my 35th birthday at my favorite place in the world, the Napa Valley. We stayed in one of the new rooms at the Meritage, and the next day I worked out in the expanded fitness studio. The view from my treadmill looked out onto their private vineyards. The fitness studio also has Wieland doors that open and close with the season.

Reasons to stay at The Meritage:

  • 322 guestrooms and suites, including nine suites, plus access to 180 vacation rental rooms at the adjacent Vino Bello Resort for a total of 502 guestrooms and suites
  • Guestrooms and suites are designed to be a “home away from home” with high ceilings, open spaces and sumptuous bathrooms
  • Tuscan inspired décor with rich woods, comfortable seating, premium bedding, Gilchrist and Soames amenities, and many rooms with private balconies or patios
  • Wireless and wired high-speed Internet access, executive work desks, local calls and voicemail, complimentary morning newspapers and in-room safes
  • 32-inch plasma screen televisions, DVD and CD players, with access to the hotel’s library of DVDs and complimentary premium channels and iPod-charging clock radios
  • Spacious baths with marble-topped vanities, extendable magnifying mirrors and en-bath telephones
  • Plush bathrobes and designer toiletries
  • Mini refrigerators and bars, complimentary bottled water, coffee/tea makers with a selection of premium coffees and teas, ice buckets and corkscrews

Meeting and Event Space:

  • More than 50,000 square feet of indoor and covered outdoor meeting and event space, the largest meeting venue north of San Francisco and west of Sacramento
  • The two largest ballrooms in the Napa Valley both divisible up to 10 salons
  • Meritage Ballroom: 10,490 square feet, with two pre-function foyers totaling 4,300 square feet. Carneros Ballroom: 7,358 square feet, plus 1,564 square feet pre-function
  • Each ballroom opens up to a four-season covered terrace perfect for meals and receptions for up to 250
  • Luxurious entertainment Estate Cave: 3,992 square feet for events up to 200
  • Two boardrooms with fixed tables and two meeting rooms ranging from 250 square feet to 461 square feet
  • Multiple outdoor courtyards and piazzas for weddings, receptions and dining
  • Our Lady of Grapes Chapel for wedding ceremonies of up to 60 🙂
  • Member of Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI), a worldwide portfolio of distinctive meeting hotels and resorts

More Goodies:

  • Siena: Gourmet restaurant with Napa Terroir-influenced menu sourcing the best local, seasonal meats, fish and produce designed by award-winning executive chef to complement area wines
  • Crush Ultra Lounge: Sports themed entertainment space and bar with six luxury bowling lanes, a pool table, shuffle board, fireplace and dining
  • Blend: Café and bistro with gourmet coffees, à la carte breakfast and lunch offerings, pastries, gelato, retail with indoor and al fresco seating
  • Lobby Bar: Featuring some of Napa’s finest wines by the glass, unique cocktails and appetizers
  • Spa Terra: A unique underground luxury spa experience situated in the Estate Cave, Spa Terra offers a variety of treatments in 12 treatment rooms and features tranquil walls of water, whirlpools, steam grottos and a relaxation lounge to unwind and rejuvenate
  • Trinitas Cellars Tasting Room: Enjoy wine tasting in the Estate Cave with Trinitas Cellars’ award winning wines. Tastings include latest releases and multiple varietals. Wine-centric gifts and mementoes are also available in the tasting room or sign up for the Trinitas Wine Society
  • Two swimming pools and three hot tubs, with cabanas, fountains and outdoor fire places for mingling and enjoying beautiful Napa weather
  • Recreational amenities include a new 1,650 square foot fitness studio, bocce ball court, croquet lawn and hiking trails through the nine acres of hillside vineyards
  • Business center, high-speed wireless Internet access throughout public spaces, meeting rooms, full service AV, presentation and production management, conference and banquet rooms, concierge
  • Evening 28-passenger shuttle delivers guests to Downtown Napa’s restaurants, tasting rooms and theaters and the Napa Outlets
  • 525 parking spaces including some designated for hybrid vehicles and a Level II electric vehicle charging station
When it was time to leave The Meritage Resort and Spa, I almost cried. Being in the Napa Valley always makes me feel so happy and rejuvenated. I enjoy staying at The Meritage because it is only a little over an hour away from my home. So, if you’re in Sacramento like me, it’s a perfect little getaway. Stay tuned for more posts from that weekend, including a piece on Nichelini Winery and Falcor Winery. Two labels who make great wines, but have completely different histories.
You can find the Meritage on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

Primal Pre-Race Dining at… Piatti Mill Valley

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A few weekends ago, Running Bum and I took a little trip to Mill Valley to poke around at some property he is interested in buying. I tagged along with him to run a race the next day. The race, the Marin Memorial 10K, is one of the fastest 10K courses in the area, but it’s still a really tough course. No PR, and I was definitely not running with “fun runners” that day.

For our pre-race meal, we dined at Piatti. And we kept it Primal. Since Piatti is one of my sponsors on cakegrrl.com and will be migrating to this site at the end of the month, I wanted to show my audience on this site what we had for dinner that evening–without touching wheat/pasta/grains/rice.

Our appetizer was the Kobe steak crudo, secret sauce, capers, and tiny arugula. The dish comes with crostini, but we politely asked the server to see if he could swap it out for something else. Instead of telling every server in the world we are Paleo, I simply just say, “we are gluten-free”, or “we are wheat-free”. Our appetizer was served, honoring our special request, with a small side Caesar salad. Perfect.

Next up, we split a chopped romaine salad with salami, chickpeas, olive, peppers, artichokes, and two cheeses. I don’t freak out about chickpeas, and enjoy them about once a month, so I love them on this salad. I ordered the dressing on the side, but to be honest, this salad has so many goodies on it, I didn’t even need dressing or my typical balsamic and olive oil blend.

For the entreés, he went for the cioppino and I the espresso crusted filet, served with bloomsdale savoy spinach, extra vegetables instead of the mashed potatoes, Pt. Reyes blue cheese, and aged balsamic. We ate everything family style, as I love to get RB’s input on things I plan to write about. (Sometimes he even writes for me!)

The cioppino is probably the best I have ever had. The chef did something magical with his addition of a small amount of sambuca to the broth. The stew was heavy on seafood and once again by request we were able to get some extra vegetables on the plate instead of the bread that is typically served with cioppino.

The espresso filet is something I liked so much, I am going to try and replicate it at home. The execution was flawless both presenation and cooking-wise (medium rare!!). I tried to share it with RB, but I think I downed most of it. 🙂

By the way, this meal is going down as one of the best since we have been together. Of course, the meal at Place Pigalle still ranks supreme, but this one rates top notch on service and food quality. It just doesn’t feel or look like a chain restaurant.

Another win was the wine we drank with our meal. Piatti has a selection of wines available on tap called Barrel-to-Table (Piatti’s revolutionary barrel-to-table wine program pours these wines through a custom tap and barrel system which eliminates oxidation and brings the wine directly to the table using the most environmentally sustainable technology – no corks, foils or bottles.) So, yes, I will take the wine hose for $1,000, Alex.

Indeed, I was intrigued, so we tried the Kemiji Pinot Noir (a Barrel-to-Table selection), because we both thought it would be the best compromise for a pairing between the cioppino and the filet–and it was! Instead of playing around with a mere glass or a 1/2 Liter, we went for the Big Gulp–a whole liter for $55. 😉

That evening, we stayed at Marin Hotel and Suites. We took advantage of an Amazon sale from a couple of weeks prior and got the room at a very steep discount. RB and I just love steep discounts. 🙂 It was a pretty good room for the price, equipped with a mini kitchen: a coffee pot, microwave, full-sized refrigerator, sink, and dining area. A bonus for me was that the room had a clock radio by the bed with an iPod dock and speakers…I took advantage of it, and plugged in my iPhone so I could blast Born and Raised. 😉

You can find Piatti Mill Valley on twitter here and the Sacramento location here. The Sacramento menu changes around, but you can typically find my favorite salad (the salad pictured above) on it. 🙂 You can find Piatti on Facebook here.

PS: At the Sacramento location, don’t miss the summer music series every Friday night (hello, live music on the patio!) and the $10 wine list on Saturdays. 🙂