I have lived in California since 2004, and will admit I had never visited or heard of a small oceanside town called Pacifica until just last month. I was invited on a press trip to check out the little place just 15 minutes south (by car) of San Francisco along with a few other travel writers, podcasters and bloggers.
Quite frankly, once I experienced staying, eating, running, hiking, and basically existing in Pacifica, I felt like i had been let in on a very well-kept secret. I was shocked I had never been there before. I was spooked that it wasn’t more crowded with tourists, but at the same time that’s what I loved about it. I treasured the uncrowded (other than locals) feel to the town. It’s just a day-in, day-out beach town with incredible morning waves for surfers and a small, but great night life for anyone and all to enjoy.
I fled to Pacifica the last week of October when a work event I had organized in San Francisco felt OK enough to leave to coworkers. I escaped just in time to a media dinner at Nick’s Restaurant, an unapologetic old school joint that sits (incredibly enough) right on the oceanfront. I chose the special of the evening, which was tilapia served with butter beans, arugula, and a brown butter sauce and tried several other menu offerings along with other media and influencers seated around our table. I took several photos of the food we enjoyed and I present them to you below (beginning with that mouth-watering tilapia special!):
After introductions and multiple bottles of wine, our group walked over to A Grape in the Fog for even more wine, tarot card readings, and this fantastic cheese plate.
The next day I met up with about half of our travel group to hike along the California coastal trail segment of Pacifica led by Pacifica Beach Coalition’s Lynn Adams, and local trail advocate (and major Creedence Clearwater Revival fan) Jim Sullivan. Along with taking in some really beautiful sights along the hike, we learned the trail doesn’t groom itself and there are several volunteers who give their time to help clear the trail and plant flowers along the path for others to enjoy. There are also beach cleanups that take place on a monthly basis.
After working up an appetite, our group caravanned to the Little Brown Church/Pacifica Coastside Museum for a Pacifica Jack Cheese and Rosalind Bakery bread tasting, washed down with vodka, absinthe, rum, and gin samples from local alcoholic beverage producer, Tripp Distillery.
Pacifica Jack? Yes, according to a historian at the museum, we learned that the recipe for Jack cheese came from Italy straight to Pacifica by way of a man named Stefano Mori. The cheese recipe was allegedly stolen by an employee of the Moris, and taken down to Monterey (to the Jacks Ranch). From there the cheese began being produced commercially and called… can you guess? That’s right! Monterey Jack. Don’t believe it? Well, there is indeed corroborating evidence of Jacks’ theft in the book “Roadside History of California” by Ruth Pittman. Recently, a woman by the name of Kathleen Manning decided to put the Pacifica back in Jack cheese, and went on a mission to track down the original recipe by Stefano Mori. Along with the recipe, she also found a cheesemaker to produce the cheese, and it is currently available to taste and purchase at the Pacifica Coastside Museum.
Not being one to normally indulge in bread, I couldn’t help but wolf down a few pieces of the spongy, brown, baked goodness, speckled with walnuts, that was provided to our tour group by Rosalind Bakery. At the other end of the sampling table, we were introduced to Jason Tripp, of Tripp Distillery (also located in Pacifica). Tripp Distillery is open to the public and often invites various food trucks for their customers to buy food to enjoy with their products. If you visit, look for their original red (as in the color red) vodka (if it isn’t already sold out). You can follow them on Facebook to be notified of special events at the distillery.
Our Friday evening culminated with an appetizer reception and tour of Sam’s Castle (a properly that lived former lives as a Prohibition-era speakeasy, an underground abortion clinic, and a World War II Coast Guard Station, before it was purchased in 1959 by Sam Mazza). The castle tour was all the more interesting because every single room was decorated for Halloween.
I was delighted by the attention to detail and all the spooky props on display. We enjoyed beverages provided by A Grape in the Fog (wine) and (brews from) Pedro Point Brewery. It was real Pacifica trick-or-treating in the dining area with delights from Tam’s Cuisine of China, the Moonraker, Rosalind Bakery, and desserts from the French Patisserie and Shampa’s Pies.
We also took turns sitting on the crimson red velvet throne in one of the castle’s main rooms. I left feeling so lucky to be asked/included on these types of media events and how being a travel writer has opened up so many unique opportunities.
Our lodging in Pacifica was provided by the Lighthouse Hotel. The hotel sits right on the ocean (located in Rockaway Beach Plaza) and many of the rooms offer views of the beach and the mesmerizing waves. It was very clean and comfortable, and I would definitely stay there again. Important information for wine writers: There is FREE wi-fi and there is a refrigerator in your room. Below is a picture of the view from my room!
Ah, Pacifica… a not-overly-crowded charming little town right on the ocean with great eats and friendly locals (and even a golf course)! If you’ve never been to Pacifica, I urge you to check it out. It’s so close to San Francisco and perfect for a mini-vacation by the sea!
This Pacifica Media Familiarization Tour would not have been possible without Mortgage Loan Specialist Darlene Gonzalez and public relations guru Molly Blaisdell. Thank you, ladies! Disclosure: I was invited on this trip at no charge to write about the area, giving my own impressions and opinions.
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!
One benefit of having this website is that I am often sent complimentary bottles of wine to try so that I will write about them and give my opinion. It makes my job even easier when I actually like the wine and am enthusiastic about recommending it!
I was highly intrigued by the Tempranillo Blanco, because though I have had my fair share of Tempranillos (red wine) I had never tasted a white one. This wine is actually a blend of 60% Viura, 20% Malvasia, 20% Tempranillo Blanco. It is entirely fermented in stainless steel, which makes this wine fruitfully crisp. I would recommend this wine as a starter glass with appetizers such as cheese, or other tapas of some sort–Tortilla Española and Gambas al Ajillo come to mind. I was really impressed with the wine’s quality vs. the price. If you care to know, the wine scored 89 points in Wine Spectator. You can find Vivanco Tempranilla Blanco online here. As I write this, it’s only $9.99 per bottle. Wine.com also sells it, but they are currently out of stock.
The second wine I tried was the Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha. The wine is a blend of 85% Tempranillo, and 15% Garnacha. It’s a true deep pink versus a pale salmon color, but it is still a dry wine (as sometimes a darker color can indicate a sweeter rosé). This rosé is made using a method called “free-run”, a term used to describe the release of juice from the grapes (after they are harvested) as a result of the weight of being stacked on one another (and before any pressure is applied to crush them). This is a good wine to enjoy with tapenade or a salade Niçoise, paella, and grilled chicken or fish. It also scored 89 points in Wine Spectator. You can find the Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha online here. As I write this, it’s only $8.99 per bottle.
*I was sent these two complimentary bottles of wine so that I might share my thoughts about them with my readers. Photos of the wine and opinions on the wine are my own.
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, Cityscape. Cityscape 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.
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? 😉
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 🙂
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
So how does it work inside Dr. Bob’s Donuts and DoYos? Well, here’s a look inside the shop:
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.
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. 🙂
After the sauce and glazing station, you can visit the frozen yogurt machine:
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.
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.
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.
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! 🙂
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:
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.
Then we were served an amuse bouche (which changes nightly). It was a spicy tomato broth with pasta.
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.
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)! 😉
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!
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.
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.
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).
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!! 😉
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.
For more information on Dine Downtown, you can click here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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