Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

Posts tagged “wine

Lodi Wine: It’s What All the Cool Kids are Drinking

Do you ever have reservations about doing something because you are not sure you are good enough or that you will be accepted?

Initially that is how I felt about attending the Wine Bloggers Conference. I was not sure whether or not I even belonged there. All I knew is what I heard about previous conferences and above all my love of wine. Even though I am not a wine expert and I have no formal wine education. Even though I am honestly uncomfortable writing about wine in depth because I think I will sound ignorant to someone well-versed in the world of oenology.

It doesn’t matter. I eventually decided I DID belong at the conference and I do have something relevant to say about wine (most of the time), and more importantly, I can HELP small winemakers by trying their wines and promoting the ones I like, especially when I can pair them with a recipe (as I do in my Flights by Night series).

Following my self-pep talk, I began to get excited about what was to come, and finally opening day had arrived.

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The opening reception was held on Mohr Fry Ranch, home of 12 varieties of grapes grown to purchased by several different wineries and turned into magnificent bottles of wine.

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I don’t know if Andy was as excited as I was that day, but I felt like a kid on Christmas morning as we looked around to find the registration table and pick up our badges. It was kind of like the first day at school, as a lot of attendees that evening were bussed in to Mohr Fry and meeting other writers for the very first time. Another set of writers we met later on that evening, Neal and Alyse of Winery Wanderings share this “new kid”-type sentiment with me and you can read about it here.

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Then there was the table of excursions that would be held on the next evening. Each blogger chose from these clipboards where they would be going for touring, tasting, and dinner based on a title, and no other clues as to location. Some titles included “99 Bottles of Wine”, “The Wine Abides”, “The Clone Wars”, “She’s a Brix House”, etc. Out of several very clever and funny titles, I chose “Gone with the Wine”. You can find out about my selection and the incredible evening Andy and I had here.

Friday Excursions
Oh yes, and then there was wine, because that is why we were there! Several Lodi producers brought out some of their finest elixirs hoping to grab our attention. One of those wineries that caught our attention early in the evening was Harney Lane. I recommend their Albariño and Tempranillo, two varietals I am nuts about.

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Other wines we loved that night: Fields Family Wines, Oak Farm Vineyards, St. Amant Winery, Turley Wine Cellars, Bokisch just to name a few.

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Musical entertainment of the evening was Snap Jackson and the Knock on Wood Players

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Then there was the FOOD! Pizzas by Paul’s Rustic Oven (not so Paleo, but I snuck a piece or two and highly recommend the Asian Pear & Gorgonzola) and incredible salads by Beth Sogaard Catering.

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I got a kick out of the “guess the grape varietal” display. I had no idea which grape was which, but it sure was fun tasting them all!

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It was a fun evening meeting new faces (Jennifer Nelson of Wine Antics, as well as Neal and Alyse of Winery Wanderings, and Gwendolyn Alley of Wine Predator, just to name a few) re-familiarize ourselves with Lodi wines (after a 4 year absence), and kick off the weekend to come. Lodi wine, it’s what all the cool kids are drinking!!


Flights By Night #5: Lamb-Stuffed Tomatoes and a Duo of Reds

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Flights by night is back with another food and wine pairing we recently had for dinner. I made this recipe in an emergency after being reminded via email that I was supposed to make the meal that evening. Fumbling to come up with a grocery list, I recalled a picture of some meat-stuffed tomatoes I had seen online somewhere a few days earlier… I think the author used beef and I couldn’t even remember if I even saw the recipe or followed the link, so I decided to come up with my own version using lamb and spices/herbs commonly used in Greek cuisine.

Ingredients:
4 Beefsteak tomatoes
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 bunch of fresh oregano
fresh Italian parsley
2 tsp allspice
1 Tbs minced garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 pound ground lamb
2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 385°F. Wash your tomatoes thoroughly, then use a serrated knife to remove the very tops of the tomatoes. Then carefully hollow out each tomato (without going through the bottom) and reserve the insides for later use. After the tomatoes are prepped, place them in a pan deep enough to catch any drippings. Place them in the oven so they can precook while you are preparing your lamb mixture.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and then sauté your onion (finely chopped) until it cooks through a bit. Return to the tomato pieces from the hollowing out process and chop them up. Add the chopped tomatoes to the sautéed onion and continue to cook them. Then add the ground lamb and the herbs and spices and cook them together until the lamb is no longer pink in color. Allow mixture to cool slightly (5 minutes or so), then stir in 2 beaten eggs, incorporating them thoroughly.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven, by now they will have gotten a nice head start. Scoop the lamb mixture into each tomato, and fill them to the top. You’ll most likely have meat leftover, so you can put it in the pan alongside the tomatoes to eat with dinner, or reserve for use the next day in an omelette!:)

Bake the tomatoes for about 25 minutes or enough time for the lamb to brown on the top. Now lets talk about those wines we drank!

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The Wines
The first wine we had with dinner was a Duckhorn 2012 Merlot. The fruitiness of the Merlot really paired well with the succulent tomatoes & the oaky heft of the Domaine Eden 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (our second wine pairing and a completely different tasting wine) balanced out the gamey, in-your-face, Hit-em-with-the Hein-iness of the spiced lamb. Color my teeth purple and my tongue impressed! Thanks to Andy for bringing out this powerhouse duo of vino on an ordinary week night.

You can read about other food and wine Flights By Night here! Keep up with all the latest by following me on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

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Wine Bloggers Conference Puts Spotlight on Lodi Winemaking

Written by cavegrrl.com contributing writer Andy Harris

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When I was kid, wines from Lodi were considered to be the bargain basement of wine making (I grew up in nearby Sacramento). Lodi wines of the 1980s and 90s were cheap, simple and normally sold in gallon jugs. I happen to know this, because that’s what we were drinking in college. The wines were a mixed bag of fairly pleasant to barely palatable. We knew the difference between the Charles Krug Chenin Blanc my parents drank by the case, and the cheap $5.00 gallon jugs with screw tops we drank.

Fast forward to the 2000’s and the game was changing. Wineries like McCay Cellars, Michael David, St. Amant Winery, Fields Family, Klinker Brick and countless others started to spring up. These were serious wine makers dedicated to raising the bar on Lodi wine making, and changing the image of Lodi wines being the “Rodney Dangerfields” of the wine industry to something very special and unique. Now legendary, but possibly underappreciated and not widely discovered, the aforementioned wineries have not only produced award-winning wines, but have introduced the American wine drinking populous to affordable wines without compromising on quality. Some are mass produced while others are made in small lots. But the number of Lodi wineries has exploded from about 30 wineries 20 years ago to nearly 200 as of this date. With this expansion has brought almost endless varietals and wine making methods.

One of the more intriguing projects to date is the Lodi Native program. In an effort to express the unique terroir of the Lodi appelation, the above wine makers and others adopted a collective philosophy of producing 100% native Zinfandel from single vineyards and bottling them under their own wineries’ names, but with the “Lodi Native” label affixed to the bottles. At a fixed price of $35.00 per bottle or $180.00 per assorted six-pack, the wine makers involved agreed to make their wines from vines planted prior to 1962, and to use only native yeast fermentation. The first vintage year was 2012, and all producers agreed to use no new oak barrels, commercial yeasts, water additions to reduce alcohol, acid adjustment, and filtration or color enhancers in producing their wines. Wineries affiliated with the Lodi Native program are M2 Wines, Macchia Wines, Maley Brothers, St. Amant Winery, and McCay Cellars.

The ratings are in, and these Zinfandels have not only scored highly in wine tastings and competitions, but they are helping to put Lodi on the wine map and help diffuse the negative stereotypes surrounding discussion about Lodi wine.

To my fellow wine bloggers, tasters and judges, welcome to the 2016 Wine Bloggers’ Conference, and enjoy everything wine-related Lodi has to offer. Salute!

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You can find Lodi Wine on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here. The 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference kicks off this evening and will be held until Sunday. You can find the entire agenda on their website here. Follow on social media with #WBC2016!

You can find me on Facebook here and on Twitter here! We’ll be at the 2016 Wine Bloggers’ Conference this weekend and will be writing about our adventures and discoveries. Stay tuned!

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Legends of Wine Returns to the State Capitol on September 16th

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Farm-to-Fork events are kicking into high gear all around Sacramento as noted by the Farm-to-Fork regional events page. Farm-to-Fork Restaurant Week begins on September 8th and takes place for 18 days, along with the Farm-to-Fork Festival on the 24th of September and the Farm-to-Fork Gala (Tower Bridge Dinner) on the 25th of September. But if you’re a wine lover, Legends of Wine (on Thursday, September 16th from 6-9pm) is the hallmark affair of the Farm-to-Fork celebration.

Legends of Wine provides the unique opportunity to sample and discover more about some of the region’s most celebrated varietals, as selected by two of Sacramento’s internationally recognized culinary powerhouses—Darrell Corti and David Berkley. Set against the backdrop of California’s majestic State Capitol, guests will sip a wide array of award-winning wines paired and presented with artisan cheeses and local delights.

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Each year of Legends of Wine, Lodi wine has been well represented. I have always been a bigger fan of the region for its Zinfandels (over Amador who I feel produces better Barberas). I bring up the Lodi region because this year it is the home of the Wine Blogger’s Conference taking place next week, August 11th-14th. I am looking forward to learning more about Lodi and revisiting the wineries and taking part in the many seminars planned for the weekend, so that during Legends of Wine, I can chat more in depth with the winemakers about their craft as I try the wines.

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This year’s Legends of Wine is September 16th from 6:00-9:00 p.m. on the west steps of the State Capitol. Tickets are $65 each. To purchase tickets, click here. Hope to see you there!

To keep up with all the delicious Farm-to-Fork events, click here, “like” Farm to Fork on Facebook here, or follow them on Twitter here.

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Wine Bloggers Conference to Take Place in Lodi, California from August 11-14

12615328_1102448016462617_5155791170573274305_oAfter a little hesitation, I finally signed up for the Wine Bloggers Conference taking place in Lodi, California from August 11th-14th. Why did I wait so long? Well, I wasn’t sure what to expect, really. But after chatting with a few other wine bloggers (Traveling Wine Chick in particular) and Public Relations Pro Heather Atherton, I was convinced it was a weekend not to miss!

I am very excited to attend my first blogger conference and that it will be specifically for people who blog about wine. In the past five years or so, I have moved more towards the grape and have had the opportunity to travel to different wine regions throughout Northern California, and write about my experiences. A big reason for this is because I have the best travel partner in Andy, as shares my love for food, wine and travel.

I look forward to a weekend full of learning, making new friends, networking, incredible food, and of course tasting wine.

If you haven’t signed up yet, I urge you to do so. There are lots of fun surprises planned for Friday, August 12th during the afternoon-evening dinner excursion. I’m not even sure what exactly has been prepared, but the conference attendees will be splitting into small groups and taken to different wineries/locations for dinner. I can hardly wait!:)

I am attaching the conference itinerary below in utter anticipation of the upcoming conference (and perhaps to encourage you if you have a wine blog or are in the industry to attend!)

2016 WINE BLOGGERS CONFERENCE, LODI CALIFORNIA AGENDA

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 10
2:00 PM – Arriving bloggers picked up at Sacramento International Airport and whisked away to Pre-Conference Excursions in several wine regions (in Lodi, bloggers will walk through vines and meet winegrowers showcasing “Experimental and Ancient Vines”)

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THURSDAY, AUGUST 11
4:00 PM – Drop Off at Host Hotels from Pre-Conference Excursions
6:00–8:30 PM – Registration and Lodi Opening Reception

FRIDAY, AUGUST 12
8:00–9:00 AM – Registration

9:00 AM – Opening & Welcome

9:10 AM – Keynote Address by Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson

9:55 AM – History of Grape Growing and Winemaking in Lodi: A talk on how Lodi became a pre-eminent wine region; moderated by Mark Chandler (Lodi City Mayor and former Executive Director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission), with panelists Aaron Lange (LangeTwins Family Vineyards Manager and Vice Chair of California Association of Winegrape Growers), Kevin Phillips (Michael David Winery/Phillips Farms Vice President of Operations), and Markus Bokisch (Bokisch Vineyards Owner/Grower).

11:00 AM – The Truth About Viticulture Panel: Moderated by Stuart Spencer (Program Director of Lodi Winegrape Commission and St. Amant Winery Owner/Grower/Winemaker), with panelists Tegan Passalacqua (Turley Wine Cellars Director of Winemaking), Stan Grant (Viticulturist, Progressive Viticulture), and Chris Storm (Viticulturist, Vino Farms).

11:55 AM – Lunch and Expo (including the new Writers Corner)

1:45 PM Wine – One of three Wine Discovery Sessions, including sessions hosted by
• U.C. Davis : U.C. Davis alumnus Loyal Miner discusses Clarksburg Viticultural Area and Miner’s Leap family estate.
• Visit Oakland
• Consorzio Italia diVini & Sapori: Deborah Parker Wong DWSET presents the varied and delicious wines of Italy’s Veneto, from Prosecco to Amarone

3:00 PM – Live Wine Blogging (White & Rosé): The Wine Bloggers Conference’s pre-eminent event, in which 25 winemakers have five minutes each to pour their wine, present their story, and answer questions from a table of bloggers. At the end of five minutes, winemakers will rotate to a new table. Bloggers will analyze and describe their impressions live via social media or their blogs.

4:00–8:30 PM – Excursions into Lodi Wine Country: Eight different excursions going to eight different Lodi winery/estates; each excursion to include hands-on winery or vineyard activities, tastings, and dinner.

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SATURDAY, AUGUST 13
9:15–10:15 AM – Breakout Sessions, including
• Advanced Social Media for the Wine Industry: Beth Peluse (Zephyr Adventures) and Maria Frangieh (wine industry digital marketing consultant) discuss their favorite social media platforms and how to utilize them to promote blogs and Web sites.
• Traffic Analysis – Dan Morris and Rachel Martin of Blogging Concentrated discuss data usage such as Google’s Search Console, BrainstormTools, and Facebook Insightsto increase traffic and revenue.
• Wine Samples: Marisa Indelicato (Fox Run Vineyards), Frank Morgan (Drink What YOU Like), Rebecca Gomez Farrel (The Gourmez) and Chris O’Gorman (Rodney Strong Vineyards ) discuss the intricate, often indelicate dance involving procurement of bottle samples from the wine industry.

10:30–11:30 AM – Breakout Sessions, including
• Social Media Platforms: Beth Peluse (Zephyr Adventures) and Maria Frangieh (wine industry digital marketing consultant discuss Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Periscope, the four hottest photo and video social media platforms on the internet, and best practices and tips and tricks of the trade for building community and audience.
• Climate Change: Michael Fagin (West Cost Weather LLC) discusses how climate change in United States wine regions will impact the major wine growing regions of Washington, Oregon, California, and New York, and how the industry is adjusting.
• Monetization: Dan Morris and Rachel Martin of Blogging Concentrated discuss earning a respectable income through blogging with use of Ad Networks, Adsense, Affiliate programs, display ads, product sales and by becoming a paid consultant.

1:00–2:00 PM – Wine Discovery Sessions, including
• Discovery Session : Wine Educator May Matta-Aliah DWS presents Au Natural Alsace: The leadership role taken by France’s Alsace region in Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable Wines, sponsored by Wines of Alsace.
• Discovery Session: Yealands Family Wines Winemaker Tamra Kelly-Washington leads a tasting/discussion of the world’s first carboNZeroCertTM certified winery, located in Marlborough, New Zealand’s extremely windy, cold, coastal Awatere Valley.

2:15–3:15 PM – Wine Blog Award Winners Panel: Five winners of the 2016 Wine Blog Awards tell their stories; including Sophie Thorpe from Berry Bros. & Rudd, Mary Cressler from Vindulge, Jill Barth from l’Occasion, Susan Manfull and Jerry Clark from Provence WineZine, and moderator Sujinder Juneja from Town Hall Brands.

3:15–4:15 PM Live Wine Blogging (Red Wines): The Wine Bloggers Conference’s pre-eminent event, in which 25 winemakers have five minutes each to pour their wine, present their story, and answer questions from a table of bloggers. At the end of five minutes, winemakers will rotate to a new table. Bloggers will analyze and describe their impressions live via social media or their blogs.

4:30–5:30 PM – From Passion to Pro – Getting Paid to Write About Wine: Moderator Randy Caparoso (LoCA’s lodiwine.com and The SOMM Journal Editor Editor-at-Large) discusses how to make the jump from personal blogging to paid wine journalism, while sharing secrets of their success, with panelists Debra Meiburg MW (Debra Meiburg Master of Wine), Jameson Fink (Wine Enthusiast Magazine) and Deborah Parker Wong (The Tasting Panel Magazine, Vineyard & Winery Management, and Consorzio Italia diVini & Sapori).

5:30-7:00 PM – Wines of the World Receptions featuring Wines of Alsace from France, Yealands Family Wines from New Zealand, and wines from the Consorzio Italia diVini & Sapori from Italy.

7:00–9:00 PM – Dinner with LoCA (Wines of Lodi)

9:00 –9:30 PM – Wine Blog Awards Presentation: Presentation of 2016 Wine Blog Award winners will be presented their awards.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 14
9:30 – 10:30 AM – Breakout Sessions, including
• The Big Jump – Austin Beeman (of Understanding Wine, former Ohio wine retailer and Bonny Doon Director of Marketing) discusses why wineries are “desperately seeking” the skills of wine bloggers.
• Increase Your Audience & Engagement: Mary Cressler and Sean Martin of Vindulge discuss going from social media groups to television producers, freelancing to working with other media sites, and finding ways to promote your blog and increase your community engagement.

10:45 – 11:45 AM – Blogger Reports: Five-minute reports shared by fellow bloggers describing what they are doing to contribute to the world of wine blogging.

11:45 AM – 12:00 PM – Conference Closing

12:15 PM – Departure for Post-Conference Excursions to Ironstone Vineyards in Calaveras, and in Lodi (an exploration of Lodi’s “Heritage Vineyards and Ancient Vines”

You can find me there from Friday-Sunday morning!
You can find the Wine Bloggers Conference on Facebook here.

DON’T MISS OUT!! Register for #WBC16 by clicking HERE!
Catch #WBC16 on Twitter @winebloggerscon for any updates and new information.

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It’s Time to Eat Drink SF!

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Here’s a press release from my friends at Eat Drink SF, a series of food, wine, and spirits events taking place at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason, August 26 – 28!!:)

(SAN FRANCISCO) – Eat Drink SF, the premier food, wine, and spirits festival that celebrates the Bay Area’s world-class chefs and restaurants, announces full main stage programming and festival activations for both the Taco Knockdown presented by Milagro Tequila on August 25, and the four signature Grand Tasting sessions at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason, August 26 – 28.

Presented by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, Eat Drink SF invites food and drink enthusiasts to connect directly with top local chefs and bartenders and get a taste of what makes San Francisco a top-rated food city. From Thursday to Sunday, more than 160 restaurants participate and guests will enjoy bites as well as unlimited pours of beverages from more than 70 bars, distilleries, breweries, and wineries.

In addition the comprehensive line-up of local culinary talent, Eat Drink SF is thrilled to announce new activations in the festival line-up:

All four Grand Tastings will feature San Francisco’s Buena Vista Café who will be serving their famous Irish Coffees featuring Tullamore D.E.W. to bring guests a quintessential flavor of San Francisco.

This year, Eat Drink SF has added a special Grand Tasting on Sunday, August 28, to celebrate the Golden Gate Restaurant Association’s 80th anniversary and honor the legacy restaurants in the Bay Area. The Sunday Afternoon Grand Tasting will feature Bay Area bars and restaurants that have been open for at least 20 years and that have helped shape the distinct flavor of the local culinary experience including Scoma’s, Sutro’s at the Cliff House, Tosca and Goat Hill Pizza.

Eat Drink SF has added the “Bay Bar” to all Grand Tastings, which will feature a rotating lineup of San Francisco’s beloved cocktail bars, such as Hard Water, Prizefighter, The Treasury, Whitechapel, and more. Additionally, The San Francisco Brewers Guild will be pouring local craft beers at all Grand Tastings in the “Backyard Bites” section.

In addition to the participating restaurants at the Grand Tastings, Eat Drink SF presents 23 culinary, wine, and cocktail demonstrations and panels. A sampling of Main Stage programming and talent includes:

Friday Evening Grand Tasting, August 26:
Emcee: Joel Riddell of iHeartMedia
Cocktail Demo with Selena Donovan of Maven & California Gold of Beretta Presented by Sipsmith Gin
Beer Pairing Demo by Chef Anthony Strong of Locanda Presented by Stella Artois

Saturday Afternoon Grand Tasting, August 27:
Emcee: Margo True of Sunset Magazine
Culinary Demo with Elaine Johnson of Sunset Magazine
Cocktail Demo with Alex Smith of Whitechapel Presented by Imbibe Magazine
Culinary Demo with Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s Presented by All Clad and Fine Cooking

Saturday Evening Grand Tasting, August 27:
Culinary Demo with Andrew Le of The Pig & the Lady Presented by Hawaiian Airlines
Cocktail Demo with Erik Adkins of The Slanted Door Group

Sunday Afternoon Grand Tasting, August 28:
Emcee: Liam Mayclem of KCBS Foodie Chap
History of the Tiki Drink by Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove
Culinary Demo with Thomas McNaughton of flour + water and Ryan Pollnow of Aaxte Presented by All-Clad

Inside the Grand Tasting, San Francisco Wine School Beverage Classroom announces the following classes:
Friday, August 26: “Wine 101: Speak Like a Geek”, “50 Shades of Gris”, and “Cabernet is King?”

Saturday, August 27 (Afternoon): “Discover Beaujolais”, “Bubbles, Bubbles, & More Bubbles”, “Chardonnay: Burgundy, Butter & Beyond”

Saturday, August 27 (Evening): “Do Points Matter?”, “Savvy Blanc: Too Cool for the Pool”, “The Dark Side of Pinot Noir”

Sunday, August 28: “ViniPortugal Class”, “Summer Through Rosé Colored Glasses”, “Que Syrah Syrah”

Guests can kick-off festival weekend with Taco Knockdown presented by Milagro Tequila at Folsom St. Foundry on Thursday, August 25. Returning after a sold-out debut in 2015, this year’s taco competition has added a “Milagro Margarita Mix Off” with local bar stars: Brandon Bigalke (Wingtip), Brian Nelson (Whitechapel), Ted Ronnie (Mosto), Oz Serafin (Trick Dog).  Reigning champs DOSA and Trick Dog will defend their titles against a new batch of fierce taco contenders: AQ, Bar San Pancho, Delfina, La Urbana, Matador, Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio, Myriad Gastropub, Palm House, Picco, and Souvla. From 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., taco lovers will sample 12 unique tacos from participating restaurants and drink beer, wine, competing margaritas and other cocktails crafted by The Bon Vivants.

For a full list of participating restaurants, visit each of the event pages at www.eatdrink-sf.com. VIP and General Admission tickets for the Grand Tastings are available for purchase at www.eatdrink-sf.com. General Admission tickets are $109 but will increase to $119 on July 25 and VIP tickets are $199 – $209. A limited number of tickets for Taco Knockdown presented by Milagro Tequila are still available for $85. For more information, visit www.eatdrink-sf.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Eat Drink SF benefits the GGRA Scholarship Foundation and CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture). GGRA’s scholastic-based scholarship program has given more than $500,000 in the past 14 years alone and was established to encourage and provide assistance for students who wish to further their education in pursuit of careers in the hospitality industry.

Platinum Sponsors include Hawaiian Airlines, Morningstar Farms, PG&E, S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Mineral Water, Stella Artois, Taiwan Tourism Bureau, The Glenlivet, Woodford Reserve, Fine Cooking, iHeartMedia, Imbibe Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, SF Travel, Sunset, Tasting Table, Wine Spectator, DPEM Event Marketing, Noise 13, and San Francisco Wine School. For a complete list, please visit http://eatdrink-sf.com/sponsors.

To purchase tickets to any of the events, please go here.

About Eat Drink SF
Eat Drink SF, (aka SF Chefs), was founded by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association in 2009 to celebrate the Bay Area’s world-class restaurant community. Each year, more than 160 restaurants participate in Eat Drink SF’s events that include Taco Knockdown and its signature Grand Tasting sessions. With more than 8,500 attendees, Eat Drink SF provides an opportunity for top area chefs to connect directly with enthusiastic food lovers. Guests enjoy bites and beverages from more than 70 bars, distilleries, breweries, and wineries. EDSF 2016 takes place August 25 – 28 at Festival Pavilion in Fort Mason Center (San Francisco).

About Golden Gate Restaurant Association
This year, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association is celebrating its 80th anniversary. Founded by restaurateurs in 1936 to give San Francisco restaurants a collective voice, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) has evolved to be the Bay Area culinary community’s representative and trusted partner. GGRA supports and celebrates its members through year-round educational programming, professional development, and annual events including SF Restaurant Week, Eat Drink SF and its Industry Conference. The member community includes restaurants of all sizes and profiles.

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New Menu Features and Gluten Free Finds at Yard House

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starter drinks
A few weeks ago Andy and I checked out some new menu items and gluten free options available at Yard House in Roseville. You might remember my visit to Yard House shortly after they opened back in 2011. We kicked off our meal with this round of drinks. On the left is a glass of Zardetto Prosecco (sparkling wine is my go-to opener) and on the right is a glass of Honig Sauvignon Blanc.

gluten free menu
Then it was on to decide what to order. If you are reading this website, you are either eating a gluten-free diet, or you are thinking about eating gluten-free. Yard House makes it easy because there is a separate menu you can ask for when you are seated. The menu features many of items from appetizers to salads and burgers that can be served wrapped in lettuce instead of on a bun, as well as three different gluten-sensitive beers.

brussels and potatoes
Our first appetizer was the Crispy Brussels Sprouts and Ripped Potatoes (served with Malt Vinegar Aioli). It’s featured on the “snack” portion of the menu, but can easily be shared if you are going to be ordering an entrée, too. The dish’s description was accurate as both items were very crispy, yet soft on the inside. The vegetables were highlighted by just the right amount of seasoning and were dressed with the Malt Vinegar Aioli.

For our second appetizer, we decided to try a new menu item (though it is not on the gluten-free menu), the Poke Nachos made with marinated raw ahi, avocado, cilantro, serranos, green onions, nori, sesame seeds, sweet soy, sriracha aioli, white truffle sauce, and crispy wontons. This plate is one of several you can get that features ahi tuna. I like this one not only because it is very shareable, but because it highlights the ahi by merging ingredients that are both used in Asian and Latin cuisine. The combination of the different textures and flavors is delightful.

ahi nachos

What is not delightful is an empty glass, so Andy and I revisited the drink menu and ordered another round. I was curious about the Fresh and Skinny™ Cocktail choices, so I ordered a Skinny Margarita with El Jimador silver tequila and fresh lime. Other drinks on the Fresh and Skinny™ menu are the Pure Cosmo Martini, the Lite Lemon Drop Martini, the Juniper Fusion, and the Citrus Crush. For more information on the Fresh and Skinny™ Cocktail Menu you can click here. Andy ordered another glass of wine, this time a glass of Meiomi Pinot Noir.

skinny margarita
For my entree, I chose the Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad (from the Gluten-Sensitive menu) composed of greens, kale, tomatoes, edamame, carrots, radish, egg, blue cheese, corn, bacon, avocado, ranch. I usually get dressing on the side when I order a Cobb Salad because there is so much flavor (fat IS flavor!) from the blue cheese, egg, avocado and bacon, I don’t need to cover anything up with dressing. I love simple and fresh ingredients and this salad certainly fit that description.

pork burger and fries
For dessert, we enjoyed two more glasses of wine, mine a glass of Protocolo Rose Tierra de Castilla (a Spanish Rosé made from 50% Tempranillo and 50% Bobal. Andy ordered the Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Michael David Winery (Lodi).

round three drinks
Another healthy menu and gluten-free option we did not try, but was recently added is the Red Quinoa Salad Bowl, which Chef Jocson describes as the greatest hits of all super foods. The salad is a nice shareable dish or can be an entrée for one with a garden of kale, parsley, Brussels sprouts, roasted beets, cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, blueberries, baby tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and feta cheese. Guests can request that the cheese be removed for a vegan option. Carnivores can choose to add chicken or steak for a heartier meal.

Red Quinoa Salad Bowl

“In order to stay relevant menus have to evolve,” added Chef Jocson.  “Five years ago no one would have imagined blueberry ketchup, but it’s an amazing condiment for our Kurobuta Pork Burger and ours is made in-house.  These days offering vegan and vegetarian selections aren’t an option, but a necessity as more people reevaluate their diets and intake.  We already have several of such items, including our new Vegan Burger, as well as gluten-sensitive options.”

If you’re reading this blog post, Yard House will have already debuted its new menu items at all 65 locations. Open daily for lunch, dinner and late-night dining, Yard House offers one of the largest selections of beers on tap plus a creative list of cocktails and wine by the bottle or glass.

For more information, visit yardhouse.com or follow on Facebook at facebook.com/yardhouse and the Roseville location of Yard House on Facebook here or follow them on Twitter @yardhouse

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Hyatt Regency Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill Home to this Year’s National Alopecia Areata Foundation Conference

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This year marked the 31st Annual National Alopecia Areata Foundation’s Convention, and this year we convened in Washington, D.C.

What the heck is alopecia? Click here to find out.

Though many rallied at the Capitol to raise awareness and urge their congresspeople to consider legislation that would help cover wigs/hairpieces for a patient diagnosed with alopecia, the home of the convention was at The Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill, where conference attendees gathered together in support of each other, danced together, cried together, dined together, laughed together, learned together, and did nothing short of have a ball together.

You see, for alopecians, this is the most important event of the year where we can get together from all parts of the world and share our experiences. Because sharing and relating is medicine for the soul. The magic of the conference is that it provides a gathering place for people and their families from all walks of life who are affected by this disease.

NAAF empowerment session
I arrived very late on Thursday night, and did not go to Capitol Hill with the others, but I attended a workshop on Friday afternoon called Empowering Lives, Building Resilience, led by Dr. Renee Thomason.

Then on Friday evening, I was treated to dinner by Roti Meditteranean Grill (located in Union Station). It is only about 1/3 of a mile to Union Station (pictured below).

union station
Inside Union Station, Roti is located on the left side of the building, on the lower level.

roti in union station
If you have never tried Roti Mediterranean Grill, it’s pretty much like a build your own burrito place, but instead with Mediterranean food. What drew me to Roti is that they have a gluten-free/gluten-friendly menu with gluten-free pita bread. Probably enough said there, too. I am sure all my gluten-free readers are now just as intrigued as I was!:)

menu from roti
assembly line roti
So, I went with the salad with kabob, tahini sauce, and feta, cabbage slaw #becauseprobiotics!, and a side of hummus with an order of gluten-free pita bread. I would have dined in, but I was ready to head back to my room and relax. Plus, I had some yummy wine to pair with my meal chilling in the refrigerator.

So I scurried back like a hungry little squirrel and spread out my Mediterranean feast on the coffee table in front of the TV in my (rather extravagant for one person) hotel room.

chicken kabob salad from roti
I loved the chicken kabob salad because it was filling and healthy, which is how I like to eat even when I am out of town. I could not tell a difference between this pita bread and regular pita bread, and the side of hummus was enormous, and would be used on other food throughout the weekend thanks to the refrigerator in my room. If you’re curious about the wine, I packed three bottles with me to save money on beverages during my trip. Tonight’s wine was a Chardonnay which is a lovely pairing with grilled chicken.

You can find Roti Mediterranean Grill online here, on Facebook here, on Twitter here, and on Instagram here.

Then for dessert, I snuck down to the Hyatt’s bar, the Article One Lounge, and ordered this cocktail (below) The Ketel One Watermelon Cooler. The title describes exactly the contents of the drink: watermelon, basil, and vodka with a lime wedge. I sat with some other alopecians who were hanging out and having some drinks. I love our community and how you can just ask to sit with someone and you’re accepted. Wig or no wig. It’s whatever makes you comfortable and people understand and can relate.:)

strawberry basil drink
The next day, I headed out to explore Washington, D.C. via foot/running. I did a five mile run from my hotel to the Capitol building and down to the Washington Monument and back and below are the pictures I took during the run (while managing to get 5 miles in).

capitol under construction
washington monument close up
When I got back to the hotel, I finished my workout in the StayFit™ Fitness Center. It is a well-equipped gym with several treadmills, ellipticals, weights, a sauna, locker rooms, an indoor lap pool, and an outdoor sundeck. The gym’s set up reminded me of a greenhouse, as detailed in the picture (below). I ran three more miles and did 20 minutes elliptical thanks to the air-conditioning!!:)

Hyatt gym
Following my workout and gym time, I headed to another conference session: Ask the Experts. The Ask the Experts presentation was a panel of medical and research experts from a variety of fields to answer questions about the different aspects of alopecia areata including treatment and research. Though I don’t attend the conference anymore in search of a cure (I come for the camaraderie), it’s always interesting to hear the latest research.

NAAF ask the experts panel
Following the Ask the Experts panel, it was time to get blown away by the strength and courage of the panel during the Young Adult Perspective presentation. Seven young adults gave their testimony and answered questions from the audience about their experiences with alopecia. I admired this panel of kids (to me, now at 39) because they were diagnosed with alopecia during more formative years. I was diagnosed at 25 and never had to deal with bullying any of the weirdness an adolescent would have to face like these panelists surely did. They all gave helpful advice to audience members, especially the parents of children with alopecia, on what to say, how to react, and what to do to be a community advocate. It was a powerful seminar to say the least.

NAAF young adults panel
Then I headed back up to my room to get ready for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Article One. I had contacted the hotel the week of my trip to see if we could work together on a Paleo meal to feature here on my website. The marketing team for the Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. was very receptive to my request. In addition, I received a room upgrade from a regular room that I paid for to an Executive Suite with many more amenities and a separate living room and sleeping area. My room included a refrigerator and a microwave, 2 televisions, and 2 different air/heating controls for the two rooms in the suite. The Executive Suite includes access to the Regency Club King room (a private access 11th floor lounge with dedicated concierge service, Continental breakfast, daily refreshments, evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres). With the upgrade to Regency Club, I didn’t have to spend any extra money on meals during the day.

I snapped a pic of me all decked out for dinner (before heading up to the Regency Club for some early evening snacks and a glass of wine).

pre dance mirror selfie

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Here’s what the Regency Club room looks like, along with the plate of roasted vegetables I had as an appetizer. How did they know sun-dried tomatoes are pretty much my favorite thing in the world?:)

executive club for ballers

appetizers from executive club
Following my visit to the Recency Club, I headed down to Article One for dinner.

article one front
The restaurant is very contemporary with vibrant reds/burnt orange and browns in its decor, and open to the hotel lobby. I was impressed with the open feel because you can still experience the buzz of the lobby, but still feel like you are tucked away for a private meal.

And a very special and private meal it was for yours truly, as I was treated by the Article One staff and Executive Sous Chef Ryan Ward.

I was thrilled with the amount of research Chef Ryan did on the Paleo diet, and I promise you if you have a dietary restriction, all you have to do is let the hotel know when you make your reservation. The staff will do everything they can to meet your needs and make your dinner a memorable one.

For your reference, here is the wine list at Article One.

article one wine list
Since I was informed what my dinner would be as I sat down, I ordered a glass of wine to pair with it. The Stag’s Leap Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon.

stags leap artemis
Then my meal arrived, served by the Chef himself. It was a Rib-Eye steak, cooked medium rare, with turnips and potatoes. There was also a decadent mushroom sauce (I ordered on the side). Let’s just call it mushroom ketchup because I used it as a condiment for the perfectly cooked bites of steak and tender turnips and potatoes.

rib eye potatoes and turnips
rib eye cooked perfectly
I took another shot to show how nicely my steak was prepared. (Annnd also to show off my nails, of course).😉

Chef Ryan also put together a dessert especially for me with mixed berries and mixed nuts and seeds. I ordered a glass of Pascual Toso Brut (an Argentinian sparkling wine) to have with dessert.

article one dessert
After dinner, I headed back to my room to re-gussy up before the NAAF “Totally Rad 80’s Dance Party”. That’s when I found one last incredible gift from the hotel.

wine and fruit from hotel
The next morning, I headed out on another run, this time to visit the Lincoln Memorial.
I took the following pictures that day, and managed to get a nice 6 miles in:

lincoln monument side
lincoln monument
lincoln monument statue

reflecting pool washington monument
After my workout, which was again finished in the StayFit™ Fitness Center, I got my things all packed up and went down to attend the Closing Session led by NAAF Communications Director (and totally rad DJ) Gary Sherwood, Chief Development Strategist Maureen Smith, and the guest speaker, an NFL linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan Shazier.

Gary

Ryan Shazier. Photo cred: NAAF's Facebook page

Ryan Shazier. Photo cred: NAAF’s Facebook page

NAAF Conference Closing

 

I want to thank the Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. for the room upgrade, as well as the custom Paleo meal and wine I enjoyed during my stay. Everything was perfect including the 24-hour room service (not previously mentioned), which saved me from starving on Thursday night after a late flight and arrival to the hotel. I recommend the Field Greens Salad with Grilled Chicken!

I’d also like to tell you about Hyatt Hotels in Washington 2016 Summer Offer, which is a great deal for anyone who wants to visit D.C. It is available for Hyatt Gold Passport® Members, and offers up to a 15% off stays at participating Hyatt Hotels in Washington DC through September 10, 2016.

Here is the link with more details about this offer: http://www.hyatt.com/content/partnerlandingpage/en/corporate/global/hyatt-member-washingtondc.html

You can find the National Alopecia Areata Foundation online here and find them on Facebook here.

You can find the Hyatt Regency Washington D.C. Capitol Hill online here, on Facebook here, on Twitter here and on Instagram here.

Beginning photo credit: NAAF’s Facebook page

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Cochon555 presents Heritage Fire Napa Lineup

Hello meat lovers! I’m working on a few blog posts myself, but in the meantime, here’s some information on one of my favorite food and wine events of the year from my friends at Cochon 555, Cochon Heritage Fire Napa, taking place on August 21st this year at Charles Krug Winery!

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA (June 30, 2016) — America’s cult culinary event, Heritage Fire by Cochon555, returns to Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena on August 21st, 2016. Entering its eighth year of existence, Cochon555 events continue to attract sold-out crowds nationwide, most recently at Heritage Fire Snowmass during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. The greater goal of the Cochon555 family is to promote honest food prepared by singular artisans; to celebrate family farming; and to shine the gastronomic spotlight on the hard-working people who are responsibly (though often silently) raising heritage breed animals.

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The Heritage Fire event helps foster the relationship between local farming and emerging chef and restaurant communities, which grapple with having to pay premium prices in order to serve their guests safer, responsibly raised and flavorful food that is also raised locally. Heritage Fire – a premiere, whole animal, live-fire, and outdoor food and wine event – features whole animals roasted over open fires by local and national chefs. The event also benefits Piggy Bank, a farm devoted to providing free heritage breed pigs to small farms in exchange for transparent business plans that are posted online. The all-inclusive ticket is now available online at cochon555.com for $125 (includes beverage pairings, tax and gratuity), along with a mouth-watering  Heritage Fire trailer and video.

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Heritage Fire Napa Valley will showcase over 50 notable chefs and butchers, each grilling heritage breed animals en plein air amongst the area’s impressionistic hills and vineyards. The event features responsibly raised food and traditional outdoor cooking techniques, paired with free-flowing wines from more than 35 boutique producers, craft beers from Magnolia Brewing, and small-batch Common ciders. The list of heritage and heirloom foods includes dry-aged beef, whole pigs, lamb, goat, squab, rabbit, duck, fish, chicken, artisan cheeses, oysters, and heirloom vegetables.

Participating chefs include Thomas McNaughton and Evan Allumbaugh of Flour + Water (SF); Adam Sobel of Michael Mina Group (SF); Albert Ponzo of Le Select Bistro (TOR); Andy Ricker of Pok Pok (NYC); Cristiano Creminelli of Creminelli Fine Meats (SLC); Rafael Barrera of Puerto Rico; Marc Zimmerman of Alexander’s Steakhouse (SF); John Sundstrom of Lark (SEA); Jose Mendin of Pubbelly (MIA); Timon Balloo of Bocce (MIA); Kim Wiss of Antica Napa Valley; John Manion of La Sirena Clandestina (CHI); Greg Laketek of West Loop Salumi (CHI); Tiffany Friedman of Butter Root; Joshua Schwartz & Tony Incontro of Del Dotto; David Bazirgan of Dirty Habit (SF); Sacramento’s Ella Dining Room and Bar; Jason Kupper of Heritage Eats (NAPA); Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu Kitchen (SON); Robin Song of Junju (SF); Peter Jacobsen of Jacobsen Orchards (NAPA); Michael Thiemann of Mother – Empress Tavern (SAC); Michael Ginor of Hudson Valley Foie Gras (NY); Jeff Weiss, Author of Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain (SF); Lars Kronmark of Culinary Institute of America Greystone; Trevor Kunk of Press (NAPA); Sophina Uong of Calavera (OAK); Nicolai Lipscomb of The Battery (SF) and many more.

“It’s always an honor to host Heritage Fire in St. Helena,” says Brady Lowe, Founder of Cochon555. “And to have amazing partners like Charles Krug, and the Napa Valley welcome us for this special weekend means things are really heating up this summer. We’re putting the spotlight on heritage species, responsible agriculture, and amazing chefs. St. Helena is now home to Cochon555’s best expression of live-event immersion in the good food movement featuring the best chefs, farmers and sponsors around the country. Guests can expect an epic culinary experience paired with the region’s best wines; this is eating and drinking for a cause.”

In addition to the meat-laden feast, the event also features The Pop-Up Butcher Shop featuring Rob Levitt of Butcher & Larder (CHI); Tracy Smaciarz of Heritage Meats (SEA); and David the Butcher of Marina Meats (SF) alongside Master of Ceremonies Billy Harris (LA) leading the butcher demonstration which raises money for Piggy Bank. Guests can help raise $5,000 by bidding on packages including rare bottles of wine, monster steaks, etched cutting boards and custom knives from Town Cutler. In addition this year, Wines of Germany presents the Wood-Fired Ramen Bar featuring a notable chef, a delicious Tomahawk Pop-Up served with Faust Wines, Wood-Fired Artisan Cheese Bar with California Artisan Cheese Guild and Foie Gras from Hudson Valley amongst many other delights. This is the eighth year in a row Heritage Fire has made its way to California. It is the nation’s only hyper-local, whole animal, live-fire outdoor culinary event cooking and serving 3,500+ pounds of heritage breed animals in celebration of agricultural and animal diversity.

Where: Charles Krug Winery, 2800 Main Street, St. Helena, CA 94574
When: Sunday, August 21, 2016
VIP Admission: 4PM
General Admission: 5PM
Tickets: $125 General Admission
$200 VIP – 1 Hour Early Entry, Reserve Tastings, and Seminar Invitations apply
Purchase tickets HERE

Heritage Fire Napa would not be possible without our amazing lineup of sponsors including, Williams-Sonoma, Wines of Germany, The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley, DRY Sparkling, Martinez Lacuesta, Creminelli, Lake Sonoma Winery, Faust Wines, Magnolia Brewing Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Alysian Wines, Common Cider, Antica Napa Valley, Hedley & Bennett, Cypress Grove Chevre, Coach Farm, Parrano, Sun Noodle, Rappahannock River Oysters, 34 Degrees, and Gulfish.

About the Cochon555 US Tour
The Cochon555 US Tour executes a yearly host of authentic, hyper-local food events focused on raising awareness for heritage breed pigs through the world’s first nose-to-tail pig cooking competition. Created in response to the lack of consumer education around heritage breeds, this epic pork feast visits 20 major cities in North America annually and stages over 60 events. The tour is comprised of an array of live-event expressions including Heritage BBQ (global cultures); Heritage Fire (live-fire event); EPIC Cochon (hyper-premium); All-Star Cochon (fan favorites); and Cochon Island; (agri-tourism). All Cochon555 events cultivate a long-term impact for heritage species raised by family farms, reaching the top culinary markets in North America, while promoting our sponsors’ messages to 16,000 guests by drawing from the biggest names in the hospitality industry, including 2,200+ chefs, 150+ family farms, and 16 culinary schools. Since 2009, 50,000+ consumers have experienced heritage pork for the first time, more than $500,000 has been donated to charities, and over $750,000 has been paid directly to our farmers. Together with winemakers, brewers, distillers, and craft food makers, they create authentic culinary events celebrating champions of the good food movement. For more details about the events and to see videos referencing all the events in the Cochon555 family, visit http://www.cochon555.com or follow @cochon555 on Twitter and Instagram.

About Piggy Bank
Launched in 2015 by Brady Lowe – founder of the Cochon555 US Tour and Taste Network – Piggy Bank is a pig farming sanctuary. Harboring a Noah’s Ark-worthy selection of heritage breeds, it provides free genetics and business plans to emerging family farms. Piggy Bank aims to change the future of food by creating a community in which small farmers can come to learn about safer, more responsible practices, and can benefit from the sharing of genetics, livestock, and the very information needed to not just survive, but to thrive as small businesses. Piggy Bank is dedicated to creating the first Open Source agricultural platform of its kind. The Piggy Bank farm, located in Missouri, raises pigs to be gifted only to communities dedicated to elevating the cause and expanding through a model of social and agricultural transparency. Piggy Bank is a project of The Giving Back Fund, Inc., a Massachusetts nonprofit corporation with federal tax exempt status as a public charity under Section 501(c)(3). Follow the Piggy Bank conversation on Twitter @PiggyBankOrg. For more information about Piggy Bank or The Giving Back Fund, please contact Kerith at piggy-bank.org, watch the video http://j.mp/PIGGY_BANK or visit www.piggy-bank.org.


Over $60,000 Raised for Charity at the 7th Annual HALL Wines Cabernet Cookoff and an Interview with Duff Goldman!

Here’s a little press release (combined with some photos I took that day and some of my comments) on the recent HALL Wines Cabernet Cookoff from my friends at the winery. After that, scroll down to read my interview with Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes and Food Network’s Cake Masters!

On Saturday, April 23rd, over 700 hundred wine and food aficionados helped raise over $60,000 at the sold out 7th Annual Cabernet Cookoff at HALL Wines in St. Helena. Thirteen impressive Napa and Bay Area Restaurants teamed up with a nonprofit of their choice with the goal to create the best dish to pair with 2013 HALL Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Competition was fierce, the wine was inviting, and the weather paired beautifully with this lively philanthropic event.

the scene outside

“Our team is humbled that such talent, both in competing chefs and judges, clear their schedules each April to help us raise money for these noteworthy charities,” says Vintner Kathryn Walt Hall. “Thank you to our generous sponsors and loyal attendees for joining our efforts to make a difference in our community.”

craig and kathryn hall

Five judges, Duff Goldman, Celebrity Chef from Food Network, Leslie Sbrocco, host of “Check Please!” Bay Area, Virginie Boone of Wine Enthusiast, Ian White, SF Magazine, and Ken Frank, Chef at La Toque, took on the impressive task of choosing a runner up and first place winner from dishes like “Cherry Marinated Skirt Steak with Broccolini, Point Reyes Blue, Chive Blossom” or “Black Currant and Rose Macaroon with HALL Cabernet infused Geleé”.

group shot

Mark Dommen from One Market Restaurant in San Francisco took first place with his mouth-watering “Pancetta Wrapped Passmore Ranch Sturgeon Du Puy Lentils, Smoked Garlic, Thyme Jus” benefiting nonprofit Collabria Care of Napa (re-create here). Sorry for the obscene shadow!😦

pancetta wrapped sturgeon
judges choice collabria care
Ca’Momi placed runner up with a delectable “Heirloom Pork & Veal Agnolotti, Savoy Cabbage, Napa Valley Cabernet Pan Jus and Parmigiano Reggiano” aiding organization Do It For The Love of Napa.

Heirloom Pork & Veal Agnolotti
Judges Choice Runner Up Do it For the Love

Restaurants also had the opportunity to raise money for their charity through People’s Choice, a voting system by corks serving as the tallies. First place for People’s Choice was Napa restaurant, Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ, preparing “Fried Chicken with Spring Succotash” with the winnings benefiting Napa Humane.

fried chicken
peoples choice napa humane

Paula LeDuc Fine Catering of San Francisco took runner up of People’s Choice with the “HALL Cabernet Roasted Strawberries with White Chocolate Crumble and Mascarpone Cream,” partnering with nonprofit St Helena Hospital.

Peoples Choice Runner Up St Helena Hosp

Proceeds of both ticket sales from attendees and 15% of purchases of 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Sauvignon Blanc and 2013 Coeur Cabernet Sauvignon were also donated to the participating winning charities. Sponsors of the event included at Magnum Level: San Francisco Magazine, Bright Event Rentals, Certified Parking Attendants, MyOffice Products, and Nixon Peabody. At the Harvest Level: Signum Architecture, DP&F, Benefit Marketing, Harvest Sanitation, Snap Fiesta, Napa Valley Tours and Transportation, Print Inkorporated, Frank Zimmerman and Co LLC, and Culligan Water. Bergfeld Sponsorships included Yelp, Alkar Staffing, UpOut.com, Napa Valley Engraving, Tre Posti, Barbier Security Group, The Lux Productions and Villagio Inn & Spa. Local radio station The Vine, 99.3 was on site to capture the excitement, led by personality “Good Morning Bob!”.

panoramic 2

For more information about the event, please visit HALL Wines. To re-create the winning recipe visit HALL’s Recipe section. Check out the exciting sizzle reel courtesy of Flynn Kelleher here or more pictures from the event available here. Next year, the 8th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff will take place on Saturday, April 29, 2017, tickets available now! The event sold out this year, so make sure to reserve your spot for next year.

I had the chance to sample many of the dishes at the event, but my favorite was the Cabernet Braised Short Rib with Cranberry Beans and Horseradish created by Brix on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I make short ribs with a wine sauce at home quite frequently, so this was just a dish I already like to eat.:)

short rib
I also had the chance to chat with Duff Goldman, star of several Food Network TV shows such as Cake Masters, Duff Till Dawn, Ace of Cakes, Iron Chef America and Kid’s Baking Championship.

andy duff me
I asked him a few questions about the event and his latest show on Food Network, Cake Masters, which currently airs Monday evenings on Food Network at 8pm EST.

ME: So, how did you get involved with the HALL Wines Cabernet Cookoff fundraiser?
DUFF: Well, I’m not really sure, uh… you know, I went to school here, uh for culinary school (CIA), and I probably do (appear at) about 3 events in Napa every year and my name is around, I’m a friend of the valley, and this is the place where I became a chef.

ME: So your new show is Cake Masters. Please tell me a little bit about that.
DUFF: It’s a really cool show, it’s a lot like Ace of Cakes, you know, it follows my staff, we make big crazy cakes, uh, but it’s in Los Angeles instead of Baltimore, so we really up the stakes. So now what we do is partner with special effects houses, so these cakes are really just wild.

ME: Yes, I heard about the Fantastic Four cake, and that it was pretty cool.
DUFF: Yes.

ME: So what cake project were you most excited to do?
DUFF: Uh, well we just made a life-size working R2D2.

ME: That’s so awesome, that’s great. So you’re know for cake decorating, but what on the savory side do you like to make/cook?
DUFF: Well, right now I’m writing a book about soup. I’ve got a soup brain right now.
ME: Yes, I’m sure you probably have soup a lot living in Baltimore, especially during winter.
DUFF: We do, and I actually grew up in Cape Cod, so you know it’s a big soup country up there. It’s cold.

ME: I was reading a little bit about you, and found you started out bread making. How did you transition into making cake and not just cakes but cakes that are really works of art?
DUFF: Well, I was a graffiti artist when I was younger, and I started cooking to make enough money to pay for my spray paint. Uh, I got arrested a lot.
ME: Oh!
DUFF: Yeah, so I had to stop doing that. So then I started doing metal sculpture, bronzing, welding making giant things like that bunny out front (Duff is referring to Bunny Foo Foo, the large metal rabbit sculpture in front of HALL wines created by artist Lawrence Argent). And then, I started working on cars since a lot of my friends liked working on cars–and I was a really good welder, and they were like, hey can you come over and fix this thing, it’s like you know asking an artist to come over and paint your house, and I really liked doing it, so that’s how I kind of got into mechanics…I’ve been a working pastry chef my whole career and then I’d say when I was about 25, I was in a band in Baltimore and the band was doing really well, we were starting to get looked at by record labels.
ME: And you’re a bassist?
DUFF: Yeah, so I quit my job and I started selling cakes out of my apartment to try and help pay the rent while I was trying to be a full time musician.

ME: You’ve always had the pastry thing in the background and you were in Colorado for a while?
DUFF: Yeah, I used to carve ice out there.

ME: Well it was really cool to hear a little bit more about your background and I appreciate your time.
DUFF: Absolutely.
ME: My blog is kind of small and out of Sacramento…
DUFF: Well send it (the link) to me, I want to read it.
ME: *faints* (KIDDING!) Oh I will! Totally, totally. Thank you so much!
DUFF: Nice to talk to you.

Well, isn’t that something?:) Truthfully, I just didn’t want to take up much of Duff’s time, so I kept it short. It was really warm that day and we were standing outside in direct sunlight and he was wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt so probably not the most comfortable place to be and get drilled with a bunch of questions from a nervous blogger. And yeah, I was nervous about interviewing Duff, I admit it. The funny thing is, I had met Duff before a few years ago at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco when he was kicking off his line of cake products (pic to prove it below!), and he was super nice and complimented me on my pink chef coat. But then I met Thomas Keller the next year (if you want to call it met) and I tried to ask him a question and he basically dissed me. So, the encounter with Thomas Keller (famous person) made me nervous that the Duff (also a famous person) thing would go awry. And well, I’d say it went alright. I want to thank Duff again for coming out to HALL and for putting up with me for about five minutes.:)

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I also want to thank HALL Wines for inviting Andy and me out again. We always have an incredible experience.

Don’t forget to visit www.hallwines.com or follow their social channels on Instagram here, Twitter @hallwines and on Facebook here. CHEERS!!


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