Hyatt Regency Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill Home to this Year’s National Alopecia Areata Foundation Conference
This year marked the 31st Annual National Alopecia Areata Foundation’s Convention, and this year we convened in Washington, D.C.
What the heck is alopecia? Click here to find out.
Though many rallied at the Capitol to raise awareness and urge their congresspeople to consider legislation that would help cover wigs/hairpieces for a patient diagnosed with alopecia, the home of the convention was at The Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill, where conference attendees gathered together in support of each other, danced together, cried together, dined together, laughed together, learned together, and did nothing short of have a ball together.
You see, for alopecians, this is the most important event of the year where we can get together from all parts of the world and share our experiences. Because sharing and relating is medicine for the soul. The magic of the conference is that it provides a gathering place for people and their families from all walks of life who are affected by this disease.
I arrived very late on Thursday night, and did not go to Capitol Hill with the others, but I attended a workshop on Friday afternoon called Empowering Lives, Building Resilience, led by Dr. Renee Thomason.
Then on Friday evening, I was treated to dinner by Roti Meditteranean Grill (located in Union Station). It is only about 1/3 of a mile to Union Station (pictured below).
If you have never tried Roti Mediterranean Grill, it’s pretty much like a build your own burrito place, but instead with Mediterranean food. What drew me to Roti is that they have a gluten-free/gluten-friendly menu with gluten-free pita bread. Probably enough said there, too. I am sure all my gluten-free readers are now just as intrigued as I was!
So, I went with the salad with kabob, tahini sauce, and feta, cabbage slaw #becauseprobiotics!, and a side of hummus with an order of gluten-free pita bread. I would have dined in, but I was ready to head back to my room and relax. Plus, I had some yummy wine to pair with my meal chilling in the refrigerator.
So I scurried back like a hungry little squirrel and spread out my Mediterranean feast on the coffee table in front of the TV in my (rather extravagant for one person) hotel room.
I loved the chicken kabob salad because it was filling and healthy, which is how I like to eat even when I am out of town. I could not tell a difference between this pita bread and regular pita bread, and the side of hummus was enormous, and would be used on other food throughout the weekend thanks to the refrigerator in my room. If you’re curious about the wine, I packed three bottles with me to save money on beverages during my trip. Tonight’s wine was a Chardonnay which is a lovely pairing with grilled chicken.
Then for dessert, I snuck down to the Hyatt’s bar, the Article One Lounge, and ordered this cocktail (below) The Ketel One Watermelon Cooler. The title describes exactly the contents of the drink: watermelon, basil, and vodka with a lime wedge. I sat with some other alopecians who were hanging out and having some drinks. I love our community and how you can just ask to sit with someone and you’re accepted. Wig or no wig. It’s whatever makes you comfortable and people understand and can relate.
The next day, I headed out to explore Washington, D.C. via foot/running. I did a five mile run from my hotel to the Capitol building and down to the Washington Monument and back and below are the pictures I took during the run (while managing to get 5 miles in).
When I got back to the hotel, I finished my workout in the StayFit™ Fitness Center. It is a well-equipped gym with several treadmills, ellipticals, weights, a sauna, locker rooms, an indoor lap pool, and an outdoor sundeck. The gym’s set up reminded me of a greenhouse, as detailed in the picture (below). I ran three more miles and did 20 minutes elliptical thanks to the air-conditioning!!
Following my workout and gym time, I headed to another conference session: Ask the Experts. The Ask the Experts presentation was a panel of medical and research experts from a variety of fields to answer questions about the different aspects of alopecia areata including treatment and research. Though I don’t attend the conference anymore in search of a cure (I come for the camaraderie), it’s always interesting to hear the latest research.
Following the Ask the Experts panel, it was time to get blown away by the strength and courage of the panel during the Young Adult Perspective presentation. Seven young adults gave their testimony and answered questions from the audience about their experiences with alopecia. I admired this panel of kids (to me, now at 39) because they were diagnosed with alopecia during more formative years. I was diagnosed at 25 and never had to deal with bullying any of the weirdness an adolescent would have to face like these panelists surely did. They all gave helpful advice to audience members, especially the parents of children with alopecia, on what to say, how to react, and what to do to be a community advocate. It was a powerful seminar to say the least.
Then I headed back up to my room to get ready for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Article One. I had contacted the hotel the week of my trip to see if we could work together on a Paleo meal to feature here on my website. The marketing team for the Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. was very receptive to my request. In addition, I received a room upgrade from a regular room that I paid for to an Executive Suite with many more amenities and a separate living room and sleeping area. My room included a refrigerator and a microwave, 2 televisions, and 2 different air/heating controls for the two rooms in the suite. The Executive Suite includes access to the Regency Club King room (a private access 11th floor lounge with dedicated concierge service, Continental breakfast, daily refreshments, evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres). With the upgrade to Regency Club, I didn’t have to spend any extra money on meals during the day.
I snapped a pic of me all decked out for dinner (before heading up to the Regency Club for some early evening snacks and a glass of wine).
Following my visit to the Recency Club, I headed down to Article One for dinner.
The restaurant is very contemporary with vibrant reds/burnt orange and browns in its decor, and open to the hotel lobby. I was impressed with the open feel because you can still experience the buzz of the lobby, but still feel like you are tucked away for a private meal.
And a very special and private meal it was for yours truly, as I was treated by the Article One staff and Executive Sous Chef Ryan Ward.
I was thrilled with the amount of research Chef Ryan did on the Paleo diet, and I promise you if you have a dietary restriction, all you have to do is let the hotel know when you make your reservation. The staff will do everything they can to meet your needs and make your dinner a memorable one.
For your reference, here is the wine list at Article One.
Then my meal arrived, served by the Chef himself. It was a Rib-Eye steak, cooked medium rare, with turnips and potatoes. There was also a decadent mushroom sauce (I ordered on the side). Let’s just call it mushroom ketchup because I used it as a condiment for the perfectly cooked bites of steak and tender turnips and potatoes.
Chef Ryan also put together a dessert especially for me with mixed berries and mixed nuts and seeds. I ordered a glass of Pascual Toso Brut (an Argentinian sparkling wine) to have with dessert.
After my workout, which was again finished in the StayFit™ Fitness Center, I got my things all packed up and went down to attend the Closing Session led by NAAF Communications Director (and totally rad DJ) Gary Sherwood, Chief Development Strategist Maureen Smith, and the guest speaker, an NFL linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan Shazier.
I want to thank the Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. for the room upgrade, as well as the custom Paleo meal and wine I enjoyed during my stay. Everything was perfect including the 24-hour room service (not previously mentioned), which saved me from starving on Thursday night after a late flight and arrival to the hotel. I recommend the Field Greens Salad with Grilled Chicken!
I’d also like to tell you about Hyatt Hotels in Washington 2016 Summer Offer, which is a great deal for anyone who wants to visit D.C. It is available for Hyatt Gold Passport® Members, and offers up to a 15% off stays at participating Hyatt Hotels in Washington DC through September 10, 2016.
Here is the link with more details about this offer: http://www.hyatt.com/content/partnerlandingpage/en/corporate/global/hyatt-member-washingtondc.html
You can find the Hyatt Regency Washington D.C. Capitol Hill online here, on Facebook here, on Twitter here and on Instagram here.
Beginning photo credit: NAAF’s Facebook page
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!
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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”.
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!😦
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.
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.
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!”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last Saturday night Andy and I attended a pre-opening dinner at Chicago Fire‘s newest location: 7101 Laguna Blvd, Elk Grove. The pre-opening lunches and dinners were held both on Friday and Saturday in an effort to train the staff and to ensure consistency amongst the other four Chicago Fire locations.
The weather was terrific, so we decided to sit on the patio. The dinner was complimentary for us except for alcohol (and was also free to everyone invited). It included an appetizer, a salad, a pizza and a dessert to share between us. The limitations on food were mainly because it was a training night and an effort to control conditions in service and in the kitchen. It’s kind of like when you are a brand new runner. You don’t just start out running a marathon. You train up to that distance. Likewise, the staff in the new location were learning to run in ideal conditions, a few miles at a time.
I was very excited to be there because I have loved Chicago Fire for a long time. I think it’s a great place for celebrations or just a dinner for two. Also I work for a printer in Roseville (yes, I have a day job) and we print their business cards and takeout menus as well as a few other items. The people running the show at the restaurant are great to work with altogether.
But back to the food we ordered! For our appetizer, we chose the Garlic Fries. Not really something on the diet plan, but a treat to share with Andy and always very tasty/crispy/herby/garlicky. In true Greek fashion, they are served with lemon. Super good. Diet Gods, I am so sorry.😉
We ordered a few starter glasses of wine, but afterwards ordered this bottle of Windy City Red. It’s a wine produced solely for the Chicago Fire restaurants by Boeger Winery. It’s one of their less expensive wines and a very good value. It’s also a great pairing for anything on the menu with red sauce or any pizza that has meat on it!
Our salad came next and we chose the Pesto Chicken Salad. It’s my favorite salad at Chicago Fire. My second favorite is the Greek Salad, but I can’t resist the pesto dressing. Plus, the chicken on the Chicken Pesto Salad is grilled to perfection, and then there’s all those big cheese shavings on top. I almost wanted to take the salad for myself and leave the pizza for Andy!
Typically, I try to load my plate with greens such as the salad above, and then maybe have 20% of the main course. That way, I have had a lot of fiber, vegetables, etc., and gotten mostly full before I move on to the next course.
Chicago Fire serves a gluten free version of most of the pizzas on their menu. This one is called the Stockyard. If you order gluten free it only comes in one size, but that is OK because with the appetizer and large salad, it was a perfectly shareable size between Andy and myself. The stockyard is a deliciously meat-loaded pizza featuring garlic sausage, pepperoni, salami and Canadian bacon. And of course we got the gluten free crust. I also always order a side of marinara, because I love to dip my pizza crusts in the sauce.
As of all the previous visits we’ve had at Chicago Fire, I would call it consistent and very enjoyable. The difference was the great new location, the fun outdoor experience and the well-landscaped area around the restaurant.
OK wine lovers! Grocery Outlet is holding a huge wine sale where all wines will be an additional 20% off Grocery Outlet’s everyday low prices. It’s the same high-quality wines you love at 50-70% off PLUS 20% more off, so that means you can save as much as 80% on all Grocery Outlet wines during the sale!!
Yesterday I visited my local Grocery Outlet in Roseville, CA, and spoke to the wine buyer, Michael, about the upcoming sale. He thought my blog cavegrrl referred to wine caves! I never thought of that. That’s actually pretty brilliant. Hmmmm…maybe someday I will rebrand AGAIN as a wine blog with the same URL! Anyway, he was incredibly nice to share about an hour of his time with me. He is passionate about making sure he finds wines customers are going to love. He has a “benchmark varietal” method in which he asks the customer what their favorite varietal is, and if they aren’t sure of that, he finds out something as simple as their preference for red or white wine. Through this process, Michael figures out the customer’s preference of sweet or dry, and eventually can help them pick a wine he believes they will enjoy.
It is that kind of customer service you can get, especially at this Grocery Outlet location, where it’s almost like having your own sommelier, but in a discount grocery store (kind of awesome). And truly, since my visit today, I can tell you there are some really great wines to choose from for the sale coming on Tuesday!
Here’s the lineup I bought today and (all of them I highly recommend):
From left to right, Cuerda Sparkling Wine ($4.99)–tastes like an $8-$10 bottle and perfect for unwinding after a busy day or blending in a mimosa or bellini, Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc ($8.99)-I will update the description when I try this one, but Randall Graham is behind this one, so I think it will be pretty good. Also, it’s a white wine blend with Roussane, so I am sure I will be a fan. Next is the Paraiso Pinot Noir ($5.99)-a bargain and goes for $24.99 per bottle elsewhere, by the way does Santa Lucia Highlands ring a bell?? You should have seen me try to contain myself with this deal!! Finally, there’s Goss Creek Red Blend ($4.99)-I really loved, tastes like a $15-18 bottle and goes for $16.99 per bottle elsewhere.
Not only is Grocery Outlet a great place to buy wine, it’s a great place to find food to pair with your wine! Today, I bought a bag of Brussels sprouts, an onion, and some Aidell meatballs to throw together a simple and tasty dish!
Brussel Sprout, Onion and Meatball Sauté:
1 small package Brussels sprouts (quartered and pre-cooked in Microwave for 3-4 minutes)
1 package Aidells meatballs
All you have to do is slice the onion, saute it in olive oil with some salt until translucent, then add the Brussels sprouts––I like to quarter them first and then microwave them for 3-4 minutes to get ahead of the game. Usually, I am tired at the end of the day and I just want to eat and relax, so I am looking for any shortcut possible.
After the onions get browned and are pretty well cooked, add some balsamic vinegar to your liking (2-3 Tbs for me), and then add the microwaved Brussels sprouts and sauté them until browned. Then add the Aidell’s sausages. Cook the entire thing until it’s heated through (the Aidell’s are already pre-cooked, you just have to warm them up in the pan. It literally takes less than 20 minutes to make this dish and it’s a great pairing with ANY of the wines I bought above (especially the Paraiso Pinot Noir!!)
You bet I will be back in the store at 8am on Tuesday to clear out my favorite wines and save an extra 20% off when the wine sale begins! If you love wine, do yourself a favor and visit your local GO March 22-26th!! If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask the wine buyer (if that person is present) or the store manager. In my personal experience (I was a customer before I was compensated for this blog post) and the following held true: the management team at Grocery Outlet just wants you to find the right wine for you and for you to be happy with your purchase.
Join the fun on social media by tagging your posts with #GOWineSale!! Cheers and happy shopping!!
Flame and Fire is one of most unique dining destinations in Roseville, and we were finally able to check it out a few weeks ago.
If you already live in that neck of the woods, you probably know about Flame and Fire (located off Hwy 65 in Roseville, Pleasant Grove exit) and their exceptional food. Andy and I had been eager to visit this traditional Brazilian Churrascaria since our visit to another restaurant in the Bay area with a similar concept/dining experience.
What is a Brazilian Churrascaria? Basically, it’s a place where meat is cooked in churrasco style, which translates roughly from the Portuguese for ‘barbecue’. At Flame and Fire, diners can choose from a variety of fifteen succulent types of meat at dinner and seven types of meat and lunchtime. The menu is fixed price and patrons are are served several times throughout their meal.
The food is served by Gaucho Chefs who slice and serve the meats table side. This manner of service is known as Rodizio style and uses a card or chip (with the green side showing) to signal one of the rotating Gaucho Chefs to visit the table and serve what meat he happens to be carrying (cuts of beef, chicken, lamb, pork and Brazilian sausages to name a few). When the diner has had enough, they turn their dining card to the red side to show the Gaucho they do not want more food at the moment.
Before meat service begins, though, guests are invited to visit the salad bar that is packed with over 30 different dishes and sides like Brazilian feijoada (stew of pork and black beans), farofa (a toasted cassava flour mixture), rice and beans. It’s like a compilation of all the best appetizers you’ve ever had.
To the side of the salad bar there are large containers with fish stew, rice and a potato dish with bacon and cheese.
The little kid in me wanted to try everything, but I knew I should save more room for all the meats that would come to our table, so I opted for a salad with a few different toppings and actually used the chimichurri sauce available on the salad bar as my dressing (the healthiest option on the bar because it contains only herbs and oil). TIP: Grab some for your meats later on in the meal. I also tried some of the wonderful cheeses available.
Often, Andy and I order a glass of wine (a starter glass, if you will) just as we are being seated. I usually go for something with bubbles! Then we peruse the wine menu together and find a bottle of wine to share that we think we will both enjoy. We decided on a bottle of Spanish wine made by Numanthia because it would pair nicely with the meat.
I should also mention the little side dishes that are placed on the table to enjoy with every meal at Flame and Fire, pao de queijo (melt in your mouth cheese bread) and fried bananas:
After we finished our selections from the salad bar, it was time for the gauchos to add our table into their rotation of service. It is very lovely to watch the servers come around one at a time and offer you what they are carrying. Below are a few of our favorite items from the evening, and some of what you can expect to see during a dinner service:
We sampled picanha (top sirloin) and the restaurant’s signature meat dish, fraldinha (bottom sirloin) and my personal favorite, chicken wrapped in bacon, Brazilian sausage, filet mignon, lamb chops (Andy’s favorite), pork ribs, parmesan chicken. Everything was so tasty and the interactive service was so much fun!
We were too full for dessert, but Flame and Fire does offer a delicious endings to their feast with a signature Flame & Fire Sovrete (ice cream) or Traditional Brazilian Flan. Also, roasted caramelized pineapple can be sliced at your table!
This week, Andy and I were invited to try out the new winter menu at Seasons 52. Seasons 52 describes themselves as a fresh grill and wine bar that offers a seasonal menu inspired by the appeal of a farmer’s market and what’s good now. I would also add that they cater to people who enjoy dining out, but like to stay calorie conscious. That pretty much describes me, and why I have accepted every invitation the restaurant has sent my way. I really love the concept of the restaurant and enjoy the food!
We started out in one of the banquet rooms, (other writers were also invited and gathered there) to taste a few of the featured wines and flatbreads. Andy and I passed on the flatbreads (which Seasons 52 does specialize in because they can make them very seasonal—by swapping out the toppings when the seasons change—and low in calorie). However, later on we found out that they can make any of the flatbreads on the menu with a gluten-sensitive dough! I have been to the restaurant 5 or 6 times now and I never knew this! More on the gluten-senstive flatbreads later, but before I get too off track, let’s get back to the wine tasting at the beginning of our evening:
I particularly enjoyed the Catena Cabernet Sauvignon, a reasonably priced food friendly wine, that is a recent addition to the Seasons 52 wine list. Their international wine list features 100 wines and offers at least 52 of them by the glass.
During the wine tasting, Andy and I met up with Susan Cooper (who writes the blog Finding Our Way Now) and her husband. Since both of our websites have shifted towards wine, we decided to sit together during dinner and talk about some of our current and future projects.
I started out with this rosé of Syrah from Casas del Bosque. It was an off-dry wine and a great appetizer in my book.
Speaking of appetizers, this is the gluten-friendly flat bread I mentioned earlier. We chose the Grilled Garlic Pesto Chicken with fresh mozzarella cheese, balsamic onions, roasted red peppers and arugula. The entire appetizer clocks in at 490 calories. It’s called “gluten-friendly” as opposed to “gluten-free” because the kitchen and oven are exposed to gluten. Celiacs should always take extreme caution when dining out, but people who are gluten-free for other reasons can enjoy this flatbread as much as I did!
Of course, there are dishes that are not gluten-free, but still worth a try such as the Black & White Lobster Ravioli.
The raviolis are made with squid ink and egg pasta, and topped with shitake mushrooms and roasted red peppers. The dish is finished with a sherry-lobster sauce. (320 calories)
If you’re looking for a cocktail in between your appetizer and entrée, Seasons 52 currently features a Bourbon Berry Bramble and a Cranberry & Sage cocktail to enjoy this holiday season.
Entrée time! I think Andy and I were really feeling the seasons change and both ordered red meat for dinner.
I ordered the Grilled Flat Iron Steak Salad: Bibb lettuce, butternut squash, grilled red onion, a cheddar tuile and horseradish vinaigrette. (450 calories).
I wish I would have known the presentation of my salad was going to be so dramatic, because I would have filmed it and posted the video. The salad is brought out in on the plate with a cuff/ring around it and then it is released upon service. It was like “voilá” here’s your steak salad. I ordered dressing on the side because truthfully, there’s so many flavors going on, I didn’t really need it. Cheddar tuile, I wish I could wrap you around me like a blanket.😉
Andy ordered another meaty dish: The Oak-Grilled New York Strip. Ut was a soy garlic marinade, charcoal roasted vegetables, Yukon potato mash and a 15-year aged balsamic drizzle. (750 calories) Whoa, Andy, hope you don’t plan on eating dessert.
Just kidding! I love it that Andy is willing to tag along with me and try all this incredible food. We both agreed that the steaks on the salad and on his entrée were perfect (medium rare).
By the way, our server was John. You’ll need to know that because you will want to ask for him when you visit Seasons 52. Here’s what he looks like if you need to chase him down.😉
Truthfully, I am amazed this kid isn’t working as a wine rep. He knew almost as much as one. This is an instance where server training has really paid off. John is just as enthusiastic and passionate about wine as I am. Maybe.😉 Anyway, if there are not enough reasons to stop by Seasons 52, do so, so that you can be waited on by this guy!
More wines (some of our server John’s favorites) he allowed our table to try. I went with sparking wine (sorry, John!) because these days, I try to keep the alcohol content down while I am out and about. 130 calories per glass in the prosecco, by the way.
And then it was time to order dessert! At Seasons 52, they have a portion-controlled dessert menu that is brought out so you can see exactly what you are ordering!
I passed on the dessert plate, because I was actually so full from dinner, but I heard great things about the S’More dessert as well as the gingerbread dessert from my table mates.
This Friday (Black Friday) you can enjoy Seasons happy hour menu from open to close. With $8 specialty cocktails, $6 select glasses of wine and $5 Chef-inspired small plates, there’s something for everyone!!
Special thanks to the management at Seasons 52 for setting up this special tasting. We’ll definitely be back!!