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Lifetime Pursuit of Gelato While Touring Italy and an Apricot Shortbread Recipe

Lifetime Pursuit of Gelato While Touring Italy and an Apricot Shortbread Recipe

 

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The best part of visiting #Venice is riding on a gondola

I’m excited to write again. I’ve been traveling in Italy for the past couple of weeks on vacation with my husband. We celebrated our thirty year wedding anniversary there and I didn’t bring my computer to write a new blog while away. But don’t worry, I did plenty of research eating and drinking my way through Venice, Rome, and Tuscany. Today, I will share a story or two about the Italian people we met, the food we ate, specifically the gelato, and reveal my apricot sable cookie recipe.

It’s honestly so hard to decide where to begin. We ate the best gelato, pasta, pastries and coffee of our lives. I had to stop in just about every patisserie or chocolate shop wherever we walked. My poor husband would wait outside and fiddle with his camera or people watch while I was picking out the best treat to fill our bellies so we could keep up with the next destination.

Can I first give a shout out to our travel agent and friend Nancy Solomon with Orinda Travel? Nancy led our last trip to Iceland which was phenomenal and was instrumental in making our anniversary in Italy memorable. We can’t thank her enough for the perfect itinerary, excellent hotels, delicious food and farm tours, and making all the plane reservations and Vatican, Statue of David, and Colosseum tickets. We basically handed over our credit card and she planned every detail for us. Nancy asked all the right questions and I wouldn’t hesitate to use her services again.  This adventure was personalised so that we could relax and enjoy each other. It was a trip of a lifetime and ultimately the most romantic vacation that we’ve ever been on.

My husband and I agree that we ate the best breakfasts at the Michelin rated restaurant at  Hotel Ai Reali in Venice and we ate the best pizza and gelato in Rome. Since this was our first time in Venice, we were blown away by all the superb breakfast options to choose from. There were mini pancakes which popped out of a machine made on the spot and all of the different toppings like crema di nocciole (hazelnut spread), sciroppo d’acero (maple syrup), miele di acacia (acacia honey), jams from every fruit possible like orange marmalade, triple berry, strawberry, apricot and sour cherry my favorite. Delish.

 

Ai Reali Restaurant served many baked goods like a plum cake, crostata, heart shaped gingerbread cookies, orange cake, donuts, muffins, croissants, and freshly baked breads of all kinds. There was a cheese and charcuterie platter, fresh greens with olive oil and balsamic, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage, fresh fruit, yogurt and more. I had a glass of prosecco and cappuccino before we left for the day with coppa, salumi, ham and cheese croissant sandwiches which sustained us when we got hungry in the afternoon. 

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The sandwiches I made from our breakfast spread at Hotel Ai Reali in Venice.

The art in our hotel in Venice was colorful and inviting, many pieces made with murano glass from Vetreria Artistica a Murano Glass Factory in Venezia. Spectacular.

 

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Poli Distillerie in Venice

We also made it to Poli Distillerie where I sampled  grappa, sambuca (a licorice liquor), limoncelli and who knows what else. This place was cool and trendy. I had never sampled grappa before, so why not embibe in Venice before exploring St. Mark’s Square and Basilica?  I couldn’t stay long because my husband was yet again, waiting outside, but had time to purchase a few gifts for my boys. Ken doesn’t drink, so it was not the best time to learn about Poli and what they offer. I’ve never seen it sold in America, but that’s not saying much since I don’t shop for hard alcohol and liqueurs often. I’m known for stopping at distilleries in Sonoma

 

Can we talk about the worst experience we had in Venice? This happened after our gondola ride. We finally had our fabulous gondola ride, which I had to talk my way into  because my husband always wanted to save money and walk everywhere. The gondolier warned to only eat at the restaurants that had small menus. He was from Venice and seemed to know what he was talking about and it makes sense after all. So after he recommended Hosteria Al Vecio Bragosso and we saw the extended menu, I was perplexed. 

 

This waiter didn’t like me in the least and came back 6 times in 10 minutes, which just pissed me off. He acted irritated with me the whole evening, and eventually had another waiter check on us. He even brought me Chardonnay after I asked for Pinot Grigio! I was afraid of having frozen fish, like the gondolier had warned us about, so I eventually ordered pasta with Bolognese sauce and it was just fine. 

 

We even had a guy selling roses at this same restaurant who came by the table and asked me if I wanted a rose. I said, “no” and he scurried away. A little later, the same guy basically handed me the rose, then came back later and asked my husband for money to pay for it. Such a scam. But we had experiences like this in Thailand, which tainted our time there, and yet we completely understand that these locals have to make a buck and see us Americans as easy money.

 

On the fourth day, we took a train to Rome and made it to the Palazzo Navona Hotel to settle in. We had dinner at Lion, a contemporary Italian Restaurant and Cocktail Bar located across the street. Lion was the swankiest restaurant we have ever eaten at. It was bright cobalt blue with geometric floor tiles, fancy cocktails and a smart vibe. We ate oysters, grilled octopus, beef tartare, and a puffed polenta with cod cooked perfectly. Their country style bread, olive oil and balsamic didn’t disappoint. We ended our meal with a caffe corretto cappuccino, chocolate and peanut truffle and a passion fruit gelee which I think was complimentary. It was quite the culinary experience being in extraordinary Rome, Italy for the first time. 

 

But that meal wasn’t our favorite while tasting what Rome has to offer. Grano Frutta e Farina had the best pizza. I had the funghi porcini-tartufo and Ken had zucchine pesto pinoli. We were always starving after walking for miles around the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel and we went into every basilica we walked by. Incredible.

 

On to the gelato. My very first experience tasting gelato was at Venchi in Venice near St. Mark’s Square. Oh my! I was so excited to see this chocolate gelato shop also known as #cioccogelateria in Italian. I was asking Tomazzo questions about his favorite chocolates to get the inside scoop. My husband and I shared a cup with two different flavors and I honestly can’t remember which flavor I had. I do remember how they line the paper cup with the most delicious liquid dark chocolate and dessicated coconut before they add the gelato. And it’s the dreamiest sweet treat after walking for hours in the humidity and 90 plus degree weather. I can’t understand why the US hasn’t picked up on this concept. Because after you hold the cup of gelato in your warm hands, the chocolate on the bottom of the cup melts, and after your last taste of the cold gelato, you get this incredibly rich spoonful or two of dark melted chocolate and coconut. It’s my all time favorite treat, and that is saying a lot.

 

I will end today’s blog with these pictures and fond memories of our time in Venice and Rome. There is much much more to share, but this will suffice for now. I think I took over 1000 photos, so it has been somewhat overwhelming getting my ideas and photos in order. Now it’s time to find a good gelato spot in  Northern California. Help a girl out here. Any one know of one?

 

Thanks for stopping by and reading my latest post. I’m honored to be able to share by travel and food experiences with you and am happy to leave you with my shortbread recipe. 

 

Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:

2 Cups Unsalted Butter

1 Cup granulated Sugar

4 Cups Bread Flour

1 Cup Cake Flour

½ teaspoon vanilla bean

¼ teaspoon Kosher Salt

1 Tablespoon Saltwerk Licorice Salt (Bought in Iceland)

 

Directions:

Cream butter, add sugar gradually and cream well. Add both flours, vanilla, and salts and mix well in a standard mixer. 

 

I use round cut outs used for biscuits in varying sizes to get desired outcome. 

 

Bake on a parchment lined sheet pan in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until done and slightly browned on edges about 9 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

 

Fill with apricot jam, or whichever filling you prefer. Serve right away with your favorite tea or coffee.

 

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Smoke This and a CBD Donut you can’t Resist

Smoke This and a CBD Donut you can’t Resist

Today’s blog will be all about Portland’s popular #cannabis scene and everything I learned about edibles. I will also explain how I was inspired to apply to a baking competition. Blogging is my all time favorite past time, but my first love has always been baking. That’s why I include some of my favorite recipes here. Just last week I saw a post on Paul Hollywood’s Instagram about an amateur baking show looking for someone who can bake exceptional cakes and perfect pastries. That’s me!

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My son Andrew’s version of BCP Banana Cream Pie and here is him singing at his Taekwondo School

 

So I put my priorities in place, and applied to the #GreatAmericanBakingShow. I’m so excited, even though I haven’t been contacted yet. The possibility of being on TV and baking in front of judges blows my mind. I decided it was time to extend myself and try something a little out of reach. Why not do what scares you most?

 

Everyone who knows me has tried convincing me to bake  professionally, yet I’ve never listened. I’ve always enjoyed baking as a hobby. Well, now I’ve gone and put myself out there. Who knows what will happen next?

In the meantime, I will write about my surprise visit a few weeks ago to Electric Lettuce Recreational Dispensary in Portland Oregon.

Here’s the story-

After I parked my rental car, I walked towards Woodblock Chocolate where my Nines Hotel concierge directed me too. I had every intention of walking into the chocolate factory, but this other attractive building caught my eye. The outside sign said “Electric Lettuce,” and as an avid gardener I had to check it out.

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Colorful Artsy building attractive to newcomers

You can imagine my surprise when I found a cannabis dispensary inside. It couldn’t hurt to look around, take a few photos and see what all the hoopla is all about. I had to show my license before I stepped in to make sure I was over 18 I guess. The employees were welcoming and helpful answering any questions I had. Looking back, my siblings and I were always surrounded by second hand smoke, especially on long car rides to visit our grand parents. So I never took up smoking as a teenager. And I still can’t stand being around some one who is smoking.

Electric lettuce sold everything from T Shirts and hats, to tinctures and tonics. They sold a probiotic soda called Gold Dragon Ginger Ale, a sparkling beverage called Legal Hybrid made with cannabis-infused Rainier Cherry or a Lemon Ginger, Magic Number Ginger Beer and Gentle Giant– a type of weed that you drink. Or you could buy edibles such as Titan’s Kind Chocolate Chunk Sandwich Cookies, or Wyld edible gummies in raspberry, huckleberry, marionberry, pomegranate and strawberry flavors. They sold tart cherry, lemon ginger, strawberry basil, triple berry, or spicy passion fruit Gumdrops made by Serra that were infused in cannabis. Each variety had a description of how many milligrams of THC and CBD were in each candy. They also offered easy, groovy, cosmic or mellow as descriptions as to how each candy would make you feel after consuming it. There were so many tempting options to choose from.

 

I could have tried their bean to bar Chocolate bar made exclusively with Woodblock Chocolate, CBD and THC but I didn’t feel adventurous enough. If chocolate wasn’t your thing, you could buy cannabis filled Caramels. The Stumptown Coffee Caramel candy had 50mg THC and was made by Serra. Woodblock Chocolate Caramels had 50mg CBD and 25mg THC and another variety was even stronger and sprinkled with Jacobsen Sea Salt another local Portland Company.

 

 


This is what I learned from one of the flyers on display:

CBD (Cannabidiol) is known as a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. It helps balance the psychoactive effects of THC, offers antioxidant properties, helps ease inflammation, reduces anxiety, can promote cardiovascular health and can comfort effects from neurological disorders.

 

THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is responsible for the psychoactive or “high” feeling a person gets from using cannabis. The most common effects felt will be euphoria and relaxation. The benefits of THC include relief from chronic pain, inflammation, insomnia and migraines. This drug suppresses nausea yet encourages appetite. Some suggest it helps patients with their mental health. People  that suffer from depression and PTSD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder might benefit from this drug.

The Entourage Effect is a synergistic reaction in the body when a person consumes THC and CBD. Even though it isn’t clinically proven this combination can help people experiencing anxiety.

The Cannabis plant consumption can be dated back to  2700 BC in China and India. They believed this plant could be used for its anti inflammation properties and to treat disorders such as nausea, seizures, pain and spasms.

 

I kept taking pictures of my surroundings while plenty of customers made purchases and knew exactly what they wanted. I was still trying to figure out what everything was. Avitas and PRUF Cultivar make cartridges filled with extracts like Lemon Meringue, Oregon pinot, Orange Thai, and one named ACDC. I also saw varieties called Timberline Haze, Tangie Biscotti, Blue Dream and G Krush all made with different percentages of CBD with or without THC. It’s all a mystery to me, but it sure sounds like dessert. These guys are marketing geniuses!

I have to admit it was tempting to bring some home to gift my mom who has cancer, but it wasn’t worth the risk getting thrown in jail trying to get on a plane back to California.

A few more interesting pot company names worth mentioning are Geek Farms, White Label Extracts, and Willamette Valley Alchemy but I think I’m just scratching the surface.

Remember pop rocks? Well now Leif Goods makes a product called Junk Dynamites which is a watermelon flavor exploding candy that sizzles in your mouth. Yuck! I can’t stand watermelon candy. I ate a ton of watermelon gum at a baseball game when I was little and now feel sick to my stomach whenever someone is chewing that flavor of gum around me. Leif Goods also makes a vegan friendly confection called Junk Marshmallow Bon-Bons. Anything with marshmallow in it sounds like the perfect treat. They have thought of  everything!

 

Portland has seen a huge revival in small craft distilleries as well as taking the lead into bringing cannabis into plain sight. I was surprised to see Blue Star Donuts proudly displaying weed in their breakfast treats.

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I’m thinking. Should I eat a donut with CBD in it? Yes I should

My first time experiencing a Blue Star CBD chocolate hazelnut custard donut was the next morning when I went to visit the Multnomah Village in Portland. I made sure that I didn’t drive right away after I ate it just in case I was feeling different. To be honest, I didn’t feel remarkably different which was a good thing. The flavor was outstanding and the crumbly crunchy outside was so good, you wanted another. Good thing I bought three more (without CBD) which included an orange olive oil one, an apple cider fritter and a lemon poppy buttermilk donut. And believe me, I wanted to eat all of them, but I saved a few tastes for my husband when he came back from work.

 

Even Prosperity Pie Shop advertised adding 10mg of CBD to any drink for $3.00. You could try their peanut butter chocolate, banana chocolate, key lime, chocolate cream or the gluten free vegan, nut free chocolate bliss pie. I had my fill of sweets for the day, but it was a nice place to hang out.

Let me conclude by neither condemning or condoning the consumption of cannabis. It’s a personal choice just like drinking alcohol is. I can’t say I’m a huge fan since my experience is limited, but either way I got an education on the subject for sure and I hope I’ve entertained you a little at least.

 

So if you are ever planning a trip to Portland, make sure to check out all of these interesting places. Whether you decide to try an edible at Electric Lettuce, or eat a CBD filled donut at Blue Star,  or hang out at one of the 50 craft distilleries, I know you will have a good time. Or go visit  Powell’s City of books megastore. The kids will be entertained at Finnegan’s Toy Store where you can buy anything from kites to nerdy science kits. They have it all.

 

Be sure to check out my next post which will be all about ice cream in Portland. Yes, I tasted those too and I can share the scoop on the best boozy ice cream cocktails like cherry bourbon at Fifty Licks.

 

I need to get this blog posted, so I will add the recipe for banana cream pie a little later. Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading. Please follow me by subscribing to my blog. You will get an email when I post my next write up. And hopefully you will see me on The Great American Baking Show. Keep your fingers crossed.

 

 

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“Over Acheeser” Pizza in Hood River Oregon and Marion Berry Hand Pies

“Over Acheeser” Pizza in Hood River Oregon and Marion Berry Hand Pies
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#FullSailBrewingCo in Hood River Oregon

Another fun day exploring Oregon as a food blogger. Took a chance on Hood River area hoping to find new bakeries, coffee shops, gardening shops, etc.  My husband has work in Portland, so he took me along. I’m so excited to share my experience with all of you. Yesterday, I found Good News Cafe and Garden Center, a vintage boutique called Bend in the Road, Phelps Creek Tasting Room, Pine Street Bakery where I had an “Over Acheeser” piece of pizza, Apple Green Boutique, Oblation Papers & Press, and a fun dinner at Screen Door in Portland with my husband and his coworkers.

 

Driving from the city to the Oregon countryside is exhilarating. The was mountains on the right of the highway and the water on the left makes for a nice one hour drive. As I arrived in Hood River I came across Full Sail Brewery. It wasn’t open yet, so I wasn’t able to go in, but I was hoping to catch it on the way back to Portland.

 

Maybe you’re wondering how I decided to go to Hood River. I found a magazine at the Avis rental place that had an article about the Hood River County Fruit Loop. http://www.hoodriverfruitloop.com/apple-valley I knew that there is more going on from May through October, but thought I’d take a chance anyway.

 

I drove through acres of  blooming fruit trees and scrolling hills. It was beautiful. I was disappointed to find Apple Valley Country Store was closed. They are only open Wednesday through Sunday. I guess I’m not as familiar with businesses out in the middle of nowhere and how they have limited hours.  They have pies, jams, pancake and scone mixes, They have flavors like huckleberry, marionberry, bumbleberry, caramel apple jam and more!

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Art shown at #TheNinesHotel Portland Oregon

Onward and upward I drove to Phelps Creek Tasting room next to the Hood River Golf and Country Club. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYkDQMj8Vik  This wasn’t as intriguing to me since I was my own designated driver, but a bathroom break is always appreciated after our delicious breakfast at the Nines Hotel. Even though I am spending most of my day at coffee houses, bakeries and local eateries I always pack a croissant sandwich stuffed with ham, turkey, salami, marionberry jam, and provolone, swiss and cheddar cheese to save money. Their breakfast spread is incredible offering pastries, yogurts, fresh fruit, gluten free muffins, roasted vegetables, deli meats and cheeses, cereal, oatmeal, coffee and Stash tea.

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Here’s my lunch that I made from the breakfast buffet at The Nines Hotel

Next, I discovered Bend in the Road Vintage Consignment Store. It was fun to see what antiques were floating around Oregon and purchased some Scrabble letters for an art project for my niece. I was getting a rumbly in my tummy and was excited to find Good News Cafe and Garden Center. I couldn’t resist their marionberry hand pie that they graciously warmed up for me. Here’s my recipe for blackberry hand pies. Was tempted by their smores cookie since I’ve never seen one before, but I held off for something more savory. I purchased a few packages of seeds to give out to the nieces’ and nephews’ kids for Easter.

 

I had heard good things about Pine Street Bakery which was a few miles away, so ventured in there for a peek. Inside there were lines of people waiting for their fresh baked breads, cookies and savory choices like sandwiches, pizzas, and salads. I withheld from buying their egg shaped sugar cookies, their triple chocolate, and oatmeal raisin cookies. Instead I opted for the veggie pizza made with spinach, caramelized onions, ricotta and fontina. It was moist in the center, cheesy and the perfect choice for my long drive back to town.

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My tasty snack after a long day of exploring Hood River Oregon

I still had plenty of time to check out the Apple Green Boutique in the Pearl District where they had lots of Spring gifts like Easter bunny books and paper supplies. They also sold vintage material that you could make tea towels or table runners with that I almost purchased for my Mother. Her birthday is in May and I haven’t gotten her anything yet. My latest  is taking out family members and having adventure excursions. It makes for good blog posts too. I wonder where she will want to go.

 

Oblation Papers and Press was my last stop before picking up my husband at the plant. They had colorful displays of ribbons, wrapping paper, invitations and even baby books which I almost purchased for my niece Hajara who is expecting. I’d rather let her pick out her own since there are so many to choose from.

 

The Screen Door Restaurant is where we landed for dinner. Their menu is Southern Cajun Creole style. Hushpuppies, shrimp & grits, crispy fried buttermilk chicken is what they are most known for. Everything we had was delicious and I won’t forget my first taste of the sweet tea vodka cocktail. Someone suggested combining the sweet tea vodka with lemonade for an Arnold Palmer cocktail. Sounds delish. I’ve never been to New Orleans, only Florida so I’m not as experienced in critiquing this cuisine. We didn’t stay for dessert, although they had options like pecan pie, cara cara upside down cake, rhubarb custard pie by pastry chef Erin Eberlin Sage. Yum.

 

Overall, the day was something to remember and I’m happy to share my stories and recipes with you. Here’s to Hood River and Portland Oregon and their weird vibey culture. Thank you for a delicious and fun filled adventure.

 

Follow my blog by adding your email to the link on the right and share this site with your family and friends. I appreciate your love of food and travel and I will continue to find more places to explore.

 

 

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Biking in Napa for Calamari and Hazelnut Dacquoise

Biking in Napa for Calamari and Hazelnut Dacquoise

Spent the day in Yountville and Napa with my friend Ana bike riding and eating at some of my favorite restaurants. The rain in Northern California has been non stop, but we had a break in the weather that day and biked until our hearts were content. We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at Bistro don Giovanni, dessert and beverages at Auberge du Soleil, then a quick stop at the Cia Copia and OxBow Public Market to complete the perfect day.

 

Ana and I were originally going to ride bikes to Danville for lunch at SideBoard a neighborhood cafe. When I heard they closed, I shifted our bike ride to the Napa Valley so I could check out Farmstead Restaurant at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena.

 

We set out North on our bikes after parking in the town of Yountville. We brought our own bikes even though you can easily rent them. I stopped to ask for directions at a bed and breakfast in town and the clerk Googled and even printed me a map towards our destination.

Unfortunately, after several attempts and ending up off the beaten path on to rocky surfaces, we decided to ride South towards Napa instead on the designated Napa Valley Vine Trail. It was refreshing to finally be on a flat safe surface in a clear direction.

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We had been riding for over an hour and a half and we needed food in our bellies. Luckily, Bistro Don Giovanni was nearby, so we rode our bikes there. Well, not directly there, since I thought we could sneak in through a vineyard. That wasn’t going to happen since there were barbed wires surrounding the property. Through the mud we rode, until we finally found a newer property that had a paved road. Phew! Boy were we glad to see that.

 

Eventually we drove through a quaint older Napa neighborhood and onto Hwy 29 for a block to get to the restaurant. Ana and I were fortunate that they still had an available table to seat us. The food was exceptional as usual. We shared their short rib, cipollini onion, asparagus pappardelle special and fried calamari with green beans, fennel and onions. So tasty. Ana had a merlot from Whitehall to drink and I ordered a cabernet from Frank Vineyards. Food always tastes better after a long bike ride and Ana had never had fresh pasta from California before.

 

Obviously, we took a shortcut back to the bike path on the way back to Yountville, but had a good laugh about our earlier excursion through the vineyards.

 

Next was a quick ride through the small town since we weren’t quite ready to abandon the bikes. We saw the brand spanking new Villagio Hotel  conference/wedding venue which is spacious and gorgeous. Atelier Fine Foods was catering a Yountville Chamber of Commerce networking mixer at JCB Salon Prive’ with focaccia and a huge platter of cheese, olives, charcuterie and of course wine. We didn’t stick around long enough to embibe.

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Outstanding cheese and charcuterie platter on its way to a Yountville Chamber of Commerce Mixer. I want to be a member !

 

Back to the car with the bikes we went, and headed for our Farmstead Restaurant. The only problem I have with taking friends to Napa is getting side tracked by all of the other phenomenal choices to experience. This time I stopped at Auberge du Soleil off the Silverado trail which is a part of Relais & Chateaux. This property sits high on a hill and looks over the Napa Valley. The view is spectacular and the restaurant is Michelin rated.

 

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Anna and me standing in the entry way to Auburge du Soleil

Since we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on food, we took a seat at the bar. They have a wide selection of fancy cocktails, beer on tap, and wines of course, but we ordered the non-alcoholic Ipanema: A refreshing drink consisting of ginger ale, fresh muddled lime and sugar. Since we weren’t hungry, we settled on their famous Auberge Torte au Chocolat : A hazelnut dacquoise (a fancy name for a almond hazelnut and meringue cake), gianduja mousse and vanilla gelato. I’m pretty sure it was the BEST dessert I’ve ever had. The good news is they sell them and will ship this chocolatey decadence all over the world. And one piece cost $17.00 which we shared, but it was worth every penny. Pastry chef Paul Lemieux has a lot to be proud of and I will happily follow him on Instagram.

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The mouthwatering chocolate hazelnut cake at Auberge du Soleil

 

Feeling generous, Ana bought 9 of their freshly made cookies so we could bring my Mother and Step Father some goodies. I have to say, the oatmeal cherry were my favorite, but the peanut butter and chocolate chip ones were delicious too. Yes, we ate most of them before we got to the car!

Losing our appetite for Farmstead, we headed home. Again I took a detour and stopped at the Culinary Institute of America Napa. I took Ana upstairs to the cooking school where there was a class that was assembling dumplings.We also walked through the fascinating Chuck Williams Culinary Art Exhibit featuring over 4000 artifacts of specialty cookware used by great chefs in Europe.

 

Next to the Cia Copia is OxBow Public Market where there is practically every kind of food and drink available to consume. We walked around Whole Spice Company, Napa Valley Distillery, Fieldwork Brewery, Anette’s Chocolates and many more foodie destinations. At least Ana will know where to go when she entertains her out of town guests in a few weeks.

 

Let’s just say, Napa Valley has captured my heart. I’m never disappointed by the hospitality and generosity they offer their tourists and people like me. Sometimes the wine country is calling me and I have to escape the Bay Area. Is it calling you? You will come back feeling rejuvenated from all of the good food, great wine and clean country like charm it offers. Can’t wait to go back. Maybe next time I will actually make it to Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch.

 

If you enjoyed my blog, please share on Facebook, Twitter or email a friend. Maybe they will be ready for a change of pace and join you for a special day in the Napa Valley Wine Country.

 

 

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Nice to Meat You Napa and a Corned Beef Recipe to die for

Nice to Meat You Napa and a Corned Beef Recipe to die for

Started off the Holiday season right this year with a trip to Napa on Thanksgiving day with my husband and our boys. We avoided the much dreaded week in the kitchen prepping, brining and baking. This day instead would be a day to remember for holidays to come leaving no messy kitchens behind.

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My two boys Andrew and Curtis

It all started because I missed my boys. Curtis will be 34 in January and Andrew just turned 26. They don’t live at home anymore, so finding a day where we could all be together was key. And spending the day with them and my husband was just what I needed. They were excited about the idea and my husband was willing to be the designated driver, so we were good to go.

There was something seductive about running out to the wine country and avoiding the obligatory family get together. After all, we’ve only ever done this one other time about 11 years ago where we escaped to San Francisco for the day. Curtis attended Sonoma State at the time, and it seemed easier to pick him up from school and take him out for the day. We had a grand time at O’Reilly’s Holy Grail restaurant which has since closed its doors, unfortunately.

Our trip to Napa was even more exciting since we had never been to any of these hotels, restaurants, or bars. My husband forwarded me an email the week before about places that were open for business on Thanksgiving day. So I had a tentative plan in mind which we adhered to throughout the day.

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Curtis’ Bloody Mary

We started off at the Meritage Resort and Spa grabbing a cocktail and a bite to eat at Crush Lounge. Curtis had a bloody mary (after all, it was only 11AM), I had a cosmo and Andrew enjoyed an aged scotch. We snacked on calamari, fish tacos and a burger and fries before engaging in a friendly game of bowling. Yes. You can believe it. It was hilarious seeing my kids and husband throw the ball down the lane after a drinkypoo. We settled on a Star Wars theme, all of us choosing a character. I was C3po, my son Curtis Luke Skywalker, Andrew- Chewy, and Ken Han Solo. We ended the game early because I was doing better than everyone. And let’s face it, you only have fun bowling when you are winning.   

Next stop was BANK Cafe and Bar at the Westin Verasa Napa. They were serving a fabulous meal for $85.00 per person at the La Toque Restaurant, but we weren’t ready for a huge sit down meal. We were just getting started… The bar offered small bites to share and just about anything else you would want from a full bar, but we settled on a licorice flavored sambuca liquor w a coffee bean for me, a Mr Goldsmith #2 cocktail for Curtis which involved Blue Ice Vodka, sage honey syrup, St. George Pear Liqueur, and lemon, and a glass of Cabernet by Faust Napa Valley for Andrew. Barely hungry, we ordered the hand chopped steak tartare with maldon salt on crostini. The flowers in the lobby were stunningly beautiful and I couldn’t help not taking a short video of them.

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My son Andrew and me in front of Archer Hotel Napa

Onward and upwards to the Archer Hotel and Charlie Palmer’s Restaurant Steak Lounge, but first taking an elevator to the Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar. It was closed because of the holiday and rainy weather, but definitely worth checking out in the future. The atmosphere was hopping and the bartender gave us the royal treatment. I sat this one out, not needing another beverage, but the boys ordered cocktails. Curtis had the Napa 75 which was made with Hangar One Vodka, yuzuri, lemon verbena, and louis pommery while Andrew was made something special with whiskey, I can’t remember what. All I remember is that it had a foamy egg white thing on top and cute hearts adorning the top of the drink. I also learned how these bartenders taste each cocktail before giving to the customer. They use a straw to dip in the drink and take a taste to see if it is “just right.” Brilliant!

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Fabulous cocktails at Charlie Palmer’s Steak Lounge in Archer Hotel

Napkins Bar and Grill was where we ended up for our Thanksgiving meal. This restaurant was just down the street from the last bar, in fact we could have walked. But free parking was available along the street so we took advantage of that. Curtis ordered the signature citrus habanero wings and  a cocktail with fig as a garnish. I forgot to make a note of this one, but who really cares at this point? I was craving guacamole and chips, Ken had the smoked pork chop, and Andrew ate the Loaded Niman Ranch Burger with crispy onions. The place was lively and colorful and we were feeling good.

Lastly we read that Alba was going to have live music, so we voted to go to one last bar before heading back to the East Bay. We drove to the River Terrace Inn and sat at the bar. I honestly didn’t catch what the boys ordered, but I tried Crispin Hard Cider for the first time. It was cold and light, a perfect ending to my day in Napa. The live music was just “okay”, but we were happy to stay out and celebrate together just a little longer.

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The four of us Smyth’s at the Meritage Resort

I can genuinely say that skipping out on the traditional family Thanksgiving was fun and adventurous. The four of us were able to connect on many levels, which wouldn’t have happened if we had stuck to the original plan of going to my sister’s with 15 other family members. There is something seriously attractive about spoiling your kids on a holiday like Thanksgiving. They wouldn’t mind me saying that they felt special and appreciated. Who could ask for more? Isn’t that what we are all looking for? Unconditional love and acceptance especially while sipping cocktails is what the holidays are all about.

And we still made it for dessert at my sister’s after all. We celebrated in the best way and were able to mingle with the folks and cousins while enjoying a Sara Lee frozen cherry cheesecake. Yep. That’s the dessert I contributed to the meal this year. It wasn’t all that bad either. Best of all, I came home to a clean kitchen. There’s something to be said for that.

Happy Holiday’s from my home to yours. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box next year and ditch the relatives for a change. It’s a fun gig once every 10 or 11 years and your kids will thank you.

Lastly, I served corned beef to my book club friends last week and they loved it so much that they asked for my recipe. I first made this dish when I was 21 years old. My grandmother Leone and I were shopping at the grocery store and when I chose a flank steak, she advised me I had the wrong piece of meat if I wanted to make corned beef. Luckily, she helped me pick out the correct package of meat. That day, we prepared that dish together and it was a huge success. My love of corned beef has grown ever since and I always think of my grandmother when making it.

My recipe has evolved over the years, as I have become a better cook. Here’s my latest recipe:

 

Best Corned Beef

Ingredients:

2 carrots peeled and left whole

2 stalks of celery and left whole

I white or yellow onion peeled and sliced in half

½ C fresh fennel

3 whole garlic cloves

½ t dried chili pepper

1 T fresh oregano leaves and stems

1 T fresh parsley leaves and stems

3 bay leaf

⅓ C pickling spice (plus packet from corned beef)

6 whole black peppercorns

6 dried shiitake mushrooms

1 small can Coke Zero

1 t worcestershire sauce

1 T mushroom dark soy sauce (found in Asian sect)

1 can or bottle of Stella beer or Guinness works well

2 C. Chicken Stock

11/2 C water

 

Mustard Brown Sugar Glaze

Dijon Mustard

Brown sugar

1 teas dry ground cloves

 

Directions:  

Put all ingredients except Glaze ingredients into a crock pot. Add package of corned beef with pickling spice packet. Put on high for 6 hours.

Right before company arrives, remove corned beef from crock pot and place in an oven safe dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Strain the liquid into another large pot and toss out the cooked vegetables. Put the quartered cabbage into the pot and boil until soft. Remove cooked cabbage and serve along side corned beef. I also make mashed potatoes instead of the boring plain boiled ones.  I roast carrots, zuchinni, cauliflower and cremini mushrooms and serve as side dishes.

Corned Beef Glaze

Mix ½ C Dijon Mustard or regular yellow mustard, 3 T Brown Sugar, and 1 teas ground cloves in a small dish. Coat top of corned beef with sauce and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. 

Or if you don’t have a crock pot, use a heavy stock pot Dutch Oven like Le Crueset, use this instead of crock pot. Bring to a boil on the stove, then bake at 325 degrees for 6 hours. Continue with topping instructions above.

If you enjoyed this blog, please comment below on somewhere you would like to visit. I’m needing a few good ideas for my upcoming adventures. Do you have a favorite get away vacation you would like to share with the readers? Please feel free to leave a comment.

And once again, thank you for taking the time to stay with me through my travels.  

Gratefully yours,

Teri:)

 

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Explore the Epicenter of Food and Wine at Cia Copia Napa

Explore the Epicenter of Food and Wine at Cia Copia Napa

I’m always looking for an excuse to take a day trip to the heart of downtown Napa, and yesterday was no exception. Many days I will drive aimlessly through the towns I want to blog about just hoping to find a hidden gem. Finding the Culinary Institute of America at Copia was just that. Today’s blog will be about what they are all about and my experience there.

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The Culinary Institute of America at Copia is a food lovers dream come true. The gorgeous 8000 ft modern campus has cooking classes, wine tasting classes,opportunities to host private events and much more. Classes include introducing you to the many different spices, teaching easy entertaining tips or throwing an upscale cocktail party just to name a few.
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The Store at Copia didn’t disappoint. Shop everything culinary from pairing knives to a wide selection of fancy vinegars. Their selection of cookbooks was outstanding  and I wanted one of each. They also had a cookbook display of the chefs that graduated from the Institute which was very cool. Celebrities like Cat Cora from Iron Chef, Amanda Freitag from Chopped were two of them that I can recall.

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I wanted to try something from their bakery cafe, but needed something more substantial since I skipped lunch. I didn’t sit down at the restaurant, but it looked warm and inviting. To be honest, the grounds were mostly deserted. I was surprised. Their gardens were plentiful consisting of fresh herbs like basil, sage, parsley, which they use in their farm to table dishes.

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They also offer an outdoor Jackson Family Wines Amphitheater in case you need a wedding venue. Or if you prefer, they have a garden balcony that overlooks their lovely Copia gardens. The property was originally developed by Julia Child and Robert Mondavi.Their community conversational events look enticing too, You’ll hear from local chef’s such as Tanya Holland from Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, or Alice Waters from Berkeley’s Chez Panisse.

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But pretty much no one needs a reminder of what Alice is known for. The Edible Schoolyard Project is what Alice’s mission is all about. Her hope is to help every child by having a sustainable national edible curriculum from prekindergarten through high school. An honorable concept.

 

Have you thought of taking a  class at CIA California Campus? Could you see yourself taking a hands on cooking or baking class? Or how about learn how to make jam and jellies? Here’s my blog on how I make my blenheim apricot jam. It’s truly the best served on a cheese platter w marcona almonds, various cheeses and crostini. Also make sure to check out my next blog on the Chuck Williams Exhibit at Cia Copia opening soon.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my write up on my few hours in Napa California. If you want a great foodie experience it should be on your bucket list for sure. I can’t wait to take advantage of the 20% off class coupon that I found at nearby Oxbow Public Market.The cheese making class looks intriguing…

 

Feel free to share this or follow me so you get my future blog posts and recipes. Cheers to your August 2018. Hope you make it special.

 

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Family Foodie Vacation and Art in Truckee

Family Foodie Vacation and Art in Truckee

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Spent my birthday weekend at my sister’s friends house in Truckee last weekend. It was a fun filled time hiking, sleeping in (my favorite), board games, barbecuing nice meals and checking out Northstar Resort and The Ritz-Carlton Resort. My sister Susan, her friend Lori, my husband Ken, my and niece Marie and nephew Vince were able to change around their work schedules so they could stay with us too. 

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We hiked around Spooner lake with the two dogs and stayed nice and cool in the tall trees. The dogs loved getting in the lake while we watched for local birds like the white headed woodpecker, kestrels, steller’s jay, barn swallows and many others. Birding is one of my favorite hobbies and it’s fun to find new species when I travel.

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Marie bought me a “birthday” marion berry pie from Ikeda’s and it was scrumptious. She and my sister wanted to bake me a cake, but that’s a tall order to make a cake for a pastry chef. And we were all having so much fun playing outside and relaxing on their deck to bake in a hot kitchen.


The highlight of the trip was hanging out at the Northstar California Resort. They offer mountain biking, hiking, golf, Kids Adventure Camp, Mini Golf, and something called Kid Zone. There’s even a roller skating rink open during the summer for families that like that kind of thing. What we loved were the full body massages that were offered by Jackie at Tahoe Yoga and Wellness Center. This business gives yoga classes too, some of which I have attended.  Marie and I made appointments that morning and got right in. Now that’s the way to end a fun getaway weekend feeling all relaxed and pampered.

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Next we drove up the hill to explore lunch options at the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe. After all we were celebrating my birthday weekend and I’m always up for checking out 5 star hotels. This place was incredible inside and out. Very family oriented also, the outside seating at the Manzanita Restaurant included frisbees so kids could play in the nearby grass while waiting for their food. What a luxury to be able to have a conversation with your spouse and know your kids aren’t bored out of their mind. And they had a art show displaying famous artists inside the hotel. 

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The food was simple but delicious. The three of us shared the turkey club served warm with organic turkey, gruyère cheese, pecan-wood bacon, pickled onion, lettuce, tomato, and herb Mayonnaise. We also ordered the Mediterranean salad with loads of salty goat cheese, cherry tomatoes and nicely brined kalamata black olives.
It was exciting sitting outside when the rain started to come down in buckets. We were under a covered patio, so it was pleasant enough. We realized that anything can happen when you are in the mountains at high altitude. Taking time to visit with my niece and nephew on this vacation was priceless. We are so lucky to have family that lives in the Truckee area. Maybe next time our own kids will join us.

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Fennel, Chive and Heirloom Tomato Green Salad

 

Ingredients:

1 Head of Organic lettuce washed and torn to large bite sized pieces

1 carrot peeled and shredded

¼ bulb fennel sliced thinly (saving the dill like fronds to top for decoration)

2 T chives finely chopped (saving the florets for top to decorate)

1 C chopped red and yellow heirloom tomatoes from the garden

 

Directions:

Place greens in a large bowl. Sprinkle remaining veggies onto greens and toss saving dill fronds and chive florets for the top. Place salad plates in fridge earlier in the day. 

Serves 7
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Apricot White Balsamic Salad Dressing

 

Ingredients:

 

1 T Dijon Mustard

2 T Organic Blenheim Apricot Preserves

¼ C White Balsamic Vinegar (or Champagne Vinegar)

1 T grapeseed oil

1 t minced shallot

2 t minced garlic

1 T local honey

1 orange/lime/ or lemon freshly squeezed

½ C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

In a small saucepan, saute shallots and garlic in 1 T grapeseed oil on medium heat until soft and translucent. Add honey.

Place dijon mustard and apricot jam in a small to medium size bowl. Add sauteed shallots, garlic and honey. Add balsamic vinegar, citrus, salt and pepper and stir. Slowly incorporate olive oil in a steady stream while whisking. Set in fridge until ready to eat salad. Nothing worse than bruised and wilted lettuce, so don’t put dressing on until last minute and toss lightly after pouring dressing around edges of inside of the bowl. This way, all lettuce gets covered evenly.

Thanks for reading my blog today and make sure to sign up to get my future posts with recipes and recent foodie adventures.

 

 

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