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Category Archives: Autumn

Inside Scoop of Where to Go Next in Napa and Chai Spice Ginger Men Shortbread Recipe

Inside Scoop of Where to Go Next in Napa and Chai Spice Ginger Men Shortbread Recipe

 Hey there. It’s been a minute since I’ve written. I’ve been all over New York, Napa, Healdsburg, and San Jose California. The weather has been glorious, so I’m loving these day trips and enjoying the time outside before the rains come. 

Me and my Mom Diane at Side
Board Restaurant in Lafayette

The last 24 hours I’ve been entertaining my Mom Diane. Her husband needed time with his grandson in Monterey, and my Mom doesn’t like to be alone. We stopped off at the closest Sloat Nursery where she found the most extravagant huge white poinsettia. I like to bring her flowers whenever she has her chemo/immuno treatments, and I haven’t been as regular about that lately. She has had cancer treatments every three weeks for the past nine or ten years, so It’s okay if I miss a week here or there. For dinner, I made grilled shrimp Caesar salad for dinner (her favorite), and we put together a cornmeal waffle batter from Tanya Holland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook that sat overnight waiting patiently for us to cook them off this morning. Mom read me the ingredients and I put everything together. It’s not often I have my Mom overnight, so it was kind of special. We watched Chef’s Table:Pizza on Netflix and the Great British Baking Show Christmas Special and ate popcorn before our eyes got too tired to watch anything else. 

Today, we explored Benicia after our waffle making effort.  I was hoping my favorite One House Bakery would be open because my Mother has never eaten there. Turns out, Mondays and Tuesdays most businesses are closed down on First Street. We found a cute shop called Pink Arrows where Mom found a comfy pair of Christmas Sweats. She was excited to get something new and I was happy to treat her. 

We walked through the town into a book store where she was inspired to buy a Christmas gift for her granddaughter Josie. Lucky us, we found a florist with cute wreaths, succulents and pretty fresh flowers to admire. A decision was made to head to Lafayette to have lunch and walk around Orchard Nursery. Unfortunately, it was also closed. Since Covid, lots of small businesses limit their hours and I always forget this is our new reality. Lunch was at Sideboard Cafe, but Mom wasn’t impressed even though she practically inhaled her pulled pork sandwich. 

I dropped her off at home with all of her goodies and here I am at my gym where I prefer to write. I can concentrate better here without the distractions and responsibilities at home.

The latest day trip was celebrating my younger son Andrew’s 30th birthday. My husband and I were excited Andrew had time in his schedule to go out with us. We called our other son Curtis, but he wasn’t up for a last minute day trip. Our original plans were to go to St. George’s Spirit in Alameda only to find out that they haven’t been open since Covid. What a bummer. I have been craving their pear brandy and I’ve been on the distillery tour where they explain how it’s made with my niece Michelle. There are huge crates and crates of fresh pears lined up ready for the process. We could have gone back to the fabulous Hansons of Sonoma’s Distillery, (a previous blog with an apricot ginger biscotti recipe), but I didn’t think of that at the time. So my next idea was to check out the distillery in Napa. 

Andrew loves Whole Spice in Oxbow Public Market. He loves to cook and make pickles with fancy exotic spices, so he chose several items from there. Next, I wanted to go to Model Bakery before they closed. I love their day-old pastries and we bought a ham and cheese baguette that was purchased at a reduced cost also. I love getting a deal and don’t mind the taste of a day old muffin or croissant. The Napa Distillery was disappointing. We waited for 15 minutes and the employees barely looked up at us while helping other customers. We also saw the sit down Napa Distillery in downtown Napa, but they were fully booked and not a chair in sight. Andrew was interested in their bitters, and they didn’t have any bottles in that location. Too bad, but not worth getting excited about.

Next door was The Fatted Calf Charcuterie shop. They have the best meats and cheeses to choose from. Andrew and I picked out two more sandwiches, a porchetta and a pastrami and we walked over to Fieldworks Brewery to enjoy our lunch. Andrew ordered the Sour and Dark flight for only $18.00 which included a Belgian Abbey Ale called Abigail, a Salted Raspberry called Gose, Cabana Republic a Tropical Sour Ale, Pioneers & Pirate Ship a Czech Dark Lager, the Nighttime Creatures a Pumpkin Milk Stout and a Plain ol dark Stout called Shtickless. My husband had a root beer and I had a glass of Dark Stout. The sandwiches and beer were a fun way to begin our celebration and their outdoor patio was relaxing and a fun atmosphere to hang out in.

My son Andrew, Me and husband Ken at Archer Hotel Napa

Already 3:45PM, we drove to downtown Napa and parked near the Archer Hotel. This fancy place has a happy hour cocktail menu downstairs at the Charlie Palmer Steak Lounge Bar. We were happy to arrive just before it opened and were graciously served by the nice bartenders. I love sitting at the bar and watching the circus of drinks being made. I watch with amazement at the herbs, potions and citrus they use to doctor up our libations. We weren’t hungry, since we had just eaten, but I enjoyed the Pineapple Express made with Milagro tequila, pineapple, lime and jalapeno. Andrew had the Far West Cider and we got the scoop about where else to eat in Napa. Before going to the next restaurant, we made our way up the elevator to the top floor Sky & Vine RoofTop Bar. The 360 degree view is outstanding and we got lucky to find the last three seats that were open at the bar. I had to try the margarita on tap and Andrew was treated to a beer from a stranger who heard it was his 30th birthday. What a nice guy. He left where we were sitting with his partner to get a seat next to the fire pits.

It wasn’t long before we were walking to our next foodie spot. We were hoping to find the restaurant Morimoto Napa where we had eaten before and just happened to see the grand opening of Morimoto Asia. Of course I had to go in and try to get a reservation. When I tell people I’m a food blogger, they seem to make special arrangements in their bookings for me. This time, we were able to get in at 7:45PM if we could come back. We were thrilled especially because Chef Masaharu Morimoto, a Michelin Star recipient was there in the restaurant and I’m a huge fan. He’s famous for being on The Iron Chef America, and got his start by working at the popular Nobu Restaurant.

I’m getting ahead of myself because I haven’t written about Los Agaves Napa. The bartender at the Charlie Palmer Steak Lounge recommended we order their Quesabirras (a braised beef mini quesadilla with a side of beef broth as a dipping sauce.) I also ordered their guacamole and chips and La Marilyn for $14.00 (Mescal, Malibu Rum, Domaine Di Canton and coconut.) Sooo yummy. Andrew was enticed to try the Mezcal Flight which was three one oz pours of Union Mezcal, Ojo De Tigre, and Madre Mezcal with pineapple and orange garnish for $26.00. I must say Los Agaves didn’t disappoint my taste buds. This place is FOR REAL. It’s the best Mexican cuisine that I’ve ever experienced. The mariachi band came to our table and sang to Andrew who immediately got up and began to dance. Maybe the alcohol kicking in helped to initiate this. Executive Chef Erick Lagunas also took the time to speak with us and he was excited about the upcoming several new locations in the works as well as the existing one in Santa Barbara. Our waiter Carlos brought out complimentary flan and churro with chocolate sauce desserts with fireworks shooting high in the air to surprise us. 

And don’t forget, we still had reservations at Chef Morimoto’s upscale second wine country restaurant Morimoto Asia within walking distance. The atmosphere was happening! You could feel the vibe of a restaurant’s opening night. The lighting was dim and the cuisine places more emphasis on Chinese flavors including dim sum, and sake flights.

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Andrew impressed by Chef Morimoto’s signed birthday napkin

The dedication to service was noticeable. We were spoiled all day and the night wasn’t even close to being over. I ordered the Saidoku cocktail made of Amaro, Montenegro, Cointreau and Yuzu. Obviously I didn’t need another drink, but I couldn’t help myself. It was Andrew’s birthday, and we had a designated driver Mr. Ken Smyth.He’s my everything.  Andrew decided upon a sake which they served on ice. We ordered the salt and pepper black cod, the sticky ribs with hoisin sweet chili glaze and the dim sum samplers. Lastly, they served Andrew a complimentary coconut sorbet and Chef Morimoto signed a napkin ceremoniously and wished him a happy birthday.

What a day. Not only did Andrew have a memorable time with us in Napa, we sampled tastes of the best restaurants in Northern California. If you want the inside scoop, keep subscribing to my blog and I will keep you entertained. Thanks again for reading and commenting below about your favorite Napa experiences.

Chai Spice Shortbread Ginger Men

Chai Spice Shortbread Ginger Men Cookies

Chai Spice Recipe

10 Cardamom Pods (or 1 t ground cardamom)

4 whole cloves or ½ teas ground cloves

1 T fennel seeds or fennel powder

½ t nutmeg

1 cinnamon stick crushed or 2 t ground cinnamon

1 star anise

2 t ground ginger

10 black peppercorns

Using a blender or spice grinder, place all ingredients inside and blend until finely ground. Spice mixture will keep for four months if kept in an airtight jar in a cool dark place. (Only need 1 ½ T for recipe)

Shortbread Cookie Ingredients

1 1/2 C. Unsalted Butter softened

¾ C Granulated sugar Plus ¼ divided for use w nuts

1 t Vanilla paste

1 C All Purpose Flour

1 C Pastry Flour (Can substitute All Purpose)

½ C Flax Meal

½ C Whole Wheat Flour

1 ½  T Chai Spice

1 t Maldon Salt

⅛ C Shelled Pistachios

⅛ C Cashews

⅛ C Toasted Almonds (Put almonds only into a preheated 350 degree oven on a sheet pan for 9 min. Cool)

3 4 0unce bars High quality white chocolate baking bar (Lindt or Ghirardelli preferably) You can use morsels, but they are harder to melt.

2 T heavy cream

3 T Dried chopped raspberries for decoration

Using a food processor, blend nuts together with ¼ C granulated sugar until it resembles a fine powder. Using the sugar prevents the nuts turning into butter. Or use a coffee grinder or chop them finely.

Chai Spice Shortbreadhttps://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Shortbread Directions:

In a stand mixer, beat butter, ¾ C sugar and vanilla paste until creamy on medium speed scraping bowl often.

In a large bowl, stir together flours, salt, chai spice, and finely chopped nuts (save a few Tablespoons for decoration). On low speed, add dry mixture gradually to sugar butter mixture just until well combined.

Divide dough in half, form into flat discs and refrigerate for an hour or longer. Tip: I use empty cereal bags that I cut and use to roll out dough. They can be cleaned and reused.

Line two sheet pans with parchment paper, or use sil pat mats.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

On a lightly floured surface, roll one of the discs out to ¼ inch thick, keeping the other half in the fridge until ready to use.

Use a gingerbread cutter dipped in flour and cut out ginger chai men. Alternatively, you can use any shape you desire.

Bake immediately using one pan at a time in the center of the preheated oven for about 15 min or until slightly brown.

Let cool on the pan for 5 minutes to let the cookie set. Remove from the hot pan onto a drying rack and cool completely.

In a ban marie, break up white chocolate bars into the bowl and add heavy cream. Stir until incorporated, not letting mixture get too hot or it will seize. (You can also use the microwave.)

Have a sheet pan with parchment ready. Dip each cookie into the melted chocolate mixture and sprinkle quickly with some reserved nuts and dried chopped raspberries before the chocolate dries.

Store cookies in the freezer, or in an airtight container for one week.

Cookies look best right after coated in chocolate, so keep cookie dough or baked cookies in the freezer for up to a month.

Recipe adapted from Mumbai Modern Cookbook and Amisha Gurbani also known on Instagram as @thejamlab

When serving a lot of people, make smaller shortbread cookies.http://www.letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Teri

 

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Camino de Santiago PartThree

Camino de Santiago PartThree

This is the list Nancy provided for us to prepare for our adventure hiking the Camino in Spain. If you haven’t read part one and two you can find them in these links. I’m writing this blog three years later. I was cleaning out my drafts getting ready to write about my New York trip last week and came across these great photos. All I can say is that traveling with these women Nancy, Beth and Jeanie was easy, care free and drama free. We all got along magically. There wasn’t a conflict of any sort, which I can’t say was the case for the trip to New York. Here are a few more great photos of my time on the Camino. But first a photo of my son Curtis and his dog Hankster. If you read till the end you will hear about all of our pets at the Smyth house.

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My son Curtis with his dog Hankster

Packing  IMG_5415

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A local resting on bench in Arzua Spain. The Camino is something everyone should experience. We walked through towns and cobblestone streets. We saw stray horses, chickens, dogs and cats and even herds of sheep running through the countryside. The food was hit or miss. Most places along the trail had Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish Tortilla made with eggs and potatoes) which is a staple in this part of Spain. Octopus was offered at most of the fancier restaurants, yet I didn’t care for the way they prepared it. Seen below we are sharing a meal at Pazo de Santa Maria Hotel. They had the best food. We were having their butternut squash soup as a first course. I loved their breakfast offerings too with many home made dark breads with oats on top.

By far, my most favorite spot on the Camino de Santiago at Pazo Santa Maria

This is us from the left Marianne, Sharon, Canadian couple, Jeanie, Beth and me having dinner at Pazo Santa Maria with our friends who happened to be just about everywhere we were.

We were so happy to find this gem  Pazo de Santa Maria located in Arzua Spain while walking the Camino de Santiago. Of course Nancy Solomon makes all of our arrangements for travel. I can’t believe how fortunate I am to get to experience these trips with her.

After walking for hours, we entered the property to be greeted by a miniature schnauzer puppy who ran over a duck pond bridge to say hello. I am a huge fan of these dogs since I’ve had this breed of dog three times in my lifetime. The first miniature schnauzer I had was named Shnopsie. Shnopsie ran away on Easter Sunday and ended up getting picked up by another family who drove him up north several hours away. I remember my family, all six of us voting whether to drive up and get our dog, or to get another dog. I was out voted. I cried and cried to the song If from the Best of Bread Album which was very popular. This was the first time I felt a loss and I was maybe 11 years old. The next schnauzer was named Katy-Did. She was a sweet dog, but she had stomach problems and we had to puree her food in a blender. She threw up all over the house and us kids always yelled “I’m not cleaning it!” The last person to say it had to clean up the barf. At the end of Katy-Did’s life, she moved in with me at Diane Nobel’s house because my Mother sold the house on 1515 Grove Way after her divorce was final to my Dad, and moved into a condo in Orinda with my brother. I lived there and rented a room in Diane’s house in Pleasant Hill with my new born son Curtis and worked as a nanny taking care of a boy named Joel. Katy-Did had diabetes and needed shots every morning, so I took care of her until the end of her life.

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My son Curtis in his Mickey Mouse Bed with our cat Woody

My third schnauzer was gifted to me by my husband Ken who bought him a week after we got married in June of 1989. We named him “Coops” after the priest who married us at Queen of All Saints, Father Cooper. He was all black with one white spot on his collar. Coops was a great dog. He made our new family complete. We already had “Woody” our cat for a few years. We got him at an animal shelter for Christmas when we lived in the Northwood Apartments and surprised Curtis who was three at the time. Curtis loved the movie Oliver and would watch it over and over again. He wanted to name him “Catty” but we settled on Woody. Woody was the friendliest cat you ever met. He always wanted to be in your lap. And he was fierce. Once he ran through our family room glass window on Ida Drive when he was chased by my Mother’s Jack Russel Terrier “Corky.” We found him a few blocks away and brought him home. Corky didn’t last long with my mother either. She gave him to a farm in the country where he terrorized those animals as well. Woody lost an eye towards the end of his life, but he was a sweet and loving cat and my kids loved him.

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My husband Ken holding our dog Coops

Since I’m sharing about our pets, I can’t forget to include Baxter who was a cross between Carion Terrier and Daschund. He brought a lot of joy to our lives. Andrew and my niece Jasmine and I went to ARF during the Christmas Holiday break. They gave away free coffee and popcorn and I’m always in the mood for free snacks. We fell in love with Baxter right away. His name in the kennel was “Grand Master Flash” and he was being pursued by the Sparks family in our neighborhood. The rule of adoption is that all members of the family have to be present before they will release the pet. My husband Ken met us after work and we happily came home with our little bundle of fur.

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Me and Baxter

A year before Baxter, we welcomed two kittens Charlie and Charcoal to our home. These animals were found behind the bowling alley in Castro Valley. My sister in law Alyson was a vet tech at a nearby veterinarian hospital and brought them over to us. We only wanted one of them, but couldn’t decide and ended up taking them both. We recently lost Charlie who lived until he was 16 years old. Charcoal died a year before that during Covid.

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Our kittens Charlie and Charcoal

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Secret Persimmon Recipe

Secret Persimmon Recipe
Persimmon Bars with Lemon Glaze

Persimmon Bars

I made this recipe and brought them to a holiday party several years ago after receiving a huge bag of fuyu persimmons from my neighbor. This party was a reunion for my friends who I worked with at Andronicos Cooking School in Danville California, which has since closed. We taught many wine maker dinners and lunch and learn classes to the community. I mostly worked as a sous chef, served wine and cleaned the dishes, but we all had the best time together. I was inspired to post this blog today because my friend Rose asked me for a copy of the recipe. This one is for you Rose.

Once you make this recipe you’ll never go back to your old and boring persimmon recipes.

Persimmon Bar Ingredients:


3 or 4 ripe Fuyu or Hachiya persimmons

1½ tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp baking soda

1¾ C Unbleached All purpose flour

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 C granulated sugar

Zest of one lemon. I use a vegetable peeler and pulse lemon peel with sugar in a food processor until your lemon peel has been incorporated into sugar.

½ C Canola or vegetable oil

1/2 C. dried apricots or dates chopped

1/2 C. dried plums or prunes chopped

1/2 C fresh blueberries

1 C chopped walnuts

Walnuts, egg, oil, lemon zest sugar and persimmon puree


Glaze

1 C confectioners’ sugar

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Persimmon Bar Directions:


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 13X9 dish knocking out excess flour or use parchment paper in a Pampered chef Bar Pan. Cut off and discard green stems of persimmons and puree the persimmons in food a processor or blender until combined. Strain through a sieve to remove seeds and skin.

In a separate small bowl blend persimmon puree, lemon juice and baking soda blend well. The baking soda reacts with the lemon juice and persimmon and it bubbles up.

In a food processor blend lemon 🍋 zest and 1 C granulated sugar.

In a large bowl combine persimmon puree lemon mixture, oil, lemon sugar, vanilla and egg.


In a separate bowl, sift together flour, spices and salt.

Flour and spices

Add flour mixture alternately to persimmon mixture starting and ending with the flour mixture until combined. Stir in walnuts, apricots or dates, blueberries and plums/prunes.

Spread batter onto baking pan and bake until golden and a wooden toothpick comes out clean about 24 minutes.

Glaze instructions:

In a small bowl mix lemon 🍋 juice and confectioners sugar until smooth. Drizzle over bars while warm. Cool on a wire rack and cut crosswise into 8 strips, then lengthwise into fourths, for a total of 32 bars. Bars keep in an airtight container for 3 days.Enjoy!


I made this recipe and brought them to a holiday party several years ago. This party was a reunion for my friends who I worked with several years ago at Andronicos Cooking School in Danville California, which has since closed. I was inspired to post this blog today because my friend Rose asked me for a copy of the recipe. This one is for you Rose.

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine Dec 2004

In case you are wanting another recipe full of tons of ginger, try my Ginger Chai Cupcakes 

And follow my blog by signing up with so you receive more great tasty recipes. 

 

 

 

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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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Love at First Bite at Murietta’s Well Livermore

Love at First Bite at Murietta’s Well Livermore

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Marie and Ana lounging at Murietta’s Well Livermore

Took a day trip to #Livermore two weeks ago to discover the food and wine of Wente at Murrieta’s Well with my friend Ana. We met my niece Marie there for fun, libations and plenty of yummy appetizers. After our tummies were full, and Marie graciously paid the bill while I wasn’t looking,  Ana and I toured downtown Livermore and Marie went back to work handling all of Wente’s marketing.

 

I’m lucky enough to be related to the sweetest niece of the century. Goodness knows I have plenty of nieces, 9 in fact. But Marie is always spoiling me by inviting me to Wente Winery and Murrieta’s Well Estate located at the heart of the Livermore Valley. She is always gracious with her time by taking a longer lunch to entertain me and my guests. We are treated royally because everything at Wente is a Five Star experience.

 

Their wines are spectacular and something you should familiarize yourself with.The grounds are elegant and no nonsense offering picturesque views of the vineyards. Outdoor summer concerts are a thing and something you and your loved ones would enjoy. Here’s a You Tube clip of our day together.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WArO49Uw_tY

 

We ordered their Cheese and Charcuterie Board that came with three different cheeses, sesame crisps, salami, prosciutto, dried fruit and spicy almonds. And I fell in love with their Market Fresh Board which was loaded with a roasted cauliflower curry hummus,carrots, jicama, olives, pita bread and fresh berries. Practically everything was gone by the time we were done with our tastings. We tasted a flight of Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, a 2016 Merlot, and a woodsy black cherry Cabernet Sauvignon just to name a few.

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Ana standing in front of a mural of Livermore

The town of Livermore is quaint and bizarrely whimsical. We walked into In Between Stitches a sewing store and got plenty of quilt making ideas. Next we checked out Board & Brush Creative Studio since they were having their grand opening. There’s tons of fun to be had making crafts with your friends for your home and garden.

 

Of course we walked by plenty of places to eat, but we didn’t dare drink more and we certainly weren’t hungry. There was plenty of time to check out the Livermore Outlets on the way home. Ana wanted to buy some Ghirardelli Chocolate for her family in Florida, but it took us forever to locate the shop. Eventually, I always find my way into a chocolate shop. Go figure.

 

So if you are thinking of getting out of the house and taking a drive, check out Livermore California. And don’t forget to make time for your loved ones. If you are lucky like me, you can enjoy your family while checking out new places in the Bay Area. Much gratitude goes out to my niece Marie, for being as sweet as can be and spoiling your auntie. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

 

Thanks for reading my blog. Take a moment and subscribe so you can read more of my food and wine adventures. Or leave a comment below and tell me your favorite place that I need to try out next time. Meanwhile, have a Happy Turkey Day. If you want to see my last post on St Helena read this.

 

Teri:)

 

 

 

 

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Eat, Pray, Love During this time of Thanksgiving

Eat, Pray, Love During this time of Thanksgiving

Here we are in November and Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Yet, there have been two devastating wildfires: #WoosleyFire in Southern California and Butte County #CampFire wildfires in Northern California that have kept everyone scrambling to get to safety. I’m sad for the families that have lost their homes and loved ones and pray they get the help they need.  It’s times like these that I’m extra grateful for my family.

 

I was lucky enough to spend Tuesday last week with my Mom, her husband Tom, and their renter Ana in St. Helena. I was happy to drive them to the wine country and show them around for a few nibbles and sips of wine. Ana, originally from Croatia has been working as a traveling nurse at a nearby hospital. She will only be here for a few months and wants to see as much as possible. My Mom and Tom and I were available to spoil her, and since it was her birthday we made the day extra special.

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Great day on patio of Trinchero Winery

 

First we drove to Trinchero Family Estates in St. Helena. The property is decked out with the finest rock walls, luxurious textiles and sprawling vineyards. The view from their patio where there is bocce ball and a huge copper fire pit is nothing short of breath taking. Of course, they served plenty of wine to Tom and Ana while we strolled the meticulous grounds.

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Mom and me at Trinchero Estate

Lunch came next at the famous Rutherford Grill down the street. If you like good food, and excellent service you won’t want to go anywhere else. Plenty of warm out of the oven focaccia with their fruity herbed olive oil, olives, peppers, roasted almonds and cheese is always ordered as a starter. I’m a huge fan of their French dip, but was a little disappointed when we learned they don’t serve a complimentary birthday dessert. I’m going to keep that in mind next time there is a birthday to celebrate and we are choosing a restaurant. 😦

Next was Grgich Hills where we were hoping Ana could chat with the Croatian family. Unfortunately they weren’t on the property 😦 so we moved on. The town of St. Helena was calling us and we didn’t want to miss out on spending as much time there as we could.

 

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My Mom found a cute linen shop where they embroider personalized items for purchase. My Mom and I come from a long line of seamstresses on the Portuguese side and she was mesmerized by this place. Of course we had to stop at WoodHouse Chocolate since we needed a little something sweet for the birthday girl. They had artful displays of chocolate turkeys and pumpkins to get us thinking of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. But a tried and true dark chocolate espresso truffle was all I needed to get on with the day. Tom bought Mom and Ana English toffee with almonds another favorite of mine. Here’s my recipe.

Our family journey ended with a stop at Lucy’s Bar at the Bardessono Restaurant in Yountville. I love sitting out in their heated fireside patio where we can enjoy another cocktail, or in my case a hot chocolate with whipped cream since I was driving. My guests loved every second of it and especially enjoyed walking through the town of Yountville and not forgetting to get a pastry at Bouchon. Being a food and travel blogger has been fun and rewarding and especially memorable having time with my Mom. She has been ill for the past five years, but is doing extremely well.

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During this Thanksgiving holiday, I’m especially grateful that my Mom and Tom are well enough to travel with me to places like St Helena and Yountville. I hope you are enjoying your loved ones too. I’m keeping those who have lost their homes and family members in the fires in my prayers. If you have it in your hearts to donate to the Disaster Relief efforts within the Red Cross, anything you can give is helpful. Or here is the latest article on ways to help. And thank you to @tylerflorence for feeding those in need. Here is a preview of his latest movie Uncrushable on last years’ wildfire in the Wine Country.

Thanks for reading my blog. I’m happy to share my recipes and excursions with you. Follow me by subscribing and you will automatically receive my next blog posts in your email.  

Well, it is almost Thanksgiving. I have so much to be grateful for. It is wonderful to spend time with friends and family on this joyous occasion. I first ate this recipe when I attended Thanksgiving at my sister Julie’s house @ 10 years ago. Her wonderful sister in law Mary Ann brought this dish to share and my family won’t ever be having another Thanksgiving holiday without it.
Your family will LOVE it too!

Sweet Potato Casserole

 

3 C. Mashed sweet potatoes( roast in oven for 1 hour@350 degrees or boil)

 

1/3 C. Brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

 

1/3 C. Skim milk

 

2 T. Margarine/ butter

 

1 tsp vanilla

 

½ tsp Kosher salt

 

2 egg whites (Whipped until frothy)

 

Topping

 

½ C. Packed brown sugar

 

¼ C flour

 

2 Tbsp chilled butter

 

1/3 C. Pecans chopped

1/2  teaspoon cinnamon

 

 Prepare by  whipping egg whites until stiff. Then take the first six ingredients and mix thoroughly in stand mixer. Fold egg whites into sweet potato mixture and spread evenly in a 13X9 glass dish.

Make the topping by putting all of the ingredients into a cuisinart and blend, or cut ingredients w a pastry blender by hand. Sprinkle topping over sweet potatoes evenly.

 

350 degrees for 30 min

Serves @ 6 people.

 

Teri

 

 

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Autumn Feast: Pumpkin Seed Pesto Caramel Apples and Apple Turnover Recipe

Autumn Feast: Pumpkin Seed Pesto Caramel Apples and Apple Turnover Recipe

I had the pleasure of joining my friend Lise and her husband at their property in Tahoe a couple of weeks ago. Lise had never been to Apple Hill in Placerville, and I wanted her to experience it, so she invited me up to her property after. After that excursion, we spent a couple of days cooking together, eating out at local restaurants, entertaining and exploring the cute town of Genoa Nevada.

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Carl and Lise at Walley’s Restaurant and Saloon

I met Lise while hiking the trails of Mount Diablo a few years back. She is a nutritionist and I love learning more about the health advantages of food. We can talk for hours about recipes and baking. And of course, we walked a lot while on this vacation. Sadly, my husband couldn’t join us because of his work.

 

First off, we stopped at Boa Vista Farms, where we bought decadent blueberry dumplings, blackberry dumplings, apple turnovers, and this is where we watched these caramel apples being made. Here’s the blog I wrote on my first trip there. They have everything apple. It’s quite a fun place to visit. Lots of activities for the kids and plenty of fresh fruit to purchase. My friends loved it so much that they wanted to go back to explore more farms on the way home.

 

Next, we drove to Carl and Lise’s home. It was lovely and we promptly took their cute dog for a walk around the neighborhood. For dinner that night we ate at David Walley’s Restaurant and Saloon. I had their French Dip and green salad and my friends had the ribs. It amused me to experience eating at a saloon. My friends told me that ordering a meal at the bar is much cheaper than eating at the restaurant especially if it is happy hour. And the food was really good. I had a beer on tap served with sliced oranges, my go to drink. I would recommend this place to anyone who needs to fuel their bodies and they have a resort on site for people that need a place to stay.

 

The next morning, Lise and I proceeded to take the family dog on a jaunt before cooking up a storm. The neighborhood is still being developed and  cottontail bunnies, jack rabbits, coyotes, rattlesnakes and scorpions are known to be living in the vicinity as well. This information made me a little on edge, since I’m not a huge fan of snakes. Luckily, we only came across one baby one in the middle of the road and he was harmless.

 

So when packing for the trip, I grabbed a few ingredients that I had in my fridge. I brought along plenty of fresh tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, canned olives, fresh corn, roasted beets, goat cheese, mandarin oranges, pistachios, bib lettuce, some of my homemade apricot jam, cheese and crackers for a cheese platter, refried beans,tortilla chips, sour cream, candied pecans, and herbs from my garden. I never leave the house without plenty of food.

 

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Little did I know, Lise had invited guests over for dinner, so my provisions came in handy. We spent the morning making corn salsa, a bean dip, zucchini quesadillas with pistachio-pumpkin seed pesto, and coleslaw. Oh my! The food we made was over the top stupendous. Lise’s guests were blown away by our appetizers, beet salad and main dish quesadillas. All of it was made with love and you could taste it in the food.

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Roasted beet salad w pistachios, mandarin oranges and goat cheese

Before the day got away from us, we headed town to tour Grover Hot Springs where we hiked around for a while. Feeling a bit hungry we stopped for lunch at The Pink House Cheese and Charcuterie Shop & Restaurant. We were amazed by their Fall menu selections as well as their selection of specialty foods smartly displayed on cute wooden shelves. Not only was this place located in an old victorian building, but their dishes were outstanding. I had their pork meatball on top roasted spaghetti squash and marinara, and Lise enjoyed their salmon burger with coleslaw, green salad and potato leek soup. Our waiter bragged about the chef from Philadelphia who was known for his meatballs. I found them a little bland, but they served it with a herbed goat cheese on top which made perfect sense.

 

Next was a quick stroll through the town of Genoa, where we walked by their country store, and Nevada’s Oldest Saloon where they have Sunday entertainment called porch parties. Of course there was an antique shop and my favorite store Sierra Chef Italian Pastries, (Purveyors of Bently Ranch Meats), which served coffee, tea plenty of goodies. You can also take cooking classes there! I was thrilled to see all of their ingredients stored on shelves in glass jars and their spices were stored in huge glass bottles. They must go through a lot of seasonings.

 

We were tempted by all the freshly baked goods, but don’t forget I was with a nutritionist. And we still had plenty of pastries left from Apple Hill.

 

Last stop was the Courthouse Museum where Lise and I browsed antique quilts, dolls, teddy bears, jail cells from 1865, the post office and the Genoa courthouse. I felt like I was back in an old western movie seeing how the small community lived way back when.

 

Back at the house, Lise and I prepared the remaining dishes for her friends who were about to arrive. Among the appetizers were corn salsa with avocado, candied pecans, bean dip with tortilla chips, and a cheese platter with my apricot jam and pineapple pepper jelly. Lise’s dinner entree of zucchini quesadillas with pumpkin seed pistachio pesto was exceptional and my roasted beet, goat cheese, mandarin orange and pistachio salad was delicious too. The evening went by too quickly for us all, but good memories were made.

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Lise’s zucchini quesadillas and pumpkin seed pistachio pesto

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Lise, Carl and their neighbors enjoying our Fall feast

High Hill Ranch was our destination before heading home where we collected apple and pumpkin donuts and a huge box of Autumn Glory Apples. They have been going fast in my house mostly because I love apple turnovers. Recipe below.

 

Fun was had by all during my mid week excursion in Tahoe. Lise and Carl were generous to let me stay with them and I’m thankful for their hospitality.

If you haven’t been to Apple Hill yet, it’s a must this time of year. Go hungry and take a few friends. They won’t be disappointed.

 

Apple Turnovers

Ingredients for filling:

3 or 4 Apples thickly sliced (depending on size about 3 or 4 cups)

1 C crushed Flaked Corn Cereal

1 C Granulated Sugar divided

1 t cinnamon (Penzey’s brand is best)

½  t ground ginger

½ t ground cardamom

½ t ground cloves

1 stick of unsalted butter (1/2 Cup) Cold cut into chunks

2 T Rum or Brandy

1 egg whisked in a small bowl

 

Mix ½ C sugar with spices and set aside.

Put cut apples in a bowl and pour rum or brandy over. Set aside.

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Pastry:

3 C Flour

3 T granulated Sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter (1 stick)

¼ C. Shortening

3 Tbsp  H2O

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tsp white distilled vinegar

Directions for making Pastry

  1.  In a  large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blended and working quickly to prevent butter from melting into flour, cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (or put mixture in food processor and pulse until combined) Another pie recipe here:Strawberry pie
  2. In a small bowl combine water, egg, and vinegar. Stir to mix. With a fork, mix egg mixture into flour just until dough clumps together and moist enough to pat together. If dough is dry and crumbly, add more water 1 Tbsp at a time. Dough should not be wet or sticky. (I use the food processor and pulse until combined.)
  3. Wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  4. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll with pin to flatten and cut into rounds about the size of the palm of your hand.
  5. Sprinkle each round of pastry with 1 T sugar, then 1 T crushed corn flakes. Lay 4 or 5 slices of apples on center of sugar. Sprinkle again with 1 T cinnamon, sugar mixture. Bless each turnover with 1 T butter and fold over pinching the seams. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Proceed to make all turnovers until all pastry is gone and no apples are remaining. Brush with whole egg and sprinkle again with sugar.
  6. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for about 15-22 minutes until brown and bubbly.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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Enjoy! If you liked this blog, please sign up and follow me to receive more recipes and any new posts. Thank you for reading as always.

Teri

 

 

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Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti

Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti

https://letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Grapes just picked at Heirs of my Dream Winery Sonoma

 

Took a vacation day trip out to the Sonoma area last week. I’ve been wanting to check out the new Hanson Distillery along Hwy 12 in the Carneros Valley for some time. I’ve been passing this place and dying to go in, but I usually have my Dad in the car and he doesn’t want to stop at these places. While out and about, I also had the pleasure of walking around Homewood Winery, Troika Wines, and Ceja Vineyards. Of course I took advantage of checking out Domaine Carneros,  Napa’s Stanly Lane Smokehouse Deli, their pumpkin farm next door, and Starmont Winery and Vineyards.

 

Today’s drive was spontaneous and last minute. Never enough time to schedule a pal to go along with me, so I decided to go by myself. It’s so much fun to explore these hidden gems especially this time of year. The colors are changing on the vines, the weather is cooler, and there is a crisp breeze which makes me want to drive to the wine country.

First was a tour of Heirs of my dream Winery by Ellie. She showed me around the quaint property letting me get a glimpse into her world. I was attracted to this property because I heard a man singing loudly while cleaning out wine barrels. This property is perfect for weddings and parties. Have I mentioned it is brand new? Their website is barely up, but they are doing exciting things.

 

www.letsmakemudpies.wordpress.com

Gorgeous venue.

 

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Krzystof and Hanson’s vodka

 

Next was a mango, habanero vodka cocktail at Hanson’s Distillery carefully prepared by a Polish guy named Krzystof. I learned all about the Hanson family who are passionate about vodka and originally from Marin. They are the first non-GMO distillery in the US and make their vodka from grapes. They have many flavors: cucumber, ginger, mandarin, habanero, and limited varieties of espresso and boysenberry. The drink was delicious, a bit spicy too because of the habanero vodka and their Tajin Clasico Chili Lime Seasoning rimmed glass. The espresso had a bold rich flavor with notes of chocolate. The property is adorned with a pond and gorgeous romantic trees. It’s quite an experience if you are looking for a fun getaway.

 

On the same estate was Ceja Vineyards, but they were closed. Troika Wines were right next door and were offering tastings, but I had to decline since I was at my limit after drinking the cocktail. Across the road was Homewood Winery, but I chose to move on.

I’ve always wondered what the enormous breathtaking beautiful chateau was that is along Hwy 12 on the hill, and was pleasantly surprised to find Domaine Carneros. Reservations were required, but I was happy enough to walk around the premises. It seemed a bit stuffy for my taste, but I’m sure well worth the tasting if you are looking for sparkling wine and pinot noir.
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Fancy Pumpkins in wheel barrow

On the way back to Hwy 29 on the left was Stanly Lane Smokehouse Deli and I was getting plenty hungry by then. The family run business owned by Wilcoxson’s are best known for their authentic pit smoked meats. Pulled pork, chicken, tri tip and brisket sandwiches are served just to name a few. I didn’t stay, since I was intrigued by their pumpkin farm adjacent to the restaurant. I’m quite the farmer, and appreciate what goes into growing these crops. This atmosphere is family friendly and a must see for locals and travelers alike.

My last stop in the Carneros Valley was paying a visit to the 50 acres of  Starmont Winery and historic Stanly Ranch. Gargantuan eucalyptus trees grace the property which draw you in and make you want to see more. It was quiet yet inviting and a nice place to spend a couple of hours. Since I was driving, I didn’t partake in their tastings, but will go back someday.

I enjoyed my day trip to the Carneros Valley. The habanero vodka cocktail is something I’d like to make for friends in the future. I will probably make one of my famous cheese platters to go with them as well. Included will be my pineapple pepper jelly from my homegrown organic serrano peppers. I also enjoy my blenheim apricot jam to accompany the brie and blue cheese.

So I hope I’ve inspired you to make a trip to the Carneros Valley with a few friends or loved ones. I know I will be finding my way back there soon also. But until then, here is my recipe for ginger, apricot, pistachio biscotti. They are chewy, not like an ordinary biscotti and a real treat.

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Candied Ginger Apricot Pistachio Biscotti

 

Ingredients:

2 C All Purpose Flour

1 C Granulated Sugar

1 tsp Baking Powder

3 eggs

2 T Sambuca (an Italian Licorice flavored liquor)

2 T Grand Marnier

1 tsp Vanilla

1 tsp Anise Extract

1 C whole Pistachios

1 T fresh Orange Zest

1/2 t  Saltverk Licorice Salt (found in iceland) or substitute 1/2 t Kosher

½ C chopped Crystalized Ginger

¾ C Mariani Dried Apricots

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Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheet w parchment paper or a silpat.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder together in a large size bowl. In another bowl whisk eggs, both liqueurs, vanilla, anise, orange zest and salt.

Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined. Fold in pistachios, ginger and apricots.

Divide dough in half and transfer onto parchment paper into two 2.5 inch wide logs with floured hands.

Bake until golden in color, firm and dry about 20 minutes.

Remove from pan and slice loaf on a diagonal into ¼ in to ½ in thick slices. Arrange cookies cut side down onto a sheet pan and bake again for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Enjoy! Do you have a favorite biscotti recipe? This is one I’ve adapted from a culinary class taken at Diablo Valley College’s pastry program.

And here is a terrific recipe for scones dipped in dark chocolate.

 

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Wine Tasting, Fabulous Cocktails and Tapas in Healdsburg California

Wine Tasting, Fabulous Cocktails and Tapas in Healdsburg California

 

wine cabinet

It’s been awhile since I have posted because I have been vacationing in Florida and taking day to Apple Hill, Occidental, Healdsburg and Santa Rosa. It’s hard to decide which foodie day to talk about, since all of them were exciting. I will start out writing about last Saturday’s trip to Healdsburg with my niece Michelle. We had the best day tasting wine, eating great meals and Michelle was treated to a few very special cocktails at the bar at Bravas Restaurant.

I don’t know when it started, but a few years back I began taking my nieces and nephews out for their birthdays. It’s been super fun having these twenty somethings around, spoiling them and mostly enjoying time together making memories. Michelle has always been open to an adventure with her Auntie Teri.

Last Saturday was no exception. Michelle and I started out the day early, making sure not to waste any time on our day together. I picked her up at 9:30AM and we drove directly to Healdsburg, only stopping briefly at Keller Estate Winery. We tried to make a quick stop there out of the blue, but they couldn’t accommodate the two of us short notice. We were disappointed because it was high on a hill, near a cute duck pond, but we trudged on ahead to bigger and better wineries.

me and michelle

 

 

First stop was Gustafson. We were treated especially well by a knowledgeable local who not only offered Michelle some of the best 2013 Estate Syrah, but she also gave us a map and recommended the names of other wineries that had to be on our “go to” list. She spoke highly of their vineyard overlooking Lake Sonoma and encouraged us to next time bring a picnic lunch and hang out at their gorgeous family estate. This generous girl also gave us several cards of other wineries in the area that offered free tastings. Of course, we were excited to catch a break and utilized a few of them that day.

 

map of healdsburg

 

Next we found a extraordinary cafe named Shed Shed. This place offers products from local farmers, ranchers, and sustainable artisan producers. When you walk in you are greeted with fresh flowers, garden and kitchen gifts, specialty coffees, exotic teas, a juice bar, a cheese section, charcuterie, gourmet sourdough bread, challah, seeded varieties and more. If you can find a spot to sit, you can splurge on their main dishes like Pear and Prosciutto Pizza, Wood Oven Mussels w smoked tomato, broccoli shoots, Calabrian Chili, cherry tomatoes and toasted bread just to name a couple. Everything is meticulously plated with fresh herbs and petite greens you’ve never seen before. Michelle and I didn’t eat here, but we did partake in their seeded loaf of bread. I’ve been making my own breads lately and very much appreciate what goes into the making of a good loaf. 

Close by was Costeaux Bakery where we picked up a French Baguette (I told you I was into bread!) with goat cheese, salami and fresh greens. I behaved myself and didn’t buy the coconut macaroon dipped in chocolate (my fav), but I did go for the day old pastries which included a chocolate croissant, a few raspberry pastries and a plain croissant to take home to the family. We also had the clerk warm up and split in half their ham, veggie and cheese croissant. Oh my!  I gobbled it up in two bites!

 

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Me and Michelle celebrating her birthday in Healdsburg

 

Spicy Vines had a table outside where we could enjoy our sandwiches alongside their 2015 Cabernet Franc Pine Mountain Cloverdale Peak and Michelle’s favorite Peter’s Delight Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (her brother’s name and the area which my dad was raised.) We relaxed in the midday sun getting caught up on the latest in the life of an audiologist and talked about our upcoming trip to Cancun with our extended families.

 

Now we were ready to make our way into another local winery and found Portalupi.  We took a seat on the comfy couch  and were delighted by the generous pours and friendly guests. We loved everything from the old vine zinfandel to their pinot-noir. Of course I was pacing myself since I was the designated driver and made sure that the birthday girl was getting the most pours and tastes on her special day. 

 

 

A couple hours later, on our way to the restaurant, we stumbled into Journeyman Meats a butcher shop, salumeria and tasting bar. This place is a one of a kind meat market/specialty foods store offering fresh turkey and salami sandwiches alongside cool cookbooks like The Art of Wood Fired Cooking by Mugnaini and In The Charcuterie by Boetticher and Miller.

 

Last but not least, we walked and googled our way to Bravas which had rave reviews by all the locals and it didn’t disappoint. We got lucky and found a spot at the bar where we could watch the bartenders Todd and Jordan (really expert mixologists) prepare some phenomenal cocktails. I didn’t partake in more drinking here, but Michelle was treated with the utmost care getting samples of spirits like Alameda’s St. George’s newest Malt Whiskey “Baller” and San Francisco’s Raff Distillerie’s Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin. There is a very cool story about the rescue dogs named Bummer and Lazarus in case you want to look it up on Instagram. Such a clever name as well.

Bummer and Lazarus

 

We sat next to a couple of ladies named Lucy and Shellie from Menlo Park who kept us entertained  and they graciously gave us the inside scoop as to what to order from the menu. Grilled octopus, foie gras with crispy serrano, and backyard marmalade and bacon wrapped dates with blue cheese. And we ended the meal by ordering their famous crispy yet flavorful Paella. We were in Heaven!

 

I haven’t even begun to describe the cocktails that my niece ordered. She tried the “Bang a Rang’ made with High West Double Rye, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon, and Benedictine and another special drink made with Gin, her favorite. She was having so much fun learning about the various gins, whiskeys and spirits. It was a grand time checking out the local wineries, restaurants, bakeries and coffee houses and I can’t wait to go back.

Make sure you set aside a day to drive to Healdsburg with a relative or two. Why not take advantage of these glorious days of Autumn by spending time in the wine country with your loved ones. I guarantee you will have a good time enjoying good food and you won’t go thirsty either with the many choices of wineries and cocktail bars on every corner.

 

Thanks for reading.

Please follow me for more foodie adventures.

Teri:)

 

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Apple Time is Strongly Encouraged and an Apple Cake Recipe for your Sunday Supper

Apple Time is Strongly Encouraged and an Apple Cake Recipe for your Sunday Supper

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I’m loving the gorgeous Fall weather in Northern California these days. Last week I made a trip to Apple Hill in Placerville to celebrate and take advantage of the Fall colors, food and wine. My primary goal was to get out of town to get away from the depressing news about the Northern California wild fires, to enjoy a long drive, and most importantly take home some gorgeous colorful apples for Sunday night’s dessert.

 

First I started out at Grace Patriot Wines to sample their varietals. I tried the reds only since I was driving and wanted to save my calories for the apple and berry pastries. The women were friendly and generous with their pours and I decided to buy their orange olive oil since I love to bake pound cakes with it.

 

Next I drove a little ways up the street and came across Boa Vista Farms  fresh produce stand, gifts and baked goods. They also have a wine tasting section, as well as apple and pear samples, and fresh apple cider too. The pastries are bursting with fruit and they have a wide array of pies and donuts as well. Don’t forget the caramel apples dipped in chocolate and sprinkles, nuts and Oreo cookies. You will want to buy one of everything.

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Don’t just come here for the sweets, the apple varieties are outstanding. I found bushels of Gala, Jonagold, Empire, Red Delicious, Golden delicious, Jonathan, honey Crisp, Rome, and McIntosh. For about $26.00 you can get a box of these ripe and just picked crisp apples. Of course you can find gourds, pumpkins and fresh vegetables here as well.

 

 

This place is nothing short of charming and great for the entire family. There is a map of various farms and wine makers so you won’t get lost. I find it is more fun to drive along and take a turn here or there. You never know where you might turn up. In fact, this is how I have found my most precious food and wine finds in the past. Just last July I came across Rams Gate Winery when showing our friends from Spain around Sonoma. I was delighted when they were able to accommodate our party of 8 at a long table right in the center of the excitement. They offered us a cheese board and charcuterie platter along with accompaniments like nuts, jam and chocolate truffles. 


It was just what we needed to fill our tummies before stopping for lunch at Rutherford Grill. This place has to be my favorite of all restaurants in the wine country. Their prime rib French dip is amazing and I can’t stop thinking about their focaccia and olive oil side dish. It was melt in your mouth delicious, just the right amount of salty from the bread and fruity taste from the oil. You won’t want to miss eating there. But make sure you have a reservation, because it can get busy.

 

 

So when you want a Fall themed outing and you need to get away for a day, you have a few ideas here to explore. Now for some kitchen time to make homemade cinnamon applesauce, apple cake with caramel sauce and maybe an apple strudel too. Make this for your next Sunday supper. My family will be thrilled with all these goodies and my house will smell divine.

Here is a pic of the strudel.

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Fresh Apple Cake

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4 C peeled and sliced apples (3-4 apples of your choice) I use Jonagold and McIntosh

1 ½ C Granulated sugar

2 C. All Purpose Flour

2 tsp Baking Soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground Ginger

½ tsp Nutmeg

½ tsp ground Cloves

½ tsp Kosher Salt

2 tsp Vanilla

2 Whole Eggs beaten

½ C Canola Oil

½ – 1 C Chopped Walnuts

 

Directions: 

Take sliced apples and coat with granulated sugar in a extra large mixing bowl.set aside. 

Sift dry ingredients ( flour, soda, spices, and salt)  together in a medium size bowl. 

Measure oil in a med size glass measuring cup. Add eggs and vanilla and stir. 

Take bowl with sugared apples and pour dry mixture over them and stir until apples are coated. Pour in wet mixture, chopped walnuts and stir until combined.

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Pour into a 13X9 glass Pyrex dish, smooth out and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 40-45 min or until toothpick comes clean when inserted. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

 

Enjoy!

 

Please follow my blog for more great recipes and stories of my travels. And please Ieave a comment below if you have any questions.

 

 

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