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Sparkling Wine Summertime Fling in Yountville and Pastries at Bouchon

Sparkling Wine Summertime Fling in Yountville and Pastries at Bouchon
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My Dad Ron, niece Marie, me and Sister Susan at Ad Hoc’s Sunday Brunch

I’m struggling about what to write about since I have loads of ideas and travel, foodie experiences still to share. My husband and I went to Italy 3 weeks ago and I’ve got so many stories, it’s hard to know exactly where to begin.  I will make it easy and write about my experience in Yountville last weekend with my dad Ron, older sister Susan and niece Marie. It had been some time since I had visited my dad at the Veterans home, at least six weeks and I was missing him. My sister organized the day and went along for the fun day at Ad Hoc Restaurant, Domaine Chandon and Bouchon Bakery.

 

We began our journey to the wine country at 10AM last Sunday. We didn’t have reservations anywhere, yet we weren’t too concerned as there are so many great choices when you brunch or dine in #Yountville. It was a hot summer day and my dad can’t tolerate the heat, so we were thankful we found a lunch spot indoors.

 

We had heard about Ad Hoc and Addendum which serves crispy fried chicken on picnic tables out behind Ad Hoc Thomas Keller’s famous restaurant. I’ve eaten at several places in the area, but had never experienced eating at one of the most famous chef’s restaurants in the world. So you can imagine my excitement when the hostess offered us a table outside.

 

After seeing my Dad stumble in, the hostess offered us a table available inside, because my father would not have handled the 85 degree August day well. The hostess had explained to me that the menu was limited and that they offered a brunch tasting menu that was served family style for $40.00 per person. I was excited to eat there and would have agreed to anything. I should also admit that I said I was a food blogger. Maybe that information helped us get a table because the place was packed. 

 

My Dad was giving me the stink eye after reading the menu. You see, his favorite restaurant is Sizzler so he can order steak and lobster. The rest of us family members loathes that food and ambiance since we want the best farm to table experience in Napa Valley, not a tough, hard to chew steak.

 

And not to mention, he doesn’t eat with his teeth! He has dentures and takes them out when dining so he can taste his food. Most of the time we are sitting across from him watching him like a hawk so he doesn’t choke. Poor guy is 81 years old and should be able to eat wherever he wants.

 

So you could see how this brunch tasting menu Spinach Salad, Chorizo Hash and K + M Peruvian Chocolate Tart wasn’t anything to get excited about. We decided to order the fried chicken which was $26.00 extra and only 4 small pieces, but it kept my dad satisfied since he wouldn’t touch the salad or the hash. We also ordered a bottle of Domaine Carneros Cuvee de la Pompadour, Brut Rose’ from their extensive wine list for $72.00, since ordering four glasses of sparkling wine is more economical and usually equal to that price.

 

The waiter was generous and brought us bread from Bouchon Bakery with olive oil and balsamic vinegar after I asked. The service was top notch, yet the food was blah. I hate to write a bad review of Thomas Keller’s restaurant Ad Hoc, but we weren’t blown away by their overpriced food. My dad hates bell peppers, so the waiter took that into consideration and provided him hash with red bliss potatoes, mushrooms and onion confit. The dish had a tomatillo sauce on the side which probably is why dad ignored all of it. Back when we were growing up, my mother would sneak bell peppers into his meals and that could have contributed to the demise of their marriage. We expected orchard figs in spinach salad, and not one of us got even one1 There was toasted pecans, garden watermelon radishes which came from the gardens across from The French Laundry which thrilled me, and it was tossed with honey vinaigrette. The fried chicken was worth every bite, even though two of the peices were wings. We learned Addendum has limited hours, so be sure to checkout their website if you plans include mouth-watering fried chicken.

 

Don’t get me wrong, we were ecstatic that they could accommodate us and happy to have experienced this fine restaurant. I didn’t get to check out the rest of their menu, but saw that they did offer steak for $60.00. Looking back, we should have ordered Dad the steak, and everyone would have been happy. After all, how can one complain when you are in wine country on a sunny Sunday, summer day?

 

Our waiter spoke highly of the K + M Chocolate Tart with peanut butter mousse and chocolate pearls. It looked pretty, and tasted fine. I’m not a peanut butter lover, so I swiftly scooped off the peanut butter buttercream and dove in with my fork. Dark chocolate is my favorite, so I took a bite, but this tart didn’t meet my expectations. I bet if I had ordered an espresso I would have enjoyed it more.

 

$400.00 later, and much poorer, we took Dad back to his room at the Veteran’s Home. He was ready for his nap yet my sister, niece and I weren’t ready to call it a day. Domaine Chandon was right next door to my Dad’s place, so it seemed the best choice for our next tasting.

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My Sister Susan and her daughter Marie chilling with Domaine Chandon in Yountville California

 

Marie works for Wente Vineyards and was able to score a professional discount on Chandon’s Reserve Pinot Noir Rose’. We spotted great seats on chairs in the lawn area overlooking the mountains in the distance. We sat for hours chatting about the food in Italy and my niece’s pasta making adventure with her relatives near Bologna. We exchanged stories, recipes and good times while sipping on our cold sparkling wine. 

 

Next up was Bouchon Bakery where we bought hot chocolate, French bread, French macarons, chocolate chip cookies and a single currant scone for my breakfast the next day. If you haven’t been there yet, it’s a must see, must taste extravaganza. They sell everything from baguettes to shortbread,  caramel popcorn, or try their chocolate almond toffee. Here’s my recipe for English Toffee. (They also sell French Macarons which I learned how to make yesterday with my neighbor’s daughter Caroline. I will share the recipe some time soon.) We were happy with our loot and were ready to have my sister drive us the hour back to the Bay Area with our goodies.

 

All in all, a good day was had by everyone. Brunching in Yountville with my family has always lifted my mood and filled my heart. I’m lucky to share these experiences with my loved ones and glad we live fairly close. I guess I will have to share more about my Italy trip on my next blog.

 

When was your last brunch date? Have you participated in any Italian cooking classes? Please share in the comment section below and follow along by signing up to recieve my future blogs.

 

Thank you for stopping by my blog. I hope I’ve inspired you in some way to step out and take a foodie trip. And here’s proof that I can make focaccia Pizza

Have you ever had last minute company on a warm summer evening? We invited our friends Noelle and her husband Mark to dinner last night. We were planning on going to a local Rolling Stones Concert in Broadway Plaza, but decided to stay close to home instead. Sure enough, our good friends John and Karen tusting texted me asked if they could stop by with a gift for me. I said, “Sure!” I was excited when John and Karen brought me Alice Waters’ cookbook Chez Panisse Vegetables. This was a cherished cook book by John’s “foodie” uncle, but he had since passed and they didn’t have a use for it.

Lucky me. I met Alice many years ago when working a a sous chef at Draeger’s Cooking School in Blackhawk California. She was signing books for “The Art of Simple Food” cook book. I have been to her Berkeley Restaurant Chez Panisse a few times since and am in love with her and her food. I had the best salad of my life while eating there and it was the best organic greens, lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper. That’s it! But it was fabulous.

And not only did we have Noelle and Mark for dinner, but Johnny and Karen decided to join us. They picked our ripe peaches, grilled them and helped assemble the salads. Mark brought the tortellini and we served it with my Bolognese sauce and Parmesean cheese. We also had a bacon, lettuce, cheese and tomato salad with another home made vinaigrette. I probably made too much food, but no one leaves hungry when they come to our house. I served vanilla meringues with vanilla ice cream, passion fruit curd, lemon curd and white chocolate for a light dessert. Sent them all on their way at the end of the night with bags of peaches and left over meringues. The perfect evening.

Here is my recipe for the perfect summer salad dressing.

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#Strawberry Balsamic Summer Salad Dressing

 

Strawberry Balsamic Dressing 

Makes 4 Cups

Ingredients:

⅓ C. White Balsamic Modena Vinegar (Trader Joes) or Champagne Vinegar

2 T. Dijon Mustard (Grey Poupon)

⅔ C. Grape Seed Oil (or a mild flavored oil like canola) plus 1 T divided to cook onions, shallots and garlic.

1 small shallot minced (2 T)

2-3 garlic cloves minced (1-2 T)

White onion minced (2 T)

1 T Raw Honey

2 T Plum Jam (John Tusting’s is the best- but any kind will          do)

1 container of fresh washed and stemmed organic strawberries (about 1 ½ Cups)

2 whole peeled Pink Grapefruit 

¼ C fresh lemon juice

¼ t Paprika

Pinch Sea Salt

½ t Black Pepper

 

Instructions:

In a small pot on medium heat add 1 T grape seed oil, minced garlic, shallot, onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat. Add Raw honey to pot until melted. Cool.

 

In a large blender add vinegar, oil, mustard, hulled strawberries, plum jam, pink grapefruit, lemon juice,  paprika, salt, pepper, cooked garlic, shallots, onions and honey and blend until combined. Refrigerate.

 

This dressing can be used in a variety of salads. 

We used it on top of mixed greens, candied sliced almonds, burrata cheese and grilled organic peaches from our tree. 

 

Enjoy!

 

Teri:)

 

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“Okay Thanks Bye Love Ya” Benicia and My Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

“Okay Thanks Bye Love Ya” Benicia and  My Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

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Spent most of the day yesterday exploring Benicia California with my hiking friends. We had the best time walking through the small businesses, looking at Christmas decorations and eating our way through town. Today’s blog will be all about our day and I will also share my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe with you.

I am lucky enough to know Sharon who invited me into her hiking group at least 10 years ago. We originally met through the neighborhood swim team over 20 years ago. She also inspired me to put my son into piano lessons at FAME Musice her son Eric was taking music lessons. I’m grateful for all she has done for me and my family over the years. But hiking with her and these amazing women is the most fun of all.

Sharon emails the group which has grown over the years, every Sunday evening about where we will be hiking every Tuesday and Thursday morning. She mixes it up every week, so we are never bored of the hiking trails in the East Bay. I haven’t been as good about attending the hikes recently, but I’m always in for a foodie adventure.

 

Marie organized and executed this exciting fun filled day in Benicia so we could all celebrate the holiday season together. Many of us walked through town first before eventually making our way to The Camellia Tea Room  for lunch. Wanting to warm our bellies with something hot, we sat outside Farm & Flour a cool new brunch place. I bought a loaf of their house made spelt grain bread which came in a cloth flour sack bag. And if I go back, I can get a dollar off my next loaf. Great marketing idea right there, and I will be back. In fact, I was there with my Aunt Teri a few months ago.

 

Next we stopped in Romancing the Home store where we looked at adorable Christmas decorations sold at reasonable prices. I love getting craft ideas and seeing what other artists are making this time of year.

 

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Owner at Juice House Company

Juice house Company caught my eye and so I had to try some of their healthy juice samples. The owner who is pregnant, opened the shop a year ago with her sister and boy is it gooooood. My husband recently bought me a juicer and I love it. I make all kinds of concoctions with tumeric, beets, celery, grapefruit and tons of other fruits and vegetables. I fell in love with “Citrus Sea” made from grapefruit, orange, lemon, celery, cucumber,ginger and cilantro. So refreshing! But the coconut almond milk drink was equally delicious.

 

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Owner of Pink Arrows Boutique

Can we talk about the cutest boutique on the planet? Pink Arrows Boutique is a little off the beaten path, but totally worth the visit. I didn’t catch the  owners name, but she was warm and answered all of our questions. This #boho style is infectious and I wanted one of everything. I limited myself to one cute red and black Bella Dahl flannel top, which she graciously gave me $10.00 off. I so appreciate it when businesses offer up discounts like these and I’m happy to make repeat purchases from them.

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The luncheon at the Camellia Tea Room was fabulous and everything you expect from a Tea house. The service was outstanding, our waitress even offering me an extra tea pot of hot water because I like my earl gray tea weak.The best bite of the day was the egg salad on a crispy and buttery focaccia bread. To die for! Good thing I got to eat two of them. Plenty of the other standards like a lemon tart with raspberry, a scone with currants, cucumber sandwich, oatmeal raisin coconut chocolate chip cookie, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, and plenty of clotted cream and jelly (not homemade 😦 ) I didn’t care for the water. Tasted funny to me, but there was plenty of tea going around. 

Lastly, I heard I needed to check out One House Bakery just down the street. Everything there seemed outrageously edible, yet I had just eaten. I will definitely be going back with my mom Diane and her husband Tom very soon as this kind of place is right up their alley. And funny enough, my friend Nancy saw my Instagram post You Tube One House Bakery yesterday of this place and dropped off a chocolate raspberry roulade to me this morning. She got excited about all the sweets and breads and met a friend for breakfast there. You can’t imagine my surprise when she knocked at my door with the most decadent cake ever made. Yum! And I didn’t share. It was that good.

 

I continue to be grateful for these simple pleasures of day outs with friends. There’s nothing better than celebrating the holidays with the ones you love. If you need a fun get away, check out downtown Benicia. You will be glad you did.

 

And now for my gingerbread cookie recipe that I promised. This recipe is altered from my friend Julie Birnbaum’s recipe I received many years ago. Julie and I were in a knitting group together while our kids were in school. She made these for us one year and I fell in love with the recipe. I’ve been  making them ever since. I haven’t knitted in years, because I’d rather be baking or gardening instead.

And here’s a recent blog on my time entertaining with Lise from my hiking group and her husband in Genoa Nevada.

Please comment below on your favorite holiday cookie and where you got the recipe from. And feel free to follow my blog. I’d love to share more recipes with you.

 

Teri’s Cut Out Gingerbread Men Cookies

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#Christmas #Cookies #Gingerbread

 

Ingredients:

1 C Unsalted Butter

1 C Granulated Sugar

½ C Molasses

1 t cinnamon

1 t ginger

1 t cloves

1 t cardamom

1 t nutmeg

½ t Maldon salt

 

2 whole eggs

1 t vinegar

 

5 C unbleached flour

1 t Baking Soda

 

Directions:

In a saucepan, melt sugar, butter, molasses, salt and spices. Cool and move to a large mixing bowl.  Mix in 2 eggs and vinegar and add flour and baking soda until well blended.

Scoop out large portions onto parchment paper and place in fridge.

Roll out on a floured surface and cut men out with your favorite cookie cutters. Use raisins and red hots for eyes, nose and mouth.

Preheat oven and bake at 350 degrees for approx 8 minutes, or longer depending on how thick your cookies are. Cool on rack.Decorate with royal icing.

 

 

 

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A Whole Lotta Love, Herbs at SHED and Mojitos at Young & Yonder Healdsburg

A Whole Lotta Love, Herbs at SHED and Mojitos at Young & Yonder Healdsburg

Spent last Saturday in the North Bay touring the foodie scene in Healdsburg California. My husband Ken and I had the best day exploring the SHED Market, Costeaux French Bakery, and Young &Yonder Distillery. On the way home we stopped off at The Urban Tree Farm Nursery, Sift Bakery and at Aunt Molly’s house in Cotati.

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If you’ve never been to Healdsburg, then just go. It’s a vibrant town bursting with restaurants, wine tasting, and breweries like Healdsburg Beer Company, and Bear Republic Brewing Company. We settled for a more “spirit”ual day by having cocktails at Young and Yonder Distillery.

But first, we had to spend time at the coolest place around the SHED. This place is a foodie and gardeners dream offering a market, a cafe’, and a community gathering space. Not only do they offer workshops such as the one coming up from Apiarist Michael Thiele on honeybees, or a cheese tasting class by expert Janet Fletcher, but they offer so much more.

I could walk around there for hours reading cookbooks like “The Art of Fermentation”, by Sandor Ellix Katz, “The Baker’s Appendix” by Jessica Reed, “Small-Scale Grain Raising” by Gene Logsdon and numerous others. It would be awesome to grind my own organic flour someday so I don’t have to worry about the current state of toxic farming in the US.

 

The SHED sells beautiful pottery to serve your elegant gourmet dishes on, rose geranium, lavender oatmeal and coffee mint scented soaps that would be the perfect hostess gift. Luckily, I have my apricot jam to gift when we go to dinner at friends’.

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In addition to all these fine goods, Saturday brunch was happening, so we got a few snapshots of their menu items. We would have stayed, but there was so much more to see and do before heading off the tree farm  before it closed. I was impressed with their fresh herbs like lemon balm, purslane, dill, parsley, squash blossoms, sunflower greens, nasturtium, borage, and marigold most of which I grow in my own garden. Here’s a glimpse of my edible flower cocktail class that I taught to my garden club back in May of last year.

 

I could go on for hours about the SHED’S cheese and charcuterie selection, their juice bar, coffee bar, fresh country bread, fresh cut dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, and fragrant roses for all of us to be tempted by. I’m sure I’m leaving out plenty, but make a day of it and check it out for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

 

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Lucky for us, we happened upon Young & Yonder Spirits where I had to sample owners Joshua and Sarah Opatz’ Absinthe Mojito. The absinthe is distilled with non-GMO corn, russian river water, anise seed, star anise, fennel, wormwood, coriander, ginger, lemon peel, tarragon, peppermint, lemongrass and eucalyptus.  They add fresh lime, fresh mint, simple syrup and ice to the absinthe and it was super refreshing. I’m loving serving mojitos to my guests when I entertain these days since I now have mint from the garden and lots of fresh citrus from Costco or if I’m lucky, my son Curtis’ backyard tree.

 

Joshua let me peek around the corner and photograph his dried herb and spice collection at Young and Yonder. He had shelves of glass jars full of botanicals like angelica root, sarsaparilla, dried pluots, cedar berries, dried bing cherries and figs, holy basil, honeysuckle flowers, California poppy seeds, lemon balm, rose hips, calendula and more. This week I’ve listened to a podcast on herbs called Remedy the Secret Science. It’s fascinating getting educated on how herbs can help you with sleep, stress and anxiety, healing your immune system, how to sharpen memory, curing lyme disease, solving cardiovascular disease  and depression and reversing cancer.

 

Many of the herbs that  I listed above were featured in the podcast, so purchasing a couple of bottles of their aromatic spirits was a no brainer. Besides, these herbaceus gins, vodkas, and bourbons would make great gifts.

 

Of course, I had to get a few bakery items at Costeaux Bakery for us to nibble on in the car on the way home. I bought a baguette w ham and cheese, a palmier cookie, and a coconut macaroon for us to share since we didn’t have time to sit down and eat. My husband was excited to purchase two new trees from the Urban Tree Farm in Windsor and we had limited time before they closed.

 

Lastly, we picked up some cupcakes and macaroons at Sift Bake Shop in Cotati before dropping in on Aunt Molly. We learned that Molly had just come home from the hospital after having heart rhythm complications. She  and her son Michael were happy to see us especially because we came bearing a “lemony snicket” a vanilla cake lemon curd filling w lemon buttercream frosting cupcake, and “Ooh la la” the classic red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting cupcake, and a few macarons. Molly shared  stories about Ken’s Mom and Dad’s wedding day and we enjoyed the visit very much. Taking the time to visit our relatives is something my husband and I take pride in. Especially since we lost one of my aunts recently.

 

 

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So if you find yourself looking for something fun to do, and your not too far from the California wine country, go hang out in Healdsburg. We barely scratched the surface and had so much more territory to explore. If you need more proof, check out my last trip to Healdsburg with my niece Michelle. It was a barrel of a good time drinking and eating our way through town.

Since you’ve read till the end, I will treat you with a tour of my Mom’s garden.

If you would like to receive more of my blogs on travel and food please sign up. You will get an email notifying you when I post next. I will also be sharing many of my recipes with you.  Thanks for stopping by.

Teri

 

 

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Farm to Fork in Napa, St. Helena and Yountville and Asian Salad Dressing Recipe

Farm to Fork in Napa, St. Helena and Yountville and Asian Salad Dressing Recipe

My husband and I had the pleasure of hosting our Florida friends last week. Sherri and I went on the very first Avon three day walk together almost twenty years ago and have been close ever since. Today’s blog will be about our day in Napa and Yountville with our two son’s Danny and Andrew. We explored Ashes and Diamonds Winery, V Sattui, Napa Valley Olive oil Company, and Rutherford Grill Restaurant for lunch. Then we circled back and took on Lucy Bar in Yountville for drinks and shopping in the Marketplace. It was marvelous day showing them around Northern California wine country.

 

 

Having no idea where to begin, we drove for an hour along Hwy 29 and stumbled upon Ashes and Diamonds Winery which is the newest winery in the Napa Valley and is directly behind Don Giovanni Restaurant. I remembered I was given a free tasting the last time I ate there with my friend Cathy. Here’s my blog on that magnificent day.
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This place is exquisitely decorated and the wine was robust and full bodied. Sherri and Andrew had tastings (since I was driving), and we all sat and listened to their jazz music. The vibe was fun and exciting. Of course I’m always energized when I get to try a new place. They also served a delicious poppy seed and sesame seed focaccia which hit the spot in our bellies.

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Next we stopped in to V Sattui where we sampled their vinegars and cheeses. It’s a bustling place with people from all over the world buying deli sandwiches, extraordinary cheeses and refreshing wine for their romantic picnic lunches under the ancient oak trees. If you haven’t experienced this delightful place, it’s a must see for sure.

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Danny Sherri, Andrew and me at V. Sattui Winery

After hopping back into the car, we found Napa Olive Oil Manufacturing Company in St Helena which I have always wanted to tour. This place has been around since 1931 and has all sorts of items a foodie like me would like to enjoy. I purchased a gallon of their olive oil and blackberry ginger vinegar to take home. Sherri, Andrew and Danny loved tasting their offerings also.

Rutherford Grill was our next stop where we splurged on their French dip sandwiches, smoked salmon, ribs, roasted chicken and more. It was familiar to my guests since they had been to a similar restaurant called Houston’s in Dallas Texas. I highly recommend getting a reservation since it is always a local favorite while in St. Helena.

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It didn’t take long to decide where to take them next since we were short on  time. After all, we had dinner guests (Heidi, Sharon, Lisa, Elyse, and Bill) coming at 6:30PM that evening to welcome Sherri and Danny back. They had lived in our neighborhood twenty years ago, before moving to Florida and had made friends while here. So on to Yountville we went.

Lucy Restaurant and Bar at Hotel Bardessono is a relaxing place to sit and relax while enjoying an artisanal cocktail or “field to fork” fare from their innovative, garden inspired cuisine. Since danny was driving, we sat outside on their comfy patio couches. I had a glass of kahlua and Sherri had a ginger ale while Andrew took a nap on their hammock and Danny made a phone call. We walked to their nearby gardens where we found a loaded O’ Henry peach tree that had many peaches on the ground. Four ended up in my bag because I can’t stand to let anything go to waste, and they were enjoyed (after cutting off the bruises) with our dinner the following evening.  It was a fun way to end the foodie farm to table experience.  

The potluck dinner chicken wings, hummus and fried pita chips, baba ganoush, fruit salad, taquitos with guacamole, and wine with our friends was delightful. Everyone was thrilled to see Sherri again and Danny loved meeting them since he was only 4 when they left the Bay Area. More blogging adventures are sure to be coming in the near future since we had day trips to San Francisco, Berkeley, Sausalito, downtown Walnut Creek.

I feel fortunate to have the time and resources to share my foodie road trips with others. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means the world to me. If you would like to hear more from my excursions, and get fun recipes subscribe to my blog. I will be sure to keep you posted on all the latest and greatest in regards to the food and wine culture in the US.

 

Asian Sesame Cilantro Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

½ C Seasoned Rice Vinegar

1 Bunch fresh cilantro stems and leaves washed (can substitute fresh parsley if you dislike cilantro, but will taste different)

2 cloves garlic (sauteed whole in 1 T canola for 2 minutes)

3 T fresh chopped ginger

¼ C apricot jam

6 green onions chopped

1 fresh squeezed lime, orange or lemon

½ C plus 1 T canola oil

½ C peanut oil

2 T sesame oil

⅔ C soy sauce

½ t black pepper

½ t chili oil

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a blender until combined. Refrigerate. Will keep for 2 weeks.

I use this dressing to marinate skirt steak, or chicken. It is best served along with roasted chicken, white fish or in a salad. Make a green salad with mandarin oranges, almonds, maruchan noodles, chicken or steak. It’s delicious!

 

 

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Have a Little Art, Wine and Plenty of Pastries in Carmel California

Have a Little Art, Wine and Plenty of Pastries in Carmel California
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This is my artist friend Margery and mutual friend Heidi who owns Hippievibetribe.com a bohemian clothing an accessory online store

 My husband and I took  a day trip to Carmel last weekend to see a dear friends’ art show at Anthony “Tony” Vanderploeg’s  Amsterdam. Margery Ammond and I have been friends for many years. She and I met at the neighborhood book club. We spent many hours together pouring over books, as Margery has always been an avid reader. Turns out, Margery is also a fabulous artist.

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Margery Ammon with the owner of the Gallerie Amsterdam Tony Vanderploeg

But that wasn’t a surprise to me. About 15 years ago, my siblings and I purchased a beautiful painting of Margery’s that was a scene from the Senanque abbey near Gordes France. This portrait oil painting has a huge field of lavender flowers with an abbey in the background. Simply exquisite! My Mother keeps the colorful mural over her fireplace, since lavender flowers are her favorite.

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This is Margery’s painting. Such a beautiful piece of art

As you can see Margery’s new pieces are just as gorgeous. This time she paints pictures of butterflies along with gorgeous flowers from her garden. Outstanding work. In the past, she has focused on paintings of vineyards in Napa, and Healdsburg, scenes of Mount Diablo, gorgeous landscapes of Lake Tahoe and also earlier pieces of still lifes of fruit and silver.

I have a huge appreciation for people with these amazing creative skills as I can’t draw a stick figure. But that’s okay, we all have our strengths. Mine happen to be more culinary oriented. And I can’t forget when Margery generously donated her quality pots and pans to me since she bought a new stove which required a whole new set of cookware. So thoughtful of her!

Margery also displays her art in Truckee California at Art Obsessions, in Canada, and in Europe as well. I’m sure you will fall in love with her art like I have. She enjoys painting as a hobby and works very hard on her craft 4 days a week. She loves what she does and it shows. She paints for the joy of seeing vibrant colors on a blank canvas. We met for lunch today to get caught up since she doesn’t attend the book club meetings anymore. She’s too busy painting! Margery‘s smile radiates through the room and she brings joy to everyone around her. How lucky I am to have met her and to have gotten the chance to see her latest art show.  

If you make a trip to Carmel, be sure to check out the Carmel Bakery. Ken and I stumbled into this special place along our walk through the streets in that cute little town. Since my husband and I had to cut our visit short, we grabbed an ice cream cone and few pastries for the car ride home. This bakery was EVERYTHING! I practically bought one everything that I laid my eyes on. The cherry turnover was delish, as well as the raspberry strudel pastry that my husband devoured before I could get a bite. Of course, I had to taste their gingerbread cookie too. A little disappointing actually. Not as gingery as I would have liked plus it was somewhat dry. The hot chocolate didn’t blow me away,  but it was good and chocolatey nonetheless. I bought my hubby the cheesy pretzel since he loves bread and he gobbled it up right away.

You won’t want to miss out on a day trip to Caramel where you can enjoy lots of art galleries (65 total), get in a winery or two, or grab a coffee from the local bakery before heading out of town. It’s a happening place and worth the two hour drive down the coast.We didn’t make time to visit a winery, but walked by Albatross Ridge and I was sooo tempted.If I didn’t need to help with the driving, I would have been all in.

We even took my son’s dog Hank for a walk on the beach.Caramel is a  dog friendly town, it seems everyone has a puppy. Hank was hoping I would drop my ice cream cone, so he could have a lick or two. That wasn’t going to happen because I’m a mocha almond fudge freak. I’m obsessed.And I didn’t even have to share because my husband doesn’t like chocolate! Score. More for me!

Leave me a comment below about your favorite artist, ice cream flavor or recent adventure. I’d love to hear all about it. Get out there and make it a great day!

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Reasons why you should visit Oakland’s Insanely Good Food Scene

Reasons why you should visit Oakland’s Insanely Good Food Scene

 

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Beautiful graffiti art in West Oakland

Had a fabulous day last Friday exploring Tanya Holland’s Oakland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen Restaurant with my friend Sandra. We also took a walk through of the historic Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, one of my favorite places. We shared stories and got caught up while sipping on Peet’s Coffee and nibbling on treats from Fournee Bakery. All this on a rainy March afternoon, so I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

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The view outside Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland

Firstly, If you haven’t checked out Bravo’s Top Chef competition, it’s a must. I’ve been watching since the beginning and I’m hooked. Of course I love learning as much as I can about cooking and I follow the chefs on Instagram to see what they are up to. Tanya Holland owns an Oakland restaurant called Brown Sugar Kitchen. This place is off the beaten path so lucky I had a Google map to find my way there.

Sandra and I were excited to sit at the counter alongside Tanya herself cooking during the lunch rush. The place was packed, but we were happy to sit and watch the chef making her famous soul food recipes like her Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Cornmeal Waffle served w brown sugar butter and apple cider syrup. Yum. Obviously she was teaching her sous chef a few things because I’m sure she is needed in other areas promoting her cookbook written in 2014 and getting other restaurants up and running. Last September she announced she would be opening a BSKC Brown Sugar Kitchen Counter at the San Francisco Ferry Building, and hopes to expand her brand to the Warriors new Chase Center.

The food was exciting, flavorful and soulful. I ordered the Blackened Catfish served on top of rice with roasted red pepper sauce and pickled vegetables. It was good old fashioned comfort food and a huge portion of which I packed up to bring home for later. Sandra ordered the Creole BBQ Shrimp, basmati rice and baby spinach. She kept going back for more of the spicy dish and we shared the garlic green beans. Sadly, I couldn’t find collard greens on the menu, but loved the perfectly seared green beans.

We didn’t stay for dessert, but I got a close up photo of a banana cake w caramel ganache, a red velvet cake and sticky buns with pecans. This place serves my kind of food and it isn’t stuffy like other East Bay restaurants. The drink menu was limited, but I was happy with Drake’s Hefeweizen and fresh lemon. Sandra went for the Urban Cellars California Viognier. And just today I realized Tanya has teamed up with Humphry Slocombes and is making a brown sugar ice-cream with apple jam and a cornmeal cookie. Delicious!

Well,  if I haven’t convinced you to make a trip to the Oakland/Berkeley area yet then I will tell you about a few more places to visit. The Claremont Hotel and Spa happened to be on our way home and Sandra and I couldn’t help ourselves but to stop in for a look see. My husband and I have stayed here before and loved it. We actually spent the first night of our honeymoon there at the Claremont over 29 years ago. It’s historical because it opened in 1915. Even my grandparents frequented there back in the day. My mother and sister and I spent time at their spa getting massages and relaxing by the pool to celebrate Mother’s Day one year.  Their new bar Limewood looked fun and exciting, has a gorgeous view of San Francisco and features craft cocktails, small bites and afternoon tea.

Across from this gorgeous hotel sits Fournee Bakery where we purchased fresh fougasse and French baguettes for our Friday night supper. They sell seasonal desserts like trifles, a TCHO Chocolate salted caramel cake, tarte tatin, Valrhona chocolate mousse cake, and an orange flavored Basque cake.

Lucky for us, Peet’s Coffee was located right next door to the bakery so we could have our favorite espresso mochas while chatting about our day. Overall, I can’t imagine a more fun way to spend a Friday. I loved catching up with Sandra and hearing about her favorite Greek recipes that her and her husband George whip up. They’ve lived near us for over 20 years and have raised their kids in the same neighborhood as us attending the same schools and swim team.

I’m blessed to have the greatest friends who love to have foodie days with me. I hope I’ve given enough reasons to visit the Oakland Berkeley area. I can’t wait to plan my next outing. Any takers? Leave me a comment below and tell me where you would like to go. But first check out this delicious savory tart which would be perfect served on Easter morning or on any occasion. I made it for my coffee group and the women raved about it and of course asked for the recipe. Here it is.

Fennel, Goat Cheese and Cardamom Tart

Pastry Dough Recipe

1 ½ C Unbleached Flour

¾ Stick (6T) cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes

¼ t Kosher salt

4 to 5 T Ice Cold H20

For Tart Filling

2 large fennel bulbs @ 2 ½ lbs

1 large leek

8 green cardamom pods (or 1 t cardamom spice powder)

¼ C white wine or champagne

¼ C H20

¼ C Olive Oil

1 t Kosher salt

½ t black pepper

2 T unsalted butter

2 eggs

1 large egg yolk

½ C heavy cream

½ C whole milk

¼ C goat cheese

3 Oz (½ C) Taleggio Cheese cut into extra small cubes

Make pastry dough for tart:

In a food processor, blend flour, salt and butter until blended. Or use pastry cutter or fingers just until most of  resembles coarse meal. Add cold water and blend until combined. Do not over mix or pastry will be tough.

Gather dough onto parchment paper or plastic wrap and make into a ball and flatten. Cover completely and let it rest in fridge to chill.

Directions for filling:

Cut off and discard fennel stalks and fronds. Cut out core and cut up fennel into ¼ in thick slices. Wash and cut leek into ¼ in slices using white parts only. Flatten cardamom pods with side of large heavy knife, then remove black seeds and discard pods. Crush seeds with side of knife and chop finely. Or sprinkle cardamom spice powder onto leeks and fennel in a 12 inch heavy skillet. Add wine, water, butter, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer, covered over moderately low heat stirring occasionally until tender about 20 to 25 min. Cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and make sure rack is in center of oven.

Roll out dough into a 15 in round tart pan. I use plastic wrap to  prevent dough from sticking to rolling pin. Trim dough so that it is flush with rim of pan. Lightly prick dough with a fork, then chill for 30 min. Line shell with foil (I spray with Pam first)and fill with dry kidney beans, rice or pie weights.Bake on a large baking sheet for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights and bake 10 -15 min longer or until tart shell is golden brown. Remove from oven.

Whisk together eggs, yolk, until foamy and add milk, cream, goat cheese, salt and pepper. Transfer fennel and leek mixture into pastry shell spreading evenly, and dot with taleggio cheese. Pour custard into shell and bake until set about 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before serving. Serves 6-8 people

 

 

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Cinnamon Rolls with a Boosey Twist Recipe and (Bay Area Restaurant Reviews)

Cinnamon Rolls with a Boosey Twist Recipe and (Bay Area Restaurant Reviews)

 

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went for a bike ride into downtown Walnut Creek for Valentines Day. I had issues with my Apple iPhone that needed to be resolved so we decided to enjoy the day by riding into “the Creek.” It was a beautiful Spring like day and we both needed some exercise. Since we are practically empty nesters we aren’t running our kids to basketball games, soccer practice or baseball tournaments anymore. Instead we can leisurely take our time on the weekends and go on a hike or bike ride together. Last weekend was no different. The photos above were taken while I worked as a preschool teacher at Tassajara Learning Center.

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After our iPhone appointment, we took a chance for a quick bite to eat at True Food Kitchen. This place is usually packed, but we got lucky and landed two spots at the juice bar. I have heard great things about their restaurant from my hiking friends who frequently come here to celebrate birthdays. Excited to learn about the menu, the bartender walked us through the gluten free, naturally organic vegetarian, and vegan menu offerings explaining that they focus their food on anti inflammatory dishes. Dr Andrew Weil believes that by eating this healthy diet, people can avoid Alzheimer’s, heart disease and many cancers. I’m all for that.

What I was most excited to learn more about was their fresh juice drinks. They actually have a hangover drink  that has fresh pineapple juice, orange juice, honey, and coconut water. I have no idea if that would help a hangover, but I bet it is a big seller. Of course, I saw plenty of a few Bloody Mary’s being served which looked gorgeous with watermelon radishes used as a garnish.

I ordered the “Bright Eyes” which consisted of fresh pear, ginger root, beet, pineapple, turmeric and carrot juice, and it didn’t disappoint. We also tried the Inside Out Quinoa Burger made with hummus, tzatziki, tomato, butter lettuce, cucumber, red onion, feta and avocado. It is served alongside a generous portion of roasted butternut squash which my husband loved. I tried the Toast with winter squash, brussel sprouts, caramelized onion, lemon, saba and roasted hazelnuts. It was an unexpected delight being crunchy and yet sweet from the squash that was probably roasted with honey or maple syrup. Yum. I had to order light so I could make it back up the hill to our house on my bike!

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Chicken Pita w Greek village Salad

I have to say, I’m usually not a huge proponent of these restaurants since I think they are a “fad” or “trend” to for the younger generation. After all, I love a good burger. But it’s nice to eat extra healthy once in a while and my husband was thrilled with his Mediterranean dish. We found Opa Restaurant last week for a quick weeknight dinner. Ken was so happy to find this place because they serve lamb, chicken and beef sandwiches in a warm pita bread with tzatziki sauce tomatoes, onions and mint. He said it was his very favorite new place and that says a lot because he can be finicky. 

While I’m at it, I may as well give a review of a fairly new restaurant located in Danville called Harvest. My friend Barbara and I met there a few weeks back after quick jont on the Iron horse trail. This place does things right. Barb and i met several years back when we our kids were at San Ramon Valley High School together in the choir. We also were both involved in the Vista Oak Chapter of the National Charity League. She volunteering with her daughter Lauren and me with my niece Jasmine. We had many good times together when our kids were young and now continue to meet up and have an occasional lunch or breakfast together. Barb recommended Harvest so we gave it a try.

First our server brought us a platter of their delicious wheat bread with a dollop of creamy butter with smoked sea salt and chives. I judge most restaurants by their bread and theirs  was to die for. For lunch, I ordered Di Stefano’s Burrata Toast cause I have to have burrata whenever I’m at a restaurant. This dish was the perfect balance of sweet, salty, creamy and chewy presenting the burrata along side prosciutto, figs and well dressed arugula. Delish! Barbara and I also shared the Harvest Cobb which the chef was nice enough to divide. The chicken was brined with a lemon sweet tea before it was flawlessly grilled and served with avocado, hard boiled egg, tomato and bacon. We passed on dessert even though their warm apple cobbler sounded appetizing. Over all, I have to give all three of these restaurants a thumbs up and we will definitely make it back for future visits.

It’s a good thing my phone is repaired and I’m back to blogging and taking photos again. I’d better get myself back home now and prepare a little something for the family.

But first here’s my recipe for Cinnamon Rolls with a Boosey Twist

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Ingredients

¾ C Sourdough starter (I made my own from 2 C pressed grapes in a tea towel, 2 C flour and 2 C water and let ferment for 1 week in a large glass bowl stirring every day) Not needed to make recipe, but adds a nice sour note to the recipe. Place in stand mixer fitted with flat beater. Mixes better than dough hook)

½ C warm water (warm to touch)

1 T yeast (Red Star Rapid Rise or regular dry yeast)

1 teas honey or 1 t granulated sugar

 

Mix these ingredients together in a small glass bowl with your fingers and let get bubb

 

1 egg

3/4 C Milk (warm on stove until luke warm, not hot)

2 T soft unsalted butter (plus 1 T to smear on glass bowl)(plus 1 T for baking dish)

1 T Kosher Salt (do not forget this!)

¼ c granulated sugar (plus 1 t more for yeast)

1 ½ C All purpose flour (maybe ¼ c more for kneading and rolling out)

1 ½ C bread flour

 

Filling for Cinnamon Rolls

½ C unsalted softened butter

½ C granulated sugar

1 C brown sugar

1 T cinnamon

1 t ground ginger

½ t Maldon Salt

½ t ground cardamom

½ t ground espresso powder

1 T tapioca flour

3/4 C toasted pecans

 

¼ C Grand Marnier

½ C water

¾ C black raisins (Dried cranberries, dried strawberries or dried blueberries make for a fun new breakfast treat)

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(Heat water in microwave in glass 2 c measuring cup and add grand marnier and soak raisins or dry berry fruit mix until soft) Drain and throw away liquid. This step allows the raisins stay moist and juicy in the cinnamon roll.

 

Glaze

1 T spiced rum

1 ½ C powdered sugar

¼ t Maldon salt

 

Directions:

 

After placing Sourdough starter in stand mixer, add bubbly yeast mixture.

Add milk, egg and mix. Add in 1 C flour, mix and let stand for 5 minutes.

Then add salt, sugar, softened butter and mix again.

 

Little by little add remaining flour and mix on low speed until combined. Keep mixing on med speed until dough is soft to touch and springs back when touched (about 6-8 minutes mix time) Or knead by hand until dough feels soft.

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Place in a warm spot and let rise for a few to several hours (overnight works well) in a buttered glass bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap.

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Assemble rolls:

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle until about ¼ t thick. Spread softened butter onto dough.

Sprinkle with both sugars evenly, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, espresso powder, salt and tapioca flour.

Sprinkle soaked and drained raisins and pecans over dough.

Roll the dough tightly by starting at long edge and form into a long log. Cut with a pastry cutter or serrated knife into 1 Inch pieces. Place in a buttered baking dish or sheet pan with rolls touching. Let rise in a warm place, or fridge if you can possible wait.

Otherwise place in a preheated 400 degree oven and bake until brown and bubbly about 17-22 minutes.

Cool slightly and spread rum glaze over rolls. (if you prefer a cream cheese frosting use 4 oz or ½ pkg cream cheese, ½ C butter, 1 ½ C powdered sugar, ¼ t Maldon Salt, and 1 t vanilla- Or Rum!)

I especially enjoy making these boosey treats for my husband and son on a lazy Saturday or Sunday morning. They love waking up to the intoxicating smell of these yummy treats and I do too.

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Hope you try my recipe and leave me feedback about your results in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. It means a lot!

Teri:)

 

 

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