RSS

Category Archives: Chocolate

Love at First Bite at Murietta’s Well Livermore

Love at First Bite at Murietta’s Well Livermore
IMG_7719

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.

IMG_7731

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:)

 

 

 

Advertisements
 

Tags:

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.

IMG_7630

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.

IMG_7642

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.

 

IMG_7687

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.

IMG_7670

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

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

 

IMG_7112

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.
IMG_7156

IMG_7158

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.

IMG_7089

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

IMG_7088

 

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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Summer Wedding in Auburn and Berry Pies from Ikeda’s and Machado’s

Summer Wedding in Auburn and Berry Pies from Ikeda’s and Machado’s

 

Had the pleasure of attending the Faulkenberry’s wedding last weekend in Auburn with my husband. We were also fortunate to get to stay at my sister in law’s house the evening of the wedding to save a few bucks. She and her husband have a 5 acre property in Auburn California about two hours from our home, but only 25 minutes from the Monte Verde Inn where the wedding was held. Today’s blog will be about our time in Auburn eating and drinking our way around town.

 

 

First stop was checking out the gorgeous property. The house is just perfect for the two of them and guests when needed. The place needs a little renovation, but a little dust and spider webs don’t bother me at all. We hiked all around the ancient oak trees and brambling blackberry bushes full of beautiful fruit. What we didn’t snag off the bushes the birds and wildlife will take advantage of for sure. Beyond the back porch is a huge pond. No kidding. The wedding could have taken place here instead and may become a place of interest to my single nieces and nephew in the near future.

The wedding was spectacular offering a fairy tale for the bride and groom. The venue was studded with enormous flower arrangements absolutely everywhere. It was a sight to see.The parents of the groom Wes have been our good friends for the past 30 years and we were overjoyed to learn about this monumental event.Wes’ father Ray officiated the ceremony which made it even more special. Linda his wife was radiant beyond belief, so excited to marry her son off to this gorgeous girl Kayla.

 

 

 

Other than a few pesky yellow jackets, the evening went off without a hitch. The dj did a great job bringing the guests out onto the perfectly lit up dance floor and we all had a good time. Best of all, our mutual friends Elaine and Craig Cowie who we’ve also known for many years were there as well to celebrate their nuptials. We’ve known Wes since he was a baby so we were overcome with giddiness to see him take the next step in his life.

Lunch at Edelweiss on High Street in Auburn is known for their huge omelets and hearty sandwiches served in a family style atmosphere. The coffee shop has been around since 1989 and it looks like it. We waited over an hour for our food, so I won’t be eating there if I’m ever in Old Town Auburn again.

 

We had better luck the next day at Aweful Annie’s  where we met our friends the Cowies and Louie’s for breakfast. We started off the morning right with their “bacon flight”. Yes. That’s right. We shared jalapeno, smoked cherrywood, candied, and a sweet thai flavored bacon and tasted their deep fried green beans and asparagus. Exquisite! I tried the corned beef hash, homemade buttermilk biscuit with strawberry jam and butter and fruit. The portion was huge so I shared it with everyone. The restaurant also sells cinnamon bread and cinnamon orange decaf tea. Other than having a hard time finding a parking place, we had no regrets.

 

 

Next stop was Ikeda’s Pie Shop which was conveniently next door. I had never been here, but have heard of their fabulous fresh baked pies. There was a Dutch apple, French apple, cherry, cherry cobbler, blueberry, triple berry, lemon meringue, banana cream, chocolate truffle and more. They also had plenty of grab and go snacks like dried veggie chips, which I like for trips like these. I came across the huge selection of specialty olive oils, vinegars and local honey. The beer fridge was jam packed with all the best like Device, Modern Times, Knee Deep Brewing Company, Breaking Bud, Thirsty Bear Drinking Company, Loomis Basin Brewing Company, Breakside Brewing and more. Plenty of hard ciders to choose from as well.

 

One of the locals recommended the pies at Machado Orchards so of course we had to stop by. Besides fresh fruit and pies, this place offered apple and cherry turnovers, mini pies, assorted cookies, muffins, English toffee, peanut brittle, berry milk shakes and slices of pie of every flavor! Unfortunately,  we didn’t buy any because we were on our way out of town to Sacramento for an epic 14 mile bike ride with the Louie’s. I will make sure to make my way back to Auburn in the near future to take advantage of these legendary country hang outs.

 

Over all, Auburn has a piece of my heart. Ken and I made precious memories at the enchanting Faulkenberry wedding. There’s nothing better than weekends away with good friends and family.  There were a few breweries that I would have liked to have tried like Goat House, Dueling Dogs, Moonraker, and Out of Bounds Brewing Company, but that will have to be for another trip.The long bike ride and scoop of espresso almond fudge ice cream after was the frosting on the cake.

 

 

 

Have you ever taken a trip to Auburn before? Do you have a recent wedding that you attended that took your breath away? Do you have a favorite Brewery that you need to brag about? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. And thanks for reading my blog.

 

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Father’s Day in Napa, 80th Birthday Casino Style and Fudge in Truckee

Father’s Day in Napa, 80th Birthday Casino Style and Fudge in Truckee

IMG_5016 (1)

Father’s Day weekend ended up being a huge success. I spoiled my dad by taking him to a restaurant in Napa for lunch, the movies to see Solo: A Star Wars Story and made him his favorite steak dinner. Then my family went on to celebrate my Dad’s 80th birthday at Twin Pines Casino in Middletown, California about 2 hours from my home.

 

South Kelly Grill was a fun way to spend our Father’s Day brunch. Even though there was a huge line out the door we were able to sneak in and sit at the bar. You see, my dad has no patience and would not have been able to wait even 10 minutes. So we were lucky to ask some patrons if they wouldn’t mind scooting over, so dad and I could sit together. They graciously accommodated us and we got to ordering since we were famished.

 

 

 

 

Dad had steak and eggs, and I heard great things about their fried chicken and waffles, so I decided to settle on that. It’s always a good sign if a restaurant has a wait, so I was pleasantly surprised when the food came out and saw how perfectly everything was plated. The place was bustling and the interior décor has a country vibe that was fun and friendly. Dad enjoyed his meal, but my fried chicken tasted like baked frozen chicken nuggets!  Super disappointed, but the waffles made up for it. The portions were HUGE and the waitress attended to our every need. I would go back.

 

When we finally made it to my house,  my husband Ken and son Andrew took dad to see Star Wars. They all loved it, and I made it to Costco to pick up a skirt steak. After the movie, Ken barbequed and both my son’s came over for dinner to celebrate Father’s Day. It’s always a treat to have my boys over at the same time.

IMG_5103

Dadio and Sister Sue taking a quick pic before driving North

The next day, my sister Sue and I drove Dad to his favorite place Twin Pines Casino where we met up with my brother Rick. The three of us took turns sitting by Dad who was in heaven playing the slot machines. We ate at the fairly priced Manzanita Restaurant on site and we were happy about their selection and large portions. The four of us stayed one night, my brother sleeping in a room w my dad and Sue and I in an adjoining room. Dad loved gambling at his favorite casino and was happy to spend his 80th birthday with his kids. To top off all the fun, Dad won a $1000.00 jackpot at 6:30AM the next morning on his actual birthday! What a way to turn 80! Dad was thrilled and was happy to have his daughter Julie join us for lunch. All four of his kids were there to enjoy time with dad. It couldn’t have gone any better.

IMG_4142 (1)

My brother Rick dropped our exhausted Dad off back at the Yountville Veterans Home, and had to head home to his wife and three year old. The rest of us Sue, Julie and I drove 3.5 hours to Truckee California. We stopped for dinner at 1882 Bar and Grill where we relaxed with cocktails and enjoyed salads and burgers for dinner.

IMG_5681

We settled in at my sister’s friend’s place for the night and woke up at a decent hour to take the 5 mile walk into town along the river. It’s a beautiful path adorned with wild flowers and singing birds. Truckee is a fun place to shop, dine and wander in and around the many art galleries. 

IMG_5679

From the left my sister Sue, me and sister Julie taking a quick selfie along the Truckee River.

We enjoyed a late breakfast at Jax’s Restaurant where I shared an espresso chocolate mocha shake with my sisters. They were to die for! Probably the best shake I’ve ever had.  I had fun showing my artsy sister Julie  Atelier an amazing craft store. They sell gorgeous yarns for knitting, painting supplies and dozens of books to inspire you to get busy with your hands. I’m totally inspired when I walk in and see the colorful calligraphy projects and excited about their mostly sold out workshops like floral arranging or their knit and sip classes. So fun!

IMG_5012

Inside of Atelier where crafters are in heaven

Truckee is known for it’s summer street festivals held on Thursdays June through August. There’s live music, great food, beer and activities for the kids. It’s not to be missed. My favorite pastry is found here too. It’s called a “Crispy” loaded with apple, berry, or cherries. Yum! We also walked into Sweets Handmade Candies store and enjoyed watching a guy make fudge. OMG. And their toffee looked amazing too. Here’s my blog and recipe for the best toffee ever. If you’d like to know more about the goings on in Truckee check out truckee.com/events for more information.

IMG_5001

IMG_4976

Here’s a glimpse into what Truckee has to offer

The trip was unfortunately cut short since I had to get home to attend a “Where the Wild things Are” themed baby shower for some good friends. But I will be back to Truckee in the next two weeks to celebrate my birthday. Stay tuned…

 

Are you celebrating any milestone birthdays or going anywhere special this summer? If so, we would all love to hear about them in the comments below. And feel free to follow my blog by subscribing. I would love to share more of my food and travel experiences with you as well as some of my favorite recipes.

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , ,

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

Have a Little Art, Wine and Plenty of Pastries in Carmel California
IMG_4639

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.

IMG_1528

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.

IMG_1203

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!

IMG_4570 (1)

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

What You Need to Know about dining and shopping in Walnut Creek (Italian Recipes too!)

What You Need to Know about dining and shopping in Walnut Creek (Italian Recipes too!)

IMG_3439

Was fortunate enough to spend the day with my dear friend Denise last week to celebrate her birthday. Denise and I met over 15 years ago in a meditation class at St Isidore’s. She is a woman of many talents, yet I love her for her intimacy with God and the Church. Denise is a go getter always involved with the latest philanthropy project. What I love about her is that she is somewhat of a spiritual advisor, helping me get through tough times. I have my faith, but it is nice to have a friend to lend an ear and offer guidance when I need it. I adore her and her husband Don and son Brian and thoroughly enjoy our lunches together.

Neiman Marcus Restaurant is where we decided to meet to celebrate her special day. It’s fun to walk around the store and oogle over their displays. It’s almost Easter so there are exhibits of Godiva’s chocolate eggs and stuffed bunnies everywhere which totally gets you in the mood to shop. The children’s section looks perfectly adorable showing little stuffed zebras and miniature pianos something for every child.

Denise and I arrived at about the same time and greeted each other before having a seat in the cafe’. She was smart to have the ($10 per car) valet park her car so she didn’t have to walk far. I like to get a walk in any chance I can and was able to find the only free 3 hour parking garage with a parking place available. Score!

Neiman’s offers a hot cup of consume when you are seated which was a nice touch. We also were treated to hot popovers with strawberry butter. They weren’t served hot and the butter wouldn’t melt, so our gracious waitress brought us new ones straight from the oven. I was hoping to order their crab salad, but was disappointed to learn they didn’t offer that dish anymore. Instead I had the sauteed salmon filet served w a ginger scallion brown rice w edamame, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, broccolini in a shoyu-chile vinaigrette. It was cooked perfectly, hearty, colorful and delicious. Denise went for their cabbage soup since she wasn’t very hungry and we were able to take a photo of it after they so consciously wiped the bowl for us. I had mentioned my friend was celebrating a birthday, so expected them to bring out something. Instead they proceeded to make us feel like we needed to order a dessert (which we did). Denise was excited to try their warm chocolate chip cookies. After all that, our waitress also brought out a complimentary banana cake with whipped cream. But we were charged $5.50 for the cookies! It was a little sneaky of them to go about a birthday dessert this way if you ask me, but we were dining at Neiman Marcus and they are known for their high prices. We each had a glass of wine because of the occasion and loved having a quiet lunch together. Over all, we had very nice service, the food and wine was good but a little pricey, the total meal was $70.91 not including tip. The important part about the day was that Denise enjoyed herself and I believe we achieved that. It truly is a one of a kind dining experience and I will go back for special occasions.

A little walk around Walnut Creek was what came next as we proceeded to The Red Box a local women’s and men’s clothing store. Denise has been working with Mojde Esfandiari the owner for their upcoming spring fashion show and luncheon. This event is raising money for the Danville Women’s Club to help kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford college get scholarships. It promises to be a wonderful event and I am planning on going. Modje’s clothes are one of a kind, unique collection of apparel, shoes and handbags many of them European. I wanted one of everything and will definitely go back to try on a few things. It’s nice to know that people like Modje with her clothing line and Denise with her time, are giving back to the community in these charming ways.

 

 

One more highlight of the week was entertaining our great nieces Terra 51/2 and Tamra 3 yrs old. Their mommy Tammy and husband Tim are due to have the baby any day, so my husband and I were happy to lend a helping hand for the afternoon. The girls loved being read to, enjoyed running around at the park and snacking on our picnic on a ideal day like last Sunday. Luckily, the weather was warm and we were able to walk to a nearby park. Of course our home is full of love when we get to care for our nieces and nephews kids. How fortunate Ken and I are to have large extended families living nearby.

 

I will leave you with a nice meal you can make for your own family. Our great aunt Nita and uncle Ted in Point Arena taught me how to prepare polenta many years ago and it has become a staple weeknight meal. They are unfortunately not with us anymore, but their recipe lives on.Here’s a blog from our time spent with them a few years back.

Italian Meatballs, Marinara and Cheesy Polenta

IMG_3509

 

Meatball ingredients:

 

1 ½ lbs 90/10% fat Ground Beef

6 large cremini mushrooms sliced

1 red or yellow bell pepper chopped

½ white onion chopped

3 cloves minced roasted garlic or fresh

½ C Marsala

1 t herb de Provence

½ t ground bay leaf

1 t Kosher salt

1 t ground pepper

1 t ground parsley

½ C parmesan cheese

¾ C dry toasted bread crumbs (I used toasted leftover biscuits)

½ C Milk

½ C Ketchup

½ C BBQ sauce (I used Korean)

1 egg whisked

Directions:

Saute’ onions, pepper, garlic until soft about 7 minutes. Add Marsala wine and reduce until evaporated. Cool.

In a large bowl, fold  raw ground beef, cooled veggies and remaining ingredients until mixed well. Scoop onto a sheet pan lined with foil. Bake in a preheated 400 degree convection oven uncovered for about 25 minutes until browned.

IMG_3507

Marinara Sauce

 

Ingredients:

 

1 large 28 oz Can Whole Tomatoes (Puree in blender)

1 14 oz can tomato sauce

3 T tomato paste

2 T Olive oil

1 small onion chopped

½ C chopped fresh basil/ or 1 t dried

3/4  C red wine

1 T sugar

3 garlic cloves sauteed in oil for 2 minutes

1 t salt

½ t pepper

¼ t crushed red pepper

 

Directions:

Saute onions, garlic in med size frying pan in oil. Place remaining ingredients including onions and garlic (except for wine) in a blender and puree until mixed. Pour contents into a  large pot and cook for 10 minutes. Add wine and reduce for another 10-15 minutes. You will be adding meat balls to this pot, so make sure there is plenty of room.

When meatballs are cooked, add them to marinara sauce and cook for another 15 minutes on the stove on medium heat.

IMG_3508

Prepare Polenta:

Ingredients:

4 C chicken or vegetable broth

1 C water

1 ½ C Cornmeal

½ C parmesan cheese shredded

½ C fontina cheese shredded

1 t kosher salt

½ t black pepper

2 T butter

1 T Olive Oil

¼ C heavy cream or milk

 

In a large pot heat chicken broth, water, salt and pepper over med high heat until it comes to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and slowly add cornmeal to the boiling liquid while stirring constantly. Cook for about 10 minutes then add cream, oil, butter and shredded cheeses.

 

To serve, scoop out a hefty portion of polenta into a large round pasta bowl. Ladle over a good portion of marinara sauce and 4 to 5 meatballs per serving depending on how hungry you are. Sprinkle with parsley or additional cheese.

IMG_3509

Enjoy! If you liked this recipe please leave a comment below and follow my blog for more interesting stories and family recipes. You’ll be glad you did. I hope I’ve inspired some of you to try these recipes and spoil the ones you love.  

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: