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Category Archives: Cocktails

You Must Be 21 in Santa Cruz California

You Must Be 21 in Santa Cruz California

Spent time in Capitola and Santa Cruz recently with my niece Jasmine. She had time off from work and needed a get away. We all need mental health days and Santa Cruz was just what the doctor ordered. Good thing we are both over 21, since a few of the places we explored required a valid drivers license if we wanted to buy the mind altering drugs which I describe below.  In today’s blog I will write about the unique stores that we found in downtown and explain what we learned along the way.

 

Several years back, I had been to Santa Cruz with my neighborhood book club. Our friend Rachel lived near campus and offered an overnight at her place. In the morning, we ventured into town and ate at one of the local restaurants. I had wanted to explore the area further, but we didn’t have time. So I was happy to make a trip back to the Pacific Avenue strip with Jasmine.

 

 

We started off in Capitola at Gayle’s Bakery where they have every sweet imaginable including Florentine cookies, pavlova’s and German Chocolate Cake. Yum. We spent a couple of hours eating and walking around, when we decided to move on and find this cool neighborhood that I had been to years back. We stopped at a gas station and asked a local. He knew exactly where we wanted to go and after Google map search, we made it there. Side note: My grand parents on my mother’s side Elvina and Bill lived in Santa Cruz when I was a child, so my family would take trips on the weekends and holidays at the Beach and Boardwalk. So fun!

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Grandma Elvina and Bill Caprasecca with their 1928 Chevrolet 

We started off at a small shoe shop since Jasmine’s feet were killing her. I scored some Teva sandals and she found a comfy pair of sneakers. Off we went!

Next we asked about massages at the Tea House Spa, but they didn’t have any appointments available. Might have to make a special trip back just to spend time there to drink herbal tea and get a body treatment.

We walked past Mission Hill Creamery which specialized in local organic ingredients. Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, Candied Ginger, and Nutty Cookie Monster were just a few of their ice cream flavors. They also served Margarita Sorbet, Strawberry Daiquiri Sorbet, Mango Sorbet, Avocado and Almond Milk and Toasted Almond plus a Blueberry Goat Cheese all perfect for vegans. We had stopped for coffee earlier at Mr. Toots Coffeehouse in Capitola, so we weren’t in the mood for these ice cream treats quite yet.

 

Glow Candle Lounge came next where we observed two women assembling colorful wax cubes into molds to  make candles. This looks like a fun activity when you have all day and can come back later to pick up your candle.

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Glow Candle shop

 

Melo Melo Kava Bar attracted us in with their wall of living ferns and houseplants and plush, bright, modern couches. We had no idea what was going on in there, but it looked interesting enough to take the seats at the bar. One guy was preparing a chocolate drink using Keith’s Cacao 100% Pure Ceremonial Grade Cacao. And chocolate drinks always get my attention. This was serious stuff. They serve sipping chocolate one called Midnight Mystic which is 80% cacao, vanilla bean and himalayan salt, and Global Warrior which is 65% cacao, with maca, turmeric and cardamom. We learned that raw cacao contains more than 300 different chemical compounds and nearly four times the antioxidant power of your average dark chocolate. It is a mind stimulant and a great aphrodisiac. I’m a fan.

 

This article explains Kava’s non addictive-medicinal South Pacific root and how people are using it to calm their nerves and relieve anxiety instead of using drugs. Kava Kava Root (Piper Methysticum) relaxes the nervous tension, muscle cramps and helps to stabilize moods. It is a mild psychoactive, tastes like earth like you are licking an outside of a potato, and will numb your throat when you drink it.

The employee recommended us trying the Nak-Out 8 oz. drink of kava and to add the Rip Tide to it which is an extra boost of kava. Here was her explanation about Kava.

My niece and I were smart enough to pass on these drinks especially since we still had an hour drive home.

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Jasmine and me posing at Go Ask Alice in Santa Cruz

 

Go Ask Alice was another interesting place to check out. Here we found many medicinal herbs like Chaga, Ginkgo, Mullein, Borage, Calendula, Comfrey, Holy Basil, Lemon Balm, Red Reishi and many more. There was a section of herbs under an Aphrodisiacs sign like Cacao (which we learned at the previous business), Blue Lotus, Cordyceps, Damiana, Kava Kava Root, Maca, Macacao, Muira Puama, Mucunna, Oat straw, Schisandra, Shatavari Root, Tongkat Ali, and Tribulus. Weird stuff, but if it helps people then I’m all for it. They also sold CBD, Kratom and devices to smoke them with. It’s all news to me.

 

Under the Sleep Aids and Sedatives sign were Ashwagandha, Catnip, Hops, Mugwort, Mulungu, Night Tea, Passionflower, Skullcap, and Valerian Root. I grow Valerian, Borage, Comfrey, Mullein, Lemon Balm and Calendula and many more herbs in my garden, but I haven’t made them into tinctures for health purposes.

 

Go Ask Alice sold Let’s Thrive a CBD  wellness products, Melo Out Man a CBD Milk Chocolate Bar, Honu CBD Chocolate Turtles and CBD Peanut Butter Cups, Kratom Chocolates and Treometry Raw Cacao and Reishi products. These items reminded me of my trip to Portland at Electric Lettuce.

 

Go Ask Alice had everything from Root Remedies Kava Liquid Chill drops to Rainbow Bliss Botanicals Rooted Tea. Host Defense Primordial Chocolate Bar, Choquiero Chocolate Bars like Spicy Chipotle a 73% with cacao nibs and cayenne pepper or Mayan Rose that included a 75% cacao plus cinnamon and maca root. This place was mind blowing!

 

There were lots of books on Psychedelic Healing, one on The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants by Christian Ratsch, the Handbook on Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda by Bridgetta Shea, The Honey Prescription by Nathaniel Altman and many more. One could spend all day here and get all the feels that Santa Cruz has to offer.

 

Jasmine grabbed a couple of cookies from the Pacific Cookie Company. They had so many to choose from including Triple Chocolate, Mint Condition, Coconut Macaroon, Almond Joe, Chocolate Chip with Walnuts, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, Snickerdoodle, Ginger Spice, Peanut Butter and Gluten Free varieties from Mariposa Bakery. The place smelled intoxicating and I wanted one of each, but I had already purchased and eaten a Florentine cookie earlier. I definitely want to make them. All of them looked delicious!

Retro Paradise was a clothing store with lots of colorful and erotic merchandise and reminded me of The Haight in San Francisco. Of course the Pride Parade took place last weekend, so I’m sure many folks bought their outfits from this shop.

 

There was plenty more to see, but we decided to drive back before it became dark. When I’m not familiar with a new neighborhood, I don’t like to be there into the evening. It looked safe enough, but we needed to get back to the care before our time ran out on our parking meter.

 

We made it back to San Jose in time for a drink, hot wings and chicken fingers at Smoke Eaters. Fieldwork Blackberry Parfait a Sour Ale, Jackrabbit Afterglow a Brown Ale, Hop Dogma Stout, Anderson Valley Nitro Cerveza Crema, Lagunitas Citrusinensis a Pale Ale, Knee Deep Simtra Triple IPA, Six Rivers Sasquatch Double IPA and many more were sold on draft. Or you could choose from their signature cocktails Rose Martini, Lemon Pie Martini, Black Beauty, Pisco Sour or a Prickly Pear Mez-arita. The bar was fun and lively everyone watching the hockey game hooting and hollering. I drank water since I still had another hour drive back to my house, but Jasmine had a cold pineapple cider. She taught me how to order wings by choosing a sauce like mango habanero, honey sriracha, garlic parmesan or the extra hot inferno sauce. Eating at Smoke Eaters Restaurant was the perfect ending to our day together.

 

So if you are looking for an outing a little out of the ordinary, check out Santa Cruz. Whether you visit the far out kava house Melo Melo also located in Berkeley, or bother to stop off at Go Ask Alice for a mood elevator or plant sedative you will not be disappointed.  Maybe you are lucky enough to take a friend or loved one with you like I did.

 

Thanks for spending this time with me and reading my blog. I’m so happy I can share my treks and good eats here and give you ideas for your next vacation or day trip.

 

Please leave me a comment and share your Capitola and Santa Cruz experiences with me. Next I will be sharing my trip to San Francisco with my son Andrew and also share a fun beer crawl in Walnut Creek with my son Curtis. Someone has to have some fun, so it may as well be me.

 

Until next time.

 

Teri

 

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As Easy as One Two Tea in Healdsburg

As Easy as One Two Tea in Healdsburg

Spent the day with my niece Marie at one of my favorite places, Healdsburg, California. Today’s blog will be all about our fun day exploring, eating good food, drinking great wine, munching on chocolate treats and buying tea. After all, an aunt’s job is to spoil people on their birthday, right?

 

To start things off right, we began our day by being introduced to Russian River Flowers just a few blocks from town. We learned that they provided flowers for the restaurant The Shed, which went out of business and only has a pop up store next door now. The flower arrangements on display were beautiful and provided me with a lot of inspiration. Gardening is a passion of mine and I spend a lot of time growing perennials and annuals so I can make my own gifts for family and friends. Russian River Flowers store can be rented for special occasions as well. So clever!  Marie and I enjoyed our time there, but were happy to move on to Banshee Wines.

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My niece Marie and me celebrating her birthday in Healdsburg

 

Marie was drawn to Banshee because there was a bar in Chico with the same name and she spent four happy years studying communications there. She enjoyed their Fog Line tasting menu which included a 2016 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, and 2017 Pinot Noir, Grenache and a Russian River Cabernet Franc. They spoiled her with more tastings because she works at Wente Winery in Marketing. We thought the service could have been better since we waited for a bit to be acknowledged, but had a nice experience at their cozy location.

 

Next we were ready for lunch and opted for a burger and glasses of red wine at Journeyman Meat Company. They had salumi, cheeses, sandwiches, pizza and more, but this combination was perfect after an hour and a half long car ride.

 

Of course we had to stop for chocolate and tea at the Russian River Tea Company. I made sure I purchased some apricot tea for my mom for Mother’s Day, her favorite! They had confections like toffee and peanut butter cups from Healdsburg Toffee Company, Volo Chocolate Bars and teas of every kind. I make toffee candy every holiday and have for years in case you are interested in a good recipe.

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My niece Marie tasting chocolate at Russian River Tea

 

Next up, was JCB Tasting Salon. I was surprised to find this gem in Healdsburg, since I’ve written about JCB in Yountville. This place is extraordinary and not to be missed. We were taken back by the hospitality and attention not to mention their relaxing comfortable velvet booths they seat you in. Marie was swimming in sparkling flights and we had a great conversation.

 

Lingering around in Healdsburg for hours is not a problem when you can find a reservation open at Valette. We were trying to get a table at Single Thread Farm Restaurant, but one needs to plan in advance for that occasion. Someday, I will make it back there and maybe stay in one of their executive suites at their Inn. I’m dreaming I know.

Valette was just as fancy serving Marie a special birthday cocktail and a nice pasta dish for her hungry appetite. Next time I want to try the Chef Vallete’s “Trust me” Tasting Menu offering up to $15.00 per course and ordering a minimum of five courses which sounds interesting. Lastly, they surprised her with a “It’s Not a Snickers Bar” dessert made with cocoa nib tuile, peanut powder and Volo dark chocolate ganache. Bob Valette the owner even stopped by to join us for a brief chat.

 

Overall, I can’t imagine our day being any better during our visit to Healdsburg. And to think this was a spontaneous get together because we were thinking of each other at the same time! So if you happen to think of one of your relatives, give them a call and you could make an impromptu road trip like we did. It’s as easy as one, two tea!

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Me at journeyman Meats

 

Thanks again for reading my blog and subscribing so you get to read about my travels. Lots of good food places and wineries to choose from any day of the week. More recipes will be shared soon, including a key lime pie and more.

 

Happy Father’s Day to you and I hope you are celebrating the great men in your life this weekend.

 

Cheers,

Teri

 

 

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My True Chocolate Obsession: From Bean to Bar

My True Chocolate Obsession: From Bean to Bar
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Décor at the Ace Hotel Portland Oregon next to Stumptown Coffee

Spent the week in Portland researching Chocolate Shops recently. Out gracious concierge at The Nines Hotel gave me some great places to check out while my husband was at work. Today’s blog will focus on the chocolatiest hot spots in Portland including Creo Chocolate, Woodblock Chocolate, and Cloud Forest Chocolates.

 

To be truthful, I actually spent the morning at Stumptown Coffee writing my last blog because it was one of the only places open early. This cool place had Ace Hotel in an adjoining room that guests could drink their latte’s and read the news or work on their computer. Since I had to drive my husband to work by 8AM, I needed a place to hang out before venturing out into the city. This was the perfect place to write and enjoy my two shots of espresso and steamed milk. Delicious. My usual preferred method of blogging consists of a happy hour where I order a Shock Top Beer with fresh orange and an appetizer. The words start flowing and my fingers start typing.

 

Creo Chocolate is a family owned and operated bean to bar factory with internationally award winning hand crafted chocolate. Their beans are sourced from the Los Rios region of Ecuador and they use 2 main ingredients: cacao beans and evaporated cane juice. They offer Twicks Bars (yes that’s what I said) made from milk chocolate, shortbread and caramel. I had to have one and it was decadent. The Batch Bar looked equally delicious make with dark chocolate, coconut almond praline and caramel. I saw truffles galore made by their chocolatier Jeremy Karp who makes many chocolates with fun names like Vietnamese iced coffee, Dark chocolate meltaway, Coconut almond delight, Spicy passion, Garden mint, Yuzu gimlet, Earl grey, Raspberry dark, Dulce de leche, Hazelnut crunch and  try my favorite Raspberry dark chocolate. I wish I had bought one of each! They sold malt balls, Cacao Seasoning Rub, Hazelnut Chocolate Spread, and have a variety of sipping chocolate mixes like Mayan Spice, and Mint, Midnight Truffle. And of course they had chocolate bars like 62% Dark Orange, Dark Raspberry, 73% Dark Toasted Coconut which I had to have, 64% Oreo Crunch, a Dark Milk and a Coffee and Cream bar Yum. Honestly, chocolate is almost a spiritual experience. I know how much work goes into growing, harvesting, fermenting, packaging and preparing each and every sustainable bar.

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Minty sipping Chocolate at Creo Chocolate in Portland Oregon

 

I decided to try their mint sipping chocolate drink served with a side of seltzer water and whipped cream. It was exquisite! I savored every drop. One of my hiking friends Sharon drinks a hot chocolate every day at Peet’s Coffee to get in her calcium for the day. I think she would approve of Creo’s sipping hot Chocolate.

Creo had a chocolate tour happening while I was there which would have been fun, but I had places to go and people to see. I did enjoy reading Food Lover’s Guide to Portland by Liz Crain while drinking my cocoa drink. I even read about Hood River Oregon which I had been to the day before. Also purchased a few chocolate bars to take homelike their Toasted Coconut and Dark Chocolate Mint.

 

Next up was WoodBlock Chocolate. Can I mention that there are samples everywhere? Yes. If you are in the mood to taste chocolate, this is your kind of place. This place sold chocolate covered hazelnuts, 70% dark chocolate bunnies, gianduja which has a hazelnut flavor, a 60% dark milk chocolate made with Peruvian cacao that tastes like caramel, and much, much more.

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#Guittard #Woodblock Callebaut #Creo #chocolate sampling at Garden Club Party

 

It was here that I got inspired to have a chocolate tasting party for my garden club. After all, WoodBlock offers effleurage. (The process that uses solid fats to capture fragrance exuded by flowers, exotic spices and botanicals) The tasting involves chocolate that has been flavored with coffee beans, herbs, teas and flowers like hibiscus. This party was held last Wednesday and everyone that attended had a good time. We tasted chocolate with hops, hibiscus tea, masala chai tea, peppermint and coffee. It was so much fun. I was hoping more garden club members would have sampled the Petrus Cherry and Chocolate Stout Beer and Boatswain Chocolate Stout Beer with the dark chocolate samples together, but only one of the ladies imbibed. It was a warm evening and we sat outside on the patio, the perfect place for a cold beer and chocolate  tasting. A few years ago I hosted an edible flower class with cocktails.  That was fun too.

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Decidedly my favorite chocolate bar ever made by Creo Chocolate

I was introduced to a beer called Gigantic which is a chocolate IPA made with Wood Block Chocolate. They call it “The Weapon of Mass Seduction” and It’s a chocolate oatmeal oyster stout. What will they think of next? They offer Stumptown Coffee called Hair Bender, or the direct trade House Blend which would be my go to if I hadn’t already sampled and sipped more chocolate than I needed to.

I tried Woodblock’s chocolate caramel with sea salt which was chewy and mouth watering and walked away from the coffee milk chocolate truffle with cacao nibs. The most interesting part of my day here was meeting their pastry chef. I learned she was incorporating chocolate into their biscuits. They had already run out f them or I would have ordered one. This sounded intriguing since I had just been to Pine State Biscuits a few hours earlier for a hot biscuit with whipped butter and Marion berry spread. They also have apple butter, strawberry jam, Bee Local Honey and house pimento. We need a place like this where I live, that’s for sure.

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#PineStateBiscuits

 

My last stop, but not the least was venturing over to Cloud Forest Chocolate. I got to hear the scoop about Sebastian Cisneros the owner and his story behind the Ecuadorian cacao and his obsession with chocolate. I sampled the Bee Chocolate Bar made with bee pollen from Oregon’s Bee Local and Jacobsen Salt also located in Portland. It’s made with organic cacao butter, organic milk solids, organic cane sugar, bee pollen, organic cacao beans, vanilla seeds and sea salt. The look is this bright yellow color with dark brown stripes running through it. Very cool looking and super tasty. Unlike any other chocolate you have had before.

 

I was intrigued by their Holy Wood Bar made with a dark chocolate from the Bolivian Amazon and infused with an aromatic Palo Santo wood found in Ecuador.

Google says ” Palo Santo is a mystical tree that grows on the coast of South America and is related to Frankincense, Myrrh and Copal. In Spanish, the name literally means “Holy Wood”. It is part of the citrus family and has sweet notes of pine, mint and lemon. I had to try the sample of course and take one home for later. There were several other bars to choose from including one made with sesame seeds and matcha.

 

Cloud Forest serves a maple drinking chocolate, a classic hot chocolate with Ecuadorian cacao (see a theme here?), a seasonal magnolia and pistachio marshmallow hot chocolate, aqua de cacao (a water based unsweetened chocolate drink served with Old Blue Honey), Snow Honey Chrysanthemum tea from China, Mulberry tea from Thailand, plus more and all the coffee lattes a girl could want. I think they were coming up with bigger ideas in the coming months to offer classes to the public.

 

“Craque” is Cloud Forest’s candied cacao and used to sprinkle on desserts and ice cream. I might try to duplicate this treat since I bought cacao nibs from WoodBlock.  I purchased the vanilla seeds instead and a few chocolate bars for family. Their chewy caramel with cacao nibs was unforgettable, something I will consider making at home as well.

Did you know that Google gives a thumbs up to bloggers who have subscribers who read all the way to the very end of the post? It’s true. So thank you for being a loyal reader and following me. It means a lot.

Do you have a favorite chocolate company? Have you been on any tours or taken any chocolate classes? Well, after my trip to Portland, I’m even more obsessed with chocolate. It’s my go to snack when I need a pick me up in the middle of the day. Good thing I have a chocolate stash which I consume on a daily basis. And I’m not embarrassed to admit that I never leave the house with out some chocolate in my purse.

Thanks again for supporting me and my love for food blogging. Hope to see you next time when I explore Cannabis and how Blue Star Donuts is taking the plain breakfast treat the next level.

 

 

 

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Biking in Napa for Calamari and Hazelnut Dacquoise

Biking in Napa for Calamari and Hazelnut Dacquoise

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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The mouthwatering chocolate hazelnut cake at Auberge du Soleil

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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Measurable Thrill in Oakland and a Blackberry Pie you Won’t Forget

Measurable Thrill in Oakland and a Blackberry Pie you Won’t Forget

Our family celebrated my son Curtis’ 34th birthday in the Berkeley Oakland area last month and we had a ton of fun. We ate and drank at Limewood, Mad Oak Bar, and at Mua Restaurant all evening long and truly enjoyed spending time together. It’s rare my husband and I get to take our boys Curtis and Andrew 27 out on a Friday night, so we took advantage of the opportunity. I’m hoping today’s blog will inspire you to check out Oakland and all it has to offer. Plus I will include my recipe for my home made Blackberry Pie.

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Our Hansome men Curtis and Andrew out celebrating Curtis’ 34th birthday at Limewood Bar Claremont Hotel Berkeley

 

I always do a ton of research before exploring a new area, yet trying to make reservations online isn’t my cup of tea. I never want to box myself into a time in case our plans change last minute. That’s why we started off at the Claremont Hotel and their Limewood Bar. Also Curtis didn’t wanted to miss the Warriors  game, so we were happy we could keep track of the score while eating dinner.

 

The Claremont is a special place because my husband and I stayed there on our wedding night over 29 years ago. It is a gorgeous historic place and I knew my boys would love experiencing the food and nightlife there.

 

My husband Ken was our designated driver so Curtis, and Andrew and I could enjoy ourselves and imbibe in fancy libations, but we first had to eat. We ordered the crispy Brussel sprouts made with fish sauce caramel, peanuts and cilantro, olives, ahi tuna with potato chips, the roasted chicken and lentils and their braised beef cheek in tagliatelle. The food was presented nicely and everything was delicious.

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Me and my number one son Curtis at Mua Restaurant checking out the art. My dad named him Montana since he was born on superbowl sunday 1985.

 

Andrew ordered a Guinness beer, Curtis had a cocktail and I had a glass of Cabernet. We asked the bartender where he suggested we go next and he recommended the Penthouse Bar Mad Oak. This place was very hip and popular. They had a rooftop bar that was packed with a fun crowd. They also had the Warriors basketball game showing on a large wall. We found a spot to sit at the roof top bar and enjoyed our drinks. Curtis had the vodka cocktail that was on special, while Andrew and I stuck with our beer and wine. We weren’t hungry yet, so we sat and talked and enjoyed the clear night and open air bar.

 

Next we went to Mua Restaurant not far from the last stop. We were lucky to find parking close by and an available table. We ordered more drinks, guacamole and chips, the half pound burger with fries, the “Mac n Cheese” made with butternut squash and cream and who knows what else. The night is a blurr and I can hardly remember much else. All I know is that we didn’t get home until 1:30 AM after dropping off our boys.

Mad Oak roof top Bar in Oakland

 

I can’t remember the last time we partied like this with our kids. It doesn’t happen on a regular basis, but we are excited to spend time with them, especially around their birthdays. I highly recommend spending the evening in Oakland and checking out the Limewood Restaurant and Bar, the Mad Oak Bar and Mua Restaurant.

 

Next you will find my favorite Blackberry Pie recipe. It’s the perfect dessert to go with your Valentine’s day dinner. It’s my husband’s favorite pie, so I had to have my friends over today and show them how to make it. We had a blast and you will too.

 

Be sure to share this blog with your family and friends on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook or via email to a friend. And follow me for more fun recipes and travel posts.

 

Blackberry Filling for Pie

 Ingredients: 

6 Cups of Frozen Blackberries (3 bags of O Organics from Safeway or fresh if in season)

1 Cup granulated sugar

Juice and zest of 1 orange

½ t grated nutmeg

Pinch of Maldon Salt Flakes

 

¼ C Hanson’s Sonoma Organic Vodka Mandarin Flavored

2 T Cornstarch

 

3 T Tapioca Flour

3 T Unsalted Butter cut into chunks

 

1 whisked whole egg (used to brush on top of pastry)

 

1 T granulated sugar

1 T demerara sugar

 

Directions: 

Pour 6 Cups of blackberries into a heavy medium sized pot. Add sugar, nutmeg, orange juice and zest and salt and cook until bubbly.

Mix mandarin vodka and cornstarch in a small bowl and add to the pot of boiling blackberries. Cool.

Make pastry. Check out my previous post here: pastry recipe .

 

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This is Nancy’s blackberry pie. She chose to use fresh blackberries and bake them without cooking first. Looks so pretty

After mixture is cooled and pastry is rolled out and placed into pie dish, mix 3 T of Tapioca Flour into blackberries and pour into pastry lined pie dish. Dot with chunks of butter. Top with remaining rolled out pastry, crimp sides with your thumb and pointed finger to make a nice edge. Cut out a tiny whoel (I made a heart shape) in center of pie.

 

Brush with egg and sprinkle with both sugars.

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place filled blackberry pie onto a sheet pan and bake for 1 hour or so until crust is golden brown.

 

Let pie cool completely so that blackberries have time to gell and set. This is the hardest part. Serve at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!

Teri:)

 

 

 

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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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Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti

Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti
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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.

 

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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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