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Category Archives: family

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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Family Foodie Vacation and Art in Truckee

Family Foodie Vacation and Art in Truckee

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Fennel, Chive and Heirloom Tomato Green Salad

 

Ingredients:

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

1 carrot peeled and shredded

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

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

1 C chopped red and yellow heirloom tomatoes from the garden

 

Directions:

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

Serves 7
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Apricot White Balsamic Salad Dressing

 

Ingredients:

 

1 T Dijon Mustard

2 T Organic Blenheim Apricot Preserves

¼ C White Balsamic Vinegar (or Champagne Vinegar)

1 T grapeseed oil

1 t minced shallot

2 t minced garlic

1 T local honey

1 orange/lime/ or lemon freshly squeezed

½ C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

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

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

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

 

 

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Cooking with Family and Celebrating Birthday’s in Wine Country

Cooking with Family and Celebrating Birthday’s in Wine Country

I’ve noticed that I haven’t written any blog posts lately. Today I am going to change that. I hurt my back gardening a month ago, so sitting at the computer has been a challenge. I’m getting stronger every day and am able to exercise again. Whew! It’s no fun to lay around. My back didn’t seem to get any better when I was sedentary either. I know it sounds crazy. But it’s true. I love to share food stories with others, so here goes. If I can bring friends and family into the kitchen to cook and bake with me, I’m a happy girl. today I will share a few of these stories and I will be including links to my previous blogs that also include recipes.

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Here’s a pic of Andrew dressed as Clark Kent for Halloween

Just yesterday, my son who recently moved out wanted to make guacamole with me and I was thrilled. He didn’t need my help. Andrew has his own creative recipe testing techniques and I give him suggestions here and there. But for the most part, he’s confident in his cooking game and likes to experiment.

Some of my best memories of my nieces are when they asked me if they could make something with me. Like for instance, when my niece Jamie was craving a sweet treat called “Puppy Chow.” This favorite snack is made with Rice Chex Cereal, Peanut Butter, Milk Chocolate, Confectioners Sugar and our addition of 3/4 Cup of Nutella. It’s messy and you will need your biggest bowl, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Jamie is living in London right now (for the summer) working using her computer science training from Chico State. I’m following her Instagram stories to keep up with her adventure. We all miss her dearly and can’t wait to hear all about her time in Europe.

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Ken and I picking up Keri from the airport and sharing a piece of my carrot cake with her. Her fav!

This foodie day making Puppy Chow was a last minute get together that included my other niece Laura. Many of the cousins take grandma Nilda to breakfast on Sunday mornings, and it was there that they decided a cooking day with Auntie Teri was in order. I had most of the ingredients already, except for the cereal of which I asked them to pick up.

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Getting back to Laura, she’s a gem. I’ve had fun getting to know this young woman over the years. She graduated from UC San Diego and works full time at an aviation insurance company in San Francisco. She and Jamie became fast friends when Jamie’s sister Keri went off to college over 5 years ago. Now Keri will be moving back to the Bay Area to live with her parents and pursue a new marketing job in San Francisco. The family couldn’t be more thrilled. I’m the luckiest aunt because they happen to live in my neighborhood, so I’m sure I will be seeing a lot more of her. Her and her boyfriend Sam have been living and working in San Diego. Our families like spending time together, so much that we went to Cancun together in 2013 and 2015.

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In a couple of weeks, Keri and I will take a day trip to the wine country to celebrate her birthday. Who knows where we’ll end up. Sonoma was fun with our exchange student from Bilbao and his family.  It’s only about an hour away, but totally worth the drive. Here’s the blog about our foodie day there with fun times wine tasting, and nibbling on yummy cheese platters.

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Silly goofy Keri and I trying on make-up while shopping in down town Walnut Creek during the Holidays while she was in town.

Or we could head into Napa and check out OxBow Public Market . It’s a fun place to hang out for the day. My son Andrew and I went there last November and enjoyed a relaxing day together. Here’s my blog on the beer, spices, chocolate fudge and more that we experienced in case you want to know more. Even Michelle and I went to Oxbow together.

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Me and my niece Michelle capturing the moment during our day at Oxbow Public Market in Napa

Now that my back is feeling better, Keri and I can explore a new Bay Area destination.  I know that I will take plenty of photos so that I can share the day with all of you that follow my blog. Have I thanked you lately? It means a lot that you take the time to read my posts and leave comments below.

 

Have you been on any excursions lately? Do you have a destination vacation idea for me? If so let me know. It’s been a pleasure sharing my life and recipes with you. Have a happy Thursday. Here’s a pic from our family Cancun reunion.

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The Smyth’s and Van Winckel’s during a Cancun vacation a few years back. Standing My son Curtis, sister in law Kathleen, Brother in Law Rodney, and my son Andrew. Kneeling from the left: My husband Ken, me, and my nieces Jamie and Keri

Teri:)

 

 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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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A Foodie Day in Emeryville and a Visit to Pixar

A Foodie Day in Emeryville and a Visit to Pixar

Met a friend for lunch at Emeryville’s Koja Kitchen for Korean-Japanese fusion food inside the Public Market, then the two of us joined another friend for a tour of Pixar. The  Market was quiet because it was early, but it was similar to the Ferry building in San Francisco, or also Napa’s OxBow Public Market. If you like food, wine and beer and ART you must get yourself to Emeryville.

 

Let’s begin with the various businesses at the Public Market. I found fourteen choices of places to dine, drink or just hang out with a loved one for a cup of coffee at Peets. I passed since I had already had my espresso w steamed milk while driving to this destination, but Peets is definitely my favorite coffee house. Lucky me I had time for a quick pedicure at The Lounge Nail Spa since I arrived an hour early. How convenient was that?

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Pauline admiring the Coco art on the back of an employee’s Jeep in the parking lot.

Pauline is my brother in law Hanson’s niece (that’s a mouthful!) and she had asked if we could spend a day at Pixar a few months ago. Pauline is a HUGE Disney fan and has never had a tour before until today. This was my second opportunity to visit Pixar since several months ago when I took a tour with my niece Jasmine.  Here are a couple of pics from our day together.

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Jasmine saluting w Woody

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This is the building where all the future ideas are being developed. There are seven movies now in the works

Pixar is studded with art from the very famous award winning Movie Coco, The Incredibles and many other Disney favorites. It’s truly an animators playground, of which is why Pauline loves it there. She has a degree in animation, yet chooses to work with children in San Francisco as a teacher since in her words, “it is more rewarding.”

 

We had a blast walking through the Pixar campus even spotting a famous director. Very cool. The gardens are gorgeous with huge trees and purple blooming irises. One of my favorites since I have them in full bloom in my garden as well.

 

I am fortunate to have connections and visiting privileges to this iconic institution. You can feel the creative energy inside and out of the buildings and know very special things are coming from the brilliant minds of the people who work there. Coming soon is Toy Story 4 and I will be lining up to see that feature film being released in June 2019. My son Andrew had the action figures Woody and Buzz Lightyear back in 1995 when the movie won 3 oscars.

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Well, I thought this blog was going to be all about the restaurants that I stumbled upon at the Public Market. I guess I can get a little excited about Disney/Pixar movies too and get sidetracked. Thou you won’t want to miss checking out these dining experiences either. C Casa, Fish Face poke Bar, Hot Italian, Mayo & Mustard, and Mr Dewie’s Cashew Creamery dairy, soy and gluten free just to name a few. And don’t miss trying Paradita Eatery a Peruvian restaurant and stop by Oui Oui! for a light and airy macaron right after. You will want to bring co workers with you to try The Periodic Table’s huge list of local brews, then Shiba Ramen for an authentic fast casual really delicious Japanese ramen bowl.

Of course, many would opt for a vegan dish and would choose an eggplant curry from  Wazwan Indian Cuisine. Or if you are in the mood for sushi, try We Sushi who started out as a food truck.

It was a dream come true to come across this destination before spending the day at Pixar. Our lunch was healthy, reasonably priced, quick and tasty at Koja Kitchen and we had just enough time to make it for our 2PM Pixar tour. I really can’t think of a better way to spend the day.

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Maybe you have a favorite new hot spot to hang out in? Are you a Disney fan? Here’s a blog from my recent trip to Disneyland. If so leave your ideas in the comment section below. And thanks for reading this. It means a lot.

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Sneak peek from recent Disneyland Adventure

 

 

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Sip Happens… It’s Okay to WINE

Sip Happens… It’s Okay to WINE
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Lynie and me at Bob’s Wine Class

Took a spectacular wine class last weekend at the local community center in my town with my neighbor Lynn. Lynn also happens to be my husband’s cousin, so that makes her extra special. She got me excited about signing up for the class a few months ago, and boy am I glad I did. I’m usually a food blogger. But wine goes well with food, right?

In today’s blog, I will be sharing the highlights about what you need to know about wine and sharing my favorite risotto recipe. Bob Becker a certified Sommelier and Wine professional gave the wine analysis presentation along with his wife Darla. Lynie and I and several other wine enthusiasts learned that Americans drink 900 million gallons of wine a year!  It was interesting to find out that there were only 40 wineries back in 1970. And today, there are 9000 wineries in the US! We like our wine. In fact, Bob said that Americans drank 3.7 billion bottles of wine in 2017!

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My nieces Keri and Jamie last December at Rombauer in St Helena

I had no idea how complicated wine tasting could be. We went through the Seven Components that make up the structure (there happens to be 1200 components in a glass of wine): Aroma, Alcohol, Sugar, Acid, Tannin, Texture, and Body were what we covered.These characteristics helped us learn how to identify the glasses we had in front of us. During our lifetime, we create a memory bank of aromas that our brain remembers when drinking wine. The three types of Aroma are Natural/Floral like a Viognier, a Bouquet aroma (the wine is 4 or 5 yrs old) and was made w molecular equilibrium like raisin or leather aroma, or Wine Maker Infused because of the wine barrels. There are American, French and Hungarian wood barrels.

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Lynie getting serious while waiting for Bob’s presentation

American barrels might smell like vanilla, dill or coconut. Where as the French barrels have a caramel, spice or nutmeg aroma. The Hungarian may taste like cinnamon or cloves and the winemakers add wood chips to get these flavors when they burn the barrels. True story. They can only flavor wine in a barrel three times before these barrels are discarded. When Bob worked at Hess in Napa they had 3,500 barrels at one time and each barrel cost approximately $1,600 each. That’s a lot of moolah.

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Bob’s wife Darla and a few happy participants

Then we learned the five step tasting method: Sight, Swirl, SniffSip and Summarize. Sight– When looking at your wine, look for clarity.  Is it crystal clear? How old is it? White wines get darker after 4 yrs because they start oxidizing. What climate was it grown in? Red wines get lighter as they age. The color pigments fall to the bottom and at 4-6 yrs old the reds have a different color at the outer edge rim part of the glass. Are you confused yet?

Actually we were just getting started tasting the various wines sitting in front of us. It was so fun. When one Swirls, you are aerating the wine releasing esters of aroma molecules that enter the nose. Fun fact! Right handers swirl their wine glass counterclockwise and left handers clockwise. Apparently, legs are those streaks that trickle down the side of any wine glass after you swirl it. They tell nothing about wine. It means the cabernet grapes had thick skin. The slower the legs the more alcohol.

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Lynie and I had to identify various Smells like coconut, pear, lemon, cloves, raspberry, pineapple, diesel and mildew (cause from a moldy cork) that were located in small bottles on the table. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to remember each of these. Smell is the gateway to flavor. For example, New Zealand’s wines have more of a lychee aroma. A Spanish wine over 10 years old will smell like leather. A Viognier white wine may taste like white peaches, apricots or a green apple aroma. And we learned that no two people smell things alike. Who knew?

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My dad Ron and my friend Susan at Rombauer a few years ago. Of course I was trying to be a matchmaker again

It was so interesting to find out that everyone has a dominant nostril when Sniffing wine. The professionals hold their glass within an ⅛ of an inch of the rim to properly sniff. They tilt the glass and use only one nostril. Fascinating!  

Now I know I was supposed to take notes on Sipping and Summarizing too, but there is nothing written here. I wonder if the wine was kicking in…

Bob also talked about ways to recognize bad wine. For instance, if you make a reservation for an earlier time, the restaurants may be serving wine from the day before that doesn’t taste quite right. And if you are paying $12-16 dollars for a glass of wine, it should taste good. Call the waiter and have them open a new bottle in front of you so you know it isn’t old. Great tip!

We talked about Infrared Thermometers that help tell the wine’s exact temperature. We now know that lying a bottle on its side helps prevent air getting in and that we should keep the bottles in a cool dark 55 degree room. Wine cellars can cost $87,000 to build! Interestingly enough, don’t store your wine in a home fridge because they vibrate in there and that changes the flavor of the wine prematurely. It’s also too cold and dry in your home fridge. For those of you that only drink a glass or two a night, buy a coravin. These help suck the wine into your glass and keep the cork in place to keep the wine fresh. These are just a few of the many interesting wine tasting tricks in Bob’s class.

Bob was clear about serving wine from a clear glass with a stem that is thin with a narrow rim like these or these.  The thinner the glass the better the wine tastes. I know these rules are boring you, but I’m excited to have my next dinner party and show off all of my new wine tips.
Thank goodness red wine has beneficial health benefits too. Although it’s best to not over drink. Make sure to drink a wine that is older than 10 years quickly and don’t decant it. The oxygen destroys the flavor immediately. 

Also- Bob pointed out that screw tops are perfectly fine, they are fabulous at preserving wine and are better than corked wines. Five out of every 100 wine bottles have bad corks!

The characteristics of a well made wine are: Expressiveness, Complexity, Pleasing Texture, Balance and Lingering Finish. When you swallow, how long does the flavor stay on your palate? Does it burn the back of your throat going down? This may mean it has a high alcohol content. Side note: Bob mentioned Screaming Eagle Wine founded by female winemaker Jean Phillips. He and Darla had the pleasure of enjoying her wine for $1,200 a bottle! No kidding.

One of the most interesting facts about the class was realizing that wine is full of SUGAR. These bottles show how much sugar is in each wine. Sparkling wine like Cava/Spain, Prosecco/Italy, and Roederer/France has less sugar and go with many foods. It’s against the law to add sugar to wine. Just before the wine is bottled, the vintners dump raw grape juice into the bottle. The yeast eats the sugar and ethyl alcohol is produced.

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At the end of the class Bob revealed what we were drinking. It was fun to find out more about these wines. My favorite was either #4 or #5 because I was picking up a coffee aroma and I love coffee.

#1 A Sauvignon Blanc from Smart Cookie Vineyards

#2 Chenin Blanc from Beringer

#3 A Zinfandel from Quackenbush

#4 Pisano RPF Uruguay Tannat 2013

#5 Apothic Red 2015
I could go on and on with more wine tips, but why not take a class like Bob’s? His email is Beck711@comcast.net. He also does private parties. Or you could go wine tasting at Page Mill Winery in Livermore and meet my hiking friend Debbie.She knows her stuff. Lots of cool things to do in Livermore.

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Wine Wheel that helps while wine tasting

In Bob’s  words “If you wine a little bit, you’ll feel a lot better.” Well, I can tell you that my husbands cousin Lynie and I definitely felt a lot better after taking his class. I hope you have enjoyed this write up and have picked up a thing or two about wine.

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And finally, I will end with a quote from Benjamin Franklin. “In wine there is wisdom, in beer freedom, in water there is bacteria. I think I’ll plan a day trip to the Napa Valley, Livermore or Healdsburg. Anyone want to go? Hit me up! Leave me a comment below and tell me your favorite wine tip.

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My fav chef Michael Chiarello even has his own wine. Pic taken a few years back at Bottega restaurant in Yountville at Marketplace

 

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