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Category Archives: Foodie

From Vine to Bottle in Livermore California

From Vine to Bottle in Livermore California
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Gorgeous grapes at Rubino in Livermore

 

Rounded up a friend last Wednesday to go wine tasting in Livermore. Maggie and I have talked about doing this for over a year and had it planned on the calendar for at least two months. She and I visited Steven Kent, Ruby Hill and Rubino and didn’t leave town until 1PM because I had a previously scheduled lunch date with neighbors.

 I have the nicest neighbors! Cindy, Joan and Nancy treated me to California Pizza Kitchen. It was the perfect lunch. I had half turkey club sandwich and a salad. My girlfriends even brought me gifts! A hand made knit scarf and cute blank stationary cards made by Joan, an adorable house plant from Nancy and pasta making tools and copies of favorite family recipes from Cindy and her Italian mother in law. It was already the best day possible and I have gratitude for these women in my life.

 

Back to the day in Livermore… Maggie and I met over 6 years ago at our neighborhood garden club. Again, how lucky I am to live in this great neighborhood!  You could say we bonded over garden walks, compost and Portlands’ chocolate tastings meeting. She and her husband have also lived in the neighborhood for 20 plus years. She is a red wine lover and wanted to take a day trip with me since she follows me on Instagram and sees the adventures I take.

 

She had called the day before to make appointments, but didn’t have much luck. I explained how I will usually “wing it” and drive around until I find an interesting location or side street that looks inviting. That system works in Napa, St. Helena and Healdsburg, but not so much in Livermore. We learned that they have 55 wineries there, and only 10 are open on Wednesdays. I guess my poor planning bit me in the bum that day, but we made the best of it. After all, how many wines can one taste anyway?

 

Maggie happened to have two free tastings at Steven Kent from a dinner auction item, so we started there. Instead of a flight, I asked for a pour of their 2016 SVS Cabernet Sauvignon from their Casa de Vinas Vineyard. Instead, our attendant would only pour me a little at a time. I thought this was a little strange, but I went along with it. Maggie wasn’t interested in the white varieties and only asked for the red varietals.

 

We learned Steven Kent Mirassou is a sixth generation member of America’s oldest winemaking family. Starting Steven Kent Winery in 1996, he specialized in Bordeaux grapes crafting small lot vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

The tasting room was dark, small and empty except for us and one other couple. We weren’t exactly welcomed with warm open arms either. We didn’t stay long hoping we would find a better experience elsewhere.

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Me and Maggie tasting wine at Ruby Hills Winery in Livermore

 

Maggie had done some research and knew that Ruby Hills Winery was open. Neither of us had tasted there before. I had been to the club years ago when my niece Jasmine and I attended a National Charity League Senior Presents program there. It was a special place, so I was excited to check out their winery. 

 

We weren’t disappointed although our Google Maps took us up over the hill in the middle of nowhere before we realized we were going in the wrong direction. I don’t think the WiFi was working, so we got a little lost. That isn’t an uncommon thing for me, unfortunately. The Ruby Hill building is enormous and grand with many country decorations inside adorning the walls. They sold jewelry, dark chocolate caramels from Something Sweet Chocolates, Rubino Estates Winery Orange Blossom and Wild Thistle Honey and of course wine. They also had a nice deli counter with many types of cheese, hummus, prosciutto, salami crackers and chips. I appreciate this gesture so people can enjoy their wine with food in case they are hungry.

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Hand made dark chocolate caramels with sea salt sold at Ruby Hills Winery

 

We were treated with the utmost care and respect at Rubino and I would highly recommend it. Our sommelier was friendly, helpful and easy going. She allowed Maggie to taste the reds of her choice from both the Estate Flight at $15 per person and the Jewel Flight at $20.00 per person. And she took off the tasting fee since she purchased two bottles of the 2014 Intesa for $34.00. Maggie really knows her wine and spits after she tastes. I tried a splash of just the 2015 Jewel Zinfandel which received 92 points from Wine Enthusiast and that was enough for me. 

 

We read about the Mello Cielo Vineyard Experience for groups which includes a tasting, then two hour tour on their vintage wine bus. Then a visit to Ruby Hill’s modern on-site production facility where one can see the winemaking process from vine to bottle. Our garden club members may take advantage of this opportunity. A few wanted to join us on our Livermore day out, but I only learned about it the day before. The private tour will require a minimum of eight people and a maximum of 14. There are two tours available daily, 11:15AM and 2:15PM and reservations should be made a week in advance. The price is $35.00 for non-members. Club members are only $30.00 and are allowed to bring one guest. Looks like a good time.

 

Mia took care of us at Rubino Estates Winery open since March of 2013, and is conveniently located around the corner from Ruby Hills, open since 2007. Both Wineries are owned by the Callahan’s, the Lloyd’s and the Brown’s.  They call this the Cal-Ital Winery only an hour South of Napa Valley. They feature exciting Italian varietals such as Barbera, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo as well as the classic Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Mia’s family is from Sicily, so we had a nice time chatting about my recent time in Tuscany.

 

Maggie enjoyed Rubino’s wine tasting experience and we agreed to each bring home a bottle so that her tasting was free. I refrained from drinking, since I was the designated driver.

 

Rubino sells cheese at their deli counter with flavors such as Black pepper, Tennessee Whiskey, Basil Asiago, Espresso, Balsamic, Raspberry, Rosemary Olive Oil, and Chipotle that pair with each wine. Fantastic! The tasting room is 8,000 square feet and it’s nestled in between 150 acres of vineyards. Bocce ball courts are open Monday through Friday first come first serve. 

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Maggie and I didn’t take advantage of the food or bocce entertainment this time since we wanted to get back before the Bay Area commute traffic took hold on Highway 680. But we did stop off at a nursery to check out the flowers which seemed appropriate being that we are garden lovers.  I bought a small lemon verbena because the one I had last year died in the frost. It’s a beautiful fragrant leaf and nice in iced tea or lemonade.

 

My day with Maggie was delightful and adventurous. Maybe next time we will bring the rest of the garden club clan with us to experience the great wines of the Livermore Valley.

 

Thank you for reading and sharing my blog. Hope I’ve inspired you to take get away day and enjoy a glass of wine or two. And here’s a glimpse of what Venice Italy was like.

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The best part of visiting #Venice is riding on a gondola

 

 

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Sparkling Wine Summertime Fling in Yountville and Pastries at Bouchon

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Here is my recipe for the perfect summer salad dressing.

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#Strawberry Balsamic Summer Salad Dressing

 

Strawberry Balsamic Dressing 

Makes 4 Cups

Ingredients:

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

2 T. Dijon Mustard (Grey Poupon)

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

1 small shallot minced (2 T)

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

White onion minced (2 T)

1 T Raw Honey

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

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

2 whole peeled Pink Grapefruit 

¼ C fresh lemon juice

¼ t Paprika

Pinch Sea Salt

½ t Black Pepper

 

Instructions:

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

 

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

 

This dressing can be used in a variety of salads. 

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

 

Enjoy!

 

Teri:)

 

 

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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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“Over Acheeser” Pizza in Hood River Oregon and Marion Berry Hand Pies

“Over Acheeser” Pizza in Hood River Oregon and Marion Berry Hand Pies
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#FullSailBrewingCo in Hood River Oregon

Another fun day exploring Oregon as a food blogger. Took a chance on Hood River area hoping to find new bakeries, coffee shops, gardening shops, etc.  My husband has work in Portland, so he took me along. I’m so excited to share my experience with all of you. Yesterday, I found Good News Cafe and Garden Center, a vintage boutique called Bend in the Road, Phelps Creek Tasting Room, Pine Street Bakery where I had an “Over Acheeser” piece of pizza, Apple Green Boutique, Oblation Papers & Press, and a fun dinner at Screen Door in Portland with my husband and his coworkers.

 

Driving from the city to the Oregon countryside is exhilarating. The was mountains on the right of the highway and the water on the left makes for a nice one hour drive. As I arrived in Hood River I came across Full Sail Brewery. It wasn’t open yet, so I wasn’t able to go in, but I was hoping to catch it on the way back to Portland.

 

Maybe you’re wondering how I decided to go to Hood River. I found a magazine at the Avis rental place that had an article about the Hood River County Fruit Loop. http://www.hoodriverfruitloop.com/apple-valley I knew that there is more going on from May through October, but thought I’d take a chance anyway.

 

I drove through acres of  blooming fruit trees and scrolling hills. It was beautiful. I was disappointed to find Apple Valley Country Store was closed. They are only open Wednesday through Sunday. I guess I’m not as familiar with businesses out in the middle of nowhere and how they have limited hours.  They have pies, jams, pancake and scone mixes, They have flavors like huckleberry, marionberry, bumbleberry, caramel apple jam and more!

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Art shown at #TheNinesHotel Portland Oregon

Onward and upward I drove to Phelps Creek Tasting room next to the Hood River Golf and Country Club. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYkDQMj8Vik  This wasn’t as intriguing to me since I was my own designated driver, but a bathroom break is always appreciated after our delicious breakfast at the Nines Hotel. Even though I am spending most of my day at coffee houses, bakeries and local eateries I always pack a croissant sandwich stuffed with ham, turkey, salami, marionberry jam, and provolone, swiss and cheddar cheese to save money. Their breakfast spread is incredible offering pastries, yogurts, fresh fruit, gluten free muffins, roasted vegetables, deli meats and cheeses, cereal, oatmeal, coffee and Stash tea.

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Here’s my lunch that I made from the breakfast buffet at The Nines Hotel

Next, I discovered Bend in the Road Vintage Consignment Store. It was fun to see what antiques were floating around Oregon and purchased some Scrabble letters for an art project for my niece. I was getting a rumbly in my tummy and was excited to find Good News Cafe and Garden Center. I couldn’t resist their marionberry hand pie that they graciously warmed up for me. Here’s my recipe for blackberry hand pies. Was tempted by their smores cookie since I’ve never seen one before, but I held off for something more savory. I purchased a few packages of seeds to give out to the nieces’ and nephews’ kids for Easter.

 

I had heard good things about Pine Street Bakery which was a few miles away, so ventured in there for a peek. Inside there were lines of people waiting for their fresh baked breads, cookies and savory choices like sandwiches, pizzas, and salads. I withheld from buying their egg shaped sugar cookies, their triple chocolate, and oatmeal raisin cookies. Instead I opted for the veggie pizza made with spinach, caramelized onions, ricotta and fontina. It was moist in the center, cheesy and the perfect choice for my long drive back to town.

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My tasty snack after a long day of exploring Hood River Oregon

I still had plenty of time to check out the Apple Green Boutique in the Pearl District where they had lots of Spring gifts like Easter bunny books and paper supplies. They also sold vintage material that you could make tea towels or table runners with that I almost purchased for my Mother. Her birthday is in May and I haven’t gotten her anything yet. My latest  is taking out family members and having adventure excursions. It makes for good blog posts too. I wonder where she will want to go.

 

Oblation Papers and Press was my last stop before picking up my husband at the plant. They had colorful displays of ribbons, wrapping paper, invitations and even baby books which I almost purchased for my niece Hajara who is expecting. I’d rather let her pick out her own since there are so many to choose from.

 

The Screen Door Restaurant is where we landed for dinner. Their menu is Southern Cajun Creole style. Hushpuppies, shrimp & grits, crispy fried buttermilk chicken is what they are most known for. Everything we had was delicious and I won’t forget my first taste of the sweet tea vodka cocktail. Someone suggested combining the sweet tea vodka with lemonade for an Arnold Palmer cocktail. Sounds delish. I’ve never been to New Orleans, only Florida so I’m not as experienced in critiquing this cuisine. We didn’t stay for dessert, although they had options like pecan pie, cara cara upside down cake, rhubarb custard pie by pastry chef Erin Eberlin Sage. Yum.

 

Overall, the day was something to remember and I’m happy to share my stories and recipes with you. Here’s to Hood River and Portland Oregon and their weird vibey culture. Thank you for a delicious and fun filled adventure.

 

Follow my blog by adding your email to the link on the right and share this site with your family and friends. I appreciate your love of food and travel and I will continue to find more places to explore.

 

 

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Forks and Corks at Chez Panisse and Strawberry Pie Recipe

Forks and Corks at Chez Panisse and Strawberry Pie Recipe
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Me and my son Andrew at Chez Panisse in Berkeley

Had the best lunch today with my son Andrew in Berkeley. We ate at the #ChezPanisse Café, Alice Waters’ farm to table restaurant, open since 1980. It’s commonly referred as one of the best restaurants in the country. We visited The Local Butcher Shop which is where many of local chefs like Alice purchase their protein. Then we went to see the inspiring organic and sustainable Edible Schoolyard garden located at King Middle School a few blocks from the famous Chez Panisse Restaurant. At the end of this post you will find my strawberry pie recipe if you hang around long enough.

I was fortunate that my son had time to have a leisurely lunch with me. I decided to treat us both and give him (and me) the 5 star dining experience. Sometimes it’s nice to have one on one time to really appreciate your loved one. Andrew appreciates good healthy food more than most and today’s lunch was exceptional.

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Spring Flowers to brighten your day from my garden

I had been to Chez Panisse twice before when celebrating special occasions. The first visit was a dinner with my Mom Diane and my Step Dad Tom. They took my husband and I out for my birthday. The second time, I spoiled my friend Marie for her birthday and took her there for lunch. The attention to detail on every level is top notch. I’m speaking about the professional staff who greet you at the top of the stairs and graciously seat you. Of course, it’s best to have a reservation since it is very popular. Andrew and I were fortunate enough to get a table calling the day before. The atmosphere was delightful, people imbibing in a glass of wine (in my case) or beer (for Andrew) to go along with lunch to enhance the experience. Because you never feel pressured to eat quickly here and why not relax a little?

 

The menu is packed with seasonal fresh produce from local farms, fruit from orchards, ranches and the best fisheries that practice principles of sustainability. Chef Nathan Alderson is the Cafe’s culinary artist. Here is the menu we were presented when perfectly seated.

 

It’s actually a dream of mine to work at Chez Panisse. Still recovering from toe surgery, so I’m taking it easy these days. Easter is coming up and everyone is asking if I will host again. I’m not feeling 100% and I’m of the opinion that it’s okay to let others carry the burden of the holiday party once in a while. After all, I’ve been entertaining ever since Ken and I got married almost 30 years ago.

 

My Mother hosted Easter when the weather was good. For several years she had chickens and a bunny which the grandkids loved. And she has a picture perfect garden with a pond, big trees and a nice brick patio. But my mom hasn’t been well for about 5 or 6 years now and it’s not an option. I don’t like feeling pressured to host even though I love to cook and bake. I’m ready for the younger generation to step up and “take the reigns.’ After all, they have the young ones who like to hunt for eggs and like waiting for the Easter bunny. Luckily, my brother Rick and his wife Aly graciously offered to have Easter at their home. Hopefully, we can all be together this year.

 

So, enough of my ranting. Chez Panisse is a great Berkeley destination if you like good food. We were greeted at the top of the stairs with a beautiful flower arrangement with ranunculus, jasmine, and quince branches with gorgeous pink blossoms.

 

The lunch menu was full of seasonal vegetables like fennel, cauliflower, beets, carrots, parsnips and garden lettuces. We started with their fennel and citrus salad,  plate of rosemary olives, Spanish anchovies and parsnip-carrot soup with crème’ fraiche and chives. Delish.

 

Then I ordered the halibut with snap peas, spinach and Meyer lemon beurre blanc, and Andrew ordered the pork loin. After a bit, the waiter explained that they needed to substitute the pork with a roasted chicken breast, which was served with  roasted asparagus and shoestring potatoes. Andrew absolutely loved it. He said he could cry after taking the first bite. He said it was his second best meal of his life, the first being in Europe.

 

Later, the waiter brought us the coconut panna cotta with tangerine-passion fruit coulis and a cardamom cake with blood orange caramel and Chantilly cream on the house. Our generous waiter also gave me Mary Jo’s email who is the pastry chef at Chez Panisse. Of course I tried to look her up on Instagram immediately to follow her. And I will definitely be reaching out to her to see if she needs an assistant.

 

 

With full satisfied bellies, we walked into The Local Butcher shop and bought a pork chop so my son could finally get the pork he was looking forward to. This place had everything you could think of from chicken, sausages, deli meats, bacon, smoked ham hocks, hot dogs, pates, duck, turkey, rabbit, quail, varieties of lard, stocks and bone broth.

 

This butcher shop focuses on providing local proteins: Such as Wolfe Ranch in Vacaville, Devils Gulch in Marin County, Paine Farm in Sonoma, Farmer Joy in Petaluma, Tomales Bay Pastures in Marshall and many more. They offer sausage making classes, a poultry butcher class, a stock making class, duck confit classes and much more. I would check out their website for more information on dates and classes.

Next, Andrew and I we on to the Edible Schoolyard at King Middle School which I’ve heard so much about, a few blocks from Chez Panisse. Kids learn about gardening, cooking, composting, edible education programs, and the program is committed to forging a just, sustainable food system. We saw rows of organic kale, arugula, leeks, borage and much more.

 

 

“To spend time in an Edible Schoolyard is to realize how much more is going on here than teaching kids how to garden or cook. Kids begin to learn about food in all its dimensions – as an edible medium of culture, science, ecology, and even social justice. The Edible Schoolyard is an eloquent and practical answer to some of the most pressing questions facing us as a society.”

MICHAEL POLLAN Journalist and Author

Here the children learn about fungi, bacteria, and how food scraps become rich organic compost in six weeks. Andrew and I saw cuttings of fruit trees that had been grafted and placed into pots. Last year, I took a class last year on grafting trees and learned a lot. Unfortunately, my apple tree didn’t survive, but plenty of Alice Waters’ students trees were thriving. There was even a greenhouse with new plantings that the students grew from seeds.

 

I was impressed by the curriculum of pressing cider, learning about global warming, making kale pesto, the study of bees and pollinators, and the process of orienting kids into a kitchen and what happens there.

 

We even came across a friendly neighborhood cat who looked content supervising our visit. It was even more exciting to walk by a plant share kiosk in front of someone’s house. People leave extra plants that they don’t need and share them. I could place one of these stations in front of my house since I have many plants that reseed everywhere. They call it the “give and take garden” and I’m in love with the concept. After all, I started out gardening when my friends gave me cuttings of perennials from their gardens.

 

Overall, it was a fabulous day spending time with my son and exploring Berkeley. We loved Chez Panisse, The Local Butcher Shop, and The Edible Schoolyard. I hope you and your loved ones are getting out and trying something new. It’s exciting to be inspired by what’s going on in the community.

 

Are you inspired to cook when you see fresh produce at your market? What dish are you looking forward to making this Easter? I saw an adorable cake on Instagram by TheTipsyCakery that I could try making with my four year old niece Josie.

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Isn’t this the cutest cake by thetipsycakery? Found on Instagram

Please subscribe to my blog to get the latest posts. And thank you for reading. It means a lot. Happy Easter!

Here’s my recipe for Strawberry Pie

 

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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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