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Lifetime Pursuit of Gelato While Touring Italy and an Apricot Shortbread Recipe

Lifetime Pursuit of Gelato While Touring Italy and an Apricot Shortbread Recipe

 

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

I’m excited to write again. I’ve been traveling in Italy for the past couple of weeks on vacation with my husband. We celebrated our thirty year wedding anniversary there and I didn’t bring my computer to write a new blog while away. But don’t worry, I did plenty of research eating and drinking my way through Venice, Rome, and Tuscany. Today, I will share a story or two about the Italian people we met, the food we ate, specifically the gelato, and reveal my apricot sable cookie recipe.

It’s honestly so hard to decide where to begin. We ate the best gelato, pasta, pastries and coffee of our lives. I had to stop in just about every patisserie or chocolate shop wherever we walked. My poor husband would wait outside and fiddle with his camera or people watch while I was picking out the best treat to fill our bellies so we could keep up with the next destination.

Can I first give a shout out to our travel agent and friend Nancy Solomon with Orinda Travel? Nancy led our last trip to Iceland which was phenomenal and was instrumental in making our anniversary in Italy memorable. We can’t thank her enough for the perfect itinerary, excellent hotels, delicious food and farm tours, and making all the plane reservations and Vatican, Statue of David, and Colosseum tickets. We basically handed over our credit card and she planned every detail for us. Nancy asked all the right questions and I wouldn’t hesitate to use her services again.  This adventure was personalised so that we could relax and enjoy each other. It was a trip of a lifetime and ultimately the most romantic vacation that we’ve ever been on.

My husband and I agree that we ate the best breakfasts at the Michelin rated restaurant at  Hotel Ai Reali in Venice and we ate the best pizza and gelato in Rome. Since this was our first time in Venice, we were blown away by all the superb breakfast options to choose from. There were mini pancakes which popped out of a machine made on the spot and all of the different toppings like crema di nocciole (hazelnut spread), sciroppo d’acero (maple syrup), miele di acacia (acacia honey), jams from every fruit possible like orange marmalade, triple berry, strawberry, apricot and sour cherry my favorite. Delish.

 

Ai Reali Restaurant served many baked goods like a plum cake, crostata, heart shaped gingerbread cookies, orange cake, donuts, muffins, croissants, and freshly baked breads of all kinds. There was a cheese and charcuterie platter, fresh greens with olive oil and balsamic, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage, fresh fruit, yogurt and more. I had a glass of prosecco and cappuccino before we left for the day with coppa, salumi, ham and cheese croissant sandwiches which sustained us when we got hungry in the afternoon. 

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The sandwiches I made from our breakfast spread at Hotel Ai Reali in Venice.

The art in our hotel in Venice was colorful and inviting, many pieces made with murano glass from Vetreria Artistica a Murano Glass Factory in Venezia. Spectacular.

 

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Poli Distillerie in Venice

We also made it to Poli Distillerie where I sampled  grappa, sambuca (a licorice liquor), limoncelli and who knows what else. This place was cool and trendy. I had never sampled grappa before, so why not embibe in Venice before exploring St. Mark’s Square and Basilica?  I couldn’t stay long because my husband was yet again, waiting outside, but had time to purchase a few gifts for my boys. Ken doesn’t drink, so it was not the best time to learn about Poli and what they offer. I’ve never seen it sold in America, but that’s not saying much since I don’t shop for hard alcohol and liqueurs often. I’m known for stopping at distilleries in Sonoma

 

Can we talk about the worst experience we had in Venice? This happened after our gondola ride. We finally had our fabulous gondola ride, which I had to talk my way into  because my husband always wanted to save money and walk everywhere. The gondolier warned to only eat at the restaurants that had small menus. He was from Venice and seemed to know what he was talking about and it makes sense after all. So after he recommended Hosteria Al Vecio Bragosso and we saw the extended menu, I was perplexed. 

 

This waiter didn’t like me in the least and came back 6 times in 10 minutes, which just pissed me off. He acted irritated with me the whole evening, and eventually had another waiter check on us. He even brought me Chardonnay after I asked for Pinot Grigio! I was afraid of having frozen fish, like the gondolier had warned us about, so I eventually ordered pasta with Bolognese sauce and it was just fine. 

 

We even had a guy selling roses at this same restaurant who came by the table and asked me if I wanted a rose. I said, “no” and he scurried away. A little later, the same guy basically handed me the rose, then came back later and asked my husband for money to pay for it. Such a scam. But we had experiences like this in Thailand, which tainted our time there, and yet we completely understand that these locals have to make a buck and see us Americans as easy money.

 

On the fourth day, we took a train to Rome and made it to the Palazzo Navona Hotel to settle in. We had dinner at Lion, a contemporary Italian Restaurant and Cocktail Bar located across the street. Lion was the swankiest restaurant we have ever eaten at. It was bright cobalt blue with geometric floor tiles, fancy cocktails and a smart vibe. We ate oysters, grilled octopus, beef tartare, and a puffed polenta with cod cooked perfectly. Their country style bread, olive oil and balsamic didn’t disappoint. We ended our meal with a caffe corretto cappuccino, chocolate and peanut truffle and a passion fruit gelee which I think was complimentary. It was quite the culinary experience being in extraordinary Rome, Italy for the first time. 

 

But that meal wasn’t our favorite while tasting what Rome has to offer. Grano Frutta e Farina had the best pizza. I had the funghi porcini-tartufo and Ken had zucchine pesto pinoli. We were always starving after walking for miles around the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel and we went into every basilica we walked by. Incredible.

 

 

On to the gelato. My very first experience tasting gelato was at Venchi in Venice near St. Mark’s Square. Oh my! I was so excited to see this chocolate gelato shop also known as #cioccogelateria in Italian. I was asking Tomazzo questions about his favorite chocolates to get the inside scoop. My husband and I shared a cup with two different flavors and I honestly can’t remember which flavor I had. I do remember how they line the paper cup with the most delicious liquid dark chocolate and dessicated coconut before they add the gelato. And it’s the dreamiest sweet treat after walking for hours in the humidity and 90 plus degree weather. I can’t understand why the US hasn’t picked up on this concept. Because after you hold the cup of gelato in your warm hands, the chocolate on the bottom of the cup melts, and after your last taste of the cold gelato, you get this incredibly rich spoonful or two of dark melted chocolate and coconut. It’s my all time favorite treat, and that is saying a lot.

 

I will end today’s blog with these pictures and fond memories of our time in Venice and Rome. There is much much more to share, but this will suffice for now. I think I took over 1000 photos, so it has been somewhat overwhelming getting my ideas and photos in order. Now it’s time to find a good gelato spot in  Northern California. Help a girl out here. Any one know of one?

 

Thanks for stopping by and reading my latest post. I’m honored to be able to share by travel and food experiences with you and am happy to leave you with my shortbread recipe. 

 

Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:

2 Cups Unsalted Butter

1 Cup granulated Sugar

4 Cups Bread Flour

1 Cup Cake Flour

½ teaspoon vanilla bean

¼ teaspoon Kosher Salt

1 Tablespoon Saltwerk Licorice Salt (Bought in Iceland)

 

Directions:

Cream butter, add sugar gradually and cream well. Add both flours, vanilla, and salts and mix well in a standard mixer. 

 

I use round cut outs used for biscuits in varying sizes to get desired outcome. 

 

Bake on a parchment lined sheet pan in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until done and slightly browned on edges about 9 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

 

Fill with apricot jam, or whichever filling you prefer. Serve right away with your favorite tea or coffee.

 

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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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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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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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