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Category Archives: Wine Tasting

Sunday Fun Day with Good Friends Wine Tasting in the Shenandoah Valley

Sunday Fun Day with Good Friends Wine Tasting in the Shenandoah Valley

   It’s Tuesday. These days I rarely know which day it is. My husband and I spent last weekend in Eldorado Hills and Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley with our friends the Cowies and Castiglione’s.  It was refreshing to have social time again especially with some of my favorite people. It was nice to introduce good friends to our other good friends who happen to live in the same town. In today’s blog I will reflect on our weekend away and tell you what I’ve been up to lately.

 

The last four months have been interesting. Every day, I wake up, check on the latest news, water my vegetable garden, check email, have my coffee and a bit of breakfast, and do whatever chores are needed to get done. I’m not currently working, but I have worked harder in the past four months than I ever have. It seems there is always more laundry, more cleaning,  flour to mill and bread to bake, fresh pasta to make, or a new cookie or Rice Krispie treat recipe to try. 

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Two of the masks I made for friends to protect themselves from Covid19

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Covid masks made for the little people in my life

I’ve also made a dozen or more masks for family members, using up material I have had for years. It is rewarding to up cycle many fabrics that I’ve saved, knowing I could find a way to use them eventually.

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My strawberry plant blossoms. Just one of the many plants I am growing in my victory garden

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Just a few of my baby seedlings poking up through the soil

I’ve started an enormous vegetable garden, growing many varieties mostly from seed months ago. Not knowing whether we would have access to fresh fruit and vegetables, because of Covid 19, I decided to grow a victory garden. I’ve had edible gardens in the past, but never like this one. It is rewarding  checking on the size and color of the tomatoes and picking them off the vine when ripe. Many of them don’t make it into the bowl, but get popped right into my mouth. So tasty.

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Many varieties of flowers from my March garden in Walnut Creek. Photos taken by a friend Linda Kwong

So when our friends Elaine and Craig Cowie invited us to their new home in Eldorado Hills, we jumped at the idea. They have postponed the visit at least three times, because the Bay Area has been on lock down. My husband and I have been good about not going out unless we wear a mask, and we social distance if we see one of our friends or family. We felt safe about going North since there aren’t as many cases of Covid there. The population is less, and it’s not as crowded there.

 

We have known the Cowies for over 30 years. We met them after moving to our second house in Concord California. They lived directly across the street, so we had many dinner parties with them.  Also included into the mix were the Faulkenberry’s.  The Cowies and Faulkenberry’s  have been friends since college at Chico State. Our son Curtis took Taekwondo classes from Ray Faulkenberry when Curtis was in elementary school and we’ve loved them ever since.

 

Every year, the three families  have stayed connected taking turns having dinner together, even after we moved to Walnut Creek. We’ve had great times together watching our kids grow up, attending weddings and sharing meals over the years. We were happy to finally meet again, this time at the Cowies new home in El Dorado Hills. They moved there in February, after selling their home in Concord, to live closer to their daughter Leslie, son in law Kyle and two precious grand kids.

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Two couples enjoying the day at Iron Hub Winery and Vineyard.

Leaving the chores, the garden and kitty cat behind, Ken and I happily drove North and were graciously greeted by Elaine and Craig when we arrived. We unpacked the car with all the goodies and clothes and enjoyed the tour of their new home. I was excited to learn their floor plan was similar to our other friends the Castiglione’s, our friends from our current Walnut Creek neighborhood who have also recently relocated to  Eldorado Hills. Kayla and I have been in the same book club for over 20 years. I was happy to set up a day for the two couples to meet. We decided to get the six of us together on Sunday while wine tasting. Unfortunately, the Faulkenberry’s couldn’t stay overnight and join us having to get home to their puppies and cats.

 

We relaxed by the pool on Saturday while snacking on chips and mango salsa, fresh fruit skewers and pinot grigio. When the Faulkenberry’s showed up, I visited with their daughter Meg, who is a writer and social media expert. She wrote a book called Summer Rain. She had all kinds of great tips about how I should use Twitter to share my blog and many more new websites to check out like Blue Host, Hootsuite Wattpad, Booksie, 750words.com, Quotev.com and who to follow on Tik Tok. She should be teaching classes on these social media tools.

The weather was warm and yet there was a nice breeze which kept us cool. Elaine and Craig made fish tacos for dinner which we gobbled down and I made two apricot dishes for dessert. The first dessert was an apricot pie. I picked these ripe and juicy Patterson apricots from a farm in Tracy a couple of weeks ago. I also made two gluten free apricot turnovers with Teff flour and Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour. These were special. I had heard about the Teff flour from The Sourdough Podcast, so when I stumbled across it at Lunardi’s Grocery Store I quickly swept it into my cart. I had a little sticker shock when I got to the register. It was over $7.00 for a small bag, but was worth the price. It is high in fiber, high in protein, has more calcium than any other grain and is the only ancient grain containing Vitamin C. Teff flour has a subtle hazelnut earthy taste, is cultivated in Eastern Africa and is found in Ethiopian flatbread called injera. I enjoyed these hand pies more than the apricot pie made with all purpose flour.

 

After the Faulkenberry’s left Saturday night, we got on our “jammies ” or pajamas and watched a couple of episodes of Schitt’s Creek on Netflix. Ken and I had never seen it before, so it was nice to find a new funny night time splurge. I haven’t laughed that hard in years. It was so fun. 

 

Before bed I assembled my Overnight Baked French Toast recipe and placed it in the fridge. I make it with two loaves of cinnamon bread,  cut it into thick slices and pour a custard over the top to soak overnight. In the morning, you spread on a brown sugar,  butter and maple syrup mixture on top of the soaked bread and bake in the oven for one hour. I made a fresh blueberry sauce ahead of time, before we left for our trip.  I served the sauce along with maple syrup on the baked French Toast. I was introduced to this recipe from my friend Carolyn Regan. She made it when we went on a St Mary’s religious retreat in Guerneville many years ago. It is the perfect breakfast served with Italian sausage or bacon.

 

Sunday morning, Ken finished off preparing the breakfast and baked the French Toast while I stayed in bed a little longer. Most people know I love to sleep. At 9 AM, we ate breakfast and got ready to drive to the wineries. My husband Ken drove since he doesn’t drink. It was a gorgeous day and it was nice to drive through the countryside.

 

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Ken and I outside at Iron Hub Winery

Our first stop was Iron Hub Winery and Vineyard. The views here were simply spectacular. They only charge $10.00 for a tasting and if you buy a bottle of wine, they give you a tasting for free. The pours were tiny, but we tried two whites and four reds. There was hardly anyone there with the exception of one other family of three tasting at the end of the outside bar.

We had an appointment at Cooper Vineyards at 12:15 and met up with our friends Kayla and John Castiglione. The six of us sat outside in a shaded patio where we shared stories and drank more delicious wine. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of all of us this time. We will have to go back again the six of us.  The Cowies are members there, so our wine tastings were free. That’s a bonus. The 2017 Barbera Riserva was the group favorite and the server generously gave us another pour.

The last place we ventured into was Jeff Runquist Winery where John and Kayla were members. We enjoyed the beautiful and welcoming tasting room, especially the fresh wild flowers of black eyed Susan, clarkia, yarrow, daisies and queen Anne’s lace in vases in every corner. We tried their Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc,  Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Barbera, and Petit Verdot. At the end of the tasting, we said goodbye to John and Kayla and sat outside for a quick picnic before driving back to El Dorado Hills. It was lovely and the perfect day with friends. It was nice to see John and Kayla exchange numbers with Elaine and Craig. Especially since they are practically neighbors, living less than 10 minutes from one another.

 

We had hoped to check out the Amador Flower Farm in Plymouth, but it was getting late and we still had to drive back to the Bay Area. The weekend couldn’t have gone any better. We thanked Elaine and Craig for the generous hospitality and good food, packed up our things, cleaned and changed the sheets and were off. Our drive home was uneventful and I had plenty of time to get home and water the garden before dark. It’s nice to know our friends won’t be lonely since they now have a new couple (The Castiglione’s) to play golf with or have dinner with.

Today, I’m back to my cleaning, cooking, gardening, baking and writing. It’s good to be home, back to my meowing kitty and small homestead. I’m grateful for friends, their generosity and love. We have so much to be grateful for, even during a pandemic.

Stay healthy. Thanks for reading and following my blog. I promise to add a recipe next time I write.

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One last photo to bless you with. This photo was taken at Ben Runquist Winery’s tasting room

 

 

 

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Wine Down After Walking the Camino and a Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

Wine Down After Walking the Camino and a Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

Part II of my hike through Spain. Here’s a link to Part I, in case you missed it. 

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Sylvia.Peregrina and me at a cafe in Spain

Where do I begin? Well, I have to give a few shout outs to Silvia Peregrina who I watched from afar for a few days before approaching her. You see she happened to be walking the Camino at the same time as our group. Turns out, she is a tour guide and had a big group with her. My friend Nancy and I noticed her one morning as she walked beside us singing an American tune by Bruce Springsteen with her ear buds on. She wore a cowboy hat and stood out among the others on the trail. She was happy and had a lot of energy. When we finally met, I asked her if I could take a photo of her and write about her. She said I could, and also was very helpful in giving us good places to stop and eat along the way.

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Us at dinner in Portomarin. And Wine!  from left:Jeanne, Marianne, Sharon, Me, Beth(Nancy taking the photo)

 We were excited to find a special bocadillo restaurant that served humongous sandwiches. Sylvia also recommended A Paso De Formiga Restaurant which was all about Ants. We ate at Restaurante O Mirador    on the first night of our hike walking from Sarria to Portomarin. A few of us shared a bottle of Albarino white wine, blistered padron peppers, fish entrees and pizza. I think we were just getting in the groove and relaxing a bit. After all, I basically got off a plane one night and began walking the Camino the very next morning. And we got up EARLY. 

 

It’s hard to really describe what’s it’s like to get up and walk for 6 or 7 hours every day for 6 days straight. There is something about Walking the Camino that you just can’t understand until you do it yourself. We read books, watched movies and read blogs trying to prepare for what this experience would be like. The best part was sharing the many hours chatting with my friends Nancy, Jeanne and Beth and getting to know them better. We had nothing else to do while walking through the Spanish countryside. Of course, the farm animals kept us guessing. We saw herds of sheep running through the streets of Sarria while stopping at a cafe to use the ladies room and grab an espresso. Next thing you know, we would come across a local farmers market getting set up for the day with cages of chickens, bunnies, sausages, bacon, and seasonal vegetables.

 

We were entertained by the roosters who would crow early in the morning to greet us and enjoyed listening to the variety of bird calls. There were many dogs in backyards who would run to the fence to say hello. I was amazed when I saw an older kitten drinking from his mother on the side of the road. He looked about the same size as the momma cat and I wondered about that. It was funny to see a chicken running around near a cat and a dog, like they were just another member of the family. There were herds of cattle grazing on fields of bright green as far as the eye could see. The people were friendly and hospitable to us and it was fun to see the locals, many of them little old men walking to town.  Spain is incredibly beautiful.

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Me and Nancy walking along the Camino de Santiago in Spain

I haven’t mentioned the cathedrals and churches we encountered on our walk, but there were many. I am Catholic, yet I don’t consider myself as devout as most. I’m religious, but don’t consider myself as faithful as some friends of mine. This trip, I was the only person who was interested in going into these beautiful buildings. I would light candles and say prayers for my friends and family that are in need. I’m grateful for my faith that my parents gave me, especially my mother who was raised Catholic. My Dad never fully converted from being Lutheran, but always went to Mass with us when I was young. All that went away when my father stepped out on us and left when I was 14 years old. My Mother never felt accepted because she divorced my dad and the church frowned on that. We grew up going to Catholic School in the 1970’s when divorce wasn’t popular. 

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Different Routes getting to Santiago

 

I digress… I enjoyed seeing these ancient cathedrals. After a long, hard second day, we came upon Iglesia San Tirso that we hoped to get a stamp from (We had books that we stamped to prove we walked the camino), but the doors were locked. As we walked down the stairs a man with a guitar case approached us with keys in his hand. We were so grateful to have made it in time to see this beautiful place in Palais de Rei. I was surprised to find my friend crying as we walked out. I immediately began to cry too, thinking I should be feeling her feelings as well. It was moments like these that made our trip. We looked out for each other. When Nancy needed a band aid for a cut, I always had one. When someone needed Advil to relieve a headache or sore feet, one of us would share our stash. I always had extra food to share in case any one got hungry. It was brief moments like these that helped us women stay strong throughout our journey.

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One of the many older gentlemen we passed by who would be sitting along the road in Spain

I will put this away for now. I’m writing from a Casino in the wine country while my father is sleeping in the room next to me and I’m waiting for my older sister to come to bed. We are making new memories here at Twin Pines as much as I can’t stand these places. Good night and hope to share more stories and pictures very soon.

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Fashionistas at the airport heading to Milan and Bergamo for a bike ride

But first I’d like to share our family recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole which we serve at every holiday. It’s perfectly sweet and oh so good!

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Sweet Potato Casserole. Our families favorite side dish

Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients

3 C.  Roasted or boiled mashed Sweet Potatoes .See article to choose your favorite variety

⅓ C Brown Sugar

⅓ C Skim Milk

2 T Unsalted Butter or Margarine melted (plus more for buttering dish)

1 t Vanilla

½ T Kosher Salt

1 t. Ground Cinnamon

1 t. Ground Ginger

½ t Ground Cloves

 

2 Egg whites whipped in a separate bowl

1 t lemon juice

 

Topping:

⅓ C Packed Brown Sugar

¼ C Unbleached all purpose Flour

2 T Unsalted Butter chilled and cut into pieces

½ C Chopped Pecans

1 t Ground Cinnamon

1 t Ground Ginger

1 t ground Cloves

 

Directions:

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Roast 3 large sweet potatoes I like garnet or jewel variety. Or peel and boil them until soft. Cool.

In a stand mixer place cooked cooled sweet potatoes and mix on low. This will help them cool down a bit.  Add Milk, brown sugar, melted butter, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt and mix until combined. 

 

In a separate bowl, whip up egg whites and a teaspoon of lemon to soft peaks. It’s best to have the bowl super clean with no residue of oil residue which would inhibit the eggs from getting to their fullest volume. 

 

Fold egg whites into sweet potato spice mixture until combined. Place mixture into a buttered 13X9 casserole dish. Set aside. This dish will serve 6 -8 people.

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Pictured her unbaked Sweet Potato Casserole. A well loved dish

 

Topping Instructions:

 If you have a Cuisinart Food Processor this step is very easy. Place all topping ingredients brown sugar, flour, chilled butter, chopped pecans and spices into food processor. If you don’t have one, place all topping ingredients except pecans into a medium sized bowl and cut in cold butter with a pastry cutter until topping is well combined and butter is the size of small peas. Add chopped pecans and sprinkle topping over sweet potato mixture.

 

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes until casserole is golden and bubbly. Your house will smell amazing and your family will ask you year after year to make this delightful dish. It is especially good served with roasted turkey or roasted chicken.

Side note: I usually double this recipe and use two 13 X 9 pans because we have about 25 people that come to our holiday parties. And we never mind having left overs if there happens to be any left. I should mention I first learned of this dish through my sister Julie’s sister in law Maryann Weigant who made this special recipe for us many years ago. I added more spices because I love to spice things up!
Thanks again for spending time with me and reading my blog. Feel free to sign up to receive and read more blogs and recipes. Every time I write a new one, it will arrive in your in box for you to enjoy at your convenience.

 

 

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From Vine to Bottle in Livermore California and Ricotta Poppyseed Pancakes Recipe

From Vine to Bottle in Livermore California and Ricotta Poppyseed Pancakes Recipe
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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.

Here’s my recipe for Orange Poppyseed Pancakes with Ricotta. It’s perfect for a Sunday Brunch with family and friends.

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Orange poppyseed pancakes with ricotta.

Orange Poppyseed Pancakes with Ricotta

Serves 4 people

Ingredients:

1 C unbleached All PurposeFlour

½ C Almond Flour

¼ C Granulated Sugar

1 t Kosher Salt

1 t baking powder

 

½ C plus 2 T Ricotta Cheese

3 whole eggs separated

1 ½ C Milk 

½ C Heavy Whipping Cream

1 t Rum Extract

1 t Orange Extract

1 T Orange Zest

⅛ C Poppy seeds

Unsalted butter used for skillet

Confectioners sugar for dusting 

Pure maple syrup

 

Directions:

In a blender, place 3 egg yolks (whites to go in a stand mixer), milk, cream, ricotta, extracts. Blend on low until combined. 

In a small bowl mix all purpose flour, almond flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Pour into blender and mix with wet ingredients on low and batter is smooth.

In the stand mixer, using a wire whisk, mix the room temperature egg whites and a tiny pinch of salt until small peaks form. 

Add the whipped egg whites to blender in three increments mixing well, but not for too long.

Using your large nonstick skillet, melt 1 Tablespoon of unsalted butter on medium heat. Pour or ladel about 1/2 C of the batter onto the hot skillet and sprinkle with about ½ t poppy seeds and cook for about 2 minutes or until edges are golden. Flip carefully and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes more until pancake is cooked thoroughly. No one likes a wet on the inside pancake.

I fold mine like a crepe, folding it onto itself twice like an omelette. Eat right away or keep in a low oven in a baking dish. Serve with fresh fruit peaches, strawberries or blueberries or whatever is in season and pure maple syrup. Mine were perfect all by themselves and didn’t need adorning other than a shake of confectioners sugar.

Enjoy!

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 and a Buttermilk Chive Biscuit recipe

As Easy as One Two Tea in Healdsburg and a Buttermilk Chive Biscuit recipe

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? And I will be spoiling you too by sharing my buttermilk chive biscuit recipe at the end of this blog.

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. 

Here’s a Buttermilk Chive Recipe that is to die for.

Buttermilk Chive Biscuits

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Buttermilk chive biscuits served along side country gravy and fried chicken

Ingredients:

2 C. Unsifted Unbleached All Purpose Flour

2 ½ teas Baking Powder

½ teas Kosher Salt

½ teas Baking Soda

⅓ C cold Unsalted Butter Grated

¾ C Buttermilk or sour Milk (add 2 teaspoon vinegar or       lemon juice to Milk)

2 T Chopped Fresh Chives

Extra 3 T melted butter for brushing on biscuits

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 

Sift flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. 

Cut in the grated cold butter and chives until mixed well being careful to not over mix.

Stir in the buttermilk with a fork and pour onto plastic wrap or parchment paper and form a ball. Put plastic wrap on top of ball. Use a rolling pin to flatten out disk. Then lift plastic wrap and fold dough onto itself a few times creating layers in the dough flattening out with rolling pin. 

Roll out to ½ inch thickness. Using a round cutter, or a glass cut out small rounds and place in a pie dish with melted butter. Brush each biscuit with more melted butter. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until brown.

I cut them in half and spread them with more butter and some of my home made  apricot jam. 

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My buttermilk chive biscuits w butter and apricot jam

Enjoy!

 

 

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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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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Love at First Bite at Murietta’s Well Livermore

Love at First Bite at Murietta’s Well Livermore
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Marie and Ana lounging at Murietta’s Well Livermore

Took a day trip to #Livermore two weeks ago to discover the food and wine of Wente at Murrieta’s Well with my friend Ana. We met my niece Marie there for fun, libations and plenty of yummy appetizers. After our tummies were full, and Marie graciously paid the bill while I wasn’t looking,  Ana and I toured downtown Livermore and Marie went back to work handling all of Wente’s marketing.

 

I’m lucky enough to be related to the sweetest niece of the century. Goodness knows I have plenty of nieces, 9 in fact. But Marie is always spoiling me by inviting me to Wente Winery and Murrieta’s Well Estate located at the heart of the Livermore Valley. She is always gracious with her time by taking a longer lunch to entertain me and my guests. We are treated royally because everything at Wente is a Five Star experience.

 

Their wines are spectacular and something you should familiarize yourself with.The grounds are elegant and no nonsense offering picturesque views of the vineyards. Outdoor summer concerts are a thing and something you and your loved ones would enjoy. Here’s a You Tube clip of our day together.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WArO49Uw_tY

 

We ordered their Cheese and Charcuterie Board that came with three different cheeses, sesame crisps, salami, prosciutto, dried fruit and spicy almonds. And I fell in love with their Market Fresh Board which was loaded with a roasted cauliflower curry hummus,carrots, jicama, olives, pita bread and fresh berries. Practically everything was gone by the time we were done with our tastings. We tasted a flight of Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, a 2016 Merlot, and a woodsy black cherry Cabernet Sauvignon just to name a few.

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Ana standing in front of a mural of Livermore

The town of Livermore is quaint and bizarrely whimsical. We walked into In Between Stitches a sewing store and got plenty of quilt making ideas. Next we checked out Board & Brush Creative Studio since they were having their grand opening. There’s tons of fun to be had making crafts with your friends for your home and garden.

 

Of course we walked by plenty of places to eat, but we didn’t dare drink more and we certainly weren’t hungry. There was plenty of time to check out the Livermore Outlets on the way home. Ana wanted to buy some Ghirardelli Chocolate for her family in Florida, but it took us forever to locate the shop. Eventually, I always find my way into a chocolate shop. Go figure.

 

So if you are thinking of getting out of the house and taking a drive, check out Livermore California. And don’t forget to make time for your loved ones. If you are lucky like me, you can enjoy your family while checking out new places in the Bay Area. Much gratitude goes out to my niece Marie, for being as sweet as can be and spoiling your auntie. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

 

Thanks for reading my blog. Take a moment and subscribe so you can read more of my food and wine adventures. Or leave a comment below and tell me your favorite place that I need to try out next time. Meanwhile, have a Happy Turkey Day. If you want to see my last post on St Helena read this.

 

Teri:)

 

 

 

 

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Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti

Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti
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Grapes just picked at Heirs of my Dream Winery Sonoma

 

Took a vacation day trip out to the Sonoma area last week. I’ve been wanting to check out the new Hanson Distillery along Hwy 12 in the Carneros Valley for some time. I’ve been passing this place and dying to go in, but I usually have my Dad in the car and he doesn’t want to stop at these places. While out and about, I also had the pleasure of walking around Homewood Winery, Troika Wines, and Ceja Vineyards. Of course I took advantage of checking out Domaine Carneros,  Napa’s Stanly Lane Smokehouse Deli, their pumpkin farm next door, and Starmont Winery and Vineyards.

 

Today’s drive was spontaneous and last minute. Never enough time to schedule a pal to go along with me, so I decided to go by myself. It’s so much fun to explore these hidden gems especially this time of year. The colors are changing on the vines, the weather is cooler, and there is a crisp breeze which makes me want to drive to the wine country.

First was a tour of Heirs of my dream Winery by Ellie. She showed me around the quaint property letting me get a glimpse into her world. I was attracted to this property because I heard a man singing loudly while cleaning out wine barrels. This property is perfect for weddings and parties. Have I mentioned it is brand new? Their website is barely up, but they are doing exciting things.

 

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Gorgeous venue.

 

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Krzystof and Hanson’s vodka

 

Next was a mango, habanero vodka cocktail at Hanson’s Distillery carefully prepared by a Polish guy named Krzystof. I learned all about the Hanson family who are passionate about vodka and originally from Marin. They are the first non-GMO distillery in the US and make their vodka from grapes. They have many flavors: cucumber, ginger, mandarin, habanero, and limited varieties of espresso and boysenberry. The drink was delicious, a bit spicy too because of the habanero vodka and their Tajin Clasico Chili Lime Seasoning rimmed glass. The espresso had a bold rich flavor with notes of chocolate. The property is adorned with a pond and gorgeous romantic trees. It’s quite an experience if you are looking for a fun getaway.

 

On the same estate was Ceja Vineyards, but they were closed. Troika Wines were right next door and were offering tastings, but I had to decline since I was at my limit after drinking the cocktail. Across the road was Homewood Winery, but I chose to move on.

I’ve always wondered what the enormous breathtaking beautiful chateau was that is along Hwy 12 on the hill, and was pleasantly surprised to find Domaine Carneros. Reservations were required, but I was happy enough to walk around the premises. It seemed a bit stuffy for my taste, but I’m sure well worth the tasting if you are looking for sparkling wine and pinot noir.
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Fancy Pumpkins in wheel barrow

On the way back to Hwy 29 on the left was Stanly Lane Smokehouse Deli and I was getting plenty hungry by then. The family run business owned by Wilcoxson’s are best known for their authentic pit smoked meats. Pulled pork, chicken, tri tip and brisket sandwiches are served just to name a few. I didn’t stay, since I was intrigued by their pumpkin farm adjacent to the restaurant. I’m quite the farmer, and appreciate what goes into growing these crops. This atmosphere is family friendly and a must see for locals and travelers alike.

My last stop in the Carneros Valley was paying a visit to the 50 acres of  Starmont Winery and historic Stanly Ranch. Gargantuan eucalyptus trees grace the property which draw you in and make you want to see more. It was quiet yet inviting and a nice place to spend a couple of hours. Since I was driving, I didn’t partake in their tastings, but will go back someday.

I enjoyed my day trip to the Carneros Valley. The habanero vodka cocktail is something I’d like to make for friends in the future. I will probably make one of my famous cheese platters to go with them as well. Included will be my pineapple pepper jelly from my homegrown organic serrano peppers. I also enjoy my blenheim apricot jam to accompany the brie and blue cheese.

So I hope I’ve inspired you to make a trip to the Carneros Valley with a few friends or loved ones. I know I will be finding my way back there soon also. But until then, here is my recipe for ginger, apricot, pistachio biscotti. They are chewy, not like an ordinary biscotti and a real treat.

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Candied Ginger Apricot Pistachio Biscotti

 

Ingredients:

2 C All Purpose Flour

1 C Granulated Sugar

1 tsp Baking Powder

3 eggs

2 T Sambuca (an Italian Licorice flavored liquor)

2 T Grand Marnier

1 tsp Vanilla

1 tsp Anise Extract

1 C whole Pistachios

1 T fresh Orange Zest

1/2 t  Saltverk Licorice Salt (found in iceland) or substitute 1/2 t Kosher

½ C chopped Crystalized Ginger

¾ C Mariani Dried Apricots

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Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheet w parchment paper or a silpat.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder together in a large size bowl. In another bowl whisk eggs, both liqueurs, vanilla, anise, orange zest and salt.

Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined. Fold in pistachios, ginger and apricots.

Divide dough in half and transfer onto parchment paper into two 2.5 inch wide logs with floured hands.

Bake until golden in color, firm and dry about 20 minutes.

Remove from pan and slice loaf on a diagonal into ¼ in to ½ in thick slices. Arrange cookies cut side down onto a sheet pan and bake again for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Enjoy! Do you have a favorite biscotti recipe? This is one I’ve adapted from a culinary class taken at Diablo Valley College’s pastry program.

And here is a terrific recipe for scones dipped in dark chocolate.

 

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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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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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