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From Vine to Bottle in Livermore California

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Me and Maggie tasting wine at Ruby Hills Winery in Livermore

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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Sparkling Wine Summertime Fling in Yountville and Pastries at Bouchon

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Here is my recipe for the perfect summer salad dressing.

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#Strawberry Balsamic Summer Salad Dressing

 

Strawberry Balsamic Dressing 

Makes 4 Cups

Ingredients:

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

2 T. Dijon Mustard (Grey Poupon)

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

1 small shallot minced (2 T)

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

White onion minced (2 T)

1 T Raw Honey

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

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

2 whole peeled Pink Grapefruit 

¼ C fresh lemon juice

¼ t Paprika

Pinch Sea Salt

½ t Black Pepper

 

Instructions:

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

 

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

 

This dressing can be used in a variety of salads. 

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

 

Enjoy!

 

Teri:)

 

 

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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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As Easy as One Two Tea in Healdsburg

As Easy as One Two Tea in Healdsburg

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

 

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

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My niece Marie and me celebrating her birthday in Healdsburg

 

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

 

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

 

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

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My niece Marie tasting chocolate at Russian River Tea

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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Me at journeyman Meats

 

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

 

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

 

Cheers,

Teri

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Art shown at #TheNinesHotel Portland Oregon

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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Forks and Corks at Chez Panisse and Strawberry Pie Recipe

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

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

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

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Spring Flowers to brighten your day from my garden

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

MICHAEL POLLAN Journalist and Author

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Here’s my recipe for Strawberry Pie

 

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My Autistic Super Hero and a Crunchy Granola Recipe

My Autistic Super Hero and a Crunchy Granola Recipe
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Ken and Andrew at Speaker Meeting for the Serra Center

Today I’m inspired to write about our families struggles with #Autism. Last week, my husband Ken and son Andrew spoke at the City of Fremont’s Youth and Family Services Bldg to support the Serra Center a non profit located in Union City. Ken’s cousin Leslie Mc Gary asked if they would speak to the community to bring #AutismAwareness since March is #IntellectualDisabilityMonth.

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Curtis and Andrew sitting together during special night out at Mua Restaurant celebrating Curtis’ 34th birthday

Let me start by saying that both my boys Curtis and Andrew are my everything. I’m very proud of the men they have become. This blog is about Andrew’s disability even though Curtis struggles with ADHD. They are both remarkable and have achieved a lot.

Andrew is particular has achieved unbelieveable feats in his 26 years and he’s like my super hero. He is a 4th degree Master of Taekwondo and currently teaches part time. He’s an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America which says a lot about his leadership skills. Andrew recently earned a Performing Arts Degree in music from St. Mary’s College in Moraga California, and occasionally sings as a Tenor at Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco.  But there are still struggles that get in his way on a daily basis, even though he has overcome a lot. He accepts himself and who he is and isn’t afraid to share his message about autism. He’s passionate about giving back and educating what he has learned throughout his life.

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Levels of Severity for Autism Spectrum Disorder

 

Here’s a little bit of back history to our story. When Andrew was three and a half he was diagnosed with Autism. At his check up he began swinging his socks in front of his face (called stemming). Dr. Randall Bergen his doctor suggested he might have pervasive development disorder, but because Andrew’s language was good he didn’t think so. Then two weeks later, I began to worry that Andrew had a hearing problem because he didn’t respond to my questions. It was that day that I decided to take him back to Kaiser and have him seen again. Our pediatrician referred us to a neurologist Dr. Candida Brown and to an audiologist. Dr. Brown did a variety of tests and Ken and I had to fill out  questionnaires. Andrew’s hearing was fine. He passed the test with flying colors.

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Levels describing Autism Disorder

 

We learned that Andrew barely fit the criteria for autism, his symptoms were mild and were more similar to Asperger’s but the doctor would give us the autism diagnosis so we could qualify for services. Eventually, we moved to the San Ramon Valley School District since Concord schools didn’t offer the services we needed. Andrew would need speech, since he repeated sayings over and over again (called echolalia). He would need to go to preschool that had teachers that were equipped to deal with kids on the autistic spectrum. At three and a half, he got on a little yellow bus every weekday morning to San Ramon where he attended Twin Creeks Elementary. It was so hard to see my little guy get on a bus and leave his mama. But I knew that Alyse his teacher and also a speech pathologist would help Andrew communicate better, and I got a well deserved break.

 

Andrew also had behavioral therapy services paid through the Regional Center which helped him with potty training and outbursts. You see, he had a difficult time transitioning from one activity to another and would have meltdowns. At four Andrew would go poop in his diaper/pants after walking up the tree in the backyard on the hill. The behaviorist taught him to go poop in the toilet, which helped tremendously. Regional Center also paid for a babysitter so Ken and I could get a night out. We were lucky that Andrew’s grandma Nilda wanted to watch him on Friday night’s and that money that we would have spent on a caregiver went into a special account for Andrew. For this we are eternally grateful because it saved our marriage.

 

Of course there is so much more to this story and you can access that if you want to read Ken’s book that he self published “Andrewtism- a Personal Transformation While Parenting an Autistic Child”. Ken wrote this when Andrew was fourteen, hoping to help other parents raise their kids on the spectrum. Or you could read my previous blog from a few years back.

During the talk last Tuesday Andrew sang Louie Armstrong’s “What a wonderful world” which surprised us all. He described his autism journey and how music influenced him. “He found his voice” he said and even wrote about his journey in his essay when applying to St. Mary’s College. Many of the guests that attended the meeting thanked Andrew and Ken for sharing their story. Ken spoke about how raising a son with autism changed him, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Andrew told stories about the bullies that he encountered, how he was mistakenly left at a swimming pool for hours unattended at the age of 8 by a neighbor, and how he survived his 1st degree black belt testing. He answered questions eloquently trying to stick to the hour allowed for the meeting.

Over the years Andrew has collected Superman memorabilia, I think because it resonates with him. He has Superman posters, coffee mugs (although he only likes hot water), slippers and more. He and his old girlfriend Mary even dressed up like Clark Kent and Lois Lane one Halloween.

Leslie continues to share the thank you emails that she has received from many of the parents who related to and were inspired by our story.

An attendee named Renee commented “I am so intrigued by that young man, and he left me with so much positivity and information to help two of my nephews who also are on the autism spectrum.”

Here’s a YouTube Video of Andrew Smyth of one of Andrew’s vocal performances at St. Mary’s College a few years ago. And here is his singing the Star Spangled Banner at his Taekwondo studio where he works.

Side note: Andrew asked his long time friend Josh who is also afflicted with autism about his thoughts about living with Autism.  Here is what Josh eloquently wrote:

“I guess, if it comes down to it, the most important thing I had to learn when dealing with being on the Spectrum is how to accept that I am still OK as person. I had to learn, and had to become confident, in that fact that I am who I am, and that if anyone should be happy with who I am, it should be myself. Autism (especially high functioning autism) is not a weakness, it is just an aspect of who I am. I am the one who decides how people define me, not my diagnosis.”
– Josh Downes

I guess I’m still trying to help Andrew in any way I can. I communicate with buisnesses like SAP on Linked In and Twitter that hire individuals with intellectual disabilities (or abilities) and I’m hoping he will get noticed. Maybe someone out there is interested in hearing us speak again. Ultimately, I know things will work out in the long run for Andrew and our family. Maybe it’s time for him to put on his super hero cape!

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Andrew Smyth and me his Mom after he obtained his 4th Degree Master’s Belt in Taekwondo

Thank you for reading my blog. It means the world to me. Commenting helps Google believe this is an actual legitimate site, so if you feel inclined, I would be ever so grateful.

Here is my recipe for Maple Nut Granola that my niece Keri has been asking for which you won’t want to live without. Serve with your favorite organic yogurt and berries. And if you like coffee, I wrote a blog on Kanen Coffee in Berkeley who so graciously repaired my espresso machine.

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Teri’s Maple Nut Granola: The most delicious granola you’ve ever eaten

Teri’s Maple Nut Granola

Ingredients:

3 Cups Organic Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

1 C Shredded or Flaked Bakers Coconut

½ C Grapeseed, Canola or Avocado Oil

⅛ C Unprocessed Raw Honey

¼ C Maple Syrup

3 T Light Brown Sugar

1/2 C Raw Pumpkin Seeds (Shelled)

1/4 C Chopped Raw Walnuts

½ C Whole Toasted Almonds

1/2 t Penzey’s Ground Cinnamon

1/2 t Penzey’s Ground Ginger

1/2 t Penzey’s Ground Clovestir

1 t Kosher Salt

 

½ C Dried Cherries

½ C Dried chopped Apricot

1/4 C Dried Cranberries

1/4C Candied Ginger Chopped

1/8 C Chia Seeds

Instructions:

Preheat Oven to 250 degrees and place rack from oven in middle of oven. In a large mixing bowl put everything from the above list in the bowl, except dried fruit. Mix thoroughly.

 

Spread mixture onto two sheet pans lined with parchment paper or silpat baking mats. Bake until golden brown, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes or more depending on your oven. Remove pans from oven and cool. Mix in dried fruit and chia seeds. Place in airtight container for 1 month or freeze. Makes  9 1/2 Cups

 

 

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