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Nice to Meat You Napa

Nice to Meat You Napa

Started off the Holiday season right this year with a trip to Napa on Thanksgiving day with my husband and our boys. We avoided the much dreaded week in the kitchen prepping, brining and baking. This day instead would be a day to remember for holidays to come leaving no messy kitchens behind.

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My two boys Andrew and Curtis

It all started because I missed my boys. Curtis will be 34 in January and Andrew just turned 26. They don’t live at home anymore, so finding a day where we could all be together was key. And spending the day with them and my husband was just what I needed. They were excited about the idea and my husband was willing to be the designated driver, so we were good to go.

There was something seductive about running out to the wine country and avoiding the obligatory family get together. After all, we’ve only ever done this one other time about 11 years ago where we escaped to San Francisco for the day. Curtis attended Sonoma State at the time, and it seemed easier to pick him up from school and take him out for the day. We had a grand time at O’Reilly’s Holy Grail restaurant which has since closed its doors, unfortunately.

Our trip to Napa was even more exciting since we had never been to any of these hotels, restaurants, or bars. My husband forwarded me an email the week before about places that were open for business on Thanksgiving day. So I had a tentative plan in mind which we adhered to throughout the day.

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Curtis’ Bloody Mary

We started off at the Meritage Resort and Spa grabbing a cocktail and a bite to eat at Crush Lounge. Curtis had a bloody mary (after all, it was only 11AM), I had a cosmo and Andrew enjoyed an aged scotch. We snacked on calamari, fish tacos and a burger and fries before engaging in a friendly game of bowling. Yes. You can believe it. It was hilarious seeing my kids and husband throw the ball down the lane after a drinkypoo. We settled on a Star Wars theme, all of us choosing a character. I was C3po, my son Curtis Luke Skywalker, Andrew- Chewy, and Ken Han Solo. We ended the game early because I was doing better than everyone. And let’s face it, you only have fun bowling when you are winning.   

Next stop was BANK Cafe and Bar at the Westin Verasa Napa. They were serving a fabulous meal for $85.00 per person at the La Toque Restaurant, but we weren’t ready for a huge sit down meal. We were just getting started… The bar offered small bites to share and just about anything else you would want from a full bar, but we settled on a licorice flavored sambuca liquor w a coffee bean for me, a Mr Goldsmith #2 cocktail for Curtis which involved Blue Ice Vodka, sage honey syrup, St. George Pear Liqueur, and lemon, and a glass of Cabernet by Faust Napa Valley for Andrew. Barely hungry, we ordered the hand chopped steak tartare with maldon salt on crostini. The flowers in the lobby were stunningly beautiful and I couldn’t help not taking a short video of them.

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My son Andrew and me in front of Archer Hotel Napa

Onward and upwards to the Archer Hotel and Charlie Palmer’s Restaurant Steak Lounge, but first taking an elevator to the Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar. It was closed because of the holiday and rainy weather, but definitely worth checking out in the future. The atmosphere was hopping and the bartender gave us the royal treatment. I sat this one out, not needing another beverage, but the boys ordered cocktails. Curtis had the Napa 75 which was made with Hangar One Vodka, yuzuri, lemon verbena, and louis pommery while Andrew was made something special with whiskey, I can’t remember what. All I remember is that it had a foamy egg white thing on top and cute hearts adorning the top of the drink. I also learned how these bartenders taste each cocktail before giving to the customer. They use a straw to dip in the drink and take a taste to see if it is “just right.” Brilliant!

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Fabulous cocktails at Charlie Palmer’s Steak Lounge in Archer Hotel

Napkins Bar and Grill was where we ended up for our Thanksgiving meal. This restaurant was just down the street from the last bar, in fact we could have walked. But free parking was available along the street so we took advantage of that. Curtis ordered the signature citrus habanero wings and  a cocktail with fig as a garnish. I forgot to make a note of this one, but who really cares at this point? I was craving guacamole and chips, Ken had the smoked pork chop, and Andrew ate the Loaded Niman Ranch Burger with crispy onions. The place was lively and colorful and we were feeling good.

Lastly we read that Alba was going to have live music, so we voted to go to one last bar before heading back to the East Bay. We drove to the River Terrace Inn and sat at the bar. I honestly didn’t catch what the boys ordered, but I tried Crispin Hard Cider for the first time. It was cold and light, a perfect ending to my day in Napa. The live music was just “okay”, but we were happy to stay out and celebrate together just a little longer.

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The four of us Smyth’s at the Meritage Resort

I can genuinely say that skipping out on the traditional family Thanksgiving was fun and adventurous. The four of us were able to connect on many levels, which wouldn’t have happened if we had stuck to the original plan of going to my sister’s with 15 other family members. There is something seriously attractive about spoiling your kids on a holiday like Thanksgiving. They wouldn’t mind me saying that they felt special and appreciated. Who could ask for more? Isn’t that what we are all looking for? Unconditional love and acceptance especially while sipping cocktails is what the holidays are all about.

And we still made it for dessert at my sister’s after all. We celebrated in the best way and were able to mingle with the folks and cousins while enjoying a Sara Lee frozen cherry cheesecake. Yep. That’s the dessert I contributed to the meal this year. It wasn’t all that bad either. Best of all, I came home to a clean kitchen. There’s something to be said for that.

Happy Holiday’s from my home to yours. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box next year and ditch the relatives for a change. It’s a fun gig once every 10 or 11 years and your kids will thank you.

If you enjoyed this blog, please comment below on somewhere you would like to visit. I’m needing a few good ideas for my upcoming adventures. Do you have a favorite get away vacation you would like to share with the readers? Please feel free to leave a comment.

And once again, thank you for taking the time to stay with me through my travels.  

Gratefully yours,

Teri:)

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Eat, Pray, Love During this time of Thanksgiving

Eat, Pray, Love During this time of Thanksgiving

Here we are in November and Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Yet, there have been two devastating wildfires: #WoosleyFire in Southern California and Butte County #CampFire wildfires in Northern California that have kept everyone scrambling to get to safety. I’m sad for the families that have lost their homes and loved ones and pray they get the help they need.  It’s times like these that I’m extra grateful for my family.

 

I was lucky enough to spend Tuesday last week with my Mom, her husband Tom, and their renter Ana in St. Helena. I was happy to drive them to the wine country and show them around for a few nibbles and sips of wine. Ana, originally from Croatia has been working as a traveling nurse at a nearby hospital. She will only be here for a few months and wants to see as much as possible. My Mom and Tom and I were available to spoil her, and since it was her birthday we made the day extra special.

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Great day on patio of Trinchero Winery

 

First we drove to Trinchero Family Estates in St. Helena. The property is decked out with the finest rock walls, luxurious textiles and sprawling vineyards. The view from their patio where there is bocce ball and a huge copper fire pit is nothing short of breath taking. Of course, they served plenty of wine to Tom and Ana while we strolled the meticulous grounds.

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Mom and me at Trinchero Estate

Lunch came next at the famous Rutherford Grill down the street. If you like good food, and excellent service you won’t want to go anywhere else. Plenty of warm out of the oven focaccia with their fruity herbed olive oil, olives, peppers, roasted almonds and cheese is always ordered as a starter. I’m a huge fan of their French dip, but was a little disappointed when we learned they don’t serve a complimentary birthday dessert. I’m going to keep that in mind next time there is a birthday to celebrate and we are choosing a restaurant. 😦

Next was Grgich Hills where we were hoping Ana could chat with the Croatian family. Unfortunately they weren’t on the property 😦 so we moved on. The town of St. Helena was calling us and we didn’t want to miss out on spending as much time there as we could.

 

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My Mom found a cute linen shop where they embroider personalized items for purchase. My Mom and I come from a long line of seamstresses on the Portuguese side and she was mesmerized by this place. Of course we had to stop at WoodHouse Chocolate since we needed a little something sweet for the birthday girl. They had artful displays of chocolate turkeys and pumpkins to get us thinking of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. But a tried and true dark chocolate espresso truffle was all I needed to get on with the day. Tom bought Mom and Ana English toffee with almonds another favorite of mine. Here’s my recipe.

Our family journey ended with a stop at Lucy’s Bar at the Bardessono Restaurant in Yountville. I love sitting out in their heated fireside patio where we can enjoy another cocktail, or in my case a hot chocolate with whipped cream since I was driving. My guests loved every second of it and especially enjoyed walking through the town of Yountville and not forgetting to get a pastry at Bouchon. Being a food and travel blogger has been fun and rewarding and especially memorable having time with my Mom. She has been ill for the past five years, but is doing extremely well.

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During this Thanksgiving holiday, I’m especially grateful that my Mom and Tom are well enough to travel with me to places like St Helena and Yountville. I hope you are enjoying your loved ones too. I’m keeping those who have lost their homes and family members in the fires in my prayers. If you have it in your hearts to donate to the Disaster Relief efforts within the Red Cross, anything you can give is helpful. Or here is the latest article on ways to help. And thank you to @tylerflorence for feeding those in need. Here is a preview of his latest movie Uncrushable on last years’ wildfire in the Wine Country.

Thanks for reading my blog. I’m happy to share my recipes and excursions with you. Follow me by subscribing and you will automatically receive my next blog posts in your email.  

Well, it is almost Thanksgiving. I have so much to be grateful for. It is wonderful to spend time with friends and family on this joyous occasion. I first ate this recipe when I attended Thanksgiving at my sister Julie’s house @ 10 years ago. Her wonderful sister in law Mary Ann brought this dish to share and my family won’t ever be having another Thanksgiving holiday without it.
Your family will LOVE it too!

Sweet Potato Casserole

 

3 C. Mashed sweet potatoes( roast in oven for 1 hour@350 degrees or boil)

 

1/3 C. Brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

 

1/3 C. Skim milk

 

2 T. Margarine/ butter

 

1 tsp vanilla

 

½ tsp Kosher salt

 

2 egg whites (Whipped until frothy)

 

Topping

 

½ C. Packed brown sugar

 

¼ C flour

 

2 Tbsp chilled butter

 

1/3 C. Pecans chopped

1/2  teaspoon cinnamon

 

 Prepare by  whipping egg whites until stiff. Then take the first six ingredients and mix thoroughly in stand mixer. Fold egg whites into sweet potato mixture and spread evenly in a 13X9 glass dish.

Make the topping by putting all of the ingredients into a cuisinart and blend, or cut ingredients w a pastry blender by hand. Sprinkle topping over sweet potatoes evenly.

 

350 degrees for 30 min

Serves @ 6 people.

 

Teri

 

 

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The End of Summer Brings Inspiration in the Kitchen and Sadness in our Hearts

The End of Summer Brings Inspiration in the Kitchen and Sadness in our Hearts

Summer is coming to an end and so is my vegetable garden. I have been picking tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers and herbs. It’s also an end of an era,  losing a member of our family. We had a very sad day yesterday saying goodbye to our family pet dog Baxter. Last week while my dog was pacing around my kitchen, I was inspired to make a pineapple pepper jelly so my peppers would not go to waste. Little did I know, our puppy wouldn’t be with us a week later. My heart is breaking writing this post, yet writing is cathartic and expressing myself is healthy. 

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This is my beautiful dog Baxter who lived with our family for twelve years and I will miss him dearly

I will never forget the day twelve years ago when my son Andrew and my niece Jasmine took a day trip to the Tony La Russa”s Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek. It was Christmas break and the kids were off from school, so we were looking for a fun adventure. And back then, they had free coffee and free popcorn to munch on while looking at the animals. Arf was the perfect kind of field trip even if we weren’t looking to adopt a pet.

I remember seeing “Grand Master Flash which is what they called him” Baxter for the first time. He was cute, spunky and full of life. We asked to bring him in the larger room and he bounded around jumping on our laps and making the kids who were 12 and 13 years old at the time giggle. We had no idea we were going to fall in love immediately with this sweet little guy. I had to call my husband at work and make him come right over so we could adopt him, since the rules were that both of us had to sign the consent forms.

The kids were thrilled and couldn’t wait to buy him a leash, dog treats, a kennel and new dog toys. After all, we believed him to be about 4 years old already. Baxter adapted to our home quickly, even getting along with our two, 1 year old cats Charlie and Charcoal. He loved taking walks in the evenings smelling all the neighbors plants and lawns.

In his later years, he had back problems and couldn’t jump off the beds anymore so we bought him poufs and littered the house with them. Most recently, he suffered from doggie dementia and his hearing was compromised. He would yelp at night and we couldn’t tell if he was hurting or just scared, so we started leaving the lights on for him.

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Many days we would barely be able to walk and we would carry him outside to do his business. He even let me hold him in my arms for extended periods of time which was nice. For the past several months he has needed a special diet of seared steak, roasted chicken and cooked ground beef since he wouldn’t eat his dog food. That was fine since he was usually happy having whatever we were eating.

Today, we grieve. Tomorrow is a new day and hopefully my heart will feel less empty as time goes on. Until then, we have our memories.

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Here is the Pineapple Pepper Jelly recipe:

 

Ingredients:

4 cups Pineapple finely chopped

2 cups sweet mini red, yellow and orange peppers finely chopped

¼ c serrano peppers (seeded and finely chopped)

1 c white vinegar

5 C granulated sugar (divided)

6 oz (2 packages) Sure Jell

¼ C fresh lime juice

1 T lime zest

¼ c fresh finely chopped fresh ginger

1 T lemon verbena chopped

½ t butter

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Instructions:

I basically followed the Sure Jell directions for making quick and easy freezer jelly.

1 Prepare containers: rinse and clean jars and lids with boiling water and dry thoroughly by placing upside down on a cooling rack.

2 Prepare Pectin Mixture: gradually add 2 pkgs Sure-Jell and 1 cup sugar to fruit and pepper mixture. Stir in vinegar, lime juice, zest, lemon verbena and ginger.

3 Bring to a rolling boil over med to med high heat.Then add remaining sugar and bring to another boil. When at a high boil, put timer on for 2.5 minutes continuing to stir. Add butter at the end to help avoid foam.

4 Carefully pour jelly into clean sterilized jars. Wipe edges clean with paper towel and seal with warm lids. Let set on counter until cool. Freeze for up to 6 months.

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This jelly is served with cream cheese and crackers for an appetizer. It is also delicious served alongside a cheese platter and crisp baguette toasts. I’ve also made salad dressing with this delicious and beautiful jelly.

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Hope you find the inspiration to make jelly of your own. It’s really a fun project and my friends will benefit from something sweet when I stop by with some of this edible treat.

Thanks for reading this and I hope you will follow my blog for more fun recipes and entertaining blog posts.

Teri

 

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Family Foodie Vacation and Art in Truckee

Family Foodie Vacation and Art in Truckee

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Fennel, Chive and Heirloom Tomato Green Salad

 

Ingredients:

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

1 carrot peeled and shredded

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

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

1 C chopped red and yellow heirloom tomatoes from the garden

 

Directions:

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

Serves 7
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Apricot White Balsamic Salad Dressing

 

Ingredients:

 

1 T Dijon Mustard

2 T Organic Blenheim Apricot Preserves

¼ C White Balsamic Vinegar (or Champagne Vinegar)

1 T grapeseed oil

1 t minced shallot

2 t minced garlic

1 T local honey

1 orange/lime/ or lemon freshly squeezed

½ C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

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

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

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

 

 

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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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Sip Happens… It’s Okay to WINE

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

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

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

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

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

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Lynie getting serious while waiting for Bob’s presentation

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

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Bob’s wife Darla and a few happy participants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1 A Sauvignon Blanc from Smart Cookie Vineyards

#2 Chenin Blanc from Beringer

#3 A Zinfandel from Quackenbush

#4 Pisano RPF Uruguay Tannat 2013

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

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Wine Wheel that helps while wine tasting

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

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

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

 

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“Geeking it out” at Universal Studios Hollywood

“Geeking it out” at Universal Studios Hollywood
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The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter w the family

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My nieces Jamie and Keri and her mom Kathleen

If it looks like the Smyth’s, the VanWinckel’s and Louie families are practically the only people at Universal Studios, your probably right. When this family vacations at these parks, we don’t mess around. Up early and out the door before the doors open, so our group could be first in line to get in to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. A few of my nieces were over the top excited about The Forbidden Journey and also about getting their wand at Ollivanders. It’s quite the experience, seeing my nieces walk around getting objects to move if they pointed their wand in a certain direction if they stand in the correct spot. Just like magic. The marketing people here are genius getting parents to spend $49.00 on a wooden wand. It’s kind of a big deal though, and I’m not an expert on this experience since I am just now being exposed to Harry Potter. Neither of my son’s were into the books, so I plead innocence here. No judgement, cause we all have our geek out moments, after all.

 

I hadn’t been to this park in about 25 years, so a lot has changed. They still have a Studio Tour in which you get on a tram and drive around and see King Kong, Fast & Furious among others. Get on this tram when your toes are screaming “sit down!”

 

Of course there were Transformers, Shrek Characters, and Sponge Bob Square Pants out and about for the youngsters to appreciate. Good times for all.

 

We all had fun riding the Revenge of the Mummy ride, Transformers The Ride- 3D, and watching Waterworld the number 1 stunt show. We avoided the Jurassic Park Ride because it was too cold to risk getting soaked. My son Curtis’s favorite memory of the park was the Jaws ride. He must have been only 7 or 8 when we brought him on that ride. Poor kid was traumatized for years after seeing jaws fly out of the water. Looking back, we should have protected him from that terrifying experience.

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In any case, there was lots to do and plenty of places to eat like Cletus’ Chicken Shack, Krusty Burger, Trish’s Mini Donuts, Ben & Jerry’s Ice-cream and Popcornopolis which offers caramel, cheese and churro flavored popcorn. Delish!

 

Here’s my version and recipe for Cinnamon Rolls

Overall, the Universal Studio “geek out” vacation experience was a success. We put on several more miles on our sore tootsies, but every step was worth it. Especially since I’m able to laugh and make special memories with my loved ones. If you haven’t been, plan your next adventure in Southern California at Universal Studios. You’ll be glad you did.

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From the left my sister in law Terri Ann, My sister in law Kathleen,brother in law Rodney, and nieces Keri, Jamie, Laura, Michelle, Keri’s boyfriend Sam and me

 

Here’s a glimpse of our Disneyland trip the day before.

 

 

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