RSS

Tag Archives: #Flowers

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere in Yountville, [but go early for a foodie day]

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere in Yountville,  [but go early for a foodie day]

IMG_5005

Enjoyed a getaway vacation last week with my girlfriend Cathy. I decided it was time to show her around the Napa Valley. Today’s blog will be all about our adventures wine tasting and eating our way through the vineyards. It truly is my “happy place.”
IMG_4780

What a day it was. Cathy and I started out touring her own vegetable garden in Alamo. I was impressed by her ability to make every space a pleasure to look at. Cathy is an interior decorator by trade. She had her own successful business for many years in the Bay Area. Her and her husband raised their kids in Alamo and we met while our boys were in Junior High at Stone Valley Middle School. And she is a chef and foodie like me, so it is awesome that we’ve stayed in touch over the years.

IMG_4762
IMG_4763

Back to the adventure…First we stumbled upon Saintsbury located in the Carneros Valley. We learned that the tasting fee was $35.00 each and would take an hour. We had big plans for the day and couldn’t spare the time, so onward we went.

Around the corner was Etude Winery. They are also a bit on the snobby side trying to charge us for the one person tasting fee even though Cathy was purchasing two bottles of their 2016 Chardonnay. After I explained that I was a food blogger, our pourer graciously took off the $25.00 fee. It was a beautiful day and we were very surprised to see a huge spread of salads, various cheeses, bread, and an enormous meat platter for very hungry Backroads bicyclists. These people come from all over the world to experience what the wine country has to offer. Great fun!


After tasting at Etude (I had a couple of sips cause I was the designated driver), and seeing their glorious wild poppy garden and listening to the swallows nesting in their mud houses, we stopped off at Bistro Don Giovnanni. There we imbibed in glasses of pinot grigio from luna vineyards in Napa, and their Fritto Misto w calamari, rock shrimp, fennel, onions green beans w a spicy aioli. We had a big day planned, so we opted to save our appetite for later. Cathy had never been to this restaurant and she was delighted by our Italian server and their generous hospitality. They even offered us coupons for tastings at the new winery nextdoor!


After our luxurious break, we went on ahead to the cute town of Yountville. After parking in the shade, we walked along the main street where we talked to the women at the information center. They had lots of ideas for us of wineries to drive to, but I was content to show Cathy what Yountville had to offer. First we checked out The Spa at the Estate Villagio Inn where we were offered a tour of the spa. It was fun smelling their lotions and seeing what spa packages they had to offer. We learned they are currently under renovations to upgrade their accommodations.

Next we stepped into the extraordinary JCB Tasting Salon . Jean-Charles Boisset’s tasting experience was over the top. They offered us a Gala Brut Champagne and the No 50 Brut Blanc de Blanc, Burgundy and a $200 bottle of wine tasting since it was already open. Fabulous! We were spoiled rotten by Daniela who also took us on a private tour of the luxury JCB Salon Prive’ located next door. It has an opulence about it that the decorator in Cathy adored.

Onward to Bardessono Hotel and Lucy Restaurant . It’s normally a $50.00 charge to open a bottle of wine from home, but our generous waiter erased that fee and allowed me to bring in a picnic. The wine, cheese, nuts and fruit were just what we needed to relax in the outdoor patio. Cathy was ready for their cosmopolitan cocktail to make a splash and bring on the warm Yountville evening. She liked it so much, she ordered a second!

A walk through the gardens at The French Laundry was our last stop. Here we spotted a few butterflies, artichoke plants, strawberry plants and rows and rows of glorious organic greens. I would love to enjoy a meal there someday since Thomas Keller the owner and Executive chef of tfl is my idol.

 

It was a day to remember for sure, and I can’t wait to experience Napa and St Helena again soon. You should too. Is there a secret get away place you want to tell me about? I want to hear all about it in the comments below. Sign up for my blog by including your email, and I promise to never leave you out of my upcoming food and travel blogs. Here’s my latest on Carmel California.

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Why You Should Go To Pike Place Market and Lemon Blueberry Bread

Why You Should Go To Pike Place Market and Lemon Blueberry Bread

 

IMG_0820

Spent an entire Sunday morning at Pike Place Market in Seattle Washington a couple of weeks ago. It was my first time visiting this incredible food market. I was blown away with the intense heavy scent of flowers that welcome you into the building. The sunflowers and dahlia’s were mesmerizing in size and were everywhere I looked. They sold spectacular flower arrangements for only $10.00 in every color a girl could ask for.

IMG_0831.JPG

Besides walking past every kind of flower you could ever want, my husband and I tasted  Beecher’s handmade cheeseThe varieties of seasonal fruit were overwhelming finding juicy nectarines, plums, berries, sweet currants and cantaloupe just to name a few. We spotted boxes of colorful organic peppers and just around the corner and a collection of mushrooms some I’ve never heard of like maitake, eryngi, nutty shimegi, lobster, chanterell, and matsutaki  for the chefs delight. It was honestly a foodies paradise. I was in Heaven.

IMG_0849

I was excited to spot Gosanko Chocolates  and check out their special chocolate offerings. They had dark chocolate rocky road, clusters of sunflower seeds coated in chocolate, peanut raisin, almond, walnut, and cashew  clusters. I spied red velvet, sea salt caramel and PB and J  fudge, and blackberry, strawberry, mocha, Irish cream, loganberry, peanut butter, limoncello, kahlua,grand marnier, cherry, rum and classic truffles. I wanted one of each! And of course I’m partial to almond butter toffee coated with dark chocolate. Yum! If I could travel around the world and just visit chocolate shops, I would. Most of the time I try their hot chocolate since this is always a measure of a good quality chocolate.

IMG_0818.JPG

Next we came across local farm fresh Raw and Pure Honey and discovered wildflower and blackberry flavors. There were gorgeous really cool textiles like cotton scarves in bright primary colors and artists previewing their spectacular pieces.

IMG_0834.JPG

Too bad we were staying at a hotel because I wanted to buy and cook the huge assortment of fresh caught trout, salmon, red snapper, rockfish, and halibut just waiting to be fried or grilled to perfection. The dungeness crab and jumbo king crab legs were enormous and reasonably priced. Apparently the cherries in Washington are abundant and family owned since 1988 Chukar Cherries Co. provided delicious chocolatey samples if you could stand waiting in the long line.

There was plenty of hot food for those that wanted a nibble with displays of fried chicken, tempura shrimp, corn dogs, chicken tenders and French fries. And of course we came across the bakery selling savory cheddar cheese rolls, chocolate dipped cookies, German chocolate and cream cheese strawberry donuts, Swedish cookies which my Danish great grandmother Helga “Nana in the white hair” is what we called her, would have wanted, cinnamon crispies (which reminded me of a pastry I had in Truckee. Here’s a previous blog with a gingerbread recipe I’m fond of and made recently)  and peanut butter cream cheese cannoli’s. Yuck.

IMG_0936

My gingerbread cake! So delicious!

I loved the lavender products offered by https://www.allthingslavenderseattle.com/.  Baker’s dream of ingredients like these: lavender sugar, lavender and sweet orange infused honey, and tea’s for ice cream, scones and other sweet goodies.

I bet you didn’t know I’m a cheese fanatic either. My sister Julie introduced me to cheese spontaneously many years ago and I fell in love. Pike Place Market has a good deal of delicious gouda, asiago, fontina, pecorino romano, parmegiano, and lots of soft cheeses too like chevre, sheep milk feta, burrata, mozzarella, and brie. I’m planning on making a roasted cherry tomato with burrata tonight for my family. I first experienced this at a fancy restaurant in St Helena. It was simply decadent. 

Britts Pickles sold us a jar of their spicy pickles, but unfortunately for my son Curtis they were confiscated at the airport. I’ve seriously have barely scratched the surface of what Pike Place Market in Seattle has to offer. If you haven’t been, it’s a must. This vacation get away was one of my favorite vacations ever. Great food, a hippie vibe/nerdy kind of people, and super fun hikes are awaiting you.

Have you ever been? Share your Seattle experience with us. I would love to know your thoughts.

IMG_1064

And just in case you are inspired to bake, you can find a tasty blueberry lemon bread recipe below. It’s one of my favorite breads to make and share with your friends and family, especially if you have an excess of lemons.

 

Lemon Blueberry Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Ingredients:

½ C Unsalted Butter room temp

1 C Granulated Sugar

2 Large Eggs beaten

2 lemons zested and juiced and set juice aside

 

1 ½ C All Purpose Flour or Cake flour for a finer crumb

1 t Baking Powder

½ t Maldon Salt

½ C Milk

1 1/2 C fresh Blueberries

½ C Powdered Sugar

 

Directions:

In a mixing bowl cream the room temperature butter and granulated sugar for @ 3 minutes on high. Add lemon zest and eggs and blend for 4 more minutes on med high.

 

Sift flour, baking powder and salt until combined.

 

Alternately, starting with dry flour mixture then milk , add to wet creamed mixture in small portions and mix on low until combined. Toss in blueberries coated in 1 T flour.

 

Line a 9X5in loaf pan with parchment paper, or coat with vegetable shortening. Pour batter into pan and bake uncovered for @ 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

While loaf is baking, juice lemons and mix with powdered sugar. When loaf is taken out of oven, poke with a wooden skewer and pour sugared juice over loaf. Cool.

IMG_1051

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Baking a Wedding Cake and a Tour of Facebook in the Same Day.

Baking a Wedding Cake and a Tour of Facebook in the Same Day.

IMG_0232It’s been quite a month. I took on making a wedding cake for a good friend that reconnected with me on Facebook.  I also was unusually busy because I met up with my niece at Facebook the same day that I had to bake the cakes. This is what’s so great about Facebook. You never know who you might meet up with again since they have globally 1.28 billion people active users daily and 200 billion monthly active users.

IMG_0186

Last month I was invited to take a tour of the Facebook campus from my niece who works for an accounting firm there. Jasmine showed me around the property. It was quite expansive and the employees  used bikes and busses to get from campus to campus. These busses come frequently, are air conditioned and very comfortable. But, let’s talk about the FOOD at Facebook. When I arrived, I was given a day pass and offered something to drink. I delightedly made myself my fav drink: an espresso w half and half and sugar. It was so exciting to see all the options and everything was FREE.Eventually, we made our way over to the BBQ pork, macaroni and cheese, and spicy greens and I was in heaven.

IMG_0213

Jasmine also introduced me to several snack areas which give away, pretzels, chips, granola bars, fruit snacks, popcorn,candy, gum and pretty much whatever your heart desires. I took Altoids (my Dad’s favorite), peppermint gum and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for the ride home. Yum. They also have refrigerators near the exits that have pre made salads, etc so you don’t have to cook when you get home. That’s a huge help to many families that struggle with meal preparation. I can’t imagine anyone being hungry though. Jasmine and I walked down the main campus where there were places to eat lining the street. I saw a Noodle Bar, a BBQ place, a burger joint, a Salad Bar,  a bakery and an ice cream shop. And I’m sure I’m forgetting many more.They even had a cafeteria on her campus which was closed already.  I wanted EVERYTHING. I couldn’t believe that all this food was FREE.

IMG_0194

Cameras weren’t allowed near the workstations, but I was amazed at all the different nooks and crannies all over campus that were set up to work from. Comfy couches and rooms that looked like libraries were positioned all over making it hard to choose where one would feel like hanging out. It felt more like Disneyland than a place of employment. We even walked by Mark Zuckerman’s office! So cool.

IMG_0190

Jasmine also showed me all around Instagram which Facebook also owns. There were huge art pieces all colorful and exciting, a place one could be inventive and inspired for sure.

IMG_8626

The wedding cake story is explained next. I don’t consider myself a professional cake baker. Yes, I have gone to pastry school and made special occasion cakes for different events, but never for a wedding. That’s a lot of pressure that I don’t need to put on myself, and no one had ever asked me before so it wasn’t an issue. Noelle and I had raised our kids together in the same neighborhood, same swim team and same schools. That is, until she and her husband separated about 10 years ago and moved out of the neighborhood. She and I lost touch and I hadn’t spoken for a very long time. Then out of the blue, she sent me a message on Facebook and asked me to give her a call. I guess she saw my many dessert  posts and of course remembered how much I loved baking. About a week later, I had her and another friend from the neighborhood named Chris over for dinner to discuss her new man, anything we might have missed out on the last 10 years and of course THE CAKE.  

 

And Noelle, is in sales and can be very assertive and overbearing, yet I like that about her. I was also excited to have this opportunity to make a wedding cake. After all, she really wanted me to bake her cake and there is something kinda cool about that.

It took some convincing, but I finally agreed. Now I had to do the research, look for recipes, find the right sized cake pans, figure out how what to put them on and learn what kind of supports I would need to serve a wedding cake in Mid July. Thank goodness for You Tube, Pinterest and good friends who suggested I make a tiered wedding cake instead of piling them on top of each other. (Best decision ever!) I spend hours watching home chefs decorate cakes, and got to see what tricks I would need to make this process a success.

I spend days shopping picking up ingredients like drinking straws (to use inside the cake to keep from falling), fresh lemons for lemon curd, eggs, butter (lots of butter), meringue powder, powdered sugar, raspberries, and pudding mix. Yes. I used box cake mixes because I am guaranteed a good tasting cake with the right texture. If I made them from scratch, I would worry that the weight of these cakes wouldn’t hold up to another on top. Like I said, I’m not a cake baker. I generally dislike making a decorating cakes, because it takes someone with patience to make them look just right. They have to be even and the icing needs to be the right consistency with various scrolling, etc…

IMG_0311

Another thing most people don’t know about me is that I listen to motivational podcasts every morning. I like Deleon Motivation , Tony Robbins, and The Mulligan Brothers just to name a few. These talks push me a little out of my comfort zone and ask that you try something new. Do something that you wouldn’t normally do, they say. This cake definitely did that for me. I was waay out of my league, yet I was determined to make it happen for my friend. It was the least I could do for her, after all.

IMG_0274

Lucky for me, my husband helped out by engineering the “tiered look” and stepped up big time at the last minute. I also was fortunate to have our cousin volunteer to make the rose cake topper, which made the cake look professional. Lynie loves flower arranging and I knew I would not have the time or energy to give this cake the finishing touch that it deserved. She only charged me $39.00 for the roses and baby’s breath and refused to let me pay her for her time. It was such a gift.

A week or so before the wedding I started baking the five cakes. I’ve taken enough baking classes to know you never refrigerate a cake or it will dry out. So I had to take my freezer food to my mom’s house so I could make room for all five cakes. The lemon curd was made next, since that can be made ahead. I waited until the day before to make the frosting. Buckets and buckets of frosting! I worried a little, no A LOT about how I would decorate each cake, but in the end they all turned out beautiful. One I topped with the flowers, one I used fresh raspberries and blueberries, and one I delicately placed meringue cookies in a huge pile on top of this enormous round cake.

IMG_0251.JPG

I got excited when I decided to fill the cakes with whipped cream, lemon curd, raspberries, and buttercream. I used Grand Marnier, simple syrup, to moisten the layers before filling. I found pink ribbon and used mylar strips/acetate to keep the ribbon from touching the icing on the sides of the cake.To decorate the sides, I used tempered white chocolate and a piece of a huge metal form that my husband used to build a rock wall. This metal piece had a fun pattern to it that would make the cake look special. (Kind of fun to use something no one else would ever think of using!)

 

The tricky part was making room in the fridge and freezer for the finished cakes and also transporting them to the venue which was only 15 minutes away. The weather wasn’t cooperating with us either, since it was over 100 degrees at 2:00 in the afternoon. My little Lexus came through allowing us to crank up the air conditioning for 10 minutes before we loaded them in the car. I’m sure most cake makers have special vans or large vehicles that make it easier to get five huge cakes to a wedding.Not not me, but we made it happen.

After arriving at Il Postino in Lafayette, my husband built the structure of cake platters and we used a brand new white sheet that covered the table perfectly. I picked a few flowers and greens from my garden and was able to put together something cute to give the presentation a little color besides the rose cake topper.

In the end, everything worked out well. Noelle and Mark got married and they had a beautiful cake that make their day extra special. Who knows if there are any more wedding cakes to be made in my future. At least if there are, I will have the knowledge and expertise this time to do it.

IMG_7450

I genuinely would like to thank my niece Jasmine for taking the time to take me to Facebook. I’m so proud of her!  It’s because of Facebook that I was offered these friends like Noelle and Chris to magically pop back into my life. The wedding was beautiful, the cakes were phenomenal and I have a new trick up my sleeve when it comes to calling myself a pastry chef. And without the help of these morning motivational talks, I can ultimately say I probably wouldn’t have considered taking on this gargantuan task. To say  that I am grateful for the opportunity to make a wedding cake is an understatement. Congratulations Noelle and Mark. Thank you for including me in your special day.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for more great stories and recipes.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: