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

From Vine to Bottle in Livermore California and Ricotta Poppyseed Pancakes Recipe
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Gorgeous grapes at Rubino in Livermore

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Me and Maggie tasting wine at Ruby Hills Winery in Livermore

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Orange poppyseed pancakes with ricotta.

Orange Poppyseed Pancakes with Ricotta

Serves 4 people

Ingredients:

1 C unbleached All PurposeFlour

½ C Almond Flour

¼ C Granulated Sugar

1 t Kosher Salt

1 t baking powder

 

½ C plus 2 T Ricotta Cheese

3 whole eggs separated

1 ½ C Milk 

½ C Heavy Whipping Cream

1 t Rum Extract

1 t Orange Extract

1 T Orange Zest

⅛ C Poppy seeds

Unsalted butter used for skillet

Confectioners sugar for dusting 

Pure maple syrup

 

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

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

 

 

 

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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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Travel Day to Mt. Diablo Summit and Fond Memories shared at Turtle Rock Ranch and [Ranch Dressing Recipe]

Travel Day to Mt. Diablo Summit and Fond Memories shared at Turtle Rock Ranch and [Ranch Dressing Recipe]

Took my friend Ana who is originally from Croatia to the summit of Mount Diablo last week. Ana is a traveling nurse and is staying at my mom’s cottage while working at John Muir. She doesn’t have a car and relies on a few of us to take her to fun Bay Area attractions on her days off. It is fun for me since I like exploring new places and enjoy going back to my favorite retreats. This week it happened to be Mount Diablo State Park.

Hello from the top of Mt. Diablo on a rainy day

Ana had heard of this special place from her friend who loves to hike and lives in Santa Cruz. He told her you must check this place out, so it was on her bucket list of #thingstodo in the Bay Area.

At first, we were limited on time so I drove us to Las Trampas where we hiked with another friend Mica. Mica is from Czech Republic and is here studying computer science. I met her recently and decided she and Ana should meet. So after several attempts, we were able to find an open morning to hike together. Mica had a previous engagement, so we cut our visit short.  

 

Hello from the Las Trampas Hills

Anna’s heart was set on driving up to the summit of Mount Diablo, so off we went after dropping  Mica off at her car. They enjoyed a nice chat about their home countries and how much they love living in California.  I spent much of my teenage years working on top Mount Diablo at Turtle Rock Ranch and told Ana some stories about my time working there.

When I was 14 years old or so, my older sister Susan and I were asked by our neighbor Jim Sumpter if we wanted part time summer jobs working in his snack shack at Turtle Rock Ranch. Of course we were excited at the opportunity and agreed to help him out. Every Saturday and Sunday morning @ 8AM, Mr Sumpter would pick us up in his truck. We would make a few stops to buy ice, meats and candy at wholesale stores in Concord before heading up the mountain.

Turtle Rock Ranch was a recreational playground which companies, schools, churches held their summer picnics. It was my first real experience with catering large groups of people remembering the Innkeeper Linda making salads in huge plastic garbage bins. We served the most delicious BBQ ribs, and chicken alongside all the fixings liked baked beans, potato salad, green salad and bread.

But most of all, I remember working in the snack shack where we gave out sodas, chips, Fudge Bar and Crunch Bar Ice creams, Cracker Jack Caramel Popcorn, Hershey’s Chocolate Bars, long red licorice ropes, frozen snow cones and much much more. All people had to do was give us a ticket and we would give them their cold drink or treat. And the best part was being able to eat whatever we wanted.

At the end of the night, after a long day of working on our feet in the Concord summer heat, Mr sumpter would drive us home. Many nights we would see tarantulas crossing the windy street, yet I never came across one myself. Jimmy’s father passed away on Thanksgiving two years later and the Ranch was closed. We no longer worked there and by then had better paying jobs. I worked at Mr. Steak Restaurant as a hostess, then a waitress and my sister worked at Top Notch a local stationary store, then a clothing store in the Sun Valley Mall.

Early Thanksgiving Seamon family reunion November 2018

My family loved the Sumpter family. Not only were we neighbors, but trusted friends. My other would allow their adult son Jimmy to drive us to school in the morning and pick us up in the afternoon. Jimmy lived with his parents and grandmother and had survived polio as a child. Since my father had abandoned us in June of 1980 the summer of my freshman year, we didn’t have a way to get to school in the morning. Jimmy was considered disabled, but was able to drive, and loved taking us to school in his fancy Camaro. I know, nowadays no one would ever trust a neighbor to be near their kids, but Jimmy and his parents were like family to us.

My mother relied on him a lot, and my sisters and I were happy to not have to ride the bus or ride our bikes to school which was a mile away, in the cold winter weather. We even spent our afternoons after school in Jimmy’s parents’ garage where he sold candy out of the trunk of his car. I know, it sounds unreal, but it’s true.

Jimmy began by selling jelly beans to the neighbor kids. We would congregate there, tell stories and hang out. Nothing bad ever happened there. Eventually, we got tired of jelly beans, and he began selling all sorts of candy, cold sodas and ice cream out of the freezer in his garage.

Our teen days were fun, full of hard work and making money. We loved working at the ranch on the weekends and hanging out at Jimmy’s after school. We ate and ate, spent our savings on candy, soda and ice cream, but loved every second of it. Eventually, my mom sold the house on Grove Way, because she couldn’t afford the taxes. I remember telling Jimmy’s mother when she was ill in the hospital, that we would look after her son Jimmy after she was gone. She died soon after.

Even though my mom, sister and brother moved to Orinda and eventually Walnut Creek, we would stop by Jimmy’s house to visit. He stuttered, chain smoked and had a huge bird who kept him company. The Kellenhofer’s who lived next door cooked, cleaned and cared for him. I can still remember the mounds of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and bottles of Coke which lined his fridge. He had a horrible diet and ate at fast food restaurants by going through the drive through much of the time.

Ranger Bruce Erickson who works at the Summit store and was knowledgeable about the current sate of Turtle Rock Ranch

But, I digress. I have many memories of Turtle Rock Ranch on Mount Diablo. Ana loved visiting the summit and I hope she enjoys her time while living in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, Turtle Rock Ranch is closed, the house is uninhabitable and the ranger Bruce Erickson said that they use the land for storage of dead trees, equipment, etc… I’m grateful for all the good memories I have from working on Mt. Diablo and I’m happy I was able to give Anna a little glimpse of my childhood.

 

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Hungry for chicken salad with ranch dressing?

TERI’S RANCH DRESSING

INGREDIENTS

    • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
    • 1/2 cup  buttermilk or (milk with 1 teas vinegar)
    • 3 T sour cream
    • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
    • 2 cloves garlic sauteed whole in avocado oil for 2 min on med heat
    • 1 T finely chopped shallots
    • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 2 T finely chopped fresh chives
    • 1 T finely chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
    • ¼  teaspoon  black pepper
    • 2 T freshly chopped dill

 

DIRECTIONS:

Combine mayo, buttermilk, sour cream and mustard in a small bowl. Sautee cloves of garlic and shallots in a small fry pan for 2 minutes on med heat in 1 T avocado oil. Chop garlic and shallots and remaining herbs. Add to mayonnaise mixture and season with salt and pepper.

I pick fresh lettuce, arugula, pak choi, spinach, beet greens, radish greens, kale and Swiss chard from my garden to make a salad. I leave it simple and only add a bit of feta or whatever soft cheese you prefer. Pour cold dressing onto the sides of the bowl full of greens. Gently toss and serve immediately. 

Thank you for following my blog and for reading my story. It’s fun for me to share my life , recipes and experiences with you. Please leave my a comment below about your favorite first job, your latest hiking adventure or whatever you please.

 

 

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Nice to Meat You Napa and a Corned Beef Recipe to die for

Nice to Meat You Napa and a Corned Beef Recipe to die for

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.

Lastly, I served corned beef to my book club friends last week and they loved it so much that they asked for my recipe. I first made this dish when I was 21 years old. My grandmother Leone and I were shopping at the grocery store and when I chose a flank steak, she advised me I had the wrong piece of meat if I wanted to make corned beef. Luckily, she helped me pick out the correct package of meat. That day, we prepared that dish together and it was a huge success. My love of corned beef has grown ever since and I always think of my grandmother when making it.

My recipe has evolved over the years, as I have become a better cook. Here’s my latest recipe:

 

Best Corned Beef

Ingredients:

2 carrots peeled and left whole

2 stalks of celery and left whole

I white or yellow onion peeled and sliced in half

½ C fresh fennel

3 whole garlic cloves

½ t dried chili pepper

1 T fresh oregano leaves and stems

1 T fresh parsley leaves and stems

3 bay leaf

⅓ C pickling spice (plus packet from corned beef)

6 whole black peppercorns

6 dried shiitake mushrooms

1 small can Coke Zero

1 t worcestershire sauce

1 T mushroom dark soy sauce (found in Asian sect)

1 can or bottle of Stella beer or Guinness works well

2 C. Chicken Stock

11/2 C water

 

Mustard Brown Sugar Glaze

Dijon Mustard

Brown sugar

1 teas dry ground cloves

 

Directions:  

Put all ingredients except Glaze ingredients into a crock pot. Add package of corned beef with pickling spice packet. Put on high for 6 hours.

Right before company arrives, remove corned beef from crock pot and place in an oven safe dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Strain the liquid into another large pot and toss out the cooked vegetables. Put the quartered cabbage into the pot and boil until soft. Remove cooked cabbage and serve along side corned beef. I also make mashed potatoes instead of the boring plain boiled ones.  I roast carrots, zuchinni, cauliflower and cremini mushrooms and serve as side dishes.

Corned Beef Glaze

Mix ½ C Dijon Mustard or regular yellow mustard, 3 T Brown Sugar, and 1 teas ground cloves in a small dish. Coat top of corned beef with sauce and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. 

Or if you don’t have a crock pot, use a heavy stock pot Dutch Oven like Le Crueset, use this instead of crock pot. Bring to a boil on the stove, then bake at 325 degrees for 6 hours. Continue with topping instructions above.

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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Farm to Fork in Napa, St. Helena and Yountville and Asian Salad Dressing Recipe

Farm to Fork in Napa, St. Helena and Yountville and Asian Salad Dressing Recipe

My husband and I had the pleasure of hosting our Florida friends last week. Sherri and I went on the very first Avon three day walk together almost twenty years ago and have been close ever since. Today’s blog will be about our day in Napa and Yountville with our two son’s Danny and Andrew. We explored Ashes and Diamonds Winery, V Sattui, Napa Valley Olive oil Company, and Rutherford Grill Restaurant for lunch. Then we circled back and took on Lucy Bar in Yountville for drinks and shopping in the Marketplace. It was marvelous day showing them around Northern California wine country.

 

 

Having no idea where to begin, we drove for an hour along Hwy 29 and stumbled upon Ashes and Diamonds Winery which is the newest winery in the Napa Valley and is directly behind Don Giovanni Restaurant. I remembered I was given a free tasting the last time I ate there with my friend Cathy. Here’s my blog on that magnificent day.
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This place is exquisitely decorated and the wine was robust and full bodied. Sherri and Andrew had tastings (since I was driving), and we all sat and listened to their jazz music. The vibe was fun and exciting. Of course I’m always energized when I get to try a new place. They also served a delicious poppy seed and sesame seed focaccia which hit the spot in our bellies.

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Next we stopped in to V Sattui where we sampled their vinegars and cheeses. It’s a bustling place with people from all over the world buying deli sandwiches, extraordinary cheeses and refreshing wine for their romantic picnic lunches under the ancient oak trees. If you haven’t experienced this delightful place, it’s a must see for sure.

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Danny Sherri, Andrew and me at V. Sattui Winery

After hopping back into the car, we found Napa Olive Oil Manufacturing Company in St Helena which I have always wanted to tour. This place has been around since 1931 and has all sorts of items a foodie like me would like to enjoy. I purchased a gallon of their olive oil and blackberry ginger vinegar to take home. Sherri, Andrew and Danny loved tasting their offerings also.

Rutherford Grill was our next stop where we splurged on their French dip sandwiches, smoked salmon, ribs, roasted chicken and more. It was familiar to my guests since they had been to a similar restaurant called Houston’s in Dallas Texas. I highly recommend getting a reservation since it is always a local favorite while in St. Helena.

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It didn’t take long to decide where to take them next since we were short on  time. After all, we had dinner guests (Heidi, Sharon, Lisa, Elyse, and Bill) coming at 6:30PM that evening to welcome Sherri and Danny back. They had lived in our neighborhood twenty years ago, before moving to Florida and had made friends while here. So on to Yountville we went.

Lucy Restaurant and Bar at Hotel Bardessono is a relaxing place to sit and relax while enjoying an artisanal cocktail or “field to fork” fare from their innovative, garden inspired cuisine. Since danny was driving, we sat outside on their comfy patio couches. I had a glass of kahlua and Sherri had a ginger ale while Andrew took a nap on their hammock and Danny made a phone call. We walked to their nearby gardens where we found a loaded O’ Henry peach tree that had many peaches on the ground. Four ended up in my bag because I can’t stand to let anything go to waste, and they were enjoyed (after cutting off the bruises) with our dinner the following evening.  It was a fun way to end the foodie farm to table experience.  

The potluck dinner chicken wings, hummus and fried pita chips, baba ganoush, fruit salad, taquitos with guacamole, and wine with our friends was delightful. Everyone was thrilled to see Sherri again and Danny loved meeting them since he was only 4 when they left the Bay Area. More blogging adventures are sure to be coming in the near future since we had day trips to San Francisco, Berkeley, Sausalito, downtown Walnut Creek.

I feel fortunate to have the time and resources to share my foodie road trips with others. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means the world to me. If you would like to hear more from my excursions, and get fun recipes subscribe to my blog. I will be sure to keep you posted on all the latest and greatest in regards to the food and wine culture in the US.

 

Asian Sesame Cilantro Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

½ C Seasoned Rice Vinegar

1 Bunch fresh cilantro stems and leaves washed (can substitute fresh parsley if you dislike cilantro, but will taste different)

2 cloves garlic (sauteed whole in 1 T canola for 2 minutes)

3 T fresh chopped ginger

¼ C apricot jam

6 green onions chopped

1 fresh squeezed lime, orange or lemon

½ C plus 1 T canola oil

½ C peanut oil

2 T sesame oil

⅔ C soy sauce

½ t black pepper

½ t chili oil

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a blender until combined. Refrigerate. Will keep for 2 weeks.

I use this dressing to marinate skirt steak, or chicken. It is best served along with roasted chicken, white fish or in a salad. Make a green salad with mandarin oranges, almonds, maruchan noodles, chicken or steak. It’s delicious!

 

 

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Explore the Epicenter of Food and Wine at Cia Copia Napa

Explore the Epicenter of Food and Wine at Cia Copia Napa

I’m always looking for an excuse to take a day trip to the heart of downtown Napa, and yesterday was no exception. Many days I will drive aimlessly through the towns I want to blog about just hoping to find a hidden gem. Finding the Culinary Institute of America at Copia was just that. Today’s blog will be about what they are all about and my experience there.

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The Culinary Institute of America at Copia is a food lovers dream come true. The gorgeous 8000 ft modern campus has cooking classes, wine tasting classes,opportunities to host private events and much more. Classes include introducing you to the many different spices, teaching easy entertaining tips or throwing an upscale cocktail party just to name a few.
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The Store at Copia didn’t disappoint. Shop everything culinary from pairing knives to a wide selection of fancy vinegars. Their selection of cookbooks was outstanding  and I wanted one of each. They also had a cookbook display of the chefs that graduated from the Institute which was very cool. Celebrities like Cat Cora from Iron Chef, Amanda Freitag from Chopped were two of them that I can recall.

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I wanted to try something from their bakery cafe, but needed something more substantial since I skipped lunch. I didn’t sit down at the restaurant, but it looked warm and inviting. To be honest, the grounds were mostly deserted. I was surprised. Their gardens were plentiful consisting of fresh herbs like basil, sage, parsley, which they use in their farm to table dishes.

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They also offer an outdoor Jackson Family Wines Amphitheater in case you need a wedding venue. Or if you prefer, they have a garden balcony that overlooks their lovely Copia gardens. The property was originally developed by Julia Child and Robert Mondavi.Their community conversational events look enticing too, You’ll hear from local chef’s such as Tanya Holland from Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, or Alice Waters from Berkeley’s Chez Panisse.

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But pretty much no one needs a reminder of what Alice is known for. The Edible Schoolyard Project is what Alice’s mission is all about. Her hope is to help every child by having a sustainable national edible curriculum from prekindergarten through high school. An honorable concept.

 

Have you thought of taking a  class at CIA California Campus? Could you see yourself taking a hands on cooking or baking class? Or how about learn how to make jam and jellies? Here’s my blog on how I make my blenheim apricot jam. It’s truly the best served on a cheese platter w marcona almonds, various cheeses and crostini. Also make sure to check out my next blog on the Chuck Williams Exhibit at Cia Copia opening soon.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my write up on my few hours in Napa California. If you want a great foodie experience it should be on your bucket list for sure. I can’t wait to take advantage of the 20% off class coupon that I found at nearby Oxbow Public Market.The cheese making class looks intriguing…

 

Feel free to share this or follow me so you get my future blog posts and recipes. Cheers to your August 2018. Hope you make it special.

 

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Cinnamon Rolls with a Boosey Twist Recipe and (Bay Area Restaurant Reviews)

Cinnamon Rolls with a Boosey Twist Recipe and (Bay Area Restaurant Reviews)

 

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went for a bike ride into downtown Walnut Creek for Valentines Day. I had issues with my Apple iPhone that needed to be resolved so we decided to enjoy the day by riding into “the Creek.” It was a beautiful Spring like day and we both needed some exercise. Since we are practically empty nesters we aren’t running our kids to basketball games, soccer practice or baseball tournaments anymore. Instead we can leisurely take our time on the weekends and go on a hike or bike ride together. Last weekend was no different. The photos above were taken while I worked as a preschool teacher at Tassajara Learning Center.

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After our iPhone appointment, we took a chance for a quick bite to eat at True Food Kitchen. This place is usually packed, but we got lucky and landed two spots at the juice bar. I have heard great things about their restaurant from my hiking friends who frequently come here to celebrate birthdays. Excited to learn about the menu, the bartender walked us through the gluten free, naturally organic vegetarian, and vegan menu offerings explaining that they focus their food on anti inflammatory dishes. Dr Andrew Weil believes that by eating this healthy diet, people can avoid Alzheimer’s, heart disease and many cancers. I’m all for that.

What I was most excited to learn more about was their fresh juice drinks. They actually have a hangover drink  that has fresh pineapple juice, orange juice, honey, and coconut water. I have no idea if that would help a hangover, but I bet it is a big seller. Of course, I saw plenty of a few Bloody Mary’s being served which looked gorgeous with watermelon radishes used as a garnish.

I ordered the “Bright Eyes” which consisted of fresh pear, ginger root, beet, pineapple, turmeric and carrot juice, and it didn’t disappoint. We also tried the Inside Out Quinoa Burger made with hummus, tzatziki, tomato, butter lettuce, cucumber, red onion, feta and avocado. It is served alongside a generous portion of roasted butternut squash which my husband loved. I tried the Toast with winter squash, brussel sprouts, caramelized onion, lemon, saba and roasted hazelnuts. It was an unexpected delight being crunchy and yet sweet from the squash that was probably roasted with honey or maple syrup. Yum. I had to order light so I could make it back up the hill to our house on my bike!

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Chicken Pita w Greek village Salad

I have to say, I’m usually not a huge proponent of these restaurants since I think they are a “fad” or “trend” to for the younger generation. After all, I love a good burger. But it’s nice to eat extra healthy once in a while and my husband was thrilled with his Mediterranean dish. We found Opa Restaurant last week for a quick weeknight dinner. Ken was so happy to find this place because they serve lamb, chicken and beef sandwiches in a warm pita bread with tzatziki sauce tomatoes, onions and mint. He said it was his very favorite new place and that says a lot because he can be finicky. 

While I’m at it, I may as well give a review of a fairly new restaurant located in Danville called Harvest. My friend Barbara and I met there a few weeks back after quick jont on the Iron horse trail. This place does things right. Barb and i met several years back when we our kids were at San Ramon Valley High School together in the choir. We also were both involved in the Vista Oak Chapter of the National Charity League. She volunteering with her daughter Lauren and me with my niece Jasmine. We had many good times together when our kids were young and now continue to meet up and have an occasional lunch or breakfast together. Barb recommended Harvest so we gave it a try.

First our server brought us a platter of their delicious wheat bread with a dollop of creamy butter with smoked sea salt and chives. I judge most restaurants by their bread and theirs  was to die for. For lunch, I ordered Di Stefano’s Burrata Toast cause I have to have burrata whenever I’m at a restaurant. This dish was the perfect balance of sweet, salty, creamy and chewy presenting the burrata along side prosciutto, figs and well dressed arugula. Delish! Barbara and I also shared the Harvest Cobb which the chef was nice enough to divide. The chicken was brined with a lemon sweet tea before it was flawlessly grilled and served with avocado, hard boiled egg, tomato and bacon. We passed on dessert even though their warm apple cobbler sounded appetizing. Over all, I have to give all three of these restaurants a thumbs up and we will definitely make it back for future visits.

It’s a good thing my phone is repaired and I’m back to blogging and taking photos again. I’d better get myself back home now and prepare a little something for the family.

But first here’s my recipe for Cinnamon Rolls with a Boosey Twist

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Ingredients

¾ C Sourdough starter (I made my own from 2 C pressed grapes in a tea towel, 2 C flour and 2 C water and let ferment for 1 week in a large glass bowl stirring every day) Not needed to make recipe, but adds a nice sour note to the recipe. Place in stand mixer fitted with flat beater. Mixes better than dough hook)

½ C warm water (warm to touch)

1 T yeast (Red Star Rapid Rise or regular dry yeast)

1 teas honey or 1 t granulated sugar

 

Mix these ingredients together in a small glass bowl with your fingers and let get bubb

 

1 egg

3/4 C Milk (warm on stove until luke warm, not hot)

2 T soft unsalted butter (plus 1 T to smear on glass bowl)(plus 1 T for baking dish)

1 T Kosher Salt (do not forget this!)

¼ c granulated sugar (plus 1 t more for yeast)

1 ½ C All purpose flour (maybe ¼ c more for kneading and rolling out)

1 ½ C bread flour

 

Filling for Cinnamon Rolls

½ C unsalted softened butter

½ C granulated sugar

1 C brown sugar

1 T cinnamon

1 t ground ginger

½ t Maldon Salt

½ t ground cardamom

½ t ground espresso powder

1 T tapioca flour

3/4 C toasted pecans

 

¼ C Grand Marnier

½ C water

¾ C black raisins (Dried cranberries, dried strawberries or dried blueberries make for a fun new breakfast treat)

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(Heat water in microwave in glass 2 c measuring cup and add grand marnier and soak raisins or dry berry fruit mix until soft) Drain and throw away liquid. This step allows the raisins stay moist and juicy in the cinnamon roll.

 

Glaze

1 T spiced rum

1 ½ C powdered sugar

¼ t Maldon salt

 

Directions:

 

After placing Sourdough starter in stand mixer, add bubbly yeast mixture.

Add milk, egg and mix. Add in 1 C flour, mix and let stand for 5 minutes.

Then add salt, sugar, softened butter and mix again.

 

Little by little add remaining flour and mix on low speed until combined. Keep mixing on med speed until dough is soft to touch and springs back when touched (about 6-8 minutes mix time) Or knead by hand until dough feels soft.

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Place in a warm spot and let rise for a few to several hours (overnight works well) in a buttered glass bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap.

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Assemble rolls:

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle until about ¼ t thick. Spread softened butter onto dough.

Sprinkle with both sugars evenly, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, espresso powder, salt and tapioca flour.

Sprinkle soaked and drained raisins and pecans over dough.

Roll the dough tightly by starting at long edge and form into a long log. Cut with a pastry cutter or serrated knife into 1 Inch pieces. Place in a buttered baking dish or sheet pan with rolls touching. Let rise in a warm place, or fridge if you can possible wait.

Otherwise place in a preheated 400 degree oven and bake until brown and bubbly about 17-22 minutes.

Cool slightly and spread rum glaze over rolls. (if you prefer a cream cheese frosting use 4 oz or ½ pkg cream cheese, ½ C butter, 1 ½ C powdered sugar, ¼ t Maldon Salt, and 1 t vanilla- Or Rum!)

I especially enjoy making these boosey treats for my husband and son on a lazy Saturday or Sunday morning. They love waking up to the intoxicating smell of these yummy treats and I do too.

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Hope you try my recipe and leave me feedback about your results in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. It means a lot!

Teri:)

 

 

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