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Measurable Thrill in Oakland and a Blackberry Pie you Won’t Forget

Measurable Thrill in Oakland and a Blackberry Pie you Won’t Forget

Our family celebrated my son Curtis’ 34th birthday in the Berkeley Oakland area last month and we had a ton of fun. We ate and drank at Limewood, Mad Oak Bar, and at Mua Restaurant all evening long and truly enjoyed spending time together. It’s rare my husband and I get to take our boys Curtis and Andrew 27 out on a Friday night, so we took advantage of the opportunity. I’m hoping today’s blog will inspire you to check out Oakland and all it has to offer. Plus I will include my recipe for my home made Blackberry Pie.

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Our Hansome men Curtis and Andrew out celebrating Curtis’ 34th birthday at Limewood Bar Claremont Hotel Berkeley

 

I always do a ton of research before exploring a new area, yet trying to make reservations online isn’t my cup of tea. I never want to box myself into a time in case our plans change last minute. That’s why we started off at the Claremont Hotel and their Limewood Bar. Also Curtis didn’t wanted to miss the Warriors  game, so we were happy we could keep track of the score while eating dinner.

 

The Claremont is a special place because my husband and I stayed there on our wedding night over 29 years ago. It is a gorgeous historic place and I knew my boys would love experiencing the food and nightlife there.

 

My husband Ken was our designated driver so Curtis, and Andrew and I could enjoy ourselves and imbibe in fancy libations, but we first had to eat. We ordered the crispy Brussel sprouts made with fish sauce caramel, peanuts and cilantro, olives, ahi tuna with potato chips, the roasted chicken and lentils and their braised beef cheek in tagliatelle. The food was presented nicely and everything was delicious.

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Me and my number one son Curtis at Mua Restaurant checking out the art. My dad named him Montana since he was born on superbowl sunday 1985.

 

Andrew ordered a Guinness beer, Curtis had a cocktail and I had a glass of Cabernet. We asked the bartender where he suggested we go next and he recommended the Penthouse Bar Mad Oak. This place was very hip and popular. They had a rooftop bar that was packed with a fun crowd. They also had the Warriors basketball game showing on a large wall. We found a spot to sit at the roof top bar and enjoyed our drinks. Curtis had the vodka cocktail that was on special, while Andrew and I stuck with our beer and wine. We weren’t hungry yet, so we sat and talked and enjoyed the clear night and open air bar.

 

Next we went to Mua Restaurant not far from the last stop. We were lucky to find parking close by and an available table. We ordered more drinks, guacamole and chips, the half pound burger with fries, the “Mac n Cheese” made with butternut squash and cream and who knows what else. The night is a blurr and I can hardly remember much else. All I know is that we didn’t get home until 1:30 AM after dropping off our boys.

Mad Oak roof top Bar in Oakland

 

I can’t remember the last time we partied like this with our kids. It doesn’t happen on a regular basis, but we are excited to spend time with them, especially around their birthdays. I highly recommend spending the evening in Oakland and checking out the Limewood Restaurant and Bar, the Mad Oak Bar and Mua Restaurant.

 

Next you will find my favorite Blackberry Pie recipe. It’s the perfect dessert to go with your Valentine’s day dinner. It’s my husband’s favorite pie, so I had to have my friends over today and show them how to make it. We had a blast and you will too.

 

Be sure to share this blog with your family and friends on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook or via email to a friend. And follow me for more fun recipes and travel posts.

 

Blackberry Filling for Pie

 Ingredients: 

6 Cups of Frozen Blackberries (3 bags of O Organics from Safeway or fresh if in season)

1 Cup granulated sugar

Juice and zest of 1 orange

½ t grated nutmeg

Pinch of Maldon Salt Flakes

 

¼ C Hanson’s Sonoma Organic Vodka Mandarin Flavored

2 T Cornstarch

 

3 T Tapioca Flour

3 T Unsalted Butter cut into chunks

 

1 whisked whole egg (used to brush on top of pastry)

 

1 T granulated sugar

1 T demerara sugar

 

Directions: 

Pour 6 Cups of blackberries into a heavy medium sized pot. Add sugar, nutmeg, orange juice and zest and salt and cook until bubbly.

Mix mandarin vodka and cornstarch in a small bowl and add to the pot of boiling blackberries. Cool.

Make pastry. Check out my previous post here: pastry recipe .

 

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This is Nancy’s blackberry pie. She chose to use fresh blackberries and bake them without cooking first. Looks so pretty

After mixture is cooled and pastry is rolled out and placed into pie dish, mix 3 T of Tapioca Flour into blackberries and pour into pastry lined pie dish. Dot with chunks of butter. Top with remaining rolled out pastry, crimp sides with your thumb and pointed finger to make a nice edge. Cut out a tiny whoel (I made a heart shape) in center of pie.

 

Brush with egg and sprinkle with both sugars.

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place filled blackberry pie onto a sheet pan and bake for 1 hour or so until crust is golden brown.

 

Let pie cool completely so that blackberries have time to gell and set. This is the hardest part. Serve at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!

Teri:)

 

 

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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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Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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Gorgeous venue.

 

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Krzystof and Hanson’s vodka

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Candied Ginger Apricot Pistachio Biscotti

 

Ingredients:

2 C All Purpose Flour

1 C Granulated Sugar

1 tsp Baking Powder

3 eggs

2 T Sambuca (an Italian Licorice flavored liquor)

2 T Grand Marnier

1 tsp Vanilla

1 tsp Anise Extract

1 C whole Pistachios

1 T fresh Orange Zest

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

½ C chopped Crystalized Ginger

¾ C Mariani Dried Apricots

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Instructions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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