Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day three and four

We had already crammed so much into our first two days in Sonoma and the next too were packed as well! We had made reservations to take the Playtpus Bus Tour prior to our trip after hearing raving reviews from Caitlin! We decided to plan this for Day Three, right in the middle of our trip.

We had stopped at the Market the night before and picked up some Pineapple and grapes to add to the fruit from our basket to make a great fruit salad for breakfast before our tour. I did some chopping and erin did some photographing. we took this out to a little patio in the middle of the cottages that overlooks the stream and enjoyed it with coffee and some muffins (also in the basket). It was yet another gorgeous day.

The Tour was awesome! The bus picked us up right in front of our cottage and the fun ensued. We started with a winery right around the corner from us: Benzinger. They gave a quick and informative tour through their vineyards on a tram and ended with a tasting in their tasting room. They do bio-dynamic farming (which is basically a step further than organic) and it was quite interesting. We moved on next to their sister winery (owned by one of the brothers) Imagery. WE LOVED THIS PLACE. we actually joined their wine club! They have artist do pictures for each of their wine releases, and they had a great mix of red and white which is perfect for erin and I! They actually had an art gallery right in their tasting room with some of the past wine labels. We also had a gourmet picnic lunch here and enjoyed a bottle of their Pinot Gris with the rest of the tour group. From here we moved on to our next winery, Loxton. we were hoping to meet the wine maker Chris but he wasn't in that day.

I will also mention that it was around this time that we broke into the cheese tray the tour had assembled for us. It was great and just what we needed to nibble on!!! Then our tour guide threw in a little Olive Oil tasting to our tour. FUN!! erin and I had actually been eyeing this place everytime we passed so it was fun to get to try it out. I also sampled their balsamic vinegars...fig infused YUM! They way they sampled was just sipping the oil/vinegar...that was a bit harsh for me so I used some of the above crackers.

Our final winery was right across the street from where we were staying, Audelssa. This was actually a tasting room, not an actually winery as their vineyards are all over the valley. They gave us some bread and homemade olive oil with the tasting as well!
After all that tasting we were ready to unwind and relax in our room. We also lined up all our wine purchases so far...YOWZER! (we figured out that we bought a bottle of wine at almost every winery we visited! memories)
We had decided to try a local Indian restaurant for dinner but wanted to stop in and have a beer at the Jack London Bar first. A bit of trivia about this bar is that they filmed the movie "Bottleshock"here (well all the bar scenes). Although this movie actually took place in Napa, the movie producers were from Sonoma and fell in love with this bar! It was a laid back local bar and right up our alley. i can't remember what beer erin had but I tried a Flat Tire it was local west coast beer and a welcoming change from wine! erin also found a friend that night....(awwwwww).

Indian was next! Yeti was delicious and we even saw the guy that did our tasting at Audelssa dining there so we knew it was authentically local! We shared a bottle of Ravenswood Chardonnay with our dinner and got all our favorite Indian picks! (roti, steamed veggie samosas, veg. biryani and shrimp curry) We stuffed ourselves full of some amazing food! Oh but we found room for those brownies from Cyrus when we got back to the room.
(side note about the wine...we love Ravenswood Zin, which is what they are known for, but the Chard. was good too!)

Day four we were back on our own with a few pre-planned stops. We headed across the street to a cute breakfast spot for some latte's before crossing the infamous windy road on our way to Napa for our first winery (pre planned) Quintessa. This was MY FAVORITE. It was beautiful and the wine was amazing and after our personal tour!!! we sat with our tour guide, who we LOVED, and talked about wine and life and had these amazing tapas!!! erin and i dropped a pretty penny on a bottle of their wine but it was totally worth it. We spent the longest at this winery and enjoyed every moment. After that we didn't really have a plan in mind so we were driving down the street and turned into Mumm which our friends Molly and Nick are members of (they joined while visiting on their honeymoon and their rave of wine country totally pushed us to visit!). We had another appointment at Burgess so after tasting some great sparkling at Mumm we head up the hill. Burgess by far had the best views!! (see the picture honestly looks like a postcard!) We had planned on picnicking here but we were told it was a no-no due to some laws so we ate our grapes in the car and moved along. next we decided to try a winery that our host at Quintessa recommended due to the interesting architecture. Darioush is owned by a man that come Iran. It was an interesting winery...but a bit on the snobby side for us. Finally we made our way back to downtown Sonoma and got to taste a few wines at some tasting rooms (Highway 12 and Charles Creek) We actually bought our one and only Port at the latter tasting room. It was a chocolate rasp. port..YUM.

We then made our way across the plaza to have a "end of the day" drink at what the locals call "the bistro". I actually stuck with a glass of Ravenswood Chard. and erin went for the fat tire beer!

We talked to some of the locals and they recommended that we try out a Portuguese Restaurant called LaSalette. Off we did not disappoint!

Erin started with a Portuguese white wine flight: (the pours were quite large!). I opted to get a 1/2 bottle of sparkling Gloria-Ferrer. I love me some sparkling wine!! (we didn't get to visit this winery but I read alot about it).

We decided to start with some tapas: CHEESE and CHARCUTERIE PLATES. we got: WHITE ANCHOVIES, Boquerones from Spain; SERRA de ESTRELA, sheep’s-milk, semisoft, pungent and CHOURIÇO, dry Portuguese pork and garlic sausage. It was perfect because erin didn't want the cheese and i didn't want the pork! we were both brave and tried the anchovies...I thought the saltiness of the fish was great with the cheese!For our entree's I got NEW ZEALAND BLUE NOSE SEA BASS wood oven roasted, on a bed of grilled yellow corn with collard greens and molho cru which was really good! Erin choose the ARROZ á VALENCIANA Paella-like Portuguese classic with sautéed linguiça, chicken, shellfish and saffron rice which was also incredible. We took awhile making our decision because everything looked so interesting and tasty. I wish we could go back!

We were beyond full at the end of the meal and slowly made our way back to our cottage to digest and reflect...(we may or may not have stopped at whole foods for desert and coffee..i just don't recall :)!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

California Day two

Since this is a food blog I am going to blog mainly about our eats while we were travelling but I linked the wineries that we visited as well because they are well worth checking out!

I should mention that the first day we got there i was hankering to do at least one tasting (most of the wineries close between 4:30 and 5 and we arrived in Glen Ellen around 4 eeeekkk!). We literally drove down the street about 1/2 a mile from our cottage and pulled into Eric Ross tasting room. They had some great wines and a wonderful couple that gave us so many great suggestions for visits and eats!

So back to day two. After a lovely run (with my new GARMIN RUNNING WATCH! helping me map the way), erin and i set out to explore wine country and try some wines.
The day started with a quick walk around downtown Sonoma. Its such a cute, laid back town definitely our style. We stopped into a great bakery for lattes and picked up some picnic supplies at Sonoma Cheese Factory . This place is a foodie heaven. So much to choose from AND they let you sample all their cheeses. Erin had to drag me out of there. But wine awaited!

This day we visited: Kaz, Elizabeth Spencer, Schramsburg (this one we had planned in advance because it was a sparkling favorite kind :), Bremer (at this winery we did the tasting right at picnic which we brought our lovely picnic lunch --->)

AND finally a quick flight tasting at Domaine Carneros. The last one was definitely more "commerical napa" but they were open until 6, did sparkling wine and we had time to kill before our fancy dinner. Why not stop?

On to the main event of the day...well at least for this blog....CYRUS.

Now this was our one splurge of the trip and Kath highly recommended it as well as numerous others that we consulted.
We had a reservation at 8:30 and we made it just on time! (let's just say the maps for the area aren't always to scale but erin did great as a navigator! :)

We started with a cocktail at the bar while waiting for our table. I got a drink that was similar to a mojito but contained rhubarb and It even came with a metal straw so that the drink stayed cold the entire sipping experience....WHAT?!!!! Erin got a martini with infused vodka and ginger/lemongrass essence?! she loved it as well. (their online menu still lists the winter cocktails and I don't recall the exact ingredients in either :(. We were escorted to our table and given the champagne/caviar list upon sitting. We passed on these because frankly we just didn't know enough about caviar and knew that the eight course tasting would be plenty satisfying!

Then came the main menu. They over two options. 8 course chef tasting, with a vegetarian menu as well. OR you can do a 5 course menu. Um...we are on vacation. 8 courses!! Now here comes a shocker...originally we had checked out the menu and i knew I wanted to do the vegetarian. I just don't eat meat hardly EVER and we figured that would give us 16 different things to try. But, when we got there you have an option of pairing your tasting with a wine pairing...which is really unique and interesting. And we just didn't know if we would find a bottle of wine that would compliment both menus and all the dishes. So after debating I went with the normal menu! erin was very proud AND they let us share the wine tasting. HOW AMAZING!

Here was our menu: (which they present to you typed out at the end of your meal!)As you can see there were a few course where you had an option...we opted to get one of each!

Canapes (already impressive! although I cannot remember what any of them were!)

Amuse Bouche

Thai Marinated Lobster with Avocado, mango and hearts of Palm (wine: Kerner, Italy 2007)

erin: Foie Gras "Torchon" with Tamarind and Dates (wine: Riesling, Germany 2007) How fancy does that Foie look?!

me:gnocchi with Morels and Snap Peas (wine: gruner Veltliner, Austria 2007) (the picture also shows...baked potato foam!!! it tasted just like a baked potato!)

Seared Scallops with Chorizo and Clams (wine: Savennieres, France 2005) I think this was erin's favorite dish!!

Poussin with Green garlic and Rye Berries, Caraway jus (wine: Pinto Noir, CA! 2007)

erin: Wagyu Beef with Burdock and Shiso, Oxtail umeshu Consomme (wine: Syrah, CA! 2007)

me: Lamb Roulade with Melange of Spring Vegetables (same wine)

Artisanal and Farmhouse Cheese Presented tableside...This was my favorite part of the meal! they brought a huge cart of cheese over and a gentlemen asked what sort of cheeses we liked. My response: EVERYTHING! So he went through a "journey of cheeses" that he picked for us and then served it along side some candied nuts, croustines and date/nut bread. IT WAS DIVINE. He also mentioned that they offer different drink pairings for this course. There is the typical red wine pairing but he suggested going with a beer which both erin and I thought was quite fun and unique. Erin is not a lover of cheeses but she was a good sport and tried a nibble of each. The last one was quite...pungent and I had to capture her tasting that one. I actually liked them all!!! (as you can see below our reactions were quite different haha!(beer: Bear Republic Brewing Co. "Pete's Brown Tribute Ale," Heldsburg CA)

Verjus Sorbet, Blood Orange Riesling Soup with Crystallized Picholine Olives (wine: Elio Perrone, italy 2006)

erin: Tiramisu, Cappuccino "spoon", Caramelized Fennel and Espresso Gelato (wine: Bual Madeira, Portugal 15 years old!)

me: Caramelized Walnut Carrot Cake with Yuzu - Carrot Sorbet (wine: Scheurebe Auslese, Germandy 2007) All of those "bubbles" were filled with tasty liquid that just enhanced the desert. I felt like such a foodie!!

Mignardises! I looked up that word to make sure it meant what I thought it did. This was incredible. after all the food they come around with a desert cart and basically let you choose as many little bites as you would like. We picked (or more accurately, i picked) alot and just had nibbles of each. They also sent you home with homemade Walnut Brownies (we devoured these the next night for a late night desert...HOLY COW they were great!).

I don't know if I will ever have a fancier, more impressive dinner. This is definitely one for the record books (or blog in this case :)and an experience not to be missed for those of your out there who are foodies.

Truly unique.

California Cuisine Day One

Our trip to Sonoma/Napa was simply stated: incredible! We drank so many great wines and had some amazing food as well. I know I haven't posted in awhile (between work and April festivities) so i thought i would take the chance to blog about my trip and share some great eats!

Erin and i actually stayed at a great little place called Glen Ellen Secret Cottages which is directly behind The Glen Ellen Oyster Grill and Martini Bar! When we researched the trip we thought that after a six hour flight walking to a restaurant ten feet away would be nice. It was definitely the right choice. To start they brought us two glasses of champagne upon arrival AND there was a fresh fruit and muffin basket in our room (this was replenished every morning!).

One of the things I loved most about this place is that they had an extensive martini list...EXTENSIVE! Also you could either get a regular size or an Itsy Bitsy Tenny Weeny Martini, which is a 1/2 size...that way you can try more than one (at least that's what I took it to mean!). Erin decided upon the Forget-Me-Not Martini: with ginsing & apricot liquor and I choose the Mango-tini Tropical : Mango liquor, Smirnoff Vodka. We probably could have kept going with these all night...but of course we were in wine country and wanted to move on to wine.

We started with their Calamari appetizer to share:(Ginger Tempura Calamari with grilled pineapple salsa, lemon aioli.) It was really good. Light breading with a great lemony sauce. Our waitress was really good at suggesting items and wasn't at all pushy for us to have our own. She totally understood that we wanted to share everything.

She also helped us choose a bottle of white wine from their numerous local and well priced wine list! We went with a Savuingon Blanc (erin's fav.) from Matanzas Creek, which just happened to be located right around the bend from our cottage! fun.
On to dinner...I really wanted to try the "Steamed Mussels with pancetta in saffron broth, with garlic croutons" so I got that as my Main course and erin picked a fish entree that isn't listed on their menu right now (it was Salmon with fresh local veggies and a couscous). They were both great. Nice and light and perfect for our first night in California!

Of course we had to sample a desert. erin was so cute and totally picked one that she knew I would LOVE, but she ended up loving it too. We got the "Warm Pecan Spice Bread Pudding w/chocolate lava center, brandy sauce & espresso ice cream". I think we ate this puppy in like two minutes flat.
After a long walk home (haha) we settled in to plan the rest of our trip. what an amazing first night.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Baking for Bunnies

Easter Trivia: What do the Easter bunny and I have in common: our love of carrots! Sure the bunny may prefer the raw, cold kind, where I prefer the warm baked kind. It's all the same to me. SO...I had to try yet another desert out of the new HG book and the Easter Bunny couldn't agree more. (or so I think)
I picked 14-carat Cupcakes (clever name right?!). per usual these were super simple to make. I had alot of ingredients but since I was making these at erin's house I packed everything up to go! I had a minor incident with the dry ingredients (BE SURE TO ONLY ADD 1 CUP OF THE CAKE MIX...not the whole thing :(...but erin assured me it would be fine and I just took some dry mix out. Next time I will be a bit more careful.
I thought the mix looked so colorful on it's own! i also picked up some cute Easter cupcake papers to add to the festivities
After cooling for about an hour I threw some frosting on these and they were ready for tasting...they were a hit. In my opinion one of the stars of the cupcake was the pineapple. It made it really moist and added a sweetness. erin's sister really thought the frosting was incredible as well. What can I say Greek yogurt is amazing!
I also wanted to mentioned the GREAT Easter basket an amazingly thoughtful someone left me this year! It was filled to the brim with all the things I love. A great mix of health and fun! Someone knows me pretty well.
it had:
-clif bars
-wasabi peas (LOVE LOVE LOVE)
-an apple pear... never heard of these but it was delish!
-and some cadbury cream favorite easter candy!
Hope the bunny was as good to you as (she) was to me!!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Local Wine Tasting

I know I have mentioned the amazing winery (Nashoba) dangerously close to erin and I that we will be frequenting this summer for tastings and picnics. Prior to our big trip to Wine Country we thought we ought to take advantage of an event they were holding and also hone in our "wine tasting skills" (or lack there of haha).

The theme was Caribbean Tapas and Wine, and since the weather in the Boston area has been anything but tropical it was a perfect feux getaway.

We had never been to an event here. we have done the tour and eaten at their amazing J's Restaurant (brunch is great!), so we felt pretty confident it would be great. We were right!

They opened up the tour area as the event arena and they had different stations throughout with the three wine and tapas offerings.

Whole Roasted Mahi Mahi (later switch to Artic Char both delicious) in banana leaves Wine pairing: Chardonnay.
I really like their Chardonnay and Erin and I bought a bottle of this at the end of the event!

Cuban Style Roast Pork with garlic mojo; Wine pairing: Cherry. Now this one was erin's favorite! We aren't big "sweet wine" drinkers but paired with the Pork it was excellent she said! I didn't try this one and instead went back for 2nds of the fish!

Gulf Shrimp with tropical citrus salsa; Wine pairing: Riesling . I was really looking forward to this dish but sadly the shrimp were a bit undercooked so we didn't finish this one. They did a great job, but trying to cook the shrimp on-site I think they felt a bit rushed. We actually saw a women return her's and I think it freaked erin and I out. we are such wimps!

This was such a nice event. You received three tickets (one for each course) so it was up to you where you want to begin making it quite laid back and relaxing! Also, as I mentioned before, it was great for me because the course i didn't want to try allowed me to sample another one twice.

Support your local wineries!! (oh you also got to keep the glass...we are getting quite a collection)