Drinking in Napa

So where were we? Oh yeah, leaving San Francisco through the Golden Gate bridge…

… to stay in NAPA for a few days. We had big plans for the day, thanks to Meghan who put together a great itinerary for us for the first day (the girl knows wine country!) but unfortunately brunch and a crazy wait for our rental car took the morning away from us. Oh well, it’s vacation right – no need to stress. :)

After a short stop at Whole Foods for sandwiches, we were ready to start drinking. ;) This is one place that was on Meghan’s list that I did not want to miss (well that, and lunch at Bottega but it was too late for that) – Gloria Ferrer. We were lucky to get to the winery a few minutes before the last tour of the day started, so except for the delicious bubbly we also got to see the premises. So fun! :)

This is where they ferment the skins with the grape juice in order to impart the pink color.

Pinot (Noir) grapes – they were SO sweet. I wasn’t expecting that.

Gloria Ferrer has award winning sparkling wine. It was smooth and delicious. We ended the tour with a tasting of their Pinot Noir (not as good as the bubbly!) while enjoying the view on the patio.

The scenery was definitely not bad. Not bad at all :)

We finally got to our hotel after a quick stop at the outlet mall (it was nearly 100* and all I had was long sleeved stuff – I was roasting!!). Look at the spread we walked on while checking in to our bed and breakfast!!

Happy Hour, baby. Oh, I was happy all right. ;)

Seriously – vacations rock! :cool:

After chilling on the patio, we finally made our way to downtown Napa for some dinner at Celadon. Let’s just say it had so much potential and completely bombed. My food tasted like a lean cuisine (and I’m not being dramatic, Adam agreed). I won’t waste my energy telling you more about it (I’m all about positive vibes – not negative). :) Shall we fast forward to day 2?

Our B&B was seriously adorable. They made us feel so welcome – like we really lived in this gorgeous mansion and they just pampered us with food (and wine at HH). Coffee + a fruit parfait was the perfect start to a day of drinking.

The first morning, we also were able to chose between an omelet and strawberry pancakes for our “main course.” You know what I chose ;)

[I actually didn't eat much of these - the apricot muffins (unpictured) were tastier so I opted to fill up on them before our long day.]

Ready for some wine tasting pics? We wanted to make the most of the day and got 2 tickets on the Platypus Tours – this way we didn’t have to worry about drinking and driving, and someone else set up a fabulous itinerary for us. The tour wasn’t cheap but it had a 5 star rating on Trip Advisor (with over 600 reviews!) so we trusted it was the way to go. I was shocked when a mini van pulled up and there were leather couches inside. We were going to be transported in style, that’s for sure :) [I'm kind of bummed I didn't take pictures.] All right, so I still don’t want to pretend I know anything about wine, so instead of doing reviews of each wine, I’m going to bombard you with pictures. All you have to know is that every winery was small with amazing quality of wine. I can definitely see how people become snobs after finding everything that goes into wine making (and what kind of 3rd grade grapes, etc. you get with a $10 bottle. Not saying I’ll never drink the stuff though. You know, we have a budget to work with ;) )

Judd’s Hill

[That's Judd himself, btw.]

I can get used to these views!

Good stuff. We bought a bottle of the 2009 Rose from here. It was mildly sweet and very smooth.

A bit of cheese on the ride to the next vineyard…

Bourassa Vineyards

They buy their grapes from other Napa grape growers so the place looked like a warehouse on the outside. Inside was a completely different story… the space was warm and cozy and they had unbelievable wine (this was my favorite place!!).

We tasted some bottled stuff (the Chardonnay blew me away since I’m not a big white wine drinker – the Cabernet was great too – we bought both!)…

… and then did a bunch of barrel tasting! It was such a fun experience!!! We tried 100% Cab Franc, 100% Melot, 100% Cabernet… and then mixed them together. We also tasted their port straight from the barrel – and it was fantastic. I always thought that port was super alcoholic and practically undrinkable – this stuff was sweet and smooth. Mmm.

Next stop: Hagafen

Hagafen wines are often served at the White House!! The tasting here was free so we didn’t “need” to buy anything but we still walked away with 2 bottles of their award-winning Riesling. I mean if it’s good for our Presidents, it’s good enough for us. :D We also met a little friend… such cutie!

And finally got some pictures together. Again, the views were killer. I felt like we were in Tuscany (which by the way I totally want to visit now – my PILs are there now. I’m infinitely jealous :lol: )

And apparently I drank quite a bit because I can’t even remember the name of the last place we visited. They had fantastic reds (which we bought so I’ll check the bottle when I’m home and update here). For now, let’s just check out the views, k? ;)

Cheers!

Now, how about some food? We wanted something casual and unpretentious after a long day of drinking. Zuzu was highly recommended by the locals.

I love tapas, don’t you? I love that we were able to taste so many of the restaurant’s offerings and even though a few of them were just okay, most were outstanding so overall we were very happy campers. :grin:

Shaved Artichoke-Portobello Salad with Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette & Sao Jorge - aka the most amazing salad ever!!!

This was so amazingly balanced – the peppery greens, sharp cheese, the citrusy dressing with a serious truffle oil punch. Oh, I could eat this every day of my life and be happy!

Adam was equally enthusiastic about the Jamon Iberico de Bellota with “Pa amb Tomaquet” Heirloom Tomato rubbed Garlic Bread. I believe “life changing” passed his lips. :lol: (It WAS really good – so buttery).

He was also ecstatic to find his favorite beer, which is only available in a small region of California. I held off on more alcoholic beverages. :)

“Queso Frito” Pan Fried Manchego Cheese with Roasted Poblano Chiles, “Gambas al Ajillo” Fresh Gulf Shrimp with Garlic, Piquin Chili & Smoky Pimenton and Niman Ranch Grass Fed Flat-Iron Steak with Roasted Jalapeño “Chimichurri” were the next 3 dishes that came (they weren’t that special but I thought I’d share the pictures anyway).

We were still tiny bit hungry so we got one more – Boquerones: White Anchovies, Boiled Egg & Remoulade on Grilled Bread. I don’t have a picture for some reason but this dish basically ROCKED. We had 2 tapas with anchovies over the course of the trip (one was from Spork in SF) and both were phenomenal. Basically I now have “orders” to make more stuff with white anchovies at home. They go really well with eggs and also with avocado. :D Are you an anchovy fan?

The dinner at Zuzu was the best way we could end the trip. I was definitely sad to leave the next morning but I know we’ll be back again. Do you ever go back to the same place for vacation? What’s your favorite spot so far? You know I LOVE traveling so I’m excited to hear about your answers.

PS – Last day to vote for me for this round of Project Food Blog. I would love to move on to the 3rd challenge but I can’t do it without you. Please vote HERE. Thanks!! :D

Eating my way through San Francisco

I’m back from California and am once again trying to somehow make sense of 300+ pictures and tell a little story for you guys. You know my stories – they usually star lots of food. That’s how we do it in the Healthy and Sane family ;)

Btw, before we begin, I just wanted to remind you to please VOTE for my second challenge post so that I could advance to level 3 of Project Food Blog. I cooked the chili crab the night before our vacation, scouting out the crabs and then facing my fears (all while being sick) … and then blogged about it while in San Francisco. That’s dedication, don’t you think? This week I hope to have the chance to throw a dinner party – definitely a challenge given that we just got back, I’m still getting over my cold and I have plans for every night of the week. But I’m willing to do the hard work. I just need your votes to make it all worth it! Thanks again!! :grin:

All right, so San Francisco. I’m not going to lie - we flew there to eat. It’s known to be a foodie city and well, I love food. San Francisco climate also allows farmers to grow produce all-year round so the city is known for their local/seasonal movement. I was excited! I emailed everyone I knew has ever been to San Francisco, read lots of reviews and restaurant recommendations online and jotted down more restaurants than meals we could possibly fit in our 3 days there. It was really fun drooling just thinking about the upcoming trip. :) And then I got a cold the day before our flight. I woke up coughing my lungs out the morning of, and continued coughing and sniffling through the nearly 7-hour flight there (yes, unfortunately, I was one of those people)… and then in our cab. It was miserable. I just hoped that I could get better soon to actually enjoy the trip. I’ve been looking forward to it for nearly a year (since I was bombarded with a million Foodbuzz festival 2009 posts and fell in love).

DAY 1

After settling in in our hotel room (in a smoking room because that’s all they had before official check-in time and I couldn’t wait to get in), I sent Adam off to Walgreens. A nap, a shower, a “healthy” amount of drugs and a whole lot of will power got me through the rest of day 1. I could stomach not much more than 1/2 of this tomato soup in a bread bowl from Boudin (which is an institution in SF!! We went to the one in Fisherman’s Wharf – it was a gorgeous bakery with awesome edible goodies and cookware).

We did a bit more exploring that day. The HILLS were killer for this sick girl. The best part was that despite canceling all of our dinner reservations we found that every single random restaurant we checked had a sustainable/organic menu so I still got to sample lots of amazing food without compromising my standards. My favorite spot in day 1 (that went unpictured) was Farmer Brown – their iced tea was delicious (Adam enjoyed a beer, of course) and the pulled pork sliders were the best I’ve ever had! The vibe was phenomenal too. I knew the food would save this trip even if I had to fight that damn cold. :D

DAY 2

We checked into a new hotel which was smoke free and didn’t make me dread going back to the room for a quick nap here and there. [I totally want a window bench at home now!!]

A trip to the Ferry Building was not to be missed. We made sure to go when they also had their farmers market there. I brought my appetite this time. :) We walked through the building twice – there were so many options! Adam got pretty excited about the “Tasty Salty Pig Parts” at Boccalone.

I ended up with a roasted pork sandwich from Il Cane Rosso, which was phenomenal! The pork was so tender and juicy.

Since I had my camera out and all, I figured I’d take a few pictures of the inside for you ;)

You probably can’t read the small print – it says “organic, of course.” That made me and Adam laugh, because after reading every menu in every restaurant and seeing that the restaurant was committed to sustainable practices and sourced organic food (locally, if possible) – we always said “of course.” It was seriously SO cool! I want this for Boston so bad!!!

They take the term “slow food” literally – I had to wait in line for my sandwich forever and then waited forever to get a cupcake… except changed my mind at the end. Sometimes a wait is good. Except I totally want one now :) More scenes from the FB….

I LOVED this ranch’s set up. They made vegetables and fruit look like art.

Look at the rhubarb in vases!!

Scenes outside the building…

SF’s “street food” was the fanciest I’ve ever seen. Again – all sustainable, local, fresh and amazingly creative.

[The juiciest plums I've ever tasted - I got one for dessert :) ]

Sorry, ladies – he’s taken ;)

More walking around SF… and more eating of course.

[My sister and I used to LOVE beard papa's puffs. This little guy brought some good NY memories :) ]

Oh and of course I needed a (red velvet) cupcake to make up for the one I didn’t get before…

CRAZY awesome. The cream cheese frosting was so tasty. I also bought some cookies for a homeless woman and her dog and she seemed to like it (the dog was totally out and didn’t care for it though :( ).

[Union Square]

DAY 3

Egg, goat cheese, spinach and mushroom sandwich on a housemade english muffin. Simple and delicious.

If I ever turned around and Adam was looking off into a completely different direction…

… there were probably some Ducatis parked or driving by. He was ready to move to SF just for that!

So we’ve been eating well so far, but what did I think of the city? To be honest, I thought it would be way cuter. The food scene was awesome. The Ferry Building was super cool (I really perked up when we got there despite having a fever :oops: ), the Mission District was full of amazing restaurants but definitely up and coming in that dirty but somewhat hip way (think: Brooklyn) … but the rest of the streets seemed too large, hilly and not that exciting. The fisherman’s wharf (except for the giant Boudin bakery) is my idea of a touristy nightmare. Anyways, I was SO happy when on our last day there, I finally found the San Francisco I imagined it would be. On Fillmore st! It was full of cute boutiques, small bustling restaurants and this gem that totally made me realize I could move to SF. Fraiche is my idea of heaven. I loved everything about it – the sleek, clean vibe, the creative (and organic, of course :lol: ) mix ins. I mean there was hand-shaven chocolate. I want to go back!!

[Vehrona chocolate frozen yogurt with raspberry syrup, almond chips and shaven chocolate]

Our walk over to Chestnut St and Union St (both cool too) provided a bit a calorie burn and spectacular views.

… and I decided that a cupcake was a respectable lunch. I make up the rules on vacation (especially when I’m sick and do not crave salads!!)

[mocha]

Our dinner plans were pretty special the last night. We met up with Lara and Matt for a few drinks and food. Lara was my very first commenter on Healthy and Sane (outside of family members) and we’ve kept in touch ever since. It was really cool to meet her in person! The food was definitely secondary (read: I didn’t care for it) but it was still a really fun night. :D

I’m so glad I was semi-healthy for this meet-up. This is one “reservation” I did not want to cancel. Lara, can I talk you into moving to Boston? :lol:

DAY 4 – the last morning

Sorry, I know this is getting looooooong (this is not even everything!). Last one, I promise. Before heading to Napa, we stopped by Yank Sing for some dim sum. Adam needed to try some and I was hoping to taste some sustainable Chinese food for the first time in my life. I don’t think it was, unfortunately (the only restaurant we saw that wasn’t!) so I stuck to the traditional steamed shrimp dumplings and the vegetarian offerings. All were delicious! :)

Pea shot dumplings

Spinach dumplings

… and then it was time for Napa!!!

Sorry for the long post. Let me know if you want to see a few pictures from Napa. I can cover that tomorrow :)

Thanks again for reading my ramblings (and please don’t forget to vote!). :mrgreen:

PS – Who’s going to the Foodbuzz festival this year? I’m considering flying over but need a roommate… or 10 :)

PFB C#2: Taste of Singapore in my Boston home

Thanks to all of your votes on my first challenge post for Project Food Blog, I got to advance to the next round. Thank you so much again – I definitely could not have done it without you!! :grin:

As expected, this competition is forcing me to grow as a cook and a blogger and the second challenge already forced me to step out of my comfort zone. That was literally the requirement! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? … Or maybe at least gets you brownie points with the judges? ;)

The challenge was simple – cook a classic dish from a foreign cuisine that takes you completely outside of your comfort zone, and make it as authentic as possible. I’d like to think that I’m not too afraid to try new things and have been quite adventurous in my little kitchen and while dining out. And yet, I knew exactly what I’ve been avoiding to make at home. For those of you who’ve seen the Julie and Julia movie, remember when Julie tries to boil lobsters and her husband starts singing “lobster killah, lobster killah”? Yeah, that’s what immediately came to mind. I love lobster but leave it up to Adam to do the cooking part. There is just something about a live creature being dunked in hot water that doesn’t sit well with me. And then there are those recipes that have you chop them cross wise with a giant knife while still alive. Yikes. Definitely outside of my comfort zone… way outside of my comfort zone. :shock:

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All right, so now we know my limits, but what did I want to make? Chilli crab. Chilli crab is Singapore’s national dish – it was literally created because Singapore didn’t have one. And it’s quite simple (at least in theory) – crabs are stir-fried in a semi-thick, sweet and savory tomato and chilli based sauce and are often served with rolls or French bread. The dish has been in the forefront of my mind for the past few weeks given Top Chef’s finale was filmed in Singapore. I couldn’t help but reminisce of our amazing trip there last winter. The meal at the No Signboard Seafood restaurant where we tried chilli crab was unforgettable. And yet, up until this challenge, I never considered making it at home as much as I wanted to have just one more taste of one of the most delicious (and messiest!) meals of my life. Because well, there was this whole cooking whole crab-thing that stood in the way. Not exactly my forte.

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Apparently a lot of Americans agree with me. Finding whole crabs was quite the challenge. A trip to several traditional groceries stores produced nothing better than frozen crab legs. Nope, not gonna cut it. Luckily, I thought of checking one more spot – an Asian supermarket not too far away. Score! They had several varieties of crab but whole crabs were all alive. I guess it was time to face my fears full-on.

I did a lot of research for recipes. If I was going to go through the trouble of recreating chilli crab, it better taste good! I chose this recipe because it had chilli sauce and shrimp paste and the dish I tried specifically mentioned these two ingredients in the description. I picked up most of the ingredients at the Asian grocery store as well, although surprisingly, there weren’t too many “funky” ingredients involved.

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I par-boiled the crabs for 4 minutes before stir frying them with the sauce. Many recipes said to chop them up right away and just throw them in with the sauce (and stir-fry until ready) but I didn’t have a cleaver and my knife definitely couldn’t handle this job. Plus, in all honesty, I really don’t know if I could even do that. I’m sure from my facial expressions in all the pictures, you can conclude that I was outside of my comfort zone as is.

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Once the crabs were cooked a little, I was a bit more at ease. I rinsed them under cool water so that they’d be easier to handle.

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Sorry, buddy, your time has come. I was actually shaking for a few minutes. I think it’s the eyes. Once I turned them over and realized the legs were actually falling off on their own, things moved more smoothly. I mean, I eat lobster and in that sense, it’s quite similar.

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Everything came together very quickly. The sauce developed and thickened in just a few minutes and then we were ready to dig in.

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Some Asian steamed buns were perfect for soaking up all the sauce.

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And yes, this was messy, VERY messy. Even though it didn’t taste exactly like the chilli crab we had before, it took me right back to our meal at the No Signboard Seafood. I’m sure there are hundreds of variations to this national dish. I’m so glad I overcame my fears and was able to have a little taste of Singapore right in my Boston home. :)

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What dish is outside of your comfort zone?

PS – I’m in San Francisco right now (I cooked this right before we left just in case :) ). I’ll be back in a few days with a full recap. We’re having a blast despite the fact that I got a crazy cold right before we left.

PPS – If you enjoy this blog and my second challenge entry, PLEASE vote for me (follow the widget link on the top left or go here). 200 challengers will advance to the next round so you can vote for your favorite 200 bloggers at this stage! Thank you so much again. I can’t advance without your votes so please do it now! :)

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