Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Sunday You Wish You Spent With Me.

My day today so far:

9:45AM - Wake up
10:30AM - Yoga class
12:30PM - Make granola, sing along to Solomon Burke's greatest hits, fill the house with freshly-baked granola aroma
1:30PM - Vodka infusion time! Fill house with aroma of burnt espresso simple syrup
3:00PM - Bake banana bread, cover up burnt espresso smell with fresh-out-of-the-oven banana bread aroma.
4:00PM - Clean up the sticky, gooey espresso syrup from all over the stovetop.
5:00PM - Read Food&Wine magazine, type blog post, google "How to build breakfast nook bench".

Some things I have NOT done today: clean and work on my school project (which were, of course, my goals for the weekend).  I actually had a To Do list with those two items on it. Instead of completing those tasks and checking them off the list, I simply added 3 new items - Make granola, Infuse vodka, Bake banana bread - to the list and promptly checked them off.  So, 3 out of 5 isn't bad.

Granola (adapted from Candle Cafe cookbook)

1 c. rolled oats
1 c. steel cut oats
1 c. nuts (I used a combo of sliced almonds & unsalted cashews)
1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1/4 c. safflower oil
1/3 c. maple syrup
dash of salt
dash of vanilla extract
1/2 c. dried fruit (I use cranberries usually)
1/4 c. shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together all ingredients except the dried fruit/coconut.  Spread evenly onto greased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.  But - here's the important part - you need to spread around the granola every 5 minutes.  So stay close to the kitchen and keep an eye on the clock or you're gonna have burnt granola instead of perfectly and evenly toasted granola.  Let the granola cool a few minutes, then add the dried fruit and coconut. SO GOOD. And it'll keep in an air-tight container for several weeks.

Espresso Vanilla Bean Liqueur
(from great food blog, The Dinner Files)

3 c. sugar
3/4 c. instant espresso
2 vanilla beans
3 c. vodka (we used triple distilled

Bring sugar & 2 c water to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Add espresso powder, reduce heat, simmer, stir to dissolve espresso.  Note: somewhere in between the addition of the espresso powder and the stirring and simmering, I guess I forgot to reduce the heat and KABLAM the stuff bubbled up and over the edges of my, uh, don't do what I did.  But look how gorgeous it is (evidence of my mess visible to the right):

Once the espresso is dissolved, you want to remove it from heat - transfer it to the glass infusion jar to cool.  While its cooling, use a knife to split the vanilla beans open and scrape out the teeny seeds inside (which look like a black paste). Add the seeds and the pods to the syrup, and then pour in the vodka.  Seal the jar and set it aside for 4-6 weeks - skim out the seeds/pods before serving.

Cinnamon Infused Vodka

I didn't really follow any recipe for this.  I poured a handle of vodka (plus remainder of another bottle of vodka I had) into a glass jar.  And I added lots of cinnamon sticks (about two .75-oz jars' worth). I will let this infuse for about a week, and taste it next weekend.

It is my hope that these two infusions turn out beautifully. I want to bottle the cinnamon vodka and gift it for the holidays (along with a recipe for spiked Mexican Hot Cocoa, which I'll be experimenting with in coming weekends), and we'll keep the espresso-vanilla liqueur for our own holiday entertaining.

Banana Bread (my mom's recipe)

1/2 c. butter
2 eggs
1 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 bananas
1 tbs milk
dash cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter & eggs, add sugar. Combine flour, cinnamon, soda, salt in separate bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones.  In another bowl, mash bananas with milk, and then fold that into the mix. Bake for 1 hr.

Now, I will turn my attention to dinner and schoolwork. But - who am I kidding - once I have a glass of wine and Daniel gets the firepit going, its s'more time not school time!

Friday, August 6, 2010

TGIFF Musical Selection

Keepin it local with a very DC-centric video.  Absent of helicopter shots of the Capitol, this video features tabi Bonney (the dapper Clark Kent/Superman) and his fixi crew cruising by the Marie Reed center, the V Street police station, El Tamarindo,  17th St, and downtown.  Also look out for Murs who makes a brief couple of appearances in the video. Tabi Bonney apparently came up in the DC scene (though originally from Togo, West Africa) and has collaborated with Raheem DeVaughn.  He also has a song that you will want out of your head as soon as it gets in (the POCKet)

Happy Friday y'all, and don't forget to recycle!  Perhaps next week I'll actually do some garden related posts.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Yeah I lied when I said I didn't have time to post anything today.  That was before I saw this (mind: blown):

Which is what appeared after I purchased this:


which was designed by this lovely lady:

Christine "Queen" Marcelino

All of these things were set into motion, when I came across this Apartment Therapy post this morning on sleeping bags.  And their post failed to mention Alite's expertly (sexpertly?) designed "sexy hotness sleeping bag":


And of course I had to let AT know of their error by omission.  In fact, it appears I ignited a fire in the comments. Success!  So, I'm glad I had this opportunity to spotlight Alite's sexy urban camping products for AT and on this blog.  

Happy camping!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

IFFY Musical Selection

OK since I know I've been sleeping on my Friday posts (though the laziness is not limited to Fridays) and since I know I'll be too busy tomorrow to post anything, I am introducing this Is It F'ing Friday Yet?!? Musical Selection.  

In case you hadn't heard, this Blakroc album is good.  Really good.  Though not new, its been in constant rotation on my iPod, and I'm heading up to Philly tomorrow to see The Black Keys (hooray!). While I could only find 2 videos - one to introduce the players involved in this collaboration and another featuring the Mos Def/Jim Jones track, I encourage you to give the entire album a listen (Nicole Wray is amazing and the Raekwon track .... "we was like Mork and Mindy"...yes). Without further ado...Blakroc:

Blakroc Project from Soulstaff on Vimeo.

Blakroc: Ain't Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo) Ft. Mos Def and Jim Jones from Jonah Schwartz on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vintage Food Posters

I came across these really cool World War I - II era posters that encouraged consumers to be more thoughtful in their food choices.  Much of what the posters convey is still timely, considering today's range of problems from obesity to food deserts and hunger.  Check them out here:

Here are two I wouldn't mind putting on my walls...
War food poster

War food poster

Monday, July 12, 2010

For Uganda

Please send your thoughts and prayers to the people of Uganda and the families of those who were killed and injured in yesterday's bombings in Kampala.  Kampala is a beautiful, vibrant and resilient city that has been enjoying years of peace and development.  Let's all pray that these horrible bombings not be the trigger of further destabilization in the region.  

One confirmed American killed yesterday worked for a great organization, Invisible Children -- the sort of job I would love to have some day, which is an incredibly jarring thought - that one could do this selfless work in a seemingly safe environment and have your life snatched away while you're watching a soccer game.  In his honor, and in honor of the work of Invisible Children, check this out:

MEND Explanation Video from MEND on Vimeo.

Friday, July 9, 2010

TGIFF Musical Selection

How it got to be July already is beyond me. And what is up with this insane heat wave? Anyway, Thank God Its eFfing FRIDAY.  The song I chose for today is one I've been listening to a lot lately - though I've been enjoying the remixed version on Lazerproof (Major Lazer + La Roux).  And I also chose it because I think it provides some new innovative makeup ideas (what do you say, Brandy? wedding makeup?).

La Roux - Bullet Proof from serkan söğüt on Vimeo.

Also, the singer of La Roux, Elly Jackson (who I just looked up - girl was born in 1988!?) reminds me of another red headed UK singer with equally interesting fashion choices: Roisin Murphy.  I especially like her hats. Check it out:

(I hate posting youtube videos because they are always cut - unlike vimeo which show the entire frame. Whats up with that? Am I doin it wrong?)

Lazy July Update & Garden Recipe

So I've neglected this sorry-excuse-for-a-blog in recent weeks, partly because of work (y'know, I've been doing work at work instead of crafting blog posts) and partly because I've been too bummed to share this sad story:

The story of blossom end rot.  I lost ALL my beautiful heirloom tomato crop to this dreadful disease. WTF? Calcium deficiency? Next year I'll put some crushed egg shells in the soil to add more calcium.  

However, my yellow gooseberry tomatoes are doing wonderfully.  I've had a very good harvest so far, and they are still ripening every day.   

The first meal I prepared with them was a simple pasta with a white wine sauce.  I just sautéed some garlic in olive oil, added a splash (or three) of white wine, and threw in these yellow tomatoes (halved) and some basil from the garden.  The tomatoes softened just a bit, then we tossed the mixture with some cooked pasta and seasoned with salt/pepper.

And on Tuesday, we had a very light summery dinner:  Sautéed asparagus in an orange dressing, tomato & fresh mozzarella salad, and some sweet corn on the cob:

Sautéed Asparagus in Orange Dressing:
1 bunch asparagus (keep it fresh in the fridge by standing it up in a little water and covering the top with a bag)
1 orange (the juicier the better)
some grated asiago

Snap the ends off the asparagus, and chop into 2-in pieces (or whatever works for you).  In sauté pan, cover asparagus with water and simmer (a minute or two) until asparagus is bright green. Drain.

Bring asparagus back to pan.  On low heat, drizzle with olive oil and add juice of orange, sauté for a minute or two.  Season with salt/pepper.  

And I like to add some orange zest (1 tbsp?) for color and more flavor.  To finish it off, sprinkle with asiago and serve.  

Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Salad:

This is my go-to summer meal, since its so easy and tomatoes are abundant.  Toss tomatoes (I halved the cherry tomatoes - yellow ones from the garden, red ones from the store), fresh mozzarella (chopped to equivalent size), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh basil (from the garden) & season with salt/pepper.  So good.

And we sat down with our meal, a Spanish Rose wine, and watched "In The Loop" which is an awesome political satire - highly recommended.

TGIFF coming next.

Friday, June 25, 2010

TGIFF Musical Selection

So I've jumped off the regular blogging train (not that anyone's noticed), but I'm fixin to jump back on and talk about how my tomatoes have ripped my heart out.  But I'll save that for another day.  Today is a TGIFF kind of day.

This is - hands down - one of the coolest videos ever.  Directed by Spike Jonez, the entire freaking video was filmed (they learned the words backwards) and then reversed during editing.  And I think the vibe is perfect for a hot summer day.  Watch out for the Beastie Boys appearance. Happy Friday!

The Pharcyde - Drop from john E Njoki on Vimeo.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Spinach Peanut Sauce with Rice

This is a recipe, but it's also a story of adaptation.  The adaptation of one Ugandan teenager, pregnant and alone, to her new home in Philadelphia in 1975.  That young woman is Daniel's mom. While the details of the story remain fuzzy, the concept is clear.  When you are thrown into a world that is very unfamiliar and likely scary, you yearn for something from home - like food that your mom used to make when you were growing up.  But at 17, Daniel's mom hadn't yet learned to cook, so she had to teach herself.  And further, she had to recreate this Ugandan comfort food from memory and with ingredients from an American grocery store.  So with persistence and lots of trial and error, she managed to create her own version of this comfort food from home.

At Daniel's house, this would be served with matooke (a green banana stew which I'll write up the next time I make it) and perhaps some tofu and mushrooms (a recent addition to the mix - pan fried almost to the point of charring and heavily peppered).  I learned how to make these dishes after watching her cook on several occasions (no measurements, just by taste).  So it has adapted quite a bit from its original form in Uganda - to the way Daniel's mom makes it in Philly - to the way I make it in DC, which is kind of cool.

Spinach Peanut Sauce (to be served with rice and other dishes above)

2 cartons of frozen chopped spinach (comes in small boxes in frozen veggie aisle)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tomato, diced
generic peanut butter (smooth or crunchy - to your taste)
curry powder*/salt/pepper to taste

In medium saucepan, empty the two cartons of frozen spinach (in their square frozen solid form) and add about an inch or two of water.  Heat on medium for 10-15 min until the spinach thaws out.  Meanwhile, you can chop the onion, garlic and tomato. Once the spinach is almost entirely thawed out, you can add the onion and garlic.  Cook another couple minutes, stirring.  Add more water if you need to (though this is a thicker sauce, like a stew).  Stir in a couple heaping spoonfuls (using wooden spoon) of peanut butter and the diced tomatoes.   Season with curry/salt/pepper to taste - we like to go heavy on all these to add more of a kick to the sauce.  Spoon over rice and enjoy.  

*I like to use a good hot, or muchi, curry blend.

Garden Status Update / Garden Geek Out

Y'all.  There is little in life (so far in my experience - parents might argue otherwise) as thoroughly rewarding as planting some humble little seeds and, with some regular TLC, watching them grow into plants that bear fruits/vegetables and flowers that, well, bloom.  Check out the progress:

Yellow Gooseberry Tomatoes:

Heirloom Tomatoes:

As nerdy as it is, I would be content to spend an entire day tending to these plants and flowers.  And I love the smell of the tomato plant - it reminds me of my Grandpa Ray and the tomatoes he grows every year.  Another smell that reminds me of Grandpa Ray, though one that isn't nearly as fresh and delightful, is that of fish guts. 

Another update:  after a few harvests of salad greens (and after a little neglect, I admit), I tore them up and replaced them with some sweet basil (left) and spicy Thai basil (right) which will go perfectly with my tomatoes.

Another addition to the carport garden is a new raised bed garden, hand crafted by Daniel.  I'll include that in a separate How-To post.  

And last but not least...let me introduce you to my ladies:
This is the reward I'm talking about.  When I walk outside to do some watering or let Kisa out, I get to admire these lovely ladies.  I haven't named them or anything crazy like that (yet). But I've got several more that will be blooming in coming days and weeks:

It looks like the ones I planted in the regular soil are somewhat dwarfed by the ones I planted in the raised bed.  It'll be interesting to see if they catch up to the others or if they just end up as smaller (but no less beautiful) sunflowers. 

Now the question - to cut or not to cut.  I think I'll leave them be so they can be enjoyed in their natural state.  Maybe if I had a whole garden of them (next year), I would cut a few and give them to people I adore.  Or maybe I'll just plant some more on Saturday. 

I'll tell you, though - my fingernails haven't been clean since March.  But dirty fingernails are a small price to pay for a beautiful, edible garden.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Knick Knacks n Things

Just stumbled across a great online shop, Fey Handmade Shop, and had to share.  It's like a miniature Etsy that weeds out all the shit stuff that your Grandma would buy and just has all the good stuff: affordable art prints, jewelry, housewares, etc.  I covet the following:

Four Jars Print Hanging Tray The Barn Print Whisk Necklace
But thou shalt acknowledge the reality of one's bank account before visiting this site.  It's tempting.

Friday, June 4, 2010

TGIFF Musical Selection

Friends (all, like, two of you) this is absolutely my new favorite video.  It has pained me to wait several days for Friday to come along so I could post it. 

Beyond my newfound love of The Black Keys and what is truly a great song, this video has me giggling like a school girl.  So ridiculous. So hilarious. So true. Just another case of Midwesterners keeping it real. Happy Friday!

The Black Keys - Tighten Up - Official Video from Chris Marrs Piliero on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Midwestern Slush: good news and bad news

So at this past weekend's BBQ I chose to make my Mom's slush recipe, and I learned a lesson - it takes at least 6 hours for the slush to freeze.  So, the bad news was - the slush didn't set up in time for our guests to enjoy it.  The good news is that now we have SLUSH FOR DAYS! But the bad news is I am battling a cold virus and can't taste a damn thing.  In any event, I wanted to share the recipe for this cold, boozy, Midwestern treat (if I wanted to be uppity, I'd call it a "granita"...but it is what it is and what it is is slush):

Midwestern Slush
Boil 2 c. water with 4 black tea bags, and once it gets properly steeped, set aside to cool.  Bring 7 c. water and 2 c. sugar to a boil, til the sugar dissolves. Set this aside to cool also.  Once both those have cooled, combine the tea and sugarwater with:

1 can frozen lemonade
1 can frozen orange juice
whiskey to taste (my mom said one-fifth, but I used half a $19.99 bottle of Jim Beam)

Stir til consistent, and freeze.  Once frozen, scoop slush into glasses and top with 7-up or ginger ale.  

(Sorry no photos. And yes, its a heckuva lotta sugar, BUT its delicious)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Junebug / Daydreaming

If my life were a choose-your-own-adventure book, this would definitely be one of my pursuits (you know, when I grow up):  

Because, seriously...what would be better than being your own boss, being a gardener extraordinaire, and being surrounded by the loveliest, liveliest flowers all day long? 

Happy June to you.

Friday, May 28, 2010

TGIFF Musical Selection

I'm pretty sure this is going to be a crowd pleaser.  My favorite part of the video is during the beach scene when the dude walks down the beach in his business suit, then strips down to a speedo. And I love all the stripes, jean-like briefs, and knee pads. Happy Three-Day-Weekend-Friday!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Garden Status Update

Before I get to my garden status update, can I just say: "McCain, Chambliss & Roberts: WTF?"  These guys complained to Agriculture Secretary about how the USDA Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative supports small farmers and producers instead of the big guys.  Um, really?  Is bitching about farmer's markets and regional food systems really how you should be spending your time? When our kids are fat and growing fatter (despite the First Lady's best efforts)? Please.  OK, thats all I got.

Anyway, check it ooooout:

Compared with this:

Yezzirrrr, thats ma garden.  And I got the hubs to take on a little project for me to add a little pizzaz to the carport fence.  Check it:
Cute, right?

Some herbs.

Some succulents.

And some succulent leaves that I cut and am hoping to propogate.

I'm pretty pumped.  The end.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rhubarb Season = Cobbla' Time!

Rhubarb has been making appearances at the farmer's markets, so I picked some up on Saturday.  It was fun to surprise my friends with a bubblin', fresh-out-of-the-oven Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbla'.  Delish!

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbla' (from Moosewood cookbook)

2 lbs fresh rhubarb (1-inch chunks)
3-4 c sliced strawberries
1/3-1/2 c white sugar
1 1/4 c rolled oats
1 c flour
1/4 c brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
a dash of allspice and nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine the rhubarb and strawberries in a 9-inch square pan (I used a round dish - whatevs).  Sprinkle with white sugar. Mix together the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.  Distribute over the top of the fruit and pat firmly into place.  Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is crisp and bubbly.  Eat the cobbla'!

*None of my home grown strawberries were used in the baking of this cobbla'.  Since I yielded roughly 4 strawberries this growing season, I had to resort to store bought berries.
* If you're wondering "why does she insist on using the term 'cobbla'' instead of 'cobbler'?", don't. Just don't.

Friday, May 21, 2010

TGIFF Musical Selection

The hats.  Its all about the hats. And the song is always a banger on the dancefloor - just classic.  (BTW for my sister: Hats!! Sorry there's not an official video).  Happy Friday!

Camp Lo - Luchini (AKA This Is It) from Dundy on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Whatchu Drank: White Sangria

For me, sangria has become a staple for any BBQ we host.  It's a refreshing, fruity complement to anything hot off the grill, and there are so many ways to mix it up.  This white sangria recipe was a hit this past weekend (adapted from

2/3 cup sugar + 2/3 cup water
2 mangoes, peeled + chopped
4 peaches, chopped
2 bottles of viognier or a similar white wine
1-1/4 cup grand marnier (more or less to your taste)
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Bring sugar and water to a simmer, til sugar dissolves, and let cool.  Combine the sugar syrup with all remaining ingredients and chill for awhile to let the flavors mingle. Serve over ice! I'd say this is good for 6-8 thirsty people.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Another Day, Another Bitchin Salad.

With all this talk about bagged lettuce and E.Coli contamination, I am all the more grateful that my home-grown greens are bountiful.  And to think people are paying $4/bag of greens only to get food poisoning.  That's a damn shame.  

I got home from work today, picked some greens, washed them, and threw together a tangy Miso-Mirin Dressing. 

Miso-Mirin Dressing

1/4 c. mirin (sweetened sake, 8% alcohol - didn't I say I specialize in cooking w/booze?)
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. brown rice vinegar
1/4 c. sweet white miso
1/2 c. water

Oh, and I'd sprinkle some Gomasio (sea salt + sesame seeds) on top - yum. Pair it with a nice Chenin Blanc and you're good to go. 

It's a simple recipe, which is great, because it'll be one I can easily file away in my memory and throw together whenever. Plus it makes 1.5 cups, so I can refrigerate the remaining dressing and use for the next week!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

TGIFF Musical Selection

Ooooh how I love this song.  It's my go-to if I need to smooth out a wrinkly day.  And the video is kind of awesome. Slum Village. HAPPY FRIDAY!

PS: I wanted to feature a Little Brother video, since they're rolling through DC (Black Cat) on their Farewell tour. But they didn't have a video for my favorite track. So here's a link to the song and non-video:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wine Trip 2010: Lessons Learned

1) Old World v New World Wines: I'm new to the wine world, but I've seen the "old world" and "new world" descriptors being used - to describe processes of winemaking and also on wine lists to categorize wines.  And of course - "old world" referring to traditional European methods v "new world" referring to more modern American methods.  So basically "old school" v "new school".  From our trip, this is what I gathered...

Old School: Vines are dry farmed – not irrigated (they withstand the dry California weather as they did in the old country) and also not trellised. Instead, each vine stands alone and the vines grow up and out, without the support of a trellis.  According to Vince, you may not get as many grapes, but the grapes will have a more complex aroma/flavor.  Growers don't use fertilizer or mess with the grapes in any way, so the wines are usually not as sweet and are more complementary with food.  They also have a lower alcohol content.
Tofanelli vines are not trellised.

New School: Grapevines are irrigated and trellised to get more grapes and, hence, bigger profits.  In order to get the bigger, more fruit forward flavor that has become popular, winemakers may use tactics to adjust the grapes flavors and tweak the sugar content. Due to more fermented sugars, they tend to be sweeter and higher in alcohol content (up to 16%). And with a bigger, more fruit forward flavor, the wines taste better in the tasting room but can compete with foods rather than complement them.  
Trellised vines

2) “Situational Drinking” – Pairing alcoholic beverages according to the experience. Ex) a smokey red wine for the campfire gathering, tequila at a Cinco de Mayo party, etc.  Originator: the wine pourer (uncertain of official title) at St. Supery tasting room.

3) Realization: Wine Dogs experience a higher quality of life than most humans.
Lucky dogs.

4) Based on some informal polling of locals: There’s no place like home - if “home” is Calistoga, CA.  Almost every server, bartender, bar patron, etc, we asked verified the fact that there simply is no other place they’d rather live than Calistoga.  For wine, food, natural hot springs, breathtaking scenery, proximity to ocean/mountains, weather, quality of life – Calistoga’s got it on lock-down.  If you’re looking for a laid back wine country experience with lots of local flavor, Calistoga is really where it’s at.  By comparison, we spent a short amount of time in Yountville.  And while its home to some seriously amazing restaurants, Yountville had a very suburban, ritzy feel.  However, if you’re looking to show off your Benz and tempt fate by wearing white pants, this would be the place to do it!

4) “Brambly” – adjective used to describe a wine that is complex and gnarly.  The visual of sticking your head inside a blackberry bush would be apt. Originator: for us, it was Vince Tofanelli.

5) While tasting wines at a granite countertop in an attractive tasting room is fun, nothing compares to standing on the freshly tilled soil of the vineyard that produced the wine you are tasting (as you are tasting it) while the man who tilled that soil, picked those grapes, and crafted that wine shares with you his family’s history and his passion for what he does.  Nothing compares.

6) Wine Country Coma:  A state of consciousness (or lack thereof) that begins with your first wine tasting at 10am and seeps in deeper with each decadent meal and each 3 oz pour of wine until you are thoroughly soaked to the core, like a liquor-soaked ladyfinger in a tiramisu dessert.  Words aren’t easily formed, let alone coherent and grammatically-correct sentences.  No.  All you can do is let your head hit the pillow and hope that tomorrow morning’s coffee brings intelligibility. 

Thanks, Calistoga! It's been real.

Wine Trip 2010: The Itinerary, Day 3

9:00am  One reason why Calistoga Inn will remain on my go-to list for affordable, comfortable lodging in Calistoga: their complimentary continental breakfast.  From 8 to 10am, they put out fresh OJ, coffee, water, apples, pears, bananas, homemade granola (delicious), english muffins (with toaster, peanut butter and blackberry jam), and coffee cake.  

9:30am Coffee at Calistoga Roastery. Clem and I checked out the Farmer's Market where there was an abundance of gorgeous produce (yes, gorgeous) and local crafts.  We bought a container of strawberries for later.  
And an antique car show was going on in Calistoga, so Daniel made it his goal to leave No Car Left Behind with his photography- which, much like the legislation I'm referencing, was a silly distraction from the real work that has to be done (for us, that work was wine consumption). 

10:30am Tofanelli Vineyard tour with Vince. A bottle of wine in a DC wine bar inspired me to contact him for a tour of his small family vineyard.  I didn't know what to expect really, but that visit was hands-down my favorite part of the trip (like whoah).  First of all, Vince is a really laid back guy whose passion for his work shows.  He's the grandson of an Italian immigrant who scraped pennies to purchase some acres of land to grow grapes and sell them to winemakers.  They managed to survive the Prohibition which killed many Napa vineyards. Vince grew up working the land of the family vineyard, left to get an education, returned when his grandfather fell ill, & decided to stay on to continue cultivating his family’s land.  While many vineyards have changed their methods to increase profits, Vince uses the same tried and true methods his grandparents used - dry farming (which is also organic) - to grow the grapes.  Decades later, he decides that he can make a wine that’s just as good as the wine that other winemakers are crafting with his grapes, so he starts bottling and distributing his own wine.  

I can't describe how incredible it was to walk around this vineyard, sipping wine that was handcrafted by the man we're talking to.  It shed some light on what the wine industry looks like from the perspective of someone who is nearly singlehandedly working the land, growing the grapes, & crafting the wines.  Further, his passion for maintaining the integrity of the fruit, by following "old world" methods (despite the fact that he could bring in more money with newer methods), was really inspiring and remarkable.  On top of all that, his wine was reeeeaaaally good - so good that we called for a tour, and even better with this whole experience.  Just the smell of his Charbono makes me want to  jump in my wine glass and swim around it in.  Srsly.

12:00pm From there, we met up with Dan & Christine at the Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon 07 Release Party.  On our honeymoon in October, Daniel & I had a great experience at Alpha Omega and became members of their wine club.  So when we decided we wanted to do a follow up trip, we wanted to build it around one of the Alpha Omega events to which we, as members, were invited.  So this was the release party for their 2007 Cab, and they also served up appetizers and tastings of several other wines.

The crew (Sam photo)

Napa Valley Wine Train passes through.

It was great to kick back, enjoy the great weather and beautiful scenery with the crew.  BTW, upon entering, someone asked us which band we are with - which is indicative of the fact that most other folks at this winery (and others) were much older (and whiter).  We were definitely the young people at most of the places we visited.

1:30pm Bouchon Bakery.  After all the delicious food I've described thus far, I'm kind of at a loss for more creative descriptions.  We had mushroom paninis, a pistachio macaron, iced coffee, and some of Christine/Dan's pastries.  All of it was mouth watering.  Like, I might throw down with someone if they took too big of a bite of my pistachio macaron. Without hesitation. And our farmer's market strawberries were so juicy and luscious.  What can I say?  This trip was one self-indulgent thing after another. 

4:00pm  Mumm Napa was our next self-indulgent visit.  Tastings of their refreshing bubblies on a patio with a view.  This was a slightly different tasting - they seat you, and you order one of their tasting flights from a friendly server. The system worked well. We ordered a bottle of Sparkling Pinot Noir for the road.

7:30pm  The final act of ridiculous self-indulgence came that evening: dinner at Ad Hoc, another Thomas Keller (French Laundry, Bouchon) establishment.  This restaurant offers a daily menu of one four-course meal, based on seasonal and local ingredients.  You get what you get and you don't get mad (unless you don't eat meat or pork, in which case they have alternatives).
It was at this restaurant where a seriously intense food/wine coma set in. As in, we could not form sentences (ex: the bread. give me it.).  The food was, of course, delicious.  Service was unpretentious and friendly.  We were without words and overstuffed.

We made it back to our respective hotels, and I, for one, slept like a baby. We woke up the next morning sad because we had to leave paradise. We dropped Clem and Sam in SF (lucky!!!!) and caught a flight home (went to the right airport too).  I'm still coming to terms with the fact that we are back in DC, the land of the blackberry, and not California, the land of self-indulgence.  But who can really live there with all the extraordinary scenery, weather, wine and food? I mean, really??

Apparently, lots of people can. I polled them. They grow up there and they don't leave because its that awesome.  I want to hate those people, but I can't. I want to be them. The end. 

Upcoming: Lessons Learned post.