2007 Kestrel Raptor Red

What better way to finish off  Thanksgiving evening but with a great bottle of red wine. This signature edition wine from Kestrel was delicious! The deep, rich red color filled by my glass. My palate loved the rich fruit flavors. It was perfect with a dark chocolate covered red velvet cake ball.

Kestrel’s Notes…

The Winemaking
Raptor Red is our flagship wine.  Each vintage Dirk, my assistant winemaker, and I choose the six finest barrels from the cellar.  We blend these together to create the best that the vintage has to offer.  In 2007 we chose to blend two barrels of Kestrel Vineyards Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon, two barrels of Kestrel Vineyards Malbec, one barrel of Olsen Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and one barrel of Olsen Vineyards Cabernet Franc.  The resulting Bordeaux style blend created a superior wine with unbelievable depth and breadth.  This old world creation is velvety smooth and bursting with ripe fruit flavors.

The Wine
The color is intense black cherry, finishing to black at its core.  The aroma is supported by generous quantities of sweet black cherries, blackberries, black currants, blueberry jam, and elderberry.  The fruit elements are perfectly balanced with dried herbs, tea, clove, nutmeg, cigar box, cocoa, cedar and a hint of floral.  This wine has exceptionally rich flavors, complemented by ample body, velvety smooth tannins and a lingering finish.

Thanksgiving Traditions

As the holidays roll around, it is always fun to think of fabulous ways to simplify and enjoy the celebration. This year was no different.

Our current Thanksgiving tradition is to play in the snow at 49 Degrees North, followed by pizza and beer. The only challenge is that we venture out late Wednesday in the holiday traffic. Plus, it is typically a five+ hour drive. Thus, the need for sleep inspired our fabulous tradition…

Sleep at home in our warm, comfy beds. Then get up and enjoy a delicious breakfast. For our first annual tradition, we feasted on:

  • Dill scones filled with cream cheese
  • A cheesy frittata
  • Hashbrowns (Bailie’s favorite breakfast food)
  • Fresh fruit
  • Champagne (of course)

New traditions = FABULOUS!

Destination PDX

Last week, our plans for this weekend changed. Friday Harbor was out…what do we replace it with? Vancouver, BC? Leavenworth? Suncadia? Aldenbrook? Portland? By Tuesday, we had a hotel in Portland and dinner plans at The Joel Palmer House. By Wednesday, dinner at Paley’s Place and a list of options to occupy our days. On Friday, our adventure began...

Saturday…an 8 mile adventure.

We headed to Pine Street Biscuits by cab. (There was a request to eat a one of Guy’s Diner’s, Drive-ins & Dives.) The biscuits were buttery and fluffy. I choose ham and egg and cheese on mine. Then we walked/hiked back to the river to it off. We crossed the river at Burnside and wandered through the Saturday Market. We tried on hats, we marveled at what can be done with duct tape, ran our fingers over beautiful boxes and so much more.

The we headed back downtown (I have to admit I needed more layers to keep me warm). We found a spice and tea shop with amazing smelling salts and sugars – in addition to spices. Then I drug Bill into Nordstrom’s for the half yearly sale. I found two pairs of shoes (was looking for boots) and he found a shirt. I enjoyed walking into the men’s dressing room like I belonged there. Next, we headed towards Powell’s Bookstore, knowing it was about time to find lunch. He picked a public brew house, Deschutes. After a refresher course, it was time for Sur La Table (Bill’s three favorite words were spoken often there – No Sales Tax). Last night’s dinner inspired the purchase of the KitchenAid meat grinder attachment.

Time to head back to our hotel to get ready for our evening plans….oh, wait….Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen side tracked us with wonderful smells wafting out into the street. Good thing we weren’t hungry (although they gave us samples of pastrami, chicken liver pate and almond cake). We headed back out on the street. We didn’t even make it a block before another distraction appeared. We went into a shop where boxes of wine were stacked in the corner. Many dusty labels revealed bottles from the 80s and 90s. Some even older. I was most intrigued by the 1990’s vintages of Silver Oak.

Now, we finally made it back to our hotel to prepare for a little wine tasting followed by dinner at The Joel Palmer House. By a little wine tasting, I mean just one. We made it to Newberg in time to stop at Rex Hill (with less than 10 minutes until closing time). After Rex Hill, we headed to Dundee where some places were rumored to be open until 6. No luck on wine tasting, however we found two fun shops: the Dapper Frog and a market (with coconut macaroons to take home). After dinner, we headed back to the city and wandered over to the Portland City Grill. Although it was a bit windy and rainy, but the view was still great!

Sunday…the actual Birthday Day!

Of course, we start the day with food. This time we walk up to the Pearl District for my favorite Brunch spot, meeting Mike & Jen. After a great meal at The Daily Cafe, we head down the road picking up books (after laughter and tears) at Powell’s. Standing in the comedy section with me can be embarrassing. Then we needed another Sur La Table round – serving dishes were needed after last night’s inspirational dinner. Time to check out of our hotel ((after finding the hotel bakery and picking up a few treats)).

Noon yet? Finally, the spice and tea shop is open! We narrow down the salts and sugars – Spanish rosemary, cacao, coconut lime salts and raspberry, chocolate and coconut sugars. Looking forward to holiday cooking. And the shopkeeper keyed us into a oil and vinegar shop a few blocks away. We walked out of there with three bottles – a balsamic, a peach balsamic and a herb infused olive oil (perfect for caprese salad). Stopped in Johnny Sole along the way and tried on a few boot options. Haven’t found the perfect pair yet. Final stop before driving through Northwest Portland on our way out: Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen. Lunch to go. Bagels and lox for me; a Pastrami creation for Bill.

Northwest Portland. Poking into shops. A habadashery. Top hats rule. A lingerie shop. Lots of silky smooth stuff. A boutique or two. Another shoe store (and another). Moonstruck Chocolates, an national award winning chocolatier. Had to try to truffle. Time to head home…when I asked the Birthday Boy for his favorite part of the day: the lingerie shop. (I think he was hoping for a silk robe in his size).

This weekend is proof that a weekend away every quarter is FABULOUS!

The Joel Palmer House

Another night, another FABULOUS dinner.

Tonight was rainy and cold, a night you want to curl up in bed and eat frozen pizza, curled up with a good book. Instead, we headed south to Dayton. A town of maybe 1,000 people. And the home to The Joel Palmer House. Where the menu focused on mushrooms. Even giving you the option of a multiple course mushroom meal.

Their website introduction summarizes: Experience an internationally-inspired menu of WILD MUSHROOM DISHES paired with FINE WINE in the comfort of a HISTORIC OREGON WINE COUNTRY HOME.

Of course, we had to indulge in “Mushroom Madness”…

Chef Christopher’s

Mushroom Madness Menu

This tasting menu is a selection of the best that the Joel Palmer House has to offer. Three generations of Czarnecki chefs have dishes represented and mushrooms are integrated into nearly every course, including dessert! Since our menu is focused strongly on wild mushrooms I recommend Pinot Noir to accompany your meal and our sommelier is happy to assist you with a selection.

 Amuse – Wild Mushroom Risotto with house-made Oregon White Truffle Oil and Parmesan Reggiano

 Matsutake Mushroom Chowder and Joe’s Wild Mushroom Soup

 Oregon White Chanterelles in Bacon Cream over Puff Pastry

 Heidi’s Three Mushroom Tart – this tart is the essence of what wild mushrooms are all about and has been on the menu for over 30 years

We added the Pinot-Noir Poached Torchon of Foie Gras 

 Sorbet – Concord Grape with Rosemary

 Marinated Sturgeon – over Quinoa with Wild Mushrooms and Cayenne Aioli

 Filet Mignon – Painted Hills Oregon Beef with porcini, Schezwan Pepper and veal demi-glace

 Trio of Candy Cap Mushroom Desserts

 Selection of House-Made Chocolate Truffles

We accompanied the meal with a bottle of Pinot Noir selected from over 500 bottles (of Pinot Noir) on their wine list. We enjoyed a Ken Wright Cellars 2007 Pinot Noir from Canary Hill Vineyards. The critical acclaim:

“Deep red. Smoky raspberry and cherry-cola aromas are complemented by dusty spices and herbs. Fleshy red and dark berry flavors boast very good concentration and good nervy cut. Offers a suave blend of depth and energy, with excellent finishing clarity and lingering sweetness. ”
— 91 Points, International Wine Cellar

The Location:

The Joel Palmer House | 600 Ferry St. | Dayton, OR | Website

Paley’s Place

We arrived in PDX in time for a evening out in Northwest Portland. It was a perfect evening to stroll through a few shops on 23rd before dining at Paley’s.


Brick House – Les Dijonnais – 2009 Pinot Noir


George’s Gathered Greens, Lemon, Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Taste of Three

Chicken Liver Pâté
Pork & Cherry Terrine
Oregano & Garlic Salami

Wild Mushroom & Delicata Squash Risotto, Parmesan & Smoked Marrow Butter
Fall Vegetable & Heirloom Bean Cassoulet

Brussel Sprouts, House Bacon & Créme Fraiche

{dessert menu}

Our Classic Warm Chocolate Soufflé Cake toasted hazelnuts, honey-vanilla ice cream

Every course was F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S! We were so satisfied when we headed out that we missed picking up their cookbook. Thankfully, Powell’s Bookstore was a short walk from our hotel. And, we can’t wait to test out a recipe (or two).

The location:

Paley’s Place | 1204 Northwest 21st Avenue | Portland, OR 97209 | 503.243.2403 | Website

Dim Sum For Lunch

Several times, I have attempted to dine on dumplings for lunch. Today was the magic day. Meeting was over early and we beat the lunch rush to Din Tai Fung, a Bellevue location of a well known Taiwan establishment.

The legend is detailed on their website. “Whenever the name DinTaiFung is mentioned,

the first thing that people think of is small, delicate steamed dumplings.”

We enjoyed:

  • Vegetable Dumplings
  • Fish Dumplings
  • Green Beans
  • Bok Choy
  • And for dessert: Steamed mashed red bean dumplings. Anything with beans must be healthly, right?

The location:

Din Tai Fung | 700 Bellevue Way NE, Suite 280 | Bellevue, WA | 425.698.1095 | Website |

Champagne Tasting

I admit it. I am a red wine drinker. Most people who know me, know that.

However, one person is trying to open my mind (or palate) to champagne. It is starting to work a little bit. {{At least I don’t just get annoyed by the bubbles. I am starting to taste actual notes when I drink it. Before the bubbles just tickled my nose and my palate, masking the ability to notice anything else.}}

Tonight we tasted three champagnes. All grower champagnes from the Champagne region of France. {{There is a fancy French word for grower champagnes, however French words have never rolled off my tongue (way too much time as a Spanish student).}}

  • Pierre Peters N/V Brut Cuvee de Reserve – I like the appley flavors in this one. Made me want some dark chocolate caramels to eat along with it.
  • Gaston Chiquet N/V Brut Tradition Carte Verte – My least favorite; it was sharper in flavor. The bubbles maybe bothered me a bit.
  • Margaine N/V Brut Rose – This one was my favorite. It was fruity, but not the way a red wine can be fruity. The flavors lasted much longer.
The other thing that is a bit fun about champagnes is the producer/growers don’t get all caught up in the vintage. They mix and match as they want to. Which actually sounds more complicated than making wine. But maybe not.
For now, my major breakthrough about champagne is that I can drink it without mixing it with orange juice. Progress? I’ll leave that to you to decide.

An Updated Kitchen

A few months ago, we started planning an update to my kitchen. The sink is too shallow, the faucet decides to turn itself off sometimes, the counter tops always look dirty (who thought to install beige laminate?), the floor is incomplete due to a little flooding a few years ago.

After a month of weekend projects, my kitchen has a new look…and only a few details left to finish up the project. This completed list includes:

  • Granite (Ubatuba Verde) counter tops manufactured painstakenly by Bill
  • A new deeper sink (under mounted for easy cleaning) and faucet
  • Tile floor – 18×18 inch ceramic tile installed as a diamond pattern (which is not the “easy” way)
  • Glass mosaic tile back splash that ties the floor, cabinets and granite together
  • Updated heater that allows my dishwasher to open all the way
There are a few things left like the molding and a built in shelf for jars of baking supplies. But it was fabulous to cook my first meal in here tonight. And even nicer to quickly wash the pots and clean the counter tops. Fabulous!
And, yes, I will add some photos. Forgot to take before photos.



Yesterday, I had nothing to share.

Pre-Holiday Wine and Chocolate

Every fall, I think I have time to get together a wine and chocolate afternoon or evening with friends so that we get in a few hours to relax before the holiday craziness starts. I never make it, but I don’t give up the dream! This year, my confidence grew as I even bought a bottle of chocolate red wine in Walla Walla for the occasion.

A few weeks ago, I put today on the calendar. Send out some invites, made a few calls. (Would have made more, but my house is pint-sized). Last night, I rummaged through chocolate recipes and began preparing the options:

  • Chocolate covered strawberries – simply delicious
  • A new Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe – fabulous
  • Liquid Chocolate Cake – one of my favorite recipes, plus Bill’s hand-whipped cream
  • And a selection of cheeses
  • I thought about making nutella crepes and a chocolate cake (next time!)
It was a great afternoon. My desire to relax with friends came together! And I was so relaxed that I was ready for a nap – not because I was exhausted! FABULOUS!