WWGW: Day 4 – Recipe for Recovery

Today’s ingredients include:

Walk: another stop at Colville Street Patisserie, then Starbucks, then Farmer’s Market (take home fresh onions and asparagus)

Pack up and say goodbye to Budda and Erin, Jen, Jen and Pam

Adding a last stop for shopping, complete with an attempt to finish the pint of salted caramel ice cream before it melts.

Mix in another winery tour:

  • A return to Va Piano to exchange the Merlot we walked out with instead of the Cab.
  • A stop at Saviah
  • Lunch @ Andrea’s Kitchen  while tasting at Dusted Valley. A great flight of red wines, taking home a bottle of Squirrel Tooth Alice. Had to buy that one on the name alone – although there were many, many great tastes here.

Finish the recipe with a road trip home (including an airport stop to get Tonia to her flight).

WWGW: Day 3 – Recipe for Taste Bud (Overload)


Take seven women and add…

Farmer’s Market – start the morning with freshly made breakfast tacos and a tall glass of vegetable juice (the carrots were awesome with kale, ginger, apples and more)

Jump in the tour van to be escorted to:

  • Seven Hills Winery – complete with a vertical tasting in the barrel room. Purchased a magnum of the 2009 Ciel du Cheval, Vintage Red Wine, Red Mountain for dinner tonight.
  • Long Shadows – a beautiful location with lots of wine choices. Walked away with a bottle of Poet’s Leap.
  • Waterbrook – enjoyed lunch in their private room.
  • Sleight of Hand – packed to the gills, it was a fight to the counter for the next sip.
  • Va Piano – Relaxing stop, enjoyed the wine club track (Jamey signed up right away). Took home their Sav Blanc release.
  • Tertulia – This unknown winery (to me) was a great way to finish the day. Walked out with the Malbac.

Next step: Rest. Similar to marinating the meat pre-grilling.

Refuel: Dinner at Whitehouse Crawford.

Finish the night with a layer of celebration lead by Erin. Powerful reminiscing and sharing. So glad all seven of us where able to spend the day together!


WWGW: Day 2 – Recipe for Relaxation


Start with:

  • A walk
  • Breakfast at Bacon & Eggs
  • Colville Street Patisserie – not that we were hungry; the pre-visit research said don’t miss this place. So we listened.
  • Goodwill – always an adventure – great way to find the missing elements: house needs more wine glasses, Jen needs swim suit
  • Soak up the sun – Lazy rest of the morning, early afternoon reading, sunning and soaking in the hot tub
  • Lunch – Tracked down Andrea’s Kitchen@ the Co-op, needed to try their fish tacos

Now mix in a bit of downtown

Shopping – Vintage shop(s)  – yes, more than one. Found great necklace that finished a summer dress (already in my closet).

Wine tasting @

  • Da Ma – vinters of the Cowgirl Cab we enjoyed the previous eve
  • Rotie – the winemaker loves his blends – and so did we. Decided on another bottle, Northern Blend. And enjoyed the stop as we felt like we were invading the boys club. Over 15 men to us three women.
  • Kerloo Cellars – Fun stop, we tasted their spring release reds while a group celebrated with champagne. My fav was down to 11 bottles left. And I made it 10.
  • Walla Walla Wild Woman Wine Shop – with that name we had to go in! Tasting: Garofalo Cellars.

More shopping – this time clothing. And in the second shop, they poured wine. Yes, we bought more there. I even found another strapless dress that will help me minimize odd tan lines in the wedding dress

Dinner at T. Macarones – The rest of the team arrives in time for a feast! Pam, Jen, Tonia and Jamey are added to the recipe, making us a double-batch plus

And we finished the night with a “quiet” evening at home. A little wine, a little laughter, and (for some) a little hot tub time.

Walla Walla Girl’s Weekend (WWGW): Day 1

Day 1  – Recipe for Road Trip

Oh, let the fabulous weekend fun begin.


Amtrak Train – relaxing rhythm of the tracks along the Puget Sound as rays of sun bounce off the water

Train Station – welcome included a video camera and a bouncing, smilaffronaing Erin

McMenamim’s on the Columbia – watching the river life, enjoying a Ruby as Jen joins the party

Road Trip – almost four hour of catching up as we cover the pavement from along I-84 to Walla Walla

Woodward Canyon – roll into town just early enough to catch the last pour at this cab lover’s winery. Bought first bottle: “Artist Series” Cabernet Sauvignon

The Budda House – And we arrive at our little paradise, and enjoy the first bottle of wine: 2009 Cowgirl Cab. So appropriate for the three of us dairy-farm raised girls.

Dinner @ Saffron – Perfect place to start the Walla Walla dining adventure portion of the weekend

Spring Break: Six Miles Hike

Our goal for the day: Hike Bright Angel trail

Last night, we made our plan: either hike 3 miles in or go the 4.5 miles to Indian Gardens. Leave about 8am so the hot sun would not affect us immediately. We easily had water for six miles; hoped maybe we could push it to nine miles and get to the Indian Gardens. But there was not likely a spot to refill our bottles (and they don’t sell bottled water at the Grand Canyon, it is refill only). The guide suggested it was 4-6 hours to hike 3 miles down. And plan 6-9 hours for Indian Gardens. So we’d play it by ear.

With the temperature at a cool 17 when I woke at 6:30am, I immediately decided we would not leave until it had warmed up to 38. Good thing, Bailie was very, very sleepy even at 8 am. We finally made it to the trailhead (just steps from our cabin) a few minutes after 9am. The air had warmed up to 39!

We started our descent. It was fast. And dusty. And the edge was often close. And the view was always amazing. I fell behind many, many times stopping to capture the moment in pixels. We stopped for a rest around the first hour down for a snack as we were good at sipping water along the way. The downward pace was already felt in some muscle groups for both of us. We continued down to the next rest point where we met the pack mules coming up. As we rested and refueled;

  • We admired the dirty red film on our shoes and legs.
  • Bailie teased a squirrel with her cough drop – accidentally
  • The squirrel got Bailie back as he stared her down from the top of the view-point she reluctantly climbed (I forced a photo shoot)
  • And we decided since there was not option to refill our water bottles, and our knees and ankles were feeling the toll of the descendent, it was smart to read the postings “you can choose to go down further, but remember you must go back up”.

So we headed back towards the rim – a ,2120 feet incline. And Bailie took it in stride. I put the camera away to focus on keeping up. But that didn’t make a difference. That swimmer stamina made me look 100% out of shape. Luckily, there was another family on the same ascend schedule and their youngest was also moving at a fast pace. So they stuck together, waiting for the two of us Mom’s every few switchbacks. The other brother and Dad took their own pace behind us. Although most of the trail out, I dropped into the fourth spot, the last few switchbacks the four of us hung together making it back to the rim right at 1pm. Bailie showed up the guide by beating the four hours for the six miles! This meant it was time to celebrate with ice cream (for lunch)!

We finished up the afternoon people watching at the rim and splurging at the Tovar for dinner. Thankfully, dinner was an improvement over the previous night. Other than the French onion soup, I admit we won’t rush to dine there again. The view was amazing – as we sat right at the windows. The night finished with more people watching, of course!

Five Day Weekends

After a five day weekend in Sonoma, it was a real treat to get an unexpected five day Thanksgiving weekend holiday. ((Love my team’s “offsite” the day before T-day – where the invite was for an offsite that was to be spent at home iwth our family.))

Day 1 – Wednesday lazy (and cleaning)

I addition to be lazy and tackling  little cleaning, I was to plan and prepare a simple dinner combining:

  • Butternut Squash Soup
  • Salmon
  • Roasted Califlower

Day 2 – Turkey Day

A day with family, of course. The girl was anxious to get there and hang with the cousins. Luckily, we contributed wine, champagne and a ham. Speaking of wine, we opened the jug of Portalupi. A red table wine from the Sonoma Valley that may need to be replenished soon. and may be served the big day.

Day 3 – More cleaning

(Deep, deep cleaning & unruly Goodwill pile gone).  Time to pull out the “recipes to try” pile and tickle the pallet with new flavors (enough cleaning, enough). Found options that made my mouth water.  Drew Tiana’s Spaghetti Gravy from the pile and focused on the shopping list. Luckily we didn’t need much – and we had the perfect bottles of wine to pair with it.

Day 4 – Dinner with J&T

To complete the holiday weekend, today included dinner with friends. And showcase more recent purchases. The menu included:

  • First: Potato Soup paired with Zina Hyde Cunningham 2011 Chardonnay (Anderson Valley)
  • Next: Pork Chops (another serving of our piggy) with Hazelnut Sherry Sauce from Portworks
  • Served with Beet and Satsuma salad and J. Lohr Gesture 2009 Zinfandel.
  • Dessert: Pear tart with late harvest gewürztraminer – the tart and the glass.

Day 5 – Rest

Because we deserved it.

A Little Sonoma R&R

After a great start to our time away with dinner at Zazu, our days were spend filled with lots of rest and relaxation.


Sunday started at the Mission Inn Spa. We got there early to enjoy the mineral hot springs prior to our spa treatments. He chose a simple massage, where I went all out with the Sonoma Organic Lavender Kur, a treatment that focused on total stress relief. I started with a lavender bubble bath that works to softens the skin, relieves muscle aches and delights the senses. Then I got all wrapped up in a botanical body wrap and finished with wonderful massage.

After all that relaxing and soaking and massaging, it was time to eat. We had brunch reservations at the Girl and the Fig on the Sonoma Square.

With full bellies, we headed north to the Healdsburg Square. We had no real plan so we parked and walked into the closest winery, Thumbprint. It wasn’t the best wine of the day, but she did provide us a few recommendations. We headed around the corner to Stephens & Walker. And Bill fell in love. A wine club membership and a few new bottles later, we headed to Portalupi. Another joyful stop with wonderful bold reds, including a very nice Barbera. In fact, we learned that they have produced some of the top ranking Barbera’s in the world many years. Our final stop of the night was at JCB, a bubbly shop on the square. Bill was happy to find a new domestic bubbly that he enjoyed. To finish the day, we stopped at the market and picked up dinner and picnic fixings for the next day.


As the sun came up, so did we. We wanted to head out to Point Reyes and see the earliest light possible (I am selfish, I want amazing photographs). As we headed west, the sky lit up with amazing colors. We got to Point Reyes in time to explore a quiet beach. Quiet because no one else had made it there yet. But not quiet in that the sound of the waves crashing on the surf filled the air. The tides and surf are so strong here that there are many signs warning of swimming and the swirls in the sand show the crazy undertow. The beach life was rather quiet, but we did pick up a few sand dollar skeletons before heading down the road to the lighthouse. And got side-tracked along the way by the dairy farms and curious heifers. And curious Bill asking many questions about the life cycle of cows and dairy farm life. We did make it to the lighthouse, where we hiked down (and up) the 30 flight of stairs. The lighthouse has kept up with current technology, while leaving the old technology in place makng it a museum of changes from the past 100 years. Maybe the most fun was peering over the edge, we could see seals bobbing in the water.

As we headed back, we stopped at Cowgirl Creamery where we were disappointed to find them closed for the day. We had devoured the wheel of cheese we found already and needed more! Next stop: wine. (Bill was focused on tasting wine today before 1pm as yesterday it was close to 3 when we started). And we made it to Sonoma Port Works in Petaluma (and hit the goal of tasting before 1). Six ports and two sherry’s later, we headed out the door with some ideas of holiday dinners (and a hazelnut sherry and balsamic vinegar in tow).

Intregued yesterday while at the Girl and Fig by the Sonoma Square, we headed back there (and I did research prior while Bill cooked dinner). Before tasting, we found a sunny spot on the square to finish our picnic lunch (some was eaten on the drive). With the food intake complete, it was time to taste:

  • Highway 12
  • Spann
  • Sigh
  • Bryter
  • Kamen
  • Ledson

Dinner tonight was at the home of Dennis and Vicky, champagne importers that Bill has befriended in the last few years. And after Dennis opened a few bottles, I am beginning to understand Bill’s fascination with champagne. The less (or smaller) bubbles don’t tickle my nose and get as in the way of me actually smelling the wine.


Being his birthday day, Tuesday was worthy of its own post. As was birthday dinner.


Travel day, already? We woke up to enjoy the sun. And a cup of tea. And one last soak in the hot tub. With lots of laughter and conversation. Some about the wedding planning. Really, it was more about the honeymoon. And no cake at the wedding. And we are not working in the kitchen (which is easier for me to say than him). Before we knew it, the car was packed and our journey back to our lives started.

His Birthday Dinner

Months ago I made the reservation at BOTEGA. Of course, I was also on the wait list for French Laundry. However, I knew that a meal at Botega would keep the birthday celebrant happy for months. I know it was my favorite dining experience on my previous trip to Napa. And I was excited to return.

After a great day around Napa, Birthday dinner started in the parking lot dressing room. For an evening in Yountville, we needed to step up our attire a notch from the day’s wine tasting style. It also made us feel much like we were a few decades younger. We were about maximizing time in the vineyards instead of driving back to the Sonoma Valley and back.

We started by giving Dennis’ tip a try: Start the evening with a beer to cleanse the palate. Our lovely, yet sarcastic waiter Murph set us up with a local brew. A Moonlight Brewing Co, aka the local crazy brew guy. A brewmaster that they have only when the brewer decides to bring his latest batch by. Already at this point in the night, we knew we would recommend that when making your reservation that you ask to for Murph to be your server. Every waiter adds to the ambiance. But an Irish guy in an Italian place adds a little extra fun.

Then we ordered a Zin for our meal. Murph guided us to Robert Biale Vineyards Black Chicken 2010 Zinfadel. Wine notes:
Dense, rich, and intense, with very focused fruit and rich yet silky tannins, this is a “Big Time” Zinfandel that is in high demand among the most fanatic Zin-heads, and for good reason. This is a tough wine to get as most of it is sold directly to Biale’s mailing list, so we can’t be sure how long we’ll have this in stock. Act fast! My notes: More. Please. (And I found a bottle randomly at the market weekends later and grabbed it off the shelf).

Round 1 : Antipasti

Green Eggs and Ham :: maple braised pork belly, crispy soft cooked egg, spinach and pecorino budino, baby spinach insalata, preserved meyer lemon marmellata

Roasted Baby Golden and Chiogga Beets :: Point Reyes blue cheese espuma and pistachio vinaigrette

IMG_0570 IMG_0571

Round 2 : Paste

Ricotta Gnoccie della Nonna :: ricotta “pillows” with old hen salsa di pomodoro and pecorino

Potato Dough Raviolo :: filled with spinach and ricotta, black truffles, farm fresh egg yolk, sage brown butter


Round 3 : Secondi

Forno Roasted Whole Fish :: Calabrian grilled eggplant, fermented garlic “XO” sauce

Duck Three Ways :: roasted breast, confit leg, duck liver mousse, Sierra Beauty apple pasta, spiced hazelnuts, and watercress

+ Contorni – Truffle-parmigiano fries (of course!)

  Round 4 : Discussions. Reminiscing. Last year’s birthday vs. today. What can be done to out-do today’s events next year? Then he states “there is one more thing I would like you to do for my birthday today”. And my mind quickly goes to what sexual favor he is thinking about. Seriously, with the food and wine we had today, what else could the man want??? Then he removes a silver knob from his coat pocket. And says “Will you marry me?” (At least that what my memory heard; he may have added more words…). The silver knob opened to a sparkly diamond (very sparkly in the candlelight). With the wave of emotion getting my tongue, I just said “Yes”!

Round 5 : Dessert

A jar of deliciousness. Carmel. Chocolates. I don’t even recall anything but it being Yummy (good thing we took a photo).

Complete with "Congratulations" message.
Complete with “Congratulations” message.

The location:

Botega | 6525 Washington Street | Yountville, CA | 707.945.1050 | Website

His Birthday Celebration

We planned fall trip to include Bill’s birthday. What a way to end a long weekend getaway – with the birthday celebration.

We started with tea and a soak in the hot tub as the morning sun lit the Zinfadel vines that surrounded us. Then we packed up supplies for the day and headed for a French pastry breakfast at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery.

Bouchon Bakery was packed with tourists like us, filling their gullets with caffeine and sweet pastries before beginning another day on the trail of swirling wine. We narrowed our choices and settled on the quiche of the day and a pastry for each of us. We sat on the patio and enjoyed the morning sun while savoring every last morsel.  Before leaving, we headed back inside for a road treat (and a treat for the girl at home). We got in the car and headed north, passing the famed French Laundry – and the Keller gardens.

First winery of the day. Silver Oak. We took the scenic route through the Silverado Trail on the east side of the valley, through the Stag’s Leap area. And the instant memory of Bottle Shock bounced in tho both of our heads – possibly simultaneously. Although tempted, we didn’t stop and forged on to Silver Oak. We settled in the tasting room ready for the bold Cabs that made Silver Oak famous. And we were not disappointed. Instead, we had to focus and choose our favorite as one bottle would be needed for a special night over the holidays (suggested the birthday boy). We both agreed that this was not a bottle to be shared.

Since Bottle Shock jarred a few memorable Napa Valley names in our heads, we decided to stop at Grgich on our way to lunch. It was fun to see a few display vines with ripe grapes.  However, the wines were ho-hum. Next stop: Lunch at Gott’s Roadside. A great day for enjoying lunch outside. We split the fish tacos and I had a black and white milkshake. What a perfect bite to make sure we were not too full to enjoy every morsel we could at dinner tonight. Next stop on the Bottle Shock tour, Chateau Montelena. The experience was breath-taking. Loved the location; the grounds were amazing. The wine, ho-hum again. But we were able to take a Christmas card worthy shot.


With just a bit of time before our appointment at Orin Swift, we wandered through the St Helena shopping district. We poked around in our favorite type of shop – kitchen wares. Then, joy, oh, joy – I found another kind of tasting to enjoy. Chocolates. The time elapsed quickly and it was time to sip a few wines at Orin Swift. This was the one place this trip that was on our “must stop” list. And in our research, we found they didn’t have a tasting room. Luckily, they do private tasting and we got an appointment! Our guide, JC, was wonderful in sharing stories and the history of Orin Swift. The grapes, the wine labels, what is coming next with the ventures in Europe. Next up: Lava Vine. What a great final stop! We only found it thanks to our new friend at Orin Swift (finally, someone in Napa who will share where the locals love to go). In addition to great wines (according to Bill as my palate was done for), the three guys that make up the Lava Vine team provided great conversation (including how to build a fabulous outdoor kitchen discussion).

And for dinner, that is an evening worth it’s own post…