Recipe: Waldorf Red Velvet Cake

Our family has long been an fan of red velvet cake. I have had it more than once for my birthday. And now we have brought the cake back as part of our Christmas holiday tradition for the last few years. However, we modify the recipe from cake to either cupcakes or my favorite, bite sized cake balls.


Preheat oven to 350. Flour two 9 inch cake pans.

1/2 c Crisco
1 1/2 c sugar

Cream until fluffy, add 2 eggs, add one at a time to the batter, beat 1 minute. In a separate dish, mix 2 tbl unsweetened cocoa and 1/4 c red food coloring. Add to batter and mix well. Add 1 tsp salt. In separate dish, mix 1 c buttermilk and 1 tap vanilla. Add slowly into mixture, alternating with flour (2 1/4 c double-sifted flour). Combine 1 tbl vinegar and 1 tap baking soda. Mix into batter. Pour batter into cake pans, bake 25-30 min.


We actually use basic cream cheese frosting recipe instead, but here is the official one:

1 c milk
5 tbl flour
Carefully mix, cook on med-hi heat until think. Cool.

1 c butter, softened
1 c sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Beat together until fluffy. Add milk mixture slowly, maintaining fluffiness. Spread on cake or cupcakes.

To compile as CAKE BALLS:

Crumble cake in a large bowl and mix in frosting (we mix in a standard cream cheese recipe). Similar to making drop cookies, scoop spoonfuls and mold into balls. I prefer to freeze the balls for a few hours before dipping into melted chocolate. After dipping, place on parchment paper to set chocolate. Once chocolate is set, enjoy!

Recycled Thanksgiving

After Thanksgiving Dinner settled, we still had a refrigerator full of leftovers. And Bill started getting creative…


Ravioli dinner night with three pasta pillows to choose from:

  • Traditional cheese combination in red sauce
  • Butternut squash
  • Duck Condit filled in a cream sauce

With ample supplies of red wine and leftover dessert.


Reusing the mashed potatoes and homemade rolls for hot roast beef sandwiches. And then more dessert.


A variety of pizza was on the menu tonight using up cheeses and meats, herbs and sauces. Thanksgiving pizza never tasted so good!

A Menu for Red Heads

To celebrate the season of red – and a belated birthday dinner for just us – he made a reservation at the Herb Farm. This week (or maybe month), the menu is titled “A Menu for Red Heads”. And we learned the uniqueness of the menu is that first the wine sommelier (and team) choose the wines from around the Pacific Northwest to feature. Then the chef paired the food (perfectly, I might add).


  •  Rutabaga Root Soup, Quinault Steelhead Caviar, Shiso, Horseradish Cream.
  • House-Cured Copa, Egg Salas, Sea Beans, Oregon Olives, Elderberry Capers.
  • Batter-Fried Sablefish Brandade, Dill, Beet-Onion-Apple-Celery Root Remoulade.

2007 Indigo Sparkling Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Red Wine with Fish

  • Seared Coriander-Crusted Pacific Albacore Tuna, marinated Jerusalem Artichokes, Baby Leeks, Guanciale Vinaigrette

2010 Teutonic Wine Company “Bergspitze” Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains

Pig in the Patch

  • Pork Cotechino Sausage, Pumpkin Sauce, Wild Mushroom-Kale cannelloni, Cold-Pressed Oregon Koroneiki Olive Oil

2010 Palotai Kadarka, “Bull’s Blood”, Southern Oregon

All Quaked Up

  • Lavendar-Cured Moulard Duck Breast
  • Charred Pears and Turnips with Black Pepper, Oregon Black Truffle Sauce

2010 Idilico Graciano, Upland Vineyard, Yakima Valley

Long-Braised Short Rib

  • Grilled 72-hour Braised Painted Hills Angus Short Rib
  • Caramelized Cauliflower Puree
  • Pagout of Controne Beans, Cauliflower & Chickpeas, Watercress Pool

2010 Avennia Arnaut Syrah, Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley

Noix et Roie

  • Coco-and-Boletus-Mushroom-Coated Duck Foie Gras Torchon
  • Walnut-Prune Compote, Sourdough Waffle, Green Walnut Nocino Syrup

Red Ice. Blue Cow.

  • Rogue River Blue Cheese Chantilly Cream,
  • Wild Huckleberry-Ruby Port Granite, Rosemary Meringues
  • Oak. Smoke. Shocolate.
  • Spiced Chocolate Bavarian, Smoked-Salted Caramel, Cherry-Oak Sherbert

2010 Brian Carter Cellars Opulento (Touriga Nacional, Souzao, Tinto Cao), Yakima Valley

The location:

The Herbfarm | 14590 NE 145th Street |  Woodinville, WA 98072 | 425-485-5300 | Website


Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery…What better place to have birthday dessert?

Of course, the night started at dinner just a few doors down at Volterra. And we were worried when Hot Cakes was closed. Thankfully, the fans on the stoop shared that they would open soon. By the time we returned, the wonderful smells of chocolate filled the air outside.

Oh, so many choices filled the chalk boards. Chocolate and more chocolate. A little peanut butter here. A pinch of salt sprinkled over caramel. Melted marshmallows.

I choose…

Dark Decadence: Theo dark chocolate, vanilla ice cream, salted caramel, nib toffee

  • a pot…or a jar…of oozy, rich, melty warm deep, dark chocolate
  • plenty of salt to truly make it salted caramel, not just a crystal or two
  • finished with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream

And I enjoyed every last bite. Shared with no one.

Looking forward to going back and trying a boozy shake. Hoping it is as good as the creamery on St. Thomas.

The location:

Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery | 5427 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107 | 206.420.3431 | Website

2012 :: The End

It has been years that I have celebrated the eve of the new year out on the town. I am guessing 15 years have elapsed since the last night out. Many years have been spent with family in the snow (so we are too tired to make it to midnight) or socializing with friends.

This year, tradition was thrown out the window. And, together  we hit the town with a late dinner at Staple and Fancy (finally!). It has been on our dinner out list for months.  And for New Year’s Eve, the crew at one of Ethan Stowell’s hot spots did it right (by us).


We checked out the wine list prior to arrival. We were pleasantly surprised by the low prices of several local wines that we like. So we decided to leave our bottles at home and see what they would bring us from the international scene. They conspired and took us to Spain for a delightful, fruity and full-bodied wine: Ribero Del Duero, Teofile Reyes, 2009.


  • Chicken Liver Crostini with golden raisins.
  • Cotechino with lentils (I may have loved the lentils most).
  • Shigoku Oysters with lemon, horseradish and olive oil.
  • Treviso Salad and anchovy dressing. (He had a moment with this dish).
  • House Smoked Ricotta over grilled bread and driseled honey (I want smoked ricotta gnocchi).
  • Hamachi Crudo with avocado, chili and lime.
  • Porchetta di Testa and pear mostarda.


Mine: Potato Gnocchi :: Manila clams, mascarpone and lemon.

His: Rigatoni Amatriciana :: Guanciale, chili, tomato.


His: Muscovy Duck Breast :: Glazed root vegetables and chestnut purée

Mine: Grilled Albacore Tuna :: Tomatoes, capers and olives.


Ours: Ricotta Cheesecake :: Cranberry compote and Warm Panettone Bread Pudding :: Salted caramel gelato.

Of course, we finished our multi-course glutony about 10:30 so we had time to kill to make it to midnight to share the first kiss in the first moment of the new year. We meandored the streets of Ballard until the cold set in our bones, then headed up to Capital Hill to view the Seatlle downtown as the weather was clear and cool. The city view did not disappoint, but the firework-watching crowds were gathering so we drove the long way home and got ready slowly for sleep. We made it to bed in time to watch the ball drop, share a first kiss, and for me to fall soundly asleep at 12:01 a.m. on January 1st, 2013.

The Location:

Staple & Fancy | 4739 Ballard Avenue NW | Seattle, WA 98107 | 206.789.1200 | Website

A Night at the Glass Garden

In the midst of the holiday celebrations, I was lucky to attend a company evening out at the new Chihuly Garden and Glass. On my bucket list for the last few months, this was a welcome opportunity (and the price was perfect too)!

I could try to describe the exhibits in detail. But nothing I could say would recreate the images in your mind like a few photographs. Enjoy!

Iphone Import 2.13 2012-12-06 005 Iphone Import 2.13 2012-12-06 004 Iphone Import 2.13 2012-12-06 003 Iphone Import 2.13 2012-12-06 002

Once quick “one fine day” story before you go…

While gazing at the indoor garden exhibit, I thought wouldn’t this be a beautiful back drop for a wedding ceremony. Even mine. Then I remembered our short list of wants starts with “be outside for the entire event”. I hope someone I know decides to get married here!

Plan your visit.

Wicked With My Girl

We needed some girl time — and with Wicked coming to town durring school conference week, there was no better time for a night out. Just she and me.

Dinner :: Serious Pie
What better than pizza by Tom Douglas for mother/ daughter dinner out? We started with a salad, followed with pizza and were too full for dessert.

Bartlett pears, arugula, carpona ham, marcona almond purée

She: buffalo mozzarella, red sauce, fresh basil
Me: yukon gold potato, rosemary, pecorino

Accompanied by a glass of Italian Barbera for me, and soda for she. She ate a full pie, I had lunch for tomorrow.

Onto the show…

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…

First Night Out :: Zazu

Day 1 of a little long weekend adventure in Sonoma…

After a crazy morning where our flight wasn’t at the time we expected and the slowest rental car pick-up ever (that was topped off with their offer to upgrade us free of charge to a minivan – NOT!), we connected with Tonia & Keith for a late lunch. And discussion about the best Bond films.

As we drove across the bay and turned into the Sonoma valley, the sun was setting and lighting up the hills. We found our rental cottage and after a quick freshen-up, we headed out for dinner on the outskirts of Santa Rosa.

We started with a bottle:
We narrowed our wine choices to the Sonoma Coast as we knew that we won’t make it tasting up in that area.

And the winner is:
Pinot Noir from Eric Kent titled “Small Town”
Sonoma Coast 2010

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes
Building on last year’s success (one of our favorite blends to date), the 2010 Small Town starts with our two Freestone vineyards, then adds a good dose of Roberts Road from the Petaluma Gap and finishes with a touch of Russian River Valley Stiling from the slower-ripening bunkhouse block.
After a generally temperate growing season, 2010 experienced some famous heat spikes, but the cool area of Freestone was relatively protected. In the end, the vintage produced a dark, full, expansive wine that remains true to it’s cool-climate roots with an exuberant nose of savory spices, herbs and impressive fruit, carried on by a silky, rich palate of black cherry and wild berry chutney. Perfectly ripe tannin and balancing acidity provide structure and extend the complex and lingering finish long after the sip is over. In short, we’re absolutely thrilled with this delicious wine!

Due to our late lunch, we decided to graze for dinner.

Black pig bacon wrapped date + saba
Total sweet hit with savory
Oh, and note to find a Saba recipe and try to recreate the sauce

Artisan cheeses A little cow, a little sheep, a little goat.

Wild boar salumi,  house made
Turmeric cauliflower

Stuffed pork belly filled with chestnuts

Note:   When we return, try tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwich

Peanut butter ice cream sandwich with warm dipping chocolate fondue. All we can say is “more”.

And to go:  Jar of house-made Pickles,  Black pig bacon lollipop (for the girl)

While waiting for a table, glimpses of Chef Duskie. {{Not a good sign for how she faired in the Iron Chef Redemption Series.}} Our chef’s profile:
Duskie Estes, a graduate of Brown University, began cooking at age 5 using her Easy-Bake Oven. She has worked at Lucky’s/Al Forno, 21 Federal and Kinkead’s, Green’s and Glide Church, Baywolf, Share Our Strength, Dahlia Lounge, Etta’s Seafood and Palace Kitchen. Chef Estes and her husband, John Stewart, own and operate ZAZU Restaurant + Farm in Santa Rosa, Calif., and BOVOLO in Healdsburg, Calif. The couple also owns MacBryde Farm, named for their daughters, Brydie and Mackenzie. Chef Estes was a fierce competitor in the third season of The Next Iron Chef, during which she won the first secret ingredient challenge but was eliminated by Celina Tio in episode four.

We finished the night over a beer with college pal, JV. It was good to catch up – but it reminded us we are too old to talk over a live band!

The location:

Zazu | 3535 Guerneville Road  | Santa Rosa, CA 95401 | 707.523-4814 | Website