I recently took a trip to Tomales Bay which is a short drive to the North of San Francisco near wine country to learn all about the oysters they harvest as well as how to make smoked oysters. If you're in town, I highly recommend spending a day driving out there to enjoy the oysters, the spectacular views of the bay. There are lots of little towns on the way, that have great options for food too!Read More
We're really fortunate to live so close to the wine country, it's a short drive from Oakland and a fun one because you get to drive on bridges, see the Bay in all its glory, see the farms outside in the country and of course vineyards. I recently took a quick weekend trip to Healdsburg in Sonoma county to take a tour of the gorgeous vineyard at Copain Wines and learn a little bit about their process of wine making. My wine knowledge is decent, it isn't an encyclopedia but I can get by in a general wine conversation. I'm good at pairing but when it comes to the more nuanced intricacies of how it is made, my knowledge is okay. Copain was a great opportunity to learn more about wine making, from steel to oak barrels, to the grapes they use and grow, how the grapes are grown (especially in this drought), how humidity and CO2 levels must be controlled during fermentation, and so much more. The vineyard has a breathtaking view of rolling hills covered with grape vines and tall pine trees and the vineyard's tasting room is lined with rows of lavender on which bees and butterflies fly. You can schedule a wine tasting early on, I think a lot of places in Sonoma require reservations now to make sure everyone can get a great experience.
If you haven't visited Healdsburg or need an excuse to go again, I also highly recommend adding Shed to your list! This was my first time and it's a beautiful store full of potential props and kitchen stuff, they mill a lot of their own grain and they were nice enough to give me a demo of how they make their various grades of corn for grits, flour, etc. We also got try some of the food they prepared at Copain, their shrubs were spot on in their flavor combinations such as this deep red pluot and basil infused which had me go back for seconds, thirds and more. The Shed also won the James Beard Award for best restaurant design in 2014 and you can see why!
I've been meaning to share photos from my trip to Big Sur for a while but never got to it until now. With groundhog day done, it seems this is the best time to talk about spring and summer travel. Big Sur is a magnificent natural treasures that you must try to visit at least once if you can. In an ideal situation, you have one person to drive while you stare through the car seat window across the massive and spectacular stretch of land that meets the ocean. Big Sur is dramatic and colorful. From the plants that cover the landscapes, to the whales that you might see far into the deep blue ocean or the condors soaring in the sky, Big Sur is every bit a jewel of the west coast.
Though, we didn't spend the entire weekend at Big Sur, there are plenty of places you can rent and stay the entire weekend. We did however, make a mandatory stop at the famous Big Sur Bakery and we were glad we did! We had a small snack at the bakery and later ate dinner at the restaurant. We ordered the steak with shaved wasabi root, the shishito peppers and sea bass with risotto. You know your fish is cooked to perfect when it falls off like a soft buttery flake. For dessert, I got the lemon ice cream pie, it's very lemony and citrusy with a delicious pistachio crust.
Just a little tip, even though we made reservations online at the Big Sur Bakery's website, their kitchen was closed when arrived for lunch. I highly recommend trying to call them up to make sure they actually have their kitchen open for the hours you want to visit . We did call in advance but couldn't seem to catch a hold of them but they were very apologetic and nice. We ended up staying there for dinner which as I said before was well worth it! I'm going to stop talking and let you take a look at Big Sur.
This year for Thanksgiving, I opted for several changes to our menu. I cooked a turkey breast and skipped the whole turkey (for 2 to 4 people this is the perfect option), I forgot to add cranberries to my cornbread stuffing (but added a tablespoon of sambal olek, which made it even better), I made my sweet potato pie (and sprinkled it with Persian saffron sugar crystals) and my beer and honey flavored pumpkin pie. And, before I forget, a green bean casserole with lots of crunchy fried onions and cashews. I've learned that if I can't find everything at the store, forget to add something to my list or run out of it at home, it's possible to make it through without panicking by either substituting or "faking it till I make it".
Last weekend, amidst moving and a few last minute painting mishaps, we decided to drop it all and drive up to Napa for a fall harvest festival hosted by Tillamook Cheeese at the Charles Krug winery. I've been to Napa and Sonoma counties in almost every season of the year but autumn and if you're a fall person, it's probably one of the prettiest time to visit. The vines are changing color and the larger walnut and oak trees are all sorts of shades yellow, orange and red.
We learned how to taste cheese like the pros do at Tillamook (and M took active part in his cheese training, I think this is as fascinating as people who get to taste chocolate for a living). To start you take whiff of the cheese and then you use a cheese-borer to drill a hole deep into a humongous disc of cheese and then you get to characterize the flavor in terms of different features that you notice such as lactic acid, sweetness, umami etc. Cheese was included in every portion of our lunch menu (pumpkin mac and cheese, grilled cheese and pear sandwiches, etc.) and ice cream made from Tillamook's milk. M got the vanilla bean with caramel sauce while I got the marionberry. That meal made the thought of going back home to pack and move now seemed much more bearable.
Now obviously, if you're going to pass through Yountville, you have to make the mandatory stop by Bouchon Bakery. You need something sweet to get absorb all that cheese and wine! (Pictured are the sticky buns, hazelnut eclair, TKO cookie and pumpkin spice macroon.
We drove up to Mendocino in Northern California this Labor Day weekend. It's about a 4 hour drive from where we live in South Bay and we took Snoopy along with us which I did regret one night (more about that later on). The drive up to the beach gets very beautiful once you get into the thick of the redwood forests in Navarro River Redwood State Park. Majestic pine trees stand tall pointing towards the sky allowing little snippets of the sun's rays to sneak through the branches. If you're lucky you'll see plenty of deer walking around in the forest!
Mendocino is a cute little town. It's tiny. It's where Murder She Wrote was shot (no Jess Fletcher in sight) but you can imagine her biking around the neighborhood. It somehow fits even if it was supposed to be New England. There are plenty of little cafes and restaurants in the small downtown area. Since we had Snoopy with us we couldn't visit all the restaurants we wanted to try but we eat lots of breakfast pastries at the Good Life Cafe and Bakery. Go there, you will love it! Take a trip to check out the glass at Glass beach, it's a short drive from Mendocino and the beach allows dogs which can be fun, if your dog loves to get into the water. There are tons of other little beaches all over the stretch, though I'm not sure which ones are open to dogs and if any of them are private but again they're all beautiful with breathtaking landscapes to enjoy. You might also get to see condors (they've made an amazing recovery and you will see the flying or sunning on trees).
Coming back to why I almost regretted taking Snoopy with us. Raccoons in the middle of the night going through a trash can and a dog that can sense what's going on outside is a recipe for poor sleep and one excited pup!
It wasn't the city or the wine valley that made me consider moving here when we took a little trip a little over a year ago to visit San Francisco. It was this little spot by the ocean called Half Moon Bay that's only a few minutes away from the city. Though Half Moon Bay is what I first fell in love with, the entire stretch is gorgeous, Pacifica and all the little spots along the coast. Tall cliffs weathered by the constant smashing of the waves run along the entire edge of this part of the world. There are farms that face this ocean, green stretches of land that grow artichokes that arch towards the sun. Sea figs in all sorts of shades of pink and yellow cover the landscape like a thick carpet. The water is cold and the wind if awakes can make it chilly but it never stops the surfers or the numerous people that hike along the many paths and trails. It's a place to relax and unwind and definitely one worth visiting if you do come to San Francisco. There are delicious Mexican taquerias all over and there's also, Sam's Chowder House which overlooks the sea. Even though I prefer the hustle and bustle of a noisy city, I'd still consider living out here if the opportunity came up. And if you're lucky you might even get to spot a whale or sea lion.
I did a podcast interview with the lovely Gabriel of The Dinner Special, check it out when you have a moment. He has interviewed a whole bunch of talented food bloggers and chefs and it was a fun and exciting time talking with him. I talk about food, photography and many more things that make me click!