New Year, New Committment to Focus Thursday, Dec 29 2011 

Okay, so 2011 is over in a matter of hours at this point and I’m looking back (never a good idea) and noticing that I was a little lazy with the blogging this year!

New Years resolutions are over rated and almost always fail, so I refuse to make a committment to more blogging as a “resolution”.  Let’s say it’s a goal for the year…blog! Blog more, Blog hard, Blog long……….just Blog already! Should I say once a month?  Maybe. That’s a good goal.  Twelve times in a year?  How hard can that be, really?

What will I blog, you ask? Again with a goal here … photography is the focus!  I’d like to spend a lot more time in Elements learning more about editing photos in the ‘full edit’ mode.  So, hopefully what you’ll see here once a month is a blog of photos.  I can’t guarantee they’ll be recent photos, but they’ll be photos that I’ve taken with my D3100.  I’ve still got hundreds of photos from Napa, Southern Oregon, Chicago, Arizona, Leavenworth that need playing with and blogging about!

So there ya be…

Cheers to you seeing more of me, here, in the new year!

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Yountville – A Foodie’s Paradise Friday, Jul 29 2011 

When visiting the Napa Valley, there’s really only one place you can stay where you can eat and drink yourself from one end of town to the other without having to go more than a couple miles on foot.

Yountville is literally Foodie Paradise. Restaurants by famous chefs like Thomas Keller,  Michael Chiarello and Richard Reddington surround you. I can pretty much say that I haven’t eaten so well, nor so much in such a short amount of time, as I did in the week we were in Yountville.

So lets just start with this, shall we?

Each morning the Napa Valley Lodge, our place of lodging, provides Champagne Brunch poolside!  I realize the champagne is missing from my breakfast here, as is the pool, but as you can see this is more than your typical “continental breakfast” offered by most hotels.  We are poolside here, though sitting by the fire waiting for that chilly San Francisco fog to burn off. And the reason for lack of champagne, well I am all for mimosa’s but champagne at 8 am invites one hell of a headache for me, so I’ll stick to my coffee and OJ.

REDD

Owned by Chef Richard Reddington, as far as I’m concerned the best restaurant in the Napa Valley for both food and service.

REDD: First Course – Chilled sweet corn soup, succotash, basil oil

REDD: Second Course – Twelve vegetable ragoût, gnocchi, herb butter

REDD: Third Course – Dessert – Chocolate · peanut butter beignets, bitter caramel ice cream, bananas

Oh but wait, your beignets blew up so they took too long so for your wait we want to give you both what you ordered (above) and an extra dessert. All for Free! We were sick!

Butterscotch pudding, vanilla anglaise, pinenut rosemary cookies

Before we left town, we went back for a second meal at Redd since it’s our favorite spot.

This time we sat in the bar and had salads. No main course and no dessert.

I had this fabulous Burrata cheese concoction.  If you haven’t tried this cheese – you need to! It’s what they skim off the top of fresh mozzarella and then add heavy cream and do something fabulous to it.  YUMMY!

Mom had the stone fruit salad with ricotta salata.

BOUCHON

Owned by Chef Thomas Keller, best known for The French Laundry.

Bouchon had great food but they were a bit of a let down in that they had one reservation available left for the week, a 9 pm reservation.  So I booked it a week in advance and when we got there, they sat us as a tiny table in the bar.  It wasn’t the ideal experience and I let them know it, however I will say the food was excellent and I would go back.

First, amazing fresh baked bread with some kind of white bean spread that was to die for.

Salade d’Arugula et Fruit Frais d’Été

Marinated stone fruit, wild arugula,
Marcona almond praline, fromage blanc
& peach vinaigrette


Gnocchi à la Parisienne

sauteed gnocchi with a fricassee of garden vegetables & brown butter sauce

By the way, we didn’t even have dessert at Bouchon because by the time we were done it was after 10 and we were stuffed.

***

THE coveted FRENCH LAUNDRY…

The world famous restaurant where the menu is 9 courses that are fixed and change daily.  Choose from either the Chef’s Tasting Menu (for the meat eaters) or the Tasting of Vegetables (for us vegetarians).  Each menu is a series of smaller focused meals, where no ingredient repeats itself twice throughout the meal.  There are no choices in what you are served and but you can be darn sure it’s all going to be good.  Why? Well, because it’s Thomas Keller and because it’s $270 not including your wine and reservations book up 2 months in advance.  I heard from a local that it’s a 4+ hour meal from beginning to end. Now, that is a meal.

We didn’t eat at The French Laundry because I wasn’t up for spending that kind of money on one dinner at this point.  Someday I will go and eat there, maybe next year when I take Brent to the Napa Valley.  But for now I look at The French Laundry cookbook that I’ve had for about 3 years now and dream.

You’d never know by the outside of the place, what magic is taking place inside!

And across the street, they’ve got their own farm! You can find the staff foraging with their list of needed ingredients, picking vegetables.

***

BOUCHON BAKERY

Pastry chefs work all night making some of the best goodies ever!

Mom and I took a bottle of wine and stopped by the bakery for a couple of goodies before dinner.

Smores in a cup…

The biggest and best macaroon you’ve ever had. This particular flavor was hazelnut. I had caramel, espresso, hazelnut, and then another hazelnut and another caramel and then came home with an entire box of pastry for Brent!

Bastille Day was July 14 and we were lucky enough to be in town for the festivities. Though we didn’t do much more than walk through and check out the sites (and crowd) it was fun to be a part of it. The afternoon when mom and I stopped by for our goodies (above) I noticed what looked like a fondant cake in the back window off the courtyard. Sure enough, they were busy putting together quite a cake and many other tasty treats for the celebration.

BOTTEGA

Michael Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega.  Great service, good food. The waiter said Michael was working that nigh, but we never saw him.

More Burrata cheese for me! Topped with some mixture of peas, pesto and arugula.

And you guessed it, more gnocchi.  Apparently, besides salad, the vegetarian’s option for dinner in Yountville!

Delicious every time!

So, yes it’s kind of embarrassing that I documented almost my entire food experience in Napa Valley.  All those that know me will understand. I hope that you enjoyed this and I’m guessing your mouth is watering for something about now.

A Day of Solitude in Oregon Wine Country Tuesday, Jun 28 2011 

It was June 4th and I had the entire day to myself!  This is rare.  Not that I don’t love spending time with my husband and the kids, but one needs to be alone every now and then.  Brent had to work all day and though a friend was supposed to come with me, she ended up having to work as well.  So there I was, all alone…what to do?

So I hit the open road in my trusty little VW, camera in hand with no plan really, other than just to drink a little wine and take some photos.  The sun was out and blazing for the first time this spring and I was prepared to take full advantage of it!  I drove through Newberg and out toward Carlton pulling off on the side of the road when I could get a safe chance to snap a few scenic shots.  Then into Carlton and straight to Cana’s Feast where we happen to be members so I know I can get not only a free tasting of several wines, but good wines and great service.  As I pulled up I noticed the parking lot was basically empty.  On such a gorgeous day where was everybody?  It took me about 2 minutes to figure out that I was not only wine tasting and taking photos here, I was staying for a lunch on the plaza!

It truly turned out to be an amazing day. I was so rested and energized, not to mention sun burnt, when I got home.  Lunch was incredible, which you’ll see by the photos.  The Lupine flowers were blooming amazing shades of deep purple and fuscia. I took about 40 photos while just sitting in the courtyard eating lunch and brought home a lovely bottle of Barbara. There will be another day like this in the near future I hope!


Southern Oregon Wine and Chocolate Extravaganza Saturday, Mar 5 2011 

Ashland, Oregon…one of my favorite places to visit.  On Wednesday we left Portland and headed south for a 5 day food and wine adventure.  Southern Oregon has some of the best wines around! Big reds, sweet desserts, smooth ports…after having visited nearly 30 wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms between Sutherlin and Ashland I can’t say I’ve had a bad wine. 

Last night began the initial reason for the trip – the Oregon Chocolate Festival.  We attended a Chocolate Makers Dinner at the Ashland Springs Hotel.  A delightful 4 course meal where each dish contained chocolate of some kind.  It was quite filling, in fact my dessert is still sitting in the mini refrigerator here in the hotel room waiting for me to sample.  I couldn’t put one more bite in my mouth by the time it arrived as the 4th course. 

Today we’re off to the festival itself.  A ballroom filled with over 40 local chocolate vendors complete with samples galore and yummies to purchase. 

As with everywhere I’ve been since leaving Portland Wednesday, I’ve had my camera in hand each step of the way.  From wineries to livestock, landscapes to meals, pioneer cemeteries and  architecture…I’ve taken photos of everything which I’ll post when I get home.  Stay tuned!