Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

24 Hours in Portland, Part Two: Brunch at Beast

March 6, 2012

Brunch menu at Beast

I usually try to keep these “24 Hours” entries to one post, but we had so many fun adventures during our trip to Portland, and brunch at Beast is such a special experience, that I thought this trip warranted two.

We first visited Beast about three years ago, and now it’s a tradition for us to eat Sunday brunch there whenever we are in Portland. Yes, rock star chef Naomi Pomeroy is justifiably sort of famous, and yes, the place has gotten tons of great press in the years it’s been open, and that is part of what led us to our first visit.

But why do we keep coming back? We like that it’s a little bit off the beaten path. It’s cozy, and I love watching the cooks plate each course on the massive butcher block in the center of the dining room. There’s a fun atmosphere among the communal tables. And most of all, the food is wonderful.

First course: Plum clafoutis with whipped cream and maple bacon

Over the years we’ve been visiting Beast for brunch, the menu has followed a reliable and delicious pattern, starting with a sweet custard, bread putting, or, this time, clafoutis topped with what I think of as one of the restaurant’s signatures: maple-glazed bacon that tastes like sweet salty candy.

Next up is a hash, filled with seasonal local veggies, braised meat, and topped with a perfect poached egg. On this trip, pork belly, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and parsnips were topped with a  truffle hollandaise sauce, which was just divine: so rich, yet so light and not at all cloying.

Second Course: Beast Hash with truffled hollandaise sauce

After these two decadent courses, it’s nice to take a minute, sip a mimosa, and enjoy a little bit lighter treat: the prettiest cheese and course from the Cheese Bar, formerly known as Steve’s Cheese, which I used to like to go visit when it was a counter in the back of the Square Deal Wine Company in NW Portland. I was a big fan of the creamy sheep’s milk cheese, which had the consistency of brie with a bit more zing and paired nicely with the tangy Sauvignon Blanc vinaigrette on the winter greens salad.

Third Course: cheese and salad

Brunch at Beast finishes with a flourish – always in my experience a rich, often chocolaty treat that fulfills every childhood fantasy of eating dessert with every meal. On this visit it was a simply prepared and plated square of chocolate truffle cake, dense and fudgy, delightful with the last sip of coffee, the sugar enough to push you up and away from the table and out into Sunday afternoon.

Fourth course: Chocolate truffle cake

Funnily enough, we’ve never actually had dinner at Beast, and now that the place is moving in August we might have to make a plan for evening dining in the new digs. It will be hard to beat Sunday brunch there, though, which is just what you would want it to be: comforting, filling, delicious, fresh, served with good cheer amongst new friends. It’s not an every weekend spot, but an occasional and memorable treat.

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Oyster Picnic at Hog Island

January 25, 2012
 

I am extremely lucky to have a good number of adventurous, food-loving friends who think nothing of dropping everything to travel hundreds or thousands of miles for the promise of good grub.

Kerry drove through a blinding blizzard in Vermont once to get us to Montreal for beer and poutine. Leslie orchestrated a trip to Memphis just so we could ride her coattails through the Memphis in May barbecue championships. And Ku? Ku guided five adults and a cranky toddler through several neighborhoods in Beijing so that we could try authentic hot pot before heading back to the U.S. Stressful? Nah, they live for this stuff, and it’s my luck to sometimes get to come along for the ride.

This is how, on a rainy Sunday in November, I found myself spreading old newspapers on a damp picnic table at the edge of a sandy spit jutting out into Tomales Bay, California. We were at Hog Island, and we were ready to eat some oysters.

View of the flats at low tide

How did we get here? My intrepid friend Kerry, the aforementioned beer-loving snow driver, began planning this picnic as soon as we’d finalized plans to meet at my mom’s place in Northern California for Thanksgiving. Kerry also loves oysters, and Hog Island is one of the most renowned local purveyors of the briny bivalves. They also have a very cool picnic area at their Marshall farm, where you can buy oysters straight from their beds to eat raw or cook up on the grill. The Hog Island folks provide shucking knives, lemons, a delicious mignonette called “Hog Wash,” and sell wine, beer, and assorted other snacks from an upended boat-turned-snack bar. What more could you ask for on a winter’s afternoon?

There was the matter of the rain – pounding down in sheets as we meandered up Highway 1 – but we were undeterred. After a quick stop  in Point Reyes for some dried fruit at Toby’s Feed Barn and delectable Mt. Tam triple cream cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, we tooled up the road, parked on the shoulder, and hauled our goodies – including a magnum of bubbly, a given with the menu and the presence of the Diva – to a table facing the bay, breathtaking even in the fog.

Our picnic.

 Once we got things set out and picked up three dozen Hog Island Sweetwaters and a dozen Kumamotos, we got down to the serious business of shucking. Luckily, Carl is a former professional, and Kerry, Sean, and the Diva were quick learners. I acted as supervisor and cocktail waitress.

Sean: shucking is serious business.

 

Carl shows Diva Armida how it's done

After a while, the picnic area filled up with other groups celebrating birthdays, early Thanksgiving, and generally having a fun time. The sun came out and the whole place took on the air of a great big oyster hoedown, helped along with numerous bottles of wine and the good cheer of our hosts and fellow picnickers.  As we discarded our trays of shells and packed up to head back across the county, full of oysters and smiles, I was once again reminded that good friends – and good food – are worth more than gold.  
 

No sun? No problem! Happy picnickers in front of "The Boat"

 

Aftermath of a great afternoon

 

24 Hours on Whidbey Island

January 8, 2012

The harbor at Coupeville, Whidbey Island

We needed to get away. After months of grey skies, the sun was shining and sweaters were finally shucked, but summer was quickly coming to an end. I was dreaming of an island getaway, something short and sweet and new. Somewhere we could smell the salt water and hear the clanging of buoys and eat from the sea. So on a cool but clear Friday morning, the last of the summer, we packed up the car and headed up I-5 to catch the Mukilteo Ferry to Whidbey Island.

From Seattle, Whidbey is the perfect quick getaway for a day, night, or weekend.  It’s nearby but feels like another, more relaxed world. There are a variety of outdoor activities from beachcombing to hiking to boating, and a surprising number of places to stay and tasty spots to eat. I was also excited about checking out the island’s thriving farm and gardening scene.

After a short hop up the highway and onto the ferry at Mukilteo (we thankfully got to the dock before the weekend crowds arrived and lines for the boats got long), and a quick trip across the Sound,  we arrived at the southern end of the island. From there it’s a 10-minute drive to Langley, where we stopped to get our bearings and poke around the shops on First Street.

One of my goals for our trip to Whidbey was to try as many of the local specialty Penn Cove mussels, from as many different sources and in as many preparations, as possible. I started my quest over a leisurely lunch on the sun-dappled deck at Prima Bistro, a recommendation from a food-loving co-worker, where we enjoyed mussels “a la mariniere” steamed with white wine, shallots, and garlic. These mussels were served in their own little cast iron pot, and the simple preparation allowed their fresh brininess to shine through.

Burrata and salmon rillettes plates at Prima Bistro in Langley

Fresh preparations seemed to be a hallmark at Prima, where we also enjoyed a flavorful and light wild salmon rillette and a toothsome and satisfying duck leg confit over lentils dressed with a bacon vinaigrette. The tomato, basil, and burrata plate could have been improved with riper, more flavoful tomatoes (even in this late-blooming summer, delicious heirloom varieties are ripe all over the region), but the burrata itself was elastic and creamy, set off nicely by a light drizzle of sea salt and balsamic vinegar.

Duck Leg Confit at Prima Bistro - delicious!

Full and feeling good from our lunch in the sun, we continued north up the spine of the island towards the Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens in Greenbank, where I had heard a big Labor Day sale was in progress. We’ve got a beautiful pink rhody right in front of the house and thought it might be fun to get another one to go with it.
 
Turns out we went searching in the right place. The Meerkerk nursery is located in a wooded glen behind the public gardens, and on this day rows and rows of plants of all different colors and variations were available for sale, including several different hybrids created by local hybridizer Frank Fujioka. After a lot of debate we picked a lovely orange and silver “Seaview Sunset” from Fujioka and strolled out for a quick look at the gardens before heading back up the road.

Meerkerk Gardens in Greenbank

 Our next stop was just down the road. Greenbank Farm is a former working farm that now houses several small shops and galleries as well as the Whidbey Pies Cafe, known for pies made from local loganberries and other fruits. We shared a slice of huckleberry pie a la mode at a picnic table overlooking a tranquil duck pond, then headed for our final destination of the day.
 
Located about halfway up the length of Whidbey Island on the banks of Penn Cove, Coupeville has a tiny, two-block long commercial strip along Front Street, a wharf with a pretty great coffee shop out at the end of it, and many original Victorian era homes, some of which have been turned into charming B&Bs. We stayed at the Lovejoy Inn, a cozy three-room lodging two blocks up from the water. Mitch, the innkeeper, spent several years working at the nearby state park and seemed to know every cranny of the island. Our first floor room was small but sweet, with a large walk-in shower and comfortable bed.

The Lovejoy Inn in Coupeville

After a walk around the corner to check out Bayleaf, a cute gourmet food and wine shop, we took Mitch’s advice and popped in next door to Christopher’s for an early dinner including a second round of mussels. This version was steamed in a creamy, garlicky white wine sauce that nicely offset the plump, juicy oysters. With a basket of warm bread, it would have been a meal in itself but, intrigued by the European-influenced menu, we ate some more. And some more.
 
First linguine in a surprisingly light smoked salmon cream sauce, then a paprika-scented Austrian chicken and spaetzel, and finally a delicate chocolate mouse and lemony cheesecake. Overindulgent? For sure. But we were on vacation! A leisurely stroll down to the harbor and we were ready to call it a night.

Sunset over Coupeville harbor

 The next morning, we were up early for a tasty hot breakfast prepared by Mitch and a visit to the Coupeville Farmer’s Market, where we stocked up on home-brewed root beer, local berries, and honey before heading out to Ebey’s Landing for a hike along the beach and up the bluff, where farmland meets coastline with spectacular views of the Puget Sound and Mt. Baker.

Bluff Walk at Fort Ebey State Park

 After our walk it was time for one last sampling of mussels, this time at Toby’s, a classic tavern on the water back in Coupeville. Juicy and basically unadorned, accompanied by thick pieces of garlic bread and icy beers, they hit the spot and Toby’s, like Whidbey Island itself, was comfortable, unpretentious, and fun. On the drive home north through Deception Pass and back down I-5, we were already plotting our return trip.

48 Hours in Washington, DC with Chef Kerry

May 22, 2011

One of the benefits of traveling a lot for my day job is that occasionally I get to spend a few hours – or even a day or two – exploring a new city. Over Easter weekend, I got the chance to spend a few days in our nation’s capital with my favorite foodie travel buddy, Head Chef Kerry.

It was a cold, rainy afternoon when we met up at the Dupont Circle Hotel, a nifty and apparently newly refurbished boutique hotel right off of Dupont Circle that Kerry had gotten a great deal on through SniqueAway. Our corner room was not huge but nicely furnished and comfortable, and the location near the Metro and in walking distance from the restaurants and bars of both Dupont and Logan Circles made it a great home base.

We immediately headed off through the rain to our first stop, The Willard Hotel, for afternoon tea in the hotel’s Peacock Alley. A dowager empress of a hotel, full of marble, low light, and the quiet murmur of harps, the Willard is an ideal spot for a civilized spot of tea and accompanying tea sandwiches, scones with lemon curd and jam, and mini pastries.

After sipping our tea like ladies and polishing off the sandwiches (my favorite was a smoked turkey salad on wheat), we headed out by foot towards the National Mall and the Smithsonian Museum of American History, where Julia Child’s Cambridge kitchen is preserved under glass. On the way, we were passed by the presidential motorcade, a nice “mostly only in DC” moment.

That night, we headed to dinner at Birch & Barley in Logan Circle, walking distance from our hotel. It was here that I realized how much the food scene has progressed in DC in the years since my last visit. Housed in a narrow two-story building on 14th Street (the upstairs is a beer-focused bar, Churchkey), the restaurant is a stark yet cozy spot with a Northern European feel, devoted to showcasing a huge collection of artisan beers and the foods that go with them.  It also has a great, Germany and Alsace-leaning wine list.

We started off with seared foie gras and crispy polenta with mushrooms and taleggio, both of which were rich, flavorful, and full of texture. The bread basket with house-made pretzel rolls and cornbread were delicious as well, but I managed to save room for a delicious fresh tagliatelle with braised rabbit, baby carrots, and homemade ricotta. The pasta was chewy and light as air, a perfect base for delicate pieces of pulled rabbit, sweet bits of carrot, and the creaminess of the ricotta. It was a great meal and I look forward to going back.

Saturday morning was sunny and warm so we ambled down to the Old Ebbitt Grill for brunch before tackling the Spy Museum. A DC classic, the Grill is famous for its oyster bar and the clubby green booths in which everyone from lobbyists to senators to celebrities have dined. I had the country brunch, a plate of grits, eggs, and glazed Virginia ham shanks. Because of where we were, we also got some oysters – I introduced Chef K to little Kusshis from British Columbia, and to compare we got some similarly sized Virginicas from Virginia – briny and delicious, especially with champagne.

After a long walk in the sunshine to work off some of those grits, we met up with the lovely Ms. T at the next spot on our food itinerary, Chef Jose Andres’ Cafe Atlantico. Dizzy with the sunshine, we ordered margaritas and decided to splurge on the restaurant’s Chef’s Tasting Menu, featuring several courses representing the menu’s theme of “Nuevo Latino” cuisine, including  a rich, earthy foie gras soup, braised pork belly with mofongo, grilled cobia fish with parsnips and pineapple, and a pineapple colada cake with housemade sorbet.

Although not mind-blowing, the food was innovative and tasty, and I was sorry to hear that Cafe Atlantico will be closing in June to make way for an Andres-run theme restaurant tying into an upcoming National Archives exhibition. Hopefully a new location for this interesting spot will be found soon.

Our final morning in DC was Easter Sunday. Enticed by the lure of all-you-can-drink Mimosas, we took a chance on a spot neither of us had heard much about, Policy, also located on 14th St. near Howard University.  The slick, wonkish name didn’t quite match the hip, black and red interior, but the small plates menu offered eclectic treats such as crab eggs benedict, corned beef hash, beignets, mini-croissant BLTs, and fresh fruit muffins.

Everything was priced to order widely and share, which we did. Sweet, salty, and paired with multiple Mimosas, it was the perfect decadent end to a decadent weekend of wining and dining. Thank goodness DC is a walking city.

Long Weekend In Seaview

November 22, 2009

Had a great, relaxing weekend at Lisa and Buzz’s place in Seaview, WA. The weather was beautiful and we spent our days walking the beach, visiting the farmer’s market in Ilwaco and antique shops in Astoria, poking around Forts Columbia and Canby, eating fried seafood, drinking wine, and reading in the back yard.

The ocean at Cape Disappointment

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Carl reading in the back yard.

The port at Ilwaco on a rainy Saturday

When we were through with our adventures for the day we’d retire back to the roost and cook up dinner in the house’s tiny but well-stocked kitchen.

One day it was raining and I decided to doctor up some tomato soup for a simple but hearty and tasty dinner.  Tomato soup is a great base for all sorts of main course soups – you can add all manner of  veggies, pasta, rice, even tofu to liven things up. The below recipe is a little simpler, owing to limited ingredients, but felt perfect for a weekend beach house type of meal, or one for a cool night at home when you’re pressed for time.

 

Chunky Tomato Soup with Cheese Toasts

Ingredients:

1 large can or the better part of a 28 oz. box of tomato soup

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbs. olive oil

a pinch of crushed red pepper

herbs de provence or a mix of oregano, basil, rosemary, and other savory herbs

salt and pepper

1/2 cup whole milk or cream (optional)

half a baguette or loaf of french or crusty bread

grated parmesan cheese

parsley (optional)

Method:

For the soup, heat the oil and garlic in a sauce pan until garlic is fragrant. Add the whole tomatoes and cover. Cook until tomatoes start to burst, about 5-10 minutes. You can help this along with the flat end of a wooden spoon to get them nice and saucy. Add the red pepper, stir, and cook another minute. Add the herbs, salt and pepper to taste, and stir. Pour in soup and simmer to combine flavors. If using, stir in milk or cream right before taking off heat.

In the meantime, make crostini by brushing slices of bread with olive oil and sprinkling with cheese and parsley. Cook under the broiler 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted and browned.

Serve the soup with chopped basil leaves, a sprinkle of grated cheese, or just pepper, with the crostini on the side for dunking.

Mazama

September 3, 2009

We’ve been having a great time this summer spending time at Carl’s family’s place in Mazama, in Washington’s upper Methow Valley very near the Canadian border. The place is beautiful and serene and we spend our days reading, riding bicycles, going to the farmer’s market, hiking, cooking, and generally relaxing.

It’s a very special place and I feel instantly better whenever we crest the pass and start heading down Highway 20 into the Valley. Here are some photos from our various trips over the past several months.

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The road to Mazama, across from the Miller cabins.

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Atop Washington Pass

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The long driveway

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View from the top of Goat Peak down the Valley

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Atop Slate Peak

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The view from the porch of the big cabin

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On the deck at the Sun Mountain Lodge

Walla Walla Weekend

August 9, 2009

I had some work to do in Walla Walla last weekend and Carl decided there was no better way to beat the Seattle heatwave than to escape to the even-hotter east side of the Cascades, so off we went over the Pass.

Our first stop: Red Mountain and Col Solare, where the estate vineyard is looking great and winemaker Marcus Notaro is looking at an early September start to harvest.

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Col Solare vineyard and Horse Heaven Hills in the background.

After the winery we headed to scenic Pasco, WA for some minor league baseball fun at Gesa Stadium between the Tri-Cities Dust Devils and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, Single A teams for the Rockies and Giants, respectively. We had a thoroughly good time as the temperature dipped to 96 and the Mariners Moose entertained the crowd of kids.

The next morning, well rested after a night in luxurious AC, we set off for Walla Walla. I rarely get a chance to play tourist out that way so we did it up, stopping at pretty much every historical marker on the way to the Whitman Mission outside of town, site of Marcus Whitman’s extremely ill-fated missionary camp. As the mercury climbed past 100, we figured it was a great time for a hike and hoofed it up the hill to the Whitman Shaft, which contrary to its name is not a mining tunnel but an obelisk on top of the hill commemorating the unfortunate Whitman massacre. Hot and sweaty but well worth it for the views:

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View of the Whitman Mission

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Carl exploring his roots.

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Near the end of the Oregon Trail.

The rest of the weekend was filled with winery visits – to L’Ecole No. 41 , the new, impressive  Waterbrook winery, Blue Mountain Cider Company over the border in Milton-Freewater, OR, where we were impressed with the array of hard apple and fruit ciders produced, then back to Walla Walla to Beresan, Trust, Chateau Rollat, and of course Northstar. Highlights included the Cab rose from Trust, Rollat’s Cab Sauvs, and Northstar’s Merlots and Petit Verdot.

We also had a fantastic time at the Spring Valley Vineyard wheat harvest party, despite the 106 degree heat that evening it was beautiful out, the wines were delicious, the company fun. The ranch at Spring Valley is one of my favorite places and it was great to share it with Carl, meet new friends and catch up with old, and enjoy a beautiful sunset over the wheat fields.

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View of the vineyard from the garden at Spring Valley.

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Sunset over Spring Valley – this photo doesn’t capture the half of it!

On Sunday, the car stuffed with wine, cider, onions and melons from the Walla Walla farmer’s market, and a crate of peaches from a stand outside of Yakima, we headed home, just in time for the temperature to dip back into the 80s, reminding us that there is nothing better than a Northwest summer.

Christmas in CA, Part One: Travels and Friends

December 29, 2008

Although I was just home for Thanksgiving and planned on having a relatively low-key week in CA for Christmas, as usual fun things kept coming up so it ended up being a jam-packed “vacation.”

After taking James to the Academy of Sciences, went with mom and Steph to see Taj Mahal at Yoshi’s in Oakland. The last time I saw Mr. Mahal was circa 1996 at the New Orleans By The Bay show at the Shoreline Ampitheatre in Mountain View. As I recall, he was rockin and rollin, playing the piano and shakin it every which way. Today’s Taj is a bit older (he is touring to celebrate his 40th year as a recording artist), but still knows how to groove the blues and had the crowd on its feet nearly the whole show. As a bonus, I ran into Rebecca B., who I haven’t seen since high school!

Next, mom and I journied down the coast to Carmel for a night, stopping in Capitola and Monterey along the way. We spent some Christmases in Carmel when I was a kid and Aunt Rosella had a house right on the beach. I hadn’t been down there in years and even though it was raining when we arrived we had a great time wandering around town, stopping at the Hog’s Breath Inn for Irish coffees, and eating dinner at the Forge in the Forest, a truly magical little cottage serving great local cuisine with a nice wine list.

The next morning the skies had cleared and we got to walk on the beach in the December sun, another tradition from when we used to Christmas here back in the day. Even though Uncle Bill wasn’t around to stomp seaweed with me, it was still great.

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The beach at Carmel.

After we returned north (following a delicious lunch in Half Moon Bay at the pub at the San Benito House – great crab melt!) I drove up to Sonoma for dinner with Darcy and Jake at Maya on the Square. I miss my friends now that they are down in the Golden State, and it’s always a fun time. Jake is now officially 1/2 way through law school, so we had a lot to celebrate, which we did with margaritas, tacos, gossip, and silly stories.

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The next night was dinner – more Mexican food, which I can’t get enough of when I’m in CA – and drinks with Russell, Lia, John, and Lauren in San Francisco. We dined at Mexico DF down near the Bay Bridge, where I enjoyed a margarita xochimilco (tequila, hibiscus, and peach) and we shared copious amounts of guacamole, carnitas, hamachi ceviche, and butternut squash quesadillas. After that we headed to the bar at Epic Roasthouse where I continued my quest to sample all the Irish coffees in San Francisco. Rating: Better than the Hog’s Breath but I have yet to find an Irish that tops those at the good old BV.

While in CA I was also able to catch up with the Dufts who were also down visiting for the holiday, and had a great Christmas day cocktail hour (a semi-tradition) with the Staffords in Larkspur – thanks to Natalie for breaking out the delicious Mt. Tam cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery!

As the end of the year approaches, I’ve been reflecting on my life, the things that are important, and what makes me happy. I am incredibly lucky to have my wonderful circle of family and friends, people I’ve known for decades or just months. I am looking forward to spending more time with these important people in 2009.

Spokane

December 11, 2008

Spent the weekend in lovely, freezing Spokane enjoying some much-needed time with Nova, Ward, and of course my darling goddaughter Lucy.

I have been a neglectful godmother and hadn’t seen the little gal since we were all in Montana in July. Since then she’s grown a ton, and is walking and talking a little, which makes things exciting and exhausting! A girl after my own heart, Lucy enjoys reading, playing with her dogs, macaroni and cheese, and dropping it like it’s hot to the tunes of Puffy and Biggie. We spent a lot of quality time walking around, watching “The Girls Next Door,” shopping, drinking tea, and sitting around the fire chatting.

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Miss Lucy.

One of the highlights of my trips to Spo-town is always a field trip to Cabela’s, the temple to camouflage, various types of jerky, and dead animals located off I-90 in Post Falls, Idaho. If you have never been to a Cabela’s, I highly suggest a visit.

From the mountain of taxidermied big game to the wall-sized aquarium of sting rays to the shoting gallery to the fudge shop, it’s truly a wonder, even if – or perhaps especially because! – 75% of the men in the place have what Ward charmingly calls “Promise Keeper’s hair”: the ubiquitous goatee, which provides facial warmth while not getting in the way of your shootin’ arm.

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Lucy had a great time checking out the big game, Nova and Ward ogled the camping gear, and I had a fab time checking out camo waders, fishing poles, and all variety of cast iron cookware.

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Christmastime at the Safari exhibit.

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Lucy and Nova check out the wild bears.

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Taxidermy Mountain.

Whooping it up in Wine Country

December 4, 2008

I almost entitled this post “Drinking: A Love Story,” but Caroline Knapp beat me to it. Oh well. Life’s been rather topsy turvy lately and it was great to have Armida (the Diva), Sean, and Kerry around in California to cheer me up and, of course, to help me drown my sorrows on a day trip to Napa and Sonoma.

It was a typically glorious late fall Sunday in Northern California and we started the day off right, with a breakfast picnic at the Oakville Grocery, overlooking the vineyards of Opus One and feasting on cheese, bread, oat scones, and panini.

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After finishing breakfast we moseyed on over to Opus One so Armida could pick up a few bottles of Overture for her hubby Matthew, then headed over the Rutherford Cross Road to hit up Rutherford Ranch (nice Muscat) and Conn Creek, where we enjoyed an awesome tasting with Amy and emerged loaded down with bottles of the winery’s single AVA Cab Sauvs, the Anthology red blend, and Sauvignon Blanc.

After that it was nearly time for lunch (tough day, I know), so we zipped back over to Sonoma to meet Darcy at the El Dorado Kitchen right on the square in downtown. We lounged around on the back patio overlooking the pool, slurping mussels and truffle fries. Then time for a quick stop at the Cheese Factory before heading back out on the road for more vino.

After a quick stop at Angelo’s for an emergency beef jerky fix, we visited Gloria Ferrer for some sparkling wine for the Diva. GF is a great place to visit and enjoy, with a large outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards that feels right out of Tuscany.

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After our bubbly we moseyed next door to Cline, one of my favorite wineries in Sonoma and one whose club it seems my entire CA circle of family and friends belongs to. Cline specializes in Zinfandel but they also make many other tasty varietals, including a Mourvedre Rose that is perfect for Thanksgiving and was on sale for a mere $4 a bottle. Needless to say, we scooped up several bottles.

From there it was on to our final stop before heading back to Napa for a delicious dinner at Darcy and Jake’s: Domaine Carneros. Yes, more bubbly! I’d actually never been to this winery before and was duly impressed by the French Chateau atmosphere, grand, Versailles-like tasting salon, and the cheese-and-sparkling wine pairing selections. It was a great way to end a great day with great friends.

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