Funfeasts is about enjoying and exploring life - through food. It's an attempt to chronicle my feasts of fun and the many tasty bites experienced along the way.
Showing posts with label Food Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food Travel. Show all posts

Bits and Bites from the Corkscrew Cafe

Monterey and Carmel are classic getaway spots here in the Bay Area and it's easy to see why.  With views of the ocean peering out from between the many tourist spots you don't need to veer far from the basic footpath to enjoy your stay.  But you will be rewarded if you take a detour and see what the
rest of Carmel Valley has to offer.

For me, I love the area off West Carmel Valley Road with its less-hurried wineries, cafes and shops all tucked away in what feels like a secret hideaway.  Some of my favorite afternoons have been spent lingering over a late lunch with the golden glow of summer sun peeking through the trees.

Am I a bit of a romantic?  Maybe, although being recently single may be prompting such a feeling. But truly, if you want a path-less-travelled feeling, do check it out.

Corkscrew Cafe
55 West Carmel Valley Road
Carmel Valley CA  93921
831-659-8888


The goat cheese, garlic and bread sampler is beautiful to look at and wonderful to nibble on!

Stoneburner in Seattle; brunch greatness

If you spend much time on this blog you'll notice the many references to Seattle and breakfast/brunch.  The two seem intertwined and something I always look forward to during trips back home.  A recent trip over Easter weekend was no exception...

When touching down in Seattle I've taken to spending more and more time in Ballard, an area undergoing a revival on it's way to becoming industrial chic.  The food - and restaurants - seem to be keeping pace.  My recent favorite is Stoneburner which is a modern take on Italian food.  And while the food is pretty stellar, like many locations in Ballard, it's the building, setting and aesthetic that do the trick.

Check out the bar when you're there (someone had a great eye for detail) and then dive into the food. Oh, and on Sundays the farmer's market is close and well-stocked with great vendors.

5214 Ballard Ave NW
Seattle WA
206-695-2015

Poached eggs and polenta.  A truly great combination.

The dutch baby in cast iron.

The capitvating menu at Stoneburner.

Santa Cruz Cuisine - Lillian's, Gayle's

A recent spate of sunny weather spurred a weekend stay in Santa Cruz and some time at the beach.  With the sun setting we turned our focus to dinner and how best to answer the usual questions:  "What should we eat?" and "Where should we go?"

Turns out we didn't have to go far before we came across Lillian's, a family-style Italian restaurant where reservations are scarce,  the atmosphere is cozy, the service is attentive and the food is simply killer.  Don't miss the Sunday gravy and meatballs or you will experience food envy!

Lillian's
1116 Soquel Ave
Santa Cruz CA  95062
831.425.2288

Italian food served up in a comfortable, casual setting.  Attentive, authentic service from the family-owned personnel.  Specialties:
  • Sunday gravy - tomato base meat sauce simmered slow with beef, pork, Italian sausage and spare ribs.  Your choice of penne, spaghetti, fettucine or polenta.  Don't forget the meatballs. Yum.
  • Black truffle stuffed gnocchi with white wine pesto cream sauce.

Gayle's
Bakery & Rosticceria
504 Bay Avenue
Capitola CA  95010
831.462.1200

The glass display at Gayle's contains a bevvy of eye-catching pastries and cakes which beckon and confuse as you try make a decision.  In the end breakfast burritos and cookies won out and we happily started the day on a high.

Crater Lake blues...and greens

It feels odd writing about my summer road trip in the middle of December and especially on Christmas Day.  But I can't resist taking a moment to think back on the vivid blues of the water and the cool of the breeze coming off the lake.

The original plan was a four day trip to Crater Lake over the July 4th weekend.  Missing from the planning calculation was the 8-hour drive from the Bay Area.  Oh, and confirmation of our hotel stay!
It's never a good sign when you check into your hotel and the desk person responds with an elongated "ohhhh...did you book through our website?"

Turns out we booked our room but failed to notice that both nights weren't actually confirmed.  I highly recommend - if you book a room via the Crater Lake Lodge website - make sure the nights you request are actually available.  Road trip rookie mistake!

We lucked out and found a room at the Historic Prospect Hotel about 40 minutes away.  The hotel itself is clean and welcoming and guests receive breakfast in the morning. 

Crater Lake, a view from the rim.

A view from the visitor center.
We spent the following day driving around the rim and stopping at various points to snap photos.  My favorite part?  A mini-picnic of cheese, bread and fruit on a quiet ridge where we could take in the scene and relax.  My biggest regret?  Not planning an extra day to hike the many trails available.

As for the Crater Lake Lodge, nice ambiance and a restaurant with good food and service.  Hint: when booking you might ask which side of the hotel your room will be on and also which floor (yes, I know this sound picky!)  Ours was top floor with a sloped ceiling and very little air circulation.  Not exactly a deal-breaker but something to consider if you're staying more than one night.

Historic Prospect Hotel
391 Mill Creek Road
Prospect OR  97536
541-560-3664

Crater Lake Lodge
565 Rim Drive
Crater Lake OR  97604
541-594-2255

As I look back on the past year this trip and adventure definitely stands out.   The clear blue of the lake and peace-of-mind lingered even after the bags were unpacked and we'd checked back into our everyday working world.

 And with that thought...it's now on to the new year!

Vancouver vacation 2013 - summer fun now past


Oh Vancouver...how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways... 

1) Your scenery is always breath-taking but even more so during our August visit as the sun made the water sparkle...yes, like diamonds!  Made our kayaking and biking around Stanley Park just THAT much better. 

2) Eating options were numerous and within a stone's throw of our boutique hotel. Crazy-good ramen, down home Italian and fresh sushi made choosing a chore (but not really.) 

3) Friendly people, easy navigation and that cute little "jaunty man" signal which tells you it's time to cross the street. 

The burrata at La Buca
A mouth-watering menu at La Buca
 
 
Finally, how can I forget the really great boutique hotel on Robson Street?  The Listel features comfortable rooms, helpful staff and great location for walking to most of what we wanted to see/do.  Less driving and parking meant more time to chill and enjoy the city. 

 
We did take the car to North Vancouver with the intent of participating in the Grouse Grind before we left on Thursday.  My friend tells me it's a straight up hike on the normally-wintery ski trail with a convenient tram to bring you down when finished.  An un-named person forgot their hiking shoes so we found solace in The Bakehouse and the many pastries on display.
 
I'm back to my usual routine - work and some play - and my summer fling with Vancouver seems so far away.  But I will be back, with hiking shoes in hand!
 
Places to eat
 
La Buca
4025 MacDonald Street
Vancouver BC  V6L 2N8
604.730.6988
labuca.ca
 
Ramen Santouka (amazing)
1690 Robson St
Vancouver, BC V6G 1C7
Neighborhood: West End
(604) 681-8121

 The Boathouse
1305 Arbutus Street
Vancouver BC  V6J 5N2
604.738.5487
www.boathouserestaurants.ca

Eatery Takeout
3431 W Broadway  
Vancouver, BC V6R 2B4, Canada
604-738-5298

The Bakehouse
1050 W Queens Ave
North Vancouver BC  V7R 1H7
604.980.5554
 
Hotel

The Listel Hotel
1300 Robson Street
Vancouver BC V6E 1C5
604-684-8461
 
The lamb agnolotti - beautiful and delish at La Buca
 

Summer Travels - Pacific Northwest

It's way past the end of summer and I'm ashamed to admit I am only posting my August road trip adventures NOW.  Never fear though, the magic of the Northwest is timeless in my opinion and even more so in the Fall.

The trip was somewhat spontaneous and came about due to extra vacation days available, nice weather on the horizon and the lure of being in a car for 15 hours.  Seriously, for me there truly is nothing like the open road and the freedom that comes with it. 

While on the road it's always an interesting challenge to find good food that won't require a three hour wait.  Although not a quick stop, Sa.la.me in Ashland Oregon helped fuel our batteries for the road ahead AND transition into a relaxed state-of-vacation mode.

Sa.la.me
47 N. Main Street
Ashland OR 97520
541.708.5881
 
Bruschetta with fresh cheese - Sa.la.me, Ashland OR




 









Once in the Northwest we hopped a ferry headed for Port Townsend, a charming town that boasts amazing views of the water, a plethora of Victorian houses  and Sea J's for fish and chips (with lots of really good tartar sauce.)


Crispy fish and creamy tartar sauce at Sea J's


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sea J's 
2501 Washington Street
Port Townsend WA
(360) 385-6312
 
Following on the fish and chips theme - some might call it an obsession - we stopped at a relic from the past on our way back to the Bay Area...Skippers Fish and Chips in Roseburg Oregon. 

I was trying to express my love of this chain but the run-down mall it was housed in didn't generate as much enthusiasm as I'd expected from my driving partner.  Buying a case of clam chowder - "it will last longer" boasted the cashier - and fitting it into our packed trunk was quite the challenge but worth the effort in my opinion. 

Anyway, I'll always have the memories of Ashland...and 12 cans of chowder for the rainy days ahead!
 
Skippers Fish & Chips
2090 NW Stewart Pkwy
Roseburg OR 97470
541.672.0909 

Northwest Best: Bernie's, Full Sail Brewing, Roots and friends!

The food scene is definitely hopping in Portland and a quick weekend getaway to visit friends was the perfect excuse to indulge.   We started with a visit to Bernie's Southern Bistro in the very lively Alberta Arts district which was the perfect way to get the party started. 

Key highlight at Bernie's: sitting outside under the trees awaiting our very large portions of fried chicken and mac and cheese.    Of course we ordered way too much but we walked away happy and ready for the arduous task of shopping and hanging out (basically doing nothing.)  Note:  I am NOT complaining here.

Day two we hiked Hardy Falls which served up fresh air and a good dose of nature.  Next up, Full Sail Brewing in Hood River.  With a stunning drive along the water and then a big burger plus salad (gotta have something healthy!) our day was pretty much complete and our trip began to wind down.

Our last day we packed our bags and made a stop at Roots in Camas WA.    Roots is one of those places where you get food and service exceeding your expectations despite the  modest suburban strip mall location.  Don't skip the crab benedict or the Walla Walla onion tart - both amazing! 

Although I seemingly make light of the trip - but not my obsession with the Portland food scene - my true purpose was to catch up with longtime friends over many cups of hot coffee and meaningful dinners.  Past memories and meals tie our friendship together and continue to knit us close despite the many miles now between us.    

So thanks to my wonderful friends for setting aside precious time to connect and remind me what really matters in life.  YOU.

Bernie's Southern Bistro
2904 NE Alberta Street
Portland OR  97211
503.282.9864
berniesbistro.com 

Full Sail
506 Columbia Street
Hood River OR 97031
541.386.2247

Roots
19215 SE 34th Street Suite 110
Camas WA  98607
360.260.3001

Mothers Bistro - Portland

The motto on Mothers website is "it's all about the love" which resonated with this diner!  I loved the reuben sandwich with melty cheese, sauerkraut and, of course, homemade corned beef.  It felt like the entire plate was made with love, right down to the crispy bread which held everything together.

Apparently our short wait for a table was the result of good timing and good luck. I'm told our wait wasn't the norm and a visit usually requires patience.  In any case, don't miss the Reuben.  It's really fantastic.

Corned beef and sauerkraut atop toasted bread.  Just the best.
 
Way to start the day!  A mimosa at the ready
 
212 SW Stark St  Portland, OR 97204
(503) 464-1122

Villa Valentina, Drunken Sailor and Cazuelas in San Jose del Cabo

Although it's summer in the Bay Area and my vacation now seems so long ago (really only a month ago) I'm still hungering for Baja and the food I love so much.  Tacos were the vision - and we did partake - but we also ventured out to restaurants for meals which captured the essence of the region and time and time again reflected the hospitality of the people. 

Martini-time at Villa Valentina
Three standouts on this trip include the following:

The Drunken Sailor 

Located near the new marina (look for Hotel El Ganzo) and sporting a casual, beachy vibe this place really delivers.  We ordered the taco chino; a tortilla filled with panko coated shrimp and topped with a cilantro sesame dressing.    In addition I tried the enchiladas verde filled with shrimp and just the right amount of tang and spice.   This was a nice start to the trip.... 

After dinner we hung on the deck of the very cool and sophisticated Hotel El Ganzo.  El Ganzo is jaw-dropping with it's chic decor, relaxed vibe and roof top pool.   The rooms vary from waaayyyy over the top (one has a ping pong table AND workout room) to more subdued but all boast views of the marina and on this night were served up by Gerry, our effervescent host and impromptu tour guide.  

Next up a trip to Todos Santos to see the real Hotel California.  Of course we were famished upon arrival and a taco platter plus ceviche with red pepper cream salsa was in order.  I admit I had an Eagles soundtrack playing in my head "Welcome to the Hotel California..." but it wasn't until we visited Hacienda Cerritos I felt the dream materialize.  Beautiful stonework, pools overlooking the Pacific and a friendly cat jumping around to greet us made for a delightful day trip away from the core. 

Villa Valentina

Part home decor store, art center and restaurant is the best way I can describe Villa Valentina.  Throw in well-prepared food and the sound of a local musician on his guitar and you've almost got your own romantic movie.   

My dinner companions ordered the huarache (chipped duck with mole, really terrific) and chicken with - you guessed it - more mole.  As odd as this sounds, I ordered the fish and chips thinking it would be fun to see how other cultures prepare this iconic American dish.  In this case, Villa Valentina nailed their rendition and put their own stamp on it with fresh local sea bass perfectly cooked and served alongside wedge cut potatoes.  And don't forget the tarter sauce (I didn't!) 

The huarache with chipped duck and mole.  Incredible!
 
Cazuelas del don

Located in San Jose del Cabo off the tourist loop this local restaurant is about as authentic as you can get.  The premise is that each day the owner slow cooks meat, vegetables and spices and then you get to choose how the concoction is served up.  On  this day we were treated to La Ira; arrachera, chile poblano and cebolla (plus a few other ingredients.)  I opted for the baked potato, my companions the torta (sandwich) and volcan which seemed to translate to "all piled up on a crispy tortilla". 

The torta at Cazuelas (check out the crispy cheese!)
This was probably one of my favorite places and not just because the food was so interestingly delicious.  It's because it was served with a dose of pride and much warmth by the owners themselves.  To this day my travel companion lights up when talk turns to Cabo, Cazuelas and that lovely torta!

Hot feet and a warm soul in San Jose del Cabo, Baja California

It started around January... a recurring vision of sandy beach and fiery sun to warm my soul...  and didn't ease up until I was poolside with a plate of  fish tacos and a generous helping of smooth guacamole.  Cabo has become the stuff of my dreams and the place I think of first when I want to unwind and unplug. 

Last year I travelled to Cabo and stayed at the Hilton which is very plush and a great way to touch down for a few days of doing nothing (which is quite pleasant I must admit!)  This year it was the same but after a few days we changed hotels (Casa Natalia, boutique hotel) and locations (San Jose del Cabo) for a walkable experience via newly cobblestoned streets and updated core.

Fun, funky art adds beauty and character to Casa Natalia
 
Great for relaxing poolside



I loved Casa Natalia with its ultra chic setting and simple but comfortable rooms.  The hotel is right on the plaza so you can go out for a coffee at the French Riviera (great pastries) and then check out Casa Dahlia (art, light food) or Mi Casa Azul (nice collection of items for you or your home.)  Casa Natalia (whew, seems like everything here starts or ends with a "casa") also offers breakfast delivered to your room for dining al fresco. A great way to start the day!
 
Fresh fruit for our daily desayuno...breakfast!

One thing I will say is this:  Casa Natalia offers natural cooling with ceiling fans and open windows which isn't for everyone but was fine with us.   If you are looking for air-conditioned bliss, a larger hotel is probably a better fit.  However, the location and amenities overrule the lack of A/C in my opinion (unless of course it's the middle of summer when it's blistering hot.)

 Next up:  the food and fun of Cabo.  Don't miss the next post coming your way soon!

Boulevard Mijares N. 4
San Jose del Cabo
Baja California Sur 23400, Mexico
 
Mi Casa Azul Studio
 
Casa Dahlia

French Riveria

Yosemite Wildflowers in Bloom Hite Cove Trail


I’m forever looking for weekend getaways which combine my favorites: beautiful images to photograph, outdoor exercise and of course, food.  Along came an article about local spots where you can view the Spring blooms and voila!  We were on our way to El Portal to hike the Hite Cove Trail near Yosemite. 

Turns out the timing was perfect as the crowds were minimal, hotel rates reasonable and the hills truly were alive with a painter’s palette of color.  There’s still time to plan a trip as the flowers will continue to spring alive until sometime in May.   Here are a few notes from our trip:

The highlight

Hiking the Hite Cove Trail! It's about 4 miles one-way so take plenty of water and wear comfortable shoes (that seems obvious but figured I’d say it anyway). The trail winds alongside the river for views of blooms and the pleasant sound of water in the background.



Vibrant orange poppies everywhere!
Where we stayed
Yosemite View Lodge. Comfortable and reasonably priced. The best part? The back door opened to a view of the Merced River creating the perfect ambiance for our evening wine/cheese fest. 


Yosemite View Lodge - a view from the balcony
Places we dined
Savoury’s in Mariposa. About 45 minutes from the hotel and worth the drive.  I ordered off the menu and a) they were not annoyed and b) it was delicious (a shrimp linguine – perfectly cooked.)


Ahwahnee Hotel for brunch. A little pricier than your standard buffet ($45) but this isn’t really your standard buffet.  What you get is an amazing array of delectable items served up in a grand setting creating an experience well-worth the price of entry.
 
Ahwahnee Hotel brunch (ok, so this was my third - and last - plate!)

Yosemite View Lodge
El Portal (off Highway 140)
209.379.2681
www.yosemiteresorts.net 

Savoury's
5034 Hwy 140
Mariposa CA 95338
savouryrestaurant.com 

Ahwahnee Hotel

Easy, breezy weekend getaway to Carmel and Monterey

We liked our first trip to Monterey so much we headed back for another weekend getaway.  It's no surprise this area is a very popular destination for tourists both near and far with something for just about everyone within arms reach.

This time we stayed in Monterey but spent our first day in Carmel meandering down Ocean Ave looking at all the shops.  We wandered into Il Fornaio which is tucked away off the street and opens up into a large comfortable atrium-covered dining area.  Here you can order a tasty margarita pizza - enough for two - with the usual toppings (cheese + tomato sauce) and a delightfully thin crust for about $7.50.   Add a cookie and coffee for the perfect midday meal.

Lodging this time was Casa Munras on, you guessed it, Munras Avenue.  The hotel is well-located and well-priced with most restaurants a few minutes walking distance.  Also within close proximity is the pedestrian-friendly foot path which winds past Cannery Row down to the Aquarium for a leisurely way to see the sights.

For breakfast try the Old Monterey Cafe located on Alvarado Street.   You might have a bit of a wait but the breakfast burritos and Belgian waffles are worth it!

Finally, we returned to Montrio Bistro where we ordered family style:  bacon-wrapped prawns, spinach salad and a sirloin steak accompanied by mashed potatoes.  All fairly standard but well done and served by the ever-friendly, knowledgeable staff.  The dessert - bread pudding - is simply a must-have!

The bread pudding with passion fruit ice cream at Montrio Bistro in Monterey.  Amazing!

A view from Monterey, Big Sur

It was a nice way to cap the year: a quick trip to Monterey and Big Sur complete with a sprinkling of sun to set off the scenery and provide a backdrop for last-minute resolutions.  Mine definitely included getting away more often given the proximity to such beautiful natural eye-candy!
 
Speaking of eye-candy the Portola Inn, located on Monterey Bay, boasts a fair amount of well-appointed decor put together by someone with an eye for fabulous spaces.  The reason I mention this is that all the details come together to create a sophisticated yet welcoming atmosphere where you instantly want to kick back and relax.  "Why go out all night when we can hang out in such a room?"  was the question I asked immediately.
 
Of course we did manage to get motivated to leave when our appetites beckoned.  We ambled down the street to Montrio recommended by the hotel staff and found a small table in the very crowded restaurant. We sampled the luscious lobster mac n cheese, a bistro steak (with truffle fries - wow!) and a sweet creamy bread pudding served alongside passionfruit ice cream.  A nice find indeed.
 
The next day we saw the line for breakfast at Rosine's snaked out the door requiring us to keep our patience in check and go with the crowd.  The food was good, with large generous portions that could have fed 3-4 per plate (I am serious about this.)  When reading about the history of Rosine's this seems to be part of their "claim to fame" (in Monterey at least!) and it seems like something that resonates with customers.  For me personally I always feel guilty leaving so much food on the plate and eating it all was definitely out of the question.
 
Our last stop of the day was Nepenthe (Big Sur) where we sipped hot spiced cider against the backdrop of the Pacific.  The chill in the air was tempered by the welcome winter sun and I couldn't help but make a mental note to visit again during summer (although the crowds would probably be more visible.)
 
Overall, rather than looking forward to the new year I took a moment to catch my breath and count my blessings which are beyond measure.  And with that, we were on the road home again to get ready to ring in the new year.
 
Holiday decor in Monterey Bay

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur

Seasonal Snacking – Seattle Style

Every year it’s the same:  the holidays sneak up on me, I wait until the last minute to buy gifts and before I know it I’m on a plane headed to the Pacific Northwest to visit family.   The routine might seem, well, routine, but changes to the menu lineup make this “the most wonderful time of the year” for me. 

While Seattle hosts a bevvy of fine dining choices I actually think the unique quick-meal options – some would call this fast food  - define the area (yes, you are welcome to disagree).    Good food at a good price really does make me jolly J  Here’s a snapshot of our adventures…
Taco Time
Crispy meat burritos, housemade salsa and the “mexi fries” (tater tots) all make for a good quick meal at this Northwest classic.  Select from the combo menu and your wallet will thank you.  Oh and it's not just me. A co-worker commented that his first stop in Seattle is Taco Time as well (followed by Starbucks!)
Musashi’s
Nestled in a strip mall in Factoria (suburb of Bellevue) Mushashi’s is the second installment for this family-owned restaurant.   The food was good, tasty and reasonably priced.  My very-picky mother liked it and said she’d definitely return which is good as gold in terms of reviews.
3720 Factoria Blvd SE, Bellevue WA 98006

Sushi from Musashi's in Factoria

The Daily Grill (Seattle) and The Keg (Factoria) share the same paragraph simply because they have similar menu items (steaks, chops, salads) but the experience – and food – couldn’t be more different.
To be fair, we dined at the Daily Grill on Christmas so I have to cut some slack here.  But overall, food was just “okay” (steak wayyyy overdone) with service that seemed to amplify the subpar nature of the meal.  On the bright side, the huge slice of chocolate cake for dessert was decadent and delicious.

Chocolate cake from The Daily Grill - a nice holiday treat.
 

The Keg Steakhouse, located in the same strip mall as Musashi’s in Factoria is part of a long-standing Northwest chain that seems to have aged well and delivers quality in terms of food and service.   I have ordered the rib eye twice (once during my last trip and this time too) and it’s amazing; well-cooked and bursting with flavor.  At 20 oz. you might be tempted to pass up dessert, but don’t.  The Billy Miner pie -mocha ice cream on a chocolate crust with hot fudge, caramel and almonds - is fantastic. 
Now with the holidays soundly in my rearview mirror I am ready to embrace 2013 and all the food adventures I can find.  As always, I’m truly grateful for the people in my life who bring joy and laughter despite anything I might really deserve.  I am blessed and hope you – and those around you – are too!  Thanks for reading.
 

NY favorites: Locanda Verdi and Peppolino

With so many restaurants to choose from in Manhattan deciding on dinner can be daunting.  This recent NY visit I opted to check out two of the same restaurants from last years' trip and was reminded why some always sizzle:  consistent quality, delicious food and attentive servers.
 
Locanda Verde
377 Greenwich Street New York, NY 10013
(212) 925-3797
 
Italian food in a sophisticated setting.  A few of the favorites: duck
meatballs, spaghetti all' matriciana and clam pasta.  The spaghetti was pure comfort food; a bit rich and just the right amount of spice.
 
Hint:  do make reservations if you can or you'll be in for a wait.  No matter of course given the busy, booming bar and scene that goes with it.
 
Clam pasta at Locanda Verde NY
Clam pasta - Locanda

Chocolate budino at Locanda

The perfect blend of spice and savory - Locanda
Peppolino
281 West Broadway New York, NY 10013
(212) 966-9983

Italian food seemed to be my cuisine of choice this trip so Peppolino was high on my list.  You can't go wrong with many of the entrees but  definitely don't skip the ricotta cheesecake.  This is not your
typical cheesecake; less sweet and vastly richer than most, it's their
signature dish...and rightfully so.

Ciao!

Barn Diva, Catelli's, Russian River Brewing Co in Healdsburg

No matter how many times I visit Healdsburg there's one thing that always stands out:  great food, and lots of it.

First stop, Barn Diva for a fantastic lunch of salad, fries and quiche.  Of course the salad wasn't just any salad, it was chock full of avocado, blue cheese, beets, shaved carrots and crunchy croutons married with a creamy tarragon dressing.  Add a side of fries - which are really more of a cross between a chip and a fry - to go with the rich quiche and you are ready to hit the winery trail.

The quiche at Barn Diva, Healdsburg
Our one and only winery visit this trip was Schlumberger (an old favorite) where reservations are recommended and a seat beside the lovely, relaxing fountain in the courtyard a must.  We took this opportunity to listen to the hypnotic symphony of water trickling and wine glasses clinking in the warm, embracing late-season sun.
                                                                                            
After a check-in at the hotel and a power nap we headed out to the Russian River Brewing Co in Santa Rosa.  I'll admit, beer isn't my first love but the sampler seemed necesssary. We tried all the samples with mixed reviews:  I liked the sour versions (Supplication, Temptation and Consecration) and my companion liked the Redemption or the blondes (what a surprise.)
 

All that wine and beer tasting created quite the appetite so we headed to Catelli's in Geyserville.  Featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (or Triple D) you SHOULD  believe the hype: amazing 12-layer lasagna , homemade ravioli (in two sauces) are just a few of the dishes to die for.  Oh, and the bread which feels like a course on it's own.  Hint:  if you order the lasagna it arrives with two large pieces of very garlicky, buttery bread. 

The best of all worlds: meat ravioli with butter sauce and cheese ravioli paired with the spicy tomato.  Heaven!
 
Once the plates arrived I asked my dinner companion if he wanted a taste of my ravioli (which of course he did.)  Asked the same question about his lasagne I hesitated oh-so-briefly to which I was told "take some now before it's gone".  Although a nano-second to me, the lasagne quickly disappeared and I made a mental note to visit Healdsburg - and Catelli's again soon.   

To broil or not to broil?

As crazy as it sounds I’ve always feared burning my food under the broiler.  That fear was put to test over Labor Day weekend on Don Pedro Lake while houseboating with friends.  The propane bar-b-que wasn’t working so well - really not at all - and we turned to the oven/broiler for dinner (even though the cabin seemed like an oven on some days.) 
 
Since that weekend soooo long ago (where DID the summer go?) the broiler has become  less daunting and more useful as a cooking method/tool in my kitchen.  Below is a simple recipe for roasted tomatoes (the broiling is the finishing component) which are delicious – and beautiful - on a plate and  your palate.
Roasted, toasted savory tomatoes
·         3-4 tomatoes, cut in half
·         2-3 slices white bread, crusts removed
·         ½ cup gruyere, swiss or parmesan cheese
·         ¼ t crushed oregano
·         Salt/pepper
·         Olive oil for drizzling 

 
Heat oven to 350 degrees.   
 
Run the bread through a food processor to make coarse crumbs.  Add the cheese and process until the bread and cheese are the same “crumb” size.  Combine with the oregano, salt and pepper (to taste). 
 
Drizzle the olive oil on the tomatoes and then place the tomatoes in the oven.  Roast until soft in the center (about 20-30 minutes).  Remove from the oven and turn on the broiler.  

While the broiler is heating up, mound the bread crumb mixture on each tomato half.    Place under the broiler until the crumbs are golden (about 5 mins) and crunchy.  Enjoy!


Broiled tomatoes with seasoned breadcrumbs and gruyere cheese.

Palm Springs eternally vintage

Want the ultimate in getaways?  Then consider Palm Springs where it's like a trip times two: you can immerse yourself in a host of activities AND travel back in time to the 60's.  A short stay will reset your attitude and you too will depart feeling like an official member of the rat pack.

The decor at the Orbit In boutique hotel

For the outdoor enthusiasts Joshua Tree offers breaktaking scenery and great photo opportunities.


Joshua Tree at sunset

Downtown palms in Palm Springs
Check out the Cabazon dinos while on your way to the outlets where they have the best of the luxury brands.


Dinos in the desert!

Where we stayed
Orbit In
562 W Arenas
Palm Springs CA  92262
877.996.7248
Where we dined
Lulu
California Bistro
200 S. Palm Canyon at Arenas
760.327.9898

Santana's
Burritos (yum)
61761 29 Palms Hwy
 Joshua Tree, CA 92252
(760) 366-8263
Seriously killer burritos and homemade salsas. A great place to stop for lunch on your way
to Joshua Tree.

Cabazon Outlets
48750 Seminole Drive #100      
Cabazon, CA 92230      
(951) 922-3000