April 2010 archive

What A Difference a Year Makes…

Today is our 11th anniversary. We had a fun day, but it was nothing compared to last year!

Since our last anniversary was the big 10-year milestone (am I old enough to have been married for more than a decade…no!) we decided to commemorate the occasion by taking a fabulous vacation to San Francisco and the Northern California wine country. (For the friends and family who read my personal blog, yes, much of this post is recycled.  Call it Eco-Friendly Blogging.) 🙂

That trip was, without a doubt, the most incredible and perfect vacation we ever had! Everything was PERFECT – the WINE, the accommodations, the food, the WINE, the weather, the ambience…did I mention the WINE! All perfection. All lovely. All bliss.

In SF we stayed at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel – a historic SF hotel in the heart of Union Square. The decor, the location, and the service were all fabulous…and VERY reasonably priced!

We were total tourists all day and grabbed dinner at a quaint, off-the-beaten-path little Italian restaurant that came highly recommended by the concierge. We finished the evening by perusing the infamous City Lights Bookstore. (Besides eating, our other shared hobby is reading…we are big fat book nerds!) The next morning we finished up the “touristy” stuff, then hit the road towards Napa.

Though our ultimate destination was Forestville, in the Russian River Valley, in Sonoma County, we decided to make the most of our time in the Wine Country and take the long way around – SF, through Napa Valley to Sonoma, then Forestville, then take the coastal route back to SF on the return. While in the Napa Valley, we of course made arrangements to tour and TASTE at Cakebread Cellars.  Can I just say… YUM!!

We arrived at The Farmhouse Inn that afternoon and it was EVERYTHING that I had imagined and more!! We had a private cottage, with a Happy Anniversary treat and the next morning’s breakfast menu/weather report waiting for us in our room. The cottage was equipped with a lovely living room, a fireplace, enormous bed (that I called a “marshmellow bed” because it was so white and cushy), whirlpool tub, and private sauna.

The Inn co-owner who arrived us invited me to help myself to any of the homemade body scrubs or bath salts available in the Farmhouse to use while bathing. I grabbed the Brown Sugar-Honey scrub (made with honey harvested from bee hives on their farm!!). I used it all week. My skin felt like silk and I smelled like cookies!! Who needs perfume!! She also informed us that smores ingredients were also available in the Farmhouse, in case we’d like to make smores by the fire pit one evening. She then arranged dinner reservations for us at a local restaurant, Mosaic, known for it’s atmosphere and use of fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, with a wine list to match. I ordered the coffee encrusted filet mignon in a cocoa-Cabernet sauce with asparagus and potato strings – SHUT UP!

We awoke at the crack of dawn the next morning as our internal clocks were still on Charlotte time. The Beer Guy made coffee for us and we sipped it in bed while planning our day until time to get ready and go to the sunroom for breakfast. The first course of breakfast (yes you read that correctly) was a freshly homemade vanilla currant scone with a bowl of fresh citrus fruit.  That yumminess was followed by a main course of homemade oat griddle cakes with strawberries, toasted walnuts, and homemade whipped cream (eliminating the need for the homemade maple syrup on the table) and the best bacon I’ve ever had – COME ON!

(Your mouth is watering now just thinking about it, isn’t it? Mine is). It was during that meal that I started to wonder…How I can I get someone to pay me to do this? Travel around, stay in LOVELY inns, eat this magnificent food, and drink these luscious wines. This has got be someone’s job, yes? How else do places get Zagat rated or listed in Conde Nast? How do I get to be the person who rates and writes about these things?

Our first full day in the Wine Country was spent touring vineyards and wineries, tasting, and purchasing “souvenirs” (translation – a case of wine comprised of our favorite vintages from varies vintners.) Our absolute favorite winery of the trip was Frog’s Leap Winery.  Yes, the wine was wonderful and the Vineyard House was tres “farmer chic.” But what we LOVED about it was it’s eco-consciousness. It has a Silver Rating for Sustainability, is 100% solar powered, organically and dry farmed, not to mention simply quaint and fun. The corks for their wine say “Ribbit” on them! In a world where pretension can run rampant, the Frog’s Leap tour was light-hearted and irreverent, which made it all the more enjoyable. We rewarded it with our patronage and made our largest single purchase of wine there.

Hungry from our tours, we returned to the inn, made some gourmet smores by the fire pit, and dressed for our official anniversary dinner at the Farmhouse Inn Restaurant. (Did I mention the Inn restaurant has a One-Star Michelin Rating?) the Beer Guy and I agreed that our dinner that evening was the BEST MEAL either of us had EVER eaten. It began with an amuse-bouche of shrimp bisque topped with Calmondin lime foam. AI-YAI-YAI! When the Master Sommelier assisted us in selecting a wine to complement both the Rabbit Three Ways Beer Guy ordered and the Guinea Hen with Ricotta Stuffed Gnocchi I ordered, he warned that the peas garnishing our Wild Mushroom Cantelloni appetizer might give the wine a slight “green” taste. It took all the strength I could muster not look at him with a straight face and say “Ah, yes, I can see how that would be disappointing.” Come on! He’s a Master Sommelier. Of course he’d notice that. But what are the chances WE would. “Green” taste because of 4 peas in the appetizer or not, that meal was BEYOND description. If you had to put a word to it, my best guess would be …ORGASMIC! We each agreed we were on the verge of a Meg Ryan moment from When Harry Met Sally. I mean, who needs sex when the food is that good! Dinner was, of course, completed with desert wines, Ricotta Cheesecake for the Beer Guy, and Creme Brulee for moi. Aahhh…Bliss.

Day 2 “in country” we headed into Healdsburg, a charming little town in the heart of the Russian River Valley, where we hit three tasting rooms, bought more “souvenirs,” and had a delicious seafood tapas lunch. Then it was off to a couple more wineries before heading back to the inn.

If you haven’t noticed, I was a little preoccupied with the food situation in Sonoma County. Every single meal was exquisite. I think I gained 10 lbs on that trip. Who cares, though. It’s worth being fat to eat food that good. It was SO good, in fact, that I ate it at a snail’s pace, not wanting it to end, which made me feel as if I had eaten three times the amount of food. By the time we got to dinner at Zazu that last night in Forestville I, for the first time in my life, was not hungry!! Me! Not hungry!! How unfamiliar! I sat down, perused that creative menu, and thought… “I got nothing. I literally have no internal motivation to eat anything.” In the end I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup…the swanky gourmet versions made from Guyere cheese, artisan bread, and organic tomatoes… fresh from the garden.

We, unfortunately, had to check out of the darling inn the next morning…after a third divine breakfast. We headed to Armstrong Woods near Guerneville to check out some redwoods. Man, those are big trees!! We then took our time making our way down the Pacific Coast Highway soaking in as much of the majestic scenery as possible. I think we stopped to play on four different beaches. Our pictures are great, but they don’t do the real things justice!

We landed back at The Drake around 6:30pm that night. It had taken us a little over 7 hrs to make the 90 min trek from the Wine Country back to San Francisco. Since we were exhausted and had one bottle of wine that wouldn’t fit in the box we shipped back home we decided to have a little wine and cheese picnic in our hotel room. Like everything else we did and saw on our trip, that too was LOVELY. We just weren’t ready to give up the Wine Country. I kept thinking that if we’d have lived here, I may never have left California…

…but I might also be living in a Betty Ford Clinic…

Last year we were living it up in a food and wine gold mine.  (Seriously, that’s got to be what heaven is like!)  This year, we spent our anniversary guzzling beer and cracking open these…

at the Ole Miss Alumni Crawfish Boil, of course.

What a difference a year makes!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: https://kitchendoesnttravel.com/archives/4

The Original Idea (He Said)

Who Are We? People who like to eat, drink, and be married. And for your reading pleasure, we’ll share our thoughts on food, drink, and travel, as well as photos from along the way. We’ve moved a bit over our first decade together, and now Charlotte is home.

As for the “Kitchen Doesn’t Travel” bit — WG (WineGirl) loves her some Spain Show. She’s written up the origin of the phrase, replete with paella, in her introduction.

With a nom de plume of BeerGuy, you’ll be expecting me to be something of a beer connoisseur. While I may not be an expert, it’s not for a lack of trying. I was drinking beer before my first coffee. My first sip of the barley beverage was as a youngster, as my brother and I fought over who would deliver a cold one to the old man. He who retrieves also opens, and in my case, sneaks a tipple. I recall the taste of Pabst Blue Ribbon to be both foreign and a little bitter, not unlike a child’s view of becoming a man.

As middle school gave way to high school, I’d sneak more than a sip, and when the nest was emptying (I was the baby), I somehow got in the habit of drinking my own beer with Dad. He didn’t complain, so neither did I, and it certainly goes better with Greek pizza than Coke. At that time, we were quaffing Olympia, or “Oly” as my elder uncle called it. Uncle is an accomplished beerman in his own right, though tending towards the lower-priced lagers.

College came and went, lubricated by Miller Lite and paced with futile attempts at chasing girls. At that age, differences in beer were between Bud and Miller, though I had the decency to avoid Natural Light (where were you when I needed you, Beer Advocate?).

After college, a drinking tour of Europe with big brother (does that make him Br’er Beer?), and my tastes widened with the horizon. More travel and tasting, and now I look for micro-brews on draft. I’ll always try something new or local. Happily, WineGirl no longer impugns the malted medicine by comparing it to “horse piss”, and she’ll try anything as long as it’s not too hoppy.

I don’t know when it first happened, that I started pairing beer and food in the fashion that many do with wine. I tapped into this deeper knowledge of draft, when I recognized the traits of a good breakfast beer.

So What’s This All About? WineGirl and I like to try new foods and drink, and she’s helping re-focus my interest in travel and landscape photography to a subject that’s tasty. Besides, why should you drink a skunky beer if you can be forewarned here first?

Join us as we sample from near and far …


Beer Guy

Permanent link to this article: https://kitchendoesnttravel.com/archives/20

The Original Idea (She Said)

Who Are We? We are what my brother-in-law refers to as D.I.N.K.s – Double-Income-No-Kid yuppies. We are a couple of 30-somethings with healthy appetites who’ve been married for a while. We’ve lived in Charlotte for the last 5 yrs after doing a brief stint in San Diego. Although we are not polar opposites, we are different enough to keep life interesting. I’m a Mac, he’s a PC. I’m a planner, he’s more adventurous. I like structure, organization, predictability, and indoor fun. He’s truly a Boy Scout at heart who legitimately enjoys all things “outdoorsy”…as well as helping little old ladies across the street. He loves hiking, camping, biking, and all that jazz. Despite being raised in small-town Alabama, I am a city girl at heart and do not – I repeat DO NOT- share his outdoorsy inclinations. My idea of camping is staying in a hotel that does not offer room service. It didn’t take my hubby long to realize that if he wanted to share THOSE interests with his spouse, he had clearly married the wrong woman! One of the things we do have in common, however, is that we both love to eat and we appreciate good drink. We’ve joked for years that our only shared hobby is going out to dinner.

We’ve always said that one of the benefits of being D.I.N.K.s (and intending to stay that way) is that we can fly off to New York or Paris on a moment’s notice. The reality is that, since I finished graduate school and joined my hubster in the working world, we’ve gotten caught up in the minutia of the daily grind and have barely explored the world outside Charlotte, much less jetted off to Paris. By day, I am a Speech-Pathologist. By night, I’m a budding foodie and wannabe sommelier who’s always harbored a secret desire to be a writer. So, on this blog at least, I’ll be known as the Wine Girl. My hubby, on the other hand, has had a deep seated appreciation of beer since…well, since before it was legal for him to have it. But I’ll let him explain introduce himself to you next.  One thing I will tell you about him, though, is through careful and varied tastings over the years, he has succeeded in making a beer drinker out of me as well. To that end, he will be known as the Beer Guy in this little corner of the world.

What Does “Kitchen Doesn’t Travel” Mean? Last year I became obsessed with a series Chef Mario Batali did for PBS called Spain…On the Road Again.  Basically, he, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Bittman (NY Times Food Writer) and Claudia Bassols (Spanish Actress) took a culinary and cultural road trip across Spain. In the 12th episode (Pure Paella), Gwyneth & Mario traveled to Valencia, where paella was born, to learn to make the quintessential Spanish paella. While eating the paella with the family Mario asked them So what do you think of paellas from other regions of Spain? The translated response was this: “They are not paellas. Kitchen does not travel. You must eat it where it is born.”

To us, that was a call to action. The wheels started turning and the idea for this little blog was born.

So What’s This All About? We are tired of just going through the “work-go home-eat-sleep-work” rut we’ve let ourselves get into. We want to take “the joy of life” a little more seriously. We’re going to take our mutual interest in good food and drink, along with a relatively new mutual interest in photography (new for me at least), and have some new adventures – big and small, near and far. Armed with my MacBook Pro, his Think Pad, and our new Nikon D90 we will document and share our adventures in cooking, tasting, eating, drinking, and traveling…all the while trying to learn how to use this darn thing:

Please to enjoy…

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: https://kitchendoesnttravel.com/archives/3