Here's a clever idea--- stems and leaves of fresh thyme tied into an herbaceous crown, created and modeled by a young woman at the Riverdog Farm stand in the Berkeley Farmer's market.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Monday, October 30, 2017
Sunday, October 8, 2017
Saturday October 7th we headed to Amador County for this year's Big Crush celebration
We had no real plans, so when we reached Plymouth we took Shenandoah Road and after passing a few familiar wineries, we stopped at Vino Noceto for the first time.
Amador county is known for its zinfandels, but the staff was also pouring a delicious moscato blend from a jug. Both wines complemented the pizzas they were serving.
Dean relaxed after the long drive while I took took photos of the signpost which gave directions and distances to Noceto, Italy (5,921 miles), Walnut Creek (110 miles) and Vino Noceto (49 feet.)
Next we drove up the road to Andis where I bought a rosé, tasted the curried squash soup and enjoyed the view from the ultra modern hilltop winery.
On to one of our favorites, Amador Cellars, which has excellent reds and a small scale crush every year-check it out
We always visit Helwig with its beautiful amphitheatre overlooking a hive of activity: people drinking and eating, playing cornhole, listening to live music and enjoying the beautiful weekend.
|the happy couple leaving the winery with wineglasses in hand|
Our last winery was one I had never heard of, but the Hungarian name and the chicken paprikash were appealing, so we headed up the long and winding one lane drive to Dobra Zemlja.
The setting was idyllic. We sat at tables on a huge green lawn with our wine, and gazed at the pond full of splashing ducks and a beautiful snowy egret hunting for his dinner.
By now it was late afternoon and the event was over for the day. We collected our souvenir big crush glasses and headed home.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
|A bouquet of nasturtiums on my table|
I love nasturtiums, probably because they were my mother's favorite flower, and I am so lucky to be living in Berkeley where the colorful blooms pop up everywhere throughout June. They thrive in our Northern California climate. When I want flowers on my table, I head to the streets and forage. No one seems to mind that I pluck their cheerful nasturtiums into beautiful bouquets and head straight home to put them in water. In fact, strangers start conversations while I'm snipping, commenting on the beauty of my bounty, probably assuming I'm picking from my own garden.
|I've picked in the flat lands|
|I've picked in the hills|
|And most often I pluck from a side yard in the Gourmet Ghetto|
During nasturtium season I enjoy the freshly foraged flowers on my dining room table and on a recent Sunday afternoon my guests raved about the vivid centerpieces at an alfresco lunch on our deck.
|The red wine BBQ chicken is still on the grill|
Monday, June 5, 2017
Jean Cocteau (July 5, 1889 — October 11, 1963) was a French artist, poet, novelist, playwright, designer, and film director. He wrote the the novel Les Enfants Terribles in 1929 and produced thousands of drawings, paintings, films and ceramic works. Above is the spectacular museum in Menton, France which was built by the city to house their collection of his paintings, drawings, and films. The idea for the museum came about when the art collector Severin Wunderman donated 1500 Cocteau works to Menton in 2005 with the condition that the town build a dedicated Cocteau museum. And what a museum Menton built. My Lonely Planet guide book says: "This futuristic, low-rise building is a wonderful space to make sense of Cocteau's eclectic work." When I read this glowing report, I reserved a day at the end of our 2016 Provence trip to visit Menton and the museum. It's only an hour's drive from Nice on an auto route high above the spectacular Mediterranean coast.
In case you think Cocteau's works are relegated to museums and dusty bookshelves, this Memorial day weekend's performance of Les Enfants Terrible in San Francisco will set you straight. Theatre Parallel performed a dance-opera spectacle of Cocteau's 1929 novel set to an operatic score by Phillip Glass, to honor his 80 birthday. It was quite a surreal experience
Cocteau's drawings and paintings are awe inspiring in their variety, and they unfold as you make your way around the museum.
In the collection was a striking painting by Cocteau's contemporary, Sonia Delauney.
Une Jolie Village, as our cab driver described Menton when I told him we had driven there the previous day. But it had been a Monday and the market across the street from the museum was closed, as was the three star restaurant in town, plus it's on the Italian border... So we'll have to return. I can't wait!
Thursday, May 25, 2017
This is the picture that got me. As a sucker for oozing chocolate chip cookies, I lighted up when I made my occasional scan of David Lebovitz's blog and saw this outrageous photo. Then I noticed the tahini and I headed straight for the kitchen.
The dough came together quickly, but I adjusted the recipe to my personal taste and used half the chocolate chunks (Scharffen Berger bittersweet and semisweet pieces) and I added a cup of walnuts to the mixture. Next time I'll add even more. Also, because I'm not a fan of the salty-sweet trend, I omitted the salt sprinkles at the end. I like a classic sweet cookie, even though David's first word is "salted."
|My cookies just out of the oven cooling on the tray|
bittersweet baking bar boxes. The company no longer includes these recipes, so I'm glad I kept the leaflets from the bittersweet and semisweet baking bar packages.
Saturday, May 13, 2017
Having been forced by a back injury to cancel our trip to Japan last week, I decided to spend a day in Calistoga, our nearby go-to spot for fun and relaxation. The weather was gorgeous and I could soak in the hot tub and read in a lounge chair, perfect for convalescence.
Calistoga, tucked into the base of Mount St. Helena at the top of the Napa Valley, is famous for it's hot springs, and offers all the rustic charm of a 19th century western resort town. It has never attained the sophistication of neighboring towns like St. Helena and Yountville down the road, so it retains its 1940s aura, in a breathtaking setting beneath the palasades pictured above. Being only an hour and a half from Berkeley, it is a perfect getaway for a day or two of fun. We always go on a weekday, stocking up on baguettes and cheese from the Cheeseboard before we leave, and picnicking on the tables provided by the spa.
|Dean and I poolside at the Calistoga Spa and Hot Springs with his parents in the early 90's|
Dean introduced me to Calistoga shortly after we met in 1989. He had been visiting there for many years with his parents. They always stayed at the Calistoga Spa and Hot Springs, but in warm weather the two of us would just buy a day pass and take advantage of the hot tub, huge pool, sauna and lounge area. These days we like to stop for dinner at one of Napa Valley's great restaurants and head home to our cat.
|Dean, summer of 1992|
|Dean and his mother Ros|
|Another photo of me around 1992|
|Mount View Hotel pool|
After years of frequenting the same spa and finding it more crowded, more expensive and less convivial, we walked across the street to the Mount View Hotel and found that they too sold day passes. The pool area was serene, and though the hot tub and pool were smaller, the private and peaceful atmosphere more than made up for it. It felt like we had arrived at our own private pool in Spain. We have been going there ever since.
|Mount View Hotel swimming pool|
We've gone to Calistoga together close to 100 times now. Many years we've gone for Thanksgiving. It's our tradition to go up Wednesday evening, stop at Mustard's Grill on Rte 29 for a great burger, and continue on to our hotel.
A few years ago we stayed at the Mount View, awoke early on Thanksgiving day to cool mists hovering over the pool, had breakfast in our room, checked out, and spent the rest of the day basking in the warm sun (alone) until it was time for turkey at The Calistoga Inn, our favorite Calistoga eatery.
|I'm enjoying my breakfast sandwich with coffee on Thanksgiving morning|
|A brilliant mid-day display on Thanksgiving|
|Dean clowning around in the bright sun on Thanksgiving day 2014|
Last week after a restful day, it was hot enough to dine on the splendid patio at the Calistoga Inn. We try to get there early enough to get a table overlooking the Napa River and we eat accompanied by birds singing in the overhanging trees and the occasional family of ducks on the water. They have a great chef, and not enough people take advantage of this lovely spot. The Calistoga Brewery is on site, and we particularly like their refreshing Red Pale Ale.
|Patio dining at the Calistoga Inn on Lincoln Ave in Calistoga|
|This time we ordered Chef Nicholas' inspired asparagus and prosciutto salad with arugula and pecorino|
Our other favorite restaurants are Redd Wood in Yountville and Bistro Don Giovanni on Hwy 29 in Napa, both right on our way home. So even if we can't soak in a Japanese bath in Kyoto, a day in Calistoga comes pretty close. It will have to do for now...