Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sunday in Dry Creek Wine Country

This Sunday we drove to Healdsburg, dog in tow. It was spectacularly sunny and warm, the mustard was in bloom, and our spirits were high. It was also the day when one of our favorites (and Frannie's too!) Preston Vineyards & Winery, fills it's famous Guadagni, red table wine in a jug. Yes, a jug.

They limit the stuff to 1 per person, and 1 jug equals about 4 bottles. A more friendly and drinkable jug wine, you will not find. It's only available on Sundays, and yes, they offer refills. We discovered it by happy accident a few years ago, and now we're hooked. A couple of Sunday's a year, we make the trek to Preston. Such a hardship!

Preston is my favorite Dry Creek winery (just outside of Healdsburg). It's an organic farm as well, which you'll surmise from the farm stand on the front porch, where you can pick up apples, peppers, homemade sauerkraut, pickles, greens and rice, and pay on the honor system in a small basket on the table. There are a few picnic tables in the front yard, a bocce ball court, and a ton of cats running around the farm.

I love their wines, especially the Barbera, Syrah and Madame Preston (a white blend). I highly recommend making a stop there, if you happen to be in the area. And on that note, I need a some recommendations for Dry Creek wine country. Anyone have a favorite up there that I should check out?

We were missing a few partners in crime for this (Fledge, Les, Shem, Whit & Bri, next time!) and I wanted them to know that they were missed.

Dry Creek in Pictures

Frannie loves Healdsburg

Frannie loves the car (and Lauren)

Frannie loves open windows

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thoughts on a Monday

I think it's time for some posts that are not food-related (though it tends to weasel it's way in) and this is what I'm thinking today:

1. I resolved not to buy a rice krispie treat one or more times a week from the cafeteria at work. 1 week + 1 day with 0 rice krispie treats and counting! So far, resolution has been very successful. I have willpower.

2. Saturdays in Dolores Park with friends +sun + picnic things are glorious. Even better when topped off with burgers at Benders and a dance party at Brian's.

3. Sundays in Healdsburg with the girls are wonderful. Sun + wine + vineyards full of mustard + Frannie = Heaven.

4.Sunny weekends in general are the best.

5.Brian took the picture above at our dinner at Pizzaiolo last week. I like it.

6.Feeling blue on Friday night, but Boyfriend took me to a movie, turned on a shower for me so that the water was hot by the time I got in it, and poured me a glass of wine when I got out. Then he watched an hour of very bad TV with me without complaining once, just because I wanted to. He is thoughtful. And the best.

7.I am addicted to this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X61BVv6pLtw

8. And lastly, this is a picture of my Best Friend Forever from my Birthday weekend/NYE. I heart it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Plum in Oakland

It's been a long time since I've blogged about a restaurant, and that's not to imply that I haven't had some great meals as of late, I have, but it's been a long time since I've had one as memorable as the one we had yesterday evening at Plum in Oakland.

I'd been looking forward to going to Plum since it opened in early October. Now that I've been, I can't believe I even waited that long. I'm kicking myself for not taking a copy of the menu, but from memory, here's what we had:

Chickpea Fritters with Wild Green Panisse & Housemade Yogurt (Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, a great combination of spice and then the cool tang of the yogurt)

Leeks Vinaigrette with Radish, Fresh Goat Cheese, Ash & Cress (Interesting combination, I know the ash sounds a bit strange, but it was hardly detectable)

Young Carrots with Breadcrumbs, Pickled Garlic and Wood Sorrel in Brown Butter (Carrots should always be served this way, tender and soaked in brown butter with crispy, crunchy breadcrumbs to compliment. Wonderful)

Parsnip & Grilled Pear Soup (the standout of the evening. Winter in a bowl.)

Some Sort of Steak with Roasted Potatoes (it was amazing, but I can't remember the details on this one. Suffice it to say that it was gone in about 2 minutes flat.)

Cheesecake in Jar with Poached Quince & Persimmon (Whimsical, creamy, tangy, sweet and smooth. Everything a dessert should be, with a great sense of fun.)

I have a food blog, so it's safe to say that I'm pretty nuts on the subject. I remember a good meal or a particular dish as though it's a momentous occasion in my life. I never forget the name of a restaurant I liked (that tends to run in the family) and I've been known to go so far as to tear up in joy when confronted with a plate, or bowl of something that really blows me away. It's the same feeling when you come across a really great book, or see a movie or play that will stay with you forever. I love when this happens. It happens less often than I'd like, but it happened last night with the Parsnip & Roasted Pear Soup, which was like velvet, cream and the taste of winter all in one bowl.

If I were ever able to make a soup like that one, I could consider myself extremely accomplished. It would be the equivalent of a PhD in soup making.

The new Chef at Plum is Charlie Parker, who used to work for The Cellar Door Cafe at Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz (I love that winery, but haven't been to the cafe yet). He's good at what he does, to say the least. He got two people who are fairly indifferent to carrots to suddenly take an extreme interest.

I highly recommend Plum. It's not cheap, but it's a great space for a inventive and delicious meal. Oakland scores another winner. I'm finding less and less reason to eat in San Francisco with such stellar competition rising in the East Bay.

Monday, January 10, 2011

30 - Chanterelles with White Wine, Butter & Parsley

Oh my.

What can I say? I don't have much by way of an excuse. Life, I guess. A pretty wonderful one at that.

I realize it's been about a month and a half since I've posted anything. In that time I've been a bit busy, let's run down the list, shall we?
  • I started a new job, one that (so far) I absolutely love. It's brought about my first real morning commute, which strangely enough, I don't mind. There's actually something sort of enjoyable about joining the masses on BART with my coffee and a good book. Half an hour to read and mentally prepare for the day ahead.
  • 3 weeks after I started said new job, I went on vacation for the holidays. I went home to Oregon, where I helped my sister prepare Christmas for her girls. I monitored Santa's progress on Norad with my 2 year old Niece, who was a bit torn by the idea of Santa. She liked the presents aspect, she didn't enjoy the idea of a strange, jolly, fat man coming sneaking into her house in the middle of the night. Smart kid, if you ask me.
  • I drove with my family to my hometown of Redding, CA. It's strange to go back to the place I spent my first 18 years, it feels like another life entirely. I enjoyed a pre-birthday dinner with my family and my best friend of 25 years, and spent the first hours of being 30 in Redding. Full circle you could say.
  • From there, we went to my favorite place on earth, Sea Ranch, CA, where we rented a beach house with many of my closest friends to celebrate 30 years, each other, and New Year's. So much to cover on this topic. Pictures will come soon, but suffice it to say for now, that I feel so very lucky for my family, my friends, and for all that I've been given. I never could have imagined feeling this good about turning 30. For one of the first times in my life, I can truly say that I feel like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. I can't tell you how wonderful that feels.
And now it's back to work, and that's not half bad. Although I did pick up the flu the day after vacation ended, Oh well. I'm recovering, and I'd say it was a fair price to pay.

So actually, I have been cooking a bit. The slow cooker has been a huge help, and a lot of what I've been up to has included old staples: Bolognese Sauce, Chickpeas with Spinach and Chorizo, Roasted Chicken and Kale Salad. There hasn't been a whole lot of experimentation going on.

But it's the perfect time for Chanterelles....butter, white wine and parsley...you don't need much else. Good quality chanterelles tend to stand on their own merit. This is a dish my Sisters and I make every Thanksgiving. And it's one I like to make as long as these babies are in season. Enjoy!

Chanterelles with White Wine, Butter & Parsley

1 tbsp butter
1/2 lb chanterelles, stems and tops sliced into good sized chunks
1/4 cup dry white wine
a generous pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper
a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat a large saute pan over medium. Add butter, once butter is melted, add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper, and let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mushrooms will start to release their liquid, that's normal. Add the white wine, and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook for about 3 more minutes or so, the mushrooms should be tender, but still slightly firm. Remove from heat, stir in parsley, and taste for seasoning. Serve hot.