Why we started this idea????

A passion for food, wine, friends and entertaining is a big part of our life. This is a way for us to document our experiences, passion for food & life and also share it with others.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oven Baked Green Beans with Wasabi Ginger Dipping Sauce

At long last summer came to Western Washington last week sticking around for one solid week. Blue skies, sun and temperatures in the high 70's low 80's.

The lack of sun is really no laughing matter. What it has done for the farmers and grape growers in the state is a pretty serious situation. Rumors of 70% less yield of grapes is a bit of a situation...and not the Jersey Shore type.

Even our own crops are suffering.

These are our early girl tomatoes planted June 23rd with an estimated 50 day maturation date....don't think that's going to happen.

This is a banana pepper plant that one of my teachers gave me for Principal appreciation week. Kind of sad isn't it.

The only thing that has been prosperous has been our herbs luckily.

But the bounty was a plenty at the farmers market this weekend. And green beans were what caught our eye.

Wanting to shake up our green bean preparation a bit I looked for some recipes for inspiration and came across some versions of recipes for baked panko crusted green beans that reminded of those sinful deep fried goodies served at many local restaurants but with a bit of a more healthy twist.

I decided to just go for it.

We prepped the beans.

Blanching them first prior to coating them. (Blanching is keep unless you want a very raw & crunchy bean on the inside.)

Added some smoked paprika, onion and garlic powder to a bowl of flower. Whisked a few eggs. And then added a bit of salt & pepper to a bowl of panko.

This is a bit of messy processing even while trying to keep both hands separate, touching different ingredients in the bowls, I still ended up with monster looking fingers by the end.

Once they were all coated we sprayed them with canola cooking spray and cooking them in the oven @ 450 for 20-25 minutes.

While they baked I made 2 dipping sauces. One was a Wasabi Ginger and the other a Sesame Hot Pepper.

We were happy with our result. They were very tasty. Just the perfect crunch on the outside but very tender on the inside. And the dipping sauces add a more flavor.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Finally A California Wine Trip...Day 4

We have to tell you day 4 was so sad... I think only leaving Cabo makes me as sad as I was that day...after wanting to come down to this area of our beautiful nation for so long to have to go after what felt like the quickest 4 day weekend of our life we were surely bumming.
A quaint walkway in downtown Sonoma
When we had originally booked our 8 p.m. flight out of San Francisco we had planned to leave Napa around noon & spend some time in San Francisco. Obviously that plan was initiated prior to ever having been into Napa.

Quickly upon entering Napa Valley we knew we'd want to spend as much more time there as we we could even on the Sunday we had to go home. So we adjusted our plans asking our group if they'd be willing to aim to get out the door by 10:30 on Sunday in hopes of making it all the way up to Calistoga and work our way out of town in route to San Francisco.

Everyone was surprisingly a good sport in this request for many reasons:
1) Saturday was a very full day of travel & tasting. We were all pretty tired.
 2) We did have our own car so we didn't need to disrupt every one's day.
3) The rest of the group was staying one more day than we were so they still had time to enjoy the area at a more leisurely pace.
But as I said everyone played good sport and got up early, although hanging a bit for the most of us.

We hit Starbucks on our way to highway 29. Today we had consulted Wally's Napa Highway 29 itinerary. My goal was to start backward from the list and work our way back to at least 4 wineries on our way outta town.

We drove to Calistoga in search of Chateau Montelena, if you know the movie Bottleshock at all this is the winery from the movie.

But we soon learned pretty much only; the winery, the contest in France,
"the wine" that won over the French wines and the wine makers were factual pieces of the movie.

The grounds were amazing, truly amazing.

A beautiful ivy covered chateau surrounded by a tranquil lake with Asian pagodas (? not sure of the match of this) but regardless it was breathtakingly lovely.

We were actually treated to a private back room tasting because we had a party of 7. The wines were all good...this was the first place we tasted a wine that was priced over $100.

After tasting we enjoyed the grounds a bit before heading out to Sterling Vineyards.

Sterling is a very large winery with a gondola ride included in the tasting price that escorts you up to the winery and their self guided tour.

G & M the Ranger on the Gondola ride
It was a stunning day so the views were amazing.

Sterling is obviously a huge production winery. These barrels were crazy big.
We did the tour in a rather hasty pace and then had to decide what we had time for.

By this time G was starving to say the least, and it was 1:30 (Our goal was to leave town by 2:30ish) so we decided to skip my other desired stops (Castello di Amorosa and Grigch Hills) and go get some greasy food instead.

Which was a good call. R had recommended Gott's Roadside Diner and we had seen it on the food network as well so Gott's it was.

We arrived and the line was crazy long but we were able to get a table.

G ordered some beefy burgers and we all indulged in burgers, fries, sweet potato fries & onion rings.
It definitely hit the spot after these 4 alcohol indulgent days.

It was time for us to go.

 We were definitely sad to leave but also just so satisfied with our trip. It was the perfect first taste of both Napa & Sonoma Valley...we definitely know there will be more trips to come and there is SOOOOO much more to do.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Finally...A California Wine Country Trip: Day 3

I have to admit by Saturday morning I woke up with a wee bit of that "Ohhhh...maybe I drank a little too much wine yesterday kind of feeling." Or maybe it was all that wine, 2 delicious cocktails, more wine and some sparkling wine to top it off. "Oh yeah, maybe not the best idea." But hey its a wine country vacation.

Needless to say we were off to a bit of a slower moving start. But once we were ready we consulted Local Wally's 10 Wineries in Sonoma in 1 day trail (Love the Local Wally's itineraries.)

Now we knew 10 wineries in Sonoma would be pushing it for us. It just takes more time moving in a group of 7,not a bad thing just a fact, but we thought we'd try to see how far we could go. We decided today to pack our own picnic lunch to bring along. We had bought a ton of cheese, crackers, bread, olives and salami when we arrived to town for this purpose.
Actually the first winery on the Local Wally's list as Domaine Carneros, since we had hit that the day before but were in the same area we decided to follow a recommendation that a wine pourer from Artesa had recommended the day before; Larson Winery. How could we not go to Larson Winery?

We arrived at Larson and G & I felt like we were back in Washington wine country.

The feel & vibe of the place was much more Tri-Cities or Walla Walla than we had experienced to this point in Napa.

We were very happy to have taken this recommendation. The wines were great and there dogs all over the property.
Tasting @ Larson Winery
The good thing for our budget was that we had limited ourselves to checking only 6 bottles of wine to bring back. The bad thing was when you went somewhere like Larson you wanted to by more than just 1 bottle to bring back. But we kept to our plan and only picked up their Reserve Chardonnay which was great.

It was a hit amongst our whole group really I know at least two from our party signed up for the wine club even. Great friendly place to start our day. And after this tasting I was starting to feel like myself again. (I guess it's that "hair of the dog" wives tail come true.)

Next stop was Jacuzzi from Wally's guide. None of us had heard of Jacuzzi wine before..but we read and later heard the story that indeed this was the family that invented the Jacuzzi.

And what a find this place was. It was awe inspiring beautiful.

Something you'd imagine to be in Italy or something.
When we walked in it was quite crowded being that it was a Saturday.

 We worried about being able to get up to the bar but we found a place down at the end with our own personal pourer, Don.
We were off to a good start from there.
 Don educated us about their wines, the story of the amazing Jacuzzi family.

 and the origin of why they invented to jacuzzi to comfort their ailing son and not have to take him all the was to San Francisco for water therapy.

We all really enjoyed our self and the wine as well. I think 2 more wine clubs were signed up for within our group while there too. And Don recommended bringing our picnic to enjoy on their FANTASTIC grounds.

We found a spot and set out our wonderful lunch.

It was truly FAB.

It was hot, blue skies and sunny.

We were with awesome people.It was possibly one of the best days I've had in a really long time.

After a bit Don brought us out some dessert wine served in chocolate cups. He was so hospitable.

 I mean that place was hopping w/ people the fact that he made a special trip to bring us this treat was serious customer service for some tourists.

I personally think Jacuzzi was my favorite place of the 4 days. Maybe not my favorite wine but definitely a great experience. We came home with a bottle of their prosecco.

It was time to head out after checking it all out. Next on our list was Homewood.

We headed down the road driven by our faithful driver K, who was the gal at the wheel, she was fantastic carting our group around pretty much the whole weekend.
Relaxing as K drove us through the beautiful vineyards

We were all grateful.

 Homewood Winery was almost the antithesis of Jacuzzi.

 Totally small operation winery and tasting room. They were actually having a case sale so we got 5 tastes paired with 5 foods for free.(crazy... wouldn't 
 even happen in a Washington Winery.) We were all kind of bummed that we had just eaten lunch and were already so full. But the Chocolate cupcake with granache and bacon was a memorable taste from our visit there.

By this time we were starting to get worried about how much time we had left that day. So far we had only made it to 2 wineries and it was close to 3:00.

But we charged on trying to find Buena Vista Carneros Winery, California's oldest winery.

We did get a little lost somehow but made it there somehow.

Buena Vista had that old time charm that I love.

We had a ditsy  (in a good way) kind of pourer who kept us smiling throughout our tasting and was just determined that we'd walk away from there having joining their wine club.

That didn't happen.
But we did bring home a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and a great smelling candle.

It had beautiful grounds and was very secluded.

Now it was after 5:00 and most wineries were closed or closing at 5:30 but we remembered Cline directly across from Jacuzzi was open until 6:00 so attempted to make it.

We drove up directly at 6:00 the doors were still open and we were getting psyched.

We thought we had made it. But just as the first person in our party approached the door they closed it and told us they were closed.

We were bummed a bit but decided to

check out the grounds while we were there.

Next we headed into the actual town of Sonoma.

 R had made us a dinner reservation for 7:30

so we thought why not stop at a local beer pub to pass the time?

We did but pretty quickly decided that this may not have been a great idea or the ambiance we were hoping for.

So we had a one quick drink and headed to the restaurant: Della Santina's Trattoria found within the square of downtown Sonoma.

We only had the walk to the restaurant to window browse the shops.
Cookbook spotted in bookstore
They were all closed by this time but there were a few that caught our eye that must be visited again.

(Here comes theme #2 of our weekend, are you ready for it? So our first night at dinner M the Ranger was talking about the SNL skit   "caulk in the crack"...when we got back to the house that evening we busted out the ipad and found it on YouTube to refresh our memories.)
To see the skit yourself follow the link.

We all laughed and laughed. And "cocks" became a pretty heavily used term over the 4 days. (Hey there were no children around we were definitely not on our best school behavior.)

So upon entering Della Santina's we were all pretty happy, maybe on the verge of slightly obnoxious, and to our surprise what does he have all over within his decor... but COCKs..and someone in the party made a slightly inappropriate comment related to our cock jokes and the owner joined right in stating to us, "be careful keep your hands off my Italian cocks." We were in tears laughing.

So not only did we know we were in the right place because Rachel Ray had been here on her show but the owner had a great sense of humor and actually took such good care of us during our whole meal.

Since we had made a rather last minute reservation we weren't able to sit outside in the lovely courtyard which was fine. But it was very charming...maybe next time.
We were all pretty hungry and in need of some solid food by this time without doubt.

We started with a couple of appetizers for the table including

prosciutto wrapped melon with white peaches & balsamic. Both the melons and peaches were just perfectly ripe and the prosciutto was excellent.

We also had ricotta stuffed mozzarella with sliced pancetta.This was so delicate and creamy. Both were incredibly yummy. Luckily the group quickly adapted to our annoying habit of photographing everything we ate.

We also ordered a few bottles of wine for the table. (Here's one good aspect of photographing everything...I would of never remembered what we ordered.) At least one of the bottles was a cab from a winery that the owner, who also served us, explained was made by a friend of his in Sonoma. It was very good. G wants to visit this winery next trip we make to Sonoma.

Next our entrees arrived; some great dishes were ordered about the table; braised rabbit,
Braised rabbit with polenta
seafood pasta, lasagna, and cannelloni.

G ordered the tortelli with meat sauce. We learned tortelli was actually large ravioli. G loved his dish.

I had penne alla fungi..which was so wonderful. The perfect meal to soak up all of the wine consumed.
Hazelnut Gelato
Lemon Tart

We were all pretty stuffed but spent some time contemplating dessert. I think after all of the discussion only 2 desserts were actually ordered for the table..but the owner ended up additionally bringing a few extra desserts including tiramisu.

Really we recommend Della Santina's as a must try for Italian cuisine and ambiance in Sonoma. Of course it's the only restaurant G & I have eaten @ in Sonoma...but we'd go back and recommend it to anyone who asks.

From here we were done for the night. We headed back to the house for a rather lively and competitive game of Scrabble.

Without a doubt it was an incredibly full and fantastic day in Sonoma. I was already dreading that tomorrow we had to go home.