Monday, July 28, 2014

2014 Wine Bloggers Conference- Intro.

Just a few weeks ago, the hubbs and I packed our bags and headed down to beautiful Santa Barbara county to attend the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference in Buellton, California. Having missed the previous year in Penticton, British Columbia, we were excited to be joining our hundreds of fellow writers on California's central coast to sip, savor, discuss and discover wine from SB county and circling the globe.

With so much of the conference to cover, I really had to edit my photos and stories down to a select few due to sheer capacity of wines tasted and fun had. From the various appellations in Santa Barbara county alone, to Portugal and Spain, it was delight to sample so many unique wines amongst some of the best citizen and industry wine bloggers around. The hubbs is an old hand at this event, having attended six of only the seven overall conferences, but this time I was in tow- not quite sure what to expect (since I'm not exactly labeled a wine blogger), but thrilled to be attendance nonetheless.

Begin at the beginning...

Oh the glory that is Pea Soup Anderson's . What is there to say about this magnificent place? It's an institution amongst those of us who had to endure the long journey between Northern and Southern California on a regular basis during our youth- a beacon of solace in a sea of pea green wonderment, decked out with wooden shoes and cuckoo clocks, a putting green, tiny swimming pool and giant neon soup bowl. We were able to snag a room here for a great price and with the recent renovations, it wasn't too bad at all for a few nights of wine soaked sleep. Clean, comfortable and quirky, PSA was our homebase of sorts for the length of conference. It suited us well and was just a short & sobering five minute walk from the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, where the conference was being held.

Pre-check in to the conference and post our six and half hour drive from home, we needed some sustenance and refreshment to help prep for the days to come. It is here we discovered an oasis of hops and ale, a dark and metallic cave of coolness, the fantastic Firestone Walker Taproom. A taproom that will haunt me endlessly as I sit up here in the north, unable to waltz into the modern, yeasty, air-conditioned heaven. 

"The Taproom specializes in brewhouse bistro cooking with an emphasis on local flavor. The Taproom is ultimately an extension of the Firestone Walker brewing philosophy—the finest and freshest ingredients, prepared with care and presented from a distinctively regional perspective."

"The Taproom features our four award winning Firestone Walker beers in addition to eight alternating beers on tap. Patrons of the bar may enjoy 1/2 pints or imperial pints of our beers."

And so we did. We started with lunch and a few different pints of frothy goodness. We shared one of their Cobb Salads with local greens, chicken, tomato, avocado, bacon, bleu cheese, egg & ranch dressing and split a plate of the Seared Ahi Wontons with pan-seared rare sushi-grade Ahi tuna, served with Asian slaw, avocado & crispy wontons. Both dishes were exceptional, considering the that pub food has the tendency to be too heavy and greasy- the cobb salad was seasoned well, presented nicely and tasted fresh and crisp. The seared ahi was delicious and delicate, pairing very well with my tall glass of Firestone Walker 805 Beer.

"A beer crafted for the coast. 805 is a light, approachable brew. Born from an all malt recipe and finished with a touch of hops, it's slightly sweet with a clean finish. 805 is the perfect followup to that ultimate surf session or to reward a hard day's work."  

This beer is addictive. Like summer in a can. I've already researched where it can be found up here in Northern California and was thrilled to learn that we'll be able to get our hands on it within a few miles from home. Hooray! Thank goodness for that. We can stock up and bring to all of our favorite summertime bbq's and pool parties- such a great match for grilling and chilling this season.

With over 40 beers under the Firestone Walker label, it's hard to choose just one.  For you brew junkies out there, check out for more info on the brewery, the taproom, the barrelworks and where you can find your own 805. Trust me, you'll be happy you did.

Stay tuned, there's much more to come regarding the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference...


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Holman Ranch.

On a sun-drenched Monday afternoon, the hubbs and I found ourselves rambling down the road deeper and deeper into the heart of Carmel Valley. After a the hustle and bustle of a busy weekend and a relaxing Sunday stay at The Quail Lodge, it was time to head towards our destination, located high above Carmel Valley Village. We were on our way to visit the beloved Holman Ranch- a huge homestead, winery and event location perched like a modest castle amongst the oak trees and rolling hills of the valley.  Rich in history and well known for its rustic hacienda, sprawling gardens and breathtaking vistas, Holman Ranch shines as a beacon of beauty in the majestic Carmel Valley appellation.

"The story of Holman Ranch is truly unique; a special story about a wonderful place that began when California was still part of Mexico. Under the Crown of Spain, the ranch was part of the lands bestowed to the Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo. When the Mexican government secularized the mission lands, one of the first ranchers in Carmel Valley, Don Jose Manuel Boronda, was granted the Los Laureles Rancho—6,625 acres that included what is now Holman Ranch. Their ranch passed through many hands until the Pacific Improvements Company acquired it in 1882.

In 1928, a San Francisco businessman, Gordon Armsby, was attracted to the rich farmland and leisurely pace of Carmel Valley, and purchased 600 acres in the Los Laureles area of the Valley, including what would be Holman Ranch.

Armsby hired Clarence Tantau (of Del Monte Hotel fame) to design the home that would reside on his new property. Tantau and Armsby chose a classic Spanish-style hacienda, which proffered impressive stone walls—all built from local Carmel stone. They installed handmade Mexican terracotta roofing and hand-carved oak-beamed ceilings. Nestled in a stand of mature oaks, nicknamed “Casa Escondida”, or “Hidden House”, the estate served as an exclusive hideaway for many Hollywood celebrities including Charlie Chaplin and Theda Bara."

As we reached the entrance to the ranch, located up rural Holman Road (of course)- a modest sign greeted us, along with a cow crossing and creaky steel gate. Our jaws dropped when we rolled to the top of the dusty road, marveling at the expanse of the ranch itself. We slowed the car to bask in our surroundings and took deep breaths of the fresh Carmel Valley air. I was overcome by sense of calm and serenity, much needed after a hectic few months of scheduling and social chaos.

Acres and acres of rolling green hills, horse stables big enough to hold nearly one hundred beasts, a shimmering lake surrounded by olive trees, beautiful oaks towering over brightly painted barns and outbuildings... It was like a rancher's dream world, all country and sky. Endless as far as the eye could see, you would never know that Holman Ranch existed so closely to touristy Monterey or crowded Carmel-by-the-Sea. This place, alone in the hills, is the very definition of bucolic paradise.

"Tucked away in the rolling hills of Carmel Valley, historic Holman Ranch provides a unique and memorable setting for weddings, special events, family gatherings, corporate retreats, and team-building events. With its charming gardens, stunning mountain views and serenity, this private estate affords old-world charm while providing modern day conveniences. This impressive property includes a fully restored stone hacienda, overnight guest rooms, vineyards, olive grove, horse stables and a tasting room where guests can sample our wines."

Having been invited to the ranch was a lovely surprise. Finally seeing the ranch in person was absolute eye-candy. Experiencing all that Holman Ranch had to offer put me in awe. Well, that and I was feeling quite content thanks to an earlier stop by the Holman Ranch tasting room, where we were able to sample their beloved wines...

"100% estate-grown wine varietals are planted on approximately 21 acres of undulating terrain. The wines produced are unfined and crafted to deliver the true varietal of the grape from harvest to bottle. The climate and terroir of the appellation has played a critical part in the success of our wines. The warmth of our inland valley coupled with the cooling marine layer has established itself as an ideal microclimate for the production of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Our Burgundy Clones have thrived from the perfect blend of ideal climate, southern exposure and thin rocky soils. The estate wines of Holman Ranch include: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rosé of Pinot Noir."

At the very tip top of highest hill on property lies a hacienda, the crown-jewel of Holman Ranch. Flanking that hacienda are quaint accommodations for overnight guests (reserved for wine members & event attendees only)- our home for that particular evening. Our room was rustic and charming, decorated in an old Western theme, complete with cowboy boot lamps. Clean, comfortable and completely private with perks like front porch rocking chairs and expansive valley views, this certainly was no bad way to spend the evening. We settled in and met up with the rest of our fellow media companions to enjoy a tour.

The main interior walkway- perfect for weddings and large outdoor events. The unique beauty of the Holman Ranch venue is that the various spaces can be completely customized to suit your individual needs. Notice the dual-entry carriage house in the distance? We were treated to a twinkle-lit buffet dinner that evening inside. Perfect area for a dance floor! Often used for receptions, with it's barnwood floors and country charm.

A beautifully manicured lawn is the perfect setting for an outdoor wedding, with one of the most spectacular views of the entire Carmel Valley.

The gardens are impeccably cared for, with native plants, fruit trees and shrubs.  Steal a moment in the shade of the giant oak trees or bask in the blaring sunshine on top of world.

Guests of the Ranch are also welcome to take a dip in one of the oldest, most historic "in-ground" pools in existence within the county. This pool served as a day spa getaway in the early 20's for those privileged enough to visit. 

Walkways wind around the property, making for a delightful afternoon stroll and enchanting background for photography. Horseshoes pits, a relaxing pond and an entire private game room are also on the grounds for your enjoyment.

The love and good energy Holman Ranch exudes can be seen and felt in every aspect of it's existence.

Wandering- what I do best.

Roses planted as part of the original Hacienda, with blooms as big as softball. The scent was intoxicating.

"Holman Ranch is full of romance and history. It is rustic and sophisticated, secluded and amazing. This stone hacienda offers the charm of its native gardens, the breathtaking vistas from every angle, the wonder of its olive groves and vineyards as well as the serenity and privacy of the historic estate itself. A world away yet close enough to everything our guests could need or desire, Holman Ranch offers unlimited possibilities for weddings, family reunions, corporate retreats, and any other special occasion. Holman Ranch is a place for togetherness, celebration, good friends, and family. It is truly the perfect place to create great memories."

Other fun details of Holman Ranch's event spaces...

-Game Room
"An old-fashioned game room equipped with all the modern amenities. A pool table, dart board, plasma TV, bar, jukebox, roaring fireplace and antique bar to entertain and amuse guests."
-Carriage House
"A rustically elegant space with a lofty, open-beamed ceiling, perfect for dancing or dinner for your event."
-Great Room
"Classic Mission architecture with original terracotta tile and beautiful views of the gardens greet you upon entering. A perfect location for intimate dining, enjoying cocktails, or lounging by a roaring fire."
-Conference Room
"Our fully furnished conference room offers a complete, modern and integrated system including a drop-down screen, projector, Wi-Fi signal, conference phone and sound system."
"Our private Hacienda chapel is beautifully adorned with relics salvaged from abandoned churches. Serene and intimate, this space is perfect for a ceremony of up to 50 people. Baptisms, blessings and memorials are also welcome in our chapel."

For more info on Holman Ranch, check out or contact the ranch at:
(831) 659-2640 | 

The ranch's tasting room is located at 19 E. Carmel Valley Road, Suite C, Carmel Valley, CA 93924. You can visit the tasting room to sample their wines, get more info on their wine club and find out more about how to plan your event at their stunning property.

Many thanks to our lovely hosts at Holman Ranch, our experience was one to remember and share with others near and far...

Be well,

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

étoile at Domaine Chandon.

Nestled on a ethereal hilltop in the heart of Yountville, Domaine Chandon sits regally amongst giant moss-covered boulders and aging oak trees, with vast sprawling lawns surrounding.  Vineyards cover most of the property, along with the winery, tasting rooms, and their prestigious Michelin starred restaurant, étoile.

"In 1973, Domaine Chandon became the first French-owned sparkling wine venture in the United States. But Chandon’s beginnings date back to 1690 with the father of champagne. A Benedictine monk and cellar-master at the Abbey of Hautvillers, named Dom Pérignon, set out to unlock the secret of sparkling wine and ultimately developed the traditional champagne method."

We visit the property often, sometimes riding our bikes up the hill for a refreshing glass of their sparkling rosé, other times with family and friends as a way to begin our wine tasting adventures. It is a Napa Valley institution, one with a presence, favored by many locals and visitors alike. Perhaps that is the reason they are the only winery in the valley with a restaurant on-site... The allure of Chandon is so strong, they are able to highlight not just their wine, but the spectacular food of étoile as well.  We were most certainly in for a treat that day, and I was beyond thrilled to be graciously hosted at one of the finest restaurants in town.

After a short but sweet tour of the facilities and a relaxed, sit-down sampling of Domaine Chandon wines in the garden, the hubbs and meandered over to the restaurant itself and were greeted warmly by the staff.  We were both equally as excited to finally sample the dishes of Chef Perry Hoffman, a kind young man we were introduced to at a previous wine event and had fun chatting with extensively.

"After joining the culinary team at étoile Restaurant at Domaine Chandon in 2007, Hoffman was quickly appointed Chef. There he captured critical attention in 2010, as the youngest American chef to be awarded a Michelin Star at age 25. Since then, étoile has maintained one Michelin Star for three consecutive years, in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Hoffman was also named a “Rising Star Chef” by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2010, and was a James Beard Foundation Semifinalist for “Rising Star Chef of the Year” in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, Hoffman was named one of Zagat’s “30 under 30,” and also received recognition from Food & Wine, as he was voted “The People’s Best New Chef: California.”

"étoile crafts its contemporary Californian menu around the wine experience and recommends pairings for every dish, both from the property's own label and beyond. The kitchen's accomplishments have a hint of French influence and a flair for originality worthy of its celestial name."

We were seated at one of their elegantly dressed tables with a serene view of the winery's oak grove and ponds and were introduced to our outstanding waiter, Scott. At étoile, service is intimate and very personalized, meaning every detail of the meal is thoughtful- it just so happens that Scott was training another member of staff that day, but her presence was subtle and professional with a cheerful smile.

The restaurant itself is sublime, decorated with modern accents, spacious windows and peekaboo views into the tasting room. When the weather improves, the seating will move outdoors, onto their expansive patio, complete with cafe lighting and a shade covered terrace that also overlooks the pond and gardens. Inside, beauty can be found in the floral arrangements by Kathy Hoffman, Chef Perry Hoffman's mother, also a local. She's well-known throughout the valley for her work in several different majorly influential restaurants for her use of color, texture, and visual wow. Succulents as far as the eye could see, along with fresh citrus of every kind, all grown on the property in étoile's gardens, orchids and tillandsia.


We began our meal with a dozen Beausoleil oysters, complimented by a bitter orange mignonette. The oyster were briny, yeasty and paired well with our Chandon champagne. We've both fallen in love with oysters in recent years, but have difficulty finding the freshest-of-fresh bivalves in the local area, much to our dismay. These oysters were certainly fresh and consistent, which was a delightful surprise, as we've been disappointed with different restaurants' standards in the past.

Next up, I chose the Dungeness Crab Salad with asparagus, sorrel, rhubarb and watercress sauce.  The crab tasted amazing- so fresh and sweet. The combination of vegetables garnished with beautiful edible flowers not only made my tastebuds happy, but the presentation brought a huge smile to my face.

The hubbs decided on the Chilled Spring Onion Soup with roasted sunchokes, preserved lemon creme fraiche and society garlic. A delicious introduction to Chef Hoffman's spring menu, bursting with flavor, practically tasting like the color green, as I've always imagined.

As a gift from the Chef, we were treated to this amazing dish of Sweetbreads with green garlic sauce, fried egg and dandelion. This was a surprisingly accessible way to enjoy sweetbreads- the green garlic and egg yolk made for a decadent burst of savory goodness. Again, the plating was impeccable.

Gift number two from Chef took both of our breaths away. Delivered on a plate of sea-blue glass, the Moroccan Spiced Octopus with page tangerines, petite radish, puffed quinoa and crystalline. As this dish was being delivered to us (thank you Chef!), other patrons in the restaurant turned their heads and whispered.  It was unbelievable. The octopus was cooked sous vide, making it incredibly tender. The Moroccan spice, mixed with tart tangerine and crispy radish was a delight on the palate. By far, one of my favorite dishes I've ever enjoyed in a restaurant. Period.

For our main courses, the hubbs went full throttle and chose the Pacific Sea Urchin Fettucini with fava leaves, black radish, yuzu and kumquats. A seriously luxurious pasta. I'm normally squeamish about sea urchin, but this sauce tasted as smooth as cream, buttery with hints of the ocean, sweet yuzu and crunchy radish.

I was utterly curious as to how Chef Hoffman would prepare a simple cut of fish, so my main course choice was the Scottish Salmon with heirloom beets, winter citrus, red orach and petite chervil. I was blown away by the crispiness of the salmon- achieved by using an extremely hot cast iron skillet. The hollandaise sauce was airy, almost puffy, and the beet puree blended well with the tangy citrus. 

Sweet, sweet dessert was a Dark Chocolate Torte with coffee ice cream and a chocolate bark dipped in gold dust powder. Like the name étoile (meaning "star" in french), the treat sparkled upon arrival and didn't last long on our plate.

The hubbs and I were absolutely taken aback by the quality, care, attention to detail and service at étoile. The careful craftsmanship that goes into Chef Perry Hoffman's food, combined with his presentation of superb dishes like the one's we were fortunate enough to relish, makes Domain Chandon's restaurant étoile universally celebrated destination. 

Many, many thanks to staff of Domaine Chandon and étoile for a truly memorable experience.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rainy Day Comfort.

It's Wednesday. I have the day off. It's pouring down rain. What other reason does a girl need to sit around in her jammies and eat comfort snacks and a cozy dinner? I threw pug in the car and drove up valley to find these tasty treats- I thought I'd share them with you...

To start, I'm kind of annoyed I didn't buy about 5-10 more jars of these juicy, mouth-watering little morsels. Brooklyn Hard Candy is built on a foundation of using the best ingredients to make the finest hard candy products- I bought the wild strawberry and I'm calling it love.


Brooklyn Hard Candy Company
"Launched in 2010 by two alums of Le Cordon Bleu London, Brooklyn Hard Candy has kept its concept delightfully simple: classic hard candy, made the old fashioned way, using natural flavors like blueberry and pear alongside old standbys like Meyer lemon and root beer. It doesn’t hurt that their simple, sustainable packaging has singlehandedly erased all associations we may have had of hard candy as the stuck-together stuff of elderly family friends’ candy dishes."

As a self-proclaimed sugar junkie, I usually go for the classics-- Skittles, Runts, Sour Patch Kids, Gummi Bears, Swedish Fish, Kit-Kat, Milk Duds, Twix, Rolo, etc. Mix all of those things with my new obsession, Three Twins Ice Cream and I'm a dentist's dream. I even used to work at a candy store.  Now that's what I call a bad combination! It's a wonder I still have all of my teeth.

I have yet to venture into the baked goods world of Napa Valley, only because I am aware that there are several world-famous bakeries in the area.  I can't seem to muster up the strength to tackle both candy and patisserie finds in one small blog entry. *Sigh* I'm just going to have to save my cupcake, pastry, doughnut and breads tummy for another rainy day.  Come to think of it, I better start swimming more at this sweet rate.


I've been going through a phase of munchies that I call the sweet & savory curse. I can't eat a piece of fruity candy without wanting something chocolate-y or savory. It makes sneaking a piece here or there quite difficult as I always end up not being able to break the vicious cycle. Thus, the reason I ended up with this can of heaven. 

"This homemade toffee recipe has been perfected over decades, starting out in Dot Smith’s kitchen in 1976. Now made by Dot’s grandson, Nick Belmont, this signature family candy is sold around the globe — though it stays true to style, still made by hand in the family’s hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina. Blending Belgian chocolate, sweet cream butter, pure cane sugar, only the best whole and crushed almonds, and a pinch of sea salt. Dottie’s Toffee accents special events, family gatherings, even your everyday workplace. It’s gourmet goodness; an indulgence for every sense."

For anyone and everyone who loves a superior toffee, you must get your mitts on a can of Dottie's. It is the closest thing to homemade you can buy, particularly if you don't have the skill or patience to make some of your own.  Dottie's can only be purchased online here in California, but if you're in the area, Dean & Deluca (in St. Helena) happens to have a small supply in stock on a regular basis. 


For dinner, I took the plunge and went for it. I'm talking pot pie. Chicken pot pie. All natural, all organic chicken pot pie from Twin Hens.  I couldn't help myself.  It's flaky crust and warm, gooey center were calling me from across the artisan food aisle. Considering that I've been trying to eat a little bit more healthy these days, a chicken pot pie seemed indulgent, but I was willing to splurge on a cozy, cloudy evening's main meal.


I had read about this company several times but wasn't able to locate any retailers in the area that actually sold their product- I'm told that Bristol Farms and Andronico's have the pies if there's one in your neighborhood.  I got this last pie from D&D in person, practically tackling the chic woman next to me as she went for the lobster mac and cheese instead. I win. Although, that mac and cheese might be next on my rainy day list.

That's all I've got for right now- we have some exciting stuff happening this weekend and a ton of upcoming events that will be a kick to write about about. Stay tuned!

Be well,

Monday, January 27, 2014

Napa Point Brewing Company.

This past weekend, the hubbs and I had the pleasure of visiting one of Napa's newest, most talked about gastro-tastic hot spots... Napa Point Brewing Company. To tell you we'd heard of it through the grapevine is a comical understatement to say the least--it seems as though every person in the valley was demanding we check this place out and I must say, we're glad we finally did!

Located just off of Highway 29, right outside suburban Napa proper, the brewery itself is tucked away in an unassuming business park, far from the crowded streets and hullabaloo of downtown.  Easy to find and with ample parking, you can zip right down Devlin Road to find the hulking establishment standing proud like a beacon of beer, alone amidst a sea of open fields and currently undeveloped land. The building itself is quite modest and neatly groomed, with simple architectural qualities and a pleasant presence.

What makes this place special is that it seems to be a labor of love on all accounts. From the owners to the brewmaster, this team is working hard to build up their beer reputation in the valley, rightfully so. There's only a small handful of breweries around these parts like Napa Smith Brewery, Downtown Joe's, Carneros Brewing Company and The Calistoga Inn & Brewery (to name a few), but it has become apparent that good ol' beer has its place amongst the vines and is developing a significant following amongst locals.

At Napa Point Brewing Company, Brewmaster Denise Jones, "is internationally recognized, having won over 300 awards. Her resume includes the Great Basin Brewing Company, Bluewater Brewing Company, and the Third Street Aleworks where she consistently achieved recognition for her brews with awards from the California State Fair, the Great American Beer Festival, and the World Beer Cup.  Prior to joining Napa Point Brewing, Denise was Brewmaster at Moylan’s Brewing Company where she produced world class beers that were distributed across the globe and continued to win local, state, national and international awards including Grand Champion Brewery at the prestigious 2011 Australian International Brewing Awards."

As soon as you arrive at the brewery, you'll enter their unique gastropub (they're still working out the kinks to get their actual taproom open soon- I told you they were new!) and are greeted with a smile. Take your pick of arranged seating or sidle up to the high-top pub tables and catch the game(s) on one their many giant flat-screen TV's.  If you prefer to sit outside, they've got a fantastic patio that is big enough for even the heartiest of groups, with giant handmade oak tables, Edison cafe lighting and ample room to get your drink on.  Once you're settled in, it's time to make some serious brewski decisions- pace yourself though, it's a big task with their large selection.

It wasn't a bad way to spend the late afternoon, happy to be sitting sit out in the sunshine with a sampling of 5 very generous pours (probably around 5oz. each), discovering Napa Point Brewing's sophisticated flavors:

Cryptic- India Pale Ale (I.P.A.)
"Assertive American grown hops from the Yakima Valley in Washington are the cornerstone of this West Coast standard. Two-row pale malt and California Ale yeast combine with the citrusy-pine flavors and aromas of Centennial and Cascade hops. Balanced to accent a firm bitterness to allow the unique qualities of a Northern California-style IPA to shine."

The Crusher- Golden Ale
"A highly drinkable golden ale with lager-like qualities. Pilsner malts, noble hops imported from Germany and pure Napa Valley water are set to a cool ale fermentation and the result is a remarkably crisp, clean, “crushable” beer."

Hefu- American Hefeweizen
"White wheat and pale two row malts blend together to offer a lively, refreshing ale with a natural citrusy flavor. The easy-drinking American-style wheat beer is served unfiltered for that distinctive cloudy appearance and can be accented with a lemon slice upon request."

N.A.P.A.- North American Pale Ale (My favorite!)
"Our Brew Master personally selects the ingredients from the finest fields of barley and hops in North America to create a brew of superior balance and exceptional drinkability. A pale ale worthy of the finest wine region in the world."

Stomper- Amber Ale

"Regarded as the stylistic standard of the original brews in California brewing history. Premium two-row and crystal malts are matched with select Northern Brewer hops to create a balanced and drinkable amber ale. Restrained bitterness allows the malt flavors to showcase in the finish."

All five of these beers were much more complex than I was expecting, in a great way.  I favored the N.A.P.A. pale ale for it's seamless blending of smooth texture and mild flavor, while the hubbs really liked the Stomper's malty robustness.


We hadn't initially intended on dining here, but of course time got away from us and before we knew it, it was sundown and our tummies were grumbling.  Our waiter was a polite young man, eager to help us along the way with our food choices, so upon recommendation we were handed two menus and forgot how full we were.  Their selection of tasty treats and belly-warming favorites is pretty hard to resist, no matter how big your previous meal was.  I found myself contemplating dishes that were nearly impossible to imagine eating at that moment in time, but went for it anyways, because HEY! Why would I not want to keep eating?

We started with the Deviled Eggs, admittedly a total indulgence.  The combination of mustard seed and candied bacon was delicious and too much to resist.  I never really turn down a deviled egg, but these were pretty impressive and served at just the right temp with a light, champagne vinaigrette green salad garnish.  The hubbs and I both laughed as we finished the plate in under 5 minutes, shrugging off the fact that we said we weren't hungry.

I wish I could say that we stopped there with the appetizers (for fear of sounding gluttonous), but we didn't.  Oh no, we didn't and I don't feel the slightest bit guilty about gorging myself on savory snacks. The Pretzel Bites.  The pretzel bites will keep you coming back, keep you craving a visit to the brewery.  Served with and ale cheese sauce, these things will haunt your dreams.  You too can soak up all that beer by ordering a heaping bowl of these squishy, salty puffs of yum.

It got even more amusing when we decided, "Let's just stay for dinner!"  A chill started to invade the valley, so we moved indoors for our evening meal.  We were fortunate enough to catch CEO Robert Dahl in action, greeting customers and chatting up his new endeavor.  A gracious guy with a penchant for conversation, he treated us to a pint on the house of each of our favorites and helped us make our dinner selection.  I decided on going all in by ordering the Meatloaf, Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Mac N' Cheese.  Oh baby.  What I loved about the food was that it tasted homemade, almost as if it came out of your mama's own kitchen.  I'm pretty picky with comfort food, but they really do a nice job at making comfy food still feel like "cuisine".  Not too frilly, just well made home cookin'. The hubbs went with the Ale Battered Cod- light, fluffy and surrounded by some of the best fries in town.  I'm not kidding about the cod, it was fluffy.

Not only were we stuffed, we were both incredibly happy and satiated by our overall experience at Napa Point Brewing Company.  In fact, we look forward to visiting again with friends, family, our dog, maybe some small children and each other.  I personally like the fact that this place is off the beaten path- a beer retreat if you will, a hideaway for brew fiends and folks who enjoy good craft, good food and good company. *Hint Hint- they have a fantastic happy hour too!*

Go say hello.  Do it now.

388 Devlin Road
Napa, CA 94558

*All images courtesy of Napa Point Brewing

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hello Again!

I've been a bad girl.

I was forthright in letting you all know that I'd be taking December off- but I totally failed to mention anything about January... What the?  How does time pass so quickly?  I was scouring through my pile of to-do's this morning when it finally dawned on me that, yes, it is already almost February and I haven't written a single thing.  For shame, B, for shame.  *Insert sad face here*

I have no excuses.

December was chaotic and our schedules were loaded with events, visits, family and friends.  With so much holiday fun happening, I honestly couldn't find a moment to sit back and type, nor did I want to. I let myself become completely immersed in the season and never really worried about the lack of publication happening.  The upside of this downtime also gave me the chance to get to know my new surroundings, settle-in, find my groove (or almost find my groove) and relish in a little decompression time.

It is now time to get back on the happy train to food town.

Friends, here is a little sneak peek into my Napa lifestyle thus far....

We are situated in a prime location here in town, at the intersection of awesome and awesome.  A crossings, you might say.  We can easily head North, South, East or West, without hesitation or exhausting traffic, hoards of tourists or hulking limo vehicles.  We love the option of country frontage roads, winding one-lane wooded paths, and quick "local" routes to get us where we want to be.  Our home is spacious, minimal and just the right amount of cozy.  I love spending time here, sitting on our patio in this crazy California winter weather, dog at my feet and bubbles in hand.

On weekends we are out and about, eating, drinking and continuing our merriment.  We can usually be found exploring the fresh new bars & eateries of downtown Napa, tapas crawling the short distance of Yountville, sampling brews up in Calistoga or wandering through the backwoods to family-owned winery gems that we love sharing with friends and visitors.

I've compiled a list of places I want to talk about, many of which aren't familiar to the average weekenders or vacationers.  I'll be posting articles in the weeks to come, highlighting these new favorites, so keep your eyes peeled!  Here are some of our new haunts:

Bene Gusto, Browns Valley... For artisan pizza, pasta, sandwiches, breakfast & outdoor ambiance.  We love to sit back, sip wine and enjoy the company here, chatting with neighbors.
The Calistoga Inn & Brewery... A fantastic little brewery with awesome bar food, an intimate dining room & terribly interesting native folk.
Fumé Bistro & Bar...  Their mouthwatering seasonal menu impresses every time, plus they have outdoor fire pits and a great discounted locals night.
The Red Hen Cantina...  Newly relocated & remodeled with a HUGE outdoor seating area, this is a fun place for sports watching, Mexican food and whole bunch of tequila.
VINeleven...  Not your typical restaurant, but nonetheless, their food is awesome & the staff is lovely.
UVA Trattoria...  Holy smokes!  Amazing Italian fare and totally killer atmosphere with live tunes.
Redd Wood...  Pizza, pasta & appetizers with an impressive wine list and supremely cool vibe.
R&D Kitchen...  Quickly becoming one of the most popular meeting spots in the valley with their ample outdoor space and simple, sophisticated menu.  Great bar and group destination.
Lucy Restaurant & Bar, Bardessono...  A personal favorite, full of calm, class and high-end taste.
The Fremont Diner...  A popular stop between Sonoma and Napa for hometown favorites.

Ok, now I'm getting hungry.

Stay tuned and get your forks ready!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Welcome Home.

For those of you wondering where I've been this past month, yes, the rumors are true- we've moved to Napa and have fallen deeply in love with our surroundings.

I'm also finding out that living in such a gorgeous, bountiful area makes getting day-to-day stuff done... super... extra... difficult.  It is much too tempting to go out and "play" these days than it is to sit inside and stare at my computer screen.  Can you blame me?  I think a huge part of it is strictly being overwhelmed with writing opportunities here because I just don't know where to start.  There's too much food! *Insert maniacal cackle*

I'll be the first to admit, I've been slacking.  Never fear kind readers, it is only a temporary lapse which I presume will last through the holiday season.  Ok, that's a lie, I am totally giving myself December off.

I just unpacked our last remaining box from our move yesterday, so our new place finally feels complete enough to relax in.  The anxious "so much more to do" feeling has left my body, we've found a groove in our schedules and I can cook comfortably in my kitchen without slamming a shin into a box full of dishes.  We've been enjoying our evenings out on our patio, glass of wine in hand, pug at our feet gnawing on a mint chewy bone.  The hubbs usually arrives home around six, which isn't bad considering his commute.  By the time he gets home, we've already decided to dine in or out- the nice thing about our location is that we have an impressive radius of options within walking distance or a short car trip away.  Dinner has become a bonding time for us as opposed to our previous rushed, overly-casual meal.  We no longer feel the urge to "hurry up and eat" so we can do other stuff, but instead we find ourselves lingering over our food and enjoying conversation (whether between ourselves at home or a new friend we've made chatting between tables).  It's been a lovely change that really hits home the idea of unwinding after a long day.

In fact, it was over a meal that we came to this eye-opening conclusion:
We've never lived directly in an area or town where we were absolutely surrounded by our passions.

Being here is a revelation for us.  With the hubbs main interest in wine, and my own obsession with food, it's a match made in heaven.  I wake up every morning and have to pinch myself that and keep in mind that I'm not on vacation or staying with my in-laws.  This is my home now.  It is incredible to me just how much living here has awakened our spirits.  We laugh more, we spend more time outdoors, we find new things to check out each and every day.  We are surrounded by some of the most influential, acclaimed and highly-touted food, wine & hospitality institutions, all of which are a stones throw away.  It's mind-blowing!

I find myself more and more giddy everyday and I cannot wait to explore even more than we already have.  I've got an entire valley to get to know and I'm completely over the moon to do so.

So sit tight friends, because it's going to be a fascinating ride.  I'll make sure to jump back on the blog wagon as soon as I find my bearings and hunker down.  Perhaps if it starts raining I'll be forced to stay inside and get some writing done, but for now, I'm out-and-about.

Happy Home, Happy Hearts.