Sunday, May 20, 2012
I'm back... and I think ten pounds heavier. It's been a few days (actually a week already, yikes) since I've written a new entry, but that's because I've been out of town on a "staycation" with my friend Mel in the Livermore Valley. I jokingly refer to her family's gorgeous home as my favorite B&B- with it's sweeping entry staircase, chef's kitchen, beautiful gardens, stone pool/hot tub combo and some of the swankiest patio lounge chairs I've ever seen, it really is like a little paradise. I always feel so comfy and relaxed when visiting, and we certainly have a blast when we are there. She invited me down for an extended weekend of doing what we do best, wine tasting and lying on the lawn. It was a much needed escape that really did feel like an actual vacation, so much so that the hubby decided to join us last minute. Bless his heart commuting from Livermore to South San Francisco each day just to hang out with us. Who am I kidding? He was obviously just stoked about the swimming pool and hot tub. (*wink*)
Mel and I began our first day by having lunch with our friend Annie at the brand spanking new BBQ & spirits joint, Sauced. This place just opened up about two weeks ago right on First Street in downtown Livermore and they specialize in, you guessed it, sauce. Perhaps a gentle play on words, they aren't just referring to BBQ sauce. Yes my friends, they're slinging whiskey too. Sauce on your chicken, sauce in your glass, the most intense chili on earth, pork ribs flying all over the place, hot mustard galore, sauce, sauces, sauced. The restaurant itself is quite large, smartly decorated and has a huge outdoor patio which is nice when the weather is pleasant. You can sit inside of course, the bar gets jam packed as it gets later in the day and they certainly have plenty of flat screens to keep you entertained. The cocktails are strong and served in mason jars and the chicken wings come served in what resembles an old pie tin, something that made me smile. Good times were had all around, so best of luck to the people behind Sauced BBQ & Spirits.
(After lunch we stopped at a grocery store and had the most hysterical social boy/girl interaction with the Firemen of Station 8... Love those fellas.)
Back at the house Wednesday evening I was put in charge of cooking up some tasty treats to pair with wines from Krutz Family Cellars- the hubbs had been given them as samples and thought a wine and food pairing would be a fun way to incoporate both of our writing hobbies. I borrowed recipes from Chef John Lyle of Hardcore Farm to Face, to pair with Krutz' 2009 Anderson Valley Akins Vineyard Pinot Noir and their 2009 Napa Valley Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvingnon. As a starter I made St. Andre stuffed endives wrapped in Serrano ham, grilled and dripping to perfection. I followed those up with Umami grilled cheese sandwiches, loaded with St.George and crimini mushrooms. We ate every last bite, hit up the hot tub and fell asleep all over the lawn chairs, stuffed silly.
Thursday morning Mel and I visited our favorite place for breakfast and "Manmosa's", The Riata Diner & Tavern. You heard me right... It's a mimosa, served in a pint glass with crushed ice. A certain firefighter (there's a lot of them in Livermore!) explained that they're called "Manmosa's" because a dude wouldn't even *think* of using a dainty stemmed champagne glass, so he asks for them in pint glasses. We immediately saw the amazing-ness in this theory, mostly because of the size of the glass. A couple of those babies and we're good to go! Mel also had hollandaise sauce for the first time that morning, on her Signature Mexican Benedict, piled high with chorizo and hot sauce. I was very jealous, my simple omelet paled in comparison- at least I had deep fried bacon to make up for it.
The highlight of our adventures these past four days was visiting Bent Creek Winery. The Story: "Nestled in the rolling hills southeast of Livermore, Bent Creek is ideally situated. Tucked against an oak-dotted ridge and surrounded by vineyard, the winery enjoys spectacular views of the valley.
When Pat and Tom Heineman purchased the property in 1980, opening a winery was not in their plans. They wanted to own some land “out in the country”. They chose the location for its beauty and feeling of serenity. As educators in the Livermore school district they met the couple who would later become their partners in the winery, Carol and Rich Howell. Pat and Carol were fellow elementary school principals in Livermore. Tom was the director of curriculum and technology for the district. Rich was a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The two couples shared many common interests including the enjoyment of good wine. During the 1990’s when Wente Winery planted vineyards adjacent to the Heineman’s property, Pat and Tom were impressed with their beauty. By 1997, with Wente's assistance, they planted a Syrah vineyard on their land. The vineyard thrived and now produces high quality grapes. After tasting the wine made by other winemakers from their grapes, the four friends considered the possibility of opening a small winery. They took enology classes at UC Davis together, and established Bent Creek Winery in 2002. Although they have divided some of the winery responsibilities, they all work together on every aspect of wine production from caring for the vines, to pressing the grapes to greeting visitors in the tasting room. Their goal is to craft small lots of complex wine primarily from the grapes grown in the Heineman’s vineyard and other Livermore Valley vineyards..."
We had an amazing time with Tom, Pat and Carol the day we visited, tasting through their HUGE wine list (which, btw is FREE. No tasting fee, 11 wines to sample!!) We ended up leaving with four bottles: Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and a delicious bottle of Zinfadel Port. Not only are the wines unique and balanced, the staff is incredible to talk to. Tom's a car junkie, like me, and was more than willing to let us take a spin in his 1956 Chevy truck- I'm still trying to convince him to sell it to me, hahaha. Also in Tom's collection, the ever popular pumpkin orange 57 Chevy Bel-Air, a favorite photo centerpiece to commemorate your visit. I can honestly say, I've never laughed so hard with friends (new and old) at a winery. Bent Creek Winery is definitely a gem.
Mel's folks returned from their trip, the dog no longer needed sitting and neither did the house. Our last night in Livermore, The C's took us to a lovely dinner, we chatted about wine, work and friends. Their hospitality was beyond appreciated and upon waking up today, a collective sigh filled the sun soaked bedroom we had been occupying for 4 days. It was time to leave. Like that last day of vacation when the weather seems to be perfect. You don't want to go, but you have to. Life begins again Monday morning, no Beth, you cannot hide in the spare bedroom and pretend you are a part of this fantastic household.
Such a wonderful Staycation. I hope to visit again soon. And Mel... Thank You.
Time for dinner,