If We’re Going to Die, I Want to be Covered in Cheese.

Driving along the coast, just north or south of San Francisco is terrifying and breathtaking in the same moment. The varying drops off the side of the mountainous roads are steep. And I have a thing with vertigo and windy (as in wind a clock, not wind and sea; although I suppose that fits, as well) roads. But it’s also beautiful. The fog rolling in creates this amazing visual that is hard to describe and even harder to capture.

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On our way up the California coast from San Francisco to Sonoma Valley, we took a long and curvy road up into the mountains (well, they looked like mountains to this Great Plains girl), & I was more than a little terrified. Brian was driving through the curves as if he had been doing it all his life (I suppose that’s the Irish coming out), when he told me that in Ireland, the hill roads were the same…ONLY NARROWER.

Um. I’m never going to Ireland. (I’m lying.)

We stopped when we discovered a space to pull off the road and snap a few pics for you. It was harder to do than I thought. The fog isn’t very accommodating in the world of photography. But I tried. For you.

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Brian LOVES the mountains and the fog and the cool weather. (There’s that Irish thing again.)

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I wasn’t terrified at this stop. It was quite neat, actually.

On our way down to San Jose, on the other hand…I freaked out a little when we stopped. And wouldn’t get out of the car.

So driving out of Sonoma, we took a seriously scenic route. We rolled down through San Francisco, and further into the woods. We thought we’d check out a state park south of San Jose. In that time, we ALMOST ran out of gas, drove in a giant circle, and couldn’t find any flipping redwoods. It was like a horror flick waiting to happen. We had to pull up to some random worker dudes on the road and ask for the nearest gas station. With a rental car on E.

The gas station was a little dive in the middle of the forest and I feared for things like kidnapping and murder (I saw The Vanishing one too many times as a kid). After we filled up, we passed the same workers…coming from the same direction we had before. 40 minutes later. (See. Giant circle.)

And the we started climbing up the hills again. Beautiful and scary. Epic.
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At one point, I was trying to take pictures out the window, and Brian offered to stop to get better images. I was all about it. Until we stopped and I was about to get out of the car. I was a bit nervous, and Brian cracked a joke about not falling…and then he volunteered to go take pictures for me. I let him. I looked out from the safety of the parked car while fearing that my boyfriend would fall down with the keys in his pocket and I would be stranded and panicking about Brian. I have a bad habit of imagining the worst case scenario for every situation.

California View

One of Brian’s snaps. Is that not absolutely stunning?

 

We had picked up snacks and sandwiches for a little picnic lunch in the forest, and it was getting late for me. The hangry was creeping up on me quite rapidly, so I pulled out the Tostitos Mild Salsa Con Queso and tortilla chips. Brian warned me to not spill the cheese (like I would EVER consciously waste cheese like that.) I told him that the only way this cheese was going to spill was “if we were to fly off one of these cliffs. And quite frankly, if we’re going to die, I’d want to be covered in cheese.”

He realized I made a fair point and promised not to drive off any cliffs.

We finally arrived at the entrance of the state park, enjoyed lunch and were on our way. By then, we were both too exhausted to hike through the forest, and I had a party to get to a few hours later. So we rolled out. Even still, the drive continued in a frightening pattern. Instead of just curvy roads, we were now encountering those one-car-width roads PLUS curves PLUS steep inclines and declines.

Oh! And CHRISTMAS TREES!

Christmas is coming...

Christmas is coming…

Have you been to northern California? Or just driven through scary hilly roads? What’s the scariest road trip you’ve taken? Do you imagine worst case scenarios?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Wine-Paired Dinner at Seared Petaluma

I’ve been dreaming of wine and cheese lately. I’m not sure why, since I happen to have a pretty decent stockpile of both wine and cheese in my fridge. But it happens.

#PetalumaMade Wine Paired Dinner

 

Remember back in July when I was all over social media with some of my new blogging buddies telling you how fantastic Petaluma, California is? Well, I absolutely HAD to tell you about the wine-paired dinner that we had at Seared. It definitely hit the level of meal-amazingness that our Disney dinner at Cat Cora’s restaurant had.

After a day of boozing and wining through the Petaluma countryside, we made our way back to Seared, a fine dining establishment in downtown Petaluma for dinner. We were greeted by a lovely collection of Petaluma business owners, wine growers and farmers.

Seared Wine Paired Dinner

While the 5-course dinner itself was exquisite, the experience was what truly made this meal magnificent. Brian couldn’t stop bragging about how awesome it was that the chef came out and described each course in detail, followed by a short description of the wines by the wine owners and growers, and in one case, the farmer who raised the quail. It was the ultimate in dining style.

Grilled stone fruit soup

The first course was a stone fruit soup garnished with baby greens, creme fraiche made of Purple Haze (a lavender and fennel pollen chevre goat cheese from Cypress Grove), preserved lemon and black pepper. The flavors melded together perfectly for a phenomenal soup.

Grilled Stone Fruit Soup with Purple Haze Chevre Creme Fraiche

Paired with the soup was Lelarge-Pugeot Champagne, which was represented by the lovely Clémence Lelarge, whose family vineyard produces this delicious Champagne in France.

Heirloom Tomato and Cucumber Salad

This course was absolutely delightful and refreshing. Have I told you how much I love arugula? The cucumber was sliced thin, the tomatoes were amazing and the burrata complemented the salad perfectly.

Heirloom tomato and cucumber salad with arugula, burrata and basil vinaigrette

This was my favorite course of liquid joy, featuring the Fogline Vineyards 2013 Chardonnay with a lovely introduction presented by winemaker, Evan Pontoriero. This wine was sunshine in a bottle. Brian and I came home with a few bottles of this brightly flavored wine.

Crudo

This delicious raw dish featured a flavorful albacore and a unique combination of accouterments to create a delicate balance of complementary flavors. Brian (who, as you may remember, despises seafood) and the vegetarians all received a similar dish with a trumpet mushroom instead of the albacore. The culinary geniuses in the kitchen made every effort to accommodate our entire group and all their dietary restrictions.

Crudo with albacore, avocado puree, grapefruit, pickled fennel, breakfast radish and Fresno chili

 

This dish was paired with the La Cruz Vineyard Pinot Noir from Keller Estate, as introduced by the delightful Anna Keller, who I had the pleasure of sitting next to during dinner. I love a good pinot, and this wine was decadent and delicious.

Devil’s Gulch Quail

Our main course was this amazing quail, stuffed with a rib eye chorizo boudin surrounded by a smoked tomato broth and topped with spinach, pine nuts, and golden raisins. After the chef discussed the course, we were treated with a short presentation about the quail and Devil’s Gulch Ranch from owner, Mark Pasternak. As I gently tried not to make an ass of myself, eating the quail with a fork and knife, both Anna and Mark were found teasing me for not just picking it up and going to town like everyone else. I was pretty proud of myself and the fact that not once during this meal did I dribble, spill, spit or splash!

quail, stuffed with a rib eye chorizo boudin surrounded by a smoked tomato broth, spinach, pine nuts, and golden raisins

The quail was paired with that tasty Luma-Rouge from Corkscrew Wines that we sampled earlier in the day at Azari Vineyards. A perfect pairing for a fine meal!

Black Pepper Panna Cotta

I had never consumed panna cotta until this event. I didn’t even know what it was. Cake? Pie? Pastry? Jello? Pudding? It was its own magical sweet dish that made me want to pick up the plate and put tongue to remnants. But I refrained. Because I’m respectable.

Black pepper panna cotta with aztec chocolate and red wine-blackberry compote

 

The panna cotta was finished with Enriquez Vineyards Tempranillo, which was the happy ending of an amazing meal. Cecilia Enriquez, wine owner and maker briefly spoke about the wine, which we had the joy of tasting earlier in the day, and she thanked everyone for their participation in this wonderful trip that was her brain child.

One of the most amazing aspects of this meal was the introductions from the winemakers and owners (and the rancher who supplied the quail!) describing their wines and their stories. This was an experience that could not have been matched, and I can’t wait to visit my friends in Petaluma again soon.

Blog Friends, what’s the best meal you’ve ever had? Have you experienced a wine paired meal? Tell me about it!

 

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

In Which Petaluma, California Stole a Little Piece of my Heart #PetalumaMade

Words cannot express my gratitude for one of the booziest vacations I’ve ever had. And I’ve been to New Orleans. Twice.

Adobe Road Wines

We began our trip in San Francisco, made our way up to wine country and then down around the bay to San Jose for BlogHer14. (Do I know the way to San Jose? Yes. Yes, I do.)

Of course, I’m planning on going about the details of this ‘cation in a disorderly fashion. I’ve already told you about traveling from Chicago to California, our delayed flight from San Jose to LA, BlogHer14 and shared some beautiful and fun pictures of our Petaluma day trips. But I think the beauty of Petaluma is worth so much more than the thousand+ words from those pictures.

The lovely blogger, Kristi Trimmer, and Petaluma winemaker, Cecilia Enriquez, collaborated to create this stunning tour of Petaluma and the surrounding wineries in the Petaluma Gap. Brian played the part of the token guy and you can see what he really enjoyed by following his Twitter feed.

We started the day at Roast and Vine, the coffee shop next to Hotel Petaluma, where many of the bloggers had stayed or were planning to stay. We had our own accommodations already lined up (and don’t fret, you’ll hear all about those too soon enough) so we drove in that morning from our own little corner of wine country. The lovely Trisha Lyn made adorable wine charms for us to mark our beverages (which of course, I managed to lose mine in the first 5 minutes of the trip.)

Terrific Tours and Azari Wines

Jason from Terrific Tours giving a presentation with the Azari wine maker.

Jason from Terrific Tours picked us up in a large van and played the part of our ‘scape goat, driver, tour guide and overall awesome partner in winery crime (but not really crime. Because this trip was awesome). His knowledge and tidbits of information throughout the trip made it even more educational and interesting. He had a lot to say and he was great company to have on such a fantastic tour. I loved that the website has a “snobbish attitudes not included” comment on their website. And it was true.

Saltonstall Estate Olive Oil and Wine

Saltonstall Estate Olive Oil and Wine

Our first stop was Saltonstall Estate where we sampled a few different wines, olive oils and olives. I couldn’t leave without olives because they were, quite simply, the best olives I have ever had.  Seriously. This certified organic olive orchard produced some incredible olives and olive oils. The wine was equally as delicious.

Azari Vineyards and Corkscrew Wines

The patio and wood-fire oven at Azari Vineyards and Corkscrew Wines

Our next stop was Azari Vineyards, home to Azari and Corkscrew Wines. We toured the beautiful location with the winemaker, enjoyed wood-fire oven pizza, and several amazing wines. Brian and I bought a shiner (a bottle of wine without a label) of Luma Blanc to take home and consume and I can’t wait to drink it with him!

Petaluma grapes

Cheese Pairing at Sonoma Portworkds

Gratuitous cheese and chocolate photo: Pairing at Sonoma Portworks

For our next stop, we made our way back into town to visit Sonoma Portworks, where we were delighted with cheese, chocolate truffles, port, and this amazing sonomic (which resembles a really high-quality balsamic vinegar but SO. MUCH. BETTER).

Sonoma Portworks

We then made our way to Cecilia’s Enriquez Estates, where she welcomed us into her home, shared her wines and brought an amazing cheese monger to pair more cheese with the wine. I was pretty much in heaven.

Enriquez Estates

Enriquez Estates: I think we drank it all…

Enriquez Estates

The view from Enriquez Estates

After tasting the various wines from Enriquez (and picking up a bottle of her tempernillo) and the delicious cheese from Achadinha Creamery (and picking up a large chunk of cheese), we relaxed in Cecilia’s backyard and stared out at the vineyard and the hills.

Achadinha Cheese

This might be my happy place…

Our final stop on the Petaluma tour of the day was Seared for a paired dinner with the winemakers and sponsors. Representatives  from the Petaluma Gap spoke about Petaluma, and the part it plays in Sonoma county wine. Because of the fog and the wind, wines from Petaluma have a distinction all their own. I’ll have an entire post about the delight and treat this dinner was, but for now, I’ll leave you with a wine selfie.

Wine Selfie

The next day we started our trip at Adobe Road Vineyards, where we had a few photo shoots with wine and fast cars, as Adobe Road also houses a great deal of racing cars, including a few Aston Martins.

Aston Martins

Aston Martin at Adobe Road

The Kristas, Kristi and Chrissy

The Kristas, Kristi and Chrissy: All you had to do was say, “Kris or Chris” and someone or four someones would answer.

Adobe Road

The last winery and vineyard that we visited was Keller Estates, which was a surprise addition to our tour after dining with owner, Anna, the previous evening. I was lucky enough to sit beside her at dinner, and she was absolutely wonderful. Her wines and stunning property were also fantastic. For my Chicago area friends, you can find Keller wines at Standard Market!

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The beautiful tasting room at Keller Estates was impressive and comfortable. I could have stayed here for hours!IMG_0924

Alas, our tour had to come to an end, but I can’t wait to visit again and check out the rest of the wines, spirits, beers, cheese and olive oils that Petaluma has to offer!

Have you been to wine country? What would be your favorite part of visiting this beautiful region in California? Are you more of a beer, wine or cheese person?

Full disclosure: The tour and wine tastings were complimentary to our little group, but I received no compensation to write this post. We also received a discount on our meal at Seared. All opinions are very much my own. 

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Touring Wine Country with #PetalumaMade

A lovely group of influencers and Brian got together in California. This is the midday result in photos.

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Blog Friends, I’m LOVING Petaluma! Have you been to Petaluma? What are your favorite California wines?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!