Archive for ‘Travel’

September 20, 2011

napa part 3

Last Napa post I promise! Writing these just makes me want to go back so bad.

Saturday

On Saturday we started off our day right – Kara’s Cupcakes for breakfast and a quick walk through the farmer’s market at Oxbow Market.

After cupcakes we headed to brunch at Auberge Du Soleil. I’m pretty sure Auberge has the best views in Napa. It was so quiet and peaceful. Let’s not forget why we were there though – to eat some brunch! They serve a 5 course brunch, so Jared and I made sure we ordered different things so we could share.


Rise & Shine: We both chose a bloody mary, but neither of us finished them. They were good, but not amazing and we wanted to have room for everything. We didn’t realize dessert was included.

Easing In: Muffins, house-made pastries, and artisanal breads with butter and a lemon spread.

Beginnings: I ordered the Beet & Burrata salad and Jared had the corn soup. Both were excellent, but the soup was a little more special.

Sustenance: I went with the Shrimp Risotto and Jared had the Duck Hash & Eggs. Again, both were good, but I have to admit Jared had the better orders for once. Typically, I always choose the best dishes.

Dessert: I had the Blackberry Tart and Corn Ice Cream and Jared had some kind of peach dessert. I definitely had the winning dessert, but luckily Jared liked his as well. It had bourbon in it and definitely tasted like it too.

After brunch we headed back to our hotel to relax before it was time to meet up with our friends Dave and Michelle. They arrived around 3:30, so where else would we take them besides the Oxbow Market? Jared and I ended up getting a bottle of red zinfandel and Dave and Michelle got white wine flights. We relaxed outside with our wine and good conversation. Next stop was the wine store at Bottega. We shared a bottle of red and hungout until it was time for our dinner reservation at Ad Hoc. Ad Hoc is Thomas Keller’s more casual restaurant. He is also the chef and owner of French Laundry, which is on our list for the next trip! Ad Hoc serves a 4 course family style menu that changes each day. I was very nervous about this mostly because of the desserts. I had been watching the menu for a couple weeks before our dinner and saw lots of carrot cake, strawberry shortcake, etc. and I just prefer to end my meals with chocolate. We got lucky and had an amazing menu. I’m sure everything tastes good from Thomas Keller, but I love being super excited about a few dishes. We didn’t snap any pics, but here’s the menu:

Course 1: Endive and Mizuna Salad with haogen melons, cherry tomatoes, shaved cipollini onions, tondo balsamic vinaigrette

Course 2: Grilled Beef Short Ribs with garden squash, charred sweet onions, fingerling potatoes, peppered beef jus

Course 3: Heublumen (cheese) mushroom conserva, puff pastry

Course 4: Peanut Butter Bars with concord grape sorbet

Sunday

Sunday was our last day in Napa. That afternoon we headed to San Francisco, but not before one last stop at the market. We ended up sharing an oyster po’ boy from Hog Island Oyster Company, a pizza from Ca’ Momi, I needed one more cupcake, and then we finished with some Three Twins Ice Cream. It was an excellent lunch!

San Francisco

I’ll be quick about San Fran. We only had a day and a half there, so we spent most of it checking out a few neighborhoods recommended by friends just to see what the city was about. We were able to meet up with a few of those friends for dinner at Zare at Fly Trap, which was a really great time. I hadn’t seen my friend Kim in over a year so it was great to catch up. Jared and I also went to Frances for dinner, which was amazing. Below are a few pics we snapped of the food.
Applewood Smoked Bacon Beignets – Maple Creme Fraiche and Chive

White Corn Soup – Ancho Chili Creme Fraiche, Lime Scented Sea Salt

Grilled Peach Salad – O’Henry Peaches, Stracciatella Cheese, Wild Arugula

Trottoloni Pasta – Chanterelle Mushrooms, House Panchetta & Fiore Sardo Pecorino

Chocolate Almond Clafoutis – Caramelized banana, Burnt Caramel Sauce, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Overall, it was a great vacation. I wish we could have spent a couple more days in Napa, but now we know for next time!

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September 15, 2011

napa part 2

Day 2 of Napa was one of the most fun days I’ve ever had with Jared. First, I was terrified of riding bikes around because there were a few busy roads, but the plan was if I didn’t feel comfortable riding then we’d take cabs around. Luckily, I was a natural and loved the bike riding.

Stop 1

Oxbow Market, because I wanted to start the day with mini cupcakes. Unfortunately, they weren’t serving cupcakes until 11 and we didn’t have time to wait around, there was drinking to be done. Instead we started with a bottle of prosecco and a pabellon maize’wich from Pica Pica Maize Kitchen.

Stop 2

Trader Joe’s for a couple bottles of wine. After seeing those tasting prices the day before we knew we had to be prepared if we were getting our drink on. Did you know Charles Shaw is still 2 bucks in Cali? I feel ripped off now.

Stop 3

Cupcakes. Jared found me a cupcake place, Sift, near Trader Joe’s. We weren’t very impressed and actually left part of the cookies n cream one. Oh well. We had 2 more days to stop by Kara’s.

Stop 4
Wine tasting. We were already a few miles into our bike ride and needed to hydrate.

Stop 5
Yountville. I think it was about 8 miles to Yountville. It’s a cute town where many of the nice restaurants are located including Bottega, so what do we do after 2 bottles of booze and only a half sandwich and a cupcake? Eat lunch at Bottega of course! We ordered a quartino of wine, 2 orders of bread, and the succotash and raviolo from the previous night. After lunch we walked around and had a snack at Bouchon Bakery. For some reason we thought our buzz was wearing off so we stopped at another cute restaurant for a royal flush shot.

Stop 6 and 7

Wineries. We thought we should probably check out a couple more wineries even though we could have stayed in Yountville for longer. We road a few more miles and then went to two wineries that were within a mile of each other, Plumpjack and I can’t remember the other name. We definitely needed to rest when we got to the first winery, then we got our energy back for a tasting and snapping a couple pics.

Plumpjack was our favorite of the 3 wineries we visited. We ended up doing a tasting and buying a bottle of wine. Jared also needed his large wine bottle pic.

Stop 8

Some market where we bought a mini meatloaf and tuna salad to hold us over until dinner. The wine was definitely catching up to us and we have no pics.

Stop 9
Napa sign cause we needed a pic I guess. The rest of the evening was as fuzzy as this pic.

Stop 10

Mustard’s Grill. We were an hour early for our reservation so we decided to go finish our Plumpjack bottle in the gardens. After the fuzzy dinner we called a cab and past out at our hotel. It was definitely a successful day! We can’t wait to do it again. We’re thinking next Napa trip needs 2 biking days.

September 14, 2011

napa part 1

So how about if I talk a little bit about my actual trip to Napa and not just the plane/airport? I’ve been home for a week and have been dying to share my trip. I’m hoping some of you use my recommendations in the future. I absolutely loved Napa. I knew I would since we were going for food and wine, but it was so much more than that. Thursday was day 1 and it was all about relaxation. We went to Spa Solage at 10am to use their gym, but unfortunately they don’t allow people who don’t stay at the resort to use it. We were totally disappointed since the gym was half outdoors and the weather was gorgeous. Ok, so I wasn’t completely heart broken because it also meant we got to start using the spa facilities sooner. We spent the first hour floating around the co-ed soaking pool, which was like bath water. It was only the two of us for a while so very quiet and relaxing. Then we decided to relax in the cabanas until our Mudslide Experience. That was amazing. We started off with covering ourselves with mud in a private, heated lounge, second step was soaking in an over-sized tub, followed by nap time in a fancy chair. Normally I do facials or massages at spas, but this blew all of that out of the water. I think next time I would do the mudslide followed by a massage, doesn’t that sound perfect?!? After our treatment we went back in the co-ed pool, ordered a little lunch, and were on our way.

We stopped at Markham Vineyards for our first wine tasting of the weekend. On our way to the spa we past a ton of vineyards and recognized Markham, obviously because they sell Markham at Trader Joe’s. Those prices weren’t from Trader Joe’s though! We knew the tastings were expensive, but those pours were so tiny!! Oh well, it’s vacation!

Next stop was the J. Crew outlet. It was super close to our hotel so we decided to run in. I didn’t want to be at the outlets while in Napa so we had a strict rule of getting in and out quickly. You should have seen me. I didn’t mess around. There was tons and I had everything I wanted to try on within 20 minutes. I could have been out of there in 30, but Jared took about 10-15 minutes longer. I ended up with a couple skirts, sweaters, tops, and headband. It felt good since the J. Crew outlet really disappointed me in Maine.

We had plenty of time to make one more pit stop before heading back to the hotel to get ready for dinner and that was for ice cream of course! We stopped by the Oxbow Public Market for Three Twins Ice Cream.

I had strawberry je ne sais quoi (strawberry with a splash of balsamic) with burnt caramel sauce on top. Oops and I almost forgot this is also when I had my first of many mini cupcake from Kara’s Cupcakes. We split a blackberry chocolate mini. This market was so amazing and nice, totally our scene. Of course there was the fresh produce section inside, but they also had a large farmer’s market every Tuesday and Saturday. We were able to check it out on Saturday for a few minutes before heading to brunch. The market also had an oyster bar, wine and cheese bar, mexican food, pizza, coffee shop, and much more. We ended up there at least once every day of our vacation. We were happy we discovered it on the first day since there were so many cupcake flavors was so much to try!

Next up was dinner at Bottega, Michael Chiarello’s restaurant. I was definitely excited for the food, but disappointed I allowed myself to go there altogether since I wasn’t his biggest fan on Top Chef Master’s. Let’s just say Chef Chiarello can act however he pleases cause his food is amazing.

We started our meal off with the Succotash forno roasted summer squash & sweet corn, cherry tomato, ricotta & chili stuffed squash blossom, arugula leaves, corn pudding.

Followed by the short rib meatballs and fresh figs.

And I can’t forget to mention that the bread was the best we both ever had.

After a couple apps and bread we knew we had to move on to the pasta dishes. There were so many we wanted to try. We ruled out the gnocchi options right away since Jared makes amazing gnocchi. We needed to start off with the most out there options.

First choice was the Potato dough raviolo filled with spinach and ricotta, black truffles, farm fresh egg yolk, sage browned butter. Ummm ok black truffle, egg, and pasta in one dish? Sold and boy we weren’t disappointed. Def one of the best pasta dishes of my life.

Next course was the Angry Tomato Strozzapretti summer heirloom tomato sauce, calabrian chili, crispy basil & orange essence. You could only describe this dish as angry. It was so different with the spice and orange essence at the end of each bite.

We were getting a little full now and we knew chocolate souffle was for dessert, but I just had to try one more pasta dish. The portions were small so I knew we could handle it. We went for the Calabrian Sausage and Lemon Ricotta Tortellini spicy broccoli rabe, tomato-pork jus, mosto oro olive oil. It was extremely good, but probably would have been better if we ate it before the other two rock star pasta dishes. Oh well.

Dessert time! It was an excellent souffle, but i have to admit it wasn’t the best I ever had. Overall, this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had and we will definitely be returning on our next Napa trip.

September 8, 2011

i’d rather be in napa…

Now that was an amazing vacation. Napa Wednesday-Sunday followed by San Fran until Tuesday, but I could have stayed in Napa for so many more days. First, let me share my virgin america pic that I mentioned on our first day of vaca. I’m still talking about that flight. I ordered the 479 popcorn on the way home too. The flight had the fleur de sel caramel flavor and I also got to try the black truffle & white cheddar in the San Fran airport. I’ll definitely be ordering that popcorn online. Only 100 calories for a huge serving!

The airport was also very exciting. We stepped off the plane and Pinkberry was right there! Ok, this isn’t very exciting considering Chicago has a Pinkberry only a short walk from my condo, but it was the first time I got to try the new flavor, peanut butter!!! So so so good, no joke. We got it when we landed and for the plane ride home. Besides Pinkberry our terminal had two places called Napa Farms Market and Vino Volo. It was really nice looking so we stopped there for a late lunch on Tuesday before heading home. We had the roasted chicken with 2 sides, avocado salad and a chickpea/chorizo salad. This market also sold Kara’s Cupcakes and Three Twins Organic Ice Cream. I had to pass on those since we also had a wine and cheese flight from Vino Volo. I’ll tell you much more about the cupcakes and ice cream in a later post.

So I know this post was only about the flight and airport, but I have much more to say about the actual trip (so much food, wine, and even exercise)! I had a quick 2 days back at work, unpacking, girls night, and now I need to finish packing for tomorrow. I’m heading to Myrtle Beach for my girlfriend Lorna’s bachelorette party. I figured I’d blog on the plane since I have time to kill.

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August 31, 2011

virgin america all the way

I can’t get over what an awesome in flight experience I’m having on Virgin America. When you walk onto a Virgin America plane it looks like a night club, so fancy! It took a while to take off since it’s O’hare, so Jared and I played a few word games on the screen.

I noticed you could order food from your seat right away so I picked out a half bottle of wine and salted caramel popcorn, both were good and the caramel corn was only 100 calories. I thought I was starting my vacation splurge until I saw those nutritional facts. I took a pic, but can’t share right now since it’s on my phone. After my snack I took a nap, ate more (decent roast beef sandwich), and watched some Bravo.

We have about an hour left then Jared and I have to drive to Napa, which should only take an hour. I can’t wait to get there and start the real vaca even though I feel like a kid in a candy store on this flight. Tomorrow morning we are getting mud baths at Spa Solage and dinner at Bottega Napa Valley, Michael Chiarello’s restaurant. I’m not a fan of him, he was quite the jerk on Top Chef Master’s, but his food looks amazing so my taste buds win. Not sure what we’re doing in between those plans, probably some pool time. Friday and Saturday are our big wine days, but I’m sure there will be plenty tomorrow!