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Posts from the ‘SEE’ Category

Napa…how to eat, drink + see the valley

As a native Californian + former Bay Area resident, I am often asked where is it that I go when back in Napa. So here is my ideal weekend trip to San Francisco + Napa. *Note: You have to make appointments at the wineries listed!

Off Minnesota Street in the Dogpatch is my favorite cafe, called Piccino’s. Order a bottle of white burgundy or the like, the fungi pizza, whatever salad is fresh that day + a plate of the pickled veggies.

Next up, The Ferry Building! Mecca to all SF foodies. Just go and wonder…

Next, make your way North to Napa via the Embarcadero. As you breach the Golden Gate, roll the windows down even if it’s foggy, it is some of the freshest air you can breath! Once you head up the hill, make sure to look back at the City…

As you drive through the Marin Headlands up toward Napa Valley you’ll hit Highway 37 which brings you to Sonoma/Napa. Once in Napa stay at The Westin Verasa, it’s not as posh as Meadowood but it’s centrally located and a block from the Oxbow Public Market. At the Oxbow, make sure to try, The Hog Island Oyster Co. The sweetwaters are their specialty…Another Napa hot spot not far from Oxbow, is Oenotri, fantastic charcuterie + perfect hand slung flatbread pizzas!

A morning tasting is to be desired at Domaine Carneros. Owned by Taittinger, this house is my personal favorite when it comes to bubbles in California + it has one of the most peaceful views of surrounding vineyards. Try a little smoked salmon plate to pair with their wines…

Escaping the tourist route, head up to Chappellet Winery. One of the most impressive vineyards overlooking Lake Hennessy. Just follow their directions online to avoid getting lost.

Take a stroll through Yountville, on your way to lunch at Bouchon. Thomas Keller’s favorite food is french bistro style cuisine + as a long time resident of Yountville, he does dine there from time to time.

The epitome of high design, Cade Winery sits at 1,800 feet of elevation + promises to be the gem in your memory box with it’s breathtaking views almost 60 miles south down the valley.

If you find yourself in St. Helena, try to pull up a chair fireside at Farmstead. Everything is grown or cultivated in house at the Long Meadow Ranch so relax while you nibble on freshly baked potato rolls right out of the oven.

Lastly, don’t forget to be a responsible drinker…



Discovering the soul of summer…in Iowa?

As the landing gear embarked from the bottom on the plane, I found myself excited to be touching down in Des Moines. In less than a few hours we had left the big apple and were now headed deep into the heartland. This is where food GROWS, massive fields of corn and soy beans flanking the roadside, people wave when they drive past, and small railroad towns hang on with yesterday’s charm. We were in Iowa and I was ready for some family time. My husband grew up in Iowa, moving away as an adult some years back. For him Iowa holds the same hum-drum feeling that Hawaii does for me. Once you live there a while the shine wears off and it becomes mundane. That’s why I however, LOVE Iowa, with its clean air, fireflies, undulating fields and its family atmosphere. It is nothing like Manhattan that’s for sure. Regardless, I was happy to be there. This visit to Iowa was two-fold, on the upswing of life we were visiting two new additions to the family and on the down swing for a funeral. It’s amazing experiencing the circle of life so purely… However, this is not a life blog, this is a food & wine blog so let’s switch it back to what you all should know about Iowa’s’ bounty.

The next morning after arriving in town, I awoke with my nieces and my mother & sister-in-law to head north on a mission to harvest our own blueberries at The Berry Patch Farm.

The Berry Patch Farm is a small family owned farm northeast of Des Moines and oh, how excited I was to visit them because to pick your own is to pick the best! The entire way there I was contemplating recipes while carrying on a conversation with my almost three-year-old niece. It was pure heaven…Once there we were standing in the middle of a huge blueberry farm, settled into a routine, picking handfuls of plump little blueberries and dumping them into plastic buckets. All of us sweating, tasting and grinning while the morning sun beat down on our backs. We finished up before the morning sun made its way toward lunch, bellies rumbling, we had managed to pick enough berries for all of us to bring some home. Believe me folks, when I say those containers of berries for $5 at the grocery store are worth every penny! It is backbreaking labor to harvest these little gems and I couldn’t wait to use them. We packed up the blueberries, savored fresh peaches at the farm stand and headed home. The next couple of days were filled with blueberries, some in smoothies, some alone, but I was saving mine for when I returned to New York…


Hazelnut Meal Crusted Blueberry + Maple Tartlets

*adapted from the Clean Start Cookbook by Terry Walters

Serves 8-10 | Prep time: 30 minutes | Rest time: 1 hour

The Crust:

2 Cups Hazelnut Meal (you could also use almond, if using whole nuts, blanc, de-skin and pulse in a food processor)

1 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp Maple Syrup

1 tsp Almond Extract

1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 Good Pinch of Sea Salt


2 Cups Fresh Organic Blueberries

1 Cup Apple Juice (I actually juiced two pink lady apples for mine)

1/3 Cup Maple Syrup

2 tbsp Arrow-Root Powder

Zest of 1 Organic Lemon

Juice of 1/2 Lemon

1/2 tsp Almond Extract

1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 Good Pinch of Sea Salt (I used Himalayan Sea Salt)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F and brush a tart pan or shallow ramekins with coconut oil.

To prepare the crust, combine in a large bowl, the almond meal, maple syrup, coconut oil (if solid heat the coconut butter in a pan until melted), salt, almond & vanilla extracts and mix thoroughly with a fork until well combined. Tip the crumbly dough into the tart pan and press to form the crust. Place the pan in the oven and bake for roughly 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool while you make the filling.

For the filling, whisk 1/2 cup of the apple juice and the arrow-root powder together and set aside. In a saucepan over med low heat, combine the remaining apple juice, lemon zest, lemon juice, almond & vanilla extracts, salt and half of the blueberries. Bring to a simmer and once the liquid turns blueish red, and the apple juice and arrow-root mixture. Stirring the entire time this should thicken up pretty quickly. Once thickened to your preference add the remaining blueberries. Pour the mixture into the cooled crust and refrigerate for at least an hour. I actually waited just an hour because I like tarts slightly warm. Then enjoy!!


Now to wash it all down or to sip on a hot day, maybe after a long morning of gardening…or if you want something festive sans alcohol.

Sparkling Thai Basil + Lime Agua Fresca

I large (32 oz.) mason jar (could use individual size pint jars)

A couple of sprigs of Thai Basil or any other basil for that matter

Juice of 1 lime

1 part sparkling San Pellegrino or sparkling water

1 part pure filtered cold tap water

A dash of agave syrup if you like it sweet

Add everything to the mason jar, shake it up, taste for sweetness and pour over fresh ice! Enjoy!

Kelsey Byus + Fred Scott of Locally Grown Clothing


Now for some other notable places to check out while in the Des Moines area. The local farmers market on Saturday morning. This farmers’ market showcases incredible farm raised meats and fresh produce abound, not to mention a plethora of street food vendors. Although I would like to see more organic produce available, it is the perfect place to take the kids, they won’t even know you are teaching them about vegetables! And if you are really wanting to support the slow food, green, organic, whatever-is-healthiest-for-us-and-the-environment-movement then head over to see these guys…

Kelsey Byus and Fred Scott of Locally Grown Clothing Co. are hip, young and very much into the grassroots message driven lifestyle. They rally behind the resurgence of Farmers’ Markets and the renaissance of local agriculture across the country. Supporting local business and empowering folks to think about what they wear, buy, and eat are at the core of their message. Feel free to check them out and support some very cool midwest boys, and of course the environment!

Enjoy the sunshine this summer, eat your blueberries, and sip some of that delicious aqua fresca we talked about, I’m off to the park!



How to Cook with a Himalayan Salt Block…

The amount of overwhelming joy I experienced while testing out a salt block was substantial! I almost skipped to the little salt shop to pick my block. The shop I am referring to is called The Meadow. They have two locations, one in Manhattan New York and one in Portland Oregon. You may already know a little about the owners as they released a James Beard awarded book entitled Salted. The book is an incredible journey through the production of commercial and artisanal salts with beautiful photos of the people, places and salts spoken of. The recipes are delightful and expressive of the absolute highlight a finishing salt can make to an everyday simple dish. The folks at Meadow are very helpful and skilled at selecting salts and blocks for serving or cooking which made the adventure all the more carefree. So with my fabulous (and heavy) salt block in hand, I embarked on a wildly fascinating salt encrusted adventure!

Pink Himalayan Salt Blocks

Some tips for your new salty beast:

  • slowly heat your block on top of the stove’s burner (gas ranges only) if electric or heat induction use a protective cooking ring or cast iron pan to elevate the block for air circulation and even heating. You want to make sure it’s not in direct contact with the heating element.
  • start at low heat and crank it up every ten minutes to the next heat level ie: medium low, medium, medium high etc.
  • do not salt your food when cooking on a salt block! It will impart a nice saltines to whatever you are cooking so it’s not necessary
  • use a metal utensil to turn over your ingredients (plastic might melt as the blocks get very hot)
  • allow the block to completely cool (several hours) before cleaning in warm water only. (Scraping gently to remove bits)
  • store your dried block wrapped in a towel or paper towels when not in use. (I actually stored mine in a cool oven while not in use)
  • the block can also be used for serving at the table either cold or hot. (use a trivet or wood cutting board under hot blocks) One idea for a hot service option would be to heat the block and allow your guest to cook their own meats &veggies while at the table! Or chill it and serve sushi or sashimi right off of the block!
  • Notes: Your block will never look as amazing as it does when you buy it, the color will change cracks may appear and a smoothness will happen on the side you cook, a result of washing. Salt is expressive so be free with it and if you like the clear look of your block, buy a second one for cooking and keep the other for service.

Armed with this information, a brand new salt block and fresh little shrimps I whipped this up…

Cracked Pepper Salt Block Shrimps with Market Salad and Cool Radish

(serves 4 people)

20 large (20 count) shrimps, peeled & cleaned

As much fresh cracked pepper as you like

No salt!

For the Salad:

several bunches of little gem lettuces or 1 box of organic mixed field greens (washed and dried)

4-8 radishes sliced thinly

1 handful of fresh basil or micro basil

1 handful of micro beet greens (skip if you can’t find them)

Juice of 1 lemon

olive oil (roughly 1/4 -1/2 cup)

Finishing salt or Himalayan Pink salt

Crack of fresh pepper

Shrimps on Salt

Preheat your salt block, this will take some time about 35-45 minutes. You will know it’s hot enough when you can only hold your hand above it for 2-3 seconds. While heating the block, clean & peel your shrimps and place in a bowl. Crack the pepper over the shrimps and toss to coat. Set aside. Wash and dry the greens and add to a big bowl. Wash and slice the radishes and add to the bowl of lettuce. Juice the lemon into a small bowl once juiced whisk in the olive oil until emulsified add the salt and pepper to the lettuce and a pinch of both to the dressing. When the shrimps are ready to be cooked, add the dressing to the greens, toss in the basil & beet greens and combine gently with your hands. Once the block is ready to go place the shrimps on top of the block and be ready to turn them after a minute or so. They will cook up fast, turning white and pink when ready. Place the salad and shrimps on plates and enjoy!



Nothing like a hot day  for indulging in one of my favorite treats, ice cream! New York City is warm enough outside to wear flip-flops and a tee-shirt, finally! The spring weather has been late to bloom fully but today, it was gorgeous out. Not to mention a Los Angeles food truck was in town to deliver a bit of happiness to these sometimes chilly New Yorker’s.

COOLHAUS,  is an ice cream food truck based in LA  (expanding to NYC) that serves amazing ice cream sammies and this weekend they are doing it for FREE!! Yep, you can get that mythical free  lunch if you are whiling to wait in line for it. (Hey, technically it’s a sandwich, right?) These “sammies” are made up of two delicious cookies and a huge scoop of ice cream handed over to you in an edible soy inked wrapper. Once your name is called and a smiling lady hands over the sammie you are taken back to childhood where life is carefree. It’s wonderful to try to eat the sammies and not get it all over your face!

I am including a link to COOLHAUS so you can track where they are while here in NYC. Make sure to visit them, bring the kids, the dog, grandma, your spouse, friend or neighbor and get in line!!! I’ll be the one with ice cream on my face with my dog begging by my side…