so now, ROF is using his one week of vacation to take me there! december may seem like an odd time to go, don’t you think? not the spring when the buds on the trees are budding and the lovers are strolling down the Seine. sidetracked <i hate that word ‘lovers’ by the way. love-er. almost hate that as much as the M word.>
it is the last month in the year and i’d like to lose 40 lbs before going to paris. i better start. that’s a lot of weight in not a lot of time. the problem is, i don’t really want to change anything. it’s no secret that ROF and i like the good life. and that is what it is. indulgence. we like good friends, good wine, good food, good everything! and i love living that kind of life with ROF. but i’m going to have to tap the brakes, as they say, before paris.
because this is my DREAM TRIP and i can’t settle for anything less than feeling great while i’m there.
so if you have some diet pointers (other than stop opening your mouth and eating good things) – send them my way. use the code word “PARIS”. I’ll know what you’re talking about.
it was my first time ever in canada and i loved it. only 4 hours away from birmingham, michigan it wasn’t a bad trip at all. i was glad to read my friend and former neighbor’s great travel blog: roam & home before i went and we then knew about some restaurants and areas to hit.
we stayed at the park hyatt toronto which we do because we have upgrade points and really enjoy their hotels. while typically i’d say to stay somewhere local – i’ve since rescinded my pov on that. it’s nice to explore local neighborhoods and restaurants and cities and then sleep somewhere somewhat familiar. what do you think?
anyway, at the top of the hyatt was an awesome bar. you know the type, low lit, manly decor with great big stools and lounging couches and tables. it had a wrap around deck too. it was there that we met joe gomes a bartender that has been at the same bar for 54 years. we loved him and you can see his picture below. he has been the source of several interviews and it was awesome to be able to hang with him for a while.
we went to la societe bistro on bloor street, walkable from our hotel, and had the best escargot in the world. thanks to jeff & sherri for that recommendation. the next day we explored a wonderful area called queen street west which is just a funky fun street with all kinds of shops and restaurants. i kicked ROF’s ass in cards at a coffee shop there. we also went to terroni which was absolutely outstanding. thanks karen v for that suggestion. we had a puzzo pizza and calamari and some italian soda and beer. perfect for a snowy saturday afternoon. of course, i had to snag some olive oil and marinated peppers to bring back.
we then headed back to the hotel and because it was snowing quite ferociously, we stayed in the hotel and had a wonderful dinner at annona where we could look out at the beautiful sparkly snow. the seafood risotto and the salmon were to die for!
so much looking forward to my next canadian adventure!
by now you may have learned that ROF and i are moving…
i’ve always embraced change but at the same time there is something in me that wants consistency and same-ness. there is comfort in what you know vs. the fear that comes with what you don’t. however, i’ve discovered that fear dissipates as soon as you push past it. then it becomes something that you know.
home is where the heart is and my heart is with ROF. i gave my mom a sign that says on it “home is where your mom is” and that is true as well. at least it was true for 39 of my 42 years. however, having said that… i still do love our home. and while i’m excited for change, i’m sad to be saying good-bye to a home that i love. but it’s just a home, right?
i bonded with my sister in this home. we bought it together 4 years ago and we had a lot of fun. neither of us planned on it being our “forever house” – obviously – but at the time, we were single and looking to decorate. and we loved to entertain. i will forever look back on this time together with great fondness and memories. then the house became ROF & my house!
the entertaining continues…. if i thought katie and i threw some parties, ROF and i really threw some parties. all kinds. small dinner parties, bigger bashes. one of my favorite was ROF’s 40th birthday surprise party. they opened an old bottle of tequila and things got fun from there – especially the fun with the cake designed to look just like… max.
another real memorable party was my mom’s 70th birthday party. we had over 50 people here at our house, a band in the back yard, a mobile burger unit in the back yard, homemade sangria and a special cake. we had a blast and mom was so surprised.
i got engaged, married and lived happily ever after in this home. we had an unbelievable wedding weekend in dallas followed by a brunch at our house with many of our friends and family members. i’ll always cherish that time with ROF and all the people special to us.
i can’t wait to make new memories in our new place, in our new city. i hope those memories have to do with first snows, cabin trips with card games and good ole mid-western fun. but we’ll never forget the fun we had here. whomever you are that gets this house…you’re lucky. we all loved it!
if you are interested in this house – click here
you know, i’m a little scared to admit this in public, but… it’s fun to eat.
yes, it is important to be healthy, be skinny and fashionable and all that blah blah blah boring stuff. but it is also fun to enjoy a great meal, good wine, great company and excellent atmosphere. oh, so good!
here are some places we went to in san fran. we got so many suggestions from some great people but time was limited.
walking distance from our hotel on the Embarcadaro, this restaurant was about an hour wait, but well worth it.
but wait, i’m getting ahead of myself.... we actually went to the famous “house of prime rib” the night before. i kid you not. now, i am not a prime rib type of gal. but i got major brownie points from ROF for taking him here. and i enjoyed myself big time. have to admit that i got teary thinking about how much my dad would have loved this place. we got there early and sat at the packed bar – actually it was a PACKED restaurant. there were many cool things i liked about this place:
1. we got to know the bartender, pete, who had been there for over 23 years. he wanted to know all about us – where we were from, what we were doing in san fran. he was swamped too – but really took the time to make us feel special.
2. while seated at the bar, a group of about 7 or 8 old men in suit coats walked by us - i mean they were in their late 80′s and 90′s. all decked out. so cool. probably have been going there for many years.
3. a local couple sat by us and energetically struck up a conversation about the place and it was a highlight to chat it up with them and get insider scoop.
4. did i mention i got brownie points from my main man for coming here?
hope you have a fantastic holiday weekend!
here it comes... my disection of our dream vacation and honeymoon to san fran and napa. we just got back yesterday!
i’m gonna break it down in several different posts because, as you will surely see, our concentration was placed in two specific places: eating and drinking. (is there anything else?)
ROF and i work well together. he loves to plan and, coincidently, so do i. but neither of us is obnoxious about sticking to the plans we’ve made. he takes care of the airline and hotel and i take care of the restaurants and things to do (shopping). on this trip, ROF did an outstanding job of planning out the wineries we went to see — and that is what I’ve chosen to focus this blog post on today.
first off, there are a couple of different things you can do at different vineyard’s in the napa valley.
1. there is the pop-in technique
2. the scheduled tasting
3. reserved tour
there are probably other ways to do napa valley but these were the ways we chose.
we had 3 days in napa valley and wanted to make the best of them.
side note: ROF and i really enjoy good wine. so this was a special treat for us to learn more about the things we enjoy.
the first way to make the best use of our time was to get a driver on saturday. typically, you could never see as many places in one day as we did, but because we didn’t have to drive or navigate we saw lots of places and then headed back to san francisco. at least that is the excuse we’re using.
andretti winery: owned by famous race car driver, mario andretti who has a taste for fine wine and food. the building and adjoined house were unbelievable. this was a good starting place for us and ROF wanted to go because he is a huge fan of mario and his whole family and has met mario before. he was actually in town and staying at the house but we didn’t see him. the shop was eclectic with food, cool clothes, books and great photographs of the family.
for the wine tasting, it was ok. it was not very informative – just a pour and sip. underwhelming but not bad. glad we went but don’t need to go back
silver oak vineyard: this is a favorite “special” occasion wine for us. we’ve had it several times and the winery was beautiful and very busy. kind of like you’re checking in at a hotel. they were extremely knowledgable and nice. gorgeous grounds and facility and as mentioned, some of our favorite wine. they only make cabernet. and it’s good. real good.
caymus vineyard: this is my favorite-wine-ever. i was drinking it when ROF proposed (thanks to paul & kelly!) we watched a video on this family – the wagners – before we made this appointment and fell in love with the family story behind this vineyard.
we arrived early and were met by a very welcoming woman who introduced herself and let us know that we were waiting for a bigger party to join us. this was a scheduled “sit down” tasting (vs the andretti and silver oak pop in.) she gave us two glasses and asked us to sit in a reserved table outside on the beautiful patio. she brought us a taste of wine and then a nice guy kept coming outside and filling our glasses. the atmosphere was so friendly – and fun!
when the wedding party group arrived – of about 10 girls – we all went into a private room and sat around a dining room table. believe it or not, as we were chit-chatting (ROF was the only guy at first) we found out that the girl sitting next to us worked for the marketing arm and works in the same building as me. hello small world.
this wine was presented to us by a passionate and smart guy who worked for the vineyard. he gave an hour presentation of five different wines including their special select. to me, this is the best wine in the world. it’s so complex and every sip is delicious. i could go on forever.
miner winery: this was a pop-in tasting and the view was beautiful. busy shop and the tasting was ok. great wine and fantastic being there during harvest. they had a glass wall where you could see the production.
stag’s leap winery: another one of our favorite wines. this place was a full on production and quite cool. it was set up like a restaurant with a hostess stand. we were a little bit tipsy at this point (the happy, having a ball kind of tipsy) and told everyone we were on our honeymoon and we got some attention. not that we like attention. they had barrels set up as tables inside and out. inside was dark and they poured us some of their great wine. we got a pretty hard sell to join their wine club but by this time we said “driver – home!”
we were on our own having just checked out of the san fran hotel and we headed up early to napa.
pride vineyard: got an excellent tip from dave & laura busker, our good friends from NYC about this winery. WOW, were we happy we went. ROF did some homework and booked a tour. this was our first official tour (#2 above, remember). first of all, the drive up to this vineyard and winery was UNBELIEVABLE. it was steep and winding and scattered with houses and winerys and huge trees.
we got paired up with 3 other couples and our tour guide - jake. we toured the cave which is where good grapes go to turn into wine. we had samples from stations stationed throughout the cave. jake was young, knowledgeable and answered all our questions. at one point, we drank wine straight from the barrel. we learned about how much goes into wine – so many variables:
altitude, humidity, what kind of barrel, how old the barrel, when the grapes are picked, where the grapes came from – the mountain, the valley – everything.
the pride family started this vineyard from scratch. we would highly, highly recommend. this was a treat!
sterling vineyards: we pulled into the driveway here and saw the line to get in and kept driving. drove next door to where there was no one but us!
twomey cellars: the two words that got us in here were on the sign out front: in the SILVER OAK family. quaint tasting room with a friendly man who knew a lot about the wine. since silver oak only makes only cab, twomey had merlot and pinot that was fantastic. we schwooshed/smelled/sipped/sampled. very glad we popped in here and by the time we left, several other people had filed in after us.
background: ROF went here 6 years ago and spoke highly of this tour and of this sparkling wine. it has an unbelievable story with it’s beginning in 1862! schramsberg has also played a role in world history. the blanc de blancs was used for President Nixon’s 1972 “Toast to Peace” with China’s premier Zhou Enlai. schramsberg’s sparkling wines have been served at official State functions by every U.S. Presidential administration since. ROF was so excited to show me this place and go on our second tour.
the reality: our tour guide stunk. there is no other way to put it. he was a teacher during the week and gave tours at the winery on sunday. he talked so much i thought my legs were going to give out underneath me. he took us into their cave and KEPT US IN THERE FOREVER!! he poured us 6 or 7 different sparkling wines with his opinion of what went best with each one. ”this one is great with spicy tacos”. ”this one is good with buttery or fatty fish” “this one is good with chips and oreos”. he repeated himself several times by insisting that champagne is good to drink anytime like after rush hour. blahblahblahblah!
he drove ROF and i up a wall – or i should say out of the cave! we finally got out of there by asking if there was a club we could join. in which he said yes and (got the hint) picked up all of “his” leftover champaign pouring bottles (6 or 7!) and led us to the door. we paid $90 for this tour and felt it was very unprofessional for such an iconic vineyard and american success story. we love the product – when you see it - buy it and drink it. but we won’t go back there again.
and as it turns out, ROF and i had a better experience the next day – our own story – so it is ok that schramsberg experience stank.
oh no…. we’re not done yet. you may need to go get yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of vino to finish this!
hall vineyard and cellars: by far, this was our favorite tour of all the places we went. this was special to us because we’ve had hall wine in dallas at some of our favorite restaurants. also because the owners of this vineyard live in dallas and he a business owner there. ROF has friends who have worked closely with him. their story – craig and kathryn – is fantastic. i urge you to read their story in the link i provided.
we got to the tasting room a little early and i have to say, i wasn’t too keen on sampling wine at 10:30 in the morning – also after having such a jam packed last two days. i may have been a little grumpy even but i put on my smiley face and went in. this was a private tour – just ROF and me and our tour guide, john. as we found out – john and robert grew up only 5 miles apart from each other in new jersey.
john was the most knowledgable and interesting person we’ve met on this trip. he said “hope you’re ready to really see it!” and he took us clear into the vineyard itself where we picked different grapes and ate them out in the field. we saw the bottling process up close and he took us to the huge vats of wine and told us about the process of creating great wine. this is a boutique vineyard – producing 75,000 cases a year. he spent a good hour with us walking around the facility. but then we sat down in the shade and he brought us a cheese and fruit platter and gave us a tasting of 5 of their wines. we enjoyed talking with him, learning about this unbelievable power couple from our hometown and sipping some great wine. perfect start to the day. and of course, after the first sample of wine, i was just back in the saddle again!
we got an awesome surprise towards the end of our time there when john brought out a bottle of wine for us from a business partner and friend of ROF’s – john wilson. what a treat! we were thrilled to say the least.
our next appointment wasn’t for a few hours, so we had lunch and drove near a place that our friend dave anderson’s family owned off of sage canyon road and next to chappellet vineyard. it was a beautiful drive. ROF told me of great memories he had at this house with dave and some friends.
last, but not least, was opus one.
known to most as simply the best wine there is – this was $80 for two glasses of wine. typically, i won’t be so class-less about putting price in here but i had to for this. FOR TWO GLASSES. that is like the same as a decent scarf or something! this didn’t surprise me, because i’m familiar with the wine, but they basically poured you a glass of excellent ’03 vintage or ’08 vintage and you walk around. it’s just something that you have to do once. there is also no where else in the world you can get “just a glass” of opus! you have to buy the whole $200+ bottle. anyway, it was a stunning, stunning place.
well that is all for part I: the wine. i hope you enjoyed this – but probably not as much as we did going! have you been to napa valley? what did you think?
we were doing our pre-dinner ritual of playing cards when he kept saying things like:
“so i don’t get it. how does it work? i mean, do you roll the dough out?”
trust me, love. look at all these recipe books that have done it – it can be done!
i have to say – on behalf of both of us – it was not good – the pizza was AWESOME. y’all do this – this weekend! this is what you do (not a recipe, just directions)
go to whole foods and buy pizza dough in the freezer section. you can buy dough anywhere but i can’t then vouch for how good it is. thaw it out in the fridge. ours was in there for a few days – no biggie. get your toppings together. we fried up some onions and mushrooms from the farmers market on the stove. might have thrown in some garlic too. take the dough and just stretch it out with your fingers. ROF and i did this together and (he won’t admit this) i think he had fun! his dough turned out much better than mine.
get the grill nice and hot and oil up the grates, oil up the pizza dough on both sides and throw those puppies on! Cook for about 2 minutes on each side. bring all your toppings including sauce and cheese down to the grill, open the lid and after the dough has been flipped twice, go to work. we both decorated our pizza the way we wanted it. one way is to put the cheese on the bottom, no sauce and then throw the veggies on top. but we used sauce. i dropped ricotta cheese on mine. then eat!
there is nothing more loving and more heartbreaking than the dynamics behind families. and everyone has a story. no family is without defect. sure, families love to portray a perfect picture – especially around holidays or weddings but the truth is not one family is perfect. not one – no matter how many pictures you post on facebook, your not fooling anyone. the key here is: the goal is not to strive to be perfect. it is in that striving that a lot of hurt happens. you never measure up to this leave-it-to-beaver existence and it hurts. it is only by being vulnerable about your family’s imperfections that you find (maybe) the purpose in which you probably are going through them in the first place. to help others. to be able to offer your learnings of getting through a particular situation to someone else going through the same thing. you can extend words that hit home because you know what it’s like.
it is kind of like death or divorce or cancer. if you haven’t gone through it, you don’t know. and (please) don’t pretend you know. and don’t offer advice. however, if you have gone through it – your insight is priceless. it could be one of the reasons we go through what we do. who knows.
i remember being in my office after hours about 7 years ago. i thought i was the only one in the office and decided to have a good cry. my dad was dying of cancer and there was nothing i could do but be with him until the very end. hold his hand. tell him jokes. tell him i will always love him. i thought i was alone in my office but i wasn’t. a new girl whom i didn’t know very well was there too. her name was yareli. she came in my office and hugged me and told me that she knew what i was going through because her mom had died in a car accident just 3 years earlier. she didn’t tell me her whole story then and there but the empathy she showed in her action and her words told me that i wasn’t alone, i wasn’t stupid for crying in my office late at night. i had a friend who knew how to say more than “i’m sorry”. i will always love my friend for reaching out that night and not just slipping out or writing me an email.
it’s the same with families. speaking of families, this past week ROF and i got to spend some extra special time with ROF’s sister, susan and his brother-in-law, mike. susan has written some awesome articles for this blog which you can read here, here and here. susan and ROF have a wonderful relationship that i know means so very much to both of them. we had a blast this past week starting with the 4th of july and going until yesterday. here is a photo diary of the past few days.
there is nothing in the world like a loving family. ROF and i were so thankful to be able to spend time with susan and mike this past week!