A Pre-Halloween DC Tradition

Note:  This post has nothing to do with food.  But, it’s fun to change gears sometimes.  I have been living in the DC-area for over a decade and finally made it to the High Heel Race this year.  It takes place the Tuesday before Halloween and is a huge tradition in the city.  The weather was perfect, the costumes put most of us to shame by just going to the costume store and the entertainment was phenomenal!

Some local news (recap) links are at the bottom, too.

Lots of pictures (there was so much going on that the quality isn’t great on all of them because I was in constant motion)!






Napa General Store

Checked out a great new place recently that in an area I don’t recently — Napa General Store. 

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The first two orders of business from the menu were coffee and mimosas, since I had just come from the other side of the country.


The menu had several great choices and mine came down to the salmon vs. huevos rancheros.  I chose the latter.

Farm-fresh eggs sunny-side up with house-made corn tortillas, salsa verde, pico de gallo, black beans & pepperjack cheese (mixed that).  Delicious.  So fresh and amazing.


My friends did everything from waffles to omelettes to eggs benedict.  There was almost silence at the table when the food arrived.  So good, pure happiness.

Beer and Bike Tour

Being in San Francisco doesn’t mean you’re only near wine country.  You are also around some good craft breweries.  I came across a tour that was worth checking out —  Small-Group Craft Brews and Bike Tour.    You get to taste local stuff, check out some of the city ‘on foot’ and attempt to burn some of what you enjoyed with exercise. Can’t go wrong, right?

So you get to the tour office and get quickly fitted for your bike.  The small tour is max of 8 people, we had 6.  As we were leaving, one of the best parts was seeing the tour guide’s helmet — a hockey helmet!  He said he just couldn’t find a bike helmet that really worked for him so this was best.  Loved it!


So our first stop was 21st Amendment.  It was a about a 5 minute ride from the start/office.  The tour included one free beer and this is where we got it.  I took some quick sips of a couple before deciding on the 5 South (this is a different beer, so mine was a different color/look).



Then we had about a 10-15  minute bike ride.  Next stop was ‘just’ a bar that tapped local brews (all of CA), Zeitgeist.  The staff was a bit arrogant and we only found out when we arrived that they only take cash.  After snapping a picture of the board, I also was told you can’t take pictures after the sign just said no phones.  I took that as no using phones to talk.  Anyway, I went for the Baby Daddy.  Nice beer.  Good and bad on the bar, though.  We went outside to the patio to enjoy our brews.  You can smoke at this place…and you can smoke anything…



To get to the next stop we had a very fun 20+ minute bike ride getting to see more of the city.  The we arrived at Cerveceria de Mateveza.  Great place to try a flight.  Opted for the Yerba IPA, Morpho, Local Honey and Spring Bloom Single.  All were very good but it was the end of the tour and all were starting to blend.


We then got to ride back to the office and most was downhill.  It was a 30+ minute effort but very relaxing.  Fun day in San Francisco!

You say dolmades, I say dolmas

In the end, they’re all the same.  I was making dolmas the other night for a supper club, for the 2nd time in about 8 years because they are a food that I do not enjoy preparing but thought I’d give them another try.  I have wondered about the difference in the two names so did a bit of research.  And, it’s not rocket science.  Based on various sources, dolmas OR dolmades is just the plural form of dolma.  So on we go.

I checked out several recipes and after weighing my options I went for Tyler Florence’s.


I made a couple substitutions because I had them on hand and they wouldn’t alter the taste too much:

-almonds vs. pine nuts

-veggie vs. chicken stock

-dry vs. fresh dill

So to begin, prep the onion, fennel, lemon zest.

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Saute the onion, fennel, nuts, zest and rice…ahh, smells good. Then add some stock and when done stir in dill, parsley, S&P.

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Then you blanch the grape leaves.  I think this is what the recipe I used years ago didn’t have me do so that caused tearing (both ripping and water coming out of my eyes from frustration) issues.  You do that for 5 minutes.

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Then the true work begins.  Get those leaves separated.  Have one ready, put about 2 tablespoons of mixture in the center, be strategic in rolling (all in the recipe), then place in a dutch oven.  You roll and roll, then roll some more.  Eventually you run out of filling.

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You put the pot on the stove, put some stock to cover the dolmas half way, some olive oil and lemon juice.

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They cook for about 30-40 minutes and voila!  I was a bit disappointed in mine.  The rice wasn’t quite done, but I didn’t determine this until too late.  I made, I ate, I will next time and thereafter forever enjoy them from elsewhere (aka restaurant or storebought).

From CO to MD

I visited the breweries in Colorado then went less than a hour north of Washington, DC to check about another great beer producer’s house of heaven.  This time it was Flying Dog.  Now, did you know they started in Colorado and moved to Maryland to grow/expand/make people around here even happier?  Oh, ok, maybe that last part wasn’t the true strategy but I don’t hear any complaints.

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So when considering checking out the Flying Dog Brewery, pull out next year’s calendar.  They have a several month wait list/lead booking time.  I lucked out because I was going alone and was able to snag a spot from a cancellation.  So, if you want to go that route, contact them a day or so before you’d be interested in checking it out.  They only do tours Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

You get there, get carded, get your nice bracelet.

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Pay $5 and get a great glass that you keep (this is jumping ahead as it has delicious fluid in it).  Then the tour begins.

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You get the scoop on the entire history, from the founder, the owner, the random tidbits, the alcohol, drugs, prison time, name, etc.  Neat stuff.  The hallway depicts all of this.  There are more paintings that the camera didn’t quite pick up.

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You continue into the beer processing area and learn about all steps of the brewing process, from when water and hops might initially collide, how they determine each brew (what goes into each one), when/how long it’s in vats, how the bottling process works and the final ‘boxing’/putting it in cases or kegging so we can enjoy it.

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When the tour was done, we headed to the bar where we could pick whatever we wanted.  For $5, we got 5 samples.  Big samples.  I had the staple, Raging Bitch.  Went with the White Wheat.  I tried the rarities — Orchard Ale.  Then some of the seasonals, which were hit or miss.  There were love/hates in the tour group as we discussed them.  The seasonals I tried were this beer and wine funky thing (can’t remember the name) — interesting.  One glass would be all I’d want and then the awesome Dogtoberfest Marzen.

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Great place, great tour, great beer.  Check it out when you’re in the area.

CA Wine Day #2

When in CA, one must cover as much territory as possible.  Time to tackle another region.  Sonoma, here we come.

#1 Jacuzzi.  We’re not talking hot tub here.  This vineyard is one my friends insisted on visiting and I am very happy that was the case.  It was a free tasting of 5 wines — can’t go wrong with that!  And jumping forward, the guy kept pouring more wine (than 5).  I didn’t really want that many as this was the start of the day, but wow, they were so good! Very friendly (and informative) staff to say the least.

Pina Prosecco — light, crisp, perfect, $20
Nero D’Avolo — raspberries all around, $28
Cabernet Sauvignon —  wow for a cab, sweet, good, $25
Barbera — smoky, cherry, $28
Bianco Di Sei Sorelle — marginal, $18
Guiseppina — WOW!, $21
Pinot Noir — fruit, chocolate, spice, $22
Nebbiolo — dry, the Pinot was better, $30

Left this place with a bottle of Cab and Guiseppina.  Nice start to the day.


#2 Sebastiani.  This one is distributed nationwide so nothing too special about it (I don’t want that to come across wrong), though they do have stuff special available only at the winery.  The tasting room was very nice and another great staff.  The tasting fee for the not-as-high-end stuff was $10 so we opted for that.

Sauvignon Blanc (Sonoma Country) — sweet, $14
Zinfandel — smooth finish, $?
Pinot Noir — pepper, smoke, cherry, chocolate, $19
Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County) — coconut !?!?!?, $19
Cherry Block (this was a special pour because it was open from a private party the night before), it’s aged long, 2010 and from a cherry orchard from the Great Depression.  Nice dessert-like wine.  95 points from Robert Parker.  Also $158/bottle.


#3 Bartholomew Park Winery.  We came across this one by accident after another one we were going to check out was by appointment only.  It’s on this gorgeous park-like area and is an organically farmed estate vineyard located at the birthplace of California viticulture.  It was a former hospital, and a woman who works there (and was pouring for the group next to us) was born there. Another winery with very information and helpful pourers.  The tasting fee here is $10.

Sauvignon Blanc — lemongrass, marshmallow (?), citrus, crisp, fruity, light finish, $24
Rose, Sonoma Valley — from Syrah, cranberries, strawberries, has body to it, $21
Zinfandel — dark chocolate, espresso, WOW!, $45
Syrah, Estate Vineyard — blueberries, $45
Estate Cabernet Sauvignon — marginal, $48

I splurged on a bottle of the Zin.  Now, how long will I wait to open it?


When we were leaving, a tour guide suggested one more winery we had to try.  So we capped off our day at…

#4 Loxton.  Small and growing.  Fun little place to visit where you feel very welcome because you can tell they are really trying to make you feel at home.  It was $5 for a six wine tasting.  They were all very dry.  Nothing I really loved but was very glad to check them out.

Chardonnay, Hawk Hill Vineyard (Russian River Valley) — light, light oak, dry, $28
Rose (Sonoma Valley) — Strawberries, dry, $18
Pinot Noir, Griffin’s Lair (Sonoma Coast) — dry, $35
Zinfandel, Sonoma Hillside Vineyards (Sonoma County) — dry, $25
Syrah, Cuvee Ellen (Sonoma County) — nice, $28
Cabernet Shiraz, Grandfather’s Cuvee (Sonoma Valley) — smooth, very different from all other, $32

IMG_4087[1]Just love visiting wine country.  Can’t decide if it’s good or bad not to live close to it.

CA Wine Day #1

While in CA one must visit wine country!  I was fortunate to have two days to tackle wine land and cover both (main) areas of wine land.  On Day 1 we hit Napa and visited 3 wineries.

#1 V. Sattui Winery.  For $15 you get to taste 6 wines of your choice.  A few of us split a couple tastings to get a good feel for the wines.  They were decent but for me, nothing to purchase.  The unfortunate thing is that the pourer/employee was just somebody who worked there and did it all from the book.  We were only supposed to taste one thing and nothing else.  He didn’t care if we found different notes than what the bottle said.  He told us we shouldn’t.  Whoa!  That’s odd.  Overall, we had small sips of their (no prices mentioned on their tasting sheet):

-Sauvignon Blanc, Carsi Reserve — bland but crisp
-Chardonnay, Sattui Famil — buttery, light oak
-Pinot Noir, Los Carneros — peppery, smooth
-Zinfandel, Gilsson — dry
-Zinfandel, Ramazzotti, Old vine — fruity
-Syrah, Napa Valley — powerful
-Entanglement (GSM) — buttery
-Cabernet, Napa Valley —  sweet, in a good way
-Muscat — thick, super sweet
-Madeira — sweet, not as thick as port

IMG_4015[1]#2 Hall.  For $35 you get 5 tastings, plus a little more…  It was night and day compared to the first one.  WOW!  So great to share with friends, too.  The pourer was so helpful on info, background and more.  The tasting starts off with a nice bubbly.  Can never go wrong with that.  Next they give you (and we got extras of) — these are in random order because of their menu and my notes:

-Hall T Bar T Ranch Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc – crisp, a tiny bit of oak — $35
-Hall Darwin Syrah — pepper, garlic — $50
-Hall Coeur Cabernet Sauvignon — dry (least favorite)  $70
-Hall Ellie’s Cabernet Sauvignon (92 pts WS) — jumps all over!  $80
-Walt Blue Jay Anderson Valley Pinot Noir — fruity, nice, light  $40
-Walt Rita’s Crown Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir – heavier, nice  $75
-(?) Dutton Chard — Light Oak (sold out so don’t know which it was or the cost) — light oak

Loved this place and the wines!  Would totally go back!


#3 Louis M. Martini.  Third up, and at this one we opted for the Celebrated Reds Flight for $25, splitting the joy again.

-Cellar No. 254 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, 2014 — dry, fruit, nice –$28, left with a bottle.

On the next 3, we were suddenly in a hurry to get somewhere and none were very impressive to either my friend or me.  Notes were not worth taking.

-Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012, $35
-Monte Rosso Vineyard, Mountain Red, 2012, $65
-Cellar No. 254 Meritage, 2011, $65

IMG_4031[1]Great day one of wine tasting, always exploring places, and wines, I did not know.

And the beer goes on…

Had to continue enjoying the local brews while in Ft. Collins.  One must take in as much as possible when not at home.  So I took one for the team…

Brewery 5:  Odell Brewing Company.  Sample — $4!  For 6 tastes!  This is another one with the whole (unfortunate) issue of 5 oz pours, 6 beers, 5,000 ft elevation…  This was my first stop of the day.  Hey, I was fresh right.  I had to be so careful and drink responsibly in the sense that there was more to come.  My total favorite was Levity with several close runner ups.

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Brewery 6:  Fort Collins Brewery.  Good name considering where I was.  I found another chili beer here.  After sampling a few I ended with this amazing smoky beer, that was that chili one — Mesquite Chili Lime Ale, part of their Out of the Ashes Smoke Beer Series.  Not describable in words.  Go to the store to find it, or better yet, just head out there to have some (limited edition though, so hurry)!

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Brewery 7:  New Belgium Brewing Company.  This is one of my favorites!  Went on the brewery several years ago and the twirly slide at the end if priceless!  This time I just went to sample.  So many options, so little time.  Many new Lips of Faith to try, other random stuff to sample.  It was packed that it was tough to even move.  I just had sips of some new stuff then finished with my favorite Fat Tire.  Oh happy day.

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All good things must come to an end.  I eventually had to get on a plane and come back east.  I do have a brewery tour scheduled at Flying Dog soon.  Looking forward to that!

I’m in a Colorado State of Beer

I had Billy’s Joel New York State of Mind rolling through my head so couldn’t think of a better title for the post.  So, after visiting wine country in Oregon, I headed a time zone east and a couple states south to check out Ft. Collins, Colorado.  I had my fix of wine so hit the breweries this time.

The problem when you go to breweries (proper) is that there are too many choices.  Sometimes overwhelming.  I tried to do samplers at most of them when possible.  The other problem with beer?  *NOTE — I am not dismissing beer, turning it down, or crossing it off my list at all!  Just making travel notes for future reference. Unlike wine where you can spit, that’s not really an option with beer.  Proceed with caution.  And jumping three days forward, my hosts mentioned that when they moved to Colorado they noticed the beer hit them much more quickly (than when at sea level) for awhile.  Thanks!  You couldn’t have told me that when I got here?  I wasn’t going to say anything…


Brewery 1:  Black Bottle Brewery.  Too many, way too many, beers to pick from.  I honestly can’t remember which one I finally opted for to enjoy over dinner, but it was good!  Some of the beer names are great, Social Insecurity being my favorite.

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Brewery 2:  Cooper Smith’s Pub & Brewing.  Great place to both enjoy some great food and beer.  I had a sip of several before deciding what to have.  I do remember one that had the name ‘chili’ in it.  You could taste that green chili in there — it wasn’t necessarily hot but you knew it was there.

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Brewery 3:  Pateros Creek Brewing Company.  It’s a little bit hidden, so you have to know where to find it.  They apparently have great social events in the evening, FYI, if you’re a local.  It’s a small place, but nice brews.  I happened to get there right before a downpour so spent a little bit of time there chatting with the beermaster.  Aside from that conversation, I think I  found that CO, or at least Ft. Collins, has a like of chilis, because they also had a beer with some kick.  Hmmm…  They also make gluten free beer.  I have several friends who would be thrilled.

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Brewery 4:  Equinox Brewing Company.  Sampling flight = 6 beers in 5 oz. pours at 5,000 ft. elevation.  That’s where that whole idea/thought of no spitting/dump bucket REALLY came into play.  I loved the (light) IPA.   I say light as in I didn’t feel like I was bouncing off the walls, on a trampoline or on those OLD SCHOOL pogo sticks.  Just a nice amount of hops.  There was a red on there, too.  Dang!  The weekend I was there, the Great American Beer Festival happened to be in town (Denver, close enough) and many brewers were near the bar so I shared my sampler with them and it was very interesting getting their feedback/comment/sipping notes on the beer.


More to come…

Travel = Great Food!

When I was in Oregon it meant I had to eat out.  Darn!  My friends and I explored several places, I only remembered to get pictures at a few.

Day 1:  Dinner at McMenamins – Zeus Cafe.  Quite the variety.  One person has chickpea fries, one went with mussels for appetizers.  For dinner, I had a great thin crust pizza with grilled chicken, arugula, tomatoes and something else…I can’t remember what because it was so good!

Day 2:  Lunch at Yara Lebanese Cuisine.  Any place that makes Baba Ghanouj without dairy to put a ‘lactard’ on cloud nine is unreal (at least in my book).  So, we had a mixed plate/yara platter appetizer then I had a house salad, and friends had kababs.

Dinner at Pok Pok.  Yes, I had to use the bathroom and what did I find when I was in there?  Oh, that they were elected for The James Beard Foundation Awards.  This has happened for many, many years.

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Anyway, other cool stuff on this place.  You go put you name in line/on the list.  They give you your buzzer and mention there is a bar across the street where you can wait.  They are connected to these guys so you can tell the other bar what your buzzer number is and they’ll take care of it.  They let you know when your table is ready.  Nicely connected!

When we got our table, jumping ahead a bit, great food!  I tried the Yam Tuna — thai style tuna salad with ginger, garlic, thai chilies, green onions, lemongrass, tomatoes and Oregon (oh, yes, local!) Albacore in spicy lime and fish sauce dressing.  Some of it had some kick!  I can see why this place is well known and recognized.

Day 3:  Lunch in wine country!!!!!!!!!!  Received several recommendations to try Red Hills Market.  People told me it was sort of like a Dean & Deluca on a nice local level.   You walk up to the counter, order and then they bring it to your table.  I enjoyed a nice salami and arugula sandwich and a delicious bean soup.  It was a sort of cloudy day so fit the weather perfectly.

Dinner was based on a recommendation from one of the wineries.  You can never go wrong with Mexican!  So, my friend and I checked out Verde Cocina.  Fresh, delicious, perfect!

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For me, the three staples at a mexican restaurant are a margarita, salsa and guacamole.  Check!

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Here, they serve you nice warm corn tortillas instead of chips with your goods.  Deadly…

For dinner, they had ceviche…SOLD!  I love the stuff.

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Day 4:  Dinner at Petisco.  Little, local restaurant in the neighborhood where I was staying.   I was so thrilled because I was able to have French Onion soup for the first time in ages because they use olive oil (vs butter) in the base and the cheese on top…manchego.  What more could one ask?  Great way to end my trip in Oregon!