Girls on Food

Event

A Dog Day Afternoon at The Lincoln in Venice, CA

If there’s one thing I love as much as food, it’s dogs! So when I heard that The Lincoln, a craft cocktail bar in Venice, was hosting “A Dog Day Afternoon” to benefit No-Kill LA (an initiative of the Best Friends Animal Society), I knew I had to be there!

The Lincoln
2536 Lincoln Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

Dog-Day-Afternoon-The-Lincoln

The Lincoln is a industrial-chic bar that fits right in with Venice’s gritty and eclectic vibe. It evokes the style of a 40’s auto-shop with vintage decorative touches and repurposed materials such as barstools made from car-jacks, and glass from a Sherman tank factory. When I arrived at the brick, open-air patio with sunlight filtering through wooden beams, it was bustling with a lively mix of people and their canine companions.

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Patio

I brought my dogs, Max and Oliver, along for the experience, and they were happy to mingle with some of the other pups as I perused the special drink menu for the event. I did treat them a lot on this trip, especially when it came to the food. I know a lot of people with pets do like to do that, but I think it may be time to try switching to natural dog food. This would be in their best interest in all honesty and I can always treat them once in a while!

There were even dog food reviews in the forms of pamflets as well as free samples for your dog too! I was talking to someone there and they were telling me about the fantastic new dog playpen DogProductPicker.com research on dog playpens has found that having the right playpen for a dog can reduce damage to your furniture and lawn, so I’m told. How interesting!

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Menu

Being a wine lover, I had to try the Rose Wine Flight right off the bat! For $12, the pours are generous, and it was a treat to sample the different flavors of rose from various regions.

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Wine-Flight

The first, a Grenache/ Cinsault blend from the Famile Sumeire winery in Provence, France, had a bright berry flavor with hints of spice balanced with a subtle minerality.

The second glass, a Grenache/ Syrah “Funk Zone” blend from Santa Barbara was my favorite. Crisp and dry, it was a mellow wine, perfect for a Sunday afternoon; that offered flavors of honeysuckle and strawberry with notes of citrus.

The third wine was also a hit; a Chenin Noir by Domaine Brazilier of Loire, Franc. This was the most complex tasting, and it boasted a strong, almost cidery vibe, with flavors of ripe melon, lemon zest, and pepper.

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Patio2

Any of these wines would have paired perfectly with seafood or a summery strawberry salad, and I may have to hunt down a bottle or two to keep at home. The Lincoln doesn’t serve food, but for this particular event they had 100% beef hot dogs available for free, and I helped myself to one only to earn jealous glances from Max and Oliver.

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Hot-Dogs Dog-Day-Afternoon-Hot-Dogs2

Luckily for them, The Lincoln provided free doggy treats and fresh water for all the visiting pups to enjoy. (I can also say that the rose flight pairs quite nicely with a good, old-fashioned hot dog!)

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Dog-Treats

I was also tempted by the cocktails offered on the special menu, so I tried a “Bark at the Moon”, made with gin, amaretto, mandarin, lemon, and egg. This cocktail was deliciously citrusy, creamy, smooth and totally refreshing. The whipped egg whites on top offered a light and foamy touch – it was like drinking a lemon meringue pie!

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Cocktail

I would have tried more cocktails if I didn’t have to make the drive back to Pasadena, so I worked off my buzz by wandering the patio, saying hello to some of the other dogs and their owners. There’s no better ice-breaker than a dog, and I found that everyone at The Lincoln was friendly and eager to chat. I loved the neighborly vibe of this bar, and I only wish I lived closer so I could become a regular.

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Dog5 Dog-Day-Afternoon-Dog4 Dog-Day-Afternoon-Dog3 Dog-Day-Afternoon-Dog2 Dog-Day-Afternoon-Dog

I also made sure to visit the NKLA booth at the back of the patio. Every donation made that day was pledged to be matched by The Lincoln, so I was happy to contribute $20 to the cause, and pick up a t-shirt as well. For those that don’t know, No-Kill LA is a fantastic organization whose mission is to serve as a model for how the rest of the nation’s animal shelters can become no-kill. Since their launch in 2012, NKLA has reduced the amount of animals killed in Los Angeles shelters by 66%, thanks to a variety of programs including spay/neuter clinics, pet adoptions, and fostering. They aim to make Los Angeles a no-kill city by 2017, which is great news for pet lovers everywhere.

Dog-Day-Afternoon-NKLA

NKLA also brought along Sabrina, a three-year-old Terrier and Pitbull mix with a goofy personality, who was up for adoption. If I didn’t already have two dogs (both of whom are rescues), I would have been tempted to bring Sabrina home with me! She was such a sweetheart, and I hope that she finds her forever home soon.

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Sabrina

Dogs are always welcome on the patio of The Lincoln, but I was glad to learn that “A Dog Day Afternoon” will likely be a monthly event where local dog-lovers can gather to support an excellent cause while enjoying delicious craft cocktails in one of Los Angeles’ hippest neighborhoods. It was well worth the trek for me, and I’m already looking forward to the next one!

Dog-Day-Afternoon-Tania

Chews and Brews: San Diego Cheese and Beer Festival

San Diego Cheese and Beer Festival
http://www.cheeseandbeerfest.com/

IMG_8278
Sipping the day away in San Diego

There are few things this girl loves more than beer and cheese. Unfortunately, cheese doesn’t love me, so when I headed to the Beer and Cheese Festival this past weekend at the Horton Grand Hotel, I came armed with a cheese-eater who could sample for me while I sampled all of the delicious beers!

 

IMG_8248
This is Tanner, here with the extremely tough job of eating cheese!

First things first, this venue was fantastic, and I will try to find every excuse to return. There were four different areas with beer samples, cheese samples, art and vendors, live music and oversized games providing a perfect atmosphere to snack, sip, and dance. Upon entering the main room, there was a beautiful open air patio with tunes played by the excellent DJ.  When you continued into the next room, you found several more beers and tons of cheese, along with an exit out onto the back patio where the live music was going on, and then there was yet another room with even more cheese and beer!

IMG_8277
Faux Fighters

We were having one of our perfect sunny San Diego days and just loving this awesome back alley/patio space with tunes played by The Big Lewinsky (a badass 90’s cover band) and the Faux Fighters. Now onto the beers!

IMG_8239 IMG_8243 IMG_8252

Our first few beers were from 32 North Brewing where I sampled the blancdonkadonk, because with a name like that, how could I not. Following that we tried the Mountain Light from Figueroa Mountain and the Red Red Amber from Ironfire. While I enjoyed my Red Red Amber, the IPL I had a sip of was seriously good, and might be the perfect compromise for those who can’t quite handle the hoppiness of a typical IPA.

IMG_8250IMG_8285IMG_8264

IMG_8254On to the snacks! Now I know this was a cheese festival, but our first stop, and arguably the most important was at this table full of cannoli and the densest and fudgiest brownies I’ve ever encountered, these deserts were so rich and so delicious.  When I saw the cannoli, I made the snap decision to pop a Lactaid and deal with it because sometimes, you’ve got to make sacrifices. Also, feast your eyes upon this giant tray of delicious cheeses, that was a tough one to resist and was Tanner’s favorite cheese of the night! My favorite of the very few things I sampled, was this soft pretzel with an alfredo sauce, which took beer cheese and pretzels to a whole new level.

One fun feature at this event was Bill Travers, who was in this current season of Masterchef and his daughter who set up shop to show off their cheesy creation! They were serving up the coolest little cheese boards with fondue, crudites, and fresh bread. The presentation on these was beautiful, featuring edible flowers and they looked almost too good to eat!

IMG_8257 IMG_8258 IMG_8259

Following our search for snacks, we got back to business and enjoyed our own mini brewery hop! First was the Absolution Brewing Company’s Purgatory, followed by the Common Cider Blackberry Sangria, and the Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted. The blackberry sangria solidified my love of these common ciders, having tried the hibiscus saison at the last event, I can officially call myself a big fan!

IMG_8263 IMG_8265 FullSizeRender

Next up was Jamul Brewing Porter, Left Hand Brewing Stout, and the Fall Brewing Stout. I am a huge Stout lover, and all of these did the job and made me one happy foodie, particularly the Jamul Porter, which was perfectly rich and had just the right hint of Madagascar vanilla bean.

IMG_8273 IMG_8275

For our last two brews, we had some fun at 2 Towns Ciderhouse, putting on temporary tattoos and tasting the Cherried Away, which was the yummiest cherry cider and another favorite of the night. And on the quest to be a better San Diegan, I even caved and tried one IPA, and was very happy I did! This grapefruit weekday session IPA from Rough Draft was so bright and citrusy that I wasn’t even mad about the hops!

IMG_8241

This event was a blast, even with my cheese limitations, and I got to discover not only several new local and regional breweries and beers to love, but also this lovely little venue situated downtown. This event just goes to prove that cheese and beer are a perfect match, so the next time you’re trying to pick out wine for that cheese, try picking up some local craft beers instead!

Hungrily Awaiting This Weekend’s LA Food Fest

Hey Foodies,

One of the coolest things about living in Los Angeles is that there’s always an event with lots of eats happening. I LOVE a good food festival and LA Food Fest, 7/8-7/10 at Exposition Park, has me pumped with excitement for this coming weekend! Here are the top reasons why you should check out LA Food Fest this weekend (get your ticket here):

la food fest map
LA Food Fest map

The chef hosted an opening party – On Friday, 7/8, at 7 PM,  the LA Food Fest kicks off with an intimate long table dinner (informal of course, this is LA) in their Rose Garden Pop Up Restaurant.

This multi-course, family style dinner will include meals prepped by popular local chefs Chris Oh, Nguyen Tran and Johnny Ray Zone. What female foodie in their right mind could resist a dinner with such cute chefs? (insert heart-eyed Emoji here)

There will also be plenty of beer and wine selections to pair with the dinner. Tickets to this event are $150, but you will still have access to Saturday and Sunday’s festivities. #worthit

birdies 6
Our friends from Birdies will be there! Pictured: Lemon Thyme Pistachio & Spicy Birdie w/ fried egg

Over 100 + food and beverage vendors – Saturday, 7/9 and Sunday, 7/10, LA Food Fest will pack  Exposition Park full with all its various goodies. Be sure to wear your “eating dress”!

The vendors I’m looking forward to tasting are:

Cento Pasta Bar
Waffle Jack
Ceviche Stop
Fritzi Dog
Pirozhski Truck
The New York Pig– 2016 James Beard Foundation Nominee for Outstanding Restaurant (NYC based)
Barcito
Free Range LA
Vendors are being added daily, for a complete list check our the LA Food Fest list here.

You can attend LA Food Fest on a budget – Tickets start as low as $15 to get in, and all the vendors are guaranteed to have one $5 food item available (while supplies last). So if you only have $40 to spare, you can still leave satisfied.

If you have more to spend, you should check out the Golden Hour option, which is $69. At this price, attendees receive two hours of all-inclusive sampling before the main action starts.

Amazebowls, who we've reviewed before, will be there as well!
Amazebowls, who we’ve reviewed before, will be there as well! Pictured: Coconut bowl

This family-friendly festival also features charity partner Peace4Kids’ Mobile Village Kitchen. The live culinary stage featuring chef demos, live podcasts, sneak peeks at summer movies Sausage Party and Lights Out. There will also be an Artisanal LA Farm Shop featuring more than 30 unique made LA-based vendors, a Bocce, Beer and Chill Zone. And live music, sets from KCRW DJs Anne Litt and PRI’s Betto Arcos, and a Kids Zone presented by Barnsdall Art Park. What more could you ask for?

I think it’s safe to say the LA Food Fest is an event not to be missed! I’ll see you there Saturday, and a video will be coming soon! – Julianne

A Night of Luxury: Nuit Du Champagne’s D.C. Event

By Sara Maldonado and Jiselle O’Neal

On Tuesday night we stepped out on the town and into the Sofitel DC hotel for a night of luxury and bubbly. Sofitel, the premier hotel in Washington D.C. was host to the kick-off event for the Nuit Du Champagne nationwide tour. Starting in the District and moving west, the tour’s goal is to reaffirm to the nation that French champagne is the only authentic champagne!

In partnership with Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, and other leaders of the champagne industry, Nuit Du Champagne allows event attendees to sample and purchase a variety of champagnes directly imported from France’s Champagne region, located in the northern part of the country. The Champagne region of France is so treasured that it has been named a UNESCO world heritage site.

Highlights of the Event

The Sofitel hotel served as the perfect backdrop for this event. The hotel itself oozes elegance and luxury, so the added glam of French champagnes, caviar and chocolates just put it over the top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the event, we were able to sample the Moet & Chandon Ice Imperial with strawberries and raspberries. The flavor was crisp, fresh and light which makes it a perfect beverage for hot summer nights. We recommend adding some mint as well to give it some extra pizzazz.



Also offered was a cheese spread, various small bites and chocolates from La Maison Du Chocolat, to pair with the different champagne options. If you have not tried truffles from La Maison Du Chocolat, we suggest you give them a try asap!

Overall it was a beautiful event and spotlighted some of the great bottles of authentic French bubbly we all know and love.

The tour’s next stop will be Houston. Tickets start at $70. Learn more and purchase your tickets on their site.

Norma’s Cafe 60th Birthday Celebration in Dallas

Norma’s Cafe
17721 N. Dallas Parkway, #130
Dallas, TX 75287
http://www.normascafe.com

IMG_6797

Ed Murph, Norma's CafeA Dallas icon just celebrated its 60th birthday! Happy birthday to YOU Norma’s Cafe! In 1956, Norma Manis opened her namesake cafe on Davis Street in Oak Cliff. For 60 years, Norma’s has been plating up quintessential comfort food. Some years later Oak Cliff native, Ed Murph, began eating at the cafe. He loved it so much that when he heard the cafe was for sale in 1986, he snapped it up.

Over the years many things have changed, and restaurants have come and gone, but one thing remains the same…if you want a great home-cooked meal, you can head to Norma’s and get just that. Norma’s is an institution in Dallas. And like most locals, it is a tradition passed down from one generation to another. I have been eating at Norma’s for too many years to say. I ate at Norma’s with my mother and have passed on the love of the food to my daughter.

On this 60th birthday, Norma’s took us back in time and served up three of their classics for $1.79 each. Eaters chose from either chicken fried steak, meatloaf or chicken and dressing served up with sides of green beans and mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh rolls, and cornbread. I was lucky enough to dine with Norma’s Marketing Director, Katy Anderson, for the event. What did we order? Well, chicken fried steak of course! It was perfect: juicy, tender Angus beef breaded and fried up crispy. I love that the creamy gravy is ladled into the center of the steak allowing the chicken fried edges to stay crunchy and yummy!chicken fried steak, green beans, mashed potatoes, cream gravy, Norma's Cafe, north Dallas, comfort food

A birthday celebration would not be complete without cake. A Birthday Cake Oreo Pie cake that is! Okay, wrap your head around this! A homemade pie crust with all its buttery perfection. Then pour in the filling you would use for a pecan pie, but instead of pecans throw in Birthday Cake Oreo Cookies. The Oreos are soft and chewy. It tastes like a party!birthday cake, Oreos, Norma's Cafe, Dallas

Norma's Cafe, Oak Cliff, Dallas, FriscoEd Murph and Norma’s employees are a family in itself. They treat each other like family; they treat their customers like family, and they treat the community like family. Norma’s gives back to the community by donating and volunteering for different organizations like The North Texas Food Bank, The Red Cross and The Happy Birthday Project, which provides birthday celebrations to children and families who are experiencing economic hardships.

So, what’s next for Norma’s? Texas Chicken Fried Steak Day on October 26, which Murph and an another chicken fried steak lover conceived a few years ago. In the meantime head over to Norma’s and get yourself a bellyful of greatness. Happy 60th Norma’s! It was a pleasure to celebrate with you!Norma's Cafe, chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, happy birthday

Norma’s has three locations: the original in Oak Cliff, Frisco, and North Dallas. They are opening a 4th café next month in Caruth Plaza at North Central Expressway and Park Lane.

Smorgasburg LA: The Ultimate Sunday Funday

The Brooklyn-originated “flea/food market”, Smorgasburg, launched for food, interior design, art, fashion and events at ROW DTLA in Downtown Los Angeles.

ROW DTLA originated as the LA Terminal Market from 1917 to 1923 along the Southern Pacific Railroad. This was a major hub for produce across Southern California. Since then it has gone through “historically sensitive renovations” while maintaining an old-school elegance. Over 100 shops and restaurants will start to pop up in this district.

Smorgasburg LA will be open every Sunday, 10am-6pm. And you could easily spend all of those hours here!

Below are my favorite vendors:

Ichicoro
http://www.ichicoroya.com/
ichicoro

I fell in love with the CuBaoNo, a Cubano but with a bao bun instead of panini pressed toast. The bao bun is stuffed with citrus chasyu (pork belly), ham, swiss, pickles and spicy yuzu mustard. I can’t believe someone hasn’t thought of this sooner! I used to consider Cubanos to be overrated sandwiches, cause the toast would scrape and irritate the top of my mouth. No longer. This was a beautiful food find, hands down my favorite item there.

Phil RosenthalFun fact: Phil Rosenthal of I’ll Have What Phil is Having was there. I got star-struck and asked for a picture with him. Which I’m usually way too embarrassed to do. He was so sweet to take one with me, and he forever has a fan in this Girl on Food!

 

 

 

 

 

Todo Verde
http://todoverde.org
todo verde

It was a hot afternoon and after some savory treats, we needed to quench our thirst. My favorite beverages there were the Todo Verde Agua Frescas. I tried two flavors:

Amorcito – (left) Strawberry, rose, chia seeds and maple syrup
Naranjada – (right) Orange, orange blossom, maple syrup and chia seeds

They were both perfection, but if you held a gun to my head, I would choose the Naranjada. I loved the citrus and floral flavors together.

Todo Verde also gets high fives for being a female run business! Nothing like Girl Power!

goa taco
http://goataco.com 

Gao Taco 2

Have you ever tried a paratha taco before?

It’s ok; I hadn’t either.

goa taco is an Indian take on tacos. Instead of the traditional tortilla shells, gao tacos uses paratha flatbread. This makes for a more flaky, croissant-like shell. The filling options range from Mexican, Indian and even Vietnamese influences.

To the left is the tofu banh mi taco, with shiitake mushroom pate, crunchy veggies, and peanuts.

 

Gao taco

This was my favorite goa taco, slow roasted pork belly, pickled red cabbage, chipotle mayo, and cilantro.

goa taco also created these cool cardboard boxes that hold the filling in better than traditional wax paper and tin foil. You just fold the top pointed flap back and chow down.

Ramen Burger
http://www.ramenburger.com

ramen burger galen smorgasburg

Ramen Burger is always a favorite of ours! The buns are made out of ramen noodles, and they hold together a juicy  shoyu-sauce glazed burger patty, arugula, and green onion.

It’s one of those “so strange, you gotta try it” except unlike a lot of novelty items, it’s a consistently great burger.

Look who I ran into! Our buddy Galen Howard of music video fame. He dug the burger just as much as I did. We also tried Bruce Tea, tao flavor, to cool off. So light and yummy.

 

 

Raindrop Cake
http://raindropcake.com

raindrop cakeHere’s the thing about this beautiful, gelatinous dessert: the raindrop cake itself doesn’t actually have a standout flavor, it relies on the sauces to blend with it.

This was a funny vendor booth to observe. I noticed a lot of (dare I call this out?) white people (ooooh… I’m waiting for some hate mail) disappointed in this dish and saying it’s “tasteless.” I don’t think they realized you’re supposed to blend the sauces in with it.

Since I grew up with a Filipino Grandma, I was raised on halo-halo and other gelatinous/jelly based desserts that have a lighter flavor. I guess I just naturally knew what to expect.

I was torn on what flavor to try, so they recommended I get mine “animal style,” a mix of both flavors: Black sugar cane and green tea match. It’s a lighter treat which I appreciate- just don’t go into it expecting a standard slice of cake.

Ugly Drum
http://uglydrum.com 

IMG_8421I finally hit that part of the day where I couldn’t load on carbs anymore. So I had the lovely folks at Ugly Drum serve me a single portion of their pastrami with a little mustard to dip it in.

Perfect decision. Their pastrami is so meaty with that perfect fat to meat ratio.

The papaya slushee is also a great quencher. It’s tart, fruity and icy which really hits the spot!

 

 

AmazeBowls
http://amazebowls.com

Amazebowls

I predicted this pretty treat would have the longest line, and I was correct- but it was worth the wait. I got the Instagram-ready Coconut Bowl, a half coconut filled with acai, granola, banana, strawberries and blueberries. Topped with shaved coconut, chia seeds, edible flowers and a dehydrated lemon. This was the perfect way to end the night. Chill and refreshed.

Check out a full video of the event here: 

I’ll probably be here every Sunday from now on. I hope to see you there!

Follow us on Instagram @girlsonfoodblog and see our full videos at http://nom.com/girlsonfood

Pinot Days in San Francisco 2016

Love Pinot Noir? Then you’ll love Pinot Days, an annual San Francisco festival dedicated to the delicate varietal and the winemakers across the world who craft it. This year, over 100 wineries snuggled into the new Bespoke event space in the SF Westfield to celebrate all things Pinot.

crowd scene pinot days

Yes, that’s right, over 100 wineries representing anywhere between 2 and 10 Pinot Noir and Pinot variations each. We tasted wines with all kinds of stories — from Kickstarter funded wineries to those with generations of family history; wines that spoke of seaside terror and those that told of their epic journey of the drought.

So many people to meet, so many wines to taste, so many stories to share. Here are just a few highlights from my experience.

Betwixt Wines

My very first stop was Betwixt Wines, a husband-and-wife team from the heart of San Francisco. Focusing on small lot vineyards and minimalist winemaking techniques, Tim and Melissa pride themselves in letting Mother Nature be the real artist. With the use of native fermentation, gentle grape pressing, and unhindered barrel-aging, Betwixt Wines are unpretentious, approachable and — tasty.Betwixt 2014 Lester Family Vineyard Pinot Noir

First in the Betwixt lineup, I tried the 2014 Lester Family Vineyard Pinot Noir. Straight away I could smell the delicate acidity of the Pinot Noir grape. On the palate, the wine has an initial cooling effect on the tongue, opening up to beautifully light fruits reminiscent of strawberries or raspberries. This light to medium-bodied wine closes with just the slightest tannin, balancing 2013 Betwixtthe overall tasting experience.

Next, I tried the Pinot Noir produced only one year previous: 2013 Helluva Vineyard Pinot Noir. On the nose I could already tell the difference between these two Pinots — this one had just a nudge more complexity, giving off aromas of dark cherries and wood. And the taste matches those initial expectations: a medium body, slightly darker fruits (black cherries, plums) than the 2014, and more apparent oakiness from the barrel aging process. And yet, there is still that underlying cooling effect from the acidity. I suspect that both of these wines, while completely enjoyable today, will age quite well in the cellar for the next couple of years. There’s a hidden depth to these wines just waiting to come out.

Tim and Melissa Tilli
Tim and Melissa Tilli, Betwixt Wines
Ancient Oak 2012 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir
Ancient Oak 2012 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir

Ancient Oak Cellars

While Betwixt is a young, up-and-coming winery (fully established as of 2012), Ancient Oak Cellars carries on an over 80-year old family farming tradition. Owner and winemaker Ken Mohold-Siebert grew up on his vineyard back when it was his grandfather’s modest sheep farm. Today, Ken, along with his wife Melissa and his vineyard team, have won critical acclaim for their single-vineyard Pinot Noirs.

I had the opportunity to compare and contrast a Pinot Noir from Ancient Oak’s Appellation Series (yielded from grapes from partnering vineyards along the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Sonoma County) and one of their Single-Vineyard wines (yielded from their very own Siebert-Ranch Pinot Noir Vineyard). While the Appellation series contained the beautiful aromas of a classic medium-bodied Pinot (notes of dark cherries, ripe strawberries, hints of baking spice, and a lingering, yet light, tannic finish), the Single-Vineyard Pinot was really quite different — something special. On the nose I could tell it would be much darker, more full-bodied, intense. On the tongue, the wine was a bit dryer (due to a higher tannin content) and brought forth notes of dried cherries and deep purple grapes. But it was the underlying earthiness that sits on the palate from start to finish that truly made this wine unique. It’s as if I could taste the farm the vineyard sits on, the dirt the vines sprang from, and even the sweat from the family whose labor of love went into this wine. A single-vineyard Pinot Noir from Ancient-Oaks tastes like an 80-year old tradition.

 J. Lohr

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines is what I think of as a friendly winery. Their wines are often readily available at local grocers, and — oh yeah — their tasting room is practically walking distance to my house (no big deal). I’m a huge fan of their Chardonnay, so I had to see what kind of special pours they had for me on Pinot day.

JLohr Trio

I started with the 2014 Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir, which is the J. Lohr Pinot you’d find walking into, say, a Safeway or Vons. And it has that kind of everyday, casual attitude in the glass: beautiful purple in color, a deep aroma of grapes coupled with vanilla, and a silky smooth texture on the tongue with obvious oak-age and low acidity. A fine wine for anytime.

Moving on, the 2013 Fog’s Reach Pinot Noir, to me, stood out the most. These grapes are grown along the coast in Arroyo Seco, Monterey. The nose of this wine was fresh with sea air. Breathing it in, I almost felt engulfed by the maritime fog myself. Because of this cool climate, the delicate Pinot grapes can stay on the vines a bit longer, plumping to perfection. The result: a unique essence of seaside terror on the nose and the palate. It’s a lighter bodied Pinot Noir with a medium acidity level that maintains a calming collection of bright, fresh berries coupled with a sandy earthiness from start to finish.

Comparing the Fog’s Reach to the following Pinot, the 2012 Highlands Bench, was quite interesting. While the vineyards of Arroyo Seco are at a low elevation and thus regularly covered in moisture from the bay and ocean, the Escolle Road Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation of Monterey are at a much higher elevation. This means that the grapes only get so much moisture during the morning, but are exposed to higher temperatures throughout the rest of the day, yielding a more concentrated fruit. The resulting flavor profile is as you’d expect: dark, jammy notes coupled with hints of damp soil are dominant in the foretaste, while the acidity comes along at the finish, lingering on the tongue, and teasing you to have one sip more.

Kendric Vineyards

Those particularly interested in food and wine pairings will certainly enjoy Kendric Vineyards’ offerings. For me, each of their three tastings brought to mind particular cuisine.

aisian food kendricWhoa! Who brought Viognier to the Pinot Party??? Well, like winemaker and owner Stewart Johnson said, if it’s good, you gotta share it. And this Viognier wasn’t just good; it was unique in my book. There was an overwhelming essence of fresh green vegetables as I sipped on this wine as if the vineyard sits among a farm of California’s freshest produce. There was also an underlying aroma of seed or nut oil (I’m thinking sesame?) that rounded out that vegetation. On top of all that, Kendric Vineyards was able to infuse a bit of bubbly into this wine. Perfect pairing: Asian stir-fry — the bubbles will cut through thesalmon salad kendric fat and spice while the fresh components will marry well with both veggies and protein.

Back to Pinots, the 2013 vintage from Kendrics was a mildly complex Pinot Noir. Is that an oxymoron? Let me explain. The hue of this wine was a brownish-red, yet you can see right through it. The dominant aroma is of nuts (pecans, hazelnuts), while the flavors consist of bright red fruits, just a hint of oak, and finishing with an open-ended acidity. There are hints of depth and complexity, and yet in its entirety, the wine is cool, calm, and collected. Perfect Pairing: Steak or salmon salad — let a heavier piece of meat bring out some of the wine’s complexity, while a light side as a salad will compliment the delicacy Pinots are known for.

Girls on grills and boys who BBQ will want to get their hands on Kendric Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir Reserve. Even in the glass you get an overwhelming smokey aroma, and that essence pulls through during the tasting as well. Cedar and Maplewood linger on the tongue, while other flavors such as cherry, beetroot, and vanilla add a bit of depth and variety. Perfect Pairing: Anything smoked or grilled — seriously.

 Cheers to food-friendly wine!

smithstory pinotSmith Story Wine Cellars

Smith Story Wine Cellars won my “rosé of the day” at the San Francisco Union Street Festival a couple of weeks ago, so, of course, I had to stop by their table to see what kind of Pinot they brought to the party. I was certainly not disappointed. Besides the fact that co-owner Alison Smith-Story welcomed me with a warm hug, I was also

Smith-Story (double) Selfie! Alison Smith-Story (left) Stacy Briscoe (right)
Smith-Story (double) Selfie!
Alison Smith-Story (left) Stacy Briscoe (right)

greeted by an equally friendly Pinot Noir. The 2014 Thorn Ridge Vineyard displays a beautiful ruby red in the glass with a bouquet of fresh red roses overwhelming the nose. For a young wine, this particular Pinot Noir provides a well-balanced combination of flavors often found in older vintages. Almost creamy on the tongue, strong oak walks hand in hand with soft, spreadable red fruits like strawberry compote, plum jam, and even over-ripe tomato. It’s a beautiful Pinot — that’s the best way to describe it. And if it’s this pretty this young, I can’t wait to see how it will evolve within the next five to ten years.

Patricia Green Cellars

I’m going to get personal for a moment. Many wine lovers are often asked, “What is the bottle that made you fall in love with wine.” Wine lovers, think about it, and I bet you have an answer that’s not just an answer, but a memory, a personal narrative, an event in your life. For me, that bottle was a Patricia Green Pinot Noir I had several 2 pinots - patricia greenyears ago. It sparked in me a passion I didn’t know I had.

So, of course, I stopped by Patricia Green’s table where I tried three beautiful Pinot Noirs. But there was one stand out — not just of the table, but of the day. The Pinot Noir of the day (for me) is Patricia Green’s 2014 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Once the wine was poured, I took my initial sniff and was immediately transported to a field of wild flowers. Think daisies, think dandelions, think poppies, think of those flowers most associated with weeds but maintain a certain beauty in their freedom. That’s the nose of this wine. Once I took a sip, I discovered those bushes also yielded blackberries, blueberries, and currants. And as I held the wine on my tongue, I walked further into the field, finding savory herbs lining the perimeter of the all-to-real imaginary place.

Darker, more full-bodied than many Pinots, the 2014 Freedom Hill Pinot Noir has a depth that truly transports you. Co-owner and winemaker Jim Anderson told me about their “hands-off” winemaking approach, letting the natural surroundings of the vineyard do the real work, resulting in wines that tell the true Oregon terror story. In the case of this wine, the location of the vineyard is in a spot with the perfect ratio of warm weather to cool climate; the soil contains a unique blend of ancient lava sediment and old marine sediment; and Freedom Hills itself is well-established, having yielded wine grapes for many generations. Anderson and his team also practice natural fermentation, keeping their wines organic and natural from start to finish — which is quite apparent when drinking their wines.

When a winemaker is your celebrity. Jim Anderson, co-owner and winemaker at Patricia Green Cellars (right)
When a winemaker is your celebrity. Jim Anderson, co-owner and winemaker at Patricia Green Cellars (right)

Of course, I couldn’t taste everything. And there were a few wineries who had so much to offer; I feel like I need to visit them personally to get a better understanding of their wines and stories. I hope to re-connect with all the talented winemakers I met and brought our audience exclusive interviews, tasting notes, and recommendations.

Cheers to the world of wine — it does bring us closer together!

Ryan Cochrane, I'm coming to the Dogpatch and we're going to talk about this insane 10-wine line up!
Ryan Cochrane, I’m coming to the Dogpatch, and we’re going to talk about this insane 8-wine line up!

San Francisco’s 2016 Rhone Rangers Seminar & Grande Tasting: Pushing the Limits of Syrah

event posters

Let’s talk about Rhones. There are over 20 varieties of grapes grown in France’s Rhone Valley. The most popular of which include Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Petite Sirah, Roussanne, and Viognier — all known for creating great wines on their own or as participants in blends, such as GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre). But these grapes aren’t limited to their French heritage. In fact, almost every varietal found in the Rhone Valley can be found here in the States as well.

Rhone Rangers, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to promoting American Rhone-style wines, supporting the winemakers who choose to put a New World spin on Old World wine, and — of course — educating the public about the unique and versatile wines produced from all of this research and labor. During the 2016 Rhone Rangers Seminar and Grande Tasting in San Francisco, I had the privilege to learn directly from local, West Coast winemakers who work to move beyond common “Syrah-stereotypes.”

(more…)

Tipsy at the Tacos and Tequila Festival in San Diego

IMG_6415When you think of San Diego, you think of tacos, tequila, and craft beer, so when I heard there was an event that combined all three, I knew I had to check it out. The Tacos & Tequila Festival was held in the SILO at the Makers Quarter downtown, an excellent outdoor event space and the perfect spot for a fun and boozy Saturday afternoon.

Tacos and Tequila Festival
http://www.tacostequilafestival.com/

The Tacos and Tequila Festival featured several unique tequilas, fifteen breweries, and several restaurants whipping up tacos to compete for the best taco in San Diego! Lines were long but tequila was flowing, some amazing DJ’s and bands were providing tunes, and the tacos were well worth the wait.

IMG_641713413770_10154302857802899_4721873000020530169_n

Upon arrival, we swung by Martin San Ramon to pick up a taste of mezcal topped with a sprinkle of Tajin and then were immediately roped into a very intense game of Jenga, hosted by Giant Games. We win (!!!) and then head off to find some tacos!

IMG_6420

Thirty seconds into our taco search, we decide to make our first beer stop and pop by Ironfire Brewing to sample their Mexican Lager, which was the perfect light and crisp sip for a warm day.

IMG_6425

Our first taco stop was at Tacos de Panson, which was serving up two types, a chicken chile Verde, and a vegetarian zucchini with cheese. They were both fresh and tasty, topped with a tomatillo salsa, cilantro, and onions, and served with a lime. While waiting for our tacos, a sketchy little booth with just a keg tapped cooler popped up in the corner, and we, of course, had to check it out. Turns out they were serving up ice cold Dos Equis, which while not a craft brew, was still a perfect taco compliment!

IMG_6421 IMG_6427 IMG_6430

Our next few brew stops were at St. Archer, Garage Brewing, and Belching Beaver, where we sampled the White Ale, Mango Hefeweizen, and Coconut Pineapple IPA. The Mango Hefeweizen was nice and subtle while still delivering a kick of mango with each sip, but the Coconut Pineapple IPA was the surprise of the day. I have always loved Belching Beaver but stuck primarily to their delicious stouts (they were also serving the peanut butter stout, made with Mexican hot chocolate, and if you haven’t tried it- do so immediately!). This Pineapple Coconut IPA was an IPA that could turn you into an IPA lover, they are definitely not my favorite, but this one was so light and refreshing and just hoppy enough without the bitterness I usually shy away from.

IMG_6434IMG_6445

We then made a quick stop at Fortaleza to sample both their Blanco and Reposado tequilas, and they were both so smooth and delicious! After getting our tequila on, it was time for another taco, this time from Cassanova Fish Tacos. This taco was seriously so tasty and blew me away, the sauce had a mix of cilantro and ginger and was tangy and stood up to the substantial serving of fish. Cassanova is a truck that travels around town, and I will be hunting it down, because if they can make a taco this great at an event of this scale, I can’t imagine how amazing they are straight from the source!

  IMG_6442 IMG_6461IMG_6453

Our next few beer stops were at Acoustic Ales, Common Cider, and Hangar 24, where we sampled the Pale Ale, Orange Wheat, and Hibiscus Cider. The Hibiscus Cider from Common was such a nice surprising treat; it was just the right amount of sweet, and also a pretty shade of pink!

IMG_6456 IMG_6449IMG_6480

Our last few tequila tastings were at Sin Rival, Camarena, and Leyendas de mi Pueblo. We were in love with the bottles at Leyendas de mi Pueblo, but the stand out tequila of the day had to be Sin Rival. We tried the extra reposado, and it was seriously amazing. They also were offering up four different types and were able to provide a wealth of knowledge on each of their tequilas, taking the time to talk to each festival goer, it was clear that they are so passionate about what they do!

IMG_6463 IMG_6465

Before heading out for the day, we made a couple of final beer stops. The first was for the Ninkase Citrus IPA, which, while a little too hoppy for me, was pretty damn good. The last drink of the day was Damn Fine Cider’s Black Currant. Oh my goodness am I in love with this cider! It was so unique, crisp and light and a perfect finale!

IMG_6439IMG_6444

This was such a fun event that was so uniquely San Diego, and made me so happy to live here! We really do know what we’re doing down here when it comes to tacos, tequila, and beer, and the Tacos and Tequila Festival was proof of that. The SILO at the Makers Quarter might be my new favorite event space, and I will be visiting some of the featured breweries and taco shops in the future to taste more of my favorites!

IMG_6459

Pour The Core: Hard Cider-ing in Brooklyn

IMG_8419On this day of Saturday, June 11th the year of 2016 I came….I saw….I cidered.  Now, I’m not traditionally a jacked up apple juice gal but when I saw this event I thought I would give it a second chance.  What with hard soda, root beer, and a plethora of other alcohol-infused delicacies making waves in the foodie universe it couldn’t hurt to see how far the cider game was expanding and innovating.  Boy, am I glad I did.

Pour The Core
http://www.pourthecore.com

My friends and I chose to attend the session that ran 12pm-3pm, which took place at The Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint.  Typically, you find yourself elbow to elbow at these events.  I attended a similar beer expo down at South Street Seaport where after standing on lengthy lines I exited with an awkwardly shaped sunburn and sore feet.  However, the Pour The Core was delightful.  There was plenty of room to move, little to no lines, and interesting cidervations that I would never have thought possible.

IMG_8433Did I mention that Applegate was giving out free hotdogs all day if you showed them your funky dance moves?  Kettle brand potato chips pushed three bags your way including pizza, jalapeño, and smoked maple.  No need to carbo load before the event, they had you covered!  Check out the beautiful presentation near the Applewood truck with a gorgeous sunflower arrangement, folksy bandanas, and buttons for all!

Angry Orchard
http://www.angryorchard.com/

Angry Orchard had a pretty sweet photo booth where you could pose with their iconic tree and apple insignia and walk away with this too cool for school printout.  My friends all grabbed at the box of apples that they also had for the public’s enjoyment.

APPLEGATE - Mobile Tour

IMG_8415

Due to its prominent celebrity status in the cider cannon, Angry Orchard had the most options to choose from.  I was very pleasantly surprised by their Elderflower.  I prefer a bit of dry bite and generally opt out of anything too sweet.  It was invigorating to find ciders that spoke to that.  You can visit Angry Orchard and even take a tour.

IMG_8424This event did not only showcase cider alone but also had a couple of beer kiosks including Long Ireland, which hails from Riverhead, Long Island, and as you can see below, Neversink showcased their Apple Brandy and Gin.

Neversink Spirits
info@neversinkspirits.com

 

 

 

 

IMG_8426There was an entire area of jumbo games featuring Connect 4 and Jenga because go big or go home, amiright?!?  Caitlin and Eric took their jumbo game of Connect 4 very seriously while I explored the Magners section.  I do have to give a shout out to Woodchuck Cider’s Campfire Pancakes.  It ACTUALLY tasted like a smokey campfire and I kinda really loved it.  I inquired as to how they got that niche flavor and the response was they infused the cider with smoked maple syrup.  Cider and syrup and camping, oh my!

 

IMG_8420

If you find a Pour The Core in your area I highly recommend stopping by and redefining how you feel about that sweet, sweet, nectar of apples.

 

Sipping in San Francisco: The 40th Annual Union Street Festival

Crowd Scene SFUSF

Local artists, unique products, festive food, and of course craft beer and fine wine — this is what San Francisco is known for. And what better place to celebrate all things SF than on trendy Union Street in the upscale Pacific Heights district? That’s exactly what hundreds of Bay Area folks did this past weekend at the 40th Annual Union Street Festival.

(more…)