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):
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
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”!
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.
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
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.
Randall has a passion for wines that reflect the time and place from whence they came — vins de terrior — and believes that truly beautiful land will produce truly excellent wines. It is this passion that made Randall fall in love with Old World French Rhones that hail from the bounteous vineyards of Burgundy and Bordeaux. It is this love that makes Randall feel a responsibility as a New World winemaker to produce equally fruitful vineyards and delicately complex wines that speak of his California terrior.
So has he done it? Has he created that perfect vin de California? Randall admits after over 40 years as Bonny Doon’s owner and operator he has more questions now than he did when he started. He’s always experimenting with different grapes, vineyard locations, and — most importantly — the constant care and health of the actual land, the soil. A true scientist and philosopher, Randall’s always looking to learn from his last growth how to improve the next.
That’s not to say that Randall isn’t happy with all that he’s achieved. Tasting a full line-up of Bonny Doon’s current releases, it’s amazing the broad spectrum of flavor profiles found in California Rhone varietals. There are those that are easy on the palate, produced for mass appeal, and daily drinking. Many of these come from vineyards with average conditions and farming techniques that are “more hands on,” manufactured.
Then there are those with a depth and complexity that give the drinker pause to think. These are the wines produced from grapes that were exposed to ideal conditions, left to enjoy those conditions and truly absorbed the essence of the land. These are the wines that tell a story of time and place.
This wine, Randall believes, best exemplifies what it means to grow a happy grape — a grape in a region with a climate where it can truly flourish. The Bonny Doon Picpoul vineyards sits among the cooling comfort of Carmel Valley sea breezes. The nose on this wine is like a breath of fresh sea salt air, with a strong undercurrent of acidity. Take that undercurrent seriously, because this wine is not for the faint-of-tongued. Picpoul, literally translated, means “lip stinger,” and you’ll know why when sipping on this wine. Sure, there are wonderful stone fruit and wildflower notes with just a slight hint of bitterness that rounds out the overall palate — but it’s the wine’s natural acidity (as Randall says, “no acidification was doon“) that creates interest here. It tickles the tongue from start to finish leaving a lingering sting, as the name implies.
Nero d’Avola, a Sicilian red grape varietal that traditionally yields red wine, in this case, was used to create a unique white wine. The somewhat amusing detail about this particular bottle is that the Tracy vineyard where the grapes were grown was one that didn’t foresee a lot of natural success. So everything from the farming to the winemaking process was quite hands-on.
The red Nero d’Avolo grapes were pressed without skin contact, resulting in a mellow yellow wine that emits a very prominent citrus perfume (like a pomelo or grapefruit). On the tongue, however, the wine still maintains red wine-esque qualities including spice notes, plum flavors, and even a hint of tannins. A truly unique wine that celebrates the unexpected — both in terrior and taste.
Sometimes it’s nature’s imperfections that lend itself to beautiful produce. Such is the case with this particular Grenache. The Bonny Doon team kept a hands-off approach when it came to the vineyard, which during this time meant letting certain viruses affect the grape-growing process — to an extent. An experiment that went quite right.
They kept this hands-off approach during the fermentation process as well, aging the wine in glass with lees, and implementing an oxidative winemaking process. Put together, this was all quite risky.
But because the Doon team let Mother Nature do her thing, the flavors of this wine are naturally well balanced. There are mixed aromas of citrus, nuts, and red fruits. On the palate, the wine is extremely open and airy, smooth from start to finish. This is the kind of wine to pair with a delicate cuisine, so as not to overpower the subtle, natural complexity of the wine.
Vintage: 2014 Varietal: 100% grenache Appellation: Monterey County 14.5% ABV
2011 Cigare Blanc Reserve
This is by far my personal favorite of Bonny Doon’s current releases because, to me, it is the most complex. This Grenache Blanc-Roussanne blend has been bottled without filtration, so is quite cloudy in the glass. The grapes again come from the hills of Arroyo Seco in Carmel Valley and gives off that ocean air on the nose. So without even taking a sip, in sight and smell alone, this wine is speaking of its terrior.
The flavor profile of this wine is other-worldly. Amidst classic stone fruits and a hint of honey, there’s an overlying essence of umami — that illustrious fifth sense of taste — that provides a bit of bitter and a bit of spice. Then there’s the minerality that speaks quietly in the background, just enough to keep things calm and cool on the tongue. The lingering finish leaves soft, peppery, herbal notes on the palate.
This is one of those wines that makes the mind as well as the mouth work — what is that smell; what is that taste; where did this wine come from; where is it going; what’s the story?
The wine at Bonny Doon isn’t all about business, but a bit of wit and whimsy as well. Their flagship (aka starship) wine, Le Cigare Volant, is an homage to French wine folklore.
In 1954 the village council of Chateauneuf-du-Pape truly believed that flying saucers (or literally translated, “flying cigars”), were hovering over their vineyards. The primary concern was that these aliens would land their spacecraft and ruin the vineyards. So, to this day, there is an ordinance that states that any of these “flying cigars” found on the land shall “be removed directly to the pound.”
This stellar achievement is celebrated all over the tasting room — from bottle caps to wall decor.
Whether simple or complex in its nature, each wine tells a story. And if you’re local or in the area, listen to a few stories at Bonny Doon, where the Old World and New World collide, creating a world of its own. Cheers.
For more information about Bonny Doon, their Tasting Room, social events, and to purchase their available wines, please visit their website.
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.
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.
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.
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 the 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.
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 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.
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.
Whoa! 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 the 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.
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
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.
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 years 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.
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!
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.”
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.
Christina and I had a beautiful brunch at Cuvee in Beverly Hills, and I wanted to share that experience with you! If this place looks familiar, it may be because it has been featured on Dancing with the Stars, Keeping Up With the Kardashians and The Hills.
One thing I really appreciate about Cuvee is that right when you walk in, not only are you greeted by a lovely hostess, but there is a decent selection of retail bottles of rosé wine to take home! They also had my personal favorite rosé, Whispering Angel, which I made sure to purchase a bottle of before leaving.
The inside has an adorable shabby chic vibe, but it was such a beautiful day, we decided to sit on the patio.
They also have a full deli counter with goodies to take home as well.
In classic “ladies who brunch” style, we started with a round of mimosas.
We decided to split the Breakfast Chicken Tamale. Which came with two ample sized chicken tamales and two sunny side up eggs, the Ancho sauce was perfect because it had a light kick that didn’t overwhelm the dish. And of course, I love adding an extra egg yolk to make it even more decadent, so the eggs were a great pairing for me.
Then we decided to split something sweeter. The Blueberry and Lemon Curd French Toast is considered one of the favorites here and I can taste why! It’s buttery, tart and sweet. So amazing. And the crispiness from the fried edges with the sweetness makes it even more tantalizing. So good.
In addition to these items they have a full menu featuring more traditional Brunch item but these are our top choices. This is a perfect place for a #sundayfunday Girl’s Brunch! Can’t wait to come back!
It’s no small feat to keep this family friendly, animal loving haven open year round. So the Zoo came up with a fabulous idea for a fundraiser, which benefits the animal care and general maintenance of our beloved, local Sacramento Zoo.
I don’t think the Zoo gets old at any age. But adding adult libations to the mix makes it that much more enticing for those of the adult beverage drinking age. Add in the fact that it is also a fundraiser for said Zoo and you really can’t lose or not attend such an awesome event.
Can we please talk about the line-up real quick? For the early bird price of $45 or the normal, not early person price of $55 you have access to the following:
Wineries – Bogle Vineyards / Carvalho Family Winery / Helwig Winery / Matchbook Wine Company / McConnell Estates Winery / Mount Aukum Winery / Muddy Boot Wines / Renwood Winery / Sentivo Vineyards and Winery / Shenandoah Vineyards / Sobon Estate / Terra d’Oro Winery / Three Wine Company
Turkovich Family Wines / Weibel Family Vineyards & Winery
Breweries – Bike Dog Brewing Company / Device Brewing Company / Firestone Walker Brewing Co. / Great Basin Brewing Company / Hoppy Brewing Company / Knee Deep Brewing Co. / Lagunitas Brewing Company
Lost Coast Brewery / Napa Smith Brewery / Mendocino Brewing Company / New Helvetia Brewing Co. / Oak Park Brewing Company / Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. / Sudwerk Brewing Co. / Track 7 Brewing Co. / Two Rivers Cider Company / Yolo Brewing Company
If you are a Zoo member, you also had a slight discount for the early bird price. They didn’t forget about the Designated Drivers either, their cost was only $15 for a fun event, sans the booze. They had a handful of Coca-Cola options to choose from for everyone, not just the DD’s. They also brought in food trucks to help balance out all the delicious beverages, all of whom donated
10% of their sales to the Zoo.
Sacramento Food Trucks – Drewski’s / La Mex Taqueria / GyroStop / The Sweet Spot
Nothing makes me happier than to see a huge line at an event, especially a fundraiser. Thanks to the Zoo for letting Girls on Food giveaway two tickets to this event. Our girl Rebecca had a great time at the event too. Sadly, I didn’t get to run into her, but from her IG post I know she had as much fun as I did.
As we were dropped off in our faux-Uber, really my little sister, we noticed the crazy long line. Thankfully we hopped into the Will Call line, then breezed in right away. From the moment, we walked into the Zoo all of the staff and volunteers were very kind and helpful.
The Zoo should think about selling libations more often, like every day they are open. 😉 As we handed our tickets to the volunteers they directed us to our wine glass pick-up, which was a few short steps away. The lovely volunteers gave us our glasses and then we were off to booze it up. Born and raised in Sac, I know this Zoo fairly well; essentially it is one large loop. Tossing caution and map to the wind, we decided to go toward the Tiger, where plenty of vendors were set up. We had perused the silent auction before we started tasting the adult beverages.
Thankfully the Zoo has so many fun photo ops, really for the kids, but when there aren’t any children, you just do it! There wasn’t one booth we didn’t try. And I can honestly say, every single vendor was sweet, poured generously, and didn’t mind chatting up everyone in line. Seriously, you’d think they were getting paid to hand out gratis drinks. Everyone was in a great mood, and it was a great vibe in the Zoo that night.
Going to the Zoo as a child is full of wanderlust, but add alcohol and it’s adult wanderlust. Admiring the giraffes while sipping on wine was something I’m not sure I’d ever thought I’d do. It was almost as if they knew everyone was enjoying them. Three of them lined up and started galloping together, running if you will. One even stood there, picture perfect for us to snap a pic. The other was just enjoying his dinner.
After a few too many tastes, we decided to grab some food. They grouped the food trucks in two’s. The GryoStop was the closest to us, so we went after it. Greek food is fantastic, so we had no qualms with our option. The other two were on the other side of the Zoo, but we would have been happy with those options too – American or Mexican. J and I decided to split an order of the Loaded Fries and a Beef/Lamb Gyro; it was the best decision we made that day. I’ve never tried this truck, but I’d certainly hunt it out in Sacramento after trying it. The Loaded Fries were amazing, who thought of combining tzatziki sauce with nacho cheese and topping it with feta is a pure culinary genius. No pretentious foodie here, just a girl who loves anything with a burst of flavor. After we had devoured these two delectable Greek goodies, we sent off to tackle the other side of the Zoo.
I can’t even lie; I was stoked to head into the Reptile House with my wine glass. I already love the reptile house, but enjoying a beverage in there was even more exciting for some odd reason. Everyone attending the event was having a great time. We met new friends in there and burst through the doors laughing as we left. We then found the other two food trucks, but the lines were pretty long, and we wanted to try more wine and brew, so we skipped them for more booze. This area is already a picnic area, so it was a great setting for hanging out, eating, and relaxing if you were tired. They were playing music, and it was a great vibe.
We got back on the Zoo ‘loop’ to continue our tasting. The mixture of beer to wine options seemed spaced out well. It also helped that they had plenty of ‘Coca Cola stations’ with bottled water and soda. The bottled water was helpful to rinse out your glass, especially from the beer to wine transition or vice versa. I’m sure the DD population enjoyed those booths as well. Zinfandel was a common denominator with all the wineries here. Seeing as how many of these are local wineries, Zin is their specialty. I think almost every table had a Zin to pour; it isn’t my favorite, but I’m starting to more and more these days.
The two and a half hours went by so quickly. Even though it was just J and myself, we had a great time. The staff and the attendees made it a great environment. It was worth the ticket cost and I’d encourage everyone to attend next year; you get your monies worth of booze, fun, and animals…all while donating to a great, local cause. If I could suggest one thing, I’d ask them to add two more food trucks. With all that booze flowing, we all were hungry; the lines proved it.
A shout out to the animals for letting us get wild and crazy in their hood for an evening!
Did you know the Whole Foods in Downtown Los Angeles has an excellent bar and restaurant called The Eight Bar? I certainly didn’t, but they were kind enough to invite me to come by and check them out. I didn’t think I’d like a bar in a grocery store so much, but I was impressed all around with my experience. The staff was very kind and knowledgeable, and I was very excited with both their wine and beer lists. They have various food specials throughout the week, but Mondays they feature oysters so I got treated to a summer wine flights paired with oysters served two ways.
With summer right around the corner, I was thrilled to do a flight of my two favorite warm weather (and day drinking!) wines- rosé and sparkling wine. All of the wines can be purchased at your local Whole Foods, so if you’re into bright, tasty rosés or some superb bubbly, I recommend any of these bottles.
The tasting list included (left to right), Presto Prosecco (in adorable single serve cans!), the Summer Water Rosé (Santa Barbara County), Domaine de la Solitude Rose (Côtes du Rhone), Col Veterra Prosecco, and the Gaston Chiquet Brut Champagne. I honestly don’t think I could pick a favorite out of the lineup as they were all super tasty. The Domaine de la Solitude rosé was right up my alley with some great berry flavors and a subtle dry minerality. The champagne was also excellent, and a great alternative to Veuve Clicquot or Möet. Plus how cute is that can of prosecco? Perfect for a day at the beach, camping, poolside, or anytime you want just one glass of the bubbly (instead of the whole bottle).
In addition to some great wines, the folks at The Eight Bar were kind enough to let my try their oysters prepared two ways, which was the perfect compliment to these refreshing summer wines. All their oysters are steamed in a beer bath and then prepared in several ways. The first were more traditional oysters, complete with house-made cocktail sauce. The others were cooked with St. Germaine and dry white vermouth and a cream sauce. I had never had fresh oysters prepared in a such a rich and decadent way before, so the latter was definitely a treat!
I’d had never thought there’d be such a neat bar at a Whole Foods, but The Eight Bar in Downtown LA is a delightful hidden gem. The food and wine were both great, but more importantly, the staff was knowledgeable and friendly, which, in my opinion, really elevates a bar from good to great. So make sure you pay these guys a visit if you’re in the area, and if not, don’t fret – you can always grab a bottle of rosé for your lazy afternoons at your local Whole Foods.
Romancing the Bean Cafe is a family own and run cafe that fits perfectly with its neighborhood. Located in the super cute and community oriented Magnolia park in Burbank. Kerry Krull’s is the owner and chef. Her son Ramsey set up the computer system of the place and from time to time acts as a barista and her daughter Kendra decorated the place. The atmosphere at the cafe is very chic. It has an upscale vibe with a warm welcoming décor.
Romancing the Bean Cafe
3413 W Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91505
GOF, Girls on Food, got invited to sample the new menu at Romancing the Bean. The point of the event was to showcase the exciting new food and drinks that are currently being served. They are proud to use the freshest organic ingredients available to them and to support local farmer markets. Their menu has been crafted with a little bit of something for every taste including gluten free bread for the gluten free Angelinos.
They welcomed GOF with a beautiful and delicious table spread that included some of their best selling items that you can get in their sammies, wraps and salads. We had samples of their famous chicken curry, salmon tartare, tuna, Italian chop salad, the superfoods salad and amazing cheese and cold cuts plates with a variety of bread.
I particularly liked the superfoods salad. It was so tasty and full of good foods like kale, almonds, cranberries, blueberries and goat cheese.
I also enjoyed the tuna, but then again I’m a sucker for tuna. It was flavorful and lite. It is made with albacore, capers, red onions, lemon zest and tomatoes. So good!
Romancing the Bean cafe is the perfect place to catch up with friends, meet people for business or just to have a little bit of me time drinking an amazing cup of coffee. They’re open 7 am – 7 pm during the week and 8 am – 5 pm on the weekends.
It’s no secret I love the wine on the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail in Santa Barbara County. There are so many hidden gems on the trail, and while Zaca Mesa is certainly more widely distributed than many other wineries in the area, it has some unique wines you can only find in their tasting room.
For starters, Zaca Mesa is located on some beautiful grounds out in the Santa Maria countryside. There’s even a hiking path through some of their vineyards you can take a walk through, as well as an oversized chess set that I’m sure is super fun after a few glasses (not that I would know!). The outdoor area is stunning, and since the weather on the central coast is always fantastic, it’s the perfect place to sip some wine and enjoy a sunny day.
Head inside for your wine and you’ll be greeted by the very friendly staff. Zaca Mesa grows a lot of what you expect to find on the central coast- Chardonnay and some excellent GSM blends. But for the adventurous wine taster, they have some exciting and unique choices. Both their Marsanne and their Roussanne are fantastic whites. I was a little surprised when they recommended the Roussanne serves at cellar temperature instead of chilled, but it has so much body that it works beautifully. If you are into a classic Viognier, their’s is one of the best I’ve had from the region.
And if you’re a Rhone fan like me, you must try their Z Cuvee and Syrah. They have some special limited Syrah’s too that are just fantastic if you can get your hands on them. And if you fancy something a bit lighter, their Grenache is the bomb dot com. The best part about Zaca Mesa is they are by far one of the most affordable wineries on the trail. Tastings are $10 a person and most of the wine is under $40 a bottle (with many much cheaper options!)
If you are looking for a fun, laid back tasting on the central coast, make sure you visit Zaca Mesa! Leave the pretension at home and have some great wine with some fun people.
One of the best things about living in Northern California is no matter which direction you turn there is always something to do. Head north, you can stomp grapes, hike among the redwoods and explore the little tiny towns that connect the dots throughout the upper portion of the state. Look west towards the Pacific Ocean and endless oysters can be feasted upon, whales can be watched until your hearts content and waves can be caught with just a cowardly lion’s thimble full of courage. Look below, towards the south and you can lose yourself amidst the fog as your roam the streets of the city by the bay, cheer on the red and gold at the future home of Superbowl XLIX or chew until your jaw falls off on some of the best saltwater taffy Santa Cruz has to offer. This weekend, however, my compass pointed towards the east. A direction known for Cal Bears, an entire nation who bleed silver and black and a community whose cultural heritage and pride often help to carry them through the most adverse of life circumstances.
I was in Oakland this weekend for the 7th Annual Eat Real Food Festival, a community celebrating one simple thing… GOOD FOOD!! If a state fair, a block party and a street-food festival had a threesome and created a baby from it… Oakland’s Eat Real Food Festival would be its amazingly beautiful and delicious offspring. With an eye on teaching the public how to support local food systems as well as promoting a stronger and healthier community-run organizations and businesses, the Eat Real Food Festival strives to bridge the gap between the average consumer and their local food producers and growers. Individual food artisans mingled with national sponsors who in turned rubbed elbows with regional farmers and mom and pop businesses as a way of showing their support for one another. With 100% of the proceeds going to support the Food Craft Institute, a non-profit educational institution which supports the entrepreneurship and economic growth of small traditional food businesses, the Real Food Festival allows the community to sample the offerings of up and coming Bay Area businesses. Which really, when you think of it is a win/win situation for everyone.
The Eat Real Food Festival has, thus far, been the biggest food festival I have ever been to. With over seventy-five thousand people attending the event within a three-day period, there were more than a few mouths to feed. Fortunately, the sweet and savory selections did not disappoint. Over 120 food, wine and spirit vendors showed up with the very best of all types of cuisine. Mexican, Peruvian, Spanish, Korean, All-American, Portuguese, Soul Food, Seafood, French, Italian, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner… you name it they had it!!! Enough to make your head, or really your stomach explode.
One of the first items I happily indulged on was actually not a meal at all. I am a firm believer in dessert first, therefore I saddled up to the West Coast Style Frozen Custard Truck to try my first ever frozen custard. Half custard, half ice cream and all completely heavily (literally I think that is what heaven tastes like), it left me asking one question: How after 29 years of being on this earth have I never tried frozen custard before. Though there were numerous selections to choose from, including vanilla bean and rich chocolate, it was easy for me to pick a flavor. Being a sucker for anything Thai inspired, I immediately went for the Thai Ice Tea flavor with sweetened condensed milk on top.
With the temperature being over 90 degrees outside, it was no surprise that the creamy treat cooled me down, but even if it was ten below zero I’m sure I would have found myself face deep in the bowl of goodness.
Next up came the paella from San Francisco based catering company ñora. Paella, a traditional Spanish rice dish is known for being cooked in a large round, shallow pan, which allows the rice in the Paella to become extra crispy. Along with aiding in the cooking process, this cooking vessel and the chefs who work the Paella in the pan create quite an exciting spectacle for those waiting to try. Fortunately, the taste was worth the wait… it was absolutely delicious, perfectly seasoned with saffron and not too hot right off the Paella pan.
Following the Paella, I decided to give my tummy a bit of a break so I wondered over to the entrance to the festival where many of the information booths were located. I learned about the importance of urban farming and sustainable food systems from the fine volunteers at City Slicker Farms, a non-profit organization designed to educate the general public about where their food comes from.
After collecting a complementary package of antique sweet pea flower seeds I quickly made a beeline to the Love A Bee honey stand, where I learned about importance of bees in our ecosystem all while sampled some local varieties of organic honey. I ended my mini farm tour with a visit to some adorable fine feathered friends, baby chicks
brought by Clover Stornetta Farms in Petaluma, where they along with eggs, produce a wide variety of delicious organic dairy products.
My second lunch (my first being the paella) came from Bombzies Asian BBQ. The Vietnamese BBQ chicken, their original recipe had me at first site.
Next came giant pickles and marinated vegetable salad from Happy Girl Kitchen Co.
followed by a demonstration from the Chipotle on how to make their signature fresh guacamole with only six fresh ingredients: ripe Hass avocados, lime juice, cilantro, red onion, jalapeno and kosher salt… yes, please!!
It was impossible for me to end my day without grabbing a few things to go for my hungry folks waiting at home. That was actually an easy choice. It was organic modern soul food in the form of a BBQ pork belly sandwich from Keenan’s Kitchen for my dad.
And for my mom, the ultimate mushroom lover, it was wild mushroom and cheese empanadas from the El Porteño, an Argentinian food truck and caterer located out of San Francisco. Empanadas so good, I found myself look up the locations of their food truck for future reference.
Finally, my last stop before departing the Eat Real Food Festival was to glutinously pick up something which I had been thinking about all afternoon. It was to an unpretentious little popcorn stand I stopped by and quickly sampled at the beginning of my day. The popcorn at the POP Mama POP Artisan Popcorn booth is easily the best popcorn I have ever had, and this coming from someone who grew up on classic air popped popcorn all her life. Their organic locally grown corn paired with the delicious flavors they create is out of this world good. Flavors such as Jalapeno Sweet, Parmesan Garlic, Hot Chocolate and Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper left this life-long popcorn connoisseur coming back for second and third samples.
I came back so many times the founder Kathleen Hackett, couldn’t help but laugh as I stuffed yet another sample of the kettle corn in my mouth (nearly choking on it in the process.. thanks to the random bystander for the quick smack on the back) Kathleen, who not only makes a good product and was generous enough to indulge my numerous samples, but was also generous enough to have all of the festivals tips go towards the victims of the valley fire. But in the end it was the popcorn that kept me coming back for more, especially the Snickerdoodle flavor. What was once a childhood cookie memory, had been transformed into the ultimate sweet and salty snack. A snack so good I have no shame in admitting that I ate the entire bag I purchased from the festival for breakfast this morning.
To say the Eat Real Festival treated me well is an understatement. If life was being played out in the novel pages of Charlotte’s Web, I was for the briefest of moments Templeton the rat, the errand boy (or girl) set out to bring back to you messages of up and coming, new and thriving food favorites in the area. I and my stomach are more than happy I followed my compass east this weekend. If I had not done so I would have surely missed out on the veritable smorgasbord-orgasbord of deliciousness.