Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Meet my new buddy

Yep, I'm now the proud owner of a bike (thanks for the Christmas present, Jamie :D)! I've been pretty bummed about the no running thing, so Jamie and I went to test out bikes when he was here over Thanksgiving. I fell in love with this one and it came home with us (even after a little bit of an incident involving me and an oncoming Muni bus).

Right now I'm still getting used to the whole riding with traffic thing, since the last time I owned a bike I was 12 and riding on a dead end street. Since I don't have a lock or a rear blinky light, I can really only ride over the weekend from and to my apartment...I should be able to get ample road practice that way, right?

My plan is (once I'm comfortable riding, of course) to bike to and from work and get some longer rides in on the weekend. Hello, cross training! Nice to finally meet you! I'm pretty nervous about venturing into the open road...any advice for a newbie? I know there are hand signals for turning, the bike lane doesn't mean you are always safe, and I'm not allowed to ride on the sidewalk...basic stuff.

Do I make left turns like a car? Do I make left turns from the bike lane? Jeebus. So much to learn. I think for now I'm sticking to Crissy Field. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Recap

This shouldn't come as a surprise - Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love cooking for large crowds and getting together with friends and family for this day of feasting.

We spent this Thanksgiving with Selin's family and had an amazing time. There was plenty of cooking, eating and drinking for all!
On the menu:
Baked Camembert and Caramelized Onions
1 wheel camembert
1 sheet puff pastry
1 large onion, sliced and caramelized
2 chives

Preheat oven to 400. Roll out puff pastry on a foil lined baking sheet. Place camembert in the center of the puff pastry and top with onions. Gather opposite corners of the puff pastry and pinch at the top. Tie chive around top.
Bake until golden.

Slice into the crispy crust and unleash the delicious goo inside!
Great w/some crackers or, if you're really into cheese/are starving, on its own. The bolder camembert made this more flavorful than a standard brie en croute. Just saying.

The appetizer kept us full as we continued working on the rest of dinner...

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese

Roasted Root Vegetables
3 parsnips, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1 bulb fennel, sliced
1 japanese sweet potato, peeled & sliced
olive oil

Preheat oven to 425. Toss all ingredients in a large bowl, spread out on foil lined baking sheet.
Bake for 40-45 minutes.

We tossed in some of the fennel tops for flavor/fragrance since the bulb was tiny. No biggie.

Italian Sausage and Bread Stuffing (adapted from Gourmet)
1 (3/4- to 1-pound) round Italian loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes (8 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 lb hot Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 medium onions, chopped
4 large celery ribs, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp rosemary, minced
1/2 tsp sage, minced
1 tsp thyme, minced
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (2 oz)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 350. Spread bread out on a baking sheet and bake until just dried out, about 10 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then cook half of sausage (mixing hot and sweet), stirring and breaking it into small pieces, until golden brown.

Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl and repeat with remaining sausage.

Pour off fat from skillet. Heat butter over medium heat. Add onions, celery, garlic, rosemary, sage, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until golden. Add vegetables and bread to sausage.

Whisk together eggs, 1/2 cup cream, chicken broth, cheese, and parsley, then stir into stuffing and cool completely, then drizzle with remaining 1/4 cup cream. Cover stuffing and chill.

Preheat oven to 425 and bake stuffing, covered tightly with foil, until hot throughout, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is golden and crisp, about 20 minutes more.

I've made this stuffing for the past couple of years and it's always a crowd pleaser. This year, I cut the bread a little bigger than usual and baked it a little longer without foil. The result: a crispier stuffing...yum!

Also present, but not pictured: Mashed Potatoes, Red Wine Braised Short Ribs, Turkey (duh), Circassian Chicken, Scallion Rice, and PIES!

Delicious thanksgiving!

How did you spend your turkey day?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Northbound and Monterey Fun

Immediately after our morning hike, V and I set off on our scenic drive north to Monterey. Normally this trip should only take an hour, but when you put two camera happy ladies in one car, it takes about two.

We didn't really get a chance to snap any fun pictures on the way down since we wanted to get to the campground before it got too dark. This time around we managed to stop at almost every scenic overlook along Highway 1. AMAZING.
Once we hit Monterey, we headed straight to the convention center so V could pick up her race packet. It was a pretty good expo...decent vendors, not too crowded, a separate section of fun gear (they even had wine glasses and mugs engraved w/the half marathon logo). We zoomed out of there pretty quickly since we had lots planned for the evening!

We checked into the Asilomar Conference Grounds and got settled before heading out on a pre-dinner sunset drive/photo shoot. Our hotel was conveniently located in Pacific Grove, just west of downtown Monterey (and the race start) and just east of Pebble Beach.

We really didn't have a gameplan for the evening aside from finding a spot to catch the sunset on the beach (armed with cameras, of course), food and drink. Equipped with a handy dandy map, we set off to find 17-Mile Drive. You have to pay a $9.50 toll to wind through this 9-ish mile road, but it's totally worth it. We stumbled across beach



Originally we were just going to sit and enjoy a nice glass of wine while watching the sun set, but we were so hungry (apparently we forgot to eat ALL day...too many beautiful distractions, I guess) that we decided to splurge on dinner there.

We waited a few minutes for a table on the patio at Stillwater Bar & Grill. When we finally sat down, all we wanted was some wine and snacks. Pronto. Service was HORRIBLE. Pretty sure they forgot about us a few times. Ah well, it gave us time to chat up our table neighbors who were visiting from LA. Hey friendly people!

After our large glasses of wine arrived, we settled on an order of Atlantic & Pacific Oysters on the Half Shell
LOVE oysters. MMM.
Next up, since we needed something more substantial, we noshed on some Monterey Bay Crispy Calamari (Haricot Verts, Local Baby Artichokes, Meyer Lemon, Chipotle Aioli).
The veggies were actually a pleasant surprise...clearly we weren't paying attention to the menu details. Ha. These were pretty rich so there was plenty leftover.

Onto the main course! V needed to load up on calories (um, half marathon prep?) so she went with what looked like an AMAZING Cheeseburger w/Bacon
Our nice table neighbors gave us the heads up that the Garlic Fries were a tad greasy, so V got them 'well done'. Perfection.

I was kinda boring and went with the Hearts of Romaine with Organic Salmon (Spanish White Anchovy, Crostini, Nicoise Olives & Stillwater's Classic Caesar Dressing).
What can I say, I was in major ruffage withdrawal from the past couple of weeks. I took EVERY opportunity to chow down on crispy greens. Deliciously light.

Cheers to a fun weekend getaway!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Exploring the California Coast

This past weekend running buddy V was in town for a mini-vacay and to run the Big Sur Half Marathon. I was super excited since I hadn't seen her since the big move and this was going to be my first real break from the city.

I left work a little early on Friday so we could start our 3 hour journey south to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Equipped with camping gear, snackies, beer and tunes, we drove our zippy little rental car down the o so scenic California coast.

The drive down Highway 1 was AMAZING. Water to the right
mountains & greenery on the left
I think our jaws were dropped the whole time.
I love my new state.

The closer we got to Big Sur, we only got AM radio and it was pretty fitting.
It felt like we should have been driving a classic car with the top down wearing big sunglasses and handkerchiefs in our hair. Cell phone reception? Forget it.

We pulled into the campgrounds just as the sun was setting and immediately started setting up camp.
I must admit that I've really only been camping twice in my entire life. I enjoy the outdoors and I enjoy the idea of camping, but I can't 'set up camp' to save my life. V had our tent and fire started pretty quickly while I got to work on what I do best:
That's right, crack open beers and photograph. Oh, and make dinner:
You know, that headlamp comes in really handy when making PB&J in the dark.

We were up bright and early Saturday morning to pack up and start the trip back north to Monterey, but not before squeezing in a quick morning hike
The park ranger mentioned a couple of hike options and we opted for the shorter (1.5 mi round trip) hike to Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View.
The falls weren't huge, but still a great sight.
Valley views were fantastic...I wish I could have captured them better. Instead I will leave you with me. In a tree.
More to come!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More wine, more food, more fun.

After Rued, we made our way over to Matrix Winery where we looked forward to enjoying some Costeaux Focaccia. They had a couple tasting areas, including one out on the patio. This was where I camethisclose to buying a bottle of their 2006 Nunes Pinot Noir. Again, I don't usually like pinot noirs, but this was pretty good! I resisted the urge to buy a bottle (and by resisted I mean someone had to tell me not to) since it was either $35 or $40 :)

Unfortunately, the food wasn't as good as the wine. The four of us were convinced we were in for a fancy focaccia snack. Wrong-o. It was pretty much plain bread (texture was more like a loaf of regular bread) and some slices of gouda on the side. Eh, there had to be a food let down at some point. Can't have it all!

Next up was Twomey Cellars. Food here was PHENOMENAL. I may have actually gotten a second tasting ;p Definitely going to use the Pumpkin Gnocchi with Brown Butter, Walnuts and Sage recipe!

The wine here was pretty good too. I was hooked on the 2006 Napa Valley Merlot and I've never been much of a merlot drinker! Maybe it's because they snuck a bit of cabernet franc in there. Ah haaa. This bottle was on the pricier side ($50) so I passed on purchasing. Instead I opted for a photoshoot
Pretty sure those chairs were for sale. Weird.

As the day went on, the tastebuds and memory may have gotten a little fuzzy ;p Good thing C. Donatiello was serving up some super flavorful Duck & Shiitake Tinga Tostadas. I don't remember much about the wine, except that it went wonderfully with the tostadas and had a cool label.

I'd definitely visit again since the grounds were absolutely gorgeous. There was a garden with persimmons, limes and other fruits as well as chairs just waiting for a catalog-y photoshoot
We zoomed through pretty quickly so we could make it to Moshin Vineyards for some great wine and Rick's Famous Smoked Salmon in Phyllo Cups. Food wasn't bad...just kinda blah compared to the rest of the wineries. Still tasty.

I walked out with a bottle of their Promoshin Red Blend
A mysteriously delicious red priced at a wallet-friendly $18.

Our last stop of the day was Korbel Champagne Cellars where we caught them right before the festival ended (4pm). There may have been an incident pre-tasting involving dumping rinse water into the clean water pitcher...

We sampled a deliciously refreshing Orechiette Pasta with Melon & Champagne-Cracked Peppercorn Dressing. Normally I don't like creamy pasta salads, but this was AMAZING. The sweet melon went perfectly with the creamy, savory dressing. Definitely going to make this for a picnic!

Afterward we paid a visit to The Gourmet Delicatessen on site to split a pint of the much talked about Pliney the Elder
I had heard about this a few months ago but never really got around to searching for it. I was excited the the Korbel folks mentioned it and had it on tap! This double IPA is brewed by the Russian River Brewing Company and is pretty hoppy. I really enjoyed it. Definitely recommend it.

Awesome weekend.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Food, wine and fun for everyone!

This past weekend was the Russian River Wine Road 12th Annual Wine & Food Affair, my new favorite wine-related event! We stumbled upon last year's event by accident and ended up snacking on some AMAZING dishes. Naturally, we kept an eye out for this year's event and organized the troops for another fun weekend!

Sunday morning was rainy and gloomy in the city, but that didn't stop us from heading north! Luckily the weather cleared up by the time we made it to our first winery (deLorimier, obvs!) and we had an amazing November day of wine and food :)

Our check-in winery was deLorimier where we were greeted with our cookbooks
and wine glasses
(clearly I've already made use of mine this week)

I will spare you deLorimier scenery since I was just there, but I will mention the fantastically tender and savory Beef Bourguignon and a few notable wines:
  • 2009 Sauvignon Blanc - crisp and bright with a hint of tropical fruit. At only $18 a bottle, I think it's a reasonably priced, versatile bottle.
  • 2005 Crazy Creek Cabernet Sauvignon - berry-ish flavors and tannins that aren't too subtle or too bold. Perfection in my book. On the pricier side at $40 a bottle.
  • 2006 Malbec - a little acidic compared to others I've had, but still an enjoyable wine. Not too bad at $24 a bottle either.
  • 2005 Mosaic Meritage - deLorimier has two Meritages (Mosaic & Artisan) and there's a very slight difference in the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in each. I prefer the Mosaic because it's not as tart as the Artisan. This is on my 'special occasion' bottle list at $40.
No surprise that I have a long list of deLorimier wines since it's one of my go-to wineries! Still haven't found bottles in the city though...anyone else?

Next up was Vintners Signatures (which may or may not have been driven by their menu item: Wild Mushroom Ragout with Goat Cheese over Porcini Mushroom Polenta)
Savory, mushroom-y, cheesy. Yum.

They were pairing an un-bottled wine with this dish, their new Cult Pinot Noir. It went really well with the mushroom dish and had just enough acidity to cut the richness of the dish. Unfortunately, they were only doing pre-sales of 6 bottles or more...ehhhh too big of a commitment for me. Notables here:
  • 2009 Cult Pinot Noir - I forget the price on this one, but I believe they're bottling in December.
  • 2006 El Roy Proprieter's Red - rich, slightly tannic (??) and reasonably priced at $18. Not bad for a weeknight bottle. In fact, it might get opened for V's visit this week!

Onward to Ridge! I'll have you know I refrained from buying any bottles here since I went a little nutty over Labor Day. Still love the scenery (pretty sure this is a standard location for photos at Ridge)
and the wine. No surprise here:
  • Geyserville - Ridge is pretty consistent with this particular blend, so no matter what vintage you get, you'll end up with a great, balanced zinfandel blend. I've read that some people find it to be too big of a wine that needs a lot of time to breathe, but I've always enjoyed it shortly after opening. Favorite. $35.
They were serving a rich and comforting Cannellini Bean Soup with Duck Confit that totally hit the spot. You better believe I dog eared that page in the cookbook!

Amista was next and they were serving an AMAZING Cassoulet Amista, probably one of my favorite dishes of the day. I scarfed mine down quickly, so I'll just give you a glimpse into my cookbook instead.
It was paired with their 2005 Syrah and, naturally, they went well together. I wasn't totally into the wines at Amista, but I was adventurous and tried their Ilusion (Syrah/Zinfandel blend) dessert wine. I knew what I was getting into, but I was really curious about a red dessert wine. On its own, SUPER sweet. Once I snacked on a dark chocolate truffle (extra treat at the winery!), the wine transformed and the sweetness gave into slight tannins and it kinda grew on me. Very interesting!

Next up was Rued Vineyards. They took full advantage of the weather and had the tasting tables set up outside on a covered patio. On the menu: Lemon Ricotta Tarts (a smidge too tart and soft for my taste, especially with the wine pairing).

Notable wine:
  • 2007 Pinot Noir - I usually don't like pinot noir because they can be too soft on the palette, but this was a little bolder. In fact, I preferred this to the zinfandel they were pouring! $35.
Notable random:
PUMPKIN PIE SOFT SERVE! I never realized how awesome pumpkin pie is in soft serve form. *drool*

Stay tuned for the second half of our wine adventures (o yes, we managed to hit TEN)!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A belated running update

I'm keeping this short because the whole thing makes me sad/angry/frustrated.

Remember the busted left Achilles that plagued me last fall? It seems that my right leg was feeling a bit neglected and decided to join the party. Perfect. Just in time for marathon #5 that I had hoped to run in December. Clearly I signed up too soon.

I know this is totally self inflicted. I know I barely stretched after Chicago. I'm lucky if I put 5 minutes of stretching in. BAD! Ladies and gentlemen, rule number one that I know I should be following but am unbelievably bad at: STRETCH STRETCH STRETCH!

The crazy knot I used to get on my upper outside left calf (the soleus) manifested in my right calf last week during a run and I knew exactly what I was getting into. In an effort to nip this sucker in the bud, I immediately called Psoas Massage + Bodywork to see if I could schedule a last minute ART session. I learned about Psoas and ART through my running group and knew what wonders a 15 minute session could do for me. Luckily they were able to squeeze me in the following day.

Tightness confirmed. I felt much better after my session and learned a little bit more about how connected all my leg muscles are and how one can affect another in a domino effect (quads to hamstrings to calf to foot!). I also walked away with a couple stretches and strengthening exercises to keep my legs loose and happy.

Still not 100% comfortable with getting back to running (right Achilles was a bit tender this morning) so I'm not sure if December's race is going to happen. I'll have a better idea in a week. It'll suck since I did pay for the race, hotel and train ticket, but I really don't want to go, run a bad race and end up with something even worse. Meh. We'll see. Right now I'm doing a lot of bonding with the stick, tennis balls and golf balls...might even rock an ice bath this weekend. Jealous?

I've got one more session at Psoas planned for Thursday and I'm hoping that, combined with some diligent home stretching/loosening up, will get me back on the road again. Fingers crossed.