Friday, October 28, 2011

Wine & Cupcakes: A Brilliant Idea

I love wine.  That’s probably not a surprise.

I also love cupcakes.  That is also probably not a surprise.

So an event that involved both wine and cupcakes?  Not surprisingly, I loved it.

My friend Paul had tweeted me to tell me about this event and I signed up immediately.  I was so excited about it, I almost forgot to check my calendar to see if I could go.  (Luckily, I could.)  And then I talked Teri into going with me.  You can imagine it took a lot of convincing. 

Or not.

It was such a cool event.  Tammy Colson, aka Miss WineOH, runs a blog that reviews wines from all over as well as coordinates events such as the one we attended, where they do unique wine and food pairings.

I’m considering asking her if she needs an intern.

The event was held at City Beverage, where I had actually never been (!!), and it was a cozy, intimate group of 15 people.  Tammy did an amazing job running the event and Spencer from City Beverage was super accommodating.  I was so impressed, and Teri and I both had such a great time.

But you want to know what I ate and drank, right?  Right.

Each of the wines was paired with a cupcake to match it.   Light wines with light cupcakes, heavy wines with heavy cupcakes.  The cupcakes came from a new bakery in Winston-Salem, Camino Bakery, and they were so creative and delicious.  (And thankfully they were mini cupcakes, so you didn’t have a sugar coma if you tried them all!  Which I most definitely did.)


Here’s the actual tasting list from the event, with the wines we had and the cupcakes that matched.  My hands down favorite was the roasted garlic cake with smoked gouda icing matched with the 2009 Dante Pinot Noir.

I know.  I am starting to love red wines.  I don’t even know myself anymore!

And yes, a GARLIC cupcake.  It was delicious – a little smoky and savory, but still a tiny bit sweet.  Perfectly balanced by the wine, which to me was my favorite kind of red – jammy.  I may have brought a souvenir home…


My second favorite cupcake was the saffron cupcake with cardamon icing, especially when I just tasted the cupcake without the icing.  It reminded me of paella, but in cupcake form.  That sounds gross doesn’t it?  It wasn’t.  I liked the wine it was paired with too – it was called Big Fire Rose and it was from Oregon.  It definitely wasn’t like most Roses, and I could imagine eating it with a spicy hot meal on a chilly fall night.  (Or with a saffron cupcake on a chilly fall night.  That worked too.)

My favorite wine was the Pinot Noir, but my second favorite was the 2010 Valdesil Montevo Godello (a Spanish white) paired with a vanilla bean cupcake with strawberry balsamic icing.  It wasn’t my favorite cupcake – nothing about the flavor really jumped out at me – but I loved the wine.  I’m a sucker for anything from Spain, but I can’t say I’ve really had a lot of wine from there!  But Tammy said this wine was a lot like a viognier, which I discovered I love at last year’s Salute festival. 


This was such a fun twist on the usual wine-and-cheese pairing idea, and such a neat way to explore new flavors.  Not to mention a great way to spend time with some old friends, new friends and friends who photograph their food too.


PS, you can read Teri’s version here with more pics and different wine preferences! 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Float like a Butterfly, Run like a Bee…

That’s how that saying goes, right?


So explain to me what all these bees are doing running then….


Today was the Boos & Brews Halloween 5k.  I’ve never run a race in costume before, but when my friend Teri tweeted me about it a few weeks ago I impulsively signed up. 

Then I immediately started worrying over what kind of costume I could wear, much less run in.  Inspiration struck when I was putting away laundry and noticed a bright yellow t-shirt next to my black running skirt.  A few pieces of black duct tape, some striped knee socks, wings and an antennae headband and I was good to go!  Bzz bzz!

I was excited to see so many other runners came out in costume – in fact, almost everyone running the race was dressed up!


Me, Anne and Teri in our cute costumes – Anne in 80s gear, me as a bumble bee and Teri as Tinkerbell.


I was most impressed when I saw this guy…. I couldn’t believe he was able to run in that!


I also couldn’t believe how fast Anne and I ended up running it – there was a huuuuuge hill in the middle of it, that I swear felt like it was never going to end.  We had to walk part of it, so I was delighted when we came in around the corner to the finish and had run it about 2 minutes faster than my “average” time – even with the walk!


We had a blast – I’ll definitely do it again next year.  I’ll have to start scheming what my costume will be – although apparently, having those wings on helped me fly through the race!   Thanks to my friend Stephanie, who is also our Dance Trance instructor and a sponsor of the race, for many of these photos.  She was also a great cheerleader – Anne and I heard her shouting for us as soon as the finish line was in sight! 


Thursday, October 20, 2011

After-Vacation Vacation

You know how everyone says when you get home from vacation, you need a vacation?

It’s so true. 

I was lucky enough to just have to go back to work for one day before it was my flex day, and I had a day off.  I the morning running errands, including a long overdue car repair, and then afternoon cleaning up the house and catching up on laundry.  (Although, I must give credit where credit is due – we had six loads of laundry to do and Matt did four on the day I went back to work so all I had to do was fold and put away.  Love that man.)  I ran around like a crazy person for 8 hours, and then?


I crashed. 

But it was great to be able to put our home and lives back in order a little bit, so I could actually relax and enjoy the upcoming weekend instead of tackling the piles of laundry and housework then.  So yes, a vacation after a vacation… it’s a MUST. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

12 Across: Homeward Bound

Our trip home was blessedly uneventful.  It was a long 12 hour day, getting back to the East coast.  Our flights out had had wi-fi and I sort of expected the flights home too as well, so I didn’t even have a book or good magazine.

When they didn’t, I resorted to a crossword puzzle book I had picked up on the way out there…


Of course, I got 54 across correct.  I may have even sang a little song about it.

I completed 27 crosswords puzzles on my 2 flights back and read one copy of US Weekly.  That was, after I got it back from Matt, who wanted to read the story about Ashton and Demi.

We had such a fun trip and it seemed liked it was over too soon – but I think that’s the mark of a great vacation, right? 


Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday in Sonoma Valley

Is there anything better than sitting outside on a unexpectedly warm Fall day, gazing out at lush green land, sipping wine and laughing and talking with your friends?




I’m going to argue no.  After spending the most glorious 3 days in Sonoma with my college girlfriends last March, I was hell bent on getting back there if we were only going to be 50 miles away.  Luckily for me, Anne took no convincing whatsoever and the boys somewhat begrudgingly agreed.  (I think they were very content once we got into the swing of things.)


I mean, who wouldn’t be?

We used the same company that I had used with the winos for our drivers –  Terrific Tours.  I can’t say enough great things about them, especially DJ – who had driven us last year and I requested this year.  He grew up in the area in a grape-growing family and is knowledgeable about the area and is on a first name basis at almost every vineyard we visited.  But he also backs off and lets a group do their own thing once we get to each place.  If you’re ever going to wine country, use them as your drivers!  (And trust me, you want a driver.) 

On our way out of the city, we were all exclaiming at the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and he asked if we wanted to take a quick pit stop for some photo ops.  Of course! 



We somehow packed 7 vineyards into our day.   We started off at Cline Cellars, because…well, obviously!  We’ve had a handful of Cline wines before at home, including one of Matt’s favorites Red Truck.  I was glad that I knew I could get most of these wines at Total Wine when we got home, because I wanted to take them all – especially the Zinfandel.



(So, I’m wondering if fixing the broken “E” on the Cline sign is a photoshop do-able thing?  I need to learn these skills.)

From Cline, we went across the street to their “sister vineyard,” Jacuzzi.  Apparently a Cline married a Jacuzzi, bringing these 2 vineyards into one family.  Kind of lamenting that it’s not one of our Clines that married said Jacuzzi.  Jacuzzi had some really delicious Italian style wines, but our favorite was the “chocolate shot.”  Their dessert wine poured into a chocolate shot – drink the wine, then immediately chew the chocolate.  Heck yea.  Anne fell in love with a red here called Barbera that she swore was the best red she’s ever had. 



From Jacuzzi, we went to a vineyard called Anaba.  Instead of the usual tasting room style, we were invited to go sit outside on the patio and she came out and poured one wine at a time and allowed us to sit and sip and talk.  I think this was hands down everyone’s favorite place.  These were some of my favorite wines we had all day too – I bought a white called Coriol just because I had never had anything like it and Matt picked out a red called Turbine, that was super jammy and delicious.


At these point, we were in need of some food to start soaking up the wine, so DJ took us into downtown Sonoma to a place called Sunflower Café.  The long line told us everything we needed to know – and fortunately for our rumbling stomachs, it moved quickly.  Per the recommendation of the girl at Anaba, we tried the goat cheese and pistachio stuffed peppers as an appetizer. 


After lunch, we were ready to go again.  DJ took us next to a place that was supposed to have some of the best Pinot Noirs in Sonoma Valley called Nicholson Ranch.  This was probably my least favorite place of the day, possibly because it was the only place we went where the person doing the tastings was not very warm and really didn’t take a lot of time to tell us about any of the wines we were pouring other than pointing to the tasting notes on a piece of paper.  We didn’t stay very long or take home any souvenirs.

From Nicholson, we went on to Robledo which was pretty much the exact opposite experience.  The guy doing the tastings was one of the 7 sons of the owners, and not only did he tell us about each and every wine but kept us entertained with stories about how his Dad had started off in the late 60s learning to prune vines and saved every penny he made until he could open his own vineyard in the late 80s.  We loved the story and we loved the wines – and Matt loved the hand made furniture in the tasting room (of course).  We didn’t have room to put a table in our carry-on, so we settled for taking home a bottle of Los Braceros, a bold red blend. 


After Robledo’s, we hit up two more smaller vineyards – Homewood winery and Meadowcroft.  Homewood winery is literally a one man show – the owner does as much of the work himself as he can and so production is quite small.  Their attitude was that wine making (and drinking) should be fun, as evidenced in the name of their signature wine – the Flying Wizzbanger.  I can’t remember how the name came about, but the wine is good!  We were definitely winding down by the time we got to Meadowcroft, but they had a great Chardonnay which surprised me as I’m not usually a fan of oaky, creamy Chards.  It was the last one to join my collection of souvenirs to come home.


And by then, it was time for us to go home.  It was getting late into the afternoon, and our driver said “bad things happen after 7 vineyards.”  Can’t argue with that!  Back to the city we went…


Waving good-bye to my favorite place on Earth…


Hoping that somehow 2012 holds a surprise trip for me, too…

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Rock

I really didn’t know much about Alcatraz – I haven’t even seen the movie “The Rock” – but we had lots of people tell us that this was a must do on our trip to San Fran. 

We set off on our tour as the sun was setting, providing us with some gorgeous views of the island, the bridge and the receding city line.



The tour was really interesting.  It was a self-guided audio tour, and you heard the story of Alcatraz told from the perspective of inmates, employees and even families who lived on the island.  Walking around the empty, ruined prison at night added a surreal, creepy vibe to the entire experience.


It was somewhat hard for me to reconcile the fact that this was a real place, and not just some movie set I was wandering around.  I couldn’t get over how tiny the cells were and how because prisoners were sent to Alcatraz for bad behavior at other prisons, the only things they were guaranteed was food, shelter and medical attention.  Everything else had to be earned. 


It was maximum security, minimal comforts.


It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip – although I am thankful we were there for just a visit, and not to stay!

San Francisco Sunday

Today we were determined to be a little more touristy, since we hadn’t really seen much of the city yesterday.  (Although the view from our hotel room happy hour was lovely!)

After brunch (Eggs Benedict, again), Anne and I walked from our hotel down to the Ferry Building.  When we got there, there was a crafts market / bazaar being set up outside. 


There were 2 problems with our timing here:

1) We got there about 10:30, and it seemed like most of the places opened at 11.

2) We just had eaten breakfast, and though so many of the little artisan food vendors looked amazingly tempting – neither of us were hungry.

Not even for cheese.  It was a bit of travesty, to be honest.


It was a perfectly gloomy morning to just wander so that’s what we did.


We ended up walking out to the end of a nearby pier, and sitting in chairs with the cloudy SF fog settling in around us and talked for about an hour.  Turns out that no matter where Anne and I end up, talking is our favorite hobby. 


(The problem with handing a stranger your camera is that you need to remember to return the settings to auto.  Otherwise… you have blurry people and sharp backgrounds.  Oops.)

After spending our morning down by the ferry, we reconvened with the boys to figure out the rest of our day.  We decided to go back down to Fisherman’s Wharf and wander around there.  I convinced everyone we should take the cable cars to get there, because riding off the side of the cable car is the most quintessential San Francisco thing you can do, right?


Sure.  If you’re lucky enough to actually get a seat outside or ride on the edge.  We got on about two stops from the start and everyone but Matt was crammed into the middle of the car.  It was hot, noisy and rickety.  The only view of the crazy steep hills I had were blocked by the gripper’s head.


But whatever, it was still kind of cool.  And I still maintain that you kind of *have* to do it if you’re in SF.


Maybe next time we’ll wait in the real line and get on at the beginning.  And either way, it got us to our destination!


Once we got to Fisherman’s Wharf, we made our way over to the sea lions.  They were hilarious to watch.  Locke referred to the one loner sea lion as the “”Buddy sea lion.”  So very true. 



Rather than walking back through the chaos of Pier 39, we wandered around the back.  It was so pretty and peaceful there.  I just love being near water – it’s so calming. 


We were a little bit early for our scheduled Alcatrez tour by the time we made it down to the landing, so we went to a little restaurant across the street to wait for our tour to start.


After killing time, we were ready for our tour on doing time…


Saturday, October 15, 2011

San Francisco Saturday

The perk of not adjusting to our west coast time was that we were up and ready for breakfast long before any lines could start forming at some of the nearby yummy breakfast places.  The doorman at our hotel suggested we try Café Presse, which was right down the street from our hotel.

It had the feel of a European coffee shop combined with a library – there was one entire wall lined with magazines and newspapers that solo breakfast eaters could pick up to flip through while they sipped their latte.

And the latte took awhile to sip.


The food was delicious too.  I had Eggs Benedict – which is my favorite brunch.  I actually ended up having it Sunday morning too at another nearby dinner and it was not as good.  Much, much better here.  The eggs were so perfectly poached.


My food photography amuses Anne.


We lingered at breakfast for awhile, chatting about our plans for the day and keeping our little mascot occupied for awhile.


Today the boys had to spend most of the day at their conference, so we occupied ourselves wandering around near our hotel and seeing the sights…


Okay I lied, we went to Anthropologie, Forever 21 and Sephora.

And we ate some more.


Crystal and I found this little Mexican place near the conference center called Tropisueno.  It was a bit of a hole in the wall but Yelp said it was good and our rumbling tummies said it looked promising, so we tried it out.  We were not disappointed.  (And that says quite a lot, with Crystal being a born and bred Texan!)

After lunch, Anne and I had a little happy hour in our room while Crystal and Ethan napped.


In the late afternoon, we met up with the boys again to watch the Wake vs. Va Tech game.  It wasn’t being played on TV but that didn’t stop our Deacon fans.  They found a bar near our hotel with wifi and we watched the game on Locke’s laptop.


Now that was disappointing.  Oh Deacons.

Saturday night was the big group dinner for Matt’s entire class and all the attendings who were out there for the conference.  We ate at Alioto’s, which was one of the big restaurants down by Fisherman’s Wharf.  It was honestly the meal I liked the least out of all the places we went to the entire weekend!   Just like the night before (and probably due to waking up at 4 am PST), the girls crashed early and we took a cab back from dinner to call it a night.