Lifestyle & Entertaining

 

I adore downtown Napa; it has a lovely urban feel yet it is situated on the beautifully renovated Napa River Waterfront.  There are dozens of tasting rooms, modern classy hotels and historic B&B’s, fabulous restaurants, nightlife (like salsa dancing at Ceja’s or jazz at Silo’s ) and shopping all within walking distance. It’s a wonderful destination for a girls’ getaway, a romantic date or even a healing respite alone or with a good friend.

I drive to Napa from my home 25 country miles away through the rolling vineyards about twice a month. I have often wanted to stay overnight on the spur of the moment. I just learned that smart folks in downtown Napa have figured out how to make it easy for visitors to enjoy a spontaneous overnight stay – they’ve designed complimentary overnight kits.

The Do Napa Overnight Kit includes:

  • An overnight shirt for sleeping
  • Do Napa canvas tote bag
  • Brush, hair bands and a mirror
  • Contact lens case and saline
  • 29 Cosmetics face products for the ladies
  • Lip balm
  • Makeup remover
  • Woolite for delicates
  • Deodorant

The Kits will be available at select properties in the city of Napa that are members of Napa’s Tourism Improvement District while supplies last. Local bars, restaurants and the Napa Valley Welcome Center will also have information about the Overnight Kit to distribute to visitors. To check availability, visitors should inquire at the front desk or call ahead on the day of their visit. Downtown Napa’s website is a great place to get ideas for your trip and a list of lodgings. DoNapa.com

 

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Sparkling Tasting 2011

My favorite New Year’s celebrations? Doing the unexpected with great friends. This year I had two evenings of bubbly tastings.  We tasted the newest trends in the global wine market, Rosé of Malbec and Torrontes/Chardonnay from Argentina, Moscato from California, Moscato and Prosecco from Italy and even a Yellowtail from Australia.

It’s an easy and fun party. Just ask your friends to bring a bottle from whatever country they want, the imports are well under $20 and the quality is just fine.  And, if you don’t like it straight, make sparkling cocktails or save it for the morning-after Mimosa or Bellini.  A bartender that attended made us a classic cocktail with sparkling wine, sugar and bitters. Serve finger food and don’t worry about perfect pairings.

The winner was Reginato Sparkling Torrontes Chardonnay.  It’s 80% Chardonnay, 20% Torrontes. The sweetness of the Torrontes really comes through.($17)  They also make a pretty Rosé of Malbec.

Terramia Moscato was the runner up, pear-baked, vanilla custard, dark cherries and grapefruit.  No flaws with a long dry finish.

One of my favorite Prosecco’s Villa Sandi Il Fresco Prosecco (Folio Wine Partners, $12.99) is a great choice.

Allure Moscato won the prize for the prettiest bottle. It tastes like Maraschino cherries & grapefruit. Allure Pink Moscato is popular among the younger crowds.

New Year’s is a great time to just have fun and do something new.  Enjoy!

 

Read Full Post »

Sparkling Tasting 2011

My favorite New Year’s celebrations? Doing the unexpected with great friends. This year I had two evenings of bubbly tastings.  We tasted the newest trends in the global wine market, Rosé of Malbec and Torrontes/Chardonnay from Argentina, Moscato from California, Moscato and Prosecco from Italy and even a Yellowtail from Australia.

It’s an easy and fun party. Just ask your friends to bring a bottle from whatever country they want, the imports are well under $20 and the quality is just fine.  And, if you don’t like it straight, make sparkling cocktails or save it for the morning-after Mimosa or Bellini.  A bartender that attended made us a classic cocktail with sparkling wine, sugar and bitters. Serve finger food and don’t worry about perfect pairings.

The winner was Reginato Sparkling Torrontes Chardonnay.  It’s 80% Chardonnay, 20% Torrontes. The sweetness of the Torrontes really comes through.($17)  They also make a pretty Rosé of Malbec.

Terramia Moscato was the runner up, pear-baked, vanilla custard, dark cherries and grapefruit.  No flaws with a long dry finish.

One of my favorite Prosecco’s Villa Sandi Il Fresco Prosecco (Folio Wine Partners, $12.99) is a great choice.

Allure Moscato won the prize for the prettiest bottle. It tastes like Maraschino cherries & grapefruit. Allure Pink Moscato is popular among the younger crowds.

New Year’s is a great time to just have fun and do something new.  Enjoy!

 

Read Full Post »

Sparkling Tasting 2011

My favorite New Year’s celebrations? Doing the unexpected with great friends. This year I had two evenings of bubbly tastings.  We tasted the newest trends in the global wine market, Rosé of Malbec and Torrontes/Chardonnay from Argentina, Moscato from California, Moscato and Prosecco from Italy and even a Yellowtail from Australia.

It’s an easy and fun party. Just ask your friends to bring a bottle from whatever country they want, the imports are well under $20 and the quality is just fine.  And, if you don’t like it straight, make sparkling cocktails or save it for the morning-after Mimosa or Bellini.  A bartender that attended made us a classic cocktail with sparkling wine, sugar and bitters. Serve finger food and don’t worry about perfect pairings.

The winner was Reginato Sparkling Torrontes Chardonnay.  It’s 80% Chardonnay, 20% Torrontes. The sweetness of the Torrontes really comes through.($17)  They also make a pretty Rosé of Malbec.

Terramia Moscato was the runner up, pear-baked, vanilla custard, dark cherries and grapefruit.  No flaws with a long dry finish.

One of my favorite Prosecco’s Villa Sandi Il Fresco Prosecco (Folio Wine Partners, $12.99) is a great choice.

Allure Moscato won the prize for the prettiest bottle. It tastes like Maraschino cherries & grapefruit. Allure Pink Moscato is popular among the younger crowds.

New Year’s is a great time to just have fun and do something new.  Enjoy!

 

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Bare Mixers Natural Cocktail Mix

Photo Courtesy of Bare Mixers

A girl can’t drink wine all the time, right? Luckily, I love cocktails.

Problem is though, I’ve never liked any of the bottled mixes–too much sugar and too many calories.  When fine restaurants began showcasing Artisan cocktails, I was an early fan.  My adopted son (born with an amazing wine palate) is a seriously popular mixologist at Piccos in Marin, one of many restaurants serving house-made specialty beverages.

I’ve been so inspired, I even made my own ginger ale.  But, frankly, sourcing all the fresh ingredients and taking the time to make a low-calorie, no sugar beverage can be a drag, so thank goodness for Bare Mixers.

Out of the blue, I received an invitation to try an agave-nector, naturally low-calorie, sweet and sour mix. I jumped at the chance. Because it’s a new enterprise from two entrepreneurs (I love that part of it too), it took a few months to get a sample. It was worth the wait though.

It tastes just like I made it fresh from scratch. I put a splash in my Pellegrino during the day and use it in a variety of cocktails.  According to their website, an opened bottle last 6o days which makes this whole deal a no-brainer.

Bare Mixers, all I have to say is, when are you going to add other flavors? Restaurants and bars using that old yucky stuff, get with the program if you don’t use fresh ingredients, at least get the good stuff in a bottle.

Cocktail enthusiasts, ask your retailer for it, or buy it online.

If you are a Facebook follower, I often share my Friday night concoctions…Pisco Sour anyone?

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New Year's Eve 2010

I love parties but I’m a picky party-goer and giver. My best parties have the right mix of people so no one feels overlooked; flows casually from cocktails to food to fun and conversation; and  has the ideal ending– guests enthusiastically reminiscing on the way home.

Here’s some tips for a perfect party~

Prep & Planning

  • I commit 10 hours to plan & prep over a week or so; moving in fast little spurts–no last-minute marathon housecleaning and cooking.
  • To save money & trips to the store I assess what I already have in my cupboards.  Since I already have a full bar, my NYE 2010 theme became “full bar” & all I needed to buy were some juices, limes & lemons.
  • I re-org the house for party flow 2 days before. (We eat in the den because the dining room has my serving platters laid out waiting for my final menu.)
  • Food shopping is done over 3 days–Day 1 I get the majority of what I need. Day 2 is speciality stores and Day 3 (party day) is last minute ideas.
  • Always pick up extra easy-prep food.  I was glad I had Taste of Alsace flat bread from Trader Joe’s on hand.

Cocktails, Food & Wine

  • When people arrived, I brought them to the cocktail table. With a shaker, lots of beautiful bottles & plenty of accoutrements, the festive fun begins immediately.
  • During cocktail hour, I walked around & shared an interesting appetizer.  This year I made some beautiful little radishes, with a dab of butter and sea salt.  I delighted in people being unfamiliar with it and I tied it into my 2010 trip to Paris.
  • After whetting their appetite, guests mingled their way from the fireplace to the buffet table for appetizers allowing me  to disappear into the kitchen to bake the piece de resistance–lamb & goat cheese phyllo.
  • After food round 1 and cocktails round 2, every one’s back in the living room when I present the lamb dish for approval.
  • When food round 2 begins, I begin pouring wine.
  • Everyone knows I love pairing, teaching & sharing the thrill of discovery.  This year I had plenty of red & whites on hand, but I only opened the whites: 3 Rieslings & 2 Viogners, all low in alcohol and food friendly.
  • Most of my immediate friends & neighbors are not in the wine biz & eager to taste whatever I’m pouring.
  • I brought tastes to various people in the living room, playing a casual game of “what do you think”? It created lots of lively conversation with people pouring, tasting and sharing.  Bridlewood Estate Reserve Viogner (Central Coast 2008) was a hit and emptied first.

Evening Endings

  • We took a few group snapshots in front of the Christmas tree.
  • Hostess gifts were used for the entry display so it was easy to give everyone pretty boxes of cookies as they departed.
  • Clean up was a breeze…I filled the dishwasher with glasses & silverware & left the platters etc on the serving table. I used white Chinet paper plates & white hostess napkins which kept counter space clear during the party.
  • Prepped the morning coffee & slept like a baby!

Last tip , this year I held the party on December 30th, the idea of partying without the pressure was very popular.

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Thanks to American Express for sponsoring my writing today about small businesses.  American Express is presenting Small Business Saturday, a way to honor the local merchants who are the backbone of the economy, this Saturday, November 27.  They’re offering statement credits to people who shop at small businesses, advertising for small-business owners, and donations to Girls Inc. for “Likes” of the Small Business Saturday page on Facebook.  Join the celebration by clicking the “Like” button and then visiting the Facebook page to learn more about the program and read the terms and conditions that apply.

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I love, love, love this idea of promoting small business shopping the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  I buy almost everything from small businesses…groceries, clothing, gifts, shoes, jewelry, art, wine and dining out.  Supporting small businesses creates a sense of adventure and fun.

American Express asked me to write about one small business, and I’ve selected Oxbow Market in downtown Napa.  Filled with small shops, it’s heaven for foodies, art lovers and wine drinkers!

Here’s a list of all the artisan purveyors and here’s my itinerary for a perfect small business Saturday.

Share a glass of wine with a friend at Oxbow Wine Merchant (there’s also a Wine Merchant in San Francisco’s Ferry Building) and pair it with a cheese plate from Oxbow Cheese. (The cheese gurus craft a perfectly paired cheese plate for your wine selection.)  After warming up on wine, stroll through the merchants “stalls” and visit Culinary Heritage Antiques for a unique, one-of-a-kind gift for yourself or a friend (it’s owned by a Sommelier).  The Oxbow is a charming, intimate space so I spend time asking lots of questions and chatting with the experts at the Whole Spice Company and the truly amazing 7th generation natural beef company Five Dot Ranch.  There are several places to eat; my current favorite is C Casa, an artisan Taqueria, enjoy festive, friendly service and addictive gourmet tacos. Before I get in my car to head home, I run back into the wine shop and buy a few bottles of Uvaggio, grab some Kara Cupcakes and get a cup of Joe to go at the famous Ritual Coffee.

If you’re near Napa, check it out or discover your local neighborhood stores & tell me about them.

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective , which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Small Business Saturday

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Wine, Water,  Waterford Glasses

Using pretty glasses turn a plain table into something festive. For a casual meal with friends, I didn’t decorate the dining room table. I just dressed it up with a wine glass, a fancy water glass (middle) and the Waterford crystal ready for the dessert course.

I like simple pleasures.

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At a recent party at Palmaz, we were talking about the Napa Valley Mustard Festival kick-off party (in photo) and someone asked, “so where are the best parties?”

My favorite has always been casual private al fresco dinners with 6-12 people at someone’s Napa, Marin or Sonoma home.  We all bring food or wine to share. Sometimes they have a theme, like bring a Rosé. Other times the hosts provide sumptuous food & we open lots of wine.  Surprisingly, wine is not the topic of conversation usually, of course there is some industry gossip, but mainly it’s an opportunity to escape from our careers & talk about everything else that’s important in life.

I learned a long time ago that it’s not where you go, but who you travel with; the same goes for parties, it’s the people that make it fun.

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At a recent party at Palmaz, we were talking about the Napa Valley Mustard Festival kick-off party (in photo) and someone asked, “so where are the best parties?”

My favorite has always been casual private al fresco dinners with 6-12 people at someone’s Napa, Marin or Sonoma home.  We all bring food or wine to share. Sometimes they have a theme, like bring a Rosé. Other times the hosts provide sumptuous food & we open lots of wine.  Surprisingly, wine is not the topic of conversation usually, of course there is some industry gossip, but mainly it’s an opportunity to escape from our careers & talk about everything else that’s important in life.

I learned a long time ago that it’s not where you go, but who you travel with; the same goes for parties, it’s the people that make it fun.

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