I was fortunate enough to spend two wonderful days in the Napa Valley during the misty January weather. I have always loved visiting this region of California, which is about two and a half hours from Santa Cruz. I have many memories over the last 30 years of visiting there with different girlfriends or with my husband. It has always been fun. The devastating fires that raged through the area in the fall of 2017 were devastating. My heart goes out to all the people who lost their loved ones, homes and belongings.
The Napa Valley is beautiful with its oak-covered hills, crisscrossed by vines and small towns. Here you find the kind of pastoral beauty rarely seen outside Tuscany.
My driver (and husband) decided to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to get us to the town of Napa where we stayed the first night.
Napa has a fabulous food culture with some great stores. Our hotel, the Westin Versa, was within walking distance of the 40,000 square-foot Oxbow Public Market. It is a foodies' paradise. I bought a bottle of brandy cordial and some bitters from a Napa Valley distillery. I would have had some oysters or ice-cream, but already had a delicious sandwich from the "Fatted Calf Charcuterie," which was out of this world. I tasted some lard with truffles, since it was truffle week in Napa. I never saw so may sausages as I did in this store. Next door is the "Model Bakery," which supposedly has exceptional oversized muffins. Unfortunately, I missed tasting them because I had one of those "have to have oatmeal" mornings.
That evening, we had a special dinner at "La Toque," a Michelin-starred restaurant which is Chef Ken Frank's landmark eatery. The restaurant pairs wine with the food. We chose the "Core Menu," where you can make a selection from a list of different dishes. If you are in the mood to splurge, this is the right place for you. The food is inventive and delicious and the service is flawless.
While in Napa, we visited three wineries. Everything I know about wine, I learned from my husband. He is a very knowledgeable wine lover. He belongs to a wine club which gives us access to some of the smaller wineries in Napa Valley. Our first stop was the Foley Johnson Winery. My favorite wine was the 2014 Estate Meritage.
We also visited a very small winery called Altvs, where I bought my husband a special bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The last winery was Kuleto Estate. The wine was great, but I fell in love with the setting and the place. It's like a Tuscan villa, and would be gorgeous and on a sunny day. So, I will come back to this magical place, even though you have to go up a steep and winding road to get there. They have tours of the property on weekends.
We all have special places in our lives, and for me, one of those places is the pool at "Indian Springs" in Calistoga. This pool is filled with water from a geyser on the property, the same as the drinking water you buy in the store—except this is an oversized pool filled with 103 degree hot mineral water. It is heaven. Years ago, Indian Springs used to be a funky place with small cabins, but they have beautified it and added a restaurant where I had a delicious breakfast with homebaked bagels and home-cured lox. It was delicious. I will always come back here and float in the pool as long as I am able to.
I should have put this on my Wanderlust blog, but because I can't send an email from that page, it is on my food blog. I had kohlrabi with crab at La Toque. Kohlrabi is an everyday vegetable in Germany. My mother grew it in her garden and loved to cook it all the time. She was a farm woman and her food was simple but good. Here is a recipe I posted years ago when I visited her and we cooked kohlrabi with meatballs together.
If you feel like a fancy dinner, here is a recipe for crepes filled with fennel and salmon in a white sauce.
I hope all of you have recovered from the holidays and are ready to tackle a New Year. 2018, can you believe it? I am speechless when I look at the number. I never thought I would reach this number but here I am, doing what I have always done. My body is telling me to slow down as the days go by faster and the years disappear. When I get engulfed by fear of the future I try to find my happy place and one of those happy places is my kitchen where I put on my apron on and start cooking.
I don’t like to spend hours in the kitchen and be a slave but I love to play around and come up with something tasty. My Ahi tacos with tropical fruit and avocado salsa always reminds me of the Hawaiian Islands and I hope they bring you all some sunshine during the dark days of January.
The dish comes together quickly but needs to be prepared ahead of time. Everything needs to be cut and ready to go because it would be sacrilegious to overcook the Ahi. I usually get Ahi at Costco and I have never been disappointed. The first thing I prepare is the seasoning, then I make the salsa. I serve these tacos with some cut tomatoes, thinly sliced cabbage and black olives on the side. Nobody would object to some extra sour cream or créme fraîche .
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means a lot to me and I would love to hear from you .
Comments in English and German are welcome!
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