Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Peru … Getting There

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Packed & Ready To Go!

Sudoku ... of course!

CDC medication and safety check list … done.

Buckets of sunscreen … check.

Sunscreen clothing … check.

Wide brim hat … check.

Hiking boots … check.

Passport … check.

Plane tickets … check.

Way too much other stuff, too … uh, yeah, maybe.

My day began with a very early morning flight from Sacramento to Houston, then a long layover in Houston.

Stunning clouds!

Look at these cloud formations!

Houston Airport

Wow ... retro!

I arrived to Houston just in time for lunch.

 

One of the Houston aiport restaurants, Pappadeaux, came highly recommended. That recommendation was so spot on. It was one of the best meals I had on my trip.

I wasn’t super hungry, so I was looking for something really light. I ordered an appetizer of fresh ahi tuna, avocado, mango, and arugula. Served with a light vinaigrette, it was was amazing and exactly what I was hungry for. It was simple, fresh, and delicious.

Ahi Tuna with Avocado, Mango, and Arugula

I savored every last little bite. It really was that good.

Yeah, I know ... wine at lunch ... but I was on vacation!

With my lunch, I enjoyed a local (Texas) Viognier. It was the perfect complement.

This was the most leisurely lunch I’ve had in quite some time and I enjoyed every perfect bite.

To pass the time, I studied a little Spanish … played a little Sudoku … did a lot of people-watching.

I checked in early for my flight and am so glad that I did because this gave me the chance to chat with some of the airline staff and ask for a better seat. I had a terrible seat assignment and was hoping to switch. The flight was completely sold out, so my hopes were quickly dashed. However, good fortune was in my corner that day because one of the connecting flights was terribly late and missed our flight. I’m very sorry for the other travelers, but I was so thrilled because I got to move to a really great seat by the window rather than being in the center seat of the middle of the plane.

Beautiful views on my way to Peru!

Checking progress …

On our way!

Getting closer!

Almost there!

More to follow …

La Bicyclette

Friday, June 13th, 2014

La Bicyclette … it was love at first bite.

We need you in Davis, California. We are “Bicycle City,” you know!

Review Coming Soon!

True Food Kitchen, San Diego

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

True Food Kitchen, Fashion Valley Mall in San Diego

The culinary highlight of my recent trip to San Diego was an exciting restaurant discovery: True Food Kitchen. It was without a doubt the best lunch out I have had in a very, very long time.

I was feeling a little disappointed because some plans had fallen through, so I needed a little retail and culinary therapy. My retail therapy resulted in a very cool pair of shiny black skinny jeans (found on clearance at Macy’s!), so I needed to keep these in mind when choosing my culinary therapy. I wanted a treat, but a reasonably light and healthy one.

Beverages

Cool and refreshing Green Arnie

As I enjoyed my Green Arnie, I relaxed and enjoyed a nice cool breeze on the patio. The setting was lovely and I was quite pleased with the cleanliness and overall atmosphere.

Table centerpiece

Patio seating

Cozy fire pit seating

Fresh herb gardens

There were so many choices on the menu that sounded like exactly what I wanted, but since it was cool outside, a little soup sounded perfect.

Starters ...

Miso Soup

The soup was rich with flavor, but also seemed fairly light. It was so good that I am right now trying to duplicate it at home. Close, but not quite. This will require further experimentation!

When I’m in a new restaurant that serves pizza, one of my tests is to try the most basic pie on the menu. This is the foundation of pizza – if their plain cheese or Pizza Margherita is not good, then it doesn’t matter what toppings you try. Their pizza will not be good. You absolutely have to have the right foundation – the basics: crust, sauce, cheese, fresh herbs.

I am a self-proclaimed pizza snob, but I think for good reason. I started working in pizza restaurants when I was just out of high school. My first was a family-owned restaurant and it was rare for a girl to be allowed to “man” the pizza oven. We girls could do all the prep work, make the subs, and for those of us who so aspired, one day we could run the grill and make the cheese steaks. The pizza men might even let us make the dough. I had mastered the subs. Mastered the grill. I had even mastered the dough. Come on! Let me spin the pies!

One day the “pizza man” called in sick and it was an all-girl crew. I enthusiastically jumped in to take over the oven and proved that a girl can make pizza. The “pizza man” took me under his wing and on occasion invited me to work side-by-side with him so he could teach me his tips and tricks. That’s when my love affair with making pizza really started.

Pizza ...

Pizza Margherita

My Pizza Margherita arrived. The crust was crisp and light. The sauce was rich with fresh tomato flavor. There was just enough cheese and the fresh basil was divine. I had about half of the pizza and saved the rest for later.

My server inquired about dessert. I was not going to have anything, but I love to look at dessert menus. I perused the menu, and politely declined, telling her about my new jeans and how I really should be good. She suggested the Chia Seed Pudding, saying it really wasn’t that bad. Hmm … chia seeds are loaded with all kinds of healthy things like fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. Hmm … this is a foodie adventure, so I suppose in the spirit of adventure I really should try it.

Chia Seed Pudding with Banana & Coconut

Oh. My. Goodness!

The Chia Seed Pudding was rich and creamy, not too sweet, and the toasted coconut gave it a nice crunch. The creaminess came from coconut milk, so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t as “light” fat and calorie-wise as I wanted to believe, but it was worth it.

I looked up a few chia seed pudding recipes today and have an experimental batch in my refrigerator right now. It will be ready tomorrow. I made it with unsweetened almond milk, low fat lemon yogurt, maple syrup, vanilla, and chia seeds. It thickens overnight in the refrigerator, so we’ll see tomorrow how well it sets up, but an initial taste was quite good!

My server told me that True Food Kitchen will be opening a restaurant in Walnut Creek, California later this year. It will be worth the hour-plus drive to dine there. I am looking forward to dining here again!

The service was awesome – friendly and attentive. The food was fantastic. I look forward to returning.

Southern California … Holtville

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

We left San Diego for Holtville early Wednesday afternoon. It’s about a 2-hour drive, so we wanted to make sure we got there in plenty of time for our evening event.

The drive was an adventure – rain, wind, sandstorm, beautiful views of the rugged desert landscape.

Leaving San Diego ...

Heading out Highway 8 ...

... first Border Patrol sighting!

Just like home - whirlygigs!

Artsy shot ...

Skies clearing ...

The scenery was quite striking; it possessed a very rugged beauty.

Winds kicking up ...

... into a full blown sandstorm!

The sandstorm looked worse than these photos show … we were in a little rental car that was getting kind of blown about the highway. You could hear the sand grains hitting the car and almost feel them scratching across the paint. Visibility was more limited than it appears here. Fortunately, the sand storm was brief.

Turning into a beautiful day!

Wondering if we're lost ...

Found our destination.

The hotel was … an experience. It was easy to see that it has lots of history. I thought it might be a great candidate for one of those “Save My Resort” type of reality shows. That’s really all I want to say about it.

By the time we got there the wind gusts were dreadful. After checking in, my colleague and I ventured into town for a bite. We ended up at the Food Court in the local shopping mall.

Imperial Valley Mall

Light lunch

My colleague tried the Chinese restaurant – his lunch looked and smelled good. I was looking for something very light and easy on my stomach. I found a beautiful fresh fruit salad at the Italian restaurant, and some fat free frozen vanilla yogurt with toasted almonds. That hit the spot.

In the evening we met an awesome group of students and their families in Holtville. I hope we see many of them here on campus in Fall 2014!

I woke up early and went for a little walk around the property. It was a lovely morning; the wind had mellowed to a gentle breeze.

Just a touch of sunrise left.

Red cabbage?

More fountains.

I packed up early in the morning to head back to the San Diego airport with another colleague. Starbucks for breakfast again. I tried their Hearty Blueberry Whole Grain Oatmeal – it was really good. This would make a wonderful pre-ride breakfast.

Here’s a summary of my flight home …

Leaving San Diego ...

... up ...

... up ...

... cruising altitude ...

Somewhere over California ...

Bu-bu-bumpiest landing ever!

Home Sweet Home! Looking forward to getting back on my bike!

 

Southern California … San Diego

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

My trip included San Diego and Holtville, two distinctly different places.

Being a tourist - taking photos from the airport shuttle.

The weather looked promising when I first arrived in San Diego, but it clouded up pretty quickly. It was much cooler than I had anticipated and I found myself wishing that I had packed a UC Davis sweatshirt. Thankfully, I at least brought a jacket.

I arrived one day ahead of the rest of my group. I was hoping to meet up with a friend and ride in San Diego, but my friend was sick and the weather was not great for cycling anyway, so I hung around the hotel and worked. Our group stayed at the Town & Country Resort & Conference Center. I wandered around the property, which has a very confusing layout, but it was interesting and had lots of character.

There were roses of just about every color.

Mustardy Gold

Pink & White

Peach

There were also lavender, white, different shades of red, pink, peach, purple, a wonderful collection of roses. Some of the blooms were huge. Sadly, my feeble little travel camera just did not capture the rich palette of hues.

My favorite part of the property was the variety of decorative plants and flowers.

Pots of flowers ...

... everywhere you looked ...

... bright and cheery.

Lush greenery

Hens & chicks?

Soothing fountains

After I got checked in and wandered around a little to stretch my legs from the flight, I logged on to the Internet for a bit of work. Then I treated myself to a spa pedicure. I should do this more often – that felt amazing.

Back to the room to work a bit more, then wander around to find some dinner. Every staff member I asked said that I had to try their “fancy” restaurant, Trellises Garden Grille. It was good, but apparently I have a different view of “fancy.” Details. “Fancy” restaurants pay attention to details.

Skirt Steak Salad

Malbec

“Fancy” restaurants pay attention to details like putting the dressing on the side when requested. I am not a huge dressing fan, so I always ask for it on the side. My salad came slathered with dressing, but I just did not want to hassle with sending it back. I know if I had, they would have corrected it and I am confident that my server would have been quite pleasant about it, but I just did not want to deal with it at the time. Overall the salad was good – the greens were fresh, the meat was well seasoned and cooked to my liking (on the rare side). The dressing was good, but there was just way too much of it for my tastes. If you like lots of dressing, you would love this salad.

“Fancy” restaurants would notice that splash of wine on the bottom of the glass and wipe it off before serving it. I promise these will be the only negative observations I will share about the food on this trip. It’s just that these are pet peeves for me.

After a leisurely dinner, I wandered around the property a little more. It was quite pleasant and I wish my little camera had been able to capture the lighting; it was lovely.

In the morning I worked out in the gym facility. I was so thankful to have this so that I could log a few March Madness miles. After a nice workout, I cleaned up and went to the Terrace Cafe and Deli for a healthy breakfast – oatmeal, fresh fruit, and a spot of coffee. The fruit was delightful and the service was efficient and friendly.

Terrace Cafe

Fresh Fruit

Back to my room for a few more hours of work.

On the shuttle ride from the hotel, I struck up a conversation with a woman who was also traveling from Northern California. I overheard her tell the shuttle driver that she was “here with the University,” so naturally I assumed she meant my University – UC Davis. So we chatted. It turns out that she is faculty at National University, not UC Davis. She gave me a few suggestions of things to try to do in San Diego. She recommended checking out the Fashion Valley Mall, located just over “the river” from my hotel.

Around lunchtime, I ventured out to explore the mall. Wow. It really was a beautiful mall. We don’t have a mall in Davis – you have to travel to Sacramento, Roseville, Fairfield, or one of the other neighboring cities for a mall. We have some decent malls within a reasonable driving distance, but it’s been a long time since I have been to a “fancy” mall like this. Wow!

I indulged in a little retail therapy and wandered in and out of a few shops. I will tell you all about my foodie exploration at True Food Kitchen. This was hands down the best meal I had on my trip. It deserves a post all of its own.

So, after a leisurely lunch, I wandered back to the hotel to get a little more work done and to prepare for our evening event.

We had a terrific event. It was exciting to meet prospective students and their families. We met some incredible students and look forward to seeing them in Fall 2014!

After the event, I went out for dinner with two of my colleagues to A Taste of Thai in San Diego.

Grilled Salmon Salad

Noodle Dish

Pad Thai

These pictures do not even begin to do this food justice. It was wonderful!

Breakfast

Wednesday morning I worked out again and then had breakfast with one of my colleagues.

I had seen a Boudin Bakery at the mall, so I had my heart set on breakfast at Boudin. Around 8am, we walked over to find that Boudin didn’t open until 9am! What?! A bakery with bankers hours?

So, off to Starbucks we went. I got the Greek Yogurt with Honey Parfait and a banana. This would make a great mid-ride snack.

The weather was off and on cloudy, cool, breezy. It threatened rain, but didn’t until after we were on the road to our next destination.

Storm's a blowing in!

Ominous dark clouds!!

Finally - sun as we leave.

And so begins the next leg of our journey – to Holtville, California.

 

 

 

 

Almost There!

Friday, March 28th, 2014

I am at 98% of my goal for March Madness.

I am at 82.4% of my goal to become a Champion in the fight against diabetes!

I’ve been traveling for work this week and am trying to do a little work catch up today, so I’ll finish my March Madness miles this weekend. I stuck with it through my trip, though, and rode at least 1 hour daily on a stationary bike. I didn’t get a chance to ride yesterday, due to traveling. I’m hoping to wrap up here soon and get out of the road before noon today.

True Food Kitchen, San Diego

I’m hoping to do some blog catching up this weekend, too. I got to travel with some awesome colleagues, and meet amazing prospective students and their parents. I got to see some very interesting scenery and to try some really good food on my trip. I especially look forward to telling you all about my lunch at True Food Kitchen in San Diego, California. Oh, my goodness, it was wonderful! Rumor has it they’ll be opening one in Walnut Creek later this year. It will be worth the drive.

Pasta Primavera

Monday, November 4th, 2013

I first discovered Pasta Primavera in the mid 1980’s, at Boskos in Calistoga. Spinach fettuccine smothered in a flavorful marinara loaded with fresh vegetables. The vegetables were always crisp-tender, never overcooked. What I loved most about it was that it was light, but hearty. I just knew that I was eating something healthy. I always left feeling satisfied, but never stuffed.

Today, I needed to make a quick, comforting and healthy meal. I had some brown rice pasta, loads of vegetables, and a prepared marinara sauce.

This is super simple to make. Here is what you will need:

1 pound brown rice pasta (penne shown here)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces crimini mushrooms
garlic (optional)
2 cooked chicken sausages (about 4-6 ounces)
1-2 zucchini, sliced & grilled, cut into bite-sized pieces*
1 small eggplant, sliced & grilled, cut into bite-sized pieces*
A spring or two of fresh thyme, stripped
16-ounce jar or can of your favorite prepared marinara sauce
Chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, just a touch

Brown Rice Pasta Primavera

Follow the cooking directions for the pasta you choose.

Saute the crimini mushrooms and garlic in the olive oil. While the mushrooms are sauteing, slice 2 cooked chicken sausages into about 1/4-inch thick slices. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside. Brown the sausages, return the mushrooms to the pan, and add the  chopped grilled zucchini and eggplant. Add the fresh thyme and marinara sauce. Stir to combine and cook on low to heat through.

While the sauce is heating, cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Place cooked pasta in a serving bowl and grate just a little cheese on the pasta. Ladle some sauce on, and garnish with a touch more cheese and chopped fresh parsley. Enjoy!

*I used Trader Joe’s Misto Alla Griglia Marinated and Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini.

You really can use any vegetables you like in this. Experiment – have fun with it.

This makes for great cycling recovery food, or a dinner the night before a big ride, but it is also light enough that if you are responsible with your portion size, it’s great for a weekend like this that didn’t see too many cycling miles. It also makes for yummy leftovers.

Napa Valley Ride

Monday, September 16th, 2013

We got a little bit of a late start on our Napa Valley ride today, so it was cut a bit short. The morning started out chilly and foggy, but the fog cleared before noon. The original plan was to head out towards Healdsburg and have lunch at the Jimtown Store, but we decided to turn around in Calistoga and just head back. We had a nice little bike tour of the Meadowood Resort in St. Helena, and then a lunch stop at the Model Bakery in St. Helena.

If you find yourself in St. Helena, do stop by the Model Bakery and try their English muffins. These are AMAZING.

I first visited the Model Bakery in the mid-late 1980’s. This is where I first discovered scones. The funny thing is that because they weren’t too sweet, and they were dense, I thought I was eating something healthy. Years later when I learned how to make scones, I realized most really aren’t that healthy because they’re loaded with fat. They are a delightful treat, and I was tempted, but then I saw the homemade English Muffins. I used to make homemade English Muffins and have never had anything comparable, until today. I humbly acknowledge that these are superior to my own.

Pesto and Tomato Pizza

Model Bakery is also famous in certain circles for their pizza, so I hear it sells out quickly. We were quite surprised (and pleased!) to find that there was some left by the time we got there. We tried the pesto and tomato pizza and it was wonderful. It was a little rich for me for cycling food, but if you are one of those cyclists who can eat anything and ride, this would make a yummy lunch.

We had one of the best espressos I have ever tasted, but the double espresso barely filled half of this demitasse cup. The gentleman serving coffee did not actually look in the cup when I asked, but insisted that this was indeed a double. Perhaps another guest grabbed our double espresso by mistake? Alas, it was smooth and delicious, and a perfect pairing with a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie.

A little caffeine ...

 

… a little sugar …

Now that will get you home!

Cycling the Silverado Trail, Napa Valley

The Model Bakery is located on Main Street in St. Helena, in the beautiful Napa Valley.

 

 

Napa Valley Ride

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Yesterday I rode from Napa almost to Healdsburg and back for a total of 87.6 miles. Originally I had planned a century ride, but got a bit of a late start because my alarm didn’t go off in the morning. That’s OK; 87.6 miles turned out to be just enough yesterday. I rode a modified Napa Valley Tour de Cure route: starting from Luna Vineyards up the Silverado Trail to Calistoga, then up Hwy 128 to the Jimtown Store for lunch, then back.

The ride from Napa up the Valley on the Silverado Trail was, as always, beautiful. The day started a little chilly, and the breeze was a little more than expected, but for the most part not too bad on the way to Calistoga. I discovered a great place to stop in Calistoga for a quick break – the Sharpsteen Museum. There was a spot of shade to have a snack, a water fountain, and a clean restroom.

I haven’t been riding hills much recently, and haven’t really done any since the Napa Valley Tour de Cure, so the hills on Hwy 128 between Calistoga and Healdsburg were just right. These are confidence building hills and I think I rode pretty steadily on them yesterday. I’m not going to win any races, but that’s not why I ride.

Lunch at the Jimtown Store …

Icy cold and refreshing!

This fueled me almost all the way back to Napa. I did stop once and grab a quick gel at about 77 miles. The menu at the Jimtown Store looks beautiful, but that foodie adventure will have to wait for a day when I’m not cycling. I eat pretty light when I ride: carbs, a little protein and very little fat.

By the time I got back to the Silverado Trail in Calistoga, the winds had kicked up a bit and I fought a headwind pretty much the entire way down Valley back to the car. I was hoping to get back to the car in time to stop in and pick up a bottle of wine at Luna Vineyards, but the ride back took longer than expected. I got there moments after the last guests were leaving and they had already closed out the register for the day. Oh, well. This is an excuse to head back another day!

 

 

The Mustard Seed, Davis

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Original Thanksgiving plans included a trip to Sonoma County. Those plans changed unexpectedly and last minute. We learned late morning while we were on a ride that the meal was going to be served mid-afternoon. This just might be an important detail to let your guests who are traveling from out of town know ahead of time, but … all is well that ends well. So, we found ourselves without any of the traditional Thanksgiving makings and certainly did not want to head to the store, or out to find an open store, after riding, so on our way back we rolled through Downtown Davis to see who might be open.

I was a little cranky already, because the wind proved to be a bit much for me yesterday on the ride. I really don’t understand how sometimes it doesn’t look that windy, but it feels like I have my own personal gale force winds. I guess it’s just one of those mysteries. Luckily for me, I had a riding partner who stayed just far enough ahead of me to not hear me whining out loud, “This sucks! I am NOT having fun!” But not so far ahead that I felt alone out there in my very own personal tornado.

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

After the ride, a quick check online showed that there was still a reservation available at 4pm at The Mustard Seed in Downtown Davis. The menu promised a “traditional” Thanksgiving menu. I must admit I had a few reservations of my own, because when it comes to “traditional” stuffing, I have rules. Besides, dinner at 4pm? Hmph.

I groused and grumbled around for a while in the afternoon and decided to take my frustration out on that nagging spot on the laundry room floor, rather than share my general unpleasantness with someone who was going to great lengths to be very sweet to me. The good news is that the laundry room floor looks great!

Traditional. Hmph. We’ll see.Wish I had just made the meal myself. Next year.

Table Setting

Candle Light

A Nice View

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived promptly and were seated right away at a lovely table by the window, overlooking the patio tables. The table setting was elegant and simple. Service was friendly and professional.

We enjoyed a Cazar Pinot Noir (2010), which went nicely with each course.

First Course:  Golden Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque. Normally, I am not much for bisques, because they tend to be too rich for me, but this one had a nice balance of savory and sweet and was not too rich.

Golden Butternut Squash & Apple Bisque

Clearly, we didn't like this at all.

 Second Course:  Pomegranates, Cinnamon Persimmons, Autumn Greens & Laura Chenel Goat Cheese. The pictures say it all … I could feel every last trace of grumpiness leave. This was the kind of salad I would make for myself. Fresh, crisp greens. Fruit. Cheese. Perfectly lightly dressed.

Autumn Greens, Persimmons, Pomegranate, Goat Cheese

Obviously, we didn't really like this one, either.

Main Course: Diestel Ranch Turkey Breast Roulade, Traditional Stuffing, Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes, Country Gravy, & Cranberry Chutney.

With gravy ...

Gravy on the side ...

Looks promisingly traditional

I was surprised by the generous portions served. There were two large slices of turkey breast, and generous sides of roasted brussel sprouts, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry chutney. Everything tasted homemade from scratch, like I would make. Even the gravy was good; it was rich and flavorful without being too heavy.

The brussel sprouts were tender and perfectly roasted. Brussel sprouts are devine when they are cooked right, but they tend to have a bad reputation because so many people overcook them. My favorite way to prepare them is roasting, and these were cooked exactly how I like them cooked. I tried really hard to leave a couple for leftovers today, but that didn’t happen.

The stuffing … I hate to admit, but this was as good as my own. I grew up with this style of stuffing, and so very few people get this right (in my ever-so-humble opinion). So, any doubts about “traditional” were completely dissolved after just one bite. You’ve won me over.

Try as I might to finish, I just couldn't quite do it.

Cranberry chutney … I grew up hating cranberries because we always had to endure that slimy, jellied glop that slides out of a can. At some point my family discovered fresh cranberries, and we experimented a bit with a few recipes, and some came out pretty good, but I was never that big of a fan of cranberry relish or chutney. I have to say, though, that this chutney was wonderful. Tart, sweet, cooked just right.

Mashed potatoes … perfect.

And then there was pie …

Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon-Cardamom Whipped Cream

It's a shame, but we didn't really like this, either. But just to be safe, we requested that the second one be packed up to take home so we could sample it again today, just to be sure.

So, after all that … I had better get ready for a big bike ride today!