Category Archive: Culinary

A Month of Sonoma Winery Visits

Any time is a good time for a visit to country. While many people first think of Napa Valley wineries, don’t forget to think of the other side of the bay, and the wonderful wineries in Sonoma County. Wine related travel is a popular part of a visit to Sonoma County.  With 13 American Viticultural areas, each with distinctive characteristics, the Pacific coastline, redwood forests, fertile valleys, and mountains,  all add to a success mix that creates outstanding wines.  It’s a beautiful spot for a weekend of wine tasting or an easy day trip from Oakland, San Francisco, or Sacramento. Everyone has their personal wine preferences, and with over 250 Sonoma-area wineries to choose from, coming in all sizes and flavors, the task of choosing where to visit and what to taste can be overwhelming. To simplify the process, I’ve […]

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Remembering Tuscany: Opening Wine Sent Home From Italy

You know how there are those moments when you get to re-live your travel experiences all over again?  Well tonight is one of those nights for me. For the last few years that we’ve been in Italy, we’ve made a point to send a case (or two) of wine home.  The process isn’t difficult, we head off to Montepulciano where we have a favorite wine shop, do a little tasting, select a nice combination of favorites and new discoveries, and let the shop take care of the packing, shipping, and customs part of things.  We look for a combination of wines that we love, wines we cannot get at home, and choices that represent good value.  It’s not a precise science or art, but I choose wines I like and that’s most important to me. Tonight I opened a bottle […]

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San Francisco Drinks: Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe

  The origin of the Irish Coffee is highly disputed, but I like the version that it was first served here in the United States at the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco.  Located at the corner of Hyde and Beach, the Buena Vista was once a boarding house before being converted into a saloon in 1916.  One evening at the saloon, Pulitzer Prize winner travel writer Stanton Delaplane worked with Buena Vista owner Jack Koeppler to recreate a drink that Delaplane had sampled while at Shannon Airport in Ireland.  The two tried and tried to recreate the drink with the properly floating layer of cream on top, and it’s said that the two nearly passed out from the tastings until they got it right. Today the Buena Vista, which is Spanish for “good view”, offers good views of the […]

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Small Plates Delight at Julian Serrano at ARIA Las Vegas

Last fall I stayed at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas and became a fan of the LEED certified property.  While there, I saw the Cirque du Soleil show Viva Elvis!, spent an afternoon at the spa, and had many fine meals, one of which was at Julian Serrano, a Spanish restaurant. Julian Serrano offers classic Spanish fare that includes hot and cold tapas, paella, and a variety of seafood dishes.  My first visit was as part of a large group attending Blog World Expo.  Since then, however, I’ve been back quite a few times – both with friends and as a solo diner.  The restaurant has an open floor plan, and is vibrant and noisy as guest pass, share, and talk about their choices.  If you’re looking for a fun and lively meal, this is the place.  […]

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REVIEW: Beyond the Pasta

When I think about Italy, which I often do, it’s not the attractions or the countryside that capture my attention.  Oh sure, it’s beautiful and there are lots of incredible sights to see, but what really speaks to me is the food.  In my opinion, what makes Italy so fascinating and appealing is its food, wine, and people. As I start planning my trip for this year, I’ve gotten together with friends to talk about what we want to see and do.  In no time at all the conversation quickly turns to our favorites restaurants.  The fabulous osso buco, the freshest tomatoes for the delicious bruschetta, the hand-rolled pici pasta, and the soft and creamy burrata.  In fact, I’m already salivating for the delicious mushroom soup at Latte di Luna.  Every time we get started talking about the delicious dishes, […]

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Bottoms Up: Grappa in Italy

Everywhere you turn in Italy you’ll find grappa, a clear alcoholic beverage sure to knock your socks off. Grappa is made from the grape residue left over from the crush of grapes during the winemaking process, and includes the grape skins, stems, seeds, and everything else.  Like many food items in Italy, the beverage originally began as a way of reducing waste and using everything up. Today, however, grappa stands on its own.  Like wine, the flavor of grappa will depend on the type of grapes, growing conditions, and terroir.  But grappa isn’t wine.  It;s a clear liquide, with an alcohol content ranging from 35-60%, and is thick in taste and feel like Brandy.  In fact, you’ll often hear it referred to as Italian Brandy.  Production is a strictly regulated process, and for a liquor to be called grappa it […]

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