Thursday, April 21, 2016

ILONA & RICHARD'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE - Our Cabin In The Woods





ILONA & RICHARD'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
Our Cabin In The Woods



After more hairpin turns at 5 mph (you remember, brother Bob couldn't stand my whimpering in the back seat over the heights and my visions of all of us flying off the cliff a la Thelma & Louise) we finally arrived in Point Arena, which served as our base camp for all our Mendocino exploration.
We check into our cabins in the woods and I prayed we wouldn't recreate 2012's horror/comedy movie "Cabin In The Woods."  Well, I wouldn't mind the comedy, but will definitely pass on the horror.  As I searched the area for any pending "horror," Bob and Nguyen got settled in their cabin and Richard settled us into our cabin next door.



The cabin was darling.  A living room/dining room area with complete kitchen, a separate bedroom with a queen bed and a nice size bath.  TVs in both rooms so we could catch up with the world when needed. 

It was late in the afternoon and suddenly very overcast and my writer's imagination took over (I do write mysteries, after all).  I hoped the dreary sky wasn't an omen that those marauding Buckners who abused family member Patricia and decapitated cabin dwellers in that film were somewhere nearby. 

Oblivious of my fear, Bob and Nguyen decided to take us into Point Arena's quaint little town for a bit of sightseeing, then onto the area's lighthouse.  I love lighthouses, a love inherited from my Gloucester, Massachusetts ("A Perfect Storm") raised mother.  I think the first one I ever saw was at Montauk Point on Long Island.  I had visions of one day living in it as the lighthouse keeper.  I was only eight.

Enthralled by this new lighthouse, I did a photo "study"  (I love my Samsung) ...

 
... with one shot of the seals lying on the rocks near by.


After the long, harrowing (for me - that height thing), but visually awing 5 mph drive and touring the town and lighthouse, we all were tired, so we decided to go back to our cabin, open up a bottle of wine (or two) and make supper.  Nothing bad could happen in such a darling cabin, right?

Tomorrow is another day.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

ILONA & RICHARD'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE - Searching for Hobbits




ILONA & RICHARD'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
Sea Ranch -The Land of Hobbits?



Brother Bob, sister-in-law Nguyen, Richard and I left "the DOG house" in Bodega Bay sated from our lunch of hot dogs and rectangular burgers in rectangular buns and headed north on PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) a/k/a the "the 1" to continue our excellent adventure.

The views were spectacular.  Well, when I actually would look.  Being a tad height "phobic" my life flashed before my eyes every few seconds as I saw us careening off the mountain a la "Thelma & Louise" and crashing into the ocean hundreds (and hundreds) of feet below as we drove up and up the mountains overlooking the ocean.  But my brother loves me (or couldn't stand my loud whimpering) and drove about 5 mph and stopped often so I could actually get out of the car and put my feet firmly on the ground as I took a photo or two.



As we slowly headed north (remember, Bob's driving 5 mph), we reached Sea Ranch, a many mile development of high end coastal houses (some of which are rented out to vacationers), each nestled on large lots often miles apart with views of the ocean.  Hobbits also live there.  I know because there, servicing weary travelers and the inhabitants of Sea Ranch, sat the Sea Ranch Chapel which can only be described as a chapel made for hobbits.  The set designer for the "Lord Of The Rings" movies was definitely inspired by this chapel or was a hobbit himself.

front doors
inside - stained glass window


Inside, we sat on a bench and read the brochures that informed us that the chapel (a non-denominational sanctuary for prayer, meditation and spiritual renewal) and surrounding grounds were a gift from residents Robert & Betty Buffum (sounds like hobbit names to me).  The artist and architectural designer was James Hubbell (Hubbell, hmmmm another hobbit?) and used all local materials and local craftsmen and contractors.

I sat silently trying to meditate away my fear of heights.  No such luck, but I think my spirit was renewed.  I did fall in love with the artistry of this little chapel.  It was definitely hobbit forming.

As we left the chapel and drove north through Sea Ranch-land, I continued to search for a hobbit sighting, but not only did I not see a hobbit, I saw no one anywhere on their decks or property in the miles of pristine land overlooking the Pacific. It was a hobbit ghost ranch.

Next stop, our cabin in the woods in Point Arena, still some hours away.


    

Sunday, March 6, 2016

ILONA & RICHARD'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE - the Dog House





ILONA & RICHARD'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE -
the Dog House  



It all started last fall when we left Ojai and drove to Sacramento to meet up with my brother and sister-in-law, Bob and Nguyen.  You remember them, I'm sure, from some of my other travel and food adventures...  Anyway, after resting overnight at their house, we hit the Pacific Coast Highway (a/k/a PCH or just "the 1") and headed north toward Mendocino County.  As the scenery became more beautiful...



..we decided to stop in Bodega Bay for lunch.  This is the little town adjacent to Bodega, famous for being attacked by "The Birds" (thanks, Hitchcock).

Bob and Nguyen, who'd been in the area many times, knew only of a couple of large tourist-y fish restaurants overlooking the water, but none of us wanted that loud, cavernous experience.  But, put me within a mile of a hot dog or cheeseburger stand, shack or diner and my inner antenna will find it.  There on the coast road, my eyes automatically spotted a little sign that said "hot dogs."  Well, hot dog!!!  

We followed the arrows down to the Bay and there, in a small mini mall, we discovered "the Dog House."

 
Nguyen and I found food heaven (she loves hot dogs, too). 

 
Inside the small restaurant, we met the warm and friendly young owner, Shannon, and found out that the Dog House was relatively new and thriving. 


But the Dog House isn't just for dogs we discovered as we read the menu on the wall.
 

There  were burgers and various types of sandwiches to complement the different dogs being offered ...and all you can eat french fries!  A gentlemen sitting at a nearby indoor table was eating a burger.  A rectangular burger in a large, seeded rectangular bun!!  It oozed juicy.  Now if you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know the one thing I love more than hot dogs is cheeseburgers.  And throughout my blog, I've continued to search for the perfect burger so, of course, I had to have one.

Nguyen, on the other hand, loves fish as much, if not more than hot dogs, and the grilled salmon sandwich made her mouth water.  


She'll get the hot dog the next time, because we were definitely going to stop here again on the way home and after our excellent adventure was over.

But Bob and Richard stayed true to the restaurant's name and opted for the hot dogs.  We were in a dog house, after all.


Outside, we took a table in the sun and sat by the dock of the bay.  The day was beautiful.  The blue, blue bay glistened as a seagull perched itself on a piling, musing how good life can be.

My rectangular cheeseburger, big enough to feed a family of four in its soft seeded bun, was so good it was near perfect.  Nguyen loved her salmon and the boys enjoyed their dogs.  Even the french fries were delish.  Crisp on the outside and warm and mushy in the middle.

An excellent way to start our travel adventure.


the Dog House
537 Smith Brothers Rd.
(just off Scenic Hwy 1)
Bodega Bay, CA  94923
707-875-2441

check out the menu at:
http://www.doghousebodegabay.com/







Saturday, November 7, 2015

SWIMMING UPSTREAM - Poached Salmon Provencal



SWIMMING UPSTREAM -
Poached Salmon Provencal



If Richard had his way, we would be eating salmon two/three times a week.  If he keeps making salmon dishes like this one, I won't complain (I'll have a cheeseburger for lunch).

The latest recipe in his salmon repertoire...

Poached Salmon Provencal
(the "Seriously Simple" cookbook by Diane Rossen Worthington) 


Ingredients:



Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 pound red and/or yellow tomatoes, chopped

*****
Salmon:
2 pounds salmon fillet, or four 1/2 pound fillet pieces, skin and pin bones removed
2 cups dry white vermouth
1/2 cut pitted kalamata olives, chopped
salt to taste

Directions:
Sauce:
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high head.  Add fennel and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, or until softened and lightly golden.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes, or until softened.  Add the tomatoes and increase the heat to high.  Cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until tomatoes begin to fall apart and thicken.  


Remove from heat and set aside.


Salmon:
Put salmon in a skillet just big enough to hold it.  Add the dry vermouth, then enough water to cover the salmon.  Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Poach for 10 minutes per inch of thickness, about 7 to 10 minutes.


Just before serving, add the olives, seasoning salt, and 1/4 cup poaching liquid to the sauce.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook to reduce for 1 minute or until slightly thickened.

Transfer the fish pieces to a platter or individual serving plates.  Blot any excess liquid and spoon the sauce over.  



Serve immediately.

Advance preparation:
Sauce may be prepared up to 4 hours ahead.  Set aside, covered, at room temperature.

The clever cook could:
Serve this chilled.  Add 2 to 3 tablespoons vinaigrette to the sauce before serving, or...

Cut the salmon into bite-sized pieces.  Mix the salmon and sauce with hot pasta, or...

Add some vinaigrette to the above pasta dish and chill to serve as a pasta salad.


Friday, September 25, 2015

A SLEEPOVER IN SOLVANG



A SLEEPOVER IN SOLVANG


There once was a beautiful maiden named Linda who lived in a sleepy little hamlet called Danielson in the land called Connecticut.  After graduating high school Linda moved into my house in the not very sleepy town of Bayside, Queens, NY to study design and work in retail on the magical isle of Manhattan.  I was eleven or twelve and while she was courted by many handsome knights, some in suits and ties, others in sports cars, I would go thru her closet trying on her prom queen gowns and high heels and looking thru her sketch book at the clothes she designed for classes at Traphagen School of Design.  She eventually moved into her own place, but on a trip back home, the Lovely Linda found John, her prince charming, married and had three beautiful maidens of her own.

OK - why am I spinning this tale?  The Lovely Linda is my cousin (though more like a sister) and I watched her daughters (I consider them my "nieces") grow into terrific women and mothers whom I don't see often enough.  Two of these sisters, Michele and Monique (and Monique's daughter, Tarah), decided to take a pilgrimage from the Kingdoms of Sonoma and Walnut Creek, California to the far off land of San Diego with a sleepover in the fairy tale town of Solvang in mystical Santa Ynez wine country.  So, when the eldest sister (Michele) invited Richard and me to join them, we hopped into our carriage and headed northwest.

The sisters (Michele & Monique) & me


Solvang, though built to mimic a quaint Danish town, complete with a museum honoring Hans Christian Anderson, looks more like a town out of my childhood Cinderella or Hansel & Gretel Golden Books.  But there's nothing fairy tale about the wineries.

Our first stop, the Toccata tasting room part of the Lucas & Lewellen vineyards specializing in some delicious, Italian-style wines.  Mark Liddi was our barista.


Of the wines he poured, these were my favorites.

2013 Viognier ($22) with grapes grown at the winery's Los Alamos Vineyard, this wine had aromas of honey and apricot with citrus and nectar tastes.

2011 Sangiovese ($26) - Aged in French oak, this lovely wine had scents of strawberries, tea and leather and flavors of berries and anise.  Great with Mediterranean dishes.

2011 Toccata Barbera ($21) - rich, full-bodied, lovely ruby color.  Bring on some red meat.

2011 Toccata Riserva ($32) -  cabernet sauvignon, cab franc blended with Los Alamos Merlot Freisa and Sangiovese and aged in oak, this spicy, dark fruit and tobacco with hints of vanilla was my favorite of this family owned winery.

Down the street from the musical Toccata was its "sister" tasting room, Lucas & Lewellen which specializes in more traditional French style wines.  


Mary Evans was our barista...

 
 
...who offered a fugue of flavors to try, thought again, I had my favorites...

2012 Syrah ($26) with a little Viognier mixed in for flavor and body, I could taste the rich fruits, herbs and spices.

2012 Malbec ($28) - dense flavors, creamy texture, you can easily taste the blackberries and cassis.

2012 "Clone 6:" Cabernet Sauvignon ($48) - deep rich flavors with silky tannins.  Hints of chocolate and caramel apples.  Just delicious!

We had time for one more tasting before we needed to go back to our rooms and get ready for dinner.  We chose Lions Peak and were happy we did. The standouts for me were:

2014 Viognier ($28) - ripe apricots, peaches and melons filled my nose as I sipped this luscious white wine.

2014 The Sisters  - ($35) - a blend of Marsanne, Rouanne and Viognier that makes a delicate, yet complex white Rhone wine.

2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) - with flavors layered with black cherry, currant and plums.  A rich bowl of fruit in every sip.

BFF (Best Friends Forever) ($38) - indeed a very friendly wine.  Rich with multiple fruit flavors and smooth as silk, I would drink this wine with anything.

Of the three ports we tasted, the 2002 Augustus XIX Cabernet Port stood out ($20) - aged in French Oak, this wine has wonderful silky tannins that age gracefully.  The perfect way to end a meal.

But then again, there was the Octavian Zinfandel Port fortified with brandy!!  Oh, my!!!  ($38 or $28 for a smaller bottle.)

Tasting done, we were all off for some fine dining at Root 246 (and it was fine) family talk and a lot of laughs.

The Lovely Linda and her Prince John, (along with their beautiful daughters and grandchildren) all live in California but, having to travel over long-trod roads (none with yellow bricks), a woods or two, and one Magic Mountain, we don't get the chance to get together that often, so meeting the "nieces" in the enchanted village of Solvang made this sleepover fairy tale all the more memorable...


TOCCATA WINES
1665 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, Calif. 93463
805-686-5506
www.toccatawines.com

Lucas & LewellenVineyards
1645 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, Calif.  93463
888-777-6663
WWW.LLWINE.COM

Lions Peak Vineyards
1659 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, Calif. 93463
805-693-LION
www.lionspeakwine.com



Monday, August 31, 2015

LOMBARDY - It's a Tree. It's a Hotel. It's a Region in Italy... It's a Chicken Dish





LOMBARDY
It's a Tree.  It's a NY Hotel.  It's a Region in Italy...
It's a Chicken Dish
 
 
And it's a great chicken dish.
Y'all know I love chicken.  The number of blogs I've written on chicken rival my blog output on cheeseburgers, but when Richard made this dish for me the other night, the first thing I said after my first bite was: "I have to blog about this."  The second thing I said after my second bite: "You can make this for company."

So can you.





SOUTHERN LIVING'S
CHICKEN BREASTS LOMBARDY


Ingredients:

1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced 
2 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
8 skinned and boned chicken breast halves
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted and divided
1/2 cup Marsala cooking wine
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup green onions

Directions:

Cook mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter slowly.  Set aside.


Place chicken between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; flatten to 1/8 inch thickness, using a meat mallet. 


Dredge each chicken in flour and brown each side over medium heat until golden, about 3-4 minutes in butter.


Place chicken in lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish, overlapping edges. Sprinkle mushrooms over chicken.  Put aside.


Reserve pan drippings in skillet.  Add cooking wine and broth to pan drippings. 


Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, 8 minutes.  

Stir in salt and pepper.  Pour sauce evening over chicken.

Combine cheeses and green onions;


Sprinkle over chicken.


Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

Serves 6 - 8

Plate.

Bon appetit!