Sunday, October 27, 2013

Western Time Diary: The California Wine Country

"Can we turn around?" I asked Steve when we drove by this strawberry stand. One of the delights of the open rode is stumbling upon these farm stands.

This is my kind of fast food.

Our nifty Ford Focus.

Passing through Glen Ellen, we came across this book exchange inspired by the author Jack London. Some of my favorite books have found me because someone passed them on. I admit to getting greedy in recent years and wanting to hold onto some of my favorite storytellers but do share them. Do you keep books or pass them on?

Stories awaiting readers.

Many of my memories of the wine country weren't about the wine, but about the food and the scenery, much of it the gardens. Lunch at magnificent The Girl and the Fig. On the menu during our visit was this chickpea cake with local cheese and greens, and I had a non-alcoholic drink of rose water, mint, lime and cranberry juice.

Steve's vanilla bean cheesecake with apple and fig compote.

My lavender creme brulee.

Of the wineries we visited, Kendall Jackson was my favorite.

A sweet Riesling here while sampling dessert wines.

I could have lingered in their garden all day.

Tomatoes for sale.

Off to Korbel to sample some champagne.

Pink champagne. Cheers!

Despite having late lunch plans, I couldn't resist sampling their salads like the butternut squash and orzo with brie, raisins and basil with some crusty bread. I forced myself to not get the roasted red pepper bisque and peach blackberry tart to accompany it. I haven't eaten meat since I was a teenager and California offered a vegetarian bounty.

Lunch at the Wine Spectator restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America. You know I'm a chef's wife when I hear CIA I think of the culinary school and not the Central Intelligence Agency, although Steve is self-taught in the kitchen. We shared this sweet corn soup with avocado froth and blue corn tortillas sprinkles, pictured with my drink of jasmine tea, peach puree and ginger ale.

The vegetarian risotto. Another thing of note is the reasonable portion sizes. We don't care for restaurants who brag about their enormous portions. Gorging myself doesn't feel civilized, and I don't need leftovers for days.

Apple and pear sorbet.

Who knew one of my favorite storytellers from childhood would find me on my honeymoon? The Charles M. Schultz Museum is located in Santa Rosa.
I already looked up when they'll be televising Linus and his annual awaiting of the Great Pumpkin (you're never too old!) My sister and I still enjoy watching the Charlie Brown holiday specials each year, a small joy for sure. Snoopy savors the small things.

Skaters at Snoopy's Home Ice.

My Peppermint Patty hot chocolate at the Warm Puppy Cafe!

At a little food hall on the way to the next stop, a French creperie.

A honey almond crepe to share. Bees are so essential to the pollination of crops, including almonds. I'm thankful to the bees for this treat.

Lunch at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bistro. Keller was involved with one of my favorite food films, Ratatouille, about a rat who becomes a great chef in Paris. As Remy's idol says, "Anyone can cook!"

A pear cider and to share the salad.

Toasted gnocchi with vegetables, including fennel.

Steve's brownie with peanut butter ice cream.

My ile flottante with salted caramel sauce.

No dinner for us at Keller's French Laundry. Our guidebook said reservations are needed months in advance and a meal could run $250 a person!

The garden of the French Laundry.
I let Steve (more the wine connoisseur) enjoy the wineries more while I did the driving, but I was just content to take in the scenery. Here enjoying a Vignette wine country soda in a rose flavor with roasted almonds at Domaine Carneros.
Steve and I considered, and even decided, on going to France for our honeymoon, but changed our minds. We've been to Paris, but not the countryside. I'm so glad we picked California. Our flight was a fraction of the price and the exchange rate was on our side. There's an endless stream of people writing books and blogs about going to France and finding the good life, but the good life is here to be savored too.

I also remember being in a small town in Spain (our first trips together included Paris, Switzerland, Mexico, Italy and then Spain), and thinking to myself, I want to see more of the United States on our next vacation. We toured the Southwest the next year, a trip I return to in my mind over and over again and remains one of my favorites, and we have built so many wonderful memories touring America.

Up next, a visit to a Gold Rush town, pondering the idea of riches.


  1. That food looks so fantastic, I'm very jealous! Thanks for sharing your lovely photos.

  2. Thank you! I assure you we never eat so grandly in our daily lives. The honeymoon contributions were so nice and greatly appreciated to partake in these meals. As a non-meat eater I have often gotten the question, “But what do you eat?” The bounty of the garden for sure here.