A True Wine Country Experience: Taste Alexander Valley

taste Alexander Valley is always an event we look forward to. We pull out all of the stops: we serve the best of our wines, we have Peloton serving up local flavors, and we have fun with photos, themes, and games. We are excited to announce that the event is getting even better this year as a whole. There are over 25 wineries participating for the weekend open house and the Friday night event is a Magnum Barn Dance- real dancing music, and a delicious family-style dinning experience prepared by partnering chef’s Dustin Valette of Valette Healdsburg {Former chef of Dry Creek Kitchen} and Tim Vallery of local culinary company Peloton Catering. The weekend package is a steal of a deal: $200 right now for all three days! It’s must do in wine country.

I love this event because you get the opportunity to meet and mingle with local vintners and growers on Friday night, enjoy delicious food {of course anything my husband makes is delicious!}, and the weekend is filled with fun and games. At Trione, are planning on an exciting theme: music, food, dancing, and great wines! Stay tuned for more details!

 

Here are some of the scrumptious bites you can drool over while you decide if you should buy tickets.

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Craft Beer + Foie Gras in Wine Country

Craft Beer + Foie Gras in Wine Country

Chef’s in amazing food areas like Manhattan have been lavishing in this mouth watering dish even while it was banned in California. So after the banned was recently lifted we saw in all of the food blogs and news publications online that Chefs all over were shouting out to their California peeps and saying congrats. It’s incredible how something so hated by so many can be so sought after for many others.

I have always loved to enjoy this fatty dish with an aged Champagne, something nutty, doughy, creamy, and yeasty or a beautiful Sauternes. Naturally everyone looks to wine to sip with this….

Being that I am a craft beer and food lover, I thought I’d share some delightful pairings for this decadent dish. We all know that foie goes really well with wine and we are in wine country, but the textures, flavors, and nuances that make up this dish also pair really well with craft beer.

Foie Gras is rich, fatty, delicate, and decadent. On it’s own can seem quite overwhelming in flavors and to be honest all of us need something to balance out those flavors on our palates. Commonly paired items one the dish are fresh, house-made, warm brioche, a sauce made from fig, blackberry, huckleberry {my favorite}, or some other sweet tasting fruit. Though it really can be prepared with anything, or even eaten on it’s own without any sauce or toast.

Whether this dish is is prepared as a torchon, terrine, or the lobe is seared whole {That’s my favorite} this mouth watering delicacy can be enjoyed with many of the wonderful craft beers you can get your hands on right here in Sonoma County at my favorite local beer shop: Beercraft.  

Photo courtesy of Huntington Post

Photo courtesy of Huntington Post

I spoke with a few local chefs in Sonoma County to see what they are doing with foie and if it will be on their menus. To my surprise, many are not putting it on the menu and did not really have it on the menu in the first place- it’s a pretty high ticket item. Sondra Bernstein, Proprietor of the famous Girl and the Fig and the Fig Cafe and Wine Bar says,  “We did not always serve foie as a regular item, price point is usually too high for both restaurants as much as I love it. -To be honest have not given it any thought lately at all, though can’t wait for some tourchon!!” Chef Josh Silvers of Jackson’s Bar and Pizza Oven doesn’t offer Foie as it’s “not a Jackson’s thing”. Chef Dustin Valette on the other hand does not even have his restaurant open yet and I could tell his mouth is watering already! He’s definitely serving Foie Gras, in fact, he was recently at the James Beard House in Manhattan and served the Foie Gras sous vide in Pinot Noir and served it with a kumquat marmalade, “it was amazing!” he says. I am sure it was, I have had a lot of Chef Dustin’s food at the Dry Creek Kitchen and it was always amazing. All of the chefs I spoke to about a beer and foie pairing said they had never even thought about pairing craft beer with the dish in any capacity but would love to experiment.

Naturally, being the foodie I am, I must experiment too. So while everyone is snacking on chips and dips for Super Bowl Sunday, I will be enjoying a little seared foie paired with several craft beers. Here is what I am going to open: A barley wine, Almanac blueberry barrel aged, and Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose. Stay tuned for the results!

 

Eating Healthy and Delicious

Coming up on mid January already and I am still going strong with my new years resolution to just eat healthier more often. I figured, how could I fail if I am very vague? So I decided not to put specific parameters on my eating, only that I would eat less bread and pasta, I’d cook more, eat out less, and be more conscientious of caloric intake. So far so good. Here are some tastefully interesting foods to make for a nice dinner in, that don’t take a long time to prepare, and can be prepped in advance so coming home after work and whipping up dinner is easy!

 

Spaghetti squash pasta with roasted carrots and roasted garlic. The squash is easy to prepare, the carrots and roasted garlic can be done in advance and if you don’t have that, you can add in any sweeter tasting veggie of your choice {I like to use something sweeter rather than earthy because the squash is already earthy in taste}.

Crimini mushrooms, roasted garlic, carrots, celery, and garbanzo beans. Make a quick stock from the scraps of the veggies and ladle the broth into the pot after the flavors have been able to merry nicely together from sauteing. This is delish. The beans add a nice texture to the soup and the overall flavor is savory and a bit sweet from the roasted garlic. This is a great, hearty soup for the cold winter nights, once cooked, it can be frozen for a no fuss dinner later.

My fav: lettuce cups. Probably the one thing I miss the most in life when I go on these healthy lifestyle trips is the tortilla. I love tortillas and corn tortillas are great too but they are  not nearly as satisfying and they still have a lot of calories. So I pile much of the fixings from a yummy taco into this lettuce cup and bam: healthy! I like to do spiced chicken as the base {ground turkey is good too}. Then make a sort of slaw: slice cucumbers {with the skin on} and radish using the mandolin and then run your knife through once and put those aside with some ponzu sauce. The slaw goes on top of the chicken and then a drizzle or two of siracha and you have yourself a healthy, filling meal that tastes great.

http://jessposhepny.com/2014/12/the-commonwealth-tantalizing-for-both-eyes-mouth/

The toughest part about eating healthy is boredom. I find myself in the same pickle every time, I eat the same healthy things everyday and then I get board f the flavors so I eat cookies or something and that’s not right. So spice, citrus, and Asian sauces are great to have in the pantry because they keep the flavors interesting and bold.

 

 

The Commonwealth: tantalizing for both eyes + mouth

Looking for an exciting experience for both your palate and your eyes? Check out Commonwealth in San Francisco. It’s delicious, well done, the service is top notch, and it’s classy.

The chef’s tasting menu is priced well and worth it: at $75 per person for six courses. They allow you to substitute any of the courses {typically} for something off the al la cart menu too.

Each course was beautifully presented and tasted equally as amazing as it looked. I wanted to have a beer with the meal but it’s not always easy to find one beer that will or can carry you through your entire meal. This one, the Almanac Golden Gate Gose did. It was pure bliss. Nice and light for the seafood and with enough body to pair nicely with goat cheese and even the pork. Great beer AND local.

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My favs: 

Dungeness crab crepe. Brilliant.

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Lobster and mushroom {Cioppino like} soup

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Asian pear salad with mixed bitter greens and soft goat cheese

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Celery sorbet {weird but oddly delightful}

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I highly recommend this for a nice date night. It’s right on Mission so easy to get to and easy to get a taxi from too.

Cheers!

Are you a beer trader or a beer traitor?

The urge to travel all over for beer has grown immencley with every trip I take and every bottle I open. My husband and I have began to check Kayak regularly for weekend trips to PDX and Seattle since our local airport flies directly there and now San Diego. It’s almost silly NOT to go away on our weekends. We have traveled to several different states and visited over 300 unique breweries. We’ve met some stellar people, enjoyed amazing beers with brewers and owners, and shared in the love for craft beer. Many of the greatest breweries in the world are right here in my backyard {my opinion of course} but there are an astronomical amount of great breweries out there and much of that beer is impossible to find in Northern California. So what do you do? Well, you trade. I send you beer and you send me beer and it goes on and on like that. But what happens if one of the beer traders becomes a traitor and goes back on their word, keeps your fantastically unique beer package, and does not reciprocate? Do you cry over the beer that could have been? Stomp your feet because you forked out the cash at your local pub and beer shop on beers you let slip away for nothing? Or do you you stalk the person until they cave?

My first and only experience with beer trading has come to a halt because the man on the other end has not kept his end of the bargain. We met at a brewery I really, really enjoyed while on vacation {in June} with my family in Denver, Epic Brewing.

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We met said trader when he and another gal poured our beer sampler for us. We sipped then we scattered throughout the brewery as we picked out all the beers we wanted to ship back. Said beer trader mentioned that he would be happy to ship our beers {that we purchased that day} to us and that we should also start a beer trading relationship because he loved Pliny and anything from Russian River. Well, I don’t know about you, but if a person who knew their beers, who seemed like a well respected person in a brewery offered and asked to begin a trading relationship, Id do it {I did do it}. Finally our beers came {the ones we purchased}. Said beer trader sent me the total cost for shipping along with the beers he’d like. I went on my way to my local spots, Russian River and Beercraft to pick out a case of some really great loot to send him. I send the beers, email the contents to him and wait…and wait…waiting still.

He received the beer.

I emailed and asked about the ETA of our beers heading back this way. Said beer trader asked me for a list of beers I wanted. I said, “Funkwerks, anything from Odell, anything hoppy, and any sessions”. Seems simple enough and totally doable?! I got the cold shoulder, then I heard that he was tight on cash and had to wait until after GABF. Then after GABF {for those who don’t know, that’s in October}, he emailed me and said he had beers to send off and would at the end of the month. Then  I was occupied with family for Thanksgiving and when I returned, I emailed again, asking about the beer. Checking in, really. Finally after email, after email, after email… I was encouraged by local beer friends to get in touch with said beer traders manager because he was using his resources at Epic to falsely encourage people to trade with him. I heard back from the manager and said beer trader… she was nice and apologetic {I prefaced my email with, “I do not want anything for free but I’d like you to know…}, and HE was so rude it was hilarious, “I’m a guy in my twenties and I cannot just meet your demands for beer”. Wow. That came a s a surprise to me since I was not demanding anything specific and I’m also in my twenties. To cut it off, I asked him to just make good on his end of the bargain and send me a check. Let’s forget about the beer {quite honestly if he had IPA’s for me back in July or August then they’re not as fresh now…}.

Ready for the finale?

I have heard squat from him. His manager emailed me in a very political email saying that Epic has nothing to do with this trade {which they don’t but the brand is still tainted in my mind because of beer traitor} and she hopes I will continue to buy their beers, also, my beer traitor’s last day at Epic is next week. Well isn’t that convenient? I have his contact information for work. Now, since I mailed him beer to his home, should I start writing him letters? Do I contact him time and time again because it’s the principle, you should never rip someone off?  Or do I just write it off and let karma take over?

What would you do? How does one recover from such an ill experience?

Beer culture is a great culture and people like this should not be allowed to be a part of it. Beer is about passion for great beers, fun, and sharing.

Unfortunately now, I cannot bring myself to buy anymore Epic beer. And while I have always loved their beers and I see them all the time at Beercraft, I will not buy them and I end up sharing this story with all of my beer friends. It’s a shame. I can only hope that my beer traitors boss will regulate the way her employees are able to beer trade while at work with the customers that they would not have known had it not been for the brewery. I would have never met said beer trader had I not been going to Epic in the first place, therefore it’s a little bit Epic’s responsibility to provide some sort of solution.

I enjoy buying beers for my friends but I don’t enjoy buying beers for people who are rude. I am totally bummed by experience with my beer traitor.

The takeaway: if you want to trade beer then, trade beer and be fair. Don’t be a beer traitor.

 

 

 

Maui Brewing Company

This is a true “neighborhood bar/pub”. It’s friendly, the people clearly love to work there, the food is excellent, the beers fresh and delicious, and the patrons love being there too. It’s been a brewery on our list for a while now and I am so happy we finally made it. In fact, I am happy that Maui Brewing was actually the driver for us {my husband} booking our flight over to Maui from the Big Island. It was well worth the trip.

The do samplers but only four at a time {that’s ok because with the humidity the beer gets warm so quickly you won’t want more than that otherwise it will not be enjoyable}.

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The food is fantastic. Coming from a foodie and wife of a chef, WOW. Even my hubby was impressed. We went back twice for the food and both ordered the same things and the second time, opted not to share. We highly recommend the buffalo chicken sandwich with caramelized Maui onions and their house spicy catsup along with the French dip with the house fried Maui onion strings and awesome horseradish. Yum.
In for just a snack and a brew? The nachos are top notch: crunchy through-and-through, cheesy all around, tomatoes, incredible salsa, with black beans, {add in} the guacamole and sour cream. A small is perfect to split if you’re just thinking of a snack.

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Buffalo chicken sandwich with blue cheese and caramelized onions

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French dip with house fried onion strings and zesty horseradish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesdays they reward you for sporting your Maui gear by offering $4 pints of their beers {not including guest taps} all day! We didn’t have any Maui schwag on but we bought a ton and they were kind enough to honor the same price.

They sell a lot of great schwag: they have all of the sizes, they’re completely organized, and very helpful. They have hydro flasks and glass growlers, and they sell  a few on their more popular brews in the can by the six pack.

Maui Brewing Company is definitely on my top 10 breweries list. I highly recommend making the trek over to Maui.

Maui Brewing Co. on Urbanspoon

Follow Maui Brewing online: @MauiBrewingCo

Kona Brewing Company- Big Island

We went to Kona Brewing on Oahu and that was great- the view was spectacular. This brewery is the main one, it’s pretty sweet: they have good food: pizzas, tacos, salads. It’s all tasty. The beers are delicious. They have a gift shop right at the entrance {brilliant} where they sell the hydroflasks and then you can go and fill them up for $5 at the growler shack. Love this place.

Follow Kona Brewing Company

Kona Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Big Island Brewhaus

Big Island Brewhaus

On a rainy drive back from Hilo to Kona we decided to take a detour and hit the big Island Brewhaus. The Overbourd IPA we had picked up from the market across from where we are staying and fell in love. Unlike a traditional “Brewhaus” this place is Santa Cruz meets Jamaica and makes a baby in Hawaii. It’s super low key, hippie-esc, down-to-earth {no pun intended} and makes some incredible beers. It’s a mexican restaurant and a brewery. The food menu is pretty extensive and inexpensive. We tried a snack: the nachos with shredded chicken. Good flavors but the chips were soggy from the juice from the chicken {they must have been built then put in the broiler to melt the cheese}, there were about 9 chips on the plate, they were big but still unlike a nacho plate… the beers: they had 14 beers on tap. They do samplers of five 3.5 ounce tastes for $6 and some change. We tried them all. The Pau Hana Pale Ale, Panilolo Pale Ale, White Mountain Porter {so odd that I would like a porter but this was light bodied, with a nice clean finish of caramel and toasted nuts. It was fantastic.}, and of course the Overboard IPA.

We sat inside and listened to the music of the live band just outside on the covered patio. We ended up chatting with a sweet couple: Sandy and “Big” Earl. Nice people. Sandy resembled my hubbies mom a lot and that was kind of a cool thing since it was always her thing to come to Hawaii as a family. And Earl was a hoot. He had clearly traveled all over and lived in many places, he had stories about it all. Nice folks, the kind I always enjoy meeting when we travel.

The Brewhaus is well worth the drive where ever you are staying on the island.

 

Big Island Brewhaus & Tako Taco Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Beer VS Wine

 

At a recent wine tourism conference we had a session about beer and wine tourism. What are these breweries doing that wineries are not doing in order to be more successful? What separates out the beer industry from the wine industry? It’s the connections. I’ve been to over 300 distinct breweries all over the U.S. and 9 out of 10 of the breweries have replied to me and engaged with me in some way on social media when I tweet or post a photo tagging them. Aside from the online connecting before and after visiting, the breweries for the most part have someone who is so insanely passionate about the beer behind the bar to explain anything and everything to me, making it more evident that this is more than just a job.

 I have seen many people in breweries: the Brewers, owners, wives, or someone highly connected to the brewery who is taking their time out of whatever it is they’re doing to respond to my messages. Its awesome. One of my favorite things about the way breweries connect with me {their consumer: the beer traveler} is they will comment on my blog and make it obvious that they took a little extra time to look me up, check out what I do, and comment on that. It shows me that they care about their consumers, they want to know who we are and because of that, I want to buy more beer!!

http://jessposhepny.com/2014/11/beer-vs-wine/

And we already buy lots of beer!!

Having been in the wine business for over 14 years, I ask myself, “why do I prefer to go beer tasting over wine tasting?” Being a manager of a prestigious family owned winery where our customers come first and I make it my job to ensure each guest is happy, I wonder why other wineries struggle with this when it’s so simple: be transparent, be genuine, ask questions, care about the answers, and engage. After sitting through this seminar, I realized that it is not easy to give the customers what they want because as the business, you have to ask what it is they want first and that is what the breweries do and then they listen. It cannot be a one-off thing, and that’s really where people are having a tough time in the luxury service industries because people do not have to buy from you…they can buy from a hundred other places or people like you. What can YOU do to stand out? CONNECT. I am not quite sure why the beer culture has this down so well and the wine business that has evolved over the years seems to struggle with it.

 As a consumer, I want to hear from the brewer or winemaker, I want to meet the owner, I want to see them tweeting and pouring behind the bar, I want to see that they are human. There really isn’t much that is different from hundreds of years ago in sales: know your customer, gain their trust and keep a loyal customer.It’s work, but it is possible.

 Some tips from a loyal consumer: ease up on the snobbery, engage with guests on a more intimate level: ask them about who they are and what they like, tell them about you and why you are brewing or making wine; built a familiar connection and that will make them want to know more, tell their friends, and keep coming back.

 UPDATE:

This is a comment from a brewery owner I met at a new {at the time} brewery in Sacramento. Find my write up of Bike Dog here.

AJ on said:Edit

How about a brewery owner who gets a new Instagram follower, recognizes the name as the business of two great beer travelers he met almost a year ago then hunts them down, stumbles across their blog and writes silly response like this?

PS the Mosaic Pale Ale is proving to be a customer favorite, you were onto something early :) ”

This just goes to show that breweries have a lot of power with the people and many of them use it like AJ did above: he stumbled upon me through social channels and reaches out on my blog and even remembers the beer I loved so much when I visited once. All it takes is a little effort when you are literally stumbling around on the inter-web. Thanks AJ for taking the time out!

Cheers!

B.L.A.T.’s

It’s supposed to be fall heading into winter time and it still feels like summer with temperatures in the high 70’s and low 80’s. This weather some on the east coast may call a blessing for us in California, some would say we are lucky. Well, we are a bit lucky but we all want to bust out our crock pots and sport our long jeans and boots but that just isn’t happening! So…we can bust out that grill again and make some good old fashioned BLT’s or BLAT’s.

For 6 sando’s you’ll need:

1 package of St. Andre triple cream brie
6 slices of Medium sharp cheddar cheese
1 Avocado, ripe and sliced/chunked
1 package of bacon {Any kind you like, but I like to use maple}
1/2 red onion sliced thinly
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced {heirloom is best but depending on the time of year, anything that is ripe will work}
2 hearts of romaine lettuce, pulled off the core and cut to fit the bread {I pack the sandwiches so they’re nice and crunchy; about four-five leaves per sando}
12 slices of whole wheat sliced bread
1/2 cup of mayo

Saute the red onion until soft and slightly translucent.
Cut the bacon in half and saute, set aside and let decrease.
Add mayo to one side of the bread and put that side down on the grill. On the other side of the bread, place one kind of cheese on one slice and the other on the other slice. Keep away from the flame, we just want to melt the cheese.
Pull off when melted, put 4-6 bacon slices in the melted cheese, add the onions and the chunks of avocado, place two slices of tomato and finish with the lettuce. Add salt and pepper to taste, cut in half and serve with your favorite red wine, rose, or craft beer!

I like to pair this with Trione Rose or a nice floral IPA.
YUM.

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