Good Ol’ Fashioned Guacamole Dip

No big bash is complete without a good guacamole dip! We all want to indulge but don’t necessarily want to pay the prince the next day after we have eaten EVERYTHING on the tables because all the sides and snacks just looked too good to pass up… this is great with healthy-style “chips: Serve with lettuce chips, carrots sticks, or celery instead of chips!

Use these healthy chips instead of salty tortillas to cut on calories, to save for more wine or craft beer!

Ingredients for Guacamole Dip( Photo by Jess Vallery)


  • 6 ripe avocados, peeled and cubed
  • 2 ripe but firm tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 small red onion, minced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A dash of Cayenne Pepper


Soak the onions in the lime juice and set aside. Mix avocado up and mash with a fork, add in tomatoes, cilantro, and onions and lime juice and mix well so flavors blend. Add season, stir and serve.


TomatoMania!! Is back at Trione!

Owner Scott Daigre of Tomatomania is headed back up North with over 300 tomato varieties! They’ll be at Cornerstone Gardens in Sonoma Valley for one weekend and then head further North to Geyserville and will be at Trione Winery on April 30th.

Scott has been coming up North for years now and helping hundreds of folks find the best variety to plant in their gardens. He comes with a full crew to answer any questions you may have, T-shorts, and his AMAZING cookbook (see recipe featured here). I personally have made half of the recipes in here but one of my all time favorites is Sams tomato Sourdough. It’s so delicious!! For a list of places to buy the book online, click here.

You can count on detailed information from Scott when you buy. Write down your questions about planting and bring them with you. Scott lists his tips here too.


April 23-24: CornerStone Gardens: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,  23570 Arnold Drive, Sonoma.

April 30: Trione Vineyards and Winery: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 19550 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville.


Trione Winery will also be having a fun event during Tomatomania for those who would like to partake in wine tasting: 2015 Rose of Pinot Noir release party from 1-4pm with a couple of small “brunch like bites” from Peloton Catering , a sample of Rose, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s $15 for the public and then they’re offering a 10% discount on wine purchases!!


Here’s to kicking off Spring in wine country!



Russian River Brewery- My Neighborhood Hangout Spot

Over the last several years I have traveled to over 370 breweries across the U.S. and written about the various beers, taprooms, people, and food. I have been asked why I have yet to write about Russian River, the best brewery in the U.S. and my neighborhood hangout….I have been pondering what exactly I should share about RRBC. Blind Pig is my favorite IPA just doesn’t quite seem like enough…but it is true and it’s the best craft brew made.

I have been bellying up to that bar for many years now, and had my fair share of time spent in line waiting for Younger, and popped in right at opening to try to obtain the “big bottle” days in a row… and finally I realized what the craft beer community needs to know about my beloved RRBC is not what everyone around the world thinks they know or reads about in the press.

After careful thought, I finally have something to share about one of my favorite places: it’s a wholesome locals spot, the bartenders are human, they like to educate people, they do get offended by rudeness, and the kitchen only has one oven so the pizzas and Pliny bites do take time. I am always amazed at how people just expect RRBC to be this magical place that can make pints and food simply appear and how people get angry when they cannot get the beer at home, or when the release gets blabbed about so they cancel it. Downtown Santa Rosa has some businesses that probably complain about the lines. Guess what? During Younger this year I never waited in line once, I was not the first to try it this year, or any year, but I was able to drive by a few times after work and miraculously there was no line, so I went in to indulge. For the beatification bottle release when there was a line around the entire block, I stayed away and drove passed around 2pm and went in only to have Amir ask if we wanted 6 or 12. They still had it. So if you’re looking for the excitement of waiting in line {like a tailgate with friends} then do it, otherwise, wait until the excitement dies down and you can go in without a huge line!

The bartenders have finally warmed up to my husband and me and I’m not going to lie, it definitely makes the experience much more enjoyably. They’re funny, nice, make small talk, and even have Blind Pig in a glass before we can walk to the end of the bar. It’s sort of like my favorite coffee shop…or Cheers. We all wanna go where everybody knows our name, right?

I love the pizza, even if the crust is a little soft one day, I still love it using a knife and fork. The Mickey, New Yorker, and Mama Mia are my favs. The Drew bites are must if you are looking for a snack, but ask for them served flat. Health nut? The Asian chicken salad is dynamite.

I’ve gone to many of the events they put on over the years: the Friendship lunch was by far at the top of my list of favorites; a nearly 8 hour day eating food and drinking amazing beers. Any menu that had Pliny as the palate cleanser is bound to be amazing. Vinnie and Natalie took a photo at the release of Younger one year drinking Hop Slam and Vinnie gave one to my husband. We ended up going to Bell’s that April on our craft beer and baseball honeymoon.

Every trip we go on, we always bring a case of Pliny to give to people who are nice, give us good service, and are just downright cool people {who actually know of Pliny- surprisingly, there are many who do not know about RRBC}. Once in NYC at a cool beer bar and pizza place, Kiabacca, we ended up there every night on that trip, the bartenders knew us by day 2 and were super cool and knowledgeable. We put a Pliny on the bar and the light in the bartenders eyes, man, it was epic. One of the guys actually started to tear up he was so happy.

Some tips in making everyone’s experience at RRBC more enjoyable:

  1. Leave your growlers in your car until you’re ready to go {Especially if you have more that two} the space is limited at the bar. If you have a table, then suit yourself.
  2. If you’re sitting at the bar, make your case purchases when you’re ready to cash out so others around you are not crowded.
  3. The seat at the end of the bar is for one person, not two.
  4. If you put your name on the list for a table and you find a seat outside or at the bar, let the host know so others can take the table.
  5. Order your pizza and bites right away so that if the kitchen is really busy, you’re food should be out by the first sip of your second beer.
  6. You do not have to finish every sample in the entire sampler, but you should get the full sampler, it’s the best in my opinion out of 368 breweries. It’s worth the $22.
  7. WASH your growler.
  8. Don’t even think about bringing in another breweries growler, RRBC will not fill anyone else and they have asked that other breweries do not fill theirs.
  9. Bring your I.D. other wise you will get a pizza stamp 🙁

I’m thrilled that I have such a cool place to go grab a bite to eat and a pint right in my backyard. Cheers to great beer!


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Dive into the Russian River Bar Scene

Growing up in a county where the communities within are all small and neighborly, a “dive” bar is a commonly visited place for the college kids, business folks, out-of-towners, bachelors and bachelorettes, and all of the above. Many over the years have attached a sort of stigma to the “dive” bar: it’s an unsafe place, dirty, funky, scary, and/or dodgy (myself included). Even though we all still go to these said “dive” bars, it occurred to me that we do not truly know what they are about. My husband and I took a Sunday afternoon and researched the Russian River Valley for these “dives” that were nothing shy of true gems. One of my favorite things about these bars are the music they play. There is something to be said about a bar and it’s music, so I got to thinking: if there were one song to describe each place that most or all could connect to, what would it be? On my adventure, I decided it would be fun to pair each dive bar with a song that  that would paint a picture of what each place was like.


Urban dictionary defines a Dive Bar to be “ A well-worn, unglamorous bar, often serving a cheap, simple selection of drinks to a regular clientele.”  Some might say this type of bar does not appeal to the preppie, the rich kid or the successful person: only the loners or those alike. The truth is, all of us, no matter how large our bank account is or what our college degree states: we all love a good, local, fun, quirky place to go and hang or let loose and not be judged. That is what I found at each of the sixteen dive bars in the Russian River area. Many claim a dive bar cannot allow children and has to serve inedible food or none at all but the truth is, some of the diviest bars do allow kids- during the day. And the food, well I must say of all the dives I have been to, the best ones by far are those where the owner comes out with his gal (his lady or another bartender that just has what it takes to put out some good grub) and puts up a naked eight foot table with plastic forks and all of this delicious food. The famous B & B in Healdsburg (now in a new location and not to worry, nothing has changed) has homemade soups in the winter and food for all holidays. Some folks join in for the home cooked meal and camaraderie and to be around those who do not judge. It is the neighborhood bar and Boston’s  “More than a Feeling” describes it perfectly. Grab your drink and play it on the jukebox and relax.


During my oh so terrible research, I found myself referencing Cheers: that place we all wanted to have as our neighborhood bar because the bartenders were good looking (both male and female), the people all had stories, they knew you and there was good gossip. Much of that is true but the time of day and the day of the week one goes to a dive bar will determine their fate. I believe a true picture of a dive bar can be painted on a Sunday. The weekend is over, the bartender you see is the one who either owns the joint or has worked there so long he doesn’t need the drama of a Saturday night with all the rowdies so he gets the low key boozers, locals and those who stumble in for a hair-of-the-dog bloody something. This is also the time that stench is so prevalent: you either like it because its nostalgic and it reminds you “of that one time when you…” or you walk out and leave. I love it. Meeting Dan at the Rainbow Cattle Company was great. I pair this bar with the song, “Bette Davis Eyes” because I could see the bartender jumping up on the bar and breaking out into song as though it were a Broadway show!  Now if you cannot tell by the name, this bar is a Gay bar and the day we went was PRIDE. So the coolness of the vintage cigarette and change machines all covered in dust in the corners were overshadowed by the extreme joy of the eight guys at the bar cheering when they saw the Guerneville float on television. They were excited for many reasons but one was because they made the float! One of the coolest things about Rainbow Cattle Company, besides the excess of attractive, well mannered men that will not hit on me is the train above the bar. Donate $1 to their weekly, local charity and they turn on that train for all to cheer. Give more if you can but if you can’t, they make you feel really good for helping. A no judgement, neighborhood bar.


Guerneville was called “Stumptown” and is still recognized as a “Stumptown” for the ancient  Redwood trees which were logged and used to rebuild after the earthquake of 1906. A dive bar shout out would not be the same without recognizing Stumptown Brewery. While most would disagree with me, I call this a dive bar because when I hear the song, “Roadhouse Blues” by the Doors I think of  Stumptown. The 20 harleys I see out front, lined up nicely, the awesome bloody marys, river access, and the locals that sit at the bar and shoot the gossip with the cool bartender help the rustic, dive bar status.


I have lived in Sonoma County all of my life and it was not until recently that I spent so much time in Guerneville and Forestville. I truly fell in love with the charm of the Russian River Pub. Every inch of the redwood walls are covered with the writings of locals, people who have been coming since they opened in 1972, some who have passed on, and people like me who pass by. It is common to see the dollar bills hanging on each one of the walls at dive bars, but the writing is personal and all of those people took the time to climb high or bend down and stamp a memory permanently on a wall for all to read- much like a yearbook. In the Pub you will find great service from a blonde gal that literally is trying to do eight things at once and does it well, and, you will discover the days of the Russian River Pub’s life in the words of so many before. Neil Diamond’s, “Sweet Caroline” played as I sipped my Racer 5 and I thought, this is the perfect song for this laid back, easy going pub.


I was thinking I was finished with Guerneville when the Appaloosa Room (The Appy as the locals call it) was referred to me. West county  has not let me down before, so why not? I found a friend in the two men at the bar and an old school seated pacman game table. The man at the bar was disappointed that I was not more impressed with the singing breasts on the back wall, but hey, it was a Sunday afternoon…. The song “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show comes to mind because of the Risqué video-  it seems to fit well with the look of the Appy Room.


Thinking that I had enough “Dive” and I was ready to dive into the actual river because it was 106 degrees outside, I rallied and decided to check out Forestville Club since I was so close. I sure am glad I did because Stacey the bartender was everything you could want in a real neighborhood bar: feisty, funny, and attentive. When we walked into the club, my eyes had to adjust because it was pitch black inside. I almost thought, “hmmm… maybe I was wrong for walking in” but this is just the way it is: it’s dark. Once your eyes acclimate to the lighting, you see the man at the end of the bar that comes in everyday , the funky old tables, pool tables, and the porcelain dolls hanging on the walls. It was here that I realized, a true dive bar can also be about what you hear. The laughter and banter of the employees and locals, along with the plethora of impractical knowledge you can gain (Cliff Clavin anyone?) from the obvious out-of-towners was warming. At this bar, it is all about the the people: the man at the end looking for “the one,” the flirty gal just trying to have fun, and the loving couple both striking up conversations with someone different, I thought immediately of “Your Love” by The Outfields. I’ll leave the rest to the imagination.

On a Sunday afternoon I visited a few dive bars around the Russian River area. I was surprised by how many are actually in the AVA: I counted sixteen. I do not recommend going to all of them, and there is no way I could mention all of them here, but of all those that stood out truly had that neighborhood feel (sometimes not to me but to others): the friendly, talkative bartender, the staple at the bar drinking their drink with another token in front of them for their next, the guy nobody really wants to talk to but we do anyway, and the loud girl that will do whatever it takes to get attention. In the end I discovered a place (in all of these establishments) where anyone is welcome to be themselves and the music helps create a visual and sort of comfort feeling. So go ahead and get out of your comfort zone, visit a few of these cool spots, do not be afraid of the door or lack of windows or even the ashtray covered payphone out front- you may be surprised what awesomeness you will find inside.

Be sure to “Dive” responsibly.