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A First-Rate Mutiny

You know you’re headed to a party when you hire a cab–especially here in Napa. And before last Sunday night, I’d never gotten a cab in our fair county–always relying on friends, walking or sticking to one beverage. However, when you’re going to a party thrown by Mutineer Magazine (the beverage mag) responsibility begs taxi service. There’s something terribly novel about it, calling up Black Tie Taxi in our tiny town–it felt big and important and almost city-like. (OK, I’ve lived in the country too long!)

Cocktail extravaganza!

The destiny? The 3rd Annual Mutineer Magazine Red Carpet Party held at Napa Valley Opera House, featuring fine beverages and supporting A Child’s Right. The cafe theater was transformed into party space complete with white leather bar, cafe tables, couches, hip lighting and some of the finest looking people in Napa and the Bay Area. (Shout out to Hopscotch Events for doing a great job!) Upstairs the hottest Napa Valley bartenders battled it out with custom, creative cocktails using The King’s Ginger. (Check out the winner and his cocktail recipe here plus read about the other contenders and their recipes linked at the bottom of the post; and ToutSuite captured the winning performance on camera.)

Back downstairs we did what Napa Valley people do best: we mingled, we waited in line for cocktails (I kept hitting the water and the DRY soda) and caught up with friends. And for me, this was one of the best parts about being at this great event–celebrating what my friends Ash and Alan worked hard to pull off (not forgetting, of course, everyone else at Mutineer–I just haven’t been lucky enough to meet you yet!) and hanging out with, yes, our legendary book club! And it didn’t hurt to have the perfect date …

Aside from the great drinks, tasty bites and cool vibe, this event captured what Napa does best: bring great people together in celebration of food and drink. Let’s do it again!

 

The best book club ever

 

First photo:  Ian Andreae, Mutineer Magazine

Second photo: Robb McDonough, The Man


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Posted in Napa. Tagged with , , , .

What I’ve Been Up To + Mutineer Mag’s Red Carpet Party!

At La Condesa

You know it’ been too long since you’ve blogged when you have to think twice about your password. My apologies.

A few weekends ago, a friend and I soaked up the goodness that is Napa’s Saturday farmer’s market at Oxbow. It’s a small deal–you could almost stand in one place, turn a tight circle and peer in every stall–but, oh, not to be missed! (I haven’t been able to confirm, but something tells me the farmer’s market is over for the season–that’s the thing I hate about fall/winter!) I picked up some gorgeous bell peppers, a pomegranate (that turned out to be rotten–true tragedy!) and something else I don’t recall.

The pomegranate was for the next day’s Canadian Thanksgiving celebration with my book club and our significant others. (Note: we’re never too picky about the date, and this year we celebrated a week out from what our neighbors to the North consider true Thanksgiving.) The book? We had the awesome honor of reading fellow book club member Laura’s memoir–yet to be picked up by a publisher (only a matter of time). But back to that pomegranate–I was making a wonderful fall salad with spinach and arugula, red onion (thinly sliced), pear, gorgonzola, and instead of the standard dried cranberries, I thought I’d through in those gem-like pomegranate seeds. (see “rotten” above; see major disappointment–there was no time to find a replacement) The salad was still amazing.

The next weekend, I met two girlfriends who have, in recent years, acquired husbands and children. Our lives are busy-busy and though we all live fairly close to each other, we hadn’t seen each other in awhile. The occasion called for drinks at Fish Story and dinner at Morimoto. Delicious and fun, start to finish. (A bottle of EnRoute Pinot Noir with dinner–fantastic!)

Through all this, harvest–crews combing the vineyards for grapes, crews sorting and crushing and pumping juice into tanks … There was a lot of hand-wringing this season. A cool year, with a pesky rainstorm to boot. And now, grapes are in (please tell me they are!), and we’re thinking about Thanksgiving (at least I am).

There’s been a lot going on (again): margaritas and guac sampler at La Condesa (not to be missed!), sips at 1313, Halloween kiddie parade in Calistoga (which makes even the non-parents among us say, ‘awww how cute!’), a catch-up at the bar at Redd, shopping excursion to Corte Madera (it’s what we Napans do–travel for clothes!), and tons of other things I can’t remember now. (You don’t want to hear about my sharpened resolve for gym-time, do you?)

This Sunday Robb and I are attending the Mutineer Magazine Red Carpet Party (Third Annual) here at the Napa Vally Opera House. Click that link and see for yourselves–an epic evening is ahead. I promise a tell-all next week. Hold me to it, will you?

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Posted in Calistoga, Napa, St. Helena, Yountville. Tagged with , , , , .

Lately, in the Napa Valley

This is a rare morning: I am home, the cat is on my lap. I’m catching up on my Google reader and listening to Spotify playlists.

There’s been too much to keep up with lately, which is encouraging. (If you hear people complaining about there being nothing to do in the Valley, ignore them–they aren’t looking hard enough. True, if they’re looking for a city-type existence, obviously that’s not what the Napa Valley offers, but there is always plenty, plenty to do. Not enough time in the day, I tell you!)

Here’s a short list of the fun things occupying my time recently:

- Brassica opening – Seemingly overnight, Cindy Pawlcyn transformed Go Fish into a place for a Mediterranean feast. I especially like the wine program–huge list, tons poured by the glass, and an amazing selection on tap. (Yes, on tap!)

- Dining out/grabbing drinks – Current favorite spots include: Grace’s Table, Carpe Diem, Kitchen Door, Oxbow Wine Merchant, C Casa (adore the lamb tacos!), 1313, Market

- “Something Happened on the Way to the Forum” – put on by Dreamweavers and starring my coworker, Tim Setzer, as Pseudolus. (I wish it were still playing so you could run out and see it!)

- Wine tasting with friends – This is something I don’t do often: get out there and taste. What a treat to see the Valley through the eyes of our guests! On this particular day, we hit up Chateau Montelena, CADE and Quixote. An eclectic lineup to be sure, but I advocate for variety in tasting. The variance in Cabernet styles and then throwing Quixote’s Petite Syrah into the mix was an enjoyable education.

- Celebrating artist Peter Hassen‘s Values Project – Picture it: A warm, late summer evening under the stars in Sonoma. Food, wine, live music, belly dancers, art … Beautiful.

- Kayak adventure (last weekend) on Tomales Bay – Super fun girls’ day! Robin brought a bottle of wine to share at the midway point, which is a good thing because the wine at lunch was of the mass-produced variety and we, all of discriminating taste (yes, we’ve become snobs!), just toasted and sipped the juice anyway and marveled at the lack of selection. (Yes, this is a hazard of living in a place known for it’s food and wine. We are forever ruined!) We shopped the streets of Pt. Reyes Station, and I bought some gorgeous towels at the Coyuchi outlet. (One bath sheet, two towels, two hand towels and a bath mat in a gorgeous, burnt orange color for $56!)

- I also enrolled in a couple classes: Laura’s just-concluded Eat Healthy Workshop. Very worthwhile, even if you think you’re the picture of health. (Laura’s running another workshop in November.) I’m also taking a 5-week yoga course here.

Whew. And this just scratches the surface!

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Posted in Abroad, Calistoga, Napa, St. Helena.

A Magical Napa Valley Evening

My favorite weekends in the Napa Valley are usually the simplest: Afternoons spent reading and talking, quick forays downtown for food, drink, and ice cream cones at the The Big Dipper.

Last night we bought fish and broccolini, and I whipped up a sauce using two tomatoes growing on Robb’s vines–the only ripe tomatoes and, therefore, precious. So, chopped tomatoes, garlic, a little white wine, basil and a dab of creme fraiche. We cooked the fish and broccolini on the humble Weber grill and, my friends, it was delicious.

Earlier in the afternoon, we’d added two mason jar lanterns to Robb’s previous one lantern, and after the sun set, the courtyard glowed like something magical.

It was.

Photo by Robb

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Posted in St. Helena. Tagged with , .

Hello!: ToutSuite Social Club

There’s a new show in town, combining technology & social media, food & wine & lifestyle, and people around the world. Intrigued? Hop on over to the ToutSuite Social Club and take a peek.

Last Thursday I joined a contingent of curious bloggers and writers at the ToutSuite headquarters in St. Helena for an introduction to this exciting, new venture. We settled in the green room with glasses of wine in our hands, while the video crew made final preparations for capturing the evening’s show. On the docket, a blind tasting of domestic syrahs with special guests Mike Hirby, Paul Hoffman, and Jeff Smith. (Check out the calendar for upcoming shows.)

Continued…

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Posted in St. Helena. Tagged with , , .

Do It: Mutineer Magazine Comedy Festival

It’s amazing how quickly the December calendar can fill up. Just a few weeks ago I thought I was going to scoot through December enjoying the comforts of home. Not so. I am now lined up for holiday party upon party, which is great except it means that I am going to miss Mutineer Magazine’s Holiday Comedy Festival due to several (!) conflicting events. (I will be juggling a wine club holiday party with a 70′s holiday-themed murder mystery party–ooh la la!)

Check your calendar, though, (and check out the comedy lineup!) and go and have fun. And then, tell us all about it.

Deets: December 11, 2010 – 7:30 – 11:00 p.m. – Jacuzzi Vineyards – $35 (a steal!), supporting A Child’s Right

Come hungry and bring your wallet because three fab food trucks will be on hand to satisfy: Dim Sum Charlie’s, Chochon Volante and Mark’s the Spot. (And don’t forget the fine beverages, the event is held at a winery and sponsored by Don Roberto Tequila, after all!)

I’m envious of the good time I know you’ll have …

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Posted in Abroad. Tagged with , , .

Cocktails in Napa

It is fully autumn here in the Napa Valley. We’re at that sweet spot when leaves are perfectly golden and still cling to the trees. In another day or so, we’ll have bare limbs. Well, in many cases–my maples are still green! Up and down the Valley, though, the colors are brilliant and the air is crisp–perfect conditions for tasting wine and noshing. Don’t let a little rain scare you.

Well, I don’t mean to give you a play-by-play of the status of the foliage–I just mean to say it’s gorgeous. Come on out and play!

Speaking of which, last weekend I met with friends (anonymous here because I didn’t ask whether I could reveal their identities) for above-mentioned noshing. We started at Norman Rose Tavern and filled ourselves with hearty fare. Then we decided we wanted cocktails but couldn’t decide where to go–Oenotri was packed and The Riddling Rack across the street offers beer and wine (although, according to the website, they do offer cocktails). And John Anthony, though lovely, is a tasting room/wine bar. When one wants a cocktail, one wants a cocktail.

Continued…

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Posted in Napa. Tagged with , , .

Golden

The colors here in the Napa Valley are astounding, especially if you can catch them right at sunrise. The greens and golds are nothing short of royal.

The Valley has quieted with noticeably less traffic and shorter lines at the nearby lunch counters. It’s at these moments of light traffic and deserted delis that I feel that the Napa Valley is returning to what it must have been when my parents lived here–a secret on the verge of discovery.

But of course that’s not true–the Napa Valley arrived and is arriving still. (Just look at what’s happening in Napa!) And even I in my appreciation for the hidden and unknown can’t help but share my favorite things. The picture above is one–another is time spent with friends. All the wonderful restaurants, bars and wineries are really just framework for connecting with the people who mean the most.

Sappy but true. ;)

Photo courtesy my iPhone

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Posted in Oakville. Tagged with , .

Meet the makers

The Napa Valley is most famously known for artistry in the wine world, but Friday night I reveled in artistry of another kind: aphotographic exhibition of the many and varied artists who make Napa Valley more than excellent ground for growing grapes. I attended the Meet the Makers reception, which launched this year’s Napa Valley ARTS 2010–a month-long celebration of the arts. The event was perfectly timed–a clear, beautiful evening a full two days before Sunday’s chill and rain showers. Guests mingled in the gallery and outdoors, listening to music , watching dancers dance and sipping bubbly. Magical.

Walking through the gallery was a delight: each photograph captured something essential about the artist. And the artists weren’t confined to their portraits–they were at the party (hence the name), talking, celebrating, inspiring.

One of the most rewarding things about this event is that it wasn’t happening elsewhere, in some more urban, more bustling, more arty location. This was Napa through and through, in all its varied expressions.

There’s more to enjoy! The calendar is packed with 117 events–concerts, shows, gigs, displays.

(My friends and I polished off the evening with an impromptu dinner at Bistro Jeanty. The Coq au Vin hit the spot!)

Photo by Indra Fortney, used with permission

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Posted in Rutherford. Tagged with , , .

The best time of year

It’s a busy time. It’s the best time–I love the fall, even though it’s been feeling more summer than fall these last few days. We are getting ever closer to full harvest. Finally.

Deliciousness at Morimoto

I’ve been having a great time with friends lately. We’ve hit the usual spots: Norman Rose, Carpe Diem, Oxbow Wine Merchant and even Compadres (for the uninitiated, very much a locals joint). There was a fantastic Sunday afternoon barbecue and a couple of stops at Morimoto, the perfect place for a cocktail and roll. (I haven’t had a full dinner yet–that’s still on my to do list.)

If you haven’t done so, I recommend stopping by The Riddling Rack–the new bar in AVIA–and taking your drink up to the second-floor terrace. This is a good way to decompress after a long day of work–or exploring the Valley. Another new spot I must recommend is Fish Story, located in the beautiful, new Riverfront property a few doors up from Morimoto. There are good things happening in Napa!

I’ve been beyond the Valley recently, too: braving the tasting at St. George Spirits/Hangar One (much different than a wine tasting!), heading into SF to represent the winery I work for (fun!), and enjoying a reading at Corte Madera’s Book Passage just last night.

What’s next? More harvest and more fun, including (but not limited to) a Canadian Thanksgiving Sunday with my book club friends and a smattering of winery events up and down the Valley. Tomorrow night I’m attending the Meet the Makers photography exhibit at Mumm Napa. Can there be anything better than the pairing of photography and sparkling wine surrounded by good friends?

I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Photo courtesy my iPhone.

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Posted in Abroad, Napa. Tagged with , , , .