Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Redwoods and Castles

My Napa trip recap continues...

...with some crazy beautiful photos and some delicious food! I know I've said this before, but I don't think there was a single moment when I wasn't blown away by the sites of Napa valley!

We left our B&B after having a rather gourmet breakfast on the porch -- and headed to some nearby trails to hike amongst the famous California redwoods!

I'm pretty sure there are redwoods all around the Bay Area, but this was a whole different kind of wonderful!  Of course I was content looking at the window on the short drive to the trails..

I'm telling you, Napa in the fall/early winter = perfect.

So, we picked out the "Redwood Trail" to hike what seemed like an easy 4 mile loop... little did we know what we were getting ourselves into...

We started off slowly - probably stopping every two seconds to snap pictures.

Okay, and obviously there was some goofing around...

and some creek-crossings!

About an hour in, we found another couple (who had started the hike around the same time as us) and they said they were turning around and heading back to the car.  Of course, Mom and I had our hearts set on finding a looping path so we wouldn't have to back-track... so.... we started down "Coyote Peak Trail."

I was complaining about the never-ending uphills...
and then Mom hilariously pointed out the "definition of PEAK."

It was crazy!  As soon as we hit the peak, the temp seemed to rise about 10 degrees, the sun was shining, and the climate seemed way more SoCal.

We were ready to leave.
I called it a "nature overdose" -- there needs to be a balance between nature and shopping in cute boutiques... right?

hungry Casey:

We headed into the nearby town of Calistoga to grab a light lunch! 
I ordered the Veggie sandwich on whole wheat bread... and this is what I got.

Would you be surprised if I told you I finished that monster? 

Mom also bullied me into getting a Chocolate Chip Cookie which looked too good to pass up.  We took a few bites before heading to our next destination.

Castle Di Ambroso.
Okay, confession, I took a nap in the car while my mom went exploring... I need my nap time.

Apparently the castle was way more of a "site-to-see" instead of a vineyard.
It totally reminded me of some of the great castles we seen around the world --  in Tuscany, Germany, and Scotland!

Next up: strolling and shopping in St. Helena.
I stopped for a SnowBall! Which was shaved ice with a scoop of non-fat vanilla froyo in the center.  I chose strawberry and vanilla bean for my shaved ice flavors -- YUMMY.

Sorry if this post is lengthy and fast-paced -- our trip was kind of non-stop and I don't want to miss out on sharing the details with you!

At the festival of lights in Yountville, we had tasted an amazing 2009 Cab Sav from Sequoia Grove that had won a bunch of wine awards.

We happened to be passing the winery on our way back to our B&B... so...

Sequoia Grove Winery

I wasn't planning on wine tasting, but our somelier -- Bob -- was a sweetheart and let me taste about 7 different wines for free. and I got a wine opener too!

Okay, I've rambled long enough.

I'd fill you in on our dinner experience, but I'll save it for the next post -- the dessert alone deserves it's time in the spot light!

Hope you're having a great TUESDAY!
I'm not enjoying reality -- aka studying for finals.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Celadon and Vineyard Runs

Hey guys!

Sorry I totally fell off the blogger-wagon this weekend... I was rotating between running around Napa and being too stuffed to get off the couch... so, blogging was a no-go.

You know what this means?

Instead of writing some enormous all-encompassing post filled with a million pictures of drool-worthy food (cause I know you'd all HATE that....) I'm going to pretend I'm still in heaven -- Napa -- and write a little bit each day.

So... where did we leave off??
Friday night!

If you can even believe it, we managed to un-stuff ourselves (only slightly) from our amazing lunch at Bistro Jeanty so head out for our 6:30 dinner reservations at a nearby restaurant, Celadon

First, we enjoyed taking a million photos of our cute B&B  -- The Churchill Manor.

The restaurant was just a quick walk into "town" - right off of Main St.
I loved that Downtown Napa actually had a small town feel... it was picturesque and quaint.

Mom and I scored another perfect "couples" table in the corner and started our usual debates on what to order... although I don't think we could have gone wrong with any dish!

We started off with some great bread with world-class olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and herbs. 

Then, after some soul searching, we decided to stick to our plan: order a bazillion appetizers and are too good to pass up and then skip straight to dessert! This was our Plan of Action during the entire trip and it never failed us.

First round?
Steamed mussels in a white white sauce with stewed tomatoes and pancetta.  Served with grilled bread for dipping.  WOW!!  The mussels were huge and juicy!  Probably some of the best I've had (once again, this trip was filled with "bests")... Mom, the mussel connoisseur, wasn't disappointed.

Our next appetizer was their famous calamari -- which all the reviews raved about. Flash fried calamari with pickled ginger and a spicy chipotle and honey glaze. Super unique twist on a classic!  It was like an Asian-fusion flavor that really took this dish to the next level..

For our greens, we decided to go with the Coconut Prawn salad on a bed of mixed greens with asian sesame dressing and mango slices.  THE SHRIMP WERE AMAZING!  I think the seafood here was top-notch... Every dish we ordered exceeded my expectations.

Finally, we had to satisfy by crab cake craving.... Crab cake on top of a salad frisee. My mom was stuffed by this point, but I devoured every last bit.  Crab cakes are one of my favorite dishes! Whatever was in the creamy dressing.... yum.

Our waiter made sure we ordered the right dessert...

They had bread pudding AND creme brulee on the menu, but how can you measure up to Bistro Jeanty's? 
 So, we decided to ask our server for a suggestion: without hesitation -- Ooey Gooey Chocolate Lava Cake for Two.  With Creme Fraiche gelato and fresh berries. 


You think we made the right choice?  As soon as you cut into the cake, warm chocolate spilled out.  And the best combination ever was when you got a warm bite of chocolate cake, a fresh berry, and some creme fraiche gelato to top it off.  Holy moly.  That's all I have to say.

After we were stuffed beyond belief, we walked around Main St. and enjoyed the feel of the holidays -- complete with a Christmas tree, cute boutiques, and an ice skating rink.

Mom tried to stay warm by a heater... failed.

I also took advantage of some black Friday deals at a small clothing store and scored a buy-one-get-one-half-off deal on some new jeans!  PERFECT.

We climbed into bed and sipped tea and read our books (for the first time I got to read for fun instead of for lectures.. talk abut heavenly) until we fell asleep.  I think we both slept for 9 hours -- also a first-time since this semester started.  I woke up, anxious to run!

After a few wrong turns, I finally found a gorgeous path that reminded me that I was in Napa! Vineyards, rolling hills, horses, farm houses.... It was a gorgeous 10.2 miles let me tell you!

I ended my run in "our neighborhood" and walked right through the old wooden doors to our gorgeous bed and breakfast! I showered and we went down for breakfast.  I was expecting something similar to standard hotel-fare... but boy, was I wrong.

We opted to eat on the patio, and we started our meal with a fresh fruit cup filled with diced pineapple, guava, kiwi, strawberries, grapes, a dollop of berried yogurt and fresh granola. Wow.

Then Mom and I decided to split the two breakfast options:
a Veggie omelette with cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, and veggies with a side of spicy sausage and red pepper sauce. The melty cheese was definitely a highlight for me.

But the french toast with orange zest and fresh maple syrup kind of stole the show...
Can you really blame me?

Although we split both dishes, we left some of our french toast behind -- had to save room for our lunch & dinner plans!  On our agenda for the day: hiking through the California redwoods! and then maybe some boutique shopping & wine tastings :)

I'll fill you in on our gorgeous hike later!
Hope you had a fantastic holiday weekend :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Greetings, from Napa!

HELLO from the most gorgeous place on Earth!

When I imagined visiting Napa, I pictured rolling hills, vineyards lining both sides of the road, and leaves changing colors as they fall to the ground.... my imagination was pretty accurate!

It's only been a few hours into our Napa Girl's Trip and all my expectations have been met and far exceeded.  The food, the wine, the people --- the food -- the sites! It blows you away.

We started off our trip with a coffee date at 8:30!
I TRIED JAMAICAN BLUE MOUNTAIN COFFEE and my life will never be the same.

We just met Lee at the coffee shop, since he lives two blocks away.

After about 15 minutes of enjoying the best cup of joe I've ever had (and probably ever will have) we were off on our "road trip" to Napa!

Can you say non-stop Christmas music?

Once we got into the area, I had to stop for a potty break.

My mom and I were laughing and taking pictures in the parking lot, because even the parking lots of Napa are filled with gorgeous color-changing trees and a few grapevines!

I couldn't stop looking out the window and snapping pictures (when I could).
Which explains the blurry quality. 

Photos just don't do it justice.  You need to see it to believe it. 

We passed a million vineyards - some small and family owned, some famous and world renowned! - but my mom knew where our first stop had to be: Robert Mondavi Vineyards

She's always been a fan of his wine, she's read his book, and she stalks him on the reg.  (kidding, although I really wouldn't put it past her)

After walking around and enjoying the sites, we drove to the nearby town of St. Helena.
It was filled with cute shops and bakeries.

One of which was The Model Bakery.

I had to sample a chocolate chip cookie and a carrot cake cupcake!
But I only took a bite of each before stashing them away in my purse -- we had big plans for lunch and I wanted to save my appetite!

When we found out we were heading to Napa for the weekend, my foodie senses took over.  I yelped, I googled, and I compiled a list of restaurants we just had to try!  My mom agreed.

First up?  Bistro Jeanty in Yountsville.  Known for its classic French cuisine, this place is the place to go for the ultimate comfort-food-meets-ultimate-decadence.... and I'm not kidding.

We had reservations and we were seated right by the fire -- how cute :)

For our appetizers, we decided to split their famous tomato bisque in a puff pastry shell and their soft-boiled egg salad coated in a warm bacon vinaigrette and topped with homemade croutons.

I was debating on whether or not we should order and entree (skip straight to dessert, right?!) but we fell in love with the Slow cooked pork shoulder with butternut squash gratin, brussel sprouts, and bacon.  Oh my Lord.  The pork literally fell apart and melted in your mouth.  And the butternut squash was sweetened with hints of maple and cinnamon which was a perfect compliment to the salty pork!

I had done my research and I knew exactly what we needed to order for dessert.
Rum raisin and vanilla bean bread pudding. 

and Chocolate mousse creme brulee!

Um, our original plan was to order two desserts and just enjoy a few bites of each (so we wouldn't be totally stuffed after lunch...) but the second we tasted the thick creamy custard of the creme brulee and the warm vanilla bread pudding - topped with ice cream - there was no stopping us.

Mom and I, who have tasted desserts all over the world, both agreed these were hands-down the best desserts we've ever had in our entire lives.

We kept looking at this mountainous dessert-looking thing at the table next to us and finally my mom just asked what the heck it was -- a lemon meringue tart!

The couple was kind enough to share their dessert with us! And we actually moved over to their table and chatted (and told jokes) for about half an hour.  Jay and Katie were total sweethearts and I already have plans to visit them for lunch in the future!

We ended up coming to Yountsville at the perfect time of the year: The Festival of Lights.

Wine tasting, food samples, and shopping awaited us.

Coolest thing I tried?  A s'more on a stick.  Essentially it was a vanilla marshmallow dipped in dark chocolate and graham cracker crumbles and then lit with a blow torch!


More goofing around:

And then, it was time to head to Napa and check in to our B&B.
It is an old restored mansion -- and it's gorgeous. 

I'll give you more details but this is basically what happened the second after we checked in:

Napping & blogging by the fire!


I'm still in awe of how amazing this girl's weekend is turning out... and it's only day one!
Want to know what I'm even more excited for? 

I'll fill you in shortly!