Take it Outside

First, I have to say how happy I am about the Celtic’s win last night! What an incredible game! Yesterday was actually all around incredible. My sister-in-law, Kauna, is in town from Colorado and we are having a blast with her. Our morning started with a little bit of this:


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My new obsession– a Dirty Chai from the North End Caffe. My friend Christy turned me on to this glorious concoction. I would argue that the North End has the best Chai tea in the South Bay and then when you add a shot of espresso (to make it dirrrrrty), I am in heaven!

After breakfast, we decided to drive down to Laguna Beach to go on a hike. Aside from the killer ocean view, my favorite part of the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is that there are several trails so even if you visit the park often, you are seeing new (and beautiful) scenery every time. We did some killer hills today and ended up hiking for about 3 hours.


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Hiking is easily one of my favorite ways to exercise. I love being outdoors and really enjoying everything this beautiful state has to offer. Having 2 of my favorite people with me just made the experience even better. πŸ™‚


xo,


Jenna

Making Substitutions

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So ever since I went on the No Biscuits and Gravy Left Unturned Tour, I have been obsessed with replicating my own version at home. Only one problem—I am really trying to eat only local meat (if at all) and I couldn’t find any local sausage. So, I went with the next best thing—veggie sausage. This one to be exact:


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I used this as my recipe but I saved some more time by using these:


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These little babies were delicious! Plus, they make a lot more sense for us because there are only 2 of us so I can pull a couple out then toss the rest back in the fridge.


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I topped my serving with an over easy egg because that is how I roll. A little hot sauce would have been the perfect addition. I will be sure to add that next time-and there will be a next time because this recipe was perfect! So delicious and filling.


xo,


Jenna

Obsession


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So as you know, I have a bit of an obsession with LA food trucks. I have documented my love for Buttermilk, Kogi, and most recently World Fare. However, there is only one truck that I must visit every week. Ladies and gentlemen meet my obsession: GET SHAVED!

Get shaved features the only shave ice that is as good as some of my Island favorites like Matsumoto’s. Most of the time when people say they are serving shave ice, you are left with a chunky, overly sweet treat. The perfect shave ice should contain ice that is so fine, it is fluffy. The syrup should taste like the real fruit, with just a tough of sweetness. Get Shaved is the real deal people.


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Luckily, this truck is always within a reasonable driving distance at least once a week. And because I am a reasonable person, I make it a point to go. The key is to get ice cream with your shave ice. Seriously–the vanilla addition makes the bottom taste like different flavored creamsicles.


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His: Pineapple, Passion Fruit, and Mango


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Hers: Blue Vanilla, Pineapple, and Passion Fruit


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We also both asked for a little bit of Li Hing Mui powder which is equally sweet, sour, and salty. So good!


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Off to go plan my next adventure! My beautiful sister-in-law is coming to visit today!


xo,


Jenna

Must Try

Good morning! I hope you are all having a fantastic week. Last night I saw The Lion King musical and I was just blown away. From the costumes to the singing, the whole production was phenomenal. I highly recommend seeing it if you have the chance.

So, a couple weeks ago one of my favorite bloggers, Mama Pea, posted a recipe for Tofu Ricotta Gnocchi and I am so excited to share the testing results with you.  The verdict? Un-be-lievable! And so easy!

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I was going to pair the gnocchi with a simple tomato sauce but then I decided I wanted to make my favorite tomato cream sauce. I am so glad I did too because it was the perfect accompaniment to the pillows of tofu heaven.


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While the gnocchi were cooking, I sauteed some Cremini mushrooms in a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper. After a couple minutes, I deglazed the pan with some beautiful Marsala wine just to deepen the flavor.


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Then I added a couple servings of this delicious marinara sauce from TJ’s


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And whisked in a couple ounces of the tofutti to make the perfect pink sauce.


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So delicious, so fresh.


Jenna’s Easy Creamy Marinara Sauce

2 servings

1 cup sliced Cremini mushrooms

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup Marsala wine

2 cups marinara sauce

2 ounces tofutti (or light cream cheese)


1. Pour olive oil into a medium sized pan and turn heat to medium-high.

2. Place the mushrooms into the pan so that they are even. Do not touch them for 2-3 minutes. Allow them to brown slightly. Then continue to stir for another 1-2 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste.

3. Once the mushrooms are tender and sticking slightly to the pan, add the wine and stir until the mushrooms are coated evenly. Allow the mushrooms to absorb the wine. Turn the heat down to medium.

4. Then, add the marinara sauce. Once the sauce is heated through, add the tofutti and whisk until blended evenly and the sauce is slightly pink.

5. Serve over desired pasta or vegetable.

Favorite French Toast


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Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. And if I have to narrow it down even further, french toast would be at the top of that list. My family always jokes that because my mom ate so much french toast when she was pregnant with me that it became my favorite food! Now, whether or not that is true, I really want to share my french toast recipe with you. Since I was a willful (err…picky) child, I often refused to eat the wonderful meals my mother prepared and instead chose to make my own dinner, which was usually french toast. So, I have had 20-ish years of recipe testing this bad boy.



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The key to good french toast is good bread. Occasionally, I will make this same recipe with a nice slice of Whole Wheat bread but the real magic happens if you can find a good “eggy” bread. Any challah or Hawaiian sweet bread would be perfect. In this case, I used an amazing Cinnamon-Apple bread I found at the Farmer’s Market. Just incredible.


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Toasted walnuts, fresh berries, and a drizzle of maple syrup serve as the perfect summer toppings.



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French Toast

2 servings


4 slices of bread (Approximately 1 inch thick and either challah or Hawaiian sweet bread)

2 large eggs

2/3 cup 1% milk

1 teaspoon good vanilla extract

Lots of cinnamon

Pinch of salt

Earth Balance/Butter (for cooking)

Toppings: Maple Syrup, Strawberries, Toasted Walnuts etc.


1. Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Soak each piece of bread in mixture for 2-3 minutes on each side.

2. Heat up griddle to medium-high heat. Add desired amount of EB/butter ( I used about 1/2 tablespoon) and allow it to melt completely. Turn heat to medium and add the soaked bread slices.

3. Cook until golden brown on each side. This should take about 3-4 minutes.

4. Serve immediately with desired toppings.


Now, I am off for a really busy day which includes plans to see The Lion King musical tonight! How was your holiday weekend?


xo,


Jenna

Life is Good

Happy Memorial Day!Β Reg and I are having the most fantastic weekend. Saturday, we had a fun party at my parent’s house, then we spent yesterday taking a walk at a the beach, trying out a new food truck, and seeing Shrek.

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Life is good.


So– I really want to share this new food truck with you. This restaurant is not new in general, just new to me. However, this is no ordinary truck. Instead, this is a double decker bus turned meals on wheels. The top portion is lined with tables and features covered umbrellas for the perfect shady spot to enjoy your food.


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The food is not your average fusion taco. Instead, they serve “bunnies” which are essentially little teeny bread bowls filled with either Short Ribs, Pork, Curry Coconut Chicken, or Veggie Chili. They are inspired by traditional South African street food and try to use as much local product and meat as possible. I love that!



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We ordered a Combo that allowed us to select 2 bunnies, fries/salad, and a cookie. Reg wanted the Short Ribs and I ordered the Veggie Chili. I did try a bite of the Short Rib and it was flavorful and moist (side note: I hate the word moist so for me to type it here…twice…I really mean it). The chili was good and filling. I loved the doughy bread part of the bunny the most. πŸ™‚

In addition to the bunnies we ordered a side of the truffled mac and cheese balls.


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Wow! These were amazing. Not too greasy but very creamy and the perfect size!



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The fries were pretty generic and I would probably skip them when I visit this truck next time.



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The spicy dipping sauce that accompanied the fries was tasty though!



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To drink, Reg ordered the Orange Lavender Tea and I sipped on a Strawberry Basil Lemonade. My beverage was probably my favorite thing I tried! Not too sweet with just a hint of fresh basil. The perfect drink for a hot day. Must try to make this at home!


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The chocolate chip cookie that came with our combo was chewy and buttery–my favorite kind of cookie!


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Oh and because I insist on trying everything on the menu, we ordered a Red Velvet Bunny. Think red velvet cake on the outside with vanilla bean cheesecake in the center. Yes, it was devoured so fast, this was the only picture I snapped.

Yes, life is good. Off to another adventure…

xo,


Jenna


Last Days of Sonoma

Since Reggie and I have been to this area before, we discussed what we wanted to do and what we wanted to avoid this time around. We had done the all day wine tasting tours and really just wanted to visit one or two wineries this time around. With the rest of our time we really wanted to do a bike tour of Sonoma Valley! We booked an 8 a.m. tour through our hotel so we woke up extra early to eat some breakfast. I heard that the El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma recently hired the former Pastry Chef from French Laundry. Let’s just say I had no problem waking up that morning!


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I grabbed a vanilla yogurt with homemade granola and fresh strawberries…


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And this has to be the BEST chocolate chip muffin I have ever had. So buttery!

Once we got back to our hotel, we met up with our guide, Steve for a 12 mile ride. He was a really nice guy, very friendly and knowledgeable. The ride was mostly flat, with the occasional hill and very scenic.

Throughout Sonoma there are beautiful bike trails that take you around different vineyards and parks. About half way through our ride we took a short break! I was ready for it too because that last hill was killer. I took the time to take some photos of our surroundings. πŸ™‚


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Then we climbed back on our bikes and completed the loop back to the hotel. I am so glad we decided to do the bike tour. We saw a side of Sonoma that we had never seen before and got some great exercise in the process. I would call that a successful morning!

After working at the hotel for a couple hours, we were both ready for lunch and I knew exactly where I wanted to go–Fremont Diner. Now, please pay attention because you could miss this restaurant if you do not actually look for it. And trust me you want to look for it.


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Check out the signage on the top left hand corner of this photo. Totally unassuming sign, right? Well, this place is AH-MAZING! They have one simple mantra–Eat Local. Now that’s a commitment I can stand behind! All of their food is sourced locally and you can even purchase some of it in the small retail space.


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This bar area is built into the kitchen and makes you feel right at home!


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So cozy!


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Hello….I Love You…MMMMmmmmmm


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We grabbed a seat outside with this view. Not too shabby!


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I ordered the Fig Roasted Pulled Pork Sandwich with Homemade Coleslaw and Baked Beans. I am getting hungry just by typing this post and looking at this picture. Let me be clear–this was the best thing I ate the entire trip.


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The pork was so flavorful and juicy while the coleslaw was cool and crisp offering a little heat at the end. The beans were equally flavorful.


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My hubs ordered the Cheeseburger with Caramelized Onions with Homemade Special Sauce. The burger was moist and seasoned perfectly and the sweet onions and flavorful sauce were the perfect complement.


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We ended the meal with a Fried Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie. Yes, I said fried! Crispy on the outside, a bit doughy on the inside and filled with the most flavorful fruit mixture ever. Amazing!

We wanted to get in a wine tasting later and we, again, knew exactly where we wanted to go–Buena Vista, the oldest winery in California.


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We had to take a short walk to get to the tasting room. I love tree lined paths like this.


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This is one of the original barrels used in the winemaking process.


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We loved Buena Vista! The employees were full of personality and we really had an enjoyable time. We even ended up joining Buena Vista’s wine club. I love that the wine is only available at the vineyard. I do not like to join the clubs if I can purchase the same wine at my local Trader Joe’s–especially when it is cheaper! But if I cannot find it anywhere else, then it is worth joining., in my opinion. Most importantly, the wine was just delicious! Please try this charming winery if you are ever in the area.


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We traveled back the the El Dorado Kitchen for an afternoon snack. We just had to try their homemade soft serve. Oh my was this good! So creamy and perfectly sweet. Reg asked me why I ordered such a large size but before I knew it, it was done. Clearly, he was not that concerned. πŸ˜‰


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We took a walk around the town square before heading back to the hotel.

Dinner was at Sante, which was recently given a Michelin Star. This is a huge honor and after our experience, well deserved. However, it was quite fancy and I was a little camera shy. Please forgive me for not taking photos. I will say this, if you have the means and opportunity to eat at this restaurant, do it. The food was exquisite and the service was so comfortable, that in hindsight, I am really upset I did not bring my camera. I am planning on taking my mother for her birthday in a month. I will return with photos next time!

The next morning we woke up early and packed up to head home. We just had one more place to go…


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Fremont Diner: Round 2! We had to go back for what is known as the Almost Famous Biscuits and Gravy! Wow, was this good! Very rich but definitely the best biscuits and gravy I have ever had. Do not miss this place if you are in the Napa and/or Sonoma area.

We are truly in love with Northern California and enjoyed every moment we spent here.

I will be back soon with some of my own recipes! I cannot wait to share some of the food I make at our home.

xo,


Jenna

Jenna & The Fig

Usually when I plan a vacation, I spend a good amount of time researching the best spots to eat and shop. My favorite places are the hidden gems, the places off the beaten path, maybe only popular by locals. Sometimes you need to try the places that are popular and well-known because there is usually a reason they are labeled as such. The Girl & The Fig is one of those places. Yes, it is popular and well-known and a little trendy, but the food is really good….like really good.


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After ordering a bottle of Grenache, our starters arrived. First up was the Fig & Arugula Salad. This baby was topped with toasted pecans, goat cheese, pancetta, figs, & a port vinaigrette. We could not stop eating it. It was one of those dishes where every flavor was perfectly balanced that every bite was better than the first. I could have just eaten this for me meal. Delicious.



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Next , we had the Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto topped with an Egg, Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese, and a Black Truffle Sauce. This was a simple dish but executed perfectly.


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My husband ordered the Wild Flounder which was cooked in a light, creamy butter and caper sauce and served with sauteed spinach, and the creamiest whipped potatoes I have ever had. The fish was cooked perfectly, with the edges having just the right amount of crisp from all of that lovely butt-ah!



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I ordered the Sauteed Bay Scallops which was served with an incredible parsnip purΓ©e (must try to replicate this at home), beech mushrooms, green garlic & a veal reduction. I usually prefer the larger scallops but these were incredibly fresh and sweet. The star, for me, though was the parsnip purΓ©e. I couldn’t get enough!



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We somehow saved room for dessert (for the blog, I argue)! The Lavender Creme Brulee was calling my name and I am so glad we ordered it. The lavender flavor was truly subtle but with the perfect amount flavor. And the custard itself was light, delicious, and cooked perfectly. I highly recommend saving room for this baby!

Bottom Line: The food is incredible. There was not one dish we were “meh” about. We cleaned every plate and know exactly what we want to try next time (ahem, cheese cart). My only reservation about this place was the service. Our server was aloof, pretentious, and sort of awkward– which is so not the norm of Wine Country. Yes, there are some of the best restaurants around (French Laundry, anyone?) but in my experience people just really love food here, without pretension. Anytime this happens, I always keep in mind that it could have just been a bad day for him but I think it is only fair to mention that if the service was a little warmer, I would have given this my highest recommendation.

I have more Wine Country posts coming up but I have been busy adding tons of new pieces to my etsy shop. πŸ™‚


Until next time,

xo

Jenna

On The Road Again


We stopped at local diner Jim-Denny’s for breakfast before leaving for wine country. Jim-Denny’s is a sort of institution in Sacramento, known for its solid, American food. There are about 10 seats in the whole restaurant. My favorite part though, is the no nonsense woman (whose name I unfortunately did not catch) takes your order and cooks your food right in front of you.

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My handsome breakfast buddy. πŸ™‚


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The original restaurant phone. I took this picture because I love old telephones but what made this one hilarious is the note directly on it’s left. Scroll down a bit more to see what I am talking about…


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Love this! So sassy! Too bad no one called while I was there. I was going to rock that order!


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I ordered a half order of biscuits and gravy. I should probably mention that everything here is LARGE. So tell them how hungry you are before you order so you don’t waste a bunch of food. In our case, she asked us right away and we received the perfect amount of food.


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My hubs ordered one of their famous pancakes and it did not disappoint. Thick and fluffy, this pancake was the size of my head–and if you have every see me try to put on a turtleneck, you know that it is huge. Did I mention this was the Jr. size pancake?

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Side of scrambled eggs and crispy bacon for my man.


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One egg over medium for me, please!


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Oh and boat loads of this stuff. I have not really mentioned it here yet but I love coffee. Really, really, love coffee.


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We had some final meetings for work and then it was time to hit the road. Wine country is only an hour away from Sacramento. If you are visiting the Valley and want to know what airport to fly into, do not even think about San Francisco or Oakland unless it is much cheaper. Sacramento is by far the most convenient and just as close to Napa or Sonoma, if not closer with a much smaller crowd.


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Side note: These last two shots are a bit “distorted” on purpose. Reg bought me some Diana+ lens adaptors for my SLR so I spent the drive playing around with them. I love how dreamy they make the images look.

By the time we arrived in Wine Country, it was just about lunch time and I was ready to…


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I knew exactly where I wanted to go too. I went to Taylor’s Refresher years ago in St. Helena and knew I had to try it again on my next visit. This time, we checked out the Napa outpost and the food was still fresh and delicious. The name, however, has now changed to Gott’s Roadside. Honestly, I think the name change is a crazy idea. It is part of the charm! The food was still really good, which is the most important thing, right?


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It was really hot out so we decided 2 beers was the most appropriate way to begin our lunch. We ordered the North Coast Blue Star Wheat. Perfectly refreshing.


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Then it was time for the main event. Last time I visited Taylor’s/Gott’s I ordered the special which was a turkey burger topped with cinnamon apple onion chutney and it knocked my socks off. Other people must have liked a lot too because now it is on the menu full time.


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My husband ordered the Patty Melt. I didn’t try it but he said it was super delicious. Since his nickname is The Burger King, I am inclined to believe him.


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Here is my lovely Turkey Burger. They serve most sandwiches on toasted egg buns. I have to learn how to make them at home! When I do, I will share them with you because they really elevate the sandwich to a whole new level. This was delicious. We also split an order of garlic fries that were good but really buttery so I only had a few. Don’t worry nothing was wasted though because Reg demolished the rest of them.


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It happened to be Cinco De Mayo when we were there so they gave us these little sombreros which I think are really for salting the rim of your margarita glass but I am very mature and decided to put it on my (large) head.


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I heard great things about the Obxow Public Market, which is like a mini version of the Ferry Building in San Francisco. However, I had no idea it was that close to our lunch spot so we happily walked over after our lunch. We were not disappointed.


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A grocery area full of local produce!


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Oysters, anyone?


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Spices from all over the world


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Locally made chocolates

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Organic Ice Cream–don’t mind if I do!


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For me: Rice Milk Horchata and Je Ne Sais Quois (I don’t know what) Strawberry. The horchata flavor was creamy but super light and dairy free! The strawberry had a touch of balsamic vinegar to it—very creative and rich without being heavy. I really wish they had this in Southern California!


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For him: Rice Milk Horchata and Chocolate Peanut Butter. Also, very delicious and had that same rich but light quality.

If you are ever in the Napa area, I highly recommend visiting the Oxbow Market. There is something for everyone there, including a wine and cheese bar that was not photographed. It is a cozier version of the Ferry Building with incredible local finds. I will definitely be going back!

Until next time…


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Jenna

Hello I Love…Ella Dining Room & Bar

So I realize that my blog has become not only a place I can share my jewelry but also my foodie adventures. I really love traveling and finding new restaurants so from now on I will be focusing on food a lot more. In general, I am trying to blog more but honestly I spent the last few days in Wine country after Sacramento using every moment to eat explore, thus I was too full to blog. Seriously. I love my life.

Now that I am home, I cannot wait to share the restaurants I enjoyed. But first, let’s complete that trip to Sacramento. I did a lot of Yelp research before making a reservation for our final night. With the plethora of good restaurants in Sacramento, I wanted to make sure I picked somewhere special. Ella Dining Room and Bar seemed like the perfect choice. I know it seems that I love and gush about every place I talk about here, but seriously–this place was amazing! From the decor to the service to the spot-on execution of fresh dishes, the entire experience was magnificent.

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Ready to go!

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State Capitol Building on our walk to the restaurant.

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Love the outside seating here. One thing I noticed about Sacramento though–where are all of the people? It seems like no one lives downtown at all. No biggie, I just thought there would be more “action.”

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Old pastel shutters lines the bar and the ceiling. It was like having dinner in an Anthropologie store–and I mean that as the highest compliment.

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How cool is this?! Not only was it beautiful and creative, the stacked tables were highly functional. Love!

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I started with their signature cocktail, a Gin & Tonic. This is no ordinary Gin & Tonic though. They combine their own Homemade Rainforest Qui Ni Ne Tonic, 209 Gin, Sugar Cane Syrup, Sparkling Water and Fresh Citrus Juices. This baby is so good that even if you are not normally a fan of Gin & Tonics, this version just might convert you. It happens to be my favorite cocktail so I was in heaven.

*Fun fact–Our server told us that the powder used to make the homemade tonic is normally used to cure Malaria!

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Lovin’ it!

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Wood Oven Meatballs with Roasted Tomato Sauce and Sheep’s Milk Ricotta. This appetizer was spectacular. The meatballs were perfectly moist and actually very light. The sauce had an amazing depth of flavor (three cheers for roasting the tomatoes!) and the sheep’s milk ricotta was fluffy, creamy perfection. We could have ate just these for the entire meal.

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This salad was a mixture of Watercress, Endive, Pancetta, and Point Reyes Blue Cheese. I have had a love affair with blue cheese since I was about 6 (no joke) so this salad was perfect for me. The salty pancetta paired nicely with the sweet strawberry-rhubarb dressing and the watercress and edive were chopped perfectly.

I don’t know about you but, for me, there is nothing worse than receiving a salad with giant leaves and then making the awkward attempt to fit the entire leaf in my mouth in a polite way. I always look like I have never eaten in public before. Hot! I suppose I could cut it up, but that would take away from my eating time and at the end of the day I just believe every salad should be chopped, thank you very much.

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My husband ordered the Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Sauce Diane, Pommes Parisienne, and Creamed Blomsdale Spinach. The beef was cooked perfectly (Medium Rare, please) and the sauce was rich without overpowering the meat. Honestly, the highlight of this dish was the little potato pillows from heaven on a bed of creamed spinach. Amazing!


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I ordered the Pappardelle, Poached Egg, Crispy Prosciutto, and Preserved Lemon Butter Sauce. After snapping this photo, I cut the egg, allowing the yolk to mix in with the rest of the dish. I have to be honest. As much as I love to eat, I rarely finish my entire plate because most restaurant servings are too large for me. I always end up taking the rest home, because I hate waste but this time was an exception. I cleared my plate. Everything about this dish was executed to perfection. The pasta was homemade (makes all of the difference in the world). The lemon butter sauce combined with the egg to make a sweet, light, and creamy sauce which combined magnificently with the salty prosciutto. My husband and I both agreed this was the best dish of the night.

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We ended the night with the Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tart with Homemade Coffee Ice Cream. Incredibly rich and “disappeared” before I knew it. What. A. Meal.

Bottom line: Ella is a restaurant where simple, fresh food is done flawlessly, without pretension. Please visit this lovely establishment if you are ever in the area. You will not be disappointed.

I can’t wait to share the other places I tried! Stay tuned…

xo,


Jenna


P.S. I am thinking of compiling mini guides to different cities and the restaurants I have visited. Is this something you might be interested in? Let me know!