Vino & Views

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We finished breakfast around 10:30 so I decided we should start our wine tasting with a little sparkling wine at Domaine Carneros to celebrate my mom’s birthday! DC is one of my favorite spots in Napa for great views and great vino. You cannot beat a place with an outdoor tasting space!

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I had to snap a picture of this little boy and his father. They both walk the same way, with their hands clasped behind their back. So precious. πŸ™‚


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After Domaine Carneros, we headed back to Buena Vista, the oldest winery in California. On the way, we stopped to hug some trees….literally πŸ™‚


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I really love Buena Vista, not only because of their quality wine but because of the education you receive when you taste on their property. Quinn, the gentleman in the vest in the above picture, is their on site sommelier. Not only does he know his stuff but he is hilarious in the delivery!

Today he wanted to deepen our understanding of food and wine pairing. For example, when trying a buttery Chardonnay he brought out lemons for us to put in our mouths and then take a sip of wine. The acid in the lemons combines with the acids in the wine to give you an entirely different tasting experience. The wine tasted completely different. My mom loved the experience so much she joined their wine club too!


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Overall, we had an amazing experience wine tasting. If I am drinking most of the wine, I really prefer to stick to only a couple wineries and today proved to be the perfect amount.


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We may have stopped by El Dorado Kitchen for some homemade soft serve with olive oil and sea salt….oh yea!


What are your best experiences wine tasting?

xo,


Jenna


Can I move here?

Hello, my name is Jenna and I am a Napa-aholic. I seriously can’t stay away from this place. I love to travel and visit new places but at some point I am always ready to go home. However, when I am in Northern California, I can’t help but look around and get the feeling that I have to live here at some point in my life. It is magical.


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And so was the food. You ready?

First up was my absolute favorite find from my last trip–Fremont Diner. Reggie and I HAD to have those Biscuits & Gravy one more time and this time we brought my family.

Side note: My sisters and I gave my mom this trip to Napa for a Mother’s Day present and scheduled the trip so that it landed smack dab in the middle of her birthday weekend! We also bought her a cooking class while we were up there–it was spectacular and will most definitely be my next blog.


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2 glorious french press pots caffeinated us for our day of wine tasting. I love coffee from the french press. If you are a coffee lover, there really isn’t anything better. Okay, maybe a good cappuccino. πŸ˜‰




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We waited patiently for our food, inhaling the aroma of our sausage sizzling in the kitchen and playing with my camera. If you are in a hurry, this is not the place to stop for a quick bite. But if you want something really special, pull up a chair, grab some fresh coffee, juice, wine and in about 20 minutes you will receive some incredible food.

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Biscuits & Gravy


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Kitchen Sink—think Biscuits & Gravy plus some incredibly flavorful local, smoked ham, crispy fried chicken and an over easy egg.


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Grilled Breakfast Sandwich–featuring that beautiful smoked ham, fried egg, and cheese. That buttery panini is the stuff dreams are made of. Mmmmm


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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes–melt in your mouth delicious. They were thin like a crepe but crispy on the edges from what I could only guess was a quick fry in some butter.


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And we may have ordered dessert with breakfast…yes, dessert. How could I turn down this Caramel Buttermilk Cake? You’re right, I couldn’t. πŸ™‚


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And a Nectarine & Raspberry Fried Pie. This was nothing like the fried dough I grew up eating in New Hampshire. Instead, this was exactly how you would picture a fried pie to be. Flaky, buttery crust on the outside bursting with ripe juicy fruit. My dad has a thing for fruit desserts so as soon as this beauty was delivered this is what he looked like:


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Look at that concentration. He means business!


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Reggie looked on in disbelief!


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Finally, he shared. I could tell you how good this pie was but I will just let me dad tell you…


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Yea, he loved it!

Can’t wait to show you our other adventures.

xo,


Jenna

Stir it Up

Foodie confession time. As much as I love to cook, using tofu scares me a little for some reason. I like the taste of it and I usually enjoy eating it, but I never know what to do with it once I get it home. Sure, I have used tofu in the gnocchi I made a few weeks ago but I barely did anything with it other than plop it into my Vita-Mix. However, since we have started to drastically decrease our intake of meat products, I figured I should try cooking tofu at home. Usually my favorite way to eat this lovely soybean product is usually in some kind of stir fry. I figured this would also be a nice starter tofu dish. Looking in my pantry, I found this:


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So, after pressing the extra firm tofu for about 30 minutes, I cut half of the block into small cubes.


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I wanted to replicate that fried taste of the restaurant tofu I love, but without all of the unnecessary calories and fat–you know, lighten it up a bit. πŸ˜‰

After giving the tofu a dash of salt and pepper, I pan fried the tofu pieces in a tablespoon of oil.


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After about 8 minutes, I removed the tofu from the pan and kept it in a warm place. In the same pan, I added some fresh broccoli, minced garlic, and some good ol’ H2O.


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I placed the lid on the hot pan immediately. Then, adding the water with the other three ingredients, helps to steam the broccoli and infuse the garlic flavor. Delicious!


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Once the garlic was almost cooked, I added the tofu and General Tsao Sauce to the pan. I stir fried the mixture for a couple minutes and then we were ready to eat.

I served my mixture with a homemade ginger rice. The combination was perfect. The bottled sauce was surprisingly not overly salty. Instead, it was sweet with a zing of heat at the end! I highly recommend it. The tofu was crispy on the outside but not greasy. In fact, after a couple of bites I was telling Reggie how great I thought the tofu was and he responded—“tofu?! I thought this was chicken! Nice work bb!” I am not sure how or why he thought he was eating chicken but you gotta love that!

Tofu & Broccoli Stir Fry

2 Servings

8 oz. firm tofu, pressed and chopped into 1/2 cubes

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 cup broccoli florets

1 tablespoon oil (canola or vegetable)

1/4 cup Stir Fry Sauce (I used General Tsao Sauce from Trader Joe’s)

1/2-3/4 cup water

Salt & Cayenne Pepper, to taste

1. Heat a heavy skillet or wok to medium-high heat. Add oil and tofu. Brown the tofu evenly on each side (about 8 minutes). Remove from the pan and place in a warm place.

2. Place broccoli, garlic, and water into the same pan. Immediately place the lid on the pan to steam the broccoli. Cook for 3-4 minutes.

3. Add the tofu and sauce to the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes and serve with Ginger Rice (recipe follows).


Ginger Rice

2 Servings

1/2 cup uncooked rice (white or brown)

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon fresh, minced ginger

Salt & Pepper to taste

If you are not using a rice cooker, Place all ingredients into a small sauce pan heated to medium-high heat. Once the rice comes to a boil, lower the temperature to low and cook until the rice has absorbed all of the water. Serve warm.


I am incredibly lucky and headed back to Napa for the weekend. I have some pretty spectacular reservations lined up. Can’t wait to share them!


xo,


Jenna

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