In this world, we have dog people and cat people. We have early risers, and those who are not themselves until past noon. We have those who worship the sun and those whose heart sings with the first snowfall. We have East Coast people, and West Coast people. Phil and I are early rising dog people who worship the sun, and between East and West California is the jackpot. 😉
(image from Wikimedia)
California holds a special place in my heart, because that was my destination the first time I left Brazil, back in 1986. It was my first contact with a country that decades later, would become my new, permanent home. For Phil, California is beautiful, diverse, and progressive, a perfect trilogy. We have wonderful memories of all our times spent in that gorgeous state, and cherish every opportunity to travel back. A couple of weeks ago we flew to Los Angeles, visited UCLA and the lab of our friend and mentor Ron Kaback, and also got together with my stepson and his fiancée (= the coolest couple of LA ;-)). We kept our rental car busy, first going to San Diego where Phil had a meeting to attend, then driving all the way to San Francisco. The trip ended on a high note: we spent a couple of days in wine country paradise, around Mendocino and Navarro. We stayed with a couple of KSU Biochemistry alumni, who after retirement from business decided to grow Pinot Noir grapes, and are now one of the most successful Pinot growers in the region. They took us to a couple of wine tastings, to several amazing restaurants (Stone and Embers was perhaps our favorite), and also arranged a surprise visit to Santa Rosa Farmer’s Market. We’ve been to many farmers markets in the past, but it will be very hard to top this one.
Tomatoes in all shapes, sizes, and colors! A feast for the eyes, made me sad that I would not be able to take a bunch with me to play with…
Tomatoes do not travel well in a suitcase, however, a 25-year-old bottle of white balsamic found a nice spot in mine, wrapped in plastic and surrounded by cozy sweaters… You can bet it will be featured on my next “In My Kitchen” post.
Produce of the highest quality peeking at us from every corner…
We were tempted to stick one of those in our suitcase, but their heavy weight would be a problem. So, we left them behind… ;-(
It was also tough to wave goodbye to these gorgeous figs… but we were headed for a nice sushi lunch, and decided it was best to resist grabbing a basket or two.
Maybe my favorite spot at the market was Spicery, owned by a delightful woman called Evelyn. Our friends are serious gourmet cooks and familiar with the best sources of spices, including Penzey’s and Spice House. So, when they told me they rather buy their spices from Evelyn, I listened very carefully. My favorite way to test a spice store is to ask for “pimente d’Espelette“. Very hard to find. I posed the question, she opened a huge smile and said she has it but did not bring to the stand because not very many people ask for it, and she sells most of that precious item to restaurants. I will be placing my order soon! And you can too… Just follow this link and have fun browsing her products.
Of course, wine tasting was part of our weekend.
Can you imagine tasting wine on this setting? This is the view from Copain Wines that processes the grapes from our friends’ vineyards.
Look at the smile on Phil’s face! I can only hope it was just for the bottle of wine. Red finger nails can be dangerous… 😉
We also visited Twomey, because according to our hosts, they do a wonderful job with Pinot grapes too. Equally beautiful setting!
A brief stop at Big Sur, magical place to wait for the sunset…
Until next time, California, we shall miss you!
ONE YEAR AGO: An Orange Frame of Mind
TWO YEARS AGO: San Francisco Sourdough
THREE YEARS AGO: A Real Oscar Winner (dog lovers: don’t miss this!)
FOUR YEARS AGO: Pane Siciliano