The Weekend Gourmet F

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wendy's Favorite Things for April 2017 #WendyFaveThings #GreatEight

It's time for another edition of Wendy's Favorite Things...and this month, I've got some really amazing items to share with you! This month's Great Eight features everything from frozen treats to a pair of cheese-infused items...and cream cheese-stuffed bagels to a pair of items to help streamline your weeknight dinner prep!

(1) JC's Pie Pops. I love eating creamy no-bake pies, so I flipped when I found JC's Pie Pops in the freezer aisle at my local grocery store. Unlike ice cream -- which can melt -- these frozen treats are a yummy mess-free snack! The creamy base is frozen on a stick and covered with a crust-like coating. JC's Pie Pops come in fun flavors like Banana Cream, Caramel Turtle, and Chocolate Silk. My personal favorite is Key Lime. A sweetly tart creamy center is covered in a coating of meringue, key lime, and graham cracker. It's a fun frozen spin on one of my favorite pies! JC's Pie Pops average 200 calories per pop, making them an indulgence I don't have to feel guilty about enjoying. As the weather turns warmer in Texas, I can't wait to try more flavors...especially their new Coconut Cream flavor! To find JC's Pie Pops at a store near you, check out their online Store Locator.

(2) Brazi Bites Brazilian Cheese Bread. If you've dine at a Brazilian steakhouse, you've probably tasted the Brazilian cheese bread called pão de queijo. Thanks to Brazi Bites, I can enjoy this cheesy treat anytime the craving hits! Brazi Bites are from the creator's family recipe in Brazil. They come pre-formed and frozen, so all you have to do is bake them until the outside is toasted and the cheese inside is melted and gooey. Based in Portland, Oregon, the creators of Brazi Bites were featured on Shark Tank in 2015. These cheesy treats come in four great flavors: Cheddar Parmesan, Garlic Asiago, Zesty Pepperjack, and 3 Cheese Pizza. My favorite is the Garlic Asiago, which pair nicely with a glass of chilled white wine. They're also a great dinner side dish. To find Brazi Bites near you, visit their Store Finder. No store near you? No problem! They also sell Brazi Bites via their online store.

(3) Graeter's French Pot Ice Cream. My latest ice cream fine is Graeter's French Pot Ice Cream. Graeter's has been making their handcrafted ice cream in Cincinnati, Ohio since 1874! Their unique French pot process is what gives Graeter’s ice cream its ultra-creamy texture. They use 2.5-gallon French Pot freezers, using the same small-batch process they've using for nearly 150 years -- then each pint is hand packed. I recently tried their Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip and their signature Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip flavors, and I was blown away by the creamy ice cream and the large pieces of creamy dark chocolate. The Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip in particular is so decadent! To find Graeter's French Pot Ice Cream near you, visit their searchable online Store Locator. You can also purchase their ice cream via their convenient online shop.

(4) Michael Angelo's Lasagna with Meat Sauce. I love lasagna, but I rarely have time to make it from scratch. Most frozen lasagna is a pale imitation of homemade. However, I recently tried Michael Angelo's frozen Lasagna with Meat Sauce and was so impressed with its flavor. The lasagna features fresh beef, vine-ripened tomatoes, and al dente delicious! Michael Angelo products are made from family recipes -- and they taste authentic and delicious. Michael Angelo products are made in Austin, Texas, and contain no fillers, dyes, or preservatives. That leaves room for real ingredients like imported cheeses, heirloom garlic, and specially selected tomatoes. The Lasagna with Meat Sauce comes in several sizes, including single serving and Family Size. To find Michael Angelo's products at a store near you, check out their handy Where to Buy page.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road...Three Days in Napa Valley #WGTravel

Photo provided by the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa
Late last year, The Weekend Gourmet team spent a few days exploring the gorgeous Napa Valley. After leaving Sonoma, we made the quick 40-minute drive across the Mayacamas mountain range to Napa on the other side. If you’ve never been to Napa Valley, it’s anchored in the South by the town of Napa and in the North by Calistoga. There are two main roads that run the length of the valley – Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail. All along the way, there are small towns with amazing wineries, gorgeous views, and world-class restaurants. Our home base for this leg of our trip was the conveniently located Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa. The Marriott is conveniently located just off Highway 29, and it offers a lot of great amenities. Plentiful on-site parking is free, the newly remodeled rooms are spacious and comfortable, and the staff is welcoming and friendly. 
This 275-room property features a pool, fitness center, and the onsite Preserve Spa. Our room included admission to the Marriott’s fabulous first-floor Concierge Lounge, which provided complimentary continental breakfast each morning, pre-dinner appetizers, and an evening dessert option. It was so nice to grab a quick bite to eat before heading out for a day of visiting wineries…and a pre- and post-dinner bite to enjoy in our room. Speaking of our room, we shot a video that shows you how spacious the Marriott Napa Valley's bedroom and bathroom areas are:

As the video shows, the room décor is soothing and peaceful – with tones of the wine the Napa Valley is known for. The spacious bathroom was decorated with white tile and grey granite, and it featured spa toiletries. Every room comes with a modern entertainment system that offers Bluetooth® connectivity and the ability for guests to access their personal Netflix ®, YouTube®, Pandora®, and Hulu® accounts directly from the room’s television. That’s a fabulous touch for bringing a bit of home on vacation with you!
After dropping our bags at the Marriott, we headed out for lunch at Gott’s Roadside in nearby St. Helena. Gott's is a James Beard Award-winning roadside burger stand formerly known as Taylor’s Automatic Refresher! Gott's prides itself on serving 100% Angus beef, locally baked bread, wild-caught seafood, and vegetarian-fed chicken. The food here is definitely elevated fast food! We found plenty of parking and lined up at the order window with other hungry guests. We ordered a range of signature menu items – including the Blue Cheese Burger, Green Chili Cheese Burger, Chicken Tenders, and a California Chicken Sandwich. We paired our entrees with handmade onion rings and Gott’s signature Garlic Fries -- hand-cut fries tossed in garlic butter and parsley. 
Gott's Roadside offers guests a wide range of burgers, hot dogs, and even freshly prepared salads. There's truly something for everybody to enjoy on their menu -- including wine! Everything was perfectly prepared and amazingly fresh – we ate at one of Gott’s picnic tables while we enjoyed the gorgeous California weather. Gott’s is a must for anybody visiting Napa Valley. The food is amazing, and the prices are easy on your travel budget!

After lunch, we made our way to Far Niente winery for a private tour and tasting. The tasting included five wines -- including current releases and library vintages -- along with a seasonal cheese plate. The grounds of this Oakville winery were absolutely stunning, making for a beautiful drive in! We soaked in the gorgeous scenery as we made our way to Far Niente’s charming tasting room and met our tour guide. It was such a beautiful drive in that we couldn't resist shooting a bit of video of our drive in.

We were given a 30-minute private tour of Far Niente’s extensive underground wine caves and beautiful grounds before our guided wine and cheese tasting. All five of the wines we sampled were delicious, but our personal favorite was Far Niente's limited-edition sweet Dolce wine. This late harvest dessert wine -- similar in flavor to ice wine -- knocked our socks off so much that we purchased a bottle to bring home to Texas with us.
After our visit to Far Niente, we made our way to Markham Vineyard’s tasting room in St. Helena for their sweetly fun Cupcake & Wine Pairing experience. Markham makes some of our favorite red wine -- including a wonderful Cabernet Franc -- so we were very excited to see how they would pair their wines with a wine-infused cupcake.  
The cupcake from Sift Dessert Bar was a dark chocolate cake flavored with Markham Merlot, filled with blackberry jam, and frosted with buttercream infused with Markham Cabernet Sauvignon. This amazing little cupcake was paired with a quartet of Markham wines. If you've never paired desserts with wine, this is a great tasting to try out. One of our favorite things about visiting Markham's tasting room is checking out its music-inspired art gallery and admiring the photography and paintings on display.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the Marriott to rest up a bit and get cleaned up for our dinner at Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ in Downtown Napa that night. Bounty Hunter is a wine bar that features tons of great wines, delicious made-on-site BBQ, and flavorful side dishes. Bounty Hunter has more than 400 wines on their shelves -- including 40 wines that are available by-the-glass. 
We loved the casual vibe at the Bounty well as their delicious BBQ. The Smokin' BBQ Platter is served family style, and it was plenty for the four of us to sample a bit of everything. This platter included pulled pork, smoked brisket, and slow-smoked ribs. We especially loved their signature fall-off-the-bone tender Beer Can Chicken. The presentation is fun -- and the chicken was juicy and full of flavor! For sides, we enjoyed cole slaw, potato salad, decadent baked mac and cheese, and half-sour pickles. Everything was cooked to perfection! 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Bunny-Approved Baked Easter Doughnuts

It's time for Easter! I'm headed to the Houston area to celebrate with my family...but not before I share one of my favorite fun and easy Easter treats. My Bunny-Approved Baked Easter Doughnuts would make a perfect addition to your Easter breakfast table -- such a festive and special treat! These baked buttermilk cake doughnuts are similar in texture to a muffin, and they bake up in about 10 minutes. That gives you just enough time to whip up the sweet glaze and assemble your decor. Feel free to tint the glaze if you want, but I stuck with white since I was using colorful Easter and Spring-colored sprinkles. The main thing is to have fun and let your creativity go wild! 

Decorating these doughnuts is a bit like coloring Easter eggs -- only you'll have half a dozen delicious doughnuts to enjoy when you're done. I made two minor tweaks to a simple baked doughnut recipe from Sur le Table. I subbed cinnamon for the nutmeg called for, and I added 1 tbs. of vanilla extract with the wet ingredients. Feel free to double the recipe if you want to make a dozen'll have plenty of icing!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Celebrate Easter with Vosges Haut-Chocolat...Featuring No-Bake Easter Egg Mini Cakes

I’ve got a super fun Easter treat to share with you today -- one that’s no-bake and so simple that you can even make them with your little ones ahead of your Easter celebrations this weekend! My festive No-Bake Easter Egg Mini Cakes were inspired by a petite four recipe I recently found at Woman’s Day website. My mini cakes come in two different flavors: peanut butter and chocolate-hazelnut. To up the chocolate factor on these Easter treats, they’re also topped with delicious Organic Peanut Butter Bonbon Eggs and chocolate-hazelnut Enchanted Toadstools from my friends at Vosges Haut-Chocolat! These chocolates are part of their amazing Ensemble Printemps Extraordinaire Easter Collection, which also includes Clementine Ginger Toffee and four different flavors of filled mini chocolate rabbits. 

What makes these cute little two-serving Easter egg mini cakes no-bake? The secret is frozen pound cake that's cut with an egg-shaped cookie cutter. The peanut butter version is filled with a silky peanut butter buttercream, and the chocolate version is filled with a decadent chocolate-hazelnut buttercream. The filled mini cakes are glazed with a simple ganache made from candy melts and whipping cream. I used pastel-flecked white glaze for the peanut butter cakes, as well as milk chocolate and sprinkles for the chocolate-hazelnut cakes. These little cakes are a blast to make and decorate. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather hunt for these tasty Easter eggs this weekend! Wait until you see how fun these easy treats are to create.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Best #SundaySupper Seafood Recipes...Featuring Mediterranean Shrimp Bruschetta

I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast, so I've had a love for seafood my entire life. Whether it's fish, shellfish, or crab...I love it all! That's why I was so excited for this week's #SundaySupper seafood event! Our hostess is Claire of the blog Sprinkles and Sprouts, and she asked us to share our favorite seafood recipes. With warmer Spring temperatures, we're eating lighter, so I wanted to make a refreshing seafood appetizer. 
My Mediterranean Shrimp Bruschetta features a chilled topping that contains all my favorite flavors from a Greek salad with chopped Gulf shrimp. Just before serving, the chilled shrimp mixture is spooned on top of French bread flavored with a garlic- and parsley-infused butter and toasted. Simply add chilled white wine, and you've got a perfect starter...or a light weekend lunch. This recipe is quick enough to serve anytime, but special enough to serve company. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for April...Featuring San Antonio's Restaurant Gwendolyn #WGDinesOut

This month, The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out featured restaurant is Restaurant Gwendolyn, which is located on a quiet corner of the Riverwalk in Downtown San Antonio. Restaurant Gwendolyn has consistently been named one of the city’s very best – and most innovative – restaurants since its opening in 2010. It's also the only restaurant in San Antonio that is 100% local and sustainable. Chef Michael Sohocki’s approach to food and cooking is definitely old school – as in before the industrial revolution occurred around 1850! This food philosophy means Restaurant Gwendolyn’s kitchen has no blenders, mixers, choppers, deep fryers, or anything else with a motor. Additionally, all perishable ingredients are sourced within 150 miles of the restaurant. Chef Sohocki personally knows the ranchers and farmers who supply the kitchen's ingredients, and he buys directly from them to ensure their supply chain remains small and visible.

Restaurant Gwendolyn's menu changes nearly daily and features fresh seasonal ingredients. The food that comes out of its small kitchen is pure magic! Michael and I enjoyed a fabulous multi-course dinner tasting at the restaurant that was a very special culinary experience. The food was creative, but approachable…and the wine pairings selected for us were spot on. We were seated at the restaurant’s Chef’s Kitchen Table, which was an unexpected surprise. It was amazing to watch Chef Sohocki and his team work in synergy to create the menu items we enjoyed. We arrived and were warmly greeted by the restaurant’s general manager, who showed us to our seats in front of a large glass window looking directly into the kitchen.
This was our first time to dine at a Chef’s Table, and it was a fun and educational experience – a show to go with our dinner, you might say! We were brought flutes of chilled champagne to enjoy while we settled in and looked at the evening's menu. We were there to feature Restaurant Gwendolyn’s San Antonio Restaurant Week menu...but they had a few surprises up their sleeves for us too. Not only did we enjoy the Restaurant Week menu – we were served additional menu items with wine pairings AND a selection of delicious house-made charcuterie and cheeses! The entire dining Restaurant Gwendolyn dining experience lasted nearly 3 hours from start to finish. The food was delicious to eat and gorgeous to look at  and the kitchen's creative presentations included a touch of theatrics! We enjoyed our champagne – my personal favorite – while we watched the organized activity going on in front of us in the kitchen. Our first culinary surprise was a display of house made charcuterie, cheeses, and accompaniments – including delicious bread and butter. 
Everything on the charcuterie platter was creative, delicious, and artfully displayed. However, we especially enjoyed the unique amberjack bacon, tart lime marmalade, and mild fresh blue cheese. Even better? Miles Davis music was playing in the we took our time and savored our food. After our charcuterie and champagne starter, a lovely amuse bouche made its way to our table: two shooters of Smoked Ham and Egg Custard. It was rich and flavorful – a perfect little bite! Our First Course dishes included the wildly creative Potted Plants and Consommé with Gougeres. The Potted Plants included a variety of roasted root vegetables topped with a edible “soil” made from charred black olives and quinoa. 
The presentation was amazing – and the depth of flavors was earthy, with a slight sweetness from the roasted vegetables. Michael’s consommé may look deceptively simple – but it was crystal clear and intensely flavored. The cheese gougeres floating on top were perfectly executed. Our meal was off to an amazing start!

Monday, April 3, 2017

San Antonio Book Festival Preview...Featuring Praline-Pecan Rolls from the Breakfast in Texas Cookbook #SABookFest

The 5th annual San Antonio Book Festival (SABF) is this Saturday, April 8th, from 9:00 am-5:00 pm at the Southwest School of Art and the Central Library. This year’s festival lineup includes 100 authors for a day filled with interesting conversations, cooking demonstrations, and lots of other fun activities. SABF celebrates both national and local authors and their contributions to the culture of literacy, ideas, and imagination. SABF’s founding partners are the Central Library, the Southwest School of Art, and the Texas Book Festival. For San Antonio-area foodies, the SABF will feature a cooking tent sponsored by Central Market, where cookbook authors will showcase some of their delicious recipes and answer questions from the audience. Just check out this mouthwatering schedule!

Central Market Cooking Tent (Southwest School of Art, Ursuline Campus parking lot)
  • 10:00am: Breakfast in Texas with Terry Thompson-Anderson demonstrating recipes from her new cookbook
  • 11:30am - 12:30pm: The Tacos of Texas with Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece
  • 1:00pm - 2:00pm: Better Baking with Genevieve Ko
  • 2:30pm - 3:30pm: Eat Mexico with Lesley Téllez
  • 4:00pm - 5:00pm: One Pan & Done: Hassle-Free Meals with Molly Gilbert 
I received an advance copy of Breakfast in Texas, and I absolutely love it! This fantastic cookbook contains breakfast recipes from all over Texas featuring the big flavors I love – and tons of drool-worthy photographs. Terry Thompson-Anderson is the author of nine previous cookbooks, including Texas on the Table: People, Places, and Recipes Celebrating the Flavors of the Lone Star State -- which was a finalist for the 2015 James Beard Book Award for American Cooking. There were so recipes I wanted to try, but I decided to step outside my comfort zone for this feature. I don’t bake from scratch very often, so I decided to treat my parents and brother to some Praline-Pecan Rolls from Breakfast in Texas while visiting my parents this weekend. My Mom is a great baker, so I was sure she’d be able to give me pointers and assistance along the way if necessary – which it was. These easy-to-make no-yeast rolls feature a biscuit-like dough, plenty of Texas pecans and cinnamon…and a splash of liqueur in the perfectly smooth glaze. Trust me…if I can make these rolls, you can too!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road...Featuring a Weekend Staycation at San Antonio's La Cantera Resort & Spa #WGHitstheRoad

Photo provided by La Cantera Resort & Spa
Michael and I recently enjoyed an amazing weekend getaway at San Antonio’s La Cantera Resort & Spa. Whether you’re a local who’s looking for a fabulous staycation getaway…or you're planning a San Antonio vacation...La Cantera Resort & Spa is truly a fantastic choice! We literally dropped our car off with the valet on Friday evening and never left the property until we checked on Sunday. That's because La Cantera quite literally had everything we needed for a relaxing getaway: great restaurants, the luxurious Loma de Vida Spa, and gorgeous grounds. We couldn’t have been more pleased with our stay – the food at the resort's restaurants was delicious, the spa was ultra pampering, and our room overlooked the resort’s lovely landscaped courtyard. We arrived and were warmly greeted and quickly shown to our room.
Our spacious room featured a King bed, large flat-screen television, a balcony overlooking the hotel's courtyard, and a spacious marble bathroom. We had a dinner reservation at Chef Andrew Weissman’s new Signature restaurant, so we quickly cleaned up and headed down to the lobby to catch La Cantera's convenient shuttle bus -- which dropped us off at Signature’s front door. Signature is located on the grounds of the resort, and it’s quickly making a name for itself in San Antonio’s dining scene! The décor is simply gorgeous – it’s like dining in a French farmhouse. We were shown to our table, which was near the restaurants open-concept kitchen.
From the moment we were seated, we were very impressed with all of the special little touches Signature offers its diners. We were brought glasses of ice water – along with a silver platter of thinly sliced citrus and herbs to flavor our water. When our iced tea came to our table a short while later, we had multiple sweeteners to choose from. We opted for the house-made vanilla bean-infused sugar -- such a fun change of pace! 
While we looked over the menu to make our selections, a gorgeous display of House Made Charcuterie was brought to our table – it was stylishly presented and paired with freshly baked baguette. This charcuterie was bursting with lots of robust flavors.
We shared the 5 Spiced Quail appetizer – what a combination of flavors and textures! The quail was deboned, flavored with Chinese five-spice powder, and cooked under a brick. It was served with a fried quail egg and drizzled with honey-lime balsamic. What truly took this dish over the top was a squeeze of the smoky charred lime – the smoky-tart flavor it imparted really made this dish sing! 
We also opted to split a Bibb Lettuce Salad. This creative salad featured mild Bibb lettuce, chilled shrimp, slices of creamy avocado, poached egg, mushrooms, microgreens, and and a vibrant Green Goddess dressing. The flavors and textures in this salad were phenomenal...our meal was off to a fabulous start! Then, it was time for our showstopper entrees. Michael opted for the 15-Day Aged Tenderloin, served with bone marrow and potatoes mousseline. Since he went with beef, I opted for the Diver Scallops. They were perfectly seared and served with carrot and sunchoke purees, roasted cauliflower, and a sherry-caper emulsion – which was artfully displayed on my plate. 
We were getting pretty stuffed, but we simply couldn’t pass up the amazing desserts. I opted for the French-style Paris Brest, which included fried choux filled with Chantilly cream and praline mousse. It was served with a decadent hazelnut spread and vanilla bean gelato – heaven! Michael loves lemon, so he selected the Lemon Tart. With that, our meal at Signature was finished. I highly recommend Signature for an amazing fine-dining experience in San Antonio. When we were finished eating, the hostess arranged for the shuttle bus to pick us up. We were back at the main resort building in less than 5 minutes.
After taking a few minutes to explore La Cantera's common areas, we made our way back to our room, where we found a tray of tea and cookies waiting for us courtesy of the resort's management. We were still stuffed from our dinner at Signature, so we decided to save these goodies for the next morning. We quickly fell into our comfy King bed and were asleep in minutes. The next morning, we woke up rested and decided to have breakfast at La Cantera’s SweetFire Kitchen, which was a quick 5-minute walk to the other side of the resort. SweetFire offers a standard breakfast menu. However, we opted to try the restaurant's Signature Buffet, which offers a wide range of hot and cold items for just $24/person. 

This breakfast buffet truly offers something for everyone: cold cereal, oatmeal and an extensive topping bar, toast and jam, freshly baked pastries, fruit, a cheese display, yogurt parfaits, French toast and waffles, customized omelets, breakfast meats, and an assortment of main dish options. The morning that we visited SweetFire grill, the buffet had a definite Tex-Mex flavor. We enjoyed freshly prepared barbacoa, egg-based chilaquiles with pico de gallo, and thinly sliced fried potatoes. After some fresh-squeezed juice, a plate of cold items, and a plate of warm items, we were both feeling nourished and ready to take on the rest of our Saturday!
Michael and I were full and ready to take on the day…which for us meant an afternoon of pampering at La Cantera’s secluded on-site Loma de Vida Spa. Not into spa treatments? No worries! La Cantera offers tons of other activities, including world-class golf! La Cantera offers 36 holes of championship golf. Both courses offer some of the most scenic vistas in the Texas Hill Country. The Resort Course at La Cantera was a PGA Tour stop for 15 years. The Palmer Course at La Cantera, opened in 20o1, was voted the #8 golf course in Texas by Golf Magazine last year.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Citrus Recipes That Will Make You Smile #SundaySupper...Featuring Citrus-Glazed Scallops with Chunky Avocado Salsa

Bright and sunny citrus flavors are some of my very favorite. There's something about tangy lemon, lime, and orange that makes food come alive! This week, #SundaySupper is featuring Citrus Recipes That Will Make You Smile, and our hostess is my sweet friend Lisa from Jersey Girl Cooks. We're sharing recipes that feature the tangy zing of citrus -- which is perfect for warmer Spring temperatures! I had some gorgeous scallops in my freezer, so I used that as my starting point.

For this week's theme, I was inspired by a recipe in Cooking Light for my Citrus-Glazed Scallops with Chunky Avocado Salsa -- which features lemon, lime, and orange juices. The scallops are seared, then glazed in the sweetly tart citrus glazed. They're served over cilanto and lime-infused rice, and the quick homemade avocado salsa is spooned on top. It's a symphony of citrus flavors. Even better, this flavorful and healthy dish is ready to eat in about 45 minutes!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road...Exploring Fenway Park in Boston #boston #baseball #fenway

There are few things The Weekend Gourmet team enjoys more than cooking, eating, and traveling…but watching our hometown Houston sports teams play at home on the road ranks pretty close. Last season, Michael and I enjoyed a fantastic evening at Boston’s historic Fenway Park that brought all of these loves together! We enjoy visiting baseball stadiums around the country. So far, we’ve been lucky enough to see the Houston Astros play at Wrigley Field in Chicago, and at Shea Stadium and both Yankee Stadiums -- the original and the new one -- in New York! Last season, we decided to take a trip to Boston to watch the Astros play the Red Sox. For baseball fans, a trip to visit Fenway Park is definitely a must. It was built in 1912, making it the oldest active ballpark in Major League Baseball. That’s a lot of baseball history, folks!
We arrived at Fenway a 
couple of hours before first pitch to sample some of the ballpark's amazing food concessions and learn about its innovative rooftop garden. We were met by Fenway Park’s Executive Chef, who showed us around and helped us choose some signature food concessions to try. Michael and I were impressed with the festive pre-game atmosphere on the concourse just outside the ballpark on Yawkey Way. Fans were everywhere, so it was like a huge block party! The street is closed to vehicles 3 hours before each home game, and only pedestrian traffic is allowed. The atmosphere is incredibly festive. In addition to tons of great food, there’s live music and lots of great people watching! 
Food concessions are set up along the side of Yawkee Way, under canopies attached to Fenway Park, so Red Sox fans can mingle up and down the street and enjoy a pre-game meal or beverage. One of the best parts of visiting an out-of-town ballpark is sampling their regional food specialties. At Fenway, we sampled a range of delicious ballpark food – including an iconic Fenway Frank. We also tried some amazing fried clams, refreshing Del's frozen lemonade, a homestyle braised short rib grilled cheese sandwich, and an Asian-inspired grilled chicken skewer. Everything was full of the big flavors we love! 
After sampling the food offerings and exploring Yawkey Way a bit more, it was time to head inside the ballpark to check out the innovative Fenway Farms rooftop garden. In Spring 2015, Fenway Farms was planted on the third base side of the ballpark, above Yawkey Way. The wide array of seasonal produce and herbs grown at Fenway Farms are used in the food offerings prepared and served at the ballpark during the baseball season. Fenway Farms is located on a 5,000 square foot roof above the Red Sox Front Offices. 
The area was previously an underutilized black rubber membrane roof.  Thanks to this innovative idea, this unused space is now a thriving garden that grows an estimated 4,000 pounds of produce annually. Fenway Farms also offers key environmental benefits, including improved air quality.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Weekend Gourmet Travel...Featuring 24 Hours in Sonoma #WGTravel #winecountry #sonoma

Photo provided by Fairmont Hotels
At the end of last year, The Weekend Gourmet crew spent a week exploring the best food, wine, and attractions in San Francisco, Sonoma, and Napa Valley. It was an amazing trip from start to finish! Now that the weather is warming up a bit and thoughts turn to Spring and Summer travel, it's the perfect time for me to tell you about our amazing 24-hour visit to Sonoma. We arrived midday on a Sunday, visited three of the area's best wineries, had dinner at the girl & the fig restaurant...and explored the luxurious Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. If you've never been to Sonoma, it's a short 45-minute drive from San Francisco and located to the west of Napa Valley. The Fairmont was an ideal home base for our Sonoma adventure -- an easy drive from the wineries we visited and the Downtown Square and absolutely gorgeous! 

We dropped our rental car with the friendly Fairmont valet, and headed inside the homey lodge-type main building -- stopping to admire the gorgeous fountain in the courtyard. The check-in process was simple and quick, and we were on our way to our room. Of all the hotels and resorts in Sonoma County, only the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa offers guests an on-site luxury spa, championship golf course, and fine dining. You could truly drop off your car at the Fairmont at the start of a weekend getaway and never leave -- enjoying all of its amenities, spa, restaurants, and gorgeous decor! The mission-style architecture featured a mixture of light and dark-toned decor. Our room was spacious and also beautifully decorated in soothing tones.
Our room featured a comfy Queen bed, flat-screen TV, a large bathroom, mini-bar refrigerator, and comfy terry cloth robes. After dropping our bags and freshening up a bit, it was time to go explore some wineries! Our first stop was WALT Wine's cozy tasting room, located in a house just off Sonoma's main square. We participated in a private ROOT 101 food and wine experience. This hour-long in-depth Pinon Noir tasting gave us a unique opportunity to isolate the quality and variety of distinct wines from regional Pinot Noir appellations. The tasting included five single vineyard wines sourced from appellations in the WALT collection. Each wine was paired with delicious seasonal, Pinot-centric small bite pairings from the girl & the fig. 
Our Host & Wine Educator Dan was very knowledgeable, walking us through each wine and telling us which bite to pair with each wine. Our tasting included a bonus glass of WALT Chardonnay. All of the wines were excellent -- and you really could tell differences in flavor depending on the region where the wine grapes were sourced. Our favorite bite on our plate was the Butternut Squash Sformaa with Pinot-Poached Cherries -- which is in the little glass jar in the picture above. This fabulous wine and food tasting is a MUST for pinot lovers who visit Sonoma! The WALT ROOT 101 tasting is offered daily at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. The price is $60/person, and all reservations must be made in advance by calling (707) 933-4440, ext 3102 or emailing

Our next stop was Arrowood Vineyards in nearby Glen Ellen. This picturesque winery offers a welcoming tasting room and veranda that offer breathtaking views of the picturesque vineyards! One of my college roommates lives in Northern California and drove out to meet The Weekend Gourmet crew for Arrowood's Wine and Artisan Cheese Pairing experience. This enhanced wine tasting highlights the winery's limited-production single vineyard wines paired with locally produced artisan cheeses. Our tasting included a lovely Viognier and three different Cabernets, paired with amazing cheeses...and even a chocolate rosemary truffle. We spent the next hour or so discussing the pairings, catching up, and enjoying the gorgeous scenery. My personal favorite pairing was Arrowood 2013 Sonoma Valley Cabernet paired with Ewenique Sheep's Milk Cheese and Fig-Onion Marmalade. Face it...there are few better ways to spend an afternoon than drinking amazing red and white wine while enjoying gorgeous scenery!
Arrowood's excellent Wine and Cheese Pairing experience takes 60-90 minutes and is $45/person. Reservations are required and can be made for up to eight guests/party by calling  707-935-2636. Our third and final winery stop of the afternoon was to enjoy sparkling wine at the Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards as we drove back to Sonoma. We took part in the enhanced Bubbles and Bites Tasting, along with a tour of their caves!
The Bubbles and Bites tasting takes place in Gloria Ferrer's private Vista room, where our personal wine educator Samantha walked us through the sparkling wine and food pairings and shared some of Gloria Ferrer's history with us. The food bites were delicious, all of prepared by the in-house kitchen. Our tasting included four different sparkling wine varieties, each paired with a small bite. As the video below shows, we had a great time!

The Gloria Ferrer Bubbles and Bites tasting takes place daily at 10:00 a.m., noon, and 2:00 p.m. The price is $60/person and lasts approximately 90 minutes -- which includes a tour of the ground and caves. For a reservations, groups must include at least two people -- and a maximum of 14 people. Reservations for this and other amazing tastings can be made onlineAfter an afternoon of visiting wineries, we headed back to our home base at the Fairmont to take a brief nap and get cleaned up for dinner at the girl & the fig. Open on the Sonoma square since 1997, they offer French bistro-inspired dishes, wine, and cocktails in a relaxed, casual setting.

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