Napa: Oxbow Public Market

COMMENTS: 9

california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market
california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market
california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market

One of the best places to stop if you’re headed to Napa is the Oxbow Public Market—a marketplace filled with a focus on local farms and food vendors, and on supporting the surrounding region. It’s a reliably good place to pick up picnic supplies, like cheese and cupcakes, and Ritual coffee (in other words, dietary staples of sorts), before setting out to find your favorite winery.

california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market

california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market
california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market

california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market

The Market is located at 610 and 644 First Street in Napa, and most of the vendors are open late. There’s also a Farmer’s Market in the parking lot on Tuesdays and Saturdays, May through October.

Here are more posts on visiting Napa/Sonoma valley: Our travelogue, 48 hours in the Napa Valley; Oakville Grocery; Shed in Healdsburg; and Calistoga’s Solage.

And P.S. They have the best bathroom solution for avoiding those piles of wasted paper towels by the door!

california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market

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Local Eats: Ella in Sacramento

COMMENTS: 5

food drink  Local Eats: Ella in Sacramento

food drink  Local Eats: Ella in Sacramento

I’ll be the first to admit that we haven’t given Sacramento very much attention since moving nearby. Aron and I have more often gone in the other direction for date nights if we’re up for driving (to nearby Winters, slightly-further Napa, and within-reach San Francisco) or looked close-by in Davis.

But one of our very first after moving out here took us to Ella—Aron planned dinner and a show at a local cabaret—and I’d say it’s been my favorite restaurant in the area (worthy of a driving destination) ever since.

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Wine tasting 101

COMMENTS: 8

food drink  Wine tasting 101

food drink  Wine tasting 101

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! When we were living in New York, I’d always try to sneak out of work for a few hours around lunch to see some of the parade. I loved feeling the beat of drums and the sounds of bagpipes echoing in my chest. And all that plaid! This year there seem to be some questions about the inclusivity of the event, so rather than share some favorite photos from past parades I thought it might be more appropriate to share some photos from a different New York-inspired activity. New York Times, that is.

We embarked on “wine school” last night with some friends. Eric Asimov, the food & drink critic for the Times, invited readers to “Get Out [their] Corkscrew” and started tasting emblematic wines—the idea being to really get to know one distinct type of wine each month. So last night, instead of sipping Guinness, we sat down to taste a classic Bordeaux.

food drink  Wine tasting 101

I love anything that involves pseudo-scientific rigger and food, but this was particularly fun. Here’s the article, and the plan.

Anyway, regarding the St. Patrick’s Day parade: in looking back, I found that I wrote this on Hudson’s Nine Month photo post about one year’s celebration…

“We started the month on St. Patrick’s Day, a ridiculous scene wherein we made the mistake of trying to see the parade from Central Park and ended up fleeing the rowdy crowds while trying to keep Hudson asleep in the stroller. That meant frantic side-of-the-street changes (as another group of chanting drunk students would approach) until we ended up walking down First Avenue past the UN with Aron pulling the stroller backwards to keep the high sun off Hudson’s face. I took a picture of the struggle for when I’m tempted to recount glory days and only remember what was awesome about having a baby in the city. I can pull it out and say ‘Are you sure?’”

Haha. A good dose of reality. Could come in handy on those days I take Skyler on walks and inevitably miss passing by Everyman Espresso, Madewell, and at least four H&Ms on the way to (our) Central Park.

P.S. Our Ireland Travelogue

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Making Maple Almond Butter

COMMENTS: 11

food drink  Making Maple Almond Butter

food drink  Making Maple Almond Butter

Have you tried Justin’s Maple Almond Butterfood drink  Making Maple Almond Butter ? It has to be one the most perfect flavors out there these days. We get Hudson the Classic Almond butter for his lunches and keep the maple-tinged stuff for ourselves. I find myself digging out a spoonful to savor while I’m making coffee (usually while swaying or slightly bouncing Skyler).

However, Hudson’s favorite meal in the world is probably bananas and nut butter, and—if I’m more patient—this is how I like to enjoy it best, too.

I posted an image of the good stuff on Instagram a while back and Nicole, of the lovely food blog Dula Notes, mentioned that she had made her own—and that it was just as good!

At around $11/jar (and maybe higher as almonds rise in cost), I had to give it a try…

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Marinara to Master

COMMENTS: 17

food drink  Marinara to Master

food drink  Marinara to Master

A few weeks back, the New York Times published a recipe for a “Marinara Worth Mastering“—alongside the call to action: “Every home cook should have a basic marinara sauce in his or her repertoire.” Challenge accepted! Ever since, Aron and I (but Aron in particular) have been meaning to give this one a shot. (And judging by how long the article remained near the top of the most-emailed list for the Times, it looks like quite a few others wanted to as well.)

Our baby Skyler is one week old now, and we’re so lucky to have a lot of friends bringing by meals (or else we’d be playing clean-out-the freezer most evenings), but Aron made this one for us, one rainy, sleepy day.

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Cookbook wishlist (and my BFF, Gwyneth)

COMMENTS: 27

food drink  Cookbook wishlist (and my BFF, Gwyneth)
food drink  Cookbook wishlist (and my BFF, Gwyneth)

Yep. That’s from Gwyneth. My BFF.

(Okay, not really.)

Last Fall, Gwyneth offered, by way of her site Goop.com, to autograph copies of her latest cookbook—It’s All Goodfood drink  Cookbook wishlist (and my BFF, Gwyneth) —with an inscription of your choice when you pre-ordered a copy. Aron refers to the (often polarizing) actress as “your girlfriend” when speaking of her to me (I’m a fan), so I thought it would be hilarious to request the above inscription, wrap up the signed copy for myself, and stash it under the tree to open at Christmas.

And now, honestly, I’m really excited to start trying some of the recipes. Most avoid meat, dairy, and gluten—all things that are cornerstones of our diet around here, so that has nothing to do with the appeal: I just love the creative focus on incorporating more fresh, seasonal vegetables. It’s a beautiful book.

Have you cracked any inspiring new cookbooks lately? Here are some other beauties I’d like to pore over…

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Kumquats and prosperity: Happy New Year!

COMMENTS: 13

food drink  Kumquats and prosperity: Happy New Year!
food drink  Kumquats and prosperity: Happy New Year!

Last year, around this time, we had just started choosing plants and making a plan for our backyard. Thank goodness many of our choices were succulents that could tolerate this drought! But we also planted a variety of citrus. Two of my favorites have been the potted Kumquat trees by the pool. They made it through a week of frost and have been so productive—they’re covered in beautiful, juicy fruit.

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Baking Gluten free Chocolate Chip Cookies

COMMENTS: 2

food drink  Baking Gluten free Chocolate Chip Cookies
food drink  Baking Gluten free Chocolate Chip Cookies
food drink  Baking Gluten free Chocolate Chip Cookies
I’ve shared the recipe I usually use for Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I’m certainly not above keeping a roll of Pillsbury dough on hand for those in-a-pinch cravings! Especially handy is the new line of Gluten-free doughs from Pillsbury, as the share of our friends (and friends’ kids) diagnosed with celiac-disease symptoms (Gluten intolerance) increases. Right now, Pillsbury offers cookie dough and two other Gluten Free Doughs that you can read about here.

Never one to pass up a chocolate-chip cookie, I gave the new Gluten Free Dough a try.
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French toast. First brunch.

COMMENTS: 6

food drink  French toast. First brunch.

Our traditional first meal on New Year’s day, throughout the five years we lived in New York, was brunch at Frankies. Thank goodness they have a cookbookfood drink  French toast. First brunch. . I’ve been practicing the French Toast. (And I’m getting closer. I just need someone to ship me the Sullivan Street Bakery bread they use.) Do you have a first meal of the New Year tradition?

On an unrelated note, this Google Zeitgeist video is one of the best “highlights of 2013″-reels I’ve seen. Enjoy! And again, Happy New Year!

P.S. The best waffles and my favorite way to cook eggs.

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Top Thanksgiving Cooking resources

COMMENTS: 7

food drink  Top Thanksgiving Cooking resources

They’re already playing Christmas music on the radio, but we’re still considering dishes for Thanksgiving dinner over here. Here are a few favorite cooking resources, in case you’re doing the same!

On Troubleshooting:
I listened to much of the America’s Test Kitchen Thanksgiving Special on NPR the other day, “Turkey Q & A and The Real Story of The First Thanksgiving,” and loved hearing them answer the top ten Thanksgiving day questions they get.

On Basics:
New York Times Essential Thanksgiving (Their paired-down take on the wisdom gleaned from years of reporting on the subject.)

On a new favorite method for cooking the turkey:
Jacques Pepin’s Steamed Turkey

On Menu inspiration
Many families have their sides set in stone, but if you have some flexibility and are looking for inspiration, Gourmet came up with some sample menus (back in the day) that would no doubt please; and Saveur has created a fun menu-generator this year, or you could just look at their 12 sample menus.

On Timeline suggestions:
When to do what, if you’re trying to get ahead, from one of my most trusted resources.

On Wines to pair:
Food & Wine‘s top bottles, all under $20.
And more general advice from Silverlake Wine.

On Table decor:
Pinterest! Search “Thanksgiving Table” (or, I’ve been making a dedicated Thanksgiving board)

On What’s Trending:
Aron told me about this NPR podpast where they discussed how, last year, the trend in cooking magazines and among chefs was to stray far from tradition—whereas this year is all about the classics.

Anything you’d add?

P.S. Holiday wreaths (place one on the table now and on the door later?) and an alternative to pumpkin pie.

[Lovely image via The Effortless Chic]

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Sunday brunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel

COMMENTS: 13

travel california  Sunday brunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel
travel california  Sunday brunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel

After we returned from our weekend in Yosemite, many people remarked on how much they’d like to (one day) stay at the Ahwahnee. The Ahwahnee is pretty much the pinnacle of National Park Lodges, in my opinion. It’s what many of us picture when we think of a classic mountain lodge. It’s just that it also happens to be very, very expensive.

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy it. Just go for their lavish Sunday brunch—and spend some time looking around!

What’s especially nice is that you don’t have to dress up for brunch the way you’d have to for dinner. I packed myself a new Fair Isle Cardigan and, for Hudson, a Buffalo Plaid shirt, both from Old Navy. But even if you’re camping, just throw in a decent-looking sweater and you’re set! Such a nice way to come off of trail food.

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Mushrooms for dinner

COMMENTS: 8

food drink  Mushrooms for dinner
food drink  Mushrooms for dinner

Fragrant, earthy mushrooms, harvested in the fall, are an iconically seasonal flavor for me. Autumn seems like the time when one should be making fresh pasta with chanterelles, hot soup with morels (and cream, and sherry), and looking to the market for foraged oyster mushrooms to pair with thyme and pungent Gruyere.

I’ve shared one of my favorite mushrooms dishes, a leek and mushroom tart with salt-and-pepper crust, here before.

But, after seeing this pizza on (of all places) the Ikea blog, I’m feeling inspired to break out the pizza stone—as well as some sage and crème frâiche.

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Here’s the trick: Cutting and cooking with Chestnuts

COMMENTS: 11

food drink  Heres the trick: Cutting and cooking with Chestnuts
food drink  Heres the trick: Cutting and cooking with Chestnuts
food drink  Heres the trick: Cutting and cooking with Chestnuts

One of our favorite stops along the Apple trail at Apple Hill is Smokey Ridge Ranch. The third generation, family-owned ranch opened in 1924 and while they have plenty of apples to sample this time of year (up to 10 varieties), we appreciate them for what else they have to offer amid all of the apple options: house-made charcuterie and patés, jams and jellies, and chestnuts. (And one day we’re going to spend more time looking around… their property also includes sections of the Pony Express and abandoned mine sites. Intriguing!)

As for the chestnuts, theirs is one of the few places I’ve been to where you can pick your own! (Just watch out for the prickly skins. Hudson tripped and landed on one with his palm and the fun was quickly over. Ouch!) At one point, chestnuts were grown all over the country; but in the first half of the 20th century, nearly four billion trees fell prey to Chestnut blight. The demand for chestnuts is still greater than the supply.

For me, they’re a hallmark of the holiday season. Not just at Christmas (when you think of them thanks to Nat King Cole and street vendors roasting them the world over), but also in the fall when I start thinking about chestnut soup and Thanksgiving stuffing. The trick is getting that delicious nut-meat out of the shell…

food drink  Heres the trick: Cutting and cooking with Chestnuts
food drink  Heres the trick: Cutting and cooking with Chestnuts

We’ve tried a few methods. A quick glance around the web will yield lots of options (scoring the shell with an x before roasting, using a special perforated roasting pan, soaking the scored nuts before cooking, and even using the microwave).

But we’ve found the simplest way is to just give up on the ideal of a single round piece of nut meat and be content with two perfect halves: just slice the whole nut in half and place the exposed side face-down on a baking sheet, and bake them at 375 degrees for roughly 15 minutes. So much safer than risking your fingers with slippery x-scores, and so much easier to peel once they come out of the oven. And, frankly, most of the recipes requiring chestnuts don’t require an intact nut, so you end up  slicing them anyway!
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How do you like your Chocolate Chip Cookies?

COMMENTS: 10

food drink  How do you like your Chocolate Chip Cookies?
food drink  How do you like your Chocolate Chip Cookies?

I prefer mine to be a little bit chewy, a little bit gooey, with a buttery-caramel undertone. I’d take spread over a too-thick, cakey dough. And I definitely think that the chocolate chips should be prominent.

Tessa from Handle the Heat made a fun guide to chocolate chip cookies. I’m sort of a test-kitchen nerd, so this is totally up my alley. I love that she makes a control batch (Nestle Tollhouse recipe) before she starts playing with variations.

Of course I also sort of love that it further validated my choice for best chocolate chip cookie recipe: the drop cookie from the ever-classic Joy of Cookingfood drink  How do you like your Chocolate Chip Cookies? (result pictured above). Not to brag or anything but they did pretty darn well at a chocolate-chip-cookie bake off back in the day…

food drink  How do you like your Chocolate Chip Cookies?

Two tricks I generally use? If the dough seems a bit tacky, I add a tablespoon of flour to reduce spread. And no matter what the recipe says, I check-in on cookies the moment I smell them; if they are starting to brown at all, I pull them out. But that’s with the caveat that I’d choose an underbaked- over an over baked-cookie any day.

P.S. The cookie question is no joke. It’s apparently how you make friends. And Momofuku Compost cookies at home.

[Top two photos my own; third via Handle the Heat]

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The easiest, most-indulgent pumpkin dessert

COMMENTS: 19

food drink  The easiest, most indulgent pumpkin dessert

Something my mom calls “Pumpkin Delight.”

And it is a delight. An oh-so-easy, box-mix involving, guilt-inducing delight. It’s so easy, in fact, that two-year-old Hudson practically made it himself. But my does it give plain ol’ Pumpkin Pie a run for its money.

One note: There’s a whole lot of butter involved, and the cake topping (a cheat on the classic crumble) is decadently sweet; you could really cut down on either. But I generally don’t. It is dessert, after all.

food drink  The easiest, most indulgent pumpkin dessert
food drink  The easiest, most indulgent pumpkin dessert

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then begin mixing the pumpkin base. Combine all of the ingredients below in a large mixing bowl. (No fancy beater or mixer required!)

1 large can (29 oz.) of pumpkin puree
1 12 oz can of evaporated milk
1 c sugar
2 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1/2 t ginger
3 eggs
food drink  The easiest, most indulgent pumpkin dessert
Distribute the mixture: typically, one serves this in a 9×13 baking pan. I chose to make a portion of the mix in single-serving ramekins. Either is fine; just be sure to grease your pan or ramekins first and adjust your cooking time depending. (See below.)
food drink  The easiest, most indulgent pumpkin dessert
Next, add the topping:
1 box of yellow cake mix
1 c chopped nuts
3/4 c melted butter
Cover the top of the pumpkin mix with cake mix (you can use the whole box, or less if you like desserts less sweet) and liberally sprinkle up to 1 cup of nuts (I used pecans). Drizzle melted butter over everything. A 9×13 pan should be baked at 350 degrees for approximately an hour; if you’re using ramekins, I’d suggest setting a timer for 45 minutes. You should smell the Pumpkin Delight when it’s ready; the tops should be just browned.

food drink  The easiest, most indulgent pumpkin dessert

Set it aside to cool at least 10 minutes before serving (ideally with whipped cream). It’s delicious fresh, or reheated—but I also like it straight out of the fridge, when the cake crust tastes a bit like a crunchy candy bar. Yum.

food drink  The easiest, most indulgent pumpkin dessert

Thanks to the ladies at BlahBlahBirds for inviting me to share this as part of their Fall Recipe Swap—they will be sharing this along with other bloggers’ seasonal favorites. Check it out!

food drink  The easiest, most indulgent pumpkin dessert

P.S. A perfect movie-night for Pumpkin Delight.

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Heirloom tomatoes with pine-nut gremolata

COMMENTS: 8

food drink  Heirloom tomatoes with pine nut gremolata
food drink  Heirloom tomatoes with pine nut gremolata

Last month, when Aron and I snuck away to Calistoga, we had the most delicious take on the classic Caprese salad at SolBar: heirloom tomatoes, sweet basil, Burrata cheese, and something they were calling Pine-nut Gremolata.

Traditionally, a gremolata is a chopped herb condiment—a bit like a pesto. This one’s ingredients weren’t immediately clear to us—they didn’t involve herbs—but it was so good it made you want to lick the plate. We immediately tried to replicate it with our favorite sous-chef at home.

food drink  Heirloom tomatoes with pine nut gremolata

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How to make the best buttermilk waffles

COMMENTS: 16

food drink  How to make the best buttermilk waffles
food drink  How to make the best buttermilk waffles

My mother-in-law makes the best waffles. They’re incredibly light and crispy on the outside, yet still rich and tender on inside. And, even though I’ve learned the secret recipe (which actually comes from an out-of-print Knudsen Dairy Cookbook called, funnily enough, Cooking for Complimentsfood drink  How to make the best buttermilk waffles ), these are especially nice when someone is kind enough to make them for you. So I recommend making these for someone you love.

Oh, and if you don’t have a waffle iron, it may be time to get on that. (We have—and love—this VillaWarefood drink  How to make the best buttermilk waffles  waffle maker.)

food drink  How to make the best buttermilk waffles
food drink  How to make the best buttermilk waffles

The first thing you’ll notice about the recipe is that is calls for a generous serving of butter. There are a few tricks to making these the best waffles ever, but I think that stick of butter goes a long way toward making them crisp. Butter is actually an expensive ingredient. Restaurants skimp and that’s one reason you find yourself with sad, doughy or cakey specimens.

The substitution of cake flour for all-purpose is also a special trick that will help you to steer clear of those descriptions—it makes for very tender waffles.

food drink  How to make the best buttermilk waffles

You can cheat on just about all of the other steps (e.g. substitute yogurt thinned with milk for buttermilk, skip the separated eggs, forgo sifting, and even use all-purpose flour instead of cake), and you’ll still get wonderful results. But I promise you that the extra time you take to get it perfect will indeed earn you those compliments.

food drink  How to make the best buttermilk waffles
food drink  How to make the best buttermilk waffles

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