Friday, February 28, 2014

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Design trends from Pinterest for a future home

Inspired by a post on MySocalLife, I decided to spend a few minutes looking at my hodge podge images of interior design photos from my Pinterest board.  While I love fashion and collecting recipes on Pinterest, my largest and most loved board is definitely my apartment/home decor board.  I've always been a huge fan of Architectural Digest, the only TV channel I watch is HGTV, and I am strangely excited to be dating a architect and cannot wait to renovate or design a house with him later down the line.  While I've always appreciated sleek, modern, stark design the most, my travels through Southeast Asia and especially India have certainly added a bit of bohemia and color to my imaginary aesthetic.  In order to understand some of my random pins, here's a breakdown of four trends I found.

All white bedrooms (sources: 1 2)

Black and white photography (sources 3 4)

Blue walls (sources: 5 6)

Open spaces, minimal furniture (sources: 7 8)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

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Roast Lemon Chicken Thighs + Caramelized Cauliflower

Another meal from my year-long goal of trying new recipes.  Inspired by an amazing cauliflower recipe (usually a contradiction, I know!) from my boyfriend's sister, I wanted some cauliflower lovin' in my life and to add a go-to recipe in my growing Rolodex Pinterest board.  One of my newbie chef problems is I'm still learning what goes well with each other and thinking of appropriate side dishes (what to serve with tacos besides grilled corn is perpetually stumping), so this time I turned to the intimidating but useful Chowhound for answers.  The suggestion?  Roasted lemon herb chicken.  Easy enough!  So here's the result: roasted chicken thighs with lemon and oregano and caramelized curry cauliflower.  Highly recommended for an easy, quick, almost prep-free weeknight dinner!  And it passed the ultimate test, two thumbs up and a request for a repeat again soon from the kind but honest critic, my boyfriend.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Oregano

1 lemon
4 large or 8 small skin-on, boneless chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
3 sprigs oregano
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Preheat oven to 425°. Very thinly slice half of lemon; discard any seeds. Cut remaining lemon half into 2 wedges. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
Coat a large room-temperature skillet with 1 teaspoon oil. Add chicken, skin side down. Place skillet over medium heat and cook, letting skin render and brown, and pouring off excess fat to maintain a thin coating in pan, until chicken is cooked halfway through, about 10 minutes.
Scatter half of lemon slices over chicken and half on bottom of skillet (the slices on top of the chicken will soften; those in the skillet will caramelize). Transfer skillet to oven, leaving chicken skin side down. Roast until chicken is cooked through, skin is crisp, and lemon slices on bottom of skillet are caramelized, 6-8 minutes.
Transfer chicken pieces, skin side up, and caramelized lemon slices from bottom of skillet to a warm platter. (Leave softened lemon slices in the skillet.) Return skillet to medium heat. Add oregano sprigs, shallot, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Remove skillet from heat. Add wine; cook over medium heat until reduced by half, 1-2 minutes. Add broth; cook until thickened, about 3 minutes. Squeeze 1 lemon wedge over and season sauce with salt, pepper, and juice from remaining lemon wedge, if desired. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons oil. Return chicken to skillet, skin side up, to rewarm. Serve topped with caramelized lemon slices.

Caramelized Curry Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, cut into 1 inch florets
2 tablespoons EVOO
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Arrange cauliflower florets on a single baking sheet.  In a small bowl, stir together the extra-virgin olive oil and spices. Drizzle over the cauliflower, toss to coat evenly and roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring 1 or 2 times, until golden brown and crisp-tender. Transfer the cauliflower to a warmed serving bowl. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

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In which I list out my unsolicited Napa tips and recommendations

Now that I've been to Napa six times, I have a good feel for what wineries I like and which are worth a return visit.  Here's just a few!  In an advance disclosure, I generally prefer smaller, quieter, and simpler wineries; the $40 million castle or busy picnic grounds are enough to district me from feeling like I'm at Disneyland when I need to check in with someone with an iPad when I walk up.

Favorite wineries:
- Vincent Arroyo:  This has to be one of the last places in Napa that doesn't charge a tasting fee anymore!  But besides that, the friendly staff, great wine at a fair price point, the adorable cat called Nameless, and private tour make this appointment-only spot worth a visit.  It's laidback, no frills, and exactly my cup of tea.  If you get bored with the fancy wineries and exorbiant price tags, head on over to Vincent Arroyo in Calistoga.
- Opus One: Ha!  Talk about the opposite of Vincent Arroyo ;) I am a girl of varied tastes.  Opus One is one of the most prestigious wineries in Napa and an attitude to boot it.  They only produce one wine per year, a Bordeaux blend, and the tasting consists of a 4 ounce pour (versus trying 1 ounce of several varietals elsewhere).  Located in the heart of Oakville on busy Highway 29, it's in the middle of all the madness I try to avoid.  However, thanks to the appointment only tastings and stunning Greek modern architecture, it retains a calm, private atmosphere to enjoy some of Napa's best wine.
- Etude Winery: There isn't anything particularly special about Etude besides the fact that I love their wine.  That's reason enough to make it on to my favorites list, right?  While I love big Napa cabernets, my first foray into drinking wine was Oregon pinot noirs, thus, I get bored of drinking cabs the whole weekend in Napa... so then I head to Etude for their delicious pinots!  Don't miss Carneros for the smaller wineries and cooler climate grapes.
- Frog's Leap Cellars: This Southern-style tasting room is one of the most beautiful wineries I’ve ever been to. There’s a few adorable winery cats and the porch where you taste reminds me of a stately Southern house. (Bonus: the tasting is seated, which is lovely after you've been standing at a bar all day!) I also highly recommend their tours, which are informative and include some interesting anecdotes of how the winery was founded.  Since they're an organic farm it retains some of the rural charm that many of the larger Napa wineries lack nowadays.
- Silverado Vineyards: This is another gorgeous tasting room. There’s an outdoor patio with seating and a spectacular view of the valley. The building looks like an expensive Mediterranean villa without any of the snobbiness. The wine is great, too. Not much else to add besides the atmosphere is killer!
- Pride Mountain Vineyard: Another new favorite from this most recent trip!  Pride is at the top of Spring Mountain straddling the line between Napa and Sonoma.  It's a bit of a trek off the main highway but your rewarded with a really beautiful hillside view and peace and quiet!  The tour takes you around property, including caves where you get to taste from the barrel.  While we were there, the winemaker was at the barrels getting trials and she stopped to chat with us for a bit, which I thought was a very special touch.  The wines are expensive, but small production and award winning, and in my opinion, a good value.

Favorite restaurants:
- Gott's/Taylor's Roadside:  Gott's formerly known as Taylor's, is an awesome St. Helena spot that combines the classic comfort food of a small rural town with a signature gourmet wine country twist.  Burgers, french fries, milkshakes, and even amazing salads are enjoyed in their only outdoor picnic seating.  It's almost like your at your next-door neighbor's barbecue, but with a wine list that rivals the best restaurant in town.  Get here early (around noon) to beat the rush!
- Farmstead: Hands down my favorite nice restaurant in St. Helena/Napa area.  I first dined there in 2012 with my family and we still talk about how amazing it was!  We didn't get dinner there this time and I kind of regretted it... we settled for a drink at the outside bar and the friendly employees almost made us stay.  The food is seriously tasty and locally sourced from their farm.  Plus, did I mention how friendly and nice everyone is who works there?  It must be the wine or something ;)
- Genova's Italian Deli: This local's only spot is hidden in a downtown Napa strip mall (read: awful atmosphere), which is actually fine with me as it keeps the line manageable!  This is the spot to stock up on cheese, dried meat, bread, snacks, drinks, and sandwiches before your day starts; bring everything to the wineries for a beautiful picnic.  Don't believe me that it's the best sandwich ever?  Fine, maybe you'll believe the five hundred five star reviews on Yelp instead.
- La Condesa: When you're sick of red wine, California cuisine, and general wine country stuffiness, head to La Condesa for margaritas and tacos.  Fish tacos are especially good, as is the Mexican street corn, and any cocktails.

Amanda's Napa Superlatives 2014 Version:
- For interesting architecture: Artesa, Opus One (see above), Clos Pegase (designed by Michael Graves), Quintessa, Hall Winery (brand new building, my architect boyfriend was enamored), Quixote Winery
- For picnics: Monticello Vineyards, Clos du Val (also have a bocce ball court), Miner Family, Rutherford Hill, Casa Nuestra
- For sparkling wine: Domaine Carneros, Mumm Napa, Schramsberg (amazing tour and oldest caves in Napa!), Domaine Chandon
- Off the beaten track: Stony Hill (they only do whites! perfect when you're tired of drinking Napa Caps), Saintsbury, Atlas Peak, Spring Mountain, anywhere in the newest APA of Coombsville
- For kids: V. Sattui (great picnic-ing area), Calistoga Geyser (they have a petting zoo), Beringer, Sterling Vineyard (gondola ride!)

Okay, enough wine talk for now :)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

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In which we visit Napa Valley, part 2

As I mentioned before, Zack and I had been to Napa Valley a few times before together, so we knew the general order of things and also had a few new places we wanted to try.  Unfortunately two of our previous favorites we're closed (Arger Martucci, I miss you!), but that left plenty of time to explore some new places.

The highlight of this trip for me was actually not a new winery, but new restaurant & bar!  Goose and Gander has to be one of my favorite bars I've ever been to, and that's saying a lot, this I love trying amazing cocktails everywhere I go + a two unit "filler" class I took senior year on the history of scotch whiskey makes me a discerning whiskey drinker aka old-man-in-a-24-year-olds-body.  Goose and Gander lived up to both high standards, with a cozy atmosphere, lively crowd, super friendly bartenders, and the perfect amount of people to space ratio to boot.  Don't miss this spot in St. Helena!  Basically the whole time we were there was a highlight, but I'd especially recommend trying a small batch production scotch from their list (so small that sometimes it's only 1 barrel!) and a whiskey cocktail.  I can't remember the name of mine, but it was topped with an apple coconut foam that was an amazing mix of sweet taste and interesting texture with the bitter whiskey.  (Food & drink reviewer I am not.)  I've been to bars with fresh herbs galore, but these drinks were serious... it takes about 10 minutes minimum to make each one, so it was a bonus that the bartenders were willing to talk to the patrons in between rounds.  Have I talked it up enough?  Make your way to Goose and Gander ASAP!

Besides good wine, tasty food, and a new playlist for driving from vineyard to vineyard, Napa really pulled through on the perfect February weather.  I know the California drought is awful and all, but I can't help enjoy the 70 degree summer weather in winter without the summer Napa crowds!  All in all, no complaints: a weekend spent in Napa is well spent.   

Monday, February 24, 2014

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In which we visit Napa Valley, part 1

Okay, it seems all I ever talk about on this blog is wine tasting... I swear I do other things too.  But most of them are boring or aren't photogenic--who wants to read (and I don't want to write) about another day in the office, followed by a night reading, hanging out with my cat, or cooking a meal I have no recipe for.  So weekend adventures (which for the past few weekends have revolved around wine) are what I have to offer!

Since my boyfriend and I usually celebrate our birthdays together with a weekend trip away, and Zack's birthday fell close to the three day weekend of Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day, we decided to take advantage of Monday off with a slightly further trip.  During our senior year at Berkeley, our first mini vacation together was to Napa, only 45 minutes away.  Napa combines two of our favorite things: wine + cool architecture, so it was a no-brainer to head back up there for his birthday.  We lucked out for our lodging and we stayed with a family friend who's an instructor at the Culinary Institute (yes, his cooking is as amazing as you're imagining).  Another highlight was some of the tours we took; since this was my sixth (!) trip to Napa, we enjoyed exploring some off-the-beaten path wineries and vineyards.

To be honest, going back to Napa after wine tasting in Portland and Santa Barbara for the past two years was a bit jarring at the beginning.  While the Willamette Valley and Santa Ynez Valley both retain their rural, undeveloped atmosphere, Napa can be busy, crowded, and as built up as a theme park at some places.  It took me a day to readjust and realign my expectations, but soon (the wine probably helped) I was happy as a clam.  There's nothing quite like relaxing on a sunny February day with a glass of wine overlooking the rolling hills of Northern California.  More on our favorite spots soon, but for now, cheers!  ;)

Friday, February 7, 2014

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Some recent snaps

The other weekend Zack was recovering from the stomach flu and I was barely caught up on sleep from on my NYC visit.  So for our first activity re-entering the real world from our beds we decided to take it easy and walk over to the Funk Zone, a neighborhood down by the beach.  It's a recently revitalized area full of wine tasting rooms, art galleries, some old surf shops, and a few restaurants.  This funky (for SB at least) is my favorite place to hang out... and it's a nice 20/30 minute walk from my apartment.

We got some bomb gyros from Metropolus, sipped some wine at AVA Santa Barbara, and Zack jammed on a Nash Telecustom at the Guitar Bar.  Weekends are the best, even when you have to get out of bed. ;)

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