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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Social Bird:Esin Food Family expands to Layfayette


Recently we went to Lafayette for lunch at a new restaurant called ‘Social Bird’.

Curtis and Esin, owners of renown Esin and Revel in Danville recently opened up this new foodie, fun place.
  Located in the the old Yankee Pier restaurant in downtown Lafayette, it is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week.


It has a classy, comfortable ambience and a menu similar to Revel. There is also an extensive list of wine, beer and cocktails.  You can also eat at the bar and enjoy watching sporting events on the big screen TVs that are perfectly located over the bar.

We began with the avocado bruschetta with pickled peppers, crispy shallots and sea salt that we shared at the table.  For the main course, my wife, ordered the grilled Mary’s chicken breast with arugula farro, roasted beets, sherry vinaigrette, feta cheese, and avocado cream that was fresh and light. Our friends ordered the grilled wild prawns and fried chicken buttermilk sliders with Napa slaw that brought many smiles and kudos. I ordered the Snake River farms Wagu burger with homemade pickles, hand cut fries on a fresh challah roll that was cooked to perfection. The roll was also one of the best I have experienced on a burger.

For dessert, there are a variety of coffee, teas.  Cognac, ports and cheeses to choose from and of course a nice selection of the ‘famous desserts’ by Esin.

Like ‘happy social birds’, we shared the warm apple crisp with whipped cream that was heavenly. The Granny Smith apples were very fresh and full of flavor.

In conclusion, we all agreed that this is a great addition to Lafayette and we would return soon.

For more information and to make reservations go to:

 
https://www.social-bird.com/

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Maybeck’s: Famous Beef Wellington



For New Year’s Eve this year we experienced a special treat with a fantastic dining experience in San Francisco at a restaurant called Maybeck’s. This modern Italian-American restaurant is owned by
Erik Lowe and Aaron Toensing previously from BIX and Fog City. Both individuals bring a wealth of cooking expertise to this iconic American mid-priced restaurant located at Scott and Lombard in the heart of San Francisco’s Marina district.  

One of the house favorites is the Beef Wellington which we ordered as our main entrĂ©e and we were not disappointed.  In addition, their elaborate menu will satisfy any ‘foodie’ appetite. An extensive wine list and assortment of cocktails are also available. There is a $25 corking fee if you bring your own wine. We brought a bottle of Jesse Katz’s Aperture Cabernet Sauvignon that paired well with the Beef Wellington.

We were pleasantly surprised when Erik sent us a tasting of Hamachi on a forbidden rice cake with avocado and a serrano chile. It was a great way to start our dining adventure. We would also recommend trying the chopped salad and the garlic bread.   For dessert we enjoyed the Dark Chocolate Molten Cake and the sensational Spumoni ice cream.

Maybeck’s has nightly specials and we look forward to returning on a Sunday night where they feature Spaghetti night.  The fried chicken can also be ordered at any time.

We would highly recommend that you add this San Francisco restaurant to your ‘must do’ list.

For more information and to make a reservation at Maybeck’s go to:
http://www.maybecks.com/

Friday, November 8, 2019

Jesse Katz Aperture Cellars: Dreams Do Come True

Recently I had the opportunity to do a tasting of Aperture Wine at Draeger’s Market in Danville.
This wine is being made in Healdsburg by one of our favorite winemakers Jesse Katz.

Jesse recently built a winery there. The good news is that his winery had no damage in the recent Healdsburg fires.  We had the pleasure to meet Jesse when he was the winemaker at Bill Foley’s Lancaster Winery. His father Andy Katz is a famous photographer and has an impressive gallery in downtown Healdsburg.  Andy has traveled to over 90 countries, written 14 books and his photos have been on the cover of music groups like the Doobie Brothers and Dan Fogleburg.  His photos also grace the bottles of Jesse’s sensational wine creations.  Jesse has lived all over the world and also worked at famous wineries including Petrus in France and Screaming Eagle in Napa.  He also made Justin Timberlake’s wedding wine and the most expensive wine ever made to date that sold for $350,000 in the Napa Auction.

His new winery Aperture is a dream come true for him.  The modern 20,000 square foot winery is functioning but the hospitality room won’t be officially open until Spring 2020.
As a result, we were pleased to taste his 2016 Aperture Bordeaux Red blend and 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon at Draeger’s market in Danville
.
Draeger’s has weekly tastings every Friday from 4-7. The tastings cost $10 and wines tasted are sold at a 20% discount.

The 2016 Red Blend is 52% Malbec and 48% Merlot. It’s elegant and silky texture make this a wine that is drinking beautifully now.  The Cabernet Sauvignon is from four mineral rich volcanic soil sites nestled on the cooler hillside Alexander Valley slopes.
It is a soft and silky blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with delicate inclusions of Merlot and Malbec
.

For more information and to make an appointment go to: https://www.aperture-cellars.com/

Monday, November 4, 2019

Nashville: Country Music, Food and Fun

Recently my family enjoyed a visit to the country music capital of the world Nashville, Tennessee.  From the Oakland airport, you can get a direct flight to Nashville.

In Nashville, we stayed at the elegant and centrally located Hermitage Hotel.  This landmark hotel has been providing Southern Hospitality since 1910 and is a Forbes 5-star rated hotel. The newly created grand foyer leads to the stunning lobby, called one of the most beautiful public rooms in America.

After we checked in, we took a short walk to Kid Rock’s newly opened musical playground. It has 5 stories of food, live music and fun. It also has a rooftop bar with stunning views of downtown Nashville.   Kid Rock is known as ‘America’s Bad Ass’ and originally from Detroit.   His new Nashville establishment opened last October and rocks with lots of energy every night until 3 am. It is the hot new spot In Nashville and packed with a lot of happy music lovers.

The next day we took the ‘Hop on Hop Off’ tour eyeing the many sights of this vibrant city. We especially enjoyed the Country Music Hall of Fame and Vanderbilt UniversityFor lunch, we enjoyed a famous ‘hot chicken’ sandwich at BB Kings Blues Bar with live music.
After lunch, we went to long-time favorite Mike’s Ice Cream and enjoyed a ‘Tennessee Fudge’ waffle cone.  After a brief rest at the hotel, we had a driver pick us up and take us to the famous Grand Ole Opry and experienced one of my son’s favorite country singers, 
Lee Brice.  In addition to Lee Brice, the show had ‘outstanding‘ performances from John Conlee, Jimmie Allen, The Whites, Thompson Square, Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, Dusty Slay and Maggie Rose. The entire show was 2 hours of ‘high energy country star excellence".


The next morning my long-time friend and Nashville resident picked us up and drove us to Lynchburg to tour the famous Jack Daniels Distillery.  Lynchburg is about 1.5 hours from downtown Nashville and the tour was very informative and interesting.  We tasted 6 of their great whiskeys. Our favorites were old number 7 with its creamy and clean finish and Tennessee Fire with the unmistakable character of old number 7 combined with an intense warm cinnamon taste. The Honey Whiskey and newly released Apple Whisky would also make for a great after dinner drink when served chilled.

After the tour we drove to Brentwood and had a great lunch at long-time favorite Mere Bulles.  It is located in a former southern mansion with stunning art work, and excellent Southern Food including a few we tried as hot chicken salad, carrot cake and key lime pie.

Our final day, we toured the Musicians Hall of Fame. It is more extensive than the Country Music Hall of Fame as it has a variety of music history from Motown to Jimmy Hendrix to Johnny Cash to mention a few. If you are brave and feeling on the wild side, you can play instruments on stage and even do Karoke with Ray Charles.

After the tour we enjoyed dinner at famous Tootsies and a concert at the Ryman Theater featuring the Gatlin Brothers and Crystal Gayle. This 2000 seat theater is a ‘must do’ and features a variety of great entertainers.

In conclusion, we would highly recommend a visit to the ‘country music capital of the world’. It is no wonder that 100 people are moving here every day. Low taxes, good weather, and lots of fun things to do is attracting many new residents.

We look forward to returning soon.

For more information and to book a reservation go to:
https://www.thehermitagehotel.com/

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Constant: Elegant Wines and Stunning Views




Recently we had the pleasure to visit Constant Vineyard standing high above the Napa Valley on the summit of Diamond Mountain.

You know that you are going to a special place as the breathtaking drive takes you up 2100 feet.  When you finally arrive at the winery, you feel like an eagle landing on top of the magnificent Napa Valley enjoying the sensational 360-degree vistas. 
The unique microclimate at the very top of Diamond Mountain provides grapes with optimal sun exposure and elongated ripening periods, providing perfect conditions for the CONSTANT Winery team to make exceptional wines-----Which they Do!

Fred and Mary Constant purchased the vineyard in 1993. The land was overgrown and wild. Fred and Mary worked diligently to clear the land and re-establish the vineyard which had been neglected since prohibition in the 20’s and 30’s. They hired renowned architect Howard Backen to build a stunning house overlooking the valley floor with a full view of Mount St. Helena. The first released vintage is from 1995 under the name CONSTANT Diamond Mountain Vineyard, with winemaker Philippe Melka at the helm. The current consulting winemaker is Paul Hobbs, whose first vintage with CONSTANT was in 2009. In 2016, Aries Liu and Sai You became the property’s owners.

Our knowledgeable host was Amber Brandner who bubbles with extensive wine knowledge. She chose 5 great wines for us to taste paired with a variety of cheeses, smoked almonds and olive oil made on-site.  Paul Hobbs the current consulting winemaker and Kevin Vecchiarelli the CONSTANT winemaker, use their vast knowledge to craft world class wines.  Our tasting included 2011 Cabernet Franc, 2015 Claret, 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2014 Syrah. The food friendly old-world wines were all great.  We especially liked the 2015 Claret.  This powerful silky-smooth wine was a ‘perfect’ blend of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15%Cabernet Franc and 16% Merlot.  We enjoyed it so much a few bottles came back to Danville with us.

Having been to many of  Napa’s 600 wineries (400and counting), we would highly recommend that you visit this unique winery proudly perched on top of Diamond Mountain overlooking the beautiful Napa Valley.

For more information and to make an appointment go to:
https://www.constantwine.com

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Fabulous London 2019: Food, Golf and Fun




Fabulous London 2019: Food, Golf and Fun

Recently our family had the pleasure to visit the fascinating city of London, England. London is the largest city and capital of England with over 8 million people. It is also one of the most popular tourist cities in the world to visit.

Highlights of the trip included an elegant opening lunch at famous chef Alain Ducasse’s 3-star Michelin London restaurant in The Dorchester. We had the pleasure of dining at his Eiffel Tower restaurant in Paris a few years ago.  Featured was a 3-course lunch that included 2 glasses of French wine.  As a special treat after our lunch and before dessert, we enjoyed the famous” English Stilton Cheese” served tableside and paired with a Madeira port.  Executive Chef Jean-Philippe Blondet gave us a tour of his elaborate kitchen and served us his famous baba rum cake with Earl Grey tea to complete this fabulous foodie experience.

We took a unique London Rock Music Tour which was great. From David Bowie to Pink Floyd and the Kinks, London has been home to some of the biggest rock bands in history. The tour featured Tin Pan Alley, where The Rolling Stones cut their first record, the famous Abbey Road Studios and the road crossing from the famous Beatles album cover Abbey Road.  Paul McCartney’s house, Ringo Starr’s House, Jimmy Page’s house and local pubs and recording studios where many of the famous London Rock Bands hung out. It provided a full tour of the London Rock scene.  Highly recommended if you’re looking for a different perspective of London.

Several other places we visited included The Churchill War RoomsBuckingham Palace and the Royal Mews, the Thames River Cruise which has a view of all the sites of London. The cruise is a hop on hop off tour allowing you to spend more time on various London sites that interest you. We also attended the theatre to see “Tina” which was fabulous. Finally, shopping at Harrods is of course another ‘must do’ experience.

Just 25 miles from the center of the most-visited capital is the London Golf Club in the heart of the beautiful Kent countryside termed the “Garden of England”. It is the home of 2 world class courses. The Heritage and The International which are masterpieces designed by Jack Nicklaus and his design team. Courses opened in 1994 with a sensational skins match between Jack Nicklaus, Britain’s Tony Jacklin, and Spanish legend Seve Ballesteros. Seve was the winner with 10 skins.

The International Course has hosted many professional and amateur tournaments including the 2014 Volvo World Match play and 2017 Brabazon Trophy.  The London Golf Club has also hosted Regional Open qualifying and the European Tour qualifying school. They have tees to challenge all skill levels. The club prides itself with an ‘attention to detail’ and also features an excellent restaurant and practice facility.

If you are a Golfer, we would highly recommend a break from the hustle bustle of London and visit the scenic Kent countryside at the London Golf Club.
For more information and to make a tee time go to:

We concluded this fantastic trip with dinner at famous Michelin chef and tv personality Gordon Ramsey’s ‘Lucky Cat’ Restaurant.

Located in Mayfair and a short walk from The Grosvenor House where we stayed, this Asian inspired restaurant is one of 15 Ramsey restaurants located in London. This restaurant just opened in June and has an elegant and modern decor. The food is made in an open kitchen and designed to share with your friends.  We especially enjoyed the short rib buns, pumpkin tempura, pork belly, shiitake and pork kamameshi and assortment of unique and tasty desserts.

We truly felt like 3 ‘Lucky Cats’ after enjoying an exciting full week in the fascinating city of London. By the way, it never rained the entire week we visited the city. September is prime weather time for touring.

“London Rocks” with a worldly energy filled with lots of history, restaurants, shopping, tour attractions and classy kind people. We definitely will return soon.
Fabulous London 2019: Food, Golf and Fun



Saturday, August 24, 2019

Bulgheroni Wine Estate: Producing Classic Cabernet Sauvignon

Recently my wife Linda and I had the pleasure of visiting Bulgheroni Wine Estate in St. Helena, California. Famous Wine Maker Philippe Melka makes this great wine. He also makes the top of the line Phase 5 for our friend Mike Davis who owns Davis Estates.  Wine expert Michel Rolland and New Zealand native Matt Sands assist Philippe in creating this world class Cabernet. 

Our host for today was Estate Director Michael Ploetz. We also had the opportunity to meet and discuss these great wines with New Zealand native and assistant Winemaker Matt Sands.

Our tasting was done in their elegant tasting room. We had the pleasure of tasting 5 of these carefully crafted Cabernets. 2014 Alejandro Bulgheroni Lithology, 2015 Lithology Beckstoffer To Kalon single vineyard, 2016 Lithology Beckstoffer Dr. Crane single vineyard, 2016 Alejandro Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and concluded with a 2014 Lithology with a blend of mostly To Kalon Cabernet and a small amount of Petite Verdot.

We enjoyed all of these full- bodied wines that had a ‘polished and smooth’ taste and especially enjoyed the last wine.  Matt was kind enough to sign a bottle of this ‘sensational’ wine that we took back to Danville with us for a future special occasion.

This is definitely a winery experience to add to your Bucket List. 

For more information and to make an appointment go to: 
https://www.bulgheroniwine.com/Contact

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Coyote Moon: One of The Finest Golf Experiences in The Country


Recently my wife Linda and I had the opportunity to play Coyote Moon Golf Course located in the beautiful historic town of Truckee, California. This is a place where Golfers can truly experience High Sierra golf at its finest. Located more than 6,000 feet above sea level, Coyote Moon is a delight for the senses, as the well-maintained fairways lead to memorable, panoramic views.

Designed by Brad Bell, a former PGA player, this is a spectacular course that sits on 250 acres of pristine beauty, with towering pines, wildflowers and Trout Creek that meanders throughout. The fresh mountain air and a course without any homes is a unique experience for everyone to try.

Head pro Jarrett Bower has worked at the course since its opening 20 years ago. He is proud to say, “the course has been rated in the top 100 in America.”The memorable downhill par 3(see picture) is a hole that you will always remember and share the experience with your golfing friends. The course is challenging but playable for all level of golfers.

We would highly recommend you put this course on your ‘bucket list’.

NCGA members also receive a discounted rate after 1:00 pm.

For more information and to make a tee time go to:

https://coyotemoongolf.com

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Melka Estates: Producing World Class Wines

Recently, my wife Linda and I had the pleasure to do a private tasting at Melka Estates. Philippe Melka is a known Winemaker making wines for many Napa wineries for 20 years.  He also makes the top of the line Phase Five for our friend Mike Davis who owns Davis Estates.

Born in Bordeaux, one of our favorite wine regions in the world, Philippe and his wife Cherie founded Melka Estates in 1996.  They produce 4 distinct labels reflecting their philosophy of soil driven wines. He made his debut in 1996 with 240 cases of Metisse. 
 
Melka Metisse La Mekerra Vineyard is a Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. La Mekerra takes its name from a river in Algeria. The fruit comes from an 8-acre vineyard in Knights Valley. Only 175 cases are produced each year.

Melka Metisse Jumping Goat Vineyard is a Cabernet dominated wine which made its debut in 2003. A 3.5-acre St. Helena vineyard with its gravel soil planted to a blend of 2 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, .65 acres of Merlot and .3 acres of Petite Verdot. Not much Melka Metisse Jumping Goat is produced. On average 440 cases are produced each year.

Melka CJ made its debut in 1996. Produced from grapes planted in Soda Canyon, Coombsville and in the north of Calistoga takes its name from Melka’s children Chole and Jeremy. Production today is 1525 cases.

Our knowledgeable host today was Sylvie Laly. 

We began our tasting with a 100% Sauvignon Blanc from Knights Valley. This was aged for 22 months in French Oak Cigar barrels. Per Philippe, “ it is like no other due to the elevation of the vineyard and its soil profile.”

We also tasted the 2016 CJ Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015 Mekerra 100% Merlot from Knights Valley and 2016 Metisse from Jumping Goat Vineyard.

We especially liked the CJ Cabernet that was a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, and  7 % Petite Verdot that was intense, opulent and vibrant. We took a bottle back to Danville with us.

The 100% Merlot was also outstanding. Philippe describes it as “a Merlot made for Cab lovers meant for aging with many layers of complexity and richness.”  One of these also went back home with us.

We would highly recommend this great winery on your next visit to Napa.

To make an appointment to experience these ‘world class’ wines, go to:  
https://www.melkaestates.com/

Friday, June 21, 2019

Established 1927: Corica Park



Recently my wife Linda and friends played the new $20 million renovation in Alameda called Corica Park. From our home in Danville it is a 45-minute drive. This track established in 1927 was recently renovated by famous golf course designer Rees Jones. 

The cooler temperatures in Alameda make for a pleasant golfing day.

As part of the renovation, there is a nine-hole par 3 course rated in the top 13 in America. It is great for practice or for a quick round.
 
The South course is the only Sand belt Australian style course in the San Francisco Bay Area.

It has a selection of tees to challenge all golfing skills. Linda found the ladies tees to be very fair and friendly. New Yamaha golf carts have GPS to help you with your yardages. The greens are in great condition, large and very fast.

For lunch we ate at Jim’s on the course.  They have a wide variety of reasonably priced food and drinks.

Bottom line, Corica Park is worth a visit to experience the rich history that renowned architect Rees Jones has brought back to life. 

To make a tee time go to:
https://coricapark.com/