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An Ultimate Girls Summer Weekend in Wine Country

I’ve been on at least a dozen girls weekends. The destinations are always great: New York, Palm Springs, Chicago, Miami, the North Carolina mountains. But I’d not done a girls trip to Napa Valley wine country. I’m not talking over the top 5-star accommodations and 3 star Michelin restaurants; we were more budget minded (we’d rather have money for shopping). We ate and drank well, and even found a nice place to stay that was less than $200 per night (thanks Priceline!)

You probably don’t think of downtown Napa as a destination for style or shopping. People used to bypass Napa on their way to winery tasting rooms and St. Helena. Well things have changed. Now Napa is a must stop for great dining, wine tasting and shopping. Read more

EAT – Ubuntu, better than ever

One of Napa Valley’s best restaurants is Ubuntu in downtown Napa. Executive chef Jeremy Fox’s “vegetable cuisine” was a revelation. He redefined what it means to have an all vegetable-based menu, with much of the produce coming from the kitchen’s biodynamic garden fresh every day. Fox and Ubuntu received many awards and accolades. Well Fox departed earlier this year, and I think many of us were holding our collective breath about the restaurant’s future. Would it be as good with another chef? Will the vegetable menu be replaced? Will the restaurant close? Rest assured, we can all breathe. I believe Ubuntu is now better than ever. The kitchen is now in the hands of executive chef Aaron London, who has been at Ubuntu since its opening in 2007. He’s got a stellar resume´- including stints at Daniel, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, L’Astrance and Arpege in Paris.  London is not…

EAT – Low country cuisine

Low country is what people call the areas including Savannah, GA, Beaufort and Hilton Head Island, both in South Carolina, all the way up to Charleston.   No mountains or hills, just flat (and low) marshes and beaches.  During the holidays I got my fill of real BBQ, shrimp and girts and other seafood that low country is known for.  The wild Georgia shrimp are so fresh and sweet.  Had a standout meal at a fairly new restaurant in Bluffton, South Carolina.  Bluffton used to be the speed trap on the way from Atlanta to Hilton Head.  Now Bluffton’s becoming a place you want to visit, with local artisan shops and restaurants.  If you go, be sure to check out the May River Grill.  Panko-crusted fried local oysters, fluffy biscuits served with onion butter – yum!  And crab cakes stuffed full of the local blue crab and hardly any filler.  The…

EAT – Red Crane’s Char Siu Black Cod

I just thought that this dish was photo-worthy. It’s a char siu marinated Alaskan black cod. The red color is amazing and yes, the dish tastes as good as it looks. It’s on the menu at The Red Crane in Cupertino, CA — and at lunch it’s $12 with miso soup, and garlic noodles and bok choy. What’s char siu you ask? It’s a type of cooking and seasoning. According to Wikipedia, char siu is a method of barbeque or roasting, and the seasoning or marinade is responsible for the red color. Red miso is typically used, along with honey, five spice powder, soy and hoisin sauce. All I know is that the cod was buttery and a little sweet and absolutely delicious.

EAT – A great lobster roll

This is one great lobster roll!  Ever since I shared a lunch of a lobster roll with my grandmother in Boston, which was her last, I’ve always been on the search for a really good one.  Up until now, the rolls at various San Fran Bay Area restaurants have let me down.  Then Anchor & Hope’s roll ended the search.  Maybe because it’s on a top loaded brioche bun.  Maybe because the dressing is really light.  Nah, it’s because the chunks of lobster just shine through.  It’s so good, and so filling, I really didn’t need the Old Bay seasoned potato chips, or the coleslaw (although I recommend dipping some of the brioche roll into the slaw dressing…I’m just saying).  Yeah it’s 24 bucks, but I promise you won’t go away disappointed or hungry.  Pair with any number of crisp whites on the wine list, including an Albarino Grenache Blanc…