Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wedding Week: Wednesday and Thursday

Here is the story of our wine country wedding.

Who knew a destination wedding would be such a hassle to get to?! We (Jim) had to carry my wedding dress on the flight and luckily the bins on Southwest Airlines were actually long enough for me to lay my dress down flat without folding.

Love this picture. We are in the L.A. airport and the flight crew from Southwest gave us a bottle of Korbel as we exited the airplane.

There is Dad, they arrived in Oakland a little after we did. Mom in front with her travel hat on.

First stop? In-N-Out Burger. This is a food blog after all... We made this stop all for Jim who loves and craves the burgers here. I hear we are getting an In-N-Out Burger in Texas soon, the Dallas area. Guess we will be making some road trips 3 hours north for a burger.

If you have never had an N-In-Out Burger, then just look at the excitement on Jim's face! The menu was surprisingly simple. They have a hamburger, cheeseburger and the double-double. All self explanatory. The rest of the menu is simple as: fries (one size only) and shakes or sodas. That's it. I was standing in line behind Jim wondering, what is the BIG DEAL???

It's the "secret menu" that granted this burger joint a cult following across the country. If you ordered your burgers off the menu they would come with:
  • a spread similar to thousand island dressing.
  • one slice of tomato (two if one won't cover the entire bottom bun)
  • a portion of lettuce
  • onions are always offered when you order. They come as a fresh slice by default, but chopped and grilled onions are available by request. The amount is constant regardless of the number of meat patties unless you ask for extra or lite of a condiment.
Now for the custom burgers. Many of these styles (I learned on the web) can be ordered in combination (for example, the Double-Double Animal Style No Salt.)
Animal Style is the most popular "secret" style. In addition to the standard toppings, animal style burgers include:
  • pickles
  • extra spread
  • extra grilled onions
  • mustard fried onion each meat patty.
3×3, 4×4, or generally M×C refers to a burger with a varied number of meat patties (first number, M) and slices of cheese (second number, C). For example, the popular Double-Double would be 2×2 (pronounced "Two-by-two" when you order it), while a burger with 3 meat patties and 1 slice of cheese would be a 3×1 (a "three-by-one").
You can also customize your fries. Here, Jim and I split a basket of fries, animal style.

This is one happy man!

Finally, we make it into wine country. Vines and hills as far as you can see. Wednesday evening Jim and I had a romantic dinner together before our guests started to arrive. We dined at Madrona Manor, which I would highly recommend for anyone looking for a special occasion place near Healdsburg.

It was a beautiful bed and breakfast with a FANTASTIC restaurant on the first floor. I thought I would bust at the end of the night. Each course was thoughtfully and artfully prepared. Here was our menu, course by course:

Mandy - Lobster "Cuit Sous Vide." Carrot, fennel, fava, coriander.
Jim - Scallop Sashimi. Uni, borage, Meyer lemon, fresh wasabi.

Mandy - Onion Veloute. Banyuls vinegar, 63 degree celcius egg, parmigiano-reggiano.
Jim - Foie Gras Tasting. seared, terrine, torchon, rhubarb, savory popovers, estate arugula. (This my friends was EXCEPTIONAL)

Mandy - Potato Gnocci. Peas, mint, pistachios, creme fraiche.
Jim - Northern Halibut. Peas, ramps, pancetta, aioli.

Mandy - Northern Halibut. Peas, ramps, pancetta, aioli.
Jim - Veal Tenderloin. Green garlic soubise, parsley root, pea leaves, maitake mushrooms.
Mandy and Jim - Next we had the Fromages. Madrona Manor Signature Cheese Course. Served table side. a.m.a.z.i.n.g.
  • Overture, Fresh goat cheese warmed table side over Himalayan rock salt. Andante Dairy, Sonoma County.
  • Brillat Savarin (cow) Fromagerie Delin. Normandy, France.
  • Tomme de Chevre (goat) Ossan. Pyrennees, France.
  • Soumaintrain (cow) Fromagerie Gaugry. Burgundy, France.
  • Appenburger (cow) Halbhartkase, Appenburg Switzerland
  • Blue D'Auvergne (cow) Rodolphe Le Meunier. Auvergne, France.
Finally we had dessert!
Mandy - Cart "a Glace." Ice Cream sundae hand "churned" table side using minus 320 degree Fahrenheit nitrogen. Chocolate sauce, almonds, whipped cream, cherries on top.
Jim - Root Beer Floating Island. Frozen root beer meringue, sassafras caramel, vanilla ice cream sauce.

If it wasn't such a fancy place, or if they had not seated us in the middle of the main dining area and entry way, I would have photographed every course and the amuse buche, and the three extra sweet nibbles they brought to us at the end of the night. I felt like waiving my white napkin over my head and yelling "I surrender."

Chef Jesse Wiley Mallgren is a true genius - he said he never went to culinary school. Wow, what a gift he has!!!

Thursday we set out with about 20 of our guests who arrived early and did some wine tasting along the Napa Valley. My Dad welcomed everyone on the bus and gave his "Wine 101" speech which included tips like: You will not like everything you taste, and that is okay. If you decide you don't like wine at all, give him your glass and he will finish it.

Following him was my mom who demanded everyone to spit out their gum.

Jim and I being silly on the bus.

Here is our camera crew, capturing every moment of wedding week. I have a sneaky suspicion that there will for sure be a blooper reel.

Our first stop of the day was Robert Mondavi, the godfather of winemaking. They have an excellent tour, making this winery the Disney Land of Napa. Serioulsy, they take you through the vineyard, explaining the planting and growing process, then you go to the wine making facility and see what goes on after harvest. The tour ends with a grand tasting of estate wines.

My brother Brad and my mom in the vineyard of Mondavi.

We had beautiful weather Thursday. My brother and I at the end of the Mondavi tour, now doing some wine tasting.

First drink of the day was around 11:15 AM. My favorite at Mondavi was a wine you can only buy at the winery. Why is that always the case?

The happy couple enjoying the California sunshine.

Our entire group for Thursday. Aren't we a handsome bunch!?!?

For lunch we went to Alpha Omega winery and had Dean and Deluca box lunches awaiting us.

Herb roasted chicken breast with gruyere cheese, lettuce, tomato and roasted garlic aioli. Served with pesto penne pasta and sun dried tomato topped with parmesan. And a fresh baked cookie at the bottom. Delightful gourmet box lunch!!

All served with a side of... you guessed it... wine from Alpha Omega! We purchased a bottle from them to use during our ceremony on Saturday. Instead of a unity candle, we combined two bottles of wine into a decanter and shared a drink. Yes, we even had WINE during the ceremony. It was a wine wine and more wine week!

My husband-to-be and I at Alpha Omega.

We had a lovely lunch out in the sun here.

Our last stop of the day was at ZD Winery.

Not sure if we like this one or not. Seriously though, by 2:00 PM, everything starts tasting the same. ZD had some great reds and a view from our tasting room was amazing.
Thursday night, we were able to welcome more of our guests to wine country. Jim and I hit the Healdsburg Square and visited some tasting rooms. His family arrived from Austin and Nevada to join us.

Jim's mom and brother Jeremy from Austin.

AND... may I introduce my new nephew Benjamin from Nevada. Doesn't he make your heart swell?

We all gathered at Williamson Wines, one of our favorite tasting rooms to visit on the square. Excellent wine here!

Allyson and Jason, friends from Austin arrived Thursday evening too, we had such a great time together.

While Jim and I spent time with his family and our friends. My parents hosted a lovely dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen for some of their California friends. They had a surprise guest at the table (well, my dad knew, but no one else knew...) Tom Eddy. Jim and I popped into the restaurant, located on the square to say hello and meet Tom. He and his wife were incredibly charming. In fact, Tom insisted we take a seat and try one of his signature wines they were serving at the meal. I could have just melted right there, sitting next to him and talking about the wine he makes. Meeting the winemaker and sharing with him an absolutely beautiful glass of wine that he made - just incredible.

Jim and I rejoined our friends and family at a great restaurant called Healdsburg Bar and Grill. I don't know if they are famous for these fries, but it is what I have ordered the last three times I've dined here. Their truffle fries are to-die-for. Now they have regular, garlic and even a wonderful sweet potato fry with chipotle salt... but none of them are more superior than the Truffle Oil & Parmigiano-Reggiano. I think I probably polished off that entire basket of fries myself, it's served with a garlic aioli.

Because I had eaten an entire basket of truffle fries on my own, I ordered a small dinner, actually one of their appetizers. Polenta Fritos with Marinara Sauce, Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Thanks to my friend Jenee, I have a pic of our welcome bag and the goodies we included for each of our guests. My brother Brad designed the bag, and we filled it with a welcome letter and agenda, two bottles of water with a custom wedding wrap, a hunk of parmesan cheese, a bag of garlic croustini, a bag of Austinuts, hershey kisses, a wine skin so guests can bring back a bottle of wine from thier trip, two stemless wine glasses, and tickets for free tastings on the square.

This concludes my post on Wednesday and Thursday of wedding week. Next will be a recipe post, followed by Part Two of the Wedding: Friday wine tasting, and Saturday wedding.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fun Kitchen Items and a Surprise on our Door Step

Jim is a BREAD MAN if I have ever seen one. The first time I ever watched Jim grab a piece of plain white Mrs. Beards Bread right out of the package and eat it, was when I knew he was seriously in love with bread.

I love the smell of fresh baked bread, but unfortunately for Jim I have never succeeded in making a from scratch loaf of bread.

Until now. I squealed with delight when I opened up this wedding gift from the Gibbs family. Finally, I can serve homemade bread along with my homemade meals. This is the Zojirushi BBCC-x20. Based on my online research, this is the king of bread machines. I read the manual from cover to cover in one sitting.

So here is my very first loaf. I know, it's hideous and I was just crushed when I pulled it out of the bread machine. I swear I measured every ingredient carefully and then checked on the dough every 30 minutes to see what it looked like. According to the manual I did everything right. But isn't this just the ugliest loaf of bread you have ever seen? According to Jim I did everything right....and I guess that is all that matters. You can't judge a book by it's cover, and neither should you judge this white bread.

What is this a picture of? Only the cutest glasses I've ever seen! They are the beer glasses from Crate and Barrel that I received from my Friend Sarah. I thought they make the best juice glasses.

Another fun gift from my friend Melissa is this bright green tea pot. I've been drinking a lot of tea lately and it's so much more fun to drink tea out of this modern pot. Love it!

Woo Hoo! I screamed when I opened this Le Creuset dutch oven at the house. That's really one of the biggest perks of getting married. Random gifts show up on your door step, daily. Jim and I wait for the other one to be present and open them together.

My first dish in the new Le Creuset - pot roast of course! See my favorite pot roast recipe here. It's by Ina Garten. She's amazing and her recipes always taste so good!

This is a fun thing I wanted to share. I have this fern hanging on our front door and during one very hot day last week I asked if Jim would water it for me.

Then he e-mails me THIS picture! Ahhhh! We have a birds nest with the cutest little blue eggs. Jim actually thought it was fake, it looked too perfect.

Last night we checked on our eggs and couldn't believe we found little birdies all screaming for their momma. We freaked out and put the hanging plant back. Today, in the morning sun we checked on them again and I snapped this picture of our furry little babies sleeping in their nest. It's hard to even tell when one begins and ends. They are all cuddled together. So cute!

Have a great week folks!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Song of Solomon 3:4

I found the one my heart loves. Song of Solomon 3:4

Soon I will going from a Miss. to a Mrs. The closer I get to the wedding, the less I've been cooking. Or when I cook, I rarely think of taking photos. And when I take photos, I don't have time to post them. Sorry to disappoint. This is an exciting season for Jim and I. We have so much to be thankful for and are trying very hard to slow down and take everything in.

I've recieved some truly beautiful things from friends and family. This quilt from my mother is made from my grandmothers wedding dress, the same dress that my mother also wore on her wedding day. I will have a new dress this month for my wedding, but I now pass by this beautiful quilt hanging on my wall and remember the strong women who came before me.

I've had some wonderful bridal showers and one crazy bachelorette party. You know the difference between a Bachelor party and a Bachelorette party? The camera. If we are facebook friends then I'm sure you will soon find lots of pictures from my friends who attended the bachelorette party. We really had a great time in downtown Austin. Special thanks to the man who agreed to take off his pants and give me his boxers. Not so much for my friend who has pictures of me wearing them on my head.

Now you know what I've been doing the last few months, how would you like to know what I've been cooking?

A new favorite on Jim's list is Paula Deens Veal and Creamed Spinach recipe. This is a very easy recipe and taste delicious. I was hesitant about the ritz cracker breading, but go with it - it tasted great. My only change was to flavor the creamed spinach with a little bit of chicken bouillon and I served it all over thin spaghetti. Fast, easy and filling.

Jim and I also threw a luau last month and I'm very happy with the Kalua Pig recipe I decided upon. The pork was falling apart as I transferred the meat from the oven dish to the serving dish. Here is how I did it: I cut slits in the pork and rubbed with sea salt, then poured on the liquid smoke, which I have never used before. I loved that stuff, made the pork taste like I had cooked it in the ground the traditional way. I also added some fish sauce because I like to sneak it in as a "secret" ingredient. I only added about 2 tablespoons. Wrap the pork in foil, bake low and slow at 250 for one hour per pound of meat. Delish, sorry no pictures. This feeds a lot for a little - great food for get-togethers.

Here is an idea for a super easy meal. I took a bag of that easy heat in the microwave spanish rice, a can of white meat chunk chicken and two cans of chicken broth.

Cooked the rice as the package indicates, heated the chicken broth, added the chunk chicken and seasoned with my favorite mexican spices: cumin and cayenne. I served with some cheddar cheese and spicy sour cream on top. Quick, Easy, Filling.

Another man pleasing meal here! You know how I love to make meatloaf in a baking pan, and I tell you to freeze leftovers in squares. You should listen to me! On a night when I did NOT want to cook, I simply pulled a square of meatloaf out of the freezer, then heated it in the microwave, placed it between two slices of ciabata with some provolone, pressed like a panini and Jim thought it was the greatest. Want to get fancy? Stir some herbs (whatever you have fresh on hand: chives, basil, sage) into some mayo and spread that over the ciabata first.

Doesn't this look good? Wish I could tell you what it is. I found this picture in my archives. It appears to be some sort of pecan crusted chicken with a creamy sauce, served over spaghetti. I don't remember where I got the recipe, or if it is a HWM original.

Now this I do remember eating, and I loved it. This is a spin on Pasta Carbonara using ingredients I had on hand. I made it very mediteranean using sun dried tomatoes and lots of kalamata olives.

In addition to the parmesan I sprinkled on top before serving, I stirred in some cottage cheese that was on it's last leg. This was a great meal.

I will do my darndest to keep up with this blog over the next two months. Please keep us in your prayers as we have a lot of traveling ahead of us.

Now go forth and cook!