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Great Wines Delivered to Your Door -- That's Progress!

As a non-driver, I am a collector of ways to have the things I want delivered to me in an expedient manner. This is why, to this day, I lament the demise of and my beloved webvan. I've previously chronicled my favorite grocery delivery resource herein but see I've neglected to mention my favorite place from which to order wine: K&L Wines here in the Bay Area.

This is a store I love to browse when someone else is driving. But it's honestly just as great to order from them online as it is to peruse in person. You see, they have an occasional newsletter with a ton of descriptions, and the website has those same descriptions for every wine. Plus, they allow you to set up keyword based watch lists, to generate an email every time something specific you are looking for comes into inventory. This way, you can keep an eye out for new releases from your favorite vineyard, or just get a feel for when a new vintage of a favorite varietal (say, Santa Barbara County pinot noir) is available.

Now, to get to the good part -- here's what I ordered:

  • 2005 Gundlach Bundschu "Rheinfarm Vineyard" Mountain Cuvee. A dependable red table wine.
  • 2007 Ridge Vineyards "Three Valleys" Sonoma Zinfandel Blend. Ridge has long been one of my favorite zinfandel producers. And Sonoma zin = win.
  • 2006 Rosenblum "Aparicio Vineyard" Amador County Zinfandel. I always have a handful of Rosenblum zins on hand, and Amador/El Dorado County zins are as tasty as more well-know appellations and typically at a lower price.
  • 2007 Sobon Estate "Rocky Top" Amador Zinfandel. Sobon has a number of well-priced tasty zinfandels.
  • 2006 Quivira Dry Creek  Zinfandel. Quivira is one of those wineries I haven't tasted at very often, but whenever I order a bottle of their wine in a restaurant I always htink to myself I should make ore of an effort to keep up with them. Have I mentioned yet that I am moderately obsessed with zinfandels?
  • 2006 T-Vine Cellars Napa Valley Zinfandel. This was a little bit of a splurge, but should be well worth it.
  • 2006 T-Vine Cellars Napa Valley Merlot. Many folks are of the opinion that merlot is an easy sipping boring wine best reserved for when your parents come to dinner. I beg to differ -- you just need to be drinking merlots from wineries who make an effort. can't wait to crack this open with a special dinner.
  • 2007 Olivet Lane Pinot Noir Russian River Valley. Another winery, like Quivira, that I always enjoy when I buy it in a restaurant. Will hold on to this for a night I make something especially hearty for dinner.
  • 2006 Au Bon Climat "Sanford & Benedict Vineyard-Santa Barbara Historic Vineyards Collection" Santa Ynez Valley Pinot Noir. I may have actually made a little squealy noise when I saw this returned in my search results. The Sanford & Benedict vineyard has been a favorite for a decade, with a Foxen Sanford & Benedict bottling having been the first I enjoyed from there if I recall correctly.
  • 2008 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara Pinot Noir. This is my most frequently purchased pinot noir, and Au Bon Climat is one of my top 10 favorite wineries.. If you bring this to a special dinner, you're happy and your hosts know you really like them.
  • 2006 D-Cubed Napa Valley Zinfandel. I first tried D Cubed at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant and keep an eye out for them when I shop for wine. This was an especially yummy bottle that paired nicely with a variety of dinners last week.
  • 2006 Kathryn Kennedy "Lateral" Bordeaux Blend. I tried this for the first time at a Family Winemakers tasting some time ago, and have kept it on my short list of red table wines since.
My wine rack and cellar are both full again, and I have a bunch of great wine waiting to be drank over the next few months. This is the good life.

Holiday Star Cookies

Holiday star cookies, originally uploaded by almostgold.

Starting in on the frosted+sugared cookies now.

 Merry Christmas Cookies

1/3 cup vegetable shortening

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

2/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon lemon extract

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, cream vegetable shortening, sugar, egg, honey, and lemon extract until light and fluffy. Sift in flour, baking soda, and salt; stir until well blended. Refrigerate dough at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  Lightly grease cookie sheets.

On a lightly floured board, roll dough 1/4-inch thick and cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutters.  Place 1-inch apart onto prepared cookie sheets. 

Bake 8-10 minutes. Ice with your favorite royal icing technique. I like to slather them in frosting then cover them with colored sugar. 

Share with those you love.

Faux Slaw

For the longest time, coleslaw kind of grossed me out. It was always this weirdly slimey mess of vegetables you'd get on the side of your turkey club sandwiches at diners. And not something I wanted to eat.

But at some point, I had some really good tangy, crunchy cole slaw. Probably from East Coast West deli or Max's Opera Cafe. And now, every so often, I get the craving for it. But just for one serving. Last night, I came up with a faux slaw that acted as a coleslaw stand-in snack while I played on the computer.

Faux Slaw

  • 1 handful shredded purple cabbage
  • 1 handful shredded carrots
  • 1 handful broccoli slaw
  • 1 TBSP Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
  • 3 or 4 turns of the pepper mill
In a small salad bowl, combine the veggies, add the salad dressing, combine until well-coated. Finish with the pepper. Fast, easy, tasty, and a little lower-calorie than a traditional coleslaw.

Surviving Thanksgiving Week

Thanksgiving has long been one of my favorite holidays. But the catch has always been getting through the week without having to go buy a new pair of jeans due to overindulging. Keeping that in mind this year, I planned some easy and low-cal casseroles to get us through the week, and leave me to freely indulge in all my turkey day favorite dishes.

First though, I need to do a shout out for my favorite side dish at this year's Thanksgiving dinner table: Martha Stewart's Sweet Potato and Sage Casserole. And yes, I brought home a hefty glad storage container full of it.

Black Bean and Corn Casserole

  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz corn kernels
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1 can (15oz) black beans, rinsed/drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 12 tortilla chips, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375. Spray your casserole dish (shallow and wide works better than a deep round for this) with your non-stick spray of choice (I use an olive oil spray.) Using a non stick pan on medium heat, cook the onion, garlic and bell pepper, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until both are softened. Remove from heat and stir in the corn.

Whisk the eggs and egg whites, milk, hot pepper sauce and ricotta together in a large bowl. Add the beans and the cooked vegetables. Spread evenly in your casserole dash, top with the cheese and the crushed tortillas. Bake until browned and bubbly. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and freshly ground pepper on top. Serves 6.

Turkey Tetrazzini

  • 1 1/2 cups reduced sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
  • 1 lb ground turkey breast
  • 8 oz fettuccine, cooked per package directions, drained
  • 1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella
  • 1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375. Spray your casserole dish (use a deep round if you want it more creamy, a shallow and wide dish if you like the crispy noodles) with your non-stick spray of choice (I use an olive oil spray.) Season the ground turkey with garlic powder, salt and pepper then brown in a non stick pan. Set aside.

Whisk broth and milk together in a medium-size saucepan. Stir in one tablespoon of butter. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened and boiling (8-10 min.) Add salt and pepper, remove from heat. Stir in sour cream and ricotta.

Add your noodles, vegetables and turkey to the cheese sauce. Stir together until everything is coated with the sauce. Pour into the casserole dish. Top with the mozzarella. Bake until browned and bubbly (20-30 min.) Serves 6.

Green Apple Book Binge

I live in a dangerous neighborhood. It's dangerous because Green Apple Books is within walking distance. For over 40-years, it's been San Francisco's best used bookstore. My particular weakness is their robust selection of food lit, and aisles of new nonfiction that appeals to Harper's magazine readers such as myself. My last trip there I was good and didn't bring anything home. This time though, despite my overflowing bookcases, I brought home a few books.


The Omnivore's Dilemma
by Michael Pollan

It's almost embarrassing that I haven't read this yet. I can't count how many times this book has been name-checked in the NPR podcasts I listen to, blogs I read, etc. Although I do indulge in the occasional handful of cheetos and have a fondness for Kraft Mac n' cheese, I've made a conscious decision to try to think both locally and more healthfully about what I am eating. I've heard nothing but praise about how this book delves into the moral and social ramifications of our food choices as a nation.


The End of Overeating
by David A. Kessler, MD

Several of my coworkers have been raving about this book by a former FDA commissioner. Did you know that brand name ketchup served with your salty fast food fries has corn syrup? According to Kessler, these ubiquitous combinations of salt, fat and sugar is no accident. The book presents research and examinations of specific foods produced by giant food corporations and restaurant chains to explain  how the desire to eat—not to be confused with the act of eating—is stimulated in the brain by the unholy trio of salt, fat and sugar.

This Land is Their Land
by Barbara Ehrenreich

I've been a hug fan of Ehrenreich since I read her Harper's essay that became the book Nickel and Dimed (a firsthand account of life in low-hourly-wage America.) This book is a collection of short pieces that tackle current issues that contribute to the growing gap between the haves and have-nots (i.e. what used to be the middle class.)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Lewis just couldn't resist this one. I'll let you know how it turns out...



I hate when an entire month goes by without my updating here.

It's not that I don't have anything to share. I come across things I want to write about here, but by the time I get home from work, I'm tired and just not up for it. And I have these adorable little monsters vying for my attention.

My workplace blocks blogs, so there's no spending my lunch break on it either. Thus, the bookmarks pile up and the blog collects dust. So it goes.

But rest assured I am still reading my blog roll, and I haven't given up on this place.


Another Super Summer Salad: Apple and Carrot Salad

Summertime heat makes me crave cold food all the time. I've been trying not to use that as a reason to eat potato salad 3 meals per day. This refreshing salad is fast and sinple to make, and low in calories, making it a great addition for your lunch bag or a pre-dinner snack.

  • 2 large apples (1 granny smith and 1 fuji or other red apple makes the prettiest salad) cored then cut into matchsticks with your mandolin or grated
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 cups carrots, grated
  • 1/4 cup(s) chives, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
Toss apples with lime juice. Add remaining ingredients. Makes 8 servings. 1 pt each for those of you on WW.

Sonoma County Fair

Barring some sort of catastrophe (like the year the car died), I've gone to a county fair every year for as long as I can remember.

I love the funnel cakes, the regional ethinic foods, the livestock, and the exhibits. I can't explain why, but it's just an intrinsic part of summer for me.

Yesterday's trek to the Sonoma County Fair was my third trip to that particular fair. Last year, we weren't able to go until a weekend day midway through the fair, and missed out on most of the small animals. So this year, we planned ahead and went up on a weekday that coincided with some of the animal showing.

As my fair photo gallery shows, we saw lots and lots of cows and bunnies.

I had personally been excited about the fair's Sustainable Sonoma exhibit. As a slow food proponent, and frequenter of farmers markets, I was excited at the prospect of seeing some local growers and producers at the fair and giving folks some ideas on how to think more locally. Unfortunately, the reality of the exhibit however did not meet my expectations.

Set in a tent off to the side of the main entry hall, it featured a lot of unmanned booths (like the Sierra Nevada table that had some brochures and some keychains on it), a table with a little bit of produce and some olive oil, and a gentleman giving out samples of hummus and veggie spreads, some art made from recycled items, a booth on sprinklers, and a few other booths selling various art.

I had expected a vibrant and fun expression of the eat local scene, yet this felt more like a green themed extension of the entry hall concessions. I mean, there wasn't even a copy of the Sonoma Farm Trails map! If we lived in the area, I would be looking around now to sign up as a volunteer to curate the tent for next year in a way that made folks proud of their local purveyors and help them understand how they can grow fruits and veggies at home, etc.

But that is a minor complaint from an otherwise lovely day at the fair.

Seven-Layer Brownies

Since we are off to the fair today, I have snacks on the brain. Thus once a twitter friend was trying to decide on some brownies to make, I felt prompted to share my friend Carolyn's recipe, which I wheedled out of her when we did a holiday cookie exchange several years ago.

These are truly the most fabulous 7 Layer Brownies I've had, and so simple to make.

1. Melt 1 stick of butter in 9"x13" pan, then add the following layers:
2. 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs
3. 1 cup of grated coconut
4. 3/4 of a 12 oz bag of chocolate chips
5. 3/4 of a 12 oz bag of butterscotch chips
6. 1 cup chopped nuts (Carolyn used pecans)
7. Pour 1 can of sweetened condensed milk over the top

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for nugget style brownies.

I mean, how can any recipe that starts off with melting an entire stick of butter *not* be fabulous???

Muir Woods -- Too Popular for its Own Good

Muir Woods

I'm taking this week off and again not leaving the City. So we thought it would be fun to recreate the Muir Woods portion of our April staycation. But it was not to be.

We arrived around 2:15 on Monday afternoon and parking was a good 3 mile hike in from the shoulder of the road to the park entrance. I forgot completely that Summer weekdays are a lot more crowded than Springtime weekdays. I've clearly been out of school for too long and don't have babies to remind me of what I am missing out on over Summer break.

So we did what any other intrepid city explorers would do -- we popped down onto the nearest trail by where we parked, on Muir Woods Road. that's one of the cool things about the Bay Area's park system-- there are always a bunch of trails heading off from any of the parks. In this case, we took the Redwood Creek Trail, to the Heather trail.

California's budget situation has been in the news a lot lately so it wasn't surprising to see that we had a trail closed for renovations that didn't seem to be happening (Miwok Trail), and that both the main trail we were on and the offshoots were overgrown to the point of being nearly obscured by the weeds. I was not prepared for that level of contact with weeds-- I lacked both an allergy pill and a walking stick (for pushing past the weeds without touching them). I will be sure to have both next time. And to keep our two excellent trail guidebooks (with maps) in the trunk: Moon California Hiking (Moon Handbooks) and Golden Gate Trailblazer: Where to Hike, Walk, Bike in San Francisco & Marin

If we close down dozens of state parks and cut back on staffing and services for the rest, as has been reported to be the outcome of today's budget agreement, I do wonder what is giong to happen to our trail system. Will it become overgrown and eventually warrant millions of dollars in restorative funds? Or will local citizens take it upon themselves to keep the trails clear? It will be interesting to see what happens.

FOUND: Kinder Hippos in SF!

Whenever I travel to the EU, I make a point of bringing home a dozen Kinder Hippos so I can instantly transport myself back into vacation brain. And yes, whenever I hear a friend is traveling to a City where I know a place to buy them, I make sure to beg for candy.

But I shall no longer have to bribe travelers to make room in their bags for these hazelnut and chocolate wafer treats: Royal Market and Bakery (the awesome Russian grocery up the street) had them today!

I bought myself a box of five, and one for Lewis as well. But I'm putting my name on my box to make sure he doesn't think he can sneak an extra one when I'm not looking...


Potato Salad, Two Ways

Potato salad has been the quintessential summertime food to me for as long as I can remember. The highlight of any picnic as a child was cold fried chicken accompanied by my mom’s creamy potato salad.

So when the most recent heatwave turned our otherwise lovely apartment into an oven, I cracked open my 5 lb bag of red potatoes and got boiling.

After chopping about 3 lbs of the potatoes into bite-sized chunks, I tossed them into salted boiling water. I let them boil about 10 minutes until the average size pieces were cooked through (tested by spooning one out, cooling it with water, and tasting it.) At this point I tossed in some French green beans that I snapped in half and cooked for another 2 minutes.

After pouring the potatoes and green beans out into a footed colander and letting cool about 5 minutes, I split them into two bowls with roughly the same potato to green bean ratio.

In the first bowl, I added three heaping serving spoons of sour cream, 1/4 of a large red onion roughly chopped, and a teaspoon of grainy mustard, plus salt and pepper then stirred til combined. We used this as a side for our fried chicken.

In the other bowl, which had about a potato more in it, I added three heaping serving spoons of mayo, 1/4 of a large red onion roughly chopped, 1/2 cup of solid salami chopped into small chunks, 2 cups of shredded cabbage, a teaspoon of grainy mustard, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar plus salt and pepper then stirred til combined. I took this salad for lunch, and had small portions as an after work snack all week.

Sorry for the lack of photos on this, but potato salad is one of those foods that looks so wrong, but tastes so good.

Too Hot to Handle (Cooking)

The hot weather last week completely KO'd my desire to cook anything. We're on the 4th floor without AC, so the idea of heating up the house just to prepare dinner was a no-go. Hence all the eating out and ordering in that went on last week. And whenever I eat out too much, I rebound with a fury.

This weekend, at Trader Joe's, I must have piled every attractive looking fruit and vegetable into my cart. We dove into that treasure trove last night with stir fry featuring boneless beef short ribs (cooked with a drizzle of honey and some brown sugar) cut into bite-size chunks, cabbage, broccoli slaw, bell peppers, carrots, and summer squash over rice. I meant to take a photo of it but it was too yummy and we were too hungry so it was scarfed down in record time.
Trader Joe's produce section is an excellent pit stop for pre-sliced veggies for salads or stir frys. Just knowing that you can skip the chopping and clean up process makes it that much easier to motivate (and faster) to get a healthy dinner on the table.
Tonight, thinking about pan frying chicken breasts and serving them with a red potato and green bean salad.

P.S. After all my online searching, I just made brownies with my Baker's Edge Brownie Pan instead of anything fancy.

To Make

I'm always collecting bookmarks for a number of yummy treats. Not sure what  I want to bake this weekend, so I've been clicking through to see if anything causes me to lick my lips, and these all sound promising...

While I try to decide if baking snacks today>heating up the kitchen, I'm going to have a Stirrings Lemon Drop. Ah, summer...

Kitty Babies

On Sunday afternoon, we got to go pick up our new kitty babies. We arrived with our kitty carrier and were pleasantly surprised that our adventurous boys (following resident kitty Rosie's lead) climbed right in, ready to go.

On the short drive across town, the kitties were silent, except for one squeak after about 10 minutes. The boys spent a solid half hour running around checking out all the nooks and crannies in the apartment, only finding three teeny crawl spaces we had not anticipated, all of which were easily blocked.

Born in March, and abandoned in a box with the rest of their litter in the Central Valley, the boys are now at the super high energy stage of kittenhood. They need at least two rounds of feather-on-a-stick per day to tire them out. And I don't mean just 10 or 15 minutes at a time either.

Sunday night, I stopped after about that long to write a quick email. I hit send then swiveled my chair around to find both boys at my feet...and with the feather-on-a-stick in Bolvar's mouth. He made sure I understood that it was still playtime now, thanks.

It's interesting to watch how they interact. Despite their youth, they are already bonded and spend much of their time together. In addition to the vigorous wrestling matches that break out after feather play time, they run laps up and down the hallway and take turns washing each others faces at bath time.

We are already getting a sense of their individual quirks. Bolvar is our hunter gatherer. From bringing me the feather toy when playtime is not long enough to bringing us the miscellaneous cord he finds behind our desks or bookcase, he is always looking for the next shiny object to bring us. And when he catches the feather toy, he restrains it with both feet and bites it.

Marcello, tho he does carry around his favorite mousey, is more of a lounger than a hunter. His naps are longer and more stretched out across the sofa. He makes eyes at you as he tries to fight back the napping urges. He's the first one on the bed at bedtime, planting himself at my feet.

Overall they seem to have settled in pretty quickly, making themselves at home. But don't just take my word for it -- I think this photo of Marcello speaks for itself...

A House Without a Kitty is not a Home

It's been far too quiet around these parts since Mister Bill's passing.

We gave ourselves time to grieve and get used to the absence of Bill.

Once we were ready to let some furry little ones into our heart, we started our research. We never once considered purchasing a purebred cat, or buying from a pet store. There are far too many orphaned and abandoned pets looking for homes to do that in my opinion.

The SF Bay Area has a number of cat rescue organizations, many of which post on craigslist when they have fostered animals needing placements in permanent homes. It was through craigslist that we found Wonder Cat Rescue.

I was impressed with their adoption application and its thoroughness in ensuring a prospective cat adopter understood adopting a pet is a significant lifetime commitment, not something to be taken lightly. After filling it out, I emailed to express interest in a pair of kittens we'd seen.

I received a prompt email back from Stephanie to let us know that although those two sisters had been spoken for, she had two brothers looking for a home. We set up an appointment to meet the kittens and have a playdate under the watchful eye of their foster parents.

When we arrived to meet them, we were welcomed to the apartment by the resident kitty. She did a great job of showing the initially skeptical kittens that we were worth checking out, what with all our chin scratchies and pets.

The boys soon determined that we seemed to be OK, and that we had toys, and surrendered themselves to 45 minutes of mildly strenuous play while we talked to the foster parents.

Fun Fact: You can play with 1 mouse on a string with two kitties at one time provided you can keep mouse end and string end moving simultaneously and with 6 inches between them.

This afternoon, we got the notification that our adoption was approved. So now we're just waiting to hear back from the foster parents as to a good day and time to pick them up. To say that we are thrilled is an understatement.


San Francisco Bay Area Cat Rescues

San Francisco Bay Area SPCAs and Shelters

Some Seriously Fun Eats at the Eat Real Festival

It's always good to be a Bay Area foodie-- there's a new food festival thunk up every week or two, like the Eat Real Festival, coming to Oakland, California from August 28 to 30.

Similar in spirit to the recent Serious Eats Great American Food festival, Eat Real will feature food+music, but without the trek to Shoreline. The event is free of charge to check out tho presumably the food cart fare is out of your pocket once something catches your eye.

I'm personally most interested in the Beer Shed, curated by David McLean of Magnolia Brewpub and promising a rotating selection of Northern California's best handcrafted IPAs, imperials and cask ales on tap. Yum.

UPDATE: Their twitter feed has started confirming the participants: linden st, magnolia, drakes, moonlight, half moon bay, triple rock, thirsty bear, marin and 21st amendment.