Monthly Archives: November 2011

San Francisco & Napa Valley

As you may know by now Heather and I are both Meeting Assistant/Coordinators for non-profit associations. Each year our associations hold an annual meeting for approximately 10,000 attendees.  It’s a lot of work, but you do get to travel, in some cases, to pretty cool places. I just got back from a trip in San Francisco for our annual meeting. I tacked a mini-vacation on the end in order to actually have time to enjoy the city.  My boyfriend came out to join me and we loved every minute of it.  We found the most amazing breakfast place on 5th and Mission that you have to try if you are ever in San Francisco. The restaurant is called Soma Restaurant and Bar and has a small Italian café feel.  The menu is minimal but is of great quality: Eggs Florentine, Eggs Benedict, and open face omelet with chorizo all for $9.95 or less!

We also had an authentic Chinese food experience in Chinatown and hit all the trademark tourist spots: touring Alcatraz, cable car riding, walking through fisherman’s wharf, biking over the Golden Gate Bridge, and a visiting the Ferry Building.  We had amazing weather and couldn’t be happier to have some quality time with my boy.

We then headed up to Napa Valley in our rented mustang convertible on Friday 11/11/11 while it was rainy and gloomy. We decided to take back roads and enjoy the drive.  Along our drive through Sonoma we decided to stop at a winery Gloria Ferrer. This winery was absolutely beautiful and had exceptional champagne and decent Pinot Noir.  They also serve the most amazing roasted spicy almonds.  While there Wil (my boyfriend) wanted to keep walking around the property and I was very much against it do to the weather. As we were leaving we walked up to the outdoor patio overlooking the vineyard and he asked me if I had enough photos and I said I think so. He said that I should probably trying getting the wide shot out to the left. I said ok…. then asked if he wanted a picture of anything else.

He said, “I want a picture of this,” I turned around and he was on one knee and asked me to marry him. I dropped my camera and instantly said yes and started bawling.  To say the least this is my new favorite winery. But I do have to say regardless of the moment the Brut Rose Champagne by Gloria Ferrer is amazing and will be at our wedding for sure!

We then drove up to Napa and stayed at the Rancho Caymus Inn. This place is by far the cutest and luxurious hotel I have stayed in. It was the perfect place for us to spend the next few nights after our engagement.  I would recommend it if you are looking for a place to to stay north of Napa.

We went to a Mediterranean restaurant up in St. Helena the night we arrived which was decent it was called Buccerta.  The next morning we woke up and went to 4 wineries. The best winery by far was the Rubicon Estate. The winery was beautiful and had phenomenal red wine and beautiful views.

We had lunch at the Rutherford Grill after a long wait but oh, was it worth the wait!  The prime rib sandwich was the most simple, yet, flavorful sandwich I had ever had! That night we ate at Alex, the restaurant in the Rancho Caymus Inn. This is new restaurant but already has a reputation of high quality food and service. We loved every moment in Napa. The wine and cuisine were fabulous!

Holy Matrimony

H&M

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Filed under Wine, Wineries

Stuffed Eggplant Rolls

Both Melissa and I studied Hospitality & Tourism Management at Virginia Tech. One of the required core classes of our major is HTM 3414 – Purchasing, Production and Management, also know as cooking class, taught by Chef Sexton. The lecture part of this class taught us all about managing a kitchen, handling/ordering food, identifying different FBIs, and sanitizing.  In our lab – which was an industrial kitchen, that is where the real magic happened! We learned how to wield large 7 inch chef knives with confidence, execute recipes using the mother sauces, and cook in large quantities (well 20 is large when you grow up in a house of 5). But, to borrow from Tim Gunn, most of all we learned how to “Make it work!”

Chef Sexton taught us several recipes that could make your mouth water just thinking about them, especially when you are a poor college student eating PB&J sandwiches on a regular basis. But one of our (simplest) favorites is Stuffed Eggplant Rolls.

Stuffed Eggplant Rolls
Yield: 4-5 servings

1 large eggplant
1/4 cup olive oil (approximately)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese
2 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon fresh basil
1 clove garlic

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375° F.
  2. Remove stem of eggplant and slice lengthwise, about 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Slice middle (large) pieces in half lengthwise.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  5. Using an olive oil mister or teaspoon lightly spray/spread olive oil on each side of eggplant slices.
  6. Lightly fry eggplant in batches until lightly browned.
  7. Chop basil and mince garlic.
  8. Mix together mozzarella, Ricotta, and Parmesean cheese, basil and garlic.
  9. Place 1-2 tablespoons of cheese mixture onto a slice of eggplant. Roll.
  10. Place roll seam side down on a cookie sheet.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese mixture is melted.

These rolls make a great appetizer by themselves or an entrée when paired with spaghetti. We suggest serving them with a warmed marinara sauce.

HTM & Melanzana

H&M

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Mexican Pizza

The genius behind development of Mexican Pizza: what better way to satisfy your palette than to combine your two favorite cuisines? Hi, we are Heather and Melissa and we love Mexican and Italian food.

My grandfather’s family owned a pizza shop in Pennsylvania. Somehow, the pizza making gene did not pass to me. I cannot make pizza dough. Melissa has watched me fail numerous times in the short time that we have lived together. Finally I gave up and started buying pre-made pizza dough. This is probably considered cheating, but it is completely worth it! Seriously, buy the refrigerated pizza dough at Trader Joes and you will never attempt to make your own dough again!

However, for our Mexican Pizza you need a thick pizza crust in order to support the large amount of toppings spread on-top. We recommend a thick pre-made crust (the Archer Farms Garlic pizza crust from Target).

Mexican Pizza

1 large or two individual pizza crusts

1 small red onion
1 large bell pepper (we used a yellow)
1 teaspoon of chopped garlic
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 medium chicken breast
1/4 cup medium salsa
1/4 cup pizza sauce
1/4 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of shredded Mexican cheese blend

Yield: serves 4

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Grill chicken breast either on grill or in sautee pan. When almost completely cooked, drizzle with lime juice and 1 tablespoon of cilantro.
  3. Add olive oil to large skillet and bring to medium heat.
  4. Julienne red onion and bell pepper. Add red onion, bell peper, remaining cilantro, garlic and black pepper to skillet. Cook while continuously stirring for 3-5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
  5. Cut chicken into 1/4 inch strips, 2 inches long. Add to skillet with vegetables and mix well. Remove from heat.
  6. Evenly spread pizza sauce onto crust.
  7. Evenly spread salsa over pizza sauce.
  8. Add vegetables and chicken, spreading evenly over crust.
  9. Sprinkle cheeses evenly over vegetables.
  10. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

I like mine with some crushed red pepper on top to give an extra kick!

Habanera & Marinara

H&M

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