Monday, July 18, 2011

A lovely weekend at Milliken Creek

This last weekend, my fella and I were invited to stay at Milliken Creek Inn, which is right on the Napa river. Those of you who are already familiar with my stories might know that I'm not the biggest fan of Napa, finding it overcrowded with drunk tourists and cheesy tasting room employees, so I was skeptical of this invitation, but wanted to escape the San Francisco fog.

How wonderful it is to know that there's still rustic charm in Napa! Milliken Creek Inn sits right on the river, which is a tide river, ebbing and flowing from both directions. There are several buildings on the property, which originally housed a tavern that stagecoach riders would stop at on their mail routes in the 1800s.

This was the first weekend away the Mister and I had since we were married last October, and Milliken Creek was such a sweet place--they are all about the romance. The Inn's lovely general manager ticked off the personal butlering services she's done for the Inn's guest over the past year: organized plane-writing in the sky for an anniversary, a butterfly release, bought lingerie, and procured a special bottle of wine of which there were only 10 left in the world. She joked, "The only thing I won’t let someone do is fish off my river bank!" (and you wouldn’t want to, nor would you want to swim in the river).

We dropped our bags off in the luxe room and headed into town for some oysters and beer at the Oxbow Public Market, wandered around the Ferry Building-esque food court and came back to the Inn for a spa treatment--one of the best this cynic has ever had. The line they use for facials is Eminence Organics, which I'd never heard of but is definitely on my list of skincare to recommend.

Although the Inn kindly offered to make us a reservation anywhwere in Napa, we didn't feel like dining out and so bought all of the fixings for our favorite picnic dinner (baguette, boquerones, prosciutto, soft cheese, cornichons, and a 12-pack of Pacifico) and ate on our private deck.

The morning brought a cute picnic basket packed with a hot breakfast (you order it the night before by hanging a tag on your door and they deliver it starting at 8am) and the daily papers.

I'd definitely recommend a stay at Milliken Creek for any couple who's looking for some romance, especially since the Inn is celebrating their 10-year anniversary this year, and offering special packages that include a driver, dinner reservations, chocolate and strawberries (um, did I  mention they covered our entire room with candles, roses, and rose petals while we were enjoying the 6pm Winemaker Hour in the Inn's lobby?!?), and a few frisky treats that couples can indulge in when they come back to their room in the evening.

The packages range from $900-$1200 for the 2-night package, and regular room rates depend on the season, from $275 for a “Milliken” room in the off-season to $650 for a luxury room during the high season.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

So Much Sake

Over 500 people showed up for the Japan fundraiser at Yoshi's this afternoon. Chef upon chef outdid each other with offerings of internal organs prepared in just the right proportions...and the live jazz made all the food that much more savory.

More to come...

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Chefs United Raised $42K for Sendai

Sunday night's fundraiser at Prospect was by all accounts a smashing success, we raised $42,000 for the people of Sendai City and Miyagi prefecture, and it seems that folks had a great time.

Longer post to come, for now I've got to prepare for Saturday's event at Yoshi's! (Buy tickets here)

If you're looking for posts about the trip to Japan that the hooligans above took in 2009, you can find them HERE.

** Update**
A little more about the fundraiser on Sunday night:

Each of the chefs that I visited Japan with (pictured above) created a dish inspired by our trip to Sendai in 2009. They each gave their dish a name--the word that reminded them the most of Sendai.

Prospect opened its doors on a Sunday night, which is huge for a restaurant, so many many thanks to all of the waiters, bartenders, and amazing cooks who (I'm assuming) worked tip-free (which is basically for free) on Sunday to bring this menu to the 120 diners that showed up in support of the Miyagi prefecture.

Each course was paired by the chefs and their team with a different sake or wine (all donated, as was much of the food--the Albarino Amy Currens procured for Chef Ravi's asparagus/crab/uni dish was especially refreshing) and all were made with ingredients from Miyagi like Matcha (Lissa Doumani's delightful green tea and strawberry dessert), Sendai red miso, and Miyagi oysters. Having visited the farm where Miyagi oysters come from has given me such an appreciation for them, as we see them on most restaurant menus worth their salt in San Francisco.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

No Words Minced at Quince

Okay, so I just wanted to have a snappy title for a post about dining at Quince. But words *weren't* minced at the Oregon Certified Sustainable Winemakers' dinner last Tuesday, where a select few Oregonian winemakers showcased their current releases.

When I hear "biodynamic" or "organic" wine, the word "sludge" flashes through my brain before it can help itself. It's unfortunate that the biodynamic/organic label can carry negative connotations in the haute wine world. Just as some of the city's best restaurants will use organic, local food and utilize green business practices--and not tout it--many of my favorite Californian wineries farm organically and produce their wine biodynamically, without making a big deal on the label. (Quintessa and Unti come to mind).

Adelsheim Vineyard's and WillaKenzie's Pinot Blancs were a refreshing way to start the meal, and the Montinore Estate's Borealis went wonderfully with the first course, a salad of raw, shaved asparagus with lardo and grana padano cheese. The wine was an interesting blend of 45% M├╝ller-Thurgau, 24% Gew├╝rztraminer, 18% Pinot Gris and 13% Riesling that worked well with asparagus--a hard vegetable to pair wine with.

I paid more attention to Pat Dudley's lively explanation of how the LIVE certification process works than to my second course of lasagnette, she was so animated when describing the different elements of the biodynamic treatments that were serving as the family-style table's centerpieces.

I helped myself to second's of Montinore Estate's Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ("It's WillAMit, dammit!," joshed the proprietor of Panther Creek as I mangled the appellation's pronounciation). The spiciness of the pinot surprised me, but I suppose the cool climate there on the coast forces the grapes to grow a thicker skin, providing the resulting wine with a little spicier tannin.

After the roast duck with quince mostarda course (which was great with the Bethel Heights estate-grown pinot noir), plenty of wines had been passed around the table and the vibe was a bit looser. So loose, in fact, that Terroir co-owner Dagan Ministero suddenly leapt up and seized a new bottle from the side table.

Conversation froze as Ministero removed his shoe and placed the base of the bottle inside, repeatedly slammed the shoe against the brick wall of Quince's private dining room and began to sweat a bit as the cork inched out millimeter by millimeter. Weak applause followed the pouring of the (possibly bottle-shocked?) pinot. While I'll certainly remember that parlor trick for my next camping trip, can somebody please send Mssr. Ministero a new Laguiole??