Joanie Loves Bocce – “Feels Like the First Time”

August 31, 2008 at 1:56 pm (Napa Valley)

I was soooo excited about this week’s bocce theme “Feels Like the First Time” because the challenge was to make something that I had never made before.  Something I had never made before…something that my bocce compatriots would like…something that would be easy to make because my week was looking quite busy.  What to do, what to do?

Flipping through one of my trusty food-friendly magazines a light bulb went off…chicken wings, oh yes one of my favorite things toeat while sipping on a frosty beer.

The plan was to prep Wednesday evening after work.  I would make the jalapeno sauce to toss the wings in and a blue cheese dip for dipping…because really you can’t eat wings without the blue cheese dip, it just isn’t right!  Then after work on Thursday I would cook the wings, toss them in the sauce and head out the door to bocce.  Ready to enjoy the evening with some good friends, playing, and food.

Not so much!  The wings never made it to bocce, and I barely did.  Why…lets say a small spell of bad luck. 

Due to the fact that is was 100+ degrees on Thursday, when leaving work I decided to take a load out to the car, start the AC and then get the rest of my stuff.  This seemed to be a foolproof plan…unfortunately my car decided to automatically lock the doors while I went back inside.  So for, 30 minutes my car was running, with the AC on full blast, waiting for Triple A to come to the rescue.  And once Triple A did arrive, problems weren’t solved immediately because my car is electronic and he couldn’t open with his usual tool so we had to duct tape the door and then stick a hanger through the small hole on the side and press the window open button so that I could stick my arm in and unlock the car!  Thank God!

But, because of my wonderful car having a mind of its own and not letting me inside there was no time to make the chicken wings…so sad!  On the bright side, I did make it to bocce on time to play the first game.  And I don’t mean to sound braggy or anything but the Joanies are kicking ass this fall season.  Our record 8 WINS, and 1 LOSS.  Looking good, looking good.

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Dinner and a Movie

August 27, 2008 at 9:49 am (Napa Valley)

As part of my “lets get healthy” new attitude towards life, I am trying to not visit the Silverado Brewery on Tuesday nights for $3 beers.  So last night to keep myself occupied I made dinner for some friends and we decided that we would go see the movie Bottle Shock – a movie based on the 1976 Paris tasting in which 2 Napa Valley wineries bested some of the most well renowned French wineries, therefore putting Napa Valley on the map of great wine regions of the world.

I loved the portrayal of Napa Valley back in the day – before it became so tourist-ridden and poshy.  I have heard the stories from some of the old-time bocce players about how Napa “used to be” and always thought “Wow, that could be interesting!  Sounds like a good time.”  And I don’t mean this to sound ungrateful to a place I have called my home the last seven years, but back then it just seemed so innocent – people growing grapes because they were farmers.  Farmers who understand the soil and climate, and were so proud of their crops that they wanted to take it to the next level by making their own wine.  Wine that could stand on its own against some of the top wines in the world.

Needless to say, I loved this movie.  It made me smile and appreciate how lucky I am to be living part of the Napa Valley dream.

As for the dinner portion of the evening, because I am trying to be healthy and cook seasonally I made a delicious dinner of Yellow Squash Soup with Scallion Salad based off a recipe from the August 2008 Food and Wine magazine.  I say based because I was missing some ingredients and had to improvise.  I’m going to give you my version, which turned out lovely!

Yellow Squash Soup and Scallion Salad
1 T unsalted butter
1 # yellow squash, cut into 1″ pieces
2 bay leaves
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 1/2 C chicken broth
1 1/2 C water
1/2 C plain yogurt
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Manchego Cheese Shavings
Scallion Salad:
6 scallions, chopped
1 t olive oil
1 C grape tomatoes, quartered
1 T minced tarragon
1/4 C diced peeled cucumber
1 t lemon juice

1.  In a saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the yellow squash, bay leaves, and garlic.  Cook over moderate heat for 8-10 minutes.  Add the broth and water and bring to a boil.  Simmer just until the squash is tender.
2.  Meanwhile, melt a pat of butter in another small saucepan.  Add scallions and cook until tender.  Let cool and transfer to a bowl.
3.  Transfer the squash and 1/2 to 1 cup of the broth to a blender and discard the bay leaves.  Puree the soup and blend in the yogurt.  Season with salt and pepper.  Keep warm, or refrigerate until cold.
4.  Add the tomatoes, tarragon, cucumber, lemon juice and olive oil to scallions and toss.  Ladle the soup into bowls and shave Manchego cheese on top.  Garnish with the scallion salad.

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Joanie Loves Bocce – “Food that Starts with a B”

August 25, 2008 at 1:05 pm (Napa Valley) (, , )

Fall bocce season has started – it is a new beginning for the Joanies!

Summer league ended kind of sadly, even though we made the playoffs we were big LOSERS of the WINNERS bracket!  First match, we killed…it was actually kind of sad!  And then we were pitted against the dreaded Grape Stompers, one of the teams that vies for first place year after year!  And sadly, the stomped us 2 games in a row so we were done for the day.  We compensated by drinking mass amounts of bubbles.

I missed the first week of fall league due to my Minneapolis trip, and was super excited to get back into the swing of things this week.  Due to busy schedules only Cappo James, Helen Jane, Britt, Tom and I played.  And I might say it worked out quite well.  I made out like a bandit with stars:
3 WINS = 3 Silver Stars
3 Casinos = 3 GOLD Stars

Since it was sooo hot for bocce my food with a “B” was Tomato Burgers – something light and fresh to use up the produce of the season and plus I love anything with goat cheese!  The recipe calls for home made buns, but really who has time for that on a school day so I used dinner rolls.  And actually Helen Jane and I thought you could just use the cheese and tomato filling as topping on crostini…yummy!

Tomato “Burgers”
Gourmet magazine, August 2008

Tomato Filling:
1/2 # tomatoes
1/4 C drained sun-dried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped
2 T shallot, chopped
2 t balsamic vinegar

Goat Cheese Filling:
1/3 C goat cheese @ room temp
3 T mascarpone cheese
1 T chives, finely chopped

For assembly:
Basil leaves
mini buns or rolls

1.  Cut a shallow x in bottom of each fresh tomato.  Blanch in a saucepan of boiling water 30 seconds, then transfer to an ice bath.  Peel and seed tomatoes.  Dice tomatoes.
2.  Stir together goat cheese, mascarpone, chives and a pinch of salt.
3.  Assembly:  Half each bun/roll horizontally, then fill sandwich with tomato filling, a basil leaf, and cheese filling.

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Mac N Cheese, Please

August 21, 2008 at 7:15 am (Napa Valley) (, )

I like tradition.

Carving pumpkins the week before Halloween.

Playing Mexican Train every Thanksgiving.

Attending the football homecoming game and then celebrating at the Harvest Festival the next day.  (Think I am ready for autumn yet?)

Traditions are good, they give you something to look forward to and help build memories to cherish.

It has become tradition that after every Cheesewhizzes party we take all of the leftover cheese and turn it into Mac N Cheese.  A beautifully gooey combination of butter, four, milk, cheese, and elbow noodles.  The result is always amazing…good food, good wine, and good people.

Cheers to Cheesewhizzes!

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Cheesewhizzes – Viva Espana

August 18, 2008 at 7:07 pm (Napa Valley)

After months of waiting we finally had another Cheesewhizzes party this last weekend! 

The Cheesewhizzes

The Cheesewhizzes

And really, it was worth the wait.  I don’t know if it was the wine and cheese from Spain, the location, or the attendees, but this party was a huge success.  Everyone left with huge smiles on their faces!

A huge shout out to Hess Collection Winery for inviting us to have Cheesewhizzes at their winery.  They set us up on the third floor of the art gallery, where we had our own patio, kitchen and staff.  Their chef even got involved and paired a couple of cheeses to go with both their Chardonnay and Zinfandel – it was delicious!

My favorite cheese was the Idiazabal, from the Basque region of Spain and made from milk of the Latxa sheep.  It is a pressed cheese light yellow in color on the inside, with a washed rind.  It is lightly smoked after aging.  Definate nutty and buttery flavors.

We are alrelady planning the next Cheesewhizzes event…stay tuned!

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Last Night in Minneapolis

August 15, 2008 at 4:52 pm (Travel) (, )

I am skipping the storytelling about Night #2 – not that it wasn’t fun and entertaining, but it was a little much…too much wine, too much pork belly, and too much taxi-cab confession time.  But, I will say that if you are heading to Minneapolis anytime soon you absolutely must check-out Cafe Lurcat located in the Loring Park area.  Super hip, super urban…groups of beautifully upholstered sofas around long low-slung tables and how can you not love a space lit by ornate chandeliers.  But, I digress…

Night #3
As with the previous 2 nights, Night #3 began with a run through slam-bam shopping stop in Macy’s.  Yes, Macy’s.  That large department store that I usually shun because it is just too big and overwhelming.  I have changed my mind because I have made a discovery, I have found a gem…this Macy’s is fabulous and I plan to shop there every time I visit the Twin Cities.  It is a “must-stop” on my itinerary.

After buying yet another dress at beloved Macy’s and my boss purchasing some classic St. John pieces, we rushed to meet TK (Minnesota native) and Leslie (Wine Goddess Extraordinaire) in the hotel bar.  The question on everyone’s hungry mind…Where to dine, where to dine?  Somewhere withing walking distance, somewhere good after such a long day of meetings a power shopping.

The answer…Mission.  Two blocks away and lots of good bar food!  Not quite as hip as Cafe Lurcat (but that could be hard to beat).  But, really quite elegant and the service was great.  We ordered almost one thing of each appie off the menu.  My two favorite appies were the House Made Potato Chips with Chive Sour Cream and the Truffle Cream Cheese Wontons with Malt Vinegar Dipping Sauce.  Finger Licking Good!

After dinner is was off to bed to watch the Olympics, what better drama than two American gymnasts fighting over the GOLD…priceless.

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Good times in Minneapolis – Night #1

August 14, 2008 at 11:02 am (Travel) (, )

I travel to Minneapolis once every couple of months for business.  I love the city.  It has Midwestern charm, mixed with a hip urban edge.  There is shopping, restaurants, and bars…what more can a girl ask for?

When visiting, I spend most of my time in the Target building attending meetings or watching the parade of people in the ever-so-interesting cafeteria.  Over the years, a routine has been established for every visit…dinner at Vincent’s and bed time at the Double Tree. 

It was a good routine, it worked, but after awhile I needed to try something new.  So I enlisted my friend TK (a Minneapolis native) to show me what the city had to offer.  Our first outing was last May when we visited Psycho Suzie’s to have pickle roll-ups and then rolled across the street to have “Greenie” drinks.  It was a great night out with all new places, I couldn’t wait to do it again on my next trip.

I arrived yesterday and met TK in the hotel lobby of the Marriott Downtown, which has just been renovated due to the GOP Convention in September.  I was quite pleased with my new sleeping arrangements and immediately noticed the lobby’s modern decor with the bar area where lots of people were enjoying cocktails.  DoubleTree bar, dingy and not so fun.

We walked over to The Ivy– a swanky new hotel in downtown – to have a cocktail and snack.  The restaurant at the hotel is Porter and Frye…very hip, very elegant yet relaxed.  My cocktail:   “Lover, You Should Have Come Over”.  A fabulous blend of raspberry syrup, Effen Vodka, Lime and Ginger Beer garnished with fresh raspberries and mint.  It was absolutely delicious!  We shared 2 snacks 1)  Pommes Juliet and 2)  Berkshire Terrine

The Pommes Juliet were definately not your average french fries.  Hand-chopped golden brown fries topped with parmesan cheese and and a drizzle of the ever-so-yummy truffle oil.

A Berkshire Pig

A Berkshire Pig

Whenever I see any terrine on a menu it is a must order.  This one was soooo worth it.  My first question “What is the Berkshire in this terrine?” and as it turns out Berkshire Pigs are a rare breed of pig originating from Britain and are said to be “Britain’s oldest pig breed”.  You can’t go wrong with pork TK and I agreed, and we were right…a perfectly seasoned pork frosted with potato butter (never heard of this before) and garnished with radish and celery leaf; served with smoked golden raisin puree, violet stone ground mustard, and pickled shallots.  We enjoyed every bite and have recommended it to anyone that will listen to us talk.

Of course being the lushes that we are, by the time the food came along we were done with round 1 of cocktails so we had the bartender recommend something to go with the fries and Terrine.  What she recommended was honestly one of the BEST white wines I have ever had.  From the Penedes region of Spain this wine is made by Gramona Winery and is a white blend called Gassami.  Seriously, try this wine it blew both of us away!

After the fabulous experience at Porter and Frye we strolled down to a jazz club called Rossi’s and listened to a rock-a-billy band.  Located underground Rossi’s reminded me of somewhere people would have hung out during prohibition – a speakeasy.  Brick walls, dark green leather booths, black and white photos of old Hollywood.  Here we enjoyed a beer and a slice of Martini pizza – basically an Alfredo pizza dotted with sliced green olives.  Simple yet oh so good!

We ended the night at The Local.  An Irish pub on the main drag of lots and lots of happy hour bars.  My favorite part about this place was in the back they had a Kissing Booth.  Yes, a room with saloon-like doors where people can sneak in and get a little!  Enjoyed one more beer and then called it a night!

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Joanie Loves Bocce – #2 on Thursday Nights

August 8, 2008 at 11:43 am (Napa Valley)

It was a big night for bocce. 

We were tied for 6th place on our night, and only the top 6 teams qualify for the playoffs.

We showed up early to get practice rolls in.  We had a strategy.  We won all three games.

At the end of the night we were told that Joanie Loves Bocce is the #2 team on our night.  From #6 to #2…that is quite a move up the totem pole.

Tony opened a magnum of Caymus and passed out cigars.  We celebrated at the park until it closed.  We then moved the celebration to Ana’s for karoake.  Caffo sang a victory song.

All in all it was a night to remeber!

Four more silver stars for my jacket, which now looks like something Elvis would be proud to wear.  Silver and Shiny!

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August 4, 2008 at 12:09 pm (Napa Valley)

The preacher is guilty on all three accounts:  Embezzling, Elderly Abuse, and Murder.

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Preacher Story makes LA Times

August 4, 2008 at 8:12 am (Uncategorized)

Interesting article about the preacher who is on trial for murder.  He always wanted to be famous…now he has made the LA Times.,0,2332727.story

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