Amy's Wicked Slush - Photo by Courtney Paige
Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure

Hot spot & cold treats – Meet Wicked Slush

Wicked Slush luscious flavors find your fancy – Photo by Courtney Paige

Prompted by an article recently written by Heather Irwin in Sonoma County’s revered Bite Club column, I felt compelled to check out a playfully mischievous new establishment in Healdsburg.

A county touted for its amazing farm to table cuisine, we are rarely privy to other American State culinary specialties. Yes, our region is ladened with Thai, Mexican and Chinese food, but really, these cuisines are the product of other countries.

Amy's Wicked Slush - Photo by Courtney Paige
Amy’s Wicked Slush – Photo by Courtney Paige

That’s why Amy’s Wicked Boston Slush is the perfect storm to wet your whistle here in Sonoma County. Seriously, when Wicked’s magical umami melts in your mouth, it leaves you craving more. With at least 20 daily flavors to choose from, you’ll already be planning your next visit the moment you step away from the pickup counter.

Wicked Slush Mango & Sour Watermelon - Photo by Courtney Paige
Wicked Slush Mango & Sour Watermelon – Photo by Courtney Paige

Wicked Slush sets the bar high for other local tasty treats to compete. Before long, it will be a Sonoma County icon, and we’ll wonder how we ever lived without it.

A serendipitous melding of shaved ice, sorbet and an Icee, this classic original Boston slush pucker’s your lips and twinges your jaws. The texture is so luscious, you’re almost compelled to chew it.

Wicked Slush Peanut Butter Soft Serve dipped in Butterscotch – Photo by Courtney Paige

I’ve already patronized the place twice within one week. Once to find out what all the buzz is about, and then, of course, to treat my daughter. I like the sweets, and she likes the tarts. Wicked curates all the taste senses seamlessly. During the second visit with my daughter, we were lucky enough to meet Amy. She’s genuinely a nice person.

My daughter was curiously checking out the coffee urns while waiting in line when Amy approached us & asked if we needed anything at all. She was friendly, kind, personable and authentic. Characteristics we’re all grateful for these days.

Wicked Slush boasts pops of color & flavor – Photo by Courtney Paige

As summer approaches, the days get longer, hair gets lighter, skin gets darker, water gets warmer, drinks are colder, music gets louder, and now thanks to Amy, slush gets wicked.

Savor and enjoy!

-Courtney Paige

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Delight your senses with Tea & Trumphets local artisan teas.
Food & Wine, Home & Garden, Spirituality & Community

Farmer in the dell

Tea & Trumpets carry a beautiful bouquet of assorted teas. Photo by Courtney Paige
Tea & Trumpets carry a beautiful bouquet of assorted teas.                                                                                                                                                          Photo by Courtney Paige

For European countries like France, Italy, England and Germany, farmer’s markets aren’t a novelty, they’re an essential part of daily life. Europeans don’t stockpile their groceries in huge refrigerators or store massive amounts of toilet paper from Costco.

The primary reason is that Europeans don’t have the storage space for bulk shopping. Your first reaction may be to think they’re less fortunate. On the contrary, they’re better off by default for several reasons. I list five here, coupled with my favorite local Sonoma County farmer’s markets you won’t want to miss.

Mark Bowden sharing the favs. Photo by Courtney Paige
Mark Bowden, Tea & Trumpets owner, shares the favs. www.teatrumpets.com                                                                                                                       Photo by Courtney Paige

1. Less Waste

Shopping daily or even twice a week wastes less food. Buying in bulk harbors a false sense of security and isn’t advantageous. Admit it, we’ve all done it. We’ve all thrown food away because we didn’t eat it fast enough.

~According to a survey conducted by the American Chemistry Council, the average American household throws out $640 of food each year.~

2. Save Money

A 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics report concluded the average American household spent $4,015 on groceries in 2015, resulting in 16% waste due to spoiled goods. At first glance, this percentage may seem insignificant. However, when considered collectively, this number equates to a whopping 80 billion tons of waste each year.

Fresh berries & cherries ripe for the picking. Photo by Courtney Paige
Fresh berries & cherries ripe for the picking.                                                                                                                                                                                        Photo by Courtney Paige

3. Healthier Lifestyle

Produce consumed from farmer’s markets is more nutritious simply because nonlocal produce travel thousands of miles and takes at least a week to reach its retail destination. This journey doesn’t even include shelf time in the supermarket. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutritional value within three days. So in order for bulk import farmers to compensate for lag time, crops are harvested early. Local produce harvested during prime picking time reaps the most nutritious bounty. Produce nutrients are optimal when consumed within the first week of harvest.

~The Institute of Food Research reports that fresh vegetables traveling long distances lose up to 45 percent of their nutritional value between being picked and landing in a supermarket.~

    4. Reduces carbon footprint

Supporting local farmer’s markets equates to fewer food miles by reducing emissions from transport vehicles, including airplanes, ships, and trucks. Conventional food distribution uses more fuel and emits more carbon dioxide than local and regional systems. Local food systems, on the other hand, rely on a geographically desirable network of small family farms. Most are sustainably operated translating into minimized pesticide use, no-till compositing agriculture practices, minimized transport to consumers, and virtually no packaging.

~A comparison between locally grown and conventionally grown produce found locally grown produce travels about 50 miles to reach the consumer’s table half a day from harvest, while conventionally grown produce travels 1,500 miles and reaches the table 13 days past harvest.~

Strawberry fields forever or at least when in season. Photo by Courtney Paige
Strawberry fields forever or at least when in they’re in season.                                                                                                                                                       Photo by Courtney Paige

Indeed it’s awesome to have access to mangos, strawberries or blackberries all-year-round. The truth is though, not only do we cheat our bodies of essential nutrients lost during travel time, buying produce from across the world is a detriment to our local farmers. If we buy produce from a different hemisphere we are starving our bodies of essential nutrition and taking money from the pockets of our local communities.

~According to the USDA, since 2006, farmers markets have grown by 180 percent, regional food hubs by 288 percent, and school district participation in farm-to-school programs by 430 percent.~

5. Discover your local culinary treasures

However important reasons one through four are, I’m most passionate about number five because it’s what feeds my soul. I love strolling through transformed makeshift markets shaded with little treasure canopy kiosks. While eclectic aromas ignite my inspiration, each little-shaded tent creates curiosity and offers something new to discover.  

Plus, chatting with local artisans create a community connection like no other. This weekend, during a visit to our local farmer’s market at the Veteran’s Market in Santa Rosa, my daughter and I came across fantastic finds featured in the article photos.

Delight your senses with Tea & Trumphets local artisan teas.
Delight your senses with Tea & Trumpets local artisan teas. http://www.teatrumpets.com                                                                                                                  Photo by Courtney Paige

 

The Hue De Laroque Family Farm www.hdlfarm.com Photo by Courtney Paige
The Hue De Laroque Family Farm www.hdlfarm.com                                                                                                                                                                        Photo by Courtney Paige

When you get to know your farmer, you get to know your food. Heigh ho the derry-o the farmer in the dell. And remember, don’t let the cheese stand alone.

  1. Glen Ellen Farmers’ Market
  2. Healdsburg Farmers ‘Market
  3. Rohnert Park Farmers’ Market 
  4. Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market- Veteran’s Memorial Center 
  5. Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market – Wells Fargo Center
  6. Santa Rosa Wednesday Night Market
  7. Sonoma Plaza Farmers’ Market
  8. Sebastopol Farmers’ Market
  9. Windsor Farmers’ Market
  10. Living Drinks Photo by Courtney PaigeLiving Drinks – Photo by Courtney Paige
Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure

Cultured Burbs

Sonoma County is a quaint sleepy community with seemingly more vineyards than people. At first glance, things may appear a tad western here, but given a closer look, Sonoma County lights up the senses.

Nine incorporated cities sprinkle the county and each has an incredibly charming square or downtown. Except for Santa Rosa. For decades, Santa Rosa has lacked in comparison to its quaint neighbor towns, until now.

With the new controversial downtown square complete, the rightful county seat just may have a chance to shine. After all, there’s more to Santa Rosa than the Old Courthouse Square. So giddy-up! Here’s some inspiration for local day tripping.

Set a goal of three wineries max. St. FrancisLandmark, and Chateau St. Jean are the most convenient and stunning local wineries. All are located in Sonoma Valley on Hwy 12 east. Check with the California Welcome Center in Railroad Square – they offer locals buy-one-get-one-free tasting at select wineries.

St.Francis Winery – Photo by Courtney Paige

 

St. Francis Winery Courtyard – Photo by Courtney Paige

 

Landmark Winery – Photo by Courtney Paige

 

Landmark Winery Courtyard – Photo by Courtney Paige

 

Chateau St. Jean Winery – Photo by Courtney Paige

 

Chateau St. Jean Winery Cabana – Photo by Courtney Paige

 

Plan in advance and reserve a massage between 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm at Me Spa. A luxurious day spa located in Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village. Their zero-gravity chairs are divine. The perfect way to wipe away worries…if only for a moment.

Darling Gifts at Me Spa – Photo by Courtney Paige

Make reservations at Monti’s for 7:30 pm – giving ample time to refresh from the spa and wander around the darling outdoor shopping village. Keeping with a serene atmosphere, Monti’s offers tranquil outdoor dining. Small plates with fantastic wine pairings are the usual.  Alas, Monti’s is located just steps away from Me Spa.

Monti’s at Montgomery Village – Photo by Courtney Paige

Santa Rosa’s new Old Courthouse Square is merely a moment away and is currently celebrating a renaissance revival. The new square is rapidly creating an eclectic hustle and bustle. With over 40 sycamore trees, bundles of redwoods and embedded benches dolloped around the square, it’s the perfect place for stargazing.

La Rosa on the Square – Photo by Courtney Paige

Let your hair down with one last stop at La Rosa’s esoteric upstairs bar for a nightcap. The rare brick mission style outdoor porch and dining area never disappoint. All bartenders are consistent with each well-crafted cocktail. The margarita menu is my favorite. It’s no wonder they call La Rosa bartenders mixologists. DJs spin urban beats that make you want to get up and shake off your dinner…and the extra wine you consumed throughout the day.

La Rosa on Fourth – Great Happy Hour – Photo by Courtney Paige

Savor a county seat experience right here in urban-farm central. It’s right here in our own backyard. New restaurants and bars with outdoor seating and live music are popping up like little gems all over town.

Cheers ~

Savor Life and Enjoy!

by Courtney Paige

Food & Wine

Technology chomps at the bit

America’s eating habits are changing as fast as technology changes while gourmet meal delivery has people taking a byte out of traditional meal planning.

We’ve come a long way since ‘Super Size Me’ hit the mainstream and created a cultural culinary shift with how we view nutrition as a nation.

People are trading their microwave instant dinners and quick on-the-go pre-made Whole Foods meals for gourmet, organic, home delivery meals. Quick, frozen food dinners are taking a backseat to fresh ingredient service meal companies like GobbleSun Basket, Blue Apronand Hello Fresh.

Families are busier than ever, so the need for effortless meals hasn’t changed. What has changed though, is the demand for fresh healthy ingredients. The anxiety that accompanies planning healthy meals weighs heavily on the average person’s mind. Thinking of new original recipes is a constant challenge – especially if you are cooking for more than one person.

From New York to San Francisco, gourmet innovative fresh meal services have taken the stress out of dinner planning for millions of Americans across the nation. Many people describe the experience like it’s a weekly Christmas gift. Each delivery includes a fancy recipe brochure for each meal with step-by-step instructions and cute little-labeled ingredient bottles.

My friend Catherine likes Gobble. She said her husband – who never cooked in the past – now has dinner waiting when she arrives home from work. As an added bonus, he tries to match the meal to the brochure picture. She said, “He’s often spot on, and, if this gets him excited in the kitchen, I’m all for it.”

Photo courtesy of Gobble www.gooble.com

Yet, home meal delivery isn’t for everyone. Susan, another friend of mine said with Blue Apron, she feels as though she can easily gather the ingredients and craft recipes herself. For Susan, all the packaging is a waste, and the concept is pointless.

My neighbor Jennifer however, loves the convenience! She’s a single mom with a demanding job and little time. She settled on Hello Fresh, and said, “It’s the best innovation in the world.” Jennifer thinks the best part of using the service is the amount of time she saves by not schlepping to the grocery store for obscure ingredients. An added perk; recreate your favorite meals from the reusable glossy recipe brochure. The icing on the cake; she’s saving money due to less waste from over buying or rotting food.

Photo courtesy of Hello Fresh – www.hellofresh.com

Organic gourmet dinner delivery isn’t a fad. It’s just beginning to simmer. For instance, Blue Apronlocated in New York, is one of the largest & fastest growing food technology companies. Proving this point, they recently purchased Niman Ranch, a local Bolinas cattle company that has been supplying high-end restaurants with grass-fed beef for decades.

I’m tempted to try Blue Apron. I liked their support of a local farmer concept. They’re implementing programs that operate more like a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) than a technology gourmet food delivery system. The fact that they purchased Niman Ranch is an incredible accomplishment and shows their commitment to quality products. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the original owner of Niman Ranch will stay on with Blue Apron as a quality control consultant.

Photo courtesy of Blue Apron www.blueapron.com

Sun Basket is a Northern California local company, but they had too many comments on their review page reporting bad customer service. For example, once they have your credit card reviewers say, you’re locked in, and no one responds to email inquiries.

Photo courtesy of Sun Basket www.sunbasket.com

After all my research, and despite Blue Apron’s accolades, my family decided on Hello Fresh. The reason is, Hello Fresh allows customers to refine menus to more than just vegetarian, organic or pescatarian. Hello Fresh seems to have the most options with the most flexibility. Prices on all services average around $60 a week for six meals. That’s about $10 for a gourmet meal you don’t have to shop for; count me in!

Photo courtesy of Hello Fresh – A weekly surprise

Our first delivery should arrive within ten days, so look for an update on our journey joining millions of Americans in this new food phenomena.

~by Courtney Paige

Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure

Discover the day tripper in you

Do you know there are thousands of free views in the city of San Francisco, and driving a car isn’t the best way to take advantage of the region’s stunning natural beauty? Discover the day tripper in you, and follow us from Sonoma County to San Francisco.

With Sonoma County’s SMART train on the brink of passenger service, a day trip to the city without getting in your car will soon be a reality. Granted this day trip has multiple legs, but isn’t life all about the journey? And who doesn’t like a good set of legs?

Curious to see if a roundtrip venture from Sonoma County to San Francisco could be accomplished in one day without getting in a car, I felt compelled to try. One snag though, the train’s passenger service has been delayed until summer. So, I enlisted an adventurous travel companion and simply drove to the ferry determined not to let logistics get in the way.

Weekend parking is free at the Larkspur Ferry, so we convinced ourselves that perk will make up for the lack of train service. Another benefit Larkspur Ferry offers is the Clipper card – big savings! After jetting across the bay in a quick 35 minute boat ride, we fawn over majestic Coit Tower as the ferry floats into port.

Moments later, we disembarked at San Francisco’s famous Embarcadero ferry building and hit the city of San Francisco on foot with a general idea of our plans but no major commitments. 

The key to navigating the city is to equip yourself with good walking shoes, wear layers and plan the day in little spurts. For this day trip we incorporated intervals of floating, walking, eating, drinking and viewing.

Check out the video to get a more intimate visual on our trip. Enjoy!

We settled on massages at Hotel Vitale Spa located on the Embarcadero – a hop, skip and a jump away. Actually, it’s literally across the street from the ferry building. Even though this hotel caters to tourists, it’s a secret spot for locals who get chilled to the bone with the city’s moist cold weather.

The concierge at Hotel Vitale mentioned a bottomless champagne brunch at La Fusion located on the quaint European alley, Belden Place. An option one can’t refuse. This alley is a treasure trove of quint awning covered restaurants with cozy outdoor heaters.

Next we hopped the trolley for a mere $2 and jetted down to Museum of Modern Art on 3rd Street. MOMA is celebrating their one year multi-million dollar renovation at the end of April with a fancy soiree.

As much as we loved the rooftop massages and outdoor rose petal hot baths at the Vitale Spa, the piece de resistance on this day trip was the Conservatory of Flowers.

Located a few miles west of downtown, the Conservatory of Flowers links Haight-Ashbury and Golden Gate Park. With public transportation as our new BFF we rolled with the flow and stepped off the Muni into another world.

At the pinnacle of Golden Gate Park’s panhandle sits the Conservatory of Flowers. It’s the perfect place to warm up & snuggle on a cold foggy day. Inside, the atmosphere is surprisingly tropical – a sheer contrast to the cool gray city’s urban mecca.

Inspiration is everywhere, so get moving! The world is waiting.

~ Courtney Paige

Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure

Perfect place to sip & see on a rainy day

Sunshine on a cloudy day – Photo by Courtney Paige

It’s been a long wet winter and most of us, I imagine, are ready for some heat. As I sit here pondering spicy things on a rainy day, Flying Goat Coffee calls my name. Today is a chai type of day, I say. When winter feels like it’s lingering on because a groundhog didn’t see its shadow, Flying Goat Coffee is the place to lounge sipping a hot chai latte while watching trains cruise by. The Goat, as it’s referred to by the locals, sits nestled in one of the oldest buildings in Sonoma County.  The stacked stone monolith, built in the late 1800s, stands majestically as commander-in-chief of Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square.

Flying Goat Coffee ~ Commander-in-Chief of Railroad Square Photo by Courtney Paige

The Goat lives just across the street from the old Santa Rosa Train Depot. There are also two locations in Healdsburg near the square. It anchors the railroad track as if it’s the end of the line. Reality is, the Goat is where everything begins. 

Back Patio at the Goat – Photo by Courtney Paige

It’s the perfect place to start the day – with a chai latte and a gluten free banana bread pastry perhaps. The Goat just may be the only place in town that crafts artisan gluten-free pastries. Their chai latte, consistently delicious, is made with all natural ingredients, and of course, the froth artwork is icing on the cake.

I like to say, “the Goat is the quintessential pinnacle spot in Santa Rosa where east side meets west side.” An unexpected surprise in an unexpected space. Give the Goat a whirl, I bet you’ll get hooked. The stark interior, restored to a 1920’s black and white art deco decor, pops with bright yellow accents and a 50 feet high ceiling that hugs its guests with a bright picture window enclave.

Flying Goat Foyer – Photo by Courtney Paige

On sunny days, a brick patio shaded by 150-year-old magnolia trees await your arrival.

Photo by Courtney Paige

For now, I’ll take the spice, skip the rain, pine for the sunshine and head to Flying Goat Coffee in Railroad Square.

Sunshine served all day long – Photo by Courtney Paige
Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure

An irresistible wine country humblebrag

Follow me to Preston ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

Humblebrag: to make a disguised boast or brag, for example: He’s humblebragging about how tired he is from his world travels. bit.ly/humblebragdefinition.

Blog post created while listening to: Doobie Brothers ‘Listen to the Music’ Bottle Shock movie soundtrack. http://bit.ly/bottleshockalbum

For some reason, I think the word humblebrag is so funny. It’s one of those words the more you say it, the more it makes you laugh. The act of humblebragging dates further back than ancient Greece. Yet, the term itself, coined in 2011, had a bad wrap during its infancy. Most recently though, it’s finding a favorable place in our rapidly changing digital world. As with anything, there’s good timing and bad timing. Everything in moderation is always a good idea too, except when it comes to certain types of indulgences.

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Photo by Courtney Paige

There are times when one can’t help but boast about the geographical area with which they live. This is one of those moments. Spring is in the air whispering about the festivities on the horizon, and there’s a lot going on this week in Sonoma County. I’m bursting at the seams to share two annual events that will fill your belly and wet your whistle. You’ll want to permanently place both events on your calendar. Barrel Tasting and Restaurant Week.

Photo by Courtney Paige

If you’re a foodie and/or a wino…errr….wine aficionado, then these two events are not to be missed. There’s lots of land to cover in Sonoma County. It’s a challenge to navigate and pin down choices without spinning your wheels. Truth is, Barrel Tasting and Restaurant Week are the perfect reason to don your LBD (little black dress), get social IRL (in real life) and wiggle your way out of your comfort zone.

Barrel tasting kicks off wine season during the first two weekends in March. Here’s the link for the deet’s. http://bit.ly/SoCoBarrellTasting  Hot tip, remember, if tickets are sold out, passes are available for purchase at any participating winery. Take note, no food pairing during barrel tasting at the wineries. Pack a picnic, or be sure to make reservations at participating restaurant week venues listed here: Sonoma Insider

Sonoma Insider has a helpful legend to sort restaurant options by category including region, city and cuisine for over 130 Sonoma County restaurants. http://bit.ly/restaurantweekchoices

Barrel tasting and restaurant week are the perfect pair, like two love birds. Sip and swirl by day, and savor bits and bites at night. By the end of the evening you’ll humblebrag to your friends and family about how exhausted you are from over eating and drinking at barrel tasting and restaurant week. Enjoy!

~ Courtney Paige