Saturday, September 29, 2012

Doggie doppelgängers

BOL (Bark Out Loud) Turns out Kitai has a doppelgänger (aka look-alike) named Buster. You can't tell in the picture of Kitai above but he and Buster even have the same color eyes.

See! Though, I suppose most dogs have the same brown eyes. But there are exceptions. I have seen dogs with yellow and blue eyes too. But back to Kitai and Buster. They're both scruffy, have the same markings, underbite, and body shape.

Oddly, they both like to hang out with ducks.

The only major differences between them seems to be that Buster has a bit of brown in his fur, his coat is a bit more silky instead of steel wool'ish like Kitai's, and while Kitai sheds like a pack of Huskies all year round I was told Buster barely sheds at all.

If your dog looks like Kitai please let me know. I'd love to do follow up posts with more doggie doppelgängers :P

Friday, September 28, 2012

B&B Review: Sonoma Wine Country's Haydon Street Inn

On my most recent trip to Healdsburg I stayed at my favorite B&B the charming Haydon Street Inn. (Admittedly, it is the only B&B I've stayed at on my three trips so far but I love everything about it so I haven't ventured forth to try any others.)

The parlor (lower right) hosts a wine happy hour each evening.

One of the inn's best features is its location is perfect! Nestled just a few blocks from the Plaza in downtown Healdsburg, you can easily walk to dinner or wander about shopping or visiting a spa.

The interior is decorated in a modern victorian style so it's not filled with lacey doilies or curtains, which was good since hubby was with me and doesn't care for overly feminine, fru fru decor.

On my first visit I stayed in the Rose Room and on my second visit the Garden Room. This time we stayed in the Turret Room, a queen deluxe room. Upon entering any room at the inn you'll always spot a tray with complimentary chocolates and bottled water which is a very nice touch as larger hotels often charge $4 to $8 for a bottle of in-room water.

We checked in just past 3:00 PM. As soon as I walked In I was thinking eeeeeek I love this room! The first thing I noticed was the slanted ceiling. That's because we were staying above the round front porch below so we were beneath a pitched section of the roof. The next thing I noticed was the stained glass window over the bed. It was a lovely touch!

Hubby called dibs on the tall side of the ceiling since he's about nine inches taller than me. He thought the far side of the bed area looked cramped. I thought it was cozy and was very much looking forward to curling up in it that evening.

The room is so special. It includes a vintage armoire, a gas fireplace, and right beside it, across from the bed was a small, claw foot, bathtub! Above the tub is an air conditioning unit we turned on in the late afternoon. It quickly brought the room to a comfortable temperature.

The luxury! The sad thing was I never did make time to try out the tub but it's funny how being near luxurious amenities, even if you don't use them, can make one feel pampered nonetheless. If you stay in the Turret Room bring an old fashioned, printed on paper book and slip into the tub for some R&R. The sky light would make a perfect reading light during the day.

The Turret Room also includes a mini fridge could hold leftovers from lunch or dinner, a bottle of wine, or a wine country picnic foods grocery run from Jimtown.

While the bedroom has lost a bit of space due to the pitched roof, the bathroom makes up for it completely. It is large, light and bright. I loved the pedestal sink and double windows.

The shower was spacious and an elegant touch was that it is on the opposite side of the stained glass window over the bed. I'd never before thought of how stained glass could be used as an interior window. It was gorgeous. I would have taken a picture of it while I was in the shower but my camera isn't waterproof :)

Our first night went without incident. We opened the little window over the bed to let in some fresh air and I slept soundly through the night, which is unusual for me. Since returning from NYC in August I'd been suffering from insomnia again often sleeping as little as 3-4 hours each night :(

The next morning I awoke bright eyed and bushy tailed. I took a shower and headed downstairs to photograph the patio and garden.

We didn't come on a weekend so we missed out on sampling the weekend wood fired pizza made in the brick pizza oven co-owner (and former professional chef) John Harasty built himself.

And while I may miss out on pizza every time, I am always greeted by Haydon the cat during my morning photo sessions. He's so cute and friendly! If you love cats pet him. He will love you forever. I love him equally. With a face like that how could I resist? That's hubby's hand petting him. Hubby loves cats so it was no hardship for him and it allowed me to get a nice shot of Haydon from further away. Normally he's all over me and walks directly into the camera each time I aim it his way.

Visit Healdsburg in early September and you'll see grapes everywhere! Even the B&B had a tiny, bonsai-like, grape vine with a single cluster of grapes ready to harvest. So cute!

There's something about the soft morning light that I love when it comes to photographing flowers.

There were tiny drops of water on many of the flowers. I wasn't sure if it was from a sprinkler or if it was morning dew.

Either way there is something visually poetic about seeing glistening fresh flowers early in the morning. It's something I never take the time to enjoy at home but It's become part of my ritual when staying at the Haydon Street Inn. This time of year there weren't a lot of flowers in the garden but I've come to realize that quantity isn't necessary for enjoyment. Just find a single flower and look at it. Really see it and it can fill your senses no matter how petite it may be. It's almost a meditative way of enjoying flowers.

At 9:00 AM it was time for breakfast. This is another of the inn's best features. The food is always fantastic. The table was set, guests were heading downstairs and I was kind of dreading how hubby, the picky eater, would do being served a three course breakfast.

Our first course was a spoon of fresh peach soup and a freshly baked, cranberry, oat bran, mini muffin. I loved both. Hubby declined to try either. This caused one of the other house guests to ask if he was a picky eater. As he regaled them with his story of dismay that the previous evening Campo Fina didn't serve Coca Cola®, Innkeeper John, who made us our wonderful breakfast, couldn't help but over hear and notice that hubby wasn't even touching his food.

So when he brought out the second course he mentioned the fruit had been marinated in Coke. *wink wink* :P Hubby ate the fruit. Not because he believed John but because he likes fruit.  LOL

Our main course was a Monterey Jack Cheese Omlet with spinach pesto. There was also a small, house made, sausage patty which hubby did eat. The rest of his breakfast? He passed on.

Some of my friends think it must be mortifying for me that hubby is such a picky eater. Others, friends and strangers alike, wonder how we ever even became a couple since I enjoy food so much and hubby once said if he could take a pill to not have to bother with eating he would. But the thing is I try to be understanding that I can't expect or force him to learn how to enjoy food more any more than he can force or expect me to enjoy food less. Clearly we have different taste buds so it's not unusual to find me gushing over a dish and hubby's opinion will be more along the lines of "Meh, it's ok."

Our second night was a bit more eventful. It all began with a long day of sight seeing and a glass of wine at dinner. Yes, I drank this entire glass of wine! It was the same 2009 Botrytis Chardonnay I'd sampled back in May from the Russian River Vineyards.

Botrytis (pronounced Bow-try-tis) is a sweet dessert wine similar to an ice wine. The Botrytis occurs because of a special mold, Botrytis cinerea aka Noble Rot, that causes the grapes to lose their water content concentrating the sugars to produce a very sweet wine. Ice wine is made from grapes allowed to over ripen and "freeze" on the vine which also reduces their water content and concentrates their sugar. They, along with muscat/muscato wines, are the only wines my over sensitive, super taster tongue is able to enjoy.

After dinner we stayed late on the property taking pictures so we didn't get back to our room until sometime after 10:00 PM.

I set up my camera's flash card to download the pictures I'd taken that day and laid across the foot of the bed watching the images whiz by as they loaded into my computer. As I recall within moments I fell asleep. I do remember waking up at least two times and noticing my pictures were still loading so I fell back to sleep each time.

At one point I remember hubby trying to wake me telling me to change my clothes, brush my teeth and get ready for bed. Allegedly, I told him to leave me alone or I would punch him. Probably in the face. This mean streak has nothing to do with the wine. I often get angry at him for waking me at home when all I've had to drink is water. But I can't help it. I'm really not thinking clearly the moment I wake up. I think it's because usually it's so hard for me to fall asleep once I do I resent being forced to wake up.

So the funny part came when hubby wanted to go to bed. I'd made it clear to him not to mess with me so I think he was too scared to say anything because the truth is I really would try to hit him in my sleepy stupor. The problem, was that since I was lying across the entire foot of the bed he couldn't fit in the bed himself. Hmm, what to do?

The next morning he told me he had to grab me by my ankles and spin me around 90º to point me in the correct direction for sleeping. Then he moved to the side of the bed, grasped me around the shoulders/upper arm area and drug my still sleeping form higher onto the bed so that my head was on the pillow. LOL. I don't remember any of it.

LOL Flat Stacie and John at the Haydon Street Inn.

I was conked out. And it only took one glass of wine. Well, a day of hiking in a redwood forest, tromping around Downtown Guerneville, hiking up Baker ridge at Thomas George Estates to shoot for three hours then dinner and winding down with a glass of wine before shooting some cool night photography at Russian River Vineyards. I'll tell you about all of that in my next wine country post.

The following morning was another glorious day in Sonoma. The sky was blue and the roses were in bloom out in front of the inn.

Breakfast began with a berry fruit smoothie served shooter style with. . .

. . . a warm mango scone. Hubby ate his mango scone which shocked everyone around the table LOL.

Our second course was fresh fruit artfully arranged on square white plates. I always feel as if I'm dining in a fine restaurant at the Haydon Street Inn. I've never been to another B&B or restaurant that plates their morning fruit so beautifully.

Our main course was a Spinach Frittata garnished with feta cheese and a red pepper coulis. It was DELICIOUS. Seriously, this was my favorite breakfast I've had so far. The eggs were light, moist and tender and the flavor so savory it made my mouth water as I was eating it. The next time I plan a trip to stay at the inn I just may have to ask what day will John be serving the spinach frittata and book accordingly :D

If hubby comes with me I'm bringing a cooler so that I can bring all of his leftover food home with me to eat when I'm back in San Jose.

Thank you to Innkeepers Keren and John for the delightful stay. I really think the Inn is perfect because of your friendliness, location, beautiful rooms, lovely garden and fantastic food. It's a combination that would make any guest feel comfortable and pampered. You make me want to buy a house next door so that I can pay you a monthly fee and come over for breakfast every morning. I know my eating habits would improve if you were my neighbors :)

To visit the Haydon Street Inn here's all you need to know:

Innkeepers: John Harasty and Keren Colsten
Haydon Street Inn - website
321 Haydon Street
Healdsburg, CA 95448 - click here for map
(707) 433-5228
(800) 528-3703

Past posts about the Haydon Street Inn include:

The B&B to stay at while touring Sonoma's Wine Road

The Haydon Street Inn: So nice I stayed there twice

The Wine Road Russian River Valley Wine Tour

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Before the Wine Harvest in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley

On our recent trip to Sonoma Wine Country Hubby and I spent three days there, one each in the Dry Creek, Russian River, and Alexander Valleys. Following our early morning visit to Hawley Winery in the Dry Creek Valley our next stop was to go back to Quivira a biodynamic winery I visited back in May while on the Wine Road's press tour for bloggers.

Though they have beautiful vineyards I came back to see something else. Following Quivira's Tasitng Room Manager's instructions, we walked out to find. . .

Ruby, the winery's pet pig! Found as an injured feral piglet on their property years ago, after nursing her back to health she's become a bit of a mascot for the winery.

Because it was a Labor Day the vineyards farm manager was very busy and wasn't able to meet us out by Ruby's pen so I could have a meet and greet with her. We found her no problem and just as we were told, she and her piggy buddy were sound asleep in their shed. Their paddock was very clean with a little mud hole just right of center. So cute!

So how was it seeing Ruby? First of all, I was picturing the baby piglet Ruby in my head so I was shocked when I saw she is quite large. I read online that wild pigs can reach weights in excess of 200 lbs. I'm pretty sure Ruby is more than 200 pounds. She looked to be about three times the size of me. We were told she loves to have her ears scratched just like a dog. Perhaps I'll be able to scratch them for her on a future visit.

The scent of peaches wafted on the breeze.

I also admired nature's bounty growing all over the property. Near Ruby's house we spotted some young fig trees waiting to be planted and in the culinary garden the peaches are ripening. Quivira uses their fruits both to make preserves they sell in their tasting room and for the menus when they host farm-to-table dinners. Their next one in October is already sold out so if you want to go check their online events page for updates.

The lighting wasn't ideal close to noon, note the deep shadows on the grape clusters, but for scale, I did think to take a picture of my hand grasping one of the decades old vines growing along the dry creek bed running behind the tasting room.

Adjacent to the tasting room there are a lot of things to see. One of my favorites is a shallow koi pond. It's a little fishy paradise. The water is so clear! I wondered how they keep it so clear. I counted three varieties of waterlilies blooming and three fish. In the picture to the right you can see an out of focus honeybee taking a drink from a lily pad.

Buzz Buzz

Wandering through the culinary gardens I think I found where that little bee lives. There's an apiary (bee hive/box) right beneath the peach tree! If you look closely you can see two bees coming in for landings.

The gardens at Quivira are inspiring. Seriously. They inspired me to plant vegetables in my own garden this year. I've been harvesting plenty of Swiss Chard which I love because I can pick two or three leaves and go make a nice pasta dish. There's no waste like when you buy a huge bunch at the store.

And see that sunflower to the far right in the center row above? I bet you'll never guess what they do with the sunflowers at Quivira.

I'll give you a clue, it has something to do with the chickens they keep. . . Pok pok.

They feed them to the chickens! We watched as they came by and pecked the seeds right off the flower then pecked them open to eat them. So cool!

This was one of those times when I had to switch from using auto focus to manual. In auto mode the camera focuses on the whatever is closest to the lens, in this case it was the chicken wire. To force it to move beyond the wire I switched to manual mode and the second picture is what I got. If you never use your manual focus you should try it sometime. I find I need it most often when I'm trying to shoot through fencing or branches.

Soon it was lunch time and I wanted to visit the Dry Creek General Store. Established in 1881 it has always been a general store. But when you arrive and walk up onto the porch you feel as if you're on a railway platform.

Everywhere you go in the Dry Creek Valley you'll see grapes! Even at the store.

And judging by the no spitting sign above perhaps it is a platform though at this point I'm guessing it was a loading platform. I'll have to ask my friend Tracy Logan at the Wine Road for more details about this quintessential picnic supply stop.

We stepped inside and ordered sandwiches for lunch at the deli counter.

It was  94º that day so we opted to sit inside where it was air conditioned even though EVERYONE else was going outside. In the seating section you'll find home decorating items, a variety of gift items and wines from growers in the Dry Creek Valley.

I ordered the Veggie Veggie sandwich. It was good and fresh and so big I couldn't finish the whole thing. The only bummer was I forgot to order it without black olives and it was full of black olives. I left behind a small mountain of olives in my wrapper which was a shame because they were perfectly good olives that were wasted on me.

After lunch we hopped back in the car to revisit Truett Hurst. While we went to Quivira to meet Ruby the pig, we went back to Truett Hurst to meet a different kind of animal.

The tasting room and back porch which is adjacent to the first of two picnic areas.

I'd arranged ahead to be able to visit to take some pictures of, not the owl box, not the brown goat or the Truett Hurst sheep but of. . .

Luci the goat! I first heard about Luci back in May because the winery named one of their Zinfandels after her. On my visit I didn't spot her anywhere. This time she was there but hiding. A little coaxing (me talking and singing to her) and she came out from around the shed.

Funnily enough Luci was the exact opposite of Ruby. I'd seen a photo of Luci before and thought she was a large goat. Turns out she's a petite little thing who, after peeking at me from behind the shed, decided to stroll right past me, tuck her legs beneath her and chew her cud for a bit.

She was adorable and I'm so glad I got to see her!

You can purchase the Luci Zin on Truett Hurst's Buy Wine page on their website:

2010 Truett Hurst / Luci Zinfandel / Dry Creek Valley Pomegranate. Red licorice. Black cherry. Spicy overtones. Cases produced 335.

After meeting Luci hubby needed a break from the sun and heat. He's no sunflower. LOL. He wanted shade.

So we headed down to the creek because it's surrounded by tall trees with several picnic areas comprised of bright red adirondack chairs.

Don't blink or you'll miss it! It was that fast!

We found one small spot that wasn't impacted by the current. Hubby spotted two things, neither of which we were able to photograph. The first was a tiny baby turtle.

I made you an animated GIF to show you what it looked like. It popped out along the shore, ran across the algae and dove into the water. I was so bummed to miss that shot but my camera was off and by the time I powered it on the turtle was gone :( Then hubby spotted a teeny tiny black toad. I'm pretty sure it was a toad because its skin looked dry and bumpy, not smooth and shiny like a frog. Than again, it was hard to tell because the entire toad from end to end was about the size of a dime. No kidding.

The creek is always beautiful and I could easily spend a day sitting on its shores.

Hubby was fading fast as 3:00 was approaching which meant it was time for his afternoon mocha.

 I'd already done the research ahead of time so we headed in to Downtown Healdsburg to the Flying Goat Coffee shop which only had pictures of flying ducks and running horses adorning it's walls. This little detail didn't bother hubby at all because he doesn't notice little details like that and because he was happy as a clam with his mocha.

After coffee we headed to the Haydon Street Inn to check in and, as it turned out, so that I could take a nap. I was exhausted from the long hot day. I actually haven't felt myself since returning from NYC, which I still need to blog about. So, even though we hadn't done anything too strenuous I was exhausted nonetheless. My next wine country post will be all about the room we stayed in at the Haydon Street Inn and the yummy food we I had for breakfast X 2.

Campo Fina

After I woke up we went to Campo Fina for dinner. Located just off the plaza it's an intimate restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating. Again, because it was so hot out we opted to sit inside. What I didn't realize at the time was that outside there is a bocce court. Had I known I would have, at the very least, stepped out the backdoor to take a picture for you.

Originally hubby had planned to eat over at the Healdsburg Bar and Grill because we thought the food was going to be "too fancy" for him at Campo Fina because he only likes "regular" food. But Keren at the Haydon Street Inn told him to try the meatball sandwich. He did and liked it. But he couldn't get over that there was no Coca Cola®, Pepsi®, or any other kind of cola on the menu. It threw him a lot bit but after interrogating questioning and berating expressing his displeasure to our waitress about how wrong he thought it was, his shock and disbelief subsided and he opted for a San Pellegrino grapefruit soda. I felt bad for both the waitress and hubby as she was very patient explaining to him that there were no colas and his enjoyment of an entire meal goes down a notch when he can't have a "regular" cola soda with dinner.

The next morning at the B&B breakfast it was suggested to John that perhaps if he returns in the future he can bring his own Coca Cola® and be charged a cappage fee, kind of like a corkage fee like when people bring their own wines to restaurants :P

Seared Rock Cod Gnocchi

For dinner I had water and fish and fish. I think part of my exhaustion relapse had been caused by my lack of eating on a regular schedule, lack of sleep and lack of eating enough protein and iron so I ordered two small plates: the Rock Cod Gnocchi and the Panelle.

The plates are meant to be shared but hubby won't share dishes. Oddly enough he'll let me eat off his plate but he won't eat anything off of mine and forget family style restaurants. Though I must confess, I won't share my desserts but only because I'm greedy that way, not because I have peculiar dining tendencies.

The gnocchi was definitely a winner. Everything about the dish was perfect except for I wish I'd ordered two servings. LOL. The seared fish was browned beautifully, crisp on the outside, tender and flakey on the inside, it was fresh and oh so flavorful. The gnocchi was tender and perfectly prepared and the bits of fresh corn and veggies blended together to create a very tasty and satisfying dish.

The Panelle

The Panelle turned out to be not what I'd imagined. Each element on its own was good. I particularly enjoyed the flavor of the chickpea fritters and marinated anchovies and the thin shavings of celery were a nice touch. (The dish calls for black olives but I passed on them as I'd wasted enough olives for one day.) But despite enjoying each element on its own the Panelle somehow didn't come together for me. Even though nothing was overcooked I found it to be a rather dry dish. So, I began dabbing each forkful in the juices in the rock cod bowl which may have been gauche but it sure did taste good.

The  next time I visit Campo Fina I'm going to try their pizza, which I've heard is fantastic and I'm going to sit outside if the weather is good :) And I'm not bringing hubby with me :D

After dinner we walked around the plaza for awhile, window shopped and got candy bars at Powell's candy shop for dessert.

It was a great first day and even though hubby doesn't drink wine (or any other alcohol for that matter) he was a trooper and we had a lot of fun.

A special thanks to Tracy Logan, Guest Concierge at the WIne Road, who helped arrange my visits to Quivira and Truett Hurst and suggested Campo Fina as a restaurant she though I'd enjoy. I still have two more days, two more valleys, a glass of wine, three desserts, bats, some neat recipes and more to share with you in my upcoming posts about this trip so stay tuned :) If you're planning a visit to Sonoma be sure to ask Tracy for suggestions of places to go wine tasting, where to stay, where to eat, and things to do. The Wine Road is an invaluable resource for anyone planning to explore Sonoma's Wine Country.

To recreate our day in the Dry Creek Valley here's all you need to know:

Quivira Vineyards and WInery - Website
4900 West Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448 - Map

Dry Creek General Store - Website
3495 Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448 - Map

Truett Hurst Winery - Website
5610 Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448 - Map

Flying Goat Coffee - Website
324 Center Street
Healdsburg, CA 95448 - Map

Campo Fina - Website
330 Healdsburg Ave
Healdsburg, CA - Map
(707) 395-4640

Wine Road - Website