Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wine Country Comfort Holiday . . .

"Wine Country Jewels" . . .

It’s been a whirlwind week. Ander and I have just returned to the North Bay from a fantastic family gathering. But I’m saving the family affair for a later post.

The Marvelous Meeta hosts a Monthly Mingle for friendly foodies out there who want to come together on a regular basis to share, socialize, unite and bond with the commonalities that merge when we gather round the table.

This month’s theme is “Holiday (as in, V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N) Cuisine”. When I first read the announcement, I thought to myself, “Hmmm, now this gal has her act together. Imagine, a round-up of Christmas-around-the world.” NOT! That’s an idea for an event in upcoming months. Seasonality is the key…N'est-il pas?

Having been the passenger of an accumulated 24-hours roundtrip ride in a Toyota Tacoma, I truly appreciate and empathize with toddlers strapped in a car seat. I was a relentless passenger. “Are we there yet? Where are we now? I can’t feel my toes.” OMG!!! I’m surprised Ander didn’t pull over and tell me the what for…He’s an angel.

Meanwhile, during minor moments of consciousness, I thought about this post and what vacation location and holiday cuisine I would enter. Although I have done my share of globetrotting, memories of vacation escapes to Northern California would come about. After all, we honeymooned up the California coastline, spending time in Carmel and the Monterey Peninsula. I recall the multiple visits to our dear friends, K & J, and how they would take us to various parts of the North Bay landscape and the Mendocino Coastline to get a taste of “the country life”. The short excursions were a welcomed diversion from the hustle and bustle of “LA” proper.

"My Beautiful Backyard . . ."

As we approached our home destination, I realized, what better place to spend a holiday, vacation, respite, retreat or repose than California Wine Country in Northern California. We live in the heart and we’re right smack in the crux of “CRUSH”. This is what winemakers call the season of harvest, pressing, fermentation and blending. I’ve had the dubious honor of mentoring under the best of the best and have shared the mark of distinction of producing award-winning vintages. Winemaking is truly a labor of love. Crush season has been known to bring out the “winemaker widows” because their winemaking husbands are MIA during this period. What makes or breaks a “fine” vintage? Temperature, timing, BRIX-Acid ratio, timing, and blending. Did I mention timing? Timing is everything. There are over 2,300 wineries in the region that stretches from the Napa Valley, across Sonoma County, and up through Anderson Valley to the Mendocino Coast. The terrain offers similar climates, backdrops and the ambiance of both Provence and Tuscany. The best of both worlds.

"Good Wine is a necessity . . .- Thomas Jefferson"

Need I mention that the Wine Country provides an abundance of activities that include endless food and wine related festivals, hot air ballooning, endless healing spas that include magic finger massages and naturally, epicurean fulfillment?

In another lifetime, I managed the Bancroft House Bed and Breakfast Inn. It is one of several historic homes in the town of Sonoma. It was a quaint Gingerbread Victorian that was painstakingly renovated and remodeled to provide comfortable guest accommodations. The Inn was filled with Wine Country antiques. The theme throughout the house was Country French in the mode of Monet, the French Impressionist.

"Prized Recipes . . ."

The Inn’s dining room had the décor in replication of Monet’s Giverny estate. During the week, breakfast would consist of typical continental fare, such as mueslix or granola, fresh fruit, yogurt, pastries, fruit juice, tea and coffee. However, the Bancroft House had a reputation of having the best weekend breakfast offerings. We would impart the experience of a nineteenth-century French feast one would find served in the homes of impressionist artists Monet, Renoir, Cézanne or Toulouse-Lautrec. The buffet table would be burdened with wild mushroom quiche, smoked turkey or ham strata, breakfast salmon soufflés, baked eggs with herbs, peasant potatoes, vegetable gratins, fruit galettes or pastries, the ubiquitous French toast, fresh fruit, a selection of artisan breads, composite butters, homemade jams, a variety of teas, juice or French Pressed coffee. Naturally, the menu would change with seasonal offerings.

"Scrumptious scone . . ."

The common comestible that would become the staple of the weekend breakfasts were the freshly baked scones accompanied by homemade jams and the Bancroft House cream, a version of the inn’s Devonshire or clotted cream.

"Fresh Baked Scones . . ."

The Wine Country offers so much to this humble soul. I am forever grateful for the memories Ander and I have created in our cozy hamlet. We continue to strive and live in the quality of life that most can only imagine. I hope that in your future plans for an escape destination, I have, at least, given you an idea of what you can expect in my backyard.

I’ve included a shot of what I would usually serve for afternoon tea in the garden.

"Garden Teacakes . . ."

The figs are starting to ripen and I’m beating the Blue jays to the punch. When not in the mood for all the accompaniments, I’ll snack on some fresh sliced fruit to compliment the light and crumbly, “quick bread”.

"Quick breakfast bite . . ."

Thank you, Meeta, for a lovely mingle. I enjoyed reminiscing about my times of escape to relax, rejuvenate and renew. I think I’ll go get a massage now.

Life is a banquet, my friends.


Blogger Meeta said...

OMG Anni! This is perfect! The next time I am in SF I am sure gonna bring Soeren and myslef to join you in that backyard. I love this post! You are so gorgeous in every way!


11:59 AM, September 13, 2006  
Anonymous payal said...

Anni - I echo Meeta's sentiments...I LOVED this post, really!

2:30 PM, September 13, 2006  
Anonymous Ivonne said...


I couldn't agree with you more! Wine country is a superb vacation destination and in particular at this time of year. We call it La Vendemmia in Italian.

I love all the food! Can't wait to read the post about the family get together.

1:40 PM, September 14, 2006  

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