Category Archives: Travel Adventures

Scenes From Chefs’ Holidays 2016 At The Ahwahnee

The Ahwahnee looking as it should in winter.

The Ahwahnee looking as it should in winter.

 

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA — Last week, I had the great pleasure of returning for the fourth year in a row to help host the incomparable 31st Annual Chefs’ Holidays event at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite.

Besides the stellar chefs, the welcoming staff, and the outstanding food, there was one other unforgettable highlight: snow.

Yes, after four years of drought, and a January a year ago where it was so dry and warm that I hiked in a T-shirt, it was a joy to see Yosemite dusted in powdery, fluffy white, looking every bit its picture-postcard self.

(L to R): Sous Chef Daniel Gomez Sanchez of La Toque, Executive Chef Ken Frank of La Toque, Sarah and Evan Rich of Rich Table, and David Bazirgan of Dirty Habit.

(L to R): Sous Chef Daniel Gomez Sanchez of La Toque, Executive Chef Ken Frank of La Toque, Sarah and Evan Rich of Rich Table, and David Bazirgan of Dirty Habit.

Chefs’ Holidays takes place every January through early February. It is comprised of eight sessions, with each one spotlighting three renowned chefs, each of whom does a cooking demo. There is a wine reception to meet all the chefs. Each session ends with a gala dinner prepared by the headliner chef or all three participating chefs.

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A Leisurely Lunch at Barndiva

Yellowfin tuna at Barndiva.

Yellowfin tuna at Barndiva.

 

On a recent rainy Friday afternoon, my husband and I ducked into the pretty trellised courtyard and right through the inviting doors of Barndiva in Healdsburg.

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones lured inside by the laid-back, rustic warmth of its barn-like setting, as the cozy dining room soon filled up with locals greeting each other with hugs and kicking back with glasses of wine.

It’s easy to see why this is a spot that attracts folks again and again.

It has a free spiritedness about it with eclectic artwork on the walls, including a wall of vintage wooden shoe forms at the entrance. In fact, the secondary dining room is an actual art gallery by day, and an event space by night.

The bar area.

The bar area.

I hadn’t dined at Barndiva since shortly after it opened in 2004, so I was happy to go again in December after being invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

About six years ago, Chef Ryan Fancher came on board after cooking alongside Richard Reddington at Auberge du Soleil, and Thomas Keller at both the French Laundry in Yountville and Per Se in New York.

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A Visit to Healdsburg Shed

You can find house-milled flour at the Healdsburg Shed -- and a whole lot more.

You can find house-milled flour at the Healdsburg Shed — and a whole lot more.

 

Imagine the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace — only miniaturized, condensed, moved to Wine Country, and all owned and operated under one umbrella by one couple.

That’s what Healdsburg Shed is like.

It’s also the winner of the 2014 James Beard Award for “Best Restaurant Design.” So, you know it’s a beautiful place to behold.

It’s also so much more than just a restaurant. The soaring, 10,000-square foot space is also a retail cookware store, a fresh produce stand, a gourmet foods purveyor, a mill (yes, they grind their own fresh flour there), a kombucha bar, and a community gathering space for concerts, movies, visiting chef dinners, and cooking demonstrations.

As owner Cindy Daniel describes her nearly three-year-old endeavor, “It’s all to celebrate good farming, good cooking, and good eating.”

The award-winning design.

The award-winning design.

Everything under one roof.

Everything under one roof.

Daniel, who has an air of Alice Waters about her, and her husband, Doug Lipton, an environmental scientist, left San Francisco 20 years ago to start a 15-acre farm in Healdsburg, about five miles from the Shed.

Daniel had a yoga studio and a retail store in San Francisco; Lipton once ran a food co-op in Boulder, CO in the 1970s. But this is their first restaurant.

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Trokay — A Fine-Dining Surprise in Truckee

Kauai shrimp sizzling away on searingly hot granite at Trokay.

Kauai shrimp sizzling away on searingly hot granite at Trokay.

 

TRUCKEE, CA — In my youth, trips to Lake Tahoe didn’t involve sophisticated fare. Instead, it was all about burgers, pastas and Mexican food — hearty and inexpensive eats that filled you up after a hard day on the slopes.

But truth be told, it was also because those simple dishes were all that could be found then.

Not anymore.

Imagine my delight to find Trokay in Truckee, a fine-dining establishment versed in molecular gastronomy and true attention to detail that would be right at home in San Francisco or New York.

In fact, owners John and Nyna Weatherson are from New York. She was the head cheesemonger of the landmark Murray’s Cheese in the West Village. He is a Culinary Institute of America graduate, who was the top-ranked student in his class, and went on to be chef de partie at Restaurant Daniel.

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S’Mores and More at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe

Warm up with a gourmet s'more at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe.

Warm up with a gourmet s’more at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe.

 

TRUCKEE, CA — After a four-hour drive, what better way to stretch the legs (and arms)  than by making and devouring a gourmet s’more?

That’s just what my husband and I did after dropping off our bags in our room at The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, where I was invited to be a guest for its Epicurean Weekend two weeks ago.

We made it to the resort just in time, too, for its daily, early-evening “Marshmology” event on the terrace, which is not to be missed. After all, who can pass up house-made marshmallows in flavors such as caramel apple, orange, and pumpkin spice?

Marshmalogists are on hand to help you thread your chosen marshmallow on a long steel skewer, which you then hold over the nearby fire pit until it’s as gooey and charred as you like. Then, your Marshmalogist will help you squish the toasty marshmallow in between graham crackers and a piece of chocolate. Press down and take a sweet, messy bite. If that doesn’t make you feel like everything’s right in the world, nothing will.

Your friendly marshmalogist.

Your friendly marshmalogist.

Where all the action happens.

Where all the action happens.

The finished product. Oh, yes!

The finished product. Oh, yes!

Epicurean Weekend, the first weekend in October, is a slower time for the resort. It’s not yet winter, when the slopes are packed with skiers and snow-boarders (snow, notwithstanding). And it’s past summer, when hoards of mountain bikers aren’t careening down the barren slopes of next-door Northstar, though there were still a fair number that weekend.

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