Category Archives: Travel Adventures

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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Great Cheap Eats in Los Angeles

Finally -- the elusive fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man!

Finally — the elusive fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man!

 

On a recent trip down to Los Angeles, I had a chance to try some new favorite eats. All satisfying. All affordable, too. The best kind, don’t you, think?

Donut Nirvana

I’d heard about it, seen pics online and salivated over it on the Food Network. But try as I might, I never seemed to be in Los Angeles at the right time of year to snag a fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man in Glendora.

Until this trip.

Let me tell you, it was definitely worth the wait and lived up to all the hype.

Imagine a fresh brioche donut split in half, then stuffed to the gills with fresh, juicy whole strawberries that have been macerated in just a smidge of syrup.

What I love is that it’s not overly sweet at all, thanks to the fact that the donut, itself, is not glazed. As a result, the flavor of the berries shine through.

It’s sort of like strawberry shortcake. Only better.

Of course, after making the drive, you've got to get more than one donut. You've got to get a box-load.

Of course, after making the drive, you’ve got to get more than one donut. You’ve got to get a box-load.

A beloved institution for more than 40 years, The Donut Man is sort of in the middle of nowhere. It’s essentially a humble kiosk with a walk-up window in a parking lot shared by a martial arts school, of all things.

If you’re anywhere in the vicinity, do make the drive.

Now, if I can only make it back one later in the summer when the fresh peach donut is available. Yes, same as the strawberry one, but with fresh slices of yellow peaches instead. That’s definitely worth making a return trip.

Grand Central Market is Plenty Grand

Think the Ferry Building in San Francisco — but a version that keeps it a little more real.

That’s Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, a market arcade that originally opened in 1917, but was infused with new life two years ago.

Sure, there are upscale food vendors now such as Belcampo Meat Co., and Bombo, esteemed Chef Mark Peel’s seafood-centric cafe.

Inside Grand Central Market.

Inside Grand Central Market.

But there are also old-school, ethnic outposts such as China Cafe, which dishes up chop suey and egg fo yeung; Valeria’s, which offers a well-stocked Latin pantry of items, including fresh mole pastes to take home to cook with; and La Casa Verde, a large produce market with very down-to-earth prices.

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