When my good friend’s husband called me asking if I’d be interested in throwing his wife Sarah’s surprise 30th birthday party on a vineyard in Alexander Valley, you can imagine my response was a bit like, “yaaaaaahhhh!!!!!”
I mean, what’s better than family and friends gathering around the dinner table (in the middle of a vineyard)!? um, nothing.
Ah I can’t believe this is my JOB!
From creating the vision for the night, the 6 course wine pairing dinner menu and styling every detail – right down to the silk ribbon tied around the name tag & rosemary – I love doing it ALL!
(I could do without the -up at 6am to marinate 30 lbs of flank steak though but that’s ok, part of being a caterer
Saturday was truly a magical night, so I thought I’d share a few pics:
I said to MacKensey of PoppyStoneFloral, “think, French woman standing in a vineyard in a flowy lace dress, holding a silver tray of appetizers and a glass of rose in cut glass crystal stemware” Does that paint the picture or what!?
The birthday girl sat in a French style chair and vintage rentals were, provided by Erica of Tine Roof Farm House.
And My mom and I browsed antique shops for mix-matching crystal votive holders. We had about 40 on the table. So pretty.
I made matches that said “Make A Wish – Happy Birthday Sarah” – everyone had a box at their place setting and we all lit a cadle and made a wish together!
Breadsticks and Olives in glasses to add to the Provence French theme.
Silver Trays lined with grape leaves I picked from the vineyard for serving appetizers. Also provided by Tin Roof Farm House.
Dessert table with a gold frame chalkboard that read “describe a special memory with Sarah” and everyone put their stories in my mom’s vintage hat box.
It’s a macaroon party
The sun goes down – but the party goes well into the night! SO much LOVE was in the air. Sarah’s friends and family even flew in from the east coast. Photo by Melanie
Six course wine and dinner pairing menu
And a huge thank you to my amazing friend Melanie who helped plan the night for our dear Sarah! While running your own business and raising a 1.5 year old, you still found time to help create the special night – thank you so much!
Hop on over to my website if you’re interested in learning more about my services.
I’ve teamed up with 4 experts in the women’s wellness world to provide you with an unforgettable and relaxing weekend! Your stay includes morning meditation with my cousin Laney, rooftop pilates with Kelsey, holistic cooking/nutrition demos with Andi and Christian and 1 restorative massage. I’ll be cooking 3 nourishing meals a day with organic produce picked that morning, eggs from our farm and fish caught in the afternoon.
So excited to share with you a few appetizers (vegetarian and gluten free whootwhoot) that I paired with bubblies at the GastroVinos Food and Wine festival this weekend.
Pairing 4 appetizers with 4 bubblies from the Freixenet de Mexico vineyard.
First of all, absolutely LOVING the sun, sand, salty water, surfing, not shaving my legs in 2 weeks, dirty hair and chipped nail polish I could get used to this for sure! Never thought it’d be possible, but was actually sick of chips and salsa by day 3 and am seriously considering changing my name to Ceviche and Spice!
Anyway, to the important stuff… I was so honored when my best friend since childhood, Mac asked me to come down to Todos Santos as a guest chef and pair a few appetizers with a local Mexican winemaker of Guadalupe Valley at his annual wine festival. I fell in love with Baja wine 3 years ago when Mac and I toured the wine valley in Ensenada for a week, so being able to work with the wine makers and vineyard owners again has been such a wonderful experience. I was faced with a few bumps in the road though: Pairing food with bubblies is something I’m not familiar with. Had no idea what produce would be in season and local here. I don’t speak spanish or know how to drive a manual car. Where exactly would I be cooking food for 50 people. However, to my pleasant surprise, it all turned out fine, people like the food, and I didn’t crash the rental car! phew
The Menu and Wine Pairings:
(all ingredients were grown locally)
Nona’s Sevilla Green Gazpacho with Lime and Cilantro Gremolata and Crispy Tortilla (pictured) with Gran Resserva
Mamma’s Italian Sun Marinated Tomatoes and Basil Bruschetta with Rose
Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna with Avocado Creme on a Rice Round with Chardonnay
Stewed Strawberries andVanilla Chia Pudding with Semi Seco
Representing Californian Cuisine and my passion for healthy, clean, vegetarian food in Mexico has been such a wonderful experience. Thank you Mac!
and up at 5am to teach 4 spin/trx classes at Cardio-Tone
Today’s Living Deliciously Tip:
balance late night dancing and boozing with early morning exercising and veg-ing!
big salad with local eggs – SPF 45 – Anthropologie blanket – bowl dad made 50 years ago in wood shop class- basket I picked up in the South of France – getting inspirations for next week’s veg menu – lemon water – sun hat
Late Lunch at Swan Oyster Depot with a really great guy. Swan is a famous sea food spot in SF (10 min walk from my place)… it’s been around for years and still family run. The guys running it grew up in SF and know my family so going there is a party in and of itself. Let’s just say 2 hours later we’re the last people there and were taking birthday shots of fernet (bad idea).
I hustle home by 6, as friends are arriving at 8, and whipped up an amazing Chocolate Fallen Cake with Coconut Whip Cream and Fresh Toasted Coconut sprinkled on top. Gluten free, obviously. Recipe from Bon Appetit
My girls show up 10min to 8 with all the beautiful cocktail fixings, liquor, fresh fruit and herbs. Party Tips:This is a great way to serve drinks and make a party more fun and interactive. Your quests will enjoy getting to experiment with creating delicious concoctions too.
I requested one thing from people arriving and that was to bring something for the homeless. Just blocks from my apartment is an area of town where people sleep on the streets and go all day hungry – breaks my heart that this is happening so close to home. That’s a whole other story for another time. Anyway, about 20 friends showed up with donations for the needy…so special. Thanks, guys.
Saturday morning my brother took me to brunch. Which was really tacos and margaritas at 10am at Nicks Tacos. I love this place and during the day – great spot to watch a game. Avoid after 6pm, as the place fills up the jocks and drunken obnoxiousness.
Tacos were followed by a 4 hour late lunch basking in the sun where the rosè flows like wine and beautiful women flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talking about a little place called Delfina on Fillmore. Thinking I could keep up with my friend (a giant athletic dude) we continue our adventure to Umami (the duck, oh the duck, heaven), Herry’s Bar (nasty), Hi-Lo Club (great spot for fancy cocktails), Big Foot (nasty) and ended at Bob’s Donuts (where I enjoyed TWO apple fritters). Best night ever, thanks Sito!
Sunday Birthday Picnic at the ocean, off Highway 1
My only birthday wish was to go to a goat farm, pet the goats and then eat their cheese. So come Sunday my mom, aunt and Mindee (cousin, slash best friend) took me to Pescadero’s Harley Goat Farm, about an hour south of SF, right off highway 1. The drive alone is worth the trip. We stop at a beach along the way to have lunch. Mindee out did herself (as usual) and made a beautiful spread with beautiful birthday decorations. Picnic Tips: Pack salads in mason jars, use cloth, silverware and glass as it is more eco and wont blow away, decorate with colorful straws. Lunch was followed by Harley Goat Farm. Yes, I bought a blue plaid shirt just for the occasion
Aunt Izzy Loving the baby goat. Momma goat stuck in the fence. Making cheese. My momma bear getting comfortable with the goats
Last night we celebrated Morgan’s birthday…a dear friend who is so fabulous in every way… she’s loving, smart, loyal, caring, funny and easy going – I know, a catch right?! The plan was to start at my apartment with Light Bites, Moscow Mules and Cupcakes before making our way down the hill to a few dive bars… well we ended up talking well into after the time for last call… That’s what happens in good company, you loose track of time. Sending much love to my wonderful girlfriends!
Loving the use of almond meal lately in place of regular white flour. It adds so much more depth, texture, flavor and not to mention is better for you than wheat. Almond are packed full of vitamins and minerals whereas nutritionally, wheat flour doesn’t have too much to offer.
2 eggs, 1/3 cup maple, 1 t lemon juice, 1/3 cup safflower oil, 1 T vanilla
1 t baking soda, 1/2 t salt, 1 cup almond meal, 1/2 cup sweet rice flour (can use only 1.5 cups of almond meal if you do not have rice flour)
Mix the wet with a fork. Mix in the dry.
Makes about 9 cupcakes. Probably would have been 10, but I ate a lot of batter (hey, the eggs were organic and local, it’s all good!)
1 cup butter, 1/2 t salt, vanilla, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 6 T maple syrup
Mix in a blender until smooth – adjust the ingredients to get the correct smooth consistency .
I just spent a week in Milan, soaking up the Euro energy, roaming the cobblestone streets and enjoying long nights on the Naviglio!
I’ll admit, Milan does not have a ton to offer… the city is crowded, polluted and well, not so glamorous. But despite it’s rough edges, Milan is one of my very most favorite cities in the world. Not only because I spent a chunk of my early 20s living there, but because it is a city with so much life, energy, possibilities, culture, beauty, architecture, art and not to mention amazing night life and food!
I was staying with my best friend who has a wonderful apartment right next to the Naviglio. The Naviglio is a canal that runs through the city, lined with bars and restaurants, where at 7pm the Milanese go to unwind and meet friends for an aparitivo (photo, top right). This is quite possibly my favorite Italian tradition! I could get used to this custom, no problem. Cape Town is a neighborhood favorite where they are famous for their Moscow Mules (photo, bottom right)!
I now keep Moscow Mule Makings in my fridge at all times, and I think you should too – they are so simple and refreshing on a hot summer day:
Vodka, Ginger Beer or Ginger Ale, Fresh Ginger Slices. You can even get fancy and add some cucumber of mint.
Late Lunch (top left picture)
Traveling is the best diet for me because I roam around cities for hours and completely forget about eating until I am famished and faint! One afternoon, just as I had been starting to feel HANGRY (hungry and angry) I stumbled across Botega Caffe Cacao. 9 euro included salad of choice, drink (I chose sparkling water), an espresso and a little in-house made dessert (strawberry slushy and a chocolate dipped wooden spoon). I’m telling you, it is not expensive to eat well and healthy in Europe. It’s not a class or status thing like it is made to be here in the states! Everyone can afford to eat their veggies in Europe – the way it should be (shame on America and our subsidized, corrupt food industry)!
Salad in a Bread Bowl
Well, not really bread, more like a giant crispy flat bread! And look at the adorable oil and vinegar packets. Italians also keep it light and simple with the dressings. Ranch is NOT found in Italy – see more secrets to staying slim living the Italian life here
Nicoise is my absolute favorite salad to get out at lunch – it has the right amount of protein to keep me fueled until dinner, but not too heavy leaving me feeling blah. Of course they added the mozzarella balls
Morning Coffee (bottom left picture)
Every Morning Cecile and I would enjoy a cup of coffee (American style – my style – big cup) at an adorable cafe downstairs from her apartment called That’s Bakery. By the end of the week our regular server asked me to stay and marry him, or he would move to SF – ha you gotta love the Italian men, so passionate!
I catered a lunch yesterday with a menu that I am so excited about! It was such a beautiful representation of what you’d find at a Farmers Market in July – so fresh and delicious – I have to share. If you are not a big meat eater – I think salmon would substitute nicely for the skirt steak.
Figs and Prosciutto over Ricotta, Drizzled with Honey
(For the non pork eaters substitute chopped pistachios for prosciutto)
Grilled Peaches with Toasted Walnuts, Pt Reyes Blue Cheese in a Balsamic Dressing
Skirt Steak over Fresh Corn Polenta
Sun Marinated Heirloom Tomato (soaked in a bowl of olive oil, balsamic, basil and garlic – Amazing and can go on anything! This is my summer staple)
Fresh Chopped Salad of Summer Squash, Zucchini, Wax Bean and Haricot Vert Swith Lemon Zest, Basil, Pine Nuts and Fresh Grated Parmesan
Dessert (not pictured) Short Cakes, Vanilla Ice Cream and Plum Compote
Prep Ahead Tips: Day Before: prep, chop and blanch your summer veggies Steam corn for polenta Make your dressing and marinades Start Marinating your Tomatoes Chop nuts make Shortcakes for dessert
Morning Of: Make crostini Grill the peaches Grill the Steak (only to rare – let rest for 10 minutes, then slice and divide on 2 small baking pans. Reheat in the oven for your guests right before serving – this will finish the cooking too. I divided the meat between 2 pans so that one batch would be brought up to med-rare and the other batch I left in the oven a bit longer to bring the meat up to med) Fill a large pot on the stove with broth and line up your polenta ingredients to throw in and make cooking/hosting as easy as possible (4 cups broth, 1 cup polenta. 1 cup parm, 2 cups fresh corn steamed and cut off ear)
Skirt Steak Marinade: So good- I need to write this down so I don’t forget what I did Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Brown Sugar, Chopped Garlic, Soy Sauce, Worcestershire Sauce
Anyone who knows me, knows that I love an excuse to host a party. So when my married friends and I started a monthly dinner group, you can imagine how excited I was when it was my turn to host!
I want to share this dinner party as an example of how simple it can be to host a fabulous supper in style and stilettos ah! The key is to plan ahead and decide on a menu that can be prepped days before and requires little hands on time during your party… for example a cheese, fruit and nut platter for an appetizer and slow cooked meat for your main…
I decided on a Provence theme because, well, I’m obsessed with the south of France! The food, wine, culture, language, men, style, architecture, cobble stones, surf, music, all of it!
Provence Party Menu
Slow Cooked Lemon Chicken in Garlic and Thyme
over Saffron Rice
Rosated Broccoli and Garlic with Basil, Parmesan and Pine Nuts
Ratatouille with Homemade Pesto
Lavender Madeleines with Honey Creme Fraiche
Set the mood
Offer your quests a glass of wine when they come in. Simple say, “I just opened a bottle of wine, can I pour you a glass?”
French music on Pandora
Savorying Provence, cookbook on my coffee table
Olive tree to add a little nature
Little bowls of olives and rosemary marcona almonds
Get creative with the fillings. Really anything works in Nori Rolls. I used quinoa to make this a full protein lunch and a raw almond and sun-dried tomato spread to add healthy fats, protein and flavor. Once you get the hang of rolling and assembling you’ll be amazed at how easy it is and wonder why you don’t make them more often
You can lay the seaweed out on parchment paper if you do not have a bamboo roller (I just didn’t feel like getting mine down from storage- how often does one really roll seaweed!?)
Thin layer of spread, followed by a grain then veggies
Easy a 1-2-3!
Nori Rolls: Seaweed Sliced Veggies Grain (quinoa or rice are my favorite) Directions: Have a little bowl of warm water near by. You will be using this to dip your finger into when securing the seaweed roll closed Lay a piece of seaweed down on bamboo (wax paper…) Working in the third closest to you Top with a thin layer of spread (Almond Pate, Hummus, Tahini with lemon and watered down a bit, peanut sauce…) Top with veggies Roll Tightly Dip your fingers into the water and run them across the last 1/2 inch of seaweed Press the wet seaweed against the roll
Almond Pate: 1 cup Almonds Soaked 8-24 hours Sun-dried tomatoes 1/2 cup fresh basil 1 T fresh squeezed Lemon juice 2 t Tamari, soy sauce or shoyu Cayenne for a kick (optional) Salt and pepper Directions: Drain the almonds Place Almonds into a food processor and blend until smooth Add the remaining ingredients and process until well mixed and blended.
Notes: Use a grain that is cooled completely. If you must- throw it in the freezer for a few minutes if you’ve just cooked it. If you do not have rolling bamboo (I’m sure there is an actual name for it) you can use wax of parchment paper.
Cut into bite size pieces, these little guys make pretty party appetizers
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Just finished salmon with roasted garlic and parsnip purée - brilliant! Everything tasted great and was perfectly filling. Truly, you are the best gift I've ever given myself - thank you! — Karyn Barsa
Thank you so much for the absolutely perfect event last week. Many guests said it was a truly "old-fashioned Christmas party!" The delicious family-style meal made it so! — Ann McNamee
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First, Thank you so much. Recreating the dinner you taught me was surprisingly very enjoyable and easy for me today (which is a huge testament to you) and secondly, every single bite was consumed and thoroughly enjoyed. Salmon dish was a HUGE hit. We all toasted you. — Lauren Irons, Mother of 3