Vacation Eats – Los Olivos Wine Adventure

Today we woke up bright and early and decided to go north to wine country. Our pick was the tiny town of Los Olivos, in the Santa Ynez Valley.

We began the morning eating Mexican Breakfast at Tacos Delta in Silver Lake. We split two burritos between the three of us because they were pretty big. We got a bacon-potato-egg-rice-bean burrito and a potato-cheese-egg-rice-bean burrito. The salsa at this place was great! It was not too spicy and it had cilantro in it, a good addition to the burritos.

We grabbed a coffee at Casbah Cafe. I had an iced coffee (which was excellent). The shop was really colorful inside and all of the pastries and foods were carefully set up with care to look beautiful. I loved that they had nice brown hard boiled eggs on the counter top and fresh figs.

We got our coffees to-go and we started our journey north. We made it pretty far before we had to make a pit stop…

We stopped in a small beach town called Summerland and walked into a cafe with lots of lawn ornaments and a nice front porch called Cafe Luna. I am mentioning this place because I thought it was really cool that they had home-brewed Kombucha tea. There’s only one girl that knows how to brew it that works there. Unfortunately, she was on her own vacation and their Kombucha supply ran dry until she gets back. We all got their standard black iced tea. It had a nice clean and slightly sweet flavor (it was unsweetened though) and you didn’t have to add anything to it. It was perfect just how it was.


Next stop, Los Olivos. The drive up was mostly highway that ran through beautiful hills next to the coast then we had to turn inland. We drove amongst golden grassy hills with wiry oak trees that looked like they grew slightly tilted from the wind.

Los Olivos was quaint. It had one market, one coffee shop, and numerous wine tasting rooms from the surrounding vineyards and farms.

We stopped at Andrew Murray Vineyards, Blair Fox, and Kaena wine tasting rooms. I can’t even pretend to know exactly what I am talking about when it comes to wine. I do love tasting them though and I think I learned a lot about wine just in one day!

Andrew Murray wines were my favorite. I realized here that I actually like white wine. We tried a Viognier (which I have never had) that was delicious and fruity and seemed perfect for a hot day. I learned pretty quick that I really like the blended wines. I ended up getting one from here called Eleven, a blend of grenache, cabernet and syrah. It is a reference to Spinal Tap and the amplifier that can crank the volume to Eleven.

The one thing that really stuck out at Blair Fox vineyard is that their wine was very earthy. It was like you could taste the differences in the dirt the grapes were grown in. It made me notice different flavors and definitely remember them.

There was one white wine at Kaena that had a creamy, smooth, fruity flavor to it. It is called Hapa Blanc, a blend of grenache blanc and roussanne. I like it so much that I bought a bottle to take home with me. One thing that I will take away from this wine experience is that I learned I like good white wine. White wine (any kind) isn’t my favorite, but I now realize I was probably just drinking some very low quality ones.

Before we left the town center, we went to Global Gardens for an olive oil tasting! This was my favorite part of this little adventure. Yes, I like wine, but I love olive oil! We tasted a few olive oils from first pressings, blood orange infused olive oil, spice blends, olive spread, and infused vinegars. They gave you a really nice little bread roll to soak up all of the flavors and the woman that poured all of our tastings told you all about each one so it was really informative. Of course… I ended up joining the Olive Oil club (with some gentle pushing from Janeen and Erin). You get a shipment of their products four times a year for a pretty good price. I can’t wait to go home and try them out… my first one will be waiting for me when I get back! Here’s our tasting palate…

We also went to Buttonwood winery, a few miles down from all of the wine tasting rooms in Los Olivos center. Their wine was good but maybe not as good as some of the other places. This winery stop was all about the farm. They had chickens, pigs, goats, a horse, flower gardens, a peach orchard, and all kinds of places outside to sit and take it all in. It was beautiful. We had a really fun time taking pictures here…

We had to start heading back to LA after Buttonwood and we had to get some dinner. Tasting all that wine made us work up an appetite….

We tried to find this place called Cold Spring Tavern… and what a find it was! We took a winding desolate road for a while and just as we thought we went the wrong way, we see all cars lining the skinny roadway on both sides. This place was an oasis in the dry hills, and it was packed! It was part dining room, part biker bar, part BBQ pit, with shacks in the woods from the stage coach era. We went for the beef tri-tip sandwiches. You had to go in to the bar to purchase a ticket, then go outside to the BBQ pit to get your giant sandwiches from a big burly Mexican guy.

He took a giant hunk of meat off the grill and sliced it up for the three of us, placed it on grilled bread, handed over the sandwiches and told us to squish it all together. Erin asked him how he eats it and his reply was “horseradish and salsa.” I chose the barbeque sauce and horseradish sauce on mine.

It was so big, I couldn’t eat it all. I am definitely not used to eating that much meat all in one sitting. It filled me up for the rest of the night.

We made our way back to Los Angeles through stretches of traffic. We stopped in at a party at The Park restaurant, where Erin works. Then we headed into Hollywood for a comedy show. All-in-all a great day in CA!

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Skydiving Sandwich

Yesterday we went skydiving with Skydive Philadelphia! It was one of the coolest things I have ever done. I actually set everything up for Dan’s 30th birthday last year but we never cashed in the certificates. After almost a year, and one failed attempt because of clouds, yesterday was finally our day. We drove up to the tiny town of Perkasie, Pa to make the leap.

We still have to wait for the video and pictures from the skydive company. I can’t wait to see them, I am sure we probably both look kind of crazy. I yelled the almost the whole way down…not because I was scared, but because it was awesome!

Dan went out of the plane first. I was watching him get ready to go, scoot to the edge, and get ready next to the door… one second I was looking at him and not even a second later he was gone. It was like he got sucked out and went straight down. I didn’t see him again until I was almost landing. Here he is getting closer to the ground:

I thought the free fall felt like plunging through water. It was so exciting to see the ground below me and not be in an airplane. I thought I would be scared but I felt like I was floating and not scared at all. It was like the very first little part of the hill on a roller coaster but it lasted a lot longer.

Once the parachute opened it really felt like I was floating. I could see the Philadelphia skyline from where we were, which was pretty cool because we were about an hour away from there. It was also pretty surreal floating above houses, rivers, and a lake getting closer and closer to it all and then being on the ground before you know it. I think it’s the closest I’ll ever be to being a bird in the sky. That’s me landing in the photo above.

We survived and had a really great time!  After all of that jumping out of airplanes and free falling we worked up quite an appetite. We went to this really great breakfast/lunch place called The Down to Earth Cafe. We it found last time we were in Perkasie about a month ago. We attempted to skydive last month but there was a thunderstorm in the morning and the clouds never cleared, so we didn’t get to jump… but we had a great lunch.

The first time we ate here we both got the special panini made with ham and brie. It was really good and made with very fresh and high quality ingredients. The Down to Earth Cafe uses as many local, organic ingredients as they can. You can tell they really pay attention to quality. They also have a list of daily specials that use in-season ingredients. I wish I could come here of breakfast because all of the breakfast choices looked amazing. They also have a lot of really great drink choices that are made with real sugar and interesting ingredients. I tried this sipp ginger drink that was really good.

This time Dan ordered the fish tacos (one of the signature dishes). They looked nicely put together with flour tortillas, House-made red cabbage cole slaw, deep fried seasonal fish fillets, and slices of tomato and avocado. I actually didn’t taste them, which is weird for me because I always want to taste everything… I must have still been over excited from the fall and wasn’t thinking. Dan said they were really good so I’ll have to trust him.

I got the panini special again. This time it was sautéed spinach, white beans, feta cheese and grilled artichoke hearts all squished between two slices of rye bread. It was a really nice combination. I only added a little bit of salt and pepper. It also came with a side of red potato salad, which was one of the best potato salads I have ever had. The potatoes were cooked perfectly and the dressing was just right, not overly seasoned and not too heavy of the mayonnaise, just a little bit ( I really hate when there is too much mayo on food, I think the consistency is gross).

I also got a side of sesame noodles because I didn’t know I was getting a side of potato salad. The sesame noodles were also really good, with just the right amount of dressing and seasoning to coat the noodles.

Overall, this place is great! I would go back here in a minute if I am ever in Perkasie again. If you find your self in upper Bucks County, it is definitely worth a stop.

The search for the perfect bun…

I have been searching for the perfect burger bun for years. I remember the day that I found it. It was about two years ago at my favorite restaurant in Lancaster – John J. Jeffries. They began featuring a grass-fed burger on their menu for summer and I had to try it. It was perfectly cooked (medium rare) and had home-made ketchup and caramelized onions on top. The bun was perfect – a brioche bun that was light, airy, and toasted just enough to make the edges a little crunchy. You could bit right through it and your burger didn’t slide out the other side. It was the bun I was searching for! I asked the waiter about the bun and he informed me that they get them from LeBus Bakery in Philadelphia. I never made it to LeBus when I was visiting Philadelphia and I never found the buns anywhere in Lancaster. Until…

I was in line at the smoothie stand at market on Tuesday waiting for my mango-strawberry-coconut-OJ smoothie to cool me down in the 100 degree heat. I looked up and saw them…a whole dozen…sitting on top of the bread display next to the cooler full of juice…with a little sign that read “brioche buns, Le Bus bakery”… I could not believe it! The Lancaster Juice Company also gets Le Bus bakery products to sell at their stand, I knew this, but I did not know they ever got the brioche buns!

Oh happy day! They were mine, and they freeze well… so I bought the whole dozen.

Soft inside, golden and shiny on the outside. All those summers of trying to create a burger good enough to submit into the Build a Better Burger contest… I finally have the bun. I hope I can create a burger worthy enough.

I’ve started my burger testing yesterday with a simple idea that I hope is a winning combination.

Burger #1 (I still need to think of a good name):

toasted brioche bun

medium-rare grilled grass fed burger

1 thick slice of pink heirloom tomato

a few fresh basil leaves

sliced fresh mozzarella

sliced avocado

thinly sliced red onion

I also added some green meanie dressing, because I can’t resist putting condiments on grilled food. It was good and it made it a little more moist. The tomato was nice and juicy but the dressing made it great.

Washington Boro Tomato Festival

One of my favorite things about summer is tomatoes. You really can’t get anything better than a late summer tomato. They always have amazing color and flavor that just can’t be matched any other time of year. My favorite place to get tomatoes is the tomato barn in Washington Boro, Pa.

I went for a ride the other day to pick up their famous Jet Stars. They claim to be “the sweetest tomatoes on earth” and I believe them. They are sweet, juicy and that bright red that reminds me of the fourth of July. I love seeing the tomatoes and other veggies all lined up together in the barn. I couldn’t help taking some pictures.

I always end up buying the “seconds” tomatoes. They aren’t perfectly round and they have some lines across the bottoms that I guess make them less desirable. I kind of like the messed-up look to them and for some reason I think they taste better. They look like a lot of heirloom varieties that grow in all funky sorts of shapes. They are also cheaper… you get a big flat box for $5!

I am going to use most of them to make sauce and salsa… I think they have character.

I noticed that the Tomato Festival was this Saturday! So of course I had to go, it’s one of my favorite events of the summer. There is something about eating a tomato sandwich on a grassy hill across from the Susquehanna river that makes it taste like no other tomato sandwich that you could ever make at home.

 

Jet star tomatoes, squishy white bread, lettuce, onions, mayo = the tomato festival sandwich.

I don’t know how I love these so much. I don’t normally eat squishy white bread or mayo… it must be the magic of the river or something.