Sunday, April 13, 2014

Plan a trip to Napa Valley

I'm fresh off a trip to California wine country! After the winter we've had in the northeast, I needed to go west and be a wine snob. We've been wanting to go to Napa for a while now, but in the depths of February I decided it needed to be in the next few weeks. Fast forward to March, and we were on a plane to SFO. 

The Mondavi Estate

Let me tell you: I'm from the Finger Lakes in New York, as you know. I'm no stranger to the rambling country roads that make up a wine tour, but the scenery in Napa was heavenly. I think it's the most beautiful place I've ever been. (Sorry, FLX!) And don't just take it from me: You know that Microsoft desktop image called Bliss? You know, the one with the bright green rolling hills and the blue sky with puffy white clouds that looks like it must be Photoshopped? Yep, that's Napa

The Mondavi Estate

Anyway, I thought since we learned a lot on our trip, I'd give you a few tips for your next trip. 

How to plan a trip to Napa Valley

Castello di Amarosa

1. Plan your route
With so many wineries to choose from, it's best to plan out your route ahead of time. If you've never been to Napa, go for some of the famous wineries like Castello di Amarosa, modelled after a 13th century Tuscan castle, and the Mondavi estate. You've probably had Mondavi wines, but at the winery they offer some that aren't sold around the country, and you can't beat the ambiance. To miss the crowds, tour these places during the week. When the tasting room is next to empty, you might even get some special treatment (read: extra tastes). 

But, the best part of Napa is experiencing some of the wineries that don't really sell their wines elsewhere. A few of my favorites were Peju and Prager. 

Peju was whimsical and almost Seussical, with some interesting wines like Provence, a red and white blend that I would have never expected to like. It was light and fresh and perfect for sipping. 

Down the road a bit was Prager Winery and Port Works. They've been around for 35 years, but are set back from the main road in a little house that you might just drive past if you're not looking out for it. Their walls were covered with dollar bills and other currency from visitors all over the world. We fell in love with their white port, which was caremelly and nutty and delicious.  

2. Don't overdo it
Four or five wineries in a day is probably the most you'll want to do. The nice thing about tastings in Napa is, although they'll run you $15-25 for four to five wines, they usually encourage people to share. They don't want to pour for a bunch of drunkards, and that's not really the way to really taste wine. 

3. Don't just drink
Napa is filled with some of the nation's best restaurants. Even if French Laundry isn't in your budget, stop for a macaron at the more reasonably priced Bouchon Bakery

4. Check a bag
Wine is as much imbued with the ambiance and memories of the place you tasted it as the flavors themselves. Buy a few bottles to bring home and extend your vacation a little when you need it most! (You can believe we brought home a bottle of Prager port!) 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Should you put coconut oil on your face?

Maybe you've never asked yourself that question. But I'll answer it for you anyway: Yes, you definitely should. 

I know I usually post about edible things on this blog, but since coconut oil is technically a pantry item, I didn't think you'd mind. 

Let me explain: In the depths of February, my skin was the pasty white of someone who has never seen the sun. It was also dry and chapped, thanks to the Polar Vortex and the plain 'ole regular cold weather. I played around with a few commercial facial moisturizers, but after reading about the benefits of coconut oil, I decided to give it a try on my face, and I'm glad I did.

Not only is it incredibly hydrating, it seems to have cleared up my complexion. That seems a little counter-intuitive at first, but coconut oil is actually known for its antibacterial, anti inflammatory properties. I use about half a teaspoon for my face, and I only put it on at night (in the morning I use regular moisturizer). It has the dual benefits of hydrating my skin overnight and making my face smell like a macaroon. 

If you're not quite convinced, try putting a little on your lips! It's the best chap stick I've ever used. I haven't tried it on my hair yet, but I bet it would also make a great deep conditioner. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

How to Flame a Citrus Peel

Flamed citrus peel is an easy way to impress your guests and make a tasty cocktail even tastier.

To flame an orange or lemon peel, slice off a thin circle of peel. It would be good to use organic fruit in this case, since in most cases you'll be adding the peel to your drink.

Now, light a long match or butane lighter. Run the flame over the surface of the peel to release the oils. Then, holding it over your drink, gently squeeze. The oils will cause a little burst of flame, and your peel will have a nice caramelized flavor. Pop your peel into the drink and enjoy.

I like a flamed orange peel in an old fashioned or Lillet Blanc over ice.