Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tour de France: All July Long!

Let it be known that the Walnofer household will shut down completely for the next 80 years in the month of July.Why, because the Tour de France starts on the first weekend of July and ends 23 days later on the final day of July. Today is the final day on the famous boulevard of the Champs-Élysées with that famous tower thing in the background.
Check out the interview with 6 stage winner Team Columbia-HTC Mark Cavendish...........
...........and with Lance, who couldn't quite add #8 to his palmares, but still finished on the podium at the ripe old age of 37! Look for Lance to return to the 2010 Tour with his new team, Team Radioshack.
At last, after 23 days and 2500+ miles, the podium presentation with the Arc de Triomphe. Now we can go on to the month of August. Hopefully the indention in the couch isn't permanent!

Ida Clayton Road, Brutal!

Receiving current inspiration from all the Tour de France coverage I've been watching, I decided to go tackle some of the 'harder' climbs dotted here around the valley. After a short drop into Sonoma County, I came across Ida Clayton Road. As the sign displays, this was going to be a long ride.The terrain gives you a pretty good indication of the incline! Up and up we go.
A quick look over the shoulder reveals the beautiful valley floor below. This is pretty incredible considering it only took me a quick 30 minute spin to get to the bottom of this climb. At this point on the climb though, I have already surpassed 30 minutes and then some.
What goes up, must come down? But hey, why only 3 miles of descent? That was the least of my worries as 3 miles actually became 3 unpaved-washboard-dirt-road-miles. White knuckles await, and then a 5 mile climb to get back over into Napa County.
I couldn't help but stop for this one. I guess their are even rednecks here in Northern California. I had thought we left most of those back in Arkansas, but apparently they are everywhere.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bouchon Bistro: Merci Beau Coup!

On a recent visit from some of our Arkansas friends, we took them to the two places we know best. Cuvasion Estate Wines winery in Carneros and Bouchon Bistro in Yountville.
I still can't get over the views of this valley. Thanks to the Mrs. for tour of the new tasting room. Come check it out when you make your next visit to Napa Valley.

From wine to dine on a beautiful summer day. Even though I spend 60 hours a week at this place, I still get as excited about eating here as I did when we ate here the first time on New Year's Eve!
We weren't alone as Bridget and Scott (the other Scott) joined us for a day of fun in the valley. We can't let Southerner's come out here to NorCal without showing them so hospitality.
So here we go, let's eat! Bon Appetit!

The Petit Plateau. I pretty much shucked my weight in oysters these past few weeks so I was more than happy to be on the receiving end. Here we have a 1/2 Lobster, 6 Mussels, 3 Clams, 3 Shrimp, 3 Massachusetts Island Creek Oysters, 3 Price Edward Island Shiny Sea Oysters, and 3 California Kumamoto Oysters. Dipping sauces included Mustard Mayo for the Mussels, Black Peppercorn Mignonette, and the classic Cocktail sauce. The same experience wasn't shared by all regarding the oysters.
Salad anyone? Sure, why not chef! Lobster Knuckle Salad with Endive, Marcona Almonds, Micro greens, and Cranapple slices.

Salade de Poulpe: Grilled Octopus & Fresh Bean Salad of Romano, Haricots, Snaps with Pickled Apricots & Basil Vinaigrette.
Special of the Day: Crispy Pork Rillettes with Pickled Carrots, Peeled Baby Onions, and Mizuna greens.
Fillet of Red Fish with Pickled Vegetables, Artichokes, and Garlic Confit with a Citrus Vinaigrette.

Now that we are all full, let's order some Main Courses. The Bouchon Classic: Poulet Roti. Roasted chicken with Riz Rouge (red rice), Garden Carrots, Lardons, Artichokes, and Mizuna.

Truite aux Amandes: Pan Roasted Trout with Toasted Almonds and TFL Garden Haricot Verts in a Beurre Noisette (brown butter) sauce.
Nothing says bistro like a Croque Madame. Fried Egg on top of a butter-fried brioche ham and cheese sandwich drizzled with Mornay Sauce. Oh yeah, and some pomme frites.

Chef saved me one order from the weekend special: Veal Chop seared and cooked sous vide then seared to order to give a nice crust and a perfect medium finish. Topped with Forest Mushroooms, Peeled Cherry Tomatoes, Mizuna Salad, and layed on a bed of Farro.

No French meal is complete without some frommage: Here we have Cantalet (cow), Pouligny St.-Pierre (goat), Bleu d'Auvergne (cow), Crottin (goat), Boho Bel (cow), and Hannah Bridge (sheep&cow). Accompaniment include candied walnuts, honeycomb, and sliced cranapples with a few edible flowers for decor. Who ate the Cantalet?
Chef wouldn't let us leave with out a little dessert! Oh la la! Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce, sliced strawberries, Creme Fraiche Ice Cream on top of a Meringue Pavlova, and the famous 'Bouchon' chocolate fudge brownie thingy's that look like corks. Were are done..........but there is more!
The Creme Caramel......................
.........and the Tarte au Citron.
Out we rolled and yes, we are all sucking in our bellies for this picture. Safe travels back to Arkansas for Scott & Bridget. Thanks for the visit to see the Walnofer's.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Restaurant Review: Checkers!

The Mrs. and I headed down to downtown Calistoga last Friday afternoon for a little lunch date since Friday night was spent serving people on Friday night dates at Bouchon.The Mrs. had been wanting to stop in and try out Checkers for quite some time. It is very casual with a simple menu with some of the Walnofer's favorites.
Ummmmmm! Tasty, chewy complimentary focaccia bread.Calzone! We split the large vegetarian calzone (I hate pepperoni and it was the only other option). Great crust and check out that nicely sealed braiding.
The calzone was packed with assorted sauteed vegetables, sundried tomatoes, melted mozzarella, and a sweet basil pesto sauce. This fun little lunch reminded me of a Friday Calzone Night from weeks past.
Homemade Walnofer Whole-Wheat Calzone.
Stuffed with meat in this one, minus the pepperoni of course! Fun afternoon with the Mrs. and can't wait to do it again................................this Friday since I am still on the p.m. shift.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

What to do in the Valley to celebrate the 4th of July??? We had a few options..................Since I had to work on the 3rd, the Mrs. headed off to the Silverado Country Club which is one of the largest fireworks shows in the Napa Valley. The country club opens up the golf course to the public and, from what I hear, fun was had by all.
Next up was the 100th annual Calistoga 4th of July parade. Speaking of up, I had to get up after my 3:00a.m. bedtime from Bouchon to make the 11:00a.m. start time. Whew! Barely made it. Nothing says local community parade like seeing your city councilman in the back of a pickup truck................
..............and nothing says Napa Valley parade like naked people in wine barrels.
I thought the Mrs.-in-law would get a kick out of these girls hulla hooping. Nuff said.
We couldn't call an end to the celebrations, so off we went to accept our invitation to the 14th Annual Louis M. Martini Winery BBQ and Fireworks. On offer tonight, would be the newly released 2008 Lot. 254 Cabernet Sauvignion Rose. It was kind of ironic, but the first wine we had when we arrived in Napa Valley, was the 2007 Lot. 254 Rose that we found in our cottage refrigerator as we were unloading our UHaul last August.
Food, fun, great wines. But, when are we going to get to the fireworks?
Here in the valley, it isn't dark enough until 9:45p.m! We were glowing with excitement (insert cheese here).

But well worth the wait! What a fun day and thanks again to the Martini's for letting us celebrate with them and 500 of their closest friends. God Bless America!