Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Restaurant Experience: Jole!

Finally! After 13 months of living in Calistoga, we finally made it down to Jole for a birthday dinner for a CIA classmate of mine. We have always heard great things about it, so let's see if it is as good as its reputation.Merci beau coup from the kitchen. Luckily, a couple classmates work here and they did not disappoint. From the front of the house came a round of Avinyó Brut Cava, Penedès, Spain NV and from the back came some Veal Sweetbreads with Lobster Mashed Potatoes. Thanks Ed and Jenny. I wish I would have taken some pics of the Chilies de Padron and the Chicken Livers with Black mission figs and Pt Reyes blue cheese that came out for our entire table to enjoy.
Salmon Crepes. Who doesn't love crepes? Add a Spanish Garnacha and a Napa Pinot to the mix and you have a winning combination.
Who doesn't love tongue? Well, not everyone at the table, but I sure did. Lambs Tongue with Fresh Chick Peas, Toasted Almonds & Feta.
Sonoma Duck Breast with Herb Spaetzle and Huckleberry Sauce. This was my favorite dish of the night, but I am sucker for duck.
It seems like everyone has their own take on pork belly now-a-days and Jole does a pretty good job with their California-Asian fusion take on it. Crispy Pork Belly with Avocado, Red Onion, and Soy Mustard Vinaigrette.
We can mark Jole off the list and pretty much all of Calistoga for that matter. It looks like the Mrs. and I are going to have to start moving down Valley for the rest of our dining experiences. Spoiled, I know!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Louie Vermeil Classic at Calistoga Speedway!

Welcome to the 2009 Louie Vermeil Classic at Calistoga Speedway. With a full slate of Labor Day weekend races, the Mrs. and I headed into town to watch the festivities. If you look closely, you will see that the legendary football coach Dick Vermeil is about to take a celebratory lap in his family's old-timer sprint car. The Vermeil family has deep roots in the Calistoga area and Dick has even started a very successful winery with a tasting room in downtown Calistoga.
Speaking of wine country, what an amazing backdrop to do a little racing.
It even looks better under the lights.
For some reason, the Mrs. has an insatiable appetite for "ballpark" food (see Garlic fries below!). Of course we had to sample the Nachos and the Hot Dog, each drenched with your favorite foodservice canned chili.
Similar to my stomach, this guy wrecked out right before the last lap action. Speaking of action, check out the fun of the restart for yourself.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Let's Go Giants!

What do you do after a year living in the Bay Area? You think you have seen everything San Francisco has to offer: Giradelli and Union Square, the Ferry Building, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, Golden Gate Bridge. Okay, so we haven't went to Alcatraz yet, but we have seen all of our family's pictures so it feels like we have already been there. What's left? One of the major benefits (primarily to males) of living in a metropolitan city is that most of them have professional sports teams and of course San Francisco has the Giants!
After a quick trip to, the Mrs. and I were down to Vallejo to catch the Ferry into San Francisco for a little Labor Day baseball. The Giants are in the hunt for the National League wildcard so what better time to go see a game than during the pennant push.
Welcome to AT&T Park and welcome to Section 125, Row 22, Seat 5 and 6. That's right, only 22 rows up from the 3rd baseline. But buyer beware, foul ball territory! Dang it, I didn't even bring my glove.
Luckily they had one I could borrow in the outfield.
Back to the action. Today's afternoon game was the Giants vs. Padres. NorCal vs. SoCal. Not quite the rivalry as when the Dodgers come to town, but entertaining enough for a couple Cardinals fans from Arkansas. Yes Mrs. Walnofer, the Cardinals are a baseball team. They are professional, not college. They are in St. Louis. Let's just get back to watching the game, okay.
After scorching under the San Fran sun, we strolled around the ever cool AT&T Park. The stadium is quite small and there actually isn't a bad seat in the house. It's the 7th inning stretch, let's go get something to eat.
Gilroy Garlic Fries! These come with very high recommendations from several long time Giants fans. When in doubt, eat what the locals eat. I might be regretting this. Garlic fries galore! Who wouldn't love minced garlic and parsley loaded fried shoestrings. Don't be surprised if these show up on the Walnofer Thanksgiving Buffet as a contribution from the California Walnofer's.
Trust me, you will love them as much as we did. The trick to being able to eat them all is the addition of everybody's favorite condiment.............ketchup. Not only for the sweet acidity that it brings, but more for the fire dragon breath masking characteristics of the tomato.
Giants 9, Padres 4. It got a little hairy in the 9th when the Padre's put up 3 runs, but I was too busy trying to digest those garlic fries to even notice. Anyway, a big win for the Giants and a fun Labor Day for the Walnofer's.
Back to the Ferry to catch the sunset on the way home to Vallejo and then back to Calistoga. Next up, a 49ers game. No Mrs. Walnofer, that isn't hockey, it's football. You know, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Steve Young.................nevermind.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back to School! Again!

Back to school! We all see the Wal-Mart commercials and the elementary school marquees welcoming students back to school this time of year. I also, have rejoined this movement. After 5 months at Bouchon, it is time to return to the safe walls of The Culinary Institute of America-Greystone to finish up my culinary studies.Jannie and I have come a long way together. I got this backpack in the 8th grade. Not for its stylish features or it's durable zippers, but rather for its Lifetime Guarantee. Although I have had to send it back to Jansport three times for facelifts, it is still in my "Back to School" arsenal. Jannie has seen many a carseat in its day. She didn't always have the plush leather heated seat that she get's to ride to school in now-a-days. This backpack has seen a 1992 Pontiac Sunbird(thanks for the ride sis), 1985 Ford Ranger, a 1990 Chevy Silverado, a 1997 Ford F-150, a 1999 Nissan Maxima, a 2000 VW Jetta, and now a 2004 Acura MDX (thanks Mrs.). We've come a long way together.
Why do I need a backpack for culinary school you might ask? Here is the first day back at the CIA! It's gonna be a tough haul Jannie.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Arkansas Alumni: San Francisco Chapter!

Welcome to the 18th annual Arkansas Alumni San Francisco chapter get-together up on the famous Monte Rosso vineyard of the Louis M. Martini winery. This famous mountain region of Sonoma produces some of the most premiere wines in all of Northern California.
Last year, the Mrs. and I were saying "I do" the same day as this event, but luckily this year they pushed the get-together back a month so that we could take part. How thoughtful of them! Out came the grill, on went the steaks, and into the wine glasses went all the Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Rosso you could drink. Shhhhhh! Some of our friends and I found a table serving unreleased 2005 M-squared.
Enough about the wine, no organized alumni barbecue is complete without a raffle for assorted Arkansas Razorback memorabilia.
And the winner is...............................not us! But luckily, our alumni friend was willing to share her Old Main bookshelf display thingy with us so that we wouldn't feel empty handed. Now we will always have a little piece of the UofA with us while we are out here in California. Speaking of that, where is my diploma?
What else is on the schedule? How 'bout a vineyard tour!
Check out the beautiful views off the summit of Monte Rosso.
When is the last time you heard a winemaker tell his family's life story while standing in 80 year old zinfandel vines planted by his grandfather?
The Mrs. and Mandy Wright enjoyed the festivities and we all wished that Dr. Wright could have joined us for the fun. Maybe next year doc.
No Razorback gathering is complete without, yep you called it, calling those hogs! Whooooooooooooooooooooo Pigggggggggggggggggggggggggg Soieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Razorbacks! (Insert awkwardness the farther you get away from Fayetteville.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Adventures in Lake Tahoe!

We recently accepted an invitation by our friends, the Jameson's, for a weekend in Tahoe. We did the winter in Tahoe experience, so we better check out the summer experience too.What cool digs (California lingo)! The cabin is located on the Serene Lake and word is that the winter snows reach as high as the upstairs deck.
About that lake, it is serene! The Mrs. and I took out the canoe for a little paddle time. Luckily the Mrs. had spent some time as canoe counselor back in the day at Camp Ozark so there would be no stories of "dumping" the canoe. That doesn't mean that I still won't rock the boat for a little laugh or two.
From Serene Lake over to Tahoe City and a view of the north shore of Lake Tahoe. If you look to the highest peak to the right, you will see the slopes of Heavenly that we skied last winter.
We jetted down south for a view of Emerald Bay. Unlike previous visitors (you know who you are), we took the mile hike down to the famous Vikingsholm..............and the mile hike back up.
The next day, we took a hike around Donner Lake. The lake is steeped in history as the Donner Party made this region famous after being forced to cannibalism during the 1847 winter storms of Lake Tahoe.
Speaking of lunch, check out our picnic spot during our hike. PB&J's and wheat thins sure beats human legs and skin.
Still can't get over how blue that mountain stream fed water is. The Mrs. and I needed a weekend adventure and Tahoe didn't disappoint.

Thanks again to the Jameson's. By the way, can you count how many people are in this photo? Six total! And no, my backpack doesn't have a baby in it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Baguette Wars! Bouchon Bakery vs. Safeway!

My last day at Bouchon has come and gone and it has finally set in...............I will no longer be able to get delicious Bouchon Bakery bread anymore. Therefore, I am relagated to purchasing bread from my neighborhood Safeway like the rest of California.
For starters, let's compare the two. On your right, Bouchons famous baguette with its perfect braid, crispy crust, and chewy interior. On your left, Safeway's powder-crusted baguette with the sheen of shoe polish. The Safeway baguette has so much air whipped into it that the gluten has actually formed into a solid mass. Essentially they have created WonderBread in a cylindrical form. Then there is the Bouchon baguette, splendidly recreated to replicate the handcrafted crunchy, chewy baguettes via France. Oh yeah, the Bouchon baguette is only $0.25 more expensive. There is very little chance that the Mrs. will ever get the bread book out again as she has been more spoiled than me by Bouchon Bakery. Mr. Keller, will you please build a Bouchon Bakery in Calistoga......................please for the love of bread!