Mission San Francisco Solano – Sonoma, California

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Mission San Francisco Solano was the 21st, last and northernmost mission in Alta California.

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 It was the only mission built in Alta California after Mexico gained independence from Spain. The difficulty of its beginning demonstrates the confusion resulting from that change in governance.

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You see, the California Governor wanted a robust Mexican presence north of the San Francisco Bay to keep the Russians who had established Fort Ross on the Pacific coast from moving further inland. A young Franciscan friar from Mission San Francisco de Asis wanted to move to a location with a better climate and access to a larger number of potential converts.

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Here is a photograph of the Mission in 1910

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and one taken by the Tin Man……….notice that the building is very much the same today and the original bell stands where it always has…

 

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The Mission was successful given its short eleven year life but was smaller in number of converts and with lower productivity and diversity of industries than the older California missions.

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The mission building is now part of the Sonoma State Historic Park and is located in the city of Sonoma, California.    

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Sonoma is considered the birthplace of wine-making in California, dating back to the original vineyards of Mission San Francisco Solano, so Tin Man considers this a most important historic landmark!

We so enjoyed walking about and exploring the historic site…..alas we were the only ones inside, the trinket shops were packed but there seemed to be no interest in history today……

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On July 4, 1823 the soldiers placed a large redwood cross on the place in the Sonoma Valley where they expected the ‘new’ Mission San Francisco de Asis to be established. Then they celebrated Mass to consecrate the location. They then returned south to begin gathering men and materials to begin construction.

Tin Man imagined marvelous breads baking in this oven all those years ago….

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Beginning in October, 1823 Fr. Altimira had the opportunity to build his new mission at the location he chose but since Mission San Francisco de Asís would remain open this Mission needed a different patron saint. Altimira chose San Francisco Solano, a 17th-century Franciscan missionary to South America.    His company of soldiers and neophytes set about building all the facilities needed in a California mission. His annual report for 1823 listed no baptisms, one marriage, one funeral.

Father Altimira was admonished by investigating church officials for his over-use of flogging. Fearful of a native uprising, he left for San Rafael and then moved on to Mission Buenaventura in southern California. As a result of growing Mexican pride, there was considerable sentiment in favor of forcing out priests who were Spanish-born. In 1828, Father Altimira voluntarily returned to his native Spain.
His replacement was Father Buenaventura Fortini, an older priest, who was both a fine administrator and a kindly man of the cloth, who gained the respect and trust of the Indian population.

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Bouchon Bistro – Napa

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california 217As the Tin Man prepared for his trip to the wine country, French Laundry was at the top of his list…..oh, then this news……….

“The iconic French Laundry in Yountville has confirmed dates for a planned closure and major renovation, and the plans are a fair bit more ambitious than originally hinted at. As chef-owner Thomas Keller tells the SF Chronicle, what began as some modifications to the restaurant’s entry and an expansion of the kitchen blossomed into a major overhaul and reconstruction of the kitchen which will begin the week after Christmas and won’t be complete for about six months.

You see the reason for this desire is because Thomas Keller (born October 14, 1955) is an American chef, restaurateur, and cookbook writer. He and his landmark Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry in Yountville, California, have won multiple awards from the James Beard Foundation, notably the Best California Chef in 1996, and the Best Chef in America in 1997. The restaurant is a perennial winner in the annual Restaurant Magazine list of the Top 50 Restaurants of the World.

Timing is everything!!! But wait, there is more…….

In 2005, Keller was awarded the three star rating in the inaugural Michelin Guide for New York for his restaurant Per Se, and in 2006, he was awarded three stars in the inaugural Michelin Guide to the Bay Area for The French Laundry.

He is the only American chef to have been awarded simultaneous three star Michelin ratings for two different restaurants.   He currently holds 7 Michelin stars total:             

3 at Per Se, 3 at The French Laundry, and 1 at Bouchon.

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Bouchon it will be then……reservations were made…

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Delightful and Delicious was awaiting us within these walls…..

Marvelous atmosphere………

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We were seated at a lovely table and then the magical culinary symphony began….

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Of course, we must begin with wine….

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My palate was all a tither at the delights that awaited….

First,  the Foie Gras de Canard ……….oh swoon….

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Then the Möelle Rôti…..Roasted Bone Marrow……

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The table covered with delights………the wine, the tasty morsels …..it was culinary nirvana …

Sitting in Thomas Keller’s restaurant surrounded by laughter and the aromas of saffron….thyme…roasted meats….

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Then the mains came…Boudin Blanc ……..white sausage with dried French plums and mashed….

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….Truite Amandine….Idaho rainbow trout with haricorts verts, toasted almonds and beurre noisette…

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Absolutely Delightful……amazing service and delectable food….

….perhaps a bit of coffee….

california 233Then off to the Bouchon Bakery next door……

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What  a delightful evening……….hope you enjoyed the visit

The Bouchon was such a delight, Tin Man was quite pleased the French Laundry was closed…hope you enjoyed the visit!

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SONOMA – CALIFORNIA

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The Tin Man and his quest for wine has lead him to Sonoma…..Sonoma is considered the birthplace of wine-making in California, dating back to the original vineyards of Mission San Francisco Solano  about that in a later  then improvements made by Agoston Haraszthy, the father of California viticulture and credited with introduction of the Zinfandel/Primitivo grape varietal.

The Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival takes place late each September, and is California’s oldest celebration of its winemaking heritage…

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The drive into Sonoma takes one past a most beautiful sculpture of a man working a wine press, it is quite lovely against the horizon….

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Every hill is covered by vineyards and prestigious winemakers….

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The Tin Man resists the urge to stop and begin tasting wine, as his destination is the historical town square of Sonoma…

El Pueblo de Sonoma was laid out in the standard form of a Mexican town, centered around the largest plaza in California, 8 acres in size. This plaza is surrounded by many historical buildings, including the Mission San Francisco Solano, Captain Salvador Vallejo‘s Casa Grande, the Presidio of Sonoma, the Blue Wing Inn, the Sebastiani Theatre, and the Toscano Hotel.

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In the middle of the plaza, Sonoma’s early 20th-century city hall, at the plaza’s center and still in use, was designed and built with four identical sides in order not to offend the merchants on any one side of the plaza.

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The plaza is a National Historic Landmark and still serves as the town’s focal point, hosting many community festivals and drawing tourists all year round.

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Throughout the area surrounding the Plaza are so many beautiful sights…

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There are approximately thirty restaurants in the plaza area, including Italian, Irish, Mexican, Portuguese, Basque, Mediterranean, Himalayan, and French. It provides a central tourist attraction. It is also the location of the Farmer’s Market, held every Tuesday evening from April to October.  Well you know The Tin Man…..off to find an interesting restaurant………well tucked in the back of an alley off the main plaza, we found a delight…

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The moment we saw the sign we had to find a table.  The Tin Man so loved the food in Lisboa

Here is a pic of the clams from Lisboa, Portugal…

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Well don’t you know Tin Man was expecting no less from La Salette….

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The lovely Portuguese Bread….a little sweet ……of so delightful….

Then the starters……….of for the love of Hestia…..what delights….

Honey Roasted Almonds, Cow’s Cheese with Apricot Jam, Escarcot, Pork Trotter Terrine (yes…..Pig’s Feet) and lovely dark bread…

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Then the Clams………wow what a presentation…..

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Beautiful and Delightful……but alas, missing the olives…..perhaps too much for the American pallet…

oh yes….the Paella……….yummy..

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It was a most marvelous visit to the Plaza of Sonoma, hope you enjoyed coming along….

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The Napa Valley Wine Train

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004The Napa Valley Wine Train’s  track is part of the what was originally the Napa Valley Railroad founded by early California pioneer Samuel Brannan in 1864. Brannan established it to bring tourists to the resort town of Calistoga, California which he also founded. The railroad’s 42 miles (68 km) of track ran from Calistoga to Vallejo, California where it connected with San Francisco Bay Area ferry boat service. California Pacific Railroad Extension Company purchased the Napa Valley Railroad Company at a foreclosure sale on June 9, 1869. Later that same year on December 23, the railroad was renamed the California Pacific Railroad. The track was leased to Southern Pacific Railroad on April 1, 1885 and was soon connected to their main line in Suisun, California. California Pacific Railroad was acquired by Southern Pacific on April 14, 1898. The line was extended to Benicia, California in 1904.

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The line was electrified and renamed San Francisco, Napa and Calistoga Railway in 1905 and carried passengers until 1929. The track was utilized by Southern Pacific as a freight branch line for the following 58 years until 1987 when the railroad petitioned for abandonment.

The NVRR operating company was formed in 1987 by local entrepreneurs and headed by Vincent DeDomenico. DeDomenico was a veteran of more than 50 years in the food business and was formerly the president of Golden Grain, a company founded by his father and famous for its Rice-A-Roni. DeDomnico purchased the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in 1964 and sold both it and Golden Grain to the Quaker Oats Company in 1986.

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The NVRR acquired the right of way after Southern Pacific notified the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1985 of its intent to abandon the line. The new company’s plans to create a tourist-oriented Wine Train were strongly opposed by local community activists and several city governments. Some people disliked the noise and pollution of an active passenger train line in their midst, while others felt that the train would attract even more visitors to the Napa Valley, which they saw as already over-saturated with tourists…………well too bad….the Napa Valley Wine Train has been in operation since September 16, 1989 and has now carried more than 2 million passengers, the Tin Man being one of them.

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The Napa Valley Wine Train is one of the most distinctive Napa restaurants, offering an authentic, memorable experience that echoes the glory days of train travel, with fine dining service, multiple course meals, Napa Valley scenery and ultimate relaxation aboard exquisitely restored vintage rail cars.

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This top dining establishment is housed in a museum quality, antique train that runs on 25-­miles of track in the heart of the Napa Valley. The train itself has two engines, three kitchens on board and a collection of early 20th century Pullman rail cars faithfully restored with Honduran mahogany paneling, brass accents, etched glass partitions and plush armchairs that evoke the spirit of luxury rail travel in the early 1900s.

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The Tin Man booked passage in the Vista Dome Car.  With promises of dining in elevated splendor. 

The observation style dining car is expertly refurbished using Honduran mahogany paneling and brass accents, perfect for the Tin Man.

Upon arrival……….a glass of bubbly and an exquisite menu….

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Our 1952 Pullman domed railcar provided the most private dining experience as only guests with reserved seating are allowed in the dining area of this two-story car.

We had the most delightful server, Froy, ….who made the experience even more fantastic…

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The Hors d’Oeuvre arrived….Grilled Shrimp on Crispy Wonton with Sweet Pea Pesto and Endive….

…..with Raymond Estates Vineyard Private Reserve Chardonnay….

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The beautiful scenery passed us by as we noshed on these delights…

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First Course…..Red and Green Apple Endive Salad with Cambozola Cheese, hazelnuts and Mustard Vinaigrette…yes, yes…..

…my companion had the Crème of Cauliflower Soup (regrettably so, me thinks……hahhaha)

…..more Raymond Estates Chardonnay….of course..

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We so loved the Cambozola Cheese and our delightful server surprised us with some extra slices!!!

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Meanwhile the beautiful vineyards continue to be our vista as we gently roll through the Napa Valley…

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But yes, it is time for the Entrée ….Roasted Beef Tenderloin on Gorgonzola Toast with a Sauté of Vegetables in a Cabernet Reduction…

….OH MY……tooo much wine….the Tin Man forgot to take a picture of this course!

california 385 Well here we go ….might as well have some more wine….

The dining was marvelous as the dining room was above the kitchen and a dumbwaiter delivered the food directly to us…therefore our dining room was very quiet and peaceful…..it was quite the experience….

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I so wished that this train would continue for days and days so that the experience could go on and on and on……

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Some delightful sweets to end the journey….a Handmade Chocolate Truffle and White Chocolate Cheesecake with Raspberry….

Executive Chef Kelly Macdonald prepared such unique menu for our dining pleasure, a culinary symphony we shall long remember…

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But alas, our culinary journey has come to an end…..

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I hope you have enjoyed this trip aboard The Napa Valley Wine Train

and if you are ever going to visit Napa make sure you make reservations aboard this most delightful venue…..

CLICK HERE to visit The Napa Valley Wine Train site

 

Napa – California

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Our Journey into Napa was looking to be a great Wine and Food Delight!

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We ventured into downtown Napa and found the architecture to be quite charming….

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Gold and silver may have been behind the hordes that flocked in the 1800s

But liquid gold – Chardonnays, Cabernet Sauvignons and Pinot Noirs – is behind the modern migration

Our drive into Napa took us past many wonderful vistas of vineyards …..

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We had to stop and get some fresh cherries as a snack….

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I guess Google found out that the Tin Man was in town and wanted to get a few street shots…..

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Once we arrived in Napa, our exploration began……

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Off across the First Street Bridge ……away from the touristy, packed downtown area…

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We stopped at a marvelous Olive Oil Shoppe along the way….so many flavors and delights to taste….

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The Tin Man took home a bottle of Basil infused and Chocolate infused Olive Oil….oh delights….

The Shop Owner was a great foodie and sent us off to the Oxbow Market…..

The Market has a commitment to the unique character, spirit and content of the Public Market not only as a place to display and sell organic and/or sustainably-produced local crops, other regional specialties, and other high quality and unique food products, but also as a place that actively supports sustainable and organic farming practices, owner-operated businesses, local food producers and the agricultural community of the Napa Valley and surrounding regions…

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Just standing and looking down the market makes you swoon with delight….

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Okay……..okay………..okay…..We made it all the way to the end of the Market and stumbled upon…..Hog Island Oyster Company

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We were immediately invited to sit out on the deck OVERLOOKING THE NAPA RIVER!!!!!

What a delight ……………wow…..everyone was so delightful and friendly….

We began with some wine……..of course and the delightful bread….

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We ordered Steamers and Clam Chowder…..expecting the usual fare….OMG….look what arrived….

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We can testify that these were the best clam dishes we had ever eaten anywhere on this planet!

The Saffron filled the air with its marvelous fragrance….

But, alas……it was time to venture on…leaving Napa behind us….

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What a delightful day……as we were sitting on the deck we saw the Wine Train pull up to the station…..

….oh yes, we will be riding on that baby…stay tuned for that story….

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Arns Winery – Napa, California

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On the Eastern Hillside of the historical city of St. Helena, tucked away in a marvelous forest lies

an absolute gem……….no I am not talking about the rusted up Tin Man!

Everything is covered with moss…….the trees….

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The Ground covered with Ferns….

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even the stone walls are green with tender moss….

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Then we come upon it……….the Vineyard…

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Don’t think you will drive up to a big chateau surrounded by tourist trappings……no

Arns Vineyard is by appointment only and it is hidden with no signs pointing the way…..

….. this is not a commercial, hyped up tourist trap….this is a vineyard

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John Arns is most delightful and his passion for winemaking is very evident…

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He lives in the middle of this paradise in a modest home…

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He took us into his winemaking building….and the fragrances were delightful…

French Oak and Fermenting Grapes…..

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John poured some of the magical potion into glasses for us….

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The Absolute Delight of visiting this Artist was an experience that goes beyond words…

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John has a bell in the front yard with parsley growing in the container and lovely artichokes and all sorts of vegetables and flowers surrounding the house

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This was an experience the Tin Man shall never forget…

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John Arns is one of those amazing people you meet, who are dedicated to their art and to the planet. 

This visit made us remember who we are and how we should be living.

Although, I will be honest, The Tin Man was a bit nervous in the forest as I remembered the time I was with Dorothy and those beastly apple trees!

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Look what made it back to the Tin Man’s Cellar……now the strength not to open it tonight!

If you are planning a trip to Napa, stop and see John….oh, you must make an appointment…

click here to do that…..CLICK

…..and be careful in that forest….I was sure I saw some of the trees looking at me!

Sawyer & Co. – Austin, Texas

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aaaaaaaaWell the Tin Man and his entourage were on the search for a new Foodie Venue to indulge in culinary delights..

We had heard of a new restaurant in Austin, Texas, that was getting rave reviews and much chatter….we ventured off

The food at Sawyer & Co. has been designed by Stephen Shallcross and consulting chef Happy Abdelbaki, longtime friends from Baton Rouge.

 The flavors and dishes of New Orleans  resonate in the menu choices: biscuits and pancakes with Steen’s Cane Syrup; jambalaya, gumbo, red beans and rice made with Manda’s sausage from Baton Rouge; and a po’boy bread from John Gendusa Bakery in New Orleans’ Gentilly neighborhood.

Breakfast offerings  include a rotating selection of omelets and eggs including a cheeseburger omelet and scrambled eggs with crawfish! – plus grits, Brabant potatoes, biscuits, pancakes, praline bacon, breakfast sandwiches, and tacos.

Lunch and dinner feature a daily blue plate special such as red beans and rice with cornbread, gumbo, jambalaya, roast beef with gravy and mashed potatoes – for the love of YUM

To see the MENU click HERE

The Venue is quite something in and of itself………….a 50s Diner that could be owned by the Jetsons themselves!

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We fell in love with the place immediately……

Check out the great booths and dining stools…

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We knew we were onto something the moment we walked in …check out the light fixtures and walls…

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and the clock……….so cool……

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We took a quick peek onto the Patio and it was just as incredible as the interior

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Astro Turf and such a fantastic environment…

To begin we had the most delightful Gumbo….rich dark and bursting with flavor….

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……..did you notice the pork belly…….you bet…..delicious…

then, of course, the seafood platter……..

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We finished with Key Lime Pie…..which we shared so no photo was taken because I had to fight for my bite!!!

If you are ever in Austin, Texas, check out this great food.  A bit of New Orleans Flavor with Texas Hospitality

By the time we left patrons were standing all around outside waiting for their turn at a table.

The Tin Man approves

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Downton Abbey Christmas Supper Club – Camp Lucy

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aaaaaaaaOh Glorious Day………it is time for the Downton Abbey Supper Club at Camp Lucy!

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Preparations had been ongoing for weeks for this most anticipated event…

Remember Camp Lucy from the last Supper Club – East Meets West?  CLICK HERE to see that post…

Every time we arrive at the gates of Camp Lucy we feel like Alice going through the Looking Glass into a magical world…

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We had to stop and admire the beautiful creek that runs through Camp Lucy as we crossed the bridge…

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We came to the top of the hill and found our way to the most luxurious cottages on the planet

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Beautiful – Simple – Elegant

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A quick nap and then up to dress for the evening…….

Husband wore is Black Mink for the evening

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Our friends stayed in a Cottage across the way and came over so that we might walk to the festivities together…

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Off to Ian’s Chapel we went.. the original chapel, pavilion, and events hall, along with surrounding gardens, stone terrace, arch, and great lawn are collectively known as Ian’s Chapel to honor Whit’s son who not only sparked this grand adventure, but also left this world far too soon on December 23, 2011….

Upon entering the Great Hall we are whisked into Downton Abbey…

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Elegance, Grace, Charm, Pure Delight….the room a buzz with excitement and conversation…

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What a grand adventure we have embarked upon…

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Our Hosts, Whit and Kim Hanks, so gracious ….

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After delightful cocktails and hors d’oeuvres around the massive fireplace…

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…….we are seated for dinner……be still my heart…

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As the song goes……….”these are a few of my favorite things”

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We begin with Fried Oyster with Celery and Bacon Cream and Caviar and Sorrel Coulis paired with Deviled Quail Egg and Pickled Red Onion

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Followed by……Butternut Sage Bisque with Cranberry Brie Croustade..

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Oh …………did I mention Wine……lovely, lovely Wine…

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The Room was filled with the clinking of glasses and joyous laughter…

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Oh my I was so busy with the wine that I forgot to photograph the salad!!  Watercress and Fennel with Stilton-Leek Tartine and Rhubarb Vinaigrette…

Now the Entrée ….Herb Tournedos of Beef and Truffle (yes I said truffle) Madeira Jus

Asparagus with Hollandaise and (get ready for it) Chive Popovers with Foie Gras Butter

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Oh swoon…….would that this would never end……but alas here comes dessert….

Floating Islands with Shaved Black Plum, Grand Marnier Anglaise and Salted Pistachio Brittle AND Sticky Toffee Pudding..

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……oh yes and did I mention wine….

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What is most delightful about these Supper Clubs at Camp Lucy is that the evening is never rushed and guests walk and mingle during dinner, fully enjoying the experience…..here is husband with our lovey hosts ….

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New friends were made, selfies were taken

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A most lovely and enjoyable Downton Abbey Evening at Camp Lucy

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If you are ever driving on 290 between Johnson City and Austin, Texas …..you MUST stop by Camp Lucy

A Most Magical Place

Just give them a “like” on Facebook and you won’t miss the fun!

CLICK HERE

 

Adirondacks – Leaf Peeping : Saratoga – North Creek Train Trip

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We decided to venture off to New England to do some serious Leaf Peeping…

Included in that trip was a stay in the Adirondacks and a Train Ride on the Saratoga – North Creek Railway

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This train is also known as the Polar Express Train.  It is extremely popular and we booked our seats months in advance. 

We booked the Diamond Class Service, which gets you a very comfortable seat in the Glass Domed Cars and access to Full Wait Staff and Food……..you know how important those two items are to The Tin Man….

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The Train Ride from Saratoga to North Creek takes about two to three hours and is an amazing adventure…

Bloody Marys and Omelets were in order…

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The Sights along the way were breathtaking…as the train traveled along the Hudson River….

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It was just marvelous to watch all the beautiful scenery go by..

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The entire time the train staff was attending to our every wish and desire….

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Our visit to the Village of North Creek was quite fun……I went to the local hair salon, Trimmers, and got my hair cut while visiting with the most delightful characters…….in just one hour we had reimagined the entire town and designed all sorts of festivals!!

The train trip back was just as thrilling as the one up….

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Sorry for all the large pictures; however, the beauty was too great to insert small pics!

What a delight this train ride was………the day was just grand on all avenues….

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Until next time………bon voyage…..

Sweet Baby Vineyard – New Hampshire

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We ran off to New England to catch a glimpse of the Beautiful Autumn Colors

A stop at some wineries along the way seemed a pleasant way to spend the afternoon

Sweet Baby Vineyard  is located in East Kingston, New Hampshire, near Powwow Pond

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Sweet Baby offers handcrafted quality wines that have won numerous medals in international wine competitions

All of the produce for the fruit wines comes from New Hampshire farms. 

The grapes are grown in their own vineyard and purchased from fabulous vineyards around the world. 

All of the fruits and grapes are picked at their peak and then pressed and fermented to create a truly fabulous wine. 

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Having come from a family of wine makers, I always enjoy the smell of a winery that is not overly commercial or sterile

When we entered the facility there was no one around so we made our way upstairs, past a window lined with the winning bottles…

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Upon entering the Tasting Room we were greeted by a lovely young woman and browsed among the wines to decide which ones would be in our tasting…..

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We were given such cute tasting glasses to keep as mementos, in fact they now reside in our Wine Cellar, along with a bottle of Apple – Cranberry Wine from Sweet Baby Vineyard….

Along with the Wines to Taste, we munched upon a large block of Vermont White Cheddar Cheese………pure delights…

New England 026After our Tasting we meandered about the facility, lost in the heady fragrance of fermenting fruits…

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What a lovely visit we had.  If you are ever out Leaf Peeping or just running about this area of New Hampshire, drop in.  You will have a lovely time and enjoy some great wines.

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