Tag Archives: Olive oil

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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The Demoniac Vegetable — Artichokes

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“Remind me to tell you about the time I looked into the heart of an artichoke.”

Bette Davis in All About Eve

I have so loved artichokes, even since I was a young boy. I find their rather uninviting, yet intriguing exterior to be a wonder…..much like the lobster…who was the first person brave enough to decide that this was something to eat?!!? And then there is the eating process itself: pulling off leaves and sliding them between your upper and lower teeth to remove flesh, having to avoid the choke…because if you don’t …. you will….choke, that is!  Finding the tender heart and snatching it out to slowly devour it, dripping with hot butter. Wow — sounds a bit ritualistic and frightening.

Rather than go into the bloody detail of it all, if your are interested in step-by-step directions, go to: http://www.wikihow.com/Eat-an-Artichoke

The more I think and write on this subject the more I wonder why I even began! So in my just-past-middle-aged wisdom, I decided to grow my own artichokes…… what else should an aging Tin Man do to entertain himself (?), my rusty knees  can’t get in and out of an inappropriate sports car and it is too hard to keep a toupee on top of this funnel head! In my first attempt, I order plants [at a whim] and put them in the garden ….. during the drought, when temperatures remained over 100 degrees — did I mention that artichokes like cooler temperatures……so I nursed my plants through the searing heat, as they turned their burnt faces up to me every day and wondered why I was holding them hostage in this horrific hades of a place. As the temperatures cooled and they began to look as though survival was possible, a young lad offered to till the garden…………yes, you guessed it  …..goodbye artichokes!

So as the Fall approached, with promises of a mild Winter, I began my quest once again….and found an amazing person who sends the most wonderful plants in the world: http://www.sweetheartartichokes.com/buy.htm  Should you ever decide that you too want to wander down this path, I strongly suggest acquiring plants from her.

So the plants arrived and were so most lovely…………………… into the ground they went far from the garden, in a place the tiller could not go! Guess what……Spring is here and we have ARTICHOKES!!!

You, of course, know by now that I could have purchased approximately 300 artichokes for what I have endured; however, what satisfaction would lie in taking that route!  I do know that if I am ever in possession of 300 artichokes at once, I shall give them to the flying monkeys to hail down on the head of the Wicked Witch of the West who lives at the bottom of the hill, in retribution for NEVER removing her garbage can from the curb!  Click here for more information about that.

Moving on…………see how beautiful the plants have become……so lush and green, bursting with life!

…………..and now the fruit is bursting forth!!!                                                                                                                              Somehow, I am expecting a catastrophic event to put an end to this.

Did you know that the artichoke even has its own legend!??! It seems that according to an Aegean legend and in a song by the poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus, the first artichoke was a lovely young girl [Cynara] who lived on the island of Zinari. Zeus was visiting (as he often did) his brother Poseidon one day when, as he emerged from the sea, he spied a beautiful young mortal woman. She was not frightened by the presence of a god, and therefore; Zeus seduced her.

 He was so pleased with Cynara the he decided to make her a goddess, so that she could be nearer to his home on Olympia [can’t you hear the church lady proclaiming: “isn’t that special!”] Cynara agreed to the promotion and Zeus anticipated all sorts of trysts with her when his wife, Hera as away…..oh the lives of gods and goddesses! But as luck would have it, Cynara missed her mother and was homesick, so she snuck back to the land of mortals for a visit. Zeus found this behavior appalling and hurled her back to earth and transformed her into the plant we now know as the artichoke.

In his journal of June 19, 1576, Pierre de L’Estoile writes:

“The Queen Mother ate so much she thought she would die, and was very ill with diarrhoea. They said it was from eating too many artichoke bottoms and the combs and kidney of cockerels, of which she was very fond.”

Eating an artichoke is like getting to know someone really well.”

Willi Hastings

“These things are just plain annoying. After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual “food” out of eating an artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps. Have the shrimp cocktail instead.” 

 Miss Piggy

…………lovely thoughts………just had to share them, now go eat an artichoke!

Leap Year – Dinner on the Deck

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Who would believe that we had 80 degree weather today. Elmer felt that it was time to harvest one of the cauliflower so off to the garden we went. With the weather so beautiful we spent the evening on the deck listening to the water fall and grilling a beautiful steak and our cauliflower harvest. We love to eat the cauliflower greens. We had a marvelous evening having dinner outside (again I must say……..IN FEBRUARY!!!!) and watching our glorious roadrunner come and show us his latest catch………a SNAKE! The ducks flew overhead, migrating back. WOW this is a strange winter. What a wonderful evening, and the sunset was tremendous. I took many, many pictures of it, but will not bore you with them all…………just one! Hoping you had a marvelous day also!

The Garden Gate
Elmer with cauliflower Harvest……yummy
Steak with Garden Goodies
Wine Before Dinner
Listening to the Water Fall
Sunset ……….time to go in

Tendilla, Spain

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After searching for a place to sleep in Penalver we have now gone to Tendilla to find a place to sleep…and eat. We pull into the town square and what lies before us….a hostel…. with rooms!


next to and I mean next to (within 20 feet) of an ancient church

the ancient walls had crumbled and fallen…

We came into a lively restaurant where the bartender was also the innkeep….he scurried up two flights of stairs (you begin to see a reoccurring theme in this trip) past beautiful antiques…oh my….hopes of a grand room danced in my head.

He flung open the door to proudly display a CLOSET containing two of the smallest beds ever seen — “we’ll take it”, we proclaimed.
the thoughts of the cold rain of the bus stop too fresh in our thoughts.

Off we went, down the stairs to eat the most famous tapas of Spain — various local sausages, pig belly fat cooked to a tender and tasty state, potatoes,onions, a tiny empanada filled with tomato and creme and of course a plate of local olives.
Walked about this quaint village and found the ruins of castles nestled among the hillside. Went into the ancient church and sneaked a peek at the huge golden altar through an open window.

Back to our hostel for a beer and a very nice young man from Bulgaria gave us a complimentary plate of steamed blood cakes…………oh the delights of strangers!!! We ate it — what could one do. Now in the room in our tiny beds of spring coils for a much needed nap.

6:00 P.M.
Next to our hostel the monks have just played Beethoven’s “ode to Joy” on the bells in their ancient tower signaling the time for evening prayers….what beauty and tranquility one can find nestled in these hills! Worth suffering through the steamed blood cakes!
Easter Sunday
We awoke to the church bells ringing….all is very quiet at the Inn. I am not surprised, the revelry lasted until the wee hours of the morning. At one point it sounded as if every child from the village must be on the ground floor shouting and singing (the next morning we learned that this in deed was the fact!)
Today I must investigate an observation that I have made over the last two days…..the lack of animals of any kind. I have yet to see one dog or cat, a flock of sheep or even the lone milk cow. I am curious as to why (but an too afraid to ask anyone)…..of course all sorts of twisted reasons have gone through my mind.
Well we finished bathing in a tub that once belonged to Barbie — accomplishing this by standing and spraying ourselves with a hose on which was attached a shower head of some sort.

I suppose we are clean. I was tempted to merely sit on the bidet and take it from there…it did indeed seem a simpler approach.
We have ventured out into our small village.

I am constantly vigilant for any animal and have developed a theory….whereever one goes the markets are hung with the wonderful legs of pigs that have been cured into ham, I envision the pigs hanging from slings in various barns — LEGGLESS!!!!……awaiting the day the rest of their bodies will be made into bacon!
We have just ordered breakfast — I await my next culinary experience. The food was wonderful!!! and even saw a cat outside!!! We had wonderful crusty bread with eggs and Iberian sausage…..all dripping with the marvelous olive oil. I was so hungry that there will be no photo. The camera remained tucked away. We sit now and wait for Easter Mass to begin The bar is filling with locals awaiting the same. They promise a great procession circling the church three times to ensure luck for the year to come.


We attended the mass. Upon our arrival inside the church, we were so enthralled in viewing the beautiful altar (I, myslef….planning how to run a plank from our room window into the window of the church so that I might be able to reallocate some of the marvelous artifacts to our wine cellar back home)….anyways, so taken by the surroundings, that we did not realize that all the participants, other than the priest, were women! We began the procession out the door of the church and through the streets of the village….

……and suddenly behold — the men were in a SEPARATE procession moving towards us!! Our statue was covered in black lace, of course (!!!), the virgin in mourning — the men carried the statue of Christ….

When the two parties met our statue was uncovered and given a beautiful white veil of lace and a crown of gold (that would look very nice in the wine cellar, I might add).

I chuckled all throughout the rest of the service, remembering the strange looks the women were giving us during the procession — now they became all too clear!

After Easter services, we joined all the villagers at our hostel for beer and tapas. The Jefa (boss lady), mother of the innkeeper (Raul), makes the most wonderful olives, which we ordered. The generous Bulgarian waiter (who previously gave us steamed blood cakes) brought us a plate of fried fish and shrimp — of course they were fried whole.

I decided not to partake in this, having observed a barrel of these same fish outside the front door that the local fishermen purchase as bait and feared that as these fish passed on, they were moved from the water barrel to the frying pan. I am sure my fears were not reality; however, the idea of crunching on the heads and innards of these creatures of the sea did not appeal to my desired for culinary exploration. The remembrances of the steamed blood cakes lingering in my mind and on my palate!
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A miserable night. We both had nightmares and woke each other up. The beds felt as if each spring was attempting to burrow into our very bones, a revenge, no doubt, for having a fat American reside on its delicate surface!
We did enjoy a wonderful movie about Juan Carlos and Sophia and their son Philip falling in love with a woman (divorced!!! OMG!!!) and therefore considered unfit to one day be Queen of Spain.
Went off to a local store and purchased yogurt for breakfast and within moments were in a car bound for PENALVER!!!….FINALLY!

Guadalajara, Spain

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We took the train from Madrid to Guadalajara — WOW less than five euros round trip!  The taxi from the airport in Madrid to the hotel was 50 euros!  The train was quite charming, a young man played the guitar and sang very happy songs.

Madrid Train Station

Guadalajara Train Station

We see “La Estacion del Gourmet” across the street so, of course, we run directly there…….for some wine
……..it was a long trip!

August just learned that tomorrow is Easter (BFD) and there will be no buses at all! Also, the cabs are not allowed to take us to the train station. Perhaps we shall sleep here in the street tonite. We found a bus back to the train station and went to visit our friend Antonio who was having a coffee with his friend, Valentin, who upon hearing of our trials and tribulations, is now going to drive us to Penalver!!!! Here we now sit in his very fine car on our way to our destination with his mute uncle, who is rapidly telling wonderful stories with his hands. Evidently there is a tradition in Penalver to find the fattest politico and weigh them and upon doing so present them with their weight in honey! ….charming…perhaps!

……..the owner, Antonio Francisco Gallego Moraza had the wait staff come right over to assist us….

Our night was spent in a hostel in a very, very, very, very, very…….okay you get the idea, smallllllllllllll bedroom with very, very, okay…okay…small beds – yes TWO, with August’s wet…from washing!….people please, stay with me….underwear hanging outside our window.

In all our frugal wisdom (stop laughing), we decided to take the city bus to the central terminal to investigate passage to Penalver (yes…..there is also a town by the name, August’s family was very important and influential in Spain) only to find the bus station CLOSED!!!!! Here we sit in the cold and rain awaiting a bus BACK to the train station to reclaim our luggage at the hotel of many winding stair cases, and find some means of transportation to Penalver. (I was thinking:”If you are so important — where is the royal carriage!!!) Perhaps we will find ourselves in the backof some hay wagon!…at least we would be warm! Still we wait for our bus — now for over an hour!

I went out in the middle of the night to have a Spanish cigarette. The room was on the second floor, up a tiny staircase — yes with our luggage in tow. Imagine it all people!
The next morning we returned to Antonio to seek assistance (no not for our headaches from the wine!)
We did have a most wonderful breakfast of of skirt steak, eggs, ham, mancheco cheese and all was bathed in the most wonderful, fragrant olive oil. Served with the most wonderful, rich coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice all served by our new friends. They presented us the most wonderful pots of local honey in handcrafted pots……OMG….to get this kind of attention back home….one would die!

What vistas we see along our way! Beautiful small villages, with ancient buildings surrounded by rolling hills covered with olive trees and hither and there….ruins of ancient castles! What history these hills hold. We are coming upon the turnoff for Penalver………….looks like our fortunes will hold…..we will see what shall be. Upon our arrival at our most sought after destination, the road has become a one lane rough country road. But, here we come upon the Village of Penalver!

How much can we suffer! There are no rooms available in Penalver! We went into the town square and were immediately surrounded by all the townsfolk — all who attempted to assist us. Calling the cousins and the bells of the village were sounded……….but to no avail. No rooms wer to be had. Off we went with Valentin to his car, cour faces long and sad. We scurried off to the village Tendialla…………will the madness never end…..