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Posts Tagged ‘Farm to Table’

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!  I know that I’m a little late with this week’s travel inspiration and I can give you all plenty of excuses but frankly I’ve just been enjoying my extra long weekend and spending some quality time with the hubs and the pooch.

So the holidays are officially upon us and nothing evokes the festive feelings than family and food.  What better way to strengthen family ties over the holidays than to take a trip together to a charming farm property where the whole family can partake in culinary activities while breathing in the fresh mountain air.  This week’s travel idea was inspired by Blackberry Farm, an intimate luxurious boutique property nestled in the western foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.  Although there is plenty to do on the property, it would be a shame to travel all the way to Eastern Tennessee without visiting the famous mountain ridge.

Featured Travel Idea: Great Smoky Mountains


 top: blackberry farm, blackberry dining, heritage center

middle: blackberry farm, smoky sunset, fly-fishing, pumpkins

bottom: hill cottages, cades cove, sheep, market square

Book a stay at Blackberry Farm during one of their culinary events, like the Delicious Decadence event on December 4-7th and watch a cooking demonstration by the famous pastry chef, Francois Payard.  Even if you can’t make it to one of their events, you can still participate in various culinary activities like their “A Day in the Life of a Chef”.  Or you can get down to the basics and help out around the farm, learn all about gardening from the master gardener, or spend some time with the shepherds.  The whole family will enjoy seeing how the food they eat is grown, harvested and prepared.  All this emphasis on farm-to-table and artisanal preparation means that dining at Blackberry Farm is nothing short of fantastic so make sure you savor the exceptional cuisine there.

Venture out of the property by hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Walk on part of the historic Appalachian Trail or bike in Cades Cove, a historic settlement from the 1800s that is open for exploration.  Try your hand at fly-fishing at one of the numerous trout streams.  You can take a beginner’s class at the Little River Outfitters or book a wading trip with R & R Fly Fishing.  When you need to take a break from all the outdoor activities, visit the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center.  Both kids and adults will enjoy learning about Native American life through interactive exhibits and detailed displays.  Finally, head to nearby Knoxville and stroll through Market Square, taking in the historic buildings, shops, and festivals.

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We’re back to our regularly schedule Friday date night!  And what a night it was! I had been wanting to go to Frances forever and finally got my chance.  The restaurant is so popular I had to book the reservation a month in advance and even then could only get a 9:30pm table.  But it was worth it!

Even though Frances is a one-michelin starred restaurant, the price range is still reasonable and the atmosphere is casual and unpretentious.  The restaurant is small and you end up sitting really close to the other customers so this is not the place if you want some privacy.  The service however is great.  We arrived at the restaurant 20 minutes early and they seated us right away.  The host was really friendly and attentive, as was our waiter, who even made a point to tell us not to feel pressured to drink all of the wine.  Frances sells their own blend of house red and white wine, which they sell at a $1 an ounce.  They bring out a carafe of it and you only pay what you pour.  Even without the waiter’s urging though, the hubs and I found ourselves finishing it, $16 for 4 small glasses of wine, not too shabby.

To start, we ordered two bouchees (bites in French), the applewood smoked bacon beignets and the grilled local calamari.  The beignets were wonderful.  It was savory with a very strong bacon flavor and served with creme fraiche and chives.  The calamari dish was a good balance to the beignet.  It was grilled perfectly and tasted really fresh.  The hubs ordered the five dot ranch bavette steak and I had the caramelized atlantic scallops.  The hubs thought the steak was cooked perfectly (medium rare) and extremely tasty.  The scallops were also delicious.  My only gripe with the dish was that there were only two, albeit very large, scallops.  The portions are on the smaller side but you’ll be fine if you also order an appetizer.  Or you can request bread, as I did.  Frances doesn’t automatically bring bread to the table as most restaurants do, but they do have it available if you ask for it, and you should since it’s Acme bread!

To cap off the evening, we ordered the brown butter ‘friand’ cake with roasted warren pears, huckleberries, and creme fraiche.  A friand is similar to a financier, a small french teacake, which actually reminded me of a madeleine.  It was delicious!  As an example of how good their service is, the table next to hours ordered the friand cake before us but the waiter mistakenly served it to us first (oops) so the restaurant gave them a small plate of chocolates and an extra dessert!  Man, I wish they mistakenly give our dessert away!

Frances is a MUST try, but just make sure you make a reservation in advance, it’s popular!

Frances

3870 17th Street, between Pond and Noe St.

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Last week I heard on the radio that Charleston earned top honors in the 2011 Conde Nast Reader’s Choice Awards.  It was voted the #1 city to visit in the U.S., beating out San Francisco, which has held the top spot for several years running.  Now I may be biased since I now call San Francisco home, but I feel that this city is truly a wonderful city that has a diversity that can appeal to everyone.  I read that ultimately it came down to friendliness with Charleston snagging 90%  versus San Francisco’s 67%.  I guess I can see that travelers would prefer good old fashion Southern charm to our panhandling hippies!  Nonetheless, let’s see what else this city has to offer.

Featured Travel Idea: Charleston, SC


top: bacon cornbread, fried green tomatoes, pork trotters

middle: folly beach, audubon swamp garden, ravenel bridge

bottom: shrimp and grits, fried chicken, oatmeal cream pie

Charleston is one of the top culinary cities in the South.  With a plethora of award winning chefs, fresh ingredients, and a multitude of cultural influences, it’s likely you’d be eating your way out of this city.  Situated in the heart of Low Country, the city is known for fresh seafood like shrimp and oysters, and down home southern cuisine.  Have a craving for seafood? Eat at Pearlz Oyster Bar for what else, oysters or head to Bowen’s Island for their Frogmore Stew which has shrimp, corn on the cob, sausage, and potatoes.  Want to try Low Country cuisine? You can’t go wrong with Jestine’s Kitchen or Virginia’s on King.  If you could try only one southern dish (the horror!), then it must be shrimp and grits, and Hominy Grill’s the place for it.  Serious foodies will love the fresh, local ingredients featured at Husk and FIG.  Whew, with all that food, you’ll want to stay active for the rest of the trip.  Take a leisurely jog, yes I said jog, through historic downtown Charleston towards the water and end at White Point Gardens for a breather.  Oh, you want something less tiring? Take any number of self-guided walking tours, in particular try the Charleston Museum Mile tour for a little bit of culture, good scenery, and historic sites.  Or wander through the cobblestone streets South of Broad and admire the well preserved stately antebellum homes.  Visit the Magnolia Plantation for a glimpse into 19th century plantation life and nearby Audubon Swamp Gardens, the oldest public garden in America.  Go see the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge by bike and enjoy the terrific views at the top.  Finally, spend an afternoon at Folly Beach and kayak, paddle board, surf, or tan to your heart’s content.  Yeah…I’m still not sure whether Charleston deserves the top vote though, I guess I’ll have to visit 😉 !

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Last Friday, the hubs and I took advantage of Outback’s free steak dinner promo.  While Outback certainly is delicious and can make a great date night (I love me some bloomin’ onions and wings), it’s a popular chain so I’m sure most of you guys don’t need me to tell you about the food.  Not to fret though, I had the pleasure of trying the famous Hog Island Oyster Company for lunch the following day so I’ll tell you about that experience!

Those of you who have visited or live in the San Francisco Bay Area know that going to the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market on Saturday is a must for any food lover.  And it’s even better when it’s a gorgeous day.  But of course that also means that there’ll be tons of other people there so be prepared to wait!  My friends and I ended up waiting close to 1 hour, but we were able to snag an outdoor table with views of the Bay Bridge so it was all worth it.  Since there was 4 of us, we decided to split the Oyster Bar Mix.  Our server made sure we had 4 of each kind of oysters for a total of 2 dozen so we’d all be able to try everything.  The oysters were a-mazing!  Each one was so tasty and refreshing.  The highlight for the whole table was the New Zealand oysters (sorry, I can’t remember the exact name).  My friend is from New Zealand, which is known for some of the best oysters in the world, and even he thought it was especially good!

We also ordered the grilled cheese sandwich, the clam chowder, and a light mixed greens salad.  I didn’t try the grilled cheese but my friend, who loves cheese, said that it was really delicious.  The clam chowder was also tasty.  It’s thinner than what you’d typically expect of New England clam chowders, but it did have an abundance of fresh clams (with the shell and everything!).

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Needless to say I would highly recommend Hog Island to anyone who’s an oyster enthusiast.  If you ever get the chance though, visit their oyster farm up in Tomales Bay (about an hour and a half north of SF) for a true farm-to-table experience.  You can buy fresh oysters to go, shuck them on-site at their picnic grounds, or have a meal at The Boat, which offers various shellfish, cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, and charcuterie from Fatted Calf, all good stuff!

Hog Island Oyster Company

1 Ferry Building, Shop #11

and

20215 Highway 1

Marshall, CA

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This week’s travel idea was inspired by my recent bike riding trip in Napa Valley (post coming!).  It was my first time in Yountville and it was so quaint that I immediately decided that I had to plan an ideal weekend getaway for me and the hubs sometime in the near future.  While we are by no means oenophiles, we do enjoy drinking wine and eating delicious food, making Yountville the perfect town, since it is home to Thomas Keller’s famed restaurants and numerous tasting rooms.

Featured Travel Idea: Yountville, Napa Valley Wine Region




top: cottages, secret garden, ma(i)sonry, wine making

middle: anthropologie, napa valley, ad hoc

bottom: bike riding, croissant, bouchon

Stay at the charming Cottages of Napa Valley, which in addition to being pet friendly also has the added perk of providing a daily breakfast basket of pastries from Bouchon Bakery.  What better way to start the day then with a chocolate almond croissant in bed?  Afterwards,walk through town taking in the shops, chic tasting rooms, and gourmet restaurants and head to the Hill Family Farm and Jacobsen Orchards for the Secret Garden Tour.  The Jacobsen Orchards is the organic farm contracted to French Laundry, so even if you can’t get a reservation or afford to eat at the restaurant, you can still tour their garden and sample the fruits and vegetables. Another slightly off the beaten path activity is the wine making experience at Paraduxx where you can mix your very own blend.  Spend the rest of the weekend biking through the beautiful rolling hills of Napa Valley and stopping by the numerous intimate family owned wineries.  After you’ve had your fill of wine, head to Ma(i)sonry to peruse the art gallery or St. Helena Olive Oil Co. to sample numerous varieties of olive oils, mustards, salts, and sauces.  Round out your weekend with a visit to any number of notable restaurants in Yountville, like Thomas Keller’s casual family style restaurant Ad Hoc, the landmark farm-to-table restaurant Mustard Grill, or the Michelin starred yet unpretentious Redd.

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Incanto…what can be said about this place that hasn’t been said before.  The hubs has been dying to try this place since he first saw it on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations San Francisco episode.  Bourdain can recommend cold mushy peas and the hubs would want to try it, so you can imagine what salted pig parts does to the man!  To say that we were excited to finally try out this place is an understatement.

All in all the experience and the food was excellent.  The restaurant itself is warm and inviting, albeit a little boisterous.  We were actually seated in the Dante Room which is a small private dining room usually reserved for group dining, so it was a lot more intimate than the main dining room.  As per usual, we were given a basket of bread to start, which also came with an olive tapenade spread! I am really loving the spreads these farm fresh restaurants give as an alternative to butter!

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For appetizers, we ordered the Boccalone Salumi Platter, which comes in three sizes, piglet, sow, and boar.  We went with the piglet, but only because we decided to share a pasta dish as an appetizer too and it proved to be just the right size.  We selected the Handkerchief Pasta & Rustic Pork Ragu.  Both dishes were delicious and a particular highlight was the roasted garlic bulb on the salumi platter.  I looove garlic so it was a great complement to the cured meats.  For our entrees, I ordered the Pork Belly dish while the hubs tried the Goat dish.  I didn’t try the goat but the hubs seemed to enjoy it.  As for the pork belly, well, let’s just say it was THE BEST PIECE OF PORK I have ever tasted! And I don’t say that lightly.  It literally just melted in my mouth.  The hubs even had the nerve to pull the “hey, what’s that” move and steal a piece off my plate!  Needless to say, I will definitely be coming back again!

Again, rather than try their desserts, which I’m sure would’ve been just as delicious as their entrees, we opted for a stroll and ice cream again.  Since we were near the Bernal Heights area, we walked a few blocks over to Mitchell’s Ice Cream.  Mitchell’s is just as popular and tasty as Bi-Rite Creamery but offers very different flavors.  While Bi-Rite tends to be more gourmet-y (yes that’s a word), with flavors like salted caramel and honey lavender, Mitchell’s flavors are hawaiian-esque or asian-y, with tropical flavors like halo halo, ube, and ginger.  Between the two of us, we tried the ube, white pistachio, mango, grasshopper pie, and black walnut O.O!  So, yeah, they were all good 😀

Incanto

1550 Church Street, between 28th and Duncan St.

Mitchell’s Ice Cream

688 San Jose Avenue, between Valley & 29th St.

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Fall is finally here!  I’m so excited! I spent the last two years in the land of perpetual summer and I’m happy that I finally get to experience a change of seasons.  Is there anything better than drinking warm apple cider, breathing in the crisp air, and watching the leaves change colors? I think not.

Featured Travel Idea: Hudson Valley, New York



top: great jack o’lantern, wine tote, blue hill, sweater

middle: working farm, bedford post inn, apple picking

bottom: fall foliage, fall outfit, apple cider

Hudson Valley would make a lovely weekend getaway for those living in the NYC metropolitan area.  Stay at the intimate yet luxurious Bedford Post Inn, which includes a complimentary yoga class and daily homemade pastries for breakfast.  After a peaceful night’s sleep, spend the next two days hiking and taking in the wonderful fall foliage,visiting a working farm, or apple-picking.  Squeeze in a picnic and a glass of wine or two.  Savor the seasonal ingredients at Blue Hill at Stone Barns for dinner.  Finally, get in the Halloween spirit with a good scare at The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze.

 

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