Saturday, June 27, 2009

Let the Wining & Dining Commence!

Girls' Trip to Napa
Day 1 -- Friday, June 19, 2009

About a year ago, Mona, Lori and I decided that we needed a Girls' Trip to commemorate our 40th birthdays. Our first idea was to take a culinary cruise in the Mediterranean, but life got in the way, and we ended up planning a trip to Napa instead. Mo invited her cousin Krina to join us, too.

I picked up Lo in the morning, and we met up with Mo at the airport gate. Much to our surprise, Mo was wearing braces! APPARENTLY, we hadn't seen her since March, because that's how long they've been on her teeth. Oh. Our plane was delayed about a half-hour due to a scratch on the door of the plane. Southwest needed to confirm with their corporate office that it was still OK to fly, and we were on our way. Krina picked us up at SJC.

While in San Jose, we visited the Winchester Mystery House. The structure was incredible, and Mary Winchester, we were told numerous times by tour guide Wayne, was quite the genius and Bill Gates of her time.
View from 4th Floor

She had the house designed with central air/heating, she had a bathroom with a shower that would spray water on all parts of her body at once, and she had plenty of money for all of the beautiful stained-glass windows that were situated throughout her house. Her favorite number was 13, as evidenced by that shower room with 13 windows, and by her penchant for daisies. Did you know that a daisy usually has 12 petals, but a Perfect Daisy has 13? You do now. :)

My favorite: The Daisy Window

Wayne was a fun tour guide, although he freaked me out when he laughed, especially when we were about to enter the seance room. Lo had a little bit of trouble understanding him due to a slight speech impediment, mixed with an Eastern US accent.

Wayne in one of the bathrooms

I was impressed with Mo's knowledge of history, as she asked him intelligent questions that were also interesting. The tour that we took was a mile long, including steps, which were mostly only a quarter of an inch high, due to Mrs. Winchester's arthritis. We really enjoyed our tour. I would have bought earrings if they had made any with the daisy design, but they didn't. Why don't marketers consult me before they put out souvenirs that nobody is going to use?

We met up with Mo's stepson, Kenneth, for lunch at Le Jardin. The restaurant served mostly tapas, and it was outside, between 2 street blocks. I had some sangria, which was refreshing, but still didn't beat the sangria we made at my house on Sangria Night. Kenneth pulled what Mo calls an "Eremita" and dropped food on floor. This actually became a point of humor several times this weekend, as we pulled many Eremitas throughout the trip. No, Kenneth had not been drinking at all, unlike the rest of us. We talked about celebrating Kenneth’s 21st birthday, with different options of entertainment. I don't know about y'all, but I never planned my 21st birthday with my parents and their friends. Kenneth was being quite the sport.

Mo, Lo and Sher at Le Jardin, Happy to finally be on Vacation!

We went to Krina’s house to split to 2 Hondas, because Krina would need to leave our trip earlier than the rest of us. Krina & I took a detour to San Francisco to pick up something from her cousin, and during the ride, the "hot DA" called to tell her that she had helped him to get a guilty verdict. We're proud of you, Krina! You definitely need to go out for drinks with him to celebrate. :)

We drove up to Sonoma, checked in to the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. Lo and I checked into our room, where there was a bottle of Kenwood table wine, which Lo opened with expertise, although she had never opened a bottle of wine before.

Look how perfectly she opened that bottle with a corkscrew!

Sherry starts with the Wine drinking -- Thanks, Lo!

After unpacking our bags, we walked down to the lobby to confer with Mo & K about dinner. After speaking with a couple of hotel staff workers, and checking out the menu, we decided to have dinner at Sante, a restaurant inside the hotel. Sante boasts to be the only AAA 4-diamond restaurant in Sonoma, whose Chef Andrew Cain was formerly the sous-chef at the well-known restaurant French Laundry. When we arrived at our table, we saw beautiful chargers, which, we learned, were hand-blown in Colorado and custom made for the restaurant. Our server for the evening was Morgan, who pretended to remember Krina from when she was there with another friend & had lobster mac and cheese and stayed until they closed. At least I think he pretended. I don't know. Morgan was very friendly, and when we mentioned our flight, he said that he wanted a Zombie for his backyard, and not a Yeti, from the SkyMall catalog.

Sommelier Eric Henson approached our table, and we asked for his advice. All of us except Lo are red wine drinkers, but Lo hadn't yet met a red that she enjoyed. So we asked Lo to be our taster for the evening. Eric brought over a pinot noir, and Lo thought that it was bitter. Eric was doubting her because she had previously said that all red wine was bitter to her, but he really thought that this wine should have been OK for her. He tasted it himself, and AGREED! It had been corked or something, because he also made that "eew, it's bitter" face. Lo ROCKS! Then he brought over a nice, smooth 2007 Rochiole Pinot Noir from Russian River. All of us at the table enjoyed the wine, including Lo, who did the tasting this time also. Have I told you that Lo ROCKS!?

We were served a choice of slices of Sourdough Bread or Fig & Walnut Bread with Organic Butter, French Butter and Sea Salt. Some of us opted for both, but I stuck with the Fig & Walnut bread. It was delicious. I had never put sea salt on top of my buttered bread before, but it was quite nice.

We then received a Complimentary Amuse Bouche from the tasting menu: Chilled Asparagus Soup with Crème Fraiche, and Maine Lobster Remoulade. It was quite tasty. I'm not usually a fan of asparagus, but I liked this soup, and the chilled factor made it very refreshing. The remoulade was wonderful. I could have had just this stuff all night, but that wasn't the point.

Amuse Bouche

Our appetizers were Mac & Cheese with Maine Lobster & Truffles, and Escargots with Sweetbreads. Since we had forgotten what was actually described in the menu, Mo thought that she had tasted corn, but they were actually the Sweetbreads. Now, all of my foodie friends, don't be alarmed, but a couple of us didn't know what sweetbreads were, and I didn't want to describe them incorrectly. Morgan advised us that they were actually the Thymus gland from veal. Whatever it was, it was delicious. As was the Mac & Cheese. Y.U.M.

My main dish was a Filet of Red Snapper with Dungeness Crab wontons, sugar snap peas, baby bok choy, in lemongrass sauce, or soup, or something. (I can't remember what it was called). The Snapper was delicious, the wontons were tasty, and I ate all of my vegetables, and wanted to slurp up the soup. It was wonderful.

For dessert, I asked Morgan, "What is a Financier, besides an Accountant?" He explained that it was a type of cake, and this one was made of almond flour. Being a fan of almonds, I ordered the Almond Financier with Lemon & Thyme Ice Cream and Blueberry Reduction. It was beautiful, although my picture didn't do it justice, and on top of it was a sugared lemon slice as garnish. Yummy.

This is a picture of Mo's dessert: I don't remember what it is, but doesn't it look scrumptious?

Afterward, we were given a yummy box of sweets for us to share in each of our rooms. It contained a truffle, jelly candy, meringue cookie with filling & a lavender-flavored marshmallow. We were too full to eat it before we went to bed, though.

We said our goodbyes to Morgan, after making sure that he would be working the next evening, in case we ended up there for dinner again. When he asked if he should have it charged to a room, I blurted out my room number before realizing that I just needed to write it down on the bill. Oops. REALLY! OOPS! Morgan laughed, and said that he'd see us all for Lobster Mac N Cheese tomorrow.

We parted ways with Mo & K, took a gander at the firepit at the hotel entrance, and went back up to our room. It actually took a little longer that it should have because our elevator door takes FOREVER to close. I mean, what if someone was chasing us? Oh, that's right. We're in Wine Country. If anything, people would be stumbling after us, and we could just walk over their bodies to speed up the stairs. :) Of course, if we were stumbling, too, that would be a different story. Perhaps there will be stumbling tomorrow.

Next Up: Wine Tasting in Napa (Told ya -- stumbling)

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