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Archive for February, 2009

Stroll the farmers market in Pleasanton.

Stroll the farmers market in Pleasanton.

How’s this for a fun day trip under $20?

Start your day in Pleasanton, CA at the farmers market on Main & Angela Street (Saturdays, 9 am – 1 pm). Browse the vendors and sample fresh fruit and specialty foods.   Afterward, take a stroll along Main street to check out the wonderful art galleries, shops and more.

Soft Serve from Meadowlark Dairy

Soft Serve from Meadowlark Dairy

For a special treat, stop at the Meadowlark Dairy, the only drive-through dairy for a soft serve ice cream cone.  It is only $1.75 for a small ice cream cone.

Then, Head to  Tommie’s Deli and Sandwich Shop on 2nd Street in Livermore and order theLite-n-Tasty, a small sandwich with (Bread/meat (4.oz.)/cheese & stuff) for only $6. Armed with your sandwich and maybe a piece of fruit from Pleasanton’s farmers market, you are ready to hit the wineries for complimentary wine tasting!

Late Winter in Livermore Valley Wine Country

Late Winter in Livermore Valley Wine Country

Start your wine adventure on Greenville Road where most of the wineries offer complimentary tasting.  1st Stop?  Bent Creek Winery www.bentcreekwinery.com, then head down the dirt road to Charles R Vineyards www.charlesrvineyards.com.  Red Feather Winery www.redfeatherwinery.com and Little Valley Winery www.littlevalleywinery-lavender.com are next door neighbors and share a tasting room.  Plus, Red Feather is open till sunet…so it is a great spot at the end of the day.   McGrail Vineyards and Winery www.mcgrailvineyards.com features Cabernet Sauvignon, so if you are a fan of that varietal, this is a must.  Give the winery dog, Bear, a scratch, he’s a big german shepard bundle of love!

Alternatively, you can start at Fenestra Winery  www.fenestrawinery.com for a picnicc in in the shadow of their old barn, then head to Livermore Valley Cellars (LVC) www.lvwines.com and finish at Deer Ridge Vineyards www.deerridgevineyards.com.

Del Valle Regional Park is a perfect spot to check out the spring wildflowers!

Del Valle Regional Park is a perfect spot to check out the spring wildflowers!

So, wait, so far we have only spent $7.75! Next, to Del Valle Regional Park.   Deep in a valley framed by oak-covered hills, with sailboats and sailboards skimming over its waters, Del Valle is like a lakeside resort only 10 miles south of Livermore.  It’s $6 per vehicle to enter the the park, but it’s ABSOLUTELY worth the trip.   And, if you can rent a canoe or paddle boat for only $10 for 2 hours. But, wait….that would make our total $23.75.  Hmm…maybe this should be titled, A Fun Day Trip for Under $25??

As always, you can find information on fun things to do on the Tri-Valley Convention & Visitor Bureau website, including special offers, and an event calendar for the region.

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So, I just finished reading an article in a national newspaper (it shall not be named) where the wine editor suggested a $380 bottle of sparkling wine in her list of Valentine Wines.   WOW! I don’t know about you, but even the most celebrated wine lovers have got to be scaling back during this recession.  I know that this year, I am watching every dime I spend on food & wine. I plan on making a nice valentine dinner on saturday night, based on a recipe that I got from Casa Real at Ruby Hill Winery.   This Valentines day I am planning on making a trip out to Livermore Valley wine country to pick up a few bottles  without a hefty price tag and pairing it with a recipe for Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs & Creamy Polenta.

We’ll start start with Ruby Hill Winery’s Champagne for only $13.00 California– This sparkling wine is excellent for a special celebration like Valentines Day! It has an aromatic, toasty nose with a very fine bead and pale gold color. Flavors of lemon and melon with a smooth creamy texture.  I think I’ll pair it with a nice earthy appetizer, like stuffed mushrooms.

With dinner, both to drink & for the recipe below,  I plan on purchasing the Ruby Hill 2006 Merlot Reserve for $30.00 Monterey- Aged in French and American oak barrels for 18 months, this rich, smooth wine has aromas of plum, black cherry and pepper and are accentuated by notes of cedar and leather.

Happy Valentines Day!!

Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs & Creamy Polenta

Submitted by Chef John Jackson, Casa Real Event Center at Ruby Hill Winery

Wine Braised Short Ribs

4- 7 ounce shortribs tied
bunch thyme
1 bottle of merlot or pinot noir
1 bay leaves
salt and pepper
1 cup demi glace
tsp fennel seed
tsp juniper berries
tsp coriander seed
1 ounce good whole unsalted butter
Sear seasoned short ribs and cover with wine and demi glace.   Add spices and herbs.  Place in 300 degree oven covered and cook until tender (2-3 hours).  Reduce cooking liquid and finish with butter.  To serve, ladle some of the sauce over shortribs and combine with polenta.

Creamy Polenta
5 parts milk
1 part medium grind polenta
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch oregano
1 bunch rosemary
bay leaves
1 tub mascarpone (cup)
finish with parmesan
season to taste with salt and white pepper
cream to order with butter
Steam milk and herbs and season milk to taste.  Strain and add polenta and simmer low until cooked (half an hour).  Finish with mascarpone and butter and cheese and re-season.  Hold warm until served.

Watch the chef’s prepare this delicious dish!


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