Monday, August 24, 2009

The rest of Napa

After we went to Bouchon, we stopped at a non-food related stop. The Calistoga geyser Old Faithful. I went here with my parents as a kid and thought my kids should have the same torture, I mean experience. It is a very cheesy mud pond surrounded by picnic tables. Every 30 minutes the geyser erupts like a hose 60 feet in the air for maybe 3 minutes. That's it, all done that's what you see. Sorry kids, but its now a tradition, you will have to take your kids there too.

My husband joined in on the silly family sightseeing fun and suggested we stop at the petrified forest. Well, coming from the family I did, I already have seen the petrified forest and knew it was along the same lines as the geyser. So with a smirk I agreed. Basically it's like walking thought the foothills and every so often there is a fallen tree with a fence around it. The history behind it is interesting but once you see one petrified tree you have seen them all.

So now for the good stuff. Our next delicious stop was Woodhouse Chocolate. It's on a cute little street in St Helena. From the outside it looks like a chic jewelry boutique, and when you get inside the theme continues. Their walls are decorated with tapestries and glass shelves of china, with the beautiful chocolates displayed under glass cases. I felt like I was inside a beautiful candy box. I didn't eat any of the chocolates until a few days after we got home and here are the results. I am ruined. I have never had chocolates this good. They are so delicate and melt in your mouth, covering each taste bud with creamy chocolateness. In order from favorite to favorite is: Sur del Lago - dark chocolate, Fresh Mint - really fresh mint flavored chocolate, Champagne Truffle - white chocolate with Grande Champagne Cognac, Toasted Coconut - white chocolate and coconut filling, Heart of Darkness - dark chocolate with cocoa nibs, Milk Chocolate Caramel Mousse - caramel mousse, Brown Butter Ganache - browned butter chocolate covered in white chocolate, Honey - honey butter mousse. They were sooooo good. I am going to try a few more next time, Passion Fruit, Thai Ginger, Raspberry Chambord, Quatre Epices, and Fiori di Sicilia. I also had their Fluer de Sel, which are chocolate covered caramels sprinkled with sea salt. They were delicious and inspired me to make my own variations.

After eating lunch at Mary's Pizza Shack, we went to Annette's Chocolates. They were good but like I said I am now ruined by Woodhouse. We ordered Chocolate Covered Honey Combs, they were OK. My kids ordered giant Peanut Butter Cups, which they liked,but I just found out Bouchon has some so we will try theirs next time. Then we ordered the usual truffles peanut butter, coconut, dark chocolate, etc, but it just doesn't compare.

Our last stop was for dessert. I am not kidding. We went to The Chocolate Cow in Sonoma. We did not order any chocolate though, we were there for something else. SHAVE ICE. Yes, we went to Sonoma for Shave Ice and I will do it again. It is the closest thing to Hawaiian Shave Ice there is. You can even get it Hawaiian style with ice cream at the bottom. It is light and fluffy ice drenched in syrup, possibly too much syrup. Sorry no pictures of the Shave Ice but when I go back I will.

I am really considering going back this weekend, and by next year I will be as big as a house.

The Happiest Place On Earth

I went to the happiest place on earth this weekend, and it was not Disneyland, it was the Napa Valley. ??? I am not a wine person, and I am not the kind of person who likes snobby wine people, so why is Napa the happiest place on earth? One word CHOCOLATE.

The first stop on our dessert tour was Bouchon Bakery. OMG. It was all around wonderful. First of all the town that the bakery is in is so cute. Touristy, yes, but so It's a Small Worldish. I was very skeptical when we walked up and there were a ton of bicyclist hanging about. (Bicyclists are right up there with snobby wine people. I know I shouldn't stereotype, but we live by a popular bike trail and have had many bad experiences with them and my kids.) We waited in the back of the line, which was out the door and into the courtyard area, and in a few short minutes we were inside this adorable rustic bakery. With the wall of fresh bread behind the case of pastries, and the window to the kitchen where all of the goodness is made, it was hard to keep my focus on what I came for CHOCOLATE. Being the prepared girl (compulsive perfectionist) I am, I came with a list. I told the girl at the counter that I had a large order and she told me just to give it all to her, and with out writing it down she quickly got our order together. My husband ordered a ham and cheese croissant, my daughter a regular croissant, and my son a chocolate donut. Then there was me, I ordered: 1 vanilla macaroon, 2 caramel macaroons, 1 blueberry macaroon, 1 chocolate tart, and 1 order of bouchons. When we sat outside at the bench to eat I realized I didn't get anything for breakfast, my order was all for tasting through out the day. I took a bite from my daughter, it was good, then I took a bite from my son and I was in love. That was not a chocolate donut he had, it was something much more amazing. My sweet husband got back in the line, which was now even longer, and in no time at all he came out with a chocolate donut for me, and a loaf of fresh bread to take home.

So, the chocolate donut has chocolate frosting and crunchy chocolate beads sprinkled on the top. (Hey, that's where the bead talk comes in on this post.) That alone makes it better than an ordinary donut. Then they put in a chocolate filling unlike any chocolate filling I have had before. It is rich and creamy and very chocolaty not like the donuts you get at your corner donut shop. I am forever ruined from having donuts anywhere else.

Up next was the macaroons. I have only tried the caramel so far, but it too was divine. These macaroons are not like petite macaroons I am use to. These are the kings of the macaroon world, about 3 inch wide. It was soft and full of caramel flavor. I passed it around and everyone liked it, the only criticism was that it was very rich. Not a problem for me. I am trying to pace myself, but I will be trying the other flavors soon.

The chocolate tart. I am not a tart girl. I have issues with fruit in my dessert. So this might be the only tart I have ever had. I am not sure what the decoration was on the top. To me it looked like a little mouse, which is slightly disturbing to have on top of your food, with gold leaf fur. Mouse or not it was calling my name. It was a smooth rich chocolaty almost ganache with a chocolate crust. In between the filling and the crust there was a layer of crunchy toffee maybe, it was hard to tell because I inhaled most of it. My husband did managed to pull it away before I finished it with out losing a finger, so he could share it with our daughter.

Last was the bouchons, that are named after their shape of a cork. They are a mix between a cake and a brownie, with chocolate chips inside. I was afraid they were going to be too bland for me, after all they didn't even have frosting on them. I was wrong. They were perfect. This is what I need when I crave chocolate. It was the perfect consistency not too dense not to light, and had the perfect amount of sweetness. These might be my second favorite, to the donut. They are definitely more practical to eat on a semi daily basis.

So this was just our first stop. There is still more to write about, but I will save the others for tomorrow. I just couldn't say enough about this place. My family really had a great time on this trip, and we have already talked about making this bakery at least a monthly breakfast spot.

Enjoy drooling over the photos.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Today is a "poor me" day

I am convinced if I didn't work I would have time to put my thoughts here on my blog, and into my beads for that matter. I am always on the go. I know waa! waa!, after all I only work part time, but there is just so much I "need" to do. I have to get ready for work, check my sons clothes for matching and cleanliness, make sure he packed a real lunch not candy, drop my daughter off at school, drop my son off at school, go to work, l, pick up my daughter from school, pick up my son from school, get home and figure out what I am making for dinner, sit down to take a breath, take my daughter to practice, make dinner, sit down with the family, then start it all again in the morning. A big part of it is my fault, I have said it before. I feel like I have to do everything because a) If I don't the world will come to and end b) I have a perfection disorder.

So enough complaining. I am here for my beads. I have been working on some beads inspired by my annual trip to the Oregon Dunes. I wanted the cold coastal colors along with the dunes and trees to be represented, but the finished results just weren't doing it for me. I really like the light blue beachy bead, but it doesn't have the Oregon feel to me. Whatever. I am going to continue working on this series of beads until I am inspired by somewhere else.

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's been awhile

So, its time to catch up.
I just got back from our annual camping trip to the Oregon Dunes.(OK, I didn't just get back) I absolutely love it there. Its so beautiful and peaceful, even ridding Quads it still feels serene. Its very inspiring.
While there I did sell some beads, and made some jewelry that I will post tomorrow.
So here is a slide show I made of our trip.