TRAVELS AND INSPIRATION FROM CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY
Guest blogger: Judith Dawson
It is glorious spring in the Napa, Carneros, and Sonoma valleys. Everything is green and flowers are blooming. With over a thousand wineries to choose from the array of food and drink is staggering (and so are some of the people). The vines are just beginning to sprout; the tourist season gets started in earnest in April.
We began our trip by flying into San Francisco where we rented a car big enough for six people and their luggage. We proceeded an hour north to Yountville where we stayed next door to the best bakery in the West. We had almond croissants for breakfast and unparalleled picnics from the bakery followed by excursions into Calistoga, St. Helena, and their wineries. Yountville is probably the most quaint and gentrified small town we have EVER visited. If you saw the movie Sideways you know that crowds of people flock to this area for food and wine. The restaurants couldn’t be better.
After a week of enjoying our friendships, food, and beautiful accommodations, we came home and wanted to cook! Over the years we have developed a Pepper Chicken Pasta that goes like this:
Pepper Chicken Pasta
Saute and soften two smallish or one big cooking onion in extra virgin olive oil. Add three big or six small cloves of garlic and a jalapeno (if you like spicy). Add enough sauteed chicken ( I buy cooked chicken from Costco and keep it in the freezer) for two servings and about one and a half bell peppers, large dice, of any color you like. Red and yellow are our favorites.
After all is sautéed, add some white wine to take it up a notch and serve over cooked lemon pappardelle from Trader Joes which is a staple at our house. We grate Parmigiano-Reggiano and sprinkle this generously over the Pepper Chicken Pasta and then top with roasted pine nuts. Reapply as desired. This is wonderful and simple. Very therapeutic.
Travel, food, and friendship make life very enjoyable. The art and architecture in the wineries is stupendous. Chateau St. Jean and Artesa were highlights but all had their own unique aspects. It was a trip that did not disappoint!
The sun comes up earlier each day. Some winter weeks in Florida will be coming up soon for me. That will mean more hours of daylight. Naturally, my mind turns to Florida books. Here are some titles for traveling to Florida.
Burn Offerings by Michael Lister. This is crime fiction set in North Florida. Michael Connelly recommends this author. Amazon posted good reviews. Another recent title by this author is Blood Sacrifice.
Continental by Russell Banks. This classic American novel explores late twentieth century Florida land development. It raises the moral and cultural questions that never seem to go away when this topic is put before us. It has been described as a dark lament and a powerful book. Russell Banks always show readers the hearts of his characters. I would expect him to do the same in this novel. I missed it when it was originally published and when it was reissued in this decade. This might be the time for me to read it.
Florida Off the Beaten Path, 12th: A Guide to Unique Places. Early blog readers know I am a fan of this travel series. (See: “Off The Beaten Path. Travel Books” on the Reading Page about third post from the beginning/bottom.) A new edition of this book is available. This book is a must for anyone spending time in Florida.
Remembering Blue by Connie Mae Fowler. I count this one of her best books. Her heroine will likely break your heart. She gives a close look at the Gulf Coast of North Florida and the shrimp business before the oil spill. Many of her books are set in Florida. The Problem With Murmur Lee is a novel where action takes place at Matanzas Inlet and on the intercoastal waterway of the Atlantic Coast.
Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen. In 2008 Matthiessen won the National Book Award for this new version of his Killing Mr. Watson Trilogy. He is one of the best writers today and writes both fiction and non-fiction. This novel is set at the turn of the twentieth century near the Everglades. I read the three novels in their original form and have not forgotten their excellence.
These titles all give a reader the experience of a part of Florida or a time in Florida that may be unknown, or less well known. I believe any one of them is worth your while whether you are looking for enjoyment, inspiration, information or relaxation.