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Hog-Island-Oysters-Cafe

Hog Island Oysters – Marshall, California

By Food and Wine, Travel with Wine, Wineries No Comments

Are you a fan of oysters?  Then I highly recommend a visit to Hog Island Oysters if you’re visiting northern California.  Not only are the oysters amazing, but the drive is incredible!

I didn’t set out looking for oysters.  I was looking for cheese!  If you love wine, I’m sure you enjoy pairing your wine with cheese.  One of my favorite creameries is Cowgirl Creamery.  While I was on my 30 Wineries in 30 Days journey, I looked for other places and activities to experience.  Through Cowgirl Creamery’s website, I stumbled upon Hog Island Oysters – just a short drive up the Pacific Coast Highway from their creamery.

Hog-Island-Oysters-Cafe

Lessons Learned

Make reservations.  Seriously.  Make reservations if you’re planning a visit on a weekend – even in January!   I cannot stress this enough.  While standing at the hostess stand, I watched a dozen people get turned away in front of me because they didn’t have a reservations.  That’s not an exaggeration.  And it wasn’t a single party of twelve.  It was several parties of 2-3 people.  Others were seated off to the side in hopes that someone wouldn’t show up for their reservation. Make a reservation!

But let me back up.  I have another lesson learned (besides MAKE A RESERVATION).   First, they offer free valet parking.  Their parking lot is not a free-for-all.  Can you guess what I did?  Yup!  Something you should know about me is that I drive a Jeep Wrangler.  Jeep owners are a special breed.  We like to park together and go out of our way to do it.  We wave at each other when we pass each other on the road.  It’s a special club.

When I pulled up to Hog Island Oysters, I spotted a prime spot right next to a Jeep that matched mine.  I excitedly pulled right in.  As I was getting out, the valet parking guy made a comment that I could stay parked there.  Huh?  OH!!!  Oops.  That’s kinda how it went down.  I apologized profusely.  He confirmed I had a reservation.  And I explained that I was SO excited to see an empty spot next to a Jeep (because we park next to each other) that I missed any signs and just parked.  He was very cool about it and reminded me that it was still a valet lot and I should hand over my keys.  Ha Ha!

The Oysters

I was seated at my communal table that could accommodate eight people.  I’m not entirely sure what was on the menu.  I think there were pickles and charcuterie and salads.  But, I was there for the oysters – and their Dungeness Crab special that I had spotted on their Facebook page the day before.  Though, I did order a loaf of the Pt. Reyes Brickmaiden Bread served with cultured butter and a glass of wine to start.  It was crusty and yummy.  I only wished it was warmed a bit before serving.

Hog-Island-Oysters-Bread

I was torn between the Raw Oysters and their BBQ Oysters with Chipotle Bourbon Garlic Butter.  Ultimately, I chose a half dozen raw oysters and that amazing looking dungeness crab special I’d spotted.  My only complaint was that the crab was chilled.  I wanted it served warm, too.  It was still tasty and served with a Calabrian Chili Sesame Oil Dipping Sauce and a Parsley Vinaigrette.  The chili dipping sauce was my fave!

I don’t know how to eat an entire dungeness crab.  I wasn’t ashamed to ask for guidance.  After a few pointers, I dug right in.  Here are the before and after photos.  I actually stopped the server from removing my stack of crab shell until I was finished – explaining that I needed a photo.  Ha Ha!  I’m sure I left a lot of meat in those crab shells – but it’s a lot of crab for one person.  And I get bored easily with tedious tasks.

Hog-Island-Oysters-Crab

 

Hog-Island-Oysters-Crab-After

The oysters were easy!  You just slurp those suckers down!  They were served with “Hog Wash” and lemon.  There were also a variety of hot sauces on the table.  I stuck with Hog Wash and lemon.  They were huge and amazing.

Tablemates of mine ordered the BBQ oysters to start – and I was instantly jealous.  After finishing the feast above, I ordered myself a plate of those, too!  And they were the best thing I ate that day!  I really wanted to order another (or ten) plate of four.  Warning – the shells are hot!  They just came off of a grill.

Hog-Island-Oysters-BBQ

Closing Thoughts

The drive is worth it if you have a free afternoon!  You’ll be sure to swing by Cowgirl Creamery and Toby’s Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station.  If you’re going to make the drive out there, you might as well make the most of it!

You’ll pass several seafood options along the route.  They were all packed!  I wanted to try them all but didn’t have the time or room in my stomach!

I drove into Point Reyes Station via Petaluma and followed what is apparently Pt. Reyes – Petaluma Rd/Red Hill Rd according to Google maps.  The scenery was absolutely stunning – green, rolling hills and farms and cows and winding roads.  It was such a nice day I even pulled over to remove the front roof panels from the Jeep.  I was so envious of the convertibles with their tops down, cyclists, and motorcycles.  So, I joined them!

There is no mobile phone reception.  At least on my carrier, AT&T.  Finding a signal in Point Reyes Station was incredibly difficult.  Thankfully Toby’s Feed Barn had WiFi.  But, I pretty much drove “blind” up to Hog Island Oysters – thankfully remembering that they were located north on the PCH in Marshall.

On the way “home”, I chose to follow the Pacific Coast Highway north towards Jenner.  It was late in the afternoon and the sun was starting to set behind the hills of Tomales Bay State Park.  It was truly magical.

And, if you’re wondering how my parking situation turned out, I came back to the valet parking lot to find my Jeep facing out.  I teased the valet that he just wanted to drive my Jeep.  I was also over-the-moon excited to see that a third Jeep (of the exact same model and trim level) was parked on the other side.  Mine is the one in the middle.  Of course a photo was in order!  I asked the valet to turn around the Jeep on the right but I don’t think he realized I was actually serious!

Jeep-JLU-Rubicon-Trio

The Restaurant at Meadowood

By Food and Wine, Restaurants, Travel with Wine No Comments

My visit to The Restaurant at Meadowood rounded out my tour of California Wine Country’s Michelin 3-Star restaurants – all within three months.  First was French Laundry on November 1st.  Second was SingleThread on January 19th.  And, I dined at The Restaurant at Meadowood a few weeks ago on January 30th.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t blogging yet when I dined at French Laundry so I didn’t post about it.  And, I didn’t take any photos.

I’ll admit that I was intimidated and nervous when I first dined at French Laundry.  I knew a little bit more of what to expect when I dined at SingleThread.  I definitely had some “lessons learned” from those experiences and was ready and comfortable at The Restaurant at Meadowood which I’ll now just refer to as TRAM because it’s just too long of a name.

Meadowood-Dining-Room

If you read about my visit to SingleThread, you may remember that I was disappointed that I didn’t ask more questions about the wine pairing I chose.  I received all Old World Wines.  They paired wonderfully with the dishes.  But, I wanted something a bit more local.  When you make your TRAM reservation, you pay a $100 deposit towards food and have the option to select one of their two wine pairing experiences.  I initially chose the lower-priced option.  Then I read some reviews of what the higher-priced option included and asked to “upgrade” when I arrived at the restaurant.  I also mentioned my SingleThread wine experience and how I hoped to avoid that stating that I’d prefer some local wines but that I also realized a great wine will trump geography any day.  Ultimately, I received a wonderful balance of wines.

Course One

Let’s dive in!  I regret not taking a photo of the “box of veggies” that was presented to me by one of the chefs.  It was explained all of their vegetables are grown on their farm and I’d be seeing them throughout the meal.  I would really love to go back and examine what was in that box more closely.  Before leaving, he invited me to grab the turnip and munch on it.   Ummm…not the biggest fan of turnips.  But okay.  Apparently that turnip is also considered one of the official bites of the first course – it’s on my menu!  Officially it’s a Hakurei Tunip and must have been dipped Goat’s Butter or something.

The wine for the bites of the first course was whatever is pictured below.  It’s not printed on my wine list.  I’m bold enough that I explained to the somm that I’m not a big fan of bubbles.  But would sample it.  I really wish I appreciated champagne.

Wine1

There were four more small plates included in the first course that came out pretty quickly.  Each pictured below….

First were “Green Almonds Treated Like Olives”.  We were not off to a good start – first a turnip, followed by champagne, and now olive-like things.  They tasted like olives.  There are few foods that I actually hate.  Olives are one of them.  A few times a year I give them a try but the result is always the same.  I ate one and politely asked the rest to be removed.

Second is a “Salad Roll Nuka Vegetables”.  Okay.  I think it was tasty.  But it wasn’t a stand-out by any means either good or bad.  It just was.

Third was an “Oyster ‘Bubbled’ in Smoked Sea Water”.  I like oysters.  And there was definitely a smoky flavor to it.  Also a lot of sea water.

Finally, my favorite of the first course – whew – a “Beignet filled with Chestnut Miso”.  OMG.  It was so yummy and delightful.  I jokingly asked for a dozen more.  Only the beignet was edible.  I don’t think you’d want to eat those spikey things.

AlmondOlives  SaladRoll  Oyster1  Oyster2  Beignet

Course Two

I’ve decided I like Daikon radishes – thanks to dining in these fancy restaurants.  I’m not a fan of a regular radish.  But Daikon are quite lovely.

I was a little excited and a little disappointed by the first wine pairing.  Let me explain.  I was a little disappointed because Matthiasson is a winery I just recently visited.  However, that disappointment quickly vanished when I realized what he was bringing me.  It’s their 2017 Ribolla Gialla which I didn’t get to try on my visit.  I’m familiar with their Ribolla Gialla so I was now excited that I was getting to try it.

Matthiasson-Ribolla-Gialla  Daikon

The food pairing is listed as “Daikon Pear Benne Seed Oil”.  The three pinkish piles are actually frozen and quickly thawed.  It was super refreshing, light, and yummy.

Course Three

Moving onto the third course…  This was one of my favorites.  I wish I’d gotten a photo before the “lid” was removed from the kohlrabi.  But, it looked like a whole kohlrabi when it was initially presented to me.  It honestly freaked me out a little.  But when that layer of caviar was revealed, I was instantly excited.  The caviar is topping a custard-like substance made from the kohlrabi.  It was SO good.  I just can’t even begin to tell you.

It was paired with a 2008 Reinhold Haart Riesling Spatlese Piesporter Domherr.  The pairing was perfection.  However, I was quickly realizing I wasn’t able to finish the pours I was receiving.  My initial thought was – I can’t waste any!  But then I remembered there are a lot of courses to go and I am driving myself the hour back to my rental house via a dark and windy road.  Wasting a little wine was okay.

Riesling  Kohlrabi

Course Four

And maybe it’s because of all of the wine that I was starting to get bold and punchy.  Let’s talk about the wine first.  They brought me a 2013 Domaine Francois Carillon Chardonnay.  The menu also says Puligny Montrachet Champs-Gain.  Silly old world wine.  I don’t know what that means.  But, I was delighted to learn it was aged in neutral oak barrels so I hoped for something a bit more full.

Then the food was presented and I was really wishing I had a California-style Chardonnay.  But, the pairing was again perfection.

The box came out.  Inside was revealed half of a Spiny Lobster tail.  Apparently it was already sliced with only the middle two portions being served to me.  I quickly realized that the portions on each end of the tail were leaving.  And I stopped him!  I was like – woah – let’s not waste any lobster!  He reluctantly gave me the end piece on the larger end of the tail.  But he explained that the chef didn’t want the end pieces served.  I won.  He then brushed the lobster with lemon myrtle leaves dipped in butter.  That’s what’s sitting on top of the box in the photo.  You may be wondering about the little round dish.  This dish was not presented with any silverware.  It was finger food.  Therefore, there were moist towels in that vessel for me to clean my hands.  So thoughtful!

FrenchChardonnay  Box  SpinyLobster  LobsterMeat  HandWipes

Course Five

Out came that California Chardonnay that I wanted in the previous course.  Here they were pairing the 2013 Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay with Black Cod steamed in Mustard Greens and Cultured Butter.  It was amazing.  And the pairing worked beautifully (not that I was worried).  I even had some of the previous wine leftover so I could play around.  Ultimately, I preferred this particular French Chardonnay to this particular California Chardonnay.  Gulp.

monte-bello  course-five  Course-Five2  BlackCod

Course Six

The sixth course may very well have been my favorite course of the evening.  I even dreamed about it later that night.  I’m not kidding.  I was practically jumping up and down in my seat when I saw what wine was being served – the 2012 Marcassin Pinot Noir from their Marcassin Vineyard.  Since I’m kinda new to the cult world of pinot noir, I hadn’t heard about Marcassin before my “30 Wineries in 30 Days” experience.  I was first introduced to it earlier in my trip at Bouchon.  I ordered a rather pricey glass of their 2013 vintage and was in love….and immediately put myself on their five-year wait list.

 

Marcassin

I’m pretty sure he gave me a really healthy pour – and I didn’t waste an ounce or complain.  Then came the food.  Here’s where I really wish I’d taken a photo or at least paid closer attention to that box of vegetables at the beginning.  The next course was a carrot.  HUH?  It certainly didn’t look like a carrot.  But, it was indeed the fattest carrot I’ve ever seen.  It was an “Oxheart Carrot” being served like prime rib.  I believe the chef explained that they grow them for six months.

Here again I was supposed to get one slice out of the middle.  I don’t think so!  Carrots are my absolute favorite vegetable.  I was intrigued by this monster.  And was the rest going to the compost pile?  He reluctantly gave me a second slice.  I’m assuming tables of two shared a single carrot.  I didn’t watch that closely.  It was the meatiest carrot I’ve ever eaten.  And paired with that Marcassin Pinot Noir?  Oh my goodness!  I’m not kidding about my dreams.  This very well may have been my favorite course.

Carrot  TwoSlices

Here’s what was left at the end of the course after I played around with the accompaniments.  The green is carrot tops.  The white was like creme fraiche, I believe.

Empty-Plate

Course Seven

The seventh course may have been my least favorite.  It was a Stuffed Quail with Rice and Black Truffle.  They also brought out a roasted Quail leg.  These were paired with a Domaine Du Vieux Telegrahe Granche Blend La Crau Chatteaunef du Pape from 2010.  I enjoyed the wine.  I usually enjoy a nice GSM blend.

However, the quail left me wanting more.  The “stuffed” quail was kinda dry and flavorless.  I’ve had some amazing quail in my life.  This wasn’t it.  I really enjoyed the leg.  I wanted to pick up that thing and suck on it.  So, they redeemed themselves with the quail.

wine  stuffedquail  quailleg

Course Eight

I knew I was in for a treat when I was brought two identical Bordeaux Zalto glasses.  This had to be the Wagyu course.  I’d no idea how many courses I was in at this point or how many there were in total.  I wasn’t trying to keep track.  I knew I’d get a menu at the end.  In reading some reviews of others’ experiences at TRAM, I saw that one person was served Screaming Eagle as part of the Cultivated Wine Experience.  It’s kinda the thing that pushed me over the edge to upgrade.  When else am I going to taste that $1000+ bottle of wine?  Sadly, there was no Screaming Eagle tonight.

Instead, I was able to enjoy a side-by-side pairing of two delicious Cabernet Sauvignons.  First was a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Corra.  The second was a 1999 Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.  I’m very much familiar with the Cask 23.  I’ve had it before – but maybe not a 1999.  Initially it was my favorite.  But by the end of the course, I actually preferred the Corra.

I was absolutely right, this was the Wagyu course.  And you may be wondering why I’ve posted two seemingly identical photos of my Wagyu.  Look closer.  The second one is wider.

So, here’s what happened.  I enjoyed that Wagyu very much.  But there was just not enough to enjoy with the two lovely Cabs.  See, it’s their fault they didn’t serve me a single, more expensive Cab!  Ha Ha!  And, now in course eight, I was pretty comfortable with the entire staff.  So I joked to a couple that there just wasn’t enough meat to pair with the TWO wines they gave me.  We even started to move onto the next course as I expected would happen.  The wine was introduced and poured.  Someone else came by and I continued to joke.  That’s when he asked if I wanted another portion of Wagyu.  Honestly, that’s not what I was trying to accomplish.  I was really just a little buzzed at this point and teasing.  But, I hesitated and said – why not!

It certainly messed up the cadence of the meal.  I had to wait slightly longer for that second helping because they certainly weren’t planning to serve it to me again!  I won’t complain about that at all!  They were super nice and even offered to keep the next wine chilled while I waited and enjoyed round two.

The chef came back out with round two and said he gave me an even better, fattier piece this time around.  Both were accompanied by “First Milk” and topped with tiny onions.  I asked and learned that first milk is milk from the very first time a cow is milked.  It apparently contains tons of protein.  I think I was more impressed by two helpings of this milky substance since I now know it only happens once per cow.

Cabs  Wagyu1  Wagyu2

Course Nine

And now it was time to turn towards dessert and wind down the meal.  I was pretty excited to see what this last wine was being paired with.  It was a “Chateau D’Yquem Sauternes 1er Grand Cru Classe Superieur” from 1997.  Totally lost on me, but it was tasty.

The wine was paired with their “fondue course”.  It was a Pumpkin Mimolette Fondue.  I absolutely adore Mimollete cheese.  It’s a regular on my cheese boards.  In the left gourd were slices of butternut and acorn squash.  On the right was a yummy bread thing.  I didn’t come close to finishing the pieces on the right.  I ate just enough to get a good taste.  I was getting full – darn that second slice of carrot, extra piece of lobster, and second helping of wagyu!

Sauternes  CheeseFondue

Course Ten

The description on the menu for this course is not entirely helpful.  It says “Local Citrus”.  However, what I can tell you are that those are slices of Mandarin Oranges, Shortbread Cookie Things, a Tea, and a citrusy custard.  I played around with pairing the wine, but it did not work!  So, I stuck with my tea.

Citrus

Course Eleven

The eleventh course was all about corn.  And, preparing for the meal to end, I ordered coffee.  I tasted both the corn ice cream with homemade caramel sauce and took a few bites of the hickory corn tamale.  They weren’t bad.  But at this point I was only eating things that knocked my socks off.  Little did I know that ended a few courses back with the Wagyu.

Corn-Dessert  Coffee

Course Twelve

I thought I was done at the previous course and even made a comment.  And one of the servers quickly asked if I didn’t want the final, last bites.  Oh.  Yes.  Yes, I didn’t want to miss anything.

FinalBites

It took me awhile to work through this plate.  Nothing appealed to me.  I don’t even recall the flavor of the macaron.  The licorice definitely wasn’t a favorite.  And the chocolate could have been filled with something different.  I’ve forgotten what’s on the green plate.  It came with a lengthy, impressive description.  But, I didn’t like it.  So, I sipped my coffee and waited for the bill.

Closing Thoughts

The Restaurant at Meadowood is probably my favorite of the three restaurants.  The food was more along the lines of cuisine I preferred.

It was also so much fun to dine alone.  I wasn’t looking forward to dining alone at this 4-hour meal.  I’ve had company when I dined at the previous two.  However, without someone to chat with I could take in the magic of the service.  It’s a relatively small dining room.  There were eight tables of people with maybe three or four empty.  I believe there were three tables of two, two tables of three, and two tables of four in addition to lonely little me.

Because I was alone, I didn’t get to personally enjoy synchronized service.  But I got to watch it play out as a team of servers would place each dish in front of everyone simultaneously.  Or, watch the “parade” of servers with food circle the restaurant only to walk away with the food and return later because something wasn’t right with the table – maybe they were studying the wine list or something.  It was so fun to watch.  It’s practiced.  There are rules.  For example, one of my servers whose responsibility it was to bring me glasses and silverware then remove most of my empty plates explained he could never remove both stemware and plates at the same time.  Interesting.  I hadn’t initially noticed.

I was the very first diner to arrive.  So I got to see it all.  My reservation was for 5:45.  But I had read that you’re welcome to arrive as early as 5 for a pre-dinner drink.  Since my wine tasting of the day had wrapped up a few minutes before 5, I knew I was going to sit and enjoy a cocktail (maybe a mistake due to the amount of alcohol).  I even got to eavesdrop on the staff’s pre-service meeting.

I sat facing out towards the rest of the restaurant.  So I enjoyed watching the wines they were poured and eavesdropping.  At one point one of the other diners stopped by my table to chat with me since I was eating alone.  Uhh…okay!

I also keep going back and forth about the experience I selected.  There are different dining levels offered.  You can choose to have a limited menu in the bar area (four courses), fireside snacks, the regular tasting menu I chose, or the Chef’s Kitchen Counter Menu.  The Chef’s Kitchen menu is the same menu I enjoyed, but you’re seated in the kitchen.  I watched a couple of guests get led back to what I assume was the kitchen.  I kicked myself a little.   That experience costs an extra $250 for the same food.  I don’t think I regret spending more for higher quality wines.   However, next time I think I’d switch – eat in the kitchen with the regular wine menu or maybe just order wine by the glass for a few of the courses.

The menu presentation may have been one of my favorites, too.  The parting gift was certainly something useful!  Inside the black sleeve is a menu and a wine list both printed on vellum with a photo backing card.  Due to the vellum, they’re not very photogenic.  Apparently they also took a bit longer to prepare as I changed up my wine order and had some specific requests.  Tied to the bottom of the bundle is a cute canvas TRAM totebag.  I’ll definitely use it with fond memories!

TheMenu

Course-One

SingleThread

By Food and Wine, Restaurants, Travel with Wine No Comments

I hesitate to write today’s post.  While living in Sonoma County for five weeks, I decided to round out my dining experiences at the wine country Michelin 3-Star restaurants.  I previously dined at The French Laundry last November.  So SingleThread and The Restaurant at Meadowood were on my radar.

First up was SingleThread.  I had a group of friends in town, including my favorite dining buddy.  So, we made reservations!  I’ve read tons of reviews.  I’ve talked to dozens of people who have dined there.  To say I was excited was an understatement.  I was downright giddy.

In warmer months, SingleThread invites you to come up to an hour early to enjoy their rooftop gardens.  Our visit was in January.  No such invitation was given – I even asked.  We arrived about 15 minutes early.  The host asked if we’d like a cocktail and we each proclaimed yes!  He then gave us local options.   Ummm…nope.  Sorry.  I don’t feel like going across the street to get a cocktail.  I decided to stand in the lobby and take in the view of the kitchen.

SingleThread-Kitchen

Promptly at our reservation time we were escorted to our table in what I’d call their “back room” that could probably seat six tables of two comfortably.  We were the first “couple” seated in that area.  Our first course was waiting for us at our table.  I’d heard about this first course.  I’d seen the photos.  And there it was.  All ours.  Sitting in between us.

Course-One

Drink Orders

One of our servers greeted us and introduced herself.  And we introduced ourselves right back.  Both of our names were associated with our reservation.  But now they knew who was who.  She asked if we wanted still or sparkling water.  Moments later – without her leaving our table – two additional servers simultaneously poured our requested waters into our glasses.  I’d heard that the restaurant has microphones and cameras throughout to track your progress without interrupting us. She also walked us through each of those bites.  I was thrilled there was one for each of us – I do not share.  Well, except a small dish of the yummiest carrots I’ve ever eaten.  We had to split those.

Our sommelier was up next.  And he greeted us by our names.  Hmmm…tricky.  We already knew exactly what we wanted to order as far as beverages go!  SingleThread offers two different wine pairing options.  Diane was being frugal and opted for the regular pairing.  I was splurging.  I opted for the “rare and reserve”.  Here’s where I went wrong.  I really should have asked more about it.  I assumed they’d serve me a selection of rarer, older, local wines.  Wrong!  I’m sure they were incredible and I should have been blown away.  But, I know nothing about old world wines.  All I know is that some of them were older than me and that I was supposed to be impressed.

He also proceeded to explain that they were offering an additional, supplemental course.  Apparently that NEVER happens.  It hasn’t happened in the past eleven months.  It was an optional cheese course.  A small creamery in Petaluma out of the blue likes to drop off cheese.  They don’t order it.  It just shows up.  This time it was their “etude”.  Apparently it’s rare.  Produced in extremely limited quantities.  It was paired with a 1964 Barolo.  When I asked how many bottles of this 1964 Barolo SingeThread had sitting around, our somm explained that the cheese is harder to come by than this 56 year old wine!  We hesitated but ultimately decided to splurge on the $50 cheese and $60 wine pairing – a total of $110 for one course.  More on that…quite a bit later.  It was the 8th of 12 courses.  I even heard him explain to another table that they had a couple of hours to decide.  Ha Ha!

First Course

We were finally free to dive into the first course.  We decided to eat each little dish at the same time.  Just as I was about to pop it in my mouth, our wine arrived.  Sigh.  More waiting.  Since we were doing different pairings, he had to explain both to us.

I was poured the 2002 “Rare Millesime” from Piper-Heidieck.  Apparently this sucker is pretty rare.  It’s produced in very limited quantities and in only certain vintages.  I’m pretty sure he mentioned something about every ten years or so.  Boy, do I wish I appreciated champagne.

Diane was poured something with lots of German words.  I tried googling to give you more info, but I failed.  I don’t have her wines on my menu so I’m going off of bottle photos.  I preferred Diane’s.

And now…maybe…we could dive in.

Bite1  Bite2  Bite3  Bite4

We chose the oyster to start.  They explained that they wait until we arrive at the restaurant to prepare the oyster so that it’s at optimal freshness.  Diane is not the biggest fan of oysters but chokes them down.  She’s a good sport!  I believe (based upon the order of photos taken) that we made it through those first four bites before we were served the warm bites in the first course.  OMG.  There were more.  We both agreed that the warm bites were our favorites.  I did love those shared carrots, but they weren’t warm.

Bite5  Bite6  Bite7

The mussels were divine.  I’m pretty sure Diane even loved those.  I think the middle bite was our favorite.  But that third was the most impressive.  That cup is an actual egg shell.  How on earth they slice a raw egg is beyond me.  What’s inside is liquidy custard stuff.  I’ve chatted with a couple of people since eating the meal and typing this post and they’ve commented “how about that egg”!  Ha Ha!

Bite8  Bite9  Bite10  Bite11  Bite12

Then we moved back to the cold bites (the five above and the carrots I forgot to photograph).  I don’t remember the first.  The second contained cauliflower on top.  I don’t like cauliflower or the texture of it.  The third was a really dense, firm fish.  I don’t need to eat that again…ever.  I think Diane would agree.  I don’t remember the fourth.  And the fifth was fun.  We were instructed to dump the contents of the shell onto our little plates and eat it.

As we finished each little bite, our little empty plates were gathered up.  Not at the end.  Throughout the course.

We asked questions later about which course we were on because it was easy to lose track.  But all of that….all 13 dishes were the first course.  Oh dear.

Course Two

CourseTwo-Closed

Course Two certainly seemed to be a mystery.  It came out in a little wooden box.  What appeared to be the lid was removed from the box.

Course-Two-2

Oh, but that wasn’t the lid.  The lid is still on the box in the upper right.  If I remember correctly, the bottom portion was cold.  The top portion was hot.  So we could keep the lid on while we ate the cold elements if we wanted.  The menu description is:  Akabana Kanpachi – Winter Citrus, Daikon Radish, and Chrysanthemum.  Yup, there’s more there than that.  Ha Ha!  The vocal descriptions had many more words.  But I didn’t understand half of the words anyway.

Course-Two-2

This course was paired with wine as well.  Diane’s was local – a Shared Notes Sauvignon Blanc with a small portion of Semillon from Russian River Valley.  Unfortunately, I can’t read the vintage on the label.  But it was a 2016 or 2014…those are my best guesses.  Mine was the 2011 Trimbach ‘Clos Ste. Hune’ Riesling from Alsace France.

Course Three

Moving onto our third course…this was one of my three favorite courses.  It was an Heirloom Pumpkin (that I really wanted to steal) filled with squashy/pumpkiny soup that was ladled over dungeness crab and orange.  I was really sad when she took the pumpkin and remaining soup away.  I was hoping we could refill our bowls.

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Oh, but we weren’t done.  This seemed to happen often.  The soup was accompanied by a roll.  A delicious roll filled with melted butter.  This was the only bread we received all night.  I would have benefited by a bread course to break up all of these rich dishes.  The last bites, below, are part of the pumpkin “shell” with cooked pumpkin and stuff on top.  These bites were crazy amazing.

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This was paired with a 2014 E. Guigai “La Darienne” Condrieu from the Rhone Valley in France.  Diane enjoyed a 2018 Stephanie Ogier “La Combe de Malleval” Condrieu with hers.

Course Four

It may have been around this point in the meal that I proclaimed that I was tired of eating.  This may have been the first sign that something was wrong.  You knew whenever this dish was served at a nearby table.  Inside the pot with the grid where hot rosemary chips.  I think.  They were smoking the salmon.  The smell was incredible!  The menu description reads:  Smoke Salmon “Ibushi-Gin” – Brassicas, Sunchoke, and Steelhead Roe.

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This course was paired with sparkling wines.  Mine was the Ulysse Collin “Les Maillons” Rose de Saignee – a Champagne from France.  Diane enjoyed Brick and Mortar’s Sweetwater Springs Vineyard Sparkling Rose.

Course Five

The fifth course was another of my favorites.  This one was not paired with wine.  Instead it was paired with a sake.  Before the food came out, we were presented with a basket of sake vessels.  We were invited to choose the one that spoke to us.

Course-Five1  Course-Five2

The food was amazing.  It was a Duck Liver Parfait with Hoshigaki, Vegetables from The Farm, and Chestnut.

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The sake pairing was Takenda “Katafune” Junmai Ginjo Genshu, Nigata, Japan.  We both received the same sake.  I would have preferred it to be warm sake, but I wasn’t complaining.  It was quite tasty.

Course Six

At the start of the sixth course, a mysterious copper pitcher/pot/box thing was placed on our table.  We were told it was for the next course….okay….

CourseSix-1

The food that came out was Black Cod with Chanterelle Mushroom, Kohlrabi Terrine, and Grilled Bone Broth.  It was pretty tasty, too.  But, nothing about this course really stood out for me.  At this point things were starting to feel repetitive.

CourseSix-2  CourseSix-3

This course was paired a few wines.  First – the official pairings – I was served the 2017 Jean-Luis Chave Hermitage Blanc from the Rhone Valley in France.  Diane enjoyed an Australian 2016 Yangarra Roux Beaute Roussanne from the McLaren Vale region.

However, in perfect timing, we inquired about SingleThread’s own wine.  Yes.  They are one of the smallest bonded wineries in the US.  They collaborate with a winemaker each year to produce a wine that will pair with one of their dishes.  It’s fermented in an on-site 450-gallon concrete egg.  Those eggs!!!!  It’s actually zoned with its own address!  Ha Ha!  It’s visible from the sidewalk outside.  I noticed it.  Most of my friends did not.

Our somm quickly explained that this course would be the perfect pairing for their own Chardonnay and brought us each a taste!  Here’s our somm proudly displaying their wine.  He even helped pick the grapes that went into this bottle.  So, he was pretty darn proud.  It’s a 2017 Chardonnay from the San Lorenzo Vineyard in the Russian River Valley.  And it was pretty good!  I actually asked about the possibility of purchasing a bottle.  He explained it could be done.  However, he’d have to Coravin out (that’s becoming a verb) a few ounces from the bottle and then he could sell it.  Clearly some licensing issue.  We didn’t purchase a bottle.  I kinda which we had.  It would be a fun collectable.

SingleThread-Chardonnay

Course Seven

By this time in the meal, I’m pretty sure at least one of the tables that had been seated after us had already left!  We were definitely taking our time and enjoying every moment.  The seventh course was another favorite of mine – maybe because it was steak and potatoes!!!!!  Yes, what’s pictured below is steak and potatoes.  It’s a teeny tiny piece of wagyu.  It was delicious.  It could have been larger.

On the menu it is described as Miyazaki Waguy – Nori, Leek, and Malted Potato.

CourseSeven

This course was paired with PINOT!  What?  And it worked.  I was served the 1979 Remoissenet “Les Combottes” Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru from Burgundy France.  This was my first “old” wine.  It’s almost as old as me at 41 years.  It was good.  Diane was served a 2013 Savoy Pinot Noir by Radio-Couteau from the Anderson Valley.  If you’ve been following along on my “30 Wines in 30 Days” journey, you probably read the story about Radio-Couteau.

Course Eight

Here’s where things really started going south for me.  Or at least I noticed.  But I still didn’t fully realize what was happening.  And, I can tell – the quantity of photos I was taking at each course was diminishing.  The menu description for this course is Sonoma Grains – Lamb Tongue, Tsukemono, and Beef Consomme.

This was the grains course.  In the top bowl is pickled vegetables.  And they were pickled!  Maybe that’s what did it.  The bowl on the left is beef consomme.  The larger bowl is filled with grains.  The server explained we could eat the elements separately or combine them.  I was really struggling with this one.  So, I added the broth to the grains.  Better.  Realizing I could no longer eat those pickled vegetables alone, I also threw them in the bowl.  But, I couldn’t finish this course.  I was starting to feel a little ill.

CourseEight

My course was paired with a 1991 Chateau de Beaucatel Chateauneuf du Pape from the Rhone Valley in France.  Diane received a 2007 Vina Bosconia Rioja – maybe.  There are lots of words on her bottle.

Course Nine – Rare Supplemental Course

We’d finally gotten to that very rarely offered cheese course. I was super excited about this one.  I’ll actually even share the wine bottle for this one.  It’s a 1964 Barolo.  I’ll let you figure out the rest from the label!

CourseNine-1

This is the course, if you remember from the beginning, where it was explained that the restaurant has two of these bottles of wine and that the cheese is actually harder to come by!  It was a slightly warm dish.  The cheese is buried under truffle shavings/slices.  I can’t give you a menu description for this one.  Why?  Well, after one bite I ran to the restaurant and well….threw up my entire meal.  There’s no graceful way to put it.  I was devastated.  I cried a little.  How was this happening?  I wasn’t full.  I wasn’t drunk.  I didn’t even feel the effects of the wine.  The pours were small.  But something didn’t sit well with me.  Though, I instantly felt a lot better.  Maybe I do have a food allergy to something in one of the earlier courses.  I don’t think this course made me sick – it just pushed me over the edge.  I struggled with the grains.

CourseNine-2

The restaurant staff quickly realized something was wrong.  I’d paid $50 for that cheese.  And I barely touched it.  I tried to politely explain what happened.  They took away that cheese that I so desperately wanted to enjoy.  They offered me digestives to calm my stomach and ultimately brought me a complimentary Amaro that was quite good.  It seemed to work.  I didn’t finish any of the remaining courses.  But, I was able to try them.  And, more importantly, there were no more trips to the bathroom.  I also let Diane finish my Barolo.  She’s such a good sport to choke down that $60 pour of wine.  Ha Ha!

The staff – without me asking – removed the course (not the wine) from my bill.  I wasn’t expecting that.  I wasn’t complaining.  I wasn’t even sending it back.  I wasn’t asking.  But they did it anyway.  So, I imagine that is why it doesn’t appear on my menu.  I’m a little sad about that.  And I sadly realized that this would be my biggest memory of SingleThread – standing in a glamorous bathroom with high-tech toilets and throwing up.  And, while I’m talking about the bathrooms – every single time you get up to use the restroom, you get a new napkin.  It’s the little things.

Course Ten

But we weren’t done!  We had a few dessert courses to work through first!  And we plowed onward.  Next up was Yuzu Custard – Okinawa Black Sugar and Jasmine.  I actually think I finished this course.  It wasn’t my favorite.  There were some odd textures and flavors.  But I was desperate to put the previous course behind me.

CourseTen

Apparently there was no pairing for this one.  I don’t have a photo.  I don’t have anything listed on my menu.  But, I did still have the Amaro in my glass.

Course Eleven

This was my favorite of the dessert courses.  The menu description reads – Hazlenut with Chocolate, Black Truffle, and Coffee.  Funny enough, the staff felt the need to point out that these were different truffles than what was on the cheese that made me sick.  I still don’t think it was that course.

CourseEleven

I really enjoyed the tiny bites off to the right.  They reminded me of little churros that you were to sort of dip into the soft truffle.  I could have eaten more of those – may be $50 worth of those!  Ha Ha!

For me, this course was served with a 2009 Chapoutier, Vine de Paille, Hermitage from the Rhone Valley in France.  Diane’s was similar.  Hers was a 2011 Domaine Berthet-Bonde Cotes du Jura.  Again, I really am lost when it comes to old world wine labels so I’m not sure which words are important!  Ha Ha!

Course Twelve

We’ve made it to the end.  The 12th and final course.  The bill accompanied this course – which we of course sent back and asked them to split for us.  Ha Ha!

CourseTwelve

Similiar to the first with lots of tiny things happening.  The menu description reads Wagashi – Gravenstein Cider and Miso, Pinot Noir, Match, Quince and Clove.  Scroll down for close ups of some of the items.

These eggs were absolutely the most disgusting thing I ate all night.  Harsh words.  But I wanted them to be filled with yummy chocolate.  They weren’t.  I don’t know what they were filled with but there wasn’t enough liquid on the table to wash them down.

CousreTwelve-1

The bottom tier contained two different bites.  I believe the red is a gummy pinot noir candy.  I don’t believe I ate that.  At this point I was letting Diane try everything first before I risked it.  However, that little white slice was amazing!  I could have eated six more of those and been happy.

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I was so done by this point that I didn’t even enjoy my tea.  I let Diane have mine as well.  She enjoyed it.

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The bill was adorable.  We were at SingleThread and it was presented on a pin cushion with a little drawer of thread.  I don’t typically like to share the receipts.  It’s not an inexpensive experience.  We pre-paid for the food at the time of reservation which was $330 for each of us plus a $33 service charge plus applicable taxes.  That money was gone months ago.  Diane’s wine pairing was $270.  Mine was $500.  I’ve been in wine country too long when I don’t bat an eye at drinking $500.  That’s an insane amount of money.  But YOLO – You Only Live Once, right?  We added the $50 cheese course plus an additional $60 for each of us for that additional wine pairing.  The total bill before any additional gratuities was $1811.79.  Funny story….ten of us had dined just across the street the night before.  The bill came to $1795.42 (including a 20% automatic gratuity) and I think someone commented it was the largest bill they’d ever seen.  I just laughed knowing full well what SingleThread was going to cost us.

I’m pretty sure they heard us discussing the mystery service charge.  Bills at these expensive restaurants can be confusing – or maybe it’s just me.  There were two tip lines at The French Laundry – and they were in French.  I’m pretty sure I left way too much money.  I guess that’s better than not leaving enough.  Our server was great and explained that the service charge goes towards their health insurance costs.  If we choose to leave an additional gratuity it would go only to the employees we saw today – and there were at least a half a dozen people who served us.  I appreciated the explanation.

TheBill

Closing Comments

It’s been a few days since I’ve dined there – four to be exact.  My opinions have softened since that night.  Diane and I agreed we didn’t need to go back.  It was an experience we didn’t regret.  But, it wasn’t one we absolutely enjoyed – even without me getting sick.  There just wasn’t enough red meat and carbs.  The dishes started to all feel similar.  Don’t get me wrong – they were gorgeous and intricate and I watched them use tweezers to perfectly place each little element.  The service was stellar.  Having a bread course in there to break up some of the richness could have helped.

Like I mentioned above, ten of us had dined at Valette which is directly across the street from SingleThread the night before and did a 6-course tasting menu.  It ran us around $200 per person with gratuity if we got food and wine.  It was heartier.  More of the wines were local.  With that dinner so fresh in our memories, SingleThread just didn’t live up to the hype.  We enjoyed the Valette dinner so much more and it was SO much cheaper.

I’ve chatted with quite a few people in the last four days.  Strangely, people are saying similar things.  Not everyone was in love.  I head to Meadowood next.  And when someone said it was very “Asian inspired”, I was instantly sad.  But, I’ll remain open-minded.

As we left, we were handed our menu – which included the little bundles of leaves and things that was sitting on our napkins when we got to our table.  They’d offered to keep them safe for us.  The menu presentation may be the nicest I’ve seen between my dining experiences at a variety of Michelin-starred restaurants.

Menu1

Menu2

Beanless Beef Chili

By Food and Wine No Comments

One of my favorite comfort foods during the fall/winter seasons is a good, hearty chili. Do you have a favorite recipe? I thought I’d share mine and my personal twist.

I don’t recall ever successfully pairing my chili with a wine – until this season! I had just gotten back from a weekend of wine tasting in Idaho and was pretty excited about a 2016 Devil’s Bedstead Zinfandel from the Snake River Valley I picked up at Koenig Vineyards. They have a gorgeous tasting room and grounds. I highly recommend swinging by if you’re out and about in Idaho.

Koenig Vineyards 2016 Devil’s Bedstead Zinfandel from the Snake River Valley

Okay, I realize that Idaho may not be at the top of your “must see” list of travel destinations. However, I strongly suggest you consider it. Boise is a great foodie town with lots of amazing restaurants and a fun vibe. If you’re interested in hearing more about the wineries I visited and some of my recommendations, check them out here because this post is all about this particular food and wine pairing.

It was my turn to cook and chili sounded like it was going to fit the bill. I hadn’t yet made my chili for my boyfriend and thought that my Koenig Vineyards would pair nicely with the spices in the chili. Oh my goodness! I picked a winner!

As you’ll see in the recipe, you add a small amount of cinnamon to the dish. It’s relatively unnoticeable normally. But after one sip of that Zinfandel, the flavors completely changed! The spices jumped right out. It was one of those magical moments in wine and food pairing. I’m certainly far from being an expert – but I sure do love experimenting. And this one was a winner! I’m pretty happy that I still have an unopened bottle of the Zin (I rarely buy just one). It’s set aside for my next batch of chili!

So do you want the recipe? I discovered it almost ten years ago over on the Food Network. It’s the Beanless Beef Chili recipe by Sandra Lee. I follow the recipe for the most part. However, I actually add a extra jalapeno because I prefer a little more kick. There was one time where my grocery store was out of jalapenos – how does that happen? So I substituted a Serrano pepper for my normal two jalapenos. Wow. That was hot – even after I removed the seeds from the pepper! Oh, and I skip the scallions from the spiced sour cream.

I choose to serve my chili over some plain white rice. I think it helps soak up the sauce – and it makes my chili go a little farther. Something you may not know about me is that I despise leftovers. This chili is one of the exceptions! I love having this for lunch the next day.

If you’re interested in learning more about Koenig Vineyards, here’s how to get more info (accurate as of the date of this post):

Koenig Vineyards
21452 Hoskins Road, Caldwell, ID, 83607 USA
208-459-4087
Open Daily Noon – 5pm (No appointment necessary for groups smaller than 10)