Friday, December 09, 2016

Bath Bomb Breakthrough

Since we've been back, I've resumed my bath bomb research. You know the old saying, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over-and-over and expecting a different result?" Well, that about sums up my life every day.

Every day I make a batch of sample bombs. I get 1 large, 1 med, and 1 small bath bomb from my experiment batch, I let them dry overnight, then I test them the next day or day after. I have LEARNED SO MUCH, but mostly it's theory.

Anyway, I have discovered that although many home bomb makers and even small businesses use cornstarch as a binder in their recipes, it is a huge FAIL for me. You see, bomb making is as elusive as it is scientific. What works for one person in California, will not work for someone else in Florida, or even Canada. Climate, altitude, hell...the alignment of Jupiter and Mars and whether the woolly caterpillars have fur in the fall...all play into whether bath bomb making with be successful or a fail.

I've moved over to potassium bitartrate (aka Cream of Tartar) as a filler and made a breakthrough. As a side note, did you know that potassium bitartrate (Cream of Tartar) is a by-product of wine making? Fitting, no?

Anyway, my bombs are now hardening up nicely and keeping their shape; however, I want them to float and I've tried packing light, packing heavy, packing while standing on one foot. Sigh. The medium-sized ones float, but the bigger ones are sinking...hmmm.

Back down the hole I go.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Cooking Class at Cakebread Cellars

On the last "official" day of our vacay to Napa Valley, we participated in a day-long cooking class at Cakebread Cellars. This event and reservation was the pivot of our whole trip to the West Coast. We found out about this class a year ago in November and bought tickets as soon as we could last February. There were only 17 tickets available and they sold out almost instantly. The tickets weren't inexpensive, so we made sure to plan all our other vacation events and schedule around this one singular day and it could not have been more perfect!

Now, I have a soft spot in my heart for Cakebread, as it makes the first Chardonnay that I fell in love with as a wine drinker. Also, not too many people know this about me, but I have a culinary degree (another life) and any food-centered event makes my heart go pitter-patter. And this class was a true make-it-yourself-in-the-kitchen-culinary-class...not some fancy chef prepping stuff in front of you whilst you sip Chard. I think this put some people off, as they didn't realize they were actually going to have to work for this meal...heck, some people didn't even realize the class lasted almost 6 hours!

The Menu:

Now, I have to apologize if some of the pics are fuzzy, as we were busy prepping and cooking in the kitchen. There weren't really any good opportunities for photos in the kitchen, and certainly not for a SLR camera, so I used my cell phone. 

So, me and my husband, along with 13 other strangers, made this entire meal. We teamed off and we each made one of the items off the menu: we had the Cioppino. Now, I did not tell anyone about my culinary background (I never do), but I practically swooned when Chef Brian Streeter complimented me on my knife skills! In the culinary industry, that's a high compliment...but I take that with a grain of salt, as I'm sure Brian was just thankful that I knew how to hold a knife. :-)

The meal turned out phenomenally and I have to say, and without bragging, the Cioppino was the best dish IMO! :-) We really did love the Roast Crab and the Salad as well. The teamwork and the communal dining experience was really special, especially since we knew we would be coming back 2 days before Thanksgiving and wouldn't be spending it with other people. So, in a sense, this WAS our Thanksgiving dinner!

If I lived in Napa and could afford it, I would attend ALL of Chef Brian and Tom's classes...hell, I'd probably ask if I could volunteer or work for them! This whole experience made me think about the choices I made in the past to leave the culinary industry and how I missed working in a restaurant kitchen (sometimes), but at the very least, it reinspired my cooking game to bring it up a notch! 

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Visiting Napa Valley

Napa Valley was such an amazing experience. After the hustle and bustle of San Francisco, we were ready to slow down, enjoy the view, and drink some wine.

And let me tell you, there wasn't a bad picture to be taken in the whole place. I wonder if the residents that live there year round ever get blase about what they see around them everyday? I suppose they do, as it's just what happens. The're probably like, "Yawn...another perfectly gorgeous vineyard. Ho-hum." If you ever plan to visit Napa, go in November when the tourists are gone, the leaves are changing, and the air is crisp. The views, the pace, and the afternoon sun were simply dreamy.

Hubby and I were taken aback though by the culture, which was MUCH more chill, health oriented, friendly, and back-to-the-land than what we expected and have here in Virginia. I told my husband, "These are our people!" There was so much focus on local and quality food; it was really tempting to imagine living there. Still, I think I will always be an east coast girl!

And of course, there was the wine. We didn't go too overboard, but mainly stayed with wineries that we had targeted to visit and made reservations. By the end of our trip, our palettes were fatigued and we didn't want to even see another glass of wine!  Another highlight of our trip was being able to visit the Heirloom Bean Mothership...Rancho Gordo Beans!



Thursday, December 01, 2016

Visiting Alcatraz

A visit to San Fran really isn't complete without a tour of Alcatraz, so on a foggy Sunday morning, we got up early to catch the ferry over to the island. There is really only one ferrying company that takes visitors to-and-from the island, and reservations fill up fast, so we made sure to book our tickets weeks ahead of time.

By and far, Alcatraz Island looks A LOT smaller than it really is from a distance. Expect to spend 2-4 hours walking the highlights of the 22-acre island, wear comfortable shoes, and depending on the time of year, layers of clothing. We were very lucky during our stay in that the fog cleared up perfectly by late morning, making for a gorgeous day.

The perspective vistas of the island were amazing! We definitely got our exercise that day going up-and-down all the hills, stairs, and paths inside and out the prison. I didn't know that in the 1970's, Alcatraz was occupied by Native American Indians as an act of reclamation activism. They lived on the island for 19 months!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Visiting San Francisco

The first part of our trip was in beautiful, gritty, and hip San Francisco. We stayed downtown in Union Square and even our hotel had an art exhibit in the lobby. We walked anywhere we couldn't get an Uber, and we were lucky to befriend an Uber driver who acted as our very own tour guide for most of 3 days.

We ate. Very. Well. Our favorite was a Burmese cult following named Burma Superstar. We ate there 2 times in 3 days and their Tea Leaf Salad will haunt me for the rest of my days. Ghiradelli was insane and was worth the milk farts even after eating 2 Lactaid tablets beforehand. Chinatown was amazing and we were able to sit in on a tea tasting at a tea house. And of course, there were 1,000 pics to be taken of the Golden Gate.

We got into town 2 days after the election and every single person we met wanted to strike up a conversation about what happened. At one point, our Uber was stuck in traffic due to a political protest in the street.

San Francisco, you are a young person's city and we loved you!

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