Sample the Sierra 2018

This was my first time attending Sample the Sierra at Bijou Park in South Lake Tahoe.  The girlfriends I went with had all gone to last year’s event and really enjoyed it.  Sample the Sierra is Lake Tahoe’s largest farm-to-fork festival celebrating locally crafted food, wine and beer with local artisans spread throughout the event – fine art, glass art, pottery, jewelry, handmade soaps, jams, spice rubs, honey, olive oil and hand-knitted and screen printed clothing. The event is sponsored by The Tahoe Chamber and a bunch of other local companies.

Sample the Sierra Food and Wine Festival - Event sold out sign

City of South Lake Tahoe Bijou Park Sign

Sample the Sierra 2018 Pairings list

We had purchased our tickets months ago – thankfully, because the event always sells out. We waited in line, got our IDs checked, and then received our plastic tasting glasses and event pairing maps and started tasting our way from booth to booth.

Tahoe Pops Handcrafted Popsicle Sign

First up was vodka and popsicles – Tahoe Blue Vodka and Tahoe Pops. Tahoe Pops uses Tahoe water as their main ingredient and they try to source as locally as possible for the other add-ins.  

Tahoe Pops Food Samples

I tried their Kiwi Lime (Ingredients: Lake Tahoe water, organic kiwi, organic cane sugar, organic lime juice, organic tapioca dextrose, and xanthan gum) and loved it so much that later in the day I went back for seconds and scored a whole pop. Besides the samples, they had their Tahoe Pops Ice Shack nearby so you could purchase full size popsicles.

According to their website, Tahoe Blue Vodka is “Made with pristine Lake Tahoe water, artfully distilled in small batches in Mountain View, CA, carefully bottled in Sparks, NV.” – we all enjoyed the samples. Yep – there is a theme… water from the lake. I can vouch for Lake Tahoe water. I loved it as a kid when we spent summers there and it’s one of the only places around that I will drink it straight out of the tap without any filtering. 

Our next stop was the Lake House/Bella Grace booth.

High on Food Mobile Kitchen Truck

Bella Grace Vineyards is located in Plymouth, CA. I sampled the 2017 Viogneir and found the hints of pear to be very refreshing.

Bella Grace Vineyards - 2017 Viogneir

The food pairing was provided by The Lake House – Paella with ingredients sourced from Perez Farms in Crows Landing, CA.

The Lake House Paella

The Paella (Roasted chicken, linguica sausage, shrimp and mussels topped with sofrito and creme fraiche) wasn’t ready when we rolled through, but my girlfriend went back and tried it – she said that it was delicious – so photo credit and review goes to Kristen.  

I was most excited to visit the Edgewood Tahoe/Auriga Wine Cellars booth. All senses were delighted from the visual beauty of the presentation to the amazing aromas… tasting did not disappoint and at the end of the day, I did give my poker chip to them as my favorite of the day. Edgewood chefs spent time with us explaining the ingredients as Denise and I weren’t able to identify one of them – Sea Ice.

Auriga Zinfandel Wine

Edgewood Trout Salad with Sea Ice

Sea Ice garnish on trout salad

Trout salad with a quick pickle/sea ice as a topper. 

Edgewood Tahoe Short Rib Sample

The presentation of all three Edgewood Tahoe items spoke to my inner designer self. I loved all of the details. 

Edgewood Tahoe Chocolate Mousse Sample

I sampled the short rib and Denise and I both had the chocolate mousse. I mistakenly didn’t take a photo of the menu/ingredients – so I wish I had more details on each item. I sampled the Auriga 2015 Zinfandel for pairing with my short rib and the combo was perfect. This got me excited for colder weather ahead. The mahjong style chocolate tile on the mousse prompted a conversation about Crazy Rich Asians and how I now need to go see the movie. 

The Loft's Wild Boar Cannelloni with Pink Vodka Sauce

The Loft and Lewis Grace Winery had an excellent pairing – Wild Boar Cannelloni with Pink Vodka Sauce and Pinot Gris – another favorite of the day. The Loft encouraged us to check out their live theater magic show on our next trip to Heavenly Village.

Lewis Grace Pinot Gris

Primo’s Italian Bistro and Lava Cap Winery really delivered with what is probably the best Caprese Crostini I’ve ever tasted. I loved the garlic and olive oil marinated tomatoes – teamed with perfectly toasted bread, creamy burrata (I think) cheese and the pesto topper. For the pairing, I had the Lava Cap Sauvignon Blanc. I was so excited to taste both, that once again I failed to photograph the signage with all of the details. Whoops… enjoying the moment for sure!

Caprese Crostini samples

Bottle of Lava Cap Sauvignon Blanc

Riva Grill and Crystal Basin Cellars were up next for us. A goat cheese tart with grilled peach and fig bruschetta and the second item was baby arugula and whipped burrata toast with mixed melon, tasso ham, roasted grape tomato and micro basil. Yay, I remembered to get an ingredient photo. The honey was provided by Al’s Bees Mountain Honey & other ingredients were provided by Salle Orchards and Towani Organic Farm. I didn’t sample any of the wine at this booth, but others did and really liked the Merlot.

Riva Grill Chef with samples

goat cheese tart with grilled peach and fig bruschetta

goat cheese tart with grilled peach and fig bruschetta sample

Crystal Basin Cellars wine

Blue Angel Cafe & Catering Co. teamed with Boeger Winery with ingredients from RHJ Organics out of Watsonville, CA – where my grandparents once lived. We tried a Beet Napoleon – layered with goat cheese, sage and butternut squash puree, topped with a balsamic glaze and microbasil garnish. We sampled the Boeger Barbera and it paired really well with the beets. I love beets, so this was right up my alley – I did overhear quite a few people “passing” due to the beets – they don’t know what they’re missing.

Beet Napoleon - layered with goat cheese, sage and butternut squash puree, topped with a balsamic glaze and microbasil garnish.

Boeger Barbera wine

Cafe Fiore joined Madrona Vineyards & Rucksack Cellars for the pairing of chilled marinated veggies – broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, olives, onions, carrots, artichokes, tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs with a pour of Madrona Riesling. I loved the refreshing combo, the veggies were a nice change to some of the other heavier items had throughout the afternoon. Perez Farms provided some of the ingredients.

marinated veggies

Bottle of Madrona Riesling

Dessert was enjoyed at the Revive Coffee & Wine and Mediterranean Vineyards pairing. Lemon Blackberry Mascarpone Cake and gluten free Lava Cake topped with raspberries from Harris Tree Farm, Rainbow Orchards & Jacobs Family Berry Farm. The lemon blackberry cake was really sweet and paired nicely with the Mediterranean Vineyards Garnacha.

Lemon Blackberry Mascarpone Cake and gluten free Lava Cake

Lemon Blackberry Mascarpone Cake and gluten free Lava Cake

bottles of Mediterranean Vineyards wine

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino provided swag (Mardi Gras style beads, sunglasses, bottle openers/keychains and sunscreen along with their delicious (non-spicy) Jambalaya. Everheart Cellers & Hart 2 Hart Winery was a favorite of the group of girls I went with. Some purchased their wine to take home. I joined another girlfriend on the opposite side of the venue where all the beer was and missed out on the wine.

Purple Hard Rock Hotel Guitar Bead Necklaces

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Jambalaya

First up on the beer side was Ten Crows BBQ and their Pulled Pork topped with Coleslaw and a side of Seasonal Berry Cobbler – with ingredients provide by RHJ Organics. Outpost Brewing Co. was serving up the IPA suds. I loved the pairing – coleslaw is always a good choice as a side to pulled pork. The berry cobbler was more berries, way less cobbler, as in no cobbler. Ha-ha.

Pulled Pork topped with Coleslaw and  a side of Seasonal Berry Cobbler

Pulled Pork topped with Coleslaw

Outpost Brewing Co. Can of beer and glass of beer

Fox & Hound Smokehouse Grill and Bar and South Lake Brewing Co. served up St. Louis Style Ribs and craft beer which we waited in the longest line to sample. The ribs were sourced from Sierra Meat & Seafood. They were slow-smoked with cherry wood for 5-hours and served slathered with their signature mild BBQ sauce. The meat slid right off the bone and the sauce was full of tangy delight. They went home as winners of the Best Tasting Experience Award. All Sample the Sierra guests were given a poker chip to put in the glass jar of their favorite pairing and while they didn’t get my vote, they easily could have – the ribs were that good. Like I mentioned earlier, I voted for Edgewood, their items were amazing and the chef took time to chat with us, which I loved. 

St. Louis Style Rib sample

MacDuff’s Public House and Sidellis Lake Tahoe served up craft beer, Apricot Bread Pudding and Stone Fruit Salad with ingredients provided by Hooverville Orchards.  I’ve eaten at MacDuff’s before and really liked it, so it was fun to see them as participants. 

Apricot Bread Pudding and Stone Fruit Salad

I know it seems like I tasted a lot, but I honestly skipped a bunch of booths due to the lines or wanting to hangout with the girlfriends I went with. Cold Water Brewery and Grill had a Mr. Toads Wild Rye beer that I wanted to try – but the line was crazy long. A light amber beer with a touch of rye, yes please. 

I missed the Frescana Mexican Bistro Blackened Ahi Street Tacos, but borrowed another photo from Kristen because she said they were incredible. Wild caught sushi style ahi, avocado, cilantro-pepita dressing, frisee & pico de gallo served in a corn tortilla. This is the type of food I crave and order when dining out, so I’m bummed that I missed their booth. 

Blackened Ahi Street Tacos

Once we made our way back to the beginning of the event – we noticed that the finals had just started for the 7th Annual Sierra Chef Challenge. This was a “Chopped” style challenge.   
 7th Annual Sierra Chef Challenge

Four chefs each cooking against one another with a mystery box of food – they said locally grown, but one of the items was marshmallow fluff :).  All chefs had 30 minutes to create each course per round. Appetizers were round one, three chefs moved onto round two for the entree course and then it was down to Chef Patrick Harrity from Cold Water Brewery and Grill and Chef Jimi Nakamatsu from The Lake House. Both chefs from places that I didn’t taste the food – Grrrr… Kristen knew what was up, she went to the right places, ha-ha.

7th Annual Sierra Chef Challenge Contestants

7th Annual Sierra Chef Challenge Chef Patrick

We were sitting on Chef Patrick’s side, he was the reigning Sierra Chef Challenge champion. The dessert round mystery box was unveiled and it was hard to hear, but I’m pretty sure it included chocolate, pomegranate, marshmallow fluff creme and guajillo chiles. 

7th Annual Sierra Chef Challenge Chef Patrick

Chef Patrick made flat cakes (after an admitted baking fail) with a chocolate and pomegranate mousse and a guajillo chili marshmallow fluff creme anglaise.

7th Annual Sierra Chef Challenge Chef Jimi

open face crepe sandwich with a pomegranate marshmallow fluff mousse

Chef Jimi made an open-face crepe sandwich with a pomegranate marshmallow fluff mousse that included the guajillo chilies for some added heat.

The judges talked among themselves and then submitted the winner to the announcer.

Sample the Sierra Chef Contest Winner

Chef Jimi Nakamatsu from The Lake House took the 2018 Sierra Chef Challenge Winner title.  We even managed to get a  taste of his winning dish – pretty cool. 

I had a wonderful day spent with my favorite things – good friends, delicious food, unlimited wine and beer pours, laughter, random dog sightings (including a white mini schnauzer named Oliver), a much needed post event hike and a simple green salad with roasted chicken for dinner. Thanks to everyone that let me borrow their food and wine to take photos, their actual photos when I missed stuff and for being patient while I took notes on my phone and filmed video so I wouldn’t forget things for this post. The upside – I was so busy eating that I didn’t spend money shopping for jewelry and other handcrafted treasures.

Hmmm… wait a minute, that seems more like a downside kind of thing.

Already looking forward to my next trip to Lake Tahoe – I sure do love it there.


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Lemon Zucchini Bread

I’ve mentioned here on the blog before that my uncle grows vegetables in the community where he lives. When the family gets together, farmer John brings us zucchini, squash, tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers and anything else he decides to grow each season. We pour the bags out on the counter and divide stuff up and it really is a fun part of our family gatherings. Zucchini and corn = summer for me. 

I seem to always go for savory recipes when it comes to vegetables. Salty is my thing and I absolutely hate baking because of the precise measuring.  In fact after making frosted cookies over the 4th of July for my Dad’s birthday and throwing stuff in the kitchen out of frustration – getting flour down the space between the stove and the counter/cabinets, spilling gel food coloring on the granite, having the sprinkle top come off while shaking onto a cookie, rolling out dough for the 20th time to have it tear – I decided that it was too much baking dramz for this girl. I like creating as I go… a little of this, and a little of that.

I started seeing recipes on Pinterest and Facebook for zucchini bread and then found a whole bunch with lemon. I do love me some lemony desserts, so when I saw “added lemon glaze” – I knew I had found my ispiration to get started.

Lemon Zucchini Bread Ingredients

I happened to have all ingredients on hand. This was my first time trying Trader Joe’s Organic Powdered Sugar and it was a success. Love the self-closing pouch, instead of the blue box I normally purchase that poofs powder everywhere when you open it – or is that just me?

I’ve broken nearly every grater I own over the past year – what can I say? I’m a vigorous grater.  I’ve been meaning to purchase a metal box grater, but really don’t want to take up space in my cabinet to store it. All I had available was one of my mircoplanes and I was worried that it would be too fine for the job.

While it was a little mushy, it worked out great. I sailed through the rest of the steps and was super happy with the final results. 

Three hours later – prep time, cook time, cool time, glaze time – I was able to take my loaf into the backyard for a little photo shoot.

It was super awesome when the glazed poured out the holes onto my teak patio table. Ha-ha. 

Yay, it was husband approved and I’m fairly certain could easily become a family favorite if you were to give it a try. The bread was the perfect balance between sweet and tangy. If you or other family members (kiddos) are zucchini haters for some reason, my bet is that you/they would actually still like this bread. It was THAT good.



Lemon Zucchini Bread
Yields 1
This Lemon Zucchini Bread combines zucchini from the garden with fresh lemon to create a delicious light dessert or breakfast/summer treat.
Write a review
Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
  1. 1 1/2 Cup all purpose flour
  2. 1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
  3. 1/4 Teaspoon baking powder
  4. 1/4 Teaspoon salt
  5. 3/4 Cup sugar
  6. 1 Cup finely shredded unpeeled zucchini (do not squeeze/dry shredded zucchini)
  7. 1/4 Cup vegetable oil
  8. 1 Large egg
  9. 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  10. 2 Tablespoons lemon zest (yellow only)
  11. ------------
  13. 1 Cup powdered sugar
  14. 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  15. 2 Teaspoons lemon zest
  1. In a medium mixing bowl - combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  2. In a separate large mixing bowl - combine sugar, zucchini, cooking oil, egg, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir to combine.
  3. Add dry ingredients to zucchini mixture; stir just until combined.
  4. Spoon batter into greased loaf pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 50-55 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Cool in pan on a wire rack 20 min, then remove from pan and cool completely.
  7. Once cool, combine ingredients for glaze and drizzle over bread.
  1. These would be great as muffins too. I'd adjust the time to 18-20 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Adapted from Lemon Tree Dwelling
Adapted from Lemon Tree Dwelling


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More About Farms, Food, Flowers, and Friendship

I received a text message last Friday from Carolyn with an invite to a flower design class she had signed up for. Carolyn and I have a love for all things creative and crafty.  Food and home decorating are my thing and food and flowers are hers. It should be noted that she is an amazing baker and loves cooking, sharing recipes, trading cookbooks, trying new restaurants, and attending food themed events with me and I’ve also been known to play with flowers on occasion – helped her with a friend’s wedding flowers, shopped farmer’s market flowers, spent hours at Green Acres and other flower farms and nurseries with her. We support each other’s hobbies and are always on the hunt for new things to explore to expand on them. That kind of friendship rocks and it’s why I always click on links from Carolyn. 

Flower Class at The Feathered Nest

The above graphic appeared on my phone. I was intrigued, so yes, I clicked on the link and after some mild arm twisting (not really), I purchased my ticket to join Carolyn this past Sunday. 

Happy Road Farm – a small, 1 acre, local, family owned, flower farm in Loomis, CA was bringing the best of their summer heirloom flowers to The Feathered Nest – a dreamy/new store also located in Loomis.  I immediately recognized both names as I was already following them on Instagram. @happyroadfarm and

We started off our adventure with grabbing lunch at The Flower Farm, located in Loomis, CA at 4150 Auburn Folsom Road.

The Flower Farm

Carolyn ordered first and I basically copied her – I’ve been cutting way back on carbs, but fresh ciabatta bread from The Baker and The Cakemaker (a husband and wife owned artisan bread bakery) providing Placer County and surrounding areas with quality handcrafted artisan bread… sounded fabulous.

Hand carved turkey breast, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and sliced provolone on a warm ciabatta roll (Organic wheat flour, olive oil, water, yeast, sea salt).

I opted for pesto pasta salad as my side and unsweetened iced tea as my beverage. I tasted hints of mint in the pasta salad – it was unexpected and I ended up really liking it.

The Flower Farm Café outdoor seating had shaded areas under willow trees, umbrellas, shade sails and arbors with great views of the pond and garden areas. We chatted about it being a nice place for a bridal shower or birthday celebration. It was the perfect start to our fun day.

We left plenty of time to drive the less than 10 minutes to The Feathered Nest for our class.

We pulled up and immediately wanted to move in. Ha-ha! The building was incredible. I went into full-on blogger mode and walked through the parking lot getting different angles of the building. I half expected to see Joanna and Chip Gaines because of the style. 

As soon as we walked through the front doors, I new I was in trouble. I wanted to purchase everything in the store – from a new dining room table (metal and wood inlay) to gorgeous lamps and a replacement couch for our great room. Since robbing a bank or winning the lottery isn’t in my near future (that I know of) – I had to stick to drooling and snapping inspiration photos. I did find a rug and a really cool throw pillow, but I’m trying to curb my obsession with pillows and switching them out with every trip to HomeGoods or Crate and Barrel. My guest bed has seven pillows, it’s a decorator’s sickness and one I’m having a hard time finding the cure for. 

You can visit The Feathered Nest’s website to learn more about the beautiful store and how three girlfriends decided on making their vision into a reality. 

The Feathered Nest

Carolyn and I gave ourselves a sneak peak into the room our class would take place in – and WOW, the light from the huge windows was perfect. We were surrounded by vibrant colors from all of the flowers and fabric samples – man I would love a room like that in my future farm house. One can dream! The flowers were simply amazing and we were excited to get started. 

Once all twelve attendees arrived, Lisa from Happy Road Farm got started. She talked about how she left her corporate job as a writer – searching to find something that fit better with her family, her passion, and her need for a more flexible schedule. Her house is on an acre and she always felt at peace spending hours in her garden, her happy place. She decided, why not? She started growing more of the flowers she loved and over a year ago – Happy Road Farm was born. (Sounds easy, right? Ha-ha. You can tell it’s a labor of love and growing in a sustainable way, not using pesticides, etc., has been a huge learning process for Lisa and her family as she doesn’t have a farming background.) The farm is not open to the public, as it’s basically her backyard – but they do sell at the Placer Grown Loomis Farmers’ Market, which opens for the season this Thursday, July 12th, from 8am to noon in the Taylor’s Burger & Shake Shop parking lot at 3636 Taylor Road.

VillaSmith, High Hand and Newcastle Produce also have Happy Road Farm flowers on occasion – be sure to check out Happy Road Farm’s Facebook page or Instagram for updates and locations.

It was time to get started. Lisa explained the process using a bird metaphor… perfect for “The Feathered Nest”.

Build your nest: Create the base for your flower vessel. We used mason jars she picked up thrifting. She talked about using greenery – zucchini leaves,  grape leaves, frosted explosion, and different herbs for her nest. 

Let the bird fly: There are no rules. Pick a color scheme and start selecting flowers that speak to you and your personal vision.

Feather in cap: Choose a few show stoppers and carry out the color scheme in little places throughout.

Name that flower – paging Carolyn to the white courtesy phone! Does anyone know what the above flower is? Is it an Ombre Ball Dahlia? I missed jotting down the name.

The Floodlight Dahlia was beautiful – definitely a “feather in cap” type flower. 

Fluff your nest: Once you think you are done, grab a hold of your flowers and fluff them – creating more space in between the stems.

Happy Road Farm

Figuring out when you are done is the real challenge. With so many beautiful flowers in front of you, it’s hard to not keep fussing with the arrangement. “Do you think it still needs a little something, something?” was the theme at the table. 

I apparently think it’s fall with my color scheme, LOL. What can I say? My house is beige, cream, and other neutrals with plants and artwork adding pops of color. I can’t even say my pillow obsession has helped with pops of color as I’m drawn to neutrals and textures when it comes to those. 

I used Kangaroo Paw, Rosemary, Echinacea (with the petals removed – a fun tip from Lisa that I hadn’t thought of), Lisianthus, Strawflower, Zinnia, Celosia and Yarrow in my arrangement and I’m sure I missed a few others. I was trying to be in the moment and some of the names escaped me. I also thought to myself – oh, I’m sure Carolyn will know them all because she’s a big flower nerd. Yep, pretty much the truth. 

We had spools of ribbon and jute to choose from for our finishing touches. I ended up braiding my jute and I liked the way it turned out. 

We enjoyed some beverages and chatted with other attendees as we continued selecting flowers. The Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower & Rose Lemonade hit the spot. One of the girls said you can get it at World Market or Whole Foods. I did a little research and Walmart apparently has it too. I’ll for sure be on the lookout. See, see… I mentioned something else foodie in this post. It’s not all flowers. 

After we finished our masterpieces, Lisa invited us to take some extra flowers home for a second vase and we had fun picking those out too. I mostly grabbed more white Lisianthus, Yarrow and Frosted Explosion for my second arrangement. Look at us all cute and bridesmaidy-ish.

Lisa made an arrangement for The Feathered Nest staff to enjoy. She whipped that up in about 5 minutes. 

Image Source: Happy Road Farm Instagram

Such a fun group of ladies. We really enjoyed the class and are already looking forward to the Happy Road Farm Crown Making Class in the fall. Not sure on location for that – this was Lisa’s first class at The Feathered Nest. Also, I’m so sorry for blocking 3/4 of your face Carolyn… my bad. 

I am happy to report that my arrangements made it home safely thanks to Carolyn’s quick thinking and a handy granola bar box. 

Fresh flowers make me smile. Fresh “farm grown with love” flowers brighten my world. Thanks to The Feathered Nest for hosting the class and to Lisa at Happy Road Farm for teaching us things and supplying all of the beautiful flowers and to Carolyn for letting me know that I needed this in my life. 

Another adventure for the books/blog. Do you buy flowers for yourself and your home on the regular? What’s your favorite flower? 

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