May 17 2017

Fire Pit Friday at Abundance Vineyards

I was invited to attend the last Fire Pit Friday of the season at Abundance Vineyards in Lodi, CA back in March. My girlfriend Wendy introduced my girlfriend Kristen to Fire Pit Fridays and she was hooked. I tagged along with their crew and will definitely be attending next season. With the higher temps, they have live music – sans fire pits, known as their Summer Music Series (1-2 Saturdays a month) with added food trucks. I’m looking forward to going to a few of those as well. The next one is this Saturday and features a local band, The Earth Tones, a blend of soul, pop, blues, R&B and reggae. The Street Eats food truck will be on-site and just like with Fire Pit Fridays, Abundance Vineyards wine is available for purchase by the glass or bottle. Wine club members are free, general admission is $10. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with no reserved seating.

Abundance Vineyards

According to their website, Abundance Vineyards is a family winery with deep roots in the Lodi region that can be traced back to the planting of Carginane and Old Vine Zinfandel grapevines by two brothers in the 1960s. Check out their story here.

Abundance Vineyards

Google maps sent me on a bit of an adventure because of an accident on 99. I really was blown away as I drove by winery after winery with fields of grapes as far as my eyes could see. I always think of Napa when I want to go wine tasting, that is changing after Wendy has shown me the light. 

Abundance Vineyards

The girls had already laid claim to this awesome fire pit. It’s bring your own eats and non-club members pay a $5 entry fee with wine available to purchase by the glass or bottle. Club members attend for free. 

Abundance Vineyards

I really love Moscato and wanted to give the 2014 Moscato, Lake County a try. I liked the orange blossom, pear and citrus fruity flavors and felt it was very reasonable at $15/bottle. 

Abundance Vineyards Fire Pit Fridays

Wendy and fam enjoyed the 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel – $25/bottle. Kristen went with sparkling wine, trying several different flavors.

Abundance Vineyards Fire Pit

Live music was provided by The Box, a local Lodi band. Lead singer David Atencio was great with the crowd. He made his way over to us and played a little “Name That Tune” – It took us a while, but we did guess right with Otis Redding’s – “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay”.

Abundance Vineyards - Little Square Box

They played a little bit of everything from Jack Johnson to the Dukes of Hazard theme song. One thing they shared with the crowd – David’s god-daughter convinced him to write a song (“Good Day,” a song about Lodi ) – so he did and sent it into Good Day Sacramento and they used it as their theme song. It was fun to sing along to all of their songs and others got up and danced. We were too busy enjoying our wine, conversation and snacks.

I went with my “go to” antipasto kabobs. This time around it was cheese tortellini, black and green olives, spinach, salami and pepperoni. We had all kinds of good eats – jalapeño poppers, 7-layer dip, chips, cheese and crackers, parmesan crisps and lemon bars. We know how to roll. 

It was a fun evening with great friends. So relaxing and I was able to bring the fire pit home with me via a smokey purse and clothes. Ha-ha. Already looking forward to my next adventure in Lodi, Woodbridge and surrounding areas. 

Thanks Wendy and Kristen for including me!


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May 07 2017

Brunch at Pushkin’s Restaurant

While I have tried Pushkin’s Bakery on 29th and S, I had no idea that they had opened a restaurant on Capital Ave. until a friend suggested it to our brunch group. Another friend who lives a gluten-free/dairy free lifestyle due to severe food allergies had introduced me to the bakery years ago. 

Pushkin's Restaurant

My first thought was that the building was super cool. The restaurant is on the bottom and no doubt super expensive living spaces are on the top. They were in the process of building a paver patio out front (Which is probably installed by now) – due to my late posting. Life gets in the way and what you think you might edit and post quickly… never happens. I still have a Napa trip from 2016 to post. 

Pushkin's Restaurant

I was really drawn to Pushkin’s simple interior. I love mixed woods and metals. The bakery items in the case also looked delicious and got me excited to see the rest of the menu.

I grabbed a menu while I waited for my crew to arrive. Parking was quick and easy, which was surprising for a Sunday. I found metered parking only a block away which bonus – led me into a cool vintage store.

Pushkin's Restaurant

The restaurant is rather narrow, but there are quite a few tables along the wall with some shared table space in the middle. I’m hoping to enjoy the outdoor patio seating next visit.

Once we were seated they also passed out their Vegan Brunch menu. One friend in our group has severe food allergies and it’s so awesome for her to have a place to go where she knows there won’t be any issues with cross contamination, etc. 

I was feeling more “Lunch” than “Brunch” – so I went with the Green Grill and Fries. Havarti, Avocado, Tomato, Spinach, Butter Lettuce and Sprouts on Focaccia Bread. It hit the spot… then I saw what others ordered…

Pushkin's Restaurant

Farm Fresh Eggs, Hashbrowns and Bacon…

Pushkin's Bakery Shakshuka

Shakshuka – Spiced Tomato Sauce, Baked Eggs, Parmesan and Toast and I was having some “breakfast” type food envy. I did try a bite of the Shakshuka and it was delicious!

I also had the opportunity to try the Vegan Adult Grilled Cheese at the Sacramento Grilled Cheese Festival (Another post I have lagged on pulling together) and I was blown away by the flavor. Cashew Pepper Jack Cheese, Tomato and Arugula and Gluten Free Focaccia Bread. While I wouldn’t classify it as a “Grilled Cheese Sandwich” like the other samples that day, it really did surprise me with how delicious it was.

The best part of the whole Pushkin’s experience like I said above – thanks to the owners, Danny and Olga Turner, my friend is able to eat without worry that she will get really sick. Danny has allergies and sensitivities to wheat, gluten, and dairy and realizes the importance of their guarantee of no cross contamination with wheat products.

Having two menus gives everyone the freedom to choose what fits their dietary needs. I for sure will be going back to try more items – and for another Adult Grilled Cheese – that I’d rather from here on out – refer to as an Adult Toasted Cheese Sandwich. 🙂

Go check it out!

Pushkin’s Restaurant
1813 Capitol Ave. Sacramento, CA


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Mar 26 2017

From Dandelions to Daffodils

Last weekend was filled with adventure. My girlfriend Carolyn and I were trying to come up with something fun to do. She mentioned going to Jackson, CA for their Annual St. Patrick’s Dandelion Days Celebration and then I mentioned that I’d never been to Daffodil Hill and I could hear her GASP through texting. Her response… seriously? You’ve never been to Daffodil Hill? We decided to combine both with a few other side trips and the day turned out to be a great one.

Dandelion days is the Jackson, CA Lions Club’s largest fund-raising effort and benefits student scholarships and other community events. It takes place in Historic Downtown. The streets were packed with vendor booths and people enjoying music, food and time with family and friends. 

It was my first time in the historic downtown area of Jackson and I look forward to going back to check out some of the local shops. 
One thing we knew we wanted to do was support the Jackson Fire Department by purchasing their famous tri-tip sandwiches. It’s a huge fundraiser for their fire fighter association that helps them purchase new equipment as well as training for the department. We already had a place in mind for lunch later in the day, but that didn’t stop us from a little pre-lunch sandwich.
The tri-tip was smokey and delicious, cooked to perfection. 
The National Hotel was very cool. I had to do a little research/reading to find out more about it. In 1849, at the dawn of the California Gold Rush, two Pennsylvania natives, Ellis Evans and D.C. White, with a fortune they amassed manufacturing cotton gins in Louisiana, made their way to California, where they built a general store at the south end of Main Street, on Jackson Creek. Three years later, that store became The Louisiana Hotel and Store. After a fire in 1862, Evans and White rebuilt and expanded, calling their new establishment the National Hotel. You can learn more by visiting The National Hotel’s website.

I loved seeing the Ferris Wheel and all of the food booths – this was also where the live bands were playing. We were tempted to get shaved ice, but it was a little chilly.

Our next stop led us to my friend Frank’s volunteer job at a local thrift store. We stopped there for a quick visit and a side trip recommendation. Frank mentioned a place that we had seen on the way in. Swingle Meat Co, located at 12640 Kennedy Flat Road in Jackson.

I hadn’t planned on buying anything and $50 later – I walked out with some grillin’ goodies. 

Deer heads have always been VERY disturbing to me. My grandparents had one in their garage and it used to freak me out.. That aside, all four of us were like kids in a candy store. Aaron was particularly excited to find that they had frozen packages of raviolis and meat gravy. He explained that his grandma made the BEST meat gravy and that it was a favorite food memory of his. I will have to check-in with him to see how it compared. Lots of frozen pasta options, not everything was meat on top of meat with a side of meat.

Dan and I decided on one Kona and one Whiskey marinated tri-tip. I usually don’t do pre-marinated meat – learned that from my brother that makes amazing BBQ delights. I still wanted to give these a try. We also got some chicken and beef skewers. 

Aaron and Carolyn had a cooler bag in the back of the car, so we were in business. Thank you Frank for the awesome recommendation. Next on my list will be to try your other recommendation of Andrae’s Bakery and Cheese Shop in Amador City. By the time we got there – they had already closed. 

Our Next Stop was lunch in Sutter Creek at Buffalo Chips Emporium Restaurant. Located right on Main Street, a few doors down from my favorite Sutter Creek store – The Antique Gardener. 

The place was adorable. We had a short wait and the entire time I drooled over the dessert case. The chocolate chip cookies looked magical and the pie… OMG!

Not to mention the cake and pie plates themselves… I wanted to take the whole case “to go”.

Dan and I eyed another guest’s grilled cheese sandwich while we were waiting for our table and I knew that was going to be what I ordered. As most of you know, grilled cheese and macaroni and cheese are my comfort foods of choice. Add an overcast/rainy day into the mix and perfection comes to mind. 

I did love the simple brown lunch bag flowers on each table. What a cute, inexpensive way to hide the green plastic plant container. Rubber stamp that puppy with a monogram or other single design and you could have wedding/party/bridal-baby shower centerpieces in minutes. 

I opted for the ham and grilled cheese sandwich and I’m glad I did. The house sourdough was amazing from the crust to the crunch of the lightly toasted middle… I savored every bite. Dan ordered the same thing because we’re cute like that. Ha-ha, no, seriously… that NEVER happens. 

Carolyn ordered the rosemary ham and brie on local ciabatta bread and was happy with her choice. 

Aaron got the roast beef sandwich with arugula, horseradish and mayo on local ciabatta bread. Aaron was also happy with his order. I was pleased to see thinly sliced roast beef. My pet peeve is super thick roast beef, it ruins a solid roast beef sandwich. We all opted for fries instead of chips and side greens.

We hit up the Antique Garden before getting on the road to our next stop. I always find a million ideas there and that my friends is ALL I left with this time – IDEAS. I really am working on bringing less home decor stuff into my house. It’s only been 3 months, so I’m not claiming to be cured just yet. The drive from Sutter Creek to Volcano was filled with twists and turns and some pretty cool houses and farms along the way.

We pulled up to Daffodil Hill and I felt like I was on a movie set of one of my beloved Hallmark Movies. It was opening weekend and the crowds were definitely out. Sheriff’s directing traffic to a hilly dirt lot, people crossing the street in multiple directions and more cameras than you see at Disneyland. Professional photographers with their clients and photo enthusiasts with their fancy lenses. The majority were people like us with cell phones. 

Daffodil Hill is a ranch owned by the McLaughlin family since 1887, and is located at 18310 Rams Horn Grade in Volcano, CA. In the past several years an average of 16,000 daffodil bulbs per year have been planted and it is estimated that Daffodil Hill is carpeted with approximately 300,000 bulbs when in full bloom. Learn more about Daffodil Hill here.

I find that blogging and actually finishing posts happens much faster if I just use my iPhone. I’m not as worried as I used to be about getting the perfect photo, it’s more about capturing the overall experience. I often go through my blog and look at things I did and places I visited years ago. The posts put me right back there and that is one of the reasons why I keep doing it.

I really expected to have a “The Hills are Alive” experience and was a little disappointed. I wanted blankets of yellow and white as far as my eyes could see.

It was opening weekend and my guess is that more will be in bloom in a few weeks time. There were parts that were more populated and that was cool to see.

I kept looking for my favorite Hallmark actors 🙂 – it really did make my heart happy imagining a movie being filmed there. Super Hallmark geek and proud of it. 

Daffodil Hill is open only in the spring, usually from mid-March through the first weeks of April. After that it goes back to a working ranch and is not open for visitors. Admission and parking are free, although donations are appreciated -there are hanging metal buckets at the entrance. Visitor donations help fund new bulbs for the next year.

Another successful outing with dear friends in the books. Now I must go fill my house with sunshine and yellow daffodils. 



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