Napa Valley in June

IMG_8980I started the month of June off right by taking a holiday in Napa Valley, California with my husband.  We flew into SFO and took a shuttle to Napa Valley where we stayed at the Bel Abri Inn, about a mile from downtown Napa so everything was within walking distance.

IMG_8951We visited the City Winery downtown the night we got in, where the Opera House is co-located and had banana pudding and white wine for dessert.  I had to come back before we left Napa because their Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Lake County is so wonderful, it’s crisp, refreshing and just slightly sweet, it’s now my favorite white wine!  Plus the banana pudding was divine and paired well with the wine.

If you want to save money in Napa I recommend downloading a mobile app called Winery Finder Tasting Passes.  CastelloThe app has a list of wineries and some have two for one deals so you get two tastings, usually about $20-$25 dollars per tasting, for the price of one.  Some will also have deals where if you purchase a bottle of wine you get the tasting fees waived.  We arranged one day for the Napa Valley Shuttle to come pick us up and take us to various wineries, they are locals and will take you to 5-7 different wineries over 6-7 hours. We visited excellent wineries that all had art or photography galleries, Jessup, Castello di Amorosa, and Mumm Winery (excellent sparkling wines) were my favorites.  The best though was the 13th century inspired Tuscan castle, the architecture and decor were amazing, they had animals, sustainable growing practices, a church and torture chambers!  They also had my favorite wine I tasted all week, La Fantasia, a soft sparkling rose Italian wine that has a slightly berry tart and sweet refreshing taste, I could have had 10 glasses!  This is a must place to visit and Calistoga is gorgeous, the city, about 40 minutes from downtown Napa, has hot springs and more of a mountain town feel.IMG_9057

We also went to somBountyHunter_Chickene excellent restaurants including Bounty Hunter, a BBQ joint where I ate very yummy beer can chicken paired with a cabernet sauvignon, Atlas for excellent crab cakes, and top notch ramen noodles with pork at Eight Noodle Shop. We also went to the Oxbow farmer’s market, a little district near downtown across the river.  The farmer’s market is indoor and everything is just quality!  They have cheese, oyster, juice bars, I had an excellent egg and prosciutto panini and we also had really fresh sushi, a rainbow roll and seaweed salad.  On our last night we went to a little Jazz club called Silos where we saw a jazz, classical Brazilian band called Choro Bastardo, the kind of music that is nostalgic, fine, beautiful and takes you to nice places while you sip on quality Napa Valley wine (moscato and zinfandel that night).

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California Marketing Week

Infonetics

Last week I flew into San Jose, California to participate in a marketing training week my company Infonetics Research hosts every year.  It was interesting that the first day we viewed a speech by Steve Jobs when he launched his “Think Differently” marketing campaign followed by an article on 10 Lessons from Steve Jobs on Marketing.  This was on the heels of me just finishing the Steve Jobs biography book by Walter Isaacson the week before. Here is a quote I took away from the book that nicely sums up what I think he was about and what drives good marketing.

SteveJobsBio“Everything I do depends on other members of our species and the shoulders that we stand on.  And a lot of us want to contribute something back to our species and to add something to the flow.  It’s about trying to express something in the only way most of us know how–because we can’t write Bob Dylan songs or Tom Stoppard plays.  We try to use the talents we do have to express our deep feelings, to show our appreciation for all the contributions that came before us, and to add something to that flow.  That’s what has driven me.”

I also ate some fantastic food including scrumptious small plates from Orchard City Kitchen in Campbell, my favorite dish being the lavendar creme brulee.  I also really enjoyed this gastropub called Liquid Bread where I had a wheat Tangerine California brewed beer paired with a Braised Goat pasta that had this orange curry sauce.  I also have really nice co-workers and enjoyed the learning break and brainstorming and also the one night I tried Aerial Yoga at a studio near my hotel!

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Two Rivers Coffee in Arvada

IMG_7961My rendezvous with coffee in Colorado continues with a review on Two Rivers Coffee shop, roastery and restaurant in Arvada published Monday on 303 Magazine here. The cortado espresso and lavender shortbread I had while chatting with the positive and intelligent owner, were excellent so I’m definitely going back to their new space that includes an in-house roastery and new food menu.

2014 Favorite Things

As I unwind the most eventful year I think I have lived yet, I thought I’d share some of my favorite places, events, music and food experiences of this most epic year for me.

Aspen

Snowmass AspenMy 2013 new years eve and first day of 2014 was spent in Aspen, Colorado with a couple of close friends, my first time.  It was a memorable NYE of snowboarding at Snowmass, soaking in steamy mineral waters, eating Mexican food, drinking wine, and enjoying fireworks.  Snowmass is beautifully huge and after riding, we decided to find the Penny Hot Springs; there are a few natural hot springs in Colorado and if you can stumble upon this non advertised natural local spot between Carbondale and Aspen do it.  The stars and moon that night were memorable, as were the fireworks in Basalt and in Aspen, what a beautiful place on earth!

 

Breckenridge Ice Castles and Melt Mix

IceIn February I visited the Ice Castles in Breckenridge, Colorado with family and friends, the colorful lights and natural and man made ice formations were breath taking to wander in.  Shortly after in March, I finished a DJ mix featuring tracks that captured my emotions at that time. Listen to my 2014 Melt DJ Mix with styles of Dub, Dubstep, Electronic Bass music below or here, enjoy!

 

 

30th Birthday Week 

Colfax Marathon TeamIn May I ran a leg of the Colfax Marathon in Denver with my husband Phil, friends Lisa and Danielle and my sister Angie, my second time running that race. It was a few days before my birthday so it was wonderful to be turning 30 feeling healthy and happy with people I love.  Phil and I drove to Idaho Springs afterwards, soaked in the Indian Hot springs and went out to eat and drink in town.  On my birthday and to celebrate Phil’s too since his is the day after mine, we went to Zengo in Denver with family and friends, an Asian-Latin fusion restaurant I enjoyed and recommend, their sushi, ceviche and cocktails are delicious.

 

Barcelona, Madrid & El Tiemblo

I applied for a week-long program earlier in the year to teach conversational English to adult professionals in Spain and was accepted for late June.  I also have always wanted to go to Barcelona for the Sonar Music Festival of progressive music and multimedia arts, which was also in June.  So in mid-June I took a long flight to Barcelona, Spain and then traveled to Madrid, Spain and El Tiemblo the following week.

In Barcelona I stayed near Nova Icaria Beach so I could walk to it from my hotel and it was close to a bus and metro to go into the city center. The first day there I took an amazing tour of the city briefly viewing historic places such as the Catedral de Barcelona, the Gothic quarters, Park Guell, the Spanish Village, Montjuic Castle, La Sagrada Familia basilica and the stadiums where the 1992 Olympic games were held.  I was blown away by the architecture and free spirit of Barcelona, and I loved eating the fresh Paella!

 

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So that week in Barcelona I went 2 days and 1 night to the Sonar Music Festival held at Fira Monjuic and Fira Gran, which was overwhelming and amazing!  My favorite acts were the Butterz crew, Matmos, Flux Pavillion and below is a video clip of Machinedrum Vapor City Live.

The following week I volunteered for VaughnTown teaching conversational English to adult professionals who lived in various places in Spain. I traveled from Barcelona to Madrid by train, and took an hour bus ride to a town called El Tiemblo and had free board and food each day.  It was a mind opening experience as much of the time was spent having free conversations and skits over walks, meals, wine and games.  I spent the last night in Madrid enjoying cuisine such as Jamon Serrano, the city sights and great company.  I got to know a bunch of wonderful strangers with many different backgrounds, eat wonderful food & drink and see exquisite architecture, nature and culture of some of the best cities in Europe so it really truly was a great experience!

The Shambhala Mountain Center

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Phil and I took a meditation class at the Shambhala center in Boulder earlier in the year and learned a lot about the sitting meditation technique and principles of the Shambhala Path.  Following this I read The Sacred Path of the Warrior and Cutting Through Material Spiritualism by Chogyam Trungpa, the founder of Shambhala, which are wonderful books. Then in August we traveled to the Shambhala Mountain Center in Northern Colorado and saw the Great Stupa of Dharmakala.  We spent the day meditating and learning about this special place on a guided tour, the peace and beauty that radiates from this unique building is very calming and everyone was so very nice, I loved it.

“Established in 1971 by Tibetan meditation master and teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Shambhala Mountain Center welcomes all people with inspiration, interest and curiosity about the nature of self and society.”

The Amann-Tafoya October Wedding

JL_AmannTafoya_Select_ScreenRes-021After over 7 years of being together I married my best friend and lover, Phil Amann on October 25, 2014 amidst close family and friends at Christies of Genesee in Golden, Colorado.  It was one if not the best day and night of my life, I was so happy. We have shared a passion for music among other things and I truly feel inspired, comforted, accepted and loved by the wonderful blessing that is my husband and am lucky to be his wife.  I am also blessed to have such wonderful friends and family to share this time with, it really was such a sunny happy day at a beautiful venue!

Honeymoon in Jamaica

JamaicaPhil and I flew to Montego Bay a day after our wedding and were greeted with offerings of Cubans, Red Stripes and Bob Marley which we took.  We then spent most of our time in Jamaica at the Grand Palladium Resort in Lucea, Jamaica, an all-inclusive place with a few restaurants, a casino, dance halls and stage, huge pools and swim up bars, and a few private beaches with water sports and activities.  Swimming, kayaking, the live Reggae bands, zip lining through the jungle in Hanover an hour drive away, and the Jamaican jerk chicken were some highlights.  It was a beautiful setting to a mostly relaxing romantic honeymoon we will always remember 😉

 

Bacon, Beer, Cannabis & Caribou

Honorable mentions for this year go to the Man Candy Bacon at Ignite restaurant in Denver, a honey drizzled spicy bacon heaven appetizer for bacon lovers.  My favorite craft beers have to go to the Poblano Stout and the Chainsaw Prince of Karate Sour Ale Dragon fruit beer at Big Choice Brewery in Broomfield, Colorado, both have distinctly unique memorable flavors.   And of course for those of you who aren’t aware, Colorado passed Amendment 64 last year, legalizing recreational marijuana.  So my favorite buds this year have to go to Purple Trainwreck, a pungent rich smelling warm heady Indica strain, and Blue Dream a light fruity pretty Sativa.  My favorite music album this year was Caribou‘s Our Love LP, a mesmerizing instrumental electronic delicious compilation with R&B inspired vocals.

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I should stick to poetry, I know, but I had to spill my guts about this year since it was so rad.

Merry Food & Drink

Biscochito Cookies
Biscochito Cocoa cookies.

Christmas time and Hanukkah mean many things to people all over the world, but one common essential aspect of all cultures is the making and sharing of good food and drinks with your loved ones.  These dishes and drinks were some of my favorite food creations this year, feel free to share your favorite dishes and drinks too.

My mother and I baked Biscochitos Cookies a couple of weekends ago, these cookies are a New Mexico recipe but also referred to as the Mexican Wedding cookies, or Mantecados cookies in Spain.  The anise spice is really what distinguishes this cookie for me, along with the lard which my mom substituted for organic butter, and brandy (which we used bourbon instead) along with adding optional cocoa chocolate.

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Egg casserole and a mimosa.

My husband and I also made our egg casserole Christmas morning, a traditional breakfast we picked up from his mom.  It’s basically seasoned diced green bell peppers, mushrooms, bacon, ham, onions, cheese and whipped eggs (potatoes if you want) baked at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes.  We drank dark roast organic sumatra coffee and my favorite Christmas drink – mimosas – fresh orange juice and chardonnay champagne.

Memorable food mentions I don’t have pictures for were my aunt and uncle’s Apple Pie Taquitos for Christmas Eve dinner and my sister’s chicken mole without cocoa but with red chili powder and tomatoes for a red sauce my grandmother used to make.

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Filet mignon, scallops, honey-glazed roasted root veggies, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.

 

For Christmas Day dinner we decided to spoil ourselves and grilled filet mignon, pan seared scallops with butter, chardonnay, lemon juice and garlic.  I also baked a honey-glazed roasted root vegetable dish with golden and red beets, parsnips, and carrots in olive oil, honey, sherry vinegar and thyme.  We also made mashed red potatoes and gravy and the simple but delicious traditional green bean casserole.  For drink we paired the food with red cabernet sauvignon wine.

Right now I am enjoying a book and a glass of Baptist Imperial Stout with cocoa and coffee aged in whiskey barrels.

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Imperial Stout with cocoa, coffee aged in whisky barrels.

What a great time of year for everyone but especially for foodies.  Food means love and should revitalize, evoke good memories, emotions and tantalize tastebuds.  Sugar plump fairies will definitely be dancing in my head on this snowy white Christmas.