Birthday . . . cont.

Posted on May 25, 2010 by admin 


One would think that after the experiences of The French Laundry and Jordan Winery the rest of the trip would, by necessity, head down hill but that was not the case.  We had a tour of the Von Strasser Winery, which a friend had suggested we visit.  It is truly a jewel among the wineries.  This is a small winery owned by an Austrian.  He is the only American to have interned under Lafitte Rothschild.  The limited varieties he produces are nurtured from vines planting to final bottled wine on site, allowing him total control from start to finish.  This would be a great winery to add to your itinerary if you are ever planning a trip to the California wine country.

Lunch was at the Culinary Institute of America in St Helena.  Enjoying the delightful cuisine on the patio under towering oaks overlooking vineyards cannot be improved upon.  It was the day before graduation so the young students were assisting the regular wait staff.  We talked to several young chefs; all excited about the next phase of their careers.  One young man was going to work in a restaurant in Copenhagen.

The afternoon treat was a tour of Del Dotto. This family-owned winery does barrel tastings in the cave.  Again, we were the only ones in our tour group, conducted by the son-in-law so we were treated to some special wines that weren’t normally a part of the tour.    That evening, we had dinner at Zazu.  It was a total change of pace; an old farmhouse located several miles out of a town.  It is known for its fresh food right from the gardens outside the restaurant.  Talk about a culture shock!  Many of the diners could have stepped right out of the Hippie era, complete with long hair, now turned gray, faded flowered dresses and shirts and Birkenstocks.   Food was great.

On Friday, we headed to San Francisco for a couple of days.  I was delighted to be able to visit Naomi Tickle in Petaluma on the way.   Naomi comes to Atlanta every few months to work with companies and conduct seminars on face reading.  She also has extensive training on color but more about that next week.

I love San Francisco, despite its extreme contrast.   World famous San Francisco Opera and symphony coupled with the extraordinary setting are contrasted with homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks and bizarre “happenings”.  We experienced both.  Wicked was playing and we were able to get matinee tickets.  My daughter had seen it in Chicago and had raved about it so this was a treat.  While I was raving about the costume design, the guys were super impressed with the lighting.  It was a fabulous production so if you ever get a chance, I highly recommend that you take advantage of the opportunity.
That night we were trying to make dinner reservations, and our concierge told us that the “Bay to Breakers” event was in town and the hotels were packed.  We didn’t get the significance of that until the next morning.  It is a race from the Bay to the Breakers and apparently half the younger crowd surrounding the bay area comes to San Francisco to participate.  When we went out for breakfast, people were pouring out of the hotels in every costume imaginable.  This event so typified the “other” side of San Francisco.  It was evident that these people were not actually participating in the run:  flip- flops, bumble-bee tutus and ostrich feather boas are probably not the best running attire!  One group asked us to take their photo so they invited me to join them while Joe took a photo of them.  They were among the least wildly dressed.

My birthday turned into a birthday month and was an incredible experience.   However, it is a good thing significant birthdays don’t happen every year or  I would never survive!DSC01159

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Posted on May 17, 2010 by admin 

A few times during ones lifetime, there is that “big” birthday – usually ending in a “5” or a “0”.   This year is one of those for me.  The only other time I remember being particularly moved about a birthday was when I turned twenty-five.  I kept thinking, “I’m a quarter a century old!”  Now this seems ridiculous but part of my obsession might have had to do with my being very pregnant at the time.  This year’s birthday fell on Mother’s Day and has become a birthday month.

After enjoying a wonderful Mother’s Day/birthday with my husband and children, we packed for departure to San Francisco and on to the Napa Valley.  Our dear friend, Dave, gave us a special trip to our destination of choice so we chose the wine country.  Dave met us in San Francisco and we headed over the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge to the Napa/Sonoma Valleys.

The first big surprise was a call that The French Laundry had a cancellation so we were booked for dinner on the night of our arrival.  This is the legendary restaurant that has headed the best restaurants list for many years.  It was truly a once in a lifetime dining experience.  There were nine petit, fabulously different and delightful courses such as, “Sweet butter-poached Main lobster “mitts” with globe artichokes, tomato confit, picholine olives, green garlic, parsley and spicy lobster broth as well as Snake River farms “Calotte de Boeuf Grillee” with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms,  green asparagus, potato “Mille-Feuille, and pickled ramps.   The length of the name was larger than the serving – each just large enough to enjoy but not so much that there was no room for the next, delicious course.  Truly, a memory never to be forgotten.

Highlights in wine tasting included the Jordan winery, where we had a special tour including delightful hors d’oeuvres of the chef complementing each flight of wine.  This winery is not one of the large producers but is carried in restaurants across the country and we thought it was superb.  As we were choosing which wines to bring home, our guide brought out a special gift of some bottles of wine that my children had called ahead to had waiting for me.  Needless to say, I was overwhelmed.

The weather was beautiful; cool, clear and sunny.  The verdant beauty of vines, row after row across the landscape was spectacular.  Beautifully manicured flowers and plants, beckoned guests to visit the different wineries.  Old oaks, towered majestically over the landscape, causing one to wish they could talk and share the hundreds of years of history they had witnessed.

………to be concluded next week……..

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Zac Posen

Posted on May 5, 2010 by admin 

It was four or five years ago that my husband and I were walking through Lenox Square and I noticed the most incredible pair of slacks in the window of Neiman Marcus.  I pointed them out to my husband who agreed that they were extraordinary.  He suggested that I make arrangements to try them on.  Well, it took some time to find from which department they had originated and then I discovered they were by a new designer, Zac Posen, and they were the only pair in the store.  The window displays would be replaced in about a week, at which time I could determine what size they were and  the price.  It all seemed too improbably to possible work out and became even more doubtful when I checked back only to find that they were no longer in the window but could not be located.  On making one final attempt, I discovered that they had been located and were a size smaller than I wear.  As you may have guessed, not only did they fit but even needed to be taken in through the hips to accommodate my figure eight body shape.  What’s more, the prices of this new designer, although high, were within my budget. I love these slacks and get compliments on them each season.  The design is unique but timeless and will wear out before it goes out of style.

Since that experience, I have been following this young thirty-year-old designer as he has gained name recognition.  Unfortunately, not only have his prices increased with his popularity but also the fit of his garments is inconsistent so my special slacks are the only Zac Posen item in my wardrobe.   Susan Posen, Zac’s mom, has recently left her Beverly Hills law firm to become business manager for her son.  Under her guidance, he introduced Z Spoke this spring, a more moderately priced line carried exclusively by Saks Fifth Avenue.  An even lower priced line for Target stores has just been launched.  Mom obviously wants her son to start making some money!

Observers have concerns that the Zac Posen brand does not have broad enough name recognition in Middle America to make the kind of impact in Target that is needed.   My hope is that Mom’s business sense is able to catapult this charmingly handsome young designer into the realm of Armani, Valentino and De La Renta.  I am delighted that his designs will be available to a much broader audience.  If you get a chance to check out either line, I’d love to hear what you think.

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