Thursday, June 27, 2013

California Vacation Day 1

This past weekend, Chris and I headed out to Napa Valley, California for an all-expenses paid trip sponsored by Dole Salads. I won this thru Skinny-Bits last year, and though I was concerned it was all too good to be true...it most certainly was true and then some! Chris and I received star treatment from the moment we arrived and I cannot thank Dole Salads enough for sponsoring such an amazing weekend. We had a fun time getting to know a great group of people, taking cooking and wine classes at the Culinary Institute of America, and of course, eating great food.

We arrived to the Solage Calistoga Hotel and Spa around 11:30pm on Friday night (which felt like 2:30am to us!) The hotel was beautiful!! Each room was its own little cottage, with two bikes outside for guests to use as they wish throughout their stay (sadly, we didn't get to take them out.)

Our room was huge and lead out to a beautiful secluded patio.

Each morning, we were greeted with a continental breakfast consisting of yogurt and granola, very fresh, fresh fruit, scones, muffins, and my personal favorite: the English Muffins!!

On Saturday morning, this was our view as we ate breakfast...stunning!

Throughout the next three days we participated in a series of hands-on cooking lessons, contests, seminars and demos. It truly was a unique culinary learning experience and one I will treasure forever.

On Saturday, we got a tour of the Culinary Arts Institute facilities. From their garden, to their outdoor grills and brick ovens, to their classrooms and kitchens. 

After the tour, it was time to meet Clinton Kelly! Clinton was seriously so nice and so down to earth. He also recognized me right away from our twitter conversation earlier in the week! He came right up to me and said "did we tweet earlier this week?" and I said "Yes!!" and from then on in we were fast friends...I may even venture to say best friends? Though, that may be bold ;)
After we watched a demo of Chef Patrick prepare a variety of salads, we were split into teams to recreate the salads on our own and to think about presentation. Chris and I were paired with mom and daughter duo, Michele and Betty, who were so sweet and down to earth. I think the four of us made the perfect team, and we had a fun time cooking with them throughout the weekend. Clinton came around while we cooked to chat with us and help us think about our presentation plates.

Our team was assigned to make an Italian mix salad with fire roasted tomato and Mozzarella vinaigrette, and a Sweet lettuce salad with sour cucumbers, avocado and dill vinaigrette. It seemed soooo weird to be mixing pickles with avocado and dill vinaigrette...but this was one of our favorite salads of the day!
See? Best Friends....

Altogether we had 10 different salads at the end of the morning to sample for lunch. This really was like a dream vacation for me...salads??!! That's only my most favorite thing ever and each salad was better than the last!

After we ate our salad creations for lunch, we went over to Rudd Hall, a room specifically designed for wine tasting, for a "TastingWine like a Pro" seminar. I was even able to partake in this because we each had our own "spittoons" and even the instructor was spitting out her wine, so I didn't feel so bad or awkward doing so as well!
 
 

We had a little bit of time back at our room to change before dinner at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant, the restaurant on the CIA Campus. I kicked my heels up on our back porch to soak in some rays before dinner.

Dinner was back at the CIA. It was ok, I wasn't blown away by the food and honestly, you could tell that they were just training their new group of summer students, because the service was all over the place.

However, we still had a good time getting to know everyone in the group a bit better. This was our table of the whole group at the restaurant:

 Chris and I taking in the views after dinner

I really wanted to do this whole weekend in two posts, but that was just one day and there's SO much more to share!! I have two more posts to share on what we did outside of class, and some of the other seminars and challenges we attended. So more updates on our big Cali trip coming your way!

12 comments:

  1. Looks so fun - I'm so jealous! P.S. What a perfect babymoon!

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    1. It really was the perfect babymoon :) Is it bad I'm hoping to go on one more babymoon before the baby? haha!

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  2. What an amazing experience! The salads look scrumptialicious and the lavender-I practically can smell it! Can't wait to hear more.

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    1. It was so amazing..wish I could have brought more people with me!

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  3. Sounds like an amazing trip. And I agree with Jess Beer, perfect babymoon!

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    1. yes, it definitely was! Hopefully we can go away on one more weekend getaway before November.

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  4. Wow, this sounds so amazing! The salads look delicious, and it's great that you still got to take part in the wine tasting.

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    1. all the salads were the most delicious things I've ever tasted. I can't wait to recreate some of them at home! And yea, I was happy to still experience the wine tasting portion.

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  5. that looks like an awesome time!! love the wine tasting...

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  6. Love this!!! Can't wait for the next segment!

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