San Francisco’s Wayfare Tavern is for (Organic Fried Chicken) Lovers

Tyler Florence, celebrity chef and television host, recently featured one of his San Francisco restaurants, Wayfare Tavern, on the Food Network show, “The Great Food Truck Race.”

The restaurant opened in 2010, but briefly operated as a food truck at the start of the pandemic when many restaurants had to close. Their food truck service is now on hiatus, but their restaurant has reopened!

Wayfare Tavern and the Transamerica Pyramid in the background

Chef Tyler’s Organic Fried Chicken was named one of the Best Fried Chicken in the United States by Food & Wine Magazine (2019).

The magazine even reveals the cooking technique used to achieve its special quality. (Hint: after marinating in buttermilk brine, the chicken is baked on low heat for a few hours before frying!)

Enticed by the idea of trying this special chicken on a special occasion, my husband immediately booked a lunch reservation at the Financial District restaurant to celebrate our anniversary.

Burrata Toast, Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco

For appetizers, we ordered charred country bread with burrata. The soft, creamy Italian cheese was lightly sprinkled with balsamic vinegar, served with several cubes of watermelon, cantaloupe, and pear, and topped with some fresh microgreens. My elder daughter called first dibs on the prosciutto di Parma. (By the way, she snapped all of the photos shown here. 📸)

While we waited for the Burrata Toast, we nibbled on warm popovers (our American version of Yorkshire pudding). My younger daughter and I thought they were freshly baked croissants until we tore off a piece, revealing a soft, hollow inside. The popover was especially tasty with a spread of butter!

As for beverages, I recalled Sancerre’s recent win as « Le village préféré des Français » on the France 3 program of the same name, so I decided to have a glass of the Karine Lauverjat Sancerre 2019. I thought it was light-bodied and soft. I wondered, Is this typical for this appellation? Didn’t matter – I liked it anyhow! Meanwhile, my husband enjoyed his red sangria cocktail of Tempranillo and rum with licorice-flavor from the French tarragon.

Preceded by the distinctive scent of roasted garlic and the woody aroma of rosemary, the main course arrived, at last. After removing the rosemary sprigs that were perched atop five assorted pieces of golden fried chicken, I squeezed some lemon on top and took a bite. I decided it was definitely worth the splurge: the chicken was simple, but tender and seasoned to perfection!

Organic Fried Chicken, Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco

In San Francisco, mask-wearing and social distancing are still required indoors (regardless of vaccination status), but neither rule seemed to be strictly enforced here. Despite the full house, the noise level was comfortable. At our table, we could hear each other without having to shout. We couldn’t hear others’ conversations either over the cheerful music playing softly in the background, like this tune:

🎶

With its mahogany walls giving warm British pub vibes, savory Italian cheese appetizers, lively Cuban music, and sweet French wines from the Loire Valley, Wayfare Tavern is true to its name – the atmosphere lent a feeling of journeying to distant lands!

Overall, I had an enjoyable experience – and that’s not the sauvignon blanc talking! 😉

Cheers / à votre santé !

I Promise You an Herb Garden

When I told one of my dear friends that I was feeling a bit blah lately, she surprised me with a cute herb growing kit to cheer me up! I was touched by the caring gesture, but I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of trepidation, too. What if… the herbs don’t grow?

My maternal grandmother had a green thumb, but unfortunately for me, it’s not hereditary! My previous failed attempts at keeping even low-maintenance house plants alive discouraged me from developing a deep interest in gardening.

In my household, it’s my patient husband who tends to our little backyard garden. For the most part, I help by staying out of the way. But when the time comes to rake and collect all of the fallen crunchy leaves, I’m happy to do it!

As for the herb growing kit, I’m going to follow the instructions to the letter. I want my herb garden to grow!

top: basilic, coriandre
center: ciboulette
bottom: persil, thym

If it doesn’t grow, at least I can say my French vocabulary grew by five words:

basil: basilic

chives: ciboulette

cilantro: coriandre

parsley: persil

thyme: thym

Another way to say chives in French is civette, which sounds like civet, the cat-like mammal found mainly in Southeast Asia. For clarification, I asked my dear friend in Toulouse which word he uses for chives and he said ciboulette — so that’s the one I’m going with, too!

Sowed on June 9, 2021

Wish me luck! 🌱

Do you like gardening? Tell me in the comments below!

March 5 is National Absinthe Day

[This post is not sponsored.]

Happy National Absinthe Day!

National Absinthe Day is celebrated on March 5 each year to commemorate the date the absinthe ban was lifted in the United States in 2007.

StGeorge_AbsintheFrappe_ElliottClarkAbsinthe Frappé photo credit: Elliott Clark/Apartment Bartender

What is absinthe?

Absinthe is a potent distilled spirit made with green anise, fennel, and wormwood. It’s also called the Green Fairy, or la fée verte, due to its emerald hue that is derived from the chlorophyll of the aromatic herbs that are added after the distillation process.

It is believed to have originated in the late 18th century when a French doctor in Switzerland created it as an elixir and cure for malaria.

Due to the toxic chemical compound called thujone found in wormwood, many people believed that drinking large quantities of the spirit caused hallucinations! Absinthe was considered to be such a dangerous psychoactive drug that it was eventually banned in many countries, including the United States in 1912.

During the ban, an anise-flavored liqueur called pastis gained popularity as a substitute for absinthe. The difference between pastis and absinthe? Pastis is produced without wormwood and sugar is added to it, making pastis a liqueur, not a spirit.

“This one time, at workcamp…”

I had my first taste of pastis in France during some free time at my workcamp (the commonly used term for international volunteer projects like the one I participated in.)

After watching a marionette show, my group and I went out for drinks. I can still recall the strong licorice flavor of the pastis. Not sure I loved it, but I must admit, I did enjoy how it made me feel: sans souci (carefree)!

Over the years, I’ve often wondered: Would I have a similar experience with absinthe?*

What better time for me to find out than on the occasion of National Absinthe Day!

American-made Absinthe

When pandemic-related travel restrictions are lifted, I’d love the chance to sip absinthe in France or Switzerland! But until then, I’m happy to stay put and get some American-made absinthe that happens to be locally produced (but widely available!)

St. George Spirits master distiller Lance Winters and head distiller/blender Dave Smith
photo credit: Andria Lo

St. George Spirits, located in Alameda, California (about 10 miles/ 16 km east of San Francisco) has been making single malt whiskey, gin, rum, brandy, vodka, and liqueurs since the distillery was founded in 1982 by Jörg Rupf, who retired in 2010.

Fun Fact: Their St. George Absinthe Verte was the first legal American absinthe released after the U.S. ban was lifted in 2007!

St. George Absinthe Verte (200ml)
photo credit: Jason Tinacci

Due to its high alcohol content, absinthe is usually sweetened and diluted with ice cold water before it’s served. But according to St. George Spirits, their St. George Absinthe Verte is one you can “savor over ice — no sugar needed.”

St. George Spirits master distiller Lance Winters
photo credit: Laurel Dailey

St. George Spirits master distiller, Lance Winters joined Sarah of Chateau Sonoma for cocktail hour on Instagram Live on March 5, 2021. ICYMI, check it out: Instagram Live @chateausonoma

St. George Spirits stills
photo credit: Ben Krantz

Thanks to Ellie Winters, St. George Spirits communications director, for permission to use the photos shown in this post.

*Updated March 8, 2021

I finally tried absinthe! I diluted one ounce of absinthe with about a half-ounce of ice water. It developed a nice cloudy louche, indicating a strong presence of star anise, which I could smell as I gently swirled my glass. I can confirm: no hallucinations (not that I was expecting any), but I did get a cool numbing sensation on my tongue with each sip.🥃

Have you had absinthe? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!

Bonjour Praline!

While New Orleans may be known for their delicious fried doughnuts called beignets, they are also home to the famous praline (pronounced two ways: “prah-leen” or “pray-leen”), a type of candy made with pecans and caramelized sugar.

Praline is believed to have come from the French term, praliné, which is the process of cooking nuts with a cream, sugar, and butter mixture.

The original French version uses almonds, while the Belgian praline is a chocolate candy with a hazelnut filling. The American version was developed by French Creole chefs who replaced almonds with pecans, which were abundant in Louisiana.

The first time I tried a New Orleans praline was when my boss brought back boxes of Aunt Sally’s Creole Pralines from her trip to “The Big Easy.” I was hooked after the first bite! Aunt Sally’s Creole Pralines has been making pralines since 1935. They’re gluten-free and they’re made without preservatives.

When the craving strikes, you can order them online (they ship worldwide). I purchased a box of 12 original pralines recently:

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday. It’s the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of the Christian tradition of Lent. During the Lenten season, many people fast or abstain from indulgent behavior during the 40+ days before Easter. Basically, Mardi Gras (February 16 this year) is the last day to have fun!

Instead of fasting, many people choose to give up something they enjoy, like smoking, drinking alcohol, gambling, social media, using profane language, or eating sweets!

praline crumbled over chocolate chip ice cream

These pralines are so decadent, I just might give them up for Lent! 😉

February 2: Groundhog Day and La Chandeleur

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is an annual tradition observed in the United States and Canada.

In the U.S., members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club gather on February 2 around a burrow in the town of Punxsutawney in western Pennsylvania and wait for the groundhog to emerge. It is believed that the groundhog can predict the arrival of spring!

In the 1993 American fantasy-comedy film, “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray plays a meteorologist who is sent to report on the event. He experiences déjà-vu when he wakes up each day and February 2 repeats again and again.

This year’s prediction, however, was not a repeat of last year’s. It appears that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow! According to legend, this means that there will be six more weeks of winter. (If he had not seen his shadow, then there would be an early spring.)

Groundhog Day is believed to have been adapted from a German custom of having a badger predict the weather, which itself is believed to have been an adaptation of a religious tradition involving candles.

La Chandeleur

The French also celebrate the religious tradition on February 2. They call it La Chandeleur, which comes from chandelle, the French word for candles. Similar to Groundhog Day, there are weather-related sayings or superstitions about this day:

« Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte » (If it’s covered in snow, 40 more days will be lost winter)

« Soleil de la Chandeleur, annonce hiver et malheur » (If the sun is out, it indicates winter and misfortune)

« Quand la Chandeleur est claire, l’hiver est par derriere » (If it’s clear, then winter is behind us)

« Quand il pleut pour la Chandeleur, il pleut pendant quarante jours » (If it’s raining, it will rain for 40 days)

Crêpe Day

I like butter and brown sugar on my crêpes (Feb. 2, 2021)

One way to celebrate La Chandeleur is by eating crêpes!

“San Francisco” crêpe from Crepevine has smoked salmon, capers, spinach, and dill havarti (2018)

In California, the regional stay home orders have been lifted. Some restaurants are offering indoor dining again. I can’t wait to go back to Crepevine, one of my favorite restaurants.

But until then, I’ll make crêpes at home. I’m glad they’re so easy to make and require just six ingredients and a pan!

Recipe:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • butter (for the frying pan)

Mix all ingredients together. Unlike pancake batter, the mixture will be thin. Pour 1/3 cup of the mixture onto the lightly buttered pan that’s over low heat. Swirl the pan until the batter coats the bottom of the pan. Flip the crêpe when the sides are lightly brown. Enjoy it warm with jam, Nutella, lemon juice, or powdered sugar.

Paris Las Vegas (2016)

Do you like crêpes? What do you like to put in them?

January 30 is Croissant Day

[Updated: January 2021. This post is not sponsored.]

Nespresso Café in San Francisco

In 2019, I learned that January 30 is National Croissant Day in the United States from the Starbucks mobile app!

Starbucks app

I couldn’t find the origins of this “national day” to celebrate the flaky, buttery French pastry, but as a fan of all things French, I’m glad someone made it up.

Just for fun, here’s a round-up of my favorite croissant-related content, followed by a few pictures of my favorite croissants!

  • This is a funny Vine. They call it the “croissant drop” #relatable
  • I admit I say “kraw-Sohnt” because to me, saying it the French way (with the nasal “kwa-Soh”) outside of France sounds pretentious. Here’s a short video showing how to pronounce croissant in English

Canvas tote bag I got from a boutique in Toulouse

In southwest France, chocolate croissants are called chocolatines. Imagine my delight in asking for one by name at a Farmers’ Market near Toulouse:

from the farmers’ market near Toulouse

When I returned to California, I noticed chocolate croissants being sold as chocolatines at a local bakery:

from La Farine in Oakland, California

from CDG Paris airport

from La Châtaigne in Lafayette, California

from Tartine in San Francisco

from Urth Caffé at LAX

from Steak & Lobster Restaurant at London Heathrow

from CDG Paris airport

Ah, if only I could, I’d have a croissant in Paris every day!

Back to reality… I love the mini croissants from Safeway:

pack of mini croissants in a clear container

Signature Kitchens natural butter croissants from Safeway

I like to eat them plain or I fill them with Nutella, apricot jam, or chicken salad. These mini croissants may not be made in France, but they satisfy this Francophile just the same.

Enjoy your Croissant Day! 🥐

Michoko Noir: Dark Chocolate Covered French Caramels

Disclosure: If you make a purchase using the affiliate link below, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, views expressed are my own.

I love Michoko Noir, the dark chocolate coated soft caramels made in France. I discovered them in France and, thankfully, I’ve even seen them at my local French pâtisserie sold by the piece (for $0.75 each)!

They’re buttery and delicious and totally worth it, but I wanted bags of the stuff!

Recently, I ordered a couple of bags of Michoko Noir through French Wink, the digital multivendor marketplace and store located in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. They feature many made-in-France items: beauty products, kitchen linens, toys, and more.

Of course, I suppose I could just eat another popular chocolate covered caramel candy that’s widely available here in the U.S.

But one reason I prefer Michoko Noir is that it has a higher cacao content (64%), so it’s less sweet, but more intense. Plus, it just feels a bit more special knowing that it was made in France — I’m a Francophile, after all!

Have you seen the movie “Ratatouille” where Rémy sees fireworks after taking a bite out of cheese and strawberry at the same time? 🧀 🍓💥

Ratatouille GIF by Disney Pixar - Find & Share on GIPHY

Well, that was me after dinner one night! I savored a Michoko Noir and then took a sip of a California Cabernet Sauvignon and the combination tantalized my tastebuds!🍷🍫

Get some Michoko Noir from French Wink today!

Getting Creative with Cassoulet in California

my cassoulet – January 9, 2021

The first time I had cassoulet, the hearty meat and bean stew from southwest France, was in 2018 when I visited my friends in Toulouse.

The cassoulet we had was made by the experts, La Maison Escudier, whose secret recipe has stayed the same since they opened in 1920. (By the way, if you live in Europe, they can ship jars of cassoulet to you, with or without the cassole, the clay pot that cassoulet is traditionally cooked in.)

There is much debate about the origins of the beloved “peasant” stew. Most people agree that it started in Castelnaudary in the Occitanie region of France. Other popular versions come from Carcassonne and Toulouse. There is also a slight difference in each city’s style of cassoulet.

While the traditional cassoulet is made with duck, other versions use lamb or goose. Some recipes call for breadcrumbs, smoked sausage, or tomatoes, which traditionalists would probably frown upon!

I’m in California and, unfortunately, I can’t get traditional cassoulet shipped to me. Not a problem! I love to eat, so I see it as an opportunity to get creative.

With all due respect to cassoulet purists out there, I decided to use creative license in making cassoulet.

For example, instead of duck, I used chicken. To save time, I used canned white beans. (Normally, the recipe calls for dry beans to be soaked overnight.) I didn’t use tomatoes, nor did I top it with breadcrumbs and bake it. In place of traditional pork Toulouse sausage, I used smoked chicken sausage made with roasted garlic and gruyère cheese.

Here’s my interpretation of cassoulet:

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1 cup of baby carrots
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 can (15 oz) of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) of white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 skinless and boneless chicken thighs
  • 5 strips of hickory smoked bacon, sliced
  • 4 smoked chicken sausages with roasted garlic and gruyère cheese, sliced
  • 1 T of Herbes de Provence
  • parsley, for optional garnish

Instructions

In a Dutch/French oven or similar large pot, melt the butter and sauté the garlic, until brown:

Brown the chicken on both sides, then remove, slice into cubes, and set aside. Don’t worry, the chicken will finish cooking in the final step:

Brown the sausage on both sides, then remove and set aside:

Brown the bacon bits, then remove and set aside:

Add the chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Add carrots, onions, celery, beans, and return the browned meats to the pot:

Add the Herbes de Provence. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally:

Et voilà ! Serve with a warm, crusty baguette and your favorite beer or wine!

Overall, I liked how my cassoulet turned out. The fragrant dish brought back pleasant memories of my visit with friends in Toulouse, not to mention the beautiful pink Toulousain sunset…

May 2018

Let me know if you try this recipe. Enjoy your meal. Bon appétit. Or, as they say in Occitan, « Bon apétis! »

Petit Pot: Organic French Pudding Made in California

Updated: January 18, 2021

[Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Thanks to Petit Pot for giving me samples of Mint Chocolate and Pumpkin Spice pudding. There are no affiliate links in this post.]

Image: Petit Pot

J’adore Petit Pot!

J’adore Petit Pot! I first saw the cute jars of pots de crème at my local grocery store a couple of years ago. As a Francophile, I was charmed by its logo: a blue jar wearing a striped shirt, an orange beret, and a smile. He even has a name: Il s’appelle Louis!

Petit Pot (say “peh-tee-poh”) creates their sweet and velvety French-style custards and rice pudding (riz au lait) desserts using local ingredients! They’re located in Emeryville, California, which is about 10 miles/ 17 km east of San Francisco.

Of the eight flavors they currently offer, my favorite is Dark Chocolate. The desserts are thick, creamy, and just the right size to satisfy a sweet tooth craving (each jar is 3.5 oz/ 100 g).

You can enjoy them as is or put a little whipped cream on top for some added flair!

I love to add fresh raspberries:

Chocolate pudding on spoon with a raspberry

I’ve saved many Petit Pot jars since 2018 and I’m thinking of creative ways to reuse them which I’ll share in a future blog post.

Special Holiday Flavors: Mint Chocolate & Pumpkin Spice

Petit Pot offered two seasonal flavors in 2020: Mint Chocolate and Pumpkin Spice. (Note: As of 01/18/2021, both holiday flavors are out of stock. Petit Pot may bring them back, so stay tuned!)

They are made with organic ingredients, including: whole milk, heavy cream, egg yolks, and cane sugar.

The Pumpkin Spice flavor is made with organic pumpkin purée. Although I could taste more cinnamon than pumpkin, I like its smooth texture; it’s like eating a pumpkin pie.

I love chocolate in general so I expected to like the Mint Chocolate flavor and I was right! It tastes like their Dark Chocolate flavor, but with just the right amount of mint, like after dinner mints. The Mint Chocolate flavor is made with organic ingredients: unsweetened chocolate, natural vanilla extract, and peppermint oil.

To learn about all of Petit Pot’s delicious desserts that use USDA organic, gluten-free, peanut-free, and locally-sourced ingredients, as well as helpful information about their sustainable packaging, shipping schedules, other special offers, and more, visit Petit Pot today!

Have you had Petit Pot desserts? Which flavor is your favorite?

Thanksgiving Thoughts

my green bean casserole

Thank You!

In this season of gratitude, I want to thank you for reading my blog. From California to Canada, France, Germany, India, the Philippines, United Kingdom, Venezuela and everywhere in between, I’m sending you warm wishes for strength, peace, and good health.

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the United States. While some people are off from school or work for the entire week, many of us have only Thursday and (maybe) Friday off. But I’m not complaining, I’m thankful… and hopeful, too.

After eight months of back and forth lockdown and re-openings, I like to think that recent news of promising vaccines for COVID-19 is slowly restoring hope.

I generally have a positive outlook, but some days are harder than others to be chipper. Who hasn’t felt this way from time to time? I strongly believe that one of the best ways to cope is to maintain holiday traditions while accepting things as they are.

While my family’s in-person Thanksgiving gathering will be smaller this year, I’m looking forward to having the traditional spread: turkey, green bean casserole, salad, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Comfort food indeed.

As a Francophile, you know I’ll want to add a French-inspired touch, so I’m also going to make a couple loaves of pain d’epi! Of course, I use the word “make” loosely here. It’s more of a “preparation” of ready-made ingredients. 😊

If you’d like to make the French baguette that resembles a stalk of wheat, take a look at the step-by-step instructions in my post, Easy-Peasy Pain d’Epi.

Here are other dishes I’m considering for the Thanksgiving menu:

Quiche Vosgienne

My interpretation of Quiche Vosgienne: a Pancetta & Swiss/Gruyère cheese French tart in a gluten-free crust!

Apple-Cranberry Flaugnarde with Crème Fraîche

It’s like a Clafoutis, but instead of traditional cherries, I used apples and cranberries (to give it a touch of autumn, my favorite season)!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Donut Petit in Alameda, California

I learned about Donut Petit a few years ago when I spotted their float in Alameda’s 4th of July Parade in 2017 (see above). This weekend, I finally got the chance to visit the cute little bakery.

A little word about petit

Recalling the handy acronym BAGS (beauty, age, goodness, size) that I learned in my French classes, I know the word petit (meaning small or little) should go before the noun.

So while I’m tempted to call the charming little donut shop Le Petit Donut, I just tell myself, “Do not (be) petty!” (Donut Petit!)

Just a guess, but perhaps the name is supposed to sound like “bon appétit”…?

The pale blue paint, gold accents, and wicker bistro chairs give the shop an elegant, French-inspired appearance, as well as an inviting atmosphere. However, due to physical distancing protocols, there’s currently no dine-in, only take-out.

Behind the glass, I could tell they had creative flavors, such as lavender, lilikoi (passionfruit), and Mauisadas (Hawaiian sugar donuts filled with pineapple).

They looked appetizing, but I wasn’t in an adventurous mood. Instead, I ordered pastries that looked familiar: a brownie croissant, a chocolate twist, and a pair of French crullers – one glazed and the other with chocolate icing sprinkled with rainbow nonpareils. As a lagniappe, they gave me a blueberry cake donut.

I’d never seen a brownie inside a croissant before. It tasted OK, but it felt a bit strange to bite into a baked good inside another baked good. Sadly, the glazed French cruller was disappointing. I was expecting it to be light and airy, not greasy and dense.

Maybe next time, I’ll get out of my comfort zone and give their matcha or guava donuts a try! 🍩

Do you like donuts? I love maple bars. 🍁 Tell me your favorite flavor in the comments below!

Easy-peasy Pain d’épi

Pain d’épi is a baguette made to look like a stalk of wheat. Since this French bread looks super fancy, naturally I thought it must be difficult to make.

But I learned that you can make this beautiful loaf quickly and easily using canned dough – who knew?

You will need

  • baking sheet
  • parchment paper
  • glass pie plate
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • scissors
  • a sprinkle of flour
  • 1 can of dough, like the one pictured below:

Pillsbury French Bread can of dough

Instructions

  • Heat the oven to 350°F
  • Put a glass pie plate filled with warm water on the bottom rack of the oven (the steam will help create a nice crust)
  • Place the dough from the can on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper
  • Sprinkle a little flour on the dough and lightly flatten

Cutting technique

At about a 30° angle, cut the dough to make a “leaf” then move it to one side:

Make another cut, then move it to the opposite side:

Repeat, alternating sides until the whole loaf looks like this:

Bake at 350°F for 24 minutes.

Voilà! Easy-peasy Pain d’épi!

Serve with butter or jam or enjoy as-is: nice and warm! Bon appétit! 🥖

A Touch of France in Yountville, California

The town of Yountville is located along California Highway 29 about 56 miles/ 90 km north of San Francisco. With Calistoga to the north and Napa to the south, Yountville is truly in the heart of Wine Country.

The town was named after George Calvert Yount in 1867, two years after his death. In the 1830s, Yount was considered one of the first settlers in the area to plant wine grapes in Napa Valley.

Public Art Walk Along Washington Street

“Chaos Pamplona” by Jedd Novatt

“48” Orange Sphere” by Ivan McLean

“Rock Mushroom Garden” by Rich Botto

“Marigold” by Troy Pillow

“Phoenix” by Andrew Carson

Award-winning Restaurants

Chef Philippe Jeanty of Epernay, France opened Bistro Jeanty in 1998:

Signs on the windows indicate they serve cassoulet, saumon fumé, bouillabaisse, paté de lapin…

soupe de poissons, crème brûlée, steak frites, moules au pastis!

Chef Thomas Keller opened The French Laundry in 1994. Since 2007, it has been a Michelin 3-star restaurant:

Can you see the restaurant sign? I can’t, so let’s zoom in:

Its unassuming exterior means that you could miss the award-winning restaurant if you blink or drive past it too quickly. Which is exactly what we did…

That’s The French Laundry to the right:

Chef Thomas Keller opened Bouchon Bistro in 1998:

V Marketplace

The Groezinger Winery was built in 1870 and operated as a winery through 1955. In 1968, it was converted into an upscale retail location. There are tasting rooms, restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques surrounded by a picnic garden. A popular hot air balloon company launches from an adjacent lot near V Marketplace.

Two restaurants owned by Chef Michael Chiarello, Bottega and Ottimo:

Keep walking through the courtyard (above) and you’ll arrive at the beautiful picnic garden. Here’s my favorite flower, the white rose:

Pioneer Yount School Bell

This bell hung from Pioneer Yount School from 1890 to 1947. Today, it is in front of Yountville’s City Hall.

If you need to send someone a postcard, you can drop it off here:

For more information:

Yountville Welcome Center

These photos were taken by my older daughter and me during our family’s day trip to Napa Valley on New Year’s Day 2017. 🍇

Specialty’s Café & Bakery Closes After 33 Years

I’ve been going to Specialty’s Café & Bakery for work lunches for over 15 years. So when I learned that the San Francisco Bay Area-based chain would be permanently closing their doors after today, May 19, 2020, I was shocked!

The reason for the closure? The pandemic.

Their website explains that “Current market conditions attributed to COVID-19 and shelter-in-place policies have decimated company revenues.”

Founded in 1987, the company operated over 55 cafes in California, Illinois, and Washington state. Before the pandemic, Specialty’s was popular among busy office workers who wanted a quick, but nutritious lunch, like salads, sandwiches, and soups.

I will miss their Priority Pick-up mobile order system. It was convenient and easy to use.

Most of all, I will miss their Spicy Thai Salad, Chicken Tortilla Soup, Spinach and Cheese croissants, avocado on toasted ciabatta, walnut brownies, and giant fresh-baked cookies.

salads, soups, cookies, baked goods from Specialty’s

my favorites from Specialty’s

Thanks for all the work lunches, Specialty’s! You’ll be missed! 🍪

I Tried to Make a French Lemon Tart

Comment dit-on “baking fail” en français?

(How do you say “baking fail” in French?)

As they say, it’s better to show than tell, non?

So allow me to show you my recent baking failure, or « échec de cuisson » !

Inspired by the lovely lemons in my little garden, I decided to make a dessert that was simple, but tasty. So when I discovered an easy recipe for French Lemon Tart, I was on it!

To save time, I used a store-bought frozen crust. (The recipe called for making your own dough from scratch.) I followed instructions on the package for thawing (15 minutes) and baking (7-9 minutes at 400°F.)

Ugh. It’s cracked. And it seems to be shrugging at me

melting butter and crème fraîche on a double boiler

Feeling good here. This looks about right to me

egg, sugar, lemon juice mixture on a double boiler

The filling had somehow seeped underneath the cracked crust causing a little bit to boil over! In addition, a piece of the crust had fallen off. Together, the spilled buttery filling and crust fragment burned on the floor of the oven creating a lot of smoke!

When I took it out of the oven, I discovered that the bottom crust had floated to the top! It left an unsightly crack in the middle of the tart.

Nothing a couple of strategically placed lemon slices couldn’t fix, I thought. But that idea only made the tart look scared. 😱

I was hopeless. But I must say, if nothing else, the dessert did have a good, fresh lemon flavor!

Lessons learned

Next time, I will make my own crust. No, that’s a lie. I will try another kind of premade crust. I will also use less butter, like 50% less. I will put the pie pan on a cookie sheet. Just in case.

Better yet, I’ll just make lemonade next time! 🍋

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in I Made an Apple Cranberry Flaugnarde with Crème Fraîche and Quiche Vosgienne (both of which turned out all right!)