I Need a Trip to Napa…

Napa Valley in February 2014...wild mustard profusely blooming all over the valley as a stunning yellow cover crop -- photo opps appear around every corner...

Napa Valley in February 2014…wild mustard blooms profusely all over the valley as a stunning yellow cover crop — photo opps appear around every corner…

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Arguably the best time of year to go to Napa is during “crush” season…when the air is permeated with the fragrance of grapes, and the days are long,  the daytime fall temperatures are warm and breezy, and there is the hubbub of trucks and trailers hauling up and down Highway 29 with massive amounts of grapes spilling over the sides; however, my favorite time to be in this stunning two-mile wide, 30-mile long valley is in early February.

The beginning of 2015 have been particularly hectic for me; yet, I was slowed down the other night when churning through thousands of photos I have stored on my computer…searching for a particularly elusive photo of a family member that I wanted to share with a cousin of mine…our Napa trip from last year flew by as I was on the hunt and the photos stopped me in my tracks.  I then took a virtual vacation to my favorite place and smiled…ahhhh…Napa.  While I love the cabernets…it’s the meticulous attention to the the full-circle of the food cycle created through the various properties using sustainable agriculture practices, the prevalence of stunning gardens (edible and flower), seriously fabulous restaurants, and a sense of grace exuding from this farming community that touches my soul.  And…they always have perfectly lovely, quality tea service readily available and accessible.

There are scrumptious, flavorful small bites of foods and beautiful teas served all over town

There are scrumptious, flavorful small bites of foods and beautiful teas served all over town – this mini tasting plate was served at the Greystone Restaurant attached to the CIA (culinary institute of America) in St. Helena, Napa.

 

Everything seems to taste better in Napa..the town of Yountville is our favorite small burg.  We walk quiet little streets to shop, eat, drink, meander, and enjoy the gardens.  It’s a no-pressure, relaxed environment.  Of course, there are plenty of stellar wines to sample…which might contribute just a little bit to the sense of relaxation 🙂

Bouchon Bakery stop on our morning walk, barrels and caves to explore, small plates to nibble on and lovely cups of tea abound

Bouchon Bakery stop on our morning walk, barrels and caves to explore, small plates to nibble on and lovely cups of tea abound

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Yep, I’m ready for a drive up north 🙂

 

Gratitude…Reflected Upon Over A Cup of Tea (Best of 2014)

As we launch into 2015, I am grateful for a multitude of things, many of which I will continue to embrace and indulge further as we enter the new year.   I am so appreciative of … the support of my awesome family;  inspirational meetings with my hype girl (Hilary);  improving my downward dog thanks to my sister and Megan increasing my mindfulness through yoga;  the nerve to dance like a fool to Adam Levine’s, Map, and Taylor Swift’s, Shake It Off,  as a painless way to exercise;  the arrival this year of four gorgeous, bouncing baby boys into our family; and the “never taken for granted” gift of health which allows me to do any of these things.  And of course…I appreciate the comfort and joy of my daily tea ritual…which is always healthy, tasty, interesting, and motivating.   While restrictions in diets abound, particularly as we age, quality teas afford me the opportunity to explore and imbibe in an unrestricted manner.  There is a tea for any feeling, season, occasion, and need.  It’s versatility and breadth of variety continues to astound and fascinate me.

2014 brought several unique tea experiences my way.  I chose some of my favorites to reflect upon …below…

Beginning with the end in mind–at the end of 2013, we enjoyed trying the Darjeeling Tea Martini at the St. Regis “Tea and Tinis” event.   It impressed me enough that I tried making my own recently with my good friend A. — the champagne of teas with vodka…very tasty.

Darjeeling tea martini at "tea and tinis" end of 2013

Darjeeling tea martini at “tea and tinis” end of 2013

Then we were wowed last February while in Sacramento with the seriously spectacular eating and drinking experience at The Kitchen Restaurant ...while I enjoyed a lovely oolong served in a tetsubin iron pot…I later wished I had known of their fresh herbal tea preparation.  I would have opted for it.  They cut the fresh herbs and infuse them right in front of you . And while I am not usually an herbal infusion fan, this one looked to be special…guess we will have to go back 🙂 )

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The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento offered this unique herbal infusion menu…made with fresh herbs to order.

The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento offered this unique herbal infusion menu…made with fresh herbs to order.

The FRESHEST herbal tea…made to order, table side -- to your liking ---

The FRESHEST herbal tea…made to order, table side — to your liking —

For our book group, I made my own stunning marbled tea eggs (with yolks perfectly centered by moving the egg slowing through the boiling water the first few minutes of cooking).  These made for a tasty small bite sandwich made with my angel biscuit (from a Martha Stewart Living recipe), served with a jasmine pearl tea…

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Marbled tea eggs...served within an angel biscuit with mayonnaise...a tasty two bite sandwich...love the fragrant aromas from the eggs soaking in Chinese black tea, star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon stick

Marbled tea eggs…served within an angel biscuit with mayonnaise…a tasty two bite sandwich…love the fragrant aromas from the eggs soaking in Chinese black tea, star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon stick

In May, we were thrilled with the tea shops we explored on our trip to Portland, Oregon…what a great tea city.  Steven Smith Teas was an exceptional, contemporary, quality tea experience. My husband and nephew loved his teas, his tasting, and his packaging.  Of course, he should know what he is doing…as he began with Stash teas, created Tazo and sold it to Starbucks and now is focused on his own brand.

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Steven Smith Tea Room...the best tasting ever.

Steven Smith Tea Room…the best tasting ever.

We then came on an excellent tea shop much closer to us, in Del Mar, Ca…called Leaf and Kettle. Their tasting was performed in darling little tasting cups, and the way they used a martini shaker to prepare their iced tea inspired me to get our own shaker out and now is the preferred way for us to make the coldest, freshest iced tea.

Leaf & Kettle Tea Shop...Beautiful, contemporary, over 100 teas waiting for you to taste...well, maybe just three at a time...excellent and knowledgeable staff too.

Leaf & Kettle Tea Shop…Beautiful, contemporary, over 100 teas waiting for you to taste…well, maybe just three at a time…excellent and knowledgeable staff too.

 

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We tasted and purchased several teas.  My favorite was No. 49 Iron Goddess Reserve Oolong...we also took home a fruity tisane I would be infusing for an  iced tea tasting class...it was called Island Tradewinds - a blend of coconut, kiwi and ripe cherries.  Light and refreshing...

We tasted and purchased several teas. My favorite was No. 49 Iron Goddess Reserve Oolong…we also took home a fruity tisane I would be infusing for an iced tea tasting class…it was called Island Tradewinds – a blend of coconut, kiwi and ripe cherries. Light and refreshing…

Leaf & Kettle tasting using a gaiwan lidded cup and tiny tasting bowls made for a special experience

Leaf & Kettle tasting using a gaiwan lidded cup and tiny tasting bowls made for a special experience

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I then re-discovered a favorite shop in Irvine…the first contemporary tea shop I came upon about 10 years ago – Cha for Tea...still making excellent infused tea to order.

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My new tea ware from Laguna Beach’s Spice Merchants is functional and beautiful…and I enjoyed doing a tea 101 class there in September…

Tea 101 ... ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach...an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

Tea 101 … ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach…an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

 

Now…wonder what’s in store for 2015?  I have a few ideas and look forward to sharing my finds and experiences with you.  And remember…Drink Tea…it’s good for you!!

Happy New Year!