Monthly Archives: December 2008

Nevada City Soothes

Once we were able to navigate the driveway, Nevada City became the soothing Victorian winter wonderland it is at heart.  The houses are adorable and very well-kept.  Red bows, garlands, lights, and wreaths abound, which makes it all feel a lot like Christmas.  

Rain came yesterday to wash the snow away, which was a blessing given the driveway situation, but I snapped some White Christmas pictures before it all melted:

victorian1

cottage

I just love the even blanket of snow on the roof.

red-bud-branch

I’m not sure what kind of tree this is but the little red berries are divine.

victorian2

This one is for sale and it’s right at the top of Broad Street that runs through the old-fashioned downtown commercial district.  Quel adorable!

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Travel

Christmas Vacation!

Subtitle: Getting your car stuck on an icy driveway in a winter wonderland!

My family and I departed Rockridge at approximately noon in a “boys car” and a “girls car,” respectively, not purposely protracting heterosexist world views but doing so nonetheless.  It was a fairly uneventful drive to Nevada City, California, where we have rented a log cabin/lodge big enough to sleep ten, replete with hot tub, grand piano, a sign above the back door that says, “Friends are like pottery, you can never get enough.”  Now, I wasn’t aware that you can “never get enough” pottery, but…now I know.  (Thankfully the sign is very small and only over the back door off the den leading to the hot tub, AND the other strengths of our rental–foosball, a violin, and multiple wood-burning stoves—outweigh any textual elements that have been incorporated into the decor).

When we drove into Nevada City on highway 49 we were greeted by visions of a beautiful snow topped Victorians and evergreens.  It was breathtaking.

But, what really took my breath away was the two-foot high moguls that compose the 400-yard inclined driveway to the lodge.  We made it about 20 feet up before getting completely stuck.  

Fun!

Ironically, we had contacted the proprietors of the establishment earlier in the day to ensure that no such problems would occur.  Did we need chains?  Nooooooo!  Was the house accessible?  Yeeeeeees!  Did we get stuck?  Yeeeeeees!

It took about a half hour to locate a shovel while the light was quickly fading.  Our fearless leader saved the day: 

leader2

Unfortunately, the job took a little more than a shovel.  One hour, phone calls to every major national rental car company (we wanted to rent a 4WD vehicle.  None of the national car rental companies had ANY 4WD vehicles, not even at the Sacramento Airport, but Enterprise offered me an “all weather” vehicle, that they really wanted me to rent that “might” have 4WD, but was not listed as such), multiple phone calls to the proprietors, countless trips up and down the first 20 feet of driveway, and a trip to buy chains, we had the good fortune of making it up the hill to the lodge.

The proprietor came and salted the driveway, and made vague intimations of a “maintenance crew” coming by tomorrow.  

There was absolutely no food in the house.  We had reservations at the New Moon Cafe in town.  Very soothing.  We also had reservations about going down the driveway and needing to get back up, but our hunger got the best of us.

We had a fabulous dinner.  New Moon Cafe has a phenomenal wine list.  I ordered a great Anderson Valley cab for my dad since he’s a cab guy, and a nice Barbera for myself.  Everyone else was generous enough to go along with my wine selections.  I had an unbelievable sturgeon filet with a mustard seed crust and white wine buerre blanc.  Amazing.  But more on that later.  

We got to the driveway and I got butterflies in my stomach.  I wasn’t driving and I just had a bad feeling about our prospects for getting back up the hill.  We got that same 20 feet up the hill and got stuck.  The driver started to reverse to try again–but the rear window had fogged up, what with five people in the car–and the driver couldn’t see when he was reversing and ended up reversing part of the way down the embankment on the left side of the driveway so that the left rear wheel was sort of, you know, hanging off a tad.

Fun!

The elders jumped ship.  I. and Rimpletide and I spent about 45 minutes trying to get the left rear wheel back onto the driveway.  I stayed in the driver seat and let the boys be boys.  We tried all combinations of chains, twigs, and spare boards wedged under the wheels.  Pushing didn’t really do much since we were going uphill.  I suggested calling my roadside assistance, but the boys were sure that they could be mountain men and get us out of the embankment through sheer will and ingenuity.  So I went along with it until I was just too cold.

So at approximately 10PM I trudged up the driveway and called Geico Roadside Assistance (no cell reception up here).  Within 30 minutes a tow truck was at the base of our driveway.  K., a pleasant and burly fellow came to pull us out of our rut.  K. was wearing shorts and shoes with no socks in 38 degree weather.  K. was missing a few of his front teeth, and saw “no reason” why we were not able to make it up the driveway, and saw “no need” for chains on our tires.  

Within five minutes he had knelt down in the snow, attached our car to the pulley on the truck, and yanked us out of the embankment.  To prove how easy it is to drive up this particular snowy/icy/narrow mountain driveway, K. offered to drive up back up to the house, free of charge.  

Without much ado, we piled in.  K. reversed down to the based of the drive, and then sped up to 30 miles and hour as we blasted over the icy moguls known as our vacation rental driveway.  

K. is part of a towing establishment known as “Kilroy.”  When he announced the name proudly to us he said, “Kilroy, ever heard of that?”  We assured him we did in fact study WWII and that the $10/month I spend on Geico Roadside Assistance is probably the wisest investment I’ve ever made.  Seriously.  Major Geico plug.

kilroy

Love you K.  Love you Kilroy.  Love you Geico.  

Happy Holidays from A Rockridge Life via Nevada City.

3 Comments

Filed under Travel, Uncategorized

Last Minute Christmas Shopping Part II

I had some good luck.  Santa was on my side.  Now allow me to make some recommendations.  Most gifts are in the $20 range.

For the lazy gourmand:  Truffle salt, in 5 and 10% truffle content.  $20-$30 at Pasta Shop.  Amazing on pasta, french fries, or any vegetable.  Who needs to cook?

For anyone who loves Paris, tea, or both: Pasta Shop has an excellent selection of Mariages Freres tea.  I picked up the Provence Green ($22.50) for my sister in law who lived in Kyoto and speaks French.  Porquoi pas?!

mariage

For book lovers: Diesel does soothe, but Pendragon is the place to go if you’re looking to save some dollars to keep food on the table in the new year.  They have some AMAZING deals right now.  Tons of new Taschen coffee table books (Atget, Doisneau, etc.) on sale for less than $10 (!!!).  I got my aunt- and uncle-in-law Art of the 20th Century, also published by Taschen.  So beautiful.  I found it in the used section a month ago and have been lusting over it.  It’s almost impossible to even tell that it is “used,” and priced at $50.  

art

—–

For a good laugh: I’ve never had success at Rockridge Home, but I have to give it to them.  That place is banging for the holidays.  The price is right and options abound, so much so they get their own section.

The “NPR Map of the United States” is amazing for the liberal Rockridge/Berkeley business traveler in your life.  Maps local AM/FM NPR channels across the US.  

For the Catholic grandfather who has done it all I suggest the How to be Pope book.  

For the miscellaneous and omnipresent oppressed woman in a committed relationship with a messy man: I suggest Porn For Women now available in the XXX version.   

I picked up the necktie napkins for my adorable MBA holding brother-in-law who can’t get through a meal, much less a business meeting, without spilling on himself.

tie

—–

For the girls who work too hard and just want to have fun:  I picked up $20 gift certificates at Pretty Penny and Crush on College.  Pretty Penny has an AMAZING selection of vintage shoes, denim, and (just for the season) gold lame and sparkly dresses.  It’s a brilliantly styled place AND the accessories are phenomenal.  Prices are gentle too.  Crush on College was the perfect place for my high school-age cousin-in-law who digs fresh styles at low prices and hasn’t gotten into the vintage thing.  

prettyThe Pretty Penny window

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Last Minute Christmas Shopping

I was so relieved that my family finally decided to do Secret Santa this year.  I’m not a fan of Christmas shopping, and although I was blessed with a lot of toys and fabulous gifts as a child, I come from a religious Christian family where the focus actually was more on the Advent Wreath than counting down the shopping days.  

For the third year in a row I’ve considered banning myself from buying ANY Christmas presents, sort of in an anti-materialist protest.  But there’s a catch: I have a large family of in-laws who get me tons of gifts.  I haven’t figured out how to navigate this yet, all I know is that not getting them anything makes me feel like a giant schmuck. 

Ergo, last minute Christmas shopping.  Oy ve.  

Determined not to be oppressed by big box stores and the like, I’m grabbing some reusable bags and heading up to College Avenue (I know, I sound so effing Oaklandish right now).  I’ll be finding little trinkets from my local businesses and business owners.  We Rockridgers just can’t get enough of mom and pop and small business.  Call us crazy.  

If you’re interested in following suit, I recommend checking this website if you are unfamiliar with the area.

I’ll be checking out: Market Hall and Pasta Shop, Maison D’etre, Bloomies Flowers, Bella Vita, Pendragon Books, Rockridge Home, The Alta Bates Showcase Thrift Shop, Diesel Books, Atomic Garden, Pretty Penny, Body Time, Crossroads Vintage, and Recapture.  Find more info on these shops here.

I might also cruise Telegraph (the “Temescal” district) for Scout Home Hardware and Sagrada Sacred Arts.

Ho ho ho.

diesel_books_largejpg

Diesel Books really soothes me. 

3 Comments

Filed under Lifestyle

Guapissima!

This marks the second in a thrilling series of recipes by Begonia Colomar.  

Gemelli Pasta in Old Fashioned Basque Style Tomato Sauce, Sauteed Beet Leaves, Button Mushrooms, and Chorizo 

Serves 2 (lovers)

Old Fashioned Basque Style Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:  

6 fresh ripe plum tomatoes cut into fourths

1 small yellow onion /chopped

 3 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp brown sugar (for this recipe, I recommend the extra sweetness)

1 garlic clove

1 tsp salt, or to taste

Preparation:  

Heat oil, then add onions and cook at medium high heat until clarified and golden.  Then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add the tomatoes, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil.  After the sauce has reached boiling, reduce the heat to low let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent from sticking.

Sauteed Beet Leaves, Button Mushrooms, and Chorizo

 

Ingredients:

1 tbsp raw pine nuts

1 shallot / finely chopped

1 garlic clove / minced

10 button mushrooms / brushed clean and thinly sliced

1 bunch beet greens with stems / well washed and cut roughly into large pieces

3 tbsp olive oil

1 three-inch piece of Spanish chorizo/ halved and cut in thin slices

1  stem fresh thyme

pinch salt

Preparation:

Remove thyme leaves from stem and set aside.

Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat.  Add pine nuts and brown for 10 seconds.  Remove the pine nuts and set aside.  Leave remaining oil in pan.

Reheat the oil over a high flame.  Add shallots and allow to brown for 1 minute.  Add  garlic and cook for one minute, then add mushrooms and saute over high heat for 2 more minutes.  Finally, add chorizo and stir, allowing flavors to mingle for one minute before adding beet greens, salt, and thyme leaves.  Cook until the greens turn dark and reduce in size ( 3 – 5 minutes).

Gemelli

Ingredients:

Gemelli pasta 

1 stem fresh thyme

olive oil

salt

Preparation:

Remove thyme from the stem and set aside.

Bring water to a boil.  Add plenty of salt and a bit of olive oil to the boiling water.  Then add gemelli and boil, until al dente.

Drain well.  Sprinkle with the thyme and a bit of olive oil (this will keep the noodles loose and firm).  Set aside.

To Serve:

Warm a large serving bowl.  Add the gemelli, tomato sauce, toasted pine nuts and green and toss thoroughly.

Sprinkle with fresh Romano or parmigiana cheese and serve immediately.

This is a hearty winter pasta that will pair well with a robust red Merlot or Chianti.

Buono Appetito!

gemelli

3 Comments

Filed under Gastronomia

A White Christmas for Rockridge?

So maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, BUT I did have to spend ten minutes scraping ice off my windshield this morning at 8AM. 

icecrystalsIce crystals on top of the car

inside1View from the inside of the car

outsideA-scrapin’

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Real Treat

Begonia Colomar has agreed to contribute her culinary talents to A Rockridge Life.  Ms. Colomar was raised in the Basque country of Spain.  Her nuanced palate, which she cultivated in the Spanish countryside of her childhood, is obvious in the impeccable flavors she is able conjure with fresh, everyday ingredients.  We can’t all sit down at her table each night, but we may now strive to replicate such an experience in our own homes through her thoughtful recipes.  Without further ado, I present Ms. Colomar:

Galloping Flavours: Braised Pork Chop with Saffron Chorizo Orzo and  Onion Marmalade

by Begonia Colomar

Serves 2 (lovers)

Ingredients:  

two 1″ cut  Pork Chops

For the Rub:  

1   tsp  whole coriander

1/2 tsp  whole white pepper

1/4 tsp  whole fenugreek

1/4 tsp  whole cumin

1/2 tsp  smoked paprika

Preparation:  

Bring pork chops to room temp approximately 20 minutes prior to braising.  Generously salt them (Maldon is highly recommended).  Combine the herbs and spices and then grind them.  A spare or carefully cleaned coffee grinder can be used for this purpose.  A mortar and pestle works too but requires more elbow grease.  Pat the pork chops generously on both sides with the herb and spice rub.  Set the pork chops aside and keep at room temperature while preparing the marmalade.  

For the Onion Marmalade:

3 yellow onions /peeled,halved and sliced

1 shallot /peeled,halved and sliced

3 tbsp brown sugar

pinch freshly ground pepper

pinch salt

1/4 tsp dried tarragon

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preparation:

Heat oil and butter in a skillet.  Add the onions, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.  Cook on very high heat while stirring frequently for 5 minutes.  Add tarragon and continue to cook on high heat for an additional 5 minutes.  Do not allow onions to boil or burn. 

For the Orzo:

1 cup orzo

1/2 yellow onion /minced

1/2 leek/minced

1 garlic clove /minced

1/4 tsp Spanish saffron threads

3 cups vegetable stock

3 large whole sage leaves

2 inch cube Spanish chorizo halved and thinly sliced

1 tsp salt

olive oil

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 375.

Add a bit of olive oil, just enough to barely coat the pan (approximately 1/2 tbsp) to an oven-proof frying pan. Heat the oil until you see smoke forming.

Add the pork chops and sear 2 minutes per side on high heat.  Cover the pan with an oven-proof lid or tin foil and place in the oven.  Let the pork chops cook in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes.

While the pork chops are in the oven, heat the oil for the orzo in a medium size pot.  Add onions and leeks and cook on medium high heat until caramel color, then add garlic.  Add the orzo and saffron to the mix and stir constantly for approximately 2 minutes.

Add the stock and salt and let simmer at medium high heat for 10 -12 minutes or until the orzo has absorbed the stock and has a creamy texture. 

While the orzo is cooking remove the pork chops from the oven and let sit, still covered for 5 minutes before serving.

Keep stirring the orzo.  When the stock has been completely absorbed, add the sage and chorizo.  Turn off the heat, and serve the orzo very hot.  

Place the pork chops atop the hot orzo, and spoon the onion marmalade on the side.

This meal will pair deliciously with a full-bodied Chardonnay.

Buen Apetito!!

begoniarecipepic

6 Comments

Filed under Gastronomia, Lifestyle