Sunday, December 27, 2009

Taking A Sick Day


I am reporting from bed with a steaming cup of my all time favorite tea, Organic Golden Monkey , placed by my keyboard, and my faithful cat, Little One, curled up at my feet. Just one more week, and I would have made it through an entire year without a sinus infection. Of course, there have been hints of one surfacing here and there, but I dodged the bullet each time. Then, wham, bam, thank you, M’am- nasty sinus infection and raging headache enters the picture smack during the holidays. I knew it was too good to be true to make it through 2009 without incident! We trudged through our plans anyways with a getaway trip to San Francisco, hoping that the fresh ocean air and Union Square shopping would help clear my head. When all else failed, we got cozy with Manhattans at the Clock Bar, and then treated ourselves to a well-deserved mid-afternoon nap.

It is important to note here that the Tea Drinker was officially anointed a Saint this holiday season(pictured left). He took great care of me. Providing piles of Kleenex at a moment’s notice, throat lozenges at will, and even made a Christmas Eve run to the pharmacy at 11:30pm, so that I could get a restful night’s sleep. As soon as my eyes popped open each morning, I heard the kettle on, and eagerly awaited his remedy: a flavorful cup of loose leaf tea. And, when my whining got to be too much, he poured me a glass of bubbles and then took me out for spicy food. A true dear. Snotty nose and all, I am so grateful to have spent this holiday with my loving husband(who has access to copious amounts of tea).

Thank you, Honey! My cup is empty, and I need a spot more….

Have a joyful and healthy New Year! May your cup always be full and runneth over.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Caramelized Onion Tart


This savory caramelized onion tart is a winner each holiday season. And the best part is that the Tea Drinker makes it from scratch, and it’s “his baby”. There is nothing better than being the recipient of a delicious homemade meal. I prefer to enjoy a slice while sitting by the fire, holiday music blaring in the background, glass of Chardonnay in hand; feeling grateful and thankful for my husband who likes to cook, and is good at it.

Before we get started, it should be noted that in our home, pouring yourself a glass of wine is always the first ingredient. Optional, of course.

What's up Dough?
- 1 ½ cups Flour
• ½ cup + 1 TBSP Chilled Butter
• 1 tsp Salt
• 2-3 TBSP Cold Water
In a food processor, cut butter into the flour and salt mixture until consistency of cornmeal. This can also be done by hand. Add water a little bit at a time until mixture just comes together. Form into a ball, and put into the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

The Goods
• 4 Yellow Onions, Medium. Julienned.
• 3 TBSP Butter
• 2 TBSP Flour
• 2 Eggs, slightly beaten
• ¼ cup of Heavy Cream
• Crumbled bleu cheese, such as Gorgonzola
Heat a large pan, add butter and onions. Sauté over medium heat until onions are caramelized. They will turn brown, and smell wonderful. At this point, deglaze the pan with a couple tablespoons of water, continue to cook until liquid is evaporated, and onions are brown again. Remove from heat. Salt and pepper- stir in eggs and flour. Set aside.

Please note: now put away the wine, and start drinking loose leaf tea.
We speak from experience.

Dough Ready?
• Need a 8-10 inch tart pan( the one w/ removable bottom works best)
• Rolling Pin
• Flour
• Butter
Pre-heat oven to 350. Roll out chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 12” circle. Butter the tart pan. Line the tart pan with the dough circle, pushing the dough all the way up the sides, and trimming the edges. Gently poke holes in dough w/ fork.

Ready, Set, Fork
Spread the onion mixture into the tart. Pour in the cream, and crumble bleu cheese on top. Put the tart in the oven and bake until crust is cooked through, and slightly browned. About 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Enjoy!

Please note: go back to pouring wine for friends, and family, or the holiday spirit will dissipate into thin air- again, we speak from experience.

For us, we are now off to join friends for another holiday past time—dining at the very festive Bistro Jeanty. I see cassoulet in my husband’s future.

** recipe adapted from Chef Maria Helm Sinskey.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

'Tis the Season! Naughty or Nice?


It’s not too late. Don’t fret, there is still time to find the perfect gift idea for family and friends. Below, I have listed some of my favorite coveted things. Yes, most of them seem to revolve around comfort: tea, books, and sweets. It’s the holidays, after all. If you feel the need to forward my holiday wish list(clearly marked below) onto the Tea Drinker, by all means, please do. Hey, at least I should receive credit for creativity. Last year, I put my wish list ‘eye level’ on the refrigerator. It’s always worthwhile to try another approach.

Cozy Tea & A Great Book-
Check out Drink the Leaf’s new eye-catching tin selection. I have tried all of the below ‘tea & book’ pairings; your loved ones will not be disappointed.

My Wish List: The ultimate 2009 favorite tea: Organic Golden Monkey & A Man walks into the Room, by Nicole Krauss. True bliss.

Tasty Teas & Botanical Bakery Tea Cookies-This Napa based bakery chose Drink the Leaf to be a part of their holiday gift items this year! Just click and order, and your holiday shopping will be complete. These tea cookies are delicious, and hand-crafted. The owners state on their website: Authentic. Distinctive. unapologetic. Is it you... or the tea cookie?
My Wish List-
Well since you asked…it’s the cookie, of course. Peppermint Cocoa Nibs & Ceylon Black Tea, for me, please.

Baker’s Dozen- For the cookie monster in your life, feed them these unbelievable delicious decadent cookies crafted by Chef Annie Baker( yes, this is her real name). Annie is probably the most exuberant person I have ever met. You can’t resist her or her passion for cookies. I am happy to spread the good word. If you love cookie dough, you will devour these tasty bites. They are made from scratch, and you will become addicted. Beware.
My Wish List: Peanut Butter Cookie with mini peanut butter cups or Toffee Milk Chocolate chip.

Napa Valley Toffee- Not into cookies? Really? What’s wrong with you? Be nice, its the holidays. Share this all natural English Toffee offered in both milk and dark chocolate flavors with your friends. Hand-crafted and made in small batches, always fresh. Just plain yummy. It will make you want to celebrate the holidays all year long.
My Wish List: I love to nibble on the Dark Chocolate variety while sipping on a steaming cup of Golden Pu-erh.

Tiffany’s- Doesn't everyone yearn to see that little blue box under the Christmas Tree? I told you I was going to be creative this year…Now, that I have your attention:
My Wish List- I imagine drinking Organic Chic Chai while sitting at my desk chatting with co-workers about the holiday break. Then they exclaim in unison, “ Are those new earrings? Did you get them for Christmas? They are absolutely gorgeous! Your husband is such a doll”.

Happy Holidays everyone! Remember to cherish each day. Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Aloha & Mahalo!


Aloha! What can I say? After three months of travelling, I find myself in Kapalua, Maui. Hey, a girl has to get a base tan for the winter. I am taking a few days off after a week of island hopping spreading the good word about wine. The Tea Drinker joined me on Friday. From what I have read-- jumping off the merry-go-round of life can do one some good. I guess I will need to report back to you about this theory, but for now we are just focusing on beach, pool, beach, pool, and good eats & tropical drinks.

For those of you in chilly parts of the world, steep yourself a flavorful, and cozy cup of Drink the Leaf Assam Mokalbari Estate. My kettle will just have to wait until Tuesday...
Mahalo!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!


We have much to be thankful for this year. A loving family, our new niece Gemma Grace, dear friends, a wonderful home in beautiful Napa Valley, loads of delicious wine and interesting teas, employment, Drink the Leaf, our feline mascot Little One, travel, much laughter, and the list goes on and on. Thank you for sharing in this adventure with us; we are truly grateful. We wish you and your family much peace, love and happiness during the holiday season.

Thankfully,
Tea Drinker & Wife of Tea Drinker

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Three Cheers for Herbal Teas: Time to Cleanse!


Cleanse, cleanse, cleanse” kept ringing around in my head, as I dozed on a flight from Chicago to Oakland. My body was fighting back. Months of traveling, little sleep, and over indulgence of food and drink had finally taken its toll. Okay, I give in. The Isagenix 9 day cleanse had my number, and there was no way getting around it. My body was taxed to the max. What to do with my first nine days home in a row since summer? Bring on a cleanse: no alcohol(shock), no caffeine(horror), and limited food(it's about time!).

Why cleanse?
• Your body stores toxic waste that is absorbed through your skin via eating, drinking, and the surrounding air. Scary.
• Toxic waste is stored in FAT. Double scary.
• You will experience more energy, feel better, lose fat & inches. Hooray!
• It will help prevent disease, illness, and future ailments. Double hooray!

Today, is day seven. Yes, I am proud that I have made it this far, and am confident that I will stay strong to the final day. Not sure, if the Isagenix crew would agree with my timing; I will come off the cleanse straight into Thanksgiving. But, that’s how I roll.

How am I doing?
I feel alive! Am I starving? Yes and no. Am I am working out? Yes, but limited. Remember food is fuel, which became very clear to me as I was unable to perform my normal routine at Boot Camp. Will I cut out certain foods after the cleanse? Some. I feel as though I have re-set my body chemistry, and will watch what and how much I consume moving forward. What’s the first wine that I will drink? The closest. What tea will I drink? Organic Golden Monkey. Will I try cleansing again? Absolutely, but maybe not until the Spring! Hey, I have to build up toxins, right?

Cleansing is an ancient health practice to remove impurities from your body. Give it a try, but tread lightly. You will dream about turkey subs(of course, organic), and conducting 3:30am business meetings in Las Vegas (because you are superwoman), and by the end of the week you will sleep as if you were in a coma. Pure unadulterated sleep. And a forewarning to your loved ones ...beware. You will snap at them, but are far wittier. You will cherish the 600 calorie meal during the shake days, as if it were you were your last meal on earth. This is where drama enters the picture. Your loved one will count the days until 'wine time'. But, in the end you will have more clarity, and feel great.

Tips for Isagenix Cleansing:
• No alcohol, caffeine, sugar, or flour
• Drink herbal teas: Drink the Leaf Rooibos, Chamomile, and Peppermint, for example.
• Drink lots of water (80-100oz) daily, and take the vitamins offered.
• Move your body, 30 minutes each day.
• Stay positive, it’s only nine days!

Happy Thanksgiving! At Drink the Leaf, we have much to be thankful for this season. We appreciate your support, and encouragement. All the best to you and yours...

**consult your doctor before cleansing or starting a new workout regime

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Spice Up Your Holidays!



Holidays can be stressful. If the going gets rough and tough, take three deep breaths, pour yourself a cup of your favorite holiday spiced tea (Drink the Leaf Organic Chic Chai works for me), and take a moment for yourself. Everyone has experienced Thanksgiving nightmares, anxiety and embarrassing moments during the holidays. Right? Please humor me, and tell me you have…

We have quite a few cherished memories that keep us giggling during the holidays when the tasks become unbearable. We remember fondly the year we forgot the most coveted holiday gravy. Let’s just say, we were not popular with our guests that time around. Then, there was the year that the Tea Drinker was sick with the flu (I refused to cancel the dinner), and I kept trooping in and out of the bedroom peppering him with questions about how to cook a turkey. That year, I was not very popular with my husband. Or the time, I over served my guests with plenty of wine, so much so, that one of my dear friends became a fixture on our couch for the next two days. Now, this made us extremely popular!

But last year’s experience takes home the prize. After attending a friend’s Thanksgiving pig roast, we were craving the real deal: Turkey. The Tea Drinker and I set out to have the perfect cozy holiday meal at home, just the two of us. We have had many years of cooking this meal together, and jumped right into setting up our timeline, shopping list, and splitting the duties. The menu: turkey, mashers, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, brussel sprouts, and pumpkin pie. Simple. Wine is never a problem, and always flowing. What could go wrong?

Table set, candles lit, music on, wine poured, the only thing left to do was carve the turkey. Hmm…but this turkey looked strange. I commented to my husband about the gap between the crispy skin and meat. Actually, where was the breast meat?! Is this turkey defected? I grumbled that I was going to give the Whole Foods' butcher a tongue lashing. Come on, an organic turkey looks like this? Emaciated?


Defeated and frustrated, we settled for a few bites of meat, and decided to go with the turkey legs. Everything tasted great, but we were still miffed about the “weak” bird. After a bottle of wine, and the dishes were put away, I heard the Tea Drinker meekly groan from the kitchen, “Honey, could you come in here?”. My husband was staring down at our starved turkey. He squeaked out, “The turkey bird is upside down.” All that delicious breast meat, that we gave up on finding, was nice and moist on the bottom of the roasting pan. Boy, he was embarrassed, and I was in hysterics. He swore me to secrecy, but I am pretty sure he does not read my blog, anyways.


This year my Drink the Leaf Chai tea moments will be extra tasty; I am grateful that my life is right side up, and I have a teeming cup of memories to keep things light hearted and fun.


** Drink the Leaf is offering 15% off Organic Chic Chai & Herbal Masala Chai. Enter "turkey" in the coupon code. Click Recalculate. Offer expires Wed, November 25th at midnight.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

As Easy as Pumpkin Pie



As Thanksgiving approaches, I am stepping back into the kitchen. Lately, I have been on a hiatus, mostly due to my hectic travel schedule. I’ve been on the “gravy train” crisscrossing back and forth around the country, dining out each night. It’s the rough life, I know. But, now I am fat and lazy, and eager to get back to the front line.

I love preparing a meal from planning the menu to sitting down with the Tea Drinker and enjoying an evening at home. Prepping ingredients tends to put me into a “Zen-like” mode (my husband may disagree with this statement, as he mostly hears swear words coming from the kitchen). This whole process of preparation and anticipating helps keep me sane. Yes, its true, afterwards the kitchen looks as if a raging war went on, but acts of brilliance sometimes are displayed in mysterious ways...

This weekend, I had the urge to make pumpkin ravioli. Well, not really, but I had to figure out what to do with the three pound organic Whole Foods pumpkin that my husband bought for me. Remember last week’s Boot Camp request to bring a pumpkin to class to use as a workout apparatus? Well, I would have been laughed right out of there with that pee-wee of a pumpkin. Nothing left to do, but eat it the darn thing.

I have never really cooked with a pumpkin outside of making a pie, and even then, used canned pumpkin puree. Not this time, we used the real deal. It was like serving Fall on a plate. Very tasty and comforting. Give this recipe a try, before you are sick of looking at all things pumpkin. Invite your friends over, pour them a steaming cup of spicy Drink the Leaf Chai, and toast to the season.

Pumpkin Ravioli served with an Autumn Salad

Simple ingredients:
3-4 pound organic pumpkin
8oz cream cheese , softened
1 tsp of kosher salt
¼ tsp of cinnamon
¼ tsp of nutmeg
1-package of wonton wrappers( square)
That’s it, and make sure you have butter and grated Parmesan on hand, too!

Roll your Sleeves Up:
1)Cut pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds(save for toasting later). Rub each half with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place pumpkin cut side down on a cookie sheet and roast in oven at 350degrees. For about an hour, until tender.
2)Scoop out the baked pumpkin goodies, and whip to a smooth puree. I used a Cuisinart, but it’s not necessary.
3) Fold the soften cream cheese into the pumpkin puree. Add salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well.
4)Now the fun part! Place a 1/2tsp of pumpkin filling into the center of the wonton wrapper. Wet the edges with water, and fold in half or into a triangle piece. Press to close, and pinch edges with prongs of a fork. Viola! Ravioli.
5)Bring pot of salted water to a boil. Add ravioli, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until they float. Remove the ravioli with a slotted spoon, and set on plate to rest. Drain off any excess water.
6)While the ravioli is resting, heat butter in a pan over medium heat. Cook the butter until it starts to brown, remove from heat. Set aside.
7) Serve Ravioli with browned butter on top, and sprinkled with Parmesan. We like to heat up our serving plates in the microwave, to help keep the ravioli warm.
8) Have leftovers? Share with friends, freeze, or take a deep breath and serve up another plate!

**recipe adapted from http://www.thetoddlercafe.blogspot.com/ Thank you for sharing, Jennifer. Great site.


Enjoy the bounty, working out has never been this good!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trick or Treat & Loose Leaf Tea


Last week, Jeff Larson, our local fitness superhero, reminded us to show up for this year's Halloween Charity Boot Camp( in costume with a heavy pumpkin) for an intensive battle of the bulge workout. Jeff cautioned us about our sugar intake this time of year; he recently read that people consume an average of 26lbs of candy from Halloween until the end of the year. I was shocked. I love candy, same as the next person, but twenty-six pounds of it seems a bit excessive.

My subconscious tickled my memory and reminded me of the seventeen bags of candy the Tea Drinker and I purchase each year for the biggest night in our neighborhood—Halloween. Our street is lit up like a cemetery festival, while scary, greedy little kiddies and their parents descend into the neighborhood, ringing doorbells and yelling "trick or treat". One year, a neighbor of ours actually counted 1, 000 little munchkins. No kidding. Hence, seventeen bags of candy are needed to fend off toilet paper and egg yolks. Of course, we naturally tend to purchase these goods the week before (first mistake), and end up knocking down at least one or two bags before the big day. Then, on the night of, as our doorbell rings incessantly, both of us start stowing away our favorites(second mistake). It's was becoming clear to me why we needed to avoid going down the "26 pounds of candy" road.

This year, we were "dark". Lights off, no decorations, no candy. We planned date night in downtown Napa, and enjoyed dinner at one of our favorite haunts, Angele. Before heading out to dinner(under cloak and cover) we stopped at our neighbor's house to give candy to their two children. They are adorable kids and we did not want to deny them of their treat. True, they are probably too young to hold a grudge, but we were attempting to ward off the day when they were older and looked back on the year we starved them of their sugar rights. Paybacks can be hell.

Mysteriously, a bag of candy appeared in our home last week. I kidded the Tea Drinker about his decision to buy a whole bag, when we only needed two candy bars for the neighbor's children. We debated back and forth, as candy wrappers stacked up before us. I suggested next Halloween that we hand out gifts of Drink the Leaf loose tea( a flavorful herbal rooibos, suitable for children), instead of candy. Hey, at least its not a toothbrush! This idea came to me while sipping a bold Pu-erh and enjoying a Twix candy bar. A delicious pairing. Okay, I give in. Please continue to buy and enjoy sweets, but I urge you to control yourself. Also, remember to exercise, and move your body during the holiday season. Twenty six pounds of candy is absurd.
** Photo by Tiffany Larson, Napa Valley Adventure Boot Camp

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Napa Farmer's Market Season Comes to an End

A quick post today. I just returned from a weekend in Los Angeles—a mixture of work and pleasure. Isn’t it always? I am home for a day before I head out to Chicago to return to another busy weekend. Fall is in the air, Halloween is fast approaching, and the Napa Farmer’s Market season is coming to an end. Next Saturday, October 31st marks the last day. Don’t miss it! New teas will be on hand. I personally look forward to stocking up on my favorite produce and goodies, as well as wishing all of the vendors a successful off-season.

We will miss visiting with customers in person each Saturday, but I assure you, the Tea Drinker will not miss the 5:30am wake up call. He is looking forward to future Saturdays of sleeping in! A big thank you to our customers for their support this season! You are the best. In the meantime, if you need us---feel free to visit us at www.drinktheleaf.com.

Drinking 1992 Pu-erh, and enjoying being home for the moment. Remember to visit and support your local farmer's market before the season comes to an end.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gone Fishin' Again


Reporting from Singer Island, FL

Last week my adventures in peddling wine took me to Tampa, Naples, Miami and ended with a wine dinner at The Resort at Singer Island with Solu Restaurant . The dinner was sold out, and a huge hit. It was a fun evening had by all, as we enjoyed lots of fabulous wine alongside a memorable meal. After this whirlwind week, I could not resist the temptation to stay for the weekend and settle into a bit of rest and relaxation. It did not take me long to convince the Tea Drinker to join me on this getaway(sorry Mops & Pops that we did not make it Sarasota this trip).

Coincidentally, last week also corresponded with opening season of Stone Crab. The Tea Drinker and I consumed our fair share of deliciously fresh crab over two days, and debated back and forth whether we preferred this variety to its West Coast rival: Dungeness Crab. In the end, we both agreed our hearts were dedicated to Dungeness Crab(season usually starts mid-November). We were first introduced to Dungeness Crab about 13 years ago at a slightly run-down seafood restaurant located in Coos Bay, Oregon. I ordered from the menu with trepidation and stared blankly at our waitress as she inquired if I would like to select my meal from the tank. Gulp. No, thank you. Soon, a beautiful pink crustacean arrived before me, and again I was at a loss for words. How the heck was I to tackle devouring this lovely creature? I breathed a sigh of relief as the waitress man-handled my meal, cracking and crunching the crab right before my eyes. That experience sent me on a lifelong mission of seeking out crab season each year.

Then, there is Alaskan King Crab. For my fortieth birthday, friends surprised me with Fisherman's Express delivered right to my door at our Sea Ranch escape. My Mom was celebrating with us that weekend, and as I opened the box, she exclaimed, “I hope you have butter!”. Not to worry, we always have the goods. In my quest for all things crustacean, it wouldn't be right to leave out soft shell crab. Another favorite of mine, especially if it’s tempura fried and served with a side of pimento cheese grits at the Peninsula Grill located in Charleston, SC. It's no coincidence that my wine travels bring me to the South during season each year.

Go ahead and ask. I am sure you are dying to know how Drink the Leaf loose leaf teas pair with all things crab? I have no idea. I was too busy cracking Stone Crab, wiping creamy mustard sauce off my chin, and slurping down Chardonnay.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Got Goose Bumps? Drink Tea.


It was a cool 52 degrees in Napa this morning. Foggy and cozy. A perfect setting for drinking tea all day. The Tea Drinker’s Internet and Farmer’s Market sales have certainly picked up with the recent dip in temperature. Cool weather brings back tea drinkers who were on a hiatus over the summer months from our favorite beverage. Welcome back! We are ready for you with lots of new tea selections—perfect for fall and the upcoming winter months.

Put on your fuzzy slippers, dig out a handy infuser, and select your favorite Drink the Leaf loose leaf tea. Next, shelf those stressful thoughts about Thanksgiving plans, Christmas gift shopping, raking leaves and preparing for fall, end of year travel season, and selling lots of wine…Whoa- Sorry, I got carried away. Focus--pour yourself a cup of tea and soothe your worries away…

What’s your fancy? Here are mine:

Organic Golden Monkey- I crave this tea. I start most mornings by bellowing from bed that I need this tea. Sorry, Keemun- I still love you, and will call soon. Golden Monkey will make you want to jump around and hang from the chandeliers. A flavorful organic black tea from the Yunnan Province. You will love the finish –cocoa, cocoa, and more cocoa. Try it!

Organic Chic Chai- This tea screams that fall and winter are here! Break out this aromatic tea and you will warm up right away. Black tea intermingled with cardamom and vanilla. Add milk and sugar if you really want to go all out.

Organic Golden Pu-erh- Definitely one of the coziest teas we offer. Any time that I mention Pu-erh to someone, the first thing they say, “Is that the tea that is buried in the ground?” Okay, what’s not appealing about that?! Pu-erh is ancient, rare and mysterious. Enjoy this tea after dinner; a perfect answer for when you want to grab another glass of wine. Instead, steep yourself a cup of Golden Pu-erh. Your head will thank you in the morning.

Go ahead, put the kettle on!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Chicken Wing Dance


Why do I crave Buffalo Chicken Wings whenever I am exhausted? Maybe this craving stems from college, where I ran myself ragged, and consumed my fair share of junk food. It’s a Pavlov response—my eyes droop, and I crave hot wings. Seriously, I love chicken wings. Many of my friends have been subjected to the chicken wing dance(not a pretty sight), and they still hang out with me. Nearly 18 years ago we left Buffalo and headed to the West Coast embarking on a journey that also forced us to begin a quest to find the ultimate chicken wing-- reminiscent of our hometown specialty. Time and time again we have had to settle for mediocre wings, but we never gave up. One whiff of hot sauce, and we were running to find the source.

After years of sampling chicken wings within a 60 mile radius, we thought our quest was numbered. Then out of nowhere I saw a blaring Wing Stop neon sign from the highway, and nearly drove off the road. Should I pull in? It was ten o’clock at night; I was in Oakland and alone. But, it was chicken wings. I pulled into the parking lot and made a call to the Tea Drinker. I could hardly contain myself, as I blurted out, “Have you heard of the Wing Stop?". He had not, and it didn't matter. I announced, "I’m going in”. We agreed that if I did not call back within 20 minutes, a phone call to the chicken wing police was in order. I strutted in and immediately felt light-headed. My nostrils flared as the familiar aroma of hot sauce filled the air. I giggled. My eyes darted to the menu. It was perfectly simple-- wings with nine different sauces, fresh-cut fries, coleslaw, and baked beans. I had really hit the jack pot. The place was teeming with people enjoying themselves. Baskets of wings, loads of napkins, and huge helpings of blue cheese (the real kind) littered every table.

I gathered my double order of wings with extra blue cheese and headed home. In anticipation, my mouth watered the whole way to Napa . This was such big news, that I even called my best friend. We excitedly planned trips to the Wing Stop in the near future. Once home, the Tea Drinker and I devoured the bounty, and stole knowingly glances at each other. We had finally won. Right there and then, we made the chicken wing pact. Every time I returned from the Oakland Airport, I would need to bring home the goods. The Tea Drinker eagerly pulled out my travel schedule to find out how many times we could eat chicken wings before the end of the month. I was concerned. With this new find, I was surely bound to gain back that Freshmen 15 from college.

We carried on like this for months, until one day I received a frantic phone call from my best friend. She yelled into the phone, “You will never believe this. I just saw a Wing Stop in American Canyon!” I could not believe my luck. The Wing Stop was now a mere 15 miles from our home. So, today, after surviving a very successful exhausting weekend celebration, I announced to the Tea Drinker that it was definitely a “chicken wing” day. He agreed. But first, we set aside our new arrivals of Pu-erh (the perfect digestive) to enjoy after the feast. We are not rookies.

Our favorite stand by order: Ten Original Hot, Ten Garlic Parmesan, Extra blue cheese, and an order of fresh-cut fries. Enjoy Drink the Leaf Golden Pu-erh to settle your stomach.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Loose Leaf Tea & Boot Camp- a healthy match


Brace yourself. I am now going to gush over Napa Valley Adventure Boot Camp, again. What brings this on? Yesterday, yours truly, completed Napa River Rock & Stroll 6K charity run within 40 minutes. This is the same person who less than a year ago was unable to run around the block without stopping. Back to boot camp, this outdoor fitness program is owned by Jeff and Tiffany Larson; two individuals that are completely dedicated to each other, their family, and the boot campers. Once you get over the fear of exerting yourself to near exhaustion at 5:30am in the morning with 30 other men and women, you realize that you can’t live without this fitness program. It’s one-stop get fit shopping: amazing, knowledgeable fitness instructors, nutritional advice, workout variety, fresh air, inspiring fellow boot campers, and the sweet taste of success, as you reach your goals.

After years of declaring to those around me, “I am going to the gym; do not mess with me”, I discovered that it was time for a change. My old M.O. was to dive into various classes that involved grunting and sweating (spin, kickboxing, personal trainers, elliptical torture machines, Pilates, free weights, you name it), however, I found that I still wasn't committed. A familiar pattern of working out like a mad woman, then moving into a complacent half-assed routine, and finally the inevitable—abandoning ship. What is IT about yo-yoing through life when it comes to working out? Maybe it’s as simple as not over thinking it. After I survived my first four week camp one year ago, I realized that it was a lifestyle choice. Simple, I know. Sometimes the right choices are the hardest to put into place.

Today, after making that choice to focus on the enjoyable aspect of working out (who have I become?) and finding the right fit for me, I am eager to share this experience with others. If you live in Napa, please join. If you live elsewhere, Google boot camp in your city or reach out for us, and we can help you find a reputable program near you. Put your health first, and everything else will fall into place.

Next up, I am working on getting the Tea Drinker to join me in this adventure. I am constantly challenging him to do push ups, racing him around the block, showing him my latest moves (recall the broken toe episode), but yesterday might have sealed the deal. Some of my fellow Boot Campers stopped by the Napa Valley Farmer’s Market after the race yesterday, and enjoyed Iced Cold Citrus Rooibos, the ultimate healthy re-hydrating beverage. Hmm…tea & boot camp, seems like a perfect match to me.
**remember to always consult your doctor before starting an exercise program

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Balancing Act- Eat More Cake


Traveling can be challenging-- packing, setting the alarm for the crack of dawn, fighting the morning traffic, endless security lines, the mad rush to find bin space on the plane to stow your luggage, sitting next to an annoying person, then finally dying of thirst while hailing the attention of the flight attendant who's engrossed in the latest Enquirer. Like I said, challenging. Now, imagine adding to the mix, the amazing feat of having to do all of the aforementioned, while carrying a California Mission Fig and Blueberry Torte. Yes, I have truly lost my mind. The steps I'll take-- to not disappoint! How could I say no to the nice lady I met in the suburbs of Chicago? I was stunned by her generosity and genuine enthusiasm for life!

After a whirlwind week of early mornings, too many late nights yelling about Napa Valley at the top of my lungs (don’t ask), hoards of rich food and wine, my hour train ride out to the suburbs was a nice respite. Peace and quiet. Me, and my book, Julie & Julia. I was looking forward to a day without hustle and bustle. And, my wish came true: a civilized, successful and enjoyable day. It’s always revealing when you step off the merry-go-round of life, and see that serenity actually can exist. Enter, Ambrosia Euro-American Patisserie , located in Barrington, IL. Stopped in for caffeine, ended up enjoying bite-sized sweets, and chatting with the owner, Debbie, about life in general, and Napa Valley wine. Debbie and her family are celebrating 25 years of owning this exquisite pastry shop, a definite meeting spot for locals. As we said our goodbyes, she thrust a white cake box into my hands. I exclaimed, “What is this? I can’t take this!”. Debbie rebutted, “No, you must. It’s a California Mission fig tart mingled with Michigan blueberries.” We went back and forth, "But, I am travelling, no can, do.” Debbie replied, “ Oh, sure you can. The tart does not need to be refrigerated, and besides you said you were on your way to visit your family. You have to bring this to your Mom.” Okay, this is where Debbie sucked me in. She was right. What a cool gift to bring home to my family all the way from Chicago. I am nuts, for sure.

Envision: exhausted, worn out Wife of A Tea Drinker, sitting in the back of a taxi on the way to the airport, staring at a white cake box beside her. Hmm, maybe I should give it to the nice taxi man. He had giggled while he watched me heave my 500 pound computer bag (stuffed to the hilt) into the back of the cab, while balancing a cake box. Nah, I am not giving it to him. Instead, I sat there and planned my next step--security line. Having never travelled with a Mission Blueberry Torte before, would I run into trouble? I approached the lines, viewed my options, forged ahead with my computer bag slung over my aching shoulder (white cake box in hand) dragging carry-on luggage behind me. I stared ahead, stood up straight, exuded confidence, and attempted to make myself invisible. Impossible. Everyone wanted to know what was in the box. Would I share? Was I on my way to a party? Could they take a peek? Little old ladies smiled at me endearingly, bringing me back to why I was doing this in the first place, bonus points with the family. Okay, onward. As my torte exits the x-ray machine, the TSA security man yells, “Bag Check!” And rattles off some procedure that he would need to do (sounded like an ABTAB). I began to sweat. I am an idiot. I am an expert traveler, and here I am trying to smuggle a torte onto the plane. I looked up and the security man was laughing. "Ha. Ha. Just joking, give us a slice and we will let you through". I was not amused.

Next up, bathroom. As I was careening through the masses of Friday travelers, I muttered to myself, “I have to pee like a race horse”. I did not realize I was saying this out loud until those endearing looks of admiration turned to shocked stares. I hurried to the bathroom. Now, how the heck was I going to do this? Prioritize: computer bag goes into the stall with me; perch the cake box on top of my luggage right outside the door. Then, I narrowed my eyes and glared at the women in line, “This cake better be here when I get out!”. They snickered. From the stall I heard them conjecturing about the contents of the cake box. Was it a coconut cake, or maybe almond? Damn, I had to hurry it up-- these women were NOT to be trusted. They had sugar and carbohydrates on their minds. I had to move fast.

I won’t bore you with the details of boarding Southwest, but as I heaved and struggled down the aisle trying to find a safe place for me and my torte, no one offered to help, but several people threatened to steal my cake. I finally got settled; but was afraid to fall asleep. The flight attendant circled and the man next to me leered at the box on the seat between us. I placed my hand on top of it, and kept one eye open. I arrived in Buffalo in one piece, and was relieved when I saw Mom pull up immediately. As I gingerly and dramatically placed the cake box onto the front seat, I stated proudly that "I made it!". Mom did not seem the least bit surprised that I had a cake box. No comment. I had to laugh. I love Mom, never fazed or rattled by the unexpected. We enjoyed the torte later; it was delicious and tasted of marzipan, which is so comforting. Today, we are looking forward to our mid-afternoon slice and a steaming cup of Drink the Leaf tea.

Remember when the going gets tough, always bring cake.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hit me with your best Shot! Fire away!


This song, "Hit me with your best Shot" has been ringing in my head all day, along with a slight headache left over from last night’s libations. Yep, yours truly and the Tea Drinker mingled with Pat Benatar and her husband, Neil Girlado, last night. Well, not exactly. But we did go to a premier wine tasting, sampled delicious tidbits from Cyrus, watched Patricia belt out tunes from her past before an intimate crowd of about three hundred people, and then sat down for an Italian dinner under the stars prepared by Perbacco. Not soon after, my friends and I had our picture taken with Pat Benatar. Good stuff. Our dear friends invited us to this affair even though they know that I can’t whistle a tune nor could I identify a famous musical artist's lyrics if it jumped up and down in front of my face, and yelled, “I am a rock star, and have won a gazillion grammys, god dam’it!” Lucky for me, my friends are mostly amused by my ignorance or are just in plain awe that I grew up under a rock.

Much to my husband’s surprise, I confidently rattled off Pat Benatar’s songs to him on the way to the event. He gaped, wondering who stole his wife. I did not have the heart to confess that I actually looked up her songs on the Internet, beforehand. Pathetic, I know. I stated to my husband, "of course, I remember who Pat Benatar is- she’s famous and was on MTV". Dancing around, skinny in black jeans, with bounds of energy. How could I forget, I also owned a black leather jacket, wore tight jeans, lots of blue eye shadow, and had wild hair, too. It was the 80’s, after all. However, for the life of me, I could not name one of her songs, even if I stood to win money. Therefore, I was looking forward to seeing her in person, and catching up with the rest of the world; we were not disappointed.

What brought Pat Benatar to Napa? A music festival hosted by Staglin Family Vineyards benefiting research for mental illness. Tickets for the whole chibang ran anywhere from $750 to $5,000 a person. Did I mention that we have really great friends? Thank you! The Staglin Family Music Festival for Mental Health is in its 15th year. Over 57 million Americans live with mental illness. Staggering. The Staglin family has raised nearly 90 million dollars for brain research. Staggering again. This research is very personal to the Staglin family, and their story is inspiring. Brain diseases come from biochemical changes in the brain, and people who live with these disorders and those that love the afflicted, are in deep emotional pain and confusion. I applaud the Staglin Family for bringing this very important issue to the surface.

Today as I reflect back on the great time we had with our friends, I am grateful that we live in a community that gets involved and supports great causes. Many Napa Valley wineries donate thousands of dollars, wine, and time to countless meaningful charities nationwide. It feels great to be a part of this industry that makes a difference.

Be the first this week to order Drink the Leaf teas, and receive Pat Benatar's Summer Vacation 2001 Live CD. Please note "Fire Away" in the comment section.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Time to Light the Barbie


As the Dog Days of Summer come to an end, we are cherishing this holiday weekend by relishing in each other’s company(wine helps), languishing in the backyard, and feasting on BBQ. Like most days, the hot topic always seems to revolve around food. We usually start with a theme, and then build from there. This weekend’s theme was all about lighting the grill, and enjoying barbecue. In hindsight, I should’ve documented our scrumptious meals and posted photos, but our stomachs took charge, and all that was left before us were empty plates. Success!

It’s not too late to squeeze in a couple more weekends filled with barbecue. Here are a few ideas for your next grill fest, and of course, tea suggestions to start your day off right!

Friday- Started our day with Huang Jin Gui Oolong

Homemade Pizzas on the Grill
We made a basic pizza dough in our bread maker. However, store bought pizza dough works fine, too. We like the Trader Joe’s brand. The best part of planning a pizza party is choosing the toppings. We like to make two pizzas, each choosing a pie, and taking it from ingredients to grill. The Tea Drinker made our favorite ‘order-in’ stand by, a traditional cheese pizza with black olives and onions. I took a stab at creating Pizza Azzurro’s spinach, garlic, red chilies, and ricotta pizza pie.

Our number one advice is not to be afraid! Grilling pizza can be fun.
· Heat Grill- either brush grill lightly with oil or coat with a non-stick oil spray
· Roll out dough right before it goes on the grill- Don’t worry if it’s not round- the shape does not matter.
· Brush dough with olive oil, and place the oiled side down on grill. Sometimes it’s easier to just flip the dough from the sheet pan right onto the grill. Grill for 5-7 minutes until crusty. Oil the other side, flip, and repeat!
· Remove dough from the grill and decorate with ingredients. Place back on grill, turn down the heat, close lid and grill until cheese or ingredients meld together.
· Slice, and serve with a crisp salad. Butter lettuce wedges topped with creamy blue cheese dressing worked perfectly for us.

Saturday- Started our day with House Ceylon
Barbeque-braised Thai Chicken Legs
with a lemongrass glaze consisting of green curry paste, lots of scallions and ginger, served with side of spicy Thai noodles, and sweet and sour cucumber salad.

This recipe is compliments of Fine Cooking magazine. I am totally convinced this is how to grill chicken. It’s a bit of project, but well worth it. Just pour yourself a glass of wine, and enjoy the outdoors while grilling. You can basically use this technique with any type of meat. The steps involve starting a dry rub base, then searing the meat quickly on a hot grill. Next, braising the meat in liquid which also can be done on the grill, then finishing back on the grill for final cooking while basting with a glaze. The chicken was so moist and layered with flavors. We found that a gas grill works best, since you can control the temperature. I can’t wait to make this again. Try it, you will not be disappointed. Total cooking time about an hour, after marinade.

Sunday- Started our day with White Peony
Baby Back Ribs- slow cooked on a charcoal grill, served with Mac-n-Cheese, baked beans, and corn on the cob. Holy cow, what a feast! The Tea Drinker has been experimenting with ribs all summer long. He is attempting to perfect the ultimate Drink the Leaf house style. The key is in the rub and cooking the ribs over low heat for a lengthy period of time. Read here: have lots of cold beer on hand. Today, he chose Gary Wiviott’s rub- an aromatic mixture of dried ingredients- garlic, cayenne, paprika, thyme, chipolte, ancho and guajillo chili powders. Dash of salt and pepper, too. We made ours from scratch, but if in a pinch order on line at http://www.thespicehouse.com/. Baste the ribs with a high quality barbecue sauce towards the end of cooking. Also, serve some of the sauce on the side. Fall off the bone, finger licking good…

And for inquiring minds, I enjoyed a grilled Portobello mushroom "burger", and had extra helpings of mac-n-cheese.

Monday- Labor Day- Start day with Kawane Sencha
What to barbecue? Heck, forget that, we are going out to dinner, we're exhausted!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The "411"



Yesterday , I was on the phone catching up with my Dad, and I mentioned to him that I would need to call him back the next day with the “411”. There was a pause, then ”The what?!” In return, I paused, and treaded lightly, “Um…you know…like when you dial 411…and you ask for information on phone numbers and etc, the 411…” I waited for the backlash. Instead, my Dad burst into laughter, and told me about an article he read recently where “kids nowadays can't even write cursive, or spell, because they are too busy taking shortcuts”. You’ve seen it, you’ve texted it- replacing the English language with abbreviations. For, example: “ U enjoy DTL loose lea teas because its tasty and also good 4 you!” Easy enough.

My favorite pastimes are definitely reading and writing, but do I take short cuts? There is nothing better, than steeping a cup of tea, grabbing a book or journal, and settling into one of my favorite nooks, and drifting off to another place and time. Reading to me is an adventure, and should be treasured, no short cuts taken, here. Writing, on the other hand, is different. Its much easier to type on your computer, as to writing in a journal. Its faster, neater, and besides you can use spell check! Cruising the Internet is unlocking the door to information mania. The 411. Its immediate, jarring and exciting all at the same time. You can google any question that comes to mind. Why is my black Balloon Molly behaving strangely? How do you make paella? At what temperature do I steep green tea ? , just to name a few.

Here are some of my favorite “411” blogs/sites. Information at your finger tips.

Eater – This blog provides basically the scoop on restaurants, chefs, nightlife, and all things related to finding your favorite grub. Currently Eater covers SF, NY, and LA, and is updated several times a day. The news covers the spectrum from top restaurants to dive bars. Follow celebrity chefs, and their latest whims. Perfect for me, since I am obsessed with restaurants, chefs, and food. And I am fortunate enough to travel to these cities, quite often, too. Its the ultimate 411.

Daily Candy- Now this site is fun, whimsical, and packed with information. It’s the insiders daily guide to what’s new in travel, gourmet products, gadgets, and fashion. They cover 13 cities, and you can sign up to receive update on any or all of them. I am trying my hardest to get them to feature Drink the Leaf. Stay tuned….

Twitter- See my previous post, What's all the flutter about Twitter? . Follow people on twitter that you admire or what to learn more about. Find out if they are still interesting in 140 characters or less! Currently I love reading Ruth Reichel’s posts. She is the editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine, and gives daily insight to what she is eating, and drinking. Tony Robbins, Life Coach Guru , posts great one liners on staying upbeat in every day life. Today’s line: “Put your guts on the line every day and your dream will come to life" . My husband, the Tea Drinker, is pretty entertaining , too. I usually can find out where we are going to dinner by following him…Today, looks like we are going to Boon Fly or Model Bakery for breakfast…

LMK about UR Fav 411 sites, and they better be good. LOL!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Walkin' Mr. Chai


Our next door neighbors have two dogs: Fritz, a bark less dachshund, and a small bear-like Blue Chow Chow, named Chai. Yep, named after the tea. Roy & Patricia did not exactly name Chai after the tea per se ,but after their fondness for my husband, Dan, and his favorite passion- tea. So, as of late , the Tea Drinker has been taking Chai for his morning walks. Yesterday, I decided I would take the small bear for a walk around the neighborhood all by myself. Keep in mind, I have a cat- who basically has two positions-lying down and lying down. I admit, I was not prepared for this adventure.

Yesterday, I popped my head over the fence, and announced to my neighbor that Dan was at the Farmer’s Market peddling Drink the Leaf teas so he would not be able to take Chai for a walk. However, I would happy to do it, all by myself. Then, I confidently stated that I would be over in 15 minutes. I peeled Little One from her favorite resting spot in the backyard, under the Japanese Maple tree and put her in the house. Then, I grabbed my water bottle, put on my sneakers, did a few knee bends, and headed out the door. Oops- forgot one essential item- the plastic baggies. Ugh. Maybe, I should rethink this adventure ,after all.

As I made my way up their walkway, Chai came bounding down the path, and leaped at the gate, just above the sign that read, “beware of dog”. Hmm. He smiled or maybe leered at me, as Patricia, wrangled him and put his leash on. As Chai dragged me down the walk, the last thing I heard her say was, “Do you know how to hold the leash?”. I quickly tripled wrapped the leash around my wrist, and thrust my arm triumphantly into the air, and vanished around the corner. The first challenge was trying to keep up with Chai, as he pitched me forward on my tippy toes, and steered me down the sidewalk. All I could see in front of me was a huge tuff of black fur, and an occasional view of his blueish black tongue, lapping at the air. I held on for dear life trying to remember all the basics of dog walking. I peeled my eyes for any small animals or children, and prayed that parents kept them in side for the next 3o minutes.

As I started to relax, I realized that Chai was on a mission. He definitely knew his route, and was very polite and stopped at all crosswalks. I was impressed. And I was extremely impressed with his efficiency in marking trees on the fly. He was a Chow with direction, and hit the mark every time. Every once in a while, he would look back at me, to see if I was still attached to the other end of the leash, then he would take off with abandon. Maybe I could convince my Boot Camp instructors to implement this form of exercise into our routine. ( Move at mock speed, perched on the tips of your toes, your arm tightly stretched out- switch arms every few minutes, when pain sets in, and repeat for 3o minutes).

I knew a couple of things about Chai- he loved squirrels, or should I say he would love to have one for lunch. And, that he did this funny dance when he had to go, if you know what I mean. Dan had told me about the “poop zone”, near the park, so, I was prepared. On a side note, the Tea Drinker, is not amused that our yard is the poop zone for every other dog in the neighborhood. So, beware. Back to Chai, he is not like every other dog, he's choosy. He picked his spot, and I began to look over my shoulder, and to my dismay I had an audience. As one of my neighbors watched me try to hold Chai, and at the same time maneuver picking up the present that he left behind, I am sure he was thinking , this girl does not have a clue. Mission accomplished, Chai and I proceeded on, but now both of my arms were stretched out long- one with the leash, and one with the bag of goodies as far away from me as possible…

Then, my armed jerked suddenly, as Chai spied a squirrel or was it a small lap dog? Not sure, and I was not sticking around to find out. We turned back towards home as a young boy walked by, and stated: “Nice dog”. I proudly said, thanks. Then, a young couple rode by on their bikes, with their child trailing behind in a caboose(at least he was enclosed), and yelled, “look at that beautiful dog”. Yes, I was truly proud. I marched home feeling good, handed Chai back over and happily reported that I would be back tomorrow!


Drink Organic Chic Chai and live dangerously.

Photos: Baby Chai- 2007, Adult Chai 2009.









Sunday, August 9, 2009

Summer Time, Paella Time!


One of my favorite summer time dishes to prepare on the grill is Paella. Truth be told, I actually watch the Tea Drinker prepare this tasty meal, as I sit on my bum with a glass of rose in hand. Nonetheless, this dish is a perfect choice for a party. It’s a beautiful edible centerpiece. Take the time to prep your ingredients during the day while sipping your favorite Drink the Leaf ICED TEA , chill down a variety of Spanish wines, call up your friends and family, and let the fun begin.

Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that hails from Valencia using chicken, rabbit, snails, and fresh beans. I am happy to report that ours is quite different- no snails or rabbits here. What we love best about this dish is how versatile it is. Pick and choose the ingredients that you like and add them to the pan. The main ingredient is rice and you build from there.

Shopping List:
-Paella Pan we own two- one small for about 4 people, and a larger one that can feed up to 8. I love Paella pans, I am tempted to start a collection!
-½ cup of rice per person, Arborio works best
-1 cup of chicken stock per ½ cup of Rice
-5 threads of toasted saffron per person, dissolve in ½ cup of white wine. Saffron is expensive, but it is a necessary flavor component for this dish.
-Olive Oil
-1 chicken thigh per person, cut into 2 pieces
-½ spicy sausage per person, such as chorizo- we use spicy turkey Italian
-½ tsp Spanish paprika per person, a lovely sweet, smoky spice
-1 clove of garlic per person
-¼ cup of chopped onion per person
-1/8 cup of grated tomato, person
-2 Shrimp per person
-3 clams per person, manila
-2 mussels per person
-Red piquillo peppers cut in strips. We use jarred roasted red peppers.
-Frozen peas- couple of handfuls
-Lemon wedges
-Sour Cream- our secret ingredient
-Chopped Italian Parsley

Preparation:
We find that it’s easiest to prep all of your ingredients ahead of time, and then stage them in order of going into the pan. The most important ingredient that I left out above is: PATIENCE. So, pour yourself a glass of Spanish wine, visit with guests, and watch the show.

1) Heat Chicken Stock, keep warm
2) Toast Saffron in pan, slightly, add white wine, bring to boil, then remove from heat
3) Heat Paella pan over medium heat, add olive oil, enough to coat pan, add chicken pieces- cook until golden, and juice runs clear
4) Add garlic and onions – sauté until translucent
5) Add sausage, until just cooked through
6) Add rice, stir well until coated with oil.
7) Add paprika, grated tomato, stir in saffron wine, and hot stock.
8) Bring to boil, scraping up bottom of pan
9) Add red piquillo peppers, and peas
10) Bring to slow boil and let the broth cook down. Should take about 15-20 minutes. Do NOT stir the rice. You want to achieve the lovely caramelized flavor that occurs as the rice on the bottom of the pan creates a nice crusty layer. Considered by some, myself included, to be the best part.
11) Add seafood about 5 minutes before rice is done- al dente. The shrimp will turn pink, and the clams/mussels will pop open.
12) Remove from Grill – garnish with chopped parsley, lemon wedges, and a dollop of sour cream
Recipe adapted from various Spanish cookbooks.

Need an appetizer idea: Set out Spiced Spanish almonds, mixed olives, Manchego cheese and slices of fresh bread.

Enjoy!

As a side note, if you visit Napa Valley, and you are hankering for great paella- head to ZuZu. It’s a local favorite of ours.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

True Bliss- Thirteen Years


The Tea Drinker and I are celebrating our 13th Wedding Anniversary on Monday, August 3rd. Thirteen happens to be my favorite number. It’s probably because I was born on the 13th of May just over forty years ago. Thirteen is not just any ordinary number –it has a certain mystic to it. Being unlucky and all….As a young child, I loved bragging about my birthday number. I felt brave and edgy to have been born on the 13th, and if my special day landed on a Friday, it was even better! Double scary. So, here we are celebrating our 13th anniversary, and I happy to report I don’t feel scared at all. Just thrilled that I made the right choice thirteen years ago, when I said YES, looking over Lake Ontario, as our family and friends surrounded us with love.

We have had quite the adventurous time together. We are partners in this journey. Mutual respect, deep friendship, unwavering love, and lots of laughter have kept us solid these past thirteen years. And this is exactly what will bring us right through to our golden years, too. Our married life has been filled with lots of travel- our first adventure together after a year of dating was to drive across the country from Buffalo to California, we ended up back tracking to Colorado, and making that our home for seven years. Finally, a lucky number in the story! That first adventure revealed to me that Dan was the one. And, shortly after we first met, he took me to see the Phantom of the Opera in Toronto, which was telling to! Especially since years later I have learned that he would rather stick a sharp object in his eye than go to a musical. Ah well, at least he is still traveling with me.

So, it’s no surprise to us that our anniversary weekend involves a getaway to the Coast. Some years back, we were introduced to Sea Ranch. A lovely community that sits just right off HWY 1- near a small town named Gualala, which is north of Jenner, and south of Mendocino. I’ve read that Sea Ranch was quite popular back in the 50’s with the Hollywood crew- movie stars would trek to this area for downtime. The majority of the homes are rentals that are furnished, and most are equipped with a hot tub. We usually choose a home located on the Bluffs or Oceanfront with easy access to the many beaches that line the community. We love the notion of leaving our driveway, and 2 ½ hours later we are pulling up to a beautiful home located right on the Pacific Ocean. We unload all of our goodies, put them away, and immediately go for a walk down to the water. We return and start cooking! Paella, lobster rolls, chicken poblano chili are all on the menu for the weekend. The wine, tea, and conversation are flowing, and we are truly relaxed. A perfect anniversary filled with lots of love and laughter.

Pour yourself a cup of Drink the Leaf Red Peony, my favorite travel tea, and browse the rental website. Try to figure out which vacation home the Tea Drinker and the Wife chose this time. Email me your guess, and if you are correct- I will send you a package of this wonderful travel tea, gratis!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Join the "T-Club" Now

A couple of years ago a great friend of mine who is an avid book reader gave me an excellent idea- she suggested that I should keep track of all the books that I read by writing them down. What a novel idea! Especially, since I am known to exclaim at dinner parties that I have just read the most amazing book- the guests stop talking, and all turn to look at me- but, then, of course, I can not remember the title or the author of this amazing book. Oh,well.

Today, I pulled out my T-Club book list, and took a trip down memory lane of my favorites. Year to date, I have read some interesting and inspiring books. Almost all of them have had the “content factor”. I tend to look for substance, as opposed to the popcorn read. Funny, because I could use an escape from daily life at times, but instead of the fast read, I crave books that have characters who possess moxie, as my Mom would say.

Here are a few of my recommendations for a great summer read- Don’t forget the tea pairing!

Power of One, Byrce Courtenay
Wholly Cow, pour yourself a strong brew- because you will not be able to put this book down. Prop your eyes open with toothpicks and prepare to read late into the night. This page turner tells the story of a young British boy and his childhood experiences in South Africa during World War II. A smattering of interesting characters weave in and out of this young child’s life, and time and time again young Peekay shows you just how far “positive thinking” can take you in life. The history of Apartheid is obviously in this book and shadows most of his encounters. Throughout Peekay's many adverse challenges and run-ins, you continue to root for him, and find yourself becoming one of his many cheerleaders. A very compelling read- that inspires you to treat everyone equally and give your best at everything you do in life.
Tea Pairing: Citrus Rooibos
Fittingly, this tea is made from the South African red bush. Its caffeine free and it's great served over ice. Don't worry, you will not need the caffeine push- the energy of this book will carry you through to the end.


Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill
My sister-in-law who lives in Canada gave me this book for my birthday. It’s in the running for my favorite book of 2009. On the cover, it’s noted that this book was written by a highly regarded Canadian author, Lawrence Hill. Trust me; I plan to seek out his other books soon. I absolutely love books that are fictional but based on historical facts, and even better if they are written from a child’s perspective! Children tend to be extremely honest, and bring a certain realism to the story. This book follows a young African girl who was stolen from her village, and sold into slavery. Aminata Diallo is sent to South Carolina. Having been to Charleston many times, I can not help but think of the many who had faced similar experiences as this young girl did. She is a strong willed and determined young woman who learns to read and write, and through various experiences wins back her freedom. This book follows chapters of history that I was not that familiar with –The Book of Negroes, an actual document that recorded freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US to resettle in Nova Scotia & the 1,200 former slaves that returned to Sierra Leone to recapture their culture and truly claim freedom. The account of Aminata’s life is a must read for anyone who is interested in history and loves stories that involve characters with TRUE grit.
Tea Pairing: Keemun Hao Ya A- my favorite morning cup- strong, bold and flavorful. You will be ready for anything that comes your way that day!


The Daily Coyote, Shreve Stockton
My Mom recently loaned this book to me. Uplifting, inspiring, fun, and an adventurous read. This book makes you want to quit your current life, jump in the car and drive to Wyoming. Don’t worry Tea Drinker- I will take you with me. Hey, I brought you to Napa! I love animals, and I love stories revolving around people and their pets. They are typically humorous, rewarding, and endearing. Read: Marley & Me. This book is a memoir about a young woman, Shreve Stockton, who leaves her NYC life behind, moves to a small, small town in Wyoming, lives in a cabin, stumbles upon a new boyfriend, and is given a 10 day old Coyote as a gift. Originally, Shreve is on a mission to write a memoir about driving across country on a Vespa, instead she begins chronicling her life with a Coyote. Check out The Daily Coyote Blog. Truly an uplifting memoir- and you find yourself living vicariously through her adventures!
Tea Pairing: Jade Oolong - a tasty brew that can stand up to multiple infusions, perfect for a page turner.

Other great reads: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Three Cups of Tea. Pour yourself your favorite Drink the Leaf loose leaf tea.

Suggest your favorite Tea and Book pairing here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Tea Experience


I read somewhere recently that Ancient monks drank tea to help them stay awake through many hours of mediating. The goal was to achieve a calm awareness, referred to as the “tea experience”. Scientists have since revealed that tea contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that promotes relaxation and mental focus. I love this concept!

I am a fan of caffeine. My mind and body yearns for it first thing in the morning. There is no coffee in our house(dreadful, I know). I used to scramble to get to work to pour myself a cup of joe. However, if you have read my posts, most of you know that my husband has turned our house into a tea emporium. Things have changed. I now willingly begin my day with tea. It has to be black- of course, dare I risk missing out on getting a jump start to my day. My favorite morning teas are Keemun Hao Ya A, House Ceylon, and Red Peony. On a side note, as a frequent traveler, Red Peony is perfect for any journey. The tea leaves are tightly wound into a rosette, and all you have to do is plop it into your cup, and enjoy. Presto- you are calm and alert.

This concept of a calm awareness is intriguing. Who wouldn’t want to achieve that on a daily basis? Have all your ducks in a row, with a smile on your face. Just think- your day is jam packed- work, errands, house duties, children, husbands, wives, friends, pets, exercise, and what to make for dinner. All you have to do is drink tea all day and a calm aurora will magically appear and surround and protect you. Imagine people commenting about how calm, cool, and collected you are!

In all seriousness, I believe that the process of brewing and enjoying tea will create an experience that will calm you, regardless of caffeine. Many of the Tea Drinker’s customers are concerned about the harshness of coffee, and the negative effects of caffeine. They are looking for something cleaner, pure, and healthy. Loose leaf tea is the answer. We truly enjoy converting die hard coffee drinkers to tea. Give us your challenge, and we will help select the perfect cup for you. Just let us know whether you want to be calm and alert, or just calm! Your call.




Sunday, July 5, 2009

Care to travel to Yunnan? Gold Tip!



The Tea Drinker never ceases to amaze me. His knowledge and passion for tea continues to grow each day. All things Tea. We drink a lot of tea, read a ton about tea, and dream of visiting tea- growing regions. You guessed it, I am itching to travel. It’s been one year exactly since our visit to China. A trip that was packed with history, loads of tea, new sights and sounds, tasty morsels, and lots of laughter. I crave that adventure. Even though my work takes me on the road most weeks, I never tire of traveling to new places on my down time. I love to plan trips. True, most of our trips tend to revolve around food and wine. However, now we enjoy putting tea into the mix, too. Where to next. Back to China? Taiwan? Maybe hop over to Japan. What about South Africa to discover the fascination behind Rooibos? Stay tuned.

Back to the Tea Drinker, this week he is excited about a new tea that he recently added to the Drink the Leaf’s portfolio- Yunnan Gold Tip. Sounds like an expensive pen, or cigar. Nope, this tea is from Yunnan, a province in Southeast China. Yunnan is rumored to be the founding home of “Camellia Sinensis”. Now, that is exciting. To visit the birthplace of tea. This region borders Assam, Burma, Laos, and South China. Teas from this region are known to be full-bodied, bold, and robust in flavor. Black and Pu-erh teas proudly lead the pack. Right up my alley.

Yunnan Gold Tip- Our star tea this week. A high quality tea that goes through an arduous process. The young buds and tea leaves are hand-picked, then placed in the sun to wither and dry. The dried leaves then undergo pile fermentation; water is sprayed onto the leaves, covered with hemp fabric to prevent any of the heat from escaping. This environment jump starts the fermentation process, where the tips of the buds will turn gold, instead of black. The leaves are turned very carefully by hand, taking great measure to not break any of the golden tips. This process results in a tea that is rich, yet smooth in flavor.

Here are our notes from a recent tasting of this wonderful tea. Attractive to look at- wiry tea leaves with golden tips. Clear, bright golden orange and brown hue. Medium-full bodied and smooth. Malty and dried apple notes lead to a great finish.

Pour yourself a cup of Yunnan Gold Tip, and let your mind wander to a faraway place. Truly peaceful.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gone Fishing!


A brief posting from Buffalo, NY. The Tea Drinker and I are visiting family to celebrate his parent's 50th Wedding Anniversary. Congratulations, Mops & Pops! A weekend filled with family, laughter, great food, wine and, of course, tea. Stay tuned for next weekend's posting, all things tea.



P.S. To answer the inquires of whether or not I ran into Chef Bobby Flay last weekend in Aspen...let's just say, he was called out of town for an important engagement. Oh, well next time.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Free the Tea"





That’s it- I am on a new mission- “Free the Tea”.

As some of you are aware, I am in the wine industry, and something that we follow very closely is the “who and where” we can ship wine to in the United States. The coalition, Free the Grapes, is a national mix of consumers, wineries, and retailers all on a mission to remove restrictions on winery direct shipping. Basically, people want their wine, and we want to get it to them. Simple. Not really, but one would think so. On the flip side, Drink the Leaf can ship anywhere, anytime. We believe in freedom, too. We want to free tea in a different fashion. Loosen the constraints; offer a healthier, fresher, better tasting beverage to everyone. Yes, I am talking about that dreaded “tea ball”, and dare, I whisper, bagged tea. Come on people; let your tea breathe…

Join me in this cause- “Free the Tea”. Kick up your heels, let your hair down, and get wild. Spread the word, and drink loose leaf teas. Hands down, tea brewed from a loose leaf tea is a better tasting cup. Bagged teas or commercially available teas tend to be fragments of tea, and of a lesser quality. You wonder to yourself how long has that tea been sitting on the shelf. Trust me, once you go loose leaf, you will be squishing up your nose, when someone offers you bagged tea. With loose leaf, the aromas and flavors just pop. Plus, there is a basic enjoyment of the ritual of steeping tea. Watching the leaves unfurl to release a cup that is clean and fresh, there is nothing better. Use an infuser and dispel the myth that brewing loose leaf tea takes longer to prepare. I love showing people the Timolino Infuser, it’s my favorite party trick. Email me and I will help you choose a strainer/infuser that will work best for your lifestyle.

Free the Tea, Free the Tea, Free the Tea. Now, I Just need a cool logo like Free the Grapes. Tea in shackles is a bit too much…