Friday, December 23, 2011

Food, Wine and Family Fun in Santa Rosa

It was my last day at Camellia Inn in Healdsburg, an adorable Bed & Breakfast in the heart of town. I had some time this morning so I was able to enjoy the breakfast spread – Chocolate Chip Scones, Egg Casserole, Mango Smoothies, Cereals, Breads – and chat a bit with owner Lucy Lewand. Soon it was time to hit the road for Santa Rosa to finish up my Sonoma adventure there.

I made a stop at D’Argenzio Winery to meet with owner Raymond D’Argenzio. We had met on my last trip here and I loved his Italian style wines. He’s also been instrumental in putting together Vintner’s Square in Santa Rosa, a terrific spot with wineries and shops that has food and wine events each week.

As usual, there was plenty to taste here. I had raved about  their 2008 Sangiovese and the 2009 was just as good, full of fruit and very pasta friendly (a necessary food group in my household). The 2008 D’Amarone, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Petite Syrah, is also a great find, full of plum and dark fruits.

I bid Raymond farewell and headed into the mountains of Santa Rosa. I was set to spend the next few days up in the exclusive community of Mayacama, checking out the house that Inspirato will soon have available to its members.

The place is magnificent, 3600 square feet with four bedrooms, four and a half baths, a huge modern kitchen, living room, and den. The deck is unbelievable, complete with lounges, couches, a fireplace and hot tub, and it offers sweeping views of Sonoma Valley.

With such a large house it was only natural that I had room to share the space. While it is a wildly romantic setting, I thought it would also be a great place for the family so I invited my brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews to spend the weekend with me. Before they arrived, however, I was sure to claim the biggest bedroom, which had the best bathroom! The Jacuzzi was one of the largest I’ve seen and there was also a steam room.

Before I knew it, the place was alive with activity and I was excited to have an evening with the kids to myself. I knew immediately where I wanted to take them. I have done numerous stories on chef extraordinaire Guy Fieri (a Sonoma resident) and I knew his restaurant Johnny Garlic's had to be kid-friendly (Guy has two boys), interesting and a bit eclectic. It was a perfect mix for Moriah, Jake and Aleas they loved trying different foods.

Guy was out of town, but his general manager Art Robinson greeted us like we were long lost friends. Before I knew it the food was covering the table and it was all amazing.

We started with appetizers and the Brick Wings are dry rubbed and just amazing. I couldn’t eat the award-winning Sashimi Won Tacos with raw Ahi, mango jicama salsa and Wasabi Soy, but the kids raved about them.

For a main course, I had the delicious Penne Pesto with Vegetables and my oldest niece, Alea, went for the Cajun Chicken Fettuccine and loved the spice. Moriah and Jake had kids meals, with more than enough food to satisfy someone twice their size.

Just when I thought we were sufficiently stuff (and had bags of leftovers), Art came over with some desserts for us to try. We had to sample the Breath Mint Pie, with chocolate cookie crust and ice cream filled with Junior Mints; the Chocolate Lava Cake, a fudgy concoction topped with vanilla ice cream; and the New York Cheesecake with chocolate sauce. I quickly decided that I had to save more room for dessert next time I was here.

We went back to the house and I enjoyed a glass of wine with my brother and Claire, just back from their 15th anniversary dinner celebration. As is usually the case, the kids outlasted me, but I would have plenty of time to spend with them the rest of the weekend. 

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