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As part of our California vacation, we knew that we had to visit the wine country. We are by no means wine conniosseurs, but we would not say no to a good bottle of full bodied red wine of the shiraz, syrah, cabernet, or zinfandel variety. Wine is just one of those things that is very subjective. Anyone professing to be an expert in all varietals would be lying but it doesn't stop people from exploring and trying different types. That's the best part about wine is that just when you think you know what you like, you'll come across a bottle that will just open your eyes (and your taste buds) to a whole new sensation. Needless to say, I will have a wine cellar in my house in the future!

Napa Valley is also a beautiful place. As we drove through the country side, we encountered winery after winery. The summer meant that there had been very little rain, resulting in a landscape that was quite dry. Aside from the trees which provided the much needed green, you could tell that the grass had its better days. The drive was only a little over 2 hours from San Francisco as we stayed in the town of Calistoga, a short drive up north from St. Helena. Our accommodations could not have been better. Our choice was the Pink Mansion (literally pink on the outside). Don't let the color confuse you however, this bed and breakfast boast plenty of character and delivered some fantastic breakfasts. The interior was beautiful and classically done. All in all, it was a great stay and we would recommend this place to anyone. We were very glad that we chose to stay here instead of in the town of Napa to be honest with you!


Anyway, back to the red stuff. There are just so many to consider when you go into the Napa Valley / Sonoma Valley region. If you are like us, you will have some trouble figuring out which ones to go to in the amount of time that you had. I can't help you with that decision since everyone's taste for wine differs but here are some of the ones that we visited:

/ Alpha Omega: Probably the location of our favorite red. This is not a brand that I had heard of before coming here but based on a recommendation from our host, we decided to give it a go. At first I thought the recommendation was a bit biased because she said she had a friend work here but boy are we glad we took that recommendation. Great service by the staff as they comped our wine tasting but we ended up buying a $88 bottle anyway (I don't usually buy anything over $50 so that should say something). They do not distribute the vast majority of their wines so you have to go to the winery to get a tasting. Simply put - come here!

/ Duck Horn: A beautiful location, this winery would be easy to miss if you didn't know where the turnoff was. The house was very... how would you say... homey? It has a bit of a large beach cottage feel to it with a fantastic patio. Even in the 30 degree heat, you could sit comfortably in the patio with the shade and the breeze blowing through. The red's are very bold, forward and aggressive. Very old world in its preparation, the merlots and cabernet's were really quite good. Each bottle here is at least $75 and up though so be prepared to fork up a bit if you like the wine.

/ Paraduxx: The sister winery to Duck Horn, we decided to give this a try as they specialized in red blends. We really enjoyed our tasting here, not only because of the service but because of the wine itself too. Served with some great cows milk cheese and some salty crackers, we sat down and enjoyed their cabernet, merlot and zinfandel blends. Smooth and complex, their wines were fantastic. We ended up buying a couple of bottles from here.

/ Sterling: Not much to say about this one. Come here for the view, not the wine.

/ V Sattui: We didn't get a chance to try the wine as we were rushing to get to our Duck Horn reservation but we did enjoy our BBQ picnic on the grounds!

Overall we had a great time visiting the wineries here. Still though, there were so many that we did not have time to see. Oh well, that's our reason for coming again!


What would be a trip to Napa without a visit to Bouchon Bakery? Located in the town of Yountville, this place had quite the line up outside. The macarons were enormous and quite good. Is it as good as those in Paris? Probably not but in North America, I would say that these are right up there at the top.

That same day we also had a chance to eat at Ad Hoc. The menu is small and changes frequently. This is not one of those fancy schmancy restaurants where you have to worry about impressions. For all the talk and hype, this place has a very casual atmosphere and the food is low key but huge on flavor.


We had such a great time in wine country. We spent about 4 days here which was ample time. We just needed some time away from the city and Napa provided some quiet time for the both of us.



What would you eat if you had a week left in Vancouver?

Packing up your bags and leaving your home town can be scary. It is a good thing that both me and J have done this once before so we know what to expect for the most part but it is because we know that we made a list of things that we had to eat and do before hand. Australia, from all that we have heard, has amazing food, some of the world's best coffee, and a great night life. Needless to say, we are so excited to see for ourselves when we get there. But, we have some great eats in Vancouver too so we decided to hit up some places that we love and we knew that we would miss if we left without it. So what do we indulge in with just a week to go in Vancouver?

Pictures taken with a Canon 5D Mark II and iPhone 5

/ Phnom Penh: Everyone who loves food in Vancouver will know this place. Serving up Cambodian/Vietnamese cuisine, they have possibly the best chicken wings that I have ever had in my life. The holy trinity also includes the Beef Luc Lac with a fried egg on top and the butter beef. Lineups galore would not stop me from coming back here (we tried coming here about 3 times prior to our successful night and we were told the waits would be 90 minutes or more).

/ La Buca: This place may be small and out in the middle of no where, but personally I think this is probably my favorite Italian restaurant in the entire city. Seating only about 30-40 people at capacity meant that it had more of a cozy feel to it. The food tastes much like you would expect from a spectacular home made meal. Had our going away dinner here and we were all left extremely full and happy.

/ Santouka: Alright so I was so hungry that I completely forgot about taking a picture and left you with a half eaten bowl of ramen ... hopefully that tells you something about this place. I have not made my way through Japan yet but insofar as Vancouver goes, this place is up there with the best ramen in town (get the spicy miso ramen).

/ Fable: One of my very favorite places for brunch, Fable was opened by Top Chef Canada participant, Trevor Bird. The space is in the trendy West 4th, Kitsilano area but the thing that keeps me coming back is the food (as it should be). The pulled pork pancakes was my first taste at this restaurant and I gotta tell you, these are enough alone to keep you coming back. The pork was tender, sweet, and had a kick from the incorporated jalepeno. On top of all of that was the sweet tomato jam. I'm salivating just thinking about it.

/ 49th Parallel: Couldn't leave Vancouver without having coffee after dinner at 10pm. 49th Parallel is one of my favorite spots for slow coffee in the city and in many ways introduced me to the better form of that delicious black/brown liquid. For me, this place is probably one of the top 2-3 coffee joints in Vancouver! I know Melbourne will have loads to offer here though so I hope I don't miss it too much.

/ Ajisai: Ahh good old sushi. This place is one of the more traditional sushi joints in the city. All the chefs and servers are Japanese which helps with the authenticity but in all honesty, the food is pretty great. The queues can be long but the food makes it worth it. Please Melbourne, have good sushi! If not, at least Japan is close by.

/ Fresh Local Wild: Vancouver is starting to ramp up their food cart scene and one of the stars of the bunch is Fresh Local Wild. They make some amazing fish and chips (honestly better than anything I had when I lived in London, UK) and some very different but fantastic seafood chowder poutine. The fish and chip batter was light and crispy without being overly greasy.

/ Kaya: Let's just say that I love Malaysian food. There is the usual Banana Leaf to go to but when we tried this place, we liked it just a bit more. Great Hainanese chicken and roti canai. Probably one of the better kept secrets in Vancouver as they consistently serve great food but still lack the notoriety of a Banana Leaf.

/ Meat and Bread: Knowing that I was leaving, I had to have the porchetta again. Crispy... fatty... goodness...

/ Bella Gelateria: The line ups here can be crazy during the summer but this is not just another gelateria. The owner has received quite a bit of publicity lately as he won 1st place at the Florence Gelato Festival in 2012. I'm not a gelato connoisseur but this place serves up gelato that easily compares or bests those that I had when I traveled through Italy.

Last but not least though, I had to have my mom's home cooking. Growing up, I always considered myself to be very lucky. One, because my mom is a wonderful cook (she's not fancy, she just knows how to make food that makes me smile and full every time) and two, that I grew up somewhat lean so I could eat more of her food. This is without a doubt, the food that I will miss the most.

I have been lucky to have lived in Vancouver for so long. There is just so much great food here. Here's to hoping that Melbourne has the same, if not more :) Next stop, Australia!