Posts Tagged ‘Sonoma’

The Joys of Crowdfunding

August 19th, 2013 | Rachel

Remember my first catering gig at the film set? We did it as a barter for our Kickstarter video. Well, the video is not only finished and awesome, the whole campaign is coming to an end in less than two days. Please check out the video and consider supporting my new food business as we expand from a catering company to a food truck.

Initially, I thought I wanted a truck because they are trendy and a great way to test a food concept in a range of geographical areas. Now that I have done some outdoor catering, I know that having a truck also reduces the amount of heavy equipment that has to be unloaded and loaded (and sometimes rented) and includes everything we need to be up to health code (a catering tent at a public event in Sonoma County, for example, requires netting, hand and utensil washing facilities, and lots of sterno and ice to keep the food at the proper temperatures). And customers think trucks are way coolers than tents.

Check out our video and consider donating to our cause in exchange for some pretty cool rewards. The campaign ends at midnight Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday, August 21.

Here’s the link:

The Dawn Of A New Decade

February 8th, 2013 | Rachel

New Haircut!

Feeling fantastic after a Birthday Spa Afternoon — I love the color, but I think the cut looks too much like Vivaldi or, perhaps, Howard Stern

Last week was a big week.

Arthur and I officially announced our new business, Drums & Crumbs, a stylish throwback to authentic Southern cookin’ made with all-natural, locally sourced ingredients.

I also announced that Steve and I will be moving to beautiful Sonoma, California next month.

I also experienced my first bucket of cold water dumped on my head as a business owner, but I’m afraid I can’t discuss it online. I know there will be numerous bumps along the way, so why not start now?

The other huge event of last week was my farewell to my 20s and open-armed welcoming of my 30s!

Birthday Cake

My Breakfast For The Following Week

I was not at my emotional best going into this milestone. I am so consumed with studying for the bar exam at the end of February and getting the new business up and running (and occasionally working my paying job to keep a roof over my head) that there is no time for the grand adventure I always assumed I’d be taking. I was thinking maybe a cruise down to Antarctica or, at the very least, sipping Malbec in Argentina over a steak dinner while people danced the tango around me. I have always declared that I believe in birthdays, and my 30th would be no exception.

Sadly, no time for tango dancers this year. And on top of that, despite having lived here a year, I feel like I barely know anybody.

It’s quite a change from my days in New York when Steve and I could celebrate the purchase of a new margarita machine with a healthy crowd of 20. For our last wine and cheese party, we somehow managed to stuff 60 people into our apartment.

Anyone who talked to me in the days prior knows what a sorry pile of marshmallows I was being about the whole situation, especially when I found out Steve wasn’t getting back from the ship until late the night of my birthday and would probably miss the whole thing.

The celebrations began the night before when I brought Oreo cheesecake cupcakes and a bottle of champagne to my church group (shhhh…) and drank a second bottle with some cool ladies afterward. The next morning I slept in and rejoiced in the fact that it was my first day off from studying in almost a month. I went into the office for a few hours and had a lovely birthday lunch with my coworkers out on the picnic table because it was such a beautiful day. Then I skipped out earlier for an afternoon at the spa where I had a remarkable massage followed by an equally remarkable facial.

I was walking from the day spa to the salon when I got my unmentionable bad news, and then had the unpleasant and time-consuming drama of ending up with a haircut I didn’t like. Perhaps if I hadn’t had the bad news I would have been able to fake it long enough to get out of the salon on time, but I couldn’t, and the stylist and I found ourselves at an impasse.

The problem is that I was truly spoiled by my hair stylist in New York. I was ready to accept the fact that I had lost a gamble on this particular salon, but the stylist was trying her best to fix the situation. An hour later, I finally convinced her that I wanted to take the ‘do out for a test drive to see if I warmed up to it. I didn’t. And I still hate it. But lesson learned. And I’m officially a hair snob.

By that time my dinner party had gathered, and I was frazzled because I was wearing a Vera Wang dress and hastily putting on make up in my car. I was also worried about my ragtag group of guests (church friends, old restaurant friends, and Arthur) whose only common denominator was me. As it turned out, those worries were unwarranted because by the time I got to the sushi restaurant (appropriately named I Love Sushi), everyone was bonding over sake and free appetizers. I ranted for a good ten minutes about my hair, and then let it go and had a great time. The owner of the restaurant kept joking that it was my 21st birthday and brought me several free bottles of sake along with a gift of chopsticks (pretty ones… not the plain free ones). And my delightful friends surprised me with a cake from The Buttery.

Birthday Cake

Three Wishes For The Big 3-0

After that we had cocktails at a cool bar, joined by a couple more random friends. And then Steve showed up. :-)

It wasn’t the most exotic of birthdays, but it might be one of the more sincere ones I’ve had. I definitely felt the love.

The next day Steve and I drove up to San Francisco where Arthur and I met with our new graphic designer (!!!). Arthur, Steve and I had greasy burgers for lunch, stopped by some fun little shops, and then Steve and I continued northward to Sonoma.

Sonoma, California

View From Benziger Winery

We stayed at the charming McArthur Place Inn and had an insane chef’s tasting menu for dinner at El Dorado Kitchen. The next day we drove around in Steve’s new convertible with the top down visiting wineries.

I don’t think I can complain about anything.

I felt birthday love from a lot of you out there, so thank you. Who knows, maybe I’ll get my grand adventure next year for the big 3-1. In the meantime, I’ll just have to settle with the fact that all I got this year was a new business. :-)

Giant Chess Set

Giant Chess Set At McArthur Place Inn

The Business of Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée

October 21st, 2012 | Rachel

I was sitting in the office (still in the converted barn surrounded by chickens and homegrown vegetables, btw) on Friday when a former coworkers stopped by to pick up his coffee bean grinder. Now our only option for freshly ground beans is a manual grinder with a crank that takes a solid five minutes to grind enough coffee to fill one tiny K-cup filter.  Wah, life is hard.

This former coworker struck up a conversation about food, a frequent topic of discussion when we worked together, and he ended up telling me about a couple of bowls of French onion soup he recently had in Monterey. As soon as he said the words “French onion soup,” I knew what I was having for dinner that night.

I stopped at the grocery store on the way home and ambitiously bought twice as many onions as I ended up needing, and spent the rest of the evening slowly caramelizing (half of) them and turning them into a large pot of sweet and salty French onion soup.

Making French onions isn’t complicated, but it does take a bit of time and vigilance. I am beginning to see that starting a business is, in some ways, very similar.

You see, there is a lot of detail work in the beginning, thinly slicing a pound and a half of onions that will probably leave you in tears at some point (and cursing in vain at the onions for their particularly gaseous quality). Then there are the multiple stages involved, each of which is very important to the end product. I followed Julia Child’s recipe for Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which you can find here.

You start by heating oil and butter and then cook the onions on low heat with the lid on for 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes doesn’t seem like a very long time and you may want to keep them in a little longer, but you can’t. It’s time to take the lid of and present your lightly cooked onions to the rest of the kitchen. Some people around might not like onions, and they may take one look at your pot still brimming with bright white onions and turn up their nose. You just have to shake it off  and keep moving forward. You are making French onion soup, and it is going to be delicious.

This might be a good time to pour yourself a glass of wine. One of my favorite wineries at the moment is Little Vineyards in Sonoma, California. They produce some pretty tasty Syrah and Zinfandel with a lot of character, no oak, and just the right level of dryness. If you are in the Sonoma area, you should visit them. If you are in the Santa Cruz area, you should come to my house and have a glass with me.

Anyway, back to our French onions. At this point, you have to turn up the heat. You’ll add some unexpected ingredients, like sugar, and then spend the next 40 minutes painstakingly watching and stirring the onions while you wonder if they are ever going to turn the proper shade of golden brown. Your focus might lapse for a few minute and you may find a onion sliver or too has skipped the stage of caramelization and gone straight to burnt, but don’t let this get you down. Just remove the offending sliver, turn down the heat ever so slightly, and remember to stir more frequently.

Then the moment comes and you realize your once full pot of onions has been reduced to a concentrated layer of rich and fragrant caramelized onions. You look down on them with satisfaction. Success.

But wait, its not over yet. You have to remove the onions from the heat, stir in flour, and pour in boiling stock (hopefully you planned ahead and had it ready). Mrs. Child says to add two quarts of stock, but I find this dilutes the soup too much, so I recommend cutting the stock by 25% or starting off with more onions. At this point you might realize you don’t have everything you need after all, such as a bay leaf, but you improvise and make it work anyway.

Now its time to wait. Again. Things are kind of on autopilot now, so you don’t have to make as many trips to the kitchen. The aroma filling your apartment lets you know the end is in sight, and it is time to gather your remaining ingredients. After all you aren’t just making French onion soup. You are making it gratinée.

The makings of “Gratinée”: Raw Onion and Parmesan and Swiss Cheeses


Bread sliced and trimmed to mug-size, then toasted in the oven

Shredded Parmesan and Swiss and a few drops of olive oil

I recommend adding more shredded cheese than I did. The cheese should completely cover the bread and, for the sake of aesthetics, extend to the sides of the bowl or cup. You’ll want to add the grated onion and a few slivers of cheese directly into the pot of soup before you divide it up. For bread, I picked up a bag of dinner rolls from my local grocery store’s bakery section and cut them in half horizontally before toasting them cut side up. I like the texture of the dinner roll more than french bread because it is easier to cut with your spoon as you eat your soup.

By now, your onion soup is made, the gratinée is added, and all that is left to do is pop the individual portions into the oven for 20 minutes (you didn’t think you were going to be eating any time soon, did you?). At the end of the 20 minutes, if the cheese isn’t as toasted as you would like, turn on the broiler for a minute or two.

Now take a sip of wine (if there is any left) and pat yourself on the back, because you just made French onion soup that will rival any restaurant you’ll ever go to.

Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée

I first staged this photo on the kitchen table in the glow of the late afternoon sunlight complete with a fall-themed placemat…

But then I thought, who am I kidding? I might as well admit that I enjoyed my cup of soup siting on the sofa watching an episode of Pretty Little Liars.

I can’t say what it’ll be like to finally have this business up and running (you know, the one I’ve only vaguely referenced and won’t tell you anything about), because it is still just the beginning. I can say that there is a long and detailed road ahead of Arthur and I, and like the soup, it’ll probably definitely involve tears and cursing.

We are just a week or two away from incorporating the business and registering our trademark, so I’ll start dishing the details very soon.

Thanks for joining me on this journey.

Napa: The Game Changer?

July 13th, 2011 | Rachel

The whole idea behind this blog is my belief that my destiny lies (at least in part) in running my own bed and breakfast somewhere in the French countryside surrounded by vineyards.  This belief was further cemented into my brain (and heart) after my boyfriend and I took a two-week road trip around France and spent three days touring wineries outside of Bordeaux.

Its not that I don’t love New York City.  I think this is one of the greatest cities in the world, and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to live here.  Still, I am drawn to a culture focused more on quality of life than on one’s bank account balance or job title.  I love sunshine and fresh air and good food.  Throw in a great bottle of wine, and I am in heaven.

This past weekend I went on a trip to California with my mom.  We flew into San Francisco and then drove up to Napa where we spent our first two nights.  We then spent two nights in Sonoma and one night in San Francisco before returning to the east coast.  During the day, we toured a dozen or so wineries and drove around the countryside.  In the evening, we ate at three amazing restaurants in Napa and Sonoma: Bottega, the girl & the fig, and El Dorado Kitchen.

Downtown Sonoma at Dusk

View from the Napa Valley Wine Train

Accepting the challenge of eating an unripe grape

I had never spent any time in California before this trip, and yet I’ve always wondered if I would like living on the west coast.  Now that I have had the chance to see it for myself, I know the answer is yes.

The people definitely have a laid back attitude you don’t see too often in native East Coasters.  As someone whose only work criticism has been that I am too laid back, I think I might have found my kindred spirits.

I talked to owners of both of our bed and breakfasts at length — one has been in business for 21 years and the other 15 — and now a storm of new ideas is brewing in my head.

Hillview Inn in Napa

Sonoma Chalet in Sonoma

Cute kitchen at the Sonoma Chalet

In my element at the Sonoma Chalet

Don’t worry… this isn’t the end of the France dream.  It might be a practical stepping stone on my way to France or perhaps an opportunity to take my obsession with French culture and create something unique here in the United States.

Stay tuned.