Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wine by the Bay

In October 2007, Cellar360 opened at Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco with a goal of bringing the best of wine country to wine lovers who lack sufficient time to visit Napa or Sonoma. New owners stripped away modern construction to reveal brick, wood floors, ceilings, columns, and windows in the circa 1864 Woolen Mill Building, and then transformed the space with undulating architectural curves, loads of light and hundreds of beautifully displayed bottles.

But Cellar360 is more than a retail store - it's also a multi-brand tasting and wine education facility in which educators from COPIA/The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, teach classes. Their classroom is a glass-walled room that seats 40-50 people, attached to a full-service stainless steel kitchen with an expansive viewing window. Cellar360 also hosted a wine and chocolate class on February 16.

And tasting is an important part of a visit here. Sample a multi-brand flight of wines at the tasting bar, enjoy a pairing of cheeses and wine, or sip a glass of vino with one of 25 cheeses, soups of the day, salads and sandwiches or dishes such as truffled macaroni and cheeses or brussel sprouts with pancetta, that are available on-site. Then take one of your favorite bottles home to share with friends and family.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Luscious Lemon

I recently bought my first bottle of Limoncello Italian liqueur for use in a rather complicated recipe that required its lemon influence. Because I was anxious to try the liqueur immediately, I created a simpler recipe in time for my husband's birthday, several days later. It's loosely based on a recipe for Orange Twist Bread that I baked for a commercial client for nearly three years.

If you love lemon flavor, try Drunken Lemon Cupcakes - and sip some chilled Limoncello on the side. It's a fresh and refreshing treat on a hot summer day.

Cake batter

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream (may substitute plain yogurt)
1 jigger of Limoncello
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
grated rind of one lemon

cupcake papers


2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 jigger of Limoncello
1-2 tablespoons grated lemon peel

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake papers in 15-18 sections of cupcake pans, depending on how large you want your cupcakes. Squeeze juice from lemon and then place rind into a food processor, chopping into fine pieces. Set aside 1-2 tablespoons. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and stir until well combined. Add sour cream, Limoncello, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flour and combine well. Stir in remaining lemon peel. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely before frosting.

Frosting: Cream together butter, cream cheese, and confectioner's sugar, add Limoncello and stir until thick and smooth. Stir in lemon peel and frost cupcakes.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Environmental Excellence

Since early 2008, the refurbished Q hotel + spa kansas city in the heart of Kansas City, Missouri's oldest entertainment district - Westport - has instituted more than 30 environmental initiatives. Environmentally sound cleaning supplies, organic wines in the bar, and bulk table condiments, ceramic plates and organic Fair Trade coffees in the breakfast room, are only the beginning.

There's a trashcan in each room for recyclable materials
, a single cup coffee maker with ceramic mugs, and Earth-friendly body care products at sink and shower. Q uses compact fluorescent bulbs in every light fixture, recycled paper products throughout the property, and flow restrictors on everything that moves water – from toilets to laundry facilities. The hotel also offers free bicycle or shuttle transportation, to reduce the use of rental cars.

But Q hotel & spa offers luxury too. There are HDTVs in every room, comfortable, modern furnishings and decor in a soothing palette of
chocolate brown, sea foam green, cream, and brushed chrome, a day spa with pedicure and manicure stations, and a room with two massage tables. If you appreciate environmental awareness while traveling, Q hotel & spa may fit the bill when you visit Kansas City.