drinks

Cooking lately...

Since moving, I've taken advantage of our absurdly spacious kitchen (and two roommates who rarely cook!) to really go wild cooking. Dave will eat pretty much anything that's put in front of him (evidence below) and is generally highly complimentary - it's insanely gratifying.

- my mom's fabulous secret-recipe Chex Mix, which was a staple of all our childhood events and, this year, came out for both our Stanford tailgates and our Christmas party. The batches are enormous, and you can trash them up with whatever you like - I put chocolate-covered cashews in the holiday batch and it was a delight. 

- "Melt in Your Mouth" pumpkin cookies, half with this brown butter pumpkin spice frosting and half with this cinnamon cream cheese frosting - I've made these cookies every fall since Kaitlin and I first made them on a trip to Baltimore way the heck back in 2013...the recipe is incredibly easy and makes a huge batch. I made them this year for our "Worksgiving" potluck, and doubled the batch - thank God, because we went through ten dozen cookies at home and work in a matter of maybe a few days. 

- I've gotten super into marinating chicken breasts, as Safeway runs insane sales on their boneless skinless six-packs pretty much weekly. Two favorites: this rosemary balsamic marinated chicken and this honey lime cilantro chicken, which Dave grilled for me and we shredded up to use in tacos. SO GOOD and so easy! 

- Early in the fall, I woke up craving pancakes. We had a big thing of pancake mix taking up space in our pantry, so Laura, Dave and I made them (it was my first time ever actually making pancakes!). I trashed them up with bourbon butter maple syrup and they were awesome. Fast forward to last weekend, when I was (again) craving pancakes, but we were out of mix. I looked up a recipe from the internet, tried to make them, and oh my god they were SO TERRIBLE. For some reason the outsides burned before the insides even cooked, and they were near-raw in the middles. Dave, being a sweetheart and way too nice to me for his own good, still ate them and didn't make (too much) fun of me...his patience with my foibles is genuinely deeply appreciated. 

- October to me means all the pumpkin/squash/apple food possible, and I made this butternut squash mac and cheese with bacon, caramelized onions, and apples twice this fall. It is so decadent, but shockingly not that bad for you - the whole wheat pasta, coupled with replacing most of the cheese with butternut squash purée really cuts down on some of the calories. 

- This lemony thyme pasta salad was a staple at the cabin every summer, and I made it with grilled chicken sometime this fall - I kind of lost track of what month it was when our December still felt like September. It's light and tangy and fun and different - I love it. 

- Holiday baking! I went ham this year given we were having a huge Christmas party, I had a work potluck, and Dave wasn't going home/needed tradition brought around our neck of the woods, clearly. I did ginger snaps, peanut blossoms, white chocolate-dipped pretzels, and a TOTAL fail batch of Spritz cookies...for some reason, the cookies would just not detach from the press, and I got irrationally irritated about midway through and just threw the dough away. The ones I actually managed to make were super good, but I just think Spritzes are maybe not for me. 

- As I've mentioned a couple times here, we had a holiday party. It was awesome, and the best part, in my humble opinion, was the food. I wanted everything to be very easy to eat while socializing, so in addition to the usual suspects (cheese plate, charcuterie, chips and salsa, and of course the cookies!), I made these astoundingly good bourbon barbecue meatballs, along with super-easy but very fancy-looking cranberry brie bites and a Mexican spinach dip that was a huge hit (Dave, in particular, was a BIG fan...ooh, a tablecloth!). 

- To go with all the killer food at our party, I made a holiday sangria that I thought, based on the recipe, was going to be crazy-potent. So I labeled it accordingly, and everyone was very cautious - at first - as they drank it out of very festive glittery plastic champagne flutes (thanks, Target!) . Turns out the Kirkland sangria wine I bought was low-alcohol and nobody got drunk off the sangria at all...at least not until I started just randomly adding brandy and entire bottles of red wine to it midway through the evening. I am nothing if not a hostess who is relentlessly focused on her guests having a VERY good time. 

 

On the books coming up soon in Lizzie's Kitchen: alllllllllll the eggs, chicken breasts, salads and healthy veggie side dishes imaginable, and none of the fun desserts, pastas, or cheesy melty delicious things I'm craving. Booooo January, you're the worst! 

 

Schwegmanigans: Wine Country Edition!

YOU GUYS there are like fifty pictures in this post and I can't even begin to narrow it down further because this was SUCH a fantastically fun day. 

My family came out to visit me about six weeks after I moved this summer - ostensibly to see my new city, tour Stanford, etc. - but in reality, our end goal was simple: CHANDON. 

As I have told you all ad nauseum, my sister Emily is a ridiculously gifted designer whose work was selected by Domaine Chandon for their limited edition "American Summer" champagne bottles this summer. With wine country the same distance from my new home as cabin country is from the Twin Cities, I've made it my new favorite weekend destination - and Chandon has become the winery equivalent of Cheers for me. (This was my third trip, and I've subsequently made a couple more...oops!) 

We were so excited to bring Emily to see all her work in action - and the winery staff were almost equally excited when we told them she had done the design work. They comped us a bottle of their reserve label cuvée, one of my favorites, to enjoy outside! 

...and enjoy we did. In addition to the bottle that we received from Chandon, I also had a wine club shipment to pick up, and they waived the corkage fee to open it on site. I also receive free tastings or full glasses as a club member...so needless to say, we had QUITE a few bubbles in our systems by the time we rolled out a few hours later. 

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We quickly made our way to the Adirondacks out back, and while we started out perfectly respectable, I PROMISE...

...things rapidly devolved as we cracked into bottle #2. Jonathan will clearly make an excellent and HIGHLY professional sommelier someday.

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I absolutely adore these people beyond all measure and reason. We had way too much fun popping bottles, taking pictures, and telling, I shit you not, EVERYONE we came in contact with that Emily had done the design work. I think she was ready to absolutely murder Dad by the time we headed out. 

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Fortunately, Dad had provided for us with a massive haul at Bouchon Bakery down the street...he does this great thing where he kind of blacks out at any given bakery counter, and all of a sudden we have like three times as many pastries as any family of five could justifiably need. He also went HAM on the macaron selection, and they were an ideal re-up after all the bubbles. 

As temperatures soared into the 90s, we headed for our second stop of the day, Alpha Omega's gorgeous outdoor tasting patio. Could this setting be any more idyllic? 

The girls did a custom flight of white wines - perfect for the heat - while Papa Bear and Jonathan went full-out with the Beckstoffer To Kalon tasting - three wine archive-quality cabernets plus a current offering. It was, in a word, sublime. 

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A little bit wined-out, we turned to one of my favorite hidden gems in St. Helena, Goose & Gander. With a Michelin-recommended cocktail program in their charming basement bar, it was the perfect mid-afternoon stop to beat the heat and take a break from wine for a time. Bonus: Dad adores their hand-chipped, crystal-clear giant ice cubes... 

From there, it was back down the road to Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch for a happy hour glass of wine and some snacks while we waited out the worst of rush hour traffic back into the city. We loved their grass-fed meatballs and mini ham sandwiches!

As usual, an unbelievably lovely day in wine country with my Schwegfam faves :) 

OOPS

Guys, I know I said it was travel week(s), but I've got a confession to make - I haven't felt like writing about traveling. Or, really, like writing about anything at all! I'm pretty wiped out after a couple stretches of being on the road, a visit from my parents, and a little cold...and I'm also watching "Master of None" and "Game of Thrones" with the roommates, reading a couple great books at the same time, and...oh yeah, in year-end at work. WOMP. 

Additionally, one of the big trips I was planning on writing about is our February vacation to Miami and Puerto Rico...and it feels a bit insensitive and callous to share gorgeous vacation photos knowing that both of those areas have been/are being slammed by hurricanes. I've been following the news lately and it's devastating...please consider donating to the American Red Cross or finding another way to aid these areas in recovery

I'll be hopping right back on the bandwagon after a weekend full of fun, but until I do, a few quick things to share: 

This week was official Stanford move-in week - classes start next week - and it's brought a completely different buzz to the entire area. Welcome to campus, Class of 2021, and welcome back to all the students! I can't believe it's been ten years since my family loaded up my dad's SUV and road-tripped to South Bend to move me into the smallest freshman double on North Quad...time flies. 

It may be the first day of fall, but in California it's always summer, right? Over Labor Day, the Bay Area hit temperatures of over 100 degrees, and I dealt the only way I know how...large quantities of ice-cold champagne. Our building's pool opened the week before the long weekend - perfect timing - and I barely got out of the pool all weekend. Perfect excuse to use more of Chandon's American Summer merchandise - the "champagne wetsuits" to keep my bottles cold, and the American Summer towel to dry off between dips!

Speaking of alcohol...when Dick Schweg comes to town, it invariably means there will be whiskey cocktails in my future. Dave shares my dad's affinity for whiskey, and while he was on call last weekend and couldn't join us, my dad and I officially hit the Changing of the Guard...time for a new bottle of Crown in our bar cart!

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I've taken a fair amount of teasing from friends for the snap, above, from this Tuesday's Taco Night family dinner at our apartment. One friend said "he doesn't even know if he has that many matching dishes," while another gave me grief for "getting my whole kitchen's worth of dishes dirty." Taking all the grief in stride, I think that food is extra-delicious when served out of matching bowls, and I have zero shame over the fact that I took five extra minutes to make our taco bar look good. Given we don't even have a dining table and eat around our coffee table/in front of the TV most nights...I'll call it a small victory. 

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And as always, a little Fiona to close out. You can tell Dave is secretly her preferred of the two auxiliary roommates - I've never come home to her cuddling MY shoes. Then again, I don't come home and immediately tell her, "YOU'RE AMAZING! YOU'RE PERFECT! I LOVE YOU!" like Dave does, either...hmm...

Happy Friday campers! Hope your first fall weekend is all full of pumpkin spice and everything nice! 

Pinot noir and opera stars

This weekend was such a blast! One of Jonathan’s bffs from college lives in San Francisco, so Jonny spent a long weekend here. Seeing him was so great – I haven’t spent much time with him at all lately, as he’s living in Detroit and I’m (duh) here.

He and Tyler took the Caltrain down to Palo Alto on Friday in nearly 100-degree heat, with plans to go on a mini campus tour of Stanford courtesy of yours truly. Instead, we decided to scrap the tour in the face of the heat, and headed back to my place for ice-cold Chardonnay and a little chill time before dinner at my personal favorite restaurant in Redwood City, Vesta. While their wood-fired pizzas and wine selection are out-of-this-world good, we definitely made a mistake in selecting a restaurant with no AC with the temps as high as they were. By the end of the meal, we were all…dewy, to put it gracefully. Didn’t stop Dave and me from heading downtown with Jonny and Tyler to go out!

Or so we thought. We ended up heading back to Tyler’s gorgeous Nob Hill apartment to play drinking games…with a bunch of 23-year olds. I felt REALLY old, campers. Old like, one-foot-in-the-grave ancient next to these fresh-out-of-college children.

Jonathan, on the other hand, continued to live his best life by refusing to drink beer (as always) and instead enjoying a “healthy pour” of his two-for-one white wine. Always classy, Jonny D. Proud of you, boo.

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After enjoying the insane view of downtown for a while, Dave and I departed around 11pm...but not before we kicked serious state-school kids’ ass at both flip cup and XL beer pong. (I may be old, but I’ve still got it.)

Saturday dawned bright, sunny, and hot for our planned trip to Sonoma! I picked up two moderately hungover boys early, and we made the quick 1.5-hour shot straight north to the Alexander Valley.

Our first stop? Hanna, a favorite from our family’s trip last Christmas. Perched high above Alexander Valley, I think the Hanna tasting room boasts some of the best views in Napa. Another claim to fame? Their delightful tasting staff, Ted and Carol, who took advantage of a fairly slow day to spend over an hour with us, pouring off-menu tastes, chatting about microclimates and local favorites, and ultimately convincing me I needed to be in the wine club. I walked out with a half case, utterly charmed by their personal attention and pride in the Hanna product.

The boys, meanwhile, made sure to keep me humble by reminding me that I was mostly a glorified chauffeur and that, obviously, Saturdays are for the boys. (I kid, I kid…)

After enjoying quite a bit of wine on very empty stomachs, we needed a quick pit stop, so we hit the Healdsburg Grill for salads. And Captain Morgan poses on empty wine barrels. It’s Sonoma, after all. We also swung over to Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie, where Jonathan slaughtered an Oreo cone and I fell hard for the vegan passionfruit sorbet.

Thoroughly refreshed, we made stop #2 at Iron Horse! Another perennial Schwegfam fave, I think their summer tasting setup overlooking the vineyards is among the most picturesque in the entire area.

We scored prime spots right at the front of the overlook, under the shade of the giant umbrellas with champagne soaking in ice baths close by. Absolutely idyllic!

The boys agreed.

The primary reason we headed to Iron Horse was so that Jonathan could make a purchase he’s been low-key obsessing over since the holidays…the Iron Horse champagne saber. Long story short: he and Tyler borrowed my penthouse apartment at Eitel on the New Year’s Eve when I went to the Fiesta Bowl. Jonathan, being a smart and thoughtful houseguest, decided to use one of my Wusthof kitchen knives to saber a bottle of champagne in my living room. That Wusthof knife is now missing a quarter of an inch off the tip…yes, laugh with me at the plethora of “just the tip” and circumcision jokes we could all make (and have made) here. Jonathan’s been into sabering champagne ever since, and the Iron Horse saber is the perfect excuse for him to do it all the time.

Let it be known, I was against the saber purchase. Direct conversation was, I believe, as follows:

Lizzie: Think about how infrequently you’ll use it, Jonathan.

Tyler: Whateverrrrr. He’s gonna be sabering open like…bottles of ranch dressing. You know it.

Needless to say, I lost this particular battle, and we spent the rest of the afternoon yelling at Jonathan to put the saber back in the box while the car was in motion. He is SUCH an adult, you guys.

Stop 3: La Crema, where we totally scored with our sweet tasting host, Hannah! As I joined the club (yes, if you’re counting, I’m now in FOUR wine clubs, omg help I have a problem), the two Select Reserve tastings we purchased quickly spiraled into ten glasses on the counter, with wine flowing insanely liberally. We had their Nine Barrel ultra-reserve again. We tried a Gewurztraminer and their rosé. We sampled, at my count, seven different pinot noirs. And I, being a complete fiend (I HAVE A PROBLEM SERIOUSLY), left with half a case of La Crema…bringing my purchase total to a dozen bottles in under four hours. You guys. I need my wine country access revoked. Or restricted. HAAAALP.

We grabbed a bite in Santa Rosa, and on the way home Tyler had the inspired idea to stop at the Marin Headlands at sunset for one of the best views in the Bay Area. I was in heaven.

Jonathan, on the other hand, was COLD. Temps had dropped from over 100 degrees in the Russian River Valley to a brisk 55 on the Headlands, and yiddle brudder was having none of it. We stopped quickly, and hopped back in the car to drop the boys back in Nob Hill. It was so great to see Jonny…and the best part is, he’ll be back with my whole Schwegfam in just two weeks for a full Schwegman Party of 5 reunion!!

Sunday found me going full opera nerd, as my friend/fellow Minnesota native/soprano GODDESS Alex performed in the SF Merola Program’s Schwabacher Concert Series at Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall! As a professional fancy person, I would like to officially confirm that, while I may no longer be dominating the Twin Cities arts scene, I’m already deeply committed to exploring the Bay Area’s.

Bing, while a beautiful space, was not acoustically suited for the format of the Schwabacher concert, which bummed me out. In spite of the technical challenges, Alex, as well as Edina guy Tommy, and all their peers in the Merola program utterly killed it. Opera selections ranging from classics like Thais and Lucrezia Borgia to newer, more avant-garde works like Street Scene and The Ballad of Baby Doe highlighted and showcased each performer’s formidable power and dramatic range. I was spellbound.

We grabbed pitchers of sangria and toasted to the amazing performers in downtown Palo Alto after the show…already looking forward to continuing to check out the opera world’s up-and-coming stars at Merola’s two remaining summer performances!

All in all, a weekend for the record books. I’m loving starting to feel more at home here, and am so grateful to the friends and family who are making it possible for me to show off the west coast, best coast mentality firsthand!

#highwaytohal meets #sanfranlizco!

Last weekend, I hosted my first official California visitor, as ex-roommate Hal made a stop in San Francisco for the weekend! Although we lived together for nearly a year, I saw very little of him during that time due to our respective travel schedules, his grad school application process, and his side gig driving Uber…so having a whole weekend to spend together was an incredible treat!

As soon as he rolled in Friday, we headed to Vesta in Redwood City, which is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. We dined with our friend Erik, who is also a Bay Area resident, and then headed down the block to Blacksmith for more cocktails…

…including, naturally, frosé. A basic white girl never forgets (although this bar bill def didn’t rival last September’s shenanigans at the Godfrey roof…eek).

We took advantage of the gorgeous evening to head back to my place and enjoy the sunset on our deck – wine included, naturally. (A lot of wine included.)

The next morning, we had grand, ambitious plans of being up and on the road by around 8am to get to wine country by 10. Needless to say, Saturday morning actually didn’t find us crawling out of bed until closer to 9, so we arrived in Yountville around noon. First stop:

Bouchon, for foie gras, croques madames, and bellinis at the bar! Incredible food and the best chat with the bartender put us in the perfect mood for a strenuous afternoon of serious wine tasting.

Once we had finished up, we headed across the highway to Chandon (duh). While my June wine club shipment wasn’t ready yet (first world problems, amirite?), we did enjoy the free flights for members. While sampling, we chatted with Michael, our tasting host and a fellow recent transplant to the area, about his favorite wineries on the Napa side and a few restaurants he recommended.

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While Napa is great, I really prefer Sonoma for the generally more laid-back atmosphere, and wanted to show Hal the contrast between the two valleys. We crossed the Oakville Grade, laughing all the way at the absurd roads, and made a brief, abortive attempt to stop at the (wrong) Hanna tasting room before heading to my personal fave: Iron Horse!

I’ll never get over the views – and Hal was appropriately enchanted.

Everything the light touches will one day be yours, Harold…if you MOVE HERE (not like I’m biased or anything).

After a fantastic tasting experience, including their special-edition Rainbow Cuvée (#prideweekend, duh), we made the most serendipitous of stops at La Crema’s Saralee estate riiiight around 4:57. As they close at 5, we were initially told we wouldn’t be able to taste, which I had expected, but I made sure to emphasize that I really wanted to show Hal the space – a spectacular renovation of a 100-year-old hops barn. After effusively exploring the building, the tasting room manager, Andrea, said possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard: “We just can’t let you leave without tasting something.” Andrea, you are LOVELY, and you speak my language.

We tried their delicious single-vineyard Shell Ridge pinot, and then hit the jackpot when Andrea brought over the day’s last open bottle of their 2014 Nine-Barrel pinot noir – a reserve label that retails for over $100, and is produced on select years with only the best grapes in La Crema’s entire portfolio. Andrea let us take our (generous) pours out back, admire the view from the deck, and relax while the La Crema staff finished closing. All in all, an utterly lovely and unexpected experience that definitely cemented La Crema’s spot as one of my favorite vineyards in the area.

 We took it easy Saturday night after a lengthy day of tasting, as we wanted to be fresh for Sunday’s jam-packed calendar. First stop: the unparalleled spectacle of the San Francisco Pride Parade!

Favorite shirt of the day: "Why ban gay marriage when you can ban KidzBop?" HA!

The following photos don’t even scratch the surface of the event, which featured everything from “Dykes on Bikes” to every imaginable protest group…

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…plenty of Trump hate that was as clever as it was civil…

…every corporate sponsor in the Bay Area…

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…the San Francisco cast of “Hamilton” as the honorary grand marshals!...

…and of course, this guy, making the day an absolute joy. We stayed for three hours, and when we left the parade was not even close to over. We had to hightail it back to Palo Alto for the evening’s entertainment: DCI WEST!

I’ve mentioned DCI, and Hal’s obsession with it, in the past (here, for example). I’ve also come to love the spectacle and sheer uniqueness of competitive drum corps through Hal, and was excited to join him, Erik and his friend Sean for the evening. It also marked my first trip to Stanford Stadium!

And I can’t wait to get back in there to watch some college football (GO IRISH, duh!). The show itself was fantastic and varied, with some amazing shows even this early in the season. We had a ball critiquing the performances, discussing the art of drum corps, and hanging out on a gorgeous NorCal evening.

All in all, I think the weekend went a long way toward convincing Harold he needs to make the Bay Area his post-Duke MBA future home…am I right, Hal? Am I right? At the very least, it was a fantastic weekend of shenanigans with a great friend, and I am so happy that #sanfranlizco made it onto the #highwaytohal!