Napa Trip this Christmas

I haven’t visited Napa for years despite being in the Bay Area.  Napa not only has experienced serious flooding but also roaring fire in recent years – it has not been easy. But Napa is still Napa; it attracts all sorts of tourists to visit. Just this year, it has been named by USA Today amongst the most expensive tourist destinations in the U.S.

A search for the various vineyards tasting fee showed that many require a tasting fee of at least $30 (without tours, not counted towards purchase) while it is not uncommon to see a $70 tasting fee with a tour.  Certainly, the place is even more commercialized than what I remember.

Therefore I decided to look for ways to enjoy Napa on a 2-day trip that did not set us back too much.

Here are our itineraries:

Day 1:

  • Drive from the Bay Area to Napa for an early lunch at Heritage Eats which offers really fresh locally-sourced ethnic (Asian, Middle Eastern, Mexican) wrap or bowl.  So delicious and convenient.
  • Head to Calistoga’s famous Castello di Amorosa (Tuscany-style castle) for the sceneries and wine tasting, paired with chocolates. Their La Fantasia (Rose style) is their most popular wine and is very pleasant. A private tour is recommended because the history of the place is very interesting and 2/3 of the estate is underground. Tour is around 2 hours.  In fact, Calistoga and its hot springs and mud bath, as well as the Sterling Vineyards, are worthwhile places to visit if one has more time.
  • On the way back to Napa, stop by Yao Family Wines to learn about this celebrity’s wines, which have received critical acclaims ever since their first release in 2011. The lady there was friendly and could allow you to sip their wines (e.g. Cab) for a little bit for free!
  • Then, head to The Hess Collection Winery especially for their modern art museum which is open to the public.  Tips: do go during the daytime as you will be driving through narrow mountainous roads. Their garden, visitor center, and art museum are very nice. Worth a visit.
  • Dine at Kitchen Door at the Oxbow Public Market – a unique experience dining in the middle of a public market – good food and reasonable prices!
  • Buy some groceries at the nearby Safeway for next morning’s breakfast.
  • Stay at the beautiful one bedroom suite at Vino Bello Resort via my timeshare. This resort is part of the Meritage Group and rests at the southern end of Napa in a very peaceful area, about 10 minutes from Napa downtown. The good thing is that The Meritage has built a new resort called Vista Collina opposite to Vino Bello. The new resort contains The Village which has 9 wine tasting rooms, and you can easily get 2 for 1 tasting coupons.

Day 2:

  • After cooking own breakfast, take a morning stroll to the Fivetown Grocery at The Village and zip tea or coffee and pick up any favourite eateries.
  • Then head to the Howell Mountain at the Carneros Region to taste red wines and champagne. The 2 stops can be Cade Winery, which has one of the best Napa wines and great views and right opposite to Cade, the magnificent Domaine Carneros, which has recently opened its restaurant. Brunching at the restaurant is a great way to taste its wines and delicious food and enjoy the fantastic views of the rolling vineyards.

So here are the 1.5 days of itinerary without breaking the bank.  On the way back to San Francisco, we took Highway 101 and stopped by Sausalito for a cup of hot tea and tea cake and take in the beautiful San Francisco skyline.  Then head to San Francisco’s Cafe Bastille at the Belden Place for a lovely French dinner. A pleasant way to complete a short but wonderful get-away.

Castello di Amorosa at Calistoga
The dining hall at Castello di Amorosa
Rolling vineyards at Cade Winery
Beautiful Domaine Carneros
Yao Family Wines tasting room
Modern art at The Hess Collection
Barrels at Hess Collection
Sausalito pier
Golden Gate Bridge

All About Expressing Yourself

CocktailsI am coming back to this space as something was inspiring me tonight.  In the next few days, Google is having its Google Cloud Conference in San Francisco.  Tonight, Google held a Diversity and Inclusion event called Women in Tech Social at the Palace Hotel.  I love the fact that Google has embraced women in its senior management: Diane Greene, founder of VM Ware, is Google Cloud’s CEO while Fei Fei Li, another woman, is the Chief Scientist for Machine Learning/AI.  In the conference, Google has 10 events in diversity and inclusion.  At the bar tonight, attendees were asked to express themselves by creating their own cocktails.

According to research, in the U.S., women are paid around 80% of the wages of men even though 50% of the undergraduates and graduates are women.  For women in tech, companies offer between 4% to 45% less pay to women for the same job.  Women did ask for a lower pay 66% of the time.  In industries such as VCs and hedge funds, less than 5% are women at the Partners or Chief Investment Officers level.  Still, in the U.S., women are controlling 51% of the total wealth.  Globally, women’s economic clout and wealth are rising definitively.

So, a toast to the rising strength of women with a self-made, self-expressed cocktail – non-alcoholic drink filled with wonderful herbs and gorgeous edible flowers.

A Little European Flaire and Hygge

European flaire and the Denmark’s popular lifestyle – hygge (“cozy” or “enjoyment”) can be found in an unexpected part of Hong Kong called Wan Chai, which is famous for its night clubs, restaurants, and markets.

This is Lee Tung Avenue, which used to be the famous street of book/news publishing and wedding cards printing in Hong Kong. It has been redeveloped into a shopping arcade with plenty of European pleasure, shopping, eating, and sweet indulgence in the midst of busy Wan Chai.

  
  


Courtesy of Mipim Asia – the project won the 2016 Gold Award for Retail Development

Happy New Year and Favourite Recipes (Simple)

Wishing you all a blessed, happy, and healthy New Year.

How about some healthy and simple recipes to kick off the New Year?

Here are some gluten-free and gut-healing recipes from one of my favourite functional doctors, Dr. Axe – his best ones from 2016!

No-bake coconut cookies with cacao nibs – yum!!  From: Dr. Axe

Total Time: 20 minutesServes: 18 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

2–1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats

1 cup unsweetened, flaked coconut

2-3 tablespoons cacao nibs

1 tablespoon flax seed (whole or ground), optional*

2/3 cup honey

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 cup almond butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 tablespoons cacao powder or dark cocoa powder

coconut sugar to sprinkle on top

Himalayan pink salt to sprinkle on top

DIRECTIONS:

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the oats and coconut flakes well and set aside.

In a medium pot over medium heat, combine the honey, coconut oil and almond butter, cocoa or cacao power and stir continuously until the mixture is melted and mixed evenly.

Remove from heat and add in the oats, cacao nibs and coconut flakes stirring continuously. Add the vanilla extract and continue stirring until mixture becomes thick.

Drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture onto the cookie sheets. Lightly sprinkle coconut sugar and sea salt on top of each cookie. Place the cookie sheets in the freezer for at least 20 minutes, or until you’re ready to serve.

Take the cookies out of the freezer and allow them to thaw for 5 minutes before serving. Store any leftover cookies in a sealed container in the freezer.

Tram ride in Hong Kong at night

One of my favourite forms of transportation in Hong Kong is tram ride. It is a great way to observe the life in Hong Kong, especially from the train’s I pper deck, as the train moves slowly and steadily around the urban areas in the Hong Kong Island.  Here was a short trip from the Wan Chai area to the Central business district in Hong Kong, arriving at the Landmark, with its colourful Christmas decorations.  

     

  

3 Museums Worth Visiting in San Francisco (amongst many others)

Recently I have received invitations to exhibitions in museums, and one of which, despite my having lived over 20 years in San Francisco, I have never known its existence!

Here is a little tour:

Tian Tian is a comic character created by international artist Danny Yung originally from Hong Kong. In Chinese, the phrase “Tian Tian Xiang Shang”means working hard daily to achieve your goals. His Blank Boy Canvas collection is a cross cultural collaboration to create an individual approach of art on a blank canvas and was exhibited in the nostalgic Chinese Historical Society of America Museum in the San Francisco Chinatown (this was my new discovery) and many other metropolitan cities.Tian Tian

  
Another favourite San Francisco museum of mine is the Asian Art Museum located near the City Hall. Recently it has been exhibiting the beautiful lacquerware of historical Korea, a country that uses beautiful sea shells for many of their artworks. 

  The recently expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is another flagship museum here showcasing many American artists’ works; with their highly interactive self-guided tour, you can hear and see the artwork coming alive.