wine country vacation

The day after class was completed, I took Jason to Oregon’s wine country for a birthday vacation. We stayed at a lovely B&B on 130 acres of gorgeousness.

We ate at great restaurants and sipped wine at great vineyards.

We came home with a car full of wine and a couple new club memberships.

We enjoy our wine.

We toured one winery I have been wanting to visit for a while, and we both thought it was some of the best wine we tasted on this whole trip.

I also finally met a long time blog friend – I will tell you all about all of it soon!

Jason has been wanting to get away to our wine country for months now, and things kept getting in the way. When planning his birthday, I thought this would be a great vacation away. He has been saying all week that it was exactly what he wanted.

Relaxation, sunshine and wine tasting – exactly what we both needed!


Summer’s End Vegan Dinner

My birthday cocktail was one Luck or Fortune martini – mandarin and vanilla vodkas, fresh orange, coconut. Delicious.

The restaurant with spectacular views is Departure, located on the top floor of The Nines Hotel, in the historic Meier & Frank building downtown. Sleek and modern with panoramic views of the city, this place feels very cool.

The event, which happened to fall on my birthday, was the Summer’s End Vegan Dinner. Portland’s fabulous veg friendly rock stars – Chefs Wes Hannah of Blossoming Lotus and Lisa Clark of Petunia’s Pastries – joined the supremely talented Gregory Gourdet to celebrate not only the close of summer but the incoming flavors of fall.

Flavors, indeed. and dining in a room of vegans was familiar and awesome.

As people were arriving and being seated, the amuse bouche was shared:

poppadoms with peanut dipping sauce.

delicious. crispy poppadoms with a lively spicy peanut sauce. great start.

first course:

vegan charcuterie board – vegetable terrines, nut cheeses, savory pates, live seed crackers and early autumn pickled vegetables

a bright and beautiful carrot terrine – great flavors. a broccoli block of awesomeness is without photo, my favorite part by far. a tofu and tempeh pate was incredibly rich in the most wonderful way, as was the nut cheese. the perfect crunch of the cracker served as a efficient and tasty vehicle for all elements of this course.

second course:

roasted Kabocha squash soup – sunflower seed cream, sunchokes, Asian pear, crispy ginger, spice oil

a hush fell over the restaurant, I swear it did. all you could hear was the jingle of spoons in bowls as this sweet spicy loveliness was enjoyed all around. just beautiful.

third course, in three parts:

tempura figs, roasted grapes, candied walnuts, spicy greens and ginger vinaigrette

well. this left me speechless, and thinking about it again now has rendered me without words again. sweet figs in tempura, as it turns out, make a perfect warm topper to a spicy cool salad. perhaps my favorite portion of the night. I wanted a bowl three times the size.

sweet corn custard, grilled Romano beans, local sea greens, pickled shallot-sesame dressing

for reasons unknown, I have never been a corn custard fan – and I even liked this! beautiful flavors and beautifully executed.

maple-soy glaze grilled tempeh, smoked heirloom tomato – peach marmalade, tomato crisps

tempura figs have some competition for my favorite with this – the smoky jam and the crisp tomato were layered with the tempeh to make a sandwich of flavor delight.

fourth course:

roasted early autumn mushrooms, wild ginger, spruce, sake – white soy glaze, crispy hempseed cake, pumpkin seed condiment

there were a few different mushrooms represented here, and one in particular that I loved. I will be hunting for that. the hempseed cake? bring me another bowl of that gorgeous soup and let a couple of these crispy squares float around in there… the creamy flavor with crispy coating was fantastic.

dessert course, in three parts:

coconut crusted pistachio tart

a crunchy cookie-like base, oaty in flavor, with a decadent rich topping. I was delightfully full at this point, and still enjoyed this confection perfection.

plum soda

tart and bubbly, this added softness and a mild break between two rich and bold desserts.

candied plums, crystallized ginger, coconut cardamom ice cream

you know I’ve been loving my cardamom lately. this was velvety perfection.

While Chef Gourdet is not vegan, he is dairy free. As a result, the Departure menu is 98% dairy free. I am also hoping the rumors of vegan additions to the menu are true! This stunning restaurant with the fantastically talented chef could easily become a favorite.

My favorites this night included the crispy hempseed cake, the maple soy tempeh, the tempura figs and the amazing salads served with it… oh, I loved everything! Those three are just the first I will try to replicate in my own kitchen.

Our next outing, though, will be Blossoming Lotus. Jason loved this event and wants to go there soon!

The desserts – and the extra take home surprise dessert – Petunias Pastries far surpassed my expectations, as always.

Yes, it’s the end of summer and the end of my birthday month. This was a celebration of that, and a welcoming of autumn’s flavors, textures, celebrations to come! This was a grand event, and that it fell on my birthday, well that was just sweet.

Departure on Urbanspoon


weekend at the Oregon coast

Bad news out first – I didn’t get to audition. Random lottery picks are probably the easiest for the process, but the chances you actually get onstage are incredibly low. Well. As a wise friend said, it’s likely not my last time trying.

It was great fun to watch others audition again, so much energy in that room! To make up for the bummer of not being chosen, this weekend was also a short birthday trip – with an ocean front condo steps to the sand, and a spectacularly (and unseasonably?) warm Oregon coast weekend. The top photo is the view from our room, on a beautiful Friday afternoon.

Patriotic kites were flying,

as well as two massive flags!

God Bless America

and beautiful sunsets.

I found a place with fresh juice, a restaurant to get a fresh salad, a coffee window serving Stumptown, and several things to bring home from the Under Armor and Loft outlets. Happy Birthday to me.

I love the light house on our patio.

Each morning, our normal alarm clock was replaced by squawking seagulls.

I brought crackers just for the occasion.

Birds wondered what a spabettie is.

One bird took a particular liking to me.

um, can you guess which one?

how about now?

Cutie came right up to me.

Happy Birthday to me.


Raw Caramel Apple Cobbler

Raw Caramel Apple Cobbler – a delicious and fun dessert that is easy and quick to make! Figs and dates bring natural sweetness and cashews add crunch to this fresh twist on cobbler.


Raw Caramel Apple Cobbler @spabettie


Do those letters mean anything to you?

My favorite game show is Wheel of Fortune (those are the free letters filled in for the final puzzle). Sitting at home, I’m pretty good at it too. When I was younger, my Hawaii Grandpa insist I’d “seen this episode on the mainland already” when I was visiting Hawaii and would solve the puzzles before him.

Raw Caramel Apple Cobbler @spabettie

Two years ago, the Wheel Mobile was here in Oregon, and I went to audition. On my birthday. Now there may be some skill involved, but the majority of what gets you on the show is personality. I kept this in mind as I filled out my information card at the audition, and under “interests” I wrote…

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The evenings are getting darker, the temperatures crisp and cool. Students are back to school; sweaters, scarves and boots are coming out of closets. The crisp air smells of fall, and the cooler temperatures have me gravitating towards comfort foods with an autumn theme.

I love this time of year!

September also means my birthday is coming, and around here we like to celebrate birthdays all month.

Jason started a tradition years ago, surprising me with a birthday cake of some sort, always at midnight when the calendar changes from August to September.

This year he sought out treats of the vegan and gluten free variety – and we shared a few last night. I’m sharing with you, in case you have not seen enough vegan cupcakes around here lately

Red Velvet, Lemon, Bittersweet Chocolate, Carrot and Vanilla…

What is your favorite cupcake flavor?

peanut butter chocolate cupcakes

Last week was Jason’s birthday. I wanted to make cupcakes so they could easily be shared, and who doesn’t love the classic pairing of chocolate and peanut butter? I adapted my brownie recipe into one that is more cake like, but with the chewy dense brownie characteristic. I like that in a cupcake.

You know what else I like in a cupcake? A surprise middle.

peanut butter chocolate cupcakes

makes 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup agave
1 can pumpkin (15oz)
2 eggs (Ener-G egg replacer)
3 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup ap flour (gluten free)
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
peanut butter for cupcake filling

Combine agave and pumpkin – add egg and vanilla. Combine flour, cocoa, and baking powder, add to sugar mixture. Fill muffin cups half way, place 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter in center, fill muffins with remaining batter.

Bake @ 350 for 30-35 minutes* or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

*These cooked in 30 minutes in my oven; a reader made them and while they turned out well, it took 50 minutes in his oven.

Cool completely before frosting.

peanut butter frosting

peanut butter
powdered sugar

I started out with 1 cup peanut butter and 2 cups powdered sugar. Added water to thin slightly, whip by hand until completely smooth. Add powdered sugar to desired consistency – I wanted the frosting to hold a swirl.

While these cupcakes were for Jason’s birthday, something exciting is happening today that just may need it’s own dessert.

I am honored and excited to be a contributor with gojee – a new recipe site launching today! Gojee, named for the Himalayan berry, is a cooking site showcasing recipes from home cooks. Gojee can recommend recipes based on food you already have, and you can link to a grocery market loyalty card.

I am thrilled to be among amazing company – gojee has hand picked many great recipes from exceptionally talented people! I already have many saved as favorites, and have met some new friends as well. I hope you will visit – we are all very excited today!

Thomas Keller’s Bouchon

Thomas Keller once said he opened Bouchon so he would have
“a place to eat after cooking at French Laundry all day”.

Our last night in Vegas, we had reservations at Bouchon.

We arrived early and had a cocktail in the beautiful bar.

Seated at our table, we began with a glass of wine while reading the menu.

Wine and pistachios.

and warm fresh bread.

We both chose specials that were not on the menu. I asked if Joseph, our fabulous server, if he would write them down for me. He took my menu. Brought it back with the specials written in, and signed. 😀

My choice was Maine Scallops, Abalone Mushrooms, Salsify with Lobster Royale and Black Pepper Gastrique.

This was perfect. Amazing. A bite of the scallop with the Lobster Royale… oh my.

Jason chose the Pan Seared Top Sirloin with Glazed Broccolini, Yukon Gold Rosti, Crispy Onion Rings and Sauce Béarnaise.

This was delicious – and I love that Jason loved the broccolini! 😀

We must have chosen a good wine, as well. The sommelier came to our table to talk about our Coudoulet de Beaucastel Cote du Rhone 2007. It was fabulous, and paired well with our choices, Jason’s especially.

We saved room for this:

Can you see the way I took the photo… guess what we ordered…

An espresso for each. Sorry, Billy, no pre-dessert cocktail this time! 😉

Dessert was Mousse au Chocolat Noir.

Words cannot describe. It was rich. It was chocolatey. It was fabulously delicious. Perfect.

Our entire experience was. Thank You, Joseph, for being so helpful and accommodating.
You helped to make our experience a perfect one.

I cannot wait to return!

Bouchon (Venetian) on Urbanspoon