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Tangled Branches: Cultivated

happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

California Trip Report, Part 2:
Wednesday: The hotel delivered a largish breakfast to our room - pastries, orange juice, yogurt, and fruit. I ate everything but the fruit, DH only ate the pastries. We went out to look at the geyser in Calistoga, but I didn't want to pay to get in. It happened to be going off at just that moment, so we could see it a bit over the fence. Then drove out the Silverado Trail, and back down to the valley for a tasting at Cardinale. We tasted the Cardinale 1998 and 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Lokoya selections from each of the 3 mountain vineyards. As I recall, we liked the 1998 Cardinale (the one that was supposed to be less good than the other) and one or two of the Lokoya mountain vineyards. But both these labels are way out of our price range, so it didn't really matter. However, we did get a great recommendation for lunch from them - Nest on Rt. 29 at Oakville Grade. DH had a smoked chicken and roasted veggie sandwich, and I had corned beef and pastrami. We shared a bag of Rt. 11 potato chips, which we were astonished and happy to find there. Then spent some time in St. Helena walking up and down Main St. and looking in shop windows. I bought an olive oil dipping dish at Olivier - very cool, but priced over the retail list price. This was something we were to learn after we returned home - it's a bad idea to buy anything in Napa Valley that you can get elsewhere. We made a great food find in St. Helena though - the Model Bakery. We stopped in for tea, and discovered that they had a really good brand of tea - Mighty Leaf. We had a reservation that evening for dinner at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, and were very happy with the meal there. We shared an appetizer - the Backstreet flatbread with local cheeses etc. This was like a very, very thin pizza with thinly scattered toppings. Very good and just the right size appetizer for the large main courses to come. DH had chipotle-rubbed quail on potato-filled enchiladas, and I had a half chicken - boned and served in a spicy sauce. The wine was Miner Family Zinfandel, which we liked. And now I have waited too long to write this, and can't remember what the dessert was. Maybe DH remembers.....

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Nature notes: I'm going to try walking for exercise. Again. But to make it interesting, I'm going to really pay attention to what I see. So, today, around 1:45, I walked on the path to the south - the one that leads to the townhouses and the elementary school. Down by the first creek, the brush and trees were alive with birds. I had a hard time picking out individuals without binoculars, but a gold-crowned kinglet let me get very close, and I saw a male cardinal (hard to miss). As a got farther up the hill, I noticed the birds were almost all robins (a large flock). Saw a fox near the path close to the school - it was gone by the time I got near there. Picked some berries, which I think are deerberries, and some more that were some kind of sumac (I tossed these into the weeds by my neighbor's fence, hoping to get something better to grow there). Noticed some really thick coralberries by the school. On the way back, again by the creek, a mockingbird let me get very close.

Just now, saw 2 woodpeckers (downy and red-bellied) in the backyard, and some kind of warbler (best guess is Blackburnian ruby-crowned kinglet, not a warbler at all) in the oak trees. Saw the chipmunk several times today, but it doesn't appear to be nesting in the grill.

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Pictures: a few new pictures of fall foliage.

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Weather: rain all day yesterday, and Sunday night. Today is starting off sunny and cool.

Wildlife: we have a chipmunk - this is the first one I have ever seen around here. I have a hunch it may be trying to make its winter home in the grill - this will need investigation later today.

Foliage: the autumn leaves are now looking pretty in back of the house. Pictures later....

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Friday, October 24, 2003

Weather: looks like we had a pretty hard freeze last night - the sun hasn't hit the tender plants yet, but I can see that the banana plant is finished. The NWS didn't issue a freeze warning until 9:30 last night - way too late by my clock to do anything much about it.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2003

California Trip Report, Part 1: Haven't done any gardening lately so I thought I would memorialize our recent trip to California. We went to a lot of places we had never been, but might like to return to.

The flight out: jetBlue provided pretty good service, but the seats are just as tiny as any other cattle car flight. Their DirectTV service was kind of neat and definitely different. We loved the Terra Blues potato chips though.

Santa Clara area: First order of business was finding lunch, since one of jetBlue's selling points is that they won't serve you bad food - they won't serve you any real food, just packaged snacks. Using, I compiled a list of places we might want to try. Unforturnately, I didn't write down all the addresses, so we had to go online to find the location of Chaat Paradise. This is in the back corner of a strip shopping center. We just picked out a selection of snacks/appetizers. I thought they were good, but not great. DH said they were pretty authentic.
We then went shopping at Nordstrom Rack (DH wanted a pair of shoes) and later drove up in the mountains to the west a short distance. Dinner was at Khanh's, a Vietnamese restaurant that we chose from the phone book. The setting was nice and the service was friendly, and we were very enthusiastic when we got our appetizer of summer rolls and spring rolls, but the entrees seemed very light on the seasoning. Everything was impeccably fresh though.
Monday: DH went to his class and I went out for lunch and shopping at the strip mall behind the hotel. I discovered a new kind of TJ Maxx store, called TJ Maxx 'n' More. This is very different from the TJ Maxx stores we have here - it was clean and organized and well-lit and contained things you might actually want to buy - with a large selection of housewares. Lunch was at World Wrapps, which I thought was pretty good for fast food. Dinner was at Penang Village, another chowhound recommendation. We don't know all that much about Malaysian food, so maybe we ordered wrong. The Roti Canai (sp?) appetizer was great, the curry sauce with it was fantastic. But the noodle dish and the fish curry were just OK. Portion size on the fish curry was huge - we could not imagine finishing it.
Tuesday: DH went to his class and I went to IHOP. It happened to be attached to the hotel and I didn't feel like walking back to the strip mall.

Then we drove up to Napa Valley. Checked into the Mount View Hotel in Calistoga, but I didn't feel like getting in the car to go back down the valley for dinner. Wappo Bar was recommended to us, but was closed on Tuesdays. So we read through the menu notebook at the hotel and settled on the All Seasons Cafe. The soup - pureed corn with white truffle oil - was great. The bread was mediocre. Main courses seemed competent, but just OK. I had Steak Frites, which seems to appear on every menu there now. DH had a lamb dish that sat around a while after cooking (not served hot). The wine recommended by the waiter turned out to be very good - Quivira Zinfandel. Dessert was a chocolate cake sort of thing. OK, but not great.

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Thursday, October 09, 2003

Weather: warm and cloudy, but the sun was out for a while this afternoon.

Chores: fertilized the planters on the front steps with Miracle-Gro; cut down the fading Shasta Daisy stalks and cleaned up some of the dying daylily foliage in front of the house.

Noticed: not too much frost damage from the cold weather while I was gone. And the trees are still mostly green.

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