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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Attention Wine Lovers: Big Sur Announces the 2012 Food and Wine Festival

Pictured: The perfect combination, Talbott Kali Hart 2010 Pinot Noir & Big Sur (photo: M. Hall)
Is there anything better than enjoying a delicious, fragrant glass of wine while looking at one of the natural wonders of California, and really the entire world? This is the premise of the Big Sur Food and Wine Festival.  The Big Sur Food and Wine fest for 2012 has just been announced, promising both great wines from Monterey county plus a fantastic setting. The festival offers attendees amazing deals on some of the area's best food and wine from Nov 1-4. The Hyatt Highlands will be kicking off the festivities with what promises to be an incredible first night of epicurean delights from their Pacific Edge restaurant. If you've been to Big Sur, you know the terrain and roads can be rough and sometimes even washed out by driving rain which can bring the travel nightmare of mud slides.

Pictured: A perfect combination: Big Sur views & fresh Abalone at the Pacific Edge, Hyatt Highlands (photo: M. Hall)
That's why I'm so intrigued by the an offering on this year's festival menu, the "Gateway to Big Sur" an opening night event at the Carmel Hyatt Highlands Hotel. Centrally located between the small village of Carmel, and the open vistas of Big Sur, the Hyatt Hotel will offer a special night of tastings from 35 wineries and 18 chefs in their Pacific’s Edge restaurant including the Lounge and Fireside Room.  Tickets are priced at $160.00 each.  I think this is a great deal for wine lovers and foodies, especially when you consider the quality of the food that will be provided.  I recently dinned at the Pacific's Edge restaurant and can highly recommend the food, especially the signature Abalone appetizer (see above).  The other thing I like about this special night is that everything is offered in one location. That's makes it safe for visitors and locals, as there is no driving while drinking from winery to winery and food is offered at the same time you are tasting.  Guests will enjoy spectacular sunset views as they dine on the best of what Big Sur chefs, Hyatt chefs and other invited restaurants prepare for this one special night.  Check out the Big Sur wine festival website  for more information and tickets. The Big Sur Food and Wine Festival is now in its fourth year, and has raised over $65,000 for local non-profit causes.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Summer Cooking Made Healthy & Easy: Five Easy Steps to Healthy Cooking Book

Like many people, I love to eat but I'm always looking for ways to eat well but stay on a healthy diet.  Camilla V. Saulsbury's book "Five Steps to Healthy Cooking" fits the bill.  The author's public relations representatives sent me an evaluation of this cookbook and I've been riffling through the pages enjoying the pictures, tips, nutritional informational and even storage tips provided by the Author.  As a busy working woman, I don't always cook as much as I would like to at home. But when I put the effort into cooking, I want it to be good and easy.  With the exception of a few vegetarian recipes for making veggie or chickpea burgers, the majority of these recipes don't take long to throw together.   Everything is laid out in easy steps and helpful tips. Information on the food ingredients is provided via call out boxes and sidebars throughout the book.  When you're busy, it's easy to glance at the 500 recipes in this book and pick out a few that are appealing for the ingredients and the nutritional value, and then decide which ones you want to make.  There are no "hidden calories" here as everything is disclosed in the nutritional information boxes including calories, fat, cholesterol, carbs, fiber and protein.

There are a few salad recipes in this book that I highly recommend for summer.  Both the "Fennel, Orange and Olive Salad" and the "Arugula, Watermelon and Feta Salad" are simply amazing and unique.  You can bring these to any gathering and not run the risk of someone else turning up with the same dish.   If you're a vegetarian cook, there are many wonderful dishes in this book that will be appealing to you. To literally get a taste of Camilla Saulsbury's recipes, check out her blog " Enlightened Cooking."   If you love seafood, and  you have some serious cooking time, check out her amazing Fire Roasted Seafood Stew with Fennel and Fresh Herbs recipe.   

Here's a tempting excerpt from the book, the Fennel, Orange and Olive Salad recipe.

Makes 6 side-dish servings


  • 2 large oranges
  • 1 large bulb fennel, halved lengthwise, cored and very thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/3 cup packed fresh mint leaves, torn
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pitted brine-cured black olives (such as kalamata), quartered


  1. Using a sharp knife, cut peel and pith from oranges. Working over a large bowl, cut between membranes to release segments. Squeeze the membranes to release any remaining juice into the bowl.
  2. To the oranges, add fennel, red onion, mint, salt, pepper and oil, gently tossing to combine. Sprinkle with olives.
To prepare the fennel bulb, trim off the tough stalks from the top and the bottom root end before cutting the bulb in half. Chop any feathery fronds from the stalks and sprinkle on top of the salad with the olives, if desired. If the outer layers of the bulb are tough and stringy, you can discard them or peel off the outer layer with a sharp vegetable peeler.

Nutrients per serving

Calories 100
Total fat 6 grams
Saturated fat 1 grams
Cholesterol 0 milligrams
Sodium 151 milligrams
Carbohydrate 12 grams
Fiber 3 grams
Protein 1 gram
Calcium 60 milligrams
Iron 0.8 milligrams

Excerpted from 5 Easy Steps to Healthy Cooking (page 116) by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2012 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Enter to win a Louis Vuitton Tote Bag from HipSwap

Our friends at HipSwap in Santa Monica, Cali-forni-a are giving away a gorgeous Louis Vuitton Tote. Click here to enter!  Yes, you heard that right, Louis Vuitton.  Here are the details. They are giving away a 100% guaranteed authentic Louis Vuitton monogram canvas “tote” style shoulder bag. The traditional monogram canvas has been Louis Vuitton’s symbol since its introduction in 1896 and widely recognized as an elite status symbol around the world. This handbag has style and functionality which makes it a perfect everyday bag, whether you are taking it to the office or doing your errands. This is a classic bag that is sure to be chic and stylish for years to come.  Follow @HipSwap on Twitter to learn more about all their upcoming handbag giveaways.

Supplied by celebrity consignment shop, Encore Closet.