alexis’ 24-hour valentine itinerary

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It has been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and write, so I thought a 24-hour Valentine’s Weekend Itinerary was a perfect re-entry. In my opinion there is no greater Valentine destination than Napa Valley — an instagramer’s dream come true — with endless photo opportunities and memories at every single turn.

Napa Valley is at its very best when stumbled upon by chance or by word of mouth, so we wanted to charm you with a usual mix of high and low, while honoring the very sweet occasion.

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Tesla Tours
707.724.0247

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Tucked away in a forested canyon, you will be enchanted by this rustic-chic splurge-worthy hideaway. Calistoga Ranch has everything to cast your love spell…cabins with Italian linens/private outdoor rain showers/star-gazing aplenty/a pool butler to ply your lover with drink/massages lake-side. The list of amenities to get lucky is a mile long!

Calistoga Ranch
580 Lommel Road
Calistoga, CA 94515
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Balloon rides are quintessentially Napa. You simply cannot imagine the beauty of the valley in the early mornings. Up in the air, it’s romantic, old world, but not for the meek at heart!!!

Napa Valley Balloons
301 Post Street
Napa, CA 94559
800.253.2224

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Smooth, intense, and assertive, we’re talking about the Don Juan/Heathcliff of gourmet bites, our wild hackleback caviar. These fancy fish eggs are sweet from beginning to end.

Chocolate is on offer too, if your heart and appetite so desire!

Swanson Sip Shoppe
1271 Manley Lane
Rutherford, CA 94573
707.754.4018

unnamed-3Sometimes, an old-fashioned date (plus popcorn and love seats) is the surest way to a girl’s heart. Catch a flick at the oldest single-screen theater in the country.

Cameo Cinema
1340 Main Street
St Helena, CA 94574
707.963.9779

unnamed-2The Wine Train harkens back to the dreamy era of rail travel. It wows from the moment you step onto the footbridge decorated with lovers’ locks. Just like Paris! Onboard, it’s a restaurant on wheels serving California cuisine greats…think avocados/roasted chicken/pureed soups to be enjoyed while watching wineries on Route 29 whizz by.

Napa Wine Train
1275 McKinstry Street
Napa, CA 94559
707.253.2111

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I met Kara on the first week of the opening of her first shop in the Marina– and have been a huge fan sending out dozens of cupcakes to friends in the delivery room, school parties, work lunches, and every reason in between. Not to miss.

Kara’s Cupcakes
610 1st Street
Napa, CA 94559
707.258.2253

image-12This little country road is one of the most gorgeous drives in all Northern California. On your way out of Yountville, follow Yount Street, north, until you run into Yount Mill Road. During spring, if you look to the west, you’d swear you are in Ireland; and if you look to the east, your eyes are blinded by a carpet of Technicolor mustard canvassing the valley floor. In the evening, park along the creek, and listen to Yountville’s magnificent chorus of male tree frogs. Beware: they are loud, and will get silent at the first sight of head lights!

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The tasting menu at La Toque is dish after exquisite dish of truffle-infused lusciousness, with 7 courses of total satiation. In its 32nd year, it attracts libertines far and wide. The star of this season’s menu is a Skuna Bay salmon slow cooked in duck fat with black truffle. Run don’t walk!

La Toque
314 McKinstry Street
Napa, CA 94559
707.257.5157

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for the person who has everything…

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cruise with chris phelps… coming this spring!

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the hostess’ ultimate party resource

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A prop closet dedicated to party-giving is all sorts of magic. When surveying shelves of lovingly organized accoutrement, one’s imagination is free to jump from weekend brunch/ afternoon tea/ dinner party/ mid-summer night’s feast– in a split second. For the Madame of ceremonies, the prop closet can spellbind/haunt/be a source of pride, envy + admiration…more than a shoe closet filled to the gills with Louboutins. On a practical + equally important note, having party gear arranged in orderly fashion means you’re set to have guests over at  a moment’s notice. Think about the laughter/ bonds/ indelible memories/naughty behavior unfolding at su casa.

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the art of packing a picnic

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The picnic is what makes summertime living easy–even for the maximalist hostess. Here are tips + tricks for throwing an epic moveable feast– with minimal fuss.

Hint 1: One slice of bread is better than two. An open-faced sandwich fancifies things. Call it a tartine/ smørrebrød/ crostini to the delight of your foodie guests. They make sumptuous spreads, topped with brilliantly colorful fixings. AND they’re half the carbs.

 

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Tricks to avoid soggy bread: Use for roasted vegetables over lettuce + swap out mayo for cheese/ pate/ this umami-boosting secret weapon

 

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Hint 2: All hail the mighty kale leaf. It’s the superfood we all worship. It also beats the heat with gusto–like no other salad green can.

Add a grain like quinoa + some crunch + tangy apple-cider dressing + a generous sprinkling of nuts/seeds/bacon bits and you have a wilt-proof crowd-pleaser.

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Hint 3: Stone fruit, during summer, is compulsory. For three glorious months, nature offers up nectar of the gods: plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines. In short, fruity flavor bombs. Serve an all-time favorite…cherries on ice. For high-achievers, whip up a peach cobbler, and make it a la mode.

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Hint 4: The same goes for tomatoes. The window is short, and no amount would be too much. They are a M-U-S-T.  This tomato burrata salad, from chef Sean O’Toole, now at Hotel Yountville’s Hoppe Creek, is binge-worthy…in ridiculous quantities.

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Hint 5: If you want everyone feeling F-I-N-E, refreshment is key. Rosé is a picnicker’s elixir of choice. Ours tastes of strawberries and wild herbs. It is the loveliest + most memorable sip of summer. It will dazzle; and it always charms.

 

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Hint 6: Picnic spontaneously but remember kids, never leave home without these.

One final thought. Everything tastes better alfresco. While any excuse at all for a picnic is reason enough, here are some fine ones I highly recommend: 4th of July/ birthdays/ baptisms/ beaches/ gingham/ kites/ swings/ hoolahooping/ a gazebo/ a teepee/ a treehouse/ fresh-cut grass/ an open park bench/ warm starry nights/ blooming wisteria/ your vintage sundress/ fireworks/ fireflies/ a case of Modern House Wine/ no corkage fees/ day-drinking/ the best deviled eggs. ever. My can’t-live-without recipe–here.

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celebrating 10 years with chris phelps

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the world of figue

For me, it was love at first sight when I saw the naughtily embellished FIGUE army jackets…. So much so, that upon my last visit to NYC, I called upon the FIGUE showroom and begged to see more; more jackets, more everything. And discovered an entire world that appeared as though it were from the Talitha Getty archives. Gorgeous and electric caftans and tunics; outrageous re-purposed army jackets; poetic ponchos; shearling vests and bohemian satchels…. My eyes could not take in all that lay before me.

FIGUE was conceived and is designed by Stephanie von Watzdorf– who was the former designer for Tory Burch– Stephanie brings to every single piece of clothing a magic and flair that is one-of-a-kind and heirloom worthy. It is a certain type of girl who LOVES this particular look/ style/ aesthetic– but IF you are this girl– be sure to check out FIGUE.COM.

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20% off our favorite secret weapon: pinot grigio!

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late night itch!

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i am loving michael chiarello’s coqueta

I am having a full-blown love affair with Michael Chiarello’s Coqueta in SF, right on the Embarcadero– with the lit-up Bay Bridge as its’ back drop. The space/ the views/the menu are equally dazzling + impressive + wildly memorable.

I have ALWAYS been a Chiarello fan since Tra Vigne– and love his inventive culinary flair and incredible showmanship… Let’s be honest, he has been the P.T Barnum of Napa Valley lately with his restaurant/ mega fan base/ cooking shows/ cookbooks/ storefront/ wine brand– and yet Coqueta comes at a really good time for San Francisco + for himself.  Coqueta presents Michael as a seasoned, audacious chef with serious CHOPs and a deep desire/ ability to delight his guests.

Key point of note: deep desire + ability rarely go hand in hand.

Coqueta is a MUST.

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R.I.P. lilly pulitzer

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veronica beard super-bling army jacket

With passion, I collect army jackets– as they are the perfect storm for my persnickety sensibility– a combination of absorbent, light- weight cotton in my favorite color– army green. I have over a dozen in my closet– sourced from every high and low resource: from Army/ Navy Surplus to Celine to Zara to Figue to Paul + Joe to Banana Republic to Calypso to Veronica Beard.

So devoted am I that when my sister Veronica Beard launched her eponymous clothing line with her sister-in-law with the same name, they introduced a collection of blazers with Dickie inserts— they named the hunter green blazer with an old- school cream fisherman sweater Dickie, THE ALEXIS.

Every season they produce an army green something: jacket, blazer, parka, raincoat. Always something interesting and intriguing.

But it always goes back to the army jacket for me– lately I have been collecting army jackets with lots of embellishment. Sort of like my manicure upgrades- I am looking for more OOOOMPH!!! This season Figue and Zara delighted me with their MORE IS MORE embellishments/ patches/ rhinestones.

So when I spied Veronica (Miele) Beard, Veronica (Swanson) Beard’s business partner at Veronica Beard sporting her own super-super blinged out version of their SPRING 2013 army jacket, I begged her to make another for me… And here it is!

Thank you, ladies! I love it!!!

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while supplies last… our award winning cabernets!

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the party’s over… goodbye to tommy toy’s

Last night I had my very last crabmeat wonton, minced chicken lettuce cups, dumplings and mango mousse at Tommy Toy’s– the very same menu that was served at my baby shower; delivered to my hospital bed upon the birth of both my children, served at countless Christmas + birthday luncheons.

There was nothing quite like a Tommy Toy’s CARB-O-CIDE… It was such a delicious blowout loaded with trans-fats + MSG, and days of unwanted bloat. But there was something so wildly infectious about Tommy Toy’s that went way beyond the food. Tommy Toy’s was a throw back to an elegant era where waiters wore bow ties– and in this case gold lame ties, with honor; while theatrically wielding silver dome plate covers. It was such a mesmerizing experience– and we’ve yet to discuss the exotic cocktail menu that was in full swing during lunch.

Yes, it is true that Tommy Toys had grown long in the tooth, but that was exactly what I loved about it.

I hated for the night to end– as a world of sweet memories had come to an end, as do all good things.

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my latest obsession

Never, in a million years, would I have imagined myself the kind of mother who would take her four-year old daughter to the nail salon. Noooooooo way. But as with so many unsuspecting things that come with age/ maturing/ life– I LIVE to go with Delphina to the nail salon. Honestly, I can’t get enough of it, and apparently neither can she— as evident when we were working on her school project called the ALL ABOUT ME poster board… I almost fell off my chair when the question asked– WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP— my genius daughter responded: ” a nail salon painter.”

I have been going to the same Vietnamese nail salon for almost two decades– I am infamously persnickety about water temperature + nail shape + technician.  But recently I have had a hankering for more… Something much more. More look/ charm/ mojo. And it just so happened that my friend Ali (same Ali from last week’s New Orleans post) did too– and emailed me about a super-talented nail artiste, named Mia in the Mission, at SPARKLE NAILS.

Over the course of the past 6 weeks, Ali and I have burned the midnight oil enslaving ourselves to Mia’s most delicate hands– as she has covered our nails in leopard, hearts, glitters, stripes, baby names, rhinestones, starbursts, gold gilt, and iridescence.  It has become an out-of-control addiction that I highly recommend.

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