Category Archives: entertaining

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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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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20% off our favorite secret weapon: pinot grigio!

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while supplies last… our award winning cabernets!

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the wine that goes with everything

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alexis traina + ali pincus go to NOLA on one kings lane

 

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valentine lover’s cocktail

Recipe:
Raspberry Caipiroska
1.5 oz Hangar One Vodka
2 lime quarters
5 fresh raspberries
1 tsp organic sugar
In a mixing glass, crush lime and raspberries with a muddler. Add vodka, sugar, and ice. Shake well, enough so that the sugar dissolves.

Pour all contents into a rocks glass. Garnish with 2 more fresh raspberries, and a pansy.

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the $16,000 valentine date

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better late than never…

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just in case…

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the merry, merry world of vintage home

Vintage Home is a store I could write about all-year long, but it is my favorite store in America come December 1st, when it is transformed into an Austrian wonderland, giving the fabled Christmas market of Vienna a RUN for its’ money.  Laura Rombauer is the proprietress of Vintage Home and has curated the most enchanting old- world Christmas emporium, loaded to the gills with brilliant, thoughtful, and elegant gifts + tree ornaments that haunt a woman like a pair of Louboutins… but what makes me the most nuts is—  the extraordinary inventory of wooden crafts she carries… all those Christmas pyramids of all sizes, nutcrackers, candelabras, and smokers.

Every year my husband + I collect a new wooden heirloom, after having wildly anticipated this new purchase for months leading to December 1… On that day, we arrive to inspect all the wooden loot– mercilessly analyzing which new prospect would fit-in best with our house/ family/ other wooden friends…. And then bring it home as if it were a Picasso.  From there, we assemble our entire collection on a table in our front foyer; and then we all congregate around the table to light all the colored candles + marvel at the magic illuminating the room, and on to the small faces and hands of our children.

This spectacular extravaganza is what indelible memories, ceremonies + rituals are all about– and some day these wooden friends, who have brought my family such joy, will be my children’s heirlooms.

{photo credit: nicole mcintosh bruce}

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dinner at my mother’s house

The holidays always remind me of my mother… She would spend the entire year making the rounds at her favorite little thrift shops/ flea markets collecting trinkets, treasures, objects— that she would use to adorn her holiday dinner tables between Thanksgiving + Christmas. Her festive tables were covered by the touch of loving hands and an eye that always told a story.

Creating magical dinner tables is my mother’s greatest personal pleasure– her own love language. In our house growing up, every kind of occasion promised a table that told the story of the celebration/ a person/ love/ hope. The tablescapes became the gift to the guest/s– and for her– equally as important as the food + wine. And honestly, no 2 nights ever looked the same.

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