Stop and Smell the Rosé in Napa

Stop and Smell the Rosé in Napa

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It’s still rainy here in the Bay Area, so for today’s Thirsty Thursday post, I’m reminiscing about our sunny trip to wine country. A couple weeks ago, I got to spend time with cousins and friends wine tasting in Napa, California. Our party of 7 enjoyed sipping some bubbly while enjoying the the picturesque views of Domaine Carneros.

Group tastings are offered here for parties of 6 or more and require a minimum spend of $30 per person. Each tasting includes a sampling of four of the winery’s drinks and some finger snacks. However, don’t expect much from the complimentary snacks as they typically include an unimpressive bowl of almonds for the table. Each guest can choose from the Sparkling Wine Sampler ($30), Red Wine Sampler ($30), Chateau Sampler ($30), or Grande Tasting  ($40).  See below for a listing of the specific beverages offered for each tasting option.

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There are also various cheese and charcuterie plates available to accompany your wine. Two of the cheese offering are from a local favorite, Cowgirl Creamery. This was a great way for our out-of-town guests to try a couple local products as well.  Overall, this was such a fun experience. I can’t wait to come back for just a single glass (or two!) with a much smaller party. Either way, the gorgeous views and delicious wines are two things  that we can happily toast to! Cheers! 

What other wineries would you recommend in Napa? Comment below!

 

 

 

 

 

‘Elevating’ Afternoon Tea at The Upper House in HK

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As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, I LOVE having afternoon tea in different cities around the world. While afternoon tea has sentimental meaning to me, it’s so neat to see so many different renditions of this long time tradition. Today, I’m sharing my experiences at Café Gray Deluxe in Hong Kong!

Nestled on the 49th floor of one of Hong Kong’s hottest hotels, The Upper House, Café Gray Deluxe boasts some of the city’s best panoramic views of Victoria Harbor. But first, just to touch on the hotel itself for a bit, the Upper House embodies modern luxury. Once you step into the hotel, it’s an immediate escape from the bustling streets of Hong Kong. Interestingly, the sophisticated architecture manages to still feel warm and inviting.  While the ambience is very posh, the cordial staff and complimentary hot cocoa in the seating area help to make it feel more comfortable and less stuffy.

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Now back to the star of the blog post – Café Gray Deluxe!  Complementing the chic theme of the hotel, Café Gray Deluxe provides modern European dining.  Though there are ample seats throughout the dining area, we were lucky to have reserved a corner booth to really witness the gorgeous views of the HK skyline and harbor.  The natural lighting was beautiful, though a bit tricky for photographs.  Needless to say, our fellow diners and we were pretty busy taking photos throughout our time there. Every aspect of the cafe was Instagram-worthy!

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We came here for afternoon tea, which surprisingly is very reasonably priced! You have the option of either $295 (HKD) per person or $535 (HKD) for 2 people.  In US dollars, that’s roughly about $38 or $68, respectively.  Customarily, afternoon tea includes an assortment of savory and sweet bites accompanied by your choice of tea or coffee.  My favorites include the foie gras coupe, golden raisin scones with homemade preserves, and  the mint chocolate yoghurt pavé.  For drinks, we sought a recommendation from our server and opted for their signature Café Gray tea, which has lemongrass, lemon balm, and roselle.  I usually gravitate towards more traditional teas, but this was unique and delicious.  Also, since we were there during the holidays, we had a choice of a small serving of mulled wine or egg nog. We couldn’t resist the egg nog, and it turned out to be one of our favorite takes on this holiday treat.

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The is a bit of a side note, but the modern architecture resonates throughout the cafe… even in the restrooms.  This reminded me of the restrooms at the Standard Hotel in New York City.  You can wash your hands while looking through floor to ceiling windows. Oddly, you can see the sinks in the men’s restroom from the women’s side and vice versa. Toilets were private and out of view though.

Overall, we enjoyed the delicious snacks and never saw our teacups go empty. The staff was very friendly, and most importantly, we really appreciated that we were never rushed to clear the table as is often very customary in many HK establishments.  Our experience here truly elevated my expectations of afternoon tea moving forward (pun intended)! Cheers!

 

 

 

Dominique Ansel: From NYC to LA

Dominique Ansel: From NYC to LA

The dessert enthusiast in me is ecstatic to finally see a New York City favorite expand to the West Coast. Even better, their first California location is at my old childhood stomping grounds at The Grove. Too bad this missed my grade school days by almost 20 years… nonetheless, better late than never! Having frequently visited Dominque Ansel Bakery in Soho, I’m a big fan of their various pastries, cakes, and tarts. Though more famously known as the mastermind behind the cronut, Dominique Ansel offers a variety of creatively beautiful and delicious desserts. My favorite go-to’s include frozen s’mores, cookie shots, and Dominique’s Kouign Amann (DKA). This weekend, we flew to visit the LA location to see how it compares to its counterpart in Soho.

First, here are some shots from our last visit to Dominique Ansel in New York this past May. Expectedly, we did have to wait in line outside as several other patrons also came to get their morning cronut fixes. Though we were there in the Spring, we still braved chilly temperatures while waiting in the queue. The Soho location is rather small and narrow with limited seating in the back. However, the outdoor back patio is actually one of my favorite secret spots in the city, especially in the summertime. The patio’s grass lined walls make for a fun backdrop amidst the concrete jungle of NYC.

Now for the Dominque Ansel Bakery at The Grove – this location fits right in amongst the trendy Hollywood scene! While this location features a few favorites, there are also numerous creations exclusive to the LA market. The bakery offers ample seating both indoors and outdoors to enjoy the beautiful Southern California weather year-round. Despite it being the middle of Fall, we basked in 82 degree weather today. Also, the LA location features as full-service restaurant and bar, 189 by Dominique Ansel, on the second floor.

The same rules do apply as in New York – Freshly baked cronuts are available starting at 9am, which means they’re usually sold out for the day by 11am. For a fun after-school special, cookie shots are available everyday after 3:00pm.

Whether you find yourself in NYC, LA, London, or Tokyo this is definitely a spot to check out – your stomach will thank you! 

189 Spring Street (between Sullivan and Thompson)
New York, NY 10012

189 The Grove Drive, G/F
Los Angeles, CA 90036

17-21 Elizabeth Street
 London
SW1W 9RP

Jingumae, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo TOKYO 5-7-14

Ginza Mitsukoshi B2,  4-6-16, Ginza, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo

 

 

 

 

Tea Time at London’s classic Claridge’s

Tea Time at London’s classic Claridge’s

It’s finally starting to feel like Fall in the West Coast, and these chills have me wanting to curl up with a warm cup of tea! Growing up, my grandmother and I used to have afternoon tea with sweet toast and milk tea. I like to think that this early intake of caffeine contributed to my petite sub-5′ height, but there’s probably more to that. Anyway, whenever we find ourselves across the pond in London town,  it’s always a special experience for me to have afternoon tea. We’ve been to a couple popular tea rooms, but Claridge’s epitomizes classic afternoon tea.

Located in Claridge’s luxury hotel in the West End, the Foyer and Reading Room create a beautiful backdrop for any occasion.  The art deco of the Foyer is highlighted by a Chihuly light sculpture (yes, the same Chihuly known to many Americans for his glass garden in Seattle). To keep things simple, it’s beautiful!

On to the dining experience… we opted for the traditional tea experience, but there is an option to upgrade for a glass of Laurent-Perrier brut or rosé. Either choice comes with a classic display of finger sandwiches, pastries, and scones accompanied with Marco Polo jelly and Cornish Clotted cream. Everything is baked fresh daily in-house with every ingredient having been well thought out. It doesn’t sound like much, but you definitely won’t leave hungry. At some point, we were begging them to stop bringing us food! We even received boxes of treats to take home. Now the highlight of the experience, of course, is the tea. You can choose from about 24 teas selected from all around the world.  The menu explains where each tea is sourced, and the staff is more than helpful in helping you decide on drink pairings with your food. The service is attentive but still warm and friendly.  Our tea cups were never empty and they were very generous with the food servings. No need to raise a finger (especially your pinky!). This was such a fun experience that I would highly recommend in London.

Pro tip: Reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance, so you can plan ahead.

You can also check out a sample menu here