Saturday, October 16, 2010
A wise woman once said, "God never slams a door in your face without opening a box of Girl Scout cookies." After admitting I'd been in a funk for most of September, these words couldn't ring more true. The problem is there are no Girl Scout cookies to be found right now. While Thin Mints are my absolute fave, I felt like I needed something a little more indulgent. That could only mean one thing: I was in desperate need of some Samoas. I think these may be called Caramel DeLites now, but they're still the same vanilla cookies dipped in caramel, rolled in coconut and striped with chocolate. I recall having a friend sleep over once in middle school where we each devoured a box of these beauties in about an hour. We may have ended up doubled over in pain afterwards, but all I remember is the richness and delight of these square cookies with a hole punched out of the center — and wondering why they didn't give us the holes to eat too because it was an utter shame for those to go to waste.
Since I consider myself a resourceful person, I turned to the internet to see if I could find a recipe for Samoas. I found an intriguing one for Samoa blondies that seemed quick and easy. [*Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!*] The reviews were glowing too so this seemed like the perfect solution. The recipe included the core ingredients (brown sugar, chocolate, coconut. . . ), even though they were being presented in a more unconstructed manner. How bad could it be? Well, let me tell you. Awful. Inedible is actually the word I'd go with. As bleak as things seemed for me, I still couldn't force myself to get a whole one down. So into the trash these went. . . .
I then recalled a recent quote from another wise woman, which was, "From now on, let's just drink our dessert!" In that moment, this seemed like a much more appealing approach to soothing myself. As luck would have it, just then my friend invited me to join him for the Santa Barbara County Celebration of Harvest. While it may not be Girl Scout cookie season, it is harvest season in Wine Country and that's definitely something to celebrate! And by celebrate I mean the opportunity to sample 112 wineries on a stunning day in the Santa Ynez Valley. That trumps even a box of real Samoas!
We made the beautiful drive out to Rancho Sisquoc, the event host, which is a treat in of itself. Although the Santa Ynez Valley is just an hour away from Santa Barbara, you feel completely transported to another world when you cross the San Marcos Pass.
You enter a world of rolling, golden hills; row after row of grapes growing like wild hair out of the Earth; and cows making long, dark shadows on the hillside. When I think of the "Happy cows come from California" ad campaign, I'm pretty sure they are referring to these particular cows.
The day was gorgeous and the winery was the perfect backdrop for the event. Olive, oak and walnut trees line the rustic property with white tents popping up every few feet showcasing some of the county's best wines. Many people were exposed to the Santa Barbara Wine Country through the movie Sideways. It resulted in Sideways tours, memorabilia, menus and lots of inside jokes with the locals. [BTW, I heard this is happening in Bali now after the release of Eat, Pray, Love.] Thankfully the attention didn't go to our winemakers' heads. It's really just given them some long overdue recognition for indeed making some of the finest wines in the United States. The region's unique patchwork of microclimates has created a "perfect storm" for growing amazing grapes, ergo amazing wines. I love the winemakers for keeping it real and keeping it small. It's an honor to routinely taste a boutique wine with only 500 bottles produced. It's artistry in the highest sense.
Although I'm a staunch red lover, the 90 degree temperatures made me long for some light whites or rosés, which are a little harder to come by in this area known for its Pinot Noirs and Syrahs. But when you're tasting the best, who can complain?!
Highlights from the day were: having Kurt Russell (actor and now new wine maker!) pour me a glass of wine, every single Ken Brown wine I tasted, a beautiful white Rhone varietal blend from Curtis, and watching a group of drunk twentysomethings from LA hit on all the cute wine pourers. Poor girls. Great entertainment though.
After a late afternoon drive through the country, the day ended with a stop at one of my favorite foodie outposts in Los Alamos: Flatbread Full of Life. This gem is open to the public only on the weekends when they convert their production bakery space into a restaurant and invite the neighbors and community to gather around the stone hearth and enjoy freshly prepared flatbreads.
The menu changes according to the fresh ingredients they pick up at farmers' markets and local artisan food producers. The result is some of the most simple yet sublime food you'll put in your mouth. While they also have an insane wine list, after a long day of wine tasting, nothing beats an ice cold beer!
So I'm healed. Well, maybe not all the way, but it's been a whole week since I searched for Girl Scout cookies on ebay (as I type this with a glass of wine in my hand). And I'm back in the saddle and looking forward to cooking more and sharing it with you. Happy Fall!
Posted by SB in SB at 8:49 PM