Testarossa Winery in Los Gatos sells most of its wines at the winery. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
These days it seems like few wineries limit the varietals of wine they bottle. Testarossa Winery is one of the exceptions. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the specialties here.
It is the fourth oldest winemaking facility in California, with ties still to the Jesuits at Santa Clara University. This Los Gatos winery was known at Novitiate Winery when it was built in 1888.
The Jesuits were able to produce wine during Prohibition because it was called “altar wine,” though it wasn’t just kept for use on Sundays. To this day Testarossa makes two dessert wines in the tradition of the Jesuits.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are what Testarossa specialize in. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
It was in 1993 that Rob and Diana Jensen started the winery. Testarossa was his nickname while studying in Italy. It means red head. They moved to the current location in 1997. While it is not far from downtown Los Gatos, it is at an elevation of about 2,000 feet.
About 30,000 cases are produced each year; most going directly to the consumer. While Testarossa focuses on the two varietals, they have 46 variations, with about 15 available at any given time. Many lots only produce 200 to 400 cases. New wines are released every six weeks.
Grapes are not grown on site. Instead, the winery says it focuses on getting the best grapes from regions throughout California. It taps into 18 vineyards to source the fruit. Most are in San Lucia, with Sonoma, Monterey and the Santa Rita Hills being other locations.
While the facility has grown through the years, some of the original rock walls built for the Jesuits are still part of the structure.
Live music and other events are common throughout the year.
Testarossa was a great find. You don’t feel like you are in the Bay Area, and definitely aren’t in an overcrowded wine region. Even better, the wines are tasty.
Remnants of when the Jesuits owned the facility are still visible. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
All ages enjoy the 100-degree waters at Carson Hot Springs. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Beer, burgers and hot water all in one stop.
This is what one finds on Old Hot Springs Road in Carson City – Shoe Tree Brewing Co., Sassafras and Carson Hot Springs. One Saturday in September we enjoyed what the three distinct businesses had to offer.
With such an array of beer choices, Sue and I opted for two rounds of tasters. A flight of four is $12; each being 5 ounces. We indulged in the Muscle Powered Pale Ale, High Desert Brown, Coco Burrito, Wicked Shifty, Brunswick Blonde Ale, Atomic Ale, Shoehorn, and Ash Canyon Amber Ale. My favorite was the High Desert Brown. The brewery describes it as “notes of coffee, roasty & toasty.”
The Hammer is so popular that there is a 5-minute time limit to use it. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Brothers Paul and Jeff Young opened the brewery in March 2017. According to their website, “The brew system is a 7 barrel (217 gallons) brew house with a four fermenter farm able to produce 600 barrels (13,950 gallons) of finished beer annually.”
While food isn’t served at the brewery, plenty of choices are available next door at Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint. If they aren’t too busy, they will deliver food to the brewery. We shared a burger and roasted beet salad – perfect amount of food, and great quality.
With so many beers on the table, it was hard to know what paired best with our lunch. I’m a believer you can never go wrong with a beer and burger.
Still, the restaurant isn’t just a burger joint. There are pizzas, grinders, cold deli selections, and specials that range from Cajun Mac & Cheese to Shrimp Tacos to Salmon Sriracha. It is definitely eclectic.
Sassafras has its own beer menu and has a full bar. With plenty of seating, it is a destination in its own right.
Shoe Tree Brewing Co. has a range of beer to choose from. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Next door are the hot springs. The Washoe Indians were using these waters in the 1800s as an undeveloped site. It was in 1880 that Thomas Swift bought the area and added amenities like a clubhouse. It has been known as Carson Hot Springs since 1910. New owners in 1999 added two Jacuzzi tubs, though they were not operational when we were there.
“Natural mineral water flows out of the ground at 121 degrees. Air spray and evaporative cooling are used to lower this water temperature when pools are drained and refilled during each day. No chemical or city water is added,” according to the hot springs’ website.
The main soaking area looks like a normal, rectangular pool. The difference is there is no chlorine and two overhead spigots are regularly delivering hot water. One is so powerful it is aptly named The Hammer. It’s an intense massage of sorts.
An added convenience is the springs provide noodles as flotation devices, which is nice since the depth goes to 6½ feet. The shallow area is where most people were hanging out.
While we enjoyed all three businesses at this location, each is worth a visit without the others.
A tortilla with fish. There had to be more. This couldn’t be all there was to a fish Taco in Mexico.
The waiter saw the puzzlement on our faces and smiled. I’m sure he said something in Spanish that none of us understood. He pointed to the center of the restaurant. Ah, that was the answer we needed.
Al pastor tacos are being made in Guadalajara. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
This is how they do it in Mexico. Most often the “extras” are self-serve either at a communal assembly area or toppings are brought to the table.
This first encounter was when Penny, Tim and Laura came to visit me in Todos Santos last October. None of us knew this is how things are done in Mexico. We were in La Paz after a day at Balandra Beach. Once we figured out what to do, Tim and Penny had some special looking tacos.
Fish tacos reportedly were first created in Ensenada, Mexico. Ralph Rubio is credited with bringing fish tacos from Baja to the United States in the 1980s through his San Diego restaurant Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill.
While Mexico is the birthplace of the Taco, the dates, whereabouts and specific circumstances are debated.
This food item is so popular that Oct. 4 is National Taco Day in the United States. The event has its own website. Figures from the site say that people in the U.S. ate more 4.5 billion tacos in 2018. (For comparison, 50 billion hamburgers are consumed in the U.S. each year.)
The website goes on to say, “The word taco is the Mexican equivalent of the English word sandwich. The tortilla, which is made of corn or wheat, is wrapped or folded around a filling that is generally made of spiced proteins – beef, pork or fish.”
Potato tacos are a vegetarian option at Chill N’ Grill in Todos Santos. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
I’ve never seen a hard taco shell in Mexico; that seems to be a U.S. creation. Taco shells in Mexico are always soft, with diners usually having the choice between corn or flour. A variety of meats are often on the menu, but never have I seen hamburger meat like what one would find in the United States. White onions, cilantro, lime and salsa are staples for toppings in Mexico.
Another popular tradition is al pastor tacos, which is pork cooked on a spit. It reminds me of when I was in Greece and gyros would be available on the street corners; only there the spits were lamb.
On occasion I have been able to find a vegetarian taco in Mexico. At Chill N’ Grill in Todos Santos they make a potato taco which is really good. All the fixings came on it; which considering it’s a gringo restaurant makes sense. The restaurant even has Taco Tuesdays.
Dain keeps patrons entertained as he mixes fun cocktails at the Bently Public House. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
While produce is the norm for the farm-to-table concept, the Bently Heritage Estate Distillery is using a similar philosophy with its liquor.
“Estate” is a key word in the name of this Minden, Nevada, business. It means all the grain – wheat, corn, oats, winter rye and barley – is grown on the surrounding land owned by the Bently family. The family has 50,000 acres in the Carson Valley, with 16,000 devoted to this project.
Water, another key component to spirits, comes from a well on the property. That is fed from snowmelt.
Three of the spirits available during a recent tour. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Chris and Camille Bently are proprietors of the distillery. While they had been working on the facility for five years, the tasting room has only been open since February 2019. Gin, vodka and sherry are available now, with whiskey being about another nine years out. The first batch was laid down last fall with the plan for it being 10-years-old before the public tastes it.
The Bentlys don’t want to make ordinary spirits. They spent time in Scotland researching methods, with the desire to bring old world philosophies to the new world. This includes ingredients, machinery and how the spirits are distilled.
“Craft gin is all the rage,” guide Wes Paterson said. He said it is the fastest growing spirit in the United States. The Bentlys are tapping into this craze with three types of gin for sale.
Two of the distillery buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Brick buildings that were once used by the Dangberg ranching family are now part of the Bently estate. They are filled with copper and silver contraptions. The old creamery building that was part of the Minden Butter Manufacturing Company has been renovated and is the main distillery. The whiskey is made in a separate building on the property.
“All the spirits are designed to stand on their own, but they are also great in cocktails,” Paterson said of the Bently products.
The distillery offers tours four days a week. While I’m more of a wine and beer gal, Bently’s spirits has my taste buds evolving. At the end of the tour is the opportunity to sample some of the products they have for sale. On this particular day we indulged in Source One Single Estate Vodka; Source One Single Estate Vodka, Rested in Sherry Oak Casks; and American Dry Gin.
The old creamery is now the main distillery. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
So much information is given on the tour that it would be easy to go more than once. I learned that gin is technically naturally flavored vodka and that by law it needs a minimum of 30 percent juniper berries.
The vodka that was stored in the sherry oak casks is caramel color and tastes more like sherry than vodka. Stopping in the public house after the tour I ordered a Maple Old Fashioned. While an Old Fashioned usually has whiskey, this one was with the Source One Single Estate Vodka, Rested in Sherry Oak Casks. Wow – hard to tell it wasn’t whiskey.
Not surprisingly, all the cocktails are made with Bently boozes. No food is served – at least not yet.
The production line runs Monday-Friday, with the potential of creating 400,000 cases a year.
Bottling occurs in a side room at the old creamery. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
The combo plate — steak sandwich, pesto, garlic bread, calamari — is popular at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Garlic. I think it’s a food group. It definitely belongs in more dishes than it doesn’t.
With the average person consuming about 2 pounds of garlic a year, according to Reference.com, this may be one category where I’m above average. I use it more like a spice, though technically it isn’t one.
Sautéing a little garlic and onion is a great start to so many dishes. I could eat pesto every night. Roasted garlic spread on sourdough bread – yum. Whole or chopped garlic must be part of a roasted veggie ensemble. Garlic in salsa, of course. Then there are garlic fries – wow – two of my favorite food groups in one dish.
Garlic can enhance sweet corn on the cob. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Plus, there are tons of health benefits to garlic. Alejandro Junger in the book “Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself” wrote, “Garlic will help not only to eliminate bad bacteria, yeast, and parasites, but also to regulate blood sugar levels, enhance fat burning, reduce hunger sensations, lower cholesterol, relieve arthritic pain, and reduce bowel gas.”
While April 19 is national garlic day, Gilroy celebrates this pungent food for three days in late July each year. Those in California consider this town south of the San Francisco Bay Area to be the capital of garlic. Truth is that China grows the most garlic in the world; producing about two-thirds of the world’s garlic, according to Agricultural Resource Marketing Center.
Thousands of people attend the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
This summer was the fourth time I went to the festival. It’s amazing how such a tiny bulb can be the focus of so much fun, so much delicious food. Cooking demonstrations, celebrity chefs, artisans and more are part of the festivities. This was the first year for a night concert. Colbie Caillat with band Gone West entertained a throng of people. The music was included in the price of admission of the festival. (The festival in 2019 was $20 or $30 for a three-day pass; food is extra.)
The chefs in Gourmet Alley and in the outlaying food booths hovering over the open flames when it was near triple digits made me thankful I was eating and not cooking.
Colbie Caillat, center, entertains the crowd July 27 in Gilroy. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
The Gilroy Garlic Festival is perfect for meat and non-meat eaters. There are so many choices – from pesto to corn on the cob to ice cream to steak sandwiches. When the garlic gets to be too much, there are other choices.
Garlic ice cream is much better than it sounds. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the tragedy that occurred on the third and final day this year. I was there the day before the fatal shooting. It’s surreal to think about that fact. Still, I’m not going to let nut cases stop me from continuing to lead my life, to go to events – big and small, to shop where I want, to frequent places that are full of people. It’s easy to say that. I haven’t had to run for my life, to duck and cover, to attend a funeral for someone who died in a mass shooting. This is as close as I ever want to be to such a tragedy.
Part of me wants to buy my tickets now for the 2020 Gilroy Garlic Festival. It would be more about showing support for this small town than for the garlic. Whatever your reason for going – go. It’s a unique event that any garlic lover should experience at least once.
No straw? How the heck am I going to drink and drive?
My first encounter with a strawless lid on a cold drink was this past spring at Costco in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I’m pretty sure if anyone was watching me, I looked pretty funny as I searched for a straw in the outdoor food court. Then I paused. No one had a straw, but they had plenty of drinks. I finally looked at the soda. The lid had a little hump on it with an opening. It wasn’t an opening for a straw. I was supposed to drink out of it.
Straws have not been eliminated from The Beacon in Lake Tahoe even though California has a plastic straw ban. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Awesome, I thought. It was like an adult sippy cup. I had never seen one on a cold drink; just for hot drinks.
I figured if Mexico had this, it must be all the rage in the United States. Then I remembered Baja California Sur is more evolved than parts of the United States. In July 2018, lawmakers for that state of Mexico passed a law banning single-use plastic, including straws. The legislation took effect this month.
I’ve visited more fast food restaurants this summer than usual while I’ve been out peddling my hiking book. Much to my disappointment I’ve only encountered straws; no lids to sip from. All of these straws have me seriously thinking about buying a reusable straw so I can say no to the plastic ones.
The Costco in Carson City, Nevada, also has straws. It’s unfortunate the company seems to be acting on external mandates to do what is right instead of changing to sipable lids at all of its locations.
I’m not sure I can wait for governing bodies to pass legislation banning them or for companies to figure it out on their own. I know I need to get better at saying “no straw” when I order a drink. Change is slow even though the evidence is irrefutable about how bad straws are for the environment and wildlife.
Despite California no longer allowing straws at sit down restaurants, that doesn’t appear to be true at bars that are part of the restaurant. I was so taken aback when I went into a popular South Shore restaurant to have one of their trademark rum drinks and saw containers of straws at the bar. That drink doesn’t require a straw, but all came with one – even for the people seated.
Taking a break from being tourists with a drink at Illum, a rooftop bar in Copenhagen; Cleo, Tom, Pam, Kae.
Herring, open faced sandwiches, hot dogs, meatballs, pastries, licorice, beer.
The delicacies of my ancestors are not ideal for a vegetarian. I was in Denmark in May with my mom, two of my sisters and their husbands, and my two nieces. The bulk of the gang tried herring cooked different ways at one restaurant. It wasn’t ever ordered again. Still, one of the highlights of my trip to Copenhagen was the food tour.
“Skull” is now my favorite way to toast; instead of saying cheers as they do in the U.S. or salud in Mexico. At the brewery stop we learned this salutation came about during the days of the Vikings when they would drink out of the skulls of their enemies. Fortunately, our beer came in regular glasses. Our guide selected an IPA and stout from the 61 beers on the menu at Taphouse. Mom preferred the lighter beer, I was happier with the darker.
Cleo bites into an authentic Danish hot dog. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
While Carlsberg and Tuborg are the better known Danish beers, multiple microbreweries are scattered about, with taps at various restaurants.
There is no official drinking age in Denmark. At 16 people can start buying beers with a certain alcohol percentage, and at 18 they can buy anything. Laura, our guide with Sandemans tours, said the belief is this creates a healthier relationship with alcohol. There was a time when the water was not drinkable, so people drank beer for hydration. “We say beer is in our blood, literally,” Laura added.
The avocado toast at Café Atelier September looks better than it tastes. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Our first stop had been at the hot dog stand near city hall. These small operators are at various corners in the city. Traditional toppings are ketchup, mustard, remoulade, fresh onions, fried onions and sweet pickles. I ate part of the wheat bun with toppings but no dog. Most of the nearly 20 in the group seemed to like their dogs, which had a red casing. This is old school when the meat wasn’t always the freshest so they had a red casing to make it more appetizing. Now, no matter the casing color, all is fresh.
Pizza dough at Mother’s is made with water from the sea. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
The third stop was at Godtfolk restaurant where we were served smørrebrød. This is a traditional open face sandwich. It starts with rye bread smothered with butter, then is topped with almost anything. Herring, with the abundance in the waters around Denmark, is a staple. Cold cuts on top of rye is common to take to work. Mom’s rye had a soft boiled egg, with a mayonnaise dill sauce and shrimp. Mine had a cucumber and tomato instead of the shrimp.
It seemed like some form of smørrebrød was on most menus; some fancier than others. The thing with rye bread is that it is so dense it quickly fills you up. My mom remembers her aunt (of Danish heritage) making rye bread, slicing it thinly and then putting gobs of butter on it.
Laura, the guide, popped into a neighborhood store and came out with a bag of black licorice. It was so different because it was salty. I don’t usually like mixing salt and sugar. However, I was intrigued enough that I bought a bag at the airport on my way home. It didn’t make it back to Mexico, and not because I ate it all. I decided salty licorice really isn’t good.
Ice cream shops are all over Copenhagen. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Our final two stops on the food tour were inside Torvehallerne, an upscale food court. First up was a Danish meatball that had seafood instead of meat. This was the one place where there was no substitute for a vegetarian. By this time mom was pretty full, but she said it was good. I was happy we ended at Summerbird with its organic chocolate. The bulk of my family returned to this market later in the week. Several of us bought various chocolates. The amber, a white chocolate, was my favorite. I’m not sure if these gifts will make it to their intended destinations.
Grød, another restaurant in Torvehallerne, was another stop with the family. When it opened in 2011, it was the first porridge bar in the world. Those who indulged said it was good. The fresh vegetables at the market were beautiful. It made me want to make dinner for myself.
The pork dish at Det lille Apotek came with the sides on one plate. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Illum was a wonderful spot for a cocktail and people watching. This rooftop bar is actually multiple restaurants sharing the same roof.
Four in our group went to Noma, which four times has been rated the No. 1 restaurant in the world. It now does three seasonal menus a year, with seafood the theme while we were there. That, and the $380 price plus another $205 for the wine pairing, had me plenty happy to dine on pizza that evening with the other three non-Noma participants.
Kae and Cleo indulging in a snack — beer and potato chips — at Europa.
Mother’s, in the old meat packing district, is where we went on that Friday night. It was packed with what we figured were locals. The pizzeria is known for its salty sourdough crust that is made with purified sea water. I couldn’t taste anything special about it. The pizzas – three at our table of four – all looked pretty. The thin bottom crust, though, got soggy pretty fast.
We started our group culinary eating at Ristorante Italiano. When it opened in 1952 it was the only Italian restaurant in Copenhagen. Café Oscar had one of the best tomato soups I’ve had. Det lille Apotek, which has been around since 1720, was chosen as an authentic Danish restaurant. Pork is popular in Denmark. Those at the table who had it didn’t leave any on their plate.
Grød is known for its porridge and various toppings for it. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Instagram has never been the way I choose where to eat. Travel with a millennial and that reality changes. Breakfast at Café Atelier September was chosen by my niece based on it having the most Instagrammable avocado toast. It was pretty. I don’t usually order avocado toast, so I can’t say how it rates photographic-wise against others. I know it was salty and that I would not recommend it, especially at nearly $13. I’m going back to my dining choices being based on what people say about the quality of food and not how many times it was tagged on social media.
What I enjoyed most was having a beer and fries at various places, and the ice cream. All of my comfort foods. The pastries were all worth sampling as well. Had I not been traveling with seven meat eaters, my dining choices would have been different. I can’t honestly say if Copenhagen is good or bad for a vegetarian.
Todos Santos Brewing’s head brewer Jair leads a tasting. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Seventeen beers later and I was ready for another.
Jair, the head brewer at Todos Santos Brewing, was happy to oblige. He led me and Darla through a tasting of these craft brews, imparting details about the brewing process, a bit of history about the brewery, and the differences between the flavors. Then he gave us a tour of the facility as we sipped on a full pint of our choice.
By then we were ready to order off their menu – mostly burgers, with a portabella for vegetarians.
Known as Brewer Talks, this is an opportunity to taste a majority of the more than 20 handles at the brewery and gain some knowledge. Because Darla can speak the language of beer, Jair was able to bring more depth to the conversation. It went beyond the alcohol percentage, IBU (international bitter unit), and SRM (standard reference method). After all, those three measurements are on the menu.
Jair, right, explains to Darla how the three 140 liter steel tanks are used. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Like wine tasting, we paid attention to the smell and color of the beer before taking a sip. We cleaned out the glass after each beer so as not to blend flavors. Water was encouraged to help cleanse the palate.
Jair expressed how important the water is for the end product to taste good; with water being 80 percent of the reason a beer tastes the way it does. Todos Santos Brewing gets it water from the Sierra de la Laguna mountains that surround town. Malt, hops and yeast round out the main ingredients. The quality of those goods, according to Jair, will also affect the final product.
It’s the yeast that can bring bitterness, while the malt gives beer color. Malt also has sugar, so sometimes it’s necessary to extract it in the masher. The more sugar in the beer, the more alcohol there will be, Jair, tells us. Sweetness can lead to hangovers.
Plenty of other things can be added to beer. That red color some of them have – not natural. It’s usually caramel that is added. Ginger, cinnamon, Orange Juice – all have been added to a TSB beer at some point. Jair likes to experiment. He adds coffee to the Midnight Oil Black IPA. There’s even a gluten free option, which is more like a cider.
A beer like the Toucan Tropical IPA uses three malts and five kinds of hops. It created a sensation in our mouths, leaving a bit of an aftertaste. The haziness is because of all those hops. Whereas the Day Drinker Session IPA didn’t have as much of an aftertaste, but a citrusy smell was evident.
Day Drinker Session IPA and Brown Owl Brown Ale at Todos Santos Brewing. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
The Phoenix Amber Ale was created after last year’s fire at the brewery. Jair said every time he drinks it he sees the blackened brewery, and reflects on how it was only closed for 10 days as repairs were made. While brewery folks thought it would be a one-time creation, it has been so popular that multiple batches have been brewed.
Neither Darla nor I liked the sour beers.
“Sours are for people who don’t drink a lot of beer,” Jair told us.
For our pint, I chose the Brown Owl Brown Ale with alcohol level of 6.2 percent, an IBU of 29, and SRM of 19. Darla had the Day Drinker Session IPA: alcohol 4.1, IBU 47, SRM 4.1.
With it just being the two us, there was an intimacy to the experience that may have been lost if we were with a group.
Todos Santos Brewing is definitely redefining what Mexican beer is all about. Brewmaster Jair said most Mexican beers are lagers, while TSB is more about ales.
The award-winning nano-craft brewery in June will celebrate two years in business. Liz and Ted Mitchell, Aussies who had been coming to the area to surf, decided to open the brewery when they couldn’t find good craft beer here. He had experience making beer, they had a love for Baja Sur. Food followed.
The future is likely to entail a bigger brewing facility so batches can be larger than 100 liters. (This is the equivalent of about 26.4 gallons.) Half kegs fill the cold storage area. TSB has opted for a ton of variety, with not a large stash of each flavor. With so many wonderful options it doesn’t matter if your favorite is out, there are plenty of others to dazzle the taste buds.
Plenty of choices for beer connoisseurs and novices at TSB. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Brewer Talks available every day but Tuesdays, until 6pm. Appointments required.