What started out as an educational-slash-foodie trip to the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives Conference for me (birthday/Christmas gift from Tim), morphed into a work-slash-play-slash-”babymoon” for Tim and me when we realized this might be our last getaway for a while. We left Austin in the middle of a house re-model, another house newly on the market, our family business relocating and under construction… and unexpectedly had one of the best trips ever.
A recap from our food filled vacation, plus recommendations below.
A dietitian friend told me about the conference that spurred on this trip, Tall Tim talked me in to attending, and I talked him in to joining me.
(If you are interested to know more, The Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives Conference is put on by the Harvard School of Public Health and held at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California near Napa. The conference presents the latest nutrition research by the Harvard researchers themselves, and trains chefs/educators on healthy cooking techniques. The majority of folks that attend are physicians and Registered Dietitians, with a few Health Coaches and educators in the mix like me. The conference sells out, so watch for the 2015 dates and reserve as soon as possible if interested.)
We talked about re-visiting Northern California before we ever left. Considering that most of my time was spent at the conference, we didn’t get to fit everything in, but here are our highlights worth considering yourself:
- The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) – A constant flurry of student chefs, teaching chefs, the historic building, the herb gardens, the aromas coming from every different kitchen… if you appreciate anything culinary, you will find something to love about this place. Tours and shopping available if you are just stopping through.
- Tim discovered real fast that the little town of Calistoga where we stayed was known for Hot Springs – it seems fitting to enjoy a spa treatment of some sort while in the Napa Valley, and Golden Haven Hot Springs & Spa provided that for my guy while I was conferencing.
- Our first and last stop on the way in & out of the San Francisco airport was Tartine Bakery. The pastry chef, Chad Robertson, is a James Beard Award Winner that is after my own heart – baking classic french pastries and incorporating ancient grains in his recipes; this bakery has the most decadent croissants in the same pastry case with ancient sprouted grain breads that change daily. Check out his James Beard nominated cookbook Tartine Book No 3, and see his contagious passion for bread in this short documentary. Chad, if you can hear me, open a bakery in Austin! I will measure flour, sweep the floors, anything.
- There were over 300 recipes presented/demonstrated/fed to us over the weekend at the HKHL conference. This Avocado Panna Cotta was so unique and beautiful, a favorite of Tim’s, and a sneak peak of some of the recipes I would be criminal not to share with you soon.
- The vineyard scenery on the drive up and down Highway 29 (the road connecting much of wine country) is a vacation in itself. We had time to visit one winery, Frogs Leap, and enjoyed a beautiful tasting on the back patio of the Vineyard House which was designed like something out of a House Beautiful magazine. I took pictures of everything, including the inside of the women’s restroom, and am awaiting a reply email regarding the paint color used on all the interiors. I could have moved in.
- It was an enormous treat to attend a cooking class taught by a CIA chef/professor focused on cooking with fruit from around the world. You can attend classes at the CIA with out attending a full conference – check here for weekend classes.
- The Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives Conference presenters and workshops were a collection of Who’s Who in nutrition research and Hot Topics in healthcare and healthy cooking. So much rich and relevant information was presented, but the stand outs for me were a keynote address by Dr. Walter Willett (a leading researcher/champion of the Nurses Health Studies, only the largest & longest nutrition study, ever), Top Chef Masters’ Suvir Saran’s workshop on cooking with herbs and spices, and the Culinary Institute’s Registered Dietitian and nutrition professor Sanna Delmonico’s session on Helping Parents Raise Healthy, Happy Eaters.
- The food in the Napa Valley is exceptionally well done, and I recommend every single place we ate – all suggestions from friends with great taste: The Girl & The Fig (French, country style food in Sonoma), Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch (farm to table in St. Helena), Mustard’s Grille (American fare in Napa, lemon meringue pie, oh my), Gott’s Roadside (fancy burger joint, several locations in the valley). You need a reservation for all except Gott’s.
- We did the obvious musts on the way in and out of San Francisco and were glad we did – Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, and an unplanned lunch on Fisherman’s Wharf at Crab House that we are still talking about. Musts at Crab House: crab chowder, whole roasted crab, and crab & shrimp Louie salad. San Fran is a walkable city, so you can believe that your indulgences are earned like we did!