Right off the bat, you should know that we did not partake in the "Mud" part of this annual Calistoga, CA festival. We may have missed out on some mineral-rich relaxation, but we still had a fantastic time! The details: Every year the shops along Calistoga's main road (all 4 or 5 blocks of it) host wineries and/or jazz combos and you stroll along listening and drinking, or sitting for a spell. In early March the mustard flowers are in full bloom, so to celebrate their beauty, and the condiment which they will soon become, there are also mustard tastings along the way. As somone who LOVES mustard, this is draw enough alone, but paired with wine tastings and jazz (and some GREAT weather!)? I can hardly think of a better way to spend a Bay Area weekend.
We got into town around 1:30, after fueling ourselves with an awesome (as usual) lunch at the Oakville Grocery. That's my hummus veggie sandwich above. Grilled veggies, hummus, some olives, all on a foccacia bread full of olive oil and herbs. A great belly-filler - always a good thing to have before wine tasting!
After driving past some gorgeous fields of mustard, we checked into our room at the Mt. View Hotel and Spa. I picked this place for a few reasons. 1. It's right on the main drag in Calistoga, so it was hosting some wineries and jazz itself, 2. It's a green-certified hotel, and 3. It is home to JoLe - what appeared from my research to be the most vegan-friendly restaurant around. All in all, it's a really nice place. Bonus points for having a super-soft stuffed animal puppy (the "Mt. View Mutt") in the room. For each purchase of said mutt, PETA gets a buck. I didn't buy one, but still, it's a nice idea.
Anyhoo, our room was nice, but we soon took to the street to get us some drink tickets. We were wine-giddy in no time, and hearing some great tunes to boot. After a few hours of this, we headed back to the hotel for some hot tubbing before dinner. There are not too many things better than lounging in hot tub in the sun, mountains in the background, jazz music wafting through the trees, a tad drunk on good wine, in the middle of the afternoon. Needless to say, a nap soon followed.
When we awoke, it was off to dinner at JoLe. I had called ahead about the vegan thing, and our server was indeed informed. Sadly, while she was able to point out which dishes could be done vegan, she was also quick to inform me that they didn't have any tofu. No, I didn't ask, and no, vegans do not require tofu at every (or any!) meal, thank you very much. Ignoring this, I quickly ordered all the veggie dishes I could. JoLe's menu works ala carte, meaning you order your main dish (all animal protein here) and then add your own veggie sides. I was basically making a meal out of sides, but I have no problem with that. Especially since there was plenty of bread and olive out (and, yes, more wine) to go around. In fact, when a table looks like this before I've even ordered, I'm quite content:
On top of that, everything I got was seriously delicious. My sauteed escarole was silky and spiced with miso, my arugla salad with avocado and grapefruit was crisp and refreshing, and my brussel sprouts with capers and lemon were caramelized to perfection. However, the clear winner was a sublime dish of artichoke hearts, arugula, peas and capers that was earthy, nutty, and just divine. I'd eat it again and again:
For dessert, there was blood orange sorbet, and a night of more wine and music. We awoke the next morning, bleary-eyed due not only to the events of the previous day, but to losing an hour of sleep to Daylight Savings Time, managed to rally ourselves, and headed back out for a little more of the same. We had 4 tasting tickets left to spend, and some more mustard and music to enjoy! Sooner than expected, however, the afternoon arrived, and since we had a plan for an early dinner in Santa Rosa, it was time to depart. Calistoga is quite a charming little town, and I'd definitely suggest staying there next time you need a place to crash in wine country.
Once on the road, our stomachs started grumbling for something more substantial than wine, crackers, and mustard. Luckily, Santa Rosa is only about 30 minutes from Calistoga, and is home to East West Cafe. I've blogged this place before, and it's still vegan-friendly, reasonably priced, and super yummy, so I'm suggesting it again. We had the hummus and dolmas to start, and then I had a salad with baked tofu (the basil walnut dressing is amazing), while the hubby had a BBQ seitan sandwich. We were so happy:
After all that, it was back home to San Francisco for a wee bit more relaxation before the Monday madness. I hope you all enjoyed your weekend at least half as much as I did. You don't need a festival like M,M, and M to have a good time.... but it certainly helps!