Sonoma’s hidden gem was a little bit hard to find, but as we wound our way through the Dry Creek Valley, we had not a care in the world. Lambert Bridge was a recommendation from Erica, and it was an awesome one. I love getting winery recommendations from wine-loving friends; it’s the best way to plan your trip!

For some of my wine country experiences, please do visit my Travel Blog Posts page!

We visited Lambert Bridge on Labor Day, and it was the perfect start to a day of wine tasting. We left our little wine country home and headed to Dry Creek Valley, one of my favorite wine regions I have visited.

Dry Creek Valley

California was in a drought when we visited, so everything was dry. Aside from the water emergency, the landscape looked cool in its sun-baked state, with green grape vines taking up huge swaths of landscape. The earth and the vines and the harvest process, crush, all of that, filled the air and smelled so good.

Dry Creek Valley

Northern Sonoma Countywine country foliage

It took us a while to find Lambert Bridge as our GPS lost signal and we went the wrong way. We opened an old fashioned map and luckily didn’t give up. The journey was well worth it.

Lambert Bridge has a gorgeous winery tasting room, with lots of dark wood and stone. The tasting room reflects their wines, big, high quality, with a lot of attention to detail.

Lambert Bridge Winery

The tasting room staff was great; they were very informative about the wines, letting us know how winemaker Jennifer Higgins is incredibly hands on, spending lots of time with the grapes and on the land and doing a ton of the winemaking prep process by hand. Lambert Bridge makes small lots of wine that involves lots of hand-picking and sorting grapes berry-by-berry. There’s clearly a lot of love in the wines, and while that is also reflected in the cost, a few bottles for a special occasion are just the souvenir.

wine tasting at Lambert Bridge

We tasted a bit of this and that from each of the tasting options, starting off with the most refreshing 2013 Bevill Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, THE perfect wine for the hot dry Sonoma County day. With citrus and clover notes, this wine tasted like Northern California in a glass. Crisp acidity made it really enjoyable.

Zinfandel and Cab Franc were center stage in the tasting for us. Despite the heat, these reds were perfection.

2011 Sonoma County Cabernet Franc was a treat, with that characteristic Cab Franc spice, funk, and berry notes. Cab Franc is like a an autumn walk in the forest, smelling crunchy leaves and smoke from fireplaces, mixed with super ripe berries. It’s such an amazing grape, and I love tasting Cab Franc from coast to coast.

2011 Forchini Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel was another favorite, big and bursting with jammy raspberry and blueberry notes, along with vanilla and spice, balanced, with a long and lovely finish. I love Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, and this one is definitely top of the list.

Lambert Bridge Winery  Lambert Bridge has a lovely property, ideal for a wander or  a seat outside with a taste of wine. It is really a top-of-the-list winery, and if you will be in Northern Sonoma County, I recommend a visit.

Lambert Bridge

Will you be celebrating Wine Wednesday today?

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Tags: Dry Creek Valley, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Sonoma County, Travel, wine, wine blog, wine lover, wine tasting, wine travel, winery

The calendar definitely says it’s fall, but the forecast feels a little bit summery here, doesn’t it? I am loving the warm days, being able to have the windows open, and like last night eating dinner outside. We even spent Saturday night, into the wee hours, hanging out around an outdoor fire. It’s a great time to be outside!

When we do have a cold spell, I am all about the comfort food, and since I have gained more weight than I would like in the last few months, I am trying to find some balance in health and comfort. I am also joining a gym tomorrow. Hold me to it.

This dish kind of randomly came together. It’s a whole wheat penne bake with a béchamel sauce, hearty mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, and a little bit of cheese to make it just that little bit decadent. I love pasta dishes that involve white sauces (like this must-try butternut squash white bean lasagna), and this one is made flavorful with a zesty Dijon mustard.

pasta ingredients

As always, this recipe was something that I eyeballed. It ended up making enough for dinner and a few lunches, the perfect Sunday supper, in my eyes. I started by bringing water to a boil for the whole wheat penne and adding plenty of salt. I think that it would be really good if the pasta was cooked in chicken stock just for a little added flavor.

While the pasta was cooking, I started my white sauce. I always start with a roux of Kerrygold butter and whole wheat flour and then slowly add in whole milk once the flour is browned and smelling nutty. I stir the sauce until it’s thick and then add some freshly ground nutmeg. Nutmeg always brings out a great flavor in a white sauce. This sauce is made extra flavorful with a big scoop of Dijon mustard.

While the pasta boiled and that white sauce thickened, I was caramelizing shallots and mixing in shredded Brussels sprouts and chopped mushrooms. The veggies alone would have been a delicious side; a little bit of butter and the combination of flavors was amazing. Rather than doing that, waited until the vegetables were slightly softened, and then I got started building my pasta dish.

caramelized shallots

I drained the pasta and layered pasta and vegetables into a casserole dish, pouring over the white sauce and then finally topping it with dollops of ricotta cheese and a fine sprinkling of mozzarella.

pasta bake

Since everything was already hot, I just cooked this for about 10 minutes and then hit it with a medium broiler until the cheese on top started to brown. Digging in was a treat, the dish hot and bubbly with a nice hint of creamy and tangy and vegetables in every bite. You could add meat to this, but we didn’t need to. It was definitely delicious and filling all on its own! I love red sauce with pasta, but my stomach is not always a fan, so dishes like this will be making repeat appearances this winter!

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Tags: comfort food, dinner, fall recipes, pasta, pasta recipe, recipe, vegetables, Vegetarian

That very sad time has come. Our 2014 Summer CSA from Red Fire Farm is over. The 20 weeks flew by in a flash, as does the best season.  Fall and winter produce don’t excite me nearly as much as what we get in spring and summer, so we opted not to do a share again until next year.

Red Fire Farm CSA Our final share included lots of greens like lettuce, kale, and dandelion greens, along with carrots, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, and pie pumpkins. One of the things I do like about fall produce is that it tends to be heartier and doesn’t need to be eaten right away. Mid-summer, with delicate tomatoes and squashes was a little more difficult and required planning on being home many nights when we might have spontaneously gone out.

We are trying really hard to eat better, move more, sleep more, and drink less, so we have been all about salads, and since I am always cold, I love to introduce some warm ingredients into salads.

This warm autumn salad is just some lettuce topped with roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and a quick vinaigrette made from balsamic, olive oil, mustard, shallot, and a dollop of honey. Some goat cheese made it a little more filling and fun. I love easy dinners like this, where I can get the veggies in the oven to roast and move on to doing other things around the house.

warm autumn salad

Another go-to fall dinner is stuffed acorn squash. There are a billion recipes for stuffed acorn squash, and I love it. It’s a way to have a fairly easy and healthy dinner that you can mix up every time. Our latest stuffed squash creation involved apples, spicy chicken sausage, cornbread, spicy peppers, and onions.

chopped apples

Typically when I am making a stuffed squash, especially a hard squash like acorn, I cut and clean it and get it started roasting, then prepare the stuffing separately. This time around I cooked down some hot peppers and red onion from our CSA in a little coconut oil. I then added in some apple pieces. Once everything was starting to soften, I started the chicken sausage in a separate pan so that it browned. Over the apple mixture, I crumbled some large chunks of cornbread, toasted that up a little, and added some flavor and moisture to it all with chicken stock.

peppers and onions for stufffing

Once that was all settled, I pulled out the acorn squash and stuffed the mixture in, cooking it all together for another eight minutes or so, just until the squash was nice and soft and the filling hot. This stuffed fall squash dish was a huge hit and made for some leftovers the next day.

stuffed acorn squash recipe

Now that we’ve made it through a full 20 week CSA, here are a few observations:

Pros

  • We got to support a Massachusetts farm for a season.
  • We really got to know the growing season in Massachusetts. I loved our weekly email from Red Fire Farm letting us know what was happening in the fields.
  • We ate a MUCH larger variety of vegetables than we usually do. Dandelion greens and kohlrabi are just two items we probably wouldn’t have purchased otherwise.
  • We always had vegetables on hand. Grocery shopping was a quick pickup of some proteins, yogurts, and work snacks.
  • We had SO MANY VEGETABLES. Many people commented on my Instagram that their CSAs did not send as much. Red Fire Farm is pretty awesome, and we are grateful for their hard work.

Cons

  • The payments were in installments early in the season, and they were pretty large chunks of money at once, understandably as it is supporting the farm for the season.
  • We had SO MANY VEGETABLES. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some weeks we shared, others we learned to eat what we were given so we didn’t waste. Still, my compost heap saw a lot of lettuce!
  • Pickup becomes a weekly constant. My poor husband was usually the one stuck with this chore since he has the car. It’s not a huge deal, but there were definitely nights it got in the way.

We will likely join a CSA next year, but I am also going full speed ahead with gardening. I am going to double the size of my garden and have already planted garlic and shallots. I have seeds for broccoli, kale, sunflowers, radishes, beets, and kohlrabi. I may have accidentally purchased 900 kohlrabi seeds, so I will be sharing if we end up with a huge crop! I will also plant potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, and basil.

I am grateful that we have access to fresh local food in so many ways and from so many places. Our CSA was a great adventure in learning more about those opportunities!

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Tags: agriculture, autum recipe, autumn salads, CSA, farm, farms, Food, Massachusetts, Red Fire Farm, stuffed acorn squash, stufffed squash

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