Sonoma Eats

Last weekend we attended my cousin’s wedding at a private estate just north of Sonoma in Glen Ellen.  Prior to our arrival at the wedding venue, we stopped in Sonoma for a late lunch.  After doing some quick research I thought The Girl and the Fig sounded like en excellent choice.  We arrived at 12:30 and luckily found street parking less than a block from the restaurant.  Its nice in sonoma in that they have free 3 hour street parking around their Square/Plaza where all the restaurants are situated.  I like that the restaurant has a system that takes your name and cell phone number so you can go wander the square.  It was a windy day but we walked down checking out some shops – stopping in the small kitchen supply store because, well, I love kitchen things!  We were sat just after 1:30, around when they said our table would be ready.  I was fairly excited about the menu.

They have a Salon du Fromage (yay cheese!) as well as their own house-made charcuterie (Mano Formate).  The Girl and the Fig is owned by Sondra Bernstein and delivers rustic French food in a nice casual atmosphere.  The original The Fig Cafe is located in nearby Glen Ellen.  We started with some craft cocktails – and while I don’t remember the exact name or what was in the drinks, they were delightful.  Also we agreed upon getting 3 cheeses and 3 meats to start.  The cheese were a Roquefort, Chevre, and a semi-firm cow cheese (can’t remember the name) along with 3 different cuts of charcuterie.  Delicious!  My wife also tried the soup but it was too earthy flavored for her.  For her main she went with the Grilled Cheese Sandwich, with tomato confit.  It was creamy and yummy.  For my main I went with the Duck Confit, served with fava beans, roasted potatoes, and onions.  I went with the 1 leg option.  Probably the best duck confit that I’ve had, and I’ve tried it at various places.

We have been watching The Great British Baking Show and one of the recent episodes featured trifles.  Since The Girl and The Fig had a chocolate & salted fig caramel trifle, I had to try it.  It was sweet and a nice way to end the meal.  If you’re ever in the Sonoma region, I definitely recommend it.

On our way back from the wedding weekend, we again stopped in Sonoma for some brunch before driving back to Sac.  The wife suggested we try Community Cafe.  It’s a small counter service restaurant that has various brunch and lunch options.  They have self serve coffee as well.  My wife ordered the Truffled Eggs & Toast and I had the Cuban Pork Breakfast Burrito (served with black beans).  I needed something hearty after a bit too much imbibing at the wedding.   Both dishes were extremely good and filling.  The truffled eggs certainly had enough truffle essence.  My burrito came as a wet burrito that I had to eat with knife and fork but I didn’t mind since it was so tasty.  The atmosphere of the cafe was certainly one of locals and a place to read the paper and have a lazy breakfast/brunch.  A nice small non-touristy spot for some good food.

Both places we visited in Sonoma on this visit were spot on.

While we were in the area, we visited Santa Rosa and the Charles Schultz museum (Peanuts!!).  It’s a nice little museum  to visit if you’re in the area.

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Peanuts!

-StewsCat

100% Whole wheat bread

Since I’m starting to feel more comfortable with bread making, I decided I should try my hand at making something that is a little healthier.  We had switched from buying bread to me making tortillas for wraps for our lunches (less dense, less calories).  Somewhere along the way I started to get interested in making bread and I want to try to keep this new hobby as healthy as possible.  I most definitely will not stop making other white breads and such, just thought I should try to do some healthy breads.

Poolish

  • 100% Whole wheat bread – 240 g
  • Water – 240 g
  • Instant yeast – 2 g

Remaining formula

  • 100% Whole wheat bread – 480 g
  • Water – 480 g
  • Olive oil – 50 g
  • Honey – 75 g
  • Instant yeast – 3 g
  • Salt – 3 tsp

I must have done something wrong with my conversions because this created an almost 100% hydration dough.  And it all just went downhill from there.

The poolish came out fine as above.  However, I then mixed up the poolish and the above remaining ingredients.  As I was doing this, I was thinking to myself that this hydration was a bit high.  I let the dough do its normal rest and then did the stretch and fold method for 3 minutes, then let it rest.  I repeated the stretch and fold method at 25 minute intervals but the dough just did not seem to be coming together, it remained a very moist and weak structure.

I finally gave up on it developing any sort of strength and form.  I elected to throw it into my breadpan and see what would happen.  As expected, it didn’t turn out great.  There was no good proofing and oven spring and it came out as an inedible brick.

The above happened on Saturday.  I worked Sunday and so to make myself feel better I whipped up a quick white bread boule (I did add a little whole wheat flour into it).

This bread had the following formula:

Poolish

  • 170 g bread flour
  • 170 g water
  • 1/4 tsp (2g) instant yeast

Remaining mixture

  • 100 g bread flour + 30 g whole wheat flour
  • 180 g water
  • 10 g salt
  • 3 g instant yeast

I mixed the poolish (overnight in fridge) with the remaining mixture and then let it sit for 30 minutes to allow some autlyse (let the flour absorb all the water).  I then followed the Richard Bertinet slap and fold.  I feel like I’m getting a better hold of this kneading method as the dough started to form up and come together after only about 10-12 minutes of kneading.  I formed it into a ball and then let it bulk ferment for about 1.5 hours.  It’s been warm here and the bread probably didn’t need to ferment that long but I also needed to fit my long run in so I let it go a little longer.  I did 2 stretch and folds with 10 minutes between them.  By now the dough had developed good gluten and structure.  I was able to form the dough into a nice boule and did the drag method on the counter to create a nicely tensioned top portion of dough.  I then placed it into a well floured cloth in a bowl to let it proof.  After about 1 hour of proofing, I tossed it into my pre-heated dutch oven (450 F) and covered it.  I let it cook for 20 minutes covered then removed the lid and turned the heat to 425 F and let it go another 20 minutes.  By then it had a nice brown crust and I checked its internal temp (~195F).

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Looks good!

Overall I’m happy that I seem to have the basics down.  Now I just need to work some more on the whole wheat stuff.  I think that tweaking the hydration level will probably allow me to create a better product next time.  I should have paid attention that I was creating an essentially 100% hydration dough.

For dinner I also did pizza and I’m getting better at developing pizza dough that isn’t too loose.  I think one problem I’ve been having in the past is that I let the dough go way past what it should (over-proofing).  Before I had just been blindly following someone’s recommendation on the Jim Lahey No-knead but now I actually am listening more to the dough.

-StewsCat

2010 City of Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon

Race summary: Well organized, good course spectators and support.  Very long slow downhill followed by uphill for the last 4-5 miles.  Decent race swag and medal.

In honor of Memorial Day I wanted to post about my first half marathon, which was the City of Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon.  I had been running consistently outside since January of 2010 and figured that I had done a handful of 5Ks and 1 10K and the next natural progression was to attempt the half marathon distance.  I was staying with my folks in the OC and this race worked out as perfect timing.

Packet pickup was at Road Runner Sports in Laguna Hills.  After I moved to San Diego, I discovered their lage facility in the SD area and it became a favorite spot to shop and find shoes.  The San Diego location also has their Clearance Store where at the time you could buy new shoes of the previous year’s edition for a lot cheaper (~1/3-1/2 of the original MSRP).  From what I recall the packet pickup was straightforward and smooth, no significantly long lines or anything of the sort.

Race morning turned out to be a beautiful one.  I had to drive about 30 minutes south of my folk’s place to get to the race and the sun was coming up as I drove down the freeway.  The start line was situated between the Saddleback Memorial Medical Center (the key sponsor of the race) and the Laguna Hills Mall, which provided plenty of racer parking for free.

race start
Race start

I was definitely nervous as this was my first race at this distance.  I felt confident that I would be able to finish as I had done a training run of 12.9 a few weeks before.  My biggest concern was still the shin splints.

The race starts out with a short 2 mile run through a small residential neighborhood (I think to ensure they reached the full 13.1) before coming out onto Alicia Parkway (a long stretch of road that was downhill for the first half of the race).  My right shin started to burn about 1 mile into the race while in the residential neighborhood and I thought “This is going to be a long day.”  I slowed down for a few miiles to see if that would ease some of the pain in my shins.

Miles 3-8 were down Alicia Parkway and this was all downhill.  I realized as I reached the turnaround point that I’d have to go uphill for the last half of the race.  The sun had come out a few miles into the race and was starting to warm up.  There was a good amount of spectators and people cheering, which was definitely helpful to keep pushing.  At the turnaround between 8 and 9, we moved onto a bike trail that was paved.  My right knee also started aching around this time and I just had to grit my teeth and keep moving forward.  The bike/run trail took us along the Aliso Creek and wove through parks and other areas.

Coming up to the finish line and finish area, there were a ton of people there cheering which really helped.  Since this was a race close to where my family lives, my parents and sister and her family were out at the finish line.  I was really glad seeing them.  I crossed the finish line and only really recall getting my medal and maybe a bottle of water (at the time I didn’t really check out the other post-race activities).  One neat thing about this race is that you received a 2nd tech shirt after finishing (I had received one at packet pickup as well).

Since my family was there, I didn’t have to take a shuttle back to the mall to get my car.

finish
First half done!

Final chip time: 2:25:16

-StewsCat

2014 Rock’n’Roll San Francisco Half Marathon Race Recap

Race Summary: Quick, efficient expo.  Early morning bus ride through the city to reach the start.  Hilly course with good amount of on-course support and spectators.  Beautiful run across the Golden Gate Bridge.

This was my 2nd RnR SF half marathon.  I also ran the inaugural race the year before.  For the second year of the race, the organizers decided to completely change the course.

Since I’m in Sac, SF is only a short 1.5-3 hour drive, depending on the traffic.  We love going to the city, though parking and driving there is not the easiest.  Since we were bringing the dog, we found a dog friendly hotel near Union Square.  Even though it is the touristy spot, it was located where I could walk to the finish line (shuttles took us to the start from the finish line) and actually is in a decent location to a lot of restaurants.

The expo was at the Moscone center and as per usual with RnR races, it was efficient.  I didn’t have time to explore the expo because the wife and dog were waiting outside the building.  But I do appreciate the quick packet pickup.

For my usual pre-race pizza dinner, we ended up at Pizzeria Delfina in the Mission District.  Originally we were going to try out Flour & Water, but the wait was too long.  This pizza joint is located adjacent to their italian restaurant Delfina in a small location.  The kitchen took up about half the space and there were a few small tables as well as a long counter.  Somehow we wound up getting seated at the counter after only a 5 minute wait.

Race morning I woke up super early as per my usual routine.  The hotel didn’t have in-room coffee so around 4 am, I ran across the street to a 24/7 pharmacy and picked up some nasty tasting coffee.  I then made my way to the finish line at Civic Center Plaza.  There I boarded a bus to the very west side of SF (northwest corner of Golden Gate Park).  I sat next to an older gentleman who said he had done a ton of Rock’n’Roll races.  We discussed some of the races that we had both done.

The start line had plenty of porta potties and there was no wait should you need to relieve yourself, which I liked.  My friend and her husband were also running the race but they were running late and we didn’t end up seeing each other.

All RnR races have corral starts.  I lined up in my corral and we were off.  The beginning of this race is a little disheartening.  You run about 1/4 mile and make a right turn and face your first hill.  This is a long slow upwards climb so its best to mentally prepare for hills.  Also because we were running through many neighborhoods, there is a noticeable dearth of bands on this course compared to other RnR races.  We wound our way along the western coast of SF and towards the Golden Gate Bridge around mile 4.  I had run across the bridge the previous year at the inaugural RnR SF race and knew the bridge is not flat.  Many people were stopping when they reached the bridge to take a selfie.  Since I had done this last year with my friends, this race I kept pushing and tried to pick up my pace since I had a slow start with the early hills.  After crossing over the bridge and back, you then run along the north end of SF past Crissy Field, the Palace of Fine Arts, and down towards Fort Mason.  Upon passing Fort Mason, we hung a right onto Polk Avenue and headed south towards the finish.  This was a little deceptive because there were a few more hills in this area prior to a downhill to the finish.  By mile 11 at Fort Mason, my legs were pretty shot with the up and down hills and I was just hanging on to finish.

Final chip time: 2:16:34

I felt good about that time given all the hills.

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2014 medal (below) compared to 2013 medal (above)

-StewsCat

 

Runservations

My made up word for observations made during a run.

  1. I’m really not a fan of sunscreen.  A few years ago I started to slather it on when I went for long runs and more recently have been fairly religious about using it anytime I go for a run.  There are a few occasions where I still will go without, when its raining or super overcast.  I know that I should still wear it when it is overcast because the UV rays penetrate through the clouds.  I’ll continue to use it regularly because I know it protects my skin and reduces my risk of skin disease.
  2. What I eat and how I work have a major impact on my runs.  Last Thursday I did 7 miles and it felt really good/easy.  Wednesday’s workday was the standard 12 hours and not too active.  Today I made it out for 7 again but my legs felt incredibly heavy and tired.  Yesterday’s workday was about 13 hours and very full up standing and other activities.  Also I have not been eating well this week, we had some yummy snacks at work including various chips (my kryptonite), dip, and donuts.
  3. I’m not looking forward to summer.  We’ve had some unseasonably warm weather here for the time of year.  Today was actually supposed to a be a little cooler but it was already still fairly warm by 9:30 am when I set out on my run.  The summer is only going to get worse.  This makes it harder for me to do long runs because I like to start my runs in mid-late morning and in the summer it will already be up into the 70s-80s at that time.  My ideal running temperatures are probably in the low 50s.  I even like doing the high 40s runs too.
  4. Lookin’ forward to some fun this weekend at my cousin’s wedding in the Sonoma area.

-StewsCat