Recently I was fortunate to be one of the lucky few to experience the US launch of Loco Tequila, where we celebrated the ultra-premium tequila brand committed to preserving the rich legacy of artisanal practices. The venue, Sullivan Rutherford Estate in St Helena, California, set the perfect stage for an unforgettable evening.
The evening included an intimate dinner and seminar led by Alberto Navarro, Maestro Tequilero, creator of Loco, and renowned author of “Larousse del Tequila.” Alongside him was Juan Pablo Torres Padilla, Co-founder of Loco, both sharing their expertise and passion for preserving the true heritage of tequila.
We learned that Loco was born out of the passion for creating one of the purest possible spirits in the world, rescuing a legacy of more than 120 years and honoring the original essence of the agave azul. Their estate sits in El Arenal, a Pre-Columbian terroir with a legacy for growing blue agave plants. Loco represents the essence of the agaves, with no added flavors. Well-balanced, harmonious, and refreshing to drink, Loco celebrates the history, craft, and tradition of tequila made in Mexico.
To complement Loco’s three expressions, acclaimed Mexican Chef Rogelio Garcia crafted delectable pairings that perfectly enhanced and complimented Loco Blanco, Loco Ambar Reposado, and Loco Puro Corazon. One of my favorite pairings of the evening was the hamachi crude paired with Loco Blanco the freshness of the dish harmoniously complimented the taste of the tequila.
During the evening, we had the opportunity to do a side-by-side taste comparison of Loco against some of the most popular tequila brands on the market. Loco excelled every single time making well-known tequilas taste artificial in comparison. The side-by-side comparison highlighted the exceptional craftsmanship that goes into every bottle of Loco.
For more information on where to purchase Loco in the Bay Area, visit their website
Mario’s passion for wine has taken him around the world. His decade-long professional wine journey began with a job at a wine bar in his native France. As his expertise and experience grew, Mario moved to New Zealand for his role as Brand Experience Cloudy Bay. Today he is Senior Customer Experience Manager for iconic Napa Valley winery Newton Vineyard.
Get to know more about Mario and his achievements with the following 10 questions.
Tell me about your current role at Newton Vineyard.
I started at Newton Vineyard in 2017, and I am in charge of our hospitality, events, wine club, e-commerce, and private clients. It is a very exciting role as no days are similar. For example, last week, among other things, I launched an eCommerce campaign, worked on the opening of our future tasting room, hosted a Private Client dinner in NY, and organized and hosted a Club Event at our estate in Spring Mountain. We are a small team at Newton, and it allows us to be exposed to many different topics and challenges.
When did you discover your passion for wine?
Being French, wine is part of my culture, but when I moved to Paris at the age of 19, I discovered nice restaurants and excellent wines. I quickly became quite geeky and applied to a group with several wine bars as a server. The director was very friendly and gave me Mondays off and all his invitations for trade tastings that usually happened on that day. A few months later, the group’s CEO offered me to take responsibility for a wine shop close to the Arc de Triomphe. I accepted and stayed six years. During that time, I was running two wine shops (with a food offer) and was buying all the wine for the five restaurant wine bars. It was an incredible experience.
What is your favorite summertime wine?
I love Sauvignon Blanc, and Cloudy Bay has a special place for me as I spend almost four years working for that winery in New Zealand. Lately, I have discovered beautiful fresh California wines in the Mendocino Ridge appellation, including Sauvignon Blanc.
Favorite place in the Napa Valley(besides Newton, of course)?
Calistoga is a lovely little town with great wineries, a brewery, nice hotels, spas, and a cool, far west feel.
What sets you apart in your industry?
It is a difficult question. I think many French working in the wine industry are from a wine-growing region and tend to gravitate around what they know. It is not my case. I am from Toulouse, so I am open to loving any wine from any part of the world, as long as they are created with passion and integrity.
How do you stay connected to the local Napa wine community?
I do so by supporting local organizations and charities. I also maintain a good relationship with people who work and live in the valley.
Newton Vineyard was recently nominated for American Wine of the Year. What do you think helped your team achieve this?
We are all working toward the same goal with a lot of energy and passion. Incredible things happen when you work as a team.
Besides wine, what are some of your other passions?
I spend most of my time riding a horse, mainly bareback, in the vineyards. I discovered natural horsemanship when I moved to the US, and it is fascinating. It is incredible to create a special connection with this remarkable animal. When I am done riding, I usually cook on an open fire with friends, and we typically celebrate with some great wines.
What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?
To have my own ranch/winery. It will take time but I am confident it will happen.
Tell us something that would surprise people about you?
Last year Newton gave me the fantastic opportunity to work in the cellar for two months during harvest. I learned a lot, which gave me more confidence in my daily job. My team and I are currently farming 200 vines that survived a fire. This vineyard is meaningful to us and a fantastic learning opportunity. On a more personal level, I moved to Paris from Toulouse to study acting, which I did for three years… I guess I was better at tasting wine.
For the first time, Calistoga Ranch, Solage, and Auberge du Soleil have partnered with Food & Wine Magazine to create ” Best New Chef’s Reunion Weekend.” This event is a first-of-its-kind epicurean event filled with mouthwatering cuisine and incredible wine from the best chefs and vintners in the California region. I was fortunate to be one of the first people to enjoy this unparalleled epicurean experience in Calistoga.
My time at the Best New Chef’s Reunion Weekend started with checking in at the beautiful Calistoga Ranch property. Calistoga Ranch is a spectacular resort rooted in nature. It is tucked away in a private 157-acre canyon ideally located between St. Helena and Calistoga.
At check-in, I was warmly greeted with a crisp glass of local Chardonnay and taken to my well-appointed private cottage. My cottage came outfitted with an outdoor shower, a soaking tub, a private hot tub, a private living room, and a double fireplace. The rooms are modern and filled with everything you could need. I gladly freshened up under the outdoor shower before heading out to my first event.
The first event of the day, Chef Demonstration lunch, was held at Solage, just a short 10-minute drive from Calistoga Ranch. At this event, we had a cooking demonstration with Chef Ravi Kapu of Liholiho. Chef Ravi showed us how to create a salad made with seasonal ingredients, including squash, Brussel sprouts with an Asian inspired pesto. Participants were able to ask questions and get feedback from the chef during this intimate event.
After the lunch I retreated back to Calistoga Ranch for a little R&R starting with a soak in my private hot tub accompanied by a glass of complimentary wine and cheeseboard from in room dining. After some R&R I explored the property via the golf carts, which come with drivers and are available 24 hours a day. I went to the resort hosted wine and cheese hour where I was able to meet and chat with other hotel guests.
I had a lovely dinner at the resort’s private restaurant, The Lakehouse. It’s a wonderful restaurant overlooking the oak grove and the lake. This is a great option without having to leave the property.
After a good night’s sleep, I was ready for the second day of festival activities. I borrowed one of the Mercedes Benz house cars for the morning to explore Calistoga before heading out for a luncheon at Solage. Maria Sinskey collaborated with Chef Gustavo Rios, executive chef at Solbar. We started the lunch in the garden with beautiful table settings and amazing passed hors d’oeuvres. Maria was a great host and had the guests laughing and celebrating the fantastic lunch. The lunch consisted of unique seasonal dishes paired with Robert Sinskey wines. Guests were sent home with home-made apple cakes and coffee.
Before heading to the final event of the weekend I enjoyed time in the main sun-drenched pool at Calistoga Ranch. The last event, dinner at the newly renovated Louis Martini Winery. This was an elegant dinner hosted by Michelin starred chef Daniel Patterson of Coi restaurant. It was a pleasure to share the table with accomplished winemakers, chefs, and culinary experts, and foodies come together in one breathtaking setting. Some of the dishes presented were glazed veal sweetbreads, braised lamb with truffles, wild mushroom porridge, and a delectable curry and peanut butter dessert as a sweet ending to the wonderful weekend.
This was a great event that I recommend to all. If you are planning on attending next year I suggest you stay at Solage of Calistoga Ranch for easy access to all of the festivities.
Make sure to follow Auberge Resorts to stay up to date on their events and happening.
Last month I attended GATHER, an epicurean and wellness festival set on Isola Delle Rose, a private island that is home to the JW Marriott in Venice. For the second year, illy coffee was one of the sponsors of GATHER, and they invited me to be a guest of this fabulous event.
Each morning of the four-day festival my, day was started by sipping on a perfectly crafted espresso at the illy Café in the main festival square. The illy Café was a hot-spot for festival attendees and the visiting chefs, which included Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-winning chefs. Attendees gathered in the lounge area, and conversations were started around a cup of espresso.
At the festival, guests could select intimate cooking classes with renowned chefs like Giada DiLaurentis, Norman Love, and Ciccio Sultano. Experiential dinners gave a chance for attendees to dress up and dine on excellent pasta, wine, and even Thai food. It was at these dinners where I met some fantastic people, with whom I still keep in touch. It feels good to be around people who share your passions.
During the day, there were other food and wellness driven activities such as bocce and bubbles. If you needed a break from the food, JW Marriott set up “Secret Spots” on the island where you could rest on a hammock and enjoy views of Venice. After resting in the Secret Spot, I participated in a sound bath at JW Mindfulness House.
During the festival, I attended the illy Master Barista Series, led by Giorgio Milos. Milos spoke about the different coffee varieties and compared coffee to wine. Just like wine, coffee has different taste and flavor profiles depending on the coffee variety and terroir. Milos also taught us how to brew the perfect pour-over at home during the master class.
When it comes to coffee, our horizons as a culture are finally expanding beyond the popular sugary drinks. A worldliness has taken hold, and it’s illy’s mission to educate the world about coffee culture. Based on this insight and illycaffè’s 80 years of experience in producing coffee, the company established the Università del Caffè in 1999. The UdC is a centre of excellence that promotes a culture of quality coffee all over the world through training, research and innovation.
If you can’t fly to Venice, you can sign up for classes at the University of Coffee at illy’s flagship San Francisco location at 220 Montgomery Street.
Make sure to follow illy on their social channels to keep up to date with more events like this as well as new illy Art Collection Cups, unique coffee recipes and more.
Palo Alto Hotels never conveyed luxury to me until I had a chance to visit the newly remodeled Nobu Hotel in Palo Alto. I fell in love with the minimal Japanese design and the attentiveness from the friendly staff. The hotel is ideally situated in downtown Palo Alto, with lots of restaurants and shopping within walking distance. The notable Nobu Restaurant is conveniently downstairs.
This 73-room Palo Alto hotel is the perfect home base if you are visiting Silicon Valley. The hotel amenities reflect the tech-mind of Silicon Valley with seamless integrations Alexa, with multiple voice commands including light and shade control, 82- inch television. My favorite is the state of the art TOTO washlet bidet.
One of my favorite amenities of the hotel was the Gym, I rarely use hotel gyms, but the gym at Nobu provides Peloton bikes with access to hundreds on online interactive classes, it was hard to leave the gym with this feature
We are all familiar with Nobu, the restaurant and I loved that all you had to do was take the elevator down and you have access to some seriously delicious eats. One perk of being a Nobu hotel guest is that you get priority reservations at the restaurant.
Beyond the beautiful decor and amenities, it is the people of Nobu that makes this such a special place. You feel at home with the warm hospitality from all of the staff. The staff recommended many wonderful things to do in the area. I particularly loved a book store one block down from the hotel.
If visiting the Bay Area, I would surely return to this special hotel Palo Alto Hotel
Please note that the hotel is still undergoing construction and most rooms are expected to be completed soon.
The very first time I made cauliflower pizza it was ad-hoc style using everything I had available in my kitchen. Fast-forward 4 months later and I embraced high-protein cauliflower pizza that tastes amazing and is guiltless.
I discovered ISOPURE® WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE UNFLAVORED This is a premium protein that’s true to its name. ISOPURE® Unflavored Whey Protein Isolate contains 25 grams of 100% pure whey protein isolate per scoop, stripped of fat, carbs, fillers, sugars, and lactose. All with no added colors, flavors or sweeteners. It’s perfect for mixing into your favorite flavored beverages (hot or cold), soups, sauces and baked goods recipes.
I experimented with different recipes but ultimately LOVED it in my high protein cauliflower pizza recipe. I hope you love this recipe as much as I do.
PROTEIN POWDER CAULIFLOWER PIZZA
Prep time: 12 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
1/2 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
Cut cauliflower and pulse in a food processor until it becomes rice-like
Microwave the grated cauliflower in a bowl for 5-8 minutes depending on your microwave. No need to add water. After microwaving, transfer cauliflower to a fine mesh strainer and drain thoroughly, gently pressing out excess water. Once drained, transfer cauliflower to a clean dish towel and wrapped the sides around the cauliflower while gently pressing out excess water. This drying process is essential!
Preheat oven to 375 and spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray
In a medium bowl, combine all crust ingredients making sure everything is well mixed, place your mixture on the baking sheet and form a round pizza shape.
Bake your dough at 375 for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven. Add sauce and your favorite toppings on the crust
Set oven to broil cook for additional 3-5 minutes
I would love to see your photos if you recreate the recipe, make sure to tag me.
This is a sponsored blog post, but all opinions are my own
Lexus LS, LC & LX, California Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com
In Japan, there is a deep-rooted culture called omotenashi, used to describe what the Japanese believe to be a unique approach to hospitality, meaning to look after guests wholeheartedly. Lexus values omotenashi as a means of ensuring that their vehicles exceed expectations. The aim is to create a refined luxury interior which places customers at the center of the Lexus experience.
I was lucky enough to experience omotenashi first hand while driving the all-New Lexus LC 500 (part of Lexus’ Flagship collection) through Napa Valley for three days. Shady Oaks and world-class vineyards set the stage for the perfect driving experience. The Napa Valley roadways dip and curve along the beautiful foothills and offer gorgeous views of the vineyard and mountains, making the LC’s engine come to life. Napa Valley is the perfect place to experience the LC 500 in all its glory. I drove the LC500 in mostly Sports+ mode and loved hearing the roar from the 471 HP, V8 engine.
Now, on to the interior! Stepping into the LC 500 makes you feel like you’ve checked into a five-star luxury resort. Lexus has crafted a sophisticated cabin with obsessive attention to detail, such as hand-stitched features that are almost too beautiful to touch. Some of my favorite cabin features are the glass roof, ambient lighting, and the heated leather-trimmed steering wheel.
I can’t talk about Lexus and not touch on the safety features of LC 500. It comes with standard safety features including eight airbag system, pre-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and a backup camera.
While driving this beauty, I noticed just how much it commands attention and sparks conversation with those who see it. Wherever it was parked, a cluster of bystanders gathered to admire and ask me questions about it. I drive a lot every day and sometimes dread driving, but I didn’t want to stop driving the LC 500. I can’t think of another car I’d rather take a road trip in. This is the car you want to buy to get the emotional response you would expect from your dream car. My experience with the LC 500 defined omotenashi for me, leaving me with a lingering feeling of leisure and luxury.
Visit your local Lexus Dealer to take a test drive the LC 500 or the other vehicles in their Flagship line. If you already own a Lexus, I would love to hear your thoughts and see your photos.
LC 500 FEATURES AT A GLANCE:
35HWY MPG RATING
4.7-SECOND 0-TO-60 TIME
NAVIGATION SYSTEM WITH 10.3-INCH SPLIT SCREEN MULTIMEDIA DISPLAY
Provides immediate, simultaneous access to audio or climate controls and various systems including Navigation. It displays the current speed limit and can automatically identify nearby gas stations if you begin to run low on fuel.
ILLUMINATED ENTRY SYSTEM
As you approach, exterior lights illuminate to help prevent you from stepping in puddles or other potential hazards. And, to welcome you inside, the interior features white LED illumination.
STANDARD ON: LC 500, LC 500h
12-SPEAKER LEXUS PREMIUM SOUND SYSTEM
This 12-speaker Lexus Premium Sound System offers an immersive surround-sound experience courtesy of optimized speaker placement throughout the cabin, including a front-center speaker and a woofer in the rear.
The available backup camera uses an inconspicuous lens mounted above the license plate to enable the driver to view more objects in the vehicle’s path when driving in reverse.
STANDARD ON: LC 500, LC 500h
The front passenger seat is designed to detect whether the seat is occupied by an adult or a child, or is vacant. In case the system detects a child or empty passenger seat, the system prevents the passenger’s front, side and knee airbags from being deployed. The front passenger’s airbag features two chambers, creating an indentation in the center impact area that helps to provide occupant protection in a severe frontal collision.
PRE-COLLISION SYSTEM* WITH PEDESTRIAN DETECTION
The Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Pedestrian Detection is engineered to detect vehicles in the path of your Lexus under certain conditions. Should the system detect a pedestrian or determine a frontal collision is imminent, it’s designed to automatically prepare Brake Assist* for increased brake force and is even designed to automatically begin braking before impact.
STANDARD ON: LC 500, LC 500h
HEATED LEATHER-TRIMMED STEERING WHEEL
Combining exquisite craftsmanship with exceptional comfort, the interior features a leather-trimmed shift knob and steering wheel trimmed in hand-selected leather. For added indulgence, the steering wheel also includes a heating element that covers the entire diameter of the leather-trimmed steering wheel, warming the driver’s hands regardless of their placement. The system also continually monitors and adjusts the heating level to maintain a set temperature.
THE FIRST-EVER LEXUS MULTISTAGE HYBRID (LC 500h Model )
Experience the breakthrough that recasts the entire concept of hybrid performance. Beyond efficient, the LC 500h is our most responsive, fastest and highest-performance hybrid yet. This is innovation you can feel.
LEXUS FLAGSHIP EXPERIENCE IN NAPA VALLEY
Discover the finest hotels, restaurants, and wineries to re-create my tour through the Napa Valley.
As a freelance photographer and blogger I often find myself working out of cafes but that gets to be an unreliable source to get work done. On a quest to be more productive with my work I found Werqwise a new co-working space, in SOMA.
After almost two months of working out of Werqwise, I am impressed with what they have built. Werqwise is a lot more than renting a desk, it feels like a community, from the people at the front desk to the other members. I love all the amenities that they offer (listed below)
Hot desk workspace (booth and café style tables) and huddle space
“Do Not Disturb” zone desk
Espresso Bar (latte, cappuccino, and Americano) and kitchen (full range of complementary drip coffees, tea, cold brew coffee, flavored waters, sparkling/still water and healthy snacks)
For a limited time, Werqwise is having the following promo
Buy one month and get one free
Roam+, Spot+ and Office+ memberships
10% off the regular price
For anyone considering Werqwise, go give them a visit and space will speak for itself. I’m surprised to find Werqwise rental prices quite reasonable given what it’s providing and the multiple amenities that are offered. Running a company is busy enough without having to worry about being a janitor, barista and front desk receptionist at the same time.
Werqwise, 149 New Montgomery St, 4th Floor, San Francisco, CA, 94105
I live a hectic life, and I am always on the go, so creating a recipe that is easy, healthy and versatile is my idea of perfection. I love Mediterranean flavors, so meatballs with Greek yogurt are my savior for busy days.
I like to use FAGE Total plain Greek yogurt because it’s rich in protein, has no added sugar, preservative free and gluten free.
Greek style meatballs served with Tzatziki sauce are great as an appetizer or served over rice, in a salad or a pita bread. This recipe also makes a perfect make-ahead lunch.