With luxury resorts, a wide variety of activities, great dining options, a vibrant nightlife and, of course, miles and miles of beautiful beaches, each day in Cabo can be filled with as much adventure or relaxation as one desires.
As the sun hinted of its quickly approaching presence, it was time to head out to the ocean. With the exception of a scattering of fisherman and a few early risers, the beach was quiet as the waves made their way to the shore.
Waiting for the warmth of the day to begin, I dug my toes into the cool sand underfoot and simply took in the beauty of the simplicity of the morning. Dozens of fishing charters headed out of the marina, gliding by on the azure waters of the Pacific. A dolphin playfully jumped in the distance. The buildings on the hills basked in the warm glow of the early dawn light.
The sky continued to fill with a myriad of oranges and yellows until, in an instant, the sun reached above the horizon and a new day in Cabo San Lucas was underway.
One thing about Cabo – you can fill your day with as much or as little as you please. The resorts have calendars overflowing with activities ranging from blackjack to yoga to pool exercise classes. Not quite your thing? Grab a chair and a book and relax as the Baja sun warms your body and the stresses of the real world melt away.
While it may be tempting to simply while away to the sound of the ocean for your entire stay, an array of pursuits also await outside the gates of your resort. Spend an afternoon shopping in San Lucas or San Jose, play a round of golf on one of Cabo’s numerous golf courses, or if you are seeking something more daring, several adventure companies offer activities ranging from scuba diving and snorkeling to ziplining to camel rides.
Throughout our stay, we took in our share of beach time, explored San Lucas and opted for a bit of adventure with an afternoon at Wild Canyon.
Take a ride on the wild side at Wild Canyon
Camel rides in Cabo? You bet! Located about 20 minutes outside of Cabo San Lucas, Wild Canyon is home to ziplines, ATV and UTV touring, a bungee drop, an animal sanctuary and Camel Quest camel riding tours.
Our Cabo Camel Ride adventure began with an introduction to the camels we would be riding and some riding instructions. After a fun ride through the canyon, we took a short hike for an up-close view of an unexpected waterfall – something thoroughly enjoyed by the wild animals that call the canyon home.
Following our hike, we rode the camels back to their habitat, where we fed them and learned more about these beautiful creatures.
Next up was a tour of Wild Canyon’s Kingdom, an animal sanctuary, where we held….
and a baby crocodile
and love birds
We finished our afternoon of adventure with a drink and snacks at the Lion’s Den before being whisked back to our hotel on the Wild Canyon shuttle.
As nightfall draws near, a new set of options await. Restaurants in Cabo range from quiet to chic, with cuisines spanning the culinary continuum. Many of the larger resorts also hold themed dinners each evening, providing dinner and entertainment without venturing into town.
An additional evening option that combines drinks, dinner and a beautiful way to view the Land’s End is a sunset cruise. Several leave from the San Lucas marina each afternoon and we decided this would be the perfect way to end our last day in the Baja.
As we boarded the boat, we were handed cocktails, which were replenished as often as we wished throughout our evening’s journey. Our first stop after leaving the marina was Lover’s Beach and the El Arco de Cabo San Lucas.
The spot is called Land’s End because it is just that – the end of the Baja Peninsula and the point where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez, also called the Gulf of California. Lover’s Beach, or Playa del Amour, is the beautiful, secluded beach next to the Arch.
After our stop at The Arch, we left the Sea of Cortez and made our way up the Pacific Coast shoreline, with dolphins and sea lions playing in the waters along the way. The crew said whales also could be spotted between late December through March, when the migration brings humpback whales to waters off the shore of Cabo San Lucas.
We continued parallel to the shoreline, passing resorts and mansions high on the hills before we turned and casually headed back toward San Lucas. As we gently glided along, the chefs prepared dinner on the grills along the back of the boat.
Anchoring in the bay outside the marina, we enjoyed a delicious dinner of fajitas, an assortment of side dishes and dessert. Following dinner, we enjoyed a glass of wine and some conversation as the lights from the resorts sparkled along the shore.
Airport: The San Jose Del Cabo International Airport (SJD) is located about 29 miles / 48 km) from Cabo San Lucas and about 8 miles /13 km from San Jose del Cabo. Transportation to the resorts can be arranged via car rental, taxi, shared shuttles or private shuttles.
Currency: The official local currency is the Mexican Peso but U.S. dollars are widely accepted in Cabo.
Power: Cabo San Lucas uses 110v electricity so power adapters from the U.S and Canada are not required.
Language: Spanish is the national language of Mexico, although some amount of English is spoken by most Cabo locals.
Timeshares: Timeshare sales agents are prevalent in Cabo and are tenacious. You will be offered everything from free cab rides to free activities or even cash for attending a presentation. Unless you want to dedicate half of your day to a high-pressure sales presentation, just say no and enjoy your vacation.
Known around the world as a shopping paradise, Singapore has one of the broadest ranges of products of any city, with almost limitless retail options.
From street markets to avant-garde boutiques to luxury brands, it’s all in Singapore. There are places that dazzle, hipster spots, and emporiums that overflow with character and charm. Where to start? We’ll start where most shopping expeditions begin in Singapore – on the legendary Orchard Road.
With 2.2 kilometers of department stores, malls, and shops filled with merchandise catering to every budget and desire, Orchard Road is the retail hub of Singapore. The world’s finest designer boutiques sit alongside small, unique shops in this diverse shopping haven. Pace yourself and allow some time to explore the 20+ shopping malls and department stores that call Orchard Road home.
When you do need a break from all that retail bliss, indulge in some fabulous food. Be sure to check out the flying noodles at Hana and the swing over to Lady M for dessert. We fit both in, then indulged in a bit of relaxation with a fish spa pedicure.
Popular in Asia and mostly banned in the U.S. for hygiene reasons, the Garra Rufa fish from Turkey eat the dead skin from your feet and legs. Something I’d always wanted to try, I found it a bit ticklish at first, but quite relaxing once you get used to it.
A spectacular shopping destination that over 270 premium retailers and restaurants call home, the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is a luxury shopping experience in the heart of Singapore’s business district. Retail brands range from Prada to Tom Ford and, if hunger pangs strike while gathering treasures, you can stop in at one of the 10 celebrity chef restaurants located in the facility.
While visiting the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, be sure to check out the beautiful lotus pond near the ArtScience Museum, take a ride on a sampan boat on the canal inside the shopping center, and stop by the Rain Oculous, the large whirlpool in the center of the mall where water falls two stories into the pool below.
Roaming the tiny stalls and cramped shophouses of Chinatown is a fascinating cultural experience. From 3 for $10 souvenirs to cashmere Pashminas to custom-made suits, strolling and bargaining for goods in Chinatown is an experience not to be missed.
In addition to uncovering unique finds, be sure to drop by Tong Heng’s for egg tarts and other pastries, stop in at the Chinatown Heritage Center to learn about the district and its history and visit both the gorgeous Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and beautiful the Sri Mariamman Temple.
Hidden away in the Kapong Glam district is a trendy little street that attracts in-the-know shoppers from around the globe. Rumor has it that Gwen Stefani dropped by when she was in town. A hipsters paradise, Haji Lane is a little shopping and dining enclave filled with vintage shops, avant-garde boutiques, coffee shops, bakeries, and galleries. The street art is fabulous and the district’s artistic feel will leave you feeling creative and upbeat.
Singapore’s largest mall, VivoCity at HarborFront has it all. Its 1.5 million square feet includes retail stores, multiple food courts, spas, restaurants, a gym, Singapore’s largest cinema, a promenade, sky park, amphitheater, a wading pool, a massive toy store and a children’s play court. The Food Republic at VivoCity is exceptional, offering a vast array of options. On the third floor, visitors can catch the monorail, Sentosa Express, to the island of Sentosa.
VivoCity is also home to multiple art installations including a 6-meter tall spherical bouquet of flowers by Korean artist, Choi Jeong-Hwa, a bright red rocket by Marc Ruygrok of the Netherlands and two installations by Inges Idee of Germany, a giant snowflake and a towering snowman.
Little India is open 24 hours a day for shopping, so it’s the perfect place to head for dinner followed by some after-dinner retail recreation. The stalls along Serangoon Road, Little India’s central street, are an incredible display of color, texture, and fragrances. Look for deals on jewelry, fruit, flower garlands, fabrics, brass items and decorative wares. As the night grows later, the shopping doesn’t stop – just head over Mustafa Centre, which is open 24 hours and offers everything from electronics to groceries to sari stores.
I love great airports. Maybe it’s because we spend so much time in them, but airports that have great amenities are so appreciated. Changi Airport is fabulous and a great place to do some last minute shopping on the way out of Singapore. Bally, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Hermès, Longchamp – they are all there, along with hundreds of other shops and restaurants. So, save a bit of your money, head to the airport early and enjoy.
Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to Singapore Tourism Board for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
They had us at “exploring machine.” That’s what the email we received from Volkswagen called the new Golf Alltrack being introduced in the U.S. for 2017. Exploring machine – what an appropriate name for a car for us.
We’ve driven a Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited for the last four years and most of the miles we’ve logged were spent exploring. From coast to coast, through deserts, mountains, cities and the countryside, the car has hauled us and our loads of gear to ski, hike, bike, photograph and explore much of America.
Earlier in the year, we’d decided to check out buying a new vehicle, but couldn’t find something new that matched our lifestyle and performance needs. So, when we heard about Volkswagen’s new U.S. entry into the outdoor market, we wanted to see more.
Which is how we ended up in Seattle for a weekend to learn about the Volkswagen Alltrack and, ultimately, on Bainbridge Island, where we’d test drive the car along with taking in a bit of hiking and photography – all against a gorgeous Washington backdrop, complete with Mt. Rainier in the distance.
A Volkswagen Weekend in Seattle
The Pacific Northwest, commonly shortened to PNW, is an amazing place. A photography and outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, the PNW is home to some of the most majestic scenery in North America, with mountain ranges, rocky shorelines, and breathtaking views around each bend. In addition to fabulous outdoor activities, the area is home to cities with character, charm, and much to do. The largest city in the region, Seattle, was our base for this visit to the PNW and where we’d be introduced to the new Volkswagen Golf Alltrack.
Arriving in Seattle on a Thursday afternoon, we were whisked away from Sea-Tac airport by a gentleman driving a beautiful blue Passat and taken to our hotel for the weekend, the Kimpton Palladian Hotel in downtown Seattle.
After dropping our bags in the room, we headed down to our first activity of the weekend, a walking tour of Pike Place Market, located just a couple of blocks from the hotel.
Pike Place Market
The iconic Pike Place Market dates back to 1907 and is one of the longest running farmers markets in the United States. Each year over 10 million people visit the year-round market, which is home to over 500 small businesses that include bakeries, fishmongers, produce vendors, craftspeople, specialty food stores, restaurants, and shops.
From flowers to yogurt to fish to spices, Pike Place Market has been satisfying Seattle’s affinity for fresh, local goods since its inception. Around the turn of the 20th century, middlemen were drastically marking up prices on farm products sold to the consumer, with the farmers making little to no money and buyers overpaying. To counteract the situation, farmers began appearing near the waterfront, selling their products from wagons – the beginning of the Public Market in 1907. Eventually, buildings were built and over the next century, Pikes Place Market transformed into the top attraction in Seattle.
Following our walking tour of the Market, we took some time to roam the streets of downtown Seattle. The vibrant, eclectic city is home to a wide range of attractions, museums, shops, and restaurants. But, simply strolling the streets taking in the urban landscape, exploring Seattle’s unique atmosphere and quirkiness, can be a perfect way to spend an hour or an afternoon – with stops of course along the way at one of the coffee shops located on every block.
Introducing the Golf Alltrack
Upon our return to the hotel, the group gathered for an introduction to the star of the weekend, the Golf Alltrack.
So, what exactly is an Alltrack? The vehicle is based on the existing Volkswagen SportWagen, has a higher ground clearance, a more rugged exterior, and an Alltrak specific interior. Our initial impression that the Alltrack could be a suitable alternative for the Subaru Outback appeared to be on target, as the second slide of the presentation jumped straight in with a feature comparison between the two go-anywhere vehicles.
Comparing the Volkswagen Alltrack and the Subaru Outback
The standard engine in a Subaru Outback is a 2.5L naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder engine, although we opted for the 6-cylinder for our Outback. Comparably, the Volkswagen Alltrack comes with an EA888 1.8L direct-injected and turbocharged 4-cylinder TSI engine.
Size & cargo space
The Outback is slightly bigger than the Alltrack. The Alltrack has a roof rack height of 59.7 inches, while the Outback sits at 66 inches. With the rear seats in place, the Alltrack has 30.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity. The 2017 Subaru’s cargo capacity is 35.5 cubic feet. With the rear seats folded, there are 66.5 cubic feet of luggage space in the Alltrack versus 73.3 cubic feet in the Outback.
In the areas of style and comfort, the Alltrack excels in standard features.
The Alltrack includes Standard Car-Net App-Connect with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink on all model levels. The 2017 Subaru Outback has a similar package called Subaru Starlink™ on its models.
The Outback has a standard-sized sunroof available. The Alltrack has a huge tilt-and-slide panoramic sunroof available on the SE & SEL models that have more than twice the area of Outback’s.
Leatherette is standard on all Alltrack models. Cloth is standard on the Subaru, with leather optional and only available on the upper-level models.
Heated seats, mirror-integrated turn signals, cooled glove box, fog lights, and leather steering wheel & shifter are all standard on the Alltrack, while optional on the Outback.
Things that make you go “wow”
Both the Outback and the Alltrack have options that increase the comfort and up the wow factor. On the Alltrack, aside from that unbelievable optional sunroof, cool options include features such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning & Autonomous Emergency Braking and, for all those that still have nightmare flashbacks to parallel parking in driver’s ed class, Park Pilot and Park Assist.
Models and Pricing
The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack comes in three models, the S model which starts at $26,950, the SE beginning at $30,530 and the SEL that starts at $32,890. The Subaru Outback comes in 6 levels ranging from the entry-level 2.5i at $25,645 to the top line 3.6R Touring which starts at $38,195.
Dinner and late evening Lego fun
Following the Alltrack introduction presentation, we walked back to the Atrium Kitchen at Pikes Place Market for a reception and dinner. The Atrium is a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen available to in the heart of Pike Place Market available to local chefs for hands-on cooking classes, cooking demonstrations, tastings and private events.
The group enjoyed a wonderful feast of local specialties prepared from fresh ingredients from the market while socializing and sending a few shots of the delicious dining offerings and the event out on social, #VWGolfAlltrack or #VW2017. After dinner, some late night Lego fun was on tap back at the hotel before retiring for the evening.
The ferry to Bainbridge Island
A trip across Puget Sound on the ferry to Bainbridge Island is a must for any visit to Seattle. The 35-minute ride provides spectacular Seattle skyline and Mt. Rainier views and provides transport to beautiful Bainbridge, a 28 square mile island that is a great place to explore and the location of our Alltrack test drive.
After passengers and vehicles boarded the boat, the Alltrack made its entrance, sporting a bright green canoe. We quickly made our way to the vehicle deck to capture some shots of the car as we departed Seattle.
Time to test drive the Alltrack
We spend a lot of time outdoors. We ski, we hike, we bike…and getting there often means winding our way around back roads and through the countryside, so we planned to put the Alltrack to the test, checking out its performance, handling and fun-to-drive factor.
For our first test drive of the day, we selected a red Alltrack S model, wanting to start with the entry-level to see what the base model would deliver. The Volkswagen crew provided a detailed itinerary and overview, with three destinations around the island.
We took turns driving and we both enjoyed piloting the Alltrack. It was very responsive and handled well, taking turns with authority. The engine was energetic and the overall feel was both comfortable and sporty. After stopping for a short hike at Scenic Beach State Park, we headed for Port Gamble, our lunch spot for the day and the point where we would swap cars and try the SE model.
As expected, the comfort and gadget level increased with SE model. The SE added keyless entry, a premium audio system, the above-mentioned driver’s assistance package, and that mind-blowing sunroof, which alone would be our reason to upgrade.
We also gave Volkswagen roadside assistance a quick test when I tried to open the sunroof and accidentally pressed the “call for help” button instead. A nice female quickly responded and after advising her it was simply a case of pilot error, she wished us a good day.
As Subaru Outback owners, what did we think?
We loved the Alltrack. It is fun to drive and has quite a few features that we felt make it a great option for those seeking an alternative to the Outback. The Alltrack seemed quieter and handled the road extremely well. While we obviously didn’t have the opportunity to test it out over any 12,000-foot mountain passes, the engine responded well and the steering was highly responsive, a necessity for zigging and zagging up and down switchbacks in the mountains.
While we have both bike and ski racks for our Outback, we rarely use them, opting to throw our gear in the back. We tested out loading a road bike in the back with the seats down, and the Alltrack handled it with ease. The Alltrack also has 60/40 rear split seats with a center pass-through, providing ski hauling options as well.
Overall, the Alltrack was fun to drive, performed well, is super comfortable and is definitely worth a test drive.
Learn more about the Volkswagen Alltrack
The 2017 Volkswagen Alltrack is available in the United States beginning in October 2016. Learn more and get the details on the Volkswagen website.
Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to Volkswagen USA for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
Having visited Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz previously, we knew attending one of their highly-acclaimed farm to table dinners would be an amazing experience. A luxury resort and spa that also manages to be comfortable and fun, the hotel is surrounded by 300 acres of tall trees and beautiful vistas. Add to that a friendly staff and phenomenal restaurants, and a visit to the resort is a perfect spot for relaxation, some great hiking, and enjoyment of delicious food and beverages.
Invited to attend the fourth dinner of Chaminade’s 2016 farm to table series, I was instantly curious as to how it was all pulled together and asked if we could go behind the scenes for the event. Chaminade agreed and granted us full access to the event… and it was a spectacular evening of food, wine, and new friends.
Chaminade Resort & Spa’s Farm to Table Wine Dinners
Now in their ninth season, the Farm to Table Wine Dinners at Chaminade have developed a devoted following of Northern and Central Californians with a passion for the finest in locally sourced cuisine.
Chaminade’s farm to table series includes dinners spaced throughout the growing season, each highlighting the finest ingredients straight from the fields of local farms and expertly paired with wines from a nearby winery. Diners are treated to a delightful evening in an idyllic setting overlooking the Monterey Bay, beginning with a wine reception and followed by a multi-course dinner, with wine poured freely throughout.
What is Farm to Table?
While it seems like nearly every restaurant you enter these days uses farm to table or farm to fork to describe their menu offerings, the concept is more than just a trendy phrase. Twenty years ago, if you asked most five-year olds where carrots or potatoes came from, most would probably have answered “the grocery store.” Fortunately, in recent years, an appreciation for food of higher quality has resulted in a resurgence of farmers markets, farm stands and home gardening.
Obviously, produce picked, transported only a short distance, and eaten quickly is fresher and more flavorful than those harvested too early to avoid spoilage while they are transported long distances. Simply compare the taste of a homegrown tomato from a backyard vegetable patch to one that was picked greenish, then shipped for days before arriving at a store, and it is easy to understand why chefs embrace the farm to table movement.
Locally sourced ingredients are also at their peak nutritional value, healthier and support and celebrate the small farms that strive to deliver premium products.
Farm to table, when crafted by talented chefs, transforms those higher quality ingredients into artisanal cuisine. Typically presented at long tables in stunning surroundings, the farm to table dinner creates a dining experience that is as memorable as it is delicious.
The journey from farm to table
We decided to begin our behind the scenes look at a farm to table dinner by finding out just how local the food and wine that would be served during the dinner really was by visiting the featured farm and winery. We didn’t have to venture far.
The Farm: Everett Family Farm
Located about four miles from Chaminade, just outside the quaint town of Soquel, California, visitors are greeted to Everett Family Farm on Old San Jose Road with signs proclaiming, “Don’t panic, eat it’s organic” and “Buy Fresh, Buy Local Here.”
A California Certified Organic Farm (CCOF), Everett Family Farm grows fruit and vegetables on 45 beautiful, sunny acres. Rich and Laura Everett, along with their three daughters, have operated the farm since 2001. In addition to offering organic produce, the Everett’s raise chickens which provide fresh eggs, grow flowers, make an apple cider each fall, and produce an estate grown hard cider, Soquel Cider.
Pulling into the farm, lettuce grows in a sheltered building and, off to the left, a charming farm stand awaits filled to the brim with the freshest vegetables, fruits, eggs, and ciders.
The Everetts’ farm stand runs on the honor system. Visitors simply make their selections, then head over to the table to weigh their items, add up what they owe, and leave their payment in the black box.
In addition to the farm stand, the Everetts’ produce and products can be found at local farmers markets and grocers. The Everett Family Farm is located at 2111 Old San Jose Road, Soquel and is open from 10 am to 6 pm, seven days of the week except for holidays.
The Wine: Martin Ranch Winery
Martin Ranch Winery sits a short 33 miles away from Chaminade at the southern tip of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
A beautiful winery with spectacular views and a peacefulness not found in many spots, Martin Ranch was created by Thérèse & Dan Martin, who were both born and raised in the Santa Cruz area.
The couple has owned and worked the ranch for over 30 years, producing award-winning red and white wines, gaining praise and a loyal following of wine club fans along the way. Dan produces under the J.D. Hurley label and Thérèse under the Thérèse Martin brand.
The sign on the winery building says, “Tradition – Passion – Excellence,” and the wines, the winery and the Martins demonstrate those qualities aren’t just words on a placard nailed to the wall. The Martins have a passion and dedication to producing excellent wines while maintaining a commitment to sustainability and preservation of the environment.
In addition to the vineyards, the winery has large, raised bed gardens and even chickens on the grounds. Very cool and definitely worth a visit! Martin Ranch Winery is located at 6675 Redwood Retreat Road, Gilroy California and is open to the public every first & third weekend of the month from 12-5 PM for tasting and barrel samplings.
The Chef: Nick Church
Executive Chef, Nick Church, and his crew created a six-course menu for the evening, celebrating the locally grown delicacies and wines.
With the exception of taking time away from Chaminade in 2014 to open a restaurant, Chef Church has been with the resort’s culinary team since starting as a line cook in 1994. Now Chaminade’s Executive Chef, he has experienced most of the farm to table dinners at the hotel since their inception.
We grabbed a few minutes of his time and asked him to reflect on how he has seen the farm to table movement change through the years and how local sourcing affects his menu development on a daily basis.
After nine seasons of farm to table dinners at Chaminade, how have you seen the farm to table movement evolve?
“The excitement is still there from everyone including the Farmers, Wineries and the staff. I think the guests receive a fantastic and unique experience while learning about the local food, wine, and ingredients. When we run the dishes in Linwood’s that are created for the farm to table events, they tend to be very successful.”
How does your planning and preparation differ for a farm to table dinner versus a typical banquet or wedding?
“Planning a farm to table dinner takes time. Everyone always asks what’s on the menu but I don’t like writing the menu until I know what the farmer can provide. The ingredients are based on what’s in season and then the menu is created. I take the ingredients and use them in all the dishes and help pair the wines as well. The main goal is to make the guests happy. With weddings and banquets, the dishes are pre-selected usually a month or two in advance and of course pre-sold to the clients. We do try to use as many local ingredients as possible when preparing for dishes for weddings and banquet events.”
For the other 360 days of the year when you aren’t doing a farm to table dinner, how do local food choices factor into your menus at Chaminade?
“This is a tough question. Farm to table events are special to me and gets me and my staff out of our routine so to speak. I am naturally a shy person so getting out in front of the farm to table attendees is exciting for me. We are always trying to use local vendors for produce for Linwood’s as well as the fresh fish when in season to create our specials.”
We arrived early to catch the staff in motion setting up for the dinner and preparing the two beautifully decorated tables where 96 people would soon gather to enjoy the evening.
Casual flowers arrangements of sunflowers, daisies, eucalyptus and purple status provided bursts of color along the long white tables. Small jars of wildflower honey from Carmel Honey Company welcomed each guest to their place setting. There’s something about a beautifully set table that evokes excitement and anticipation.
Vats of white wine chilled, bottles opened, glasses arranged, and a frenzy of activity occurred in the kitchen and prep areas. With precision, the Chaminade staff expertly pulled all the pieces together and, as the guests arrived, the makings for a perfect evening under clear Santa Cruz skies were all in place.
First Course: Reception Flat Bread, Padron Peppers, Ahi Poke, Scotch Egg, Seascape Strawberry with Blue Cheese, Sliders
As the guests arrived, they selected their choice of wine and chatted casually as an array of appetizers were passed.
From delicious strawberries with blue cheese to a mouth-watering ahi poke, the crowd loved the morsels of goodness as the reception kicked into gear. I chose to begin the evening, as I typically do, with a Sauvignon Blanc, which was delightfully crisp and bright.
As I chatted with the winemakers, Thérèse & Dan, Dan told me they use acacia wood barrels, which I found fascinating as acacia trees are what giraffes eat in the Serengeti. How cool! The conversations that occur at dinners like this are priceless.
With wines pouring, guests mingled, old friends reacquainted and new ones were made, as the fun crowd enjoyed the gorgeous late evening views at the resort which reach to Monterey Bay.
Second Course: Starter Heirloom Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Salad
Taking seats at the communal tables, the first course of an heirloom tomato and fresh mozzarella salad arrived. A showcase of the freshness of the late summer produce, the perfectly ripe tomatoes and fresh mozzarella were brimming with both color and taste.
Third Course: Soup
Sun Gold Cherry Tomato Soup
A huge fan of tomato soup, I was ready and waiting for this course and it was absolutely wonderful! The soup was fresh, lively and filled with flavor.
As we progressed through the evening, our hosts addressed the group, relating their take on the farm to table experience and what it means from each of their perspectives. Dan Everett talked organic farming. Thérèse Martin brought the winemaker’s take.
And, the very talented, super nice, and uber-cool Kirsten Ponza, Food & Beverage director for Chaminade and former tour chef for the Rolling Stones, relayed Chaminade’s commitment to sustainability and toasted the crowd.
The Everetts are well-known and highly praised for their Honey Crisp Apples, so it is no surprise the fruit stole the show with this salad. The crisp, juicy apple that has a devoted, and well-deserved following, so perfectly paired with the smokey cheese and the pistachios gave the salad just the right pop of added flavor.
And, another interesting tidbit picked up from the farm to table dinner. Each of the purveyors has a “his and her” collection in addition to their joint efforts. The above-mentioned Honeycrisp is Rich Everett’s focus, while Laura targets heirloom apples for her ciders. With the Martins, each has their own wine labels, while also a combined winemaking focus.
Fifth Course: Entree
California Lamb, Oven Roasted Yukon Potato with Purple Garlic, Roasted Baby Carrots, Baby Vegetables, Syrah Reduction
Not one, but two thick, juicy pieces of lamb were the stars of the fifth course. It may have been the first time I’ve seen diners high-five over an entrée.
Served alongside Yukon potatoes, baby carrots and with a Syrah reduction, the guests were ecstatic as the dish was presented, and then a hush fell across the tables as they devoured the entrée. For the vegetarians in the group, an exquisite stuffed pepper rounded out the savory portion of the evening’s menu. Served alongside the entrée course, the Martin Ranch Thérèse Vineyards Syrah was sublime. Luscious and spicy, it was elegant and is truly a special wine.
Sixth Course: Dessert
Who could think after all that food that we could even entertain dessert, but managed to devour the creme caramel. Rich, smooth and with great caramel flavor, it was a perfect finish to an amazing dinner!
There’s another element to any fabulous party or event – the guests!
Arriving early and staying late, the Farm to Table guests were there to enjoy the food and wine and simply have some fun – and have fun they did!
With a strong contingent from the Martin Ranch Wine Club, groups getting away for the weekend from the bay area, and Santa Cruz locals, the mix of guests made for a lively evening filled with interesting conversations and a relaxed, vibrant atmosphere.
Many of the guests have attended numerous Chaminade farm to table dinners over the years, creating an experience that feels like a comfortable dinner party given by a talented host. Guests wandered from table to table and even into the prep area, chatting frequently with the Chaminade staff and even giving some of them friendly hugs throughout the evening.
And, speaking of the staff, true hospitality is both an art and skill – and there’s one final element that must not go unmentioned.
The Chaminade staff
From our previous visit and this one, we’ve observed a culture at the resort that focuses on delivering quality in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. This culture of hospitality is more than serving good food and providing efficient service – it’s what makes the food creative & exceptional and the service not perfunctory, but flawless and generous.
The Chaminade staff delivered a perfectly orchestrated dinner, executed flawlessly. The food was amazing and the service was friendly, with needs and wants anticipated and handled with care.
High praise and thanks to all that worked so hard to make a remarkable dining experience for 96 people on a picture-perfect evening in Santa Cruz!
Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Chaminade Resort & Spa for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
We visit Dallas multiple times each year and, on a visit a few months ago, we found ourselves discussing how much it has changed in the past ten years. The downtown, West End, Victory Park and uptown areas have nearly grown together, with dozens of new high rises, commercial districts, parks, and museums now in the area.
One of the biggest additions came in 2012 with the opening of the beautiful Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Victory Park. The museum joins many other top Dallas attractions, from iconic destinations, such as the Sixth Floor Museum and Reunion Tower, to long-term spots of tranquility and beauty, such as the Dallas Arboretum.
Deciding we would like to spend a day reacquainting ourselves with the city where we lived for nearly two decades, we paid Dallas CityPASS a visit to develop an agenda for a day of exploring Big D.
Save some cash with Dallas CityPASS
If you are new to CityPASS, here’s how it works. CityPASS offers discounted admission to popular attractions in numerous cities across the U.S. Each CityPASS booklet contains pre-paid vouchers for the attractions, which don’t have to be used in any specific order, just sometime within 9 days of their first use. CityPASS booklets can be purchased online or at the ticket offices of any of the attractions.
We first tried out CityPASS in Chicago and, since then, we have recommended it to all of our traveling friends. CityPASS saves time and money and is simple to purchase and use.
The CityPASS attraction choices in Dallas (and their individual admission fees) include:
Perot Museum of Nature & Science ($27 – general admission $19 + one film $9)
Reunion Tower GeoDeck ($16 general admission)
The Sixth Floor Museum ($16 general admission) OR the Dallas Zoo ($15 general admission)
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden($15 general admission) OR George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum($17 general admission)
Purchasing each of the attractions individually totals $73 – $76. The Dallas CityPASS booklet price is $46. That’s a savings of $27 – $30 per adult or about 40%.
For the optional attractions, we selected the Sixth Floor and the Dallas Arboretum. If you have the time and can’t decide on the attractions that require a choice, there’s a coupon in the back of the CityPASS booklet for a discount on regular admission to those attractions you didn’t select to visit using the CityPASS voucher.
Exploring Dallas with CityPASS
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Located near the Dallas Arts District in Victory Park, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science has 11 permanent exhibit halls to explore. From hands-on interactive displays to a 3D theater, the museum has something of interest for all. Visitors can discover the wonders of Earth, marvel at gems and minerals, ponder what it means to be human, and explore fossil finds in the Life Then and Now Hall.
Dallas CityPASS includes general admission to the museum and entry to a 3D film.
Reunion Tower Geo-Deck
An iconic part of the Dallas skyline, Reunion Tower is one of the most recognized structures in Dallas
The Geo-Deck is located on one of three floors in the Reunion Tower “ball” and offers unobstructed 360° views of the DFW area. Free telescopes are available on the outdoor deck and zoom cameras are provided on the inner deck.
The tower is also home to two restaurants. The rotating Cloud Nine Café on the floor above the Geo-Deck offers lunch and is open for private events at other times. On the top floor of the ball, Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck serves drinks, appetizers, and dinner in the evening with Dallas skyline passing by as a backdrop as the restaurant rotates. We visited Five Sixty early evening for some great social hour drinks and food, then headed down to the Geo-Deck for sunset shots at dusk.
The Dallas CityPass booklet includes general admission access to the Geo-Deck. The last elevator up the tower is 30 minutes before closing. A Day/Night upgrade is also available for an additional $5, allowing two visits within 24 hours.
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza or the Dallas Zoo
We had not toured the Sixth Floor Museum for decades, so we decided to pay it a visit versus the Dallas Zoo. That said, we’ve been to the Dallas Zoo, a wonderful place for a family visit, which dates back to 1888, and is the largest zoo in Texas.
Located in the building that housed the former Texas School Book Depository, the Sixth Floor Museum has numerous historical documents and artifacts relating to the events surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
The sixth floor, where Lee Harvey Oswald’s rifle was found, is home to the museum’s main exhibit, John F. Kennedy and the Memory of a Nation. Special exhibits can be found on the seventh floor and the museum’s gift shop is located on the first floor. Photography is not allowed on the sixth floor but is permitted on the seventh floor.
Dallas CityPASS provides museum entry and includes an audio guide.
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden or the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
The next selection on the Dallas CityPASS agenda is a choice between the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden or a visit to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
We opted for a morning at one of the prettiest spots in Dallas, the Dallas Arboretum. With 66 serene, beautiful acres on the southwest shore of White Rock Lake, a quiet morning at the Arboretum was just too enticing to pass up.
Visitors are treated to vibrant displays of seasonal color as they stroll the tranquil paths that wind through expansive lawns and meticulously maintained gardens. With 19 named gardens, allow plenty of time for a visit. The Arboretum has several dining options available or visitors can bring a picnic or order food to go and enjoy their meal on the grounds.
CityPASS includes general admission and the Hoffman Family Gift Store offers 10% off your purchase to CityPASS holders.
Should you get a Dallas CityPASS?
While Dallas attractions aren’t as expensive as those found in some large cities, you still save $27-$30 per adult and that’s enough to enjoy a nice dinner with the savings. CityPASS is easy to use – purchase ahead of time online or at the first attraction – and you are good to go. The booklet is good for 9 days following the first use, so you have plenty of time to get to the four attractions you select.
Disclosure & Disclaimer: We received complimentary Dallas CityPASS booklets for this review. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
When I was about 5 or 6 years old my aunt took me fishing. We hauled all the gear out to a small, nearby lake and, upon arrival, she pulled out a can of worms and demonstrated how to put a worm on the hook. There was no possible way I was going to do such a thing, so she did it for me. About 10 minutes later, she explained to me that my constant talking was scaring the fish away. About 10 minutes after that, I’d eaten all of the snacks we’d brought. 10 more minutes – we loaded up the car and, as we headed back to town, she said she didn’t think I was going to be much of a fisherman.
If Eleanor could see me now.
Fishing with McQuoid’s Inn on Mille Lacs Lake
In the land of 10,000 lakes, I think babies are born with fishing poles in their hands, so I’m not sure anyone in Minnesota really believed that I had never caught a fish. But, that was soon to change with the help of McQuoid’s Inn on Mille Lacs Lake.
After stopping by Lundeen’s Tackle Castle for a fishing license, we headed over to McQuoid’s Inn for an afternoon of fishing on beautiful Lake Mille Lacs.
We knew we were going to be in good hands with McQuoid’s Inn, who has offered launch fishing on Mille Lacs Lake for over 70 years. Their boat captains are expert fisherman and McQuoid’s offers both private and public charters on their comfortable and super clean boats. We were joined by a family for the afternoon, and with that, out we headed to fish.
No worries with bait, tackle or equipment – everything is provided by McQuoid’s Inn. Our guide and boat captain, Mike, was terrific. He worked hard to find all the best spots where the fish hide and I never once had to touch the bait, which by the way were leeches – the things they used to stick on people to suck their blood under glass cups!
We listened to 70’s rock (Eleanor definitely would not have approved) while we waited for the fish to find us – and it didn’t take long!
The family that was with us caught a couple of Walleye, then I felt a tug on my line. Mike came running with his net and… Voila! I caught a 14″ Walleye!
How much fun was that! Mike told me how to hold it – it was rather wiggly – and we snapped the photos.
Walleye is a hugely popular fish in Minnesota and found on menus in nearly every restaurant in the state. We even had it for breakfast in a hash one day (it was amazing). However, for the 2016 season on Lake Mille Lacs, Walleye were classified as “catch and release” to rebuild the population at the lake. So, after Mike measured the little guy, off he went back into the water, and it was back to fishing for this now-experienced fisherwoman.
It wasn’t long before I felt another tug and Mike came running again with the net. This time – a 16″ Small Mouth Bass! With the first fish, in my excitement, I’d forgotten what I’d learned from our resident Minnesotan at lunch – when you take the photo, hold the fish out really far, close to the camera and it makes the fish look bigger. Got it the second time!
Speaking of our resident Minnesotan, Caitlin Rick, who had organized the event, was still fishless as the afternoon was drawing to a close. But, we were doubting too soon and it was as if the fish knew she couldn’t go home without a catch. Just before we turned back to shore, Caitlin too got her catch for the day!
What a fun afternoon! If you are in the Mille Lacs Lake area, contact McQuid’s Inn to reserve a spot on one of their charters. The boats are great, the guides are professional and fun, and the lake is beautiful!
Know before you go
McQuoid’s Inn provides the bait, tackle, and expert fishing advice.
You bring your fishing license, camera, food and beverage, and dress for the weather.
Private charters are available for groups of 5 to 85 guests. Bachelor and bachelorette party groups must privately charter launch trips.
Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota, McQuid’s Inn and Mille Lacs Area Tourism for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
There was a period of time when we only went on beach vacations. Our work lives were crazy at the time, so we escaped to an island every couple of months, even if it were only for a few days. Consequently, we visited quite a few sun-kissed spots around the globe, and have continued to do so, even though our travel destinations are now a bit less one-dimensional.
Throughout our journeys to islands located in varying oceans and seas around the world, one has stood the test of time and travels for the top spot on our favorites list – St. Barths. Over the last two decades, we’ve visited the island countless times, from day trips to week-long excursions. We’ve arrived by plane, ferried over by boat, stayed in hotels, rented villas, and watched the sun set while sipping champagne on a boat – ok, it was a small yacht (stay long enough, and these things sometimes happen).
Saint-Barthélemy, typically shortened to St. Barts or St. Barths, is, of course, the tiny gem in the Caribbean known for its celebrity visitors and conspicuous consumption. Like the Côte d’Azur, Bora Bora or Aspen, there’s a reason certain places are frequented by those with ample funds seeking a quiet retreat with posh accommodations and a bit of pampering. Extraordinary resorts and villas, stunning natural beauty, fabulous dining and libations, and the best in shopping usually top the “needs” list for these destinations – and are easily fulfilled in St. Barths.
But, can those not arriving to Gustavia harbor by yacht, still enjoy the 8 square miles of paradise without selling their house in advance to fund the adventure? Yes – it’s still not cheap, but there are a couple of ways to fit it into most travel budgets. Whether you sample the island on a day trip from St. Martin or visit during lower seasons when the hotel rates aren’t quite as outrageous, St. Barths deserves a place on your “where to visit list.”
When to visit St. Barths
As timing is closely linked to prices, your St. Barths’ dollars (yes, they accept U.S. currency) will go quite a bit further at certain times of the year. Of course, there are a few trade-offs for the lower prices – like the possibility of hurricanes.
Mid-November to March
The highest season (i.e., costliest) to visit St. Barths is mid-November to March. Most websites will say December, but in the last few years, it seems to be creeping back to mid-November or at least around Thanksgiving. The weather is perfect during this time, St. Barths is a gorgeous alternative to the cold, and the prices are off the charts.
If want to go around December holidays, plan on booking months in advance for hotels and restaurants and you better have a high limit on your credit card. That said, carnival is really fun in St. Barths. The harbor fills with yachts and the entire island shuts down for a parade.
Day trips are a good bet for saving costs during winter months. While prices are high on all islands when it’s snowing in the northern hemisphere, they are exorbitant in St. Barths. A day trip from nearby from St. Maarten can save thousands of dollars and accomplish many of the same activities – just with you sleeping on a different island.
April and May
April to May is a good time to visit – the rain is only occasional and hotel rates start to drop.
June to late November
Otherwise known in the Caribbean as hurricane season, prices are cheaper, but rain is more likely and your vacation could be interrupted by a hurricane. That said, historically, more hurricanes hit during August to October.
Days of the week
Most shops are closed in Gustavia on Sunday, so if shopping is on your agenda plan accordingly.
Getting to St. Barths
Typically, the first step in getting to St. Barths is to get to St. Martin / St. Maarten, which is about 15 miles away. Numerous flights arrive daily to at Princess Juliana airport (airport code: SXM) from the United States, Europe, South America and other Caribbean islands. Once in St. Maarten (the airport is on the Dutch side of the island), there are two primary methods of getting to St. Barths.
The first is by plane. Small commuter airlines deliver and return passengers daily via the short 10-minute ride between St. Maarten and St. Barths (Airport code: SBH). A little pricey and a bit precarious, the landing at St. Barths can be an adventure unto itself, as the landing strip is short and requires special training for pilots. A few commuter flights are also available from Antigua, St. Thomas and San Juan as well.
The other option is by water, with the most common being the Great Bay Express ferry that leaves from Philipsburg in St. Maarten. Far more economical, the trip takes about 45 minutes, and you don’t have the added time of security and waiting at the airport.
Luggage is no problem – it’s a common method of transportation for travelers between the islands. There are also a few other private charters and smaller ferries running from St. Martin / St. Maarten. For day trippers, the Great Bay Express has an option that leaves in the morning and returns in the evening, providing the option to explore St. Barths without paying the higher hotel rates found on St. Barths.
Upon arrival, whether by plane or boat, passengers must pass through customs. The airport is located at St. Jean and the ferries arrive in Gustavia. Taxis are available at both locations. Car rental locations are located at the airport, so those arriving by ferry and wanting to rent a car, need to cab over to the airport, which is about 5 or 10 minutes away. However, upon your return, most times the rental car company will transport you back to the ferry dock. For those staying on the island, the hotel will typically meet you at your point of arrival and provide transportation to the hotel.
When we first began going to St. Barths, Mini Mokes were prevalent on the island, followed by a period when Smart Cars were all the rage. Now though, everyone primarily gets around by regular cars and scooters.
Things to do in St. Barths
So, for the “Can I really afford St. Barths?” tally – the Great Bay Express is $80 RT from/to St. Maarten per person, a cab from the ferry port to the airport is about $10, and a one day car rental on St. Barths ran us $58 with tax. For our most recent experience, we did a day trip on a Sunday, so many businesses and shops were closed. Many day trippers don’t opt for the car rental – which I think is a mistake, unless you really can’t afford it. The only beach within easy walking distance from Gustavia is Shell Beach, which gets it name for the thousands of tiny shells that cover it. It’s small and nothing to write home about.
With a car, you can explore and, given it’s a tiny island, you can fit quite a bit into your day. Here are a few things that should be on your itinerary for the day….
Bask in the seclusion of Saline Beach
Saline is a stunningly beautiful, long, undeveloped beach with a laid-back, isolated atmosphere. The beach is deep, with plenty of room to find a spot far enough away from the water to not be bothered by those taking a stroll near the water’s edge.
While there is a parking lot at Saline, there are no facilities, so bring water and snacks. From the parking lot, it’s about a five-minute walk up and over the dunes to the beach. Although nudity is technically illegal in St. Barths, topless sunbathing is popular here and full nudity is common, especially on each end of the beach.
Languish over a luxurious lunch at St. Jean
After a morning of reading and relaxing on the pristine sands of Saline, you’ll wan to head to St. Jean for a bit of nourishment.
There are a variety of restaurants available in St. Jean, both across the street and along the beach. From pizza and casual fare to restaurants where the cuisine is only rivaled by the view, St. Jean has a fairly good selection of dining choices. We like to slip into French mode when on the island and enjoy a long, luxurious lunch – and decided to splurge on the experience. One of our long-time, go-to spots is Eden Rock.
A beautiful hotel, Eden Rock is perched on a rock overlooking the turquoise waters of St. Jean Bay. Constructed in the 1950’s, Eden Rock was the first hotel built on the island. Over the last 20 years, the hotel acquired adjacent properties and transformed into one of the most luxurious and diverse on the island with a variety of lodging types including standard rooms, cottages, suites, beach houses, and villas.
We’ve stayed at Eden Rock and it is a beautiful resort in a fabulous location – but on this trip, we just opted for lunch, which set us back $135 + tip for two drinks and two sandwiches. Yep – a little on the insane side of pricing for a fish sandwich. But, we essentially had a few hours at a resort where standard rooms were going for over $1000 per night during the time we visited.
Another beachside dining and drinking option at St. Jean is the famous Nikki Beach. If you plan to go, make reservations ahead of time and anticipate a price tag similar to Eden Rock. If the party scene is your thing, you’ll love it.
Take a walk along St. Jean
All beaches on St. Barths are public and free, so a walk along St. Jean won’t cost you a dime.
Located next to the airport on the Baie de St. Jean, the white sand beach curves around the bay and is home to an array of water activities. Snorkel in the calm waters near the shoreline or head further out for wind-surfing or surfing.
Head over to Gouverneur
After all the activity at St. Jean, it’s good to finish the afternoon with some quiet time on Gouverneur Beach.
More remote, Gouverneur is a beautiful, serene beach with amazing views. Like Saline, Gouverneur can be reached by a paved road, has a parking lot, but does not have any facilities, so bring water, an umbrella and anything you wish to eat. Also like Saline, beach goers may opt for that full tan, going au natural.
The drive to and from Gouverneur also yields some of the most spectacular views from the island, with a photo opportunity around each turn.
Throw back a cold one at Le Select
After dropping off our car at the airport, they brought us back to Gustavia and we decided to take a stroll around town.
The story has it that Jimmy Buffet, a frequent patron of Le Select back in the 1970’s, cut a deal with the establishment’s owner, Marius Stakelborough. In exchange for rights to use the “Cheeseburger in Paradise” line from Buffet’s famous song, Buffet would have his tab covered at the establishment for life. Over the years, Buffet has returned to the corner where thousands have downed a beer and burger, for an impromptu concert or an anniversary party at the bar on the quay, which has been in operation over 60 years. A great spot for people watching and enjoying a cool drink under the shade trees, Le Select is open Monday – Saturday.
Shopping in Gustavia
A duty-free port, Gustavia is home to over 200 boutiques that line three streets in the quant village. While the names of luxury retailers range from Louis Vuitton and Bulgari to Cartier, Hermès and Chopard, many small shops offering beachwear, accessories, and t-shirts can be found as well. The shops are typically closed from noon to three but open again in the late afternoon until 7pm. Most high-end retailers are also closed on Sunday, but a few of the stores offering casual wear and t-shirt open in the late Sunday afternoon hours.
Grab a drink and watch the sun set over the harbor
There are quite a few fabulous places to watch the sun set while on St. Barths, but we are always a fan of grabbing a cocktail and watching the boats return to the harbor as the sky fills with amazing hues of orange and purple.
For those leaving the island, the ferry returns at dusk to whisk you back to St. Maarten. For those staying on, the island changes after sunset. The day trippers leave, the stores close and a quiet settles over the island as visitors enjoy casually elegant dinners, before retiring to their hotel or villa or opting for a little nightlife at one of the late night cocktail bars.
How much did that day in St. Barths cost?
Let’s tally up our one day in St. Barths. Even with our splurge lunch, we spent just over $400 for the two of us. If we had opted for a not-on-the beach pizza for lunch, we could have easily cut it to $300. On the other hand, as it was high-season, if we had stayed on the island even one night, it would have run well over $1000. So, for us, an enjoyable day on one of our favorite islands for a couple of hundred bucks a piece was well worth it.
Disclosure & Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
As the crowd swayed to the soulful sounds of sax-man, Boney James, and sipped award-winning Rodney Strong wines, the 26th season of Rodney Strong Concerts kicked off in Sonoma County on June 18. A wine country summer ritual for many, including us, the concerts are well-known and well-loved for presenting top artists in an intimate setting amidst the vines. If you’ve never attended a Rodney Strong concert, or if it’s been a while since you visited, here’s why they deserve a place on your summer schedule.
Four-time Grammy nominated Boney James has an amazing stage presence and delivered a fabulous show in the early evening Sonoma summer sunshine.
Performing from his latest release, Futuresoul, along with some longtime crowd favorites, Boney continues to bring a fresh sound to his R&B and jazz style.
Backed by a phenomenal band, the clear evening sky was filled with sultry sounds and an energy that had the entire crowd participating in the experience.
Perhaps it’s the venue, perhaps it’s relaxed wine country atmosphere, but artists appear to enjoy the Rodney Strong Concerts experience almost as much as the crowd.
Having seen B.B. King, George Benson, Mindy Abair, Michael McDonald and more at the concerts of the years, each evening has always been an unforgettable experience.
After 26 years of hosting concerts, Rodney Strong has the process down. The events are professionally produced, with great sound quality and concert-goers’ needs considered and wants delivered. Local jazz radio station, KJZY sponsors the event and on-air personalities, such as Scott Mitchell, are on hand to MC the concert, enjoy the music and have been seen capturing a few shots themselves before and during the concerts.
One of our favorite concert venues anywhere, the Rodney Strong Concerts are hosted in a casual, intimate setting surrounded by vineyards. If that sounds ideal – it is and makes for a perfect summer evening!
Concert goers have the option of bringing low chairs or blankets for general admission or purchasing VIP tickets, which provide reserved seating in the front on white folding chairs provided by the winery. Regardless of which option you choose, the location is small and once the music starts, it’s all about the experience. We’ve had VIP seats up front and it was great. We’ve sat on the ground under a big shade tree and it was perfect. We’ve stood at the back for an entire evening, chatting with new friends, sipping wine, watching the crowd and grooving to the sounds – also, a fabulous evening.
Great music is only made better when a glass of amazing wine is in hand.
We usually start a summer evening with a crisp white, so we began the evening with a Davis Bynum Virginia’s Block Sauvignon Blanc. We fell in love with the Davis Bynum wines early this year when we were on the Rodney Strong Master Blender experience and, since then, that’s what’s in my glass many an evening.
Moving on to red, the line up was deserving of a sampling of more than one. We started with the Alexander Valley and ended the night with a bit of Symmetry.
While the winery is closed during the concert, the Rodney Strong tasting room is open daily and offers a complimentary tour of the vineyards and winery, subject to availability.
The tours are a perfect way to learn about the winery’s history and catch a behind-the-scenes view of how the wines are made, so be sure to either visit the winery earlier in the day before the concert or the following day after brunch.
The July – September Rodney Strong Concerts 2016 lineup
The legendary Smokey Robinson is next to appear in the 2016 concert series on July 23.
On August 13, Dave Koz and David Sanborn will perform together and on August 21, Huey Lewis and The News take the stage.
The B-52s close out the season on September 17.
Making the most of your Rodney Concert
Doors open an hour before showtime, however, the gates may open earlier. General admission attendees may start lining up hours before the doors open.
What not to bring
We’ll start with things not to bring to the concert since the list is shorter. No glass, video camera or alcohol can be brought into the venue. High back chairs and umbrellas are also not allowed.
What to bring
Concerts are held regardless of the weather, hot, cold, rain or shine. It can be warm, okay hot, in the late afternoon sun, so wear/bring sunscreen, comfortable clothing, and a hat. Toward the end of the show, it can cool off, so bringing a light jacket or sweater is always s a good plan. Bring a rain jacket if rain is in the forecast.
For those in the general admission area, chair legs cannot be taller than 12 inches and the overall chair should not exceed a maximum height of 32 inches. Otherwise, bring a blanket to sit on.
Water is provided free during the concert, so bring a plastic cup or water bottle (no glass) to fill. Coolers, ice, food and non-alcoholic beverages can be brought into the concert area. Beverages, including wine, can be purchased on site and local food vendors are on hand. Rodney Strong’s beverage sales locations accept cash or credit cards. The food vendors typically only accept cash.
Rodney Strong Vineyards is located at 11455 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg
Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to Rodney Strong Vineyards for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
It’s not every day that you visit a town and, upon arriving, the mayor and the former mayor meet you and take you on a tour. But then, not every town is Dorset, Minnesota.
There’s a lot happening in this unique little town in north central Minnesota with a population of 22. The self-proclaimed “Restaurant Capital of the World,” Dorset has a newspaper that is published once a year “whether there’s unbelievable news or not” and has elected a three-year old mayor – twice.
The Youngest Mayor in America
When James Tufts became mayor of Dorset in 2015 at the age of three, he stole the record as Dorset’s youngest mayor from his older brother. Two-term former mayor, Robert “Bobby” Tufts, was also elected at the age of three but, with his win, James edged him out as the youngest by two days.
How did a three-year old become mayor, you may ask? In unincorporated Dorset, the mayor is drawn from the ballots cast during the annual Taste of Dorset festival. It’s a buck a ballot and anyone can enter their selection during the process, with the proceeds going to charity.
During their time in office, the Tufts brothers have gained international fame, appearing on the Today Show and Good Morning America and having made headlines in the NY Daily News, the Daily Mirror and countless other news outlets.
After a tour through several of James’ favorite haunts around town, such as the toy section of a local store and the miniature golf course, we stopped to catch some words of wisdom from the pint-sized politician who is quick to dispense sage advice.
And, it appears we are in good company – well, at least famous company. According to the local paper, the Dorset Daily Bugle, all of the presidential candidates have sought the mayor’s advice. James, now at the wise old age of four, provided these words of wisdom, “Be nice and no poopy talk.”
Older brother Bobby, now a Dorset ambassador, seems happy to assist his younger sibling with his mayoral duties. But, if you think he’s completely retired from politics, you may want to think otherwise. It appears from his hat he’s already exploring a 2048 presidential bid.
Finishing up our time with the Tuft political dynasty, we moved on to investigate Dorset’s other claim to fame as the Restaurant Capital of the World.
The Restaurant Capital of the World
With five restaurants serving the 22 residents of Dorset, it does seem the tiny town is worthy of the title of Restaurant Capital of the World.
This actually follows a two-year period when the town was down to only three restaurants. In September 2014, Campaneros and the Dorset House were destroyed by fire after being struck by lightning. Both restaurants were rebuilt and reopened in 2016, restoring the town’s assortment of dining options to five. While in town, we dined at La Pasta, which in addition to a wide selection of Italian delicacies, has ridiculously good breadsticks.
Obviously, most visitors come to the Restaurant Capital of the World to eat but, when visiting, be sure to allow some time in your schedule for shopping as well.
A stroll down Dorset’s main street is a must and will undoubtedly result in a few finds that must make their way home with you. From souvenirs, to home decor to antiques to yes, James’ favorite, candy and toys await.
Things to do near Dorset
Shop Downtown Park Rapids. Only 6 miles from Dorset, Park Rapids has a charming downtown area with numerous shops, boutiques, and restaurants.
Visit Detroit Lakes. Only about an hour away from Dorset, Detroit Lakes is has a wide variety of outdoor activities, events, festivals, shopping, and dining.
We loved visiting Dorset and applaud the 22 residents and the nearby town of Park Rapids for their creativity in promoting this unique little place on the planet. Thank you to everyone who came out to meet us, to La Pasta for hosting us for lunch, and to James and Bobby for our tour of the town.
Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Explore Minnesota and the Park Rapids Chamber of Commerce for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
When one of our favorite wineries, Rodney Strong, called a couple of months ago to see if we’d like to come out for a few days to learn more about the winery and attend a blending seminar, we only had one question – when? Whatever the date, we would clear our calendar to attend such a unique experience.
Our Master Blender experience was scheduled for the first week of February and when we received the final agenda the week before – wow! Amazing food, wine tastings, luxury accommodations, visits led by the winery’s viticulturist to locations few get a chance to ever see, sessions with Rodney Strong’s winemakers to learn about the winemaking process, and a blending seminar led by Rodney Strong’s head winemaker, Rick Sayre.
Rodney Strong Vineyards Master Blender Experience Day 1: Arrival and welcome dinner
We arrived early in the afternoon at the Vintner’s Inn in Santa Rosa where we would be staying during the event. A four-diamond luxury hotel, the Vintner’s Inn is the epitome of wine country elegance, with stately rooms, elegant gardens, and one of our favorite restaurants, John Ash & Co.
With such a beautiful Sonoma afternoon at our disposal, we set out for a hike on the two-mile trail around the property while a bottle of Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay chilled in the fridge – the perfect post-hike refreshment upon our return!
Our welcome dinner was at John Ash & Co. with winemaker, Justin Seidenfeld, Rodney Strong’s social media manager, Laura Perret Fontana, and the four additional event attendees, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Jana Seitzer, Annabelle Pericin and Robert Larsen.
As we worked our way through savory courses accompanied by Rodney Strong wines, Justin provided the background and details on each of the wines. Originally from Colorado, Justin graduated from the University of California, Davis in 2006 with a B.S. in Viticulture & Enology and has been making wine in Sonoma county since 2005, and at Rodney Strong since 2010.
Off to a great beginning to a fascinating week, we were eager to explore the vineyards and learn more about the winemaking process.
Rodney Strong Vineyards Master Blender Experience Day 2: Vineyard tours, barrel tasting, and an abundance of spectacular food & wine
Winegrower relations manager, Ryan Decker, was our guide for vineyard tours for the morning of day two. Our first stop – Chalk Hill in Windsor.
As we enjoyed a delicious breakfast prepared by Rodney Strong Winery Chef Tara Watchel amidst the vines, Ryan explained the unique properties of the Chalk Hill area, where the soil appears “chalky” due to ash deposits from a long-past volcanic eruption.
An excellent start to the day – learning about the vines that produced the very Chardonnay that was in my hand just the afternoon before.
First released in 1974, Alexander’s Crown was Sonoma’s first single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, quickly gaining acclaim, including being named the highest rated Cabernet Sauvignon in Robert Parker’s first issue.
Situated on hills that rise 360 feet above the valley floor, 66 acres are planted at Alexander’s Crown, with Block 1 at the top of the hill producing the prime, most intensely flavored grapes. Listening to Ryan describe the meticulous grape growing processes, it became obvious there are no shortcuts in creating a spectacular bottle of wine.
Each detail is constantly analyzed in an effort to gain even a fraction of improvement. Grapes are picked in 1/2 ton sections to isolate the best blocks or sections of vines. Cross arms were added to the stakes a few years back to “add shade with dappled sunlight” as overexposure can result in too much tannin. And the list goes on, in pursuit of producing an even more perfect bottle of wine.
The Alexander’s Crown property is also the home of Rodney Strong’s owners, the Klein family, and the location of a former home of Rod and Charlotte Strong. Ryan explained that Charlotte bred Bull Mastifs and would frequently take the dogs down to play in an area between Alexander’s Crown and the Russian River. That same area, where she spent so much time, now produces a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, called Charlotte’s Home.
Rockaway at Rockaway
As we drove through the back roads of Sonoma County on our way from Alexander’s Crown to our next destination, Rockaway, Ryan would point out highlights along the way. Given that his family first settled in the Alexander Valley in 1858, it’s understandable that he knows the area like the back of his hand.
Along the way, Ryan explained that the Pine Flat vineyards next to Sausal Creek produced some of the best Merlot of all the vineyards and it was one of the few that could be dry farmed, meaning no supplemental water was required. Dry farming requires a high vigor, deep rooting stock.
Entering the Rockaway vineyards, we began to climb up through the rolling, vine-covered hills which rise to an elevation of 750 feet. Rodney Strong purchased the property, which grows mostly Bordeaux varietals, in 2003. It produces the grapes for the single vineyard Rockaway Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
As we passed a few olive trees, just barely visible from the road, Ryan explained there were more – he’d found an olive orchard on the property. Following his discovery, he’d torn out the brush and pruned the trees and, in 2014, they produced their first batch of oil from the orchard.
Arriving near the top of the hill, we left the car and climbed to the summit, where sweeping views of the Sonoma Valley and a bottle of Rockaway awaited our arrival.
Such an appropriate ending to our morning vineyards tour – sipping an amazing wine at such an amazing place. Standing atop Rockaway, gazing out over the Alexander Valley with its many vineyards, farms and ranches, it re-emphasized the importance that Rodney Strong places on location in artisan winemaking.
From such a vast amount of potential spots to grow grapes, narrowed down to the very place where we stood, then artfully created into a spectacular wine that made its way back again to this spot to be enjoyed with this stunning view – Rockaway at Rockaway is not your average morning.
Lunch at Catelli’s in Geyserville, California
Lunch was just a few minutes down the road at Catelli’s in Geyserville. Originally opened by Santi and Virginia Catelli in 1936, the restaurant is now owned and operated by third generation Catellis and siblings, Domenica and Nicholas Catelli, and specializes in local and organic creations served in the historic location.
A variety of appetizers, salads, and bottles of wine quickly appeared at the table, including our first sampling of a Davis Bynum wine. Rodney Strong acquired the Davis Bynum winery in 2007, and the commitment to preserving Bynum’s passion for quality winemaking is apparent throughout Rodney Strong.
Ryan recommended the kale salad with blood oranges, which was delectable, and then we selected the award winning 10-layer layer lasagna with the slightly spicy Domenica’s sauce. Pasta perfection. For dessert, Catelli’s delivered “grown up” root beer floats to the table. One taste and Annabelle exclaimed, “That will put chest on your hair!”
An afternoon wine tasting touring with Winemaker Justin Seidenfeld and Ron Washam
Arriving back at Rodney Strong Vineyards after lunch, it was time for a winery tour and some wine tasting. Our guide for the afternoon was Ron Washam, whose 35 years in the wine industry have included twice being named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers’ Association and who also judges at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Each step of winemaking at Rodney Strong is a combination of art and science, with industry-leading techniques deployed where appropriate to assist in crafting world-class wines. Meeting up with winemaker Justin Seidenfeld in the tank room, Justin walked us through the conversion process that brought square fermentation tanks to the winery.
The square tanks allow more wine to be stored in a given space as compared to traditional cylindrical tanks. The tanks can be monitored and controlled by an app on a smart phone or tablet, complete with alerts, from anywhere in the world.
Additionally, the interior surface of the square tanks is easier to clean, reducing water waste, which supports Rodney Strong Vineyard’s commitment to protecting the environment. Rodney Strong Vineyards operates the winery with a carbon impact of zero, making it the first carbon neutral winery in Sonoma.
Next stop, the barrel rooms and barrel tasting of the Symmetry 2014 and the 2014 Rockaway. Barrel tasting is like getting to open a present before it’s actually your birthday. Sampling from a barrel provides a glimpse of the future wine – a glimpse in that the wine changes as it matures and the winemakers may adjust the blend as well. While the primary purpose of barrel tasting by the public is for purchasing futures, a private barrel tasting in the warehouse is an entirely different experience and a great chance to learn more about the winemaking process.
Following our barrel tasting, we headed to the tasting room to do some finished works sampling, which culminated with a side by side tasting of the three 2012 Rodney Strong single vineyards wines: Alexander’s Crown, Rockaway and Brothers.
With 2012 having been an excellent vintage for Sonoma County, all three are remarkable wines. Which was best? As head winemaker, Rick Sayre, would comment the next day – it’s about taste preference. Describing a side-by side tasting, he stated favorites were nearly always split 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.
Dinner at Jackson’s Bar and Oven with Winemaker Greg Morthole
After an hour’s rest at the hotel, our ride picked us up for a dinner at Jackson’s Bar in Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square.
Owned and operated by Chef Josh Silvers, Jackson’s is a casual, wine country eatery, serving comfort food crafted from seasonal, organic Sonoma ingredients. Our winemaker host for the evening was Greg Morthole, who oversees the Reserve and Single Vineyard wine making.
The evening was a wonderful blend of wine, food and conversation, ending with amazing beignets served with chocolate sauce, vanilla anglaise, and a fresh raspberry sauce.
Rodney Strong Vineyards Master Blender Experience Day 3: Blending seminar with head winemaker, Rick Sayre
Just when you think it wouldn’t be possible to eat or drink anything ever again, the next day dawns and breakfast sounded pretty good.
The group met at the Vintner’s Inn Café for a healthy start to the day, then it was off to the winery for a blending seminar with head winemaker, Rick Sayre, who joined Rodney Strong Vineyards in 1979 and Rachel Voorhees, director of education for the winery.
Morning blending seminar with head winemaker Rick Sayre and director of education Rachel Voorhees
Heading into the blending seminar, we had no idea what a cool morning we were going to experience. Rounding the corner to the room, each place was set with tasting glasses of each of the varietals used in the 2012 Symmetry, and a glass of the actual 2012 Symmetry. Historic vintages of wines lined the walls of the room, including some bottles with hand written labels by Rod Strong dating back to 1970.
Symmetry is a Meritage (pronounced like heritage), with the wine being crafted like a Bordeaux blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. A Meritage must not contain more than 90% of any one single grape type.
Rachel and Rick walked us through a brief overview of Rodney Strong Vineyards, the history of Meritage, and the properties each grape brings to the blend. Then it was time to blend some wine.
Armed with bottles of the varietals, beakers, and pipettes, we each set out to blend our own version of the wine. When finished, Rick tasted our creations, commenting on our blends, and awarded an overall winner.
I called mine “A Secret.” As in, “What are you drinking?” “It’s A Secret.” I went with the 80/20 rule, as in 80% Cab and 20% of the others (it donned on me later that I should have named it Pareto). My blend consisted of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.
My blend ended up 2nd runner up, with Annabelle’s winning the day. The experience was fun, educational and truly a cool adventure!
Lunch prepared by Rodney Strong winery chef Tara Watchel with head winemaker Rick Sayre
Our time at Rodney Strong ended with a lunch with Rick Sayres in a dining room above the tasting room.
The lunch, prepared by winery chef, Tara Wachtel, was exquisite, served with perfect wines and some of the olive oil from the orchard Ryan had discovered at Rockaway. The group chatted about fishing in Alaska, Sonoma county, and Rodney Strong’s history, savoring the time remaining in our amazing visit.
Huge thanks to Laura Perret Fontana, Justin Seidenfeld, Ryan Decker, Greg Morthole, Ron Washam, Rachel Voorhees, Tara Wachtel, Rick Sayre and everyone at Rodney Strong Vineyards for such a wonderful experience.
Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
Strolling along, hand in hand, sharing thoughts against a backdrop of exceptional beauty, the magic of life seems to sparkle. Stopping at a café, you savor both the cuisine and the company as the world moves by. Afterward, a secluded hotel room and a bottle of wine awaits your return, where you’ll reflect on the events of the day and discuss what adventures are in store for the next.
Are you in a historic city? On an island? At a ski resort? Visiting a quaint seaside village? It could be anywhere – what makes a spot truly romantic is sharing the experience with someone you love.
While the world is full of many romantic places, some are steeped in love and romanticism. Here are our top ten places to fall in love all over again…
With its romantic canals, narrow bridges, winding pathways and stunning beauty, Venice is the perfect place to lose yourself in the charm of the city and each other. Whether visiting Venice in February or in the summer, it is one of the most romantic cities on earth.
Paris is a city for love. From a walk along the Champs-Élysées to sipping a glass of wine or coffee at a sidewalk café, to taking a Bateau Mouche along the Seine – Paris is a timeless beauty, where love is always in the air.
3. San Francisco
With breathtaking views, natural beauty, and colorful scenes that inspire romance, San Francisco earns its place as one of the most romantic cities in the world.
Lovely things to do in the city by the bay? Wander the streets of Chinatown, dine on artisanal food, head to Sonoma for wine tasting, or take a sunset cruise and share a kiss as the day disappears behind the Golden Gate Bridge.
4. Bora Bora
Relaxing together on the deck of your overwater bungalow in Bora Bora with a glass of wine in your hand as you gaze out at the serene waters of the South Pacific is sheer tranquility and the perfect place to once again steal each other’s heart.
One of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the world, Bora Bora is an enchanting destination for lovers to relax in paradise.
Picture-perfect Zürich, with its medieval cathedrals, cobblestone streets, quaint shops and excellent restaurants, is an ideal setting for a romantic getaway.
Quiet and pristine, Zürich will inspire romance as you explore Old Town, share a cocktail next to The Limmat, stroll around Lake Zürich, or indulge in some world-famous chocolate.
What’s more romantic than sipping a glass of Champagne next to a roaring fire as the snow gently falls outside? For that fireplace to be in one of the most romantic destinations in the world, Aspen.
After a fabulous day on the slopes, take a casual walk through downtown, stopping for a cocktail or two and some extraordinary shopping. Then, it’s on to dinner in one of Aspen’s fine restaurants, followed by a nightcap by the fire, ending a perfectly dreamy day for two.
7. St. Barths
Stunningly beautiful and luxurious, St. Barths is home to secluded beaches, exclusive hotels, gourmet restaurants and unforgettable sunsets.
For couples seeking a captivating getaway, St. Barths’ turquoise waters, white sand beaches, and peaceful setting creates quintessential romance in the islands.
Wandering Antwerp’s narrow cobbled streets in the shadow of baroque buildings and majestic architecture, lovers will be delighted by its unmatched beauty.
Sample chocolates or waffles, take an evening stroll by the Scheldt River, people watch in one of the city’s delightful squares, and, if your sweetheart needs a new bauble, Antwerp has been the largest diamond center in the world for over five centuries.
9. Carmel by the Sea
Located in a perfect location where land meets the sea, Carmel is a beautiful town filled with cafes, restaurants, galleries, boutiques, spas and small, luxurious hotels that will inspire romance and capture your heart.
It’s hard not to feel in love in Rome. Surrounded by charming piazzas, splendid fountains, historic ruins, and breathtaking views, Rome is without a doubt one of the most romantic spots on the planet.
The perfect ending to any day in Rome will find you on a bridge over the Tiber viewing the dome of St Peter’s Basilica and Castel Sant’Angelo as the sun sets on the Eternal City.
Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
As Frank croons it, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.” With the internet filled with bucket-listers, it appears there are quite a few people determined to limit their regrets. How about you?
What do you regret?
The interesting thing about regrets is that they are rarely about things – they are about experiences. Unless you’re the Mr. Wonderful-type (think Shark Tank) regretting money-oriented misses, regrets for the most of us are experience-oriented.
Opportunities missed to…
Travel the world. Run the race. Help someone you don’t know. Climb a mountain. Learn a new language. Travel a new trail. Tell someone that you loved them one more time. Chase a dream.
What’s at the top of your list?
The good news is that if you are reading this, you can start today on limiting your regrets.
I’m not saying everyone can abandon their life and thru-hike the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). Life has responsibilities and taking care of your family is something everyone needs to do. And, there are certainly many people that work multiple jobs just to put food on the table. But, for the majority of people, they are caught up in the rat race. They work for the bigger house, the new car, the designer bag, the country club membership.
To those people – forget about that next bauble that you don’t need and invest in an experience. Get out there and discover the beauty of the world.
Can you really live life with no regrets?
Probably not completely, but it’s certainly worth giving it a try. Take an hour this week and make a realistic list of the things you really want to experience. To borrow a business term that a good friend used to love, a BHAG list – Big Hairy Audacious Goals.
Then, add a few more simple ones – things that if you only had a few more hours with someone you’d want to do. Now figure out how you are going to do them.
Do it now. Time’s a tickin’.
Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.