Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wine Country on a Budget - And MK's Napa Burger

MK's Napa Burger
with Crispy Thyme Onions

As I mentioned in a previous post, Dan and I were recently in California wine country.

Tonight's recipe (pictured above), was also inspired by our trip. Being that we are on a tight budget, we wanted to explore as much as we could on our free days without breaking the bank.  I wanted to share a few tips with you before I post my recipe. 

This isn't exactly going to be "Forty Dollars a Day."  It will probably remind you more of Fran Drescher's parents on Rosie back in the the 90's talking about the "early bird specials."  ;.)

Hey, I do live in Florida.  When in Rome, or Leesburg...

 Dan and his friend at Cline

We had to make a quick visit to Cline winery, which is one of our favorites.  My husband, Dan, is also a great home cook.  He keeps a personal cooking notebook including his collection of recipes.  On the cover is a picture of Dan posing with this guy.  Every time we visit out there now, we just have to try to duplicate the picture. 

We are easily amused.

Unfortunately, Monday is "bus tour" day at the Cline winery, so we weren't able to really do any tasting.  We purchased our favorite bottle and quickly moved on.

After Cline, we visited our very, very favorite, Eric Ross Winey.  I am going to save writing about that one when I do my last "wine country inspired" post;  along with pictures from the mountains headed back to Napa that will take your breath away! 

From there we had a huge lunch at Cafe Citti in Kenwood. We had their famous clam pizza, which I have been dreaming about since I last had it in 2008.   It was better than I remembered!

Then, it was back to Napa!

If you are up for walking (which is the best way to taste wine), Downtown Napa has been totally re-vamped in the last few years.  One of the best deals is the "Taste Downtown Napa" wine card.  For $20 a person, you can visit eleven downtown wineries and wine shops.  Wines range in prices, and some are hard to find California wines (limited production) -- there is something for every palate and wallet. 

It will take you a couple of days to visit all of them - even we can't taste that much in a given day!   We actually started the walking tour on Sunday and finished it upon return from Sonoma on Monday. 

Each venue has it's own deal with the card, from full flights to a glass paired with a bit of chocolate. 

My favorites on the walking wine tour were  --

Mason (great tasting room experience and great wines).  The manager actually delivered the wine we purchased back to our hotel so we would not have to carry it.  Of course, we were staying at a downtown Napa location, so don't expect this service if you are staying up valley.  I have to write this obvious disclaimer because you know how goofy people are these days.  Someone planning on staying in Calistoga will read this and expect the same level of service.  ***Sigh***

With the card, The Napa General Store offered an upgrade of a half price premium tasting for $7.50 per person.  It's worth it, so take the deal if it's offered to you.  Great wines there!

And then there is Uncorked.  If you are visiting Uncorked on a weekend, be sure to ask for Tom.  Tom has a big personality.  He knows everything about the wines and is just engaging to listen to.   The wine club offer is one of the best I've seen.

Barrel Tasting
Uncorked, Napa, CA
Uncorked features Ahnfeldt Wines.  From the website; "Consulting Winemaker Paul Hobbs, assistant wine maker Julian Gonzalez, and Crossbarn operations director Jason Valenti will now be producing the Ahnfeldt and Carducci lines of premium wines."

For dinner we wanted something not too heavy.  We stopped by The Bounty Hunter .  This is also a stop on the wine card.  You get a free small glass of wine for just stopping in.  After all, the Bounty Hunter began as a way for people to get their hands on great wines.  

Now, it's so much more.  When you stop by, you are sure to stay to eat.  They do have the best BBQ in Napa.

Look at the big plate of food that we split for ten bucks;  BBQ Beef, pork and ribs, served with coleslaw.  Three sauces are served on the side.  Delish!

Monday night special at The Bounty Hunter

Not included on the wine card but a "must see" for wine lovers and movie buffs, you have got to stop in and visit GustavoThrace winery.  Gustavo was depicted in the hit comedy movie "Bottleshock."   

After tasting his wines, one thing is clear; Gustavo was born to be a winemaker!

Photo of Gustavo with actor Freddy Rodriguez
GustavoThrace Tasting Room, Napa, CA

Gustavo's business partner, Thrace, is a total sweetie and a talented winemaker in her own right.  When I asked Thrace, "So how does your tasting work?" She replied, "I pour it into a glass and you drink it."  

The tasting is free.  

FYI, Thrace Bromberger also has a her own brand of wine called Toolbox, which she crafts along with two other female winemakers, Katie Hamilton Schaffer and Nancy Otton.

Proceeds from Toolbox wines go to Habitat for Humanity.

The recipe I am posting tonight would pair well with Thrace's Toolbox Napa Valley Merlot or Beringer's Founder's Estate Merlot (one of my other personal favorites). Both wines are very reasonably priced.  And masterful Beringer Winemaker Laurie Hook is also a great example of the growing number of women who are conquering the wine making industry in California.  Love it! 

We are women, hear us roar!  Sorry.  I am an old feminist at heart.

Oh, yeah, I did promise you a recipe tonight.  In case you forgot, it looks like this:

With no further adieu, here is tonight's recipe; my own wine country inspired burger.  Now, you can use store-bought fig preserves, or you can make your own.  This recipe calls for store-bought. 

Whatever you decide, wine country on a budget never tasted so good!

For the Burger:

One pound of ground Meatloaf Mix (Veal, Pork and Beef or Pork and Beef)
1 tablespoon Grill Seasoning for Steak
1/2 cup crumbled Goat Cheese
1/4 cup Fig Preserves
2 sliced Ciabatta Rolls

For the Onions:
1 small sweet onion, sliced thin
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons dried Thyme

Other:  Cooking Spray; lettuce, sliced tomato

Add grill seasoning and goat cheese to meatloaf mixture.  Form into two even patties.

Spray non-stick skillet with cooking spray.  Cook burgers on one side for about five minutes.  Flip and continue to cook for another three-to-four minutes until burger reaches desired temperature.

Brush each burger with 1/2 of the fig preserves.

Meanwhile, saute onions in olive oil and melted butter.  Add in dried thyme.  Cook until onions are slightly crispy on the ends.

Serve on Ciabatta rolls with lettuce and tomato.  Top with onions.

PS -  The burger that's in the header on this page is my Cheddar-Chive Dijon Chicken Burger.

If you like burgers, simply type key word "burgers" in the search box at the top of the blog.

I'll be back with one more "wine country inspired" recipe this weekend!

Note:  Not a paid endorsement for the establishments or wineries contained within this post, and no product was supplied to blogger for use in this blog.
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