Go West, Hometown Explorer

Nov 15, 2011 No Comments by

“Go West, Hometown Explorer” was my parting tweet before I took off for San Francisco, the Foodbuzz Festival and a day trip to Sonoma before returning home to New Hampshire.

Before I hit the first Foodbuzz Festival event I tasted beers at 21st Amendment and Gordon Biersch. California definitely loves its beers. I found quite a few styles and confirmed hoppy ales and IPAs in particular are immensely popular. Full reviews of the beers tasted can be found in the posts at the Ancient Fire Wine Blog.

My goals for the Foodbuzz Festival, the annual mixer held in San Francisco, were to meet new people, try new products and have a good time. I accomplished these goals on night one at the welcome reception and dinner.

One of the finer examples of life just being like that. Meeting Meg Maker. Meg is a resident of NH who works with Bonny Doon Vineyards . Bonny Doon’s wines were being served at the event and Meg was out meeting attendees and talking about the wines. We both had to travel to California to finally meet after being acquainted on Twitter by mutual friends within the New England wine blogging community. It was a pleasure to finally meet, Meg! Let’s hope something closer to home is in our future.

I chatted up new foodie friends Shannon and Kelly who were also both meeting for the first time. The conversation included a little bit of everything, militant veganism, cider, McDonalds, hummus, beer, sheep, vultures and so much more. We hooked up several more times over the weekend to enjoy a good laugh and food story. The dinnertime Tweets with those two on Saturday night were some incredible comedy!

Over drinks, snacks and the buffet lines everything food was in play. Technique, eating local, vegetarian & vegan options and the beers from 21 Amendment all made the list. I tried Contra, a field blend wine from Bonny Doon, for the first time and felt that all I needed was some stinky cheese and crusty bread. Some wines make seemingly simple foods shine.


We got to watch some of the food prep, which made for good conversation starters.

The Ancient Fire Wine Blog didn’t win theBest Single Topic Foodbuzz Award. That went to The Lunchbox Project, a food and art blog by Lisa Orgler who I also competed with during Project Food Blog in 2010. Lisa’s illustrations are a great pairing with her food ideas, and with a strong community to support her she is a worthy winner. Congrats to all the nominees and winners. Thank you to all of my supporters for voting.
Dinner was OK, the recipes are likely to be more inspiring than their specific preparation that night. The conversation was better and that more than makes up for it.

I brought some NH love to share with my tablemates in the form of a bottle of our award winning 2010 Strawberry Wine made with berries form Sunnycrest Farms in Londonderry, NH. The feedback was an honor as always, and several non-wine lovers were surprised at how much interest they had in the wine. Everyone thanked me for my generosity. I thanked them for the opportunity to share what I am passionate about with them.

Photo courtesy of Cynthia of the Average Foodie blog.

The remainder of the Foodbuzz Festival was a mix of breakout meetings, tasting sessions and a gala dinner with a cooking demonstration by Tyler Florence. Many folks got to meet Tyler earlier in the day while he was signing books and photos with the team at Alexia foods. It was exciting to have a well known food personality in the room to meet and entertain people who genuinely love them for the passions they pursue.

I wrote several recap posts with extended thoughts on the festival and topics of relevance to the community which you can read with these links:

After the farewell brunch I was on my own again as a tourist. And I picked up right where I left off Friday, with beers. I visited three more brewpub or beer bar destinations and found tasty beers, well prepared foods and laughs with locals and out-of-towners at each. At Magnolia on Haight Street the beer menu had the most breadth with low alcohol and milder beers all the way out to big hoppy beers with some heat. Their Cuban sandwich was an excellent choice for dinner.

The last day of my trip was reserved for a quick visit to Sonoma. I’ve been in wine country in several states including California, but had yet to go to Sonoma or Napa. Sonoma won the vote of all of my wine friends so Sonoma it was.

I visited three different wineries including Cline CellarsRodney Strong Vineyards and Michel-Schlumberger.

Schlumberger was the most beautiful location with rolling hills that reminded me of places in upstate Vermont. Sorry, New Hampshire the lake and mountain regions look different. The weather was perfect during my visit, although a little cool in San Fran, which is in opposition to the role weather had played in the 2011 harvest. In an upcoming post for the WineMaker Magazine blog I will share feedback about the weather Sonoma producers experienced this year.

I tasted a range of wines from dry whites to big bold reds. With Thanksgiving coming I thought I might share how a few of these wines, and others made like them, might fit during your holiday celebrations.

The Pinot Blanc at Schlumberger is a great opening wine. Light with subtle fruitiness and a tart lemon soaked finish. This would get some conversation going! The Pinot Blanc from Trimbach is available to NH Liquor Store customers and would work equally well.

For white wine drinkers the Cline 2010 Marsanne/Rousanne blend has a fruit nose but savory herbs in the mouth. A wine like this has flavors that are complimentary with the range of foods you’ll find on the holiday table. I don’t think we can get this wine in NH Liquor stores currently. Look for Marsanne/Rousanne blends from California and also Australia. There will be more variability in this style of wine so some bottles may not work quite as well here.

Symmetry from Rodney Strong is a big red Meritage blend that would go best with an umami laden meal of beef or game, mushrooms, root vegetables and stinky cheese. I can almost taste it. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc this wine really does channel the best of each. An earthy nose with herbs, red fruits and a warmth and spiciness from oak aging in the mouth. This is another wine that is not in our local stores. Meritage blends from California, the Finger Lakes or Virginia will work similarly here.

The Old Vine Mourvedre from Cline would be a bit more the style of red wine drinkers who enjoy some austerity, dustiness and earth in their wines. And an able pairing with wild game. This wine won’t show up at the local stores either, but Rhone blends from France, especially the Mourvedre driven ones, will play this part well.

One day wasn’t long enough, but I hope to go back real soon!

At the end of dinner at Saturday night I shared a bottle of Kurt’s Apple Pie from Moonlight Meadery (also from Londonderry!!!) with my peers. Vanessa commented that she had never heard anyone get down so hard for New Hampshire before. I pumped my chest and explained just how down I was for New Hampshire. And I am. We’ve got a lot of be proud of here and being able to share that with people from elsewhere really jazzes me up.

I explained that I think the meads from Moonlight are the finest commercial adult beverages being made in New Hampshire at the current time. My own fermentations are pretty damn good too, but people can’t buy those… My peers and fellow diners agreed that it was a well crafted beverage. Sharing mead with people for the first time is always an anxiety-laden experience but I’ve got what it takes to get people through. The finesse of the Kurt’s Apple Pie is what got everyone. It is so light and full of flavor. It does have to stomp all over your mouth to be accessible. There were requests for second pours and the bottle was swiftly emptied. Way to go New Hampshire!

My travel to and from California was uneventful and when I got home I was justifiably glad to be there. Before my fond travel memories were at their completion though I had the privilege to share the use of my phone with a veteran returning home after seven months in Iraq. His phone was dead and he wanted to talk to his wife. Welcome home solider. Thank you for serving and go get a kiss from your wife!

That’s just how we do things in New Hampshire.




About the author

Jacklynn has been a resident in Londonderry since the age of 5. She grew up in a quiet neighborhood and went through the great school system. She has fond memories of bike riding through town in the spring and summer, sledding in the winter, and apple and pumpkin picking in the fall. She now has children of her own and looks forward to raising them in the same town she enjoyed so much as a youth.
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