Chocolate Tirimisu Truffle.

The Napa Valley Wine Train

IMG_9183Disclaimer: The Napa Valley Wine Train compensated me, with a complimentary Gourmet Express Luncheon for two, in exchange for a post and review. All opinions are my own.

Do you have a Bucket List of travel adventures for 2015? Make sure to add the Napa Valley Wine Train to it, especially since Valentine’s Day is just a month away! What about a romantic weekend in the beautiful Napa Valley? Nestled in between lush rolling hillsides, with some of the best vineyards and restaurants in California, sits the quaint town of Napa, home to the Napa Valley Wine Train. IMG_9158A scenic, one hour drive north of San Francisco, makes Napa an easy day trip from the city, or stay in any one of a number of luxury hotels or romantic inns. The Wine Train is the perfect way to spend part of a Valentine’s weekend. Don’t forget to bring a lock, for the “love lock bridge”!

In addition to their regular schedule of Vintner’s Lunches, Winery Tours and Dining Journeys, the Napa Wine Train offers special events, including Valentine’s Day lunch and dinner. If you can’t make it up for Valentine’s Day, there are also Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre trips with the same multi-course gourmet dining experience and Celebrity Winemaker Dinner Series with wine pairings.

On a recent weekend in December, my sister-in-law Julie and I, were guests of the Napa Valley Wine Train and enjoyed the Gourmet Express Luncheon. Each meticulously restored pullman car, circa 1915-17, offers exquisite views of the valley on the 3 hour, 36 mile round trip.IMG_9158We chose the “late” seating for lunch, so we started the trip in one of the lounge cars, where we enjoyed a complimentary glass of wine and a plate of appetizers, which included a variety of cheeses, smoked salmon, calamari, and a delicious seaweed salad, as we journeyed up the valley.

In addition to the extensive wine list, there’s a wine tasting car, (naturally!) and full bar, as well as a variety of reasonably priced wine flights, allowing one to sample some of the best of the Valley’s vintages.

Half way through the trip, in St. Helena, we made a seamless transition from the lounge car to the dining car, for our salad, main course, dessert and coffee.

All the food is freshly prepared in a specially fitted kitchen car, adjoining the dining cars, and all the ingredients are of the highest quality, humanely raised, hormone free meats and fresh, line-caught fish. The whole experience is reminiscent of a by-gone era of travel, with impeccably trained and attentive waitstaff and first class food. Julie and I decided we’d each order something different, so we could sample a bit of everything. We also shared the “Napa Valley” flight of wine which included a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and a cabernet sauvignon, to go with our entrees. The first course, was a choice of the baby lettuce salad with candied walnuts, and smoked goat cheese or the soup du jour. Napa food collageThe soup that day was a delicious tomato bisque with house made croutons. Julie and I switched the soup and salad halfway, so we were each able to enjoy a bit of both.

Entree choices include beef, pork, chicken, fish as well as a vegetarian dish. I chose the Roasted Beef Tenderloin on cambozola toast with sautéed vegetables, which was absolutely fantastic! Julie opted for the Pan Seared Bacon Wrapped Pork Medallion on black truffle hash browns with roasted vegetables in a chardonnay-mustard reduction. Each dish came out cooked exactly to our specifications and hot. The beef was cooked to perfection, with a delicious cabernet reduction, and the cambozola toast was divine!

The black truffle hash browns accompanying the pork medallion, could have been a meal on their own. Although we were completely full from our meal and wine flight, we saved room dessert.

The Chocolate Tiramisu Truffle was a true chocolate lovers dessert, with a shell of chocolate filled with creamy custard and a layer of cake. The Creme Brûlée, with its crunchy, sweet, caramelized sugar crust, was topped with fresh raspberries and was perfectly simple, and elegant all at once. Chef Kelly MacDonald has graciously given his recipe for Creme Brûlée, (which I have adapted for the home cook due to the large quantities). Click on the link if you are interested in booking one of the Napa Wine Train’s wonderful excursions!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Creme Brûlée
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: French
 
A classic French dessert, recipe courtesy of Chef Kelly MacDonald of the Napa Wine Train. (I've reduced the portions for the home cook.)
Ingredients
  • 1 quart heavy cream, divided
  • 1½ vanilla beans, split and scraped
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • Fresh berries for garnish
Instructions
  1. Put cream, and split, and scraped vanilla bean into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, until slightly cool. Remove the vanilla bean. (The vanilla bean can be used again)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together ½ cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended.
  3. Add the warm cream a little at a time, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins.
  4. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  5. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but creamy and not runny in the center, approximately 45-50 minutes.
  6. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  7. Remove the ramekins from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to browning. Divide the remaining ½ cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a small kitchen torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top.
  8. Garnish with fresh berries.

 

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Top 10 Recipes 2014

What A Girl Eats Top 10 Reader’s Favorite Recipes For 2014

Top 10 Recipes 2014

I wish you a healthy and happy 2015! Thank you for following my blog. If you enjoy what you are reading, please subscribe by email and never miss a recipe. These recipes were the most viewed in 2014. There’s a nice mix of salads, soup, main courses and desserts. So here are the What A Girl Eats, top 10 reader’s favorite recipes for 2014.
1. Dark Chocolate S’mores Trifles

2. Caramel Apple Tart

Caramel Apple Tart

3. Tom Ka Gai Soup

Tom Ka Gai

4. Green Goddess Dressing

5. King Cake

King cake

6. Chicken Chasseur

Chicken Chasseur

7. Caesar Salad

8. Orange Cream Angel Food Cake

Angel Food Cake

9. Whiskey Glazed Corned Beef

10. Beignets

Beignets

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Gluten free Eggplant parmesan

Shopwell, Eat Well

This post was sponsored by Shopwell, Healthy Eating Made Simple.

The weekend after any big holiday, I’m ready to eat simpler, cleaner food. While I eat really well and conscientiously 80% of the time, from time to time I slip and need a little reminder to make better choices. The next few weeks, I’ll be upping my veggie intake and choosing soups, lean meats and salads during the week, so I can enjoy the holiday parties that are coming up. We also try to avoid gluten, as my youngest daughter has sensitivities to wheat, heart disease runs in my family, so I like to watch the saturated fat in our diets as well. I recently discovered a pretty cool app for my phone, called the Shopwell app. It’s free, and allows you to tailor your shopping list to your family’s personalized profile.

Takepart called Shopwell, one of the “5 best apps to download before your next trip to the grocery store”, in April, 2014. You input your dietary requirements, and when you shop, scan the bar code to get a ‘score’ based on what’s best for your specific diet. This “Grilled” Tilapia seemed like it would be a good choice, but when we scanned it, we found out it contained corn, one of the items I want to avoid. If you have a family member with severe allergies, this is a really quick way to find out if an item contains allergens. Diabetic, vegan, pregnant or lactose intolerant, Shopwell will help guide you to making good, better and best choices. I also had my 19 year old sophomore download the app as well, so she doesn’t have to spend too much of her time reading labels, now that she’s off at college.

My 14 year old and I went shopping just to test out the Shopwell app. She chose food items that she thought were the best choices for our family, and we were both surprised to find out that some of the pre-packaged food items that are labeled as “healthy”, really missed the mark in one way or another. She found a bag of frozen Asian veggies, that she was sure would be a good match, but was high in sodium and contained corn. A healthier alternative is listed as well. In this case, Kroger’s Stir-Fry Vegetables was suggested as a “strong” match.

She was actually having fun shopping, trying to find food items that would be a “strong” match for us. Refried beans, one of her favorite lunch meals, scored a strong match for fiber, potassium, good source of protein and iron. While not every item will scan, (none of my Trader Joe’s packaged goods, and some of the items I usually buy at Whole Foods registered) I was impressed by the quick customer service, and when I inquired about those items, I was told that they are adding new stores and items all the time. You can download Shopwell on your phone for free in the App Store. You can also spend more time browsing the Shopwell web site from your computer at home.

Here are the recipes for Salade Nicoise, Eggplant Parmesan and Low Carb Eggs Florentine

 

Although this post was sponsored by Shopwell, as always, my opinions are my own and I only endorse items I believe in and personally use.

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