Celebrate National Tequila Day with these Delicious Twists on the Margarita

Celebrate National Tequila Day with these Delicious Twists on the Margarita

National Tequila Day – July 24th

National Tequila Day July 24

Every Year around the third week of July, we have another opportunity to celebrate, rejoice, and indulge in our favorite libations from south of the border with National Tequila Day. It’s the special day to get into sipping this famous Mexican Spirit – Tequila. In honor of this day, I must wear my shirt celebrating this divine agave nectar – “Tequila – Mexican Chardonnay!” To further the celebration of the day, I must play the song by Soulrocker, Michael Franti and Spearhead, who also honors this special day with his well-known song, “My Favorite Wine is Tequila!

The Blue Agave Plant

National Tequila Day was recently established over the last 20 years in the United States and Mexico. Mexico actually celebrated their first National Tequila day on March 16, 2019. National Tequila Day in the United States began to emerge in the late 1990s and is celebrated every year on July 24 and is dedicated to the celebration and promotion of Mexico’s native drink from Jalisco.

Tequila was first produced in the 16th Century very near where it is still produced today near the surrounding areas of the city of Tequila, however, it was not officially established until 1666. This fermented beverage made from the agave plant was known as pulque and was consumed in pre-Columbian central Mexico before any European influence.

Tequila is produced in the area around the town of Tequila in the region of Jalisco, Mexico. This national drink from México is made from the blue agave plant and can only officially be called Tequila is if made in this region. There are many other variations of the beverage made in and around Mexico but cannot take on the name. Just like with sparkling wines produced around the world. The only ones that can be designated as true Champagne are those that are actually produced in Champagne, France.

Barrel-Aged Tequila

Mexican laws specifically designate that tequila can only be produced in the state of Jalisco along with limited municipalities in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Tequila is recognized as a product origin of Mexico in more than 40 countries and it is protected through NAFTA in Canada and the USA.

  • Blanco Tequila (“white”) is unaged Tequila and bottle and stored immediately after distillation or aged less than two months in neutral oak or stainless steel. It is the harsher of the 100% agave tequilas with the bold flavors of the distilled agave upfront.
  • Reposado (“rested”) is aged a minimum of two months buy no more than a year in oak barrels. Reposado and Anejo are smoother, more subtle, and less complex.
  • Anejo (“aged” or “Vintage”) aged a minimum of one year but less than three years in oak barrels. The more that it is aged the more the tequila takes on the flavors of the wood while the harshness of the alcohol mellows.
  • Extra Anejo (“extra aged” or “ultra-aged”) This is a newer category of Tequila and was established in 2006 – The extra Anejo is aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels

In Mexico, the most traditional way to drink Tequila is without lime and salt where outside of Mexico, a shot of Tequila is served with a slice of lime and salt, while licking the hand and putting salt on it, taking the shot of tequila quickly, licking the salt off of the hand and then biting into the lime.

There is also the Tequila Slammer which is a mixture of Tequila and a carbonated soft drink like 7up. Another variation of that is the Tequila Bang Bang which is a mixture of Tequila and Sparkling wine. This is usually done in groups or parties where everyone takes their “Slammer” or “BangBang” slams it on the table when it bubbly and frothy and then slam it down.

My personal preference is none of the above. I much prefer to sip a good Reposado or Anejo slowly to take in the lovely flavors of these ages beauties much like sipping a good Cognac.

In celebration of National Tequila Day, I like to indulge in a specialty Margarita. Here are a few of my favorite recipes to create your own specialty concoction. Happy National Tequila Day!


Margarita Recipes to Celebrate National Tequila Day

Whether it is Cinco de Mayo, National Margarita Day, National Tequila Day, National Cocktail Day, Your Birthday, or Someone else’s Birthday, just about any day is a good day for a Margarita. Here are a few Margarita Recipes to get your spirit moving!

History of the Margarita

Where did the Margarita originate? Over the years many have taken claim to the creation of the infamous tequila drink – “The Margarita.” The cocktail the “Daisy” was a similar drink made with brandy instead of Tequila. Though during prohibition people traveled over the border and picked up tequila which was substituted for the brandy. Daisy in Spanish is Margarita.

In 1937, there was a recipe for a “Picador” using the same mix of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice in a cocktail book. There are others that claim that Dallas socialite Margarita Sames created the drink for her guests at her Acapulco vacation home in 1948. The first known published recipe was in the December 1953 issue of Esquire. Though in 1945, the first importer of Jose Cuervo promoted the slogan – “Margarita: it’s more than a girl’s name.”

Nowadays, there are so many creators and mixologists of tequila drinks with different versions and flavors of the Margarita with so many variations of Margarita recipes. In essence, all of us who have concocted our own Margarita recipes can take our own five minutes of claim to fame too. Here are a few of some of my favorite twists on the colorful Margarita, some with my own input and diversions to the recipe. It’s your turn to take it and run with it!

It’s Margarita-Thirty!!

The Traditional Margarita

The Traditional Margarita

Makes 2 Margaritas – increase ingredients as needed depending on the number of Margaritas you are preparing.

  • 4 OZ Blanco tequila
  • 2 OZ Cointreau or triple sec
  • 4 OZ fresh lime juice
  • Ice
  • Slices of lime or lime wedges

Fill a Cocktail shaker with ice along with the tequila, Cointreau, and fresh lime juice. Shake well, then strain into a chilled glass or serve on the rocks.

Another Spin on the Traditional Rita – The San Antonio Margarita

San Antonio Margarita

Recipe Inspired by well-known Texan Josie Davidson whose father received this recipe from Mario Cantu, owner of Mario’s, an old-line Mexican Restaurant in San Antonio. This famed Margarita recipe was passed on to the New York Times in 2015. It’s a five-star winner with 818 five star ratings!

  • 1 cup plus a splash of tequila
  • 1 cup plus a splash of orange liquor
  • 1 cup plus a splash of freshly squeezed lime juice

Combine all of the liquids in a pitcher with 6 ounces of water and stir to combine. Place in the refrigerator to chill. Then serve over ice in glasses with salted rims. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

24 Karat Gold Margarita by Loews Miami Beach Hotel

24 Karat Margarita

It seems like ages ago, but just like yesterday that we traveled across the country to Loews Miami Beach Hotel. It was only a few months ago in February that we were invited to participate in the exquisite festivities held at the hotel for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival in South Beach. During our visit, we had the distinct pleasure of joining Steve Turk – Food and Beverage Director for Loews, Linda Villafane – Director of Public Relations for Loews Miami Beach and Contributing Food Writer for Forbes in the hotel’s spectacular lounge, Bar Collins, for a pre-celebration toast. We were all dressed to the nines, looking like royalty for the evening’s formal festivities celebrating SOBEWFF. This set the perfect stage and the perfect opportunity to toast with the bar’s famous in-house Margarita, the “24 Karat Rita.”

These brilliantly decorated tumblers arrived at our table glowing of effervescent sparkles adorning the glass rims and the floating lime wheels. Almost to pretty to drink, but feeling decadent and adventurous, we all cheered and jumped right into these jeweled libations.

Their specific recipe remains a bit of a secret. We do know it includes a generous pour of Roca Patron Silver over crushed ice, with fresh lime juice, a bit of Cointreau, adorned with edible 24k gold leaf and lime zest! Bravo Bar Collins – you definitely knocked it out of the park!

Black Grape and Chili Margarita – Courtesy Food and Wine

Black Grape and Chili Margarita

Serves – 2

  • 1 tsp Chili powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 oz fresh lime juice
  • Lime wedges for garnish
  • Ice
  • 4 oz Concord grape juice
  • 3 oz Reposado Tequila
  • 5 ox triple sec
  • Serrano chili pepper with seeds thinly sliced
  • Black Grapes for garnish

Mix the chili powder with the salt and sugar. Moisten the rim of the two glasses with a lime wedge and dip the glasses into the coast around the rim.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the grape juice, tequila, lime juice, triple sec, and 4 slices of serrano Chilies and then strain into the two glasses. Garnish with sliced serranos, lime wedges, and grapes to serve.

Blue Margarita

If you are dreaming of the Azur waters of Mexico or the Caribbean and can’t get there right now, this refreshing Blue Margarita will definitely take you there. Take a sip, close your eyes, and just imagine being there! I do it every time, and if it’s a little too chilly outside, I just turn on my favorite travel video of the beaches of Mexico and it takes me right back!

Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup of tequila, preferably Reposado
  • 1/3 cup of Curacao (Blue)
  • 1/3 Cup of Cointreau or Triple Sec (orange-flavored liquor)
  • 2/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 8 limes)
  • Limes wedges for garnish

Combine the tequila, Curacao, triple sec, and lime juice in a large pitcher with crushed ice or you can pour it on the rocks into tumbler glasses or decorative glasses for a straight-up Margarita.

According to master mixologist Dale DeGroff, a drink called the Tequila Daisy was served at Tijuana’s Agua Caliente racetrack in the 1920s. It was made with lemon juice, tequila, and a sweet ingredient—the template for a Margarita.

The Jalapeno Basil Lime Frozen Margarita

This recipe is inspired by the recipe created by the Vancouver duo – The Food Gays. I just love the Jalapeno kick and the twist with the basil added.

  • ¼ cup basil
  • ½ cup jalapeno with seeds
  • 6 oz of barrel-aged tequila – or a good Reposado
  • 3 oz triple sec
  • Juice from 4 limes
  • 2 Tablespoons of honey or agave syrup
  • 2-3 cups ice
  • Salt for the rim
  • Lime wedges for the garnish

Muddle the basil and jalapeno together, then add the tequila. Let it infuse for 24 hours in the refrigerator. The next day strain and just keep the liquid, discard the basil, and jalapeno. In a blender add the tequila mix the triple sec, the lime juice, the honey, and ice, then blend until smooth. Pour into your salt-rimmed glasses and garnish with lime wedges.

Spicy Margarita Punch

Serves 10

Spicy Margarita Punch

It’s the combination of the cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro, and mint that takes the flavors of this Margarita off the charts. This is a perfect libation to pre-make ahead of time for your Cinco de Mayo celebration.

  • 1 large or 2 medium cucumbers
  • 2 jalapenos thinly sliced – one for the mixture and one for the garnish
  • ¼ up of de-stemmed cilantro
  • ¼ cup of mint
  • One bottle of Silver Tequila – 750 mills
  • 2 cups fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup of agave nectar
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • Ice, lime wedges, and salt for serving

In a large bowl or punch bowl if you intend to use one, muddle (mash) the cucumber with the jalapeno, cilantro, and mint. Add the tequila, lime juice, agave, orange juice and stir well. Refrigerate for at least an hour or you can keep if overnight if you are making it ahead of time.

Strain the liquids from the mixture and discard the solids. Keep it in the punch bowl or put the mixture into a large service pitcher along with some ice. Serve into salted rimmed glasses and garnish with thinly sliced cucumber, jalapeno slices, and limes wedges.

The Mayan Mule

The Mayan Mule Margarita

Well, what can I say about this one except you just have to try it!

Serving Size per glass 1

A South of the Border twist on the Moscow Mule

  • 5 ounces of aged gold tequila preferably a Reposado
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • 3-4 ounces of ginger beer
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Sliced lime into a wheel to garnish
  • Mint sprig to garnish

Combine the tequila and lime juice in a tall glass.

Add Ice.

Add the ginger beer and Angostura bitters and stir.

Garnish with the lime wheel and sprig of mint.

The “DanaRita”


A recipe created and made for many years by my husband Dana which is a Margarita that has become legendary amongst our family and friends. It is one of the most requested and popular libations when we all congregate. “Dana, can you make me one of your DanaRitas?”

Dana’s Inspiration – Simplicity – Make people smile, feel smart and witty, and dance in public.

Key observations to making a really stellar margarita – A quality margarita is not green or slushy. Look for a golden color and pour over ice cubes.

Preferences – Salt on the rim (optional but traditional for sure); any size glass but tall one is preferable. And for the tequila – Reposado is preferred which is more flavorful and has that rich golden color from the toast of the barrel aging.

  • 50/50 ratio of tequila to everything else
  • Everything Else – Orange flavor liquor (Cointreau, Grand Marnier or just fresh-squeezed oranges)
  • Fresh Squeezed Lime – Lots of it
  • Splash of Sparkling water to give it a little zest
  • Ice

Using an 8-ounce glass, salted rim or not, squeeze a whole lime into the glass, squeeze a half orange (about 2 oz juice)

Add 2 ounces tequila, then add about 1 ounce of sparkling water. Add ice then a splash of Cointreau or Grand Marnier on the top.

Mango Coconut Chili Margarita

Mango Coconut Chili Margarita

If you are lucky enough to be spending the Cinco de Mayo celebration someplace tropical you may want to make this spin on the traditional margarita. I am sure you will find plenty of fresh mangos and coconuts in abundance. Just the thought of it makes we want to beam up someplace tropical right now, sit under a palm tree listening to waves crashing, and the warm ocean breezes blowing across my body while relaxing to the soft sounds in the distance to a steel drum band. Can I go now, please?

Almost the next best thing to being in the tropics right now is indulging in this delightful tropical tequila libation.

2 -3 servings

  • 1 ripe mango (1 cup cubed or if you can’t find it fresh, a bag of frozen mango, or mango sorbet as a last resort)
  • 1 cup of Orange juice – fresh squeezed preferred
  • 1 cup of Fresh Coconut Water or Store-bought Coconut water
  • A few Chunks of Fresh Coconut or a small scoop coconut sorbet or coconut flavor rum – your preference
  • Several Medium-Sized Limes
  • 3 ounces of Silver Tequila or Reposado
  • 5 ounces of Cointreau or Triple Sec Orange Liqueur
  • A dash of hot sauce – your preference or not, some like it hot!
  • 1-3 Tablespoons of Agave Nectar (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • ¼ Cup Lime Juice
  • Lime Wedges for Garnish
  • Chili Powder and Sea Salt mixed for rimming the glass. I also like to use Tajin Clasico con Limon

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and mix until creamy. Be sure to taste it so that you can adjust it whether you want to add more Tequila, Orange Liqueur or Agave Nectar. If you like the spice of it, add in a bit more chili powder or hot sauce.

The Brave Bull

The Brave Bull

After a long day of Cinco de Mayo festivities or any fiesta activities, it’s time to relax before siesta in the evening with a Brave Bull. It is sometimes referred to as a Mexican Black Russian. It is a cocktail that was introduced in a 1960’s action movie and it truly lives up to its name. This is a unique and quirky combination of Kahlua and Tequila Blanco, but you can use your tequila of preference. This is my husband’s go-to late-night libation and his preference on which tequila is to use one of his favorite Reposado tequilas we usually have on hand. Sometimes we add in a little milk or cream, somewhat like a White Russian or you could call it a Brave White Bull! Buenos Noches!

The recipe is easy – it is one part Kahlua and 2 parts tequila over ice. Though you can also do 50/50 on the mixture too!


Please post your comments and photos of your own versions of the famed Margarita!











USA Today 10Best Wine Readers’ Choice Awards 2020

USA Today 10Best Wine Readers’ Choice Awards 2020

I am so thrilled to have been invited again by USA Today 10Best to be one of their Expert Panel of Wine and Wine Region Experts for their 2020 Wine Readers’ Choice Awards. Visit USA Today to vote for your Favorites!
Every Year USA Today 10Best offers a variety of contests in a variety of categories. Readers like you share their opinions every day by casting votes for their favorites. Have strong feelings about specific vacation spots? There’s a contest for that. Are you a foodie chomping at the bit to support your favorite eatery? They’ve got that too. Or perhaps you’d like to peruse the 10Best Readers’ Choice winners to guide your future travels? You can do that right there on the USA Today 10Best site.

USA Today 10Best Contest Categories

You will find all of your favorite travel categories to choose from:
This time it is all about wine regions, tasting rooms, dining, tours, wine clubs, wine festivals, and wine country hotels. You have until Monday, August 12th to vote for your favorites in each category.
Note from 10Best: Someday, we’ll all be ready to pack our suitcases again and head out on our next adventures. In the meantime, we’ll keep supporting the places that inspire us.  While California undoubtedly produces excellent wine, it’s got stiff competition these days. North America is home to more than 250 grape-growing regions. We asked a panel of wine industry experts to pick their favorite North American wine regions. Vote for your favorite out of this pool of 20 nominees once per day until voting ends on Monday, August 12 at noon ET. Read the official Readers’ Choice rules here.

Vote for your Favorite Winery or Vineyard tour





Note from 10Best: Some of these events have been canceled or postponed in 2020. Someday, we’ll all be ready to pack our suitcases again and head out on our next adventures. In the meantime, we’ll keep supporting the events that inspire us. Check each individual event website for the latest.  There’s a reason Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, is often depicted as a partier. Wine makes a good festival even better. 10Best teamed up with a panel of wine industry experts to find the best wine-centric celebrations in the U.S. Now we’re asking you to choose the winner by voting for your favorite once per day until voting ends on Monday, August 10 at noon ET. The winning festivals will be announced on 10Best on Friday, August 21. Read the official Readers’ Choice rules here.


Note from 10Best: Someday, we’ll all be ready to pack our suitcases again and head out on our next adventures. In the meantime, we’ll keep supporting the places that inspire us.  While California undoubtedly produces excellent wine, it’s got stiff competition these days. North America is home to more than 250 grape-growing regions. We asked a panel of wine industry experts to pick their favorite North American wine regions. Vote for your favorite out of this pool of 20 nominees once per day until voting ends on Monday, August 12 at noon ET. Read the official Readers’ Choice rules here.




Vote for your Favorite Wine Club Tour Operators

Vote for your favorite wine tour operator

Whether you’re tasting your way through famed California wine country, sipping wines lakeside in Michigan, or exploring the emerging wine scene in Georgia, enhance your wine tasting experience by leaving the driving to someone else. These 20 tour operators offer wine-centric tours, complete with transportation, knowledgable guides, and other extras. Now you have until Monday, August 10 at noon ET to vote daily for your favorite. The winners will be announced on 10Best.com on Friday, August 21. Read the official Readers’ Choice rules here.
The Algarve, Portugal – Luxury Hotels offering Michelin Star Restaurants

The Algarve, Portugal – Luxury Hotels offering Michelin Star Restaurants

Algarve Coastline

View of the Algarve Coastline from Vila Joya – Gale Beach

Luxurious Hotels in the Algarve offering Michelin Star Restaurants

“Fall Culinary Getaway in the Algarve”

Fall or any season really is a sensational time to travel to the southern coastal region of Portugal – The Algarve. It’s a particularly good time to go in search of their regional cuisine and dining at the lovely selection of Michelin Star restaurants along the coast of The Algarve. This past fall was my first time visiting this part of Portugal and I was thrilled to discover such a magnificent and pristine coastal destination. The busy summer crowds had since gone, the days remained warm in the coastal sunshine, and the evenings presented lovely cool sea breezes along with stunning sunsets. Absolute perfection in Portugal!

This southernmost seaside region of Portugal, The Algarve, has become one of the most appealing tourist destinations in Southern Europe particularly with central and northern Europeans. With such easy access from Portugal’s neighboring countries to the north, it is quite convenient and affordable to visit numerous times during the year. Visitors flock to the busy beaches in the warm busy summer months and then return again in the quieter winter season as a place to escape the colder climates of their own homeland.

Travelers from the United States are also finding this region very desirable as the ease to venture there has become increasingly more accessible. Many visitors from North America find the uncrowded picturesque coastal towns very attractive in the less populated seasons that the Algarve offers. The landscape and weather of this stunning Southern Portugal region are very similar to the Southern California coastal cities. In the Algarve, you will discover much less hustle, bustle and traffic congestion than you can experience in the popular California coastal destinations such as La Jolla, Laguna Beach, and San Diego. And more affordable as well! It has become a popular place for Americans to retire and US ex-pat community is growing.

Oasis Suite Vila Vita Parc

Oasis Suite Vila Vita Parc

The Southern Portuguese coast delivers a desirable year-round Mediterranean climate to travelers visiting the charming seaside villages along the shores of the Atlantic.  You will find 5-star resorts and small intimate inns, Michelin Star Restaurants and charming cafes scattered throughout the region and along the coast of these magical seashore towns.

The variety and abundance of fresh seafood that is seasonally available is unsurpassed. You will want to definitely check out one of the many fresh seafood markets while you are there and if you are staying at a place that has a kitchen, be sure to pick up a selection and create your own seafood sensation. Take a drive to visit the regional wineries or take a cruise by boat along the magnificent coastline of limestone caves and sea carved grottos and cliffs. There’s plenty to do or do nothing at all, sit back and relax and just take it all in. Create your own journey. You can be assured it will always be memorable. My memories of my recent visit are luring me back.

Many of the luxury seaside hotels and inns remain open throughout the year as the Algarve truly is a four-season destination. The beaches are still open in the spring and fall, and the many championship golf courses are open throughout the year. Though from late November to late February, a handful of the signature boutique hotels and restaurants close for their slower season.

Sea Urchin

Sea Urchin – Vila Joya Restaurant

Planning a trip to the Algarve in early to mid-November or early to mid-March is perfect timing. There are many great deals offered on 5-Star hotels along the coast and reserving a table at one of the 8 Michelin Star restaurants in the Algarve is more approachable. I found it is such a relaxing and enjoyable time of year to spend in the Algarve. I can’t wait to go back.

Vila Vita Parc

Deluxe Ocean View Room – Vila Vita Parc

One of the most inspiring reasons to book a trip to the Algarve is to be sure to plan a visit just to pamper yourself. You can expect to indulge the lavish amenities of these extraordinary luxury hotels and please your palate at the sought-after Michelin star restaurants. Your stay at these luxury resorts will be unprecedented, adding a dining experience like nowhere else in the world. These award-winning chefs present works of flavor and art on your plate amidst the backdrop of the brilliance of the Algarve coast’s sparkling turquoise waters.

Booking travel to the Algarve was quite simple to arrange actually, particularly on TAP Air Portugal with their new non-stop routes into Lisbon.  In June of 2019, TAP Airlines launched their non-stop flights from San Francisco to Lisbon with five weekly flights departing SFO at 4:10 pm and arriving in Lisbon in just under 11 hours at 11:35 am. In addition to SFO, there is a selection of non-stop flights from other US cities right into Lisbon – New York, Boston, Chicago, and Miami.

As a plus, going business class with TAP’s lie-flat seats provided a lovely sleep after dining on their own consulting Michelin Star chef’s inspired cuisine. Upon arriving relatively rested at the Lisbon airport, I was off to an easy and quick change of airplanes for the short flight from Lisbon to Faro in the Algarve. It was a perfect time for arriving as it gave me a bit of time to relax at the hotel and then venture off to a marvelous dinner in the evening.

Traveling to the Algarve with a group of fellow foodies was a delight as we all loved sharing stories of our previous epicurean adventures to other delicious destinations around the world. And of course, we were all looking forward to staying and dining at 3 of the 4 Algarve Hotels which offer Michelin Star Restaurants. The Algarve region is significant on the international gastronomic map and is sought after by foodies from around the world.

VILA VITA Parc – Algarve

Ocean Restaurant Vila Vita Parc

Ocean Restaurant – 2 MICHELIN Stars

The first hotel on our itinerary took us to the sensational VILA VITA Parc Resort and Spa located in Porches, Algarve. This 5-Star luxury hotel situated along a majestic seaside cliff-top delivers breathtaking views from every viewpoint on Vila Vita Parc’s expansive exquisitely manicured grounds.

Vila Vita Parc

As an ongoing member of The Leading Hotels of the World, the resort presents to its guests a stunning selection of 170 rooms, suites, and villas along with their 2-Stared Michelin Award-Winning Restaurant, “Ocean.” They also offer a host of 11 restaurants, bars, a spa, a wine cellar, a private yacht, and a collection of diverse activities to entice you. Truly a destination fit for royalty. It’s no wonder that VILA VITA Parc is consistently recognized as a winner in many worldwide “Tourism Oscars” awards for their outstanding distinction as one of the most prestigious resorts in the world.

Vila Vita Parc Terrace Dining

The VILA VITA Parc’s enchanting rooms and suites offer unprecedented luxury, spaciously appointed with a flavor of contemporary yet traditional décor. Their accommodations offer seascape views of the beaches of Armacao de Pera, Pria Vila Vita, and Pria do Tremecos from your exclusive getaways’ private terrace. Getting to the beaches (Prias) is easy as there is a staircase, which is an easy walk down directly to the secluded pearl sand beaches along the brilliant aqua seas.

Ocean Restaurant Executive Chef Hans Neuner

Dining at their award-winning restaurant “Ocean”, created by Michelin Star Chef Hans Neuner, delivered an artistic presentation of delectable gastronomy. Ocean Restaurant premiered 12 years ago, under the direction of their Executive Chef, Austrian born Hans in 2007. He came to the resort with a vision to deliver unique, dramatically designed cuisine created with fruits of the sea and the freshest of regional produce. Guests experience harmonious, artistic delights in every course while overlooking the awe-inspiring Atlantic Ocean views.

Ocean Restaurant View of the Seaside

After being at the helm of Ocean for just two years, Hans Neuner was presented with their first Michelin Star for the restaurant in 2009. Two years later, in 2011, they were awarded a second star, which they have proudly maintained ever since. Indeed, a significant and notable accomplishment. Hans Neuner was awarded Portugal’s Chef of the Year in 2009 and 2012.

Ocean Restaurant Violet Shrimp

The seasonally created menu offers such creatively designed dishes with a selection of the offerings that we had the opportunity to experience – Sea Urchin with Carrot and Olive; Broad Beans with Chorizo and Squid; “Xerem” – Sea Snails and Coriander.

Ocean Dish Xerem – Sea Snail Coriander

https://vilavitaparc.com/en/welcome Rua Anneliese Pohl, Alporchinhos · 8400 450 Porches · Portugal reservas@vilavitaparc.com  ·  +351 282 310 100

Vila Joya Home, Restaurant and Spa – 2 MICHELIN Stars

The Terrace at Vila Joya

Our next Algarve destination resort took us to the enchanting Vila Joya (“House of Joy”) at Gale Beach just west of Albufeira, inspired and named after its proprietress Joy Jung. She took over the sole operation and ownership from her father in 2013 after being at the helm as general manager for 9 years. It was Joy’s mission to continue with the legacy of her mother, Claudia Jung, who created the inspiration for this Algarve coastal paradise tucked away in secluded harmony. It is now renowned as one of the most beautiful privately-run boutique resorts in all of Europe.

Vila Joya Owner Joy Jung and Chef Dieter Koschina

The Entrance to Vila Joya

Vila Joya Resident Love Birds

From the moment you pass through the gates of Vila Joya, you experience an immediate sense of “Joy” and tranquility as you are welcomed into this private oasis at this peaceful paradise along the Atlantic. When you enter into Vila Joya, you are first greeted by their resident love birds who have been together forever (small African parrots). From that moment on, you begin to set your spirit free embarking on an experience uniquely like no other. Vila Joya has created an intoxicating environment for their guests, giving them “The sea, the gardens, the gem – welcome to Paradise.” The sea and the sounds of the waves are ever-present at Vila Joya.

Vila Joya

Each of the 22 rooms and suites offered at Vila Joya is uniquely adorned with impressive décor, and present guests unbridled luxurious comfort adorned with specially designed beds from Portugal accented with exquisite linens. All of the rooms deliver magnificent views from their charming terraces of the enticing azure waters and perfumed ocean air. Vila Joya’s intimate setting is divine as it lures you into its exotic magic while you escape from the hectic world behind you to this Shangri-La by the sea.

Vila Joya Accommodations

Vila Joya’s returning guests are devoted patrons who have been visiting the resort for years and years, and many enjoy lengthy extended stays. These dedicated patrons choose not to stray far from the property’s inviting surroundings during their stay as it is their pleasure to frequently experience the 2 Michelin star restaurant as Vila Joya’s diverse menu deliciously changes daily.

Vila Joya Poolside Restaurant – Vila Joya Sea

Guests also have the option to dine at their more casual restaurant at the lower part of the property on the way to the beach, The Vila Joya Sea. Their seaside outdoor restaurant prepares Japanese inspired cuisine, sushi, barbecue, fusion food, and creative cocktails in a relaxed beachside setting overlooking the brilliant coastline.

Chef Dieter Koschina

The coveted restaurant at Vila Joya celebrates 20 years and has continuously been awarded with two prestigious Michelin stars during that time. Under the helm of renowned Chef Dieter Koschina, was the first chef in Portugal to achieve the accolade of receiving 2 Michelin Stars.  He received his first two stars in 1999 and was the only chef awarded with two stars in Portugal until 2011. Chef Dieter arrived as Executive Chef at Villa Joya in 1991, after he impressed then proprietress Claudia Jung with his skills and creativity as a chef. He received his first Michelin star at Vila Joya in 1995. His reputation has earned him the status of being the most celebrated chef of Portugal.

Vila Joya Pina Colada

A few of the specialty dishes that Chef Dieter prepared for our delightful luncheon on the spectacular terrace of Vila Joya were: Carabineiro Jalapeno/Datterino – Jalapeno espuma (foam), datterino (a plum tomato from Spain) sauce, rice pops, datterino concasse, and cress. Rascasse Garlic/Spinach – garlic foam, spinach puree, black garlic tortellini, leek puree. Veal Filet – Leek/Celery – veal head, fried veal filet, celery ravioli, braised leek, chanterelles, leek puree. Banana Split – Chocolate Sauce and Mouse, banana espuma (foam), crumble, brownie, caramelized banana, and almonds. Quite honestly, one of my most memorable meals ever.


The Restaurant and Hotel are open from February 25th to November 16th. The Restaurant is open for Lunch and Dinner.

http://www.vilajoya.com/en/   Vila Joya
Estrada da Galé 8200-416 Albufeira Algarve | Portugal
E: info@vilajoya.com T: +351 289 591 795

Bela Vista Hotel & Spa

BELA VISTA Hotel & SPA – Relais & Châteaux VISTA Restaurante – 1 MICHELIN Star

Our third Algarve hotel visit took us to the elegant Relais & Chateaux BELA VISTA Hotel & Spa in Portimao along the Pria da Rocha. This distinguished hotel has been the recipient of many awards and accolades. These include – Best Luxury Boutique Hotel in 2014 by World Luxury Hotel Awards; “20 of Europe’s Most Beautiful Hotels” – Bela Vista was named the most beautiful Hotel in Portugal in 2016 and 2018 by CNN; Best Luxury Boutique Hotel by TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards in 2016; and Chef Joao – GQ’s Men of Year in the Gourmet Category 2016.

Bela Vista Lobby

Bela Vista Hotel and VISTA Restaurante are perched just off the shores of Pria da Rocha in a historic early 20th-century mansion originally constructed in 1918. It has been recognized as one of the first hotels built in the Algarve region. Bela Vista, meaning beautiful views, offers just that with magnificent views of the adjacent sea from this historic landmark building in the Algarve. The hotel is a blend of early century décor flavored harmoniously with a contemporary infusion of the classic past and 21st century modern.

One of Many of the Exquisite Rooms at the Bela Vista Hotel & Spa

Bela Vista offers guests a memorable stay in one of their 38 rooms and suites uniquely and richly decorated with vibrant colors in a sensational contemporary landscape. The guest accommodations are spread out within the Bela Vista’s three buildings across their impressive property. The hotel also provides private access directly to the beach.

Chef João Oliveira
Photo by Paulo Barata 2016

Their Michelin Star restaurant, the VISTA, presents a unique experience to their dining guests, which distinctly appeals to the five senses. The restaurant’s concept is orchestrated under the helm of their award-winning chef Joao Oliveira. Joao is dedicated to utilizing fresh products from the sea of the Portuguese coast. They offer a diverse selection from their Sea and Sustainability Menu at the restaurant. Joao has orchestrated the cuisine at VISTA Restaurante since 2015, taking them to be awarded their first star in 2017. At 31 years old, Joao brings 14 years of culinary expertise to the table. His distinctive dishes are inspired from the North of Portugal and Mediterranean cuisine.

Joao Oliveira – Creative Dishes

A few of his signature dishes include Mediterranean Scarlet Shrimp with Oyster and Cucumber; Blue Lobster with Cauliflower, Caviar, and Champagne; and Wagu with Tomato, Aubergine, and Mediterranean Jus.

Bela Vista Restaurant

The restaurant is only open for dinner.

http://www.hotelbelavista.net/  Hotel Bela Vista Av. Tomas Cabreira, Pria Da Rocha, Portimao, Algarve 8500-802 Portugal +351 282 460 280 Info@hotel-belevista.com

The Algarve – What a divinely delicious experience! Can’t wait to go back for more luxury on a plate…

Map of the Algarve Regions In Southern Portugal

Map of The Algarve Region in Southern Portugal

Photo Credits: Vila Vita Parc, Vila Joya, Bela Vista Hotel and Dynie Sanderson















Celebrate and Enjoy These Tasty Upcoming Food and Wine Festivals

Celebrate and Enjoy These Tasty Upcoming Food and Wine Festivals

Photo: Michael Troutman/www.dmtimaging.com

Your Favorite Food and Wine Festivals will be Back! It’s Time to Start Planning now for 2021!!

The offerings of food and wine festivals and auctions around the state, around the country, and around the world are plentiful. You will find everything from small intimate gatherings to the grandest of galas in all sorts of themes and flavors set in delicious destinations.

In early March of this year, many of the signature food and wine events and festivals had to make the heartfelt decision to cancel and postpone their annual soirees into 2021. They will be back for our enjoyment; they have not gone away; you can rest assured. In the meantime, we can still enjoy sipping and tasting all of our favorite wines from our favorite vintners because the wineries are still shipping wines and releasing new vintages and varietals.

These wine festivals have grown in attendance and popularity over the years. A few of the original pioneer groundbreakers of these coveted food and wine events have soared to impressive heights in their popularity like the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. Triumphing, along with them, is the Kapalua Wine and Food Festival celebrating Aloha festivities on the Island of Maui. Both festivals have celebrated almost 40 years of food and wine glory.

These food and wine festivals present a perfect opportunity to reconnect with many of your favorite winemakers and celebrity chefs throughout the year while visiting some of your favorite vacation destinations. Plan your next travel, food and wine excursion around where you want to go next and wrap it around a food and wine festival. You can just about pick any weekend anywhere around the world and find a spectacular culinary/wine enthusiast soiree happening. If you want to revel on Bourbon Street in April and eat and drink the best of the best, plan on heading to the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience. You can also get your Aloha on in Maui in June or hobnob with celebrities in Aspen.

Here are a few fantastic culinary classics coming back in 2021 where you can dish up divine delights of exceptional bites and sips throughout these multi-day culinary extravaganzas. You will also have the opportunity to partake in cooking demonstrations, wine seminars. The guest chefs will be preparing specialty lunches and dinners where you will also enjoy wines from some of your favorite vintners. It’s not just all about the wine, you will also discover regional craft brews and spirits from custom distillers.

January Events

Naples Winter Wine Festival – Naples, Florida

Naples Winter Wine Fest

The Naples Winter Wine Festival is ranked among the top 10 arts and entertainment events for successful philanthropists, wine enthusiasts, and serious foodies. This ranking by the Luxury Institute is based on exclusivity, quality, and prestige. The festival has earned the distinction of being one of the most successful charity wine auctions in the nation. An array of notable Napa Vintners will join an impressive selection of vintners worldwide to share their top wines with guests at this prestigious event. Check out the festival’s website for a full list of vintners and culinary participants. In addition, world-class items will be auctioned off at the event’s signature live auction, including tickets to the Golden Globes, collections of some of the world’s most sought-after wine, a private tour of Gettysburg with legendary filmmaker Ken Burns, and much more. Proceeds from the festival benefit the Naples Children & Education Foundation. Since its inception in 2001, the Naples Winter Wine Festival has raised more than $123 million for children in need. www.napleswinefestival.com

Annual Taos Winter Wine Festival – Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

Wine Country comes to the historic town of Taos with Tao’s best restaurants serving signature appetizers and owners and winemakers from 36 participating wineries, including Frank Family, Merryvale, and Flora Springs. The Grand Tasting features more than 155 wines and a silent auction of rare wines. All of this while enjoying turns at Taos Ski Valley.

This 4-day wine festival of events features culinary artistry found in Taos, New Mexico. You will have the opportunity to indulge in the varietals of over 40 different national wineries partnering with over 25 of the area’s signature restaurants.

Nothing better than hitting the slopes a few hours during the day, then head off to experience chef’s luncheons, winery, seminars, wine dinner, and reserve tastings. Grab your skis and your palate and head to this winter wonderland. www.taoswinterwinefest.com

February Events

South Beach Wine and Food Festival “SOBEWFF”– Miami Beach, Florida

Presented by the Food Network and Cooking Channel, this is a national, star-studded 5-day destination event showcasing the talents of the world’s most renowned wine and spirits producer, chefs, and culinary personalities. The festival has been taking significant strides over the years to enhance its Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting. The event hosts 200 renowned chefs and 150 wine and spirit producers to create over 50 events, including cooking demos, beer and wine seminars, golf tournaments, dinners, and lunches. A grand selection of vintners from around the US and the world will be among the many participating wineries.

MIAMI, FL – FEBRUARY 25: Andrew Zimmern prepares food during 2016 Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival Presented By FOOD & WINE at Vagabond Restaurant & Bar (Photo by Dylan Rives/Getty Images for SOBEWFF®)

The festival now attracts over 65,000 guests annually, with over 100 plus events taking place over the 5-day weekend along the silver sand beaches of sunny South Florida in Miami Beach and other venues throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The theme is EAT. DRINK. EDUCATE.


March Events

Florida Winefest and Auction – Sarasota, FL

—Photo by Rod Millington

The Florida Winefest and Auction features a wine tasting, brunch, and charity auction, winemaker dinners, and “Wine on the Water,” an upscale party featuring a vast selection of wines under the Winefest tent on Sarasota Bay. The event has awarded over $7.5 million in charitable grants with proceeds benefiting various children’s charities. This grand event has evolved into one of the signature Florida events over the 30 years they have been hosting this charitable extravaganza.

Visit www.floridawinefest.org or call 941-952-1109

April Events

New Orleans Wine and Food Experience – New Orleans, Louisiana – Celebrated around the first week in April.


Celebrating almost 30 years in the Big Easy, you will be treated to the flavors of hundreds of wineries and restaurants from around the region and around the world.  Indulge in delicious local Cajun cuisine and innovative creations offering deliciously diverse dishes. There will be over 1000 wines showcased during the 4-day event, which attracts over 7,000 gourmands, connoisseurs, and art and music lovers. It kicks off with select dinners around the city of New Orleans. The Grand Tasting event takes in the French Quarter and is a colorful and magical sight to behold where the energy permeates along the spectacularly adorned streets.

If you have never been to New Orleans or are looking for an excellent excuse to go back, this is the ticket. Here are just a few of your favorite Napa Valley Wines you will find during the 4-day festivities: Cakebread, Charles Krug, Domaine Chandon, Hall Wines, Longmeadow Ranch, Peju, Rombauer, St. Supery, Cliff Family, Duckhorn, Napa Wines, Grgich Hills, Robert Mondavi, Rutherford Wine Company, and Trinchero Estates.


In addition to A La Carte Tickets, you can also choose from one of three bundled packages – The Tasting Package, The Connoisseur Package, and the coveted VIP Package.

Put it on your radar for next April. It promises to be a memorable experience. Visit www.nowfe.com for details.

Annual Taste of Vail – Vail, Colorado

The Taste of Vail is the nation’s premier spring food and wine festival, held at several venues throughout the Vail Valley’s world-class resorts. Over 5,000 people are expected to attend this celebrated event experiencing the Vail Valley lifestyle tasting culinary treats from Colorado’s world-class restaurants and wines poured by winemakers and winery owners from around the globe. Activities include interactive cooking seminars, the annual Lamb Cook-Off, après ski tastings, iconic Mountaintop Picnic sensory extravaganza on the top of Vail Mountain, and the famous grand tasting. For information or to reserve tickets call 970-306-1334 or visit www.tasteofvail.com

Annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine – Pebble Beach, California

Guy Fieri at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival

Pebble Beach Food and Wine presented by Food and Wine Magazine is the premier epicurean lifestyle event on the West Coast, showcasing 250 acclaimed wineries and 75 celebrity chefs to create a hedonistic four-day gastronomical event on one of the most picturesque strips of coastline in the world.

Throughout the weekend, you will enjoy intimate access to the pinnacle of culinary and wine talent at wine tastings, cooking demos, and some of the most exclusive, unique dining opportunities available around the world. Various locations throughout Pebble Beach, including Inn at Spanish Bay and Lodge at Pebble Beach. For info call 866-907-3663 or visit www.pebblebeachfoodandwine.com

New York Culinary Experience – New York, NY

Passionate food lovers enjoy an intimate weekend of hands-on masterclasses, cooking, and conversation with more than 30 of the culinary industry’s most celebrated talents. Join in for two days of sensory adventure. You will cook, taste, laugh, and learn from some of the world’s culinary giants making memories that will last a lifetime. Celebrated chefs including David Bouley, Jacques Pepin, Jean Georges Vongerichten, and more. For more information www.nymag.com or call 646-314-4413

May Events

Silicon Valley Wine Auction – Montalvo Arts Center – Saratoga, California

(Photo – Natalie N for Drew Altizer Photography)

SVWA is one of the newer festivals/auctions that launched its inaugural festivities in 2015 along with the Santa Cruz Winegrowers Educations Foundation. Last year they raised over $3.7M to support innovative programs, initiatives, and activities benefiting children in their community. Other sponsors of the event include Alaska Airlines, Wine & Spirits Magazine, Los Gatos Magazine, and edible Silicon Valley.

At this mid-May event, they will roll out the barrels for an evening of celebration and wine at the private estate of John Couch. Then on Sunday from 1-4pm, the Grand Tasting offers over 150 wines from the region’s most recognized wineries. There will also be more than 100 silent auction items, including VIP vineyard tours, unique dining experiences, magnums, rare wine releases, and more. www.siliconvalleywineauction.org

June Events

Annual Monterey Wine Festival – Monterey, California

One of the oldest Wine Festivals in California is the Monterey Wine Festival celebrating almost 45 years. This 2-day wine and food fest is set in this charming Northern California coastal town. Prior to the two-day event, the coveted VIP night at the Monterey Conference center offers the best from across the country and beyond. It is truly a luxury food and beverage experience.

On Saturday, you will get to also experience the “Chowdah Challenge and Celebration” where professional chefs from around the western region set the pace in a challenge to be the best in extraordinary chowder creation. There will be plenty of live music and lots of wines as well. The final day, Sunday offers yet another wine extravaganza along with being another seaworthy celebration, with highlights being the Kings of Calamari and the Masters of Mussels competition. And again, more wine, food, beer, spirits, and music. Don’t miss “Cocktail Camp” happening both days.

Call 360-693-6023 or visit www.montereywine.com

 Auction Napa Valley – Napa Valley, California

“The Most Celebrated Charity Wine Event”

Auction Napa Valley is one of the most iconic wine events and auctions in the country and around the world. This Napa Valley event has been hosting guests at their gala weekend-long events for almost 40 years. It is usually held the first weekend of June, with most of the auction festivities being hosted around the grounds at the magnificent Meadowood Resort in the heart of the Napa Valley in Saint Helena. The 1000 plus attendees are mega movers and shakers with deep pockets arriving ready to be one of the big winning bidders of the day. They come to strategically play the bidding wars on signature lots like luxury African Safaris or being hosted at a brilliant Tuscan villa amongst the rolling hills of the Italian countryside along with legendary vintners and their coveted signature vintages. The energy and excitement accelerate as the bidding competition heats up as the afternoon goes on and wine keeps pouring!

Katy Perry Performs at Auction Napa Valley – Photo by Alexander Rubin

Each year the creativity in the competition of creating these impressive lots gets stiffer as the vintner members seek to outdo themselves as well as their fellow vintners. It has become an annual quest on who can come up with the most majestic lot guaranteed to create a bidding frenzy under the buzzing ginormous tent. Many of these lots go well over $100,000. The excitement is intoxicating as the energy and the competition of the bidders seeking to outdo one another soars to new limits like a rocket out of the sky.

For more information contact www.auctionnapavalley.org

Kapalua Wine and Food Festival – Kapalua, Maui, HI

This annual Hawaiian-style food and wine festival returns to the stunning Kapalua Resort on the Island of Maui. The event celebrates 40 years of bringing together a variety of gourmands, oenophiles, and island enthusiasts to congregate under the palm trees, pleasant island trade winds and brilliant sunshine. The participating sponsors and hotels hosting guests at this 4-day tropical soiree include the Ritz Carlton Kapalua, Montage Kapalua Bay, Troon Golf/Kapalua, Maui Visitor Bureau, County of Maui, Hawaii.com, FIJI, Bacardi and Patron.

You will partake in exquisite wines from all over the world, spirits, micro-brews, and tropical libations. These are all paired with regional Hawaiian cuisine and a bounty of fresh seafood fresh from the Pacific and local Hawaiian waters. The event’s setting is breathtaking as you indulge in these delights along the beautiful shores and azure ocean views of Kapalua Bay. A few of the many highlighted events include tastings, cooking demonstrations, specialty dining, grand tastings, and so much more!

A few of your favorite Napa Valley Winemakers have been at the event sharing their signature varietals over the years of the festival. Look out for Freemont Abbey, Crocker Starr, Jackson Family Wines, Hyde Estate, Lloyd Cellars, Miner, Nellcote, Peju, Rombauer, and Tournesol.


FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen – Aspen, Colorado

Every June in the Colorado mountain village of Aspen, many of the world’s most renowned winemakers, celebrity chefs, and culinary experts gather together in one majestic setting, the FOOD & WINE Classic Aspen, coveted as one of the nation’s premier culinary festivals. FOOD & WINE Magazine celebrate their 37th year hosting this annual fundraiser in the majestic Aspen Mountains along with celebrity chefs, to name a few – Carla Hall, Andrew Zimmern, Gail Simmons, Jacques Pepin, Martha Stewart, Rick Bayless, and our own wine country celeb – Leslie Sbrocco.

There will also be hundreds and hundreds of wine, brews, and spirits from around the world, pouring the best of the best for your indulgence. The presenting sponsoring this year is American Express, along with Lexus, Foods, and Wines from Spain, Peroni – Italia, S. Pellegrino, Tequila Patron, and Kitchen Aid. There are over one hundred events, tastings, cooking demonstrations, vintner’s seminars, and so much more during the 3-day event. Each of the three days offers a magnificent Grand Tasting under the tents.

“Come join the Party in Aspen with Celebrity Chefs, Renowned Winemakers, and Epicurean Insiders!”


August Events

Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival

In its fifth year, the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival presented generous support from founding partners FOOD & WINE and Lexus. This four-day epicurean event showcases the finest in food and drink culture throughout Los Angeles, and culinary personalities from throughout the nation. The festival is set along one of the most iconic streets in the country and washed in cultural sophistication due to its thought-leading residents like the Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Colburn School of Music, The Music Center, Grand Park, MOCA, and the much anticipated Broad Museum.

The event spans the city and offers guests the chance to sample the cuisines and products from some of the most prominent epicurean influencers while enjoying the sights and sounds of the entertainment industry’s brightest talents. The talent coming for this weekend is second to none for a food and wine festival including celebrated chefs such as Alex Guarnascehlli, Tyler Florence, Curtis Stone, Michael Chiarello, Michelle Bernstein, Thomas Keller, Elizabeth Falkner and local favorites such as Ray Garcia, Michael Fiorelli, Neal Fraser, and David Lefevre. www.lafw.com

October Events

Hawaii Food and Wine

The Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival, operating as a non-profit organization, is the premier epicurean destination event in the Pacific. Set in the lush island paradise of Hawai’i, the festival will take place over three weekends on multiple islands. It features a roster of over 100 internationally renowned master chefs, culinary personalities, and wine and spirit producers. The Festival in Hawai’i Island, Maui, and Oahu will showcase wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, one-of-a-kind excursions, and exclusive dining opportunities with dishes highlighting the state’s local farmers, fishermen, and ranchers. www.hawaiifoodandwinefestival.com







Cast Iron Skillet Olive Bread

Cast Iron Skillet Olive Bread

Cast Iron Skillet Olive Bread – No-Knead Recipe

With so much more time at home these days and the desire for comfort food, there is nothing better than the smell of baking bread in the house. Who doesn’t just love homemade bread? When I went searching for an easy bread recipe, I found many that can be made in a cast-iron skillet that requires no kneading and only a few hours rise time. There are others that I have made that are also no-knead, but do require an overnight rise and can be cooked in a cast-iron Dutch Oven.

This delicious and simple cast iron skillet olive bread recipe requires little effort for a big tasty reward. From the recipes that I found online, I took the basics from the recipe and created my own version of the cast iron skillet olive bread.

The main ingredients are simple, and the Kalamata Olives and juice strained from the olive jar add some great flavors to the bread.

A fun thing to do when doing a barbecue on the grill, slice up the bread, smear with some butter or olive oil and toast it right on the grill. The smoky from the grill make this bread irresistible.


Calistoga’s Lincoln Avenue Downtown Eateries

Calistoga’s Lincoln Avenue Downtown Eateries

Photo Courtesy of Visit Calistoga – Downtown Calistoga’s Historic Lincoln Avenue

It’s natural to think of the Napa Valley as one ‘place.’ But the 30 north to south miles that comprise this verdant valley feature distinct towns, each with individual personalities. There’s Yountville with its chic tasting rooms and Michelin-starred cuisine, Rutherford with its concentration of Cabernet producers, and St. Helena with its quaint downtown shopping district. And to the north, Calistoga encourages its guests to slow down a bit and unwind. The small town’s official motto is ‘Relax, you’re in Calistoga,’ a directive easily followed, thanks to its famous mud baths, gracious inns and resorts, and variety of restaurants that promote a laidback vibe.

During the late 1700’s, the sole inhabitants of the area of Calistoga were populated by a large group of indigenous people called the Wappo Tribe during the Spanish colonial era. They were part of the now extinct Yukian language group who were the earlier settlers of this region. The Napa Valley name was actually derived from the word Napa meaning “plenty” in their native language.

California’s first Millionaire, Sam Brannan purchased 2000 acres in the Calistoga area in 1885 with plans to create a spa resort for the rich and famous, similar to the health and hot spring inspired retreats in Saratoga Springs, New York.

The main street in Calistoga premiered Brannan’s Hot Spring Resort which opened in 1862 and is now the current location of the Indian Springs Resort along Lincoln Avenue. In 1876 the Magnolia Hotel building burnt down and was later rebuilt as the Calistoga Hotel in 1902. In 1907, the Europa Hotel was built and then sold to Johnny Ghisolfo in 1912 which later became the Mount View Hotel. The Lincoln Avenue boom was followed by the opening of the Calistoga Inn, constructed originally in 1920 about the time when Lincoln Avenue was first paved, and more power lines were added to illuminate the bustling downtown. Brannan’s inspiration paved of the way for the growth of Calistoga to its popularity and charm today.

Many of the original buildings along historic Lincoln Avenue are now home to many of these popular downtown eateries along Calistoga’s food row.

All Season Restaurant

All Seasons

For the past 35 years, this favorite up valley restaurant has been offering creative seasonal dishes to their new and dedicated patrons both local and visitor alike. This charming bistro serves inspired food and wine, classic to contemporary. Their relaxed atmosphere, excellent service, and outstanding cuisine have made this iconic restaurant a mainstay to dine along Lincoln Avenue. Must try menu items: Ahi Tuna Carpaccio, Mary’s Organic Chicken Breast, Angus Rib Eye Steak, Seared Duck Breast.

Tuna Carpaccio

Butternut Squash Soup

1400 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.allseasonsnapavalley.com 707-942-9111 Open for lunch and dinner daily except Tuesdays.

Boskos Trattoria

Boskos Dining

Bosko’s Trattoria

Calistoga’s longest running restaurant for 36 years, continues to serve quality made fresh daily authentic Italian Cuisine offering house-made Pasta and wood-fired pizzas. Step into the old country of Italy with cuisine that brings you home-style Italian foods along with a generous selection of moderately priced California and Italian wines. Their sumptuous pastas are made from scratch daily offering you a wide variety to choose from. They also offer Antipasti, soups, and salads. Don’t miss out on their happy hour every day from 4:40 to 6:30 where all wines listed are $8 and all appetizers are half off.

Boskos Pizza

1364 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.boskos.com 707-942-9088 Open 11:30am to 9:30pm

Busters Barbecue

Busters Original Southern BBQ

Busters, showcased in National Geographic, has been referred to as the “Best BBQ West of the Mississippi” and voted “Best Barbeque” by the Bohemian year after year. Busters patio is the perfect stop for authentic Southern BBQ dishes with recipes from the heart of Louisiana with pork ribs, beef ribs, pulled pork, tri-tip, BBQ chicken, savory baked beans and corn of the cob. Be sure to stop in for great jazz and blues on Sunday afternoons,

Busters BBQ

1207 Foothill Blvd., Calistoga www.busterssouthernbbq.com 707-942-6505 Dine in or take out. Open for Lunch or dinner 7 days a week.

Cafe Sarafornia

Café Sarafornia

The name of this restaurant was named after California’s first Millionaire Sam Brannan who claimed he was going to make the town the Calistoga of Sarafornia when he meant to say the Saratoga of California, hence the name of the town and the name of the diner. The owners, the Dierkhising family, have been in Napa Valley since 1976 and have owned the restaurant for nearly that long. This is a wonderful place for breakfast to start your day, offering dishes like their famed braised pork tostada, the Brannan Benedict, and the best in the valley – Huevos Rancheros. Lunch is impressive as well with classic burgers, sandwiches, and salads. Their popularity it tremendous, they serve over 91,000 people per year, that’s 250 per day. The line is worth the wait!

Cafe Sarafornia

1413 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.cafesarafornia.com 707-942-0555 Open Daily from 7am – 2:30pm

Calistoga Inn, Restaurant and Brewery

Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery

It’s a brewery, hotel, and restaurant on this stately historic property in the middle of downtown Calistoga. The restaurant has been one of the most popular outdoor dining venues in the Napa Valley with its patio stretching along the Napa River, and in the adjacent historic water tower, you will find their award winning micro-brewery, The Napa Valley Brewing company. It has become a popular place for sports enthusiasts as it boasts 5 large flat screen TV’s making it also the sports bar to hang out at in Calistoga during big sporting events. The weekend Brunch on their spacious patio is a must. Two lunch favorites are the Shrimp Louie Salad, the Heirloom Tomato, and Fig Salad and their Best Burger. Dinner highlights are the Country Paella or choose from one of their prime cut steaks.

Calistoga Inn Patio

Calistoga Inn

1250 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.calistogainn.com 707-942-4101 Open 11:30am to 9:30pm


Checkers Interiors

Checkers Restaurant

This simple, understated café has been serving Italian classics and pizzas to Calistogan’s for several decades as an unpretentious neighborhood meeting place for a quick lunch, family dinner or a festive happy hour. The cuisine is Mediterranean inspired which includes a variety of pastas, pizzas, calzones as well as Chicken Marsala, Pan Seared Salmon and Braised Lamb Shank on their extensive menu. Don’t miss the House-Made Cheesecake with Chocolate Sauce for dessert.

1414 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga 707-942-9300 11:30am to 9:30pm



Evangeline Patio Dining

This now locally owned French Bistro with Creole Soul invites you to join them for dinner at Evangeline.  This popular eatery in Calistoga offers you fun versions of French bistro favorites such as Coq au Vin, Croque Madame Beef Tartare and Shrimp Etouffee. Their intimate polished interior and inviting patio dining on their charming covered terrace delivers a memorable dining experience. This Solbar spinoff offers an impressive menu of New Orleans style dishes to the table along with inventive cocktails, craft beers, and an extensive wine list. They are primarily an outdoor restaurant with limited indoor seating. Reservations are not available for inside seating.

1226 Washington Street, Calistoga www.evangelinenapa.com 707-341-3131 Dinner Daily from 5:30pm to 10pm Brunch on Saturday and Sunday 9am – 2pm

Hydro Bar and Grill

Hydro Bar & Grill

Located in downtown Calistoga, the restaurant’s building dates back to 1906, just after the 1901 fire which destroyed most of the original town of Calistoga. This historic building, originally a carriage house and stable, has been home to Hydro at this location since 1996. Their sister business, All Season’s Bistro has been a Calistoga favorite since 1983. Alex and Gayle and their two dining establishments have been serving quality food, inspired drinks, and great local hospitality for almost 40 years. It is the spot as they often refer to pop in grab a bite, share a drink and have a little HYDROTHERAPY!

Hydro Bar and Grill

1403 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.hydrogrillnapavalley.com 707-942-9777 8:30am – 11pm Open Every day except Thursday morning until noon for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Chef James of Johnny’s

Johnny’s in Calistoga

Johnny’s Restaurant & Bar

Johnny’s initially opened in the Mount View Hotel in 1933 by Johnny Ghisolfo who served on the Calistoga city council and later became known as “Mr. Calistoga.” The original Johnny’s closed in 1984 and then in 2016 reopened in honor of former owner John Ghisolfo. This resurrected pub and bistro offers the perfect place to enjoy good times with friends and family whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner or happy hour (which they claim to be one of the best in town.) Their house Mud City Brews are worth stopping in for a bit of Cheers.

For breakfast try the Huevos Montelenos, for Lunch the local Fish and Chips and for Dinner Oysters on the half shell and the Jagerschnitzel. Sunday special is always a hit with their Slow Roasted Prime Rib.

Johnny’s Egg Benedict

Johnny’s Cobb Salad

1457 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.johnnyscalistoga.com 707-942-5938 Brunch Daily 7:30a to 2pm; Dinner opens up at 4pm; Happy Hour 4pm to 6:30pm

Sam’s Social Club at Indian Springs

Sam’s Social Club

Sam’s named after famed resort founder Sam Brannan at the Indian Springs Resort offers a vibrant and inviting atmosphere. This new American Eatery & Bar is the place to meet for food that is seasonal, creative and thoughtfully prepared. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails at their stylish bar a spacious dining areas with both inside and outdoor seating. Sam’s has become a significant hangout in Calistoga offering innovative, delicious menus that are reasonably priced. Their unpretentious vibe extends to the plates such as grilled octopus endowed with a peppy Romesco sauce or a pan-seared duck. Their burgers on the homemade buns are a must try. Kids love it too, especially the mac & cheese!

Sam’s Social Club

Sam’s Social Club Specialty Drinks

1712 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.samssocialclub.com 707-942-4969 7:30am – 9pm

Veraison in Calistoga


A relatively new addition to the Calistoga dining scene in late 2016, Veraison delivers French-inspired farm to table cuisine at this intimate dining establishment. As a recent recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 2018, you can be assured that this is one to put on your list when visiting the Napa Valley. Owner Dan Kaiser and Executive Chef James Richmond took Calistoga by storm with the opening of Johnny’s in March 2016 and later transitioned Johnny’s Tableside to its own entity as Veraison. Both of Kaiser’s restaurants are a huge success.

Oysters at Veraison

Veraison Charcutterie

Must try menu items: Oysters from their Raw Bar, House-made Charcuterie & Artisan Cheeses, Chef’s Tasting Menu which changes daily with all freshly sourced ingredients.

French, Small Plates, Upscale, Cozy 1457 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga www.veraisoncalistoga.com  707-942-5938 Opens 5pm Every Day