A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Two Week Half Marathon Training Program Update: Eating, Drinking and Running in Wine Country

Our home for the past five days. Life is good!
 My two week half marathon training program is coming to an end. And so is our long-awaited vacation in the wine country of California (near Healdsburg in Alexander Valley). In the past week I managed to squeeze in three runs (a 10K on Saturday, five miles on Tuesday and 5K today) in between visits to Silver Oak, Plumpjack, Kendal Jackson, Seghesio, Hartman, Chalk Hill, Ferrari Carano, Bella, Chateau Montelena and V. Sattui wineries! We also ate at Bouchon in Yountville, had a private chef cook us a four course dinner at the villa and grilled cowboy coffee rub strip steaks last night. 

So forget the running update, let's talk food and wine!

I love Silver Oak, but Plumpack across the street was a little less pretentious and their cab was just as tasty!
My favorite winery stops were Plumpjack, Seghesio, Ferrari Carano and Chateau Montelena, all for different reasons. Plumpjack on Monday on the way up the Napa Valley was the best cabernet we tasted. We drink Seghesio zins often so it was fun to visit the historic winery Tuesday and send home so selections you can't find at Bubbles in the Rock. Ferrari Carano yesterday was a beautiful location at the far northern end of the Dry Creek Valley and the sun emerged for the first time all week as we came out of the cellar.

Chateau Montelena is a beautiful setting in the north end of Napa Valley.
Chateau Montelena wins for overall setting, tasting, and history. This is the winery that stunned the French when their Chardonnay won the 1976 "Judgment of Paris" wine competition (the story behind the movie Bottle Shock).

Chef Quimby's Wagyu Beef Shortibs two ways.
My favorite meal was the dinner prepared by Chef Quimby at the villa, part of the package my cousin so graciuously purchased at a charity auction and invited us partake in. The four course dinner featured Wagyu beef short ribs two ways (braised and grilled) for the main course. It was my favorite beef of the week, well-marbled and full of great beef flavor, and the rest of the meal was equally decadent. My second favorite were the Strip Loin Steaks with Cowboy Coffee Rub and Spicy Pico de Gallo (see recipe below from the Healthy Beef Cookbook) we grilled at the villa last night (and enjoyed for lunch today at V. Sattui).

The "Eye of Rib" at Bouchon.
The "eye of rib" steak at Bouchon was a ribeye with the spinalis dorsi removed (the really tender, flavorful "cap" on the outside of the ribeye steak). The steak was cooked perfectly (medium rare) and the au poivre sauce was very good, but I can prepare a better steak for a fraction of the price (as we did last night) and I love the cap so kept wishing they hadn't removed it!

The Cowboy Coffee Rub recipe calls for beef shoulder center steaks (also called Ranch Steaks). I couldn't find a I substituted three strip steaks (one of the 29 lean cuts of beef). We also like this on ribeyes and flat iron but I buy whatever steaks look the best in the store that day and these strips were at least 2" thick and nicely marbled -- and they were on sale for $6.99/lb. I wish I had pictures but suffice it to say they were amazing, bith for dinner that night and a lunch picnic Friday at V. Sattui in Napa, on our way back to the airport in Sacramento.

Cowboy Coffee Rub is one of my new favorite ways to prepare steak. Try it, you'll like it...

Steaks with Cowboy Coffee Rub and Spicy Pico de Gallo
Total prep and cook time: 25 mins (varies depending on how you cook your steak!)
Makes 6 servings

Spicy Pico de Gallo
1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup chopped seeded tomatoes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantor
1 1/2 tsp. minced pickled jalapeno pepper slices
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
Cowboy Coffee Rub
1 Tbsp. freshly ground coffee beans (I used a medium roast)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt or table salt
1 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp coarse-grind black pepper
3 beef shoulder center steaks (Ranch Steaks), cut 3/4 inch thick (about 8 oz. each) - I used strip steak the first time and flat iron the second time
1. Combine Spicy Pico de Gallo ingredients in medium bowl; mix well. Set aside.

2. Combine Cowboy Coffee Rub ingredients in small bowl. Press evenly onto beef steaks. Place steaks on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 9 to 11 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness, turning once.
3. Carve steak into slices. (We let the steak rest 5 minutes before carving.) Serve with Spicy Pico de Gallo.

Ride on!


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