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Handful of Truffles Picmonkey


Third annual event showcasing the black Perigord truffle. Investigation of the tuber melanosporum will be both academic and gustatory.

Keynote speaker is renowned writer and editor Colman Andrews and other truffle cultivation experts and scientists will make presentations.

Winery luncheons and a concluding grand Truffles & Wine Dinner at Chef Ken Frank's La Toque to be prepared by Michelin Star chefs


Region: North Coast     City: Napa    

Contact: www.napatrufflefestival.com

by Laura Ness

Back Roads of Monterey GregsTree Picmonkey

For those of you who haven’t consulted a map lately, Monterey County is one huge place. There’s nothing quite like a road trip that skirts the eastern edge of this vast county, dipping south of Hollister, through San Benito county on one of the world’s mot amazing roads: highway 25. It’s nothing short of stunning in its green grandeur this time of year, when its sumptuous verdant hues remind you of the Emerald Isle, and puffy silver-bellied clouds circle the horizon like a bunch of cows that have just seen the hay truck pull up at the edge of the ranch. Pretty much ranches, cows, hawks and prairie dogs are all you see along this stretch, now increasingly punctuated by vineyard rows.

And yet this is a place that most of time forgot. In fact, it’s a place where the hands fell off and the face is so faded you think you’re back in the 19th century, maybe the 18th. We’ve been riding these perilous strips of asphalt and macadam for decades now, my husband and I, in everything from BMW 3 series to sport bikes to touring bikes – even a van. But this past week was an excuse to take the Z06 ‘vette (2002) out for a romp. There are places along the long, smooth vineyard-guarded stretch just south of Tres Pinos past Bolado Park, where you can easily hit 100mph and still see a mile ahead of you. It’s effortless to obtain such speeds in a 400+hp road car like the ‘vette – your hair doesn’t stand on end, and your stomach does not find some other place of your anatomy to call home. Which is totally unlike the experience of doing so on a Kawasaki Ninja 600, my beloved black and red-wheeled steed that managed to hit 130mph before my eyes blurred over from the wind rushing through my helmet and I thought my hands would vibrate clean off. The exhilarating rush might not be quite the same in a wheeled vehicle, but the sensation of racing to meet the horizon with nothing but a sparrow hawk as an eyewitness is breathtaking.

Back Roads Monterey 100MphStretch Picmonkey

At such speeds, you must consciously slow the world down around you. Otherwise, you can’t focus. And I have a really slooowwww camera, so let’s just say I got lots of shots of big blurry things streaking by. Occasionally, I was able to snap a few Pulitzer prize winners, mostly when my husband deigned to slow down. Clearly, I need a better camera, ‘cause he’s not interested in going any kind of slow. What I did manage to capture, but only in my mind, was a series of back roads Americana Christmas décor, the kind you only find out on lonesome highways where the same people pass by daily. Along the stretch of 25 that runs between Bolado Park and the cutover to King City at Bitterwater, every mail box, most of them as decrepit as the fences that vaguely suggest property boundaries, was festooned, albeit modestly, with a small bough of long-needled pine and a bright red ribbon. At first, I thought this must be some kind of tradition out here in the boondocks. Then, as I spied more and more of them, I had to wonder, did the lone mail carrier who has this route put them on each box at the start of the holiday season, a gesture to provide delight both to him or herself on the daily route, as well as to add a touch of joy to each box holder as they stopped to collect their precious letters and not so precious bills? I don’t know the answer to this question that few people would care enough to ask, but I’m sure those who live along that lonely, desolation highway know the answer, and whatever it may be, it most surely warms their hearts each winter day. It’s the little things in life that make all the difference.

Laura Ness mug Picmonkey


Laura Ness, aka "Her VineNess," an accomplished wine and travel journalist, loves sharing stories of wines with character and the characters who make them. She blogs, unapologetically, at myvinespace.com.



Editor's note: Planning a visit to Monterey County? Taste California Travel's Resource Directory has links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options (there are also links to all of the County's wineries and many beer-oriented estabishments).

Pale 31Firestone Pale 31 Picmonkey


Producer: Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Location: Paso Robles, California

Style: California Style Pale Ale

Alcohol: 4.9%

IBUs: 38

Serving type: 12 oz. bottles and draft

Availability: Widely distributed in the Far West, also in Colorado, Arizona and in the Chicago area.



Appearance: Deep golden amber. Not many bubbles.

Aroma: floral, malty.

Taste: Easy-drinking, malty, refreshing.

Food Affinity: Split pea soup, topped with some crispy crumbled bacon and a slice of brown bread.

General Background: Firestone produces an array of beer styles. The “Pale 31” name of this one relates to California being the 31st state admitted to the Union.


mug of Dan  Picmonkey


--Pale 31 reviewed by Dan Clarke, a writer and editor in Sacramento, California who has happy memories of pale ales experienced in Britain years ago.

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