Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bananas for Zin

Clockwise from top left: Souvenir wine glass; me sipping something-or-other;
my patio Princess lilies; wine glass and festival flyer.

Today Chris and I went to the ZinFest Wine Festival at Lodi Lake. I found out about this event a few months ago and had been looking forward to going for quite a while, simply because it was something new and I got a killer deal on the tickets. We arrived about half an hour after the opening, which I think was perfect. It was hot, being Lodi in the summertime so it was somewhere in the 90°s F, but we were on the lake and there was ample shade to help keep us cool.

After parking in the lot we walked to the entrance, rather than wait for the shuttle where we would just be riding pressed up against other sweaty people. There are very few people I want to be that intimate with, and the ten minute walk was probably just as fast with the added benefit of getting a little exercise. Then our IDs were checked, a little further down we handed over our tickets and they stamped our hand with a little red smiley face indicating we were of drinking age, then a bit more further down they slapped an orange wristband on us, I think it was for re-entry if we left. Another short walk and we were handed a souvenir glass and program, then a small loaf of bread to help soak up the wine that would soon be in our bellies. After the intricate entry procedures we were free to roam.

There were fifty local wineries present, pouring more than 250 different wines. I wonder if anyone tried them all? Or at least every winery? I ended up trying less than ten, but honestly I cannot recall how many. The standout wine from what I tasted was the Gnekow Family Winery Old Vine Zin: it was incredibly mellow and smooth. There were also a number of local restaurant booths with food, some arts and crafts (though far fewer than I would have expected), live music, and a few roaming entertainers. Some people came ready for the day with picnic blankets, camp chairs, and I even saw a tent. We ended up staying a few hours overall before heading back to the car; I can only sip so much wine in one afternoon.

On our way home we stopped off in Tracy for lunch at The Olive Garden, to use up an ancient gift card that I think my parents gave us at least five years ago. It was a predictably bland meal: Chris said his lasagna tasted like Chef Boyardee, and my fettuccine Alfredo was passable. But free food always tastes better, we were hungry, and the service was actually quite good. The rest of the day has been spent relaxing, with a quick BBQ on the patio for Chris' steak and my double-stuffed wasabi "baked" potatoes. Its been very nice sitting here, playing on the computer with a Midori sour in my other hand, a dog or two at my feet, and enjoying the warm night. Everyone should be this lucky.

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The other night I had an insatiable craving for banana bread. My mom makes a great one, and I have her recipe, but I wanted to try something a little different so I opened my copy of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. With a few adjustments based on what I had on hand, I came up with this, and it was good.

Peek-a-boo, little chocolate chips!

Banana Bread with Macadamia Nuts and Chocolate Chips
adapted from "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian"

8 tablespoons (1 stick butter), plus more for pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons half-and-half cream
1/4 chopped macadamia nuts
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

Mix the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl and with a hand mixer, cream the butter and beat in the eggs and bananas (I didn't bother pre-mashing my bananas; I added them whole here and used the beaters to mash them). Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients just enough to combine; lumps are okay. If your batter seems a bit too dry, like mine did, add the half-and-half at this point. Gently stir in the nuts and chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out mostly clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing the bread from the pan.

Enjoy slathered with melty butter and a good cup of coffee. I've had a thick slice of this for breakfast for a few days now. Its great to start off the day with chocolate!

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I think I'm about ready to curl up in bed with my newest read - The Lunatic Cafe, the fourth installment of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series - and perhaps a slice of pie.

What, you don't eat pie in bed?


Donna-FFW said...

Banana breas with macadamia nuts and chocolate chips.. That sounds absolutely delicious to me. I have never tried a variation with macadamias, sounds perfect.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Banana bread anything is always a favourite of mine!!!

Hungarican Chick said...

Hah! How funny. This Sunday, I made a banana bread with some of our overripe bananas and it turned out not-so-good... I found the recipe on the internet, and I was annoyed, and thinking, "I need to find a new recipe"... then I browsed comments on my blog, found your site and voila... a banana bread recipe! How serendipitous. I'll have to give this a try!

Thanks for commenting by the way. ;)