Monday, July 20, 2009

Sonoma Valley Musings

I’m back! OK, so you probably didn’t even miss me. But I tried really hard to post a blog column last week from Sonoma Valley, California, but I couldn’t get my wi-fi connection to work, so I could never get online. So I apologize for the long break between postings.

Last week was my husband’s and my twentieth anniversary, so we went to Sonoma to celebrate. It was our first trip alone since our son was born ten years ago, and we enjoyed spending time together and being extremely lazy. We’d picked a destination where we wouldn’t feel guilty about not having our son with us – he’s such an avid traveler that most of the places we considered we worried we’d spend the whole time saying, “Oh, I wish he were here to see that!” Then we hit upon Wine Country and decided that would be perfect. It was about the only place in the world where he would be bored out of his mind and we grown-ups would be happy as little clams.

We were right.

While my husband and I were sitting on patios overlooking acres and acres of vineyards, tasting decadent Bordeaux-style reds, smooth-as-silk Zinfandels, and crisp Sauvignon Blancs, our son was having the time of his life staying with his best friend’s family, going to swimming pools, movies, parks, batting cages, and birthday parties. And since his best friend is food-allergic, too, we didn’t have to worry for even a second about whether or not he’d be safe. The mom he stayed with, Kim, has been my partner in the food-allergy battle for nearly ten years now, and she’s the ultimate mom anyway – I wanna be just like her when I grow up!

Knowing my son was safe under Kim’s wing made it easier to relax and enjoy my husband last week. We spent a lot of time talking about wine, the funny people we encountered at the wineries, the lack of tourists for this time of year (the bad economy was great for our vacation, bad for the winery and restaurant owners), and why I don’t cook like the California gourmet chefs at all the restaurants in Sonoma and Napa. (I have a lot of good excuses, believe me.)

We also noticed things about allergies here and there, and were surprised at how often they came up. For example, the bed and breakfast where we stayed was absolutely delightful – it’s called the Thistle Dew Inn, and it’s one block off the main plaza (town square) in Sonoma. My husband had been a little leery of staying in a B&B because he knows many of them use a lot of potpourri and perfumes, and he’s allergic to those types of scents. When we arrived, the welcome paper we received explained that this B&B was fragrance-free, and asked guests to please refrain from using perfumes and colognes. That was great for us! We told the owner she should put that on her website, so that fragrance-sensitive travelers will know to choose her establishment over others. Her welcome sheet also asked guests to please let her know about any food allergies so she could accommodate them in her fabulous breakfasts. Enlightened!

Other things we noticed about allergies on our trip:

  • Many wineries set out little trays of almonds during the wine tastings.
  • Californians love avocados, so I had to remember to ask about avocados in menu items frequently (I’m allergic to them).
  • Trader Joe’s carries a sunflower-seed butter that looks a lot like Sunbutter. I bought a jar but haven’t opened it yet, so I’ll let you know when I do if it’s similar.
  • Trader Joe’s also carries an aluminum-free deodorant that uses cotton, similar to the Adidas deodorant I’ve been using that is difficult to find in stores. (I’m allergic to aluminum.) I bought a couple of canisters but haven’t tried it yet.
  • I hear a rumor Trader Joe’s might be opening in Utah soon – I can’t wait!
  • A romesco sauce is made of ground nuts (often almonds or hazelnuts) mixed with ground roasted peppers and olive oil, but the peppers can hide the taste of the nuts, so don’t ever order anything without asking what all the ingredients are first. (Fortunately, since our son wasn’t with us, nuts weren’t a problem for us, but I’m glad I’ve learned what romesco sauce is anyway!)

Now we’re home, reunited with our son, and life is slowly returning to normal, whatever that is. Gone are the five-star meals, the housekeeping service, and the lively little walking-distance town square with its luscious restaurants and party-atmosphere farmer’s market.

Oh well. Guess I’ll have to start brushing up on my gourmet cooking skills now. Do tacos count as gourmet cooking?


Kaylie said...

Happy anniversary. I'm glad you had such a good trip. I'm not as aware of food allergies as you are, but this time of year, I'm much too aware of seasonal allergies.

Kelley J. P. Lindberg said...

Thanks so much! Everyone I know is sneezing right now -- mid-summer seems like a strange time for pollen allergies, but it's been a strange year, I guess.