Disclosure: My trip was paid for by the National Pork Board. I was not compensated for this post, as always, all opinions are my own.
I was fortunate enough to spend a few short days in St. Helena, CA (Napa Valley) for the Advisory Panel of Registered Dietitians, sponsored by the National Pork Board.
Where do I begin?? The trip was such a whirlwind of great pork information, culinary education/cooking, wine tasting, amazing food, and even more amazing people and new RD friends. All in-class lectures and production were at the Culinary Institute of America.
We stayed at the Southbridge Napa Valley hotel in St. Helena. A cozy hotel with Napa inspired atmosphere, equipped with a beautiful spa, fitness center and (real) olive trees. What I loved most about this hotel is they offered complimentary fresh apples and water. I drink water like it’s my job and get dehydrated easily, so having water available at all times was a relief. And those cookies left on my bed? Delicious!
Our first night, we got right into what Napa does best: WINE. We learned all about Napa Valley wines from Traci, CIA Wine Instructor, at the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies. There is SO much that goes into wine making, including going way back to the history of it all. We tasted six wines. As we happily sipped, we were to describe the flavors, acidity and depth of each wine. I’m usually not a Zinfandel fan, but the Stonybook Mountain Zinfandel won over my palate.
Wine studies was followed by a few small dishes, made in the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant of the CIA. My lack of food photos during the trip was mostly due to poor lighting and the fact that I realized I should’ve taken more photos after I had finished eating, oops. I did happen to capture this goat cheese fig cheesecake just in time! The walnut crust was the best part.
The majority of our second day was spent at the CIA for lectures, recipe review and hands-on production in Greystone teaching kitchen. Most of you probably don’t know this, but I would’ve gone to culinary school if I hadn’t become a dietitian. Cooking at the CIA was totally surreal, a dream really. I didn’t mind wearing the goofy chefs hat one bit!
We split up into four groups to make four different pork dishes each. Shout out to group #1 – we rocked it! I made my first ever Rice Paper-Wrapped Salad Rolls with Hoisin-Peanut Sauce. Prepping all of the components was definitely the most challenging part of the dish. I’ve always thought those rice paper wraps were so darn intimidating! After filling and rolling (thanks to help from my teammates), we realized how easy it was to make your own. I’ll definitely be experimenting in my own kitchen.
All of the pork dishes looked and tasted great. I think we’re allowed to call ourselves chefs?
But then came on the large and in charge pork-food coma…only after we enjoyed some of the delicious baked goods from the baking and pastry arts students. YUM.
After more pork learning (more to come on the blog later), we ventured over to Long Meadow Ranch – America’s first combined winery and olive oil producer. They make some of the best organic extra-virgin olive oil and wine I have ever tasted. We got a great tour of the winery and the magic behind that amazing olive oil.
We had dinner at Farmstead (owned by Long Meadow Ranch), a farm to table menu showcasing seasonal ingredients. Dishes were served family style and the wine kept flowing. The kale salad was INSANE you guys. I want to be eating that stuff for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Again, apologies for no food photos, no filters could do the food justice.
The night was filled with incredible food and awesome new friends. Thanks to my fellow food blogger/RD friend, Megan, I wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for her!!
Until Next time, Napa!