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May 2013

May 2, 2013

Karaoke & Motorbike Adventures in Vietnam and Other Stories

In the photographs below are images of my adventurous shipmates who sailed with me from Hong Kong to Singapore. We spent nine wonderful days aboard the Silverseas Silver Shadow. I could fill pages of at least a dozen newsletters with our experiences, but I will just give you a glimpse of our trip.

Early on in the journey and getting to know each other, dinner conversation was generally about food.  Where do you like to eat, what was your favorite meal, what was the weirdest thing you ever ate …We all were in agreement, especially by the end of the trip, that The BEST MEALS are the ones you eat with friends you enjoy!  That being said, we did our best to dine on traditional Vietnamese dishes whenever possible during the day and at night we dined on the Relais & Chateaux food at sea. I had my first taste of mangosteens, dragonfruit, (refused the Durian – though enjoyed by some of my shipmates), Longan fruit and more exotic looking specimens. On the ship, I had my fill of ripe papaya, melon and berries everyday.

On our first drive to Hanoi, (what should have taken 3 1/2 hours took closer to 5), we gazed out of the van windows and had our first glance of Vietnam.During the the five hours of changing scenery, we watched the population go by us on motorbikes, we saw rice fields and water buffalo, palm trees, food stands – carts every few feet and many, many people.Gail started pointing out the Karaoke Clubs, which there were many, seem-ingly deserted but with big welcoming signs beckoning for singers to come in. Karaoke in imagin-ation stayed with us for the week, but not once were we able to partake – and that was not without trying.

Prior to leaving for Asia, I discovered HanoiKids Club, a student-run organization that recruits university students to offer voluntary city tours of Hanoi while practicing their English. I made arrangements for two students to meet us for a “Food, Photo and Fun Tour”.


Excited to guide an American group, our lovely docents Lien and Huong took command and first off taught us how to cross the street in Hanoi – BE FEARLESS!  When asked where to? what would you like to see? – the only obvious choice was FOOD!  Take us to your favorite places. And they did, starting with their GO TO  spot for noodles. Later in the day, they luckily saved us from taking some risky tastes at some questionable street food stands. The tour continued to the big food market, their college hangout for chè (a traditional Vietnamese dessert soup or pudding) and a very long walk around the lake. This day was one of the highlights of the week and the only downside was that we did not have enough time to spend with them!


Our next adventure was a road trip to Hoi An, a few hours west of our port in Chan May/Hue. The old section of Hoi An still maintains its character of a quaint, ancient historical town preserved from centuries ago. This was the destination for our next food adventure. Morning Glory Cooking School  came highly recommended and was well worth the ride to get there.  We started out with a visit to the market, where we were introduced to a wide assortment of exotic fruits, vegetables and herbs. Back at the school, our class was taught by Lulu, one Ms Vy’s assistants, who did an excellent job. Here we learned how to make rice paper rolls with pork, prawns and noodles as well as a lovely salad with mango and marinated BBQ chicken. After class we indulged in our efforts as well as tasting some other traditional Hoi An preparations.
Not sure about the rest of the gang, but our motorbike tour of Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon will never be forgotten!  XO Tours is an innovative company that offers various themed motorbike tours of the city. I selected the “Foodie Tour” at night hoping that we would be able to see and taste the most unique street food with a reliable expert. The all-women drivers arrived dressed in their traditional Ao Dai  and they whisked us through the heavily populated streets stopping at one amazing street vendor after another.All in all, it was a great trip – certainly a change in my normal routine. Are you tempted to come on a trip with me?  If so – where would you consider going?? Shoot me an email and let me know!

A special thanks to Michael and his team at Millennium Travel!  I am grateful to have such a wonderful travel partner.






Sonoma Starlight
Francis Ford Coppola Winery
the girl & the fig CATERS!
Taste of Sonoma
MacMurray Ranch


Named one of the “10 Best Wine and Food Events in the United States”

Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction
Chateau St Jean
The Toy Box
Some of Sondra’s latest favorites … 
A sure sign that spring is in full bloom is when the Strawberry Farm on Watmaugh Road opens. We simply can not get enough of these incredible berries. NEVER have I tasted better!
Bottle Rock 2013
May 9 – 12
Napa Valley

the girl & the fig
the fig cafe & winebar
May 12


Project Ahimsa
Sonoma Sessions

May 18


Cooking for Solutions
Monterey Bay Aquarium
May 18


Cooking Class 
with Chef Bryan Jones
May 23


Broadway Under the Stars
Jack London State Park
Glen Ellen

We keep our Public Event Calendar current with new events as they are confirmed.
Check the calendar or our Facebook page to keep up with us and get in our 2013 Sonoma groove!
Get something FIGGY for Mom
Order today for Mother’s Day Presents!








Lots more at the FIGSTORE

We are getting ready to COOK, ROCK and ROLL.
Joe Matos St George,  MANO FORMATE HAM
several versions to choose from(including one on gluten free bread)
May 9 – May 12
If you like Rock & Roll, Concerts, Food and Wine – this is a Music Festival not to be missed!
Notes from our Intern, Durae:

It seems that summer has arrived early this year, and with the gorgeous weather comes the bustle of the season in Sonoma County. After many years of heat infused and lackadaisical summers spent in Texas, the heightened activity in these parts still catches me by surprise.

This month, I was able to assist with the revamping and re-launching of our CATERS! website.  In case you’re wondering what fun offerings our talented chefs and catering staff have hatched for the summer, take a look here. (Spoiler: picnics, pizza parties, a brand new venue!). There are so many possibilities for enjoying all this lovely region offers this time of year, and celebrating the flavors of the season with food and wine is (I think) one of the best!

While working on the site, looking over new menus, studying beautiful wedding venues, and reading up on possible party ideas, I was inspired to take better advantage of all that surrounds us in wine country this summer. But with the excitement of the season coming on, events to plan and prepare for, visitors to anticipate, planting, gard-ening, and harvesting to attend to, there’s a certain feeling that it might all fly by too quickly—so amidst all the activity, I’ll have to slow down to a southern-summer pace once in a while…or, at least, try.

Happy almost-summer, everyone!
If you were one of the lucky ones to get to see Broadway Under the Stars last summer at Jack London State Park, you already know that this is the hottest ticket in Wine Country and by now you probably already have your tickets!If not, make your reservations today because I have no doubt that each night will be a sell out!

The season starts  June 28 – 30, July 5 – 6 with “Fly Me To the Moon”. The second performance is the “Fantastical Family Night” on July 19 – 20. Additional shows run all the way through August 31st.

We are excited to partner with Trancendence Theater Company on their first weekend as we will bring our Wood-Fired Oven up to Jack London State Park to prepare Toasty Meatball Sandwiches smothered in cheese and sauce and Fire Roasted Corn on the Cob.  There will be more food options as well as some of our favorite wineries pouring their wine.

The internet has changed many things including the way we make restaurant reservations.  We are excited to announce that we are transitioning over to CityEats, a new platform presented by the Food Network.  Already in Miami, Washington DC, Phoenix , and a few more areas, the CityEats website for the San Francisco Bay Area/Wine Country is scheduled to launch later this year.

For the OpenTable members that have been making reservations through OpenTable, you will still be able to do this for a few weeks — but as soon as CityEats website launches in our area, our presence on Opentable will be minimal and we encourage you to make reservations via CityEats on our website.

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