We all love a good dining experience, we go to fancy new restaurants and stand in line for trendy food trucks, we love to cook at home and all that is fine and great, bur from time to time, I like to have a more different, unusual dinning experience. Like when you go to someones home, meet with people you have never met before and you cook together. This unique dinner happened few weeks ago when I was invited by Cozymeal to Chef James’s classic and beautiful Victorian home to experience part cooking class, part dinner with three other fellow foodies.

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Chef James welcomed us with unique antipasti like roasted padron peppers ( which became my season’s favorite veggies), sardines and a selection of artisan cheeses and olives. In a relaxed atmosphere, we chatted around, nibbled, get to know each other and got ready to get messy with some homemade pasta.This was my first time making fresh pasta and a pasta making machine made it onto my Amazon Holiday Wishlist. cozymeal-9 cozymeal-11 cozymeal-13 cozymeal-19 cozymeal-20

While we exchanged tips for the best kneading techniques, Chef James was already whipping up a yummy Bolognese. This would be our primo course, followed by 5 Dot Ranch organic beef slow-cooked in white wine & red pepper with sweet corn on the cob. As a professional cook with years of experience, Chef James was able to answer us the many questions we had about different cooking techniques or where to get unusual ingredients. Cozymeal works only with experienced, professional chefs to provide their guests a great culinary and educational dinner cozymeal-15 cozymeal-16 cozymeal-17 cozymeal-14 cozymeal-18 cozymeal-11

I think it’s a really great idea if you want to surprise a friend or partner with something new,  if you are new to town and want to meet new people, or if you are on a business trip and you don’t want to dine alone. Even for a night out with your besties this can be more fun than just going out for cocktails. Hop over and see all the yummy classes and diners they have. And if you feel like your company should invest in some team building, nobody will say no to cooking and eating. cozymeal-24 cozymeal-9 cozymeal-25 cozymeal-28 cozymeal-26 cozymeal-27 cozymeal-7

Our own cozy meal, which should have taken only three hours, extended into five hours of lively conversations over a wine and perfectly sweet and creamy cheesecake. We left Chef James’s house with happy taste buds, new friendships and a memorable meal.

*Cozymeal invited me to dine with Chef James, but all opinions are my own. 

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We have cooked. We have styled. We have photographed. Sure, we have eaten. And finally, my friend Giovanna of A Purified Life has released her delicious and healthy e-book Pure & Simple Eats. Giovanna knows what she’s cooking. She is an educated nutritionist and certified natural chef specializing in gluten-free, refined sugar-free and vegetarian food using only pure and quality ingredients.

Her book is a collection of 35 simple dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks to make you comfortable when it comes to choosing the right, nourishing foods for you and learning how to feed yourself well on a daily base. No matter if you want to reboot your system or if you want to change your eating habits, Pure & Simple Eats will support you in eating healthier and feeling healthier inside out while sustaining a balanced lifestyle.

I have tested them all and I love how easy yet yummy her recipes are. You will find a twist on your regular sushi with the Deconstructed Sushi Bowl ( might be my favorite) or for foggy San Francisco days the Creamy Coconut Curry is the way to go. Mornings are covered with light and satisfying eats like Peaches & Cream Smoothie Bowl or Buckwheat Pancakes with Plum Jam. And, yes there are desserts, too. Hard to tell which are my favorites, but I love that I can basically eat all these recipes no matter what time of the day or what season. If something is not in the season you just swap it with something you can find at your farmer’s market.


To get a taste of Giovanna’s cooking skills you can join her Summer Brunch this Saturday ( Aug 15th). She will be whipping up five recipes from her new book and teaching you how to incorporate healthy eating into your busy daily life. Make sure to follow Giovanna on Instagram for updates on her cooking classes and events ( yes, she does that, too) . Now hop over to her shop and I hope you get yourself a copy of Pure & Simple Eats to start changing your eating habits for the better.

PS. For all you sweet teeth Giovanna is making these delicious, melting in one’s mouth, superfood chocolates packed with 24 medicinal mushrooms. Eating chocolate has never been healthier.

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Good Morning from Calistoga!
No, I’m not really there right now, but writing this post transports me immediately back to the early morning, when I woke up to the golden, rising sun over the Napa Valley ( sounds cheesy, but it’s so true) where Calistoga has found its place as a vacation destination for food, wine, spa and wellness lovers. In the past three years I have been quite often to this hidden small gem of a town, yet only for a day to spoil myself with spa treatments and pool time at the Indian Springs Spa & Resort. This is a place made for all you bathrobe mermaids to float around, get mud baths and forget the world outside. Hop over and check out my previous post about Indian Springs.

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So back to this time in Calistoga, where I was fortunate to get invited by Visit Calistoga to spend three days strolling around and enjoying amazing food with fellow travel writers and bloggers. And believe me, there is lots of delicious food going on in Calistoga.


The most fun food event is happening this September on Sunday 13th where the annual Harvest Table will take place. Imagine, the main street closed for traffic and set up with a long table to host diner for more than 600 people! I was always a fan of pop-up dinners at your not-everyday locations and this one is supreme. The whole street closed! Thirteen Calistoga restaurants plus different wineries will dish up menus and pour wine to make The Harvest Table a memorable experience for everyone. As they say, pictures ( or in this case video) is worth thousand words, so make an impression for yourself and watch this video from the Harvest Table 2014. The tickets, ranging from $75 – $150 for a menu, went already on sale and sold faster than hot donuts. Still, get into the mood for next time and check out their official page.

No matter if you live in the Bay Area or your are road tripping through California, Calistoga is the absolute weekend trip destinations. For us, San Francisco fogg-tossed folks, it should be a mandatory to go every other weekend. You ask why?

First, because it’s sooooo hot! The evenings are so mild, friends, you can walk in shorts or wear only a dress! Only a dress in the evening! No scarves and no five-layers onion look is a summer dream coming true. I don’t complain about SF weather, but I do sometimes miss warm patio-friendly nights.

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The second reason, the whole town is a spa. Founded on a geothermal area many hotels have their own mineral pools and wellness centers. Get a massage, dig yourself in a healing mud bath, float on water infused with volcanic ash, treat your pretty face with a facial… the list goes on and on.


And the third reason is…food & wine ( not the magazine). The small town abounds with delicious restaurants and world-class wineries. Fresh, local and farm to table is not a trendy marketing slogan in Calistoga, it’s the way of how it’s been done for decades. When your backyard is full of farms, you take your bag and go shopping directly from the farmers. We had a wonderful breakfast at the newly opened Sam’s Social Club, a part of Indian Springs, where chef Kory gave us an imaginary tour of his foraging adventures around Calistoga for his kitchen. While Suzanne, the owner of Phifer Pavitt Wine told us everything we need to know about good wine and shared her fun story how she became a vintner. Calistoga is full of small family owned businesses, each with their own story and you are missing out if you don’t make a stop here.I explored and tested for you so you know where to go and what to do, so scroll on and get ready for a weekend in Calistoga.



All hotels are super conveniently located in a walking distance to the downtown. Actually, everything is in a walking distance. And there is a place for every budget and family status.

I stayed at the Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, a cute hotel with three pools, grill stations, tables for picnicking and a fitness room( you know, just in case). This is your stay if you plan on whipping up some yummy food by yourself to enjoy on your front porch. All rooms have been newly renovated and are equipped with new kitchenettes. Definitely a great hotel for families.

Indian Springs Resort and Spa is great for families, as well as cozy togetherness or friends getaway. New rooms, charming cottages, pool, bocce, hammocks and lots of palm trees make this spot feel like a true California-style resort.

Located in the Downtown, Mount View Hotel & Spa is your escape with artistry touch and pool & spa on site. Try to get one of their artist cottages with your own mineral-water whirlpool on the patio. And of course, order in room service.

Old school motel gone retro-chic is the motto at the Sunburst only a short walk from the Downtown. Also here, of course, you will find mineral pools to soak in all day long.

Cottage Grove Inn might be the most dreamy of all stays in Calistoga. Tucked on a small side street under trees, the Cottages all have their own porch where you can enjoy your morning coffee and read a book or sip on your glass of wine in your private jacuzzi.

Solage, beautiful, high-end hotel, a bit on the pricier side is THE stay if money is no object. Treat yourself to yoga classes, swim in the wide mineral pools and enjoy great farm-to-table food in their Solbar restaurant.  calistoga-28 calistoga-10 calistoga-14

From new fusion menus to classic dishes, there is something for every taste buds.

Offering tasting menu and small plates JoLe is the epitome of American contemporary cuisine. The menu is changing regularly, bringing to the table what’s in the season. And having owners, who are a chef and a pastry chef, you don’t want to miss the dessert.

Long have I waited to dine at Sam’s Social Club, the newest addition to Indian Springs. I had the most amazing soft scrambled eggs ever, with sweet corn and shiitake mushrooms. A must-try: the candy cap churros with cinnamon and sugar. Just try it. Sam’s is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Patio under orange trees, black and white striped chairs and an exquisite French-Creole menu are the signatures of the new kind on the block, Evangeline. Grilled salmon on chicory & apple salad and Croque Marin with millionaires bacon, grilled cheese topped with a FRIED EGG were the winners.


For the traditional dishes and your steak cravings, Brannan’s Grill is the place to go, while Bosko’s Trattoria just next door is serving home-made pasta, hand pulled burrata, thin crust pizza and dangerously delicious garlic bread. Yep, the dream Italian.

We weren’t able to figure it out, but All Seasons Bistro might be the oldest restaurant in town. At least it’s been serving California cuisine with a twist for more than 37 years and its charming old school interior make this place a perfect date night option.

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One evening we have ordered the dessert menu at Calistoga Inn up and down. There was peanut butter ice cream, there was delish blackberry crumble, raspberry-dark chocolate mousse, cheesecake and probably ten other items on the table. This was a true dessert feast. While next evening, we got to foretaste sample desserts from the new chef at Barolo, who dished up an amazing gluten-free chocolate cake and rum-soaked cake with strawberries and basil pods. Two yum-thumbs up!


If you are looking for a solid breakfast with scrambles, hash browns, and all that jazz, Sarafonia has a table for you.

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You are in the middle of Napa Valley, which means your main activity will be wine tasting. And while there are many great wineries located around Calistoga, I recommend you book a private tasting at Phifer Pavitt Wine, run by the extremely charismatic lady, Suzanne and her husband ( we hang on her every word while she was talking how they became vintners). Their tasting room with high ceilings, a hanging table, and hay bails is a rustic, reclaimed interior done right.

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And if you are up for some adventure, book an ATV tour racing through the vineyards of Jericho Canyon Vineyards.

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Yep, I know, you have already made your decision and you are heading up to Calistoga as soon as you have few days off. Cheers and have fun!


*I was lucky to attend this great trip, yet all opinions are my own.

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