July 19

Being Vegan at the Taste of Napa 2017!

 

This time next year I will be wrapping up all the loose ends before packing me, my husband Steve, our dog Violet and our cats Stig & Clover off to our new home in Berlin, Germany! 🇩🇪 And since Taste of Napa was the first event I’d ever covered for my blog, I certainly did not want to miss my final opportunity to eat, drink and be vegan at the festival. This year it was held at the Napa Valley Expo Center on 3rd street near downtown Napa. Having been to the center many times (this is where BottleRock is held every May), I was curious how it would be set up and if I’d like it as well as I did when it was held in Copia at Oxbow Public Market or Cairdean Estate (now rebranded as Brasswood) in St. Helena. I should have known that it would be perfect. While it was located outdoors, they had these huge, rainbow colored sail-like awnings shading the entire space. The Reserve Tasting Salon, the Stage and the Main Floor food artisans and wineries were all protected from the 94 degree sunlight. This year they included a Beer Garden (or Biergarten in my newly adopted language!) which felt really apropos! And the fact that it is a short walk from my home was certainly a big bonus.

Arthur with Napa Valley Distillery serving me my Mai Tai! Yum…

The Reserve Tasting Salon was intimate this year with minimal seating and tables but offered plenty of delicious wines and cocktails. The crowd was small so it did feel very VIP-like compared to the mash-up of  folks enjoying the Main Floor wineries, restaurants and food artisans. I’m a very social person but when temps start creeping up over the 90 degree mark, I do like to have a little bit of space! Believe it or not, my first libation was not even wine. It was the newest addition to Napa Valley Distillery’s Oak Blended cocktail line – the world famous Mai Tai! Putting their own spin on this classic cocktail, they replaced the orange curaçao with their Grand California Orange infused Brandy! This brandy was made specifically for this new Mai Tai blend and was crafted with citrus grown right here in California. Their partner El Guapo Bitters made a custom orgeat syrup and with a little fresh lime and their own craft Rum, I felt like I was in the Caribbean! Cute little tidbit I learned is though we all associate the Mai Tai with tropical islands some believe that it actually originated in Oakland at a Tiki themed restaurant called Trader Vic’s. So the story goes, Vic created a cocktail for a group of friends and after tasting it one of his friends shouted “maita’ I roa ae!” – Tahitian for “out of this world!”.  According to the NVD team, no animal products are used in the the crafting of the Mai Tai or their Old-Fashioned blended cocktail (a blend of sugar, water, bitters and Whiskey).

123 (Uno, Dos, Tres) Organic Tequila was also featured and is crafted using organically-certified agave plantations and small batch artisanal distillations. In addition to farming without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers the Founder, David Ravandi, is committed to lightening its carbon footprint by using recycled glass for bottling and recycled paper and natural soy ink for labelling. And though I wish I had been able to share my tasting experience with you, I have not been able to drink tequila for at least a couple decades! Just a sniff brings back memories I would like to forever forget!

General Manager Dave Bryant serving some incredible Alpha Omega vintages.

The Reserve Salon offered several vegan-friendly wines provided by some of the best wineries in Napa Valley including Alpha Omega, Tournesol and Bouchaine Vineyards. I enjoyed everything I tasted from these three wineries. I hope to visit each of them very soon and share more details with you in the near future. There was only one restaurant in the Salon – Estate Events by Meadowood – and that was a total bust for us vegans!

Gowan Heirloom Cider grown, harvested and crafted along the Mendocino Coast.

The Main Floor was a sea of people and with good reason. The majority of restaurants, food artisans and the beer garden all surrounded the main stage. I was really excited to see our local Tannery Bend Beerworks in the Beer Garden. They are a fairly new tap room located off Coombs Street as you head out of downtown Napa. I’ve been meaning to walk down since they opened but since my husband can’t burp (yeah, apparently that is a thing) he hasn’t been too excited about joining me. But now that I’ve tasted their light, citrusy Coombs Saison and had the opportunity to meet their team, I will be heading over really soon. The star of the Beer Garden for me though was Gowan’s Heirloom Ciders. They are located in Mendocino and have been growing and harvesting apples on their family orchards for over 140 years. I wish I could share my favorite with you but frankly they were all incredible. I’ve been a fan of hard cider since my first trip to England 20 years ago and I can say with confidence that they make the best cider I’ve ever had! And many others agree with me. Gowan’s earned the BEST in Show in 2016 for five of their blends – 1876 Heirloom, Gravenstein Heirloom, Macintosh Heirloom, ‘Still Sierra Beauty and Sparkling Sierra Beauty.

Lauren and the Tannery Bend Beerworks’ team keeping the crowd cool with their incredible beer!


Now it is beginning to sound like all I did is drink but I was on the look out for food too! The Restaurant at CIA Copia was assembling a fresh, delicious salad full of veggies and they were happy to make it vegan just for us. Meritage also put together a tasty bite of avocado & peach sprinkled with micro greens. What kept me hydrated and energetic throughout the afternoon was Nekter Juice Bar. They were giving away samples of several of their juices. The two that kept me going back for more were the Detox loaded with Parsley, spinach, apple, lemon and ginger. And the Buzz with carrot, orange, lemon and ginger. They definitely put some pep in my step! Napa Valley Tea Company was offering samples of their organic tea blends. I met the team last year at the Taste of Napa at Cairdean Estate and just love their teas. Regina’s Heavenly Treats even offered a couple vegan snacks.

Staying sober and hydrated with Nekter’s delicious juices!

The Live Music Stage featured the winners of their Battle of the Bands! Serf and James, The Deadlies and Drop Dead Dangerous rocked the event all afternoon! The music was really good and helped keep my mind off the heat.

Chef with CIA @ Copia making sure we vegans were well fed!

Each year, there is something special that really stands out about the event and this year it was the music and the libations. The wine, the cider, the cocktails and the beer were really excellent. Nekter Juice Bar kept me hydrated and happy and all three of the bands were really talented. I would have loved to have had more dining options but once in a while we just have to rock, drink and be vegan!!

 

 

 

 

November 17

Nekter Juice Bar is 100% Vegan!!

Our local all vegan Juice bar!
Our local all vegan Juice bar!

 

This weekend I found the first all vegan restaurant in Napa Valley! Nekter Juice Bar offers freshly blended Juices, Smoothies and Acai Bowls all free of animal products. The base for the fresh juices ranges from carrot to orange to celery to apple juice. You can then add your choice of nutrient rich kale, spinach, parsley, ginger, lemon, cucumber, beets, broccoli and grapes. The juices range from 120 to 380 calories so are perfect for a snack or a light meal. The smoothie can be made with apple or orange juice, delicious housemade vanilla cashew milk or coconut water. There are many delicious add-ins including strawberries, blueberries, banana, pineapple, dates, acai and pitaya. You can also tempt your taste buds by adding agave nectar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cacao or cayenne. The smoothies range from 210 to 480 calories and are perfect for an energy-packed meal replacement. The Acai Bowls are made with either vanilla cashew milk or coconut water blended with many different healthy ingredients like fruits, coconut butter, peanut butter, dates and raw coconut and then topped with hempseed granola and a drizzle of agave nectar. The Bowls range from 390 to 520 calories and will keep you going all day long! The smoothies and bowls are delicious, satisfying and very filling! The juices are packed full of nutrient rich vegetables that naturally rid your body of toxins, give you a caffeine-free pep to your step, give your skin a refreshed glow, or load your body with antioxidants so you can embrace the day!

Founders of Nekter Juice Bar
Founders of Nekter Juice Bar

Steve and Alexis Schulze are a couple who have a passion for healthy living and wanted to bring goodness into our world of unhealthy consumption. Their quest began in trying to find the perfect nutritious and tasty alternative to coffee to start their day. What they found were juice bars claiming their juices were good for you but were nothing more than sugar filled, preservative laden substitutes. Instead of giving up and resigning themselves to a lifetime of home juicing, they went to work creating a simple blueprint for a vibrant, neighborhood juice bar overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables! Thinking outside the juice box, they went to work creating delicious recipes for the Nekter menu. In 2010, Steve and Alexis opened their very first Nekter Juice Bar in Costa Mesa, California offering their fresh juice and smoothies packed with robust greens, an assortment of nutritious snacks, the acai bowls and prebottled Nekter Grab-n-Go. They also included the 1, 2, 3 or 5-day Nekter Cleanse Program to those of us who love to cleanse but don’t have the time to cold press 15 lbs. of fruits and vegetables a day! Before they knew it, their customers were retiring their coffee mugs for fresh juice instead. Steve and Alexis have since expanded throughout Southern California into Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Texas. And thankfully into Napa Valley!!

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I visited Nekter Juice Bar with my husband Steve and ordered the 24 ounce Tropical Cooler full of spinach, kale, pineapple, banana, coconut butter and coconut water. It was absolutely delicious and the smoothies’ 310 calories filled me and kept me satisfied for hours! Steve ordered the PB Bowl which was packed full of Acai, banana, strawberries, dates, peanut butter and their delicious housemade vanilla cashew milk all blended together and topped with hempseed granola, fresh strawberries, banana and a drizzle of agave nectar. This filling meal is packed with 520 calories and kept Steve going all afternoon! He didn’t want to share but he gave me a few bites for the good of my blog and it was amazing! This all cost us only about $13, was very nutrient dense and as filling and satisfying as many of the much more expensive meals I’ve had lately!

Tropical Cooler Smoothie & pb bowl!
Tropical Cooler Smoothie & pb bowl!
Bright, open space with free WiFi! And Steve coveting his pb bowl...
Bright, open space with free WiFi! And Steve coveting his pb bowl…

Nekter Juice Bar just opened at 3900 Bel Aire Plaza in September. They are open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is located between Pier 1 Imports and Yo Belle so it is the perfect spot to stop in when you need a quick healthy meal or snack to rejuvenate you for the rest of your shopping! Give your taste buds a treat and embrace the green juice. You will not only be thrilled with how delicious it is but will also offer yourself the priceless gift of improved health and well-being. And don’t we all need a little more of that!? Go nekter!!

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