Posts in Travel
Connaisez-Vous Sharon Santoni?

I heard distant rumblings about Sharon Santoni from her first book, My Stylish French Girlfriends, then she was featured in the May/June 2018 Victoria Magazine, sharing with us her just-released second book, My French Country Home, and her gracious taste in French country living in Normandy, France, and I was hooked. 

Sharon Santoni grew up in England, fell in love, married a Frenchman, raised their four children in a rural dream home and cultivated garden, and embraced her French life. Soon to be an empty nester, Santoni got the idea to start a blog, My French Country Homesharing her daily life in rural France and all that it offers.

Fast forward, her blog is now read by thousands all over the world, two beautiful books under her belt, and an accidental entrepreneur with her quarterly subscription mail order Stylish French BoxFrom spark to fire, sometimes life is like that! She muses frequently  about reinventing oneself, lessons we can all learn from her.

If that is not enough, Santoni loves to troll nearby brocante flea markets for unique treasures for her home, garden, and entertaining. She is my kind of girlfriend!


Victoria Magazine, May/June 2018

Legend, Lunch & Lemon Dressing
Outside Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California

Outside Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California

Last August 2016, I finally found myself outside the hallowed Chez Panisse Restaurant and Cafe in Berkeley, California. Founded in 1971 by Alice Waters and a few other like-minded friends, the food principles that perpetuate this eating establishment have changed our food culture forever in this country.

Alice Waters, food activist and food icon, has taught has us the value and pleasure of eating locally, supporting our artisan farmers, eating seasonally, supporting food sustainability, and igniting the concept of school gardens for our children.

I meet Alice Waters at Chinos Farms, part of their Good Food, Great Chefs events for the celebration of her latest cookbook, The Art of Simple Food II. 

Meeting Alice Waters at Chinos Farm, Rancho Santa Fe, December 2013

Meeting Alice Waters at Chinos Farm, Rancho Santa Fe, December 2013

Over the years, Alice Waters has mentored many talented floral designers, talented chefs, and cookbook authors such as David Liebowitz and Joanne Weir who worked, trained, and enhanced their careers at Chez Panisse.

Alice Waters has influenced me. She has that gift to inspire and motivate others. When I read food books about Paris and Provence, occasionally I run across her name and presence. The week after I visited Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, Alice Waters was actually cooking in Thomas Jefferson's kitchen for an event. She has inspired me to grow as much of my own food as possible, be sustainable, and eat seasonally.

Cafe Water Carafe Etched "Chez Panisse"

Cafe Water Carafe Etched "Chez Panisse"

Lunch was delightful and delicious, needless to say. The entire time I kept savoring details of lunch, the table, the clientele, and the setting. I share with you now Alice Water's Creamy Meyer Lemon Dressing I had that special day over bright green billowy bibb lettuce .

Creamy Meyer Lemon Dressing

Makes about 1/2 cup. This is a creamy dressing that coats lettuce in a luscious way. The flavor is light and sprightly filled with lemon juice and zest. Alice Waters especially likes it on sweet lettuces such as butterhead or romaine or a mix of small chicories and radicchio.

Stir together in a large bowl: 1 Tbsp. Meyer lemon juice, 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon, salt, and fresh-ground black pepper.

Taste and adjust as needed. Whisk in: 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, and 3 Tbsp. heavy cream. Taste for salt and acid and adjust as needed.


Lunch in Provence Cooking Classes!

I Have a Place Setting for You and Friends!

I Have a Place Setting for You and Friends!

Many thanks for everyone's interest and enthusiasm in the "Lunch in Provence" Cooking Classes. Perfect to treat yourself, a special friend, or loved one for a birthday, milestone, or to just experience a relaxing day in South France.

There are still a few place settings available for the Thursday, October 6, 2016 "Autumn in Provence" cooking class and the Thursday, November 10, 2016 "Que Syrah, Syrah" cooking class, see FALL CLASS SCHEDULE DETAILS.


"Flora, Floats, and Fun" Article
Local 92024 Magazine, January/February 2016

Local 92024 Magazine, January/February 2016

Many thanks to my local 92024 Magazine, January/February 2016, for their "Flora, Floats, and Fun" article on page 42. Their recognition highlights how I was chosen to ride Scotts Miracle-Gro float in the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade, with it's special California Grown certification.

I've been a resident of Encinitas for over thirty years, and know how much flower growing has been a rich part of Encinitas history. The sandy soil and temperate climate were ideal for flower and bulb growing. 

I was thinking of my Encinitas community on Rose Parade Day, honored to be representing my community, California home gardening, and symbolically bringing a little bit of Encinitas from my own garden, in the form of olive tree branches, rosemary, and lavender foliage to be on the float along side me.

Chef Berard at La Bastide des Saveurs
Gracious Chef Réne Bérard

Gracious Chef Réne Bérard

In hot pursuit of cold rosé wines, my husband, John, and myself found ourselves in the fairytale region of southern Provence near the Bandol area. It is breathtakingly beautiful much, like the lower Rhône Valley with medieval hilltop villages and rugged rolling landscapes, with the blissful addition of the glistening Mediterranean in your sight.

We stayed in the hilltop village of La Cadiere-d'Azur, where some of the village's defense walls date back to the 13th Century still stand. By recommendation we stayed at the Hotel Bérard, a quaint family-owned and managed hotel that also boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant. In fact, father, René Bérard, and his son, Jean-François are the chefs.

In my research I noticed on their website, Bérard Hostellerie, there was a property in a garden setting, La Bastide des Saveurs, in which they offered cooking classes, sommelier food and wine pairings, and special events. I innocently asked if we could see the garden at La Bastide des Saveurs--thinking it was a grand vegetable garden. The tour was arranged and the next morning Chef Rene Berard personally met and escorted us the three kilometers to his property.

Yes, La Bastide des Saveurs was a grand vegetable garden or potager and so much more to my surprise and delight! It proved to be one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen, mixing herbs, flowers, and vegetables together. Typical of a potager is a focal point, pathways, and divided parts of garden planted in herbs, vegetables, and flowers. Arches of happy blooming roses billowed along the pathways. I saw one of my favorite climbing roses over and over in full glory, the lovely Pierre de Ronsard, or better known in the United States, as the climbing Eden rose.

Arches of Roses in His Potager

Arches of Roses in His Potager

Chef Berard was so gracious to detail and explain how he used these herbs and vegetables in his cooking. Chef Berard speaks a bit of english, and I speak a bit of french, but we were definitely speaking the common language of "cooking from the garden." On this beautiful morning, the light and landscape added dramatic drama to this incredible garden. I thought to myself, this must be one step away from heaven.

Staked Spiral Tomatoes

Staked Spiral Tomatoes

Chef Berard showed us how he plants many different varieties of tomatoes, and how he successfully stakes them individually, and anchors them with end poles. I must try and find this tomato pole for next year's growing season.

Provence Fountain, Olive Trees and Lavender

Provence Fountain, Olive Trees and Lavender

Everything was spectacular about this property, down to the Provencal fountain holding court amongst the olive trees, lavender, and iceberg roses. I highly recommend looking into cooking classes at La Bastide des Saveurs. Chef Berard will customize cooking classes for a group of six or more. You can find more detailed information at Hotel Berard.

Passionate for Provence

DSC_0076Not quite over jet lag and time difference, with my head still drifting back to special moments, my husband and I have just returned from an incredible spring visit to Provence and Paris. Towards the end of our trip on a rainy Sunday in Paris (rain makes Paris even more romantic) I noticed this "larger than life" quote in a Marais pastry shop window.

"La terre est un gateau plein de douceur." --Charles Baudelaire

Translated it means "The earth is a cake full of sweetness." Charles Baudelaire was considered one of the most influential French poets in history, and one of the greatest poets of the 19th Century. He was also a critic, essayist, and a translator.

When I saw the quote I immediately thought of my beloved Provence. That's it, Provence is so full of sweetness, the landscape smiles back at you. Not only is the landscape so utterly breathtaking, everyday life is colorful, food and wine are exceptional, and the unexpected becomes the norm. It is simply the magic of Provence and all of it's sweetness.


I have so much more to share with you regarding Provence, please stay tuned.

Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara

Municipal Winemakers on Urban Wine Trail I want to share with you some of the exceptional places that I come across from time to time. These places are gems and not to be missed if you are in the area, or they could even be a destination. Most have a “garden thread” to them. “Places To Know” can be retail, restaurants, nurseries, and other. Whatever the place, expect the unusual.

On a recent getaway to the always picturesque Rivera-like town of Santa Barbara, California, my husband, John, and I explored the Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara. What a concept.

Located in an older, nearly forgotten industrial part of Santa Barbara, a mecca of small, creative and innovative urban wineries are springing up in what is called the "Funk Zone."  In former industrial warehouses, gutted tiny bungalows, and buildings that have had past lives, you will find a group of urban winemakers and wineries offering wine lovers a new tasting experience with artfully crafted wines from nearby Santa Barbara County vineyards.

We stopped in at a few, and were quite surprised at the range and quality of the wines. There are at least 15 wineries now on this Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara. Each an experience, as you set foot in the door. Municipal Winemakers, pictured above, is totally decorated in "industrial discard style" re-purposing file cabinets as behind the wine bar glassware storage.

Pouring at Kunin Wines

Municipal Winemakers, 28 Anacapa Street, Municipal Winemakers. (tel) (805) 598-1896. Located in an old industrial building, and only open on weekends.

Kunin Wines, 28 Anacapa Street, Kunin Wines, (tel) (805) 963-9696. Located in a former World War II army barrack, now tastefully decorated in gray and yellow accent colors. Open daily 11am-6pm.

Oreana Winery, 205 Anacapa Street, Oreana Winery (tel) (805) 962-5857. Located in what once was an old tire shop, now transformed into a collage of winery, tasting room, and art gallery. Open daily 11am-5pm.

These are just a few of the urban wineries in Santa Barbara. Visit Urban Wine Trial, Santa Barbara and plot your next wine tasting trip.

Please share if you have been to the Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara. Please comment if you enjoy the wines of Santa Barbara County.

Garden Bloggers Gather

What do garden bloggers like better than writing about gardening and plants? They like gathering in verdant places like Seattle, The Emerald City, experiencing new gardens. and joining the "sisterhood of garden bloggers" across the country. Okay, there were a few fellas in the mix, too.

This year's garden blogging conference, dubbed Seattle Fling, was a compilation of nearly 80 gifted garden writers who pen their passions about all things gardening. A "Who's Who" of multi-talented voices naming off plant names like a foreign language.

It is a diverse group, not just for the climatic regions they represent, but how they hail their expertise. Some are Generation X, with soon-to-be-released garden books under their belts. Some are forefront blog sensations who can proudly say they have almost a decade of posts and writing in their arsenal. Some are veteran garden writers and speakers, well known in this country's garden circles.

This phenomenon of garden bloggers and writers gathering together magically happens once a year, usually in July. Last year it was in Buffalo, New York, serendiptously coinciding with Buffalo's Garden Walk. Next year's 2012 event is tentatively planned to be held in Asheville, North Carolina.

Garden bloggers attending this year's Seattle Fling 2011, experienced a well-planned and orchestrated itinerary of private and public gardens, retail garden shops and nurseries, a David Perry photography workshop, West Seattle's Sunday morning Farmers Market, and a spoiling by garden-related sponsors.

Garden bloggers were treated to this unique concrete "ruin creation" by Little and Lewis in a wooded private garden. The concrete leaf fountain now moss-aged with water and time, was originally molded from an actual Gunnera leaf.

A trip to the picturesque waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park featuring 21 works by world-renowned artists was both captivating and breathtaking, capturing the essence of Downtown Seattle on one side, and the beauty of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound on the other.

VintageGardenGal wishes to thank everyone involved in this year's Seattle Fling 2011, and embraces her fellow garden bloggers.

Parisian Holiday Tea

Holiday Time at The Grand Del Mar I want to share with you some of the exceptional places that I come across from time to time. These places are gems and not to be missed if you are in the area, or they could even be a destination. Most have a "garden thread" to them. "Places To Know" can be retail, restaurants, nurseries, and other. Whatever the place, expect the unusual.

Nearly six years ago I met girlfriends in Paris, for a pre-Christmas splurge and getaway. Paris is always enchanting, but even more so around the holidays. Ever since then, I associate Paris with Christmas time. What a grand pairing!

A few Decembers ago, I borrowed from my "Christmas Time in Paris" experience, and helped create for one of my garden groups, a Parisian Holiday Tea, hosted at the opulent (and closest venue to Paris that I could find in the San Diego area) The Grand Del Mar, just east of Del Mar, California. Holiday teas can be a special gesture to share with good friends, nieces, sisters, moms, grandmothers, granddaughters, and loved ones.

Like a thread I could weave, I picked the "Christmas Time in Paris" theme and wove details for a Parisian Holiday Tea. Here are some of the styling details that helped create a special holiday tea.

1) The invitation was created from one of my favorite photographs in sepia, from that earlier Paris trip. For more on that trip, see Christmas Time In Paris.

2) Setting was an intimate fireside seating just past The Grand Del Mar foyer with all of their holiday decorations, grandeur, and holiday tea menu.

Parisian Favors Ready In A French Basket

3) Special "Parisian" favors were created using a gold sheer bag tied with gold/bronze fleur-de-lys ribbon. Inside the party favors, there were special vintage pink alabaster glass cameo charms from French General, fleur-de-lys chocolates from The Royal Sweet an extraordinary chocolatier out of Georgia, and least but not least, an "April in Paris" sweet pea packet from Renee's Gardens.

4) A few words spoken about how Parisians, and those in the French countryside celebrate their holidays with Pere Noel, and their grand "reveillon" traditional feast.

5) One of our members spoke about "Bachelor's Preserves", and gave everyone a gift-wrapped jar of it and recipe to take home. Bachelor's Preserves is the French technique of preserving summer fruits with liquor.

Picking a theme for a party or event makes planning and creating your event easier, and adds a certain element of surprise. Please share if you have enjoyed "tea" with friends or family around the holidays. Please comment if you have been to Paris at Christmas time.

VintageGardenGal Tidbit Thyme...

VintageGardenGal wishes everyone Happy Holidays!