I’m a Vegan-Cheater

As a chef it is a funny thing to state you are eating vegan.  People look at me strangely, wonder if I am okay, and when invited over to their homes are wondering if I will be satisfied without a piece of meat on my plate.  That’s okay.  This was my reaction to most vegans who came into my life.

Over the course of the past ten years I have worked with many vegans here at the inn, all of whom have given me ideas and assistance on what could and would make a nourishing breakfast without eggs or meat or cheese (some of the mainstay building blocks of breakfast).  Their education has opened my eyes and palate to try new things that are all plant-based, and I have fallen in love with most if not all of what I have made.  Many have shared recipes, tips and tricks with cooking and keeping things in balance, and over that time I have come to appreciate the challenge of vegan cuisine at breakfast.  Generally I can say I have been fairly successful and am still growing in presenting new and exciting breakfast items for vegans.

Then, as some of you know,  five years ago I had a fight with a bad piece of cheese and, Hi-Ho the dairy-oh, the cheese stands alone- I lost the battle.  Since then I have been unable to eat pork, beef, or dairy.  Did you know that beef and pork share the same protein structure?  There is something in that protein structure that doesn’t agree with my body today.  It is never immediate but takes hours for the pain to become uncomfortable

Okay, so I made adjustments, found a great source of Vegan Cheese called “Follow Your Heart” and even Jamie loves it (it melts, cooks well into product, and goes well with crackers).  I am a cheese-a-holic, need a piece every day to feel whole and satisfied as a human being.  Chocolate?  Could leave it behind.  I know, I know.  For some of you those words are anathema.  Yet for me it is everything.  Leave cheese behind?  Never!

Recently a guest, William Brown, came through the house, a doctor who had recently moved to vegan and shared a bit of his story with me, how going vegan has been proven to reverse heart disease.  What?  Reverse it?  Oh my, yes.  I did my research, read some more and decided to give it a try.  Oh, I’m not perfect by any means.  I still eat eggs.  I simply cannot give up that deliciousness. Also, they call for a reduction or elimination of refined flour products (ugh, what, no bread?) and sugar (give up sugar?  have you tasted my chocolate chunk cookies?).  I suppose you could call me a Vegan-Cheater.

I tell people that I am 99% vegan.  The one percent is for when I don’t want to be vegan as something so delicious is sitting in front of me I must take a bite, or ten.  Like homemade flour tortillas.  I will let you know how I progress.  Yes, I will still incorporate eggs, dairy, and meat into breakfast as I want to play with a full deck of ingredients as I continue to work toward my goal of 250 breakfast recipes.  150 down.  100 to go!

The French Laundry has changed how they take reservations…plan for Sep/Oct right now!

The French Laundry, acclaimed chef Thomas Keller’s premier restaurant in the Napa Valley featuring a 9-course, 3-hour culinary adventure., has changed the procedure for making reservations.  They no longer take phone reservations.

To obtain a reservation, you must use their reservation page on their website.  They open reservations on the 1st day of every odd month (Jan, Mar, May, July, Sep, Nov) at 10:00 am PST.  For example, on July 1st, at 10 am PST, they will take reservations for September and October. Website

Jacket required.  Current cost is $310.

Is it worth it?

Is food fuel or pleasure to you?  That is the real question.  If fuel is your answer, then NO, don’t go.

For those who evaluate, savor, and appreciate every bite of food, an absolute YES.  It is the Disneyland of Food, every dish a new ride and new experience.  The food is about purity of flavor and putting those flavors together in such a way that the palate finds intrigue, mystery, and ecstasy come together over the course of your meal.

It is here: The Inn On First Cookbook is available to purchase

Ten years in the making, tested and edited by a diligent crew of people who have loved and supported me.  With more than 380 pages there are  90+ breakfast recipes available for you to make at home.  Over 200 recipes total for you to play with in your kitchen.  From basics like homemade granola, date nut rolls, and chocolate chunk cookies, to more innovative creations like the corndog omelet, homemade egg noodles, and bacon-stuffed steamed buns.  This is a softbound copy, 8.5″ x 11″ format, available in black and white or full color.  For digital subscribers, you can order the digital full color version through Kindle.

For a limited time, through the end of April 2017, you can order from CreateSpace and receive a 15% discount on either copy.  The discount codes will not work with Amazon.

CreateSpace.com:
Color Edition: https://www.createspace.com/5993290 ($55)
15% off list price discount code: 46832CKM

Black and White Edition: https://www.createspace.com/6890063 ($27.00)
15% off list price discount code: LMJRH7P6

Amazon.com:
Color Edition: A Napa Valley Breakfast Book ($55)

Black and White Edition: A Napa Valley Breakfast Book ($27.00)

Also available on digital Kindle Format: ($9.99, or $1.99 if you also order the softbound color copy)

My thanks to all the many guests who were willing to let me play, experiment, and who continue to give me the joy of creating new innovations for breakfasts.

2017 and The Inn On First

What new things are coming to The Inn On First for this year. As the best Napa Valley bed and breakfast inn, new breakfasts, of course!  I’ve just completed testing on a new recipe for a Prosciutto-Ricotta Cake with Poached Eggs, what I will call Cindy’s Ricotta Cake (as it was a guest, Cindy Weatherman, who gave me the idea for the breakfast).  It has opened up a realm of new possibilities in terms of flavor profiles: Italian style (with parmesan, prosciutto, served with basil oil and topped with honey roasted tomatoes), Mexican style (with pepper jack cheese, chorizo sausage, roasted red pepper, and homemade salsa), and American style (with bacon, chive, cheddar cheese and homemade creme fraiche), and much more.  Expect to see this recipe and more during 2017.

My cookbook is almost ready.  We are working on the cover, trying to decide which of over 90 breakfast recipe photos to put on the cover.  Should it be the pancakes oozing with chocolate sauce and fresh strawberries on top?  Or maybe the bird’s nest with salad greens, topped with pommes frites and a poached egg?  Or what about biscuits with a black cherry compote with a poached egg and prosciutto?  Ah, decision, decisions.  An email will be coming out soon with all the details.  The book will be available in black and white (less expensive) and color.

We are adding some new services this year: mobile nail, make-up, and hair services.  Want to have your nails touched up?  Or would you like to splurge and have someone do your makeup and fix your hair for a nice dinner?  We will bring in a Nail Tech or Cosmetologist to take care of your needs.  We are currently building those packages and will soon make them available on our website.

We have some new restaurants in town, such as Corner and the CIA at the Oxbow, and many new tasting rooms.  We will be visiting and reviewing each of these in hopes of guiding our guests to the best of all experiences present in downtown Napa.  We also have a new Jazz club, Blue Note, which is receiving rave reviews for both the music and the food, and there are some new offerings at Silo’s Music Club that we will be reviewing as well.

2017 is opening up right now.  Our rains have mostly come and gone and there is a new day shining ahead of us.  Why, even our boys are putting their COOL on as the clouds dissipate and the vines start growing here in the Napa Valley.  It’s a great time to come to the Valley, especially during the week; fewer people, more personalized service.

Christmas at The Inn On First

The holidays are magical here at The Inn On First in Napa, California, a luxury bed and breakfast inn.  Our own innkeeper, Jamie Cherry, pays attention to every little detail in decorating for the holidays.  I’m responsible for the lights on the tree, help decorate the trees, but he is pretty much responsible for everything else.  Attached is a video that shows you a bit of what Christmas is like here for us.  Wishing you and your families/friends a  happy holiday.

 

 

The Inn On First Remote Organic Garden…TFL’s got nothing on us!

Okay, so maybe The French Laundry Garden is a bit more spacious and they have incredible chefs creating magnificent food for all 3 restaurants, but we are really proud of our own Napa Garden, compliments of Toni’s backyard with Rick’s assistance (our own Mr. Home Improvement/Contractor/WineMaker/now Gardener), who are graciously permitting us to grow so many things remotely and to come and pick what we need once a week.  From green onions, to tomatoes, peppers, melons, and so much more.

Boy are we happy campers tonight as we pulled away with all these luscious tomatoes!  What shall we do, what shall we do?

Breakfast awaits.Garden Abundance

Former priest, currently Napa chef/innkeeper, now author

NAPA, Calif. — Former priest, now Napa innkeeper and author Jim Gunther announces the nationwide release of his new spiritual book, “Let It Go Deep.” This book was co-authored by the late Dr. Juanita Meller.

Leaving formal ministry Jim Gunther found himself floundering outside of the Catholic Church.  First as a trained chef, then a software quality assurance engineer, and finally as innkeeper and chef in Napa.  Through it all he continued to ask the deeper question about who God is and what was required of him now that he no longer had a formal ministerial role to fulfill.  How does one find faith outside the church community and continue to be of service to God’s people?  With the help of his mentor, Juanita Meller, he was able to find the answers he needed.

This book is a call to remember that those who seek intimacy with God are promised this: “He who seeks shall find; to him who knocks, I will open.” The spiritual journey of those seekers reveals the incredible power that is offered to people as they surrender and become willing to go deeper, thus receiving the fullness of inner healing and intimacy with Christ.

Through baptism, people receive the grace of a hunger for more experiences of God’s love. It is a cry to go deeper — a call to simply surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit. This results in healing of body, mind and soul — leading to wholeness, which is holiness. “Let It Go Deep” reflects the journey of all those who seek a deeper relationship with God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Published by Tate Publishing and Enterprises, the book is available through bookstores nationwide, from the publisher at www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore, or by visiting barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

Gunther is a director of spiritual practice in Napa, California, assisting individuals to find and to pursue their spiritual path. With a master’s degree in divinity and Scripture, he brings a deep biblical understanding to his work as well as an integrated approach between Christianity and other spiritual practices. Gunther is currently the co-owner of the Inn on First in Napa, California, with his husband and three dogs.

Meller was an active teacher of Scripture and spirituality in her parish. She served as a spiritual renewal conference coordinator, a pilgrimage organizer and leader. After her husband’s death, she took postgraduate education and earned a degree in relational psychology at 68 years old. She was certified as an NACC hospital chaplain at age 60 and served for 10 years. Meller was a certified spiritual director for 25 years. All these experiences were reflected in her writings.

Death reminds us to celebrate in the NOW

I know our blog should be about all the great things that are happening right now, but sometimes we need to stop and acknowledge that there is a hard part of our lives as well.  We had a lot of grief in our lives these past few weeks at The Inn On First. Jim’s friend of 38 years, Teresa Bulone East Dominic; Jim’s spiritual mentor, co-author, and dear friend, Juanita Meller; and today Jamie Cherry’s oldest sister, Mary Beth, who had been actively dying from cancer this past year. These are all people who have helped form and shape who we are in our lives today, and we give thanks to them and the growth they inspired within us.

It’s not that our grief paralyzes us.  As a friend of mine said recently: “It is hard until it isn’t.”  And some days it isn’t hard at all, and those are the days we celebrate these magnificent lives that have impacted us over the years.  Our grief turns to gratitude as we remember them.  Our service to our guests continues to deepen, and our love for our guests and each other continues to grow because of those who have loved us well, especially these individuals who have been important anchors in our lives.  Thanks to all the wonderful guests who have been so supportive of us during this time of surrender.  Our call is clear: celebrate the NOW for tomorrow we may not be here.

Shoe Donations for November and December

The Inn On First is participating in Soles4Souls project this winter.  We encourage both locals and guests to consider dropping off their gently used shoes for donation.  We have a collection bin on the front porch.  Hoping all of you will consider taking a second look at your closet and participating in this collection.
Napa Valley Shoe Drive
We are helping collect shoes for Soles4Souls, Inc. through a valley-wide shoe drive organized by local teens and Humanitas Wines. Donate shoes you no longer need in order to help fight poverty, both in America and in developing countries around the world, through Soles4Souls’ redistribution and micro-enterprise programs. Our goal is to collect 25,000 pairs of shoes by December 31st. We can do this, Napa!
And here’s the Soles4Souls website, for videos and more info: https://soles4souls.org