Seashells and Sand-Reckoner by the Seashore


There is something about the beach that makes you want to write bad poetry about waves being metaphors for life, have a clam bake, and drink copious amounts of wine or coffee while plucking up seashells. The sound of water and gulls, the smell of sweet salty air, the waves crashing and rolling up to engulf your feet and the sand squishing between your toes.

I’m not a sun-worshiper. Being fair and freckled doesn’t make for good sunning. But hitting the beach at the tail-end of the season, is perfect. Less crowds, cooler weather, lots of long walks on the beach with Mr. PC, seashell hunting, and tumblers of wine sipped sitting in the sand, watching the water.

photo 7

Mr. PC signed us up for his family vacation to Corolla, North Carolina on Duck Island. In past years, when his aunt and uncle rent a beach house for a week, we have been unable to attend. This year, knowing my business is picking up and that he has some big projects that will prevent us from traveling, we made the trek to the east coast.


I baked a bit on this trip, stowing away a baking pan, scale, measuring spoons and microplane in my luggage. Cinnamon rolls, a German chocolate cake, and pineapple mojitos. It’s actually a lot of fun to go into a kitchen and not know what is in there, and then figure out how to make what you need without the typical tools. Some of the best restaurants or coffee shops I’ve worked at have been those that don’t have large budgets and where we have to get creative when it comes to tools or baking vessels. It pushes you to be inventive.

Everyone contributed a little. Paella was whipped up one night, someone brought BBQ from a restaurant in Memphis, others picked up pizzas and champagne. As each bottle of alcohol was emptied, they were placed up on window ledge in the living room, over the sliding doors – a remembrance to the good times had by all while partaking.


Mostly, this trip let me recharge a little. I read magazines and cookbooks. Daydreamed new pastry and cooking class ideas. Walked on the beach with my hubby. Drank (we brought Sand-Reckoner, Pillsbury, Dos Cabezas, and Arizona Distilling Co. with us, so everyone could try some Arizona goodies. Well, and some Pistol Whipped Pastry of course!) and ate a massive meal of clam chowder, shrimp, and crab cakes. Slept. Climbed to the top of an old lighthouse. Realized after said climb what poor shape we are in. It was just the break we needed before coming home and diving into work.


On this trip I met Mr. PC’s extended family. His cousins and their families were unable to make it to our wedding. Completely understandable, since everyone has busy lives and with a country between us, it can be challenging for all of us to get together. I was happy to finally meet everyone and have the opportunity to get to know his aunt, uncle and cousins better.

At the end of our journey, we ate the best soft pretzel and mustard (Lusty Monk) we’ve ever had at a brewery called Weeping Radish on the road back to Norfolk, Virgina. Unbeknownst to me, Mr. PC stashed a portion cup of the mustard into our carry on, which I found when unpacking later that night.

photo 9

Now we are home and the weather is becoming beautiful again here in Phoenix. Our suitcases are still laying on the floor half unpacked. My seashell collection is stilled wrapped in Mr. PC’s tshirts and stuffed inside the alcohol travel tubes. Mr. PC is busy with work, and I am knee-deep in lots of Pistol Whipped Pastry plans. The beach was fun, but back to the grind of work and life. It helps that I also have a case of Lusty Monk mustard coming our way. And I am still finding sand everywhere, even in the pockets of my favorite hoodie.


A Willcox Weekend


Mr. PC and I are in love with Willcox, Arizona. The land stretches forever in every direction, with farms and vineyards lining the roads. People are kind, waving to us, even though they have never seen us and may never see us again. The main drag of downtown is slowly being revitalized with wine tasting rooms, and hopefully restaurants will follow.

The purpose of our trip was a going away party for our friend Simona. She has an amazing career as a wine maker, venturing around the world to different wineries, helping through the entire wine making process. We met Simona a few months ago when we went to Willcox to help our friends at Sand-Reckoner plant some vines (see story here).


We brought a dessert bar with dark chocolate cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream, a s’mores station (Simona had her first s’more and while a little too sweet for her, she did enjoy it), bourbon coconut rice pudding, and mason jars of lemon posset.


As everyone arrived at the Pillsbury Wine Company tasting room, a variety of dishes filled the table and full bottles of wine collected on the bar. There wasn’t a bad bit of food in the place. Citrus salad, grain salad, peaches baked with goat cheese, baked squash, marinated steak tacos, and Simona’s veggie lasagna.






Everyone sat outside eating, drinking wine, talking and watching the rain storms roll overhead. A beautiful weekend with lovely people.


If you have the chance, get down to Willcox wine country and taste the beautiful wines they are making.

Simona, we will miss you! Safe travels on your next journey! xo

Rachel Ellrich Miller is a pastry chef and food writer in Phoenix, where she bakes, eats, hangs out with her amazing husband, Mr. PC, and drinks copious amounts of Arizona wine. You can get more information about her pastry at, or her Sugar Rush column on Phoenix New Times Chow Bella blog.


On the road again


I’ve been home from New Orleans long enough to do a pastry buffet for a baby shower, drink some Page Springs wine, wash my laundry and dump my photos onto my computer. Ready for the next adventure!



Heading to my former stomping ground, Las Vegas, to watch a good friend run in the last race of Indy season. So excited to go support him. Send good vibes our way this weekend, friends. More food pics, recipes and travel goodies when I get back!

Wine Wars 2011, Page Springs Cellars, Cornville, AZ


If you are unaware, there are some very interesting people making wine in Arizona. I know, everyone looks at me like I’ve been drinking too much when I tell them of the burgeoning wine country in Arizona, but it’s here and it’s quite amazing. I gift many bottles of Arizona wine throughout the year and I wait impatiently for the phone call or email of pleasant surprise, once they’ve been consumed.

Page Springs Cellars is the only wine club I’ve ever belonged to, and they’ve spoiled me for any other club. Multiple member events, discounts, a gorgeous new tasting room and a masseuse at the ready in the vineyard, it’s hard to compete. The newest member event is Wine Wars. I have to say that I’m not normally first on line for the member events. My perception of them used to be that member events were more in the realm of lameness. I am happy to report that I was very wrong.

Rhonni from Arizona Wine and Vines Magazine and I arrived on Saturday afternoon at Page Springs Cellars in Cornville, AZ. After a little wine in the tasting room, we headed down to check in and sign up for a team (we were quite nervous about what our cryptic “Put A Cork In It” category would entail). Walking through the vineyard, around netted vines, we made our way down by the creek. Stacks of hay-bales corralled people away from the vines and created a natural jungle-gym for kids. A makeshift plywood board stage was set up overlooking folding table with chairs.

Justin busted out his karaoke machine to MC the event. Old school game-show theme songs played throughout, everyone could guess for a chance to win goofy prizes, while contestants competed. For each competition, the winners received a $15 gift card for the tasting room.

The first competition was two teams of two people. Each team had two bottles of wine and were required to open their wine and fill the glasses of all the audience members. Competition two was a grape toss into a number of glasses, large and small openings, worth different amounts. The third competition, Rhonni and I didn’t wine and will be practicing for next year, was seeing how many bottles we could hand-cork in a minute. We got 5 bottles and we were beaten by the other team, with 7 bottles.

The forth competition was my favorite by far…to watch that is! Rhonni and I were eyeballing this competition at the beginning, hoping it wasn’t the one we signed up for. Four plastic storage bins, filled with water, corks floating on top and bungs on the bottom. (Bungs are corks for barrels of wine.) Apparently, the game was just supposed to be bobbing for bungs, but they found out that bungs don’t float, so the game had to be adapted. For every cork a player scooped up in their mouth and delivered to the wine barrel placed behind the competitors, they would receive 100 points. For every bung that they managed to get off the bottom with their mouth and deliver to the wine barrel, the would receive 500 points. I was worried the players wouldn’t totally get into it, but I was surprised to see one woman diving into the container with her entire upper body, in an attempt to get a bung. She ended up winning and deservedly so! When I returned to PSC the next day to pick up my wine shipment before heading home, I ran into some guys who were attending Wine Wars, the Sunday edition. We started talking about the competitions and they told me that a woman got all the bungs but one! Dedication!

We broke for some lunch and a couple of little guessing games they had set-up (guess the song title with wine in it, how many corks in the vase, blind wine tasting). Lunch was sausage from The Meat Shop in Phoenix. The sausage was good, but the rest was a little lacking. I know some chefs, myself being one of them, who are in the wine club, and would love to come up and cook for an event. Homemade s’mores in the vineyard with a glass of wine? Just saying! ;o)

The fifth competition was making a bottle of wine. Two teams of three people, just so happened to be women vs. men. Hilarious! The women were totally into it and busted out some I Love Lucy grape-stomping moves. The men weren’t as into it and remained with shoes intact while they squeezed grapes with their hands and potato-mashers. Next they had to strain out the juice and make sure they had enough to fill a half bottle. Add the yeast, siphon into the bottle and cork the bottle. The competition wasn’t even close, as the women pushed the cork into their bottle and did a barefoot, grape-stained victory dance.

One of the highlights was tasting a 100% Arizona grown pinot noir. We tasted 6 wines at the event and they were all heavily discounted for purchase. After purchasing some wine (err, 4 bottles, plus the 6 from my member shipment), we headed back up to relax in the new tasting room. Sipping some great wine, listening to Puscifer, while chatting with friends. Good day in the vines.






My Weekend in Photographs

It was an interesting girls weekend in Cali. We bested the largest spider known to man. Read trashy tabloid magazines. Drove a massive diesel truck through LA. Drank copious amounts of red wine. Ate steak in Fontana. Farm fresh eggs in Rancho Cucamonga. Fish and chips on Huntington Beach. Chinese takeout in Beverly Hills. Breakfasted with croissants and a flat tire on the way to the airport. And I ran in 4 inch heels, to catch my plane in the Ontario airport. All-in-all, great weekend.












Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...